Commentary, musings

In Defense of Christmas decorations on November 1

I can already hear the oh-so-festive sounds of groans and moans, the snide comments and the weeping for our future.

The Christmas decorations are already in stores.

Truth be told, I saw Christmas trees in Macy’s back in September (which was just weird), but now that it’s November, I’m a lot less bothered. I know a lot of people gripe about this, and will make comments about “forgetting Thanksgiving” (come on, no one really forgets Thanksgiving), but I’m about to offer you a reasonable defense for (seemingly too) early Christmas displays.

First, the so-called “forgotten” Thanksgiving. No one forgets Thanksgiving. The “problem” with Thanksgiving is that it doesn’t have much in the way of marketing, and the origin story most of us learned in school is entirely too simplistic. That’s okay, though, Thanksgiving has turned into a national time to give thanks for what we have, for our blessings and abundance, and to spend time with family. And that’s great! But you know what’s missing?

Kids.

For Thanksgiving, kids will mostly be relegated to the “Kids’ Table” while the adults swap family stories or watch football or the like. This is really and truly an adult holiday, and therein lies the marketing gap. There aren’t Thanksgiving “treats” to buy, costumes to wear, and decorations are limited to generic autumn things or cornucopias. Plus Thanksgiving is a strictly North American holiday (even though harvest festivals have ancient roots), and in November the only one in the US. There isn’t the appeal of a wide range of cultural backgrounds the way there is with Christmas or even Halloween (which is increasingly celebrated in other countries). It’s a great holiday and an American tradition, but it isn’t a BIG holiday. It’s more on-par with July 4th in the US: celebrated nationally with traditions of its own (including a specific type of meal, be it a cookout or turkey dinner) but really with little buildup and done by the next day.

So setting aside Thanksgiving, isn’t it entirely too much to have Christmas displays nearly two months before the actual holiday?

Not at all.

While I agree that most of it before about November 1 is pushing it (with the exception of craft stores, which I’ll get back to momentarily), by the time we get to November, we’re careening toward one of the largest holidays in the world. Think I’m exaggerating? As of 2011, an estimated 2 billion people are culturally (if not religiously) Christian. That’s 2 billion people celebrating Christmas. Factor into that the size and scope of the marketing in our own country, and you have a behemoth of a religious holiday.

On a smaller scale, besides an important religious holiday, Christmas has become (in our country, and many other western countries), focused on coming together with people and exchanging gifts. This costs a lot of money, be it in travel expenses, purchasing (or making), and possibly shipping. There are a lot of things we “need” for this holiday, and this huge chunk of expenses is easier to take if spread out over two months instead of one. Plane tickets are easier to find (and more affordable) with more lead-time, gift purchasing can be done in small spurts, etc. It makes sense to get people thinking about it early, and it makes sense to have things ready to go for people who need to shop early.

And speaking of shopping early, crafters are a huge category here. One of the growing trends (which makes me very happy, as it’s moving us away from the wholly commercial aspect of this whole business) is handmade gifts and decor. The thing about this is that, in order to make any kind of quantity, a person needs enough time to gather supplies and actually produce the items in question. Even making cards (which I did until a couple of years ago) took time and patience, and I often started looking for my supplies in August or September so I’d have time to find everything I needed and make them all.

Finally on a personal note, there is a tiny minority of us who have loved ones overseas for the holidays, and we all have to make sure their holiday packages arrive in plenty of time. The US Post Office has already said that for military, standard post service deadline is November 12.* That’s next week.

So when you’re out this week and you see Christmas displays and hear Jingle Bells, just take a minute before you make a snide remark, take a minute and get a little perspective. There might be someone shopping for another Christmas spent apart.

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*Standard post is the equivalent of “parcel post” and means going by ship somewhere. If you do priority (or air) mail, you have almost another month. But check the chart anyway.

holidays, updates

Holiday party… in March?

holiday party j and j

Last weekend we had our very belated holiday party with J’s command. It’s a holiday party because, y’know, they missed ALL of the holidays while on deployment. Plus it was a homecoming party.

holiday party girls

It was nice, and a bunch of people who are becoming our friends came, and we had a good time. Mostly it was fun to dress up (and I finally got to wear my dress from the wedding I didn’t make) and J wore a new outfit and we enjoyed talking to people and meeting new people and all of those things you do at command functions, except it was better because the command is SMALL and only about a quarter of the people came (I think… maybe half?) so it didn’t feel too crowded and overwhelming.

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I don’t have much to say, because really going to these command dinner parties is a lot like going to a wedding where you only know the bride and groom and none of the guests. There’s even a buffet line and bad dancing, with most of the dance floor occupied by the younger (i.e. the below-ten-years-old) set.

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Still, I thought I’d share some photos. So there you go. ^_^

this and that, updates

Mexico Mission Photos

This post will have to be short as it’s already late and I’ve got a long day tomorrow. In case you haven’t seen them yet, there’s a new album over here with photos from the Mexico mission trip.

I haven’t had much to blog about lately, not because I haven’t been doing things, but rather because I’ve been doing too manyΒ things to really write about them. Life is just plain busy. And between camp and a mission trip and getting ready to move.. well, I’m out of spare time.

Oh. We’re moving again. In September we’ll be heading to San Diego. So we begin the PCS* Chronicles again. All the drama of house hunting and finding a grocery store and other such thrilling things are happening again. I know you’re as excited as I am.

More to follow, I’m sure.

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*PCS = Permanent Change of Station, i.e. moving because the military is reassigning J.

navy life

Re-enlistment photos

Here’s the link to J’s Β re-enlistment photos. They were taken by a friend of mine so I wouldn’t have to worry about it during the ceremony. I’ve got a bunch from the rest of the day that I’ll add later when I have time to upload them.

SONY DSC

I have to say, it’s a little weird to realize this enlistment takes him almost to retirement– 17 years. Then it’ll just be one more 3 year contract somewhere. Just plain weird.

See the flag he’s holding? That was raised over his ship that morning. We then left it at the USS Missouri (that’s the ship we’re on for the ceremony) and they raised it over the ship. J and I picked it up and took it to the USS Arizona Memorial where they let us take the ferry ride out to the memorial and the park ranger there helped us raise the flag on that mast, too. So that flag has flown over three Navy ships. Very cool.

That night I surprised him with dinner at one of his favorite new places– two couples and their kids met us there. It was a fun night and a great way to end the day.

[update]
I added the other photos, so now the ones from the Arizona Memorial and dinner are online, too.

navy life

Silk Scarves and Other Bribes

This weekend I received a box of what I call “bribes” — gifts from various port calls sent back so that I can enjoy them, too. Some might call them souvenirs, but as what I got was mostly from a place I’ve never been, I’m not sure that’s quite the right term.

green silk scarf

Anyway, I got two lovely silk scarves, one light blue and one green, and I’m very excited to be able to wear them this fall when I visit a much cooler climate. I also got a little painted jewelry box and an elephant for my collection. ^_^

Deployment bribes are fun, but maybe my favorite part of the whole box I got was a DVD. There’s a program on the ship called “United Through Reading” and it’s supposed to be for parents to read to their children on camera and then it gets mailed home for the kids to have a bedtime story from mom or dad. Well…. the cats got a book read to them. Really, I got a DVD with J talking to me (and to the cats), but after a few minutes he realized he had a full 30 minutes of time on camera and decided to actually read me the book. And show all the pictures. But the snarky comments he made about each page had me in stitches. (It wasn’t that great of a book to start, so that didn’t help.)

Anyway, it’s good to have connections like that. I’m going to send a box back to him tomorrow with some odds and ends I’ve picked up for him, which I won’t include here in case he reads it and the surprise is ruined, and some lemonade powder since he’s drinking something like 12L of water a day. I figure flavor might make it easier.

Joanna problems, navy life

Deployment Curse

I have it. Big time.

Other people do, too. It’s an actual military superstition. Well, among military spouses anyway. See this. And this. And this.

It’s like Murphy’s Law, except it only goes into effect when your active duty (or reservist) spouse deploys. And it can start in the week before they leave, but usually happens in the week or so after they leave.

In the last two weeks, I’ve had the following:

  • The a/c flooded the garage. Again.
  • The a/c also needs to be cleaned because we discovered (when checking to fix the flooding thing) that it’s covered in salt and corrosion.
  • The front porch lights went out. And needed whole new fixtures.
  • The tub drain backed up and had to be dismantled.
  • The cats had their vet appointments and have had to go on prescription things.
  • The computer has started being wonky. It’s four years old, which is about the lifespan, but still.
  • My cell phone has started being wonky, too.
  • I’ve been sick.
  • I’ve lost several important items, such as the pet fur attachment for my vacuum… my stairs are sort of awful right now.
  • And probably some other stuff, too, that I’ve already blocked from my memory.

Today it is in the form of a flat tire that I discovered at 5:30pm, so half an hour after repair shops close, and as I’m supposed to leave for my Wednesday night commitment. I haven’t been anywhere today, spending most of the day cleaning the house (which is an ongoing project this week since I finally have the time), and I was in a hurry to leave (so I could arrive on time), but as I pulled out of the driveway, I heard a scraping sound and noticed as I neared the mailbox (end of the block) that my car was pulling hard to the left…. so I got out and sure enough, the front left tire was on-the-ground-flat. I pumped it back up to turn around and pull back into the driveway, but now I’m worried… because I first noticed a slight pull to the left yesterday on the way home from the zoo… but it wasn’t bad so I was going to get an alignment on Friday… but if my tire was low yesterday (and clearly I didn’t notice, so what’s wrong with me that I’m that distracted?) then have I hurt my axle? I sure hope not. And I think this is one of my new tires, but I can’t find the receipt for it so I’m a little concerned… because if it’s new, then I could get it fixed for free.

At least I get free towing while J is deployed. Sigh.

Commentary, this and that

Obligatory Budget Blog

The only reason I am writing this blog entry is that I’m trying to keep track of things that happen and this one is kind of important to a lot of people right now, so I’m documenting it.

My thoughts? I’m seriously annoyed with the whole situation. I’m tired of people blaming one political party or the other when both are just butting heads over some political ideology that won’t really affect the giant deficit right now. It’s over a tiny percentage of money that happens to be tied to emotionally charged topics. I’m tired of members of the military community calling foul over not getting paid. This isn’t the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last. Besides that, we will eventually get paid (unlike other federal employees) and besides all that, any creditors or other bills that need to be paid won’t hold it against us if we have to miss this month. Every single thing we’ve ever signed or agreed to do has a military clause so protect us in case of things like sudden deployment or sudden relocation or any other sudden related-to-the-military thing that happens. I’m also tired of every single place I go being inundated with it.

So yeah. Those are my thoughts.

On an unrelated note, a huge group of us went to see Soul Surfer tonight. It was pretty good, and a very inspirational story. The writing was just a little weird to me. I’d still recommend it, though. We got to see Bethany Hamilton last month at the HIM conference which made it a little more interesting for me since I didn’t really know about her until recently.

The only other thing that I did today was to pull everything out of the laundry room and reorganize it, thanks to a new shelf and some hanging racks and a couple of storage bins. I can walk all the way through the laundry room again!

See? It really is the little things in life. ^_^

navy life, photography

Kaneohe Bay Air Show

Oooh, two entries in one day! Amazing! Haha.

Blue Angels

This is mostly to let you know there are photos from Saturday when we went to the Kaneohe Bay Air Show. We had a great time looking at the static displays and seeing the flight demonstrations, including a helicopter that flies upside-down (though I didn’t get photos of it, sorry) and an F22 Raptor, as well as the usual stunt planes and historic aircraft. We got to see the Blue Angels, too. They usually only come to Hawaii every 3 years, so it’s nice we got to see them.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun and we managed to not get sunburned, which is always a good thing!

navy life

So about this whole Energy Conservation thing

We had the meeting tonight about the energy conservation project thingum.

This is my take on it: there was an edict from the Department of Defense in 1998 (yes, 12 years ago this was) that people in privatized housing (defined as “military” housing that is managed by a private company, aka where I live) would have to pay for overages on their electricity. They set an “average” amount for each type (i.e. size, age, etc) of house and then if you’re way above (they’ve decided that 20% above average is above enough) then you have to pay.

With me so far?

Okay, now if you’re more than 20% below the average, you’ll get a rebate. Oh, and they don’t count the top and bottom 5% in their “average usage.”

Confused yet?

I actually think I’ve got it pretty well figured out, and it all makes sense (just as it did when I read the letter; I’m very good at reading, thank you very much) but apparently there isn’t really a plan to do anything to actually make our homes more energy efficient. This whole thing is to try and “correct behavior” so that people who “take advantage” will do the “right thing” and conserve energy, or have to pay for themselves. The quotation marked bits are things I actually heard tonight.

Aside: I would also like to say I just spent over two hours at this Town Hall meeting thing and I’m a little tired.

I asked about ceiling fans (there’s not the money or the manpower to give them to us and because of “liability” reasons we’re not allowed to install them ourselves) and weather stripping (I was told that wouldn’t make a significant difference– say what?!) and energy efficient appliances (as the old ones die, they’ll be replaced, so I guess that’s okay). I forgot to ask about the air conditioner; when we moved in they told us to run the blasted thing all the time to keep out mold and mildew, but in the “instructional video” we watched, they said about four times that we should open windows to conserve energy. Which is it?? So I’m going to find someone to ask that question.

I know this isn’t a terribly interesting for a blog post, but it’s about the only thing that happened to me (besides going to the zoo as usual).

I wonder how this whole thing is going to work. It sounds like it’s still got a lot of kinks in it. Should be loads of “fun.”