Saturday, November 10, 2012

I’ve Scene It All Now

This afternoon, I gave Disney $19 for tickets to see the 12:30 showing of “Wreck-It Ralph”.  I gave $19.50 to the concession stand and hauled our carbs to the theater for 80 minutes of adult entertainment produced in cartoon format.  The girls didn’t understand one minute of the movie that featured retro video games, but I enjoyed the “blip-blip-blip” down memory lane.  This also explains why Elder Beerman is selling 1st generation Atari consoles for $60.  But, things haven’t changed that much.  Sixty-four games come pre-loaded on the old-time unit, except for Pac-Man (sold separately).

When the movie ended, my girls bobbed up and down in their seats to a Carley Rae Jepsen/Owl City song that closed out the credits.  When I looked back to scan the crowd,  I noticed the woman sitting directly behind me was wearing 3D glasses.

We weren’t in the 3D showing.  Game over.

Auntie called and asked that I go to the store to replace her favorite lipstick:  Revline’s Berry Lace.  “It’s pale pink and it should run you four or five dollars.”

Unsure of whether she meant Revlon or Mabelline, I went to Rite Aid, Target, Walmart and Kroger.  No Berry Lace.   After a few Google clicks, I discovered that Berry Lace was discontinued in the 1980s.  However, I could buy a tube on Ebay for $29.99.

Deciding that my aunt should have a new shade of lipstick (bacteria free), I went to Ulta and began selecting colors in frosts and mattes and slicks and glosses. All this for a woman who goes… nowhere.  For my efforts, I chose a tube for myself – a nice, neutral shade that “looks good on anybody” I was told by the cosmetics consultant.  I applied it in the car, smiled at myself in the rear view mirror and drove home.  When I handed my aunt the bag of lipsticks that would match all three of her outfits, she stared at my face and scowled.

“Well why didn’t you buy a tube for yourself? You look like you’ve been laid out*.”

*“Been laid out” is a Greenbrier County expression that means ‘embalmed’.

 Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cart to Cart Talk

Since I’ve been teaching, I’ve had to use the weekend the way most people do – shopping, laundry, cleaning, errands, etc.  Usually, I steer clear of stores on Sundays, but now that I’m a regular kind of working girl (until holiday break), I find myself at Sam’s Club with the rest of Kanawha and Boone counties.

This past experience (while standing in line – which looked similar to the voters waiting in Miami), I was subjected to useless, irritating chit-chat with the woman in front of me. We “met” when she turned around and scanned the items in my cart, questioning things such as a box containing 500 gumballs.

“Now isn’t that cute!” she exclaimed.  “What is that exactly?”


“Well, would you look at that?” And she did look at that.  She reached down and picked up the gigantic tube of candy and turned it this way and that.  And then she put it down and walked back to her cart, which was next to her mother, who rested in a wheelchair.

A moment or two passed and the woman turned around again.  This time, she walked to the front of my cart where my purse rested in the seat normally reserved for a small child.  Today, it held a large container of strawberries.  The lady helped herself to those, too.

“My, my, my, don’t these look gooooood!”  she announced.  And then she carried them off to show her mother, in a wheelchair, who had no idea where these mysterious items were coming from.

And then she showed “Don”.  He had been eating pizza at one of the little tables by the snack bar.  Don nodded in approval.  Nice fruit.

The lady then held the box over her head to check for bottom berry mold.  Then she showed her mother again.  Mother nodded in approval.

“Where’d you get these beautiful berries?” she asked, still clutching the container.

In the produce aisle. They have many.

“I think I ought to get some. Don,”  she began.  “Let’s get some.”

Don nodded in approval.

Of course, the lady decided she needed 100 strawberries just as it was their turn to check out.

“You say you got them in the produce aisle?” she asked, still holding my berries.

You know what? Take them.  I don’t want them anymore.

“Whaaaat?”  the lady asked.  “But these are yours!”

Consider it a gift.  Happy Thanksgiving.  But the gumballs are mine.

And Don nodded in approval.

Monday November 12, 2012

 Wore Wore III

Americans are observing Veteran’s Day, which means stores are packed with people taking advantage of holiday sales and pre-season discounts.  Well, let me rephrase that:  People hope to take advantage of those steals and deals.  But, if they’re like me, they’ll shop ‘till they drop and walk away empty handed.

On Saturday, our mailbox was jammed with flyers and circulars advertising 40% off of this and 60% off of that.  I shared these little lovelies with my aunt, who hired me to be her personal shopper this year.

“Get the girls whatever they want,” she said.  This really means “nothing over $50.”  Off I went in search of adorable little outfits for Maryn, and stylish (but NOT trendy) accessories for Ava.

There ain’t no such thang.

While in one store, I finally found a pair of jeans that weren’t ripped, frayed or so tight that they looked like pantyhose.  I took them to the counter and presented my Kids’ Pass worth an additional 20% off everything in the store.

“Sorry, ma’am. This coupon isn’t good for Levis.”

But it says only Polo and North Face are excluded.

“And Levis.”

But it doesn’t say that.

And so I moved on.  I went to a smaller children’s boutique and found sweet little leggings and swing tops for my little one, complete with matching boots.  These days are numbered, so I need to have fun dressing Maryn while I can.

I had a similar coupon promising 20% off.   The sales associate scanned it.  The computer made a digital rejection noise.  She tried again.  Bonk.

“Sorry, ma’am, but the computer says this is an invalid coupon.”

But you sent it to me.  It says good now through December 24, 2012. 

“I know, but it won’t take it.”

Moving on.  I then traveled to a competitor’s boutique looking as worn out as the jeans painted on the preteen mannequin.

“May I help you, ma’am?”

I don’t want anything with sequins, lace, ruffles, bows or glitter.

The sales associate stared at me in silence. She recovered after a moment.

“You don’t like bling?”

I don’t.

“Why? Kids love it!”

Because you can’t wash bling.  Bling falls off.  Bling gets all over things that weren’t meant to be blung. And after the holidays, my daughter won’t want to wear that bling because it looks like Christmas.

Don’t you have a nice stripe or maybe a simple polka dot?  Corduroy?  Plaid?

I felt like Bubba Blue after he’d been shot during an attack in the jungles of Vietnam.  Slumped in Forest Gump’s arms, he asked weakly, “Why this have to happen?”  Forest tells him what we all know.  “You got shot.”  And Bubba, mustering every bit of strength left tells his best good friend, “I wanna go home.”

Back in the jungles of adolescent clothing, the once perky sales associate looked uncertain as to how to help me.

“Can I show you anything else?”

Just the door.

The Elf on the Shelf is Watching You

With nothing in my hand but my purse,  I strolled through a toy store and stood behind a display of Magic Rocks and Sea Monkeys. Peeking through a gap in the boxes, I noticed a familiar face chatting with the store owner at the counter.

Santa Claus.

Dressed in a black turtleneck and denim jeans, the long white hair and even longer white beard was unmistakable.   He admitted to being “really tired” and “dreading Black Friday.”  Chris Kringle – followed by his wife, carrying a Big Gulp — lumbered to the stockroom, which must serve as his hideout for the next month and a half (after all, Santa arrived shortly after Halloween). But, at 1:00, he’ll reappear in a red coat and black boots and take his place in the oversized chair where he will sit and smile and pretend to be full of holiday cheer.  Ho. Ho. Ho.

Fight Song

Tonight, I broiled steaks in the oven and the entire house filled with smoke, setting off every alarm and every dog.  Mike grabbed a towel and began fanning the grey haze, announcing that it was time to practice his flag corps routine to the tune of “Smokey Joe’s Café”.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Fab Five

Ava went to school in tears not because of a history test or long division, but because of One Direction.  The British boy band was scheduled to appear live on the Plaza as part of the Today Show’s concert series, but not until 8:30 a.m.  She had to be in class at 8:25.  And no, I didn’t let her take a tardy slip to see her generation’s version of the Beatles appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

But once I got home, I flipped over to NBC and waited for Harry, Niall, Liam, Zayn, and Louis just as I turn to YouTube to catch John, Paul, George and Ringo. Feeling slightly guilty, I danced with a coffee cup in hand, signing right along to “Live While We’re Young”, secretly admiring the brushed-forward hair the Fab Four made famous in 1964. The Beatles’ military-inspired jackets, stove pipe pants and stacked heel boots became the French-inspired rage at a time when parents were buying their daughters cardigan sets and knee-length pleated skirts. This morning, I find myself waiting until 10:00 so I can buy my 9-year old daughter her first navy blazer with some sort of insignia on the pocket, which will be paired with “skinny” jeans and a pair of white Chuck Taylor tennis shoes.  It’s a strange feeling to watch life run full circle, or in this case, in one direction.

I just got home from the mall (again), where I found the above-mentioned navy blue blazer for Ava (cue “One Thing” by One Direction).  Just. One. More. Thing.  And then, I’m really finished with Christmas shopping.  Really.

But, no trip to the mall is ever without excitement.  As I walked through the second floor of Town Center, swinging my twine-handled bag containing the cute-as-a-gold-button blazer, I spotted a gentleman I knew from my law firm days.  I spoke to him and noticed that he was staring at my shopping bag.  I looked down and realized that I had been given a bag with a young man on the front – stripped down to the well-toned waist – wearing only a whistle around his neck.

How ironic.  Stores that sell clothes give you bags with naked people on them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanks Forgetting

In one week, I’ll be poking a partially frozen turkey and panicking over everything left to do before the biggest meal of the year. It dawned on me this afternoon that I’m not prepared for seven guests: my house is dirty, the rooms are cluttered, and laundry is heaped in piles on the floor because the baskets have toppled over. Rather than grabbing a broom and getting down to business, I elected to go to the grocery store to stock up on traditional fare.

My dad used to call this method of cooking “doctoring it up.”  Instead of homemade dressing, I bought two boxes of Stove Top mix and I’ll add chicken stock, celery, onion and sage.  There. Done.

Instead of homemade cranberries, I plan to open two cans of whole berry sauce and throw in rough-cut pecans and diced apple.  There. Done.

The mashed potatoes will be red-skinned so I don’t have to peel them.  Boil. Season. Mash. Whip. Serve.  There. Done.

The gravy, which no one eats, will be microwaved and poured into the serving dish that no one will pick up or pass to the right.  But it will be there.  Done.

The rolls won’t be made from scratch but pulled from a can, warmed and thrown into a basket covered with a cloth napkin to conceal the blackened bottoms.  It’s impossible not to burn the rolls, so I just hide the evidence. There. Done.

Sara Lee will make the pie.  Cool Whip will make the topping.  There. Done.

The turkey – that blasted bird – will be the only thing to fight with.  I’ll rub butter all over his skin, shove an onion, a stalk of celery and a few carrots up his…coop…and then Tom goes into the oven for four hours, or until the smoke alarm goes off.

I texted Mike to brag about my sensible holiday plan.

< I’m ready to go. Got it all. Turkey, pots, stuff, rolls, gravy, crannies, pie.  BRING IT!

> Did you remember to rent the table and chairs?


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brown Knows

As I sit halfway though my tour of NoFacebook November, I’ve become aware of something extremely important:  I’ve stopped writing.

Now that I’m teaching a few hours a day, I’m not writing.

Now that I’m avoiding social media for 28 days, I’m not writing.

I’m not writing.

The reasons are obvious:  I don’t have time and I’m not at home. This is a little worrisome because my primary job as a professional writer is to provide communication services to clients. I have a business to run! Teaching was a filler as the year wrapped up, but I’m shocked by how much time is required.  A two-hour class takes two additional hours of preparation. The rest of the day is spent on other projects, but I’m not sitting at my computer pounding out book #2.  I haven’t opened that file in 17 days.  I’m also the co-writer on a project that has extreme potential, but I haven’t submitted one word in 25 days.

When I started the Facebook Project as a means of curbing my addiction to scanning, posting and commenting, it was to make myself more aware of the life I wasn’t living; of the children I was ignoring.  Yet, what I’ve learned is that my Facebook activity wasn’t playtime; it was work.  Facebook was a type of practice, like law or medicine – unpaid, of course – because it sharpened my writing skills.  It kept me inspired, motivated and excited. One or sentences in a text box became a launch pad for paragraphs in a newspaper blog.  Those paragraphs became pages in a new book.  I interacted with people because I wanted to, but also because the dialogue gave me ideas. It was a platform to be better at what I do.  Or is that, what I used to do?

During this time off, I’ve heard from 9 friends via email.  Out of 850+ connections on Facebook, less than a dozen people have gotten in touch with me.  I’ve heard that friends have left sincere notes on my page telling me that my posts are missed, which means a lot. I also received a packet in the mail full of my favorite candy bars:  Dark Chocolate Mallo Cups.  Someone read that I didn’t score any in my children’s Halloween buckets this year, and this reader was sweet enough (pun!) to send me enough to last a week (if I pace myself).

This tells me that I may have misjudged the situation. I got in a mood one day and decided that I spent too much time with my nose stuck in a phone, but I may have cut my nose off to spite my face.  Writing is my career.  It’s what I do. It’s who I am.  I didn’t realize that my “sandbox” was also an extension of my office.  I write articles, blogs, columns, copy, essays, books…you name it.  The purpose is to entertain people and to share observations that others can relate to; a scene or an episode in which they’ve starred in before. Now, the page is blank and the screen is dark.

What we have here is a severe misdiagnosis.  I am not addicted to Facebook. I’m obsessed with writing.  And, this little study may have just uncovered a classic case of professional malpractice.

Friday, November 16, 2012

 That’s Just Swell!

Just a few minutes ago, I emptied the girls’ backpacks to fish out announcements, homework assignments and requests for more money. I discovered that Ava had a writing folder that contained a blank outline for her essay, “Why I Admire…My Mother.”

I was deeply touched by her title, that is, until I noticed the handout called WritingFix’s List of 200 Breathtaking Adjectives.

My dear daughter had circled the following breathtaking words:






Funny…  and


Observation after Week 3:  Despite slumping book sales, declines in website hits and blog visits, I’m determined to keep my promise to stay off Facebook until November 29.  However, I won’t try this again.