Here Comes 1000 Islands River Santa

PHOTO BY Horizon Aerial Media Services

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A season of caring: Opportunities to help others abound during holidays

Garrett Bush, Adams, selects a stuffed animal to be packed in a gift box for Operation Christmas Child in Pierrepont Manor. Volunteers at the church last month prepares more than 1,600 gift boxes for the program.

Garrett Bush, Adams, selects a stuffed animal to be packed in a gift box for Operation Christmas Child in Pierrepont Manor. Volunteers at the church last month prepares more than 1,600 gift boxes for the program.

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A few tips to stay in the holiday spirit this season

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

Alas, the holiday season is upon us, the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? If you listen to television ads isn’t that what they claim? For some it’s a time of great stress and worry and it’s not the most wonderful time of year. But have no fear as a little connection to your mind, body and spirit may just help you survive the chaos of the season. It’s is a time to spread joy to others and bring joy and inner peace to yourself, as well.


Start the season off by being kind to yourself. Plan to have fun and a lot of it. Get together with friends and actually make time to celebrate the season and maybe even find time for a holiday drink, playing board games or just getting together for a wonderful holiday lunch and visit. A little holiday visit with good friends can truly make the holiday season that much more special.

Exercise and watch your waist line. Not only will exercise help keep the holiday pounds off, but it can actually help decrease stress. Eating well can also take you into January with no weight gain. Remember the average person gains 5 to 7 pounds through holiday season. Be mindful through the season and your body will be so grateful.

Start purchasing holiday gifts early. Better yet, make some of your gifts. You can find many great ideas on Pinterest. We all know the best gifts are homemade and come from the heart.

Take a time out. Practice peace of mind. Perhaps morning meditation or yoga can set your path for a peaceful day. Better yet, take some time to be lazy and read a good book or just find a moment of quiet.

Get organized in work and play. Don’t wait until the last minute to make a deadline or to check off all your holiday “to-do lists” done. Planning is a significant key to success; don’t wait until tomorrow to get things done today.

Bring joy to others. Visit an old friend or relative. Really visit, be present and put your phone or tablet away. Sometimes we are so connected to everyone else that we lose sight of what is right in front of us. Talk, visit and simply live in the moment.

Volunteer your time and talents. Where can you spread joy this holiday season? Wrap presents at the mall, shop for a shut-in or spend some time helping out at Watertown Urban Mission or other community organizations that need help. Volunteering is wonderful and truly makes you and others feel amazing.

Make a donation small or large to a worthy organization. Every little bit helps. Never underestimate the value of your monetary gift. Surprise the person behind you at the drive-through and pay for their order. Don’t walk by a Salvation Army Kettle without a little donation. My favorite is to give a gift card to a friend or co-worker without signing your name.

Be patient with others. Our lives are busy and rushed and we are not always as patient as we should be. Patience truly is a virtue. Stop rushing and enjoy these beautiful holiday moments. Relax and you will get through the line in a store or get to your destination. Smile along the way as it makes everyone feel better.

Practice the simple act of kindness in this crazy, ruthless world in all that you do. Everyone wants to react; take time to pause and just be kind. Just laugh when life throws you a curve ball. We truly need to laugh at life a little longer a little harder. Don’t be so serious. Relax and enjoy every single holiday moment and besides practicing kindness never hurt anyone. Don’t let the holiday season stress you out. Practice kindness in all things for yourself and others. Your mind, body and spirit will certainly thank you.

I wish you and your families a very happy holiday season and the healthiest of years ahead in 2017. Seize the opportunity to start anew and make it your best year yet.

Former Lowville resident aiding relief effort from 2015 Nepal earthquake

COURTESY OF SARAH GRAHAM Former Lowville resident Sarah Graham gets blessed by a Nepalese woman while her daughter, Mia, looks on. The pair is assisting the recovery effort from an April 2015 earthquake.

COURTESY OF SARAH GRAHAM
Former Lowville resident Sarah Graham gets blessed by a Nepalese woman while her daughter, Mia, looks on. The pair is assisting the recovery effort from an April 2015 earthquake.

By STEVE VIRKLER
SVIRKLER@LOWVILLE.COM

A former Lowville resident and her daughter have traveled to Nepal to assist in the ongoing recovery effort from an April 2015 earthquake.

“The level of poverty seems to have vastly increased as the income from tourism has plummeted in the year, only just now beginning to pick up again,” Sarah Graham said by email from the capital city of Kathmandu. “Families have been displaced, some children given to orphanages as families are unable to provide for them. They have little but are still so kind and generous. It’s been a true play on the heart.”

Ms. Graham said that she and her daughter, Mia, 9, in mid-October joined a group of 30 volunteers through the Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization 108 Lives Project, which is to be “an experiment in unconditional giving.”

“We are stationed here in Kathmandu to help rebuild, distribute clothing donations, teach children in orphanages and schools, inspire and give items, food and shelter whenever possible,” said the photographer, who worked as a reporter at the Journal & Republican weekly newspaper here in 2006.

Volunteers have been teaching at Lord’s Light Academy in Kathmandu, where 10 percent of the students are supported by a 108 Lives Project affiliate charity called Quilts for Kids, as well as speaking at local orphanages and children’s homes to inspire the children to continue in education, conducting post-traumatic stress disorder children’s play therapy, organizing clothing donations and distribution, teaching yoga and the arts and creating a mural in the burn victims ward at the children’s hospital, Ms. Graham said.

The group is also working in Phulping, about eight hours from Kathmandu, to help rebuild a school and children’s home there, she said.

COURTESY OF SARAH GRAHAM Former Lowville resident Sarah Graham and her daughter, Mia, are in Nepal assisting the recovery effort from an April 2015 earthquake.

COURTESY OF SARAH GRAHAM
Former Lowville resident Sarah Graham and her daughter, Mia, are in Nepal assisting the recovery effort from an April 2015 earthquake.

“Phulping was completely destroyed in the earthquake 1.5 years ago and is still in a vast state of disrepair — leaving nearly the entire village to live in ‘tent camps’ in the outskirts of the capital, with the rest of the village living in a roofless school in the mountains to continue daily repairs,” she wrote. “The women and children of the Sherpa Refugee camp have been living in the camp for nearly 18 months after traveling three days by foot to get to the city after the earthquake.”

Ms. Graham said she had a strong connection to Nepal after visiting the mountainous country as a volunteer when she was 16 years old.

“I remember Nepal being so peaceful and beautiful and was excited to return but also nervous as I have never been a part of a second response team before,” she said.

As the trip is self-funded, a GoFundMe page has been set up at www.gofundme.com/grahamstonepal to help cover the Grahams’ expenses for travel, food and accommodations. Any extra money collected will be donated to 108 Lives.

For more information on the program, visit www.108lives.org.

Ms. Graham said she and her daughter have been living in Brisbane, Australia, but they plan to return to New York over the upcoming holiday season.

Her parents, Richard and Francine Graham, now live in the Syracuse area. Mr. Graham formerly was Lewis County attorney.