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6 days… no, wait, 5 days until Christmas…

Whatever.  I can’t count!  Leave it to me to try and change the birthdate of Jesus.  Okay, math has never been my thing.  I’m focusing more on the artistic process here, not the time, or time-math.  Work with me people.  Only one person has been brave enough to point this out, and as soon as he gets out of the hospital, you can ask him about it.

Have you read The Five Love Languages?  I have, and although I may not know my love language, I know what it’s not.  It’s not gifts.  With that being said, please enjoy my 2009 Christmas gift giving guide.

The 2009 Christmas Gift Giving Guide by Jody Wissing (aka Jody’s List)

Your most memorable childhood gift.

What was the coolest, most mind-blowing gift you received as a child?  No silly, besides the box it came in?  Mine was a Krazy Kar.  It’s that bright yellow thing with the swirly peppermint wheels.  I don’t recall how long I had it, but I know it was several years.  I’m guessing it was completely worn out, not suitable for anything but plastic recycling, as I loved it to death.  I had no idea what this was called until last week when I posted this photo on Facebook.

The Amloid Krazy Kar Ride-On is available on amazon.com for $75.99

Product description: The Krazy Kar is as equally wild as it is wacky! Drive it forwards, backwards, or in circles for indoor and outdoor fun all year long! Features giant 3′ action ride-on and big 18″ wheels. Made with safe, rugged, durable construction and holds up to 70 lbs. Colors may vary. Adult assembly required.

Although I like the new edition of the lightening bolts, I’m a little saddened that the swirly peppermint wheels are gone.  Oh well, nothing a little paint can’t take care of.  And 70 pounds?  How am I supposed to show my kids how to ride this if I can’t?  Their Green Machines hold up to 180 pounds, not that I ever take advantage of that.  But hypothetically speaking, let’s say you want something like this so you can ride it too.

The Deluxe Whirly Wheel is available at amazon.com for $99.99

Product description: Kids use their hands to power this innovative twist on the conventional ride-on. Lightweight construction helps riders cruise right along, safely take corners, and spin 360s on almost any surface. Features a steel frame, rubber tires and a padded seat for riders up to 110 lbs.

Okay, so I don’t weigh 110, wishful thinking, but I’l only a bit over it, so technically…  Also, if you buy one of these for your kids and they choose to keep spinning in circles, keep them outside for a little while before bringing them in the house.  Is your favorite toy still available?

Creative, memorable and just downright awesome.

What is the most meaningful or creative gift you have ever received?  The most creative for me was a bouquet of paintbrushes.  I’m not a flower kind of girl, and this gift giver, although knowing me for a short period time, gave me a meaningful gift.  I was married for eight years and the man still gave me flowers when he was in the dog house.  That made me angry, spending a crazy amount of money on something that’s dead upon arrival and will look like it in three days.  I cannot comprehend this.

The most memorable gift?  Flamingos and Skelemingos.  Again, this friend took the time to know what I would like, not jewelry, not flowers, not a sweater, but something quirky that nobody else would ever think to buy.  Not that your friend will want these, but just in case…

Skelemingo Pair available at thepinkflamingo.com for $15.95

Product description: NEW!!! One pair of s-c-a-r-y, b-o-n-y flamingoes! For All Occacsions: Halloween, Over-The-Hill Parties, Special Birthdays, Block Parties, Special Occasions, Retirement Parties etc. Can be used indoors or outdoors. “Perfect for the party…then in the yard for the rememberance!” When assembled they stand approximately 34″ high. Made in the U.S.A. of HDPE plastic.

How well do you know your friends?

Red fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish.

Dr. Seuss might be on to something here.  Why do we feel like gifts must be something new?  What’s wrong with old stuff?  Anyone can go into the cookie cutter stores, purchase mass produced material goods (available in many colors and styles), take the stuff home, wrap it in a bunch of fancy mass produced paper and call it a day.  Thought process?  “I’ve made my expected purchases, checked it off the to-do list and I’m on to my other busyness.”  What has been accomplished here?  We’re supporting financial insanity and overseas sweatshops.

Now don’t get me wrong.  We need people to buy lots of new stuff, because without that, there would be nothing at the thrift stores.  I would not have found my $1,300 grill for $70 or my son’s $595 Sleep Number bed for $6.  Okay, I’m being sarcastic, but seriously, if you are supporting thrift stores with your old stuff, please continue!  These stores raise money to help needy people, so why not go treasure hunting?  It’s three times better!   You are saving money, you’re supporting people in need and you’re spending the time to look for something special for your loved ones.

Favorite resale shops:  CCA (Christian Community Action) in Lewisville and The Colony and Frisco Resale, obviously in Frisco.

You can Google these for locations and also look for other resale shops, as there are many great ones in our area.  Buy gifts with character.  What would that person on your list fall in love with and not regift?  Oh, and don’t get me started on the re-gifting thing…

Judge a book by it’s cover.

With all of the used bookstores around, and to use a car dealer term, why not buy some pre-owned books?  There are many great reasons to do this.  First, you can write a special note in it for the person you’re giving it to.  (Unless you’re buying a book for Jerod Chambers, then you need to write on all of the pages in the book, as he loves that!)  Second, with the the endless number of topics and abundant, ingenious styles, it’s easy to find a book for any person on your list.

But my favorite part of giving books as gifts?  Altering them.  That’s right, altering them.  Write notes, scribble, paint, tape things, glue cutouts, add bookmark strings… the list goes on.  There’s two ways to do this, make a book into a completely new books by gluing pages together and adding your own embellishments, like the vintage books pictured here.  The other idea is much simpler, just add your own stuff to the book on the blank pages, creating a personalized copy of whatever book you’re giving.  Either way, I doubt this gift will end up in a thrift store.  Oh, what a dilemma, which idea should you choose?

Personalized recycling.

At the risk of offending anyone who’s done this, I just have to say, this has brought a whole new level of ridiculousness to gift giving.  I have to add this to Jody’s list, but as a ‘don’t do it’.  What is it?  Personalized wine bottle etching, the gift that keeps on… recycling?  So let’s suppose you get one of these treasured heirlooms, and instead of keeping it in a rack, you actually want to drink it.  Hmm, now you’ll have an empty bottle that will look really nice, if you just happen to love empty wine bottles all over your house.  Great, just what I need, a guilt trip if I throw this bottle away after enjoying it, as it was intended.  Or maybe I should keep it, and I’ll set it on the counter when you come to visit.  No, this bottle will be a wonderful addition to my recycling bin.

Look, I’m all about the free stuff.  The engraving is free at Market Street if you buy a bottle of wine over $10.  I have to ask, what is the engraving guy thinking?  He didn’t look all that happy to be doing this, or he might just have been in his engraving ‘zone’.  Do your friends really need a name on their bottle of wine to know it belongs to them?  If you’re not sure, look inside their coat and see if their name is written on the tag with a Sharpie.

Your resources.

I was at a party last night, one where the white elephant gift exchange was the football half-time event.  Cool!  Because I’m all about finding an unusual gift.  The gift I walked away with last night was a good one.  It was someone giving me two hours of their time for whatever I might need it for.  This got me thinking.

This Christmas I’m trying to live differently, giving my time and money to people in need.  Let me just say that I am giving money, but I don’t have a lot to give.  I’m also giving my time, and even though there’s not a lot of that either, I have more time than money.  What are your resources and how can you use them to help people?  My kids and I chose to sponsor Casa Hogar Elim and The Sons of Lwala this year, financially and with an allotment of our time.  What would your friends think if you did this in their name as a gift?  My experience?  It inspires other to do the same thing.  Give to someone that can’t give back this Christmas.  Set an example of giving goodness for others to follow.

The ultimate gift.

God gave us the greatest gift of all, his son.  When gift giving this Christmas, or any Christmas, just remember why you’re doing it.  Don’t get sucked into the vortex of materialism and meaninglessness.  Celebrate the Ultimate Gift by giving gifts with the true meaning of Christmas in your heart.  (Yes, even if it’s an impractical engraved bottle of wine)


20 days until Christmas…

I have to say, committing to write everyday until Christmas is taking a lot of time and energy, but I’m enjoying it. This blogging idea started out as a fun way to share my funny photo finds of crazy Christmas yard decor, but turned into more than that, I wanted to document the process of what an upside-down Christmas looks like for me and my family.  These blogs are a bit more wordy than I had anticipated, but it they do tell the story, and in great detail.

The idea to write everyday was inspired by several people.  Hank Stuever, for the way he can write about something controversial, yet word it to not be offensive, while painting a picture of the truth.  The book Tinsel really has to make a person evaluate how they do Christmas.  My assesment?  If this book doesn’t give you some food for thought, then you need to find something that does.  Allison Harrell, for her amazing writing skills.  I will never type as fast as her (she has a letter jacket for typing), but I want to enhance my communication skills.  Writing is not an easy thing for me like it is for her, or easy like photography, graphic design or altered art, but I do enjoy it with a sick kind of love / hate relationship.  Another person is Jackson Robinson.  He has committed to doing a painting everyday and he blogs it.  These tiny masterpieces are painted by him every morning and look like they should be hanging in a gallery.  Unbelieveable detail!  And Robert Leahey, who took on a challenge to write a novel in one month, and successfully accomplished his mission.

Words are my friend.  I feel better after journaling pages of handwritten words, I love doing typography art and my opinionated side loves to share my views with words.  Even with all of those positive word attributes, words are also my enemy.  I struggle to find them, I have a difficult time articulating them and my brain thinks in pictures, not words.

Turning Christmas upside-down has been a wonderful experience so far, but it came with some unexpected returns, deep feelings and a better understanding of my life and the way I live it.  An experience of which I hope to put into words.  Besides taking the money I would have spent on gifts for people and giving it to great causes, I still want to give something meaningful to my family and friends for Christmas.  Something that is an expression of how I feel about them and something that inspires their creativity.  I came up with the perfect thing, but I’m still in the creation process.  It’s my little Christmas secret.  I guess you’ll have to keep coming back and reading to find out what it is, or wait until you get one.

I guess I must really love words because I’m a book junkie.  I have five bookcases in my house filled with books, an no, I didn’t pay full price for any of them.  Over the years I have made several trips to Gladewater and there’s a small mom and pop type bookstore I’ve always wanted to visit.  Most of the time I was there on Sunday and the bookstore was closed.  Friday, it was open.  I like buying books that have had previous owners, not only to save money, but for the chance of finding a book with a personal note in it, handwritten sentiments to someone I don’t even know.  It’s like getting two stories in one, the story in the book and the found mysterious story.  I love creating the rest of their story and incorporating it into my own.

As I was shopping in there for gifts for some of my close friends, I realized the books didn’t have any prices on them.  I brought a stack to the front and asked where I could find the prices.  The man at the counter said, “I’ll look them up, tell you the prices, then you can argue with me.”  I immediately took a liking to him.  I shopped a little longer, taking in the pleasing scent of old books, then finally made my way to the counter to argue with Pete.  Pete and I talked for a long time about books, photography, art, Bible translations and people.  I was telling him I could never work there because I would want to take everything home.  He said I was too interesting to work there.  That made me smile, as I like the word interesting more than quirky or weird.

Toward the end of our conversation, Pete was looking up a few books for me.  I asked, “What did we ever do before Wikipedia and Google?”  He replied, “We argued.”  Now I’m really liking this guy.  Pete, being of a slightly older generation than myself, and from what I could tell, progressively embracing the electronics age, I had to ask.  “So, are you on Facebook?”  Unfortunately he is not there… yet.  He’s about to purchase a new digital camera and wanted some tips so I gave him my email address.  He said, “I’m going to contact you and ask you camera questions.  I guess you could just ignore my emails if you don’t want me bugging you.”  I replied, “Nah, you’re too interesting to ignore.”

I gathered my new-old books, and headed for the car.  Pete told me about an abandoned church right up the road, so of course, I had to stop there before heading home to Frisco.  Words… books… what does any of this have to do with deep feelings and understanding life?  I’ll tell you.

Shopping, or as I prefer to call it, treasure hunting for meaningful books made me think a lot more about the relationships in my life.  Not just my friends and family, but in a deeper sense, people that are close to me, people that are acquaintances and people that I don’t even know.  I’m not one of those crying, emotional types, as a matter of fact, I missed that line when God was passing out those genes.  My face leaks about once a year, just to clean out the cobwebs in my tear ducts.  I don’t express emotion through tears, I do it through art.  Words are an art form, one I am learning, just like learning to have more meaningful relationships in my life.  I have a deeper appreciation of the people I know, an admiration of their uniqueness and an understanding of what an important role that plays in all of our lives.

I don’t know if it was the death of my cousin or searching for meaningful gifts, or maybe it’s just the loneliness of the holiday season, but I have experienced some life change.  It’s a feeling I have never felt before and one that I cannot put into words.  I have a desire to live differently.  This isn’t a passing thing, I have acted on it and am reordering my life around it.

The icons of Christmas that started this writing adventure are not the plastic Santa statues or the many strands of mismatched colored lights.  The icons of Christmas are people, from the impoverished guy on the street corner with his ‘need help’ sign to my closest family and friends.  The most important Christmas icon of all is Jesus, and I don’t mean the plastic one.  The eight pound, six ounce baby Jesus that was born on December 25th.

Words to sum this up?  If you are planning on turning Christmas upside-down, you better put on your seatbelt.  It will turn your life upside-down.


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