I awoke this morning to MORE snow here in Portland, Oregon!  🙂

This amount of snow is very unusual for us here in the Willamette Valley.  We normally get one or two little snowfalls of  an inch or two each year.  But we now have well over 12″ on the ground here in the city, even more up in the West Hills and FEET of snow up at Mt. Hood.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…and some amazing skiing!  It’s a wonderful dry powder.

As I awoke this Christmas Eve morning and laid in bed watching the huge flakes come down (and still coming down), I reflected back on 2008 and beyond.  Memories of my Mom who has been gone from us for nearly 19 years (unbelievable that it’s been that long) as well as memories of other loved ones who are no longer with us: my Grandma, my Uncle Jerry, my Aunt Aline and my first-cousins Larry, Cheryl and Maryjean.  I am very grateful today for some amazing memories of all of them.  

I grew up in Wisconsin in the 1970’s.  Christmas Eve was as special as Christmas Day.  My Grandma lovingly made a Norwegian Christmas Eve dinner of kumlas and lefse (and a steak for my Dad) at her cute, cottage-like house near Lake Monona.  She always had M&M’s in a bowl for me. On Christmas morning, I remember Mom and Dad smiling at my joy over what Santa left under the Christmas tree that stood in the corner of our living room,  overlooking the beautiful little valley near Pine Bluff (15 minutes west of Madison).  It always snowed on Christmas in Wisconsin.  Truly.  I can still see the tree with the view behind it — and always snow.  Christmas was also always full of laughter, love and smiles with the Kurth and Larvick families. I’m the youngest of four kids (one of five kids in 1970 when we hosted foreign exchange student, Nagash, from Ethiopia for a school year).  I was an uncle at 7 (my eldest sister is 17 years older than I am) so, the Kurth household has always been busy and wonderfully loud on Christmas.  I am very grateful for these memories.

I am also grateful that I’m spending Christmas in Portland with my partner, Wade, and good friends.  2008 has been a challenging year and I decided to “stay put” and not travel home to Wisconsin.  I made this decision with trepidation.  Would I regret not going home?  There’s no doubt I’ll miss my family (most especially the little ones, my four little great-nephews and great-niece!) but Wade and I are going to have a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Food, wine and great friends.

Although it’s all a bit different being away from my family and being here in unusually snowy Portland, I’m grateful this Christmas Eve.  Grateful that I love and am loved by Wade, my family and friends.  Grateful for my health.  Grateful for working in what I love – VocationVacations and career consulting.  I’m a lucky guy….and I don’t take it for granted.  

This holiday season is stressful for so many due to the economic downturn.  2008 has not been a fun year for many.  But if you find yourself stressing over the economy, credit card bills, a possible lay-off after the New Year or if you’ve already been laid off, I encourage you to remind yourself what you DO have in your life:  love, family, friends, a roof over your head, your health…and the list goes on and on.  Instead of focusing on what you may have lost financially in 2008 and your fears for 2009, instead, start setting your goals and desires for the New Year.  Now is the time.   Now is the time to go back to the basics and your core values.  What do you want in life?  What type of lifestyle do you want?  Now is the time to appreciate those around you.  Now is the time to be grateful for, and celebrate, your ability to CHANGE and REACT to what has occurred in 2008.  This is an opportunity despite the many hardships the world has seen.  

Go inward but move onward!  Be grateful.  Be appreciative.  Smile.  Laugh.  Dance.  Share. 

From very snowy Portland, I wish you all a very happy holiday season.  Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Kwanzaa!