Monday, November 30, 2009

People of Black Friday

For the first time in many years I fell prey to the eye appealing and wallet pleasing advertisements of our retail giants.  Yes, I participated in what is known as "Black Friday".  Just the very term itself sounds ominious.  I was told by an associate that the term "Black Friday" refers to the fact that it is still dark outside when we begin our shopping; however Wikipedia (the all knowing source of everything) explains that "the term 'Black Friday' originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day. More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red (i.e., posting a loss on the books) to being in the black (i.e., turning a profit)."  Whatever its true meaning; Black Friday is indeed a day that will not soon be forgotten by any who is so brave as to venture into the king of all retail stores...Walmart. 

I along with my mother and sister must have experienced a temporary lapse of insanity.  Not only did we decide to go shopping at Walmart on Black Friday, we actually thought it a brilliant idea to show up as early as 2am to ensure our rights to all desired purchases.    We entered the store with the appearance of three women on a mission. I could almost hear the Charlie's Angel's theme song playing in my mind as we swept through the front doors armed with a map,strategy and steel plated debit cards.  Oh yes, we were a force to be reckoned with.    We marched our way through the store alternately finding the items we intended to buy and figuring out a way to sneak them into our carts before 5am.  Unfortunately, thanks to the well trained soldiers formerly known as Walmart associates we were forced to wait with all the other anxious (a.k.a. insane) shoppers.  So mom headed to her post (pillows, crock pots and towels), my sister staked claim on her territory (the pajamas) and I was the lucky one who got to experience the ticket procedure.

I decided that since we had arrived at our destination 3 hours before the sale began I might as well go wait for something that was really worth waiting for.  I got in line for the Samsung camcorder (originally $259 on sale for $149).  When I found my line of people I was pleasantly surprised to find that only four people were in front of me.  The first lady in line was the epiphany of a sheltered country girl (well to be honest she was a perfect picture of a what one might call a "redneck") She was sitting on the floor of Walmart in her P.J.'s and was wrapped in an old tattered blanket.   I never did answer my own question about why she would be wearing P.J.s.  She said she had been in line since 12am so I really don't understand the point of her pajamas.  I mean, it's almost as if she put them on with the sole purpose of wearing them to her overnight stakeout.  Anyway, she seemed a bit challenged (in more ways than one) but she was a very sweet lady.  Let's call her Hazel.

Next in line was a young girl probably around the age of 14 or 15, she seemed to have a bit of a hip-hop style going on.  Her hair was in braids and she wore a khaki colored jacket and a huge frown.  I don't' think I heard her speak at all.  Let's call her the silent one.

Then there was an elderly lady who was also very quiet as she slept most of the time.  Every once in a while she would open her eyes and make a comment about not letting anyone take her spot.  Let's call her "mama" since her 40 something year old son showed up the last hour and called her by this name several times.

Directly in front of me was a very patient and doting husband with two little boys snugged tightly in their beds at home.  His wife was on the other side of the store waiting for a T.V. and some sort of game system.  He was in our line waiting for one DS.  Did I mention that my line was combined with the DS wishers? I'm not sure why but I want to call him Tim.  I have no idea what his real name was but Tim seems to suit him so Tim it is. 

Behind me were three separate ladies, with no apparent previous connection but they all seemed to hit it off rather nicely as they chattered non-stop about husbands, kids, nieces, nephews, shop lifters, Christmas trees, doctors, taxes, donuts and the President.  The ladies.

So the eight of us; Hazel, the silent one, mama, Tim, myself and the ladies all became fast friends.  It is something I have never before experienced but somehow in that long wait to spend our money we formed a sort of unexplainable bond.  I had a sense that if I needed someone to back me up in the crazy mass of people I would soon be encountering; any of the these people would be willing to provide that.  We swapped stories, shared buckets as seats, and held each others places in line (before the bathroom passes began).  It was enthralling to see how quickly friendships could form.  Although I don't know any of their real names I do indeed feel as if these people of Black Friday could be added to my list of short-term friends.

When 5 am finally rolled around Hazel excitedly pulled out her check to hand over to the clerk.  You could tell she was anxious to move on with this purchase so that she might partake in some of the many other fantastic deals being offered.  I was so mesmerized by the sheer volume of movement in front of me that I almost missed what happened with Hazel.  When 5am struck the shoppers of Walmart turned into a raging mob.  I was reminded of the movie "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and the crazy frenzy that everyone experienced when searching for the Golden Ticket.  Everyone in that store was on a mission to find their own golden ticket. And Hazel's check was being declined.

After waiting five long hours, sitting on the floor, and refusing to even go to the bathroom Hazel's check was declined.  She didn't get her DS's.  They told her they couldnt' hold them for her and sent her on her way.  She went quietly but just before she turned I saw the sheen of tears in her eyes.  Mortification.  I am sure she was completely mortified and more than that...frustrated.  I felt so bad for her (my new friend).  I wanted to help so bad but knew I didn't have the money it would take to do so.  She walked away and disappeared into the sea of shoppers.  Poor Hazel.

I bought my camcorder and then quickly located my mom.  We made a new plan of action as I left my buggy behind and headed down the toy aisle "cartless".  This was of course, a much smarter strategy since the aisles were now completely jammed by all the carts that had gridlocked themselves into place.    I piled my arms as high as I possibly could and then rushed to meet mom at the jeans.  We did it; mom and I. We got everything we were in charge we just needed to find my sister to let her know.  At just the precise time she came whipping around the corner and yelled my name.  She never slowed down as she rushed towards us, cheeks flushed, hair frazzled, and wide eyed.  "I got it" she said "I was a crazy person" and I couldn't' believe my eyes when I looked in her buggy to see that she did indeed have EVERYTHING, not just her list but all of ours.  She had accomplished what seemed like the impossible in about 10 minutes.  She is amazing.  So we got everything we wanted with the exception of a few items that were gone by 5:03am.

I think I will remember the people of Black Friday for quite some time.  I am not sure yet if I think it was all worth it. Three days later I am still exhausted from staying awake for more than 24 hours but I already can't wait to try it again next year!  

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Broccoli and Christmas Trees

Yesterday, I stayed home with little man who has his third bout of pink eye within the last five or six months.  I have to admit I was kind of glad.  Not that he has pink eye of course, but that I got to stay home with him.  I was feeling quite domestic yesterday so decided to experiment with a broccoli and cheese soup I have been wanted to make for years.  I was moving along quite confidently when I discovered I was missing one small ingredient...the broccoli!  However, a very quick trip to the store solved my problem and I was back in the kitchen within 20 minutes of my discovery.  The next step in the recipe said I needed two cups of diced potatoes.  I cut the potatoes into small squares...assuming this is what "diced" means.  I put all the ingredients in the crock pot to wait until the "potatoes were tender" so I could add the finishing touches.   Four hours later I wondered why this recipe (which was passed around at one of our teacher luncheons many years ago) didn't mention WHAT or how to "cook" the soup.  I thought I had been clever by using the crock pot.  For those of you who did not know this; potatoes take a very long time to become tender when using a crock pot.  I recommend a pot over a stove burner set to medium/high.  But who am I to give advice?  Rachel may be my first name but "Raye" is not my last.

Next on my Holiday agenda is to set up and decorate the new Christmas tree I bought over the weekend.  I was quite pleased with the deal I made until my sister informed me that she got her tree after Christmas a couple of years ago for just $10.00.  Not so pleased anymore. I am however, anxious to set it up and get it decorated.  The office staff at school set up their tree today and as I walked by to admire it I noticed the box it came in sitting on the floor.  The box said the tree was 7.5' tall.  This is the same height as my new tree.  The tree in the office is quite large, my new tree is supposedly the same size, new question to ponder...will it fit in my living room?   Guess I will find out on Friday!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On being married

Being a teacher is a very difficult job; it is draining and frustrating and way too political.  Being a mommy is an even tougher job; it's exhausting and worrisome and quite messy.  Being a wife, however, is surely the most challenging job of all!  We vow to love one man for the rest of our lives, for better or worse; and so far I have had no problem with the "love" part but I am mighty glad that I never once had to pledge I would ENJOY every second of every day with him (for better or worse).  Because the truth is, there are days like today when I would rather be married to the cute little frog prince statue that sits on my shelf as a reminder of days gone by.  I am so lucky to have found my true "prince" but if I had known as a little girl that the prince was a really bad morning person who awoke with grumbles and complaints every morning...I have a feeling my dreams may have gone a bit differently.  I would like to offer a word of advice for all the sweet young ladies who are about to enter the world of the married. Trust me girls, It's not all it's cracked up to be.  There are a lot of "better" days, in fact, my experience has been that there are more better days than worse.  But when  the "worse" part comes around, don't be fooled into thinking that this vow only covers big catastrophic mistakes from our prince.  No. Rather, I have begun to believe that this vow is a stipulation to marriage because God knows ahead of time just how quickly a woman may become frustrated with her husband for the little things.  Today the "little thing" that is driving me makes me ask "why?"  Why is it that no matter how many hours I have worked at school and at home; he is always 100% convinced that he has worked harder and therefore requires more sleep?  I am tired.  I am ALWAYS tired.  But I continue on with my life and try VERY hard not to complain about how tired I am.  My prince on the other hand must have at least 8 full uninterrupted hours if he is to function as a nice civilized human being.... ARGHHH!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If only...

I have this wonderful and amazing gift running around my house lately. This gift comes in the form of one small little boy who enjoys taking things out of drawers, cabinets, and closets and putting those things in places you would never think to look.  Just recently I found my blush brush in his toy ball popper, two of my lip glosses under my bed and one of my necklaces in the bottom of our toilet paper holder.  This little boy loves to throw balls in the house and terrorize my dogs by stealing their balls (and of course hiding them).  This same precious gift of mine has been meeting me at the front door for the past two days with arms stretched above his head, which is his way of saying "up"; as soon I pick him up he leans away from me which is his way of saying "down." He enjoys brushing his teeth as long as it's with my toothbrush rather than his own.  He stomps his feet and yells at his little broom because it won't fit trough the bars of his baby gate.  When I insisted that he put the cheese back in the refrigerator rather than in the bottom drawer of our oven, he slapped the air directly in front of my face and pointed his little chubby finger at me and said "doe"(which is his way of saying "no").  As a mother who is determined to keep the upper hand in the relationship I got down on his level and said in my stern mommy-voice "Jackson, mommy said no.  Do not yell at mommy.  Be nice." As soon as he heard me say "be nice" he rested his head on his shoulder and smiled from ear to ear and threw himself into my arms.  In that moment I wished I could freeze time.  My precious little gift, the one that hides my things, terrorizes my dogs, steals my toothbrush, and smiles at my "stern mommy-voice"; is growing way too fast.  If only we could capture these moments in time and lock them away in a safe place, if only we could keep our precious gifts wrapped safely in our arms forever, if only...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The grass is always greener

As a teenager and later as a young lady I used to think I was cursed with "childish looks".  I always looked younger than I really was.  When I first started teaching I purposely sought out "grown-up" clothes in an attempt to make myself look older in order to gain respect from the parents of my students.  I even worried about my hair style making me look too young.  As the years passed and I became more and more familiar with daily moisturizers and winkle vanishing creams, I eventually stopped WORKING at making myself look older.

Now, just eight years after that first year of teaching I strive to look young and vibrant.  I had a parent conference last week.  The dad asked me how long I had been teaching and I told him eight years.  He gasped in surprise and said "Really?  I thought you were fresh out of college!"  If he had said that to me eight years ago I would have been a little upset.  When he said it to me just last week I beamed and said "Thank you!"   It's nice to know that although these lines and wrinkles are screamingly obvious to me..apparently they are not to others.

--Jacqueline Bisset

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Mother's Advice

I try not to be a "know-it-all". I put a lot of effort into this feat for the mere fact that I despise "know-it-alls". I love advice and I love listening to other moms speak about their own philosophies and practices. I hate it when those moms present these things in a manner that screams "THIS IS HOW IT MUST BE DONE". Almost as if to imply that doing something different will mean the end to any chance my son may have of being a happy, healthy and otherwise thriving little boy.

I like to watch and learn. I like gathering a wealth of information on a certain topic and then choosing which bit of information would best meet my needs or makes the most sense. So to all mother's out there who are convinced they have the answer to everything; please stop! Share your thoughts as nothing more than what they really are. Thoughts. Share your thoughts generously in the hope that maybe your words will in fact help another mother who is simply trying to find her way in the madness of motherhood. But always be willing to admit that just because it worked for you...doesn't mean it will work for every other mother and/or child in the world.

"Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother."
-- Lin Yutang

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

product of the testing generation

As a teacher I am well aware of just how much time teachers spend "teaching to the test". I am not proud to say that I myself have fallen victim to this almost inescapable epidemic a few times. However as a very early thirty-something I would not actually consider myself a product of this testing generation...a producer perhaps but not the actual product.

Today caused me to question this notion. I went to the doctor due to some "uncomfortable pain" in my abdomen over the past several days. I probably wouldn't have gone at all but I happened to be off work for the day so thought I might as well have it checked out while I had the chance; rather than waiting until it got worse and then taking time off work. I have to say that almost every time I go to the doctor I leave feeling extremely flighty and quite stupid. The nurse asked me the anticipated question "so what brings you here today" and I felt my mouth open and my lips begin to babble some silly nonsense about how I had been feeling strange the past few days. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't seem to get the words out, I had no idea how to explain the pain.

I found myself wishing their was some kind of multiple choice answer. A, B, C, or D. I can teach my kids how to use adjectives in their stories all day long but when it's my turn to describe something in detail I am left dumbfounded. I am pretty certain that I am not the only person who has had this thought before. So it leaves you wondering about our future. What will the world be like when the true testing generation is in charge...humm.