0 In musings/ women

Black Friday

It’s 3A.M. Do you know where you children are? Because I’m at Kohl’s launching the start of Black Friday shopping.

Every time I turned on the TV this past week I was reminded that Kohl’s shoppers could begin their holiday shopping at 3A.M. It intrigued me. Would the place be a mad house or deserted except for a few new-hires who could not opt out from working the night shift. I didn’t even need anything. I lack for nothing and I know what I’m getting for Mike. If I ever purchased a gift for him from a mostly clothing store, it’d be a bad gift as far as he was concerned. Plus, both my kids are living California style, cramped living quarters, not a lot of possessions, happy and content. The past few Christmases my kids have given Mike and I gift cards for favorite restaurants. Last year they treated us to Wicked. We loved it.

I mentioned my plan to shop early at the Thanksgiving table and two young women were almost willing to join me. Almost. The rest of the people thought I was crazy. So I did it alone.

Here’s what I learned: traffic is light at 2:45 A.M.. No, it’s nonexistent. I saw my first car only after I crossed into the next town. Three passenger cars and one patrol car, all headed north while I headed south. I wondered if they knew of a better sale. Was I possibly missing out?

When I pulled into the Kohl’s parking lot, I was amazed at how full the parking lot was. My watch said 3:02 A.M. As soon as I walked into the store a pleasant young lady handed me a Kohl’s shopping bag and loudly welcomed me to the store. I asked her if she was here because she wanted to be here or. . . She interrupted me and through a toothy smile she said, “Why, I’m here because it’s my job and I love my job.” With that her eyes began to pierce mine as she tipped her head to the side, if ever so slightly. It was a signal. Code for “that’s my boss standing right over there.” It reminded me of a Seinfeld episode when Kramer decided to earn some money by volunteering to participate in a police line up. Kramer’s nod pointed out the real bad guy! I gratefully, loudly accepted the mesh bag even though I really didn’t want to buy anything. With that my eyes I coded back, “Ohhh, thanks. I get it!”

You could hear laughter all over the store as customers milled around the employees who were anxious to serve. I decided to check out an advertised special for $8.99 scarves. All the scarves were on some sort of sale, so, with my Old Lady Neck getting worse by the year, I decided you can never have enough scarves. I found three for $12 each, retail price: $30. As I headed toward the cashier I paused at the jewelry counter. Within seconds an employee stated, “If you’re shopping for jewelry you’ll need a number.” And with that she placed a printed number “7” in my hand. “Well, I don’t really think I’m going to buy any jewelry. But does this mean there are six people in front of me?” I wondered where they were. “Oh, no,” she continued there’s no wait really, we just need to do it for. . .” her voice trailed off as she smiled and her eyes spoke in code telling me Corporate needed her to report all the waits that took place at the jewelry counter. Actually the only one waiting was the clerk behind the counter who was anxious to show me a selection. I decided now would be a good time to get a larger set of gold hoops. I just hate to disappoint.

I continued to talk to the employee with the numbers since at the moment; there were no takers for “8.” I found out I missed the line outside the door. There had been a mad rush of sorts, afterall. Employees had been given the option to volunteer for the early hours, but in the end, most were assigned a shift that would run from 3 A.M. for as long as 12 hours.

The number lady pointed out two young women behind me who carried flyers with purchases circled in marker and pages selected with sticky notes. They clearly had a strategy with every movement predetermined. “You think this is a lot, you should see our 3-ring binder we have in the car!” the taller one commented. The women, it turned out, had just come from Targets. “Now that was crazy. People camping out on the sidewalk.”

As the number lady and I continued to chat, I mentioned a Cardi’s Furniture commercial this past week. “Oh, you mean the one with the Cardi brother, toting a teddy bear and flannel pajamas while he slept in a Barcalounger? Do you believe it, they were making a big deal of Cardi’s opening early on Black Friday, at 9A.M.! Oh, puleeze,” she rolled her eyes. “I’ll be eating pizza for lunch, courtesy Kohl’s at 9 A.M.”

My new jewelry clerk friend then rang up my purchase of a new pair of earrings and 3 scarves; unknowingly this helped me avoid the ever-lengthening line that snacked its way around the cashiers at the front of the store. She handed me $10 in Kohl’s cash and I immediately wondered if I missed out by not increasing my purchase another mere $25 to earn $10 more of Kohl’s cash.

It was 3:23 A.M. when I saved $152.59. Mike suggested I could have saved all $227.57 if I had stayed in bed but I wouldn’t have missed this sale for anything. It was fun and I was tucked back in my bed at 3:57. Next year? I might have to try that camping thing. If only I liked to shop.

Do you have any shopping tips or horror stories?

0 In musings

Good Day!

Today is my birthday and that makes it a good day, especially when you’ve had docs, sitting at the end of your bed, say, “Rudy, you really should be dead.” Like the time I walked around with a burst appendix for 2 weeks, continually poking at my side, thinking I had eaten a bad piece of shrimp.

Or the time I was in cardiac failure and prior to surgery, I took a dip in a hot tub (to relax). Something in that one caused my poor cardiologist to hyperventilate and I wondered if I would need to resuscitate him.

Or the time I forgot to put the brake on my Trooper, parked at the top of a hill, and I ran down the hill and CAUGHT it!
Folks, I know one day God will say, “OK, enough with these birthdays.” And that’s the day I also know I’ll meet Jesus, face to face, what a good day that’ll be!

Have a great day!

0 In tips

New York, New York

Last week, I attended the Backspace Writer’s Conference in Manhattan. The only other time I had stayed in NY was several years back when a British production company filmed two stories from my book Take Heart! The show, Ultimate Blunders, was never picked up, but my husband and I had a blast visiting NY anyway.

The Backspace conference hotel offered rooms at $200 per night, per person, double occupancy. I hate math, but I recognized that’s a nice way of saying “Your room is going to cost you $400 per night. Instead, I reserved a room at The New Yorker Hotel. It was one block from Penn Station, and an easy 4-block walk to the conference. Plus, The New Yorker Hotel was HALF the price of the conference hotel.

I added an extra day before the conference to reacquaint myself with the city I had visited every year as a child. New York had some sketchy areas back when I was growing up but I heard from lots of people (including my kids) that it was a very different, vibrant place to visit.

While there, I purchased discounted tickets for the play Screwtape Letters as well as Memphis, a new musical. I also received a ton of input for my new book from agents, editors and other authors. The week was a great success.

But here’s the real shocker: this morning I received an e-mail survey from The New Yorker Hotel. I rarely participate in these surveys because I’ve always suspected no one ever looks at them. But within minutes of submitting my evaluation, (and my only issue was there wasn’t a coffee pot in the room) I received a direct response from the Guest Services Coordinator at the hotel. She thanked me for my input and apologized for my not being told that coffee pots were available upon request. I thanked her for getting back to me and then she thanked me for my thank you. (I think this qualifies us as BFF’s.)

I now have a new favorite city and a new favorite hotel. I’ll be returning in August with two girls from Germany that I got to know while teaching at English Camp. I know the hotel we’ll be staying at, but any other suggestions for a visit to New York?

0 In marriage/ musings

The problem with snoring

Many people think it’s annoying when people around them snore. I’d like to suggest it’s life threatening.

Two weeks ago the police broke into my house because they thought I was dead. I was, in fact, upstairs trying to snooze. Because Mike snores, I wear ear plugs and I’ve really gotten to like them. No thunder storms. No little birdies early in the morning. No police pounding on your door when the water guys who are trying to replace the main in your street need to access to your basement and they know you’re in there because they just talked to you minutes earlier. That’s when they think you’re dead and they justify calling the police to break into your house. That’s embarrassing.

Today I took a snooze again. Probably the second time since I woke to a stranger in a police uniform in my hallway. That tends to make you want to stay up.

After a really nice nap, and it was a long one since my electricity was out, I came downstairs and there were several guys in my backyard wearing orange coats, boots, helmets and stuff. And the look on their face when they saw me inside was priceless. You see they had evacuated the entire neighborhood, a 3 block radius, when I first lay down. I remember telling Pete, my Bichon, to hush. And he actually obeyed this time. The water guys hit the gas line to the house across the street from mine and there was a gas leak! All they could say was, “Lady, you’ve been in there ALL THIS TIME??? Holy ****!”
The street was filled with all sorts of emergency vehicles, fire trucks and my old friends from the police department. . .

You realize this is all Mike’s fault!

0 In musings/ women

Post-Mother’s Day post

Last week I shared that Mother’s Day was all about me. Well, I lied. And I have Shaunti Feldhahn to blame. . . no, to thank.

On Saturday I went to a half-day conference where Shaunti spoke about the differences between men and women and why that’s so special. She’s written books For Women Only and For Men Only which is based on 8 years of research on this topic.

Whenever I find myself in the audience instead of on the platform, I try to make a commitment to myself before I arrive, that I will take away at least one key point to incorporate in my life. Otherwise it’s easy to attend conferences, not experience any growth as a result and then wonder why I even bothered committing the time and expense.

When I got home, my well-trained husband asked me, “What are we doing tomorrow? You know it’s your day!” That’s when I made a decision. My initial thought had been: curl up, read a book, take a nap, but instead I decided we would do something that absolutely shocked him. We went for a hike in the woods and did some geocaching (treasure hunting for gps geeks). Two things my husband loves to do! You see, I listened to Shaunti. I realized life is not all about me and when I celebrate the people I love most in this world, I make it easy for them to celebrate me!

We actually had a blast. I picked a trail I knew would be easy and beautiful. We took the dogs. Found two caches. At 5:00 pm we headed home when I was ready to call it quits. My husband was smart enough to remember it was my day. All the way home he said, “I can’t believe you picked hiking for Mother’s Day.

Once home, he cooked salmon on the grill. We avoided the crowds at the restuarants and I helped him clean up. It was a good day. . . a very good day.

I just ordered copies of Shaunti’s books for both my son and his NEW wife and my now-engaged daughter and my HOT soon-to-be son-in-law plus a copy for me.

As women, we are ingrained with the desire to do and to be everything for our families, but that often takes a huge toll. How can we celebrate the people we love, without ending up frustrated and resentful?

0 In musings/ recipes

Happy Mother’s Day!

I watched the show The Middle last night. It was Mother’s Day and actress Patricia Heaton’s end of day conclusion: “I’ll never do that again.” That was my Mother’s Day 1997.

Mike and I, newly married, were a month away from leading our second teen mission trip and some well-meaning church members suggested “Why don’t you hold a Mother’s Day Brunch to help kids raise money?” Instead of analyzing this idea, I immediately, obediently set out to hold a brunch to end all brunches. Each of the 20 teens cooked my favorite egg casserole. I spent Saturday shopping, planning and cooking all the rest. Because mothers are special, I also decided to purchase 50 potted plants, wrap them in foil and a big, fat bow to create that perfect “must-have” gift. I envisioned the crowds that would fill the church, laughing, celebrating, gorging themselves on a spectacular culinary feast. . . throwing cold, hard cash into the donation bucket. 10’s, 20’s, no maybe $100’s. . . all for a cause.

At 6 AM Mother’s Day, Mike and the kids tossed in bed, alarms not even close to buzzing, as I unloaded a packed SUV at the church. My plan was to transform the gray, drab Mason’s Hall basement into a festive, culinary experience.

Church service went off without a hitch that morning. I snuck out early to take my place at the head of the mile-long buffet table culminating with twenty egg casseroles and an assortment of potted plants. Each one of the mission kids politely bowed out as soon as they delivered their casserole, reporting, “we have plans.” Only my daughter and the Pastor’s kid helped with serving. Mike wisely joined in when he accurately read my body language that suggested this was going to be a very long day. Well, it turned out the whole church had plans: visiting family, restaurant reservations, lots of fun thing to do. So, there I stood. Smiling, nodding, acknowledging, yes, Mothers are special and “you, go. . . enjoy.”

In the end, $17 was netted, not by happy, satiated diners, but a sympathetic few who tossed a dollar or two into the donation bucket as they headed out the door. With clean-up, a dismantling of decorations and return of 48 unsold potted plants, I dragged my tired, ticked butt into our house around 4 PM.

Why, oh why, do we women do this to ourselves? I now have a policy: Mother’s Day is all about me. And my second policy: I don’t even feel guilty about it!

I still love my egg casserole recipe, but I serve it on Christmas morning. Enjoy.

Egg Casserole

9 eggs beaten until blended
3 cups milk
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp dry mustard
3 slices bread, broken into pieces
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cooked bacon broken into pieces
Crumbled, cooked sausage
Chopped ham
Chopped, sautéed veggies: mushrooms, peppers, onions, or whatever you

Sautee your selection of optional items, drain and set aside. Mix eggs, milk, salt and mustard. Stir in bread cubes and cheese. Pour into a 9 X 13 casserole dish that has been sprayed with Pam. Cover with plastic and keep in fridge overnight. In the morning, uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until done.

Note: this can be done with egg whites only, just increase to 18 eggs.

Happy Mother’s Day!