Category Archives: Shopping

To Done, 10-15-13

Ah, Tuesday. My half day “off.”

  • Dropped MJ at school.
  • Went to car wash.
  • Returned a phone call while waiting for car to be cleaned. Counseled a girlfriend on boy troubles.
  • Drove to Target, still on phone. Continued talking to friend while  looking for stuff for MJ’s space-themed birthday party on Sunday. Uttered phrases like “some mens’ brains really are in their dicks” while perusing the kids’ paper products. Found nothing. Left with cotton balls, candy for the pinata I hadn’t yet purchased, and streamers.
  • Went to Michael’s to return a huge bag of wrong stuff Mike bought for the party. Planned on buying more wrong stuff, but the clerk wouldnt let me return because I didn’t have Mike’s Amex. Spoke angrily to her. Told her I would never shop there again. Knew I was lying. Still, to save face had to leave without making any purchases. Decided to send Mike tomorrow.
  • Dropped suit at dry cleaners.
  • Did a shop at Fresh and Easy, worried the whole time about pinata candy melting in car.  Noticed giant lumpy pumpkins for sale. Got one for MJ. Also bought four bags of groceries, several cases of juice boxes for party, toilet paper, and various kiddie snacks.
  • Raced everything home, unloaded car. Put groceries in fridge. Put candy in fridge. Put toilet paper in bathroom. Lugged lumpy pumpkin to front steps. Worried it would die in the sun. Wondered if it was actually alive. Left it.
  • Changed sheets on our bed
  • Changed sheets on MJ’s bed.
  • Put in a load of laundry.
  • Raced back down hill to nail appointment.
  • Read entire September 3rd edition of New Yorker while getting mani pedi.
  • Went with still-wet nails to bakery to order MJ’s birthday cake. Tried to find solar-system-themed decoration. No luck. Ended up ordering a Transformers cake without the action figures. All that will remain is a partial, fuzzy picture of an unnamed planet. I will supply additional decorations myself. From where, I don’t know. Probably Michael’s.
  • Drove to party supply store to reserve tables. Far more expensive than last year. For a “low key” gathering, this thing is starting to break the bank. Looked for a rocket ship pinata. Nothing close. Sales clerk suggested I buy an R2D2  and cut the legs off. WTF? Left.
  • Went to another party store. It had tons of pinatas, all of them star-shaped with media characters on sides. Contemplated the saturation of corporate branding in kids’ products. Contemplated painting over a Barbie face to make a plain star. Contemplated suicide. Left empty-handed.
  • Picked up MJ, who was grouchy and tired.
  • Brought her home, showed her new pumpkin. Was informed it was the “wrong kind.”
  • Wondered if pumpkins are returnable.
  • Walked dog.
  • Brought in trash bins.
  • Switched laundry.
  • Fed animals.
  • Made dinner.
  • Got MJ ready for bed. Consoled her when she found out I have to work tomorrow and cried for half an hour.
  • Put her down.
  • Straightened house.
  • Wrote post.
  • Considered going back to work full-time.

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Here Kitty

Today’s a big day. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach.

Or perhaps I should say mice.

Because, after long last, it’s kitten day. The day we pick up our young, grey adoptee, Wally, from a local rescue. (A place, I might add, whose qualifications for adopting are so stringent you’d think we were getting a six-month-old baby.) It’s taken two weeks for the whole process to go through, but we’re done now, approved, prepared. We’ve got the carrier, the litter box, bell toys, Trader Joe’s scratch pad–I think we’ve covered everything.

But really nothing will prepare us. I’m terrified. I know what a kitten is. Oh, they’re cute, fetching, lovable, and all that. That’s what gets them in the door. But they’re also middle-of-the-night head pouncers, mewling meowers, tchotchke smashers, stinky poopers, furniture destroyers, and skin shredders. I hope we can handle it. Not to mention afford it!

Right. The money. Why, you ask, did you elect to do this now, with your finances in their current state? Pets are expensive.

My short answer is, blame Mike. About a year ago, in a moment of weakness, he promised MJ a kitten if she’d start pooping in the potty. We were desperate; bribewise, candy wasn’t doing it. Cut to the present. The kid is trained. Goodbye diapers. It’s a damn miracle. And I didn’t want to be those parents that made conditional promises and then hoped their kids would forget.

So I reminded her.

Which is why Mike’s short answer to the above inquiry is: blame Jessica.

In any event, a cat is coming. The house will never be the same. Mina will never be the same. Our couches will never be the same.

But Myra-Jean will believe us when we give her our word.

A small price to pay, right? Small and furry. And able–God, please–to poop where we ask.

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Calendar Fail

“This will change everything,” I thought, as I put the calendars on the register belt.  “We’ll put one up where we see it every day, and I’ll update it regularly. Mike’ll use it, too–he loves organization!–and soon the whole house will be running like a well oiled machine. Not the clunky, repossessed rust-heap we are currently.”

This moment of ecstasy occurred in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. It was August, and my sisters and I were strolling around the sun-daubed streets, marveling at the blueness of the sky and looking for birthday presents for my mom. For fun, we stuck our heads into our favorite dollar store. Canadian discounts! The best! Anyway, it was there that I found, on sale for ninety-nine cents, the aforementioned dry-erase calendars. The month-at-a-glance kind. With magnets, for the fridge! Perfect! We’d been looking for something just like them.

I bought two. “Mike’ll be so excited,” I told my sisters. “He’s all about calendars.”

But when I got back to the states Mike wasn’t so thrilled after all. About the calendars, that is. He was, in fact, totally unresponsive. When I brought them out of the suitcase (“tah-dah!”) he just looked at me bemusedly.

I scrunched my forehead worriedly. “Is it the maple leafs? I know they’re a bit weird. ”

He cocked his head, saying nothing.

“But you’re Canadian! Or your mom is. Isn’t that nice?”

Mike nodded slowly. “It’s very sweet.”

“OK, but otherwise they’re perfect. I mean, you’ve been wanting a calendar we can both write on. And look! They come with their very own dry erase markers!” I held one out. “Isn’t it cute?”

“Yes,” Mike said, with no zeal at all.

“Whatever. It’s going to change our lives. I bought two. One for this month, one for next month.”

Nothing.

“Anyway. I’m excited,” I muttered.

And up on the fridge it went.

Of course it didn’t take me long to see the problem. The boxes were too small. You couldn’t fit more than one or two words in them. That might be fine for a single person with no kids–someone who just needs to write “work,” or “spa,” or “Hawaii.” But for me? For us? It wouldn’t get us through breakfast.

So after the first week I stopped filling it out. Then, when I went back the other day, resolved to make a greater effort–if for no other reason than to prove MIke wrong–the dry erase marker had dried up.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered. I could almost hear Mike’s delighted croon: “That’s your deep discount talking!”

I looked for the other marker. You know, the one for the “backup month.” Behind the stove. Unreachable.

So now I can’t write on it even if I wanted to. Oh, I could buy a new marker, but what’s the point? I hate the stupid thing. Canadian maple leafs? What was I thinking?

The next time I buy a wall calendar it’s going to have squares six inches wide. It’ll come with twelve dry erase markers, in different colors for all of the categories of our lives. And nationally speaking it’ll be neutral. Like Switzerland. After all, this is not about declaring fealty to a country. It’s about remembering when book club meets.

In the meantime? This one goes in the trash. Because God knows it’s not recyclable.  Damn those Canadians.

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Hired and Tired

Saturday morning I said goodbye to Mike and MJ, left the house in my new black suit, and drove to Pasadena to work the counters of high-end retail. It’s a job I did for years before MJ was born. Although I excelled at it, and my company treated me kindly, I swore never to return. Mostly it’s the dress code. I abhor hose. But it’s also the whole rich people thing. And the chain store thing. And the mean-spirited nature of for-commission sales. And the long hours. And the–OK, I could go on. But I won’t. Suffice it to say that, a year after my daughter was born, I gave all of my suits to Goodwill.

“No matter what work I go back to someday,” I told myself confidently, “it won’t be that. Plus, I’ll never be a size zero again.”

It turns out only the latter was true. Now I have to buy all new suits. In a larger size, of course.

Because I am back. Three days a week. That’s what will get me benefits, and right now we need them badly. A fact that hasn’t stopped me from feeling pretty sorry for myself.

It’s not that I mind working, per se. Like most of us, I’ve done it my entire adult life. I do, however, long for work that utilizes my brain, creativity, and twisted, occasional wit. But I still don’t know what that work is. Funnily, being a stay-at-home mom is the closest I’ve come.

It’s the hours of this job that are the hardest. When I say goodbye to MJ in the morning, now, it is for the day. I don’t get home until nearly eight, at which point she is asleep.  I’m losing, then, nearly half of my time with her. For someone who has been with her nearly every moment of her life, this is no small thing.

And I knew it would be tough.

But the pain of it, on that first day, surprised even me.

I was fine during the day. Lunchtime, with its quiet break room, almond butter sandwich, and buzzing fluorescent lights, was melancholy, but otherwise I stayed busy. “I’m OK,” I told myself. “I’m doing this.”

It was when I got in the car to drive home that things fell apart. I didn’t see it coming, either. It was like one of those stomach flus that arrive out of nowhere–one moment you’re fine and the next you’re heaving into your Crate and Barrel waste basket.

There I was, leaving the parking garage, fuming to myself about their $7 charge. “Rip off,” I muttered. “What’s the point of even working?” I pulled out into Pasadena traffic. Made a left on Green Street. Stopped for some pedestrians. I dialed Mike on the cell phone–perhaps I could at least speak to MJ before she went down. No answer. Dropping my phone dejectedly in the cupholder I looked up. There was a group of women  in the crosswalk. All were blonde and snugly dressed, but of disparate ages. Maybe they were related. It was hard to tell, because all five of them were sporting huge quantities of plastic surgery. One of them, with lips like tire rubbers and a face like pale jeggings, let her gaze drop on me. Mostly in a “you are going to stop, aren’t you?” way.

Our eyes met. It’s then that I started sobbing.

Each of her companions, now, turned to gaze at me–five exotic gazelles scanning the urban tundra. One cocked her head as she stared. “She’s doing something weird with her mouth,” her face seemed to say.

It was all I could do not to shout “so are you!”

But I didn’t. I was too busy crying.

I cried all through busy Pasadena. I cried on the freeway ramp. I cried down the 134, and onto the 2. I cried, smudging rivers off of my face, as I drove into Mt. Washington. I sobbed as I passed the spot where I got my ticket. (I also stopped, of course. I was upset, not stupid.)

When I got home I cried at Mike for a good long while. Then I peeled off my work clothes, dropping them carelessly on the wooden arm of a chair, and trudged, in my underwear, into MJ’s room.

Out like a light, as she should be.

Kneeling by her bed, I stroked her hair, adjusted her covers, and wiped my face on her stuffed animals. Snuff, snuff. It was a pathetic picture. Especially because I was wearing a garment–recently acquired at Target–that can only be described as a Granny thong. I got it for yoga. Which, I wept to myself as I gazed down at my garb, I would never do again now that I work.

And so it goes. It wasn’t until I had written a self-pitying epistle of great length and emotionality to a friend of mine that I was snapped out of my spell. She is in Brazil right now, and wrote back, via e-mail, quite immediately:

“You need to grow up a little about this,” she started. She went on to remind me of my good fortune in landing this particular job. “Maybe it’s just that I’m in a poor country, the backs of people being broken by inflation and NO jobs.  A job to support their families?  People would kill for that.”

And I know she’s right.  I’m going to get grateful. In a few days. For now, though? I am an emotional wreck with one wrinkled suit, another shift to work tomorrow, and a daughter I can’t stop kissing.

The good news? She’s fully potty trained. At last. It happened just this week, seemingly out of the blue. Maybe she’s more ready for this change than I know. Whatever the case, I’m glad I won’t have to teach any new caregivers the “drip catcher” technique.

Thank God for small favors.

And good benefits.

And the resilience of humans everywhere.

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Throwing the Book At It

It’s hard to write when you’re flooded with anxiety. Or even wading clumsily through a couple inches of it. If only there was some kind of pump. A mental wet-vac. A mop. Because let me tell you, insurance doesn’t cover it, and to say it’s messy is an understatement.

And it’s not just me. The whole house is on edge. Mike and I, we have our reasons. Unemployment–Mike’s, at present–being a huge one. Money. Dwindling. Savings. Plummeting. Confidence. Tanking.

Get-rich-quick ideas. Burgeoning.

Having said that, I still haven’t sold my wedding dress, or even completed the listing. So much for my little schemes.

Meanwhile, we need new glasses for Mike, repairs for the car, a garbage disposal, school tuition, flea medication. It’s cliche to say that such expenses bloom when it’s least convenient. Such wisdom, however, adds small comfort.

Then there are the insects. Not those around now–although we are having a strange influx of moths, whose corpses are smeared, like little silvery ghosts, on every wall in the house–but future ones. We’ve finally booked our summer trip to parts east, and my anticipatory bug-a-phobia is in full swing. Instead of looking forward with grateful excitement to a journey with stops in New Jersey, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nova Scotia, all I can think is: Deer flies. Ticks. Mosquitos. Repeat. Deer flies. Ticks. Mosquitos. Repeat.

I’ve googled how to prevent Lyme’s disease. Then stayed up ’til midnight learning how incurable it is.

I know. I have to get a grip. People have real problems. These don’t qualify. Much.

Except then there’s the cholesterol. That’s real. I just got diagnosed with high levels. So, supplements have been ordered, milkfats lowered (just shoot me), and desserts basically eradicated. Cheese–my dear friend, confidante, and snack therapist–has been given the boot. We can stay friends, but never again will we sleep in the same bed. And this is something to grieve, as far as I’m concerned. Like, Elizabeth Kubler Ross–the whole thing. I’ve said forever that I wanted to be buried in a block of Cracker Barrel. But no more. Bury me now in a rough case of rice crackers. That’s about all I’ll be eating from this point forward.

So the food thing is a drag. And there’s that mid-life crisis I referred to earlier. It’s still bustling about, wiping both hands on its well-used apron and chuckling as it bustles about the kitchen. You should have heard it snicker when I checked out “Eat to Live” from the library. Cackle, more like it. Fucking asshole. Let it eat oatmeal with chia seeds for breakfast every day. See how peppy it feels.

Finally, there’s MJ. Her anxieties are flowering like peonies at Trader Joe’s. She is worried–continuously–about pooping in the potty. She fretted  when we told her we were going to San Francisco for the weekend, then cried when it was time to come home. She dreaded the fireworks last night. Until she saw them. Then she laughed and clapped her hands like a mental patient. But until that moment? You’d have thought we were dragging her off to a firing squad.

Speaking of which–and I digress–the Eastsider ran a piece today about how to tell the difference between the sounds of firecrackers and those of gunshots. “Oh, good,” I thought. “I’ve always wondered. Now I’ll know.”

Four experts later, the consensus was: there’s no way to tell.

This is life right now. It’ll improve. Or it won’t. Either way, we’ll walk through our fears, large and small, and learn that most of them are unfounded. What choice do we have? To lock ourselves in the house and never emerge, subsisting only on delivered Thai food and bottled water? I’ve considered it. But just think of all that BPA. Plus, Myra-Jean doesn’t like spices.

So out we go into the world, with its bugs, stigmatisms, and unidentifiable explosions.

Myra-Jean makes books when she’s anxious. I’ve talked about it before. This week she’s made four. Every time they’ve worked. She’s been immediately calmed, and able to proceed with whatever it was that was frightening her. It’s a magical tool, and fun, too. If only it were so simple for us grownups.

Maybe it is. Perhaps it’s time to make a few for myself. The first one will be called “Jessica does not want to end up on intravenous antibiotics after being bitten by a deer tick.” The next: “Jessica does not know how to enjoy a plant-based diet.”

From there? The list goes on. And on. And on. The drawings should be fun.

The feelings behind them are not.

An Apple (Tree) a Day

For a “Tree Adoption” it was a remarkably unshady event.

This was because the line we waited on to get our free sapling snaked through a large supermarket parking lot. And it was a long line, too. MJ and I arrived at around 9:45 AM and found about fifty people already there. Guess we’re not the only ones looking to fill out our family. And/or jump on free garden swag.

The sun was already hot, and, as I’ve said, shade was the one thing not available anywhere. Fortunately bottled water–given out by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez’s wife–was, and the supermarket itself had pretty much anything you could think of. Except for organic produce. I know this because the nice lady behind us held our spot while we went inside to buy an apple for MJ. Granny smith, as conventionally grown as it gets. Ah, well. Sometimes you’ve got to live on the wild side. I’ll give her a juice cleanse later. Wink.

There were several fruit tree types available for adoption–cherry, Asian pear, avocado–but we could choose only one. Influenced, perhaps, by her snack, MJ went for Gala apple. So, at about 11:15, we left with a four-foot sapling waving bravely out of our passenger-side window. My left shoulder was brutally sunburnt, and even the tree itself looked a little worse for having sat out in that heat, but I knew we would all be happier–and more hydrated–when we got home.

Mike looked a little concerned when we drove up. He’s been ambivalent, as you know, about this new addition to our family. His argument: we haven’t room. Our soil won’t sustain it. How will we put it through college? OK, maybe not the latter. Still, I knew that he would make a place in his heart–and our garden–for the young stray now dropping leaves on our cracked-up driveway.

It didn’t take long at all. By the time I was making lunch Mike had found a spot out back and was digging dutifully at the hard, rubbly soil. He grumbled some, sure, but in the end even he agreed that the tree would be a great addition to that currently sere and forbidding place, adding beauty, shade, and harmony to it. In ten years. But still.

A few hours down the line, it’s as if it has always been here. I can’t imagine life without it. It brings tears to my eyes to think we might have skipped out when we saw that crazy line.

As for the sunburn on my shoulder? A small price to pay. Apples ain’t cheap these days. Even the non-organic kind.

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Rocket Bottom

I remember a Bozooka Joe cartoon from when I was a kid. It was just one panel, and featured a mother saying to her son: “I’ve told you a million, billion times not to exaggerate.” I didn’t get it at the time–I was, like two. Or maybe four. But I eventually did, and came to find the cartoon funny. It was my earliest exposure to–what is that–irony? Whatever. It spoke to me. I identified. It stuck with me–the humor, not the gum.

For I’m an exaggerator, and always have been.

And that’s why, tonight, I used the phrase “arctic” to describe the breeze coming through our dining room window. Mike and I had just sat down to a sumptuous meal of spaghetti and meat sauce–made by him–and arugula salad–made by me. My statement about the wind was met with a look of disbelief.

“Arctic? Really?”

So, OK. It’s not quite that cold. But it is cool by L.A. standards. For June.

This is what got Mike and I started on what I’ll call “the dinner of disagreements.” First we debated the quality of the wind. Then we got into an argument about Joni Mitchell’s “River.” (Mike finds it “on the nose,” whatever that means. I love it.) Then it was the salad.

You see, I made arugula again. I always do. When it comes to lettuce I am a one-hit wonder. I’d eat arugula for every meal, if I could. I adore it. And tonight’s batch was extra special. This was no Trader Joe’s fresh-pak. No, the rocket, this time, came from Cookbook, a super fancy artisanal-and-organic-everything store in Echo Park. I can’t generally afford to shop there, but I’d won a $50 gift certificate, so stopped in yesterday to pick up a few things. A total of eight items consumed my certificate. One of them was a medium-sized sack of my favorite lettuce. I knew it would be stellar.

And it was–better than I even expected. Spicy, tangy, peppery–everything you want arugula to be. The Platonic ideal. The ne plus ultra. The stemmy jewel in a lettuce-y crown.

“This is the best arugula I’ve tasted since I lived in the Hamptons,” I said, as I put the finishing touches on my dressing.

Mike turned from the stovetop to stare at me. “Did you really just say that?”

I made a face at him. “Whatever. It’s super good.”

He sighed, and trudged to the table dutifully. I should mention he kind of hates arugula.

And yet I keep making it. I am selfish this way. As if that’s not bad enough, I make huge portions. Where salads are concerned I have a tendency towards excess–a fear of not having enough, I suppose. So, instead of putting a modest pile of leaves in the bottom of the bowl, I fill it to the rim. I make enough for ten. Soldiers. Big ones. With scurvy.

Poor Mike is not one to leave food uneaten. Something about his childhood. So he eats. And eats. And eats.

Tonight he was on his third portion of greens when we got into an argument about whether or not I was “predictable.” Mike said that, where salad was concerned, I was. I interpreted his comment more globally, and took umbrage. Both of us shoved great gobs of serpentine leaves down our throats as we took turns rebutting the other:

“I didn’t say you were predictable.”

“Yes you did.”

“I was talking about your cooking!”

“Oh, thanks a lot!”

And so on.

We got through this eventually. But soon we were disagreeing again. This time it was about preschool graduations. Mike thinks they’re silly. I think he has a heart of granite. “How can you not see the import,” I cried, wiping oil from my lower lip, “of such rituals in a child’s life?”

He couldn’t.

“You’d better be there,” I said, folding my napkin emphatically, “on the day.”

“The day what?”

I narrowed my eyes at him impatiently. “The day she graduates.”

“From preschool? Of course I’ll be there!” he said.

“You’d better cry.”

“It’s in two years.”

“So?”

“I can’t make any promises.”

He’ll cry, alright. He’ll cry because I will make him arugula salads every single day for the rest of his life if he doesn’t. Huge bowls of them. Buckets. Barrels. Vats. Dumpsters. Corn silos. Universes. Filled with arugula. Then tossed with tomatoes, olives, and thinly sliced parmesan rinds, just like they were tonight. (That last part was a mistake. But I will repeat it if I must.)

Wow, you’re saying, you’re really the punitive type, aren’t you?

No, I’m not. I just really love my rocket. With cheese instead of rind, it’s truly a spectacular dish.

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