Saturday, September 5, 2009

Book Shelf Seminar: Present Goal

Santa's coming! We're making our lists and checking them twice. Who to give to? What to give? When to shop? How to make it? Where's the money? Where's the time?

With seven kids, seven in-laws, one husband and twenty grandkids, this Mrs. Claus had to cut out some extraneous costs. Creative (and expensive) neighbor gifts had gotten out of hand. Christmas cards to folks from decades ago had grown to a burdensome number. Decorating the bathrooms was as nutty as the banana bread I made for ward members. The "most wonderful time of the year" had become the most overwhelming chore of the year. When I saw Scrooge in my Christmas past, I feared for Christmas Present. Relaxing my own expectations was key.

Marta and I did an advice column (called M+M) for awhile a couple of years ago. Solving other people's problems helped me with my own. A letter from Cindi in Seattle asked:

Dear M+M,
What are some Christmas shopping ideas when you have a lot of people to give to and not very much money?

I shot this question over to mwrites for some creative suggestions.

marta wrote:
Hmmm...this is a toughie; a question that is most likely on so many minds this season. Here are some ideas:
  1. I think a hand written heartfelt card is always perfect.
  2. Small ornaments attached to a touching Christmas story.
  3. A box of cereal is unique, cheap and fun!
  4. Rolls of Christmas wrap and tags to help them get started.
  5. Pillsbury cinnamon roll dough that comes in the tube.
  6. Anything in the dollar aisle at Target.
  7. A favorite family recipe printed out and framed.
Anything can be a sweet gift, if you put some thought into it. Presentation is always key! Best of luck. Wrap those little trinkets with care and they will be a fine treasure to open!

My reply was:

A small bag of oranges, or a jar of jam can become a traditional gift. My good friend solves the problem in a delicious way. In August, when her peaches are ripe, she spends a whole day making fresh peach and whipped cream desserts. She delivers them all over the neighborhood in disposable aluminum pans, and signs the card "Merry Christmas." Everyone is delighted, and during the crazy Christmas season she is able to relax (from that duty at least) knowing her friends know of her best wishes already.

Our kids' families each contribute a scrapbook page to the other families, recalling the past year in photos and captions. The original is kept by the creator, and copies are put in protective sleeves and distributed to the rest of us, so we all have yearly up-dates in our own binders. We do this instead of drawing names, or purchasing gifts for each person. We all love sharing the memories, and this year a few grandkids are working on the family's page. Won't it be fun to have newer generations include their talents?

Another ritual I've adopted is sending greeting cards, notes or emails to friends at Thanksgiving, or Valentine's or whenever I think of it, instead of killing myself off with a zillion Christmas cards once a year. Fewer is more fun for me. And I've quit doing things just because I've always done them; guilt is not a motivation I allow at Christmas-time. There's only so much time, and so much money (and not much of either, really) so I try to spend them doing things that make me feel merry.

Because I love to shop for books, I have made a book my signature gift. I research authors and illustrators, find titles with the kids names by searching on the internet, ask what each person is interested in, and spend hours in a variety of bookstores. I have stickers to put on each book so the recipient will remember who it came from.

I've loved getting acquainted with specific hobbies by looking for an unusual book. Chase wanted a book about the insides of frogs. I looked at several and found the perfect one! Now I have something new to discuss with him. Lucy wanted a book about a girl with curly hair. I got it, too. I hope to send a message: there are books that make reading fun for everyone.

Christmas shopping has become one of the great joys of my season. Each book is personal but everyone still gets the same thing. And we don't get a credit card bill that takes all year to pay off.

I've sometimes wished I could give gifts like trips, down payments or college educations, but I'll have to leave those for a real Santa Claus. Happily, the elves on my Christmas list seem to recognize the love wrapped up in each package. That meets my present goal for Christmas giving.

Graduation Announcements:

  1. Two Extra Credit prizes will be awarded to Hannah at Sherbet Blossom, and Jenny at Formerly Phread for recruiting the most students to School Days. Congratulations! Please email me your addresses and I'll send you your prize! Write Extra Credit in the subject line.
  2. Everyone who has completed every assignment for every class wins a prize. (You're on the honor system.) Email me your name and address by Nov 20th, and I'll send you your prize. Write Honorary Degree in the subject line.
  3. Everyone who has done most of the assignments (grade yourself) gets a Graduation Certificate. Email me your name by Nov 20th, and I'll email you your certificate. Write Graduate in the subject line.
  4. Everyone who came to class fairly regularly gets an Associate Degree. Email me your name by Nov 20th, and I'll email you your certificate. Write Associate Degree in the subject line.
  5. Graduation Ceremony Wednesday, November 25th. Prizes will be mailed that day, too.
My email: martyhalverson at (use the at sign.)


*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


crissy said...

At this point I decorate for the holiday (I've got everything I need,) and I might get a small gift for each child. (Likely a book.)
Last year I made up plates of goodies for my parents, all my siblings and my in-laws. It's something I'll likely repeat this year. Its easy and eliminates stress. :)

Christie said...

Your books are fabulous and the kids treasure them. The stickers are my favorite part.


You are amazing!!!! Right on target. This Post should be required reading to help folks get through the holidays with their traditions observed and their sanity intact!!!

KJ said...

books are a wonderful gift. we minimize our gift giving, too and prefer to focus on memories and experiences. I think it will matter more to our children in the long run and I don't over-stress and miss the holiday season goodness.

Sarah N said...

agreed with all! tiny tidings offered with love have a bigger impact than overwhelming offerings. children like the boxes best, anyway, right?

Miranda said...

I love your book tradition. This year, as we are completely and entirely out of money, our family will be giving all hand-made gifts. I think it is going to be our best Christmas yet.

diane said...

I love the book gift idea. I still have some books that I got as a child from my Aunt and Uncle. Treasured gifts that last a lifetime.

Last year I started a new tradition I want to continue for my neighbors. We have citrus trees in our yard and I put together bags with citrus and spices to make a simmering potpourri. Easy and it makes the house smell yummy without putting on the pounds.

kenju said...

You are a fountain of good information!!

dalene said...

i love the idea of sending cards whenever you feel like it and not trying to kill yourself over it at christmas. i also appreciate that so many of my family and friends still send us cards even though we don't do them. it's a lovely way to catch up with people.