“Clean up on Aisle 5”

It’s a little-known fact that the grocery store industry is run by an underground ring of satanic processed food worshippers.  Over the years, I’ve often fantasized about spearheading a nationwide boycott.  Seriously. It’s up there with the very detailed plan I have for how to spend my lottery winnings.  

But since grocery stores have a monopoly on Cool Ranch Doritos, I’ve kept my mouth shut.  Well, not today.  Today, I’ve got a bone to pick with good old Chuck.  Chuck is the general manager of my local grocery store.  We’ll call him ‘Chuck’ because that’s his name.  Actually, his name is ‘Charles,’ but it’s hard to get your Clint Eastwood on when you’re in a stand off with a guy named Charles.   

So, Chuck recently got word from the home office that impulse-purchase-based profits are in the toilet, which clearly means that local shoppers are not nearly disoriented enough to take advantage of the “buy two get one free” special on powdered milk.  Time to reorganize. 

Based on the way this order was executed, I can only assume that Chuck is either: 

A) Completely asleep at the wheel, or 

B) A corporate top performer and out-of-the-box thinker who is conspiring with his 9 year old son to make sure there are plenty of hysterical, hyperventilating housewives to cart out of aisles and into the back room where they keep all those people for whom the experience is just “too much.”  

Having seen Chuck’s picture at the front of the store, it really could go either way.  But I’m gonna go with ‘B’ here.  Because only a 9 year old with an early bedtime would elect to commence removing and relocating all the items on 50% of store shelves at 8 AM in a retail location that’s open 24 hours.  I’m sure his mom didn’t want him up late on a school night.  An evil genius needs his rest, after all. 

But all’s well that end’s well, because I gotta tell you, the result is a masterpiece.  If you don’t leave this store with 10 packs of tropical-flavored gum, 60 rolls of toilet paper and the shakes, you’ve got a bright future ahead of you in the grocery business, my friend.  Try not to squander your talent on something silly, like science.  Or technology. 

Witness the work of an artist…Go ahead, I’ll wait. 

Layout of Ingles grocery in West Jefferson, NC

Super intuitive store layout

Impressive, eh? Not only are the saucy noodles I needed yesterday NOT in the dry pasta aisle, but tortillas are shacked up with Hogs N’ Heaven pork rinds on a random kiosk strategically positioned in front of the ground turkey.  Am I alone in thinking that dry noodles — be they pouched or boxed — are dry noodles and should all be located on the aisle that is clearly marked DRY PASTA?  Or that tortillas belong with International Foods and pork rinds with Snacks?  Unless of course you’re making your world famous pork rind roll-ups for the kids’ lunch.  In which case, it makes perfect sense.  

Why put juice with cereal?  Maybe we’re considering it part of breakfast.  But think of your target market!  Put juice where it belongs, Satan — near the TONIC WATER.  Because I swear to the Sweet Virgin Mary if you do, I will hop on the powdered milk special train just because you made it easier for me to get the mixers for the stiff drink I’m going to need when I leave this place. 

The examples go on and on.  I know there’s a method to the madness, and it has nothing to do with making the store an easy, convenient and pleasant place to shop.  Innovative artists like Chuck are rarely understood and appreciated in their lifetimes.  Still, I have to believe that somewhere Chuck and his son are carefully crafting the speech for their “Psycho Store Organizers of the Year” award.  

Nice job, Chuck.  Keep reaching for the stars and separating the good guac from the processed, avocado-colored dip masquerading as the real thing.  I, for one, do not begrudge you success.  Just send the guys to peel me up off the floor in Aisle 5. 


Chicken Dinner


Cluck, cluck...almost chicken dinner Photo credit: Microsoft Online

Most people love Wednesdays and Fridays.  OK, so maybe they merely like Wednesdays in the same way they liked the high school English teacher who wore jeans and regularly interjected words like ‘cool,’ ‘sweet,’ and ‘rad’ into his lectures.  Wednesdays are different.  It’s a day that stands for something.  Sandwiched between three other naggy little days that are constantly demanding productive achievement, Wednesday springs from its seat and proclaims, “You can DO it!”  It’s like carrot cake.  Better than marshmallow jello, banana pudding, and pumpkin pie, but still not quite your favorite. 

Friday, on the other hand, is like chocolate cake with just the right amount of icing.  (Hang tight people, I know you’re waiting for the poultry portion of the program, I’m getting there…)  Fridays are the sticky, ooey, gooey goodness that signify freedom.  So most people really love them.

However in my perverse little universe, Wednesdays and Fridays have lost a lot of their sparkle.  I imagine this is because I have designated those days as the ones in which I will immerse myself in Dante’s lesser known but no less terrifying, 10th Circle of Hell.  This Circle was struck from the final Inferno manuscript by hasty editors who were no doubt men left free to wield powerful pens without regard for the fairer and much-martyred sex.  It is entered weekly (or daily depending on your propensity for self-inflicted pain) by mothers everywhere with a brave heart and glowing stain stick.  It is known as Laundry Day.  Now don’t start gnashing your teeth and ripping hair from the roots.  You’re safe here on Tuesday.  I’m just trying to set the stage.

OK, so it was Friday.  The last one.  And while you all were gleefully adorning Facebook pages with ‘TGIF’ and ‘Ready for the weekend!!!!!’ updates, I was journeying into the depths of Hell.  (Not that I’m bitter.  I do it to myself.)  And as I’m strapping on my canteen of Tide and stuffing my pockets with Bounce, I hear child #1 chanting urgently from the family room:  “Chicken dinner!  Chicken dinner!  CHICKEN DINNER!”  This annoys me.  Not because it distracts me from the task at hand, but mostly because to me, ‘chicken dinner,’ is a menu request for a meal I am not yet ready to make.  It’s 1:30 PM, for God’s sake.  Who but a Genghis Kahn-in-the-making starts shouting dinner orders before I’ve even found time to toss the lunch plates in the trash?  Honestly.

On any other day — say Monday or Tuesday or Thursday —  I’d be grateful for the heads up.  Glad that some kind soul had removed the burden of decision making from my shoulders.  I’d rush to the kitchen, throw frozen breasts on the counter and start Googling, ‘Yummiest Yard Bird EVER.’  But today, the suggestion just irritates the 10th Circle of Hell right out of me and I stalk towards the family room fully prepared to deliver the “this is not a full service hotel and I am not your chief chef and chamber maid” mantra.  Take cover, kids, Mean Mama is emerging from the closet.

But as I enter the family room I realize  that I may in fact have to shove that witch right back into her dark little hole, because it becomes evident that the child is not, in fact, placing a dinner order.  Instead he is bouncing precariously on the corner of the leather ottoman, fully engaged in the PS2 game, Snow X Racer.  “Chicken dinner, baby.  Here comes your chicken dinner.  My name is what’s-his-name.  You kill my father.  Prepare to die.  Awwwwwwwww! !! Almost chicken dinner!”

Surveying the scene, my irritation fades and is replaced with mixed bag of amusement, nostalgia and sadness.  I feel this way because it is clear that my oldest child has strapped on his helmet and boarded the space shuttle set for Planet Adolescence.  I realize that in a few short years, I will have absolutely no idea what the hell this kid is talking about, and I will assume the blank stare of the old and out of touch.  When tweens and teens alike will look upon me with pity and mild disgust, certain that I don’t have even an ounce of wisdom to impart. 

‘Chicken Dinner’ has become Wednesday.  To my son, it means he is almost over the hump, on the precipice of seriously cool.  For me, it means we are halfway to the time when, assuming we do our job right, Griffin will venture out and away from our little family.  So it’s Wednesday at our house, even though the calendar says Friday.  I never was much for Wednesdays…

Server error

I am a procrastinor of epic magnitude.  When I am overwhelmed — and as a wife, mother, sister, daughter and marketing professional who works full time from my home, I often am — I am prone to either A) flit about in a flurry of meaningless activity, or B) lapse into a state of full-body paralysis.  It’s not that I don’t get things done.  I do.  I just like to wait until I’ve worked myself up into a healthy froth of total anxiety before commencing with meaningful task execution. 

My therapist (although I suppose I really should call her my ex-therapist since I only met with her biweekly for two months before winter hit the NC mountains like a really pissed off woman scorned, and I used the ice as a reasonable excuse to commence hibernation) told me this is result of a lack of “me time.”  While her explanation is no doubt valid, I prefer to function in a semi-consistent state of self-inflicted delusion.  Not about everything.  Just certain things…like why I procrastinate.  I tell myself that I work best under pressure.  Adrenaline, brought on by the aforementioned frothy anxiety, makes me brilliant.  Some of the best executive speeches I have ever written were composed at 3:30 AM a full 12-48 hours after the proposed deadline. 

But today, I really need to get moving.  My sister, her husband and my 3-week new nephew will be arriving on my doorstep in approximately five hours.  I have nine loads of laundry sorted and strategically placed by category on my family room floor.  The house is a mess.  I have no fewer than four overdue work assigments.  The oldest child has an early release day from school (t-minus 23 minutes until he descends up on me).  And my vacuum was fatally injured in a run-in with my puppy, who could think of nothing more entertaining to do on Tuesday than chew the cord to a fine shred and spread it artfully across my bedroom rug.

Seriously, I have a lot to do.  I’d prefer to be flitting about in meaningless activity, mostly because virtually no activity — from emptying the coffee pot to wandering about folding the toilet paper tails into cute triangles — would be truly meaningless today.  I doubt seriously I could find a way to flit that wouldn’t ultimately contribute to my end OCD goals of having the house immaculately clean, the laundry done and put away, dinner premade and in the fridge, and two conference calls checked off the list before my sister arrives.

Unfortunately, I have choosen paralysis.  The universe is making an attempt to assist.  The server on my work laptop has been down all morning, making it virtually impossible for me to get anything done in terms of the job I am actually paid to do.  A golden opportunity.  And yet, here I sit, listening for the washer to complete its cycle.  Writing.   Knowing that with each passing minute, I will have to compromise something on the list of things I want to get done today.  And coming to the very-not-new conclusion that this procrastination thing has gotten entirely Out Of Hand. 

I absolutely must address this issue.  Catch the plane off Fantasy Island, conduct some productive soul searching, stroll down to the root of the problem and identify a workable solution.  I am.  I will.  Right after I sort my hot roller clips by size and color.  I think I feel a flit coming on….

Alpha Dog Seeks Kinder, Gentler Handlers

There has been a mistake. My daughter is sure of it.  Maybe at the moment of her conception, the Fates were having an off day.  You know, the kind where inexplicable distraction drives you to do horrible things you can’t take back?  Like hitting ‘Reply All’ on an email detailing the many ways in which your boss has lost her mind.  That kind of day.

In at least one of her past lives, I’m quite certain Addison was a serious, ass-kicking monarch.  Like Cleopatra — powerful, idolized and obeyed.  There was no one yanking her chain, incessantly attempting to enforce strange and unreasonable mandates like an 8:00 PM bedtime or three more brussel sprouts.  And there was undoutedly no one who dared raise their voice in defiance or disagreement.  Bottom line, in her last life, Addison was in control. She knew it.  Her subjects knew it.  And all those dudes trying to move in on her stash of coal eyeliner definitely knew it.  Addison was a Hellenistic rock star.  Full stop. Move on, people.

Imagine the injustice of it all.  There you are in the reincarnation line plotting the takeover of your next kingdom, mentally redecorating the pyramid, and wondering why they still haven’t opened a ’20 lives or less’ lane, when BOOM, some idiot pushes the wrong button and you find yourself emerging into the world as the youngest child of two common people who clearly did not get the memo on your past achievements, refined tastes, or highly detailed needs.  ‘Bummer’ does not even begin to cover your disgust. 

Since she was able to form words, our little princess has been amping up to break out and find her real people.  Several months ago, after an exhausting day of trying to make imposter Mommy understand that she couldn’t possibly go to preschool in anything less than a tiara and pink satin, and throwing play phones at ignorant classmates who refused to move promptly to the next activity, she broke it to me:  “You ruin my life.  You’re a ruiner.  And I’m going to find a new family…FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.”

I feel for her.  It must be hard to go from pharaoh to filthy peasant.  And so, because I love her with a fierce and mysterious intensity, I have taken the liberty of enclosing a classified ad I hope will help her find just the right kind of environment to prepare her to fulfill her true destiny.  We will miss her deeply.  Well, her father and I will.  The jury is still out on her big brother…


WANTED:  Former dictator in search of real family.  Grave error made in central processing.  Likely candidates include presidents, kings, or really indulgent rich guys.  Must be currently childless and in need of small, beautiful, but strong-willed little girl to lavish with all of life’s luxuries and mentor to wildly successful business or political top dog.  World leaders with net worth of less than US$2.5 billion need not apply.  Must have fleet of impressive cars, access to or willingness to procure pretty pink ponies, and aversion to brussel sprouts.  Interested parties should forward resume, references and notorized financial statement to wrongmommy@theuniversebitthebigoneonthis.com.  Please reply ASAP; fake family is seriously cramping my style.

The perfectly-attired child

Addison at age 3, letting Mommy have her way for family pictures on the beach.

My four year old daughter departed for preschool this morning in an outfit of her own design: a pale pink skort, a short-sleeved grey t-shirt emblazoned in hot pink with the words, “Daddy’s girl,” white ankle socks and beat up brown tennis shoes.  “Not bad,” I thought.  Ah, how times change.

Prior to having children of my own, I assessed many cape-, tutu- and tiara-clad toddlers in malls and movie theaters.  And while I appreciated that their mothers afforded them a semblance of autonomy and the opportunity to creatively express their individuality, I determined that my own children would venture into the world suitably attired in comfortable, yet stylish outfits that provided me with the flexibility to confidently move them from preschool to a dinner out or an extended family function. Ha.  Ha-ha-HA.

The operative phrase here is, “prior to having children of my own.”  This is a critically important series of words that denote early onset of what I like to refer to as Delusions of Grandeur.  We’ve all been that person.  The one quietly wondering what kind of mother lets their kid go out in Spiderman pajamas and duck slippers.  Incredulous that a grown woman can’t get a grip on a two year old throwing a full-on tantrum in the cereal aisle or remember to carry one of those little travel packs of tissue for the five year old with the face full of green snot.  “It’s ridiculous, rude and gross,” we thought.  “A rational adult should be able to handle that situation.  That’s what being a parent is all about.”  We were smug with the certainty that when our time came, we would manage in an all together more efficent and effective manner. 

Yes, before kids, it’s easy to judge.  To see the clear and obvious path to the perfect solution. To concoct cute fantasies in our heads before we are actually face-to-face with a small, but freakishly defiant person determined to be Cuckoo for Coco-Puffs or venture out to meet the world attired in their best, pretty-pretty princess dress and black flowered cowgirl boots. 

My own children, ages 8 and 4, have done much to help banish my delusions as they soldier on in their quest to break me like a wild, but clearly misguided, mother mare.  Under their unfailing tutelage, I am learning to pick my battles.  A case in point from last summer:  It is early morning.  I am standing next to my own bed, where my daughter lounges, waiting for me to help her get ready to face the day.  I am holding one of the aforementioned comfortable, yet stylish outfits up for approval.

“I don’t want that shirt.  No one will like it,” she says.
“But it’s cute,” I insist.  “It matches your pants perfectly.  See?  It’s got pink on it.” 

Pink is very important these days.

“No, no, no.  Go pick another,” intones my little Lindsay Lohan protege.
“OK, well why don’t you go pick another?” I suggest.
“No, you can do it.”

I sigh and pick up the shirt, along with her PJs and night-time pull-up.  Not wanting to instigate a full blown tantrum at 7:30 AM, I shuffle back to her closet and select two shirts, thinking naively that providing options will enable me to gain commitment on two garments I obviously know are not on the list of Top 10 favorites.  But I’m trying to get some mileage out of all these clothes before she outgrows them so I  give it a shot.  This is my first, but not last mistake of the day.  As I hold them both up, I say,

“Here.  Which one would you like?  They are so cute.  One has a poodle on it and the other one has a kitty.”

My son, bless him, tries hard to back me up. 

“Yeah, Addison. They are really cute.  See?  You can pick a cute doggie or a little kitty.  And they both have pink.” 

She turns from the TV and places her hand thoughtfully on her chin.  After three seconds, she screws up her face and with a wave of her hand says, “No.  People will think these look silly.  Take them away.”

Unwilling to believe my four year old has just waived me off like Paris Hilton’s top stylist, I dumbly reply, “What?”

“They won’t work.  I SAID, take them away.” 

As I take her hand to lead her back to the closet to make her own selection, I wonder for the three thousandth time how I ever thought this parenting thing might be easy or even remotely straightforward.  In my head, I apologize to all those mothers I so glibly judged. And as I survey her final look, I consider it a victory that she more or less matches. After all, at what other time in your life can you rock hot pink short-shorts, frilly socks, patent leather dress shoes and a green seahorse tank top and still look pretty cute?  If she likes it, who am I to derail her inner fashion diva? 

Go ahead, work it girl.  I’ll find bigger, more important battles to fight.

In case you were wondering…

My favorite 8 year old, Griffin

You don’t look good in yellow.  You have peach fuzz on your upper lip.  And “dude,” your husband has a weight problem.  In case you were wondering (and even if you weren’t), your eight year old will tell you.  They will tell you the ugly, unmitigated truth without a trace of malice.  They are not 16 year olds after all.  There is no intent to hurt or instill self-doubt so great you rethink the Friday night party at the house with the kegerator, open bar and notably absent parental figures.  It’s just an observation intended to help you make good choices moving forward. Like eliminating anything vaguely yolk-hued from your closet and finally answering in the affirmative to the biweekly inquiry, “You want me do lip?”

Four year olds will tell you the truth too.  But you can’t trust a four year old.  They have multiple personality disorder.  You never know if you’re getting feedback from your actual child, Marcy-the-My-Brother-Switched-Spongebob-and-Deserves-to-Die or Patty-the-Please-Don’t-Let-Daddy-Put-Me-to-Bed-Because-He-Never-Turns-on-the-Nightlight-and-Always-Forgets-the-Sleepytime-CD.  Bottom line, those little creatures are tricky, so it’s best to let compliments and criticism roll off your back.  The story will change tomorrow anyway.

But if you really want to know whether you’re too white to wear the strappy sundress, too old to go to with the chunky blond highlights, or too wrinkled for this season’s metallic, shimmer eye shadow, don’t ask your husband.  Brace yourself for impact…and ask the eight year old.


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