5 Sweet Ideas for Veterans Day

Next week is Veterans Day in the US, a day set aside to honor those who have served and are currently serving in the armed forces. Most of us have overwhelming feelings of gratitude for those who serve, but rarely know how to “celebrate” the day and give honor.

A friend of mine whose husband has been serving overseas over the past several years during several back-to-back tours of duty shared her thoughts about ways you and I can show our support to veterans, active duty soldiers, and their families too:

1. Visit a veteran. Bake a plate of cookies and visit a veteran and his or her family. Everybody appreciates a sweet treat and especially the genuine concern for how everyone in the family is doing. A soldier can often feel a lot of support while in active duty, but not as much after coming home, which can be a difficult time of adjustment. Keep in mind that they don’t leave the war just because they’ve come home.

2. Say thanks. When you see a member of the military or their family, take time to thank them for their service and sacrifice. It takes almost no time and effort, but it is so appreciated to know that people care and understand the sacrifice involved for the entire family.

3. Send treats and letters. When possible, send treats to an active duty soldier. When it comes to food, most soldiers are subject to cafeteria-type food or MREs. Something good to eat from back home is a wonderful and appreciated gift. Most soldiers have access to email, so take time to write a note to share your gratitude. Include photos, funny stories, or updates on people he or she knows. If you are friends with the soldier’s family, express your support for them as well.

4. Be a friend to the family back home. A soldier worries just as much about his family back home as they worry about him in a war zone. Consider “adopting” a soldier’s family and offer to help with yard work, home repairs, and other tasks that are often shared by two adults. Watching over a soldier’s family is a wonderful way to show your appreciation for someone watching out for your family elsewhere.

5. Volunteer. A great way to give back is through your local VA hospital. Contact them and ask for opportunities to serve. Most will have needs and ideas of how you can help by donating time or goods. (We at Mrs. Fields Gifts are honored to be donating hundreds of cookies to the VA hospital in Salt Lake City to be shared with patients on Veterans Day.) A little from you can mean a lot, so don’t hesitate to offer what you can.

MF VA Pics

My thanks to my friend, to her husband, and to all our active duty and veteran soldiers. Here’s hoping they all have a sweet Veterans Day!

Christmas Forget-Me-Nots

Holiday Handout Tins

Holiday Handout Tins

Can you believe it’s almost here? We’re within five short days of Christmas! Hopefully you’re wrapping up all your shopping in every sense of the word. But before you sit back with a cup of hot cocoa and an It’s a Wonderful Life movie marathon, take note. Are you sure you’ve remembered everybody? I’m a firm believer in keeping some small gifts on hand to give to those unexpected or (dare I say) forgotten gift-ees.

Today I’m sharing my list of oft forgotten people I’d smack my forehead if I forgot for the holidays. See if there’s someone on the list that you’ve (eek!) forgotten.

  • Your kids’ schoolbus driver
  • Your kids’ school teachers
  • Your kids’ principal
  • Your kids’ coaches
  • Your kids’ music teacher
  • Your postal worker
  • Your garbage collector
  • Your dog walker
  • Your babysitter
  • Your hair stylist
  • Your book club host
  • Your dog groomer
  • Your neighborhood lawn mower
  • Your elderly neighbor(s)

The size of the gift doesn’t matter—even a card can do—it’s most important to acknowledge all the people who provide service to you and your family throughout the year.

Of course, that’s only my list. Who’s the oft forgotten on your list? Share your ideas in the comments section. You might save someone else a forehead smack for Christmas!

Season's Greetings for a Small Budget

A down economy is a reality we’re all dealing with but that doesn’t have to squelch your holiday cheer, especially if you’re a business owner. If you don’t have the budget to share a traditional holiday gift with your valued clients and colleagues, here are a few amazing outside-the-box ideas to try instead.

Discounts, coupons, or special offers. Maybe you can’t shell out the money for a gift, but what about using what you already have as a gift? Can you offer a special discount or coupon for your products or services? Send it in an email with a personal holiday greeting from you. Remember, it’s a down economy for everyone, which means everyone will appreciate getting a good deal.

Barter and trade. Think about your customer list. Is there someone you know that owns a restaurant, a bakery, or a even a farm? Approach them about trading products or services for the holidays. Chances are, they’re in the same boat as you. See what you can come up with together. You might be the answer to each other’s prayers!

Host a free concert. Ask a local school or church choir to come and perform at your place of business and invite your clients and colleagues to attend. Or, ask a talented friend to accompany your party for a holiday sing-in of favorite carols. You’ll have a great time spreading holiday cheer, and you won’t have to spend much, if anything at all.

Sponsor a contest. Instead of trying to purchase individual gifts for your entire list, why not purchase one grand prize and create a contest? You could have people submit photos of their ugliest holiday sweater (and we all know how stiff the competition can get in that category) or have them submit their favorite holiday memory. They’ll have a great time competing for the prize and you’ll have a great time reviewing the entries, which you can even display in your place of business. To be fair, choose your winner randomly.

Reach out and reconnect. Never underestimate the power of a personal connection. Yes, a gift is nice, but it’s the message of the gift that matters most—what you’re really saying is I value our relationship. If you can’t convey that message with material means, send a card to say it or even pick up the phone. Let your clients and colleagues know exactly what they mean to you. You’ll be amazed at how much it will mean to both of you.

If you have other big ideas for a small budget, share them in the comments section.

How To: Decline a Thanksgiving Invitation

The tableUh-oh. You’ve been invited to Thanksgiving at your Aunt Barbara’s place, as well as your in-law’s, your best friend’s, your boss’s, your neighbor’s and your husband’s golf buddy’s, too. How do you choose where to go and how to graciously decline the other invitations?

If you are part of a “we,” then your first response to any invitation should always be, “Thank you so much for the invitation. I’ll talk to ____ about it and get back to you right away.” Your significant other should do the same. This not only shows respect for each other, but it also buys you a little time and introduces the possibility that you may have to decline. (If you are single, reply with something like, “Thank you so much for the invitation. I will let you know right away.”)

Decide (together) which invitation to accept and then respond as soon as possible to all of them. Nobody should have to wait on your response for more than a day or two.

To the ones you must decline, keep your reply short, sweet and to the point. Resist the urge to delve into all the reasons why you wish you could accept the invitation, but can’t because of this reason or that. Thank them again for their thoughtfulness to invite you, then politely let them know that you won’t be able to come.

It’s a nice idea to offer a counter-invitation with your decline. Sure, you can’t make it for Thanksgiving dinner, but how about inviting them over for turkey sandwiches and board games at your place the next day? Or dinner next week? Or Black Friday shopping? Most invitations come because somebody genuinely wants to spend time with you, so offer your face time where you can.

Agree or disagree? How do you tactfully decline a Thanksgiving invitation?

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