Santa is coming.

I was with one of my dearest and “youngest” clients recently and we were discussing aging. It’s a privilege not everyone receives, yet as I can testify as someone in their late 30’s (wink, wink) time flies by at the speed of light. She told me to wait until you are in your 90’s and it goes even faster. Now that’s lightning fast! And you know what, I believe her.

I heard from many of you that there is no way that your wife was going to see my Christmas message from last year! And I must say, I have set the bar high (and you know who you are) so why not try? I know you haven’t forgotten what was in my message last year! Your loved ones would be impressed if you tried. So as I draft my initial Christmas message at the end of October 2016 (I’m not an overachiever…it’s just not easy writing my Christmas message each year) at my favorite Hudson location (a few of you may know where) racking my brain for ideas, I’m realizing this Christmas won’t be easy for me. As of this moment I still don’t have any ideas on what to write about.

Over the years I’ve shared my family traditions and it seems when it comes to the holidays it’s surprising just how many traditions we have without even thinking about it. They somehow just develop over the years. Have you ever totaled how many traditions you have? Here’s another one of ours.

For my wife and I, the second or third Saturday of December is the very best time to go Christmas shopping (Psst….don’t tell anyone so our tradition can continue!) We head out around 5:00 p.m. just after everyone who has spent the day shopping is heading home with sore feet and empty pocketbooks. It also makes it an easy time to find a parking spot because there is hardly anyone at the malls. We use this time as part “date night” and part shopping. Yes, I am the romantic in our family! From the shopping aspect, we have our list all planned out, zoned by which mall(s), town(s) or store(s), we’re going to hit to maximize – or rather minimize – our time “shopping.” From the date night aspect, I suspect many of you can relate to having kids and sometimes you have to multitask which restaurant you’d enjoy during your shopping endeavors. If we can get all our shopping done in one 3-4 hour trip, that’s a success! Boy do I enjoy shopping.

My philosophy on material items has changed over time.

If you’re reading this, I suspect you probably don’t need a new pair of socks, shirt or shoes, and that list could go on and on. The real gift is spending time with friends and family (Ok maybe only for a few hours in some situations). For many of you, it’s the only time you see loved ones. I believe this season is more about making memories, creating family traditions, and sharing experiences together vs. the material stuff. That’s the real gift – each other! Yet, I am grateful that my mother-in-law still purchases me underwear (Buck Naked Underwear from Duluth Trading Company) and I wouldn’t mind a few more pairs this year in green and red to celebrate spirit of the season. I’ve completely replaced all my old stuff with Buck Naked Underwear and it is by far the best made. Just saying and sharing! It is Ok that your mother-in-law and mother still buy you underwear? I’m a grown man after all!

With all my interactions throughout 2016, I’ve been privileged to experience so much with many of you, both the highs and also, unfortunately, things in life we’d just rather skip. Experiences we will always remember like marriages, births, retirements, buying a business, starting a new career, selling a family businesses, purchasing a new home, traveling, graduating, starting college, getting divorced, shelling with your family, dealing with the life-long struggles of mental illness, loss of a loved one, swimming with the dolphins (please no animal rights letters), a cancer diagnosis no one wants or expects (I continue to see way too much of this in my walk of life) and that kid who had a dream of becoming a heart surgeon who saves your life (thank God for Wal-Mart – I suspect you won’t be shopping anywhere else).

This journey we’re on together makes it better for me because I have the opportunity to experience life with, and through, many of you. May the rest of 2016 and 2017 bring you joy, laughter, and love. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.