Saturday, October 18

Holiday swap

I'm starting to think my life exists in bullet points.

"In watermelon sugar, the deeds were done and done again, as my life is done in watermelon sugar." -Richard Brautigan

I finished reading Wake Up and Smell the Planet, Grist's guide to being green. I read it on the bus on the way to work each time I didn't have Bean with me. (My husband and I usually switch off caring for her and he often works or has class at night, which means Bean comes to pick me up at work with her daddy.) I found most of the advice to be at an eco-intro level, though I did pick up a few facts I didn't know before. Notably, avoid bath products with "PEG," "polyethylene," "polyethylene glycol," "polyoxyethylene," "-eth-," or "-oxynol-" because they come with a carcinogenic byproduct called 1,4-Dioxane. Overall, the book was a fun, quick read and the kind of stocking stuffer gift for folks who are interested but don't know where to start on being more eco-friendly.

Speaking of the holidays, my family and I are at a standstill. My sister and I usually organize a sort of adult Secret Santa, with the maximum gift amount being $30. All the kids (under age 5 currently) get gifts from everyone. This year, though, several complaints have been made and the holidays need an overhaul. First, one sister wants a more predictable system, so she can shop for her person all year long. Another wants to do it by families--we keep multiplying, and the expense and time it takes to expend it are taxing.

I would like to see more holiday themes that involve less material items. As my dad says, "I have enough toys." This is true for most (though not all) of my family members. I just feel ridiculous paying $30 for some hair salon gift certificate to my sister-in-law when she rides around in a Mercedes without a monetary care in the world, while I'm earning WIC food stamps and hoping my baby doesn't poop much today so we can save 40 cents on a diaper liner. I don't like contributing to her evil consumption nor can I keep affording to pay for it. I thought we could do a charity holiday (everyone picks their favorite charity and we donate time or money to that person's charity). This would be especially timely this year with the economic downturn (read: recession) hitting nonprofits hard. Or we could do a homemade holiday: baked goods, art, music, wherever your talents lay. Or a Yankee swap: you don't want this, give it to them. Anybody have other ideas?

The problem is, my family has too many toys--but they want more toys. They don't realize they have too many toys. They see other people with even more toys and they want that, too. But they don't need toys anymore. How do I say all this with a gift?


Momma Val said...

White elephant is always fun but not through the mail. For thanksgiving I am having 20 people this year. I am going to have a "Bail Out Thanksgiving Bingo." We will have Thanksgiving themed bingo cards and I have many helper prizes cause we are ALL feeling the pinch. Some of the items are spag sauce, pasta, soap, T-shirt, trowel, etc. It really hardly cost me anything and I think it will be alot of fun. Most every item is practical and can get good use out of it OR people can trade. Will you all be getting together for Xmas or just mailing stuff to each other? Ooh, you could have a list to send around for whichever gift cards that you really want (grocery store, gas station, etc., then you can do the same thing as usual and this way everyone really gets what they want. Just a thought :)

Electronic Goose said...

A T-day bailout, too funny!

We all live very far apart and will be mailing gifts.

Momma Val said...

I'd try the list of gift cards that people could really use. You guys could put down Whole Foods, maybe your dad could use gas cards, Mrs. Mercedes could put down ? I say circulate a list of gift cards or things that can easily be bought and/or sent in the mail. How about PayPal giftcards. Most reputable websites accept PayPal (G-Diapers)?, etc.? Just some ideas. This way everyone is helping each other out with truly usable things rather than just gifts of the material nature. Everything will be a little tight this year!!!

Jez said...

I think it goes without saying which of your suggestions I most support and that is the homemade holiday! lol Not only is a handmade gift more meaningful (because they have to think about it and put effort into it) but there is likely less brainless consuming going on (at least it's not a manicure). giving. I am not ashamed to admit that I like receiving gifts much

BerryBird said...

Gift exchanges can make the holidays such an ordeal. I got roped into a secret santa at work last year--being new there, I was afraid to resist. The most offensive part to me was that the idea seemed to be to buy joke gifts, things that would just get tossed out anyway. [For the record, I couldn't go along with that, and got my giftee organic, fair trade loose tea with a diffuser mug.] But I want to be involved in the fewest possible number of meaningless exchanges.

Good luck with finding a solution to the family exchange.