Archive for December, 2010
The big kahuna, the perennial heavyweight champ of New Year’s Resolutions is losing weight. Fats off to anyone who vows to make this the year they will lose unwanted weight. It isn’t easy, but it’s a worthwhile goal. To show my support, I’ve compiled a list of my own suggestions how to end the year healthier and happier.
I’m no diet guru, but I shed some weight this year. Throw out the diet books, here’s the plan that worked for me.
To begin with you’ll have to be ready to make some changes and eliminate deeply ingrained unhealthy habits you’ve practiced. For this reason, the first step may seem drastic, but I assure you it’s necessary.
It’s hard at first, but you have to get rid of the things that are weighing you down. It’s time to let go of hurts and bitterness. It’s an out-with-the-old catharsis. Flush away the grudges and bad feelings. Once you’ve done this, I assure you’ll feel lighter.
2. LOSE IT!
Get rid of people and things in your life which weigh you down. Distance yourself from high-drama relationships and conflicts. Leave the heaviness behind. You’ll notice an immediate spike in your energy once you stop allowing others to drain it.
Once you’ve started getting rid of unpleasant things, you’ll develop an appetite for healthier things. Feed your spirit. Enjoy old friends and make new ones.
Smaller portions are very satisfying. Share what you have. In no time, you’ll be amazed to discover how much you have to left over.
5. GET ACTIVE
Get in the habit of stretching. Go outside your comfort zone to explore new possibilities and try new things. Exercise your head & heart by going after a new pursuit.
6. ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL
Avoid over-processed thoughts and toxins. If you can’t eliminate all the toxic people in your life, at least try to avoid them. Travel lightly through your world. Don’t carry everyone’s baggage–and reduce your own. Stop looking for offenses where there aren‘t any. Once you’ve practiced this, you can watch the heaviness roll off you.
It’s all good. In no time at all, you’ll be lighter, healthier and happier. Here’s wishing you a year of lightness!
Religions have days or rituals which call for deep reflection and assessment of one‘s deeds. Yom Kippur , the Jewish Day of Atonement is one on which believers reflect on the things for which they need to make amends. The celebration of Lent is a long season in which believers are called to consider their failings. For me, the greatest time of introspection and self-examination is the period between Christmas and the new year. Though not a religious holiday, it is a time when the spiritual and the secular are woven closely together–not unlike the rest of life.
The advent of a new year is time for measuring failings, quantifying accomplishments, remembering triumphs and resolving to improve in the coming year. It is also a somber reminder that life passes without our consent, regardless of how we live.
This year, was one in which I had a sense of having lost seasons of time I could never reclaim. The time was lost because of things I allowed to hold me back. In the hopes of having less to lament at the end of this year, I tried to eliminate more obstacles and seize more opportunities. Doing this was rather like entering an unfamiliar building. Without gaining access to the entrance, everything inside is inaccessible. However, after the first door is opened there are many more to unlock and explore.
One door which held tremendous adventure was the one wherein de blog was born. Though it was conceived months before its February debut, it’s evolution in 2010, was full of surprises.
A blog I follow calls itself the most “arrogant” blog. Though arrogance sounds like a negative thing, I am convinced it is impossible to blog without a measure of arrogance. It is arrogance which allows one to believe they will write something worth reading. In that sense, arrogance is a bit like faith. When I began de blog, I had more ignorance than arrogance–especially because I had no idea how much arrogance I would have to cultivate. The ignorance served me well. It was the necessary impediment which kept me from being intimidated by the talents of countless other bloggers.
I began with a quarterly outline of ideas and all kinds of plans about how things would flesh-out. I had goals and expectations. First, I would write no less than 53 posts–at least one per week and then hope to get people outside my immediate family to read them. When. and if, I were to ever reach 500 readers, I had promised myself an iPhone. To my surprise, the plans I had were useless, as de blog charted it’s own course.
With only six weeks until the first anniversary of de blog, There have been more than 100 posts. At an average of about 650 words each, that’s more than 65,000 words–which I might arrogantly add were mostly worth reading. Though I no longer desire an iPhone, almost 2,500 people have read de blog. I am grateful to each and every person who took the time to click, read or comment, because no amount of arrogance can take the place of having an audience.
The truth is de blog is like every other unexplored are in life–exciting and terrifying at the same time. As I replace my old calendar, I wonder what lies within the pages of the new one. None of us can know what the is new year holds locked inside. The best we can do is to boldly (or arrogantly) venture forth with a commitment to do our best.
Thanks to all the friends & readers of de blog for allowing me to end this year on a very positive note!
Deb’s note: If I weren’t a former resident of Los Angeles and a Lakers fan, I might think LostAngelesBlog arrogant. However if you, like me, appreciate any or L.A’s better sports teams, you might also appreciate the very arrogant blog linked below.
Many may disagree, but I believe being single is an art. Some people are better off alone, but most of us crave company. Long before we are old enough to date, we tend to function in pairs. We have favorite siblings, best friends, and special relationships with one or both parents. We aren’t well-adapted to functioning without partnerships of one sort or another.
Being single doesn’t come naturally to most. I didn’t marry for 10 years after I moved away from home. This gave me more than a decade to practice the art of living single. I never perfected the skill, but I became good at functioning as a unit–even if most of my free-time was spent trying to figure out how to change my status from “single” to something more cooperative.
Most of my girlfriends got married soon after high school. I followed college with an apartment and a job. I spent most of my time doing the things that singles do. That decade would have been better-spent trying to accomplish something of import, but I mostly went from place-to-place having good times.
The world is biased in favor of the traditional lifestyles. One would think that singles should have more fun, but many things are tailored to those who are coupled, married or raising children. At no time is this more true than during the holidays. This is unfortunate, because those who are alone may find themselves facing loneliness, malaise or depression.
There are no Valentine cards designed to be “returned to sender”. There are no Thanksgiving cards depicting a table-for one, nor Christmas cards featuring a lone soul enjoying a grand tree without gifts–or people with whom to share them. Unless you are orphaned, chances are you don’t spend every holiday alone, but even Mormons & Catholics sometimes find themselves flying solo through the holidays. I have. One needn’t be a psychologist to realize people don’t like being alone on days which are symbolic of warmth and love.
I’ve spent many holidays alone. I suppose there was a time when it bothered me, but it’s been so long ago, I don’t remember. At some point in time, I had adjusted my mindset and it no longer bothered me. I began to think of holidays as days on a calendar with only exactly as much significance as I placed on them. I could celebrate them (or not) and not feel disadvantaged if I should find myself alone.
One Thanksgiving I was hanging out in my apartment, without a dinner invitation, it was just another Thursday. On that day, a girlfriend called me. She had contracted a severe case of holiday blues, because she was without a place-card at anyone’s Thanksgiving table. I suggested she come over for Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t have a Thanksgiving dinner, but I figured we’d throw together something.
On that cold & rainy November day, we jumped in my truck and headed to the nearest grocer to buy the stuff we’d need for our impromptu feast. A turkey would have been two large, so we settled for a small chicken, which was large enough to take away holiday despondency. Having a chicken, made it no less Thanksgiving than it would have been with a turkey. We enjoyed a very nice afternoon, preparing our repast and the knowledge of being there for each other. We easily rose above what might have been too sad to celebrate. The fond memory of that Thanksgiving signifies an important knowledge and practice. I knew beyond that day, I could define and enjoy my own holiday–with or without family.
So if a broiling hen is as good as a tom turkey, would the holiday lose anything if it were celebrated with a turkey sub or chicken nuggets? Where are the rules on which activities are acceptable or a line determining how far one can depart from tradition before the holiday is canceled out? I haven’t answered that, but I’ve come close.
I remember one Christmas, when after the presents were opened and the wrappings discarded, my brother was bored. He suggested a trip to the car wash. Washing cars on Christmas Day is not part of holiday tradition, but my brother can be very compelling. Before long, he & I were headed to the car wash–not the drive-thru, but the U-Wash-It. A pocketful of quarters buys the opportunity to clean your own car with a jet-engine-loud vacuum and 8 minutes of soapy water sprayed out of a turbo-charged water gun. (Hot Wax only 50 cents extra).
On a cold December day, wielding water guns would be odd, but on Christmas day it seemed ludicrous. Nevertheless, I’ve always been a team player. We vacuumed, sprayed, shammied and laughed. While others were sitting in theaters watching the latest Christmas film release, we were outside playing with water guns. Far from tradition, but much more fun than sitting silently in a dark theater. Other Christmases, with him, we’ve improvised Christmas trees from bushes and branches, shoveled driveways, invented delays to torture the kids by keeping them from their presents until well after noon, and generally enjoyed the very best of holidays.
Though a roasted goose & plum pudding may sound like the perfect holiday, I’ve come to realize a chickens or a car wash can be even better. In this season when many people experience the letdown of coming to terms with a-less than Dickens holiday, a little advice to those who find themselves alone.
When you were little, adults defined what traditions you’d embrace. Unless you still need adult supervision for everything, it’s time to enjoy being all-growed up. This is what you dreamed of as a kid, you’re finally in charge and you get to make the rules for your holidays. Which means that Valentine’s day doesn’t have to be about romance. Thanksgiving can be celebrated with cheeseburgers. Christmas can be spent doing whatever you feel like doing. Of course it’s better if you don’t spend it alone, but remember there will be others, who being held hostage by their families, will be wishing they could trade places with you.
Your life is NOT a made-for-TV movie, nor is it a Hallmark card. Once you accept this, you may find it can be even more perfect and every bit as beautiful.
Despite my Catholic upbringing, I’m not into saints. There are many who petition saints with requests, bit not I. I can name a handful of saints and tell you what they are patrons of, but that’s where my saint stuff ends–with two exceptions. I’m still devoted to two saints. I believe in St. Francis of Asisi, more accurately I believe the words of his prayer. I learned it when I was very young, but the words still seem like a good credo to live by for those who would like make the world a better place.
I’m also still devoted to St. Nicholas. I think he’s the patron saint of religious holidays gone secular, but despite that, I like him because he’s generous and good with children.
I feel sorry for Santa. Like Bin Laden & Elvis, Santa is always at the center of rumors about his life, death and whereabouts. He gets a lot of flack for taking away from Jesus’ rightful position as the center of Christmas devotion, but his public approval ratings are much higher than the president’s; and judging from the fact people let their kids sit on his lap, it is apparent we trust him more.
So what if Santa isn’t real? Like St. Francis, I haven’t outgrown believing in what he stands for. I figure if he sees me when I’m sleeping and knows when I’m awake, he’ll probably read this, which will save me the cost of a stamp & the trouble of finding a zip code for The North Pole.
I know it’s late in the season, but it’s taken me this long to figure out what I want for Christmas. I’m a little old for toys, but I still rather like receiving a delight on Christmas morning.
At my age, I shouldn’t be asking for anything except maybe “Peace On Earth” or something. World peace sounds like what a beauty pageant contestant would ask for, but I don’t believe it’s possible. Maybe because I’m not perfect, I have trouble believing in a perfect world–maybe if I had perfect hair and perfect teeth, like a beauty queen, it would be easier to believe in that sort of thing.
(Santa, just between you & I–I figure if people who love each, like brothers & sisters or husbands & wives, eventually stop getting along, it’s probably not realistic to expect the whole world to get along any better.)
So it’s like this . . I’ve got lots of stuff, I don’t really need any more. I spent the first half of my life accumulating stuff, and will probably spend the second half trying to figure out what to do with it all. I’ve reached the stage in life when saying “Please, don’t get me anything” isn’t just a courtesy, but an honest plea. Last year, I spread the word that I didn’t need or want any more stuff. As a result, I got nice consumable gifts like cookies, chocolates and nice bottles of spirits. The truth is, I’ve drank enough wine and eaten enough chocolate in this life, I’d probably be better off without those too.
To keep it real this year, I’m going back to nature. I’d like to enjoy each season and all it’s gifts, like autumn leaves and winter snow. I’d like to enjoy the color of new growth in the spring and the first blooms of flowers that follow. Mostly, I’d like to enjoy the seasons that surround me as I watch my children being who they are and becoming who they’ll be.
I’d also like some laurel branches. It would be nice to have laurels to crown the heads of those around me when they do well, with maybe a few left over for me when I deserve them.
Lastly, I’d like to have some butterflies–the really good kind. I want the kind that come upon us when we are anticipating something good, like the birth of a child, or the home team winning a championship. The ones I want are the kind which fill the stomach when that special person does the thing that makes us fall in love all over again. I’d like to have butterflies on Christmas morning–and I’d like it if my kids had them too. If that’s too much to ask for, I could really use a new clock radio.
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Allowing me more time to work on my own Christmas gift list, today’s post was written by The Gift Chick who shares great gift ideas here and also at www.GottaGreatGift.com.
Try thinking with your heart rather than your wallet. Christmas in America has become a blind consumer holiday of just pulling out money, giving gift cards, or using the card to buy whatever gifts the stores lay out on their shelves – the newest trendy purse, the coolest toy, the latest clothing styles, or the biggest and best stereo/TV system…. People no longer put much thought, effort, or love into their gifts and seem to forget that the holiday is about about being thankful for what we have and giving to those who don’t have. It’s about giving something meaningful to exhibit our love for them. It is disheartening to see that “It’s the thought that counts” has come to justify little “emergency” gifts that show no personal connection to an individual.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Anything handmade, like cooking is a shoo-in for a great gift because it is done with love. Here are some easy handmade gift ideas from The Gift Chick, paired with items from www.GottaGreatGift.com for more inspiration.
- A scrapbook photo album of your giftee with you and their loved ones. My family is big into family trips and adventures which we like to document with pictures and journal entries from everyone’s own perspective. As kids, my siblings and I would scrapbook these together and give it to our parents. This always made them feel loved and appreciated, enough to motivate them to continue taking us on more trips and adventures.
- Video or music video. When a cousin had her first child, her family documented everything from the pregnant belly to the hospital scenes to baby’s first steps/words/laugh/etc. with pictures and video footage. When her daughter turned three, I clipped and edited a music video of her daughter growing up with a meaningful, heartfelt song. What a tear-jerker.
Every Christmas, my family has a secret Santa gift-giving of handmade gifts to remind us of the meaning of Christmas and to steer everyone away from buying “easy” gifts. This is especially good for kids who haven’t yet earned any disposable income.
In the past, I have:
- made soap carved into fun shapes like hearts/stars/etc., like Peace Soap.
- knitted scarves, blankets, sweaters, skullcaps, mittens. Warm, fuzzy, and cozy is always a good feeling. If you’re not up to making something, try a pair of Lounge Pants from Made with Love & Kisses.
- made potpourri bags stitched with heart images or initials.
- made jewelry – beaded, macrame, or paper mache. You can get creative with the Wooden Stringing Beads kit.
- scrapbook of my travels to share with my family filled with stories and pictures–allowing them to share my adventures through those stories.
- prepared jars of jam. Food and desserts are always a good choice for handmade. The way to the heart is definitely through the stomach.
- made handmade denim paper bound into a book for sketching or writing. Let your own inspirations blossom with the Paper Flower Maker kit.
- sewed various apparel, pillow covers, bags, etc.
…the ideas for handmade gifts are endless and people are not as uncreative or uncrafty as they believe. I think with handmade, it’s truly “the thought (and/or effort) that counts”.
- A family cookbook. What more can I say? I think it means a lot to receive the kitchen secrets from your mom and generations passed. I think this is a really great gift because I love cooking, love my family’s cooking, and love eating. You can pair recipes with accessories like the Party Dining Mats, Chopstick Kids and Kitchen Folio.
- Task coupons. This year, a friend’s son (6yrs old), came up with an idea on his own, to offer massages after Thanksgiving dinner to relax everyone after the big meal while they watched football. Since I do not live near him, he told me over the phone that he’d give me a coupon to use when I see him next. Another great gift! Can’t wait to redeem my coupon.
- A cow. Well, not really but like the saying goes – give a cow and never buy milk again, or teach a man to fish and he’ll never go hungry. So do just that! Teach kids/others a skill you know, or buy classes that you could do together. Drop some knowledge. Give the gift of music with the Learn to Play Piano.
- Memoirs. For years as my great grandmother got older, my grandmother had been trying get stories about our family history so she could write it down for her family’s future. Family history is something you don’t want to lose, a priceless gift that you can pass down to your kids. It’s not as hard as you think to make. I’m sure every family has great stories, whether funny or sad, to pass down. Jot notes down on a Tower of Notes.
- Family tree. It’s hard to keep track of family lineage but it’s always nice to see how you got to be you. My grandmother gave us a start one Christmas with documents and her own tracing of her side of the family lineage. We are working, together with the memoirs project, to have this completed in the near future.
- Take the family on a family activity or outing. It doesn’t have to cost a thing and you don’t actually even have to go anywhere. As kids, we used to transform our living room into a theater to showcase all the talents we had been working on all day to show to our parents and friends. A little quality time is all anyone asks for. Spend some family fun time together over Qwirkle. Your time and attention are the most valuable gift of all.
After spending a weekend scurrying through holiday activities, I lost Monday–a day I needed. The busy weekend, left my wits were dulled, my energies lulled and my productivity nearly annulled. My excuse? Tis the season, the season in which there is always too much to do.
With just a little over a week until Christmas, everyone is checking their list. This time of year, the everyday to-do list is augmented by the Special Holiday Edition to-do list, including the Christmas shopping list, and the holiday mailing list. On this list ordinary tasks are joined by extraordinary tasks like decorating the yard, whipping up something from a cherished family recipe or staying up late to finish some holiday surprise. Whether it’s cleaning, cooking, parties or pageants; it’s nearly impossible not to become exhausted.
Yet, at this time when we are stretched, most of us neglect the one thing which would most likely ensure a more enjoyable holiday–REST. The great irony is at the time when it’s time to relax and enjoy the holiday, nerves are frazzled and goodwill toward men is waning. As family and friends begin to gather, we find ourselves asking how we wished for “White Christmas” but instead got Snow White’s pals Grumpy, Dopey and Sleepy. (Except, instead of being short, they are merely short-tempered.) Is it any wonder our holidays don’t look like Norman Rockwell’s?
With this in mind, a new holiday tradition is in order–taking time to rest and regroup. When it isn’t possible to get enough sleep at night, make time during the day to relax and rejuvenate. Slow things down even briefly. Writing cards or paying bills at a favorite coffee house, may be all it takes to allow you to unwind. You can take a break to enjoy a massage or pedicure or slip into a tub of warm bubbles to relieve tension and fatigue, but if you really want to recharge, I suggest a nap.
This isn’t the wimpy nap associated with babies or old people–this is the real deal, the big Kahuna, the power nap. A quick little catnap of about 20 minutes will leave you feeling sharper and better rested than a full-fledged nooner-nap. Twenty minutes–short, but, oh so sweet!
I’m a big devotee and proponent of the short snooze. Many are the findings and studies on why such a small rest produces such big results. I’d cite some here, but you’d be tempted to read them, which would require you to be awake. Trust me, your time would be better spent with your eyes closed.
Happy Holi-Doze! Sleep in heavenly peace.
I recall a Christmas story of girlfriends who plan to get together for a holiday lunch. One of the gals tells another she intends to bring her a Christmas gift. This causes the intended recipient to feel obligated to purchase something to give in return–but she feels that if she gives a gift to one friend, she must give something to each of the others as well. She purchases gifts for all the girlfriends. When they are together, her friends are not prepared for an exchange of gifts. They are embarrassed because they have come empty-handed. To make things worse, the simple homemade gift that started it all, is diminished by the other gifts.
The story is one of my favorites, because it illustrates how easily gift-giving becomes complicated. I was reminded of this, after mentioning a gift-giving dilemma to a friend of mine–a guy. In typical guy-fashion, he tried to solve the problem for me in the most expedient way. Though his suggestion completely solved the problem, it wasn’t a good solution, because it failed to take into account the subtle complexities women consider when selecting gifts.
Unless you are a female who has been so unlucky in love or life, as to have no experience with men; you’ve probably realized the art of gifting isn’t something they come by naturally. As I dismissed my friend’s advice; he commented that he found it hard to understand why women place such importance on gift-giving. He pointed out that his best friend and he had never exchanged gifts, yet their friendship was rock solid. Of course, this very intelligent man, also acknowledged that they mostly communicate in grunts.
I could try to explain to him, why a solution that perfectly solved my problem, was no good, but it would be a waste of time. The explanation would require more than 100 words, but in my experience, men begin to become glaze-eyed after only about 78 words. Furthermore, my explanation, was based on theory–my theory. Wondering if there might be any facts to support my own theories on this, I decided to do a little research on why women are more “gifty” than men.
Starting with the obvious, women register interpersonal matters with a kind of complexity that is foreign to most men. In a typical conversation, men hear what is said. Women hear things not said. Even when there are no hidden messages, women analyze conversations with something akin to military intelligence. Unfortunately for men, women also analyze gifts. Men present a gift, naively thinking, that as long as it is an item of reasonable quality, they’ve succeeded.
Women filter gifts for any underlying messages–real or perceived. Woe to the well-meaning man, because no matter how well they think they’ve done, they may unknowingly be walking into a treacherous mine field.
My first Christmas with Beloved Soul Mate, he bought me a simple sweatshirt. Intended as a joke, he thought giving me the most ordinary and utilitarian thing would be a great prank. However, back then, I lived in sweatshirts and couldn’t have been more pleased to have receive another to stave off the winter chill. He had hoped to disappoint me with his first gift, and then heroically redeem himself with a real and better gift. Except, that the sweatshirt showed he knew me–even more-so than the “real” gift.
A season or so later, The Beloved Soul Mate made another errant trek into the giver’s minefield. On Valentine’s Day, he sent a perfectly good personal stereo player. It would have been a great gift at any other time of the year, but on Valentine’s day, I found it lacking. At the time, we were living in different cities, and my heart longed for him. Any simple thing from the heart would have satisfied my bittersweet longings, but The Walkman was completely devoid of the romance I craved.
Dear reader, whether you are male or female, you probably have a tale that could be inserted here to further illustrate how easy it is for well-intentioned gifts to fizzle–or worse blow up.
If women tend to outdo men in the arena of gifting, it isn’t a reflection of male generousity. I am convinced that most men have immeasurable generosity and are willing to give there very best to those for whom they care. If it were not so, there would be far fewer men giving the best of their youth and strength, to support wives or families.
But even for those who have great generosity, the incentive to give can be diminished when gifts are met with bad reception. Perhaps, this is why holidays that require gifting, fill men with dread. It’s a clutch situation. They know that if they don’t hit it out of the park, they’ve choked. That’s a lot of pressure for someone who only wishes to express fondness.
Allison Armstrong, who has made a career out of demystifying the misunderstandings between men & women, ascertains that women have the power to get men to give them almost anything. She suggests that in order to achieve this, women must be good tacticians. Allison emphasizes the importance of learning how to receive. She also warns women, that the only way to increase the chances that the men in their lives will give them exactly what they want is to tell him–early and often.*
My grandmother may have been as smart as Ms. Armstrong. She advised my mother, who later advised me, that no matter what a husband brought, the wife should be grateful. I remember my mother paraphrasing Nana’s advice.
She said, “If your husband gives you a stone, you should be grateful and admire it as if it were the most wonderful stone in the world.” If only I’d been as wise as a young bride, as my grandmother was, as an old woman. I am still learning how to receive with grace.
When we fail in this, we rob the giver of the inherent reward of giving. As it turns out, psychologists have come to the startling conclusion that it really is better to give than to receive. Giving is emotionally rewarding to the giver, but the reward is diminished by an ungracious receiver. Ergo, it seems that receiving is as important as giving. The fact is, most people give because they want to feel that they have done something good for someone else. This should help us all realize that we always have the perfect thing to give in return for anything we receive. The gift always at hand, is gratitude.
The conclusions of the psychologists, also provide an explanation for why people give to entities that cannot reciprocate in kind, such as children, animals and charities. People give because it is satisfying. It feels good to meet the needs of others, which explains why women find great satisfaction in being caretakers. Tending small children or caring for a family can be exhausting, but it also provides the opportunity to be a giver everyday.
I had suspected that there were a three main things which caused women to be more “gifty” than their male counterparts.
The first is that we use our own language to communicate our feelings. We expect others to understand and use the same code that we so naturally decipher. The fact is that women send gifts as encoded messages of our feelings.
My second was; as natural nurturers, gifts represent another way to communicate caring.
There was a third tenet to my theory, but I failed to find any scientific facts to support it. I had a hunch that maybe women give gifts to their girlfriends, because they can count on the girls to give them something they’ll like. No published findings on that, but the evidence abounds.
*Alison Armstrong it the founder of PAX Programs. For more about Alison or the programs offered by her organization visit http://www.understandmen.com/about/index.html
Tis the season for giving and the season of gift-giving stress. We had 364 days in which to plan for Christmas, yet most of us waited until there is less than a month, in which to get serious.
The world is full of those who love to give and those for whom giving is quite unnatural. Modestly, I admit, I am in the first category. Among the best gifts I received from my mother, was the spirit of giving. A fabulously generous woman, she loved to give and imparted the joy of giving to me. Though I love to give gifts, I despise throwing money away, which is precisely what we do when we chose the wrong gift.
A well-chosen gift gives a sense of delight to both the giver and the receiver, but thoughtless gifts have the opposite effect. Receiving an unwanted gift is awkward and burdensome. The recipient must first feign delight, while masking their disappointment and/or horror. Then, there are the rules of etiquette, which make it unacceptable to discard unwanted gifts without following a certain protocol. Not so long ago, people kept anything and everything that was given to them, simply because, it was a gift. I am grateful most of us have moved past that and now keep only the stuff the giver would notice missing.
Several years ago, I received something in that category. It was a wonderful item, which I fondly displayed in my home. Over the next few years, the giver asked me over and over again if I still had it. Eventually, I became weary of having to constantly reassure them. Yes, I liked it. Yes, I still had it. It began not to feel so much a gift but more the loan of something, I was pledged to care for. I wondered if they secretly regretted having given it to me–or had wished they’d kept the item for themselves. I wondered if they thought my fondness for the gift was insincere. After ten years of being interrogated about the item, I decided to return it to them. What had once been a cherished gift, became a wearisome nuisance.
It wasn’t always like this. An old Portuguese proverb says:
What is bought is cheaper than a gift.
It seems we’ve abandoned the era when gifts came from the heart instead of the Visa card. Remember the Hannukah celebrated in The Diary of Anne Frank, in which Anne remarkably conspires to produce a gift for each person in her family? Each imperfect gift, was accompanied by a perfect sentiment–the sincere desire to give.
Children seem to look forward to getting gifts more than adults. Perhaps, this is because adults grow tired of receiving useless gadgets, silly Christmas novelties, and clothes they’ll never wear; but even giving to children has changed. There was a time when children would delight in a handmade toy, a piece of fruit or some small sweet. They wrote letters to Santa and eagerly waited to see if he’d deliver. Now both children and adults issue gift lists, like mandates to those who would give to them. They list specificitems they ant, but alternately accept cash and/or gift cards.
I still remember when money was thought to be insultingly impersonal, yet nobody ever turns down an envelope full of cash, and don’t get me wrong, I love the gift card. Thanks to the gift card, I can now do all my Christmas shopping at a the gas station, while I get a car wash.
Gift cards are an easier solution than trying to buy for those who have everything, need nothing or are otherwise difficult to buy for, but the gift card takes much of the fun out of Christmas. Implied with the gift card is a sentiment of wanting the recipient to get something they really like. Either that, or it’s “Do your own damn shopping!”.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely the recipient’s jaw will drop upon receiving a Best Buy or Footlocker gift card. It is unlikely the receiver’s eyes will well with tears as they realize they’ve received the self-centered opportunity to buy something for themselves– since most of us have that opportunity all year long. With gift cards there is no wrong size, style or color–there is only the wrong store or the wrong amount. If you should receive a silly gift or colorful sweater, somebody will insist on taking a picture of you with it. Nobody cares about pictures of people displaying an array of gift cards or greenbacks.
Those who have faced economic difficulties this year may find themselves more inclined to return to a simple more-heartfelt approach to gift-giving. If we fail to remember the reason we give gifts, we might as well just transfer funds electronically to each others’ bank accounts and watch as Santa discards his sleigh for a Toyota Prius with a glove compartment full of gift cards.
Deb’s Note: Each year it seems our gift-giving represents a greater departure from the spirit of giving. The next two posts will be devoted to giving gifts. I have recruited the expertise of an author of a blog which seeks out the very best gifts. If you are one who lacks inspiration, you’ll want to see her picks for great gifts.
Certainly, Charles Dickens was referring to the holiday season when he penned those words. It is the best of times for children who have the luxury of just waiting for the sweets, gifts & festivities. It is the worst of times for those who attempt to orchestrate the magic.
Fall is fading, and the holiday season, with it’s shopping-days numbered, is upon us. There are only a few weeks in which to hang lights, buy gifts, prepare the house, abuse the credit cards and become a testy wreck before the holidays.
I’m not a Grinch, but the season exhausts me. Each year, I vow to simplify, to separate the tinsel from the tangible to focus on what really matters. Then, before you can say “On Dasher and Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen”, I’m in the kitchen making red & green popcorn balls, or braiding boughs of holly. I’d enjoy Christmas more if it wasn’t over so quickly. I like having a tree, lights and decorations, but the effort required for them, never seems to be worth their short-lived glory.
Still each year, as I put away the dishes from the Thanksgiving feast, I am eager knowing once the wishbone is broken, the Christmas season has begun. I anxiously wait for the first moment of awe for the newly hung Christmas lights, and the time when it is officially acceptable to play Christmas carols.
I don’t mind the shopping, cooking or cleaning, but dread the decorating and despise the wrapping of gifts. I am inconvenienced by the way that the month of December is commandeered by invitations and obligations. I fear the inadequacy I’d feel if I didn’t bake cookies for the kids or find the right presents.
I’ve put the Christmas mix on to get me into the right spirit. Listening to a few carols, I will contemplate the season and prepare my mind.
First cut: Deck the Halls
Who can resist the catchy tune with a fa-la-la-la-la refrain?!?
STOP! Don’t listen–it’s a trick! Subliminal programming intended to get me off the couch to start decorating. What is with the gay apparel line? Does this mean I have to wear awful garments given to me by well-meaning relatives without rolling eyes or asking for receipts? Guess, I’d better go retrieve the festive sweater his mother sent.
Fast forward: We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
That’s more like it–nothing but glad tidings in this song–and an edict to produce a figgy pudding. Mental note to self: Add figgies to my shopping list.
Skip that song . . What’s next?
Oh Christmas Tree
Delightful. Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree. How lovely are your branches.
If the branches are so lovely, why do they require three boxes of tiny twinkle lights and gobs of glittering glass from the attic? When do we get to the verse about how to get pine needles out of the carpet on January 3rd?
Here we go a Wassailing.
Dang, we’re fresh out of Wassail, which is too bad, because I could use a drink about now. Maybe I’ll just have a beer. Hey, that’s not bad. If I close my eyes, I can almost believe it’s wassail. In fact, I see tiny reindeer and a benevolent fat man running a sweatshop full of elves busy building me an iPhone.
What’s next on the mix?
Perfect, I’m tired. I think I’ll turn in and try Christmas again tomorrow. This holiday stuff is starting to make me feel warm & fuzzy–then again, it might just be the beer.