Our country has taken some interesting twists and turns over the last six months. We’ve made history on Wall Street and in the White House. So much is happening, it’s fearful and exciting all at the same time. And with all that national action, I still hear the woes of holiday gift giving on a community level.

Now I admit, holiday gift giving is a tricky thing. And, by no means, am I a ‘Scrooge’, I love the holidays, the lights, the smells, all of it. But, I don’t do a lot of holiday gift exchanging. My friends and I will commonly have a ‘no gifts clause’, then one of them, usually, my dear, Bethany, will get me something. And it’s always something I really needed, but didn’t know it. Well, she does know me very well. Empirically, I am a better BIRTHDAY gift giver OR I was in India and had to bring you back something gift giver OR a ‘Wow, I saw this and it had your name all over it, so I had to get it for no reason’ gift giver. I like giving that way, or maybe I just like surprises.

Being the observer this week has been interesting, the most common dilemma by far is the, “Well, she got me something, so now I have to get her something.” But somehow, if I have to haul myself to the store and pick out some’thing’, any’thing’ that I think you might like AND that fits into my budget for you, based on how much you mean to me, or let’s get real, how much I think you’ll spend on me, somehow it just doesn’t feel authentic. It leaves me feeling sort of flat and empty, in part by the fact that I have enough things, and you probably do too.

Then there is the office dilemma, I was out with my friend, Ben and he was looking for a gift for Secret Santa. As we went in store after store and I recommended several different things, he finally looked at me and said, “I just need a gift, I’m not trying to make friends here.” Good for him, for being authentic about it! So, we got her wine and chocolate, something that will bring her joy, but at the same time be impermanent, sort of like their relationship.

I don’t know why I feel so strongly about holiday gift giving. Maybe the years of watching my mother lose her head over having to get gifts for family. Or maybe it was when I was growing up and would ask my parents what they wanted for Christmas, my ’self sacrificing’ mom would always say she wanted nothing and my ‘not so funny’ dad would say “What I want you can’t afford.” I think their hearts were in the right place, but it did make it pretty difficult, so instead, I would make them a gift or give them an experience, a birdhouse, a memory filled family photo album, made them place mats, a flower box or as I got older, a gift or dinner at the Ritz Carlton.

So, for those of you that love gift giving, by all means do it up, wrapping ribbons and all. For those of you like me, who find it to be challenging, you don’t HAVE to do anything, you are not alone. Have an experience with your family and friends or create something from the heart, be original, dare to be different and keep your list as small as possible, to only those you can give authentically to.

A few ideas in the art of gift giving: Make them something unique; this can cost almost next to nothing, that birdhouse costs probably $10 dollars, my parents love it and actually use it as a planter, of course, it helped that my roommate had a whole workspace in the garage to build it with.

* Get some material and sew some cute aprons, bibs (for babies) or bags, you can really make it original for that person. If you don’t have a sewing machine, click the link below. This place offers classes and has drop in hours for you to use their machines for a small fee, they also have materials on hand for your use. http://www.watersideworkshops.org/pages/our-programs/sewing-program.php
* Write a poem or paint a picture.
* Have an experience, take someone to dinner, play, show, a day of wine tasting or your favorite hike.
* Take a class together, dance lessons, beading, Spanish or heck, how about a one day Fire Eating class at the Crucible? http://thecrucible.org/
* A romantic weekend at the hot springs, we are so lucky to have a plethora of places nearby. Harbin, Orr and Wilbur are all hot springs within a reasonable driving distance.
* For the adrenaline junkie friend, how about indoor sky diving? http://iflysfbay.com/
* Have extra money? A gift to the best restaurant in town or a weekend in Tahoe.
* No money? Frame your favorite photo of the two of you!
* On Christmas Day, the Salvation Army and Little Brothers of San Francisco always need people to help deliver meals or visit an elderly person, both of these take place in the morning, so no worries of it taking away from your family time. http://www.littlebrothers.org/
* Oh, and for the Secret Santa, White Elephant gifts…I always vote for something edible.
* I could go on and on, I guess the point is I can’t remember who gave me that candle holder a few years back, but I will NEVER forget the look on Ms. Ruby’s face, tears streaming down, when she opened her present from Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly, and she finally got that gold lame sweater she had been wishing for all year long!

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