Why I’m Not Sending Out Christmas Cards This Year

I’m not sending out Christmas cards this year. It just seems contrived at this point.

It has nothing to do with the fact that I finalized a divorce this year. I’m doing great. More than great, really.

The holidays aren’t stressing me out.

It just seems like every year I race to find the perfect family photo to send out to a long list of people I barely talk to anymore.

I stopped posing my photos years ago. Because posing kids and dogs together is mild torture.

I’ve pared my mailing list down the last couple of years. Because when do I even talk to most of these people? And how many even send me cards?

And then there’s that guilty feeling I get when I throw out all those pretty cards I do receive with cute photos of children and families straight into the trash in January.

Those photo cards aren’t cheap, though my blog provided my cards last year.

If I’ve learned anything this year it’s to appreciate the love I have all around me every day. While I try to give in some way every day, I’ve also become more deliberate about telling people what they mean to me. I have so much good in my life that I want to celebrate it every day.

Being mindful and stopping to smell the roses always sounds good in theory, but how often do we actually do it? Looking back at the photos from our summer (while making a calendar for 2015, a tradition I am continuing), my boys and I determined that it was pretty epic. We had some fun adventures, many of which were not planned ahead of time. Many involved later bedtimes than normal. Many were documented with selfies from my iPhone.

I think about the adventures I’ve had with friends new and old this year. The conversations I’ve had. Deep conversations. The tears and laughter. The times I’ve felt my heart was so full it would burst. Or when I felt emotion so deep I couldn’t help but cry. These are the things you can’t express with a photocard ordered online.

I’d rather spend time with and talk to those that are important in my life. I’d rather concentrate on meaningful interactions with people I care about rather than send a blanket message because it’s expected.

I donated the money I would have used to purchase the cards instead. As I’ve done in previous years, I’m concentrating on gifts for the kiddos in my life who call me Mom or Auntie. This makes the holiday season of “giving” much easier and more meaningful for me.

I write about simple ways to give back every day. If we truly appreciate the love we have around us every day, the holiday season wouldn’t seem so stressful and crazy.

Of course, I’m not going to judge you if you are sending out Christmas cards. This is simply a decision I made that felt right for me. I know people who get a lot of joy from sending out cards. And I do very much appreciate those that have taken the time to ask me for my new address so that they can send me a card.

Instead I’ll give you my own version of a holiday card right here. It’s a selfie from our epic summer. With a few festive embellishments.

happyholidays2014

 Are you sending holiday cards this year?

Philanthropy Friday: Share Your Good Day

share your good dayShare Your Good Day is a micro-donation platform that allows you to donate $1 to outstanding charities in honor of anything good that happens to you.

When I spoke with founder / COO Jeremy Neil in November, Share Your Good Day was just four weeks old as a live company. He explained to me that the company was a family affair that came about after a brainstorm with his father-in-law around ways to give back. They were impressed by the ways people could collectively make their small donations bigger and more impactful through crowd funding. He also wondered what would happen if you put that crowdfunding idea together with gaming.

The purpose of Share Your Good Day, according to Jeremy, is to create a cultural shift into what happens when you do something good. As Jeremy notes, most people can afford $1. The website helps people think of others when good things happen to them. They share the good and donate $1 to a charity they choose on the website. People can read up on the charities to find out whom they want to support. At the end of the week, “votes” and donations are tallied. The charity that was chosen by the most people that week receives 50% of the week’s donations while the second and third charities receive 25% of the donations.

Right now, Share Your Good Day features three different charities each week, though this number may expand in the future. Charities are identified and researched using Charity Navigator. There are no fees for the charities and Share Your Good Day works directly with them to ensure a transparent process.

Also a 501(c)(3 )nonprofit organization, the purpose of Share Your Good Day is to give back and not to make money. Due to credit card fees, $0.85 of every dollar goes into the donation pot. The website is mostly run by friends and family members of Jeremy who volunteer their time. Your donations are also tax deductible at the end of the year.

Jeremy hopes that he will inspire a younger group of philanthropists to think about donating money when good stuff happens to them by making giving a game. He also hopes that his unique giving platform will also allow people to learn about new charities to support.

Here are a few ways you can get involved:

Yesterday I donated $1 after being invited by a local television station to talk about conscious holiday shopping on air next week. A good day indeed! The bonus is that Share Your Good Day is currently matching each donation dollar for dollar. They’ll even double donations that come from referring friends.

What good thing has recently happened to you?

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here

The Long Night: The Harsh Truth About Sex Trafficking in the US

“I’d kill the whole world to get my little girl back.”

I felt my chest tighten as I jotted this quote down, tears streaming down my cheeks. I absorbed every bit of this father’s pain at that moment, and yet my reaction couldn’t possibly be anywhere near the true agony this desperate man must have experienced.

The Long Night is a powerful, one-hour documentary film by Tim Matsui that gives voice and meaning to the crisis of minors who are forced and coerced into the American sex trade. The film weaves together the stories of seven people whose lives have been forever changed by this issue.

Natalie - The Long Night

“There wasn’t really much that I think I was running away from at home. I think that I just wanted to rebel. I think that I wanted to not have to listen to rules or have to worry about getting straight A’s for my parents.”
Within 36 hours of leaving home, Natalie was contacted by a ‘bottom girl’ and on her way to being pimped out.

Tom’s beautiful daughter Natalie ran away from home when she was 15 years old. She wasn’t a bad kid, just rebellious. Within days of arriving in Seattle, she was prostituting her virgin body in somebody’s basement.

Natalie returned home after 10 horrific days in Seattle where she was pimped out and raped. Confused and sad and unable to attend school, where her peers called her a whore and a slut, she soon found herself running away once again. And prostitution found her once again.

Tom - The Long Night

“The support that we thought we had with friends, that just stopped. It felt like they looked at us like it was like our fault, like it was something that we had done, as opposed to something that somebody else had done.”
Natalie’s father speaking about how their community responded when she finally returned from the hands of her pimp.

By the end of film, we see Tom driving around to massage parlors asking for young girls as he desperately tries to find his daughter, thoughts of killing pimps running through his brain. At this point, Tom is also an alcoholic. While the family is eventually re-united, it is clear they have a long road ahead of them.

We often think of sex trafficking as a problem in other parts of the world. Reality is that the sex trade is real and active in our own backyard. I recall hearing Cindy McCain, a strong voice fighting human trafficking, telling AYA Summit attendees that we’ve all seen victims, we just don’ realize it.

Lisa - The Long Night

Turned out by a pimp at 13, Lisa only knows one life. The heroin that makes her forget and the tricks she turns to survive.
“I feel like my skin’s crawling right now and it’s like it doesn’t matter how clean I try to get how many showers I take, it doesn’t go away. When I say I’m scared of being sober, I’m scared of the reality of things.”

Since watching the movie, I keep thinking of Lisa, a woman covered in track marks from injecting heroin and scars from cutting. Her addiction to heroin was the only thing that could numb the pain of her life as a sex worker, a harsh life that started when she was just 13-years-old.

I’ve worked in the substance abuse treatment field for 8 years now and Lisa’s story is not that uncommon. Years of abuse and pain have left her a shadow of the person she once was. Struggling to break her drug abuse and with very little support, the odds are stacked against her. Her own mother has pleaded with the public to watch the film so that other girls can be spared the life that Lisa has endured. A life that has no guarantee of continuing if drastic measures aren’t taken. (I believe Lisa is now in jail.)

You also get perspectives from the police who hear “the worst story I have ever heard” every single day on the job.

Joel - The Long Night

Detective Joel Banks on how his police work with trafficking victims affects him.
“It just gets really heavy. You actually kind of have to take a breath, and then we’d say, ‘Man, that’s the worst story I ever heard,’ and then tomorrow comes along, and it’s the next worst story you’ve ever heard.”

I’m not going to lie. I felt somewhat destroyed after watching this movie. It is heavy and hard to watch. Yet it is so important you do.

So what can we do about sex trafficking and its horrific effects? Here are some very simple action steps you can take right now:

  • First, think about your sphere of influence
  • Then, watch The Long Night
  • Like The Long Night’s Facebook page
  • Like Leaving the Life’s Facebook page 
  • Invite your friends to do the same
  • Comment on the film. On your page or on the film’s. Tweet about it.
  • Share a story. Share your own Call to Action.
  • Host a living room screening of the film
  • Bring the film to your PTA  group
  • Integrate the into your schools
  • Call your city officials and ask that they watch the film
  • Get the film to your local police chief
  • Find local victim service providers and ask what they need; socks, meals, donations for their annual fundraiser, they’ll know. And then let your community know what you did, inspire them!
  • Have Leaving the Life come to your municipality to facilitate the co-creation of solutions in day-long convenings. This will take some work, even if you’re the mayor or the county executive.
  • Because it’s all connected, consider donating to your favorite nonprofit working on a social justice issue. This includes Leaving the Life

Will you spend an hour watching The Long Night?

I wrote this post as part of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of Mom Bloggers for Social Good members who focus on maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls.

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