The “One Thing” I Got Right as a Parent

NaBloPoMo14DayThirtyMy daughter, the always delightful Fangette, paid me (and her father) a compliment the other day. Fair warning, don’t get too excited or verklempt before you hear it. She said, and I quote, “the one thing you people got right was that you didn’t raise a racist”.

I suppose if we had to get “one thing right”, that would be it. I’d like to think that we got a few other things right, too. Still, a compliment from a teenager is a compliment from a teenager. One cannot get too excited about its content. I said, “you’re welcome”. My plan was to leave it at that.

I knew where it was coming from. It came very shortly after the Ferguson verdict. An issue that Fangette was, to put it mildly, worked up about. To add insult to injury, I gathered — from snippets of conversations — that some of her friends were not as horrified by the outcome as Fangette was and, in turn, thought they should be. This is how it came to pass that Fangette, possibly for the first time in her life, realized that not all of her friends and acquaintances shared her exact politics. For the record, my daughter may, in fact, be more liberal than her mother. And, that’s saying something.

Fangette’s first reaction was to label some of them racists. I thought this was unfair. I argued that how we as a society view “otherness” is steeped in far more than our politics. I took the time to remind her that just because some of her peeps were not outraged, were supportive of law enforcement, or were simply keeping their mouths shut, did not necessarily mean they were racists. Further, to cast them as such did them — and her — a grave injustice.

I pointed out that there were any number of people posting the same things on social media — the same memes — as her friends were. She suggested I “unfriend” all of these folks immediately.

I did not do that, nor will I. I am of the opinion that everyone has a right to their opinion. I don’t have to agree with them, they don’t have to agree with me. We can still be friends. I wouldn’t marry them or anything, but luckily for me — and for them — that is not even at issue.

Does it drive me a little crazy sometimes that some of the people that I know post things that sound ridiculous? Of course it does. Do I say anything to them? Not usually. Has it occurred to me that it’s just possible that only I find some of these things ridiculous? Of course it has.

What I’ve come to realize in my middle age is that friends are hard to come by. Good friends are even more difficult to find and to hold onto. And, do you want to know something? If it weren’t for social media, Facebook especially, it is entirely possible that I would never know anyone’s politics. In my world, politics rarely comes up in conversation.

I have never, for the record, seen any of the people who tend to trot out their right-wing views on Facebook, act anything but kind and generous in their “real” lives. I have never heard them utter a racial slur. They seem fine with their children having friends and other relationships with all sorts of people who are not white. They have similar relationships themselves. Why they choose to post what they post to their Facebook pages is beyond me. But, it’s a free country, right? Who am I to criticize?

Young people are quick, I think, to scratch people from their lives because they don’t share their same zeitgeist. Call me crazy (or tolerant), but I think listening to the views of others, especially when they bring a different perspective, is a good thing. Or, at least I always did. Now? I don’t know. Maybe tolerance is a thing of the past.

I hope not, though.  Because if it is, there are quite a few people I’m going to sorely miss having in my life. I do know a few left-wing nutjobs, but I don’t like them half as much as I like the people who don’t always share my political beliefs.

I have reached the conclusion that as long as they’re fine with who I am, then I can be fine with who they are. If that makes me — as my daughter intimated that it does — a hypocrite, so be it. I suppose that as long as I’m a hypocrite who did “one thing right” as a parent, I can live with that, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Weirdly Grateful… for blurred vision

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyNineI am allergic to cats. Naturally, it follows, that I own one. (We’ve had this one, “The Great Fanganini”, for over fifteen years.)

I take precautions. One of them being, I don’t tend to hold him overly much. This policy has served me well. Outside of a few weeks during the year when I am victimized by other allergies, I don’t suffer from cat ownership all that much. My husband does the litterbox; my daughter takes care of other areas of cat hygiene. It works out.

I also suffer from extremely dry eyes. This is an ongoing problem for which I take flaxseed oil. Fish oil would be better, but I’m allergic to shellfish and, as a result, cannot take the fish oil. I use prescription gel drops semi-regularly, as well. As long as I remember to take the flaxseed oil, refill my eye drop prescription, and not to touch the cat too much — cat hair and dander tends to exacerbate, but is not the underlying cause of my dry eye problem — this regimen is effective.

The effectiveness of this regimen, though, really does depend on me. This is bad. Because while I can be relied upon to take care of everyone and everything else that goes on here at the hovel, I don’t always take care of myself. I’m sure I’m not the only wife/mother/pet owner who suffers from this same malady. I call it the “Me Fourth Syndrome”.

Usually I take care of Daughter/Husband/Cat/Me. Sometimes that order gets rearranged where the first three are concerned, but I am almost always the one to occupy the fourth position.

Recently, as in Thanksgiving morning, it slapped me in the face. Literally.

I was on the phone with my mother while I was enjoying a cup of coffee and watching “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” on television. I made the mistake of sitting in my husband’s chair — a chair that the cat and my husband spend a great deal of time in.

Because I was multi-tasking, I didn’t really notice that the cat was attempting to make like a fox stole and wrap his gigantic body around the back of my neck. But he was. And he did. When I realized that there was what amounted to a giant albatross around my neck, I reached around and relocated The Great Nipperini to lower ground.

Within seconds, he had pounced on my lap and, before I knew it, he had begun to nuzzle my face. Literally. The Great Nipperini does not like to be put off. Not unlike the other creatures that also reside here at the hovel, he, too, is an “in your face” type of creature.

Because cat wrasslin’, phone talking, parade watching, and coffee drinking cannot really be accomplished simultaneously, I hung up the phone. As I went to remove The Great Fanganini from my face so that I could return to parade viewing and self-caffeinating, I realized that something was very wrong. Very, very wrong.

I couldn’t see. My eyes felt like there were little woodworkers in them — woodworkers equipped with teeny, tiny pieces of sandpaper. These woodworkers had gotten mighty busy.

At this point both my husband and my daughter had arisen. The daughter was in the bathroom. I yelled in to her to get me the eye wash. Stat!

She couldn’t find it. Then, I couldn’t find it. I also had no eye drops. Even though we had been at the pharmacy refilling her prescriptions just the day before, I never thought to refill my own. “Me Fourth Sydrome” had bitten me in the ass once again!

I applied a cold compress to my eyes, but it wasn’t working AT ALL. I was in pain. My eyes were watering. And, as an added bonus, I looked like I had recently spent some time — a great deal of time — with Cheech & Chong — or other pot smokers of note. If only!

I put out a general alert to the troops that someone would have to take me to the grocery store — they were the only place that I knew to be open on Thanksgiving morning. I needed to get eye wash and some over-the-counter eye drops to alleviate the symptoms caused by The Great Fanganini, who, while all of my hootin’ and hollerin’ was going on, was just sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor looking up at me, as if to say, “Hey! What’s all the commotion?”

My husband went to put his pants on and grab his keys. Once we got in the car, though, he mentioned that he had to get gas and stop at the mailbox. As we were leaving the house the daughter requested a bagel sandwich — to tide her over until the feast we were no doubt in for later in the day.

Somehow I managed to convince the husband that we could take care of his errands (and hers) AFTER I had treated my eye issue — even though both the gas station and the mailbox were on the way to the grocery store, he agreed. Who says chivalry is dead? (Although I was slightly annoyed that he had taken the time to grab whatever it was that needed mailing while he was changing from pajama pants into jeans.)

Because I could not make clear to my husband, in a way that I felt comfortable that he was actually comprehending, what eye wash was or where it was kept at the supermarket, I had to go into the store myself — looking like a pothead. In fairness, the husband did dig out some eye drops before we left the house, that they were likely from 1979 and they burned like crazy notwithstanding, at least he did make an attempt to help me.

Of course I have to wonder if he shared these drops with me so that he could buy himself some time — time for getting gas and visiting the mailbox. Whatever his reasons, at least he tried. For that, I was grateful.

When I stumbled into the supermarket and found the correct aisle — I did this more from memory than from actual sight — I grabbed the eye wash and, what I thought were some sort of gel drops. They were not. But, I didn’t notice that until AFTER I had shot them into my eyes. They relieved the pain, but they numbed my eyes. They contained, as I later ascertained, some sort of antihistamine.

This is how and why I spent my Thanksgiving barely able to focus. I’ve spent other holidays barely able to focus, but those were a result of having had at least a slight buzz on. I don’t miss the buzz anymore, but I hadn’t realized how much I had grown accustomed to being secure in the knowledge that I would be able to remain focused — both visually and mentally — since I gave up drinking.

I found it weird, but not altogether inexplicable, how much my fuzzy eyesight seemed to be affecting my mental acuity. I had never given much thought to this relationship before.

I felt scattered and slightly out of sorts the whole day. I was grateful, though, that I just needed to wait for the eye drops to wear off to feel more myself. And, as an added bonus, no threat of a hangover existed.

I was reminded, once again and in a very strange way, that while I still miss drinking now and again, I have become a person that embraces the mental sharpness that is part and parcel of sobriety. More meaningful, though, is because I hold having my wits about me so dear — and miss it when I can’t — it bolsters my confidence in the fact that I will never take up drinking again.

That lesson, no matter that I have to learn it again and again, is always something to be grateful for.

Enjoy the Becoming

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyEightEveryone told me that I would see a significant change in my daughter, the always delightful Fangette, when she returned from college for Thanksgiving break. I didn’t believe them. I am that person who needs to see it, touch it, feel it for myself. And I have. She is (almost) a different person.

What can I say? I am a skeptic. Especially when it comes to parenting. I listen to the sage words of others, I just don’t necessarily believe what they’re saying. Even though history has proven them right. About (almost) everything.

Although I should certainly know better, I, too, waste my breath giving unsolicited advice which falls on the deaf ears of younger parents. I understand. They shake their heads in agreement, but their eyes tell another story. Their eyes say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll just see about that!” Perhaps it’s just me? Maybe I just run with a crowd of polite cynics. I don’t think so, though.

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to impart some of the wisdom that I have gained in my eighteen years of parenting. I have managed to raise an intelligent, socially adept young woman. As if to prove my parenting prowess, my own progeny was sitting beside me carrying on an adult conversation with another human being. She had also successfully dress herself that morning.

I laughingly told my cousin (the mother of a pre-schooler and a toddler) who was chagrined at her younger child’s inability to identify certain letters, most colors, and stay within the lines as he decorated a Thanksgiving turkey (or, as he called it a “chicken” — I told him that he was just being silly, that every little schoolboy knows that chickens do NOT wear Pilgrim hats!) that she needn’t worry about this, that, or the other thing, that her child would put it all together at some point. Mine did. And, I pointed out, her older one, seemed just fine. I made a motion to indicate that my kid, no coloring genius herself, had, seemingly, turned out, in my humble opinion, more than fine. All evidence to the contrary, my cousin still seemed worried about the little guy.

I jokingly remarked that perhaps the little one just didn’t care. He’s got a sunny, vibrant personality. And, let me just add, he’s cute as a damn button. Those attributes ought to get him somewhere. So what if he can’t spell, discern purple from blue, or identify fowl? It’s likely, even if he never masters any of these skills, that he, too, will be just fine. It’s also probable that, when the spirit moves him or it matters to him, that he will demonstrate proficiency at these and other important tasks. Right now, though, he just wants to live in a world where The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are real. Me, too.

It was during my tete-a-tete with my cousin that I noticed that my father — a man who wouldn’t win any spelling competitions himself — was hanging around the perimeter of the conversation. He made a gesture. He was, I realized, pointing at his nose. What, I wondered, was he trying to convey to me? And then it hit me.

My daughter came home from college sporting a nose ring. What he was trying to tell me was that, perhaps, the mother of a nose-piercer shouldn’t be doling out any parenting advice. I just rolled my eyes at him and told him, none too quietly, that “tomorrow we’re all getting matching tattoos, Da”. I may have asked him if he wanted to join us. And then I laughed and gave him my best “West of Ireland sigh”. He may have thought me serious otherwise.

I tell you this story not to give the impression that my father is a humorless and intolerant curmudgeon, which he can be, but can’t we all? I tell you this story because it says a lot about how our relationship has evolved over the years. More to the point, it says a lot about how I have changed.

The fact that I laughed. The fact that I chose to interpret his gesture as a light ribbing, which I am fairly certain it was meant to be, instead of “fightin’ words”, speaks volumes about who I presently am.

Not so long ago I would have been angry with him. (And, probably, by extension, with the daughter.) I would have felt harshly criticized and, yes, judged. Now? Not so much. I honestly thought it was funny that he could get worked up over something as ridiculous as a tiny hoop earring in the nose of a college student.

Also, because my daughter is now 18 years old, I no longer feel responsible for what she pierces or tattoos. And, you wanna know what? I kind of like it. I was kidding when I told my father that we were getting tattoos, but I am toying with the idea of getting my eyebrow re-pierced. I let it close long ago. Maybe it’s time to rethink that.

Having my daughter home from college has been wonderful. A blessing. I missed her terribly. I will miss her when she leaves on Sunday. I do love the person who is emerging, though — nose ring and all. I am enjoying the new relationship that she and I seem to be forging. It’s freeing to break out of our old roles.

Snappy retorts to criticism and eyebrow piercings, aside, I’ve been rethinking a lot of things lately, most of them to do with my daughter. Mainly, what my ruminations have uncovered is that it is comforting to worry less about who she might become and concentrate, instead, on who she is today.

Getting to this place is a journey and one that we all must take ourselves. Some of us will arrive at our destination sooner, rather than later, but, like learning our colors or our alphabet, there’s no hard and fast timetable for it, really. Telling someone this, especially a newer parent, is an exercise in futility.

As far as I know my daughter has a handle on her colors and her alphabet; my cousin’s son will get there, too. We all learn the stuff we need to know eventually. Me? I’ve learned to laugh more and stress less. Mostly, though, I’ve learned that sometimes, as a parent, the nicest part of the job is when you can let go, sit back, and enjoy the becoming.

Merry Christmas! Here’s a Hoof!

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentySevenAnother Thanksgiving under our belts — both literally and figuratively. I feel stuffed. My sister-in-law has taken to saying, instead of “Merry Christmas”, “Merry Excess”. It rings true.

We really have so much, don’t we, most of us? Too much, if you ask me. And, yet, we rack our brains for what else to buy for so-and-so or to come up with one more thing that we would like. I wish that I could say, “No more! No more stuff!” I won’t, though. Even if I say that I will, I won’t actually do it.

I’ve cut down the list considerably over the years in terms of people that I buy for. That much I’ve done.

I just really hate to shop. I’d like to enjoy the season — just once — without the hassle of shopping.

Believe you me, I’ve thought about taking all of the money that I spend on Christmas and purchasing a goat for a third-world village. It would be weird, though, to give one-tenth of a goat to some of the folks on my Christmas list. I mean, how exactly would I carve that up? Or wrap it?

I suppose I could just give them a nice card explaining that one-tenth of a goat was given in their name through Oxfam or some other reputable goat-giving charity. How would I inscribe it though? “Merry Christmas! Here’s your hoof!” That’s straightforward enough, but it seems a little odd — even coming from me.

I am a little odd — and as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown odder, especially as it pertains to gift-giving. I am self-aware enough to admit this about myself. I just cannot get excited about the whole prospect of it anymore.

And, I refuse to do gift cards. They are so impersonal. I’d rather someone hand me a few crumpled up singles than be given a gift card. It’s like saying, “Here you go. Shop for your own shit!” Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like another task added to my list of things to do.

I may be an unenthusiastic gift-giver, but if I’m going to buy gifts, I’d like them to be thoughtful. Frankly, I think a goat is a pretty thoughtful gift. How many people can say they received a goat (or a part of one) as a Christmas gift? Not many.

As unique as giving this kind of gift would be, as interesting as it might be to receive, it is highly unlikely that I’ll be purchasing a goat, in whole or in part, for anyone on my Christmas list. At least that’s not the current plan. You never know, though. Come December 23rd, if I’ve plum run out of both time and ideas, there might just be a goat in someone’s future.

Lucky

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentySixYesterday, in the aftermath of the Ferguson decision I posted about white privilege in the general sense. Today, I’d like to tell you a story about a case of white privilege in particular — an incident that happened to me.

To be honest, when it was happening I didn’t think much about it. I certainly didn’t think of it in terms of white privilege. It wasn’t until afterwards, as I was recounting the story to several people that I noticed a distinct difference between the reactions of my black friends and that of my white friends — I was telling the story in front of people of both races.

Here’s what happened. It’s been a couple of years, but I will try to tell the tale as best as I can remember it.

It was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, probably 2012, possibly 2011. I was walking home from work when I realized that I had an apron full of paper — customer receipts, beverage napkins, pieces of my order pad. The detritus of my trade.

It was a beautiful night, the official beginning of summer, and I was in a playful mood. As I approached the gas station that is just around the corner from my house, I decided to ball up the garbage and make baskets into one of their garbage cans. I would estimate that I hit about 80% from the makeshift and virtual free-throw line that I had concocted in my mind. I was chuckling to myself as I did it and thinking, no doubt, about how silly I, a forty-some-odd-year-old woman, must look playing trash can basketball.

As I went to retrieve the “balls” that had missed their intended target, I noticed a police cruiser, but thought little of it. I remember hoping that whoever was in it hadn’t seen me acting like a teenager in study hall. I couldn’t see whether anyone was in it or not, as I went about the business of picking up my litter and the few odds and ends that other people had left strewn around the trash receptacle, but I didn’t really care. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Not only am I no litterbug, I’m also a good citizen.

I went into the store to make a purchase, of what I cannot recall, ice cream, perhaps? As I went to exit the store a Sheriff’s officer walked in. He looked me up and down in a way that felt uncomfortable. He looked at me like I was in trouble. I found it off-putting to say the least.

Within seconds he asked me where I had been that night. Because I did not like his tone, I pointed at my apron, which is emblazoned with the logo of the restaurant I work for — a restaurant that stands about 150 yards from the gas station. At first I thought that he was going to reprimand me for littering. I was thinking to myself, “Didn’t he see me pick up my garbage?”

Then he asked me how much I had had to drink that night. I looked at him straight in the eye and told him “Nothing.” I could tell that he didn’t believe me. I then went on to say that I had not, in fact, had a drink in several years. His eyebrow shot up and he made an “Um-hmmm” kind of a sound. This confirmed my original suspicion that he did not believe me. Really, though, I didn’t much care. I didn’t much care for him either, to tell the truth.

After this ridiculous exchange he asked me for identification. I told him that I didn’t have any identification on me, as I had been at work for twelve hours and hadn’t brought my purse, which was the God’s honest truth.

At this he became angry. He told me that I was “required” to carry identification with me at all times. “Actually”, I informed him, “I’m not.” I then went on to explain to him that the court had recently ruled that the law in Arizona — designed to ferret out illegal immigrants — which required that folks carry certain forms of identification with them, had, in fact, been declared unconstitutional. I may have asked him if he was familiar with this decision. I am fairly certain I offered to pull it up on my phone for him.

Yeah. I was being snarky. I was getting annoyed. “What”, I thought, “does this idiot want with me, anyway? What is his problem.” I began to make my way to the exit. He held his arm out and told me to “stay put” and, I swear that he said that he was “calling for back-up”.

“Back-up?”, I asked the store clerk, “Did he just say he was calling for ‘back-up’?” The clerk shook his head in the affirmative. I burst out laughing and made for the door. There were, I realized, two young black guys in the store with me. I hadn’t noticed them before.

As I began to leave one of them looked at me and said, “You are some crazy white lady. That cop told you to stay put.”

I just looked at him and laughed. I told him that there was no way I was going to hang around and engage in any tomfoolery with THAT idiot. I had done nothing wrong. The kid just shook his head, as if to say, “You are one crazy white lady.”

As I made my way home and, mind you, I walked at a leisurely pace, I remember thinking “What an idiot!”, certainly not “Wow! I’m so lucky to be a crazy white lady who has the audacity to just walk away from an officer of the law.” I was never afraid, not for one second. It never occurred to me to be afraid — even when, as I was opening my front door, I  heard a car peel into the parking lot behind my house. When I got upstairs and looked out the window I realized that it was HIM, the Sheriff’s officer. He was pointing a searchlight from his cruiser all around the parking lot. No doubt he was looking for me.

Still laughing, I dialed the local Chief of Police. He’s a friend. Our daughters swam together on two different teams. I explained to him what had happened and told him that the loony guy appeared to still be looking for me. He told me not to worry about it. I didn’t. I just went off to bed.

The next day I thought it would make an amusing anecdote for my co-workers. It did. Most of them thought it was pretty hilarious. I’ll bet you can guess which audience members thought this. If you guessed the white people, you’d be right. The black ones? They just looked at me and said, “Yeah. You are some crazy white lady. You know what else you are? Lucky.”

Yup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Know I’m Privileged

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyFiveI read a tweet last night, one of many associated with the #Ferguson verdict that went something like this: “”White Privilege’ is hearing the verdict and being outraged by it, rather than being terrified by it.”* This is, quite possibly, the best definition of white privilege that I’ve ever heard.

It is my prerogative to feel outraged (or not). This verdict (and others like it) does not change my life at all. It does not, for example, alter the way in which I interact with law enforcement officers or members of my community.

I can sit here and be outraged. That is certainly my prerogative. Or, I can do nothing. That, too, is my prerogative. Because I am white.

I am not in possession of all of the facts surrounding this case. I will not be rendering my own “verdict” here. What I do know for sure, though, is that Michael Brown’s death has had an effect on many people and brought to the forefront the role of law enforcement in the Black community.

And I do mean the Black community as a whole, not just the folks living in Ferguson, Missouri. Since the incident in Ferguson I have heard many, many stories from black people about how they have been and/or still are treated by police officers in what amounts to my own backyard.

I am not a naïve person, but I was a bit taken aback when they started to regale me with their stories about their frequent run-ins with the law. Truthfully, I was slightly uncomfortable with these conversations, as well — being a white person and all. Because these people are my co-workers and my friends, though, I listened. I felt I owed them at least that, my own discomfort notwithstanding.

What struck me most after hearing story after story after story — many of them involving being pulled over for what they termed “DWB” (Driving While Black) — was how these people, my friends and co-workers, just accept it as a fact of their existence. That made me sad. And angry. And a little embarrassed about the color of my own skin.

I don’t want to be embarrassed by the color of my skin. I want to be able to enter into a respectful dialogue with people whose skin tone is different than my own. My friends, thankfully, indulged me my questions and shared their experiences with me.

They didn’t roll their eyes at me. They didn’t get angry with me. We had several very enlightening conversations. I learned a great deal.

One of the things I learned is that I’ve had my blinders on for quite some time. I live in a place where I thought relations between white people and black people had moved forward. After speaking openly about it, I still think they have, just not enough.

Possibly the most important lesson that I learned is that this issue is not really about my relationship with a co-worker or a neighbor. It’s about changing the zeitgeist of law enforcement. I’d like to think some of the institutional racism that exists is generational, but given the fact that the police officer in the Ferguson case was a young man, that hypothesis doesn’t hold water. And, even if it did, that’s not an excuse.

I think it’s admirable for people to preach a peaceful coexistence. I do. I just wonder how, exactly, folks are supposed to peacefully coexist when so many of our black communities are treated like war zones. I have to wonder if the citizens living in some of these neighborhoods don’t feel like POWs. I think that’s how I would feel.

I would argue that there are ways to enforce laws without shooting people. I think that would be a pretty good start. What happened to tazers, anyway? And, if one must use a gun to subdue a perpetrator, why shoot to kill? It would seem to me that we are arming soldiers, rather than training peacekeepers.

I don’t know. Perhaps I AM naïve. I just can’t help but think that progress is incremental and that when an incident occurs, like the one in Ferguson, Missouri, we all take two steps back. Regardless of the color of our skin, I would like to think that we would all like to move forward.

I know that I’m privileged, though — privileged enough to be sitting here confident in the knowledge that when I leave my house or when I send my family out into the world I don’t have to worry that a traffic stop might end in tragedy. I know I’m privileged. Oddly enough, this is not a good feeling.


* This was tweeted by @ColleenLindsay: “Truest thing I’ve heard all night:’White privilege is the ability to be outraged by the #Ferguson decision, rather than terrified by it.'” (I’m not certain where she “heard” it.)

The Great Boot Shortage

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyFourGiven that she will be living out this winter (and, if all goes well, the next several winters) in Vermont, we decided that it might be a good idea to send Fangette back after Thanksgiving break with a pair of snow boots. We try to be good parents, at least where foul weather gear is involved. Plus, we want her to be able to get to class. I don’t want to hear any bullshit about how she couldn’t make it through the snow because she only has “cute” boots. She needed something more utilitarian than cute.

About a month ago I asked her to choose a pair from the L.L. Bean website. We went back and forth about it. God love her, she was trying to save me money. I told her that I didn’t care about saving a few bucks on a pair of boots that carried a Lifetime Guarantee. I just wanted her to be feet to be warm and dry.

She kept dragging her heels. I kept hounding her. Finally, she agreed that we would go to the local L.L. Bean store when she was home from school this week. (Having never owned a pair of L.L. Bean boots, she wanted to try them on in person.) It wasn’t a bad idea. I didn’t think that waiting until the end of November would be a big deal.

Do I even need to tell you that it was a very big deal? Of course it was. Would you like to know why? Because L.L. Bean has almost NO boots left in their inventory — not in the store, not online, not in the catalog. It’s not even officially winter yet! When do these outdoorsy types purchase their snow boots? August?

The gentleman who was doing his level best to put my daughter into a pair of snow boots today informed us that she could have her boot of choice if she was willing to wait until the end of February — February of 2015. He told me that “the great boot shortage” occurs every year. He said this as if it was something that every little schoolboy should know. (Obviously the outdoorsy types DO know this.)

What I wanted to know, not being an outdoorsy type my own self, was how a company as reputable as I’ve always found L.L. Bean to be did not solve their annual limited inventory problem by, oh, I don’t know, manufacturing MORE boots? His answer? All of L.L. Bean’s boots are made in America.

Seriously. This was his answer. I was about to point out to him that he might want to keep that information under his crushable waterproof hiking hat, but he wasn’t finished. He went on to proudly explain to me that all L.L. Bean boots are hand sewn right here in America. In an effort to appeal to my obvious patriotism, he asked me if I wanted L.L. Bean to farm out the hand-sewing of their boots to, say, China?

Without missing a beat I arched my brow and said, “Would that solve the problem?” Flustered, he sputtered something like “Maybe.” I let him know that I understood that this would create other problems for his company, but I wondered aloud if, perhaps, the solution to the annual dearth of available winter boots for a company widely known for such a product, might not lie in shipping the work overseas, but, rather, in hiring enough workers right here in the good old USA to keep up with the demand for said fine product?

He went on to tell me that the company had just recently hired 125 workers. No doubt this is just the type of management decision that will be responsible for the buttload of boots that will enter the marketplace in late February of 2015, but it won’t help anyone now — and by anyone I really mean us “late to the party” decidedly NON-outdoorsy types. I told him that they should have hired 250 workers back in July. This is when he decided to check something in the back room.

I’m no Economist, but this idea seems like it should have occurred to someone at L.L. Bean before I had to come up with it today. Me, the waitress. Me, the consumer. Me, who knows little to nothing about how business works. I’m just a woman who puts on an apron and serves food to idiots all day.

As many of you may know, I’ve been looking to change careers. I’m toying with the idea of writing to the folks at L.L. Bean — offering them my services. Clearly they are in need of someone who will help them to effectively use the American worker and, in turn, make “The Great Boot Shortage of 2014” the last of its kind.


Let me just mention that my daughter did acquire a pair of boots. They were not the color she wanted. They were not the height she wanted. They were also almost twice the price of the basic boots that were her first choice. We had a coupon, though, so that was good. Also good? I will probably own a pair of slightly used 10″ sheepskin-lined white snow boots next July — because that’s when I will, no doubt, have to buy her the ones she really wanted this year. Unless, of course, L.L. Bean hires me. Fingers crossed, shoppers!

Channeling Grandma

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyThreeI am often shocked when I use words or phrases that are straight out of the mouths of the long-dead. The older I get the more I find that I am channeling, for example, my paternal Grandmother, as I blurt out such gems as, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The world is going to hell in a hand basket.” She loved that one.

I found myself trotting out this “oldie by goodie” the other day in response NOT to something horrific, but because I was faced with the difficult choice of being the eleventh person in the only “manned” line at the home improvement store or using the immediately available “self-checkout” line. Was the “world” indeed “going to hell in a hand basket” as a result of my having to scan a few items? No. No, it was not. Even as I said it, I knew I was slightly overreacting to the situation.

Self-checkout kiosks annoy me, though. They really, really do. For a variety of what I consider to be very valid reasons.

Primarily, I feel that by using them I bear some responsibility for the loss of human jobs. Who needs that sort of guilt when they’re trying to purchase something as simple as a gallon of paint or a tube of caulk? Not me, that’s for sure. Too much pressure.

Speaking of feeling pressured, another reason I eschew the whole self-checkout process is because I often encounter an embarrassing problem when I do so, that of operator error — the operator in question being me. I’m the person that always requires a manager to complete my transaction. I put my paint in the bag too quickly or I don’t bag my tube of caulk quickly enough. I don’t know. I’m never sure where I went wrong. They always tell me, but it’s hard to concentrate when all the bells and whistles are going off at my register — alerting store officials to the fact that I am either an idiot or that I am attempting to get up to some funny business with their merchandise. This is the one area of my life where I don’t mind admitting to being an idiot. (It’s certainly better than being called a thief!)

Finally, it irks me to pay top dollar for my home improvement needs and then be asked to do someone else’s job, you know, for my convenience. It’s not convenient for me. I wonder how folks would feel if, where I work, we required our customers to fish their own food out of the kitchen window while continuing to charge them the same price for their meal. I doubt we could sell that as a convenience. And yet, all the signs at the self-checkout kiosks tout that they are there to make the consumer’s life easier. Not this consumer.

I’m not a cashier. I don’t work at the home improvement store. If I wanted to, I’d go ahead and fill out an application. I’m sure they would be delighted to add someone with my attitude to their staff. On the up side, they’d probably teach me how to use the damn machines.

While THE world may not be going to hell in a hand basket, it often feels as if MY world is. Luckily I learned dramatic delivery and a few choice phrases at my Grandmother’s knee.

Renting a Person

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyTwoI am always intrigued by the question “If you could have anything, what would it be?” I never quite know how to answer it. My first reaction is to blurt out something crazy like “Three more wishes!” and then, of course, I remember that I’m not in a situation where I’m standing in front of a genie while holding a tarnished old lamp in my hand.

The obvious answer is health or world peace, but I’m not certain that these answers get to the heart of the question. Also, they’re boring answers. I mean, everyone wants those things, right? Therefore, they don’t say much about the respondent. And, really, why bother with such an exercise if it doesn’t SAY something about you?

I could always put forth the “Mother of the Year” answer and declare that I desire for my child to become wildly successful (and, of course, happy). I would argue, though, that this, too, feels like a “cop-out” of an answer. Most, if not all, parents have these hopes for their children. Admittedly, my reasons for having this hope isn’t purely altruistic. Part and parcel of having a wildly successful child means that they will have the ability to support himself or herself. That’s a “win-win” for everyone involved, no?

I like to think of this question as being more about a material object. Is there one thing that you’ve always wanted, one thing that you would absolutely buy yourself if there wasn’t a stumbling block in the way of your having it?

My answer always comes back to household goods and/or services. Go ahead and covet that Maserati, if that’s your thing. Me? I would like to have a dishwasher. (HOW NICE WOULD THAT BE?) Or a washer/dryer right in my kitchen. (NO MORE SCHLEPPING UP AND DOWN THE STAIRS! NO MORE HOARDING QUARTERS!) Or a Dyson vacuum. (THEY ACTUALLY WORK!).

The current constraints of my kitchen make my wish for a dishwasher and/or the washer/dryer unrealistic. (You cannot completely eliminate the “stumbling block” that is a space constraint.) The Dyson is a possibility, though. I’d have to make room in the closet for it, but that wouldn’t be impossible. (My current vacuum, I’m embarrassed to say lives behind the door in my daughter’s room — not an ideal storage spot.) I would just have to wrap my mind around the price tag. Upwards of $400 for something that sucks up debris? It just seems crazy to spend that. People love them though. And, by all reports, they do an excellent job.

On the other hand, I could just hire a cleaning person. They might even bring their own Dyson, which would eliminate the need for purchasing (and storing) one myself. Plus, they would do things like dishes and, one would think, perform a basic bed-stripping.

Being a Democrat, I have to admit that I’m not fully comfortable admitting that I would like to procure a human being to do my dirty work, but it’s the truth. I would, if I could have anything I wanted, enjoy renting an actual person.

Instead of looking at this admission and judging me for the lazy creature that I am, perhaps you can all look at it in another way — I would be creating a job for someone. That is certainly a nicer way of looking at it. It also appeals to my left-wing sensibilities.

FIVE TRUTHS, ONE LIE: A GAME

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyBecause November is a long month when one has committed to creating a post a day, I was excited when it was suggested in my “NaBloPoMo support group” (yes, there’s a support group for everything nowadays!) that we play a game today called FIVE TRUTHS, ONE LIE, the premise of which is to list six “facts” about ourselves — one of which is a lie.

It sounded fun. It sounded easy enough; I’ve been known now and again to play fast and loose with the truth. (Who hasn’t?) It was, in fact, more difficult than I had expected it to be. (Isn’t that always the way?). But, yeah, it was fun.

If you want to join in the game, leave your “facts” in the comments section or direct me to your blog. While it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, there weren’t any difficult equations involved or anything like that. And, yeah, it was kind of fun. Play along, why don’t you? (My fib will be revealed tomorrow!)


FIVE TRUTHS, ONE LIE

1. I have never had a massage.
2. I purchase my underwear (and socks!) in the supermarket.
3. I have read “War and Peace”.
4. I am almost never late.
5. My dream job? Music historian.
6. I do not have a tattoo.

What’s your guess? Which one is the lie?