Friday, December 27, 2013

Kids' Christmas Cards Rejected In Sad Move by Veterans' Hospital

There are plenty of reasons to want the festive, cheery holiday season to go on and on, but angry debate about saying " Merry Christmas!" vs. " Happy holidays!" is not one of them. This year, it seems like the tension around the topic is at an all-time high. And sadly, both those who insist on Christmas being the one and only holiday acknowledged or others who want to keep season's greetings 100 percent secular 100 percent of the time are just plain wrong.

Take, for example, a recent upsetting incident in North Texas: Grace Academy students made Christmas cards for local bedridden veterans at the VA hospital in Dallas, thanking them for their service. But the teacher heading up the effort was told the hospital "can't accept anything that says 'Merry Christmas' or 'God bless you' or any scriptural references because of all the red tape.'" Oh dear.

According to the local FOX affiliate, an official with the VA later clarified the policy, which is in the Veterans Health Administration handbook, by stating the following:

In order to be respectful of our Veterans religious beliefs, all donated holiday cards are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff led by Chaplaincy services and determined if they are appropriate (non-religious) to freely distribute to patients. After the review is complete, the holiday cards that reference religious and/or secular tones are then distributed by Chaplaincy Service on a one-on-one basis if the patient agrees to the religious reference in the holiday card donation. The holiday cards that do not contain religious and/or secular tones are distributed freely to patients across the Health Care System. We regret this process was not fully explained to this group and apologize for any misunderstanding.

What a bummer! For those poor kids and veterans! While I understand what the VA is trying to do here by respecting that veterans may be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, etc., I feel like this is a case where they're just going way too far for the sake of political correctness. Just like what reportedly happened at a Mississippi military base where soldiers were told their Christmas football event was to be called a "holiday football event." Oy! Even Lorne Michaels calls SNL's annual holiday show a "Christmas Special." And that's FINE!

Here's the thing ... As much as we want to try to make it one, this issue is not antique christmas cards and white. Public organizations shouldn't be banning mentions or greetings of Christmas! But at the same time, they should and can be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is Christian. As a Jewish American, I definitely appreciate , secular season's greetings that don't assume the recipient is Christian. But I would never begrudge anyone wanting to wish me or a veteran or anyone for that matter a "Merry Christmas!" It's a lovely sentiment!

What it boils down to: We shouldn't care what the specific greeting is, as long as it's about spreading cheer, good will, love, and not forcing religious beliefs on others. That's what this time of year and all the holidays that fall in December are supposed to be about anyway.

What do you think about what happened here with the children's Christmas cards for veterans? Do you say "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," or both?
Image via theogeo/Flickr

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Last Minute Gifts That Keep On Giving! | | Queens Gazette

Last Minute Gifts That Keep On Giving!

With only 24 days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we an all find ourselves lost in the land of last-minute gift shopping.

If you are finding it hard to come up with unique gift ideas because of the short season, or if you are having trouble finding the right gift for that hard-to-please person, you might want to consider giving a membership to a health or sports club, or one of a variety of clubs that offer gift cards in a variety of choices, from wine and beer, to jams, cheeses, to "Fruit of the Month" baskets.

Consider giving a "green gift" that gives back to the environment or a gift that helps a favorite charity. There are dozens of websites that list gifts that give back in many ways - from helping to save the life of a child to rescuing an abandoned or abused pet by donating to a local shelter.

Gifts that keep giving can include computer lessons, gym membership or gift cards to help pay for medications. Let us help with these suggestions:

  • Personalize It! Everybody has a favorite photo of friends or family members that can be printed onto a calendar, blown up to poster size or mounted in a special frame to make the perfect holiday gift. Act now and there is still plenty of time to order personalized gifts.
  • Give a gift that grows. Potted plants are a terrific idea because they are a wonderful addition to interior decoration - and they help clean the air. With so many household plants readily available you are sure to find one that's perfect for the person who has everything.
  • Give an experience. Often, it's not what's in the box, but the memory that stays with friends and family, long after the holidays. Giving an experience can make a truly meaningful gift.

Just think about what interests the person has, or an activity they've enjoyed - like a hot air balloon ride or white water rafting. If the person loves to shop, arrange for them to accompany a personal shopper for a day and let them see what it's like to shop for the stars. If the person loves to cook, purchase a spot in a class taught by Bobby Flay, or another Food Network star.

  • ."Mommy and Me" aprons make a great gift for children and all proceeds benefit St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, which provides life-saving treatment for youngsters with catastrophic illnesses. For information visit
  • Give your child a new pair of shoes and TOMS shoes will donate a matching pair for a child who has no shoes. For details visit
  • Help a family member support a pet by paying for a license or veterinary services. Give a gift card for pet food or buy toys for cats and dogs from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (beach themed christmas cards). All proceeds are used to help animals in need. For information visit
  • Give the gift of computer literacy. Pay for a course in computer instruction for any family member or friend - regardless of age.

Learning to master the Internet and other computer functions opens doors for seniors who live too far away for frequent visits.

    Give A Day Trip: If you are at a loss for just the right gift, consider buying tickets on a bus headed for Atlantic City.

You can purchase a package that includes transportation and lunch, which will also provide a voucher (in a predetermined amount) that can be exchanged at slot machines and tables at casinos.

  • Basketful of Cheer: If you are in the market for a gift for someone who is homebound or for a hard-to-please senior, consider buying a gift basket - wicker, felt, wire or other. Fill the basket with an assortment of post cards, greeting cards, thank you notes, pens, pencils, markers (different sizes and colors), wrapping paper, scotch tape, packing tape, gift tags, shipping labels, shipping paper, postage stamps and other items that can be used on a daily basis by those who love to stay in touch with friends and family without using a computer. Include a note in the basket - a reminder that mail carriers will pick up letters and parcels from people who can't get to a Post Office or a mailbox.
  • A membership to a local health club, aerobics or other class could be the perfect surprise for runners and sports enthusiasts on your list. And remember - today's seniors are more likely to run a race than rock themselves to sleep.
  • If you have an aspiring student (young or senior) on your gift list, consider prepaying for a course at a local college or specialty school. It's a thoughtful, unusual gift that might pave the way to a new beginning for someone special.
  • Consider giving a gift of your services to someone on your list who may need a little extra help.

Offer free child care to a single parent, so they can go out for an evening - or an afternoon, without worrying about the kids, offer your time to help clean out a closet, cook some meals or help with supermarket shopping or a trip to the doctor.

    You might also consider purchasing a Gift Card from a pharmacy or medical supply shop patronized by a senior friend or family member.

It's the perfect gift for seniors who are trying to meet the skyrocketing costs of prescription medications and other supplies.

Give a gift card from a hair or beauty salon, a beauty supply store or for a fill-up at a local gas station. Give a gift card for "Lunch For Two" at a local diner or restaurant, or for a year's worth of treats at a Baskin Robbins or Dunkin' Donuts shop.

Considering the current state of the economy, anyone would welcome a gift card that provides necessities - or plain good fun.

You might also consider purchasing gift cards from local supermarkets. The cards, sold in different denominations, are available at store courtesy desks. They make a perfect gift for friends and family members who are struggling to make ends meet.

The cards are available in a series of holiday designs, in denominations ranging from $10 to $100 at most major supermarkets.

One of the best gifts is still a free Library Card. It's an invitation to the world of books, free computer use, discussions and free classes.

Do something different, like purchasing a library book for just $25, in someone's name, that will be placed on the shelves of the local library. Go to for complete information.

And don't forget about the gift that keeps on giving - a subscription to the Queens Gazette. To purchase a Gazette gift subscription call 718-361-6161 or visit us online at