Saturday, December 21, 2013

Being Good for Goodness Sake.

Although the marketing gurus in charge of "Black Thanksgiving Sales" and "24-hour Malls" will probably cast a pox upon my entire family as I write this - I'm not a huge fan of consumerism for the sake of consumerism.

This is my all-time favorite Christmas picture from the Caro vault.
Note the distinct glimmer of disdain in Santa's eyes and the steely
resolve in Mrs. Clause's jawline.  Teague eventually made it off
the naughty list - but it took a few years.
I will admit my tone is probably tempered by the fact we have now reached the point in the season when shoppers on every isle have developed "crazy eyes" and the sweet sound of carols being sung by a choir - or more likely a pop star - have been piped into every boutique, car and office building since the day after Halloween.

I'm ready to threaten someone's chestnuts if I have to listen to another over-zealous variation of Baby, It's Cold Outside - and we still have four shopping days before the big day.

I mean, I get it.  I really do.  Christmas is the time of year for spreading joy for all to hear. (Note:  It is mandatory that the last sentence be read in a Buddy the Elf voice.)  And I'm certain that visions of sugarplums ipads are dancing in many a head right about now.  But I've found that our culture tends to place an obscene amount of pressure on being HAPPY!!! and JOYFUL!!! - so long as said displays of Christmas cheer also include slipping a flat screen television beneath the tree.  And I think it's important to remember that this season can by very difficult for a great many people.

Just one short year ago - I was one of them.

Now lest you think my heart is three sizes too small, I should mention that I am writing this post in the midst of a stuffed-to-the-gills Yukon slowly making its way across the state to spend a fun-filled weekend with my family where we no doubt will:

1.  Indulge in excessive gift giving.
Walking in a Winter Wonderland.
2.  Eat our collective weight in sugar cookies.
3.  Someone will laugh so hard that a liquid will come out of an orifice it shouldn't.

My message is not so much that we shouldn't do these things, but rather we shouldn't allow a well-placed Target commercial dictate how we show love and appreciation to the people in our lives.

I think I speak for a great many people when I tell you - All of the flatscreen televisions in Best Buy cannot compare with a single precious moment spent with loved ones. 

So cheers to placing more emphasis on making memories with friends and family this year - and less on keeping up with the Jones'.  Because just being together is enough - despite what any Old Navy mannequin may tell you.

Being together - and maybe another batch of Mom's sugar cookies, that is.

And in case you are in need of securing a place on Santa's nice list, you may want to consider donating to one of these amazing non-profits dedicated to helping chemo-kids thrive all year long.  I could never have survived treatment without their help - and I will be forever grateful for their tireless work.  Plus as little as $25 may help atone for what happened at the company Christmas party this year.  I have it on good authority (namely Mariah Carey, Justin Beiber and Bing Crosby) that Santa knows if you've been bad or good.

On second thought, you may want to give a little bit more - just in case.

First Descents

This Denver-based organization funds week-long outdoor adventures - think rock climbing in Moab or surfing in Southern California - for young cancer survivors ages 19-39.   These First Descents excursions teach survivors how to engage in the world and trust their bodies again - and are provided  free of charge.

Sy's Fund

This foundation's vivacious namesake died of lung cancer at the age of 29.  But instead of surrendering to grief after the death of her son, founder Lorraine devotes herself to easing the way
for other young people fighting cancer.  Sy's Fund pays for special gifts that make life better -but insurance does not cover - such as a special mattress for a bone cancer patient or a camera for a budding photographer.  They funded the laptop I am typing on now - a lifeline for me as I made my way through treatment and something I never could have afforded when I lost my job due to illness.

Stupid Cancer

Stupid Cancer is the premier organization for young people fighting cancer and serves as a comprehensive resource for age-specific challenges such as fertility, insurance and legal concerns.  Lead by founder and cancer survivor Matthew Zachary, they provide a voice and support for this demographic with a decidedly tongue in cheek twist.  Their motto is "Get Busy Living" which are good words to live by -  chemo-kid or not.

A Fresh Chapter

I recently learned about this organization and have quickly become a big fan. They provide international trips to India or Africa for young people who have gone through cancer.  But here is the twist - the trips are service related work excursions where survivors learn how to stop being a patient as they help others in need.  I could never have understood the importance of this program before I went through treatment - and I am only just now realizing the often unspoken challenges of life after diagnosis.   Her mission is groundbreaking in its simplicity and someday I hope to take part in one of these trips.  Please consider donating to A Fresh Chapter - or at the very least, check out her blog to learn more about this project.  I promise you it will not disappoint.