7 Gifts That Can Make a Difference

7 Gifts That Can Make a Difference

Gone are the days of magical gift-giving in my family.  Though our holiday celebrations have always emphasized non-religious festivities, a delicate sense of magic could always be felt throughout the house in December. The early darkness, the sparkling lights of evening, the smell of pine wafting up the stairs in the morning, and the anticipation of a day to come which (at least in our minds) would be a near perfect mix of coziness, comforting food, unhurried conversation, and a palpable sense of well-being. 

These days our children no longer rush down the stairs to see what is under the tree, or marvel at the mystery of how Santa and his elves somehow manage to deliver all those perfectly chosen and colorfully wrapped packages to so many in so short a time.

“The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value.”

Charles Dudley Warner
US editor & essayist (1829 – 1900) 

Though it’s true that even then, the gifts for grownups were always less than MagicaI, I miss those days. Often we don’t give adults presents. And though I am certainly grateful to have a grandson to indulge, at just under two, it seems he already has everything he could possibly need or desire.  By contrast my sons and their peers, having come into peak adulthood in the midst of covid, an insane global and domestic political arena, and an increasingly impossible cost of living, honestly, could use a morale boost.

For these reasons and more, the past two years have given me additional motivation to find and offer gifts to the adults I love. More than ever, I’ll be searching for things that are most likely to make a positive difference, large or small, in their lives.  Here are some possibilities I’ve been thinking about.

  • For those who would benefit from a daily dose of comfort, perspective and peace, I highly recommend a subscription to the Waking up app:  A New Operating System for the Mind This is not just an app about meditation, it’s a full on-demand menu of rich and varied philosophy and research ( anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 hours long) that offers insight and strategies on how to most effectively cope with our human condition. In my opinion, It stands out from similar options, not just for the variety and quality of the programing, but also because it is not based on unverifiable assumptions such as the ever-popular assumption that the universe is “looking out for us and everything happens for a reason”.

  • For those who love to read, books remain a wonderful gift, especially when chosen with an intimate understanding of the reader’s interests and passions. Books also have the added value of allowing you to shop locally and to maximize the enjoyment of finding something uniquely perfect. Locally owned Literati Book Store here in Ann Arbor has an unhurried ambiance and carries an impressively varied selection of titles, making browsing both comfortable and uniquely satisfying.
  • For those who sometimes struggle to get things done, one can offer one’s time to help them with either a specific need that’s weighing on them, or with a regular task or event that they struggle to manage on their own.

  • In a similar vein, consider offering to accompany one of your more isolated friends to an event that you know will be particularly meaningful to them. Offer some specific possibilities, clear the date with them, get the tickets and be there to share in their joy.
  • Offer the gift of movement –along with your time.  For this to work you will need to choose something you know is flexible enough to be appropriate to your recipient’s level of mobility as well as your own, because a powerful component of this gift is your presence. I am partial to activities that emphasize full-body, systemic movement such as yoga or dance, but pilates and strength training, for example, may also be beneficial.  This can be in-person or via a shared live-Zoom experience. Participating together is a double bonus, it brings accountability to you both,  while offering a healthful and enjoyable shared experience with someone you care about.

  • For those who have artistic or crafting talents, a lovingly hand-made gift that can be worn or used regularly, will provide an enduring reminder of appreciation.
  • Beautiful and ecologically friendly self-care gifts from the Zero Waste Cartel will delight those who enjoy self-care products. The quality is high, and  all items are responsibly made.  I tried the zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars.  They feel and smell so wonderful that washing my hair has become a luxurious event. As an added bonus, the company’s emails include reasonable and practical ideas for becoming more ecologically friendly.

I’ve still got another few weeks, for what will most likely be an updated list. Thanks for reading and regardless of how you celebrate the holidays, may you and those you love be safe, find peace, — and maybe even a little magic.

Yours in Joyful Movement, 


Music Magic:  Ana Roxanne

Music Magic: Ana Roxanne

Photograph by Jillian Freyer

Listen to Ana Roxanne on Bandcamp.

Dancing friends: there is so much music we will never hear because the airways are inundated with mostly the same big name artists. But that music represents such a small fraction of the talent in our world! My intention here is to highlight some of the young and new, but comparatively unknown artists that I enjoy listening and dancing to.

According to Google: “Ana Roxanne Recto is an American experimental and ambient musician and singer who is “known for her blend of jazz, choral, electronic, and Hindustani sounds, and thematic exploration of self-concept and gender identity.”

Her etherial voice and unhurried melody creates a softly relaxing and meditative mood with an occasional hint of edginess. For those of you who join me in the dance, look for this tune in the “floor play” cycle of an upcoming class.

Of Filipino descent, Ana Roxanne was raised Catholic in a predominantly Filipino community in Vallejo a city in the San Francisco Bay area where she was home schooled Her musical training was predominantly classical and jazz.

Ana Roxanne, photo by Rich Lomibao

You can learn more about Ana Roxanne in this excellent writeup from
Pitchfork.com: “The Radiant Slowness of Ana Roxanne.

Small Acts of Rebellion

Small Acts of Rebellion

Should we be lucky enough to get old, it’s likely that no matter how much we think we may be prepared for the changes that await us, we will be surprised to find just how difficult it becomes to accept the changes as the years tick by. I have been fighting this battle of self-acceptance since my early 60’s but the struggle recently intensified after I lost my father a number of months before I turned 67.

Until then, I sincerely felt that all the angst about getting old was overblown. I struggled to understand the pain that my mother, for example, was experiencing. I was then and remain now, physically and mentally active and I felt fortunate to be buoyed by my friends, family and life passions thinking I’d be just fine — always.

But now I was coming face to face with the fact that I was no more immune than my mother, who’s angst I had secretly and unfairly dismissed as superficial vanity.  But regardless of how and when it is that we lose our footing, for most of us, self-acceptance and appreciation will be a continuing struggle– or if you prefer, a practice. It’s something we must continually work at, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. But hopefully always making sure to surround ourselves with those kindred spirits who have the capacity to understand and support us.

“One day you will look back and see that all along you were blooming.”

– Morgan Harper Nichols

Doris Lessing, in the Summer Before the Dark, writes a masterful description of the changes that befall us as aging women.  As it turns out, it isn’t the indignities of sagging skin and weakened bones that threatens to break us in the end. Instead, it’s our struggle with creeping invisibility and a sense of impending irrelevance which darkens our hearts and spirits gradually over time.

Some things have improved since Doris Lessing was writing. The slide towards creeping invisibility may now be more subtle, though most cultures still encourage women to make themselves smaller, quieter, and appear less brilliant. Sadly, attention (and I am not referring here to sexual attention) is gradually withdrawn from the older woman, while men tend to be privileged with more esteem and power as they age.  I can’t count the number of articles I’ve seen on how women above a certain age should dress less boldly and less colorfully.

But, in spite of our increasingly retrograde society and supreme court —  in most ways, we can still choose who we want to be, without regard to the misogynists and religious fanatics who seek to control us and our bodies.  There are countless ways, large and small that we can choose to exist on our own terms. We can keep those who are not respectful of our growth out of our lives, or at least at bay. We can choose how we look and how we dress according to what pleases us, we can take the time to prioritize our own emotional and physical health, and we can choose to become comfortable with self expression in all of its forms.

I believe that ultimate self-empowerment for all of us, young or old and regardless of gender identity, resides in our ability to feel the “rightness” of who we are. That power is not given to us.  We must seize it. And in support of that goal:  we can choose who matters to us by creating communities of kindred spirits sharing friendship, and supporting the ‘quiet acts of rebellion’ that heal us. Some of these communities already exist and, with effort, time and support, we have the power to create our own.

“This is why I hold space for judgement-free dancing in community”

There are many reasons why I hold space for us to dance within a welcoming circle.  Yes, it is powerful medicine for our brains, our bones, and our muscles.  But equally important:  it is a safe place for the rising up and strengthening of our spirits which will not be contained! Whether on Zoom, outside, or in the studio, we gather together in trust and recognition of each other’s unique beauty– no matter how old we get. And we will make ourselves small or gigantic as our spirits call to us in the moment –without apology to anyone.

Whatever other means we choose to free ourselves from the expectations of others, everything begins with body acceptance.  Whether we are older than, smaller than, larger than… different from… self love is our first and most essential rebellious act.  Our full potential depends upon it, as does our full capacity to love others. It is the foundation from which, together, we can all nurture our unique spirits, acknowledging ourselves and each other as the beautiful representations of self-healing, wisdom, and interconnectedness that we are.

Yours in Joyful Movement,