42

Last week I celebrated my 42nd birthday. If you’re familiar with the work of Douglas Adams, you’ll recognize that my age is actually the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. The answer may not be entirely accurate but it does help inspire an upbeat attitude about being this particular age.

I’m way past the age where I expect to get birthday presents from anyone except myself. But, like anyone else, I still enjoy it when others recognize the fact that I allowed the earth to shuttle me around the sun one more time by giving me something, no matter how trivial.

My family did not disappoint me in this. My youngest son who is 11 at the time of this post, drew me an amazing picture of a bird landing on a branch. I think he is getting better all the time but this picture shows that he is already pretty good!

My oldest son (15) got in on the action as well. He gave me a coupon good for a birthday gift to be made any time I want it. The funny thing is, he couldn’t bring himself to make one then on my birthday! He’s getting good at punting things. Next, I expect him to work on his delegation skills and outsource making my gift to fiverr when I call in the IOU.

My wife is always consistent when it comes to my birthday. She knows I’m fine not receiving gifts but she always manages to find something anyway to make me feel special. This year she presented me with two books that I keep borrowing over and over from the library. If I borrow something two or three times, that’s a pretty good indication that I could benefit from owning it.

The first book is The Painted Art Journal: 24 projects for creating your visual narrative by Jeanne Oliver. It’s a great book on mixed media and creating personal stories through art journaling.

The other book is Geninnes’s art: birds in watercolor, collage, and ink: a field guide to art techniques and observing in the wild by Geninne Zlatkis. Geninne is an amazing artist and I love her bird paintings. This book is great because it breaks down the process Geninne uses to develop her work. It’s very inspiring especially since I already like drawing and painting birds. Hopefully, this book can help me take my art to a higher level.

So all-in-all it was a pretty successful birthday haul. But presents aside, I had a great time spending the beginning of my next year of life with the people I love.

Unnecessarily Neat

I was wrapping presents over the weekend and thought about how nice it is that most wrapping paper comes with a grid of lines on the back. Gift givers used to really need to pay attention to what they were doing to get a nice straight cut. Now it’s easy to get a perfect cut every time. What a wonderful innovation! It’s so ingenious, it must have been a Google 20% project. Everyone should be happy about this.

But then I got to thinking, what do I care if my wrapping paper is cut perfectly. I was perfectly happy eyeballing it before. What’s more, nobody else cares if you cut paper straight. Kids tear open present without giving a single thought about the paper. They just want what’s inside. They wontonly tear off what you so lovingly cut, wrapped and taped.

Adults are no better. Think about it from your own experience. When’s the last time you got a present and thought “Gee, these seems sure are neat” or “what loving attention to detail Sam applied to his cutting and taping”.  Sorry, it just doesn’t happen.

Not only do people not care about straight wrapping paper cuts but the grid lines that make it possible also have negative consequences. Think about it, it’s going to cost more to print things on both sides of the paper. Don’t think you’re getting all that ink on there for free. Your wrapping paper is costing you more. Is perfectionism really worth the extra cost?

The cost of perfectionism has other costs too. It’s probably stressing you out, giving you high blood pressure, causing internal anxiety and outward shows of anger and aggression. You might find that every time your scissors veer off the line you start yelling at your children and kicking the dog.

But if health and relationships with those you love don’t move you in this discussion, there’s a more insidious consequence to these seemingly innocuous paper grids. Now that there are lines on the white side, you can’t use scraps of wrapping paper to make little To/From tags. You’re being forced into buying pre-printed tags that you might not even like.

I’ve always enjoyed using the paper I was wrapping with to make my tags. Now that I can’t do that, the joy of present wrapping has left me. Now all I can do is make my wrapped presents unnecessarily neat.