perspective

Special Deliveries

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I am a huge Amazon fan.  Like, huge. Maybe too big.

Me and Amazon go back a long way. I peeked in my decades-old email inbox and saw my oldest email from Amazon.com is from 2003 when I had a baby registry there.  I know I was a customer years before that though. I loved Amazon when they just sold books and  spending 25 bucks to get super saver shipping was the coolest. Prime wasn’t even a thing.

I loved Amazon when it was losing money and people didn’t think it would survive. (Yes, there was a time when Amazon did not make money!)  I was a college student then, busy falling in love with knowledge and reading and all that nonsense, when Amazon was the place for all my little philosophy and poetry tomes, long before Amazon baby registries.

I do know that Amazon isn’t everything. Over the years I have learned to seek out and shop small businesses when I can.  Local bookstores, hardware stores, boutiques…I try to shop them often.  But still, there are some times when Amazon’s selection and even price and return policy can’t be matched. (Not to mention you can shop them in your pajamas when you just think of something you need and voila!  It’s there in 2 days.)

Of course, the pandemic has caused retail pandemonium. Even more people are shopping online. Delivery services are taxed to the max. Amazon didn’t escape this fate.  My little reliable Prime symbol doesn’t even mean 2-day shipping anymore. Only “essential items” from these categories would be delivered quickly: baby products, health and household, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific, and pet supplies.  Everything else was in slow motion.

I guess this didn’t really sink in for me for a while. Here I am, spending most of my time at home, many businesses closed.  Times have truly, deeply changed, both in a global sense and in a personal sense. I’ve been using my hour once spent commuting to the gym and work to read every morning. Of the many changes I’ve taken on, that has been a bright spot.  But, my book supply was small, and reading for nearly an hour each day has me flying through books quickly.  A visit to the local Barnes & Noble isn’t an option. Libraries are closed (?!?!?)  So, of course, I ordered a couple of titles from Amazon.

FOUR WEEKS.

It was going to take four weeks!  And one is a best seller!  Geez.  Another sign of the times.

I see Amazon trucks scurrying everywhere through traffic and their delivery people running up to doors.  I know people are working hard.  I’ll survive.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was granted a hundred dollars from our school PTA to spend on classroom supplies earlier this week. I had to spend it quickly, so I just piled a bunch of colored copy paper in my Amazon cart and hit order now.  I knew we didn’t have any at work and I knew we wouldn’t need it anytime soon, since we won’t have students in the building until the fall.  It was just a simple thing to stock up on and Amazon usually has decent prices.  I clicked it and forgot about it.

Then, VOILA.  What shows up on my doorstep in less than 24 hours?  The 8 reams of paper I didn’t really need for months, in a large box marked “HEAVY.”

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I was shocked.  Really?

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the books I ordered weeks ago, the items I truly needed now – or even last month.

I guess this probably sounds quibblesome to many.  A definite first-world problem.  Maybe it’s selfish of me to wish I could have somehow deemed my books essential items.  After all, they are what I am using to work on my mindset and my future wealth.  I get that books aren’t at the top of many people’s priority lists. Screens are more an essential for most these days, and others have said that focusing long enough to read in these troubled times is impossible.  But for me, books have been a saving grace.  And for those who are isolating alone, I can imagine books can be essential for some.

Still, I can wait.  What was sillier to me was my heavy, cumbersome box of Atomic Orange copy paper, which I didn’t need anytime soon, zipped to my home address like it was on the Pony Express.  Can I find a way to trade my priorities?  Or somehow push the paper down the delivery list so the urgently essential items (whatever those are) can get to their destinations more quickly?

But in the end, who decides what is essential?  And why? It’s different around the world, and not without controversy.  Amazon, who started out in the book industry, now has books as non-essential items.  Amazon, you’ve forgotten where you came from!  (The conspiracy theorist in me says, of course they don’t want us to read!  Reading means we can think for ourselves!  They’re trying to limit our access to information.  And did I mention that the LIBRARIES ARE CLOSED??!?)

Calm down, Beth. Really though, it’s probably not much more than another shuffling sign of the times in the age of corona.  And it brings a new appreciation for the conveniences I took for granted. And a whole lot of neon-colored paper collecting dust in the cupboard.

 

 

 

 

 

family

Grocery Store Chronicles

When I was close to 10 years old I would go with my Mom every Friday to shop for groceries with my Nana. I didn’t know it then but I learned so many lessons from these Friday trips.

I learned to care for others. I learned that elderly people needed a little help whether it was transportation or help with lifting or even just social time with loved ones to talk. I learned that I liked Fridays with my Nana because she gave me candy, ice cream or even some change for helping out. I was rewarded for being nice. I was the youngest sibling so I was toted along always. I never minded the time spent and when I look back I’m glad I had the opportunity. I also learned math at the register and so many other little tidbits.

I didn’t really notice at the time how independent my Nana was. She always had her own cart. She always paid for her own groceries. She also put up the divider between her order and ours. She was doing what she needed all by herself with just a little support from us. Not financial support but assistance getting to and from and being social.

There were definitely more cash transactions back then and the clerk even knew how to count change for one dollar or a twenty. Today is 95% credit card and most clerks need to read the change back amount on the computer to complete the transaction. Such a shift over time.

It wasn’t too much longer before my Nana passed but I still remember those Friday trips like it was yesterday. Vivid memories yet I can’t ever recall how much time we spent at the store. I’m thinking it was a long time now that I think back.

Now fast forward to today. It’s corona time! Life has slowed on many levels as noted previously in posts like Nature Therapy. A slower style I have been adapting to and enjoying. Not sure how long the slow pace will last but for now I’m enjoying the relaxation.

Today I had the honor of taking my Mom to the grocery store out of the blue. Masked, observing social distance and limiting touch. How different it was from when I was a kid…. I may have licked the pole on the way out back in the day. Talk about how times have changed! The trip awakened many childhood memories of shopping with my Nana. I invited my teen daughter to go along but given corona she opted for a big no which is a good gesture however another indication of change in time. As I noted above as the youngest I was toted along. Nowadays kids seem to get choices.

In my fast-paced hectic life, I’m used to running into the store grabbing what I need and getting the heck out, whether it’s pre-corona or during corona so I don’t catch anything. Anyway this trip was different. My Mom physically moves slower. She likes to look at all her options. She likes to check her coupons. She like to compare pricing to the ad she had for another store. No iPhone to google a price. No rush to be anywhere. No need for speed. How this brings back memories of shopping with my Nana.

I observe and adapt to my surroundings. I go with the flow. The slow flow. And I mean a turtle’s pace to get through the produce section. Then the deli counter where the meat needs to be sliced just right and she needs white American cheese not orange cheese! Then we have to skip the ice cream section because that has to be last so it doesn’t melt. Then if she buys the strawberries she needs the shells to make shortcakes and don’t forget the whipped cream. None of this was in her to buy list by the way. Her time to shop was a field trip of sorts. She needed to get out of the house for a sense of normalcy. She needs to pay for it herself for her sense of independence. She needs to choose what she wants.

The cart started to get heavy but she needs it to rest her weight. She pushes I pull. We must be a comedy show for those crazed folks darting around the store to get what they want as if the place was on fire and here we are puttering around as if time is of no matter. My surroundings didn’t seem to phase me. I was supporting the one I was with. I live life in the driver’s seat yet in this situation I am a passenger. I’m looking out the virtual window to see what’s around.

When you slow down to this pace you observe so much. Some of which can be ugly. For example, a person snagging the last can of green beans off the shelf in their haste and hurry not realizing they just snatched it from the reach of an older person who moves slow. Craziness is what I say to myself but did the person even notice because they were on a mission to get in and out fast. They might not have seen her waiting 6 feet away, waiting for her turn at the shelf when one hurried in snatched and hurried off?

She is in her 80s. She is not phased by corona. She wore a mask so others didn’t judge her but it wasn’t comfortable. It irritated her left eye and moved around causing her to adjust often. She had taken great care to watch a nurse show the proper way to put a mask on in a YouTube video and she said it doesn’t work. I keep touching my face. This is pointless. The nurse video said don’t touch your face. I just shook my head and smiled.

We were in the store close to one hour thirty minutes. Quite possibly my longest trip to the grocery store ever. It was just one cart full. They didn’t have many items she needed and for that I get to get up early and go again in the morning. And she wants to go to make sure I buy the right items.

This is hilarious and awesome all at the same time. One day I won’t have the opportunity to go shopping with my Mom but today I did. Corona didn’t stop her and it didn’t control her tempo, her attitude or her ability to make me giggle. To give you a visual of our shenanigans the photo below is from day 2 of shopping. This visit was Target and I was ever so thankful for the “Caroline cart” designed for special needs folks but my Mom has her own special needs; her limited ability to walk but she doesn’t think she is ready for a wheelchair so this was a great compromise. It also allowed me to zoom through the aisles faster and limit my time to 45 minutes with her all buckled in the seat. She would kill me for posting this but I’m a big fan so it’s an honor for me to share.

In about 40 years time so much has changed about visiting a grocery store. I have my memories and I have today. Now I can’t wait to see what it’s like in another forty years when somebody totes me to the grocery store or maybe they won’t because modern times will send a courier with my groceries.

Do you have any fond memories of grocery shopping? It may seem like a silly question but I hope you have memories like me.

balance, challenges

Abundance

It was my fourth trip to the grocery store in the past ten days.

Even in that long time, the scene was mostly the same.  Fruits and veggies were pretty well stocked.

But, canned goods were basically empty. Same with the pasta aisle. Fresh meat cases completely bare. Bread was hit or miss. Toilet paper shelves had tumbleweeds on them once again…ten days later.  Ten days!?!

It’s enough to make me anxious.  People walking around the store, shopping with masks and gloves, looks of mistrust.

Where did everything go?  Why is there nothing left?

Early on in this coronavirus crisis, I listened to a podcast by Lewis Howes.  I was still going in to my job at that point, so it was only a week ago (but wow it seems like so much has happened in that week).  I was listening to “8 Ways to be Calm and Prepared During a Crisis.”  It was number 8 that stood out to me the most: Keep giving.  Howes talks about how important it is to stay in an abundant mindset, even when (maybe especially when) things are scarce.

But it’s not just an abundance of things he is talking about.  He talks about time, energy, effort, love for people we know and even people we don’t.  He told a story about an exchange with a stranger in an elevator.  Instead of ignoring the person at this awkward time, he made the effort to talk to them and share just a word or two of general encouragement.  We are all in this mess together (even if we have to stay physically separated from most).

I took his advice this week.  Every morning as I was out riding my bike or running, I made it a point to say a clear “good morning” to everyone I passed.  I looked them in the eye. Many were surprised, but most responded.  During the day, I reached out to colleagues just to check in and say hello.  I tried to text my gym friends, since many of us have stopped going and I want to encourage them to stay active and connected.  I had longer talks with both of my brothers than I have had in months.  I wrote letters and started creating artwork to send to people I can’t see or who might need a lift.

Abundance happens to be a common theme in the book I am reading right now, too: “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero.  More on that later, but continuing to work on my inner dialogue about what my purpose is and what is available to me is a big challenge. I do think I happen to be reading this book right now for a reason.  I have never had an abundance mindset, which is reflected in my home, my income, how much I eat, how much I spend, and all kinds of other ways. I have always been worried I will run out of things.  But, as I have been working on for years, I am rewriting my story toward a more magnificent ending. This is one doozy of a chapter for me, and for many of us.

How about you? How can you come from a place of abundance when we are faced with possibly having less, earning less, even trusting less and connecting less?  What do you have to give abundantly? We all have something, even many things.  Who can you lift today?  Share your story in the comments.

 

 

dare to be different, giving, inspire

Making Local a Priority

This year I decided to make a goal to spend money with local small businesses. I actually track my spends and make a firm commitment to choose local and small even if it costs more for a particular item. I’m not going cold turkey on Amazon Prime by any means. Just making a percentage of my spend hit the local economy.

So far so good. I am excited about these choices. I am excited about helping a small business live another day.

I went to a local restaurant with friends. It had a good vibe and allowed pets in its outdoorsy environment. I decided I’d buy a t-shirt and gift card. Each was given to a different person to build the hype. Hopefully they will buy something and share their experience with a friend. It’s that simple to stimulate the local economy.

A friend works at a pet store, locally owned and operated. I have pets. I bought some special treats. Those treat make my pets happy but also helps my friend have a job.

My car needs an oil change. I can go to the corporate dealership but I like going to the local shop down the street. The service is good and I get to talk to the mechanic. I can’t get that attention at the dealership. I can even see the work getting done in the bay vs. sitting in a lobby with the TV or internet. Check out my photo above for a view of my mechanic’s shop where I happened to drop by when this sweet car was in for a little tune up. Not sure the year but it sure did have a pretty paint job.

It’s crazy what you can observe if you just slow down and appreciate what’s right in front of you. At the holidays many shop online to avoid the crowds. I get that, but then we miss the human interaction with the workers. We miss the smiles exchanged. We miss the crazy customer who gets mad when they can’t find something. Isn’t there a value in shopping in the muck of it all?

I am going to enjoy my community a little more this year by opening my eyes to what’s right in front of me.

Having a small business is hard work and when you read about one closing, you immediately think what went wrong? Well many things could go wrong but at the end of the day if I never went in to that storefront and bought their cup of coffee or their dog biscuits then I didn’t really help them have a fighting chance.

Big companies have strong leaders making key decisions and a boat load of funding. A small business is a family behind the scene. It means a kid getting to play little league or getting new shoes when mom or dad finally takes a paycheck. It means that business lives another day.

This month a local coffee house shut down as in went out of business. Is it a coincidence that Starb**** opened up next door inside Kroger’s grocery store? Probably not as folks may find it easier to get their latte while they shop vs walking a few doors down. Convenience is good but once a week visiting the local independent coffee shop could make the difference in the owner making their rent payment that month. Just food for thought.

This post could go on and on but the simple point is take a little bit of your monthly spend and divert to a local small business. It could be a hair salon, a nail salon, a restaurant, a bike shop, etc. it may not be the cheapest but I bet the owner is passionate about what they provide to the community.

While you are at it, give a local company shout out on the web. So many people read reviews. Make sure to note it’s a local favorite to build trust. Today I made my Saturday a small business Saturday and hit a locally owned place I adore called Pat’s Eatery. A place where you can sip coffee with friends for an extended period of time and the owner is cooking up a storm on his Saturday morning. The server is a long-time employee who must love her job because she is as permanent as the sign on the exterior of the building. It’s always a pleasure when she serves you. Smiles and conversations are a must.

Have fun experiencing your local community. Put your own special twist on this. Visit a farmers market. Buy from a local artist. Have a sales meeting a local coffee shop. Make a difference in community with the money you are going to spend anyway.