Counting Thoughts

Some people say that Holiday’s like Christmas are all about giving.  “‘Tis better to give than to receive,” and all that hooey.  I have very mixed feelings about the gift giving holidays.  I want to get presents.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all?  I think anyone who says, “I don’t care about receiving presents.  I just like giving things to people and watching their faces light up when they open the package,” is lying through their artificially whitened teeth.  (I don’t know why the teeth are artificially whitened, that’s just the first thing that came to mind and we’re going to go with it.)

I like to GET presents, but I HATE to give them.  I do.  It’s not because I’m stingy or selfish.  I’m not.  I do like to give people presents that they genuinely enjoy and appreciate.  There is a commercial that keeps playing on the radio right now: I think it’s for Roku (Obviously not a very good commercial because I had to try six different spellings, “Orocu, Orokoo, Arocu, arocoo, etc.” before I actually found ROKU with no O or A in front of it.)  The commercial says something about knowing the different between genuine appreciation and fake appreciation when you give a gift.  I?  I get the fake appreciation most of the time.

I don’t usually try to give people gifts that will blow them away.  I don’t make any sort of effort to surprise people, because I suck at it.  I ask people “What do you want?” and then if I can afford it, I give it to them.  If I can’t afford it, I ask, “What else?”  I hate it when they tell me, “I don’t know.”

I’m just not very good at gift giving.  I suck at gift giving and I come by it naturally.  Observe:

One year, when I was about fifteen, my mother decided, seemingly on the spur of the moment, that she was going to give us something for Christmas.  She ran out on Christmas Eve, in search of some kind of gifts for her children.  The next morning, after we had our traditional Pillsbury cinnamon roll breakfast, we each opened a small package with our name on it.  Each package contained one embroidered dish towel and one pot holder…  with Santa Claus on them.  Again…  I WAS FIFTEEN.

Last year my mother sent me a green t-shirt with a giant Grinch face screen printed on it.  She couldn’t have known by looking at the shirt that the dastardly smiling mouth on the shirt only serves to highlight my much maligned and despised gut.   I also don’t appreciate being referred to as “The Grinch”, which is what she calls me when she’s not calling me Scrooge.  I never have and never will wear the shirt out of the house.

Last week I received a text from my mother:

“I’ve ordered you some Christmas goodies from Harry & David.  Don’t know when they’ll arrive but be on the lookout.”

By chance I came home that night to a box on my front steps.  I opened it up and found a metal tin inside with three different flavors of Moose Munch.  If you don’t already know, this is Muse Munch:

And these are my teeth:

Give or take a few months and a different color rubber band.

I texted her, “This is some awfully mean stuff to send a guy with braces.  😉  Good thing they’re coming off soon.  :-)”

“I completely forgot about the braces!” she told me.

I answered, “It’s OK.  They’ll be off in a few weeks.  That stuff will certainly keep.  Thanks for sending it.  Should be tasty.”

She asked, “Did you get both boxes?”  I told her I only got one.  “The other one will be a little more braces-friendly, I think.”

The next day a second box appeared on my steps.  “This box has air holes…” I texted to her.  “Did you send me a puppy?”  This box had six pears, a small bag of mixed nuts and a block of cheese.  (See the picture of my mouth above.)  I’m not particularly fond of fresh pears, though I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect that she ought to have known that.

It’s clear my mother doesn’t know how to give good gifts, though certainly she means well.  I wrote yesterday about all the pressure, expectations,  and demands on holidays and this is just part of it.

I’ve been thinking, these last several days, about gifts and how I feel about them.  There was a time when I bought into the addage, “It’s the thought that counts” only, I don’t think I believe it anymore.

I’m fully prepared for the one person who actually comments on my blog with any regularity (and the one person who just has to talk to me in person about it because she’ll explode if she puts her thoughts down on the blog instead of – or maybe in addition to – talking to me about it in person) to give me all kinds of grief over this, and that’s okay, but just hear me out.

I have so much stuff.  Way too much stuff really.  I don’t need more stuff.  And I’m beginning to feel like gifts for the sake of gifts? are just stuff.  It’s stuff I can’t throw away, or give away or return, because if the giver catches wind that I got rid of his gift so that it won’t be just stuff, the giver will get his feelings hurt.  The thing is, if the giver gave me a good gift, then it wouldn’t be just stuff it would be something of value, something I might treasure and therefore, would not get rid of it.  I’m coming to a point where I feel like, if  I don’t need, or didn’t already really want, the item the giver is giving me, it’s actually a burdon.  And because I feel this way, I feel very ambivilant about giving gifts because I don’t want my gifts to be seen that way, and so I’m just adding to the pressure on myself to give good  gifts so that they won’t be just stuff and I’m no good at it.

If you’re like me, though, you buy yourself all the affordable things that you need or really want and it’s the things that you can’t afford that you really want someone to give you, only they can’t really afford it either and so there’s nothing for them to give you because you’ve already bought all the things that people can afford that you want.  It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m not sure, now, where this post was going to go, though I’m certain it was a very different direction.  What I do know, now, though, is…

Give money!

I think that’s what I’m going to do from now on.

If everyone who was going to give me a gift, just gave me money instead, maybe I could pool all that money together and spend it on something I really wanted, like an iPad or a new television instead of a box of pears and a —  Well, I don’t know what else, because I really only expect to get one other gift and I have no idea what it will be…  probably Glee DVDs.

Apparently, Michelle was going to buy me a new printer since the one I had doens’t work with my new-ish computer…  But I bought myself one on Saturday so now she has to come up with something else.  Way to go, me!  But in “me’s” defense, Michelle stood right there and watched it happen and didn’t say anything until we got back to her house with it.  She could have stopped me.

OH!  I know where I was going with all that!

I’ve been struggling for the last several days with the idea of gratitude and appreciation vs. expectations and dissappointment.

When I opened the box of Moose Munch, I was dissapointed that my mother sent me what amounts to caramel corn and chocolate chips.  (You Moose Munch enthusiast can just back-off.  I’ve never had it and I can’t eat it for at least another two weeks and probably six.)  It’s food.  She sent me food for Christmas.  I can afford to buy my own food so this didn’t fill a need.  A quick glance at the Harry & David website tells me she probably spent close to $30.00 on this caramel corn and chocolate chips.  Plus she sent the pears and cheese.  Another $40.00? At least it is food and will go away.  It’s not just stuff.

On the other hand, there were lots of years when she didn’t give me anything.

So I can’t help but wonder…  Am I making too much out of this?  Is it really “the thought that counts”?  Am I just ungrateful?  Is it my own fault for having too high expectations when I find out someone sent me anything at all?

Then again, it occurs to me that since I can’t remember any of the gifts I did get when I was a kid, and more often than not, I can’t remember a few months later what I gave anyone or what anyone gave to me…  Maybe it is the thought that counts…

The truth is, I’m feeling simultaneously grateful and dissapointed, I just would like to open a package and just be delighted by what I find.  But the fact that I feel grateful and dissapointed at the same time is soemthing in itself.  I’m certainly not accustomed to the ability to acknowledge two contradictory feelings at the same time.

By the way, the pears are awesome, much to my surprise.

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What is the Deal

Watch this video from my favorite Christmas movie.  Don’t worry, it’ll open in a separate window.  I tried to embed it but the person who posted this set it up so it couldn’t be embedded and it was the only clip I could find with the crucial line in it.  If you don’t have much time, skip ahead and watch from 3:03 to about 3:30.  (Thanks a lot, Christmas Dave for ruining the flow of my blog post.)

Go over to YouTube and watch the clip.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  I’ll be here when you get back.

Finished?  Great.  Now allow me to branch off into a seemingly completely unrelated topic, only to loop it all back around in then end…

I’ve got a bit of seemingly minimal crap going on in my life.  But of course, “a bit” of seemingly minimal crap can pile on and amount to one big pile of smelly, unpleasant…  stress.

The apartment I have lived in for the last four years has only one built-in source of heat.  It’s a small, gas-burning fireplace with asbestos (probably not asbestos) logs that glow when hot to make it look like they’re on fire.  The flame itself only resembles a smoulder and offers no ambiance to my apartment.  The fireplace gets pretty hot right where it is and according to “them” is supposed to be sufficient to heat my whole apartment.  In reality, it s about 85 degrees at the fireplace and about 65 degrees 8 feet away.  Plus, the fir place puts off an obnoxious odor that gives me a headache.  I choose not to use the fireplace and in the meantime, it is freezing in my apartment.

Yesterday I went to the Orthodontist for what was supposed to be my take-my-braces-off appointment.  Last month, the younger Dr. Tinloy (it’s a father and son practice) told me to pay close attention to my teeth over the next month and see if there was anything else I felt needed to be corrected and this month we’d talk about taking the braces off.  Realizing that literal perfection is not a possibility at my age, without extraction and implants, I’m pretty happy with the way my teeth look these days, but I did notice that the back teeth on the bottom are not in-line with the rest of my teeth.  I didn’t know if it really mattered, or if it was worthwhile (or even possible) to try to correct, but I didn’t want to look back on this experience in a couple of years and wish I had stuck it out and gotten those last two teeth straightened out.  When I pointed this out to the older Dr. Tinloy yesterday, he agreed that it could be done and even said he did think it was worthwhile.  So here I sit with braces still on my teeth and in some respects tighter than they’ve ever been.  I’m aware that after only one year and nearly finished I’m better off than most and my threshold for pain is pretty high so I haven’t had a lot of discomfort, but they’re a hassle and I’m ready to have them off.  In the end though, I chose to continue with the process and finish what I started.

Some time in the last month or so, some ne’er-do-wells managed to sneak some contraptions into the self-service check stands at several of the local Lucky’s grocery stores.  These contraptions record and somehow transmitted or conveyed the information from customer’s credit cards to the ne’er-do-wells who have been using the information fraudulently and causing a lot of trouble and heartache for the owners of those cards and the banks they’re attached to.  Sadly, I frequent two of those Lucky’s grocery stores and while, fortunately, I have not been a victim of any identity theft, or bank fraud, my bank, proactively, decided to cancel my debit card because I shopped at those stores.  They sent a replacement, which I received yesterday, but for several days I was without access to my money…

This was not as much of a hardship as it could have been, because, well…  I really don’t have any money.  I have $38.00 in the bank until payday which is this Friday.  I need to do Christmas shopping (soon, since most of my gifts are going out of state) and I have bills that are coming due soon, but for the moment, I’m OK, financially speaking.  Still $38.00 isn’t much and I would certainly prefer to have more money just hanging around…  I suppose we could all say that, though, no matter how much we actually have “hanging around.”

For a few weeks, ever since the very sniffly, coughy, non-hand-washy DMV worker, I’ve been struggling with cold-like symptoms.  First it was a couple of weeks of running nose and sniffles.  Then just as that was dwindling away, I started coughing… TWO. WEEKS. LATER.  The cough has persisted.  It’s not constant, though it is a nuisance.  It’s not productive and despite my best efforts it’s not offering any kind of relief to the irritation that causes it in the first place.  While I have not been short of breath, I have had a hard time getting a full, deep breath and when I try, it just makes me cough some more.  Also, after nearly three weeks of coughing, I have muscular pain in my chest and back when I cough.  Monday, I finally broke down and called my health care provider.  I wasn’t sure there was any point in me going in – I don’t go to the doctor for the common cold…  though maybe I should.  After a conversation with an “Advice Nurse” it was determined that I could probably make do with a “phone appointment” and a little while later, I spoke with a doctor who, after discussing my symptoms said, “it sounds like you’ve got bronchitis” and proceeded to put in three prescriptions for me; two inhalers and one bottle of pills.  Now, what I’m about to say is going to sound really ungrateful, so let me just specify that I KNOW I’m luckier than many people when it comes to health care coverage and yet, even for me, an employee of my healthcare provider, costs have gone up.  Everything is relative and compared to the coverage I used to have – $5.00 for prescriptions and $0.00 for everything else – the increased expenses suck.

Remember that my ATM/Debit card was cancelled and I did not have access to the $38.00 in the bank.  I happened to have very full jars of change on my dresser which I took to a coinstar machine and cashed in.  It gave me enough cash that I should have been able to get through this week without any fears of running out of lunch money.  My three prescriptions on Monday night cost me $45.00 and I had to pay another $1.00 for parking.  I had $49.00 cash in my pocket.  Suddenly, I didn’t have any more money for the week.

Monday, I reminded K of a task she needed to complete for me this week.  It’s a task that will take her all of 20 minutes to complete and normally she wouldn’t have to do it right now, but she’s on vacation next week and I’m taking another two weeks stay-cation starting at Christmas.  What she needs to do for me needs to be done and announced before I go on vacation, therefore, she needs to do it this week.  Her response?  “See this is why I asked you last week if there was anything else I owed you.”  After thinking of a number of less friendly things to say, I simply said, “You’re welcome,” and left it at that.  I chose not to make her attitude, my problem.

Yesterday, I had about an hour and a half between my Orthodontist appointment and my bi-weekly appointment with Deb and while I was at home I had a thought that caught me a little by surprise and when I expressed the thought to Deb, “With all this stuff going on, I’m not stressed out about it.  I’m doing just fine,” I got a mental picture of The Grinch in the scene above…

To paraphrase a little bit, “I’ve got all this crap going on, and I’m fineWhat is the DEAL?!?!?”