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Good Afternoon friend!
All Points West: Looking for holiday inspiration?
December 25, 2014 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
The holidays are coming.
And the reason I know this is because the U.S. Senate thankfully just passed a $1.01 trillion dollar budget. Now, it awaits President Obama's signature. I look at it as the Federal government's gift to the nation.

And the other reason I know it's the holidays is because I was given the results of my performance review. Let's put it this way, it wasn't bad news.
Otherwise, I am not feeling the warm fuzzy, the advent calendar anticipation, or the frog in my throat after watching "It's a Wonderful Life." Something is amiss.

Aside from a futile attempt at shopping for special people in my life, I didn't see many other signs, colorful lights, or random acts of kindness. My family will all probably get gift cards mailed to them. In some ways I feel like Scrooge, and other moments the Grinch, but is it really just me feeling all Hum-buggy?

During my rounds, yeah, some carolers took the stage at National Harbor with The Capital Wheel on the waterfront as a picture postcard backdrop that I thought briefly about sharing on Facebook. But then I noticed that even social media was devoid of the holiday hoopla. I'm still waiting for memes of Santa, Hanukkah, and Baby New Year, and some moment for raising spirits high.

Earlier this month, I showed up an hour late to a holiday meeting for the Human Resources Department which delivered gifts to more than 40 of us, and served up breakfast foods including fried chicken that I was told could be wrapped in syrup-soaked waffles a first for me. I cracked a grin during this year's Ugly Christmas Sweater competition and an even wider grin when I opened my gift box of goodies: a lint roller, a Tide stick, and some red and green socks. To me, the small things mean so much. But then, it was right back to work.

In December's first weekend, I got all dressed up in my dress blues for another holiday party in Greensboro, N.C., and celebrated with my Army National Guard brothers and sisters. It was the unit's first holiday party since getting home from Afghanistan and Kuwait. Darn it that we ran out of turkey when I stepped up to the serving line, but the highlight was seeing the kids get hundreds of toys donated by so many hardworking neighbors and friends. Yours truly even got in on a little line dancing. But seeing families together made me miss mine.

Most of my family lives smack dab in the middle of the country's bread basket. My 70-year-old mother wonders if I'll ever move back to my hometown, which is currently buried under about a foot of snow. Small towns are different. If you're going shopping, saying you'll be right over really means you'll be right over, not the journey it takes to get to Tyson's Corner, one of the premiere malls in the area. In the Midwest, folks are more apt to start talking about what the holiday means to them, and less about how tragically commercial it's become. Even in the bitter cold, snow drifts, and freezing wind, they'll stop and say hello and talk for a few minutes. They'll ask: "How will you spend your holidays?" and mean it.

In my family, there's the tradition of making tamales, and so many of the cornhusk wrapped gems, that you can't help but give all the extras away. Mom doesn't mind spending hours in the kitchen because it's what brings the family home. Who knows how many more times she'll see the festiveness of this time of year? We can't ignore the circle of life, but what's more important, is what happens during those times.

I'm also reminded of future generations who will carry on our traditions. My daughter's coming to town. She's 18. I remember the first time she opened presents something a parent should never forget. She wants to see so much of D.C., the White House Christmas Tree, and hopefully a snow covered Mall. This is her first visit to our nation's capital a great way to make the holidays brighter, spending it with dad. But, more importantly, can I teach her to make tamales?

Fine sentiments you say. But I'm still waiting. Maybe Im like the guy in the Dunkin Donuts roasted coffee commercial, grabbing several packs of beans off the shelf and calling it inspiration.
Then, I am reminded of where I live and work. Though I joke about PBGC being one of the happiest places on earth next to Disneyland, it's not far from the truth. In the absence of family, this Corporation is the closest thing to it. This gift of belonging is something we're given year round. Maybe during the holidays, we do turn it up a notch, but maybe there's not much of a difference because we feel inspired or something like it every day.

In whatever way you feel and whatever way you spend the holidays, I wish each one of you the peace and happiness you deserve.

Well, what do you know? I'm starting to feel inspired!
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