1. Shovel someone’s walk. If you have enough brooms and shovels, this is actually fun with the entire family. Especially if you dress up like clowns or bunnies or something. It’s like caroling, only different.
2. Clean the change from the console of your car and give it to the first Salvation Army bell-ringer or homeless person you come across.
3. Bring a stack of cups and one of those Tim Horton’s boxes of coffee downtown and warm up a few homeless people. (Having some extra mitts and a pack of smokes to share is always good, too.)
4. Volunteer to serve breakfast at a shelter, deliver gifts for Santas Anonymous, or pack parcels for the Christmas Bureau.
5. Bring a box of chocolates to share with your co-workers; if you don’t work with co-workers, bring the box with you and give it to someone who works in an office or place where you receive great service.
6. If you don’t send out Christmas cards in the mail, you can still send out an eCard. Write up an email briefly updating people, wishing them the best of the season, and include a cheesy picture of your family or a link to a youtube video of them singing we wish you a merry Christmas. (I LOVE getting these, even if it isn’t addressed to me and me alone.) Plus, you save postage AND a few trees – yay!
7. Make a Thermos of hot chocolate, grab some cups, and show up at a neighbour’s or a nearby friend’s place with that and some cookies warm from the oven, stay for ONLY 5 minutes, then go home so they can return to being as busy as you are.
8. Make eye contact with everyone you see, SMILE, and wish them a happy holiday.
Thank you for a wonderful visit. I'm thinking of you often.
Now we have four stockings to hang by the potbelly stove with care. I never have made stockings for my kids - the girls stole two really cool felt stockings that I bought as props for Christmas photos one year while Kaelan got stuck with the third, Wil borrows one of Bill's two stockings, and whomever else happens to join us usually gets one of Bill's socks with a hastily embroidered name. (Which is always funny in March, when he puts on a sock that says, "Nanook" or "Guest" lol)
If this doesn't get you into the spirit of the season, I don't know what will...
Go ahead - give some free hugs!
- Sometime around the middle of November, Bill starts shopping for himself, effectively screwing up any chance I might have getting him a decent Christmas gift.
- My birthday is on the 21st so the tree goes up after my birthday cake has been eaten.
- My husband is allergic to real trees and unless we want to buy a new synthetic tree every year, I'm allergic to the dust that builds up on the fake ones. Our 'tree' is actually a green wooden ladder.
- On Christmas eve we make umpteen bazillion colours of icing, put it into pipers, and decorate the snot out of about a gazillion chocolate shortbread cookies. My little sister usually buries her cookies in so much icing you can't find them on her plate. She's always very proud of herself; we always insist her cookies are too beautiful for us to eat, so she should just go ahead and eat her own.
- After the kids are in bed, the grown-ups sit around drinking boozy hot chocolate or sparkly cocktails and playing board games.
- We don't put anything out for Santa.
- We hold down the fort at our place on Christmas Day. We have far too many people with far too many conflicting schedules, so it's just easiest to open our home to whomever cares to join us. Mostly it's family, but we often end up with a misfit or two in the mix.
- Christmas morning usually starts at some insane hour of the morning (before 7... ~sigh~) with us sending the kids back into their rooms so we have time to put out the stockings, which were forgotten the night before after the haze of cocktails and (what boardgame did we play?) forced us to crawl into bed at 3am. After we've held them off for 10 minutes, the kids frantically tear through their gifts as children are wont to do while we grown-ups nod off in our chairs.
- Bill makes pancakes and sausages and sometimes there are fresh warm cinnamon buns, too. And a LOT of oranges.
- My Mom buys these sinfully delicious pecan caramel thingers from Purdy's each year, which are about 2500 calories EACH, which we end up eating instead of the oranges.
- As soon as the fury of unwrapping has finished and we're all sufficiently stuffed on oranges, chocolates, and pancakes, we all sneak off to our own corners to nap, curl up with whatever book we got for Christmas, play with new toys, or watch cheesy Christmas movies (Muppet Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story are favourites.)
- We have an open-door policy on Christmas day - friends and neighbours drop by throughout the day, and everyone is always welcome to stay for a while or the whole day.
- While everyone is napping, I LOVE cooking dinner. Seriously, LOVE it. I used to make Christmas dinner to be on the table by about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, but have discovered how much I absolutely adore the mood (and added digestion time for pancake breakfast) of eating later, around 7:30-ish, when the lights are all dimmed and the windows are a bit frosted, twinkling lights... sweet!
- I bust out the bone china and the fancy flatware to serve up a huge turkey with stuffing (spicy sausage, Mandarin orange wedges, lots of rosemary, and sunflower seeds) served up with potatoes, veggies, buns, homemade spiced cranberries, and my infamous parmesan mushroom gravy, which I've caught my husband and brother-in-law eating from the pot with the wooden spoon.
- Dessert is served MUCH later (if at all) and is often warm brownies with ice cream and chocolate syrup. (Who wants pie when you can have a fresh homemade warm brownie sundae? Pie is for Thanksgiving...)
- After supper, and when the kids are finally in bed and the relatives have all left, Bill & I usually curl up on the couch and watch a movie or have a game of backgammon before wishing merry christmas to all and to all a good night.
- Boxing Day, I NEVER go out shopping. NEVER. I'd rather put fiberglass in my undies and scoop the veins from my arm with a plastic spoon. But Bill has convinced me that we need a new tradition of just going to Southgate with a coffee, finding a spot in the middle, and watching the insanity as it swirls around us. As long as I don't actually have to set foot in any shops, I think I could totally get into that tradition.
- Boxing Day at our house means Turkey Stewp, too. All the leftovers get thrown in a pot with a broth-y version of the aforementioned parmesan mushroom gravy. We rarely have any signs of turkey left by the 27th.
- Bill usually buys himself something between Boxing Day and New Year's Day which effectively screws up any chance I have of getting him a decent anniversary gift.
- New Year's Eve is celebrated with friends, either at our house or out and about, depending how many kids we have. This year we're going to try and make it out to the cabin for New Year's festivities - likely a whole lotta hot dogs, tobogganing, hot chocolate, and sparklers.
- New Year's Day is my and Bill's wedding anniversary. We have tried to sneak off for a quiet dinner together but usually end up spending most of it with the kids. I'm personally hoping it's warm enough to try 4L milk jug curling on the lake...
Baby in the egg basket. I love my job ;)
Coming from a marketing and arts administration background and working with the media in a number of capacities in the not-for-profit sector as well as an educational institution, the one thing that I have learned right through to the core is the fact that at the end of the day, everyone has an agenda. While there are individuals who are genuinely nice people (this is where I came ups short) there is very little integrity between their personal beliefs and what the bigwigs in the backroom want to spin (this is where I come up frustrated.) When it comes to people in need of a cause to support, where the media is concerned I've experienced more vultures than philanthropists. They are first and foremost doing it to make sure the company looks good; the fact that your cause is being supported is secondary.
I once shipped off a rant to the organizers of an event who apparently saw small picture instead of big picture, tying themselves to one particular media outlet for an event that should be, for all intents and purposes, non-denominational so-to-speak. I don't think the organizers were aware of the difference between sponsorships and donations, so I wanted to do my part to educate anyone who isn't clear on the fundamental difference.
Sponsorship is where an organization is basically given the exclusive rights to support something. While other media may come out and cover the event itself, the name on the posters will be the name of the company who happened to take ownership and they will be the only ones promoting it beforehand. Now, this in and of itself isn't a bad thing - it can lead to things like cash, free advertising spots, required goods and services like portapotties, snacks, water, etc. At the same time, the downside is that it marries the event to those companies. Sponsorships result in the exchange of goods and services, to the exclusion of all the other companies who provide similar services. As an example, a new library in the children's hospital sponsored by Telus Mobility is highly unlikely to be co-sponsored by Roger's Wireless. If you attend an event sponsored by Starbuck's, you aren't going to see Tim Horton's set up at the next table. When we consider media sponsorship, what you essentially do is make it so that only one media outlet is going to cover your event leading up to it, when it's most important to get the word out. If you are sponsored by rock station A, rock station B isn't going to touch you.
So how do you increase awareness of your event without securing media sponsorship? Enter the Public Service Announcements and Press Releases. Enter the viral internet campaign. Enter the footsoldiers delivering flyers into people's hands. Enter Facebook networks. Enter the phonecalls to the radio stations and the letters to the editors of every newspaper in town. This is how you get coverage without being owned by a corporation who has their own best interests at heart, not your event's. And of course, this is where the remainder of my frustration sets in - because without securing sponsorships, you may not get the turnout for your event or support for your cause that you hoped for. Depending on the season and the reason, your cause may not be deemed 'newsworthy,' wherein newsworthy is understood to mean that when there are only 30 seconds of airtime, it is of sufficient interest that people will want to know about your cause or event more than the car crash on the freeway and some celebrity's new stint in rehab. A sponsorship kind of secures coverage in at least in one place because you're coverage is coming out of the advertising budget, not competing with the news. Nice catch.22, hey?
The other really crappy thing is if you aren't media savvy, you may secure a sponsorship with a media outlet that either partially or completely misses your target market. For example, if you're trying to sell opera tickets, chances are good that the local thrash metal station isn't your best bet. If you are trying to reach youth, putting your ad in the business section of the national newspaper is probably a bad idea. There's a reason why market research is conducted to establish demographics. You know those surveys where they ask your income and which brand of toilet paper is your favourite and how old you are and if you have kids and what TV channel is always on in your house? There's valuable information derived from those surveys. If I want to sell more gum to 25-34 year olds who have kids, market research has the potential of giving me the information I need to target them with an advertising campaign. If they're all buying Brand B of toilet paper, I'm going to hang coupons in the toilet paper aisle, put an advert on Treehouse, and make sure everyone who buys that brand of toilet paper gets a free sample at the cashier. The question then becomes, if you don't have a good understanding of the people you need to market to, how can you ensure that your media sponsorship is a good match? Or what if your demographic falls into two equally important categories of comparable size, and sponsorship in one newspaper will completely and totally miss the other half?
A donation on the other hand is when you give without getting anything of notable or commercial value in exchange. You may receive a tax receipt, some kind of mention in a write-up, or maybe nothing. You stand to gain little if anything of value other than that warm feel-good fuzzy feeling of knowing you did something (gave time, money, supplies, etc.) to ease someone else's hardship. Maybe it's the SPCA, maybe it's your church, maybe it's a fundraising organization like the Canadian Cancer Society or the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Whatever the case may be, you give, and you walk away feeling good. (*I have to make a note here about raffle tickets, too. While I think the raffles are great ideas, they don't count as donations because the person who purchases the ticket is purchasing the ability to gain something of commercial value (cash or prizes.) There is nothing wrong with this - it's just not a donation.)
Speaking from experience, the bigger the company, the more likely they are to want some kind of exclusivity and sponsor recognition. Smaller companies and organizations are happy to settle for a single line in the programme that says, "This evening's dinner generously donated by..." instead of "WE present" on the front cover of the menu, their logo splashed over 10,000 posters, and an 8-foot banner regaling the crowd with the message, "We own this." When it gets down to an individual level, there is usually one person on staff at a major company who decides to take up your cause, who will then have to sell it to their superiors as a valuable alliance that will maintain and increase their corporate profile. When it's a smaller contribution from a smaller organization, it's usually because the individual believes, and more than anything wants that warm fuzzy feeling.
I understand how easy it is to welcome commercial sponsorships (read: something that looks like it's for free - cash, airtime, goods - but isn't) without meaning to, which is why it is SO important for us to be aware of how sponsorships v. donations work. While a huge, established charity event can afford to offer sponsorship exclusivity, it maybe isn't the best route for everyone in need of promotion... especially if the spirit of the event was intended to balk commercialism in favour of altruistic pursuits in the first place.
Such a double-edged sword. ~sigh~
I am asking for nominations for 3 families in need. I cannot shoot on December 12th at the Edmonton-wide project, but I can contact the recipients on December 12th and schedule a date that works for them. Please email your nomination to h dot walls at shaw dot ca
I don't need their personal histories - just their email or phone number. Perhaps it's a student, perhaps it's a colleague, perhaps it's a friend, perhaps it's someone who is terminal... pick someone who a) would love professional pictures and b) isn't able at this time to partake of this invaluable service. I will select 3 entries by random draw on December 12th, 2009. If you are a colleague, I urge you to participate as well.
Wow. Just, wow. Have not heard this song in about a bazillion years. LURVE it!
If I put my cynicism about insurance companies and try to believe for a minute that some engineers out there designing crumple zones are trying to save lives aside for a few minutes, I think I can trust my eyes enough to see the obvious. In 1959 Bel Air v. 2009 Malibu, the Malibu wins. Pretty trippy, hey?
Serejane and her Grandpa Bear wearing matching fringed vests made from the leftovers of the seamless backdrop from our fabu pin-up sessions last week. (I can't share those yet, either... not until after Christmas... shhhh!)