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You never know what you'll find in a coat pocket
By Stephanie Penick | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/10/2009 12:01 AM

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'Tis the season when I always find little gifts of joy deep down in the pockets of my winter coats as I take them from the front hall closet to wear for the first time as the days grow colder.

A still-folded unused Kleenex, some pocket change, a button, a $10 bill and a $40 gift card to Anderson's Bookshop from last Christmas are among the treasures I've discovered so far this year.

When I looked at the gift card, I recalled a recent consumer alert about how some gift cards don't hold their value over the year and others might have a hidden expiration date. It's important to read the fine print and purchase gift cards only from reputable businesses.

At any rate, I donned one of my winter coats early Thursday morning before we headed to the Fry Family Y on 95th Street to kick off to the holiday season at the Mayor's Community Prayer Breakfast, hosted by the Heritage YMCA.

Though I serve on a couple boards that meet at 7:30 a.m., I don't look forward to being someplace at 7 a.m. That 30 minutes disrupts my routine. I like to get up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and take my time walking our dog, catching up on the overnight news, answering e-mails with my morning cup of coffee, etc., to ease into the day.

Yet for the past five Decembers, we've ended up attending the breakfast at that early hour and I always enjoy every minute, especially the Christmas carols, performed this year by Kristy Glass.

The theme of rings and rugs was fitting, too. I was reminded that the ring on my right hand, with its grapevine design, is older than my 31-year-old wedding band.

I've worn the tri-colored 14K gold ring with pale pink and green accents every day since I received it as a college student working at Mt. Rushmore near Keystone, S.D.

Known as Black Hills Gold, the ring was presented to me at the end of the summer by the folks who owned the concession at Mt. Rushmore where 100 students - two from each state - worked after applying to the National Parks Service. I have great memories of working under the watchful granite eyes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt at the Shrine of Democracy. Reminiscing last week overwhelmed me for a time.

I was so distracted by going down memory lane from that summer at Mt. Rushmore that I failed to pay attention to the meaning of "rugs," the other part of the message!

But the music, including "O Holy Night," awakened my holiday spirit.

I first became familiar with Kristy Glass when she was Kristina Anderson, a student at Waubonsie Valley High School in the same class as our daughter. Even back then, she and other remarkably talented students shined on stage in theatrical performances and concerts. Adam Fry, Marie Svejda and Parvesh Cheena are just a few gifted performers I remember from the Class of 1997.

Glass credits, among others, the Young Naperville Singers and Waubonsie choral director John DeGroot, now retired, for nurturing her music education that has landed her on stage in New York City.

As the program ended, Tom Beerntsen, executive director of the Heritage YMCA, said he'd asked Glass to bring her CD, "Picture a Christmas," to sell after the breakfast.

I reached down in the pocket of my coat to see if I had any cash. I found a blank check.

That Gift Card

In my never-ending quest to support our local economy whenever possible, we headed to downtown Naperville on Saturday night to dine, shop and enjoy the Christmas lights.

With my Anderson's Bookshop gift card stashed in my pocket, we headed to their newly opened shop, AB's Two Doors East at 111 W. Jefferson Ave.

I found several fun gifts for my mother and renewed my Anderson's Advantage Membership card that had expired in November.

The public is invited to the store's official ribbon cutting ceremony at 3:30 p.m. today.

• Stephanie Penick writes about Naperville. E-mail her at