Merry Christmas! I Love You Thi$$$$ Much!

price tagsWell, it’s descended upon us again hasn’t it? The traditional, commercial Christmas is practically here. That magical time of year when we all gather together after rushing madly hither and yon in search of that perfect gift that lets our loved ones know just how very much we love them. Literally.

For example: “Here, Aunt Nancy… here’s a lovely plaid scarf. I know it’s wool and a little scratchy but it matches your eyes. Don’t you think? They did have cashmere, but you see… My love for you is not a cashmere kind of love. My love for you is a woolish kind of love. In fact, I love you around $11 worth.”

See what I mean? Without realizing it, we often divide those we care about into categories, defining our love for them by assigning dollar amounts. Now I know you might argue with me that it is all about budgeting and how can you possibly spend more on Cousin Stuart after dropping less than 20 on Aunt Nancy’s hideous scarf… but we ought to admit that on SOME level it is true.

The math goes a little something like this (Feel free to add a zero depending on which “percenter” you are)… There are those who fall into the $5 category. They are the ones most often occupying the fringes of our lives… Those we HAVE to see on a daily basis but would not necessarily interact with were we not forced to. And those we place into the $10 to $20 range… People with whom we choose to spend time but are not related. And then there’s family. Family eats up most of the budget either out of necessity, obligation or affection.

And this is where the real fun begins. You consider what THEY got YOU last year and thus what type of gift should be given this year. This sometimes breeds a healthy bout of one-up-man-ship or at the very least a breaking even. I’ve often wondered whether or not we should all just keep the $50 or $100 since we’re essentially handing it back and forth year after year. But what would be the fun in that?

Then I remember that it isn’t really about the money. The money is the necessary evil by which feel we must express our gratitude or love this time of year. It’s really all about recognition. Recognition of the people we COULD not or WOULD not live without whether they gave us a faulty, small kitchen appliance (with or without a warranty), a gift card to a place we hate, a too big pair of pajamas or a hideous pair of slippers last year.

Merry Christmas everyone! May you give and receive lots of love to and from your 5, 10, 20 and 50-dollar people this holiday season… no matter what form of currency it comes in.

Pawn Shop Valentine

Nothing says “I love you” quite like cashing in on other people’s misfortune.

Last Friday night I saw something that—as far as I’m concerned—takes the V-Day cupcake when it comes to over-the-top. I saw a Valentine’s Day commercial for… Are you ready for this? A pawn shop. The commercial illustrated how flowers are for pathetic losers… and the real Valentine’s Day gifts can be found at Pay Day Pawn (not it’s real name). “Hey everyone! Not sure what to get that special someone for the BIG day?? … Come on down to Pay Day Pawn, where we are bound to have exactly what you’re looking for!”

Just what your girl or guy wants… someone else’s used crap. “Hey honey! This is how special YOU are to ME… This V-Day, let’s skip the flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries. Instead, I’m taking you to Pay Day Pawn and let you dig around in other people’s cast-offs for something special that shows you and reminds you ALL YEAR LONG just how much you mean to me!”

Big screen TVs, antiques, used jewelry, musical instruments, amputee Hummels and grandma’s chipped tea set (that is missing several pieces). Yup. I don’t know about you folks, but that certainly is MY idea of a Valentine’s Day wish come true. Because nothing else truly conveys your love for him like a nice, gently-used set of golf clubs circa 1963. And you’ll NEVER find anything that shows her how deep your love for her goes like a tarnished, ruby dinner ring set in 14-karat, yellow gold and surrounded by dozens of cloudy baguettes.

I know times are tough and I am in no way poking fun at a non-traditional or second-hand form of gift giving. Not everyone can or even wants to blow a miniature fortune on some roses that will inevitably die or splurge on an over-priced dinner at an overly-crowded restaurant. Sometimes a sweet sentiment or kind and selfless act does FAR more than anything money can buy. But if your significant other actually takes you to Pay Day Pawn for your gift this year… Well… perhaps it’s time to consider pawning them. And who knows… maybe they’ll fetch a really good price!

A New Year: Gifts Within a Gift

Nearly everyone is familiar with the idea of a gift within a gift within a gift. A large, beautifully-wrapped box that when opened, contains another smaller wrapped box that when opened, contains yet another even-smaller wrapped box and so on.

This came to mind today as I considered the notion of a new year and all of the unopened surprises it contains. As we put to bed the events of 2011, we cannot help but reflect upon them. Mulling over its unique highs and lows, celebrations and horrors we ponder both things that happened to us individually as well as collectively.

Each of our “gifts” looks different and of course contains entire sets of varying surprises. Some of the boxes will contain wonders and joys beyond belief while still others may hold heartbreaking secrets and life-altering circumstances.

In the grand scheme of things, it really is best not to know… until the moment has come to open each one in its own time. Naturally, in the dawn of early January we will ask ourselves the question: What does 2012 have in store for me, my family, my friends, my country and my world?

And I realized that if time is one of the most precious gifts (and I truly believe that it is) then the days of another year—a gift unto itself—is not unlike the concept of that beautifully-wrapped parcel. There are gifts within a gift within a gift. Each day intended to be unwrapped and fully experienced one by one… in the order in which they are presented to us.