So you won’t have to …

You’re probably like me and have stood at Wal-Mart’s self-checkout registers of doom & wondered how much rotisserie-chicken juice you’d have to spill on the scanner  to short it out and bring Wal-Mart commerce to a greasy halt.  Well, stop wondering because I have the answer: More than you think. Aren’t you relieved? I’ll retrace my steps so you can replicate this experiment to test for consistent results, although I discourage tempting Wal-Mart karma.

Here’s what happened: Recently I offered to bring supper to Older Daughter & my three grandsons. By “bring,” I mean “choose from various takeout options” because sadly I am not the sort of mom/grandma who has tasty dinner items in her kitchen unless you count half-empty -full bottles of wine. Older Daughter had a sinus headache and wasn’t hungry so no vegetarian option needed. This pointed to a run to Little Wal-Mart* for the rotisserie chicken that the 7-year-old & 3-year-old grandsons like and the 8-month-old grandson eyes with increasing optimism. Also a good choice because son-in-law was working late and he could eat when he got home. A vital detail here is that I was wearing my new long pendant necklace that has had several charms dangling from the bottom, such as an elephant & an old-fashioned long and skinny key**.

So I go to Little Wal-Mart, feeling cute & stylish in my elephant-and-key necklace PLUS feeling pat-myself-on-the-back good for helping Older Daughter. I grab the warm chicken, packaged in one of those two-part plastic containers, as well as King’s Hawaiian rolls, chocolate soy milk and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. As I put the container of warm & juicy chicken in my cart, I notice the plastic lid seems precarious. This is when any normal non-cute-necklace-wearing person would Take Some Action. Not me. Instead, I was thinking about how much I liked my new necklace & maybe I should get the one with penguins, too. There wasn’t room for, you know, logical & productive thoughts.

And then next, like a blurry slow-motion explosion that cannot be stopped, comes my arrival at the self-checkout register, my one-handed removal of the chicken from my cart, the unwieldiness of the plastic container, my instinctive reaction to set it down quickly and the inevitable upside-down dropage of said container. Then chicken juice. Everywhere. The mist cleared and time returned to normal and I expected alarms & flashing red lights, but nothing happened. Nothing. Crickets chirping. Nobody was in line behind me and the employee at the self-checkout desk was staring intently at nothing or maybe at the produce section to her right. Difficult to tell. After a minute or so of considering options — Leave quietly? Pretend chicken juice was covering the register when I arrived? — I got her attention. “I dropped something,” I said as she walked over. “Hmm,” she said. “Yes. I see.” She brought paper towels & a spray bottle and began expertly dismantling the now-chickeny register. This was when my Southerness kicked in because of course you’re not going to stand there while somebody else is cleaning up a mess YOU made. That’s akin to putting grapes in your chicken salad — not going to happen. So I leaned over with a paper towel and started wiping my side of the register, stretching to reach the far corners, at the exact moment she dropped the scanner’s glass cover back into place and caught the long skinny key of my adorable new necklace underneath. Thoughts of Isadora Duncan‘s demise via a similar fashion mistake briefly put me in panic mode — although greasy chicken juice and a Wal-Mart register isn’t as glamorous as a long silk scarf and sports car — but she quickly raised the cover and freed me. The key charm was slightly mangled and the elephant slightly dented but the chicken miraculously was fine except for significantly less juice. Which probably was a good thing. You’re welcome.

* Little Wal-Mart — This is what Middle Grandson calls Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets.

** Elephant-and-key necklace — Why are elephant and key charms together on a necklace? All I can think of is “The Secret Garden,” one of my favorite childhood books because who among us doesn’t believe she has a rich & mysterious uncle on an English estate with a long-hidden secret? The fact that my only uncle was a high-school teacher in California did not dampen my dreams.

The Mystery of the Missing Earring

As a mystery fan, I’m constantly on the lookout for spies, poisoners, counterfeiters and other bad guys & girls. I mean, everybody whom Goldy Schulz knows eventually is connected to a crime and Miss Marple can’t walk out of her front door without stumbling over a dead body. Sadly or luckily — not sure which — so far I’ve only been called upon to solve such perplexing cases as “What happened to the last piece of caramel cake?” and “Why is the coffee grinder making that funny sound?”  And then this happened: The Case of the Disappearing Earring. I’ll start with the facts. One recent evening, my husband and I went to dinner directly after I got home from work. Back at home after dinner, I started to take off jewelry and makeup. I stood by my dresser to take off my earrings and put them back in their spot on a jewelry stand (a re-purposed vertical CD holder). I took one earring off and put it where it belonged and then suddenly realized the corresponding earring was not in my other ear. Not a disaster, but I liked those earrings and didn’t want to lose one. So I alerted my husband to the possibility that he might find a random earring in his car (leading to much hilarity, of course, about finding lady things in his car hahahaha) or somewhere on the floor and if he did, to please pick it up and give it to me because it was MIA. He said he would and I went to bed, not really worried about the Missing Earring. Got up the next morning, got dressed, put on jewelry, went to work, came home and once again stood by my dresser to take off my earrings and put them up. So far, so good. But as I was putting that day’s earrings back where they belonged, I noticed that the missing earring was right there, separated from its twin that I had worn the day before but in the general location of where it should be. I was momentarily startled and then started to consider the possibilities of how the Missing Earring had become un-missing. Here are those possibilities, ranked in order of least to most likely:

  • The earring had fallen off and then, with its magical powers of awesomeness, had found its way back home on its own. I mean, look, if we can find our phones and our cars and our TV remote controls, stands to reason we can find our earrings. Or they can find us. I know that this seems highly unlikely, but still. And now I am going to go invent a tiny little tracking chip that we can all put in our favorite earrings. I’ll let you know how it goes.
  • My husband had found the earring and put it back. Again, this seems highly unlikely because if this had happened, he 1) would have triumphantly told me about it and 2) would never have approached my jewelry stand himself because (see above description of this being an old CD rack) it is a bit rickety and shaky and prone to tumble over into jewelry pick-up-sticks and he would not want to be the cause of this happening. Again.
  • On the evening in question, when I was back from dinner and taking off my jewelry, I absent-mindedly took off both earrings and simply did not remember. But it’s not that I was absent-minded. No, indeed. I probably was thinking of something Really Important (such as “What happened to the last piece of caramel cake?”) and simply not paying attention. This is a definite possibility (“I just wasn’t paying attention … ” seems to figure into many conversations I have with my husband) but a troubling one because if you don’t pay attention to your own earrings, who will?
  • And now we come to the most troubling possibility of all. It might maybe could have been that I only had one earring on the whole day. Perhaps, when I got dressed that morning, I only put on one earring. Could this be what happened? (Refer to previous paragraph about Not Paying Attention.) I know I have long hair and had worn a scarf that day, but surely if I’d only had on one earring, somebody would have said something. Don’t you think? On the other hand, this reminds me of once when I’d gone into one of our local boutiques and after I’d left, I realized I’d lost an earring (totally different situation since I KNEW I’d had two at one point). I went back to the shop and asked the owner if she’d found it. “No, you only had one earring when you came in,” she said. I couldn’t believe it. “Why didn’t you say something?” I asked her. “I thought you meant it that way!” she said. And while I appreciated the compliment that I was edgy enough to wear only one dangling earring, I am not edgy at all and prefer pretty much to have my ears match.

So what do you think? I’m sort of leaning toward the fourth possibility, as troubling as it is that a) I’d forgotten to put two earrings in that morning and b) nobody commented on it. But then, I don’t usually check out folks’ earrings, either, so that might be too much pressure to put on people. And, bottom line, I’ve got both earrings back now, so all is well. Goldy & Miss Marple would be proud.

Jewelry Tree

My son-in-law is the most amazing artist ever. I’ve been fascinated for years how he can take ordinary household items and create … well … art. He transforms everyday supplies into imaginative and whimsical designs. And it’s second nature for him — he just sits down and thinks for a minute and then makes art. Such as the Christmas presents he made for this year for all the women in his life: This absolutely delightful jewelry tree. He twisted plain ol’ wire into delightfully meandering tree branches and then set them into bases sturdy enough for us to load up all our dangling and clanging jewelry. Older Daughter kept telling me, “You are so going to love what he’s made you for Christmas,” and she was right. And I loved the add-ons, too: Older Daughter had picked out a lovely necklace and earrings from Etsy to go with the jewelry tree. I love my family!!!

Shopping

Back when I was a high-powered member of the media elite fulltime hack for my town’s daily newspaper, I had no qualms about squandering my paycheck on things such as $75 necklaces and $150 pair of shoes. And, actually, I still do that but I definitely have qualms … that my husband will find out. And, actually again, when I was a single mom of two daughters and eyeing every penny, I didn’t shop anywhere more expensive than the T.J. Maxx clearance rack. But when I got married six years ago and my household income practically tripled, I discovered the joys of shopping Just For Fun. However, now that my dear husband agreed I could leave the newsroom and be a poor struggling work-from-home freelance writer and we’re back to a one-regular-paycheck-family, I’m back to being conscious of what goes out versus what comes in. And all that is a long way around to say that when Younger Daughter and I found these adorable necklaces at Rue 21 in the mall, I scooped them up — and did a happy dance at checkout when I discovered they were all half-price, meaning that my delight at an estimated total of about $30 for all three was proportionally heightened when it turned out I only had to pay less than $15. I immediately put on the long one with the dragonfly and got three compliments on it before I’d even reached my car. They are big and colorful and cheerfully clanky and are just perfect for brightening up my usual T-shirt and jeans. Rue 21 is one of those youth-centric mall stores filled with throwaway fashion-of-the-moment — or so I thought until I went in and really paid attention. I believe I spied a sweater there that I’d seen on one of my most stylish grownup friends, so between that and my jewelry find, I’m adding Rue 21 to my rotation of stores-to-check-because-you-never-know-what-you-might-find. You’re welcome. http://www.rue21.com/

Shopping

My friend Susan has a consignment store in Sheffield, Alabama, that’s full of  treasures you just want to take home with you. Susan also has hired a new part-time employee with a wonderful creative eye for display and a stylish flair for vintage fashion. Okay, that employee is my Younger Daughter, but still! Susan and YD make a great team and visiting Upscale Resale is like browsing through a fun and funky antiques shop . I love the way YD has put together these retro looks with coordinating gloves, hats and handbags. Makes me feel all Jackie-O and Audrey Hepburn. I just missed the white-glove era but I (barely) can remember my mother tucking a pair, along with a floral cotton handkerchief, into her purse as she’d get ready for church on Sunday mornings. I think I remember that, anyway. I’ll have to ask her if she ever wore or took gloves to church when I was little or if I have completely and totally made that up — which is entirely possible. What I am sure of, however, is that a pair of white gloves is the perfect accessory for this lovely plum-colored spring suit with the pleated skirt and gorgeously tailored jacket. I can just see this at church on Easter Sunday, can’t you? Upscale Resale is at 2613 North Jackson Highway in Sheffield. Phone number is 256.381.7773. It’s open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  In addition to vintage clothing and jewelry, there is furniture, art work, home decor, glassware, books, holiday items and all sorts of things. You’ll love it!

Shopping

Charmed, I’m sure! Recently Younger Daughter and I explored the latest addition to retail whimsy in Birmingham, Alabama — a boutique called Charm, on Second Avenue North across from Urban Standard coffee shop. I mean, where else are you going to find a glittery and sequined deer’s head but in downtown Birmingham??? This little gem of a shop specializes in vintage and locally handmade jewelry, scarves and handbags — but with attitude. It’s like rummaging through your crazy aunt’s closet while she’s out dancing on tables because the fleet has come in. Or something. Owner Chatham Hellmers had the late and great Jinx boutique in Birmingham’s Five Points that was always a must-stop destination for quirky jewelry and retro-hip style. Charm is a grownup upscale version perfect for browsing, especially if you’re looking for gifts. I was immediately delighted and impressed with Hellmers’ taste when I spied an “old” jewelry box made in the shape of a rolltop office desk — the same jewelry box I had growing up. The drawers and compartments are lined with a red velvet-type fabric, and I kept them lovingly stocked with silver turquoise rings and copper bracelets to show I was In Tune with Nature and One with the Universe and wide plastic cuffs to show I read Vogue. Hey — don’t judge! It was the 1970s, remember, and I was young(er). Anyway, find out more about Charm at http://www.charmonsecond.com/

Journalism — and Jewelry

Antique mallsYounger Daughter and I recently were browsing through an antiques mall in Florence, Alabama, when she called me over to where she was standing. “Isn’t this your story?” she asked, pointing to a framed story from the local newspaper — the TimesDaily — about pins that was next to a display of wonderful vintage pins. And YD was right — there was my byline from my former days as a staff writer for the TimesDaily life section, before I retired almost two years ago to become a financially challenged but incredibly happy columnist and freelance writer. I have to say that it was sort of a strange feeling to see such care taken with a story I didn’t even remember doing — one of several hundred, probably, I don’t remember doing throughout the 10 years I worked in the TimesDaily newsroom. Yet there was my story, years later still stuck in black and white (well, sort of faded beige) and still influencing folks to think about buying a vintage pin because “brooches update fall wardrobes.” I have to admit it was a strange sensation to see this — a kind of out-of-body, did-I-really-write-that experience. Sort of makes you think. Sort of makes you hope you did a good job. Sort of makes you wonder how many other things you wrote are floating around influencing people to do things. Sort of makes you promise yourself to Write Only Good Things From Now On … beginning, maybe … tomorrow.