With another Thanksgiving behind us, the Black Friday shopping deals are in full swing and boy is it hard to resist buying a bunch of things I don’t need. The week before Thanksgiving, I love looking through the “leaked” Black Friday ads even though I have no intention of stepping into any stores this weekend.
Instead, I made a list of a few things we’ve been waiting to buy and Friday morning, I pull out my laptop and buy them online. Then I hang out with the family the rest of the day. We desperately need a new computer and I’ve been eyeing an internet connected thermostat to add to my “smart” home. There are definitely some good deals to be found this weekend but I really hate the madness that I see on the news every year on Black Friday.
Anyway, I thought I would give a few suggestions for gifts this season that don’t require you to stand in line at 4 am and won’t fill your house with more clutter. Note that some of the following links are affiliate links.
Have you ever looked at something, knowing you should just get rid of it because you never use it, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to part with it?
I often look at something, or more accurately I ignore things trying my best to pretend that they don’t exist. I suppress the obvious fact that they are taking up valuable space in my life and my home and that I should just let them go. But it’s hard to do.
Why do we hang on to these things?
Usually, it’s because they have some sort of sentimental value to us. Someone bought that item for us for Christmas or it used to belong to our great-grandparents or something like that. We think that the person who gave us that gift will be offended if we get rid of it or we’ll somehow break off a branch of the family tree by getting rid of great-grandpa’s old pocket watch that doesn’t even work anyway.
That’s why that old pocket watch is still sitting in my dresser drawer along with a bunch of other things that I’ll likely never do anything with. My dad passed it along to me a few years ago like he has given me many other things that I have difficulty getting rid of. It’s become a bit of a tradition when I visit.
I think he enjoys watching me pack up the car at the end of a visit as I get ready for the two-day drive back home and just as it seems that nothing else could possibly fit, he’ll pull out something like a pair of old Japanese swords. “Here, you should take these home with you!”
Sometimes it’s an item that he acquired at some auction sale and sometimes it’s a family heirloom. Either way, somehow I make room for it in the car and then can’t seem to part with it when I get home because my dad gave it to me. Typically, I know I will never use these things. The exception being an old cast-iron toy cannon that, when I looked it up online, I was surprised to find out the company still exists and so I bought the stuff for to make it fire. It’s pretty cool and loud.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate all these gifts, or any gift someone gives me, but let’s turn it around a little.
Why give someone a gift? I can think of a few reasons and most of them center around celebrating some event. When it really comes down to it though, I like to think you give someone a gift because you want them to be happy.
Tell yourself that the next time you’re looking at that hooded sweatshirt you never wear that you’re friend gave you for Christmas 10 years ago. Would they really want you or expect you to just keep it forever collecting dust in your closet when you never wear it? Probably not. If that’s the case, then get a new friend.
Even though it seems different, the things my dad gave me need the same treatment. I know he didn’t give me things like an antique radio complete with mouse nest because he wanted to clutter up my house and drive me crazy. He gave me that because he thought I would like it and he knows I like to tinker.
I would bet that many of us have at least a few unusual things sitting around that we know we’ll never use but just can’t seem to part with.
It’s time we just deal with them. Remember, whoever gave it to us thought it would make us happy and wouldn’t want us to keep it if it that’s no longer the case.
Your relationship with that person or the memory of them is not locked up in that stuff, so stop feeling guilty and get rid of it. Does anyone know how to get rid of a pair of old swords?
With three kids, we have quite a stockpile of games in our house, both electronic and traditional board games. My current favorite though is Mancala. We love playing the game and my daughter is very good at. So good that, at the age of 9, she usually beats everyone she goes against. I love the simplicity of Mancala. 48 rocks, 2 rows of 6 cups, and a cup at each end (the Mancala). The setup is so simple that it occurred to me you could easily play this just about anywhere by gathering together some rocks, sticks, pennies, or whatever else you can find 48 of and marking off the cups with something.
Setup and Play
The photo at the top of this post shows the initial set up. Each player has a side of the board with 6 cups and a larger cup at the end to the player’s right. 4 stones go in each of the 12 cups. One player goes first and takes all of the stones out of one of their cups. Then going counterclockwise, place one stone in each cup, including their own mancala, but not the opponent’s mancala. If the last stone placed on your turn lands in an empty cup on your side of the board, take that stone and any stones in the opponent’s cup across from it, and place them in your mancala. This is called a capture.
An important rule to note is that if the last stone you place lands in your mancala, you get another turn. Here is a typical first move, which allows that player to go a second time.
This is the standard second move my daughter makes to follow up. It's generally downhill for me from here. Occasionally she lets me go first but even then I have difficulty winning.
When one player’s side is empty, the game is over. The players count the stones in their mancala and also add in any that are left on their side. The player with the most stones is the winner.
While the game originated in Africa, the name mancala actually comes from an Arabic word naqala which means “to move”. After doing some research it turns out that what I think of as the game Mancala is actually a classification or type of game that is played all over the world. Wikipedia lists a wide variety of names for different variations and the countries they are played in. The American version is apparently called Wari or Kalah depending on what website you read.
Learning the history and variations of Mancala was pretty interesting but what my college degrees should have prepared me for was the mathematics behind winning the game. I won’t describe it here, but feel free to visit the Wikipedia article or continue to some of the sources cited there for the technicalities. Suffice it to say that, at least in most versions of Mancala, the player to go first has a major advantage if they know what they are doing. If you’re really into mathematics, the genre that applies to Mancala is called combinatorial game theory. Here’s a link to just one research paper on the subject just in case you’re having trouble falling asleep tonight.
Just Start Playing
I suppose you could get the game and read up on the strategy. Then start challenging and beating your friends if that’s the sort of boost your ego needs. Instead, I recommend you buy one of the versions below (or build your own) and spend some time with your family. (These are Amazon Affiliate links below. If you click on them and buy one of these products, I will earn a small commission. The cost to you is the same. This is the only way that I compensate myself for the time I spend on this website. Notice there are no banners, pop-ups, or other advertising here.)
For Christmas, my daughter received the four-player version below which has been fun. This allows more of us to play the game together and also complicates the game so that the standard strategies don’t always help.
Isn’t It Ironic
By the way, I realize the irony of a blog about getting rid of stuff where I recommend you bring something else into your home, but keep in mind the goal of getting rid of that stuff you don’t need or use. The goal is to free up time from maintaining all of that useless stuff so you can spend some time with those important to you. Simple board games like Mancala are a good way to spend that time. Thanks.
Piggybacking on my previous post about coffee cups and hats, I would like to highlight a few gift ideas I have stumbled across that I can’t imagine really anyone would ever need. Forgive me for reiterating my dilemma with the cups and caps, but I like to make a point. So, here they are, 5 things I think you should not buy someone for Christmas:
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Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2020
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