Advice: Fraught Family Visits

Dear Bartender and Priestess:

My husband’s sister and brother-in-law stay at our house occasionally for overnights, in order to visit my mother-in-law. How can I best put this? They are annoying house guests.

I’ve never seen them lift a finger to make dinner or help with the clean up afterwards. My brother-in-law, “Bob”, drinks a ton of coffee but has never made himself a pot. He speaks loudly, and mostly about himself. My sister-in-law, “Betty”, is sweet but talks incessantly, so much so that she’ll even distract herself from what little help she offers me at cleanup. They’ve never offered to take us out to dinner, or order us some Chinese, or (Heaven forbid!) cook us something.

Usually they visit at our house, but we also have a vacation cabin. When my family visits the cabin it’s for two nights each summer, and we’re never expected to host them over the holidays, because we select a hotel that’s convenient for all of us. Bob and Betty often come for a few nights at Christmas. This year, my husband has invited them to come for two weeks. Two weeks! And he did this without consulting me first. When I asked him why he would invite them for an extended stay without talking to me he said it’s because I would never agree to host his sister. I want to show respect to my in-laws and make my husband happy, but hosting them is so difficult. I literally cannot handle them in my home for two weeks.  What can I do?

—Just Can’t Do This

Dear Can’t,

B&P: Oh, so many things, so many things. The first thing we want to do is ask you: what are your choices? Because you’re either going to have to find a way to handle your in-laws being at your house for two weeks, or…what? You can leave your husband, I suppose. Or you can check into a spa and take a solo vacation during their visit, thereby nakedly displaying to your in-laws just how much you don’t like them and, by default, how little respect you have for your husband and your chosen family.

That’s not an option? OK, then you have to deal. Our take on this is not as seamless as it often is, and we’re reminded we’re not one brain but two — often contrary ones…

B: Often, a letter writer will state the real issue that’s the root of their problem, but cloak it in distracting-but-not-overly-relevant details. Your in-laws, especially the chatty sis, are annoying, I get it. Jeff never makes a pot of coffee, the brute. And two weeks is a mighty long time to host guests, even ones that you like. But then you say this: [My husband’s] retort is that I would never agree to host his sister.

Let me repeat that: I would never agree to host his sister.

Your husband felt that the only way he could have his family in for an extended visit was to go behind your back and make plans without you, because you would never.

Hey, so…how’s your marriage? Because it seems like you have limited tolerance for the family you married into, which will, with time, have its effect on your husband and your relationship. It already has, since he’s acting out in such a way as to exclude you from input.

P: So Terri and I listened to your silence and came to some slightly different conclusions (which is the problem with silence), although this first one we shared: Sounds like there’s a whole lot of history of people’s not talking to one another. Sadly, it sounds like it starts with you and your husband. You’ve not really discussed who stays and how long, what the house rules are and if they’re different for people who stay two days and people who stay a week, who handles what chores.

And I’m not sure how his retort silenced you. According to what you said, your siblings’s stays are brief and infrequent, and his family stops in during the year, comes for several days during Christmas and is now coming for two weeks. So, “you’d never agree to host them,” is untrue and unfair. And that’s dirty pool. Unless of course, Terri’s on the money here, and you begrudge what’s happening. 

B: My guess is, you’re seeing Bob and Betty exactly as they are at home. He probably never makes a pot of coffee in his own kitchen, either, and I’d bet she never stops talking, but for them it’s how it’s done, and they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. My (further) guess is, and neither does your husband, really, though he may nod his head in mute agreement whenever you voice your displeasure with your family by marriage. It’s who they are. And the thing is, if you take the examples you gave us, yourself, then they seem…ok, annoying, but they’re not committing crimes. You don’t say that Bob gets falling-down drunk and hits on you, you don’t say that you’ve caught Betty kicking your dog. Instead, you say he drinks a lot of coffee and talks about himself, and she carries on. Nobody’s picking fights or creating backstabby, noxious family relations. Except you. After they leave. With your husband.

You say you’d like to show respect to your in-laws. I’d like to see you start, too.

P: You haven’t mentioned it, so we don’t have any real information about how your husband participates in your visits. Although, since we know what’s wrong with your in-laws, you probably wouldn’t be too shy about telling us what the hubster’s up to.

I must say, however, that whether or not they’re perfect guests, that’s a lot of time to have people in your house. Are you retired and able to spend the whole summer there or is this your entire vacation?

How much time do you normally spend hosting? And does that interrupt your lazing around doing whatever you normally do while vacating?

B: You mention your own family’s visits, which last for two days and are over. How do you manage to regulate their visits? Are they just better behaved? Or have you taken the time to instill some boundaries with them? Maybe now that you’re going to have them for two weeks (because oh yes, sister, they’re coming), you can start to change some of the rules of their visits to make their behavior less irritating. Overnights, or a few nights in a row are one thing. Two weeks’ worth of visiting, though, that’s living together, and living together requires boundaries.

P: Independent of them, I would certainly be talking about rules for long-term house-guests. But if people are coming for two weeks, will you set up a schedule and make up a list of stuff and ask them to bring that? You haven’t said they’re poor. And even if people have fewer resources, presumably they have some. They can always bring the potatoes, whole and chips. Most people are happy to participate if they know what the expectations are. It might take a while and plenty of snack items to get them trained, but it helps to be direct with people.

You don’t say, but what is your husband’s idea of hosting? What are his jobs for their stay? I can’t believe it, I almost found myself writing, what does he do to help… but in fact, they’re your shared guests, maybe even his guests… His guests require his doing his part and your doing yours… because in a marriage, you get to have a guest in your own house!

B: You want to be gracious, be gracious, and remember, the only behavior you ultimately have control over is your own. Have you ever thought about making Bob’s coffee drinking a bit of a joke? Buy him his own mug and set up a station for him. When he comes in, present it with a flourish. Say, “Bob, you’re here for two weeks, and I know how much you like coffee. Here is your own mug, and here are the filters, the spoons, the sugar, the coffee.” Offer to show him how to work your coffee maker. And then go about your day without worrying over his coffee habit. Clear out a space for them in your fridge and tell them they’re welcome to stock up on groceries. Let them know (ahead of time) that you never cook on Wednesdays so everyone is on their own that night. I’m afraid you won’t be able to put Betty on mute, so maybe you can find some interests you share. See if she wants day passes to your local gym, or take her to something you would like to do, too. A talk at a library, a sewing bee, something. If she’s going to talk, then perhaps you can turn her chatter into something you want to hear. Also, give them a key to the cabin to use while they’re there, and let them know they’re more than welcome to come and go as they please. They might not want to be around you 24/7 for two weeks, too, particularly as you tend to sit in judgment of them.

P: Because you’ll have to answer this, how long are you willing to have Betty and Bob at your house? Terri points out your in-laws are coffee guzzlers (good save, Terri, I was for more passive aggressively removing coffee from the house. But she’s right, get him his own miniature coffee maker with a gold basket that he can refill. Save the landfill, save your sanity.)  and loud (well Terri and I have a certain fondness for loud-mouthed women) Neither of these are egregious faults.

And when I hear the words vacation cabin, I think vacation. For me, that would be feet up on the screened in porch reading, floating in the lake/pool/body of water maybe reading. Oh, and napping. Rummaging in the fridge. Maybe burgers on the grill. Terri’s idea might include fewer burgers and more cooking… but what do you want for this time? Simply not having these guests is not an option.

Before you deal with the in-laws, I think you and your hubster might want to talk about one another’s goals for the vacation. (PS, yours count as much as his.)

Once you have a list of how you want to spend your time, you can talk about how it fits to have guests and what you’re willing to do to entertain people. And if he’s not willing to take up a lot of the slack, because you both know how they are, ask him how he thinks the two of you should solve this problem. Because it’s not your problem or even, really, simply his. They are his family. As Terri points out, you married him. And he comes equipped with family. And he loves them. And that means he knows how to love people. That’s something you want in a partner!

B: And now, more than ever, at last, finally! It’s time to talk to your husband. Not at him, to him. You can start by acknowledging you’ve put your husband in the middle between yourself and his sister and brother-in-law, and that’s not fair of you. Two weeks with them, without his discussing it with you beforehand…yes, he was terribly unfair and dropped a bit of a bomb shell on you, but it’s also a wake-up call that perhaps your own behavior hasn’t invited his conversation in the first place.

You’ve let them come and stay with you in order to see Mom, but has it always been through gritted teeth? Your own family seems less mashed up with each other than your husband’s family; they stay in a hotel over the holidays, they are in for two days and done at your cabin. This may be how you want families to act, but it’s not the family you married into. Ask your husband whether or not he finds his sis & BIL’s behavior difficult to manage, too, or if you’ve just made him feel bad about having a sibling. Ask how you can work together as a unit to not have this sort of difficult rift in the future. Be quiet, and let him answer you. Active listening can be extraordinarily difficult; what I am going to ask of you is that you don’t answer until he is done speaking. Don’t talk over him, don’t start formulating a response. Just let your husband speak about this situation with his sister. He ought to do the same with you and I’m going to ask you again: when it’s your turn to speak, talk to the things that really upset you in this. It’s not Bob’s coffee habit or Betty’s chatter, it’s that your husband made these extended plans without consulting you. The solid frame of a really large wall is going up between the two of you. Work to dismantle it before you’re divided for a lifetime.

P: And what’s your goal? Their personalities are not going to change, she’ll always talk too loudly and he’ll drink too much coffee, but you can take your book and go sit on the porch.

And, worth your while, you need to think a little about how they’ll respond — because even if they are selfish, you don’t ever want them to seize on this as an opportunity to stop seeing Mom. And that’s a real consideration for as long as Mom’s alive. That’s another gift you get from your loving husband, another Mom.

I don’t know that I was quite as worried as Terri that this was a game changer for you, but I do know it seems like an awfully big hill to put up in your own back yard. You have a husband with a family. And presumably a lovely cabin. Enjoy that!

Let me repeat: Be kind.

Let me repeat: Be kind.

Two Sisters Toddy

  • ½ oz strawberry liqueur
  • ½ oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • crushed ice
  • lemon twist garnish

Blend all ingredients (except lemon) in a blender until smooth. Serve in a champagne glass with lemon twist.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

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Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

 

Meanwhile, at the Restaurant: Easter Edition

About a thousand years ago, I worked in a very small coffee shop in a very small town.  Every week, at least once a week, a quartet of ladies would come in after spending the morning together at the gym.  All but one had those stylie (she said facetiously) nylon track suits and all would be suspiciously un-gnarly after what they claimed was a “killer” workout.

When I’m done with a killer workout?  I’m not pretty enough to go anywhere, particularly not in the gym clothes I’ve just released five gallons of sweat into.  Funktastic?  Nope.  Just funk.

Anyway.  These ladies would come in and absolutely swoon over the dessert case, and then *tee hee* behind their hands about whether or not they should get cake (and they always did) and how “bad” that made them.  For these ladies, I always felt like they did think it was a breach of moral conscience to have some goddamned cake if they wanted it.  But who was I to judge?

Oh, right.  I was the surly employee.  That’s what we do.  Plus, I could go on about how deciding to have a piece of cake or not does not in any way indicate an assault on your own morality or standing as a member of the community, but that’s a different rant for a different day.

I don’t think the following incident took place on Good Friday but I know it happened during Easter week.  And quite frankly, it taught me the meaning of self-sacrifice and self-reflection in ways I’d never contemplated before.  Just bear in mind…I’m not saying they’re good ways.

Meanwhile, at the Restaurant: Easter Edition

I feel the presence of the divine already.

I feel the presence of the divine already.

I just report what I see, people.

Peace out, y’all!

Nosh: Apple Cider Caramels

It’s the holidays, and holidays mean candy-making!  Of some kind, anyway.  In my house, anyway.  I really like to make candy, and it’s not as hard as I thought it would be before my first candy-making venture, oh so long ago.  Just…please…respect the sugar.  More on that later.

So I was reading through my Food & Wine magazine, and there was this lovely recipe for apple cider caramels.  I adore soft caramels; I always have and I always will, much to the chagrin of my dentist.  I’ve made them plain, I’ve made salted, I’ve infused them with lavender.  But cider?  Fall harvest deliciousness plus long-standing favorite candy?  Yes, please!  Tell me more!

Actually…before you go on, get the cider started because reducing a half-gallon of cider down to two cups takes FOR.  EVER.  Keep it at a nice, even, medium heat; you don’t want to scorch your cider, nor do you want it to take any longer than it must.  Use the best cider that you can (remember, great ingredients = great food), though I would probably eschew anything excessively pulpy to avoid creating texture issues.

Looks kind of sludgy.  Gets better.  Promise.

Looks kind of sludgy. Gets better. Promise.

You can literally ignore this for the first 45 minutes or so that it’s on the stove, barring (of course) basic stovetop maintenance, i.e., making sure the cat isn’t sticking his nose in your pan or a toddler isn’t pulling boiling cider onto her head.  After the first 45, kind of keep a closer eye on it until you see a real change in texture; it will go from, you know, juice-ish consistency to something that’s kind of thick and glossy.  Keep a measuring cup nearby and just sort of pour it in when you think the reduction is getting close, to check how much you actually have.  If it hasn’t reduced enough?  Back in the pot until it’s ready to be checked again.

And so on.

FYI, you can park your cider once it’s reduced if, say…you have to get to Zumba class and need to take a pause in your pursuit of the perfect caramel.  Be forewarned: the reduced cider will congeal into a solid amber gel.  It’s a little freakish, but once you put it into a pot with sugar and heat it up it will break right back down, no harm, no foul.

Next: get your cream and milk going in one pot, and your sugar, water, corn syrup and (congealed or not) cider in another.  It should look a little something like this.

Notice my bizarro glob of cidery goo in the pot on the back burner?  No sweat, it melts.

Notice my bizarro glob of cidery goo in the pot on the back burner? No sweat, it melts.

Wait for the cream to warm through and the sugar to dissolve into a smooth, incorporated syrup.  Once that’s happened, whisk in a stick of butter and then the cream mixture, carefully, and this is where I added the spices as the recipe called for even though it says to add them later (my one deviation from how the recipe was written).  Let it turn from golden syrup…

It looks so shiny and inviting.

It looks so shiny and inviting.

…into a bubbling cauldron of sweet molten napalm.

OK, look.  I know I always say this when I make candy, but it’s always true: hot sugar will mess you up but good.  This candy requires you raise its temperature to 245°F, and as sugar gets hot, it gets sticky.  If you plunged your hand into a pot of 245°F water and then pulled it out, it would suck–a lot–but as soon as your hand was out of the water it would at least start to cool.  The sugar, however, would retain its heat, not cool nearly as quickly (so it would continue to cook your hand meat) and would stick to you.  Ow.  Here’s a short video I took of the caramel in process; consider it my version of a PSA.

Seriously, kids.  Don’t try this at home.

The things I endure for friends and family.  🙂

Anyway.

Once you’ve cooked your sugar to the freakish 245°F, remove the candy thermometer and pour your caramel into a pan you have waiting, lined with aluminum foil and a coating of nonstick cooking spray.

It gets much less scary after this.

It gets much less scary after this.

Let it cool, and once it’s cooled off enough to manage, cover the pan and put it in the fridge overnight.  And then sit down and relax, since you’ve survived the Night of Boiling Sugar.  The next day you’ll just be involved in the grunt work of cutting and wrapping your caramels, and eating them as you wrap.  🙂

Next day:

Out of the pan and onto a cutting board.  Mark off one-inch sections with your handy kitchen ruler, and then start slicing into your caramel.  It helps to coat your knife with a shot of non-stick spray, because by its nature caramel will stick to everything.

And so the chopping begins.

And so the chopping begins.

Then mark off half-inch sections in each row of caramel.  Set up a workstation for yourself with a ruler (it sounds ridiculous, but my baking and candy making skills turned a corner when I realized I could use your basic ruler in the kitchen), wax paper and/or commercial candy wrappers, some scissors and a big-ass tray to hold them all in.  Then go for it.  There’s no other way around it.

Be a pnnacle of industry!

Be a pinnacle of industry!

Slice, wrap, toss in the tray; slice, wrap, toss in the tray.  Get some good music on while you do it to make things move more fluidly.  I believe I listened to a friend’s mixlr broadcast that day, because how can you not want to listen to the King of Jingaling while you wrap candies?  Before you know it, you’ll go from naked cider caramels to…

:D  Yes, please!

😀 Yes, please!

Missing, of course, the half dozen or so I ate along the way.  For quality control purposes, you understand.

These are delicious.  They really do bring all the fun of a caramel apple without the bother of trying to fit your chops around a giant piece of candied fruit.  I’m sure I’ll make other caramels in my lifetime, but these will remain in my candy repertoire for a long, long time to come.  You should try it!  It’s fun, and people always give you that, “Ooh!  You made this?” squee, which provides its own benefits.  And you can’t support an economy much more local than the one in your own kitchen.  Go for it, folks.  I’m cheering you on!

Just be careful with the hot sugar.

Festive Christmakwanukkastice!

Nosh: Two-Tone Cinnamon Cookies

In my frenzy of Christmas baking, I do always try to find new goodies to bring…or new interpretations of classics…or forgotten recipes that I’ll revive for a season.  The point is, I don’t want to be known the person who always brings the platter of dependable sugar cookies.  Take a risk!  Mix things up!  (Though fam, you can relax.  I promise, I’ll bring the caramel popcorn again this year.)

One of the recipes I found was for these beautiful cinnamon-frosted cookies.  For me, cinnamon equals hell yeah!, with the exception of cinnamon sugar on my toast because I don’t know why but I just don’t care about it.  So cinnamon + white chocolate + cookie + I get to make swirly patterns?  That’s a multi-pronged mega-win.  When food and arts & crafts combine, there is little that makes me happier.  When your first step is to cream together butter and cream cheese, it approaches the nirvana of cookiedom.

Let us begin.

Then add in the sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.

Prepare powdery goodness.

A few notes about this step:

1) This is powdered sugar.  Remember to pour your sugar in in parts, maybe a third at a time.  If you don’t, you’ll encounter the very real likelihood of blowing a cloud of powdered sugar all over your kitchen once you turn the mixer on and the beaters start whirring around.

2) This recipe can unquestionably take more cinnamon.  It only calls for a half a teaspoon, so the cookies themselves aren’t terribly cinnamon-y; they’re nice, puffy sugar cookies with a touch of cinnamon.  If you want to make them taste like a cinnamon cookie with some sugar, then up the amount of cinnamon.  It’s the one thing about the cookie I was a little disappointed in.

Don’t get me wrong; I got over it.

Next, you add the eggs and vanilla and then the flour.  The same principle for adding powdered sugar applies to adding flour, so add it to your mix incrementally, and be ready to give up your mixer early–especially if it’s hand-held, since their motor’s not as strong as a stand mixer–and finish mixing the dough by hand.  It won’t take long and in a matter of a few minutes you’ll have a beautiful, soft, slightly sticky dough.  Put it on a piece of plastic wrap, roughly form it into a disc and put it in the fridge for at least an hour, so it can get nice and firm.

To the fridge!

After it firms up in the fridge, take the dough back out with the objective of rolling it out, on a floured surface, until the dough is about a quarter-inch thick.  Don’t panic if it doesn’t roll into a professional-looking, tidy circle; when I rolled mine out, it ended up looking something like a map of Great Britain.

Perhaps I should start calling them two-tone cinnamon biscuits.

God Save the Queen, indeed.

Now you need to cut them.

So here’s the deal.  The recipe says to use a fluted cookie cutter.  I ended up using a flower-shaped cookie cutter because it was pretty, and the place I went looking for a fluted cutter didn’t have any, and I didn’t think to look for biscuit cutters, OK?  And by biscuits I don’t mean the UK equivalent of a cookie but rather, the big puffy things you get in American diners for a breakfast side, covered with gravy.  It would have worked great and, if I’d bought a biscuit cutter, I would now have the perfect excuse to make biscuits.  Sadly, that is not the case.

Happily, whether fluted or flowered, the cookies worked just fine.  Cut them.

And bake them.

For some reason, the directions in the recipe don’t call for you, the baker, to gather up the scraps and re-roll them so you can maximize your cookie load per batch made.  I nearly doubled mine from what the batch said it would yield, making it well worth my while.  Once the scraps have been gathered you might want to wrap them  in plastic and put them back in your fridge for twenty minutes or so to firm up again.  I didn’t do that and really the additional batch was fine, but not as easy to handle.  If I were to make them again?  I’d re-refrigerate the scraps.  That’s all I’m saying.

And!  It’s important to know how your oven performs.  I know mine runs a few degrees cool, so I left the cookies in for 10 minutes.  Since there were trays on both my upper and lower oven racks, I rotated them half way through and turned the sheets around, since the back of my oven tends to be a bit more warm than the front of my oven.  They came out perfectly!  Lightly browned around the edges, golden on the bottom, nice and puffy in the middle.  Let them cool for a minute more on the tray, and then get them onto cooling racks until they’re fully cooled and ready for icing.

Here is where the recipe and I wildly deviate.  There are two flavors of icing to make for this cookie, one cinnamon, and one white chocolate.  Both icings are made by mixing shortening with both white chocolate and cinnamon morsels–like chocolate chips, only different.  (As an aside, do you realize how sad I am to know that cinnamon morsels exist?  OMG, they’re fantastically delicious.  I want to eat the whole bag.)  So far, so good.  But the recipe tells you to melt the chips by putting them in a saucepan.

That?  Is a terrible idea.  It is so, so easy to burn your chocolate or cinnamon in a saucepan.  Unless you’re dying to throw out your batches of icing and start over, melt the chips in a double boiler, or do the every-15-seconds-give-it-a-stir-until-it’s-melted microwave method.  If you don’t have a fancy double-boiler, sit a metal or glass mixing bowl over a pot with about an inch or two of water boiling in the bottom.  Voila!  Double boiler.  Set yourself up for an operation that should be fairly efficient–bowls of icing, spoons for stirring and icing distribution and cookies should all be at the ready, because the icing will start to set fairly quickly.  You can always stick it back in the microwave to re-melt, but try to do apply heat to your food as little as possible.  After a while, it can stop playing nice with you.

So, spoon some white chocolate and some cinnamon icing side by side on each cookie.

And then take whatever you choose to use as a handy-dandy swirling utensil–I used a kebab skewer–and run it back and forth through the frostings until each cookie is smooth and marbled and beautiful.

This will proactively guarantee your inclusion on Santa’s “nice” rolls for the following year’s Christmas festivities.  Work smarter, not harder, people.  Because who can resist a swirly cookie?

Enjoy!

And speaking of God Save the Queen…

Moment of Observation: ‘Tis the Season

Dear Shoppers of America,

Black Friday has come and gone, and with it we have witnessed more than our fair share of the worst of humanity.  The most attention-grabbing headline was the one about the woman who shot pepper spray into a crowd to defend her deeply discounted X-Box.  But of course, there was a shooting in a parking lot as a family resisted a gunman trying to steal purchases, a tasing that came about because of a fistfight, and another trampling, though this one didn’t result in death.  I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.  ‘Tis the season, I suppose.

(It is with somber relief that I have come to find that my originally-most-horrifying Black Friday tale is not as bad as its initial reports.  Walter Vance, of West Virginia, collapsed in his local Target and died of heart failure at the hospital.  The first stories claimed that fellow shoppers stepped over him or around him, but did not help him.  Thankfully, this seems to not be the case, as the off-duty nurse who administered CPR until the ambulance arrived and happened to be shopping in the same store claims she came upon him pretty quickly and he was already surrounded by Target employees clearing the area and people trying to help.  Gawker pointed out that there is no legal obligation to help someone in physical need, only a moral one, and to that I say yes, I know, and STFU because you’re not helping.)

Remember when we were all horrified by the craze for the Cabbage Patch doll?

*sigh*  Things were so much simpler then.

People, we’re better than this.  This is supposed to be the season for expressing peace on Earth and good will to men and all that stuff.  Peace on Earth?  Is not achieved by shooting people in a parking lot and strafing a crowd with scorching pepper extracts in the name of X-Box ownership.  I could blame the stores—they don’t HAVE TO pound us relentlessly with ads promising everything at an unbelievable price, though that is their job.  I could blame the advertising agencies who send out a beat beat beat to buy buy buy and have gotten pretty darn skillful in equating shopping with happiness.  I could blame the news, who spend all of Black Friday following projected sales estimates and alternatively telling us we’re reviving the economy and fulfilling our patriotic duty by hitting the malls (or the interwebs).  I could, but I won’t.  That lets us off the hook and people, it’s time for a moment of reckoning.

Occupy Wal-Mart!

(For the record, I can SEE that this is actually a Best Buy, but “Occupy Best Buy” doesn’t quite have the same zazz, now, does it?)

Of course we want to make our loved ones happy and of course we want to get them what they want, but are you sure this is the path to happy?  Loved ones want time + an expression of interest.  Do we think, “I’d love to have a conversation with the brother I don’t really talk to” or, “I have a brother I don’t talk to; I wish he’d give me a gift certificate to Macy’s so I know he loves me.”  As adults, do we look back on our lives and think, “Man, if Mom and Dad had gotten me that Barbie doll in the fourth grade, I’d be so much better off right now…they should have shot someone in a parking lot to get it.”

Question:  Has anyone died from not receiving something on Christmas?  Of course not, and I’m ridiculous, right?  Then when did the stakes become so high in the shopping?

In light of the season, I’m going to ask you all to remember these simple holiday tips:

  • Going to jail to defend your holiday shopping (or, to get your hands on someone else’s holiday shopping) doesn’t make you a better parent.
  • Stores and manufacturers don’t love you.  They just want your money.
  • Whatever the item, your loved one will survive if they don’t own it on December 25th.
  • Celebrate the season by projecting good intentions, not pepper spray.
  • Manners count.  All the time.
  • The best memories are made with you, not with the latest piece of technology that will be obsolete before you get it out of the store.

We’re all in this together, people, so let’s alter the direction this holiday season has started going down, and make it one filled with joy and peace.  Let’s make this the year to start a new tradition, one of happy, healthy memories that have nothing to do with unfettered wants and neglected emotional needs.  Bake the cookies, take the walks, plan the winter picnics and please, please, let the people you love know how much you love them in word and interested action.  Participate in the spirit of the season because I guarantee you, that message isn’t printed on the outside of an X-Box.

Peaceful holidays!

Terri

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