Tag Archives: Christmas

Top 5 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

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“Peace on earth, and goodwill towards men.” There’s no shortage of life-affirming mantras to throw around come this time of year, but let’s face it. It’s too easy to get preoccupied with the consumerist aspect of the holiday season. And what’s more — it’s all too easy to lose sight of the true meaning of the season: that charity, benevolence, and mankind’s capacity for empathy are our true salvation, and to truly experience a blissful holiday season, we need to be mindful of what we can do to benefit others. 

Here are five ways to give back this holiday season: Continue reading

Be careful what you wish for!

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It was just before Christmas in 2006 and my daughter, Elora, had fully realized the meaning of this holiday. The stockings were hung by the chimney with the care (Kind of, I mean she was 3), the tree was up and we were ready for Santa to bring us all our dreams wrapped in shiny sparkly paper with big splendid bows.

Elora had made her list, filled with dolls and Disney princesses and this Mrs. Clause was ready! So when I arrived to pick her up after spending the afternoon with Grandma making Christmas cookies, her newest addition to her wish list was quite a surprise. I had barely made it across the threshold when she blurted out “I want a baby brother for Christmas!” Continue reading

Thursday Morning Melody: Me And You Grandma

It’s entirely possible that with a week left til Christmas, you’re already tired of hearing every version of “Jingle Bells” imaginable on the radio.
We have the solution.

Erin and MeLissa are a pair of comedians who sing songs and tell jokes in Los Angeles by way of Nashville, TN. This Christmas, they released their newest song, “Me and You Grandma”. It is a tribute to the most under appreciated holiday date you can have: your grandmother. She buys you things. She knows a thing or two about costume jewelry. She doesn’t care how many cookies you eat. That’s love.

So pause your Bing Crosby playlist.
Listen to a little bit of Erin and MeLissa.
Call your grandma.

If you need more Erin and MeLissa, visit their website, listen to their songs on Soundcloud, and follow them on Twitter or Facebook. You won’t regret it. (And we’re not just saying do it because MeLissa is part of our team, but because it’s going to make your life better and filled with more joy).

What do you think of the video? Who are you most excited to see this holiday season? Tell us in the comments below! 

From Intent.com: I Intend to Speak Life

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We wait all year for those Coca Cola bears.
We want all our friends and family to come over and sit on the couch to drink hot chocolate and watch Elf.
We don’t even have to put on real clothes.
We can just wear footie pajamas all day long.
Everyone is happy and sings songs like the Whos at the end of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.

That is what Christmas looks like in my head.
Instead I’m thinking about how much work I need to finish before I catch a plane home on Wednesday.
I’m thinking about how many Christmas presents I still haven’t purchased and how much money is left in my bank account.
Who is dropping me off at the airport? Who is picking me up at the airport?
I GOT YOU A $100 TARGET GIFT CARD AND YOU GOT ME A BACK SCRATCHER?!

The most wonderful time of the year quickly becomes the most stressful time of the year. The time we meant to spend making memories that will last the whole year through are being replaced by little arguments about stupid things, staying up late trying to get all the loose ends at work tied up, trying to get this Pinterest project to look how it did in the picture!

This week, my intent is to speak life.

When I’m frustrated, when I am afraid of failing, I want to choose to lift up the people around me versus tear them down. I don’t want to let words I don’t mean leave a lasting impression on the people I love.

They may not know what do with the reindeer wreath DIY gift I gave them that crashed and burned, but I hope they think of that last. First, I hope they have memories of me telling them that they are loved and important. I hope they have copious stories to tell of me reminding them that they are beautiful and rare, talented and a gift in my life. I hope they know that because I have wasted not a single moment making them feel special. Because THAT is what the holidays are about. Sacrifice and a willingness to give for the sake of love. Taking my mind off myself for a single freaking second to focus on the people I so easily take for granted: friends, acquaintances or strangers.

So how do you participate?
Speak life.
When you get the opportunity to gripe or yell or cry, choose to speak life.
Uplift. Encourage. Love.

Get into the Spirit: Acts of Holiday Kindness

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of overflowing schedules, maxing out credit cards to fulfill wish lists, and feeling overwhelmed by trying to keep up with it all.Gift

But, it’s important to step back and remember the true meaning of the season. The holidays are a time where we can honor traditions and create new memories, attend festive parties, spend more time with our loved ones, and rejoice in the energy of the pending new year with boundless opportunities ahead.

One of the most beautiful and heartwarming things about the holiday season is that it inspires many to be a little nicer, more giving, more social, and generally overall better to one other.

To gain some perspective on holiday giving, I reached out to a couple of kindness gurus for their take on the gooey heartwarming goodness of the season.

Kris Wittenberg, Founder & CEO of Be Good to People, a movement that’s changing the world one person, one kind act at a time notes, “People are full of good cheer, looking for ways to spread it to others and carry it on into the New Year ahead. There is a sense of altruism brought about by the holiday season. I think people oftentimes are exhausted at the end of the year. They have been running in the rat race, making their way in the world, and as the year ends, they let down their walls a bit and share a common humanity. People are thinking of others as they shop for special gifts, put together their holiday card distribution lists, attend holiday festivities together and spend time with family and friends. It’s just a jovial time.”

Elle Lanning, Senior Director of Communications at Do the KIND Thing: Projects, a program which crowd sources socially impactful ideas and gives away $10k to a winning project every month, adds “when people get in that holiday spirit, they feel compelled to go beyond giving just gifts but also their time, their kind words, and more. Spreading kindness or holiday cheer during this time can be as simple as giving a dollar to the homeless you encounter on your commute every morning, to volunteering, to distributing holiday meals to those in need, to treating a close friend to dinner. The possibilities are endless.”

The holiday season can be a dark time for those who are missing loved ones in their lives or who are struggling to make ends meet. How can one give back this season? It’s a time where we can open up our hearts to those in need while teaching the younger generations that there is more to this time of year than just receiving the latest tech gadget.

Kris Wittenberg gave a few great ideas on how to pay-it-forward over the holidays stating, “there are so many wonderful options for any budget or schedule.” She truly knows what it means to Be Good to People as she offered up these wonderful ideas:

  • Shovel the neighbor’s walk or clear their car of snow before they come out in the morning
  • Offer an elderly person, busy single mom, or someone fighting a debilitating illness help wrapping gifts or decorate the house for the holidays
  • Deliver homemade holiday goodies to a homeless shelter, women’s shelter or nursing home
  • Offer to read holiday stories to kids at the library or to residents at a nursing home
  • Adopt a family (check with your local social services, church or shelter) and surprise them with meals and gifts that fill needs and wants
  • Remember the people who serve with special gifts or notes of appreciation: the mail carrier, the garbage collector, the minister or choir director at your church, the crossing guard, librarian, lunch ladies or janitor at school, the first responders – anyone who makes your neighborhood run. And don’t forget your neighbors!
  • Host a holiday open house and ask that no one bring dishes or drinks but instead bring a new toy wrapped and labeled or a donation that will go to a local charity
  • Instead of just signing holiday cards and mailing them, write a personal note in each – come on, make time! What a difference that makes to the recipient!
  • Deliver warm clothes, socks, shoes, mittens, hats, scarves, and jackets to homeless people – include a warm meal or a gift certificate

While kindness knows no seasonal boundaries, the good holiday vibes, unfortunately, don’t always last forever. KINDS’s Elle Lanning explains, “most people get into the spirit and somewhat inherently fall out when the new year and busy schedules pick up again.” When asked about keeping the spirit alive she says, “The most important thing to remember is that it is simple to be kind and to do it all year round. People often think to do something good, they have to volunteer or write a check. Doing good for others could be simple daily tasks such as holding the door open for a stranger or buying coffee for your colleague.” By signing up for one of her local food bank’s newsletter, she stays in the know of everything they are working on or in need of throughout the year. Signing up for updates on causes you feel in alignment with is a good way to stay inspired and involved with your community as well.

There are so many ways to spread a little love and holiday cheer. Better yet, keep it going all year! What about you? In what ways do you and your family perform acts of holiday kindness? How might you keep the inspiration going year round? Please share with us in the comments below!

(For more from Dawn Gluskin, visit Dawnsense.com to sign up for her weekly love letters and join the inspiring Dawnsense Facebook community.)

photo by: asenat29

Dreaming of a Green Christmas : 3 Ways to Make Your Holiday Environmentally Friendly

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 9.10.28 AMBy: Elizabeth Eckhart

The holidays are a time of family celebrations, reconnecting with old friends, and celebrating all that we’re thankful for. Unfortunately, the holidays can also be a time of stress, busy schedules, and worse of all, excess. No matter how frugal you may be, chances are you’re finding that extra cold weather and party hosting costs are eating into your budget. And perhaps, if you’re like many other Intent Blog readers, the idea of so much waste, with food and energy, may bother you quite a bit. In order to both keep our habits clean and green, and save some costs, we’ve put together a list of energy saving holiday tricks to get you through the season.

Decorating Tips

If you haven’t already, consider replacing all your holiday lights with energy efficient LEDs, which actually perform better in cold weather. For larger lights, switch to 5-watt bulbs, and place all your lights on a timer or just unplug, ensuring that they won’t be left on during the day when no one can enjoy them. When shopping for outdoor decorations for yourself or others, keep in mind the wide availability of solar powered options.

If you’re really feeling green, you can also decorate with candles. Many families already use luminaries along outdoor walkways on special nights. Consider holiday scented candles, which are a beautiful addition to any home. You can also turn off the lights inside when your brightly decorated tree is on and lit. This will not only save energy; it will immediately make your home feel full of holiday spirit.

Hosting Tips

It may go against holiday tradition, but you can cook some party dishes in the microwave. The typical microwave uses 75 percent less energy than a conventional oven, so even one dish can make a large difference. Using the same reasoning, look up recipes you can create using a slow cooker. Since you’ll still be using the oven for trickier dishes, check progress through the window instead of cracking open the door (which can make the temperature drop 25 degrees in less than a minute!), and feel free to turn the oven off before the food is fully cooked. As long as the door stays shut, your food will finish perfectly and on time. Using glass or ceramic pans also means your dish will cook more quickly, so turn the oven down 20 degrees to save costs.

To keep your fridge running efficiently no matter the number of guests, keep it as stocked as possible — an easy task if feeding a large group of people! You can also defrost items in the fridge instead of a watery sink. Both tips will result in the fridge keeping cooler with less energy.

If you do happen to find your fridge is full, hold off from hauling out the spare fridge, and instead keep extra beverages and holiday leftovers cold by storing them in the garage or in the backyard. And as much as you’d like to clean up quickly following a large holiday meal, your fridge will thank you if you wait until all the food has cooled to room temperature before storing it away.

On the day of your party, turn down the thermostat to 66 degrees. Most people will find this is a comfortable range in a holiday sweater, and the increased body heat should take care of the rest. Keep a few blankets handy for older guests and chronically cold friends. If you plan on setting the mood by using the fireplace, install a tight-fitting set of glass doors and crack open a window nearby. Open-hearth fireplaces actually draw in the heated air from your home and send it straight up the chimney — a problem glass doors can stop. With increased holiday lights on top of heat usage, your bills may still come out higher than expected. If you haven’t already, start monitoring your light usage and reevaluate your energy plan using sites like Energize Connecticut and TexasElectricityProviders.com. Not only can you switch to less expensive plans, you can also choose to have most or all of your energy generated from green sources such as wind or solar.

Gift Giving and Shopping

Although many of us enjoy wandering around decorated stores during the holidays, perhaps even stopping to see Santa, before the perfect gift emerges on its own, you can save time and costs by planning out the gifts necessary for each person. Make use of outlets and strip malls, which mean you have less driving to do from store to store. You can also shop for products made locally or buy materials to craft gifts on your own, which not only supports local businesses but detracts overall from the amount of overseas transit costs and pollution that trucks, boats, and planes cause. The same goes for shopping online  — if you buy your gifts from one store instead of three, you’ll have lower costs associated with packaging and transit.

Regarding the actual gift, aim to buy fewer gifts that use electricity and batteries. An amazing 40 percent of all batteries are purchased during the holiday season, which means a lot of energy is used. If you must buy electronic gifts, definitely opt for the energy efficient versions, and maybe even throw in rechargeable batteries instead of singular usage batteries.

The holidays are the perfect time to show appreciation for those around you. Whether it be through gifts, parties, or decorations, the holidays can be exciting, albeit expensive. But, if you plan accordingly and shop wisely, you’ll find the damage to your wallet and the earth can be greatly reduced.

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

7 Quotes to Remind You to Be Grateful

This week you are going to hear a lot about gratitude, not just because Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday but because it is our theme of the week! As it often happens with the holiday season we can get caught up in the commercialism of it all (Is it just us or does it feel like Thanksgiving as a whole has been eaten by Christmas and not just the turkey?) or as the case may be with this Thursday the stress of all that cooking, the family and getting everyone organized. Sometimes we miss the point. This was a holiday started by controversial means but the spirit of gratitude and taking a day to reflect on the blessings we have, and how thankful we are for the positive things in our life is one to be commended. That’s what we want to remind you of this week. Here are a few inspiring quotes to get you started:

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Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all copy

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What are your favorite gratitude quotes? Share in the comments below! 

Rethink How to Celebrate The Holidays

HolidayHappiness_1224210-01They’re back – The holidays. From mid to November to early January, many faiths and traditions celebrate. It has indeed the potential to be the most wonderful time of the year – a message that much of the music of the season shares with us.

But with the extreme commercialism that has come to define them, it is easy to lose sight of the real reason for holidays. How we celebrate is entirely our choice – we have the ability to remove or add things to ensure our celebrations are as we want them to be. Though we have the choice, we can get overwhelmed and intimidated into letting the commercial voices tell us how to celebrate the holidays. Don’t give in. Decide early, before the season is fully on you, how you want your celebrations to be.

I regularly see frantic gift-buyers rushing through stores with names of people to buy for. This focus on tangible gifts is still a challenge as our national media and commercial marketing has us believing that lovely diamonds, new cars, electronics and gift cards are the way to share how you feel about others. Though it activates our economy, what is its true place our celebrations? Gifts are truly gifts when they share something of us in a meaningful way with another. So, before you buy one more thing, consider the following gift ideas:

  1. Give the gift of time. Though we may be physically present, the pace of life can frequently make us mentally absent. Make time to fully show up in your relationships. Not only increase your contact – phone and face-to-face – but be more involved and interested in your relationships. Plan events together and really show up. Making time and being present for someone feels amazing. Who needs your gift of time?
  2. Give the gift of friendship. Redefine what being a friend means to you and show up this way to your relationships. Value them more. Be more involved. Share more. Connect at a deeper level. Say what you feel. Who needs your gift of friendship?
  3. Give the gift of patience. Manage your comments, opinions and tone. No two of us see the world in the same way so our responses to similar situations will likely be different. Not right or wrong; just different. We don’t have to agree. We just allow others to be who they are and to have the patience not to force them to see things always from our perspective. With our aging parents and our developing teens, patience can work miracles. The great thing about giving patience is that it generally gives you a similar gift in return. Who needs your gift of patience?
  4. Give the gift of forgiveness. Use this time of year to settle an old disagreement, right an old wrong and be the bigger person. Celebrate a renewed friendship or relationship that had felt the effects of ego, emotions and misunderstandings. Forgiving is a gift we give to others because we know they are human and sometimes humans get things wrong. And again, maybe by giving the gift of forgiveness, you may get it back. Who needs your gift of forgiveness?
  5. Give the gift of acceptance. Life isn’t easy – we are each trying to find our way. What if we were more accepting of others as they define their lives, values, interests and directions? The gift of acceptance is one of the best and most powerful. I received this gift from my grandfather. When I came out, he called to find out how he could learn more about what being gay meant to me so he could support me; he accepted me. That was years ago. I remember this gift every day. Who needs your gift of acceptance?

Rethink your holidays; transform them from commercial events into powerful celebrations of people and relationships. We are on this planet together to learn from each other and to participate together in the wonders of our world. Celebrations are a way to bring us together to help us learn more, connect better and build a stronger sense of community.

We have been trained that a nicely wrapped present means I love you. But spending time, being more forgiving, accepting, patient, friendly and present are more powerful ways of saying the same message – they just get less marketing dollars. Though some may think this approach just gets them out of the hassle of buying a gift, it actually takes considerably more work to show human to your relationships. But think of this one additional and important benefit: as you give these, you are changed. You become more present, more loving, more forgiving and more patient. They benefit, you benefit. That is what true celebration is.

Consider as the volume escalates on holiday music, ads and deals, that things don’t say ‘I love you’; your voice, heart, time and commitment say ‘I love you.’ May your holidays be merry. May they be happy. And may they remind you celebrate the wonderful people in your life.

VOD: Twin Brother Asks Santa to Save His Sister From Bullying

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 11.15.25 PMAre you already thinking about what you want for Christmas? When 8-year old Ryan’s mom asked him and his twin sister to write their letters to Santa early (so she could get a head start on saving up for it) the only thing Ryan asked Santa for was to stop the kids at school bullying Amber. “She doesn’t do anything to them,” he says before adding “I’ve been praying for it to stop but God is busy so he needs your help.”

His sister is overweight and suffers from a few mental health issues, their mother admits to “Good Morning America.” So the kids at school taunt her to get her to do different things. “They call me fat, and stupid, and hideous,” the little girl confesses to cameras in one heart breaking part of the video. To make things worse she’s admitted to her mom she sometimes wishes she could die to make it stop.

Luckily for Amber, she has a family that loves her unconditionally and reaches out for her benefit. Her mom had a meeting with the school principal to see about stopping the bullying, and “Good Morning America” surprised Amber with one early Christmas miracle thanks to her brother Ryan’s good will.

Warning: This video will absolutely cause tears, but is definitely worth it.

Share this video if you know of any special child being bullied. What do you think of Ryan’s selfless request for his sister? Tell us in the comments below! 

10 Ways to Help the World This Holiday Season

By Kathryn Hawkins, from Razoo.com, the site for charitable giving.

The giving season isn’t just about exchanging gifts with friends and family, or watching your kids eagerly check the contents of their stockings to see what Santa brought them. While the holidays are the perfect time to share presents with the people that you love, this time of year also provides a great opportunity to give back to your community and your world. Here are ten ways that you can spread the cheer this holiday season.

1.    Be Santa. Traditionally, it’s a felony to open mail intended for someone else—but around Christmastime, the U.S. Postal Service is willing to bend the rules a little, at least as far as Santa Claus is concerned. Some U.S. cities provide volunteers with the opportunity to read letters from children addressed to Santa Claus, and fulfill the kids’ wishes by sending them Christmas gifts. If you don’t live near a Santa-approved post office, make a donation to Be an Elf (through their sponsoring nonprofit, Friends of the Levitt Pavilion) to help promote the program and recruit new secret Santas to make sure that disadvantaged children wake up to full stockings on Christmas morning.

2.    Purchase alternative gifts for your friends and family. Does your mother already have everything her heart desires? No problem—get her a cow instead. Many charitable groups, such as Heifer and Oxfam America, offer unique giving opportunities that let you purchase farm animals, educational supplies, or other life-enhancing tools for people in developing nations on behalf of your loved ones. If you’re not sure whether a charitable donation will make the right holiday gift, read this article for tips on when to give a charitable gift. For a free $10 gift card that can be used to donate to any US-based nonprofit, email give@razoo.com with “Intent” in the heading (valid while supplies last).

3.    The holiday season is often the time to surprise your loved ones with the new puppy they’ve always wanted—but this is the perfect chance to help an unwanted pet find his forever home instead.  Visit Petfinder.com to pick up a Pet Promise Certificate to give as a gift, to make sure that your giftee is ready for the responsibility of a pet. If you’re not ready to adopt just yet, donate to an animal shelter instead—a donation to Best Friends Animal Society will help care for the 2,000 special-needs animals living at their sanctuary.

4.    Donate new toys to needy children in your local community through the Toys for Tots program. You can make a drop-off at Toys ‘R Us and Babies ‘R Us stores all around the country, or make a financial contribution to the cause online.

5.    Give a Christmas tree to a military family or a soldier stationed overseas through the Trees for Troops program, an initiative of the Christmas Spirit Foundation. Last year, donors contributed enough money to deliver more than 16,000 trees to troop members and their families at home—your donation can make an even bigger difference this year.

6.    Celebrate Hanukkah with a tzedakah box. For Jewish families, tzedakah (Hebrew for charity) is an essential component of religious tradition. If you’re celebrating Hanukkah with your family this year, devote at least one of the eight ceremonial nights to giving back by placing money into the family’s tzedakah box to designate to the charity of your choice.

7.    Purchase your presents through the GoodShop. This online shopping portal allows you to select your favorite charity, and donate a portion of your purchase price to the cause you select. Make sure to bookmark the site—it’s the perfect way to make a contribution whenever you make a purchase through your favorite online shops.

8.    Check out a charity auction. This time of year, plenty of local nonprofit groups hold charity auctions, where you can purchase collectible art, vacation packages, and all sorts of other goodies, with all proceeds going to charity. If there’s not one happening near you, check out an online charity auction site like BiddingForGood.com, or bid on the drool-worthy prizes available through the food bloggers’ annual auction, Menu for Hope, which benefits Friends of the World Food Program.

9.    Volunteer to serve Christmas dinner to the residents of a local homeless shelter or senior care facility. To find holiday volunteer options close to home, run a search on VolunteerMatch.

10.    Sponsor a child in a developing country through an organization like Plan USA or World Vision. Your ongoing contribution will help you establish a meaningful connection with a child, helping to pull him or her out of extreme poverty. It’s what the giving spirit’s all about.

Learn more about ways to help the world, and donate to any US-based nonprofit, at Razoo.com.

Originally published in 2009

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