Monday, February 26, 2007

Royal Regrets

When Larry and I got married, his career goal was to become a rock star. He'd spent the previous summer submitting a demo tape to different producers, some of whom wanted a follow up video. We still own several editions of "The Songwriters' Market." Larry promised me that someday he'd take me to the Grammies. That winter and spring, I went to every gig his band had, the "groupie" with the ever-growing pregnant belly.

I think it was the pregnant belly, not the new wife, that caused Larry to reconsider. The rock star, recording, touring life would not be easy on a family. Gratefully, my man is a man and he wanted to be a good father, husband, and provider more than he longed to perform. The pathway to our current good life has been an interestingly curvy one starting at graduate school with aims for history professor/researcher, ending at business man manufacturing vitamins and dietary supplements.

While Larry may at times have more, I have only one regret. The Grammies. I really wanted to go. I wanted to dress up like Audrey Hepburn does Cinderella. With perfectly coiffed hair, flawless make-up, dripping in sparkly diamonds, I wanted to be there to kiss my husband before he walked up on that stage. The camera would pan to me as he thanked me for my love and encouragement. On his arm for the rest of the night, I'd feel and look just like a princess.

I know this sounds very 7 years old. But I believe that anyone who knew me at 7 will realize how serious this princess dream is for me. Now and then I may sport a tiara at Disneyland, but for the most part, day to day, I function normally, pushing those aspirations deep down. I have become a jeans, tee-shirt, and hiking boots kind of gal. I am satisfied with my jane-of-all-trades, capable abilities, and not-bad-for-a-mother-of-four (if I do say so myself) decent looks. I get butterflies when my husband thanks me for my love and encouragement in a more intimate family setting.

But once a year comes the red carpet, and women, bigger than life, thanking the Academy. It's not just the Grammies, it's the Oscars. I watch those women, and I watch those in the audience supporting their husbands. Though their jewels may be borrowed and their breasts full of silicon; though any other time of the year I couldn't be paid enough to trade lives with a single one--just for that one night I do regret that the closest I get to being a princess is my Aurora snow globe collection.

Ah well. It's over now, and I can return to my happily peasant life for yet another year.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Doing the Deed

These days if you asked me what my least favorite household duty was, I'd answer Grocery Shopping. By that, of course, I do not mean picking up a few things at the market. I mean full-flegded, spend two to three hundred dollars, need help back to the Suburban, Grocery Shopping.

I guess the thing that makes it so awful is that it's not just shopping. It's so much more.

The very first step is figuring out a day and time when I will have time to complete this task, and gear myself up for it emotionally.

I then start off the actual process the night before with cookbooks, note pad, and pen in hand. And I write Menus. I don't do other meals besides dinner, and I don't even include side dishes. Only main courses. Only seven to ten days worth. But it takes seemingly forever. Sometimes if the kids are awake I make them each pick one. If I make Larry do one too, there are 5 down. Problem is that those five are generally some shape of pasta or bread with tomato sauce and cheese on top. So the lucky first kid asked gets his/her choice of spaghetti or whatever. The others get, "We've already got that, think of something else."

Having the Menus written I feel I've climbed Mount Olympus. Then comes the writing of the Grocery List. This is the easiest of the Grocery tasks. I go back through the recipes and make sure any ingredients which are not pantry items are included on the list. Sometimes I try to save time by writing the items as I write the Menu, but then one or both of two things may happen. I invariably forget to do it for one meal, and therefore leave out something odd like capers, or I run out of space, put the item in a weird spot, and miss it at the store.

I guess I may need to explain that. I know my store pretty well. I write my Shopping List in the order I will hit it in the store, more or less. At the very least the item will be within the category of it's correct aisle. If don't have a good feel for how much, let's say, "pasta-sauce-beans-soups-rices" I am getting, and I run out of space, I will put that item elsewhere. While Shopping, if I don't miss the item entirely, I will certainly have to head back several aisles at the store, which really busts my hump, especially if the cart is getting heavy and hard to turn.

Next a 25 minute drive to the store.

Then I dig in to the Shopping. I always hope I am there at a perfect time to mostly miss the early, elderly, slow shoppers, the hurried lunch-time shoppers, and the shelf re-stockers. I decide whether I'd rather make more room in the cooler for milk and oj or make an extra trip to the market once I'm up the hill. I buy five apple juices. I make selections at the fish counter. I run back to get the onion soup mix that I forgot. I try to remember which cereal #1 was complaining that we were out of. My cart is almost overflowing by the time I hit produce. But I heap it on, sometimes fighting back tears, and wanting so badly to be in the Check Out Line.

"You think we'll need another cart?" "Definitely." I hear this exchange every time. People shy away from the lane where I am unloading. Yep. We eat a lot of food, us 6. Once everything is on the belt, and I've told the cashier about the case of Arrowhead under my basket, I can breathe for about 90 seconds. Then we caravan out to the car. "No thanks, I'll load the car myself--I'm a little picky," I tell the bagger with half of my groceries. My pickiness is actually the job of sorting through the bags to find the meat, dairy, and frozen items that need to go into the cooler. I used to request that the bagger keep those separate. All that got me was building anger as I STILL had to look through for the deli turkey and sour cream that was stuck in with the granola bars and chicken broth.

25 minute drive home. Sometimes I have to stop here for gas. Often I am fighting car sickness the last ten minutes of the drive.

Unloading the car is a bear. Our main floor is actually on the second floor of our house. So, lots of stairs. Luckily, the kitchen is right off the entry. But still back and forth, back and forth, up and down the stairs. The LAST thing I now want to do is put Groceries away for 1/2 hour. Some days I don't even have time for that. I just unload the cooler and head to pick up the kids. Some days I can get help from #2, 3, or 4. And there have been day when I'm putting Groceries away after dinner or the next morning after breakfast. Luckily, I think those are rare.

And ten to fourteen days later, I'm looking at my calendar, and my emptying fridge and thinking, "Can I make it with just a little trip to the market? Maybe tomorrow night we can just order pizza."

Monday, February 05, 2007


Not to worry, this is not a gripe session about illegal immigrants. (I could very well do that, but at this point I feel that the language issue is one of lesser importance in that debate.) This is about good ol' American nationals who have been here for generations but have somewhere, I assume, skipped way too many English classes--for generations.

I realize that I live in the land of milk and honey and misused adverbs, but even I was stunned the other day by a customer service phone call I participated in. I'd come home to a message on my machine about furniture that was ready for pick-up. We'd purchased furniture from this store, but there was nothing remaining that had not been picked up or delivered long ago. So already, someone had screwed up. And I was bracing myself for having to tell the situation over several times, as businesses never seem to hire the brightest bulbs for their customer service.

Well, having called the number that was left for me, and being redirected (not through a transfer--I had to REDIAL and pick a different option) I was on the line with a young lady for whom I again explained that I expected no furniture. She then queried, "You got no service call scheduled or nothing?"


She asked if I was still there. Yes, I was there. In a slight state of shock. I strained to answer her, fighting the urge to correct her. Didn't she stand in need of correction? But was it my place? If not mine, whose? Thankfully, the conversation ended relatively quickly after that. It was truly difficult for me to converse with an adult who would unabashedly use such grammar at all, let alone during the business day. As a professional. If I ran across a professional Rocky Balboa impersonator, that would be a different story. That would be fun.

#3 comes home with all sorts of 1st grade "language." And right or wrong, it takes me 10 or more repetitions of "butt" in her giggly little potty voice for me to register that I need to take action. "Ain't got no . . .," only one.

I'm no grammar snob. I'll let my participles dangle. I'll end a thought with a preposition. I use the American "you" in place of the more proper "one." I even find incomplete sentences can add interest and emphasis. My spoken "been" rhymes with "zen," not "seen."

But please, if you're working with the public, at least be able to PRETEND you made it past 1st grade. Or you may hear some potty language comin' from me.