In response to a perceived discourtesy, November’s holiday-spirit, simply referred to as “Thanks,” is sending December’s patron saint, Santa Claus, a bucket of coal for Christmas this year.
Disturbed by Santa’s increasing intrusion on the month of November, Thanks feels forgotten and rudely ignored. “It’s just so inconsiderate,” she said. “We used to share the parade with him, but now he’s coming with the full-color newspaper inserts, direct-mailings and television ads before the turkeys even reach the stores.”
Public concern over Santa’s expansion appears to be mixed. “I wish it was Christmas every day,” one seven-year-old boy confided.
Thanks, however, is convinced “St. Nicholas” has committed an egregious mistake. “That fat, old elf is finally going senile,” she said. “He doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s confusing the kids.”
The facts suggest Claus did start the Christmas campaign earlier than usual this year. Toy catalogs began trickling into mailboxes almost as soon as the trees surrendered their leaves, and electronic solicitors began flooding email accounts just after the recent elections.
When questioned, Claus admitted to a misunderstanding, though he blamed it on the complexities of varying international customs. “I might have gotten a little mixed-up,” he confessed. “The Canadians have their thankful thingy in October, and the missus is always nagging me about needing to ‘check the list twice’ and everything, so I didn’t want to dawdle this year.”
Is it merely an accident, or instead, a growing trend? Ever since Kris Kringle endorsed “Black Friday” as the unofficial start to the Christmas season, retailers have been utilizing his likeness earlier and earlier to promote their sales.
“Santa is good business,” one store-manager concluded succinctly.
Statistical analysis indicates consumers, in turn, are beginning to shift their attentions to the Christmas season sooner than ever before.
“Thanksgiving?” one mother of four shrugged, “I’m thankful when my shopping’s done and all the presents are wrapped.”
In the U.S., Thanksgiving has legally controlled the fourth Thursday in November since December 26, 1941 (the day after Christmas). Traditionally, the holiday has occurred on this date since 1863, however a source close to the Ministry of Christmas contends, “Nobody has ever said anything about the following Friday, or any of the weeks prior, for that matter.”
This same source, in an exclusive interview, revealed that Santa is no longer solely in charge of the Ministry, and that he is most likely not the one responsible for the increased promotional effort. Tech-hungry consumer demands have allowed corporate retailers and manufacturers to muscle in on the North Pole’s operation.
“Kids don’t just want dollies, tin soldiers or BB guns anymore,” the source instructed, “they want an iTouch, an X-Box or a Nintendo DS. Who do you think makes those, the elves?”
For her part, Thanks is unwilling to let Kringle off the hook. Interviewed in a grocery store parking-lot, next to a row of leaning fir trees, she confirmed that she had heard the rumors but added, “Santa not in charge anymore? I simply won’t believe it.”
Regardless of who’s to blame, Thanksgiving has clearly been slighted, and the effects of this negligence have yet to be fully realized.
“I don’t mean to seem ungrateful,” Thanks explained. “Everybody loves Santa, especially the children, but I just think we need to stop and appreciate what we already have, before we begin asking for something new.”
When asked what she hoped to accomplish by her symbolic gesture, Thanks replied, “Gratitude should precede bounty in action and acknowledgment; it is the parent of all other virtues. Santa should understand.”
Every once in a while, we here at Lunchsense like to do, yeah, you guessed it—lunch. Many adults hurry through, or dismiss it altogether; but, for our children, this noontime meal remains a treasured respite from the rigors of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.
Most will tell you they really look forward to it. Visit your school’s cafeteria sometime—you’ll likely be greeted by a swirling jangle of sliding, metal chair-legs, eager, chirping voices and a heart-quickening buzz of unleashed energy. You’ll also find a ton of wasted food. This is often the result of over-packing, but it’s just as frequently caused by fickle tastes or “bor-ing” options.
Many kids love lunch-time, but the food—not so much. “Come on, Dad—ham and cheese again?”
In an effort to make sure my kids are properly refueled for their afternoon lessons, I try to mix-up the menu a little bit, and I enlist their help in deciding what’s sure to get eaten. Here are a few of their (somewhat) surprising favorites:
It’s easy to take a less involved approach to your kids’ lunches. The creative energy isn’t always there, and neither is the time. But, letting younglings fend entirely for themselves in the lunch-room can be nutritionally dangerous, and it misses a great opportunity to model healthier living. They really need the midday nourishment, so put your heads together—find out what they like, teach them what’s good for them, and make sure their lunches are about more than just socializing. The quicker you can get your kids eating right, the sooner they’ll start developing healthy habits that will last their whole (long) lives. And, that’s just using your Lunchsense.
Photo by Flickr user Lyzadanger.
The line of glaring shoppers gathering behind me has nearly snaked its way back to the meat department. “No, I’m going to be late,” one of them relays via her cell-phone, “I got behind some idiot at the grocery store again.” My items are beginning to form a small mound near the cashier because I can’t keep the conveyor moving fast enough as I struggle to bag the haul. I realize I left an envelope of carefully clipped coupons somewhere behind me, probably near the paper products or maybe in the cereal aisle. The beads of sweat forming on my scalp and streaking down my face are starting to fall on my groceries in audible “plops.” The total is coming and I don’t have my bank-card ready. I’m shuffling through the multi-colored plastic plates when I discover—I’m missing one—the one with the money—“$163.85, please”—and I’m without a single cash cent. I look to my children for a sympathetic smile, or some indication of a greater good, and I notice only one of them is in visible range and he is choking down an unauthorized grab from the candy rack.
Grocery shopping sure ain’t for sissies, and until recently it was a task handled mainly by the super-moms of the world. I don’t mean to suggest that men can’t buy groceries. I realize there are millions of single guys out there, and at least half of them have moved out of their parents’ houses and now have places of their own. But, generally speaking, outside of a few professional cooks I know, grocery shopping isn’t very highly regarded (or appreciated) among the dudes. To underestimate the effectiveness of a well-honed shopper’s acumen is a fatal mistake however, that can lead to vein-popping stress-tests like the one described above. As the traditional roles of “husbands” and “wives” become less defined by gender, more men are being pushed into unfamiliar territories (like “produce”), and it is advisable to get your game-face on. Don’t be alarmed. I’ve been there, and in my ongoing effort to discover my inner “House-Husband,” I’ve found some essential practices that are sure to ease the strain.
More and more men are starting to shoulder their way up and down the aisles of our supermarkets, and their inexperience causes them to underestimate the complexity of the job. This often leads to a mismanaged household and worse still, reinforces a guy’s apprehension about doing it. Do yourself a favor, get serious and get good. Successful grocery shopping is an exercise in proper planning and refined technique. Everyone develops their own routine and there are countless effective strategies. I’ve only included basic practices aimed at assisting the novice shopper. With a little preparation, anyone can determine a personalized approach that meets their family’s needs. Most guys will puff-up at the slightest sign of an accomplishment, so roll-up those sleeves, unleash the “guns,” and show June Cleaver who’s the boss of the bulk bins.
Lunchsense always appreciates your comments and suggestions. Don’t be shy.
There’s a major renovation project going on at our house, and I’m the architect, contractor and primary recipient of this refurbishment. That’s right; I‘ve decided to expand and rebuild myself. The current floor-plan is simply not accommodating our family’s needs. I‘m one of a growing number of men who has been thrust into a “house-husband” role, and I have to admit—I’m struggling with it. I’m having trouble reconciling who I am with who I am. In fact, there are times when it feels like I’m disappearing altogether. What is required of me often conflicts with what is desired by me, and my current “position” (house-hubby/dad) has me feeling like the “Incredible Shrinking Man.” My circumstances and domestic responsibilities have conspired to squeeze me into a corner closet with a box of old records and a fondue pot. I’m doing a fair amount of kicking, screaming, stomping, moaning and groaning about it, and I’m not an easy person to ignore, but with the piston-driving engine of home, wife and children churning in the foreground, I’m always going to be outgunned. It all adds up to an inefficient (and cranky) household, so we’re going to have to knock out a few walls and move some things around.
If I sound like a “typical man” with some “spoiled, only-child” issues, the shoe fits. I see a problem and I want to fix it (with a home repair metaphor no less). I also want to get mine. Don’t worry moms; I understand (by now) that parenting (and husbanding) requires near-legendary levels of selflessness. And, I realize that no person is above “grunt” labor. But, remember that age-old question, “Whatever happened to the woman I married?” She becomes a mother and a homemaker and her husband doesn’t recognize her anymore. I’m facing that same kind of thing: an identity crisis and a little “stuck in the rut blues.”
I know plenty of dynamic moms who integrate their family responsibilities seamlessly with vibrant, unique personalities. They are confident and interesting, and their kids and husbands are proud of them. So, what’s my problem? The number one issue I need to overcome is acceptance/denial. I have not welcomed or embraced the “home-making” concept. I have a soft, sensitive side and I’m pretty in touch with my feelings, but I’m still mostly a “dude.” I don’t really think about this stuff much. Most men are genetically hindered in their ability to process things like dust, grocery lists, shower-grime, or home-décor. Even before I was laid-off, I was a stay-at-home dad because I worked nights. Having a job meant I could guiltlessly slack-off housekeeping, and hold my head high, knowing my kids could say their dad worked in the sports department at the local newspaper. I viewed our cluttered, undecorated home as a temporary condition. We (i.e. my wife) would get around to fixing things up eventually, when we were more settled. That was nine years ago, and I’ve been unemployed for the last nine months. We don’t always choose what happens to us, and sometimes the choices we do make lead us to unexpected places. Like it or not, I am the primary housekeeper, cook and child-care provider for our family. Thus far I’ve resisted putting much of myself into these noble endeavors. I’ve managed to get things done by just going through the motions. I’ve been trying to tread water and survive until “something” changes, but just-getting-by on a day-to-day basis for nine years has taken a toll.
So, what can I do? First thing, take a deep breath. Look at my smiling, healthy children and pat myself and my wife on the back. This is hard. It’s okay if we don’t have it mastered. Survival in this game is synonymous with success.
Next step, assume ownership over these responsibilities and begin to address the problems proactively. I’m discouraged and grumpy because I’ve accepted mediocrity from myself. I’ve been sleepwalking through the cascading to-do lists, and waiting for some special moment to shine again; however, an opportunity exists right now. I simply need to apply myself. I should put as much enthusiasm and determination into creating a more-efficient, nurturing home as I would any other personal project. Just because I lack a little housekeeping acumen doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t have taste, style or a willingness to fight mildew. I’ll admit I’ve held little regard for most domestic duties, instead viewing them as chores to be dreadfully endured. This is a critical mistake. I never visualized “house-husband” as a career choice, but I did see myself having a family. And now, my wife and kids are counting on me to deliver as much (or more) than they ever did when I was bringing home a check. I need to set a positive example for my kids and make the most of this fate. It is time to officially “take the position” and begin applying more passion and ingenuity to the task at hand.
Once I’m committed to the project, I can begin to develop strategies for overcoming my deficiencies. House-hubbies, like kids, require a lot of structure. I can’t continue to apply a “take care of the basics and wing the rest” approach to my daily agenda, or I‘ll remain powerless over the fortunes of each new day. A schedule reestablishes control. Things are addressed when I determine. Schedules eliminate uncertainty. Does that shower really need to be cleaned? Yes, today I scheduled “bathroom scrub.” Most men function efficiently when they’re “on the clock.” The successful house-husband mandates specific hours for specific tasks. There are children involved, so the calendar should maintain some fluidity, and it might take a while to establish the authority of the household schedule because it has lapsed for so long. It must be written down. The commitment to writing is a tangible statement of intent and a personal contract. When something exists on a family calendar, the entire family tends to acknowledge and respect its importance. I’m not too comfortable with contracts or dictating structure, so I’ll have to convince myself of the benefits we all stand to gain from the concentrated effort. Improved time-management increases efficiency which enables more productivity. Ultimately this should create more quality “me” time.
Two other vital elements of my renovation project involve expansion and repair. Life is a brutal contest that really requires top physical condition, especially when kids are present. As my propensity to feel overwhelmed has increased through the years, my dedication to health and fitness has waned. This is backward thinking. Aging and added stress necessitate improved fitness. I’m not just going to say I should get in shape while regretfully eyeing my paunch in the mirror. I’m going to schedule it. I’m also determined to get out of the house more on my own. I need to plan and participate in activities that will provide intellectual stimulation (or physical fitness) and networking. I shouldn’t isolate myself. I have to broaden the range of my daily experiences. In order to truly value myself, I must find ways to integrate who I am with what I do. All those super-moms that I mentioned earlier find a way to incorporate elements of themselves into their homes, their meals, and the activities they share with their children. If I lend more of myself to home-improvement and take pride in what I’m doing, I might find new means of expression. Defining and discovering who I am outside the traditional work-place is an ongoing project, but I’m determined to reassert myself rather than just passively enduring my circumstance. The blueprint has been sketched; it’s time to break-ground.
Lunchsense is always looking to become more sensible, so please share your experiences, suggestions, or shrieks of laughter below. I’ll continue to post select moments from my misadventures, offering relevant insight when I can, and together, we might make some progress.
I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not the Greenest person in the world. Wait! Before you strap me to the back of a wild orca, or string me up a Redwood tree, hear me out—please. I’m not that bad. I haven’t cashed any kickbacks from ExxonMobil or Dow. I recycle, I carpool, and I (usually) walk my boys to and from school each day. I live in Eugene, Oregon for goodness’ sake, a haven for organic, natural fiber, tree-hugging types. You can get publicly flogged for tossing compostable foods into a trash can here. So what’s my environmental atrocity? I’m a stay-at-home-dad who needs to prepare two reasonably healthy lunches every weekday morning before 8 a.m., and I’m not a morning person.
Still doesn’t sound so deplorable? Well, it started years ago while I was working evening shifts at a local newspaper. I simply wasn’t getting enough sleep, and it slowly became harder and harder to perform my morning chores as a walking, slit-eyed zombie. My wife would wake the boys and set them up with a cereal/oatmeal/bagel-type breakfast before placing a cup of strong, black coffee on my night-table, shoving me (hard) and slingshot-ing herself off to work. I would often stay in bed until the last possible second when I would force myself upright, slurp down one, then two cups of java and frantically prepare my sons for school. In this weakest of possible conditions, I abandoned good sense and succumbed—to individually packaged, grab-and-go food items. Yes, I really should have known better, but (please forgive me) my boys just gobbled those fruit cups, yogurt tubes and energy bars right up. The worst part? I don’t work the night-job anymore, yet I still (occasionally) ignore my want-to-be-Green conscience and opt for convenience. This is an inexcusable exercise in poor judgment, but there are no two ways about it—“it’s not that easy being Green.”
In 2008, U.S. residents, businesses and institutions produced 250 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), commonly referred to as “trash.” This amounts to about 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day. We recycled and composted 83 million of the 250 million tons. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that residential waste (you and me) accounted for 55-65% of the total MSW generation. Containers and packaging made up nearly 31% of the 250 million tons. Only two manmade structures on Earth are large enough to be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Fresh Kills landfill.
So, should I hang my head and skulk around with a Scarlet Letter sewn to my guilty conscience? Yes, in all honesty I probably should, but we at Lunchsense like to view the Green Movement as just that—a movement; a progression from a toxic, yellowish-neon shade to the deepest emerald hue. Clearly, you can’t plot me on this Green graph next to Ed Begley Jr., but by recognizing and addressing my own waste problem, I am heading his way. Rather than dodging the Green Police and fretting over whether I’m “Green” or not, I’m simply accepting the continuum and trying to become Green-er. Now (thanks to Nancy), I utilize reusable containers much more frequently, and I also buy bulk when I can. There are a number of tasty items available in this under-appreciated section of the supermarket. And remember–you can buy as much or as little as you need. Ask yourself how you can limit the amount of waste you produce each day and share your own confessions/suggestions with us. By increasing our awareness and making the most of our Lunchsense, we can all grow Greener each day.
With the New Year well underway, it seems like a good time to do a little accounting. No, I don’t mean finally opening the credit card bills you’ve been hiding for the last several weeks (though you should at least take a peek before attempting your next purchase). I’m talking about considering your Karma account. “Karma account?” you might ask. Yes, that’s right, and we all have one. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, in my world I have my own version: “It takes a bunch of friendly neighbors to get me through my to-do list.” Sure, some of you (those without children, of course) might be more independent than that, but honestly, don’t we all get by “With a Little Help from Our Friends?” Where would any of us be without an occasional favor? The luckiest among us live in vibrant communities full of helpful neighbors, and the best way to keep ourselves on the right side of this vital group is to pay attention to our Karma accounts. If yours is anything like mine, it looks a lot like the check-book after Christmas . . . “I owe, I owe, I owe.”
Okay, so we’ve all been getting, and it is our turn to do a little giving. What do we do? Obviously, there is the ever popular returned favor, like for like: you picked-up my boys from school last week when my washer exploded and flooded our house, so I’ll get your daughter this week while you are waiting for your son’s broken arm to be set. It’s all nice and tidy, Karma in/Karma out. But, perhaps you are few favors down. Or, you really want to gift a close friend. Maybe you want to get the attention of a new friend or co-worker who (if you are single) also happens to be very cute. I’d like to suggest that timeless Karma classic: treating someone to lunch. This might seem like an obvious choice to some, but before you make those reservations at the swankest hip spot in town (remember those credit card bills), or (Heaven forbid) start jotting down orders for the nearest drive-through, consider the word: “treat.” Yes, it implies you’re paying, but what else?
To treat also means things like to care for, to entertain, or more suggestively, to heal (as in, what ails you). Synonyms for a treat include delicacy, ambrosia, or the simple, charming goody. Any sandwich that starts with the word “Big” and ends with a trademark symbol hardly fits this description. Even that $12 Club with the awesome cup of French Onion that’s available at Swanky Swanks falls short of truly caring for someone.
Consider this alternative: taking a few moments to thoughtfully prepare a healthy, lunchtime snack that you can serve to your friend and enjoy on the fly. Treat inherently implies something special, so be creative and add a personal touch. Cut your carrot chips into stars, whisk up your famous vinaigrette, or maybe a little spinach dip. Include that awesome ginseng tea, or a fresh berry smoothie, and don’t forget the homemade oatmeal-raisin cookie because for many (all the kids in my house) treat means something yummy and sweet. Stack them all neatly into your Lunchsense lunchbox and find a special spot, preferably outdoors, but anywhere quietly adjacent to the beaten path should do. Invite a friend and celebrate your greenness (more Karma points) with a trash-free treat while sharing an appreciative smile. If you use your Lunchsense wisely, your Karma account could overflow.