Editor’s Note

With the departure of Aeropostale from the Chautauqua Mall completed this week, another space sits vacant where bright lights and music used to emanate.

Additionally, the announcement that teen clothing store Deb Shops will also be leaving the mall made me feel a twinge of sadness.

Deb Shops filed for bankruptcy in December, further announcing closure of its 287 stores nationwide earlier this month. Although an end date has yet to be determined for the Lakewood store, it’s certain that seeing the massive space empty in the future will be unsettling.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, it was the reliable provider of gowns for homecoming, prom or any formal dance. In later years, the store would even record your name and school in a book under the dress you bought, just to prevent duplicity. Into college and beyond, basic wardrobe necessities, jewelry and shoes for work or casual events could be found there. It’s simple: Deb has been there for as long as I can remember, and the space will feel ghostly when the store is eventually gone.

In short, the closure of these stores and others is a sign of the times. In the grand scheme of things, online shopping hasn’t been around for that long, but it has clearly taken the world by storm.

I haven’t bought anything online in over a year, and I prefer to keep it that way. For me, the experience of being in an actual store and using my senses is what shopping is all about – seeing the clothes, hearing the music, trying new styles – those are what make shopping fun.

Just like how I read my news, books and magazines, the act of shopping will never be something I do from a computer.

Editor’s Note

Millions of Americans do their shopping online. This week, I decided to join their ranks.

While making purchases from my living room has never felt very appealing, I decided to buy some home improvement items off the Internet. It’s cold out there, and price shopping from the couch sounded pretty convenient at the time.

We spent hours going over faucets, shower heads and a bunch of other bathroom items on the websites of various home improvement stores. Finding what we felt were the nicest products at the lowest prices, we prepared to “check out.”

This, of course, is when the problems started. My friends at the home improvement chain couldn’t ship the items to my house. They also couldn’t send them to their closest store.

In fact, the company website admitted to us that I wouldn’t be able to buy the items at all. How neat. Having spent several hours comparing prices, reading customer reviews and considering every last detail, this news did not exactly make my night.

My fiancee, Sarah, in her infinite wisdom decided she would call the customer service line and try to make sense of the situation. The nice man on the other end of the line confirmed the company didn’t currently sell any of the items we wanted and that he had no idea if or when we would be able to purchase them. I suppose it’s easy to undercut competitors’ prices when products are out of stock or not for sale at all.

I’ve decided online shopping isn’t really for me. Maybe the Internet isn’t the home improvement paradise I had hoped it could be. I’d rather head to area stores and talk to real people – even if it means I have to shovel my driveway and warm up the car. At least I’ll be able to see for myself that the products are actually for sale.

Editor’s Note

With a cup of coffee and a hammer, our bathroom renovation began with a bang last weekend. As I stood with hammer and saw in hand, staring at the untouched room, my fiancee, mother and stepfather encouraged me to start swinging.

Without grace but with ambition I began destroying the hard work of the last poor soul to renovate the room. Pieces of debris flew in every direction.

I don’t know how to renovate a bathroom. This is my first try at a real home-improvement project. I do, however, have family members willing to help, and I’ll be leaning on them every step of the way. When they tell me to swing, I swing. When they say, “Don’t do that,” I stop. It’s a pretty simple formula, and I found the destruction phase of the project – which sent large pieces of drywall falling to the ground – to be quite fun.

The room, in its previous state, featured crumbling, blood-red walls, an aging sink and shower, and not a hint of insulation. I’m sure the previous owners worked hard on the room, but I’ve been looking forward to renovating it since the day we bought the place. It’s a hideous bathroom, and the preliminary destruction did nothing to help its cause.

As time and money allow, we’ll piece together a better, more modern bathroom with a lot of help from my family – especially my brother, the contractor, who inherited all of the construction-related skills.

Hopefully, this project will teach me something I can use in future home-improvement projects. I’m told my parents knew nothing about remodeling when they bought their first home, but they learned as they went with help from my grandparents.

Maybe I’ll pass some knowledge on to another generation one day, or maybe my roars of frustration will rip through the house and I’ll never pick up a hammer again.

Editor’s Note

Now that Santa’s sleigh and the Christmas wreaths have moved into the attic until further notice, we’ve arrived in what I used to think of as my least favorite time of year. January and February offer cold, snow, short days and long nights without the excitement of the holiday season.

In years past, I wished the holidays would never end, but I’m finding a lot to like about January this year – as unexciting as 2015’s opening month may be.

Lacking the obligations of the holiday season, we have at least a little bit of time each day to rest or to take a deep breath. Instead of chowing down dinner on the couch in five minutes or less so we could get back to preparing for Christmas, now we can take 30 minutes or so at the dining room table to enjoy ourselves a bit.

The spare time I used in December to stress about holiday shopping and travel I now pass by dreaming of what our house might look like some day with a little elbow grease and a lot of coffee. That’s, of course, when we’re not planning our wedding. It’s January on the calendar, but my mind wanders more and more into October as the days pass.

We’ve completed most of the plans for our wedding, but we let some tasks slide during a busy December. I find the wedding planning enjoyable for the most part, but I don’t think I’ll make a career out of it just yet. This week, we’ve unearthed our AAA travel guides each night in hopes of finalizing our honeymoon travel plans. The options are endless.

Sure, my January social calendar is as sparse as Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. But all things considered, I’m going to enjoy some early year peace and quiet.

Editor’s Note

As 2014 came to a close, I was fast asleep on the couch, missing the ball drop. The holidays ended in typical – but unexciting – fashion, and with the stresses of December behind us, we can focus on scratching a few items off the to-do list.

Three days into the year, those resolutions haven’t been thrown out with the garbage just yet. Add them to some household chores and projects, and suddenly it’s a busy weekend in Western New York.

Thankfully, we don’t have playoff football to distract us from getting our tasks done. The Buffalo Bills – as they’ve done for each of the last 15 years – kept their season short and not so sweet, freeing up my January weekends.

We probably won’t be inconvenienced by having to plan January around the Bills next year either. Their quarterback retired, the coach quit and they gifted their first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns. How neighborly. The future is bright for Western New Yorkers who plan to tackle lengthy post-holiday projects each year.

Back when I was a fifth-grade student at Fenner Elementary, I vaguely remember watching the Bills in their last playoff appearance. They show the highlights from that game on ESPN sometimes, but I think it’s best to cover my eyes when that happens.

So today and tomorrow, I can focus on taking down the Christmas tree, changing my oil and buying items for a bathroom renovation. Maybe I’ll even start tearing the room apart. I think I would rather swing a hammer or attempt to use other tools than watch the Cardinals play the Panthers.

Without the help of the Bills, who so generously gave away games to teams like the Raiders and the Chiefs, who knows how little I would’ve accomplished. As I watched the season slip away in Oakland, I realized the Bills really do make me want to shout.