Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Thursday/Friday 2011

Last year, I had a positive experience with Black Friday.  I had lots of people to buy for, so I spent hours scouring the ads from the newspaper and planning my route.

This year, many things were different for me.  My family and friends have decided to celebrate the Christmas season without over-doing the gift-giving. 

{sigh of relief}

I learned in a study we're doing at church that approximately 66% percent of Americans dread the Christmas season more than they look forward to it.  As sad as it is, I can totally understand why.  I spend a lot of time stressing about what gifts to give people, how much to spend, sending out holiday cards, planning to travel... the list goes on and on.  Also, I get a bit sad around Christmas when I think about all the kids and families who are without.  Not necessarily without presents, but without a home, a job, a sense of security, or even without love.

So, my friends and co-workers decided to spend time with each other and go out to dinner rather than buy each other presents, and my family decided to stick with minimal gift-giving.  We've elected to stop buying for extended family (aunts, uncles, and cousins), as in recent years, it has been a simple exchange of gift cards.  We are simply at the point where we don't really need anything other than to spend time with each other.

Regardless, my mom and I went out on Thanksgiving night to pick up a few things and because it has become a tradition to roam among "the crazies."

This year, businesses opened earlier than ever before.  Toys R Us opened their doors at 9:00, Wal-Mart opened at 10 (but staggered their sales based on the type of product) , Kohl's, Shopko, Target, Old Navy, and numerous stores at the mall opened at midnight, and there were a few that held out until 4:00 on actual Black Friday.

In my city, there are three Wal-Marts, so my mom and I randomly chose one at which to begin. We had a plan.  I was going to drop her off at the door while I found a parking spot.  She was going to grab the few things she needed, and in the mean time, I was going to go stand in line.  By the time she would finish grabbing her items, she would join me in line, and we would be that much closer to the checkout.

So, I dropped her off at the door as planned and began looking for my parking spot.  Before I could even get into the store, my mom called me and said, "Come pick me up... we're getting out of here."  I didn't question her, and headed back toward the main entrance.  When she joined me in the car, she commented about how once she got in there, she wasn't able to even turn around.  She said that Wal-Mart had such limited quantities of some of their sale items that people were stopping at nothing to get their items-of-choice.  By the time she was able to maneuver to the palettes containing the items she wanted, they were all gone.  After attempts at only two items, she tried to get out of the store but was literally stuck in between shopping carts, unable to move.  She said she'd never experienced anything like it.

Understanding that such behavior is part of the experience, we headed to a different Wal-Mart to see if, by chance, they had our desired items left.  They did, but we then waited in line for nearly an hour.  The people in front of us decided to also do their personal grocery shopping, so we had to wait longer than people in other lines, as their transaction was quite lengthy.

After Wal-Mart, we drove by Kohl's, saw that the line was around the store, and kept on driving.  My mom wanted some boots that were in the Younkers ad, so we headed for the mall.  Younkers has an upper entrance and a lower entrance, and we elected for the upper entrance, thinking that fewer people would know about it.  The line was, indeed, shorter, but the doors to the lower entrance were mistakenly opened a few minutes early.  We were able to get the boots she wanted, but had to wait in line for nearly an hour and a half to check out.

While she waited in line, I went to other stores in the mall where lines were much shorter.  After she checked out, we headed back to Kohl's.  By the time we got there, it was after 1:30, and we thought that by that time, people would've had the chance to get what they wanted and check out.  Not the case.  We got there to find out that the lines were from the front of the store to the back of the store, and after asking people how fast the line was moving (and finding out that it was taking quite a while), we decided to head home and go back later.

We eventually decided that the rest of the items we were interested in would likely not sell out, so my mom decided to go back shopping later in the morning while my brother and I went to the Husker game.

And so, my Black Thursday/Friday experience came to a close.  We spent a record low amount of money and felt like we purchased everything we wanted and needed.  It felt good.

While waiting in check-out lines and observing the "crazies," I made a mental list of things all people should do (or not do) when shopping on Black Thursday/Friday:

1.  Stick to 10 items or fewer.  On Black Thursday/Friday, I think it is wise to focus only on a few items.  Otherwise, you may become frustrated when, by the time you've located all your desired items, you find that they are sold out.  Prioritize the things you most need or want.

2. Do NOT use a cart.  Carts make stores incredibly congested, and it makes it difficult to maneuver through the herds of people.  By carrying items in your arms, you are more easily able to maneuver through the aisles without constantly having to say "Excuse me," or having to apologize for running into people.

3.  Only buy what is on sale.  Black Thursday/Friday is not the time to do all of your shopping.  It takes too long and makes people in line behind you have to wait even longer.  Come back later for the things that aren't on sale; for now, stick to what's going to save you money.

4.  Make buying decisions ahead of time.  Black Friday is not the time to browse.  Nor is it the time to call your loved one at home asking how many they want or if they agree that it is a necessary purchase.  While you're doing these things, you're in the way of others who are trying to get the things they've already decided they want.

5.  Do NOT attempt to grocery shop during Black Thursday/Friday hours:  This one goes along with numbers 1, 2, and 3.  Not only will you have to wait an unreasonable amount of time to get through the line, but everyone behind you in line will hate you.  Plan ahead, people.

6.  Stay off the phone.  On Black Thursday/Friday, I equate talking/texting while shopping to talking/texting while driving.  You will be distracted and are likely to run into someone.  Save the conversations for while you are idly waiting in the checkout line.

7.  Do NOT wear stilettos.   People.  This is the busiest shopping day of the year.  You are going to be on your feet constantly, and you will want shoes that are comfortable.  I will not feel sorry for you when you decide to take off your heels only to discover how sticky and disgusting those retail store floors actually are.

8.  Leave the kids at home.  First and foremost, they should be at home in bed.  They have to go to school on Monday, and I will have to teach them.  I don't want to spend my Monday picking your kid's head up off their desk.  Also, I don't want to witness the 3am feeding as you wait in line.  I don't want to hear your toddler scream and yell because he may not, in fact, open those toys that are in the cart waiting to be paid for.  And I don't want to hear your kids complain about being tired and hungry and tired of waiting.  Leave them at home until they are old enough to handle the chaos, which is not likely to happen until they are maybe in their teenage years.

9.  Use debit or credit.  Cash and checks take too long, and there's more room for error.  Enough said.

10.  Use your manners.  These store employees have given up time with their families so that you may buy presents for yours.  They are likely to be just as tired and frustrated as you are.  The very least you can do is thank them for giving you directions or for checking you out and wish them a good evening or a happy holiday season.  I can't even imagine the things these people must deal with during the busy shopping season.

That's all I've got.  Here's wishing you a happy holiday shopping season.  May we all keep in mind the reason for the season and consider shopping not only for our loved ones, but also for those who are less fortunate.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Thankful Post

I love the season of Thanksgiving.

I love reading blog posts and facebook statuses and tweets listing all the many things my real friends, cyber friends, and acquaintences are thankful for.  It is a welcome change from reading the ever-present statuses and posts about all that is going wrong with boyfriends, reality television, families, school, work, and politics.  I, personally, am a fan of keeping negativity and personal problems out of social networking spaces.

Earlier this week, one of my dearest friends and co-workers informed me that it had been nearly three months since I last wrote a blog post.  The past three months have been incredibly busy and have been filled with the things I love most.

I have become increasingly more active in my church, and I have formed some amazing friendships with the people there.

Back in August, I took the Confirmation kids on a retreat.  We enjoyed team-building activities, getting to know each other, and growing in faith...

The week of Halloween, my Crossroads group hosted a car for Trunk or Treat.  These people have become such great friends of mine!

Our youth group, which I sponsor, meets every other week.  Most recently, we went bowling.

I am so thankful to have such an amazing church family, and I feel blessed to learn and serve with such wonderful people.

I've had many opportunities to celebrate with friends recently.  There have been:



Olivia had the most adorable way of telling us all that she and Trevor are expecting!

The 11.11.11 Party:


And just plain hanging out:

I can't even express how much my family means to me.  I am one of the lucky ones, you see.  My family has always been loving, supportive, positive... together.  As a teacher, I am often made aware of less-than-ideal family situations, and there are moments each and every day when I think of my family and how fortunate I have been.

Though I don't get to see them as much as I would like, our most recent get-together was in celebration of my brother's last college football game of his senior season.  They had a lovely ceremony before the game.  My parents were escorted onto the field by a cheerleader as my brother ran through a lineup of his teammates.

Prior to the game, my mom expressed to me that she doesn't know what they will do with their Saturdays now.  Football has been such a major part of their weekends for the past nine years of my brother's schooling, and now, it's just... done.  I'm sure they'll find a new hobby soon enough.

I am so proud of my brother for sticking with college and sticking with football even when it was hard or boring.  This boy kept a positive attitude and a brave face every day.  Even when his football coaches changed his position and changed it back again.  Even when he had a concussion which took him out of playing for a few weeks.  Even when his coaches were shady.  In all of the circumstances where I would not have been able to keep my mouth shut, he held his tongue.  He's a much better person than I am.

Despite his countdown to the finish and excitement as he went through his last practice and his last game, this face says a lot:

I think he'll miss it.

My goodness, I have much to be thankful for.