Repost: Guidelines for Efficient and Effective Grocery Shopping

A shopping cart filled with bagged groceries l...
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While transferring groceries from the shopping cart to my car this afternoon, I remembered the following post, which appeared on Whiskertips last year.

Specifically, I remembered sections 10.1 and 10.2, concerning the connection between heat index and the propriety of leaving one’s shopping cart right in the middle of someone else’s potential parking space.

Today’s heat index was ‘way above 85, and it took all the energy I had to be a good citizen and march that cart back to where it belonged.

While marching, I remembered a few other things I’d written. And from the distance of fifteen months, some of them seemed rather opinionated. Sharp. Pointed. Callous. Mean-spirited. Churlish. Malicious. Downright nasty.

Not too nasty, however, to keep me from re-posting here.


While reviewing Pat Hoglund’s Have I Got a Story for You, I was impressed by how similar Ms. Hoglund and I are in our approach to grocery shopping. We both want to get in and out of the store as soon as possible.

For several years, I’ve been compiling a list of guidelines for grocery shopping. I offer them here for your edification.

How to Shop for Groceries

1.0      Produce

1.1      If you have to examine every single green bean before selection, you should not be buying green beans. Wait until a fresh crop comes in. See section 6.1.

1.2      There is no such thing as a perfect apple, orange, tangerine, tomato, lemon, onion, potato…I could go on ad infinitum. Unless it’s markedly discolored or mushy to the touch, take it and move along. See section 6.1.

2.0      Everything else

2.1      It doesn’t matter whether you get the potato chips or the Doritos. If the kids don’t like them, let them eat broccoli. Put something in your basket and move along. See section 6.1.

2.2      Section 2.1 applies to everything else the store sells except cottage cheese.

3.0      Cottage cheese

3.1      When buying cottage cheese in a plastic carton, take off the lid and check the seal underneath before putting the carton into your cart. People will look at you funny but any embarrassment you experience will shrink in reverse proportion to the disgust you’ll feel at home when you remove the lid and curds schloop down the side.

3.2      If you find the seal broken, do not replace the carton in the dairy case for someone else to buy. Other people don’t want it either. Hand it to a store employee and explain.

4.0      Cell phones

4.1      Do not use your cell phone while shopping.

4.2     In an emergency, calling home to ask a grocery-related question is marginally acceptable, but step out of the flow of traffic until the conference has concluded, and do not block shelves. See section 6.1.

4.3      When observing section 4.2, do not look directly at me, because that makes me think you’re talking to me, and I’m tired of feeling foolish for answering the questions you aim at me.

5.0      MP3 players

5.1      If you insist on walking through the store with those little buttons jammed into your ears, at least turn down the volume so other shoppers don’t have to listen to the bop-bop-bop.

5.2      Pay attention to your surroundings. The littlest of blue-haired ladies will exhibit aisle rage when stepped on by a person one-third her age.

6.0      Physical activity

6.1      When a shopper with a determined glint in her eye comes charging down the aisle toward you, do not just stand there mulling over Campbell’s versus Progresso. Get out of the way. Some people get most of their physical activity between the celery and the tortillas, and slowing down to avoid hitting you also slows their heart rate. Other people just want to get home. Furthermore, unless you’re making green bean casserole, buy the Progresso. The tomato basil is good.

7.0      Children

7.1      Corral your children. See section 6.1.

8.0      Socializing

8.1      When you meet the best friend you haven’t seen since last Friday, repair to the coffee shop for a tete-a-tete. See section 6.1.

9.0      Checkout

9.1      At the checkout, do not line up behind a woman* with children. Women with children are too distracted to have their cash, check, or credit card ready when it’s time to pay. It’s also possible they’ve sent one of the children back to the aisles to find something they forgot, in which case they probably chose the least obedient, the most distractible, or the one with the lowest reading level.

*The term woman is intended to be inclusive. Seeing a man in charge of children at the grocery store is so rare, at least in my experience, that I consider woman the more acceptable term.

9.2      At checkout, do not line up behind anyone who smokes.** The smoker will ask for a pack of cigarettes, and the cashier will have to either open the little safe above her head or walk the length of the store to access the vault where tobacco products are stored.

**I have no idea how to identify people who smoke. Just do your best.

9.3      At checkout, do not line up behind anyone holding a cell phone. This rule is self-explanatory.

9.4      At checkout, do line up behind men. Unless they smoke, men pay and leave quickly.

9.5     At checkout, do line up behind older people, even those who look like they will take forever. And be nice. You’ll get there yourself someday.

9.6      Have cash, check, or credit card ready as soon as possible after your order is rung up.

9.7      Smile at the cashier and the sacker. They’ve been on their feet all day waiting for people to get out their cash, checks, and credit cards, and to finish their cell phone conversations.

10.0   Parking lot

10.1   Leave the shopping cart in the cart return.

10.2   If heat index is above 85 degrees, feel free to ignore section 10.1.

10.3   In observing section 10.2, secure cart so it cannot run amok.

10.4   When leaving the parking lot, turn right. Do not attempt to turn left across traffic. Going around the block is faster than waiting for an opportunity to avoid being broadsided.

Although the above list is extensive, it is by no means exhaustive. I will post further suggestions as they occur to me. I would also be happy to hear from any readers who care to add guidelines I’ve not included. Feel free to list them in the comments section following this post.


It Doesn’t Rain at Night in June

Rain, Rainy weather
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For anyone who hasn’t heard the shouts of wild rejoicing, here’s the latest weather report:

Shortly after 1:00 a.m., thunder rumbled and the skies opened.

And once more the humble little cenizo proved itself a prophet: a harbinger of rain.

Forgive the purple prose; I’m still a touch giddy.

A piece of lore I picked up in my youth went like this: In Texas, it doesn’t rain at night in June.

When I was nine or ten and had had several years to ponder the statement, I pointed out that I’d awakened in the night and heard rain falling on the roof.

Of course, someone would say. That was after midnight, which means it was morning. Because in Texas, it doesn’t rain at night in June.

Some parts of Central Texas had as much as 3.5 inches this morning. Austin proper didn’t get that much. The airport, several miles west, got an inch and a half. I don’t think my part of town did that well. But we’re grateful for what we got. It cooled things down.

In my family, rain always brought the same response. My father herded us into the car so we could drive around and see the results. Were the ditches full of water? Was it standing in the fields? Did it rain on York Creek as much as it did closer to town? We could spend hours on a Sunday afternoon, exploring the back roads, speculating on what the precipitation would do to grass, cotton, corn, maize…whatever happened to be growing at the time.

(Note: In those days, I didn’t always appreciate the finer points of rainfall. I usually sat in the back seat with my nose in a book.)

Once my family joined my uncle and aunt on a Sunday afternoon tour of the wetlands. We passed property belonging to one of the town’s more outspoken citizens–in fact, this citizen had for several months been saying some undeservedly nasty things about my uncle, day after day, in his presence (that’s another story). He was a public servant and generally mild-mannered, so he never responded. But his good nature was beginning to fray.

When we reached the gate, he stopped the car, hopped out, and made his way through puddles to the fence, where the rain gauge held a couple of inches of water. He took the gauge off its stand, filled it with water from the ditch, and set it back in place.

He came back to the car grinning. “Tomorrow old Soandso will come into the post office telling how she got over six inches out at her place.”

In other words, if you can’t–or are too much of a gentleman to–lick ’em, just play a practical joke.

That was over forty years ago. Some people I know are still laughing.


Leucophyllum frutescens - Purple Sage, Texas S...
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My community theater debut came the year tee-shirts read, I Survived the Summer of 1980.

That was a bad one, weather-wise. It was hot and dry. No rain, no time, no how.

I spent June and most of July, four evenings a week, in the auditorium of a San Marcos junior high school.

At the director’s signal, the lead tenor ambled onstage singing:

Overhead the sun is shining
Not a cloud across the sky
Not a sign on the horizon
And it’s gonna be another hot day

Underneath, the earth is burning
Crops is bad and land is dry
Still the sun
Keeps on returnin’
and it’s gonna be another hot day

Then the chorus, of which I was a member, ambled on after him:

Yes, it’s gonna be another hot day.

We sang a lot about heat. We sang a lot about rain, too.

None of us had to be told to move slowly or to look tired and sweaty and miserable. Except for a set of double doors on each side, the auditorium was sealed shut. No breeze swept through. Until opening night,  the air conditioner stayed off.

The play in rehearsal was 110 in the Shade, Tom Jones’ and Harvey Schmidt’s musical adaptation of The Rainmaker.

In every night’s backstage conversation, someone noted the irony of our situation. A college girl said, “Wouldn’t it be neat if it doesn’t rain all summer, and then, on opening night, at the very end of the last act, when sound-effect thunder begins to rumble, rain begins to pour down outside?”

We forgave her the thought. She was young, and heat had obviously addled her brain. In addition, it’s always been my policy to cut sopranos of her quality quite a bit of slack.

As it happened, rain spoiled the effect by arriving a few days before the play opened, and by the time we closed, most people skipped the cast party. Drought followed by heavy rain usually equals flooding of area creeks, sometimes of rivers. No one wanted to get caught by high water.

Heat notwithstanding, I loved that summer. The privilege and joy of singing made the discomfort worthwhile. Let me sing and I’ll put up with a lot.

Or I would in 1980. The current summer finds me in a different frame of mind.

The spring of 1980 was relatively cool. Thermometers waited until early June to skyrocket.

This summer began in April. This summer, we’re losing trees. Most of Texas is in extreme or exceptional drought. An arborist told one of my friends that we’ll be seeing the effects for years to come. Wildfires cover the state. The Llano River is drying up, and with it that area’s source of water. And then there are the farmers and ranchers, and the crops and the livestock. And the people who live without anything to cool their houses. Family Eldercare is once again collecting fans for people who can’t afford fans or air conditioning.

Technically, we’re now in the midst of a cold front: highs are between 95 and 99, two-digits temps until next Monday. Tomorrow and Thursday, there’s a slight chance of rain.

I confess–every time the local weatherman predicts that chance of rain, I laugh. Bitterly. Derisively.

Then today, I saw cause for hope: the cenizo is blooming. A hedge bordering a little strip mall just a mile or so from my house bears a dozen or so little purple flowers.

Google cenizo and you learn the shrub blooms after a rain.

Ask me, and you learn it blooms before. I know. I’ve been watching it for years.

This afternoon, when I saw those purple petals, I got so excited, I came close to running the car right up onto the sidewalk.

One swallow doesn’t make a spring, of course, nor do a dozen flowers make a deluge.

But tomorrow I’ll drive down to check on their progress, perhaps get out and take a more exact count. And hope those flowers contain a message:

It’s gonna rain
All through the mornin’.
It’s gonna rain
All through the night.

It’s gonna rain
All day tomorrow!
And Lord God A-mighty.
Now won’t that be a sight!


Lyrics to “Gonna Be Another Hot Day” and “The Rain Song (Reprise)” by Tom Jones; music by Harvey Schmidt.

Image of cenizo (purple sage) by J.M.Garg (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Book Review: Kaye George’s CHOKE

Question: If you combined Lucille Ball with Inspector Clouseau, what would you get?

Answer: Imogene Duckworthy, amateur PI and main character of Kaye George’s new mystery, CHOKE.

Immy is a delight–the 22-year-old unwed mother of 3-year-old Nancy Drew Duckworthy (Drew), she lives with her retired-librarian mother, Hortense, in Saltlick, Texas; slings hash at her Uncle Huey’s cafe; and wants with all her heart to be a detective like her “dead sainted father.”

When Immy up and quits her job (Huey wants her to work double shifts again), and then explains her sudden unemployment by telling Hortense that Huey pinched her bottom (well, he DID pinch the other waitress’s bottom), Hortense heads to the cafe to give Huey what-for. Then Huey is murdered, the police take Hortense to the station, and Immy has her very first case. Guided by the Moron’s Compleat PI Guidebook, she sets out to find the perp.

The Moron’s Compleat PI Guidebook says nothing about staging a jailbreak, holing up in a Cowtail motel, or color-coding her list of suspects. But it does mention disguises, just what Immy needs to investigate on her home turf. An outfit that combines “Buns of Foam” with “Boobs and Belly,” however, leaves the amateur PI in need of the Jaws of Life, and the reader in stitches.

Kaye George’s CHOKE is a different kind of mystery. In most detective novels, the reader watches the sleuth-protagonist work his way through chapter after chapter, picking up clues and discarding red herrings, until he finally comes up with the answer. In CHOKE, however, the reader picks up clues while watching the gullible, ultra-literal, but enthusiastic Immy charge through to the solution while remaining blissfully clueless.

With CHOKE, first-timer Kaye George has accomplished something special: an original mystery, an original Immy, and a novel that leaves readers laughing and wanting more.

FTC Disclaimer: No one gave me this book. I bought it with my own money. Kaye George is one of my critique partners, but our relationship did not influence my review. I did not tell her how to write CHOKE, and she did not tell me what to write in my review. In fact, I never even critiqued the manuscript, and my introduction to the novel came when my copy arrived in the mail. I wish I had critiqued it, because I would like to take credit for “Boobs and Belly,” and the part about the letter opener, and the chicken. But the whole thing was Kaye’s idea. Even the orange pickup on the cover.

The fault, dear Brutus

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A friend asked where I am in my Molly-writing process.

I explained:

My horoscope for June 7 read as follows:

June 7 – SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 21). You may not want to show people your work because you feel that it’s unfinished. But a project that is completely finished is lifeless. So show where you are in the process, and you’ll be enthralling.”


On June 7, I bought a new notebook. I have always believed that buying a new notebook will solve all my problems. That’s why I have so many notebooks and so little money.

I also bought some new Pilot Precise pens–black, blue, red, green, and some other color. Pilot Precise fits my hand.

I also bought 300 lined 3×5 index cards, plus a soft plastic card file that closes with an elastic band and contains more index cards and some clear plastic tabbed dividers.

The notebook and the card file are green. They don’t match perfectly, but I thought green would be the easiest color to see when they get lost among my other notebooks, books, and various other paper goods.

I will grapple the notebook and the card file (and a couple of pens) unto my soul with hoops of steel (when they’re not under a stack of something) so they’ll be available every time I have an idea or write a word for Molly.

That is where I am.

And that’s where I thought I was.

While proofing this post, however, I realized I had misread one word. I thought the astrologer meant that if I left Molly completely unfinished, the novel would be lifeless. That would goad me to action.

But it actually says

But a project that is completely finished is lifeless.

After rereading and pondering, I understand the meaning of the original statement. And it’s all right. I accept it.

But I like my way better.

So, with apologies to all concerned, I’m adding an un-.

June 7 – SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 21). You may not want to show people your work because you feel that it’s unfinished. But a project that is completely UNfinished is lifeless. So show where you are in the process, and you’ll be enthralling.”

Now, critique groups, prepare to be enthralled.


Scorpio for June 7, 2011 can be found at Horoscopes by Holiday by Holiday Mathis (or by clicking the link below). It also appears in the Austin American-Statesman, where I read it this morning before my eyes had finished opening.


Check on other ROW80 participants’ progress by clicking here.

And is it gone, yes it is gone, alas

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I was about 500 words into a post about Kaye George’s new novel, Choke: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery, when, upon clicking Save Draft, I received an error message I’d never seen before.

Then I discovered I was logged into HOTSHOTS!, the local Sisters in Crime chapter’s newsletter, and was, in effect, about to post on the wrong blog. The Sisters probably wouldn’t have approved.

Grateful for the error message, I tried to get back to the draft so I could cut and paste it into To write is to write is to write.

Guess what. It wasn’t there. Sometimes To write is not to write.

Sounds downright Shakespearean, doesn’t it?

Never mind.

I then logged into To write, etc., and rummaged around to see whether the vanished draft had somehow landed here. Stranger things have happened. But not this time.

So. I shall behave with my usual grace under pressure. I shan’t say mean things about anyone. Or anything. Or lament the loss of that most excellent essay.

I shall instead close up shop and go to bed.

If, tomorrow, I can bring myself to start again, I shall, but with the knowledge that any attempt to match the quality of the original is futile.

That piece was dead brilliant.

ROW80 Wednesday 6/1 Report

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Pursuit of Goal #2 (exercise 30 minutes a day) having resulted in a disgusting case of sun poisoning rash, I cannot pursue either Goal #1 (write 500 words a day on Molly) or Goal #3 (go to bed by 11:00 p.m. every night).

I’m much too busy scratching.

Tomorrow, Goal #4: Calamine lotion.

To check up on people who are writing instead of scratching, click here.


Image of cat by Hisashi (originally posted to Flickr as D01_6510) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons