T’is Best to Give

As a little kid I was lucky enough to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.  Each holiday was filled with presents and good food and lasting sweet memories.

As an adult I have unfortunately adopted a bit more of a Bah Humbug attitude about this time of year.

The commercialism and pressure that looms over everything “December holidays” in the United States straight up stresses me out.

I love the family and friend gatherings, I don’t stress the extra food & booze that is always around or the disrupt to my normal routine but I do feel overwhelmed by the present thing.

I love giving and receiving the perfect, thoughtful, useful present.  However, I loathe the idea that it’s best to give something to each person on your list, even if that something will inevitably end up either collecting dust or seeing the inside of a trash can soon.

Sorry! This is a bit of a side tangent and not where I intended to go with this post. (Another side note: Dear Family, do not take any of this personally, I appreciate any and all efforts at gift giving and receiving.  And please don’t take it personally if my presents to you are late/kinda suck.  I really am trying.)

One way I’ve decided to combat this present-buying/giving stress is to make small donations to organizations I feel passionately about for each of the 8 days of Hanukkah.  In some way it makes me feel like I’m taking back the pleasure of gifting by giving exactly what someone (or rather the organization) wants and needs; money and community support.

Day 1 Cora Dance

Cora Dance is a company in Brooklyn under the direction of Shannon Hummel.  Cora provides all of their programming on a Pay-What-You-Can basis, including all classes and performances.  I have so much respect for their mission to make dance accessible and am totally inspired by what they do.

To my first dance teacher Beth, who just loves to share movement with anyone who will participate

Day 2 Community Investment Collaborative

Charlottesville’s CIC is a micro-lending organization that helps small, local businesses get funds, education, and support in order to be successful.  I have seen first hand the great work they do for my community.

To my papa, who I have seen believe in and back people when very little was going their way

Day 3 WNRN

Our local, listener supported radio station.

To my Uncle Mikey, who was a DJ in Texas in the ’70s

Day 4 Common Ground Healing Arts

A Charlottesville healing arts center offering sliding scale yoga, massage, acupuncture, and therapy.

To my practically-sister Sadie, who is always inspiring me with her yogic ways and insights

Day 5 The Haven

The Haven is a great, multi-purpose space in an old church right downtown.  The have a day shelter for homeless folks and provide breakfast most days of the week, incorporating as much local fruit, veg, meat, dairy, and grains as possible.

To my client Mary, with whom I had an interesting conversation recently about homelessness and how to give to people asking for change

Day 6 Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

The website states my $25 donation can provide 100 meals!

To the homeless men in the park, who asked “where’s the cream cheese” when I would take them free bagels in college

Day 7 Trillium Performing Arts Collective

The dance studio I grew up in and without I would be a wholly different Faith

To my big sister Yarrow, who I have always and will always idealize and who without I probably would not have kept going back to dance class all those years

Day 8 City Schoolyard Garden

This Cville program runs gardens at all 6 city elementary schools and the middle school in order to provide kids with an opportunity to get their hands dirty, learn about growing and eating fresh food, and cultivate a sense of environmental stewardship and community.

 To my niece Zenya, who showed me first-hand that sharing with kids how food is grown can have such positive effects when, as a toddler, she always demanded her scrambled eggs have chard in them and she would go by herself to the garden to pick it

Happy 4th night of Hanukkah!

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The Best Detox for Lifelong Health and Happiness

My holiday was so wonderful! Such great family and such good food.

Then Friday hit and I was informed that I needed to cleanse, detox, and essentially repent for the previous 24 hours of my life.

I feel assaulted and insulted by the plethora of diet & detox “advice” filling my inbox, my Facebook wall, and even the yoga studio, where I was informed that Saturday’s class was all about “burn the turkey, restore the core”.

Since when did that beautiful home cooked meal I shared with family go from nourishing and delicious to toxic and guilt-ridden?

I understand, holidays are notorious for an abundance of food and festive atmosphere (ie flowing booze) and it can be challenging to not overeat while getting carried away with all that spirit but let’s look at that for a moment.

In the U.S we’ve created a dirty cycle; huge amounts of food to celebrate occasions and holidays and the general motto that overindulging is your duty as a good dinner guest.  When the dishes are cleared we look at each other, groan, and start our plan of redemption for all the “damage” we just did.

The camaraderie of commiserating over overindulgence does nothing but perpetuate the notion that food is foremost a source of regret.

The real toxin here is the notion that one piece of pie somehow equals x minutes of exercise and two pieces of pie, well, that equals x minutes of self-loathing and the need to drink nothing but green juice and magic lemonade for the rest of time, or at least until the next celebration.

One of the most toxic things you can do to your body is to have guilt, stress, and regret over what you put in your body.

If you ate and drank more or richer foods than usual or changed your exercise routine over the holiday last week than the best thing you can do for yourself is to move on.  Remember the pie with great fondness then move on. Get back to your usual daily life, rather than swinging so far the other direction in some panicked attempt to erase the memory of all that glorious sustenance.

And, if things aren’t, ahem, moving along quite as quickly as you’d like (digestion can get sluggish with travel, alcohol, and change in diet and routine) then by all means drink a green juice, eat a salad, and exercise but do it because it’s good for you and feels good to you.

But please, for the love of chocolate and all other sacred creations, do not exercise as penance.  Do not let guilt or regret drive you to the treadmill.

When people ask me about how my holiday was I have chosen to say how wonderful it was to spend time with family, how lovely it was to drink champagne on the beach and play in the waves on Thursday afternoon, and how sweet and goofy it was to teach my aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents an exercise class.  I came home from Florida filled with love and good memories, not toxins and I truly hope you feel the same way about your Thanksgiving.

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