Monica Aldama is a glass-half-full kind of person. With the pandemic limiting the ability to connect with loved ones and cancelling cheer competitions, the Texas native and coach of Cheer fame is always looking for a fix or a silver lining. That boundless positivity (what she calls “an attitude of gratitude”) has helped her lead Navarro College’s cheerleading squad to multiple championships.

From podcast interviews to a successful stint on Dancing with the Stars, Aldama has spread her brand of cheery optimism far and wide during this tumultuous year. Now, she’s turning her attention to the holidays.

In an interview with Aldama, she shared her holiday plans, some gift recommendations, and some tips for how you, too, can have an “attitude of gratitude” this holiday season.

What are the holiday plans for you and your family this year?

Monica Aldama: We’re very close, so we just like to hang out with each other all the time. We like to spend time at home, have a big dinner and go to church. However, because of COVID, we’ve had to cancel our extended family gatherings. We’ll have to see what we’re able to participate in this year. No matter what, my husband, my kids and I will celebrate our family and the blessings we do have.

A lot of people might not be able to see their loved ones this holiday season, which makes communication even more important. Has that changed your approach to gift giving?

MA: Absolutely. One thing we’ve all learned this year is to be a little more savvy with technology. I don’t think I ever used as many video chats as I have this past year. Being able to connect with people — even if it’s on a screen — has never been more important.

Monica with her Samsung Galaxy Watch3

On that note, what gifts do you recommend for anyone still shopping?

MA: I definitely recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note20, because it’s the best of both worlds. When I was in L.A. doing Dancing with the Stars, it helped me document everything I did. Because of this phone, I have some of the best pictures and videos I’ve ever taken. Plus it has intelligent battery that learns from you to conserve energy.  That means it’s smart enough to manage my battery usage to make my phone last all day. With its fabulous S Pen, it makes you feel like you’re using a real pen when you write directly on the screen. That’s perfect for someone like me who loves to take notes.

Another great idea is the Ninja Professional Countertop Blender. My husband and I make homemade salsa pretty much every single week, which I know is a very Texas thing to do. But hey, we love it, and my blender wasn’t big enough, so I bought this. It’s the perfect size because it has a 72-ounce pitcher, so you can fit anything you need in it. It also comes with two 16-ounce cups. You can throw anything you want in there for your smoothies or your meal replacement shakes. And who doesn’t need a good blender, right?

I also recommend the Samsung Galaxy Watch3. I don’t go anywhere without this, because it’s like having a 24-hour assistant that tracks your daily activities and encourages you to stay healthy. I can record a workout, track my steps, and track my sleep. It keeps me accountable, and I love it. It’s a great gift idea, and so are the Galaxy Buds Live. I listen to a lot of podcasts, so I use these all the time. They have great sound, a comfortable fit, and they come in multiple colors, so you can fit it to your style. They black out the background noise, too.

Gift ideas from Samsung

For my last recommendation, I have to take it to the Texas roots. In my hometown of Corsicana, we have the world famous Collin Street Bakery. They’re known for their famous fruit cakes, but I’m not a fruit cake person, so I’ll be sending people my favorite: the deep dish fudge pecan pie.

What are you hoping for this Christmas? What’s on your wishlist?

MA: You know, I’m one of those people that finds so much more joy in giving the gifts than receiving. This year has been such a wild ride that I’m just very grateful for having a job and having food on the table. I couldn’t ask for anything that would make me happier than to just be with my family on Christmas day.

Cheer came out at the beginning of the year and brought you so much attention. How have you helped people who have turned to you for advice or inspiration?

 MA: It’s been a wild ride of ups and downs. Our season was cancelled weeks before we were about to go to competition, and it was pretty devastating, because our entire season leads up to this one competition. A lot of the kids were looking to me for hope, saying, ‘Everything we’ve been working towards has been cancelled. What are we supposed to be grateful for?’ But we have to think about what we have instead of what we don’t have. That’s so important in times like this, when so many people are dealing with loss. We have to be grateful for the people around us.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.