Gift ideas that focus on togetherness

So it’s that time of year where we feel the need to get gifts for everyone. But, as in the Grinch’s epiphany, “maybe Christmas, he thought…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more!” This post piggybacks off of last week’s, that it’s about presence and not presents, providing some ideas for gifts that aren’t just going to sit and collect dust. Christmas is about love and here are some great ideas to help spread that love while making memories with our loved ones.

Spa/salon/massage certificate or gift card

This is great for the person in your life who needs a little pampering. Getting a manicure with some girlfriends or sisters is a great way to spend an afternoon. And guys, it’s okay for you too! You don’t need to get polish to have someone soak and take care of your hands.

Dinner at a restaurant

A gift card to a favorite restaurant is great for a loved one who lives a distance away. For one who is closer, give them a certificate to take them out to dinner.

Dance/yoga/kickboxing classes

This would be a great time to try something different, like dance classes with a significant other or a belly dancing class with a couple of girlfriends.

Coupon for a service

Do you have a friend who just had a baby or an older person in your life who doesn’t get around as well as when he/she was younger? A voucher for babysitting or a day of help around the house or yard is sure to be greatly appreciated.

Movie/concert tickets

For someone who loves the movies or a particular band, tickets to the event would be a fun evening for you to do together. The event can even be a couple of months down the road. Sometimes the anticipation is part of the fun!

Donation

Maybe you have a loved one who holds a cause near to his/her heart, like cancer research, homelessness, or need of resources in a developing country. A donation in someone’s name is a caring gesture of that person’s values. There are foundations for every cause out there and local aid organizations. A couple of amazing international aid organizations are World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, and Charity Water. Charity Navigator can also direct you to choosing the right one for your donation.

Tourist attractions

If you live in a big city, you sometimes take attractions for granted. Spend an afternoon playing tourist and do those activities that you haven’t done since an old school field trip, like visit a museum or local historical site.

Homemade consumables

A homemade sugar or salt scrub is very easy to make in large batches, as is dry cookie dough mix in a jar. For coffee and hot chocolate lovers, chocolate dipped spoons with a bag of their favorite drink is also a great idea. Get the kiddos to help bake and package family favorite holiday treats to hand out to friends. Pinterest is full of ideas!

 

Whatever you buy does not need to be expensive. What matters is that you spend time with the person. Look on Groupon for deals for different services and activities. If you have siblings or a group of friends, you can even agree instead of buying gifts, that you will all get a package to a certain class or spa service. And these gift ideas are good for other traditional giving occasions, such as Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, and birthdays.

Things I wish I could tell my 21-year old self

Hindsight is 20-20. How I wish I had a time-turner (or a time machine, for you muggles) so that I could travel back to my 21-year-old self and sit down over a drink and lay some truths down. But then again, at 21 years old, one generally feels like he/she already knows everything.

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This past year, 2017, has been a really good one in my life. I feel like all of the puzzles pieces have fallen into place to create a more meaningful, simple life. Note: simple does NOT mean easy. I imagine the thought of my arrogance in thinking that I have life figured out probably makes God laugh, because this is truly not my life, but His. I wonder what my 60-year old self will think of this blog post.

Regardless, I have learned some really good lessons in the past decade and a half since entering the “real world”.

 

Never Say Never

Several times in my life I have been arrogant enough (hmmm…) to dare to tell God that I will never do something. Not long after that, every time, God has called me to do that very thing.

I said I would never move away from Cleveland, where I grew up and my family and friends pretty much all lived. When I was 28, I felt that God was calling me to move down to Texas. For four years when my best friend, who did live in San Antonio, would ask me every month when I was moving, “I’m not” was my standard reply. Then one morning I woke up and was like, “I think I’ll move to Texas!” Six months later, I was making the drive with my car jam packed with my belongings.

In college, I said I could never be a teacher. Then God called me to be a special ed teacher in San Antonio and I taught for nine years. I did love the work.

A few years ago, in my women’s Bible study, I vividly remember stating that God did not care what we ate, that there was no Biblical place for that idea.  Fast forward to January 2017 when I started following the Primal diet because I believe so deeply that God does care and that it does make a huge difference what we eat.

There are a few of other instances. It’s just funny how God changes our minds. And in every single instance, following through on what I said I would never do, has so greatly improved my life.

 

Your parents were right!

I remember in the mid-90s, my mom talked about the evils of refined sugar, white flour, and carbs. I would roll my eyes and try to ignore her. Yeah. See above.

 

Frustrated Mom

 

My parents tried to get me to budget my money and my mom would recommend Dave Ramsey’s books to me. I thought that because I worked in a bank and talked to people all day long with tons of credit card debt that I would be impervious to that pitfall. Cue a move across country and a very active, single lifestyle (trips, shopping, eating out) and usher in lots of credit card debt. Thankfully, when my husband and I first started dating, he was listening to Dave Ramsey and I finally did as well. We ended up both getting out of credit card debt and now know how to manage our finances.

Again, there are more examples, but those two are the most important issues on which I would tell my younger self.

 

Exercise and Eat Right

This may sound obvious. I wish I would have been more active when I was younger but I am so glad that I found my group, Camp Gladiator, when I did a few years ago.

My viewpoint on nutrition has changed so completely that I left my teaching career to focus on coaching others to value their own nutrition. What we eat has such a huge impact on our bodies. Duh, I know, but when I was getting my Primal Health Certification, it just struck me as truly amazing how our bodily systems all work in conjunction together. I was CONVINCED at one point, pre-Primal, that I had diabetes and a bunch of other ailments (slight hypochondriatic tendencies). Since eliminating grains, added sugar, and dairy from my diet, I no longer think I am coming down with anything. I feel so much better when I eat REAL food; I should have started this a decade ago.

 

Don’t Buy All the Things

This is part of what got me into all the credit card debt in the first place. I thought that buying THINGS would fill some void inside of me. And it would for a short time until I needed another fix. My “drug” of choice was clothing. It was truly disgusting how many articles of clothing I had. 90% of it didn’t fit or was outdated because I never got rid of anything.

 

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Over the past few years, I started getting rid of things – the benefit of getting married and combining two households into one. I found The Minimalists this spring and their podcast and documentary has added sooooo much value to my life! (A link to their page is on my Resources page.) Getting rid of all the crap, the clutter, the tchotchkes, the things that I never use, has made my life so much simpler!

 

Add Value to the World

 

I graduated college with a dual major in International Business & Economics and Japanese. I wasn’t sure what I would do but I wanted to be a “businesswoman”. I liked to travel and loved learning other languages and, as there was no other strong job calling, it seemed to make sense.

I was fortunate enough to get hired with a major bank a few months prior to graduating. After 5 years of doing a job that I thought trained monkey could do, I left. I had a strong desire to do something that actually made an impact on the world. This was when I felt called to move to Texas and be a special ed teacher.

A couple of years ago, I took three different personality tests to try and find the “perfect job” for me. No joke, each one told me “elementary teacher/special ed teacher”. I really wish I had taken this tests earlier. I have the “provider guardian” personality.

 

“Providers are observant, cooperative, informative, and expressive. They are greatly concerned with the health and welfare of those under their care and they are the nurturers of established social institutions such as businesses, churches, social clubs, and schools.”
  • Wikipedia, “Provider (role variant)” article

 

While I wish I would have learned this at the start of my adult life, I think of all the valuable lessons and experiences I have had along the way. Those lessons and experiences have made me who I am today. And I am at a point where I truly love myself.

 

These are just a few things that I am trying to teach to my kids now, while they are still young, to instill good habits. Some of it is taking hold and some, well, they are just kids.

Oh, and God, I am NEVER going to Tahiti!!!!

Presence not Presents

It is that glorious time of the year where we pack lots of social events, family time, cooking, baking, eating, shopping, wrapping, running around… into 6 weeks.

This year, maybe you can do something different. Slow down. Don’t focus so much on presents as presence.

Start some new family traditions.

Clean out the toy box or the closets and have your children help you take the items to a charity for donation. Teach them that just because they are done loving their stuffed bear doesn’t mean that another child won’t love it just as much. The way I explained it to my kiddos when they both still believed in Santa was that by us donating their old toys, moms and dads who want to buy gifts for their kids but maybe cannot afford brand new things, can buy these things to make their little ones happy.

Take nature walks or discover geocaching, which is basically a modern day treasure hunt.

Watch science experiment videos online and then perform them together (with proper safety precautions, of course).

Watch the home videos your parents took when you were a child. Our children love seeing us at our awkward stages in living color.

Make hot chocolate or tea and sit and have a conversation with them, especially if they are at an age where they still like to talk to you and even more so if they are in those difficult teen years where they don’t talk to any adult.

When the littles ask you to play an imaginary game, do it, even if it’s five minutes. You will only have so many more chances. Turn things like making dinner into a game. I call it cooking school. We put on our aprons and the girls do what they can according to their ability, usually really easy meals.

As a stepmom, I get less time with my two girls than a full-time parent, so I really need to make my time count. Some mornings it’s hard to pry the electronics out of the kids’ hands (and let’s be honest, sometimes my own) but once I am successful, the girls always have fun when we spend time doing something together. And I really value the time with them.

In terms of presents: Sure, you may have bought your children forty gifts each last year and might feel the need to surpass that this year. But if you don’t, your kids will live. A few years ago I saw this on Pinterest and I love it.

 

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https://moneysavingsisters.com/4-gift-christmas-challenge-want-need-wear-read/

 

Our culture is driven by mindless consumerism and meaningless materialism. It took me getting out of a lot of credit card debt to have my eyes opened, but this topic is for another blog post. As one of my heroes Dave Ramsey says, “more is caught than is taught”. Your children learn by watching what you do, not what you say. You remember that anti-drug PSA from the ‘80s…

 

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Anyway, just some thoughts on that. We just had the girls at our house for the past week and it’s always a little sad the day or so after they go back home. I am just feeling a little sentimental.