A Time For Giving: Simplifying The Christmas Season

Snowflake Button Hair Clips by Bubblegum Sass

December is not far off. Goodness! Where did the month of November go?! At our house, it was consumed by colds, potty training, and more colds. I’ve been squeezing in little bits of crafting time where ever possible, but there’s been very few big chunks of making going on. Market Collective is only 10 days away now. I’m busy simplifying things in my head for the show, knowing what’s possible & improbable at this point.

I’m also being very mindful of what is most important at this time of year. This is the season, that one can most easily get caught up in the expectations of the world and lose focus on the true celebration of Christmas. So I make what I can for the craft show. I make what I love; make what I wish to share with my customers to fill their homes and help them express their love to others.

Christmas Love Catcher By Bubblegum Sass

I also made the point to prepare myself for the coming Advent season. I don’t want to let it pass me by. Over the summer months (our craziest time of year), I managed, for the first time in my life, to make Bible reading and reflection through journaling a DAILY habit. A habit that was sadly broken during our Disney trip and subsequent chaos at home, but I’m really looking forward to committing again with the start of Advent right around the corner. I ordered an Advent journal from Naptime Diaries (I loved their Lent one last year) and even splurged a bit on their Advent calendar so that I could fill our house with mini-devotional prints (and God’s message to us). I might also follow along with the reading plan from Love God Greatly (formerly Good Morning Girls, which I did last year). Advent isn’t about spending money, but I saw the difference it made in my own Bible reading habit to have inspirational resources at hand (purchased or free).

Small changes quote by Bubblegum Sass

Peering into December, it’s easy to see Christmas as a looming deadline. With chaotic parking lots, busy, busy malls, and the pressure of getting just the “right” gift, it’s no wonder we all get stressed out and miss the point of the season. Each year, hubby & I make another small step in avoiding the crushing chaos of December. It started years ago, when we began making the majority of our gifts. Then we incorporated Gifts of Change (gift certificates to World Vision & such, where recipients could choose the way they would like to impact the lives of others). Christmas craft shows start in September and this year I attended several before the shopping season was in full swing. It allowed me to support local businesses & feel a wee bit more prepared for the giving season. I also discovered the ease of ordering locally and having it delivered directly to my door (shout out to Cedar & Sparrow for the lovely natural beauty products, all made in Canada, that will be gifted to friends this year). Making small changes to simplify the season.

Natural Products From Cedar and Sparrow

Throughout the entire year, we purchase & collect items for Christmas Shoe Boxes. I have a little cubby in the sewing room where I squirrel away items to donate. We make organizing half a dozen Christmas Shoe Boxes a priority every November and we try to volunteer at the Operation Christmas Child warehouse each year, when possible. I’d love to volunteer there more than just one shift. Perhaps in coming years. I also really want to do more random acts of kindness during Christmas. We managed to do several last year and I’ve collected more ideas on my Christmas Pinterest board. I’m not trying to boast, but trying to encourage you. Our season of Christmas is becoming less about the pressure of giving and more about the experience of giving and ultimately, the deeper enjoyment of it. It is well worth the time to take a look at your own Christmas season and see if there are any changes, big or small, that can be made to embrace the true meaning of this most wonderful time of year.

A Time for Giving Quote by Bubblegum Sass

Lend a hand

Bow Crescent flooded
Bow Crescent flooded in Calgary (Photo by Lonnie Springer)

The natural disaster that Southern Alberta is dealing with is epic. If you haven’t heard much about it yet, then do a quick search on “flooding Alberta” and your screen will be filled with some very sad images.

The flip side of this whole thing is that, I have never before witnessed so many people coming together as a true community to help each other out. Honestly, when do you hear stories about having TOO MANY volunteers show up for a cause? When 50-100 volunteers are needed, a thousand show up. When 500 volunteers are needed, THOUSANDS show up to lend a hand. Simply incredible!

In fact, there is so much help being offered, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out where to begin. This post is coming a bit late for some of the initial clean-up efforts that have already taken place, but there is and will be plenty of help needed in the coming months. The biggest thing to remember, is that anyone and everyone can lend a hand!

YYC Helps
One of the best resources out there organizing and connecting Calgarians. There is a steady stream of requests for volunteers needed. Sign up to their email list and they will contact you as requests come in that fit your profile. They also have a list of community initiatives and events (including fundraising events).

Samaritan’s Purse
Also offering volunteer registration and organizing volunteer efforts. We saw lots of Samaritan’s Purse folks in Bowness helping home owners dig through the mess. Their website also provides info for prayer requests and opportunity to donate to the flood relief efforts.

If you’re interested in lending a hand further abroad, our First Nations people were hit hard by the flood as well. The Stoney Nakoda First Nation on Morley have donation and contact information on their website. I’m having trouble finding out more information for the Siksika Nation, although there is an official group on Facebook which is updated frequently. If you have an account you could contact them through there to ask what they are in need of most.

Other devastated areas include, High River and Bragg Creek. There is volunteer info available for High River. You can also donate to their relief fund. At this time, the town of High River does not have the resources to accept or collect donations of items. Keep checking the town website, as I’m sure down the road, they will be looking for item donations, once people can settle back into their homes.

There is volunteer and donation info for Bragg Creek on their website, just scroll down to their Bragg Creek Emergency Response Info section. You can check out the list of items that are needed and also pledge items for future donation (as with High River, many residents won’t be settling back into their home for a while).

Again, keep in mind that even if you don’t have a lot of muscle to help gut homes, or a lot of spare money to donate to funds, there will be a steady flow of requests for help. You can bake treats and bring them around to neighborhoods damaged in floods (such a nice pick-me-up for all the volunteers, home owners, and tradespeople). You could make greeting cards with your kids and deliver them to flood victims (a simple kind gesture to let them know you’re praying for them). Time and understanding are some of the greatest gifts you can share with your neighbor at times like this. YYC Helps really is a great way to learn about some of the relief efforts (big and small).

If you have any good ideas on helping out flood victims, I’d love to hear them!! Just post your ideas in the comments section!

Four fab flood finds

Today’s post features a special collection of items, all of which provide donations to flood relief in Calgary. Our city remains in a state of emergency, as do many other towns. Day by day we’re all helping each other clean-up, assess the damage, replace lost items, but it is going to be a long road to recovery. It is definitely going to be longer for those who have lost their entire home. There are lots of ways to help and I hope to get a post written with more info on that in the next day or two. For now, you can show some Calgary pride AND provide much needed donations to flood relief by purchasing any of these fab items:

1. Hell or High Water t-shirt from the Calgary Stampede (proceeds go towards the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund)
2. Calgary t-shirt from Ole Originals (50% of the purchase of this tee goes to Canadian Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund)
3. Hand Washed t-shirt by Neil Summerour (all proceeds go towards the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund)
4. Keep Calm and Nenshi On scrabble tile pendant by TheWickedShop (50% of the purchase goes toward Alberta Flood Fund)

Hell or high water tee
1. Hell or High Water t-shirt from the Calgary Stampede

Calgary Vintage tee
2. Calgary t-shirt from Ole Originals

Hand Washed tee
3. Hand Washed t-shirt by Neil Summerour

Nenshi On pendant
4. Keep Calm and Nenshi On scrabble tile pendant by TheWickedShop

A little here: giving and wearing

Sevenly.org sticker

(This is the second post in an ongoing series about charitable giving. You can read about my original intentions with these posts here.)

I came across the Sevenly.org site over a year ago and started visiting it regularly, but it wasn’t until last month that I finally made a donation to one of the causes. What’s the deal with Sevenly? Well, simply put, each week they partner with and feature a particular cause and set a fundraising goal. They then provide some cool product that reflects the message of the cause. Folks like me and you, purchase the product and $7 from each item goes directly to the cause. You get to donate a little something to charity and wear a hip t-shirt (or tank or hoodie or whatever) for all the world to see. It gets the message out there, when your friends ask you about the shirt you’re wearing. It also acts as a good reminder each time you put it on, of the need that exists in the world. In their own words, Sevenly is “not only a way to crowd-fund for causes, but to drive massive social awareness as well.”

Now, I go back and forth about the whole thing. Hence my hesitation at purchasing anything for so long. I finally caved though and now I’m rockin’ a trendy tee. It’s not that I think it’s a “bad” thing. Not at all. But it’s just that I’m used to thinking of charitable giving in a different way. Purchasing a $28 shirt with $7 going to the cause is a bit morally challenging. On the flip side, the Sevenly site has intrigued me enough to keep going back, and in doing so, I’ve learned a lot more about a variety of organizations and causes than I might otherwise come across in my internet surfing. And if you’re really feeling the need to climb to a bit more moral high ground, you can always donate directly to one of the causes that Sevenly partners with (after you order that trendy tee). A little to give, a little to wear.

Make It Happen

I recently heard about this wonderful project, Make It Happen, a documentary about everyday folks who have started creative businesses selling handmade items. It’s a great story to tell. The journey of building a business from the ground up and making a living doing what you love. The team putting this documentary together is Neil Mangan and Jenna Herbut (co-producer of the Make It craft show). Currently, there is a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to raise money to complete the documentary. Go watch the trailer and then check out all the wonderful perks available to those who donate (Oh and if you scroll down far enough, you might recognize one of the official handmade sponsors…ahem… yes that is little ‘ol me). They will be fundraising until the beginning of May, but make sure you donate soon if you want to take advantage of the bigger ticket perks, including a chance to be interviewed for the movie and handmade business training through Make It University (another of Jenna’s awesome projects). Super excited and can’t wait to watch all the interviews with local Canadian artists! Let’s help make this happen!

Hair today…

Hair cutting donation
… gone tomorrow. I realized recently that I didn’t share with you what happened to all the hair that got chopped off during the cancer fundraising event. Well, it got bundled up and sent in the mail to be used in wig making for cancer patients. I was super excited that my hair fit the requirements for donation (no treatments or dyes, at least 8″ long and no more than 5% gray hair). It takes something like 6-8 separate donations of hair to make a single wig. Makes each and every donation that much more important. I’m happy to think that not only were we able to raise a good chunk of money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, but we were also able to help a cancer patient get one step closer to feeling a bit more beautiful again. If you’re every thinking about making a drastic hair change (aka cutting off at least 8″), consider making a donation to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program.

Off with her hair

By the time November 30th rolled around, Tina and I were pretty excited to finally get our heads shaved! Here’s a bunch of pictures of the event. Special thanks to my dad for documenting it for us and to the lovely gals at Pin-Ups Hair Shoppe in Bowness for doing the actual head shaving!

I went first (much to Tina’s relief):

Headshave Sarah cutting ponytailHeadshave Ponytail Sarah
Headshave Sarah shaveHeadshave Sarah done

Next up was Tina:

Headshave Tina cuttingHeadshave Tina shave
Headshave Tina Shave 2Headshave Tina done

All done (that’s my mom in the pic on the right, who inspired this whole journey):

Headshave Sarah & TinaHeadshave Sarah, Jan & Tina

Thanks again to all those who donated to our fundraising campaign for the Alberta Cancer Foundation & the Tom Baker Cancer Center! What an amazing experience, mainly due to all the support we encountered through the month!

Give up a little…

Sarah before the headshave…to give a little. The month went by so quickly, and the day is here. The fundraising my sister-in-law Tina and I have been doing for the past several weeks is about to culminate in a bit of an event tonight, when we SHAVE our heads! Not sure why we would do such a thing? Read about it here.

The results of our fundraising campaign far exceeded our expectations! Our original goal was only $1,000 which we raised in ONE day! We obviously underestimated the generosity of friends, family, co-workers, and teammates. Our second goal was $2,500 which we raised in THREE days! So we went ahead and set the next goal to $3,500 which we happily met & surpassed this past week. Last time I checked, we were sitting at $4,450!!! So unbelievable!

Tina and I have been overwhelmed by the donations, offers for prayers and kind thoughts & emails! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You have made this whole journey worthwhile! We’re super excited to shave our heads now! And we will be kept warm all winter with the knowledge that our little deed was met with such amazing love & support, and together we can make a difference in the fight against cancer in Alberta!

Wish us luck tonight! Hope to share pictures of the head shave with you in a couple of days.

A little here: school is in session

(This is the first of several posts about charitable giving. You can read about my orginal intentions with these posts here.)

Back to School. Those words are often dreaded by kids. I, however, was one of those geeks who often look forward to this time of year. I loved shopping for school supplies with my mom, getting a new pair of shoes and some clothes for the fall. It all felt like a fresh start.

I figured the best way to partake in that back to school feeling this year, was to find some education-related projects to donate to this month.

My first choice was Room to Read, an organization focused on literarcy and gender equality in education. It was started by a former Microsoft executive, John Wood, who wrote about his inspiration and experience in the book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World (a great read, by the way). Room to Read’s main projects are building libraries, building schools, publishing local language children’s books, training teachers and supporting girls to complete their schooling. Here’s some great numbers on what they have achieved in the past 12 years: help build 1,500 schools, over 13,000 libraries, published 700 books, distributed 11.5 million books, and benefited 6.7 million children! They are doing some amazing work! I decided to give to the Libraries in Nepal project, although they do work in places like South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Zambia, and others too. All the operations in each program country are run entirely by local staff.

My second educational choice was a World Vision gift of furnishing an entire classroom with desks, chairs, chalkboards, etc. We sponsor a child through World Vision, and I love these “gifts”. They make donations that much more tangible. They’re also perfect to for donating on behalf of others for Christmas & birthdays, for family & friends. And it’s amazing how far a single donation can go! It really makes you realize the difference each one of us can make to a child, and an entire community!

And that was my September planned giving. If you’re intrigued by Room to Read, I highly recommend that you read the book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood. Very inspirational story! I think we have a copy kicking around…

Source: roomtoread.org via Sarah on Pinterest