With less than two shopping weeks left until Christmas, I’m curious to know how many have cut back on spending for the holidays or are still doing the full-blown shopping spree?

My family has decided to limit spending this year and I’m finding that task a bit harder than I first anticipated. Oh, whatever happened to Johnny wanting just a pair of skates, Suzie a doll and Nelly a storybook?

Instead of not worrying about what to get loved ones with an open wallet, I feel like someone handed me some money and said, “Go ahead and shop, but you’re not getting another dime.”

I have some shopping done, but I need to get on the stick and pick it up a bit. Those two weeks are going to fly by.

Maybe I’ve said this before, but the older I get, the more I find it a bit crazy with the gift exchanging. So many families go in debt just for Christmas and the only ones that make out in the deal are recipients of those gift and retail.

My daughters are adults now so skates, dolls and storybooks have turned into electronics and household goods and appliances. I dare not buy them clothing, or anyone else for that matter. I have no idea what people’s tastes are and I don’t want to venture to guess.

I think that’s why so many go the route of gift cards. If I give my daughter Ashley a $100 gift card to Amazon and she does the same to me, what sense does that make?

Oh, I’m not going all bah humbug, I just think the Santa Claus end of the holiday is just great for kids; I’m just not sure about the adults. After all, isn’t Jesus the reason for the season?

Being showered with gifts is great for milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries.

Speaking of Santa Claus, I’ve seen him at so many functions, tree lightings, and parades, I’m not sure how he gets around like he does when he should be at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas Day.

Am I tired of seeing Old Saint Nick? Not at all, I still love seeing the little ones sitting on his lap whispering in his ear telling him his or her Christmas present wish list.

The youngest children are the ones to watch. Some are okay with sitting for a photo, others cry from the moment their parents attempt to put them on a strange man’s knee with a big white, bushy beard and a funny red suit.

It always surprises me when a child goes right up to Santa without hesitation, you know, all business.

It’s that age of belief in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy that I loved growing up and still love to see today. It’s that brief moment in life where make believe is real. It truly is magical.

You know what’s magical? Covering basketball games between Pittston Area and Wyoming Area and knowing the memories of such great guys as Tom Tigue, Tony Denisco and Eugene DiMinico, Jr. are still in the forefront.

All three were public servants, one as a state representative, and one as the mayor of a borough and one as a police officer.

I always felt we have such a tremendous tradition in Greater Pittston to never forget those that have served us well. Take a look at the mural on the side of the Newrose Building, Pittston, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

There are dozens of faces on the mural that have made their mark in Greater Pittston and beyond that have made us proud or guided us to a new level or led us down a path making our little niche in the world a success.

Not everything about this holiday season is happy and joyful. We, and I mean we collectively, lost a little 10-year-old girl named Raeann Rose Merlino, of West Pittston to illness.

Her loss has moved many from Greater Pittston to tears including myself. After seeing her photo on so many Facebook profile pages, I felt I must have either seen this child somewhere about town or I covered something she was attending.

Well, it was the latter. I took photos of Raeann earlier this year while she was attending a STEM event at the Pittston Memorial Library. I searched my database of photos and there she was. Naturally I was brought to tears when I saw the images I captured of her.

I covered so many stories in my career, photographing or writing about thousands of people and for me, I never know the backstory of many.

I know her grandparents Ed and Rosemarie DeLucca for many years and her aunt Jacqueline DeLucca in more recent years as she works at the library in Pittston.

So many schools have banded together to honor Raeann as well as the entire community.

Her viewing is today from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Corpus Christi Parish Church, Luzerne Ave., West Pittston with a private interment on Monday at the Denison Cemetery, Swoyersville.

This holiday, take a moment out to remember Raeann father Jamie Merlino and mother Dawn Gazda and the rest of her family and friends.

Be mindful of those struggling as well, for some, this is a tough time of the year.

Quote of the week

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale

Thought of the week

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” – J.K. Rowling

Bumper stick

“Life is precious, fragile, fleeting.” – Jim Butcher