Are you making a list? Are you checking it twice? Or did you decide to just skip giving presents this year?

Soon, we'll all be thrown headlong into the holiday shopping season, which traditionally starts the day after Thanksgiving. But as we all know by now, the hype starts well before Halloween.

And yet, the news is full of our nation's persistent economic woes. There have been some hopeful signs, such as a reported drop in unemployment, but recovery is slow.

Curious to know whether the public is in a shopping mood this season, we asked readers if they feel confident spending more on gifts this year. The replies show a more optimistic outlook than in recent years, but caution persists.

"I have never had much money, and I hate to see stuff wasted, which is why I'd rather make or re-use gifts when I can," said retired teacher Karen Lockert of Forestville.

"But that being said, I still am more confident of my financial security than I was a year ago," she added. "I feel I can spend more because the economy is stronger and I feel renewed energy around me. So if I can't make enough gifts in time, I will feel more comfortable than I did last year, as far as spending is concerned."

Some readers said they're more optimistic about the economy now, but still have philosophical qualms about emphasizing material gifts too much.

"Just sharing togetherness is enough these days. Long ago, gift-giving stopped due to the commercialism," said Sebastopol artist and ultrasound cardiologist Suzanne Jaquot. "But I do hope to treat myself to a luxury or two. My financial status is better."

Others reported they're not only ready to shop — they've done it.

"I'm already shopping. I get it done before everything's gone, and without long lines," said audio engineer Joe Louvar of Santa Rosa.

"I did all my shopping last January," said Healdsburg community volunteer Carol Noack. "It drives people crazy!"

Those who intend to resist the holiday shopping urge don't necessarily cite the sluggish economy as a reason.

"I, my immediate family and some friends will be gifting cherished things that we already have," said Lucy Wilde of Santa Rosa, who worked in artist management in the music industry in Los Angeles before retiring and moving north.

"We all have too much stuff, and everyone has agreed to pass on our belongings, rather than buy more," she explained.

Santa Rosa chef and caterer Maria Vieages said she loves sharing good food during the holidays, but has no enthusiasm for conventional Christmas gift-giving.

"I can give a gift to anyone, any time of the year," she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or See his ARTS blog at