26 May 2009

The Redemption of Trader Joe's

A new Trader Joe's opened up in Virginia Beach a few weeks ago, and I made the mistake of trying to shop there with a toddler on opening day.  It was absolute insanity.  The store was so crowded, you couldn't even get your cart down the aisles to shop.  And once you did shop, there was about an hour wait to check out.  I ended up having to abandon my (full) cart and leave empty-handed when Austin had a complete meltdown.  I can't say I blame him -- it was hot, crowded, and loud.

When I got home that day, I sent an email to Trader Joe's corporate office to complain.  It was just a very poorly handled grand opening -- no crowd control, novice cashiers ringing people up, poor organization.  Surprisingly, I got a response in about 24 hours, and it was from the store manager, not some anonymous corporate typist.  Basically, he said they knew they'd screwed up.  Apparently the turnout for the opening exceeded everyone's expectations.  He offered me a gift card to compensate me for my lousy experience.

I finally made the trek down to the store today, and was totally stoked to see that the gift card was for FIFTY BUCKS!  (I was expecting ten, tops -- and I would have been fine with that!)  Now, fifty dollars may not seem like a lot to most people, but to me...wow.  That's a big load off my grocery budget.  I picked up pasta for Austin, some frozen stuff, a gallon of milk, and a really cool insulated grocery bag.  And I still have money left on the card!

So, Joe's, you're off the poopie list.  I'll see you soon to spend my remaining $17. 

Monday, Monday

There's nothing like strawberry picking to make you love Virginia.  It's something I did every year as a little kid; my mom knew the value of child labor (ha ha).  I can remember driving home with pounds and pounds of fruit that she'd turn into jam, ice cream, and pies.

Since Charlie was off yesterday, we decided to drive out to Pungo and spend some time in the sun together, and give Austin his first taste of what I hope will be a long-time family tradition.  Of course, there was the mandatory fueling-up at Chick-Fil-A before we left.
The kid loves nuggets, what can I say?

When we got to the farm, Austin was more interested in the gravel parking lot than the strawberry plants.  It took a little wrangling to get him into the field. 

It's the end of the strawberry season here, and the strawberry festival just finished up on Sunday.  So, there wasn't much to pick.  And it was hot, which is the number one most effective way to turn Austin into a total Crankypants.

Despite repeated demonstration and explanation (because that works so well on a 15 month old kid), Austin didn't quite get how berry picking works.  He kept reaching into his bucket, grabbing a strawberry, taking a bite, and throwing it on the ground.  (Sorry for wasting your fruit, Cullipher Farm!)  

Cute, but not terribly productive.

We still ended up with a couple of pounds of berries and a bag of peaches (oh dear LORD, they're so good!).

Afterwards, we stopped by my mom's house for a visit.  She'd just gotten back from a long bike ride (hence the spandex).  We walked to the playground in her neighborhood and let Austin blow off some steam.  He was REALLY into the tetherball, for some reason.

He also enjoys the swings a lot more now that he can hold himself up.

I really love watching my mom play with him.  It reminds me of what it was like when I was a kid, how she kind of held things together even when times were rough.  Plus, it becomes very clear that my craziness is genetic.

All in all, it was a fantastic day.  I'm so grateful for all the men and women of the armed forces who've sacrificed time with their families, and so much more, to protect our freedom.  So, to all my military peeps out there, THANK YOU!

25 May 2009

Memorial Day

USS Arizona Memorial - Pearl Harbor, HI

Remember the fallen, not just today, but EVERY day.

24 May 2009


Due to some really charming responses to my last few blogs, "Anonymous" comments will now be deleted.  

Gosh, I'm such a "beach."

23 May 2009

Car: 1 Camera: 0

Last Sunday, Charlie came home from his 1000+ mile bike trip and told me there had been a casualty.  The first thing I thought of was his Harley: "PLEASE don't tell me something happened to your bike!"

He answered by pulling a Ziploc bag out of his pack.  In the bag were the sad remains of my PowerShot SD1100IS, my point-and-shoot digital.  He had taken my camera on the trip because his old camera has been acting up.  As soon as he told me he was going to take it, I knew something would happen to it, not because he's untrustworthy or clumsy, but because I have the most crap luck in the universe.

Before I could say anything, he held up his hand and said, "I know you're pissed.  The replacement's already been ordered, and it'll be here in a few days."  He's good, this guy.

But honestly, I wasn't pissed.  He forgot to zip up his pack after a fuel stop, and the camera bounced out when he took off.  As soon as he realized what'd happened, he backtracked.  The camera was lying in the middle of the road, pretty much unscathed.  Right before he stepped out to grab it, a car sped by, and THIS happened:

The LCD's smashed, the casing is broken, the memory card is destroyed, and the battery is bent.  I really don't care about the camera -- I mean, for Pete's sake, it's a CAMERA, I have several others -- I was, however, upset that he lost all the pictures from his ride.  Charlie's trip pictures are usually just random scenery, cars, and motorcycles, but this was a big trip for him.  It was his first "Iron Butt" ride, and it was for a great cause.  

He's now using this as an excuse to do another similar ride, as soon as possible.  Next time, sir, take-a your own camera!

22 May 2009

Banishing my "Black Thumb"

Charlie always told me I had a "black thumb."  I've murdered so many houseplants, I should probably be in some sort of horticultural prison facility. 

I was a little scared when we moved into this house, just because there were so many places to grow things.  I was excited to have flower beds and a garden, but scared that I wouldn't be able to overcome my planticidal past.  It's taken a while, but I'm finally there (I hope!).  Gardening has become my number one pastime.  It really took hold at the end of last summer, and early last fall.  I was working full time at the job from hell, and poking around in the dirt was my way of releasing stress.  Things went okay, but I didn't accomplish as much as I would have liked.  It's hard to do when you're putting in 50-60 hours a week at work and taking care of a small baby.

Fast forward six months, and it's a whole different story.  I can't even put into words how nice it is to have the time to really, truly GARDEN.  Like, not just shove some plants in the dirt and hope they live for more than a week, but to grow things from seed, watch them flower, collect seeds to grow next year, enjoy home-grown produce; to see worms invading my compost bin, happily eating up our discards; to see my backyard turn into a combination micro-farm and bird sanctuary.  It's amazing.

Look at this!  Teeny, tiny basil!

I've planted enough stuff to get us through a few months of winter, if I can preserve it all.  Herbs, tomatoes, squash, onions, watermelon, strawberries, corn, peppers...whew!  It's going to be an interesting summer.  If I show up at your house with pounds of fresh veg, just smile and let me in, okay?

17 May 2009

The End of an Era

A friend of mine recently announced her second pregnancy, and I was flabbergasted.  We hadn't been talking much lately, and last I'd heard, she was supporting her family while her husband looked for a new job.  My first thought was that this was really, really bad timing for her.  I struggled for a couple of days -- I wanted to reach out to her and see what was going on, but I didn't want to come across as snarky or condescending.  I mean, she's a good mom, definitely the type of person whose children will grow up and be awesome people.  I was just so, so worried.  So I asked her if she was going to stay at home with the baby full-time, like she'd wanted to do with her first.  She said no, that she couldn't afford to.  This opened up a very big, and very ugly, can of worms.

Over the years, when we talked about family and kids, she'd always said that she didn't want a career, she wanted to stay at home to raise her kids (well, that's a career, in my opinion).  She's been working since the first baby was born because, well...I don't know why.  I remember being kind of stunned when she put her daughter in daycare before she even went back to work.  I didn't get it then, and I still don't, but at the time I didn't say anything.  I figured she was working so that she and her husband could save for a house, since they've been renting for a while.  And I'm totally fine with that -- like I told another mom-friend of mine last night, I can completely understand working full-time if you're doing it to make your family's life better (put yourself through school, buy a house, get out of debt, etc.) or if you have some awesome job that you got into pre-kids.  I'm not fine with you working your ass off just to put a kid in daycare, and then have ANOTHER ONE, ON PURPOSE, just to put that one in daycare, too.

Now, I know I'm getting into the really scary 'hoods of Judgement Land, here.  So let me try to clarify before rage is unleashed in the comments section.

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH DAYCARE.  Not a thing.  I definitely considered it before I gave up my management job.  Just because it wasn't right for me, doesn't mean it's wrong for anyone else.  There are some fantastic facilities out there, staffed with amazing, caring teachers who do really great things with tiny people.  And I know of lots of awesome moms who take advantage of those facilities.  It just wasn't for me -- the one I wanted to use cost so much, I'd have been working just to pay for daycare, which didn't make any sense to me.  (And the fact is, I didn't love my job.  It sucked.  It sucked big ol' hairy balls.)

Having said that...I don't think it's right to put your kids in daycare and work at a job you don't like, turning your life into a big fat compromise that makes no one happy.  (I'm not saying that this is what my former friend did, I'm just putting it out there.)  

We scrimp and pinch and sacrifice so that I can be at home with Austin, which is what Charlie and I both want, and so that Charlie can finish his MBA and eventually get a better job.  I was not going to scrimp and pinch and sacrifice to pay for daycare and go work a job I didn't like.  Before we had Austin, when we first decided to try for a baby, we had a lot of long conversations about work, long-term plans, finances, school, daycare...everything.  We knew from the get-go that the goal was to have one of us at home with the kid(s) while the other one worked.  Charlie took the working role because he wants to work, he likes his job, and he's happy that way.  I know that if I were the career-driven one, he'd be just as happy staying at home while I worked.  And if I had a career I loved, I'd probably be down with that, too.  But when I was working full-time, and our amazing wonderful super fantastic friend Melissa watched Austin, I WAS MOTHEREFFING MISERABLE.  And my misery made Charlie miserable.  I really think if I'd kept working, we wouldn't have made it.

So where am I going with all this?  I guess it's all about choices.  If my friend is happy with her choices, great.  But I don't think she is.  I think she's pretending to be happy with a compromise that she never wanted.  I could be wrong, for Pete's sake, I hope I'm wrong.  At the end of our discussion, I told her that I guess that was it for us, and that I wished her well.  I do, I really do.  I just don't think I can stand beside someone whose choices seem to be in complete opposition to everything she's ever told me about her life goals.

It's sad.  We'd been friends for what seemed like forever; we met at community college back in '98.  I thought we could tough it out through just about anything -- bad boyfriends, drinking, depression, marriage, living several states apart -- but this is really it for me.  With the choices she's making, she's showing me that we really don't have anything in common anymore.

06 May 2009


It seems like every time I set foot outside my house, I smell pot.  I first noticed it when I was cleaning off the back patio, and I heard my neighbors behind the fence, hanging out by their pool.  I thought it was a cigar at first, and then I realized what it was...blunts.  The whitest kids you know, totally NOT in the hood, smoking blunts.  Wow.  Then, yesterday, while I was weeding my front flower beds, the kids next door were standing around in their driveway/garage, and I caught a whiff of it again.  (Smelled like decent stuff...NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW!)

Now, I have to add here that I don't have any issues with people smoking the occasional bit of cheeba in the privacy of their own homes.  What I dislike is people doing it essentially in public, within a few yards of homes filled with small kids.  And unlike the type of pot smoker I was, er, rather KNEW, back in the day, these douches make all kinds of noise, blare shitty music, and drop more F-bombs than the main character in a Tarantino film.  When I think of my stoner days, I remember (partially) watching a lot of surf movies, eating Doritos, or staring into the mirror over the fireplace saying, "Dude, I don't think it's working."  Not standing around in a driveway talking about how you're gonna "lay a motherfucking beat down on that n____."  

I suppose I could call the cops (lord knows enough of 'em come into my store on any given day), but...something keeps holding me back.  I'm not afraid -- these kids couldn't find the motivation to retaliate in any significant way -- I just don't wanna be "that lady."  You know, the mean old lady on the block who yells at people for stepping on her grass, keeps about 435 cats, gives out toothbrushes to trick-or-treaters, and is generally a huge pain in the ass?  

So, what shall I do?  Enjoy the contact high, or rat 'em out? 

05 May 2009

That's what I get for complaining.

This morning was pretty much a huge fail-whale on my part.  I was supposed to be at work at 4:45 AM to open.  But I didn't wake up 'til 5, and didn't get to the store until about 5:15.  Yeah.  Not good.  I felt TERRIBLE.  Only about a week ago, I was sitting in my truck cursing another opener who didn't show up on time.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't a huge deal.  The store opened on time (thanks to SUPER LAUREN! MWAH!), my manager wasn't TOO pissed to have been woken up at a ridiculous hour and told that someone didn't show, and nobody tried to make me feel bad for having my second "oops" in four years. 

It made me think about all the jobs I've had since I started working at age 15.  Other than my short stint as a shipping assistant/gift wrapper/sales associate at Williams-Sonoma, my current job is the only one I've genuinely cared about.  (And really, at Williams-Sonoma, all I really cared about was the 40% discount and free key lime cookies.)  So why do I care?  I mean, the Bux is a huge corporation, definitely two-faced at times.  My experience as an assistant manager pretty much sucked.  I've been treated like crap by customers, worked under REALLY terrible managers, had to fire people because someone above me didn't like them.  What is it that keeps me here?  I mean, other than the fear of homelessness.  

I guess what it really comes down to, and this is TOTALLY cheesy, is the people.  I work with some of the most awesome folks I've ever met; I've built amazing friendships with people on both sides of the bar.  People like Linh Hong, who got me to fill out an application because I was a smart ass when she joked with me in line.  I mean, I probably never would have gotten to know Linh if I hadn't taken this job.  And now I think of her as one of my closest friends, someone I can call in the middle of the night, somebody who'd bail me out of jail, somebody who's seen me at my best and my worst.

So every time corporate rolls out some new BS, I deal with it, and think of my friends.  If I have to make Vivannos in order to know people like Linh, so be it.  I would, however, like to tell Howard Schultz to SUCK IT, and shove one of the new iced grande/venti dome lids up his overpaid butt.