It may be 13 more days until the end of the month and the year 2010, but from the standpoint of our schedule, this is my last column for the year. It's hard to believe another year has come and gone, but life continues on for most of us.

This year was an especially challenging one for me and it required me to do a great deal of thinking about what I wanted in life. I'm not exactly sure I was totally successful, but I'm sure glad the rollercoaster ride of 2010 has evened out.

Since we are at the end of the year, I want to share some random thoughts with you this week. First I would like to express from the bottom of my heart, my humble gratitude and appreciation for all of you who have approached me this year and in other years and thanked me or commented on my column to me or even just shared your experiences.

It means so very much to me that each of you allow me to share part of your Saturday morning with me and enjoy reading my column. I realize not every column is for everyone, but I try to do my best overall to find interesting and unusual things for you to read, learn about or just enjoy.

Kathryn is three and this Christmas is proving to probably be one of the best ones yet. Her first official Santa wish was for a Barbie Car and I am sure hoping Santa can bring one in that sleigh of his next Friday night. Of course I don't have a usable chimney so our "Santa Key" should do the trick.

To be honest, I never heard of a Santa key until my wife Katie explained to me what its purpose is to the holiday traditions. In short, the Santa Key is an ornate skeleton key on a ribbon or large key ring that Kathryn will hang outside on Christmas Eve Night so that Santa can enter the house. While hundreds of years ago most homes had a chimney leading to a fireplace that Santa was able to use, today most chimneys are not used or more often supply draft directly to the furnace which would be almost impossible for Santa to use.

Instead the Santa Key will magically open the door to give Santa entry into the house to do his magical work. When it is completed, Santa will eat any cookies and milk, then he usually leaves the key next to the plate before he departs for his next stop on his whirlwind annual world tour. While in other years Kathryn was a bit too young to actually do this tradition, she is able to participate this year.

Besides the Santa Key we also have another tradition for her that she is enjoying. Jingle the Elf of Elf on the Shelf fame is visiting us for the second year in a row. It is such a joy to see her in the morning when she first comes downstairs in these weeks before Christmas trying to spot Jingle before we do. The rules are simple. You can talk with Jingle, but he will not answer. You must not touch him or he will lose his magic and become a doll. He is simply there to be Santa's eyes and ears during this hectic time.

Over the past few weeks he has been rappelling from the chandelier, hanging out on the refrigerator, in the Christmas tree as well as on cabinets and picture frames. While Kathryn is still terrified of Santa, she has been helping as much as she is able to tell him indirectly what she wants for Christmas.

Jingle conveys the message to Santa each night and then returns to watch his assignment. He normally appears around Thanksgiving but definitely leaves on Christmas Eve. We suspect his ride that final night is with the big guy himself as they both return to the North Pole for yet another year.

This year brought with it sad moments too. I lost two dear family members this year who will be missed a great deal. First my cousin Brian's father passed away last month and while I was able to briefly speak with him after 20 years, the circumstances were quite sad. Also, my great-Aunt Esther who was more like a third grandmother unexpectedly passed away in August. That continues to be a hard loss for my small family.

She was a wonderful woman and I will miss her for the rest of my life. She was my friend, my adviser and my retreat. She always listened and offered wise counsel only when asked and I spent many evenings talking with her about challenges. Her death was quite difficult to me and I can only remind myself that I was truly blessed to have spent forty three years of life with her which is more than most people have with a grandparent.

So as we close the books on this year, I want to wish you all a very blessed Christmas, a happy holiday season filled with joy and laughter and most importantly family and friends. I also want to wish you a Happy New Year and the best of new opportunities and challenges for 2011. Thanks for a great year and let's do it again in a few weeks as we launch 2011.

If there is any topic that interests you or you would like me to share next year, e-mail me at dawargo@ptd.net or care of the editor of the Times News.

Til next time …