Friday, December 22, 2006

Snow! Snow? Sn...rain?

It did snow here yesterday, big fat clumps of flakes that settled over the ground and melted in the gutters. Kids who were desperately waiting for the chance to play in it quickly built snowmen and had snowball fights and made the most of it.

Which was smart, as today, it started melting. Not on the sidewalks, where at least we would be spared the shovelling, but in a messy, patchy way. It had not been enough to cover the grass tips in the first place, and as the day wore on, the ground began to thaw and the mud began to ooze up.

Although, if you squint, and are a glass full kind of person, it's still a white Christmas. Sort of.

Economists--The Dismal Gift-givers

A thought provoking article in today's Slate about gift giving. Apparently, economic research has established that people derive 20% more satisfaction from buying something for themselves than from gifts. For example, buying your own Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank CD will give you more pleasure than the Ray Coniff Singers you got from your Aunt Fanny. (Um...OF COURSE!)

Which raises the question--why is cash considered gauche? Don't we want our loved one to be as happy as possible? Wouldn't it be more generous to allow your gift recipient to select his/her own gift than to impose your own taste? Why do we give gifts anyway? Can I fit any more questions into a single paragraph? I can? Should I stop now anyway?

The Slate article reports some theories as to why gift-giving--and not cash--persists. I have my own theories. Of course, not being an academic economist with a grant, my research assistance comes from Your results may vary.

1. A gift is not viewed as a spent economic opportunity. That is, when I receive a gift, I don't see it as a consumer choice that I would have made differently--even though I might have. Instead, it's like free money. Put another way--I might not spend my money on a Waterford crystal toilet brush holder, but I'll sure spend yours.

This goes along with a long held philosophy of gift giving that I have had: a gift should be something the recipient wouldn't buy for him/herself. Something that is frivolous, delightful, or luxurious that the recipient would like to have but won't spend the money on. The key point is that the recipient would like to have this thing: thus a rhinestone encrusted belly button lint brush does not qualify. Spa services, important jewelry and/or new automobiles do fit this category.

At its best, this kind of gift giving is a way to open up new ideas and experiences. It's a wonderful way of showing vulnerability and desire for deeper connection. If your boyfriend is a hard core Hobo Nephews fan, and wants to share that with you by giving you a CD (one that you wouldn't ever buy yourself), that's a declaration of love far in excess of the monetary value of the gift.

2. A gift is a mirror in which to glimpse ourselves as other see us. This is why some gifts are so fraught with danger. Your wife does NOT want a new vacuum cleaner for Christmas (not even the newest Dyson, so don't try it) because it signals that you see her as someone who keeps your house clean so you don't have to. This does not create romantic feelings, and may result in coming home to find all your possessions in a pile in the front yard and the locks all changed.

But, suppose you were to buy the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank CD for your wife. It might suggest that you still see her as the adventurous, club-hopping hottie that she was when you met. It says that, despite hearing nothing but Barney songs for the last 3 years, you see her as in touch with cutting edge culture. It says "Hey, Blondie. Let's go hit the clubs and dance until the small hours, and then go back to my place and make out and sleep naked."

Of course, since there are no babysitters who will stay that late, this is not possible, but the sentiment is deeply appreciated, and you might just get some without having to leave the house. However, DO NOT send this CD to your Aunt Fanny, as you don't want her thinking those thoughts--and anyway, she'll probably just think it's a super fancy coaster.

3. Gifts are a measure of love. Again, this is where Danger lurks. Aunt Fanny, on receiving that Hobo Nephews CD--may feel insulted that you know her so little that you'd think she'd like such noise, when it just gives her a headache, and it isn't really music unless it's been on Lawrence Welk.

Which might be okay, if you don't see her so often. With your spouse, however, you'd better do better. Even some of the traditional gifts are now also risky:

You: presenting large, gaudily wrapped box.
Her: opening box and finding rare sable coat. How could you? Fur is murder, surely you know that! I don't eat meat and I won't wear dead animals! How long have I been the local chair of PETA? You don't even know, do you? How can I live with someone so insensitive to the rights of animals?


You: presenting small, tasteful velvet box.
Her: opening box to find flawless 3 carat diamond. You do realize that this represents the blood of native Africans who can find no work but to die slowly while mining these things, don't you? And that their price is kept artificially high by the DeBeers company which keeps vast reserves in their vaults? And that the cost to the people in the countries is not only their lives, but their self determination and dignity? How could you give me a product of such bloody oppression?

See--here is where you need to really know your recipient. This is where we get the saying "It's the thought that counts." You'd better have some good reason for giving the gifts above, reasons that say "I thought about you carefully, and all that you are, and I made this selection." Telling your girlfriend that the sable is from a new breed of sable that molts twice a year, for example, would be a good response--as long as it's true. Or "Darling, that's not a diamond--it's moissanette" is also good. If true.

Are you getting the sense that good gift giving is about mind reading? It can be. But when a gift is right--something that the recipient had never thought of, and loves more than they ever dreamed, when you get the reputation of being a thoughtful and romantic gift's priceless.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

White Christmas

It finally snowed. You'd think, living up here in Minnesota, we'd be guaranteed a White Christmas, but no! Even this morning, it was rain and rain and rain. It was even warm enough for me to go untangle the dog from where he'd wrapped himself around the swing set WITHOUT A COAT.

It's December...that's just not right. Not here, where we got 12 inches of snow on Halloween the year we bought our house. Yes, we were having an addition built on. No, there was no roof. Yes, we had to shovel out the kitchen. Twice. Because it snowed again on Thanksgiving and we still had no roof.

But around noon, the rain turned into slush! Falling from the sky! Little semi-frozen chunks of gloop knocking me on my head and then instantly melting down my neck! Yesssss!

By 2:00 the gloop had turned to honest-to-God snow. JUST in time for picking up kids from school and for RUSH HOUR! We sure do things right up here, don't we. Betcha you wish you could live here too!

But the Bunny was delighted. She's been roping her friends into doing Snow Dances during recess for the last week. It's been important for her to have a white Christmas, and now she's going to get it.

Because Christmas! Is coming! Is your goose getting fat?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Theological Confusion and Elvis Presley

I know, I know! You read the title and said to yourself "Whaaa? Elvis has never lead me astray theologically? Why, he's well known as one of the great explicators of the New Testament, and stands with such philosophical giants as Saint Augustine and Dietrich Bonhoffer!"

To which I say "yes, but have you listened to this song?"

That's right: Here Comes Santa Claus, as sung by Elvis on my Christmas iMix, is theologically suspect!

See, I was wrapping Christmas gifts, while listening to such purveyors of the hymns of the season as Brian Setzer Orchestra, and BNL, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Wrapping presents is a bit of a production for me. I have an obsessive love of things that sparkle and shine, and wrapping is an opportunity for me to go mad with glitter and bright ribbons and little ornaments tied festively to the packages.

But even amidst my sparkly delirium, the lyrics of this tune pierced through the glitter and forced me to listen. Here they are:

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer
Pullin' on the reins
Bells are ringin', children singin'
All is merry and bright
Hang your stockings and say your prayers
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He's got a bag that's filled with toys
For boys and girls again
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle,
Oh what a beautiful sight
So jump in bed and cover your head
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He doesn't care if you're rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we're all God's children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He'll come around when the chimes ring out
That it's Christmas morn again
Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So let's give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!

Now, the first two verses are just fine. Standard stuff for the season: Santa won't come until you are asleep sort of lyrics. But then, in the third verse, we get this incongruity:

He doesn't care if you're rich or poor,
He loves you just the same.
Santa Claus knows we're all God's children....

Now, sure as anything, there are obvious problems here. If we are all God's children, and Santa loves us all the same, how come some kids get iPods and PlayStations and skis for Christmas, and some kids get sensible clothing, huh? I mean, any kid knows that there are significant disparities in gifts received across socio-economic lines. Even if they don't say it quite like that.

Plus, in equating Santa's gift giving with the acknowledgement that "we're all God's children," Elvis has squarely raised the question of why does an all-powerful, all-loving God give some kids underwear for Christmas? Are Santa's gifts a measure of how much we are loved by God? And what about the Jews?

Equally disturbing is the final couplet of the last verse: "Let's give thanks to the lord above/That Santa Claus comes tonight." Apparently positing that Santa's activities are, directly attributable to the [L]ord above, thus conflating Santa Claus and Jesus, who having been born in a desert community was not known to wear a red furry suit and black boots.

It's a disturbing juxtaposition of two worlds that, until now, have stayed firmly separate. But putting them together like this is kind of like seeing your seventh grade math teacher at the beach in a bathing suit. It just makes the brain freeze up, and makes the universe seem off balance. It is just wrong, people! Math teachers should stay off beaches, and Santa needs to stay away from the manager scene and nobody gets hurt.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sampling the Classics

Doppelganger over at 50 Books has issued a challenge:

Say you met someone who'd never read any of the "great" books, but this person expressed to you a keen interest in exploring the classics. Bear in mind that this person is intelligent and literate; they just also happen to be innocent in the ways of fine literature. You'd want your suggestions to be accessible and engaging and, of course, great. What would you recommend? What wouldn't you recommend? Why?

Great question. I posted a comment, but of course, I have more to say. (Do I ever not have more to say? More than would be appropriate in the comments of someone else's blog? "Oh, excuse me, but I'm commandeering this here website. You'll get it back when I'm done.")

What is fine literature, anyway? I find I approach this question with writers from The Canon: the people whose names are familiar, but maybe you've never read. Because there's a reason a lot of these books are still around. Seriously--go take a look at a remaindered table, or a used book store, and look at how many authors you've never even heard of. Spooky!) I mean, as long as one is embarking on "Fine Literature," one might as well get some points for scholarly activity.

That said, there are plenty of ways to get introduced to famous authors without launching into huge and boring books that kill the joy of reading. So, for your perusal, my list of books to recommend to someone looking for "Good Literature." In no particular order:

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is a slim book, but packs quite a punch. Some of the prose is absolutely beautiful: there is a description of Daisy Buchanan and her friend Jordan Marsh wearing gauzy dresses and lying on a sofa, while the breeze ruffles their skirts--absolutely beautiful. Gatsby rewards casual reading, while a quick Google trip to SparkNotes gives all sorts of depth to the text.

Alternatively, read Fitzgerald's short stories: Some of these are irresistably beautiful, full of sadness and nostalgia for the world--despite being written in the 1920s, they feel relentlessly modern. Winter Dreams will break your heart, and sums up Fitzgerald's talent as succintly as you could wish.

Billy Budd, by Herman Melville--nowhere nearly as daunting as Moby Dick, this novella captures the sea setting, the discipline and hardship of sailors' lives, the questions of fate and mercy with a poignant tale that explains just why Melville is so revered as a writer.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. This story about an unloved orphan who grows up to find her place in the world contains many typical "Victorian" elements--the appalling school, the maudlin death of an unbelievably good character, a madwoman in the attic, a marriage that is foiled at the altar, fire and blood, and lectures on the inequalities of society. Jane Eyre remains fresh due to the dry wit and sharp observations of Jane herself, who refuses to accept the platitudes of her time.

Sherlock Holmes stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Again, start with the short stories before tackling the novels--the slower pace of the writing takes some getting used to. The stories themselves are well constructed, and some of them are downright scary. The Adventure of the Speckled Band is a good place to start; I'm particularly fond of The Musgrave Ritual as well. Both are ripping yarns with enough mystery and death to satisfy modern tastes.

Another easy to read Victorian is Edgar Allen Poe--The poems are memorable and eerie, the short stories were deliberately written to be only so long as to be finished in one sitting. The Cask of Amantillado, and The Tell-Tale Heart are deliciously creepy.

I could go on, but I've discovered to my delight how many of these are available online. Check out the Gutenberg Project for A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, or anything by P.G. Wodehouse. Find some famous names you've never read, and dip in to check them out.

(Cate wanders away from the blog into the labyrinth of Project Gutenberg, never to be seen again...)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Those Were The Days

Sweetney has a post with a darling picture of her little one suffering from an ear infection. And looking at it brought all sorts of memories absolutely rushing back. Those days of pre-schoolers in footie jammies, all logy and lethargic and sick, with the illness making their eyes seem larger and more luminous, while their little bodies just sagged, warm and heavy.

Those were the days that we all stayed in our jammies and crawled into the big MamaBed. We'd turn on PBS kids, or Nick Jr. or Disney, with the volume very low, and we'd snuggle and snooze--waking up occasionally to watch something until we fell asleep again.

My little girlies wanted Mama to stay with them and snuggle when they didn't feel well, and since I am a champion napper, we had warm and quiet recuperating days when we got to be together. I'd get up and get food, and do some minimal housekeeping chores, but the important work of the day was to rest.

This is how I remember September 11, 2001. Bunny was home sick. I had been at a family reunion for the weekend, and had gotten home the previous afternoon. Pony was fine, and Mr. Sweetie took her to school and then he came home before work.

That was when the news hit of the planes in New York and D.C. Mr. Sweetie had spent several years working in D.C. and was absolutely glued to the television news. I came downstairs to get a drink for the Bunny, and I stood, momentarily transfixed by the images of the planes hitting the towers.

I had a choice: I knew I could not be a good caretaker and be absorbed in the breaking news. So that morning, I made a conscious choice to take care of my sick baby--and to continue to live in the cozy world of cartoons and snuggles, rather than being connected to the adult world of the news.

And that is my 9/11 memory: I missed out on a lot of the national community response, because I was needed elsewhere. And as I look back on the horror of that day, I like to think that what I did was what many of the people who lost their lives, their families, would have wanted the chance to do themselves: to take care of a child who depended on them to keep the world safe.

Perhaps my response to the event would have been different had I not had a sick child at home. I might have understood the impetus for war as a response to those attacks. As it is, though, I find comforat in the fact that, while hpeople do terrible things to each other, on eresponse we can always have is tto hold on tightly to our families.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Windows Media Edition and iTunes--WTF!?!

Okay, I have no idea why iTunes WILL NOT play my dvd on my laptop. Windows Media Player will play it. Quicktime will play it. A bunch of other preloaded dvd readers will play it. But I WANT it on iTunes. WTF?!?!?!?

It doesn't even recognize that there is anything in the drive--either audio OR video. When I insert the dvd, I get a list of programs that will open the damn thing. . .none of which is iTunes! What is wrong here?

Yes, I went to Apple support. I updated iTunes and QuickTime. I updated the driver on my dvd player. I went to Microsoft to find what they had to say about it.

Is this the new Zune strategy? To freeze anything Apple out of even running on a Windows PC?

Can anybody help me?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Sadder But Wiser Girl

A word to the wise.

Chinese food and Irish whiskey.

Do not mix well.

That is all.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Is Coming...

Holey Buckets, but I'm ahead of myself this year! I've already mailed off boxes to Japan and California, which never happens before about the 15th of December! Usually, it's like this:

Me: Um. I'd like to send this box to Japan?

Postal/UPS/FedEx worker: You want surface, air or expedited?

Me: How long will those take?

P/U/Fw: Surface is about 8 weeks.

Me: (Slow boat to China? Isn't just a saying?) That won't work.

P/U/Fw: Air will take about 2 weeks.

Me: That will be after Christmas. What about "expedited?"

P/U/Fw: That'll take about 10 days.

Me: Do you deliver on the 25th?

P/U/Fw: No. But it will get there before February.

Me: Okay.

P/U/Fw: That'll be [insert cost figure equal to interest on National Debt].

Me: &*($^#&)Q&#&&$^&%@!?!?!?!? I've GOT to do this earlier next year!

It's especially embarrassing because to mail overseas, you have to fill out a customs declaration which states how much the contents are worth. When the cost of shipping is greater than the value of the contents? Something is WRONG.

But not this year! Okay, so, it wasn't earlier enough to go by slow boat, but I still got it on its way before December was into double digits! I only have one more package to mail off, and the rest goes to people in town.

The Christmas tree is up, and mostly decorated. We are leaving some ornaments for the Pony and Bunny to hang together. Pony has had homework, and now is off to an overnight, so tomorrow we should be done. The stockings are hung, and garlands are strewn about stair rails and doorframes. The Christmas tunes have been loaded onto Mr. Sweetie's iPod so we can decorate to the sounds of the season.

We actually have two playlists of Christmas music, because I have a decided schizophrenia regarding music: either very elegant and lovely, or downright silly. So, Elvis and Brian Setzer and Sweetney's mix are on a playlist called "Profane Christmas." The tasteful music is all on "Sacred Christmas." I hardly ever play that one, myself.

Weekend plans? Well, let's see. I think I have ALL MY SHOPPING DONE! ALL OF IT! This is not a small thing, as I have distinct recollections of ducking under the decending security gates of stores late in the afternoon of the 24th, still trying to find just one more gift. And since I did so much of it online, I hardly bought anything for myself AT ALL! Thus, leaving my nearest and dearest the opportunity to get me something I haven't already bought for myself!

I am soooo thoughtful.

So, as cozy as it is, sitting here in my Victorian parlor with my (imitation) coal fire, surrounded by my Victorian decorations with my (not at all) Victorian laptop on my lap, I must pull myself out into the cold and take the world's cutest dog for a bedtime stroll. And then I'll further bask in the good feeling of being done with Christmas craziness before the 24th.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Once You Hit Bottom, There's Nowhere To Go But Up

So, Britney Spears is letting a little too loose these days, eh? Sure, I've seen the pictures, and maybe it's just a pre-emptive strike to eliminate any interest in the alleged sex tape. I mean, NO ONE wants to see Kevin Federline, in anything, so the interest must be in seeing Britney wearing even less than she did in her music videos.

Now that we've all been treated to photographs of her business, there's nothing left. "Nothing to see here folks. Move along, move along."

But even that is not quite hitting bottom. (Oh, look at my funny--Britney has no panties and I said "bottom!') No, hitting bottom is getting parenting advice from Courtney Love.

"Say what you will about me, and I'm not passing judgment, but when I had my daughter, I stayed home with her almost every night for the first year of her life."

Britney, this is a sign from God. Repent now, and go forth and flash no more.

(Although, this is a terrifically cute picture, isn't it? It looks like there is some real affection between them, so maybe Courtney has something to teach about parenting.)

This Is My New Mantra

We hate making dinner, am I right? When provided with a "conversation starter" card that asked "what task would like to never have to do again?" the right answer obviously! is "dinner."

I mean, didn't I just make dinner yesterday? What the hell's the matter with you people? You want dinner? AGAIN?!?!?

This is my personal demon, one I struggle with...wait for it...daily! (Oh, ha ha, what a card. I bet none of the rest of you make dinner every day...)

What I also can't stand is the need to preview dinner every day. "So, what's for dinner?" is a question that one just cannot answer "I don't know." Because, as The Mom, I'm supposed to know. I have to know. It's my JOB to know.

Why isn't "Frosted Flakes" an acceptable answer?

Bill Watterson did a great Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, where Mom was making stuffed peppers, and Calvin is clearly gearing up to not eat it, so she tells him it's "stewed monkey heads." "Cool! says Calvin. But now Dad won't eat it.

So here's a blog with a great answer: Poop and Boogies. I love this story!

My dad and mom used to have some interesting ways of dealing with the nine kids. My personal favorite was when one of us would ask at dinner, "Mom, what's in this?". My father always replied. "POOP and BOOGIES. Shut up and eat it.".

And really, doesn't that just say it all? So, maybe that will have to come out sometime when the question is especially hitting my buttons.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In Which We Discover That Evil Has Few Friends.

Thanks to Unequivocally Moe, I have been tagged. The residents of Chez Evil wanted to know what that is, and the best I can describe it is a sort of chain letter. I never pass on chain letters. However, I am willing to play this game from Moe, but of course, being the Mistress Of All Evil, I will manipulate it to my own ends. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Here are the rules [as received from Moe]:

Each player of this game starts with the "6 Weird Things about You." People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

I am willing to post six weird things about myself, in fact, it might be interesting. However, I don't have six people I can tag, since almost no one I actually know has a blog. And let's face it, even though I have a major internet crush on Dooce, it's more of a lurker kind of thing, and she has no idea who I am. (Well done! No restraining orders yet!) So, with my apologies to moe, the chain will stop here, but at least I'll play along.

Six Weird Things About Me:

1. All my pets have pretentious names. My two Lhasa Apsos that I had from 1988 to 2003 were "B. Baxter Bentley" and "Hadley v. Baxendale." The family guinea pig is "Hazelnut Frangelico." Our current dog is "Constable Windsor Bermondsey of the Back Yard."

2. I like peanut butter, banana and mayonnaise sandwiches. My husband cannot fathom this at all, and lumps it with other unsavory dishes that Elvis used to eat while holed up in Graceland getting fat and dying. I have stopped eating them when any member of my family can see me.

3. My toes are very weird. I think my feet are rather nice looking, but I have been told that all my toes point in different directions. Mr. Sweetie thinks they look like vegetables. The toenails on my pinkie toes are almost too small to use a nail polish brush on. I don't care, I still like them.

4. Everyone in my real life thinks it's weird that I call myself the Mistress Of All Evil. Except my kidlets, who appreciate the joke, and have started pointing out what a bad Mistress Of All Evil I am. While at an archery range with Pony and a friend of hers, I held my shot while the friend picked up her dropped arrow. Pony said, disgustedly "What kind of a Mistress Of All Evil are you if you won't even kill my friends. Jeeeeez!"

5. I collect and reuse ribbon from Christmas packages. Also any little picks or decorations. I have several boxes of ribbons and ornaments and stuff that I use on my Christmas packages. I like overdoing the wrapping.

6. I am a serious night owl. I don't really get productive until after 6 p.m., when I have some sort of spike in my biorhythms and can actually run laundry, empty the dishwasher, and all that other dismal housekeeping sort of thing. I am off schedule from the rest of the family, and have yet to find a way to be totally in sync with the rest of the world as well.

Well, that's six. Guess I'm going to have to go get myself some friends around here now, aren't I?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

From The Stacks Challenge--The Amendment

The Challenge is to read five books that are already on your shelves--books that you haven't already read, ones that "you must have bought for a reason!"

It turns out that my RL bookclub is doing Charles Dickens Great Expectations for December. So, if I actually get it read, I'll substitute it for something that isn't going so well.

I'm looking at you, Kate Chopin.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ring Some More Bells

After reading my post of yesterday, Mr. Sweetie told me "In some cities, the bell ringers are homeless people and the Salvation Army pays them."

So, think of it as a fabulous advertising campaign, and the collected change is just a bonus over the general increase in awareness of the Salvation Army. Gotta love an ad campaign that actually brings in more money than it costs.

So, today the Family of Evil meandered up and down Grand Avenue, and there were bellringers about every two blocks. Most of them had additional signs advertising the group doing the ringing--so it's a twofer!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ring Those Christmas Bells

The bellringers are out now in force. Until just yesterday, the weather has been quite pleasant for this ARCTIC CIRCLE where we live. Yesterday, however, the temperature dropped well below freezing, the sky got that frigid blue where the sun actually doesn't provide any warmth, and I had to turn up the water heater so the shower water didn't get cold from the pipes before reaching my skin.

So, anybody volunteering to stand outside the grocery store and ring a bell for the Salvation Army is REALLY dedicated. And the colder it gets, the more there is a sort of increased sense of obligation to give, just to make it worth while for these poor freezing people.

Oh really? Yes, I read The Poor Little Match Girl too! I wonder if that has anything to do with it.

Erin has a really good post about feeling guilty about not donating--but she doesn't carry cash. She makes all her purchases on plastic--which I do a lot of too. It makes tracking purchases much easier because it's all online immediately, plus we get airline miles. But what does one do when confronted with bell ringers? I found myself compelled to post a comment, which got long enough I thought I'd make it a post here.

I’ve decided that I HATE feeling guilty. And GUILT works so well on me that I end up donating to things I would not necessarily give to if I didn’t feel so GUILTY about it. Plus there are SO MANY good causes. Plus, I am CHEAP.

So I’ve made it a goal to walk cheerfully past these bellringers, and even to say something nice to them. “You got a nice day–not to cold!” or “Love your hat” (one guy had on silly reindeer antlers). They can assume that I have already given generously, and don’t you think they’d rather have human interaction than the guilty “duck and dump” of whatever spare change I have in the bottom of my purse?

That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

On reflection, though, isn't that the best way? Don't you do it anyway? If I have cash, and I put it in the Little Red Post of Guilt on the way in, I don't feel obligated to put more in on the way out. Or, if I know I'm going to get some cash back and donate on the way out, I don't feel so guilty going in.

So, taking the next logical step--these bell ringers don't know if I've already given today or not. So, what if I've already dropped a couple hundred dollars into a pot--should I feel guilty for not doing it twice? OF COURSE NOT. So--why not just act as though I've put all my (substantial) cash in earlier in the day?

Or, I consider it from the other side of the transaction. Personally, I HATE asking for money, no matter how noble the cause. If people scurried past me, with their eyes averted with guilt, or apologized to me for not having anything right at the moment--what would I do?

I'd feel like I had to apologize for making them feel guilty
I'd be compassionate and understanding and give them absolution
I'd feel obligated to make more donations into my own pot.
AND I'd feel obligated to put money in every other pot I came across so that bell ringer wouldn't feel unsuccessful.

Which is, if you look at it objectively, Just Plain Silly. So--this season, give to the causes you believe in, look those bell ringers in the eye and thank them for their dedication. Remember, between charities, it's an exhibition, not a competition.


I'm a winner! But then, aren't we all?

Stormy Weather...Since My Man And I Aren't Together...

Mr. Sweetie is on a terrible business trip. He left Tuesday for El Paso, went to Mexico, then off to Raleigh-Durham and scheduled to return tonight. But, due to this:

his flights have all been cancelled. Acting as his Fabulous Personal Assistant, I did get him routed through Miami, rather than Chicago, and it looks like he might make it home tonight after all.

Now, all we have to do is put on a show, so Gramps can have that operation! I bet you have some old costumes in the attic, right? We can use our barn, er, garage, and who's got music?