18 October 2010

Before The Season Of Impatience, Irritation and Going Broke Gets Started... A Survival Guide...

Has anyone else seen the Christmas paraphernalia along with the Halloween merchandise being displayed in 'Wallyworld' and 'Tarjay'?  Is it just me or is this happening earlier and earlier every year? A strange thought just crossed my mind, (it is a common affliction for me) the displays I've seen so far, figuratively, look like human sized mousetraps camouflaged to look like an enticing visual smorgasbord that screams, BUY ME. It seems like the bait is already being set to subconsciously make everyone think about the holidays or more specifically, the purchasing of gifts, earlier this year. I have to admit that the cheese in one mousetrap recently was compelling enough for me to twitch my whiskers and go take a closer look at it but I really like my cheese to not be of the variety that will come back to bite me in the butt (and I rather like having a tail end (pun intended) thank you very much).  I also prefer my Mouse Traps to be more of the game board variety.

I know there are families of mice out there like us who are really struggling on the financial hamster wheel.  Added to that is the outside influence by marketers and advertising agencies who want to make you feel like you are somehow lacking if you don't buy gifts for everyone. They work hard to reinforce that concept and sometimes it's hard not to pay attention to them (consciously or unconsciously).  They have learned their business well.

I know and agree that the current economy needs conspicuous consumers to buy new hamster wheels and in doing so, create new jobs and that's fine if you are lucky enough to be able to afford it, but I think it's wrong that we have built a social atmosphere in which the belief that any holiday or celebratory event will be ruined horribly for yourself, your family and/or your friends if you don't spend money you really don't have on things you (or they) really don't need.

Fostering a climate that creates compulsion to buy gifts to show the depth of your love and devotion and the need to receive, in return, the same regard just does not make sense to me. If you are on the turning hamster wheel of this kind of holiday spending and you don't want to get off, then I think you might need to admit to yourself that your hamster is already dead. You can't buy true love and friendship no matter how much money you spend and those friends that require it of you are not friends

As one of the aforementioned mice who are being surprised by the setting of these early traps, (even though Christmas is still more than two months away!) I am already finding it necessary to start limiting my adventures into the Land of Retail until after the insanity runs it's course.

My mother-in-law was Queen of the 'improvise, adapt, overcome' style of problem solving. She was the most clever and generous woman I've ever had the blessing of having known. She and my father-in-law raised seven kids in a very small four bedroom home that had neither an attic nor a basement and I'm pretty sure that if you asked any of the family members about their memories of this time of the year, they would have to laugh. If there was one thing that wasn't in short supply in that family, it was humor. 

They created family traditions that encouraged and celebrated ingenuity and effort, not quantity and cost. Their positive perspective and attitude added to the giving of the gift of time and humor yielded familial memories more precious and valuable than any gift that could be bought with coins of the realm.

Before all the retail mousetraps have been set for the upcoming holidays (and perhaps some clarification is needed on the definition of 'upcoming'! For those in the retail world.  'Upcoming' means 'not right now'!  At the very least I wish they would wait for one holiday to end before they start decorating for the next), and since our family of mice are already being targeted for fleecing, I figure it's time to break out the big guns of reminders to protect my sanity, sense of humor and wallet. If your hamster is not yet dead, perhaps you might want to try putting things into perspective by turning a stressful time of year back into a special time of year.   

Although I have written of our family's traditions before, I am dragging out this lemonade recipe early and dusting it off for what is left of this year.  It sure looks like I'm going to need it.

The Christmas List - This tradition was started in my husband's family.  As I mentioned above, there were seven kids and obviously not a lot of money for Christmas. So here is how they gave the gift of laughter and memories that will last longer than any of the other gifts received that have long been (or will be) forgotten:

Everyone in our family is required to write out a Wish List that is at least one page long (both sides of a lined paper sheet) with wishes. Those that do not provide enough wishes are 'given' wishes. These would include things that you really don't want such as a jock strap... if you are a daughter or in my husband's case, perhaps a G string, whatever will provide the most entertainment for the rest of us when it comes time to open presents. I'm sure you get the idea.

The rules of the list are always the same. You can put anything on the list and encouragement is given to include things as small as paper clips and as large as a house or Lamborghini.

The fun part about this for everyone involved is that you can translate any given 'list item' however you want... so if you are not very specific... well let me give you an example:

Say you ask for a book but do not specify a particular one, then anything in the shape or likeness of a book is fair game.  Such as book ends that look like books or made out of books, a picture of a book, wooden letters that consist of the letters BOOK... etc.

Believe me,  it becomes very difficult to decide just how to word your list when everyone is trying to give you what you listed without 'giving what you listed'. Obviously we do not do this for every item on a list as that would not be any fun at all, but just enough to make it interesting.

One year, when my husband was a teenager, he asked for a scope for his rifle... he got a bottle of Scope mouthwash. His father once asked for a Blonde... and got a Barbie. One of our daughters asked for nail polish, and got nail polish painted nails of the hardware variety. Last year I asked for World Peace and got World Piece(s).  Believe me, you can get quite creative.

This tradition has somehow misguidedly migrated to my side of the family. A few years ago my husband decided to get a level for my sister Suzanne who is definitely has ADD and can't sit still for longer than about five minutes. If you want to talk with her, you have to keep up with her as she re-roofs her house, builds an addition, tears out and rebuilds a door she got bored with. Anyway, this was not just a small level... it was about 4 feet long or thereabouts. He carefully taped off the windows and painted the rest of it a brilliant pink. He told her when she opened it that he just wanted to remind her that she was a girl.

Meanwhile my sister had decided to get my husband a tool belt that she spray painted pink. When he opened his present she told him she had wanted him to get in touch with his feminine side.

What makes this especially memorable is that the two of them, on the same day, asked me what I thought of the present they had decided to give each other. I had the hardest time of my life not giving either of them away.  When it came time for the two of them to open presents, I made them open these particular gifts at the same time!  We laughed so hard that Christmas that we were in danger of asphyxiation.

The Pickle Ornament - Each of our children have a pickle ornament that is put on or around the tree after they go to bed on Christmas Eve. My husband and I 'hide' them. The child on Christmas morning that finds 'their' pickle first, gets a special gift. The rest get a different gift IF they can find their pickle.  We do not make this easy by leaving them undisguised.

Stockings - Believe it or not, stockings at our house are looked forward to more than even the presents.  (Probably because there is no telling what you may find inside) There might be an origami made out of a five dollar bill, a sushi thumb drive (the sushi was actually a fake plastic cube my husband adapted and glued onto the end of a thumb drive). A CD containing a playlist of music created for one particular family member. (Comedy routines also work) A paper clip, pencil, pen or hair barrette decorated with something pretty, funky, or funny (or any combination thereof).  A unique screen saver, ring tone or background for computer or phone on CD.  A 'Get Out of Jail Free' card good for playing hookey from school for a mother/daughter or father/daughter day (and yes there are stipulations with that one).

All of this takes time to think of and create so our family usually starts thinking about what to put (or not put) on our lists right about this time of year. 

Since the appearance of seasonal merchandise is already starting to pop up in places, counteracting it's pull will also have to start early.  So here is a heartfelt warning as the retail world starts to set their mouse traps, remember to use caution when tasting the cheese...

QOTD: "Hold on to family traditions that instill love and joy into the hearts of your loved ones. Create traditions that bind with love, respect and laughter. Quietly and peacefully put to rest those traditions who's time has gone." ~ Lemon Stand

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