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.

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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

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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

Tips to survive the holidays when your parents are divorced

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This week, I have taken on the task of writing a post on a very painful and personal topic.

This topic is one that I’m sure you’ve all heard of, and if you haven’t gone through it, I’m sure you know someone who has.

The topic I’m talking about is Divorce.

A divorce is when two people, for any number of reasons, decide they no longer want to be married. For some people, a divorce can be a good thing, but for me and my family, it was the most traumatizing experience I’ve ever gone through.  

My once loving family that had been building and growing together suddenly got torn apart, and my life was changed forever. Fighting and hate had taken the place of where love and kindness once was.

I’ve had to grow up with the divorce; it’s surrounded my entire life. From aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, and worst of all, my own parents.

I was nine when my parents split; it was the worst thing to ever happen to me. To this day, it still affects me.

One moment, I was living in a nice house with two loving parents, and the next minute I was being dragged from everything I had known and loved, and only allowed to see one parent at a time.

I felt like I was in enemy territory whenever I visited one of parents, because they hated each other so much. No child should ever have to feel like this with their parents.

Everyone involved in a nasty divorce suffers.

When a divorce happens, it impacts everyone, like a ripple in a pond.

My parents had to begin their lives over again. Once separated, their income dropped drastically. This was due to constantly taking each other to court, and having to pay outrages amounts in child support (that one mostly affected my Dad). And because of this, we couldn’t afford to live anywhere for very long, we were constantly moving, at least once a year. This caused my mother to fall into a bit of depression, and my father started drinking. 

Surrounding friends and family became support to us. I remember for a little while, we had to live with my aunt because my mom couldn’t afford a house yet. I thought it was fun, until I realized that my Dad wouldn’t be joining us. It was in this moment that I realized how much hatred my family had towards my Dad. 

Everyone treated him like he was Voldemort. Whenever I would ask about my Dad, no one would answer me. My mother started telling me lies about him like, “he doesn’t want to see you” or “he doesn’t care” in an effort to get me to hate him too. I could never understand why. No one would tell me what was happening, and worst of all, no one ever gave me any comfort that things were going to be okay.

I believe that children suffer the most, especially around the holidays. 

Although the divorce was painful on all of us, I believe that me and my brother suffered the most.  As children grow, it’s important for them to have a sturdy foundation, so they can begin to spread their roots; when a divorce occurs, their entire world becomes flipped upside down, and the foundation becomes torn.

Holidays were the worst, sometimes we could only be with one parent, but most of my holidays consisted of waking up at one parents house opening gifts, and then being rushed to the other parents house. I wasn’t able to relax and enjoy my holiday.

How to survive the holidays when you have divorced parents

  • First off, try talking to your parents about who you want to spend the holiday with, sometimes they may be willing to work with you.
  • If you can only spend the holiday with one parent, try planning a day that you and your other parent can spend together. Go to a movie or to dinner, or celebrate the holiday early with them.
  • If you celebrate Christmas, make two different Christmas lists, and give each parent one. That way they won’t have to fight with each other about what to get you.
  • Try starting new holiday traditions with each parent. This will help make your time with each parent special.

Although it may be hard to see your parents fight with each other, especially this time of year, please remember they both love you, they are angry with each other, not you.

 I think my parents’ divorce will always impact me. With the holidays upon us, its hard knowing that I can only spend them with one parent.

I envy the kids whose parents are still together or the ones whose parents may be split up, but can still get along with each other. Every time I’m out in public and I see children with both of their parents, I feel a little sad. Even today, my parents cannot be in the same room with each other, we would be transported into a Hunger Games arena.

Growing up, my parents always told me to forgive people, to let things go, to love people even if they make you mad. But even after 12 years, they still don’t practice these things on each other. What kind of an example are they setting?

I hope one day they can forgive each other.

How to survive the holidays through recent grief or loss

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As December falls upon us, Ugly Ducklings Inc wanted to kick off the holiday season with a series called “Surviving the Holidays”. We are going to cover a variety of topics in this series.  As co-founders of Ugly Ducklings, we’ve had the amazing opportunity to interact with, build relationships with and read the stories of so many amazing individuals. We notice a common theme of loss and trauma through many of these stories and interactions.

Loss and trauma can be perpetuated by the holiday season; people who are struggling with that might need a haven to keep themselves from becoming overwhelmed. Megan Devine, the founder of Refuge in Grief, is a blogger and inspiration I’ve (Erin) followed for quite some time. I knew she would have great advice for anyone who might be struggling through grief, loss and/or trauma this holiday season.

  • Megan, thank you so much for agreeing to offer your expertise to Ugly Ducklings Inc. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and Refuge in Grief?

Sure. The surface details are that I’m a traumatic grief therapist, teach creative writing with a focus on grief and loss, and host retreats and workshops for grieving folks. I never wanted to be or do these things. In 2009, I witnessed the accidental death by drowning of my partner, Matt. He was strong, fit, healthy – three months from his 40th birthday. It was a beautiful and ordinary morning: the first sunny day after three solid weeks of rain. Refuge in Grief grew out of my experience in the vast wasteland of grief support that existed when I was first widowed. It was, and is, important to me that others coming into such intense grief find love and support, rather than platitudes and encouragement to “move on.”

  • We have many young readers and through our interactions with them, we’ve found that many of them are struggling with their first encounter with sudden-death or the loss of a loved one. What is the biggest myth you’ve found in traditional grief resources that might hinder these individuals and what can you say to shed some light on the truth?

Traditional grief resources are riddled with myth. The whole idea that grief is an aberration, or one of the “negative” emotions, that you should work hard to get yourself out of grief as quickly as possible – it’s all such a dis-service to a newly broken heart. Grief is part of love; we grieve because we love. Grief is not sign that you’re unwell or unhealthy – it’s a sign that you’ve connected deeply with someone, and you feel their absence to your core.

  • It seems that holidays can be extremely overwhelming and triggering for people who aren’t even struggling with grief or trauma, but in your experience, how are the struggles different for someone walking through recent or historical grief/loss?

The holiday season is full of grief landmines. The first holiday season without that person there, the subsequent seasons when they still aren’t there: that empty place at the table is such a visceral reminder of what you’ve lost. That is true any time of year – they are missing every day, in every season – but the holidays are such a call to family and friends, it can seem even more brutal during that time. Seeing intact families enjoying each other, knowing you are now on the outside looking in – it can feel like repeated blows to your heart and mind.

  • Can you similarly speak to the struggles that someone with historical or recent trauma may experience?

Sure. In a lot of ways, grief related to trauma is similar to grief from a sudden or out-of-order death: there’s the same sense of the world being irreparably changed, your sense of safety or control is shaken. Nothing is as it should be, and more importantly, no one else seems to notice. While the world is rejoicing and celebrating, connecting and giving, you’re on your own, inside a whole different reality. That sense of wearing a mask, your true self being invisible – it can really feel strong at this time of year, in the face of the at least pretending-to-be-happy world.

  • Kindness-to-self is a really conflicting thing in our society today, I find; it sometimes seems that people are accused of being selfish if they do take time for themselves, while there is a whole other pressure to always take care of yourself first. Do you find this discourse coming into play when talking about grief/loss/trauma?

Yeah, it’s confusing, isn’t it. On one hand, we have all these self-help and self-discovery books on self-care, valuing yourself, putting yourself first – but in practice, you get called selfish when you do these things. Like, how dare you care for yourself when I need you to do something for me? Self-care is great, and I support it unless I need you to over-ride it for me. Ugh.

Grieving people are often accused of being selfish. Of course they are. And they should be. When loss or trauma erupts into your life, your main concern is for yourself and your immediate family (if you have kids). There is simply no energy left over to take care of anyone else, or worry about their hurt feelings. This is not a usual time, and the usual rules do not apply. I’m not saying you have license to be a jerk, just that putting yourself first is not only important, it’s necessary.

I think if we imagined a physical correlate for your emotional wound – translating your pain into something others could physically see – there would be less talk of how selfish you’re being, and more focus on how to love and support you through this time. And I mean that both from the perspective of your friends, and from your own internal voice.

  • What tips can you give to someone who might feel torn or overwhelmed about their participation in traditions and activities related to the holiday season?

There’s a whole post on this very topic, but the biggest take-away is that you should do whatever feels right and true for you. Other people will be hurt or upset if you choose not to participate, but your own truth is what’s important. I don’t mean you should be rude or mean, just that saying “no” when no is what’s true – that’s self-care. That’s kindness. And you deserve that.

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