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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Struggle at Aldi

This is a little embarrassing. Exactly why I am blogging about it. Now I'm not new to shopping at stores like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Publix. I keep my small, recycled, green bag in my van. I don't usually do all of my shopping in these stores so normally I don't need a shopping cart.

Well, a few days ago I went to Aldi's with our son, after hearing that they had huge, sweet cantalopes really cheap. As we swiftly approached the store, I told our son, "Don't even think about asking me to buy any junk!"

His walk slowed.

This time I decided to get a shopping cart just in case.

I grabbed the handle. I thought it was stuck, then noticed there was a short, linked chain on it. What in the world? I looked around but it was early so no one was coming in. The seniors were already in. I saw them getting out of their cars as we pulled in the parking lot. There is a Hardee's not far so they'd probably just had breakfast and met up to shop at Aldi.

I tried to manipulate the little lock/chain thingy to free the cart. Our son was standing nearby just looking. Guess he was still processing the NO JUNK policy.

"You aren't gonna help me?" I asked him as I jerked the carts. I looked on the other row of nicely aligned carts to see if there was one not on lock down.

I continued to pull and jerk. "Mama! I think you need a key from inside." He looked around. "Somebody might think you're stealing it." Guess the sight of me pulling the carts to no avail embarrassed him.

Defeated, I sucked my teeth and went on in. Never asked anyone about it.

Yesterday, I went back to Aldi for a few items. Armed with my recycled, green bag, I approached the store. A young guy was pushing a cart back to the store. Remembering the struggle, I caught up to him before he pushed it to its place and simply asked if I could have his cart.

He looked at me a little funny but gave it to me.

So I quickly shopped. I was about to put the cart back but saw a man with his small child so I kindly offered him the cart. No need for him to struggle with the car as I did days before. Simple, small gesture.

"Here. You can have my cart," I smiled.

As I turned to leave, he offered me a quarter.

OMG! OMG! So that's how it works! Didn't need a key...needed a quarter in that little slot.

But...I was too cool to be embarrassed so I simply declined and told him not to worry about it, tucked my tail and walked to my van. And I ain't gonna tell our son about it either. I wonder how many people inside Aldi's, that day, saw me pulling and jerking on those carts?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Keep Calm!

So our oldest will be finishing her last year of middle school this year and our youngest will be starting middle school. Big transition from elementary to middle school. Everyone dreads the topics kids in middle school will have and the main one is sex. But many students, nowadays, begin these discussions in elementary. In fifth grade many schools get parental signatures for an "introduction" about this topic, it's called "Family Life". It's presented, coincidentally, the last week of school. Yep! Get 'em all curious and send 'em home for about two months.

But we were ready! We have always kept the communication lines open. When they were very young, I told them the correct names for body parts. Daddy had a hard time but I wanted to be mature.
"Girls have a vagina and boys have a penis," I told them.
"Girls have a pocketbook and boys have a wee-wee," Daddy told them.
This is why our daughter confused a good friend when she stayed over one night. She asked her if she washed herself good and got all the toys out of the tub.
"Yep! And I washed my pocketbook too!" Our daughter replied as she skipped out of the bathroom. As my friend ran to get her pocketbook out of the water, our little one remembered and yelled,
"My vagina! It's a vagina! My daddy calls it a pocketbook."

And the look on a little boy's face when you are playing with his toes and reciting "This Little Piggy"? The last little toe piggy shouldn't be saying "wee-wee-wee" should he?

Well, those things are the least of our worries now.

So, a few weeks ago our son brought up the sex topic. He said he knew where babies came from and it wasn't the stomach. I didn't remember us telling him that they came from the stomach anyway. We could handle that topic. I calmly looked over at Daddy and mouthed the words, "Keep calm." There was a pause, then he also told us that he knew how babies got THERE. Uh oh!

"So Mama...(uh oh) you actually did THAT with Daddy TWO times?"
"What?" I snapped.
Daddy smiled and mouthed the words, "Keep Calm."
I knew I had to be mature about this.
"Why are you looking at me like it's all on me?" I asked.
Shaking his little head and looking at me with disgust he added, "Mama. I can't believe you had S two times."
Daddy was enjoying this. He WAS in the clear for some reason. But I knew I had to keep calm and take the high road.

"Daddy did it too! He started it." I snapped again.
Daddy jerked as if he was punched in the gut then said, "Okay. Okay. Let's all calm down."
But I was all in now. Too far gone. If I was going down...Daddy was going down too.
"And we did it more than two times! Daddy started it!"

Our son was in shock. He covered his eyes as if he caught us in the actual act. The room was quiet. Then Daddy said,
"What happened to Keep Calm?"

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Look How Far We HAVEN'T Come

When I began blogging, our youngest was in a car seat. We'd discovered he was extremely scared of people in costumes while on our first family trip to Disney World. While checking in our room, there was someone dressed in a Detroit Lions' costume in the lobby. Our daughter did her overly happy, Forrest Gump wave to him/her but our three-year-old son reacted a little differently. Not exaggerating- he ran up Daddy's six foot frame so quickly, and sat on his bald head kicking and screaming! Once we got to our room he crossed his short legs and said,
"Let him come up here and see what happen." (He was THREE)
We didn't realize how big his fear was until we got to Disney World. Our daughter was in heaven. All the characters were out it seemed, the first day at Magic Kingdom. She ran to get autographs and pictures with Tweedledee and Tweedledum! Her brother, ran the opposite way and jumped over the red, roped off area. You know the areas around the nicely manicured lawns...where we AREN'T supposed to walk, stand or sit.

Oddly he is okay with people in some Halloween costumes. There was the one time when he was about four and we were trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. He was dressed as Batman! He and his sister were ringing a doorbell.
"Trick-or-tWeet!" he and his sister yelled.
They got their candy, turned to walk down the driveway to us and here comes his nemesis...the Joker!
I thought it was cute.
He dropped his bag of candy, let go of his sister's hand and ran through their yard. He actually cleared the ditch as if he were walking on air! Daddy ran after him...he didn't see the ditch. After an expletive or two he caught him. Kids seem to get supernatural strength in times of distress. He was fast!

Well, he's about to start middle school (sixth grade) next month. Of course he's no longer in a car seat BUT he is still scared of people in costumes. He actually googled this phobia and asked me to find him a therapist.
"You are gonna have to do something because it will be tough if other middle schoolers find out...not good," I advised him.

He would eat Chick-fil-A everyday if he could but we have to get it to go. There's a chance the cow could come out. And I know what you may be thinking: let him see someone put the costume on so he will see how it works. Nope! Tried that. No rationalizing from that 11-year-old. We shall see what happens. His school does have a mascot.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Back in December (2013) a 34-year-old South African was in the spotlight for allegedly faking sign language during the memorial for leader, Nelson Mandela. Many members of the deaf community said the gibberish from the man, did not resemble sign language in any way. It was later determined that he may have a mental illness and hopefully he has been given care. He said he heard voices and saw angels. You know a few comedians had their way with this. I remember seeing an amusing skit about it on Saturday Night Live.
But I could relate, in some ways, to the story- to his "faking" that is. It took me back to the summer of 1997. I'd relocated to another city and needed a job. There was an opening for an Income Maintenance Caseworker with the Department of Health and Human Services. Sounds big right? Well, it was a job as a caseworker for the county- food stamps.
There were many people interviewing for the job. I really needed it and wanted it and I knew I needed to stand out from the other candidates.

So it came to me... sort of like the voices the fake interpreter in South Africa experienced.

"I see that you studied in Spain not too long ago," the interviewer smiled.

"Yes! and it was a great experience," I added.

"So you speak Spanish fluently?"

I started thinking about my level of Spanish. I did take two years in junior high and my two years of high school Spanish were great! I impressed one of my Spanish teachers. And I did take the plunge and went to Spain after just one year of Spanish in college. But did that make me fluent?

"We really need someone bilingual here. We don't have anyone in the building who speaks Spanish," she said.

I could sense how much I was needed. This is what will make me stand out!
"Si! I am fluent!" I answered.

Was it really important to tell her that my high school teacher was impressed because I was one of the few who actually did my homework and didn't talk AS much as the others? That I went to Spain to get the credit so I could skip Spanish II and be done with my required two years of a foreign language? And that was just a year prior to applying for the job.

I tried to assure myself that it would be okay. I knew basic conversational Spanglish. She did say no one else in the building spoke Spanish, so, unlike the guy in South Africa, I would not have to worry about a community of bilingual co-workers knowing I was NOT fluent. It would be a piece of pastel!

I knew greetings, salutations, colors, numbers, simple phrases, body parts, days of the week and months. So it would be like the families talking to a kindergartner pre-k level student. But I did learn a few words I knew would be vital: food stamps and pay stubs. I also kept a Spanish/English dictionary on my desk beside my cross.

Initially, things looked like it would be okay. Then, one day my supervisor called me in to interpret for him. So just like the South African interpreter I found myself a few feet beside the boss. My writing and description of the scene in his office doesn't give any justice to the look on the couple's faces during the horrid interpretation that day.

"Can you ask them when they moved to this county?" my boss stated.
"Cuando you get aqui?" I asked them, pointing down.
They looked at their watches and gave me the time they arrived to the building. Uh oh.
I tried again. "No. Que dia you come here." Still pointing down. They were confused so I helped them out.
"They said, they moved here a month ago."
It got really loco and I was sweating so badly. A few times the couple asked questions but after the first two or three words I didn't even try to get it. I would start using the few Spanish phrases I knew- no matter what they asked.
"Que es esto?" (what is that?) Their faces and responses were priceless.
My boss continued to ask me to ask them questions or give them information. Sometimes he would direct the questions to them louder and he started using gestures.
"Have you received food stamps in any other county before?"
I only knew present tense verbs and again, the basic stuff, so I asked them,
"Que es esto?" (what is that?)
And they would look around to see what I was referring to. While they talked (too fast) I kept thinking of other phrases I knew even if it was not appropriate.
"Do you have proof of bills you pay and your earnings?" my boss asked. I shortened it.
"Cuantos anos tienes?" I asked. (How old are you?) and told my boss,
"They said they left it at home but can bring it in a few days."
By the time we finished I'd asked them their ages, favorite color, the month they were born and, "What is that?" several times. I don't know who they thought was crazier- me or my boss for talking so loud. Once during the conversation, I did tell them he was crazy and old. I knew those words and I knew they would believe me based on his behavior.

Believe it or not I did not get fired. My Spanish got better, especially after meeting more families and talking incorrectly on the phone. There were quite a few times I had to hang up. I begged families to speak muy despacio (very slow) so I could catch a few words. I had to take control on occasion when I received calls.
"¿Cuál es tu nombre?" (What is your name)
Once I got the name I would say, "No mas or esperar!" (No more or wait!) This gave me enough time to look them up. Then I would just tell them either that they had food stamps or they didn't.
"Sí, de alimentos!" or "No! de alimentos!" And a polite, "Gracias!" while simultaneously hanging up.
Sure there was a chance that was not why they were calling but I did what I had que hacer.