It should be noted right off the bat that if you badmouth Google, you will pay. In my experience, the primary currency they extract comes from the nerdy henchmen living in their mother’s basements who run Google Maps, modern day sandbaggers if ever I saw them. You cannot convince me that there is no mischief, dare I say malice, lurking behind those directions that take you through sketchy neighborhoods, along steep back roads, through the parking lots of deserted K-Marts, all, allegedly, to “save you time”. Meanwhile, Sir Nerds-a-lot cackles maniacally from beneath the Star Trek poster above his twin bed while he frantically types the next directions.
I badmouthed Google.
Was it foolhardy to do so in an email on my Gmail account? Sure. But in my defense, I honestly thought the subtlety of my insult would go way over their heads. Obviously, it did not, because the directions I have received ever since have been nothing short of weird.
The weather this week has born a delightful similarity to a broiler that someone forgot to turn off for a few days, so I have been taking the kids out on small, mostly pointless jaunts each day just so we could bask in the marvel that is anemic air conditioning in our 20-something year old minivan, the Earl of Towcester (pronounced Toaster. Obviously). We braved the library (talk about heat — what with the flames of hell licking the bulletin board at the door, we did quite the scurry), met the Meat Man, who I expect will get his own post here pretty soon, and most notably, went shopping at Target and Trader Joe’s.
Now, you are obviously all very cosmopolitan readers — I mean, why else would you be here — so these errands probably do not strike you as noteworthy. But we Braendleins… well… we don’t get out much and are therefore greatly pleased by the small things in life, which is why we drove nearly 45 minutes to get to the town that has a blinky light to push when you cross the roundabout that takes you from the Target to the Trader Joe’s. It is greatly pleasing.
(Side note: yes. These are both businesses worth boycotting for any number of reasons. Both have a level of moral bankruptcy that takes a certain amount of heave-ho to work pass the gag reflex, and yes, I did swear off Trader Joe’s during their radical covid phase when they followed me around the store insisting I could breathe too well through my mask to be allowed to shop there. I have not forgotten. But they also have really good nectarines and the soul pines in Western Washington this time of year. See how little it takes for my resolve to be weakened… I can hear Joan of Arc tsking me from her ash heap. Or rather, I would hear it if the sound of my slurping a juicy nectarine was not so loud).
God turns evil for good for His people. So what the minions of Big Tech intended as vindictive payback for my email implication that Google was probably always the last one picked for dodge ball as a kid and that no one had ever loved it enough to bake it a birthday cake, God intended as a flight of discovery into a quiet, green, winding road that took us indirectly to our shopping adventure. You know, we have a choice, always a choice, when God gives us the winding way: whine about how long it took and how it messed up our plans, or clap our hands in laughter and ask Him to do it again! Perhaps I am veering into sacrilege… but I wonder if God laughs delightedly when we are tickled pink by His gifts, especially the ones we weren’t asking for.
The reason we needed to forge ahead into the Target came from an invitation to a church shower for a young bride who is getting married in the next few weeks. I would be lying if I claimed not to wonder if the invitation had been a mistake, like perhaps the hostess was trying to send it to Brenda Bobalink and her phone got (understandably) confused. Trousseau parties seem a lovely idea to me, on principle… I just always imagined you would want people you had actually met to be the ones decking you out in conjugal splendor. Etiquette perhaps dictated that I should have responded to the invitation with a, “Really? Are you sure?” But in the moment, I was flattered (danger, Will Robinson!) and thus etiquette was given the scoot and I found myself shopping for lingerie, with four kids in tow.
Anything worth doing is worth doing in the most uncomfortable way possible.
For better or worse (little marital pun for y’all), I have something of a history of giving lingerie at wedding showers. Personally, kitchen showers are my favorite venue. I like to find a really bohemian thong or something else blush-worthy and wrap it around a kitchen spoon or the like with a note that says, “Because all good things begin in the kitchen” or words to that effect. And why? Purely because it is entertaining to me. But I do generally like to humiliate people I know… humiliating strangers just comes across as sort of mean-spirited, I find (and yes, of course I have tested this. Have we met?). But I girded up my loins (wow that suddenly feels like an inappropriate metaphor), insisted that my offspring go be fascinated by the hair clip table, and took to a pile of brightly colored nylon.
Can I just say, as a brief aside entirely unrelated to the bride in question, that I really want to know why there is not a cute bralette that can handle boobs bigger than those of a 9-year-old? I am not quite forty and I admit, the thought of something pretty and lacy still appeals until I wear the wimpy little sucker for an hour or two and find myself sporting what can only safely be referred to as a seedy underboob. Then I am forced to succumb to the distinctly unattractive boob hitch, the process wherein you lurk behind open refrigerator doors or step into coat closets to reach into the flimsy bit of strappy lace and hoist the girls from above, back into their rigging, such as it is. Surely a sturdy bit of underwire would solve this, would it not? And yes, I am aware that I have now shared way too much information and that you are now clutching your eyes in agony, Samson-like, only to realize that the problem with vivid mental imagery is that you do not need eyes to see them. Sorry about that. Sleep is overrated anyway, stop complaining. And if you are the Christopher Columbus of bralettes and have already discovered this magical supportive whatsit, please do me a favor and stick it in the comments.
The sun was high in the sky by the time we emerged, triumphant, and laden with all things silky and maritally blessed (along with a few other things that we likely did not need, but shall thoroughly enjoy) and yet despite the blazing heat, to hop in the car and drive 500 feet felt silly (not to mention, it would deprive of us of the small joy of the blinky lights while crossing the roundabout), so we trotted across on foot and burst into the Trader Joe’s, red-faced and sweaty, but delighted to be in the place where the air conditioning and the chocolate cat crackers live.
The problem, which I absolutely should have anticipated seeing as I have lived with myself many a year now, was that it does not matter if you only bring two bags into the store and have only four items on your list. If the temperature is in the 90’s and you are already out on a bit of a pleasure trip (wow, suddenly everything I say is sounding inappropriate in the light of that trousseau shower), you are not going to walk out with a polite bag of nectarines and a bottle of cinnamon. You are much more likely to come out with two watermelons, four boxes of stone fruit, several packs of beer that you would never normally pick up, and a lot of ice cream. I flat out forgot the cinnamon. It was also lunchtime. You can see where this is going.
We were a sight walking out of that store, using young elbows to bonk the button for the blinking lights (which had, by now, lost their glitz and glamour through the curtain of sweat dripping into our eyes), heavily laden with groceries. Years ago, I had someone holler from their porch as we walked by that we look like a family of quail. The description is apt. I herded my little quail, beer and fruit tucked under armpits and chins, across the road and we sang for the last 100 feet, loudly and with much laughter and panting.
One of my favorite sensory experiences is actually stepping into a hot car on a bright sunny day. Hard to explain why, but it makes me feel like a kid again, and on this particular day, the experience was perfected by immediately tearing into the box of mini ice cream cones. We purposefully took the long, green way home, air blasting on our toasty faces, ice cream dripping down our fingers leaving us in that state of sticky bliss that can only be achieved by everything going a little bit wrong…
It is practically a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, if you think about it (incidentally, I hated those kinds of books as a kid. Still do, actually. Man up, writer, and finish the book well enough that we don’t all wish you had given us a choice). Be irritated that you were taken the long way, or be in awe that God tucked such beauty into an urban environment. Give in to the stress of the moment, or include your people in the comedy that is LIFE and take the opportunity to teach those kids why sex is a great gift hidden within another great gift called marriage and why it is ok to say that out loud in a Target, where they are trying to convince us that gender is a social construct and that marriage holds no more meaning than a tub of Playdo. Be a slave to the American idol of “healthy eating” or eat ice cream for lunch in your hot car with a thankful heart, dare I say, with glee.
Go on. Get sticky with the goodness of God.