Valerie-with-reindeerGuest post by Valerie of Bears & More

It has been said that my husband and I are crazy about Christmas. We decorate the inside of the house with no room left undecorated, and both yards. Our front yard it all about Santa and the back (which butts up to a street) is also decorated over the top for those passing by to enjoy. Our shop, Bears & More has turned into a life size gingerbread house since 2007 and my husband puts up lights at his parents, uncles, and brothers homes. You would think that with that much decorating going on I am in the Christmas spirit from Halloween on. That would be incorrect. As a business owner we decorate so early, buy in February for the following season and get the merchandise in July.  Here's a secret - why there are so many Christmas in July sales?  We just simply run out of space in our storage rooms and need to clear out merchandise. We think and plan for Christmas almost all year round. Finding that real Christmas spirit takes some effort and I am most surprised by the little things that light that spark and make it grow to where I am holly jolly all season long. There’s a tree on the corner of 58th Drive and Palmaire, that we have chosen to decorate each season with a paper chain and other items. The “paper-chain” (really made out of duck tape) is dedicated to current and past service members, and you’ll find names written on several of the links. Spark number one – most of my family and friends are here (save one that is “over there”) and will be at my home celebrating with us all season long. Spark number two follows right behind looking at the ornaments and being able to connect some of the creators to their masterpieces hung high above my head and planning for next year’s Holiday Open House because that’s when these ornaments were made by our guests. Being a member of this business community is a wonderful thing. Being a merchant in Catlin Court affords us the opportunity of being real neighbors and visiting “over the fence” so to say. Spark three comes as we all start to decorate the outside of our businesses and laugh and joke back and forth and help each other untangle lights, reach the high spots, hold ladders, and wrap those light poles. Naturally we take some ribbing for the over-the-top gingerbread house decorations, but it’s all in fun. Sometimes it's a little too magical and romantic – we have had several proposals happen right in front of our shop during the holiday season! For over 25 years we’ve been going to dinner at Pedro’s every Saturday night and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Luckily it’s right here in Glendale and spark four comes on those Saturday nights when the shops are decorated and we drive through on our way home and see the great windows along Glendale and 58th Avenue. The giant Santa at The Astrology Store, the upside-down tree at Glass Creations, all the pretty, sparkly, twinkly things at Lois’ Loveables, Apple Tree, A Mad Hatter’s and Zola Belle’s, my version of the windows along 5th Avenue in New York City right here in Glendale. Because we practice what we preach, shopping local for every occasion has become second nature. We do most of our holiday shopping (spark number five) right here in downtown Glendale.  For my sister-in-laws and oldest niece, we visit Cottage Garden I and II, Blue House Boutique, and Pink House. For my husband’s aunt, a piece of the ruby red glass at Glass Creations always finds itself under our tree. For my oldest nephew, a visit to Military is always a must.  For my youngest nephew and one of my husband’s brothers, Drawn to Comics is on the list. And for my youngest niece and friend’s daughter, we shop at our own store. They always have something in their gift registry boxes. We hit Nana G’s, Zola Belle’s, A Mad Hatter’s, Antique Haven and Apple Tree for the rest of the family. At The Open Door and The Country Maiden we always find something for our friends and our Christmas party gift exchange. What’s the best part of all?  We find great gifts that are unique and personal for our friends and family and each other while we enjoy the wonderful downtown district that we love. The final and perhaps the spark that would count as six through oh, 1.5 million is the evenings when the lights are being tested at Murphy Park.  If we are lucky enough to be down there my husband and I stop and walk hand in hand through the park soaking it all in while no one is around. Each of those lights just adds to my Christmas Spirit and I feel my heart grow three sizes, just like the Grinch. I am reminded that amidst all the planning and decorating and running here and there that Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year, full of kindness, family, friends, twinkling lights and sparkly decorations, and most of all love. That’s what gets me in the Christmas Spirit and it is all right here in Glendale.