Spring Gift Guide – Father’s Day Gift Guide

Join us May 1 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for The Loreto Market

While you shop for yourself, your home, for Mother’s Day, check Father’s Day gifts off your shopping list after a visit to the Loreto Market. While many of our vendors feature lovely items with feminine appeal, we haven’t forgotten our fathers or the men among us. In this Year of St. Joseph, at the Loreto Market, you’re sure to find something for the father figure in your life.

Order a custom set of windchimes or music lesson package by Casey Music Service

Casey Music Service offers lessons for children and adults, tunes pianos, repairs instruments and can make the fully custom windchime set of your dreams. Talk with owner Kyle Casey about how Casey Music Service can help you with all things music.

Tap into the masculine heart through the strength of history and tradition with curated vintage religious goods by Domestic Joy

Aid his prayer with tradition and dynamic icons by Sue Forrest Artwork

Sue Forrest began in Advertising and after decades of experience in fine art, became a Certified Iconography through the Iconographic Institute in Mount Angel, Oregon. She produces icons, original and reproductions, greeting cards, fine art, and painted rocks. Along with the incredible selection original icons she’ll bring to the market, she also takes commissions for particular saints.

Celebrate his sense of whimsy with a patron saint peg doll by Whymsical Lotus

To learn more visit whymsicallotus.Etsy.com

Feed his mind with solid Catholic reading and straight-forward apologetics with used books sold by A Catholic Teachers Treasures

Tanya Valasquez, a Catholic Teacher for 21 years, is bringing her collection of Catholic resources in order, both for teenagers themselves and those who seek to be ready to answer their children’s questions arise in the search for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.

Find all this and more at The Loreto Market!

Take Back the Culture One Shopping Trip at a Time

The Black Friday Tradition

What will Black Friday be this year?

Many of us grew up with a tradition of Black Friday shopping on an actual day after Thanksgiving. Some people woke up early, some meandered out around 10 a.m., but many enjoyed it in their own way.

I remember snippets of this tradition. We were in a little town just outside Redding, where my family traditionally celebrated the day. Thanksgiving morning, my father went out and bought the newspaper. After the early Thanksgiving dinner, the men poured over the advertisements to ascertain the year’s “hot item”. The search was on for an electric scooter. They left early the next morning. I recall them only after their return, celebrating the success of their hunt.

The ladies were more leisurely. We breakfasted, combed through ads and then went to the same stores we would have otherwise. I sat in the backseat, watching and learning how it is done from the more seasoned shoppers. My mom bought decorative bags for cookies at a great deal in an old-school discount store. We ate Chinese food together at a restaurant. No one was successful at Macy’s. I had no idea there were so many stores so near my aunt’s idyllic home.

Family celebrations shifted as our nuclear family grew. My husband would rather hunt waterfowl than deals, so Black Friday shopping belonged solely to me. At that time, deals gradually moved online, earlier and earlier. I prepped my online shopping carts. When labor pains began at 3 a.m. in 2012, I ordered my items before going to the hospital. Black Friday shopping has never been the same.

And it never will be again.

I feel confident in saying the big box retailers ruined it.

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

I still imagine a big shopping day, the hustle, the music, the aromas of the Christmas season with Christmas preparations. When “ahead of time” meant a month before Christmas, not October. When Thanksgiving itself commanded some attention.

With the Covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions, stores cannot push the deals they became accustomed to pushing to draw more and more people through their doors. Little local shops have to spread out festive shopping events because of their max. capacity stops below twenty while chain retailers can accommodate hundreds. Those not lucky enough to make it in the doors early wait outside in line, six-feet apart.

Thus the former one-night events span four days, from before Halloween leading up to city Shop the Blocks, what was once after Thanksgiving fell on the day after Halloween. Retailers cannot afford to be left in the dust and have their patrons Christmas merchandise purchased from those who dare to go earlier.

And we miss out.

We miss out on a tradition.

We miss out on adding sentiment and meaning to something that could be an irritating task that must be checked off the list.

We miss out on the togetherness that comes from a shared experience, whether shared with family or shared culturally.

We miss out.

What I am proposing is this.

Halfway through November, plenty of shopping may have already occurred, especially with Thanksgiving and other lovely events taking place this month. Rather than encouraging you not to do “this” or “that” I want to encourage you to add one more thing to your schedule. Schedule a shopping day…soon after Thanksgiving. Buy your coffee or hot chocolate, your pastry, whatever you like, grab a friend or family member and make it a shopping event. When you walk into the local small-business retailer tell them you saved your Christmas shopping day for that day, rather than attending the post-Halloween event. Maybe even contact them now to tell them you won’t be coming in before for your Christmas shopping, but have a special day planned as soon as December starts.

And have a marvelous time.

Then maybe, just maybe, over time, retailers will start offering something more than empty shelves for those who shop late. Maybe, by making something special out of it, we can shift the trends that started years ago. And maybe, just maybe, by this little step, we can start to take back the culture.

Photo by Rebecca Campbell on Unsplash
Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

To Work or Stay-at-Home: Supporting those who pursue a middle way

Previously published in the column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” from the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

Caught up in the waves on links on the world wide web I encountered an insightful article on the “Cult of Domesticity” by Daniel Stewart, known more to me as the husband of Haley Stewart, host of the podcast, Fountains of Carrots. In the article, Stewart discusses the concept of work within traditional marriages. 

To work or not to work

It is a hot topic for many young families. Should both parents work? Should the mother stay at home? Could the father stay at home? What type of education should the children receive? Is the stay-at-home-parent capable of homeschooling? 

And when the choices we make because of our values, abilities and circumstances seem less than ideal, my eyes wander to the other side of the fence. How green the lawn is there! How straight the boxwood hedge! 

Perfectly manicured house and lawn
Photo by Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

We look across the aisle to ask ourselves, “am I making the right decision?” “Is this the best I can do for my family?” In some cases, frustration over the impossibility of our personal ideal sets in, and resentment grows.

More than black and white

In her book titled The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts, Judith Wallerstein, in a longitudinal (long-term) study, conducted in-depth interviews of couples married more than seven years who self-identified as having a happy marriage and found no less than four types of marriages, two of which were based on markedly different views of how labor in the home would be divided. 

These lasting, satisfied couples affirm that sense that there are things in life and relationships that are negotiable. We can plan and hope, but as we move forward in actually living our lives, the turns in the road might have more say in our decisions than early musings. The ability to remain open to these changes and work through them strengthens the bonds of the relationship.

A Historical Perspective

Stewart pointed out is that the traditional arrangement of a husband working outside the home and the wife working within the home was more a product of the 1950s and 60s than truly historical. 

He explained the industrial revolution transferred work from the home to the factory, later the office. Before, families could see each other more because dad came in from the field or the blacksmith shop for lunch. Women made lace, sold chicken eggs and preserves, and produced the goods needed for comfortable living for her family. 

The work was demanding, and the skills needed demanded learning. That learning brought a deal more satisfaction than mere consumption, that is, being in charge of buying whatever the family needs.

So, in the 1970s, when women asked “is this all there is?” the question was not unreasonable. But rather than return the work for both spouses to the home, because the world had changed, the women went out to work. 

Times are changing again.

With the internet and the gig economy, we hear repeatedly that it is easier than ever to work from home. Whether the hours are spent for a traditional job with a flexible schedule, freelancing an afternoon out of the week, or selling from a multi-level marketing company, options abound. The economy and culture practically demand that both parties work in some capacity. The gig economy makes it possible. 

While that potential may be in flux for some professions (like my own), at this time of year we see this movement on display, blessing our homes and Christmas trees each year. 

On October 25 Samaritan Village hosted their holiday boutique. Patrons pack the sidewalks at Downtown Turlock’s Shop the Blocks, November 3, and hunted for treasure at Vintage at the Yard, November 16. 

Coming up

On November 23 and 24th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the 20th Century Club Arts and Craft Fair continues its 47-year tradition at Hughson High School. 

The following week on November 30 (Small Business Saturday), Mod Shop, Downtown Modesto’s artisan craft fair, opens an extra hour early this year running from 4 p.m. To 9 p.m. 

When we bring our shopping back to the local level, when we support small business entrepreneurs and the community in which they live, when we choose to connect rather than bargain hunt, we can take a small step in helping those families whose members are pursuing their interests with passion, looking for creative ways to support their family in order to live their ideal life, and returning to the skills that are sorely needed in today’s society of mass marketing and production. We meet the makers, hear their stories and grow a better world today.

Christmas craft of wooden snowflake
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Possession vs Contemplation and other thoughts on the County Fair

 

How do we experience reality?

 

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Some say by photographing every encounter, we are trying to capture it, to possess it, instead of allowing the moment to present to us what it has to offer. Contemplation is a manner of receiving, rather than possessing, to let the thing contemplated gradually reveal itself.

 

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Or are we so accustomed to stimulation, that we depart the moment altogether, entering into the virtual realm of the “smartphone” even in the presence of exotic and magnificent animals where we might contemplate the beauty of creation or the heartache of captivity?

 

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Perhaps we see reality only as a sort of reflection, through the lens of the phone camera, never truly pausing to see the sights and people are they truly are.

 

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What will we observe when we open our eyes and put aside the distraction?

 

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The appalling taste, texture and smells of life…

 

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The atrocity of human action and man’s inability to learn.

 

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The vibrant consumerism and overwhelming opportunities for pleasure in modern society…

 

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Or…

 

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Adventure.

 

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Creativity.

 

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And the humor of what it means to be human in a species with others totally like us and totally different.

 

Enjoy.

 

This post inspired by observations at the Stanislaus County Fair and an inspiring education in the mind and literary work of Flannery O’Connor.

Shopping Local

I’m proud of the way we shopped local and DIY for Christmas. Gift giving is one my languages. Here is how it went this year.

 

Local-ish

How to Style Your Brand – had to buy from Amazon because it’s not sold other places, which means she’s is an author with a smaller brand. I’m proud to support that.

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Felt ball slingshot – I saw this first from Magnolia Market in their magazine. Local, in a sense that they are not Target or Walmart or Amazon, but still, the Gaines’ are taking over the world. I found this slingshot at my local favorite, Vintage Market, which hosts a variety of vendors who upcycle, sell antiques and newly made products in the latest and most awesome fashions (rustic and whimsical). At $14.95, the price was comparable to others I have seen. I bought form the maker and when I hesitated about the color, she arranged for me to get the orange I so desired from her a week later.

Mittens – not handmade but also from Vintage Market. When I support sellers there, I support their crafts and the owner of the shop, whose parents ran a shop of a different color before her.

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Garden wall art – from Vintage at the Yard, a monthly market with local vendors junking it up. I picked up some army guys on the same visit. Oh, the treasure hunting!

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Brownies – my mom is a phenomenal baker and in lieu of payment accepts donations to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We ordered several dozens of brownies to take to hospital staff.

DIY

DIY crafts – Dresser from Craigslist, reinvented using chalk paint from Vintage Market to become an armoire for dress-up clothes.

Wall art – Puffins, downloaded from Unsplash and developed at Costco (maybe $4). Frame from Selective Antiques ($2), mat board from Hobby Lobby (Christian-owned business, $7), glass from Home Depot ($5). I do the framing myself

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Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Beeswax and honey products– as of this writing, I have not actually made the candles, but I was thrilled to purchase and encourage my mother’s purchase of local honey, wax, beard balm and lotion bar from Shaffer Apiaries, a family business. This woman has an eye for design. Their displays and packaging are beautiful. Buying from the maker means better costs, she explained, when we marveled at 32oz jars of local honey for only $12 (if you are spending less than that at the store there is a good chance it is not pure honey). My plan is to buy vintage glass from local thrift or antique shops to turn into unique candle gifts.

We make other gifts for people: photo books, wind chimes, letter art, gift baskets with homemade bread and paintings.

 

I do not know who they survey when the news reports families spend an average of $1000 on gifts for Christmas. We spend a lot (not nearly that much), but it is joyful, not obligatory and Christmas comes but once a year. There were some other store-bought items, to complement the kids’ request to Santa for roller skates.

Not everyone enjoys gift giving. For us, it is a way of expressing gratitude and sharing joy and friendship with others. It is not about the dollar amount or the number of gifts, but the thought and time that goes into. Because of that, I am proud to shop locally. Those are the gifts that give in all directions. As I read on Facebook, when a small business owner makes a sale, they do a little happy dance in their hearts. We know the feeling.

Merry Christmas!

Target Marketing

Target is intriguing.

In my childhood, it was the exciting version of Walmart. As an adult, it was a one-stop shop with diapers and personal beauty products. I occasionally browsed, but usually bought what I needed, lamented that our society has to offer 50 different kinds of toothpaste and went on my way. I enjoyed going for the colors, but did little else.

Target has developed a new store layout it will gradually implement in tester stores throughout the country. Target’s website improved and offers free shipping with a lower minimum purchase. The retailer collaborated with big names so we all feel we are getting a piece of Lily Pulitzer, improved in-store pick up options, and in some places will bring your items to your car. Overall, Target is working to adapt to the trends and preferences of people shopping the market.

One such trend is the movement of purchasing items closer to the maker. Rather than a product made in Bangledesh, purchased by the supplier who negotiated with Target corporate, who then ships to their warehouse, then to their stores, people are buying direct from the maker at Farmer’s Markets or local craft fairs like the First Friday Street Faire in Modesto. In these environments, you talk to the maker, can learn their techniques, you can special order. You pay more, because this is the person’s livelihood and it takes a lot more money to live in Modesto than Bangladesh.

Now Target, doing their good work of staying relevant, is offering global goods. The press release:

“As part of Target’s celebration of global style, we’ve also partnered with online marketplace Accompany to bring our guests Accompany Us to Target—a limited-edition assortment of products from six different countries. Among them? Ecuadorian beaded bangles, block printed cosmetic bags made in India, and wooden Kuni bowls from Kenya. It’ll be available at 12 of our stores and Target.com, while supplies last.”

Its products are sourced from Accompany, a fair trade company. The fair trade label matters. It assures the purchaser that those who make are receiving a just compensation. Looking online, the items are much pricier than the usual Target faire. Too much? Threshold is still out there, labeling items like a hand carved bird for $15.

Carved Wood BirdThis is brilliant marketing. You see the news release or Apartment Therapy’s glowing review of what you “have to buy right this minute.” You are at Target buying wash clothes because IKEA is too far away and you see a gold elephant and a hand carved bird and they certainly look global. “$15, hmm, well, it’s more than I would normally pay for something like this, but it’s hand carved. It’s probably supporting someone across the world. I like it. I’ll get it.”

But you didn’t buy the fair trade product made in Kenya sourced by Accompany. You bought Target’s brand, Threshold, an item whose history we do not know because there are no photographs of its maker on the website like there are for the $18 key ring and $98 tote.

You did not buy the key ring or the tote but bought the bird. Now, to support the local community you go to the First Friday Street Faire. The hand carved bird is now $30 there. You speak with the artist, admire his work, but it is too much and you just bought something similar for less. More likely you will return to Target to shop and just enjoy browsing at the street faire.

Target is doing what a business should do. It is trying to make a profit, staying relevant, giving the people what they want. But it comes at a cost. India’s throw maker may receive a just wage, but I wonder about those other items. If this bird went through at least four hands before reaching yours, what did the maker receive? And just because $1 a day will get them by in that remote-from-us country, is it right that $1 a day is all we pay?

It’s just stuff I think about, on my way to buying more cotton balls.

The Capitalist Culture

Where does your culture come from? Definitions of culture from the dictionary include “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group” and “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.” The United States is made up of many diverse cultures and ethnic groups which results in a fusion of cultures. Some groups remain separate from the larger culture, but typically their children developed a mixed-heritage way of life, balancing between their parent’s culture and the American culture at large.

Traditionally the ingredients of culture might include a unique style of music, unique-historical clothes, religion and its included practices, parenting styles, expected familial and gender roles, and a community to practice all these things in.

Modern secular society comes in stark contrast with these ingredients. One by one:

Music is no longer a product of culture in the United States, it is a product, largely technological, sold to make money.

Clothing is an ongoing development of styles, taking from many traditions, but focused on profit and the effort to get you to keep spending, out with the old, nothing stays on the shelves so buy now.

Religion is old-fashioned and man-made. Science is truth. Tolerance is the new religion and as such traditional religion should not be publicly practiced because it might offend others and offense is the greatest sin against the religion of tolerance.

Out with the traditional family. Most children are born and raised in family structures other than two-parent intact households.

Gender roles are socially constructed. Gender is socially constructed and fluid. Therefore any roles typically attributed to one gender is a limitation of that gender’s potential and should be negotiated.

What community? From rural to city to suburban, by and large we no longer know our neighbors. Since religion is out, community won’t be found there. Don’t trust your neighbors. Most likely someone you know will be the one to harm your children in lasting and traumatic ways.

The definition includes a note of transmitting culture. If culture is derived from religion, the motivation to transmit comes from a motivation to evangelize. If culture is derived from ethnic heritage, the motivation to transmit, while here in the United States comes from a desire not to lose one’s history in the melting pot that is middle America. But families begin to intermarry, as is good and the American way, and when a child’s ethnic heritage consists of ten different regions, the family begins to pick and choose which culture they identify with most. In the Greatest Generation, those who were young during the Depression and fought of World War II, there was a spirit of American conformism. Men and women changed their more ethnically sounding names to fit in. It must be a white, Protestant culture, so the sentiment went. If you didn’t conform, you were out of luck and so you were excluded.

Now we have a different movement at place. Cultural guilt is a real thing. In the US, in general, there is such an amount of guilt over the treatment of minorities, that now the sentiment is less “who has less color/who is native born (go to the front of the class)” and now more, “who can be more diverse,” or “who has more color?” So it seems to me the heritage that might have been passed down through white European decent is thrown into a box labeled “white” and nothing more.

Many elements of our modern society wipe out traditional ingredients and sources of culture. We are left with a vacuum. What takes place then?

As Archbishop Chaput indicated in his recent Erasmus lecture, “democracy isn’t just ‘allied’ with modern technology; it depends on it.” In practical terms, this means that the entertainment industry is the most powerful manufacturer of public opinion. Politicians themselves acknowledge this fact by spending vast amounts of money to buy space in the media and in the craven pursuit of celebrity endorsements at election time (Carl R. Trueman).

If we do not make an effort to build up the culture, to preserve our cultural heritage, to seek a way to transmit cultural practices to future generations, then something must take its place. What else is there?

Since the strongest community for the young is an internet community, and much of what the young spend their time doing (social media) is driven (behind the scenes) by profit seeking, the young are, knowingly and unknowingly exposed to advertising. What is not a product of advertising? Thanksgiving becomes a holiday meant for shopping. The Christmas season, now the generic holiday season is about Santa and shopping (in school it is about Santa, elves, Elsa, and presents). People sigh helplessly and how stores push holidays earlier and earlier, but where else do we gather with people for leisure if not in the marketplace when the churches are out of the modern equation?

We should not give up hope. We can take a conscientious stance on culture, holding onto and transmitting traditions from our past, adopting new traditions that incorporate the sentiment we hope to pass on.  There is a fascinating movement attempting to retake culture through the green movement, organic products, home farming, diy projects. It is anti-corporate. It practices subsidiarity, operating the most local level possible.

Some will fight for culture, those in religion, but then even those not in religion who see something being lost in the bland marketing playground of American society. I am eager to see what happens. I think that the transcendent aspect of religion acts as the glue to bind it all together. What is the core value of the secular millennial movement? It is not the rebellion that captivated the 60’s and 70’s. It is something more. I await the revelation with bated breath.

Some thoughts on the overexposure of children to Frozen

Instant gratification occurs sometimes out of love and sometimes as a quick way out of a difficult situation, be it meltdown time at the grocery store or Christmas time when we’re lost on what to buy our children.

We live in an age of instant gratification. For the purposes of this post, instant gratification is defined as the moment when a child expresses a desire for something and gets it immediately or when a child has their frequent requests for the same thing reinforced. My proposal is that children are being gratuitously gratified in the arts and entertainment.

There is great artistic potential in cinema and television. They also contain great lucrative potential for their makers. Where the movie meets the screen you have a dynamic meeting of artists (those who draw, write, imagine, create), producers (the ones investing and looking for a return on investment), marketers (those responsible for making this thing catch), parents who choose what is good for their children to watch, and the children eager to consume the media.

In my experience, children are fascinated with the movement on the screen. My eldest child is in preschool. Her entrance to preschool coincided with the onslaught of the Disney machine’s exploitation of Frozen. Everywhere we go we see Frozen paraphernalia. The endless exposure makes Frozen the first thing on a child’s mind, or second perhaps, to Santa. So when asked what they want, or when they point out the things they see in a store, it’s Frozen. Perhaps the parent buys it or plays it because they see it makes the child happy. What if the child would be happy with many other options, but lists Frozen items because they are always in the forefront.

I don’t have many problems with the movie Frozen. I personally dislike it because I think her abandonment of the throne, the difficulties of a town suddenly frozen would have been more interesting to examine rather than her joy at escaping repression. I don’t begrudge those who do like it. I find the famous song out-of-sync with the wider context. It celebratory style misses the fact that she is a newly crowned queen abandoning her kingdom. It is said that part of the attraction is you cannot quite determine if it’s a villain’s song or princess’s song. I dislike the movement of misunderstood villain’s. It doesn’t make for good story-telling. It makes for weak, confused story-telling that often whitewashes the impact of the misunderstood villain’s actions on others.

Back to topic: perhaps it would help our children’s imaginations to limit their intake of favorite media as you would with favorite food. It seems harmless but children easily become closed in on certain things. “Do it again”…you know the mantra. Eventually the parent needs to say no and take a break from paddy-cake. This is good for children.

I believe it is important for children to be surrounded by beautiful things: paintings, music, and literature. Variety is important too, balanced with the familiar. How often do we think of the quality of the media they consume? Do we continue with trite tunes and cartoons because they’re “educational” and children like them? Studies have found that those who read more classic fiction showed greater empathy than those who read less classic fiction. Education can also take place through conversation when encountering art, whatever form it may be. I do not know at what age the child starts talking back when the characters on children’s shows ask a question, but mine have yet to do it.

We are called to elevate our senses above the brute beast. Art has a transcendent quality we desperately need in this busy, anxiety-laden culture. Art points us to God. It shows us something an animal could never organize or create. If you want to give your children, Frozen, do it, but also consider sitting them down to Ernest and Celestine, a French film whose animation is like a moving water-color painting. If you love Idina Menzel, Broadway singing, or R&B singing, fine. But also consider giving them “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” without words (called Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”). Have children’s songs but consider orchestral arrangements. If children’s music makes you crazy, as it does for lots of parents, consider oldies. “We all live in a Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles or “The Watermelon Song” by Tennessee Ford are great for children’s appetites but adult friendly. When children ask for endless repetition, just say no and offer them something new. See what happens.

Why lower our offerings for children? Let’s elevate it and in their growing ask them to grow in appreciation of the things we chose to expose them to. Hard to think of what to use? That is the Disney machine’s marketing arm’s goal. If you don’t know they can tell you, then buy their product.

Don’t let your culture be determined by advertising and what the store’s say it’s time for. We can do more! And I believe it will help our children just that much more to thrive, imagine and create.

Black Friday: A look ahead

Black Friday. That ominous day for some, a thrilling adventure for others. Every Thanksgiving we made the eternal long drive to my aunt’s house in Redding. In reality the drive took three hours. We spent several days there. Thanksgiving was spent cooking, sitting around, eating, watching professional and college football. That evening, individuals waded through the thick packet of advertisements and joked about what ridiculous toy they would go after, just for the hunt. Friday morning, more ads were gone through. The gentlemen left early for the hunting ground, returned, and lounged around the house. Later on the ladies left and went to departments stores, a discount store with a little bit of everything, and lunch. It was relaxing, fun and not too expensive. We’ve lost most of our traditions but Black Friday, for me, remains a day, stress-free and nostalgic, with deals to be had.

 

But that’s easy for me to say. I’m an extrovert. I like the crowds, feeling like I’m in the wild, and I like the sentiment it brings me: the memories, the mess of ads on the dining table Friday morning along with turkey leftovers for lunch. It’s like that for a lot of people.

But Black Friday can be an ugly day. It sounds like an ugly day, named after Black Tuesday and the stock market crash. Who would want to join in that? So stores began the rumor that it is named “black” because the stores “go into the black” aka, go out of debt. Myth! No, it’s a day that many feel demonstrates what is most regrettable about American culture: materialism, madness, greed.

Now Black Friday encroaches on our whole weekend. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday (which I whole-heartedly support), Cyber Monday, and, what-to-call-it, throw-out-tradition Thursday? I feel that retailers have an amazing amount of power in American society, through advertising, through the raging desire to score a deal. Thanksgiving, once a day of family feasting, once a day of revelry, once a day of sitting around a television watching football, once a day of traditional gender roles (women in the kitchen, men around the aforementioned TV), once a day of mythological pilgrims and Indians and Mayflowers (remember that one?), retailers do their best to usurp every opportunity possible to “make a buck, make a buck.”

So social media groups start up, boycott this, boycott that. Because we couldn’t just…stay home that day, right? We have to throw out the entire thing. I love point made that movie theaters have for ages been open on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day, as are drug stores, hospitals and all kinds of organizations and businesses. So regarding the complaint about employees being with families, is it fair to complain now when so many other employees have been through it for ages? I’m not saying Thanksgiving should become a shopping day, I don’t think it should be, but we should look at the big picture.

I do often wonder if we only perceive society coming to this. I mean, communities used to be driven by communal groups within their community. So what you knew is what your neighbors knew and what the banner across Main street said. Now, what do we know? We know what we choose to read online (social media, carefully selected new sites that align with our views or at least do not wildly offend them) and whatever is advertised. Speculation of the number of advertisements the average American is exposed to each day varies widely. Needless to say, it is a lot, especially with widespread advertising online. We are again and again picking up messages that shopping and sales are where the activity is at on Thanksgiving, no longer at dinner. For myself, I think this impression is caused more by the uproar over stores opening on Thanksgiving than the stores themselves. For good or ill, social media is a powerful thing.

I prefer the positive fight. How about, instead of “Boycott Black Thursday,” ending the day with a block party? Imagine if we connected more deeply with our communities with big family celebrations, church gatherings or, as I mentioned already, block parties. Is it simple? No. Are our gatherings set up for it? Likely not. But it’s a good idea, right? I’m sure it would help if family lived nearby or something. We’re so huddled into our little homes in our little suburbs that we rarely see what happens outside. So we see advertisements and group after group lamenting the loss of American culture through shopping, evil materialism at every turn. It’s a problem, but there is a vacuum in our society and retailers are just making the most of it. We have to build up society if we want to save it. We can’t do it if we won’t sit outside a spell and see our neighbors.

So take it to the front porch this year (if it doesn’t snow). I hope you won’t be sorry. God bless you and your November. Let the holiday madness begin!