December 21, 2012

Online Christmas shopping

Column from The Watertown Gazette
Mother, Interrupted
By Debra Carpenter
"Too good to be true? Online Christmas Shopping"

It’s December, the merriest month of the year! Not only will I finish this semester of classes on the 13th, Christmas is right around the corner and the new year is on the horizon. I love the season, but finding Christmas gifts for my family is usually a big hassle. Normally, I get into the car, get into competition mode, drive to a crowded store a day or two before Christmas, and attempt to buy the gifts. Well, not this year! This year I decided to try online Christmas shopping, and at the risk of sounding antisocial and geeky, I loved it! No fighting hordes of stressed out Christmas shoppers, wasting gas only to find what I needed was sold out, or risking life and limb to reach for that last must-have toy of the season. Instead, I sat warm and cozy in my home and clicked the mouse a few times. Since I have my debit card number memorized (Who does that?!), I didn’t even have to leave my desk to grab my wallet. It was the most simple and relaxed day of “shopping” I’ve ever had.

But there’s something about it that doesn’t feel right. After making some purchases, and getting free shipping on top of great discounts, I couldn’t help but feel that something was wrong. I had that ominous feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop or lightning to strike. There is no way that typing a description, clicking a button, and entering my card number constitutes shopping. There must be some hidden catch, right? I’m sure it would be funny to see my face as I clicked “Purchase”—a mixture of elation and kind of creeped-out uncertainty. Since all my college courses are online, I was able to sit at the computer and pretend to work on a paper while ordering gifts for my husband. However, since I can’t really keep a secret, it only took about 20 minutes for me to burst out and tell him what he could expect this Christmas. And I thought it was only fair to inform him when I received an email about an item being backordered the next day. Just for future reference, don’t tell your husband his long-awaited video game has been put on back order. You may not be ready to deal with the tears and Pandora’s box of emotions that come flooding out. In fact, it may prompt you to cancel the order and ignore your veto on traditional Christmas shopping long enough to purchase the game from good old WalMart.

I was definitely sold on online Christmas shopping when the first gifts began arriving last Friday—packaged discreetly enough for my 2 year old daughter to believe my lie about it being an empty box—and I am not sure I’ll ever go back to traditional Christmas shopping. In fact, I may never leave my house again!…I’m kidding, sort of. Now, if I could just find a way to keep our kitten out of the Christmas tree and our daughter from unwrapping every present we place under the tree. Dream big, I always say.

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Our car got broken

Column from Smithville Review
Mother, Interrupted
By Debra Carpenter 
“Our car got broken”
Last Wednesday, my husband, daughter, and I were rear-ended by a semi. It was incredibly scary and we were so fortunate to have come through without serious injury. After the accident happened and the shock wore off, I realized that even though I had been saying over and over “We are so lucky,” I hadn’t even really thought about how fortunate we were. So many awful things could have happened. As we were waiting on the ambulance to arrive, I held my daughter who was still upset, scared, and in tears. She kept repeating that “Our car got broken.” It made me so sad to see her so scared, but grateful that being scared was the worst of her problems. She is only 2 years old and weighs 30 pounds. She was closest to the impact of the truck going 60 miles per hour that hit directly behind her and totaled our car, but she only suffered a busted lip and several bruises. I wrote a thank-you note to the carseat company, but I know that more than the carseat was responsible for her safety, and we are so thankful for that.

This was the first bad accident I had ever been involved in. I have never been in such a disorienting, scary situation. Even though the accident lasted only a few seconds, it felt like an hour. It seemed like time stopped while our car was pushed forward and spun around after being hooked by the truck. It felt like an eternity passed while I waited for it to stop so I could check my daughter’s legs, which looked like they were being crushed under the weight of my husband and his seat, which had broken and fallen onto her legs. My glasses and shoes (what the heck?) were knocked off from the impact, and that made it even more confusing when the car stopped moving and I tried to get my daughter out of her carseat. As luck would have it, a state trooper happened to be getting gas at the station across the street from our accident and was able to respond immediately. Then, one of my husband’s friends drove by the accident a few minutes later and was able to stop and help keep us calm while we waited for an ambulance.

My point in telling you these things is not to make you feel sorry for me or my family, to upset you, or even to tell a story. I just wanted to share the importance of fully recognizing the blessings in life and reminding yourself often of how precious they are. Things like this accident are not unusual in life, and they always seem unfair. They do serve to remind us not to take our loved ones for granted. We’ve all heard the saying “You don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone,” and I think it’s cliché for a reason. I had been taking my husband and daughter for granted—they were already mine and I felt lucky to have them, but assumed that we were immune to harm. But after the accident, I was forced to look at them as what they really are: people that are vulnerable to accidents and only temporarily around on Earth. It inspired me to try and live in the moment more—taking time to realize the small bits of life that make it so enjoyable. Whether that means reading one more book with my daughter before bed, hugging my husband for a full minute when he gets home, or just listening to the infectious sound of my daughter laughing at our cat, I want to fully experience my life and be able to say that I didn’t take it and the people closest to me for granted. I hope my experience could inspire another person decide to make the most of the limited time on Earth and appreciate their family fully. There’s no better time to hold your family close and enjoy their company than the Christmas season—I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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