Friday, October 12, 2012

Techno-Rant, X-stuff, I-stuff, E-stuff

           Recap of the last week or so:  
Miser Mom laments that our things own us.
Miser Mom fears that the machines are taking over.
Miser Mom praises paper mail over the electronic version.
Miser Mom drags her children to watch (operatic) women die horrible deaths on stage,
       but seldom lets them watch Bionicles battle for world supremacy on TV.

Why is Miser Mom on such an anti-tech rant?  And why does she refer to herself in the third person?

yoicks.  The whole third-person thing is just silly.  But the whole technology rant has a reason.  Or rather a constellation of reasons, which are
 •  a nasty-large cell phone bill, coming on top of
    • Consumer Reports "50 best products" issue, arriving right at the end of
         • the yard sale season.

The end of the Lancaster yard sale season means that my own favorite Christmas shopping venues are basically closing down for the year, not to reopen until next May.  Shopping season is almost over for me; the coin jar is nearly empty and will begin its long, slow refill.  But before I quit buying things for the year, I want to top off the X-mas baskets, going into November free of that "aaahhh! What do I get her???" kind of last-minute panic.  So I've been mulling over the few people on my list for whom I didn't snag cool scores this summer.

Then I got the latest Consumer Reports at the same time as my monster cell phone bill.  Their featured "50 Best Products" include a jar of olive oil, a few bottles o' wine, a set of kitchen knives, cans of paint . . . and then lots and lots (and more lots) of things that you plug in, turn on, power up, power down.  And I just thought, if even I wanted to consider a techno-gadget for my friends and loved ones, I'd be giving them the gift that keeps on taking.  That's not nice.

Hence, the techno rant.  No i-things.  No e-things.  It goes against my moral fiber to buy the cheap stuff that will just require expensive batteries before it gets tossed into some landfill.  And I'm just too cheap to get the really good stuff (although I could pretend that I'm not too cheap, but that I don't want to hook my loved ones on an expensive e-habit, and that would be true, too).   (But the first reason really is that I'm too cheap).

So what do I get for people who I love and who I share connections with, but who are far, far away?  How do I get them things that don't take space on their shelves, or create even more garbage in this world of ours?  Some of these people are 77 years old and darned well off, and some of these people are 7 years old with no money of their own (but with doting parents who supply goodies as needed/wanted).  Neither extreme is easy to shop for.   And some of these people are young adults just starting out on their own, and I have no idea of the state of their current belongings or desires.

How shall we save the day?

Opera, of course.

Or rather, theater tickets.  My only homemade daughter knows that her birthday present for many, many years was a set of 3 subscription tickets to the local theater: one ticket for her, one ticket for me, and one ticket for a friend of her choice.  When she went off to college, we replaced that with passes to the movie theater near her school.  Two years ago, my nieces in San Diego got to go see a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta courtesy of their Aunt Miser Mom.   Theater may or may not be an option for family members this year.

Not to mention restaurants.  For young-adults-just-starting-out in distant cities, I believe that a gift certificate to a local (to them) restaurant can't be beat.  In fact, for my 77-year-old father, I'm going to meld plan A and plan B, and get him a lovely dinner at the restaurant near his favorite opera house.  This will come packaged together with a heartfelt note of gratitude for hooking me on sex-and-violence (as performed by sopranos and tenors who are backed up by large orchestras).

 And for the 7-year-old nieces?  The answer is its own drama in three acts.

Act 1.  Last year, I bought a puzzle book I thought they'd like.   They're bright kids; the puzzles I chose aren't connect-the-dots kinds of puzzles, but more like  "Turn LOVE into CASH by changing one letter at a time" kind of puzzles.  [LOVE - LOSE - LASE - CASE - CASH is one possibility.  Not your average 7-year-old].   But instead of sending them the whole book at once, I cut apart the pages and sent them one puzzle a week, together with a little note from our family.  I could imagine doing the same thing with a coloring book, actually.  I really love this idea; takes a lot of pressure off of writing a long note, and gives the kids something to look forward to . . .

Act 2.  . . . except I heard nothing back from the kids.  Did they like it?  Were the puzzles too hard?  I went into a funk about my cool idea that seemed to be disappearing into a black hole.  Then, this summer, both nieces told me how much they love getting my letters and puzzles.  In fact (they say) they've written several letters back, but somehow never seemed to manage to get the envelope, address, and stamp all together to send something back out.

Act 3.  Inspiration hit.  My nieces (and perhaps even a few young adults) will be getting envelopes, pre-addressed, for all the many many people in our family.  There will be -- yes-indeed-ee -- a few extra envelopes with the name and address of yours truly.  Perhaps I'll get some mail next year.

Creating such envelopes is not difficult on the computer and home printer.  Stamps are the most expensive part of the project, but they will be included (note that stamp prices will go up again in 2013, so buy now).  Cards, also, will be part of the package, again thanks to the wonder of the computer.

Tech?  No.  This year's X-mas gifts will be theatrical X-periences, and X-cellent meals, and X-pository outlets.

But this year's Noel gifts will have no E gifts.  (Say that out loud to appreciate it.  Heh.).

Rant over.


  1. What fabulous ideas. I have given scrapbook style calendars (lots of photos), long letters of gratitude (very well received) and stamps (didn't think of the pre-addressed envelopes). I hadn't thought of giving tickets for Christmas, although I have done that for birthdays. Thanks for sharing these terrific ideas. I'm going to pass this on to others in my circle of family and friends.

    1. Ah, calendars! Another fave of mine. I used to hand-draw calendars for my grandmother when I was a kid. And a calendar with birthdays and anniversaries makes a great welcoming gift to someone marrying into the family. --MM