The list I've carried in my purse for the past month and a half is wrinkled, frayed and blotted with notations, crossed out items and penciled in additions.
My freezer is jammed with carefully-packed containers of goodies.
I pick up tiny lengths of green and red ribbon that has worked its way into the carpet.
The door is shut on the spare bedroom. "Wrapping Central" is off limits, and frankly, with bags bursting with gifts, and decorations and yes, plenty of holiday chocolates, I'd be embarrassed to let anyone see the festive explosion.
It's obvious that the countdown to Christmas is nearly over.
When I was young, Christmas Day was the goal. Like most children, rushing down the steps from my bedroom to the tree was the ultimate rush. I carefully opened up each little door on the Advent calendar, impatient to reach the final one.
Today, I try to savor the season. I want to take joy in the process.
One day is too short to soak in the season. So, I remind myself to be in the moment each and every day. As we light each Advent candle on Sunday morning at church, I breathe in and remember "the reason for the season."
I focus on the people, not the products. A shopping trip with my son, with money in his pocket is a chance to be reminded what a great young man we've got. He's buying presents for those he loves, with money he earned himself. We've only got a little time before he heads off to college, and away from his parents. These outings are a chance to pack away another memory.
I honor my beloved grandmother, who we lost this year at 96, by making the fruit cookies she was famous for. My father always received coffee cans full of the spicy treats from his mom, and I want to give him a reminder of our family matriarch. While there's a certain "something" that's missing, I'm confident I've captured the essence of these goodies.
And, on Sunday I participated in an annual event that says "Christmas" to me in a way that few other things do. The Holiday Family Adoption program came to its joyous conclusion with the delivery of gifts to 85 families in Spencer and throughout Clay County.
Want to see joy? Hear the laughter of those volunteer firefighters as they load up trucks for delivery.
Need a dose of "goodwill toward all?" That would be the UPS drivers who give up an afternoon during their busiest time of the year, to deliver gifts to folks they don't even know. I can't say enough good about these men and women. They are, truly, Santa's helpers, wearing that familiar brown rather than green and red.
Watching over it all, with motherly concern, is Anita Jorgenson of Upper Des Moines Opportunity. She calls with the evening before delivery, "Are we sure we have all the address changes and notes included in the delivery instructions?" She doesn't want a single family to be disappointed on delivery day.
Behind the scenes, my own Daily Reporter Santa's helper, Kathy Wolthuizen, coordinates the process. She handles the intake of the lists of gifts, works with UDMO to ensure changes are noted, and ensures updated lists of available families were published in the Daily Reporter. Her hard work ensures the process is smooth, and I appreciate her efforts more than she'll ever know.
With deliveries made, that list checked and double-checked, I can now enjoy this final week of the Christmas season even more.
As the countdown concludes this Christmas season, I wish all of you the gift of enjoying every moment. With every gift you wrap, holiday treat you bake, and especially every hug you give, I wish you the joy of the season.