Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gifts Worth Giving

By Kirsten Scott

It's the time of year to rush around to stores and click that mouse as fast as you can to try to find that PERFECT GIFT for that hard-to-please someone. I love my lists, so I start making them well before Thanksgiving, and work off them throughout Black Friday and the rest of December. I've got stocking stuffers on one list, presents for the kids and husband on another, presents that need to be mailed by the middle of December (to make it across county in time for the big day!), hostess presents, and those extra gifts you just need to have in the closet in case someone gives you something and you didn't pick out anything in return.

But of course, for many of us, money is tight this year. Buying the perfect present gives way to buying something -- anything. We are desperate to make sure there will be a present under the tree, or a brightly-colored package to hand over at the gift exchange. That's why Target did so well with its three dollar blenders and crockpots at Black Friday. No one really needed all those crockpots. You go to any Goodwill and you'll find ten of them, all lined up and waiting to be purchased for $1.99. But everyone wants a gift to wrap. If it only costs three dollars, even better.

Now I'm the first to say I love presents. Love them. I love to open them, love having a new sparkly pair of earrings or a Christmas sweater. I am remarkably good at suggesting presents for my husband to buy me. I can come up with ten things I'd enjoy without thinking. (New Norah Jones CD, leg warmers, a fuzzy pair of socks, pretty necklace, new fleece jammies...but I digress...) But I know that's not what the season is about. And that's not what this blog is about.

This blog is about those other gifts. The ones that are actually worth giving. Unlike the crockpot, candleholders, bath salts, and smelly lotion. Not that there's anything wrong with bath salts and smelly lotions. They're on the list for the husband, too. But we all know that on December 26th, they'll just get mixed in with all the rest of crap that is filling our closets, medicine chests, and cupboards. It's really just more stuff.

So what would be a gift worth giving?

How about the gift of solace; how about holding a friend's hand when she grieves. One of the Banditas gave that gift recently and keeps giving it. That's a miracle of a gift.

How about the gift of an hour to have coffee with an old friend? Someone gave me that gift recently. We have been friends for years, but lately keep missing each other and canceling our coffee hours. But last week we each put down our respective foot and said no more broken dates. It was a gesture of love, on both our parts, to give up that precious hour, and it was totally worth it.

So Banditas and Buddies -- any gifts worth giving in your life? Any that you've given recently, or plan to give? Or, like me, did someone give you a gift this holiday season? A gift of time, love, or caring? I'm always looking for new gift ideas, so please, let me know if you've got a good one!


flchen1 said...

Time is always a gift!

flchen1 said...

Kirsten, what a lovely reminder--it's easy to get caught up and forget about gifts that might not cost much money, but that might take some other type of effort on our part. Something I can give my kids more often is taking the time to truly listen when they're asking for something, and to make the time to enjoy doing something with them right now. I keep forgetting that they're growing up and fast right before my eyes! Soon my little guy isn't going to want to read with me anymore! ;p

And I know I appreciate handwritten notes--I don't do it as often, but taking the time to thank someone who's made an impact on your life is such a lovely thing. It's something they can reread, too, when they want. That's such a boost, knowing you're important somehow to someone else.

And making plans to do something with someone and actually doing it--that's a gift! And taking the time to find some cool photos of some of those times--also totally a treasure :)

Hope you find some of those perfect gifts, Kristen, and that you receive some, too! :)

PinkPeony said...

Hi Kirsten! Great post!

Fedora is right...time is the best gift. There's nothing I need that I can't buy for myself. I mean, how many bayberry candles and bath salts does a girl need? Peppermint body wash? I like to cook and my friends who don't cook tell me they like coming over for dinner. I guess taking the time to cook for someone is a gift worth giving. I also love getting real mail. Whether it's from my BFF, who's a stationary whore, a thank you note or a postcard, or from a soldier I sent a package to, it really makes my day. I sent out fifty handwritten invitations to our open house yesterday. I know Evite is much easier and cheaper, but I'm thinking there's someone out there who's like me and looks forward to getting real mail. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Fedora.

One of my best friends has two small children and we haven't been able to meet up for our monthly dinner for over two years. She lives about an hour from me, but I managed to visit her at her home recently and we had a chance to catch up. She got me several packages of Tim Tams as part of my Christmas gift. There are no Targets near me, but luckily she lives near one.

Helen said...

Congrats Fedora and I so agree with you on that one

Kirsten what a beautiful post I have got a few presents but not many I still need to do a lot of shopping and I haven't even written my Chrissy cards out yet.

Fedora and you got it right, time is the most precious of gifts to give just spending time with friends and family talking laughing crying together is awesome and we should really make that time.

I think for me anyway this is the time of year when I seem to run out of time for everything but I am determined to spend as much time with my sisters and family this Christmas and am looking forward to it. This is the first time for a long time that all four of us sisters will be together for a couple of days and I am going to make the most of it.

Have Fun

Gillian Layne said...

Kirsten, you are so right! I need to call one of my dear friends again and find that one hour for some coffee and conversation.

Laurie said...

I make homemade cookies for several widowers in our condo development. They always tell me how much they miss their wives cooking!

I bake cookies for my fellow workers too.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh, I have so much to say on this subject it would take a book to hold all the words. I just came through an experience that involved several gifts, some literal and some intangible, yet precious gifts all. This is going to take a while and I don't want to take up have the blog to say it all so I will be back later with a web address. Don't ask me why I seem to express myself better this way.

Nancy said...

Fedora, congrats on nabbing the rooster! And yes, time is always a gift.

Nancy said...

Kirsten, what a great blog topic, and so timely! I recently "gave" a gift to a friend similar to the one you shared with your friend. A college friend and I live in the same city but rarely see each other. However, we have a tradition of taking each other to lunch on our birthdays. Last week, the check was mine, but of course I received as much as I gave, 90 minutes with and old and entirely trusted friend. I can say anything to her, and vice-versa, and I know she'll give me her honest thoughts, whether or not she thinks I'll like them, and what we say won't go any farther.

The Banditas are one of the greatest gifts I've ever had, and I owe it to Caren--the only original bandita I knew--and Joan, with whom I bonded over ancient Rome at the Golden Network retreat in Dallas, and Anna C., who was so nice when I sat next to her at the awards ceremony. I'm not a joiner by nature, and I'm more inclined to take the plunge when I feel I know some people.

But it's a great feeling to think that 19 people have your back.

And when the day is draggy and glum (I'm in Atlanta, where there is no snow but plenty of cold air and drizzle), coming here and seeing the community all our buddies have built is a great lift.

And seeing the boy reunite with his girlfriend last night brought back the memory of young love. I guess that's the gift I gave him--I came down for GRW's holiday gathering today but am staying an extra night, on a friend's couch, so he can have another day with his sweetie.

The dh finds things. I put them down, forget where I put them, and then can't find them in the clutter of our house. He tells me to stop rummaging, sit down, and let him find it. And he does. And he made the chocolate, cream cheese, chocolate chip brownies I'm taking to the party.

Kirsten, it's great to stop at this nutso time of year and think about what's really important.

And I've never made a list I couldn't lose. *g*

Margay said...

Growing up in a household with a crafty mother, I have always had a deep-seated love and respect for anything handmade. So for me, the gifts worth giving - and receiving - are the ones that someone took the time to make. And since I am an avid knitter (and crocheter), most of the gifts I give this year will be ones that I made.


Anonymous said...

Fedora, congratulations on the GR! Though I think he's a gift worth RETURNING. And what are you doing up so late, anyway? Busy night? ;-)

Thank you for the reminder about the kids. This is a horrible weakness of mine -- I give the kids about 50% of my attention, while the other 50% is thinking about a scene in my WIP, or the endless lists of things to do. I think that's probably when you most need to slow down and pay attention.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and handwritten notes...I never do this and I should! Last week my daughter (6) got it in her head that she wanted to send a bunch of letters. She wrote to my mom and dad, and my mil and fil. And she was astonished and delighted when she got letters back in the mail from them. If we aren't careful, the act of writing will die out completely, and our kids will never know the thrill of real contact through the mail.

Anonymous said...

Oh Pink, I want to come to your open house! What an amazing thing to do -- 50 invitations? You really are taking the gift giving seriously this year!

I love the idea of making dinner as a gift. I know I rarely have the time to cook like I want to (or like I enjoy eating). Having someone else cook would be heavenly!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane! Thanks for stopping by! How wonderful of you to give the gift of yourself to your friend. It's so easy, especially when the kids are little, to lose all contact with the outside world. To have someone from the outside world follow you home and give you chance for some adult conversation is heavenly!

And that's another good thing to remember -- just because someone can't seem to make time for you, or cancels appointments, doesn't mean they don't WANT to see you. They might want it more than anything, but just not be able to give the time right then. Good on you (as our Aussies would say) for making it happen. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Helen, and thanks for coming by. But what's this about not having written your Christmas cards YET? I am faint. You mean some years you get done before December 4th?

I am also barreling through my Christmas list so I can make sure to spend the month relaxing with the family. But I am jealous of you having your sisters around you. I miss my family (who are all about 3,000 miles away) the most at the holidays.

Anonymous said...

So speaking of handwritten notes and Christmas cards, can I share something that bums me out? The Christmas card that is a picture of the family, but has absolutely nothing personal on it addressed to me. Just the picture, generic printed greeting, and printed address label on the envelope. I mean, I get it that we're all super busy, and I'm touched to stay on the Christmas list at all, but still. If I send a card, by gosh I'm going to write a message on it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gillian, I hope you do! I was so happy to reconnect with my friend. It meant the world to both of us.

I hope you find lots of great time with friends this month -- always important to make time for yourself. That's definitely a gift worth giving.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, I love that gesture. You know what's so wonderful about it? You aren't just inflicting calories on random neighbors, as my family does this time of year. We always make batches of cookies for friends of ours on the block. But they aren't the ones who really need it, are they? What a lovely gift you are giving, and thanks for giving me a great idea!

Anonymous said...

Hey Dianna, big squishy hugs to you -- I'm so glad you're getting such meaningful gifts. I know I don't know exactly what I think until I write it down. The act of writing is a powerful force for healing and understanding.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nancy! You are giving gifts all over the place! :-) Isn't it just wonderful to connect with those friends who always understand you? And you go right back to the way you were when you first met, right? I have a friend that I met when I was two, and I am reminded right now that I need to call her and catch up with her. We live across the country from each other, but whenever we do manage to connect, it's magical. This is a gift I need to give. To both of us.

And I agree that the Banditas are a wonderful gift! We are so lucky to have each other!

Anonymous said...

Margay, I think the recipients of your gifts are very lucky. Real handmade presents are hard to come by, these days. My mom wasn't the least bit crafty, but she did teach me to sew, and I will always be grateful to her for that. Having the ability to whip out a baby blanket or sew up a Halloween costume is a great thing.

In fact, a phone call would be a really lovely gift to give my parents today! :-)

jo robertson said...

Super topic, Kirsten! Our family decided this year that we wouldn't be extravagant with gifts. I mean, no body really needs anything, especially the parents!

We're all giving gifts of time and labor. A foot rub here, a baby tending there. I know we'd much rather get labors of love than something with a fancy price tag.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Well it is a long tale but I got it told, it tells of aquaintances that spent time and expended energy for a person they work with. People that I very seldom spend time with but they are kind, and they gave.

PJ said...

Kirsten, what a wonderful post. It's easy to get so caught up in the whirl of holidays that we forget what's really important.

I'm a big believer in giving of time and talent. I love receiving homemade gifts and enjoy giving them as well but mine come from the kitchen. I'll start baking this coming week and will have many packages to hand out over the holidays. They go to a variety of people: friends, neighbors, family, doctors, church staff, mail carrier, trash man, local nursing home, Hospice house, nurses at the hospital where I volunteer, etc. I also make a bunch of chocolate lollipops that I individually wrap and tie with a pretty ribbon. Those get handed out randomly to people I may or may not know...just to share a little holiday cheer.

Last night I babysat at church. For the past year, the women of my church circle have been offering free babysitting the first Friday night of every month. It's our gift to the young families of our church. Because of our gift, one of the couples last night was able to attend a benefit dinner and Christmas Tree auction for our local Hospice House. Our gift to them enabled them to give a gift to someone else.

Kirsten said...

Hi Jo! Thanks for stopping by. I'm sure everyone is busy with holiday fun this weekend. You mentioned two presents I would LOVE to get this holiday season. Hmmm -- a foot rub and some babysitting. Two things every mother with young kids would love to have. What a wonderful gift for you to give. :-)

Kirsten said...

Hi PJ! Thanks for taking some time out of the baking and hustle and bustle! I'm not much of a baker myself -- I like it, but I'm not focused enough to be a great cook. I tend to burn cookies and forget key ingredients. LOL. I bet your offerings are so tasty!

I had to read your story about giving your time to babysit to my husband. What a wonderful idea and how magical that your gift enabled another gift. I always loved the "pass it forward" idea and that's a perfect example! You are a Christmas angel!

Kate Carlisle said...

Inara, I love all these great gift ideas. Every year around this time I start to panic about Christmas gifts.

Last year, my DH decided we should give to Heifer International, and I admit I was a little afraid our family members would be disappointed not to get the usual presents from us. As it turns out, they were all thrilled to know we were giving the gift of baby goats in their name. *g*

So this year, everyone has decided to give to charity instead of giving each other presents. Yay!

Kirsten said...

Dianna, that's a really awe-inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I can really see the angels all around when you speak. (((HUGS))) to you as you continue on your path to healing and joy.

Anna Campbell said...

Kirsten, what a gorgeous post!

Actually I always love a book for Christmas! I have a house full of books but I always can find room for one more - um, the garage?

I'm heading off today to see my oldest friend and her family. I think old, valued friendships are one of the gifts worth giving.

Kirsten said...

Hey Kate! Thanks for popping in! The gift of a contribution to a favorite charity is such a lovely one We gave to Heifer International this year as well -- I love telling someone we gave them a chicken for Christmas! :-)

Last year my dad contributed to the WWF in the name of each of my kids. They got a little stuffed polar bear and a link to a website where you could learn more about them. He was worried they would feel slighted not to get a big present themselves, but I knew they'd love it, and they did. Kids are much more giving than we give them credit for -- KWIM?

Enjoy the beautiful day -- hope you're having a lovely December!

Kirsten said...

Hi Anna! Thanks for popping in -- and I also love books as gifts! What could be better than a gift of time curled up with your imagination? It's like giving the gift of joy. :-)

Have a lovely time with your visits -- i agree completely about the old friends. They are magical, and somehow this feels like the perfect time to reconnect with them.

Virginia said...

Congrat on the GR Fedora!

Taking a sister or friend out to lunch! Cooking a meal for someone is a nice gift. I just cooked a meal for my sister's birthday this past weekend. Don't get me wrong I bought her a gift to but she so enjoys having someone else cook for her.

Pat Cochran said...

I agree with all that time is such a priority at this season and to be on the receiving end of such a gift is priceless!

I have two dear friends who, despite the fact that they have such a heavy call upon their time, find an opening in their schedules so we can meet for a meal. We can share time, food, and a good gab

Pat Cochran

Lady_Graeye said...

Hugs are the best gifts of all!

Joan said...

Those get handed out randomly to people I may or may not know...just to share a little holiday cheer.

OMG...this is SO sweet of you.

And yes, I wept at your reference to the Bandita who is offering solace. What is ALSO a gift in this time of deep pain and grief are the friends of the BANDITA who are holding her up and giving HER strength to help her friend.

A chain of support and love.

The best gift ever!

limecello said...

Kirsten, this is such a great post. I agree with Fedora - time is always a gift. (And congrats on the GR, Fedora!)

Most of my friends are really busy/we're all off doing our own thing(s)... but I think I'm going to sit down and make some more calls this holiday season. And actually show up to a social event another friend is organizing.
Otherwise, I plan on making my "student" cookies :D

Kirsten said...

Hi Virginia! thanks for stopping by -- and I am so jealous of you and your sister. Mine lives across the country and I would love to cook her dinner. She works really hard and doesn't get taken care of very often. That's wonderful that you cooked for her.

What did you make? Anything fancy?

Kirsten said...

Hi Pat! This seems like a theme this time a year -- finding/making time to be with each other and reconnect with friends. Those are memories you'll really treasure. Do you go out to eat, or hang closer to home?

Kirsten said...

Hey Lady Graeye! A women of few but very important words -- hugs are absolutely key! I love me a good hug. Even better from an old friend, beloved, or kid! :-)

Kirsten said...

I heart Joanie.

Seriously, you are an angel. A living angel.

Kirsten said...

Hey lime, I think taking advantage of a little rest in the schedule and getting out and being social is a great idea. What are your student cookies? Sounds like fun!