Getting organized for Christmas…

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This project began as an idea in November, and despite not having much time to get organized I just decided to go for it – I mean how hard could it be to do one good thing a day, right? Well it turns out, some days it’s pretty hard. The days when you have 8 hours of work and a poorly child, the days when you just don’t make it out of the house. Of course there are always things you can do – an online donation is one of the easiest, but there are so many things I have missed out on due to being disorganized. There are plenty of toy drives I would have liked to give to, and I would have loved to pack a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child (which ran from Nov 17th-24th), send a care package to a soldier (note do not read the requests from soldiers unless you have some tissues handy!) and create some care packages for the homeless (a lovely idea from a friend). Unfortunately I have missed/won’t get time for these, but am just in time for Operation Santa in NYC – which can be done right up until Christmas Eve, so that’s on my radar for the next 2 days.

Today was one of those days with lots to do and so, I went down the online route again. I made a donation to an organization that I have been following for a while – Room to Grow based in New York City. They are dedicated to enriching the lives of babies born into poverty, especially in the first three years of their life. As well as online gifts, they also accept donations of new and nearly new baby and toddler items at the office, located at 54 West 21st Street, #401 (between 5th and 6th Avenue), Monday through Friday 10:00am – 4:00pm.

Whilst we have tried to keep presents to a minimum, our two-and-a-half-year-old will be getting spoiled rotten this Christmas (our closets are overflowing with gifts sent from friends and family in the UK). It breaks my heart to think about children the same age who don’t have the most basic of things such as a crib or stroller.  Today’s donation makes me feel just a tiny little bit better. I’m also feeling good about how well this project has gone and how many different people and organizations I have been able to support. I will be continuing many of the traditions throughout next year and beyond, however the main lesson from today is to get organized for next year!

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It’s better to give than receive…

Ugly Christmas Jumpers

Tonight is my second holiday party in consecutive days… the first was an ugly Christmas Jumper do, and tonight’s is little more swanky! To be honest, I’m too old for champagne two nights in a  row, so today I needed something fairly easy to do for my one good thing. I went back to my list of things I made at the start of the project and luckily there are a few things still on there that I haven’t managed to tick off, (still no coffee and cake for the Salvation Army woman for a start!) so I was saved.

To be honest, the idea came from this link sent to me by the lovely Claire (which has some other great ideas) but it has been on my list since the very beginning.

We regularly donate clothes to the local charity shops – either at Housing Works, a fantastic charity aiming to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS, and who have provided services to more than 20,000 homeless and low income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS since 1990, or the local Salvation Army (another fantastic organization who need no introduction). Since starting advent of good things I have also discovered a local church thrift store that also does much more than sell clothes – they provide some fantastic services to people who need them, including a food pantry and soup kitchen.

So today, we each sorted through our things and ended up taking 3 big bags of clothes, shoes and various other items to the local St Francis Church Thrift store.  We had to knock on the locked doors of the already-closed-for-the-day shop, but it was totally worth it. The man who accepted our donations was extremely grateful.

I really believe that to make room for new things in your life you have to get rid of the old – both physically and emotionally. And whilst we are trying to be a minimal as possible this Christmas, I am also heartened to see that the friends we have made whilst here in NYC have already started bringing gifts for my little one. So today we made room for Santa whilst helping people too.

The many benefits of running…

Marathon

This year’s NYC Marathon

Today was a gorgeous day in New York. Bright, sunny and cold. The perfect day for a run. So I pulled on my ‘sneakers’ (yes I have adopted that American term for trainers), and headed out to the park. It wasn’t a big run – I’m still doing a recovery plan after getting a stress fracture on my foot, but even a short run in the glorious weather was enough to give my mood a huge boost.

I joined New York Road Runners earlier this year, and completed my first 5-mile race in the sweltering heat of a New York City June. It was hard, but I loved it. And since fracturing my foot and not getting out there I can definitely feel the difference – physically and mentally.

Despite not running much at all, I was also lucky enough to get out and support a couple of good friends who ran the New York City Marathon this year – one of these fantastic women does it every year (apart from when she was pregnant so we can let her off for that!) and for the other it was her first time. Both did amazingly well and I’m so proud of them. I’m a long way behind them, but maybe someday…

a picture of me after my first 5 mile race in Central park.

After my first 5-mile run… on a very hot day!

Running also helps take my mind elsewhere, and whilst out there I was thinking about a great guy doing some fantastic work helping kids (and adults) get and stay fit in the UK. He often comments on how physical activity can make a real difference to kids – confidence and behavior-wise. So today, whilst running, I figured that a donation to the NYRR Youth and Community Services programs would be a good thing to do. The programs help people of all ages and abilities lead healthier, more active lives. The organization reaches more than 100,000 children each year, helping them to get moving, set goals and develop healthy habits.

I already felt good from my run this morning, the donation just doubles that good feeling.

Speaking of running… my ideas are running a little low now we’re getting towards the end of the advent period, so let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions.

Can you feed one more for Christmas?

Mince pie

Mmmm mince pies

Everywhere I go right now I’m bombarded with images of holiday food. And it looks delicious. For health reasons I’m following a strict AIP Paleo diet at the moment, and with no grains, eggs, dairy, sugar, nightshades (tomatoes, chillies, potatoes, peppers, eggplants and more) allowed, I often feel a bit sorry for myself. I mean, who doesn’t fancy a good old fashioned Quality Street or M&S mince pie whilst wrapping presents? Today was one of those days.

I was also looking for inspiration for my one good thing. Luckily, some friends and fellow bloggers came to the rescue with the following ideas. And they’re food related too. Perfect.

No Kid Hungry – right now 1 in 5 kids in the USA is going hungry. A shocking statistic. This charity is dedicated to ending child hunger and can provide 100 meals for a donation of just $10. If you have $10 to spare, this is definitely a good way to make the most of it.

One More for Christmas – Did you know that for less than the cost of one portion of Christmas dinner (£16, in case you were wondering), you can feed a child for a whole year? Mary’s Meals is a UK organization behind the ‘One More for Christmas’ campaign, and for a donation of £12.20 you will feed a child at a place of education in some of the world’s poorest communities for an entire school year.

I did a quick online donation to each and felt good for the rest of the evening – even without a mince pie.

Dear Santa… please can I have a donation to TINT?

With family and friends back in the UK, we do our Christmas shopping in two halves nowadays. The things we need to mail back to the UK get done first… We’ve been focussing on those, so I haven’t thought about what to get for my friends and family here in New York yet. And I haven’t thought about what I’d like from Santa either…

Santa Rescue

But watching the annual FDNY Santa Rescue at the fire museum this morning got us talking about presents for each other and our little man.

This year, in an effort to be a little more minimalist and keep our tiny 2-bed apartment as clutter-free as possible, we are using something I spotted as a comment on this site… And buying the following for each other…

Something we want,
Something we need,
Something to wear,
And something to read.

Still plenty to open without going present-crazy. My husband, who is a great gift giver was also talking about a few stocking fillers (or stocking stuffers as they say out here in the US). Instead of a few inexpensive novelty items I asked him for something else instead… A donation to The Isaac Nash Trust. (TINT).

Earlier this year, the young boy of an ex-colleague was swept out to see off Anglesey. He was 12 years old. He was swimming with his younger brother Xander when tragedy struck. Their father managed to rescue Xander, but despite heroic attempts their grandpa just couldn’t hold onto Isaac. He was lost.

Isaac Nash

Isaac Nash, the 12 year old boy from Huddersfield, who died after being swept out to sea.

You can read the heartbreaking story here.

The family also have a young girl who’s a similar age to my little one, and although I only knew Adam (Isaac’s dad) for a short time whilst working in Leeds, the news from home deeply affected me. I can only imagine what the family is going through and my heart goes out to those two young children who will forever be without their big brother.

The Trust is aiming to raise £100,000 for a skate park in Isaac’s memory and an additional £10,000 for the RNLI who worked hard on the day of the tragedy (as they do every day of the year – including Christmas Day). They have raised more than £60,000 so far, and it would be a great Christmas gift to help them get a little closer to their target. If you want to help too, you can donate to the fund here, or if you prefer, purchase a Huddersfield Examiner 2015 calendar full of stunning images from the local area for just £6. All profits go to The Isaac Nash Trust.

Feeling inspired? Why not ask Santa for a donation to a charity close to your heart for Christmas this year? There are so many great causes out there, but if you know Adam or the Nashes, or simply want to help this wonderful family, consider a donation to TINT.