Costco on a Saturday=Suburban Zombie Apocalypse Training

Living in suburbia, as I now do, is generally fairly peaceful. Yes, we have a full menagerie of unwanted animals making their home in our gigantic yard, which leaves me feeling like Snow White from time to time (although instead of singing at the animals, I’m screaming at them like an angry old man to get off my lawn). But overall, suburbia is peaceful.

Which is why we have Costco.

Because going to Costco on a weekend is the single worst thing you can do in suburbia.  

But it’s necessary. Not just because once you have a house, you need to buy all of the toilet paper in the world to fill it, but also because it’s the only training ground that we suburbanites have for the zombie apocalypse.

Your training begins in the parking lot, which closely resembles what the world will look like after most of humanity falls prey to the deadly disease that will cause zombie-ism, but before the zombies rise back from the dead. It’s a sea of abandoned cars, where it’s necessary to practice dodging around the remaining people, children running amok, wayward shopping carts, and cars filled with the elderly. Danger is everywhere.
If you have survived parking (and the torment of watching people spend nine years trying to back an SUV into a parking space…which I will NEVER understand. The whole purpose of Costco is to buy items in such quantities as to necessitate the use of your trunk. WHY WOULD YOU BACK YOUR CAR IN AND MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO REACH YOUR TRUNK???), you have to show your membership card at the door. This is NOT actually to keep non-members out. The real reason they have this protective barrier at the gate is to make you think about whether you actually want to descend into the hell that is Costco on a weekend. It’s not too late to turn back yet!
Except it is, because you already parked. And it’s not worth fighting that parking lot again to come back on another day because even though Costco itself may be less crowded on a weekday, the zombified parking lot won’t be.
So in you go. Your first thought may be that you’ve entered a foreign country, which is understandable because it resembles the airport scene in Romancing the Stone.  Rest assured, you’re still in the United States, but zombie apocalypse training has begun in earnest.
 
In the early stages of the store, it’s not so bad. The zombies are just starting to turn, and unlike the crazed rage-virus/World War Z (the movie, not the book) zombies, they’re still fairly docile at this stage. And it’s time to stock up with the supplies you’ll need to survive the rest of the store/apocalypse. You can grab inordinate amounts of Ziploc bags, sponges, Kirkland-brand clothes, batteries, etc. 
But make sure you visit the sporting equipment area because you’ll need something to fight off the hordes when you get to food. I recommend a samurai sword. It’s Costco. They have them. They have everything.
The problems start as you near the baked goods. Now if you’re smart and/or paleo, you don’t eat baked goods and therefore don’t NEED to visit this section. But you have to cross it to get to the rest of the food, so you’re screwed either way. This will be your first encounter with the zombie masses
.
The next stage of your training will really depend on how hungry you are when you arrive at Costco, how much willpower you have, and whether you possess any athletic ability. 
 

If you’re not hungry or have the willpower to avoid whatever delicious treat the sample lady is providing to the zombies, then this is a great opportunity for you to practice sneaking past hungry zombie herds. You have to be careful so that they don’t turn on you, but this is an important skill to possess in the zombie apocalypse. There will be times when you have to sneak past the zombies in order to survive. And you want to be able to do that without hiding in a bathtub like that Will Smith coward!

The trick is vigilance. Wait until the sample lady is JUST ABOUT to start serving something. Because if you’re standing there when she runs out of food, you’re going to become the food. And if you’re walking by when she’s serving, it’s going to feel like the running of the bulls. The zombies won’t care, they’re just going to trample you to get to the delicious serving of brains/sponge cake that’s being given out. So when the zombies begin massing toward the sample, you RUN past them. Don’t hesitate. Don’t look back. Just run. And if anyone gets in your way, that’s why you have a cart! Plow them down! It’s kill or be killed!

You’re now in the most dangerous part of the survival maze because there are sample stations everywhere. The middle of the aisles are generally safe, but you’re in serious peril at ever crossroad. And the zombies have gotten their blood sugar up from the baked goods they sampled first and are now starving and descending en masse on any sample station they can find. 
 

You’re outnumbered here. If you use the trick from baked goods of waiting until they begin serving, you’ll die. Believe me. Once the zombies know the samples are coming, they’ll rip you limb from limb to get a good spot to wait for them. I still have the scars from the time I happened to reach for a case of Greek yogurt just as the sample lady was pulling pizza bagel bites out of the toaster oven. It wasn’t pretty, and some wounds never heal.

Instead, you have to sneak past the outer perimeter of the herd while the food is being prepared. They’re in rest state at that time, as long as you don’t disturb them. If, however, you try to blend in for a sample and don’t stay on the outer perimeter, you won’t live through the day.

But, Sara, pizza bagel bites are delicious! I have to try one!

You poor, poor fool!

Okay, here goes. Remember that samurai sword or other weapon you grabbed in the sporting goods section? Strap it to your back so that you can access it, but don’t go in wielding it. If we’ve learned anything from South Park, it’s that you can’t go around decapitating zombies left and right! 

 
If you want to make it to the food, you have to blend in with the zombie throng. If you have any cold cuts in your cart, putting them on your face Silence of the Lambs style to make it look like you’re already half eaten will help. If not, any random blood will do. Rend your clothes, slow your walk to an undead amble, and mumble gibberish. If you speak another language, that’s fine to use, if not, make a lot of guttural sounds—zombies speak a language very similar to Yiddish. 
Above all, do NOT make eye contact!

Slowly follow the zombies to the food source, grab yours quickly and then run as fast and as far as you can. If you get stuck, use the sword! That’s why you have it! GO! 

Assuming you have made it this far, you’re home free! Until, that is, you get to the unending series of lines, at which point you wait. And wait. The process of which coagulates your blood until you begin to feel like one of the zombies yourself. Try not to gnaw anyone’s limbs off as they stack your things in your cart without bags. It’s the ability to keep from eating the other people that makes the distinction between us and them at this stage.
Then you’re just a sharpie mark on a receipt away from freedom! Or at least the parking lot.

And just think, you get to do it all over again next weekend.

Ah, suburbia.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost–because I own a house

While home sick this week, I decided to take the opportunity to do something I never get to do now that I’m married. I watched a horror movie.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the Hubby can’t even handle the evil queen scenes in a Disney movie. The second there’s scary music and a darkened room, he’s out. When I started watching American Horror Story, I had to shut it off before he would even enter the room because the opening credits were too scary for him.  (Granted, I haven’t been in our basement since watching Murder House.  But the Hubby doesn’t need to know that!)

But he’s cute and he puts up with Downton Abbey, New Girl, Game of Thrones, and Orange is the New Black, despite claiming to hate all four of them (which is clearly a blatant lie, but whatever). And I prefer horror books to horror movies anyway, so I didn’t consider giving up my scary movies to be much of a sacrifice. And I can still watch them when he’s not home, which makes them even better because then I get the additional fear factor of NOT having him there to protect me from the evil monsters in the television.

So I sat down (okay laid down with Rosie, a cup of tea, and a box of tissues—I WAS sick after all) to watch The Conjuring. And wound up browsing Wayfair on my phone for living room furniture, the prices of which scared me more than the movie.

It’s not that I’m unscare-able. I’m quite scare-able. I still haven’t watched the clown doll scene in Poltergeist. I know the kid lives. I know the doll isn’t real. But as soon as it’s off that chair, I’m out. Too scary.

I think the real problem is home ownership. The premise of haunted house movies SHOULD terrify home owners. You’re moving into a new space and you have no idea what else could be living in there with you.   And that’s basically how every haunted house movie starts.

Although I’ve definitely gained a greater appreciation for why the family always stays in the house.  Like as a kid, I’d be yelling at the screen for the stupid family to just move out.  But now, I get it.  We sank our entire life-savings into our house, plus all of our wedding present money into fixing it up.  I don’t care if the walls bleed, there are monsters in the closets, or some demonic voices telling us to GET OUT.  I’ll tell them to either shut up or get out themselves.  We’re going nowhere!

However, since buying our dream house a year ago, I’ve discovered that there are far worse problems that a house can have than a couple of malicious spirits.

Like the toxic mold in our air vents. While the Hubby claims that I’m sick from October to April, that’s typically not entirely true. Yes, as a teacher, I get sick a little more often than the average professional (thanks, kids, for sneezing all over my computer keyboard every time you sit at it. I appreciate that oh so much). But I’ve had a chronic cough that no course of modern medicine or even good, old-fashioned chicken soup from my grandma will fix since we moved in. So the Hubby decided it was time to get the air vents cleaned. I agreed, bought a Groupon, and a nice Israeli man came and ripped all of our painted-over vents off the wall (thanks previous homeowners) and cleaned one square inch inside each one, then showed us what the rest of our vents looked like and told us the exorbitant sum it will cost to get that scum out of our house.

Pretty sure an exorcism is cheaper and more effective than that.

Not to mention the other problem that the air-vent skimmer showed us. Apparently our dryer vent was made of paper. Not metal. Not even plastic. Literal, flammable-as-all-hell paper.

Which, while scary, was not entirely surprising to us, because we have long-since discovered that the previous homeowners were the cheapest people on the planet. Mr. Previous Homeowner considered himself quite the handyman, and he therefore he did all of the wiring and electrical work in the house himself. Which means that everything is a fire-hazard. Our electrician’s eyes literally displayed dollar signs when he saw what was going on in our unlabeled fuse box.

But the fire hazards didn’t disappear when we fixed the wiring. When we pulled out the old, hideous wood-burning stove insert in the hopes of having a working fireplace, we discovered that there was no fireplace liner and that all of the 1970s tiles that predated liners in our chimney were cracked, coated in creosote from numerous chimney fires, and basically guaranteed to burn our house down if we even attempted to build a fire. Twenty-five hundred dollars later, we had a working fireplace.

Of course, the working fireplace was a necessity because every time the wind blows, a tree falls down in our backyard. Which was terrifying because many of those trees are close enough to our house to cause severe damage, but also because sometimes the trees don’t fall entirely–instead they have massive severed hanging limbs waiting to fall on poor innocent Rosie while she sniffs out the herds of deer and foxes that inherit our yard. And adding to the fear factor there is the price-tag that comes with any tree work.

Because as handy as Hubby and I can be, shimmying a tree with a chainsaw to hack off dangerously dangling limbs is not in our repertoire.

But the working fireplace is necessary for more than just the burning off all of the surfeit of wood that now takes up ¾ of our half-acre yard—because possibly one of the scariest things about home ownership is the cost of heating our house in winter. While I know that ghosts are said to lower the temperature in a house, they only do it in the rooms that they’re in. And our house is cold in all rooms. We replaced the ancient French patio doors that literally had gaps at the top and bottom and we put on fireplace doors, both of which helped. But keeping the house above 62 degrees costs more than a ten night Springsteen stand at the Meadowlands.

The bottom line of which is that I would gladly trade some poltergeists for certain elements of the realities of home-ownership. Granted, ghosts can interfere with a good night’s sleep, but I’m an insomniac anyway. And a haunting would provide excellent fodder for a new book, which could eventually help assuage some of the costs of our typical household horrors.

At least until we have kids. Because that looks like it hurts a lot and the cost of college these days is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Do the math: If teachers were paid like babysitters, we would earn $200k+ per year #teacherproblems

At the risk of sounding like Rodney Dangerfield, teaching really is a job where I get no respect.

Not from the kids—the kids respect me plenty. Mostly because I talk to them like they’re actual people, have high expectations for them, and really care about them. Which is also probably why most of them call me “mom.” But that’s a story for another day.

So where does this lack of respect come from? Well, the answer is society.

We’ve all heard variations of the expression, “Those who can’t do, teach.” This is the single most condescending thing you can say to a teacher, because there isn’t a successful person in this world who would be where they are without their teachers.  

Does that mean that all teachers are wonderful and deserving of Michelle Pfeifer to play them in a movie? No. There are some terrible teachers out there too. Remember those ditsy girls who twirled their hair around their fingers and said, “I’m going to be a teacher when I grow up”? Yeah, they are. But there are also some pretty amazing people in schools today, and let me tell you, we’re not doing it for the money.

Let’s do some basic math here. (And yes, I understand that I am an English teacher, but I can still do basic math. But I’ll use round numbers to make life easier for everyone.)

A babysitter earns about $10-$15 an hour to watch 2-3 kids as the little darlings watch tv, pick their noses, and play with Legos. (Side note: do kids still play with Legos or is everything digital these days? Because my kids are definitely going to play with Legos. If for no other reason, they’ll play with Legos because they need to understand the pain of stepping on one in their bare feet. I’m not raising soft-footed wimps in my house!) Which works out to about $5 per kid per hour.

I watch 30 kids an hour. But my kids aren’t watching tv and stepping on Legos in their bare feet (although that would be an AWESOME punishment for misbehavior. Hmmm…). No, my kids are learning, and I am held accountable for that learning. If I just plopped all 30 of them down in front of a tv every day, I wouldn’t have my job much longer, tenure or no.

But let’s assume for a moment that I was paid babysitter rates for teaching my students. This would mean I’d be making $150/hour, which at eight hours a day, 190 days a year translates to roughly $228,000 per year.

We can quibble over some finer details of that, as I do have two planning periods in my day and don’t actually clock 40 hours in the building at school every week, but I do spend more than eight hours a day working when grading is factored in. But a babysitter isn’t actively involved with kids during the entire time either assuming that the children have a bed time, so using round numbers, the $228,000 a year model still applies without having to add in extra days for the summer, winter break, or spring break.

Living large, huh?

Hah.

In reality, I’m making about $1.50 per kid per hour. And I work in one of the highest paying school districts in the country.

Starting salary for a teacher with a master’s degree in my district is $51,128. Ending salary for that same teacher working 25 years or more in the system without obtaining additional degrees is $96,966.

This means that a 25-year-veteran teacher with a master’s degree in education is making less than half of the per-kid, per-hour rate that the 15-year-old girl who watches your kids on a Saturday night, then raids your fridge while watching pay-per-view movies on your account with her boyfriend, is making.

Are you freaking kidding me?

Now I understand that even teacher salaries follow the laws of supply and demand and therefore know that parents are willing to spend extra money to gain the freedom that comes with paying a babysitter to put their kids to bed so they can go to the movies and feel like normal people for an evening instead of just “Mom and Dad.” But if you want to know why school systems around the world are consistently outperforming American schools, that de-prioritizing of educational necessities is a huge factor.

And while there are many extremely gifted teachers who are slogging through the meager-salaried days to do one of the most noble and thankless jobs out there, there are an abundant number of people who would be just as or even more amazing, but who opted out of anything resembling teaching in order to make a more comfortable living.

The moral of my story is simple: If you want to complain that teaching is for those who can’t do, then start paying us what those who are out there “doing” are earning. Because I can promise you that if you raise teaching salaries to even just those bare bones babysitter rates, you’ll have one of the most competitive job markets around.

            

                

You know you’re a teacher when… this post makes perfect sense! #teacherproblems

 There are days when I know that I have the best job in the world.
And those days typically fall between the middle of June and the middle of August.
 
Which is how you know that I’m a teacher.
 
 Because I am a teacher, I know that everyone brings his or her own set of experiences to the table.  We are all a unique part of the rich fabric of society and all that crap.

  

But the reality is, when you’re a teacher, you’re living a very different life from people who work in the “real world.”*
 
*Their term, not mine. Anyone who tells me that they have a “real” job when I tell them that I’m a teacher can expect a swift punch to the face. Seriously. Can you read this? Thank a freaking teacher. You’re welcome.
 
For those of you who are also in the trenches, I salute you. Enjoy.
 
For those of you who aren’t, use this as a guide to identify teachers and therefore know which individuals deserve your respect. Long gone are the days when teachers were required to be single women of virtue, but even without the schoolmarm dress and hairdo, there are certain tells that will allow you to spot a teacher in the wild.

 

You know you’re a teacher when:

  •   You have the strongest bladder of anyone you know. 
  • You know that yelling isn’t necessary. The power of your eyes alone can silence even the worst class. Looks may not be able to kill, but they can certainly tell you to sit down and STFU.
 
  • You think Michelle Obama’s side-eye is impressive… for a non-teacher.
  • You are an expert at hiding things in Facebook pictures. When scholars and historians look back at the social media revolution, they’ll think that standing with a hand behind your back at a bar or concert was a popular picture pose, such as the Napoleonic hand-in-the-coat stance.

Not so. It just means we’re held to a higher standard than normal people and are not allowed to be photographed near anything containing alcohol, even though we’re legally allowed to consume it.

  • You use more acronyms than a covert government organization. “Oh no, I can’t make the pre-BTSN IB/AP PLC during STEP because my RT booked me into a T2 MYP training with my AP and SDT about whether PARCC has BCRs and ECRs on it like the old HSAs and what the MOD looks like for IEPs and 504s.” THAT SENTENCE ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE TO TEACHERS! 
  •  You develop an ulcer from all of the coffee you need to keep you alive. Crippling pain in your stomach and sixty more Huck Finn essays to grade? Oh well, make it a venti, please!

  • You know that there is no hell worse than grading. Dante had no idea what he was talking about. The inner circle of hell is an endless stack of essays filled with grammatical errors and helicopter parents arguing every point with you.
  
  • You have an intimate relationship with at least one Xerox machine in the building and feel it should buy you dinner after the amount of time you’ve spent with your bodily appendages inside of it.
 
  • Any unlabeled food in your department office is fair game. It doesn’t matter if they’re stale, cookies are cookies. 
  • People who let you cut in front of them to run off 30 quick copies are gods. People who say they don’t have a lot to copy but actually do deserve to be thrown in a dungeon. People who jam the copy machine and leave it jammed deserve execution.
  • You get WAY more excited about snow days than the kids do.
  • You start hoping for snow in September.
  •  Back to School ads over the summer are scarier than horror movies.
  • Your signature has morphed into something completely unintelligible from the number of passes that you’ve signed.
  • You have become a human lie detector. “Oh your dog ate your homework? Nice try.” “Your grandma died? If I call your mom right now is she going to tell me the same thing? No? Didn’t think so.” “Your leg is broken? No way, that’s a minor fracture, I don’t care what the doctor says!”
  • You tell adults to put their phones away out of habit. And they do it. 
  • You have a Pavlovian response to bells of any kind. They aren’t the knell that summons Duncan to heaven or to hell—they mean you can run to the bathroom or that you have 45 minutes left until you can run to the bathroom.
  • You got the Macbeth reference above. 
  • Why yes, Diet Coke IS an acceptable form of currency. 
  • You have been exposed to every germ known to man and several that aren’t.
  • You spend more money on hand sanitizer annually than the GNP of many mid-sized nations. 
  • You ask a question and the entire class freezes, leading you to wonder if they secretly think you’re a T-Rex and can’t see them if they don’t move.
  • You can type without looking at the keyboard or screen. The computer has autocorrect, the kids do not.  
  • You’ve been called “mom,” even if you don’t have any kids.  
  • You have a preternatural ability to sense what’s happening behind you. This would make you an excellent driver, if you weren’t so sleep deprived.
  • You never sleep well on Sunday nights, even when there’s no school the next day.
  • You have students who tell you that they want to teach and you have to fight the urge to yell, “NO! Do something where you’ll earn money! Save yourself while there’s still time!” 
  • You understand that Murphy’s Law dictates that as soon as you are out in public someplace where seeing students and/or their parents would be disastrous, you will see students AND their parents. Who will post that they saw you on social media. Sometimes with pictures.
  • You despise light neon pen colors with an unabashed hatred. 
  • Calculating tips at restaurants is easy because 15% is the amount you take off for a late assignment. 
  • You know that taking a day off is much more effort than going to work sick.
  • You are the subject of someone’s dinner table conversation every night of your life. 
  • You love your kids, even on the days when they make you want to tear your hair out.
  • You make a difference every single day. 

     
     
     
     

    iLife: The Struggle to NOT order the new iPhone continues…

    It’s no secret that I’m an Apple addict. When they write my life story, in fact, they might just call it iLife.  

    Okay, not really. I just really love my iPhone. And my Apple TV. And my Macbook Air. Not the iPad so much (although the hubby uses that. For a guy who hates technology, he really likes that iPad) though. And, full disclosure, I do my reading on a shamefully un-Apple Kindle, track my fitness with an Apple-friendly Fitbit, listen to music (from my Apple device) with Bose headphones, and drive a non-Apple car (but only because the iCar doesn’t exist yet).

    So obviously, I want an iWatch, even though it may replace my Fitbit.

    In olden days, I was the first one in line at the Apple Store for the new phones. Yes, I was a later convert to iReligion, not joining the iRevolution until I got my iPhone 4S. But once I had it, I was hooked. I was up at 3am to order that first one at midnight Pacific time (which, honestly, is only a little earlier than the ungodly hour at which I wake up on school days to get a morning iCardio session in anyway). And I did the same with my current iPhone, the 5S, because, hello, they offered a new iColor for that one! And even though the back is always covered in a super cute case, everyone could tell from the front that my phone was far superior to theirs based on that little gold ring. And after all, that gold ring is what every little girl dreams of!

    (I mean the ring around the button on my iPhone. NOT a wedding ring. Although I like having that ring too. Gollum would be so jealous that I have BOTH kinds of gold rings! Suck it, Smeagol!)

    However, because I got that gold iphone 5S last year, my contract isn’t up with Verizon for another year. And yes, I’ve thought about breaking my contract and going to AT&T for the new phone, but I’m on a family plan now. And there are other people’s phones at stake (namely my darling husband, who has my old iPhone 4S because he had a nasty habit of buying Samsung phones with keyboards and then breaking them. Not because they were pieces of crap—which they were—but because he would get angry when the technology on them didn’t work exactly how he wanted it to and throw them on the ground. After the third time he told me his phone “broke,” which is code for “I had a temper tantrum and threw it,” he was assigned my old phone. Which, despite his assertions to the contrary, he adores. Because it’s an Apple product. And I won’t hear any iProtestations he makes.). So terminating my plan isn’t a feasible option.

    Nor is paying out of pocket for the phone without the contractual upgrade, because I seem to have somehow unwittingly turned into an adult with financial responsibilities.

    I know. It’s terrifying to me too.

    But the husband and I bought our dream house in February, which, while still being our dream house, is also a money pit. And when it comes down to having hot water to shower with or the iPhone 6, I’m afraid the hot water wins.

    Let me rephrase that: hot water is the bigger priority, but only because I’m not that impressed with the iPhone 6.

    Sacrilege? Yes. But before you excommunicate me from the iChurch of Apple iSaints, hear me out.

    I, like many Americans, struggle with shopping addiction. We’re living in a material world and I am a material girl. On a teacher’s salary.

    Shh. Did you hear that? It was the sound of debt mounting.

    I’m not as bad with it as some of my shop-a-holic brethren, but I’ve been known to assert my control over a bad situation by binge shopping. And this iPay thing sounds like a recipe for disaster when you can simply wave your phone at a cash register and take home anything you want.

    I actually like the act of waiting in line (okay, not that part) and pulling out my wallet, then carefully selecting which credit card can handle the purchase I’m about to make. It forces me to ask myself if I really want what I’m buying.

    Waving a phone to pay is like getting frozen yogurt. It sounds so innocent—until you load your cup with all of the candy toppings and are suddenly eating six times your daily recommended caloric intake in one delicious sitting.

    No bueno.

    But I could learn to exert a level of self-control over my purchases, even with the freedom to pay with the device that is already always in my hand.

    My bigger gripe with the new phone is the size. I know that older people (cough my dad cough) think the iPhone is too small as it is. Their receding vision necessitates a font size that can be seen from space (seriously, you can literally read my dad’s phone from space. He uses 12 trillion point font. Yet he claims he can see perfectly and doesn’t need glasses. iDenial much?), and a larger phone will allow more than one letter to be displayed on the phone’s screen at a time. So I actually think that the iPhone 6+ is a great option for the older generation and people who don’t mind having the equivalent of an iPad mini as their phone.

    I, on the other hand, have 20-20 vision and don’t WANT a bigger phone. I actually wish the iPhone was about half its current size. I don’t use it as a reading device or a video watching device or a gaming device. I prefer to use my Kindle, my television, and social life for all of those purposes. Tabletizing phones doesn’t help the fact that an iPhone is already too big to fit in a fashionable woman’s pocket. So I’m actually really disappointed that the iPhone 6 is ALSO bigger than the current models.

    So, I’ll wait, hoping in vain that when the iPhone 6S comes out, the S will stand for smaller.

    Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll probably be on the corner panhandling for money for the new iPhone by the end of the week.

    iLife forever!

    Kissing the single life goodbye at Hershey tonight with Bruce

    Tonight marks my 39th Bruce Springsteen show.

    I actually bought tickets to numbers 39 and 40 during the most recent onsale, then the fiancé and I decided that we couldn’t miss that much school and gave the Hershey Park tickets to my parents.

    Then a bit of a family emergency struck and we realized we weren’t going to make it to the Mohegan Sun show, and my parents, knowing what Bruce has meant to me, offered us the Hershey tickets back. The fiancé now couldn’t make it on a weeknight, so it’s me and my dad making the drive tonight.

    Which I think serves as a great bookend to a certain era of my life.

    My journey with Bruce shows began eleven years ago in Richmond on the Rising tour. My brother had suggested that we get my dad Bruce tickets for Father’s Day the year before, but we never managed to get our acts together on that. And his birthday was in February, so the following year, I found excessively over-priced secondary market tickets (I didn’t know any better yet!) for behind the stage in Richmond. My brother couldn’t go, my mother didn’t want to on a school night, and so dad and I went alone.

    I was still in school. We left after my last class of the day, driving down in my father’s car, joking that as we arrived in his BMW convertible, I looked like his midlife crisis wife or girlfriend, not his daughter. We listened to a compilation of songs I had put together based on recent setlists and I remember my father joking that we were passing “the part of town where when you hit a red light you don’t stop.” And I asked him what song he most wanted to hear that night. He named “For You,” which we knew was a long shot.

    I was in one of many rough patches that year.  I had fallen out with my entire crew when my best friend of the last six years and I stopped talking. It was that relationship, not a boyfriend, that inspired Beyond the Palace a few years later. That’s the one relationship in my life that left a permanent scar. And even now, it aches to remember that loss. It was necessary to cut each other loose, but I was lost after that for a very long time.

    But something in me clicked that night when the lights went down. For the first time, I felt something that fed that “hunger you can’t resist” that Bruce sings about. I know the people who haven’t felt that are shaking their heads at me, but the ones who have are nodding. And I know they’re out there because I’ve met them over the last eleven years. I’ve made some amazing friends because I discovered that there were other people who felt the same loneliness that I was engulfed in and who felt it lessened with each show. They are the rabid fans who can pick themselves out in the videos, who were there when I danced on stage in Charlottesville, who read Beyond the Palace and who wanted desperately for me to be Laura, not understanding that the reason they connected with the book wasn’t because I was Laura, but because I was Ben.

    At first, it was me and my dad because it was our thing. My brother had annual ski trips with him, but the concerts were mine. My Uncle Mike joined us from time to time and started being my date to shows dad couldn’t make it to. He was the “real fan” in the family, with more than 200 shows under his belt, and I remember his friends quizzing me on lyrics and classic shows on the drive up to Shea Stadium in 2003 before deeming me worthy of the ticket my uncle shared with me. I treasure the memories of my shows with him as much as those with my dad. It created a bond between us that is unshakeable, and he is responsible for some of my favorite concert memories and a few key scenes in Beyond the Palace as well. And he claims that it’s in his will that I inherit his Bruce collection, because I’ll appreciate it more than my cousins could.

    Uncle Mike in his “Born to Run” shirt, holding me as a baby

    In 2008, I was in another of those impossibly rough patches. I was drowning at school, and it was just months after we lost my Uncle Jules, to whom Beyond the Palace is dedicated. He gave me a typewriter when I was eight years old and told me I should be a writer. And losing him hit the whole family with the destructive force of a hurricane. I did a double header of shows that August, going back to Richmond with some friends and then skipping the first day back at school for teachers to go to Hershey Park with my dad. And as was now our tradition, we picked the song we most wanted to hear. We had luck with “For You” at that first show, and even “Santa Ana” in 2005, which will be the song my dad and I will dance to at my wedding, as the “giants of science” line has always reminded me of him. But that night was my 20th show, dad’s 10th, and somehow we hadn’t seen “Jungleland” yet. And at the opening notes that night, I began to cry. It was one of the most cathartic moments of my life. It was the first time in a long time that I could believe things would again be okay. And my dad put his arm around me without saying a word; without needing to, because he understood.

    As this most recent tour began, for the first time since March 6, 2003, I don’t feel that deep-seated need to be at as many shows as possible. Maybe I’ve grown up a bit. Maybe it’s because I finally have found that connection that Bruce has always said the characters in his songs are seeking.

    Or maybe it’s just been too long since my last show and I’ll come home tonight and cry because my Mohegan Sun tickets are gone. I’ve warned the fiancé that that is a distinct possibility.

    Thank you to my mother, for giving up your ticket to let me go with dad tonight. It’s my last show that I’ll attend with him while I still bear his last name. And while I’m sure there are more shows in our future, there’s something magical to me in getting to go to this show with him.

    And Bruce, if you’re reading (hey, a girl can dream, right?), the song I want to hear most is “Sandy.” It’s what my parents will walk me down the aisle to next month as I begin this next chapter of my life.

    Thank you everyone who has been a part of this ride, and I can’t wait to start the next stage, where I can introduce you to my new husband at shows!  And I’ll see you all further on up the road.

    The wedding registry: One small step for man, one giant step toward being able to live together on a teacher’s salary

    While I am definitely not a “wedding girl,” I have to admit that I’ve gotten into a few aspects of planning the big day. I have a venue, a date, a DJ and a photographer. And the fiancé has been wonderful and booked the honeymoon for us.

    I even have a real wedding dress. It’s white and lacy and everything. It was obtained with ease at the second store that I went to. The first store was a horrific nightmare starring an evil witch who banished my mother from the dressing room, ignored everything I told her, and then kept forcing me into puffy monstrosities that made me look like a marshmallow Moby Dick until I sobbed that I was fat and didn’t want a wedding. Literally. I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if she chased me through the store with a harpoon yelling, “Call me Ishmael!” The evil witch wouldn’t leave me alone until I squealed that I was a little piggy who didn’t deserve to get married.

    Then I went to P. Lawrence in the Kentlands, had a lovely experience, and emerged an hour later looking forward to my wedding again.  

    So with the dress ordered, I started to get excited about the idea of registering for gifts. I mean, this is pretty much the only time in your life when you can pick out the exact presents that you want and force people to buy them for you (ignoring the fact that I’ve hacked my dad’s Amazon Prime password and can therefore pick out presents for myself and order them, forcing HIM to pay for them with free two-day shipping… that’s a close second to a wedding in a lot of ways. But he screams at me and then changes his password if I buy anything too extravagant on his account, so that has to be used with caution).  

    So on Saturday, the fiancé and I set out for the mall.

    The end result of which was shockingly similar to the first wedding dress shopping experience, because I wound up curled in the fetal position, sobbing that I didn’t want a wedding.

    Retail does not seem to be my friend these days.
    What could have happened to turn shopping into something so horrible?

    Well, to start with, I was completely overwhelmed. The fiancé and I are in the process of selling my bachelorette pad and buying our perfect suburban dream house. Which, shockingly, was much easier than I could have imagined. We found a buyer for the condo, fell in love with the perfect house, made an offer, and boom! We’re moving in a month! (Message me if you need the best real estate agent in the DC area. Seriously. He’s amazing.)

    Which is all wonderful and happy and the birds are singing and I’m so excited about it that I don’t even care that the new Bruce album comes out tomorrow. (Besides, I’ve had it for three weeks. And stopped listening to it two weeks ago. Next.)

    But it means we need a LOT of stuff. Yes, my one bedroom condo was pretty full, but it’s not going to make a dent in a five-bedroom house. And the fiancé has declared the new house to be an Ikea-free zone, so none of my furniture is making the trek with us.

    AKA we need pretty much EVERYTHING.

    Which is fine. I’m my mother’s daughter, so I’m a pretty freaking awesome shopper. No, I’m not quite at her level, because she can walk into stores and basically have them pay HER to take clothes (or at least that’s how she explains her purchases to my father, a trait handed down from my grandmother. You can buy anything as long as it’s a bah-gan (bargain with a Gloucester, Massachusetts accent). But I’m good. So picking out all new stuff that I don’t even have to pay for? Piece of cake.

    Or it would be, if I was just shopping for myself.

    Here we reach a problem—I have pretty much the only fiancé in the world who not only has a distinct opinion about every single thing we put in our house, but he was also raised in a much wealthier area than I was. So while he wouldn’t characterize his family as “rich” per se, the idea of shopping anywhere below the level of Bloomingdales is as abhorrent to him as the idea of shopping below the level of Target is to me. Like I’m pretty sure he equates Bed Bath and Beyond to Walmart or Big Lots.

    And I didn’t understand that prior to Saturday.

    So savvy shopper that I am, I figured, okay, we’ll start at Bloomingdales. He’ll see how absurd the prices are, laugh, and say okay, let’s go somewhere reasonable.

    I like Bloomingdales. It’s one of my go-to stores when I need a really nice formal dress. No, I don’t buy anything else there. But formal dresses, if they’re on sale, are doable at Bloomingdales.

    Unfortunately, my plan backfired, because when I laughed at the absurdity of spending $750 on a duvet cover before even factoring in pillow shams or anything else to go WITH the duvet cover, my fiancé said, “Wow, that’s a good deal.”

    I laughed harder, and he looked at me uncomprehendingly. “What?” he asked. “It’s on sale. It WAS $1200.”

    And suddenly, I realized that he wasn’t screwing with me. He actually thought $750 for duvet cover was a good price. And that a $3,000 set of four pieces of cookware was a steal. You don’t even want to think about what he was willing to spend on towels. I did a quick tally in my head and calculated that at the prices he was considering, a casual dining set would cost more than our combined gross income for two years.

    It was time to regroup. If we registered the way that he wanted to, it would take all of our guests combining their gifts to buy a full set of bedroom linens, before we even got into anything like dinnerware, cookware, glassware, or silverware.

    So, faking a deathly allergy to Chanel perfume, I dragged him out of the store.

    We tried Crate and Barrel, which he conceded was tolerable, despite having never heard of it (how has anyone never heard of Crate and Barrel? I wanted to register there for my bat mitzvah, but my mom wouldn’t let me!), but we honestly didn’t know where to start. And when he began admiring the $3,000 dressers, I debated tattooing the words “Teacher’s Salary” across my forehead.

    And then I took another page from my mother and grandmother’s book. Bribery. I had come prepared with Reese’s peanut butter cups in my purse, which are the fiancé’s kryptonite. Just as I can be placed under a hypnotic spell by pretty shoes, peanut butter cups allow me near-total mind control over my beloved future husband. A man’s secret weakness is necessary for any woman who plans to spend her life with him to know, as long as it is only used for purposes of good, not evil.

    So a handful of peanut butter cups later, we got to Bed Bath and Beyond. Where he insisted on registering for a $200 sheet set in Exorcist-vomit green.  

    Which I took as progress. One small step for man, one giant step toward being able to live together on a teacher’s salary. That kind of thing.

    And at least I can modify the Bed Bath and Beyond registry from home.

    But when we turned in our scanning gun to go home from an eight-hour day of shopping, the guy manning the registry counter looked surprised. “Still getting married?” he asked us.

    Apparently we’re not the only ones who found registering to be a complicated process. But at least they sell peanut butter cups there, for future registry excursions.