Timeless Gifts…Or Seasonal Dish Towels (?)

For the December issue of Family magazine, I wrote about a few traditions Rob and I share as a family at Christmastime. Warning…it gets a little mushy. Enjoy!

Timeless Gifts

…OR Seasonal Dish Towels

Everyone has someone on their Christmas list who has everything they could ever possibly need or want. Maybe their Christmas wish list is so extravagant you know you could never possibly afford to buy them a pony, a new iPhone 4S and the new flat screen TV they have been leaving you hints about – hints taped as notes to the flickering TV you inherited from your in-laws newly refurbished basement.

Everyone knows someone it’s impossible to shop for. My husband’s arms are too long. Well, they are just right for him, but they are too long for any shirt that I have ever bought him. I really can’t buy him clothes. He returns them. Always. Then instead he buys himself a do-it-yourself soda pop maker with 17 varieties of pop you can make yourself.

My mother-in-law sees my need for domestic assistance whenever she comes for a visit, so I get an annual array of festive dish towels for our kitchen. My father-in-law has received about a thousand golf balls over the years, with socks to match.

After the thousandth golf ball purchase, Rob and I stepped back to think for a minute. While on the golfing green, did he feel our love for him radiating from the golden glow of the golf ball as it captured the light of the sunset? Did he feel the warmth we have for him as he snuggled into his new argyle socks? We had to admit to ourselves that he probably didn’t.

We decided to make gift giving personal. We gathered all of the pictures we could find from Rob’s childhood and pieced together a three minute DVD video. The song we chose to go with the photos was “You Are My Sunshine.” Rob’s mom used to sing that to him when he was little.

I was 9 months pregnant with our third daughter at the time, so the family graciously offered to visit our way instead of us having to trudge to Chicago, hopefully avoiding a “No room at the Inn, birth-by-stable situation.”

None of us will ever forget the look of astonishment on Mom and Dad’s faces when we started the DVD for them. They wept, they cried, they sobbed uncontrollably – major score for us and our talent for gift giving. Now, I don’t think they have watched that video since because they can’t quite figure out how to use the DVD menu, but I am sure it is locked away in their memory as the best gift they have ever received (aside from the argyle socks, of course).

That same year, I uploaded, edited and scrapbooked the twenty or so pictures we used in the video for them, so they would have easy access to the pictures and memories if they couldn’t figure out the DVD. They cried at this, too, which led to me spraining my arm from patting myself on the back.

We have really tried to be unconventional in our gift giving. A special tradition between Rob and me is the annual “Christmas Letter.” No, we don’t send it out to a 150 people from our address book. We send one to each other. We began the tradition in 1994, our first Christmas together. The letters are usually pretty mushy. Here are a few bits and pieces from our 18 years together so far. (Warning, serious mush.)


Rob, you are a dreamer. Your dreams inspire me to live life wildly and freely. You have magic inside of you that draws the magic out of me. You inspire me to live radically and on the edge. What more could I ever ask for in a husband …


Michelle, I want to help make your dreams a reality. I want to tell you the truth even when it’s hard. I want to build our family together. I want to always be inseparable. I want to be faithful to you in word, thought, and deed.

We had a lot of time for mush in our five years of marriage before babies. The letters from then till now all have a pervading theme of tiredness, but lots of love and great memories.


Little did we know Christmas last year what would lay ahead of us. We didn’t know we could be stretched so much, hurt so much, or how tired a person could possibly be. Little did we know our hearts would be completely transformed as we watched our precious baby girl be born and turn into a great big smiley face right before our eyes.

And more recently, as we have seen our family develop its own little personality with all the quirks and kinks, uniqueness and joy.


We see our three little girls growing into young women before our eyes. It is a wonderful thing, and suddenly I feel like we are in a new phase with them. No more baby stuff. They can walk on their own, get dressed on their own, I feel like my hands are free for the first time in 10 years!

With this new phase come new blessings and new problems. I’m sure we will learn more than we ever thought possible about raising three young ladies.

It means so much for us to read back through these old letters and reminisce about our lives together way back then up till the present. Quite honestly, I will treasure these letters more than any material gift, except maybe an iPhone 4s, but it’s a close call.

It is easier than ever to throw together a timeless gift that the special people in your life will treasure.  Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

DVD that will inspire elderly family members.

If you don’t know how, ask someone under 18. They could probably teach you in fifty seconds.

Make scrapbooks out of old photos.

Stores like Hobby Lobby are full of scrapbook materials, and there are endless websites that will help you get lots of ideas for really neat scrapbook pages.

Write meaningful letters that are timeless.

Print them on fancy paper and keep them in a special folder. Maybe even handwrite them in cursive, although now that Indiana doesn’t require kids to learn cursive anymore, they might not be able to read it fifty years from now. Maybe add a sidebar translation with block letters and all caps.

Have fun this Christmas. Be creative, thoughtful and timeless with your gifts. You and your loved ones will be so, so glad you did

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