Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday....Shop Till it Hurts

It's a peculiar phenomenon. Every year, retail stores compete with each other to entice shoppers into their stores on the Friday following Thanksgiving. With Christmas being the time most of us spend a good chunk of any money we have on gifts and whatnot...retailers pull out all the stops to try and get you to spend at their stores before you bust your bank account or max out your cards.

Hence there are the super duper door busting special sales. Special is a key word here. The really fantastic bargains are available in limited quantity with no rain checks. What this creates is a horde of hundreds lined up awaiting the opening of a store to buy, say, a plasma T.V. for twenty bucks...when there are maybe two of them in the store. It's called "bait and switch" and is the oldest marketing scam in the book. You have to ask yourself why a retail store, with a warehouse the size of a football field and spending millions on advertising a particular item, would only carry a couple of that same sale item in the store. The answer is simple....get you and your money inside and then separate the two.

I've also noticed another trend...stores opening earlier and earlier. You see, when all the stores open up at the same time people have the opportunity to shop and compare. Can't have any of that because in retail, it's definitely first come first serve when it comes to getting that increasingly scarce consumer dollar. So some stores started opening a bit earlier...like 6am. Then some started earlier....like 5am. This year I saw that many were opening at 3 in the morning and I believe a couple even opened at midnight.

I feel sorry for the poor slobs who work in the store. Many years ago I worked at Target and got to experience my first Black Friday event. I worked as a stocker at that time and had spent the pre-opening hours unloading a truck and putting stuff on shelves. The intercom announced that the store was opening and I immediately heard a low rumble. I looked up and saw a crowd of people literally running down the aisle straight toward me. I dived into the stockroom afraid for my life and hoping to stay there for the rest of the day. No such luck. My boss drafted me to run the cash registers and, after thirty seconds of training, I was on the thing until the store closed at night.

I can imagine how much it sucks for employees to be dragged to work so they can open a store at three in the morning, put up with insane crowds of pissed off people who waited for hours to buy a sale item that was gone withing ten seconds of opening. So....if you're going out to participate in the consumer feeding frenzy today....smile at the person wearing the red or blue shirt and name tag. No matter how crappy your day is, it's a good bet that theirs is much worse and started much sooner.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Zen Walk

Not Everybody Enjoys Thanksgiving


I dunno, I've never really been all that thrilled with Thanksgiving. Sure it's grand to visit with family but there doesn't have to be a special day set aside every year for that and, if the family has some problems, the artificial get-together can be a bit uncomfortable. Two families that I married into and later divorced out of have left a bad taste in my mouth about sitting around trying to act like the Osmonds when the dynamics is more like the Osbournes.

Then there is the eating. Lots and lots of eating. Now, don't get me wrong, nobody likes to eat more than me and I can put the food away with the best of them. Yet that seems to be the focal point of this holiday...being thankful that one has the ability to load up a dining table with enough food to feed some families in the world for a month. Even the homeless and destitute get to join in with local charities spending massive amounts of their resources to make sure that everybody gets a chance to stuff themselves with turkey and gravy. I'm not sure the intent is to help them be thankful so much as grateful...a subtle difference.

Oh gosh...I sound like a grouchy old fart, don't I?

I do have some good Thanksgiving memories, more good ones than bad as a matter of fact. I miss my parents and my sister and Thanksgiving day with assorted relatives, some now gone. I miss my kids and their kids separated by time and distance.

I really miss my Mom's chicken and dressing. That's probably what bums me out the most.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Pill Makes You Larger and One Pill Makes You Small

Medication is the answer to every problem these days. Feel depressed? There's a pill for that. Anxious? There's a pill. Overweight? Just take these pills. Sleepy, not sleepy, pain, aches, sneezes, sniffles, pee too much, not peeing enough, can't get it up....pop a pill and make everything all right.

What really aggravates me is the accepted treatment for any mental health issue by throwing meds at people. Now...I'm not one of those types that believe medications have no place in mental health treatment. I'm just of the opinion that they only treat symptoms. Kind of like taking an aspirin when you have a headache. Gives relief; but if you have pounding headaches every day, maybe you should look a bit closer at finding the cause rather than crunching down bottle after bottle of Excedrin. Same with depression. If you're taking an anti-depressant year after year, are you really getting a handle on dealing with your depression? If you take pain pills long enough, sometimes you may discover that the only pain you are relieving is that of not taking the pills. There is no end to the number of people I know who are suffering all the mental and emotional devastation of a drug addict but who are convinced that they are not addicts because...well...it's prescribed by my doctor for my back pain...it's medicine.

It's okay to feel depressed. It's normal to feel pain. Though there definitely are times when both can become so debilitating that we need some relief to continue functioning...many of us become so dependent upon fiddling with our brain chemistry that we forget how to manage our own feelings. Some no longer even know how they feel.

Sorry for the rant but I had to get this off my chest. Enough preaching. Just remember to keep your head.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Age is a Number


This is one of my early memories which, for some reason, also seem to be my most vivid. The Jack LaLanne Show. I watched this on a prehistoric black and white vacuum-tubed television every morning. Not because I had a particular interest in exercise shows but because when the show ended, I would yell at my Mom that it was time for me to go to kindergarten. It was one of the ways I could tell time before I learned the advanced skills of reading a clock. I watched the show, not really understanding why he was jumping around all over the place...but he had a cool dog that I always wanted for myself.

Jack LaLanne is still alive! Dang...the man is 95 years old and still in better shape than most people a quarter of his age. What's his secret? Pills? Supplements? A complex diet program? Makeup?

Exercise and eat wholesome foods.

That's it.

I've never been particularly concerned about getting older. My fear is of getting older and getting sicker. What's the point of living into your 60's, 70's, and beyond if your life consists of pain and infirmary? I want my body to feel good whether my life ends next week or I live to be a hundred.

I still want that dog too.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Face It

I'm starting to believe that something worse than a poor self-image is one seeped in delusion. Of course, focusing on your faults and failures can be a road to depression and, perhaps, even an increase in the behaviors that cause those negative aspects about ourselves. But...then again...it can also be a motivator to change.

Walking around and telling myself "I'm a bit overweight, I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I'm not Faaaat! Not me. Lookit my arms...see how skinny they are?".

Don't look at my belly though. Don't ask me what my weight is this week. Don't comment about the closet full of triple X sized sweatshirts I wear every day to hide my body. Let me keep myself in ignorance about myself.

Trouble is, there isn't any bliss in that arrangement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Score!


I love coffee. I love the taste of it and I love it rich and black. No sugar or creamer for me, and don't even try to give me any of that flavored crap. My favorite kind is Colombian. Not "Colombian roast" type knockoffs...but the real stuff...with the little seal of Juan Valdez and his donkey. Yet sometimes it seems as if it's easier to buy plutonium than my beloved Colombian coffee. There's always Folder's, but it goes at a premium price and is never ever on sale. Close to ten bucks for a 27.8 oz. plastic container.

Then, the other day, I was browsing in Big Lots. It's a great store. They have all kinds of items that you usually can't find anywhere else at very cheap prices. Most of the stuff is marketed for foreign stores and I suppose that, sometimes, the manufacturers decide it's more cost effective to unload to places like Big Lots rather than ship it to wherever. Anyway, on this particular day I spied Yuban Colombian coffee. $8 for a 44 oz. metal can.

I about passed out from excitement. Yuban is my favorite. You cannot find Yuban Colombian where I live. You certainly can't find any coffee in the old style big cans.

A once in a lifetime opportunity for coffee fiends.

I bought a dozen.

I'm going back today for more.