Vicki Iovine from Los Angeles, Calif., is a finalist in the Dear GMA Advice Guru Contest. Read her response to a viewer-submitted question below!
Question from Dee in Baltimore, ML.:For all of the families that have lost their jobs, lost their homes, probably unemployment checks, and probably more, how can we make it a Happy Holiday for them? This is a time of sharing and love so what are your suggestions to make this a better holiday and to look to a better new year?
Here's my Top Ten List, collected from my friends, my church, local schools and even my kids, of the best ideas for Happy Holidays and an even better New Year:
1.Clean out the closets. All of us are spending less these days and the temptation is to think that we are getting a little gypped in the gifts department. All we need to do to get over it is to look at all the stuff in our closets, drawers, garages, and under the bed to realize we have more stuff than we can ever use in 2011. Collect all the warm clothes you haven't worn in the past year, including old blankets and sleeping bags, and throw in a couple of pair of new socks and donate them to your church, community center or other missions who are desperately trying to just keep people from freezing on these cold winter nights.
2.Commit family and close friends and relatives to a Secret Santa Christmas. We always did this on Christmas Eve, and then on Christmas morning we had our regular Santa gifts and stockings. Guess what—the Eve's were always more fun and creative than the big haul the next morning. Now that I can safely assume my kids no longer believe in Santa (my youngest is 17!), we all love the sanity and specialness of the single gifts we're given by our Secret Santas. Plus, it's hysterical figuring out who gave what to whom, especially if the gift is corny or the wrong size or embarrassing and we can tease each other about it without hurting anyone's feelings. Hey, that's why there's a December 26—to exchange gifts for something that fits or we like more. We come home and share that with the group, too!
3.Adopt-A-Family. Even if you're feeling like things just can't get worse this holiday, I guarantee there's another family with bigger problems than yours. It's not too late to call public schools, local relief groups, shelters and hot meal delivery groups for those who are ill and ask them to find you a family with whom you can share the holiday spirit. One of my favorites in Los Angeles is Project Angel Food, which serves meals to those who are too ill to feed themselves; when that ill person is a mommy then you can bet her kids are suffering, too. You can invite them over, or shop for them and deliver the gifts in person. You'll feel like someone handed you a million bucks—well, maybe $1000—but the glow will last for a year.
4.Get outdoors for some vigorous walking once a day (this does NOT include stop/start strolling through malls while shopping!) with someone you love. Walking will cure the blues and clear the foggy-brain syndrome we all fall into at this frantic time. Best of all, walking leads to talking and talking leads to relieving stress, sharing a laugh, or just reminding someone why they're special to you.
5.Clean and bag aluminum cans. We all automatically recycle now, but instead of just putting your cans out for the Waste Management people, throw the cans and bottles in your car and drive to the busier areas of town; those areas where you see people going through dumpsters and cans in search of them, and give your haul to them. They earn money this way and you may offer a bigger payday with your contribution.
6.Two words: Game Night. Especially where our kids are concerned, it turns out that the most valuable gift we can give each other is our time. Be strict with yourself and do not try to squeeze in a round of Scrabble while wrapping gifts or cooking dinner. Devote at least an hour to any game they choose and play with your full attention and good humor. Fake it if you have to! You'll end up enjoying it more than anyone else.
7.Serve food on days other than Christmas Eve and Day. Movie stars, pro athletes and sex tape celebrities can be counted to show up on the "glory days," usually with full makeup and hair, to serve food to the poor and homeless. But on December 19 or January 23 or even in March, when the cameras aren't around and no one is applauding, there will still be people needing a meal and you can commit to be there then.
8.Phone a Friend. It may seem like everybody is partying and getting together during the Holidays, but most are not. This can be a very lonely time, both for us and for our friends and family. Don't text! Sit down and commit to calling one each day through the New Year. You don't have to say anything more than, "I was just sitting here thinking of you and I decided to tell you so." The rest will go naturally if you listen with real interest and don't rush.
9.Carve out two hours on a weekend or afternoon for an elderly person, whether they belong to you or not. The ordinary chores of life can be overwhelming to older people. Things like carrying out garbage, buying a few groceries or changing batteries on clocks and smoke alarms can be practically impossible for those living alone. We all get so busy that it's easy to neglect those old folks who live just a couple doors away, or even our own friends or relatives who live in the next town or city. Be as efficient as you can, but make sure to carve out some extra time at the end to just sit and talk over a cup of tea or coffee. Again, our time is the greatest and most precious gift we can give.
10.Be the first one to smile. In a store, on the street, at work or at home greet everyone you see with a smile. Even better, say something like, "Happy Holidays!" The brave and generous part is in being the first one to say it, even before you know if they are in a good mood or going to meet your good cheer with their own. Almost everyone will respond gratefully and enthusiastically. And, if you encounter someone who ignores you or makes a rude finger sign, just remember—Christmas cooties don't stick to you!