Gift Giving for Assisted Living, Vol. 14, Issue 31

Dear Etiquetteer: My supervisor is entering a new stage of her life, namely moving from independent living to assisted living. Her husband’s health has progressed to needing additional care. On the occasion of previous moves, I have sent a small (work-appropriate) housewarming gift. With such sadness around the move, is it appropriate to send a gift? If so, what would be appropriate? Previous housewarming gifts have typically been a bottle of each of their favorite adult beverages.

I am quite close to my supervisor and she has recently been exceedingly generous towards me personally since the birth of my daughter. What is my best course of action?

Dear Presenting:

Moves of Necessity are often accompanied by sadness for the Moved, which creates an opportunity for loved ones to support them with Good Cheer. The way you refer to previous gifts of spirits sounds as if their presentation on moving could be considered a tradition, and Tradition is a terrible thing to break.

But perhaps the health of the gentleman in question no longer permits imbibing? As you and your supervisor know each other so well, Etiquetteer sees no difficulty in a discreet inquiry along the lines of “And do you and Ethelred still enjoy your highball before dinner?” The answer to that will guide you.

Otherwise, moves to assisted living often entail reducing the number of one’s possessions. Under these circumstances, useful gifts are most Perfectly Proper: foodstuffs, stationery, laprobes, etc. One item unique to assisted living facilities is decorations for one’s door. A gift of an all-seasonal wreath or something similar could help make the transition more homelike.


Christmas Gifts, Vol. 6, Issue 38

This column has already appeared in The Times of Southwest Louisiana for October, 2007. Etiquetteer was told on submission that a column on preparations for Christmas was the scariest type of Hallowe'en column!

Dear Etiquetteer:

As a newlywed this is the first Christmas when I face the issue of holiday giving that is truly from "both of us." My beloved isn't known for his fanciness in gift giving. He sincerely tells me that it’

s a tradition in his family to present gifts without a card and unwrapped, just tossed in the bag from the store in which it was purchased. I certainly don't want to show up my spouse or his family by violating a longstanding family tradition, but I would like to extend to my new in-laws thoughtful gifts in decorative wrapping that reflect well on "both of us." Any advice?

Dear Bride:

Eleanor Roosevelt used to say "The box is half the gift."* Somebody else said "Don’t monkey with tradition." And a second somebody else probably said something like "Hell hath no fury like a mother-in-law." On the other hand, your husband’

s family tradition of "wrapping" Christmas presents in the bags they came in just sucks the Spirit of Giving right out of Christmas for Etiquetteer.

Etiquetteer must now make a confession: Etiquetteer just can’t wrap a Christmas present and make it look perfect. Somehow the corners of the wrapping paper get bunched up, or it isn’t cut evenly, or the bow is crooked. But Etiquetteer doesn’t let that stop him from actually wrapping gifts! An unwrapped gift just doesn’t feel a special to the recipient as does something wrapped. If one can see what one’s present is when one gets it, where’

s the excitement of guessing?

For this first Christmas with your husband’s family, Etiquetteer would advise against a whole lot of fancy wrapping. Whatever gifts you choose, substitute some of those excellent Christmas gift bags you can find almost anywhere. You’re still within your new family’s tradition of giving gifts in bags, but it’

s at least one cut above the store bag.

Dear Etiquetteer:

With the holiday season nearly upon us and my coffers not what they once were, I'm thinking about doing some bulk cooking this season. Perhaps lots of cookies or candies or some other tasty morsels. My idea is that this would be my one-size-fits-all gift for party hosts, office assistants, landlady, cousins, etc. I do feel a bit guilty though about the mass production of the presents. Yes, they're not turned out by faceless workers in China but by my own sugared hands, yet it does feel a tad in its nature "impersonal". Am I being excessively concerned?

Dear Simmering:

Yes, very excessively concerned! You yourself may feel like a "faceless worker in China" by the time you get through baking a dozen dozen cookies, but the recipients will still enjoy them. To create some variety for yourself, use different types of containers and ribbons and cards for each recipient.

Henrietta Nesbitt, Eleanor Roosevelt’

s housekeeper through all four Roosevelt administrations, was not much of a housekeeper (Bess Truman fired her) but an excellent baker. Every year she routinely baked 200 pounds or more of fruitcake for the Roosevelts to send to friends, employees, and the needy. Listing all the fruits that needed to be prepared, Mrs. Nesbitt concluded "I defy any woman to chop up fruits like these, all pungent and sugary, and keep up any personal brooding. Fruitcake mixing can be heartily recommended as a cure-all for grouches and blues."

So as you commence your holiday baking, Etiquetteer hopes you will look upon the handiwork issuing from your kitchen as an agent of Joy that you have prepared specifically for a certain individual.

* Quotations cited in this column come from "White House Diary," by Henrietta Nesbitt, "F.D.R.’

s Housekeeper," Doubleday, 1948.

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Reader Response: Holiday Gift Guide, Vol. 6, Issue 40

Dear Etiquetteer:

I've read your gift guide for this year and I have a few comments/suggests. Your gift guide is great for those who are not on a very limited budget. If you are, or if you are shopping for that special person who has everything, I have a few suggestions:

1) I know you are not a big fan of the gift card. I, however, love them because I take the time to find out if there might be a remodeling project the recipient might be planning yet just has saved the money to complete it. A gift card to their local home improvement center can be just the thing to complete that project or get that project started.

2) For the couple on a very limited budget and very little time, a gift card to a favorite restaurant and a night of your time to babysit if needed. Sometime that is their only night out whether or not they have kids the couple can afford.

3) There may be that special someone who has almost everything. Get them a gift card for a good bottle of wine or liquor of their choosing if they enjoy such things. Use your imagination.

4) For that elderly person on a limited budget, a gift card to [Insert Names of Big-Box Store Here] can be used for everyday items they may need. A gift card to their pharmacy to assist with their medications can be a blessing. Even a gift card for their local grocery store is greatly appreciated.

5) For children, savings bonds are great. It teaches them to save and invest wisely and it can grow along with them. Also stick in a dollar or more just to give them a little money in their pocket. Gift cards to [Insert Name of Big-Box Store Here] makes those kids feel like they are big.

6) For the elderly that want to remain at home, pay some on their caregiver services if they require them or even yard maintenance services for during the summer. This can give them that feeling of independence.

Just think outside the box. The more creative and individualized the gift, the more meaningful and appreciated. Ask people what they want. If they won't tell you, ask their family, friends, neighbors, or caregivers. Even making some cookies or candy for your shut-in neighbor or just spending a little time with them or those in the nursing homes that their families live away and can't be with them for the holidays. With the economic times like they are, the least gesture of kindness can make this the best holiday season ever.

Dear Giving Lovingly:

Well, Etiquetteer has had to rub his chin thoughtfully contemplating what you suggest. Your heart is so very much in the right place, and if you know Etiquetteer doesn’t really like gift cards, then you know Etiquetteer well!

And why is that? Because gift cards set an expectation that one deserves to get a gift that one wants, when in fact all one might deserve is a lump of coal. And really, Etiquetteer doesn’t think a gift card is that imaginative; in effect, it’s like giving in and saying, "I have no idea what to get you, so here’s some money that just isn’t cash." One also wants to avoid making the recipient feel like he or she is receiving charity. A gift should make one feel special; not that one looks like one needs help paying the bills.

Some of the other situations you describe could be addressed more imaginatively with a gift basket rather than a gift card. For the elderly, why not fill a beautiful basket with everyday necessities and a few gourmet treats and wrap it all up with a big shiny bow? Or for the person who has everything, a basket of holiday greens or other plants?

But for the family on a limited budget or undergoing a home renovation, a gift card to dinner and or the cinema (plus babysitting services) or a home improvement shop could be the perfect gift to give. And as an early recipient of savings bonds, Etiquetteer can vouch for their resulting long-lasting gratitude.

Etiquetteer was so glad to see you mention homemade holiday treats. Tins of cookies and other goodies should always be welcome in season. Really, Etiquetteer doesn’t know how he’ll face Christmas without Mrs. Keith’sincomparable shortbread hearts!

You may be surprised to learn that Etiquetteer isn’t a fan of asking people what they want for presents. It can lead to disappointment if you can’t find what they ask for, if it’s more than you want to spend, or if you just plain decide to get them something else. But detective work with mutual friends and relatives is fair game and very instructive.

Etiquetteer wants to thank you for your generous and well-meant thoughts. Would that everyone could be so Perfectly Proper!

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