Tag Archives: gifts

You Deserve a Treat

Once I was visiting Joel, an old friend who had two young sons. After dinner and homework were done, he said they deserved a treat and asked what they wanted. He expected them to say ice cream or something similar.

Instead, they asked for a fire in the fireplace that evening. Joel was taken aback. He listed all the reasons that the treat they asked for was not a good idea – the fireplace would get dirty, they would only have it for a short time before bedtime, and so on. But the kids were adamant. Despite all their father’s protests, what they really wanted as a treat was a glowing, flickering fireplace. Joel gave in. They had their fire and then their usual story time once they were in bed.

Then there’s Teddy Hobbs, the British four-year-old with an IQ of 139 who became the youngest MENSA member ever. He can read at a Harry Potter level, though his parents try to steer him to books more at his emotional age level. “Teddy has done all of this himself,” his mother says. “When we go out and give him an option of a treat, he wants a book rather than chocolate.”

I’m on the kids’ side. While I love a good apple crisp, baking one with my husband is the real treat. When I get paid for finishing my writing, I treat myself to a new pair of jeans, lunch out, or a few books. (I sometimes do like a traditional treat for dessert when I eat out.) A treat for my husband is a hike in the woods or a day off to garden. A major treat for both of us is the couple’s massage I booked for later this month.

Perhaps the best kind of treat is giving a treat to someone else. From time to time, Dan and I spring for a box of donuts or cookies for his breakroom at work. Once I invited a mostly housebound friend to join us at a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. We could tell it was an absolute treat for her to eat out and renew our friendship – even more so when we added on a bargain shopping spree after lunch. Another time, one of Dan’s friends in another state surprised us with a pizza he ordered from one of our local restaurants and had delivered.

I think we need to expand our definition of treats beyond the standard cake or candy. Anything that you love or find joy in but don’t often get can be a treat. Maybe you haven’t had coffee with a friend in far too long. That can be a treat – for both of you. (Even more of a treat if it’s Irish coffee.) Perhaps you haven’t found time to work on a hobby like painting or needlework for a while. Renew yourself by allowing yourself a treat of relaxation and creativity.

Treats for others are often the kind that a person would really like but never buy for themselves. Again, it doesn’t have to be a major, expensive purchase. My husband brings me little treats all the time – it helps that he works at Meijer. Right now I have five plushies on my desk that he brought me at various times (two bunnies, an elephant, a giraffe, and a fox). He also brings me plants for my desk in the spring and summer. They give me a lift whenever I look at them. I find songs online that he remembers only a few words of and give him a lift by playing the videos for him.

So no matter what you’ve accomplished – or just when you’re feeling blue – treat yourself or someone else. Either way, it really makes you feel better. Even if you feel you don’t deserve a treat, take it from me – you do!

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A Gift for Mom

I remember what Mother’s Day was like when I was a kid. My sister and I always gave my mother perfume. Well, my dad bought it and my sister and I gave it to her. (We didn’t get much of an allowance back then.) We always got the same kind, a scent called Tigris. I rather think we got that one because it came in a cool bottle with a tiger-striped fuzzy cap. Now I don’t know if she liked it or even if she wore it much.

I wanted to learn about other people’s memories of Mother’s Day, so I asked my friends on Facebook what they gave their mothers. I also asked moms among my friends what were the best gifts they had ever received. I didn’t get many responses, but enough to establish a pattern.

In 1992, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book about The Five Languages of Love, five ways that people can share love with one another. The book was originally intended for spouses or those in romantic relationships, but I thought I’d apply it to Mother’s Day.

The five “languages” are

• words of affirmation

• quality time

• physical touch

• acts of service

• gifts

In relationships, problems arise when two people don’t speak the same “language.” For example, one person would like quality time together, but the other thinks giving gifts is the way to express love. Or someone who would like words of affirmation but receives only physical touch.

What surprised me from my unscientific poll is that the persons who gave gifts were mostly children. Usually they had no money, or not enough to buy anything nice, so they relied on arts and crafts. Many a mother has received the venerable gift of a loomed potholder or the neighbor’s flowers. But many of the answers I received showed real thought and imagination.

One guy, for example, said, “I started sewing as a youngster. I once made an apron, though she didn’t wear them as a rule.” One mother particularly remembered – and still has – an acrostic poem that her child wrote and illustrated for her. (For those of you not familiar with it, an acrostic poem is one in which the first letter of each line spells out a word, in this case “MOTHER.”)

Many of the other gifts fell under the heading of quality time or acts of service. For quality time, the clear winner was the mom who remembered, “For me it was my daughter surprising me and showing up at my church plus spending the day with me. We’ve also gone to movies or gotten massages/pedicures together. Mostly just time spent together.”

One response spoke of both affirmation and a gift. This mom remembers, “It was the first Mother’s Day after my son moved to England. Honestly, I don’t remember what the gift was, but the fact that he remembered the day (it is on a different day in England) meant a lot to me.” She added, “Last year, he took the time, from England, to arrange for a delivery of Brock Masterson’s Mother’s Day quiche meal for me. That was above and beyond, I think.”

The categories of food and service overlapped at times. One former child remembers, “I made her breakfast in bed. Usually burnt crap.” I’m sure mom appreciated the thought, at any rate. Another idea was given by a guy who, as a teen, did “some extra chores so she could have a day off.” Another person responded, “We took her out to eat,” which if you think about it, combines quality time, act of service, and gift.

The most comprehensive, and most touching, came from a mom who said that the best Mothers Day gift she received was “All of them because they honored me in so many ways.”

No one mentioned expensive gifts, like jewelry. Gifts of touch were also seldom mentioned, though I suppose the mani/pedi would qualify. And I’m sure a lot of the gifts and remembrances were delivered with hugs and kisses.

This is not to say that moms settle for little, but that the little things are the most fondly remembered.

My Love Affair With Amber

Amber is a treasure, a jewel, a gem that I first encountered over 20 years ago and have been in love with ever since.

Amber is also a hardened old fossil. Amber is special like that.

Sometimes I meet a woman named Amber, and I ask her, “Did you know that you’re named after petrified tree sap?” I usually get the smile, don’t make eye contact, back away slowly reaction.

But amber isn’t just a girl’s name or the color of waves of grain in a patriotic song. It’s a rare and precious thing, a thing that brings beauty and delight, a thing to adorn with and admire.

A gem, by any other name. And my favorite one.

Technically, amber is not a gemstone. It’s not a stone at all, or tree sap, really. It’s tree resin, for all the difference that makes. It’s millions of years old, sometimes contains insect parts, and is therefore famous as an important plot point in Jurassic Park.

amber gold
Photo by Dan Reily

To me, the best thing about amber is that it can be made into jewelry and other decorative items. I began collecting amber years ago, when I first saw some at a science fiction convention (it’s also often sold at Renaissance Fairs). A dealer known as The Amber Fox from Rochester, MI, had cases of the stuff, lovely clear yellows like fine pilsner beer, warm golds like orange blossom or buckwheat honey, lustrous brown and gold mixes, cloudy opaques and translucent wonders. Even a few pieces of deep red cherry amber were on display. They were carved and polished and fashioned into necklaces, earrings, bracelets, animal figures, boxes, and dice.

Soon my nose prints were all over the glass cases. And soon I started to buy. I started out small, with earrings. Since then I’ve bought many more earrings, a variety of necklaces, some pins, and a bracelet and ring for special occasions (amber is too soft to hold up well where it will be bumped or scratched, though a minor scratch can be polished out with toothpaste).

Photo by Dan Reily

And the collection includes three special items: a carved amber rabbit and a box made of tiny amber squares that my husband bought for me, and a carved amber bear that I bought for him. Both of us had to save a long time to afford them and they are among our most precious possessions.

We don’t own the most expensive kinds of amber, though, nor green amber, which I don’t particularly like. Amber is more expensive and valuable when it contains insect parts and especially when it includes whole insects, trapped at the moment of their death and preserved for millions of years in gorgeous stasis.

Amber is also more valuable when you have a whole room made of it. One was constructed in St. Petersburg, Russia, but it disappeared during World War II – stolen by Nazis, hidden so well that no one has found it, or destroyed in transport either to safety or to Hitler. In the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, a replica of the room has been made. Images of it are too spectacular to describe – mirrors and lamps amplify the colors and textures. The primary item on my “bucket list” is to travel to St. Petersburg to see it.

I love and collect other gems and semiprecious stones, both jewelry and carvings. Forget diamonds being a girl’s best friend. My best friends include malachite, amethyst, garnet, lapis lazuli, blue lace agate, sodalite, iolite, unakite, hematite, rose quartz, moss agate, and aventurine. But amber is my true love.