the worst valentine’s gifts ever

This story is sorta like “The Gift of the Magi” if those characters had been sorta jerkish instead of altruistic and self-sacrificing.

Some time before our first Valentine’s Day together (at which point we’d been dating like 8 months), I was hanging out at Jon’s house watching TV when a Hallmark commercial came on. It was advertising whatever their cute plush Valentine stuffed animal was that year. I think I said something like, “Why would a dude EVER get an adult woman a stuffed animal for Valentine’s Day?” Jon’s face fell a little and he said, “You better be careful what you say!”

A few days later, on Valentine’s Day, Jon presented me with the gift he’d already bought *before* we saw that ad: a stuffed animal that looked like a chocolate lab puppy. He reminded me what I’d said, and of course I felt like a jerk. The truth is, I thought the stuffed dog was adorable. I named him Jack, I spritzed him with Jon’s cologne, and I slept with him every night because he smelled like Jon, who at the time was going to school 100 miles from where I was going to school. I still have him and sometimes sleep with him when Jon’s working the night shift.

Maybe a year after that, a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I noticed that Jon’s wallet was totally falling apart, so I bought him a new one. A few days before V-Day, we were walking through the mall when we passed a special Valentine’s Day wallet display. Jon said something about how wallets are intensely personal and how they get better with age as they conform to the perfect fit for a man’s pocket. My face fell a little.

On Valentine’s Day, a few days later, I presented him with the already purchased wallet and reminded him of what he’d said. I bet he felt a little like a jerk. But the thing is, he liked the wallet. Years later, he’s still carrying it.

These days we don’t give each other gifts at all. It works out better that way.

i love lamp

One of my BFF’s (technically half of our BCFFL (Best Couple Friends 4 Lyfe)) is having a BABY GIRL!!!  We’re very excited for our friends, and I fully intend to be this kid’s Crazy Aunt Sarah.  My friend is a really awesome, creative, crafty, thrifting queen, so I knew I really had to step it up in the gift department.  You can check out her awesome Etsy shop of vintage treasures, if you want!

My friend and I looking cute on the Subway, sharing some tunes, on Jon's big 30th Birthday in NYC trip.

Ultimately inspiration struck in the form of this origami lamp from Sweet Sweet Life, which I think I originally found via Apartment Therapy’s Ohdeedoh.

image via Sweet Sweet Life.

That lamp was inspired by a lamp that costs over $210.  And I thought, I have origami skills! I could do that! $200+ is ridiculous! Though I’ve been into origami for a while, I really honed my skills when I got laid off in October of 2008 and decided to use my abundant free time crafting origami Christmas ornaments.

The great origami Christmas ornament project of 2008. I made garlands out of tiny boxes, ornaments out of cranes...
...and origami ball ornaments.

Of course, I wouldn’t just make a giant origami lamp for someone’s nursery without asking, but I remembered my friend liking the lamp when I posted about it on Facebook.  So I shot her a quick note and asked if she’d be interested in an origami lamp for the baby’s nursery, and she said sure! I inquired about the color scheme: “i’m planning on doing olive green, lime green, fuschia, light pink, lemon drop yellow and lots of wood grains, burlap and galvanized steel (like those buckets)… if that helps”

So I headed off to Hobby Lobby, where, to my luck, scrapbooking paper was on sale for half off! I selected a variety of large squares, which are normally $0.59 apiece, in the colors she had mentioned, supplementing with traditional origami paper in coordinating colors.  After that came the folding. Holy crap, what a lot of folding.  I’d say it takes about 250 cranes to cover a typical lamp shade.  Luckily, it’s an activity you can do in front of the TV, and luckily for me, Jon knows how to fold cranes, and he helped me with my folding load.  Still, I’d say it was about 12 hours of folding…so THAT’S why they cost over $200.  You can follow this tutorial video to learn how to fold an origami crane.

A big pile of cranes, ready to be hot-glued onto a lampshade from Target.

I applied the cranes to the lamp with a hot-glue gun, which took about 4 hours, during which time I watched “The West Wing” on my laptop– I’m newly hooked on the show, having missed it when it originally aired.

I'm going to let my friend choose whether to use this as a hanging lamp or on a standing lamp, so I put the shade on one of my lamps to show off the finished product.
Here's what it looks like with the light on.
Closeup of the cranes on the lamp. As you can see, I managed to find paper that actually looked like burlap and wood grain. I think I did a pretty good job coordinating with my friend's color scheme!

So, there you have it. The Coolest Lamp in the World. The World’s Most Ambitious Origami Lamp Project!  All you need is: a lamp shade, a glue gun, enough paper for around 250 cranes, and a crapload of free time.

the best Christmas present ever?

Image via Flickr user Muffet under a Creative Commons License.

I swear I’m not a Grinch.

Yeah, this is another one of those posts where I have to begin with a disclaimer assuring my readers that I really, really don’t hate Christmas. Here are some things I’m looking forward to over the next month: baking cookies with my mom and little sister, spending time with my littlest sister, drinking Russian Tea, staring at Christmas trees in dark rooms, taking a trip to downtown Hot Springs AR in order to see Christmas lights and a giant gingerbread house, the local prosthetic shop that has the best Christmas window displays ever, reading “The Gift of the Magi” and “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” nativity sets, advent wreaths, making gingerbread houses that involve hot glue guns, playing board games with family, seeing our niece, meeting a brand new baby cousin, watching “Elf,” Christmas Eve church service, seeing some snow in Colorado, watching my dad tear up while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” having semi-shouted conversations with my hard-of-hearing grandmother, hugging necks, and kissing cheeks.  There is a lot to love about Christmas.

You may notice that I didn’t mention gifts anywhere in that list.  Because when I start to think about all the things that make Christmas special to me, most of them are free.  They are not about things. They are about love.  And yet, every single year, starting around Halloween, loved ones start demanding wish lists, the expectation to buy Things begins to mount, and I begin to get overwhelmed and stressed and wonder why we’re really doing all this.  My dad loves to say that Jesus is the Reason for the Season (I swear he’s not one of those types to get worked up about the “War on Christmas,” he just really likes to remind us, Tiny Tim style, what it’s all about), and yet, as I venture out into stores, I don’t see Jesus anywhere, and not just because the greeters say “Happy Holidays,” because really, only jerks have a problem with that.

Just getting out to holiday shop is stressful, the opposite of peace and joy and goodwill to all people.  Drivers act like jerks, everyone’s in a hurry, stores are crowded and clerks are testy.  Money is tight, no one knows what they want, we don’t know what to buy, and yet we feel pressured to buy buy buy, give give give.

And it’s not that I don’t love giving a thoughtful gift. I do. I’ve been known to agonize over birthday gifts, and I really do enjoy giving them, mostly because with birthdays I only have to focus on one present and can make it something really special and thoughtful and expressive of love and care.  But Christmas really just becomes overwhelming– no one has the time to buy unique and special thoughtful gifts for every single person on their list, at least, no one I know does. And so even people like me, otherwise completely committed to buying local and fair trade, end up hitting outlet malls and completely forsaking our values in order to get gifts for everyone we’re expected to buy for.

And so I’m left wondering why we do it.  Just getting to spend time with family and loved ones is a gift, a huge one.  We don’t need any THING beyond that.  Why can’t we just celebrate that we have time together, that we have so many blessings, that we are not in need? If we weren’t pressured to buy buy buy, give give give, we could give to charity and then just enjoy each other’s company.

I’ve tried for two years now to convince the rest of my family of my vision of a gift-free Christmas. It hasn’t worked.  So I’ve made a decision.  Next Halloween I’m going to make an announcement.  I’m going to say: Dear family members, I love you so very much.   I love Christmas, and I love celebrating Jesus’ birth with you.  Because of my deep love for Christmas and all that it means, we will not be participating in gifts for anyone who is not a child.  We hope to focus on spending time together, making memories, and donating time and money to charity.  We hope that you will respect this decision, and encourage you to join us in our pursuit of a pared-down but more deeply meaningful holiday, though we will respect and love your choice if you don’t. We love you and we want to focus on our love for each other and our love for Christ this year.

I’m getting excited just thinking about it. Perhaps a gift-free Christmas could be the second-best Christmas present ever.