Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 17: It’s all about the LOVE

In the thick of the holidays it is pretty easy to get completely wrapped up in the ‘it’. We are tired as the endless list of things to do seems not to have an end at all. Like many of you, I’ve pared down what I give and to whom, how I decorate and what resources I use. Time is always short this time of year but I’m not alone in the effort to be more purposeful, more focused and less go go go as the clock ticks down. Don't get me wrong there is a bit of the hustle and bustle that is not only to be expected, but somewhat enjoyable. The all out crazies---- that is what I try to avoid, you know, the keeping my head while those around me lose theirs sort of thing.

I’ve always contributed to a charity or two at the end of the year, the holidays seem the perfect time to be able to reach out and give back. Okay--- last year I did not give to any charity, my home was robbed right before Christmas and I have to tell you that I didn’t feel very charitable. As it turns out, a simple act of charity would have eased me toward wholeness and healing a lot faster than the fear and anger that wanted to be nurtured instead. I’ve regretted not reaching out and this year I’ll make up for that.

I thought that I had this year’s charity picked out at the beginning of December but a recent e-mail from a friend caught my attention and brought forth the notion that perhaps I should widen my circle of options. That e-mail is below and may possibly have been in your inbox already, or many times. It might even be an urban legend or a scam. The point to me was the emotion that it stirred, the renewed vision for holiday giving. The email follows:

White Envelopes

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it, overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma, the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son, Kevin, who was 12 that year was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended, and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in the spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids, all kids, and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse.

That's when the idea of his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition, one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there.

You see we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

Nancy W. Gavin

This story is a true story and inspired four siblings from Atlanta, GA to start The White Envelope Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting this tradition and charitable giving. The White Envelope Project founders are regularly in touch with the family in the article and are thrilled to have their support. The Gavin family and now thousands of others continue to celebrate the "white envelope" tradition each year. For more information about The White Envelope Project or to honor a loved one through a "white envelope" gift this year, please visit their website:


I believe we can carry this in our hearts---giving to others in a way that involves our family, friends, or co-workers. There are a lot of great charities put forth by knitters, a LOT of them, and all of them good ones. My hope is that when we contribute to a charity we do so because we believe in what that charity stands for. We’ve researched it; we know how it operates and who it ultimately helps.

In the quest for educated charity giving, allow me to pass on a couple that I found extremely helpful this year as I struggled to make the best decision possible.

  • CHARITY NAVIGATOR: America's premier independent charity evaluator, works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of America's largest charities.” Check it out!
This year I’ll be making a contribution that will stay close to home benefiting women and children in the St. Louis Missouri area. I’m leaning toward also contributing to the Women’s Learning Partnership as well.

I hope that you’ll join me in giving to a charitable organization that you love. You will not only make a difference in the lives of someone, but you may contribute to making the world a better place. What stirs your heart? Find a charity that tugs at your soul and the thought of giving towards that makes you feel better in some small measure----Now that puts the happy in holidays---- and every day!


My day yesterday was lovely! There was no getting out yesterday morning for many of us in the path of the snow storm that came through during the last couple of days--- that was clear at first light. After a cup of tea and a bit of breakfast I bundled up and shoveled. I thought that the car would never emerge from its’ blanket of snow and ice! Definitely one of the drawbacks of city living is street parking vs. a nice cozy garage.

The marshmallows were cut and yes indeed--- Alton Browns’ recipe for the pillowy delights was a winner. They came out of the pan nicely, cut beautifully with a hot, wet knife and a bit of a tumble in a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch kept them really nice around the edges and not sticky. We mixed up some nice chocolate coating and dipped the clouds of white. Heavenly I tell you.

A batch of spritz followed---- and they turned out wonderfully as well. The recipe makes a boodle so I tucked quite a few away for giving and eating when my son arrives for Christmas.

I had to make a bit of chicken noodle soup just to fortify my tummy against the onslaught of too much sugar!

The afternoon wrapped up with sitting by the fire with more tea and knitting. I finished the first of the ‘pocketbook slippers’ and finished the second by bedtime. I have to say that even though I’d seen a photo of them finished, I was a bit unprepared by the funny way they look. Why I have no idea, after all they are called pocketbook slippers for a reason! But they are cute, and will be appreciated. That wraps up my 'Must Knit' holiday gifts. Woo Hoo! Granted, I didn't have complicated or intricate projects planned---that is beside the point!

It looks pretty funny at the end of the ribbing, like how in the world will this ever be a slipper?

That of course means that I can cast on something fun! What, oh what will it be??? The options, nearly endless, sort of boggle my mind.

I’m shopping today. Well running errands and shopping. Pick up a mountain of orders at the lab, deliveries up the wazoo----and getting a box big enough to mail out my Mom’s pillow. I didn’t think about that ahead of time, how like me! Ack. But I’ll get it mailed out one way or the other. Lunch out sounds like a sure bet and a wander through the mall just because. I need nothing; I just want to wander a bit. I think that makes it window shopping and people watching. (If you throw in a five dollar cup of foofy flavored sugary latte, it's dang near perfect!) Before I get home you can bet I’ll be stopping at the bookstore. Just laying in a nice stack of inspiration and amusement for December 26th!

Maybe a new pair of jammies too, yup........... jammies!


Tomorrows Knitting Contrisstmas is going to be FABULOUS!!!! A great interview----- it's the SECRET EPISODE!!!!! Don’t miss it!

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