Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Grinch Surrenders: 8 tips for green gifts and giving for kids.

Okay, I confess – for years I was a Christmas Grinch! Hated the holiday and the hoopla that surrounded it. But, looking back, there were some memorable moments.
When Chloe was six I caved and bought a real tree – a small one as I wasn’t entirely ready to let go of my cranky Grinch. My poor daughter had already suffered through a spray painted tumbleweed with lights and bulbs, a fake spray job from the drugstore with fake elves. The real thing didn’t look bad but Chloe wanted more tinsel. And when you have a daughter as beautiful as mine, and you’ve promised to a ‘real Xmas’, you go out and get tinsel. Never mind that it’s already nine o’clock on Christmas Eve. After a quick foray to a shop on La Brea, we headed toward the car when suddenly a homeless man with a long beard emerged from behind a dumpster. Even from a distance, I knew we could have started a fire with a match to his breath. “Got any loose change, lady,” he called, shuffling in my direction.
I’m not heartless – I try to carry in the back of my car fruit and sandwiches, clean pairs of socks (something the homeless always need in cold weather). This man wanted money. At the time, I was living in Hollywood and had lots of courageous friends in AA, but Christmas Eve, with Chloe along, wasn’t the moment to try for rehab of any sort. At least, I told myself, a few dollars for some booze and he’ll be warmer tonight. Rummaging in my purse, I came up with a ten – all the cash I had and handed it over. His eyes grew large, and then he threw up his arms, and headed toward me. “Lady, let me give you a kiss,” he shouted.
I told him no thanks, but he kept coming. The two of us faced each other over the hood of the car, and circled a couple of times. Me telling him thanks! Really! Gotta go! Chloe was already in the front seat - giggling like a maniac.
I made my escape and as we pulled out of the parking lot, I heard him yell…I love you! Merry Christmas!
By now, you know that Chloe and I never had a truly traditional Christmas. I wasn’t that kind of Mama, and although I have some regrets about that, she’s doing really great. And that’s all a mother can dream of!
There are lots of wonderful ways to have a meaningful Xmas that connect with the spirit of giving. Chloe and I served Xmas dinner at Cecil Williams’ Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. Glide has one of the biggest outreach programs in the country and their foundation has an online website for making donations easy ( www.glide.org ). In his 80’s, the dynamic African American Reverend Williams still heads the church. Ex cons park cars, their health programs, programs for women, job programs, story telling groups, to name a few, are part of what makes this church so special. If you’re in town, attend one of their services. It’s a real high. Open to all faiths it’s not strange to find yourself with a mix of believers from different faiths. The choir wears tie-dye robes and their gospel songs rock. Glide is San Francisco at its best!
You might gather a group of friends, and pool your funds for some Christmas turkeys. I did this pre Chloe with some artist friends. We found needy families and delivered the big birds on Christmas Eve, along with bags of veggies, cookies and fruit. It actually makes for a great family outing. If you’re busy, take shifts, or choose a designated driver and have your kids go along. Be sure to bring – sigh - lots of Christmas music and have your own songfest while driving. Or, if you’re really swamped and have no time, find a market that will deliver a bird or two to a church.
This year, an eco friendly Xmas makes the season extra special. I’ve been looking for ideas at two of my favorite green websites, www.inhabitat.com and www.inhabitots.com. Here are 8 eco friendly stocking stuffers and gift ideas for kids:

1. Tree blocks – toys from discarded sections of trees and look like
tiny logs ( www.inhabitots.com )
2. Bamboo toys of all sorts – bamboo grows 3 feet a year!
( www.inhabitots.com )
3. Recycled sweater stockings for the stuffers. (www.inhabitots.com)
4. A battery charger so you’re not always buying batteries! (any
drugstore, Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond.)
5. A permanent water bottle – add names, stencil designs of your own.
6. A bamboo framed drawing for a parent or a child.
7. LED anything; key chains, decorated bedside or bathroom lights that keep
away the monsters at night
8. Make a throw made out of recycled men’s ties (I found mine in a
flea market in Paris and made another when that one
disappeared from ties I found in thrift shops.)

Inhabitots also has a slew of eco friendly gifts that allow family and kids to nurture the spirit of green giving. They include solar powered laptops for children in developing countries, handcrafted tote bags made by women in India. The money for the tote bags goes toward employment for widows, abandoned mothers and unmarried women. You can adopt an acre of rainforest land from the Nature Conservancy or with as little as $25, micro-finance a small business on Kiva.org.
For homemade eco friendly gift-wrapping, cut a raw potato in half and carve a design on the top center. (It’s how they made wallpaper designs at the turn of the century). Dip them in green or blueberry teas, cranberry juice or food coloring. Then stamp recycled brown paper bags; the kind with handles. You can find all sorts of beads, unusual ribbons and odds and ends at a crafts store to dress them up a bit.
It’s hard to find a kid (or an adult) who doesn’t like to make and sample homemade cookies. I happen to like gingerbread men, or sugar cookies in assorted shapes. I gave out 20 bags to clients one year. They loved them. I actually had requests for refills. I used recycled paper gift bags and tied the handles with ribbons. On a handmade card (recycled paper with crayon and water colors), I wrote these lines, which I’m now sending to you!
Christmas isn’t only for kids and angels don’t always have wings..

1 comment:

  1. Sam...I love your description of unconventional Christmas celebrations with Chloe, and the story about the grateful, amorous drunk is hysterical. Thank you for the wealth of gift ideas and information about positive websites. Love your writing style too...