Monthly Archives: November 2004

Shopping, Shopping, Shopping and Debt

The post-Thanksgiving holiday spike in consumerism is well-known from community to community across the United States. People shake off their L-Tryptophan stupor and line up outside their favorite store hours before sunrise in anticipation of snatching up the latest electronic gadget or toy at bargain basement prices.

Some people LIVE for the day after Thanksgiving to hit the malls. Some even go so far as to plan out their shopping strategy, mapping out where the best deals are anticipated.

To these folks, I have to say, “Honestly, people, get a life!”

Really.

I truly doubt that the Pilgrims planned the Thanksgiving holiday to boost consumerism.

Although I’m sure that Hallmark, Target, Best Buy, et al, aren’t trying to dissuade the populace.

I am the retailers’ worst nightmare. I loathe shopping. I especially loathe shopping during the holidays.

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but somewhere in the early 90’s I was turned off by the rank consumerism that seemed to capture the nation. Lost was the true meaning of the season – the celebration of the birth of the Christian world’s savior. Instead, we were ushered towards the excesses of life… body piercings, Wonderbras and Converse All-Star shoes. No Fear was the charge heard ’round the world.

I should be honest here and peg my turn-around to the fact that the relationship I shared at that time involved buying gifts for all of the “in-laws”… The combined “wish list” of these folks could have bankrupted a small third world country. Unfortunately, at the time, my income was sorely lacking any resemblance to the treasury coffers of any of these third world countries.

The joy of seeing them open the gifts was temporary – buying gifts for my extended family set me back financially for months. The worst thing about this is that my final Christmas with JB’s family was still being paid for a few months after our relationship had ended.

Ouch.

I learned a lot of lessons in the 90’s.

For the longest period of time, I only paid cash for things. This limited me to purchasing only those items that I really needed or wanted. (Although I’m still trying to figure out where I got the money to buy the guitars that clutter my bedroom, unplayed).

Credit cards became my worst friend during the past year. Some legitimate expenses had to be charged. A rather opportunistic mouse (RIP, you little sh…) cleverly took advantage of building its nest inside the heater blower (ironically, the squirrel cage) of the Explorer. The damage to the air conditioner set me back $1800. Subsequent visits to repair the damage caused by the mouse continued to pile onto the balance of my credit card.

My finances took a further hit when the nerve in my tooth decided to die and a root canal – and crown – were required to alleviate the pain that I was experiencing. (This was a humbling experience for me – I consider my threshold for pain to be very high – and I was turned into a wimp by the constant twinging of the dying nerve). This ordeal set me back close to $1800, too. (Good thing I had that dental insurance policy through work… /sarcasm)

A misbehaving hard-drive on one of our computers led to purchasing two new complete systems. While one new computer would have served its purpose, the truth is our remaining system was antiquated – and a new system seemed like a good idea at the time.

Ca-ching. $3200.

Throw in a couple of additional 250 GB hard-drives, jump drives, two wireless Intellimouse (mice?), a drawing pad and books, books, books… Well, let’s just say that Micro Center has had a very good year thanks to me.

Then there were my “healthy” purchases designed to get us healthy – and keep us healthy this flu season now that we were unable to get our annual flu shot – the Vitamix 5000, the Dyson Full Gear/Animal vacuum, an Air Oasis 3000 Air Purifier (nice holiday pricing currently in effect – for a really awesome air purifier that helps curtail odors, bacteria and mold), and a multitude of Hepa air cleaners ( Kenmore 335 CADR True HEPA Air Cleaner and a Hunter HEPAtech 375) to further purify the air. (Yes, it would have been cheaper to get rid of the animals….)

Good intentions. Great inventions. Lots of debt.

Now if only I can hold on to my job to help pay everything off.

Friends and family laugh at me for the level of paranoia that I have regarding my employment status. (Applying Homeland Security’s color coding, I’ve been operating at a “high” or orange level for the last month now… Of course, the color bump came after I made all of these purchases!) I’ve been claiming to have been on the receiving end of “bad vibes” for months (OK, yes, YEARS) now – although the vibes have been getting stronger in recent weeks. I steadfastly maintain that I will be included in the next round of lay-offs… Knowing how badly sales revenue have been this year, I can’t blame them for making cuts. Although I will be bitter. It’s the management that needs to go. But that’s another blog….

Until then, I’ll keep plugging away, staying late as needed to work on the various budget issues, pretending that management isn’t laughing at me behind my back. (That really DOES sound like paranoia… *cough*)

And until my debt load gets down to a point where I’m “comfortable”, no more adventures to the mall (which is perfectly fine with me since I really detest the crowds – and people in general!) or visits to Amazon. 😉

Thanksgiving – Missing the Jello… (Who in their right mind puts CELERY in lime Jello?!)

Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season.

Families gather together to reflect upon the past year, to stuff their faces with special treats and watch football.

I dread Thanksgiving.

It hasn’t always been this way.

I used to love the holidays and everything they represented. This was before my parents and Aunt passed away.

The holidays were split between Aunt Elaine’s and our house. Aunt Elaine hosted Thanksgiving, while my Mom would host Christmas.

Aunt Elaine, being single and not used to preparing large meals on a regular basis, would plan the meal several weeks in advance. It didn’t matter that it was the same menu every year. A lovely turkey, sage dressing, California blend vegetables, candied yams, mash potatoes and gravy, dinner rolls, a condiment tray, pecan and pumpkin pies, and lime flavored Jello with diced celery…

Aunt Elaine went to so much trouble to make up the Jello dish, methodically dicing the celery into pieces of equal sizes… It was impossible to resist taking a helping when she passed the serving bowl to you and looked at you with her pleading eyes.

Being Catholic didn’t help. Resistance was futile.

There are two things here that I never understood. The first was why anyone in their right mind would ruin Jello by adding celery to it… and secondly, why anyone would use LIME Jello in the first place?

I have NEVER liked Lime Jello. Or Lime anything for that matter.

Maybe it’s something that comes with age.

All I know is that I had to eat the heaping spoonful that ended up on my plate year after year.

The dollop of mayonnaise that she insisted ‘top’ the florescent green pile on my plate did NOT help.

And yet, today, well over a decade after that last meal at Aunt Elaine’s I distinctly remember the celery Jello… and I miss it.

After Mom passed away, the idea of gathering to ‘celebrate’ seemed foreign. The first Thanksgiving was just a little over a month after her death. Dad was a bitter widower – forsaken by a God who took the love of his life – and, whether intentional or not, the pall that fell over that Thanksgiving was unbearable. Aunt Elaine didn’t offer to have Thanksgiving again. I don’t blame her.

The next couple of Thanksgivings were spent at Denny’s…

Bless the fine men and women who worked there – they did their best to decorate the place to be cheery and welcoming – and the turkey dinner wasn’t too bad, either – but there is something sad (pathetic, really) about spending a family-oriented holiday in a restaurant with what could be only described as other rejected souls.

Today, while I am thankful for those things that I have in my life, the holidays serve to remind me of the things that I no longer have in my life. And it is that huge void that I dread.