Friday, November 23, 2007

8, 6, 4 or …?

Years ago, the most debated holiday question was, “how early is too early for malls to decorate for Christmas?” Now the question is “how early is too early to open on the day after Thanksgiving?”

The last time I was crazy enough to shop on Black Friday was more than ten years ago. I was at the mall when they opened at 8 a.m. and finished buying presents by 11, just as it started to get crowded.

Now 8 is late. Many stores opened at 6 a.m. today, some at 5 a.m., Kohls and Penneys unlocked their doors at 4. Wimps!! Valu City opened at Midnight, as did some of the outlet malls. And people were already standing in line at many of these locations as the doors opened.

I did my shopping at 5 … p.m. on Tuesday. Black Friday sale prices were already in effect ay many stores and there were no crowds and no lines.

One of my favorite places to shop, however, is never crowded. In fact, I usually shop there alone and they are always open … the internet.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It’s Thanksgiving Already?

When did we get so busy? There isn’t enough time to do all the things we want to do and have to do. As recently as a few months ago, for example, I was posting to this blog a couple of times a week or more, but now I’m lucky to write something once a month. I know I’m not the only one who feels overscheduled. Several blogs I regularly visit have also been less active or inactive lately.

Sometimes I get so busy that I almost forget what month it is. For a brief moment yesterday I couldn’t quite comprehend the meaning of the letters and numbers I saw on my cell phone: Nov. 20.

There are certainly some tell-tale signs that it is indeed the third full week of November. For one thing, I’m on vacation this week and not really missing anything important at work. For another it’s cold and dark early in the afternoon. And the late-day traffic pattern I encountered on my way home from the mall yesterday was less commute and more holiday.

Oh, and the mall. There he was, in all his red and white glory, Santa Claus, alone in the middle of a large, festive display, waving at the few kids who were in center court the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. You know he won’t be alone this Friday nor any other day between then and Christmas Eve.

I was shopping for holiday gifts and for myself. As I’m writing this, I’m loading my favorite songs onto my brand new iPod. My purchases also included clothes and a CD for me and the main present I’m getting my wife.

I intended to buy gifts for co-workers while I was there but discovered I don’t really know the proper etiquette for gift-buying for co-workers. For several years, I have exchanged gifts with 2 or 3 people I work closely with. In addition, I get gifts from various people in the sales department, but I don’t always give them gifts, in part because I can’t justify the expense of getting a gift for all of them and partly because I have trouble choosing just a few and not all. Is that wrong of me? Or right, because sales people always get gifts for people? How do you handle this?

My standard gift for the co-workers I do get gifts used to be a calendar that relates to something they are interested in. Calendars are the perfect gift because it is a daily reminder of the person who gave the gift and it is nice but not too expensive. But I realized while standing in the calendar store yesterday that I don’t really know much about what interests my co-workers. Am I losing my touch or maybe just not paying attention? Or do people who work together mostly talk about work and not all that much about their personal interests?

And what do they know about me? My favorite gifts are gift cards from book stores, camera stores or Starbucks. Only twice have I ever received such gifts. If it’s the thought that counts, then I get wonderful gifts every year. But from a practical standpoint, it is unlikely I will ever use those wonderful weekend packages at a nearby ski resort that I receive from the sales department at least every other year. And a really nice dinner at a classy restaurant in downtown DC doesn’t impress my wife enough for us to actually use such a thing and I don’t think she’d appreciate it if I took a date there.

That last paragraph makes me wonder if anyone used the calendars I gave them.

Back to Thanksgiving and our busy lives. Admittedly I have been a bit depressed this Fall. Part of it is a mild case of seasonal affective disorder and part of it is memories of the Fall of 2001. That year started with the terrorist attacks of September 11th followed by moving my parents into a nursing home in October followed by Dad’s death in November followed by all of those happy festive holidays that I just didn’t want to celebrate that year. All of that still hits me hard, and when combined with an overscheduled life and shorter amounts of daylight … well, you get the idea.

On the good side, however, I do have plenty to be thankful for. You, for one – thanks for reading this. I have a wife and three dogs who all love me, an incredibly great job and good health. The weather was warm and sunny here in Maryland today and I don’t have to be in an airport or on a highway tomorrow.

And tomorrow is a very leisurely holiday with no turkey to cook (my wife is vegetarian so we have zucchini lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner). So I guess for at least one day this month, I will have time to do all the things I want to do.

Happy Thanksgiving!