I detest gift cards. This week's blog prompt poses the question of how to make giving gifts personal. The first and foremost suggestion I have is not to give gift cards.
The challenge of giving a personal gift is knowing the recipient well enough to anticipate what he or she likes and wants and probably does not have. For instance, I love fur. I love to stroke it and sink my fingers into it. However, I love fur best when it's still on the animal. I have a moral objection to furs such as fox, mink, ermine, etc., because those animals aren't killed for anything but their fur. We don't use their flesh or bones. In the same way, I have no objection to leather, because we eat cattle, goats, pigs, and deer. Their bones are useful, too. In short, if we're going to use the whole animal, then let's use the whole animal, including its hide.
With that understanding, someone who knows me well would know that I like fur, but I don't have any and don't want any.
I also love jewelry, especially jewelry with colored gemstones. Someone else can have the diamonds; I especially like emeralds. And rubies, amethysts, aquamarines, pearls, peridot, lapis lazuli, etc. I'm a bracelet junkie, but I don't wear rings. Someone who knows me well, will know that I prefer bracelets over necklaces and dangling earrings over studs.
However, it's impossible to always know well the persons to whom we give gifts. That's where investigation comes in. What does he or she want? Ask. Ask spouses, siblings, parents, cousins, friends, etc. Sometimes they don't have good ideas either, or perhaps they're struggling--like I do--to think of a suitable gift for the person who pretty much has everything he or she wants. Like my husband. Like my parents.
That's when we segue from "stuff" to "experience." For instance, that recipient might appreciate tickets to a concert or play. My elder son loved his gift of driving a high-end sports car around a race track. These gifts don't sit unused and collect dust on a shelf, they build memories. I think they make wonderful gifts.
Sometimes a compromise between "stuff" and "experience" works well. I'm thinking of food. If your recipient is an cheese aficionado, then maybe a subscription to the Cheese of the Month Club is just what Santa ordered. You can find a subscription delivery service for practically anything, from flower bouquets to beers.
Of course, books make great gifts. If you look around, you're likely to find a holiday bazaar or craft show in your locale or some other type of event at which you'll find at least one local author selling his or her books. If you know your recipient reads within a certain genre, buy the book and get it autographed. It's always a kick to get a book signed by the author, even if that author is someone completely unknown by the world. And if you buy a book for yourself, too, no one will blame you.
Speaking as one of those authors, come to the Writer's Block Author Fair on December 14 at the Franklin Park Mall, Toledo, Ohio. I'll be there! Buy a book and I'll be happy to sign it.
Willow: Branch 3 of the Tree of Life Series
Be care what you wish for, because you just might get it.
Willow should have taken heed of that familiar warning, because she wanted Dane’s attention and then got it. She wasn’t ready.
On assignment protecting a paranoid client at a convention, Dane Karl has finally found his mate, a very young sidhe ill-equipped to deal with a legendary mercenary warrior, fierce weretiger, and powerful sidhe all wrapped up in one big, badass package.
His plan for a slow courtship ruined by the catastrophe that destroys the conference hotel, he claims Willow as his mate to keep her safe from the demons hunting sidhe flesh and sidhe magic. Willow must find her strength to stand up to her legendary husband’s overbearing ways, deal with the shade of his long dead, sidhe wife, and survive the demons after them.
Can an ancient warrior learn to love? Can a young, untried sidhe find her strength?
This is the third and final book of the Tree of Life trilogy.
“The data is only six weeks old,” she answered, keeping her tightly clasped hands on her lap hidden beneath the table drape. “More current data can be downloaded from the NAVA website, but the disk also contains standard documents, conference papers and presentations, and other auxiliary materials. With the disk, the information is collected and available in one convenient location rather than scattered among the twenty-five thousand pages of the NAVA website.”
“You’ve memorized the patter,” he commented with a little smile.
She returned a wry grin and said, “At this late hour, we’re lucky I remember how to speak at all.”
“Sessions break in another two hours,” he said, setting the sample disk back down in such a way that he knew she would move it, set it straight so the pile was orderly. He wanted to see her hands. “I’m Dane. Join me for a cup of coffee?”
Her eyes flew open wide and, before she could answer, a yawn grabbed her jaw and vocal cords. She hastily raised a hand to cover her mouth and finished the yawn. When she was able, she spoke even as she returned the CD to its proper place: “Thank you, but I really need my sleep. Perhaps some other time.”
“This afternoon then,” he adapted smoothly, seeing with satisfaction that she wore neither engagement ring nor wedding band. He inhaled delicately and tasted no other male’s scent upon her. Good. He wouldn’t have to kill anyone to claim her. “I’ll meet you in the lobby at three o’clock.”
He walked away and Willow wondered just what she’d gotten herself into. The rest of the night dragged until she closed up the booth and went to bed for some much needed sleep. She woke later than usual the next morning and by ten o’clock was back at the booth tapping away at her laptop computer to answer inquiries, update information, and take care of general association business as best she could from a remote location. She hardly noticed the bellman and his loaded cart and accompanied by a tall, slender woman with gorgeous auburn hair until they stopped in front of the booth. The woman thanked the bellman and sent him off to return in twenty minutes or so. Then the woman moaned, groaned something that sounded like “Cassia,” grunted, staggered to her knees, and passed out. She had Willow’s full attention.
Willow rushed around the table and shifted the woman to a more comfortable position, rather than leave her crumpled against the heavily loaded cart.
“Ma’am? Are you all right?” she whispered and patted the woman’s cheek.
After a too long moment, the woman hissed and groaned, “Stop that.”
Willow stopped patting the woman’s cheek and let instinct take over. She placed her palm on the woman’s forehead and let the healing flow. She did not notice the nimbus of cool, blue-white light that gently pulsed around them. She only noticed the easing of the woman’s distress and pain. The woman blinked several times and, realizing she’d been healed, thanked her.
That makes my religious affiliation problematic, because the Church doesn't allow women into the clergy. The argument goes that Jesus didn't have women as his apostles, so the Church doesn't have women as priests. Well, Jesus didn't vote for governor, drive a car, or eat chocolate. Does that mean we shouldn't do any of those either? In those days, women--legally chattel--who abandoned their families to follow Jesus would have been outcasts without any influence whatsoever. The Church, however, asserts a gender-based dogma of separate but equal.
I wonder where we've heard that before? (For those who are confused, look up the term "Jim Crow.")
Here's another one. Back the dark ages when I was young and in college, young women gathered to discuss how to be safe when traversing the campus after a series of on-campus rapes and assaults were reported. They organized a "Take Back the Night" march. How, I asked a friend, could women "take back" what we never had?
She didn't know either. Neither of us participated in that march.
Other biases remain, not just pertaining to women, but to nationality, creed, etc. Social justice zealots have done a lot to rectify the institutionalized discrimination in western society such that Millennials and GenZ don't remember a time when they were told "girls can't do that." Now they believe girls can do anything boys can do and just as well.
Of course, that's not true. I'm not being biased, I'm recognizing the real physical differences between men and women. Men are stronger than women. It's that simple. It's a physical reality. If you have a man and a woman of the same height and weight standing next to each other, the man has 30 percent more muscular strength. Of course, physical strength doesn't equate to mental acuity, but that's another issue entirely.
Back to the Church: it's correct in recognizing that there are very real differences between men and women. Those real differences translate into one huge distinction: only women have babies and they assume the majority of responsibility in caring for children (especially, very young children). When's the last time you saw a man lactate or menstruate? When it comes to something like gender equality in the military, the application of common sense apparently crumbles beneath the stridency of social justice zealots.
Back in the Sixties and earlier, pregnancy meant automatic discharge for a woman in the military. I don't disagree entirely with that policy for women serving in combat roles or where they are in danger. Let's be honest: pregnant women are clumsy, easily exhausted, and not particularly fast on their feet. I know because I've been through pregnancy more than once. I absolutely disagree with the notion of reducing the criteria for qualification into elite forces in the name of gender inclusivity. However, gender isn't important when it comes to flying aircraft, driving a tank, or shooting a rifle from afar. Who says a fighter pilot, sniper, or code breaker has to be a man?
I have the same attitude when it comes to law enforcement and firefighting. Don't dumb down the requirements to accommodate some artificial notion of diversity. If someone can't meet the qualifications for such service, then he or she shouldn't be admitted. Someone--male or female regardless of background or ancestry--should certainly be welcome to try again after failing, but that doesn't mean the standards for qualification change. Refer to Walter E. Williams' recent article, "Disproportionalities: Whose Fault?" Some things hold themselves apart from discrimination, and not all disparities prove discrimination.
Apply some common sense, folks.
This problematic failure to reconcile today's radical feminism with reality has leeched into language. In some ways, I see the change as positive; in others, laughable. I like that writers are more cognizant now of incorporating feminine pronouns as well as the traditional masculine pronouns. Using plural pronouns as gender-neutral singular pronouns annoys me, even when I catch myself doing it.
That said, this recognition of the very real differences between men and women is one of the reasons I like romance as a genre. Within the genre, most authors hold true to men being men, women being women, and sheep being scared. (Okay, I don't come across too many sheep.) Romance celebrates men for being masculine, especially when those men can tap into their "softer" sides without losing their masculinity. Romance also celebrates women for being women: a woman doesn't have to lose her femininity when she excels at something traditionally reserved for men, nor does she have to be a meek and spineless pushover if she prefers traditionally female pursuits.
Despite the fantasy that is romance, common sense usually applies.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
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Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is happy to reciprocate Blog Swaps in 2019.
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