Friday, May 29, 2009

Was I Born Without the Shopping Gene?

Let’s get right to the point. I don’t like to shop.

And let me make another point before I get on my soapbox – I do NOT think negatively of anyone who DOES like to shop.

There are times when I know that enjoying the art of shopping would be good, like when we’re on vacation. My husband and other relatives like to cruise the outdoor malls in the tourist areas. He likes looking for art, Christmas presents, or something unique for our house. My sister-in-law has a serious talent for spotting a bargain a mile away. My children don’t mind shopping because they are sure to get ice cream from one of the desert stores interspersed with the boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries.

If I liked shopping, there would be more bonding time with my family. I would have most of the Christmas shopping done during the summer, and I’d have some neat art that would make my house guests ask, “Where’d you get that?” which would lead to interesting conversations. Hmmm…

I’m okay for one big shopping trip during the vacation, and I can usually last two to three hours if I don’t get hungry. If I have to endure a second shopping trip to the same place we’ve already been, I am such a drag to everyone else. I have recently learned to stay in our dwelling and let them happily go.

For me, shopping is a necessity. If I need jeans, I go to the store of choice and focus on the jeans; not that I can’t be distracted. A well organized store, with mannequins dressed in coordinated outfits is a distraction. I love it when clothes are matched and displayed. There aren't many mannequins in stores now, but just seeing a complete outfit hanging on a rack or wall works, too. I visualize myself in the outfit, decide the future use for it, try it on, and buy it (maybe) – a distraction from the jeans - that cost me.

A sale sign or a 50% off sign gets my attention too, but as much as I love a bargain, I don’t do well when it requires me to look through racks and racks of clothes that have rhyme nor reason for being placed on that particular rack. It is completely overwhelming!

Even having someone with me doesn’t help. Recently, I had a conversation with someone who is also shopper-challenged. When a friend asked her to go shopping, she said, “And do what - look at clothes?”

One way to entice me to shop with a friend is to include a meal in the trip. Eat first, and then I will watch YOU shop. For me, it’s pure socializing. If I say that I’m “shopping,” my body will shut down within an hour and I’ll start to feel the drag and the headache.

My last shopping excursion was a week ago. The day started at 6 a.m. with my usual school day routine. Later, the kids were participating in the Piano Guild at the university, so I picked them up from school at 11:30ish. A few hours later, everyone breathed a sigh of relief to be done playing several memorized pieces for a judge, and to have scored well. I treated them to a trip to the mall as a reward for doing what Mommy “persuaded” them to do. Plus, I could get shoes for them that they desperately needed.

We enjoyed lunch together before heading out to the shoe store and the teeny-bopper stores. No success at the shoe store that usually has a good selection of shoes for narrow feet: my first frustration - a big one. Next on the list: shorts for my thirteen year old. This is where I really need patience. Her modus operandi is to hem and haw about which store to go to. She picks one, enters, stands in one spot, then S-L-O-W-L-Y picks up an item, stares at it, ponders… I have to tell myself, “Let her shop peacefully,” until I can’t take it anymore.

“Why don’t you just go in the fitting room and try it on!”

She bought the shorts.

In the mean time, the other two want to go to the popular tween stores and are beginning to start the “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” chime. I can feel my blood pressure rising, but I’m still outwardly calm. Inwardly, I’m still angry about the lack of narrow shoes in the so-called “good” shoe store, and how much time we spent there, to come out with NOTHING. I failed at my mission!

Eventually, I hit the brick wall. I had to go…now…to the car…home. Apologies were voiced to the young ones for not getting them anything (or did I?), with promises to take them later in the week. I walked swiftly through the mall, taking for granted that my three little ducklings were behind me. They let me know they were there when I heard them bemoaning, “Can’t we just go into Claire’s, just for a minute?”
"No! Let’s go! "
That evening, I think they had cereal for dinner, or maybe Oodles of Noodles. I wouldn’t know because I went to my bedroom, where eventually, I lay prostate across my bed, comatose, periodically pounced on by a hyper dog, or forced to utter a few words by a perplexed child asking, "Why are you tired, Mommy?" I had been defeated…once the shopping mall.

All throughout my life, I’ve heard comedians make jokes about women and shopping, how dangerous we are with a credit card, how we have more shoes than Imelda Marcos, or whoever the current shoeaholic is.

I can’t relate.

True, my closet is full, and I try to stay a step or two above frumpy, but at what cost: last minute desperation shopping, boredom, frustration? But I’ll admit that sometimes I happily hit a home run!

"What happened to my shopping gene?"
Do you have the shopping gene?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Have you read this book? Are you familiar with Maya Angelou?

I’m not going to write a book report or an author profile for fear of doing the book and the author in injustice, but I will highly recommend it as a classic American autobiography.

I thought I’d read the entire book when I was in college, but after reading it last month, I realized that I didn’t. Seeing the televised movie probably made me think I knew the whole story. Having the opportunity to read it again gave me a deeper understanding.

Mary Catherine, one of my book club girls, chose this book, and we discussed it at her home. That night, there were only four of us, but we represented three racial groups. We talked about Maya Angelou’s life as a human being who endured a horrible crime and its repercussions, as a woman who dealt with insecurities, and as a black person struggling to get beyond the walls of bigotry. The discussion of the book prompted us to talk about our own similarities and differences, our cultures, and the beliefs we had while growing up.

There are so many books that I would like to read. Maya Angelou’s story continues in her book, Gather Together In My Name. After reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which tells her story to age sixteen, I had many questions about the rest of her life and the path to her current highly honored and respected status. Maybe I’ll browse the second book the next time I’m in the library or book store and consider reading it; which leads me to switching gears…

I borrowed the book from the library! As much as I am in favor of feeding the economy, I resisted buying a nice, shiny, fresh smelling, new book at the local Barnes and Noble. My collector/packrat tendencies are getting some added attention in the form of purging and NOT buying (see “post” dated April 24, 2009).

Our current book club selection is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, and, “Guess what? I borrowed it from the library!” (The yellow "thing" in the picture is my library card.)

In addition to the Lisa See book, I am currently reading Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Last Time I'm doing This!

I ran another race – this time, a 5k sponsored by my daughters’ school. The event was a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization that builds playground equipment for special needs children.

After my successful groundbreaking run in the 10k (see my post dated 4/2/09), my enthusiasm was still pumping, so when the 5k entry form came home, I signed up. My kids did the same, piggybacking my excitement. Even my husband, who does not easily give up a Saturday morning, said yes to the 3.1 mile run/walk.

The five of us, dressed in our matching white, event T-shirts, paraded onto the school grounds to join other weekend warriors (and bonafide runners, too) dressed in their white T-shirts with the school mascot stamped across the front. Everyone appeared alert and ready!

At 8 a.m., the kids' one mile race began. The first wave of kindergarten and first graders ran around the track, dropping a craft stick into a bucket each time they completed one of the four laps. They looked so cuddly and little and cute.

The next wave, grades two and three, included my Mallory. Kelly was in the last wave of fourth and fifth graders.

The parents and spectators whooped and hollered as the kids raced around the bend past the bulk of us. As they faded into the distance, we noticed the sprinting had turned to walking during the second lap – hmmm, a pattern – sprint past hollering parents to impress; rest on the far side of the track when out of sight of squinty-eyed parents.

Nine o’clock – time for the three mile trek from the middle school track, to the elementary school, through a small neighborhood, to the high school, around its track, back to the elementary school, and one more lap around the middle school track.

The sky was overcast when the kids ran, but just when the adults and ambitious and/or older kids (including my Hayley) started out, Mother Nature decided to grant us the sun – the HOT sun.

If it were not for the teachers and my pride – them cheering us on all throughout the course, and me just wanting to complete my mission - I may have ducked over into the woods, or blended in with the moms pushing the strollers, or with my walking friends. I REALLY WANTED TO WALK!

Why do I do this? My legs begin to feel heavy; my breathing becomes labored. And that’s within the first mile!

Eventually it gets better, but then worse again as the finish line nears. One of the cheerleaders (or were they there to be ready to call the EMT?) was my daughter’s teacher when she was in fourth grade. Karen K. yelled out some words of encouragement as I passed her, and also told me to, “put it in your blog!” I yelled back, “LAST TIME I’M DOING THIS!”

Will it be my last time? My first experience was in cool, pleasant weather. This time, the heat was a revelation, and it wasn’t even THAT hot. If I do it again, what’ll be next – torrential rain?

Yes, I’ll do it again, because it really WAS okay. It really WAS fun.

What does your inner athlete tell you to do? Do you do it?

Friday, May 1, 2009

You're Never Too Old (for most things)

Mallory and Mommy practicing a duet
I wish I had done that when I was a child…or when I was younger.

How many times have you heard that statement?

When I was younger, I only heard it from old people who lived vicariously through me and other young people, or who envied us.

I can’t run up and down stairs like you do all day long.

I wish I could go back to school, but I can’t handle all that reading and homework anymore.

I wish I had stuck with playing an instrument.

I wish I hadn’t let myself get out of shape.

I wish I had traveled more.

Now I’m hearing it from people my own age! Are we now - old?

As I was taking a walk with Swati and Judy, the subject of amusement parks came up. Judy and I immediately listed our reasons for being less than thrilled.

Judy said:
“The rides make me dizzy.”

My portion the dialog:
“When the kids say, ‘Let’s go to Kings Dominion or Busch Gardens,’ I sigh and muster up an, ‘okayyyy.’ I try to take them a few times in the summer. They really enjoy it. Me – I’m hot, I’m watching them if they’re in the pool, I’m standing in long lines, I’m taking them to the restroom…”

Then Swati says:
“Growing up in the United States, I guess you all take these things for granted. I didn’t have all these amusement parks in India. It’s fun, like having a second childhood; living through your kids!”

That prompted me to reassess:
“Well, I do love Disney. The shows and theater are great. And I do love riding those simulator rides. And that stuff is at all the parks now. I actually do have fun when I get there.”

My point:
We should focus more on what’s good about something and the possibilities, rather than jump straight to the negative and what we can’t do.
My eight old is finishing her last year of parent-participation group piano lessons. I have sat on the floor of the piano studio through three kids, since 2000, singing and clapping and pointing to notes. Guess what has also happened? Yes, I’ve learned to play the piano, and I enjoy it!
My two oldest daughters surpassed me years ago, and I expect the youngest to do the same next year. But…I can play – slowly, and stopping to figure out chords and notes – but I'm making music! There could be lessons for me in the future…check back with me.

Are you living your second childhood? If not, hurry up before you turn back into a baby!