Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmastime Questions

Remember when yearbooks had captions like "Most likely to succeed?" Today, students are awarded more modern honors like "Best Tweeter." Kids campaign for these prizes and results were recently announced.

Apparently, one of my daughter's oldest friends, also a high school senior, was robbed! 

I've known this lovely young lady since ... well, since she was born. Today, by all accounts, she is a proficient — and prolific — Twitter poster. (She also wears a penguin costume when she goes on vacation. Really. But, that's another story for another time.) Over Christmas break, she tweeted this:

"If I had a dollar for everyone who asks me where I'm going to college, I'd have enough money to go to college."

We know how she feels.

At our annual tree-trimming party last week, we were concerned that our hyperactive new puppy would be underfoot (or up a tree). My daughter immediately stepped in and offered to take him for long walks, to the dog park, and to visit her grandmother (my daughter's, not the dog's). I was impressed. This seemed like a very mature and selfless thing to do.

Then I realized that she saw it as a win-win.

The dog would be contained (and entertained). In fact, she suggested bringing him back to the house for a few minutes every hour so people could meet him. We may have nicknamed him "Spawn of Satan" (we're on rug repair number two right now), but he's also absolutely adorable and affectionate. But, being out of the house would be better all around. 

Meanwhile, my daughter would have a perfect excuse to dodge what has become a positive barrage of questions about the C-word.


No one's fault, really. She's eighteen; she's a high school senior. It's the end of December. The oh-so-logical query on every grownup's lips is ...

"Where are you going to college?"

There are variations, naturally. "Do you know where you're going?" is a common, casual version. 

"What are you doing next year?" is more politically-correct; after all, not every kid goes to a traditional four-year school. 

Then, there are the more enlightened adults who preface their interrogation with an apology ... "I'm sure you're tired of hearing this ..." or "You probably don't want to talk about this ..." or even "Sorry, can I ask ...?" 

And, they proceed anyway.

So, dog-sitting was a smart dodge on my daughter's part. 

I, meanwhile, am happy to brag about her accomplishments. She's been accepted at three of the four schools to which she's applied — and awarded generous merit scholarships. ("See?" I tell her, smugly, "All that hard work paid off!" Cue: eye roll.) 'Not sure what's holding up the final one; oddly enough, it was the least competitive of the bunch. Regardless, she's narrowed it to two, and week after next, we'll be visiting one of them to try and get closer to a decision.

She's quick to remind me that she has until May to make up her mind. And, despite my own impatience, we are heading into 2016 with exciting options. Graduation, summer vacation and first semester freshman year will be here before we know it. While I look forward to knowing what she decides, I don't want to rush any of it.

Besides, I can probably think of other things to do while I wait.

Like training the new puppy.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Eve Gift, Again

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Again. I have a handful of things to get done between now and then — some wrapping, some deliveries, some copywriting, a meeting. Then, my teenage daughter and I will enjoy our annual tradition. I'll drive with her to the stable in the morning (something I never thought I'd miss, but after a year and a half of her driving herself there each day, I'm looking forward to it). Then, we'll find a place for lunch. Nothing fancy, just a local joint where we can enjoy basic food and a chance to play Secret Santa.

Here's the post I wrote about our Christmas Eves the first year Lovin' the Alien was published.

Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Christmas Eve Gift!"

Our family has a tradition that dates back longer than I can remember. It started with my mother's own childhood, growing up in Mountain Grove, Missouri. On the morning of December 24th, the first person to shout "Christmas Eve Gift!' wins. My family takes this pretty seriously — my enthusiastic younger brother has been known to call people minutes after midnight to declare "Christmas Eve Gift" victory.

The game is not unique to my family. If you Google "Christmas Eve Gift" (with the quotation marks), you'll get over 600,000 hits. I'm a working mother and didn't have time to read them all, but the handful I did peruse were sweet reminiscences much like mine in the paragraph above.

This friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly, sometimes downright ruthless) competition frustrated my husband to no end. 'What do you win?" he demanded. "Why is there no gift? This is lame!"

So, when we adopted the practice with our own daughter, I made sure there was always a gift. A funny, seasonal knick-knack (which I chose based on its appropriateness for any of us, but bought specifically for her since I always let her win). It might be a wind-up dancing elf, a small box of chocolates, an ornament, a Pooh Bear dreidel, or (her favorite) a tiny naked baby doll from Japan wearing a Santa hat. This year, it was an adorable felt donkey ornament. I figured it was close enough to a horse if my daughter won it. And, it's the symbol of the Democratic party if my liberal husband won.

As per Christmas Eve usual, the tween walked away with the prize. I don't think she was impressed. She told me, ever so sweetly, that she thought it would look better on the big tree downstairs and not on the smaller one in her room. Clearly the adorable ornament wasn't as adorable as I thought. Oh well.

That's all right; we have another annual tradition. My husband meets his best friend for lunch (if the long nap he takes each year afterwards is any indication, we are probably talking 'liquid lunch'). So, my daughter and I go out together for our own meal. This was especially fun back when I was working at an agency in Boston and rarely saw her midday. She was just three or four years old the first time we had our special Christmas Eve luncheon. We went to a chic and charming little bistro, called ... Friendly's.

That particular day, Friendly's was overcrowded and understaffed. There were a couple of waitresses who weren't moving very quickly, and one waiter, who seemed to be pulling most of the waitering weight. He was amiable and efficient, and even though the kitchen mixed up our sandwiches (how do you mix up grilled cheese?), he kept his sense of humor and made everything right.

We felt bad that he was working — and working so hard! — on Christmas Eve. So, we decided to leave him a "Special-Secret-Santa-Christmas-Eve-Tip." I went and paid at the register while my daughter wrote "MERRY CHRISTMAS" (phonetically) in crayon on her folded placemat. We slipped an over-the-top generous gratuity inside and raced out, giggling wildly.

From then on, we made a date for our Secret Santa lunch. Once Friendly's closed (after more than thirty years; my husband worked there as a teenager), we moved on to other local restaurants: Bertucci's, Pizzeria UNO. Each time, we made it a point to converse with our waitperson and find out what he or she was doing for the holiday. Each time, we left a regular tip for our meal plus a generous Christmas bonus. Each time, we ran out of the restaurant, thrilled with our little secret and laughing.

Last year, we went to a coffee shop in neighboring Salem. The joint was jammed and our waitress was terrific! She noticed that we had made a list on one of our napkins and asked if we were still shopping? No, I told her. The list included friends' houses at which we planned to drop off goodies on the way home.

She said that she herself was almost finished. She was a single mom, she explained, and just needed two more presents, the big ones, for her teenage son and daughter. When she got off at 5:00, she was going to rush over to the mall to get them each an iPod. It occurred to me that she had probably waited until the last minute to get these special gifts because she didn't have the cash sooner. My daughter and I were excited — it felt like we had hit Secret Santa pay dirt! We did what we could to contribute to the iPods and our giddy dash out of the restaurant was even more exhilarating than usual.

I enjoy most (all right, many, or at least some) meals with my daughter. But, I treasure the time we spend together at lunch every Christmas Eve. Joining forces to help someone is powerful stuff. We don't have the resources of Oprah or Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, but we can make a difference in our way.

Maya Angelou once said, "I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver." I'll think of this as my daughter and I joyfully run down the street together after our lunch this afternoon.

May your soul find liberation and joy this Christmas Eve too.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Season's Tweetings

To tweet or not to tweet.

That is the question. Or not.

I'm on Twitter. (Aren't you impressed?) In fact, I'm so on Twitter that I have three separate Twitter accounts. One for my business, one for my cultural pieces (my weekly column in Women's Voices for Change), and one for this blog. 

I even have followers!

But, the fact that I have Twitter accounts and actively tweet (when and only when I have something legitimate about which to tweet, mind you) does not make me an expert "Twit." 

Not by any stretch of your — or my — pre-millennial imagination.

Did you know, for example, that there is an entire glossary of new words that have emerged from the Twittersphere? These are very helpful to memorize if you want to impress your peers or people older and less wired.

If, however, your goal is to impress teenagers, tread lightly. If there is anything worse than our not knowing the latest slang, it's knowing the latest slang and misusing it. 

Been there, done that.

So, just between us old folks, here are some terms that you may find interesting, amusing, or just plain ... well ... useless. (Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Attwaction - When two Twitterers are attracted to each other

Attwicted - Someone who is addicted to Twitter

Beetweet - A trending Twitter topic

Bird-of-mouth - Using Twitter to spread news

Deja-tweet - When a tweet feels strangely familiar

Detweet - When you tweet, then delete 

Drive-by tweet - A fast tweet sent in between other activities

Dweet - A drunken tweet

Eavestweeting - Eavesdropping on other Twitter conversations

Egotwistical - People who tweet about themselves too much

Mistweet - A tweet you shouldn't have sent (see "Dweet")

Twacklist - Blacklisted from Twitter

Twama - Drama unfolding on Twitter

Twamous - A Twitter celebrity

Tweekend - When you spend an entire weekend tweeting

Twendy - Trendy Twitter users

Twitamins - Tweets  with useful information

Twitterphobia - An irrational fear of tweeting

Twitterphoria - The elation when your tweet just nails it

You may not have a Twitter account. You may not tweet. But, the next time you find yourself at some fancy social event with the twitterati, at least you can feel confident about being up on the latest slang.

Because now, you're a twenius too.

You can thank me later. Better yet, follow me. ;) 

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Downward Trend

Friends who grew up in the 1960s and 70s sometimes shake their heads about how lethargic today's teenagers are when it comes to protests and activism. After all, it's hard to paint a sign or stand on a picket line when you rarely look up from your mobile device. Even choosing a college and a concentration has become an exercise in ROI, or "return on investment," rather than an opportunity to learn about something that matters. (Good thing we weren't doing that math back when I selected Drama and English as my double major). 

These same friends also notice that, by and large, our teens are more conservative when it comes to recreational ... um ... shall we say "activities." Whenever we compare notes about our sons and daughters, we invariably fall back into the same stories of our own high school debauchery. Smoking lots of pot, for example. Or drinking to excess — and driving afterwards. While none of us wants our offspring to get into trouble, legally or chemically, the undercurrent always feels like "Oh those poor kids, they're missing out." 

We may be the first generation to bemoan our children's good behavior.

It also feels counter-intuitive. Typically, we criticize the younger generation. We were more polite; we were better students. "We would never have given our parents so much back talk." 

Riiiiight. Probably because we were all too stoned to do so.

Anyway, there was an interesting story released by Reuters News Agency this morning. It seems that 2015 continued a long decline in teen use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. The study, which included a survey of 44,892 students grades 8-12, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Here are key findings:

* 7% of students used cigarettes, the lowest number since tracking began 41 years ago.

* 40% of students used alcohol in the past year; 22% in the past month. These numbers sound high but, again, they are the lowest ever tracked. Binge and "extreme binge" drinking also fell.

* 24% (averaged across grades) students used marijuana during the past year. This number has remained steady over the past five years.

Teens also reported decreased use of other drugs, such as ecstasy, heroin, amphetamines and synthetic marijuana.

So researchers (not to mention educators and parents) are curious about why we're seeing the decline. Contributing factors may include tougher laws, better education, community efforts, advertising campaigns, smoking bans in restaurants and public places, as well as increased taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. Nothing deters teen behavior like teen poverty.

Smoking, drinking and drug use contribute to a host of medical issues (in teen years and later in life), and cost communities hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, no matter where the credit lies, this is all good news.

In some cases — maybe, perhaps, possibly, against all odds — parental advice may even have been responsible for positively influencing teen behavior. After all, there's a familiar (if rather cynical) saying: "Do as I say, not as I do." 

I guess, today's teenagers are doing what we say, not what we did.

For more information, you can visit the NIDA website here.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Long, Slow Look at College Decisions

Often I see glimpses of my husband in our teenage daughter. Her natural athletic ability, for example. Her sense of humor. How fast she drives. Some of these attributes are good and some ... not so much. Some make me pull my hair out. 

But, I digress.

Other times, I see myself in her. I take pride in her creative writing, in her diligence and determination. Her obsessive appetite for particular TV programs. Sadly, she's inherited my sweet tooth as well. 

But, again, I digress.

Then, there are situations in which I watch her and think "Who are you?" and "How can we possibly be related?" 

We're going through one of those now as she hones in on the college decision that she'll (and we'll) be living with for the next four years.

When I was a senior, my college prep counselor (who knew me btw; he was one of my math teachers) took a look at my transcript and my SATs, asked what I wanted to major in, and made a single suggestion. "Tufts has a great drama program and they love early decision applicants." I went, I saw, I applied. They said, "Yes." I said, "Yes." And we were done. Signed, sealed, delivered before Christmas my senior year. One thing, one very big thing, crossed off my list.

This was 1979, and early decision was still a fairly new idea. Forget about all its modern permutations: early action, rolling admissions, restrictive early action (WTF?), as well as plain old vanilla regular decision. 

Everything is much more complicated nowadays, although with most schools accepting the "Common App," there's a lot less paperwork. Still, it's mid-December and a compulsive young person (such as myself 35 years ago) can already know where she or he will be going.

Not my daughter.

She applied to just four colleges (less than most of her peers in our high-achieving little town; her very focused intended course of study made the universe much smaller). Her applications were complete in late October, neatly within any early action or rolling deadlines. She was almost immediately accepted into two schools, which happened to be her first choices, at the time. I say, "at the time," because times have already changed. Now, we're waiting to hear from the other two. And, my daughter (not a particularly patient young woman under normal circumstances) seems perfectly content to wait.

I would be pulling my hair out! 

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand — and even support — my daughter's thoughtful consideration during this important time of change and choice. After all, chances are she will spend a substantial chunk of her formative young adult years at whatever fine institution of higher learning she chooses. Then there's all the associated fallout: friends and significant others, where you live and what you do. I have never attended a Tufts reunion, but my decision to go there affects my life every day.

Nevertheless, my seventeen-year-old self was way too eager to debate, contemplate, ruminate or meditate (Hmmm ... I seem to have missed my calling as a middle-aged white rapper). My daughter is taking her time.

She has an equestrian scholarship application due tomorrow, but no other paperwork or tests to worry about. In essence, the admissions ball is not in her court at the moment. Once she hears from her other two schools, we may have to do some additional campus visiting (bake-off style, perhaps). But, there's no rush.

You see, she has until May to make her decision.

I just hope I can last that long. 

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Going Nuts

Oh, nuts! It's starting already.

Christmas is just two weeks away. But, that's not the problem. I'm actually in good shape.  

Christmas cards are done. Shopping is done. Wrapping is done. Well, everything except bows and tags. (BTW, this should be interesting. Will I remember what's what, where, and for whom? We shall see.)

One of my favorite things about the season is going to see The Nutcracker. Growing up in Manhattan in the 1970s, I attended the New York City Ballet's version at nearby Lincoln Center. One year, my sister and I got to go backstage to meet Gelsey Kirkland and she gave us autographed toe shoes. Another year, we bought little furry mice in the lobby concession stand. 

Still another year, we missed it because we both had the mumps.

As I grew up, there were many years I didn't go. In high school, I was too busy doing theatre (and homework). In college, I was too busy with my boyfriend (and homework). Then there were all those young professional years when ballet tickets seemed out of reach (I fondly think of that time as "The Ramen Era"). But, as I got older — and my bank account got a bit healthier — we started a new tradition. 

Each year, right after Thanksgiving, my mother would come up to New England for a long weekend, and together we would see the Boston Ballet's Nutcracker. It was pretty much just us (we did bring my future mother-in-law along once) until my daughter turned four. Then, she came too.

My mother likes to remember that first trip. She and I were both in elegant black velvet and my daughter was in red. We surprised her with her own nutcracker which she brought to the performance. As the lights dimmed and the orchestra started Tchaikovsky's familiar overture, I leaned down and whispered.

"I'm so proud of you, honey."

Without missing a beat, she responded, "I'm so proud of you too, Mommy."

Since then, we've rarely missed our annual performance. Things have changed: new sets, costumes, choreography, even a new venue when the Boston Ballet was evicted in order to accommodate the Radio City Rockettes (a poor call on the part of the Wang Center, if there ever was one). 

We've experienced change on our part too. Several years ago, my daughter refused to wear party dresses (she was already self-identifying as a horsewoman, and lace and bows weren't going to cut it). A few years later, I stopped giving her nutcrackers because we had no more room for them. Our collection, mostly hers and lined up on our dining room mantle, still generates a lot of comments at our tree-trimming parties.

This year, we couldn't stop for a pre-show dinner (or post-show pastry) because of a looming test in AP Bio, the bane of my daughter's senior year existence. But, we had fabulous seats and the production truly was the most beautiful I think I've ever seen. At intermission, I tried to get my companions to go out into the gilded lobby with me for a nice group photo. Neither generation was interested; the crowd was too thick, the seats too comfortable. As the second act began, something occurred to me.

'This won't work next year,' I realized. My daughter won't be here the week after Thanksgiving. She'll be in Ohio or Vermont or New Hampshire or Rhode Island. This, of course, made the lovely and bittersweet second act all the lovelier and more bittersweet.

At the end of the ballet, there's a gorgeous pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker (who is more of a prince consort by that time). Then, all of the inhabitants of the land of sweets dance once more and wave good-bye to Clara and her uncle/wizard/godfather/grownup-friend Herr Drosselmeyer (there's a little grey area there and more than one version I've seen has been downright creepy in a Humbert Humbert way). 

In the current Boston Ballet production, there's an added coda. Clara is sleeping (on a really nice fainting couch) with her little wooden nutcracker. Each character she's met stops by and sort of enchants her one last time. She wakes and stretches in that graceful way that only ballerinas can. 'It's all been a dream,' she seems to think. Then, she lifts her hands and feels the jeweled crown on her head. She smiles in wonder and delight. And ... curtain.

So, yours truly spends the enthusiastic ovation, subtly wiping away tears (really not a good idea to let the teen know that I'm choked up). Was I verklempt because Clara's dream was over? Or because the past eighteen years have gone by way too fast? 

I think we know the answer. The more pressing question is this. If I can't get through The Nutcracker without tearing up, how will I make it through the next eight months?

This is going to be nuts.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien.    

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dangerous or Dumbest — You Decide

Stupid teen pranks are older than I am — and they most certainly pre-date my daughter. Setting cherry bombs, toilet papering neighborhoods, crowding into telephone booths (or Volkswagens), even drag-racing seems downright nostalgic now. "Oh, those krazy kids!" It's not that the stunts weren't dangerous — watch Rebel Without A Cause, if you have any questions — it's just hard to take them so seriously when they're coupled with poodle skirts and bobby socks and ducktail hair. 

Pubescent pranks are probably here to stay. But, there's something about living in the technology age with social media and digital cameras and instant access to all things (and everyone, everywhere, all the time) that has made teenagers even more eager to do stupid things than their adolescent ancestors. Not just teens either, full-fledged grownups are guilty too.

For example, a few years ago when my daughter was still in middle school, I wrote about "The Cinnamon Challenge." This completely dumb activity involved eating a spoonful of cinnamon and then choking. ('Sounds like a fun time to me. Um ... NOT.) Apparently, videos posted of participants spewing powdered cinnamon out of every facial feature were hi-lar-i-ous and earned hundreds and thousands and millions and bazillions of hits. 

Doctors warned that the game carried a real threat of asphyxiation. But, since when does that deter a determined teen?

Other trends of recent times include "Planking," lying rigid on a surface that wouldn't normally be meant to hold a recumbent human body. Stupid? Yes. Safe? Not always. A teenager actually fell to his death after planking on a terrace railing. (See earlier response "Yes" to earlier question "Stupid?")

Then there are the idiotic and extremely dangerous pranks like "The Choking Game" and "Eye-Balling Vodka." Yes, that's as disgusting as it sounds. Yet somehow not quite as disgusting as some of the other ways teens choose to get drunk while avoiding calories and that tell-tale booze smell. (I'll spare you the details, but if you're curious, watch the infamous swim party episode (1:7) of Girlfriends Guide to Divorce.) 

The latest trend to pop up on my radar (which means it's probably been out there for weeks, months or even years) has got to be one of the dumbest things I've ever seen. It's called "The Condom Challenge," and is a young adult mashup of a traditional water balloon fight and "The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge," with some prurient titillation thrown in for good measure. The new gag is best pulled off with two people. One fills a condom with water and dangles it over the other person's head, then lets it go. The condom temporarily covers the recipient's entire head in a latex bubble before bursting and soaking her. 

What a great way to spend one's time!

But wait, there can be complications. The latex might not break; the prank's victim might fall and hit her head; she might pass out or suffocate or pass out and then suffocate.

And, I've left out the most important piece of the prank puzzle. As any self-respecting millennial will tell you, the entire experience must be recorded for posterity and posted, here, there and everwhere.

Congratulations. Now, you know about "The Condom Challenge." I guess it could be worse. I mean, no one's died yet. 

But, they might.

Die of embarrassment that is.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien.    

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Dance of the Seven Snooze Alarms

It's Saturday, which means that my teenage daughter and I get to sleep in an extra hour before we start our daily dance. 

That's not a poetic symbol (or even a euphemism) for life or anything. It truly feels like we're dancing.

I take three steps toward my partner; she either ignores me or spins around with an exasperated flourish. I retreat, gingerly stepping backwards, mindful of discarded clothes and schoolwork and empty snack bags that litter her carpet. But, I return minutes later to face the music again. This goes on for ten, twenty, sometimes thirty minutes — despite my best efforts and despite not one but two alarm clocks she's set to sound intermittently.

It's a sinister salsa, a terrifying tarantella. A dance to the death. 

And, to date, my daughter is winning. She rolls over, reaches out for the snooze alarm and — "OlĂ©!" — we begin again.

Sometimes, when we're in between moves, I'll head down to the kitchen to cut some fruit or pack her lunch. I need to make coffee, feed the dog and get ready for my morning walk. Or I might have some overnight emails from clients or colleagues to review. Often, after my fourth or fifth trip up to the dance floor, I'll ask my husband to take a turn. 

"Nooooooo," I'll hear the child wail from the bed. "I'm soooo tired."

"This has to stop!" I'll hear her father say. 

Yeah, right.

It's not like I don't know what's going on here. My daughter is tired. She does have too much homework. She does spend too many hours at the stable on her horse. (She also spends too many hours on Netflix watching One Tree Hill. WTF?) And of course, there's all that texting she's expected to do. And Snapchat and Instagram and Vine and ... God knows what else. (God may know; I certainly don't.)

Plus, there's scientific (And therefore irrefutable, right? Unless you're the GOP. Wink, wink.) evidence that teenagers need more sleep — and at different times — than we grownups do. When my daughter argues that going to bed earlier won't help, she's actually half right.

So, here I am. One mother of a human alarm clock. We dance back and forth every morning, as we dance around the fact that we only have a few months of mornings left. I can't very well fly to Ohio or Vermont or New Hampshire or Rhode Island at 6:00 am each day once college starts in the fall.

Of course, she can take the route my freshman roommate (and so many other enterprising students) did back in 1980: only register for classes that begin after 10:00 am. But, that might limit what she studies.

Or, perhaps she'll rise to the occasion. She'll make her own bed. She'll do her own laundry. She'll read and study and write papers without my nagging. She'll dress appropriately for inclement weather. She'll take her vitamins. And, she'll get up on time.

I hope so.

But, I think I'll buy her another alarm clock. Just in case.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien.   

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving Tuesday

Remember when the holidays were simpler? 

Back when I was growing up in New York City, Thanksgiving was the official start of the Christmas season. But not because big box retailers were open on holidays or at 4:00 am or advertising "doorbusters." (Interesting trivia, btw. Look up the word "doorbuster" and you'll find "a special discount price available for a limited period, typically during special early-opening hours." But it's also defined as "a firearm with special attachments for forcing entry through a door." Hmmm. A coincidence? Maybe not. More like a warning. Basically, you want to stay away from any Walmarts on Black Friday in open carry states.) 

But, I digress.

In my childhood, Christmas started when Santa Claus and his entourage rode by at the end of the Macy's parade. We shopped — slowly and sanely — over the next three weeks or so. Although last minute trips to Woolworth (Remember Woolworth?) were fairly common too.

When I see Black Friday footage online or on the news, I'm ashamed of us. Really, people! One day earlier (or earlier that day, depending on where you shop), you sat around a table with loved ones, thanking God or whomever for all you have. Whether you believe the Pilgrims were peaceful settlers or murderous invaders, today's holiday is supposed to be about gratitude, right?

So where does all that gratitude go when flat-screen TVs and Tickle Me Elmos — "Doors open at 5:00 am!!! Limited supply!!!" First 50 customers only!!!" — are on sale?

Out the window, apparently.

Here are a few things I'd rather do than participate in Black Friday:
• Eat kale, raw, without salt or anything
• Get a root canal
• Read my daughter's book list for Honors English 12

There are many (many, many) more.

So, let's all forget Black Friday. (And its digital spin-off Cyber Monday.) This year take a minute for (and take your teen to) to start a better tradition. The movement
#GivingTuesday was started four years ago at the 92nd Street Y (in my hometown). It's meant to be "a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration." Instead of kicking off the shopping season, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season. It celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy. 

Although it's still a new idea, #GivingTuesday has already generated a lot of interest, buzz and much needed support and donations for worthy causes, ranging from schools to not-for-profits, religious organizations, community and social causes, and more. Today, #GivingTuesday is supported by 30,000 partners in 68 countries. It's generated 15.4 billion print and social media impressions (32.7 million on Twitter alone) and more than 750,000 hashtags. Most important, since 2012, it's been responsible for a 470% increase in online donations.

What a better use of our money and time than crushing each other to grab a coffee maker or a Barbie Dream House.

Put the "giving" back in Thanksgiving.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien.