Grocery Carts, Granola Bars, and Gratitude

Yesterday as the littles and I were pushing our overloaded buggy out of the grocery store with two of us carrying additional bags that wouldn’t fit, I saw him.

The young guy.  With two bottles of water and a snazzy brand of high protein granola bars or some such.  He was in the self checkout lane.

For just a second I zoned out.

(partially because it took great effort on ALL of our parts to get our cart moving with purpose in the right direction and we had made the mistake of stopping to readjust our load)

I wondered if he’d ever find himself one day apologizing to the cashier every. single. time. he approached the checkout conveyor belt with his full cart.  I wondered if he’d feel guilty putting someone through ringing up ALL THE THINGS he had taken so long to painstakingly find, only to get up there, remember three things he’s forgotten, and decide it’s just not worth going back for.  I wondered if he’d watch closely to make sure his littles weren’t reading the trashy headlines on all those magazines on display.  (There’s just some questions you don’t want to answer quite yet. If ever.)

I wondered if exhaustion would ever overtake him to the point that he’d drive straight up to the drive thru window at the place on the other side of the grocery store parking lot, with a van full of FOOD, to order supper because the trip through the store with the littles was more than enough work for one day.  And it all still had to be unloaded at home.  And put away.

I wondered if he’d ever map out how to place all those bags of food in his vehicle, so the freezer stuff could be put away quickly but the other things not so much, as in maybe a couple of bags stay on the floor in the kitchen for a day or two, just because.

I watched him ringing up his few items, and I wondered if he’d ever use a self checkout again, later in his life, except for maybe when he is picking up items for his wife who asked him to pick up some personal things on the way home.  Or when his children beg him to let them “do it,” causing the supervising cashier to have to come over and clear things out or fix the system a total of four times during the transaction.

I thought about where he might be headed, and I wondered how long those bars would last him.  I knew the average on my cart–this not even being a full-fledged stock up trip–and I’d be back before him I was pretty sure.

For just a moment, I wanted to walk out the door with what he had and let him push this stubborn cart across those bumpy things right outside the door taking care not to fling anything off the top or bottom of the buggy.  I wanted to leave without my arms full of food, keys, wallet, receipt, and just go.

Granola bars and all.

And then I realized that if my hands were empty, my heart would be too.  As my littles helped me unload the buggy, first clearing the floor of the vehicle of all their STUFF THAT THEY ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE ANYTIME WE LEAVE THE HOUSE to make room, and then stacking bread here, chips there, frozen stuff at the front so it could be unloaded first…..I looked at them and all the food and assorted things it takes to take good care of them, and I was humbled and near about knocked to my knees with gratitude.  I am sure that young fella has a good life.  I hope he was headed somewhere to do something good that would bring him joy.  But my life?  I’m lucky.  I have children who put up with my wackiness as much as I put up with theirs.  We’re able to afford providing food and shelter for them, and we enjoy little extras too.  We tend to get along well with each other, except when someone touches someone or goes in their room WITHOUT permission.  (Also spying on each other when playing with friends is frowned upon.)  But other than that, we’re a pretty decent bunch, and I’m quite fond of all, individually and collectively.

Some of my favorite sounds are when my oldest walks through the door, home from college, and Miss Sophie’s tail starts wagging and our Princess’ and Cooter’s tales start wagging and all the laughter and games and music and impromptu dancing ensue.

I wouldn’t miss that for all the quick self-checkouts and snazzy granola bars in the world.

This is my season for full buggies that are hard to push, hour long grocery store trips, and bags of groceries on the kitchen floor.

And for now, that’s a beautiful thing.

Love to all.

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By Unknown photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

THE BIG GAME

Today I went to the grocery store with Cooter, taking only one thing into account.

We needed food.

The three things I didn’t take into account were:

1–It’s Saturday.

2–It’s the day before SUPER BOWL SUNDAY. (that was me yelling with the special effect echo right there, in case you missed it)

3–They were grilling some good smelling ribs outside the grocery store to sell.

So, to say it was crowded would be an understatement.

So I won’t say it.

 

But I will share what Cooter said as we were leaving.  “Mama, this is what you call ‘rush hour.'”

“Really?” I said, holding back my laughter.  “Why?”

“Well, everyone’s getting ready for the BIG GAME.  Am I supposed to watch the BIG GAME?  Have you ever watched the BIG GAME, Mama?  Wait, who’s playing in the BIG GAME?”

(And yes, his voice did boom all announcer-like every time he said those two words.)

“Well, it’s the Seattle Seahawks playing the New England Patriots.”

“Oh well, I’m for the Seattle Seahawks, yes.”

I nodded and said, “Good.”

“Wait, who’s playing the other team?”

I laughed and teasingly said, “The Seahawks are playing the other team.”

He laughed too.  “No Mama, who are the Seahawks playing?”

“The Patriots.  The New England Patriots.”

(And to show you how packed the store was, it took us this entire conversation to get to where we were parked.)

As he got into the car, he said, “Yes, okay no, I don’t think the Patriots need to win.”

“Me either, buddy.”  (Long story, but yeah.)

“You know why?”  he asked me as he buckled himself in.

As I unloaded the cart, I absentmindedly asked, “Why?”

“Because England has no business playing football.  That should definitely NOT be their national sport!”

I laughed out loud and made a mental note to focus on a little more geography in our homeschooling.  SOON.

As I was about to take the cart back to the corral, I heard him say, “You know what should be the national sport for them?  You know what they should be playing instead?”

“No buddy, I don’t.  What?”

“QUIDDITCH!” he yelled, kicking his legs and laughing gleefully.  “QUIDDITCH IS WHAT THEY SHOULD BE PLAYING INSTEAD OF FOOTBALL!”

And so there you have it.  The Zoo Crew’s Super Bowl predictions.  Not only should all balls at the BIG GAME be properly inflated, but there should apparently be three of them.  As in Quidditch.  Because those boys from England, that’s all they should be playing.

Giving thanks for the laughter and wishing you all a SUPER day, whether you watch the game, just the commercials, or nothing at all.  Make it SUPER whatever you do!

Love to all.

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Asking for Directions

I found myself able to etch out an hour or so yesterday evening to make a serious grocery shopping haul.  It’s been a while since I’ve spent that long in a store stocking up.

I made a rookie mistake from the start.  Cart choice.

The cart I chose was too small for all I needed to get.  And the way the wheels rolled were wonky.  Ka-dump, ka-dump, ka-dump.  All the way through the store.

But I persevered nonetheless, and I was about a third of the way through the store when an elderly gentleman walked slowly past me, looking perplexed.  I couldn’t help it–it had probably been twenty minutes since I had talked to anyone, so the side of me that I get from my Mama took over, and I asked him if he was looking for something.

Turns out he was looking for the jelly.  My mind spun around and it took me a minute to get my bearings. And then I remembered.  “Over by the bread,” I told him and gave him the directions to find it.

He smiled and was on his way.

For whatever reason, I came across two others lost, looking for a particular something in the store I’ve come to know pretty well (of course now that I do, they are going to change it all up in the next couple of months)–one was looking for juice and the other for aluminum foil.  I was able to recall locations and give directions both times.   (No small feat–busy store, long list, I was a bit befuddled at best.)

This evening I saw something that never fails to take my breath away.

The river of birds

The river of birds

A river of birds.

When I see them, I always think of our friend Pastor Bill who shared about the river of birds at our cousin’s memorial service almost two years ago.

I was so thankful to see them.  It had been a long and tiring day, and when I lifted my eyes to see them, my spirits lifted a bit as well.  I realized I’d been feeling a little lost today myself.

The birds were all flying together, in one direction.  Sharing the journey.  So that not one got lost on its way.

You know what those soaring wonders, flowing along so gracefully, taught me?

Don’t go it alone.

Tonight I’m thankful for folks who are brave enough to ask for directions when they feel lost and are looking for something.  They remind me to have courage to do the same when I’m searching for something or someone and can’t find my way.  I’m also thankful for the beauty in the journey when it’s taken together–how it makes the work of living a little easier with folks all around you headed on the same path.

May we too learn from the birds, and find ourselves surrounded by folks who can take turns leading and following and guiding us on our way.  May we never be truly alone for long, and when we are, I hope we can all find someone to ask for directions who might be willing to travel alongside us for a bit.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed by Question Marks

This morning at the grocery store, I worked my way through, thankful that they have restocked the shelves since the rush on groceries earlier this week before the snow hit.  I was standing in front of the Chobani Greek yogurt cups that I get for my crew, when I realized that a quiet, elderly woman was waiting patiently for me to make my selections.

“Oh! I’m so sorry,” I said, moving my cart to one side.  “I am sorry for holding you up.”

“You didn’t,” she said, staying in the same spot.  She was holding a tub of plain Greek yogurt, seemingly mesmerized by it.  “I’m just trying to figure out if this is the right kind to get or not.”  She held it up to show me.  “I found a recipe for a smoothie that uses frozen cherries and Greek yogurt.  It’s supposed to help with pain. I don’t know.  I wish I could remember which kind they used.”

I looked at the yogurt she had.  A different brand from the tub I had just put in my cart, but how different could it really be?  Her bag of frozen cherries was starting to form those white ice crystals on its surface.  She’d been at this for more than a few minutes.

She pointed at the lid, “This one says it’s probiotic.  That’s good, right?”  I told her I thought so (but then I thought all yogurt was probiotic, and I just read that they’re not, so, ummm, maybe I shouldn’t have been standing there giving this sweet lady advice).  We compared the labels between the two tubs.  Hers had more sugars and calories, which we finally figured out was due to the difference in the milks used–hers was from whole milk and mine was made from skim milk.

She shook her head.  I could tell it was overwhelming her.  She put the yogurt back into the refrigerator case on the bottom shelf.  “I’m just going to wait and see which one is the right one.  I know it said, I just can’t remember.”

Oh bless her.  But seriously?

We have recently gotten “into” smoothies around here.  I so wanted to tell her it wouldn’t matter that much.  That she could use the one in her hands, and it would be okay.  Better than okay.  She was so overwhelmed by this one decision, it made me want to cry.  I wanted to hug her and tell her to take this yogurt, that it didn’t matter, that she should trust herself.

But I didn’t.

Who am I to question her questioning?

I haven’t made a decision without struggling over it for a long, long time.  It started a year ago.  I haven’t been able to make a clear-cut decision since I had to make the hard decision about life support for my Mama…..and then again, for our cousin one week later.

I’m not offering excuses or seeking sympathy.  It’s just that it hit me today when I was willing with all of my heart for this sweet lady to realize that it was okay to make a decision, choose a yogurt, and take her defrosting cherries home and make that healing smoothie she has so many hopes pinned on.  It hit me that I AM JUST LIKE HER.  I must look just like this to a casual observer.   The least little decisions wear me out.  It took me quite a while to decide to even go to the grocery store this morning.  Fortunately, the decision kind of made itself since we were out of so many things.  It became a necessity.

Yesterday I made simple decisions like scheduling eye appointments, checkups, and paying a bill or two.

And I was exhausted.

Some days the decision of what to feed folks around here is almost more than I can bear.  I am thankful for the one night a week that we know what we are having.  Every single week.  It takes such a weight off.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But it is very real.  And don’t get me started on getting dressed.  This morning I actually went and found Aub so she could tell me what I was wearing looked okay, that it matched.  Some days I struggle to trust my choices, just as my new friend did this morning.

This is one of those side effects of grief that I don’t remember many folks talking about.  Or maybe they did, and I just didn’t grasp the reality of it.  Until now.

As she pushed her cart on past the yogurt, this sweet lady said, “I will just check the recipe and get the yogurt another time.  I really want to make it.  It’s supposed to help with back pain.  And I have that pretty bad.  But I’d rather try this than…..” she looked back at me, “…..a pill.”  She made a face.  “Anything rather than a pill.”

Bless her.  I understand that feeling too.  I don’t know whom she has lost, but I think it must be someone real special to her.  It’s written all over her walk and her face and the way she is thinking.  Tonight I’m holding her in my heart.  I hope she finds her recipe and that she can find the yogurt straightaway.  And more than anything, I hope the smoothie does help with her pain.

Grief is such a roller coaster of emotions, isn’t it?  Some days are like this.  Hard.  And some days are not quite so much.  But the important thing to remember as we walk through this is no matter how “off” our decision-making may seem to those around us, sometimes it’s okay to put the yogurt back in the bin and say, “Maybe another day.”  Some days that’s the best we can do.  And you know what?  It is.  It’s okay.