Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Not So Simple Gifts by Sharon Wildwind

Sharon Wildwind is a mystery author and multi-media artist. Her fifth book in the Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen mystery series is due out soon. For more information about Sharon and her books, visit her web site, her Facebook fan page, or follow her occasional Tweets @sharww.

Not So Simple Gifts
by Sharon Wildwind

This started when I was in university. The day after the semester ended, I cranked up my Christmas Elf workshop. There were three problems with this:

1. Sometimes the semester didn’t end until December 20th.

2. I hate Christmas shopping. I especially hate Christmas shopping in the last 5 days before Christmas. Most of all, I hate places where Christmas carols play incessantly, and at loud volumes.

3. I never had much money.

However, I did have several pairs of knitting needles and, when I went home from university, access to a sewing machine. I also had an abiding love of hand-made things. The solution was to make everyone in my family a Christmas present.

There was one problem with this. The Christmas holidays were one of my prime writing times. I was so focused on my studies that I never considered doing any kind of writing, even keeping a journal, during the school year. What can I say, except that I was young and just getting my feet on the ground. Learning how to make a living (AKA studying) seemed so much more important than learning how to make a life (AKA writing).

So what was it going to be? Presents under the tree or pages in a file folder? Let’s just say that my family learned to accept promissory cards in their stockings. They eventually came to understand that not all gifts have to be given on December 25th. January 23 is a fine date for gifts. February 2 is, too. However, March is pushing it, especially if Easter is early that year.

In exchange for agreeing that Christmas could be a movable feast, they got the side benefits of inventive, hand-made gifts.

There was the year I decided that my gift theme would be whimsical animal totems. My niece, who loved to work out, got a Fitness Chicken with a “Be Healthy” bracelet around its ankle.

There was the year I enlarged cookie cutter shapes and made all the kids a pyjama bag in the shape of fish, butterflies, and flowers.

There was the year everyone got a word, suitable quilted into a miniature wall hanging. Doodle Food was for the professional chef, who liked to play with his food.

And there was the Christmas after a particularly hard year that everyone in the family got a box filled with hope—and a few chocolates.

They also got a few hand-made books out of the deal because I learned to write in my head while making things with my hands. More importantly, I learned to hold what I’d written in my head until I could get to my keyboard or journal. That is a very useful skill for an author because there are times when you simply can’t commit what in your head to paper right away.

So from the red-booted Christmas Elf’s workshop in the frozen Canadian north, I wish you happy creating, whether it’s on paper or in another medium of your choice. You still have another three weeks to Christmas. It’s not too late to start making those Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice gifts.

I’ve taken the handmade pledge. Have you?

I pledge to consider handmade alternatives for all of my purchases, whether they are for everyday items or gifts, for myself, my family or my friends.


Peg Brantley said...

Oh Sharon, had I but the skill, the time, the inventiveness, or . . . did I mention skill?

Your gifts surelly bless people . . . whether on December 25th or February 14th.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hi and Welcome, Sharon!! Thanks for being here!

WHAT an inspiration you are. I used to love making gifts for everyone, but somehow got out of doing that. You've made me realize it's time to go back, thank you!


Anonymous said...

Peg, skill starts with threading one needle, opening one jar of paint, etc. Over time you can amass more skills than you'll use in a lifetime.

Thanks for the chance to blog.

Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

Sharon, your essay reminded me of when I was a new mother, in college, and tied to the house or classroom. Christmas coming, no money, so my husband bought materials I needed and I made little boxes - match boxes, odds-n-ins boxes, shadow boxes. To this day the recipients of these small gifts have them displayed in their homes. Family and friends are like that.
Beautiful and thanks for sharing.