How walking like a pirate is making me a (slightly) better person

Borrowed from families.com
Borrowed from families.com

I have never parked in a disabled parking space, but I have looked longingly at the empty ones. They are always so tantalizingly convenient–right by the front door of wherever I need to go. I have caught myself wondering why places like Safeway and Home Depot have set aside two, four, or even six spaces, when they often sit there unused. Just look at all that prime parking real estate!

Look at all that prime parking! Photo courtesy of Alpha Paving Texas.
Photo courtesy of Alpha Paving Texas.

Hey, I think. I’ve been circling for eons and I’m in a ginormous hurry. Or, I grumble about what a pain in the ass it will be to lug the crate of water/shop-vac/propane tank to or from the car. Life would be so much easier if I could just park in one of those geographically desirable spots. Thoughts like these may be accompanied by a twinge of something inappropriate, too–jealousy? resentment? Hopefully not “going to hell”-sized bad feelings, but enough to make me feel a little ashamed.

Likewise, I’m no tri-athlete, but I have occasionally rolled my eyes at the slow movers of the world. The I-need-a-scooter-to-meander-through-Target types, the ten minutes in the crosswalk folks. You know. Those people.

Then, six weeks ago, I leapt off a rock and significantly altered my worldview. I felt a horrible rip and shock in midair, knowing before I landed that the next 24 hours would be spent lying on top of a bag of frozen peas–instead of hiking and frolicking in paradise as I had planned. So much for my trip to Wilson’s Promontory.

From the Australian National Park website.
From the Australian National Park website.

It was time to drag my torn calf muscle home. Stubbornly refusing a wheelchair at the airport, declining the boot from the doctor, and hiding my crutches in the hall closet, I started to wonder what my problem was. Weeks passed before it dawned on me: I don’t want to admit that I’m middle aged, let alone mortal. And now that I’ve got the gait of a pirate crossed with a slug, there is visual evidence that both are true. In the frenzied ebb and flow of urban life, I am a visual thorn, causing people to stare before rushing past.

Walking into a store the other day, I heard the greeter say, “How’re you doing today?” Before I could answer he added, “Oh, my.” He grimaced. “Want a cart to lean on?”

No, I don’t want a cart to lean on. I want a new friggin’ leg. This one sucks.

At the crosswalk, people wave for me to cross…then scowl as they realize how long they will have to sit there. At the store, on the street– everywhere I go–I’m the one making you all wait, and I can tell I’m driving you crazy.

Shoot, I’m driving myself crazy. Everything I do takes three times as long as it used to, so I’m doing less and less. Forget something upstairs/in the car/at the store? Oh, well. Can’t find my phone? Make calls later. No shoes handy? Drive carpool in slippers. I make decisions based on how long I might have to stand or how far I will have to walk. If I need milk, I go to the market with the dairy closest to the door. If parking’s tough, I go early and circle like a hawk. And you should see the strategies I’ve adopted for unloading the dishwasher. Thank goodness I work at home, so I can ice and elevate whenever I need to. Theoretically, anyway. Sometimes the freezer just feels too far away.

After my daughter’s piano recital last week, I had to walk from the performance space to the reception. Noticing a couple behind me, I lurched to the side. “Go ahead,” I offered. “I’m terribly slow.” “Not to worry,” the man replied warmly. “We have issues, too.” I saw, then, that his wife had a pronounced limp. We exchanged smiles and hobbled along together for a while–not talking; just understanding. It was a relief to know that at least these two people would not get annoyed or leave me behind.

The past six weeks have felt like an eternity. Despite my frustration, however, I need to keep in mind that while I will start physical therapy next week, some people may never be able to run around. I’m fortunate and I know it, and this injury has given me a lot to think about. What’s been my hurry, anyway? In a hundred years, will anyone care that I had to wait an extra 15 seconds for someone to cross the street or get into their car? I won’t. I’ll be six feet under.

There. I’ve admitted it. I’m mortal.

So, if you need a little more time in the crosswalk, that’s ok by me. I have nothing but empathy for the slow folks out there these days. And don’t worry; I won’t be encroaching on any of those disabled parking spots until biology dictates I must. With any luck, I’ll be getting older and slower someday, so prepare yourself. I’ll be needing your patience and understanding.

 

Nothing spreads Christmas blessings like two-day shipping

Despite my whining, Miss Nine completely impressed me by pulling off the hot cocoa candles. With a little assistance...
Despite my whining, Miss Nine did impress me by successfully making the hot cocoa candles. With a little assistance, of course…

True gifts come from the heart and the hand, not the store. What a blessing that my kids have internalized such an important message.

Now. Could we just buy their teachers some gift cards and be done with it?

No, ma’am. My kids have watched unlimited DIY videos to prepare a Christmas cornucopia for all of their loved ones: fudge, lavender sachets, hot cocoa candles, soap, butter mints, rejuvenating foot scrub, and pop-up greeting cards made out of last year’s holiday card crop. I wish I were exaggerating.

Our house looks like Santa’s workshop crossed with a tsunami, though fortunately no one dares cross our threshold to see it. Why? Fear of the plague. Just yesterday, I met a friend for a coffee so I could briefly reacquaint myself with the outside world. She flinched and let out a yelp when I went in for a hug…and I’m not even the sick one in the family at the moment. For the record, I’d have done the same had our roles been reversed.

“This is fun, right?” the spouse asked me last night as he stirred condensed milk into melted chocolate with one hand, and lined pans in foil with the other. I was melting crayons with Crisco and trying mold to soy wax into faux marshmallows. Sure. Fun in a boot camp sort of way.

“Chop, chop, people!” I yelled. “Santa’s elves go off duty at 9 pm!” Not likely. The last time we got the lights out by nine was back in decorative gourd season.

Work? Email? Christmas cards? Nah.

Homework? Practicing? Who has time for that when we are busy helping our children be thoughtful? Meanwhile, our ornaments are still in boxes at the foot of the tree. We’ll be lucky to have 36 hours with the decorations up.

Sadly, we’ve managed to forget some very important folks along the way: music teachers, the sitter, plus the teacher who left three days early for winter vacation. There are probably plenty of others we’ve missed, too. How could we work this hard and still seem so thoughtless and Scrooge-y? No matter. I refuse to return to the craft store before 2015, and I’m pretty sure Santa already took me off his list for my holiday bad-itude, anyway.

Meanwhile, there have been so many store runs and late nights for the kids’ handmade extravaganza that I have had neither the time nor the energy left to figure out my own gifting plan.

Ho, ho, ho.

Amazon it is.

Man Shopping

I’m not talking about shopping for a man.

I’m talking about man-style shopping.

It’s not like I love shopping. I don’t squander vacation days noodling around in tchotchke shops. Bleah. Still, shopping is a frequent necessity, so I try to delegate it now and then. Sometimes that’s more of a nuisance than just going to the store myself.

I’m sure there are plenty of strategies I could learn from my spouse’s shopping methods–like how to get in and out of Target in 17 minutes flat, for example–but a few of his habits are completely mystifying to me.

1. Labels? Shmabels!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my spouse to pick up something at the store, only to discover that I have to go back to buy the item I actually wanted. Maybe I could do a quick and dirty shopping trip, too, if I just threw random crap into the cart. Scallions are not shallots. Butternut squash is not pumpkin. And is it too much to ask to look for the word salted or unsalted on the butter? He’ll buy the orange juice with extra pulp, though he hates pulp, and it just goes bad in the fridge. If I mention “pulp free” the next time, he’ll wind up buying the kind with added calcium, which he won’t drink, either.

Sometimes the man reads half the label, which may be worse: “Less sugar,” it says right before “than Sunny D.” I try to explain the difference between fruit juice and fruit drink, but I can see his eyes glazing over like they do when I ask him not to put my favorite wool sweater in the dryer. Whatever.

Here's a clue: when fruit is spelled with two o's and an umlaut...it's probably not the real deal.
Here’s a clue: when fruit is spelled with two o’s and an umlaut…it’s probably not the real deal.

As a methodology, though, complete disregard for precision inevitably frees up a lot of his time. Not only is his shopping trip nice and quick, I’m probably not going to ask him to go next time.

2. Let’s buy enough for the Armageddon.

You might be wondering why I have a 50-pound bag of rice in the middle of my kitchen. Well, it’s because it doesn’t f*!&ing fit anywhere else. I completely understand buying in bulk, but wouldn’t twenty pounds of rice suffice? That seems like plenty. And is it really necessary to buy 48 rolls of toilet paper at once? Or 12 rolls of paper towels and a gallon jug of Windex? Really?

Last time we needed more bedding for the mouse cage, the man brought home a bag that was four feet wide and three feet tall. Why? Because it was ‘cheaper’ to buy a two-year supply. Little Stripey promptly kicked the bucket a couple of weeks later. Now what? Now the girls’ closet is impassable because a truck load of cedar shavings is sequestered there. Every time I trip over it, or try and squeeze around it to find some lost shoe, I give it a little punch. It feels pretty good.

What makes rule #2 especially confusing is that he hates having so much stuff. “Why are all of the cupboards and closets full of stuff?” he hollers. I bite my tongue, because the basement full of boxes is completely my fault. It’s not like I can cast the first stone.

3. Why go to the store if you could buy it online?

Left to his own devices, the spouse would buy absolutely everything online. It started a while back when it was cheaper to subscribe for a year of two-day shipping than to pay the delivery charge on the gigantic power tool he needed. After that, he began ordering everything from diapers to a shop vac to wine to batteries. That’s convenient and all, but paired with the first two rules, it means we get a lot of packages. Recently he gave me a packet with ten pairs of extra thick white sweat socks. What’s this for? I asked. “Oh,” he shrugged. “I thought they were men’s. It costs too much to ship them back, so I’m giving them to you.” Yeah, thanks.

I will admit that the wrong pot that he ‘amazoned’–the one we had to store in a dusty pile on top of the kitchen cabinets for five years–has recently become useful. That’s nice.

In the meantime, we need grape-flavored Children’s Tylenol, so I guess I’ll head to the store. Any ideas on how to use up a mountain of cedar shavings?