The news is filled with optimistic messages about the improving economy. The stock market is up. Gas prices are down. The real estate market is holding its own.
Maybe, in other places, it's improving. Maybe it's improving here, but we're just slow to get the memo way up here at the tip of the country. I don't know.
What I do know is that more Americans are on food stamps than ever. The food pantries have more customers than they can serve. In spite of the mandatory insurance provision, people still can't afford to go to the doctor, and insurance companies are still wont to approve some treatment options - even when those treatments are prescribed by the physician who sees that individual. Almost half of the residents here in Maine are receiving some sort of Federal aid. Every time Deus Ex Machina and I go to the grocery store we're sideswiped by the increasingly higher cost of feeding our family. More than ever, I'm seeing charities in need. Everyone wants, but no one can give, because no one has anything.
Maybe it's just Maine. Maybe it's just my family. But I just don't see any improvement in the economy here - not in the overall economy, nor in our personal economy. Things are tight, and what I keep hearing - from everyone and everywhere - is that Christmas giving may be more lean than usual.
There was a time when making homemade Christmas gifts was simply not an option for me. I'm not terribly creative or very talented (I'm no Martha Stewart - and that's for sure!), and the kinds of things I could imagine making didn't seem to be very useful, actually. Further, the ideas for gifts to give were a long the lines of reusing baby food jars to make snow globes, which are fun, but not very useful.
Over the years, I've started saving websites that show ideas for gifts to make. Some of my favorite ideas are on Martha Stewart's website, but I've also been saving articles, like this one, that lists 25 Handmade Gifts Under $5. I won't, necessarily, choose to make any of the gifts listed, but it gives me some ideas, and at a time when I can feel overwhelmed, these kinds of very specific gift options help to focus me.
I love giving (and receiving) handmade gifts. It's fun, for me, to think about the people to whom I wish to give, and to think about what they might like, and then, to figure out a way to create that gift. It's even more fun when I can create that gift from things I have here at my house.
And as a hoarder, the kinds of things I have available for giving are pretty impressive.
We also have some very cool tools, like a bottle cutter so that we can make some upcycled gifts out of used wine bottles (the ones we don't refill with our homemade wine, that is :)). Or I might be able to spare one or two of my beloved canning jars to make one of the ideas on this list.
We will give a combination of bought things and homemade things this year, as usual. What I realized, though, is that too many of the things I've purchased over the years are things that I could have made - with a bit of imagination.
Things may be a little tight, but that doesn't have to mean that we can't enjoy the holiday season. In fact, since all of us are in the same boat, seems to me that it could be even more fun to see how creative we can all be.
There is always a lot of painting of wooden things here at this time of year ;).