In this post, I talked about how we planned on simplifying the holidays. Overall, I was pleased with how we fared. We declined every single Christmas party/ornament exchange to which we were invited. Every. Single. One. We spent our holiday time with family and very, very close friends.
There were no Christmas cards. Zip. Nada. Zilch. There likely won’t be Happy New Year cards either.
The decorations were kept to a minimum. And it was enough. We still felt that magical Christmas spirit and our house looked like there were people who celebrated Christmas living in it. Even without outside lights. Or a big Christmas tree. Or garland.
We listened to Christmas carols, donated excess ornaments, purchased gifts for the Salvation Army Angel Tree kids, and exchanged gifts with our families and a couple of close friends.
Our hearts ached for our friend who had an unexpected cancer diagnosis. And she doesn’t know it, but she gave us a priceless gift this year: Her smile. Her friendship. Her grace. Her determination. Her example of how to face something frightening and incomprehensible with dignity and peace and love. Her steadfast faith. I believe these were the best gifts we received at all this Christmas. Because these gifts aren’t things. They are magical. They transcend stuff and they last forever.
While our hearts and minds remained with her and her family, we celebrated Christmas at our home, at my parents’ home and at Stephen’s parents’ home. I hesitate to describe the details of our gift giving and gift receiving. I’m afraid it might come across in a negative way. Because we are so incredibly blessed. And so many just aren’t.
But this is a blog about the details. About the stuff. Which, this month especially, holds even less significance. Less meaning. Just less. Because we truly understand what more is. More time. More experiences. More love. Not a new fill-in-the-blank thing.
But, because this blog is about stuff and our relationship to it, here are the nitty gritty details. If you don’t want to read about it, just skip to the subheading The Gift of Time.
Gift Giving and Christmas #1
We stuck to our budget, mostly. We went over a little on the kids. We came under on ourselves. We were on target for everyone else. We did pretty well with sticking to the shop local small business consumable theme for adults. We sucked wind in that department for our kids and our nephews. Whoops. Apple and GameStop won that battle. Oh, and my brother and my sister-in-law.
Our nieces (we have three) received gifts from a local, independent toy store called The Toy Maven. The Girl and I got fun nail polish goodies from Silly Bee’s Chickadees. (Melissa is the most creative person I know. She rocks.)
Stephen got some much needed underthing items from Flint and Tinder. Made in America. I’m pretty sure the company launched as part of a Kickstarter campaign. (If you want to try them out, let me know and I’ll email you a Refer a Friend email. $10 for you, $10 for me.)
I got a tea kettle and a loose leaf tea strainer.
Our sisters-in-law received divine candles from a local gift shop. We gave one a pound of Starbucks coffee (purchased at a brick and mortar Barnes and Noble) and the other iTunes gift cards (another win for Apple). My brother was given a gift card and Stephen’s brother was given a book and chocolate popcorn (from the Barnes and Noble).
We gave each of our parents gift cards for local, non-chain restaurants that they frequent. We chose restaurants we knew they each liked so they could receive a gift they would enjoy, that wouldn’t clutter up their homes and that would keep our local economy moving.
Our kids? Yeah, well, we did downsize in terms of volume from Christmases past. Are we the poster children for frugal, non-extravagant gift givers? Um, no. Not even close. We’ve got a long way to go.
We caved. I admit it.
We got the Boy a WiiU, an iTunes gift card, and an educational DVD. His sister gave him a WiiU game from GameStop, but let’s be brutally honest here – Stephen and I paid for it. We gave the Girl an Apple iTouch. Since we bought it during Cyber whenever, it came with an iTunes gift card, which we gave to her. She used it to get a case for her iTouch and some music. She also got an art kit from us and a skate board from her brother. So, that’s three gifts per kid. Significantly better than prior years with respect to number of gifts, but dollars? Not so much.
Before the holidays, we were pretty honest with our families about our desires to minimize the volume of stuff that we received. We tried really hard not to be ungrateful jerks. I hope we succeeded. Our families did us proud.
From my parents, I got a pair of Ugg boots I would never have purchased for myself because I wouldn’t have spent the money, Stephen and I got a joint gift of a new coffee maker (the old one was on its last legs), and Stephen got some undershirts he needed, cash and gift certificates to a restaurant he likes that has Gluten Free food items. We also got a bottle of body wash. Yay, consumables! The Girl received some clothes, a baby doll she really wanted and cash. The Boy was given some clothes, a WiiU game he wanted and cash.
My brother and his wife gave each of us gift cards. Amazon, GameStop and Justice. I used my Amazon gift card to get loose leaf tea. Which I’m drinking right now.
Stephen’s parents gave Stephen a CPA review textbook he wanted and I was given a FitBit (per my request to help with the health and fitness portion of 2014), body wash and a Starbucks gift card. The Girl received some baby doll related items and a deposit to her college fund. The Boy received a game he wanted, a GameStop gift card and a deposit to his college fund. Which, he observed, he would appreciate later. Smart kid.
Stephen’s brother’s family gave him a gift card to Lowe’s, gave me a Starbucks gift card, gave the Boy a GameStop gift card and gave the Girl a Rainbow Loom. My sister-in-law told me she didn’t want to get us anything that would clutter up our house since we’re trying to do The Simple Year. Go SIL! More than the gift card itself, which I appreciated and will use, I loved the thought that went into the gift.
It was fabulous. There were very few physical items and what we did get takes up very little space. Consumables, experiences, or items that we would use every day were the theme (aside from the kids because, well, they’re kids).
The Gift of Time
But really, the best part of it all was spending time with our families. We woke up Christmas morning and celebrated with our little family. Then we headed over to my parents’ house and spent about five or six hours there with my parents, my brother, his wife and our two nieces.
Later that afternoon we packed up and drove to Stephen’s family in East Texas. We got plenty of cousin time (two nephews and a niece) and time with Stephen’s parents.
We also got to visit with my friend and her husband. And she was having a great day and was awake while we were there.
And the time with each of them was really the best part. The biggest gift.
By the end of yesterday, the kids had converted all of their gift cards and cash to physical items. The Girl spent her money on clothes, a rolling suitcase and protective gear for riding her skateboard. The Boy spent his money on games. None of these items take up much space. The Girl will wear her clothes regularly and the Boy will play his games whenever and for as long as he is allowed. When he is done playing them, he’ll trade them in for different ones.
Stephen and I are stunned by how blessed we are. But really, you could have removed all of the stuff and if we were left with the feelings, the experiences and the time? That would have been enough.
Having enough. It has nothing to do with stuff.