Friday, November 23, 2007


If I could, I would whittle all of my Christmas offerings from the fallen branches of the trees in my yard. Then, I could avoid the mess and mayhem of the unpalatable consumerism of this holy season.There are two problems with this: I have only one tree, a five year old Maple. She stands at an impressive 15 feet tall, but she, like any toddler, is having a hard time sharing her wares. I have no branches, nor do I have any talent for whittling or carving or really any craft that involves a knife.

And so, I am preparing myself, mentally to enter the artificially lighted, Pheromone scented, skin deep world of consumer convenience. The Mall. Generally, I enjoy the mall. I indulge in my fair share of retail therapy throughout the year. But after November 20, the thought of trucking off for an afternoon at the mall makes me cringe.

I am arming myself with a list, a time limit (with fuzzy edges), and a rosy disposition. On this day, eight years ago, many unflattering words were spewed in my general direction as I stood in front of Target at 5 o'clock in the morning, trying to see what time the store opened for business. I stood next to the cranky shopper and blinked for a moment, then decided that I was in over my head. I am not that caliber of shopper…or that caliber of crazy. So, I turned around and walked to my car, drove home, and went back to bed.

I truly believe in the *thought* behind the gift. It makes all the difference in the giver and in the way the gifted, receive. So, I am taking this inspiration with me on my merchandising expedition.

This has been the year of the bird for me. The little feathered creatures in their varied hues have taught me quite a lot about freedom and life and feathering one’s nest. Birds are a lovely, living metaphor.

An odd turn of events, really.

I don’t like birds. They make me physiologically nervous. Walking by the Parakeet cages at Pets Mart just about does me in. I think it must be the way they flit and turn their head in clicks and move mechanically and unpredictably. Whatever it is, I begin to sweat and my heart rate sky rockets. I could never keep one for a pet. But to see these creatures uncaged and in the world, the great expanses of the firmament as a back drop; or lighting effortlessly on top of a reed and then singing a song at the top of his lungs for the whole world to hear…inspiring. Freedom has more to do with the situation of one’s heart and view on the world and less to do with cages and restraints. I’ve found that my own cages are self inflicted. I am careful not to clip my own wings.
All of that to say, I have been inspired by Christine. In lieu of Starbucks gift cards or silver book marks, my daughters’ teachers will be receiving a flock of geese.

We will be donating to Heifer International in their names. I figure this is a win-win-win-win scenario. The families assisted by HI are an obvious beneficiary, I have a few less things to pick up at the mall, my daughters and I are learning yet another lesson from the birds about being selfless and generous citizens in a world community, and their teachers are released from having to find a place for their 48th “#1 Teacher" mug.

What thoughtful gifts are on your list, this year?


Suz said...

I'm giving pictures to relatives, as I do pretty much every year. Thankfully, we don't have to worry much beyond that point. When we do, though, I hope that I'm able to remember your HI idea. It's a good one.

niobe said...

I'm not really very close to any of my stepbrothers or their families. So the gifts I get them take only a minimum of thought.

Actually, my main thought is wondering whether I'm a complete sucker, because they never buy me anything. But, on the other hand, I'm Jewish and they're not, so it's really not fair to expect them to buy me something for Christmas.

Magpie said...

I am knee deep in fluff, making bags out of felted sweaters from the thrift shop and ebay. I am a crazy person, but I am amusing myself, if no one else.

Julie Pippert said...

I am a remarkably predictable shopper for Christmas.

I have a tight budget and strict personal guidelines.

I buy the gift of books, music, and good for others.

I think my family has not only come to expect this of me, but in fact more than tolerates it; I daresay they might look forward to it a little. LOL!!

We're going to sponsor an endangered species for each of the girls. They know this and are very excited.

Using My Words

Julie Pippert said...

Niobe...I give my inlaws gifts. I don't label them Christmas; I leave it up to the parents how they want the gifts labeled (Hanukkah or Christmas). I used to label them Hanukkah but this for some reason upset my husband (he can't seem to explain how or why). They give me gifts in return, too. We just call it celebrating along with one another.

Using My Words

Lori said...

I enjoy making people CD's. I am quite particular in my selection of songs and take great care in creating fun labels. Because my children go to Catholic school I give each of their teachers a festive Christmas CD as a gift. It is very inexpensive, personal, and hopefully a fun addition to their own celebration.

Emily R said...

We've told Zachary that we will be giving gifts most nights of Hannukah, but that one night we will be giving money so kids without food can have food. He thinks this is an excellent idea.

slouching mom said...

I think Christine's idea was wonderful. And I love the image of you standing in front of Target, turning around, driving off, and crawling back into bed.

I do a lot of shopping online. I cannot stand going into stores when they're as crowded as they are right now. I start to panic when there are too many people too close.

Hannah said...

For our "family" gift we're buying hats, scarves and mittens for three underpriveleged children in our city. We've explained to Isaac that not everyone is as fortunate as he is, and we're going to let him help choose the items.

Otherwise, I have a very short shopping list - just immediate family.

Christine said...

i love you, girl. i'm glad you took the heifer idea and went with it.

we do lots of books and music and a few (stress FEW) toys for the kids.

Furrow said...

Christmas shopping seems next to impossible with a newborn. Thank g-d for the internets.

I think many people (at least the grandparents) will be getting pictures of the little cherub as their gift, anyway.

Mad Hatter said...

Ya, Christine inspired me as well when it comes to gifts for Miss M's teachers.

Beck said...

We're stocking a classroom with textbooks as part of my brother's gift (he's a teacher) and we're giving teachers gift cards to school supply stores because our small rural school is so underfunded that the teachers buy stuff out of their own paycheques.
(ST. Nicholas Day is actually the day of his death, not birth, and I think I'll post about him tomorrow.)

Jen M. said...

I like SPIRAL Foundation's recycled gifts. I especially love their bowls woven from used fast food wrappers by Nepalese villagers.

slouching mom said...

Are you away? I just noticed that this post is from 11/23.

And speaking of this post. I like the flow of your thinking here. And I like the Heifer International idea, very much.