The stores have been decorated since Halloween; the radio has been playing Christmas music since before Thanksgiving. I have tried my hardest to resist being in “holiday mode” up until the other day, when I finally decided to embrace it.

Once I decided I was ready, all of the lights started to look pretty and the music even made me feel sentimental (well, except for that Mariah Carey Christmas song).

I have had a few conversations lthis past week with friends and family about various hardships and tragedies people have experienced as of late. This year hasn’t been easy for a lot of people, myself included at times. I lost my grandma, and my friend Chad unexpectedly. It feels sad celebrating the holidays without them here.

On the other hand, I have begun to put things in perspective, and realize all that I have to be grateful for this holiday season. I have wonderful parents, and a loving brother who care very much about me. I have friends that constantly make me laugh and smile, but also stand by when I need someone to listen. I have a great new job helping people, who truly appreciate anyone who can help them along the way.

Take a minute and appreciate how much you really have this holiday season – the tangibles, the intangibles. Try to make someone else’s holiday season a little brighter, whether it’s a phone call, a card, or just a little something that says you care.

And to all of my friends – you mean the world to me. I miss all of you every day that I don’t see you.

Happy Holidays!