Grandma Pink

My grandmother was a firecracker until the day she died. Her nails were always painted fuschia, even in her seventies. And her skin, soft and thin between each wrinkle, smelled like baby lotion and Freedent Gum. She always had a wild cherry Luden’s tucked beneath a crumpled tissue in the pocket of her pastel pink sweater, which she would stuff in my hand and wink when my mom wasn’t looking. I thought I was getting a real treat.

During her last years at the upscale assisted living facility where my mom also worked, she got her kicks stealing Oreos off the dessert cart for my sister and me. She’d swipe clothes from the laundry room with names like Fanny Mae or Matilda Jean stitched into the collar for my mom. And she insisted we take at least one roll of single ply toilet paper from her shared bathroom every time we visited. My grandma was Robin Hood with a cane.

Before my mom moved her there, my grandma lived with us for a couple years. Though she spent the majority of her time watching soap operas in her blue velvet rocking chair, there were a couple of occasions when she called a cab to drive us to Big Lots for discounted Cabbage Patch Dolls and orange cream soda pop. Her ass was on fire and she couldn’t sit still even when the years wanted to catch up.

Aside from my sister and me, the only things she cared about were The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, shopping, and Elvis. Mostly Elvis and his swaying hips. In her mind, he really was a king. She knew every record, word for word, and owned every movie. I think in some ways she loved him more than my grandpa. Each year, she celebrated his birthday and mourned the anniversary of his death. She kept his obituary in her jewelry box, but part of her believed he continued to live happily on some remote island, because The National Enquirer said it was true. Some days we couldn’t convince her otherwise.

She wore lipstick and fur-lined coats to the grocery store, swore like a sailor, and told me that cookies and milk were a perfectly acceptable substitute for dinner, as long as my mom didn’t know about it.grandma-1

Her duplex sat on Lagrange Street, in the heart of Toledo’s poorest neighborhood. She stayed there, in the neighborhood that she was born and raised, even when it wasn’t necessarily a safe place anymore. Shootings and stabbings happened almost every day on her block, but she’d be damned or dead before she’d let her kids sell it.

Before she lived with us, and when she was well enough to care for herself, she would have me sleep over with her. We’d listen to crime calls on her police scanner or watch wrestling together on the big faux wood television, rooting for our favorites like The Macho Man and Hulk Hogan. One time she even took me to a WWF event at the Toledo Sports Arena and I got to see Jake the Snake wrestle live. I can smell the dripping sweat and buttery popcorn after all these years, if I close my eyes.

***

I insisted on going to see my grandmother one last time after she passed away, even though my mom tried to convince me that I shouldn’t. I didn’t believe it was true: my grandma was too wild to leave me. But at seventy-six, her fire fizzled.

In the hospital, I stared at her lifeless body, cheeks sunken and thin lips gaping from her last breath. I kissed the skin on her forehead goodbye, no longer soft, but cold and hard. The last bit of air was long gone from her lungs and her fingers were rigid, but her nails were perfectly pink.

 Nothing stopped her from having a good time: not her age, her kids, or even the stuffy nursing home. I knew that she had one hell of a good time while alive. And maybe, if she sweet-talked the right guy in heaven, she’d finally get to meet The King.

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Love you, Grandma Pink!

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Why Target Moms Are My Tribe

Hey you, Mom in the yoga pants with her hair pulled back in the perfect messy bun, baby strapped securely to your chest in her Ergo while you sip your PSL. You’re perusing those clearance racks because you needed to get out of the house. That’s me, too.

“How can I help you, Ma’am?” the Target employee smiles.

“Hi, I’ll have a tall caramel macchiato with a double shot.”

“Coming right up,” she says. I hand her my REDcard to save 5%.

And what about you, Mom speeding through the aisles at record pace with two kids holding on to the back of the cart for dear life, because you’re late for a birthday party and forgot to buy the damned gift? Last weekend I forgot the wrapping paper. I know the struggle.

“Have a good day, Ma’am,” she says, handing me my coffee.

And there’s you, soon-to-be Mom. You and your hubs are planning the baby shower and maybe, just maybe, you’ve gone a little crazy with that scanner.  But the baby really does need a brand new Kitchen Aid mixer. How else will you make him all those delicious treats? I understand.

“Mama!” my youngest cries out. I hand her a toy to keep her busy.

Then there’s you, newly-minted Mom with your brand new baby. Overly protective Dad is pushing the Peg-Perego and putting the fear of God into anyone who steps within a two-foot radius of your bundle. He wanted to stay home and shelter the kid, but you needed a new t-shirt that said something trendy about working out, even though you haven’t worked out in more than a year. “It will be motivation,” you tell him. Besides, the baby needs to get used to Target because she’ll be here at least twice a week for the rest of her life.

“Diapers are on sale!” I say, tossing some Huggies into the cart.

And you, who’s already opened the economy-sized package of individually-wrapped Market Pantry raisins to keep your toddler from screaming while you load your cart with crap you don’t need, but also can’t live without. Like those really pretty Threshold curtains you’ve been eyeing that are now on Cartwheel. Even though none of your windows need treatments, you may need them one day and you can’t pass up such a good deal. And you found a mediocre red blend on clearance, so you grabbed that to drink after the kiddos are tucked in and you’re watching American Horror Story on your DVR. I’ve been there. So many times.

Then there’s you, who’s finally out of the house without children. You have the look of crazy in your eyes because you are free. What do you do? You come to Target sans babies. You shop at your own speed with your child-free red cart. You’re buying nothing but underwear and applesauce.

I look in my cart. “Diapers, wine and fancy hand soap,” I say out loud.

And you. The one with a kid having a nuclear meltdown in front of the cashier (who amazingly still has a smile stuck to her face), because he can’t have those Legos. Damn, I’m sorry. Last week mine was screaming over a new pony.

“I know I’m forgetting something,” I say to my toddler.

Finally, there’s you, the Coupon Queen. You are in front of me paying for a cute Merona fall jacket. It’s on sale, plus on Cartwheel. And you have a coupon. You pay just $2.27, look back at me and wink.

I see you, I get you and I AM you.

One definition of tribe says that a tribe is “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.”

It’s human nature to seek out places and people that make us feel safe and welcome. It starts with cliques and sports in school, then moves to nightclubs in our twenties and finally department stores in our thirties. When I go to Target, a sense of calm washes over me. I can count on Target like an old friend who greets me warmly with fresh coffee, no matter what time I get to her house, or how I look. No matter the city or state, Target is always the same and I get exactly the kind of quality experience I was expecting to get. So to all you moms doing your thing at Target, I get it. Because I’m there too. You are part of my tribe. The cute little dog is our friendly leader and the Target employees are our pseudo babysitters while we pick out our cheap wine.

“Crap. Dog food. I forgot the dog food,” I shrug my shoulders, because I know I’ll be back.

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So until tomorrow, when I see you again. We’ll meet under the big red bullseye and sip our Starbucks while we shop.

Buyer and Seller Beware!

Shopping on Craigslist should come with a “Buyer and Seller Beware!” warning.  Or does it, already?  Maybe now that I’m writing this I should go back to make sure I didn’t miss something.  I sometimes do that…

In any case, a consumer looking for a decent deal on a used futon, funky vintage chair with green velvet, an old table to refinish, or whatever else her bargain-hunting heart fancies, can easily find it at a steal of a price on Craig’s good ol’ list.

I think he (Craig, or at least I hope that’s his name, because if his name is Frank, then why isn’t he calling his site Frankslist, or whatever?) truly had the best of intentions with the creation of his online classifieds, but in all honesty how good of a deal is a buyer really getting?

Say there’s this seller who has a STEAL of a recliner for $50.  It’s “barely used, comes from a smoke and pet-free home” and the seller, Steve, “just doesn’t have room for it anymore.”

Well, my guess is that chair has more than one dirty little secret lurking around.

Like maybe an angry pet left her mark on the armrest.  Or maybe Steve, AKA Two-Pack-a-Day-Steve, used to sit there munching away on potato chips with one greasy hand, wiping his salty fingers on the seat like it was a built-in napkin, all the while never putting down his smokes.  Maybe it’s just plain-old broken.  There could be a hundred, no a thousand, different things wrong with this steal of a recliner.

But anyway, say Steve finds himself a buyer.  We’ll call our bargain-hunting Diva, Steve’s buyer, Rhonda.

Woo-hoo!  Now he can unload his crap onto some unsuspecting stranger.  And maybe Rhonda won’t give a sh*t that this chair has more tales to tell than Hugh Hefner.

Or maybe, just maybe, she will.

So with the sale, comes the face-to-face meeting.  Dear God, the meeting.  Whether it’s a pick-up from the seller, a drop-off to the buyer, or a meet-up at a public place, these money/product Craigslist exchanges are the most uncomfortable thing since shoulder-pads in blazers.

They’re just all wrong.

If the meeting is held in a public place, (the preferred meet-up method for most Listers and Buyers) then all parties feel like they might just get robbed and because of that they rush through the transaction missing things like that awful stain or making sure they received the correct amount of funds.  Drop-offs and pick-ups are even worse, because no-one likes inviting strangers that they just met on the Internet into their driveways, much less their living rooms.

So, to continue on, Two-Pack-a-Day-Steve decides to meet Rhonda at the local Walmart parking lot.  Rhonda likes a good bargain and when she meets Steve she tells him how she must have miscounted her money and only has $35 instead of the agreed upon $50.

How convenient of her.

Steve agrees to take less because the old, greasy, smoky recliner is already loaded into her SUV and he’s so close to closing the deal.

A look of proud accomplishment spreads across her face as he shakes her hand.  Both parties win, sort of, and both parties lose.

In my personal and (not so professional) opinion, I think that there are a lot of dishonest weirdos out there and sometimes it’s best to have a third party to help negotiate transactions.  Sometimes it’s best to just buy it new.

Photo courtesy of Ryan McGuire on StockSnap.io

One Little Birdie

It was an ordinary spring day; full of sunshine, puffy clouds, and a light breeze that smelled faintly of flowers. My window was down and my short, dark hair was snapping back and forth, lightly stinging my freckled cheeks. Tortoise colored sunglasses covered half my face and kept the sun’s rays from reaching my blue eyes and the smile on my face touched my ears; a sign that all was right and beautiful in the world.

The black leather on my minivan’s seat was getting just enough sun to be warm to the touch, radiating heat onto my bare shoulders. It reminded me of the sticky humidity that comes with summer. My girls, one and five, were giggling happily as I sang along to the 90’s hip-hop song drifting from the speakers.

I knew each word with precision, of course.

I signaled to switch lanes, cautious that I was clear, and checked my blind spot. As I turned my head back to facing front, a small, shiny Civic darted across three lanes like a silver bullet and cut my black swagger wagon off.

On instinct, I gasped, whaled on my horn, and slammed on my brakes sending freshly bought produce sailing through my vehicle, now coming to an abrupt stop. A bottle of delicious red wine rolled all the way to the console, still wearing the white plastic bag and somehow brand new baby wipes ended up in my lap.

My eye’s rushed up to the rear-view and thankfully my girls were still smiling. “Are you alright?” I asked Reagan.

“Yep,” Reagan answered. They barely even noticed. Knowing we were fine and dandy with all limbs in tact, the New-York-angry-driver in me took over.

I cautiously pulled my black-on-black Dodge next to the Civic and offered my biggest grin to the driver, a girl wearing obnoxiously massive hoop earrings. This woman and her stupid choice could have easily turned my good day sideways, but thankfully she didn’t.

I passed her and, still providing a full smile, I gave that idiot the bird.

Reagan saw my finger and asked, “was that the sign language for ‘no’, Momma?”  Her voice pure and sweet with innocence.

I laughed and responded, “it was something like that.”

It was still an ordinary Spring day; full of sunshine, puffy clouds, and a light breeze that smelled faintly of flowers.

By the grace of something greater, all was still right in the world.

Photo courtesy of Lily Lvnatikk on StockSnap.io

The Day I Snapped.

I can remember the day like it was only just yesterday.

I was sitting on my white couch, dirtied with muddy paw prints, baby spit-up and something neon pink, which I couldn’t quite decipher.  My head was clouded from lack of sleep and I hadn’t showered in what seemed like days.  My oldest daughter wanted to build puzzles and her frustration was growing with each passing moment because her new baby sister, a.k.a. the screaming thing, wouldn’t give her two minutes of alone time with me.  The dogs were barking, but not just the normal kind of bark.

No.

It was the ear-piercing, cringe-causing kind that makes a person want to shout or rip her unwashed hair out.

Maybe both.

There were piles of dirty dishes spilling over the sink and onto the un-wiped counters and I was drowning in loads laundry, yet to be done.  There were boxes that needed to be packed.  A house that needed to be listed and a five-year-old’s birthday to be planned.  There was so much to do, but not enough time and I couldn’t stand looking at those walls for one more second.

I had vomit on my shoulder, yoga pants that were stretched out in the knees from wearing them so long and two mismatched socks.  I didn’t care.  I pulled my ratty, unbrushed hair back, hoping that would hide some of the stink because I needed to get out of there. Without using my better judgement, or rather any judgement, I packed up the kids and headed to where else, but my favorite store with a big red bulls-eye!

Of course while we were shopping, my new baby needed an immediate diaper change right while my oldest was looking at the dollar toys and of course my oldest had a meltdown because that’s what little kids do.  Especially little kids who’ve just had their small worlds turned upside down by a new sibling.

So then, of course, I had two crying children in the toy aisle.

Of course.

I remember taking a deep breath, trying not to lose my shit right there next to the little happy white and red dog, smiling at me because he sees this crap on an everyday kind of basis.  I didn’t want to give him and his cute puppy dog face that kind of satisfaction.  He wouldn’t see me break.

So, after talking myself down from the ledge and regaining what little composure my fuzzy, sleep-deprived brain could manage, I packed my kids back into the car and went home.

The house was still dirty, the dogs were still barking incessantly and the kids were still upset.  I had more than I could take.  Something in my head literally snapped and all I could manage were tears.

I thought to myself, this must be what a nervous breakdown feels like.  I am definitely breaking down right now. I called my husband because I needed him; I was weak and I needed his strength.  But when he answered, the words all sounded wrong.  I was a blubbering fool and the words, my words, were gone.

I was broken.

That was just one year ago.  It took me one long year and the support of family, friends, coffee and wine (definitely wine) to get out of that place and into this one, where I am better, for the most part.

I am a work in progress, but then again most of us are.

Thrift Store Finds #1

Yesterday I had a brilliant idea to start a new series on my blog titled, “Thrift Store Finds,” about fun, useful or otherwise amazing things that I happened to find at thrift stores.

Okay, I lied.  Maybe it’s less of a brilliant idea and more of an excuse to shop (and buy) things more frequently.  Maybe it’s just another way for me to put words on paper.  But in any case, here we are at Thrift Store Finds #1.  I love thrift stores and the bargains you can find there, if you know how and when to hunt.  I guess it’s one trait that I happened to pick up from my wise mom.

Yesterday I was perusing the aisles at my local Goodwill and came across this little gem:

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What is this amazing contraption, you ask?  Well, of course it’s a bike pedal for those of us who like to multitask, and boy do I love to multitask!

Lately I’ve been trying to find ways to squeeze in my cardio, but with writing and reading so much I just haven’t managed to get it done.  Well, yesterday my prayers were answered and now, as I type, I’m also peddling away like a fool.  (Paint that pretty picture in your mind; it’s a funny one!)

Will it work?  Who knows!  Will I keep doing it?  Sure!  Is it fun?  Sort of… I guess.  I can tell you one thing: my abs are on fire and my heart rate is up plus I just finished a blog, so that’s a win in my book.

Have fun everyone!

Fabric of the Past

So,  this morning I cleaned out my tank top drawer,  mostly because I just couldn’t fit one more piece of fabric in there,  but also because I tend to hoard clothes that I know I’m never going to wear again.   I always think to myself,  “maybe, just maybe it will come back in style. ” 

But it never, ever does.

So every once in a while I force myself to go through and part with things.  Out with the old and in with the new,  I guess. Well, this morning I found some real treasures in there, let me tell you.   A couple that really made me cringe and say,  “what in the WORLD was I thinking?!”

For starters there was the hot pink leopard halter tank top made of lycra and who-knows-what-else.  Can you say, “hello Club Bijoux,  circa 2002?”  What was I thinking?  I’m really not sure why I hung on to that ugly thing so long,  but today I finally let it go. (Thank goodness!)

Then there was the too-short, too-tight lace-up flowered hippy shirt from The Shed that left zero room for a bra OR your imagination.   I don’t think I ever wore that one,  but what was I thinking when I bought it?   And why did I keep it for so long?  I must’ve bought it in my short “I want to be a free spirit” stage. 

But we all know that I’m too uptight to be a free spirit.  Or go bra-less, for that matter.

The last tank I found wasn’t just one, but a plethora of faded, holey, stained ribbed tanks of various colors and shapes.   I don’t think I ever have thrown one away.   I always think,  “oh it’ll make a good under shirt,” or “I can still sleep in it.”  Some of them were literally nothing more than a rag.  Seriously. 

Well,  today I bagged them up (most anyway) and dropped them off at Goodwill along with the club shirt, the hippy shirt and other various things that have no business being in my chest of drawers anymore.

I feel rejuvenated and proud of myself for letting things go.   I feel lighter because I don’t have to see those things anymore.  And maybe, just maybe,  I feel a little like I need to go shopping…