Surviving Weekend Walmart Syndrome

Walmart on Saturday is CRAZY!!! 

It is like rush hour on the free way. Aisles jam-packed with shopping carts. Children like satellites or planets rotating about desperate parents. Peoples of all ages, mobilities, and ethnicities roaming in a cacophony of argument, discussion and intention.

As an avowed introvert, I used to develop “Weekend Walmart Syndrome.” The number of people combined with the amount of crowdedness had a peculiar power to suck out my life and brains and energy. Symptoms included tiredness, grouchiness, negativity, rudeness, pushiness, and frequently forgetting essential items.

In my opinion, the perfect time to shop at Walmart is early weekday mornings. When we were in Florida last summer I would go in around 6 am after dropping Chris off at the hospital. Heavenly!

But sometimes I can’t do that. Sometimes my schedule mirrors the “normal” 9-5. Sometimes I can’t procrastinate any longer – the larder is BARE! At such times, I have to go when the grocery store is at its worst. 

So here are my tips to make that weekend shopping trip survivable.

1) Make a list – a clear list. A definitive list. Don’t think, “if I write down mac and cheese, I will remember the cheese.” No, write down macaroni noodles, cheese, and milk on separate lines. I keep my list on my phone and delete it as I go. It’s nice if it’s organized by aisle or section, but not essential. As long as you know WHAT you have to get, you’re more likely to get it once you’re in the locura of the store.

2) Take a deep breath while you’re still in the car. Before you approach the store with hordes of other anxious shoppers… before you nod at the greeter… before you throw some elbows to get to a good shopping cart… take a deep breath and mentally prepare. “I’m going to get through this and it’s going to be bad but I will do it as quickly as possible and get out.” (An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!)

3) Move quickly and efficiently. On a Monday morning, it’s fine to compare the two brands of soup calorie-for-calorie, unit price for unit price. On a Saturday? Grab that can and run! Trust your judgment. Try something new. Don’t linger in the aisle because you may be run over by a shoppernaut or get stuck in a cartjam.

4) Smile at everyone. Frequently say, “Excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” “on your left” (okay maybe not that one).  But even if you’re as angry as can be, keep that smile plastered on your face!!

Why? Two reasons.

a – The smile will make you feel happier. It’s true! You will feel more positive even as you are choosing to smile rather than yell at that person for taking the last starfruit!

b – The smile and courtesy will make other people treat you better. Even a brief, insincere smile is better than a grimace. You are more likely to get through the cartjam and less likely to get caught up in any fistfights in the produce.

5) Get out of there as quickly as possible, go home, and recover. A nap? Yes. A shower? Probably. Whatever it takes to unwind and get on with your weekend!!

Hopefully you will be able to avoid Weekend Walmart Syndrome. Following this practical plan, I had a decent grocery shopping trip – only forgot one item. You can do it too!




Houses Across the Country

I’ve already talked about how different areas of the United States respond to snow. Recently, through discussions with family members, I have been thinking about how dramatically different houses (and labels for houses) are in different parts of the country.

This is mostly related to geography, of course. Is the land swampy or dry? Can you have a basement without it flooding immediately? Do things rot so fast that houses have to be made of brick to last more than ten years? The different kinds of houses in the place you grow up affects your own expectations of a house. Adjusting to the selection in a new place can be extremely difficult.

From five months to eight years, I grew up in a ranch-style house in California. It was a great house as I can see now – close to a park, lots of amazing plants, pretty good neighbors (except they did light the dog on fire by accident)… But when we went to visit my grandparents, I was always enchanted by their multiple story house and basement. What was a basement?! What was a second story?! I wanted stairs. They seemed so glamorous.

I got stairs when we moved to Houston. The three houses we lived in over the 11 years of our “Texidency” were all two-story brick buildings. A basement? In swampy, floody Houston? Ha! An attic? Is that what you call the little space above the ceiling that’s carpeted in fiberglass and soars to 400 degrees in the summer? Yeah, we have one of those.

I only ever lived in dorms and apartments in North Carolina, so I can’t really speak to the style of houses. But in Minnesota, there are a lot of basements. In fact, the most popular style in Rochester appears to be “split foyer” or “bi-level split.” (Apparently this saves money in the building – less building above the ground.)

My husband grew up in Virginia and has had to adjust to the difference Minnesota housing. To him, a ranch style house was always a “long, one-story” house. He’s accustomed to two story houses and only saw basements in older houses in Virginia.  What’s a bi-level split and why is it so popular?

In fact, when we talked with a realtor in another city, she mentioned that Rochester is known for its split foyers. This is probably related to the continuous presence of residents looking for affordable housing.

The type of house you are accustomed to affects your experience. Are you used to coming in, taking off your shoes, then trotting up the stairs to deposit your coat? Are you ready to move between the kitchen upstairs and the hang-out room downstairs? Are you willing to have your bedroom in the basement?

We have just begun the house-looking process, and I’m sure I will have more notes on this issue as our search progresses. For now, let’s just say this: every place is different. Adjusting to the different houses in different areas isn’t just a matter of environment or real estate or comfort. It’s a matter of culture.



The Aquifer Theory of Creativity

Some time ago I meant to post about my theory of creativity but… I forgot. Now is a good time because I haven’t written anything for fun for some time – I have been too distracted in the business of daily living, which is extremely important but hopefully will quiet down soon.

My Aquifer Theory does not address how you become creative. Nature? Nurture? Mental Illness? I’m sure it varies from person to person and don’t know enough about that to comment yet.

In my theory, writing is like agriculture. You plant the seeds of the story and then you water them and they grow, and you water them some more, and… you have to keep watering them! (I wish I’d realized this before I killed my houseplants <sigh>)  And the water in this elaborate metaphor is creativity.

No, I don’t know what the sun or the earth is or what weeds would be, but the Bible has a good parable about something similar. 

Ah, good question. You get the water for the fields from wells, I imagine with buckets. There are no irrigation systems or canals or sprinklers in my metaphor.

Where do the wells get the water? Excellent thought…

Every person has an internal aquifer of creativity (an aquifer being an underground, refillable reservoir). Like a real aquifer, this reservoir of creativity can be refilled by experiences. Reading lots of books is a great way to fill the reservoir. Having unique, even painful, experiences. Good conversations, travel, retreats, meditation, workshops, long walks in the woods, lingering sunsets, a wine tasting, a concert, prayer – anything that engages the deeper mind. (Taking a Sabbath!) Being, not doing, is often the genesis of creativity.

So when the well runs dry it is not because you have sapped the aquifer. (This is where the metaphor diverges from real life where in fact you can dry out some aquifers, known as “fossil” aquifers, that are not recharged by precipitation). No, in the metaphor, you control the weather and you can add more rain that will slowly percolate into the aquifer.


“Hold on,” you’re saying. “Why can’t I just water the field with rain water?”

Why do you ask such tough questions…

Because the rain is the ACID rain of raw writing/experience and it has to be filtered through the clay and sand and tree roots in the ground before it is distilled into the wild, unbridled creativity that produces readable books and interesting dreams.

Otherwise, it might come out as plagiarism. Your “rain-grown” writing (or art) won’t have the perspective of “well-grown” writing.

Ah, you have a final question for me. “Where did you come up with such a (great/weird/elaborate) metaphor?”

In this case, I think my dad must have something to do with it. As a geophysicist who works with reservoirs and wells and fossil fuels, I think some of his shop talk must have “permeated” (hehe, pardon the pun) my developing ideas on creativity. 

Happy writing, everyone. And just remember, if you can’t write, it’s not that your well has gone permanently dry…

You need to refill the aquifer!!


24/6 and Sabbath

I just read a great book – 24/6 by Matthew Sleeth. A friend loaned me the book, and I really enjoyed it. As you can imagine, 24/ is about changing our lifestyle from 24/7 to 24/6 – backing off and taking a day off to focus on our faith and to really, deeply rest.

First, a bit about why I loved the book. It’s short and sweet – twelve chapters, well-written, and readable. The scripture and teaching is interwoven with the author’s clinical vignettes from his years of experience  as a physician in the Emergency Department. While those anecdotes particularly appealed to me as a medical professional, I think most people with any interest in medicine will find them compelling. He uses them to prove his point: we need to have purposeful rest time in order to hear God’s voice.

I encourage you to read this book. You won’t be sorry!

After I graduated from college and entered my “Lent” of life, I worked about 48 hours a week for awhile in three different jobs to make ends meet. At that point in my life, I needed to do that, and I learned a great deal from all that trial and tribulation.

But you know what? My relationship with God was not what it could have been during that time because I was working almost every weekend. And when I did have a day off, I was rushing to clean or grocery shop or lick stamps to send wedding invitations or recover from the inevitable series of colds I picked up. That period of time was not healthy, physically or spiritually, because I was not taking a Sabbath.

Now I am not saying (and the author of the book isn’t either) that Sabbath has to be one particular day a week.  In fact, he talks about how his family actually practices Sabbath on two different days – Friday nights are a family-togetherness sabbath and Sundays are a time set apart for communion with God.  What’s important is that time is set aside for those purposes.

It’s important to be thoughtful in what you do with your dedicated time – it’s not for playing on the Internet, reading random articles on the Internet (that’s me all right!), working on work, or working on church. No, Sabbath is time to think, to be, to allow another level of deepness in your life.

Before my sophomore year of college, I attended a retreat called Vocational Vertigo where we learned about our personality types and read and discussed and thought about our “callings.” I remember one of the workshops concerned Sabbath, taking time off to meditate and be.

At the time, I didn’t think I really needed it. It sounded boring. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Life is too short to take a day off every week.”

Now I realize that life is too short not to rest.

Music and EAs

I worked an overnight shift on Saturday on a unit I had spent relatively little time on… and it went fine! Overnight shifts are very busy from 7-11 and then quiet down until around 5. I don’t mind them, except for the fact that they are overnight and mess with my sleep schedule. Thankfully I only do them every 6th weekend (for now). 

I slept until 1:30 and then got up to face the day. I had the special opportunity to perform with several other talented musicians and dear friends at the Festival of Music. Our church hosts this series every year and one “episode” is always “Lee Afdahl and Friends,” featuring our talented music director and organist, Lee, and other local musicians. This year, I was one of Lee’s friends!

Our “flute” choir, composed of 4 flautists from our church (one with a piccolo and one with a bass flute!) and a clarinetist, performed a cheerful Celtic ditty. I loved it and in fact it is still stuck in my head. We also had some excellent performances by trumpets, soprano saxophone, clarinet, and voice in a range of styles. Nevertheless throughout the whole concert I had the weight of work hanging over my head. I love my job but on this celebratory Sunday I was dreading having to leave the fold of musicians and go to the hospital.

However by 6:00 I felt ready to head in. I donned my scrubs and headed out to the car. As I started to drive away, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything. I decided I would eat my sandwich while I did my prep work.

Then, as I was about to pull into the parking garage, I got the call. “We had an opening and we can give you an EA. And we’ll give you twelve hours.”

“Awesome!” I cried, turning my car around and heading back to the church to change and then attend a delightful evening with the Festival of Music committee…


“Hold on,” you’re saying. “What’s an EA?”

An EA, or Excused Absence, is like Christmas in July. It only occurs when 1) you have signed up to take an excused absence, and 2) they have enough nurses and don’t need you that particular shift.

In this case it occurred at the last minute. And it was PERFECT! I went to the party, drank champagne, and had a lovely evening.

Of course I couldn’t go to sleep until 1:30 because I had slept all day but you know what? It was worth it.


Aw man. I missed my chance to get my post in and represent every day of Lent.

It wasn’t because I didn’t have time. Although it ended up being a relatively busy day, what with house cleaning and grocery shopping and driving through the snow (seriously, Minnesota, more snow?!) and entertaining and daydreaming about houses…

And it wasn’t because I didn’t think about my blog, because I did. I was going to tell the story of yesterday. Which I will do tomorrow… Or rather, today…

No, my blog is late because I’m human and didn’t prioritize this blog. I got distracted. I was too busy doing other important things – talking to family members.

And you know what? Even though I’m bummed I didn’t get this published on 3/18/13, I wouldn’t trade those conversations for anything.