Buying Christmas gifts for out-of-town family members means shopping, wrapping, packing, and shipping. What's the biggest obstacle in this whole process?
Not deciding what to get for people, though admittedly that has its challenges. At least it can be done while seated comfortably in my chair with a notebook and a pen.
Not even the actual shopping, even though I tend to panic in crowds, I hate spending money, and I run out of patience and energy after about 30 minutes in the average mall. As long as I have a plan and a list, I can manage the shopping if I limit myself to short expeditions, remember to breathe, and eat enough chocolate.
Not the wrapping, either. Wrapping gifts after the shopping is finished is a little like cleaning pheasants after a successful hunt. It's kind of messy, and the process itself isn't a lot of fun, but there's the satisfaction of seeing the spoils of the hunt collected in one place.
Come to think of it, "spoils" isn't a bad description of the results of my gift wrapping. In part it seems silly to spend a lot of time and energy creating beautiful packages just so people can rip them open. In part I'm simply elegance-challenged. People who love me have learned by now that the odd lumpy packages with the torn corners and the crooked tape are from me. People who love me seem to open those packages with enthusiasm anyway.
The biggest challenge in getting gifts ready to ship is finding cardboard boxes. Even if you save boxes over the year just for this purpose, and even if you can remember where you stored them, they aren't going to be the right size.
Solving this problem means a trip to the park. Rapid City has a recycling pickup point there, where we take our glass, plastic, metal, newspapers, and cardboard. My primary source for shipping boxes is the big container for the cardboard. It's about the size of a medium truck box. A series of openings, about two feet wide by three feet high, line the top half of the container on either side.
If you're lucky, the container is more than half empty when you're taking boxes to recycle and more than half full when you're looking for boxes to recycle. Yesterday, I wasn't lucky. Reaching any boxes was going to involve leaning into the container at a dangerous angle, reaching as far as possible, being grateful to have gorilla arms, and hoping not to fall in.
Another woman had opened an access panel on her side of the container just as I looked in on my side. I asked her, "What size boxes do you have?" Unfortunately, hers were long and skinny, not at all what I needed.
I went back to leaning and reaching.
She grinned at me. "Go ahead, hop in," she said. "Do you need some help?"
About that time, I was able to get my fingers on the corner of a box that looked about the right size. Under it was another one that would also do. So I didn't need her help, which may have been just as well. Relying on the kindness of a stranger to get out of a steel recycling container might not have been wise.
But I thanked her anyway, truly grateful both for her offer and for the fact that I didn't need it. We went our separate ways, having each done our small parts in the great circle of recycling and added to the holiday spirit by wishing each other Merry Christmas.
There's nothing like a little dumpster-diving to put the "green" in the Christmas season.