Amazing Present Ideas For the Holidays

It’s that time of the year again, the holidays are here! The nights become brighter as people put up their festive lights, and all the decorations really bring about the holiday cheer! We all get together with family and friends to really enjoy each other’s company with lots of wonderful food. It’s a great time of year to make memories, and don’t forget the presents!

Gifts are great, but they also create some extra stress for a time of the year that can already pile it on. After all, we have to focus on cooking and entertaining friends and family on top of everything else. And then, we have to get the “right” gift for our family and friends, and sometimes coming up with an idea can be difficult. Especially when you only have a couple of weeks to figure out what you want to buy them. Luckily, whether you need a big gift, or just a small stocking stuffer, this article has a great idea for you: stuffed animals. This is a present that can be great for any age, especially around the holidays.

Stuffed Animals for Kids

Getting a plush toy for a child is something of a no brainer, after all, traditionally toys are for children. And stuffed animals in particular are great for kids. They give them something fun to play with, and let them learn about animals. They can even be a great substitute when mom and dad don’t want the child to have a real pet. A lot less mess, but still a lot of fun! Even though it’s the age of technology, stuffed animals will never go out of style, and they will certainly continue to help children jump start their imaginations.

Stuffed Animals for Teenagers

Teens are the consumer generation, and there a ton of items marketed to them, but this just gives you too many choices. Make things easier by giving a stuffed animal. There’s a lot more to plush toys nowadays then just the small, traditional teddy bear. For teens, one good idea is to get them a gigantic plush toy. These big stuffed animals can be around 5 feet tall, bigger than some people! These can be a particularly great gift for a teenage girl. Not only does the sheer size of the toy make it a “wow” gift, but it becomes a conversation starter when anyone else sees it. Just imagine her bringing a gigantic teddy bear to college, her dorm mates would want to ask about it and it could be a great icebreaker. Plus, something nearly her size could become a good friend, and keep her from being lonely. That way she’d have something soft to hug when she is upset. A gigantic stuffed animal can really be a fun, and unusual gift for a teenager. Consider one the next time you have to buy a present for someone in this age group.

Stuffed Animals for Adults

It may seem like toys are an inappropriate gift for an adult, but this is not the case at all. Many adults actually collect stuffed animals, so if you have someone who’s a collector it should make things easy. But even if they are not a collector, a stuffed animal can still be a great gift for an adult. Nowadays, there are many plush toys that are made to look realistic. This realism makes them a great item that can be used in decorating a home. It could give a little something extra to a living room or a home office, just for a few examples. For example, a natural appearing stuffed animal could give a home an exotic look. Or if the adult has an African theme for a room, a stuffed lion could be the perfect addition. Or maybe they have a vacation home on the ocean, gift them with a plush dolphin to add some life and color to the d├ęcor.

So as you can see, stuffed animals are a great way to avoid holiday shopping headaches. They are appropriate for all ages, and lots of fun too! Plus, they are guaranteed to make everyone smile! Remember, when you’re stumped on your holiday gifts this season, consider a stuffed animal for those of all ages.

My Best Christmas Present Ever!

“And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 [NKJV]

Christmas is only a few weeks away so I’m getting wish lists from my children and grandchildren. I always know what my husband wants: cold hard cash or a gift certificate from his favorite train store. He has a model train hobby and needs endless cash to sustain it. But this year I might divert and surprise him with something romantic and sentimental.

I’m going way back in my memories today to a certain Christmas in my childhood. I was in grade three and a mere eight years old. I don’t remember which present lay under the tree for me or what I opened Christmas morning but I know I got what I was hoping for.

That was the Christmas I got my mom back.

My mother had been very, very sick. I was sure she was going to die. I heard whispers in church at prayer meeting. I saw the ladies’ pitying looks as they tried to smile at me. Men got up in church and prayed long prayers asking God to spare my mom and make her well.

I didn’t know why my mom was in the hospital. At first I thought she was having another baby but my older sisters assured me it wasn’t so. At home my older siblings and Dad talked quietly not wanting to worry us younger children.

So I prayed. I too asked God to heal my mom and bring her home for Christmas. My family was large. I had thirteen brothers and sisters.

A year or two ago another large family in our church had lost their mom. She died. Their father remarried so the children now had a new mom. I did not want a new mom. I loved my mom. I made all kind of promises to God – good Christian things I would do if only He would bring my mom back home to me from the hospital.

And God did bring my mom home for Christmas but only for a couple of days and then she had to go back for surgery.

But that was enough for me.

As I embraced her I was comforted and was able to let her go again. I believed that because she had been gone once and came back she would come back next time also. I was right. She became even sicker than before but she had her surgery. God healed her and many weeks later she came home to stay. God heard my prayer.

When I think of the wise men laying their treasure of gold and perfumes at Jesus feet that first Christmas season I join with them in adoration.

But that Christmas when I was eight all the wealthy material treasures that the richest kings could have laid at Jesus feet could not have compared to the treasure He gave me – my mother.

This Christmas, I encourage you to remember the special gifts Jesus has given you.

Divorce – How to Live in the Present Moment

Divorce is tough, and for a lot of people it’s hard to let go of the past. Here’s a common question I receive from my clients: “My hardest challenge is staying in the now instead of the past and future.”

Staying in the now means being fully aware, conscious and dealing with what is happening to us right here, right now. Living in the moment is where our true joy and vitality exists. Like exercising a muscle that hasn’t been used much, with some discipline and tools you can make living in the present moment the rule, rather than the exception.

Human beings are very gifted at living in both the past and the future. Our ego-mind can take us back to the past, re-examining details of our lives and re-experiencing the feelings that happened. This is where we can get trapped in the “shoulda-woulda-coulda” internal dialogue.

We also are skilled at projecting into the future. We grind through “what if this happens, then what?” scenarios. When we live in the past or future, instead of creating our lives, we are simply reacting to our lives. It gets worse, though, because each time we hold these reactive thoughts, we solidify the neural connections within our brain that generate those experiences. It’s like we continue to lay down the track within our brain circuitry to a destination we really don’t want to be heading because it leaves us powerless and unhappy.

So how do you stay in the now instead of re-living the past or forecasting the future? The most important tool is to develop an awareness of your thoughts. With awareness, you start to be able to have choices rather than staying stuck in a default where you are reacting out of the past or future. When you notice yourself living in the past, stop and pause. You can even choose to give yourself a time limit and say “OK, I’ll give myself 5 more minutes to stew about this but then I am going to move on.”

Writing in a journal or speaking them out loud to yourself to break the trance. Expressing them can help drain these repetitive thoughts from your consciousness and leave you clearer to enjoy the present moment. Take some deep, belly breaths and bring your attention only to the movement and sound of your breath. This helps to quiet your mind. Discipline yourself to look just for the baby step in this moment. Don’t get sidetracked trying to plan 50 moves ahead of where you are right now. Meditation, taking time to sit quietly in nature or mindfulness practices like yoga can help give you experiences of being in the present. A great resource on this topic is Eckhardt Tolle’s The Power of Now.

How Will the Present Economy Affect Employee Certification Training

Desperate times normally bring out the creativity in the human person. Poverty is said to be the mother of all invention. The present economic imbroglio is unnerving to the IT professional. The signs are blatantly displayed that there is a uneasiness in the technology world. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a group of workers who are currently in limbo after learning that their company was bought out by a corporate giant. Oh yes, the days of being secure in your IT job are gone. The professional has to make himself or herself valuable to the stakeholder. That acronym rings through, ROI. Being an active observer for the past eleven years, I fully understand and support the posture of the decision makers as regards maximizing their training dollar. I have witnessed abuse by a minority of employees who viewed training as a day off. Just a way to be off the job. I have seen the majority of employees really working to achieve professional advancement and then not rewarded for their effort. In some cases it was just wastage of training dollars, the money had to be used up before the next year or the department would lose it. Goodbye to those days.

The days of the easy release of training dollars for employees by employers are over. No longer will employees be allowed to peruse the corridors of training institutions with impunity. The present economic turmoil has sealed that door. The need for certified employees is still a high priority but with the uncertainty of the business environment, these dollars are not going to be wasted. The big words, RETURN ON INVESTMENT! The adult/learner/employee has to evaluate the needs of the organization to which they are affiliated and go for it.

Every business enterprise that is connected to the internet has one major concern, SECURITY! Not only are these organizations tightening their approach to information security but they are, in some cases, mandated to display to stakeholders, their security posture. Compliance laws, directives and regulations like HIPAA, SOX,and Gramm-Leach-Bliley has made it a matter of successful or failing business ventures. Today the average network employee is being exposed to a whole new daily jargon. Privacy, confidentiality, integrity, availability, due care, due diligence, prudent person and on and on. The well-known network compromises of the last decade has created an environment that defines territory. Networks are already in place. They have been designed with speed and availability as the priority service. Not security. The old 80/20 rule of networking no longer applies. The evolution of communication from closed to open has redefined networks. A few years ago, you would see a few network security books on the shelves. Today there are books on Security+; Certified Ethical Hacking; Data Forensics, CISSP just to mention a few. The employee/stakeholder has finally accepted the fact that network staff is in a battle for control. The bad dudes are out there. Networks devices, applications, processes are all vulnerable ( check the SANS.org vulnerability list).

Most students I’ve met, have the needed knowledge of IT. The deviation is moving into the security field. What I love about it is that it is dynamic. There is a new challenge everyday. The Security + certification ( Comptia) is a phenomenal start. This program introduces the student to basic concepts of information security. Cisco has recently created the CCNA Security specialization. SANS has some great classes, so does Planet 3 for the WiFi heads. The need for qualified security personnel is overwhelming, this presents an opportunity for the serious networker to advance his/her career and be rewarded for it.