This has been a challenging year. I know that I’ve talked a lot about what we’ve accomplished here (a new office, for example), but I’ll be honest: nothing has come easily. Our building projects ran into problems and budget issues and miscommunications. We negotiated these pitfalls as well as we could considering the other difficulties our summer had in store. First my 15-year-old furry eldest child (of the feline variety) was diagnosed with kidney disease. This seemed pretty sad until I heard that my grandmother would need surgery for several blocked arteries. Shortly afterward, an uncle fell ill, followed by an aunt. Around this time my mom was also diagnosed with cancer. There was a moment in the middle of this craziness when I realized that it would be easy to feel sad and worried all the time. There was always someone hurting, always someone who had something bad happening to them.

By nature I am a nervous person and I tend to worry about things. This summer, for some reason, I didn’t. I was upset, of course, and tried to offer help as much as I could, but for once in my life I stayed pretty cool. I kept joking that once I got to a certain level of stress you could keep piling it on and I wouldn’t feel it anymore. Maybe I really did reach my limit? His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.” Seems logical, doesn’t it? Could I have adopted this way of thinking without even knowing it? Or maybe it was simply because this summer was gloriously beautiful beyond words. The sun was shining and my garden was thriving and there was always some small something to be grateful for. Everywhere I looked there were little blessings.

Early in the summer a customer contacted me with a request. She told me that a friend of hers had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. All of her friends were going away with her to spend special time together, and this customer wanted to order some of my products to share with them at their getaway. I have made gifts and favors for many special events, but making gifts for this occasion really meant a lot to me. It also served as a great reminder: celebrate loved ones while you can. Don’t wait for an occasion. Make an occasion. Don’t wait for things to be happy and perfect and good. They may not be happier or more perfect or better than they are right now. Life is hard. It’s sad and painful and difficult. But every day there are little blessings. Every day there are good friends and laughter and chocolate. Enjoy them now, right now, today.

There’s a lot of pressure at the holidays to create THE celebration of the year, the occasion everyone has been waiting for. It’s a hard time of year for some people, and I admit at times I’ve had the wrong focus. It’s easy to fall into that trap of doing too much, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. This year is different for me, and it’s all because of the blessings. Amazingly, my mom, grandmother, aunt and uncle are all OK. (Even my cat is well.) I am so grateful, and I am looking forward to spending more happy occasions with them in the coming weeks (and years). It will be fun to bake and shop and make gifts for everyone, but getting to spend time with them, honestly, is enough.

I wish you many, many blessings this holiday season and in the New Year. Thank you for being here.