Monday, December 7, 2009

Not That You Asked: A Gift Guide for the 2009 Holiday Season

This has been a tough year for our family, but we're sticking to our holiday traditions: great big old tree; kitten climbing the tree and causing havoc; Christmas Eve pageant at our church, and then dinner with my husband's family; stockings filled to the brim with ridiculous things like toothbrushes and oranges and hair accessories and tacky magazines and paperback books; presents under the kitten-savaged tree. 
One of our family traditions, however, I almost let slip. For years now, we've had each kid choose a charity during the holiday season. Then we send part of the money we would have used on the kids' Christmas presents to those organizations.  
For some reason, I didn't want to do it this year. I wanted to spend ththe entire Christmas budget on my kids, not on animals or people we don't know. After all, it's been a tough year for us. We could all use some extra goodies.
My reaction puzzled me, because I think of myself as a generous person. So I sat with my ugly unwillingness for a while, wondering what was underneath it. 
Eventually, I realized that I was feeling closed up, fearful, unwilling to let go of what we have and resentful of people who have more. 
Okay, brutal honesty time? That is a sucky place to be. A soul-killing place to be. A big old nasty Grinch place to be. Plus, it's no fun. And I don't intend to stay there. 
So, onward:
Both kids want their donation to go the Oregon Humane Society
I want my personal donation to go to Mercy Corps, a Portland, Oregon-based relief organization that operates all over the world. Their projects that provide clean drinking water to villagers in Liberia are particularly dear to my heart--our city had a tainted water issue this past weekend, and I realized, perhaps for the first time, just how much we take clean water for granted.
My husband's undecided at this point, but in the past, his dollars have gone to an organization that brightens the holidays for local families in need.
My parents loved Heifer International, which may be one of the best known hunger-relief projects in the world. Our daughters have donated money in our names several times, and it is a fabulous present to receive.
If this sort of arms-length giving doesn't work for you, you could follow the lead of my Older Brother #2: He visited a local liquidation and deep-discount store, bargained up a storm, and bought 50 raincoats and 50 mylar blankets. Then he added power bars and bottles of water, and made up 50 bags that he's keeping in his car and handing out to homeless people all over town. That's awesome, and it would be just as awesome to do 5 bags, if that's where your budget is.
How about you? I'm looking forward to reading your ideas for charitable giving.
And as always, if you have a question for Mrs. Ditter, just leave it in the comments section.


  1. Mrs. Ditter,
    Do you have any good ideas for how a family can "do the holidays" when everybody keeps being unavailable? We have some extended family and we used to all get together and it was fun.

    Now, the extended family is rife with divorce, two mommies and daddies, kids who would rather play their Gameboys than have a conversation or even shut up and read; others who have weird work schedules and work on Christmas Day; etcetera.

    The few of us who are not working, not divorced, not rude are in a quandary. I say, "Let's go to the coast!" He says, "Let's not." She says, "That's just as much work." He says, "What about the dogs?" She says, "Mom, we're Jewish." I say, "So skip the holidays." He says nothing. She says, "Well...."

    I say, "I'll ask Mrs. Ditter."

  2. And Mrs. Ditter will answer, sometime later this week. Thanks for writing.

  3. Could you please hurry?

  4. can I get your take on this? My husband passed away 3 years ago. I'm ready to get myself back into the workplace after having been home with our kids the past 11 years. I've decided to pursue freelance writing as it best suits the needs of my family. So, I've been volunteering 1x/wk at a radio station for the past several months. I got a face-to-face w/ the powers-that-be, they liked me, asked me to come on board. I thought it'd be a great opp to get some "real world" stuff, build up my portfolio, and if all went well, maybe even land a p/t position.

    Instead, I've been doing data entry, stuffing envelopes, answering phones. All the while I've been getting accolades for my performance, they'd hire me if they had $$, blah blah blah. The past 3 weeks my "boss" been out of town on the day I show up, which puts me in the hands of the 30-something staff which give me the intern-type assignments.

    I'm beginning to think this is all a big waste of my time when I could use the time I give them WRITING. But I don't want to blow it w/this place and I seem to be a familiar enough face that the head honcho says hello to me.

    In their defense, they treat their volunteers like royalty - some have been there for over 10 years! That they let me in their very closed circle I consider and achievement. But I don't want to spend the next 6 mos doing more data entry in the hopes that maybe they'll throw me a bone and give me something meatier. Really, I'm 47 now and I may have been home raising my children (which I will not apologize for), but I'm not a 22 year old anymore either...I had a career before kids, I've already done all this entry level stuff and it doesn't feel like it's getting me any closer to my goal as a freelance writer.