Making a list and checking it…

A steampunk Santa... (wonderhowto.com)

A steampunk Santa… (wonderhowto.com)

For the longest time I wanted to be the kind of person who got a bunch of my Christmas shopping done in advance. It shouldn’t have been difficult. There are certain people I know I’m going to want to give a present to every year. And I come across things all the time that make me think, “Oh, that would be good for so-and-so!” But for various reasons I wouldn’t.

They weren’t bad reasons. Sometimes I’d look at the potential gift, think about how many months it was until Christmas, and worry that the person would buy it for themselves before Christmas arrived. Or that someone else would give it to them at some other gift-giving opportunity. Or I myself, while looking at the gift, would realize the person’s birthday was only a mont or two away, and I’d buy the gift, but as a birthday present, instead.

Then one year, at a science fiction convention in March, I kept happening on things that would be perfect presents for certain friends, and they were unusual enough that I was relatively confident none of our mutual friends would purchase it. And I picked up presents for about seven of the people on our usual list of a couple dozen people. And once I had a box in the bedroom that already had presents for several people, it was really easy of the course of the next few months to take the plunge and pick up presents as I found them.

And then I got laid off on the last day of June.

I wasn’t unemployed for very long, but my jobs for the rest of the year were contract gigs through agencies. Some of them only lasted a couple of weeks. My take-home pay for each was considerably less (particularly since I was paying our medical insurance all out of pocket) than it had been.

Already having half the usual presents acquired helped in a couple of ways. First, there was simply a smaller number of gifts that I wanted to acquire than usual during that last half of the year. But also, because there were already gifts for a bunch of people, I had an incentive to no just throw up my hands and say, “no one’s getting anything from me this year” or whatever. I didn’t want to hand one friend this really nice thing I’d picked up in March, and then hand their spouse or significant other whom I usually picked up nice things for an obvious token gift, right?

What that did was keep me on the look-out for thoughtful gifts constantly. And that helped my attitude. Maybe it’s just me, but thinking out things I’d like to give to people I care about makes me feel good. I can’t be depressed while imagining how much a friend is going to enjoy this cool thing I found for them.

Yes, there are lots of things we spent less money on that year. But we still had a really fun Christmas.

Then the last week of the year I started work as a regular employee at a new job, at a salary and with benefits that put us back in the kind of shape we’d been in before I got laid off. And because I’d gotten into the habit of keeping my eye out all year for presents, the next year by the time December rolled around, I already had presents for a bit more than half the usual list. We still had to do a bunch of shopping in December, but it was a lot less than in most previous years—less stressful and more fun.

I don’t know what happened this year.

It didn’t even occur to me until midway through November that I had picked up nothing: not one single gift for any of our friends or family. Why? I have no clue. Even when, last summer, announcements were made at work which indicated upper management at work was looking to sell the company (which might mean a big change in my employment situation), it didn’t make me think, “I should start working on Christmas, now, while I’ve got time.”

So, here we are, it’s December already. We’re way behind on our usual decorating. I hadn’t done any shopping or even any real thinking about what to get for people until just this weekend. So we’re in a scramble at the end of the year. And there have been more announcements at work, another company has tendered an offer. In a few months I’m either going to be an employee of the new owner or looking for a new job altogether.

I’m trying not to let any of this get me stressed out. I’m 99% certain that I was feeling down last week and very cranky much of the weekend because I’ve been fighting off a cold, and the remodeling at work filled the office with fumes that irritated my sinuses and eyes, and noise and disruption that just make things a teensy bit of a hassle throughout the day.

The truth is, decorating and wrapping and all of that makes me happy. As my husband noted on Sunday evening, when I was up to my eyeballs in boxes of decorations I’d hauled up from the basement, after putting lights on the bushes in front of the house and so forth, that it was the first time he’d seen me smiling in a few days.

So, let’s get this holiday show on the road!

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. I publish an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live in Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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