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Just Don’t Go November 27, 2013

Posted by craftlass in home, life lessons.
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I’ve received a few emails over the past month about petitions to stop the big box stores from opening on Thanksgiving. I heartily support these people who created these petitions, workers who are forced to skip what is supposed to be a national holiday, a national day of rest and food and family. THE American holiday. Lots of nations have Independence Days, only one that I know of (Canada) has a Thanksgiving besides us (please correct me in the comments if I have that wrong, I have too much baking to do today to do a bunch of research).

“National holiday” is a phrase that has lost all meaning. Nobody cares about veterans, or laborers, or anyone involved in making this country great anymore. No, people care about how much they can save on a mattress, a new TV, or their holiday gifts. People care more about what makes this country suck – greed. Pure greed and a complete lack of compassion. All to prepare for a holiday that’s supposed to be about celebrating the birth of a man who preached against materialism and taught that compassion for the poor is the highest quality a human being can have.

Employees have no choice. Many would lose their jobs instantly if they refused to work on the holiday. The people who need a day off far more than most of us have to work.

Have you ever worked on your feet? Worked retail on a major shopping day? It’s exhausting. Holidays are often the only days that lower-income workers even get off, in this world of working 2 or 3 jobs and still making so little that food stamps are the only way to make ends meet.

That’s why we need national holidays, for the least of us who have the least to have a day off to rest their weary feet, catch up with family, and maybe have a nice meal with the people they love.

So, what can you do? Don’t go. Don’t support any store that is open on Thursday during this Christmas season and write them to tell them why you won’t be shopping there, maybe even include what your budget would be at that store if you weren’t boycotting. Skip Black Friday at the stores that open at midnight or 6 am or whatever completely ridiculous hour wrecks any Thursday plans for employees. Participate in Small Business Saturday and support your neighbors. Shop online! That will save you money, time, hassle, and maybe even a black eye. If you have geeks on your list, I recommend ThinkGeek because they are good people who run a good business (I do ALL of my Christmas shopping there every year, including for the non-geeks on my list, because they really do have something for everyone and the best customer service in the sector) and I have never seen evidence they treat employees with less than full respect.*

Even if you don’t care at all about the plight of retail workers (and I’m sure some of you don’t), then be selfish. Don’t let Wal-Mart, Target, or any other store ruin YOUR holiday. The sales may be tempting, but is your time really so low in value that you’d rather spend hours of misery shopping than spend a few dollars more? The only thing that will make them change these horrendous practices is a hit to the bottom line.

My Christmas budget this year is non-existent, but even my time is too valuable to justify shopping these sales. The friends-turned-family that I spend my Turkey Day with and our long-held traditions are even more valuable. Priceless, actually. I also know that they would rather that I get them no gifts than leave in the middle of our festivities for something as stupid as waiting in long lines.

I would have to question whether I actually like or respect a person who would leave a holiday to shop, even. It’s a sign that person’s priorities are completely screwed up.

Avoiding these stores is the compassionate thing to do, the humanist thing to do, the Christian thing to do. Whatever your faith or philosophy, unless you are the sort for whom monetary greed IS a religion, there is no way to justify hurting people in the name of saving what amounts to not really that much money.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgivukkah this year! Two fun-as-can-be holidays, come together. This is definitely not the year to skip the holiday! Dreidels and turkey! Gelt and pumpkin pie! Latkes and sweet potato casserole! I hear the next one is in 80,000 years so we better make this one count!

Sing songs, argue about politics and childhood memories, eat until you can’t waddle, and bask in the glow of a precious day off. Bring back the magic of the unofficial start of the holidays and soak every bit of love up while you sop up leftover gravy with a freshly-baked roll. And then get a good night of turkey-induced sleep and enjoy your day off on Friday if you are lucky enough to have it off.

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s time to make the pastry for 3 types of pie… Priorities!

*Full disclosure: I have won a few ThinkGeek items at events, but they have never sent me merchandise to review, paid me in any way other than GeekPoints (which everyone gets), or otherwise asked me to mention them in any way. I’m just a fan and customer.

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Holidays That Hurt May 13, 2012

Posted by craftlass in current issues, relationship.
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Mother’s Day has brought up a lot of interesting points this year. I hate Mother’s Day, personally, for many personal and philosophical reasons. Oh sure, mothers should be celebrated, but are we doing it right? Even the founder of the holiday, Anna Jarvis, thought it had become too commercial soon after she successfully convinced Congress to make it a national holiday. To me, flowers and cards are fine (though better picked or made than purchased, if possible), but these days you also have the jewelry industry telling people that if they don’t spend lots of money on jewels for mom they are not appreciating her enough, phone companies suggesting high-end smartphones are the only way to show you care, and the worst part is the hundreds of emails filling my inbox with cheerful, “Happy Mother’s Day!” messages that are hardly greetings or good wishes.

For the past 20 years Mother’s Day has meant literally nothing to me. One mother gave me up. My real mother (the one who adopted and somewhat raised me) died in a car accident. My stepmother, a wonderful woman I have finally developed a good relationship with, doesn’t care for “Hallmark Holidays” any more than I do. Most years I simply don’t notice the holiday at all, it’s just another normal day. However, this uber-connected world we live in now makes it harder to simply ignore anything. Even if I completely avoided the internet, television, and leaving my home for the weeks leading up to it and the day itself I’d have to deal with all those damn emails at some point. After awhile it starts to feel like a day designed to remind me of how unlucky I am in this regard.

If it was just me, though, I wouldn’t be writing this. I have it pretty good, with a wide and strong network of support, years of experience in dealing with loss, and no desire to be a mother myself. What’s gotten to me this year is watching other people hurt so much more than I do. Those who have recently lost their own mothers, never really had one in the first place, have terrible mothers, are mothers who have lost their children, or have been trying to process infertility and/or miscarriage when all they want is a child are the people I really feel for. Every cheerful message or advertisement can be like a sword through the heart. I wish I could just reach through the computer and hug every single person I see drowning in that pain.

Mother’s Day is hardly the only holiday that hurts people, though. It’s just notable for being one of the biggest holidays for marketers to exploit and happens to be today.

Valentine’s Day is the very worst, in my humble opinion. Frankly, even if you are in a good relationship, it’s a stupid celebration. Romance shouldn’t have a dedicated day, it’s not okay for anyone to show their love on a certain day because society says they should. Love has to be shown every day, not through words or gifts but by being thoughtful and caring every time your heart swells with love for your partner. I am far more touched by something as simple as waking up to a fresh pot of coffee already made for me or my partner surprising me with my favorite foods than by any gift given on February 14th. He just walked in with two boxes of one of my favorite indulgences (Cheez-Its) and put them away without asking for any credit, which makes me feel such a rush of love it can’t be expressed in words. Big romantic gestures are not nearly as impressive as the little daily things we do and they certainly don’t make up for any sort of wrongdoing. Besides, is a gift of flowers, candy, jewelry, or a nice dinner out made more special by someone spending an inflated amount on it?

The biggest perpetrators of all of this are the jewelry companies. They spend millions trying to convince us that the best way to show someone we love them is to go into debt for them. Take a look at engagement rings: It used to be that any ring was a symbol of eternal love due to the unbroken nature of a ring. At some point gems came into the equation. Eventually, diamonds became the norm and woe to the man who didn’t have the biggest diamond he could possibly afford in his hand upon proposing! The rule of thumb for pricing eventually became two months’ salary. Now it’s often said that the expenditure should be a full quarter of his annual pay. At some point the engagement ring simply symbolizes starting your new life together with extra debt rather than anything to do with how much you value your partner, right? To top all of this nonsense off, if a ring’s price is supposed to show off how well a man can provide for his wife it’s simply an archaic act in an era where women are increasingly becoming the major breadwinners in a household and many men are staying home to raise the children. I won’t even go into the gender issues of same-sex relationships that complicate these traditions further.

Okay, okay, I’ve gotten off-topic, but it’s all part of the same umbrella. These traditions started out with the best of intentions but they have gone off the rails in these days of targeted marketing and inundation of media. If the public simply stopped buying into these schemes they would eventually go away. It’s tragic that the two biggest days for female enrollment on Ashley Madison, a dating site that caters to people looking to cheat, are Valentine’s Day and the day after Mother’s Day. This suggests that a lot of women are putting too high a value on these holidays to find love and affection in the form of tangible goods and extra-special efforts. What started as lovely notions have grown into monsters that chew away at our happiness.

Want to show Mom you really care? Surprise her with a celebration on some random day nowhere near a holiday or her birthday. It will mean more than spending thousands on Mother’s Day could, I guarantee you. DO something nice and thoughtful instead of trying to put a price on your love for her. After all, do any of us have enough money to actually pull that off? Does such an expensive item even exist? No. Love of all kinds is beyond the amount of money or goods that exist in the universe.

When my mother was alive my father and I would go out together to pick out gifts for her before every holiday. We’d carefully pore through everything available for hours to days to weeks and find something we thought she would love. We were wrong without fail. Every gift was exchanged. In hindsight, this made everyone feel bad. My mother felt like we didn’t know her very well and my father and I would beat ourselves up over it. If I could go back and change anything it would be to find clever ways to show far greater thoughtfulness even if just to make sure she died with absolute knowledge that she was and is still loved and that I am grateful that she took me in. The answer to the problem would never, ever be jewelry (our most common and always least-successful gift to her).

Holidays put too much pressure on everyone. Christmastime is infamous for it’s popularity as a time to kill oneself for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, if we made a concerted effort to take these holidays more as a chance to spend extra time with those we care about than a day to inundate each other with presents we would find the greatest gift of all – the feeling that we are not alone, no matter how much it may feel that way.

Most of all, we could force entire industries to find better ways to promote their wares than to guilt-trip us all into equating emotions with monetary value and increasing expectations and demands with every year. Heck, even if just got them to start their holiday campaigns closer to the dates rather than bugging us for months in advance it would make life much better for everyone, especially those who find one or more holidays painful reminders of what they don’t or can never have.

That said, to quote my own tweet: Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who has ever taken care of anyone! It takes more than a village to raise us all at any age.