Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Art of Old Navy

Kathi and I went to Old Navy this evening.

Here are deep and profound truths I realized about Old Navy today while I waited in line:

1. There are about 200 employees at each Old Navy store.

2. About 196 of these employees are supposed to stand around and fold sweaters. I think that "sweater folding" is on the job requirement section of the application to Old Navy. ("Are you a great sweater folder? Then you'll fit right in here with us at Old Navy!")

3. There is one employee who runs the dressing room.

4. There are two employees who tirelessly run the register while a horrendous line forms.

5. There is one employee who stands and works behind the people who run the registers. This employee folds sweaters and walks around aimlessly. This person does this because a) he/she thinks it's cool and necessary to fold sweaters and b) he/she must want to bug the absolute junk out of those of us in line. If you are an employee of a store and the store is busy with people in line, wouldn't you turn around and start running a register - I mean, as opposed to folding stinkin' sweaters??!

I worked in a grocery store a long, long time ago. When it got busy, the manager, the bookeeper - everyone - stepped in to get people out of there as soon as possible. You want people to leave your store with purchases. It's good customer service.

I just don't get Old Navy. Is their policy to have the neatest stacks of sweaters or to actually sell people the junk on the shelves? Ugh.

(Disclaimer: By the way, the Mall of Georgia Old Navy is usually a little more efficient than the one in lovely Gainesville. But, most things in general are more efficient than those in Gainesville. Oh, and if you are an employee of Old Navy, I apologize. I'm sure you're one of the ones who actually works the register or the dressing room.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stomach Virus + Thanksgiving = Sad.

I had a stomach virus the day before Thanksgiving this year. That, coupled with a really bad cold (that I am still suffering from - it actually felt like strep for a few days), a fever, a coughing fit, and numerous other symptoms made for a really interesting Thanksgiving this year.

One of the reasons that Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart is because it is centered around food. I really love food. I love to make food. I love to watch people on tv make food. I think about what I'm going to eat when I wake up. Sometimes I remember places by what I ate (like that street in Rome that had the best Roman fold-over pizza EVER!). Like I said, food and I get along like Rachael Ray and Dunkin' Donuts.

I felt better on Thanksgiving. But after a stomach virus/nasty cold, there wasn't much that sounded appetizing. In fact, I think I would have been content to never eat AGAIN. I ate a little turkey and some pretty bland things. But my grandmother's dressing, always filled with its sagey goodness, was hard for me to swallow.

I was kinda bummed out. Thanksgiving, the holiday that celebrates food, the holiday that I as a "foodie" always enjoyed, was pretty much a let-down yesterday.

Oh, well. There are better things on the horizon.

Oh, and I am NEVER eating PF Chang's again. Ever. Never ever. Okay, so I probably will. But not for a long, long, time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Santa Identity

The Christmas season is soon approaching, so I am going to provide some of my life-long musings about one of its most prolific characters, Santa Claus.

(Warning: there are some "Santa Spoilers" in this may not want to read it if you don't already know "the truth" about Santa.)

I have mixed feelings about Santa. I'm not quite sure what to think about this mysterious character who is based on a real-life man.

When I was a child, I was told that Santa Claus didn't exist, so that made me different from most kids. When I was in Kindergarten, I asked my mother about Santa, since all of the other children at school were talking about him. Her reply?

"Santa isn't real! Christmas is about JESUS, not Santa! Me and your Dad buy you presents because we LOVE you, not because of SANTA!!"

There are other mothers who choose not to tell their children about Santa as well, though they are few and far between. I worked with a lady a few years ago who pretty much said -

"Have you ever noticed that if you take the letters of Santa and mix them around, they spell SATAN? Coincidence? I think not."

While I grew up with a mother who delivered me anti-Santa propaganda all throughout Christmastime, I often think about what I will tell my own children about him one day.

I mean, let's be honest. The whole concept of Santa is kind of creepy. He kind of sounds like a bizarre stalker. I mean, "he sees you when you're sleeping/he knows when you're awake/he knows when you've been bad or good..."

Really? Seriously? That is CREEPY! I personally don't want my future children to know that some old guy with a fetish for cookies and reindeer is going to be WATCHING them at night.

Some families even go so far as to buy these little elf dolls that sit around the house. These dolls are supposed to "watch" the children and report any bad behavior to Santa. Parents are supposed to move these dolls around at night to show the children that the elves are "alive."

I mean, I've only seen 10 minutes of a Chucky movie...but that's enough. My friend had a Cricket doll in the 80s that would sporadically blink its eyes when turned off. That was creepy enough. But DOLLS THAT FOLLOW YOU?!? I shudder just thinking about it!

But, on the other hand, I think Santa adds whimsy to Christmas. Kathi loves to call Santa on her phone in her Kindergarten class - it instantly changes their behavior, because they think he is watching them. I'll be honest -I can't wait to see Colton get all excited about Santa this year. I think Santa adds some excitement to the season. It can definitely be fun to watch children react to the idea of Santa.

Will I tell my children about him? I don't know at this point. I don't think I'll be as negative as my mother, although I will probably them the truth about the Santa Identity. I want to celebrate Christmas for the right reasons, and give as Christ so willingly gave to us. I want my children to help others, and to understand that not all children get what they want for Christmas. I hope I can get them to turn their eyes from the greed that consumes us during this time of year. I pray for them already, and that I can raise them to be their own little versions of Santa - givers who do so unashamedly.

But I don't want them to be creepy like Santa - you know, stalking people. That's just weird. Seriously.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Veteran's Day Tribute

I do not think that I could let the week of Veteran's Day pass without mentioning a few of my own heroes.

I come from a family full of military men. I am so thankful and so proud that I come from a family where men served bravely for their country. I am going to list a few of my family members and include their stories and pictures. If you haven't thanked a veteran this week, please do so.

I know very little about my uncle Jim's experience in Vietnam. My cousin Candice could probably offer more insight to his tour of Vietnam. I do know that he joined the Navy around 1969 or 1970. He fought during Vietnam and was a crew member on the USS Oriskany. He came home due to health problems.

My Dad, Joe Cain, fought a tour in Vietnam from 1970-1971. Dad was cautious about discussing his war experience when I was younger. I never heard anything about what he actually did until he came to talk to my students about it a few years ago. He worked for the Navy on a riverboat. His responsibility was to man the dual 50-caliber machine guns in the back of the boat, as well as to fix the boat if anything happened to it. He ate the food of the locals, patrolled the river for "foreign objects," and, of course, defended his men and his country. He said that during the day, he would mostly stay idle for 23 hours of the day and fight for one hour. Those hours were the longest and most horrible of his life. He lost his best friend in the Navy. He came back home to the scorn of a generation who did not love those who fought for their country.

My beloved "Grandpaw," T.J. Cain, served in World War II from 1941-1945. He was drafted into the US Army when he was 21, and became a part of the 464th Anti-Aircraft Battalion. He received his training in North Carolina, and then he traveled to Burma (Myanmar), where he and his men helped build portions of the Burma-Ledo Road. He served most of his time as a truck driver - he carried anti-aircraft weapons on the road to the US Servicemen. He endured fourteen days during the monsoon season with no food. He went on a special mission to scout out territory - what exactly went on was something he was never supposed to tell. Toward the end of the war, he drove over the famous Himalayan "Hump," to deliver his trucks to the Chinese (who were democratic during this time period under Chiang Kai-Shek). He caught a plane, flew over the "hump," and then drove another truck back over. He said men kissed the ground on their return home. (Four years immersed in war would make anyone kiss the ground.) A book was written about Grandpaw's battalion, called The Burma Roadsters. He probably read that book fifty times.
I also know very little about my great-uncle Ray Dean's experiences. He served in the Korean War and was placed on the front lines of battle. In a letter written to my grandmother (who was his sister), he mentioned that he was placed in battles that seemed "like Hell." He went MIA in October 30th of 1950. He was never found. He never made it home.
For those who fought, those who came back emotionally different, those who came back permanently injured, those who were never found, and for those who never made it home - thank you. My thanks is a small token for your sacrifice.


I am facing a time in my life when so many things are unknown. I simply do not know the answers.

I have a car full of boxes in the back of my car with nothing packed in them. I don't know when we will move. We do not have a closing date set yet. (We do have money, though - so it is nice to think that we'll at least have some money if this all falls through.)

I have a map that leads to nowhere when we actually do move - I don't know if we will build a house, buy a house, live with family for the next few months to see if the economy stabilizes, or just simply rent for awhile. I don't know. We haven't figured it out yet.

I have a heart's desire for something that I know may never happen. The answer to this question is out of my hands. The answer for the last six months has not been the one I wanted.

Living without plans seems foolish, and yet I know that this type of lifestyle unfurls my trust in God. While my brain cannot wrap around the future, while my heart cannot steady itself at times, while my fingers diligently type up questions with no answers - He is writing my life story. The unknown, with all of its fears, is known to Him.

So I wait with a prayerful heart. And I cry.