Holiday Disaster has struck!

‘Tis the Season…      I went to pull out my supplies for making my traditional Christmas gifts.

Time to get ready

Time to get ready

To defuse the Christmas giving extravaganza, several years ago I decided to reframe my approach as things were just getting totally out of hand.  I wanted to reframe my approach to Christmas… back to something that a glimmer of meaning.

1) It needed to be personal (anyone can spend big bucks to buy something and yes, I’d love to do that, but just don’t have enough big bucks in my back pocket these days)! Who needs the stress… who made that rule, anyway. (Oh wait, I remember, the advertising media!)

2) It needed to be useful (something that could actually be used, not just looked at).  People have so many “collectables” that they are falling off the shelves and/or gathering a boat load of dust that cries out “I’m a failure” at keeping my house clean.  No need to add to that scenario. I want MY friends to actually LIKE me, not tolerate me. I’m envying my friends who have mastered the “enough is enough” and de-cluttered their homes!

3) I wanted it to be something that I created.  I have this terrible habit of collecting stuff to make things in the future. Unfortunately it tends to be, the distant future.  I just keep acquiring; but the “doing” is a little behind schedule. Uh, about a hundred years at this point!

Fabric is my downfall (well, … right after books) … the colors, patterns, textures, they all call to me with such appeal.  Then add in threads and fibers and embellishments; my creative brain just goes nuts.   So I MUST have some way to justify buying all this stuff, other than just wanting to be able to touch/look at it, other than to know that it is there if I want/need it. (Some people have comfort food; I think I have comfort books and fabrics!)

Once I master  thinking something into existence i.e. ‘creative brain=finished project’, I’ll be ahead of the game, but until then….

LOVE QUILTING?

25 different fabrics

25 different fabrics

Someone, after looking at one of my homemade quilts said, you must love quilting! ”

Actually, NO. I don’t particularly like it, but I DO like the results.  The part I like best is the creation of the design; assembling the fabrics, the colors, the patterns.  The actually “work” is just that, a chore to get done.

Sad to say, I have this awesome box full of completed “tops” that have not actually made into the quilt stage. You know, where you actually assemble the sandwich: the top, the middle, the backing, and then bind it all together.  One of these days I’m hoping to find someone who likes that part (I’ve heard that they are really out there…. somewhere). The only problem would be, WHO would get the finished project???? I don’t know if I could give up my “child”.  Perhaps someone would accept dollars for their labor?

Putting it together

Putting it together

THE PROJECT

BUT, back to my main subject today… the selection of a Christmas project that meets my requirements.

A few years back I decided on pot holders. Who can’t use a potholder. Even those who don’t really cook these days, occasionally need to reheat something, so could use a potholder! And maybe a cup towel if I’m really ambitious (usually planning to do that, but, darn, I always seem to run out of time)!

The other good point about a potholder… I can play with different techniques on a small-scale.  Last year I taught myself how to do

Lattice smocking - not as hard as it looks!

Lattice smocking – not as hard as it looks!

lattice smoking… and turned that into a dozen potholders! Success…. something useful, supplies actually used, and got to ‘design/create’ the item and managed to learn a new technique.  I WIN!

Of course, the last time I went down to visit my daughter she was racing around trying to find the potholder(s) to hang up, that I had given her last Xmas. She found one but couldn’t remember if I had given her two. The trauma… she put them away so they would not get messed up and now she had lost track of them.  Dang it! They are supposed to get used… not stored!

It has been said, the more valuable something is, the less it get’s used.  It’s either that, or it doesn’t quite match with their style! I prefer the first statement, overall.   These days you can buy a potholder from 99 cents to roughly $5, on average.  To make one… well-l-l-l, if you counted labor?  Probably $10 on up.  Like I said, “it’s a labor of love”!  (Love = caring, creative, personal, time, energy.)

Each year I have been able to refine my technique… more heat-resistant, an easier way to hang up (put a magnet in the corner), holds up to washing, and an interesting/different designs  from what you can find in the store.

Fits over the pot handle

Fits over the pot handle

POT HANDLES

This last year I experimented and made myself some pot “handle” holders. They slip over the handle.

Good thing I tried them out on my own cast iron skillets. “what’s that smell?… smoke?”

I discovered that the constant exposure, when they were butted up next to the hot pan, caused them to begin to smolder, and burn!!!!

Oh yeah, a great gift it would make… slow but insidious way to burn your kitchen down! NOT. Well, time to refine that one.

GETTING DOWN TO WORK

A colorful fabric stash!

A colorful fabric stash!

I got my new living space organized; set up a sewing area and pulled out my sewing machine. Dove into my fabric stash, drooling & caressing the fabrics, the colors… Super, I’m set… OMG.

Oh darn, where are those dang cords??? you know, the power cords. The thing you stick into the sewing machine to make it work it’s magic.

Wonderful!!!! have sewing machine on hand, but NO power.

Let me see, three, no, four storage units, where all our “stuff” is stored… and now I need to go hunting for a particular cord, for a 30-year-old sewing machine. Talk about a scavenger hunt… do you know just how much stuff that is to wade through, under, and around???? Bummer…

I have discovered that despite best intentions (and actually getting started during the summer), after our move, that most of this year’s potholder project  is “missing in action”. So much for being organized ahead of time and prepared! yikes…

Hmmm, I think this year, everyone is going to get “stuck” with some homemade blackberry jam. Everybody eats, right!

  Bon Appetite!

yum! blackberry jamhomemade!

Yum! Blackberry jam
homemade!

Aiming for a “real” christmas?

On your mark….

OMG, I walked into a store and was just overwhelmed with the onslaught of possibilities of

Decorate the House!

things I could purchase to create the most wonderful Christmas. My heart sped up!  Decorate the house, the yard, the office…  Buy that perfect, special gift for (fill-in-the-blank) uhhhh, wait… purchase?

The psychology of advertising is incredibly efficient and effective. We have learned the “triggers” that motivate people to do what we want, in the short-term, and have applied that to the science of sales.

Corporations have put in place powerful hooks to sell their “goods” by triggering our psychological buttons.  We want to please, we are good-hearted and like to share, we love to bring something special into someone’s life, we like to make other’s feel good… and the consumer society that we live in, tells us to do this with “things”.

The “REAL” gifts at Christmas

I would contend that the “real” gifts we give at Christmas are about connecting, sharing, laughing, appreciating, working together, creating community. It is about developing a sense of intimacy where people actually care about who you are and who they are.

It is NOT about the “things” at all. They are simply a method that can be used to express something.  It’s when the item/gift becomes a substitute for the real connection that it is actually a detriment. (Did Johnny get more/better gifts??? don’t they love ME as much? kind of thinking).

Purchase…Christmas, hmmm. Every heard of an oxymoron phrase?  Words spoken together that contradict each other. Oxymoron is one of my most favorite terms.

  • Bitter sweet
  • Deafening silence
  • Military Intelligence
  • Living death
  • Irregular pattern

But Practically… How?

We were able to switch, when I was problem solving the gift issue,  to a variation of gift giving. If there were 6 in our xmas group I would buy 6 useful gifts in a specific price range & wrap them. Before I would have spent hours and many miles trying to find “the” perfect gift for “that” person, a near impossible task incurring a significant amount of stress.

Christmas Present – choose one!

When it came time to open presents, each person was able to select one package (unopened). Interesting to see if people were drawn to size? or to fancy wrapping? I got to have fun being creative with the wrapping!  Once everyone had a wrapped package we would open our gift to see what we had.

Starting with the most senior (or most junior) person, we could trade for another gift and continued this until everyone was happy with what they had. (no trading directly back & forth, of course… had to go through a third-party). It’s a variation of the white elephant gift, but it was a LOT of fun. We laughed and shared; discussed possible uses for a gift for a particular person. We INTERACTED with each other. It was a special time that we shared together. Not as in isolation as I opened “my” gift to see what I had scored!

laughter

A huge part of a “successful” Christmas, is the feeling of connection and interaction generated; laughter, talking, sharing, working together on a project. But western culture has evolved to the acquisition of “things” as our focus. Well, selling more things meant work for

I got WHAT?

more people to make things for people to purchase (until those jobs/plants were sent overseas). How to get out of the ” more trap” and yet still have fun?

Some things I purchased: a quality extension cord, flashlight w/solar charger, a tool kit, a book, calendar, a puzzle, etc. iT NEEDED TO BE USEFUL, NOT PLASTIC JUNK, AND good for male or female.

A gift of something real

You could do this several times ($5 limit, $10 limit, $20 limit). We had MORE fun than the traditional open every gift you have in 5 minutes, and then look to see “what else is there” that quickly resolves to “is that all?” Usually opening presents was a rather depressing experience. Too much expectation built up for getting that “perfect gift” which is, in and of itself, a moving target that we often don’t even know the answer to.

We did get each person one “special” gift they had asked for but that was generally the limit.

The challenge is to defuse the “consumerism” overload of the media. DON’T go into the stores and subject yourself to the assault any more than you must. I think it’s challenging enough just to get through the grocery store these days.

Did you say USEFUL?

I know one couple that chose to buy one major thing each year, and then decided to take $25 each (well, that was many years back, try $50) and see how many USEFUL gifts they could come up with, for that Christmas, for each other.  I always waited, with bated breath, to hear who had won that year’s Christmas year challenge: number of useful gifts within the price target! They choose to make the focus on figuring out what would be of use to their partner which meant they really needed to think about what each was doing, working toward, etc.

Each of us will find our own path… to “deal” with the holiday season.  The challenge is to not let consumerism dictate and undercut the values we hold, or desire to hold.

Was there a Void?

When we are brought up in our current culture we start out by not even questioning the norm.  Except, except for that nagging feeling that something is missing.  We’re suppose to feel a “certain” way… but it isn’t there.  Why? what’s wrong with me?

Uh, NO. It’s NOT what’s wrong with you. It’s what is wrong with the way our process has evolved.

Finding what bring satisfaction

Over years, the traditions have evolved subtly,

to becoming more consumerist and it

produces an “empty” feeling, when that is ALL there is to it. That feeling should challenge us to see out what really fills that void.  As we do, we begin to touch on what has value in the long-term.

This season: Figure out your goal, make a list, and stick to it!, is the mantra!!! Become aware of the “media” pressures to push you in a certain direction.

Try this: sit down with someone this holiday season and ask them about their childhood.

Where they grew up? what they did? who had an impact on them? The doors will open up and you will begin to develop a connection to another human being, in a way that matters. And remember, there is no pressure, there is no one  right way… it is simply “being present” that matters.The challenge is to listen and to focus on that person and the world they are from.

Gathering together

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The Ugly American:  After looking at the statistics for this blog site I am blown away at the number of different countries it has gone to.  There is a certain amount of humility in that awareness because I am acutely aware of how incredibly selfish and self-centered americans are. We have so much.  We have so much materially.

It sounds rather tacky to be talking about how many gifts, or how to handle gift giving… when so many in the world will have nothing, or simply having enough food on the table, will be a gift.

In the USA it is a curse for many. The “curse” is that stuff substitutes for connection.

IMO, connection IS what is about. We as children grab for the gaudy wrapped junk, instead of honoring the relationships we develop.

Because I struggle with this dichotomy (Americans have much/many have very, very little) in the past we have chosen a charity to support.  In lieu of gifts, we donate to The Heifer Project: Theheiferproject.org. It fits well with our sustainable farming focus.

sample Catalog page

If you look at their gift catalog, you can choose to help support many different projects (water buffalo, chickens, bees, water, biogas stove, etc).  It’s gift that keeps giving, in many cases.  With livestock and education gifted, some of the offspring are passed along eventually, to others.  It increases awareness, health, nutrition, income, resilience among small communities. I would encourage everyone to find some NGO (non-government operation) to support that fits in with your concerns.

Giving to those you know and care about, is in some senses, not really giving. It’s like giving something to goodwill you no longer want… is that really “giving”?  How about I give away something I REALLY want… a whole different matter.

Contributing to the well-being of those you do not know personally, that adds another aspect to sharing. “Go ye into all the world” in a practical sense… giving something meaningful and of value, to those you do not even know. Isn’t that the real meaning of the “season”?

All the world

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