Give a Gift that Makes a Difference and/or Changes a Life!

I think we all have someone on our holiday shopping list who has absolutely everything and wants for nothing. If that’s the case, yet you still want to do something for this person, consider one of the amazing charitable gifting options below in their name.

The Gift of Giving
http://www.thegiftofgiving.com

Kiva Cards
http://www.kiva.org/gifts/kiva-cards

Wishbone Gift Certificate
https://www.wishbone.org/gift_cards/new

There are so many options to choose from, it comes down to a matter of personal preference. Do your research, just make sure they are a reputable organization, and of course, make sure to do it before December 31st so you can take advantage of Uncle Sam’s gift to you , a tax deduction.

http://nonprofit.about.com/od/fordonors/tp/taxdeductionsforcharity.htm

Below are a few tips on charitable giving. If you do so with both your head and your heart, your giving will warm you and others for a long time to come. Check any charity against the “Consumer Reports” of the charitable world.

• GuideStar lists 1.8 million nonprofits in its database, all of which have met IRS criteria for exempt organizations. You can check here to make sure your charity is a 501(c)(3) charity, and examine a charity’s latest tax form that it has filed with the IRS.

• The Better Business Bureau’s Start With Trust website keeps track of complaints against nonprofits, just as it does for businesses. A nonprofit that displays the BBB logo on its site has passed a rigorous screening process from the BBB.

• Charity Navigator ranks charities based on their efficiency, transparency and accountability. The rating agency gives charities up to four stars, providing an easy way to find the organizations where your contributions will be safe and effective.

• Great Nonprofits actually provides user reviews of nonprofits, which can give you a more personal view of what real people, who either donate to or receive services, think about a particular nonprofit.

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Combat Holiday Stress with Life’s Simple Pleasures

This magical time of year can also wreak havoc on your mind, body and spirit. If you’re feeling anxious, on edge, about to snap…believe it or not, you are in control of the situation, and you can allow yourself 45 minutes, preferably an hour, to reboot, regenerate, revive so that you can survive all of the holiday demands. It’s really not that hard. You’ll be surprised at how much better, grateful and appreciative you’ll feel versus resentful and uptight. Do it, you owe it to yourself and your family!

Simple pleasures really are simple…

Draw yourself a hot bath

Put a few drops of pure essential oils in the water
(Chamomile, Lavender, Ylang-ylang and Sage for calming effects; Eucalyptus, Tea tree oil, Lemon and Peppermint to clear out your sinuses; a combination of Lemon and Tangerine to reduce depression symptoms; and a combination of Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Rosemary will reduce fatigue.)

Light some candles

Bring in a cup of tea or glass of wine

Listen to some spa music, read a book and SOAK.

Then wrap yourself in your cozy robe and slippers, continue reading your book, or call it a day.

Everything and everyone will be waiting for your tomorrow. The only difference between today and tomorrow, you’ll have a smile on your face again.

“Experiential Gifting”

Toys may break, clothing goes out of style, gadgets are obsolete within minutes, but memories are forever and make us who we are.
Consider gifting an “Experience” this year that will create a life-long memory for your family, loved one or friend.

The greatest gift we ever own is not found in big box stores or under our Christmas trees. It is found in the hearts of your family, true friends and memories. It is not until a loved one is diagnosed with an illness that is going to erase their memories, that you realize how precious and priceless these stored life experiences are. Below are some experiential gifting ideas that I’ve either given to someone, or would love to receive (hint, hint).

“Memory Making” gift ideas:

FAMILY…
Family Vacation
Ski weekend
Scavenger Hunt through Boston
White Water Rafting Trip
Blue Man Group Tickets
Maybe a New Puppy!

SPOUSE…
A tandem Kayak so you have future memories to create together
Cape Cod Dinner Train
Sunset Cruise in Boston
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Flying Lessons

FRIEND…
Boston Wine or Chocolate Tour
Tickets to a Play or Concert
Sky Diving
Zip Lining

How to Enjoy the Holidays Even Though You May be Apart from Loved Ones

boston-garden-christmas

When I was a child, I remember the holidays so fondly. We had a large extended family with Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins, all living within a five mile radius of each other. With easily 25-30 people over on Christmas Day, throughout the entire day, holidays were epic.
Filled with lots of family, friends, love and laughter.

Christmas is so very different now. We are all adults with our own families, set of responsibilities, and living in different parts of the country. It seems as if the only time we see each other anymore is for weddings or funerals. If you allow it to, this could easily become a sad time of year because nothing will top the holidays of childhood past.

My husband and I have been on a journey of exploration, learning how to enjoy the holidays even though we are far apart from family and loved ones. Over the past ten years, I have owned a retail/service business, and my husband is a mail carrier. In the service industry, it is a given that you need to be open to the public from the day after Thanksgiving through December 24th to cater to your clients and their gift giving needs. My husband, in turn, delivers mail and packages to everyone six days a week with long hours during the holiday rush. Come 7:00pm on Christmas Eve when we both could finally sit down, put up our feet and breathe, we would usually collapse in exhaustion. Knowing we only had one day to recover, Christmas Day, and had to be back at work again on the 26th, it didn’t make sense for us to drive out of state Christmas Day only able to stay for dinner, and then drive back home.  But, we didn’t want to be alone, what do we do?

After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that we had one of two choices to make. We could either remain home, sad and depressed that we couldn’t enjoy the holidays like everyone else, or begin to create our very own Christmas tradition, just the two of us. Being optimistic people, the choice was easy. Let’s create our own Christmas Day tradition.

We both absolutely love Boston and figured that would be the only location close by that would have anything open, so we decided to go there. We also wanted to add a charitable component to our day as we both know, giving back to others is always the best gift to give yourself. So, our first Christmas together, ten years ago, we got all dressed up and boarded the train into Boston with no agenda, and pockets filled with lots of gift cards for a popular New England coffee shop that begins with D and ends with D. We got off the train at South Station and decided to walk towards the Boston Common, because we felt we would be able to give out our gifts there to those in need, and we were right. There were quite a few homeless people gathered in and around the common that day.

After witnessing that, we quickly realized that the perfect remedy to stop feeling sorry for ourselves is to look around, really look around and see how much hardship and need there is in this world. When we did that, gratitude kicked in automatically. We acknowledged how thankful we were to have each other, a roof over our heads, and family that loved us, even if they are miles away on this particular day. We were even thankful for the jobs that we had, as demanding as they are on us this time of year.

Now, it was time to give out the gifts we brought with us. To be honest, never doing this before, we were a little afraid, as we didn’t quite know how the person(s) would react. If they would be offended, aggressive or just plain not want the gift we had to give.

We were so happy that we didn’t let fear take over and not to follow-through with our plan. Each and every individual we gave a gift to was so appreciative and thankful. I truly believe that they weren’t as much thankful for the actual gift itself, but that someone took the time to look them in the eyes, acknowledge them as a living, breathing human being, and wish them a very Merry Christmas. Those brief moments were so uplifting and the highlights of our day and holiday season.

After giving out all of our gifts, we decided it was time for the two of us. So, we went to the Parker House for some holiday cocktails. We were in awe of how beautifully the hotel was decorated, and enjoyed the sound of Christmas music throughout. Slowly making our way to the lounge, we learned quickly that we were not “Alone” on Christmas Day after all. The lounge was actually so crowded that we could barely find a seat. There were many individuals in the same situation who could not be with family and just wanted to be around people, even if they were strangers. After a few cocktails, we decided to go to the theater as Christmas Day is a great day for new movie releases. Again, we were pleasantly surprised that the theater was packed with people who had the same idea. After seeing a wonderful movie, we decided to go to dinner, but where, what restaurant is going to be open on Christmas Day? We walked around and began to see a lot of hustle and bustle in the Chinatown District and was thrilled to see that almost everything was open. So excited, we made our way to an authentic Chinese restaurant and had a non-traditional yet delicious Christmas dinner.

After a full day of new and fulfilling adventures, we boarded the train back home and re-lived the stories we heard from the people we gave gifts to and the people we met along the way. We decided right then and there that our Christmas Day Tradition was born, and that we were going to do the same exact thing every year. I’m happy to say that we look forward to Christmas Day in Boston now, and have upheld our tradition for ten years and going strong.

We fondly reply when people ask us what we’re going to do for Christmas this year, we’re going to the “Island of the Misfit Toys” (Rudolph). We joked about it that day and it stuck, because in a strange way, that’s how we felt when we were there. Boston becomes an island in and of itself that day. The city is essentially shut down, yet it’s bustling with individuals who couldn’t be where they wanted to be for Christmas, but wanted to connect with other human beings so that they didn’t have to be alone. We all came together for healing whether we knew it or not, and gave each other the gift of companionship that we were seeking on such a special day.