Posts Tagged ‘things that I should feel lucky I can complain about’

We stayed in eleven hotels over the course of our Road Trip! and so I feel as though I have some very recent expertise in What Hotels Are Like Lately. (By the way, because my husband is a Credit Card Rewards Black Belt, we stayed in nine of them for FREE.) (Or, as I like to point out, for points, which is not quite the same as free, although my husband vehemently disagrees with me.)

First of all, I want to acknowledge that it is clear the hospitality industry is struggling. The hotels we stayed at ALL seemed to have staffing issues, and I know this is a nationwide problem, and that it is affecting the hotels and the people who do work there much more than it is affecting me. Aside from one receptionist who stalked straight past me and another hotel guest without saying “I’ll be with you in a minute” or even glancing at us, the hotel personnel we encountered were friendly and helpful and doing the absolute BEST they could. 

Don’t get me wrong! I am glad hotels exist. I vastly prefer a hotel to, say, staying on the floor of a friend’s house or finding an AirBnB or sleeping in my car or renting an RV. But for all their benefits, they DO have deficits.

It seems to me that the people who design hotel rooms have never once stayed in a hotel room, or perhaps even A Room of any sort. They are all caught up in The Design – which I acknowledge probably helps draw clients – and not caught up enough in The Usability.

  • I Love Lamp: We had not one but TWO hotel rooms that had a dearth of lamps. In one hotel, we had a two-room suite. There was a bed in each room, with a nightstand near each bed… but only one room/nightstand had a lamp. In the other hotel, there were NO LAMPS AT ALL. Just overhead lighting. Both rooms had overhead lighting, but you had to extinguish the lights from the door, which in both cases was across the room from the bed. While I am aware that furnishing all the rooms in a hotel must be quite pricey, surely a lamp by each bed should have been part of the budget???? 

This photo is a LIE. Straight from the hotel website, it features a DESK LAMP which was not present in our hotel! The lack of bed-adjacent lighting is true-to-life though.
  • Were You Born in a Barn: Hotels are obsessed with barn doors – OBSESSED. Maybe this is the Magnolia Effect in action (although I didn’t see any shiplap), but I am guessing that hotel designers drool all over themselves at this perfect intersection of Trendy and Space-Saving. The majority of our hotels had barn doors for the bathroom. They are lovely, but the thing is that barn doors are gappy. They do not shut as firmly as regular doors do. Which is something I MISS A LOT when I am sharing a very small space with other people and our collective bathroom needs. (P.S. This little marriage saver has accompanied us in Europe and now across the U.S. and I love it.)
One of many barn doors.

  • Party of One: Except for our very last hotel, all of our rooms were meant to hold at least two people. They each had two queen beds, and could have fit up to four people. Four! People! But the rooms are very clearly geared toward ONE PERSON, MAYBE TWO. The nightstands were inevitably between the two beds, so that the person on the outer side of the bed had nowhere to put his/her glasses, phone, watch, books, etc. etc. etc. Several of the lamps – which, when they were provided, were on the shared nightstand – were controlled by a single switch, so that both beds had to agree that it was time for lights out. In our last hotel, the one hotel where we had a king bed (and a sofa bed for Carla shudder), my husband’s side of the bed (he always sleeps on the left) had the nightstand and mine had nothing. Worse: His side of the bed had multiple outlets and mine had… nothing. Other nights, when I wasn’t the lucky one to have a nightstand, I was able to at least plug my phone in next to the bed and set it on the headboard or a window sill or something.

This is the most uncomfortable sofa bed known to man. The “mattress” was a thin layer of cloth stretched so tightly over the springs you could see every single spring. We had to put the couch cushions on top of the “mattress” and then put the sheets over the cushions.
  • Carry In, Carry Out: Hotel rooms have the smallest trash cans I have ever seen. At one hotel, the single trash can was divided into two identical sections – one for trash, one for recycling. The recycling side fit a single plastic water bottle. 

  • No Sleep Til Brooklyn: If you want to control your room’s temperature, you will not sleep. Not one wink. Because the air conditioner/heating unit will roar on at unexpected intervals all night long, clattering and moaning and blasting out air that is at least ten degrees hotter/more frigid than you anticipated until you give up and turn it off and succumb to the ambient air temperature. 

  • Form Over Function: One of our hotels had a beautiful armoire with an interior light that turned on when you opened the doors and a fancy teapot and a mini Nespresso machine. It had neither a refrigerator nor an extra roll of toilet paper. One of our hotels had a gorgeous little coffee station with three pouches of local coffee but it was the hotel with ZERO LAMPS. I would rather have lamps than local coffee. (Side note: the place without the extra toilet paper was also the place with the miniature garbage can. I called down to housekeeping, requesting more toilet paper and a garbage bag. The kind housekeeper showed up with two garbage bags, one mini-sized to fit the trash can, one an enormous lawn-and-leaf sized bag. I took the latter, thanked her, and shut the door… only to realize that I perhaps should have reassured her that nothing horrifying had happened to necessitate my odd combination of requests.)

  • And the SHOWERS. This should technically be part of the previous bullet, but it drives me bonkers enough that it deserves its own. So many showers now have the rainfall shower heads. You know – the ones that stand directly above you and drench you? I cannot STAND those stupid shower heads. You can’t get away from the water! If I want to apply shampoo to my head or face wash to my cheeks, I have to step completely out of the line of fire water and freeze my tuchus completely off to do so. I much prefer the standard shower head. MUCH. Also, hotel shower designers have never taken a shower before. They do not understand that most people need various accessories to help them get clean: soap, shampoo, conditioner. Maybe a razor. Maybe face wash. Maybe body wash. But no. If you shower in a hotel, you are lucky to get one tiny triangular shelf that can barely accommodate a bar of soap and one of the eensy hotel-supplied bottles of shampoo. Unless I am in a hotel that has a bathtub/shower combo, I never know how I’m supposed to shave my legs. My own at-home shower has a little ledge upon which I can rest my foot. But when I’m in a hotel, I have to balance precariously on one foot while I shave the other leg or try to prop it up against the questionably-clean shower wall or bend over and get a mouthful of water while trying to shave. Further proof that hotel designers do not shower: We had one hotel with a BEAUTIFUL shower – fancy stone tiles, rainfall shower head, glass door. Except that there was no door – just a glass panel that went half the length of the shower and then a door-sized open space through which all the cold air of the room could sneak in and shower with you. Perhaps marginally better than the hotels with shower curtains that billow into the shower while you’re washing your hair and play grabby-handsy with your upper thighs, but not by much.  
Rainfall shower head AND a half-panel of glass AND a barn door. The trifecta, achieved!

Other things I have noticed: Almost without exception, housekeeping services are on-demand now – if you stay multiple days and want your trash emptied or your linens changed, you need to call ahead (sometimes up to 24 hours in advance, according to in-elevator signage), whereas this was a daily service in previous years. (I never used to take people up on it – I don’t want housekeepers having to make my bed or tidy things up around my suitcases and toothbrush.) Shampoos and conditioners are TINY now, or that they come in big canisters that are permanently attached inside the showers. Probably an environmentally advantageous move, honestly. Shower caps, much to my enduring dismay, are no longer offered alongside your miniature shampoos and bars of soap.   

On the not-complaining-or-mocking side of things, the people at the hotels were ALL so nice to Carla. So nice. She loved to march up to the desk when we arrived and say, “We’re checking in” as much as she loved handing over the keys at the end of our stays and saying brightly, “We’re checking out.” The hotel staff invariably found her super charming. One receptionist asked me if he could give her a piece of candy and then allowed her to choose anything she wanted from the hotel snack pantry. Another person acted, with an entirely straight face, like Carla was the person who’d booked and paid for the room, and he asked her very seriously whether she’d enjoyed her stay, and then answered her multiple questions about the hotel (it was in an historic building) with such kindness that I was unable to bring myself to tell him that there had been NO LAMPS in the hotel room. I think it would be so easy, working in a hotel, to be bored or harried or both, but everyone (except for that one woman I mentioned above) was so kind. So kind. 

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In highly exciting news, I have recently had occasion to visit a podiatrist for the first time. 

Relatedly, I want to talk about my foot. The thought of doing so bores me almost to tears, so I feel deep empathy for YOU, whose foot it is not. The thing is, it has been causing me enormous grief for months now and I better just talk about it and get it over with. 

Sometime in December of 2021, I started having heel pain when I woke up. It would be worst when I first got out of bed, then would gradually subside throughout the day. My runner friend told me it sounded like plantar fasciitis, which is a term with vowels that look incorrect even when I know they’re in the right places. I looked up plantar fasciitis and found some stretching exercises to do; I did them; they seemed to work. 

But then after maybe a week or so, the exercises stopped being effective. And the pain got worse and worse, so that any time I sat down (and as a person who writes for most of the day, I sit a LOT) and then tried to stand, I would hobble around with serious pain. It started waking me up in the night. It started affecting my ability to drive (I would get sharp shooting pains in my arch when I pushed on the gas or the brake). It made it difficult/painful for me to do my preferred type of exercise (walking). 

I went to a podiatrist, who seems very knowledgeable and who came highly recommended. But it seemed to me that the podiatrist relies a little too heavily on ME and not heavily enough on measurable facts. I suppose that’s how most of medicine is, isn’t it. If I say I have sinus pain and I’m miserable, and the doctor presses on my forehead and under my cheekbones and asks if it hurts, she has to take my word for it that it does. A gastroenterologist has to rely on your report of stomach/intestinal pain. But I hate that. I do. I want to be able to go to a doctor and say, “I am in pain” and for them to be able to VERIFY that, scientifically. I want them to have calipers that measure the pain so they can nod and say, “Yes, I see, this is clearly a Level 5 pain.” rather than making me the sole reporter of painfulness. For one thing, I feel like I have a low threshold for pain, so that what might be excruciating for me would be just a little twinge for you. And I don’t want to overreact to pain, or come across in any way like I am overexaggerating. I want it to be quantifiable. It’s NOT, but oh well. 

The podiatrist did press on my foot to see if I reacted, which I did. And he used an ultrasound machine to check… something. I’m not sure, but he did measure something and record those measurements. (He also took an X-ray, to ensure I didn’t have any fractures or cancer.) (Brief digression: I have been having pain in both feet, but one is much more severe than the other. When I checked in, I explained this. The receptionist said she would send me for an X-ray right away, and did I want X-rays of both feet or one? Um. I don’t know? I feel like that is not the kind of decision I, the non-doctor, am qualified to make? I did say that I would do whatever the doctor recommended, and the receptionist said, “It’s really up to you.” So I told her we could focus on just the one because the pain in the other foot is – currently – livable. But then the whole time I was getting my foot X-rayed I was feeling panicky that I had made the wrong choice, and what if I needed to come BACK in a few months and do it all again, and pay extra to get the other foot X-rayed when I could have gotten it all done at once? I had to use some coping thoughts like, “less radiation NOW is better, when I may not ever need a X-ray for the other foot.” And, “I made the best choice I could in the moment, and there is nothing I can do now.” And, “maybe it would end up costing the same anyway; I don’t know if they charge per foot or per visit, so who knows.” And, “I am fortunate to have health insurance and a health savings account, and this is what those things are for.” I had a good hearty wait before the X-ray technician was ready for me, so I got a chance to repeat these coping thoughts several times. (And panickedly wonder whether I could ask the X-ray tech to do both feet, or ask if I could call up to the doctor and alter the order.) It turned out okay, and if I need another X-ray of the other foot at some time in the future, so be it. But I really wish that the DOCTOR would have said, “Well, I really think that we should focus on the one foot that’s causing you the most trouble.” Or “Well, this thing can develop quickly so if you are having even a little trouble, let’s treat the other foot too.”) 

This is a very complainy post about my podiatrist, when really he seemed very nice. I guess I just get very anxious about doctors’ visits. I don’t want to waste the doctor’s time, I don’t want to overestimate the problem, or make A Big Deal when it’s not a big deal, I don’t want to spend a lot of health savings account money when I could really just be at home icing my foot, you know? 

Anyway. After the podiatrist evaluated my foot, he gave me a little mini lecture about what plantar fasciitis is, using a plaster foot as a visual aid, and I thought it was very useful and interesting and then promptly forgot everything he told me. He then gave me a splint to wear on my foot while sleeping (“gave” – it cost $75; it is possible I could have bought one myself elsewhere for much cheaper, but I did not) and a prescription for a steroid/anti-inflammatory drug, and scheduled an appointment for me to come back in just over a week. 

The first day of the steroid, I had excruciating bone pain in ALL my bones. That was deeply unpleasant. But on days two and three, the bone pain had subsided and I had almost NO PAIN in my afflicted foot. It was MIRACULOUS. Then, as I “stepped down” the dosage of the steroid over the next week, the pain returned. It was dispiriting, to say the least.

Not to mention that the splint for my foot is not… super. It wraps around the ball of my foot and then has a stiff arm that goes up the outside of my shin, and tightens around my calf. Kind of like a shin guard, only a bit more flexible. It keeps my foot in a slightly flexed position, which is not uncomfortable. The edges of the Velcro closure scratch my toes though, and I find it very difficult to sleep with the thing on my leg. Plus, I absolutely cannot walk on it, so I have to remove the whole splint every time I get up to go to the bathroom which is at least twice per night. (Each time, I try to undo the Velcro as quickly as possible, so that I don’t wake my husband. I feel like the sound of Velcro reluctantly parting from itself would be a highly unpleasant way to wake up in the middle of the night.)

When I went back to the podiatrist, the medical assistant asked me how things had gone, and I told her: my foot was definitely better than it was before, but it was not great. She said, “What percentage has your pain been reduced?”

What? Ugh. While I was just whining a few paragraphs ago about wanting quantitative measurements of medical issues, I do not want to be the one who provides them. I am at a loss for how to evaluate things like this. If you ask me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10, I usually have NO IDEA how to do that. Like, I have in my head the worst pain I have ever experienced, so I assign that a 10. But then… it’s very difficult to know where other things fall. Primarily because pain is so immediate, and because the perception of pain fades with time. Right now, it HURTS, and it’s bearable or not.

Anyway, I told her that maybe the pain was 20% better – which was a wild guess on my part – and she said, Wow, okay, that’s not good. If you had said it was a 70% improvement, maybe we could give you another round of the steroid, but the next step is usually an injection. 

Now, I had heard about the injection before I ever made my first appointment with the podiatrist. The person who recommended him had had an injection for my exact problem, and it seemed like that was the treatment, so the steroid/splint treatment I received was a surprise to me. I’d been prepared from the get go for an injection, and the podiatrist had mentioned at my first appointment that if the steroid/splint didn’t work, I would probably need an injection. So I was anticipating an injection. 

The medical assistant left and when the doctor came in, he said, “I hear you were begging for the injection.” Which made my eyes go all wide until I realized he was joking. THEN he told me that a lot of people say the injection is the worst pain they have ever had; that women who have delivered multiple children say it’s much worse than childbirth. (Not the most reassuring way to begin the injection discussion, Doc!) But, he went on, he has never had any patient say that to HIM. HIS injections are painless, and he uses a specific method that makes them so.  

So now I had two things to hold in my head: 1. That some people find this injection to be excruciating and 2. That I could not in any way tell this guy if it WAS, because he would not believe me. 

He put up a little curtain, separating my eyes from from my foot, which is a weird way to phrase that but I am leaving it, and sprayed my foot with what he called a “cold spray.” THAT was pretty uncomfortable, but bearable. And then he started the injection, which took several minutes and was also fairly uncomfortable but bearable. I had to do some deep breathing, and had to clutch my arms across my chest quite tightly to get through it, and there was some tear-prickling at my eyes, but no actual tears. (At one point, he asked if I was doing Lamaze breathing back there, which made me feel quite embarrassed. He went on to say if I left with a baby, we’d each have a lot of explaining to do, har har har, and as I mulled THAT ONE over for awhile, while trying not to breathe so audibly, I came to the conclusion that I probably wasn’t breathing THAT hard, and that instead the Lamaze thing was probably a bit he does for lots of his patients.) (I feel as though, in describing this to you, I am describing this doctor quite unfavorably. I definitely do NOT jive with his sense of humor, although I can see how many patients would find him hilarious and delightful. But I did feel that he was a good listener, and that he cared that I was in pain, and that he wasn’t judging my particular level of pain tolerance, and that he was determined to resolve the problem. AND that he was an experienced and knowledgeable practitioner.)

Anyway. The injection was FAR from the most painful thing I’ve endured. Dental procedures are much, much worse. But afterward, my foot was sore and I kept getting these little shooting pains in my heel and walking was about as uncomfortable as it had been before I saw the podiatrist. 

The injection did HELP, for a while. The next day, my foot felt significantly better. But I am nearly a week out from the first injection and I am back to hobbling around when I wake up/stand up after sitting for awhile. 

And yes, I said “first injection” because the podiatrist mentioned that, for a LOT of people, one injection resolves the issue completely. But for some people, it doesn’t. And that we needed to resign ourselves (he didn’t say resign; I think he said “commit.” Resign feels more accurate for me, though.) to THREE injections before we pursued a different path. He didn’t even mention what the next path would be, so I’m trying to borrow some of his confidence that the second or, gulp, third injection will do the trick. I am NOT looking forward to another injection. Last time, I had the added anxiety of not knowing what to expect. But now I have a different type of anxiety because I DO know. And it’s hard to go into something, knowing it will result in pain. 

This feels like the kind of thing I had better get used to, as I age. More and more parts of me are going to fail. More and more parts of my body are going to experience pain. I am not pleased about it, but I recognize that this is just A Part of Aging. And I’m really very lucky. I can still walk. I can still exercise, even if doing so is slower and causes residual pain. I can afford to treat it. Hopefully my marriage can withstand my ongoing crankiness/hobbling. 

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continue to feel like a planet whirling so fast it is about to spin off its axis. The frigid vacuum of space sounds pretty pleasant right about now. I wouldn’t be able to breathe, but it would be so quiet

I had a meeting this morning about the school project I am working on. My project partner and I are so lucky a) to have each other (well. I am lucky to have her. Remains to be seen whether I will be useful for anything but flailing.) and b) that the previous head of this project has made herself available to us for questions and coaching. But today’s meeting was… well, let’s say it is A LARGE PART of why I am spinning so fast. It seemed like we would ask a question about how best to execute Task A. And we’d talk through it and get to the end, and then an unrelated topic would insinuate itself into the conversation briefly, and then, BAM, by the way, Unrelated Topic is actually crucial and you need to do it BEFORE you can execute Task A. Like, you’re digging away at this nice deep hole, and then when you get to the bottom, someone yells, “WAIT! You were supposed to dig to the left of this hole first!” So you go back and dig the new hole, but the dirt you displace from the new hole crumbles and fills up the hole you already dug, which you are now going to have to dig again, but in a slightly different way.


Speaking of meetings! I met with my potential client yesterday. And by “client” I mean one organization, but multiple people. As I mentioned in my previous fret about this encounter, I had no idea what to wear. Not only have I had very very few business encounters since I left full-time work SIX YEARS AGO OMG, but I have also put on quite a lot of weight since then, rendering any very old, out-of-style business wear wholly unwearable. I have this beautiful cream silk blouse that I have kept all these years, so I tried it on, but my boobs kept trying to make a break for it. I figured that boob wrangling would add a layer of stress I didn’t need to my meeting, so I scrapped that idea.

I was to meet the client(s) for coffee, and my Fashionable Friend told me that I could wear jeans and a blouse or a nice sweater for that type of meeting. (Do you have a Fashionable Friend? She is very nice to have around. For lots of regular-friendshippy reasons, but also because she always knows the right answer to style questions.) So I found a nice top and a blazer and wore those with dark jeans and heels. It was the right call: the clients were wearing a range from jeans/leggings to dresses, so I felt nicely in the middle. And I was comfortable, and my boobs behaved themselves. 

The meeting itself was very nice. The organization is one I am familiar with and I love its mission and product. And the people were friendly and smart and totally the type of people I would want to be friends with. It was a little intimidating, being in a room with multiple people, unmasked. But the strangeness of that faded quickly. The single drink option during the meeting was coffee. Which, as you may recall, I do not drink. I am SURE I could have asked for some water, but by the time I had the opportunity, it would have been A Big Pain, so I just went with the coffee option. I AM BREEZY. By the way, not only was it coffee, it was black coffee, which I have never even tasted. And WOWZA did it ever go straight to my head! For a few deeply uncomfortable minutes, I felt sure I would throw up or pass out, which is surely not the best first impression to make upon potential clientele. You will be pleased to learn (as I was) that I neither vomited nor swooned, and made it through, hopefully leaving them with the feeling that I am friendly and competent and not a weird socially awkward mole who hasn’t been around people in two years. 

I am getting more and more excited about our upcoming travel. But oh Mylanta there is SO MUCH LAUNDRY. I wish people would just stop wearing clothing so that I can get allllllll the laundry done and folded. Then we can set aside the things we want to pack for the trip, and make do with whatever remains. 

Also, my husband – who is legitimately WILDY busy at work, and never gets home before seven anymore – did a couple loads of laundry over the weekend. I discovered today that he had left the clean clothes in the laundry basket. A, I appreciate that he did some laundry; that is awesome. And B, I am constantly leaving laundry in the basket, or on top of the guest room bed, sometimes for many many days. But it still made me feel betrayed and petulant. 

Speaking of betrayed and petulant: Poor deprived Carla wailed at me today that she has no clothes!!!! and I never do any laundry!!!! and look at her overflowing laundry basket!!!!! The same child who has an entire closet full of dresses, and an entire drawer full of jeans and corduroys that she begged me to buy for her at the beginning of the school year. 

What did she end up wearing? Leggings and a t-shirt. And because it is still chilly here, I dredged up a sweater for her to throw on top. 

WHERE are all her sweaters, I wonder? Perhaps in the overflowing laundry bin, which I must once again put through the wash. I did notice that the bottom drawer of her dresser doesn’t close all the way, and it seems to be because there are some shirts that have fallen back behind the drawer, into the empty space of the dresser. But I cannot for the life of me get to them! The dresser is bolted to the wall and the bottom of the dresser doesn’t have enough room for me stick even a pair of kitchen tongs under. I guess the shirts will stay there until we move someday? Or perhaps we will have to figure out how to take the drawer off its track? But who knows how many shirts and sweaters are hiding back there! 

I am stressing about the keeping-keto portion of our vacation. Part of me wants to just give it up and eat as though I am on vacation… but part of me is deeply reluctant to cede the small amount of ground I have gained. Fortunately, most restaurants (YES, we will be eating in restaurants!!! Ahhhhh!!!!) offer things like steak or salmon. I will simply have to resist things like mashed potatoes and baked potatoes and French fries and desserts. Sounds doable, if not fun, but I suspect my resolve may crumble when everyone else around me is eating something delicious that I “can’t” have. My biggest hurdle, I think, will be hamburgers. I LOVE a hamburger, and I LOVE a nice buttery toasty bun, and I LOVE ketchup, none of which are keto-friendly. Well. We’ll see how it goes. 

Speaking of keto, I have ZERO IDEA what we will eat for dinner this week. It seems wholly unfair to have to keep planning and preparing meals when I am already planning and preparing for a trip. Maybe we will do a stir fry, using one of the MANY delicious ideas you suggested on this post? Maybe a pizza night? Maybe… a salad? I feel like I have some veggies I want to use up before we leave. Some sort of… roasted veggies smorgasbord? 

This period of Too Much Too Much Ahhhhhhh! has served as a valuable reminder to me of just how critical my daily workout it. I am not winning any ab competitions or even doing any sort of visible toning (perhaps there is a LOT of tone beneath the fat and skin; hard to say), but working out is almost the only thing that makes me feel tethered to reality. Sweating for a half hour, grunting my way through a bunch of awful squats, hefting weights over my head, focusing only on the directions/encouragement of the coach while I grind out another rep – whatever it is, it helps my thoughts slow their frantic dash around my brain. (And I know I have recommended her before, but I just adore Lindsey of Nourish Move Love. She is extremely kind and supportive and offers tons of modifications if you don’t have weights/don’t want to bend your knees so deeply/don’t own a booty band. And she does all the exercises with you, panting and groaning over the tough parts, which makes it all seem doable.)

I am going to leave you with some flowers. As per Swistle, I did not wait until my previous flowers had perished to replace them. Instead, I bought a new bouquet and added it to the original group. Carla requested white tulips, so white tulips it is. 

Last week’s batch are definitely looking a little faded and saggy. But you know what? They have their own beauty despite their age. And they are still standing

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I had to go into Target TWICE recently, and both times I was super annoyed. I think to the point that it is no longer fun to go there. I will continue to use the option where someone brings my purchases out to my car, because sometimes Target is the best place to procure certain items. But I no longer enjoy shopping IN Target. 

First, the shelves are so intermittently empty that I get that Early Pandemic panicky feeling in my chest. I went in well before Valentine’s Day – well, a week before, which seems like it should be fine – and the Valentine’s Day section appeared to have been looted by mauraders. It was a mixture of chaos and empty boxes. I found a giant Hershey’s kiss for Carla and a pink bath bomb and that was IT. 

Well. I also found a whole section of Easter candy, which makes zero sense. But they had a large stack of Reese’s peanut butter eggs – the best candy – so I bought myself two boxes. I was there for VALENTINE’S DAY loot though, so I remained unmollified. Plus, I now have to go to a separate candy store (barf), inside the mall (extra barf), to get something for my husband.

Second, the Valentine’s Day card selection made me grumpy. Perhaps this is less a Target-grouse than a card-designer/producer grouse, or maybe even an It’s-2020-Yet-Everything-Is-Still-So-Gengered grouse, but a) it happened AT Target and b) I do have more Target-centric grousing to do, so I don’t want to interrupt the flow of my Target-directed irritation.

Carla loves dinosaurs, and dinosaurs are a Very Common Kid Passion, so it seems reasonable to expect that there would be dinosaur-themed Valentine’s Day cards. And you would be right! But they were directed at boys. Because only boys like dinosaurs. 

Except for this one, which was gender-neutral. And also $8.99. I am not going to pay nearly TEN (10) U.S. dollars for a single-use card, no thank you. It is hard enough to choke down the normal $4.99 price tag, which I do only because I love cards so much. 

I know – I KNOW – that you can’t expect there to be something for everyone. You can’t. It’s not possible. But… maybe there could fewer gendered things? 

I bought a card. And altered it slightly, for Carla. 

Stickers to the rescue!

Back to the Target-specific grousing.

I know I have grumbled about this before. Target often – I am saying often, because it happens almost every single time I go to Target – has discrepancies between the price listed on the shelf and the price that rings up at the register. HOWEVER, it is nearly impossible to discover the discrepancies because it is impossible to read the register as the checker rings up your items. I am willing to give Target the benefit of the doubt. It is a big corporation, and errors happen. Plus, maybe there is a big price difference to the company between ordering computers that show the prices only to the checker and computers that show the prices to the customer as well. I don’t know. But the two issues added together make me feel like Target is trying to pull one over on me. 

What I have begun to do is take pictures of things on the shelf. If they are on sale, and I am buying them purely to get the sale price, I take a picture. If there is a discrepancy between the price on the shelf and the price in the app, I take a picture. And then I try very hard to squint at the computer screen during check out. 

The screen looks impossibly small in the photo and seems impossibly far away in real life. I can see the TOTAL without too much squinting, but that requires instantaneous math which is not one of my core competencies.

It is too far away and the font is too small to see, though! I got right up in there this last time, right up in there, and then backed away because I felt like I was intruding upon the checker’s plexiglass-enclosed space. So I had to ask the checker to doublecheck the price of the items I was concerned about. One of them was fine, but the other rang up for a dollar more than it was supposed to, so I showed the checker my photo, and they reduced the price. 

I realized that I sound more than slightly unhinged, here, hawk-watching over the computer just to prevent Target from getting even one dollar extra from my clenched fists. But it makes me really mad.

The last time I posted about this, I wrote a frustrated email to Target about my experience. I got a response, too, from someone at my local Target:

Hi Suzanne,

My name is NAME, and I’m the Service and Engagement ETL at the CITY Target store. Thank you for sharing your experience. I sincerely appreciate your feedback about the checkout process at Target stores. We never want guests to feel like they are being taken advantage of or that Target is hiding anything. Our checkout advocates are here to help so they can relay the prices as they ring up for you. If there is a discrepancy they can get a price check and change the price for you as well. Also, if there is ever a need we can retroactively make price adjustments at Guest Service for you as well. I will share your feedback with my immediate boss so that it can be directed to the appropriate channels. 

I want to make this right both for you and for all Target guests in the future. If you’re open to further discussing how we might do that, please reply to this email. You are also welcome to call me at NUMBER.

What a very nice and sincere-sounding email, right?! I mean, no way am I going to ask the poor checker to read every single price as it rings up, which seems to be what this nice person is suggesting. And also, I am overlooking the fact that this person does not seem to understand that it is next to impossible to identify a discrepancy in the moment. And you KNOW I am wary of price adjustments based on prior experience. But it was a good start, I think. 

I haven’t yet responded, because I didn’t know what to say. But now I know. I have a SOLUTION. My solution is that they should increase the font on their computer monitors. And maybe – although perhaps this is asking too much – they could angle the computer monitors toward the customer. 

I am not asking for their prices to be accurate. I am not asking for their prices to match, between shelf and app and register. I am not asking for them in install new monitors at the credit card machines, or replace the credit card machines with machines that list the prices as the checker rings up each item, or even to figure out some way to show the total you are about to pay ON the credit card machine! No. I am simply suggesting that they increase the font, so that a non-eagle can see it while standing near the checkout. 

What do you think? Is this a good plan?

Or perhaps I should simply… not set foot in Target. Probably that’s the best choice.

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I hope you had a wonderful, delicious Thanksgiving and celebrated exactly the way you wanted to!

If you are looking for a little post-prandial distraction, might I ask you to join me in contemplating the execution of a Home Project, with potentially satisfying results? You don’t have to spend a dollar or move a single piece of furniture, you can simply sit back, sip your beverage of choice, pass judgment on my plans and life choices, and perhaps offer advice! Win win!

Carla has been asking, for months, for a “rilly big box full of all craft stuf.” That is a direct quote from her letter to Santa.

Carla is a crafter extraordinaire. She makes anything and everything, from miniature furniture to fishing rods and fish to tiny clay animals to elaborate seascape scenes to clothing for her stuffed animals and more. We have a lot of crafting supplies in our home already, and very little space to store it all, and my little craft enthusiast is constantly coming up with new ideas.

My husband and I decided that we wanted to help Santa fulfill Carla’s wish… but we needed a bigger plan than just a “rilly big box full of craft stuf.” The big box is part 2. Part 1 is carving out a crafting space.

Right now, crafting takes place on the kitchen table:

This is how my kitchen table looks at least 75% of the time. Craft mat, glue gun, craft detritus.

Or on the dining room floor:

This is what Carla hears when I ask her to “put her crafts away.” Deep sigh.

Short of moving to a home with a dedicated crafting room, we have to make do with what we have. And what we currently have makes me twitchy and claustrophobic.

We do have a decent-size basement, and my husband and I discussed repurposing the space for crafting.

Right now, the basement has several purposes. The left third is for exercise and gaming and TV watching; we have a treadmill, a recumbent bike, a couch, and a TV over there. It’s pretty full.

The right two thirds has a dual toys/music function. As in, it holds a huge amount of Carla’s toys (Barbies galore, dinosaurs, building sets) but it is also where we keep the electric piano and my husband’s electric drum kit.

(Our dream house needs to have a dedicated music room, too, apparently.)

I hope you are enjoying our walls. The color scheme… grows on you.

My idea was to move/break down the piano and drum kit, since they are so rarely used. My husband agreed to moving the piano, but he wants to keep the drum kit. (Sigh. The drum kit takes up so much more room than the piano. But we take what we can get.)

And then we use the space freed up to create a crafting space for Carla.

The dinosaur is envisioning a crafting table right here where the piano is. Perhaps we will find a new home for the dehumidifier.

While we already have the Expedit (which holds games and some puzzles and all the Make Your Own [XYZ]! kits that Carla has yet to put together, along with many that she HAS put together but have enough ingredients for more rounds) (I am going to go through and RUTHLESSLY TOSS some of the latter and RUTHLESSLY DONATE some of the former), a four-cube organizer that holds our DVDs and my husband’s video game collection, and a six-cube organizer for Carla’s LEGOs, we need dedicated craft storage and we need some sort of table.

We bought this with the sole intention of using it to relocate all the LEGO that have taken over my living room. Currently, the LEGO collection is still upstairs, strewn all over my hearth. In the meantime, the Barbies are making good use of the space.

Santa, in addition to the “rilly big box full of craft stuf” has assured us he will bring additional storage. I think he is planning on another six-cube shelf organizer and fabric bins.

Santa will not be bringing a table, although that’s a critical element of this plan. My husband and I have been on the hunt, but it’s difficult to find anything that doesn’t cost one million dollars. We decided we can wait to figure out the table solution until after Christmas. But that doesn’t mean I am not already thinking about a table.

When Carla crafts on the kitchen table, she takes up approximately half of the space.

Don’t get me wrong – given time, her crafting essentials eventually migrate to all four corners of the table and spill over the edges onto the floor, but she seems to be able to make do with just half. That’s 32” by 42”, so it would be IDEAL to find a table that is three feet by four feet. A table that folds, so we can slide it up against the wall. A table that has a smooth, untextured top for drawing. A table that is NOT one million dollars. (I would love love LOVE to spend less than $50, but that seems like a pipe dream. Maybe I should be aiming for under $100.)

Because I am a genius, I suggested that maybe all we needed was a giant board! Then we could help Carla move the not-yet-installed shelf and the current LEGO storage shelf into the middle of the basement, and put the board across the tops of both shelving units, and VOILA! instant table!

My husband doesn’t think that we will be able to find a board of the right size, and, even if we did, he is picturing something rough with jagged edges. So I need to think on/research this idea a bit more. I still think it is a genius solution, although that’s dependent on boards a) coming in the right size and b) also not costing one million dollars.

Because crafting is so important to Carla, and because it causes SUCH chaos in my home, I am pretty motivated to find a solution.

To help keep everything organized, we will also get a desktop carousel.

And I can think of dozens of uses for this craft keeper, which has 16 little plastic containers for pom-poms, stickers, glue sticks, beads, etc. etc. etc., so I think we’ll get one of these, too.  

Plus, it’s so rainbow-y!

The only other thing I can think of to complete this craft space is perhaps some sort of plastic carpet mat. You know, to protect the carpet from all sort of crafting debris.

I’m sure there are other things we will find we need, once this craft space is realized. But for now I am focused on the minimum needed to make it functional, and also on keeping it under one million dollars.

P.S. My plans include getting rid of Carla’s dress-up closet, which is the purple structure that lives to the left of the Expedit. I can’t remember the last time she played dress up. (“Halloween” she told me when I asked her. And before that? “Last Halloween.” This proves my point.) She laments the loss of the mirror, but it’s a pretty crummy mirror and we can easily get a mirror and affix it to her bedroom door.

I really wish we could get rid of the drum kit.

I also think it’s time to get rid of the Giant Bear. I impulse-bought this bear at Costco many years ago, and it achieved the surprise and delight I’d imagined when I spotted it. But now it mainly lives on one of the couches in the basement, rendering the couch unusable by humans. Or it endures various forms of torture inflicted by Carla. It has sagged a bit in its old age, as though the stuffing has been crushed or redistributed, so it is now much less fluffy than it was when we first brought it home. I think it’s time to say goodbye.

He is putting on a good front, but he is clearly SO miserable. This is not the life he wanted for himself.

If you were designing a crafting space, given what you now know about our available resources, is there anything I’ve missed or overlooked?

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Well, I am sitting here waiting for the exterminator to come do our quarterly bug roundup (I like to picture him ushering a bunch of creepy-crawlies down the stairs and out into the street and off into some buggy wonderland, Pied Piper style), and I neither feel like emptying the dishwasher nor trying to plan our meals for the week, so randomosity it is!

  • Speaking of our bug guy: I am mad at our pest control service. They are constantly bothering us to sign up for this quarterly “deal,” wherein you get a discount per service. And my husband and I had figured that we were calling the pest control on an as-needed basis about three times per year, so the math didn’t work out for us to do the quarterly plan. But, for some reason, we decided to sign up the last time they made their sales pitch. I don’t remember why, but it must have involved math. ANYWAY, we signed up in June, for the quarterly plan. They sent the bug guy, invoiced us… And the amount was DOUBLE what he’d quoted me. I emailed him back and said, “I thought the quarterly plan cost $X. Or is this invoice for the entire year in advance?” And he CALLED ME. I could not answer at the time, so emailed him back, reiterated my question, and said that email is much better than calling. He called me AGAIN. I remember I picked up the phone because I was waiting for another call, but there was some incredibly stressful thing going on, and he was being super confusing and not answering my questions directly, so I started frustration-crying on the phone. It was awful. The upshoot was that he didn’t want to submit a specific quote in writing, because “their rates change based on unpredictable factors.” *Picture me right now, sitting at my desk, blinking slowly and taking multiple deep breaths.* Anyway, because I cried at him, he emailed me this: “as discussed on the phone. The current charge is your initial charge with a discounted rate. 3 months after your initial treatment we offer a discounted quarterly rate ~$X + tax on a regular quarterly basis.” Which, I have to say, STILL MAKES NO SENSE. Does that mean that the quarterly discount only kicks in… later??? And also, I want to know what we are going to pay, every quarter!!!!! “~$X” is not specific enough!!!!! I immediately started asking my neighbors who they use, even though we have used this particular service multiple times per year for over a decade. The only reason I have decided not to switch services is that I adore the man who does the actual spraying of the bugs. He is a lovely, kind, gentle man who asks about my kid and is always super flexible about timing and is very efficient. He is the kind of guy you could call to come over IMMEDIATELY and take care of any issue. Plus, he is getting up there, age-wise, and I just picture us canceling our service and him being out of a job. (This is ridiculous; they have other customers.) So we are, for now, keeping our service. But I am STILL MAD. In fact, I feel riled up enough that I am once again thinking of finding a new service. EDITED TO ADD: I asked our bug guy if he knew what today’s appointment was going to cost me, and he said he didn’t; he leaves that to the other guy, who will send me an invoice. So I still have no idea how much it cost. I DO NOT LIKE THIS.
  • It is a good time for the bug guy to come, because it is Spider Season. And I know that spiders are good and lovely and take care of other bugs, but during this time of year they get very bold and decide to break the Spider Covenant of out of sight, out of mind. Do they think they add to the Halloween ambiance? There was a spider in Carla’s room the other day, and she came shrieking into the living room to have one of us rescue her from its clutches, but then my husband couldn’t locate the spider to remove it. (I would have squished it. Am mean.) Carla KNOWS that the spider is still there, probably on her bed, maybe building a little web inside her pillowcase. She does not believe us that the spider has likely moved on. She has been sleeping in our room ever since.
  • Oh, speaking of stupid things that make no sense (yes, I am still exercised about the bug service situation): Do you remember I told you, a long while ago, about this absolutely RIDICULOUS bank situation? In short (or, as short as I can very wordily go), we have a loan through a bank, and the bank is holding a big chunk of our money as collateral against the loan. This bank has a policy stating that you (we) need to add some nominal amount of money to the account annually, or you (we) are charged an inactive fee. Even though I don’t WANT to add money, not even $5, to that account because we cannot touch it until the loan is paid. And even though I don’t have any sort of bank card that would allow me to do so without going, in person, to the bank. And even though the bank is nowhere near my house or any place I ever go. So every year I get a statement charging us an inactive fee, and every year I call the bank and ask them to remove it, and they give me a spiel about how easy it would be to avoid the fee, just by making a single annual transaction! And how it could just be $5! And how they have all these branches! (None nearer than a 30 minute drive.) I persist, getting louder and more strident, and finally they agree to remove the fee, and I ask that they make a note for next year, and they say they can’t. Remember when I whined at great length about that? Well! Last year, we got a statement that showed the inactive fee… and then showed an instant refund!!!! I did not have to call! SOMEONE MADE A NOTE! That is my hope, at least. I suppose it could have been a Pandemic Nicety. Anyway, I’m waiting for the statement to show up this year, just to see what happens. I know you are on the edge of your seat.
  • I got myself a jump rope. Carla has one and it seems fun. Plus, it reminds me of middle school gym class, and how Jump Rope for Heart! was a big health movement back then. It IS good exercise, I think. I don’t know for sure because I have yet to try it. I’m… nervous? Afraid of hitting myself in the face? Or… enduring excessive boob-flop pain? Or… having a heart attack? I don’t know. Also, I am pretty sure this is an Outdoor Activity, so that’s another hurdle. The jump rope is currently on the floor of my office. Do you jump rope? And if so, how do I begin my jump rope journey? Perhaps I shall begin by taking it with me to Goodwill and leaving it there?
  • Listen, I KNOW it’s only October, but I also know that you are aware – as are we all – that shipping and supply chain issues are causing delays and snarl-ups all over the place. So I am thinking about Christmas. Fretting is a more accurate word than thinking, except there is also a lot of inertia because it is sooooo far away and I am just coming out of a four-family-members-have-birthdays period over the last six weeks, with the fifth still to come. I persuaded my husband to order a couple of things for Carla already (thank you, Target, for having a “buy $50 in toys, get $10” promotion at the exact right time). (We got her a carnotaurus and an LOL OMG doll that she requested.) But literally no one else in my family is thinking about the holidays right now, except maybe my parents whom I have already bothered on the topic. And lord knows WHAT I will get my husband; I just had to buy presents for his birthday and it was rough. I ended up buying him a couple of things I’d purchased previously, that’s how out of ideas I am. Well. At least Santa Claus will have something to deliver to Carla. If the rest of us get nothing, that’s fine. We need nothing anyway.
  • This Christmas situation illuminates one of the Major Differences between my family of origin and my husband’s. I emailed my mom and asked her to start thinking about Christmas, and she happily complied. In fact, I had received an email previously from my dad, asking what we want to eat for Christmas dinner. They are Plan Ahead People. They have everything planned out for the next… nine months, I’d say. While I am not (always) that much of a planner, I do prefer to know what’s coming down the pike. My in-laws, on the other hand, are Spontaneous People. (This is why I end up wrapping so many gifts that they send us at the last minute grumble grumble.) They are also Christmas List People, who prefer that we all submit and choose from a list of specific items. (My parents are Money Gifters, who then also usually wrap something small to accompany the money.) My in-laws also live in a different state, so we have to ship all gifts to them. (And I prefer to buy them and wrap them before shipping them.) This is a bad combination, even in years without shipping and supply chain issues (not to mention all the health issues that are obviously and justifiably requiring significant attention). But this year it may be that everyone gets a Suzanne Hopes You Will Like This But Maybe You Won’t present.
  • Do you have a go-to gift that you send to people who have everything/people who are difficult to shop for? There has to be a Good General Gift that most people enjoy, right? Except I can’t think of one, outside of consumables like chocolate/wine/cheese.
  • And also, what would YOU, personally, like to receive as a gift? Like, right now, what is the thing that you are coveting most? For me, it is a citrus squeezer. Mine broke, and I use a citrus squeezer ALL the time, so I have been mourning its loss near-daily. Okay, after writing that, I just ordered one – it’s stainless steel, so the paint won’t wear off and it’s dishwasher safe! It will arrive on Friday. SORRY, PEOPLE WHO BUY ME GIFTS.
  • I really, reallllllllly wish that we could alllll agree that we are grown ups and do not need gifts anymore. Seriously. We can get the kids presents, if we want, but no one else needs anything. I just don’t know how to broach that topic. Like, it seems like one thing to say, “I would like you to stop buying me gifts; I have everything I need” but a whole different thing to say, “I would like to stop purchasing gifts for you.” Yeah. Makes me sound like a dick. *Resigned sigh of gift anxiety forever and ever amen.* 
  • At least I don’t have to worry about Thanksgiving! My in-laws are hosting Thanksgiving at their house, in a different state, despite the fact that it is their year with us, and despite the fact that my husband and I established nearly a decade ago that we will not travel on holidays, and despite the fact that there is still an ongoing global pandemic that makes travel – especially crowded holiday travel – unideal. (And lest you think I am being heartless, they made these plans before all the health turmoil.) (I am still being a little heartless, but the whole thing irks me.) So! It will just be the three of us, here at home! My IDEAL! I suspect I will still need to make turkey and stuffing, since my husband likes those things. (Bleh.) I can probably get away with a small turkey breast, though, which will be nice. And I am delighted that I get to make a big vat of garlic goat cheese mashed potatoes to slowly coat myself in.
  • OMG I usually tip our bug guy but I FORGOT to get tip money and had none. He said goodbye at the front door, but then his shoes were at the back door, so we trekked through the kitchen, saying things like “keep safe!” and “see you next quarter!” But then at the back door, I had to wait as he put on his shoes and tied them and tried to make small talk about the weather while I was very blatantly NOT giving him a tip. And then he got his shoes on and walked through the garage and reminded me to close the garage door and we must have said goodbye/take care to each other at least four times all while I was not giving him a tip OMG it was so awkward. I hope he knows I will get him next time.

That’s it from me, Internet. After that grueling interaction, not to mention the anticipation thereof, I need to lie down for the rest of the day. (Kidding. Mainly.)

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