Christmas Shopping

wpid-20141216_212222.jpgOf all the possible shopping days before Christmas, I’m hoping this was the worst one, because at least it is over now. I have such a conflicting bunch of feelings about the whole subject that I almost feel ill with confusion. I’m not a big shopper at any time of the year so I guess it’s no surprise that I hate it now. In no particular order, my twelve thoughts on Christmas shopping.

1. It makes no sense to me that what was supposedly the birthday of Christ is now an occasion to shower ourselves with presents to the point that most people don’t even care whose birthday it was. When it’s your birthday who do you think should get the presents?

2. It makes no sense to me that I should buy something, anything, whether or not it’s wanted or needed, just to meet the unrealistic expectation of a present for everyone.

3. It makes no sense to me to try to gift everyone I care about all on the same day (or even in the same month), not timewise, not financially.

4. It makes no sense to me that I should shop for everyone on the same day or week that nearly everyone is shopping for everyone. Living for hours in a checkout line is not good for my health/sanity.

5. It makes no sense to me to buy gifts in July so that I can give them in December either. Why wait?

6. I remember childhood Christmases. There were many good things about them but right in the middle was the MAJOR thing – what’s in those packages and what am I gonna get? Not proud of that but, hey, I was a kid.

So about this time I’m deciding that there will be no Christmas shopping for me. I will not let marketers lure me into this insanity. And then I get these thoughts…

7. Someone gives me a gift and pretty much blows me away with their generosity. I have to thank them. I want to reciprocate in appreciation. I have no idea what to get them.

8. No matter how much someone tries not to care about presents, when everyone else is getting them, those who aren’t wonder if anyone cares about them. I want them to know I care. I have no idea what to get them.

9. Time is a worthwhile present and I want to give it to the people closest to me – but all in the same week? Across five different states? How am I going to get any shopping done? What else can I get them? I have no idea.

10. I have to get them something useful, something they will love, something that says I know them and care about them, something that doesn’t make them feel obligated to buy a gift for me, something not from the dollar store, SOMETHING THAT I DIDN’T GET THEM LAST YEAR. I have no idea what that is.

11. There is a beauty in glittering, wrapped packages with ribbon all over them. People need to have pretty stuff like that to look at. They are like flowers – here today and gone tomorrow with the after Christmas trash pick up. But they have their moment.

12. If I could find that perfect gift, it would actually be following the example of what God did when he gave us part of himself, his son. If I could give it in love it wouldn’t matter whether it was on the same day as Jesus’s real birthday. If I could give it sacrificially it would be meaningful and cherished by the recipient. But honestly, I have no idea what that perfect gift would be.

I’m not going to tell you how I handle this dilemma, but I do manage to get through the season. What are your thoughts and feelings about shopping and gifts for Christmas?

A Day in which I Acquire a Boat

For some reason, I have had presents on my mind lately.  No, not because of the not so subtle Christmas marketing EVERYWHERE. It’s more because my parents’ birthdays are both this month, and I was making a gift or two to take to our family Thanksgiving next week.  I love presents.  It’s fun to make them, fun to give them, fun to get them.  I can plan the first two, the making and giving, but it’s hard to plan getting a present unless you are great at buying yourself gifts.  As I pretty much always do when thinking to myself, I ran that thought past God. ( He’s listening to my thoughts anyway so I might as well be conversant.) ” It would sure be nice to get a present God.  I know there’s really nothing I need, but if there is something you wouldn’t mind giving me, I’d just like the excitement of getting a present. ”

For years now I have been taking guests and friends out on the water in kayaks that I borrow from a good friend.  When I know someone wants to go I call my friend several days ahead to make sure he isn’t planning to use his kayaks, then I borrow the husband’s truck, drive 20 minutes and pick up the kayaks which are on a trailer.  I have to have the right size hitch on the truck, which means I’ve lost and bought at least two of them.  I have to hook up the lights on the trailer, which means I’ve lost, borrowed and bought at least two electrical adapters.  I have to lock and unlock the trailer hitch, which means I’ve had to buy and replace a couple of padlocks.  I’ve had to buy and borrow life vests for numerous people of varying sizes.  All this to say that there is a lot of work involved in having fun on the water.  But it is still just so interesting to float around on these beautiful rivers, surrounded by birds and tropical wonders that I’ve considered it well worth the trouble.

Last winter my cousin Mark, who loves to fish, decided we should look for used kayaks.  If we each had one, he and a buddy could go fishing in them, and I could take friends out for a paddle too. They would get more use if we shared them. So we spent most of the season looking on craigslist and at sales but nothing was quite right. I continued borrowing from my friend.

Last week my cousin arrived for the winter and decided to go buy his fishing kayak. There was a sale at a sports store and he wanted to get it done.  Back he came with a kayak in his Suburban.  His wife’s remark was “You know this means that tomorrow you’re going to see a great deal on a used kayak…” I was there, I heard her say that.  Unbelievably, fifteen minutes after I got home I got a text from another cousin in town, Kim, telling me that her neighbor was selling his two kayaks for less than half their value and they were in like new condition, with paddles, seats and life vests.

Something like that almost demands to be considered.  I’ve been a little financially stressed lately, making sure all my medical bills get paid, lots of house repair expenditures, etc… Even though I’ve managed to meet these demands I still feel insecure enough that it’s hard for me to shell out money for fun when so much serious stuff has to be paid for. I mean, I get nervous eating out, much less buying a boat.  I decided to ask the husband if he would be upset with me if this came to pass.  Would he tell me the garage was too full already?  Would he remind me that we’re trying to downsize, not accumulate more?  In what direction might he freak out?  What he said, “No, kayaks are always easy to sell again so if they’re a good deal, get them.”  Ha ha.

I still thought they might be terrible kayaks, ones that wouldn’t be sturdy enough to hold  Mark (who is a big man) or maybe they would smell like dead fish, or be some awful color.  All of those possibilities could keep me from having to make the decision… But they were beautiful, hardly used, top quality, and the friendly man from England who was selling them clearly wasn’t out to get his money back.  Oh my goodness, we bought them, picked them up an hour later and went immediately out to the river to test them out.  They floated very nicely.

Instead of spending the day at home like I had planned, I got to do this.

the water was still and almost black!  My boat is blue!
the water was still and almost black! My boat is blue!
Reflections!  Two of everything along the bank.
Reflections! Two of everything along the bank.
love to look at all this crazy Florida plant life!
love to look at all this crazy Florida plant life!
did you know pelicans roosted in trees?
did you know pelicans roosted in trees?
Cousin Mark in his new fishing kayak.
Cousin Mark in his new fishing kayak.
Our two beauties.
Our two beauties.
Me, enjoying a present.
Me, enjoying a present.

It’s not that my prayers for blessings always get answered in the affirmative or immediately.  But today I got a present and I really had no idea it was coming. I’m going to give God the credit.  It’s the kind of thing he would have fun doing. I’m just sayin’…

A to Z Challenge: Surprise!

It was a really pretty evening, the sun had gone down gloriously and the sky was now darkening with stars and moon getting brighter minute by minute.  They were on another of his goofy dates.  They had both stayed on campus that summer for their jobs and he had been coming up with casual, out-of-the-box ideas to get them together.  This time he had driven them in his green Econoline van up to a scenic overlook where there were a few cement picnic shelters.  So why the briefcase, she wondered?  He opened it up and drew out a bottle, two glasses and a candle and proceeded to set the table and pour the wine. One more thing from the briefcase – a small black box, which he opened and turned toward the candlelight.  Surprise!  Yes, it was.

It had been a tough, challenging winter.  Finances were tight and the eldest child needed some therapy that they just couldn’t afford.  It had been a nice break when her brother and his family came to visit. The mood lightened and they had fun, all of them, but they were gone now.  Everyday reality had been happening all day as she cleaned up the house, putting away the post-company clutter.  It was about time to quit for the night and she went into the bedroom to turn down the bed covers, only there was an envelope on the pillow.  She knew it would be a thank you note from her brother, and it was, but there was also a check inside for an exorbitant amount.  Surprise!

They were excited, pulling her out to the driveway, telling her to cover her eyes.  It was her birthday. Her daughter and friends had been gone for a while and now they were back and who knew what they had planned out for her?  She was led out to the truck parked in the driveway and given permission to look.  There it was!  She had seen and remarked about it any number of times as she drove past the abandoned building where the Loyal Order of the Moose had met.  It had been dangling, high on a pole by one chain at a rakish angle. And how had they ever gotten it down?! And now it was hers – a 8 foot long plastic sign with the word MOOSE in large red letters. Surprise!

She sort of viewed life as living from one surprise to the next.  There had been quite a few and she was not afraid to think there would be more.