Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blogless Joel: Three Gift Ideas from an Anticonsumerist Cynic


Joel is a real man  - a blogger without a blog.  He's a respected member of the FB Dad Bloggers page I hang around too much - without a blog.  He has a lot to say, a ton of technical talent, and a deep love for his family - again, without a blog.  He writes here and there, claims to "teach WordPress," whatever that is -  right, without a blog.

Sometimes he shows up on some of the Dad Bloggers sites.  I'm really not sure how he does it... but, today I am pleased to introduce him as a guest poster.

I am hopelessly unromantic, which is odd, because I am a hopeless romantic.  Blogless Joel is both.  I'd have probably written something snarky or something saccharine sweet about my never-ending love for the twins.  Joel does a much better job for Valentine's Day.

Three Romantic Gift Ideas from an Anti-Consumerist Cynic

I haven't bought my wife a card since 2008, because nothing says "I love you" like a $5 piece of card stock with my name hastily scribbled under some words ghost written by a multinational corporation.

"Hey honey, here are some other guy's words. He works in a soul crushing cubicle job like me, but because he is being paid by the Hallmark Corporation, he churned out these words for a paycheck. Actually, who are we kidding? It was most likely a woman who made this card for you. Guys don’t use words like ‘wistfully’. A Review Board of some sort probably discussed the words and decided they had a good chance of generating revenue for the Hallmark Corporation, and by golly, they were right, because I bought these words for you! Of all the strangers' words in the store, I thought that these words best expressed what I would say to you if I were capable of communicating my feelings in a meaningful way. Also, I know you like flowers, so you're in luck. This piece of cardstock has pastel flowers ALL OVER THE PLACE. And I hope you're in the mood for over-the-top scripty font and dramatic flourishes of language…"

So maybe I'm an anti-consumerist cynic, but that doesn't mean I'm not a romantic. I'm actually a modern day Casanova. Just like… well, who’s a good example of a modern day Casanova? Prince Hans from "Frozen"? I'm not sure, I never made it to the end of that movie. (Oh? What's that? He turned evil and tried to kill the protagonists with a sword? Oh nevermind…)

Without further ado, here are three romantic gift ideas from an anti-consumerist cynic. 

1. Learn to sew

Last year before Christmas, I tried to check my email on a hipster's Macbook Pro and I accidentally started an Etsy store selling artisan scarves. Ooops. So I decided to give my wife the gift of me learning to sew.

I went to the Hobby Lobby and picked up a sewing machine. I selected some fabric and asked Ruth, the nice elderly Hobby Lobby lady, to cut it to size. It took her forever to finish the job because after I told her I was learning to sew and making my wife curtains for Christmas, she wouldn't stop insisting I meet her granddaughter, Gretchen, for an “Indecent Proposal” type arrangement. Take it easy, Ruth.

(Here's another tip, Grandmas love men who can sew. Your wife may eventually become a Grandma. If you want her to love you now and also "eventually", learn to sew.)

Night after night, I waited until my wife went to sleep, then I tip toed to the basement with my sewing machine in tow to work on the curtains. I felt like Gus, the fat mouse from Cinderella, slaving away to make Cinderella's dress in time for the ball. I also ate a lot of cheese.

On Christmas morning, I made my wife open the sewing machine first, so it looked like I was telling her SHE needed to learn to sew. It was the ultimate backhanded gift. The look of "gee thanks" was hysterical. (The first step to impressing someone is to lower that person's expectations of you.) Then, I gave her the curtains. After she shrugged off the shoddy stitching job, I told her that I made the curtains for her with the sewing machine, and that I would teach her to sew if she wanted or I could take care of our household’s future sewing needs because I was now a mediocre seamstress, and also, all of this was why Gretchen had been staying in our guest bedroom. 



Needless to say, she was overwhelmed. The curtains were quite hideous, but the sewing skill is a gift that keeps on giving. My wife loves me more than ever now that I can make pillow cases and crap like that. As time goes on, my wife is learning to tolerate Gretchen, and she's gradually becoming a welcome addition to the family.

2. Homemade jewelry

"Are you SURE you don't need any help?"

As I turned to the Michael's store associate, I realized I had been standing in the same spot, staring in exasperation at the necklace clasps for 10 minutes. I was in over my head.

"I'm good. I've got this." I said to the associate and lied to myself.

My fifth wedding anniversary was approaching. I wanted to do something special. After a quick Wikipedia search, I discovered that the fifth anniversary is the "wooden anniversary". So I decided to make my wife jewelry out of wood.

Instead of "he went to Jared", I went to the wood pile in our back yard. Using wood found at our home, at her parents' house where she grew up, and at the park where we were married, I made her several necklaces, earrings, and a wooden box. 


 The wooden box was lined with white cloth cut from her wedding dress, which had been tragically destroyed at our wedding reception by an errant glass of red wine during an exuberant dance off to "Ice Ice Baby".



I won’t bore you with the details on how to cut, carve, and finish the wood, but I'll tell you this: don't loosely hold a log in a compound miter saw or you might be killed. Thankfully, I wasn't killed, but I did ruin a miter saw and soil a pair of boxer briefs.

In the end, I gathered my composure in the Michael's and I selected some silver necklace clasps and a blue and white bead representing our children's birthstones. "Awwwwwww", mothers across the globe are undoubtedly audibly gasping right now. I know, I know. But wait, there's more...

3. An electronic time capsule of love and memories

A few years ago at Mother's day, I found myself in a familiar position where I didn't have a gift at all. You see, I don't ALWAYS give my wife gifts on the obligatory holidays. Sometimes I think about the FOREVERNESS of my arrangement with my wife, and how long forever actually is, and I become overwhelmed with the precedent of giving at least 5 gifts every year, FOREVER (birthday, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Sweetest Day, Mother's Day). That stress is too much to handle for a guy who wears prescription antiperspirant and gets nervous ordering a sandwich at Subway. So rather than a yearly expected gift, I prefer to give the occasional unexpected gift that knocks her socks off, which was super convenient the year I gave her embroidered socks. When it comes to my gift philosophy, think: Quality over Quantity.

But this year I wanted to do something special for Mother's Day. After all, it was her first Mother's Day as a mother. That's when I came across this Google commercial.



I immediately created an email address for our infant daughter as a gift to my wife. It would be an electronic time capsule of love and memories that we could use to share our present day thoughts with the future versions of our children. Nevermind that Google’s Terms of Service prohibit creating accounts for other people.

I can't recommend this idea enough. It's been so nice to be able to drop my daughter a line whenever she makes me laugh, makes me smile, or makes me question my sanity.
We use this time capsule to record the good times:

Tonight was one of those nights with a warm summer breeze and the sun going down behind the trees, where you think "This is a classic summer experience". I wonder if later in life you will look back on moments like these and smile. I wonder if when you are older, you'll feel a breeze and see sun trickling through the trees and think of these times with your dad. I asked you if you think you'll remember this moment forever, and you said "Yes, Daddy."

The bad times: 

Lately we've been working through some discipline issues where you won't listen to me or your mom. It hurts me but then we have to be hard on you and deny you a book before bed or put you in time out. It kills me when you cry and get upset, but I know that it is necessary. I hope that when you are older you understand that it's not something we want to do. It would be so much easier to just give in all the time, but this is a necessary part of growing up.

And the silly times: 

You just said "The big bad wolf shouldn't blow people's houses down; he should just go in the front door. Blowing people's houses doesn't make sense." Hilarious.

Above all else, we use it as a tool for passing down our thoughts at various stages of our lives to our daughter, who can read them at various stages of her own life. I want to capture my thoughts and preserve them as they happen, so that my children can revisit them from time to time—either to remind them how to think or perhaps how not to think.
 
I can share the time she almost made it on the Ellen show, or the reasons why you should ALWAYS lock hotel rooms from the inside.

I suppose that is why some parents blog. What is a blog but another time capsule of love and memories, albeit with a larger audience? I don’t have a blog like the excellent “ihopeiwinatoaster”, but I am not without a voice. I am not without an audience. Through this gift, my wife and I have the best audience of all, every future version of our daughter: bratty teenage daughter, jaded high school daughter, introspective college daughter, and mature and wonderful adult daughter.

Just yesterday my daughter asked how my day was, and I said "Pretty good, lots of meetings and deadlines." She responded, "DEAD LIONS?!" Haha, yes, slaughtered lots of lions today, honey. Adorable. I immediately fired off a record of the memory to my daughter’s email address, FuturePresidentOfTheUnitedStates@gmail.com. I can imagine her 50 year old self reading this small bit of humor and laughing, and then telling her Chief of Staff to get her a coffee. “If you forget the cream and sugar one more time I swear to God you’ll be polishing the Oprah Memorial with a toothbrush!” 

"It's the thought that counts."

When it comes to gifts, I do believe it is the thought that counts. Very little thought is put into store bought greeting cards, even if you spend 45 minutes in Hallmark before deciding on the Garfield card where he admits he actually loves Odie (but not as much as Lasagna!).

So for your next obligatory holiday gift, spend some time thinking of a gift that truly reflects YOUR feelings. Find something that will last, something that will remind your wife of where you've been together and where you're heading, whether it's hideous curtains, shoddy jewelry, an email account, or something even better.

Or if you don’t have a significant other but you want one, head to your local Hobby Lobby, pretend you're picking out fabric to sew some curtains, and ask Ruth about her granddaughter.

Thanks Blogless Joel.  I didn't really think this through, my Garfield card and new hairdryer aren't really gonna cut it.

Wait... Curse you "Blogless" Joel!



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