Holiday Spirit – 20% Off

The holidays are upon us again. You know what that means. Holiday shopping. The time for all good folks to go into debt in a desperate attempt to show others that they care. For me, it’s time for 2-day free shipping and packages galore. Hey, I’m not going out there!  Physically going holiday shopping any time after Thanksgiving is insane. Speaking of which, what happens to people after Thanksgiving?

Back in the day, the craziness didn’t start until Black Friday – at an ordinary time. Now, in recent years, many retailers are opening before daybreak on Black Friday, and more and more stores are opening early Thanksgiving evening and staying open through Black Friday at midnight.  Like I said, insane.  I mean, here people are, spending Thanksgiving Day with their families, expressing gratitude (one hopes) for what they have and then suddenly at 8:00 p.m., they’re overcome with the need to fight a 95 year old woman for the last Minion toy in the clearance bin at their local big-brand department store.

It’s not a lonely occupation either… these early holiday shoppers seek each other out. They run in packs. You’ll overhear them commiserating: “What time are you headed out tonight?”  And they start mapping out their line of attack at the Walmart like they’re planning a special-ops raid. “We’ll hit up the electronics section first – they’re always the first deals to go, then we’ll head over to cash in on the home décor specials before heading to the clothing section to take advantage of this 50% off no holds barred coupon I’ve got burning a hole in my pocket. Remember, stay hydrated and if we get separated, meet me over in customer service!”

Personally, I can’t figure out why anyone would voluntarily go out at raccoon hours into stores infested with people just to save a few bucks. For me, the stress alone would negate any financial gains I might possibly experience.  And really, I question whether they’re even saving a few bucks. Oh sure, that 500-inch t.v. might only cost $100 for the day, and I admit, that’s a great deal and all, but seeing as they only have the one in stock (and oh yeah, the power cord costs $3,500)… but hey, since you’re in the store anyway, how about you buy this 5-inch t.v. for $1,999.99 so you can go home and pat yourself on the back for being such a smart consumer.

Luckily, I haven’t seen or heard of any instances of mobs running over innocent retail workers or fellow shoppers yet this year. Don’t scoff. It happens. Has happened. No doubt will again happen. And while you might think you’d be hard-pressed to come up with something worse than being trampled to death in a holiday shoppers’ feeding frenzy, trust me, “worse” is out there. It’s as if common decency and consideration – not to mention simple kindness, cease to exist. Sadly, it’s rage and selfishness that seem to win the day.

Society is fucked up in so many ways (**gestures vaguely at everything**) but it can really be viewed in all of its glory on Black Friday at a congested mall, overflowing with desperate, tired people, running on espresso and aggression, just waiting to blow up at anyone who dares to cut them off in the checkout line as fights over Minion toys are occurring two aisles over and gunshots can be heard in the parking lot… the tragic final word on who should get that last parking spot.

Holiday spirit indeed.

In a Dark Wood

I wish I were better at decorating… I know there are those who can decorate on a shoestring and it comes out amazing. I’m not one of those people. I often say to myself that if I had enough money – which can seriously increase your ability to fashion a smart, trendy living space, my home would look like it belongs on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens or House Beautiful.  Of course, I’d need a house first. But still. Despite my current lack of skills, I continue to assure myself that the potential for greatness is there, somewhere.

Then, I see things like this. And I just throw up my hands and hang my head, knowing that I will never be on par with the truly gifted home decorators who view such items as “must haves.”

please… click the pic to see the seller’s page 

I mean, maybe it’s just me, but I look at this and rather than a trendy fashionable occasional table and/or casual seating, all I see is a log. A log. A. Log. A piece of tree that would ordinarily go in the fireplace or on a bonfire. A. LOG. Firewood, if you will.

So be honest. I can take it. Is it just me? I will admit that this whole interior decorating thing has me perplexed. But, it’s a log, right? Right!?

To further add to my confusion… this firewood occasional table is almost $200 (shipping not included).  Oh, it’s on sale!  Even better. 44% off to be exact. The usual price is closer to $350.  For. A. Log.

I can envision the elegant party I would have in my newly decorated home… guests milling about in their best ‘black tie’ apparel, sipping on champagne and cosmopolitans, nibbling on caviar, enjoying the glow of the fireplace while listening to the soft, ambient music piped in from above, chatting excitedly about art and philosophy, and as the evening wears on and it gets a tad bit chilly, I ask the gentleman in the top hat and tails to throw another log on the fire, he’s right there, after all, and don’t you know it? There goes my $350 occasional table… up in flames.

Kudos to whoever pitched this product idea to the decision-makers at the webstore… they’re one hell of a sales person. Bigger and more kudos to the designer for having their finger on the pulse of the lumberjack decorating movement going on out here.

As for me? Yeah, I give up. This whole interior design thing is obviously not my forte.  However, I will say just one more thing before I go… it’s a LOG, people!

 

Phone Misconduct

Okay, so have you ever been walking down the sidewalk, minding your own business, enjoying a nice hot caramel soy latte? The sidewalk is clearly wide enough for two, three, even four people to pass by each other without bumping shoulders. Yet, it happens. Or almost happens. Someone comes amazingly close to running directly into you and as you dance a side-step to get out of the way, your latte ends up decorating your shirt.

And why? Because the person who caused this coffee disaster (and the reason why you have to keep explaining the stain on your chest for the rest of the day) was looking down at their phone, mindlessly poking at the screen instead of watching where they were going.

This is something I’ve seen happening more and more lately and quite frankly it’s frustrating as hell. Not so much the near collisions that would send my latte flying to the ground, but rather the lack of awareness many people have for those around them. Since when did the person or email or text or game on the phone gain priority over the flesh and blood human right in front of you?

Without noticing the presence of others, without that silent communication that exists when you spot someone else on the street or sidewalk or aisle, there’s only going to be more crashes and basic overall breakdowns in a smooth-running society.

Or how about this… you’re in the check out line at a store. It ought to be going quickly, no-one in front of you is buying anything of substance and the cashier’s on her game. But there’s always that one. That one who can’t put down their phone long enough to deal with the issue at hand, namely, putting their groceries up on the conveyor belt or paying attention to the cashier who’s trying to explain that the coupon they just handed to her expired three years ago.  Oh, okay, yeah, let’s all wait for the ten minutes it takes you to find your bank card because you only have one hand to dig through that cavernous purse of yours because the conversation about your coworker’s drunken fling at last week’s convention being the talk of the office is just that Earth shattering and you wouldn’t dream of setting down the phone for ten seconds. Ugh. Here we go. That’s a chip on your card… insert don’t swipe. No, it’s a chip.  It’s. A. Chip. Putting in that pin and talking can be quite the feat, yeah, I know… chewing gum and walking has the same effect on you, I bet. There you go, you got it. A great deal slower cause you’re distracted, but you got there in the end. Oh, okay. We’re going to do the whole slo-mo thing with placing your bags in the cart are we? Oh sure, offering your phone mate advice on holiday menu plans takes precedence… I mean, of course it does. Silly me. And off they go, with no concern whatsoever for the cashier just trying to do her job or the people they’ve held up in line, because they’re in their own little world still chatting away on the phone.

More interesting than the people utterly engrossed with their phones are the people who have no sense of privacy when they’re speaking on the phone. I’m talking about the people who yell into their phone while on the bus or subway or walking down the grocery aisle so that everyone within 20 feet knows exactly what happened to Rhonda at the foot doctor last week.  And trust me.  We’d rather not know. They open up their personal stories to the public which can become a little embarrassing to the people eavesdropping who don’t really want to be eavesdropping.   I sit there and think, “Wow, I really wish I wasn’t able to hear this right now.” At least that’s the cleaned-up version of what I sit there and think.

Alas, sometimes you’re stuck next to a person who has absolutely no sense of propriety or the concept of low voices. Thus, you’re getting all the details on how Kevin’s dog’s surgery went (the lump was removed successfully I’m happy to say!) and how bad of a kisser Mr. OKCupid was even after four Long Island Ice Teas (how truly awful for you, Judy!).

Inside voices people, inside voices!  And remember — you’re in public. Not only do we not want to be subjected to the gruesome horror story of your facial wart removal, but other people depend on you so they can get where they need to go without incident — so please try to keep those eyes up as you’re strolling along and for god’s sake, when interacting with others, put the damn phone down.

Thank you for listening. I can text this to you as well if you’d like.

On the Topic of Value

Scrolling through Facebook recently, I saw a post where a young girl’s value was compared to that of an iPad. Oh yes. You read that correctly. It wasn’t an original message and wasn’t even written by the guy who posted it (though it did appear as if he was trying to pass it off as his)… whatever the case, he must have been in complete agreement, hence his posting it. The gist of the post was a father ostensibly helping a young girl see her value and worth and I know that in this day and age some people treat their electronics as children, some even spending more time with their phones than their children, but comparing a young girl to an iPad? Give me a break. Using my best Chandler Bing voice: Can this guy be any more shallow?

What makes all of this worse, is this guy apparently stole someone else’s photo to include in his post… a shot of two young women dressed as though they’re going out, standing in (presumably) their own backyard. So, while spewing his archaic and misogynistic views, he’s also exploiting and harassing two very real young women who were doing nothing more than existing. I blurred out the image because I refuse to perpetuate the harassment.

It wasn’t surprising to see that this * cough cough * gentleman and I were at odds in other respects as well… he’s an avid trophy hunter who thinks that there isn’t enough science behind Greta Thunberg’s climate change argument.

Needless to say, I saw red. You all know me. My reaction shouldn’t come as a shock. The fact that this guy is comparing his daughter to a literal object is incredibly inappropriate to say the least and I find it hard to address that particular issue without digging deep into my repertoire of colorful adjectives. The idea that there are people like this out there, raising families, and perpetuating this behavior by passing it down to the next generations is infuriating. He and others of his ilk are teaching their daughters (and sons) that women are “less than” and on par with a fucking iPad.

Let’s just be clear here… value isn’t determined by what a person decides to wear. Oh sure, you probably don’t want to show up to a Fortune 500 board meeting wearing your pajamas, but should one decide to do so, it’s NOT a sign of their intrinsic value, or lack thereof.

I love the quote, “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” – Unknown

Or how about this one, “Don’t bury the treasure of your life under the opinions and expectations of strangers.” – Lisa Bevere

I’ll go you one better… don’t bury the treasure of your life under the opinions and expectations of ANYONE.

There is no question that women and girls seem to bear the brunt of the equation appearance equals value or worth. School dress codes are gender-biased and inherently put more importance on a boy’s education than a girl’s. Passers-by wouldn’t even bat an eye at something as simple as a man wearing dirty sweats and a ratty old t-shirt to the grocery store (cause you know, he’s getting shit done!) yet I wonder how many of those same strangers would automatically, albeit internally, criticize the woman’s choices while inventing a not-so-complimentary backstory should they see a woman wearing the same thing (oh my god, can you imagine what her home and kids look like!? what was she thinking? her life is just one big mess!).

One could argue that to dress conservatively protects a woman from rape or harassment or cat calls, that young women shouldn’t be so sexualized. And trust me, those agreeing with this guy’s post were saying exactly that. To this I say, HA! Yeah, right. This is so far from the truth, it’s scary. To me, this is one of those expressions of anti-feminism disguised as a pro-woman statement. How women are dressed will not stop rape or misogyny and it does not in any way illustrate her value as a person. Cause you know, women ARE in fact people.  Whether they wear a little black dress or opt for a niqab, women of all ages have worth. Say it with me, folks. Women. Have. Worth. And it’s NOT contingent on their wardrobe.

Imagine if we started to teach what real worth is? Society as a whole would improve because when people aren’t made to feel ashamed and worthless, and they see their true value, then they feel free to pursue and accomplish their goals and dreams.

But you know what would happen then? The patriarchy would crumble. And we can’t have that, can we?

Peer Pressure

This might be surprising to you, but I talk to people. I talk to people at work and online and while I’m out and about. I know, right!? I’m just as shocked as you are. These conversations are varied and cover a lot of ground and generally work to highlight my social ineptness. People loooovvve to talk about their personal lives? Have you noticed that!?  Yeah. So anyway, I’ve been privy to a great deal more information that I would ever in my life want to know about people, but it’s not as though you could just cover your ears, yell NOOOOO and walk away. I’ve tried. I was told it was rude.

The one thing I find fascinating though is just how active people my age are… now I’m not yet ready for a senior living development but I’m also not a spring chicken. What the hell is a spring chicken anyway? Aren’t ALL chickens spring chickens, when you really think about it… I mean, given their own druthers, that’s when they would be born, just like with all birds, right? However, you might be interested to know, that it’s not a matter of when they’re born, but when they’re eaten that denotes a spring chicken. Go figure.

But I digress.

These people I talk to, they enjoy telling others about all their activities and accomplishments. I mean, of course they do, right? And they’re my age, just so we’ve made that clear. Rock climbing, mountain climbing, cross country skiing, extreme hiking… you name it, they do it.  And me? I’m over here trying to put on my underwear without toppling over. But nobody ever wants to hear about that.

Feline Musings for a Sunday Evening

It’s that time during your otherwise enjoyable Sunday evening when it hits you that the weekend is over and you’re trying desperately to hide from Monday but deep in your heart you know that it’s just going to come around no matter how hard you try to keep it at bay, it always does, and besides, your hiding spot has holes in it so no matter how quiet you are, Monday would see you anyway and then you remember that you’re a cat so who even cares about Mondays, and you breathe a sigh of relief cause being a cat is cool, and you decide you kinda like your new hiding spot despite the holes that give away your position and in fact, the holes make it interesting and at least you don’t have Monday to worry about cause, you know… you’re a cat. And cats are cool.

The Power of Comfort Food

So, having had a bit of a down day, I let myself indulge in one of my favorite foods: biscuits and gravy. Oh, not the kind my mother used to make… I don’t have her talent. But I have found, through trial and error, a sorta reasonable kind of okay facsimile using very specific store-bought brands. As a great man once said, “That’ll do, pig.  That’ll do.”

We’ve all been there. When you’re feeling down and less than ecstatic about a current life situation, there’s just something about consoling yourself with an entire tub of ice cream or a slice … okay, maybe several slices … no, wait, several varieties of chocolate cake.

Comfort foods offer a pick-me-up in bad situations. There’s something about even just smelling your favorite dish that brings you a sense of well-being. The aroma of warm cookies, cinnamon donuts, or fresh-baked bread – they’ll all do it. Right!? That’s what I’m talking about.

So why do our favorite comfort foods have such a profound impact on our mood? Well, there is a certain sentimental value in comfort food.

As it turns out, there’s a lot of psychology at play when we’re enjoying comfort food that’s “just like mom used to make.” Indeed, you could say the best chef on Earth is the person who cooked for you when you were a young child. And no, they didn’t just cook, they cooked with love. The most impressive 3-star Michelin chef will never beat your grandmother’s vegetable soup because in that soup is the deep love a professional chef can never have for you. Unless, that 3-star Michelin chef is in love with you … and well, can I just say, I wish!  Comfort food possesses an inherent and very powerful ability to transport us to simpler times (you know, before bills and job insecurity and the stresses of adult life). It transports us to a time when all we had to worry about was how many legs do caterpillars have and where do clouds come from.

Answers:  16 (usually) and …

Clouds forms as a result of air cooling to a temperature at which water vapor turns into liquid water. In turn, this is a result of air rising because the higher we go into the atmosphere, the colder the temperature becomes because during the day the sun heats it.

But where were we again? That’s right, the highs of food! Not clouds! I think most of us know and believe in that feeling of ummm … comfort … that comfort foods give us.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Well, actually, I wouldn’t say that my favorite comfort food is reminiscent of childhood necessarily. Hell, my parents couldn’t cook to save their lives!” First of all, I am so, so sorry. Secondly, hold your horses – there’s more to comfort foods than just who cooked them.

One important factor to consider when questioning our fairly unanimous love of comfort food, is simply the fat, sugar, and/or salt content in said comfort food. Though I’ve always considered it to be a sick, cosmic joke, our bodies LOVE those highly palatable foods that last a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips. Foods high in fat, sugar, and salt are particularly good at activating the brain’s reward system – producing pleasant feelings and reducing stress. Like I said, a sick, cosmic joke.

Was it too much to ask to be naturally addicted to celery and kale? Yeah, I know. Blech.

But the greatest tool in a comfort food’s arsenal of persuasion?

The. Void.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all had things go horribly horribly devastatingly awfully utterly embarrassingly wrong in our lives, and nothing fills the resulting crater-sized void in our hearts quite like comfort food. Having a bad day? Open a bag of chips. Going through a breakup? Order an extra-large four-cheese pizza and eat it in one sitting while watching The Notebook through a waterfall of tears. Is it an unhealthy coping mechanism? Absolutely. But does it work? Hell yeah.

At the end of the day, I feel like there are worse ways to cope than with the occasional dinner consisting of cheesecake and Cheez-Its. Key word being occasional. Should we all make a conscious effort to work through our problems so that we don’t feel the need to overindulge in unhealthy foods to cope with life? Yes. I’m sure we should.

At the same time, I also think that sometimes we should just be allowed to have our moment and enjoy some self-care in the form of a sorta reasonable kind of okay facsimile of Mom’s signature biscuits and gravy.

Hey, don’t judge me!