Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Christmas Shopping: Not just for December Anymore

My Christmas shopping is done. I just got the last stocking stuffer this past weekend. Now that most people are done cursing me, I’ll explain how. I Christmas shop year round.

When I was growing up my parents would always be finished with shopping before Thanksgiving. I was raised with the concept that this was the best way to avoid the cranky marathon shoppers and enjoy the holiday season more. My mom has gotten away from this habit ever since I was in high school. Between after school activites, work, etc she just couldn’t get the shopping done before her Thanksgiving deadline. I have decided that her method is the way to go as long as I can pull it off. Anytime I go to a Summer Art Festival, away on a vacation, or even on a girls day out shopping, I am keeping an eye out for potential Christmas gifts. One important thing with this method is to have a designated area in your living space for the gifts so you can find them 6 months later.  Not that it isn’t fun tearing your apartment apart the week before christmas looking for the necklace you got your mom in July (not that I’ve ever done that).

I take a lot of pride in buying presents for people no matter the occasion. I like to put thought in it and know they’ll use it or enjoy it. The years I’ve left shopping to December will usually result in seriously random presents for people. They’ve liked them well enough, or at least pretended to but I’ll always feel like I could’ve found something better if I had more time. If, over the whole year, I haven’t found something for my family I will resort to asking what they want around late October.

Over the past few years I had trouble shopping for my sister.When I’d ask what she wanted it was usually a Lowe’s gift card to put toward her house. I would always tell her bluntly “No I’m not getting you that give me another option.” This may seem mean but in fairness she will do the same thing to me, especially when I was younger. I’d tell her a random object I wanted and she’d look me dead in the eye and say, “That’s stupid and useless I’m not getting that for you.It has to be something practical I refuse to add to your crap.” Ah, sisterly love. She had a point though.

I like to give people something they will use or enjoy and not just become part of the clutter. So practically speaking, a gift card to Lowe’s  is a great gift but it feels so impersonal. I’ve gotten over this to an extent. A gift card CAN be a personal gift. A friend of mine got her master’s degree a few years ago and, as a graduation present, I got her a gift card to one of her favorite clothing stores for new work clothes. If there is a specialty store I know someone loves, they’ll get a card to there. I personally am a BIG fan of Target. Anytime I get a Target card I get down right giddy. The one year I nearly got my sister her beloved Lowe’s card because she was planning on using it toward the purchase of a new stove (I ended up finding something better but I nearly relented).  In these ways, a gift card is almost more personal than some random thing that is picked up for the sake of finishing shopping (and yes this is what I used to do for people with fingers crossed that they liked the gift). By buying  a well thought out gift card you know they’ll like it.

The few times I do go out shopping this time of year it tends to be less stressful. I’ll look at the people running  around with tons of big bags from various stores (Honestly! How many people do they have to buy for?) I’m still keeping my eyes open for presents for people. It gives me warm fuzzy feelings when I find something that I know a friend will love and isn’t that the whole point? So if you are still out gathering gifts for loved ones I hope you find just the right thing (or gift card) that gives you the warm fuzzies.

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Gobble Gobble

*So, it appears as though I’m a slacker today. But I have an excuse!  I was up late, the dog ate my computer, I had work to do, I was on the phone, there was an emergency, ….eh, screw it.  I forgot.   Sorry.  This has been a kind of rough week for me, busy with family over Thanksgiving, busy with gift buying preparations and busy at work, so I haven’t been my most on-the-ball self.*

But, I did want to talk about Thanksgiving.  I love Thanksgiving!  For me, it’s the best holiday, bar none.  It’s completely apolitical, atheological, and it’s all about food.  This year, Thanksgiving in our house was just our family and my grandfather and my uncle and his family.  At ten, it sounds like a lot of people.  But for us, it’s only scratching the surface of a large extended family.  We are all loud and pushy, so it seemed like a bigger crowd than it was.

In past years I’ve been to an orphan Thanksgiving with friends.  For a few years, my parents would travel on T-day weekend, leaving me with their three dogs.  Fortunately, my friend and her sister invited me to their house, with their friends for a turkey feast and a big party.  One year, while I was in college, I went to San Diego to volunteer at a soup kitchen with my grandmother and uncle and aunt.  That was a great day and really reminded me, not only of how fortunate I am, but of how good it feels to do something for others during the holidays.

My point is that it has never mattered where I was for the holiday, sitting down to dinner with my parents and sister, or battling my best friend for the last turkey leg, or showing a family of four to their seats in the soup kitchen banquet hall, it only mattered how it made me feel:  (not to sound trite here) thankful.

Thanksgiving is a great American holiday.  It’s one day that is constrained by only the traditions that we build around it.  It has no purpose other than to allow us time to take a moment, look around and within ourselves and be happy for who and what we have in our lives.  And then reach for a second helping of mashed potatoes.

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Black Friday has Arrived

Black Friday (1940 film)

Image via Wikipedia

So, did you wake up early this morning and hit the stores? Were you at Sears at 7am? How about Target or Macy’s at 4am? Kohl‘s at 3am? If not, then you obviously aren’t in the holiday spirit! What kind of Scrooge are you?

Personally, I avoid the malls from this point on.  The over-commercialization of what should be a wonderful holiday just make me cranky.  I do the majority of my in-store Christmas shopping in November and then have a fairly strict no mall policy from this point on. I end up doing the majority of my shopping in December online. It makes sense – most of my gifts go across country at this point, so I can have things shipped directly to them, saving me a trip to the post office later on this month.

I didn’t always used to feel this way. My family would get up and be there when the store opened (back when opening at 8am was really early!) I remember one year in particular when my dad was recovering from hip surgery. We took advantage of his disabled parking permit, wheeled him around the mall in his wheelchair, and piled our packages on him as we purchased our gifts! It was really kind of fun.

I think it was the Christmas in 2000 that I discovered the beauty of shopping on the Internet! I was hooked. What did I ever do before Amazon.com? It is by far my favorite shopping site. I can get books, music, and movies, sure, but I also get my dog supplies there, dishes for my household, and variety of other things. It’s amazing. And, with free shipping over $25, there’s no reason not to use them!

So as we descend into the shopping frenzy that is December, I avoid the malls, mute the commercials on TV, and try to find gifts for my family and friends that truly show how I feel about them. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I’ll talk about shopping next week but today I want to explain why I love Thanksgiving.  My reasons for loving this holiday are the same as most people in this world. This is the holiday where I get to just relax with family and eat good food. We never seem to have the crazy family drama you see in movies or hear about on TV. It really is a time for us to gather together and catch up.It’s even better because there’s no extra work involved at least not on my end. I just need to arrive at my Aunt and Uncle’s house prepared to eat all the goodies laid out for the day. My family’s Thanksgiving traditions have morphed over the years due to changes that inevitably happen in people’s lives. The holiday has always been celebrated in New Jersey with my mom’s side of the family (except for that one year my mom was on call at the hospital and we hosted Thanksgiving here but I digress).

When I was younger we went to my grandparents house down the shore (yes the shore). The adults gathered around the huge dining room table and us kids (4 of us) would be at a card table off to the side. After dinner, some folks would sit and watch football others would be off playing while others cleaned up; I think. My memory of exact events are fairly fuzzy since we’re talking single digit ages. When I was 10, my grandmother passed away and with that a new Thanksgiving tradition was adopted.

Thanksgiving moved from the shore to Mount Holly, NJ with my Aunt Nora and Uncle Walt. My Uncle Walt was actually my grandfather’s cousin but they grew up together and were like brothers so Uncle he is and always shall be. The house in Mount Holly was a beautiful old house from the 1800s? I think. We’d arrive and there was always a fire going in the fire place. Uncle Walt had MS so he’d be parked near the fire in his wheel chair excited to have everyone coming over and Aunt Nora was busy in the kitchen. The house in Mount Holly had no TV this made for some of the best Thanksgivings over the years. Everyone sat in the living room and talked. Uncle Walt would share stories from his travels over the years. Aunt Nora would discuss adventures from England (where she was from). The whole family would catch up on events from the past year. They didn’t have a big dining room table like Grandmom and Pop pop’s house so we filled our plates buffet style and would either sit at the small table tucked in a corner of the living room or off tray tables. We were all still in the same room by the fireplace and would continue chatting. Even though all we had to pass the time with just each other’s company and conversation these dinners always flew by. As the years went on Uncle Walt had complications from his MS and it became too much for Aunt Nora to host everyone at the house. My Uncle Walt has since passed away and Aunt Nora moved back to England. She’s sold the house in Mount Holly but I will always have a special place in my heart for it and the family gatherings we had there.

Ever since then, we have Thanksgiving at my Aunt Bobby & Uncle Bob’s house outside of Trenton, NJ. The house was originally built around 1900 and my Aunt and Uncle put a bunch of money into fixing it up. It’s another beautiful house. We don’t talk around the fire like at Uncle Walt’s house but I love Thanksgiving there just the same. They have a huge TV so football games are not missed and always on. My Uncle Bob is the chef. He enjoys doing the cooking and creating fantastic food for us. The holiday here is always relatively laid back and relaxing. We have to split up between two tables because being an old house there isn’t a room that can hold a table large enough for all of us. We all catch up at some point over dinner, or football, or investigating what wonderful things my Uncle is cooking up. Inevitably after dinner my mom and her sister end up in the kitchen talking shop since they are both operating room nurses. At some point in the evening, my cousin’s husband will ask me when I’m going to find myself a guy and have some kids.  This is the only stressful point of the whole holiday for me. It reminds me that I’m single and I don’t need reminders. Fortunately, my other cousin is also not married and still living at home so the issue isn’t pressed that much and we can move on to other topics like football. Every other year we’ll depart from my Aunt and Uncle’s house and meet up with my sister at her in-laws for a second round of desserts. It’s like a little encore Thanksgiving after the main meal. These are always good visits that make the holiday that much better.

Our Thanksgiving’s have changed a lot over the years but I’ve loved every version of the holiday. They’ve all been different in their way but no matter what, they were a great time for the family to get together and catch up over a fantastic meal. How can you not love that?

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In Memoriam: Thanksgiving

Am I the only person that remembers the quaint holiday of Thanksgiving? You might recall that it’s the day most people have off from work between Halloween and Christmas. The one that doesn’t require presents or costumes?….Still doesn’t jog your memory? Ummm….it’s the day before Black Friday? Remember? …There it is! I knew you’d get it.

I feel increasingly bad for Thanksgiving (you may recall from a previous post that I have an issue with actualizing inanimate objects and concepts). Ever since people started stringing up lights and going all out in decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving has increasingly gotten the shaft. I guess it just can’t compete with the costumes and candy of Halloween or the presents and lights of Christmas.

In my mind, Thanksgiving is the ideal holiday. It’s one of the few left that hasn’t been overly commercialized. You don’t have to worry about presents or spiffing up the house with decorations. You don’t have kids ringing your doorbell all night looking for candy. Unless you’re the one cooking the dinner, all you really have to do is show up somewhere, eat, drink and be merry. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Then there are the leftovers….pumpkin pie for breakfast, turkey sandwich for lunch and a second go around of turkey and all the fixings for dinner. Excellent.

I also think that Thanksgiving is a holiday where people are the most real. No one’s trying to fake that they really like that ugly sweater they just received and no one feels forced to go to a religious service. Thanksgiving gives us a time to relax with one another, catch up, maybe watch some football or play a pickup game. In any case, of all the holidays, I think Thanksgiving is most about togetherness (yes, I’m sure many of you have Thanksgiving horror stories and I’m probably being overly simplistic and naïve, but I’m feeling sentimental and warm-hearted toward Thanksgiving right now so just work with me here).

Poor Thanksgiving. No one appreciates it anymore. Everyone is just rushing to get to Christmas. I’ve even heard some stores (Sears, I think?) that will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Really? Is it too much to ask to have one day where Christmas and the need to shop and buy the perfect gift is not shoved down our throats? Well I am not jumping on that bandwagon! I plan to give Thanksgiving its proper due. Until the day after Thanksgiving, I will scoff at people who already have their houses decorated for Christmas; scowl at the Macy’s Christmas windows and tree on my way to work; mute the TV commercials advertising Christmas specials; and shake my fist at those festive red Starbucks cups. After Thanksgiving, I’ll be as jolly as a fat elf drunk on eggnog, but not a moment before. Long Live Thanksgiving!

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Braaaaaiinns!

I am Dr. Dee Mented.  I float across the water on wafts of fog.  I am covered in the spatter of my victims’ blood.  And I am after your brain.

At least I was on Saturday night.

Now, unfortunately, I’ve returned to normal life, a non-flesh eating existence in Boston.  Less dangerous, sure, but WAY more boring.

As someone whose wardrobe teeters between super-boring and only somewhat boring, Halloween is a time to push the edges of propriety and get noticed.  I don’t much go in for the slutty nurse/witch look, but I do like to do some crazy makeup and find other ways to stand out.  Halloween gives me an excuse to act the way I think: crazy, funny, absurd and sometimes mean.  If I claw at someone’s eyes when I’m dressed as a zombie, then, well, who can blame me?  But if I do that on the subway, well, then they call security.

This year, I was part of a herd (group? team? pride?) of zombies at a party in Tennessee.  We took a pontoon boat to Bubba Brews, a dockside bar, then spent the evening having our photos taken by other partygoers, dancing, eating and drinking (beer, not blood).

Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until next year to run, bloodless, through the streets and/or waterways of the nation yet again.

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