Category Archives: Winter Holidays

The Joys of Being Single During the Holidays

Fatal Attraction Opera Night

It’s that time of year when singles of all ages and backgrounds lament about being alone.  It’s holiday time, right?  People tend to couple up and cuddle or enjoy family traditions. For many folks one tradition is being asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”

(My family never asks this, by the way, as if such an idea is just crazy talk.)

But there are things that are really cool about not having a significant other during the holidays.

Here comes a list.

  1. No splitting holidays!

How many have done the — “Okay, we’ll spend Christmas Eve with your parents, Christmas Day at my Grandma’s and Christmas dinner at your sister’s.

Or this year we’ll go to your family and next year we’ll visit mine — as if your respective families have some sort of court ordered visitation schedule forced upon you. Children of divorce have been during this for years.  Once you are half of a grown up couple, you’ll find yourself doing it again.

Single?  You can sit at your own mom’s house — or your own damn house.

“I ain’t going nowhere.”

The Holiday

Cameron Diaz, home for the night in “The Holiday”

2.  Less Gifts To Buy

AKA save your money for something for yourself, charity, or pay off credit card debt you racked up when you had a honey to buy for, his/her family to buy for and back when you bought all the crap to make you look good 24/7.  It makes sound financial sense to be single, particularly from Black Friday until right after President’s Day.

The money blogs tend not to encourage break ups, but they should, and say:

Ways to build wealth:

First, cut up your credit cards,

Second, cut loose your BAE.

(Yes, I said BAE, I’ll show myself out.)

3.  Less Gifts to Receive

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

From What Ever Happened to Baby Jane

I’ve gotten some bad ones.  When I was only a mere 19 year old a future brother-in-law gave us a gift card — to a hotel!

A HOTEL GIFT CARD AS A CHRISTMAS GIFT TO BE OPENED IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE FAMILY!

(awkward)

And then there was a time when slim, young,and I thought pretty damn cute me was given a pink nylon track suit.

The kind you see worn in nursing homes.

Wait, what?   Have you seen me?  I mean I’ve never been a slave to fashion, but I’m not completely devoid of  .. of . . .giving a shit what I look like!  C’mon, now!  

And then I had to find a way never to wear it, or claim that it didn’t fit and return it.  (I believe I returned it, although it was clearly a one size fits all situation.)  And I still had to endure the disapproving looks from my husband.

humbug

Later on my my marriage we used to go to a white elephant Christmas party where everyone brought ugly, useless, yet nicely wrapped gifts to exchange for laughs.  I had a seemingly endless supply of tacky items that had actually been given to me — lighted moving flowers in plastic cases — that was a crowd favorite.

Anyway, when you’re single you get less —- crap.

4.  Your decor, or lack thereof,is your own

 

Christmas vacation

It doesn’t matter if somebody is allergic to real trees.  You can get one.  It doesn’t matter if you’d rather hang lights on your potted plant or toilet.  It doesn’t matter if you would prefer not to decorate anything at all.  It doesn’t matter if a lapsed Baptist girl wants a Menorah.  You don’t have to start or maintain anyone else’s traditions or preferences. It’s all you, baby.

5.  No work party discomfort

You don’t have to convince a significant other to go, and  you don’t have to explain why your significant other is not there with you (“He’s working tonight.” This was my favorite work party lie.)  But when you are single, you can show up on your schedule, make the rounds and leave whenever you damn well please. (All the big stars leave early.  Look at the talk shows.)

1 dustin_kramer1

Or, if you’re having fun you can stay until the bitter end without having your date do the raised eyebrow, tap the invisible watch, shoulder shrug combo which means,“You promised we wouldn’t have to stay long.  I want to go home and watch Die Hard.”

6. And the best one?   

You have no idea what things will be like next year.

1 boob graze 7509.0.570.359

Boob graze in The Holiday

Being uncoupled, you haven’t promised to honor the same — time-sharing, lame gift giving and receiving, fake tree, awkward party-duty, 24 hours of A Christmas Story — Christmas simply because that’s what you did with your partner last year, and every year.

Nope. You’re free.

Next year, you might try something different.

Next year, you might be someone different.

Next year, you might be with someone new, or not (remember to consider cleaning house mid-November, your bank account will thank you).

The possibilities are endless.

Just Me With . . . no one. And that’s alright with me.

See also Annual Holiday Christmas Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I Won’t Do Gift Cards for Teens This Year

1 Gift Cards

I know how it happens, that little kid people have been buying gifts for over the years, and who used to jump up and down at a stuffed animal or fire truck or blocks or books, hits the double digits age.  Adults know, from experience, that it is difficult to buy for teens and tweens, that they are probably chasing ever changing trends of which the non-parent is unaware, or that they have particular tastes that are as fiercely adhered to as some fundamental religions, “But I don’t like that.  No one wears that.

In the old days when adults got tired of trying to figure out what the kid will actually like an Aunt or Uncle would get one of those cool money cards and put cold hard cash in it for youngin’ to, “Buy yourself something.”  No further instructions necessary.  Now, when adults transition from giving the nicely wrapped and thoughtful shopped-for gifts, they skip the cash and pick up a gift card at the mall, or grocery store, or convenience store or almost anywhere these days, for a store that they’ve heard that teens like.

But I’m over it.

Here are the reasons why I will not give gift cards anymore, and why I will ask my loved ones not to give gift cards to my kids this holiday season.

Disclaimer: There may be some kids who do not have the issues I’m going to talk about below.  My decision is based on what I’ve seen my kids and some of their friends do.

  1. They  Don’t Use the Cards

The gift cards are sometimes not used for weeks, months, years, or not at all.  Kids collect them, forget about them, take months to decide what to do with them, or lose them.  Your hard earned money is doing nothing, except contributing to the bottom line of the store.

2.  They  Teach Kids to Spend Money Only at Expensive, Specialty Stores. 

You are telling a kid that they must go into a certain store and buy something only from that store.  And if they don’t have enough on their gift card, they have to find some way to make up the difference — Mom?  This is all to buy a sweater that might cost $60.

Why, I ask you, are we encouraging kids — minors with no jobs — to buy a $60 sweater?  Why are we normalizing it?

Because it benefits the stores.

It gets the kids in the stores where they play all the cool music (my sister calls it jeans-buying music) and then they want to come back.  And, because many of these cards can be bought elsewhere, adults might not know that their $25 dollar gift card merely gives the kid a discount on a $60 sweater.

And even if the kids would consider buying elsewhere,  where they might find the same or similar sweater for less — they can’t — because your gift card only allows them to go to the $60 sweater store.

So, if you want them to have a $60 sweater,  buy it for them. You’ll be the favorite Aunt/Uncle and if they don’t like it, they can exchange it. But don’t get them used to buying it.  Don’t let them feel entitled to it. Don’t normalize it.

3.  Gift Cards to Discount Stores Aren’t Much Better

Giving them a card to a discount store doesn’t always help.  See number 2, the kids have already been socialized that it’s cool to buy at the other stores.  “I hate that [insert discount or department] store” and “I don’t like anything here” are words I’ve heard uttered when we are barely through the front doors.  When a kid feels that way before even looking at the stuff I guarantee they won’t find anything there and your gift card will sit unused, see Number 1.  Oddly enough, if I buy something from Marshall’s or TJMaxx and bring it home and put it in my closet, then it is suddenly wearable. They borrow it and I never see it again. (I have my own marketing tricks, thank you very much. . . heh heh heh). My girls are currently wearing two of my jackets — one from  Kohls and another that I got from a Thrift store.  But if they had a gift card to those stores it would sit unused.

The shopping experience at less expensive and more inclusive stores is quite different — there is merchandise not just for teens and gasp — they see people buying it that are not their age, or gender, or size, or their perceived economic group (teens tend to believe they are wealthy).  They refuse to do it. The gift cards to the discount stores simple tell them that they aren’t allowed shop at their favorite stores, and that makes them angry.

Snape is displeased

My girls are sitting on Target and Old Navy cards that are almost a year old now.

 

4.       It Normalizes Use of Plastic

1 Rachel Green Spending Habits

I know, I know, we are in a paperless society.  I use my credit, debit cards all the time.  It’s convenient.  But I’m grown.  And I have other bills to pay and in every job I’ve ever had I got paid in money, not plastic.  And if you look at any consumer debt article it will talk about people, largely Americans’, reliance on credit, specifically on credit cards to buy things they cannot afford.

Gift cards now look and feel just like credit cards.  If that’s all your kid gets for birthdays or Christmas, he or she will start to normalize paying for things with plastic and without thinking  about how much they spent, or what they are spending this money on. Instead, if they think at all, they ponder only,

“Do I have room on this card?”

Scary.  This is not something kids should be conditioned to think.

When this kid is finally old enough to get a real credit card — and at stores they can get them at 18 years old, they have shopped for years with plastic without consequence.  A recipe for disaster.

You have to learn how to manage money before you learn how to manage debt.  Gift cards train kids to manage plastic.

Notably, people who have debt or spending problems are often  encouraged to use cash exclusively even just as an exercise for a defined amount of time.  This is so that they see where their money goes and it is obvious when it’s gone.  I’ve also heard that people tend to spend less and more thoughtfully when they use cash and have to see it dwindle away.  I think teens should be encouraged to spend with cash, just like the credit-challenged — so they have a visual of their spending habits — and limitations.

5.  Gift Cards Discourage Saving

1 Harry Potter Bank

Banks become something that only appear in fantasy books and movies.

When you give that store gift card, the kid is unable to put money away for a rainy day, or plan to work to add to it in order to buy that big ticket item that is so important to him/her but that is only sold at a different store, or available on Craigslist or eBay.

In this sad economy the kid might only make a penny in interest if the money sits in a bank.  But the gift cards?  They make nothing at all and some even lose their value over time.  And, again, see Number 1.  They might sit unused or lost.

6.  Gift Cards Take Away Spending Ability and Decisions

1 mad money

Okay, this was stolen money in Mad Money, but still, they could decide how to spend it.

If the kid has gotten a handful of great store gift cards at Christmas and then their friends call them and ask if they want to go to the movies, or out to eat or — gag me — Starbucks — (again, the prices and marketing of Starbucks to people without jobs is a topic for another post), this kid has no money to do so.  Then it’s all, “Mom, can I have $20?” while they are sitting on $200 worth of gift cards.  Whether or not Mom or Dad pony up the money, the kid can’t pay his or her own way.

So what happens is, kids believe they are entitled to use or hoard their gift cards on speciality items of their choice and without regard to price, but all other expenses they incur are the obligation of parents.

Huh.

Or, more importantly, the kid is not able to designate it for use toward a wonderful experience they hope to do — something small like being able to go to a game and buy food at the snack bar with friends or something big, like saving for that trip to Italy that is offered at the school.  And, they can’t donate to charity or use any part of it to buy a gift for someone else.

Sure, if they received an actual gift they couldn’t put it in the bank, but they wouldn’t be told to shop without thought, either.

7.  Visa/Mastercard Gift Cards Aren’t Much Better Either

See number 1 (they often aren’t used). See Number 4 (kids are encouraged to buy things with a credit card).  See Number 5, they can’t save it, See number 6, though it gives them more spending decisions, they still can’t use it at a fair, or to buy something they are selling at school as a fundraiser or at a snack bar, and they probably can’t decide to use the money to pay for something themselves — like their prom tickets.

Plus, you’ve paid a fee of $4 or $5 dollars that goes to the company.  This is for the privilege of giving a gift of plastic to a kid.  Wouldn’t you rather give the full $30 to the kid rather than a $25 gift card plus a $4 surcharge to the company?

8.  Giving Cash is Not Tacky

There are times when giving cash is a no-no — to a date, to a judge, to a addict.  But to a kid?  It’s perfectly okay. As I said in the beginning, this was the norm for years — Uncle Ben would hand out money envelopes.  Grandpa would sneak a kid a $10.  But that changed. I believe it was just a marketing thing. The stores want us to think we shouldn’t do it, and that the kids would rather get a $25 gift card to a store than $25 in cash.   But see 1 and 2, that benefits the stores.  When we have been convinced that giving cash is bad, but giving a gift card for the same amount is somehow better, we have directed business right where they want it — in their store. And, with their jeans-buying music and slick ads with gorgeous, young, thin models, they have created a loyalty to that store. If we gave cash, the kid could shop whereever he or she wants — even unwisely, or save, or use it for spending money.

 

9. Giving a Gift Card to a Store That Is Beyond Their Parents’ Means Can Cause Problems

1 Tiffany

Think about that.  Using extremes, say you give a kid a gift card to a Luis Vuitton store.  He/she buys some beautiful leather expensive thing. Loves the store, the service, how special he/she felt going in, the looks of approval when he/she carries the real LV bag.  You’ve now trained a kid to only want real designer items, that may cost as much as her parents car and mortgage payments combined.  But the kid doesn’t appreciate how much the thing costs, and when they need a new backpack or wallet, they aren’t going to want to go to Target or Marshalls, because they’ve now been trained, socialized to buy new designer items in specialty stores. This, even though they have no job and they are items that their parents could not or would not buy for them — or even for themselves.

It works the same with the $60 sweater from the trendy store.  Let the kids save, combine cash they have received as a gift or earned babysitting and buy that sweater if they so choose, but don’t make them buy it, don’t train them to buy it, especially if it’s something their parents cannot afford.   Teaching them that it is perfectly normal to to buy a  $60 sweater when her parents can’t afford such items, or who have debt problems of their own, is kind of unfair.  The next time the kid needs a new shirt, they will only want to shop at the designer stores, and it’s the parents that have to say no.

If you want to give an expensive, special present, please just buy the gift. Don’t gift the “shopping experience” that the parent cannot sustain.

 

10.  A Word about Victoria’s Secret

1 The Social Network

Love this scene from The Social Network when Sean Parker explains that Victoria’s Secret grew from a man wanting to buy his wife some thigh highs.

Yes, the catalog has clothes.  And some clothes are in stores.  And they have very nice $60 bras that go on sale twice a year.  And they have cute underwear and $75 bottles of perfume and also have the $10 lip gloss, and key chains, and body spray, etc. But unless you are comfortable with a 12 year old girl combing through panty bins looking through bejewelled thongs, crotchless or furred panties alongside grown ass women and sometimes men, you might want to skip sending a kid to that store. One of my daughters got a Victoria’s Secret Gift Card and I told her to to wait until the sale to use it.  When she saw all the people digging through the bins of panties (all types of panties thrown in together — the regular ones and the sex clothes)  she said, “This makes me uncomfortable,” and left the store.   We ended up quickly buying perfume just to use the gift card. Of course, I have other daughters who got used to buying in there with their gift cards and don’t want to even look anywhere else. Sigh.

Call me old fashioned, but I think that when a woman is at a point in life when she needs or wants to buy sexy lingerie,  she should be old enough to pay for it herself, not with a gift card from Uncle Bob.

In addition, somehow, the brilliant marketing people at Victoria’s Secret have convinced teen girls that paying twice as much for a T-shirt or sweatshirt that says PINK than they would for a T-shirt or sweatshirt that says literally anything else is perfectly normal.

Perhaps as adults, we shouldn’t encourage that.

I’ve decided that if I’m going to purchase an expensive sweatshirt or hoodie for my kids, it will be one with a college name or their high school spiritwear.  The girls really like them also, and the inflated price is at least going to a good cause. Plus the girls are advertising something meaningful, rather than simply the word “PINK,” a brand for Victoria’s Secret.

Just to be clear . . .

I don’t mean to sound preachy, this is from experience. I’m frustrated.

I’m so tired of my kids not appreciating the cost of items, or their gifts, that a splurge is a splurge or special gift, not an entitlement, and that if someone thought enough of them to give them a gift card, they should use it.  I’m tired of my kids complaining that they don’t have any clothes or money and asking me to buy them something, yet refusing to use their Target, Old Navy, or Macy’s Gift Cards because they don’t like those stores. I’m tired of the Christmas lists that simply list stores that the kids like to shop in but that I can’t afford.  If they got cash they could still shop in those stores with cash, or window shop and choose to buy elsewhere.

Or, have actual presents to open on Christmas morning.

huh

 

Just Me With . . .  cold hard cash, but not enough.

And by way of full disclosure, I think all but one of my bras are from Victoria’s Secret. And I have one purple shirt that says, PINK, inexplicably.  But I’m grown and know how to shop for sales, and, in past years have used gift cards to purchase my goodies.  About two years ago I asked my family not to give them to me anymore.  And I no longer wear the PINK tee.  I do, however, wear t-shirts with my son’s college name on it and the names of my daughters’ championship sports teams.

1 High School Musical Wildcats

From High School Musical — Go Wildcats!

Related:

Keeping It Simple At Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping it Simple at Christmas

Miracle on 34th Street

I was listening to some radio show where they asked a  little girl what she wanted for Christmas.  She said, “A stuffed animal.” She said Santa could choose what kind.  When asked if she wanted anything else, she added, “Chapstick.”

With all the ads and shopping frenzy it occurred to me that it’s easy to ignore the actual requests of children  — and adults.   Despite the elaborate Barbie houses and race car sets and “i” everything and “e” readers and bright lights and touch screens, sometimes it’s the simple things that matter.  Now I’m not perfect.  There have been times when I’ve over indulged my children and there have been times when my children were sorely disappointed, but here’s a list of some of the simple  things that brought joy:

1.  Goggles.  One year when my daughter was little all she asked for was goggles.  I guess Santa went to Home Depot, because a $2 pair of plastic work goggles appeared on Christmas morning and the girl was ecstatic.

Safety First, Safety Last, Safety Goggles for Christmas

2.  Stuffed Animal.  My kid was just like the girl on the radio, except she was older,  maybe eleven years old, right on the edge of the electronic appetite.  But she has always loved to cuddle with soft stuffed things.  Still does, even in her advancing teen years.  The stuffed bunny she received that year “lives”  in her room and she takes it with her on sleepovers and visits with her dad.

The stuffed animal, a classic.

3.  Nothing.   Babies are simple creatures.  They like to look at bright lights.  When they are older they play with boxes.  Except for maybe purchasing something they may have needed anyway (a new teether or sleepers), babies don’t need anything for Christmas except someone to show them the pretty lights and sing to them.  Sometimes I would ball up pieces of wrapping paper and toss it to the babies (under supervision of course, can’t let the little angels eat paper) and the babies would be occupied trying to pick up the strange, shiny ball.

4.  Etch-a-Sketch.   Low-tech.  Gender-neutral.  Hours of fun.  Needs no insurance.  When it breaks (and it will) it will have served its purpose and you can replace it, or not.

Etch A Sketch

5. Coupon for Playing a Video Game with My Son.  Okay, so this one hurt a bit.  But it cost me nothing, except for maybe a couple of Tylenol.  I’m not a gamer.  I do a lot of activities with my kids, but gaming, at least the warfare type, has never been my cup of tea.   But one Christmas I gave him a coupon promising an hour of video game time with me.  I broke it up in two segments.  It was horrible.  I’m horrible.  I tried to do my best, but I shot at the ground, repeatedly.   He took great joy in this.   But bonus?   He doesn’t ask me to play anymore.  On occasion I’ll him ask if I can play and I get the response,

“No, Mom, no.”

I am not a gamer.

6.  A lock box.  This wasn’t for my kids, it was for another relative.  He was twenty something and had mentioned in passing that he always wanted a safe.  I think he was recently out of college at the time and literally had nothing of value to protect, but I guess he had some personal items, because when he opened that fireproof lockbox safe ($19.99) he  laughed broadly and exclaimed,

“I always wanted one of these!”   At six feet five inches tall, he was like a big little kid.

“Thank you!”   He continued to smile as he examined his box with the same look of joy and amazement he used to have when opening a new Lego set.

I don’t want to know what he keeps in that box.

Lock Box

Just Me With . . . thoughts on keeping it simple.

There have been others, but I’m trying to keep this simple, and short.

Other holiday related posts:

Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.

Time Management,  Procrastination, Holiday Shopping and Moving — Some things will take exactly as much time as you allot to them.

The Annual Christmas Party — At Least I Wasn’t Insulted This Year —  Unfortunate comment.

All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.

A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise —  You never know the impact people have on each other.

My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind Of  — Thanksgiving my my house, without my kids.

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure  — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.

My First Grown Up Thanksgiving —- Kind of

The Thanksgiving Feast

Well, I did it.  I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in my own house for my parents.  It was just the three of us.  The children were with their father.

Since my marriage ended years ago it has been our practice for the children to be with my ex-husband for Thanksgiving and with me for Christmas.  See, All I Want For Christmas is My Kids.  So, I’ve been kid-less for many Thanksgivings.  I’ve spent a couple of Thanksgivings with my best friend and her large, extended, ethnic family.   They are very nice and welcoming and I had a good enough time, but it started to feel weird being alone with someone else’s family.   Two years ago I did absolutely nothing (I think, I can’t remember).  Last year I went out for Thanksgiving dinner with my parents.   We didn’t go to a really nice or fancy restaurant, more like a diner, a nice diner, but a diner, nonetheless.  The food was okay, but I found the whole scenario depressing.  There were a lot of older people, elderly people.  It smacked of a refuge for souls who had no where else to go.

So this year, I decided to stay home and cook dinner at my own damn house.  I decided this on Monday, declining my mother’s offer to have  Thanksgiving at their house. That can be (has been) depressing as well, going “home” for Thanksgiving, completely alone, feeling like a grown child, the only child who never moved away (which I count is a personal failure), knowing my sisters are with their families at their homes, knowing that my children are with my ex-husband’s wife’s family.  Just thinking about  going to my parents for Thanksgiving felt like it was one small step above being the middle-aged single man living in his parents’ basement.

No, I have a home, I reasoned, and even though the children wouldn’t be there,  I decided that I would serve Thanksgiving dinner to my parents. Plus, it’ll give them a break.

I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinner before, but that was in The Big House (formerly the marital home) for my (now Ex) in-laws.  This was different.  This is my home, alone (except for the bank).  My little home that gets very few visitors, despite its extreme makeover.  My little home to which some of my kids are too embarrassed to bring their wealthy friends.  My little home which has a very nice, slammin’ new kitchen.

So I cooked, for me, for my parents.  Cooking does not give me any joy.  See Confessions of a Skinny Mom.   Still, it was so much less awkward than being at the restaurant.  My Mom and Dad ate my food; they were appreciative, and it was good.  And though my long-married parents have a tendency to bicker (huge understatement), today they did not.  I can’t help to think that it was the locale of the dinner.  Had they been at their own home, they would have fought.

George, between his parents on Seinfeld.

In some ways it was my first grown up Thanksgiving, because it was my home, and more importantly, my decision, as opposed to just figuring out how to pass the time while the kids are gone or making sure my parents have somewhere to eat (or, in the old days, doing time with the in-laws).  Now I’ve christened my house as our family home.  It only took three years.

Weird that my first Thanksgiving dinner in my own house did not include my children, but at least they know that holidays can happen here in our new house  home.

Just Me With . . . leftover Turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and something crossed on my bucket list that I didn’t even know was there.

Time Management, Procrastination, Holiday Shopping and Moving

I have a theory.  Some tasks will take as much or as little time as you put aside to do them.  I apply this theory to two things:  packing for a move and Holiday shopping.

Packing for a Move

When Carrie Was Preparing to Move, Sex and The City

The Early Packer: 

If a person is planning a move, he or she can start packing six months before.    When the move date arrives, packing will be almost complete, boxes will be labeled and stacked and moving will commence.  You’ll get out on the date you are supposed to, you’ll move in on the date you’re allowed to.

The Last Minute Move:

Dealing with the same move out date, a person can start three weeks,  2 weeks or days before and the move will be the same.  You’ll get out, you’ll get in.  It might not be as pretty, might add serious stress, but if you have to get out by a certain date, you have to get out by a certain date. Stuff will get thrown on a truck, in your car, in the trash, on the curb, but you’ll be out.  And when you arrive at the new digs you get to open boxes and bags and see what you actually brought with you.

In either scenario,  there are always things that you simply cannot pack too early — the everyday items you need to function.  Consequently, some last-minute packing is inevitable.   Yes, plan and organize.  Throw stuff out so you have less to pack and move, but don’t force a six month packing plan, unless you actually enjoy packing and want to pack for six months.  If not, it’ll get done, because it has to.  You won’t have the luxury of making agonizing decisions about what to keep, what to move.  You won’t live with boxes before you move and after you move.  You won’t have time to purchase endless containers and organizing materials.  You’ll probably have a lot less to organize and you may take less crap with you.  Of course, you may also discover that you threw a bunch of trash into a box and moved it, but you will have still moved.

Holiday Shopping

The Early Shopper:

We all know someone who gets all their shopping done by Thanksgiving and they seem so smug and relaxed.  Often, we see or hear of that same person shopping in December, catching a sale, exchanging one gift for another for a better deal or because the recipient bought it for him/herself before Christmas.   My point is that starting early doesn’t necessarily mean you are done.

Starting early does mean you’ll likely shop longer.    If you start in August, you will shop from August to December 24th.  Even if you think you’re finished, there will be a sale, or you’ll find something perfect for someone or you’ll remember someone you should buy a gift for, or you’ll shop for yourself, etc.  So you’ll still be shopping one way or another until December 24th.   It that’s your thing, go for it.  But the retail establishments know that the sooner you start, the more you buy, this is why Black Friday sales now start before Thanksgiving and stores open at midnight.  Cha-Ching!!

The “Last Minute” Shopper:

If you start the second week of December, it’ll still be done by December 24th.  It has to, so why stretch it out? Sales and mark downs?   Guess what, except for the ridiculous black Friday sale items you may have trouble finding and may not need, the “Holiday” sales go on right up to and often after Christmas day.  If you are indeed looking for that perfect gift that you think may be gone if you wait too long?  Well go buy  it, but don’t spend six months shopping for it, unless that’s your thing.

Christmas will come, whether you are ready or not. 

So why spend months spending? 

Why not just get what you got?

Am I preaching procrastination?

Maybe.  I’ll get back to you later, heh heh heh.  I’m not a procrastinator by nature on other things.  I was never the type of student to pull an all-nighter, I believe in daily preparedness.  However, I don’t want to pack for six months the next time I move or travel.   I don’t want to shop for six months.

It’s not so much as waiting until the last minute; rather, it’s choosing the best time to start and establishing a limited time frame in which to accomplish the tasks at hand.  (That sounds better, no?)

This is where I think all those Hoarders and Clean House type shows have it together.   They give people three days to get it all done.  What do you think would happen if you gave those people six months to clean their houses?    The clean up crew would come back every day for six months waiting for the home owner to decide whether the plastic flowers she received as a gift in 1981 have a place in her home.   No, sometimes things just have to get done.  Make a decision.  Done.

Starting early isn’t always the answer.

I probably won’t begin Christmas shopping until December 1st.   In the meantime I can do some preliminary planning,  make lists, budget, and I’ll figure out the last day I can order something online for it to arrive on time without paying extra shipping.

Then I will shop.  No, I will buy.  I won’t have the luxury to shop.  I’m traveling for Christmas so I’ll have to be finished by December 21st anyway.  It’s like a move out date.

It’ll get done.  It has to.

I’m okay with that.

Just Me With . . .  a strategy deeply rooted in procrastination and efficiency.  

Caveat:   Do not apply this theory to academics or work or personal life.  It could result in  — bad things.

Phew!  I actually started this in 2011 but I got busy with the holidays and never finished.  Ha!

Other holiday related posts:

Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.

Keeping It Simple At Christmas — People don’t always need the bells and whistles.

The Annual Christmas Party — At Least I Wasn’t Insulted This Year —  Unfortunate comment.

All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.

A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise —  You never know the impact people have on each other.

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure  — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.

My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind Of  — Thanksgiving at my house, without my kids.

 

The Annual Holiday Party — At Least I Wasn’t Insulted This Year

Over the weekend I went to an annual holiday party given by  friends from my old neighborhood.  It was nice, uneventful and   “Met Expectations”   which is very significant, at least compared to last year.

I expected to be the only uncoupled, hell, the only unmarried person there.  Yup.  These were many of the same people  I saw when “I  Went To A Wedding Alone” and was seated with four other couples.   The party was hosted by  the very cool woman who had been there for me “When I Needed a Helping Hand,”  and her husband, my former “Go-To Guy.”  Good people.

As expected, I got the same inquiries about the kids, the new house (though I’ve been there for two years now),  how the “new” neighborhood is, work, career, how I spend my time, etc.  No questions about whether I’m seeing anyone.   I hardly ever get that question.  What’s up with that?    But I digress.   That is a topic for another post.

What was different this year was that I was ready for the whole scene.  I expected the questions and the topics of conversations that really did not apply to me and to which I could not relate.  I had my stock responses. I came to the realization that this is how it will be with these folks as a group, people  from a past life.

It was a step up from last year.

At this same party last year, I found myself chatting with two very different women.  One  is a true, down-to-earth angel who has been such a  huge help and selfless friend in my time of need and thereafter.  She was the mother of the bride when “I Went To A Wedding Alone.”   The other  woman is the wife of my old boss.  SeeRiding With My Boss.”  This woman, who I’ll call Ellen BlueBlood,  has been a long-time acquaintance, but never a good friend, we never really clicked.   She always seemed a bit snobbish to me.  Ellen BlueBlood was going on and on about her University graduated daughter who was doing all of these wonderful things, being offered all of these fabulous opportunities, she was becoming such of special woman of substance, blah, blah, blah.    It was ridiculous, really.  Then the topic turned to  the daughter’s boyfriend.   This was infinitely more interesting to me, it had to be better than hearing the enhanced overview of her resume.

Ellen BlueBlood, however, was not impressed with her daughter’s boyfriend.   She slowed her speech, shook her head, sighed.   I don’t know if she clucked her tongue but she might as well have.

As if this universally summed up the reasons for her distaste of this young man, she said,

“His parents are divorced.   We don’t like that.”

It just hung there. It just hung there like a fart.

My angel friend, intimately aware of the  toll that the  end of my marriage  took on my family,  knew that this was just a stupid thing  for Ellen to say — in front of anyone,   let alone me.   I don’t  remember exactly what my angel friend said,  but she tried to correct and diffuse the  sheer stupidity and insensitivity of  Ellen BlueBlood’s remark.   It didn’t work.   Mrs. BlueBlood didn’t get it.  It went right over her head.   She went on to discuss the boyfriend and made truly legitimate complaints about him — i.e. he tried to break up with her daughter at a funeral.   Yeah, she should have led with that.  Now that’s a good reason to dislike the boy.

I said nothing.  At the time,   Ellen BlueBlood’s stupid comment hit hard.  I was already feeling so vulnerable, being single at a party for couples, and  embarrassed that everyone in the room knew of my troubles, etc.  But then, having to hear such hurtful stupidity,  and suddenly realizing she might not be the only person in the world who feels that way, . . .  wondering whether some idiot  will unfairly judge my children because of my failed marriage —  well,  her comment, as I said, hit me hard — last year.

But this year,  when the same woman went on and on about her daughter’s international travels and appointments, blah, blah, blah.  I was just  bored.

Okay, maybe part of me hopes her daughter shacks up with a truck driving, gun rack mounted, sleeve tattooed, home-made cigarette smoking, tooth challenged, GED failing and criminal record having, good old boy named Bubba, — that is, until Bubba kicks her out  of the trailer and she ends up with an unemployed, black as night rebound guy, who is a  multiple baby mama having, “Up and Coming” Rapper chasing a record deal,  whose grandmother  raised him (of course),  yet she is ten years younger than Ellen BlueBlood and cleans her office at night.  Maybe part of me would enjoy that. I mean, really, if  Ellen BlueBlood is scared of a stereotype, let’s give her a boatload of the really offensive ones, right?   Yeah,  I’m human— and perhaps a little evil.  heh heh heh.  

And oh snap, Ellen BlueBlood also has a son– a less accomplished  son attending a second-tier  (oh, the horror) college.     Hmmm.   Maybe I should hit that.  Ha!    But I digress.

In the end, this year’s party was uneventful.  I deserve that.   My realistic  expectations were met, nod to my fellow Tweeter   @blogginglily who described it as such.  Unlike last year, no one insulted me (to my face) and I was– if not entirely comfortable–  at least accepting of being with this group of couples.  Bonus, since it was a white elephant Christmas gift exchange party, I got  a present:

We  all thought it was a candle holder, but a smart Tweeter @TX_Lisa pointed out that the side candles would drip and suggested instead  that it might be  a vase.   So yeah, the party  “met expectations”  and I got a scary, hideous, slightly pornographic vase.     Not too shabby.

Just Me With . . . the ugliest vase ever . . . and  expectations met.    

Hmmmm, I wonder when  Ellen BlueBlood’s boy gets home from college for the holidays . . .

(And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?   Ha!

Other holiday related posts:

Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.

Time Management,  Procrastination, Holiday Shopping and Moving — Some things will take exactly as much time as you allot to them.

All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.

A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise —  You never know the impact people have on each other.

Keeping It Simple At Christmas — Bells and whistles are not always required.

My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind of  — Thanksgiving in my house, without my kids

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure  — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.

Blowing Off The Holidays

My daughter recently asked me if she could fake being sick to get out of spending Thanksgiving with her Dad’s new wife’s family.   Of course I said no.    She’s a kid, and basically she has to go with the grown-ups.   But it got me to thinking.   For an adult, who, for whatever reason, wants out  but doesn’t want to offend,  here are some excuses to use to get out of the holiday dinner.

1.  Fake illness.

Yes, my daughter is a genius.   A stomach virus works best, because no one wants the prospect of developing diarrhea after sharing a big meal with you.   But food poisoning is  perfect —  it only lasts 24 hours, so when you show up at the stores on Black Friday after having skipped Thanksgiving with the family, you won’t be “outed.”  Ladies, just don’t use blush the next day.  You’ve got to look a bit pale when seen in public again.

2.  I have to study.

Students, you are very, very lucky, you’ve got a built-in excuse.  The higher the education, the easier it is to use.  When I was in law school,  all I had to say was — exams.  People pretty much left me alone.   I would imagine a simple word like “dissertation” would send people backing slowly out of the room.   I used the “exams” excuse once.  Actually,  it was true,  and effective. I ate a convenience store turkey sandwich and studied at home alone.  Very relaxing, and productive.

3.  Fake or exaggerate your child’s illness.

Okay, this one seems creepy, but even if your kid is on the mend with barely a sniffle, you could rock the “I don’t want to expose him/her to everybody,” excuse.  Then you sit home, watch movies and cuddle.  Again, very relaxing.

4.  Pick a fight with your significant other.

You really have to want to skip the dinner to do this, but let’s face it, we probably all know how to do it.   Then, tell him/her to figure out what to say because “I’m not going.”   The offended significant other can consult this same list.  Bonus,  your significant other may bring you back a plate.

5.  For those expected to travel, say you just can’t afford it this year.

It’s tough out there.   You can’t afford a ticket, gas, car needs repair, whatever.   You do run the risk that someone will offer to pay your way.   If that happens, carry your butt to dinner, you’ve got good peeps.

Just Me With . . . a holiday opt-out plan. 

All I Want For Christmas Is My Kids

My Ex-Husband just consented to my having the kids over Christmas break.

We do not have holidays spelled out in the Custody Order, rather,  we are supposed to work it out, so this is a big deal.  I’ve always had the kids at Christmas since our separation, he’s always had them at Thanksgiving.   This is really an extension of what happened during our marriage.   We spent Thanksgiving with his family, and Christmas with mine.   That worked for us.   In fact,  when we were together I spent Easter and  all of the  barbecue holidays (Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day) with his family.   I traded all celebrations throughout the year just to get Christmas.

Last Christmas  when I asked for the kids over Christmas break, he said fine but added that one of these years he’s going to want them at Christmas.  That scared me.  He meant it to scare me, I believe.   But then he and his wife (then girlfriend) went on a beach vacation together over the holidays.   He didn’t even spend it with his  family, something the kids noticed and openly wondered about.   “Why didn’t Daddy spend Christmas with his own family?” they asked.   (No comment.)   Last week I heard from the kids that my Ex-husband had already made Thanksgiving plans with the kids, his wife, and her extended family (again, not his family, something the kids are upset about, but again, no comment).   I hoped that this meant that he would honor our tradition of “letting” me having the kids at Christmas.    But one never knows.  There’s a new wife in town now.   Plus, my Ex can be mean.   When I had to speak to my Ex about Summer vacation plans he yelled at me for almost an hour about various unrelated crap before eventually saying, “Go on take them  for as long as you want.  I don’t care,  just let me know.”   Haven’t been feeling up for a verbal beat down like that again.

So today, when he informed me he’d be traveling for work and would miss  his visitations with the kids for the next couple of weeks, I  finally got the nerve to ask him about the holidays.   He was completely fine with it, not even a pause.   My guess is he had  already made plans with his wife anyway and/or assumed I’d take the kids regardless.   He assumes and makes plans.   I ask permission.  (Yeah, I know, I see it, I’m working on it, acknowledging his rights does not mean being a doormat, but this is a lifelong pattern of accommodation I’m dealing with  “My High School Self”. )    My Ex-Husband added that he had been planning  to tell me that  Christmas presents for the kids from him will be sparse  this year, his wife isn’t working and  he’s struggling.   (No comment.)   I’m just glad, hell, I’m freaking rejoicing in the fact  that now I can openly  discuss Christmas and that I didn’t first have to take a verbal beat down for the privilege.

Christmas with my family has a special meaning for me.   It’s not even particularly religious, and we’re not wealthy so it’s not  about the gifts.  It is, however,  usually the only time that my small but geographically  fractured family gets together.   My sisters went to college and moved hundreds of miles away from our home of origin and never moved back.   They rarely made it home for Thanksgiving, don’t always make a Summer visit, but have always made it home for Christmas, even after they married and had children of their own.   They, like me, often spent Thanksgiving, Easter and Spring Break  with their in-laws or their own homes but reserved Christmas for us.   It’s always been that way.  Perhaps it is because so many of my family members are involved in academia.   Teachers,  people who work for universities, and students  have off the week between Christmas and New Years Day and this is when they can travel and relax.  Even now, my oldest sister’s  grown children with professional careers make time and arrangements to travel cross-country  to be with their grandparents and the rest of the family at Christmas.     I know that one day someone won’t be able to make it;  I know that one year we will have lost someone.    But it is our family tradition to be together, and I look forward to it.  My kids look forward to it.    I’m just so thankful that today I know for sure  I  “have permission” to continue the tradition — to spend this Christmas with my kids, together with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and that my divorce  did not change that — this year.    What a relief.

Just Me With . . .  holiday plans.   Woo Hoo!!!!!!!