Holiday Gifting 2021(Part 2): Give the Gift of Memories

Give the gift of memories.

Who doesn’t love nostalgia? Just last night, our daughter sat on our bed with us as we shuffled through lots of old photos. We showed her photos from our wedding. She laughed at photos from when we were dating. She really laughed at old hairstyles from the 1970s and 80s. She couldn’t believe how much she favors me in some ways and how much she favors my husband in other ways. We showed her photos of family members…grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. And she really loved looking through pictures from her own childhood. We did all this while she was wearing my old Zaxby’s Chickenflage tshirt, a silly shirt I ordered when Zaxby’s was doing a funny promotion. It made me laugh at the time, but she loves the tshirt and didn’t even realize it was “chickenflage” (lots of little chicken shapes) instead of regular camouflage till I pointed it out to her.

Nostalgia isn’t just about photos. It’s also about objects. There are objects that remind us of different events in our lives or places we have visited. Because of that, it can be fun to put together a gift of memories for someone we love. Here are some ideas:

  • T-shirts. I love tshirts and hoodies. I have a collection of tshirts that has my dresser bursting at the seams, and I have a collection of hoodies that has taken over my closet and part of the guest closet in our house. Last year, I came up with the idea of giving my husband tshirts from places we have visited together. I had to do some eBay shopping, and in some cases, I had to contact retailers in different cities or resorts, but I did it. I boxed up t-shirts from different Caribbean islands we have visited together. I added a t-shirt from an Eagles concert we attended several years ago…and a Sade concert tshirt too. I ordered tshirts from bars we’ve visited in different parts of the country. I ended up with a total of ten or twelve tshirts, and I wrapped them all together in one big box. When he opened the box, he seemed a little confused, but then he realized he was looking at memories, and he loved it! I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself for that one.
  • Objects. It’s no secret that our daughter and I have a favorite hotel we like to visit in the Los Angeles area. A few years ago, a book was published documenting the 100-year history of the area around the hotel. Featured on the cover? A beautiful photo of our favorite hotel. And inside? Lots of information about the history of the hotel and its various guests over the years. My husband knew how much I would love it, so he ordered it for me and gave it to me for Christmas. I was absolutely thrilled! But someone could give me a coffee mug, a beach towel, or a sweatshirt from the hotel we love so much, and I would be thrilled with that too! If you know someone who has a favorite hotel or resort, call the property gift shop! They might be able to make your shopping easy with a bathrobe, book, holiday ornament, or another trinket that represents the hotel/resort.
  • Painting. You don’t always have to commission a painting to bring back memories. I once stumbled upon a painting of the Fairhope Pier in a thrift store in Charlotte. I purchased it and gave it to my mother as a holiday gift. It cost me $5, but it was worth a lot more than that to her! It brought back memories of days long ago when we spent afternoons on the pier. Additionally, for many Christmases, I gave mother a “painting” of her grandchildren. I would take a photo and use an app to make it look like a painting, and then send it to canvasondemand.com to have it printed on canvas and framed. She always loved them! See canvasondemand.com here.
  • Photo book. Who doesn’t love looking at old photos or photos from a fun year or vacation? Shutterfly has been one of my very favorite websites for years. I have stored thousands of photos on the Shutterfly website since our daughter was born eighteen years ago. We have ordered our holiday cards from Shutterfly every year, and I have lots of photobooks from Shutterfly…documenting vacations, birthdays, years, special events, and more. We have given them as gifts to friends and family, and every time, those gifts are well-received. See Shutterfly.com’s photobook options here.
  • Stoney Clover Locations Patches. I have a duffle bag I purchased at one of my very favorite resorts a few years ago. At the time, I thought my daughter would look at me like I was crazy after I purchased it, but she loved it! I haven’t let her claim it as her own, but this year, I’m giving her one like it for Christmas. Through Stoney Clover Lane, I have ordered a duffle bag, and I’m going to adorn it with destination patches from the website too. I will start with places she has visited, and I can add more later when she visits different places. I think it will be a big hit! The patches can also be used on jackets or makeup bags, and all of their patches are not travel related. There are patches for all kinds of interests! See Stoney Clover Lane’s offerings here.
  • Memory Keychain. I stumbled upon these at Etsy accidentally, but I love the ideas! The first one I came across is a photofilm keychain. At $18.99 plus shipping, it’s a great price point for a memory gift! It looks like a roll of film/negatives that can be extended to show multiple photos. You can see it here. Another one I found looks like a viewfinder you might purchase at an amusement park, and it might contain a photo of you at the scariest part of the rollercoaster. But this one holds whatever photo you pick! You can see it here.
  • Other photo gifts. In fact, Shutterfly.com offers lots of photo gift ideas, from blankets to coffee mugs to totebags and personalized water bottles. A few years after our daughter was born, Shutterfly moved their headquarters to the Charlotte area, and my husband joked that it was to save money on shipping things to our house. At the time, I had to be one of their best customers. I was always purchasing photos and gifts to send family in faraway places. To see their gift offerings, check out the shutterfly website here.

Who doesn’t love a good memory? And chances are, you can find a memory gift that’s not stuck on a cargo ship off the coast of California. Happy shopping!

Don’t Make Me Get My Voodoo Doll

I’ve been volunteering at my daughter’s school since she enrolled there in 2008. It’s a TK-12 school, and she is in tenth grade. It’s a fabulous school, and we are very fortunate to have a large volunteer base…lots of moms, dads, and grandparents who pitch in all the time to help make sure everything runs smoothly.

I’ve volunteered in lots of different ways…helping with art classes in elementary school; helping make costumes in lower school; helping with various events; helping coordinate volunteers for admissions; working with the music department; volunteering in the library; volunteering as room mom or team mom; taking tickets at carnivals; recruiting other volunteers…lots of different things that I have enjoyed. And while I’m doing whatever job I might be doing, I take it seriously.

I take it seriously, but I still have fun, and I always remember we are support for the system. We are supposed to support the school, the administrators, and the teachers in what they want us to do. We don’t run the place. I do things the way I think the people for whom I am working want it done.

Do I think it’s important to volunteer? Yes, for any number of reasons, the first being that I can volunteer. I am able. I have time. Another reason? I feel it’s important for my daughter to see that I think her education is important enough for me to invest my time. And another reason is that I know the school needs volunteers. Many hands make light work! I am one of those 20 percent of the people who do 80 percent of the work.

And even though I feel it’s important, it’s not the most important thing in my life. It’s not even near the top of the list. I enjoy it, and I want to do it, but I don’t place it above everything else I do. Want to know why?

I realized a long time ago that the work I do for free falls in far behind the stuff I need to do for my family and for myself. I have a small immediate family…just me, my husband, and our daughter…but doing for them comes ahead of doing for everyone else. Do I let myself get stressed out about volunteer work? Heck no! It’s supposed to be fun! I’m working for free, for Pete’s sake! And when someone tries to make it stressful for me, I pluck a strand of their hair to take home with me for making a voodoo doll. That’s all it takes…one strand of hair attached to a voodoo doll.

Of course, I’m kidding (or am I?), but seriously, there have been times I’ve wanted to make some voodoo dolls. Not gonna lie. And usually, it’s because someone takes themselves way too seriously. Or maybe someone has a high anxiety personality…something I don’t jibe with. Maybe someone is just downright disagreeable…or thinks they know everything…or they create drama…or can’t smile. Yep…I have actually given up volunteer positions because someone I was working with couldn’t smile. Girl, I’m funny…if you aren’t laughing when you’re with me, you are a hopeless, unhappy creature. As I’ve heard someone say somewhere: Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Here’s how I look at it. I volunteer at school when it works for me and my family. I enjoy it, and I take it seriously. Do I think anyone is going to remember what I’ve done ten or twenty years from now? Heck no! They aren’t even going to remember my name! After my daughter goes off to college, I will run into folks in the grocery store who will think I might look familiar from school, but they won’t be sure…and that’s one thing I know for sure. That is not my legacy!

So, I will continue to volunteer at my daughter’s school. And I will continue to laugh and be happy while I do it. And I hope everyone else is too! But don’t make me get my voodoo doll!

***You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.***

To order your own voodoo dolls, you can find them on Amazon.com here.

Bluebird of Happiness

When I was cleaning out my mother’s house in January (she died December 30), I came across three little glass bluebirds…one was a little bigger than the other two…like a mother and two babies.

I realized those bluebirds had been on a side table in her living room for a long time, but I’d never asked her about them. You know how you see something a million times but never bother to find out about it?

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For the first time ever, I picked them up. I turned them over and there was a sticker on the larger one that said “Bluebird of Happiness” and the telephone number of an art studio. I knew they didn’t have any monetary value, but now that I couldn’t ask Mother, I was wondering what kind of sentimental value they had for her. Where did she get them? I felt sure someone had given them to her, so I put them in a little Ziploc bag and brought them home to Charlotte with me.

I placed them on top of a mirrored  box in my bathroom, so I’ve seen them every day for about a month, but earlier this week, I decided to investigate and find out who gave Mother the bluebirds.

The first text I sent was to an old family friend who lives in Florida. She and Mother became friends in 1961, when they were both working at Sunland Center in Marianna, Florida. Mother was a nurse, and this friend, Cynthia, worked in Activities, I believe. For whatever reason, they became great friends. In fact, Cynthia says Mother inspired her and encouraged her to become a nurse too. She did, and she continued her education to become a nurse anesthetist…and she gives Mother much of the credit.

Promptly, I received a text back from Cynthia telling me she had given mother the little bluebirds. She said she didn’t need them back but that she would like to have a memento to keep near Mother’s picture in her room. I texted back, “Let me mail them to you.” So they should be delivered to her right away. Now, every time she looks at the Bluebirds of Happiness, she will think of Mother.

When I was growing up, Cynthia was like a “cool aunt.” She was a little younger than my parents, and she always liked to have fun. My parents liked to have fun too, but Cynthia liked to have fun while driving a cute, little Triumph convertible. Parents didn’t drive Triumph convertibles. But Cynthia had one, and when she visited, I got to ride in it…with the top down!

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In fact, Cynthia was so trusted by my parents that she was our designated guardian if something had happened to them while we were minors. They knew she would love us as her own, and we would love her too. We have great family, but they all have children of their own. Cynthia didn’t have children.

Of course, now I want my own Bluebirds of Happiness, so I looked at the bottom of them again and got the telephone number for that art studio. As it turns out, it’s a studio called Terra Studios in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and according to their website, they are the “home of the Bluebirds of Happiness.” They also have the Pink Birds of Hope, Wise Owls, and Grace & Gratitude Angels…Mother would have loved those too.

Apparently, these sweet creations are quite popular, and the proceeds from the sale of the birds goes toward “using art to create a better world.” After looking at the website, I’d love to visit Terra Studios, where they have a coffee shop, glass demonstrations, American arts and crafts, and they are a popular Northwest Arkansas tourist attraction. Now, I’ll need to plan a trip.

So, Ive ordered some Bluebirds of Happiness…a mama and two babies for myself…and then I ordered more. According to the Terra Studios website, “the lovely, plump, sweet singing Bluebird has inspired more songs and poems than any other bird.” Terra Studios offers different sizes and variations of the Bluebirds of Happiness, the Pink Birds of Hope (offering hope to cancer survivors), Wise Owls, and Grace & Gratitude Angels…and the prices are right. I think they make lovely gifts. In fact, I think the bluebirds would make lovely hostess gifts. With Easter just around the corner, you might consider adding the bluebirds, pink bird, or angels to an Easter basket. The Wise Owls would make great little additions to graduation gifts or favors for a graduation tea. You can purchase them all here.

Interestingly, on the same day I picked up the Bluebirds of Happiness at Mother’s, I was going through some papers and found a certificate naming my maternal grandfather a member of the North American Bluebird Society. Who knew? I had no idea there was such a society, and I certainly wouldn’t have thought my grandfather would be a member. I know he and my mother loved birds, but it never occurred to me he loved them enough to send in money. Having come through the Depression with some liquidity, he wasn’t free with his money. I love knowing he found bluebirds to be a worthy cause. I was so intrigued by his membership that I checked out their website and found it fascinating. If you’re interested in the North American Bluebird Society, you can see their websitehere.

So I guess bluebirds are a thing in my family. If you see me wearing a lot of blue in the next few months, you’ll know why. And if I see you and think you’re feeling “blue,” I may just give YOU a little Bluebird of Happiness to cheer you up.

As soon as my new Bluebirds of Happiness arrive, I will place them on the mirrored  box in my bathroom, so I can see them every single day and think of Mother and Cynthia. I’ll save the extras for  friends who need “a ray of light,” as mentioned in the song, Bluebird of Happiness.

 

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