Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Gift Ever

As a child, I loved Christmas, as I think most children do.  To me, Christmas meant delicious food and toys.  Growing up in a large middle class family in the 1970's, we did not have extravagant gifts, but I remember many Christmases fondly.  There was the year that I received the baby doll in the pink blanket, and the year that I got the little record player that played Christmas songs on 45s.  One year, my brother received a set of plastic cowboys and Indians complete with plastic cows and horse corrals, and we could not wait to get up to start playing with them at the crack of dawn Christmas morning.

We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, and then my mother would read the Christmas story to us from the Bible while we ate candy and treats.  It was the most wonderful day of the year.

I am reminded of that joy now as I purchase gifts for my nieces and nephews.  Their wish lists are a lot different than mine were since they are a lot more technologically savvy than I ever was--maybe than I still am--but the excitement over Christmas is the same.

It seems to me that as we get older, the Christmas spirit is a little harder to catch.  For those of us who are self-employed, the holidays are an especially stressful time of year as we try to adjust to ever changing demands of an economy that does not want to cooperate. This is my 16th Christmas self-employed and it seems that every year there is additional stress at the holidays. This year the stress has come from selling my office building which housed our company for 10 and a half years. Our final day here will be December 30th. I have spent the month of December packing a decade of experiences and memories into cardboard boxes and looking back at all we accomplished here. As I look in 2014 I see the likelihood of relocating to a new city and starting a new life--a prospect which is filled with both opportunity and difficulties.

Add to this stress the normal stressors of packed malls, packed streets--I work relatively close to a major shopping mall so traffic can be a real headache--and the invariable stresses of work and finances, and it can all combine to make the most dedicated lover of Christmas throw up his or her hands and shout "Bah Humbug".

But it is at those moments that I force myself to take a deep breath and to remember that Christmas is still the most wonderful day ever.  Although my nephews and nieces would take exception to this, the best gift ever is not a video game, or a doll, or a toy, or a car or a vacation.  The best gift ever is the gift of Christmas itself, which reminds us that we always have hope and that miracles happen no matter how bleak the world may seem.  For those of us who are Christians, Christmas is a powerful reminder that God is with us and we don't have to fear the future, even if at times it looks scary.  It is a reminder that we are loved. "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17).  And it is a chance to express love and kindness in real terms to people around us and to those we are blessed to have love us in return.  And all of those things are priceless and worth celebrating.

Merry Christmas.
Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Don't Wait for 2014; Vote with Your Dollars Now

Last night I kept a year-old promise. Last year when Hobby Lobby began its battle to uphold the family-owned business' Christian values by battling the contraceptive mandate of Obamacare, I mentally promised that if the company were still open at Christmas 2013, I would buy my Christmas candles there rather than at one of their competitors. Our Christmas decorations involve a lot of pieces that require candles, so every year after we set out the decorations at the office and the house I inventory the candle supply and go pick up whatever we need at one of the stores nearby.

I never shop at Hobby Lobby. It's not that I don't like the store or that they are inconveniently located--actually there is a large store that is located pretty much on my way home and sits directly next to the Sam's Club that I frequent. I have never had any sort of a problem with Hobby Lobby--it's just simply that I never think about purchasing anything from them. I am singularly untalented at any type of crafts projects--I can't arrange flowers; I don't have any hobbies; so in the past when I have heard the name I have dismissed it as a merchant for somebody else. I have bought my candles at a store where I can pick up lipstick and a frozen turkey on the same trip.

This year is different. Hobby Lobby has been embroiled in a year long battle that threatens their very existence. They are fighting for a basic right that affects all of us--the right of Christian business owners, and actually all business owners of all faiths, to run their own companies in a manner that is consistent with their own values and beliefs. In spite of what President Obama thinks, those who own businesses in this country DID build them--through years of hard work and thousands of hours of toil. To have the government endanger a business through regulations that challenge the faith of the business owner is unthinkable. (In my opinion, to have the government destroy businesses through regulation, as this Administration has consistently done for the past five years, is unthinkable under any circumstances.)

So last night I trekked over to Hobby Lobby. Since the closure of my own business of fifteen years last April 1, 2013 has been an extremely difficult year for me, so my purchase was a meagerly small one, but I did it to make a statement. I had very little to spend, and I spent very little, but what I spent I spent there. My purchase alone will not help the Green family with their legal battles--a legal battle that should be completely unnecessary if it were not for this badly-written, poorly thrown together hodgepodge of a law that should never have been passed in the first place. I heard last year that there are an estimated thirty million Teaparty evangelicals in the United States. If all of us took our candle and decorative item budgets to Hobby Lobby this Christmas, that would actually would make a difference.

I shopped at Hobby Lobby last night for another reason also. I am very involved with various conservative sites. I spend time each week on Freedom Works and The TeaParty Community A few months ago Joyce and I started a Facebook page called The Liberty Project, where we share information from various conservative sites after a friend at church complained that she did not have time to pick through all of the information that was coming to her email every day. The Liberty Project is designed to provide insight into the key issues happening daily. I spend about an hour on Twitter every day on the The Liberty Project's Twitter @thelibertyproj, my own account @alexandraswann, and our media company account @Frontier_2000. I was on Twitter when #StandwithRand was the number 1 trending hashtag, and I tweeted for Ted Cruz during his 21 hour floor speech. Through all of this social networking I see building anticipation of the 2014 Congressional Elections. As we have watched the abysmal roll out of Obamacare followed by mounds of lies and excuses, we have seen our hopes surge. But it occurs to me that we who are conservatives, and maybe particularly those of us who are Christian conservatives (the values voters), can be doing something right now that can make an impact for our nation.

This year I have begun to think much more seriously about WHERE I spend my money. So much of the reason that the U.S. is in the mess that it is is due to cronyism. Corporations take our hard-earned dollars and use them to support candidates who are destroying our freedoms and our way of life. International non-profits do the same thing. The first person who told me that the Susan G. Koman foundation was funding Planned Parenthood was my brother Stefan. He went to an event and looked through a pamphlet that listed Planned Parenthood as an organization they supported. He never gave them a dime of assistance again and I haven't either. How many of the charitable contributions that we make to assist the needy and those in distress are actually being funneled to causes that we find repugnant?

Now, with the Christmas shopping season in full swing, is actually a good opportunity to think about where we are spending the money. I'm not talking about boycotts, although those have been effective for the AFA. I am not talking about making hard and fast rules that we can never break. For each person this is going to be a very personal decision based on your own values and priorities. I recently reviewed a list of the campaign donations of major U.S. companies and was surprised to discover that Home Depot gives a disproportionately high level of their donations to the GOP in spite of their well-known promotion of same sex lifestyles. I personally do a lot of business with Amazon although I disagree with the politics of Jeff Bezos, the CEO. I have a Facebook page although I strongly disagree with Mark Zuckerberg. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, you can't live in this world without interacting with and being around people with whom you disagree.

But where I am able to support a company that is defending the values of this nation, I am going to do so, even if it means making an extra trip or going out of my way. In the U.S. profit is a powerful indicator of public opinion. We don't have to wait until next fall to have an impact. We can start having one right now.

Through December 6th, The Planner, Alexandra's novel about the real cost of big government, is on sale for just 99 cents on Kindle.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at