Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias No doubt by now you've heard of Furby, the latest Christmas commercial craze to hit store shelves this holiday season.

Actually, it's probably inaccurate to say that these new, computerized toys, which bear a striking resemblance to a cross between a rat and hamster, can be found in stores.

The manufacturers of Furby have learned from recent history. They saw frantic mothers resort to fisticuffs so they could grab the last Cabbage Patch Doll from a shelf, and pay hundreds of dollars for the homely toy.

The company that makes Beanie Babies also realized that a sure way to jack up the price of their products was to create a limited number of certain varieties.

Rose Marie and Roger Parsons of Vermillion, however, certainly know how to set priorities. They haven't fallen into the many commercial pitfalls introduced to consumers each Christmas season.

Ever since their marriage in 1971, they've turned their home into a Christmas cookie factory.

You can't just beat a homemade Christmas treat like that. So over the years, naturally, the demand for their product has grown.

They just finished baking, decorating, and shipping nearly 2,000 of their cookies to friends and relatives all across the country.

Why do they do it? And why does something as simple as a cookie seem so fulfilling, both to the people who receive them, and the Parsons, who diligently make sure that everyone on their Christmas list gets one each year?

It's a holiday tradition, Rose Marie said. And one thing the Parsons aren't prepared to let go of is the annual practice of baking cookies, especially when it's associated with Christmas.

She doesn't say it in so many words, but one can easily sense from Rose Marie that one reason they've kept this family tradition alive is they know how important it is to celebrate the true essence of Christmas, the birth of a baby 2,000 years ago who changed the world.

I was just thinking about the Parsons when a brochure from Alternatives for Simple Living crossed my desk. I haven't heard about this organization, but they offer these 10 tips for a simpler, more meaningful Christmas:

1. Plan ahead. Instead of going on auto-pilot the day after Thanksgiving, hold a family meeting to decide what the group really wants to do and who's going to do what.

2. If you need a symbol for giving (in addition to Jesus and the Wise Ones) learn about St. Nicholas. Santa Claus has been completely taken over by commerce.

3. Avoid debt. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to overspend.

4. Avoid stress. Give to yourself. Don't assume that things have to be the same as they've been.

5. Draw names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else in your giving circle. Set a ceiling for each recipient. Give children ONE thing they really want, rather than so many gifts. If need be, pool funds.

6. Give appropriate gifts. Get to know the recipient. Give what they need, not what you want to buy.

7. Give alternative gifts. Give 25 percent of what you spent last year to the truly needy . . . individuals or groups locally, nationally or internationally. Buy crafts and clothing from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that the artisans receive a fair price for their work. Give of yourself, not just "stuff" (such as baby-sitting or an "enchanted evening") or something baked, sewn, handmade, composed, etc.

8. Celebrate Advent for four weeks before Christmas.

9. Put the gifts under the tree shortly before opening them. Then take turns opening them, not all at once, so that each gift can be admired and each giver thanked.

10. Make changes slowly but persistently. Don't try to change everything and everybody all at once. The resistance may make you feel defeated and lonely.

For more help and a free catalog of ideas, contact Alternatives for Simple Living at 800-821-6153.

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