Category Archives: Everything

Life’s Teachable Moments…

       I took a creative writing class a few years ago and one of our assignments was to write a coming of age story. The kicker was that it had to be our (the students) coming of age story, or at least one of them. So, like the good student that I am, I wrote the story, and like any good writer, I started with the truth and then took a few liberties. So here is my (mostly) true coming of age story:

          It was the summer of 1999 and I was fresh out of high school. I had my whole life ahead of me and could hardly wait to embark on the wondrous journey that was life as an adult. I had a vision of how awesome my adult life was going to be. First, I would move out of my parent’s house and into my own cozy apartment, then, I would purchase my own brand new car, adopt two cute little Chihuahuas which I would carry around in my Gucci purse, and of course, last but not least, meet my tall, dark, and handsome (and hopefully quite wealthy) soulmate and live happily ever after. But my first order of business was to acquire a job. No, not a job … a career.

            I must have put in an application at every restaurant, gas station, and shop in our small town and within two weeks I had landed the prestigious job of manning the shoe department at our local Wal-Mart. I was beyond thrilled! What a great job this was going to be. After all, I had a closet full of shoes so I definitely could be considered a shoe expert. There weren’t many options when it came to shopping in our town so I would be able to flirt with all the cute guys who caroused the shoe aisle and I would probably meet Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome (and hopefully wealthy, though I’m not an entirely materialistic person, so just moderately well off would do) even sooner than planned.

            On my first day of work my shift began at ten in the morning, so I got up at eight-thirty (ridiculously early I know, but career women have to make sacrifices and apparently a few hours of beauty sleep was going to be one of them) showered, shaved my legs, and took great care doing my hair and make-up. I arrived a little after ten, earning a dirty look from Nancy, my supervisor. I’m not sure what her problem was, did she think I woke up looking fabulous for goodness sakes? Then some time was spent arguing about whether it was really necessary for me to wear the famous Wal-Mart apron. I tried to explain to Nancy that I would sell way more shoes the way I was dressed than I would with that baggy apron covering up one of my cutest outfits, but she didn’t seem to get it so I finally just put the silly thing on and tried not to think about it too much. Nancy introduced me to my fellow shoe department associate, Sasha (a thin girl about my age with long, stringy hair with purple streaks in it), and handed me a handheld scanner and demonstrated how to operate it. She then took me to one of the back aisles of the shoe department where a large pile of shoe boxes were stacked against the wall. She explained that I was to scan each shoe box and then put them on the shelf in the appropriate section by size. I quickly got to work so that Nancy would see I was competent and leave, as I was worried that she would scare off all the cute guys with her frizzy hair and bad attitude.

            I didn’t actually meet any cute guys that day, but I figured it was because I was stuck in the back behind the aisles scanning shoes all day. I assumed that was just an initiation of sorts and I would start my real work selling shoes the next day. But all I did was scan and stack, stack and scan, that next day and the entire two weeks afterward. It was mind-numbingly tedious, and Sasha was always giving me the stink eye. She normally scanned shoes in the front aisles, but every now and then she would slink to the back aisle and scan shoes with me, and I could feel her watching me out of the corner of her eye. She was Nancy’s goon, I could tell. But then there was a light at the end of the tunnel … PAYDAY!

          I got to work five minutes early payday morning, receiving a look of surprise from Nancy and a smirk from Sasha. I ignored them both, imagining everything I was going to accomplish with my first paycheck. I would be able to set up first month’s rent on an apartment and maybe even have enough left over to buy a new pair of shoes (not from Wal-Mart, of course). I bounced on the balls of my feet impatiently as I watched Nancy go to her desk and retrieve two envelopes (no direct deposit in those days), handing one to Sasha and then, finally, the other to me. I could hardly wait to rip it open, but Sasha was hovering a little too close for comfort (trying to sneak a peek, no doubt), so I decided to wait until my shift was over and I was safely in my car. The day dragged on and on, but finally it was over and I made a beeline for the parking lot. I tore open the envelope and eagerly looked at the check in my hand. My heart sank. There seemed to be something wrong with it, some numbers were missing. Panic began to creep in, but then I took a deep breath and told myself to relax. Payroll had obviously made a mistake, I would just show it to my dad and he would help me figure out what to do to get it corrected. No big deal.

        When my dad got home from work that night, I immediately accosted him about the check. He sat down with me and explained that I was working a minimum wage job and that taxes and social security were taken out of what I earn and that without a college education blah, blah, blah (I pretty much tuned him out after I realized that he was saying the amount on the check was correct).  I couldn’t sleep that night. Peanuts, I was working for peanuts. My lower back ached from bending to stock shoes on the bottom shelf and my feet had blisters from all the constant standing (and yeah, probably from wearing heels and chunky sandals everyday), and I was doing it all for hardly nothing, not even enough to purchase a new purse or a good pair of shoes. At this rate, I would be thirty before I could afford my own apartment. And that was (shudder) old.

       I dragged myself to work the next day, and scanned away, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore (not that it had ever been all that invested before, but the promise of a big payoff had at least kept me somewhat motivated). Let’s face it, I wasn’t a shoe sales associate, or even a full fledged associate. No, I was just a stock girl. And not even a very good stock girl. This realization was depressing, to say the least.

     My career at Wal-Mart lasted another two months (yes, I hung in there for a while, if only to appease my parents). Turns out that at a job they actually expect you to work… a lot. And they only want to pay you a little, no matter how fabulous you are. Yep, my job at Wal-Mart gave me my first glimpse of what the real world is really like, and it kind of sucked. Though there would be many more to come, my experience at Wal-Mart gave me my first cold dose of reality and nudged me that much closer toward adulthood.

      When I pulled this story from the archives and re-read it, I realized that there are things I envy about my eighteen year old self, but then there are things I don’t. Of course I envy her innocence and naivety. She had not yet had her heart broken and had yet to experience the pain of real loss. She was blissfully unaware that the dad she adored (and who adored her in return) would only live another nine years and that her mother (who was always there for her) would follow him to Heaven only two short years later. She didn’t have to deal with the everyday stress of adult life: a mortgage to pay, kids to raise, working hard to further a career. But she also had yet to meet her soulmate and had never known the joy that comes with loving someone more than you love yourself. She hadn’t yet met the two children who would show her that she is capable of so much more than she ever dreamed she would be. Life is a constant journey, with many twists and turns, and a large amount of teachable moments. This experience happened near the beginning of my journey, now I am approaching the middle of the journey and look forward to finding out what the second half has in store for me.

18 year old me on Halloween.

18 year old me on Halloween.

My parents. I miss them everyday. They taught me by example with their 33 year marriage.

My parents. I miss them everyday. They taught me by example with their 33 year marriage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was your coming of age moment? Share it in the comments below, or if you’ve blogged about it leave the link, I would love to read it!

7 Things You Should Know About Alabama (And The People Who Live There)

I live in Southern Alabama. Born and raised, actually. While on a recent camping trip to Navarre Beach, FL my daughter and I donned our bathing suits and towels and departed for the beach at the same time as the older couple camping in the site across from us. We smiled at each other and all made our way to the boardwalk leading to the beach together. We engaged in small talk along the way and the gentleman asked:

“Where are you folks from?” (This was my first clue that he is a northerner. You folks? Really? The correct term would be ya’ll.)

“Alabama,” I responded simply.

He crinkled his nose as he said, ” Alabama? Really? Huh, I couldn’t tell.”

Um, ok. There was a slightly awkward pause as I had no idea how to respond to that. Do I take it as a compliment? Does he expect me to thank him? Or should I ask what it was that threw him off? Was it that I am in possession of all my teeth, or perhaps it was the fact that I was wearing shoes? I know that he most likely meant that I don’t possess the regulatory thick southern accent, but still. This is the typical response we Alabamians receive from Non-Alabamians. (When I stalked his RV later, I found out that he is from Canada. Funny, I couldn’t tell. No Eh, eh? How disappointing.)

There is an army base near my hometown so we get a lot of transplants. One such transplant (who’s husband is stationed at the army base) landed a temp position at the company that I work for. One day soon after she started, in the course of everyday chit chat, she commented on how nervous she was when she found out that her family was being stationed in Alabama, and how surprised she was to find out that we are just like everyone else. Yes, she said she didn’t expect us to be like everyone else in the country. I can only assume that she pictured all us women barefoot and pregnant while the men drank moonshine and spit tobacco juice all day.

Seriously, it’s so silly. So I put together a list of a few things I think that Non-Alabamians should know about Alabama:

  • We are not all card carrying members of the NRA. In fact, I have never fired a gun, or ever even held one for that matter. Yes, many Alabamians are pro-gun and pro protecting our second amendment rights, but we don’t all carry a shotgun in the back of our pickup trucks (or all drive pickup trucks) ready to do battle with a fellow redneck, or in case we need to shoot a deer that may be seen grazing nearby.
  • We are educated. In fact, Alabama boasts two colleges ranked within the top 100 colleges in the country, the University of Alabama and A-b-rn University. Sorry, but if I say (or type) it out loud, my husband’s spidey senses will kick in and he’ll just know. If you live in Alabama or have ever visited here, you understand.
  • We are not poor. Well, of course there are poor people in Alabama, but we aren’t all poor. Yes, our average salary is lower than most of the rest of the country, but our cost of living is much lower too. A house that might cost $300,000 in California would only costs around $100,000 here. So we actually live quite comfortably on our lower salaries.
  • Alabamians love football. No not the NFL, we could care less about the Super Bowl. It’s college football that’s king here. It is required of all new residents (and frequent visitors) that they pick a side, Alabama or A-b-rn (sorry, but we really do take it very seriously). And don’t claim to be a Gators or Bulldogs fan, that is such a copout. In fact, the UA vs. AU game is such a big deal here that last year they let us all go home from work at lunchtime so we could watch the big game (yes, that happened).
  • Alabama is not only home to some of the countries’ most beautiful beaches, they are also some of the countries’ cleanest beaches. It’s true, I saw it on The Weather Channel, so it must be true. Seriously, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are truly beautiful with their clean white sand and clear blue water. Perfect for that family beach vacation!
  • We don’t talk like hillbillies. Well most of us don’t anyway, there are a few with an accent so thick I can’t even understand them, but for the most part we are articulate. Hence why Mr. Canada couldn’t tell I was from Alabama. Yes many of us say ain’t and ya’ll, but it’s ok because they’re words now. Look them up in the dictionary and see for yourself.
  • Alabamians can sing. Well, we do boast two American Idol winners, that’s got to count for something.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I am proud of where I come from. I step out of my front door each day and breathe in the fresh air, admire the scenery of rolling hills (and yes, farmland) on my way to work, enjoy the short ride to the beach or the lake whenever I get the whim, and treasure the long-lasting friendships I have made here. Ever heard that people are so much friendlier in the South? Well, they really are.

There is an email forward that goes around with a story about a man who traveled the country and in each state he went to, he would see a church with a payphone that allowed people to dial Heaven. At each church, the cost to use the payphone would differ, some cost $10,000, some as much as $100,000, but there was always a cost. So imagine his surprise when he was passing through Alabama and came to a church with such a payphone, only this time there was no charge to dial Heaven. Curious, the man asked the pastor of the church why there was no charge, and the pastor responded “Didn’t you know? It’s a local call from here.”

If you’ve ever lived in Alabama, you understand.

AL

Loaded up and ready to head to the lake!

Loaded up and ready to head to the lake!

Two of my kids' first words were "roll" and "tide" (no really, they were).

Two of my kids’ first words were “roll” and “tide” (no really, they were).

Making family memories at the beach.

Making family memories at the beach.

Why Eat It When You Can Drink It?

     I recently decided to try living healthier. Emphasis on the try. Seriously though, both of my parents died fairly young by today’s standards and I want to actually be around to meet my grandkids. So it is time for me to start exercising more and eating healthier. I have no trouble adding exercise to my daily routine. An hour of solitary quiet time each evening while I walk around the neighborhood checking out everyone’s lawn decor and enjoying the fresh air? Yes, please! It’s the eating healthier part that’s the problem. I live a very hectic life so finding time to cook elaborate meals and eat the suggested five small meals a day just isn’t probable for me. I began packing celery and carrots to munch on at work, but had trouble finding the time during the day to actually, well, munch on them.

    A week or so after I started the journey towards a healthier me, I was sitting in the break room during my lunch break when I noticed a co-worker using the blender to make herself a smoothie and I had an epiphany. Here I had been struggling to find the time (and yes, willpower) to consume the recommended 3 – 4 servings of vegetables a day, when I could of had a V8! I wanted to smack myself on the forehead.

I spent the rest of the afternoon giddy with excitement over my V8 idea. It would give me the nutrients I needed, curb my appetite as a meal substitute, and be convenient to keep in the fridge at work. This was going to be life changing. As soon as the clock struck 5 (or 4:55, but really, who’s keeping track?) I rushed straight to the grocery store to grab my V8 before picking the kids up from daycare. I was surprised by the selection, who knew there would be so many different types to choose from? I decided to start out simple by going with the original formula, low sodium, of course.

I put the V8 in the fridge as soon I got home, figuring it would probably taste best cold. I did potty time with the kids, fixed them a snack, and got them settled in front of the TV (don’t judge me). I decided that a nice cold glass of V8 would be great while I cooked dinner, and I would probably eat less dinner with all those nutrients and vitamins in me. I poured myself a nice tall glass. The smell was a bit strong, but it was mostly a tomato-like smell and I like tomatoes so I took that as a good sign. And anyway, it had the “V8 Taste Guarantee” (it said so on the bottle), so no worries there. I got the hamburger meat going in the pan, then picked up my glass and took a nice long sip. I then rushed to the sink, spit it out, and threw up a little in my mouth. That stuff was N-A-S-T-Y. It did it’s job though, I didn’t eat much of my dinner.

What do you think? Does V8 work for you?

What do you think? Does V8 do it for you?