Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

While Christmas music has been playing on the radio for nearly a month now, and the stores have been steadily filling with Christmas decorations and sales for just as long, Thanksgiving Day for me has always marked the true start of the holiday season.

No matter how old I am, for me there is a special joy in getting out of bed in time to turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The bands, the floats, the performances, - they are as much a part of Christmas for me as elves, tinsel, reindeer, cookies, and ornaments.

For years, the parade was followed by a viewing of my all-time favorite Christmas movie, the iconic classic,  It's a Wonderful Life.

The first year that NBC didn't air it right after the parade, I felt like an integral part of my holiday was missing.

Since then, I have acquired my own copy of It's a Wonderful Life, and while the rest of the world watches the dog show or football, I will once again be visiting George and Mary Bailey in Bedford Falls.

The themes contained in It's a Wonderful Life are ones we can take to heart every day of the year. Every one is important, and we never know who's life might be changed because of one random act of kindness.

That is what we at Christmas Wishes are doing - giving a bit of your heart to lift someone else's  - one donation, one story at a time.

So this Thanksgiving, while you are counting your blessings, perhaps find the time to bless someone else with a donation to The Christmas Wishes Toys4Tots charity drive. You'll be blessed in return - not only with the full-heart feeling of giving

but with the Christmas Wishes story compilation that our tenacious elves are busy scribing.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Black Friday Survival Guide

There is just something about blow out prices and killer sale deals that gets a woman’s blood pumping fast and furious through her veins. There is nothing like the rush you get from knowing you are going to be the ‘Mother of the Year’ because you got your child that new toy for Christmas that was overpriced all year. You scour the ads, double check the websites and find the best price you possibly can. Not caring how far you have to venture, you put your own safety and well-being aside, dawn your shopper’s cap and head out to the craziest shopping day of the year...
Black Friday
If you are one of these crazy shoppers, I have hunted up the best ways for you to survive this Day of Deals.
1) Bring a Taser Gun
Not a huge one that delivers 70,000 volts, but a small one that fits in the palm of your hand or purse that doesn’t take up more room than your cell. Since this is the day of the year that ninjas come out of retirement, otherwise known as Grandma, You have to have something that can combat these seemingly innocent little old ladies. Gently place the tip of your stun gun against the lower back, give the trigger a light squeeze, and watch them go down. At this point, with a little basic acting skills, you can pick up her finds while at the same time looking like you are making sure you didn’t just commit murder.
2) Use a Distraction
If shocking the woman that can barely walk is a little out of your league, hire the neighbor’s kid. Hey, you’re going to save hundreds, you can spare five bucks. The age for best results is between three and four OR six and seven. Any younger and you’re probably going to be kicked out of the store and any older won’t have the desired effect. Stay away from five year olds. They need validation they did a good job and thus will blow your carefully devised deception. Make sure hand signals are worked out before hand and then let the little darling do what they do best... throw a tantrum. While every other parent is busy trying to console the screaming toddler or help the older child find their lost parent, grab everything you can to be sorted out later.
3) Love the Laxative
Using kids for your own selfishness is not for everyone. If you are one of these people, perhaps this one better suits your needs. It is known that people are willing to stand outside for hours in the cold and snow for those kickass door buster deals and not everyone is smart enough to plan ahead and bring something to keep them warm. Laxative laced hot cocoa or coffee is sure to not only clear the store, but possibly the line before hand if you get there early enough. While everyone else is waddling to the nearest bathroom or port-a-potty, you are free to walk at your leisure and get everything on your list with no competition. Just make sure they're out of hearing distance so they don't hear your impression of the Wicked Witch's cackle.
4) Chemical Warfare
You have morals, good for you. You don’t want to use anyone to get what you want and the thought of doing something that may harm another leaves a bad taste in your mouth. With a few sacrifices on your part, you can create something that will have no lasting effects on anyone. Create a stink bomb to be deployed in the electronics section of the store. While everyone runs from the stench, you, armed with a gasmask or medical mask coated in Vics, have the entire department and surrounding areas completely to yourself.
5) Play Dress-up
No, I’m not kidding. However, I’m not talking tea party or frilly. I mean you get some riot gear. You’ll need the padded suit to leave without bruised up flesh while you use that shield to just shove people out of your way. Just remember, DO NOT identify yourself as a real cop. That will backfire.
6) Customer Service is your Friend
This is the easiest and most effective way to take care of the other shoppers. Simply walk up to the counter with a fake look of concern and, only giving vague details, tell them something about a car in the parking lot. Most common is they left their lights on, but you can get as creative as you want. Just make sure that whatever you say does not end in a call to police. Chances are, there is more than a handful of people with the same color car or same type of car so there will be a flood of people leaving to make sure their battery doesn’t die. Since the point of this all important day is to save money, no one will want to spend some of that on fixing their car.
7) Just say No
You’re up and dressed and ready to go when you see a piece of turkey skin hanging from the ceiling fan. Your eyes follow it as it slowly spins until they catch sight of cranberry sauce smeared on the wall by where the Kid’s Table was located. Slowly, you begin to notice more and more food littering your kitchen and dining room you missed while cleaning in a cloud of turkey tiredness. Or, worried someone is going to slip a nasty surprise in your coffee thermos, you sit down to watch TV for a few extra minutes and your favorite Christmas movie is on. Seeing as how Thanksgiving is over and it’s a more appropriate time to for them to be on, you decide to watch it. Or, even still, you have no desire to be trampled by a stampede of weird ass humans acting like they are running with the bulls.
There are only about a million things you can do or convince yourself of over importance to get out of interaction with ninjas, fake police, people lying about your car or hired help in the form of a screaming child. Cutting your toenails, for instance.

If you’re going to participate in Black Friday, Keep these in mind and you are sure to not only survive the Day of Deals, but come out on top. Then, with your energy depleted and wallet full of all those saved monies, take a moment to consider all the kids whose parents don't have the means to do for their kids that you can do for yours and depend on Santa. After you knock out Hoss and taze Grandma, make a stop at the Toys for Tots bins and give a little of yourself to keep the magic of Christmas alive in the hearts of those less fortunate than you. Or, if you think you need to get out of dodge, go online and donate something that way. While any amount is always welcome, for a donation of five dollars, you can get a gift for yourself as well in the form of a story compilation. Just email us the copy of your donation receipt and you'll get to wake up to a gift from Santa too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tradition Tuesday

Family Traditions -- something we look forward to every year and something we pass on to our children. We sit around tables laughing with relatives or around the piano singing songs. We all have one thing we look forward to every year and do whether we are home with mom or home with our kids.
Growing up, the tradition in my house was us kids got to open one present on Christmas Eve. We always knew what it was, but that didn’t take away the fun of opening a present early. We would get a new pair of pajamas, a new robe, and new slippers to wear the next morning. Once me and my siblings were changed, we would watch ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ (my personal favorite Christmas movie) before we were sent to bed so Santa would come.
All this family love was of course shattered at dawn’s early light because with three kids the chance of sleeping past midnight on Christmas morning is slim, but we were nice enough to go back to bed under the threat of telling Santa we moved. Being ‘Army Brats’, that wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Family traditions are as old as time. Every family has one thing they do every year for the same reason... it’s tradition. What is something your family does every year?
~Santa’s Helper Speklez

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On Santa's Team

I was looking up some printable coloring pages for my kids this morning, when I drifted across this story. It made me smile, I hope you will, too.

On Santa's Team
Author Unknown

My grandma taught me everything about Christmas. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," jeered my sister. "Even dummies know that!" 

My grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. 

"No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go." 

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. 

"Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's. 

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. 

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobbie Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobbie Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough; but all we kids knew that Bobbie Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat. I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. I didn't see a price tag, but ten dollars ought to buy anything. I put the coat and my ten-dollar bill on the counter and pushed them toward the lady behind it. 

She looked at the coat, the money, and me. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" she asked kindly. "Yes," I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobbie. He's in my class, and he doesn't have a coat." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas. 

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it ... Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. 

Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobbie's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. 

Suddenly, Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going." 

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell twice and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobbie. He looked down, looked around, picked up his present, took it inside and closed the door. 

Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma, in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: Ridiculous!

Santa was alive and well ... AND WE WERE ON HIS TEAM!

Are you ready to join Santa's team this Christmas?  Just a $5 donation to Toys for Tots is all it takes to receive the wonderful compilation that the Christmas Wishes authors (aka Santa's Elves) have been busily composing. Won't you make a donation and join the team?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Carry On, Santa


In honor of the Veterans - past and present - around the world, who bravely defended the citizens of their countries, and in tribute to the United States Marine Corps who founded Toys for Tots, I give you -


(this version)
By Major Bruce W. Lovely
(With apologies to Clement Moore who first wrote this story for his children in 1822)
Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.

I had come down the chimney with presents to give
And to see just who in this home did live.

I looked all about a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.

No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind
A sober thought came through my mind.

For this house was different, so dark and dreary,
I knew I had found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.

I heard stories about them, I had to see more
So I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.

And there he lay sleeping silent alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one bedroom home.

His face so gentle, his room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.

Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean shaven, his weathered face tan,
I soon understood this was more then a man.

For I realized the families that I saw that night
Owed their lives to these men who were willing to fight.

Soon ‘round the world, the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.

They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
Because of soldiers like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.

Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

The solder awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice;

I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

With that he rolled over and drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still,
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.

So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
And I covered this Soldier from his toes to his head.

And I put on his T-shirt of gray and black,
With an eagle and an Army patch embroidered on back.

And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
And for a shining moment, I was United States Army deep inside.

I didn’t want to leave him on that cold dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.

Then the soldier rolled over, whispered with a voice so clean and pure,
“Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas day, all is secure.”

One look at my watch, and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night!

I wrote this poem for Christmas Eve 1993 while assigned to US Forces Korea (USFK), Yongsan Garrison, Seoul, Korea. I drove around Christmas Eve and put it under the door of soldiers assigned to USFK.                                                                                 Lt. Col. Bruce Lovely, USAF

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Blog Updates, Looming Deadlines, and Donations Needed

I hope this post finds everyone well and gearing up for their holidays!

We are one month out from the deadline for banner and summary submissions, so authors mark your calendars and be sure to get them in on time.

We have only had a few donations, but I am hoping, now that back-to-school and Halloween have passed, that everyone is settling into their Christmas spirit and we will start seeing the donations coming in. Everyone has always been so supportive of this cause, and the children it helps, and I have every confidence you all will be again.

Author signups are stilll open, and will be accepted right up until December 10th, when banners and submissions are due. I see many familiar names on the list, as well as a few new ones- and I know of a couple who haven't sent their information in yet  - y'all can expect an email or a Facebook message from me later ;).

If you haven't made a donation yet, I hope you will soon. The authors who donate their time to write these submissions, and the artists who design their banners, do so from the depths of their hearts, out of a love for children. Please show them the support their efforts deserve. All donations are made directly to Toys for Tots and benefit children who otherwise wouldn't experience the joy of a visit from Santa Claus on Christmas morning. For them, I hope you can find it in your hearts to open your wallets.

Until next time, may the Spirit of the season surround you and yours ~