By Laura Moore
I still remember standing in the back of the line: older boys bending in a curve in front of me, the musty smell of dirt hanging like a cloud around me, promise and hope filling me like kernels climbing up a box of cracker jacks.
Chewing on a leather string knotted at the edge of my mitt--the same one I chewed for the next 7 years until it finally broke--I strained to keep my composure: eying each boy as he climbed up on the mound, watching him lift his leg, draw back his arm, and toss the ball to the heroes behind the plate.
And as I watched those boys, some eying their target, others throwing haphazardly, my nine year old heart yearned for that same chance, reviewing my motion--cementing the dance in my mind--awaiting a turn to pull in, and fly out, to wedge my feet against the bullpen rubber and send a ball straight through the wind.
Moments before I got the chance though, a voice echoed over the loudspeaker.
"Players, time to head back to the clubhouse. Little Leaguers, time to head to the stands."
I was the only one left.
My chin fell like an anvil, hard against my chest, but I picked up my feet nonetheless, letting the could-have-beens play out in my mind, following a slew of giddy boys out toward the gate.
Somewhere along the way, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
Then I heard a voice.
"One day, you'll get to pitch," he said. "Keep at it."
Startled, I looked up to see a player signing a ball, before tucking it into my mitt and trotting away. I ran my fingers across the laces. Then I dashed up the old Cooper's Stadium steps and into my father's arms.
"How'd you do?" he asked and I told him every last detail. We reviewed the arrangement, the number of pitchers and catchers, the lessons they tried to impart.
"...I didn't get to throw," I explained, somehow still smiling, "but look."
Forking over the baseball, I asked who it was, and my father studied the messy pen lines. "Joel Skinner," he told me, "Joel Skinner signed your ball."
And that was it.
Right then, baseball--more specifically, Joel Skinner--became my world, and I followed him from the Clippers to the Yankees. When he was traded to the Indians, I begged my parents to drive me to Municipal Stadium. And I still remember each of those trips, those teams, those years he both played and then coached for Cleveland, years where I remained loyal to that ball club even after he left, years where game by game, player by player, my whole family turned from Reds fans into Tribe fans, cheering for the likes of Carlos Baerga, Albert Bell, Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar, Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Asdrubel Cabrera...I could go on and on.
And as it all happened, I never stopped listening to his advice: I kept at it.
And I got to pitch.
Throwing at least a hundred balls every night until the last year I played, I earned a spot on the varsity softball team as a freshman, found my way to Nationals two years in a row, and earned the chance to take the mound for Dartmouth College.
Though my sport was softball, my passion was fueled by that Little League Day at Cooper Stadium. And as it grew, baseball threaded its way through my childhood, teaching me patience, loyalty, and persistence. Showing me the importance of strategy, staying on your toes, fighting through setback, being gracious through victory, doing your proverbial homework, understanding anything could happen at any time because none of us are entitled, none of us are guaranteed a darn thing.
Baseball gave me hours with my parents, studying leans and shifts, decoding signals, predicting pitches. It unveiled stories about my mother who bound her chest and dressed like a boy in 1959 just so she could play, and my father who burned the basepaths and tracked fly balls as if he had magnets for hands.
It taught me the importance of idealism, the necessity of realism and the value of hope.
It got me through heartbreak, suffering and fear.
When I was 20 years old and tore my ACL during a spring break tournament in Florida, my devastation was momentarily healed by Sandy Alomar shooing away a group of boys so I could crutch over and get an autograph.
In 2001, when I lived a few blocks from the World Trade Center, it was baseball that helped me breathe. It was sitting along the left field line, watching Derek Jeter jog out to short, and Tino Martinez stand on the bag at first and Jorge Posada cozying up behind the plate that made me feel like there was actually hope we would rise again.
And now, today, it is baseball that's helping me cope with the hateful rhetoric spewed through the television and the injustice unfolding up and down American streets. It's baseball that reminds me we're better than this. When I listen to students talk about the way the presidential race has affected them, when I see their cheeks shake and their spirits falter over being devalued as a girl, or a Muslim, or a Latino, and I want to pull up a megaphone and shout, "This isn't okay," it is baseball that reminds me we will overcome.
It is baseball that shows me what we could be: men like Joel Skinner who helped a little girl dream. Or Sandy Alomar who made space for the broken, wobbling down metal bleachers. Or the Yankees who took the field after 9/11, lifting us up, showing us America's past-time wouldn't be silenced by hate. Or the Chicago Cubs, who've been hoping for next year since 1908. Or my beloved Cleveland Indians: the team I've adored since 1989, the team and the city who have refused to give up, refused to give in, refused to let go of a 68 year old dream.
It's baseball right now as I'm standing in line again waiting for my hopes to unfold that energizes me, lifts me, reminds me not to give up.
It's these two baseball teams littered with fans who have--over many years, many changes, many heartbreaks and hope-breaks--refused to hang up their jerseys, to take off their hats, to allow frustration, anger and hopelessness win out, that remind me silver linings eventually turn up.
It's the promise that regardless of how ugly it's been, "next year" is finally here for one of them, and maybe, just maybe, "next year" might arrive for the rest of us too.
By Laura Moore
I saw this electronic postcard
yesterday and it made me laugh.
Then it made me air pump my right fist, say "yeah it is" under my breath. Empathetic bad asses unite,
I thought, smiling.
Then I clicked "share" on Facebook.
I watched the image load.
And as the wheel turned, as my name slowly stapled itself to the picture--slowly endorsed the motto as truth--I felt regret creep into my gut.
My mind trounced back through my moments of deep-feeling sensitivity. Moments when I felt anything but strong and super-heroish. Like when I watch this Folgers
commercial. Or this Dove
one. Or this Always
mini-documentary-like video that tends to reduce me to a slobbering mess. Maybe I shouldn't have promoted deep feeling. Maybe I shouldn't have linked those words to my name. Maybe I shouldn't have broadcasted--to the whole world--my tendency to be hypersensitive (or at least to the friends who have access to my notifications).
Panicked, I clicked on the edit button, and I hovered over the option that would remove it from my page.
Right before I hit click though--right before I erased all traces of its connection to me--my friend Annie hit like, and a few moments later, several other people did as well.
I could feel the cyber pat on the back. I could feel the energy of empathy, or connection, or the sheer luck that people accidentally hit "like" when they meant to hit "close."
Regardless, that one little "like" made my doubt run dry. There are more of us out there,
I remember thinking.
Then I removed my hovering finger.
I cleared my mind to think of all of my empathetic superheroes, the people who sat down--and continue to sit down--beside me during my difficult moments. People who hold my hand, who listen, who love my heart even when it is shattered. The people who feel my successes and joys with the same fervor I feel. The people who listen to me, root for me, encourage me, and support me along.
I thought about how far they've
How deeply they've
How much confidence they've
How much I've appreciated the way they've instilled a feeling of belonging, of understanding, of interconnectedness.
I thought about how much they've mattered in my life--how much they've taught me to survive--and I realized my first instinct, my first read on that silly social media postcard was spot on:
Deep-feeling people rock.
They're badass super heroes.
Even if they cry.
Even if they shake.
Even if it seems like they're weak.
Their tears temper dust, they fill empty wells, and they remind us to be thankful.
Their tears open eyes, they demand attention, they shake our shoulders into action.
Their tears are magic.
And their hearts are gold.
And gosh darn it, if I'm being honest, I really want to be one of them.
By Laura Moore
I saw them at 4 p.m. when I drove by to pick up my son:
Hair styled, skirts brightly colored, long stem wine glasses tucked into their fingers.
They were laughing the sort of head back, chin up kind of laugh that seems to always accompany barefoot feet, sun-kissed shoulders, open-field turns and violets.
My heart burst just looking at them. I wanted to spin around the block, cruise back on by and steal another glimpse of their sandals pressing against the grass and their eyes catching the final few rays of the day and their cheeks squeezing together like accordions, moving in and out as their ideas leaked into the air and their ears happily enjoyed them.
But I kept going.
I had a son to pick up.
I had dinner idling in the crockpot and a dog walk to squeeze in before bedtime.
And so I carried on with my day. My son squealed when I walked in and I wrapped my arms tightly around him. We gathered his things and headed home, headed back to the kitchen, back to our evening routine.
The women were still there when we passed, and when I saw them, once again, I wanted to stop. I wanted to indulge in their indulgence. I wanted to understand what inspired them. No one--at least no one I see every day--does what they were doing. No one pulls out a lawn chair, a table and a bottle of wine and goes out front. No one dresses up to the nines just to take refuge five feet front their front door. No one sits there, for everyone to see, sipping and laughing and sipping some more.
I want to be like them, I thought. I want to throw a Wednesday afternoon celebration. I want to pause the world. I want to sit in the front yard and enjoy good company without a care in the world.
Instead, I pulled into my driveway, I closed my garage, I scooped out dinner and we ate it: chicken and vegetables and a little bread.
"Do you want to go on a walk?" I asked my son and my dog when we finished, and Finn wagged his tail and Z clapped his hands and the next thing I knew we were strapping on a leash, hooking into a stroller and weaving through the neighborhood, moving as quickly as we could so we could return in time to greet my husband when he got home from his meeting.
When we finished our loop, I decided to take a detour home.
"Let's go this way," I said, turning the stroller, and I led my crew back to our street, back to the stretch of road where those women were sitting and laughing and sipping wine earlier that day.
I hoped they'd still be there, and sure enough, when we turned the corner, I could see them in the distance.
"That looks lovely," I told them when I got close enough to speak.
And they turned to me, raised their glass and smiled.
"So does that," the older one said, "You probably just finished dinner and now you're out with your baby and your dog for an after-dinner stroll. That looks lovely."
And I glanced down at the wide-mouthed grin on little Z's face, and at the sweet pant coming from my dog's little mouth, and I breathed in the finally-warm air and took note of my bare shoulders and good health.
"Yeah," I said, turning back to the women. "It really is pretty lovely, you're right."
Then I leaned down and I kissed Z's head, right on top of the ray of sun skimming across it. And I ran my hand through Finn's fuzzy ear and I looked down to my phone, sitting in the cup-holder.
"I'm on my way," my husband wrote and my heart felt full.
"I hope you ladies have a wonderful night," I told them as I left.
And when we got home, I turned around and paused on our front porch. I asked Finn to sit beside me. Then I pulled Z loose and I swung him around over my head.
Both of us smiled.
Both of us grinned.
Both of us laughed the sort of head back, chin up kind of laugh that always accompanies barefoot feet, sun-kissed shoulders, open-field turns and violets.
And it really was, honest-to-God, lovely.
By Laura Moore
I still remember my seat in your class.
You set your room up in a U-shaped formation and I was on the long end by the windows.
During a time when most seats, in most classrooms, were in perfect, straight lines, your room was a refuge for me.
By filling your walls with art, rather than skill lists, and turning us toward each other, instead of setting us to stare at one another’s backs, your room bespoken open conversation, interaction, imagination and boundless possibilities.
Your room felt comfortable and engaging, interesting and limitless.
You did as much as you could have done with cinderblock walls tinged a coffee-stain yellow, and your quiet movements in and out of our rows, your creative prompts, your love of journals, your willingness to meet us at the intersection of our individual passion and the larger purpose of our learning not only eased my nerves about entering high school, the big game, the real game, the game we had been practicing for since the day we walked into kindergarten, but it made me feel important. And not overly so, enough to know my surging emotions were the buds of something valuable, enough to know my thoughts--even if they were slightly askew, riddled with tangents, or raw and undeveloped--were worthy of consideration, were worthy of being heard.
I loved your class.
And I loved you.
I loved the way you opened up assignments, the way you cracked open texts and invited us to meander with them, in and out of language.
I loved that I went to school during a time that was unburdened by rigid requirements.
I loved that you always looked for the whole rather than the parts.
I loved that you walked into our room and created a brand new space for us, a space throbbing with life, where we were free to imagine, to wonder, to question, to set our curiosities and our interests in the palm of our hand and pick them apart, spinning them, prodding them, dissecting them--sometimes striking gold and other times dust--but all of the time, feeling courageous, even when the world outside your walls could be cruel, even when peers laughed at us, or dismissed us.
In your room--in your world--risk felt safe.
So much so, that on one of the occasions you asked us to share a poem with the class, I remember choosing the poem “Risks.”
I remember standing there--knobby knees, teased out bangs, braces, and all--holding a poem I plucked straight from the pages of The Edge, the sports motivation book I loved without discretion, and telling the class that “the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing./ The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing…/Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom./Only the person who risks is truly free.”
As you can tell from the brief excerpt, the poem isn’t profound or literary. It isn’t sculpted with lines that move--expertly--through gaps on the page, or rise and fall with enviable cadence. And in many ways, my cheeks turn pink thinking that I chose it, thinking that I looked beyond Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou--two of my favorite poets during that time--and chose, instead, to read Janet Rand’s words.
But at the same time, that choice seems strangely apropos.
You made risking possible because you never judged our passions. You never discredited words--even when they were cliché--if those words rang inside of us, if they spoke to us, if they moved us to be bigger and better. You created a space where all voices mattered, and you taught us to see wider and deeper and from the corner of our eyes. You were the first teacher to unhook me from guidelines and rules, and encourage me to find my own way. You mentored me, cheered for me, and guided me. You were always there for me during the days I spent in your room both freshman year and senior year, but you were also there on the days in between and the days that followed.
I always revered you, and I still do.
Even now--even though I’m all grown up--I still seek your approval.
I still flush each time you mention my blog posts or comment on my essays.
I still want to make you proud.
No matter how many years slip by, no matter how many times you tell me to call you Diane, you will always be Ms. Haddad in my heart. You will always be that teacher I always wanted to have. You will always be layered in my life of writing, of questioning, of dreaming.
You don’t need a classroom full of kids, files full of curriculum or an arm full of essays to continue being a teacher. You just need to turn around, to look beside you, and to look at your social media feeds to see the lives you’ve touched. You will always be a teacher, and for as long as I live, I will always be your student.
By Laura Moore
I curbed my addiction.
Unfortunately, that curbing was literal and not figurative.
It would have been much more productive, and far less expensive, had I gotten myself to the point where I actually put away the $800 piece of technology when I wasn't using it.
Instead, I set it on the top of our stroller while I was talking on my husband's phone. When he returned from a cart parked along one of the Downtown Disney paths and reached to pull the shade over our son, that carelessly placed phone went smashing into the curb, meeting its untimely demise.
My sister-in-law was voicing her thoughts about when and where we should meet for our next day departure to the beach, and I hardly heard anything that came out of her mouth. My hubby reached down to get the phone as she shared very important information about when we could check in and what there was to do for kids under four, but it sounded like white noise in my ears. When he flipped over my beloved hunk-of-instant-connection, I saw shards of glass shimmering in the waning ribbons of dusk.
It was only five months old.
And we were on vacation without our camera.
This was devastating.
And yet it wasn't.
Sure, I might not have sent as many updates to family members or taken as many pictures, but I was present for a whole heck of a lot more moments. I wasn't passing time by checking for emails or text messages. I wasn't trolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds looking at other people's vacations, graduations or parties, or linking to articles they found fascinating. I wasn't looking up the answers to questions scrolling through my over-stimulated, ADD brain.
I was watching my little Z laugh and reach out to touch every single person within his tiny arm's reach. I was watching him stir up the crowd with his giggles and grins, his open-mouth, tongue-resting-across-his-two-bottom-teeth smile. I was watching him soak in the sites: the life-sized Lego Loch Ness Monster cresting the water, the ice cream cups dripping from the sides, the kids tugging on their parent's shirts, the dinosaurs roaring inside restaurants, the performers galloping across the stage. I was peeking around the shade more often to look at him, to smile at him, to "beep" his nose and tickle his toes, and ask him what he thinks.
See, a strange thing happens when you have to decide whether or not a phone call, a text message or a social media search is worth a sharp slice across your cheek or a sliver in the pad of your finger. Non-urgent interactions suddenly seem less important, and the urge to snap-out-of-the-present-in-an-effort-to-preserve-a-moment suddenly feel far less enticing.
Instead, you choose to live. To laugh. To feel experiences from beginning to end. You no longer feel the nagging need to interrupt them.
You assume emergencies will funnel over to your companion.
You look up and engage with the world.
Following the death of my phone screen, I lived free and clear of hand-held distraction for five days, turning it on occasionally to check messages and then turning it off again to avoid losing pieces of glass. I used my husband's phone for fewer than a handful of correspondences with my sister-in-law when little Z was napping and she was trying to figure out if we could meet.
But other than that, I just lived. And though I have few pictures to show for it, I have a fuller heart.
Now that I'm back, hopefully, I'll be able to get it fixed, as communicating is rather important. But I hope even more that I'll remember to leave it on the table when I'm playing with my son. And leave it in my purse when I am driving. And leave it out of arm's reach when I'm eating dinner with my husband. I hope I'll start people watching again, that I'll return to my habit of striking up conversations with strangers and giggling at awkward bends of time. I hope I'll once again find myself noticing the obscurities and the joys and the humor that is always unfolding around me if I'd only look up.
In short, I hope that once I get all of the pieces smoothed out and all of the jagged lines smoothed away, I will be able to see as clearly as my screen can.
By Laura Moore
Shortly after posting this entry, one of my readers sent me the email addresses of eight high-level executives at Newell Rubbermaid (Graco's parent company).
I contacted them about my concerns and within minutes of sending the email, I got a response from the Chief Marketing & Insights Officer who said he wanted to rectify the situation "to my satisfaction as quickly as possible." From there, I received several more emails and phone calls over the next day and a half, and since the straps were not available to purchase, they offered to send me a brand new car seat.
Even more important than their willingness to send me a new seat is the fact that they passed my concerns on to their marketing team who is going to revisit the way they communicate the risk of washing the straps in the manual. They've also asked me to send my car seat back to them, so they can put it through further testing.
I am beyond thrilled with the response from Newell Rubbermaid executives, and I am hopeful my words have and will continue to inspire change, both from a communication stand point and from a user-awareness stand point. Thank you for reading.
We buy carseats to keep our kids safe.
Over the days and months before we give birth, many of us devote hours to sifting through reviews, asking our friends for recommendations, pouring over specs, attempting to unearth those telling little details that will undoubtedly reveal which car seat we should buy for our little ones.
And then, once we choose--once we buy our perfect seat--we breathe a sigh of relief. We learn to ignore the cries as we gently bend our little one's arms to fit beneath the straps. We develop our own sweet-soothing phrases to calm our child as we adjust the harness, untwist the turns, and yank the strings as tight as we can before shutting the door and positioning ourselves behind the wheel.
We do our best to make an unsafe world as safe as it can possibly be, and so when we learn that the seat we purchased is actually unsafe, panic, anger and frustration comes flooding right in.
At least it did for me.
See, despite reading through my manual for installation instructions and adjustment instructions, I failed to notice a cleaning bullet typed on the second to last page. I failed to notice it, because when my son was covered in spit up or vomit or other bodily fluids, I did not think to pull out my manual and find out how Graco suggested I might clean it.
Bleary-eyed and absorbed in the medical implications of excessive spit up, I scrubbed the straps with a burp cloth and then a baby wipe. Once I got our son down for a nap, I unthreaded them and tossed them into the dishwasher.
I have no idea how many times I did this before I learned it was wrong, and so I fear how unsafe those straps are by now. I cringe just thinking about the ways I put our son in harm's way each time I got behind the wheel. I am nauseated by my over-sight, wondering why--despite all of the advice I heard from countless people--the warning to avoid water was not included on any list.
But it wasn't.
I learned of this danger by accident. In my search for convertible car seat reviews, I incidentally came across a comment about cleaning and saw the warning:
DO NOT IMMERSE YOUR STRAPS in water. The directive appeared over and over, site after site. In fact, I did not see a single online writer, group or organization that questioned its validity or dismissed it as just a legal line printed to prevent lawsuits. Everywhere I looked, I read the same warning: soaking the straps causes the fibers to break down, and once they break down, they do not have the strength to hold a child in place during an accident. Some sites even suggested that soap and other abrasives actually remove fire retardant materials as well. Panicked, I promptly visited the Gracobaby website. I entered the model number and year into the appropriate boxes and I scrolled through the replacement part section. Unfortunately though, no matter how many times I scrolled, the straps were not listed as an option. Convinced I was missing something, I called Graco to ask for help. The woman who answered advised me to purchase the chest harness because that would come with the straps. I questioned her because it didn't list the straps anywhere, but she assured me this was the way to go, and so I filled out the details and awaited the delivery.
When the package arrived, all I got was a clip, and I could feel heat filling my face. Frustrated, I dialed Graco again.
"I called last week and the woman I spoke to assured me that the straps would come, but all I got was a clip," I told the man who answered the phone. "I don't need a clip; I need the straps."
"But it looks like we don't sell straps for that model," he said matter-of-factly, as if he were informing me that a pizza place ran out of anchovies or a shoe store ran out of pink shoelaces.
"But my car seat is unsafe," I reiterated. "Yes, I made an error. Yes, I soaked the straps in water, but I didn't see the tiny warning, printed on page 45 of your manual until someone tipped me off and inspired me to look.
"Are you telling me there is nothing I can do to fix my mistake? Babies make messes, that's what they do. I know I am not the only person who has washed the straps. How can you not sell replacements? This car seat cost over $200 and it doesn't expire for years. There has to be another option," I told him with a shaky voice now on the verge of tears. "We can put our son in a convertible car seat right now, but I don't want to buy a new seat if we have another baby. This is absurd."
"I'm sorry," he said flatly, "but we don't sell them. There is nothing I can do."
I asked to speak to a manager and he told me that he'd be happy to fill out a form so a supervisor could call within 24 hours; however, he was quick to tell me that the manager wouldn't be able to do anything.
"We don't sell the straps," he repeated once more, as if saying it again would somehow make it okay.
But it wasn't okay. Nothing about it was okay.
Babies throw up....some of them, like mine, throw up a lot. They make messes. Straps get dirty. No one wants to leave their child soaking in vomit, so tired parents--who do not have time to consult a manual for every little seemingly intuitive thing--follow their instincts and wipe up messes. And then, when they finally get a few minutes of down time, they unthread the straps and make an effort to disinfect the space. They soak away germs. They wash away the smell. They prepare a nice, clean area for their child to sit.
But in so doing, they unknowingly make the car seat unsafe.
They unknowingly put their child at a greater risk.
They unknowing misplace their trust in a product that isn't strong enough to fulfill its purpose.
They unknowingly do all of this, because the warning not to is buried in the back of a manual.
If improper cleaning will render a product unsafe--and ultimately unusable--this is something manufacturers should tell people on page one. Slipping it into the back is--in my opinion--irresponsible at best, and unethical at worst. And, to provide no options for parents to remedy a perfectly understandable--and probably fairly common--mistake is, in every way, inexcusable.
Graco prides itself on safety, on being the brand parents can trust. We have a Graco Pack'n'Play, bassinet, crib, stroller and countless other goods. But if they do not find a way to make this right, I will never buy anything from Graco again and I will do my best to ensure every person I meet knows what kind of company they really are. I am not asking for a tiny, insignificant piece to an outdated toy. I am not even asking for anything for free. I am asking Graco to sell a part that will keep my child safe in one of the most important products they offer. But today, I was told this isn't possible. Today, I was told there was nothing they could do. And today, I don't accept the answer. Graco can fix this problem if they want to, and while I await their solution, I plan to inform the public of my experience. I plan to spread the message about car seat cleaning safety, and I plan to inform parents about the risk they take in purchasing Graco products. Hopefully my words will help you avoid a very costly mistake in every sense of the word.
To learn more about cleaning car seats, check out the two blogs that helped me. One from Car Seats for the Littles
and one from Mama Bree
By Laura Moore
On Monday, I wheeled my cart up to the "healthy milk" section in our grocery store, stopped, and panicked.
In a flash, I could feel a feisty frustration burgeoning inside of me. The fight-or-flight mode kicked in, and since I'm not one for running away, my emotional fists reared their ugly heads.
The milk I normally buy for our son was gone. It was on sale, and a huge void--where all of those cartons once were--peered back at me.
The negative space screamed loud and clear: How did you not know this was on sale? Why didn't you come earlier? Or yesterday? Or two thousand days before that?
My brain battled back by suggesting that--regardless of which day I came--it was positively absurd that a grocery store would run out of MILK, that a grocery store would fail to stock enough in-demand products to fulfill the needs of mothers who were shopping at reasonable hours of the day.
But the empty shelf didn't care. It just continued to mock me with a its blankness, its void popping out like a neon-colored sign.
Defeated, I scanned up and down the remaining options: Horizon's Organic Milk (they're on the foods to avoid list because of DHA additives: see here
), Organic Valley (would have been great, but this store only sells reduced fat options, not whole milk), Simple Truth with Omega 3 (presumably from synthesized sources so this one won't work either) and all sorts of soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk (which I don't want to use for a whole host of reasons, most notably because they're NOT milk).
I gritted my teeth and scanned the bay once more. Then I turned around to the service desk which was conveniently positioned behind me.
"M'am, do you know if you have more milk in the back? The kind I get for my son is gone."
"It looks like we're all out. If we don't have any up there, then we don't have any left."
"But, how could you run out of milk? Could I make a request that you stock more of it? You clearly don't have enough for the demand."
"I'm sorry, but I can't do anything about it," she said, and then she pointed to the other cartons and suggested that I choose a different option.
In that instant, I almost snapped. I almost launched into a lecture about the three million articles and blog posts I've read detailing the dangers of ingesting synthesized vitamins, pesticides and antibiotics. No I can't CHOOSE another option
, I wanted to tell her.
And I don't have time to drive across the street to Fresh Market, or 0.8 miles to different Kroger, 4.3 miles to a third Kroger, or 5.2 miles to a fourth. And even though I'm tempted to go to Giant Eagle--who is more expensive but never sells out of a product like milk--I also don't have time to drive 1.4 miles or 2.9 miles or 5 miles to get there. Nor do I have time to drive 1.4 miles to Aldi, 3.3 miles to Huffman's Market, 3.8 miles to Trader Joe's, or 3.9 miles to one Whole Foods, and 4.1 miles to another.
And even if it was tempting to kill birds with one stone, I can't really squeeze in a trip to any one of the four Targets that are less than 7 miles away, or the Meijer's that is 3.3 miles away, or the Walmart Super Center which is 1.4 miles away. I only have time to stop at this ONE grocery store, a store that stands among 16 different options, all of which sell various types of organic milk.
I could feel my case building, my anger rising. If you can't stock the staples, I'll just start shopping somewhere else, I wanted to write in a complaint email to Kroger management. Or I wanted to tweet: "@kroger if you keep running out of milk, I will have to start shopping @GiantEagle again. #disappointed." And then of course, when they'd respond and apologize, I'd add my frustration that they were also out of fresh basil, and no one in the store could direct me to low-sodium black beans.
But as I meandered through the rest of the market, as I picked up fresh cuts of meat, tossed organic to-go toddler fruit and vegetable pouches into my cart, located several types of quinoa, snagged frozen bags of spinach and peas and returned back to the healthy dairy section where I scooped up local, organic, cage-free eggs from an Ohio Amish farmer, I realized my earlier panic, frustration and infuriation was snobby, privileged and absurd. I live in the opposite of a food desert; I live in an area inundated with grocery stores stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, organic dairy and moderately processed grain. And I have a car to drive around to each of those 16 stores, and access to computers where I can easily figure out who is having sales. I have a smart phone equip to handle electronic coupons, and to search for healthy recipes. I have the luxury of choice, the luxury of complaining, the luxury of high shopping expectations. I have way more than I need. By the time I filled my cart and stood in line to check out, my frustration had turned to curiosity. I opened a browser and searched for information about hunger in Columbus. And while several links and articles popped up, I found myself drawn to a story
that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on September 4, 2014. The article says that Ohio--who identifies 16% percent of the population as having "limited or uncertain ability to provide nutritious meals"--is tied with Mississippi as the third worst state in the country for food insecurity. And when they break down the numbers and look only at children, the article states that 650,000 Ohio kids (enough to fill Ohio State's football stadium more than SIX times) experience hunger
. As I read those words--as I thought about the reality of those statistics--I wanted to slap myself across the face. Minutes before, I was worried about ONE grocery store selling out of ONE kind of organic milk. I was worried about my child having too much synthesized Omega 3 when the mothers of 650,000 kids around me are worried whether or not their child will have enough of anything to eat and drink.
"Did you find everything you needed today?" the cashier asked when I finally inched my way to the front of the cue. And as I watched him scan those fresh, organic vegetables, those juicy, organic fruits, those grass-fed, organic cuts of meat, and that carton of almost-perfect milk, I looked up at him and smiled.
"Yes, thank you," I said with a rush of humility.
Then I came home and started reading, started thinking, started penning a post. I came home and started figuring out what I could do to help.
Please see below for links. If you know of any other organizations, send them my way, and I will add them to the list.
How to help in Central Ohio: Mid-Ohio Food Bank Children's Hunger Alliance
How to help nationally: Feeding America Hunger Volunteer.Org
How to help globally: Heifer International World Food Programe Stop Hunger Now World Food Prize
By Laura Moore
When I say my son screams, I don't mean he surrenders a polite little yelp appropriate for someone who is 30 inches tall.
I mean he reaches into the deepest boughs of his body, and bursts into a show-stopping, glass-shattering screech that causes everyone within yelling distance to stop and stare.
Most of the time, it isn't a mean scream. He isn't red-faced, foot-stomping mad. He isn't catapulting tears from the rims of his eyes. He isn't waving his fists and lowering himself into the "I can't believe you're not giving me what I want" squat.
He is screaming because people laugh. He is running through halls, raising his arms, opening his chest and shrieking fearlessly until he has everyone's attention. Then he claps his hands, laughs and shrieks again. Sometimes he runs into circles of strangers, screams and looks up at their open jaws--making sure every last one of them is paying attention--before continuing his regiment, waiting for them to say how cute he is, waiting for them to laugh, waiting for them clap back.
Invariably they do.
And his huge, open-mouthed, eight-tooth grin splits across his face shortly thereafter.
See, this process thrills him to no end. He loves the attention; he craves it. Unafraid of strangers, unintimidated by people who are much older and taller, and curious about new spaces, our little Z is fascinated by how the world works, and excited to have discovered the fact that his voice has the power to stop it, to make people listen, to inspire them to smile, to get them to drop their guard, to wave their hands like a child.
Worried about disturbing the peace, we tell him to stop each time he does it, but something inside of me always feels bad when we do. In a world where he is so tiny, a world where he has no words--at least none that he uses regularly enough to count as vocabulary--that show-stopping scream is the only power he has. It's his only means to get others to listen, to change the mood, to shift the tone, to pause life, to reach out, to make friends, to make people happy.
And that is what he does time and again when he locks eyes with others, when he flashes his two bottom teeth, when his dimples sink into his plump little cheeks and his blue eyes glimmer like sapphires. He, and his horrendous shriek, light up even the saddest of rooms, and as I watch him, as I see him pull out the charm, as I run--two steps behind him--and observe the way his tiny little self fills up the world, I can't help but imagine who he will become. I can't help but wonder which words will follow his scream. I can't help but fall in love all over again with his sweet, little soul.
By Laura Moore
I've recently been sucked into the Buy-Sell-Trade (BST) Facebook group world. For those of you who have managed to avoid its lure, the concept is quite simple. It's an online garage sale where people can do just as the name suggests: buy things, sell things or trade them.
Most of the time, people follow the same protocol. They post a picture, provide a quick description of the item (featuring all of the pros, cons and why it's being sold). Then they assign it a price and tell you whether the transaction will occur at an agreed upon location, or if you must drive over to the seller's house and pick it up yourself.
Occasionally, people ask for advice about gift ideas, where to vacation, or who the best veterinarians, doctors, or contractors are. And they alert people of, and inquire about, strange happenings: booms, sirens, missing animals or criminal activity. Even though the BST site is not designed as a crime stopper destination, the group in my community has such an active network, I'm quite convinced the peeper-in-the-ridge would have been caught had the police followed the live-streaming comments popping up on the page.
Outside of these uses, people also post ISOs (in search ofs), to see if someone wants to part with an item they're looking for, or if people know where that thing could be found. From rental properties to kitchen benches to toddler swim trunks, exchanges have been made, goods have been recycled and money has been saved and earned. There's no fee to join, no store-front mortgage or advertising fee to pay, and no cut to give up to consignment stores. Prices can be lower because all of the profits go to the seller, so it's a win-win all the way around for everyone, except maybe for businesses who lose a new sale on account of a BST transaction.
While most of the posts seem reasonable, two days ago, on a buy-sell-trade site that is open to every single person living in the state of Ohio, I saw an ISO that stopped me dead in my tracks. When I initially read it, I actually laughed out loud: belly laugh, pulsing shoulders, the whole nine yards.
A woman, who was clearly sick of weeding her various gardens, notified this 8,557 member community that her husband got overly ambitious with flowerbeds on their two-acre property. She was tired of the work, and in search of individuals who would be willing--for fun--to come to her house, remove the plants and grade over the area so she could spread grass seed and reduce the amount of work. She wasn't offering any money. She wasn't asking for landscaping recommendations. She wasn't selling bouquets of flowers or hand-woven wreaths. She was blindly asking strangers to come to her house and do yard work for free.
It was so amusing to me that someone would actually sit down and write this post that I choked on my coffee, and re-read her words at least a half a dozen times. I waited for the sarcastic comments. I waited to see that her account had been hacked by people who wrote for The Onion. I waited for the circus to unfold, but the only thing that unraveled was my cynicism.
Much to my surprise, within minutes, the woman had reasonable responses.
Lots of them.
Responses that were not mocking her or soliciting business. People were referring her to a garden group where individuals actually look for the opportunity to dig up free flowers. Droves of other people extended the offer to come themselves. As of this morning, 24 comments streamed on the page, and most of them were from perfect strangers who were "emoticon/exclamation point" excited to drive across town so they could dig up her vegetation, grade the land and help her prepare for seeding.
It turned out that the only jerk taking interest in her post was me.
As I stared at the stream of offers--as I considered the genuine excitement exuding from responders ready and poised to swoop in and save her unwanted plants--I realized the immense interconnectedness that exists around me.
I realized that the very things that often bother us, that have no more use to us, that seem horrible and burdensome for us, could very well be a blessing for someone else. They could very well be the thing that our neighbors most want to have and most want to do, but because we assume others think the way we do, we destroy those things, we dismiss them, we throw them away.
And so in honor of Earth Day--and in honor of the woman who solicited free landscaping services--I am going to make a better effort to ask and not assume. To reach out before I toss. To open my mind. To connect. To offer. To accept.
I'm going to do a better job of being part of a community, a community that gives and takes, a community that asks and receives, a community filled with tiny opportunities crouching down beside the weeds.
By Laura Moore
When I see an injustice, something inside of me snaps.
I can feel a physical response immediately: my face heats up, adrenaline diffuses throughout my body, and an insatiable urge to intervene overtakes my brain.
Even when I should keep my mouth shut, I can't.
Something inside of me is wired to speak up, to speak out, to take some sort of action to help a person who has been wronged, even if it is none of my business.
Unfortunately, this impulse can often lead to post-good-samaritan regret when the offender snaps back, or the victim defends the offender, or I simply realize it was a offense that didn't deserve the attention. Sometimes it is just not my place to scold someone who skips in front of another person in line, or intentionally drives the wrong way down the street, or calls someone a terrible name.
Sometimes, I need to let it go.
But at other times, speaking up--even if you don't have all of the facts--still seems like the right thing to do.
A few years ago, when I was working as a server in a restaurant in the Short North, I looked across the street and witnessed a man thrust a woman against a brick wall, hold her up off the ground and proceed to scream at her. I called 9-1-1 immediately and the police were there in minutes. When the cops confronted the couple though, the woman claimed they were "playing," so the officers let them both go and everyone involved seemed pretty annoyed that I notified authorities.
As I watched the couple depart--and the police write up the report--I felt a mixed bag of emotions. I worried--for a second--that perhaps I overstepped the line by picking up the phone, but even now, looking back, at no point did the man's actions seem playful, and every time I consider the woman's defense, it seems borne of fear rather than truth. So even if I did over step the line by thrusting myself into a situation that didn't involve me, I still contend it was the right thing to do; I still contend that over-stepping was the better mistake to make.
I suppose I hope I will feel the same way--regardless of how it turns out--each time I look back at what happened last Friday. While trying to buckle my son into his carseat, I heard a loud crash, leaned out to investigate, and saw that an SUV had slammed into the sedan parked behind him. My first instinct was to snap a picture, but when the driver turned around and made eye contact with me, I decided to lean back into the car instead. I thought for sure he'd own up to his crime and leave a note, but when I saw him driving past my window a few seconds later, I realized he was fleeing the scene.
I tried to steady my phone with the hand that wasn't holding my baby, but my fingers were too slow; the man got away.
Everything inside me wanted to scream.
It was entirely unfair. It was immoral. It was unexpected, even though I suppose I should have expected it.
I wanted to vomit.
Once it all registered, I grabbed my baby, exited my car and carried him over to the sedan. Even though deep down I knew I would find nothing, I still hoped there would be a note; I still believed in human decency. When I saw nothing but damage, I felt nauseated imagining the owner of the car walking outside and realizing he or she would begin the weekend as the unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run.
I ran back into the daycare center to see if they had a security camera and to report the incident to the administrator. Unfortunately, their cameras only captured images of who walked in and out of the door, not who drove into their lot, so the only thing we could really do was wait for the owner of the sedan to come outside so we could explain what happened. He emerged a short time later, and as soon as I passed along what I had seen, I left to feed my son.
The police called later that evening and asked me to email a follow up statement. I agreed, of course, and as I sat at the computer and typed, I felt heat filling my chest just thinking about the man who got away, thinking about my decision not to take that initial picture, thinking about every last detail of the crash. I wondered whether or not the man spent even one second reflecting on his crime, worrying about the victim, or feeling guilty about his actions. I wondered what he told his child who had to have been jarred from the collision, and whether or not he had any anxiety about me--the witness--speaking up, or if he just assumed he'd get away with it, if he assumed he could bury his head in the sand and I would just turn the other way.
Regardless of what he did or didn't think though, the following Monday when I returned to the daycare center, I saw what I believed to be his SUV sitting there, roughly 50 feet from where the accident occurred a few days before. The moment I spotted it, I stopped in the middle of the round-a-bout drive, put my car in park, pulled out my camera, and snapped a photograph of the back: license plate, damaged bumper and all. Seconds after I took the picture, the man who owned the car walked through the doors, carrying his daughter, and for a brief instant, I made eye contact with him.
He greatly resembled the driver I had seen the previous Friday, and as we connected, I felt his unease. I felt his discomfort. I felt like he recognized me, but I didn't know if that was real, or if it seemed that way because I wanted it to, because I wanted to believe that even if he didn't do the right thing--he at least understood his crime, he at least felt bad for what he had done--and seeing me reminded him of the smear he smudged on the timeline of his life.
But I suppose another part of me doubted my instincts. Another part of me feared the one percent uncertainty that I felt. Another part of me worried that by turning him in--when I was only 99% sure--I could potentially create a horrible situation for an innocent man. I thought it was him--I really did--but I wasn't positive. How could I be? I saw him from two cars away.
As I considered all of this, the man strapped his daughter into his car, and I pulled around, parked, and collected myself. He drove past me, and turned out of the lot, but I continued to sit there, processing, reviewing, analyzing. I continued wondering what made the driver who hit that car let go, what made him leave; and I thought about what made me hold on, what made me stay.
And there, in my mind as I processed it all, I continued seeing the car that got hit, and the world I've given my son. I continued seeing two things I wanted to be better than they are today. I continued hoping that I would be strong enough to teach my little one to speak up--to speak out--when he has something to say, when his words could help authorities do the right thing.
And so even though I was nervous about accusing that man of something I was pretty sure--but not positive--he did, I pulled up the image anyway. I typed up the note. And I gave someone else the power to figure it out.