Friday, December 4, 2009

More Gifts that Give Back

If you are like me you're probably having a mini-panic attack that it's already December 4th and you have no idea what to get anyone if anything for Christmas. With money being tight all around it's enough to just call the whole gift giving thing off and celebrate just being with friends and family. I've decided however, that if I am going to get someone something it's going to be a damn good present that actually means something not just a mass produced P-O-S that is going to break or be forgotten about a month from now. I'm talking about a fabulous gift too and not something that just donates $1 to charity...because it's Christmas damnit and I want to make a difference! (isn't that the point after all?)

So after a little research I found these fabulous causes. The first is the gift of.....

bees?

This is actually a beehive kit from mercycorps.org and it costs $65 and it benefits indigenous families in Guatemala and Honduras. Most of the families here live in isolated rural areas and subsist mostly on the meager crops they grow. Raising bees is one way Mercy Corps helps indigenous families in these two Central American countries increase their household income so their children can enjoy better healthcare and more educational opportunities. Chad and I had a bee theme going on through our wedding so for some reason this particular kit really "speaks" to me. I just love the idea of raising bees which not only helps the environment but also helps the people who raise them. Brilliant! If you are too cheap to spring for the bee kit you can always go for the $18 Emergency Food kit which provides non-perishable food items like pasta, rice, beans, and cooking oil to families recovering from crisis involving conflict or natural disasters. The website also has a drinking water kit for $20 or a rice kit for $29 among many others. Once you purchase your kit the person you are sending it too will get a card (like the bees pictured above) telling them all about what a fabulous thing you did for them in their name!

Of course, there are some people (Ok I'm guilty as well) who like to give but also like to get say, more than a greeting card in return. And being the holiday season who couldn't use a little bit of this:
Who doesn't like a nice bottle of wine? Now what if this bottle of wine was helping your favorite cause? No guilty drinking here! I found this at Onehopewine.com. For each bottle of wine purchased half of all the proceeds go to the charity YOU select based on the wine you buy. So as you can see here I am featuring the Support our Troops Zinfandel because my brother-in-law is fighting overseas right now and I felt that this would just make an awesome gift for my sister. They also have wine that supports AIDS, breast cancer, autism and saving the planet. You can buy each individually for $18.99 or buy a gift pack of all of them for $120. The best part is if you buy 12 bottles or more you get 1 cent shipping. Now honestly I've paid a lot more for some not so great wine in my life and here you can buy one of these bottles, that's not even that expensive and feel good about donating to a worthy cause. Everyone wines (I mean wins...right?)
And if you aren't a wine lover or a fan of bees and rice patties you can certainly appreciate a good pair of shoes. (who doesn't love a new pair right?) Well at Tomsshoes.com they have made doing good very simple for you, for every pair of their shoes you buy they donate one pair to a child in need. You can even go on their website and see all these adorable kids in these rocking shoes and if that doesn't make you feel happy about yourself nothing will. Compared to what we normally spend on shoes (ladies I'm talking to you) these really aren't expensive at all. I saw a few cute pairs for $44 and I just spent about $10 less than that at Old Navy and I didn't help anyone with that purchase. (the guilt is setting in)

You don't have to look very hard to find some extremely worthwild causes out there and my philosphy is if you are going to help yourself, why not go a little bit further and help someone else in return. And if you are wondering what to tell grandma who keeps nagging you what you want for christmas...well I hope you found some great inspiration here...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

North Korea, The Middle East, Antarctica, Darfur

So what do the above places I've listed above have in common?
?
?
?
Give up? These are all places in the world I know I will never visit in my life. The rest of the world, however, is up for grabs in my opinion. Being a flight attendant, travel is not only my job it's also my passion and I like to visit at least one new country a year. I have found over the years that traveling is what truly makes a person interesting. I enjoy stepping outside of my comfort zone and seeing how other people live and trying new foods and hearing different languages. The older I grow, the more I realize that it's not material things that make me happy or even last through the years, it's the experiences that I carry with me. After all I can still remember the meals I've had in Paris, or what the ocean is like in Costa Rica but have no idea what shoes I owned in college.

Chad and I agreed realistically we could take about 2 International trips a year and be satisfied. So we are in the midst of planning our next great escape to take place at the end of February. It hasn't been easy to decide and we still aren't 100% sure yet but it looks like we are going to venture to....
The Giant boot known as Italy! Of course just looking at the map I have no idea where we should go. I mean there's just no way to see the whole country in a week and a half so we will have to narrow it down to what we want to see most and go from there. I think the plan is now to book a place for the first few nights then stay in hostels so we won't be limited in what we want to see. I'm really wanting to go to Venice and Florence and possibly Milan. But while planning I've posted some pictures for inspiration:

















What a beautiful country I can hardly wait to see it in person. And if it's not in February, rest assured it will be within my lifetime....

Just in case you weren't convinced enough

How can you not want to help these kids? Buy a bag from feedprojects.com and you can feed one of these precious school children for a year!

I've already been thinking about many uses this fabulous bag has. Ever since Chad's mom bought me a reusable bag from Anthropologie last year for Christmas I have been obsessed with making sure I always use it when grocery shopping. It's a lot more durable than a plastic bag and can hold a lot more plus most stores give you a discount when you use them. I've even been known to make Chad run back out to the car and get it when I forget. Hey I can't save the world but it's the little things that count right?

In the Spirit of Giving - because who needs more "stuff"?

A few years ago, after my grandmother died, my family started this tradition of traveling for the holidays. We decided we all really didn't need any more "stuff" and it would be better to vacation somewhere and be together rather than spend a bunch of money on presents. Now that the economy is really down and people are losing jobs, I find it even harder to justify buying things just to have things. I'm sure Chad and I will exchange presents based on what we want, but as far as everyone else goes if I'm going to get them something I want it to be meaningful. My parents and Chad's family are coming out for Christmas and we will probably play some version of "dirty santa" where we buy a bunch of crazy wacky things and wrap them up and make the present opening more of a game than an obligatory "OOOH thanks so much I never knew I needed this." Because really I've always thought it was awkward to open gifts with a crowd watching me and having the expectation of saying just the right thing to convey my happiness at the said gift.

In the spirit of giving however, I have been on the lookout for presents that make me feel good to give and hopefully do good themselves. Enter this fabulous bag:

I love love love it. I love it so much in fact that I want it for myself (*hint*hint*) It's from feedprojects.org and the profits from selling this bag will go to feed one child in Kenya for a year. AN ENTIRE YEAR people! And you'd think to feed a child for a year it would cost over $200 or something but no this bag only costs $60. The site also has this stylish bracelet (pictured below) which feeds 5 children a year and it's only $15. They also have a cute bear that feeds 5 and some other bag styles. You can also go to stores such as Whole Foods and buy the Feed 100 bag which feeds 100 kids in Rwanda and the Feed 3 Read 3 which they sell at Barnes and Noble which feeds three children and donates 3 books to children in the developing world. I love this program and can't think of a better way to spend my money. I honestly hate donating money to places where I don't know how it will be spent but when you go to buy these bags on the website you can actually see pictures of these kids you are helping and how many bags have been sold and meals provided. I know times are tight and $60 can be a lot so I did a little research and found they sell these on amazon too for $35.

Of course I still want my jellyfish aquarium but when it comes to a gift that really will last the whole year and makes you feel good about yourself, I think this is it. And if you are my friend and wondering what on earth to buy me, well you don't even have to buy one for me just buy one for yourself and inspire others to do the same. :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanks to the Giving

For as long as I've been in Denver I have flown home for Thanksgiving. Every year I brave the airport on one of the most busy travel days and fight for a seat. The first year I was living in Denver it was just myself flying home as I hadn't met Chad yet so it wasn't too bad. My company, however, use to "black out" certain days meaning that if you were scheduled to work that day there was no way to get out of it except to call in sick. But, if you call in sick the day before or after a holiday you don't get your holiday pay. So my first year back home I had to fly back to Denver on Thanksgiving day which was a breeze because as you can imagine no one wants to travel this day.

Since that first year of work I've been lucky enough to have Thanksgiving and the subsequent days off before and after. Chad and I have always made it to Birmingham and back although one year we did have to fly into Huntsville, rent a car, and drive to Birmingham. Last year we took the red eye to Atlanta which resulted in not nearly enough sleep, too much alcohol on my part and a few tears shed in the airport. Traveling is always stressful but add in hoping for an empty seat on one of the craziest flying days plus visiting family....well it's a lot to take in.

This year I made the journey home by myself. Chad had opted not to travel because he has a new job and he couldn't get off until Wednesday and did not want to risk missing his flight back home. I also had my high school ten year reunion the saturday after which was added incentive for me to go and more reason he didn't want too. Because truly who wants to go to an obligatory function if they really don't have too?

Coming home is always bittersweet for me. I hate to leave Denver and yet when I leave Birmingham I dread saying goodbye as well. Things have changed over the years and the Birmingham I come home to now is not what it use to be. When I was in college, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving was one of the biggest days to go out and sub sequentially run into nearly everyone we had gone to high school with. As you can imagine, Birmingham is not that big of a town and there are certain places everyone congregates at over the holidays especially. But as I grew older the faces changed and gradually it's gotten to the point where I don't recognize anyone anymore. It makes coming home a bit sad because most of my friends and even family aren't there to see anymore as everyone has moved states and created new lives for themselves.

This year, however I was guaranteed to see more people than I ever knew I cared too because of my ten year high school reunion. My sister, brother and best friend made the journey home, as well as my mom's oldest friend and her daughter and son and their cousin. So there was actually plenty to keep me occupied and glad I had returned. My dad cooked 45 lbs of meat for Thanksgiving dinner (too much as always) in typical fashion but it was fabulous having leftovers to eat for days. There were a few ventures out to bars to meet up and catch up and of course time shopping with mom.
I was skeptical of going to my reunion, especially without my husband, but I was able to meet up with my best friend from high school which eased my anxiety. Walking into my reunion was like walking into prom 10 years ago, except now I'm much more confident and sure of myself. The whole experience was exactly what I thought it would be only better. The girls either looked the same or worse and most of the guys had gained weight or had lost some hair. Having a few cocktails before our arrival, I was pretty comfortable talking to most anyone who came my way. Of course I've been working two jobs, over the past 5 years where I am forced to deal with people on a day to day basis. My promotions job forces me to walk into a bar full of complete strangers and say hi to everyone and convince them to buy my product. Every week I fly with a different crew so I'm forced to be outgoing or I'd be miserable. As it turns out I was actually glad my husband didn't come. It spared us both the awkwardness of me having to introduce him to people I barely even knew anymore. Most of the dates looked miserable in fact, although truth be told, a few were more talkative than their spouses or friends I had graduated with. The most amazing aspect to me was how few people even knew who I was. I had several people that I remembered well, introduce themselves to me before sneaking a look at my name tag with my picture on it.

At the end of the night there were awards which people had voted on for various things and I received the "Most Changed Since High School." If there was one award I could have possibly won, this above all others makes me the most happy. Although I'm definitely better looking now than I was then, what it means to me is that I'm not the same shy person who graduated 10 years ago. Many of those people were still the same, in looks and in attitude. The girls who were bitchy then are still bitchy now. The guys who were arrogant then are still walking around thinking they are better than everyone else. But apparently I'm not the same, and to me that's a good thing. As you grow up and older you should become more comfortable in your skin. To be able to talk to anyone and make people laugh, to let your own light shine through so people can see the side you always knew was there within yourself. When´╝ęgraduated my goal was always to become something more than what I was. And even though I don't have the highest paying job or live in the fanciest city, I'm glad to have moved on and created such a happy life for myself that others can recognize just spending a couple of hours with me even though it's been years. Of course, the bleach blond hair helps :)

In my every day life I feel I have so much to be thankful for. I'm glad I have two families now and two sets of friends. I'm thankful to have two places, both Denver and Birmingham to call home. I'm thankful that my past isn't the ghost I make it out to be and that I have am able to fly in and out whenever I choose. Birmingham will always be such a special place to me and so will my friends and family who are still there. It may have been my job who took me away from it all, but I always know, it's the job I do that enables me to return whenever I want...