Something about the Holiday Season in Houston just does not sit well with me, at all. Why am I just not "feeling it" this year? Oh yeah, because traveling around this great city, and I mean great - I love this sprawled out concrete jungle, sucks arse from Thanksgiving through New Years Day. Unless you have a burning, wild and uncontrolled desire to buy all of your Christmas presents at The Galleria, avoid the 610 Loop between, say, I-10 and 59. Trust me. If you live near anything bearing some semblance to an area conducive to spending money on crap, I mean, items your loved ones probably cannot live without, traffic will be bad. Not only are there a lot of drivers out on the road, clamoring for parking spaces and gridlocking intersections; I am pretty sure most of them do not drive at all during the rest of the year, or are unlicensed. Just saying. People, drive nice (those fender-mounted rocket launchers I want are still illegal, I think). Seriously, traffic flows better when you follow the rules.
Once I get past my traffic mad, I have to start thinking about what I am giving and to whom. The children in my family always get something, games, toys, crafts. The adults, not so much. I got to thinking about what to give and still be responsible, somewhat frugal and feel good about my now-spent monies. Local charities. You heard me, local charities.
Baby, it's cold outside, time to clear out your closets and donate excess blankets, coats, sweaters, shoes and sleeping bags to Houston's homeless population. That's a gift you give yourself, cleaner closet and a warmer heart. Reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate.
In lieu of a dust collecting item that someone may regift, give to those in need. Give your friends and families cards with the following inscription inside: "In lieu of a physical gift, I have chosen to make a generous cash donation to Noah's Kitchen/Star of Hope/Houston SPCA/Houston Food Bank/local charity of your choosing." Reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate.
Bake some yummies for your friends. Cookies, breads, mini-cakes or brownies - hell, give them some meat cupcakes. For one, it says "I think enough of you, that I chose not to peruse the "wheel of gift cards" at the grocery store, while I purchased stuff to bake for people I give a crap about". For two, it's much less expensive than, say, a Limoges box or crystal mouse. Once all the cute baked goods holiday bags are filled and closed up, reward yourself with some nice hot chocolate.
It's not about keeping up with those blasted Jones people next door, after all. If giving a cash/check donation makes you feel rinkydink and like you should give "real gifts", many local charities also have a "gift shop" on their website, get everyone a cookbook from there or something. You are still supporting efforts in your own backyard.
Please don't think I am blissfully unaware of the hunger, homelessness, needy around the globe. I am. Very. Aware. However, charity begins at home and your own friends and family might need a gentle reminder that we have our own population right here in need of food, money to pay utilities, warm clothes or a shelter to sleep in. This includes animals, please don't forget the animals - they trust us to care for them and keep them safe from harm. Here's a link to the Better Business Bureau, so that you can check out local charities, first.