Monday, December 31, 2012

Post-Holiday Doldrums: Beating the After-Christmas Blues

For many of us, myself included, the post-holiday period is a bit of a drag: all the season’s gifts have been unwrapped, friends and family members have puttered back to their respective homes, and the refrigerator is stocked with gelatinous leftovers.  Add to this December’s notoriously grim weather, the post-seasonal malaise comes as no surprise.

While attempting to address my own post-holiday glumness I compiled a list of simple to-do’s that will help keep your spirits high for the rest of the holiday-less winter.

Let There Be Light!

Just because the holiday season may be over doesn’t mean that you have to put all of your candles (scented or otherwise) away.  If you have ‘em, burn ‘em!  Fill your home with the spicy, woodsy scents of winter well into the New Year.  There is a lot to be said for the calming effects of seasonal scents, particularly when your nerves are frazzled; Emily Post isn’t going to jump out of your pantry (if she did, she’s probably a zombie, so you should definitely get a baseball bat!) and tell you that you need to be burning a lemon verbena candle and not a fresh balsam candle.
The soft light given off by candles is also a (very minor) substitute for the natural light we lack during the winter months.  Really, they are a win win.

Relish the scents that make you feel relaxed and stock up on them while they are on offer at Bath & Body Works!

Enjoy the Sales

The period between Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s is rife with bargains; many of the year’s best deals can be found during this lovely little “sale window.”  Christmas items are drastically marked down right now and are just waiting to be snatched up for next year’s festivities.  Why worry about next year today?-- because it’s 75% off!

As much as I hate to admit this-- especially since I am of a decidedly Marxist political persuasion-- there is something visceral about shopping: finding the best deal, trolling the aisles (real or virtual), and collecting items.  Really, there is something almost tribal about shopping that appeals to our most instinctive ways of being, something that takes us back to the days of the hunter-gatherer.  While that sounds silly (and I am well aware that it does), it’s a cathartic experience, this bargain hunting.

Do Your Community a Solid

By far, the best way to combat your Post-Crimbo sadness is to do something positive for others.  I’ve harped on and on about the importance of doing good works for others throughout the year. People it seems are at their most generous in the month-or-so between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Just because the calendar clicks over doesn’t mean that you no longer are “required” to be kind or generous to others; rather, this lack of charitability should your (my, our) invitation to do more for those who need our help.  Remember: no matter how deep your funk may be, no matter how bad off you think you are, there is always another person in greater need that could use your assistance-- financial, emotional, or in kind.

Forget your own blues and help someone else get out of their own.

Do you have any sure-fire ways of beating the post-holiday blues?  Let me know in the comments.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Feminist Gift Guide #3: Quick Shippers

I know I have been lax in my gift guide writing, however, to my credit, I have been busy with work and, well . . . getting and giving gifts myself!  Rest assured, I've been having a think about the last-minute shoppers who read my blog and have been scouring the internets looking for solutions to their shopping dilemmas.

If you’re like me and you hate visiting a shopping center during the crazy holiday season--honestly, who wants to get crushed by a mob of people at the register or mugged in the parking lot?!-- than internet shopping is your best bet.  Even this late in the season there are online vendors that are promising delivery by Christmas Eve.  Members of Amazon’s Prime Program (which I know to be available in both the US and  the UK), for instance, have two more shopping days to purchase gifts for free two day delivery; other folks can-- depending on the item-- order as late as Saturday morning and still receive their items with express delivery.

Similarly, Sephora is offering free two-day shipping on their site through today which should get you your items by Christmas Eve; if you dally, make sure you use express shipping.  Express shipping is still available from Ulta’s site . . . but the company do not promise that items will be delivered by Christmas.

Toys r Us will allow shoppers to make an online purchase until the 22nd for home delivery on Christmas Eve (with express shipping) and December 24 by 11 am PST for in-store pickup.

Shoppers at Macy’s website who make a purchase before Friday at 2 pm PST should be in receipt of their package by Christmas Eve as long as you select express shipping; however, depending on the item and its availability, your shipment may be delayed.

Many of these same retailers will also allow you to purchase electronic gift certificates for your loved ones.  It’s worth noting that electronic gift certificates are, by their very nature, a last minute item and do carry a social stigma to them.  In all honesty, no one really likes getting a sheet of computer paper as a present on Christmas-- it’s rather impersonal.  So, if that’s the route you find yourself needing to take, make sure that you give as generously as possible-- an extra $10 to $20 can often smooth many ruffled feathers!

Another option for these electronic gift certificates is to gift someone the cost of an item (plus a few bucks more) they have been wanting for a long time but would not have purchased for themselves.  Giving in this way is less impersonal than a blanket $50, allows you to tailor your dollar amount to a specific item, and let’s you tell you intended that you wanted to buy them this particular item . . . but you didn’t know which option(s) they had they were interested in.  This, dear readers, is a (generous) artful dodge!

Alright folks, you’re burning daylight . . . go and get those gifts!  Hurry, hurry!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Appy Daze: Smile Through The Tears

In light of all of the horror that has affected our world within the last week, when it is easy to lose all faith in humanity and become terribly frustrated by the inertness of our political leaders (Seriously: why can’t we do something to answer the problem of mass shootings?!-- it’s been thirteen years since Columbine and we still haven’t found the answer?), it is more important than ever to find goodness and happiness in the world.  By far there is more love and goodness in the world then there is horror and hate; I am making a conscious decision to focus on the goodness and the love and I would encourage all of my readers and my loved ones to do the same.  

In the spirit of my Appy Daze feature, I am going to give some “travel sized” nuggets of happiness and love that have kept me going lately as a reminder (to myself, to others) that there is goodness all around us, we only need to make a concerted effort to look for it.

  • My Mom: Without a doubt, as I have said dozens of times before and will say dozen of times in the future, my mother is my best friend.  Like any mother and daughter, we have our differences from time to time; however, these differences are only stand as reminders of how alike we really are . . . we’re both so stubborn we both think we have the right answer.  Even in the most challenging of times we know that we have one another’s best interests in mind and are one another’s biggest cheerleaders.  When God was matching up parents and children, he certainly got his pairing right when he put my mother and I together-- and for that i am eternally grateful!

  • Duchess: I waited until I was 28 to get a dog of my own, so I had many expectations about what pet parenthood would be like.  When we rescued Duchess, those expectations were far, far exceeded.  She is the furry love of my life, and my second best friend.  Duchess is a spunky little pug girl with lots of love and enthusiasm for life.  My mom and I like to say that she rescued us, not the other way around; she has made my mother and myself’s relationship stronger and has given our life a greater optimism and, with the strength of her puggy love, has given us a resilience that we have never known.  I am so thankful to have her furry little self in my life; find my true pug love was worth the 28 year wait.

  • The White House’s “We the People” Petition Site: I am proud to live in a country where people have a direct way to let the President and Congress know what legislation is important to them and, through the collective power of the petition, show just how important that issue is.  If you browse through the site, you’ll notice that there are a lot of petitions that have been created and supported by cranks.  While such petitions can certainly be an occasion to roll your eyes, they also stand as a stark reminder that our democracy works-- even the cranky people who don’t have a legitimate point (and no, the succession of Tennessee from the Union in 2012 isn’t a legitimate point) still have a right and a means to make their point.  It’s easy to feel jaded about our nation’s political processes and stop-go way in which they seem to work, but, unlike many places in the world, our political institutions do work.  That, dear readers, is something to be thankful for.

  • The Holiday Season: All commercialism aside, I really do love this time of year.  Beyond the inhumanity of the malls and big box stores, this season does bring out the better qualities of community.  During the holidays, people are more willing to open their wallets and give to the needy or even to lend a helping hand to those that are in the a bad way.  While I wish that this generosity extended to the entire calendar year, it’s heartening to know that people can be counted as generous at least 17% of the year.

  • Holiday Books: I have enjoyed reading the holiday themed books of my childhood to my pug, recently.  Yes, I know most of you will think it’s silly to read a bedtime story to your dog, but she loves to have a little story before she goes to bed.  I had originally started reading her bedtime stories as a bonding exercise when we first adopted her, now it is a nightly tradition.  It’s really great getting to relive all of my happy childhood (literary) memories with Duchess this year!-- what a blessing!

While this is not an exhaustive list, these points really speak to what I am feeling most happy about today.  What brings you happiness, even in the saddest of times?  Let’s share the love!
Sunday, December 16, 2012

What to Say When Words Fail You

On Friday morning, I was in my classroom, surrounded by my high school students preparing to leave campus until January, excited for Christmas and our extended winter holiday.  As we were laughing, exchanging cookies, and wishing one another happy holidays, tragic events were unfolding on the east coast.  While I have no wisdom to add or comfort to give-- nothing beyond what has already been said or given, in any event-- I feel it important to acknowledge the events in Connecticut.

In many ways, I wish that Monday were a school day just so I could go in to work and hug all of my students and let them know that I love them and how much they mean to me.  I always tell my students that I care about them  . . . but I really feel like I need to let them know how special they are more than I already do.  To be honest, I always try to live my life-- both professional and personal-- with the understanding that it is finite: I know that one day I will no longer be here and neither will the people I care about; so, I try to let my loved ones (family, friends, and students!) know how much they mean to me every day . . . not just when a tragedy occurs.  Nonetheless, when something tragic happens, as it did on Friday, it is a sober reminder of how tenuous our life truly is.

Further, as a teacher, I am proud of the brave actions of the educators at Sandy Hook who sacrificed their own lives in order to save dozens of children.  All children, regardless of where they go to school, should have teacher who are that brave and dedicated not only to their learning, but to their safety and well being.  As educators, we should all hope that we have the strength of character and the presence of mind to protect our children.

Make sure you’re saying your prayers for the lost, those that remain, for their community, and for our nation.  Let’s pray for peace and love.  Let’s pray for sanity and a different, safer tomorrow.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Feminist Gift Guide #2: Build Your Own Gift/ Subscription Box

One of the hallmarks, commercially at least, of the holiday season is the preponderance of gift boxes that stock store shelves.  Cosmetic companies, designers, and even candy companies package their most prized products into handy travel sizes that they sell at lower-than-average rates.  The point of these sets is to give consumers the opportunity to try the products out, develop a taste for them, and (hopefully, in the minds of said companies) become regular buyers.

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Subscription boxes work in much the same way, though they operate year round: provide subscribers with tester products in the hope they find something will find a product they love and cannot live without.  These services often allow consumers to buy boxes on a month-to-month, quarterly, or yearly subscription basis and can cover anything from beauty products to home goods and food.

The problem with these gift and subscription boxes is twofold: (1) they can be cost prohibitive and (2) you’re often left with products that you don’t like or cannot use.  Recently, I bought a cosmetics gift set from Benefit (Sexy Little Stowaways) and ended up giving a few of the products to my mother because they just didn’t suit me or my (oh so light) coloring.  While giving these products to my mom in October when I had bought the gift set myself wasn’t that big of a deal; however, if I would have been in the same position at the holidays with a gift set I had received . . . well, that’s a different story altogether!

Now, if you had been thinking of getting one of these boxes, I have a better (and cheaper!) alternative for you: build your loved one their own gift/ subscription box using miniature versions of products you are positive they will enjoy!

On Sinterklaas, I made a box for my mom built around a “Loveliness in Cold Climates” theme using a repurposed mini-pastry box (like the ones you get at bakeries for danishes) which I filled with miniature beauty products I picked up in the travel essentials section at CVS.  Since I know my mother personally (duh!), I was able to select items that I knew she would like and ones that would compliment her coloring.  Among the items I packed for her were some lip balms designed for wintery weather, some make-up, a miniature of a super luxurious hydrating shampoo, some of her favorite chocolates, and a nail polish.  All of these items came up to less than $20 and they were a hit with my mom-- all for about half of my Benefit gift box!

Building your own gift/ beauty boxes is also a great opportunity to repurpose any small boxes or wrapping items you have about your house but were unwilling to throw away (it’s ok, we’re all wrapping hoarders to one extent or another).  Also, DIY boxes are a prime opportunity to share any (unused!) samples you may have accumulated throughout the year and share them with someone who can actually use them and enjoy them.  Seriously, how many primer samples does a person really need?

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Additionally, building your own boxes for your loved ones is less dubious politically.  Often, subscription boxes (particularly beauty boxes) are based on sometimes degrading themes (e.g., sexy holidays, slimming for bikini season).  Creating boxes of your own lets you select an innocuous theme-- or no theme at all-- and share nifty things your loved ones without making them feel minimized.

You can make such boxes for anyone on your holiday gift list-- parents, siblings, friends, partners, and even pets.

Let me know if you have any DIY box ideas of your own or if you have made a box this season.  I’m eager to see what my creative readers have come up with.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Back from the Ozone

The one downside to blogging for the enthusiastic unprofessional writer is the knowledge that, at some point (often, multiple points), you will have your attention diverted by some matter or another that is usually more pressing than your structured, leisure pursuit.  In the last few weeks, a combination of work, family, preparing for the holidays, and a lingering back injury have kept me away from my beloved WordPress.

Luckily, things are beginning to wind down at work and my holiday arrangements have already been made (suck it, day-before shoppers!) so I am beginning to have “found time” that I can devote to my hobby-- blogging from this nifty little corner of the interwebs that I inhabit.

With my evenings looks more open than they have in weeks, I have a few posts that will be coming to everyone over the next week including advice on how to create a vision board for yourself (a long promised and in-progress post!), the second entry in my feminist-approved gift guide, some bits on how to celebrate your pet’s birthday, and my tips for time management (ever a challenge in my world!).

It’s good to be back and I look forward to sharing some amazing ideas with everyone this holiday season.