Is it even possible that the Holiday Season is here? What happened to the rest of the year? In what seemed to be a particularly stressful year, the upcoming holiday season can be seen as a welcome reprieve, or a dreaded obligation. Being the eternal optimist, I prefer the welcome reprieve approach for a multitude of reasons. The first thing that comes to mind during the holiday season is the joyous gatherings with family and friends celebrating the true meaning of the holidays. When we break bread this Thanksgiving it really isn’t going to matter what the stock market is doing or where the nation’s health plan is heading. What matters is that we are all together. With each tantalizing smell of the turkey roasting and the pumpkin pie baking, the cares of everyday life will fade into a fresh aroma of content. Cherish the chatter in the kitchen as the meal is prepared and give thanks as it’s consumed. Your friends and family are happy and healthy in the moment... and it’s those special moments that carry us through the hard times. As Christmas rolls around don’t burden yourself with “I have to buy” lists. I’ve already heard grumbling from friends and associates about how they are going to afford all the gifts they HAVE to purchase. You don’t HAVE to purchase anything. Our society has force fed us to believe that more is better. Personally I don’t subscribe to that theory. Often one special gift is far more appreciated than multiple gifts that don’t carry any personal message. Select your gifts carefully and spend your money wisely. Edible gifts that can be used during holiday entertaining are both practical and delightful. Inspirational books, healing massages, spa packages, restaurant gift certificates and mini-vacation get aways are welcome choices as gifts that calm the nerves and refresh the soul. Think of the recipient’s passion and purchase one item that will make his hobby more enjoyable or one unique piece of jewelry that will brighten a favorite outfit. This year, I believe it’s all about quality and insight, and less about volume and cost. Time, of course, is the most important gift of all. A personal visit to grandma with a handful of flowers will mean far more than an expensive bottle of perfume that will likely sit unopened in a drawer. Helping with yard work, shopping or baby sitting can grant just about anyone a few extra minutes of relaxation, which is such a rare commodity these days. And helping those you don’t even know by donating your time to local charities or food kitchens is a boomerang gift with the reward being far greater than the investment. This year in particular, the holidays take on a whole new meaning of thanks and gratitude. Take stock of what you have, not what you’ve lost. You might find that the new found “back to basics” frugality is a true blessing. After all, isn’t who you have in your life far more important that what you have in your life? And how you live supercedes where you live. Family, health, values and gratitude are the true gifts this holiday season!