Monday, October 24, 2011

I wonder if it all started with fast food . . .

You want the works?   Try an apple pie?   Super size that?

I did a little shopping last week. I buy for the girls all the time, but this was a 'mommy' day (Thank you to my sweet hubby!) and I was really looking forward to it!
I didn't realize that being grilled for half an hour was now part of the sales girl routine!

After finding a couple of shirts at a favorite retail store, I went to the register to pay.
It started off with the normal checkout chitchat -
Did you find everything OK?
Yes, I did.
Can I help you find a pair of shoes to go with your blouse?
No, thank you.
Pleasant enough, I suppose, considering most customer service has gone the way of the Dodo.

Then it went on.

Do you have a blah blah charge card?

And on.

Would you like to apply for a blah blah charge card?
No, thank you.
Are you sure? You get a 10 percent discount with approval!
I'm sure. No thank you.

Ad nauseum.

What is your phone number?
What is your zip code?
Would you like to receive our mailer?
Would you like to receive calls or emails about upcoming sales?
Would you like to donate 38 cents for breast cancer awareness - it will round out you're total to the nearest dollar amount!

I'd like my stuff in a bag please!!!

The grocery store wasn't much better!
Will that be cash or charge?
What is your zip code please?
Do you have a yada yada store card?
Would you like to sign up for a yada yada store card?
I couldn't help but notice that my few items were racking up a sum a bit higher than I expected.
I thought the items were the discounted price listed on the shelf tag?
Oh they are - if you have a store card!

Even the gas pump is in on it!
I swiped my debit card and prepared to pump my go juice.
Debit or credit? the screen asks with a beep.
Enter your zip code please.
Would you like to add a fuel injector cleaner with today's purchase?
A what?
Would you like to add a premium car wash with today's purchase?

Enough already! Believe it or not, what I got is what I want!
If I want more, I'll ask!

And of course I want fries with that!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Wal-Mart Wormhole, I'm just sayin'

First off, let me just say that I love my life and wouldn't change a thing! The Army can be trying at times, but usually the adventures outweigh the hardships.

That being said, I'm beginning to think the human psyche wasn't meant to handle this much change in so short a time.

2007 - Arkansas
2008 - Tennessee/Kentucky
2009 - Florida
2010 - Mississippi
2011 - Colorado

The houses and neighbors and street names all begin to mesh in my brain becoming a hodge-podge of fractured memories. Am I seriously supposed to be able to keep all this straight?!

What's our address now?
Where again are the cars registered?
What was the name of our church this time?
What time zone are we in?

But,  there is one constant.
One ever-present, always recognizable edifice rising from the streets of the unknown.
A warehouse sized refuge with hypnotic fluorescent lighting and a familiar blue vest waiting to greet me at the door.
I give you . . .  Wal-Mart!

Ah, Wally! You stalwart of industry! You never fail to come to my rescue!
You are everywhere I go! And though your floor plan may vary from store to store, your comfortable familiarity remains!

A warning, though, my fellow travelers, all this 'familiarity' can give rise to a cloudy mind. Let down your guard and you allow the fog to take hold!
Alas, this has happened to me more times than I care to recount!

I'm shopping without a care in the world. I've let go the stresses of the latest move and of trying to navigate yet another city.
And then it hits me - I can't remember where I am!
Wal-mart is Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart. They look, act, and smell the same!
Am I in Florida or Kentucky? Beulah Land or Timbuktu?
And even If I manage to recollect the right state, which store am I in?
Did I stop on Hardy Street or Hwy 49? Am I at the Wiggins store or in Old Town?

I have long pondered the possibility that there is really only one Wal-Mart Store. That as you exit the parking lot in your particular part of the world, you are somehow transported to the Wal-Mart 'mother store' via some strange retail wormhole.
Obviously I have no hard proof, so I digress.

I love to explore new places.
Seeing new sights, tasting new treats, and shopping new stores is always exciting.
But everyone needs a touchstone.

And Walmart is mine!

I'm just sayin . . .

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mutually Exclusive: Notions of Halloween - Redux . . .

* For those of you who asked - I'm re-posting last years 'Halloween' blog. 
* For those of you who didn't - tough noogies. New coming soon!! 

    First let me say that I am no expert. I've read several books and have studied enough on the subject to satisfy my own mind, but am quite sure I've only scratched the surface.

1. Knowledge is Power

It all started with the Celtic festival of Samhain (Summer's End).
The Celts only observed two seasons; summer and winter. Sometime around November, they would bring the finest of their herds into shelter. The rest would be slaughtered for a feast.

This marked the start of what they called the "dark" time. Nights were longer, darkness fell early, and this time of year was thought to belong to the spirits. It was believed that spirits and demons alike roamed freely during this time. The people took to dressing as ghouls in the belief that malicious spirits would take them as one of their own and pass on by.
Families would lay out food offerings in their homes in the hopes that departed loved ones would drop by for a visit.
Since this time also marked the Celtic new year, people would pay their debts, renew leases, buy land and trade livestock.

Samhain also represented one of the Fire Festivals. The Celts noticed the sun growing weaker in the winter months and feared it would leave forever. They would light bonfires on hilltops in an attempt to "rekindle" the sun.
Yeah, that'll work.

Enter the conquering Romans.

Samhain begat the Roman Festival of Pamona;
The Roman Festival of Pamona begat All Saints/Souls Day;
All Saints/Souls Day begat Martin Luther and the 95 Theses;
Martin Luther and the 95 Theses begat the Reformation;
The Reformation begat Guy Fawkes Day. . .
And so it went.

Fledgling colonies begin in the new world.

Massachussetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut settled by rigid Puritans tried to kill the holiday all together.
Rhode Island and New York championed religious freedom and celebrated many different styles of the festival.
Yada, Yada, Yada. . . the colonies were inhabited by Dutch German, Swiss, Africans, Native Americans, Catholics and Anglicans. The Holiday became a mish-mash of traditions and customs.

So, Halloween has it's roots in Celtic Samhain and the christian All Saints Day.
Today it is predominantly a secular holiday.

2. Ignorance is bliss

I remember as a kid having a blast on Halloween! What kid doesn't love to play dress-up? And then of course there's the candy!
Some years were spent Trick-or-Treating house to house. Some years the churches would have hayrides or bonfires or Fall Festivals of some kind.
I even remember a few spook houses made up in the basements of churches. Say it ain't so!!!

Not once in all my growing did I consider ritual or religion when choosing a costume or handing out candy.

I remember laughing kids and smiling parents. A cool crispness to the air and the crunch of fallen leaves under foot.
I remember costume contests for the little and pie eating  for the big. Roasting hot dogs and telling stories at the bonfires, and being giddy beyond belief when a cute boy wanted to sit next to me on the hayride home.

Then we grew up. And got more smarterer. And realized that there is a meaning behind everything. And when we find that meaning, all the innocent fun goes out the window.

It's exhausting, isn't it, trying to decide where to draw the line?

Take books for example.
*Chronicles of Narnia has witches and mythical creatures and magic. It's a moral tale of good versus evil. It's ok because it was written by a christian.
*Harry Potter has witches and mythical creatures and magic. It's a moral tale of good versus evil.
It's bad! Evil! Stay away!
*Lord of The Rings has witches and mythical creatures and magic. It's a moral tale of good versus evil.
It's ok because it was written by a christian.

Seriously? So when my kids ask why they can't dress up and  wear make-up and rake in the candy, I have to say, "Well, you see, thousands of years ago there were these nut jobs . . .".

Now please understand, I would never presume to judge another's ideals. But - my blog, my soapbox.

Our pastor talks about two kinds of issues.
Ones that are open handed - things that Christians can agree to disagree on sometimes without sin or eternal consequence.
The others are closed handed issues - things that are at the very core of our beliefs and should never be compromised or ignored.

Halloween is one of those open handed issues.

Joey and I have run the gamut with this and have finally reached a peace about it.
-We do not celebrate Samhain. We do not practice divination. We do not burn sacrifices.
-We do not celebrate All Saints Day. As much as I love my family that has already crossed over, no amount of praying or baking "Soul Cakes" is going to help them at this point.
-We celebrate Secular Halloween. We dress in silly costumes and go out in public. We tell age appropriate ghost stories because our girls are at that "love to be scared" stage. We jump out of closets and yell "Boo!". We watch old scary black and white movies, and the girls watch the Michael Jackson 'Thriller' video. We carve pumpkins.

Because it's fun!!!