Shopping on Black Friday

For years I’ve said, rather smugly, I’m sure, that I wouldn’t shop on Black Friday.  Of course for the last ten years or so I’ve been at work on Black Friday, making the point moot.  But our work schedule has changed, and I was home today, and yes, I went shopping.  But not at the mall or the big box stores.

Two of the friends that I had Thanksgiving dinner with yesterday were going shopping last evening, which I never even considered.  (Their two top destinations were Victoria’s Secret and Toys R Us, which I thought was an interesting combination.)  But this morning, after several days of very cold and very wet weather, was cool and sunny, perfect weather for getting out and doing something.

I don’t do much in the way of Christmas shopping, but I had some things I needed.  I was running low on cat food, I have a friend with a birthday next week, and I always need something at the grocery store.  So I set out with my shopping list and coupons, only to discover that the vet clinic (where I get the diet food that doesn’t seem to causing any noticeable reduction in Nutmeg’s weight) was closed for the weekend.  But by then I was out and about, so I went on to Office Depot.

Office Depot was not crowded.  I bought a supply of pens, one of those folding cardboard science fair display boards (Jo Anne and I use them to hide our jigsaw puzzles from the cats, and the current one is falling apart), and a stuffed panda wearing a red and white muffler.  Okay, so I’m a sucker for stuffed animals, even at the office supply store.  And then the lady at the check out offered me an 800-sheet package of paper for $4.  Couldn’t turn that down.  No writer ever has too much paper.

Office Depot is next door to Half Price Books, as if I needed an excuse.  And I had a coupon.  So I came out with  Charlaine Harris’ Dead Ever After, the last Sookie Stackhouse novel (I haven’t read the previous one yet, but I’ll catch up), Janet Evanovich’s Takedown Twenty (I’m up to date on Stephanie Plum’s adventures, and this one will go on the To Be Read Soon pile), and two collections by David Sedaris, whom I always enjoy when I catch him on NPR.  And a stuffed Frost Dragon.  Told you I couldn’t resist stuffed animals.  Half Price Books was fairly busy, but no more so than usual.

Next stop, Bed Bath & Beyond, which was probably the most crowded store I hit today.  I found a birthday present and some kitchen stuff–I don’t cook much, but I like gadgets.  No stuffed animals.  And then on to Barnes & Noble, which Fixing to Diewas not as busy as I expected.  I bought another birthday present there, and one book for myself, Fixing to Die, the latest installment in Elaine Viets’ series about mystery shopper Josie Marcus.  I’m a couple of books behind on that series (and a lot of others!), but I’d never pass up one of Viets’ books.

Finished up at the grocery store, which was crowded (I thought everyone was eating leftovers today), for a few things, which somehow cost me another eighty bucks.  But I remembered the birthday cards I needed and a few cans of non-diet cat food to tide Nutmeg over, and succumbed to temptation when I spotted the half-price sale on Dreyer’s ice cream (I bought mint chocolate chip, my lifetime favorite).

Tomorrow is small business Saturday, and I’ve been trying to think of some independent shops in my area.  Once upon a time there were lots of small books stores, selling both new and used books, but sadly they’re all gone now.  Maybe I’ll have lunch at a non-chain restaurant.  Or maybe I’ll stay home and read.

Going to California

My trip to the RWA National Conference in Anaheim is less than three weeks away, and I don’t think I’m ready.  It seemed like such a long time off when I signed up at the end of March, and here it is staring me in the face.

Last year when I was getting ready to go the the conference in New York City, I shopped every Saturday for weeks, pretty much starting from scratch.  Business Casual around the Scorekeeper means a shirt, jeans, and sneakers, and I wanted to be a little more upscale than that.  After all, we go to writers’ conferences to meet people, and I didn’t want to look like an aging ragamuffin.  So I bought some good slacks, a pair of comfortable heels, and a couple of shirts.

The only luggage I had was old, heavy, and up in the attic.  I left it there, and bought an inexpensive three-piece set of light-weight canvas, two rollers and a tote.  I used the larger roller for the trip, and this year I may use both rollers.  They haven’t been out of the closet for anything else.

I had absolutely nothing formal to wear to the Awards Ceremony, and as a Golden Heart finalist I would be up at the front of the room.  Where people might see me.  I finally found a nice black and gold top and a pair of dressy pants.  Many of the women at the awards ceremony will be wearing evening gowns, but I’ve never owned a floor-length skirt in my life, and I’m not going to start now.

I’ve made a stab or three at shopping over the last few weekends, but my heart hasn’t really been in it.  I made passes through Dillard’s and Macy’s, thinking I might find a different, more colorful top to wear with the black pants, but nothing caught my eye, and I decided to stick with the black and gold.   I’ll be up at a front table again, but no one will remember, or care, that I’m wearing the same outfit.  I won’t be the only one.

This morning I headed over to the mall with the feeling that if I was going to shop for the trip at all, I’d better get moving.  I was surprisingly successful.  I found a black leather purse, bigger than the very small one I bought last year, smaller than what I use everyday.  This one will hold my wallet and my Kindle, my new phone, plane tickets and notes.  It might even inspire me to pare down the amount of junk I carry around everyday and never use.

Is it just me, or is it really hard to find a plain white shirt these days?  I see people wearing them.  Where do they buy them?  At a uniform store?   I was about ready to give up when I stumbled across the only rack of solid color (well, mostly) shirts in the store.  I found two white ones (one plain, one with pleats down the front) and one with grey and white stripes.  Grabbed them all.  A pass through the jewelry department even netted me a new pair of earrings to go with my black and gold top, long dangly ones, perfect for dress up.

So I’m covered.  I’ve done my shopping.  I have enough to wear and suitcases to put it in.  Now I have to go through the seventeen-page list (I am not kidding) of workshops that I downloaded from the RWA site this afternoon and figure out which ones I really want to cram into those three short days in California, in between the reception and rehearsal and appointments, dinners with friends, and hanging out in the bar stalking agents.

I can’t believe I’m leaving in seventeen days.  I’m not ready.

Computers and Confusion

When I registered for the RWA National Conference, coming up next month in Anaheim, I started to think about buying myself a New Gadget.  Last year at RWA in New York City, my friend Jo Anne Banker and I shared her laptop computer and an in-room Internet cable.  We checked email and I posted daily recaps here, mostly for my critique group.

This year I’m going alone, faced with the prospect of several days off the Internet.  I don’t have a laptop, or even a smart phone.  I do own a cell phone, a pre-paid Tracfone that makes phone calls and receives occasional text messages–from Tracfone, offering me more minutes.  I don’t need more minutes.  I have enough rollover minutes to talk for weeks.  I’ve never even tried to send a text message.  I have used the phone to call AAA when my car battery died, and to let Jo Anne know I’ll be late to work at the Scorekeeper.  Now and then I have to turn it on for the convenience of a repairman, like the fellow who came out to my house last week to pronounce my twenty-two-year-old air conditioning system dead.  I detest the feeling of being tethered to that little phone.

So upgrading my phone service isn’t particularly appealing.  Maybe an IPad?  People seem to love them, and they certainly are beautiful.  But I have an e-reader, and I really have no desire to watch movies on a screen the size of a book.  Come to that, I don’t seem to have time to watch movies in the comfort of my living room very often, and when I do I have a lovely HDTV meant for that very purpose.  I’ve seen BlueTooth keyboards for the IPad, but I haven’t heard anyone rave about writing on one.

So a tablet’s probably not the solution either,  if I’m going to buy a New Gadget.  I like toys as much as the next person, but I have a practical streak.  I may be thinking of staying in touch with my Houston friends while I’m in California, but I need a better excuse than that for spending several hundred dollars.  Especially after writing that large check to the air conditioning service last week.  And opening the bill for my annual homeowner’s insurance premium this afternoon.

Clearly, if I need anything at all, I need something that will take me to the Internet for email and blogging and research, that will let me read books with a Kindle App, and mostly that will encourage me to get busy and write.   Sounds like we’re talking about a computer, doesn’t it?

Yet Another Use for a Computer

So this morning I drove over to the local Fry’s Electronics, where I bought my current desktop computer a couple of years ago.  Fry’s is a huge store.  Even the twenty percent or so of the floor space devoted to computers is overwhelming.  I went in telling myself I wasn’t actually going to buy a computer today, and I had no trouble sticking to that.  There were just too many choices, and none of them jumped up and waved at me.

My other errands took me near the local Best Buy, another really big store, but not quite as cavernous as Fry’s.   Not as many choices, and what they had was better organized.  They had a nice Hewlett Packard computer at a reasonable price (I’ve been an HP fan for years), and next to it was a sign offering a visit from the Geek Squad to set up a home network for $70.  That’s tempting.  My techy friend Ha (who buys all his electronic equipment on line and keeps the computer network at the Scorekeeper running) tells me I can easily add a wireless router to my DSL modem, but I’m not so sure.  It took me an hour on the phone with a nice lady in the Philippines to get the DSL modem working in the first place.  But if I buy a laptop, I definitely want WiFi available at home.  I’m not going down to the local Starbucks to get on line.  I don’t even like coffee.

Then the salesman (who was born several years after I bought my first computer and wouldn’t remember what passed for a “portable” computer in the 1980s) showed me a couple of UltraBooks.  Talk about tempting–usable screens and keyboards in a computer about the thickness of a real spiral-bound notebook.  The Toshiba model even managed to squeeze in a CD drive.  Amazing.  And, of course, twice the price I had in mind.

No, I didn’t buy a new computer today.  I’m sliding in that direction, but I’ll think about it a bit longer.  If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

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