Learning As I Go

I have a confession to make: I have not nailed parenting. I am certain I try my best 90% of the time, but the learning curve is steep, and sometimes I am just too tired to put on my best game face. Somehow the four of us seem to function pretty well in the chaos of our family dynamic, and I have a pretty good notion that, when all is said and done, we will have raised fully functioning grown-ups who will not mind visiting their parents from time to time. There are still so many things I don’t know about the parenting world. I feel like I am learning something new everyday. Here are a few things I’ve recently learned.

When your ten-year-old son asks to sit in the grocery cart because his legs are tired from soccer, you can say yes if you don’t have much to buy. You say no if you have a cucumber in the cart. I didn’t realize how creative a boy could be with a vegetable. There he was sitting “criss cross applesauce” in the cart in full soccer gear, proudly holding the English cucumber in the position of his choice as I pushed him round and round the produce section. I didn’t know there could be such creative moments with vegetables. I was certainly thankful that the English cucumber was wrapped in plastic and that he had not noticed the two avocados that I had also dropped in the cart. I guess we need to find happiness in the little things.

Take every situation that seems normal and manageable to you and multiply it by 50 if you want to attempt to relate to the responses of a teenage girl. Did you ever get a tiny spill on your shirt on the way out the door? Has your mascara smeared a tiny bit under your eye shortly after you applied it? Did your parent ever buy you white note cards when you had hoped for neon notecards? You’ve probably experienced one of these scenarios. What you probably didn’t do was lose your freaking mind, wail, consider these scenarios to be injustices in the world, and threaten to go to your room and never come out. The drama is quick and rarely predictable. Most of the time, it happens right when you should be getting in your car. Sometimes it just makes me laugh, and sometimes it causes me to turn into my own version of teen girl crazy.

Long after pre-k you will still never quite know what your child is going to say. A few weeks ago, we were have a leisurely lunch out with family. We’d had a silly conversation about tattoos, who has them, and unique tattoos that we’d seen. The conversation went quiet for a bit until my son broke the silence by saying, “You know, if you tattooed the letter L on each butt cheek, wouldn’t that be LOL?” (I’ll let you process that one for a bit.) It was later suggested that I get M’s and his grandfather, Pop, get P’s. While I appreciated the suggestion, I’m probably going to have to pass on that one.

Select sports are a punishment to parents who birthed an athlete. For as much as I have complained about my parents’ never signing me up for any sports during my school years, leaving me talentless and scrambling to find my place in the world – Yikes, did my teen girl drama side just peek out? –, I think they may have been onto something. My parents had their weekends to rest and recover from the week and get a few things done around the house. The kids slept in and watched cartoons and played in the yard. That option was too calm for us. We decided to put our son in sports when he was five, and it turns out that despite his maternal genetics working against him, he is pretty darned athletic. By nine, we were told he needed to play at a more competitive level, so we moved right into select sports leagues. We went from leisurely weekend games in the neighborhood to signing over our lives and weekends for the duration of the season, which appears now to function on a year-round basis. You don’t practice anywhere near your home, and you spend most weekends on the field. Many times, sports consume your entire weekend, and then you go back to school and work sunburned, windburned, dehydrated, or a combination of all three. You pay a premium for it, too. It is also a source of conflict with the grandparents, who don’t seem to understand why we aren’t available for a weekend gathering until 2019. I truly enjoy the other parents who are living this same life with us; we are one big sports family on those weekends. But, if your athletic child has a sibling who is not playing, and if you are trying to juggle two (or more) sports, it is a butt kicker. I didn’t know this was a parenting scenario, and now I know more than enough about it.

Despite your best efforts to remain the cool parent, you will lose this battle at some point. If wearing shorts that cover my entire backside and then some makes me a grandma, as I have been called by the younger female in the house, then call me Little Ol’ Granny all day long. In the shorts she would have me wear, I would never be able to conceal those “M” tattoos I’m considering. I am tired of arguing about shorts in my house. You might see some WWE moves going down in the Target dressing room when my daughter tries on new bathing suits for me as the warmer temperatures draw nearer. I argue a lot about swimwear, too. I cannot handle this Kylie Jenner generation of girls trying to look 25 at thirteen. It’s exhausting and makes Granny want a nap. And, Granny doesn’t care if “everybody else” wears it. I do not, and therefore you are a liar.

Lighten up when you can. I did not like it when my daughter threw chips in my hair last week so seagulls would chase me. I did not like that much at all, but that was really funny. She didn’t get in trouble for it. She’ll get payback for it, but she won’t get in trouble. I chose not to yell at my son the other day after he had a spill in the kitchen. He’d just opened a package of Fun Dip he’d received for Valentine’s Day. Those are the packets of flavored powder into which you dip your vanilla candy stick. You can’t pronounce a single ingredient used to make them, but the kids think they’re great. Anyway, he spilled some of the bright green powder on the kitchen tile. When I used a damp paper towel to wipe it up, I freaked out because I then had a bright green, wet smear that stained a tiny part of the grout. I asked what was wrong with him that he couldn’t be more careful with his candy, and my tone wasn’t pleasant. Very calmly he replied, “We need a little color in here, Mom. Don’t worry about it.” Although I prefer throw pillows to Fun Dip stains, I saw his point as I looked around at my brown and beige living room and kitchen.

No matter their ages, enjoy the time with your family members this weekend. Laugh at the unexpected conversations, settle the conflict, and look for some color. If you need me, I’ll be on the ball fields.

*photo by terrihinojosa.com

This Is Not Relaxing!

I’ve just returned from three days at the Texas coast with the kids.  I had hoped this would be a relaxing visit to the beach.  Unfortunately, my kids discovered some new beach fun when we visited last November and decided to take it up a notch or two with this visit.  Last November, my daughter had planned to place food on my son’s back as he laid in the sun in order that she could attract some seagulls to chase him.  He became aware of her plan, and, before she could execute it, he threw a huge handful of popcorn at her.  It got crazy fast.  I wanted to write about the experience but have decided the video on my Facebook page is so much better than any words I could put together to describe it.  (My daughter happened to be taking a video when she was attacked by the popcorn and then the birds. I have her permission to post the video.)  At the moment of the attack, I was finishing my lunch and watching from afar.  Because I have the maturity of an eight-year-old boy, I immediately laughed uncontrollably.  I laughed so hard that I sucked a french fry down my throat and choked the entire time she was screaming and running about.  You can hear me coughing at the end of the video, when she finally makes her way to me.

The kids upped the ante with this trip.  Clearly, they had been putting some thought into it.  My daughter and I were getting out of the car at the same time, at least I thought we were.  Little did I know that she was waiting for me to exit the car so she could throw chips in my hair and lock me out of the vehicle.  Who does that? I am so thankful that there is not video of that reaction.  My little man had to get in on the fun by throwing popcorn all over the car so we wouldn’t exit and he could claim his spot on the beach first.  It was crazy.  However, the original video from November posted to the Facebook page is the best reaction to seagulls you might ever see.  You’ll definitely want to turn down your speakers if in a public place.  A future blog will detail more about why I dislike birds on a level you could never imagine.  Enjoy the video, and cheers to relaxing beach escapes with children!


Tales From the . . . What?


The blogging journey I have blindly entered into has been beyond interesting. From one week to the next, I really never know what my next post will be about. I simply try to live my life and get inspired by organic experiences that happen to me in my very average existence. I can’t tell you how many times I have shared an event from what I would regard as a typical day in my life and have been told, “That would only happen to you, Lorissa.”

It is the blog itself that has inspired me today. The site I use for publishing my blog has made a suggestion to me that I must share. It has suggested that I create a Twitter account. It even proposed a handle, or a Twitter user name, that I could use. The site proposed that I use . . . @talesfromthecan. I don’t even know where to start with this.

First of all, let’s just hope that this was a computer-generated suggestion, and that no one is playing a joke on me. Twitter will only allow fifteen characters for your handle, so that does pretty much nail it. Second, why am I so intrigued with the suggestion that I am actually considering it? Choosing this handle could be really entertaining and also fodder for future blogs.

I would guess that my current readers who use twitter might follow me. I just can’t help but wonder who, without knowing about this blog, would actually choose to follow the handle @talesfromthecan. Those would indeed be some interesting people. The bigger question is whether I would want these people following me.

My son does talk about bathroom habits quite a bit, and that will make an entrance into a story at some point. That might please the mystery followers. Other than that, I think I would deeply disappoint them. I am certain there are numerous tales from the can I couldn’t even begin to imagine. If one wants some really good tales from the can, I think I would be a complete and total disappointment.

In this name selection process, I can’t help but think about who might actually be interested in choosing this handle for him or herself. I don’t picture myself. I picture a hardworking trucker named Bobbie Ray who likes to use Twitter to keep up with road reports and Nascar. Bobbie Ray likes outdoor country music festivals and camo. Between the concerts and being out on the road, he’s had many a port-o-potty adventure. He definitely has some tales from the can to share.   The truck stop bathroom alone would be a great source of inspiration for Bobbie Ray.

I don’t mean to brag, but I am not without my own tale from the can that occurred at a truck stop. A couple of months ago, my family and I stopped in Nowhere, Texas on the way home from an out-of-town soccer tournament. I casually entered the women’s room not knowing I would come out with a tale from the can. You see, when I went to wash my hands, I noticed a woman staring at me. After I smiled and went back to washing, she pointed out that my shoulders were a little sunburned. I explained that I had been at an outdoor tournament all weekend. She said, “I make my own oils. My favorite one is called miracle oil. If I had it with me right now, I would rub it on you.” Drying my hands quickly, I said, “Thanks, maybe next time.” She smiled at me, revealing she had no teeth. It suddenly felt a bit like a Deliverance moment, and I got the hell out of there. Now THAT is a tale from the can, and, yes, I promise it is true! Hmmmmmm, maybe this handle doesn’t just belong to a Bobbie Ray!

And, now, a decision must be made. What will the blog’s official presence on Twitter be? I’m going to give it a little more thought. I’m not totally opposed to @talesfromthecan because I can’t stop laughing about it. Based on my research, though, choosing a name for a Twitter handle is very important. The handle should accurately represent you because it will influence new connections and create buzz. Perhaps @fromthecanvas would be the more professional choice. You just never know with me. Stay tuned for the official announcement!

Routine vs. Rude Teen

Teens. I’ll have one in a little over a month. I even have a female one which I hear is the most enjoyable kind you can get. From a child development perspective it is fascinating. I see glimpses of behaviors repeated from toddlerhood- outbursts, crying, pouting, a focus on self, and more. All of these are developmentally appropriate and come with the occasional hug or snuggle so all is not actually lost. But with this tender time also comes the occasional parent “dis”. Ouch.

A few nights ago I entered my daughter’s room to do the same thing I do every night-take every bit of technology including phone, iPad and laptop. This is to be expected. It is a routine. These items sleep next to me at the side of my bed so I know they will not interrupt her sleep in any way, and that is just one of the many reasons I do it. And, despite it being routine, there is at least a day or two each week where there is a moment of conflict, and yet the end result is always the same- I get the technology.

On this particular evening I had prepared a mini speech explaining why I take her things each night, why it should be accepted as the regular routine, and I even explained how it is expected that she and I will not always see eye to eye on all matters. I also explained I was okay with her expressing her anger, dislike, etc. in an appropriate way. Being the generous person I am I even offered her examples of ways she could word her frustrations that would keep things clean and fair and not have the conversation escalate into World War III.

You should have seen this talk. IT. WAS. AMAZING. It was the stuff that the old after school specials were made of. I wondered if I should quickly type it up and send it to The Huffington Post for immediate publication to help other parents in the same situation. Then, just as I was about to hold my arms up high in the air for my “mic drop” moment, turn on my heel and exit, she spoke. With perfect eye contact and her best TOTALLY over it tone she said, “Great speech, Oprah. Now will you get out of my room?”

Wow! What the hell just happened? I did not see that one coming. What would I do? I cleared my throat, smiled and said, “Well, I was leaving anyway. And I happen to LOVE Oprah! Thank you for the compliment.” And with arms overflowing with phone, iPad and laptop, Oprah left the building.

Am I dramatic?

Don’t you just love a mischievous smile? I know they always make me curious about what the person is up to. Well, there are exciting things happening at Tales from the Canvas! Shortly after I launched the blog, a neighbor sent me an email with a writing contest link suggesting I enter my writing into a showcase that allows you to perform a creative piece about motherhood. I immediately went from excitement to fear. So, I decided within ten minutes of receiving her email to submit one of my stories before I had fifty reasons to tell myself not to do it. Two weeks ago, I received an invitation to an in-person audition. I will basically be doing a dramatic reading of the first piece I published on my blog – Germaphobe. (Yes, “germaphobe” is still showing up with my spell check as incorrect, but I am choosing to move forward with it nonetheless.)

The performance series I am auditioning for is the Austin production of Listen to your Mother. This is its eighth and final season in its original format. Listen to your Mother is described as featuring “live readings by local writers on the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood, in staged community shows celebrating Mother’s Day. Born of the creative work of mothers who publish on-line, each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities, for local communities.” In the past eight seasons, Listen to your Mother has presented “a collection of personal stories celebrating motherhood featuring many best-selling and notable writers.” Just below that description, the site lists the names of fifty or so awesome bloggers and authors.

You might be wondering why I am choosing to blog about this today. Well, after keeping this audition a closely guarded secret and clicking on every link and video of past performances on their site, I am starting to feel some fear and insecurity as the Saturday morning audition approaches. Posting this blog will keep me from finding an excuse to not go because I am really close to making that choice. My honest nature forces me to admit that I am not a professional writer. Shocking, I know. I barely even know how to post my blogs, much less write them! I dared myself to submit my piece with entering itself being the reward. That was something I would not have done six months ago. Now that I have an actual audition, I’m a bit freaked out. I’ve never auditioned for a thing in my life. My only performance credit is hopping on the stage in the school cafeteria wearing paper bunny ears in the first grade musical performance of “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” That is my greatest stage moment!

From what I understand, they just want you to be yourself and read your piece. I do know how to read, so I am partially there. The Germaphobe story is a true story. Those were some pretty dramatic moments and deserve to be properly portrayed. Do I take the iPod referenced in the story and lick it, as I did during the salmonella drama? I don’t really know how I feel about licking technology devices in front of large or small groups of strangers. I’ve never actually pondered that, but I am thinking it is a little weird but necessary for this audition. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, you need to scroll down to the first piece I published and get caught up!)

I did clean up the language a bit in Germaphobe. I referenced turtle crap at the end, but in real life it was actually a word that began with “s,” and the real version is what I submitted. Can I say that on a stage? What would that feel like? Is turtle crap even funny? Maybe it is just gross, and I should never talk about turtle crap. Some readers share truly moving stories about motherhood in these performances. What if the person ahead of me shares the heart-warming story of how her one-legged mother carried her on her back as they escaped their oppressive home country through the mountainous terrain, surviving only on water from the rain-soaked leaves they pulled as they walked? What if she shares her struggles and triumphs making a good life for herself in her new country and ends her story saying that, as her mother lay dying in her arms in the comfort of the home they had built together, her mother weakly pulled a dried leaf she had saved from the journey from her pocket and they each let their tears fill the leaf as they said good-bye forever, making it look just like the leaf that sustained them all those decades ago. She then buries her mother with the leaf in her pocket and from the grave sprouted the tree of their native country that grows and blooms to this day. When she finishes, I can then get on stage and talk about turtle crap and lick an iPod. Do you see where I am going with this? I am equal parts scared and excited, but guess what? Insecurity will not win. I’m going for it. Now that I have admitted to the world that I will possibly be licking an iPod and saying the “s” word on a stage in front of what could be many, many people, there is no turning back.

I can’t possibly know how this will turn out. Taking a leap is frightening and fun all at once. What is the worst things that could happen? If I don’t get chosen, at least I was selected to try. For someone who only started sharing her writing two months ago, that is pretty darn awesome. I want my kids to try things that challenge them but will help them learn and grow. This will give me an opportunity to be an example for them.

I hope YOU find yourself facing something new that gives you the opportunity to be scared and excited and that you try anyway. This is how we step outside our comfort zone and stretch our personal growth muscles and quit taking ourselves so darn seriously. (Not to mention, it gives us great dinner party stories to share.) Team Turtle Crap, that is the name of our new club you have joined just by reading this, I’m going for it. I’ll update the Facebook page after the audition and let you know how it goes. To learn more about the Listen To Your Mother series, visit www.listentoyourmothershow.com.


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*photo by terrihinojosa.com

Dear Feelings Journal

6:00 a.m. Dear Feelings Journal: Today is the big middle school dance. Time for some coffee and daydreaming about how great this day will be! Last year, it didn’t go so well. There were tears and arguing while she got ready. We ran late and had to do her make-up in the car while she cried. This year will be different. There will be no tears. Besides, we already had the fights and tears for this dance. She allowed me to buy dress number one knowing good and well she didn’t like it and would never wear it. I then gave her permission to order dress number two she found online because she said she loved it so much. She smiled when she put it on and asked what I thought. When I told her it was a great dress if she were headed to Vegas for her 21st birthday, it went south quickly. She said it was a Beyoncé dress. I explained she would never be Beyoncé, and, if anyone got to be Beyoncé, it would be me. We went back and forth for two weeks until she was finally convinced that I would definitely not be dropping her off at the dance in that dress. I can’t believe we found a compromise dress four short days before the dance, considering we started looking two months ago to avoid this very situation. The compromise dress is so pretty and pink and sparkly. I thought about trying on the dress while she was at school, but I was concerned that all that sequins stretched across my butt would look a bit like the sparkly drone background of Lady Gaga’s super bowl intro. It would be lights and sparkles and pink for miles. Yeah, I am definitely not trying it on. Beyoncé would totally own that dress.

This day will definitely be good. I’ve made a list and a schedule and this middle school dance will go off without a hitch. I am feeling confident! I’ll keep you up-to-date as the day goes on. Thanks for being there for me, Feelings Journal!

11:30 a.m. What a surprise for me! A spontaneous lunch with my husband. We never get to do this! How fun are we? The restaurant is really crowded so we must eat at the bar. Wow, people are having cocktails with lunch. I wonder what that is like. I love the margaritas here, but they are strong. I’m ordering tea. I have to stay focused and prepared for the afternoon. I’m on a strict schedule.

How funny that I am right across the street from where she will get her make-up and hair done in a few hours. It will be so great. She is so lucky. I am so lucky. This lunch is so fun. I am feeling so happy right now, Feelings Journal.

2:40 p.m. I picked her up right on time. I have my list and supply bag with a few extra items, too. I didn’t forget a thing. She will love me so much for the experience I am going to give her. I feel optimistic. I am the luckiest mom in the world.

3:00 p.m. Look at my girl sitting in a make-up chair. Let her first professional make-up application begin. She doesn’t typically wear make-up, so this will be a joy for me to see and such a treat for her. There goes the eye shadow, and it is gorgeous! Time for eyeliner which she doesn’t own and has never worn. Wow, look at that, she’s having her first eyeliner moment. Her eyes look really pretty, but she is giving me a strange look. Why is my phone buzzing? Why is she texting me from the make-up chair? She hates it? She wants me to get her out of here? Oh gosh, now we’ve made actual eye contact. She is looking at me wide-eyed, about to cry. I will text her back right now and tell her she looks beautiful and her eyes really pop and this is going to be a great day. I will text a question, too. Why did she want a make-up appointment if she doesn’t want her make up to show? That is logical. That will make her feel better. Time to shut this craziness down and get back to the fun. The text is sent!

Oh no! Her lip is quivering. Her eyes are watery. How can this be happening? Everything is fine, dammit. I have a list and supplies, we are running on schedule, and it is all good. I am going to pretend to clean out my purse so I don’t have to read any more of her insecure and illogical texts. What is happening? I am feeling so confused.

3:40 p.m. We just paid for make-up and are heading down the hall for hair styling with her favorite hair dresser. Why is she grabbing my arm? Why is she saying she looks terrible? Why is she saying she has on more eyeliner than any other girl will have at the dance and she is embarrassed? I wouldn’t let her wear too much make-up. She is crying, and nothing makes eyeliner look worse than tears. I will tell her that this is a process, and she’s only completed step one of three with the make-up. When she has her hair done and her dress on, it will all come together and she will feel better. That is wonderful advice and will calm her down.

Why is she sending pictures of her make-up to friends and telling them it looks bad? Of course they will want to support her and tell her they can fix it. She is setting it up to be negative. Why is she still crying and wanting to wash her face? Again, I will tell her she looks beautiful and promise her it will be fine, and then I need to walk away because I am about to lose it. This is not on the schedule.

Now that I am alone and walking though the halls to catch my breath, I am feeling a little bit better. Wait, she has snuck behind me to cry more. How did she find me all the way over here? She’s tracked me down like a bloodhound. I can feel it happening. I am about to snap, Feelings Journal. This is not what I envisioned. I am not having fun. She isn’t thanking me for all I’ve done for her to get ready for this day. I am feeling unappreciated. Beyoncé is never unappreciated.

4:00 p.m. It is time for her hair appointment, and I’ve had it. I’ve gone to a lot of trouble for this day. I can’t believe I have to sit here and watch this disaster for another hour. Let me reflect on my own middle school dance experience. I didn’t even get a new dress for my middle school dance. My mom told me I had a perfectly good junior bridesmaid dress in my closet from a few months earlier and it was pink and I was wearing it. I didn’t argue. I even did my own make up. I had lots of blue eye shadow, and that was the perfect neutral. Well, maybe not. Professional hair styling? Give me a break! I did my own hair for the dance, and those feathers on the side were on point. The nerve of this child.

Wait! The restaurant across the street! That’s it! I am out of here! I’ll pull the stylist aside, let her know about the great eyeliner debate of 2017, and tell her to text me when they are finished. While I’m at the restaurant, I will mentally prepare myself for the meltdown that will come as we drive home from this appointment. I bet she will wash her face before the dance. I am angry, Feelings Journal.

4:10 p.m. Feelings Journal, I really can’t believe I left my daughter at the salon and am now at the bar of the restaurant where I had lunch a few hours ago. I want that strong margarita desperately, but I need to keep it together. I know! I will order sangria. That is just juice with a splash of wine, right? I’m going to keep it classy and order sangria. Take that, stupid middle school dance.

Ten minutes later, and I’m still mad. I’m going to text some friends. I’m going to tell them everything. Oh look! They are all replying. They feel bad for me. They want me to hang in there. These are my people. Maybe I am starting to feel better. I think I’ll order one more sangria and continue to think about this.

Wow, one friend just called and talked me through the fact that I left my daughter at a salon so I could drink sangria alone at a bar at 4:00 in the afternoon. She promises this isn’t a new low for me, but I am not so sure. Time to drive back over there. I am feeling insecure.

5:10 p.m. Okay, I’ve got this. Feelings Journal, I will be unemotional. I will not be angry, and I will not be overly giving either. I am not a doormat at the feet of her irrational thinking. This has been too much for me, but I will remain strong. I want to pay and get the heck out of here. I am done with all of this.

Good. She’s gone to the restroom to put on her dress, and I can pay the stylist and go sit in the car. Wait, the stylist is telling me that everything is fine. She simply explained to my daughter that, as soon as she put on the dress and had her hair done, it would all come together. Didn’t I say that over an hour ago? Why aren’t my words enough? Now I am even angrier!

I hear heels clicking down the hall. Here she comes. Here comes the pity party. The door is opening, and suddenly I can’t breath. She is stunning beyond her years. Her dress, her hair, her make up and her smile – it’s everything. She is feeling confident. I can see the confidence! Dare I say she is happy? Something is happening to me, Feelings Journal. There are too many feelings all at once. Do I see a future mother-of-the bride moment? So. Many. Feelings! I can’t take all these feelings, Journal. Oh dear God what is happening? Am I crying? I am not even a crier! I know: I’ll wave my hand in front of my eyes like a fan to make it stop. Darn, that totally didn’t work. I’ll try clearing my throat. Ugh, that didn’t work either.

I tell her she looks beautiful. I give her a hug. I tell her I love her and that it all came together. She asks me why I am crying as I throw on my sunglasses. She said she doesn’t understand why I am crying. Why doesn’t she understand me, Feelings Journal? It seems we’ve come full circle with that thought today. Life is funny like that sometimes.

It’s time to get to that dance and take some pictures. This moment in time is so amazing. Beyoncé would be so lucky to be me right now.

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Grocery Store Adventures


Several times each week, I have to stop at the grocery store. I’m one of those unorganized people who can’t seem to make one long list. In the span of a week, I make three short lists with each covering 48 hours or so, and I end up going again and again. I wonder why I do this to myself because I don’t particularly enjoy the store. I don’t like that one needs a degree from MIT to get the fruit and veggie bags to open in a timely manner. Perhaps that is the punishment for forgetting my recycled bags. I guess I deserve it. Knowing the checker will end my shopping trip by asking me if I found everything I was looking for, while knowing darn well he/she isn’t going to do a thing to help me if I didn’t, also keeps me from putting the grocery store experience at the top of my list of favorite things to do. But the biggest challenge of my frequent grocery trips comes before I even enter the store, and it can be the difference between a great or miserable shopping experience. The issue? Choosing a grocery cart.

The beginning of the experience is always the same. I stare at the rows of grocery carts while the theme to Jeopardy plays in my head. This is a game of chance that I am forced to play before I even enter the store! It always feels a bit like the Sword in the Stone: Will I be the chosen one for selecting the cart I am eyeing? If I pull this grocery cart just right, will it loosen itself to its rightful master or must I yank at it awkwardly like I’m trying to pull at a donkey sitting on his haunches?  Once I have selected a cart, I enter the store and know immediately what kind of shopping experience I will have. Until this week, I was only aware of two types of cart issues that might make for a negative shopping experience. However, this week I have identified a third!

I would say that one-fourth of the time I choose the “hanging to the left” cart. You know the one. This cart is the reason 99% of the women you see at the store are wearing yoga pants. They need to be ready for this cart. This cart requires a full body squat just to get around the corners. Indigenous people gave birth in this position but now it is mostly reserved for getting from aisle to aisle at your local store. No matter how hard you try, this cart won’t make the turn without a struggle. When you have the HTL cart, you not only have to squat and do a full bicep workout to get around corners, but you also get the sound that accompanies it. This means, after turning corners in an odd position, you also introduce yourself to the people on the new aisle with a skidding sound. Sadly, that isn’t the worst sound you can hear at the grocery store.

At least another one-fourth of my trips have me pushing the noisy cart. This one usually has a repeated click-click-click that makes me want to go faster so the clicking will stop. Don’t try this. We’ve all tried, and it never works. Going faster doesn’t make the click go away. Sometimes you get a bonus problem with the clicking cart: Added vibration through the handles. Now you are clicking throughout the store and your teeth are chattering, and it is just uncomfortable to be you in that moment. It only gets worse when you see a friend at the store. As you walk toward her and say hello, it sounds like you are talking into a fan. No one likes that cart. Sometimes I get the sister to the clicking/vibrating cart: the squeaker. This one might be the worst of them all. Everyone has had the squeaker and understands the embarrassment it can cause.   I always try to give a knowing look to the person who has the squeaker. This person easily gets my attention, as I know the sound so well. I give them a look of empathy, a tiny grin, maybe even a knowing head nod and a shoulder shrug, but people who get the squeaker don’t tend to make eye contact. I get it! It’s like the horrible corduroy pants your parents made you wear as a kid. No matter what you did, that noise followed you, and you just hoped no one would notice it was you.

I thought I had encountered all grocery cart scenarios until this past Monday. This trip to the store would prove to be very, very different. It started well enough without a single noise or forced pulling. I was winning! This would be an awesome shopping trip! I could have full eye contact and not have to squat! Soon enough, though, I knew I was in trouble with my cart. This cart pulled a new maneuver on me. There I was, confidently walking across the grocery store when it came to a complete and unexpected stop. The handle hit me in the stomach. This was weird! I wondered if I had run over a hastily discarded donut tissue, but no, nothing was under the wheel. Whatever, it was time to get moving again. A few steps later it went right back to the abrupt stop and bump to the stomach. It was time to pull over and figure this out. Good thing I had on my HTL yoga pants because this required not only a squat but also a head tilt so I could get a good look at the wheels. It was at that moment that I saw a grocery cart situation like no other. There, wrapped around the center of the wheel, was a huge CHUNK of long hair. Y’all, I’m not talking about a single strand here. Someone might have maimed a small animal. This was a potential crime scene. Not only was a huge chunk of hair tangled on the inside of the wheel, it was on the outside as well. What in the world? I wondered if I should call a manager over. I was so confused.  I looked around for help but the next lady to approach had the squeaker and wouldn’t make eye contact. I couldn’t handle it. I stomach bumped it back outside and grabbed a basket. I couldn’t let it go wrong again. Clearly I was not the chosen one that day.

I quickly narrowed down my grocery list so I could get out of there. As I approached the cashier, she robotically asked if I found everything I was looking for. I wanted to tell her I had discovered a new mammal species on the wheel of one of their carts, but I was out of energy and time. “I definitely found everything I needed and more,” I said. This grocery store adventure was officially over.

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