The Benefit of Second-hand Smoke, Part 2

When last we met, my husband and I had gone to see a real movie in a real movie theater, a movie theater that quickly filled with cigarette smoke. I know. I didn’t believe it, either.

Warning. Spoilers abound. Skip to the next bold print if you need to.

I introduced you to the marvelously stupid rock-Transformers, otherwise known as the Watchers. Remember them from Sunday School? Nah, me neither.

Yeah. The Watchers were fallen angels (the Nephilim in the Old Testament. But instead of marrying the daughters of men, these guys helped build the ark. I know. And they looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

Yeah. The Watchers were fallen angels (the Nephilim in the Old Testament. But instead of marrying the daughters of men, these guys helped build the ark. I know. And they looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

 

Originally, I thought it was a period piece. I was kind of right. It’s bloated and made me scream a lot.

I don’t know what the message was supposed to be. Was it a fitness movie? There was a lot of running. Or maybe it was about hugging? There was a lot of hugging, too.

It wasn’t about the ark. In reality, it took years. In the movie, it was built in a two-minute montage with the aid of a magic seed and the rock-Transformers. It wasn’t so much about his adventure with the animals, either. They were glossed over, arriving in an amorphous mass and appearing to be generally the same species. Has the director only seen two kinds of snakes in his life? And the moment they arrive, he tucks them neatly away by putting them to sleep with the help of special happy smoke so they don’t eat each other or him during their time on the ark. (But if they wake up with the munchies, he pretty much defeated his own purpose, right?). So they’re going to sleep for the next year.

I think the movie’s biggest failure is that the director forgot he was making a movie that was based on a book – a book that maybe a few billion people have read. It’s a huge risk. There are a couple of ways to pull it off successfully. A director needs to think so far outside of the box that it hits viewers right over the head and they know to expect the unexpected. “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” comes to mind. It’s a genius retelling of the Odyssey, and one of my favorite movies. I get a lot of satisfaction finding the elements that tie it to the original story. The other way is to stick pretty darned close to canon. This director does neither. Big mistake.

I know Aronofsky is an atheist. I don’t think he had to believe in God the Creator in order for the film to work. Sadly, though, he did not believe in God the character, either. He commits the cardinal sin for writers everywhere. He tells instead of shows. Rather than hearing God’s voice and hearing the message right along with Noah, we are treated to a dream in which Russell Crowe spends ten seconds underwater. The moment he wakes up, he’s all “The Creator said I gotta build this big boat and we’re all gonna die!” Really? That’s what you got from that dream, Noah? Right. Last night, I dreamed my dog Phoebe ate my wallet and turned into a jackalope. So I’m pretty sure that means God wants me to buy a wardrobe of pink hot pants, strap on some rollerblades, and run for President. That leap was weak at best, lazy at worst.

The problem with taking God out of the story is that without Him, Noah’s motivations become muddied. In the first hour, Noah isn’t shown in any act of worship, he just seems to have a general idea about what’s right. It reminds me of the phase of my life when I went to church on Easter because I had this vague notion that’s what I was supposed to do. Would someone with that level of devotion believe they were being told to build a giant boat? And would they obey? Doubtful. Maybe he would build the boat out of self-preservation, but then how do you work killing his grandbabies into it? Suddenly the film makes no sense. There’s no believable catalyst.

Imagine The Lord of the Rings with no Gandalf. Frodo just tells us he met this old guy who said he was supposed to hike 1500 miles and dump a ring into a volcano. Would we buy it? Probably not. We needed to see Gandalf, to experience his terror  first-hand. Only then can we swallow the premise of Frodo’s perilous journey. And we do, hook, like, and Slinker/Stinker.

Maybe it was about vegetarianism? The bad guys were first labeled to us as bad guys because … wait for it… they ate meat. Killing animals is wrong, wrong, wrong. Forget that (in the Bible) God actually instructed man to make animal sacrifices and that Noah was to bring seven pairs each of the sacrificial animals.  Or that in the story of Cain and Abel, the murderer was the veggie-raiser, not the shepherd.

Oh, wait. I did say I would bold a section to let the spoiler-haters know when to tag back in. Here you go!

It was a mess of a film with everything and nothing going on at once. I know it was directed by an atheist. That doesn’t bother me. It could still have been a thought-provoking and engaging film without the religious aspect. But when the intent is to remove the religion from a religious story, it needs to be replaced with something else equally compelling and profound, more than just “eating meat makes you the devil.”

I can live with poor movie making, lazy plot and silly CGI, though. The deal breaker, what prompted us to get up and walk out of the theater, was the over-the-top violence that partially involved over-the-top cruelty to animals. When I buy a ticket for a movie rated PG-13, I should feel comfortable in knowing I am not about to be subjected to animals screaming while they are ripped apart  or have to watch them try to get away after their body is mangled. PG-13, huh? Is that the kind of thing you want your 13-year-old desensitized to? I don’t. When the violence is taken to that level, the film needs to be slapped with a big, fat R. It’s not a kid’s movie. It’s not a teenager’s move, either, in my opinion.

Was Aronofsky thumbing his nose at believers? “Here’s what I did to a favorite religious story! Neener-neener!” I don’t know. Maybe. But it reminds me of the time in an act of supreme defiance, one of my toddler children peed on the dog. Yes, the kid made their point and I had a bit of a mess to clean up, but the kid was the one who stooped to peeing on the dog. Which of us had the bigger problem? So Darren, dude, I hate to be the one to tell you, but you just peed on the dog.

So we walked out. And thanks to the smoker, we had a good enough reason to get our money back. Because that’s what we did. We could have gotten return tickets to come back when Smoky Joe wasn’t there anymore, but we didn’t. We got the refund. Because life is too short to sit through a pointless picture.

 

The Benefit of Second-hand Smoke

My husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a movie. Like, in a theater. I found one I wanted to see, and off we went.

About two minutes into the film, husband and I looked at each other and said “Is someone smoking?” And the answer was yes. Smoking. In a movie theater. The audience collectively waited for the miscreant to put the thing out. We couldn’t see the culprit, but it was pretty obvious to everyone that they were there. (Let me interject right here that I am not a “condemn smokers to hell” kind of gal. I am, however, asthmatic. And seriously. Smoking? In a movie theater? C’mon, kids!) It was like hanging out in a bar.

Don't smoke in the theater. Angry usher will get you! Or bring you pizza. Whatevs.

Don’t smoke in the theater. Angry usher will get you! Or bring you pizza. Whatevs.

One person left the theater and returned with an usher. She could not find the source of the smoke. My money was on the kid who said “F- you” repeatedly when she came up the steps toward him, but I am no Sherlock Holmes. Instead of ousting him, she brought him a pizza. No, I am not kidding. She did get another usher, however. The two of them scoured the place with no luck. After another complaint, a manager was brought in. She could smell the general direction the smoke was coming from, but she couldn’t catch anybody. Finally, we moved seats hoping that we could at least get away from the worst of it. After an hour, we left the theater and got our money back, and as we left, an officer of the law came in to try to sort it out.

My husband and I will be ever grateful to the individual who decided to flaunt social graces and light up illegally. In doing so, they saved us from perhaps the worst movie I have ever seen. And I even watched Dodgeball. Accidentally. The drama in the theater itself was more compelling than the action on screen. Yeah, I’m talking about Noah.

GIANT SPOILER ALERT. I know. You’ve already read the Bible story, so you know what happens. Trust me when I say you don’t.

I knew next to nothing about this movie going in, except that it was a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. And it starred Gladiator and Hermione Granger. And Hannibal Lechter as Grandpa. What else do you need to know, really?

So a few minutes in, I began to question the authenticity of the piece. The wheel hadn’t been invented yet, but we are shown a mine with some kind of wind-driven machinery. Okay, then. So it’s fantasy? I can live with that. Then the rock-Transformers show up.

Yeah. The Watchers were fallen angels (the Nephilim in the Old Testament. But instead of marrying the daughters of men, these guys helped build the ark. I know. And they looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

Yeah.So.  The Watchers. They looked pretty much like this, give or take a leg or two.

The Watchers were fallen angels. And boy did they fall far. Instead of looking all glam and naughty-angel-like, they looked like walking charcoal briquettes. Except they didn’t burn. And they could totally kick human tail, except for when they couldn’t. I don’t know. It didn’t make sense to me, either. There currently aren’t any images of them available because they’re pretty hilarious. Shh. They’re top secret.

This post became entirely too long and cumbersome for one sitting. Stay tuned tomorrow for the conclusion of “Why This Movie Was a Real Waste of Time.”

Have you seen it? Did the rock-Transformers make you giggle?

Room For Improvement

Dear friends, it’s a brand new year. The slate is wiped clear, and we all get to start fresh. All of us. Let’s do this together, shall we? Working together can make the world a better place.

I have goals for myself, of course. It wouldn’t be quite fair otherwise.

My Goals For Self-Improvement

  • This is the year I will finish my current manuscript and begin querying agents. I’m hoping the manuscript itself will be finished in the next month or so, a first draft at any rate. And then on to rewrites, finding beta readers, and then the query. I am excited and terrified. This particular novel is a departure from anything I’ve ever written.
  • I need to do a bit of work on the ole physique. Yeah, I know it’s cliché. Have we met? I made a conscious decision to eat whatever I wanted over the holidays. This morning, I looked in the mirror and discovered all the fluffy pigeons had come home to roost. Right on my bum-bum. I must do better. I will get back to regular exercise and intentional eating. Although I would argue my Christmas eating was pretty intentional. I intended to eat that entire basket of candy bars without sharing.
  • If I buy books, I must immediately add them to my To Be Read list. It takes the commitment level up a notch to publicly commit to reading it. No more saying “I’d like to read this new book sometime.” I’ll post my list later this week.
  • To be as generous of spirit and selfless as my husband. The other day, I went downstairs to get a movie for us to watch, and I knew that no matter what I chose, my husband would happily watch it. I could have brought “Twilight,” and he’d have still smiled. At least on the outside.

My Wishes For the World

  • For words to be used properly.  The two that come to mind at the moment are “artisan” and “handcrafted.” Here’s a flow chart to let you know if the word is being used properly.
My first flow chart. Any recommendations for programs?

My first flow chart. Any recommendations for programs?

  • For reviewers to stop expecting that every female protagonist is a role model. There is a recent trend to upbraid authors for writing women and girls that aren’t paragons of modern feminism, especially in YA. As a writer, this trend really bugs me. I’m not writing role models; I’m writing people. Not every person I meet in life is someone I will look up to. I don’t see book characters any differently. Just because the protagonist isn’t a hero doesn’t mean the book is a bad one. Flawed characters are more interesting.
  • For us to make this the year we get the facts before forming an opinion. Or taking action. Even if it involves reading a primary source. I have to turn off social media periodically when some celebrity/political figure I may or may not have heard of is accused of doing/saying/thinking something horrific, so my feed blows up with folks calling for a tarring and feathering. And then it turns out that (*gasp*) the person in question was misrepresented and the media was making mountains out of tiny little mole hills. Hear something that bugged you? Research it a little. It feels terrible to get the proverbial knickers in a knot and later find out it was a tempest in a teapot. Don’t believe me? Ask Goodreads. And I could think of at least five other examples without really trying.
  • For all of us to quit being mean in the name of Jesus. In researching my current novel, I came across two websites by two different Christian groups that broke my heart. Both sites were busy trashing other Christians for what they thought the other believed. That’s not what it’s about, friends. If we’re caught up in mocking a group of people because they believe in predestination versus free will (or salvation instead of sanctification), we’ve missed the whole point and we might as well go home. Jesus was pretty clear that the most important thing after loving the Lord is to love our neighbor as ourselves. How’s ’bout we get busy doing that? Seems more productive in the long run.

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And what are your hopes for the coming year?

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Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Nearly wordless because, frankly, I have no words. It all has to do with the “proper” way of producing one of these:

So precious! How did it get here? There's only one right way, you know. If that's not how this one got here I suggest you send it back. Because you are a failure. Go sell some Pampered Chef instead.

There’s a link on Youtube. Look it up if you have to. It’s kind of boring, more than a little stupid. Mostly an old guy talking about why this should be the norm. Today we’re talking (or rather, not talking) about the latest celebrity trend in childbirth: orgasmic birth.

I suppose it’s possible. Like becoming a millionaire working only 5 hours a week selling Pampered Chef. A few try it.  Most end up disillusioned and bitter, with a drawer full of spatulas.

              ***Spoiler Alert***

 If no one else will say it, I will.  While giving birth, you are more likely to achieve a big brown than a big O. Set your sights on a more realistic goal. Like paying off the National Debt with Green Stamps.

And that’s all I have to say on the subject.


Pin Me!

Maybe I’m trying to keep up with the Jones’. Maybe I’m tired of being left in the dark ages. Perhaps I’m looking for new vehicles to share my work. Or possibly a combination of the three. Either way, a site has recently appeared on my radar. I am naturally curious, but also a bit hesitant.But then a friend mentioned that the site is addictive. New internet addiction? That sounds like it’s exactly what I need in my life! Sign me up for Pinterest!

But it’s not that easy. You don’t just sign up. You have to request an invite. I requested one, sure that it was a formality. I entirely expected my invitation to appear in my inbox instantaneously. I hit “request an invitation” with more than a trace of smugness and waited for my email counter to go up. It was, indeed, instantaneous, but I was in for a surprise. It doesn’t contain a password or any sort of information to log in. It said “Thanks for joining the waiting list.” I’m not “in.”

And I wait. The email says that I can follow them on Twitter. Right. I spent my whole youth on the periphery, watching the cool kids but unable to join in. I don’t need that now. I will ignore them until they want me. And I know that they will! Times have changed. I’m no longer that awkward fourteen year old. I’m cool, right? Maybe I’ll just peek. For a minute.

I wonder if they’ll just send me information to log in, or if I will have to prove my worthiness. Will they run my undergarments up a flag pole? With me in them? Or make me push pennies down the hall with my nose? Or give me a swirlie in a filthy toilet?  Doesn’t matter. I’ll do it. I need in.

I must pin. I want to create a virtual bulletin board more than I ever thought I would. It’s more than that. I need in. Everyone else is in there pinning and creating. And laughing at me because I am not there with them.

Why haven’t I heard? What if I am not Pinterest material? I’m expecting to find a note pinned to my board that says “Sorry. You are so last-Tuesday. Go to Friendster. They are more your speed.” You might as well just stuff me in a locker and leave me there.

Wait. My email counter just went up. And there it is, a message that says “You’ve been invited to join Pinterest.” Really, guys? I just requested my invite exactly ten minutes ago, and you’re already letting me in? How desperate can you get? Ten minutes, and you’re already begging me to join?  Never mind. I’m going back to Subjot. That’s where the cool kids are.

 

I Dumped Him

courtesy uploadeccv.com because I don't have a photo of a trash truck

I know that many of my blogs have been related to being dumped. Or taking a dump. But this time, it’s not about me getting the short end of the stick, whatever that actually means. Nor does it involve bodily waste. Aren’t you glad? It does involve elimination, though. Eliminating someone totally useless from my life.

I have had enough. After years and years of deceit, plans left in ruins, never having a clue about our future, I did it. I fired the weatherman. In the eloquent words of Ricki Lake, I “kicked him to the curb.” See? I knew my TV addiction in the early 90′s would pay off at some point.

It has been coming for awhile. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that not only can he not predict precipitation with any kind of accuracy, but he misses the high temperature by as much as ten degrees. That’s a big margin. Ten degrees can mean the difference between chilly rain or up to your armpits in snow. And it’s not just my weather dude. It’s all of them.

They like to pretend that they know stuff. They have those seven day forecast charts that show nothing more than how they would run things, if they were the Big Weatherman in the Sky. I suspect that the forecast being dubbed partly cloudy versus partly sunny depends more on whether your weatherman is a sky half-full or half-empty kind of guy than what the Doppler gods told him.

Consulting a meteorologist before making plans is a lot like calling the Psychic Friends Network. You hear a lot of esoteric gobbledygook that is up for interpretation. But at least my Psychic Friends offer the personal touch of calling me by my fake name when they’re predicting my untimely death.

I know, I know. Meteorology is an inexact science, and it’s a tricky business. Especially if you subscribe to the chaos theory. There are lots of butterflies out there flapping their wings and blah, blah, blah. My answer to that is insecticide. You know I’m kidding, right? Love me some butterflies and all that. But seriously. I would love to have a job where I could be badly wrong every single day, and not only would I still get paid, thousands would tune in to hear what I had to say. And still believe me.

And why do we do it, tune in day after day? We know they are as accurate as a drunken stock broker, but we cannot make outdoor plans without checking in with them. Like they have all the answers. Of course, they do. The answers just happen to be wrong. Take our trip out of town for an outdoor family reunion, for instance. Before we left, we checked the weather of the town where we were going. 80 degrees, moderate chance of rain. So we packed warm weather gear. When we arrived 12 hours later, the forecast had changed a wee bit. Rain and 60 degrees. Seriously? And the weather we actually got? Sunny and 74 degrees. Alrighty, then.

I would feel better about meteorology if they presented the weather in bookkeeping odds rather than percentages. “Rain 1:5, Hail 1:12, and the odds-on favorite for today is Sun at 3:5.” At least it would be entertaining. Or have them say something like “Well, it’s sunny out there, but you might want to take an umbrella because it might rain later. And the high today should be 70-ish, but take a jacket just in case.” Or perhaps make television meteorologist wear robes and turbans like Jambi the Genie. Then we’d be more likely to appreciate the forecast for what it actually is: a shot in the dark.

Here’s my new plan for weather. If it’s February, it will probably be cold. If it’s August, it’ll be warm. I’ll keep a jacket and an umbrella handy to cover my bases. Oh, and I bought a weather loach. He’s at least as accurate as the weather guys, and he has cute little whiskers.

Jojo the Dojo

I bet you think I’m kidding.

Also, I am fully aware that there are plenty of women who are meteorologists. But Weather Woman sounds like a really lame superhero, and Weatherperson is just a little too bland for me.

Talking to the Hand

Another example of behavior that is not modeled. We do not live in a cabinet.

I have an issue with kids and phones. I hate to talk on the phone and only do so when it can’t be avoided. I think cell phones are the work of the devil and have no place in my world. I hate to see people chatting away on their phone when they are actually WITH other people. UGH! It bugs me. And now my kid is one of them.

On the phone. All the time. ALL the time. If I do something that makes him mad, the first thing he does is call his dad to complain about my parenting. If he doesn’t like what is for dinner, again he calls his dad to see if I willl change the menu. He calls his buddy, he calls his grandma. Hours a day he spends yammering. And there’s very little I can do about it.

Sure, I can take away the phone, but that doesn’t actually help. Without the phone, he simply curls his little fingers and pretends he’s got one. Did I forget to mention that I’m talking about Squishy? Yes, my toddler is a phone addict.

I guess he has a good calling plan because we haven’t gotten a bill yet. Good thing because he really does spend hours on the stupid thing. While eating his lunch, using the toilet, riding in the car. And he hasn’t lost reception or dropped a single call. Although he has thrown his toy phone a time or two.

From watching him, it would be logical to assume that he sees this behavior modeled. Maybe so, but WHERE? I don’t talk on the phone. I hate it. And I certainly don’t own a cell phone. And My husband’s telephone conversations go something like this: “Hello? Uh-huh. No. Okay. See you later.” Brother and sister’s calls are more like this: Thank you for the Easter money! Love you, too. Your turn to talk, Mom!” So where does he get it?

I am sometimes afraid that I see his future – he’ll be one of those kids who ends up at the chiropractor because his head has a permanent tilt. He’ll be the parent sitting on a bench at the playground talking to his pals while his kids play alone in the sandbox. NO! Where have I gone wrong?

But there is a bright side.  At least he hasn’t discovered texting yet!

Rules For the Farmers Market

 

See the bunny in the strawberry plants?

1) The path between vendor booths is less than 10 feet wide. Please leave your triple-wide stroller at home. It’s a farmers market. Buy a sling or an Ergo and get in touch with your inner Earth Mother.

2) Please do not allow your toddler to orbit around said stroller as you are shopping. You brought it,  so make me hate you less. Strap them in it before I trip over them and spill my hot coffee on their head.

3) Leave the scooters and bicycles at home. Yes, your children are just precious in their little helmets, but really?  Unless you are hiring them out as couriers in New York City during the week, they don’t have the skills to dodge in and out of a big crowd at top speed. Again. My coffee. It’s expensive. And hot.

4) Leave your flexi-lead at home. I’ve met very few dogs who can handle the exciting sights and smells of a crowded market without the occasional reminder. It’s hard to limbo under your leash with a bag of tomatoes on my arm and a baby on my back.  By the same token, if your dog has little to no obedience training, leave them home altogether. Same goes for dogs who are aggressive toward people or other dogs.

5) Don’t hand your large half-trained puppy’s leash to your child. Kids and puppies are so cute together. Except in crowded places where puppy is terrified and child is distracted. Puppy isn’t having as much fun as you think he is.

6) Keep your large dog from sniffing my crotch, and I’ll keep my toddler from punching yours.

7) If your dog/kid takes a dump, please clean it up. People are eating. And we’re watching you. Because we have nothing better to do.

8 ) Please don’t smoke in the middle of the market. I realize it is an open-air market. But your right to smoke in a crowded public place translates to my right to eat some really bad sushi, follow you around and do what comes naturally after eating really bad sushi. Care to negotiate?

9) Please don’t strip your child naked and let them play in the fountains. It’s not that I’m not a prude. Though, maybe I am. But if they’re young enough to be naked in public, they’re too young to know not to pee where they play. Or worse. Please see number seven.

10) If you are dressed in period costume for the history fair and you are sporting a musket, fair warning that you are about to fire the thing is appreciated. I bring a change of undergarments for my toddler, but not for me.

Dancing With Danger

It's a copperhead. It has nothing to do with the story, but it's the most dangerous thing I have a picture of besides my toddler.

As I approach middle age (and I am not telling you how close the target is), I am feeling the need to add some excitement back into my life. Not just excitement. I’m talking about a dose of terror that leaves me feeling lucky to be alive. Not bungee jumping. Too tame. Or sky-diving. Too cliche. Or refusing to file my tax return. Too stupid. No, when I want to achieve that living-life-on-the-edge experience, I leave for school five minutes later. Because I am an adrenaline junkie.

We live in what is known as The Zone of Parental Responsibility. Sounds fancy. Sounds all Dr. Spock, like this neighborhood is chock full of folks who tend to their children and make sure they behave. What it really means is that the school bus won’t come and get ‘em. So we walk. And we love it.

We time our departure not so that we beat the bell. More so that we beat the crazies. Five minutes means the difference between a leisurely walk to school with my beloved child and dying in the road like an animal. Today, I say bring it.

Our neighborhood has no sidewalks, but it’s not usually an issue. There is very little traffic around our house, as we are about a half-mile above the school, and we’re in an area that few people can find and even fewer need to. In the evening, I can walk for a mile without being passed by a single car.  But on mornings when we leave a few minutes late, we find ourselves in  a live-action version of Frogger, one life left, no bonus.

As we walk down our hill, the game begins. There’s an intersection that is quiet for 23 hours of the day. But for one hour, all heck breaks loose. The road that we are on has the right of way, but during this magic hour, the stop signs on the two side roads are magically rendered invisible. I have walked this route 180 times in the last year, and I have yet to see a vehicle actually stop. Some pay lip-service to the law and roll slowly through, but most never actually hit their brakes. Car coming? Hit the accelerator! Pedestrian in the road? Eh, just drive around them. And they do. I have seen cars run the stop sign as my son and I were in the intersection and actually weave around and cut in front of us so that we have to stop so we don’t walk right into their moving vehicle.

Once we get past the Intersection of Death, the road dips significantly and narrows, and there’s a drop-off on either side. Two vehicles can pass each other, if they are both driving a reasonable speed and are willing to yield the right of way. There’s the rub. At 7:25 in the morning, this stretch of road is a speed-demon’s yield-free zone. More than once, we’ve had to make a dive for the bushes because the same soccer mom who nearly runs us down every day hits her accelerator in panicked tardiness and barrels down the center of the road. We know it’s her. We’ve memorized not only the make and model of her mini-van, but her license plate, as well.

If we can make it past Death Valley and up the hill, there are yards and driveways where we can claim brief sanctuary as all the general contractors in their enormous trucks zoom by to dump their kids, and we’re in good shape. Until we get to the school.

On a regular day, all is quiet on the road in front of the school. There may be a car or two unloading their offspring, but we can stroll through the crosswalk unharmed. Fast-forward five minutes, and we’re not so lucky. We can’t even see the sidewalk on the other side for the line of cars. Guaranteed, someone will be parked in the crosswalk. This individual will almost always have such darkly tinted windows that the driver cannot be seen, or they will be balancing a cup of Starbucks daily brew, a cigarette, or a cellphone as they reach back to unstrap their kid in anticipation of shoving them out the door. I guarantee they don’t notice me.

I now have a strict policy to not step into the crosswalk until I can see the whites of their eyes. Too many times, I have claimed right of way and nearly been squashed as Distracted Parent drives on while watching their kid over their right shoulder. Even making eye contact is no guarantee that they have actually seen me. Just last week, I crossed the street in front of a grandma parked in the crosswalk. She had made a little wave, which I assumed was an acknowledgement. You know what happens when you assume? You make an ass of you, and a grease spot on the road of me. She had apparently been waving in response to some conversation on the cell-phone she had dropped in the floor. She reached down to get it and started forward at the same time, just as I was walking in front of her. Judging by the look on her face as she hit the brake, that split second took about 200 years off her life. And she blames me.

Once I drop off my son, there is little traffic. Most parents drive up from the other direction, so I don’t even see them. I find the return walk a little sedate and rather boring, and I long for a bit of action. But never you fear. It’s just a few short hours until afternoon pick up.

 

Back to School Blues

This photo has nothing to do with the blog except that padlopers make me happy. And I need that.

The beginning of the school year is hard for me. It’s not the forced adherence to an arbitrary schedule. It’s not having to say goodbye to the kids I’ve had such fun with. It’s not the sudden inability to pack up the troops and head off on some fun adventure. Sure, there’s some of that. But here’s my secret. I despise the end of summer because I have to shop for school supplies.

When I was a kid, I loved shopping for my school supplies. I’d run home from school on the first day proudly brandishing my list. I couldn’t wait until dinner was over so we could dash out to the store. Each item on the list represented an opportunity to buy something new. All for me. The possibilities were so exciting. Would there be enough money in the budget for me to have the Garfield folders instead of the plain ones? Would my mom spring for those weird triangular pencil grips that were all the rage, even though I had nibbled through every one she had ever bought me? And if there was something really unique on the list like a watercolor set, so much the better And I couldn’t wait to go to school the next day and compare my new treasures with those of my friends.

Fast forward a few years and a few kids, and the shine has definitely worn off a bit. I dread the arrival of “the list,” and I am in a snit from the moment it arrives. I don’t mind outfitting my kids for a school year. What bugs me is that I am forced to go to Wal-mart.

I know that there are other stores that sell school supplies. Office supply places spam my inbox every day with their “unbeatable” deals. But school supply lists rarely contain only school supplies anymore. As much as I hate shopping at Wal-mart, it’s worse when I have to visit multiple stores. So off to the mart we go.

I don’t know about your area, but our big, soul-sucking box stores have a little cardboard kiosk where befuddled parents can pick up supply lists starting in early July. A simple courtesy or shameless marketing? And here’s the catch. They only carry the lists for nearby schools. In my town, there are a LOT of schools, and the Wal-mart that is most convenient for us is apparently out of our area.

There’s something a little demoralizing about being zoned for a Wal-mart. We’ve all seen People of Wal-mart . I’m sorry I can’t live up to those standards . And you can forget about visiting the one that is officially “in our area.” Yes, it is brand new, but the floor-plan was designed by a schizophrenic. The make-up and produce are in the same area, the whole building has a ceiling that consists of bare pipes. Except for the bakery, which has an 8 foot ceiling and such low lighting that it’s like buying your baked goods at a garage sale. Yummy.

The aisles themselves also also drive me nuts with their inconsistency, as though the whole thing was thrown together in a hurry. Nothing says “quality control” like having so much space in Baking that you can fit 5 carts abreast but making Storage Containers so narrow that two carts can barely pass one another. And there’s no way to get from the front of the store to the back without going to the path in the center of the store because the sections are now a perpendicular maze. I get so frustrated that I end up channeling the spirit of the floor plan designer, talking to myself and swearing under my breath.

So this year, the kids and I stopped by a Wal-mart while we were running errands in a different part of town. I was determined that this year would be different. I would not end the trip in a horrible mood. I would not complain. I would enjoy this time of excited anticipation with my children. Whatever.

The smell hit me the moment we entered the (well-hidden) school supply section. I sniffed the baby. I sniffed the older children. We collectively checked the bottom of our shoes. Apparently, we didn’t bring this delightful aroma with us. It was already here. It smelled as though someone had taken a dump in the floor. A big one. Having once reported to my register 15 minutes late because I was trying to prevent shoppers from slipping in a puddle of urine, I am well aware of the probability of that little scenario. Yes, I once worked at Wal-mart. And I have seen things.

And that little trip never got any better. We were unable to locate most of the items on the list, and we were forced across the street to Target. Don’t get me started. Target is just as soul-less, minus the poop, and I wasn’t any happier when I left their store.

But if you would please excuse me. My daughter just brought home her list. I need to run to Wal-mart.