The Last Gift

These tall, leather boots that look soooo great on and seemed like such a great and fashionable idea this morning… suck. My feet are killing me. My toes are numb and the balls of my feet are yelling curse words so loudly with each step that I take… I’m certain the kid stocking the shelves over there heard them call me a miserable whore.

But it’s OK, for I am almost done. There is but one item that remains on my list of gifts to buy for my near and dear ones this Christmas holiday. Being this close to the end somehow makes the pain worthwhile. Like the agony of the last few miles of a marathon I will push past it—vulgar feet stuffed into evil, leather boots and all—I can see the finish line.

This one item should be easy. It seems to be all the rage and everyone is talking about it. It’s been spotted at several stores. Thus it stands to reason that this particular purchase… my last purchase (did I mention that?) should be a relative retail breeze.

Ahhhh… more wrong I could not have been.

The item that everyone is talking about that seems to be one of the “IT” gifts of the 2011 shopping season… also seems to be the ONE thing that no one, and I MEAN NO ONE has ever even heard of. And I’m not talking about little, small-town, Mom and Pop village merchants peddling their wares to worn out Christmas zombies.

I’m talking about the Big Boys. The Big Box stores. The Gods of Greed… the Royalty of Retail… The Princes of Peddlers and Kings of Ka-Ching. You know, the ones who are supposed to have their sticky, little fingers on the pulse of every shopper?

Well, for some reason as this exhausted customer drug her potty-mouthed tooties from one shitty parking spot to another, fighting holiday gridlock the whole entire way… I was greeted with the same answer everywhere I went. It went a little something like this:

Me: “Excuse me, do you have any ____________?”

Oh, I should mention that I am purposefully NOT mentioning the gift until after it is given a week from now lest the recipient read this entry and either A. Feel badly that they are NOT receiving this “must have” item from their list, or B. Feel even worse that I had such a terrible time trying unsuccessfully to find the damn thing.

Big Box employee: “Any what? I’ve never heard of that. Let me check with management / some guy named Larry / this clueless-looking girl standing right beside me.”

Me: Silence accompanied by nearly-defeated-shoulder-slumping, followed by a huge sigh, followed by a prayer, followed by some hopeful breath-holding.

My feet: “You @!$%#. If you make us stand here or go to ONE MORE store after this, I swear by tomorrow morning I WILL TAKE YOU DOWN. And when you recover, you’ll be wearing flats until February. Do you hear me?”

Big Box employee: “I’m sorry. We don’t carry __________. We’ve actually never heard of that. Maybe XYZ Big Box Store will have them. Happy Holidays!”

Me AND my feet: “Already tried there, dumb @$$. Now shove it.”

But I was determined (as well as held hostage by my vital and angry appendages) that this store would be the last stop on our retail mission. The person on my list wanting ______________ would have to settle for Plan B. And that was all there was too it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Last-Minute Shopping everyone! My two bits of advice on locating that elusive last gift on your list: Have a back-up plan… and by all means… wear comfortable shoes.

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Christmas Catnip

It has long been a great source of frustration and vexation to me that December and the time surrounding the holidays is dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year” because, well… I find it to be more like the most exhausting time of the year.

Don’t get me wrong. It does have its magical moments for sure. But truth be told… between all of the holiday preparations, commitments and gatherings, nieces and nephews in winter sports and fielding 100,000 questions from family and friends about any future wedding plans… finding time to write has been a little more challenging.

That is why—for this Monday’s post—I am sharing with you something Christmas-ey that I hope will make you smile…

Stanley, my little Christmas helper…

For you fellow cat owners out there you know that all the catnip in the world cannot compare to the sheer bliss found in the bottom of a paper bag… or on the inside of the leftover cardboard tube when the wrapping paper has been used up… or in a pile of crumpled tags, receipts, tape and ribbon scraps. 

And don’t even get me started on their magnetic attraction to the low-hanging tree ornaments. Suffice it to say that for at least one member of this household… Christmas truly IS the most wonderful time of the year.

Have a great Monday everyone… only 12 shopping days left. If you don’t have that special something for that special someone yet… My advice is to get out there and get it over with or else there’s a good chance it will wind up beneath someone else’s tree.

A Little Low on “Ho Ho Ho”

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m having some trouble with Christmas this year. I am finding myself somewhat depleted of the whole “holiday spirit” and I really don’t know who or what to blame.

I have no real reason to be blue. I am gainfully employed, newly engaged and have a wonderful family and fiancé with which to spend the holidays. I am practically done with my shopping and proud to say that I didn’t go over board. I put up a sparkly tree along with a few other decorations and am in the process of wrapping. I’ve been watching some favorite Christmas flicks on TV… but that is precisely where the merriment ends.

I have no desire to listen to Christmas music, attend holiday parties or events. The lights going up around the neighborhood don’t captivate me or give me that “warm, fuzzy” feeling they once did. And I swear if I hear one more commercial about “that perfect gift” one more time — I am going to smash the offending broadcasting device with my hammer.

What is wrong with me? Did I lose my Christmas gene on my last birthday or something? Perhaps my “issues” with Christmas have nothing to do with an internal flaw and everything to do with the collective behavior of society. The emphasis placed on material items by manufacturers and the people who buy into it hook, line and sinker… The MUST DO mentality when it comes to certain “traditions”… The excess… The rushing and the rudeness of the masses…

I think what put me over the edge this year was an experience that I had this past weekend. We were doing some shopping at a store on the OSU campus. After deciding that we’d done all the damage we were going to do in that store before moving on to the next, we got in line at the register.

While waiting patiently for our turn, a tall, attractive woman dressed in all black bursts through the door, struts across the front of the store and rushes the counter, ignoring all of us waiting in line as she barks at the cashier: “You have a sweatshirt on reserve for me.” (Yes, I’ve intentionally placed emphasis on the word “me”).

We all turn our attention to her majesty—aware now of the faintest sound of crickets chirping in the background—while trying to comprehend this sudden display of rudeness and utter disregard for EVERYONE ELSE already in line at the counter. Now I know that this story is playing out all across the country right now, most likely coming to a register near you… but it was my first such encounter of the season.

Fortunately, the cashier asks the woman to wait while she finishes taking care of the customer with whom she is the middle of a transaction. And the woman huffs while she must wait like some wretched peasant. We pay for our items and leave the store around the same time as she. And we see that she has parked her shiny, black Lincoln Navigator right in front of the door.

As we back out of our parking spot I couldn’t help but notice a HUGE magnetic cling the size of a billboard on the side of her vehicle. It read in big white letters against a black background: “Don’t forget to keep the CHRIST in Christmas!”

Really? I thought to myself… And all this time I’ve been wondering where in the world my “holiday spirit” could possibly have gone.

Spike my Egg Nog… Please

Tis the season for beautiful twinkle lights and fancily-wrapped presents… A time to celebrate the joy of giving and count one’s blessings whilst surrrounded by those we hold dear. Yet for many people… Tis the Season of Overcommitment. Overcommitment of time. Overcommitment of money. Overcommitment of energy. Overcommitment of worry and resources.

Years ago, for me, this used to be (sing it with me, you know the tune) … The Most Stre-ess-ful Time of the Year… They’ll be much over-charging and customers barging for the Greatest Deal… Yes the most Stre-ess-ful Time of the Year!

I know it doesn’t exactly rhyme, but I think you get the idea.

In two words: It sucked. There were cards to be sent… Shopping to be done… Pageants to rehearse… Concerts and live nativities and office parties and gatherings with friends and gatherings with family to attend… Obscene amounts of food and wine and chocolate followed by more obscene amounts of food and wine and chocolate to be consumed… and before I knew it I didn’t know what was buldging more… The bags under my eyes, my muffin top over my favorite pair of jeans or my Visa envelope come January.

I am now on a personal mission—you might say—to restore the joy and peace that is, by the way, SUPPOSED to be the purpose of the season in the first place by ridding myself of the commitments, obsessions and stresses that typically accompany holiday-related things.

I don’t send cards. My friends and family don’t need to hear me paint a far-prettier-than-reality picture of my life by reading some fluffed-up letter full of superlatives and exclamation points.

I set limits on gifts and I stick to them. And when in doubt about what to give to my seven (COUNT THEM… S-E-V-E-N) nieces and nephews… money is always a safe bet — and an amount of money that I can actually afford as well.

I don’t do pageants. Someone else can stay up until midnight every night for the three weeks leading up to Christmas and sing the solo. I’m done. I much prefer the sleep. I might attend the pageant… if I feel like it.

I choose carefully the events that I commit to. At 36, I am beginning to understand my physical and mental limits when it comes to the amount of myself that I have to “spread around.” If I feel too thinly spread. I just say no.

The food, wine and chocolate… OK… THOSE are OK. They are called “coping mechanisms” and that’s why I’ve learned to keep a larger size of jeans in the closet. That can be our little secret. Let’s just call it Christmas Grace, shall we?

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not a scrooge or anti-holiday. I do find infinite joy in lounging on the couch and staring at the twinkle lights on the tree late at night while watching Cousin Eddie slurp egg nog from a moose cup in his black dickie / white sweater combo on National Lampoons Christmas Vacation

I do find infinite peace in closing my eyes during the Christmas Eve candlelight service while the soloist (who isn’t me) sings my favorite Christmas Hymn, Oh Holy Night

And I absolutely find infinite enjoyment in watching my nieces and nephews glow as they show me their loot on Christmas morning with all the excitement they can possibly muster after only four hours of sleep.

But just in case you DO see me at a party or pageant or family gathering this holiday season, please do me one solid favor… and spike my drink already. Trust me, it’s really best for all of us.