O Lord, recently, I saw a preschooler “help” her father unload items at checkout. The little girl worked diligently, but squished a loaf of bread. I tensed, expecting frowns. Impatience. Yelling. Instead, Daddy thanked her for her help. OMG, that’s so like You. When I offer eager, squishy-bread obedience, You smile.
O Lord, It’s only October, but I can’t buy a can of beans without seeing a Santa Claus. You, who made the sun move backward to preserve daylight during an Old Testament battle —OMG, could you pause on lovely fall …
Veteran Christmas shoppers have seen it all. We’ve fought kamikaze traffic and circled malls 250 times, seeking parking places in the same zip code. We’ve donned body armor to survive elbowing crowds and hostile, Klingon clerks.
Once, I watched two scary grandmas in line ahead, battling over who was first. Would they take out all of us?
Enter online shopping.
I don my loudest holiday sweater and drink hot chocolate in my favorite Christmas mug. I assemble credit cards and password lists.
Ready. Set. Shop!
However, my laptop’s not in the Christmas spirit — crankier than a teen awakened on Saturday. When I threaten it with a pitcher of cold water, the laptop finally cooperates. Sort of.
It sends me to the Malwart website, rather than Walmart. When I Google “Target,” it makes me one, sending my address and accompanying maps to various Middle Eastern websites. Then a pop-up offers the Garfield beach towel my grandson covets for only $471. When I switch to purchasing a storybook instead, the website informs me others who bought this book also purchased “The Preschool Guide to Overthrowing the Government.”
Weary of children’s gifts, I peruse flannel shirts for my tall, thin son. Surely, with 83,259,441,701 advertised, I’ll find one. But 83,259,441,700 are size XXXXXLarge.
Wait. I see it!
One size large, tall, in un-girly blue plaid. In stock! But the perfect shirt can be sent only to Madagascar by Christmas. If sent to Indianapolis, it’ll arrive on February 29, 2024. If I pay extra.
I return to pricing Garfield beach towels. Three cost more than $500 apiece, so I grab the bargain at $471. Using the promotion code BANKRUPT, I owe only $470.12. Surely, I get free shipping. No?! I must spend $203.77 more. So, I buy a bag of flour.
Pre-Internet nostalgia overwhelms me. I miss Christmas fairylands. Humanoids who said, “May I help you?” and did. I miss harmonizing to “What Child Is This?” in stores, celebrating the true Reason for the season.
So, I’ll again circle for parking spots — in any zip code. Though … the scary grandmas probably are still battling.
We other shoppers will watch — from a distance.
Maybe we should bring along pitchers of cold water?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you prefer online or in-person shopping? Why?
My summer dieting resolutions have proved as successful as last January’s, despite my good intentions.
Daylight saving time is more conducive to exercise, I said. I’d shed winter weight like a parka.
Summer gardens produce tons of fresh veggies. Fruit, a nutritious food that actually tastes good, abounds. Easier to eat skinny, right?
I implemented self-scare tactics: Beaches would sound a bloat-float warning upon my arrival.
Other aids would help my effort. Spending hours in endless construction zones would create a slow burn, turning calories to ashes.
Plus, the stars were in weight-loss alignment. Stars or satellites? Not sure. I’m not picky about astronomy.
I did consume fresh veggies. Also, berries, cherries, peaches and watermelon. And, um, ice cream.
Come on, I live three blocks from Ivanhoe’s, a legendary drive-in touted by The Huffington Post as Indiana’s contribution to “The One Thing You Must Do in Every State.” True Hoosiers don’t live by broccoli alone.
To my credit, I exercised. Dragged along — er, encouraged — by Hubby, I hiked miles across rugged terrain. We paddled lakes, cycled bike paths and, despite bloat-float warnings, frequented beaches. We even swam in the water.
Given those “vacations,” would you choose half a bagel for breakfast?
Also, even the word “s’mores” forbids limiting me to one.
As for swimming — beach alarm aside — possessing a built-in inner tube isn’t a bad thing. When out-of-shape arms don’t keep one afloat, fat to the rescue! Safety first, I always say.
Besides, the holidays are three months away. Cooler weather will encourage exercise. As temperatures fall, so will my ice cream intake. Really.
Also, plenty of road construction remains to burn off excess calories.
Baggy sweaters will hide my summer-acquired inner tube, lessening motivation to diet. But fear not. I’ve created new scare tactics.
Shopping trips with dressing room mirrors always diminish my appetite.
Even better (worse?): the yearly checkup. I plan to share my innovative medical theory with my doctor. Doesn’t it make sense that we who carry more years should outweigh the young, who carry only a few? I’ll inform her the stars are in weight-loss alignment during autumn. She shouldn’t be picky about astronomy.
I’ll promise that now it’s fall, I’ll drop pounds like trees shed leaves.
Besides, there’s always January.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Is it harder to lose weight during hot or cold months?
We’ve fought kamikaze traffic and circled malls 250 times, searching for parking in the same zip code. We’ve donned body armor to survive elbowing crowds. Defied Klingon clerks who wanted to beam us to Kronos.
During one holiday shopping trip, two scary grandmas in my line battled about who was ahead. Would they take out everyone else, too?
Enter online shopping, the answer to desperate prayers. Especially in 2020.
No traffic. No higher-than-Santa’s-sleigh gasoline costs. No sore feet — unless we type with toes.
I generate Christmas atmosphere for online shopping by concocting a Christmas playlist, donning my loudest holiday sweater and drinking hot chocolate from my favorite Christmas mug. Christmas candles smell like pine … or Pine-Sol®?
Regardless, I pull out credit cards. My password list. Ready. Set. Shop!
My laptop’s crankier than a teen at 8 a.m. on Saturday. When I threaten it with a pitcher of cold water, the laptop finally cooperates. Sort of.
It sends me to the Malwart website, rather than Walmart. (Nothing to do with my spelling, you understand.) A pop-up offers the Garfield beach towel my grandson covets for only $471. When I purchase a puppy-kitty storybook instead, the website informs me other customers who bought this book also purchased “The Preschool Guide to Overthrowing the Government.”
Weary of children’s gifts, I peruse flannel shirts for my son. Surely, with 83,259,441,701 advertised online, I can find one. But 83,259,441,700 are size XXXXX Large.
My son could fit in a sleeve.
Wait. I see it!
The solitary size large, un-girly plaid shirt is in stock! But it can be sent only to Madagascar by Christmas. If sent to Indianapolis, it will arrive on February 29, 2024. If I pay extra.
My laptop emits a distinct chuckle.
Grrr. But if I use the pitcher of water, I’ll have to beg use of Hubby’s laptop. He’s busy ordering camping equipment — my Christmas gifts to him?
I may wait until Valentine’s Day.
Desperate, I return to pricing Garfield beach towels. Three others cost $500 apiece, so I grab the bargain at $471. Using the promotion code BANKRUPT, I owe only $470.12. Surely, this gift qualifies for free shipping. But no, I must spend only $203.77 more. So, I buy a bag of flour.
I miss pre-Internet shop owners, humanoids who said, “May I help you?” and did.
So, I join other masked shoppers in real stores. Remembering those two scary grandmas, I imagine they’re not Internet shopping. They’re still pushing and shoving to be first.
Other shoppers and I will watch — from a distance.
Maybe we should bring along pitchers of ice water?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you prefer online or traditional shopping?
Beware! Christmas aliens lurk in malls, mega-stores and parking lots.
Unlike gargantuan monsters on big and small screens who spit purple slime, these unearthly creatures can enter a Walmart without so much as a raised eyebrow.
Like the rest of the local gift-seeking population, they are tall, short, and various shapes, colors and sizes. They may wear jeans and hoodies or polyester pantsuits with Christmas teddy bears pinned to lapels.
Their appearance does not betray their presence. Instead, be on the lookout for suspicious shopping behaviors.
These extraterrestrials don’t aim laser cannons at shopping districts or vaporize Santa and his elves at tree lightings. Still, they could destroy holiday traditions cherished by our culture for decades.
Christmas aliens are betrayed by their driving behavior. They stop at stoplights. Yes, really. Some even halt at stop signs. A few actually allow drivers trapped in wrong lanes to go first.
Their parking lot behavior reveals even more sinister intentions. Instead of charging across the lot in a diagonal path, they drive in designated lanes.
Despite plentiful targets at crosswalks, they do not accelerate. What kind of Christmas spirit is that?
Some aliens skip convenient parking spaces, keeping them available for the elderly and expectant mothers.
Having corralled not one, but two truant shopping carts, they may even look The Salvation Army bell ringer in the eye as they enter.
What would happen if the entire population exhibited similar dangerous behavior?
They break the First Commandment of Christmas Shopping: Instead of inflicting shopping trips on spouses and children as a punishment, they try to make them fun.
They also refrain from mugging store clerks when a size large or Baby Know-It-All can’t be found.
They retrieve items from top shelves for the vertically challenged.
They sing along with background Christmas Muzak. On key.
They procure private places for cell phone discussions about purchasing the jingle-bell boxer shorts.
They may even toss used paper towels into the restroom trash can instead of onto the floor.
At checkout, they say please and thank you. And find they purchased more for others than themselves.
All these are strong indications that aliens have mounted a major assault on Christmas shopping traditions we hold so dear.
Worse yet, they enact these with a smile.
Everyone knows Christmas shopping and giving have nothing to do with smiling. After all, we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. God knows, He never smiled while lying in the manger. When He healed a dying little girl. Or, watched a lame grandpa dance without his crutch.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you encountered a Christmas alien lately?
For years, my friend Dana and I have met every shopping challenge known to womankind. Blessed with two daughters apiece, we survived the daunting task of finding clothes for bloomers, early and late. Dana and I practiced motherly glares and “Because I said so!” drills for prom season. When the girls all married, we scoured stores for mother-of-the-bride dresses that wouldn’t age us on contact or ready us to dance on the reception tables. Together we played, grayed and prayed through decades of shopping.
Little did we know our retail history would prepare us for the ultimate shopping experience: buying for grandchildren. Serious business, right? We prepare for action by regularly polishing our credit cards.
We go in Dana’s car because she has fewer accidents. Also, her car features dual heating controls so we don’t hot flash each other to death.
First things first: Grandmas, in their feeble state, need energy to stimulate the economy. At the restaurant, our waitress brings extra rolls, dripping with butter, along with hypocritical salads.
At the mall, we try to take interest in clothing purported to fit us. But what grandma wants to face her body in fitting-room triplicate?
Much more fun to buy clothes for grandchildren. Like well-trained hounds, Dana and I follow the sales scent to 80-percent-off signs. We scout baby departments, hungry for the softness of little sleepers and onesies.
We’re such a seasoned team that we don’t need phones. If we chase our prey into separate departments, we rendezvous for critiques and/or celebrations at exactly the right moment. Like Vikings, Dana and I methodically plunder each store until salespeople tremble. The whole retail world is at our mercy until—
Until we encounter racks of lacy velvet dresses at 80-percent off.
Our daughters prefer practical clothes for their children.
Don’t they understand grandmothers do not live by denim alone? We want pictures of little princesses clad in scratchy Cinderella gowns. We want grandsons to wear ties they will soak in ketchup. We covet fairy-tale photos we can show off to friends, relatives and strangers at convenience stores.
But our children frown. Sigh.
To console ourselves, Dana and I make a beeline to the cookie store. After several rounds of favorites, plus diet Pepsi, we agree we are blessed, Cinderella or no Cinderella.
We drag our bags outside. After sociable trips through the parking lot, greeting others who cannot find their cars, we remember we entered through Appliances, not Intimates. Dana hits her remote again. Her car grumbles when we load it till it barely clears the ground.
Grandma sales mission accomplished.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Can you recall a favorite shopping trip?
Yes, Thanksgiving has passed. Though the holiday virus has infected my mental workings, I’m not out of touch with reality yet. After all, it’s only December 1.
No wonder my gas company turned off the heat. …
Back to the original subject. Every year we celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving. At Halloween, even. Yet, doesn’t Thanksgiving at Christmas make more sense than Black Friday? Let’s start a new trend! I’ll go first:
I appreciate energetic individuals who decorate their homes with flair during Advent. Their stunning light displays delight my grandchildren without this all-thumbs grandma hammering a single thumb.
Blessed are the procrastinators who, like me, have not removed pumpkins from their porches. The same people leave their Christmas lights up until July. You have no idea how you spread good cheer to me and others who will show up two months late for our own funerals.
I’m also thankful for online Christmas shopping, as my grinchy feet have nixed walking marathons in malls and stores. What a boon for me and for others with cranky, uncooperative body parts; cranky, uncooperative children; or cranky, uncooperative spouses.
Yet, I am thankful that my feet, in their more magnanimous moods, have allowed some shopping trips. Miss the opportunity to sing along with background carols? Never! Miss people-watching at the most interesting time of the year? Perish the thought!
Nasty store clerks are legendary; yet yesterday, I encountered one who, amid coupon craziness, promised me the best deal possible — and delivered.
On the receiving end of gift-giving, I am thankful my husband has developed excellent judgment in selecting presents. The past few decades, I have received nothing like one of his early gifts: a dried-blowfish lamp brought back from Florida.
Nor have friends given me a Santa Yoda yard ornament or singing deer head. One friend, whose sister gave her a plunger-waving snowman that asks restroom guests what they’re doing, has never re-gifted me with him. For that I am deeply grateful.
Also for commercials on TV that do not revolve around spending buckets of money for Christmas. Both of them.
Finally, for my car clock that ignores the time change. While an initial glance at it strikes me with panic — “I’m an hour late!” — I savor the rush of relief when I realize I’m not.
Hubby threatens to change the clock. Sure, it gives a false sense of security. But it allows me to chill.
After all, it’s only December 2.
Oh, well. There’s still plenty of time to celebrate Thanksgiving this December.
With every “Merry Christmas!” I’ll remember and thank the One whose birthday it is.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you celebrate Thanksgiving at Christmas?
I exert considerable energy to avoid store lines at Christmas, purchasing gifts while Rudolph is still reddening his nose on the beach.
Then, in December, I stumble through Walmart’s doors at 10:30 p.m. to escape lines. I won’t recall how I got there or that I parked my car at Lowe’s. But I’ll have plenty of time to search for it.
Many Americans, like me, despise standing in line — strange, as we spend our lives queuing up. During preschool years, we line up to bawl on Santa Claus’s lap. As elementary children, we form lines to go outside and inside. We broaden our horizons as adults, waiting in wedding reception and funeral home lines, queues at hotel desks and ballparks.
Even at church, we fear the potluck will run out of KFC before we reach the front. And will the sins of those at the head of confession lines rank higher than ours?
At best, we grit and bear it. At worst, we yak on phones.
Interestingly, people who declare there is no right or wrong morph into Moses when someone crosses a certain line: Thou Shalt Not Cut In. Businessmen, Harley riders and little old ladies all want to stone the criminal with Old Testament zeal.
Yet neither God nor OSHA has specified that we stand in lines. Why do this? Especially since we should be first. Always.
Part of the answer lies in our culture. Americans stand in line for the same reason we drive on the right, not the left; eat Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®, not blood pudding, for breakfast; and wear clothing in public — most of the time. It’s what we do.
But I like to think there are better reasons.
Bottom line, standing in line means we put others first.
Years ago, my husband and I entered a McDonald’s in Madrid, Spain. No lines formed at counters. Instead, customers rammed each other like football linemen. Hubby and I waited in vain for game’s end. Eventually, our hungry stomachs won. Readying elbows, we dove into the pack.
If only my elementary principal, Mrs. Talley, had arrived to tame us. If the ghost of my childhood Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Mamie Skeet — wearing her usual weird hat — had admonished us with Jesus’ Golden Rule, we might not have sold slivers of our souls for Big Macs.
Now I appreciate more than ever you who keep your elbows to yourself and wait patiently in line. And this December, if we allow others to go first, we will light up Christmas lines like the natal Star.
Mrs. Talley and Mrs. Skeet would be proud of us.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What will you do while waiting in line this Christmas?