youth leader

Gift Guide 2018 - Gifts That Give Back

I absolutely love this time of year and I especially love coming up with gifts for those I love that will be meaningful. Every year, one of the first things I do after making my list of who I want to give to, is to search for companies that are trying to be change-makers. I am fully on board with making purchases from companies who donate money or items to help make the world a better place. This year I stumbled across a few companies I had never heard of before, but who I am super excited to support.

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#1 - Cuddle and Kind became a favorite of mine last holiday season when my youngest was gifted Charlotte the Dog from her Gram. These dolls are SO darling, soft and snuggly, and heirloom quality. I fully expect my daughter to hang onto this doll and (hopefully) one day give it to her own child. Cuddle and Kind hires artisan women in Peru and provides them with sustainable, fair trade income. The company also provides 10 meals to children in need for every single doll purchased. They added a few new options this season and I cannot wait to purchase one for my other daughter!

#2 - Hand in Hand is a new find for me this year. They have lots of fun gift sets and scent options and stocking stuffers. I think these would make great gifts for teachers! The company is on a mission to increase sanitation and help provide clean water to the children of Haiti. 100% of their donations go to Haiti and they provide hand soap and repair water wells. Something I take for granted in the USA - the ability to wash my hands properly and find clean water.

#3 - BeeLove another new to me find this year. Sweet Beginnings is the founder and maker of the Bee Love products. The offer natural raw honey and products made from it. The company hires men and women returning from incarceration to develop stable work history and learn new skills as they rebuild their lives. Great stocking stuffer ideas here, too!

#4 - The Giving Keys sells handstamped, inspirational necklaces, bracelets, earrings and keychains. Through their sales they are able to hire and employ people transitioning out of homelessness. Through employment they are able to become self reliant. I just love this idea of teaching people skills that will help them be self sustainable. I am loving the Matte Black collection.

#5 - Presentlee is a mission born out of heartbreak. The family lost their daughter due to an accidental drowning. This shop came as the silver lining to their loss. They founded the Give Presentlee Foundation which donates a portion of every sale to serving or financially supporting grieving families. They also make regular donations to children’s hospitals and charities. Head on over to their shop to see all the fun things they offer. I am particularly eyeing a couple of their t-shirts.

#6 - S’well has been around for awhile, but I am always up for new water bottles and I absolutely love these ones. S’well was born out of a desire to reduce the world’s consumption of plastic water bottles (so so bad for the environment). They partner with non-profits such as UNICEF and (RED) to help provide access to clean drinking water to people around the globe. They have so many pretty designs and styles and I love that they fit easily into the cup holders in my car (not all bottles are do)! These are great gifts for anyone - I usually buy a new one for every member of my family each year.

#7 - Quietly Being Kind is another recent find, but has my whole heart. The darling postcards are drawn by Eden and packaging and shipping is done by her older brother Isaac. This sister and brother duo created these postcards to help raise awareness to stop bullying. A portion of all sales goes to charities helping children with special needs. To read more of this heartfelt story, go check out their website! I just purchased Eden’s Christmas pack for my daughter to hand out to her friends and teachers this holiday season.

#8 - Found My Animal is for all you pet owners and lovers. They sell super cute accessories for dogs and cats (and a couple horse items). Some day, when we adopt a dog, I fully intend to purchase a collar. The company promotes animal adoption and rescue by donating to various Animal Rescue organizations.

#9 - Sudara has some of the cutest pajamas, robes and lounge pants I’ve seen. I think my 12 year old will be getting a holiday pj set this year. Sudara works to provide skills and jobs for women in India who are at risk or rescued from sex trafficking. Again, nothing can compare to self reliance for building confidence and providing security. There’s something here for everyone on your list!

#10 - TOMS have been a long time favorite for my girls. I know many adults who love their shoes, as well. My youngest will definitely be getting some sparkly mary janes this year. For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. They have added new ways they give over the years and I am so impressed with their mission to make the world a better place. They have specific collections that donate to different need based organizations. Definitely worth checking them out!

#11 - Love Your Melon has the cutest keep you warm accessories. I’ve been eyeing their beanies and scarves for years now and I think this is the year I’ll finally make a purchase. The company gives 50% of all LYM sales to the LYM Fund which helps support research and care for families of children and children fighting their battle with cancer. If you’re in need of reading a heartwarming story, head to their website.

And there you have it! I know there are so many more companies out there doing amazing things. These are just a few of my favorites right now. We don’t all have the capacity to create products, but we can all participate by shopping with those who do. My hope for my own gift shopping this year is to only purchase items with a give back.

I’d love to know which company has your heart for giving back?

Fresh Face Friday - Ashley

Back for the second edition of Fresh Face Friday and I can’t wait for you to meet Ashley. This lady knows a thing or two about girls and today’s youth. And, I mean, how darling is she and her little miniature versions?!

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(1) Tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your family.

I’m a Utah native, married to a Michigan man for the past 11 years. We currently live in the greater Detroit Metro area with two girls, ages 4 and 2 with another girl on the way in March. I love doing anything that exercises my creative abilities whether it’s crafting, photography, design, or DIY home improvement projects. I am off beat in ever sense of the phrase.

(2) What do you most look forward to raising three daughters?

Matching clothes, girls’ trips, and having them be good friends.

(3) How do you plan to develop their confidence?

I have a three pronged answer to this. First and foremost, is to be an example, which for me is really hard. I can’t expect my girls to be brave, to put themselves out there, to not feel insecure about who they are or what they look life if I can’t do it myself. And believe me, I’m not very kind to myself. My husband even tells me I am brutal. But, I’ve worked hard this year to be my own friend. I also make it a point to not talk down about myself, especially when my girls are around, or to complain about how I look. I’m sure one day they will absorb negative messages about what girls should be from the world, but they will not get it from me. It would be a dream if they can look at their mom and say ‘Hey, Mom likes herself, I can too.’

Second and third is a balance between words of affirmation and providing chances for my girls to be challenged - out of their comfort zone. Both are so important. Kids need to know that they are loved and loved as they are right now, and they need to know their strengths. I also think that giving our children opportunities to stretch and grow. They need to know their confidence doesn’t come from getting things right all the time. It’s okay to fail, to not be perfect and things worthwhile are things to work hard at - even if it takes a really long time.

(4) What role do you hope family will play in their lives? What about friends?

I hope they will discover that family and friends are the many branches of love and they will make my kids feel like they are not in this world alone. There are lots of people rooting for them.

(5) Do you have a family motto or mission statement? Why did you choose what you did?

We have a couple. “When we know better, we do better.” This came from my oldest feeling bad and saying sorry for things she didn’t know were wrong or wasn’t supposed to do. I didn’t want her to apologize since she didn’t know, so I took this quote from Maya Angelou. It’s been a good one we use frequently. The second one is “By small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.” It’s kind of similar to the first, in that it’s about improvement. Even just a little bit at a time, small things can lead to amazing things.

(6) What are your biggest fears as your girls get older?

When they learn the world can be mean and harsh; and that people will be mean and can hurt them.

(7) Anything you hope to pass on from your childhood/teen years?

I want them to have tenacity and drive. I had an early morning paper route at the age of 12. I woke up at 6:30 every morning to deliver papers. I saved money and budgeted for things that I wanted at a young age. It helped set good habits for the rest of my life.

(8) What is your biggest piece of advice for other girl parents?

Teach them to be kind.

(9) What would you like to see change in the way girls are treated for the next generation? Any ideas for accomplishing this?

I hope that we embrace girls the way they are and not what we (or society) expects them to be. My girls couldn’t be more opposite; one is super girly and the other is tomboyish and I love them both for it and don’t want either one to feel like they need to be anything other than themselves. I feel like we are getting better at this, but we need to be better at not judging other women for who they are or what decisions they make. We need to lift each other up.

(10) I firmly believe that the rising generations will change the world for good - moreso than any before. How do we support and encourage them to speak up and let them know their voices matter?

I think the best thing we can do is to listen to them and take them seriously. Both my husband and I work with the youth in our church and we are always amazed by the ideas and thoughts they have.

(11) Favorite ways to build connection with your girls?

Personal and family anecdotes. For me, I like hearing relatable stories and I feel that there is power in them. Also, to get down on their level to make eye contact and hug things out.

(12) Any favorite resources?

Know How Mom Tips on Instagram and A Friendly Affair Blog

(13) What do you hope your daughters learn from your example? From your husband?

Just to work hard and to be genuine and authentic.

(14) Fun Facts:

Favorite way to unwind? Bubble baths or skincare stuff

Books or Movies? Both

Mountains or Beach? Beach

Favorite holiday movie? It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas Vacation

What candy did you steal from your kids Halloween stash? All the Reese’s, Almond Joys and Kit Kats

Favorite Thanksgiving Pie? Apple a la mode…ALWAYS!

And now you all can love Ashley as much as I do! I have watched her in years past as she worked with the youth at church. She has a gift for relating to them and I think it is so fun watching her raise her own daughters. She’s wise, relatable, fun and beautiful.

Thanks Ashley!

Fresh Face Friday - Mary Beth

I am so excited to kick off this new series. Each Friday I will be posting an interview with someone new. For this first series of Fresh Face Friday, I’m introducing you to women who I think you’ll find really inspiring - mostly relating to the next generation of strong women.

First up, say Hi to MaryBeth. I love her and I think you will too after hearing what she has to say.

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(1) Tell everyone a little about yourself.

My name is Mary Beth. I’m 16 years old and in 11th grade. I have a twin brother who keeps me laughing and an amazing Mom and Dad who always look out for me. I run cross country and track. I love photography and enjoy going outside.

(2) What does being a friend mean to you?

Being a friend, to me means that you will stick up for each other, respect standards, listen and genuinely try to help, be a positive influence in their life and be as understanding as you can when giving advice.

(3) Why do you think it’s so hard for people to be a good friend? And why is it hard to find a good friend?

I think it can be hard for people to be a good friend because they worry about their own busy lives and forget that we are here to help each other. I think it’s hard to find a good friend, especially in high school, because many of my peers are trying to figure out what the next step in life is. And a lot of them change as they figure out what their new lists of priorities will be.

(4) What are the most important character traits to develop in yourself?

I think the most important trait to develop in myself is compassion, patience and the ability to not only listen but to understand what that person needs. I search for someone who is positive and makes me feel uplifted. Something I learned while in my awkward years of middle school was girls are mean. I did not belong in my new friend group and they were quick to point that out. After struggling through 6th grade I learned that something I needed in a friend was someone who would lift me up, not tear me down.

(5) How does technology affect friendships today?

I think friendships can benefit through technology. For example, I’m able to keep up with a friend I met at EFY in Georgia this past summer. I also think that technology can have a negative impact on the development of close friendships. Technology can spread negativity and rumors that can separate you and someone you care about. In an age of technology, I have seen friend groups get upset over posts, videos and messages. Technology can be the fine line between keeping up with someone and pushing others away.

(6) What would you like to see change with your peers?

One thing I would like to see when interacting with my peers is that we extend more forgiveness and compassion to each other. I wish that we would come to understand that we are trying to figure out this earthly experience. We all struggle with that one class we can’t wait to get out of, too much homework, and other extracurricular activities. We need to be a little less harsh on ourselves and our peers because they choose a different path than us. I would love to see that when we talk with older generations we are respectful of the challenges they have already gone through. Even though times have changed a little, they understand and remember the struggle of high school and so many other challenges the younger generation will soon encounter. I try to keep in mind that trials haven’t changed throughout the years, how old we are when we experience them and how we approach them does.

(7) What makes you a good friend?

I think that what makes me a good friend is that I try to be as bubbly and bright as I can because someone else needs to catch a little bit of my energy. I’ve always believed if you are positive more people will want to spend time around you. And I think when you’re the positive one in the friend group, people associate feeling happy and fun memories to you. And if I can make sure that one person feels happier after spending time with me, then I have been a good friend.

(8) What advice would you give to someone who feels lonely?

My advice to someone that feels lonely is to remember you have a loving Heavenly Father and Savior who care so deeply about you. These feelings of loneliness will soon pass, I promise! You are going through this because someone else might need to relate to this similar experience. Although you feel lonely now, I assure you that if you push through with a smile, turn to the Savior and serve others, it will get better.

(9) What are some effective ways to reach out to other people?

An effective way to reach out to others is write them a note or send them a text letting them know you were thinking of them. I absolutely love when I get notes in the mail, I love it so much I keep them as little reminders that people care. And that’s just a simple way to reach out to others but it ca make a big difference.

(10) Tell us about an experience when a friend helped you.

I would say that I haven’t had a consistent ‘best friend’ that I have relied on for my whole life (unless you count family) so it is hard to name a specific time one friend has helped me. Because as I have gotten older, I have realized that God knew who I needed at that exact moment. As I have seen friends come and go, I have shared many experiences with each of them and they have helped me in so many different ways. I continue to have the impression that Heavenly Father knows me and is so aware of me that he sent me a friend that he knew would best suit me through a trial or circumstance I found myself in.

(11) What or Who inspires you?

My mom inspires me.

(12) What do you hope people say about you when you’re not around?

I would hope that when I am not around, people would say how positive I am and how much I genuinely want to make others feel welcomed.

(13) Fun Facts:

Favorite Color: light pink

Favorite Hang Out: park in the summer but usually when I hang out its somewhere near food

Sweet or Salty: Sweet

Favorite Vacation: Hawaii

Summer or Winter: Summer

Pizza or Tacos: Pizza

Dream Job: speech therapist or photography

College of Choice: BYU

You guys!! Is this girl wise beyond her years or what? I love her emphasis on being positive and trying to understand where someone else is coming from. No matter your age, I think we could all use some tips on friendship and I couldn’t think of anyone better to share some advice than Mary Beth.