Christmas Stuff

Red breasted nuthatch – watercolor 9″ x 12″

It’s Black Friday, and people are knocking themselves out trying to get the perfect gift at the cheapest price. Rah Rah Christmas and consumerism. Hopefully it will at least give a boost to our sad economy.

Do we really need all the stuff we buy at Christmas? Is it imperative that children get another piece of plastic, another video game, or another techno gift? Ask your children what they got last year for Christmas.  Do they remember?   Try the same question with your friends.  And if you’re honest, when you search your own memory for what you got for Christmas as a child, you’ll probably only come up with a few special ones – a complete surprise or something held near and dear to your heart.  But all this angst over  more stuff will be the driving force for most people for the next month.

They’re working themselves into a tither, trying to decide  what they’re going to give, and how they’re going to afford it.  Kind of like a feeding frenzy, where the acquiring becomes the goal.   Kids are  thinking about what they’re going to get and celebrating the fact they’ll be off school.  Religious aspects are respected and observed on Christmas itself, but certainly not on Black Friday.

Personally, Christmas for me is family, lights, color, music, laughter, celebration, and, most importantly, dip.   Dip is like dancing.  We just don”t get enough of it on a regular basis.  (Though I certainly don’t need any  more dip judging by the scale.)  While not a practicing anything in the religion department, I love to give and receive presents, I love the festive feel of gathering with loved ones.  But, I like my presents to last a bit.  So I try to give memories instead of stuff.  And if you don’t think that’s important, ask the same people you asked about their Christmas presents if they remember their  last vacation.

My mantra this year is: “Stuff the Mind with Memories”.   Give children, family and friends something different.  Give them the gift of  learning something new : yoga, dance, horseback riding, art, music, etc.  Teach them something you enjoy:  cooking, sewing, gardening, birdwatching.  Plan a trip to a museums, a ball game, a special luncheon, or a concert.  Give the gift of your time.

If you’re skeptical, I give you this story.  A few weekends ago, my 11 year old great-niece brought down her portfolio to show me some of her new artwork.  It was a posterboard portfolio.  As she carefully took out her artwork, she said  “Remember this portfolio? This is from the art class you gave me that summer.” That summer was four years ago –  in the concept of  an eleven old’s  life, that was ions ago.

So when rushing to the mall, the store, or standing in line worrying about gifts you need to buy, or the money you’re spending that you can’t afford, you might want to take a minute to contemplate my mantra.   “Stuff the mind with Memories”.  Because that’s the real “stuff”.

More Than Once in a While

Watercolor of Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, currently closed due to Superstorm Sandy

My new art class is an established group of women who have been painting, drawing and bonding once a week for quite some time.  These women are talented and fun.  But we needed to work on our new relationship.   My teaching does not follow any regular circulum.  I like to teach drawing based on Dr. Betty Edwards’ book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. This was different than what they’d done in the past.

So, on our first class, I did my usual basic drawing class.  It allowed me to observe their abilities and remind them to follow the line.  They all fully grasped what I was saying, and their drawings were looking pretty good.   As I wandered around the table, my enthusiasm grew…. and they were gaining confidence with each new line they drew.

My heart sunk a bit when one said to me…”Wow, this is really different.  We don’t usually get told we’re doing a good job.”

How sad is that.

So today, in the aftermath of the tragedy that was Sandy, please, please, please tell someone – especially those first responders, utility workers, volunteers and agencies that have selflishly worked to accomplish the impossible – that they’re doing a good job.

We all need to hear it more than once in a while.