My Top 10 lists

You either love ’em or you hate ’em, but Top 10 lists are popular these days, so here are my top 1o lists:

  1. The shopping list – an eternal favourite, never quite complete, which you never quite know until you get home without the milk/lentils/Vegemite/castor sugar. However, disappointment and frustration can somewhat be mitigated by using just gorgeous shopping list stationery. Two of my favourites – Remo’s fridge magnet and pad with helpful memory prompter (right), and, from the 1980s, Sandra Boynton’s clever little ‘Chopin Liszt’ (couldn’t find an image anywhere!)
  2. The Christmas present list – begun in earnest about September, edited and reviewed about November 30, and then scribbled and rewritten frantically on 23 December, just to make sure. Try not to add a $ column; I used to, but have now abandoned it as I just get depressesd.
  3. The Christmas card list – this one’s just come back into vogue as a reaction to the separation of church and state good ol’ fashioned card writing from the online social media circus that allows us to say “Merry Christmas”- and in only 15 characters too, enough left over to tweet a link to my blog with the remaining 125 and upload a pic of the Christmas tree on Facebook and did you see The Digital Story of the Nativity on YouTube it was really cool and Tumblr’s the one to watch — where was I?? Oh yes, getting out my pen and writing cards to the special people on this list who may only hear from me once a year, but it’s Christmas,  goddammit, and we’re all full of love and my thoughts are with them; that is, if I have their address, and extra time after the present shopping. So don’t take it personally if you haven’t received a card, it’s early days in a Back to the Future kinda way.
  4. The dreaded ‘To Do’ list – oh, my notebooks are full of them. It’s a subset of its own: there’s the renovation to-do list, the cleaning to-do list, and the work to-do lists (blog post lists, chargeable hours lists, tax document lists); even the gardening to-do list, which seems a bit silly as you’re not going to have your notebook outside to check items off the list with mulch-encrusted gloves.  But this is a real one from a clean-up a few years ago – and notice the diagonal line, a healthy sign of list completion!
  5. The New Year’s resolutions list – the last one seen was as recently as 2009.  Most of it is still waiting to be achieved. Achieving my new year’s resolutions is going to be one of my new year’s resolutions … next year.
  6. The calendar list – this is a fairly new arrival on the scene, for all those busy parents who now not only have the option of individual columns for each family member, but can also make lists within the columns with nifty little stickers that say things like, “Piano,” “Dentist” and “Play date”. They never seem to have stickers for “Euphonium,” “Gynaecologist” or “Big night out” so you can see who they’re pitching at. I received one of these as a present this year (although I confess I’ve been buying them for the past couple of years) and, by coincidence, it’s a Boyton calendar. With stickers. And a fifth column, which I like to call ‘Other’.
  7. The holiday list – now divided into four columns to ensure all parties of the household are accounted for, although the kids pretty much need the same things which wastes a column, unless you use that now-vacant column to put in all the things that are for the whole family – like iPods and toilet paper.
  8. The ‘just in case’ list. This is not a favourite of mine.  This is the list you make when you have to remember details just in case they a) are needed for future medical purposes, b) are needed for future insurance purposes or c) are needed for future legal purposes, possibly as a result of the outcomes of a) or b).  I have one of these too, from a particularly nasty time in 2009 that involved four hospitals, three ambulances, an RFDS flight and a great potential for the unintentional spread of misinformation. So I recorded everything according to who was affected and treated over a 30-day period. Don’t call me OCD – but at the time I would have answered to “that anxious, stressed-out and exhausted mum over there”.
  9. The wish list! This is a real thing in our house now, thanks to my friend Julie. How many times throughout the year do you see or hear about something and think “I’d love that for Christmas”, or your child/spouse/ significant employer says “I’ve always wanted one of those”.  Well, when you/they do, nip over to the printout you’ve stuck on the fridge/filing cabinet with the handy table courtesy of MS Word and write it on the wish list! Then, come little or big Johnny’s birthday six months later, or at Christmas, you nip back to the list and see that he wanted a Star Wars: the Force Unleashed DS game, or Bluetooth, or hopefully something under $200. Problem solved!
  10. Rounding out the top 10 list is this top 10 list because, frankly, I didn’t think I’d be able to find 10 lists I use and can demonstrate. But I have. And that’s a bit revealing.  Hmm, there’s an idea for a list: top 10 things I’ve revealed about myself on this blog …

[And I’ve just thought of two more: the Santa List for True Believers, coming soon on Brownie Talk; and the, ahem, To All The Men I’ve Loved Before list, Julio Iglesias style.  I’m not the only one, right?]

Australian conversations: what’s in a (Christmas) name?

At the Woolies checkout, three days before Christmas, being served by Holly:

JB, seizing an opportunity: “So how many people have commented on you having such an appropriate name at this time of year?”

Holly, all of about 15: “I’ve lost count,” smiling shyly.

JB, running with it: “About a million then.”

Holly, indignantly: “And my birthday isn’t even in December, it’s in August.”

JB, with a smile: “Have you had a word with your parents about this?”

Holly, resigned: “Every day.  *sigh*  Do you have a Rewards card?”

Reviewing re-gifting

I’ve been thinking about the whole re-gifting thing. I’d never heard of the term until recently, although I’m sure I’ve been an unknowing participant in the past. Actually, now that I think about it, that would explain some of the more interesting birthday presents I’ve had in the past, given my birthday is three days after Christmas.

In case you’re not hip to re-gifting, it’s when you give someone a present that someone else gave you. Now, there are all sorts of subcategories, some of which can be found at the most excellent Urban Dictionary, but all have the underlying theme that to be a ‘re-gifter’ implies you are stingy, lazy or plain mean and insulting.

Bah humbug! Let’s look at what’s good.

I was a ‘re-giftee’ last year – and knowingly so – from my mother. Given that she has, over the years, given some presents (not all, Mum! Not all…) that should have been re-gifted, this is a reverse irony of the most delicious kind.

But, the point is, she gave it knowing:

  • it was actually a nice thing – ie not crap
  • she would never use it
  • that I may like it – really, a bit of a lottery with mother-daughter gifts (see above) but worth a shot

Of course this pic proves that beauty (and presents) are in the eye of the beholder but, you know what, I like it! So: nice present, happy giftee, re- or otherwise.

Now, it so happens that for the very same birthday I received an ‘original’ present that I recognised as:

  • being a nice thing – ie not crap
  • something I would never use – I already had one – and therefore it would sit forever unused
  • something that someone I knew would possibly like

Yesterday I re-gifted it with honesty – et voila! She was delighted, and I’m delighted it’s going to be used.

Tell me: where’s the stingy, mean and lazy in that?

The only crack in my positive little re-gifting theory is that I haven’t told the person who gave me the original present that I have re-gifted it. And that, actually, is quite a crack, as they gave it to me thinking I would enjoy it. I have enjoyed it … knowing it’s bringing joy to someone else. Also, the person who gave my mother her present (now re-gifted to me) doesn’t know of the object’s current status. Does that matter?

I can’t help thinking along the lines of ‘what goes around, comes around’. But heck, if it’s jewellery, books or even a dodgy cardigan, re-gift to your heart’s content. I won’t mind, honest.

The annual Christmas card count

… and the results are in: numbers are down this year by about 30 per cent on previous years.

It’s been one of those strange mathematical constants for at least 10 years that no matter where we’ve lived or who we’ve been in contact with, we get roughly the same number of Christmas cards year after year.

And this number includes the three from people who we only correspond with at Christmas, the ten or so usual suspects (family and friends) who are organised and reliable, and the remaining 20 or so from people who you’re delighted to discover at the letterbox have made the effort to embrace the spirit of Christmas, spend 50 cents on a stamp and say something nice.

But in fact two things were different this year: not only the 30 per cent drop … but I also failed to send any cards out for the second year running (except to family in England when mailing presents, because otherwise that just wouldn’t be right). There are perfectly good reasons for this of course:

  • I didn’t have time (too much time blogging, clearly)
  • I spent too much time getting the Seven Year Old to write his cards to classmates, seeing he was receiving vast bundles each day overflowing from his backpack after school.
  • I didn’t have time (doing other far more important things, clearly)

It’s not that I didn’t want to write cards and say nice things about people I care about, it’s just that, well, maybe I thought that e-communication could fill the void, and I’d do my ‘Christmas email’ thing again. This had caused great consternation six or seven years earlier, when friendships had been threatened because of the ‘group email’ being so impersonal – a whole other discussion for another time, that one.

I see now that, in fact, I was ahead of my time, as my inbox received three similar Christmas emails this year, and has done for the past couple of years.

But again, therein lies the problem. My computer’s motherboard carked it in October, and with it went my email address book, so for the past few months I’ve been relying on my ISP’s webmail account which is a pitiful 20MB. I’ve since discovered that it’s very difficult to manage online social relationships with 20MB – and ain’t that a sign of the times.

So, getting back to Christmas, not only did I not send cards, but I also didn’t do a Christmas email and … the result is a 30 per cent reduction in received cards.

Here’s the question: did we get less cards because ‘what goes around [in or out of the ether] comes around’ or is everyone else in the same position? Hmmm.

Actually, the biggest issue right now is that I’ve admitted we used to get 30-35 cards each year, which I’m sure you must now be measuring my popularity against, and that makes me nervous.

Help me out and send a card next year, won’t you, to restore order to the balance of Christmas communication. I might even send you one back.

The Hero’s Journey from a seven-year-old’s perspective

Part 4: does the Hero understand his quest?

Seven-Year-Old (reading homework): “‘This week you have to write four things you would like for Christmas. You must write and draw them from first to fourth in order of how much you want them.’ Okay, that’s easy. First, a real light sabre. Second, the Force of the Jedi. Third is a Wii. Fourth is my own iPod.”

Mr JB: “Are you sure?”

Seven Year Old [pausing, dejected]: “I know I can’t really have the Force.”

My son, the pragmatist – and not a realist either, because he sure as hell ain’t getting a Wii or an iPod. That only leaves the real light sabre. But one disappointment at at time, poor kid.

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