Completely unhelpful observations

Gifts are fantastic… but tricky!

They have provided me with a life-time of enjoyment morphing from the raw excitement of opening gifts as a little kid to the unmatched satisfaction of giving the perfect gift that lights someone up.


Now if I could package the feeling that I had that day watching the water crashing over the rocks – that would be an amazing gift.

But there’s a catch. Sometime before you hand over that gift, you must wander around endlessly in the dark cave of indecision while, here it comes… shopping. (If you enjoy that process, this post is not for you.)

Malls understand this well. That is why they have ensured ready access to the pity bench near the stores. Inevitably it will be occupied by a forlorn-looking guy suffering from culture shock as enthusiastic shoppers stream by him. Time. Stands. Still.

For anyone who has ever sat on the pity bench, or wished they could, here is a list of entirely unhelpful shopping and gifting observations … just so you know that not everything out there makes sense.

1. Crafty gifter. These are the people who give hand-crafted gifts making it impossible to match. They are quick to suggest that everyone should bring a gift of something they made – the non-crafty people’s eyes immediately widen in horror.

2. Merry Christmas to me. In the exuberance of shopping and buying gifts, somehow most of the packages seem to be for them at the end of the day. How did that happen? Back to the drawing board with more shopping!

3. Careless gift giver. This shopper loads up on clothes for everyone. Oh and if it doesn’t fit you can take it all back. In the end it isn’t giving a gift as much as gifting a shopping errand!

4. Idealist shoppers. My friend’s standard for gifts might make the most skilled gifting pros a little uneasy. He likes to give gifts that people didn’t know that they wanted but can’t live without once they have it. Yikes.

5. Keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ shoppers. They are the ones who keep ramping up the value of gifts every year for fear of being out gifted. This is love if you like accounting and guilt.


No Christmas post is complete without a gratuitous black bear photo.

6. List shoppers. Sometime in summer they start demanding lists from family members with the persistence of a collection agency. Then they religiously follow the script and surprise no one with their ingenuity.

7. Procrastinators. They are too easy to pick on. The full realization of the looming deadline is just starting to kick in. Why did Christmas come so early this year? But no worries, there’s still lots of time.

8. Money exchangers. Why shop when you can send money or gift cards? My favourite true story is two couples exchanging presents that turned out to be gift cards – two gift cards… from each couple… from the same two stores… for the same amounts.

9. Absent-minded shopper. Picture a parent totally focused on reading a label while one toddler is screaming and another is emptying the shampoo bottle on items in the cart. An older brother further down the aisle is cleaning off a shelf to make himself a bed. The oblivious parent reads on…

10. Shopping gift givers.  This year my son reminded me that giving Christmas gifts may be a less generous gesture than we think. Why? The gifts come with expectations. In our culture, our gifts often end up as a form of economic exchange where something inevitably is coming back to us. Taken to its logical extreme, if gifts are really disguised obligations, we should be giving gifts to those who annoy us so they have to do more shopping!

Maybe the best Christmas gifts are the ones we give without any expectation of something in return. It’s something to think about.

Have a great Christmas everyone (and don’t worry about sending me a gift because I probably won’t send one back anyway:)

Krahnpix note: I will be taking a break from posting blogs and checking in on other blogs until after Christmas. I would still love to hear your reaction to this post and will enjoy responding to every comment. 

Latest Comments

  1. Mind Margins says:

    Every year we swear we’re not going to exchange gifts, and every year we fail miserably. Now that my daughter has married someone whose family lives for Christmas, and who himself loves buying presents, I’m officially giving up on the gift-free Christmas crusade. I do knit, however, and can always play the Crafty Gifter card if need be.


  2. Scott Marshall says:

    laughing my head of on the bench of pity


  3. melodylowes says:

    Now I know what I can give you – a trip to the mall!!! 😉 Hope your Christmas was wonderful and meaningful. Here’s to a new year filled with growing, learning, and healing. (And more bears!)


  4. Isabella Rose Photography says:

    Thank you, Lyle. Hope you’re enjoying all the blessings of the Christmas season.


  5. janina says:

    Merry Christmas, lyle! 😛


  6. Hanna says:

    Merry Christmas, Lyle
    All the best,


  7. Stefano says:

    Merry Christmas, Lyle 🙂


  8. Deb W. Trotter says:

    Love your descriptions of the various kinds of shoppers and gifters! I believe I know at least one someone in every category. 🙂


  9. dweezer19 says:

    Made me chuckle. And everyone a truth. Happy Holidays to you.


  10. Mike Powell says:

    You are obviously as keen an observer of human behavior, Lyle, as you are of animal (and bird) behavior–your observations are right on target. I like your suggestion about giving without expectations of reciprocity and find a lot of wisdom there. I am in awe of your black bear shot. You captured a whole lot of personality in its wonderful expression. Have a very Merry Christmas, Lyle.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Observing any behaviour can be a rewarding and amusing endeavour since there are so many ways to look at things. My son has caused me to look at gift giving from a different perspective – I’m glad it resonated with you.

      I was able to follow that black bear for awhile and was pleased to get a composition that showed off the contrast with the snow and some expression. It was a fun day.

      I hope you have a great Christmas as well.


  11. Phil Lanoue says:

    Enjoy your Christmas!
    (Oh, and great idea about taking a blog break. Smart move indeed)


  12. Mary says:

    Truly enjoyed this post – Merry Christmas, enjoy your time off.


  13. vanbraman says:

    Enjoy your break from posting. I look forward to your return and more pictures of Black Bears.


  14. Gunta says:

    So glad you included the gratuitous bear shot! Have a wonderful Christmas and time off. That might not be a bad idea!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It’s been far too long since I posted a bear so it was just a matter of finding the right one. I quite like this one. It has been a bit of a struggle lately to motivate myself to write posts so I’m hoping a break helps. I wish you a wonderful Christmas as well.


  15. janina says:

    I think bear has already had his/her Christmas gift, by the smile on his/her face!
    As for me, I’m the kinda shopper who knows exactly the kinda gift you need and you are always grateful to receive….!!! True! 😀 Enjoy your Christmas break….


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Ah the perfect shopper! And if you had got the bear something it would most definitely would have been food to keep that smile on its face! Thanks for the comments – have a great Christmas.


  16. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    I have spent plenty of time on the pity bench.


  17. dapontephotography says:

    What ever gifts we get I guess you we will have to simply grin and bear it 🙂
    Have a happy and safe holiday Lyle.


  18. artsifrtsy says:

    Love the Christmas bear! I am one of those shoppers who starts in September. I don’t rush to finish at all – I graze slowly, hoping something unique will cross my path for each person. Then two weeks before Christmas I text my sister for help finishing off the list. Sometimes my approach yields sweet results, sometimes I get confused looks – either way is OK with me.


  19. Mandy says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your family


  20. Julie Gomez says:

    Nice post, Lyle, and Happy Holidays! 🎄


  21. Terry Brown says:

    Nice Christmas Bear. I try as much as I can to be a number four…. But sometimes miss the mark and end up shopping in “cursive” so to speak. You and your family have a great Christmas, and enjoy your break.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I’m pleased you see Christmas in the bear as well – it must be the snow (while overlooking the dandelions). That number 4 is a tough mark to hit consistently! Wishing all of you the best Christmas and solid 4s.


  22. Cornel A. says:

    Happy holidays! Merry Christmas! 🙂


  23. Dana S. Hugh says:

    Merry Christmas to you, Lyle. Exquisite list and very different from our culture. I like the most the 2nd. I should try that. 🙂
    Stay well!


  24. Sheldon says:

    Whoooo glad i don’t have to get you anything as i am running out of old gifts to wrap up and give away. Thankfully i keep the name of the person who gave me the gift to eliminate the awkwardness of re-giving the gift that they gave me 🙂 Great photos as always and thank you for sharing them with all of us. Merry Christmas…


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Ah yes the regifting ritual. I should have added that one, especially the awkward part. It sounds like you’ve had quite a successful run at regifting. I have have a great Christmas.


  25. kerlund74 says:

    Wonderful written and I do love the black bear:-)


  26. caleephotography says:

    Happy holidays, Lyle!! I wish I was #4 but since I detest shopping I’m actually more of a #7 and will do all my Christmas shopping at the airport on Saturday. 😉


  27. Stephen G. Hipperson says:

    Your post can only come from someone who has experienced each category, as they are so true – each so very true.
    Have (or hope you had) a great Christmas!


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