Ugly Ducklings Inc is ready for 2015

Ugly Ducklings Inc is ready for 2015 Hi Ugly Ducklings! And Happy 2015! We dearly hope you enjoyed the holidays and are now ready to have fun, enjoy, and be surprised by wonderful things that this year will bring. We have a great announcement that we’ll make very soon, and for now, we just wanted to give you a heads up.

Check Twitter and Facebook

Don’t lose sight of the ducklings on social networks because they will be explaining the first big thing that we have prepared for you for this new year. HOWEVER, since you’re reading this, we’ll tell you the secret (but shhhh!!):

  • We’ll launch our new t-shirt designs very soon
  • We will hold our second charity raffle!
  • We have prize packs you won’t believe (and they all contain something signed by actress Jennifer Morrison)
  • We will also have some more goodies and producks you can get to help us support Mental Fitness Inc.
  • We’ll be working alongside Sanah Jivani again for this upcoming Natural Day!!

You can tweet at the ducklings here, and like us on Facebook, too! Besides that, we are looking forward to starting our new series of blog posts with topics that will inspire, encourage, and help others to become who they really want to be. Can’t really tell you more than that!! Just keep your eyes open for what’s coming!

How to survive the holidays when you run a blog or website

busiest time of the year banner

Here at Ugly Ducklings Inc, we took on the task of doing a “How to survive the holidays” series to help all of you through your holidays from various perspectives!

We definitely wanted to include a blog about surviving the holidays when you run a blog, website, social media stream, etc.

First, make sure you decide to do your biggest blog series of the year right around the busiest time of your personal life.

Then, make you ask other people to contribute to the series to help make it a success during THEIR busiest time of the year.

Finally, add a final, hopefully humourous blog to your cue, so explain to your readers that you did take on a lot for the holiday season and you’re sorry if the blogs lacked their normal touch, sparkle or consistency.

Ugly Ducklings, we love all of you so incredibly much. We are so excited for the New Year and all that we have planned to bring to Ugly Ducklings! We hope this “How to survive the holiday season” series gave you some glimmer of peace, hope, joy or survival this year.

Now, we are going to focus on surviving our own holidays… and be taking a little break from blogging. We want to thank our assistants, writing team, guest bloggers and ALL OF YOU so much for all the awesome things you do.

We DO have some amazing things planned for 2015… including an amazing raffle in support of Mental Fitness Inc that we are going to be doing soon with some amazingly donated autographed items from everyone’s favourite Jennifer Morrison! Be sure to save those Christmas pennies and check back in the New Year for more on that!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Surviving the Holidays: Remembering loved ones

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As a child, Christmas was my favourite. I loved the decorations and spending time with my family, especially my mother and grandmother. Growing up, I loved them both equally. My mother was fun and loving and often like a big sister, while my grandmother and I were close like a mother and daughter.

Last year was the first Christmas without my Grandmother; she died on January 14th 2013. We came home from the hospital to a house that still had lights and a tree. Almost two years have gone by, and I cry when I say that she has died.

Facing the holidays without a loved one is terrible, but it becomes so much more so when the relationship was centered on that holiday. To say that our relationship centered on Christmas sounds strange, but it’s true.

Growing up, Christmas was my favourite time of year. My mother and I would spend days decorating our house and then days decorating my grandmother’s house. Both would be trimmed head to toe in Christmas lights (you never saw a lamp or overhead light on in December). There were big holiday dinners and lots of time spent with family.

I have, in my brain, our entire family history through Christmas ornaments. Whose mother-in-law it came from, how many generations back we’ve owned it. My knowledge of Christmas extends into my knowledge of our family history as well, since every time we went hunting for an ornament or rearranged for the holidays, photo albums came out and I was taught every person’s face, even if it was just an uncle’s friend who came for dinner that one time. My Grandmother and mother shared with me during these times not only the history of our Christmas ornaments but family history.

I’m lucky: my first Christmas without my grandmother came right after a major life change involving relocation and was the first Christmas with a significant other. Even though it had been a year since her death, I was still heartbroken and in that year, my Christmas changed completely. Instead of a big sit down dinner on Christmas Eve, I have an aunt who hosts the same family members but in a different house and with appetizers, and goodies galore. Christmas last year sparked the beginning of a new tradition with my other half – we agreed Christmas Eve for my family, Christmas Day for his grandmother and Boxing Day with his mother.

For some people, so much change following a loss can leave you feeling more lost. For me, the only way to enjoy Christmas was remove from it so many of the ties to the past. And yet, I still hold onto bits and pieces.

I recently purchased a set of Christmas ornaments off eBay that match a set my grandmother had. Through the long journey of finding the ornament, I was once again back in her living room, being told this history of the ornaments. Instead of colourful people stories of where they came from, the stories I learned this year were about brands and dates. I discovered things about my grandmother that I didn’t know. Like that she preferred a certain brand of ornaments.

I’ve been told by family and friends that I’m lucky I got so much of my Grama. That she shared stories about herself and her family, about growing up and her life with me so easily should make me feel blessed. And it often does.

My grandmother’s decorations were scattered. Pieces here and there. I see them now and then, and I may tear up but I hold fast. The bulk of the tree ornaments have been stored by my mother until she moves into a larger space where a full tree can be erected. Some people hate that they can’t see my grandmother’s tree again in one piece. To them, the tree is a centrepiece to their childhood happiness that they miss and they wish we could rebuild it each year for everyone to enjoy.

For me, I am glad that they are the way they are. I wish they were mine, on my tree. I so selfishly wish that everything she owned belonged to me. But the truth is, I am glad that we all got a part of her. I am glad that the ornaments will never stand together on one tree. Because even if we kept her tree, and placed every ornament on it, it would never be whole. The tree would always be lacking the heart and soul of it. The voice telling you what ornament belongs where and who bought it for whom.

As the years go by, we will all build our own families. Spouses, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Nieces, nephews, and great ones too. We will take our ornaments, and our small piece of her and build up our lives. Our trees will all have heart and soul. And one day, we will be the voice telling the children what ornament belongs where and who bought it for whom.

—- Jane

 

How to survive the holidays when you LOVE the holidays!

Christmas Joy

“It’s that time of year

When the world falls in love

Every song you hear seems to say

Merry Christmas”

As you all probably know, it’s that time of year, and my favorite holiday, Christmas time!

Now, I know that not everyone is excited about this time of year, and for good reason. Christmas can be a stressful time of the year: pressure to buy gift, getting the house ready for your in-laws and other potentially stressful visitors; it can all be enough to drive anyone crazy.

But not everything about the holidays is bad.

In fact for some people, like myself, the holidays become a magical time for us. I, personally, wait all year long for this time of year.

There’s so many thing wonderful things to enjoy that only come once a year.

Everything is so beautifully decorated, especially the houses. I love to walk around my neighborhood at night and see all the decorations that people have put up. I know that Christmas lights are just colored bulbs strung together on a green wire. But to me when I see them light up, it’s like magic. I love decoration for Christmas, when I finally finish and plug all the lights in, and see the masterpiece that I’ve made.

Then there’s the Christmas movies, and TV specials. I love seeing all the TV shows air their Christmas episodes. And the movies bring back memories from when I was kid. My favorite ones are Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Home Alone.

And you can’t forget about the stores. All their displays are lit up with lights; Christmas decorations are in just about every aisle, and as you shop, Christmas music plays throughout the store.

This brings me to one of my favorite things about the season, the Christmas music!

The radio stations take a break from playing their regular music, and for the entire month, they play those holly jolly, cheery tunes that always put me in a good mood.

There’s also candy and other treats. Christmas cookies, festively decorated. Assorted chocolates, candy canes, fruit cake, and let’s not forget about hot chocolate! All these treats are always sitting on store shelves, in their Christmas edition bags or boxes.

But my most favorite part of Christmas has to be giving presents.

I know that we all have our own interpretation of what Christmas and the holidays are about, but I believe that it is about giving. And it doesn’t have to be just giving presents, it can also be giving your time, and helping someone.

As I’ve gotten older, I have enjoyed giving to others and seeing their reactions much more then I have receiving.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very exciting to get gifts, I will admit that I still get excited on Christmas Eve. But we should all remember to give.

Giving is much more rewarding than receiving, making someone happy is a wonderful and powerful gift.

So this holiday season, take the time to give to someone else. Whether it’s buying a gift, spending time with someone, or volunteering at a local shelter, you’ll make a difference in someone’s life.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and share with us some of your favorite things about Christmas. Send us a tweet, or tell us in the comments.

We can’t wait to see what you post!

Merry Christmas Ugly Ducklings!

 

— Mariah

Surviving the holidays when your religious beliefs are different from your family’s

christmas and different religious beliefs

I was going to write this entire background to how I got to where I am now with my family and life, but it occurred to me that the how isn’t important (or indeed what you’re really interested in hearing about) it’s the what I’ve learned that matters. So, here for you, are my tips on surviving the holidays when you’ve got a different religion/belief system/outlook on the universe to the rest of your family. My traditions and beliefs differ a great deal from my family – so I’ve been there!

Give your family time to get used to the fact that your ideals differ.

For me, it was a very gradual process and it has taken a good 15 years to bring them from the initial accepting that I would not go to mass with them to getting mum to join me in a Midwinter ritual last year. Chances are, unless you are converting for your romantic life partner (which is a fairly accepted reason a lot of people would understand) they may not really understand why you’ve made the choice to have different beliefs.

I know a lot of families where religion is a strong part of the family identity, so those who choose to follow their own path may find that the family feels they are being rejected, not just the family religion.

Advice on how to talk about your religious beliefs with your relatives

  • Keep telling them how important they are to you!
  • Be open about what has drawn you down your path and answer any questions they may have, but don’t overwhelm them with information.
  • Make sure you know all about your different traditions and beliefs so that you are prepared to answer any questions. The more you know and the clarity with which you can explain things will help them understand that it isn’t a phase.
  • Be prepared for them to simply dismiss it as a phase at first, part of the reason it’s taken me so long is precisely that.
  • Once you’ve been at it for several years the ‘only a phase’ argument dies out on its own, or at least it did for me.
  • Give them time to adjust to the change and don’t expect them to accept everything right away. But, by being calm and steadfast, they will come to accept your new beliefs as part of who you are, and eventually may even be curious enough to join in with yours!

christmas and different religious beliefsBe calm, not combative. Belief is a tricky thing. Changing beliefs is hard and it can be difficult to convince people you’ve done so or otherwise hold a different belief to what they thought you held. People can be willing to die for their beliefs, so this isn’t something to take lightly. If it seems like an argument is brewing, try to take a step back. As I said, your family may feel that in changing to a belief different to the one you were raised with you are rejecting them alongside their beliefs and they may become defensive. Don’t try to rush them and don’t fight with them about it. Be firm so that they know shouting about it won’t change your belief back, but always be polite. Be the person you have always been to them, that they know and love, and give them time to incorporate this new knowledge into who they know.

Continue to participate in as many family traditions as you can.

This will help them understand that although you may not celebrate the same holiday now, you can all still decorate the house together or watch that special film. In my family, I am in charge of the tree, which is a tradition my grandfather and I shared and which has been my responsibility since he died.

Decorating a tree doesn’t conflict with my being a witch as Midwinter/Yule also has decorating with greenery as part of the celebrations. Plus, it’s a special tradition for me, which I celebrate as something important in its own right.

Find parallels between your celebrations and theirs. When I first stated explaining to my family that I didn’t celebrate Christmas anymore I had to endure a lot of ‘well, we won’t bother getting you any presents then’ and similar comments. I responded by saying that Midwinter was celebrated from the solstice to 6 January and presents were exchanged at any time during those celebrations, so I was happy to give them their Midwinter presents on Christmas, if they liked. By including them in my celebrations, they stopped feeling the need to exclude me from theirs.

It’s totally okay to celebrate the bits of their holiday that you still enjoy.

Despite not celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday, I’m still a total Christmas dork. I love the music and the films and I think that’s great! Besides, it’s not like the Muppet Christmas Carol or Love Actually are really religious anyway, they’re just fun seasonal films. Christmas in particular has strong secular traditions alongside the religious ones, so I think it’s perfectly fine for me to enjoy the holiday in that context and still have my spiritual celebration on the solstice. Besides, Santa rocks and I’m not giving that dude up! He fits in pretty well with the pagan traditions, too.

Very important: Don’t bring it up at dinner.

christmas and different religious beliefsNo matter when you choose to start explaining your new (or newly revealed) beliefs to your family, the big celebratory dinner is not the time to do it. Quite aside from shocking people over the turkey is the fact that religion is one of those topics -like politics and money- which is considered bad manners to discuss at a special dinner. My family will say grace before a special meal, now, I obviously don’t believe in a Christian god, so I say my own blessing in my head, and when everyone else says ‘amen’ I say ‘blessed be’ which is the traditional witches response. In retrospect I’m kind of surprised how many years I spent doing that before anyone actually noticed.

Invite them to join you.

Once you’ve arrived in a place where your family is acceptive and supportive of your beliefs, invite them to join in. They may want to do this straight away or it may take time, that’s up to you and them. They may feel that participating in a magical ritual is not something a catholic would do or they may be excited to join you in a bonding experience.

Create new traditions.

If you’ve got to a point where everyone is really down with your different beliefs, mix them up with theirs! Maybe you say grace and a pagan blessing before dinner now or everyone opens one present on the solstice before the rest of them at Christmas. There are all sorts of ways to blend things together and there is nothing wrong with celebrating the diversity in your family!

Above all else, have fun and celebrate the holidays with your family and friends. No matter what the differences in beliefs are, this time of year is about warmth and kindness and love and everyone can celebrate that!

If you have any questions about what I’ve written, please feel free to ask!

I’m happy to help if you’ve got something specific you’d like to discuss or if you’d like more details about my experiences. It’s against the ethics of being a witch to try to convert people, which is why I haven’t discussed anything in depth, but I enjoy talking about it when requested to do so.

– Catherine