Saturday, December 3, 2011

Let your fingers do the walking to a cheap and easy Christmas gift

"What do you give the person who has everything?" If that question plagues you this time of year, join the club. And as I pondered gift ideas to share with my readers that would be cheap—always my first criteria— easy, and related to family history, I scratched my head.

Then I snitched chocolate chips.

Then I took a nap. 

Then I daydreamed about the holidays and got excited about New Year’s Day. Why New Year’s Day? Because that’s when my siblings and I will celebrate our second annual Family Conference Call.

As with everything else that draws us together, it started with Mom. But this time, she didn’t browbeat or manipulate us into doing anything.  She simply died—at 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, 2009. Ever frugal, she didn’t waste much of the old year.

My two brothers and five sisters and I were devastated.  Like Lincoln, we could say, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” We tried to plan her funeral from eight locations in Idaho, Utah, California and Ohio, and finally set up a conference call to nail down many important details.

Last year, as we approached that painful first anniversary, one sister suggested another conference call. Mom did things that drove us crazy, such as sending us to the post office to mail Christmas items late in the day, covering ugly things with contact paper, single-handedly supporting the local copy store, and writing reams of stories that had to be placed in sheet protectors, copied and – once again—mailed at the last minute.  Amazingly, we discovered that we were doing these things too—WE WERE BECOMING OUR MOTHER! So this was our Conference Call announcement, shared through Christmas cards and emails:

“Win a lifetime supply of sheet protectors in the “JOYCE NELSON COPYCAT CONTEST!” Three have entered so far—see if you can top these efforts:

1)   Shanan got in a fuss about mailing packages and Christmas mail! An excellent effort but she loses points for not sending Josh to the Post Office at 4:47 p.m. with orders to “hurry, and be nice to [the grumpy post mistress of our youth.]” 

2)   Debbie put contact paper on the floor underneath two sinks! A good try, but the volume of contact paper was paltry and she only removed small strips of backing paper, making it too easy since the paper didn’t roll around and stick to itself, and her.

3)   Ellen took family photos to the copy store, made zillions of copies and mailed them to every one for Christmas! She looks like the front-runner – going to the copy store was a brilliant stroke! However, she may have points deducted for not Writing much and getting all of this in the mail a full 10 days before Christmas!

“See if you can top these—tell us YOUR copy cat efforts and cast your vote when we have our Siblings Conference Call at 4 p.m. Mountain Time on New Year’s Day.”

Our 2010 conference call cost $45, split eight ways.  Last year, the company we’d used gave a holiday credit of $40, which covered our 2011 call! A number of companies offer conference calls at little or no cost. Calls can be done via your computer (and you can see each other) if all parties have the right software, such as Skype. Google “conference call” or “internet conference call” and research which company you’d like to use. Let family members know the day, time and what they need to do to participate.

There you go—cheap, easy and related to your family history. Now I’m off to find chocolate chips!

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