Resale shmesale

images

I did something fantastic today. It may not sound all that impressive to you. It was a small thing. But it made me incredibly happy.

You see for the past few years I’ve been selling my old clothes to several designer resale boutiques. I’m not a label conscious girl. But I do like nice things and over the years I’ve accumulated a healthy collection of designer clothing and accessories. Selling them has been fun and profitable because instead of buying new clothes, I would just use my credit and bring home slightly worn pieces to suit my wardrobe needs.

But for the past year or so, the consignment stores I’ve been frequenting have gotten increasingly persnickety. On more than one occasion they’ve rejected my worn garments and offered little explanation as to why they wouldn’t take them. There is something extremely insulting about a consignment store rejecting your items. I don’t know why but it feels like a direct personal rejection and truth be told, it stings. It’s gotten to the point where I have tremendous anxiety over bringing my goods to the buyers. This week in fact I drove around for days with a trunk load of designer goods trying to work up the courage to basically give away my good clothing for pennies on the dollar. It’s kind of ridiculous.

Today it hit me that instead of trying to sell my old Coach purse and Gucci sunglasses, maybe I ought to just give them away to people who actually need them. It sounds rather simplistic. At first I kept harping on the fact that I might be giving away something of real value. But why give away anything unless it has real value? Suddenly I felt like a real heel. Sure I’ve needed a little bit of help these past few years and buying clothes at resale boutiques has been one way my family has dealt with our own economic hardships. So please believe me when I say that there is nothing dishonorable or negative about selling your used togs. But the more I anguished over facing off with some fashionista over weather or not my gently used $200 Ted Baker skirt was worth $12, the more I realized the inanity of the situation.

So this morning I marched into the Foothills Animal Rescue resale shop around the corner from my house and handed over a pile of clothes, belts, purses and accessories. It was freeing. They were actually grateful and warm and didn’t act like I was some kind of pariah. They even thanked me for bringing in my items.

It felt so much better giving my things away instead of haggling over the few dollars I might have “earned” had I consigned them. Sure I’ll probably end up with less stuff since I wont be exchanging my items directly for other designer accoutrements. But I’ve recently come to realize that “stuff” in general is over-rated, and since this morning’s donation, I suddenly feel fuller and more complete; like I need a lot less to be happy than I used to think.

Shopping sickness

online-shopping-cartoon

I have to come clean. I have a real problem and I don’t know how to get over it. Some people do drugs. Others are addicted to exercise or prescription painkillers. Some people over-eat or under-eat or find themselves in abusive relationships. Let’s face it. Nobody gets through this life unscathed. “Everyone has a story,” someone once told me. I believe that to be true. And while some stories are epic sagas, others are more like comic-book narratives. Mine, on the other hand, resembles one of those Nordstrom catalogues that show up every few weeks in your snail mail box.

My problem is shopping. Not just “walk into a store, need a new pair of pumps” shopping. I’m talking about obsessive, on-line, “can’t go to sleep until I find whatever obscure item I’ve decidedly set my sights upon” shopping.

A few nights ago, I was up half the night in search of a vintage pair of men’s socks that I wanted to buy my husband for Father’s Day. Another night last week, I roamed through columns of ebay listings for the perfect dog collars for my two dogs. (I’d noticed shortly before bedtime that their collars looked a bit dingy.) Last night I researched mascara until 3am when I finally decided that the bags under my eyes were no match for my lashes, no matter how voluminous, dark and lustrous I could make them.

This is a sickness. I lie there in bed, i-pad in hand, and cannot make myself stop. Why am I doing this? It’s not that I’m spending huge amounts of money we don’t have. I buy piddly little crap like cell phone jacks from China or laundry detergent from Dusseldorf. (I’m really not kidding. It’s great detergent.) But once I start researching, I can’t stop myself. Be it the pinnacle of tooth brush refills or the epitome of hand-dyed wrapping paper, once my mind focuses on some kind of need, I become completely obsessed with researching and purchasing the item in question. I seriously know more about diy table cloth fabric than any respectable person ought to know.

And I know I’m not alone. Because I get HUNDREDS of email ads every five minutes. From “Rue-la-la” to “Beyond the Rack” to “Fab.com,” I could literally spend the next six months of my life trying to clear out my email box and delete every on-line solicitation to buy yet another elegant designer handbag for up to 70% off. No joke, I have 17,000 e-mails. And some of them I have to actually read. But I never get to them because every time I try to wade through the morass of e-mails I get side-tracked by yet another “Living Social” deal or “Groupon” ad.

I tried making a rule that no electronics could be brought into the bedroom. But technically that meant I couldn’t keep my husband’s LED alarm clock and he overslept and missed a few morning patients. He insisted that a blanket anti-electronic ban was unacceptable. I could just try to eliminate anything with the letter “i” but I’m pretty attached to my dog, Maggie (maybe I could change the spelling of her name) and I’d hate to rid myself of the chaise at the end of the bed.

No, there’s no way around this. I have to dig deep and find the willpower within to cut myself off from all electronic media post 9p.m. That’s it. No checking e-mail. No sleepy-time surfing. No “Words with Friends” to help soothe me to sleep. It’s just too dangerous. Clearly I cannot use these media responsibly.

Okay, I admit it. I am powerless over my addiction. Breathe. I am taking a fearless moral inventory of myself. Breathe. And I humbly ask a power greater than myself to remove the electronic clatter that clouds my psyche and keeps me from slumber. Breathe.

Is it okay to just concentrate on three steps instead of all twelve? It’s just that time is limited and they get kind of repetitive after a while. Besides, I only have a few minutes before the Disney necktie auction I’ve been following on ebay ends and I really need to get this Goofy tie for Mark for his birthday.

Back to school roller derby

Who will be the next School Supply Roller Derby Queen?

Lace up your skates, moms. It’s time to hit the aisles and go for the gold. If you’re fast and tough, you might actually secure that Justice League lunch box and water bottle your kid’s been pining for all year. Show no mercy. It’s back to school time.

God help me I hate school supply shopping. I hate everything associated with school supply shopping. I hate hordes of people fighting over number 2 pencils, I hate trying to find wide-ruled notebook paper amidst piles and piles of college lined loose leaf. I hate having to buy 4 large glue sticks when they always come 3 to a pack. I hate that despite the fact that every school in the world insists on kids bringing ziploc baggies and disinfectant wipes, they never put that stuff with the school supplies and you have to traipse through the entire store with a million other people to get to the cleaning supply and home storage areas before they run out of the items you need to complete your list.

Argh!!!! It’s awful. It was better this year because I took each boy separately. Trying to navigate two supply lists while maneuvering a shopping cart and corralling two young tykes was nearly impossible last year. At least I wised up a bit.

But the whole process is so utterly angst producing. I’m not even sure why. I love shopping, for almost everything. But this is…just…not fun. I spent over $300 for both boys. That sounds like a lot to me. I mean, that doesn’t even include text books or any real type of learning material.

I saw this one woman, who looked equally distraught, and she said that at her school you can pay extra money and they’ll do your school supply shopping for you. Unfortunately, she had flaked and missed the deadline this year. “Rest assured,” she bemoaned, “that wont happen again.” For a moment I wished our school did that.

But then, in some weird masochistic side of my brain, I heard a voice saying, “but you’d miss such a meaningful mom-son experience if you didn’t go school supply shopping each year.” The fact is, given the choice to abdicate all school related shopping excursions, I probably wouldn’t take it. Because even if I tell myself that instead of the crowded Target aisles, we could go to the water park or the movies or somewhere equally fun and carefree, something else would come up and we’d miss that time together and then it would feel just like every other missed moment I feel guilty and forlorn over.

So, I’ll keep body-checking 12 year-olds to get the last package of yellow highlighters and pushing distracted moms’ carts out of the way to retrieve that one Yoda pencil box that my son simply cannot live without. I will do this year after year after year. Because I’m a mom. And that’s just what we do.

Financial University

It's never too early to teach kids the value of a dollar...or is it?

My youngest son asked his dad how much money he makes. Mark, as usual, came back in his standard unflappable manner with, “More than five dollars and less than enough.” I thought it was a funny retort. But it did kind of get me thinking. What are you supposed to tell kids about finances?

In the past, I’ve mentioned to my kids that we can’t afford certain things. But this always manages to backfire on me in the most embarrassing of ways. For example, I once balked at buying a pint of strawberries for $5.99. They were out of season, small and were the color of hay (in case I needed to justify not buying them for $6) “We cannot afford to buy strawberries right now,” I sternly announced to my children. Well, the next day in school, my eldest son took up a collection to help subsidize our family’s grocery bill. I remember the warm but somber glances I received at pick-up that day. I was mortified when he handed me an envelope filled with a collection of classmates’ coins.

When we go to a restaurant, it’s the same thing. My 10 year old, Levi, eats like a horse. And he enjoys the finer foods. We can be at a cheap eatery and he’ll easily run up a $20 food bill all by himself. But I feel weird saying, “No, you can’t order the freshly grilled salmon with roasted organic vegetables. Why don’t you have chicken nuggets and fries off the kid’s menu?” It’s really a conundrum.

On Tuesdays we go straight from school to karate. We stop somewhere for a quick snack. I’ll admit I’m the least organized person on the planet, so I never manage to plan ahead and bring something to eat in the car or at a park along the way. Our favorite place to stop is Einsteins. Who’d have thought a couple of bagels and some fruit would end up costing upwards of $25. Then Levi almost invariably asks if he can go next door to Jamba Juice for a drink. He wants a fresh fruit and vege smoothie, without my even prompting him to eat healthy. But I find myself annoyed that he wants to spend an additional $4 for a drink. I usually catch myself before scolding him and fork over the funds. But is that the right thing to do?

I remember taking my nephew out for lunch once back in Chicago and he insisted on ordering half a sandwich because a whole sandwich would cost too much. I was horrified. What was my sister teaching this boy? Food was plentiful in America. So was money at that time, and children shouldn’t have to worry about the cost of things. Of course now that I have my own kids, I’m not sure she didn’t have the right idea. Just once I’d like my 6 year old to not pout when I tell him he can’t have whatever useless item he’s coveting as we race through Target. I think it’d be nice if my kids offered to do extra stuff around the house without earning extra cash. It would be a lovely surprise if, instead of tears, they’d nod knowingly at Trader Joes when I said I was sorry, we couldn’t buy blueberries today.

There just doesn’t seem to be a middle ground here. Too much focus on what things cost and my kids go to work collecting for us like we’re homeless and broke. But without my continued efforts to make them aware of a dollar’s value, they want and whine about everything from pomegranate seeds to Star Wars Legos. Anybody have the answer to this enigma?


Show a little damn gratitude, will ya?

Apparently beggars CAN be choosers!

Holiday cheer? A time to give? What’s up with charities this year? Has anyone noticed that everyone who’s asking for handouts this yuletide season has conditions? “Please drop off any unwrapped, newly purchased, non-age specific, genderless toys by December 15th.” Ok, seriously? This is getting ridiculous. I mean every year we try to go through the boys’ toy closets and make piles of good stuff that they’ve outgrown or no longer want to play with. We talk about how important it is to give things away and the boys have to struggle sometimes with wanting to keep stuff that they need to let go of. But they are learning valuable lessons about sharing, giving and helping those less fortunate.

Well, apparently no one wants anything even “gently” used this holiday season. I find that incredibly offensive. It’s not that I’m not willing to buy new gifts for those in need. It’s just that I think they should be grateful for used items as well. Has everyone lost their minds? I mean, the poor and downtrodden only want new items? What’s that about?

I mean, we’re hurting this year, like everyone around us. I’m shopping at resale stores and garage sales. My kids had a much scaled down version of Chanukah this year. But while it’s okay for me to scrounge and save, I should go to Target and shell out full retail for a brand new Barney-mobile for some nameless kid who only wants new toys this year? That’s more than absurd. It makes me just say, “Oh well, guess I just wont give anything.”

That cannot be the message charities are hoping to convey. But why then all the hubbub about “new” or “unopened” toys? My kids have a plethora of rummaged board games, some of which show serious signs of age. But we have just as much fun playing Monopoly with the hand-drawn “Park Place” card we scribbled in yellow marker over a random two of clubs, than anyone playing with the authentic printed version. Come on!

It reminds me of all the times I’ve attempted to remedy the hunger situation when I encounter it in my path. I’ve offered leftovers to people begging on the street. I’ve purchased a dozen bagels or donuts for some sign-carrying veteran asking for food. I’ve even handed over half a bag of groceries upon passing someone desperate off the freeway ramp in L.A. once. And do you know what each of those people did with my food? They threw it out. Because they didn’t want food. They wanted money, for booze or drugs or cigarettes or whatever. And yes, that soured me a bit on trying to help out. So now, I give to reputable organizations. I make tax-deductible contributions whenever I can and I try my best to ignore the sad souls who approach me and ask for aid. I’m sure it looks heartless and callous to my kids. But thrice burned…

It’s the same damn thing. People need to be encouraged to give. But to give what they can, which may not necessarily be ideal or perfect for the person they’re trying to help. People need to appreciate whatever they get. Am I the only one whose ever heard of the proverbial beggar who couldn’t be a chooser? Maybe it does make a better Christmas for a kid to get a brand new Star Wars Lego set. But when people are struggling to do that for their own kids, they’re not likely to do it for a stranger’s.

I’ve taught my children to be gracious and appreciative whenever anyone gives them anything. If they don’t like it, if they already have one, if it comes broken in two, they just smile, say thank you and offer a warm, grateful hug. Maybe we ought to consider teaching that to the myriad of non-profits out there who are only looking for perfectly packaged, officially licensed, unused goodies this Christmas.

A symmetry boggles over a snag.

Birthday blunder

Not at all the gift he'd imagined.

I really blew it tonight. It’s the eve of Levi’s birthday. Tomorrow he will be 10 years old. I wanted so much to make it the perfect birthday. But instead, I reverted to being a 10 year old myself and almost ruined everything.

This is hard to write about. Most of the time I’m okay belittling myself. I make mistakes. I allow my emotions to get the best of me. I act, in numerous occasions, less like a parent and more like a tantrum-tossing toddler. But I always admit the error of my ways. And I usually manage to learn a good, heart-felt lesson from my less than perfect parenting. But tonight takes the cake.

Levi isn’t your typical kid. He’s never been into stuff the way other kids are. He’d honestly rather build castles in his imagination than an entire aerospace propulsion system out of legos. If you ask him what he wants for his birthday, he’ll tell you he’d like to go out to lunch with you and just talk about what’s going on in your life. He’s definitely what many would label, “an old soul.”

But this year, he told me he wanted some Harry Potter action figures for his birthday. I was excited. Finally he was acting like a normal kid which gave me the opportunity to act like a normal parent. Maybe for once I could get him some stuff that would make him happy, even if it was only a fleeting happiness. I told everyone what he wanted. I not only told everyone, I went ahead and ordered more than $300 worth of hard to find, collectible, Harry Potter action figures from several obscure toy websites on the internet.

When the box came, I offered the various figures to different relatives (at cost of course) so that they too could finally feel victorious by for once giving my son something he really wanted. I had no trouble selling the figures to friends and family. I even wrapped them all individually and made the cards so that no one had to lift a finger to make my boy happy this year. It was my pleasure and I was thrilled to be able to do it.

But as luck would have it, tonight when my mother gave him the first pre-birthday pack of Harry Potter and Serious Black action figures, there was the same dull apathy that always greeted our birthday selections. I was beside myself. After all, there were still $250 worth of figures wrapped up in my closet waiting to be opened tomorrow on his actual birthday. How could I have gotten this wrong.

Levi, I said, I thought you wanted these action figures.

I did, mom. But I wanted the small ones. These are kind of like Barbie size. They’re too big.

But the small ones are just cheap pieces of plastic. I ordered the rare, collectible versions with the hand-painted faces that cost four times as much.

“Oh well,” he tossed it off,”no biggie.”

“What do you mean?” I shouted after him. “Levi, I went to a lot of trouble to find these for you. I mean, that’s all I have for you — from everyone. I thought that’s what you wanted.” I was beginning to sound pathetic.

“Stop it,” my husband chastised. “You’re making him feel bad.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” I snorted as I became increasingly unglued. “I guess I just can’t do anything right, can I?”

“You are acting like a child,” my husband chided. .

“Yeah, well, maybe if he acted like a child once in a while I wouldn’t have to.”

This was ridiculous. I was fully aware of my idiotic behavior. But it was like I couldn’t stop. I kept imagining my son the following day, opening present after present and feeling more and more disappointment with each gift. I really screwed this up. I wanted to cry. Why is it so hard to make a 10 year old boy’s dreams come true?

Meanwhile, Levi was in his room sulking. Every once in a while he’d say something like “Mom, really. They’re fine. I’ll just keep them.” and I’d counter that no, we were sending them back, all of them and getting the shitty little plastic ones. After all, he could probably afford a whole town of those mini Harry Potter people in exchange for the ones I’d bought.

“Will you please stop it and go talk to him. He feels awful,” my husband pleaded.

I went into Levi’s room. We both had tears in our eyes. I sat down on the floor and said, “Levi, I am so sorry to be acting like this. I’m really having a hard time being a grown up right now. Here’s the thing, I so wanted to make your birthday perfect. I searched high and low for some of these figures. That’s pretty much all your getting from everyone. And when I saw that they weren’t the figures you wanted, I felt so horrible that I acted really badly. I want you to understand that I think you’re the greatest and I just wanted you to know how much I and everyone else loves you and wants to make you happy. That’s what this is about. You didn’t do anything wrong. This one’s all me, buddy. I hope you can forgive me for acting like a jerk.”

“Mom, all I care about is that you wanted my birthday to be perfect. The fact that you and all my family and friends tried really hard to get me what you thought I wanted is way more important than whatever the present is. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”

“No baby, you didn’t make me feel bad,” I countered almost instantaneously, “I made me feel bad. And I am ashamed of acting like that. Sometimes even mommies get overwhelmed with their emotions and do really dumb things. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Of course, mom,” he smiled and threw his arms around my neck. “But don’t worry about it. Nobody’s perfect. All we can do is try. Isn’t that what you always tell me?”

“Yeah, Leves, I guess it is,” I stammered, more amazed by him than ever. “I guess we both need to remember that lesson.”

School supply shopping is now a full-contact sport

school supplies

Ah...the dreaded back-to-school shopping list

Ah, shopping for school supplies. Is there anything…worse? It is truly one of life’s most horrible experiences. First of all, why do they need so damn much? I mean, honestly, are they really gonna use one pencil a week for the next 36 weeks? That’s a lot of lead. Isn’t that like bad for the environment or something? To add insult to injury, one mom I know told me that she had to individually write her kid’s name on each and every pencil. I thought she was joking. I mean, please. Have we resorted to purchasing pricey designer number 2 pencils nowadays? Who gives a crap if your kid uses the wrong pencil? And the stuff really adds up fast. It was probably wrong to tell my son he could have the Mario Wii game if we netted out at under $100. His subsequent tantrum was rather embarrassing I must admit. After he composed himself he looked at our $160 stash and said, “School costs enough. I think the teachers should just buy all the school supplies themselves and give them to students.”

Of course I used that as a teachable moment to launch into a diatribe about the shattered state of education in the country (and particularly within our own state confines) and shared with him the rather disturbing fact that Nationwide, teachers earn a whopping .88 for every dollar earned by those in “comparable” positions.* This might have gone over my 9-year-old’s head.

But back to the chaos of the school supply aisle. It reminded me of Passover shopping on Devon Avenue at Hungarian when I was a little kid growing up in Chicago. (While this image may only be accessible to a few of you, it is such a perfect analogy that I had to include it.) Only instead of large Jewish women with short, complacent husbands body checking me in the macaroon aisle, here we had hordes of over-privileged children violently grabbing the last few packs of sharpened pencils, staplers and highlighters with absolutely no regard for personal space, safety or courtesy. And their parents were even worse.

One lady literally raced me to the dry-erase pen section after I foolishly pointed out its whereabouts to my dazed son who’d been up and down the aisles three or four times without spotting them. She took the very last package of pens. “Um, excuse me,” I politely announced. “My son was on his way over to get those. I believe you heard me direct him to this section, and then you ran over here before he could get here and took the last package of pens. Don’t you think you’re being a little too competitive?”

“Hey,” she smiled with self-satisfaction, “You snooze, you loose.”

I thought about smacking her upside the head.

But then I decided that her husband was probably a personal injury attorney, (no offense, Barry), and that she’d end up suing me for like 18 million dollars because I somehow managed to puncture her breast implant while attempting to kick her in the teeth. It just…wasn’t worth it.

For a brief psychotic moment I thought about taking both of my children to purchase their school supplies at the same time. But, seeing as I’m organizationally challenged and probably undiagnosed ADHD, the image of myself hopelessly trying to follow two diverse lists, while fighting off insurgent parents and checking off appropriate list items as they landed in my cart was a little too much for me. Instead, I made it a “fun” mommy and me outing for each child individually, complete with a post shopping trip to the local fro yo shop.

While the signature tart, fat free, icy treat (that I insisted in smothering with Heath Bar sprinkles) did help to somewhat lessen the post traumatic stress reaction I was experiencing, truth be told, it barely took the edge off. What I needed was a Ketel One, double Martini, not too dry, just a little dirty if I was to go home and return to the battle field with child number two.

Luckily it was too close to bedtime to play out the second half of this cutthroat educational acquisition competition. We tabled it for the night. But let me tell you, come tomorrow morning, I am gonna be a force to be reckoned with. So if you see me coming down the aisle, accordion folder in hand, please, for the love of God, get the hell out of my way.

*Incidentally, “comparable” positions according to the report by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center (EPE) includes reporters, insurance underwriters, and even museum curators to name a few. The report also noted that it is, in fact, teaching quality that matters more than anything else in a child’s education, and astutely added that a child’s likelihood of succeeding in life depends greatly on which state he or she is born into since education varies so erratically from state to state.

He’s driving me crazy!!!

 

Driving him away

 

I am an enabler. Really, I am. I’m like the classic example of someone stuck in a destructive relationship. I make excuses for indefensible actions. I forgive innumerable disappointments. I turn the other cheek so often, I’ve developed chronic whiplash and need to see a chiropractor on a regular basis. This abuse has got to stop.

You see, it started innocently enough back in ’05. I needed new wheels. So I went out looking. I never expected to fall in love with a Rover. It just happened. It was like…destiny.

From the moment we hooked up, I knew he was trouble. Sure he was handsome, in a different sort of way. He wasn’t like all the others. His unique, boxy shape made him stand out in a crowd. I loved the way I could always single him out in a busy parking lot. He was powerful and rugged and I felt safe in his charge.

But the honeymoon was short-lived. Soon he started to have all kinds of “issues.” That’s when he began having an intense relationship with our service technician. At first it was once a month. Then weekly visits. Their connection seemed unusually close to me. But I ignored the looming sense of danger. What a fool I was.

We stumbled through a rocky five years together until I hit rock bottom and kicked him to the curb. I believed I was on a path to wellness. But I was merely fooling myself. This spring I met his brother. I was definitely on the rebound. I fell instantly in love, and I fell hard. But I told myself I knew what I was doing. Sure, there was a striking family resemblance. He had the same strong features, the same well-defined body, the same rugged exterior. But I believed the hype — that he was fitter, tougher, lower maintenance. Oh, how we deceive ourselves under the guise of loving.

I leased the 2010 model in March convincing myself that it was only 36 months, that it would be over in no time. “Besides,” I reasoned, “With such a clear-cut ending in sight, I could surely keep my attachment in check.”

But here I am. Summer vacation in California, and he did it to me again. He started having electrical “difficulties” on the drive over. I figured it was just another ploy for attention, a clumsy attempt to steal focus from my kids. I tried to ignore the warning signs, the flashing orange lights, the minor inconveniences. But then this morning, he wouldn’t even turn over. He just sat there silently, brooding, while I raged and cursed and swore I’d leave him forever.

Now we’re stuck. After an interminable wait for a tow truck and another excruciating intake interview with an out-of-state service tech, I’m back in my all too familiar state of profound disillusionment, waiting for this week’s diagnosis. What could it be now? A faulty computer glitch? A loose radiator cap? A fuel injection hiccup? Does it even matter anymore? I feel hopelessly trapped in a dangerously addictive dance of deception and doom.

Where can I turn for help? I need to break this sick pattern of attachment. I need a ride that wont let me down, that will be there for me in good times and bad, that wont leave me stranded in strange cities, with unfamiliar mechanics and coffee machines so advanced I can’t even figure out how to brew hot water for tea.

Please, someone help me. I admit my powerlessness over my addiction and am ready to turn my life over to a power greater than myself. But who could that be? Do you think “Motor Trend” might qualify?

My two cents…literally

pennies

So we’re hanging at Z Pizza, me and the boys. Levi’s just inhaled his second humongous slice of za and Eli’s barely touched his first. “Mom, can I go get another piece?” my bottomless pit of a son asks. I sigh a bit hopelessly as I contemplate how we’re going to feed him for the next 9 years until he turns 18. “Of course,” I say, forcing a smile. I reach into my wallet and hand him a five. “This should cover it.” Of course the counter is 4 feet away, so if my fin doesn’t suffice, I can step in and cover the difference.

Levi orders politely and pays for his pizza. Then he brings me the change. “Here you go,” he says, as he places a few coins in my palm. “Mom,” he adds, still gripping a penny, “Can I have this for the ‘take a penny, give a penny’ pot by the cash register?” I once again oblige and he bops back to the counter, penny in hand.

When he comes back to the table he looks really perplexed. I notice a penny still clenched between his thumb and forefinger. “I don’t really get this,” he says looking at the penny. “It says ‘take a penny, give a penny.’ But now I’ve just got a different penny. I mean, what’s the point?”

“Honey,” I say trying not to laugh, “they don’t mean ‘exchange’ a penny. The idea is that if you have an extra penny or two, you can leave them for someone who might need a penny sometime in the future. Does that make sense?”

“But why would anyone ever NEED a penny? You say all the time that they’re just worthless pieces of copper that ought to be done away with.”

“That’s true,” I concede. “But people do still use them and sometimes it’s easier to borrow a penny and not end up with a fist full of change.” I quickly realize that this simple concept is morphing into a complex dissertation. “Like if your bill comes to $20 and two cents, you’d rather just pay the two cents than walk away with 98 cents.”

He’s a smart kid, but I can see he’s having trouble wrapping his mind around this. “Whatever,” he harumphs, eyes grazing the ceiling, “Grown-ups are just…weird.”

“Yes they are,” I concur. “Now why don’t you sit down and eat your pizza.”

“Actually,” he announces without a trace of regret, “I’m not really hungry anymore.”
And with that, he tosses his perfectly good slice of uneaten pizza into the trash and I erupt like a verbal volcano. “You just wasted four dollars. We could have at least taken that piece home, or your brother might have wanted it. Why would you do something like that?”

“Because mom,” he reasoned, pointing to a sign on the wall above my head, “It says ‘please discard all uneaten food into appropriate trash container.”

I thought about explaining that sometimes grown-ups don’t actually say exactly what they mean. But I let it go this time, too tired for yet another foray into the realm of his intellectual curiosity.

“Come here, you silly boy,” I said opening my arms for him to snuggle into. He obliged at first and then pulled away.

“Come on, mom,” he said quietly, as he wiggled out of my embrace, “someone might see us.”

I let him go, a bit sadly I must admit. Guess my little guy’s growing up.

A real life email to my husband during tense economic times

how modern women communicate with their men

A real life e-mail to my husband during tense economic times

Dear Mark,
While thinking about our financial difficulties this morning, I came up with a brilliant money making strategy. However, after much research, I’m sorry to report that there is not one single reality TV show I can apply to be on to increase our earnings. The only thing that even comes close is one for you. “Husbands!!! Is your wife driving you nuts?” Want to try to get on the Marriage Ref, Seinfelds new show?

I’ve checked out everything from “Does your spouse wear a snuggie?” (What the hell’s a snuggie?) to “Have you recently come back from the dead?” There’s nothing for me. Seriously. It’s a real bummer. I’m not really a shopaholic. (Although I know you might argue that point). I’m not addicted to prescription pain meds. I’m not even recently divorced. I almost qualified for The Apprentice. But of course I missed the deadline by three months.

One show advertises “Feel you’re in over your head as a parent?” That one really speaks to me. But you have to live in Los Angeles County. You haven’t cheated on me recently, have you? There’s a new National talk show looking for spouses who’ve been cheated upon who have strong convictions on the subject. (I’d kind of guess that would be all of them, wouldn’t you?)

Would you characterize yourself as controlling? There’s an ad for women with husbands who try to control their every move.

Do you often muse to yourself that I’m just not the woman you married? There’s a show for you on that issue.

We don’t have a blended family. No inter-racial components. No step-kids. Shit. We’re the most uninteresting family in the universe.

There’s even a show for Moms addicted to energy drinks. Figures I gave up my Red Bull a few years ago.

Wait, here’s one. You are pretty hot. They’re looking for men as bold and good looking as the guys  from Jersey Shore, that MTV show. You’re kind of old though. Too bad. How about this? “Spoiled Wives.” Do you think I’m a spoiled brat in need of constant manicures, pedicures and facials? Ok, don’t answer that. I’m not applying for that one. Too bad I’m so artistic. There’s a show for Interior decorators who are really interior desecrators. There’s even a show for women who own pawn shops.

I’m not a young veteran, don’t want to confront someone about their slutty facebook pictures, I’m not even interested in confronting your mistress. I’m certainly not the real life 40 year old virgin. And as far as I know you don’t have a compulsion to cover the furniture in plastic wrap. Do you by any chance still suck your thumb?

I’m not sure what “Cakemania” is, but if you’re obsessed with it or hooked on performance enhancing drugs, I have a shot at a couple of shows. I doubt I’m smarter than a 5th grader. And I’m too darn old to try out for the “real” weather girl for a new iPhone App.

Guess I’ll just go back to clipping coupons.

Frugally yours,
debra