My Valentine’s Day is What I Make of It.

Lugash, Valentine's Day, The SimpsonsWhen you’re sitting at a ballpark or other sports stadium, the crowd is doing the Wave, and you see the crest heading straight for your section, do you rise and raise your arms in rhythm with your neighbors? Or do you scowl, remain in your seat, and lecture your friends about how the Wave is conformist tomfoolery?

When your coworkers decide they’re not in the mood for cafeteria food or the tiny Weight Watchers meals they brought in their lunch bags and decide to order pizza or Chinese takeout together, do you go with the flow and chip in a few bucks for a little something different for yourself? Or do you denounce their impulsive extravagance and consign yourself to the turkey sandwich you brought because it was slapped together with only the purest of motives?

When you need to buy drinks at the grocery, do you base your decision on advertising? Do you buy drinks regardless of their advertising? Or do you specifically boycott any drinks that have ever been advertised in any way because advertising is shallow and irritating and unholy, and instead limit yourself to buying only products that have never been advertised in any medium?

If you’re at the theater watching a movie that the other patrons seem to be enjoying a lot more than you are, do you leave them to their difference of opinion and count down the minutes till the travesty is over? Or do you castigate them for their life choices and demonstrate the superiority of your disdain by chasing them around the theater with a stun-gun?

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How Do-It-Yourself Tutorials Made the Internet My Honorary Step-Parent

Barlow Cemetery, Avon, Indiana

During a fully functional adulthood, not every moment can be fun ‘n’ games ‘n’ writing.

I was born and raised in a HUD-funded lower-class apartment complex without benefit of a father who could teach me the fundamentals of male living such as auto repair, home improvement, industrial arts, or sports appreciation. Whereas the average male begins learning these skills at an early age — either from Dad, Stepdad, or other guy friends — I counted myself lucky that I knew which screwdriver was which. I picked up a few lessons here and there over the years, but when my wife and I became first-time ignorant homeowners in 2007, self-education in these fields became a necessary survival tactic. If I had to pick up the phone and my credit card every time an inanimate object misbehaved or died unexpectedly, we’d be bankrupt and retreating to our old shack-sized apartment once more.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’m tiring of paying professional repairmen to complete every single task. Thankfully, certain areas of the Internet are populated by Good Samaritans willing and able to share their everyday knowledge with our disadvantaged lot. Over the past 5½ years I’ve made several virtual pilgrimages to any number of macho sensei in hopes that their imparted wisdom would imbue me with a new talent and save me several bucks.

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A Scorecard for Judging Your Christmas Gifts

Christmas currencyImagine the following scenario:

Your friends and/or family gather for the holidays. After a shared meal and perhaps some conversation, a large table is cleared and everyone sits around it. Each person lays a twenty-dollar bill on the table. At the host’s signal, each person moves their bill toward the person on their left. Everyone then takes the bill passed to them from their right.

Congratulations! Your friends and/or family have just celebrated an efficient, low-impact, bloodless Christmas, bereft of personal touch or recognition.

I realize gifts aren’t the reason for the season. I know I’m at an age when I should be less excited about what I might be getting for Christmas and more excited about the spiritual and emotional aspects. I’m lamentably aware that the person who buys me the best gifts is myself, because I know me best and I don’t limit my self-gift-giving to just Christmastime.

And yet…when I buy gifts for other people, I try to brainstorm ideas for the loved one in question with a modicum of creativity. I don’t always succeed, but I do try. The act of gift-giving itself can, for better or worse, reveal how well you know a person, how much of an effort you think they’re worth, and how imaginatively you can apply your problem-solving skills to such a task.

Obvious moral disclaimer: judging the gifts you’ve been given is frequently not cool. However, in my weaker moments, it’s not hard for the darker part of my subconscious to observe something I’ve just unwrapped and begin running background calculations to ascertain how much or how little thought or care went into the exchange.

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