To the point week of 12-16-10

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IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK a lot like Christmas, especially here in Switzerland County.

With Christmas now nine days away, you can’t help but get in the spirit as you drive around the county. Along every roadway there’s plenty of homes with Christmas lights outlining the roof line and doors and windows; and there’s also plenty of holiday creations standing in the front yards, from inflatable Santas to Nativity Scenes.

The town of Patriot looks wonderful, with all of the work that Patriot Main Street has been doing, including a contest to help entice residents to decorate not only for this holiday, but for three other seasons, as well.

Drive through the country, whether it’s up highway 250; or highway 56; or highway 129 – and you’ll see plenty of holiday decorations.

The town of Vevay and the Switzerland County Courthouse are also decked out for the holidays, and at night the lights on the trees along Main and Ferry streets seem suspended in time.

Throw in the snow that we experienced over the weekend, and it looks like we’re going to have a “White Christmas” this year.

So, with the county fully in the Christmas spirit, it’s also a good time for residents to check out some of the deals that local county merchants have.

There’s plenty of sales and bargains around; not to mention high-quality handmade items that are sure to please someone on your Christmas list.

If you hate crowds like I do, staying home to shop is also a great way to not only support the local economy, but also to not have to fight all of the traffic and hectic shoppers that you’ll find in the city.

This is an exciting week for me, because my daughter, Emily, is finishing up her final exams at Western Kentucky University this week and will be home for a long holiday break by the weekend.

It’s also exciting because my oldest daughter, Abby, and her husband, Adam, are getting ready for their first Christmas together as a married couple; and youngest daughter, Hilary, is already on the countdown to finishing high school and heading off to college.

Her Christmas break will be filled with “visions of scholarships dancing in her head” – to paraphrase the old Christmas poem.

This is also the season that I get to catch up with relatives and friends through Christmas cards and letters.

You remember letters, don’t you? It’s what people used to write before the Internet came along. Your kids probably have no idea what the people in the blue uniforms with large, leather bags are doing, so you might want to sit them down and share tales of long ago when we all communicated with pen and paper.

But at Christmas, I love it when a card comes in the mail and it includes a letter about what that family has been doing for the past 12 months.

Always – it never fails – my first Christmas card of the season is from my cousin, Cheri Albrecht, and her husband Fred. Cheri and Fred live in New York, so I don’t see them much, but I know that every year my family will kick off the Christmas season with a card and letter from my New York relatives.

What really struck me in this year’s card was that Cheri related in her letter that everyone had surprised Fred for his 70th birthday this year.

“Fred’s 70?” I thought. “How can that be?”

Sure enough, Fred turned 70 years old during 2010, which reminded me that all of us cousins are getting pretty old – my younger brother, Tim is the youngest grandchild, and he’s nearing 40 (okay, he’s not as close to 40 as I am to 50, but you get the idea).

The second thought that runs through my mind is that we all let time fly by us and we all get so busy doing things to put in our Christmas letters that we don’t always take the time to do meaningful things that should make up the contents of those letters.

Like actually see each other or talk on the phone or skype or something.

If your family is like mine, you see everyone at funerals, and maybe a wedding.

We all shake hands and hug and talk about our lives as we stand at the back of the funeral home, and we talk a little bit about the relative at the front of the funeral home, and we tell each other a great line:

“We need to see each other more than just at funerals.”

You know the sentence, you may have even said it.

But it never happens.

The next thing you know, the weather’s getting colder and there’s a card from Cousin Cheri in the mailbox.

And then it starts all over again.

A couple of years ago (okay, maybe more like a decade. Like I said, time flies), my older brother Mike (he’s 52. No real reason to tell you that, other than the fact that he gets our paper and he’ll read this and being reminded that he’s 52 will tweak him a bit) and some of our other cousins tried to organize some family reunions. The Lanmans are a big family, so people are spread out a bit, but still they worked tirelessly to try and bring everyone together.

They decided that all of us cousins needed to be the catalyst for these reunions, so soon my cousin Helen ( “Maude” to us, if you’re old enough to remember the TV show) was handing out assignments and others were writing invitations and making phone calls.

It worked for a year or two, but then everyone, me included, got too busy and too wrapped up in our own lives to set aside a little time to spend with the extended family.

It’s not that anyone did it on purpose, but you just get busy and time passes and you’ve got stuff to do and things to accomplish and places to go and people to see.

And then you get a card in the mail from Cousin Cheri again.

I tell you all of this for a specific, selfish reason.

I decided to share this with each of you because this week I found out that my cousin, Diane, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I don’t know much about it, but I do know that it’s not good.

When a doctor looks at you and tells you that you’ve got pancreatic cancer, it makes the upcoming Christmas holiday take on a whole new perspective.

It also makes your family – even a cousin on the other end of the state – take on a whole new perspective.

So my Christmas wish to you, nine days in advance, is that you make 2011 the year that you decide that it isn’t going to be a time when you see relatives and friends at funeral homes.

Nothing is more important than your family and your relationships, no matter what the world or ESPN tells you.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you today, and it is my hope that I can follow my own advice and find the time and make the time to see loved ones. If you are accustomed to praying – or even if you’re not – I would appreciate you including my cousin Diane and her family in them.

Sometimes we get the chance to see things in our lives that need adjusted; and sometimes it’s just too late.