Tag Archives: Christmas

A Laramie Christmas

I had to wait to share this, one of my best Christmas gifts this year.  My friend was making them for others, so I didn’t want to spoil their surprise.  It’s a Laramie Christmas ornament.  I like it so much, I’m not going to be putting it away in storage for the year.  Poor Jonesy had to be left out to squeeze me in, but I love that my stocking is hanging next to Jess’s stocking!

Laramie Christmas ornament

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Laramie (1959-63) is a television western that I love.

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Consider a Kiva Christmas

Here’s my suggestion for Christmas gifts this year.  If you’re tired of giving your money to big corporate retailers who give nothing back (Amazon, anyone?) to buy useless stuff that nobody really needs, just to fill a space under the Christmas tree, consider a Kiva gift card.

Kiva is a non-profit based here in San Francisco, which makes me particularly proud.  I can’t describe their mission nearly as well as their website, but I will try.  Kiva brokers micro-loans between individuals, which means you can loan as little as $25 to a farmer in Tajikistan, or a mother selling fruit in Kenya.  You get to choose where your loan goes, and just reading through the list of borrowers is a lesson in geography.  After you make your loan, you get updates on the status of you loan, and when the money is paid back (with a 98.93% repayment rate), you get to make another loan.  You can also withdraw your money or donate it to Kiva.

When you give a Kiva gift card, you give someone else the chance to experience this process.  I think this is particularly valuable for kids.  Instead of just logging in to facebook on their computers, kids will look through profiles of people around the world who are seeking to improve their lives.  Then they will actually help some of them.  So many gift cards go unused and wasted, with the money reverting to the retailers (although here in California, we have some good gift card expiration laws).  If a Kiva gift card isn’t redeemed after 12 months, the money becomes a donation to Kiva.  At least it’s going to a non-profit doing good work.

There are several ways to give a Kiva gift card: you can print one on your own printer, post one to facebook, send one in an email, or have a card sent by snail mail from Kiva.  The last one is especially nice, but they need at least 10 business days, so be sure to plan ahead for Christmas delivery.

And so, as Tiny Tim said, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!

Kiva gift cards

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A Christmas Stranger

The holidays can be a very lonely time.  Not everybody has family nearby, and some people are estranged from their relatives.  Some folks have lost their families through death or divorce. 

I used to take my family for granted.  I think most young people do.  As a teenager, my parents embarrassed me, and my brother and I could barely stand to be in the same room.  The holidays seemed to exaggerate all our worst qualities.  Then when I was in college, my mother passed away.  I only realized after she was gone how much she did at Christmas.  She chose all the gifts, mixed the punch (half cranberry juice, half Seven-Up), sent out all the cards, decorated the apartment, and made sure we made it to mass.   We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, because she knew that little kids can’t sleep for the anticipation, but also because she couldn’t wait either. 

When my brother married and started his own family, I would spend the holidays with him.  We used to drive his wife crazy by watching National Lampoon’s Animal House every year (Christmas Vacation hadn’t been released yet).   By the time he had three little boys running around in diapers, I was working as a tour guide at Sea World.  I usually had to work on all the major holidays.  It wasn’t bad, because we had a good time behind-the-scenes with lots of food, and the park was very festive.  

Twenty years ago, I moved to San Francisco.  I don’t have any family here, and working in retail means it’s hard to get time off to travel south during the holidays.  My brother and I no longer take spending Christmas together for granted.  We don’t do it very often now, so when we do, it’s very special.  Most years, I am a Christmas Stranger.  A Christmas Stranger is the person that you may not know very well, but you invite them to join your celebration because otherwise they will be alone.   I would much rather be the person doing the inviting, and once or twice I’ve had that privilege.  One year I invited all the Australian interns from my job to come over, the ones who couldn’t fly home for the holidays.  I made a terrible dinner (somehow I managed to make an entire meal of colorless food) but everyone was very kind about it.

I am grateful to all the folks who have taken me in for Christmas.   Families tend to behave better with a stranger around, so perhaps a Christmas Stranger gives something important in return.   I encourage you to take a look at the people around you—your co-workers, the people at your church, your friends—because we are surrounded by folks who are spending the holidays alone.  Invite them to share Christmas with you.   It’s one of the best gifts you can give, and you will be blessed.

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Tweets and Doctor Who

I hate Twitter.  The feeds take too long to load, too few tweets load on the page after you hit the refresh button, and most people have nothing interesting to say.   There’s one great big exception, though.  I love Matthew Gray Gubler’s Twitter page.  Gubler is an artist, filmmaker, and actor.  (He plays the skinny genius on Criminal Minds.)  His Twitter page is decorated with his weird drawings, and his tweets always make me smile.  He’s never crude or mean-spirited but always unique and eccentric.  This is a guy who sleeps in his LA apartment at Christmas in a special pup tent.  Whose favorite holiday is Halloween but he’s allergic to pumpkins.  Who always wears mismatched socks.  Who never takes himself too seriously.  These days I don’t even log into my twitter account.  I just go straight to twitter.com/GUBLERNATION.

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So, did you watch the new Doctor Who?  I was really worried that the new doctor wouldn’t be as good as the last two, but I think Matt Smith has some nice qualities.  He looks like a cartoon with his square jaw, but he’s a sweeter, gentler doctor.  I’m not sure I like the latest costume, as it’s kind of ordinary.  It’s not a major distraction, though.

My favorite Doctor Who episode of all time (not that I’ve seen them all, mind you) is The Empty Child, from the season with Christopher Eccleston as the doctor.  I’m fascinated by stories about The Blitz (even science fiction), and besides, this episode introduced Captain Jack Harkness.

Update:  This is me, dropping in from the future, just like the Doctor would, to say that I’ve now seen the entire season of Matt Smith’s Doctor Who.  It’s January 22, 2010, so that took some time!  He really grew on me, and Amy Pond, too.  I love how the entire season looped around on itself, and the way the future Doctor was dropping clues throughout the episodes.  I’m still puzzled by the waving Amy and Rory in the distance, in The Hungry Earth, because I kept expecting that to come up again.   Maybe it will be in the next series?  Can’t wait!

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