WTMA Instructors’ Favorite Gifts

Well-Trained Mind AcademyGeneral Education

best gifts

Welcome to the season of gift-giving and holiday (virtual or socially distanced) revelry. This year, in particular, many of us are taking a few extra moments to pick out special gifts for our loved ones, as 2020 has changed so many of the more “everyday” ways that we show love. The National Retail Federation concludes that the average American consumer plans to spend just shy of $1,000 on holiday gifts, decor, and supplies this year. What better way, then, to consider what we want to get for others by considering what we have loved getting and gifting in years past? Below, Academy instructors share their favorite gifts, either given or received, with our readers. Perhaps some of these reflections can help spark your own happy memories or inspire some of your best gifting yet.

Traditional Gifts

Instructor Kathie Carwile shares with us a fond memory of a gift received when she was about nine years old: a Barbie kitchen playset. Dr. Carwile writes, “The kitchen was exactly the right dimensions for the Barbie dolls and came in “modern” colors for the 60s. It also had a working sink (you had to put water in the tank behind it) and a rotisserie oven with a tiny turkey that you could remove when you wanted to ‘cook’ something else. The rotisserie actually revolved.  It came with tiny boxes of all sorts of supplies down to a box with Brillo Pads!”

While Kathie loved the attention to detail in this gift, she also cherished how that gift fostered her sibling relationships. “My sisters and I played with that kitchen for years. It was special because it caused us to be creative and inventive and led to many happy hours with my sisters. I treasure those memories.”

Peg Strickler loved getting a large acrylic portrait of her late Jack Russell Terrier, Sadie, in a cocktail dress. Evidently, Sadie was quite the character, as this painting “really captured her personality!” Mrs. Strickler plans to keep the dog-theme going this year, as she has already gifted her son a new puppy, Falco. She already declares this an early shoo-in for “all-time winner,” as far as gifts go! We can see how cute little Falco could easily win hearts over!

Ms. Bouse, a music-enthusiast, tells us of an amazing find that she received one year. “One of the best gifts I ever received was a special edition of the music for the opera Tosca from my Italian ‘mom’ (not actually my mom!). The opera is by a composer from her hometown, and she found an old edition of the music in a thrift store. It is beautiful with a red, ornate cover and looks perfect in my music room. It was personal and sentimental, and I like that it is old and from a thrift store. I think of her, Italy, and beautiful music every time I look at it.” How amazing! 

Experience Gifts

Some of our instructors shared memories of gifts that led to amazing experiences. Heather Quintero writes, “The best gift I ever gave was a dump truck load of fill dirt and some big Tonka dump trucks to my son when he turned 3. My kids played with the dirt pile daily for 4 years.” 

Dr. Rai d’Honoré gave a different sort of experience to her son when she gifted him the chance to further his studies for his Masters in Chinese Medicine by paying for him to spend a summer at the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University. What a generous opportunity Dr. d’Honoré gave her son to gain extra knowledge and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It looks like that gift paid off, too! The recipient is now a licensed acupuncturist and has a practice in Santa Barbara.

Practicality Matters

Gifts can be meaningful while being useful as well! Mrs. Quintero writes, “The best gift I ever received was a reciprocating saw. I had been asking for one, and people kept telling me that I ought to ask for other things. I was so happy when someone finally bought it for me!” Another instructor shares, “For years, my aunt struggled with the idea of exercise. She’d start a routine of walking, only to give up after a couple of weeks because she felt sore or tired. Also, she didn’t really see any of her progress. Then, one day, we had the idea of getting her a fancy fitness tracker! For the first time in forever, she’s sticking to her routine because she’s being challenged each day to go a little further. She loves the reminders and prompts she gets. Sometimes, the simplest idea really works!” 

Mrs. Strickler enjoys the practical uses of an otherwise not-so-practical gift. Here’s what she says about one of the most successful presents she gave to her kids. “As far as great gifts for homeschoolers go, an all-terrain hoverboard was probably the biggest hit ever around here. It was [a hit] for me, too, because my son has enjoyed doing outdoor chores ever since he got it.”

Tear-Jerker Gifts

Of course, we can’t leave out those extra-special gifts that tug on our heartstrings. 

Mrs. Courtney Ostaff gives voice to a sentiment that we are pretty sure every instructor shares when she writes, “My favorite gift is always notes from students and parents, whether it’s during the course or later. I print them out and put them on a board in my office to remind me that even on bad days, what I do matters.”

Jessica Otto shares two meaningful gifts that likewise made us feel all warm and fuzzy. “Last Christmas, my daughter gave me my favorite gift. She used wool felting to create a portrait of our dog, Carina. What made it so special was that my daughter used her time and creativity and crafted something she knew I would treasure. The best gift I ever gave was to my dad. I took an old black and white photo of his parents leaving the church on their wedding day. (They were married on Christmas Eve in 1939!) The picture was old and faded, so we had the tinting enhanced and then framed the photo. My dad was very moved when he opened the gift because family is so important to him, and both of his parents have passed away.”

Mrs. Amy Upperman remembers, “The best gift I’ve ever given was a journal of my personal reflections for a year that I gave to my mom.  It was such a success because my family is often slow to show emotions but deeply moved when thoughtfully presented.  My mom has cherished that journal for years, and it has opened routes of meaningful conversation within our family.  It was a difficult gift to give at first (because it forced me to be both emotionally and intellectually vulnerable), but I am so thankful that I did!” 

Finally, Dr. d’Honoré shares this beautiful, moving present. “Although some of the best gifts I’d ever received were hand-made items from my children, the one that I remember with absolute joy was on my birthday many years ago in Thailand. We had flown north from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and arrived late at night. The next morning, coming out of the hotel, I saw birds in cages on nearly every step. So, my husband paid for me to open every cage and set all the birds free. What a feeling to see them fly away, to give the gift of freedom. It truly is better to give than to receive.”

Opening a beautifully wrapped box and finding a special trinket inside sparks joy for the recipient and the bestower. Similarly, sharing a unique experience with a loved one creates a cherished shared memory. We hope that our stories of gifts given and received have helped you to remember some of your own favorite gifts of seasons past. Happy Holidays from WTMA!

Share the love!