Christmas is over. The snow from a rare white Christmas has slowly turned to slush, except for patches preserved by shade. Wrapping paper and gift bags are put away. Time to collect the cards and take the time to read them, slowly. Of all the gifts I received, there are a few small items that I got me. I got them because no one else reasonably would. Who else would buy be a Thermos stopper, a replacement multi-tool, and a real estate key? The gifts I received from others are definitely appreciated. But, part of self-care can be a bit of self-gifting, and it doesn’t have to cost much.
A real estate key? How did they manage keys to houses for sale before cell phones? Today, keys are kept in lock boxes that are opened by a signal from either an app on a smartphone, or from a device called an ActiveKEY. Turn it on. Point it at the box. Pop out the key, and open the house. Except that the ActiveKEY I started with was a bit confused. Instead of wirelesslessly and automatically updating the frequently changing encryption codes, mine had to be manually updated by calling Tech Support and entering a 27 digit code every time I wanted to look at houses. That’s a serious crimp in a real estate broker’s day, especially if the code updates between the office and the house. It took some time and was inefficient, but it worked. Despite a busy holiday season, I took an hour and dropped by the local listing office for a new ActiveKEY. A simple and work-related gift? Yes. But also something appreciated that only cost a little time, and a bit of procrastinating of a few other tasks. Now, seeing and showing houses is something to look forward to. (It turns out I like houses. Good thing, considering the commitment involved in getting my license and diving into the work.)
A Leatherman is what I consider an American version of a Swiss Army knife. It may not have a corkscrew, but it is much more likely to have things that are helpful in a more modern world. Having a pair of pliers, scissors, and a few screwdrivers in one device is handy. Handy, until the blade broke. That was years ago, so I set that one aside as a backup. I knew Leatherman had a great return policy, but for some reason I remember the policy from before the internet got popular. Yep. Mine was that old. It was possibly one of the original ones. It would be nice to have it replaced, but they’re relatively expensive for my budget. Duh. Check the internet. Sure enough, fill out the form, drop it and the tool in an envelope. Wait about six weeks and Ta Da! a repaired knife – maybe. Companies with good return policies seem to be in minority. Leatherman’s is impressive, not just because they’ll fix it for free, but because they’re actually sensitive about it. Old knives may be impossible to fix because they stopped making the parts. Instead of limiting the options to repair or replace, they included a box to check to indicate whether it had sentimental value. I’m willing to celebrate the fact that they replaced my original with a nice upgrade (though the original was more simplistic and smaller, which the minimalist in me appreciated), but few companies add a bit of empathy to the process. Nicely done.
A Thermos stopper? At least it fits in a stocking. It may not seem like much of a gift until you compare the value of a dry briefcase compared to a wet one. Plastic may last almost forever, but that doesn’t mean the parts don’t fall apart first. Shards of green plastic were being poured into my tea, and any tip of the Thermos was a chance to dribble hot water into my briefcase, tote bag, or onto my truck seat. The first two gifts were free. This one cost less than $10, but removing yet another worry from my day is worth far more, especially compared to the cost of shorted electronics, wet papers, or an embarrassing seat stain.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet several people who’ve just moved to the island. It is fun to see that all of them (and I hesitate to use absolutes, but it applies in this case) all of them are living lives based on simple things they value regardless of what others think. Whidbey Island attracts people who move here on purpose. That’s the case for islands and small towns, in general. In cities, neighborhoods blend into each other. They maintain identities, but the borders shift with gentrification and changes in commuting patterns. Work defines a geographical center that constrains where a home must be found. Islands and small towns flip that. People are draw to islands and small towns for particular lifestyles, values, and culture; and then try to find a way to make enough money to pay the bills. An intentional community is born by the shared interest in living individualistic lives that revolve around life instead of work. The folks I’ve met seem to be enjoying a writing community, a peaceful and relaxed setting, and an opportunity to ignore much of what’s sold via massive marketing campaigns. There are a lot of frugal folk around here.
I enjoy living among people who have a great diversity of opinions, yet celebrate or at least tolerate an implicit recognition of intentional living. I may enjoy my key, knife, and stopper. They may enjoy a good notepad, some local mushrooms, or listening to freely given personal stories. It is hard to imagine when compared to Christmases of long long ago with piles of wrapping paper, big bows, scattered gift tags, and lots of cardboard. Returns aren’t as necessary. More time is spent with each other than with things (though my current work schedule limited that, drats.) And then we were delivered one of the nicest Christmas presents of all, a White Christmas. An infinity of little, free things fell from the sky, blanketed the ground, and created an excuse to not drive but wasn’t really that bad to drive in – so I am told. There was that slide I had during one of my walks, though…
My Charlie Brown tree is still up. Most of the lights outside are lit each evening. The duck has been turned into stock that will become soup and maybe a chili base. In a week or so, much of the evidence of the season will be gone, but I’ll have daily reminders of little things that I did for my self, and continue to do for myself. That’s something to be thankful for.