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The 10th Annual James Garfield Miracle!

Hello and welcome to year 10 (TEN?!) of the James Garfield Miracle!

As you probably know, last year got gross when we had a few scammers show up and I considered just stopping the whole thing.  Many of you offered to help this year but frankly there are already organizations who do this shit way better than us so instead of just chucking the whole thing I decided to do one more year of the miracle but instead we’d go back to the simple, small way that this started.

So, if you are struggling this year and you need help getting your child a present for Hannukau/Christmas/whateveryoucelebrate then I am ready to Santa Claus it up and drop one lovely toy at your doorstep.

To make it fair and easy for everyone I’ve selected about 100 different gifts that I’ll link to and if you need help this holiday then you can pick one gift for each of your children from that list to put on your wishlist.  They’re all around $20-35 each and there’s stuff for babies to teens…art kits, book sets, dolls, science kits.

I always use the profits I make on affiliate links to buy toys for kids so that means that if you’ve clicked on one this year then you are the reason why I’m going to be able to buy toys for at least 100 kids this year.  That is amazing and I’m so grateful.  Thank you!

The wishlists will be posted in the comments so (as always) if you want to buy a present for a stranger you totally can.  Or you can donate to Project Night Night, an amazing organization that provides a tote bag, book, stuffed animal and security blanket to homeless or displaced kids throughout the year.  I just started today off with a $500 Project Night Night donation in you honor.

SO…if you want in on this you have to read all the directions and stick to the rules or otherwise you will be set on fire and pushed out a moving plane.  Or just banned.  Or maybe I’ll just delete you comment and look at you with that disappointed look your mom gives you when she knows you’re trying but are still fucking up.  One of those.  Here are the rules:

IF YOU WANT TO GIVE:

Okay, how do I do this?

You are my special angel.  Just look in the comments and find someone who has an unfilled Wishlist.  (If there’s nothing on their list it means their toy was already bought- yay!)  Buy their present and make sure when you check out that you select their shipping address.  (It won’t give you their full address but it’ll tell you the town you’re shipping it to.)  If you try to fill a wishlist but it doesn’t give you a shipping address that means the person didn’t assign a shipping address to the list so delete their present out of your cart and go to the next wishlist.  If it says “these are duplicates.  Someone else may have already bought this” when you try to check out then someone else already bought the stuff so delete it and try another one.

But what if I want to give more?

Then find another list and fill it.  Or donate to Project Night Night.  But don’t fill lists that aren’t following the rules or are asking for more because then it gets nuts.  After Xmas we’ll  open up a post where people can ask for food or clothes or whatever but for this Jame Garfield Miracle it’s just one simple gift per child.  🙂

IF YOU NEED HELP:

You are my special angel.  Here are the things you have to know:   You have to make a BRAND NEW wishlist, you can only choose one gift per child to put on your wishlist, and it has to be a gift chosen from this list.  In your comment you need to say the city and State you’re in (it has to match what you have on your wishlist), how many kids you have, and a link to your wishlist.  (Add your country to the comment you’re outside of the US so people in your area can find you.)  Do not make multiple wish lists.  Just make one.  One of the most important things (people do this wrong every year so PLEASE do this part right) is that you have to assign a shipping address for this specific wishlist.  I’ll give you the details on setting up the wishlist below.

But what if I want something that isn’t on the list?

Sorry!   Next month we might do an open post where you can ask for clothes or food or specific stuff but for this it’s just one simple present from the list.  🙂

What if I want to make wish lists to surprise other people who I think need help?

Nope.  But you can totally tell them to come here and make their own.

I’ve never done this before.  How do I make a wishlist?

It’s pretty easy if you follow the formula.  I’ll walk you through:

On Amazon, click on Accounts & Lists and then “Create a list”.

 

Choose “wishlist”.  Name it “James Garfield 2020“, make it public, then choose “create list”.

On the right you’ll see something that says “…More”.  Click on that and choose “Manage list”.  Click on the drop-down for the shipping address and add yours.  Make sure that “keep purchased items on your list” and “don’t spoil my surprises” are NOT selected.  Save changes.

Now go to this list and pick out one present for your child.  When you have the one you want click on the “Add to list” drop down on the right (next to where the price is) and then select your “James Garfield 2020” list.  Click “view your list” to make sure it’s there.

If you have another kid just go back to the list and pick a present for them and add it to the same list.

Now you go to the comments below and leave a comment saying how many kids you have, what city and state you are, in and a link to your wishlist.  That’s it!

So for example, I would say, “Hi.  I live in San Antonio Texas, and I chose the art kit for my daughter.  Here’s my wishlist:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2ZVDARK2A03K3/ref=cm_wl_huc_view  Thanks!”

(A quick note:  The list to choose from is an influencer list which isn’t affected by wishlist buys but if you happen to buy something directly from it I’ll be using any profits to buy more toys.  The list was created by lots of amazing people who came up with diverse toys and books and I’m so grateful to everyone who gave suggestions!)

Now…to go shopping.  Happy James Garfield Day!

 

(UPDATED:  Some of the stuff on the amazon list gets sold out so if it doesn’t give you the product with prime shipping pick something else.  I’ll try to keep the list updated to remove stuff that gets sold out and replace with similar choices.)

PS.  Please please please double check before you hit the submit button that you have assigned a shipping address to your wishlist, that your comment has a link to your wishlist, the city and state you live it and the number of kids you have.

UPDATED: As always, 99% of the people here are amazing and I love you.  Unfortunately there is one person here already pretending to be many different people so it is with a heavy heart that I suggest you donate to Project Night Night or Toys for Tots.  There are still people here who are amazing and need help and want to give help and I’ll still be giving more here and there but sadly you do have to be really, really cautious even with the new rules.  Maybe next year we can find a way to run this through my bookstore so that I can actually see the exact addresses things are going to.  Who knows.  But to everyone who helped and to everyone who opened up about needs and let us have some magic I  cannot thank you enough.   The sadness I feel at the one or two scammers does not dampen the happiness I feel at being able to part of the holiday celebrations for so many.  I super crazy love you.

A little pre-James Garfield Miracle post

So.  If you’ve been here long enough you know that every year we do The James Garfield Miracle, a strange but lovely event where people who might not otherwise be able to give their kids a present during Christmas/Hanukkah/whateveryoucelebrate post their small wishlist and then strangers randomly fill their lists.  It is wonderful.  And terrible.

Wonderful because…honestly, I don’t have enough room to put all the stories here and we’ve been doing it long enough that kids who were gifted once are now gifting other families.  Some of these stories absolutely melt me and I’m so lucky to have been able to witness them or be a part of them.

And it’s terrible because of all the reasons you might expect.  Mostly because after a decade of giving, the few scammers have found us and even though there aren’t many it can feel so disheartening and exhausting to deal with.

So many of you offered to help and I cannot thank you enough for all that you do and all that you offer but that is a giant responsibility with lots of potential issues and I never want to be in a position where I (or anyone on my behalf) has to decide who needs help and who doesn’t or who has to handle money or confidential information.  And honestly there are already organizations out there who do this incredibly, like Toys for Tots and Elf Louise and a bunch of wonderful local groups and I totally encourage you to check them out right now if you need help or if you want to help.

So…will we still have The James Garfield Miracle this year?

Yes.  But in a smaller and simpler way.

In the last ten years (ten years!) the miracle grew to include clothes and food and gift certificates and tech and shoes and it got nuts.  And frankly, I understand the temptation some people had to ask for a lot because it’s scary to be without.  But this year we’re going back to the simple way this started.  Just one simple, but lovely present for each child.  Does your kid need a present?  Awesome.  Because I really want to give them one.

So this year I’m going to come up with a few different choices that I think are great presents and if you need one you can choose one of those toys to put on your list.  Or if you have two children you can pick two from the list.  You get the idea.  The main thing that I want to do is to make it to where the few scammers realize it’s not worth pretending to be people just so they can get extra play-doh.  Plus, this is simpler and less overwhelming for parents and hopefully it will be much easier for everyone.  And who knows…maybe in the future we’ll get big again.   But for now, this seems good.

It’s totally okay if you decide not to help out this year and as always we’ll also be supporting Project Night Night (which sends wonderful care packages to displaced kids throughout the year).  I have a few thousand dollars saved up to help buy toys but you should know that all of that money came from ads or affiliate links or book sales so even if you don’t spend anything know that you are helping people just by being here.

We won’t start this until next month but I do need some help now.  The first thing that I need is any suggestions for what the gifts should be.  I’m looking for substantial gifts that Prime eligible, are between $20-35 each, and that span from baby to teen but that an adult wouldn’t really be tempted to have.  (Things I’m look at are:  a magnetic building block set, a fancy art set for teens, a kids art set, a lego set, exploding kittens (the game, not actual kittens), a fluffy stuffed animal, the hardcover set of Curious George, etc.)  Any suggestions?

The second thing I need is for you to share any suggestions you might have for people who are struggling this year.  I suspect almost all of us have been there and if you are struggling please know that you are not alone.  Just being with your children is a wonderful thing and it is not a lie to say that your kids favorite toy is you.  Personally one of my favorite xmas memories was when my mom made a giant kettle of popcorn and we used a needle and thread to make giant strings of it to hang all over the house (And each other) and then my mom read us a million library books.  To this day it is one of my favorite memories.

Thank you all for listening and for supporting and for just being altogether awesome.  More on this in a week or two.

 

PLEASE SEE THE UPDATE AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS POST – THE NINTH ANNUAL JAMES GARFIELD MIRACLE

So here’s my giant update: I made it almost 10 hours before running out of money and I was so happy to be able to help so many people.  Even more wonderful was how often I’d go to fill a list and find it was already filled.  Thank you.  Thank you on behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of kids who will have a present to open this year because of you.

Usually we make it to day two or three before it starts to get frustrating and you start to see people asking for crazy amounts of things but this year things got crazy a little quicker.  I tried to delete lists where people asked for more than the limits but so I’m exhausted so right now I’m going to just put a big BUYER BEWARE sign out and  say that there are probably a lot of wonderful people in the comments who still need help and are asking for a children’s book or a doll and if you can find those people you should help them.  But be careful.  Click on the filters to see what’s already been bought.  Ignore the lists that are insanely long.  Or just skip the lists and donate to Project Night Night.  Or Toys for Tots.  Or buy toys yourself and drop then off at your local shelter or domestic abuse center.

I’m feeling a little cynical right now but I’m going to shake that off because I am lucky to be able to help every child I helped.  I’m lucky to not have to worry this year, although I know each year is precarious and fragile.  I’m lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people who care and I’m lucky to not be in such a desperate spot that I make questionable decisions.

So tonight I’m going to shake off the frustration and instead say, “thank you.”  Thank you to everyone who helped, who asked for help, who felt a stir in their heart.  I am so lucky.

And if you happen to have gotten much more than your share of presents, don’t feel guilty.  I don’t want that.  Those presents are yours to do with as you choose. And if you happen to have asked for far more than you should have, perhaps consider giving those extra presents to a shelter.  Bundle your kids up and take them with you.  Feel good about giving.  Teach your kids how great it feels.  Because it does.  I promise.

********************

 

TODAY IS THE NINTH ANNUAL JAMES GARFIELD XMAS MIRACLE, Y’ALL.

Nine years of giving toys to kids who might not otherwise get presents.  That’s insane.  Almost as insane as the fact that this all began with a giant dead boar named James Garfield.

James Garfield and I love you.

The backstory: Nine years ago I bought a very jolly but kinda f-ed up boar head (named James Garfield)  and Victor thought I was crazy so I sold some homemade Xmas cards to make up the $90 I paid for him but I made so much I decided to give the money back to parents struggling to buy a toy for their kid.

It went quickly but as soon as I ran out of cash a ton of other people stepped up and asked if they could send toys to strangers and it grew into a weird but lovely tradition.

Each year I think will be the last year but each year people who were helped in the past ask if we’ll do it again so they can give back.  For those who like something easier you can give to Project Night Night, a brilliant organization that provides a book, stuffed animal and security blanket to kids experiencing homelessness, and also to Heifer because it’s nice to be able to donate the ass end of a water buffalo on the behalf of relatives that you don’t really like.

The JGXM is one of my favorite things ever but it only works if people follow the rules and this year they’re going to be a little stricter so that we can make sure to help as many people as possible.  PLEASE read all the rules and directions because if you don’t I may have to delete your post and that would suck for everyone.

  • The JGXM is for all children (under age 18) so if you are a parent and you’re struggling this year and don’t know how you’re going to buy you kid a present you can make and submit one wishlist with presents for your kids.  The limit is $35 per kid so please don’t ask for more than that because otherwise we can’t help as many children.
  • The only exception to the $35 limit is if you have a child that really needs a new coat.  Then you can add that as well.
  • Do not delete your list after it’s been filled and don’t delete anything that’s been bought.  It messes up the process.
  • On Friday after lots of the lists have been filled you can come back and add more things to your list if you still need food/pajamas/etc.
  • I’m going to go through the details of setting up a list but here are the two things that you really need to catch so I’ll say them twice.  Only add things that are “PRIME”.  Not only will this make sure you get your toy before Xmas but also most non-Prime sellers won’t ship to wishlist addresses.  And you have to set up a brand new wishlist for this which means you MUST go in and assign a shipping address specifically to this new list or it won’t work.  Every year hundreds of people forget to do this and it’s so frustrating for them and for the people who can’t help them.

Okay, let’s get started!

If you’re in need here is what you need to do.  Please follow each step:

1.Create a list.  (On Amazon, when you’re logged in you should see “Accounts & Lists”.  Click that and choose “Create a List.”

create a list

2.  Choose “wish list”.  Name your list.  Make sure it’s “public”.

3.  Go shopping.  Pick the thing ($35  limit) you want for each child and click on the “Add to List” dropdown button to add it to your list.  Please don’t make a separate list for each child.  Just make one list for all of them.  Please click here to see an example of what it should look like when it’s done.

Add to wishlist

4.  After your list is complete click on “add comment, quantity & priority” to add a comment about which things are for which kids and what age they are.  (You can just use their initials if you want.)

Add comment telling us who the gift is for

5.  This is the part people screw up the most.  YOU MUST assign a shipping address to your wishlist.  It’s kept private so all we see is the name of your city when we send you stuff.  See how it says “None” in the shipping address box below?  Don’t do that.  Click on it and add your address.    Delete the “Don’t Spoil my surprises” check box.  Makes sure NONE of the check boxes on the bottom are checked before you save changes.  This is so important.

6.  Go to “Manage lists” and check again.  Does it show your shipping address?  Are all of the boxes unchecked?  Awesome.  Save changes.  Copy the page address and come back here to the comments.

7.  Your comment should state how many kids you have, their ages, and THE CITY YOUR PRESENTS ARE GOING TO.  This is important because if you’re from Canada, for example, I can’t buy for you without paying extra for shipping but there will be people from Canada looking for other Canadians to help and it makes it easier to match up.  It’s also necessary because if your city doesn’t match what the gift registry says at checkout we can tell there’s a mistake and not send your gifts to the wrong person.  (It happens.)

8.  Do not feel bad about asking for help.  I suspect all of us (including myself) have been in tough economic situations before and for most of us this is such a wonderful gift to be able to give.  In fact, many of the people who come here to donate received help in the past.  One day you will pay it forward.

9. One out of 1,000 people will try to game the system here.  Please don’t be that person.  There’s a limited amount of money so please don’t take away from other children.

10.  Be happy and accept my thanks for letting us make this happen.

If you want to donate:

  1. Find a wishlist.  Buy what you want.  Proceed to checkout.  A page will ask you to choose a shipping address and it’ll probably default to your address so make sure you change it to their address.  Usually it’s the first address under “Other addresses” and it’ll say something like “_________’s gift registry address”.  On the next page it’ll give you the city it’s being shipped to so you can make sure you have the right address that matches the comment.  If they don’t match or you aren’t given an address then they probably made a mistake.   Delete everything in your cart and try another list.
  2. Very rarely someone will ask for more than the limits.  If that happens I’ll try to delete their post but just be aware that there’s a lot of trust needed to do this so no worries if it’s not for you.  I try to delete anyone that I can tell is gaming the system but I also try to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially when young children are involved.  If you have doubts, skip them.
  3. Be happy and accept my thanks for letting us make this happen.

If the amount of blind trust on this is a bit much for you then a FANTASTIC alternative is Project Night Night, which I cannot recommend enough.  Last week I put my Bloggess Calendar up for sale and already $1,400 has been raised to help them help children.  You did that.  Thank you.

Another quick thing…the money I spend each year on helping kids come directly from you.  From advertisers, from people who buy my books, or use my links.  If you are a part of this community, know that today I will be giving out over $5,000 in toys because of you.  I am so incredibly lucky to be a part of this community.

Okay…let’s do this.

2nd UPDATE:  Day 2.

I love you guys so much. Sorry I got snippy last night. I was a little exhausted and overwhelmed and I always panic at how many people won’t be helped. I think next year I’m going to finally accept all the wonderful offers of help that you guys always give. Something automated perhaps, so that the wish lists can be approved first and we can make sure that people include all the info they need and that people aren’t asking for to little or too much. I know it can be complicated and I’m sorry about that. Thanks so much for being so amazing and patient.

I’m going to see if I can find some more cash and maybe drop some more gifts late this afternoon. Love!

The Eighth Annual James Garfield Miracle.

Hey.  You.

Are you struggling to buy a toy for your child this year holidays?  Are you wanting to help others?  Do you like ecstatic taxidermied heads in santa hats?  If any of these apply then you are in the right place, because today marks the eighth (EIGHTH!?) annual James Garfield Miracle.

The backstory: I bought a very jolly but kinda f-ed up boar head (named James Garfield)  and Victor thought I was crazy so I sold some homemade Xmas cards to make up the $90 I paid for him but I made so much I decided to give the money back to parents struggling to buy a toy for their kid.

James Garfield and I love you.

James Garfield and I love you.

It went quickly but as soon as I ran out of cash a ton of other people stepped up and asked if they could send toys to strangers and it grew into a weird but lovely tradition.

Each year I think will be the last year but each year people who were helped in the past ask if we’ll do it again so they can give back.  For those who like something easier you can give to Project Night Night, a brilliant organization that provides a book, stuffed animal and security blanket to kids living in shelters, and also to Heifer because it’s nice to be able to donate the ass end of a water buffalo on the behalf of relatives that you don’t really like.  As always, there are no sponsors, no rules and no one gets anything out of it except the happiness of helping total strangers.

TRUTH.

TRUTH.

So here’s how it works:  If you are struggling this year and you don’t know how you are going to buy a toy for your child (or children) then follow these instructions:

Make a wishlist on Amazon and leave a comment below (with the age of your child, a link to your wishlist and anything else you want to share).  There are a few rules that you must follow.

1.  You are not allowed to feel bad about asking for help, because all of us have struggled at some point, and people LOVE to help.  In fact, lots of people helping are ones who were helped in the past and want to pay it forward.

2. It has to be a brand new wishlist (I’ll show you how to make one below) and (to make it fair and make sure we can help as many kids as possible) you should choose under $40 in toys (per kid).  We usually stick with just toys but if your kid needs a coat or socks or something to keep them warm you can add that, but keep it to under $60 (per kid).

3. It’s REALLY important that you follow the instructions on how to set up a public wishlist (your address isn’t shown publicly to anyone) because tons of people miss a step and their list gets ignored and that sucks.

4.  Continue to be awesome.

Here are the rules for people who want to give:

1. Find a comment with a link and send a present.  If the wishlist is empty that means that the list has been filled.  YAY!  If you buy something but it doesn’t give you the option to send it to the person’s registry address that means that they messed up so delete that present from your cart and go to the next person.  You’ll know if it’s messed up because Amazon will try to send the present to your address at checkout.

2.  Continue to be awesome.

Here’s the basic FAQ because we’ve done it enough to know all the problems:

  • How do I post my wishlist so that my kid gets a present?

Follow these step-by-step instructions:

Log in to Amazon and under “Accounts & Lists” choose “Create a list”.

Select “wish list” and name your list.  Make it “Public.”  See how “keep purchased items on my list” is selected?  Don’t do that.  Uncheck it.

THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART PEOPLE ALWAYS MESS UP:

On the list you just made click on “Edit this list” and this box will pop up.  See where it says “None” on shipping address?  You have to add a shipping address here so click “None” and select “Create new” and add your shipping address there.  (Double-check after you’ve saved it by clicking on “Edit this list” again.  The box will pop up and it should show your address instead of “None” if you’ve done it correctly.)

Please make sure “keep purchased items on your list” and “Don’t spoil my surprises” are NOT checked, otherwise things that have been bought will still show up and people could buy the same thing multiple times.

Now, go shopping.  Put up to $40 in books and toys (and up to $60 in coats/socks if needed) on your wishlist.  Instead of clicking “Add to cart” choose the “Add to list” drop-down under it and select your list.  (Make sure you choose a size if you need a coat or jacket.)  If possible, stick with things that offer Prime shipping and that arrive before the holiday.

If you don’t live in America please say where you live in the comments because it’s much cheaper for Canadian people to buy for Canadians, etc.

Once you’re done go to the comments here and put a link to your wishlist.  Here’s an example I made up:

I’m really struggling this year and have 2 young kids and 1 teenager.  They like books and movies.  I live in America.  I also added an inexpensive coat and mittens for one my youngest  just in case anyone could help.  Here’s my link: amazon.com.blahblahblah

  • What should I choose for my wishlist?

Picking things that are listed as “prime” eligible is ideal because shipping is free for people with prime memberships.  Remember the limits so that we can help as many kids as we can.  Books and art supplies and movies that kids can share are all great suggestions.  Here’s an example list I made with a ton of inexpensive books, toys, etc. that you can use as inspiration to get started.

I went to buy something from a list but the list was empty.

That is actually awesome.  That means everything from their list was bought.  Whoop!

I went to buy something from a list but there wasn’t an address attached to it. 

Then delete what you have in your cart and go to the next persons list.  That happens every year.  Leave a comment letting the person know that they need to add an address.

How do I know I’m using the right address?

When you’re looking at the wishlist it will say the name of the person.  When you check out select the same person’s name’s wishlist address or registry address.  If there isn’t one then they haven’t added their address so delete your cart and try the next person.

Are you checking to make sure people are real?

Sort of.  There are some things I do to check but go with your gut.  I do delete people if I know they aren’t real or aren’t following the rules but most people won’t go to the trouble to fake an account for crayons and kid’s books so just use your best judgement.

Can I thank the person who helped me?

You won’t know who they are, but you can totally say thanks in the comments.  You’ll know if something was bought because it will disappear from your list.

What if I don’t get what was sent to me?

It happens, but rarely.  Sometimes you’ll forget to put your address and your stuff goes to the person who bought it.  Or it’s at your neighbor’s house because you weren’t there to sign for it.  Or it was sold out and you’ll get it after the holiday.  It’s rare, but it can happen.

I can’t afford to buy something but I’d like to volunteer to make something or send a card to someone.

Okay.  Just put your email on your comment and they can connect with you.

I’d like to give even more to a particular person.

Awesome!  The best way to do that is to leave your email address in a comment and ask them to contact you so you can help them directly.  Please don’t ask them to add extra stuff to their wishlist because it gets way too confusing.

I want to give 10% off a product I make or let them enter a drawing if they like my Facebook page and tweet a bunch of crap about it.

No.  Sorry.  This is not that.

Will you be my friend?

Yes.  Yes, I will.

PS. This morning I donated $1,000 to Project Night Night in your name.   And now I’m going to fill as many wish lists as I can. The money I spend on this stuff comes directly from my affiliate links and from your support in buying my books, so if you can’t afford to help just know that if you came here this year these gifts are from you too.  In the last 7 years our community has given almost $400,000 to help kids during the holidays.  That is insane, y’all.  But a good kind of insane.

The best kind of insane.

PS. Pretty please stick to the max limit per kid.  You don’t need to add extra things so there are choices because then you end up getting way over the max if people fill your whole list and since there’s a limited amount of money to help some kids might end up getting more than a hundred dollars in gifts and others get nothing.  Thanks everyone!

UPDATED: The Seventh Annual James Garfield Miracle

PLEASE SEE UPDATES BELOW!

Today marks the SEVENTH (!) annual James Garfield Miracle.  Short story: I bought a very jolly but kinda f-ed up boar head (named James Garfield)  and Victor thought I was crazy so I sold some homemade Xmas cards to make up the $90 I paid for him but I made so much I decided to give the money back to parents struggling to buy a toy for their kid.

James Garfield and I love you.

James Garfield and I love you.

It went quickly but as soon as I ran out of cash a ton of other people stepped up and asked if they could send toys to strangers and it grew into an annual event.  Each year I think will be the last year but each year people who were helped in the past ask if we’ll do it again so they can give back.  For those who like something easier we also give to Project Night Night, an organization that gives a book, stuffed animal and security blanket to kids living in shelters, and also to Heifer because it’s nice to be able to donate the ass end of a water buffalo on the behalf of relatives that you don’t really like.  As always, there are no sponsors, no rules and no one gets anything out of it except the happiness of helping total strangers.

TRUTH.

TRUTH.

So here’s how it works:  If you are struggling this year and you don’t know how you are going to buy a present for your child (or children) then do this…make a wish-list on Amazon (SEE UPDATES BELOW) and leave a comment below (with the age of your child, a link to your wish list, and anything else you want to share).

 

Here’s the basic FAQ because we’ve done it enough to know the problems:

  • How do I post my wishlist so that my kid gets a present?

Log in to Amazon and under “Account & Lists” choose “Create a list”.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-3-52-11-pm

Name your list something and choose “PUBLIC” and “Create List”:

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Find the thing you want to put on your list and then choose the list from the drop down:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-3-59-32-pm

Now you have to make sure that you’ve added a shipping address to your new wishlist so go to it and choose “list settings”:

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Then go to the list and click “view details”:

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Here you have to create a new shipping address or you won’t get anything.  YOU HAVE TO DO THIS.  If you don’t then people will see your list but can’t mail it to you.  People can’t see your full address though (just your town) so it’s still private.  This is also where you can write a description of your kids and their ages if you want to add that.  After you make it public and add your address hit “save changes”:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-4-22-19-pm

Then go to the comments here and put a link to your wishlist.  Here’s an example I made up: I’m struggling this year and have 2 young kids and 2 teenagers.  They like books and movies.  I live in America.  I also added an inexpensive coat and mittens for one my youngest  just in case you could help.  Here’s my link.

DONE!  (Adding where you live is good because it’s easier for Canadians to buy for Canadians, etc.  If you have Amazon in your country though you’re good to go.)

  • What should I choose for my wishlist?

Picking things that are listed as “prime” eligible is ideal because shipping is free for people with prime memberships.  Ideally try to limit your selections to less than $30 per kid so that we can help as many kids as we can.  Books and art supplies and movies that kids can share are all great suggestions.

Can I add a coat or warm pajamas for my kids?

It’s really just for toys but you can always ask if you really need them.

I went to buy something from a list but the list was empty.

That is actually awesome.  That means everything from their list was bought.  Whoop!

I went to buy something from a list but there wasn’t an address attached to it. 

Then delete what you have in you cart and don’t buy anything otherwise it will go to you or the next person you buy for.  That happens every year.  Leave a comment letting the person know that they need to add an address.

How do I know I’m using the right address?

When you’re looking at the wishlist it will say the name of the person.  When you check out select the same person’s name’s wishlist address or registry address.  If there isn’t one then they haven’t added their address so delete your cart and try the next person.

Are you checking to make sure people are real?

Sort of.  There are some things I do to check but go with your gut.  I do delete people if I know they aren’t real but most people won’t go to the trouble to fake an account for crayons and kid’s books so use your best judgement.

Can I thank the person who helped me?

You won’t know who they are, but you can totally say thanks in the comments.  You’ll know if something was bought because it will disappear from your list.

What if I don’t get what was sent to me?

It happens, but rarely.  Sometimes you’ll forget to put your address and your stuff goes to the person who bought it.  Or it’s at your neighbor’s house because you weren’t there to sign for it.  Or it was sold out and you’ll get it after the holiday.  It’s rare, but it can happen.

I can’t afford to buy something but I’d like to volunteer to make something or send a card to someone.

Okay.  Just put your email on your comment and they can connect with you.

I want to give 10% off a product I make or let them enter a drawing if they like my Facebook page and tweet a bunch of crap about it.

No.  Sorry.  This is not that.

Will you be my friend?

Yes.  Yes, I will.

PS. I was going to buy a water buffalo in your honor because I think “water buffalo” is fun to say but instead I’m sending a girl to school and I also donated $1,000 to Project Night Night in your name.   And now I’m going to fill as many wish lists as I can. The money I spend on this stuff comes directly from my affiliate links and your support in buying my books. so if you can’t afford to help just know that if you came here this year these gifts are from you too.  In the last 6 years we’ve given over $325,000 to help kids during the holidays.  That is insane, y’all.

LET’S DO THIS.

UPDATED, day 2: Wow, y’all.  I had earmarked $5k to give out to people needing a toy or two for a kid but so often when I clicked on a wishlist it was already filled completely.  Way to make it hard on me in the best possible way.  You are full of magic and I want to lick you all.  But I’m too tired so I’m going to just nuzzle you in my head.

A quick hint that might help if you’re looking to help people…ideally everyone would just have a toy or two and maybe a warm jacket on their list for each kid but some people just put a link to their long, running wish lists they keep all year, so to see if the person submitting the wishlist has already had items bought for their kids by others you can add this line to the end of their wishlist and it will show you what was already bought and when:

?reveal=purchased&view=null

Also, you will see some people getting quite a few toys or clothes for their kids because they submitted long lists.  Is it fair that some get more, when others ask for so little?  Not really.  Is it disheartening?  Also, not really.  Ideally everyone would get something but if our biggest issue is that some needy kids get a lot more than expected then I’d say that’s a fairly acceptable problem to have.  Also, historically day 3 is when a few scammers usually start to show up so be a bit cautious if you see people asking for things that aren’t for kids.  I try to take out the people that I can see are questionable but if you’re concerned at all you can always donate to Project Night Night above and make sure that kids in shelters get something for the holiday.   Either way, I am so incredibly lucky to be part of this community and you’ve reminded me that there is so much good in the world, and I think we all needed that after this year.  The response from those in need and those so happy to give has been incredible and I’ve cried more than twice.  Thank you for helping.  Thank you for asking.  Thank you for being you.

I love you more than strawberry cake.

Updated DAY 3:   I’m struggling to find anyone who had workable wishlist that didn’t have at least one thing filled on it.  In most cases each kid got a couple of toys or books, and I’m also seeing tiny coats and small, warm boots flying through the internets.  You done good, y’all.

A few clarifications…first off, I had quite a few people send me mortified emails because they had long wish lists and thought they were being ignored because their lists were so long they  didn’t realize that they were getting gifts until they started arriving.  I think next year if we do this we will make it simpler.  I’m still working on the details but I’m thinking something like, you have to create a  brand new wishlist for the Jame Garfield Miracle (not a running one used by family because those can be enormous and confusing) with a limit of $35 worth of toys and books per kid, and an option of adding under $100 in coats, shoes, socks or underwear if they are very needed.  That way it’s easier to fill, fairer, easier to track, and less likely to result in confusion, frustration or anything else for both givers and receivers.

By day 4 things start to get tricky so I HIGHLY suggest donating to Project Night Night if you want to help kids in need,  If you do want to give to strangers make sure to check if they’ve already been gifted (using the code above) to make sure you’re giving to those who haven’t already been helped.  I know there are always a few people who asked for a lot more than suggested and it can leave a sour taste in your mouth, but I can assure you that for every person that makes you raise a questioning eyebrow there are 100 other families that were so happy to get a single toy or a book for their child.  It’s just harder to see because those people typically post once and get their list filled immediately, and the ones who seem more questionable seem to post their lists 20 times.  I don’t think I’ve seen anyone though (even those who make you raise an eyebrow) who wasn’t asking for help in a bad situation that no-one would want to be in, and I love that we were able to help so many people and that so many people felt comfortable asking for a small bit of help.

Thanks, y’all.

Day 4:  Okay.  This year has been a big fat year of horrible bullshit for so many so it makes sense that this year we’ve had a few more problems than usual.  I don’t usually touch on drama stuff but I think I need to because of the confusion of the last day.  The James Garfield Miracle is about making sure that all children get at least one toy under the tree.  The ideal is that each kid in need gets $40 in toys or books, but we leave it open because some cases are unique and for when parents also request a coat or underwear or socks.  Every year there are some kids who get more and some who get less but usually they get $30-$100 worth of stuff and are very grateful.  For most of the people helped this year that is still the case.  There are always a few people who ask for thousands of dollars of stuff but usually they’re ignored because the givers mainly look for people who just want a few things to save the idea that santa exists.  This year we had more people than usual ask for pages of gifts and sometimes they kept adding to their lists when everything was bought.  Most people who did this were called out on it, and I understand why although I try not to judge because everyone is fighting their own battle.  Sadly, some people who received 4 or 5 gifts now feel bad for asking for help because they’ve seen the backlash.  Never feel bad for asking for help if it’s for your child.  That is not easy and takes guts.  Also, there is a huge difference between getting 4 gifts after asking twice and getting 60 gifts and continuing to ask for more.

I’m heartened that a few people have reached out to me to say that they were caught up in the relief and thrill of getting presents for their children so they kept asking for more but now feel bad that they were gifted pages and pages of gifts and have asked if they can send them to others or cancel them.  Honestly, it’s more expensive to ship most of these things so if you are one of the people who got dozens and dozens gifts and want to pass on the abundance, the very best thing you can do is to wrap up the things that you need to stay warm and to have a few toys under the tree for each of your kids and then look at all of the other gifts that were given to you and your family and (as a family) make a decision on whether to donate the excess to a homeless shelter, church, or women’s shelter before Christmas.  There are always some nearby and it’s easy to drop off (call first) and they always need toys and clothes.  Many kids in the women’s shelters were abused and had to leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs so they would so appreciate any small thing you give.  Also, it is a WONDERFUL feeling to give and a wonderful gift to your children to show them what it looks like to give to others.  You don’t have to.  I know the panic of being poor.  I know the fear that makes you cling to anything and the desperation that comes with it.  That’s the reason I started this in the first place.  But I also know that giving to those less fortunate can make you feel rich in ways you can’t imagine.  This and toys for tots are my favorite things we do each year.  It is ADDICTIVE.  As in life, this decision is entirely up to you.

I don’t know that we’ll do this again next year (I never know because I never know if I’ll have the money or health that year to do it) but if we do we’ll implement some changes to make things better for everyone.

Thank you to everyone.  To those who helped.  To those who asked for help.  To those who practiced kindness and empathy even when they were angry.  To those  who struggle.  To those who thrive.  I wish you all a happy holiday, wherever you are.

 

UPDATED: The Sixth Annual James Garfield Miracle

Did you know it’s December?  Because it is.  And I’m freaking out because where did this year go and what am I doing now that book tour is finally over?  Answer: Feeling a little lost.  Which is the perfect reason to do something awesome and also why we are going to do the 6TH ANNUAL JAMES GARFIELD MIRACLE.

What is the James Garfield Miracle?  It’s a weird thing we’ve done here each year in an effort to get a ferociously jolly taxidermied boar’s head (named James Garfield) recognized as an actual saint.  Every year I say it’ll probably be the last and every year the people who were helped the previous year email me to ask if they can be donors this year to give back what was given to them and then my heart grows eight sizes and doesn’t fit in any of my sweaters and I decide to do it again.  This year is no exception so I’m blaming you for this, wonderful-people-who-remind-me-that-this-has-become-the-truest-way-get-my-cranky-ass-into-the-holiday-spirit.

James Garfield and I love you.

James Garfield and I love you.

So this is how we do it.  If you want to help those who are struggling you can do it in a number of ways, but these are my favorite.  You can donate online to Project Night Night, which is crazy easy.  For $25 they provide a homeless child with a bag containing a blanket, book, and stuffed animal.  It is awesome.  Or you can donate to Heifer, who helps families around the world.  Or you can come here and help anyone in the online community who is having a hard time getting toys for their kids for the holidays.  It’s awesome to get help but honestly it’s even more awesome to help others, so if you need help with a few things for your kids please ask because we have all been there, y’all.  Here’s how it works:

If you need help:  Go to Amazon and create a new wish list.  Name it whatever you want.  Make it “public”.  Go to “view details” and it’ll let you adjust list settings.  This is where you have to add a shipping address for that list or else no one can send you anything.  It’s also where you can add details on the ages, gender and number of kids need a special santa this year.  Find the stuff you want and then add it to your wish list. Here’s my sample list so you can see what it looks like.  Put a link to your wish list in the comments.  No need to use your name or give any personal info but it’s helpful if you just share the ages of the kids.  Make sure you pick stuff that is in stock and it helps if it’s listed as eligible for Prime because shipping is free for a lot of us on Prime stuff.  Good examples of what to put on the list: artscrafts, books, stuffed animals, warm coats, mittens.  Bad stuff to put on the list:  video cameras, live tigers, bags of lice.  I have to approve the comments so if yours doesn’t show up for a bit that’s just because I’m probably busy eating or sleeping.  It’ll show up eventually.  (Also, if you aren’t in America please add that in your comment so that donors in your country can find you.)

If you want to help:  Go to the comment section and click on a wish list.  Buy stuff on the list.  When it asks for the shipping address just choose the person’s name.  It’ll go to that person.  Easy as pie.  (MAKE SURE YOU CHOOSE THE PERSONS ADDRESS OR IT MAY DEFAULT TO YOUR ADDRESS.  If they don’t have an address it means they haven’t added one yet and need to go in and add it.)  I have a few things built-in to make sure people aren’t gaming the system, but honestly people don’t really want to game the system over children’s scarves and hot wheels so it’s not much of a worry.  It is the best present ever because it is literally a kindness to a stranger and for a lot of us it’s like going back in time and buying things for ourselves when we were poor kids or struggling parents.  If you want to leave a comment for the person you bought for telling them what you sent and when it’ll be delivered that’s always lovely but not a requirement.

My mind is still mushy from 3 months of book tour so I’m probably missing something important here.  Oh…hang on…I remembered…

Thank you.

Thank you for sharing with others.  Thank you for allowing others to share with you. (The second one is the hardest so double thanks for that.)  And thank you for all of your support this year.  It’s because of your tremendous support this year (for my blog and book) that’s given me the opportunity to be a donor again this year, so even if you can’t help someone else this year know that if you stopped by the blog, or recommended Furiously Happy, or just left a kind word that helped me through a sometimes tough year you are a part of this small miracle.  By the way, I don’t keep great tabs on this stuff and it’s done entirely without sponsors but in the past 5 years we’ve given over a quarter of a million dollars to help children around the world and that’s pretty damn incredible.

As a special thank you to you I just sent Project Night Night packages for 40 children, and donated a live llama and some bees in your honor.  (The llama and bees are for struggling families through Heifer International, not for homeless kids.  Live bees would be a terrible present for kids.  I’m not sure why I’m having to clarify this.)

Comments will stay open until things slow down, or until we all run out of money.  I’ve got several thousand dollars to give that comes directly from the support that you’ve given me this year so I’ll be helping out as long as the money lasts.  I’ll also be randomly picking people to send signed audiobooks to because I just got a big box of them and I hate the sound of my voice, so if you get an email from me, that’s why.  Forgive the typos.  I’m still not totally recovered from travel.

Love.

UPDATED – DAY 2:  It has been a very long and very amazing two days. I’ve seen hundreds of families so happy to be helped, and hundreds of others even happier to be able to help. I’ve gone to buy special requests and found that they were already bought by others who beat me to it. I’ve seen people hurting, and others reach out to remind them how important they are.

I cried a little from joy and also a little from darkness, and then I took a deep breath and said, “That was good.” And it was.

Comments will still be left open and there will be more people who need help and more who will offer. And it never stops, which is something that I find both wonderfully exhilarating and terribly draining and a little symbolic of everything that makes up the world. Thank you for reminding me of the kindness of people. Thank you for letting me see into the background of these small miracles, because the stories you read here are amazing, but the stories I see behind the scenes are even more moving. I don’t know how much was donated to Project Night Night or Heifer yet but I checked the purchases on the first page of comments (before my head got melty from too much math) and I counted $30,000 in donations from strangers to send small comforts to children around the world. I don’t have the energy to add up all the other pages still filled with people giving out help but I know that a lot of people were given the gift of a happy holiday and a lot of people were given the gift of buying presents for a family they got to adopt. And it was amazing.

And now I’ll slip quietly back into the shadows where I feel much more comfortable. Yay for comfort. Yay for miracles. Yay for the fact that all the Doctor Who Christmas specials are streaming on Hulu this week. We win, you guys. And that’s how we take back a little bit of the light. Thanks for letting me see it.

James Garfield for President, y’all.

UPDATED: DAY 3

Hello. It’s me. It’s the end of day 3 and this is the day when things start to get overwhelming. This is when the excited and relieved comments start to come in from people receiving the small things they asked for. It’s when strange little miracles happen. It’s also when things get confusing and you realize that, just as in life, some get more than others and some slip through the cracks. It’s when I finish up my own final purchases ($7k in tiny increments going to children around the world – which comes directly from your support of me through the year so it is a present from you technically). It’s when I tend to slip away a bit because it’s also when a few people will try to mess with the system, and it only takes one or two to make you disheartened in spite of the thousands of others that are helped. I’ve had a few people contact me with concerns that a person might not be trustworthy or that someone is exaggerating or even pretending to be two people to get more gifts, and that will happen. This is the world, after all, and none of us are perfect. But I remind myself of several things. 1) It would be a terrible thing to be so desperate as to take something that would have gone to a child on Christmas or Hanukkah, and if that person is so desperate then they need our care and pity, and forgiving them and helping them is a true act of holiday spirit and generosity. (And that they’ll probably get stabbed with a fork at some time because karma does that.)  2) That regardless of the honesty of the person asking for help, most of the requests are for children’s toys and children deserve to have presents even when the people who love them go about it in not-entirely honest ways. 3) That people giving are kind, but they are also smart, and mostly the gifts given are toys and children’s books and necessities of life that will help a family in need, because most people helping can tell by the list who legitimately needs a small helping hand to make a child smile.

As always, amazing things happened here and so many people were helped in lovely ways and they helped others with their stories. You all inspired me and I thank you so much for this.

I’m going to step out now and stop doing so many checks on people, so that means there is a giant “BUYER BEWARE” after this if you decide you want to look in the comments and help. It’s slowing down and most people have been helped and I’d probably close comments but I sort of like them open because it’s so nice to see people leave comments of happiness as packages arrive.  If I were you and I just found this post and I was looking to help I’d stick with helping people who want a single small toy or children’s book, but it is totally up to you and I know there are a lot of amazing people who are in need of help and a lot of amazing people who specifically are looking to support people who remind them of people they’ve lost. And that’s lovely and the way it should be. Most people are wonderful and in need of help or in need of someone to help and that’s a very happy coincidence.  Also, Project Night Night is a PERFECT way to help a child in desperate need and I cannot recommend it enough.

I think next year if we do this again maybe we’ll just stick with books? No one can say no to a good book and anyone who’d pretend to be two people to get more books for their kid is automatically forgiven in my mind because BOOKS. Remind me of that next year when December rolls around?

Love, love and more love.

PS. If you want to see what the person asking for help has already been sent you can just add this to the end of their wish list. /ref=cm_wl_rlist_go_v?reveal=purchased

PPS.  Thank you.  For everything.  Going to pass out now.

UPDATED: DAY FOUR

And on the fourth day there was clarity.  And rest.  And possibly tuberculosis.  Long story.  But to make it short, happy comments from people receiving presents are coming in, and I’m getting sweet pictures of adorable smiling children who are already holding wrapped gifts (which I’m not sharing here because privacy is good thing) and it’s made me feel (for lack of a better term) furiously happy.  This is winding to a close but remember that Project Night Night goes all year long helping children.  Thank you for being awesome and thank you for the love you’ve shared with others.  At last count over $60k was given to help children have a good holiday and I’m sure I’m underestimating that because I stopped counting halfway through after math gave me a headache.  And now I’m off to get tested for TB.  Again.  Long story.  I wish you all a merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and Good Kwanzaa and Jolly Flying Spaghetti Monster Day or whatever else you might celebrate.  High-five, you bad-asses.

 

UPDATED:  DAY…what day is this?

Hey guys. Unfortunately a scammer has found us as of this morning. (I lied about not checking anymore. Sorry. I’m devious that way.). I’m not approving their list so it won’t be seen but now that they know how I found them they could avoid that little trap so right now I’m going to stop publishing any more lists. It’s about time to wrap it up anyway. You can still leave comments and thank yous and all that though. And thank you to everyone!

Also, if you have a fake list you should take down anything on your wish list right now. I don’t want to have to share your information and it’s shockingly easy for me to expose you and I’m sure it would be awfully embarrassing to be identified as someone who would lie for such a terrible reason.  (Fake list = pretending to be more than one person, a list asking for help for made up people.)  There were a few that were iffy before, and some that looked iffy but turned out totally legit, but this was the first that I could definitively prove was a lie so I’m shutting down all further lists as of now.

Sorry to be a downer, guys. Just want to keep this a safe place and I think we’ve mostly done that. Even with the problems that arose this was still worth it for the happy people who were helped.

Also, just as a final housekeeping thing, I’ve gotten a couple of “undeliverable” messages from Amazon because either the shipping address the person gave on their wish list was wrong or the person deleted their info.  I can’t trace who the gifts were supposed to go to because Amazon just says “gifting address hidden for privacy”.  If that happens then any money refunded to me will go to Project Night Night and any gifts forwarded to me (I’m not sure how Amazon handles that yet) will be given to Toys for Tots so that no matter what someone is helped.

Also, I’m getting some messages that are saying “Couldn’t leave your package as there was no safe place to leave it and will try again tomorrow” which is good in a way because I know last year several people never got their gifts because they had their packages stolen off porches but also not good because you may not know that your mail person is having problems delivering your package.  In the past people have left notes to the mailman on the door telling him/her to leave packages in a more hidden location (behind bushes, etc) so that’s an option.  Just wanted to let you all know because inevitably a few things don’t arrive, get lost, etc., and that’s just going to happen, but the more we can head off those issues the better.  🙂

UPDATED: DAY…where even am I?

I wasn’t going to update again but I need to because of the email this morning I got from the lovely people at Project Night Night:

“Hugs. Hugs. Hugs. Wanted to give you an update that we have received just over $20,500 since Monday which puts Night Night packages into the arms of 823 children. This is incredible and we are so grateful.”

Me too.  I love y’all.

UPDATED: James Garfield for Sainthood

SEE UPDATE BELOW

Victor:  I bought Hailey one of those shelf-elves for Christmas.

me:  Yeah, I saw that.

Victor:  And now it’s gone.

me:  Yep.

Victor:  I can only assume you’ve done something exceedingly inappropriate with it.

me:  Don’t be ridiculous.  That’s what the cats are for.

Victor:  Then where is it?

me:  On my shelf.  BEING AWESOME.

No hamsters died for this picture. It was already dead of natural causes. Promise.

 

And speaking of the holidays, if you’ve been here long enough you probably know about the Miracle(s) of James Garfield.  One came in 2010 when we all accidentally came together to raise over $42k to help get presents for kids who would not have otherwise gotten any.  It was awesome, and the next year tons of people who were helped in the past asked if we could do it again because now they were back on their feet and wanted to pass on the gift they’d received, but I couldn’t do it because I was so exhausted from running it that I got really sick.  Sorry.  I suck.  So instead in 2011 we decided to help Project Night Night, which is a program that donates over 25,000 free packages to homeless children (containing  a new security blanket, a book, a stuffed animal and a tote bag).  With our help they were able to donate the 750 packages they needed to hit all of this kids on their list for last December.

This year, Project Night Night just sent 1,000 Project Night Night packages to children affected by superstorm Sandy and they need to get another 1,000 to finish the list of homeless children who still need help.  It’s crazy simple to donate.  An entire package only costs $20.  Plus, you can donate packages as presents in the name of your crazy uncle who already has everything, or your insane aunt who was always kind of a bitch to you when you were a kid.  EVERYONE WINS.

Want to donate?  Of course you do.  Just click here and you can donate directly.  I’m starting it off by donating the first 25 bags in honor of you (the internets) for being so incredibly supportive this year.

PS.  Don’t sweat it if you can’t afford to donate this year.  You can always share the Project Night Night page online or with friends to help spread the word.  Every little bit counts.

PPS.  If we actually raise the 1000 bags needed this will be James Garfield‘s 3rd documented miracle and we can then seriously start applying for Sainthood from the Pope.  It’s going to be awesome and/or very offensively ridiculous.

PPPS.  I also bought you a water buffalo.  I hope it’s the right size because I did not keep the receipt.

I'm glad they specify that it's a "full" water buffalo, because there's nothing worse than getting an empty water buffalo (which I assume would be like a sleeping bag with hooves).

Updated 12/17/12:  I just talked to Project Night Night and we’ve raised 826 bags for children in need of comfort.  174 more to go. We can do this.  It’s $20 to fund an entire bag and you can donate right here.

 

The James Garfield Christmas (And Hanukah) Miracle Returns. Sort of.

This post is going to be crazy-ass hard to follow but it’s probably worth it, so buckle-up, buttercup.

Last year my lovely readers accidentally forced me to save Christmas by making me let them buy Christmas presents for children who might not have had any otherwise.  It’s hard to explain, so instead I’m going to send you to a link explaining how a giant, taxidermied boar’s head (named James Garfield) led to strangers donating over $40,000 to other strangers in what was probably the most baffling and profanity-filled Christmas miracle ever.  It was awesome.

This year I’ve had a lot of people ask if I’m doing the accidental-Christmas-miracle again this year and my first reaction was a resounding, “Oh, hell no.”

And that’s still my reaction.

But here’s the thing…almost all of the people asking if I’m doing the Christmas Miracle again this year are the people who were helped last year.  Except that this year they want to give back, because they were so moved by the way strangers reached out to help them last year that they want to pay it forward.

Holy crap, you people make it difficult to be all hard and grinchy.  And I suppose that’s why I love you. Grudgingly.  And completely.

But here’s the problem:  Last year I was so completely overwhelmed and exhausted that I found myself in a stress-induced rheumatoid arthritis flare-up that made me want to cut off all of my limbs.  And then I’d just be a torso.  No one wants that.

Tons of people have offered to help, but honestly the whole thing sounds suspiciously like a plot to make me lead some sort of annual charitable, good-will organization and I think I speak for all of us when I say that that is a terrible idea.  My skills are much used in buying giant metal chickens, and harassing Nathan Fillion It’s what I do.

So for the last month I’ve been thinking about what I could do to still help people while not actually having to do any work whatsoever.  And I think I have it.  Lightly organized good-deed doing.  Like, almost not organized at all.  Practically chaos, really.  Which is, I think, what you’ll all agree that I excel in.  So here’s how we’re doing The Second (and possibly last) Annual James Garfield Christmas (and Hanukkah) Miracle(s):

Miracle # 1:  Right now there are more more homeless children living in shelters in the U.S. since the Great Depression.  There’s an organization called Project Night Night that donates over 25,000 free Night Night Packages to homeless kids each year.  Each package contains a new security blanket, a children’s book and a stuffed animal, all nestled in a new canvas tote bag.  The organization needs at least 750 bags right now.  They’re $20 each, and you can sponsor a Night Night Package for a child by clicking here.

Miracle #2:  Toys for Tots.  Every year Victor and I donate a shitload of toys in my parent’s name. We take pictures of the donation and then give the pictures to my parents and thank them for teaching me the importance of giving to others.  End result:  Kids get presents and my parents feel awesome for raising me right (even though a horrible side-effect is that they haven’t gotten a proper Christmas present from us in a decade.)  But they’re cool with it because they’re not assholes.  My point is that you should consider doing this for your parents, because if they make you feel crappy about it they’re terrible people and don’t deserve proper presents anyway.  Moving on.

Miracle #3:  The Heifer Project.  Basically it’s about giving livestock and training to families around the world, because llamas are awesome.  Or something.  I don’t know.  I get confused after I see the llamas.  But I do know that they do amazing work and that you can buy a share of a goat for $10.  Which is great because you’re helping a family in need and you also get to tell your horrible aunt Frieda (who made you feel fat when you were 12 and won’t stop asking why you aren’t married yet) that for Christmas you bought a share of a goat in her honor.  The ass end.  Merry Christmas to everyone concerned.

Miracle #4:  This one is closest to last year’s bonanza, but I’m also shining a blinking “ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK” sign here because this one takes some trust.  There’s a website called Wish Upon a Hero.  The premise is that anyone can post a wish for something they need.  Sometimes people ask for encouragement, or for cards to cheer up a sick kid, or for clothes, toys, food, whatever.  If you’re someone currently in need of help, sign up and make a wish.  If you want to give help to someone in need then sign up and go here to find the kind of wish you want to grant.   It can be as simple as a word of encouragement or winter coats for children.  Your choice.

Miracle #5:  Just by reading this far you have already donated.  Tonight I’m donating $1,000 to the places above in the name of “You and everyone you know.”  And before you think this is totally selfless, please know that the $1,000 came from my online store, so technically  this money came from you anyway.  That’s why it is entirely ethical for you to tell friends and family that this year instead of giving out gifts you’re just giving to charity.  And that way you can use the money you would have spent on crap-for-people-who-don’t-need-more-crap on something more useful instead.  Like mortgages.  And pie.  And goat asses for bitter aunts who need to learn to mind their own damn business.

The fine print:   If you’re inspired to donate, please feel free to leave a comment telling us what you’re doing.  I loved seeing that stuff come in last year and I know it was inspiring to others as well.

If you leave a comment asking for help you can link to your Wish Upon a Hero post, but please don’t leave your email or contact info in your comment or it won’t get posted.

If you want to share a link of another charity that you love, or links to resources that people can use if they need help please do so.

And finally…thank you.  Thanks for listening, and for caring, and for reading this far.  

We’re all in this together, people.  

UPDATED:  I just bought a llama.  In a shopping cart.  Technology is weird.  And awesome.

It’s a nice day for a (James Garfield) wedding.

If you’re a first-time reader this will all seem incredibly strange and disorienting and you should probably just come back tomorrow, but if you know the mighty saga of  James Garfield then totally stick around.

The glorious taxidermied head of James Garfield has been responsible for a great many unintentional social-media miracles since the day I forced Victor to rescue him from dismemberment (not the least of which was the time when he inadvertently raised $42,000 to help people buy Christmas gifts for their kids and then ended up on Canadian TV for some reason) but today he adds “accidental matchmaker” to his list of accomplishments.

Once, years ago, an adorable man (and dedicated reader) bought a James Garfield holiday card for a beautiful woman (also a long-time reader) with the express intent of catching her attention.  At the time I mentioned to him that sending a mildly profane holiday card with a dead boar head on it was probably the worst seduction plan ever invented, but he was adamant that it would work.   And apparently he was right, because a few minutes ago that same man asked that same woman to be his wife. And she just said “yes”.

Congrats to the bad-ass couple.

This is supposed to be a picture of James Garfield dressed for a wedding. Victor pointed out that James Garfield is a dude so he should be dressed in a tux and top-hat rather than a veil but I don’t believe in gender-sterotyping.  Plus, I don’t have a wild boar tux just laying around the house.

I’m not made of tuxedos, Victor.

James Garfield is a goddamn saint. Almost

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and the completely inadvertent Christmas miracle is still going on over here between people who are now matching themselves up since I’ve officially hit the brick wall of exhaustion.  If you want to help or need help you can comment by clicking here but for now lets get back to the ridiculousness fluffiness and offensive weirdness that probably none of us have missed at all.

I’ve been so swamped matching donors with people in need that yesterday was the first day that I got to do my own Christmas shopping and I’d ordered Hailey a Rapunzel doll but it didn’t come in so I went to Target and the Rapunzel walls were *totally* bare and I was all “THE COBBLER’S CHILDREN HAVE NO SHOES” but then my mom was all “OMG, just get her a barbie and we’ll tell her it’s Rapunzel, drama queen. She’s six, for God’s sake” so we picked out the least slutty barbie we could fine and Christmas was saved.

Then I got a call from this big Canadian network who asked if I could come to a studio for a live interview that night and I was all “I’m not good with geography but I’m pretty sure I can’t drive from Texas to Canada in 3 hours” and she said that she’d found a CBS station nearby that would do a live feed and I said I’d go but only if James Garfield could be interviewed with me because he was the one who started this whole thing and she didn’t exactly say no so Victor and I took off with the head of James Garfield to the news station.  James Garfield looked very happy as always but Victor kept glaring and sighing at me as he no doubt wondered how his life got like this and he kept asking if I was sure that all the news people knew I was bringing a giant boar head to be interviewed  and I was all “Of course they do” but I kept looking off when I said it because Victor can usually tell when I’m lying.  Then Victor carried James Garfield’s giant head into the newsroom and all the anchors were like “Um…so are you doing a story on taxidermy?” and I was all “No, this is the head of James Garfield and he’s performed two Christmas miracles.  If he performs one more we’re going to petition the Pope to give him sainthood.  True story.” and they were all “Of course you are” and Victor was like “STOP TALKING. YOU SOUND LIKE A CRAZY PERSON” and I was all “There is nothing I just said that isn’t the truth” and then the anchors started to walk off and I was all “He started a movement that gave $42,000 to people who needed Christmas Miracles!  CANADIAN TV IS SCOOPING YOU!” and then they nicely nodded and left to call security probably.

Quick note for anyone who hasn’t been here forever. James Garfield is what I named the giant, tattered, taxidermied head of a wild boar that I made my husband buy at an estate sale last year because James Garfield looked SO DAMN HAPPY.  Then every time Victor would walk in my office he’d huff that he couldn’t believe I’d spent $90 on James Garfield so I decided to make back the money to get Victor to shut up so I offered on my blog to make homemade Christmas Cards with James Garfield’s face on them saying things like “OH IT JUST GOT ALL KINDS OF MOTHERFUCKIN’ FESTIVE IN HERE, Y’ALL” for $10 each.  I made back the $90 and made so much extra that I got carpal tunnel and was able to donate a few hundred dollars to a fellow blogger recovering from a stroke.  She wasn’t doing well at the time but now she’s kicking as much ass as you can from a wheelchair (which is a shitload, apparently).  Probably due to the James Garfield cards if I had to give my professional medical opinion.  MIRACLE NUMBER ONE.

Then this year people asked for James Garfield cards but I was too tired to make them so I just put them on zazzle and I was shocked to find that $600 of cards were sold so Victor and I decided that since we were so lucky this year we’d give $30 gift certificates to the first 20 people who left a comment saying they needed help getting Christmas for their children.  When more requests flooded in a reader stepped up and offered to help the 21st person and then another and another and then it avalanched into hundred of strangers sending hundreds of strangers over $42,000 in toys, food, car seats and more.    MIRACLE NUMBER TWO.

And that’s why James Garfield was with me when I went on air and what’s really awesome is that I did the entire interview standing next to the enthusiastically jolly head of James Garfield and no one ever explained why they hell he was there. So everyone watching in Canada who didn’t know the backstory was all “Why is there a giant boar head there and why is that girl introducing him as James Garfield?”  Even the host seemed a bit baffled.  WHICH WAS AWESOME.

You can watch the video of the whole thing by clicking here.

Also, when I’m really, really exhausted my eyes get dry and stick together and it looks like I have a nervous tick or that I’m sending morse code signals to terrorists.  I assure you, I don’t even know morse code.

PS.  From my sister:  “I always knew one day you would make International news, but I always assumed it would involve some sort of horrific accident.”  Dude. You and me both.