Friday, May 24, 2013

Another Year Gone By: Making My Birthday Special

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Since as far back as I can remember, I have always looked forward to my birthday with giddy anticipation.  There is something magical about the day you were born.  To you, the world did not exist until you got here and made it great.  When I was a teenager, my grandmother confided in me that, once you had children, your birthday was just another day that laundry had to be done, lunches had to be made, etc.  I remember looking at her, horrified, that she would say such a thing.  How could my birthday not be special???  Well, Grandma, you were right.  The older I’ve gotten, the less “special” my day has become.  I mean, I still get to spend it with my family, which is great.  But somehow it’s not the same.  No one will make me a special breakfast of pancakes with whipped cream and put a candle in it for me.  No one will spend weeks planning the perfect themed birthday party for me, complete with color coordinated desserts and decor in the venue.  

But the truth is, I’ve never had a birthday like that.  Yet my birthdays have always felt special to me because I’ve always had what I wanted and needed.  The same holds true this year - I have amazing children and family who are all well and spend time with me; though Jon is no longer my partner in life on earth, I have love and memories of him locked in my heart forever, never to be removed; I have found a loving partner in Danny, who puts up with me and all my quirks; I have a roof over my head, food in my refrigerator, clothes and shoes in my closet.  I don’t really want or need anything else.  

So I decided that this year, I wanted to do something a little different for my birthday.  What that was, however, was a little unclear.  Then I saw a post on Facebook about a young man named Zach Sobiech.  A media company (Soul Pancake) filmed a documentary about Zach and his life for their documentary series, “My Last Days.”   Zach had cancer and did not have much time left on earth.  You can see Soul Pancake’s video about Zach here. I was so moved by this 17 year old boy, who sadly lost his battle with cancer just 4 days ago.  He was quite inspirational, saying things like, “You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.”  His older sister commented that Zach taught her that “things are okay when you believe in something greater than yourself in this world.”  But Zach said something that really touched me.  He said, “What makes you happy is seeing someone else smile because you put it there.  That’s what’s awesome about, like, living in this world is that you can help people.”  That really resonated with me.  After I stopped crying, I realized that this would be what I would for my birthday.  Instead of trying to decide on something that I wanted to receive for my birthday, I would decide on something that I would GIVE for my birthday, something that would help people.  Then I stumbled on a pin on Pinterest that was linked to a website called, “The Birthday Project.”  There was my answer.  Robyn, a young mom, started the site after a huge response to her blog post about how she celebrated her 38th birthday by completing 38 “Random Acts of Kindness” (RAOK).  So this year, I will be doing the same thing.  In celebration of the day I was born, 42 years (and one day) ago, I will complete 42 RAOK.  I have compiled a list, just as Robyn did, but am hopeful that opportunities will present themselves to me.  Some acts will be for complete strangers, while others will be for people who I know and love.  When I complete my 42 RAOK, I will post a complete list of all that I did and what the experience was like.  In the meantime, I strongly suggest that you watch Soul Pancake’s video about Zach (link above) and also watch his music video, “Clouds.”  I hope that both will change your life, as they have changed mine.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What I Want For Mother's Day

Creative Mother's Day breakfast
I’ve seen a lot of links on Facebook lately to blogs that are poking fun at what mother’s do and what us moms really want for Mother’s Day this year.  Things like getting the kids out of our hair, wanting time alone with our girlfriends,  “good jewelry,” etc.  And while these blogs, I hope, were written to be comical and are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I thought I would write something about what being a mom really means to me.

Almost 17 years ago, my life was changed on a really hot day in June when I gave birth to my first baby, a girl.  One day my life was just as I expected it, and the next day it was nothing I even recognized, as a 7 pound 2 ounce little peanut was suddenly in control of all I did, said, and thought.  She also inexplicably had control of my heart.  She was the one person in the world who could call me that special word that we wait with baited breath for our kids to say.  Mama.  Suddenly I lived and breathed for Allie. 

My girls
Three days postpartum and I experienced the traditional depression that many moms go through from the dramatic drop in hormone levels after giving birth.  My brother will tell you how he walked into my kitchen, finding me in tears, thinking someone had died.  When he asked me what was wrong, I replied, “What made me think I could do this???”  Tears streamed down my face.  The weight of my responsibility to this tiny, helpless life had suddenly hit me.  I had to do it all - with the help of her father, of course.  But there would be no going in late, no leaving early, or calling in sick.  It was on me.  24/7.  The thought of that was overwhelming.  Yet I persevered.  I developed a rhythm as a mother that was unique to me and my daughter.  And then a subsequent daughter, Sam.  And then ten years later, another little girl, Lily.

The weight of my responsibility has never left me.  It just doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming any more.  Maybe it’s because I’m looking at preschools for my baby and colleges for my oldest all at the same time, but this year feels different.  I look at Allie and see such a beautiful, mature young woman.  She has it way more together than I ever did in high school.  She is a volunteer tutor with the NY Public Library, a peer tutor in her school, a private tutor in math and science of various grade levels, a stellar student (how does one acquire an average above 100?), a caring friend to many, and a loving girlfriend to one very lucky young man.  I look at Sam and see another beautiful, mature young woman.  An excellent student, an amazing athlete - playing on two different soccer teams and a softball team, and a caring friend.  And then Lily, my baby, who is so full of potential, who already has a well-developed sense of humor, and an incredibly quirky personality.  These lives were entrusted to me to help make our world a better place.  That’s a job a take very seriously.

Lily & I enjoying a special moment
So while many moms complain about how tiresome and overwhelming their children are, I’m going to say something different.  I relish the time I have spent wiping asses and noses, nursing all hours of the day and night, reading books (over and over and over again), playing with trains, staying up all night with a crying baby, holding hands extra tightly on the first day of school, providing comfort when their hearts were broken.  These moments are the foundation of my motherhood.  They have built love, trust, and respect among us.  Now stop rolling your eyes.  I am no Carol Brady or June Cleaver.  I have my moments, when I don’t think I can take another moment of whining or crying, when I just want to go out with the girls and drink and let my hair down, or even just go to the bathroom, by myself, with the door closed.  I’m human.  I’m imperfect by definition.  But the truth is, I find time to hang out with my friends.  I manage to get a manicure and pedicure by myself when I can.  I order in meals when I don’t feel like cooking.  I make time, when it’s feasible, to do all of those things.  So on Mother’s Day I don’t want to forget all that made me the mother that I am.  I want to remember it.  I want to look at pictures of my big girls as babies and cry a happy cry about how much I miss that time.  I want sappy cards with notes written in them about how loved and appreciated I am and how inspiring I’ve been.  I want them all around me, even if they do sit on the bed only half looking and listening to me because they are also checking twitter and texting on their smart phones, or watching Umi Zoomi play on the television in the background.  They are the reason I am a mother, my reason for going on in times of great heartache and despair.  They make my future worth living for.  

A past Mother's Day
gift from Sam
This year from Lily
I hope to unwrap several macaroni necklaces, handprint poems, potted plants that I will try desperately but fail miserably in keeping alive, and homemade cards.  I hope to eat a mediocre breakfast in bed, that will surely be served lukewarm at best.  These will be the greatest gifts I ever receive and the most filling meal I will ever consume.  So keep your Tiffany jewelry, and girls brunch mimosas, and “stay away from me” coupons.  I’m a mom.  I have three amazing kids who have made me the mom that I am today.  Why would I want to celebrate that without them???

Monday, March 19, 2012

In Memoriam

It can be hard to describe what it feels like to experience a loss.  It’s one of those things that people will say, “I can’t imagine what that’s like,” and actually be right.  You may think you know how you will feel and react but, the truth is, you don’t.  You can’t.  Not until you actually experience it.  Believe me, I speak from experience.
Nine years ago today, I got the phone call that everyone dreads.  My husband was away on a business trip in Miami, Florida.  I got a call in the middle of the night from one of his colleagues.  There had been a car accident.  Jon (my husband) was not in good shape.  He had been taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital.  When I called the emergency room there, the woman on the phone (a nurse?) snipped at me, “Are you on your way here yet???” I explained that I was in New York and that my husband was there on business.  Suddenly a doctor was talking to me.  I remember little of the conversation, only words like “probably not survivable,” and “organ donor.” But I could not process it.  All I could think about was getting down there to him.  I wanted to see for myself what had happened.  As I approached the first security checkpoint at the airport, I got the call.  It was over.  He was gone.  The world seemed to come to a complete halt.  I had to deliver the news to Jon’s mother and brother, both of whom I was about to get on a plane with.  We sobbed, out loud.  My mother-in-law sank to her knees.  People walking everywhere.  Around us.  Away from us.  Looking at us as if we we were crazy.  No one stopped.  No one.  The sun was barely beginning to show signs of life in Newark.  The airport was moving from a low hum to abuzz.  I was surrounded by people, but I never felt so alone.
The car ride back home is a blur.  My stomach turned as I realized my next task.  I had to tell my children.  My girls.  My life.  All I had left.  They were six and three.  I would not wake them up to tell them.  Let them sleep.  As long as they slept, it hadn’t happened to them yet.  I was jealous.  Their world had not yet changed.  Their reality had not yet crashed into thousands of tiny pieces, resembling nothing even remotely recognizable.  The way that mine just had.  In their sweet dreamland, all was right with the world.  They slept longer than usual, or at least it seemed that way.  When I heard the faint sounds of their awakening I thought for sure I would vomit.  But I knew I had to be the one to tell them.  They couldn’t hear it from anyone else.  Like all the other difficult parenting jobs Jon and I were presented with, it was up to me.  I heard myself talking, but I don’t know where the words came from.  Maybe from Jon.  Then there was silence.  And then cries.  Loud, uncontrollable sobbing.  Somehow, I was no longer hurting for myself.  What was left of my broken heart was breaking even more now.  My girls.  I had to protect them.  It was my job.  And now it was my job, alone.
People often ask me, today, how I got through “it.”  They want to know what the magic formula I used was, to end up where I am now, living a pretty normal life with extremely well-adjusted children.  Content.  Happy.  Often smiling.  The answer is not complicated.  I have no idea how it happened.  I mean, looking back on it, I can see how and why I ended up where I am.  But I didn’t follow a prescribed plan.  I didn’t follow any plan.  I read a single book about children and the grieving process.  A friend gave me a copy of The Empty Chair, from which we used a candle lighting ceremony for the first Christmas we celebrated without Jon.  Mostly I just thought about everything.  I thought about everything BEFORE I did anything.  My children were young.  They wouldn’t realize a lot of what was going on “behind the scenes” in the moment.  But someday they would ask questions.  So before I did anything, I would think about what I would tell them, if they asked me as teenagers (or adults) why I chose to handle “something” the way that I did.  I chose respect.  Integrity.  Honor.  Above all else, I put the needs and feelings of my children first.  That, and an amazing therapist, got me to where I am today.  
Am I making it sound easy? If I am, I apologize.  I can tell you without any reservation at all that it was, and is, NOT easy.  It was a very bumpy road.  The first year without Jon was especially difficult - on all of us.  There were times when I was certain I would fall apart, like the first Christmas morning without him.  But I didn’t.  And then there were times when I would fall apart, without any warning or anticipation, like when I heard one of his favorite songs on the car radio.  I’m writing about all of this in the past tense, as if it were no longer an issue.  But that’s not true.  It still hurts.  Aches.  It is simply no longer a surprise that it does.  I have lived nine whole years without Jon.  I know, most of the time, when to expect to feel “it.”  “It” is an evolutionary process.  It is part of who I am, who I have become.  It will NEVER go away.  I have come to accept that. I even embrace it.  
The loss of Jon and the path I have taken to get where I am today have taught me a lot about myself and my girls.  More than that, it has taught me several important “life lessons.”  These lessons have little to do with being widowed or experiencing loss.  In fact, in my experience, what I have learned as a result of being a widow, are some of the truths that exist in our world and they apply to all people.  They are important truths.  Laws?  Things like: true friends reveal themselves in times of trouble; you cannot just “talk the talk,” you must also “walk the walk;” and life can be impossible without a solid network of support.  There are more and I will write in more detail about these and others  in the coming months.  I invite you to check back as I share with you what I’ve learned on this journey called “my life.” And I strongly encourage your feedback.
“For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.....”
     - Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Act III, Scene 1

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In Defense of (Good) Grammar

My last post was devoted to my dismay over the misuse of irony in everyday speech. Click here to see: "If Nobody's Perfect, Does That Mean I Don't Exist?"  Today I present you with a rather short manifesto on the importance of good grammar.  A word of caution before I proceed: I am using the adjective “good” purposefully.  I did not say that I would discuss PERFECT grammar, just GOOD grammar.  So know that I am certain that you will find, within this post and others, grammatical errors.  I know that the grammar presented here is good, not perfect.  But I digress.....
A very clever student of mine once asked me to clarify some details about William Shakespeare and his writings.  She asked me if it were true that Shakespeare had invented over 1500 words (words that appeared in his plays but not in written language previous to that).  She went on to suggest that he often used nouns as verbs and/or adjectives and vice-versa.  All true, I conceded, though I was unsure of the exact number of words he had invented.  My shrewd student then asked an obvious question: “If Shakespeare wasn’t concerned about his grammar, and we are still reading his plays today, then why do we have to be???”  A good question, indeed.  The answer comes in two parts.
First, and foremost, good grammar is important for the sake of clarity.  When I was somewhere in the neighborhood of three years old, I innocently asked my mother where it was my father was going when he left our home everyday.  Here’s what she said to me: “Daddy is going to work.  He’s going to work on the subway.”  Shortly thereafter, I told someone that my father worked on he subway.  My mother thought this was hilarious, as my father worked in New York City, in the World Trade Center.  He rode the subway to get there.  I, on the other hand, am happy to point out that my love for the English language and good grammar dates back to a very early age.  What my mother should have said was something like this: “Daddy is going to work.  He has to take the subway to get to work.” My interpretation of her statement was completely correct.

Second, and perhaps equally as important, good grammar presents a good image.  Last month, when I blogged about vocabulary and the proper meaning of irony, I talked about the impression you leave on people based on your (proper) vocabulary use.  The same is true here.  Improper grammar in a letter, an email, on a website, even - dare I say - in your Facebook status, sends the wrong message to the reader; it tells the reader you are either lazy or uneducated, or both.  A college professor of mine once explained it this way (and I’m paraphrasing here)..... You go to a restaurant and they serve you coffee in a chipped mug.  On the surface, probably not a big deal.  This restaurant you’re in is a diner, not a three Michelin star rated emporium.  Or is it a big deal?  If the management of this restaurant can serve you a beverage in a chipped mug without hesitation perhaps they are also a bit lax in the storage of their ingredients, or the quality of the ingredients is not a priority.  Perhaps their food prep guidelines are also a bit looser than they should be.  All of these logical questions and thoughts develop as a result of a single chipped mug.  Once again, it is not always the best course of action to “judge a book by its cover,” but it is a natural assumption and, let’s face it, the odds tend to be in your favor when you do.

With all that said, are there special rules of grammar for social media? Or, said another way, are relaxing of the rules permitted on social media websites?  I say the answer to that is mostly yes, with a few caveats (and note that these caveats apply mainly to Facebook, as the character limits on Twitter require further shortcuts):
  • Typing a tweet or status update in all caps is unnecessary and constitutes YELLING AT ME.  So unless you are my dad, please make sure your caps lock is off.
  • Punctuation is still necessary.  Semicolon use (proper or not) is not essential, but a period between sentences is required. Your friends/followers want to read a clear thought, not the ramblings that go on inside your head.
  • Spelling counts.  Common shortcuts and abbreviations are okay (def, lol, lmao, thru, etc) but in the age of spellcheck there is no excuse for misspellings of other words. 
  • My BIGGEST pet peeve of all - improper use of a word is a huge no-no.  This means you need to sit down and figure out the difference between “there,” “their,” and “they’re,” as well as “your” and “you’re.”  Bonus points if you know the difference between “affect” and “effect.” 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

If Nobody's Perfect, Does That Mean I Don't Exist?

As a high school English teacher, some of the most basic lessons I teach are about the meaning and use of figurative language and rhetorical devices.  Nothing in my classroom gets met with more quizzical looks and questions than the concept of IRONY.

So what exactly is irony? Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines it as “the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning.”  This is the basic definition I try to impress upon my students.  But just to make things a bit more complicated, I also explore with my students the three basic forms of irony: Verbal, Situational, and Dramatic. 
Verbal Irony is the one we are most familiar with because it is often sarcastic and humorous, though it does not have to be either of those things.  It occurs when someone says something that is different from what they really mean, or different from what would be expected from someone in their situation.  In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet tells Paris that she loves him.  This is an example of (non-sarcastic) verbal irony because the “him” she is referring to is Romeo, but Paris thinks she means him (Paris). 
Situational irony occurs when the outcome of a situation is totally unexpected and not anticipated based on earlier events.  Continuing our use of Romeo and Juliet, in Act III Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished.  Juliet tells her mother that she wishes she could go to Romeo that night. This is situational irony because Juliet’s mother thinks that Juliet means to go to Romeo and kill him when, in fact, she wants to go to Romeo to be with him romantically.

Dramatic irony occurs when the audience or reader knows something that the characters do not, something which adds suspense or humor.  So in Act IV of Romeo and Juliet, we know that Juliet has taken a sleeping potion while all the other characters (except Friar Lawrence) think she is dead.

All of this is enough to confuse many high school students.  I admit, it is sometimes difficult to keep it all straight.  I often try to incorporate popular culture examples in my classes, so as to make the concepts a bit more accessible to the students.  When my students asked me to explain irony using the song “Ironic” by Alannis Morrisette, I cringed.  The only thing that is ironic about this song is that NONE of the situations that she presents in the song are, in fact, ironic.  
So why this 9th grade English lesson in a blog post? Well, it makes me INSANE when people misuse the term.  For example, as I was writing this post I popped on to Facebook for a moment and saw a picture of wet USPS mail posted by my husband’s cousin.  She explained in the caption of the photo that she had repeatedly asked her letter carrier to place her mail in her mailbox and to not just leave it on the ground.  She even went as far as showing the letter carrier where her mailbox was and how it opened so that her mail could be placed there.  However, her mail arrived wet and soggy because her letter carrier failed to place it in the mailbox and it happened to be raining that day.  This situation is ironic because she showed her letter carrier where her mail was supposed to be placed.  So the situation of her wet and soggy mail was not anticipated based on the earlier event of showing the letter carrier the mailbox.  Are you with me so far? Good.  There’s more.....
The wet mail and USPS letter
As part of the soggy mail, there was a letter from the USPS requesting that my husband’s cousin sign up to act as a “reporter” of sorts, providing the post office with details of her daily mail deliveries in an effort (I assume) to monitor and improve service.  Is that irony? While it is fortuitous, it is not ironic.  Now here comes my favorite part.....
I commented on this picture that I was writing this post about irony and that I was going to “steal” her story (which she gave me permission to do).  Another one of her friend ‘s commented after my comment: “talk about irony, that is funny!”  I couldn’t believe how “full circle” this had come.  THIS was the exact reason that I began writing this post.  My writing about irony and my husband’s cousin’s “wet mail incident” was simply a COINCIDENCE.  There is no element of irony there - unless you are Alannis Morrissette :)
It is a serious pet peeve of mine when vocabulary is misused.  As I always tell my students,  if you are unsure of a word’s meaning DON’T USE IT until you get clear on it.    I can’t imagine that I’m the only one who is upset by the improper grammar, punctuation (or lack thereof), and misuse of vocabulary that scrolls across the bottom of the television screen during the morning news.  I'll write more on the importance of good grammar later.  Check out this book - Eats, Shoots & Leaves - if you are interested now.  Now my husband will tell you that I’m just a psychotic English teacher and no one really cares about stuff like this.  To that I reply an emphatic (John McLaughlin style, for you old schoolers) WRONG!!!  The English language, while sometimes complicated, provides us with an amazing variety of words suitable to express anything and everything.  The key is knowing which words to use at which time.  I care about proper vocabulary use for two simple reasons:  first, other people will judge you based on the words that you use.  As unfair as it seems to (sort of) "judge a book by it's cover," it's true.  People will view you as more competent and intelligent when you speak with a good vocabulary.  Second, language and thought cannot be separated.  Try it.  Ask yourself a question and then try to think the answer without  thinking in words.  It's impossible.  Our brains use language to think.  So that means that a larger vocabulary gives our brain more tools.  In a way, a better vocabulary improves our ability to think.  

As you ponder my case for improving your vocabulary PROPERLY, and commit to memory the proper definition of irony, I leave you with some related pictures and stories.  Most are tragic, but all are ironic.

A very interesting book on this subject.  Though not apparent from the photo, the book is ironic because the title calls it a BIG book when, in fact, the book itself is small.  I also love the photo on the cover.

And, finally, a picture that should need no words.....

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Move Over, Hot Sauce Mom!

“You do the best you know how.  And when you know better, you do better.”
~ Maya Angelou
This is one of my all-time favorite quotations.  It appeals to me because it has significance in an almost universal way.  I use this phrase often with my kids, in relation to their school work, friend situations, etc.  I’m sure they are sick of hearing it from me.  I think the reason it resonates with me, though, is because it implies that life is a continuous learning process.  My students often think that their education ends at graduation; but I know the truth is that graduation only represents the beginning.  
I have evolved as a wife and a mother.  Many of the truths that I held so dearly when I was pregnant almost sixteen years ago {GASP} with Allie, I have since abandoned.  Why? Because, at the time, I was doing the best that I knew how to do.  But when I learned a better way, or discovered a reason why I shouldn’t do “it” the way I was doing it, I changed it.  I knew better, so I did better.  I lived my life, gained experience from it, and adjusted my way of being and doing as a result.
I like to think of this quote when I think about my own upbringing.  Instead of thinking (as we all often do), “How could my parents do that to me???” I am now able to take comfort in the belief that my parents were simply doing the best they knew how to do.  They were not intentionally setting out to cause me pain or suffering, because I am confident that if they knew a better way to do it they certainly would have done so.

Here is great example:  My father is an accountant, the son of a couple of who lived through the depression, and, therefore, a great economist.  He is frugal, but in a quirky way.  As my brother likes to say, my father would be very willing to spend a million dollars on something that he perceived the value of to be in excess of a million dollars, but he will NOT spend a single dollar on something that he believes to be valued at only fifty cents.  The biggest sin you can commit, in my father’s eyes, is being wasteful.  When I was about seven years old, my favorite breakfast was my mother’s homemade waffles.  And while these waffles were delicious all alone, they were even more delicious covered in syrup.  Oodles and oodles of syrup, to be exact.  This was a thorn in my father’s side because, inevitably, there would be huge amounts of syrup left on my plate when I was finished eating.  So in my father’s infinite wisdom, he announced one day that I was welcome to continue taking as much syrup as I liked, as long as I used it all.  If there was any syrup left on my plate, I would be required to DRINK IT.  I chuckled at the thought, because, duh, he had to be kidding, right? Wrong.  The next weekend at breakfast, when I passed my syrup-ladened breakfast plate to be cleared from the table, my father called to my mother for a clean glass from the kitchen.  He proceeded to carefully pour all the excess syrup from my plate into the glass and then placed it in front of me saying, “Drink up!”  He was definitely NOT kidding.

I like to think that my father, in his own warped way, was trying to teach me a lesson in economics, and in living for that matter.  He probably did not intend to harm me emotionally in any way, which he did not.  However, only as an adult am I able to understand the lesson he was aiming for.  As a seven year old girl I simply thought he was mean and horrible.  Of course, when I bring it up now we both laugh about it.  I am hopeful that he is able to see that, while his intentions were good, his method was somewhat misguided.
That incident came to the forefront of my mind when I watched Dr. Phil on 11/17/10 and followed in the news the subsequent trial and conviction of Alaska mom Jessica Beagley, referred to in the media as “Hot Sauce Mom,” because of her forcing her son to pour hot sauce in his mouth as a method of discipline.  If you are not familiar with the show and/or case, here is a clip of the video that Beagley sent in to Dr. Phil.  Filming this video is one of her other five children, her 10 year old daughter.

The media has portrayed Beagley as a fame-seeking monster, who participated in such extreme discipline methods (she also forced the boy to take ice cold showers) in an effort to get on television.  But I prefer to liken her to my father (Waffle Syrup Dad???) and apply the Maya Angelou quote.  I like to think that this is a mother who was at the end of her rope, whose intention was good, who thought she was doing what was best for her son, but was misguided in her approach.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's The Thought That Counts

I posted on Facebook that I was working on a post about a “very controversial topic” and I meant it.  In asking questions of friends and family, never have I received more emphatic and emotionally charged responses than when I mentioned this topic: REGIFTING.

Merriam-Webster defines regift this way: “to give a gift that was previously received from someone else.” M-W also notes the first known use of the word in 1995, which is when “The Label Maker” episode of Seinfeld first aired (Season 6).  In this episode, Jerry is unable to use his two SuperBowl tickets so he gives them to Tim Whatley.  Tim sends Jerry a label maker as a thank you gift.  When Elaine sees the label maker at Jerry’s, she suspects that it is the same one she gave Whatley as a Christmas gift and calls him a “regifter.”

In these fiscally challenging times, regifting has gained some momentum.  The Emily Post “Etipedia” (a contraction of etiquette and encyclopedia) site says it is acceptable to regift under certain circumstances. Yet many people I spoke to remain VEHEMENTLY opposed to it.  They seem to feel that the regifter is thoughtless or cheap or both.

I asked my hairdresser about regifting while getting my hair done recently.  “You wanna know about regifting? Come here at Christmastime.  This shop is dead-end gift headquarters.”  She noted the odd and “mismatched” gifts she and her colleagues had received: giftcards (valid) but clearly leftover from other holidays (birthday themed, for example), food items past expiration dates, boxes with tiny remnants of the original gift-wrap visible, items in time-worn boxes, etc.
It’s interesting to note that many of the people in the salon that I questioned felt that receiving a re-gifted item, as long as it was new, in good condition, and not expired, was okay.  However, these same people swore that they themselves would NEVER regift something.
Here’s my take on re-gifting.....  I think it’s perfectly acceptable under certain circumstances:
  1. The gift is BRAND NEW and doesn’t look like it’s been sitting in your attic for years
  2. It’s something you think the recipient will really like (that is, you’re not giving it just for the sake of having something to give)
  3. It’s not something hand-crafted (a sweater knit by the original gifter) or personalized in any way (monogramed, for example)
  4. It is not expired in any way or otherwise outdated
I have regifted in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.  My family is very blessed.  Birthdays and Christmas often result in excessive amounts of “stuff” in my house.  “Stuff” that is of good quality, thoughtful, and age appropriate for my kids.  Why do I regift it? Because there are only so many board games my children can play with, only so many shirts or dresses they can wear, etc.  Regifting is forward-thinking, recycling.  It’s “green.”
Before you anti-regifters start shouting at me, consider this: how many times have you received a brand-new but inappropriate and thoughtless gift??? One Christmas my mother received a blouse as a gift.  It was brand new, tags attached, but not my mother’s taste. Thoughtfully enough, the gift-giver included a gift receipt.  My mother went to the store to return or exchange the blouse.  When she presented the clerk the gift receipt, she was informed that the value of the blouse was $1.99.  And that was WITH the gift receipt.  My mother is 65+ and the store the blouse was purchased from is frequented by women 25 - 40ish.  So the giver in this situation was both cheap and thoughtless and the gift was still brand new.
What do you think? What is your best/worst regifting story?