Holiday Assistance

With the holiday season in full swing some individuals may find themselves busy making plans and preparations for this festive time of year. For others this season may represent a time when some extra help is needed to make the holiday special. Financial challenges can make expectations of the holidays a struggle, but it’s important to know that there are resources available that may help support your holiday activities, and therefore lift some of the stress that can accompany these festivities. The following community resources may be able to offer help through the holidays. Be sure to check with the organizations directly about their application requirements and deadlines as many have specific time frames to apply for help.

  • Salvation Army offices offer seasonal services and holiday assistance programs to help families in need with holiday dinners, toys, and clothing. Search for your local office to inquire about direct programs and services and application deadlines.
  • The United Way can offer information and referrals for holiday assistance programs in your community.
  • The Toys for Tots Program provides new, unwrapped toys during the holidays to children in need through community outreach and support efforts.
  • Catholic Charities Services and other local religious organizations may offer seasonal assistance as well, though these programs can vary based on location. Contact the groups in your area directly to inquire of services available.
  • Contact the county department of family/social services in your area, as their office may have additional holiday assistance and resources available.
  • You can also check with local schools in the community that may know of holiday assistance programs for families.
  • Community food banks may also be able to offer holiday assistance programs in your area during the season.

Again, many community assistance programs have specific application deadlines and requirements in order to receive holiday assistance by a certain time. Be sure to reach out to the resources to see what’s available in your area and how to apply.

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Is it That Time of Year Already?!

school-bus-back-to-schoolSo this week marked the start of many students heading back to school and the unofficial ‘end’ of summer with the fall season being just around the corner. This time of year usually generates many nostalgic feelings; how it felt having to go back to school, which was sometimes a drag at first but eventually turned into excitement to learn new things, the change in routine and schedules, and the countdown to the holiday season. Even just the colors and smells of fall have the potential to bring about joyful feelings—it can be a very pretty and festive time of year.

For some people this week may represent new beginnings and changes, for others it may signify an anticipated change of season with teasingly cooler temperatures being just around the bend (hopefully). For others it may just represent a hope for change and new things to come. This particular week and time of year doesn’t necessarily look or mean the same to each person and it doesn’t have to; everyone goes through different things at different times and holds unique perspectives towards it. It’s more about finding what is special or important to you and holding onto that—knowing what feelings are prompted or what memories are beckoned when you experience time and season changes during the year. It’s a chance to create new memories, make adjustments to change, prioritize your needs, and most of all, to self-care—because there is only one you, and you deserve the most that time has to offer.

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(Last Minute) Summer Fun

As we continue to pass through the summer months and find ourselves looking towards a change of season (hopefully soon!), there’s still some time for fun to be had during the remainder of the summer. At times it can be difficult to try to make plans or schedule activities if the uninvited MS decides to rear its head and join in. But there are some last minute ways to try and enjoy the rest of the season, without having to make elaborate plans that MS will try to outdo.

There are times when heat-excessive summer days call for indoor activities, so why not have a game day/night? Getting back to a time where playing board games and cards was all the rage can be fun and nostalgic, and a good way to find some last minute amusement with friends or family. And keeping with the indoor theme, how about a movie night? Gathering together to watch a good flick, even if coordinated last minute, can be relaxing and entertaining. Orchestrating a last minute trip to the movies or visiting a museum or aquarium can also be some fun activities that may not require excessive planning but an opportunity to enjoy events of the season.

Check with community offices and message boards in your area to find some local events being held during the rest of the summer. Concerts, festivals, shows and exhibitions are just some of the local activities your community may offer that you can take advantage of last minute. Sometimes trying to take part in an activity that’s more spur of the moment and last minute can work to your benefit, especially if it catches MS off guard and doesn’t give it the opportunity to invite itself!

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Ahhh Spring…

162309-It-s-SpringThe birds, the flowers, the sun and the showers! This season is a rejuvenating time where we can cast off the dusty winter and break out the cool breezes of spring. Over the winter all of our favorite outdoor activities close down in anticipation of cold weather (how rude). Park gates shut earlier, boardwalks are silent and activities in general slow to a standstill. Things take a break for winter and sleep waiting for this time of year to come back round again. Now that spring has started to reappear across the country, it’s a great time to get back out to some of your favorite spots. There are festivals and farmers markets. Concerts and exhibits. Parks reopen and stay open longer as the sunshine stretches well past 5 PM allowing you to explore your city or county well into the evening.

There are events both small and large to be attended and taking a look at your state, county or city website can give you an idea of what activities or happenings are going on in your neck of the woods. You may find a new concert series you didn’t know was happening, an art or food festival near by or something new your town is trying out for the first time. Here in Philadelphia we are gearing up to host our first ever Chinese Lantern Festival at the end of the month. In DC the cherry blossoms are all the rage while in Texas the rodeo is kicking up. Seattle is getting expressive with their art festivals and the Wisconsin Film Festival starts at the end of the week.

This spring make yourself a promise to get out and explore one new activity your area offers, you may be surprised by what you find!

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Some invaluable lessons (from some unlikely sources)

It’s that time of year when the holidays are upon us in full force. With the celebrations of Hanukkah starting last week and the arrival of Christmas and Kwanzaa in a bit under two weeks, the season is in full swing. It’s during this time of the year when many people find themselves taking moments to reflect on the year and what they found important, meaningful, challenging or inspiring. Certain experiences, teachings and life lessons are frequently pondered during the holiday season as people recount what they’re grateful for, things they’d like to learn, and notions they are still trying to grapple with. It’s funny to admit but during this time of year especially there are some very invaluable lessons that can be considered and reflected upon from influences around us. Granted most of these influences may be in the form of animated figures and storytellers, but their lessons are still valid and appreciated as guideposts of direction and conscience.

Take for example the beloved, though mostly outcast, Charlie Brown Peanuts character. Even though his actions of choosing an at first glance unattractive looking Christmas tree to use as a prop for his friend’s Christmas play were ridiculed and contested, in the end it gave way to a most memorable and impactful speech explaining the true meaning of the holiday and what ‘Christmas is all about.’

Lesson: It’s the meaning of the season and why it’s celebrated that matters most, not material items or commercialism.

Another recognizable figure during this time is Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch character. Now he had the most learning to do of all – with his heart two sizes too small. Again he thought the season was just about material possessions and how much the Who’s had. It angered him to see how they reveled in the holiday celebration and thought that by taking away their belongings this would dampen their spirit. But the Who’s blatant joy and celebration despite their loss taught the Grinch more, of course, that ‘perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store.’

Lesson: The holidays are a time for appreciating who and what you have in your life that brings you happiness and realizing what you’re grateful for, and being together, even perhaps singing a little ‘Fahoo-dores.’  

And lastly, perhaps one of the most influential, historical characters during this time of year? Why yes, it’s Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge himself, the feisty curmudgeon who could really suck the spirit out of the holiday season – if you let him. Scrooge’s memorable and extraordinary tale of being visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve really captures multiple lessons of the season. By redeeming himself and changing his ways by the end of the tale, which we can only hope continued even after the story ended, he was able to ‘keep the spirit of Christmas close to his heart’ and celebrate all year through.

Lessons: Think and consider those who are less fortunate than you, and when able, spread prosperity (in any form) to others. Think about your actions – they can affect others too, not just yourself. Gratitude and appreciation can go a long way. Keep the meaning and spirit of the holidays close to you always.

Now not everyone may recognize or know these characters mentioned above, but the message remains the same. No matter what time of year, you deserve to think about what’s important to you, what you enjoy, and how these things influence your day to day. Values and lessons are important to consider—not only during the holiday season, but the whole year through.

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Spring Fling

Ahh, the time of year that brings colorful flowers into bloom and comfortable temps is finally here! April showers that bring May flowers help mark the arrival of spring type weather and a time for people to get outside and enjoy this time of year. It’s not too warm yet in most of the country, which allows for outdoor events to be enjoyed, not denied because of the heat. So what are some things people can get out and enjoy doing during this spring time?

Doing outdoor chores like gardening or yard work can be relaxing at times while you go at your own pace, or just sitting outside during this season can be refreshing, breathing in air that the winter months made most people hibernate against. Attending ball games, community events and outings, exercising or taking a ride can all be welcomed activities to appreciate this month. Spring doesn’t seem to last too long in relation to the sizzling summer and frigid winter months, so consider this period a ‘fling’ to do what you like, no matter what the activity is.

You can get together with people you enjoy spending time with and make up your own activities or events this season. Try something new – like a project or artwork you’ve always wanted to create, and have others help you to make it a fun group activity. It’s important to let yourself be present in the moment, especially if you’re engaging in something new, so that you can appreciate the situation for what it’s offering. The seasons come and go, so be sure to make your ‘spring fling’ a memorable one!

What’s your idea of a fun ‘spring fling?’

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Spring Awakening

Boy oh boy, what a winter we’ve had this year! There wasn’t a part of the country that didn’t experience some effect of this peculiar and extraordinary season – whether it was ice, snow, freezing rain or just downright frigid temperatures, we’ve all had a taste of the season! I think at this point spring will be a welcomed phase of the year – even though that means some sweltering summer temps are right behind it. But until then, why not take advantage of the weather change (whenever it does occur), and do some things to enjoy the season?

Spring is a great time to get back outdoors after winter’s hibernation; no matter what type of activity, just breathing in some fresh outdoor air can awaken the senses. Traveling, gardening, walking, exercising, riding or sitting outside are all ventures that can be explored during this period. Spring is a good time to clean things out and get organized – to throw away the old and make room for the new in order to help you keep track of what’s needed.

Explore opportunities within your community – there may be different events and activities occurring during spring that you can participate in. It may also help to talk with your doctor about different activities you can do to help with any MS symptom management issues or finding a task that is appropriate for your needs. Every individual has their own preferences and favorite things they enjoy, so the arrival of spring provides a chance to do something new and start the season with novel hope and promise.

What will you do this spring?

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Holidays Past

The holidays are a time where people come together to celebrate the joy of the season, to honor past holiday traditions or to create new ones for generations to come. Holidays of the past can foster different types of memories – fond ones, funny ones, and those, “I still can’t believe that happened!” moments. For me, the holidays were always a hectic time, where you never quite knew what was going to happen. I do hold some fond moments about old traditions in our family, and though they may seem odd to others, every family is different and has their own ways of celebrating.

In my family, Christmas Eve was the night our extended family would get together to celebrate the holiday and exchange gifts through a Pollyanna. But the gift exchange and celebrating couldn’t happen until midnight, when it was really the start of Christmas day. As a child this was agony, as half of us would fall asleep before the countdown to midnight even began, and the rest of us were so tired that when it did come time to open presents and rejoice, we didn’t really appreciate the tradition at that late hour. However, this still remains a heartwarming memory for me, because for some reason or other throughout the years, this tradition is no longer. As more children were born into the family and members didn’t want to travel home so late, gifts are now exchanged at leisure, with no countdown or anticipation as years past. It’s still a nice tradition, but it’s different, and now we take time to reminisce about those past holiday memories and look back with joy.

Each holiday season brings varied traditions, moments, and feelings that are unique to each person and family celebrating the occasion. And even though things may change through the years, making holidays different from ones that came before, there are still memories to be made and joy to experience.

What are some of your holiday memories?

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Planning for a Stress-Free Holiday

With Thanksgiving a little over a week away, many families have already started planning for the holiday season. Who is hosting, who’s making the turkey, and who will be opening their home to holiday guests this season? As if the actual day wasn’t hectic enough, with the shuffling around of foods, the constant chatter, and all of the hugs and kisses; why stress this upcoming week in preparation?

The following tips may help keep this holiday season a little less stressful:

1. Make a plan: Start by listing out each of the tasks that need to be accomplished. Breaking them down into groups can help keep things organized (i.e. cleaning, shopping, cooking).

2. Ask for help: Be prepared to delegate tasks to others. Go through the list and identify tasks that can easily be accomplished by someone else. Family and friends are usually asking, “What can we do or what can we bring?” Use this opportunity to check something off that list.

3. Practice self-care: Take breaks throughout the day; do not push through to finish a check list. Find a good mix of tasks that you enjoy with ones that are less pleasurable; when it comes down to choosing one or the other, always choose the one that makes you happy.

In what ways do you plan for a stress-free holiday?

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