Saturday, November 7, 2015

Debt-Proof Your Christmas: Celebrating the Holidays Without Breaking the Bank

Create your family’s “Top Five Holiday Values”, write them down and post them. In what specific ways can our values be expressed in our homes and lives during the Christmas season? How can we share our blessing with other people? Fill in dates on the calendar for special activities that reflect those values.

12 pairs of mittens & gloves
  • Pin to ribbon and hang
  • Choose free or inexpensive activities in the community (church concerts, community Christmas tree lighting, hometown Christmas parade, etc); write down each person’s favourite breakfast; choose four activities that serve the needy (serving at a homeless shelter, taking candy canes to a nursing home); inexpensive activities to do at home (game & movie nights, pizza making, cookie baking).
  • Type each of the special 24 moments, roll up & tie with festive ribbon, put one in each mitten.
  • Start activities Dec 1st.
  • After Christmas take mittens to homeless shelter.

Holiday spending plan. Include a specific and detailed spending plan, designating the overall amount you plan to spend and the ways you plan to spend it.

Make a chart where you can see spending categories including gifts for kids, spouse, parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends; gift wrapping, Christmas cards, postage, photo session; baking ingredients; tree and home decorations; admission for holiday events; baby-sitting; travel costs; new clothes, etc.

Four categories for gift giving: gift of Love (something homemade), gift of Warmth (like socks, blanket), gift of Knowledge (like a science kit, books, educational DVD), and a gift of Joy (something they really want).

Christmas memories letter. When you put the holiday ornaments etc away, include a letter remembering what happened that Christmas: the weather, people who stopped in for a visit, a few words about hopes, dreams, and wishes for the New Year. (could also make a scrapbook!)

Gift exchange idea: shop and “buy” for the person what you would if you had all the money in the world. Find a picture, photo, or other visual representation of the object. Wrap your gift properly and be prepared to give all the reasons you chose it.

  • Give something you made – a tree ornament, plate of cookies, note cards
  • Give the gift of compassion – become a bone marrow donor, donate to a cause in honour of the person – write a description of your experience and give it to the recipient.
  • Give what you do best – cook, clean, babysit, drive, shop, scrapbook, research
  • Give it in writing – include a short note with each of your gifts telling the recipient what they mean to you and the value they bring to your life.
  • Layered soup jar and include note saying donation has been made to local soup kitchen in their honour.
  • Create your own “Cookie-of-the-Month” (or Quarter): bake a dozen cookies to include in the holiday gift, along with a card announcing your recipient will receive another dozen each month/quarter all year long.
  • A simple cookie cutter in a holiday shape of a star, tree, or gingerbread man can make a great little gift. Lay the cookie cutter in the middle of a piece of clear cello, fill the center of the cutter with tiny candies such as jelly beans, gather the cello and wrap with a bow.
  • Birthdays package: include cards & envelopes, return address labels, stamps, and list of all the birthdays for the year.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What no one tells you about aging parents

My mom thinks she's the sandwich generation. She says she's a "club sandwich" because she has her parents, children, and grandchildren. She might be right, but I'm also living with a sandwich. Young children, down to age 4, and older parents in their late 60s. What no one tells you about aging parents is that they probably feel guilty about not having enough time for their parents, children, and grandchildren, because they still have to work.

My grandfather, my mom's father, was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2006 and passed away this Spring. My great-grandmother, my mom's grandmother, had Alzheimer's. Reading "Still Alice" makes one hypersensitive to the possibility of the existence of some form of dementia in one's family. What no one tells you about aging parents is how to have an honest conversation with them about their mental health.

My dad has donated his whole body to science so that there won't be anything for the family to take care of. On the other hand, he also bought a cemetery plot - maybe in case science doesn't want him? My mom was a P.O.A. for my grandfather, but has set nothing up for herself. What no one tells you about aging parents is that some of them seem to be in denial about their own mortality.

As far as her children know, my mom has no P.O.A., no Will, no Executor, no last wishes. She once mentioned something about having red velvet fabric in her casket, but that's all. What no one tells you about aging parents is how difficult it is to get them to discuss their final wishes.

What about you? What did no one tell you about aging parents?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

5 Ways I Use Aloe Gel

If you've seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," you'll remember that the dad recommended using "Windex" for just about everything. I've recently come to feel the same way about Aloe.

Here are 5 ways that I use Aloe gel*:

1. On my finger tips
It keeps my cuticles and skin soft and, as a bonus, the unpleasant taste is a reminder not to bite my nails.

2. On my face
I smooth it on any pimples or irritated spots and it promotes faster healing.

3. On mosquito bites
Soothes and reduces itching,

4. On sunburns
Soothes and reduces pain

5. On my feet
Rubbing Aloe all over my feet before putting my socks on softens them and heals cracks.

*Medical Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Consult with a doctor if any irritation occurs. Aloes should not come into contact with eyes.

What about you? What other ways do you use Aloe?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Letter to our kids' schools re: Halloween

I searched for a sample letter online and didn't find one, so here's what I wrote in case anyone else can use it.



Recognizing that thematic planning starts well in advance, we thought it would be important to make sure you are aware that our family does not celebrate Halloween. As you may be aware, this is a religious holiday, celebrated by adherents of the Wiccan religion as one of their four holiest days of the year.

We would appreciate it if you could keep us informed as to any school-wide Halloween activities taking place so that we can plan accordingly. We would like to "opt-out" our kids from any Halloween-related assignments, costume parades, or crafts that depict witches, zombies, and the like.

If you have any questions, please let us know. Thank you in advance for respecting our wishes.

[my name & DH's name]

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Union Activist?

A colleague of mine, who is very much a Union activist, says that I am an activist too. I went from someone who only showed up for major votes (like whether to strike, and to ratify the new Collective Agreement), to being a Union Steward and member of the Bargaining Team. How did this happen?

Quite simply, I was unhappy with the raw deal we got with the new Collective Agreement - my major concerns being the 10 additional Sundays at regular rate, and minute pay increases that didn't keep up with the cost of living. Bargaining, as part of a team, with the Employer on behalf of my almost 300 colleagues take a huge amount of preparation and significant professionalism. I was honoured to be voted onto this team and have committed myself to seeing the process through to the end. I took on the role of Steward because I understand the value of standing side by side with someone when they need to have a stressful meeting with the Employer.

My grandfather was a VP at a major bank and I had gotten the impression that he was anti-union. Because I deeply respected him, I felt conflicted about my involvement in the Union. When he passed away this April and we celebrated his life, I was reminded once again of many values that he taught me. He invested heavily in helping those less fortunate, donating his time to be on the Board of charities he believed in, and giving financially. He cared about fairness and improving people's lives. I think that would also extend to their working conditions.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the definition of an "activist" is: 
A person who campaigns to bring about political or social change.

So maybe I am an activist.

What about you? What are you an activist about?