I was raised in the mirrored, open dressing rooms of Loehmann's Back Room and almost cried when Filene's Basement declared Chapter 11 a few years back. For me, there is no greater high than when I get the chance to say "hello to a good buy."
At least for 51 weeks out of the year.
But if I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
Cyber Monday isn't a whole lot better. Sure, clicking and dragging items into virtual shopping baskets doesn't run much of a risk of physical injury (carpal tunnel flare-ups notwithstanding). But to me, it seems pretty impersonal to be able to check everyone off your list in less than an hour from the privacy of your own couch or office. I guess I still think gift shopping should be somewhat of a sensory experience -- gazing at the holiday window displays lining State Street, the smell of the pretzel store at the mall. When it all comes in a cardboard box via UPS, part of the experience has been lost.
I do love the idea behind Small Business Saturday; there is little question that buying from independents does both the shopper and local economy good. But it's hard to achieve the serious Olympic level shopping I am capable of when still moving slowly from a tryptophan and pumpkin pie hangover.
Besides, this year I am trying to give less "stuff", anyway. What I really need is some sort of shopping event that could serve as a complement to Giving Tuesday, the movement that encourages charitable giving. And then it came to me. I will establish a series of "Thankful Thursdays." On every Thursday between Thanksgiving and Christmas I will challenge myself to buy gifts for my family that will not just make a difference in their lives, but also in the lives of others in Madison.
I'll start this Thursday by picking up a present for the kids that encourages reading and will live permanently in one of the city's hottest new buildings. I will dedicate a Book of Honor, in their honor, in support of the new Central Library. For a $250 gift, I can choose up to 40 characters that will be printed on the fore edge of a recycled book which will be installed in the children's section of the recently reopened library. I am thinking of going with "Turn Off the Xbox. Pick Up a Book. Love, Your Parents" for ours. Although I might need two books to say it.
And for stocking stuffers I can load up on some of the limited-edition black-and-silver library cards commemorating the new Central branch. They are available for a donation of $25 each.
For my mom, I'll go with a few $20 raffle tickets from Lily's Fund for Epilepsy Research. Not only will she have the chance to win the grand prize (a diamond) come the organization's late January luau fundraiser. But I'll also know I've helped support local researchers who are working toward finding a cure for the devastating neurologic disorder.
Thursday evenings can also be the perfect pre-weekend time to pore over the comprehensive United Way Volunteer Center's annual Holiday Wish List. It features dozens of area non-profits that are hosting seasonal toy and clothing drives.
And I certainly can't think of a better way to put my finely tuned shopping skills to use than in service of others.
Which is something I should be doing more regularly, and not just on Thursdays. But on many days. All year long.comments powered by Disqus
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.