Archive for the ‘ Bettering the World ’ Category

Five Easy Ways to Survive the Holidays

surviving-the-holiday-rush-ways-to-combat-fatigue-3095-200x240  The holiday season can be stressful for anyone. It seems like each year, despite the continued upheaval of the economy, the stakes for buying bigger and better grows. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that it’s strange, and sad, that we spend the day with friends and family being thankful for what we have only to turn around the day after, or hours in some cases, and trample others to get more stuff.

I’m not saying buying gifts is bad. I love buying presents for my loved ones. It’s a great feeling to find that perfect thing (like those gifts found in my previous two posts) and getting to see the surprise and excitement on their faces when they open whatever it is I got them. But feeling the pressure of the holiday season isn’t fun either.

So here are:

Runner Sami’s Five Easy Ways to Survive the Holidays (and Still Enjoy Them!)

1. Set ground rules – As my siblings and I grew older and our respective families expanded it got more challenging to buy presents for everyone, so a few years ago we decided to change the game. Now we draw names amongst the siblings with everyone still buying presents for our parents and vice versa. We also set a monetary cap which eliminated excessive spending.

2. Spend time not money – Sometimes it’s easier to focus on work or shopping or one of the other million things that need to get done during what can be a hectic season. Instead of getting lost in the holiday shuffle, find inexpensive or free events you can do with your friends and family. There are always a bunch of events happening this time of year like Santa visits, carriage rides (often free when part of a town’s holiday events), or festive music. Or make a plan to have a family night where you drive to a neighborhood that has a lot of lights or stay inside and make cookies while watching your favorite holiday movies.

3. Enjoy the moment – Remember what’s truly important to you instead of getting bogged down by your holiday to-do list. Take time to reflect on everything good and positive in your life both now and in the past year. If you find yourself overwhelmed, take a moment, step back, and be thankful for those blessings in your life.

4. Run away – Literally! Exercise is one of the best ways to keep away those holiday blues and manage stress. So make a point of taking some time each week to run or go for a walk so you can decompress and come back to your routine refreshed and rejuvenated.

5. Give without receiving – While I’m a big proponent of giving year-round, the holidays are an especially great time to remember those who don’t have all the luxuries that you might have. It’s also a good way to teach your kids or youngsters in your life how life isn’t always about getting stuff, it’s about helping others too. This time of year it’s easy to find toy drives or homeless shelters or animal shelters to which you can donate your time, gifts and money. And you’re setting a good example for others in your life to do the same!

Happy December! 🙂

Banding Together – Runners and All

  Thousands of runners were disappointed by the eleventh hour cancellation of the NYC Marathon due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Having trained for months, made travel arrangements, and making sure every piece of running gear had been meticulously chosen, it’s no wonder.

I live in NJ and see firsthand every day the destruction that the hurricane meted out in the NJ/NY area. I lost power for six days and was welcomed the morning after the hurricane hit with sixty-foot trees strewn across the roads, houses, and yards. Telephone poles snapped in half with live power lines dangling precariously in every direction. And I had it lucky. Some people in my area still don’t have power because the damage is so extensive and I know of one family a few miles down the road that had their house sheared in two by a fallen tree.

I’d see disasters on the news, but it was the first time I’d ever experienced one firsthand. I hope never to again…

NY was hit just as hard with transit systems being shut down for days and flooding and loss of power in many areas. Even with all this I understand why Mayor Bloomberg wanted to still hold the race. Events such as the epic and historic NYC Marathon have a way of bringing people together in times of crisis; rallying the troops for a common good. But I think it was a better idea to cancel it.With the marathon happening only days after the hurricane hit and the city still reeling from the impact, it seemed like a misappropriation of resources (generators, water, volunteers, etc.) when so many people lost so much.

But the cool thing in the face of all that happened is the way many runners rallied, after what I’m sure was disappointing news about the cancellation. Hundreds of runners jumped on the Staten Island ferry with backpacks loaded with supplies and ran around the island distributing goods and helping hands. For me it was truly amazing to hear stories such as this because to me that’s at the heart of what running is all about. Yes, there are many reasons why people lace up, but, as the growing quantity of running charities can prove, it’s about community. Helping each other. Supporting each other through the ups and downs even if it’s just with an encouraging word or a listening ear. So to see these runners take something disappointing and turn it around to still make their experiences meaningful, well, it makes me proud to say that I’m a runner.

Happy running, friends! 🙂

‘Tis the Season

Every Christmas season I try to find groups and organizations that I can donate money towards. While I give donations year round to various charitable organizations, it’s nice to find different causes that I can either give as gifts to others or learn more about beyond dropping clothes in a Salvation Army bin.

This year my gifts went to a group called Heifer International. I’d heard about the organization a while ago and wanted to take the time to invest in such a worthy cause. Heifer is built around the concept of giving a gift that keeps giving for many years. Almost all their gifts are animal based and range in size (and price) from honeybees to a clutch of chicks to a heifer. There’s even a gift called An Ark where fifteen pairs of animals are given to families in need around the world.

The idea behind giving living gifts to families in need is that the gift will multiple a thousand times over and give beyond the family to which they are given. The family who receives the gift not only is trained by Heifer staff on how best to feed and care for their animal, but is encouraged to then pass on offspring to other members of their village so the gift can grow exponentially. These animals can provide more than meat as they also give offspring or eggs or fertilizer or labor to the families in the village.

It’s a really awesome! 🙂 And it’s a great feeling to know that the gift I give this year will continue to be appreciated beyond this holiday season!

I hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter!

New Shoes!

  I’m always interested in products that are interested in reducing, reusing and recycling as part of their product-making philosophy. For example, Toms Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a child who needs them for every pair you purchase. So cool!!!

This past week I found Sanuk and, more specifically, their Yoga Mat Sandals. They’re made out of recycled yoga mats and feel heavenly on my barking dogs after a long day of work. Sanuk is Thai for “fun” and combines funk with function (according to their website). They use innovative materials like yoga mats and indoor/outdoor carpeting. Crazy!

It makes me feel a little less hesitant to have retail therapy when I know I’m supporting a quality company. 🙂

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Run for a Cause

  One of my favorite aspects when it comes to running is that many races sponsor charities or help raise money for different organizations. It’s an extra bonus. I get to run all kinds of different races in new and exciting locations and my race entry fee goes to support worthwhile causes.

Some races like the NYC Marathon allows automatic entry to those running for a specific charity. Team in Training is an organization designed to help raise money and awareness for cancer research, especially in regards to leukemia and lymphoma. When you become a member of one of their teams, you are provided with advice, support, running partners, etc. Thus not only are runners provided with extra programs to help them succeed in their races but they can raise money for cancer research at the same time.

I recently ran a 5k (3.1 miles) at a local park that raised money for the Matheny Medical and Educational Center. The center is located in Peapack, NJ, but helps people with severe developmental disabilities throughout the state. It’s a really amazing facility staffed with a team of nutritionists, doctors, dentists, therapists, etc. that devote their time to caring for the patients of Matheny.

Then there’s the Superhero Half Marathon and Relay that raises money for the Christopher Reeves Foundation that focuses on spinal cord injury and paralysis research. It combines the fun of dressing like a superhero, running, and knowing the money is helping others. 🙂

  Keep running and be a hero to someone who needs it. 😀

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World Cafe

I love coffee. I equate drinking coffee with feelings of comfort and warmth and love to relax with my hot morning brew and read before work. There’s good coffee and bad coffee however and while I can appreciate a bad cup of diner coffee for everything it embraces, I prefer my coffee strong, dark and smooth. I think my stint as a Starbucks barista definitely made me a bit pretentious, but it also made me discerning as to what coffee I like and why I like it. And I learned how a person’s beverage of choice at an establish such as Starbucks tells a lot about a person – Skinny quad Venti, 165 degree, extra pump of vanilla, no foam latte, you know who you are!

But I digress…

As many of my readers know, I also love to be socially and environmentally conscious. I try to buy fair trade, shade grown, organic coffees whenever I can. Yeah, I might pay a little more, but I see it as the cost of guilt-free java indulgence. (Sidenote: Starbucks, for as much as people knock them, are actually very supportive of their coffee farmers and pay for the value of the coffee despite what market prices may be at the time. And they give back a lot both socially and environmentally. Very cool.) So, when a sister or a friend told me about a little company called Dean’s Beans my little ears perked up. Then, after I tried a cup (okay, five) I was sold.

Dean’s Beans is a coffee company devoted to the buying and selling of 100% organic and fair trade coffee. They have a huge online selection filled with flavorful coffees that easily fit any palate. They not only buy shade grown, fair trade, organic coffee but they put their money where their coffee is and help support farms and farmers dedicated to producing healthy lifestyles for their villages and environments. They also have specials on coffee where proceeds from each purchase help support a specific cause. They have many more products – books, candies, cocoa, etc – and information on their website, so I encourage you to check them out. And if you don’t drink coffee I’m sure your family member/neighbor/spouse/friend does and it would make a great gift!

It brings me joy to know that I’m not only drinking an amazing cup of coffee (seriously) but helping to support a great cause. 🙂

Making a Difference

As many of you probably already know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It seems like the world is painted with pink in recognition of this worthy cause. The purpose behind all the pink is to increase awareness about breast cancer from screenings to research to risk factors and prevention.

There are a lot of races all over the U.S. that are dedicated to raising money and support for Susan G. Komen called Race for a Cure. One of my favorite aspects of racing is that all of the races I’ve run help to raise money for one worth cause or another. You can even start a race of your own if you have a cause that you want to help support. (This is one of my goals in life – to organize a race for a non-profit organization.)

A local spa is helping out by putting pink hair extensions in people’s hair for $10 a strand. They are donating all proceeds to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I’ve already made my appointment. 🙂

I don’t know if you’re like me, but sometimes I feel like there are so many worthy causes and I only have so much time and money to give that I feel like I can never do quite enough. But ultimately every person and every effort counts. Even if all someone can do is donate time to help pass out cups of water to runners during a race, it makes a difference. So this month I challenge you to find one thing (or more) you can do to help make a positive difference in this world.

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