End Of The 10s

Today is the last day of the 2010s decade. It seems that it was only yesterday that we were ringing in 2000 and now here we are on the eve of 2020. I certainly believe the statement that I heard someone say that time seems to pass more quickly the older you get.

Most of you will probably see news reports about the top things that happened over the last decade. Like you, I am reflecting on the past 10 years of my own life. Where were you 10 years ago?

For me, I was in Macon, Georgia. There were a lot of changes in my life that year. Absolutely for the better. If you had told me that I would be in Nashville, Tennessee in 10 years I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, here I am.

In the past 10 years, I have journeyed with my wife from Macon to Tampa, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee. These have been some of the best 10 years of my life. The hardest part was probably the two years we were stuck in Tampa. Actually we were living in a town south of Tampa called Ruskin. It was awful. Somehow we ended up with purchasing a house there. One month into the house and the new job we both wanted to leave. It wasn’t a good fit for us and it took two years for an opportunity for us to leave.

The happiest part of the past decade was marrying my wife in 2011. We both got a chance for a brand new chapter in our lives.

I think the most exciting time for us was just last year when we traveled through Europe. It was the trip of a lifetime as we visited Germany, England, Italy and Switzerland. It was amazing and memories we will never forget. We would love to do it again and maybe sometime in the 2020s we will get to travel there again.

When I look ahead at the next 10 years I wonder where we will be then. My wife and I have moved around a lot in our lifetime so the chances are that we won’t be where we are now. It is both scary and exciting to think that we could be someplace we haven’t even thought of today on the last day of 2019. We didn’t think we would be here either so we will just take it one day at a time and see where it leads us. I have often had the feeling that Nashville isn’t our final home but I really don’t know where else I want to be in 10 years. A decade ago we thought Florida was going to be it for us. We discovered that it wasn’t.

Their are also some major life changes coming as I will be eligible to retire in May. I’m not sure when I will be able to retire but reaching that milestone will open other possibilities for me. In 10 years I will be 65 so I am pretty sure I will be in some form of retirement by then. Again, looking at the next 10 years is both scary and exciting. I am looking forward to seeing what I will be doing next. My wife and I have talked about starting our own business – either related to something vegan or a charity. The vision hasn’t really become clear on that yet but I am hoping it will in this decade. Although I have enjoyed success and stability of my current job, I am ready to do something else.

My Bible verse of the day comes from Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says: “He has made everything beautiful in its time…”. How fitting to read that today. We can’t live our lives in 10-year increments, we can only live it one day at a time and everything will become beautiful in its time. So whatever happens, I am confident things will happen the way it is supposed to happen as it has the past 10 years. I am happy with the way things turned out over the past decade and look forward to taking the first step into the next.

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He’s A Wonderful Life

baby jesusThis time of year you will often hear the religious folks say that “Jesus is the reason for the season” but you wouldn’t think it if you have been out in the world over the last few days.  The stores, the traffic and all of the holiday activity makes that notion a bit hazy.

Now that all the shopping, parties and rushing around is over, we have a day to catch our breath. Take a time out from the world. Some of you are enjoying watching children open their presents while you spend time with you family.  It is a day to reflect and maybe think about this day.

The excitement from watching the results of us buying gifts for others arrives and soon it will be over in a flash after weeks of anticipation.  The gifts that were open under the tree will eventually lose its excitement and our days will find its way back to the routine of our lives.  We are reminded that the gifts aren’t what makes us happy but it is the relationships with the people we care about that last.

In spite of the evidence we see, the birth of Jesus is the reason we have Christmas. No, it isn’t his actual birth date and there has been a lot of pagan rituals mixed in over the years but the birth of Jesus over 2,000 years ago was the most significant birth in the history of the world. Of course today people get so easily offended if you say anything about Him or wish someone a Merry Christmas.

That’s crazy. The birth of Jesus shouldn’t offend anyone. The problem is the people who try to sell Jesus or push their version of Him on people.

You can have a relationship with Jesus without having to be super religious. Sadly too many religious folks give Him a bad rap. Don’t be turned off by the crazies. You don’t have to act weird to have a relationship with Him.  He wants to have a relationship with us.

A relationship with Jesus Christ is the gift that many fail to open but can be the greatest gift of all. I won’t lie to you, your problems won’t be over but it will be different. I can’t possibly convince you with my words, you have to experience it yourself.

My own life has revolved around the church and being taught about Christ. It has just been the past ten years that my relationship with Him has changed and evolved into a more personal experience rather than the emotional cheerleader experience of the previous years. I have found a God that you don’t have to yell and scream (or speak in tongues) at to get His attention.  It has been a gamechanger for me.  I like this version of Jesus much better and He is more like the one I read about in the Bible.  No, my life hasn’t been perfect and I haven’t always done the right thing but life with Christ has been wonderful for me. His grace and mercy has helped me through the many ups and downs and twists and turns in my life.

The birth of Jesus is a gift to us from God.  2 Corinthians 9:15 says “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.”

Merry Christmas Everyone!

What Does Impeached Mean?

Okay, so the President has been impeached. Now what?

President Donald Trump became the third president in American history to be impeached. He joins Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

So what does it mean to be impeached?

To compare it to legal terms, it is similar to being indicted by a Grand Jury. In the legal world, they say that an indictment is only an allegation. The same is true here. Just as in the criminal legal world, the next step is a trial. The Senate will now have a trial to determine if the President is guilty of the crimes he has been charged with.

In October 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for lying under oath and obstruction of justice related to his sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Jones as well as denying that he engaged in sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. In the Senate trial, he was acquitted by a vote of 55-45.

In February 1868, President Andrew Johnson was impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors” for violating the Tenure of Office Act when he removed Edwin Stanton as the Secretary of War and replace him with General Lorenzo Thomas. In the Senate trial, Johnson was acquitted by a single vote as the Senate failed to gain the two-thirds majority vote that was needed for conviction.

Many think that President Richard Nixon was impeached; however, he resigned from office on August 9, 1974 after three articles of impeachment had been adopted on July 30, 1974.

Regardless of which side you are on in this latest impeachment, it does nothing to remove the president who is in office. It is merely the next step in the process.

The current trial is expected to begin in early January and it is not clear how long it will last. The impeachment trial of Bill Clinton lasted five weeks.

Hacking And Blowing: Dealing With A Cold

coldThis describes me today.  I am coughing and constantly blowing my nose.

Yep, I have a cold.

I think I’m over the sick feeling from it and now dealing with the annoyance of the coughing and runny nose.

Having a cold is annoying and pretty contagious.  I’m doing my best to keep it to myself and not infect anyone else.

I knew it was coming.  It begins with that feeling in your throat.  If I catch that feeling soon enough I can usually head it off with extreme doses of Vitamin C but this time it was past that point before I could do it.

Tis the season for colds.  I really don’t have time to be sick this time the year.  It’s Christmas!!!

Yet, here I sit coughing and sneezing.  I hate it.

More than 200 different types of viruses are known to cause the common cold.  Rhinovirus is the most common version for adults.

Though the common cold usually occurs in the winter months, the cold weather itself does not cause the common cold. Rather, it is thought that during cold-weather months, people spend more time indoors near each other, thus facilitating the spread of the virus. For this same reason, children in day care and school are particularly prone to acquiring the common cold. The low humidity during these colder months is also felt to contribute to the increased prevalence of the common cold, as many of the implicated viruses seem to survive better in low-humidity conditions.

So how long can one expect to deal with a cold?

Most colds will resolve after seven to 10 days, though some individuals experience a shorter course and others a more prolonged illness, again depending on the particular virus involved, as well as the infected person’s underlying health issues.

So, if this is true, I should be done with it by Christmas Eve.  Dang, that’s cutting it close.

There is no cure for the common cold. The common cold is a self-limiting illness that will resolve spontaneously with time and expectant management. Home remedies and medical treatments are directed at alleviating the symptoms associated with the common cold while the body fights off the infection.

In other words, there is absolutely nothing I can do to make it go away.  I can threat the symptoms but the cold will go away when it has run its course.  The only usual suggestion is to get rest and drink plenty of fluids.  Rest?  Yeah, tell my work that one!

So what’s the difference between the cold and the flu?  That’s a good question and it is very important to identify it early.  For the most part, colds come on gradually while a flu his abruptly.  A fever rarely comes from a cold so if you are running a fever, it’s probably time to go to the clinic to be tested.  Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu.

Should you go to work when you have the cold?  That’s a good question.  Most suggest staying home for at least one day to rest and drink fluids but if when you do return to work, make sure you cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often so you don’t spread it to others.

Here are some other facts about the common cold:

  • A cold may last for about one week, but some colds last longer, especially in children, the elderly and those in poor health.
  • In the United States, colds account for more visits to the doctor than any other condition.
  • Adults get an average of two to four colds per year, mostly between September and May.
  • Young children suffer from an average of six to eight colds per year.
    Colds are highly contagious. They most often spread when droplets of fluid that contain a cold virus are transferred by touch. These droplets may also be inhaled.

One thing I wonder is just how much can a person blow their nose and it still be runny?  I am just amazed that I can blow my nose constantly and it is still runny.  Not trying to be gross but it’s just very annoying.  The reason your nose is runny when you have a cold is that the nose acts as a filter for the body.  The nose is lined with mucus (gross I know but this is good stuff to remember) which traps disease-causing bacteria and viruses.  A layer of something called cilia which is a hair-like structure that covers the interior of the nose and moves that mucus from the front of our nasal passages towards the back and down our throats.

Well, that’s more than I wanted to know but I guess that’s a good explanation for it.

Once you have a cold, the best thing to do is to ride it out.  In the meantime, try to keep from spreading it.  We can do this by covering our mouth when coughing or sneezing, skin-to-skin contact through handshakes or hugs, by saliva from kissing or sharing drinks and touching a contaminated surface such as a blanket or doorknob.

Okay, enough typing.  It’s time for my cilia to do it’s thing.

 

History Of My “Demon” Obsession

Later this afternoon, the Warner Robins Demons football team tries to win the school’s fourth state title in their history. They won titles in 1976, 1981, 1988 and 2004. This is their eighth appearance in the state final and third straight time they have made it to the title game. They lost to Rome in 2017 and suffered a heartbreaking loss last year’s game to Bainbridge.

Today, Warner Robins will be trying to adding their fifth title when they play the Buford Wolves at Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta.  Buford is no slouch either.  They have 11 state championship trophies.  This is the first time the two teams have played.  It should be a good one.

I have never attended Warner Robins High School and never played on their football team yet for the past 34 years they have been my team of choice. I know it’s silly but everybody has their thing right? Georgia High School football and the Warner Robins football team has been my thing during football season.

I did actually play high school football – or it would be more accurate to say that I was ON the football team in Villa Rica, Georgia during my freshman and sophomore years. There was never much of a chance that I would have ever been a starter. Before my junior year, my family moved to Savannah, Georgia and I finished my last two years of high school at Tompkins. The school closed in 1989.  When I moved to Warner Robins in 1984, my first game was a Warner Robins-Valdosta playoff game. The next season I attended every Warner Robins home game and I have been a fan ever since. Many years I had season tickets. I rarely missed a game. There was a couple of years when I lived just less than a mile from the stadium and could walk to the games on Friday nights. I loved it. I went through the ups and downs of the various teams through the years. From 1996 until 1999, I worked as a part-time writer for a couple of newspapers and wasn’t able to attend their games; however, I did get the chance to cover a few games for the newspaper. I was both thrilled and extremely nervous the first time I covered a Warner Robins’ game.  My first interview of Warner Robins’ Head Coach Robert Davis was a bit intimidating but it went well.  When those days were over I continued attending Warner Robins’ football games.

I moved away from Warner Robins in 2012 and after two years in Tampa, Florida we moved to Nashville, Tennessee where we currently live. Even with the distance which separated me, I have still tuned into the games or followed the results on Friday nights.

When each season approaches now, I get the notion that I should end this obsession I have with high school football and following Warner Robins but I still end up tuning in or listening to the Georgia High School Football Scoreboard show. I don’t put my life on hold anymore like I used to do. There are times that i will do other things instead of listening to the games but when I get home or finish what I am doing, I immediately go to all of my places to get updates on the games. That’s just how I am and that’s my thing.

I remembered a funny story about the last season that Warner Robins won the state championship in 2004. Before the season began, I had a situation that I wanted to pray about a situation in my life and decided that I would “fast” going to Warner Robins’ football games that season.  Instead of attending or listening to the games, I would pray about the need I was focused on. Wouldn’t you know it – that was the season they won the championship. Was my sacrifice of giving up my season tickets and following the games worth it? Was my prayer answered? Yes, it was. I think it was answered about two months after the season.

Yeah, I do some crazy things sometimes. Try to explain to your church that you support a team with the nickname of “Demons”.

It has been fun. There have been exciting games and heart breakers along the way.

In my first Warner Robins-Northside game in 1985, the Demons won the first overtime game in the series 21-14.  I still have a video recording of that game somewhere in my collection.  Warner Robins went on to get to the 1985 final which was played in Athens against Clarke Central.  I made the trip and sat in sub-freezing temperatures watching the Demons come up short in the game 21-7 and endured a Clarke Central fan yelling in my ear the whole time.

It was also quite cold in 1988 but it didn’t matter when Warner Robins defeated Brookwood 33-7 to win the state championship.

The last game I attended in person was the 2009 Warner Robins-Northside game when the Demons overcame a 20-0 deficit to win on an improbable touchdown pass in the final minutes.

There is not enough space or time for me to tell you all the great games I have seen or listened to over the years.  There have also been many exciting players to watch such as Willie Reid, Jon Perkins, Eric McDowell, Ben Smith and so many others.

I have to admit that I am not as obsessed now but I do still keep track of how the Demons are doing.  I am living in Tennessee now and I haven’t been able to get into high school football up here. It’s just not the same. I live about a mile for a pretty competitive school but I doubt I will ever attend a game. That time has past and i have no desire to follow another team. Warner Robins has – and will always be – my team. I am not their #1 fan but they have been a part of my life for many Friday nights for the past 34 years.

Invasion Of The SmartPhones

smartphone.jpgForget the invasion of the body snatchers, today our society has been taken over by the smartphone.  They are everywhere.  Just talk a walk on a city sidewalk and you will easily spot them.  We are all looking at our smartphones.  Some are glued to them without regards to their surroundings.

Smartphones have also made us dumb.  This may have been their plan all along.  If we didn’t know better maybe the aliens have used these devices to take us over.  What a brilliant plan – and it’s working.

Hey, I’m a tech guy and I love gadgets.  I love my smartphone too and I have been sucked into the invasion to the point that I can’t seem to function without it either.  This is odd since when I was growing up we managed to survive somehow without a mobile device of any kind.  We had rotary phones.  They weren’t mobile either.

I also don’t know why they still call these mobile devices “phones” anymore.  Most people rarely use the phone part of it to actually talk to anyone.  Making calls and actually speaking to people accounted for just 13 percent of use of our devices.  In today’s world if you want to share news, you do it on some form of social media or by texting.  If someone has a heart attack – even in your family – you are most likely to find this out from a Facebook post.  You would be lucky to even get a personal text message about it.  This is the world we live in.

On numerous occasions, I have stopped people from walking into traffic or alerted them I was in their path while they were hypnotized by their smartphone.  Almost daily on my commute I see people texting or using their smartphones while they are driving.  Even with laws in place to stop it, people are so addicted to it that they are willing to risk it because certainly THEY are safe drivers and can text and drive.   When I am driving behind or near someone who is driving stupid and I pass them, most of the time they are texting or using their smartphones to make them dumb drivers.

More than half of North Americans have admitted to being addicted to their smartphones.  Studies have shown that we check our devices an average of 253 times a day.  So are we truly “mastering” technology or is it mastering us?

So what’s the future for smartphones?

When I was growing up, the excitement of the future was the invention of a video phone.  To be able to see the person you are talking to on the phone was like futuristic-type stuff.  Now, we have Facetime and other apps that make this a common thing.  The technology is constantly evolving.  There are a lot of opinions about the future of smartphones.  Some have suggested a foldable screen that fits into your pocket that is currently being developed in Japan.  I think we are more likely to evolve to some sort of wearable device so that the chances of losing our mobile device is reduced.  I honestly see the future of some electronic implant but that just freaks me out a bit and goes more along the predictions of Biblical prophecy.

The dangerous part of all of this smartphone technology is that our dependency makes us more tied to whoever is controlling the technology.  Whoever controls the technology will control us.  Think about it.  When cell towers go down and our smartphones are useless we tend to panic.  We become disconnected with the world.  Our stress level increases when our devices are inoperable.

So are we slaves to our smartphones?  Unfortunately yes and it is unlikely we can go back to the way things were.

It’s probably a good thing for us to take time and put the phones down or turn them off at some point in our day.  We may have to relearn how to function without them.  Of course, this may last until you need to contact someone.  You aren’t going to find a pay phone anywhere.

So here we are.  Like it or not, we are slaves to the technology.  Our smartphones are the smart ones.  They control us now.

 

 

 

 

What The Heck Is Duckpin Bowling And What Do Ducks Have To Do With It?

duckpin_02I used to love to go bowling and I was pretty good at it.  I had to quit when I developed a bulged disc in my neck.  When it’s aggravated, I can be in pain for months so I figured it was more important to avoid anything that would make it mad.

Yesterday, I went with the family to a place in Nashville that had duckpin bowling.  The best way I can describe this game is it looks like a hybrid of bowling and skeeball.

It was different.

So what is duckpin bowling and why is it called “duck” pin?

Duckpin bowling has rules similar to ten-pin bowling. In a 10-frame game, bowlers try to knock down pins in the fewest rolls per frame. Bowlers have three balls per frame, instead of two as in ten-pin bowling, to knock over a set of 10 pins. If a bowler knocks down all 10 pins with their first roll in a frame, it is scored as a strike. If all the pins are knocked down in two rolls, the bowler has made a spare. If all the pins are knocked down in three rolls, it is scored as a ten, with no bonus. If pins are still standing after the third ball, the bowler gets one point for each pin knocked down.

In the case of a strike, the bowler gets 10 points plus the total number of pins knocked down with the next two balls rolled, for a maximum of 30 points. In the case of a spare, the bowler gets 10 points plus the number of pins knocked down with the next ball, for a maximum of 20 points. If it takes three balls to knock down all 10 pins, the bowler gets 10 points, with no bonus. A bowler’s final score is the sum of the points earned over 10 frames (a spare or strike in the tenth frame earns one or two rolls respectively). The maximum possible score of 300 points, which is accomplished by rolling 12 strikes in a row, has never been achieved under official conditions.  According to the United States Bowling Congress (USBC), there has never been a perfect 300 game bowled in duckpin bowling.  A Connecticut man named Pete Signore Jr. came closest in 1992, bowling a 279.

The sport of duckpins was born at the old Diamond Alleys on Howard Street in Baltimore, Maryland sometime in the 1920s. Diamond Alleys was owned by a couple of members of the old Baltimore Orioles minor league club — Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw.

During one of these matches, Frank Van Sant, the manager at Diamond Alleys, was drawn into a conversation about the small balls. Someone suggested that a set of his old, battered tenpins could be made over into little pins to conform to the six inch ball. Several days later, an old set was sent to John Dettmar, a wood-turner in Baltimore. About ten days later, Van Sant gathered all his regulars and dumped the new little pins in front of them.

Within minutes, the little pins were set up on the tenpin spots and the first unofficial “small ball” game was underway. Only two balls were used, as in tenpins, and score was kept in the same way. When Robinson and McGraw (whose other hobby was duck hunting) saw the pins fly as the ball plowed into them, they remarked that the pins looked like a “flock of flying ducks.” Bill Clarke, a sportswriter for the Baltimore Morning Sun, wrote a story on the fascinating new game and christened them “duckpins.” The name has stuck ever since.

Seriously?  THAT is why it’s called duckpin bowling?

Believe it or not, there is a professional duckpin bowling association and a pro tour.  The Duckpin Professional Bowlers Association (DPBA) even has a professional tour with stops mostly in the Northeastern United States.  Steve Dryer is the 2019 Bowler of the Year as he finished the season with 561 points.  He has played 106 games with an average of 147.764.   The women have the Women’s National Duckpin Association (WNDA) with Amy Sykes at the 2019 Bowler of the Year with 377 points to lead the women.

There are variations of duckpin bowling such as rubber band duckpins which which the pins are circled with hard rubber bands to increase action and scoring and mini duckpins where the lane is shorter than a standard duckpin lane, and the width of the lane is not standard.

For more information about duckpin bowl, you can visit the National Duckpin Bowling Congress website here.

duckpin_01

Duckpin Bowling Lanes in Nashville, Tennessee

For me, duckpin was not bowling but it was better for me than traditional bowling.  You don’t have to find a 10-13 pound ball with the right drilled holes or wear special shoes to do it.  It was less stress on my back and neck as long as I didn’t go crazy with it.  I’m not going to quick my day job or join the professional tour but it is now an option of bowling for me.

 

 

 

Friday Flashback: Warner Robins vs. Starr’s Mill 2000 Playoff Game

SM_2000Tonight the Warner Robins Demons will play the Starr’s Mill Panthers in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class 5A state semifinals.

The last time they played each other was in the 2000 playoffs and I was there on November 24, 2000 in the rain, watching in disbelief as Warner Robins was upset by this strangely named school.

The lasting memory wasn’t necessarily the game but when I was standing in line the day before to get my ticket for the game. There were some guys talking about the Demons’ opponent.  Here’s how the exchange went:

“Whadda ya know about this team we’re playing this week?”

“They got a bunch of white guys and they’re slow.”

It was quite an ominous moment as I had hoped that the team didn’t fall into the same mindset about their opponent.  It’s a funny thing about jinxes and these guys put the hooey on Warner Robins.

Warner Robins, which was the #1 team in the state at the time, was upset by Starr’s Mill 21-7 in overtime.  The Demons had just come off an impressive 41-0 win in the first round over Colquitt County but they obviously underestimated the Starr’s Mill Panthers.  Starr’s Mill eventually went on to lose in the state semifinals to Harrison that season.  Starr’s Mill had only been in their third year of playing football.  Warner Robins packed it up for the season.

I remembered that rain on the day of the game played a big role in the game as it gave Warner Robins problems. The Demons had Willie Reid who was one of the states top players. He was not able to get on track in the rain and the mud on that night.  However, Starr’s Mill fullback, Jason Laney had the game of his life on that night as he sloshed through the muddy field for 144 yards and two touchdowns.  I watched in anguish as Warner Robins’ defenders could not seem to bring the big man down throughout the game.

I have never forgotten that conversation in the ticket line and remembering how the “slow, white guy” ended the season for Warner Robins.  Today it is 19 years later and I hope that folks remember that game and have the kids ready to play Starr’s Mill.

In tonight’s game, Warner Robins (12-1) is again favored to beat Starr’s Mill (10-3) as they were in 2000.  This season  Starr’s Mill has reeled off eight straight wins since its uncharacteristic three-game losing streak. No. 1 Warner Robins’ lone loss has been to Colquitt County.

Starr’s Mill will try to control the ball on the ground, eat away the clock and improve their odds by keeping the ball away from Warner Robins as they did in the 2000 game. Quarterback Hunter Lawson runs the option attack and 1,000-yard runner Kalen Sims and Ben Bodne. Warner Robin’s QB Jalen Addie has thrown for 2,142 yards and six touchdowns and run for another 536 yards. Marcayll Jones, who set the state receiving a year ago and has 37 catches for 731 yards this year. The Demons have a two-pronged running attack in Jahlen Rutherford (1,246 yards) and James Smith (840).

‘Tis Another Shopping Season

SANTAHere we are again.  We have had “Black Friday”, “Small Business Saturday” and now “Cyber Monday” as retailers urge us to do our Christmas shopping for the season.  Ready or not, it is here.  Last year Americans spent over $1 Trillion in retail purchases.

I saw a statistic this weekend that says 30% of consumers will use their credit cards for Christmas shopping.  I’m really surprised that it is not higher than that.  Just about when you pay off Christmas, it is time to charge those nasty credit cards up again.   The average U.S. household will spend about $1,536 on holiday shopping.

Where does it stop?

I’m no Scrooge here.  I love buying presents for people and I also love receiving too but I’m in the stage of life that I don’t need a gift to be valued or to value someone else.  Sometimes I wish we would do this gift thing a little differently.  I think we’ve all fallen for that “oh we aren’t doing gifts this year” thing.  I remember once a former family member had some kind of religious moment and announced that they weren’t doing Christmas but, instead, would do “just because” gifts throughout the year.  It sounded like a good idea but those “just because” times never came.

Growing up, we didn’t have much so I appreciated any gift I received.  I was never showered with gifts but I didn’t ever do without either.  I remember when the JCPenney or Sears Catalog arrived I would go through it page by page and try to find something I wanted that my parents could afford.  I would dog-ear those pages and hope that Mom could talk Dad into one of the more expensive gifts.  I might get it and I might not but I never showed my disappointment.

As I grew older I understood what the holiday stress is all about.  I got sucked into the Christmas gift arms race.  Fortunately over recent years I have scaled back and try to keep the shopping under control.

If you’re stressed about shopping, here are some good tips that can help:

  1. Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute – 62% of Americans buy their gifts the week before Christmas.  Try to get it done early if you can.  Shop online to avoid the stores if possible and get it done.
  2. When in Doubt, Buy Gift Cards – If you know of a place someone shops or a site such as iTUNES or Amazon, get them a gift card for it.  Of course, you can also give cash.  Someone once told me that he always loved getting cash because it was always the right size and right color.
  3. Do Your Shopping When Everyone Else Isn’t –  This is good one if you have to get out there to the stores.  The absolute worst time is on weekends or evenings after work.  Try picking a random day like Tuesday or Thursday during the week and do your store shopping then.

Here are some other interesting stats about holiday shopping:

  • Over 27 million real Christmas trees will be sold this year.
  • Nearly half of American’s don’t buy Christmas decorations.
  • 46% lie about liking a gift they receive.
  • 47% of women want jewelry for Christmas.
  • 32% of men want gift vouchers.
  • Americans spend an average of $123 on their spouses
  • 14% will sell some of their own possessions to fund their Christmas spending.

Whatever we do, let’s not stress about it.  Try to enjoy these season and know that the gift is in the relationship you have with people.

The No-Turkey Thanksgiving

turkeyPeople go crazy over turkey for their main course as part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Even before I became a vegetarian, I was never a fan of turkey.  I don’t care how you cooked it, it was gonna be dry and had to be soaked in something.  Growing up, I would fix my own mixture of ketchup and mustard for my sauce.  I never understood the craving for carving the turkey.  When I was eating meat, Honeybaked ham was my meat of choice.  Honestly, I have always been more of a fan of the sides than the meat anyway.  Who isn’t?  I always loved the stuffing/cornbread dressing, macaroni and cheese, green beans, etc.

When I met my wife, she introduced me to hashbrown casserole and now it is our traditional item for the holidays.  Now that she has become a vegan, we are going to “veganize” the ingredients for it.  The main challenge in the receipe is substituting the cream of mushroom soup but my wife has a plan.

Now if you are really into thinking outside of the box, they do have “tofurky” which is tofu but I’m not quite that far with it yet.  I know of one person who can truly fix tofu that I actually like but other than him, I am not going the tofu route.

If you are going to the grocery store today – good luck with that.  You’d better wear a helmet.  I have done that way too many times before and I always say I will never do it again but somehow there always seems to be that ONE item that is missing.  Most of the time it has been the pie shells for fudge pie and I have had to scramble because all the traditional items go quicker than bread and milk when there is a forecast of snow.  If you can avoid the grocery store I would recommend you to do that.  You won’t get the warm fuzzy of the holidays as they portray on the movies.

Speaking of movies….the Christmas movies have been playing non-stop BEFORE Halloween.  Can you believe it?  Even Halloween can’t contain the Christmas season now.  One of the radio stations I listen to started playing Christmas music this week.  No one waits until after Thanksgiving anymore.  Also, I see stores already having Black Friday sales before Black Friday.  Craziness out there!

I have been working on our outdoor Christmas lights for the past three weeks.  I haven’t turned them on yet until I have everything ready and my power grid figured out.  We are living in a new house this year so I am learning how to configure everything for this house while trying to restrain myself from putting on the production I am tempted to do.

I’m also hoping that I can do most of my Christmas shopping online this year.  I’m going to try my best but I know there are some items that I just have to venture into the stores to get.

There are also lots of events I want to do and lights that we will need to see but there is never enough time to do them all.  With Thanksgiving running late this year, there are less days to get it all in.  So many events are scheduled for next weekend already.  I don’t know what we can get done.

Yes, the season is upon us.  Enjoy your turkey, ham, chicken, tofu or whatever and buckle your seat belt (after you’ve unbuckled your belt after the tomorrow) and get ready for the Christmas holiday season to shift into high gear.