Tag Archives: holiday

Random Act of Kindness Project

Guest post by Dena Sokolow, a Florida mother, attorney and Cwazy Town blogger.

Jenna putting quarters on a candy machine as a part of the Random Act of Kindness

There is nothing like experiencing the holidays through a child’s eyes, with all of its magic, joy and tradition. This is the first year my 3-year-old daughter, Jenna, seems to genuinely understand Christmas/Hanukkah (we celebrate both in our house) and it makes this holiday season that much brighter. In this time of overindulgence, it is important for me that Jenna learns to appreciate what she has and understand that not all children are so lucky. This is a big concept for a 3-year-old. I decided it would be easier for her to grasp if she was actually participating and doing charitable deeds. So I started the Random Act of Kindness Project for our family. Every day in December we do at least one nice thing for someone else without wanting or expecting anything in return.

We started small. First, we took carts from people in the parking lot at Walmart and pushed them back to the store for them. We also picked up toys on the toy aisle that were on the floor and put them back (Jenna did amazing at this). Jenna also wanted to contribute to the Salvation Army bucket. We both walked away that day in such a good mood and for the first time EVER Jenna did not ask me for one of those tiny princess dolls they so brilliantly place at the checkout aisle.

Jenna putting a note and present in the mailbox for the mail carrier

We kept going. Together we made a “kindness list” of things we could do.  Once I gave her suggestions Jenna came up with a lot of ideas on her own: draw pictures for her favorite teachers, hand out candy to kids in the park, bring cookies to the firefighters she met on her recent field trip, give blankets to people who are cold.

The next day Jenna asked me for a quarter for a piece of candy from a gumball machine.  I asked her if she would rather leave surprise quarters for other kids to find.  She loved the idea and taped quarters to the gumball machines herself with a note saying how we were celebrating the holidays by performing random acts of kindness (RAK). She giggled the whole way home about how some little boy and girl was going to be “soooo happy” when they found those quarters.  She never did get a piece for herself. I could see she was enjoying the thought of surprising another child.

Jenna brought cookies to the firefighters and left treats and thank you notes (drawn and decorated by Jenna) for our mailman and the garbage collectors. She handed out candy canes to kids in the park (after first asking permission from their parents) and gift certificates at the grocery store. She delivered holiday goodies and a picture she drew for the servers at her favorite restaurant. Every RAK is greeted with surprise, enthusiasm and gratitude.

Now Jenna wakes up every morning and asks, “what are we going to do nice today?”  Our “kindness list” of ideas grows every day. This project has turned into so much more than I anticipated. It has become a wonderful way to spend quality time with my daughter while teaching her an important lesson of charity and generosity of spirit. The feedback we have received has been overwhelming. People are so touched and grateful. I love hearing how people are adopting this tradition for their own family or “paying it forward” after receiving a RAK. It is what the holidays are all about.

For more information or ideas about RAK please visit my blog, Cwazy Town. There is also a download on the blog for our RAK card that we leave behind.

Holiday Stresses May Come in Cute Dresses

Guest post by Bob Carton, licensed mental health counselor at the Employee Assistance Program at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

The holidays can be a stressful time. The simple act of finding the right dress for a gathering may become an ordeal for someone. Wearing the same new dress as your supervisor can be funny on a sitcom; however, it can be painful in real life – especially if a subordinate looks better than her boss in the dress.

Holidays by design are meant to be days when we break with routine custom and adopt a festive sensibility. We break diets, socialization patterns, spending practices and normal drinking customs. A holiday is a mini vacation from normal life. During such predictable breaks in our routines, one may find that we can easily lose constraint and wander too far from our normal disciplines. This may lead to loss of control and unwanted consequences, and these penalties may be costly to both our physical and mental wellbeing.

Think back on a festive feast at grandma’s house in days gone by. Plates filled with mounds of potatoes swimming in gravy, piles of turkey and ham, homemade breads and biscuits slathered in butter, with special dressings, festive veggies adorned with special sauces and garnishes, bright orange mounds of yams browned with marshmallow and pecan glazes. Who could pass up an extra helping of Aunt Millie’s magnificent pecan pie?  Huge amounts of energy are required to convert all that masticated mass into absorbed nutrients. (Now you know why you snoozed through the winning interception and touchdown while watching your favorite team during the holiday game.)

Your stomach muscle walls churn violently on one side of your stomach; clumps of food are thrown violently against the far wall, falling into a bubbling vat of acids and enzymes. All these solids on the move urge continued commands to drink fluids – how we respond to that thirst may help or hurt the process. Provided you didn’t eat so much that the remaining stomach contents take a reverse trip, the next leg of the journey will take you to the little room down the hall.

The meal described above may seem an exaggeration for some, while many will identify with the description for at least one holiday meal. The same way a tendency toward excess may push us toward overdoing the other holiday rituals we engage in; whether it is over consumption of alcohol, spending beyond safe limits, worrying about pleasing in-laws and friends who may have seemed impossible to satisfy. The stressors will compound and may build and couple themselves to memories of past holiday regrets. These excesses can take the joy out of any holiday season if we allow them to.

The remedy is planning: thinking how much money, time, energy, calories and socializing one can afford and still manage to retain a semblance of the meaning the holiday was intended to convey.

Put mental limits on all consumption and do your best to stay within your mental budgets. Retain a sense of joy and when the joy begins to fade, back off. Know there are people we can never please; let the Grinches go. There is no law saying you can’t start your own tradition more in keeping with your values, holding on to those features of holiday life that are meaningful to you and your family. Laugh, sing, breathe and don’t spend, eat or drink too much and this may be your best holiday yet.

Delivering Holiday Cheer for Local Elders

Guest post by DCF Northwest Regional Managing Director Vicki Abrams

Ms. Jennings sat in her wheelchair in the nursing home, looking a little misty eyed as she saw holiday decorations around her. Her husband of 61 years had passed three years earlier and her twin sister died last year. She felt very alone.

Suddenly her face perked up – she saw two big smiles on little faces coming towards her. Her two grandchildren, ages 3 and 6, had come to visit her. Their parents had arms full of presents and holiday treats. Her eyes filled with tears as she embraced her grandchildren.

The holidays give us a wonderful time to come together as families and friends, sharing memories and good tidings. But for many older and disabled adults, the holiday season can be a lonely, stressful and even depressing time.

Here are just a few ways to help the elderly and vulnerable adults during the holiday season.

  • Spending quality time strolling down memory lane with loved ones
  • Talking with and listening to elders in nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Helping with holiday shopping or hanging seasonal decorations
  • Bringing holiday treats or preparing a special meal
  • Helping out with home repairs or routine chores
  • Making sure elders have warm clothes and proper heating and air
  • Helping children to make handmade holiday cards for elders and delivering them to nursing homes

This week, escorted by Santa Claus himself, Senior Santa volunteers in Panama City will deliver handmade holiday cards from area children to local nursing homes, distribute gifts donated by Jerry Wilson’s Roofing and Charlie Coram’s Place and delight residents with traditional holiday carols and food.

Connect with an elder family member or friend this holiday season. To help people outside your family, contact local nursing homes to see how you might be able to bring a little holiday joy to residents this season. Even little acts of kindness will surely be greatly appreciated.

Happy holidays!

31 Days of Family Activities

Post by DCF Director of Digital Media and Outreach Niki Pocock

We recently launched “31 Days of Family Activities,” which features a fun idea to do with your family and friends every day in December. Each one is easy and inexpensive or no cost.

Every tip has a photo to go along with it, which meant we had to get a little crafty. Luckily, several people in our office have kids, so it was a pretty fun project and we had an instant focus group :)

My daughters' beautiful place mats as a part of the 31 Days of Family Activities for the holdiays.

We worked on holiday place mats  bird feeders, hand trees, scavenger hunts and more.  I laughed when one of our employee’s daughters said, “Mommy, how did you learn to do art?” The kids were super excited and had a blast. Parent/kid focus group reaction: These activities are awesome!

We encourage you to check out these 31 ideas and take advantage of spending time with family this holiday season. Spending intentional time with family develops a foundation for relationships so families can have open communication. It is good for all families, no matter how old its members are or if it is made up of biological relatives, friends, mentors, kids or adults.

  • Children whose parents are involved with their lives have fewer behavioral problems, do better in school and have higher self esteem. Often times, kids think little things are big things. By listening to small concerns they have, they know you will be there when something big happens.
  • Adults who stay connected with a parental figure or mentor have an emotional support system and somewhere to go for advice. Many adult parent-child relationships turn into lifelong friendships. Maintaining a positive relationship can be mutually beneficial.
  • The holidays are a good time for spouses to take their relationship beyond usual day-to-day routines. You may have some extra time to walk in a state park or talk about your goals for the future.  Create new traditions together, laugh together and strengthen your bond.

Be sure to check out the ideas at www.myflfamilies.com/31days. We will also be featuring them on our Pinterest board at www.pinterest.com/myflfamilies and we’d love for you to repin to your boards.

Happy Holidays!