Connecting When You Feel Disconnected During The Holidays

Living in a connected world sometimes leaves people disconnected. Holidays often amplify those feelings. How do you create holiday experiences that will leave you filled with joy and happiness?

Celebrating HolidaysI used to love holidays. Growing up there were big family gatherings and community celebrations. I looked forward to helping my grandma cook and set the table. There was lots of laughter and joy and happiness. Celebrating holidays was important to my family.

When I went off to college I would go home for some of the holidays. And for those I couldn’t there was always an invitation to a friend’s house or an event for college students. Laughter and joy and happiness even though I wasn’t with my family.

CycleGuy’s family is small but there are lots of aunts and uncles and cousins who get together for holidays. One Thanksgiving we went to Denver to be with his family. I think there were over 50 people who came through. There was more food than needed, lots of laughter, joy, and happiness. It reminded me of home.

But after my grandpa died and my family was much smaller, it was never the same. I tried to recreate the house full of people and all the joy that came with it. But people move away, lives get busy, and things change.

It’s not that I don’t like celebrating holidays. Although, some people like to say I do. It’s just different now. Even though I try to make the holidays special so BabyGirl can create great childhood memories, without my mom and grandma and grandpa it’s kind of weird. When I was in my 20s and 30s it didn’t seem unusual on holidays not to be with the family I grew up with. Now that I’m in my 40s, though, holidays are a very strong reminder that all my family is gone.

Sure, I have CycleGuy and BabyGirl and Aunt Zoni and Grandpa Tommy. But as much as I try it seems like each year I miss my mom and grandpa and grandma more. I write this as Thanksgiving is upon us, but it’s the same sentiment for Hanukkah, Passover, and Rosh Hashana. As much as I want the laughter, joy, and happiness to be there I feel like I work so hard for it. I should come easy. Like when I was a kid.

Holidays bring the gamut of emotions. We remember those who has passed while we forge ahead to make new memories. It’s not that I don’t like holidays. It’s that I want them to be the same idyllic celebrations they once were. And because they’re not, I struggle with different being OK.

I’m writing this for those who are like me and find the holidays somewhat difficult. Difficult in the sense that we love them and the memories and the family and the getting together. Even the cleaning and cooking and more cleaning. And the leftovers. But it’s not the same because there are people we’re missing so much that they’ve left a hole in our heart that just hasn’t closed yet.

My mother loved every holiday and despite often not feeling well, she would make it a priority to be around friends and family. I feel like times are different now, though. That being in the presence of others doesn’t mean they’re present. It’s like a disconnected connectedness. And I have a hard time with that.

Times are changing and I need to change with them. At the same time I’m responsible for helping to create the foundation of how BabyGirl will look back on the holidays of her childhood. I don’t have many left with her, and that makes it even more difficult for me.

So this year I’ll try something new and channel my mom and do for others. Because it’s hard to feel sad or alone when you’re surrounded by others who are so glad you’re there. People who are present and appreciate that you gave up part of your day for them. And I’ll do it with my family and I’ll go in feeling the happiness and joy that I once felt. Just knowing it’s still there means there’s a likelihood I can rekindle it.

How do you spend the holidays? Not just Thanksgiving, but all the holidays? Do you have family you miss that keeps you from doing things? Or do you make sure to do things to keep their memory alive?

Sara

10 Must Have Holiday Gifts For Tween Girls

 

I’m not always a fan of these “gift guides” because they are often filled with products that people get “free” and I don’t feel I really get a true sense of what’s what. Also, many of these guides are generalization or geared toward boys. I’m the mom of one tween daughter. Girl stuff holds my house together. If it’s pink and sparkly we probably own it. But she also loves math and science and reading. She makes her own movies and knows her way around lots of tech.

BabyGirl and many of her tween girl friends have shared with me the things they hope to get this holiday season. I was surprised at the range of products they’ve researched on their own so they can prioritize their lists. It’s an eclectic list but really has something for all tween girls with a variety of interests.

10 Must Have Holiday Gifts For Tween Girls

1. Sony Bloggie Touch Camcorder – for under $100 this is an easy to use and fun way for girls to make movies. It’s easy to use and very intuitive for kids. My daughter makes movies with her bears, ponies and LPS and having an easy to use and dedicated camera means she can work on her own (or with her friends) and I don’t have to worry about where my video recorder is at.

 

 

Pattern Duct Tape

2. Duct Tape – yes, you read that right. Duct tape. But not your grandpa’s duct tape. We’re talking about all the fun patterns and cool colors. Duct take isn’t for fixing things as much as it is for crafting and making cool things. I’m not sure what’s the big deal but colorful and patterned duct tape is all the rage and the fun things kids are making are creative and will definitely keep them busy during their off time.

 

 

Make Your Own Chocolate Kit

3. Make Your Own Chocolate Kit – not all girls are as much into science as BabyGirl, but this kit is so much fun. It’s pretty easy to use, but may require adult supervision using the stove. For under $15 the kit comes with information on fair trade products as well as including organic cocoa powder. All the ingredients needed to make about 8oz of chocolate are included. Science plus chocolate? What’s not to love!

 

 

Etymotic Etykids

4. Ety-Kids Headphones – designed specifically for children, these headphones are not only the right size for their ears but also incorporate technology that limits the decibels so their hearing is not compromised. BabyGirl has 2 pairs of the Ety-Kids Headphones and she loves them. They incorporate technology that blocks background noise so using them at school when they’re doing computer work allows her to more fully concentrate on her work. BabyGirl received her first pair of Ety-Kids about a year ago and doesn’t use any other headphones.

 

 

5. Nail Polish Sheets – at about $10, these are awesome! They are fun, long-lasting and not very messy. BabyGirl and her friends love these! I like that they’re not messy or smelly. It’s real nail polish and lasts about 10 days, which is about 10 days longer than regular nail polish that gets messed up in about a minute thirty eight after it’s put on. It comes off easily with nail polish remover. As much as she and her friends love science and technology and playing outside, they also like trying out nail polish and being girly.

 

Bath and Body Works Shower Gel

6. Warm Vanilla Sugar Shower Gel – in our pre-kid life, we lived in Columbus, OH when CycleGuy worked at Bath & Body Works Corporate. All these years later our love for BBW products continues. BabyGirl has been a frequent shopper at Bath & Body Works for many years and she has seasonal favorites, although Warm Vanilla Sugar is her all time fave. During the holidays the stores have great sales and getting the shower gel and lotion makes bath time less of a challenge. And, because she has hers I don’t have to worry about her using mine up. It’s a win-win!

 

 

 

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – When I first heard of the series I wasn’t all that keen on it because of the word “wimpy”. But after reading the first one, I realized just how fun and funny they are for kids. Greg Heffley is a sweet kid who has experiences that your girls can definitely relate to. If your child reads these then you know how much of a “must have” these are.

 

 

8. Kindle Fire HD – sure it’s about $200 but  they’re so worth it! BabyGirl has had one since they first came out and loves the portability. I search with Swagbucks so I can earn Amazon cards for her to buy books. And we have Amazon Prime so when we travel we have access to an entire library of free movies and TV shows to break up the monotony. Also, it allows her to text me. She also uses it for schoolwork and it makes doing research so much easier for her. I like that it’s more than just an eReader and it gives me more flexibility in how it’s used. If the tween girl in your life loves to read as much as BabyGirl this will be their new BFF.

9. The Daring Book for Girls – I bought this book when it first came out in 2007, partly because it was at Costco and I’m a sucker for their book deals. But, truly, this is a wonderful book. It teaches girls about self confidence and how to do things all girls should know. It’s not a girly book by any means. It’s one of those books that even I, as a grown woman, look at and wish I’d had as a young girl. Even now I’ll flip it open and learn something new. At less than $20, any young girl on your list will get years of use from this book.

10. iTunes Gift Cards – I know, I know! Gift cards are kind of lame. But, honestly, with all the apps these girls want it’s better to get them their own iTunes gift card and not have to deal with having to shell out money and losing track only to realize you’ve spent $63 on apps in the past few months. Not that I have any experience with that. *insert shifty eyes* These can be purchased at grocery stores, drug stores or online and delivered electronically. Another win-win!

So there you have it! The 10 Must Have Holiday Gifts for Tween Girls. I’m sure there are others, so please share them. These little ladies aren’t easy to shop for any more. Gone are the days of princess this or pony that and you knew you’d be good to go. These young ladies are smart, tech-savvy and in-the-know. And from what I’ve been told by friends with older girls, we only have a few years until they won’t talk to us and think that anything we do is lame and any gift is even more lame. We have few precious years to convince them of our ability to be great gift-givers.

What’s on your tween girl’s gift list this year?

Disclosure: I have purchased or used these items without compensation. This is not a sponsored post. Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you purchase through my link I may receive a small commission. For that I’m thankful. I appreciate your support for this site. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sara

Mamavation Monday: Bring in ‘da Food, Bring in ‘da Funk

For may of us who struggle with our weight, this week is very stressful. For me, cooking a huge meal for the people I love is awesome. I enjoy showing those I love and care about how much they mean to me, and creating a special meal of Thanks Giving is one way to do that. At the same time, though, there is anxiety about seeing all. that. food!

It starts in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Food shopping, food prep, baking, chopping, organizing, and making sure there are plenty of hor d’oeuvres in addition to the plethora of main dishes, sides, salads and desserts for the big meal. Oh, and let’s not forget that we actually need to eat on those days leading up to Thanksgiving, lest we pass out long before the turkey-coma sets in on Thursday.

Making Thanksgiving dinner is one way many of us actually exert our control over the day. We use all the knowledge we have to plan a menu that incorporates skim milk instead of heavy cream or full-fat milk, we sauté in heart-healthy olive oil instead of butter, we make sure there are plenty of veggies and that the desert options include something we can partake in even after a full meal. But the realty is that sometimes we throw our hands up and convince ourselves that one meal with butter, extra helpings of sweet potato casserole (never mind that the nutritional value went out the window when we added the 5 eggs, 1/2 cup of white sugar and brown sugar and the pecan streusel topping) and bread and dressing and that cheesy-broccoli-rice bake that everyone loves (in which there really wasn’t much broccoli hurt in the making of it) won’t really hurt.

But it does. We think about this week and what it will mean for us, constantly. We ‘eat right’ on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and don’t lick the bowl on the cheesecake and brownies and fudge and cookies – until about 9pm Wednesday evening when panic sets in. How are we going to get it all done? Maybe no one will like our sugar-free casserole or our fat-free mashed potatoes. Maybe we should taste them ‘just to be sure’. And darn it, they do kinda suck. Ugh! It’s just one done. One day won’t hurt! So off to make more food, to make sure everyone knows how much we love them. And the butter. Need more butter!

So let’s step back a moment. We cook for our families almost every day. They know we love them. And yes, Thanksgiving Day is special. It’s a day set aside to make sure that those around us, and even ourselves, know how grateful we are that they are part of our lives. And that, my friends, is our motivation. Being healthy ensures we are around. Active. Involved. Part of their lives. Enjoying ours.

Thanksgiving began as a feast, as was customary when welcoming guests. Just as today, we create special meals when we welcome guests. But unlike then, we didn’t trudge miles nor did we hunt and gather our own food (although, grocery stores this time of year can be treacherous). Our Thanksgiving day consists of doing nothing but eating, hanging out and watching TV. Sure, there may a walk, a hike or a workout in there. But, in general, it’s food, food and more food.

Just writing this stresses me out. I want to be here for my friends and family for years to come. Overflowing table of food or not, remembering the importance of this Thanksgiving Day is key to maintaining focus an truly enjoying the reason for the day. It’s not about the food. Never has been. Never will be. It’s about the people in our lives who love us, who care about us and who want us here for years to come.

This year, I’m still not sure what I’d going to do for Thanksgiving. I have a huge Turkey already defrosting that no one wants to eat. I just came back from a terrific vacation and don’t feel like going to the store. I am grateful that I have the choice not to make a feast if I so choose. And I’m grateful that I have the willpower (even if it is weak some times) to say not to foods I really don’t want or know I really shouldn’t have.

We all look forward to Thanksgiving to be around people we love and care about, to be thankful for the many gifts we have been given so far this year. If the day was more about the people and less about the food, would it stress you out as much?

Photo Credit: Public Domain

This post was written for the cash giveaway by Successful Blogging and RocketFuel who connect brands with bloggers.

Sara

Do Jewish People Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Jewish St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and like a good Jew I am wearing green. I learned it from my grandfather. A devout and observant Jew, my grandfather was trained in all things Jewish. When he joined the military, he proudly wore his Judaism. In retirement I saw both intertwined. And it was in 2nd grade when he bought me a special “Lucky Leprechaun” shirt that I learned why my Jewish family wore green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Remember learning about the potato famine in Ireland back in the mid-1800s? For the lucky few who made it to the United States, they landed in New York City with nothing. My grandpa’s story to me begins with a synagogue in New York taking up a collection to help the Irish settlers, despite the poverty and hunger within their own Jewish community. They gave what would be, by today’s standards, a paltry sum, but in the mid-1800s was very generous. The money was given to an organization assisting the Irish poor because they, as Jews, felt that it was their duty to help all mankind and not just other Jews.

The story continues a century later, as Jews were trying to establish a homeland of their own, Israel. A generous donation from the Irish community in New York is said to have been presented to this same congregation. Not as a means of repayment, but to help their fellow brothers and sisters have a place to call home. Knowing that it was the Jewish people of New York that gave their ancestors, the first Irish settlers in New York, a sense that they were being welcomed in their new home.

So, in second grade I wore my special St. Patrick’s Day shirt my grandpa got for me. We had corned beef and cabbage for dinner – which for a Jewish family isn’t really that much of a stretch. And for dessert we had green jello. For many years I thought it was hokey. Until I finally understood. That some things are bigger than we are but that we are never too big to offer help.

I, like many Jews, don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the religious sense. However, we recognize it as a day that demonstrates the connectedness of humanity, our obligation to do good for one another without regard to what, if anything, we’ll get in return. St. Patrick’s Day, while a Christian celebration, is a holiday where many Jews show support for the Irish people and our connection to the world at large. And although the Jewish population in Ireland is dwindling, as long as one Jew remains we will always be connected to this tradition.

Do all Jews celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Probably just as much as anyone else these days. No longer with much religious bent, St. Patrick’s Day is a time to come together with friends, eat corned beef, enjoy a few pieces of Soda Bread and drink beer. Green beer at that! Oh, and those Shamrock Shakes.

What does St. Patrick’s Day mean for you and how do you celebrate?

Sara

Love and Friendship and Valentines Day

Valentine Candy Hearts

As we begin the big Weekend of Love, otherwise know as Valentine’s Day I definitely don’t feel the tug to buy flowers or candy or gifts or even go out to dinner. I’ve never been big on Valentine’s Day. Surprised, I’m sure! Not! Valentine’s Day is not a Jewish holiday, so we didn’t really celebrate in my house. Sure I got the dime store box of cards for the exchanges at school, but it wasn’t really a big deal. After all, it’s really a Christian celebration.

Unlike my friends, my parents didn’t make a big deal about Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t until I was in high school and it took on an entirely different meaning that I fully understood it’s importance as an American cultural phenomenon. It wasn’t so much about anything other than the grand commercialism of love and ‘the hook up’. You can tell I learned a lot in school.

The cool part was that my schools (I went to a few different high schools) all had some group selling Valentine greetings you could buy and have delivered to your friends. It wasn’t a love thing. It was actually kind of a popularity thing. And because I wasn’t one of the popular kids it was always a crap shoot. My mom would always give my brother and I money to buy one for each other and one for someone else. I think it was her way of making sure we weren’t left out since we moved schools quite a bit growing up. I would always buy one for my brother and put some lame message on it and sign it from some random person. Never myself. Because that’s lame to get a Valentine from your little sister. He, on the other hand, was all brother in his message. It usually included something about how great he is and that I was lucky to have him as my brother. And while I would roll my eyes, I knew what he really meant.

The other one though was a little bit harder. I never knew who to choose. I had plenty of friends so it was a matter of figuring out which one to send it to. Without hurting anyone else’s feelings. Sometimes I worried that I wouldn’t get one and would send it to myself. And there were years that had I not done that the only one I would get would be from my brother. And what’s more disheartening, only getting one Valentine and that being from your brother or sending one to yourself? I think I’d rather have had none because I could have said that my family didn’t celebrate. But with one from my brother, I needed a distraction.

As I got older and more settled in my school it was easier to send something to all my friends. We’d all send each other these little Valentines and laugh and giggle about it. But I knew that a few of these people were really my friends. People whom I would know as a grown up. And thanks to social networking and email it is a reality. Not just for me, but for so many too.

Valentines wasn’t a big deal in college. Sure CycleGuy and I dated. As poor college students though, it was hard to justify that big, fancy Valentine’s Day dinner. Besides, when the guy you’re dating knows you’ve got an eating disorder it’s just not as romantic as it sounds. And he was usually working anyway. We’d exchange cards since that’s what sappy college-love does. And I still have those cards. Because that’s what sappy grown up love does.

Fast forward 20 years and I have an even stronger belief in the love of friends that co-exists with the romantic love of Valentine’s Day. It’s a day I can be all syrupy and googly with my friends and embarrass them and myself with my goofy rhyming poems and haiku. But it’s important. It’s important that I let those people that matter to me know that I truly do love them and appreciate their friendship. Yes, I tell people all the time that they mean a lot to me. But it’s this one day, the day I often worried about whether people who were my friend could say so in front of others when I make sure to let those people who bring love and joy to my life know that I appreciate them.

I thank you, my dear reader, for coming here to read what I have to say. For commenting or emailing. For letting me know that you like me. My blog. Both. And while I can not send you a special Valentine message to homeroom or 3rd period, here is your virtual wish and one of the many quotes about friendship that I appreciate. You can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of yourself he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.

Happy Valentine’s Day my dear friends!

Sara

Get Ready For Holiday Shopping

Christmas Shop
photo credit: Brian Forbes

Evidently, the holiday shopping season has begun even though it’s the middle of September. Stores by me are already stocking ornaments  and decorative items. And, just as in years past Christmas will be on December 25th. No surprise there! Although, when I’ve been foolish enough to go to the mall on December 24th the last two years (don’t laugh, remember, I’m Jewish and I forget these things!) I’m fairly certain that there are people out shopping who are surprised that Christmas is on the 25th. As if it’s Hanukkah!  Right!

This year Hanukkah begin December 1st, so all my Jewish friends you need to get going! Unfortunately, we’ll miss out on a lot of the deals in the two weeks leading up to Christmas since Hanukkah will be over. However, I’m here to tell you that with just a little planning right now you can take advantage of both time and money savers.

Here are my 10 Tips To Get Ready for Holiday Shopping

1. Get your Holiday Card list in order now. This will allow you know how many cards you’ll need.  Boxed cards will start to appear in stores soon, so if you want the best selection get there early. If you’re doing a picture card you should select that picture or convince your family to dress in their holiday best now so you can get the picture you want so it’s all ready to go.

2. Watch here for holiday card printing deals. They should be starting soon.  But look out for deals on Daily Deal sites like Zulily where from now until 9/17 you can get a gift certificate for $50 worth of personalized cards from Tiny Prints for only $25!

3. Go buy your stamps. There aren’t many options for money savers here but if you belong to a warehouse club like Sams or Costco they often sell stamps for a teensy weensy discount.

4. Put together your shopping list and include the dollar amount you plan to spend. If you know what you want to buy, include that too. The goal here is to plan your shopping budget so that you know how much you’ll need to save or allocate.

5. Start watching the ads and websites for the things you want. You don’t have to buy now unless you know it’s a great price. Just be aware of what the prices are so you can plan. My friend Mara, she blogs at Kosher on a Budget, wrote about stockpiling gifts. She has some great tips!

6. If you’re planning on doing a cookie exchange or making crafty gifts, get your list ready and watch the sales. Craft stores routinely have discount coupons so make sure you take advantage of those money saver items. Grocery stores know that holiday baking will be under way, so get those coupon printed and clipped for butter and shortening and sugar and chocolate morsels. You should be able to get most of your baking needs on sale.

7. If you are traveling for the holidays, make note of those dates on your calendar and mark a ‘STOP’ date so you know you need to have all your shopping done by a certain date. If you don’t have until the last minute, then just adjust your planning calendar.

8. Teacher gifts. I know this is a controversial subject for many but, yes, you do need to get a gift for the teachers. Skip the mugs and the shower gel and just opt for a gift card and a pretty card. If you watch the CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Target  deals you may likely find discounts on these too. Worst case scenario is you grab a Starbucks gift card. Even a $5 card is appreciated. If you can not afford a gift, and your child is in elementary school, have your child make a special card of thanks.

9. Start saving money. Christmas and Hanukkah gifts are not an emergency. But just like an emergency fund, you can easily save for these gifts a little at a time. It’s as easy as putting a few bucks a week in an envelope in your dresser drawer. If you skip you daily drink of choice, put those few bucks in the envelope. If you take lunch instead of going out set that aside too. If you have water instead of soda at the restaurant, add that in. These are all small amounts but they can easily add up to a few hundred dollars by mid December. If date night is usually $100 and you find a way to only spend $50 then make the savings real. Same with using coupons. If you would have bought something without using a coupon, if you find a coupon then same that money. It works for online deals too. If you find a code for free shipping then make that ‘free’ part of your savings. Be mindful of what you need to achieve and you can make choices with knowledge!

10. Don’t stress! The holidays are a joyous time. If you can’t spend any money then just enjoy being with friends and family. No matter how crazy or stressed out you get, the holidays will come and go. Make the most of it and create lasting memories. It shouldn’t be about the money and the gifts and the things. Celebrate the reason for the season.

Now, are you ready to take on the holidays?

Sara

Happy 234th Birthday, America!

Welcome to 4th of July weekend! Traditionally a time for families to gather, load up the BBQ, play games, swim and generally enjoy the summer. For some, though, there will be an open chair.  Maybe not literally, but for sure figuratively.

There are over 1 million members of the US Military, all of whom deserve our heartfelt thanks for their efforts to protect and serve our great nation.  Of those, there are several hundred thousand serving abroad and will not be able to celebrate our nation’s 234th birthday with their family.

Having grown up around the military, I’ve seen some pretty amazing Independence Day celebrations.  Not because of the parades or fireworks or grand hoopla, but because I was around soldiers and their families and I got to see first hand how much they love what they do.  I know the sacrifices their families make so that the soldier can do his/her job.  I’ve seen grown men and women cry upon saying those final good-byes before heading out to ‘fight the bad guys’.  It is these images that symbolize Independence Day to me.

So, rather than waiting until the 4th of July, when everyone is celebrating with food, fun, and games – I post today a heartfelt thanks to all the men and women in military service, past and present, for keeping us safe and allowing us to celebrate another Independence Day.

Keep this in mind this weekend, so when you see a soldier you’ll be reminded to say Thank You.  Maybe even buy their coffee, let them go ahead of you in line or stretch out your hand and shake their hand.  Tell your kids about our great country. Remind yourself of the great sacrifices that individuals have made so we have the freedoms we have today.

Happy Birthday, America!

How are you celebrating this 4th of July weekend?  I’m staying home, trying to avoid the heat.

Sara