Thursday, December 20, 2007

twelfth & final day of Kristen-mas.

It’s true — as of this e-message, I’ve sent you a dozen days’ worth of holiday hooha (spread over the past three weeks) … I hope you’ve found at least some of what I’ve sent entertaining, interesting, informative and/or helpful … and are enjoying a healthier, greener, more balanced and meaningful holiday!!

For my final entry, we turn to my favorite spot — the beautiful islands of Hawai’i — and a website called Managing with Aloha Coaching; specifically, the Value of the Month program.
Every month, life/leadership coach Rosa Say chooses a Hawai’ian value to study, to help our professional and personal values (and actions) match up.
This month, she has opted to post a study of the Twelve Virtues of Aloha — just reading through them tunes me into the moment. See what you think:

Faith. I have some trouble with the concept of fate, but I do believe in having faith as something that empowers us to create our own destiny. There is faith in the divine and the spiritual, faith in others and in self, faith that good will always defeat evil — I choose to believe in every variety and aspect of it.

Freedom. Something we take for granted much too much. Think of all the ways you are unshackled and free to make your choices, and it becomes clear most of us know no other way to live. Within virtue, we set our hearts free.

Grace. This is one of my favorite words, and oddly, because I can’t define it well. But I don’t need to, because its goodness just is. I can only wish to feel it more, experience it more and give it more. I once heard grace called “unmerited favor” and I love that. I want to be gracious, always.

Gratitude. There may be no mightier force in our lives than learning to live in thankfulness for all we are and all we have been given. An attitude of gratitude is an attitude of aloha. The breath of life within you is meant to be shared in appreciation, thankfulness and gratitude.

Hope. Hope is such a beautiful thing. It is an attitude about the best of possibility becoming real. Hope looks at all the good that is true about the present and assumes it will ho‘omau, be perpetuated into our future — and then some.

Humor. Speaking of hearts, this comes from Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Laughter fills the holidays, and no one can tell me our ability to laugh at ourselves is not character-building and virtuous.

Joy. Happiness with more than contentment. Happiness with bliss and euphoria. Silliness without self-consciousness. The holidays are so perfect for splashes of joy in color, in song, in tinsel and texture, even in the scents filling the air. But most of all, in people’s faces.

Prayer. There is so much comfort in the thought that Someone bigger than ourselves may be listening, and might care. There is comfort knowing we always have Someone to talk to about anything and everything. I do not shy from using such comforts.

Trust. We can wonder because we can trust. People tend to be kind of needy, and that’s okay. When we need others, we learn to trust and be trustworthy in our relationship-building. We learn to love more. We learn to have faith in each other. We cultivate magnetic attractions to good intention.

Vitality. There is a fire burning within us during the holidays. Give in and let it burn up any stress, replacing it with enthusiastic and eager energy. Zip. Zeal. Zest. All vitally and dynamically virtuous.

Wonder. To have an inner capacity for awe and wonder is such a blessing. To return to childlike innocence and acceptance, to be rendered speechless, and have it feel good and right, never helpless. To not have all the answers but feel it is perfectly fine not to, to just have wonder.

Peace. If we sow the seeds of virtue, we cultivate fertile ground for peace. If we seek to understand and not condemn, to take the high road versus get even, we uncover how alike we are much more than we are different. We all want peace.

Wishing you experience with all of these during the holidays and into the new year!! o<:) For more Aloha Coaching, you can click through to:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

changing the present to change the future.

At our family Christmas, Santa fills the children’s stockings, but the grownups fill each others’ — every adult gets one little gift from every other adult. This year, I’ve discovered splendid little stocking stuffers for everyone at a single website, and I got to choose exactly how much I wanted to spend.

It’s called Changing the Present (, and the concept is giving contributions as gifts … which, granted, isn’t really a novel idea, *but* the way the site presents your options for giving is quite different.

For example, you can “shop” for gifts by cause — human rights, water, peace, women, animal welfare, environment, cancer, population, or social entrepreneurs represent just a sampling of types of causes you can support with your gift. So let’s pretend you choose “peace” as your cause; click on it, and you’re offered a list of dozens of global giving opportunities related to promoting peace — from a $14 donation for Partners for Democratic Change to help fund a soccer league for poor Mexico City youth to teach them valuable life skills, to a $5,000 donation for Seeds of Peace to send one teen leader to the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Maine for three weeks.

I simply clicked on the “stocking stuffers” category ($1 - $10), and chose contributions appropriate for the recipients:
· for my sister the second-grade teacher and ravenous reader, $5 for First Book to buy two brand-new books for children who can’t afford them otherwise;
· for my brother the chef, $5 for The Cooperative Feeding Program to buy five PB&J sandwiches for hungry kids;
· for my dad, the animal lover and treat giver, $5 for Farm Sanctuary to give treats to rescued animals; and
· for my mom, the almost-74-year-old still-working woman, $5 for Dress for Success Worldwide to provide one woman with a day at the organization’s Career Center.

I’m spending less and giving more than ever stocking-wise — and isn’t that what this season is all about??

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

party-food problems, solved.

Real Simple magazine to the rescue again, helping resolve holiday-party food dilemmas … just for giggles, take this quick party-food pop quiz and see how good you are at making the healthier choice:

1. Red or white wine?

2. Mixed nuts or olives?

3. Soft or hard cheese?

4. Cheese w/crackers or crudités w/dip?

5. Mini quiches or pigs-in-a-blanket?

6. Ham or roast beef?

7. Cocktails or champagne?

8. Gingerbread cookie or sugar cookie?

9. Cocoa or eggnog?

10. Chocolate kisses or candy cane?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Healthier choices:

1. Red wine (antioxidants, which are anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant and anti-cholesterol).

2. Olives (high monounsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol).

3. Soft cheese (just a little less fat and a few fewer calories).

4. Crudités w/dip (well, duh).

5. Mini quiches (of the two evils, has some calcium, protein and maybe some other nutrients from mixed-in veggies).

6. Roast beef (not as processed, half the saturated fat, three times as much iron).

7. Champagne (much lower calorie-wise).

8. Gingerbread cookie (half the calories and saturated fat).

9. Cocoa (fewer calories, less fat and antioxidants).

10. Candy cane (lasts longer, much lower calorie count, no fat, and peppermint freshens your breath and gives you a lift).

So … how’d you do on the test? and how about on the town?
Wishing you a balance between indulgence and moderation!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

last call for e-shopping.

Still grappling with gifts for a handful of hard-to-buy-for folk??
Here, courtesy of Real Simple magazine, is a list of one-of-a-kind online shops, every one full of uniquely cool offerings:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Branch (
Eco-friendly items for the home.
Elsewares (
Gifts from independent artists and designers. (
Quirky finds for everyone on your list. (
Original (and affordable) works by emerging artists.
The Museum of Useful Things (
For those who like their household wares to be functional and beautiful. (
Gadgets and gizmos galore.
The Curiosity Shoppe (
Vintage-looking and unique gifts.
Charles & Marie (
Design-savvy products culled from around the world.
Perch! (
Handmade ceramic goodies for the house and the garden.
Greenergrassdesign (
Distinctive items for decorating your home or your outfits.
Elum (
Brightly colored letterpress stationery, journals, and gift wrap.
Exploritorium (
Puzzles and science experiments for inquisitive kids.
RavinStyle (
Jewelry, handbags, clothing, and more for any budding fashionista.
Soolip (
A paper boutique that imports unusual paper and cards from all over the world.
Velocity (
Original and limited-edition works of art, plus beautiful, modern gifts for the home.
Vitamin D(esign) (
Unique items for every room and everyone, even pets.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thursday, December 13, 2007

a silent night.

It’s so easy to let go of our self-care during the holidays — there are so many things to do, places to go, people to see. We’ve all got long lists, and it’s common for self-care to fall right off the bottom.

Of course, taking care of ourselves *should* be an even higher priority than ever during this crazy, stressful season. We all know the basics: get plenty of sleep, eat a good breakfast, stick to your exercise routine, avoid overindulgence — of caffeine, alcohol and rich foods. But how about giving yourself a little piece of peace?

Here are four ways to create a sense of centeredness in your holiday:

Walk. This sounds just like sticking to your exercise routine, but a walk doesn’t have to be all about aerobics. It can be a way to reconnect with nature and calm your busy brain. Be mindful as you walk, and tune into your senses — pay attention to what you see, listen to the sounds around you, smell the winter air and feel the breeze on your cheeks.

Talk. We momentarily connect with dozens of people during the holidays, but rarely do we make the time to have a meaningful conversation with a friend. Get a cup of cocoa, snuggle into a cozy chair and call a friend for a long winter’s chat.

Breathe. I’m a lifelong breath-holder. Whenever I’m busy or stressed, I find myself breathing shallowly, quickly, and unconsciously holding my breath now and then. A little mini-meditation helps me remember, it’s important to breathe in and out: Sit down and close your eyes. Breathing through your nose, breathe in for a count of five and out for a count of five. Imagine inhaling relaxation and exhaling tension.

Be quiet. Drive without the sound of the radio once in a while. Silence helps us kick it down a notch by slowing down sensory input.

I discovered these helpful tips at, which has a wealth of wellness articles, from pampering presents to partying without putting on pounds.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

a new holiday dream.

Referring you to a really great website today:

It’s the virtual home of The Center for a New American Dream, which sounds rather murky, I realize, but I’m telling you, these folks have it together and are sharing it with the world.

The Center for a New America Dream’s mission is to help Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life and promote social justice. Just a little something they do on the side, in their spare time.

They work to fulfill this mission by helping people:

live consciously — getting more of what really matters in life, being aware of what’s going on around you, finding balance and having a little fun while you’re at it;

buy wisely — becoming a positive force in the marketplace, using your purchasing power to support business practices that are safer for the environment and better for people; and

make a difference — making sure your citizen voice is heard, being active in your community and letting policymakers know where you stand.

If you’re not yet convinced of how cool this movement is, then you’ve got to consider their motto: More Fun, Less Stuff!

Their website has a whole section on Simplifying the Holidays, including creative, inexpensive and eco-friendly gift ideas; information about alternative gift fairs; a separate section dedicated to kids & commercialism; a holiday parenting tips blog; and ways to get more of what matters (time, nature, fairness, fun).

Best of all, register at their website and you can download their FREE Simplify the Holidays booklet at Designed to help you decrease stress and increase fulfillment, the booklet includes easy tips on managing your time, stress, gifts and budget, as well as how to change your gift-giving traditions, entertain more simply, connect with your children and family elders, and be kind to the Earth this season.

I’m dreaming of a balanced Christmas … how about you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Target-ing shopping guilt.

I not only admit it, I embrace it — I love Target. Love love love it. Love everything about it except the fact that I can’t seem to escape it with less than $100 worth of stuff. But I love the stuff — just not the cha-ching.

*But* loving the stuff and the big-box store presents a dilemma for those of us who also want to live a little greener. Enter an awesome article from Grist environmental news and commentary — a gift guide for eco-minded shoppers headed to the big-box trifecta (Target, Wal-Mart and/or Kmart).

A couple of Grist staffers named Sarah (Van Schagen and Burkhalter) actually hit the stores to see how they do on the eco-friendly shopping scale. The best news? Target was the tree-huggiest of the trio!

Target hit the mark, with the most eco-friendly gift options, and a recent pledge to phase out PVC. Environmentally copacetic holiday stuff here included recycled-paper greeting cards, a sizeable selection of wooden toys, organic-cotton bedding and baby onesies, and (my favorite) soy candles and other green-home goods by Method.

Wal-Mart was the runner-up, with only a few eco-friendly items, but a bevy of behind-the-scenes green efforts — like reducing energy use at new stores, tracking suppliers’ energy efficiency and pushing vendors to cut down their packaging. Wal-Mart does provide reusable shopping totes at their registers, and also offers a small selection of good stuff like bamboo-blend sheets.

Kmart’s blue light ain’t turning green anytime soon; eco-pickings there were near-nil. Some plush pet toys made from EarthRite Fiber, a polyester filling made from recycled PET plastic bottles, were about it.

To read the whole article (which also contains some great eco-gift ideas), go to

Monday, December 10, 2007

stress schmess.

With two weeks left to go, are you still enjoying the season? or are you freaking?

I feel fairly well-prepared, but still find myself at the edge of overwhelm a few times a day. I dial it back a notch by breathing — full, deep breaths — and listing. I’m a lister, so getting it out of my head and onto a piece of paper provides relief.

Here are some tips from stress-relief experts that might provide you with some of the same relief:

Treat yourself. All that hustling and bustling can drain you. Psychologist Alice Domar suggests for every ten gifts you buy for others, you give yourself a little indulgence — nothing expensive, just a pick-me-up. She also recommends retaining a regular exercise regimen and carving out time for a movie date with your partner, a candlelit soak in the bath or a solitary evening of soothing music.

Eat mini-meals. The positive effects of stress-reducing foods (low- or no-fat carbohydrates) last just a handful of hours, so nutritional biochemist Judith Wurtman suggests eating several mini-meals or small snacks throughout the day rather than just a couple of big ones. But be careful to keep your total calories about the same.

Don’t break the bank. It takes an average of four months for American charge-card users to pay off stress-inducing holiday bills. Eric Brown of the nonprofit Center for a New American Dream suggests making a per-person budget before you begin buying. Put each individual’s budgeted gift amount — in cash — into an envelope with his/her name on it. When the envelope’s empty, you’re done, no exceptions.

Remember the reason for the season. Some folks find the holiday harrowing because it seems devoid of its authentic meaning. Biological sciences and neurology professor Robert Sapolsky recommends spending the time and energy to reaffirm what the spirit of the season really means to you, whether it’s about family, community or religion.

For more seasonal stress-busting tips from these experts of equilibrium, you can read the feature “Beat Holiday Stress, Survive the Frenzy” at

Thursday, December 6, 2007

a real holiday treasure.

“[The holiday experience] has long since become too busy, too expensive, too centered around acquiring that which we do not need. In fact, it’s the perfect crystallization of the American economy — the American consumer experience squeezed into a manic week, a week that people find themselves hoping will soon end so that on January 2, they can return to the mere routine hecticity of their lives.”

So writes Bill McKibben in an article titled “The Problem with Christmas,” which according to McKibben is that nobody really likes it anymore. He goes on to hypothesize that *time* — giving gifts involving time, spending time serving others or making time to savor the simpler joys of the season — may be the solution.

A sampling of his ideas:
· Give the gift of your future time: a coupon for a back rub, a homemade meal.
· Give the gift of your past time: a jar of preserves made by hand, a stack of firewood piled up neatly in the backyard.
· Give a contribution in someone’s honor: buy a dairy goat in their name for a Tanzanian family who hadn’t had milk before.
· Begin a family tradition of exchanging used books rather than more new stuff.
· Begin a family tradition of wandering through the park tossing seed so the birds can celebrate.
· Begin a family tradition of serving supper together at the Salvation Army.
· Give yourself some silence, or someone else some companionship.

To read McKibben’s whole article, click through to

o< :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

holiday wishes for wonderful women.

I recently received the following list of a half-dozen holiday wishes from Busy But Balanced author Mimi Doe (I subscribe to her “Spiritual Parenting” e-messages); I thought they were so lovely that I want to send them along …

Here’s what I wish for you this holiday:

· An plus-size dose of patience exactly when you need it most;

· A wave of utter contentment when you expect it least;

· An extra half-hour every day, just for you;

· A dilemma easily resolved;

· A healthy, happy family; and

· A continuous connection with spirit, woven into the rhythm of your life.

For more from Mimi, visit her website at

o< :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

a green tree for the big apple.

It’s a (good) sign of the (better) times: New York City’s iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center has gone green.

For the first time, the giant Norway Spruce is using 30,000 energy-efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes), strung on five miles of wire and powered by solar panels — saving a much electricity in a day as a family in a 2,000-square-foot home uses in a month!

Additionally, the tree was cut down by handsaw to minimize pollution, and once it’s done its time towering over ice skaters, will be cut into lumber to be used by Habitat for Humanity.

Want to make sure your Christmas tree is ever-green? Click through to for tips on the most eco-friendly way to enjoy your Yule tree.

o< :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

raise your elf-esteem.

This is so much fun, it’s just perfect for December’s first Monday …
check out our fa-la-la-la foursome, then go elf yourself!

o< :)