Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday

I'm all for Black Friday. As you may already know, it's sort of a tradition (albeit one that we could drop in the future if things get hectic) for my sister and I to have a bit of a sleepover on Thanksgiving, getting up around the 3am area, and shlepping out to stock up on reasonably-priced items. All year, I see a deal and think, "Is it as good as a Black Friday deal?" It has helped me define what I'm willing to pay for an item. This doesn't apply to those one-of-a-kind items that will remind me that, "We bought that on our anniversary trip!" or "I got that for Dave when I was chaperoning a trip to NYC." But, yeah. A deal is a deal.

I'm discouraged, however, when I tell people that, yes, I do, indeed, shop Black Friday. It's assumed that I'll...say...be willing to pepper spray a crowd to get at a wide-screen TV...or...say...pull hair and punch out some teeth for a cheap phone. Just because I, in verb form, "Black Friday", doesn't make me crazy. Lots of other things I'm do can attest to my craziness, I'm sure. But the fact that I want to spend some quality time shopping with my sister, obtain some considerable deals whenever possible (although, alas, the jeans I usually can snag for $11 were $14 this year...sigh), and start off the holiday season with warmth in my heart does not, in fact, make me crazy.

I know why I get an eyebrow raise or sneer, I do. I do my best to laugh it off. If they don't understand that it's part of a holiday tradition for me, that's fine. Heck, I wrote an impassioned essay in college as to the hell of working Thanksgiving/Black Friday in retail - I've been there! I always try to be super polite to the workers, and honestly, we just have basic cable...do you think we'll be getting a flat-screen anytime soon? Dave's proud of the fact that we won't, and that we have another extra old TV in the basement as insurance.

But, when I call my mother for our also-traditional 5am phone call (once we get to the second floor of JC Penney...it's usually quieter and, here's a hint, the lines are way shorter) or receive a text from my husband, both having watched the morning news and both worrying because a local Walmart had a case of trampling and other rude behavior, I get mad. Not mad at my mom (she has as much fun waiting to hear what we bought, especially since she usually sends us with a list - which I have fun finding!) or my husband (he's a worrier, and I love him). I get mad at those fools who give the rest of us a bad name.

There's a new reason that it's called Black Friday. That blackness that can be found in every man's soul (mind you, I also believe that there's good in every single person, as well) seems to rise like cream to the top when a sick deal is to be had. Or, perhaps the tryptophan comas make folks cranky...if they even wait to finish their meal before going to a (I CAN'T BELIEVE IT) Thanksgiving Day sale! One might also call it Black and Blue Friday, and it's shameful.

This is why my sister and I try to hit the lower-stress places. We never go to Walmart or Best Buy (well, we did BB years ago, but it was a lesson in patience and self defense). We almost always go to a department store, like JC Penney or Macy's, depending upon the sales available. Some years, the items we need are split between numerous stores, so depending upon a) what deals will be gone already and b) how crazy busy the place will be, we prioritize. It takes a lot of strategery (name that SNL comedian) to keep one's sanity on Black Friday.

We also try to go to a store that will provide more of a sense of Christmasy-ness, when possible. This year, after stocking up at JCP, we went to Michael's. Just seeing the ornaments and decorations (even when not purchasing them; last year I remember stocking up at Hobby Lobby, though) and hearing the Christmas music (rather than the rumble of the crowd) is lovely.

Not that the experience at JCP was bad. The only difficulty was asking people if you could break through the line to get to a different section, since it was so long. It's like they think we'd steal their spot in line. Nope, just need to look at the men's socks.

We even had some silly, fun moments. Upon finding a particular shirt display (at an insanely low price), I dove in only to realize that the woman next to me was telling me all about her son's size...at which time SHE realized that I wasn't her shopping companion. We laughed quite a bit and I told her that she could tell me about his sizing all she likes - my brothers had impossible to find sizes, so I could relate. There were several moments like this. People weren't fighting to get what they wanted. If the store was out, they were out.

As it happened, my sister thought that she'd missed out on an insane deal (I can't say what the item was...this is Christmas, after all!), but at least we'd gotten everything else. While taking a moment to relax and call my mother, the manager came out with a cart full of the item to re-stock. Sometimes politeness karma really does exist! AND, since we had tons of time to spare (did we really HAVE to get up at 3:30?), we decided to shop a bit for her baby daughter. While we didn't find much, we realized that the line had dwindled down to nothing...and the same thing happened for the customer service area (for obtaining boxes). What luck!

After a deliciously filling breakfast with my hubby and brother-in-law (Mary, alas, had to work -- can you imagine, doing Black Friday then working?! I'm too lucky), Dave and I even hit up some more local shoppes. Just don't tell him he went Black Friday shopping. I guess if it isn't before 8am, it doesn't count. ;-)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas Card

Christmas cards. Where does your mind go when you hear that phrase? A cramped hand and stressed shoulders over having to make out dozens of cards to folks you haven't talked to in awhile? The enjoyment of thinking of your loved ones while sticking on stamps? The variety of designs (and self-made digital photo options) that you can choose to send? The "aw, crap, another one" feeling when you receive one in the mail from a person you hadn't sent to?

Sure, I think about these things, too. But, from about Halloween 'til now, my mind jumps to a different kind of Christmas card. It isn't literally a card, but that's what it's called. I suppose it should be called a "greeting" - one that incorporates a not-terribly-well-known-unless-you've-lived-in-the-Mohawk-Valley-awhile song that is *ahem* illegally *ahem* used. But take away the song, and it's not the same.

My husband is, some would say, lucky enough to work at one of our local news stations. I admire the work and stress that he endures in order to bring the most thorough, accurate-as-possible, locally-encompassing news coverage in the area. And now that they have competition, I've noticed what an incredible job he does even more.

So, annually, the hard-working folks at his station get a little personal air time for themselves and their families (or friends, or whatever may be the case). It's a way for folks at home to know more about the people that they *think* they already know - who's married, who has kids, who works behind the scenes, who has pets, etc. Oftentimes these short videos are a mash-up of simple, sweet "waving" shots. Dave and I, however...well, this is last year....

...aaaaaand the year before, well, it isn't available online anymore. Poop. Let's just say it involved Dave being pelted by a snowball....

A little wacky, right? Wouldn't want to be anything other than ourselves, after all. So, of course, here comes the stumper - we're trying to figure out what to do for this year. We've now got 3, count 'em 3 cats. Even doing a basic waving one with 3 cats would be close to impossible, mainly because of that old "like herding cats" saying. It's so very true. You just can't do it!

We've got a long-shot idea that we'll keep under our hats JUST IN CASE it works out and we magically have enough time to git 'er done, but I've got another idea or two that are way lame that I simply won't mention because...well, they're lame. I know that I probably think about it more than Dave does, but that's probably because I work at a way slower pace throughout the day (for the most part) so my brain has more time to wander around. ;-)

It's just interesting to think about how most Christmas cards get read by 20...50...100...200 people, max. These get seen by...well, let's just say way more. I guess we'd better get working on it! After all, we've got our first bit of snow for the year, finally.

So, not that we need advice as to what to do (I'm sure we'll figure something out - we always do!), but what I'll leave you with today is this: What would YOU do if you had a 5-10 second spot (or in some cases, cut down from 30 seconds! We're bad, I know) to say 'hi' or act out in your own way?

P.S. Yes, we still do normal Christmas cards. After all, we love the traditionalism of hand-writing a message to people we love, and Dave is SO on top of things like birthdays and anniversaries (seriously, it's crazy! Folks from high school, egad!!) that I'd probably have to cut off his right arm to get him NOT to send them. So, we do our "friend" ones mostly separately, and our "we know them together" ones together (or at least choose the appropriate card together). We've got such a mismatch of cards that we often have lots to choose from...although during our Boston trip over the summer, we happened upon a Borders (*sniff, sniff*) that had some cards that perfectly matched some of our old ones at home on uber-clearance. And guess who spotted them. Yep, Mr. Remembers Every Birthday, himself. I'm so proud of that guy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Giving Thanks While Busy as Heck

Sorry I've been a tad MIA lately! I've been exhausted, and now that our show ("Arsenic and Old Lace") is over, I've got the Book Fair arriving at school TOMORROW. Of course, throw in more theater board responsibilities, and things get a little nuts. But, isn't it the season for nuts?

Tee hee, I totally just wrote that. I really mean nuttiness. Things get hectic, but would we really want it any other way? Well, sure. I'm already thinking, "I can't wait until Thanksgiving" with the fervor usually reserved for kids and Halloween candy or Santa. But, seriously. I really, really can't wait. I won't be over-stressed. (After all, I'm not cooking!) I will enjoy being with loved ones. And the day after, I will (tentatively) go shopping crazy early with my dear sister. It's a tradition of fun, and we wouldn't keep doing it if we didn't have fun.

I told you last year how I really don't mind the strange amalgamation of Thanksgiving and Christmas. (If Halloween gets in on the party, though, I'll have to put my foot down. Too freaky. It needs to be its own thing. One that scares me - I mean it, I'm not a huge Halloween fan. I guess my students would say I'm a Halloweenie.) But, Thanksgiving and Christmas are like cousins to me - it's okay for them to get together once in awhile; in fact, it's only natural.

While the literal definition of each holiday is obviously different (Jesus and Pilgrims...hmm), the themes and emotions behind them are the same. See your loved ones and enjoy your time with them. Be grateful for the things that you have and help out those in need. Eat some great food (but be sure that you've given some to someone else, be it a food drive or a humane society). Enjoy some sloth. Think about how important the "simple" things are. Depending on your religious affiliation, thank God for everything. It's all good - literally!

Again, this is why I'm totally fine listening to Christmas music now...even when we have strange 60-degree weather. (I will NOT be this pleased if December hits and we have nothing to show for it. There's a reason "White Christmas" is one of my favorite songs.) It's way cheerier than most of the music I hear the rest of the year!

I think that the jolliness of friends, family and classic Christmas music help temper the rudeness of distracted drivers and selfish shoppers. It's a huge feat when I can finish a morning of Black Friday shopping with my sister and not be downtrodden by what mankind has become. Mind you, this feat rarely ever happens. Often, I find myself riding shotgun after my husband and I have enjoyed my brother-in-law's incredible Black Friday Brunch near tears over a person who nearly hit us (and then gave US the finger) or over a fight that broke out while shopping at 6am, only to finally resolve that the rest of my holiday shopping would be accomplished online. *sigh*

It's not for lack of optimism and cheeriness on the part of my sister and I. We figure there's no point in going Christmas shopping if you're not in the holiday spirit. We bring tea or cocoa, and in the past were even known to sing Christmas carols while waiting in line. People either rolled their eyes or joined in. And, in a nutshell (there are those nuts again), I think that's what a simplified cross-section of mankind would be: those who join in with the song and those who roll their eyes.

This is the first day of the holiday season...the first day that it's socially acceptable to start celebrating. I always wonder what percentage of the items on Black Friday are given as gifts, and what percentage are going straight on the TV stand or into one's closet. Sure, consumers can buy as they like, but it really brings down the day when it's about "me, me, me" rather than "my kids, my parents, my siblings, my loved ones". It bothers me when people see it as an excuse to act grabby, selfish and downright rude. Probably one reason I don't go for the big ticket items. Slippers, please! ;-)

So, while some of you may want to fight the holiday season with all your might and others of you may embrace it even more than I do, I just want to say that I hope you all get to truly enjoy it this year. And don't forget to really give thanks, in whatever way you see fit. Now, I suppose I should finally figure out what I'll be BUYING for people this year!