Welcome to Wal-Mart

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Yesterday, I went to Wal-Mart.

I know, I know. That’s where I went wrong. But I drove right by one on my way back from taking my 6-year-old daughter to her cousin’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and simply couldn’t resist stopping.

Clearly I’m a glutton for punishment.

But I’m not the only one, apparently, because Wal-Mart was mobbed.

You see, here in Iowa we’re expecting a blizzard—forecasters are calling it Snowmageddon—even Jim Cantore arrived yesterday (along with most of the presidential candidates preparing for another kind of storm). So grocery stores, supermarkets and super stores like Wal-Mart have been stocking their shelves in preparation for the mad rushes of people seeking milk, eggs, bread—the usual.

I’m obviously not the only one who associates snow with French toast. Yum.

I’ll admit, even I had two of the three ingredients in my cart (I’ve not needed to buy bread since receiving a bread machine for Christmas and soon after the bread making addiction that goes with it).

Wal-Mart was, as it always is, a mad house. The store was packed with last minute shoppers. The checkout lines were practically wrapped around the store. Well, the few which were actually open.

I’m a rather patient in-line stander. My mind sort of drifts away as I casually wait my turn. I don’t tend to get frustrated or impatient in line. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not always a patient person. In fact, I practically lose my mind altogether when I misplace something as meaningless as a flip-flop in December. But while in line and even in traffic, I manage to remain calm as the time slowly passes.

This may be my inner-city east coast upbringing that explains why I’m used to waiting—in line, in traffic, at the DMV. Or perhaps I somehow inherited the I’m-okay-with-waiting-as-long-as-I’m-around-others-who-are-also-waiting gene from my parents. It’s hard to say for sure.

But, from what I witnessed at Wal-Mart yesterday, the woman standing in line in front of me was obviously missing that gene… or perhaps she was missing something else altogether.

Again, it’s hard to say for sure. But when the woman in front of her dropped that two gallon canister of water (because you can never have too much bottled water in a Snowmageddon) and it shattered causing a flood of H2O and a necessary cleanup in aisle 11 (ironically, my lucky number), the seemingly normal enough lady in front of me lost her patience and her mind.

I didn’t even notice when it happened. My mind was in another place. The checkout kid didn’t say anything. He simply continued checking as slowly as humanly possible. Then at some point much later he nonchalantly told me that the man behind me and I would need to find another lane because he was closing his. It was in that moment that I noticed the woman in front of me start to twitch.

The problem was there was nowhere for us to go and she took it upon herself to stand up for us and say so. It wasn’t necessary but, at the time, I thought it was rather nice of her so I thanked her for doing so. There were so many people behind us already and all the other lines were just as long if not even longer than ours so when the woman spoke up, the checker changed his mind and said we could stay.

A few minutes or twenty later a woman pushing an industrial sized mop bucket came along but instead of using it and the matching mop to clean up the mess, she grabbed a large roll of paper towels (not the Bounty quicker picker upper variety either) and proceeded to roll them out all over the floor and try to sop up the tsunami. It didn’t work, of course. She created waves of water and waves of anger, as well.

The woman in front of me suggested (albeit snarkily) to the employee with the mop bucket that she should actually try using the mop instead. Then when the employee admitted she did not know how to ring out the mop, the demeanor of the lady in front of me changed altogether. She went from helpful to horrible in a snap. Had I expected it or had I been paying closer attention at the time, I might have tried to listen for the clicking sound her brain likely made in the moment when she in fact snapped.

The employee (a rather large woman in her late 50s or so) got down on her hands and knees in the checkout lane and started pushing the dirty water around with the paper towels. The woman in front of me turned to me with eyes dilated and breathing heavily and asked me if I thought she should mop it up herself. Huh? Then she simply disregarded my “I wouldn’t” and did.

She aggressively grabbed the mop, rung it out in some of the grossest water I’ve ever seen and started mopping the floor.  The employee, still on all fours, tried to tell the woman to stop but she wouldn’t listen. The lady just kept on angrily mopping the floor, pausing briefly to aggressively ring out the mop.

I turned to the man behind me, who was equally in shock at the show and just as stuck as me since there really was no place for either of us to go, and we shared a nonverbal what the fuck is happening?

Then as the water swished and swashed to and fro and every which way, including ours, until we were in fact standing in it too, I moved around a few of my groceries so I could pick up my daughter and put her in the seat of the cart. I didn’t want her in the wacko’s way or to slip in the approaching puddles.

I’m glad I did because it was at that moment when things got really… um, muddy?

The lady who brought the mop but didn’t know how to use it reprimanded the crazy customer while she was mopping the slop and told her to put down the mop. The customer lost what was left of her mind, refused to stop mopping and claimed she was doing Wal-Mart a service, that she was in fact concerned for the safety of the employee and the other customers.

None of this made any sense, really, and she was more likely frustrated by the stupidity of the situation and unfortunately allowed that frustration and the fact that she was probably off her meds (and her rocker, quite frankly) to get the best of her.

The two women shouted profanities at each other with me and my daughter and the man behind us all trapped between them, the water, the industrial sized mop bucket contraption and the various shelves full of all the usual impulse buy items until the cashier finally called a manager and security for backup.

At which point, things actually got worse.

An assistant manager showed up and slogged through the water and tried to tell us the lane was closed, due to the flood and the frenzy, but Crazy Mop Lady refused to let this happen. She started shouting that we (as if she, the guy behind me, my daughter and I were indeed a team) had been waiting for at least 40 minutes by this point… To be fair, the time flew and the other lines weren’t moving any faster.

Assistant Manager Chad (I couldn’t have picked a better name for him) tried to take charge of the situation, simply by standing in the middle of it all like a buffoon while his employee continued to crawl around on the floor. He stood between her and Crazy Mop Lady and proceeded to shout to anyone who would listen that if she didn’t stop mopping he would call the police.

Well, she didn’t care and continued to mop up the slop. And, despite the fact that she was obviously insane, she did a pretty decent job of it.

Once Crazy Mop Lady finally finished her task, she put the mop back in the bucket, paid for her groceries and left the store. But Assistant Manager Chad, for no obvious reason, stayed put blocking me and the man behind me. Meanwhile, security showed up and then Chad and his employee, the mop-lady-who-couldn’t-actually-mop, stuck around to tell their versions of the story to the security person.

With the floor mostly mopped up, aside from the sea of dirty wet paper towels, I moved ahead and starting unloading my cart onto the conveyor. The man behind me did the same. I think we both thought the ordeal was over. But Chad was just getting started. Now standing a little too close to my daughter, who was still sitting in the cart, Chad ranted his version of what happened to security and really anyone who would listen. His tone got angrier with each sentence so I wiggled my way between him and my daughter simply as a buffer so he wouldn’t be shouting in her face (at no time did I touch him).

Then, as Chad spoke to security, the mop bucket employee started to cry. I felt awful for her. I imagined it being her first day and my heart sank for her. I told her it wasn’t her fault, even though it was partially since she wasn’t good at her job, but that didn’t matter really because none of the madness would have happened if that other woman had simply taken her meds or skipped shopping at Wal-Mart altogether.

Like an idiot, I was still trying to console the mop bucket employee when she and Assistant Manager Chad suddenly turned on me.

Somehow, they both confused me with Crazy Mop Lady, who was by this point long gone and who for the record looked nothing like me.  The two Wal-Mart employees began pointing at me and telling security all the awful things I’d allegedly said and done to them. They corroborated a rather detailed and mostly accurate story about the string of ridiculous events which had taken place. The only real problem with their story was that they had somehow agreed that the crazy mop customer lady was if fact me.

Chad claimed I’d pushed him out of the way while his minion said I stole her mop and cleaned the floor, putting her and everyone else in the store at risk. I tried to explain that they were clearly confusing me with that other customer but they wouldn’t listen. They kept insisting that I was the one who had stolen the mop and who had lost my mind at Wal-Mart that day.

Assistant Manager Chad threatened to have me arrested for all of it while my child sat quietly in the cart watching and listening.

In addition to yelling at me for no reason whatsoever in front of my daughter and a store full of customers, Chad kept using and abusing the word “literally” while pointing at me and shouting things such as “she literally grabbed the mop” and “she literally pushed me out of her way.”

Thank God for that part because it somehow kept me grounded in the humor beneath the insanity and for the man behind me in line who (in a thick Irish accent) finally shouted, “Are you all insane? This woman wasn’t the loon who lost her shit and mopped up that mess. This woman and her child were literally trapped here in the middle of all of it just like me.”

Irish dude and I were on the same page.

After asking to speak to a real manager and telling our version of the story, we finally escaped.

I loaded our groceries into the car, secured my daughter in her booster seat and drove away.

Then, as we pulled out of the Wal-Mart parking lot, I thought I’d better take a moment to tell my daughter how inappropriate the adults in this situation had acted. Mostly I wanted to make sure she was okay so I calmly explained to her what had happened and asked her if she had any questions.

She had one.

“Mommy, is literally a bad word?”

 

 

Haibun and Haiku

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I spread my yellow cotton sheet out onto our lawn’s lush green grass and lay down alone with my laptop. The warm air still smells of last night’s campfire tainted with a faint hint of chlorine. Birds are chirping. Bees are buzzing. This is the perfect spot to write a poem about nature, I think. I look across the street at the young cornfield and wait for my inspiration to come to me.

I feel the sun’s warmth
as deer play in the distance,
zero distractions.

But then braided blond hair bounces by. It belongs to a giggling girl. I look up and watch as she skips through a sea of bubbles, laughing, playing fairy, granting wishes. She spies a butterfly, chases it for a moment but becomes distracted, as easily as me, by a dandelion that has gone to seed and so she pauses to make a wish of her own. I lean in and listen.

She wishes for cake
with candles. Ah, more wishes.
Mother like daughter.

She spins off and I smile and look away. I try again to write this poem. “Watch me, Mommy,” she shouts and I turn back again just as she scoots her bottom onto the swing. Then she watches me to make sure I’m watching her. I smile to reassure her. She holds on tight and launches.

Swinging on a swing,
higher and higher she goes,
toes tickling clouds.

As she looks up, I do too. I see the cotton candy blue sky above us with its big puffy white billowing clouds. They pass ethereally. Maybe they’re my inspiration. They glide by and by and as I relax into the moment my mind decides to go with them.

Floating on a cloud,
looking down, the world drifts by,
but only a dream.

The sound of sneakers on gravel brings me back to my blanket. I rub my eyes and then stare back down at the glare on the blank screen. This assignment is due soon and I feel I must focus on being inspired. I need to force this poem out of me. Just then the reflection of the sun’s rays barely stings my eyes, just enough to inspire me in a different direction.

I look away again and see Lyla at the top of the slide.

“Arr, I’m a pirate!”
Sharks are surrounding the ship.
This haiku can wait.

Look what popped up right outside our back door!

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It’s a robin’s nest. My immediate thought was mini Incredible Hulk eggs and then a friend suggested Smurfs. I guess they are a tad more blue than green. Anyway, I googled it and it’s definitely a robin’s eggs.

Mama has been coming back and forth and papa has been hovering above squawking down at us from up in a nearby tree. They are a cute couple!

It’s things like this that make me truly love living in Iowa. While I loved and often miss living in NYC, too, things like this never happened to us there. Though I once tried to doctor a rogue pigeon back to life but that’s a different story. I hope this story has a happier ending!

This is certainly a new experience for me. How exciting!

Spring has sprung.

Monty

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My husband and I planted our first tree today in our backyard.

In fairness, my husband did most of (read: all) the hard work of lugging and digging and scooping and planting while I played with our daughter and took pictures.

What a wonderful feeling to have planted our own tree. Another first for us. And certainly a first for me. Growing up in the city, I never had the pleasure of doing something so naturistic (is that a word?) until now.

I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful husband and child. We love each other so much and that love grows stronger each day. Isn’t that what life is all about? We are building such a beautiful life here together in Iowa in our new home. Everyday life has its ups and downs and we do our best to savor the highs while working together to get through the lows. Things aren’t always easy and breezy and, like you, we have our challenges. Some days are harder than others but having each other makes it all worthwhile.

Today is a good day.

We planted a tree.

He’s a Montmorency Cherry tree but since that’s a mouthful, we’ve decided to name him Monty. I’m looking forward to watching him grow and perhaps planting more. He will make a nice addition to our family and our home.

Just Another Day in Iowa

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The other day,  while on my way to meet up with my super-awesome sister-in-law, Randi, with plans to tag along with her and participate in my first ever cookie exchange, the strangest thing happened…

Well strange by my apparently somewhat sheltered city girl standards anyway.

I was alone in my car driving down (or would it have been up?) Highway 34 (just past 360th Street) toward Carson from Malvern when I saw something that seemed rather odd in the not-too-distant distance. While it didn’t appear to be a car or vehicle of any kind, I wasn’t quite sure at first what it was. But whatever it was, it was definitely in my lane and coming my way fast.

Thinking maybe it was just something or someone passing something or someone else, I looked to the left of it and in the other lane there was a caravan of vehicles all bunched up beside and behind it, moving slowly, sort of like a funeral procession. I was perplexed.

I glanced back and as it continued getting closer, I realized it was a horse.

A fucking horse!!

And (damn it) it was coming right at me! If having a horse galloping full-speed-ahead into the direction of my front bumper wasn’t bad enough already, no one was riding it. I didn’t know what to do. So I slowed down and eventually came to a complete stop right there in the middle of the road. Then I did what I think anyone in my position would have done: I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. And in the event that the horse had exceptional hearing or was taking subliminal requests, I whispered the words, “Please jump!”

When I opened my eyes, the horse was in the other lane passing me.

Feeling happy that it hadn’t actually attempted to jump over me, since in retrospect it may have miscalculated and crashed through my sunroof, I removed my foot from the brake and, with my heart still beating out of my chest, pressed gently on the gas pedal and speed dialed my husband.

He and I talked for a few minutes and I eventually calmed down as he casually said things like, “Welcome to Iowa.” After assuring him that I was indeed fine and so were the five dozen homemade baby cheesecakes I’d been transporting, I told him I loved him and hung up the phone.

But then, mere (not mare… get it?) minutes later, before I had the chance to fully relax, something else happened. I spotted deer (plural) darting across the road ahead of me.

I’m not going to lie. I was a bit startled by them at first, having heard horror stories about deer-in-headlights type accidents and having seen my fair share of Allstate Mayhem (I love that guy!) commercials. But still I felt confident that I could handle the situation. Shit, I’d just survived my first potential head on horse collision! Compared to that, this was just Bambi (or Bambis?).

Besides, I’d been warned about this. My husband and practically every other member of our family and close friends had been warning me since we moved here about the dangers of deer this time of year. And they taught (or at least told) me what to do if I happened to encounter one (or in this case, about eight or so).

No problem. I got this! After all, I’m an Iowan now. So I simply slowed down (again), put on my hazard lights this time, stayed as alert as possible and carefully watched back and forth from side to side for more deer. Easy-peasy.

It wasn’t scary. On the contrary, it was beautiful. What I got was the equivalent of a front row center seat as these delicate, majestic creatures jumped one by one clear across the road and darted off into a field. It was probably one of the coolest, most peaceful experiences I’ve ever had while driving.

Well… That was until I saw the white pickup truck coming from the opposite direction screech to an abrupt halt onto the side of the road. The truck had stopped so fast that I thought for a second that maybe it had hit one of the deer. Suddenly, I was concerned for the driver and any potential passengers, as well as the deer. But my concern quickly morphed into pure panic when two men in bright orange vests flung open the doors to the truck and jumped out wielding weapons. Before I could think or even blink, one of them ran into my lane, waved his gun in the air (like he just didn’t care) and immediately opened fire!

Are you effing kidding me, Iowa?

For the record, he missed. And for obvious reasons I’m totally relieved.

So we’re clear, I don’t stand on either side of the gun issue. Americans currently have the right to bear arms and, while I choose not to do so (and certainly not without the correct bra), I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s rights or strike up a debate. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of violence and I adore cute furry things with faces just as much as the next gal, but I also occasionally like to eat them. Sorry. And, that said, I’m grateful to farmers and hunters and all other people who get their hands dirty so that I don’t have to.

But even though I have no personal, political or moral dilemma or issue with hunters or guns, I’d prefer not being shot by one. So if you enjoy hunting and/or if you’re planning to shoot a gun for any reason, please spare me the details and (for the love of God) aim that thing away from my face.

This was not my first time in the presence of an overly anxious, obviously desperate dude with a gun. I don’t mean to brag, but when I was 17-years-old, I got held up at gun point. That’s right, bitches. I apologize; I’m not sure what just came over me. That bitches comment just felt right in the moment. Anyhoo, I was a freshman in college at the time, working the register at a Wawa (if you’re unfamiliar, it’s kind of like a 7-11 only better) in Philadelphia.

It was right smack in the middle of the day, during the dinner rush when a man pointed a gun at me and told me that if I gave him all the money in my drawer, then he wouldn’t shoot me in the face. Once I pushed past the panic and remembered how to open it, I gave him the entire drawer. It and the sum of its contents were not worth my face or my life.

In case you’re wondering, I did not see my life flash before my eyes that day, nor did I have any sort of out of body experience, probably because I had zero plans of losing my life that day over a drawer full of hoagie money. Nope. Not me. Sure, I was scared beyond comprehension. I was only 17. But I managed to refrain from passing out, throwing up or shitting my pants.

And despite my latest Iowa encounters with the runaway horse, deer and even the overzealous hunters, I did none of those things the other day either.

I admit that I briefly considered running over the dude with the gun just to teach him not to phuck with a Philly girl. But I quickly thought better of it. I know better than to antagonize an armed and possibly intoxicated a-hole.

So I opted instead to speed up and give him a friendly Iowa wave (and not just my favorite finger) as I passed him and his buddy as-quickly-as-possible. I needed to get on my way. Like I said, I had a cookie exchange to get to.

Have you ever seen a cow riding a bicycle?

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Well I have and it was awesome.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays (3rd favorite to be exact). And ever since way back when I was a kid, I’ve always loved getting dressed up for it, typically alternating clever and disturbing costumes year after year.

Against his will, I usually “urge” my husband to dress up too. In fact throughout our relationship, I’ve tortured him with one awful costume after the next. He claims he hates it. But I don’t believe him since he almost always gives in to whatever I want. One year, I made him dress up like a turd. Yep. It was a group theme. I made the costumes myself. Corn and all. He was a good sport about it… even though it was a little shitty of me. Another year, we were simply ketchup and mustard. He said “no” at first but eventually he agreed and there we were, two condiments at a New York City bar together. He even let me be mustard. That’s love. But he drew the line the year I wanted him to dress up like a vampire. I didn’t see the big deal, really. Honestly he was fine with it until I admitted I planned to dress as a tampon.

Whether I’ve been single, half of a couple or part of a group, I’ve always had fun on Halloween. But being a mom at Halloween is the greatest. Playing dress up with my daughter is so much fun. And rather than simply play dress up once, I get to do four straight days of Halloween festivities with her this year. She and I have already been trick or treating twice in two different towns and it’s not even the 31st yet. If you ask me, that’s pretty awesome.

She’s being a cow for Halloween this year. It seemed fitting since we’ve seen plenty of real cows since moo-ving to Iowa. Like most 2-year-olds, she loves mooing back at them. But she is by far the cutest cow I’ve ever seen!

Today, I put my little cow in her child seat and we went for a bike ride together through town. That was a first! I mean, have you ever seen a cow on a bicycle? I would (probably) never have done that in New York City. But it was great! And you know what? She had a blast being a cow on a bicycle.

Admittedly since Lyla entered our lives, I’ve focused more energy on her costumes than mine or my husband’s. Last year, I didn’t even bother getting dressed up. My husband was stoked when he learned he didn’t have to get dressed up either. Instead, I focused all my creative energy on our daughter. She was a strawberry. Simple enough. But. Cutest. Strawberry. Ever!

My husband doesn’t know it yet but this year, we’ll be making a soft comeback as a family. To expand upon our daughter’s costume, all three of us will be dressing as cows tomorrow night at his parents’ Halloween party.

It’ll be our first Halloween together as a family in Iowa. I can’t skip this one!

But rather than make him dress from head to toe in plush cow apparel like our daughter, I’m simply giving him a button that says “Moo” and a hat that says, “More cowbell!” So yes, I’m going easy on him. But next year… well, that’s a surprise… but if he thought being a vampire was bad!

Tomorrow night, I’ll be wearing a hat that says “I love cows.” And although I’ve never put much thought into that before, this year I know it’s true. If my husband and my daughter are cows, then I must love cows.

Together as a family we plan to party till the cows come home… but really we’re already home so I guess we’ll just party till our little cow needs her nap.

Happy Halloween!

Walk for PKD

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The Nebraska Walk for PKDis tomorrow!

There’s still time to make a donation if you can spare it. And if you’re local, come out and walk with us!! It’s going to be a great day so why not spend part of it helping fund the cure for Polycystic Kidney Disease?!!

To check out my personal PKD site or to donate, please go to www.pkdcure.org/valzane

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease in November, 2009 – a few short months after giving birth to my daughter, Lyla. That’s when I learned that my mother also has PKD and my  grandmother had it, as well. There is a 50% chance that my daughter may  someday discover that she too has the disease. Before that happens, we need to find  a cure!!!!

Polycystic Kidney Disease is one of the most common life-threatening genetic  diseases, affecting more people than Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular  Dystrophy and Sickle Cell Anemia – combined. Currently there is no treatment and  no cure… But there is hope!!
The PKD Foundation is a wonderful organization here to ensure that  someday, no one suffers the full effects of PKD. Wouldn’t that be great?

The PKD Foundation aggressively  seeks to convert:
– Ignorance into knowledge through high quality patient  education materials
– Despair into hope through communication, support  groups and research advances
– Isolation into community by involvement in  more than 70 PKD Foundation chapters and by lobbying congress
– Ideas  into reality through the research the Foundation funds and through clinical drug  trials
– Basic science into therapies through grants and  the Foundation’s work with the FDA
– Small dollars into large dollars by  leveraging grants into expanded PKD National Institute of Health (NIH) research  through passionate advocacy
They are doing the hard part but it is our support that  makes it possible.

If you can spare it, please give.

It’s www.pkdcure.org/valzane (in case you missed it the first time).

If money’s tight (and, boy, do I know that feeling!), please find a way to support in another way. I know it doesn’t always feel like it but money is not required to make a difference in this world. There are endless ways to help out.

Be creative! Donate time, say a prayer, join a local charity, offer a helping hand. Find your cause and do something to make a difference. Let’s save the world together. I bet if we work together, we can do it.

If you are able and willing to support the Walk for PKD, thank you. Your support means the world to me and my family.

xoxo