The One With Her.

When I first saw her, I thought nothing of it. She was just another passerby. People come and go all day long. Sometimes I am able to give a welcoming smile, other times, like today, if I am preoccupied, I am not able to give anyone, other than my friends, my complete attention.

My friends, bound and determined to do what they needed to do to earn a bright red Skittle. Unless it is Adam, Adam prefers the green Skittles and will tell you just that.

She was young. Early twenties. Attractive. Dark hair secured tightly in a bun with gold hoop earrings. A pair of black boots paired nicely with skinny jeans and a long white sweater. I only noticed this because she did not leave her spot in front of the brick wall. Perhaps she is waiting for someone?

One of my proudest accomplishments is teaching my little friends my name. I told you, they will do anything for Skittles. Of course, saying my name is not exactly on the curriculum, but I think it is a good thing.

“High five!”

*gives me a high five*

“What’s your name?”

*Says their name*

“What’s my name?”

“JENNIFER!”

Just as excited as can be because they know they have now earned a Skittle. I mean truth be told at this point I do not know who is more excited, them for the Skittle or me from hearing cute little people say my name, that I taught them to say.

Once I heard the final “Jennifer” from my friends,  I glanced up. She was still standing in front of the brick wall. I noticed she was digging in her purse.

“Red Skittle!”

I was being summoned. It’s okay though because my little friends are doing work. It may not seem like it to the untrained eye, but my little friends who all have an autism diagnosis are working pretty damn hard for a Skittle.

Once again, I go through the routine, this time adding in numbers.

“Okay, let’s count to 5!”

*They count to ten*

“Well, this time you earned two Skittles!”

Quite content they got one over on me, they run off and play.

She is now wiping her eyes with a crumpled tissue from her purse. As she wipes her eyes, she checks the tissue for remnants of her eye makeup. I look around to see if my other two coworkers notice. Both are hanging out with their own little friends, although just between us, I am the only one that offers Skittles.

I make my way across the small enclosed playground. My little friends are quite content playing chase or sliding down the slide. By my estimation I have 5.3 seconds before one of them will look for me, in the hunt for Skittles.

The closer I get, I see that her crying is uncontrollable. She no longer uses the tissue, and now uses the sleeve of her sweater. I cringe only because I know how hard black mascara is to get off of white.

She looks in my direction. We make eye contact for a split second. It’s almost as if she cried harder once she saw me.

I now feel the right thing to do is to go over and make sure she is okay. I walk slowly, keeping my friends in site, making sure they are good for now.

The closer I get to her, it hits me.

I know.

I have been there.

I am still there. It never gets easier. They tell you it will, but it never does.

“Hi! How ya doing. I’m Jennifer. Everything okay, can I get you anything?”

She smiles behind more tears.

Yep. This is me.

Trying to talk in between sobs,

“I—I am sorry. I—I just dropped my daughter off. It’s—–it’s her first day—–and—–”

Uncontrollable crying.

I smile.

I take the lock off the gate.

I go to her and give her a hug (and if you know me this isn’t exactly my thing!)

“Oh, it’s okay. I have been there. Your daughter is in good hands. Trust me, it is harder for us than it is for her. I mean my kids are in 6th and 8th grade and I still cry.”

She looks at me, wipes her teams some more. Kinda laughs, while still crying.

“It’s just—-I am just—–so new to this.”

One of my coworkers makes their way over to me. As I am hugging her, I mouth “New Mom”

My wonderful, understanding coworker gives me a “thumbs up” and goes to hang out with my little friends.

We are all in this together.

If you happen to be a new mom to a preschooler. I feel you. I was you. I still am you. Because whether you are dropping your child off for 2nd grade, 6th grade, 10 grade or at college, it really does not get easier.

So, take a deep breath, feel what you need to feel.

But at the end of the day, just know, you are not alone.

~Jennifer

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The One Where I Worry Too Much.

Vinnie, my almost 18-year-old son is doing pretty damn good. It was only two years ago where he was going down a not so good path. He graduated high school early, is currently in college, and working a full-time job. He is living at home, which let’s face it, nowadays you kind of have to do. Vinnie, I feel is a businessman at heart. He is wonderful with money and always has a plan to make more. As of now, his goal is to work with at-risk youth, but we all know that can change. He is a wonderful older brother to his sisters, and at his core, he has a good heart.

Vinnie recently bought a 1993 Escalade from a co-worker. It is a beater car, something to get him from point “A” to point “B” while he continues to save for a decent down payment on something nicer. Now, because we are on the maximum for allocated parking spaces in my complex, we now have to rent a parking garage. Both my car and Joe’s car are registered with the complex, so, unfortunately, it had to be Vinnie’s car that gets the garage. We figured it is okay, at least he will have the garage which will allow him to do work on the car. Right?

Well, then we found out the cost of the blasted garage. One hundred and twenty-five dollars a month. Immediately I questioned Vinnie.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?”

“Yes Mom.”

“Are you sure you can afford it?”

“Yes Mom?”

“We can go in half with you!”

“No Mom.”

“Okay but are you sure?”

“Yes Mom.”

So I went to the office and requested a garage. It took two days and 89.00 later (pro-rated)

Our maintenance team was on top of it and made a special stop just to let me know they left a wireless remote in there just to make coming and going easier.

Vinnie comes home from work.

“Vinnie! It’s all set. Your garage is ready. Are you excited?!”

And for a split second, I saw the look of defeat in his eyes.

“What’s wrong? You’re not happy you have your own garage?”

“Just another thing I need to pay for.”

Again, I told him we can go in half. Vinnie, he is proud.

“No Mom, I am not going to have my parents pay for my garage.”

I guess, as a parent, I wish he did not have to worry about money. Not yet, not at this age. Not when he is doing everything right. He is saving money, he is going to school, he works his ass off at a thankless job as a dishwasher. I wish I could take away this one worry from him, but I can’t.

We all know it is better this way. We all know it is in hard times where we gain our strength, and I know Vinnie, he will make it work. I guess I just wish he did not have to.

He is my youngest son. In some ways, he looks at his older brother and sees the mistakes he has made and is determined to not go down that road. I am proud of him. This one, he is going places. But still, the overprotective mom in me wishes that money was no object.

Yet, if money was no object, I do not believe we would learn those hard lessons.

It’s a fine line for me, but a line that I know Vinnie does not want me to cross, no matter how much I want to cross it.

~Jennifer.

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Beautiful

I was eleven years old, The Family and I were having lunch at Bennigans. I believe it was a Saturday. We were sitting in a booth. I was so young, shy, not even knowing that I still needed to “come into my own.” A very pretty waitress came over and took our drink order. She was wearing a green polo shirt and black slacks. Dad ordered for my sister and I (Pepsi!) The pretty waitress leaned down to take my menu. The scent of her perfume lingered, and I knew I had to have it.

I looked at Dad. “She smells nice! I like her perfume.”

Dad had a bewildered look on his face. One that I know now as a parent says he did not quite know what to say. “When she comes back, you should ask her what it is!”

I respond in a manner as if he just asked me to cut off all my hair. “I AM NOT DOING THAT!” (I told you I was shy.)

A few minutes later the waitress is back with a tray full of assorted beverages. As she lays each beverage on our designated coaster, Dad being Dad “Quick question, she says (of course he points to me) you smell nice and would like to know what perfume you are wearing.”

I was mortified. The pretty waitress, who in hindsight probably thought Dad was trying to flirt with her….with wife and kids in tow, gave a polite laugh. “Oh, thank you. It’s “Beautiful” by Estee Lauder. It just came out.”

Dad looks at me, “See, there ya go!”

I am still mortified, while the pretty waitress proceeds to take our food order.

As silly as it sounds, at that moment I told myself “When I grow up I am going to buy that perfume.”

Twenty plus years later I am now a single mom. I never forgot the waitress with the pretty perfume. I also realized that at this point I would be lucky enough to afford Cover Girl, much less Estee Lauder. I mean the waitress never told Dad how expensive it is. She probably was working that job just to pay for the damn perfume!

I knew it would be a waste for me to put that kind of money into a perfume. I will just stick to Walmart’s Calgon Body Spray (Which in all honesty is a great scent too.)

Ten years later. I am now married and have four children. One day my very gay BFF and I, Alphonso, were checking out the makeup counters at Macy’s. He apparently needed some new foundation. I could not believe how much he was willing to pay for MAC makeup, yet he did not want it to seem like he was wearing makeup. Ooooookay then. As he was chatting it up with the MAC girl, I wandered over to the Estee Lauder counter. There it was. “Beautiful.” I mean it had been so long I did not know if the perfume was discontinued or not. I picked the sample bottle up, gave it a light spray, and immediately I was taken back to Bennigans restaurant thirty years ago. I had to have it. Discreetly, I turn the bottle over to see the price. There was no price.

Alphonso finds me. He knows me so well, he already knew. “Forget it, Jen, you can’t afford it, and you have Gracie’s medical bills.”

As much as I wanted to punch him, Alphonso was right. There was just too much going on, and unless the perfume was 5.98 it just was not in the cards right now. One day though.

Years late, I have now upgraded to Bath & Body Works. I have my signature scent that I always get complimented on (A Thousand Wishes) and Santa may have brought me a new scent (Champagne) that Joe thought was AJ’s cologne.

These last few days, I have been “off.” I have a lot of good things going on. Four days into 2019 and things are good. Most things. One not so good thing. I feel I was betrayed in a way. I feel there was someone who I thought was a friend, who in the end proved they only care about themselves and not what is right. It has been messing with my head. People had warned me in the past about this person, are very own Christin being one of them, I just never listened. Now, well, now I know the truth. So I am dealing with feelings of anger, hurt, confusion, you name it I have all these emotions running inside of me. Unfortunately, I have allowed it to take over the good things too. Instead of celebrating the accomplishments and blessings, I focus on the negative. That’s just plain stupid. It’s okay, you guys can agree with me. I should know better than that, yet here we are.

I had errands to run today. For once, I did not mind. I just needed to be alone and clear my head. There was grocery shopping to be done, and I needed to find Gracie a new curling iron. After I dropped Vinnie off at work, I went to Ulta, also known as Gracie’s favorite store. In my experience, they are helpful, have a variety of choices, whether it is makeup or hair products.

With bags under my eyes, not a stitch of makeup on, hair that has not been washed in three days up in a messy bun, I walked in the door, not really caring that I looked like I have seen better days. Thankfully, the store was pretty empty. Perfect! My mission is to go find someone who has experience with long thick curly hair, because Gracie with the prettiest hair ever, wants to curl her already curly hair. See, it is enough to make you want to drink.

I am looking around, trying to see who is available, when right there to my left, right before my eyes, there was a single display of Estee Lauder’s “Beautiful” perfume. Between you and I, I may have gotten a bit emotional. Immediately I forget about the curling iron, pick up the sample bottle, give it light spray just as I did many years prior, and again, I was taken back to Bennigans with the pretty waitress.

I take a closer look. There were three sizes available. I grabbed the size that worked with my budget and threw it in my shopping bag, without any hesitation at all.

Another full circle moment for me. I could finally afford the perfume I have wanted since I was an eleven-year-old little girl sitting in a Bennigans restaurant.

And, when I handed the cashier Gracie’s curling iron and my perfume, I am not even kidding, at that moment, I felt “Beautiful.”

 

~Jennifer
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The One Before New Years Eve 2018

We never go out on New Years Eve. I hate it, I hate crowds and I feel like there are too many crazy people out on the roads. We stay in, listen to music, and usually order out.

Due to plans tomorrow, I did have to leave the house today to pick up some essentials. The store was freakin packed. Like worse than Christmas Eve packed. I had to grab a shopping cart from one of the stalls because there were no carts inside.

I do not do well with people. Specifically stupid people. I do not have anxiety or anything like that, it’s just that my Italian Temper sometimes gets the best of me when I am surrounded by idiots.

Is it really that hard to navigate the grocery store? I thought it was much like driving. You have two lanes. You never stop in the middle of the road/aisle (without pulling over) you make sure to stop and check for traffic. Why does no one get this??!!!

I had to go down the beer aisle for Joe. While I am trying to find his very specific kind of beer, I see two idiots. You know the type. Young twenty-something hipsters. They may have been counting their spare change to be able to afford the 12 pack of God knows what.

Idiot Number 1~ “Dude, for a few bucks more we can get the 24 pack. Score!”

Idiot number 2~ “Yeah Man, but how much is it? Like you seriously do not have beer at your house?”

God help the poor women that will be flattered by this 24 pack of God knows what.

Then comes the frozen food section. I needed a few bags of hash browns for a brunch tomorrow. Well, for some reason I could only find the diced hash browns, but the recipe calls for shredded. I am scanning the cases. Not quite sure if I am just not seeing it. All of a sudden, this woman comes up. Her phone in hand as if she is looking at her list. Perfect makeup, perfect hair, wearing a bit too much Burberry. Oh, and she has no regard for personal space. She would stand in front of me, I would move away. She would follow I would offer a loud “SIGH!” This chick was not getting it. Up and down the freezer section I went in search of shredded hash browns, and sure enough, Burberry Lady followed me.

Finally, I had enough. “Here, you go ahead and get what you need, I think I am going to be a little longer.” I take a step back while motioning for her to take the lead. Burberry Lady walks off like I somehow offended her. Whatever.

I finish my shopping and find my place about twenty deep in line. Knowing that it would be a while, I grab a diet Mountain Dew from the cooler case. Great, this cashier seems to be a little too talkative. I am going to have to fake it. (See, I can be nice when I have to!)

Time to unload my groceries from the cart on to the belt. Naturally, the cashiers are switching out. That’s cool. New guy looks like he rather be any place else other than behind the register. I feel you New Guy!!

I am up, he starts scanning. We make small talk on how crazy busy it is. He scans my diet Mountain Dew. “Would you like this now?” It’s like New Guy can read my mind. “Yes please!” He hands me the cold drink, I open it, and it explodes all over me and the floor. I am seriously standing there in a puddle of diet Mountain Dew. Not even kidding.

Me~ Oh my gosh I am so sorry!

New Guy looks up.

New Guy~ Oh. Oh no, look at you! I am so sorry!

New Guy picks up a roll of paper towels while grabbing the phone to make a page.

New Guy~ CLEAN UP ON REGISTER FIVE!

I take my scarf for reasons that I am still unsure of and start wiping myself down. I had the diet Mountain Dew everywhere. Hands, jacket, jeans, and remember, I am standing dead center in the middle of it. Some may say it looked like I had an “accident.”

Slowly, I turn around to look at the line behind me. I can see people rolling their eyes while checking to see if any of the other lines may be shorter than the “CLEAN UP ON REGISTER FIVE” line. However, directly behind me stood an adorable elderly couple. Who for some reason, had no idea that I just spilled diet Mountain Dew all over me and the floor. Their back was turned towards me as they were unloading their cart. Had it not been for this sweet elderly couple behind me, I would have told all the others who were rolling their eyes to “Put your eyes back in your head and maybe come help clean up!” But, I digress.

Meanwhile, still, no CLEAN UP ON REGISTER FIVE associate came to, you know, clean up. I continue with my scarf and start wiping everything down.

New Guy~ Are you sure you are okay, I am so sorry. I feel this was my fault.

Me~ Trust when I say this is typical of me. Not your fault at all, I am just worried about the couple behind me, I do not want to them to step in the sticky soda.

New Guy looks at the couple, who are still oblivious to the happenings that are going on in front of them.

New Guy~ I get you!

He grabbed a roll of paper towels, pushed my cart out of the way. Together, we cleaned up the mess on Register 5. A small act of kindness on his part, but one I appreciate. Because trust when I say this poor couple behind me had no idea. They were still unloading their groceries! I had visions of them inching their cart forward while their feet slipped out from under them.

I make it home just in time to order pizza before the kids start asking (demanding) “What’s for dinner?”

And then, I somehow sat in cat urine.

But that is nowhere as interesting as the CLEAN UP ON REGISTER FIVE story.

So, we will just leave that alone.

Happy New Year Vodka Callers!

Make it a good one.

~Jennifer

Wet floor sign and mop on white background

 

 

The One That Could Be Perceived As A “Bad Omen.”

While taking complete advantage of the 70% Christmas sales today, I get a group text from Dad.

“So, are we all on board for the Jar idea?”

I am sure many of you have seen this floating around Social Media. The premise being, on January 1st – December 31st you have a jar. Over the course the year, you add your blessings to the jar. It could be a job promotion, it could be losing weight, good grades, anything that you feel thankful for. Then, on New Year’s Eve of 2019, you open up the jar and read all of your blessings from the year.

Pretty cool, right? I mean you guys know me, totally my kind of thing. So, since I was already in the store shopping the 70% off sales, I decided to snag a jar. I found an adorable vintage style glass jar that says “Home For The Holidays” across it, with a picturesque snowy scene and a family in a station wagon. It was perfect! I grabbed the jar that only cost me five bucks and threw it in my cart.

I finish up my shopping, then come home.

Being that I live on the second floor, I will do whatever it takes for me to only make one trip up the flight of stairs with groceries. Each arm had about six bags each on it. I made the haul up the flight of stairs, although it was not easy.

I open the door and lay all the bags down. The routine is in this household, we have the girls put away the groceries. The girls are putting away the groceries while anxiously looking for the snacks I also picked up for them.

Gracie finds the jar. She picks it up by the lid. “What is this?”

I am in the kitchen, and already know what is going to happen.

“Be careful, that is……”

CRACK!

She dropped the jar and shattered glass went everywhere. Seriously, Gracie herself was surrounded by different fragments of broken glass. We had to order her to STAY STILL while making sure the cats were out of any harms way. Glass was everywhere. She dropped it on the hardwood floors, and yet many pieces found their way to the carpet.

I start cleaning it up, Joe comes over in now “work mode” and starts giving directions, because apparently, I do not know how to sweep up glass.

It was a mess.

Joe has hold of the broom, he does about five rounds of sweeping, just about breaking a sweat. I mean I get it. Can you imagine one of us, or the kids or even the cats stepping on tiny pieces of shattered glass?

Finally, when everything is cleaned up. He looks at me. The kind of look where he is not sure where my mind was at when I made the purchase.

“So, what was that even for anyway?”

Feeling defeated, I look at him, I look at my trashcan that has remnants of what was supposed to be our “Blessing Jar” for the new year.

“Oh, well, we were going to write down and put all our blessings in it for 2019.”

He looks at me more confused than ever.

“It was Dads idea!”

Joe does not know whether to laugh or, pretend he does not hear me.

As do I.

Okay, 2019, we are ready for you but please for all that is Holy, do not let this be a bad omen.

(I will update this post in 365 days and let you know how it all turned out)

~Jennifer

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The One Where My Son “One Upped” Me

Grab a snack, or some Vodka, because this is a good one. Also, you guys are on my side. I mean the story speaks for itself, but trust when I say you will be on my side.

Shopping for Joe for Christmas is always a challenge. First of all, he is always so stubborn. “Do not get me anything!” “Save money!” “I do not need anything!”

Except he does need things. For instance, he needs a new wallet. He has had the same wallet since before we have been together. We have been together for 15 years. You guys, the wallet is in such bad shape that I know sooner or later I will be doing a blog post on how Joe lost his debit card because it is not safely secured in said wallet.

But, I did not get him a wallet. In hindsight, perhaps I should have.

Anyway. Joe has an older brother who passed away many years ago. For the longest time, Joe has wanted to get his brother’s name tattoed on his arm. Every now and then Joe will break out his sketch pad and start working on different designs for the tattoo that he hopes to one day get. It is important to Joe (and I happen to agree) that his brother’s name is in Joe’s own handwriting.

Over the last two months, Joe has picked up calligraphy. Joe has spent countless hours filling up pages of different calligraphy styles in the hopes to find the PERFECT design for his brother’s name.

While I was doing my Christmas shopping, I came across an old school style calligraphy set. I knew that would be the perfect gift for Joe. He is both artistic and creative that way.

Christmas morning, I give him his gift. He opens it. You can tell he is taken back. “Who got me this?”

Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I say to him “I did! Who do you think got it for you, Santa Clause?”

He sits there, admiring his new calligraphy set. He tells me “After the kids open their presents, you know what I will be doing all day!”

Great! Perfect! I am glad he likes it.

Enter Vinnie.

“Here Dad, this is for you.”

I look over at the bag from Target, because Vinnie does not know how to wrap.

Joe takes out some stupid new PS4 game.

Joe is now in awe.

Joe professes his gratitude.

I silently watch as my calligraphy set is now set aside.

Oh trust me, it gets better folks.

We continue with our day. Everyone is taking it easy, with each kid doing their own thing. Basking in the glory of gifts from Santa and grandparents.

Naturally, Joe is playing his game, while my brand new calligraphy set is sitting next to him untouched.

TWENTY FOUR HOURS LATER.

You guessed it. The brand new, fancy calligraphy set is still in the same place on the sofa.

Idiots. The whole lot of them.

It’s late at night. Joe has been asleep for hours. I am in the living room watching my new favorite show “Speechless” (seriously, this is a must watch.) Vinnie comes home from work.

“Mom does Dad like the game?”

I finish off my vodka and diet, roll my eyes and then prepare for a speech….kind of.

“Does he like it? Of course he likes it! That is all he has been doing. You are a One Upper! You totally One Upped my Christmas gift to him!”

Vinnie laughs and makes some stupid comment about how he knows Joe better than I do.

I am not finished yet.

“And another thing. You see the calligraphy set? You see it there on the sofa with wrapping paper still in place? I bet you ten thousand dollars in five days from now, it will not have moved. Oh no, the calligraphy set will still be there on the sofa, just waiting for me to move it, but NOPE I will not move it. I will wait it out and maybe when Dad dies one too many times in the dumb game he will then gain interest in the calligraphy set. We will see, but mark my words, that calligraphy set will not move.”

TWENTY FOUR HOURS LATER

It’s the end of the night. Everyone is winding down. Once again, the calligraphy set has not moved. Are we really surprised? Joe, having to get up at 3am tells me “goodnight” and he gets up from the sofa heading to bed.

Except…..

He takes the calligraphy set with him.

What the hell?!?!?

Something is up. I can feel it in my bones.

I am now on season two of “Speechless” (seriously you guys, you need to watch this show!) I am slowly, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Why now? Why out of nowhere would Joe take the calligraphy set with him? I mean he is going to bed. Hmmmm. Something is up. I just need a little more time and I will figure it out.

Enter Vinnie…again.

Vinnie is home from work. With a fresh pizza in hand, I can’t even be bothered with the aroma that is calling to me.

“Vinnie! Look!!!!!”

(I point to the empty space on the sofa where the calligraphy set was for the last 48 hours)

“What am I looking at?”

Clearly, he does not get it.

“Don’t you see! Dad took the calligraphy set with him……to bed!!!! I thought FOR SURE it would be out here for at least five days! I mean why now, why did he take it with him? It is not like he is going to draw or anything…and now if I had the money I would technically owe you ten thousand dollars. Something is going on? Could he be on to me? Does he know I was waiting him out? Surely he did not just take it with him for the hell of it!”

Vinnie sets the extra large pizza down while grabbing a gooey slice of what looks to be “heaven in a box.”

With a mouth full of food, he utters to me “Oh that, yeah I told him how you were watching.”

What? Did I hear this child of mine correctly? This child who I gave birth to almost 18 years ago???

“WHAT???”

Slowly Vinnie swallows the pizza that in about 3.5 seconds will kill him.

“I mean yeah mom. Us men, we need to stick together. So I told Dad about how crazy you are and how you are monitoring the pen set and whatever craziness goes through your head.”

You guys, I was blindsided! How could my own kid not only “One Up” me, but in the process threw me under the bus?!?!

It is war.

Also, AJ is my new favorite.

~Jennifer

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Cue the anxiety.

I had last minute Christmas shopping to do today. All day long. I left about 11:30 this morning, and did not get home until 5.

One of many stops, Barns and Noble. This particular store is located in a rather large shopping center surrounded by Best Buy, Pet Smart and Pet Co (not even joking) some wine store, a Chinese bakery, shoe store, you get the idea. By some miracle, I found a parking space right in front of the store. I mean the jury is still out on if it was a real parking spot or did I just make it one, but it served its purpose for the forty-five minutes I was in Barns and Noble.

With my phone in hand, I had the image of the book on my screen that Sofia is asking Santa for. I march right up to the customer service desk.

“How can I help you today?”

“Ya, how ya doing? Do you have this book?” (Throw my phone into the face of the cashier)

“We do, follow me!”

He brings me right to the book. Easy.

“Anything else I can help you with?”

“Yeah, is this the section for 13-year-olds?”

“No, that’s over here. Follow me.”

Again, very easy.

I am standing there looking at shelves and shelves of books that are considered “young adult.” Obviously, I am looking for a book for Gracie as well. She is into mysteries.

Cue the anxiety. Every single book I pick up to flip through, I knew it was out of Gracie’s reading level. I mean there were a lot of cute ones. Some even marked by a “James Patterson recommends this book.” But, no. I knew it would be a bit much for her. Back to the section where I got Sofia’s book.

Again, I am faced with shelves and shelves of books. I mean how hard can it be to find a good ole mystery book for a 13-year-old girl who happens to have autism and may be a bit delayed in her reading comprehension. It’s freaking hard.

So I am standing there getting annoyed. Mostly annoyed because it really should not take me standing in a bookstore to realize that finding Gracie books would be a bit more challenging. I am looking around, at no one in particular. Just looking. The place is packed. Kids with parents, kids with what looked to be their grandparents. Couples, singles, it was just packed.

I am still holding the book Sofia asked for. I flip it over to read what it is about, hoping it may give me some ideas for Gracie. The book jacket tells me it is the autobiography of a lady who takes the reader through 6-12th grade. Apparently, this woman had issues with her teeth from a fall, and long story short she was made fun of in school. Cue the anxiety. Sofia herself has problems with her teeth. She has such an unusual case going on the orthodontist has rarely come across it. Is Sofia having problems in school? Are people making fun of her? Is this why she asked for this very specific book?

After going to trusty old Google. I made a selection on Gracie’s book. Large print, only about 150 pages. Few pictures, and it is a mystery. I made my up to the front and notice that there was a very long line. Like crazy long. I mean the line wrapped around sections of the store I have never been to. I ask the gentleman in front of me, “Excuse me Sir, are you in line?” Politely he tells me he is, so I settle in right behind him while going through a mental list of all the other places I need to go.

“Excuse me, are you in line?” I turn around to see a young lady who looks just as frazzled as I do. “I am, it’s a long one huh?” She laughs, the gentleman turns around and makes an even funnier comment on the long line. For about seven minutes, the three of us were just chatting in that long Barns and Noble line. Three strangers who most likely would never cross paths again were just chillin’ in line. It was nice. A nice change from the usual rudeness I see on a daily basis.

I am back in the parking lot trying to maneuver my way in between about three cars who are going to be fighting over the not so parking space I made my own. My mind is all over the place. Cue the anxiety. The traffic, the budget that is slowly dwindling. Joe’s payday, I still need to wrap presents and let’s not forget AJ and Vinnie. I still need to get their presents. These two are some of the hardest to shop for.

“What do you want for Christmas?”
“Nothing, do not worry about me.”

AGH!!!

I am sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, in the parking lot. This is insane. People are leaving Best Buy just walking out in traffic not even stopping to see if there are any cars coming. Well, of course, no cars are moving, we are all at a standstill….but still. All it would have taken was that ONE person to see the car line backed up and wait a few extra seconds while waving the cars to go. While sitting there, my mind wanders. I start to “People Watch” all the idiots that are not stopping to see if there are moving cars.

Each person I see, the attractive 30 something man, the older couple, the young hipster, with each person I see I come up with a story for them. All of us are doing last minute Christmas Shopping. It’s like we had no idea Christmas falls on December 25th. The young attractive 30 something man is buying something for his “man cave.” His wife will most likely get on him for not bringing home what was on the list. An argument will quickly ensure. The older couple in the later years of life is busy buying last minute items. This will be the first time in many years that all their children and grandchildren will be together under the same roof. Sure, they may go over budget, but it will be worth it. The young hipster is most likely there to spend lunch with his girlfriend, or boyfriend, or both. Who knows.

Finally, traffic is moving. I only have three more places to go. And, although I have a game plan, I still feel some sort of anxiety. I am not entirely sure why. I mean this is my favorite time of year. Maybe it is money? Maybe it is because a part of me is always waiting for the “bad news.” I do not know, any of you guys like that? Sometimes I feel when things are going good, it is only a matter of time before something bad happens. I feel I am being productive, but yet I still somewhat anxious.

On my way to Fred Meyer, I stop at McDonald’s. It is late afternoon and I have not had anything to eat. I know my body well enough to know that if I order a Big Mac combo, it is early enough where the carbs will not matter and my jeans will thank me. Plus, there is just something about fountain sodas that taste so much better than regular soda.

Immediately, I guzzle my large diet coke soda. It is cold, crisp and refreshing! I am at a stop light, which is the perfect time for me to start eating the fries, except, I notice a guy, a homeless guy on the corner, pretty close to my car, with a sign that says “Hungry.”

And there my anxiety goes again. I mean all I need is five seconds and I can come up with a story, with a past for complete strangers. This guy is someone’s son, and the thought of him and many others spending Christmas on the side of the road, or in the homeless camps throughout our town, well, that is just enough to throw my anxiety into overdrive. Quickly, I looked at the light, then checked my rear view mirror. I folded up the bag, rolled my window down. He came walking over to my car. “Sorry, this is all I have, I do not even have a drink. I mean I do but I am drinking it.” The car behind me beeps. The light is green and this homeless guy with the “Hungry” sign is either looking at me like I am crazy or looking at me with gratitude. He takes the bag as the car behind beeps again. I was thisclose to getting out of my car and having some words with the car behind me, but you know, my luck I would have gotten run over or something.

“God bless you.”

I offer an awkward smile while giving the car behind me the infamous “Jen Look” but who are we kidding, he did not see me. Off I go to Fred Meyer, and my first stop is hitting the deli counter, because, well, I am hungry.

It is always a fine line with me. A juggling act of sorts. Trying to bring the magic of Christmas to my own family, while making sure everyone is taken care of, and the hurt and sadness I feel for others who are less fortunate (and do not even get me started on the animals!) Sometimes I feel guilty, sometimes I feel blessed beyond words. Like I said, it is a juggling act. A very melancholy time of year for me.

But….and cue the anxiety again, for me, it is always New Years that almost brings a sadness. New years to me represents the end of the show. You know how when you go to see a really good movie, and you are SO into this movie. You do not want the movie to end, except it does. It always does. There is always an ending, and when you leave the movie theatre and take those first steps outside, your reality sinks in. “Okay, back to the everyday grind. It was a good show, can’t wait for the next!”

Yet, there is never an encore.

I guess this is what being an adult is all about.

Sometimes, I long for the days of Santa eating the cookies and Rudolph eating half of a carrot. I long for the days of innocence, where the only thing I had to worry about is “I wonder if Santa will bring me a Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas.” I miss the days where I did not know how hard life can be. I miss the days where I did not know that people literally lived on the street and animals were abused. Do you see? It is enough to make you cry.

The other night Joe and I actually spent some time together. Without any prompting from me (and do not act like you never prompt!) he says to me

“You are my wife, I am a better person because of you.”

and then, in those moments, I know that Santa is listening.

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