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
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.