Insulting Christmas gifts and coming out of closet

January 2, 2008 Katja Presnal


My hubby with night vision googles – prepared just in case if Santa wouldn’t have made it with the help of Rudolph.

Fresh start for new year!

I reveal our un-glamourous Christmas, and un-wanted gifts.
And my political views.
And my religious views.

I admit. After all the online shopping for my Holiday Gift Guide, and giving tips of gifts, I didn’t buy many Christmas gifts. Me and my children had the “boycott-made-in-china” talk, and they mainly got clothing, jewelry and books this year. Things like “socks, pants and underwear” really were on their list.

The “big gift” we gave kids were the ski passes and 8-week-ski-schools and a promise of good ol’ times at the slopes this winter. But those were not under the tree, nor the skiing gear which had been ready in the garage since the first day it was under 40 Fs.

Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa, the new ice skates also found their way to our place.

The only China-made items I bought were a Webkinz Bunny and a Dinoco helicopter with a Mater inside. Since daddy is a helicopter pilot, my son had been asking for the helicopter since he saw Cars movie 1,5 years ago. And it finally came in the market for this Holiday season.

I even made myself to go to Wal-mart to purchase it. We normally never go to Wal-mart, and the last trip to Target was in July to get the school supplies. It’s funny how we used to live in Cleveland (OH) and Nashville (TN) areas, and I was somewhat obsessed with the big malls and chain markets and defenately couldn’t live without TJ Maxx. Outlet malls made my hands sweat and heart beat faster.

Now I couldn’t care less. I do my shopping online, or in small shops in our historic downtown. This year the meaning of Christmas was defenately something else than the big loads of crap I used carry in from the stores. Well, grandparents still did that. But they also spent time with the kids, playing cards (OMG the Skip-Bo tournaments going on!) and sledding outside, and creating memories, which will last much longer than the supermarket-toys kids loved to open on Christmas, but have already been forgotten.

You would think that the High School Musical bags or Dinoco helicopters had been the favorite gifts, but my kids’ top gifts according to them: sunglasses, art set and clothing. And they are asking daily when we are going skiing together. (mommy and daddy have done some escapes to slopes already)

Even though my in-laws were visiting us, we didn’t really have the traditional “big family Christmas”. Matt has been working the last 11 days – EMS helicopters are on call 24/7 – and worked 12-hour-shifts. I still cooked the turkey on Christmas – but instead of shining my silvers and ironing the table cloth, I packed everything in the car, and we ate at the airport hangar with Matt and his medical crew and their families.

Defenately a non-traditional family Christmas and absolutely un-glamorous. And the missing wine on the table was almost tragic.

Tragically we might have also insulted my in-laws with our gifts. I don’t know if the thought even counts here. Me and Matt love books, and spent an afternoon at Maria’s Bookshop downtown Durango, and bought everybody books. Since the presidental elections are ahead, we were really intereasted in all the political books out there and spent a lot of time browsing that section.

So in the end of our shopping spree, we left the bookstore with three books. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner for my sister-in-law, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World by Bill Clinton for my mother-in-law and An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming by Al Gore for my father-in-law. All of which we found really interesting, and thought they migh like too.

I guess we were being selfish and forgot for a moment that they are very republican. And we – well, let’s just say that I don’t have a right to vote since I am not US citizen (yet), so we are not politically active. But about the books… At least we didn’t choose this book. We just thought that anyone would (should) be interested in philanthropy and global warming. I don’t think our books were a hit, I’m afraid they were insulting.

I wish I had thought of the books I have received from my mother in-law and if I am honest here, some of them have insulted me too.

Like the Christian marriage book, which totally conflicts with my independent spirit for example saying that I should say yes to sex anytime my husbands wants, because that’s a Christian wife’s duty. And the The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy by a former Playboy model Vicky Iovine, which is supposingly a really funny book, but I don’t find being against natural birth and nursing funny at all. I might not be a good Christian wife, I didn’t agree with many things in the “wife guide” book, but I don’t think I misunderstood the reason God gave women breasts – for nursing babies. Maybe it’s just me, but I think sharing the joy of your breasts on Playboy shouldn’t be more accepted than giving your baby the best nutrition available.

But back to our un-thoughtful gifts.

Oh boy, a lesson learnt. I think books are the best kind of gift you can give to anyone, but I guess they are just too personal. You can do wonders in your relationship with giving just the right book for your loved one, but you can also take a few steps backwards by totally missing the point. And this Christmas, we totally missed the point of thinking of the people who we love. We just were genuinely happy to find all of those books, and didn’t think they might not be as.. happy. Better luck next time?

I really haven’t wanted to write about my religious or political views before. Not that I don’t have any – vice versa, I love good conversations about both issues. I just haven’t felt that I want to come out as a person who pushes her own views, since even if I think one thing, it doesn’t really mean that I don’t approve another. I don’t tend to just gather around people who share my views. I think different views are just interesting, and makes me want to learn more. So, this year – I will reveal even more my personal views, and hope you don’t take anything I write too seriously or too personal.

Sometimes I just like to provoke thoughts and discussion. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get book reviews of the books we gave, if I ask really really nicely?

Day 2 in Blog 365.

Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live Nordic inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work.Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.

Comments (5)

  1. Neena (NeenMachine)

    Your Christmas sounded wonderful. I love the low key, relaxing tone of your day – sometimes celebrations can get out of hand!

    As for the books, maybe a gift card to a bookstore is the way to go – you can even include a list of “books that I think you might like”, or “books that made me think of you”. Then your in laws can choose to buy your selections or something they would rather have.

  2. Naomi

    We’ve been having some of the same issues regarding personal beliefs and closed-mindedness. Ugh. Sometimes I do wish Americans could be a little more globally-minded. The relatives I am having issues with would probably consider me un-American for saying that! I don’t think ignorance or following others’ opinions blindly is patriotic, though.

  3. s a n s k u :)

    Kokemuksesta tiedan etta kirjalahjat voi joskus menna aivan taysin pieleen. Toivottavasti sun in-laws lauhtuvat ja tajuavat ettei teilla ollut mitaan aivopesumietteita mielessa kun ostitte kirjat. :)

    Tama viesti oli kiva lukea. Tykkaan rehellisista, aidoista jutuista.

    Ei aina tarvi olla samaa mielta muiden kanssa. That’s what makes our world interesting – how different we all are.

    Kiva idis oli tuo jouluaterian vieminen miehesi tyopaikalle. Thumbs up!

  4. Katja of skimbaco.com

    Thank you so much for your comment! The calendar sounds like a great gift idea, I might have to copy that ;)

  5. ccjjharmon

    Interesting. I understand your sentiments with regards to giving for Xmas. I would assume something similiar might also occur if we were to try to give books within family also. Just differences in opinion and probably definitely different book preferences too. I’ve always thought that politics in particular can be a very argumentative thing to integrate into gifts. Religion and faith definitely can be too (although I’d be more inclined to give along those lines than politics, but that’s me).

    One gift we did that went REALLY well was family calendars. My family is not that big so I made a calendar with everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries on it, and included MANY pictures of all of the family. Most everyone got it. We also did it for my mother-in-law (mainly because we didn’t get anything else and it was at the last minute) of just our kids for her and she really loved it, including showing it off to to the rest of their family. Looks like next year we pretty much HAVE to do this for that entire family (which is needless to say VERY VERY large). But it’s low-cost (I’m not big into spending a lot for Xmas) and has the intention of being special and actually interesting for them (as opposed to something like just sending money).

    BTW – I found this from Blog 365. Maybe it would be worthwhile to join it :)

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