• Inspired Gifts: For many people on my list, I pull my hair out trying to find something thoughtful and original—and necessary. Seriously, does the world need another sweater in a box? What I've started doing instead is giving them a gift that I know will not only do something good, it will make me feel good, too: I give the gift of charity. You can give these items as a gift in someone else's name. Believe me, I understand that it takes a certain amount of nerve to give a gift that not only shows up in an envelope, but that is also really a gift for someone else! But the truth is, many generous people would love to do something charitable but don't know how to give. A gift in charity helps get them there—and will often spur them to make the next donation on their own. So give that little push and make a gift in charity with confidence and pride!
  • Family Travel: Staying at home during the holidays is always nice, but getting away as a family—or visiting far-off relatives—can also make for a memorable experience. Whether we are driving or flying, the trick with long trips is to make the hours seem to pass faster than they really do. For kids, that means getting involved in the activity for which they have the longest attention span. A DVD is a great option, but I always try to save it for when we have exhausted all other activities. And even then, I go into it with a plan—they get to watch one or two, and that is it. My kids also love arts and craft projects, so I bring tons of supplies on trips. We also subscribe to lots of kids' magazines and I save them up until we leave and wrap them and present them on the way to the airport with a big bow. And books on tape are always a hit. Getting the kids to agree on which book to listen to can be a challenge, but when everyone enjoys the story-telling together, it is such fun.

Of course, there's no way to take all stress out of the holidays. This time of year is all about people getting together, and that always creates strain, even among loved ones. In the buildup of the holidays and all the anxiety around them, however, I try to remind myself of how fortunate I am. Far too many people have more elemental worries—food, shelter and medicine.

Put in that context, wrapping paper and bows become luxury items. I remember that my family is the only thing that really matters, and my stress and worries seem to all melt away.


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