It Takes More Than Autumn Leaves to Get Me to Michigan in October

Hail, sleet, and snow in the midst of a thunderstorm – that was my welcome to Michigan. The date was October 20. I had left almost 90-degree weather, an atypically warm Orlando autumn. To say this was a shock to my system would be an understatement.

First stop after touching down was Costco, of course. It was as I pulled into the parking lot that the sleet began. I sat there in my rental car in awe of the sudden extremely different from Florida precipitation when it started to hail, accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning. Being a Floridian, I can drive in the worst of a rain storm, but this, I wasn’t so sure. Then, flashing through my mind, were those weird road signs that warn bridges ice before roads. I would be crossing bridges. I reminded myself that I could do this, but I didn’t wanna!

My first thought was, I needed a nap. I’d gotten up early to catch my flight and sleep on the plane, well, that doesn’t really count. But the thought of driving through this kind of weather did wake me up.

Of course, I didn’t have an umbrella, and the sleet was mixed with rain that was coming down pretty steadily. I needed to do my Costco run before making the two-hour drive to my son’s house. He and his wife were expecting their second child, and my grandmother calling was strong.

Neither snow nor rain nor cold nor gloom of Michigan autumn would stay this grandmother from the swift completion of her appointed Costco run. I decided to go for it – cold, wet weather and all. And then, it stopped.

I was so thankful! I bought my stuff and made the drive with only slight rain falling on the windshield. The temperature stayed above freezing, so the bridges were fine! The snow flurries waited until I arrived at their home.

Seeing my son, Joe, my grandson, and my very pregnant daughter-in-law was all the sunshine I needed. It was wonderful to be there. Now, the baby could come any time. He was due on the 24th. He had a plan of his own.

No grandmother I know has ever been so well rested while going to help with a new baby. After scheduling to be induced on November 1, Aubyron delivered a very healthy, 10-pound baby boy on Halloween. That was a Wednesday, and I was scheduled to come home on Saturday. We were really sweating out those final days, wondering if I’d get to see the baby at all, wondering if I’d be there to help with their three-year-old. Thankfully, I was able to push my departure back a couple of days and go home on Monday.

While we were waiting, I had the best time with my grandson. We built blocks, did puzzles, read stories, baked cookies, and played. I tried to pack in all the stuff that I don’t get to do on a regular basis with him. It was wonderful. We also saw all that their small, college town had to offer. We took walks. Many, many walks. My poor daughter-in-law was miserable and trying to do what she could to encourage the birth, and my son was getting a little anxious, too.

Let me give you a little glimpse of our tour. I was struck by the comparison of what a Michigan store stocks and what a Central Florida store stocks.

An entire section of things to keep the ice off your car. You can’t find this stuff in Orlando.

I mentioned they live in a college town. That should have given me a clue as to what this was all about.

Everything you need for beer-pong in one handy spot. I’ve never noticed that at CVS where I live.

They have a Family Video rental store, though I found no VHS tapes in there. The walls were lined with DVDs and I understand it is quite popular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, if that weren’t enough, they have real, live Fall up there. They don’t have to fake it by purchasing colored leaves and pumpkins. Those things are there naturally. It was beautiful.

But the most beautiful thing I saw there, showed up on October 31. Yes, all else pales in comparison. Welcome to the world, Oliver!

Grandchild #8. He’s so beautiful!

Now you understand why I haven’t posted lately. Love is very distracting and consuming in the best of ways.

October Surprises

We are mid-way through October, and Christmas is prepared to pounce. I have become accustomed to Costco bringing out the Christmas decorations in September. I almost don’t even notice them anymore, kind of like the blue paint on the bumper of my car where something rubbed against it. It’s only mildly annoying, not hurting anything, but I do wish it weren’t there.

I love Christmas, but I’m not quite ready to gear up for it – that is until I realized that I’m going to Michigan on Saturday to welcome a new grandson and when I return it will be November. Oh my!

Still, I draw the line when it comes to Christmas promotions that are either too early or just plain wrong. I’ve captured a few for you. What do you think?

These pushy poinsettias have forced the lovely fall mums back under a table. I don’t like that!

 

Do I want to open my frig to see Santa in October?

 

This one almost left me speechless. Seriously, opening a beer a day to celebrate Advent!

Merry October!

Life Has Its Ups and Downs

One minute I’m up and the next minute I’m down. That’s life in the Costco aisle. I can’t tell you how excited I was when Costco surprised me with Charmin toilet paper with scalloped perforations between the sheets. It was a stroke of brilliance that brought about this long-needed update to a very mundane (yet essential) product. Not since we were told “not to squeeze the Charmin” have I been so excited to sit next to this Grade A paper. Mr. Whipple would be proud. But he probably would be OCD about that, too. I can just hear him say, “Don’t rip between the perforations!”

This does solve a lot of problems. For years when our grandchildren were over we would go through toilet paper at a rate of about 1.5 rolls per day. We helped them learn to count with toilet paper, for goodness’ sakes. Now, though, it will be all the easier for them to count and tear. Genius! Plus, no more having to make that cute little triangle on the end of the roll to make it extra fancy. Perforations – that’s what it’s all about.

But then Costco threw me for a loop. They changed out my favorite yogurt. Dannon Activia has always come in three flavors – peach, strawberry, and blueberry. Always. But not yesterday. They claim to have updated the flavors and blueberry got the axe. I made an audible gasp when I saw the box promoting black cherry. I practically climbed into the refrigerator in search of any blueberry hidden back there. Alas, I am forced to try something new. Bob says it’s good for me and reminds me that I love cherries. I know what you’re thinking – how can he really not know me after all of these years!

Oh, blueberry! We had a good run!

This is my last blueberry yogurt. I will savor it and bid it farewell. I am reminded that you can purchase this at the grocery store, but that’s not how I roll. Oh, Costco! You drive me crazy sometimes, but this blueberry debacle will not be the end of our relationship. I forgive you.

Furthermore, I will not concentrate on the negative. Who knows – maybe I’ll love black cherry yogurt. Either way, whenever I visit the bathroom (which really goes hand-in-hand with Activia yogurt), I have a pleasant roll of perforated tissues there waiting to cheer me up.

 

How to Avoid Cooking

4 and 20 Blackbirds minus 20 eating leftover pie

It’s been almost two weeks and we have finally made our way through the Thanksgiving leftovers. That means I had to generate more leftovers by cooking. This is not my favorite thing to do. I rank my love of cooking on a 1 to 10 scale, and that can change daily or even within any given day. One means I won’t even entertain the idea of cooking, or entertaining for that matter as they kind of go hand-in-hand. I’ll have to let you know what 10 means if I ever generate that high a score. It is highly doubtful that will happen, but hope springs eternal like eyes on an old potato, which I would know because I just cleaned out my refrigerator.

Here are the reasons why I don’t cook much, feel free to put them into practice in your own life:

  1. I’m lazy – I thought I’d get that one out of the way.
  2. I’m not particularly creative in the kitchen.
  3. Costco – Need I say more? Chicken potpie, stuffed peppers, and the famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken are just three of the Costco reasons.
  4. Enchilada night at Amigos in Altamonte Springs. On Thursday night you can get an enchilada platter for $5.88, and that includes all the chips and salsa that I can fit into my purse. Essentially, that is two meals for $5.88.
  5. The Orlando Magic get a win at home. This means Papa Johns offers half price on your entire on-line order. Granted, we have not been able to take advantage of this much lately.
  6. My husband Bob is a great cook and likes creating new dishes. I can’t wait until he retires.
  7. I’d rather be writing.
  8. I have cooked enough. I multiplied the number of years I’ve been married (42) x 365 days and then assumed (conservatively) that a meal was cooked by me 70 percent of the time. That is 10,731 meals.
  9. I like to take naps after doing complex mathematical problems like the one above. Of course, that just got me off the hook for tonight.
  10. Leftovers – Whenever I do cook, I make enough for a family of six. I can’t figure out how to cook for a number smaller than that, but it means, like the meal or not, I don’t have to cook the next night.

Since my cooking is becoming rarer and rarer (amount of times I cook, not the temperature of meat), I now award myself bonus points for any night that I do cook. I told Bob that I can redeem these for a night out to dinner. He gave me one of his famous eye-rolls. I’d keep on writing, but I just realized it’s past time to heat the leftovers for dinner. Looks like no bonus point for me tonight.

Maybe We Should Leave the Scientific Method to the Scientists

I witnessed two ladies applying the scientific method the other day. It was fascinating to observe their dedication to discovery and the acquisition of knowledge, even if it might come at their own peril.

It happened at Costco, which is where so much of my writing inspiration has its source. From the moment I drive onto the parking lot and circle, circle, circle to find a parking spot, there is magic and anticipation in the air. This time it began as I exited my car and observed the aforementioned ladies just as they had finished loading their car with the treasures that embody a Costco shopping trip.

Their car was similar to mine, a small-to-mid-size SUV, and it was obviously loaded with the same feature that mine has which allows you to kick your foot under the rear bumper (if you have the key fob on you) and release the hatch to open without the use of your hands. I might add that this is a perfect feature for the regular Costco shopper.

When I say “obviously,” I mean that one of the women was halfway inside of the back of the car while the other woman was kicking her foot under the bumper to see how the stop-and-reverse safety feature worked. I’m sure that this was an experiment and nothing malicious, because there was friendly banter being exchanged the entire time.

Down went the hatch, and then up went the hatch when it hit the woman leaning into the car. She repositioned herself and they tried it again – I guess to see if the intensity of the hatch hitting the woman would change or if in fact she would be squished by the gate, thereby adding the possibility of a law suit, which they would surely win and, therefore, be able to buy more stuff at Costco.

This was so surprising and entertaining to me that I didn’t think to pull out my phone and video them, which would clearly have helped with any impending lawsuits. I just stood there and stared and laughed.

I also engaged them in conversation because I have some knowledge of how it feels to have your hatch hit you when you accidentally put your foot too far under the bumper while loading the back of the car. A summary of the outcome of that event from my firsthand experience is: pain and embarrassment.

In my case, I was putting things in the back of the car and turned to get more from my cart when I was interrupted by the hatch smacking me on the head. I shared this with them with a certain amount of caution, because I was honestly afraid that they might try that one, too. They didn’t, but they did return to their original application of the scientific method. Their systematic observation and testing was truly inspiring. After I thought about it, though, I did wonder if they had already done the experiment where the hatch hits them in the head. That would explain a lot.

Leftover Pi

I was lamenting not having something sweet to serve to my family who was coming into town. It seemed wrong. I guess that’s how I was raised, and I also guess that explains why I have been on a diet for the last 45 years.

I had other food to offer them, but I couldn’t get rid of that nagging feeling that I was failing at my hostess duties. I almost had myself talked into being okay with it, and then I made a critical mistake. While I was out running a quick errand, I called Bob (my husband).

Bob: You know, it’s pi day.

Me: You just want pie.

Bob: I do like pie. You could swing by Costco and buy one. Easy.

Me (as I turn the car towards Costco): I’ve been doing so well without eating sweets, I don’t want to buy a huge pie. Not to mention the fact that I just made a birthday cake for my mom for tomorrow and I plan on having a piece.

Bob: Do whatever you want. We don’t need pie.

I tell myself that I’m not going to do it. I’ll just fill up my tank. No need to go inside. I lie a lot.

Inside they are sampling apple pie. Arg! I look at it and decide to be mad at Bob. I buy the pie.

Before our company arrives, I check in with Bob to tell him that he is a terrible influence on me, I mean to tell him that I bought a pie. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, honey. Just thought I’d check in. Do you have a minute to talk?

Bob: No, not really. The entire staff is heading to the break room for pie, you know, since it’s Pi Day. I don’t want to miss out.

Me: What! You knew you were having pie at work and yet you managed to get me to buy pie! Stupid Pi Day. I hate math!

Later that night…

During dinner, my cousin tells me that he is now borderline diabetic, so he passes on the bread that I fixed, which I don’t usually fix but did because we have company and you must have bread. And, of course, he turns down the pie as well.

Oh, the irony! All this to say, you really don’t have to have dessert just because you are having company. And, you really don’t have to have bread either, but you do have to have wine. That helps you not to be angry at your husband or yourself when you and he are the only ones eating pie that you didn’t really want to have in the first place.

What are we going to do with all of this leftover pie?

 

Say Cheese! (the story of an immigrant and fellow cheese shopper)

Almost every time I go to Costco I see someone I know.  That’s what happens when you live in one area for forty years.  But today, instead of seeing an old friend, I made a new one.

Part of the fun at Costco is listening to and watching people.  Every trip affords an opportunity for conversation.  Today was an exceptional day in that arena.

We met in the cheese aisle while lamenting the expiration dates on the fresh tubs of mozzarella.  Soon an alert employee asked if she could help us.  As she went to check on the supply, we started chatting – me in my plain old American English and him with a charming old world accent that I could not quite place.

Bulgaria.  He was from Bulgaria.  He was a long way from the food lines of the late 1990s that were the norm at that time in his home country.  In less than twenty years he had gone from those lines and barely being able to feed his family, to Costco lines of carts overflowing with bulk purchases and fresh produce.  And cheese.

He risked it all to come to America so he could feed his daughters.  In those days the food lines started early in the morning, before dawn.  He would get in line and wait for hours.  There was not enough food to buy.  That is a concept that I cannot even imagine as I look at the aisles stacked with more kinds of food than I can count, not to mention my own grocery cart full of steaks, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.

He was a printer and worked in the newspaper business.  One day while reading the paper he saw a small rectangular ad with details of a way to go to America – a lottery.  He secretly applied – too nervous to tell even his wife.  For some reason he was confident that his name would be picked but still kept his action to himself.  And then he waited.  Six months later a letter came.  He was chosen.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when he told his wife the news.  He told me there was a skirmish between them over it – mostly over him keeping it from her.  His intentions were good – he didn’t want their everyday life to be overshadowed by a mere possibility.  Even when it was time to go, they waited until the last days to tell family and friends.  Some things are difficult to share with those you do life with every day.  How does a person find the words to tell loved ones they are going to find a new life in another country?  Words.  Words can cut like a knife and soothe like a balm.  They can elicit tears of hope and gratitude.  They are part of happy hellos and heartbreaking goodbyes.

So I never know what I’m going to bring home from Costco.  This time it was a lot more than a rotisserie chicken.  This time it was a story that made me proud of this man for pursuing a new life to care for his family and proud of my country for welcoming him in.

Author’s Note: This story actually took place a year ago. I submitted it to The Costco Connection; but since I haven’t heard from them, I wanted to share it with you. This gentleman is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. It occurs to me that in this day of tension about immigration, maybe this is timely. There is a path to immigration that welcomes people to our country. I don’t fully understand how it works, but I am grateful for it. It was a process for this man that involved waiting. I’m glad he did.

Beyond the Samples at Costco

I think Sesame Street had the right idea about the people that you meet in your neighborhood. You know, the people that you meet as you’re walking down the street each day? That applies to Costco, too (my other neighborhood).

Let me back up a little. Whenever my dad leaves the house, he is wearing his WWII B29 crew veteran hat. Over the years of going places with him, I’ve grown accustomed to people stopping and thanking him for his service. I’ve seen people engage in long conversations with him, shake his hand, and buy him lunch. It always means so much to him for someone to take the time to show appreciation.

Now it’s hard for me to walk past a veteran without stopping and thanking them for their service – especially a WWII vet. They are easy to spot because the pride they take in their service and their country is so often displayed via their hats.

During my last trip to Costco I met a gentleman who is a WWII vet. His name is Mike Morro. I stopped to thank him for his service and we ended up having a wonderful conversation. He served in the Pacific like my dad did, and then he re-enlisted in the 1970s as a doctor in the navy. This delightful gentleman will turn 90 this summer; and he is still politically active, cares for his country and is a responsible citizen.

img_1555I was impressed that not only did he carry a picture of himself in uniform, but he carries one of his father who served in WWI. There is a lot of history in that wallet!

He pulled out a couple of other pictures and before showing them to me said, “Now, I’m not sure which way you voted in the election, but look at this.”

There he was in a photo with Mike Pence and holding his Veterans for Trump sign. You have to respect an 89-year-old man who is so articulate and active, not to mention polite, respectful, and down-right friendly. It’s easy to see why that generation is called the greatest.

Thank you, Mr. Morro, for your service to our country, and thank you for taking a few minutes to talk beyond the sample line at Costco. It was such a pleasure to meet you!

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Mike Morro and I at Costco (I have to remember to wear make-up when I leave the house. You never know who you’ll run into!)