Two Pairs of Keds

"One for dress, one for everyday."


November 2014

Family Traditions: An Orange for Your Stocking?

There are few events during the year that set my husband and I farther apart than Christmas.

Isn’t that strange? Possibly you couples who are engaged or considering lifelong matrimony would like to consider this as the prenuptial question: do you like a Christmas with all the trimmings or do you like a simple, homespun holiday?

Maybe there could be a Christometer, by asking: “In a range, from 1 to 10, how much fun and frivolity can you stand?” “Do you prefer a tree surrounded by gifts or a simple box with a traditional red ribbon, with maybe a chocolate Santa?” In 30 years, we have not managed to see eye to eye, or glowing nose to nose.

Within the first few years of our marriage, upon detecting the divide, I contrived to set up “The Gift of the Magi” (of sorts), by driving to Jackson to get his childhood movies, which show scenes of kids surrounded by presents – drum kits, Tonka trucks, games, toys. I wrote a short story about an erstwhile couple who could not agree, but who both loved the season. I set up an evening to show the reel-to-reels and read my story.

Fast foward, say, 30 years. And here we are.

To be sure, we don’t have a lot of money. Neither did my own parents, and yet holidays were always celebrated with revelry. You would indulge. Extend. We lived so close to the bone, it was the time of year to let go. All gifts, no matter how simple, were wrapped with extravagant bows, ribbons, and tags. Fa la la la la!

I wrote an earlier blog about childhood gifts.  I can’t pretend to understand how the mind works, especially as regards our childhood experiences and how we translate them to adulthood. I only know, as sure as there’s a Santa Claus, Virginia, and a baby born to save us all, it’s a snow hill or stable we’ll fight to defend.

When the kids were growing up  we fought, but I did what I could to replicate my memories. Now that they’re (mostly) grown, I’m losing ground. I think it’s easier without the childhood anticipation of three children, giggling and watching every holiday special on TV.

For those who are sympathetic to my husband and the commercial plight, please don’t misunderstand. For me, it’s not about the amount spent. You could give me $50 a person and I would make the most of it. Or $500. It really doesn’t matter. If I can start before Thanksgiving, plotting, planning, building, collecting, I can delight in the process.

My husband, who is not the Grinch, bemoans the season and grouses through the holiday season, only to be struck by the gift of giving ’round about Christmas Eve.  His eyes start to twinkle. His mood spikes. He heads out into the fray on the 23rd or 24th, when I would rather be left to clean up after the entire Whoville celebration. He buys treats and treasures at a time of year that makes me want to stay in, In, IN, IN!!!!

And then he writes a check to the kids. This is his family’s tradition. My family never had the money to write a check worth cashing. By my college years, my parents were divorced and there was no spare money. My mom wrapped an extension cord my sophomore year. But his family could. And did.

So, here we are. To gift. Or not to gift. To enjoy, each in our own way? To enjoy in one person’s way?

I don’t think we’re alone. The stress of season hits us all at some point. You like celebrating with family or you’d rather run away. You want to decorate like it’s the North Pole or you want a wreath, preferably fake, so it won’t drop needles. You want to be surrounded in holiday frolic or only want to endure the hub-bub.

It’s almost as if we should all move to polar-opposite sides of the celebration spectrum, to be reunited after the New Year’s clock strikes twelve.

At any rate, this holiday season, my usually wonderful husband has stated that we can only give oranges in everyone’s stockings. And I am left to decorate what “never was such a bad little tree,” Charlie Brown.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

– Charles Wesley, 1839
Sung by the Peanuts kids at the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
Cover picture: Charles Schulz.







Just ask me. I can tell you why Target stores are closing.

Things like this make me crazy.

It’s like watching a soap opera, where you find yourself yelling, “Why don’t you just talk to each other? Why don’t you ask?”

Or, like a horror movie, you sit and think, “This person’s already dead and they don’t even know it. If only they wouldn’t go back in the house/woods/car. Oops. They did.”

When Target opened, they cared.

They had an amazing clothing line for all market groups: women, men, children, babies. Their shoe line was amazing. They rocked the household market, with trendy, affordable product lines…before they sold out to Smith & Hawken and some other up-brands.

I talked to a friend recently about this. We always had an outfit we purchased right off the rack, two we wanted, and several we watched so we could get them on sale, because we had spent our clothing budget at Target already. It was a problem deciding which ones to take home first.

Baby and maternity. Oh, yes.  All three of my kids were raised in Target clothes lines and all three pregnancies were outfitted by Jessica Lange and the regular brands. I counted on them. Now, my colleague is pregnant for twins and can’t even find a pair of leggings.

Their toiletries and dry goods had decent prices, but that’s not why we went. It was on-trend, on point, and gave us a different option than the mall.

Electronics? Yes. I could get some pretty good deals on video games and cameras. Toys? It was a nice selection, but not the primary reason I was there.

Let me tell you about my Target (of over 19 years) today:

  • It’s dirty and a mess.
  • It’s clothing line is a tragedy of cheap tshirts, crappy jackets, ugly prints, and strange sizing.
  • We have a grocery, but who cares? I’m not at Target for broccoli.
  • The shoes are stupid. They no longer carry “career” looks – just club stilettos, which are cute, but seriously?
  • The household line is a toss-off. I can almost find the same thing at Walmart (cringe). Your furniture?? Really?

Guys, this has nothing to DO with your breach of security. You’re not the only ones.

This has everything to do with a failing store that forgot why it’s customers started shopping, that diversified its product line at the expense of its customers, and that forgot to put management in its stores (or pay them appropriate wages) who actually knew how to arrange a rack, create a display, and clean a dressing room without directions from corporate.

Oh, and you should completely fire your buyers for your clothing lines. Try doing some market surveys about it.

“Wait. Don’t go down that road. Don’t answer that door…”

Ding dong. Too late.

What if I knew your name?

What if I knew your name?.

What if I knew your name?

If you don’t already know it, I drive the absolutely crazy US23 into Ann Arbor every day, hopping on at Lee Road in Brighton. I’m afraid to look up the statistics, but I’m fairly certain it’s one of the most dangerous commute routes in the state of Michigan.

Coffee is my co-pilot. I get in my car, driving out of Brighton Township, and by the time I hit the highway, I’ve already encountered people who refuse to go the speed limit (either side of it), texters, moms yelling at kids, and construction trucks.

Usually, I see myself as calm and fairly centered. But after almost five years, I’ve lost the loving feeling.

And I’m sorry, but if I’ve called you a D***head, it’s partially because I’m not a morning person.

I’m sure, if I were driving in at night, I would be much, much nicer.

Right. Okay.

Today, I had the singular experience of driving in behind Ginger. Someone who knows her and cares wants her to wash her car. I followed her as long as I could. And I talked to her.

“Let’s go, Ginger.”

“Time to accelerate, Ginger.”

“Make sure you make this light, Ginger.”

What if you knew my name? And I knew yours? Would that make a difference?

Would we stop the hostility? Think about the person, rather than the car or the inconvenience?

Just one block after I took this picture – – at a dead stop for construction – – I used my favorite word on a guy who rode the merge lane too long, then failed to recognize the left hand turn lane indicated by the orange pylons.

His infractions were severe: I beeped twice.

But I loved Ginger. I hope she doesn’t wash her car for a long while, if only to irritate the writer.  Maybe we should all write them on our cars, in the mud and the dirt of the road.

What if I knew your name?

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