Posted in Black Friday, Shopping, Thanksgiving

Bye Bye, Black Friday. I Gotta Check Out.

the-mother-christmas

I prepped for this day like one does for a special dinner stuffed with turkey, gravy, and pumpkin pie.  I doubled up on workouts the fall months in advance, so I could climb shelves, stretch for treasures, sprint to the “while supplies last” aisles, and push three full shopping carts to the checkout using two hands and one foot while hopping on the other.   

Black Friday shopping wasn’t something I loved doing, but I was good at it.  Prior to becoming an online shopper, I studied the newspaper ads as if cramming for an important test like the S.A.T. (Shop-A-Thon). I could get Walmart to price match and home deliver a live llama if I really wanted one, and believe me, I came close. I knew which stores opened when and what sugarplum bait each could hook me with.

I proudly came home with the cheapest gaming systems, feet pajamas for all, complete Dora the Explorer paraphernalia, the rarest Zhu Zhu Pets (toy hamsters that NEVER stop squeaking), and other “needed” treasures.  I kept my shopping game pretty clean and never got into pillow fights, electronic executions, or Barbie Doll battles.  

I am embarrassed to admit that I did get caught up in the materialistic mentality of the BF event though, especially a few years ago when my mother was visiting.  She spent Thanksgiving and the weekend with my family and agreed to Black Friday shop with me.  She’s in her golden years and had her knees replaced, so her shopping speed rolled back like the prices at the local Walmart we’d go to. My mother still had the spunk and energy to join me, and we left the house at 4:00 a.m.  My husband and little girls stayed put in their cozy beds.   

In the hectic and dark Walmart parking lot, my mother secured a hard-to-find shopping cart.  Once inside, it was hard to move freely among the swarms of people that I just had to be a part of.  After I checked to see my mother had her flip phone with her, I told her I’d be back in a flash and buzzed away.  I just bolted, leaving her there with her precious, coveted cart.  

After loading my arms with enough bath towels to open a spa, I returned to my mother and unloaded my laundry in her cart which I really needed for this shopping trip.  I asked her if I could borrow it, and before she could answer, I just took it.  Yep, I stole my mother’s cart, her four-wheeled cane so that I could continue packing it with wrapping paper, small appliances, and knock off Tupperware. Geez oh man!  What was I thinking?

Before I got to the toy department, I knew I should check on her.  I abandoned her in an unfamiliar store during the craziest shopping day in America.  I found her near the entrance in the foot bath, waterpik, and pamper-yourself section. I returned her cart to her (filled with more super important stuff I mindlessly yanked off the shelves) and took off AGAIN.  

I just couldn’t stay put.  The zing, zeal, and zip of the crowd was hypnotic and entranced me.  I would have boarded an alien ship if someone told me there was a rollback deal on interplanetary travel.  And yes, I bet I would have left my mother with her cart if she couldn’t catch up.  I’m so ashamed.  

I needed to own those sales though, and fast.  My husband had to leave for work at 7:00 a.m., and I had to get back to our kids. I had less than three hours to shop like a fool, regain sanity, and return home with my mother safely belted in the passenger seat of our minivan.  Pressure was on to scurry, hurdle, and sing Fa La La while doing so.

I rushed to the toys where I was afraid of missing some sort of magic, like dancing elves passing out mimosas and fast-passes to cut in lines. What a Milton Bradley Mob! I didn’t know where to even begin.  (FYI – There were no spirited elves, but I saw a tiny old man take a slow, heavy swig from a flask he returned to his flannel pocket.)

I wanted to be in aisle eight, the infamous doll aisle, but both sides were barricaded with customers.  To distract the doll mongers, I purposefully tossed some coins into aisle eight and when my change klinked to the floor, the shoppers momentarily stopped grabbing things just as I hoped.  While they looked above for the sky to rain with more money, I slinked in like a cat, stage left.  I know, I cheated my way into aisle eight, but I must’ve lost my better judgment in the parking lot.  

I squealed, “BOGO on dolls!”  I couldn’t even contain my excitement and grabbed a bunch of Polly Pockets, every inner tube lipped Bratz Doll I could reach, and some baby dolls that would pee out water.  How fun it would be for the girls to change fake diapers!  I stuffed my coat and purse like a shoplifter until I nearly burst. I started to sweat with doll fever, and my claustrophobia clobbered me with a sucker punch.  I was stuck between four shopping carts like the monkey in the middle. My breaths stuttered and my heart thumped against all those ghoulish Bratz Dolls.  

Finally, the carts pulled out and I escaped. Phew!  I shook my head and took a breather.  I saw the old guy take another flask nip as he walked away with the blue hair who blocked my exit.  I heard him slur, “What took you so long?!”   

Then I nearly tripped over a wagon in the middle of my path.  Perfect! I emptied my coat and purse and filled the wagon with the rest of my deals. I shopped around a bit more and threw in a panda bear neck massager for my mother (I’m not that bad of a daughter.)  My wagon overflowed, and I had little strength left to maneuver it.  It was time to greenlight, GO!

I called my mother and met up with her in the grocery side of the store.  We checked out, and beyond the stuff I put in her cart, the cashier scanned bananas, Lorna Doone cookies, and a box of Life Cereal.  My mother bought three grocery items in three hours on Black Friday!  

I ended up with a bunch of senseless purchases including the wagon. We already had two in our garage, but there was such a good deal on this one.  My poor mother rode with a wagon handle wedged next to her ear.  

When we got home, my girls were still asleep.  My mother ate her cereal with a banana while I stole a quick catnap.  My children woke me up within an hour, and I was useless.  I spent all my energy and money at the biggest monopoly, and now I was depleted, out of reserves, tapped out, broke.  

My peppy mother wanted to be with the girls, so she fed them Life and colored and played cards with them while I caught a few more hours of rest. I’m so thankful my mother waited for me while I left her and abandoned myself in a shopping frenzy. I chugged the Black Friday Kool-Aid and followed the material obsessed masses. Later, I had buyer’s remorse, but my mother claimed she had a good time window shopping and people watching.  

That was the last time I participated in Black Friday.  Recently, my daughters (now teens) nearly convinced me to take them Black Fridaying.  I considered it but then remembered how wickedly weird I got that final time.  Instead, I came up with a better plan to take them  *White Wednesday shopping, when pure retail wishes come true.  

Wishing you the best holiday season.  In the end, the shopping and accumulation of stuff is not what is important.  It’s having someone to give to and share with. God bless us, Everyone!  

*ROGO — Read One, Get One — Click on “I’m Dreaming of a White Wednesday” to learn more about this delightful retail holiday.

Posted in Black Friday, Christmas Season, Shopping, Thanksgiving

I’m Dreaming of a White Wednesday (With Every Christmas Gift I Buy)

img_0235

Whoa!  There certainly are a lot of retail events that keep materializing for the Christmas season shopper. The biggest ones I’m aware of are Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving), Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving), and Green Monday (a couple Mondays before Christmas).  Of these three, Black Friday is the one that draws hordes of customers into actual stores.  The others are online shopping days which are perfect for me, a revolutionized .com-customer.  

I used to thrive on “brick and mortar shopping” where I had to touch, see, and even smell everything on display.  Pixels weren’t included, and minimum storage merely referred to my overflowing closet.  My friend Heather and I were partners in bargain hunting and hit malls, shopping centers, and outlets to use our marathon purchase prowess about once a month.  

Due to the convenience of online shopping, I’ve evolved into a laptop shopper. I still like to occasionally venture into real stores with Heather and my daughters though (They’re currently ages 12 and 14.)  Doing so, I discovered a shopping spree window of time for which I will annually save the date.  I call it White Wednesday, and it outshines Black Friday. White Wednesday is to be observed on Thanksgiving Eve.  

Before I share the clean and bright beauty of White Wednesday, I wish to disclose that I was and still am an expert Christmas shopper. I understand the value of and excitement of *Black Friday and admit to partaking of it in the past.  

This year my daughters wanted me to take them Black Friday shopping.  Initially, I said yes and thought we could make a retail adventure of it.  We would get up about twelve minutes after falling asleep. We’d travel just over thirty miles north to Erie where we could hunt for sales at the Millcreek Mall and neighboring stores.  

We would stand in long lines, battle crowds and traffic, and lose sleep to fill up our bags and carts, but we would do it together.  Our arms might burn with muscle spasms, but we would power through with adrenalin, strength, and gift-giving and girl power. We would save money and get free stuff for being early birds. We’d refuel on free hors d’oeuvres at Hickory Farms and toothpicks topped with China Max then blast ourselves with sugar and caffeine from Starbucks (straws and napkins free).

While bonding with my girls, I would train them to become a part of something big, a special community of shoppers around the USA.  We would contribute to the economy and have a blast doing so.  

And then the wine wore off and I woke up…

That morning, I lit a harvest pumpkin candle and relaxed in my cozy slippers and comfy chair.  While sipping pumpkin coffee with pumpkin flavored creamer (yes, I’m a pumpkin junkie), I made a big fat pumpkin pie plan to boycott Black Friday, FOREVER!

When I broke the news to the girls, they were relentless.  “But, Mom! You promised, and it’ll be so much fun!”

“Believe me, it won’t be fun.  It will be very stressful,” I claimed.  

“You are the best shopper, Mom.  We want you to teach us.”  Oh, how they know I love to be flattered for my teaching skills and best-buy-radar.   When it comes to couponing talents, I have no modesty.  

“Girls, I really don’t want nor need to go Black Fridaying ever again.  It’s too exhausting and insane for me at this stage.”

*ROGO — Read One, Get One!  Today you get two blogs in one sitting.  Check out (shopping pun intended) “Bye Bye, Black Friday” for more store lore.   

 

“Besides there is a much better materialistic holiday, White Wednesday.”  

“Oh yeah?  Why haven’t we ever heard about it?” asked shopping minion #1.  

“You’re making this up,” accused shopping minion #2.  

“Trust me.  I merely made up the name, White Wednesday, but not the concept which is  a day when pure retail wishes come true.”

“Nobody shops on White Wednesday!”

“Somebody does, or the stores wouldn’t be open.  The point is that nearly nobody will be out and about because they’re waiting for Black Friday or prepping for Thanksgiving.  Since we don’t have to do either, you can accompany me and be White Wednesday Angels.”  My darling cherubs eye-rolled then conceded to go after with me after school Wednesday, especially since that was their only option for brick and mortar Christmas shopping.  The rest would happen online.  

I hoped it would be like last year, when, after my appointment in Erie the day before Thanksgiving, I went to the Millcreek Mall.  I wanted hand soaps and candles but witnessed the unveiling of Black Friday products and prices and bought a lot more.  The mall was beautifully decorated for the upcoming Christmas season, but it was as quiet as a snowglobe. I felt like I had the place to myself.  Every store I went to started their BF sales, so I banked in on early-early bird bargains, but better.  There were no lines, crowds, competitions, traffic, or sleep deprivation.  

This year it was great, and even better than I could have imagined.  The girls and I arrived at the mall at 5:00 p.m. (not a.m.)  We had no trouble finding rock star parking on this chilly eve.  When we entered the mall you could hear the buzz of the fluorescent lights.  The entrance was only busy with signs, slogans, and sale prices, not sounds and customers.   The silence whispered that it was going to be a good shopping trip.  

Each store we went to was prepping for their Black Friday deals.  Employees had mere hours to set us their store kiosks, displays, and signs for anticipated customers.  Since the mall was thankfully closed on Thanksgiving, they had to get ready on Thanksgiving Eve.  

Whatever was going to be offered in 36 hours was offered then and there.  No mall retailers held out on giving me a freebie or discount I would have scored later.  If held up a few minutes longer while the seasonal Christmas help was being trained,  I would be rewarded with future coupons for my patience.  These should not have hit my hands until BF, but, honestly, these store managers and workers aimed to please.  

My girls and I ended up with an abundance of toothpick snacks from Hickory Farms and China Max. At Starbucks, we only waited behind one cute couple named Doug and Dina.  After all that, we shared an order of pretzel sticks and a lemonade.  Life was lovely.   

We shopped hard and turned the mall inside out. Even though we acquired so many deals there, the girls wanted one more store.  One more store?  It was nearly 10:00 p.m., and we had a 40 minute drive home.  

Those girls convinced me that we couldn’t end it yet, so we went to Target.  That was the one place that wouldn’t start BF deals on WW (White Wednesday, remember?)  At least I had a $10 off of any purchase coupon. We left with a free giant box of Xtra Cheddar Flavor Blasted Goldfish Crackers and two packs of Juicy Fruit.

We made it home just minutes before my pumpkin spice latte wore off and the clock chimed for Thanksgiving.  We carried all our purchases inside and said goodnight to each other and our wonderfully productive and serene White Wednesday.  We were thankful for the day together.  

This was a day when pure retail wishes indeed came true. Mark your calendars for the next White Wednesday on November 22, 2017.  

Have a Christmas season you dreamed of.  

img_0234

 

 

 

Posted in Dogs, Health and Wellness, Running, Seize the Day!

And I Would Run 500 Miles, and I Would Run 500 More…

img_0311

I first composed the barebones of this over four years ago to highlight (and lowlight) the final run of my first year’s electronically recorded miles using the Nike Running App. Each venture out is as unique as the Pennsylvania snowflakes I waltz with each winter.  This last run of the year was certainly a rarity.  Road running is full of excitement, rewards, and surprises with unpredictable weather, terrain, and strength.  NOTE: I avoid treadmills like lima beans and will only touch one if I absolutely need to.  

In September of 2012, I figured out that I could track 500 miles before my one-year “appiversary” on November 30, 2012.  This is a little story about those closing, annual steps.   

Today, using the same app, I calculated 570 runs and 2624 miles. Such a little thing has made all the difference at inspiring and holding me accountable me as a runner.  This morning, I also saw yellow-vest-guy taking his morning stroll (more about him later).  

*** NOVEMBER 29, 2012***

Tomorrow marks an entire year since I invested my best $2 for my iPhone’s Nike Running App. Its accurate record keeping and reliable GPS have motivated me to go faster and further.  The past 364 days granted me various runs with a burn of over 50,000 extra calories, often stemming from Goldfish Crackers swimming in my red wine sips (my favorite food and drink combo ever).    

Today I got up at 5:00 am to snag my 120th run of the year, the one that would get me to mile 500.  I ventured out and kissed the frosty 28 degree November wind with Vaseline slathered lips. The dogs and I were ready to hit the road. I pulled my hat down tight over my ears, placed my headphones atop, and nestled my phone in my armband. I pushed start and listened to the encouraging female app voice countdown, “Three-two-one, beginning workout.”  

img_0309The first two miles were chilly but comfortable.  Both dogs had an extra spring in their paws, like they knew this was a special run for me (Every run to them is always special, like extra bacon on Christmas morning).  Today’s course was our street lit neighborhood where the dogs know the hills, flat parts, and possible cat sightings.

Italia’s aging hips and legs still carry her forward, but to avoid injury she only runs a couple miles.  We needed to clear about five and half, so I dropped her off after two and accidentally “ended” the app workout instead of “pausing”.  Dang, I just wanted today’s final mile to happen during one run, but I couldn’t dwell on it. I just had to track two separate workouts instead of one.  

Louie would finish the final miles with me though.  I used to feel guilty returning Italia while Louie remained,  but he’s still such a rambunctious pup who needs the extra exercise.   He is almost a year old and is both hyperactive and noisy.  He barks at everything with legs, without legs, with wheels, without wheels, with shadows, and without.  He barks at his own echoes of barks.  Louie is the annoying neighborhood barker.   When I can zap some of his energy, it helps mute his squeaky squawk.

Back to the driveway, I hit “start” again waited for the “Three-two-one, beginning workout” signal and sped up the hill.  The sky barely lightened since we started. Thankfully the streetlights shine on, especially during these starless, cloudy mornings.  

The next two miles were smooth and serene.  So far this was a good run.  The randomly shuffled tunes blared out the best motivators for a private race like this.  I fist pumped around the hood to the beats of “Born to Run” (not joking), “Old Time Rock and Roll”, and a Serbian Orthodox chant that helped me pray.  My feet lightened like a gazelle while I dreamily prepped for my finish line and the extra cyber cheers my app would deliver.   

Suddenly, the fuzzy needle scratched over the record album as a street light burnt out while I ran beneath it.  That happened only once before, and that was a very bad day.  Oh oh.  Was that a skunk odor spoiling the refreshing air?   Louie kept pulling to the right, the source of the smell.  I didn’t have time to be jinxed or skunked.  I was too close to the end for these distractions.    

With less than half mile left, I zipped through my final song-length’s-hill.  The finale, the monumental moment was near.  I got back into the groove and danced up Stephen’s Road to Rusted Root’s “Send me on my Way”:

(On my way, on my way) I would like to reach out my hand, I may see you, I may tell you to run (On my way, on my way). You know what they say about the young!

This song reminds me of college when I was twenty-years younger, and a pack-a-day smoker, not a smokin’ runner.   Thankfully, I gave that habit up and picked up this one.

With just one-tenth of a mile left to go, I diverted back into my current reality.  More than ready to flash to the end and grab my imaginary medal, I’d love to report that something like “Chariots of Fire” belted out while I crossed my personal finish line.  “Ch, ch, ch, ch bring in the synthesizer, the piano, the percussion, the strings!  We are here today to honor the legend.  Donna’s gonna do it! Cymbals! Who has the bloody cymbals? With hope in her heart and wings on her heels.”  Instead, the cowbell clanged with absurdities and obscenities.    

Louie tugged at his leash again, this time to the left.  He spied my elderly neighbor taking his early walk. This active old man and I have never spoken to each other during these morning jaunts around the hood, and except for the obligatory wave, I only know that he lives in a well-groomed ranch and wears his reflective fluorescent yellow vest every time he walks.  I’m a chatty neighbor and would love to talk, but he just lifts his hand in a half-mast-wave and keeps a serious stride.  It’s obvious that he doesn’t want my morning chit chat, so I just wag my hand like a puppy’s tail and smile.   

When Louie saw yellow-vest-guy, his need to greet him was strongly intense.  Maybe he thought he could get the quiet man to do a trick and speak.  Louie yelped and whined and bolted toward him with relentless sheltie persistence.  I screamed a bunch of opposing, confusing commands, “Louie!  Stop it! Heal! Come on! Let’s Go! Damnit! Quit it!”   My crazy minion of a canine and I tug-o-warred with his paisley print leash.  Yellow-vest-guy stood like a statue until I got things under control.  I wonder if he thought I was yelling at him or if he realized my dog was obnoxiously trying to jump on him to lick his shiny reflectors.  

When I successfully yanked Louie back, my iPhone came loose from my armband, jetted out, and dove to the earth like an asteroid.  “Sh#@!  My phone!  My miles!”  I quickly sprinted to and picked up my device that luckily landed in the grass instead of the road.  Although it seemed unharmed, I still hadn’t made it to my finish line,  my app cheers, my fake crowd of fans, my self-made trophy, and my triumphant end.  

Yellow-vest-guy stood still, like a mannequin, while I cursed Louie (who now angelically sat by my side like the champion of puppy obedience school).  I swore at my cheap piece of sh%@ armband and shook my phone like an Etch-a-Sketch trying to get it out of screensaver mode.  I stripped off my non-touch screen gloves to get back to the app.  

I needed to record my 500th mile!   There it was, Nike+.  I plugged the headphones back into the phone, and started running towards home with the phone in my hand.  Three-two-one, and in a breath I caught my 500th mile.  Imagine that.  I was only seconds away from my goal that ended with embarrassing expletives, disturbances of the peace, warped facial gestures, and foul dog antics.  

Perhaps my next running year will end on a more victorious step, but, if not, all the footprints that lead up to it will hopefully be as glorious, therapeutic, peaceful, painful, relieving, and  energetic as this one.  img_0310