All I Want For Christmas

My Christmas gifts to others are falling into four categories this year (uh, spoiler alert): free, almost free, events, or charity.

Free or almost free: My family started the “free or almost free” Christmas tradition two years ago, and it’s my favorite thing.  I never have to set foot in a mall in November or December.  Do you understand how freeing that is?  Instead, I spend the year gathering free things, or making things, or buying ridiculous things for a couple of dollars.  This can result in a pile of junk, or it can result in putting more thought and effort into gifts than I’ve ever bothered to in the past.  Last year my mother made me a t-shirt quilt, which is currently wrapped around my shoulders.  Two years ago, I drew a portrait of my grandfather for my dad.  It was a moving experience for me to draw it, and to watch him open it.

These handmade or sentimental things are worth so much more to me than, say, the DVD of North and South that I totally want but can buy myself.  And it makes me love the season, rather than dread it.  I can even listen to Christmas music without wanting to scream.  Except for “Little Drummer Boy,” of course; I’d rather shower with a bear than listen to that thing one more time.

Events: It turns out that in addition to family, I have some friends.  They’re not as big of fans of the “free or almost free” concept, and also it is way harder to make things than buy them for most people.  So I’m trying to give events, if possible.  A night out. A sporting event. A beer festival.  And less imaginative things too: the promise of a visit to friends who are moving far away.  Dinner and drinks some night.  A party at my place (this is only a gift as long as I don’t do the cooking).  It’s the most selfish of all my Christmas-giving, since I get to enjoy the events in the company of good people.

Charity: Look, I volunteer a lot.  I’ll be working with the Salvation Army in the coming weeks (including being on TV), I recently got Lacy to serve dinner with me at a shelter and we’re looking forward to doing it again, and I’m going to count the 45 minutes I spent agonizing over the perfect Barbie for Toys For Tots as “Charity” rather than “A Sad Activity For An Adult Woman.”  But this is not so much about what I’m doing as what I would like you to do.

Yeah, guys.  That’s right.  I’m asking you to be good people again.

If you are the type of person who wants to give me something for Christmas, just give me this: the promise that you will support my volunteer efforts from time to time this coming year.  You can throw money at me, or come to FMSC sometime, or not make fun of me when I show up at a bar with craft supplies stuck to my person.  Let me know you’re interested, so I don’t have to feel like I’m bothering you.  In return, I’m going to try to stop bothering you.

So there.  That’s all I want for Christmas, plus maybe to win the lottery.  I just wanted to tell you that.

And this:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Also, this cannot be watched enough times this season:

Merry Christmas.

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Best Things of the Week!

Week two of the “Best Things” feature!

1. My family gets multi-culti

Proud to be an Irish-American

I am Minnesota born-and-raised, but I am also a dual citizen of the USA and Ireland.  Such a thing is possible because my grandfather was born in Ireland.  My mother and all her siblings were automatically citizens, and my generation had the option to apply too.  Last October, my mom and I took a trip to the Irish Consulate in Chicago to drop off my application; just over a week ago, my paperwork came through.  What does this mean?  It means I can travel on an Irish passport, or move to the European Union someday, or just feel super authentic at the upcoming Irish Fair.

And proud to know some great Kenyan-Americans

My amazing sister-in-law is also a new dual-citizen: on Friday, she passed her US Citizenship test.  She’ll also maintain her Kenyan citizenship, and thanks to a new ruling by the Kenyan government, my brother is eligible for Kenyan citizenship, too.  No telling yet if he’ll do that or go Irish like me, but I know I would genuinely enjoy introducing K as my “African-American brother,” because people who are whiter than my brother include Conan O’Brien and ghosts.

2. Baby Ez and Arboretum Nostalgia

After I graduated from college, I spent a year working at Saint John’s Arboretum.  It was an interesting, bizarre, wonderful experience.  I kept a blog of my adventures which has since disappeared from the website; if I can track down what I wrote for it, I may post it here – for, uh, posterity’s sake. Future generations will need to know how hard I failed at snowshoeing!  I cannot deny them that!

FirestarterRachel

Also, I got to do this once.

Anyway, I also made a great life-long friend in my Arboretum office buddy, Cassie.  On Sunday, I visited Cassie and two of my other favorite humans: two-year-old Ira and 3-day-old Ezra.  The cuteness was almost unbearable, and the Arboretum-reminiscing with Cassie was equally excellent.

3. Lookin’ awkward on TV (but for a good cause)

In May of this year, a deadly tornado hit North Minneapolis.  Like many people in MN who saw the aftermath, I donated to the Red Cross, and signed up to be a disaster phone bank volunteer with the Salvation Army.  Today, I got to smile awkwardly at the camera on WCCO until the phones started ringing off the hook.  A good amount of donations poured in for North Minneapolis, which is impressive considering it’s been almost two months and the rest of the state has had quite a few severe storms in the meantime.  Good job, Minnesota!  No matter my citizenship, you will always have my heart.

PS: To learn how you can help the Salvation Army’s North Minneapolis Tornado Relief, and North Dakota Flood Relief, visit this website. And thanks to everyone who told me I did not look that weird on TV.