I am ready for my fallout shelter.

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Over the weekend, my wife and I joined an elite group of consumers. We are now members at Costco.

We began our membership around lunchtime on Saturday, bringing our daughters along so we would know what to expect for future trips.

Our first impressions were very good. Every cart there can accommodate two children sitting side by side. When we shop at the regular grocery store, it is always a battle to find the special limo-carts with the extra seat for additional kids. We didn’t have time after naps to have lunch at home before leaving either, but we knew that Costco was supposed to have an inexpensive cafe. So after completing our forms and taking some pixelated pictures for our membership cards, we gave the cafe a try. We were quite impressed that our family of four was able to eat a decent meal together for less than five dollars (total, not individually).

And then the shopping began. We had been holding off on large restocks of some family staples (toilet paper, paper towels, and diapers) in recent, normal shopping trips because we knew we were going to become Costco members soon. Our large cart quickly filled up with unimaginably large quantities of household goods, and I started wondering how we were going to fit our purchases into our vehicle. I needn’t have worried too much, however, because my oldest daughter was willing to sit with a box of frozen waffles on her lap, which was the last thing that didn’t fit.

In the end, it was a two and half hour learning experience. Now that we are somewhat familiar with the store layout, the next trip should take less time. That should help because we also learned that there is no good way to get to the bathroom (which was problematic because our oldest insisted on using the bathroom four times while we were there) and the less time we are there, the less times we will have to make bathroom breaks. We also learned that there are some things that would be fun to buy in bulk, but that we probably shouldn’t because it would make it too easy to consume too much of things that we don’t need (namely ginger beer and frappuccinos).

So now that we have all these bulk quantities of things, the only thing I am missing is the underground fallout shelter in which to store them. Although, maybe Costco sells those too.

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An Alternative to Black Friday Shopping

On this day of intense retail frenzy, as some of you are now reading this post from your smartphone as you stand in line for a cheap doodad or gadget, let me tell you of an alternative to the insanity that is Black Friday shopping.

I was in high school the first and only year my family declared a “Make-it-yourself” Christmas. Things in the budget were pretty tight and it would be a creative opportunity to celebrate the spirit of giving without buying into the commercialization of Christmas. It was a good plan.

And so I set out to create some heart-felt, homemade gifts. For my brother, I was going to make a Cribbage board with an image of Snoopy on it from scrap materials from my dad’s wood shop. For my mom, I was going to make a footstool from scrap materials from my dad’s wood shop. For my dad, I don’t remember what I was going to get him, but there is a healthy chance that it would have been made from scrap materials from his own wood shop.

Do what want to guess what I actually gave them for Christmas that year?

Go ahead, guess.

The answer was nothing. I didn’t give anyone anything that Christmas. I started my brother’s cribbage board, but didn’t finish it in time. My mom’s gift never made it out of the toothpick model phase. And given that I don’t even remember what my dad’s gift was supposed to be, I’d be willing to bet that I didn’t even have a plan formulated for his gift.

Christmas morning came and we took a very short time opening the homemade gifts that everyone else had made. When it came time for people to open their gift from me, I could only apologize and say that I had not yet finished their gifts.

Everyone else had made something for everyone.

But here’s the thing. Ask my family what any of them received for Christmas that year. They won’t be able to remember the gifts that they got. But ask them what I gave that year for Christmas and you’ll get a story. None of them has forgotten the year that I gave nothing. But if that is true, then what I gave them wasn’t truly nothing, I gave them a story to tell. It is a story all about how our family never did the “Make-it-yourself” gift exchange since.

So if you are looking for an alternative to the craziness that is Black Friday, try giving your family nothing. At the very least, you’ll be giving them a story that will stand the test of time, though the same may not hold true for you depending on how important gifts are to your family.

Anyway, Happy Black Friday!If you insist on giving gifts even after reading this plea to do otherwise, do me a favor and shop at a locally owned business, or ever better, buy things from my employer, Baker Book House (bakerbookstore.com or by phone at 616.957.3110). Thanks for reading!