Tuesday, December 23, 2014

10 Gift Wrapping Lessons From a Horrible Christmas Gift Wrapper

Tonight I'm celebrating (because I'm done) that one part of the holiday season that is inescapable...the gift wrapping. Tonight was the night to drag out that big, black trash bag full of gifts that was taking up space in my closet, gather up the wrapping paper and get to it. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a terrible wrapper, but I did realize a few things tonight:

  1. Cheap wrapping paper is cheap for a reason. Simply put, it is crap. Regardless of your wrapping expertise, it will inevitably tear. Be sure to grab the paper that is a bit more expensive; better quality is worth it.
  2. Gift wrap is recyclable. Did you know that? I did not, but now they stamp all over the inside along with those handy cut guides, "recycle this gift wrap". Understood.
  3. The handy dotted lines for cutting are not so handy if you have cheap paper. See #1. It still tears so don't be cheap with your paper like I was.
  4. Who needs to wrap when you have gift bags! My choice for large, awkward-to-wrap gifts. Just be sure you have tissue paper to match.
  5. My dog is a very generous giver. When in doubt, the gift comes from Laddie.
  6. Awkwardly shaped items are very difficult to wrap, especially when nice boxes are at a minimum in your house and finding one requires boots, a coat, and gloves to dig through the recycling bin. Opt for that gift bag!
  7. It is much easier to give a fluffy goat or a cute piglet in someones name via Internet and a charity instead of wrapping. Obviously I would not be wrapping up that pig.
  8. No bows or ribbons please. I am already "wrapping challenged"
    and ribbons will just make it worse. I'm wondering why I even bought all those yards of ribbon I have stashed away over the years.
  9. Another year of wrapping experience does not make me better. I am the kind of person who is a distinctively bad wrapper. Everyone can identify a present wrapped by me because the quality is that of a 4-year old. I will happily pay someone to wrap for me while go out and grab a coffee.
  10. A glass of wine or a latte from Caribou (depending on the time of day) makes the wrapping process much more fun. Not resulting in a more beautifully wrapped gift, but better for me.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and beautifully wrapped presents beneath your tree!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Radical Christmas Giving

For the first time since 1978 I tuned into Saturday Night Live (SNL) a few weeks ago to catch my brother's favorite performing artist Prince. Before Prince's historic, 8-minute musical interlude on SNL, comedian Chris Rock delivered a monologue that has made me rethink traditional American Christmas giving. In a witty way, he questioned why there is so much consumerism around Christmas—the holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the least consumer-driven person ever!

So true.

To make this long and familiar story short, in Christian belief, Christmas is about celebrating God's gift to humanity, his only son Jesus Christ. Angels illuminated the sky singing praises, the shepherds brought their flocks, and the three wise men gave gifts to the Christ child. The beginning of the tradition of giving gifts to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas.You probably know the rest of the story. Jesus eventually died on the cross to give everlasting life to those who believe in Christ. The ultimate gift.

Gift giving and the whole shopping experience seems part of the American culture. It is probably safe to say that more people shopped over the Thanksgiving Day weekend than voted in the 2014 midterm elections. I guess that shows where Americans' priorities lie.

The New York Times notes that 133.7 million Americans shopped over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, spending $50.9 billion. Billions! Ever wonder how much good could be done with $50 billion? Improving water, feeding the hungry, providing necessary clothing and shelter for the homeless. $50 billion spent on humanity may only make a dent, but a better dent than feeding our consumerism. New flat screen TV for Dad, luxurious Coach handbag for Mom, or a gift to strangers in a developing country?

Not a tough choice. We want to spend on ourselves, our families, and our friends. That's great, but think of giving in a new way. Buy fewer gifts for your loved ones who already have all they could ever need.

Mull over giving a gift to someone who really needs it. And I'm not talking about tossing a quarter into the Salvation Army red kettle. Donate money to your favorite cause, give scholarship money to your Alma Mater to help a student in need, or consider doing more. Remove your blinders, ponder the true meaning of Christmas, and give a gift to someone who needs food more than a new phone. Here are some radical ways that my family has given back:

Compassion International: Sponsor a child. Ours is Mathias in Tanzania for $38 each month.  http://www.compassion.com/

Feed My Starving Children: Package food for those starving in Haiti and African nations. There is probably an opportunity near you. http://www.fmsc.org/

Doctors Without Borders: The one organization that is successfully fighting the battle against Ebola.