My 2013 Christmas haul

Another Christmas and another outstanding haul of gifts from my amazing wife, who understands me so well.

Some people wish for cashmere sweaters, brand new video game systems, stylish watches and jewelry. My hope is often for the least pretentious, most unexpected, quirkiest little gift possible, and she never fails to deliver. 

For the past four years, I’ve been documenting the gifts that Elysha gives me on Christmas because they are so damn good. Every year has been just as good as the last, if not better.

For point of reference:

This year was just as good.

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In case you can’t tell from the photograph, my collection of gifts from this year includes:

“…the ultimate challenge for any know-it-all who thinks they have noting left to learn.”

I’m not sure if she’s trying to tell me something.

  • A pin. The perfect pin, really:

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  • A small bag of blue candy with a fantastic marketing plan (and from an Etsy seller in New Mexico, no less):

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We finished our anniversary in the negative

Yesterday was our seventh wedding anniversary.

I couldn’t imagine a better day.

Best of all, we ended the day in the negative.

My anniversary officially kicked off the night before when I arrived home around 11:00 PM from a wedding and discovered that my lawn had been mowed while I was working at a wedding. I had lamented my bad timing on Facebook earlier that day after noticing that I would probably be spending a portion of my anniversary mowing the lawn, so my friend, Tom (who owns a landscaping business), came over around 9:00 PM and cut it for me.

I have made Tom the villain in the golfing memoir that I;’m in the midst of writing. He’s the villain for good reason, but it’s moments like this that make it difficult for me to be mean to him.

He actually helped to save my marriage immediately following our wedding.

Off the golf course, you won’t meet a better guy.

On the golf course, he is a villain of the greatest order. At least that’s what I want my readers to believe. 

On the morning of our anniversary, my wife and I exchanged gifts, although we had nothing to actually hand to each other.

My wife informed me that she was taking me horseback riding for our anniversary. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I grew up on a horse farm until my parents divorced when I was about nine years old, and so I spent the majority of my early years on the back of a horse.

Since the divorce, however, I had never had a chance to ride again. It’s one of my deepest regrets from my childhood. Climbing on the back of a horse flooded me with memories of my youth. We had a great time riding through the forests and fields behind the farm where she had brought me, and it made me want to start riding again.

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I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the afternoon.

My gift to Elysha was cooking lessons at Sur La Table. I’ve arranged for her to take one class with her mother and another with a close friend later in the month. She was equally excited. 

One of my favorite moments from the entire day was when Elysha said, “We both managed to find gifts that didn’t bring any more stuff into our house.”

I loved that.

I recently noted that there are only three types of gift that I want to receive in the future:

  1. The gift of time
  2. The gift of cash
  3. The gift of experience, including learning something new that I can’t currently do

I later added the gift of spiteful yet meaningful charity to the list as well, but this is a gift better suited for a particular breed of human being.

My gifting criteria seeks to eliminate the gift of things in favor of a means of living a more meaningful and full life. I don’t want any more stuff. Instead, I want to be able to do more stuff.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Elysha gave me a signed first edition of a Kurt Vonnegut novel years ago that I cherish to this day.

Her Christmas-time stocking stuffers are always amazing.

The occasional clothing item, golfing gizmo or new fangled electronic, especially when it is truly needed, is always appreciated.

But as a general rule, I would prefer that items be removed from my home in a gifting situation rather than added to it. 

Our gifts to each other, as well as Tom’s gift to me, matched my criteria perfectly.

And the day wasn’t over.

Elysha and I went to dinner that evening and were surprised to learn at the end of the evening that her parents had called the restaurant and picked up the check.

It was a wonderful surprise.

Our final anniversary gift was given to us by our babysitter and friend, Allison, who refused payment (after much protestation on our part) for her babysitting duties. 

It was an ideal anniversary. I spent it in the company of my beautiful wife, and at the end of the day, we had added nothing to our home in terms of stuff.

Actually, the garbage and recycling were picked up yesterday. We actually subtracted a considerable amount from the home yesterday.

We ended the day in the red. I couldn’t be happier.

Based upon this year’s birthday gifts, I’m much more mature than I was two years ago.

My wife gave me tickets to American Idiot, the theatrical adaptation of Green Day’s rock opera of the same name, for my birthday.

Coincidentally, a friend who shares the same birthday as me (along with a laundry list of other bizarre coincidences) also received tickets to American Idiot.

Great minds think alike.    

Though I recently posted that the gift I want most is the gift of knowledge, tickets to American Idiot are damn good, too. In terms of gifts, my preferred list includes (in no particular order):

1. Experiences
2. Knowledge
3. Time
4. Cash

With few exceptions, I have no interest in things. Other than a few large ticket items, I have plenty of stuff already.

American Idiot represents a unique experience, and considering I’ve written my own rock opera, it’s the perfect gift.

Ironically, someone at work attempted to solve my iPhone calendar sync issue on Friday, which is one of the items on my knowledge list, and two of my friends read the aforementioned post and have offered to assist in getting my podcast up and running.

I even received some cash.

This represents a dramatic shift in terms of the gifts that I have received for my birthday. Two years ago, Elysha planned a surprise party for me. The gifts from that party included

  1. A pocket copy of the US Constitution
  2. A sweatshirt that read Matt, The Man, the Myth, the Legend
  3. A basketball
  4. Gift cards to Dominos Pizza, McDonald’s and Wendy’s
  5. Snow pants
  6. Mille Bornes, a French card game that I played as a child
  7. Underwear (from my in-laws)

In the words of one of my former students, “It’s like you’re not even a man yet, Mr. Dicks.”

Another said, “I can’t tell if you’re an adult nerd or just a big kid.”

The husband of one of my colleagues and the bearer of the McDonald’s gift card asked his wife, “Are we really giving McDonald’s gift cards as a birthday present?”

I like to think that the tickets to American Idiot represent a newfound maturity. 

Or perhaps my wife’s attempt to mature her husband a bit.

A holiday gift idea that is unusual, renewable, charitable and might gleefully annoy the materialistic moron in your life.

My classroom operates a microloan account through Kiva that has been funded over the years by students through the sale of poetry. We have a total of $250 that we loan to small business owners and entrepreneurs around the world, focusing primarily on third world nations where our money can do the most good.

Whenever we have money available to loan, my students spend a couple hours researching prospective loan applicants on Kiva’s website, choosing possible recipients for our loan and writing proposals that are then read to the class. We debate the merits of each proposal and ultimately decide to whom our money will be lent via a vote.

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My students love the process. The ability to make a tangible difference in another person’s life is a powerful experience for them, and the time spent learning about these struggling entrepreneurs provides a greater perspective and understanding of the world beyond our borders.

It has also led to a possible holiday gift idea:

In lieu of a traditional gift, why not open a microloan account on someone’s behalf via an organization like Kiva and provide enough funding for the recipient to begin making loans? Kiva requires loans to be made in $25 increments, so for a relatively small amount of money, you can give a friend or loved one the gift of gift giving. There are even microloan organizations that allow for the lender to charge a nominal interest rate, meaning your gift could continue to grow for the recipient as the money continues to be lent.

I love this idea for both children and adults. It’s unusual, it provides the recipient with a renewable experience, it serves as a counter to the materialism and commercialism that dominate so much of holiday gift giving. and it does not contribute to the accumulation of stuff in a person’s home.

It’s the perfect gift.

Moreover, there is a decent chance that this particular gift would be poorly received by the gift-obsessed, materialistic moron who insists on traditional, quid pro quo gift giving.

You know who I mean. Right? That less-than-enlightened person in your life who remembers every gift that he or she has ever received and attempts to infer your intentions and level of affection based upon the quality and cost of the gift. 

In exchange for the cashmere sweater that he or she has given you, this particular breed of materialistic friend or relative expects something of similar value and quality in return. Offering the ability to loan $50 to a dressmaker in Guatemala or a fruit picker in Pakistan might annoy this kind of person, which makes the gift even more appealing in my eyes.

Poking and prodding and provoking the materialistic can be great fun, and even better, it’s al for a worthy cause.