Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A long time ago in a dollar store far, far away...

I should probably say up front that I have nothing against shopping at the dollar store. God bless America, and God bless capitalism, and God bless whoever realized that people will knock each other over to pay a dollar for a dented, rusting can of Scrubbing Bubbles bathtub cleaner. It’s just that there isn’t a dollar store on any of my beaten paths, so I’m willing to pay extra for paper towels and bleach rather than go completely out of my way to save a few cents. My time is very valuable to me. That being said, if I was down to my last five dollars and needed motor oil, tampons, animal crackers, and a novelty candle, I’d be busting down the dollar store door for sure.

So how did I find myself mired in a Tuesday night Dollar Tree crowd, sweating down to my underwear? Mylar balloons, my friends. I needed lots and lots of Mylar balloons.

It was the night before my son’s tenth birthday. Silly, silly me decided that we should make the birthday cake from scratch instead of handing the task over to the capable hands of Harris Teeter. My son was very specific about what he wanted – it had to be a dachshund cake, so I figured this would be no problem at all for my artist husband. As the cake was ready to be decorated, World War III broke out between the kids over who can touch this and who can sprinkle that, so I naturally found this to be a perfect time to slip away from the combat to fulfill his other request – a large assortment of balloons.

When I walked through the door of the dollar store, I immediately began ripping myself a new one for not just ordering a balloon bouquet from a florist. The place looked like Wal-Mart on black Friday. The aisles were jammed with weary shoppers taking advantage of leftover Valentine’s Day clearance items and stocking up on slightly damaged packages of cough syrup that were on display. There was one register open, and I counted thirteen people in line. Refereeing a cake frosting battle between two kids was looking pretty good right then.

I took my place in line, careful to hold my breath each time someone sneezed or coughed. I was feeling a little self-conscious of my own grooming habits as well, being that I was squeezed in so close to the other shoppers. Before I left the house, I didn’t bother to change my workout clothes, and I just smeared on some lipstick and threw on a hat. I did, however, recognize that I probably smelled a little ripe, so I managed to find a sample bottle of patchouli body spray under the sink, and I gave myself a few healthy squirts. Great! I no longer smelled like a sweaty yoga enthusiast. I smelled like a sweaty yoga enthusiast hippie. (Although I think “yoga enthusiast” and “hippie” are kind of the same thing even without the patchouli.)

I had plenty of time to study the wall of balloon choices and to size up the man behind the register. He was a twenty-something stoner who seemed to be harboring a serious disdain for retail sales that night. (Although one would think that a dollar store would be Mecca to a stoner with all the dirt cheap, off-brand cheese crackers, chocolate chip cookies and ramen noodles.) This guy barely made eye contact with the customers, and didn’t even bother to give them their purchase totals. He just stood there with a look on his face that screamed, “Hellooooo! Can’t you read what the register says? Do I have to do everything around here?” And to top it off, he had a snotty nose, and he kept wiping it with the back of his hand. I imagined giving the balloons to my son and saying, “Happy birthday, Sweetie! Here are your balloons and a raging upper respiratory infection!” I started to sweat.

The line behind me was snaking through the store. I was really hoping that there was a “balloon guy” somewhere in the back room who would be called upon to help me with my purchase. Surely the cashier was not also the person who filled balloons, right? Wrong.

When my turn came, I politely smiled and said, “Hi! I need to get ten balloons, please.” Surly Stoner Dude looked at me, cut his eyes to the ever-growing line behind me, and let out a sigh with enough force that it ruffled the “National Enquirer” newspapers on display. Although he didn’t say it out loud, I’m sure he was thinking, “I hate every one of you mini-van-driving-soccer- mom bee-yotches and your damn birthday parties!” (For the record, I neither drive a mini van nor do I have a child that plays soccer, but Surly Stoner Dudes are unable to distinguish one white, forty-something, yoga-pants wearing woman with sensible hair from another.)

I felt the glaring eyes of every person behind me. Although I really wanted to apologize to the lady with three whiny kids in tow and an arm full of paper products and diapers, I didn’t dare look back. Surly Stoner Dude went about filling those balloons as if he was in slow motion. Each time a balloon was finished, he just let it go. They would sometimes float in my general direction, but more often than not, I was left to chase them down.

As he let go of the last snot-covered balloon string, he spun around without a word and rang up my total. I somehow managed to collect them all and sheepishly said to him, “Ummm, excuse me, but I need one of those heavy-anchor-balloon-holder-thingy-s.” He gave me another dirty look and slammed one down onto the counter. I could feel my cheeks getting warm, and at that moment, I was wishing those balloons would carry me away to a magical land where clerks are nice like Belk’s or Macy’s. With one hand, I fished the money out of my purse and handed it over to Asshole Stoner Dude (his new name).

My night in discount hell wasn’t quite over. I couldn’t walk out into a windy evening with ten untethered helium balloons. I moved away from the register and got down onto my knees to attach them to the anchor. What little dignity I had left vanished when several times a rogue balloon would break free, and I would have to jump up to catch it while trying to hold the others in place on the anchor. I know for sure that Asshole Stoner Dude and all the angry patrons behind me in line were enjoying the show. Somehow, I managed to get out the door without another embarrassing moment such as my pants falling down or face planting into a wall.

Each time I think about that buttwad of a cashier, a Stewie Griffin quote comes to mind, “Mark my words: when you least expect it, your uppance will come!” Right there in front of the bins of fading Christmas wrapping paper, Asshole Stoner Dude thought he put me in my place, but what goes around comes around, Skippy…and one of these days, your uppance WILL come.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Grandma almost got run over by a diva in pink Reeboks

As I was lacing up my running shoes, I was already thinking about being finished and getting back home for my chef-inspired dinner of Special K. (Chocolatey Delight is quite possibly the world’s most perfect food.) I opened the door to a rush of warm spring air, and I made a mental note to be a little more thankful and a little less surly. The weather was ridiculously beautiful, and I have a body that allows me to run and a great neighborhood in which to do it. I should be ashamed of myself for complaining. Who am I kidding, though? I can’t help that I’m not Suzy Sunshine, and I found myself muttering under my breath any way as I headed down the road. “They can invent a pill for a 90 year old man to get his freak on, but there is still no pill to keep Doublestuff Oreos off my thighs? The injustice is staggering.”

I made a firm decision that I wasn’t going to push myself at all today. Maybe I could just run at a slower pace and take in the blue sky, the blooming trees and sweet smells. You know…because I’m such a reflective, easy-going kind of hippie chick…right? Unfortunately for me, my running route includes some really steep hills, so unless I get into my car and drive to a flatter part of town, I have no choice but to man up and climb them. And by that, I mean run them quickly, because the evil, sinister, demonic Nike+ is on my shoe today, mocking me as usual.

As I was recovering from my first pitiful pass over Mt. Everest, I spotted another runner off in the distance. I screamed to myself, “Oh, no, not today! I CAN NOT race today!” (Yes, I understand this is not a normal thought process.) I had a sinking feeling that this runner was none other than the perky teenager that I see from time to time. I don’t know her name, so I just call her Track Team Bitch. She’s beautiful, has a great body, and runs with the ease of a Kenyan. I hate her. Luckily, we have always been running in different directions, so I have never had to assert my middle-aged athletic prowess against her Umm-Like-I-Have-Never-Even-Heard-Of-Bananarama ass. It will be a cruel summer indeed if you mess with me, my pretty.

As the gap between us was closing, I had a decision to make: slow down a little in order to keep a comfortable distance behind her, or suck in a giant gulp of the heavily pollinated air and completely dog her. A little voice that seemed to be coming from my shoe and was not unlike that of Lance Armstrong made the decision for me: Dog her.

I feverishly clicked through my iPod to find the perfect soundtrack for the teenager trouncing that was about to commence. Beck? Too slow. The Cure? I want to run faster, not slit my wrists. Tone-Loc? How did THAT one find its way to my playlist? Then, I heard an unmistakable guitar riff and the very motivational “Kick it!”, and I was on my way with the Beastie Boys. I guess I had to “fight for my right” not to be completely humiliated by someone young enough to be my daughter. (Okay, okay, that was cheesy, I know.)

I stared her down, my pony-tailed opponent, and I was beginning to notice how much she looked like a brunette Tinkerbell in a ball cap. She was all of five feet tall with legs as big around as toothpicks. I suspected wings were beneath her pink tee shirt, but I couldn’t be certain. I glanced around quickly just to be sure Peter Pan wasn’t hiding behind a bush with a baseball bat, just waiting to take me out of the race with a blow to the shin.

I was surprised yet exhilarated by how quickly I was gaining on her. "She must be having an off day, poor baby." I jockeyed for position, moving into the middle of the road so that I could easily pass her and then zip right back in front so that she could slowly digest her defeat. As I was nearly shoulder to shoulder with her, she must have heard me coming because she turned to look at me. I had already prepared a look of snarky satisfaction on my face and was just waiting for the right moment to deliver it.

I locked eyes with the brown-haired fairy and realized, much to my surprise, that this was not Track Team Bitch. This was someone’s grandmother! She was a bona fide senior citizen who had to be at least seventy years old. She was the AARP version of Tinkerbell, and she flashed me a friendly smile, as any grandma would do.

I dogged her any way. I blew Granny's Buick-driving doors off, so to speak. Was this a hollow victory? Probably. Am I still a rock star in my own mind? Absolutely.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Germ Warfare

I tend to be somewhat of a "Mommy Dearest" at times, minus, of course, the severe eyebrows and freakishly large shoulder pads. (Please disregard any photos of me during the mid-80's that might contradict that last statement.) I have rules - lots and lots of rules. I am a drill sergeant disguised in yoga pants and flat-ironed hair who frequently conducts unannounced room inspections and dares any recruit/kid to leave their clothes scattered about the floor or half-finished bowls of Count Chocula on the kitchen table. Many of The Rules deal with respect and becoming an upstanding citizen of The Planet Earth. I do, however, seem to have a wee bit of an obsession with cleanliness. And while Joan Crawford spent her time raging against wire hangers, I am waging my own personal jihad against a far stealthier foe: germs.

I used to be normal - well, this crazy girl's version of normal. I would actually eat a meal without furiously washing my hands first and dare to touch the door handle of a public restroom without getting the shakes for half an hour afterward. I was brave, fearless even. I would put my hand on the rail of an escalator, people! (My breathing is becoming labored and shallow at the memory.) Those days of tempting fate and pretending that Dengue Fever isn't lurking on that restaurant menu are over. Way over. And don't try to tell me that the ATM keypad isn't harboring the Ebola virus because I will never believe you. Once I became a mother, my whole outlook changed. It's me against the bacteria-filled world.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that there should be a normal co-existence of humans and germs, and some are even good for you. I do not abuse antibiotics or use anti-bacterial soap. Au contraire, mon frere. I know that these practices will only make those germs stronger, more resistant to our weapons. I am, however, a disciple in the church of Clorox. It makes your whites whiter and E.coli quiver with fear. And pink eye can kiss my lily white ass underneath my freshly starched, white capri pants. (I'm such multi-tasker!)

Please, please don't take it personally, but when I look at you, all I see are the millions of germs crawling underneath your snappy, new outfit. I'm sorry, but I also tend to question your personal hygiene and wonder if you sang the ABC Song while washing your beautifully manicured hands to ensure that they were properly cleaned. And please, whatever you do, don't put prepared food on the kitchen counter without benefit of a plate or napkin. I'm certain that the norovirus is waiting there for a one way ticket into your mouth, just hoping to ruin the next forty-eight hours of your life.

I know it sounds extreme, but I'm considering positioning hand sanitizer stations throughout the entire house, you know, umm, just to be on the safe side. That sounds reasonable...right?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nike made me do it

I’m not a gadget-oriented kind of girl. Electronically speaking, I’m the base model. I don’t do the DVR thing or get excited over the next amazing iPhone to hit the market. I consider myself to be one of the digitally challenged few to actually use the cell phone for talking only. Sure, I text on occasion, but only because it’s just another way for me to avoid talking to you. So, you can imagine my surprise when I totally flipped over a new toy that Nike and Apple put their minds together to create. I have become a slave to the Nike Plus, a running tool that takes obsessive/compulsive behavior in folks like me to a frightening new level.

You should know that, even though I have been running for nearly twenty years, I have hated it for about nineteen years and eleven months. I literally hate every minute of running except that last minute when I get to stop running. I completely despise each sweaty, breathless, painful step of my daily run. Do not even get me started on the “runner’s high”. It is nothing more than a hateful myth perpetuated by the running shoe industry in order to lure you into their cult. On second thought, maybe they are referring to that lightheaded feeling I get when I run so hard my lungs are on the verge of exploding just so I can squeeze my butt into a pair of skinny jeans. Either way, the only joy I get from running is taking off my shoes at the end. Simply put, I run because I’m vain. Period.

So, why on Earth would I be interested in a running gadget when all I want to do is sit in the recliner and watch “What Not To Wear”? The only plausible reason I can find is probably a little unhealthy: I just want to be better than you.

I came across the Nike Plus by accident. A friend on Facebook started using it to motivate him to get in shape and to run faster. When he suggested it to me, I laughed it off by telling him that the only motivation I need is to look at my butt in the mirror or go to Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon in July and people watch. I kept checking his progress through an option that lets the user broadcast the results of their runs on social networking sites. I saw his pace and distance improving which stirred up my very dark, competitive side. "He ran thirteen miles today? Damn it, I only ran ten!" (Note: He lives on the other side of the country, so it’s not like we’re racing…except in my own mind, of course. Oh yeah, I’m that competitive.) Not one to be out done by any one, especially a guy, I caved and bought one for myself.

The way it works is the evil little sensor attaches to your shoe and synchs with your iPod. While you run, it records your distance, pace, time, and calories burned. When you set a goal for your run, it even talks to you, “You have reached the halfway point, only four miles left” or my personal favorite, “Your run is complete.” When I finished my first ten mile run, Lance Armstrong’s voice came on and congratulated me for my hard work. I never knew he cared!

The problem now is that I’m a dangerous runner. My eyes are transfixed by the iPod screen, needing to see at all times how fast I’m going. I dart out in front of traffic against my better judgment because in my head, all I hear is, “Can’t stop! Can’t stop! Must improve pace! Lance is watching!” I even stepped on a dead squirrel the other day because I didn’t want to wait for a car to pass, so I ran in a ditch.

I know I have a problem. I decided to start setting my distance goal lower than I think I can go to take some of the pressure off myself. That helps a little, I guess, but in my pounding heart I know it’s a shallow victory. I’m hoping that as I obsess over this new toy, it truly is going to make me a faster runner, because the faster I run, the faster I’m done. And you say “obsession” like it’s a bad thing….

Friday, March 5, 2010

All dogs may go to heaven, but I'm living in dog hair hell

One of these days I’m going to do what I say I’m going to do, walk the walk, so to speak. I am about as good at follow through as I am at figure skating. I frequently hop onto my soapbox and make sweeping proclamations such as, “There shall be no more Disney channel tripe on any television in MY house!” or “You children shall never eat another morsel of food upstairs!” only to find that two hours later both kids are in the bonus room eating cheese crackers and watching “Hannah Montana”. I’ll roll my eyes, let out an audible sigh, and mutter “whatever” under my breath. Only this time I was sure I was making a promise to myself that I could keep. What I didn’t know was that karma, sneaky little witch that she is, had a different idea.

I am determined to become a pet-free household. I plan to accomplish this by attrition, of course. I have no dastardly plans to "accidentally" lace the dog food with Hershey bars or "accidentally" remove their tags and then "accidentally" leave the gate open, nothing like that. (However, strangely enough, the wind does have a tendency to catch the gate and move it on occasion. Hmmm...) I even went so far as to make my lust for a dog-hair-free home public. As my son’s birthday was approaching, he told me that the only thing he really wanted was a dachshund, a living, breathing dachshund. Upon hearing this request, I climbed to the top of the proverbial mountain and stood tall as I declared in my most condescending, I-know-what’s-best-for-everyone voice, “We will never have another dog in this house unless one of the three dogs we already have dies, and that’s not going to happen any time soon!”

Well, in case you haven’t heard, about a week after spewing this gem of a declaration, one of our dogs died. (Insert karma here.) It’s not that I wasn’t sorry for Pippy’s passing, it’s just that downsizing by only one dog made a noticeable difference in my stress level. Pippy was the Drama Queen Dog, the one voted “Most Likely to Piss Off Lynda”. What we have now are two dogs who are willing to go out the door to do their business, even in the rain. We have dogs that aren’t constantly thrusting themselves onto your lap and forcing their little noses into your ribcage. A girl like me can get used to this life.

Unfortunately, I knew what Number One Son was thinking. Heck, I’m the one that put the thought in his head! He had to be sure to wait an acceptable amount of time, but I could see the wheels turning. He was scheming to finally get his dachshund. He started by just casually browsing the Petfinder website and pointing out various local dachshunds who were in desperate need of a “forever home”. (This kid knows me too well.) I thought it was quite a coincidence how each and every one was “great with kids!” or “a wonderfully well-behaved little doxie!” He failed to take into account, however, that no picture, regardless of the cuteness factor of the stubby-legged weenie dog, can break through my impenetrable force field of determination to reclaim my home from the hounds! I WILL NOT BE MOVED!

Meet Henry. We're bringing him home tomorrow...