The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 3, 2008

Dear family and friends,

Happy holidays! It’s the time of year for snow and ice. Or light-strung palm trees, depending on where you live. Here in Oakland, we haven’t even turned on our central heating yet. My toes are mildly chilly — a condition easily remedied by fuzzy slippers, which I have on right now.

No matter what the weather, we’re probably all seeing a lot of the same sights and sounds: Christmas jingles, holiday lights, billboards blaring gift ideas, and commercials… commercials… commercials…

The mad rush can be overwhelming if we buy into the messages urging us to “Shop! Shop! Shop!” But it can also be exhilarating to view from the sidelines, as a bystander experiencing the thrill of the season without all the anxiety that can come with it.

This year, I’m not getting caught in the Christmas madness, but I’m not going to shun it either. I’d love to remember what it felt like as a kid when, as a family, we drove around to look at all the twinkling lights. To savor Mom Mom’s yummy treats: sand tarts, seven layer cookies, Mexican tea cookies, walnut fudge, as I attempt to make some or all of them myself. To harmonize to the melodies of “O Holy Night” and “Away in a Manger” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” even if the words mean less to me now than the music itself.

Notice, I haven’t mentioned anything about presents. And that’s because the presents have become much less meaningful to me lately than the feeling that they represent. As I sit here in an apartment full of “stuff,” I realize how tremendously much I have and how little in the way of tangible goods I need and want.

So to those with whom I regularly exchange holiday gifts, I have a proposition. This year, how about if we each give an amount, whatever our hearts feel appropriate, to the charity of the others’ choice? Discuss the matter with your families. Find an organization that is important to you, and let me know.

Here are my three choices. A contribution to any of them would be an awesome gift to me this year. (For my birthday, too!)

  • Algalita Marine Research Foundation, the group researching plastic pollution and its effects in the Pacific Ocean. Learning about their work was what propelled me on my no-plastic journey in the first place.
  • Green Sangha, an organization “dedicated to restoring our sense of oneness – healing our communities and the earth through mindful practice and awakened action.” I love being a part of this group and have recently joined its board.
  • Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group dedicated “to protect the most vulnerable segments of the human population —- children, babies, and infants in the womb —- from health problems attributed to a wide array of toxic contaminants and to replace federal policies, including government subsidies that damage the environment and natural resources, with policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development.”Donors to EWG who give $135 or more before the end of the year will receive a “Pollution Solutions” gift bag. Of course, any amount is great, and if you don’t need the items in the gift bag, you can decline it or have it shipped to someone else.

With the economy as rough as it is right now, money is tight for many of us. I’m sure it’s going to be especially difficult for non-profit organizations who depend on the generosity of private individuals to stay afloat. So, I’m happy to have any money that would have been spent on me go straight to one of these groups that is doing such important work.

And to my blog friends with whom I don’t exchange gifts, I’d be happy to make a small donation to your charity of choice in exchange for your donation to one of mine. Just send me an email and let me know. I can’t promise to match you dollarwise, but I can promise to give what I can.

Happy Holidays!

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14 years ago

This is really nice, Thank you.

Mindful Momma
14 years ago

great brains think alike! :)

Mother Earth aka Karen Hanrahan
14 years ago

I give to the whatiffoundation that feeds starving haitian children. The non-profit was founded by a very great friend and has a fascinating history. Also to blue lake fine arts camp which inspired my daughter for 9 years in music. I plant trees when I take road trips and give to local organizations – food shelters and resale shops

It is just my kids and I and we keep gifting remarkably practical

14 years ago

I love this! My birthday was this weekend and my brother and his wife gave me a donation to I was so happy!

14 years ago

Lovely letter Beth.

14 years ago

I made a similar plea to our family. They are meeting me 1/2 way. We are keeping the Secret Santa practice, which in and of itself cuts way down on the crap to be bought, but cutting the set price tag by 1/2 and giving the other half to the local foodbank.

Green Bean
14 years ago

Love your sharing your memories of childhood Christmases. Like you, I’m enjoying the season and buying only a handful of gifts. I don’t believe that I’ll be given a single gift – other than maybe some cookies or something. But that’s not what Christmas is about, is it? That’s not what I remember about Christmases years ago. I remember making ornaments by hand the Christmas we spent in Tahoe, I remember rolling out dough with my mom and driving to see the Christmas lights with my family. Oh, and puking in the back of the station wagon while driving to see my cousins. It can’t all be good. ;-)

Merry Christmas!

Anarres Natural Health
14 years ago


Reading you letter, it dawned on me that I’ve seen zero Christmas decorating as yet. Maybe Canadians are less decorate-y than Americans. Maybe the supposed recession has held us back. Who knows? I’m doing craft shows like mad, but everything seems mild and hand made-y bliss. Of course, I don’t watch TV or go to malls, so that helps.

I’m so glad you talked about EWG. They are the IT group in my world! Them and Women’s Voices for the Earth and WHEN Women’s Healthy Environments Network here in Toronto.

May your every dream come true,


A Slice of the Pie
14 years ago

You write great letters!