Top three things NOT to say to someone visiting their loved one in a nursing home

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There have been numerous occasions when I have returned to my car in a furious state after a visit to see Mom (Little Red Riding Hood) at her senior living facility when a staff member said the wrong thing.

I don’t think anyone ever intentionally means to say the wrong thing. Honestly, I don’t think most staff members in these facilities realize the impact that their comments can have when every emotion we have is running at full tilt.

These unintentional slips happened much more often before I started volunteering at Mom’s place every Thursday afternoon to facilitate a Memories in the Making watercolor art class. Volunteering regularly has helped me get to know the caregivers and to be much more zen during my visits. However these slips still happen once in a while, and they still make me want to scream.

Top three worst things to say to someone visiting their loved one in a nursing home:

#1: Are you leaving already?

Really? I almost gave a receptionist a black eye one time for this one as I was signing out.  Do you realize where you work?  And that sometimes it takes everything in us visitors just to show up and see our loved one in a facility where everyone has dementia and they won’t be getting better?

No matter how nice the place is, there will always be that weird sterile smell and that cloud of heavy, stale air that hits us right as we pass through the doorway. You’re probably used to it because you work there, but I have to take a really deep breath and swallow hard each time I punch in the security code that leads me to the other side. Then as I walk the halls to look for Mom, all those blank stares, sideways smiles and random mutterings punch me right in the gut one after another. And no matter how many times I experience it, the bottom of my stomach falls out each time I realize that Little Red Riding Hood has no idea who I am as I reach for her hand.

So yeah, my visit might be short every now and then, but I’m there. And if you know what’s best for you, smile nicely and tell me to have a great day.  It will be much safer for you.

#2:  I haven’t seen you for a long time.

You’ve got to be kidding me.  I find it hard to believe that your training manual doesn’t somewhere remind you that those with loved ones in a such a facility are already lugging around an extra fifty pounds of guilt, and that it would be best that if you don’t have anything nice to say, that you don’t say anything at all.  Little Red Riding Hood herself taught me that one many years ago, and it certainly applies here.

We’re all feeling guilty that we don’t come visit more often, so why remind us? Plus, it’s probably better for your business model to make family members feel good when they visit rather than bad, no?

#3  Wow, your Mother seems young to have Alzheimer’s.

This one also applies to anyone talking to someone who has a loved one with Alzheimer’s. This is not what we want to hear – ever.  No matter how genuinely supportive your intent, keep this comment to yourself.  When you have Alzheimer’s on the brain as much as most of us related to it do, we don’t want to think about the age of onset versus genetics piece of this frightening Alzheimer’s puzzle.

Trust me, this thought plays over and over in our head already and scares the heck out of us. It’s what bonds us Alzheimer’s kids while we’re there to visit as we exchange sad little half smiles with each other as part of our code.  We work hard to erase the thought – especially while we’re trying like hell to remember all those numeric security codes you make us remember to get through each door.  So we don’t need you to remind us.

Don’t get me wrong, the place where Little Red Riding Hood lives is wonderful and I feel very fortunate that she is safe and well cared for.  I have made many friends with the people who work at Mom’s place, many whose smiles warm my heart when they remember my name and  tell me stories about my sweet Mom.  Volunteering there each week has given me a new respect for people with enough compassion to serve this population with all their hearts.

This further supports my theory that these slips are most likely truly unintentional.

At any rate, it never hurts to be reminded of what not to say.

Your bra size, your sex life, and other things I don’t want to know about you just yet.

braTips for preventing over-sharing – Learned the awkward way.

It was our third night at an intimate guest ranch near Steamboat, during the last week of the season with only 15 guests.  Eight of us newly acquainted vacation friends who had shared a dinner table the night before were bonding over after-dinner cocktails.  Two or three drinks in, the old “let’s share something random about ourselves” game began, one by one, around the table.  (This always sounds like a good idea at the beginning.)

First up was Steve from Bermuda who follows and films whales for a hobby.  He leans down, rolls off a sock and lifts his foot. There it was: he had webbed feet. It seemed fitting since he was the one with a special fondness for aquatic life.

Next was Sue from Florida who shared her story about her psychic encounter, Mary from Denver who shared with us about her fear of touching ice, Katy from Texas with her memories of being at the resort on 9/11 and Tina originally from Montana who revealed that her husband once lived in an igloo.

Then Patty from California, after her describing her quite powerful executive job (just shy of showing us a pay stub), described a late night encounter she once had with a woman on a business trip. The night before we had learned her bra size. Suddenly it became so quiet that I noticed the sounds of country music and clanking dishes from the kitchen.

It wasn’t that I was uncomfortable our new friend’s lifestyle, as I have many friends of all persuasions whom I adore.  And it wasn’t that I was now able to visualize her 34G breasts all too clearly.  No, we simply learned too much, too soon.

One by one, each chair chirped against the wood floor as it backed from the table, as the group mustered artificial yawns and stretches and announced that we were calling it a night.   As George of Seinfeld would have explained it, our vacation friend world had now collided with the way, way too personal world.  And it was awkward.

The next morning I wondered if Patty realized how awkward the night before had become after her sharing moment.  I don’t think it crossed her mind.

So, to help those unfamiliar with sharing boundaries, here are some general topics to avoid with new acquaintances (no matter how good of an idea it seems at the time):

  • How much money you make.
  • Anything remotely sexual.
  • Your opinion on any isolating political topic.

Trust me, I’ve overshared more times than I’d like to admit, but as a general rule, I really don’t want to know how much money you make or the size of your jock strap until I’ve known you for at least six months.  And even then, I’m not sure how much I’d like to know.

 When was your last oversharing/too much information (TMI) experience?

Knock, Knock.

Not sure why I love doors so much, but I love to snap pictures of them.  The more worn the door, the better the picture and the story.   And most of my favorite door pics are from Europe, where it would seem that doors are taken less for granted as the works of art that they are.

So while I continue to look for the doorway that leads me out of my writer’s block, enjoy some of my favorite door pics, these all from Italy and Spain.

yes another madrid door
door madrid door spain doors more OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA madrid door more madrid door action OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sausage Breakfast Casserole spain door span door spanish door baby

MacGyver’s Competition: Pete Dominick

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Photo from siriusxm.com

I remember riding next to my Dad in his old blue Buick with cushy seats and bouncy shocks down the turnpike.  I always thought it seemed so boring listening to his news shows that he liked where people talked on and on in monotone voices. It bored me to tears and seemed like such a grown up, old person thing to listen to nonstop.

Until I became an old person.

Hello my name is LifeonWry and I am officially a news radio addict. The first step is admitting it right?

I can’t remember the last time I listened to actual songs on my car radio. Which sounds sort of sad. But then, addiction always is.

I have one person to blame for my splurge of a subscription to XM radio and his name is Pete Dominick.  And I think I am in love with him.  My heart races a bit just writing his name, like I should start doodling my first name along with his last name…  LifeonWry Dominic …. TLA 4Ever.

MacGyver is aware of my obsession and luckily he just thinks it’s funny.

It all started with a free trial XM Radio subscription and 2008 election coverage.  And Pete Dominic on the POTUS station.  Since that time I have maintained my extravagant subscription and tried to listen to him almost every single weekday. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get out of the car when he’s talking.  I even followed him from POTUS to his new channel Indie Radio which I’m not a fan of except for his show, Standup with Pete Dominick.  All I can figure is that a big pay raise or a more flexible schedule lured him away from POTUS.  But I digress. I have remained a stalker of his loyal listener.

Pete (we’re on a first name basis but he doesn’t know it) has a background as a stand-up comedian and he is smart as hell.  He calls it like it is and is incredibly real, smart,  perfectly sarcastic, open minded, spot-on with human being behavior, and hilarious.  He’s also self deprecating to top it all off. Stop me, I’m swooning.

His show covers topics related to our world, our economy, and our issues and concerns as a society.  The other day I learned from his show that a quarter of humanity, or 1.3 billion people (in addition to the hundreds of millions who face regular blackouts) have no access to electricity and therefore must use dangerous methods like kerosene for light which poses health risks comparable to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. I also learned that WakaWaka is not only a phrase that Fozzi Bear on the Muppets used to say, but it also the name of an organization that offers low-cost energy solutions for those living off the grid to help them be self-sufficient, sustainable and safe.  Oh, and WakaWaka means ‘Shiner of Light’ in Swahili.  Who knew?

The best part of Pete’s show is that on it the staff has a great time and Pete demands respectful and intelligent debate with his guest and call-in format.  He also asks for facts when callers make wild claims or generalizations, which often produces brief and awkward but wildly entertaining moments of silence.  But he does it in a respectful way, which is a fine line that he has mastered.

Pete says he is not of any political party and that he doesn’t want people to get hung up on labels and spout party lines. He works to have callers and well educated guests from both sides of the aisle.  Potentially irate  or rude callers don’t make it through his screening system (a script which I would love to read). It’s just not that kind of show.  Clearly Pete leans a direction that I am drawn to, but he seems open to all arguments and even questions all sides of each issue to spur conversation.

He is also is a regular guy, with a wife (darn, he’s married but then so am I) and kids that he clearly loves. He also seems to have great compassion for human beings which lurks just below the surface of his bold and pointed humor.

I’ve had the call-in number ready to dial several times on my phone.  I think I even dialed it once, only to abort after becoming flustered and worried that I might sound like a stalker if I actually got to talk to him.

So there you have it.  Pete Dominick is MacGyver’s competition.  But don’t worry.  MacGyver, and Pete’s wife for that matter, have nothing to fear.

I will forever be MacGyver’s sidekick.  And his list of similar qualities makes me swoon all the more.

Plus, MacGyver can fix a carburetor with a paperclip and a toothpick with one hand tied behind his back while reading a book and three magazines, listening to jazz and making me the perfect martini.

Now I just need to get him his own radio show.

On Manners … “The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” ― Oscar Wilde

etiquetteMy parents worked hard to teach me good manners and for this I feel quite fortunate and grateful.   As always, I am a continuous work in progress and I have far from perfected all forms of manners.  I do however strive to set a good example for my kids when it comes to simple etiquette and common courtesies.

I stand wholeheartedly behind the power of manners and courtesy.  I will take on anyone who rolls their eyes about the importance of  teaching these skills to their children, for they will be sending their offspring out into the world with a severe disadvantage.  I guarantee you that, when it comes to job interviews and promotions and just plain life, simple etiquette and common courtesy will take children much further in life than the guy or gal who knows not of manners.

These skills – learned primarily by example – help children to be more genuinely grateful rather than entitled, to have more friends and meaningful relationships, and to realize that we are all interconnected.  Quite simply, manners help us to be more human.

These are a few of the many skills that children of all ages – and frankly humans of all ages – will do well by understanding and working toward practicing as much as possible:

  • When, how and why to thank someone.
  • How to listen and not interrupt, and to let others speak (I am always trying to improve on this one).
  • Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact.  Why it matters.
  • The importance of introductions and inclusiveness in group settings.
  • How to be thoughtful.
  • How to eat at a formal dinner table and sit still at a restaurant.  Even just the basics will empower kids later in life.
  • The art of being humble rather than boastful and aware of others’ feelings (This one is a peeve of mine.).
  • How to make note (whether electronically or otherwise) of important dates or events for other people and recognize them every once in a while.
  • Respect for elders (No matter how old school they might seem).
  • To politely greet and acknowledge a new person in their home or environment.
  • To hold a door open for a person behind them when they are in close range.
  • How to actually apologize (It’s amazing how many people really don’t understand how to genuinely apologize.  You’re not apologizing if you don’t truly own your actions. See The One Minute Apology.) And no child is too young to learn how to apologize and recognize others’ feelings.
  • Letting someone go ahead of them in a long line every now and then.
  • How to say please and thank you consistently and nicely.
  • How to be compassionate.
  • Helping those less fortunate or ill, whether it be by raking their lawn, shoveling a walk or making a meal.
  • Being helpful at a retail establishment even when it’s not your job (I’m baffled by how shocked grocery checkers are at my local store when they are short-staffed and I roll up my sleeves and start bagging my own groceries instead of standing there watching.  How is this not a given?)
  • Occasionally helping strangers who may have simply dropped something or who may be unable to reach or do something.
  • Why, when and how to say excuse me when you bump into someone or walk in front of them, interrupt them, etc. (Another peeve of mine.)
  • The art of writing a simple thank you note.
  • How to give someone your full attention.
  • When to PUT THE PHONE AWAY.  (When having a conversation or meal with someone, when at a restaurant (get up and take the call outside), when at a social event. Trust me, if it’s important they will call more than once.)
  • How to not be condescending to service people or wait staff no matter how old you are or how important you think you are (I’ve always thought of this as a sure way to really know if I like someone).

Thanks to the gals over at Grown and Flown for their post today which spurred my manners rant post: http://grownandflown.com/millennials-need-good-manners/.

What is your biggest manners pet peeve?

Dear Selfie

selfie3Dear Selfie,

I take issue with you, Selfie. Actually several.

And the fact that Oxford Dictionary, as part of a genius brand awareness ploy to prolong the death of its product life cycle, yesterday declared you as the Word of the Year for 2013 not only makes me  a little more depressed about the state of humanity, but it actually makes me a little nauseous.

Your meaning is pretty self-explanatory:  a photo taken of oneself with a smart phone or webcam for use on social media. Your origin dates back to when a gentleman first used you in an Australian chat room in 2002 to describe a photo he took of his injuries after falling down drunk.  Your Australian heritage makes sense when you think of the “ie” suffix often used by Aussies as shorthand (think barbie for barbeque).  But that’s about all that makes sense to me.

It turns out the frequency of your use has increased by 17,000% over the past year. Apparently a research program calculates this percentage after collecting roughly 150 million English words in use on the web each month.

I’m curious and at the same time frightened by the fact that so many people are into you that much.  It seems like the world has much larger fish to fry than looking at awkward pictures that people not only spend the time to take of themselves, but then take the time to post for reasons that I can only assume to be self-aggrandizement or the result of a drunken moment like the inventor of the word intended.

Don’t get me wrong, I post a picture of myself every now and then.  But it’s usually with someone or commemorating some kind of moment or experience, and it’s never self-taken.  I know I’m sounding preachy here, sorry Selfie.

 I do appreciate that you have helped make it easier for me to manage my social media.  Your overuse actually motivated me to learn how to control my filter on Facebook which has helped to control my Selfie overload. 

I also understand that reality and movie stars post Selfies to generate business.  That’s actually pretty smart. And in the blogging world they are relatively customary and I get that.  I even understand kids and teenagers who post Selfies to impress their peers, sort of.  But regular grownups who post Selfies …  are they afraid we keep forgetting what they look like?  Do they do it to see how many people will give them a “like” because they need it for the affirmation?  Or do they honestly not know anyone who can take a decent picture of them?

These are the questions that baffle me today, this day after your historical induction into the words of fame.

Congrats, dear Selfie.

Yours truly,

LifeonWry

The first step is admitting you have a problem.

cart before

I admit it. I like to find things in other people’s trash.  Not deep in the trash under banana peels or dirty diapers or anything, mind you (I am still a germaphobe), but trash that’s visible from my car as I drive by.

I like to think of it as high-end dumpster diving. Or re-purposing of perfectly salvageable items on their way to the dump via the neighborhood trash truck. Items for which it causes me physical pain to think about them being hoisted up and over the back of the garbage truck cab and tossed into that teetering back heap in pieces.

These dumpster dive treasures call my name and wave me down as I drive by, shouting out to me “Hey, hey you…  Here I am… Yes, me! Isn’t this a shame?  You can’t let this happen, can you?”  They wait for me to slowly turn my car around to take a closer look and that’s when if they had a tail it would certainly start wagging … and in the car they go.

This is why my kids and MacGyver don’t even flinch when once every few months they see a new piece of very questionable looking furniture in the garage.  They know the drill.

Maybe I’m a hoarder, It may be genetic.  But I like to think of it as being a rescuer.

So, when I was driving through my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago and saw this old tea cart out on the curb by someone’s trash cans, I had to stop and perform a rescue mission. Yes, I was already cutting it close for my appointment, but I could hear the roar of the trash truck getting closer and her demise was imminent.

She had badly chipped veneer (under a perfectly quaint and in-tact wood framed glass tray) and she was missing wheels (which the owner was kind enough to set out for the likely rescuer) and she was was scratched, crooked and unsteady as hell.  In the back of my 4Runner she went.   

cart wheel

MacGyver grinned and shook his head as I later pleaded this poor little tea cart’s case and asked for his help in attaching the wheels and leveling her out.  ‘She can make it,’ I explained.

And so it was.  Here are the steps of this ‘little cart-that-could’s rebirth:

1. MacGyver reattached the little wheels under the cart. cart level

2. She was still unsteady due to the odd wheel configuration, so MacGyver worked to level her by adding spacers above her smaller wheels.  I was the assisting nurse, keeping watch on her vitals by watching for the little bubble in the little window of the metal level.

3. Then came the spray paint.  Oh, the glorious spray paint.  I can change the world with a few cans of spray paint.

cart paint

4. I taped and sanded her tray and on the front lawn where I still had good sunlight (my neighbors think I’m nuts) I gave it a few shots of a brilliant, deep red to test out the color.  She started to smile instantly.

5. Then the next day after the glue dried on the little wheels, this little cart got a thorough sanding and a coat of all-over red, except for her big, center wheels which I spray painted black as if they were the black patent shoes she needed for her new, red dress.cart red

6. Her makeover was complete.  She turned out so beautiful in the end that we decided to let her live with us on a permanent basis.  She has found a home in my dining room.

Despite her questionable background,  this little tea cart has made a lovely addition to our family and she seems to be working through her abandonment issues.

It turns out that you just never know what you might find on someone else’s curb on trash day.  And what it could become.  And that, my friends, is the fun of it.

Have you ever dumpster-dived?

Moved by Manilow.

barryThis week’s WordPress writing challenge was to write about how music moves me.

Hearing certain songs can bring me back to the exact slices of time in my life as quickly as the sound of a can opener can bring a cat to the kitchen.  These melodies are able to suspend any current moment, often squeezing my heart a little in the process.

Not knowing this challenge was coming, I coincidentally picked up a vinyl record last week while traveling for the kids’ fall break last week in Portland, Oregon.  In keeping with the “Keep Portland Weird” vibe, we seemed to find hat stores or vinyl record stores on every other corner.  On our last night there, I finally made the family stop in one of the vinyl record stores, determined to find an album that would take me back for a little mini-vacation within my vacation. They humored me.

I knew exactly which one I needed to find because I could see the album cover in my head (or maybe I knew subconsciously which one I could easily find without breaking the bank because no one else would want it).  I flipped through the album covers in the small “Pop” section as my kids marveled at the sight of these round, black plastic discs of music throughout the store.  I quickly found the album I was looking for as if it had been right there waiting for me.  The guy at the register didn’t even flinch as I placed the shiny white Barry Manilow album on the counter.  I paid the full $3.60 for it and am now this record’s proud owner.

Here is my list of top time-transporting music,  along with the moments that flash through my mind when I hear it. Good old Barry in his white disco suit and gold chain tops the list.

  • Any Barry Manilow or old Chicago tune –  I can hear the words of  ‘Copa Cabana’ and  ‘Boogie Woogie Woogie’ and  “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?’ as they swirled about our dark wood-paneled family room as my mom and sister and I listened to them on the turntable of our silver stereo with a hard, clear plastic box top that set upon my grandfather’s antique steamer trunk which was nestled in our groovy brown shag carpet.
  • ‘Amazing Grace’ – Sitting next to my grandmother in church and hearing her beautiful voice as I watched tears well up in her eyes as she sang it with all her heart,  Just writing about it makes my own do the same.
  • ‘Jungle Love’ by Steve Miller Band –  Driving my Dad’s jeep one summer while my car was being repaired and playing this song over and over again in the boombox that I had chain-locked to the passenger seat because the jeep didn’t have a stereo.
  • ‘Mercedes Benz’ by Janis Joplin – Cruising on the interstate with my friend Marcy for twelve hours to Connecticut for the summer in my little red car.  I couldn’t stand Janis Joplin when the trip began but Marcy was determined to make me a fan.   It worked.
  • Any Sinead O’Connor tune – Sitting with my junior year college housemate on our rickety rattan love seat in our little old house on Duncan Street that had an old gas stove and windows painted so many times they hardly opened.
  • ‘Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” by the Four Tops – Riding in my dad’s car long ago with this song roaring, watching the music take him back and hearing him whistle along in exact harmony.  I love hearing him whistle.
  • Johnny Cash and other old country songs- Learning to waterski on my friend Kelly’s boat at the lake.  I can hear the boat radio in the background along with the sound of the idling engine as her dad made yet another roundabout to let me try again, and again, and again to get up on those skis.  He was ever so patient and determined to get me up on those skis. And he did.
  • Aretha Franklin’s ‘Dr. Feelgood’ and anything Harry Connick, especially ‘All of Me’ –  So many moments of that fall during my senior year of college when I met MacGyver.
  • Styx “Too Much Time on My Hands” – I can see my college friend’s face making fun of me for how excited I became every time a Styx song came on the radio.
  • ‘Rosana’ by Kool and the Gang – First boyfriend back in high school, riding in his old Camero.
  • REO Speedwagon – Cruising on my tenspeed bicycle with no hands with my Sony Walkman strapped to the center of the handlebars.  Because I was cool.
  • ‘Jagged Little Pill’ by Alanis Morisette – Working at my most fun ad agency job in an old warehouse with a school bus in the middle which served as my colleague’s office.
  • Michael Jackson and Billy Squier tunes – Walking to Skaggs Alpha Beta grocery store in 7th grade with my friend Lisa with two headsets plugged into that same Sony Walkman.  Because we were both cool.
  • Sheryl Crowe’s ‘Soak up the Sun’ – All the bittersweet memories with my dear friend Courtney who lost her battle with cancer years ago.  It was her theme song that last year and it makes me smile.
  • Black Crowe’s Hard to Handle –  Riding in my friend Mel’s little red Nissan Sentra while we air-drummed and air-guitared this song in traffic one night when she drove me home after a very long day at that ad agency.
  • ‘Like a Virgin’ album by Madonna and Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’ – Wearing out the cassette deck in my first car listening to these tunes while driving to and from my high school job selling shoes at the mall.
  • ‘Rock Lobster’ by the B52s, and the entire BeeGee’s ‘Saturday Night Fever’ album – Dancing with my sister as she taught me the dance moves to these songs on that same brown shag carpet on that same shiny stereo with the clear, hard plastic top.

Whew, there you have it, a lengthy smattering of songs and their corresponding flashing moments, many close to my heart.

Clearly music moves me.  Along with white disco suits and gold chains.

What songs move you?

Memories of Hallow’s Eve Past

IMG_5122[1]Memories of Hallow’s Eve past:

- Decorating with my Mom (Little Red Riding Hood LOVED to decorate for Halloween – I come by it honestly.  See latest addition this year – my new hanging Nasty Bat.)

- “Mr. Nasty Man” who has enjoyed our various porch benches at various homes for the last 17 years or so (only the mask has changed since the early one melted in the Oklahoma sun long ago).IMG_5115[1]

- The sounds and smells of rustling leaves and the cool breezes that accompany them.IMG_4971[1]

- Trick or  treating with my friend Boogieman.

- Making my own Steve Martin costume one year when I was little (my Mom was so proud that I made it and talked about it for years).

- Getting hit in the head with a flying pumpkin. See older post for background.

-Dressing up my kids for trick or treating year after year (Now they are too cool.  If I had known how much I would miss it, I would have savored it more.).

- The costume birthday parties we used to have for my oldest son each October.

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- Receiving a box of little decorations and goodies every year from my Mom in the mail (along with a card that said “Watch out for flying pumpkins!”).

- The beautiful, beautiful colors of fall everywhere I look.

- The squirrels who eat my pumpkins on my sidewalk each year. (See their latest masterpieces.  I don’t have the heart to throw them away — I’m thinking when they bring their buddies at mealtime,  it’s like a trip to the Country Buffet or Western Sizzler).

Although  much has changed over the years, and some things have remained, fall continues to be my all-time favorite season of the year,  And Halllow’s Eve a special favorite.

Happy Halloween!

What memories of your Hallow’s Eve past come to mind?

P.S: Watch out for flying pumpkins!

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Self-Check-Out Be Damned.

IMG_4978[1]There I was, with 32 minutes to run into the grocery store for a few items before I had to pick up my son from an appointment. I knew better, but I headed into the nearby Safeway despite my doubts.  It was close, and it has a great floral department (I needed flowers for a friend).

My ‘few items’ soon turned into 20 items.  The fruit tart that I grabbed to take to a friend’s house for my contribution to the evening ‘s dinner was super sticky and kicked off my lovely Safeway experience. All of the tart packages were sticky, but Safeway’s fruit tarts are good, and I needed one, so I grabbed it anyway.  Then the rotisserie baked chicken with the crumpled packaging had me wondering if it would leak all over my car.  But I placed it in my basket anyway and powered on.

After I grabbed some peppers and cantaloupe, the last item I picked up was a small flower arrangement.  Notice anything in common with these items?  For some of us, these would be classified as items that are tricky for the sellf-check-out lane.  No problem, you say?  Just use the human check-out line, you say? This is what I would do at my normal grocery store, staffed with at least two or three human checkers at all times of moderate shopping traffic. Nope, not this store.

This Safeway is consistently staffed with only ONE live human checker, a cobwebbed “Express Lane” and a sea of I-Robot self-check-out stations eager to high-jack your grocery shopping experience at any time.

I was cutting it close on time, and the single live human line was far too long.  (Maybe because there was only ONE CHECKER and it was 5 pm on a Friday.  But I digress.) I took a deep breath and headed over to the self check-out lanes, which send me off the rails with even the smoothest of transactions. I can do this, I told myself.  I can use the self check out without having a blackout rage moment or cursing loudly like a woman with anger management issues.

I pressed start. ‘PLEASE START SCANNING YOUR ITEMS,’ a curt and condescending female voice directed me. I scanned the first few things without a hitch. ‘BEEP, BLIP, BEEP.’ I was on a roll.  This might work.

Then the baked chicken with the sketchy packaging was up. After many attempts… ‘PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE,’ I-Robot chirped. ‘PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE.’  ‘PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE.’ I took a deep breath. Here we go, I thought, as  I looked over at the snarky captain of the I-Robot fleet.  He headed my way.  He proceeded to peel off the greasy sticker wedged into the side of the packaging, then scanned it without a word and began to walk away.

Before he walked away  I picked up my bell pepper and told him I wasn’t sure how to scan vegetables.  (I know …. “Help me, I’m poor.” comes to mind from the Bridesmaid movie.  But I did not have the time to flip through the operations manual). He silently pointed to the tiny sticker with the itsy bitsy, tiny, microscopic (did I say they were small?) numbers on the side of the pepper.  ‘Seriously?’ I chuckled in a creepy way and said,  “Whaaoooh … There is not a chance that I can even read that without my glasses.’  He briskly punched through fifteen screens and found a category to enter the peppers, without another word.

At this point I couldn’t help myself and explained to him that this is precisely why I dread coming to this store, because it is never staffed with enough checkers. I was confused in thinking he might show some concern and maybe call more checkers up front.  Nope, he simply pranced back to his command post with full smirkitude in tact.  I tried to picture my happy place but I may have gotten light-headed at this point; the rage was coming on.

I had five more items and eight minutes to pick up my son.  I looked to my right and saw the insanely long line of  angry, equally hostile looking customers waiting for a self-check-out station.  I knew they were waiting for me to surrender or pass out so they could brush me aside and use my self-check-out station to quicken their own escapes. I thought about aborting the entire mission, but I had so much time invested at this point and I could almost see the end.

“BEEP.”   “BLIP.” “BEEP.”

The last item was a greeting card.  “BEEP.” Suddenly I-Robot started  demanding, ‘PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA.’  I had already placed it in the bag but she did not believe me.  I took it out and tried again, attempting to please her.  Her rampage continued; she was calling me out like I was stealing the greeting card.  “PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA.’ ‘PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA.’ ‘PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA.’ My chest was tight as my flight instinct kicked into gear.

Just as I started to black out, I-Robot began her refrain  “PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE.’ ‘ PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE.” PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE.’ Oh my god, not the snarky I-Robot captain, I’ll lose it.

At that moment, I lost all self-control and cursed at the machine loudly and crudely. Since that would definitely help matters and certainly prove a point.   I-Robot was not amused, nor was the line of survival-of-the-self-check-out- fittest behind me. Suddenly I felt like the character in the movie Friends with Money played by Frances McDermand who yells at an Old Navy employee for helping a person who cut in line and stomps out of the store only to break her nose on the glass door. (Rent it if you haven’t seen it.)

My head hung low as my blood pressure spiked, but I pressed on.  Snarky self check-out captain pranced over and reset the machine and stepped back up his two plastic steps to stand guard at his command perch.  Thank god this ordeal was almost over.  I frantically pressed any button I could find to facilitate my payment and escape.

As I broke through the doors and into the parking lot the sunlight stung my eyes and I gasped for air. I had made it out.  I looked down to find that the sticky fruit-tart juice had spilled all down my favorite  winter boots.  And I felt confident that the baked chicken juice was ready to douse the cargo area of my car in an equally awesome kind of way.

Will I return to this Safeway, you ask?  Probably.

Why, you ask?  It’s close-by and I am a glutton for punishment.

Am I surprised that in a recent American Consumer Satisfaction Index  study Safeway ranks among the very lowest of retailers and the brand has under-performed in customer satisfaction every year for the past 10 years?

Nope.

Will I complain?  I already submitted a complaint through the corporate website.

Will that save anyone from a black out rage with sticky boots in the future?

Probably not.

Do I realize that my age may have something to do with my aversion to self-check out lanes and the statistics back that up to a certain degree?

Yes, but I’m guessing I spend way more on groceries than those under age 35.  So there.

Have you ever lost your mind at a self-checkout station?

10 ways to make cottage cheese sexier.

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Yes, this is a random post.  It’s about cottage cheese.

I’m trying to eat better and cottage cheese is a food that is pretty high in calcium and protein and low in sugar and fat as long as you select the right variety.

However, cottage cheese can get pretty  boring in a hurry.

I’ve been looking for ways to make it more enticing as a go-to snack food instead of Lay’s Potato Chips which are the Devil when it comes to being healthy and fit (and my downfall).

Some people don’t like cottage cheese no matter what you add to it.   Clone doesn’t even like to be near cottage cheese.

For those of us who like it, here are some ways to make it more interesting:

1. Add chili sauce and stir.  (My current favorite.)

2. Add sprinkles of pepper and dill and throw in some baby tomatoes

3. Add slices of low sugar canned peaches or pineapples, or apples (reminds me of my Grandma)

4. Add chopped bell peppers

5. Add roasted peppers from jar

6. Add chopped olives (green or black)

7. Add Craisins or sliced almonds

8. Add pumpkin spice or cinnamon

9. Add salsa

10. Add low sugar apple sauce

There you have it.  Sexier cottage cheese.

15 things I’ve contemplated writing about but haven’t.

IMG_4785I’ve been in a slump.  I haven’t been able to write a decent post this last couple of weeks to save my life.  Lots of thoughts but I haven’t been able to get anything down. So, in no particular order, here are fifteen things that I have contemplated writing about but haven’t.

1. Sunrises in Colorado this time of year which are downright breathtaking.  (Clone the other day when he saw one out the back windows before school said “That’s some Lion King looking stuff going on out there.)

2. All that I’ve learned about supplements that can help with bruising.  I was going to call the post “Tips for my Bruising Bedfellows.”  (Since I get a new bruise every fifteen minutes.  Oh, and Arnica rocks.)

3.  The news on my Rice Krispy knees. (Doc says it’s arthritis in my knees which is common and the sound probably wont’ ever go away (YUK) but some exercising and supplements might help.)

4. The wild weather extremes we’ve had in Colorado with fires and flooding.  (Good thing global warming is totally a hoax.)

5. How much I have learned about ADD  these last few weeks and how brains in people with ADD are wired completely differently. (Found some experts and it has been eye opening. Oh, and it’s very genetic.)

6. My growing desire to quit my marketing career and work at the Container Store. (For real.  My gig is sucking the life out of me molecule by molecule.  I’m over it.)container

7. My new book idea about 25 Suburban Women I Want to Punch in the Face. (The Container Store would actually be a great place for gathering book material now that I think about it.)

8. How weird this weekend is going to be for me.  (Sunday is mom’s birthday and anniversary of my sister’s death (same day – yes that’s messed up)_ and the Alzheimer’s Walk is this weekend too.  It will be the type of weekend when I go from laughing hysterically to crying hysterically at the drop of a hat and frighten onlookers unaware of my tendencies.)

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9. The strangeness of celebrating my Mother’s birthday with her when she has no idea who I am, much less that it’s her birthday.   (Don’t make me go.  *&^%#@!! Ugh.)

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10. The fact that  I’ve been eating and drinking much better (most days) since I started working with a personal trainer. (We’ll see how much longer I can afford her but I’m starting to really notice a difference.  Luckily I hear Container Store pays well.)

11. How cool my new, free to-do app called Wunderlist is.  (It’s free and it saves me from rewriting all my lists 200 times a day.  Probably an ADD tendency.)

12. The intense waves of homesickness I still get sometimes even though I’ve lived away almost ten years. (Not sure that ever goes away completely.)

13. How weird women are. (Except for me of course.)

14. How bizarre it feels to have to kids in high school and to not be needed to drive them to and from school.  (Is there such a thing as post-middle school depression?)

15. How Steno pads and kitchen scissors scissorremind me of my Mom.  (And will probably randomly make me cry this weekend because they’ll make me think of my Mom, which will then make me think of my sister and how much I wish she could go visit Mom with me on Sunday.)

That’s all for now folks.

Happy Hump Day.