Ellen’s Home

My church has a calendar of events, and I looked at it today. Tomorrow is Ellen’s Home.

Ellen’s Home is shady.

It is shaded by wide-spread elm trees, but it is also shady in the curious way. I met the proprietor when I was 7–old and wise enough to decide I could never trust him.  The owner of Ellen’s Home looked exactly like The Donut Man and I could not possibly comprehend, in my childish mind, why The Donut Man would be operating such a rustic facility, and why it was filled with the elderly instead of children. The Donut Man is supposed to be surrounded by donuts and children, both capable of song, but I saw neither at Ellen’s Home.

Consequently, no songs either.

Maybe that’s why it became my church’s job to bring them, and for the last 20 years we have faithfully sang at Ellen’s Home every second Sunday of the month. During this span of time I’ve learned that the owner isn’t the actual Donut Man. I’ve forgiven him for that fault.

On this particular Sunday, promptly at 1:03 pm, my church shuffled into formation in a corner of the Ellen’s Home entertainment room with typical lost-yak style. “Are there songbooks today?” someone asked. “No, we forgot to bring them.” Our choral director’s skin blanched subtly. Today was his first go-round at leading us. “Let’s begin with ‘How Firm a Foundation’.” We faltered through the first verse with very little success.

A new resident was cemented into a chair near the TV, and my money lies on the hunch that he was a former choir director. Strong bass notes resounded out of a mouth scantily clad with teeth, and he didn’t need a book. He knew the songs by heart…. mostly.  Our next attempt, ‘I’m Pressing On The Upward Way’, tugged our faltering memories back on track, but mostly because Mr. Choir cheerfully substituted any word that rhymed with ‘stay’ if he forgot the correct one, so if any of us forgot the words we just let him fill in.

Talk about teamwork!

By now the heat was getting to little Zach, so he pulled his dress shirt up to his chin, letting his belly catch the breeze from the air conditioner. Sochi and Anita stared at their shoes, lips twitching.

We were moving forward in tempo, and Mr. Choir was not subtle about his appreciation. As the energy in the room rose, so did his arms and legs. At the peak moments of feeling in ‘Standing on the Promises’ he appeared not only to be ready to stand on the promises, but to be ready to rocket to the moon on the promises, having three limbs raised perpendicular to the floor, as if a huge vacuum cleaner behind our group was trying to suck him in.

This was just his way of saying, “Amen!” but the youngsters gazed in wonder.

A slow stench took over the crowded corner near the window. I glanced at the woman beside me to see if her face would give a clue about who to blame as the culprit, but at the same moment another slow stench joined the first one, and I didn’t have to ask about the origin of this one. And then it just became a game, back and forth for a few dozen seconds, our own little kazoo band blending in with the song.

At that moment I knew our service would never recover.

oo

Our final song was ‘Bringing in the Sheaves” and by Mr. Choir’s ninth prophesy of bringing in sheep instead of sheaves, I had dissolved in unpardonable laughter. I would much rather bring in sheep instead of sheaves myself, and my laughter merely congratulated Mr. Choir for holding the same preference, and for being bold enough to say so.

Our smiles were wide as we bade our friends goodbye after the service. Travis and Jonathan kissed all the wrinkly cheeks that were hopefully directed at them, and out the door we marched.

Ellen’s Home is as much a part of my church as the church building itself, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

Advertisements

Mad Hatter, Esq.

“I do so love your serving spoon for the rice!” the elder child chirped, “Could it be… a cheese slicer? Very clever. I’ve used that to slice cheese before, so I recognize it.”

We were having an oriental tea-less party, and voluptuous consumption of perfectly tender sweet and sour chicken, made solely by the hand of the 9-year-old, had catapulted us into the best of moods. Spurred on by her culinary success, said gentlewoman arose.

“Let ME serve dessert!” she announced, and bore the empty chicken platter away.

In her absence, we guzzled fizzy age-appropriate drinks with very little flair, but mine missed my mouth and threw a wave of vanilla-y stickiness across my face and plate.

“I feel like I just went down a waterslide,” I gurgled through the trickles, and elder niece laughed and coughed.

The younger gentlewomen returned with a 5-pound masterpiece she’d baked from start to finish, and precariously unloaded it onto the center of the table with a thunk.

“You know,” said maiden chirped as she casually hacked the tiered mocha cake into eight wobbling sectors, “Medieval people used only a dagger at meal times. They had a whole pig.”

The daggar-esq knife in her hand, still mired in frosting, provided a non-too-subtle illustration for how those times may have been. She flopped the final slab of cake onto her plate, where it lay encircled in a pool of sweet-and-sour sauce.

Not the least concerned by the sauce’s spicy influence on the cake’s mocha flavor, she dug in. “Mmmmmm.” with a sigh. “This is the BEST cake I’ve ever had.”

To be sure, both additional companions agreed, and one of the best parties as well.

And so, my friends, the moral of this story (quite a true one, you may be interested to know), is that fringed napkins—tea itself, for that matter—do not a tea party make, but instead the quantity of laugher.

 

The Terror That Flieth By Night….

It was three a.m. and I awoke to purring in the rafters above my bed.

If I would have woken up hungry for a snack, it would have been ok, and I would pilfered some cookies and gone back to bed. If it had been a housemate sleep-talking, no big deal. If it had been coyotes howling at the harvest moon, I would have enjoyed it a bit, and soon dozed off.

But no. This was purring.

Loud, unceasing, un-cat-produced purring that had disturbed my sleep the entire month.

THIS was war.

Slinging my slug-like body over the wrong side of bed, I punched that ceiling as hard as I could. My fist slammed through the drywall and out again in a shower of crumbles.

Before my sleep-numbed mind could fully comprehend the significance of that fact….

small creatures began pouring out of the now-gaping, fist sized hole.

Bees.

I careened out of the room as fast as my fogged brain would allow, and cautiously peeped through the crack of the door.

Yes. Bees were filling my room, pouring out of the hole in the ceiling in a slow but steady stream. I closed the door, and stared weakly at myself in the bathroom mirror for a good while.

A plan began to formulate in my mind.

10 minutes later, I climbed the stairs in full-on combat gear. Orange down winter jacket, water-proof hunting boots, gloves, insulated dungarees…. I had it all. Think, obese pumpkin merged with Si Robertson, and you’ll have a general picture. All I needed yet was a patch for the hole in the ceiling, and I would be ready to save the day.

Ri-i-i-iiip. RIP. Rippppp.

No matter how you tear it, silently creating a duct-tape patch in the still of night was impossible to do. My sister’s door opened and she blinked at me with groggy amazement.

“Don’t be alarmed! It’s just me.” I wasn’t sure what her reaction would be to a gloved, dungaree-wearing form in the semi-darkness. “It’s bees.” I said, and explained.

She, dear lamb, believed my dubious declaration that the situation was under control, and retreated.

Patch made, I shrouded my head inside a thin pillowcase, pulled my hood up, laid the patch across my open palm, and crept inside the infested room as quietly as heavy hunting boots would allow. The pillowcase was light blue and limited my vision quite considerably.

By the dim light of a small lamp, I could see that bees were continuing to swarm out of the hole in the ceiling. Their inquisitive buzzing throughout the room alarmed me. I shifted the pillowcase, but that did nothing to improve my vision.

Were bees…. landing on me?

Were they slowly crawling towards my NECK?

Would I be stung until my face looked like an Osage orange, and I was forced to spend my entire (tiny) savings on steroid shots?

braintree1[1]

My face was turning bright red within the stifling layers of my protective gear.

Fight or flight?” I asked myself, and being as it was 3:30 a.m., and I had made it only half way across the room, and was even more overheated, and Osage-orange-looking-people are rather obtrusively unattractive (although I’ve never seen one, and was just going by intuition), and I really hate doctor bills… flight seemed much more logical.

So, 4:00 found a non-triumphant, non-osage-orange, non-obese-pumpkin girl curled up on the couch, asleep.

Victory could wait until daylight, and it did.

 

Another 8 a.m. lesson

My friends and I went camping on Assateague Island for my friend’s 21st birthday.

We camped in the State Park area, which was blooming with dune goldenrod (which is unusual), and teeming with people (as it is all season).

We strolled the beach as the setting sun tainted the cloud-filled sky with a hundred hues, roasted hotdogs over a smoky fire,

IMG_20141012_193329_106

wrapped up in blankets and laid on the beach to star gaze and watch the moon rise orangely over the water, snored all night in the tent like a pile of cats, and woke up with the first bird calls to watch the sunrise on the beach.

untitled

And then….

the ponies came.

It was cute and kind of funny, really, to see 4 little docile frames trotting through a half-asleep campground, nosing at shrubs and tendrils of grass as if they had just been let out to pasture for the day–as if they never even noticed the entourage of 9-year-olds on bikes behind them, or the sleep-disheveled lady on her way to the bathhouse who stopped and ran back to take their picture.

It was funny to see them nose into the doorway of a neighboring camper’s tent and rummage through the contents of a Styrofoam cooler which was too weak to withstand their practiced ransacking.

My friends laughed, and as a joke we took pictures of them in the  background as we settled down to our long-awaited breakfast, prepared to watch the saga continue to unfold.

And then they turned our way.

Noses down, steadily they came towards us, but we knew what was up. My friends and I gazed longingly at our half-eaten breakfasts on the table, knowing we had to follow park rules and give the ponies a 10-foot wake.

“Don’t worry, guys. I got this.” I boldly stated, and walked towards them commandingly, waving and clapping my hands.

Noses down, they steadily advanced past me, eyes zeroed in on our breakfast.

“Never mind. HIDE THE FOOD!” I screeched, desperately swooping up what I could reach. And then I leaned against the car and laughed.

It was chaos.

One of my friends was grabbing the last cinnamon buns out of reach of the hungry jaws, one was taking pictures and one was literally wrestling a hot dog skewer out of a pony’s mouth.

With the innocence of a dove, Assateague’s native ponies had effortlessly taken over our picnic table, where a very pleasant breakfast HAD been taking place not 4 minutes prior.

IMG_20141013_082951_043

What goes around, comes around.” They say.

“Do to others what you would prefer them to do to you.” Those are Jesus’ words.

Both a good thing to remember at 8 a.m.

That is, if you value your breakfast.

 

 

Don’t eat in the shower, kids.

If you had an awkward week, let me tell you about mine.

Maybe it will make you feel better.

I had to practice my swimming this week, and this is how it went.

meow

I didn’t make my week’s goal.

I had to call someone I’d never called before, and I didn’t know his voicemail only lasts 15 seconds. It’s awkward to have your info chopped off in the middle.

“Hi, this is Kara and I’m calling to register for–BEEP.”—*Confused pause. Switches to Brian Regan accent.*—“For that class! You know, the one that most people named Kara like to register for! Just send me a smoke signal and we can communicate that way.”

Unfortunately the phone just stared at me blankly, unimpressed.

Shucks.

I went to work, and 30 minutes after I arrived the chef walked out. For good. One of the waitresses didn’t show up because she didn’t realize it was her night to work. So I and the other waitress each needed to do two people’s tasks.

When I got home in the dark of night, exhausted and FILTHY, I ran upstairs eating a snack. You know those Ritz cracker things that have chocolate and caramel in between? They are awesome, by the way, so if you’ve never tried them you should. Well, I jumped into the shower, still trying to chew the caramel and somehow I choked.

In. The shower.

Like, a much-worse-than-gagging-on-a-wayfaring-grape feeling. More like somebody-save-me-my-windpipe-is-98%-blocked.

Which is much better than if it had been 100% blocked.

Grabbing a towel and making LOUD gasping sounds like I imagine the ostrich doing when it swallowed Curious George’s bugle, I stumbled to my sister’s room.

She, her near-asleep stupor quickly switched to first-aid-instinct, stared in horror, and asked “Kara! Are you choking?? Are you choking?” while preparing to crush my ribs in a mighty Heimlich hug. Thankfully, by that time I had the presence of mind to bend over, and the wad of caramel-y cracker partially dislodged itself.

The frightful wheezes turned to coughing.

My mother appeared, and stared in horror. “WHAT is going on?” But what she really meant was, “Why is my daughter dripping wet, clothed like a roman statue, and gasping at the head of the stairs at this unrighteous hour of the night??!”

By this time I was laughing sheepishly between the coughs.

I could imagine trying to explain this one to an EMT. “Well yes, it actually is my common practice to eat crackers in highly humid environments, but I’ve never CHOKED before….”

“I think I’ll resume my shower now,” I said, and so I did, leaving my personal first responders to stand there shaking their heads.

Did you think life with adult children was gonna be calm and easy?

Ohhh, no.

It’s nothing like calm around here.

But at least the dog has finally stopped howling at the moon.

Pick Up Lines, Church Style

Pick up lines crack me up. Anyone who knows me well has probably been the awkward recipient of one…… because hey, let’s just face it, everyone’s day gets brighter when someone they love compares them to a pomegranate.

So, if you need a little help at Youth Group tonight, here you go. My top five no-fail pick up lines.

  1. Did it hurt? When you fell from Heaven? ‘Cause with a face like that, you gotta be an angel….

  2. Is your name Grace? Because you are AMAZING!

  3. If I marched around you 7 times, would you fall for me?

  4. Is your name Faith? Because you’re definitely the substance of things I’m hoping for.

  5. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Gilead.

goat

Yeah. You’re welcome!

Now go spread some awkward love.

My Yellow Dress & What Sounded Like A Helicopter

I was 18, and my first car was a Mercury Sable station wagon.

Eggy

Eggshell-tan, except for where the paint was peeling to reveal a lighter color underneath. Inside, the upholstery was ripped and if you plopped into your seat too hard dust would fall from the exposed and brittle insulation in the ceiling. The license plate was ‘EGY-4849’, so we called my heroic steed ‘Eggy’.

Oh, and I forgot to mention… this car was one of those stylish station wagons where you could pull the floor of the trunk up into a rear-facing seat. Needless to say, all of my friends BEGGED to go riding with me.

One warm day in spring, my bestie and I decided to go to the mall. In Eggy, which was an instant ticket to high class.

In the true spirit of the season, we donned our girly best, and I distinctly remember wearing a new yellow dress. It was a short, fluffy dress, and I remember it because I didn’t have a lot of yellow clothing at the time and because I didn’t wear many short dresses and because girls just do remember stuff like that.

Laughing and listening to the radio and joking about –well–things girls joke about, my friend and I were long-gone on our merry way when we heard a strange sound.

Wup-wup-wup.

Kinda like a helicopter.

chopper

It got louder.

Peering dubiously out the windows while speeding–well, less polite people might term Eggy’s locomotion as ‘careening’–down the highway, we tried to figure out where this foul aircraft could be, and why it was hovering so low.

Turns out, there was no helicopter.

There was only one dysfunctional Eggy station wagon, one wheel decidedly flat, just past the off-ramp 4o minutes from home.

We called my dad. He was away from home, but tried to tell me what to do. At that point in my life, my only idea of a jack, other than my cousin Jack, was the large kind that are used in a mechanic’s shop.

I saw nothing of either sort in the trunk of my car.

So there I was, sitting in the trunk of a horrifically ugly station wagon, my little yellow skirt blowing in the breeze, trying to decipher what in the hoot my Dad was trying to describe to me above the racket of passing traffic as my friend did her best to aide me. We were the perfect picture of two damsels in distress.

What do you know, but a car pulled over behind us.

We, being young, dumb and trusting in the entire factuality of unhealthy local news stories circulating at the time, were petrified with terror.

“Here, hold the keys!” I hissed to my friend, convinced that these newcomers sole purpose for stopping was to hijack our disfuncionable steed. Two men walked up to us, both rednecks, the older man sporting a full beard and weathered face, the younger one handsome and shy-looking. “Hi, I’m —-, and this is my son, David. Can we help you?”

I tried to tell him no, while my dad, still on the phone, tried to tell him yes and my friend sat in the car grasping the keys with white-knuckled force. Finally, David’s dad, seeing he was getting nowhere, just knelt down and started loosening the lug nuts.

He tried to make comforting conversation.

“Do you know what you hit?”

“N… nooo.”—“we thought we heard a helicopter…” my brain wanted to finish, but I didn’t say that part out loud. Somehow, I got the faint impression that David and his father didn’t have the highest opinion of our common sense.

Another rackety vehicle pulled over. This was becoming quite the scene. My friend would never want to go shopping with me again!

These people were strangers as well.

“Are you a (local family) girl?”

“No…..”

“Oh, ok. Well, we just saw you by the side of the road with two men, and wanted to make sure you were ok.”

“Oh. I’m fine.” I said, and they eventually went on their way, still not convinced that I wasn’t the girl they thought I was.

David’s father had the spare on within minutes, and instructed us about the speeds with which we could drive on it. I was so flustered, I never even tipped him. But I did say “Thank you” with strongest feeling, and shook his honest hand while vowing never to judge a person by their appearance again.

Then my friend and I darted into Eggy’s safe recesses, shivered a little, laughed a little, and continued on our way to the mall, the indomitable high spirits of our youth restored by the pleasant outcome of our unfortunate situation.

But I still felt guilty for not tipping David’s dad, so I prayed blessings upon him for a week.

————————————————————————————————————————-

This morning, I blew a tire.

Impressively enough, I didn’t sweat it. I just pulled into Hess, shoveled to the bottom of my overstuffed trunk, pulled out my spare, and had that puppy changed in 15 minutes flat. Sitting here now, I laugh about the difference between today and the first time I had car trouble. It’s amazing how time changes things.

And it’s amazing how real friends remain your friend for years and still want to go shopping with you….

even if you break down in an ugly station wagon named Eggy, are scared of strangers, and get grease on your new yellow dress.

I’m mature……RACOON!!!!!

One day not so long ago, I received a call from one of my best buddies, who happens to live in the valley right below me. She called to tell me about a creepy raccoon that was parading about on their property at all unrighteous hours of the day.

I mean, it LOOKED innocent enough.

1069344_690409864317961_15233kk86804_n

But raccoons are nocturnal. And they don’t just parade around in front of people and dogs without a second thought…

At least not in my area. It was rabid, I was certain. When I heard that my friend’s neighbor had found the raccoon dead inside her chicken coop (umm, how’s that for weird?) my suspicions were cemented in my mind as truth. A plague of rabies was sweeping our town.

Immediately, every furry creature I saw was a slobbering, blood-thirsty crazy thing.

Despite this fact, my friend and I decided to take an evening stroll down a backroad one gorgeous spring night. We chilled in the pool for a little, and somehow got on the subject of maturity. A person we had both heard recently had said that “A young person does not reach full personal maturity until they reach 25 years of age, sometimes even later.” We both violently disagreed. What right did this person have to toss all teens and young adults in the ‘Pampered American Brat’ boat? Some kids successfully navigate harder issues at 14 and 15 years of age than most adults have to face in their lives! The statement was very unfair, we both agreed, and highly resented it.

We, of all people, had definitely reached full maturity long before we reached this projected age! That agreed upon, we jumped out of the pool, took to the open road and turned our minds toward other things.

We hadn’t gotten very far on our quest of solving the world’s problems when my friend yelped, “Look! A raccoon!”

I turned just in time to see a furry body hop freakishly towards us for a few paces, and then dart into the weeds beside the road.

Time.

Stood.

Still.

For just a second.

And then we both burst into action. There is no time to lose when a 11-inch furry creature threatens your walking safety. “Maybe we should just keep going.” my friend said calmly. “NO! Grab a stick!” I commanded as I dove into the plethora of poison ivy along the side of the road. I emerged instantaneously with two moldy logs, and thrust one towards my friend.

Unfortunately, it fell into about 6 pieces before she could even fully grab it.

My log, however, was hefty enough to hold threateningly in front of me like a proverbial jousting lance. I staunchly dared that unseen raccoon to come closer as my friend and I inched away.

Unfortunately, while inching away, we were also inching away from home. And it was getting dark.

“Maybe we should just have someone from my house come pick us up.”, my friend suggested.

“No way! –Well… ok.”

And so, two mature adults waited nervously by the side of the road while the sun dropped lower and lower below the horizon, and scanned the forest leaves for those blood-shot, crazy eyes that were undoubtedly waiting for us to let down our guard.

Finally, a well-known blue van pulled up and we tossed our protective moldy log into the forest and dove into the van’s safe recesses. And immediately began to howl with laughter. It was all just SO bloomin’ ironic.

I shook my head at myself in pity.

Was this Kara–the same Kara who had just scoffed at the implication that maturity does not blossom until 25–now guilty of calling her friend’s mother to save her from a furry animal? Was this the same Kara who slept under the stars, hiked in the dark, and spent two seasons leading wilderness trips so unsure of her stick-wielding skills that she had to flee the scene even though the supposed enemy was nowhere in sight? It was so plumb ridiculous. We all just sat in that van and laughed. When we got back to my friend’s house, we told the neighbor (who was also present during our previous maturity debate) the story and she laughed too.

We still laugh about it now. And yes, you’ve guessed the brutal truth.

I still have a fear of possibly-rabid creatures. Aaaagh! Does that mean my maturity is forever at stake?

What is your definition of ‘mature’? Do you pin an age on it? When was the last time your foot took an unwanted trip into your mouth? Let me know in the comments below!!

April Fools ALLREADY??!?

Since I’m one of those lame people who forgets about April Fool’s Day until the day is almost over…. here’s my to-do list for NEXT year.

Or,

um,

anytime, really……

< Make Someone The Unchewable Sandwich

Put Juicy Fruit gum in between slices of white cheese on a cheese and meat sandwich. Paste on an innocent face.

< Slurp Copious Amounts of Mayo in Public

Fill a mayonnaise jar with pudding, and slowly eat the entire jar while sitting in a highly travelled public area. Note people’s reactions.

mayo

< Create an Indoor Water Park

Tape the top of a 1/3-full-of-water plastic cup above a door on the side where it swings outward in such a way that the opening door makes the water dump out…. and, well, sorta onto the person’s…. head.

Use a clear hair band to fasten the sink sprayer in the ‘on’ position.

< Become a Phony Salesperson

Dress up in a disguise, then ring the doorbell of a close relative’s house and advertise a product. Use specific information about them, and see how long it takes them to realize that it’s you.

< Create  Odd and Random Havoc

Talk in at least 5 different voice tones during every conversation, change all the ringtones on someone’s cellphone from “Meditation” to “Teenage Road Trip”, TP a truck, squish a brownie into an unfortunate shape and float it in a pool full of adults, walk a mouse down the street on a leash, inflate balloons and place them in all the toilet bowls of a building, fill a bathtub with Jell-O.

So….. how was your April Fools?

Did anybody prank ya? What is your all-time favorite practical joke?

48 Hours of Head-In-Sand Syndrome

I started a new job yesterday. The people are wonderful, but it was a hard day.

First days usually are.

I wanted to say and do all the right things, but it just didn’t work out that way. Sometimes self got in the way and sometimes my mind was just plain blank. And then I felt bad.

I couldn’t understand the baby. I thought she was saying “Go away!” when I put her to bed, so I went. It turns out she was saying “Do, Re.” which meant she wanted me to sing another song.

I tried to iron some shirts, but the harder I pressed the iron against them, the lower the starboard end of the ironing board tipped towards the floor. To this day, I’m not certain how to get it to latch.

I tried to make dinner, but it took me 30 minutes to think of one last place where the potatos might be found.

taters

When I did make the soup, it looked like a watery mess. And when I walked out the door to go home, I realized that I hadn’t even tasted it.

Those poor people.

I went to a Bible Study to learn about proper financial management, and instead managed to disrupt everyone within 3 rows of me.

I couldn’t help it that the teacher kept saying, “It doesn’t matter whose money the pocket is in….” Somehow it just struck my funny bone. I can’t even type it without laughing, which is probably a significant sign of my mental stability, or lack thereof. What really got me, though, was when a very diligent attempt at laughter suffocation turned into a snort-ish choke, and my sister had to leave the room before she lost her dignity as well.

Sigh…..

I did apologise to the teacher afterwards. He understands the fragility of women’s emotions. I’m very grateful for that.

Today I got gas.

2013-01-17_16-15-22_484

Yep, an entire $5.00 worth.

I was very embarassed to hand the clerk a crumpled bill and say, “Put this on pump #2, please.” I tried to say it with a dignified air, but I really think the effort was lost because the clerk was distracted and embarrassed on levels beyond his present surroundings, and hardly saw me. How nice of him. 

I guess something from budgeting class stuck, because this afternoon I was determined to buy all of my  Wal-Mart groceries with only the sack of change I’d been collecting.

One thing that I think is incredibly cool about my local Wal-mart is the coin changer slot in the self checkout line. It looks like a mini version of the circular tray you’d see on a Coinstar machine, only there is no $0.09 charge per dollar. I think of my pennies and nickels as ‘non-money’ (how irresponsible, I know), so whenever I buy groceries with only this small change, I subconsciously think, “Woohoo! I’m practically getting this stuff for FREE!”

I trotted to the self checkout with full confidence, and scanned a bottle of Coke first. I had a coupon to get it free, but the machine wouldn’t accept it. I guess the dear clerk knew I wouldn’t want the Coke unless it was free, so she finally came over and helped me out after I’d scanned the bar code multiple times.

Next,  I started shoving fistfuls of pennies into the coin slot, but they all continued to fall right back out into the change dish. 2013-01-17_16-33-57_478The helpful clerk noticed my distress, and showed me how to feed the pennies in one by one. I managed a feeble laugh, and thought, “Well… maybe this isn’t so much like a Coinstar experience, after all.”

About five minutes into the one-penny-at-a-time process, two college students ambled up, and scrutinized my robot-like routine as if it was a self-help column. “See, this is what I was telling you about!”, the girl squealed.

The young man nodded to the affirmative, but soon seemed uncomfortable and wanted to talk to the clerk.

Finally, many minutes later, the screen read: Amount Due: 0.00. I staggered out of the store with my groceries, trying to avoid eye contact with any of my rather interested fellow-customers, who were doubtless quite tired of the monotonous clanking and groaning of my Coinstar-wannabe and quite possibly also wondering why I wasn’t on welfare.

When I stopped by a little store right down the road from my house on my way home, the clerk eyed me with an unmistakable mix of curiosity and concern. I think she was remembering the last time I came in, and my scandalous attire, and the scandalous behavior of my dog in the parking lot.

But today I smiled sweetly at her, and wryly reassured her in my mind, “Don’t worry. I won’t be performing any preposterous stunts today. I know my pride needs regular trimming, but I think the events of the past 48 hours have filled my quota quite sufficiently.

Sufficiently for THIS week, at least….”