4 holiday memories that remind us what the season is really all about.
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General Mills

Do you have a favorite holiday memory?

For me, one in particular stands out. I was about 15, and it was another hot, island Christmas (I grew up in the Virgin Islands, so Christmas was always over 80 degrees, and every day looked like a postcard). My mom, sister, a chunk of my family, and I went over to my gran’s house to spend time with her and with each other, ushering in the season.

Gran had made her famous homemade eggnog (for which she refused to give away the recipe). The entire family crowded into the kitchen for our serving before moving to the patio, where we watched the sun go down while drinking eggnog, arguing about music, and debating the merits of Mariah Carey.


That memory is what the holidays mean to me. Everyone being together, laughing, and celebrating the season and that we’d almost made it through another year.

The gazebo in downtown Frederiksted, St. Croix, all decked out for the holidays. Image via iStock.  

The holidays mean something a little bit different to each of us, but in the kitchen and around the dinner table, we make some of our favorite memories.

General Mills has been around for 150 years and knows a thing or two about food and the holidays. They asked a few of their blogger fans to share their favorite holiday traditions, and one thing was pretty clear: Food and family are key ingredients for many of us during the holiday season. Their sweet memories — which many of us can relate to — will give you all the holiday feels.

1. Like cookie-decorating extravaganzas that each generation of kids loves.

The great cookie decorating tradition continues with Liz's kids. Image used with permission.

Liz, author of the blog Eat Move Make, remembers she and her siblings helped their mom to decorate holiday treats.

"My mom would bake cut-out cookies, and we'd decorate them. ... We took our little works of art seriously! It was so fun to find the ones we knew we had made. I distinctly remember the crunch of the colored sugars as I'd take a bite," she wrote on her blog.

"I still use the same recipe and decorating technique with my own kids since it's such a fond memory, and my kids insist to this day that those cookies be a part of their tradition every year as well."

2. And then there's the playful squabbles that take place every holiday between the same two family members.

Myrah (also know as the "Coupon Mamacita") recalls her parents' playful bickering each year as her dad attempted to carve the turkey.

Myrah and her parents in front of the Christmas tree. Image used with permission.

Myrah's dad would give carving his best effort, and her mom would poke and prod at him, pretending to be upset with his efforts. She'd tell him, "You’re ruining it!" while he asserted "It’s fine. Let me do it, " Myrah recalls on her blog. "All the hand waving that went with it was so comforting and warming to me. It was a tradition that made me smile as I watched them have their annual 'war.'"

3. Baking for Santa is a tradition that can never grow old.

Stephanie, who blogs as The Tiptoe Fairy, cherishes the moments spent with her kids baking pastries for Santa and family friends.

It's all hands on deck as Stephanie and her kids bake holiday treats. Images used with permission.

"Our favorite holiday tradition is baking together," she shares on her blog. "My  kids love helping me bake. Every year, we make tons of baked goodies for their teachers, friends, and my husband’s coworkers. We also always bake something yummy for Santa to enjoy while he’s leaving gifts. Each year I come up with something new. This year it’s Brownie Stuffed Crescent Rolls. One of these fresh out of the oven is just melt-in-your-mouth heavenly.”

4. And there's nothing like savoring a treat while the family gathers around the Christmas tree.

For Heather, author of the blog Who Needs a Cape, nothing compares to her family's picture-perfect Christmas mornings in front of the tree.

Heather's delicious apple crescent ring, a Christmas morning favorite in her family. Image used with permission.

"As cliche as it is ... Christmas morning is always just my husband, me and our kids (ok the dog is there this year too)," Heather writes. "I LOVE just spending the majority of our day in our jammies. Kids ripping through presents, my husband and I with coffee watching ... we open our gifts after the kids are off playing with whatever new thing is the best. I make something EASY but super yummy [like her apple crescent ring]. It's easy and delish and everyone in my family loves a fancy treat for Christmas Morning!"

What's your favorite holiday tradition?

Whether it's time spent relaxing with your family, stealing food off each other's dinner plates during a shared meal, or swapping stories from the past year and hopes and dreams for the year to come, we wish you a wonderful holiday.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."