I had a juicy topic scheduled to start today, but this week I got a request from a reader whose wallet is squeaking in these recessionary times.  Having been unemployed for two and a half years, I had to bury my wallet in a shoebox in our backyard some time ago, so I knew exactly where he was coming from.

Before we get to his letter, however, we have one last response about vetting the books our children read.  “More Cautious Now” makes a good point, so I thought you’d want to read what he had to say:

I appreciate the thoughts about being aware of what children are reading, and making recommendations to them. 

But we also need to be aware of recommendations from adults, for our own personal reading.  I had one book recommended to me by an active LDS friend who said it was hilarious.  I read it and found one item that gave me a weak smile.  It was filled with selfishness, the lives of very disturbed, or even sick people, and explicit sexual scenes. 

I unfortunately plowed through it, thinking there must be something of worth in it, but I was wrong.  Recommendations from this person will be actively ignored in the future.  Later I found a book review from the New York Times, which lauded the lady author’s writing.  That was the kiss of death regarding my ever again reading anything by this author. 

From a few other LDS friends, I’ve received some recommendations of books that I thought were inappropriate, at least for me. 

I’ve also read some books by LDS authors that I thought could be cleaned up a quite a bit.  Many authors have written about life’s trials and disappointment and the seamy side of life without being vulgar or specific — especially those writers of 50 years ago or more.  A few modern authors do also. 

I enjoy and read a lot of joke books.  And even the “best” of these have jokes or sections in them that are totally inappropriate.  I must confess, though, that the older I get, the less tolerance I have for anything that is even the least off color — books, pictures, movies, TV, conversations, jokes, or cartoons. 

A few cartoons are also pushing the envelope regarding subject matter.  And I’m referring to those in daily newspapers, not publications that promote licentiousness. 

My age is showing, but it used to be that you would have to search for a “dirty” book; now you have to search for a clean one. 

On a happier note, one of my favorite authors has begun writing mysteries, in addition to his humor on hiking, camping, fishing, and other outdoor topics.  Although there is violence in his books, it is “off-screen,” so to speak.  Sexual scenes are alluded to, not described.  I haven’t noticed any profanity in his books.  The closest he comes to describing someone’s bad language is to say, “He used words I’ve never heard before.” 

The older I get, the more my reading turns to books written by general authorities or general officers of the Church.  Perhaps I’m cramming for my finals. 

More Cautious Now.

Thanks for reminding us, Cautious, that even after we’ve reached legal age we still need to protect ourselves from the things we read. 

I think the problem here is that we all have different thresholds for what is acceptable and what isn’t.  To make matters worse, those thresholds change as we progress in life.  It’s hard to recommend a book to anyone, when you don’t know where that person has drawn his line.

I remember long ago, shortly after I wrote Paradise Vue, I went to the Mormon Booksellers’ Convention and was accosted in an elevator by a woman who almost took my head off because the protagonist in the book was seen drinking Pepsi.  She had started reading the book on the bus, and she left the book on the bus because she wasn’t going to carry that filth around with her for another minute.  This was a response I never would have predicted, but it showed me there are readers of all sensibilities, and that it’s impossible to please all of them.

Okay, people — it’s time to shift our gears to the subject of Christmas.  Put on your Santa hats and help a reader whose budget is bruised and broken in these perilous times:

Christmas is approaching fast, but for most of us the economic downturn is still a pretty harsh reality and the prospect of buying gifts looms large on the money radar screen.  What can we do?  Some people make their own gifts, and that is a good idea. 

What do you think about cleaning up something that you already have, that is still in good shape and has lots of use left, wrapping it up, and giving it as a gift?   Does everything we give have to be brand spanking new, with all the associated problems that go along with being never tested?  

For example, we are upgrading our flashlights, and have some Maglite flashlights (heavy duty metal cases, strong beams, and take a lot of abuse) that are now surplus to our needs.  Except for having been used a bit, they still have a lifetime of use left.  They cost $30-35 new.  You get the picture.  If it’s okay to wrapping them up and giving them as Christmas gifts, or gifts at other occasions, is it necessary and/or appropriate to explain, when you give the gift, why it is already used, not brand new?

I can think of lots of other things kicking around  the house that no longer get used, which also fall into this category.  Although donating to the thrift store is a perfectly good option, wouldn’t this be a good option also?  I would like to hear what your readers have to say on this topic.

Bob Taylor

I, too, would be interested in knowing what the readers think, Bob.  For a lot of people, that may be the only way they give gifts this year.

I have recycled gifts in the past to my two sisters, with dramatically different results.  I inherited a Steuben bowl from my mother that my younger sister really liked and I didn’t particularly care for, and one Christmas when I didn’t have any money for gifts I wrapped up the bowl and sent it to her.  She was ecstatic, although she has to hide the bowl when Other Sister comes to visit because Other Sister would be upset that she didn’t get it.

Speaking of Other Sister, that same Christmas I sent Other Sister a sterling silver coin bank I had inherited from my father — something she had really coveted, but that I ended up with.  When she opened it she said, “This isn’t a gift!  It’s something that should have been mine all along!  You never did like Daddy!”

There you have it — I suspect that a person’s appreciation for recycled gifts depends on the person receiving the gift.

What do you think, readers?  Is it appropriate to recycle used items?  If it is, what items can be recycled, and under what circumstances should they be given?  How do you choose people who may be appreciative of those items?  Would people feel insulted upon receiving something that has obviously been used and isn’t an heirloom? 

While you’re at it, if you have any other ideas for Christmas gifts in recessionary times, please send ‘em along.

  Some of us are going to be having pretty lean Christmases if you don’t send your ideas in to [email protected] — pronto!


Until next week, Kathy

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson