Would you like a bed near the window?

Why is it that some of us are given a bed in the corner, while others are given a bed near the window. Like that travel commercial where the couple wanted a room with a view. It was of the scary cemetery in the hotel's back yard! EEEK! I believe that you have no power over what cards you are dealt - instead you have the power to decide which play to make with these particular cards. Of course, each play you continue to make will determine which cards you get next.
What if you had the power to choose what view you would get? I don't mean out of your kitchen window either! If you become hospitalized, rent a room (for WHATEVER reason), get committed, take a trip... when asked "would you like a bed near the window" what will you way? And what kind of view would you have? This view doesn't have to be a bed of roses - it could be of your life! What do you want to see out there? What can you lay down and relax to that will put your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy yourself for a change?

Gift cards are not gifts

By Liz Pulliam Weston

Gift cards are incredibly popular. They're also an oxymoron.

A gift, ideally, says, "I thought about you. I considered your likes and dislikes, your needs and wants, your dreams and desires, and found you this token of my esteem that I hope will delight you."
A gift card says, "There! Checked you off my list." Holidays have rapidly devolved into what amounts to an exchange of cash. A gift card says nothing about the personality of the recipient -- but it says lots about the giver.

Think about it. Would a lover, in the flush of romance, lean close to the object of his affection and present . . . a gift card? Would proud grandparents present the latest addition to the family with . . . a gift card? Would your best and closest friend, the one you've known for years, who's stuck with you through the roller-coaster ride of life, walk into your hospital room and give you . . . a gift card? (If the answer to any of those questions is yes, by the way, you need to start hanging with a better class of people.)

Yet gift cards continue their relentless spread: Earlier this month, 57.7% of respondents told a National Retail Federation survey they plan to buy at least one gift card -- and 19% of those planned to buy six.  Consumers will spend $26.3 billion on gift cards this year, the NRF estimates, up from $24.8 billion last year. Half of respondents (53.8%) said they would like to receive a gift card, up from 50.2% two years earlier.

Young people, especially, are so enamored of gift cards, with being "empowered to make their own choices," as one retailer laughably put it, that they don't even realize what they're missing. Older people might, but hey, they're busy and cards are convenient, so what's the harm? The harm is that the art of gift-giving is quickly devolving into an entirely commercial exchange. How much longer until we simply start thrusting wads of dollar bills at each other?

Some people, apparently, would be delighted with that prospect. While researching party themes for my daughter's upcoming celebration, I stumbled across a posting by a woman who proudly included the horrifying words "monetary gifts would be much appreciated" on her 3-year-old child's invitations. She went on to explain that "I wanted money as gifts for my daughter's savings and for us to buy bigger toys, like a big kitchen and a Barbie Jeep that she wanted, instead of guests giving her small toys."

Translation: Just give us the cash and get out of the way. It's official. Shame is dead.

It's not that I've never given a gift card. I have, but I viewed these cards as what they were: a cop-out, an admission that I had grown so out of touch with the recipients that I didn't know what would please them. In two cases, I used the experience as a prod to spend more time with the giftees and get to know them better. In the third instance, I finally decided that what had been a close friendship no longer was and ended the gift exchange -- to mutual relief.

Is your gift going to waste? MSNBC's Chris Jansing talks with Consumer Report's Greg Daugherty about the magazine's article that said $8 billion worth of gift cards went unused last year. It's also not that I don't understand the practical aspects of the gift card. I do. I just can't help mourning the passing of a lovely tradition, one that helped us focus on each other and had the potential to bring us closer.

Would I have felt nearly as welcomed by my new mother-in-law if, on my first Christmas as a wife, she'd presented me with a gift card rather than the antique soup tureen that had been in her family for years? Her present told me I was part of the family.

If you really must buy gift cards, then at least combine a card with a real gift. If you want, it can even be from the same retailer that's providing the gift card to facilitate returns. Even a small gesture is better than none at all.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Sometimes I feel like Charlie Brown. "Everything I touch gets ruined."

I can't get anything done. I can't do anything right. I can't get the answers that I need (not want) and I feel like no one gets me. Don't we all feel that way at times? Isn't it ok to have a melt-down on occasion? I'd like to think that is it - and that there is someone there who will pick me up when I do, dust me off and say "lets move on."

So why not move on? After all, it is Christmas. The season of giving. The season of lights. The season of lovemagic and wonder. But in our chaotic lives we seem to forget the real, true meaning of Christmas. We are all so busy, worrying over this and that. Rushing to these stores to make sure we get so-and-so the perfect gift before they are all sold out. We are trying to please Auntie Shrew by making our deliciuos chocolate pie for the family dinner. You don't have time to feed your cat because you're too busy wrapping gifts for your neighbor. Your neighbor doesn't have time to wrap gifts because he is taking care of his sick mother. It's kind of like a chain of events. Let's lay down the chain long enough to enjoy a little bit of what we all need in our lives. Yes, the lights are beautiful. The decorations are splendid. The desert is to die for! But none of these things are the true meaning of Christmas. What is Christmas really about?

"Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?"

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were [soer] afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'".

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie brown. Let's have a Charlie Brown Christmas!
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