December 15, 2014

A Flock Of Hope For Christmas? Yes Please...

As Christmas Day draws near, the pressure of gift giving continues to cause many to stalk websites and the local mall for last minute thrills and deals that will bring their loved ones joy and happiness. Although, if you're like me, you probably could do without another blue sweater that will likely find its way to the back of the closet.

Well have no fear, your own personal Christmas elf is here. For years, we have incorporated the gift of farm animals under our Christmas tree. There are many non~profit organizations that would love to see your tax deductible donation fund their efforts to improve the lives of animals and communities. If a combo gift is to your liking, you could always make a donation, and couple it with a small gift that represents the animal you are giving or adopting. For example, one year we "adopted" for our niece Cueball, who is a seal from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. An organization that rescues and rehabilitates our struggling water friends. With the official certificate of adoption, we sent along a book about a seal. A perfect surprise for the kiddo in your life, who will be able to enjoy your gift with a nice reminder that part it went to save the life of a seal.

If land mammals are more up your alley, there are farms throughout the U.S. that offer up the same gift giving options. And then there is, of course, the international rockstar Heifer International. After quickly perusing the site, you can purchase an animal (or a portion of an animal) that will be donated to individuals in third world communities to generate income to sustain their families. But more importantly, the end result of Heifer International has been proven to change the dynamics of underdeveloped countries, provides woman and girls professional opportunities, and gives communities the pride of learning new ways of utilizing an animal as the ultimate catalyst for independence.

If you would like to visit a few sites for your last minute holiday gifts, I have linked my top three favorites below. Wishing you a lovely holiday and a super 2015.

December 8, 2014

A Challenging Christmas Moment Can Make For Funny Future Memories...

In honor of challenging holiday moments I am reposting one of my blogs from last year. I received many comments and emails from readers about their own funny stories. Honestly, I feel for parents of little ones, who spend every waking moment from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve in search of the "it gift" of the year. In the event that you come away empty handed, please know that you will one day laugh about it...  

                                                               ~ ~ ~

This morning I was working on a project in my kitchen while listening to the adorable Kelly Ripa talking in the background about the must have toy of the season. I immediately went to December 2007 when my daughter desperately wanted that year's coveted toy. We are happily beyond that phase, but I remember all too well the pressure that a parent feels when you go from store to store only to find that dreaded empty shelf.

Not knowing what to do when I realized that I had exhausted all of my resources, I decided I only had one option. A handwritten note from Santa with a valid explanation about why it was he could not produce the requested gift. After all, I was fairly confident that my bright nine-year-old daughter could assimilate the issue of supply and demand. Sadly, the note was not received well. You should know there were tears coupled with a long discussion about what was believed to be the magical abilities of Santa and why it was that he had failed. We managed to salvage the day, as there were family festivities that luckily overshadowed the disappointment of the morning.

I have taken the liberty of sharing with you the poem that greeted Kate as she woke up on a chilly December 25, 2007. You should also know that Kate is now a teenager and has forgiven the events of that day.

The story begins with a girl they call Kate. She was smart and funny and all around great! 

Her parents once adorned her with a dress and a bow. Until one day she said, with her head hanging low,"I don't like dresses and big fancy bows! I am my own person, if you really must know." 

Her parents stood shocked and said, with great interest, "What else do you want~for next month is Christmas." The girl they call Kate said, "Let me see...the item I really want is a Nintendo Wii."

The investigation ensued and Santa was called, for this game they call a Wii was nowhere to be found. The elves were amused that Santa would request a Wii so late in the season. You surely must jest! They thought and they thought and they thought a little more. But it still was no use. They were sad to the core.

"Christmas must go on", Santa said with great zeal! "Perhaps if you wait, you will get a better deal." So off to the mall Santa directed the elves. Although it was tough with the dwindling shelves. They stood in line for what seemed like days. When at last it was time. They had conquered the maze. The elves promptly told the story of Kate. And the man, half-listening, said, "Sorry, too late." But he did have an idea, which didn't seem hard. "What about giving her a Best Buy card?"

While it's fun to play on Christmas Day, there is simply no possible way. But it won't be hard to use the card when December rolls away. The Wii will be in stock and then you can flock to the nearest Best Buy Store. Until then we respectfully suggest that you play on the one next door...


Santa and the Elves

December 1, 2014

I Witnessed Something That Will Stay With Me Forever...

Like many I have doled out my share of spare change, coffee, and the occasional sandwich to countless homeless Americans living life on the streets. It is understandably tougher to witness the harsh realities during the times of the year when weather conditions make it increasingly more difficult to survive against the elements.    

We recently returned from a short trip to Portland, Oregon. For those of you who have followed my blog for the past few years, you know that I am from the Northwest and spent much of my time in quirky Portland. (Side note: If you are at all curious about Portland, I wrote a blog titled A Love Letter To Portland, which goes into detail about this fantastic gem of a city)

But I digress...

The day before Thanksgiving I was walking a route that I had taken many times over the years. With my required Northwest beverage (coffee) secured tightly while navigating through the oncoming flow of shoppers, I witnessed something that will stay with me always. As the light turned green, I prepared to cross the street. A young woman caught my eye on the opposite corner. Twenties, Anthropologie~J.Crew style, and doing her best to jockey a familiar container of two grande coffees and a what appeared to be breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks. Doing an about face she knelt down to a woman sitting on the sidewalk, who was clearly flanked by all of her worldly possessions. Without an ounce of a condescending tone she chirped,"I have one pumpkin spice latte and one carmel macchiato. Your choice. I also have a sandwich if you're hungry."

Lovely, I thought. It is always nice to witness moments of generosity. Especially on chilly winter days when the rest of us are hustling to get ready for the holidays.

It's what happened next that brought tears to my eyes. As the woman graciously accepted her donation, the chic young gal plunked down onto the damp bricks below, introduced herself, and said, "So tell me your story. I want to know about you."

The women smiled in such a way that made it clear to this passerby that few had offered up anything more than the occasional handout in a really long time. As I looked back both were chatting happily as if they were lifelong gal pals.

In less than one minute, I was reminded of the true spirit of the season. While monetary donations are necessary to sustain those who are without, a personal connection is quite possibly the most generous gift we can give.