Friday, March 30, 2012

Why I Love Yard Sales

Before I start, let me say this: Whether I say "yard sales" or "garage sales," I'm referring to the same thing. Library sales are also included in that term; it would just be repetitive and annoying referring to them as "yard/garage sales and library sales" as many times as I'm going to mention them in my post. Still with me? Then, here we go. Over the years, I've noticed that people that have something in common (whether it be those of certain faiths, those within certain occupations and/or organizations, or just those who are big fans of something) tend to be misunderstood by those who don't share that same association. For example, most people think all male figure skaters are homosexuals, but my mom adores figure skating, and she knows very well that they're not. Even when I was younger, I thought that all Scouts (that is, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts) did nothing but camp and hike. When I joined a Cub Scout pack, I was shocked to see that they met inside a church; prior to that, I had thought that they met in campground picnic shelters or humongous tents. Whatever they are, such misunderstandings tend to be judgmental, which also makes them sinful (Matthew 7:1-2) as well as not very becoming.
Such is true of us "yard salers"; those people who don't go to garage sales don't get why those of us who insanely enjoy them. I've heard plenty of criticism of garage sales over the years. One of my childhood friends didn't want to play with a Velcro dartboard just because it had come from a yard sale; he informed me that he had been to a garage sale that was nothing but baby items--and I've seen tons of such sales for as far back as I can remember--so he just assumed that yard sales sold nothing but baby gear. Years later, a high school friend claimed that he had bought some roller skates from a garage sale that broke the first time he used them, and that made him not like yard sales.  Others just don't get the appeal of them, or think that they have nothing but junk, which isn't the case.  I could apply Stein Mart's slogan--"Once you go, you get it"--to yard sales, but I feel there's more advantages to them than will fit in a short motto.
First off: It isn't just the purchasing; it's the hunting.  Millions of people, including me, use web sites such as eBay or Amazon Marketplace to find good deals online.  If you're looking for a specific item, such as a certain book or DVD, then such sites are the place to go.  However, garage sales aren't quite like that.  An article in AARP: The Magazine summed it up like this: "Stores are for things that you know you want or need.  Yard sales are for things that you didn't know you wanted."  Many times, the sheer surprise of the things I find at garage sales is half the fun.  I've found things that I didn't know existed (i.e., a DVD of obscure Amy Adams film Moonlight Serenade, or a Star Trek board game) or hadn't thought about in a long time (e.g., some FoxTrot compilations, a CD by a cappella group Naturally 7, or the entire five-cassette A.D. set).  Sometimes, the shock is that the items are so cheap; I recently purchased the entire Visual Bible DVD set, which consists of three different movies, still in the shrink wrap for only three bucks.  Even things I haven't purchased were still fun to see; at a yard sale last year, I saw a book and audio tape set featuring Putt-Putt--my favorite computer game character as a kid, for those who don't know--that I didn't know of previously.  I didn't buy it, since I am much too old for that sort of thing, but it was still good to see.  Even better is the interaction I get; when I wear shirts with words and/or pictures on them to garage sales, people often ask me about or comment on them.
Second off: At yard sales, you can get deals that you can't find anywhere else.  I'm known as a bargain hunter; as much as I love entertainment, I rarely pay full price for it.  I buy literature at used bookstores and purchase used DVDs at MovieStop, both with trade-in credit.  Although the deals at those places are good, they rarely even come close to garage sales, where you can usually find a book for no more than a buck and a DVD for under three dollars.  People often want to buy new instead of used, but, as someone who came from a household that wasn't always affluent, I know that getting items used is sometimes the only way you're going to get them.
Lastly: Buying items new is way too expensive these days.  I'm not going to divulge my weekly pay here, but I will say that my current job doesn't pay enough to cover living expenses, even monthly rent for an apartment.  At some point, I hope to advance to a better-paying job, hopefully in a library setting, and then move into some sort of apartment or townhouse; still, for now, I'm living with my parents.  Some of you may know that, as part of a deal with my folks, I recently purchased a new Mac, which, as most of you know, was a bit pricey.  It was thanks to all the money I had saved up in my bank account that I was able to buy that new Apple; had I purchased all the books, CDs, DVDs, etc., I've recently gotten new, I probably wouldn't have had even close to enough to do that.  Prices of almost everything have skyrocketed in recent years; paperback novels cost at least six dollars, new DVDs are no less than fifteen or twenty bucks, and just one album usually will set you back no less than ten smackaroos...yet, you can find those same items in great condition at yard sales for much less.
In conclusion, I will say this: If I were to make a list (which I won't) of all the media I've obtained over the past half-decade or so, I think right many of you would be surprised at how much I did get, especially on such a limited budget.  Only a small percentage of those books, CDs, DVDs, and other media have been Christmas and birthday gifts; almost 97% of it was bought with trade-in credit and/or my own cold, hard cash.  It may sound odd, but I consider hunting for bargains (at garage sales or anywhere else, including online) to be fun.  As the song says, "You'll never know if you don't go."
Any comments?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Goodbye, Old Friend and Faithful Companion

I think most of you reading this know how much I have always loved my technology. Between computers, printers, Nintendo consoles, CD players, VCRs, DVD players/recorders, CD players, MP3 players/iPods, television sets, flash drives, cell phones...yeah, I've had countless electronic devices over the years, and I've loved every one. Some may think it's stupid for technology to be so important to me, but those people don't realize that, without it, I never would have graduated high school. One of the symptoms of my disorder is having bad coordination, which meant my handwriting was terrible. For that reason, I was given a device to type my work on by the school system in fifth grade, and I had one until I graduated from high school. Some people decried it and felt it was hurting me and that I actually could write legibly with practice, but what they have always failed to grasp is that I did practice more than one summer, and still got the exact same complaints at the beginning of every school year. So, I fully believe that, without digital assistance, I would not be where I am today.
What does that have to do with the titular statement? Simply this: Yesterday, the Epson printer I've had since 2000 bit the dust. I had thought its death was imminent; over the past few months, it had produced one shoddy printout after another, even though I replaced the cartridges and cleaned the print heads. It even failed to let me know the black ink was out a month or two ago, and it had never done that previously. Throughout its lifetime, it had helped me print countless documents: greeting cards, CD booklets, bookmarks, various school assignments and projects, pictures of everything from Pokémon to Victoria Justice, binder covers, and probably others I'm not thinking of at the moment. The Epson's death came at a rather bad time; not only do I not have a replacement printer, but I was going to increase my sending out of cards made on Print Shop to my friends and family for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, and other such occasions. I can still do it; what I'll have to do is save them to my flash drive as PDFs via the Mac OS X Print dialog box, and then take them to the library to print them out. It'll cost to print each page, but it'll still be more heartfelt than a pre-printed Hallmark card.
Friends, let me be honest: I know that my late Epson printer was not a living thing. It didn't have a soul, nor did it ever feel any emotion. Still, when anything--a car, a video game console, a piece of furniture, etc.--has been with someone for that long, it's hard for that person to not feel a sense of attachment to it, especially when it's served him/her faithfully for several years, only to fall to pieces in mere months. I plan on getting a new printer one of these days; maybe I can find a good deal on one at a yard sale or Best Buy. It'll probably be another Epson; not only is twelve years a good lifespan for pretty much any piece of technology, but, the one that just died was actually a replacement for a defective same-model printer that my mom bought from CompUSA in 1999. I'm pretty sure it was replaced quickly and free of charge; since we'd had it less than a year, it was most likely under warranty. So, with such a good reputation, how could I not get another Epson? However, no matter what printer I get, it won't be that Epson. That old blue printer will always hold a special place in my heart, just like my Commodore 64, my Game Boy Color, and my first Mac. That may be hard for some of you to understand, but I think some of my tech-loving friends will get it.
Any comments?

Friday, March 23, 2012

As It Has Never Been Seen Before

The above phrase has been somewhat overused, especially in the entertainment world. Over the years, countless movies and television shows, and even a few video games and books, have promised to show you something (or, in some cases, someone) "as you have never seen it [or him/her] before." Whether or not said media delivered on that guarantee is a matter of one's opinion and life experience. When something is that way, though, it usually isn't easily forgotten.
Most of you reading this know that I have always liked to do things my way, which has caused friction between me and some authority figures, usually teachers. A perfect example is elementary and middle school art class, where the kind of art I wanted to do was not the kind of art I was supposed to do. All of the art I grew up with either moved and made noise, such as CD-ROM games and animatronic dinosaurs, or had printed words that went with it, such as comic strips and picture books. For that reason, I did not know how to make art that was simply a picture. Additional problems were caused because I couldn't refrain from putting an allusion to one of my favorite things, which ranged from Scooby-Doo to Pokémon/Nintendo to computer games to dc Talk to Hoyle Board Games even Weakest Link, in my artwork. Very little of the other students' artwork I saw had such allusions. You can imagine that my art teachers and I regularly clashed over all that, and that's part of why I never took any sort of art class, even computer art, after seventh grade. That, combined with my lack of artistic ability, was probably why my artwork was never once hung up on the schools' walls. (Yes, my training in Web Design did require some making some pictures, but those weren't "art classes," in my opinion.)
Throughout my school years, most of the projects I got good grades on were ones that allowed for freedom. I didn't mind a few rules, but ones that had a bazillion strict requirements drove me nuts. For example, I've always liked science, but the science fair projects all us middle and high schoolers had to do were mostly nothing more than a thorn in my side, if only because of strange rules, such as having to refer to yourself as "the student" instead of using a personal pronoun such as "I" or "me". Yet, in sixth grade, when I had to make a model of an atom using whatever materials I wanted, I got an A-plus. Yes, that project did have rules; the model needed to be labeled, and ignorance of that requirement caused many of my classmates to get grades as low as C's, even when their model was well-constructed.
Nowadays, when I do or make something, unless it's something someone else has asked me to do/make, it's pretty much up to me how it ends up. When I have that freedom, I usually buck tradition in a way that most people have never seen. One such example is last Christmas, when I made cards via PrintMaster on my laptop to give/send to my friends. Most people don't give computer-generated printed cards to others in the first place; I've only known four people, two of which were my parents, who have ever done that, and three of those people, including my folks, only did it sparingly, yet I've been doing it at least somewhat regularly since 1995. However, the biggest difference was the picture on the front. Most Christmas cards have Nativity scenes, wintry landscapes, family portraits, elaborately decorated trees, Santa Clauses, cutesy cartoons, etc., on them...but mine had a picture of Victoria Justice holding a Christmas present. At least some of the friends who I gave the cards to said that they had never received one quite like it, and I was proud of that. In fact, I prefer making cards for any occasion on Print Shop and/or PrintMaster than buying them from Hallmark, just because a card lovingly crafted on a computer feels more heartfelt than just purchasing one at Hallmark and scribbling a signature on it. I'm sure some of my friends who do paper crafting (are you reading this, Lorie?) feel the same way about the cards they make.
It isn't just greeting cards, though; I always have done things like no one else, which is why this blog is called "Siobhan Thinks Differently". Everyone who has known me, no matter their opinion of me, has known me for being an original in pretty much every way. Yes, that has made certain people very critical of me; many people have taken society's rules about what someone of my age, gender, and/or heritage "should" be doing so seriously, you'd think they were Biblical commandments or federal laws. They wanted me to, as the High School Musical tune says, "stick to the status quo," but I almost always refused; I was not going to subscribe to the mob mentality, usually because such thinking and/or actions didn't work for me. Some people went entirely too far in their attempts to get me to do what "everyone else" was supposedly doing; I remember one inescapable individual who made unkind remarks about others we both knew that I won't even begin to repeat on here just to get me to take swimming lessons or do something else that went completely against my tastes. Such talk, even when I think of it now, smacked way too much of manipulation, and that's why I refused to give in to that person's demands. An older friend once told me, "This world doesn't know what to do with originals, [Siobhan]." That's very true; I honestly wonder if the denizens of this planet will ever know what to do with people like me.
Apparently, being the way I am has made me rather unforgettable; I remember an instance some years ago when I was in my local shopping mall with my brother-in-law and saw a guy who was a summer school classmate months prior to that, but whom I hadn't seen since until that moment. That classmate didn't say much to me, so I told my brother-in-law that he must have forgotten me. My brother-in-law immediately replied, "[Siobhan], how could anyone forget you?" Several others have said essentially the same thing, and I'm actually proud of that; if being an original makes me hard to forget, then, I say, that's great. It's their choice whether or not they accept me; those who chose to have said that those who haven't are seriously missing out.
Any comments?