I want to thank Pat Snyder, author of The Dog Ate My Planner, for guest posting today. Her story about Christmas shopping made me laugh.


Ever on the lookout for time-savers, I was blown away when my friend Jean said she didn’t do Christmas shopping for her adult children.

“I’m terrible,” she said. “I just write a check.”

“Not terrible!” I told her, feet still hurting from last year’s hunt. “Money’s what they want! Money’s what they need! I’ve never seen one of them return it.”

The prospect of a shopping strike left me reeling. Mentally, I fast-forwarded to two weeks before Christmas under a no-shopping plan. I am sitting in front of the fireplace, sipping red wine (for my health) and tucking three checks into gift envelopes to be hung from the tree. I have purchased lovely cards for my spouse and my mom. And I’ve gone to the Heifer International website (http://www.heifer.org) and notified my out-of-town relatives that a share of a water buffalo has been donated to a third-world country in their names.

The scene made lots of sense. “I have a way too complicated Christmas!” I shouted to my husband. “I spend hours shopping and wrapping and tagging, and it’s all over in two minutes.”

“All over but the returns,” he said.

“I’m done with that!” I declared. “From now on, I’m doing it the easy way.”

He needed no convincing. Jewish himself, he stopped participating in the gift craze the year I sent him to Toys “R” Us on Christmas Eve.

“This is something Christians invented to torture themselves,” he said then. “Count me out.” He was delighted at the thought I might join him.

“Absolutely,” I said, throwing in a little Christian theology. “You go back to the very first Christmas, and one of the three wise men brought gold. If gold was good enough for Jesus, then cash should certainly work for the kids.”

That was a month ago. Now I am embarrassed to report that as sensible as the whole approach seemed then, I have gotten only as far as the water buffalo.

“What’s in those shopping bags?” he asked the other day.

“Oh, just a few things to wrap up for the kids,” I said. “So it doesn’t look so bare under the tree. Besides, I want to show that I’m still in tune with who they are, that I can still find the perfect gift.”

“Really?” he said. I detected a slightly raised eyebrow.

“Don’t even bring up the western shirts I bought the boys,” I said.

“No,” he said. “I was thinking of the red platform shoes you bought our daughter.”

The truth is, the best that can be said about my gift-giving history is that it’s been memorable. It’s not that I don’t put a lot of thought into what goes under the tree. It’s just that once inspiration strikes, like a moth to the flame, I cannot stop myself from pursuing the unique, no matter how ill-advised.

“Since you bring it up,” he said, “the western shirts were a little over the top.”

“The boys both liked country music at the time,” I pointed out. “Who knew they wouldn’t want matching plaid shirts with pearl buttons from the JCPenney catalog?”

“There was a clue,” he said. “They wore nothing but jeans and black turtlenecks at the time.”

“What about the platform shoes?” I said. “Didn’t they make sense? She’s short, and they made her taller.”

“She was very polite about not wanting them,” he said. “Remember how she kept apologizing on the way back to the mall?”

“True. But at least they took them back without a fight.”

As soon as I said that, I knew I was in trouble because my need to keep shopping is surpassed only by my need to confess.

“We weren’t so lucky with the navy church hat I bought my mom,” I said, going on to explain how the pricey monstrosity with the giant silver bow wound up in the Amvets box after the online hatmaker declined to take it back.

“Great Christmas pictures that year,” I added. “Remember her surprise when she tried it on?”

It would seem, with so little success, that I would stop the craziness and simply write a check.

But instead, I gleefully continue to brainstorm, to Google for gift ideas, to make lists, to find “perfect gifts,” and to subtract $10 here and $10 there from the amount we’ve budgeted.

“What would Christmas be without surprises?” I asked. “What would Christmas be without hope?”

It’s not that I’ve rejected the simplicity of writing a check. Maybe I’m just following the lead of the other two wise men. Off they went, in search of the unique. And they came up with something way more far-fetched than red platform shoes or a western shirt. They came up with dried tree sap, more glamorously referred to as frankincense and myrrh.

Come to think of it, not a bad idea. And — yes! — available online this year for only $69.95.

Pat Snyder is a recovering lawyer and mother of three from Columbus, OH, whose new book, The Dog Ate My Planner – Tales and Tips from an Overbooked Life, includes the “Wise Man” story and other light takes on the too-busy life. Find her online at www.PatSnyderOnline.com.


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