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Newsletter: December 2014

Five Gifts that keep on Giving


Happy holidays! Let’s keep the giving spirit that started with Thanksgiving and #GivingTuesday going all through December.

The materialistic hoopla of the holiday season can sometimes make us forget what’s really important—and what makes us truly happy. An abundance of research has proven that more than our possessions, it’s our experiences that bring us enduring joy (Ever noticed how your child covets a certain toy until he gets said toy and then is quickly done with it?).

Whether we’re anticipating an experience or remembering it, time spent with the people we love is often what perseveres in the long haul. Even those best laid plans that don’t go as expected. Most of us will agree with the sentiment of James Hamblin, the author of this Atlantic Monthly article titled “Buy Experiences, Not Things” when he writes: “Even a bad experience becomes a good story.”

Here are some ideas for keeping your giving spirit going while creating memories together this holiday season.

Here’s an easy way to do good and spend quality time together as a family. Talk together about what types of volunteer activities you might want to do using these tips. Then research what organizations in your area need help and find out if children are welcome. Our friends at Doing Good Together may be able to help you identify opportunities in your area. If you can’t find anything local for the whole family, come up with something creative you can do from home—like making Cards for Hospitalized Kids. Here are more ideas for local giving. 

Often it’s not about giving presents, but about giving your presence that’s truly important. Sometimes we all get caught up in the mire of work and daily responsibilities. Make a conscious effort to turn off your computer or your cell phone and have a conversation. Or play a game (Of course we think dinner time is a great time to do this—but whatever time works best for you!). Maybe turn this activity into a ritual—every Saturday is game night, for example, which ups the odds even further that you’re creating memories and stories for a lifetime.

That is the question! No time of year feels busier than December, which is full of all those “To Do’s”:  holiday cards, teacher gifts, concerts, visits with friends and family, and more. Look at your list, see what you HAVE to do, and think about what you WANT to do. Then give yourself a gift and cross something off your list. One less project might mean a little less pressure and a little more time for fun with family.

As the old saying goes, “Charity begins at home.” If you want to begin a habit of giving to others, it’s easiest to start by paying attention to how you interact with family members and close friends. When we regularly offer a helping hand to those closest to us, we’re strengthening our “giving muscles,” making it more likely that we’ll expand on those efforts to do more good works outside of our homes. Here are some ideas to get you and your family pumping up those muscles together!

Last but certainly not least: Complete a dinner-oriented act of giving (like cooking a meal together for a family member, friend or neighbor), take a photo and post it to Twitter or Instagram between December 2 and 16 with the hashtag #familydinnerforward to be eligible to win a fantastic prize package from Lenox!



Start a new tradition (or just try a new recipe) with these holiday sugar cookies featured in Dr. Anne Fishel’s forthcoming book Home for Dinner. And be sure to make a second batch for giving!



Twenty Questions 
One person thinks of a family memory. Then everyone has to ask questions—up to 20 total combined—to figure it out. Did it happen during a holiday? A meal? Was it a funny memory? Were there any friends involved? And so on. It’s a game that also helps us preserve memorable experiences by remembering and talking about them together!



Our conversation starters this month are all about the gift of “experience,” real and imagined.

Age 2-7

Do you have a favorite memory of something you did with your family or at school? Tell a story about it.

What’s one new activity you would like to try but are scared to try? Why are you scared?

If you could go anywhere in the world (or out of this world), where would you want to go? What would you do there?

Age 8-13

Talk about a time you tried something new. What was it? What happened?

What was the best vacation you ever had? Or the best you can imagine?

Choose an experience from a book or a movie that you like to be in (e.g. going to Narnia, playing Quidditch, etc.). Explain why you chose what you did.

Age 14-100

Recall an experience that changed your mind about something, or helped you see the world or someone differently. What happened?

Tell a story about a “first” experience (your first memory, first movie in a movie theater, first time winning an award, first kiss etc.)

Explore more conversation starters!