Tuesday, December 21, 2010

To Give or Not to Give

To give, or not to give, that is the question I ask myself each year around this time. Not to sound like a scrooge, but I have found that I give more gifts to peripheral acquaintances than I do to close friends and family. (Perhaps that says something about the number of friends I have?)

School teachers, religious education teachers, teachers’ aides, coaches, bus drivers, mailman, trash men, newspaper delivery person, hairdresser, piano/guitar teachers, work associates, Scout leaders… the list goes on and on.

And then there are the Secret Santa gifts, hostess gifts, neighbor gifts, and Church and school gift collections we give to.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in the old adage ”Tis better to give than to receive,” but do I have to give to so many?

I’m a sucker for a red bucket. I’ve never met a “Toys for Tots” box I haven’t wanted to fill. And those Dear Santa letters bring me to tears every time.

The question is when and where to draw the line. When do you say enough? Like most families, we are cutting back this Christmas. Is it fair though, to cut back on any of the above individuals, all of whom do a much-appreciated service for our family?

All of these thoughts go through my head as I search for that perfect gift for the CCD teachers’ aide (whom I’ve never met but was told by my daughter is “very nice.”)

I know, money or gift cards are always appreciated, but I have a problem with giving money. My husband and his brother stopped exchanging gifts a few years ago when they realized they were simply passing money, in the form of gift cards, back and forth.

“Here’s a gift card to Lowe’s for you!”
“Thanks, and here’s a gift card in the same amount for you to Home Depot.”

Now, they wish each other a Merry Christmas with a handshake and a beer. It works for them.

I know it’s the thought that counts, but wouldn’t the thought mean more in words or gestures, not dollar signs?

Wouldn’t the mailman appreciate a cold glass of lemonade in July, and some hot chocolate in February? Wouldn’t the piano teacher like an extra week’s pay in March?

Of course they would, but does this make up for the absence of a gift in December? I don’t think so.

And so, I will continue to shop, and bake, and wrap. I will hand out my gifts with a smile and a kind word, knowing I am lucky to be able to give, even if it may be a little less than previous years.

I will wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful 2011 and mean it. And that, in my opinion, is the best gift I can give anyone ~ the gift of positive thoughts and good will.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tales of an Insomniac

Insomnia sucks! Is there anything worse than waking up at 3:50 am and realizing immediately you are up for good? Today, (Tonight? This morning?) a brief thought crossed my mind while in that state of being half asleep/half awake, that instantly caused me to wake up fully. It was, of course, a worry. Should I attend this event, or shouldn’t I? Will I disappoint this person if I don’t? What should I do? And that quickly my mind was up and running even though my body was far from ready to start my day.

I had two options: lay there in the dark and continue to worry, or get up and start moving. I’ve learned that there is nothing worse than fretting in the dark. I have it from good authority that everything always seems worse at night, when you can’t do anything about it.

So here I am, at 4:45 am, having put in a load of laundry, responded to a few emails, checked Facebook and played with the dogs, now watching the news and pouring out my woes to anyone who will listen.

I envy my children. I see them sleeping, sprawled out on their beds, covers half off, mouths slightly opened, deep in slumber, not a care in the world. I used to be that way. When did it change? Is it old age? Or perhaps the pressures of adulthood weighing down on me?

Whatever it is, I have found that I am spending more early morning hours awake than asleep these days. I’m trying to look on the bright side of this predicament. It’s quiet at this hour. As the saying goes, not a creature is stirring, not even the dogs (now that they’ve had their treats). I can read, write, or just daydream without hearing “Mom” every few seconds. (Of course I could also exercise, but why make an already difficult morning worse?)

I also find I do some of my best thinking and planning during this time. It’s amazing what you can get done before everyone in the house wakes up. The downside however, is that I am pretty much worthless by 9:00 pm, when my teens are just getting started.

When I look at my calendar today, I shudder. How will I make it through today on five hours of sleep? Well, I’ve done it before. I will do it again. And I will hope that this time tomorrow, (5:45 am), I will still be sleeping, and not working on my third load of laundry and second glass of diet coke!