Thanksgiving Is Over, It’s On To Shopping!


Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of November 27

shopping-2016Thanksgiving is over.

This year we hosted Thanksgiving. I managed to not burn the vegetables.

Actually, this year I had a hard time getting the corn done. It was a microwave error. My microwave is on its way out and it apparently didn’t like corn, because it wouldn’t even thaw it out.

Our turkey was cooked to perfection, and the new stuffing recipe I used with a few tweaks of my own wasn’t bad.

It has been a few years since I hosted my family for a holiday meal. We always travel to one of our kids’ homes, and who can argue with that, because I don’t have to clean and don’t have to cook. I think the kids got tired of burned vegetables, so they decided it was safer to host and not ask me to bring the vegetables.

In case you haven’t heard the story — I burn vegetables. I don’t like vegetables and watching them cook gets kind of boring in my creative mind, so I always find something else to do while they are cooking and kind of forget about them … until I smell the result. It is a tale my kids have passed down to my grandchildren. I forgot how much work goes into cooking for many people on Thanksgiving. It gave me an appreciation for those moms and dads that cook for their family every day.

Black Friday arrived and I didn’t have any newspapers to check out the ads, so I browsed the coupons I received in the mail. They were very tempting. Many stores gave free money up to $10 that you could use without buying anything else. I know myself — I would have spent more than the $10 certificate.

I am cutting back this year because of a cut back in my finances, so I purged the urge to shop and picked up a good book to read, taking a nap in between some paragraphs.

I don’t get too excited anymore about Black Friday sales or Cyber Monday sales. There is always a sale and unless there is something specific I am looking for, I don’t run out and join the lines since I have reached old age.

I remember before Black Friday was Black Friday. It was always just the Friday after Thanksgiving and I loved to join the shopping crowd. There was something energizing about all the people in the malls and stores. That was before shopper frenzy and shoppers hurting other shoppers trying to grab the golden sale that they wanted. It was a friendly tug of war.

One of the things we did one year with our son and his wife was get up at 4 a.m. to stand outside of Shopko in the lines to get the 6 a.m. specials. The kids had the list and told us what to grab. They then donated all the items to Toys for Tots or other organizations. I didn’t mind getting up early to do that.

A friend of mine always was in line at Dayton’s Department Store to get the Santa bear of the year. She and her daughters made it a tradition each year. After they got their Santa bear they spent the rest of the day together shopping and enjoying the season.

Now Santa bears are no more, and stores open on Thanksgiving, so there is no need to stand in line early in the morning in the cold anticipating the specials.

Of course we also have Cyber Monday, but it seems that is starting early, too, as the emails and ads online are bombarding consumers with the message to buy, buy, buy. It is hard to resist the call of those sparkly items when they come across your computer screen.

I am not in a family of shoppers, so even if I were interested in a shopping family outing I would be hard pressed to find a family member to go with me. My one granddaughter loves to shop, but she also loves to enjoy family time and I suspect she would pick that over shopping any day.

Maybe it is my age or maybe my finances that has brought me to my senses when it comes to shopping. Don’t get me wrong — we need to support our businesses, especially small businesses.

I find I buy more meaningful gifts if I take time and don’t get caught up in the frenzy of the sale. I find shopping is more about who I am with than the actual grabbing of the gold. I know it isn’t the glitzy gift that will be remembered but the time spent sharing and making memories.

The things I remember about Christmas aren’t the gifts I was given but the little things that had meaning during the holidays, such as baking Christmas cookies with my mom or going to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I remember my mom and dad coming home with a box of gifts from the shoe store where they hid them and the anticipation of those gifts, not the actual gifts but the tradition of Dad coming home with them. I remember sitting down to supper on Christmas Eve and sharing a Polish tradition of wafers with my Polish grandmother and uncle.

Those are the golden gifts that are remembered, and all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales will never make those kind of memories.

“Christmas is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.” — Freya Stark

Julie Seedorf’s column appears in the Tribune every Monday.

Perception or Reality?

perceptionMy latest column from the Albert Lea Tribune on October 3, 2016

I found my summer clothes. The problem with finding my summer clothes is that I was looking for my winter clothes. Do I have you confused yet?

At some point in the last year I organized my closet and my clothes, and instead of leaving summer and winter clothes together in my drawers and my closet, I decided to change them out so I would have more room. I function very well when I am not organized. I forget where I put things when I organize. Remember the place for everything and everything in its place? When things are in place I forget where that place is.

This summer I was sure I had more summer clothes the year before. But, I did remember I gave some of my summer clothes away. Last fall I weeded out those clothes that did not fit and got rid of those I wasn’t in love with. When spring and summer came this year I had four pairs of jeans, a couple dresses, seven summer shirts and a pair of shorts and capris. I washed more than usual. And I must say I got along with those few pieces of clothing choices. I berated myself for giving away some of my favorite items of clothing. I didn’t think I would have done that, but, I could not find them.

Cool weather is settling in. The other day I had to dress up a bit and I shoved and pushed my meager assortment of clothes in my closet to find my fall and winter dress pants. I knew I had some because I just bought them last year. Again, I seem to remember in the spring I decided to organize. But I can’t remember where I put my winter clothes. And, that is how I found my summer clothes. Actually it was Natasha, my beautiful, furry kitty, that helped me find my clothes. She hid under the bed, and as I tried to get her out, low and behold there was a flat storage container slid far enough under the bed to the middle that you couldn’t see it. Maybe I should dust under the bed once in a while.

Excitement filled my veins when I saw the container. I knew I must have put my winter clothes in it. I am not an under-the-bed storage person but I think I recall listening to an organizer guru that said it was the perfect place for clothes. I pulled off the lid and there they were — my summer clothes. My feelings held a mixture of excitement that I found my favorite summer blouse, and a mixture of disappointment because I couldn’t wear my dress pants to church.

Though we welcome the change of seasons in nature, it is perhaps harder to welcome the change of seasons in our lives as we age. One of the things that happens with age besides our bodies changing, is the fact we have history to fall back on. With that history comes knowledge. It is that knowledge of what we have lived through that shapes the choices we make today and the viewpoints we have that affect what we do going forward into the future.

There is a quote about reality by Robert Bolono that states: “People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth.” Watching the presidential debate and seeing the comments afterward, I think that statement rings true. Each and every one of us has something we wish to happen for the future, and we back the candidate that we feel matches what we need, no matter what is proved to be false or wrong. We believe unscrupulous websites because they are telling us what we want to hear. And there is something in us at each season in our lives that tells us we can’t be wrong. We don’t want to admit our views could be skewed because what does that say about us?

After the debate there was one statement that people asked of their friends time and time again and that is, “Did we watch the same debate?”

Everyone has a different stake in this election. The younger generation is afraid for their future and the future of their children. They are worried about crime and terrorism and the economy. They want their children to be able to afford college and health care and to own their own home. This is their future. It is the season of their life where they want to grow and flourish.

As a senior citizen, we want to ensure our retirement and our health care. We want to ensure we will be able to afford to live, and one of the differences of us being in the autumn and winter of our lives, is the fact we remember what was, and we are having a hard time reconciling it with what is.

As I hunt for the past season’s change of clothes I hunt for the past seasons of my life and remember the race riots in the ’60s and ’70s. I remember my parents talking about Hitler and the war. I remember waiting for someone I love to come home from Vietnam. I remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. But I also remember neighbors helping neighbors and people standing up against hate. I remember the kindness of strangers and the wisdom of many leaders from both parties. I remember the good and the bad.

It is no different today. We believe what we perceive to be our reality. It is neither right nor wrong because we live the seasons of our lives. Our perception will influence our votes and therein lies what kind of truth we see.

My truth: I am better in creative chaos in my house than organized neatness. That is my perception of my reality.

Mental Dental Mishap Fear!

It is no secret I don’t like dentists. I live in fear of their tools the same way the characters in my books fear being caught by the protagonist.

I don’t actually dislike the people who are dentists. I have very good friends who are dentists, and I like them as the person they are but not the career they have. It’s not their fault I fear their tools. It is a deep-seated fear from childhood and the old ways of the dentists back in the ’50s and ’60s.

My fear of dentists began the summer after I finished eighth grade. A fun game of badminton turned into the last time my real two front teeth inhabited my mouth. A little swing of the racket, my coming forward with my racket, and the meeting of my friend’s racket with my mouth as my friend swung at the birdie, sent pieces of my teeth probably flying over the net or somewhere never to be found. I remember my mom’s angst when she saw what happened. I wasn’t too upset until I visited the dentist. What was left of the teeth had to come out, a root canal had to be performed and pegged teeth had to be cemented in my mouth.

We didn’t have the technology we do today, so the first month of that summer, every few days was spent in the dentists office. I had a month of no front teeth. There were no TVs or music to drown out the noise of the drills. And I remember a lot of pain when he was working on my teeth.

Again, the man behind the drill was a very nice man and a caring man, but he wasn’t trained in gentleness technique. And his hands always shook, so occasionally they missed their mark.

My old school friend and I were comparing dentist notes from our childhood. She always wanted to go to my dentist, and I always wanted to go to hers. Must be the grass is always greener on the other side of the street thing. I wanted her dentist because they got cute plaster Disney statues for going to the dentist, and she wanted my dentist because hers sometimes had imbibed too much before working on patients. It was the shaky hands from being older versus the shaky hands from having a few fun beverages.

There was an upside to my accident; before the accident I had spaces between my real two front teeth. My new teeth were great.

Because of all this I have avoided the dentist for years and years. Yes, that many years. Add to the fact I have no dental insurance and it cemented my resolve to stay away from the imaginary torture chambers in my mind.

Over the years I have tried to make it to the dentist. I have made the appointments, and the office has made bets on whether I would make it. In the past weeks I could no longer avoid the dreaded dentist.  I was in a dither. My broken tooth sent me into a panic. Yes, I know, a small thing for most people but remember the torture chamber of my youth.

I remembered the restful feeling I had when accompanying my husband to his dentist this past year. He is a veteran and this dental office had a day when they provided free dental work for veterans. I thought possibly the restful feeling was the fact I was not the one undergoing the work, but I bit the bullet and had my husband make an appointment. They got me in right away.

The office was as I remembered it, peaceful with restful decor and a quiet atmosphere which calmed my nerves. The staff, knowing I was nervous, took time to make sure I was calm and comfortable. I had a TV right in front of me as I sat in the spa-like comfortable chair. This was not the dental office of my childhood.

And then I met the dentist and the dental assistant who were the essence of calm. I had my teeth examined — not as bad as I thought — and the gentleness made me quit shaking. I made the next three appointments. The truth was in the pudding. Would I make it back to actually have the work done? I canceled the first appointment because we had a blizzard, and the dentist was 40 miles away. I made it to the second appointment.

As I sat in the chair and watched “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on television, the dental hygienist worked on my teeth. I almost fell asleep. I was able to daydream and plot my next book, and I can’t believe I am saying this: It was a relaxing time. I have two more appointments, and again I can’t believe I am saying this, but I actually am looking forward to getting my teeth fixed.

I have always loved new technology, but I haven’t thought about it in the terms of dentists. Technology has come a long way in making the torture chambers of my youth into a better experience for those of us that have dental aversion. My fear made the thought of the experience into a bigger terror than it was. I think I need to ponder that and wonder where it might carryover into the rest of my life.

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” — Henry Ford