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Texas Escapes
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Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

Frankincense, Myrrh,
and Tom Swift's Electric Rifle

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Historically, the worst human traits holiday sales brought out were elbowing your competitor, a whack on her arm with your purse, or a horde of formerly staid old ladies violently shouting, "I was here first!!!" Today, we are much more modern and refined. We simply taser our rival and take the merchandise from her cold, dead hand. Well, she didn't really die from that taser blast in the "Black Friday" melee at a Philadelphia mall, but she didn't dance on down the Yellow Brick Road either. Taser is an acronym for Tom Swift's Electric Rifle.
Why do we allow marketing companies to sheepen us into people who really believe "Black Friday" is something unique, and not to be confused with Cyber Monday, or Early Thanksgiving Sale? Boy, give those marketing guys an inch and every single day of the year will have a special shopping theme name. Why don't they just call every day "Lobbying for Your Money Day." What's sad is that, as George Carlin pointed out, we've already got too much "stuff." Remember who started all this way back about this time of year -- Three Wise Men. First it was nice to believe we could do the same thing with our own children that they did with Baby Jesus, but that exploded over time and TV commercials to mean all our relatives, all our friends, and all our colleagues.

If you reduce holiday commercialism to its essence, it's about showing someone you love them. So why do we have to spend money to do that? If we have a lot of money, give it to charity; they're having a serious economic downturn, too. If you have a little money but not much, hit Ye Olde Thrift Shop; every day in a thrift shop is a SALE day. If you have no money at all, then these next Christmas suggestions are for you.

Give IOUs for a day or longer of your time to be used for:
  • Babysitting, petsitting, or housesitting
  • Housecleaning for a day or longer
  • Cooking and serving a meal or meals
    Picking up their kids at school
  • Lawn mowing
  • Cleaning their refrigerator
  • Organizing Closets
  • Teaching them something you know how to do and they don't
  • A foot rub


  • The Christmas best remembered in my family is the one where I cut out of magazines pictures of the gifts I would have bought each person on my list, if I had a million dollars. I put each picture in a card and handed it to them. They might not remember the expensive gifts they were given every other year, yet they fondly remember those pictures.

    If the marketing masters are getting to you and you can't think of a way out, remember one thing: a taser costs $400.00. Love is free.


    © Maggie Van Ostrand, December 8, 2013 column
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