This is my receipt from my our local drugstore.  It is longer than my arm.

I purchased three items:  Isopropyl alcohol, Venus razor blade refills and a new hairbrush for DJ.  Three items and yet the piece of paper coughed out of the register was 19 ½” long.  It is about the same length as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I am amazed at what stores feel they must include on their receipts.  One grocery store I frequent prints out it’s return policy.  What do you return to a grocery store?

“Can I help you?”

“Ahh, yea.  I made Hamburger Helper for dinner last night and the kids didn’t much like it.  I’ve placed it back in the box.  Could I exchange it for a whole chicken and some marinade?”

Apparently at Rite Aid I have earned 1,018 wellness+ points this year, and yet I don’t feel any better.  I don’t even know what I did to earn them.

Not only did the receipt list my three items and the tax associated with my purchase, but it also has a 16 line description of items that are not eligible to be included toward my accumulated wellness points.  I was reassured when I read that tobacco products were ineligible – they are so unwell.

Oh, I also had the chance to win $1,000 if I completed an on-line survey, within 14 days, about my visit to the store.  I thought to myself, “Why not?”, I could certainly use a grand.  But when I got on the site, I had to enroll in their Access Load2Card system to give them my opinion.  It was simply not worth the trouble.

Had I been able to give them my feedback, this is what I think I would have said:

My visit to your store today was neither exhilarating nor miserable.  I walked down aisle 2 for a hairbrush and sauntered over to aisle 8 for Isopropyl alcohol.  I almost grabbed a bottle of Witch Hazel – which was sitting right beside the alcohol.  They are in very similar containers.  You may want to space them out a bit further.  By the way, what is Witch Hazel and what do you use it for? 

The razor blades were more difficult to find, and they are too expensive.  Could you consider cutting their price?  There are a lot of female legs in this family.  If I had an extra $1,000 I  would buy lots of them.

I walked by the pharmacy and the woman at the register had a dog collar around her neck.  I’m concerned she’s going to fall and its going to get hooked one something.  Could you ask her not to wear that anymore? 

The staff member at the register apparently doesn’t have the authority to hand enter a gift card when it won’t swipe correctly.  Thankfully the customer trying to use the gift card had two and the second one worked.  (I’d like to take a moment to thank my family for not giving me a gift card to Rite Aid for my special occasions).

Oh, and thank you for the receipt.  I’ve decided to be a mummy for Halloween, and it will come in very handy.

Procrastination Payback


Posted by Danny

It pains me to go to the mall in December – today, I am in agony.

It had to be done.  I have children who will not get presents this year because of my procrastination.  So I mustered up what little patience I had and I forged toward shopping hell. 

It started in the parking deck.  A weekend day the week before Christmas and not one parking place was open.  The Ford Expeditions crammed into the compact car spaces like clowns in a circus car; Chevrolets circling like vultures.

I spotted my prey.  Two older ladies, bags in hand, headed toward their car.  I turned my blinker on and positioned the Acura as to block anyone who might remotely consider jumping ahead of me.  The traffic behind me backing up – the horn blowing began.

And the two ladies, who clearly saw me waiting, what did they do?  I believe they styled each others hair and wrote a thesis paper.  HOW LONG CAN IT TAKE TO THROW THREE BAGS IN A CAR AND BACK OUT OF A PARKING PLACE?  It is a simple task.  I do it often.  I do it with three children.  I’ve done it with kids in three car seats and faster than the snail girls.

I had to pop a Xanax before I entered the food court.

I headed straight for the Kids’ Gap and quickly collected my booty.  I know what I want – don’t need to browse.

I then got in the line to check out.  I was customer number eight.  There were two registers open.  Because everything in the store was 40% off, each customer had 27 or more items. 

Unfortunately, each Gap employee had foregone their flu shot and instead received a vaccination that combats efficiency.  As the 27 items were placed on the counter, they slowly removed them for each hanger and began to fold them, individually and with care.  They then scanned the items with the vigor of Rumpelstiltskin and struck up nice conversations with each person they encountered. 

“Oh, I love this dress.  I bought it for my daughter too.”  Areyou going to start discussing Water for Elephants?  This is not a book club!  Stop talking and move! 

Near the end of her transaction, customer 4 remembered to ask the clerk if they had any more black boots.  There was a walkie-talkie conversation, followed by a three-day waiting period.  Finally a young gentleman, who should have been working at the auto parts store, emerged to share the sad news that they were out of size 2 1/2.  “She could probably wear a 3.” 

If you don’t get your butt out of my way I’m going to choke you with a ruffled cardigan.

The clerk at the other registered encouraged customer 6 to open a charge account.  She said she would get 10% off today, special online offers, early admittance to sales and a partridge in a pair tree.  The staff must get a $6,000 bonus if they open a charge card – she was selling it hard.  I think she would have done a pole dance in the dressing room if I’d have opened one.

I’ll pay the 10% if you will NOT open the account.  I am going to have an aneurism.

I finally got through the gauntlet and was headed out of the store when my bag set of an alarm that could evacuate a seven mile radius around the Sharon Harris Nuclear Plant.  And customer 4 was looking at me like “I’m not surprised Mr. Speedy.  You just slipped some extra stuff in there didn’t cha?”

I went back to the register where they called my auto parts buddy.  He dug through my bags, frisked me and the kids and did a quick cavity search.  I probably forgot to remove one of those beepers they put in one of my kids’ pants, the sewn in kind – happens all the time with us.  We walk through the mall, and it’s like an alarm handbell choir.

Good lord I’m tired.  At least Michelle just wants a box for Christmas.  I think I can handle that.

Food Lion Fashion

Posted by Danny

On Thursdays we eat dinner with Lisa’s sister, Aunt Sallie, and her husband, Uncle Matt.  Last week it was their turn to cook.

I picked the girls up from school and we dropped by the house to drop off book bags and to change clothes.  As I was about to get undressed, DJ popped in my room. 

“I think we need to have a theme for dinner!  Let’s all dress alike.”

“Are you serious?”


“OK – how about pajamas?”  With Matt cooking, I knew I’d be more comfortable with an elastic waist.

We all got our PJ’s on and each selected a stuffed animal to take with us.  I chose “B” Bear – he was the animal that has stuck with me all of these years.

Dinner as great, but the fun part came on the ride home.

“Dad, I forgot I need to take two dozen muffins to school tomorrow,” DJ reminded me.

“OK, we’ll run by the gro on the way home.”

“I ain’t going in the grocery store in my pajamas,” Stephanie screamed out emphatically.

“We’ll go to the Food Lion.  That’s not our regular store.  We won’t know anyone there.”

“I’m not going in!”  All three in unison.

“I can assure you if I’m going in the grocery store in my pajamas and bedroom shoes, I will not be alone!  GET OUT OF THE CAR.  NOW!”  Perhaps this is unusual punishment.  Regardless, I didn’t feel great about them sitting in the car alone at 9:30 pm.

As we walked in the door, Stephanie dodged behind the display of fresh-baked breads while the rest of us headed to the muffin aisle.  Two teenaged girls walked by snickering.  As we walked through the store, DJ would cautiously glance down the upcoming aisle hopeful not to see anyone she knew. 

At one point I was in the lead.  As I rounded a corner I yelled out one of her guy friend’s names “Wallace Jones!  What’s up?”  I thought she was going to dive into the chicken freezer.

“Just kidding!”

“Take our picture Michelle.”

“OK, stand by the cheese.”

You should never ask an 8-year-old to take your picture if you’re in a compromising position.  Not only were we standing in the Food Lion in PJ’s but we were also posing for a picture while other customers reached around us for Port Wine and parmesan.

The cashier didn’t miss a beat.  He acted as if he’d seen this every day.

As we walked back to our car, grouped together tightly, I wondered how many of my friends had this “opportunity.”  I bet that ten minutes last Thursday will be a memory we take with us to the grave.  I wonder how I can make more of those?

Shopping Tips from Dad

purple, the new black??

Posted by Danny

I love school uniforms.  I’m not as concerned about the value of leveling the playing field for all students as I am for the simplicity of getting dressed each morning, although I’m sure both reasons have merit.

This is the first year ever that one of my kids did not have to wear a polyester outfit five days a week throughout the school year.  DJ, at a new high school, has the freedom to wear pretty much anything she wants to wear.  And you know what that means…according to her, she is grossly lacking fashion options.

So, we hit the Streets at Southpoint mall a week ago.

I used to go into a store and look for a nice bench to rest my feet.  But I noticed that most girls who are shopping have someone else with them to help pick things out and to give opinions.  I see lots of moms and daughters laughing or arguing at the mall.  I love to laugh, and I’m learning to spar.  I thought to myself, “I can do this!  I can shop with a 14-year-old.”

I’m sort of a clothes horse myself, although I specialize in dress shirts and bow ties.  I wondered if I could apply my Nowell’s experience to the Urban Outfitters.

To my surprise, I found that I really got into helping DJ lug stuff around the store, and I was not short on opinions.  I found myself saying things like:

“You can’t wear linen after Labor Day.  That’s a BIG no-no.  That would have to be for next year.”


“I like the scoop neckline on that dress.  The V neck isn’t flattering to your complexion.”  I’m not sure that made sense but I liked the round one better and complexion sounded very shoppy.

Or ,

“That’s cute but you don’t have any shoes to go with that outfit.  We’re gonna have to hit Nordstrom.”

I even caught myself pointing out that “Purple is the new black,” although I made that up because I couldn’t find DJ’s size except in purple (if any of you hear me asking if my pants make my butt look big, you have permission to smack me).

It makes me sad to realize that Lisa can’t be there to go into the dressing room with my girls to help them zip things up and argue with them about the appropriateness of their dress length.  Instead, they have a dorky father waiting by the door ready to give an opinion that can’t possible hold any level of credibility. 

“Dad, what do you think?”

“I think it is defective – your butt is hanging out.  It has a negative inseam.  Take it off and I’ll report it to the sales clerk.” 

I realize that the primary reasons DJ is still  willing to shop with me are because I represent both transportation and VISA.  But regardless of the reasons, I just like to spend time with her – even if it is in the overly perfumed, semi-naked postered Abercrombie and Fitch.

And the one benefit my shopping philosophy has over Lisa’s for the girls?  After two hours I’ll buy anything regardless of the look or price.  120 minutes and I’m done – there becomes no price too high for my freedom.

Fashion Question? I’m Your Guy

Posted by Danny

I learned a couple of things about fashion this week. 

1) If your daughter says, “Dad, I’d like a new Lilly dress to wear to the 8th grade dance,” you should say “HELL NO”, grab your wallet and hightail it for your car. 

This happened to me.  I was not that smart.

DJ told me she wanted a Lilly dress for her special occasion and I said, “Well of course dear.  You’re graduating from 8th grade.  I think you need one of those things.” 

That night she pulled the Lilly store up on-line. 

“Dad, isn’t that one cute?”

“It is.  You’d look great in that.  I like the color.”

“I like this one too.”

“Ah – even better.  You want to order it?”

“You know dad, there’s a Lilly store in Cameron Village.  Let’s just go over there so I can try some on.”

“OK.  Maybe Nana can take you this weekend.  So, how much does that one cost?”

“Well, this ones sort of expensive.”

I nod – thinking I’m gonna splurge and not even complain – $60 bucks, NO PROBLEM –  I’m a BIG spender!

“It’s $348.”

“What?  My car is not worth $348!  You’ve got to be kidding.  Is it made of actual flowers?  Is that the same dress that Kate Middleton is wearing at her wedding?  This is absurd!”

“I’m sure I can find one for half that price.  They tend to have good sales.”

“You’d better find one for 90% off.”

And then I remembered, my wife wrote down four house rules before she died.  One of them was for the girls to “gang up” on dad if there was something they knew she would want for them but that I was unwilling to do.  She cited several examples. 

One dealt with giving them their independence – like studying abroad.  She knew that would be something I’d be cautious about. 

Lisa was also clear in her instruction to me – “If one of our daughters finds a pair of $350 shoes that would make her prom dress the best outfit at the dance, you find the money and buy them.  I know how tight you can be.”  She may have pointed her finger at me when she was writing down this rule to ensure I understood.

It worked…today DJ owns a Lilly dress. 

Jesse says I’m blinded by my love for my children and reminds them, when they get frustrated with him, that he is not. 

I can’t wait for him to have a daughter. 

2) I was also talking to a friend this week about bras.  I really can’t believe I’m talking about bras with people – but I’m trying to learn. 

She said at some point young women needed to get appropriately measured to insure a good fit.  I asked how that happened.  She said, they take a tape measurer and wrap it around your chest in several places.  I said, “That must be awkward.  I’m glad men don’t have to do that for underwear.”

The look on my face must have given away the fact that I was picturing a line of topless women in the underwear store dressing room waiting for their turn to be fitted.  She quickly informed me that the measurement was taken with your shirt ON.

It’s like I learn something new every day.

Yard Work? Basketball? Nah, Let’s Go Shopping!

I LOVE to work in my yard.  There is nothing better than mowing, edging and blowing.  It’s instant gratification.

For a man, if your grass looks good, YOU feel good. 

When my yard is weedy and full of brown patches, my whole karma is off.  It’s like having a bad haircut or a huge zit on your forehead.

Lisa DID NOT like yard work.  In fact, I’m not sure she ever went in our yard.  She pretty much went from the house to the car to the mall.

Today after a quick mow (no time for edging or blowing), I tackled Stephanie’s seasonal clothes change.  After four hours of trying on, folding and unfolding, hanging and unhanging, I decided we had not been tortured enough so we headed to Crabtree Valley Mall to begin our spring buying extravaganza.

Everyone in Wake and the surrounding counties was at Crabtree late this afternoon.  Why?  The only people I thought would be there on a spring weekend day with NCAA basketball on were widowed fathers who went to NC State and who are going to be out-of-town four weekends in a row in April. 

There must be a TON of us.

Today we purchased:  1 pair of shoes, 5 bathing suits, 6 tops, 6 shorts, 2 pair of PJ’s, 3 sweaters, 1 skirt, a pair of crop jeans and a beer (that was the only thing I got).  And I spent hundreds of dollars.

Our Loot

I worked hard to be a good sport although I was a bit offended when the sales clerk at the Old Navy offered me the handicapped dressing room because it could “handle larger crowds”. 

I was extremely annoyed when I finally chased two women down in the parking lot to get their space and then they just sat in the car.  What were they doing in there?  Planning the Winter Olympics?  If you come out of the store and there are limited parking places and a car follows you to your space and turns on the blinker, proper etiquette is to quickly get in your car and get the heck out of the space!  Not these women.  They slowly put their bags in the trunk (who does that?) and slowly got in the car.  And then sat there.  Geeze.  My hand motions and horn blowing did nothing to rouse them.  Someone else is going to have to teach my children patience.

I was annoyed at my youngest two children’s new-found modestness in the dressing room.  We’ve all seen them naked – multiple times!  Sometimes they prance around the house in a towel or less.  They do not have to get totally re-dressed when I crack the door six inches to slip out to get another size garment.  There are not 5th grade boys stationed at the door of the handicapped dressing room hoping to get a peek!

I was annoyed when my nose started running at Hollister – a store that has life-sized pictures of naked teens and a plume of perfume floating through the air.  I was also annoyed that my 13-year-old was walking around in public with a naked boy onher Hollister gift bag.

I was annoyed trying to figure out how to try on a two piece bathing suit when the top and bottom were connected with plastic thread.  It was impossible.  We had to try the top on and then the bottom.  And what was that huge swath of tape in the crotch?  Do you take it out before you swim?  My kids said it was uncomfortable.

I was also annoyed when I left Old Navy, reached for my keys and realized I had a $25 gift card I had forgotten to use. I was equally frustrated when four hours later I arrived home and realized I also had a $25 Target gift card I had forgotten to use.

I was pleased when Michelle fell in love with a bathing suit that was twice as expensive as another one two hangers down – and convincingly said, “I like the other one just as well, there’s no need to spend that much more money for one that looks basically the same (it didn’t, but how sweet).”

I was pleased when after I bought her a sweater, DJ said “Thanks Dad!” – unprompted.

I was pleased that Stephanie didn’t smack me.  After trying on literally more than 100 articles of clothing this morning, she looked at me like I had lost my mind when I asked if she wanted to try on another pair of shorts in the last store.  However, she simply said, “I just don’t think I can dad.”

I was very pleased when we got to dinner and the waiter brought me a Yuengling.

Here’s to my wife who spared me from this for 13 years!

Dad, got any gum?

Posted by Danny (written last Sunday)

My trip responsibilities used to be:

1)      Carry all suitcases to the car after they were packed.

2)      Load the car.

3)      Get cash.

4)      Drive.

5)      Swim with the kids at the hotel (Lisa did NOT swim at indoor hotel pools).

6)      Carry all bags into the house when we returned home.

My have things changed. 

Packing:  I do pretty well at remembering the critical things that must accompany us on trips:  bathing suits, toothbrushes, rubber bands for hair.  It’s picking out the clothes that stresses me out.  I can’t imagine that we’d ever be in Boston in February and need shorts or flip flops.  But I pack them.  What if a heat wave rises from South America?  What if we unexpectedly get invited to a Hawaiian themed party when we get there?  My mother-in-law can fit two weeks’ worth of clothes in a book bag.  It’s a combo of good folding and strategic planning.  Not me.  What if someone pees in their pants?  Might need an extra outfit or two.

Shopping:  In Boston I went with DJ to a store to help pick out flats (that’s a type of women’s shoes) for the cotillion dance on Thursday.  Actually, she’d already been in the store with her Nana and Aunt Sallie, but since I was carrying the credit card, I got to make the final decision.  She asked for a size 8.  I made the woman bring an 8 ½ too.  I’m not sure why – when Lisa bought the kids shoes, there always seemed to be a lot of boxes sitting around; it seemed like one just wasn’t enough.  I had her stand up and walk and felt for her toe.  I’m pretty sure I came across as knowledgeable.  After that I looked at the saleswoman and at DJ and said, “What do you guys think?”

“The 8” they replied in unison. 

“Yeah – my gut was leaning in that direction too.”

Gum:  Does gum come with the pocketbook or do you have to buy it separately?  I’ve never met a woman who did not have gum or lifesavers on her person.  Men produce sweat.  Women produce lifesavers.  They never run out.   I’m now in charge of trip gum.

As kids my mom always made us split a piece of gum in half.  Until last year, I didn’t know you could fit an entire stick in your mouth.  And when I finally did chew a full Wrigley’s, I felt ashamed. 

“Dad, why can’t we have the whole piece?” 

“I don’t know, ask your grandmother next time you see her.”

Skipping and dancing:  Today at the airport, Michelle was holding my hand and said, “I like to skip.”  Although it was phrased as a comment, it was really a question.

“I like to skip too.  There’s a big, long open hallway right here.”  And off we went.  I thought I’d get some eye rolls but instead got warm smiles.  It gave me enough courage to take the next step (the airport wasn’t crowded).  I learned to Chasse and Grand Jete.  Took me about 12 tries, but once mastered, it was good enough for Michelle to brag on me to her siblings.  At least I think it was bragging, she said, “Everybody, everybody, look at Dad!” and she was laughing in a proud sort of way.

I might give Jesse some props too.  Yesterday at the nephew’s birthday party, he broke out some impressive moves to in Sync’s Bye Bye Bye.

I did do two things that are typical dad.  We ate dinner at Dunkin’ Donuts tonight and this morning I coaxed Stephanie into going to the lobby to fetch my coffee.  Some things never change.

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