Category: Humor

The Sam’s Club with Charman Leigh and Big John

Hey there. Yes, you. I’m talking to you sitting on your couch scrolling absentmindedly through the Facebook. I know what you’re doing. You’re procrastinating that grocery trip you have to make before All The People show up to your house for The Very Big Feast that is also sometimes called Thanksgiving. I know. It’s daunting and exhausting to even think about it. The masses will be out and about doing the very same thing, and just your luck, you WILL get the buggy with the squeaky wheel and the sticky handle. Them’s the breaks, kid. So, I get your desire to postpone the horrifying task of grocery shopping until the very last possible minute. But I think I have something that will make you up to the task.

I thought you might like to come with me today and accompany Big John and Charm to the Sam’s Club. It is just entertaining enough that it might do the trick, and inspire you to tackle your own grocery list.

Yes? You would? Great!

Now, step one: Walk through the door.


If you’re with Charm, you’ll notice that she already has the card out and ready. She flashes it quickly at the friendly attendant without slowing down a tiny bit. I doubt they ever actually see her identification, but no one has ever questioned her. My mother marches into Sam’s Club with all the authority and confidence of a general riding in to retrieve the prisoners of war. The battle’s already over. She has a list and a route. She’s here to collect her spoils.

As am I, frankly. There are two reasons I go to Sam’s Club. Neither have anything to do with grocery shopping. Years ago, I learned that if I volunteered to accompany Charm on her regular Sam’s run, I could coax her into paying me in a ginormous Coke and a soft, cinnamon pretzel. There’s little I won’t do for a cinnamon pretzel.

If you’re tagging along with Charm, you’ll need to step lively, please and thank you. Her legs are short, but they are quick and determined. Don’t stop to smell the roses, and don’t you even THINK about looking at the electronic section. There is invariably a sweet-smiling salesman there waiting for the teeniest flash of eye contact to greenlight him into a sales pitch. Charm does not have time for this, so please keep your head down until you pass the section with books and outdoor furniture.

Note: If you’re with Big John, this previous information is irrelevant.

Now, the second thing I go to the Sam’s Club for is the conversation. I walk beside my mama and tell her all the things I’ve been thinking on recently. So if you have anything that you’d like to get off your chest, now is the time. This L-shaped walk between the eager sales guy and the produce section is the land of grab and go. This is the part of our stroll that requires the least amount of critical thinking on Charm’s part. This is where her attention is evenly split, and now is your chance. After this, the conversation will narrow to jokes and bits that are purely for your own benefit and entertainment. Once you catch your first glimpse of fresh fruit and veggies, she loses a significant amount of her attention span. Don’t even think about discussing anything serious until you round the corner into the aisle with the canned beans. She just won’t hear you.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating: there are people who work their entire lives to have the kind of concentration my mother has in the Sam’s produce section. Experts write books about it and sell gobs of them with how-to instructions printed neatly inside. And she just has it. When she is examining heads of cauliflower, the rest of the world simply doesn’t exist. It’s like a scene in a movie when the main character is so lost in thought and their surroundings just fade away behind some kind of dream. She goes somewhere entirely different when she’s concentrating on getting the best looking box of spring mix. Sometimes I wonder what that other world must look like, how it must feel to escape the confines of this concrete warehouse of household necessities into a calm and quiet place to really examine the price difference between different types of cheese. I usually stand with my feet firmly planted on the ground, while she floats inside her own head, coming back to reality only when she sees something so attention worthy that she’ll have to point it out to me. “Now, look at that, Elizabeth,” she’ll say. “That’s one of those pre-made salads. It’s got all the little things that go with it. The dressing and all that. That might be something you might want to try.” Or “Oh! Look how cute the packaging is on these cherry tomatoes! Ugh! I am a sucker for some cute packaging!”

One of my favorite parts about the Sam’s Club are the little sample carts scattered throughout the store. There are usually about three or four in this section alone. I wander to and from my mother’s cart to the folks wrapped in hair-nets offering me tiny cups of flavored popcorn or carrots and a new veggie dip. Not Charm, though. When she is in her shopping zone, not even the tantalizing smell of a tiny cup of cider turns her head. It is otherworldly.

Now, once we move passed the bread and into the non-perishables, you can pick up your conversation here with a real hope that she’ll join back in. However, at this point in my journey

I’m usually too lost in a few bits or jokes I started when I was my only audience. Charm’s fog lifts, and it doesn’t take her long to be 100% over it. She just spent an exorbitant amount of energy back there – mental and emotional – and she’s losing steam quickly. We’re back to the land of grab and go, and we are moving fast so please keep up.

We’re nearing the end of our Sam’s Club route with Charm. In days past, this is the part when I’d actually have an opportunity to be helpful. We’d wheel the loaded down cart to the nearest (and least crowded) conveyor belt and unload every piece from inside the treasure chest only to watch it be scanned and dropped back into another buggy. Now, though, we’re in a new era of apps and technology. And let me tell you something – this thrills Charm to NO END. You’re saying that she can go into Sam’s, scan her own items, and walk right out without talking to another soul? That is music to her introverted ears.

Because Charm is typically the valiant grocery leader in our family, I should’ve known that things would end poorly when Big John and I ventured in on our own a few weeks ago. When we started at the pretzel counter and actually sat down to enjoy our snack, I was lulled into a false sense of security. “Great!” I thought. “This will be way less stressful than grocery shopping with Charm. Look how laid back we are.”

FALSE.

Even as we got started on the actual task at hand (in the PRODUCE SECTION NO LESS. What are we? SAVAGES?), I still held to the belief that this would be a perfectly lovely afternoon. But I was wrong. I was so very wrong.

We had been standing at the butcher’s counter for nearly fifteen minutes, my dad staring with a look of consternation into the freezer box below, when I realized we were in deep, deep trouble without Charman Leigh. Knowing how much time we had already lost in this section alone, I left Dad to his thoughts and started on other parts of the list. Where Charm needed not an ounce of help, Dad would need all the help I could give.

Eventually, we made it out. We lived to tell the tale, although Big John always like to include the defense, “If you hadn’t have been buggin’ me and putting it all on Instagram, I would’ve been fine.” He’s still in denial about the trauma and my heroic contribution in getting us out in one piece.


There now. Don’t you feel better? Don’t you feel inclined to brave the cold for some canned pumpkin and jellied cranberry sauce?

I knew you would.

Best of luck! Call Charm if you need help finding anything while you’re out. Call Big John if you need help with…well, literally anything else.

 

Hey, What’s The Deal With Hot Yoga?

I do not like hot yoga.

I could’ve said this with total confidence without ever actually going to a hot yoga class. However, my aversion for this activity has a new weight to it that comes only from personal experience. I went to hot yoga recently, and judge me if you will, but PEER PRESSURE IS REAL Y’ALL.

“You might like it, Elizabeth.”

“It’s calming, Elizabeth.”

“It releases toxins, Elizabeth.”

“You’re 24, Elizabeth; try new things.”

Let me tell you something—I did not like it. I was not calm as evidenced by the fact that I texted my mother immediately following in all caps, and I believe next time I’ll keep my toxins, thank you very much.

My friends and I arrived and paid our $10 for the class plus another $6 for a mat that had been used by a number of other people who had made the terrible mistake of not bringing their own.  The instructor behind the counter greeted us with a rehearsed smile and enthusiastically asked if we were first-timers. He had all the excitement and voice inflection of a camp counselor, and I was immediately overwhelmed by the urge to blurt out all of my thoughts and opinions about yoga just to dampen his spirit. I didn’t, but discovered later that it wouldn’t have mattered, because he was an actual yoga robot who had no feelings, only an infuriating battery life.

I did open my mouth to say something quippy and sarcastic, but judged immediately that Camp Counselor Jerry here was not playing about the hot yoga business. With a smile and a serious tone of voice that gave me a feeling similar to the one I get when I see trailers for documentary style horror films, he informed us that nothing goes into the room with us except our water and our $6 piece of foam, and we were not allowed to leave the room once we entered it as the change in temperature would be a shock to our systems.

So would a heat stroke, Camp Counselor Jerry. Did that ever occur to you?

After signing away our rights to air-conditioning and {probably} contractually agreeing to not tell anyone ever about the hot yoga robot technology they were obviously using, we were given our $6 piece of trash and sent into the room.

As soon as I crossed the threshold, the heat came over and sat right on my chest, and my brain warned me for the billionth time that this was not my scene.  

Yea, well it’s too late, Brain. We can’t leave. We’re trapped in here for the next hour. Probably forever. Thanks for nothing.

However, as I scanned the already pretty crowded room, I began to calm down slightly. With the exception of a few folks sitting up and stretching, everyone was sprawled out on their mats, eyes closed, silent.

Great, I thought. I’ve been waiting for an adult version of naptime since kindergarten. I could get on board with this.

I spun out my $6 rolled up garbage mat and followed suit.

If I had been given another ten minutes, I would’ve slept through the entire class and might have enjoyed it more. Alas, that destiny was not to be.

Just as my mind began to wind down, the door opened and in walks that dumb hot yoga robot, Camp Counselor Jerry. He rudely turned off the wonderful flute-y music that sounded like it came from fairies who live under a waterfall in Sweden and began to instruct us.

We began with a breathing routine—have you ever seen the movie I Am Legend? Will Smith and his dog (RIP) stumble upon the zombie infected people all huddled in the back of a warehouse, sleeping. He heard them breathing before he rounded the corner to see them standing in their weird undead sleep circle.

That’s the scene I thought of when Camp Counselor Jerry first asked the class to exhale.

For the next hour Robot Jerry talked nonstop. If he took a breath during the class, I certainly didn’t hear it. Another reason to believe he had a fully charged battery and a skillfully hidden on/off switch.

“Pull the top of your head towards the ground as you lift your hips toward the ceiling and really engage your core while maintaining a regular and balanced breathing rhythm. Really challenge yourself to lift your leg as high as it can go and….”

SHUT UP, ROBOT JERRY.

It didn’t take long for me to be sweating actual buckets of water. My muscles shook and my mind raced trying to follow the instructions bouncing around the room at lightning speed. Lift what? Pull what? Move what? Listen, Camp Counselor Jerry. Either you want me to lift my leg or stretch my arm. I can’t do both at one time. Which will it be?

After about 45 minutes, I was sure that I had been in the room for four hours and would actually die if Camp Counselor Jerry told me to lift or pull or stretch anything else. I couldn’t tell what I hated more: this stupid class, the zombie breathers who seemed to be enjoying themselves, or the sound of Robot Jerry’s voice.

Mercifully, the class ended. The hot yoga robot handed out cool towels, told us we could stay in the room as long as we liked, and thanked us for coming. He made a small bow before his closing line: “The light inside of me recognizes the light inside of you.”

Well, guess what, Camp Counselor Jerry? My light DOES NOT acknowledge your light. In fact, my light is pretty ticked at your light right now.

I grabbed my stuff, dumped my $6 sweat trap in the basket, marched right past the rack of $45 yoga pants, and left the hot yoga world in the rearview mirror of my life. Thanks for the memories, guys, but I don’t believe that’s for me. My toxins and I will take our business elsewhere.

 

Spatchcock Is A Verb

So, as it turns out, spatchcock is a verb.

Let me back up.

In last week’s post, I mentioned that a big, life-altering event had occurred. My very first issue of Southern Living had crossed the threshold of apartment K14, and I became a new woman. A true Southern lady.

But receiving the magazine was only part of the transition. In order to fully step into my destiny as a Southern woman, I’d actually have to turn the oven on and cook something—an idea that would normally terrify me. Or exhaust me at the very thought.

But holding my rite of passage in my hand, I felt brave and energized.

As I browsed through the list of recipes in the front of the magazine, I glossed over any that included words like “roulade,” “andouille,” and “court-bouillon.”

I was brave, not cocky. I didn’t want to attempt anything I couldn’t properly pronounce.

(I also skipped Fig Dutch Baby Pancake, because I didn’t think I could find any figs or Dutch children on such late notice.)

When I saw Garlicky Roasted Spatchcock Chicken, I thought, “Hey, I recognize most of those words! And I can say all of them! Here’s our winner!”

Now, as only an English major would, I would like to point out that the word “spatchcock” is used here as an adjective. This is important, because I assumed spatchcock was a spice or ingredient that would give the chicken a certain, well, spatchcockiness.

HOWEVER, I was wrong.

These were the first words I read when I turned to page 116 for the recipe:

“Removing a chicken’s backbone—a technique called spatchcocking (or butterflying)—ensures juicy meat and golden crisp skin in less time than roasting a whole bird.”

DOES IT, NOW? Well, isn’t that special?

So, you see, this brings me back to my initial point—spatchcock is a VERB.

Though I did consider the fact that it is 2016, and I could very well buy the chicken sans backbone, I decided that if I was going to this, I was going to play by SL’s rules.

Sunday evening, I unloaded all the groceries, opened the magazine to page 116, and GOT TO WORK.

(I’d tell you how many times I walked back and forth through Publix if I hadn’t lost count.)

(There was one guy working the produce section who, I’m sure, was looking at me with more than a little suspicion as I made my third trip through the vegetable aisle.)

First instruction: “Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.”

Okay, I can do that.

Click.

Look at me, cooking and being an adult. Alright, what’s next?

“For step-by-step instructions on how to spatchcock a chicken, turn to page 132.”

I do indeed need step-by-step instructions, Southern Living, thank you!

Flip, flip, flip. Page 132.

Here we go.

“Place a whole chicken breast-side down on a cutting board.”

It should be noted that, up until this moment, I hadn’t thought about the reality of touching the chicken barehanded.

Oh, gross. Gross! GROSS! I can feel its bones. No, no, no, no, NO! Aw, it looks so sad and scared, all curled up like that. I feel so bad! Am I crying? Maybe a touch. Elizabeth, get yourself together! It’s dead. You can’t kill it again. PLACE THE BIRD ON THE CUTTING BOARD.

“Starting at the thigh end, cut along one side of the backbone with kitchen shears. Repeat on the other side to remove the backbone.”

Okay, thigh end. I have the shears. Just need to cut. OH, NO! THAT BONE CRACK! GROSS.

Crack. Gross. Crack. Gross. Crack. Gross.

“Freeze and reserve for stock.”

For stock? I have to keep this thing? No, sir. I don’t think so.

Oh, no! Its heart is going to be inside. I can’t look! I’m going to cry again. I feel like such a monster right now. I DID NOT THINK THIS THROUGH.

Wait. Why is there a bag in here? Why would you pull the insides out, stick them in a bag, and PUT THEM BACK INSIDE? Who did this? That is so dumb. I’m not putting that in a stock either. No, thank you.

“Flip the chicken over so that it’s cut-side down. Then firmly press on the breastbone to flatten it.”

Flatten it. Well it looks pretty flat already. I think this is as good as it’s going to get. Back to page 116.

Flip, flip, flip. Page 116.

Alright, where were we?

“Using the heel of your hand, press firmly against breastbone until it cracks.”

No, no. Page 132 mentioned only flattening, NO CRACKING. Ugh, okay. I’ll do it. If SL says so, I’ll do it. Until it cracks. 

Crack.

Okay. Okay! OKAY. Hard part’s over. I can do this.

And I did.

I knew I was okay when I shot the headless hen a double finger gun and said, “Looking good.” When you start talking to your poultry, you know you’ve moved away from being emotionally invested in its past life on the farm.

The grand finale was indeed pretty grand. It looked similar to the picture in the magazine and tasted delicious.

I told you this magazine would be a turning point for me. See for yourself. 

BEFORE:

Doesn't she look like a sassy lady with her hands on her hips?

Doesn’t she look like a sassy lady with her hands on her hips?

AFTER:

FullSizeRender (5)

All dressed up for the ball.

BONUS: voicemails I left my mother during this whole process.

“Ugh, it just squeaks!”

“I should’ve started with mashed potatoes! Why didn’t I start with mash potatoes?! And my arm is sticky okay call me back thanks bye.”

Adventures at the Lawrenceburg Fair

Fall is here, bursting through our doors with over-enthusiastic promises of cooler weather, pumpkin-flavored everything, and a glorious vanishing of the mosquito population.

Though, in Northwest Alabama, the weather is never as crisp as it should be, thus leaving a few lingering summer fiends behind. And making a gourd into a dessert is never quite as thrilling as I remember it. But, even so, I am grateful fall has arrived.

One of my favorite gifts fall brings along is the fair. You know, the excessive number of bright lights and carnival workers calling out for you to stop and play their games. And the clanging, metal contraptions meant to sling you around in the most terrifying and exhilarating fashion.

And the smells. Oh, the smells. The caramel, the kettle corn, the animals in the stables nearby, the fresh scent of mud and grass twisting together beneath hoofs and boots.

I went to the Lawrenceburg fair a few weeks ago with some friends of mine. When they invited me to tag along, I was so excited. I’d never been to the Lawrenceburg fair before, but had always heard stories of its superiority to the Florence production. It had become a sort of legend in my mind.

And I must admit, it lived up to its reputation. The Lawrenceburg fair was indeed a marvel.

Though most fairs have some sort of animal display, I had never seen one as large as this one. There were sheep and cows and horses and rabbits and goats, and I wanted to stop and pet every one. Talk to every one. And my kind and patient friends sweetly indulged me.

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As we walked toward the stables, I caught a glimpse of two men standing in the doorway, heads bent over something curious held by the man on the right. The back of the man on the left was obscuring my view, but I was determined to see what was so interesting. As I stepped around, the man on the right caught my eye and quickly tucked his prize back into his jacket pocket. But not before I saw a flash of squirming fur.

So, naturally, I had to ask.

“What’s in your pocket?”

The guy looked back at me with no expression of response and a tinge of suspicion in his eye, which to be honest, I found kind of ironic. I mean he’s the one who is carrying a tiny animal in his windbreaker. I just want to know what it is.

I realized he was trying to make me believe he had nothing to hide. That his jacket was just naturally a little squirmy. And I guess that should’ve been a warning sign, an indicator that this man might not be sitting squarely on his own rocker. But still I pressed.

“C’mon, man. I just saw you put that thing in your pocket. I know you’ve got something in there. What is it?”

Another moment of him staring at me, no response, just carefully considering his options. My friends stood behind me, trying to suppress snorts of laughter, glancing back and forth to each other in confusion.

Finally, realizing I wasn’t stupid enough to believe he had nothing to show, he pulled out his treasure to show us. As his left hand emerged, a trembling squirrel came with it, tucked firmly in the guy’s fist.

A squirrel. Garden-variety yard rodent. Immediately, a dozen questions filled my brain.

Does he carry it with him everywhere? Was it captured for this specific occasion, or had it been transformed into a kind of domestic pet? How did he come to acquire this little creature? Did he chase it down? (That image I found comical considering his age and build.) I had to know.

So, naturally, I asked.

Still I got no real response. I gave up with my questions, content with just ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ over the tiny thing. I figured his squirrel, his business. As my friends and I leaned in to look closer at the shaking captive, the man spoke.

“You can pet him for a dollar,” he said in a low voice, his eyebrows lifted, seeming to suggest that he was offering us a real deal.

Unfortunately for him, we were all pretty uninterested in petting his contraband rodent.

It turns out that characters aren’t always fictional. Some are as real as the squirrels in their pockets and are oftentimes far more interesting than any invented personality.

 

**P.s. Stay tuned for Adventures at the Lawrenceburg Fair: Part 2 . Apparently, the fair’s got more to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Journey From the Couch to 5K…and Back Again

For several years now I have wanted to learn how to be a runner.  And I’ve been telling myself it’s going to happen.  I’ve tried several different methods and I’ve run (mostly walked) in two 5Ks.  But every time I’ve gotten myself on another running kick, my motivation and willpower evaporates.  Why is this?  Probably because I hate it.

Yesterday, I started with day one of my “Couch to 5K” plan.  The whole time, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to move from a perfectly comfortable couch to running a 5K.  My thought process looked a little like this:  “People actually find this therapeutic.  Why?  What is therapeutic about feeling like your legs were recently dipped in a chemical bath?  What is soothing about the sensation that there is an unseen force stabbing my rib cage repeatedly?  Is this normal?  I’ve only been running for thirty seconds.  Should I already be having this much trouble with the whole breathing process?”  When I started with my warm-up walk, it was about 50 degrees outside and I was a little chilly.  By the time I finished, it was 900 degrees and I was suffocating.  After the first mile, I started audibly telling the little woman inside my 5K app to stop telling me what to do.  I don’t want to run.  I want to stop and sit on the pavement until some kind neighbor drives by, feels sorry for me, and gives me a lift BACK TO MY COUCH.

So, why do people do this all the time? What are the benefits of running?

I asked the Internet this question and these are a few of the answers.

  1. Running makes you happier/eliminates depression:  I think I might be doing it wrong then.  I was having trouble really getting into a “happy” mood when my legs were screaming obscenities at me.  I think I actually became MORE depressed thinking about the fact that I agreed to run a 5K at the beginning of April with some friends.  Excuse me, no.
  2. Running makes you skinnier:  Yes, but so does only eating lettuce for an extended period of time. And I can eat a lot of lettuce while sitting on my couch.  (Should I market this idea and call it “From 5K to Couch?”)
  3. Relieves stress:  The only reason I’m not stressed about my to-do list anymore is because I’m stressed about the fact that I can’t breathe.  But you’re right.  Feeling like your lungs are in the strong grasp of a jungle python does put some things into perspective.
  4. Running adds years to your life:  In these extra years, is running a requirement?  If yes, then I don’t want them.  Thanks, but no thanks.

I really want to love it.  I want to be a runner.  And it does make me feel a little bit better sometimes.  Until feeling returns to my legs and then I considered amputating them with the nearest sharp (ish) object.  

There is no philosophical point to this rambling blog post.  It’s simply me telling you that I completed Day One of my plan to become a runner.  If you aren’t sitting at your computer, clapping for me and nodding your head in silent but reverent respect for my willpower, you’ve missed the whole point.  Scroll to the top and try again.

Day One is done.  I deserve a reward, right?  Maybe a day or three off?  Yes, I think so.