Sunday, July 31, 2016

Back to School Sales and Other Religious Holidays

Remember the line "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"?  Yeah..Tale of Two Cities.  Ring a bell?  While I am fairly certain that Charles Dickens wasn't speaking specifically about getting children back to school...he could of been.  

 Yes, it's that time of year. Where I live, we are 16 days away from the big "send off" for children to return to the classroom. I not being sensitive to all of you that are crying in your kid's Cheerios at the very  thought of your precious spawn heading out the door?  If that is you, I apologize for my insensitivity but I am fairly confident that you will not only "get over it" and at some point in the future you will be actually pushing your child out the door ten minutes early (more or less) while telling them that they are close to being late for the first bell.

(NOTE: Sending children off to school gets easier with subsequent children and  time.  Sending your first child to kindergarten might be gut wrenching but by the time the last one leaves for college you are pretty much resigned, smiling, perhaps giddy at the idea. Your level of joy depends on the "ease" of the child.)

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the beginning of the school year.  When I was a little girl  starting school, you might remember in a previous  post (Whacks and Whackadoos) I didn't take an immediate "like" to school...but my love for it soon followed.  However, the days leading up to my "less than stellar" start were fairly exciting.  I remember the thrill of going "back to school" shopping. (I know I have said on numerous occasions how I despise shopping, but it was much more tolerable when someone else was paying for my stuff.)  I loved, not only the avalanche of all new clothes and shoes but picking out my book bag crammed with assorted goodies like paste, crayons, #2 pencils and such.  It all just made me  so happy.

While I doubt that today's kids can relate to the euphoria of picking out their lunch box de jour (well..actually that would be something along the lines of sac pour l'année I suppose..), one's lunch box in the late 50s required the same decision making skills as choosing one's Halloween costume.  I nearly feel sorry for the youth of today for not having the experience of picking out a metal tote with a theme. We had the glorious agony of deciding if Zorro, the Mouskateers,   Dale Evans. Roy Rogers. Lone Ranger or Davy Crockett would be appear on our  lunch box and thermos.   Sadly the cheap plastic knock off version lunch box or the cute little Pottery Barn insulated bag might have their merits but it's just not the same. (Does anyone, anywhere still use brown lunch bags?)

Even with all the sweet nostalgia related to  getting new school supplies in my youth, this time of year brings to mind the good and bad aspects associated to all the calendar school years that I have lived through as an adult, as a parent and (now) as a grandparent.

For the most part, I always looked forward to school starting when I was a student.  I loved school and could hardly wait to get back at it each year.  The first time I can say that I remember dreading that part of the year is the very year I got married. Back in those days, my hubby managed retail stores for what was an early version of the "big box" stores.  I, as you long time readers, might remember, was a teenage bride-to-be and obviously not quite equipped with enough life experience to realize NOT to plan a big wedding during September. I am fairly sure I must of mentioned this to future hubby that the date was going to be the first Saturday in September but he might of not made the connection between "back to school" and "getting married" as a major conflict of interest.  In fairness, he was working so hard for his then company he might of been mentally doing an inventory or some other boring task and not thought about the fact that his company was in NO WAY going to give him any time off during "BACK TO SCHOOL" season.  It is, after all, a major retail holiday.

After some serious pleading and groveling that included us detailing that there was a church booked, a reception planned and money to be lost if they didn't at the very least give him Saturday off, we did manage to have our wedding. AND out of the goodness of their mercenary little hearts they gave him a little time off for a honeymoon as well.

Fast forward  to around 7 years later...having to deal with "back to school" season as a parent.  One minute you have a infant and the next you have a kindergartner.  By the time our first born was ready to start school, I had developed a real hatred for this time of year thanks to my husband working for a retail company.  He basically left for work on some random August morning and came home after Christmas.  OK... maybe that is a slight exaggeration but if you ever managed a retail store, you would have to admit, I am not far from wrong.

Not only did going back to school take away my spouse thanks to the retail season of Back-to-School-Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas and Year End Clearance,   but this time of year was now going to deprive me from my precious little children.  Luckily for my kids they were far more grown-up than I was and seemed eager to escape go to school. Turns out that my little daughter who was only 4 days past turning 5,  could barely wait to get out the door.  I try not to take her enthusiasm as a personal assessment of my less than perfect parenting skills... but there is that possibility.

Anyway.... even though this time of year worked for my kiddos, my routine took a real hit once school was back in session every year.  Getting kids up and out the door on time is one thing but all the requirements of being an involved parent is like taking on a second career. Back in those days, I seemed incapable of ever actually verbalizing the word NO.  PTA president, sure no problem.  Bake cakes and cupcakes for parties and fundraisers...sure...happy to help.  Volunteer in the classroom because the class is larger than one would hope for this year....of course I can because the word NO escapes me.

So over the years, I did what I could as my own work schedules allowed and most of the time loved being part of all that went with the ins and outs of children heading back to the classroom.  It was with some sadness when my children grew up,  got into their cars and drove away to go to their assorted colleges.  There is nothing quite like a child loading up their car and driving away to remind me what a wonderful time it was back when we got to pick out their lunchboxes and backpacks.

Today, I am somewhat removed from being in the fray of the shoppers looking for multi-packs of #2 pencils and craft glue.  I suspect it has gotten so much harder than it used to be.

Every time I listen to my daughter discuss her "tasks" enrolling, participating or volunteering with her two sons' schools, I realize how easy I had it.  Today my grandsons go to a school where everyone is assigned an iPad and all communications from the classroom come "home"  on the computer.  School menus are subdivided into meal choices,  A, B, C, or bring your own. In today's schools if you want access you have to be "buzzed" in but only after you have your ID scanned and tell someone via the intercom who you are and what you want.  I appreciate the reasons WHY things have evolved as they have but sad that the world required it to happen.

My sweet memories of chicken noodle soup and bologna sandwiches seem horribly outdated when my daughter was saying that her son, who likes PB&J sandwiches for lunch, has a little lunch buddy, who's mother makes her own hummus so her child can dip his kale chips into it.  We are united in the idea that this child's mom would probably not want to be our BFF....
me, more so than her.  At least my daughter would have provided some organic grapes with the PB&J.  My own kids might of had a Hostess Cupcake.  I like to think nutrition was optional when my own kids were in grade school. (If it wasn't an option, people had the good grace not to mention it to me.)

So here we are just 16 short days out before the first day of school.  I feel the holiday cheer in the air as I move around town. I smile at the thought of being on the cusp of my gym's weight benches being clear of texting teens.  Kansas families are planning their routes and lists in preparedness for Missouri's  tax free weekend festivities (no sales tax on clothes, school supplies and electronics in the first weekend in August) that results  in the  mass migration of Kansans to pour into Missouri, and while I might be wrong ..probably means Hobby Lobby has to get their Christmas displays up. (or are they already out???).

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pokemon Stop

My version of "augmented" reality.
Did you think perhaps I accidentally walked off a cliff while trying to capture a Pokemon? Sadly, I am not nearly "cool" enough to be out joining the herds of people that are injuring themselves while trying to find the elusive 151 Pokemon characters. 

As you might remember, I did a post a few months ago about the unfortunate folks that met their maker while taking selfies. (Thine Own Selfie Be True).  Well, I am sure you will be happy to know that there is a new way to maim yourself by "device" if you are into that sort of thing. Maybe walking off a cliff would be an interesting spike in your day....or drop as the case may be.

While I might not be evolved enough to be a willing participant in this whole Pokemon GO game craze, it seems that by default I find myself  being an unwilling participant. Yes... Recently I have found that on numerous occasions  I have been surrounded by vigilant Pokemon hunters that are caught up in the Pokemon GO stampede.

While I am fairly certain that most of you have heard of the sudden popularity of the app named Pokemon GO. BUT, if you aren't up on your "useless" game knowledge, here is a short explanation.

Pokémon Go  is a freemium location-based mobile game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices, containing some but not all aspects of an augmented reality game. It was released in most regions of the world in July 2016. Making use of GPS and the camera of compatible devices, the game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on device screens as though in the real world. The game is free-to-play, although it supports in-app purchases of additional gameplay items. An optional companion Bluetooth wearable device, the Pokémon Go Plus, is planned for future release and will alert users when Pokémon are nearby.
In the game's first week of release, Apple said the game set the record for most downloaded app in the App Store in one week

Last week, instead of being the diligent blog writer that strives to give you new material every week, Hubby and I decided to go on a road trip.  We thought it might be a nice experience for our 8 year old grandson to see some "Americana" type destinations.  Our itinerary was to start with a riverboat ride on the Mississippi starting in Hannibal,  Missouri,  then visit "all things" Mark Twain, (cave, museums, lake, lighthouse, boyhood home, etc.), then proceed to Springfield, Illinois, to take in "all things" Abraham Lincoln (New Salem, home, museum, library, tomb) and then finish off the trip by spending a day at the St. Louis zoo.
You might not have noticed that NO where in that itinerary did I carve out time to download the Pokemon GO app and spend time with my face firmly attached to a cell phone screen so that I might add some "augmented reality" into my real reality.

Of course, you might think it's just me being paranoid but seemingly where ever we went, we found ourselves surrounded by Pokemon hunters and presumably little monsters that have been "augmented" into the real world.  I guess one can't have PokeStops, all around one and not expect that there would be dozens and dozens of Pokemons laying in wait to be captured. This must be true as EVERY WHERE we went we found ourselves surrounded by people playing this game.

I guess if I had bothered to read the directions provided on the app, it clearly points out that some of the Pokemon hang out near water and the Mississippi is full of that. They, also, seem to like historical places, historical markers, monuments, and landmarks.  In other words, every place I intended to take my grandson was breeding ground for these bothersome little beasts and exceedingly more annoying...the hoards of real people chasing them.

To make matters even worse, some of the pesky Pokemon characters are to be found at night.  A good friend of mine told me at the hospital where she works, they are having trouble keeping people off the emergency heliport during the night because people are "hunting" elusive Pokemon characters.

There are times that I see very clearly that I am an old fogy.  (Can women be fogies?  Is that gender specific????) I was became very apparent that no matter where we went over the last week,   we found we were surrounded by people staring at their cell phones hunting for these fictional characters in the real world.  At one point during a sea lion show at the zoo, one woman had her phone up in front of my face so she could get a clear shot of a Pokemon with a Pokeball. Evidently my sight line was a perfect shot for her.

Normally, I am fairly open to new technologies and often I am running out the door when new devices or technologies make their debut.  I am troubled by this particular trend of "augmented reality".  According to many of the articles this is just the first of many of these types of interactive games that are due to launch.  Given the enormous popularity, at least in the short term, we are going to be inundated with pesky people running into us, walking into doors, tripping on curbs, falling off cliffs and driving into trees, crashing into police cars and other assorted inanimate but very real objects.

Still it has me questioning the sanity of people.  Because the makers of this game have specifically targeted places such as monuments, historical markers, museums, water, and art installations... the very things that people should be LOOKING AT and LEARNING ABOUT, instead people's attention is being drawn away from those items in lieu of a game.

When did it happen that we felt the need to make reality less real by augmenting it?  Isn't "keeping it real" good enough?  

I am fairly sure the next "big thing" will cause this current "big thing" to lose it's
appeal. We tend to be fickle in our interests but will the next tide of "what's hip and happening" be equally distracting? 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Rites of Passage

 I don't remember exactly when I started reading the obituaries but somewhere in the last decade or so, I sporadically find myself reading about the lives of total strangers upon the event of their demise.  This tendency to read obits might be a rite of passage as one becomes older.  I think when I was younger, I was still going with the idea I was immortal.

Now, I suppose some of you are already thinking that I have crossed over into a subject that is too morbid for your blog reading enjoyment....but as it turns out that some people are getting very creative with their final farewell "notices" and dare I say, having some fun with it.    (NOTE: I recognize I am using the word fun in the very broadest of definitions here.)

I think there was a time when obituaries were all rather dire sounding and gloomy by their very nature of being...well a death notice.  BUT... Gone are the days when an impartial newspaper "obit person" is left to type some fact-filled synopsis of a person's life containing just the pertinent information  of an individual's  birth date, death date and where the funeral would be held. That approach is so old school and we don't want to leave this world being less then trendy, now do we?
More evolved..albeit deceased,  people are creating their own personal essays that are more in the vein of mini-novellas about their lives and feelings. 

I have, of course, found a couple of representative examples.  Please note,  I
have removed some of the personal information and condensed the content just to exemplify the creative ideas of these particular authors' (RIP) Just consider my two examples as the equivalent of Reader Digest Condensed versions of their final words. For full disclosure, though, these are real obits that I found.  I am not making these up.

My first example, caught my attention because he manages to be somewhat humble while simultaneously  dissing his siblings and their abilities as parents.  

Excerpts from an obituary for James "Jim" G***
James "Jim" G. made his last wildly inappropriate and probably sarcastic comment on July 28th.

Jim was born and immediately dubbed "our favorite child" to John and Joan G. in March of 1963

He is survived by his wife of 25 years the recently wealthy and overly devoted Julie ...... Additionally he is survived by his much older sister Lisa D. of whythehelldoyoulivethere Rhode Island, and younger brother John...... Jim's demise will now allow them to emerge from his shadow. A variety of nieces and nephews with mediocre upbringing would complete the list of those left to embellish his memory.

His 30 plus years as a volunteer soccer coach from the kindergarten to High school level afforded hundreds of children and parents exposure to Jim's unique personality. Half a dozen or so of these folks might speak of him fondly if pressed.

Jim died knowing that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was the best movie ever. Bruce Springsteen best recording artist, Clint Eastwood the baddest man on the planet, and that chicks dig El Caminos.

His regrets were few but include eating a rotisserie hot dog from a convenience store in the summer of 2002, not training his faithful dog Rita to detect cancer, and that no video evidence exists of his prowess on the soccer field or in the bedroom.

Although a less than average life span, Jim did not live an average life. He traveled where he wanted to travel, laughed inappropriately at every chance, learned what he wanted to learn, fix what he wanted to fix and loved who he wanted to love.

Cremation will take place at the family's convenience, and his ashes will be kept around as long as they match the décor.

Anyone wearing black will not be admitted to the memorial. "

More recently I came across a very lengthy obit, that I read and reread because at first I just didn't understand it.  It turns out that a lot of it was excerpts from U2 songs and as I am not terribly knowable of all things U2 so I had a bit of trouble following it.  Due to space constraints I will start somewhat in the middle
of it.  Again, I am leaving a lot out in terms of content but the uptake here is that you can host a contest in your obituary if you are a creative sort.  This woman had her friends vying  for her collection of U2 memorabilia with totes included. I obviously would of lost the contest due to my complete lack of U2 knowledge.

Nancy D. (as in Dog) C********

 It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away, ceased to breathe, will no longer be singing songs that pop into her head, and can finally stay focused. She will no longer have to get up early, do laundry, clean, remember to get her dry cleaning, or do the dishes,  .........
 A reception will be held .....Yes, you will have to listen to some of the CD's she made of her most favorite songs during this time. . . (It will be more than U2, people.) .........
 In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to our National Parks System,..... or your local liquor store. If by chance you know all the quoted U2 songs in this, check with Kevin and you will win Nancy's life time collection of all things U2 and the totes are included. Pick up only, sorry no delivery. .....
 She loved the light-brite she got for Christmas but never got her Udo. Be thankful that she didn't, if she had all of you would have gotten a bunch of stupid silk screened crap from her. She hated gum smacking, when someone didn't use their turn signals while driving, male urinals, and cabinet doors being left open. She is preceded in death by Theodore Roosevelt, Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Sterling, Richard Nixon, Johnny Cash and anyone not breathing. Survivors include everyone still breathing; .......

(NOTE: I did like her putting in the "D is for Dog" in her name.  I am somewhat disappointed that my middle initial is L.  Nothing fun comes to mind starting with L.  Suggestions encouraged.)

So, my friends, while I plan on being around for a very long time and don't spend an inordinate amount of time working to create the perfect final essay, I am gleaning some ideas on what I might want to say. I can assure you that it will be lengthy with a lot of "thank-yous" involved.

 I think we can agree that all the grown-up stuff like wills, medical directives, TODs and such need to happen  for the sake of being responsible and typically are pretty matter-of-factly written.  All those legally prepared and mundane responsibilities leave leave little room for "creativity"  but as for planning your final "words"  you have some choices. I guess a little thought might be in order as you aren't going to be able to revise them after they are published. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

But It Was a Bargain

I was recently watching the Today Show when they their "financial expert" Jean Chatzky told the viewers "If you wouldn't buy something at full price, you shouldn't buy it just because it's on sale." What???? Has this woman lost her mind???

While I have to say...even before she started talking that particular bit of nonsense, I didn't have a great deal of confidence in her ability to secure my financial future in any meaningful way.  Actually, I remain confused as to what her "money" philosophy is exactly. In one breath she is telling millennials to charge more on their credit cards because they need to establish credit but than she turns around to tell them to get their student loans paid off. Is it just me or do those two things seem to be working against each other?  Purposefully adding to your credit card debt while trying to pay off  your student loan bills seem to be counter productive if one wants to do things like eat and live in an actual building as opposed setting up housekeeping under an overpass.  

Anyway...back to the "not buying things solely on the fact it is on sale." While I think I understand what she is trying to convey, I don't think she necessarily is stating it correctly.  If she is meaning that you shouldn't buy something you neither need nor want just because it's an unbelievable bargain, I guess that makes a certain amount of  sense. If we all just bought tons of crap we didn't need, want or intend to use...we just become hoarders.  However,  if there are things you want but would never ever spend the amount of money required to obtain them because they just are too much to substantiate the cost AND then by some miracle,  someone puts it at a price you can actually afford...the right answer is...shove your way to the front of the line, walk over whoever you have to walk over to get it.  OK, maybe that is an over reach.

Maybe I wouldn't  actually trample anyone for an unbelievable bargain but I probably would purchase something that I didn't necessary need if the price was tempting enough.  For example if there was a deal on a pair of 2 carat diamond earrings between 4 AM and 5 AM (such as retailers tend to do on such festive days as Black Friday) for $5.00 but only 5 total  pairs are available. Even given the fact, I am not particularly a jewelry kind of girl,  I would probably haul my tired butt out of bed super early and hope for the best. (again..not actually walking over the backs of people unless they make some nasty crack about my pink baby doll pjs that I will be wearing due to the fact time was of the essence.)  My point being, I don't need diamond earrings, not currently looking to buy diamond earrings but if someone is selling $1500 earrings for $5.00, I am on it.  SO, as to Jean's misbegotten point, I would in fact,  never ever pay full price for those earrings that I don't need but  I am  most definitely going to buy them if the price is right.  NEED be damned because WANT reigns supreme in this example.

All of my regular readers know that I am not overly fond of shopping in general.  I consider shopping a chore. There are rare instances that I get in the "mood" to shop but those instances are exceedingly  infrequent. The one thing that might counter my negative shopping attitude is getting a super-duper bargain. I have occasionally  scored some real "wins" on assorted things that I didn't think I needed prior to the realization that is was a screaming deal.

Most recently, I was in our local "big box" warehouse club shopping for boring things like lettuce and bananas when I was approached by a young man that had the most flawless porcelain skin, I have ever seen. I am not exaggerating here.  His skin all but glowed.

Now typically, any of these pesky types that work in mall kiosks or big box
stores that ascend on me like  vultures on fresh road kill, I try to shoo off with a "I don't have time today...sorry!" but this guy had my attention due to his aforementioned flawless skin.

Right out of the shoot, he asked me to share with him my current skin care regime. OH-OH, is this a trick question?  Is he assuming I don't have a skin care regime?  Do I look like a person that might need a skin care regime?   BUT in fact, I do have a regime so I tell him my current line of miracle-working-wonder products that clearly aren't working all that well if he picked me out of the crowd.

Who can argue with "the more you spend the more you save?
(NOTE: I have a history of looking for the the fabled "fountain of youth".  I have bins and buckets of elixirs that have promised me that my skin would cease to age. I have found some "nice" products but clearly none of these products have duped people into thinking I am in my 30s or even 40s.  When I find that product, I am prepared to bath in it.)

Upon hearing my current product line, he deemed them to be just OK. I did notice his "OK" was said in the same tone as a person saying OK when finding out the doctor is advising aspirin instead of oxycodone...let's just say with less verve than one would hope for.  According to him my products aren't nearly as GREAT as what he is selling.  This if followed by him taking my hand and slathering it with some kind of goo. While the goo is supposedly working miracles on my hand, he is explaining that his products are  far superior because they have the  benefit of being made with water that has had it's atoms crushed into micro-atoms.  According to man-child, that allows it to be absorbed into my aging hide more effectively.  He, then,  tissues off the goo and we are supposedly marveling at the beautiful skin now appearing on my hand.  Sadly, I don't see any difference but it smells nice enough. I am hopeful at this point that my inability to see the miraculous transformation that he is seeing isn't due to my ageing eyesight. Although, I hadn't noticed any loss of vision prior to my hand transformation. 

The man-child now tells me that the 4 piece bag containing an assortment of these crushed-water "miracle" products were on sale for that day ONLY....  at MORE THAN  95 percent off.  That is a big 9 and a big 5 off, folks.  AND WAIT FOR IT...if I buy it today I would get a leather case with 4 lip glosses.

It didn't really work out for Hannibal Lecter, did it?
Again...I am suspicious so I tell him I am going to think about it while I go get my lettuce.  Of course, you know and I know that I am going to Google the hell out of micro-water miracle anti-aging potion because I want to see the real price and read some reviews.  Turns out this is some expensive sh** with some seriously awesome reviews.

Circling back to Jean Chatzky warning me to not buy anything just because of the price.  Jean can bite me, because I am about to get a bag of crushed water for $50.00 whereas the same great smelling goo sells on the Internet for $650.00. That's not even the best part.  In the reviews the word "amazing" is used in the same frequency as Ben Affleck uses the word f*** when talking about Tom Brady's "Deflate-gate" struggles. 

I know that some of you out there are tsking me again and saying something to the effect "There is a sucker born every minute."  Maybe so... but this sucker is saving MORE than 95 percent and getting some lip gloss in the deal.

To be fair, I am not always so gullible or easily swayed to buy things. I understand the concept of marketing.  Sales people are in the business of enticing  other people to buy what they are selling.   Salesmen selling SPAM make it sound like prime rib instead of the nasty hunk of pork parts shoved into a can.  Pet rocks and Chia Pets didn't sell themselves.  Smooth talking marketers do what they do.  They market things. I get that.  I have been in so many sales jobs it would take another blog post to list them.  My current gig being a Realtor has often put me in the first row to watch bad decisions being made.

(NOTE:  When a family of four tells me they are in the market for a "tiny" house and want no more than 300 square foot, that is not me marketing to them...that is them being stupid. When I agree with them that the little box on a trailer is cute and charming that is me being pleasant and agreeable...but unfortunately that is still them being stupid.)

The salesperson, porcelain skinned man-child, probably made an effort to stop all the women over the age of 50 that he could hunt down in the confines of the big box store and pepper them with assurances that his skin looks like it does because of the product he is hawking. Who are we to doubt that crushed water doesn't have the power to stop time from marching over our face?

So for now, I am having some fun imagining how much younger I appear today over  yesterday thanks to these miracle products.  I am going to enjoy it while I can because there is no way I would ever pay full price for smashed water.

Wow, even my youthful curls are back.