Dec 242009

I had gotten my wife a Christmas gift earlier in the month, but I still thought I needed something more personal.  Here’s the idea I came up with, that I would like to share with any of you last-minute gift givers. It’s easy, inexpensive, personal and, if you want, romantic.

Here’s what you do.

Buy a small, colorful journal or notebook. Write your significant other’s name in front. Then write a short poem or note in the notebook. I’m pretty quick with poetry, so I wrote a quick sonnet. But you can do free verse or just a heartfelt note. Explain that on special occasions (or no occasion at all) you will write additional notes or poems in the notebook, so that gradually your sweetheart will have a whole book full of your personal thoughts to read over whenever they want.

As a variation, you can suggest that you trade the book back and forth. You write a note or poem and leave the book for your sweetheart, who then writes a note or poem and gives it back.

I really like the idea because my wife and I write wonderful things in our cards to each other, but I’d have a really hard time finding all of them. A lot of wonderful notes and poems that we’ve written over the years may well be lost. This way they’re all in one place.

Did you come up with a really good gift idea this year? Let us know about it.

Dec 122009

presents3Let me share a system we developed this year for organizing gift giving in our family. This system was invented for two reasons:

1. All my children are at an age at which GIVING presents is as much fun as receiving them.

2. Economics are difficult this year. Both myself and my children are operating on very small budgets. Some of the kids can’t find work and others have had their hours cut back.

Last year present-buying was a bit chaotic.  I was running around at the last minute trying to “balance” all the gift-buying. The kids were having trouble getting gifts for everyone on limited budgets. A few gifts were almost duplicated. So here’s the system I came up with:

Those of us who have any money this year will pool all the money together. I turned this over to one of my more organized children with a bank account.

The children will meet together, divide this money up evenly and order or buy gifts for everyone.  They will have a brief series of meetings to decide on everyone’s gift. Naturally, each person is excluded from the meeting where their gift is being discussed.

The Organizer arranges purchases, recruiting others for driving and shopping as necessary. Our Organizer signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime (which I would highly recommend trying out). For the whole month, she can order Amazon gifts with free two-day shipping and no minimums! We can cancel after a month if we like and pay nothing.

All the gifts to each other will be “from everyone”.

I buy the gift for the Organizer myself. That way she doesn’t have to buy her own.

The advantages of this system for us are many. First of all, everyone gets to participate in gift GIVING. Those who can’t contribute money contribute time, energy and organization. Secondly, everyone can receive nicer (though fewer) gifts.  Each person trying to buy gifts for a large family with very little money results in frustration and lots of very inexpensive gifts.  Thirdly, a lot of the burden is unloaded from my wife and I. We don’t have to run around shopping, buying and wrapping (unless we WANT to). The children do all that as their contribution to the presents. And yet we (and everyone) have the fun of helping decide on the gifts, and the fun of watching them being unwrapped knowing what they contain – being in on the secret. Forth – there’s is no danger of duplicating gifts. The Organizer sees to that.

So there’s our new system. Please share your own ideas and systems for gift-giving in the comments.

Dec 112009

health1What to get for the health-conscious or holistically-minded person on your gift list? Below are a few of my personal suggestions. Some are on the Amazon best-seller’s list. Some I simply LIKE.

If you’re a health-conscious person yourself, put them on your own list. Or play it safe and buy YOURSELF a present!

Learn the simple rules to healthy, happy eating for life! I recently read Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. While I hope to do a full review later, let me just say that this book lives up to the promise of Pollan’s masterpiece, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan is a careful researcher with a captivating style. In this book, he presents the simple rules of eating well. The book starts out with the meta-rule: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”.  Sounds simple, but it’s more involved than you might think. For example, high fructose corn syrup isn’t really “food” by Pollan’s definition. If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, says Pollan, or if it has more than about five ingredients – it’s not REALLY food. The book is a collection of excellent research, wonderful guidelines, and a stinging indictment against the “food” industry.

Reverse your diseases and lose weight effortlessly! I’ve reviewed Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live elsewhere on my site. It is, quite simply, the BEST book on diet and nutrition I’ve ever read. Dr. Fuhrman is the one that other doctors send their patients to when they HAVE to lose weight or die.  Fuhrman’s approach concentrates on foods with a high nutrition-to-calorie ratio, which includes a lot of cooked and raw vegetables and fruit, while keeping fat low. And the results are spectacular.

Fix your mind by fixing your body! That’s the promise of this new book, The Ultramind Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman. I recently reviewed a book on natural mental health called Herbs for the Mind. This book seems to take a different approach by taking you through a multi-week program to totally rejuvenate the body and the mind, undoing years of damage and balancing out everything in the process. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s certainly  on my list, thanks to endorsements by notables such as Drs Ornish and Oz. It has excellent reviews and intriguing comments.

I’ve known people in sever chronic pain, and relief from pain is one of the most wonderful gifts I can imagine. This book, Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain by Pete Egoscue has hundreds of enthusiastic reviews by people for whom Pete’s method was the key to ending their chronic pain. Pete Egoscue developed this method after experimenting on relieving his own chronic pain. He is now has a thriving pain relief practice frequented by celebrity athletes among others.  If you know someone struggling with pain, this would make a wonderful gift.


Finally, if you’ve wanted to pursue a path as a healer, let me recommend Reiki – a well-respected system of energy healing. I am a Reiki Master myself and I give it my wholehearted endorsement as a healing system. The Reiki Store has a wonderful self-study program that gives you everything you need to study and receive attunements up to the master level. Their program includes certificates, information on running a business, and everything else you need to know. It would also make a great gift. You can find it at this link, or by clicking on the picture.

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