Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Letter


Monday, December 21, 2009

Fa la la la la

I was listening to the radio the other day, and a Christmas carol came on. I LOVE Christmas carols. I can hardly wait until Thanksgiving is over so it is acceptable for me to listen to those festive tunes. Sometimes I cheat and start early, but either way, I just love them. I particularly love Harry Connick Jr. and this mixed artist CD that I own.

Anyway, I was surprised to hear a Christmas tune on KISS 107.5, but there it was - so I listened. I listened to Lady Gaga take Deck the Halls and turn it into a sexually charged rap. Some lyrics: Light me up, put me on top, let's falalalalalalalala. The only place you want to be is underneath my Christmas tree.

Well isn't that just a treat. I hear the familiar tune of one of the most beloved Christmas carols, and that's what I get. Thanks. A. Lot.

I just don't get the world's fascination with Christmas. The world is happy to light up their windows, trees, and houses. They buy gifts and give to the needy. They gladly take paid holidays and celebrate December 25 with cheer. They accept Santa Claus and all those reindeer. Yet the thing for which Christmas is credited must be omitted. In fact, it's not PC to even tell your classmates "Merry Christmas!" It must be "Happy Holidays."

I don't understand. I don't understand why it's ok to exchange gifts and good will with family and friends, but not discuss Jesus. I don't get why it's ok to decorate in various shades of red and green while lighting our homes and trees, but not to celebrate Jesus. I don't get why it's ok to declare unbelief toward the Christain holiday, and still take December 25th as a paid holiday - if you don't like what Christmas celebrates and represents, then get your booty to work on the 25th! I don't get why it's ok for children to believe in Santa, but not Jesus.

The bottom line is it's NOT ok. Christmas is about CHRIST. There would be no happy holidays if it weren't for Him. No presents and holiday cheer without that baby. And no matter how secular you believe your holiday is, anything you celebrate resembling the Christmas holiday has its roots in Christianity. From the candy cane to the star on the tree to belief in Santa, it's all part of this religious holiday. So, you can try to secularize (and even sexualize) this holiday all you want, but it doesn't matter what you do - Jesus WILL be found, try as you might to hide him.

I hope you have a wonderful CHRISTmas, and that you pause to reflect on how every part of this holiday, even the commercialized and secularized parts, revolved around and relate back to one simple miracle: the birth of our Savior.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tis the Season

Christmas season has officially begun. It sort of began the second Halloween was over, but now that Thanksgiving has passed and it's December (CRAZY!!), we can officially start the countdown! I love the holidays – I don’t really know why, I just do. I even love the cold and snow, until January  I love being with family, eating great food, giving gifts (and getting them!), singing at Christmas Eve services, decorating my NEW HOUSE,  lights and parties…it’s great.

The day after Thanksgiving, known to most as Black Friday, was not as “festive” for me, however! My sister-in-law and I decided to skip sleep altogether that night and head out for the Cedar Falls and Waterloo stores at midnight. We made great progress (minus an unexpected 1.5 hour wait outside of ToysRUs), getting in and out of stores in 15-30 minutes each time. We got to ToysRUs at 12:45 a.m., and after a supposed fight, they only let in 30 people at a time. We missed a couple deals we wanted, but were in and out quickly. Then across the way to Old Navy, in line 20 minutes to 3:00, when they opened. A mom brought her toddler son out in the cold with no more than pajamas and a hat on. NO GLOVES even. While some people half-heartedly asked her if she wanted to go to the front of the line, I actually grabbed her arm and made her go in. While we were all probably thinking how stupid it was, no one complained. Poor kid – she said he wanted to go to the toy store. So….I’m pretty sure unless you WAKE your kid up at 3:00 a.m. and tell him you are going to get toys, he wouldn’t have known where you were going. And since when is Old Navy a toy store?

The lines at Old Navy were HUGE, but thanks to quick thinking, I kept my eye on the lines and got in place once they started forming. We took turns shopping while one person stood in line and let others go ahead as needed. Then when we were both done, we checked out. GREAT strategy instead of getting in line at the back of the store! Less than 30 minutes and we were on our way to Kohl’s.

We arrived at Kohl’s less than five minutes before doors opened. We quickly gathered our things, did the same line-holding strategy, and were out the door! Then on to Wal-Mart. This is where our awesome morning started sliding downhill. Because the store is open 24/7, they let people in the store but did not un-wrap the carts of “good deals” until 5:00 a.m. as advertised. It was great not standing in the cold, but the store was chaotic. People were hovering around the bins, placing hands on TVs to claim them and such. They did a great job organizing the store so that lines wound through the groceries and such, but there was one problem: I had no idea which lines were for what! I immediately headed back to electronics to attempt to get a 42” TV on sale for $450. I thought it would logically be there. But an employee told me to head to the dairy section, and I did. I waited around the bins….only to find out later that the bins were full of DVDs, not TVs (I wasn’t even close enough to be able to tell!). So off I went with my little cart, scurrying as much as one can through a sea of tired, angry shoppers. I found the line for the Emersion TV! I stood in line for a few minutes, only to overhear that although I asked an employee if this was the line for the 42”, it was for the 32”. SIGH. She tried to tell me the 42” didn’t exist. I showed her the ad. Then someone FINALLY said it was in the lawn and garden section. Clear. On. The. Other. Side. Of. The. Store….so I ran. Well, I dodged and scrambled and weaved….but I hurried as best as I could! At one point I was literally in a traffic jam – couldn’t back up, turn, or go forward. Finally a clearing – yes! Then some girl pushes her cart toward me, blocking my escape route. She had some big thing under her cart blocking my way. I said, “I have to go forward!” and she said, “So do I!”. We stood there, neither wanting to budge, even though I was clearly there well before she was. Finally what little patience I have snapped. I backed up, gave a sweeping gesture to my side, and said, “Well please then, go on ahead!” with all the sarcasm I could muster. Not my finest moment, but it was obvious she knew she was wrong. Before the gap that she created was swallowed up again, I foraged on to find the TV.

Even though an employee tried to tell me the TVs were in the dairy section, I got a little terse and finally got the answer I needed: my TVs were out with the Christmas trees. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law caught up with me, only after a huge guy “stole” a TV out from under her! She was literally sprawled on a TV when a big guy came up to her, said “Not today, missy!”, and took it from her. Luckily, it was not the TV I needed, but still….Merry Christmas, dude.

After a long wait, we were done! So we headed back to Kohl’s for some leisurely shopping and to try to get a few more things on the list. Bad idea for this patience-worn-thin, extra-tired girl! Although there weren’t any lines, we had probably our longest wait yet. The lady in front of us was buying a Monopoly game that didn’t have the proper sticker on it. So they had to get an employee to grab another one….which also didn’t have a sticker…so they had to go find ANY game worth $18.99. At that point, we decided to hop lines. The person in front of us (coincidentally it was Julie’s out-of-town relatives!) also had an issue with their sticker. So the first line was done at that point and we jumped back to our original spot. The cashier scanned one of our items when the lady in front of me (the one with the Monopoly game) exclaimed, “Oh shoot, I have one more thing in my bag!”. So the cashier asked if it was ok if she took care of the lady’s one item. I said fine, none too happily. After that, it was FINALLY our turn…again. She scanned one item….again. I opened my big mouth and said something about Kohl’s cash when the lady in front of me (isn’t she gone yet?!?!) exclaimed again, “Oh shoot, I didn’t get my Kohl’s cash!”. Now I was done. I said, “Are you kidding me?!?!” while the cashier proceeded to assist this lady again.

We got out of there eight million hours later, and after driving for a couple minutes, I said to Julie, “What are the chances that, even though you gave her the coupon, she gave us our 15% off?”. I knew before even looking at it what the answer was. On a $125.00 bill, that’s about $20, so BACK TO KOHL’S we went. At this point, the other two “teams” (Jennifer and Joel, Rebecca and Wendy) who set out to shop much later than Julie and I did were all returning home. Fabulous.

At Kohl’s, even though it was the CASHIER’S ERROR, I was sent all the way back to customer service, where a snippy little girl asked me what was wrong. I told her. She then proceeded to answer the phone and help facilitate the longest ever hunt for a credit card. Meanwhile, a new customer service rep came to the back and asked if I was being helped. Stupidly, I said yes. When she turned to help the person standing behind me, I was just DONE. I said, “Wait – that girl’s phone call has nothing to do with helping me. I still need to be helped!” She ignored me. Then the snippy girl got off the phone and told me she had to “return” all the items and rescan them, and that it would take a long time. I said that’s fine. Eight million hours later, after she threw my receipts back at me, I LEFT for the third time.

We had a $10 off anything coupon at Younkers that we frugalistas could not waste, so we spend eight million more hours just trying to find something that wasn’t excluded or a “bonus buy” that we could use the stupid thing on. Finally, around 7:00 a.m., exhausted emotionally and physically, we headed back to Joel’s parents’ house.

I couldn’t help but think about the madness of Black Friday. Last year, one person even died in the stampedes. This year, adults were getting in brawls outside of a toy store. Why do we let all humanity, kindness, generosity, and general good behavior go out the window to save a couple bucks? When did we become so greedy? And how did I become one of them?

I got my good deals – but at what cost? I’m sure there are some people out there that, while they’ve probably forgotten it by now and I will never see them again, don’t think very highly of my actions that day. It was certainly an eye-opener to what our nation is about, and what started as a pleasant day turned into a chaotic mess….and it was only 7:00 in the morning.