7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 155)

December 9, 2011 | 32 comments

— 1 —

For the first time ever, I did all my Christmas shopping online. (Well, almost all: I note that I did go out of my way to buy a few things at a locally owned toy store that sells hand-crafted wooden toys whose earthy charm makes up for the fact that they’re kinda boring, mainly so that I could talk about how I patronize locally owned toy stores that sell hand-crafted wooden toys whose earthy charm makes up for the fact that they’re kinda boring.)

Anyway, the onslaught of packages has begun. With five kids, four parents, godchildren, a babysitter, and two preschool teachers on the list, the flow of brown boxes into this house has been endless. I mean, the brown delivery van is out in front of our house more often than it’s not. We thought about including the UPS guy in our family Christmas photo. We’re adding another room on to the house using solely the packing materials from all these orders. On the plus side, Amazon’s universal wish list functionality simplified everything, since I was able to collect all my ideas in one place over the year, and shopping at only a few online stores made it easier to stay within budget. For the first time ever, I think I can honestly say that I’m done with all my Christmas shopping before Gaudete Sunday.

— 2 —

You know what made Christmas shopping a lot easier this year? Realizing that I have issues with decision making. I actually do fine with choices like which car or house to buy; but ask me to select between the fried shrimp or the cheeseburger at a restaurant, and I’m borderline catatonic. (Earlier this year I thought about getting a book about it, but in a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up moment, I couldn’t decide which one to get.) So anyway, I realized that in previous years, the reason I didn’t do my Christmas shopping until December 20 (okay, December 24) was because I was afraid to make the decision: What if I chose the wrong thing? What if I found something better right after hitting Confirm Purchase? Waiting until the last second made things easier, in that it removed the opportunity for regret: i.e., even if I did find the perfect item for my husband after settling for a mere banana suit, I could console myself with the fact that there simply would not have been time to get anything else.

The fact that all my Christmas shopping is already done is mainly due to making it my goal to get over my weirdness about decisions. Once I assured myself that it’s fine if what I’m buying is just my best shot at getting something the recipient will like, and perhaps not THE PERFECT ITEM THAT SHE SHALL TREASURE FOREVER AND EVER, getting the shopping taken care of was actually a breeze. (And, yes, pretty much everything in my life requires this much analysis.)

— 3 —

Since there are quite a few new folks here after Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat discussed my conversion story, I though I’d mention that I threw my $0.02 into the debate over at the Register.

— 4 —

I just love this catchy little song, which I originally heard on the MAD Christian Radio Show, which has an amazingly eclectic collection of music:

It’s by a ska Christian band called Buck. Who knew there were ska Christian bands?!

— 5 —

I stumbled across something with book writing that has been tremendously helpful, even if it is bizarre and nerdy: I’ve spent some time thinking of who a perfect “audience” would be, and I’ve written those people’s names on index cards. Each time I sit down to write, I pull an index card at random, and write as if I’m speaking to that person. The criteria for choosing these imaginary listeners was:

  • It can’t be anyone I know well, since I’d be too likely to cut corners and not explain things they already know — thus all the names are those of celebrities, people whose blogs I follow, or friends I’ve recently met.
  • They have to be people I’d speak to in a similar manner. E.g. It wouldn’t work if I had both Howard Stern and Queen Elizabeth on the list, since I’d speak to the two of them in different tones.
  • I have to have some reason to think they’d at least be mildly interested in the subject matter. E.g. If I were writing a book examining the work of Henry David Thoreau, I probably wouldn’t include Snooki in my audience cards.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s been really helpful. There’s something motivating about having a specific visual for whom I’m speaking to, and switching out the names brings a fresh perspective to each writing session.

— 6 —

I just remembered that there is one person I don’t have a gift for. My dear cousin is coming to visit for Christmas, which is a big deal to me — we’re both only children, and we’re the two oldest grandchildren of our grandparents, and so he’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to a brother. I’d like to get him something meaningful, but what? He’s a super smart, super creative, atheist hip-hop DJ who lives in Brooklyn. Any suggestions for something I could get him would be welcome! (And I am going to go out on a limb and guess that he doesn’t read his cousin’s Catholic blog, and therefore I’m not risking spoiling the surprise here.)

— 7 —

In case you missed yesterday’s post, Simcha Fisher had baby number nine this week! You can get your gratuitous baby picture fix here, or read a Best of Simcha collection and/or contribute to a virtual baby shower gift here.



  1. jen

    the audience cards sound like something that would be helpful with nanowrimo next year.

  2. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    Online shopping is the only way to go. Seriously, the stores at Christmas give me mini panic attacks. As far as your cousin, I have no ideas for well thought out, meaningful gifts. But a gift card always works, especially if you can come up with a unique store that really suits his tastes. You know, like a gift certificate to the Totally Cool Atheist Hip Hop Store for Creative Folk. Barring that, you can’t go wrong with iTunes or Starbucks.

  3. Kerrie @ The Forgotten Kitchen

    I am so jealous! I wish I was anywhere near done. I will probably finish up around the 15th, though. On the other hand, my husband just told me that he is going to START Christmas shopping on the 23rd.

  4. Maeana

    Five Iron Frenzy is actually a Catholic ska group. Some of my favorites are “My Evil Plan to Save the World” and “Daffodils”. The kids like “These Are Not My Pants”.

    • Jessica

      They’re Catholic?? I never knew. I loved them in high school, and “Daffodils” is a great song as well as “Every New Day.” The OC Supertones and MxPx are also ska/punk Christian bands. There are surprisingly a lot of them, actually!

  5. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    #1 and #2 are me to a “T”! I’m buckling down to finish my list this weekend…And then guard vigilantly against the urge to just “take a peek” on Amazon to see if I can find anything better to give!

  6. Kathleen basi

    Yay for Simcha! I have been in the NICU myself all week and thus away from my Google Reader. I’m going to have a thousand posts waiting when I get back.

    Glad you got your shopping done! Who says you can’t grow and learn past some unspecified age in your life? 🙂 We started super early this year and I’m so glad we did. It’s like God was nudging us so we’d be prepared for the early arrival of Baby and all his attending drama.

  7. Janet

    Oh, Christmas presents. I’m doing some online ordering, too, but then, if I ship it straight to them, then I don’t ever actually see the gift…which I don’t like.

  8. Michael

    Congratulations on being (almost) finished! I should START sometime, oh, say, next week. 🙂

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I just ordered a bowl made out of a vintage record from that shop. Thank you for that great suggestion!

  9. Jean

    For your cousin, how about a copy of the street artist Banksy’s book or the movie about him “Exit Through the Gift Shop”? The movie is great and his art is pretty compelling.

  10. Daria Sockey

    Your best of Simcha collection left out my favorite, “I Love my Ugly little Liturgy”. If I were on the ball I’d have the link, but, well…

  11. Steph @ Moving to MD

    Woah, I haven’t even started thinking about Christmas presents. Looks like I’ve got some web browsing to do this weekend!

  12. Kendra @ The Nerdy Wife

    Husband and I are going to the mall tonight to finish our Christmas shopping! I was really on the ball this year and finished shopping for him last month 🙂

    Also, I’m so excited about Simcha’s baby! So precious.

  13. Jennifer Fitz

    I find that it is super easy to write if I remember the specific people I am writing for, and just talk to them. That also helps keep the work focused — what does *this* audience need. The only trick is in keeping in mind the people who I’m not writing to, but who might read me anyway. Ie I might be writing to a mom wants to homeschool, but I’m also going to get a reader who truly can’t homeschool, and so I need to make sure my encouragement to the one doesn’t come across as insulting to the other.

    (In other words – I agree 100%, super tip. Glad you posted it!)

  14. Jess G.

    I agree about online shopping – with Etsy and Amazon at my disposal there is no need to go to a brick and mortar store!

  15. Bonnie

    Who knew about Christian ska bands?! That was my high school experience! oye oye oye!

    • Jessica

      Same here! Not quite ska, but I still pull out my W’s CD every once in a while.

  16. Elizabeth Erazo

    Christian ska bands? OF COURSE. The W’s were my favorite when I was younger – “The Devil is Bad” is worth noting, as is “Moses”, and there was another one…OC Supertones, I think? Anyways, definitely the W’s.

  17. Jennifer Fitz

    Yes! The W’s! That’s where I’d heard of Five Iron Frenzy before — I knew I knew of someone singing about them, but couldn’t place it.

  18. Trisha Niermeyer Potter @ Prints of Grace

    That’s awesome that you’ve gotten so much of your shopping done already. Indecisiveness is no fun, or is it? I hope you and the family enjoy the rest of Advent and slip into a spectacular Christmas!

  19. Beth Anne @ The Catholic Couponer Blog

    You should check out Kendra @thenerdywife.com for the last few posts on christmas gift ideas for your cousin. She has some neat ones 🙂

  20. Gillian

    2: I have a lot of trouble deciding what to eat at restaurants too. Drives the people I go with crazy…

    The audience card thing is really neat… How did you ever come up with the idea?

  21. Amity

    In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell asserts that we do better making snap judgements on large purchases (furniture), and deliberating long over small ones (household cleaners). So you’re in good company. Also, I think you would enjoy /tim Keller’s The Reason for God, even though he’s Presbyterian.

  22. Christie Martin @ Garden of Holiness

    What a birthday for Simcha’s baby! A new little one in time for Christmas, too. Awesome.

    My Christmas shopping included the kids for the first time. Our oldest is old enough to pick out gifts for others, so we thought we’d supervise all of the kids on a shopping spree. “We” turned out to be “me,” but it worked out so well. I took them all to our local Catholic store where the salespeople wouldn’t be frightened by the Martin horde coming in the door. They helped us find items in our budget and were very entertained by us all. It was fun!

  23. Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

    Re: #2, are you familiar with the satisficer/maximizer distinction? The Get-It-Done Guy podcast had a good article recently on the two approaches to decision making and how you can make your life a lot easier by satisficing. I think it’s easier said than done–but interesting nonetheless!

  24. thduggie

    #4: Along with the OC Supertones, I’ll mention the Insiderz. And if you like ska and want something fun, try finding a Potshot Rockers CD – they’re a Japanese ska band (not Christian). They sing in the funniest English.

    #6: What’s your budget? If he’s creative in the visual realm, why not get him the Wacom Inkling?

  25. Javier (JCA)

    By the way, happy Feast of the Immaculate! (sorry for my delayed greeting: December 8) who is also the patroness of the United States.

  26. joy

    So funny about the UPS guy in the family Christmas photo!!! I’ll just say, I know exactly what you mean….;-)

  27. John B

    Happy Advent and Merry Christmas, Jen!! Something cool for your cousin… it would be really cool if you could find a vintage vynll record of Rapper’s Delight or some sweet old Run DMC song or something like that.

  28. Francie Escovedo

    My oldest son is ADD, and I have a difficult time getting him to do certain things, well pretty much anything actually. Asking him to clean his room will send him into an absolute melt-down. So, I just HAD to order the book you mentioned, Organizing Solutions….. I was so excited to receive it. Ironically, I’ve now misplaced it. Maybe he didn’t inherit the ADD solely from his daddy’s side of the family. LOL!

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