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Friday, October 16, 2015

A Piece of Childhood: Goodbye, A & P

The A & P has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are associated with that grocery store.  The first thing I read by John Updike was “A & P” (how many other grocery stores have a short story by a quintessential American author named after them?).  And I have always loved the story behind the great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.  Thus, when I went to get my 30-year-old A & P card replaced at the Greenwood Lake store and was told:  “We can’t do that because we’re closing,” I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.  The A & P has been filing for bankruptcy and closing stores for many years but we have finally reached the end of the road.  And it makes me sad.  

My kids will never know what it’s like to pile into the station wagon and tumble out into a dinky grocery store with way too flourescent lights, where my Mom literally knew everyone in the store.  Part of that is because my kids will never know what it was like to grow up in a real “neighborhood” in the 70’s, where we didn’t get driven to our sports because we simply PLAYED outside all day long and until the most irresponsible in the group finally caved and said, “OK, it’s time to go home.”  The heart of the neighborhood was the schoolyard and the playground for us kids; and it was the A & P for the moms.  Next door to the A & P was the beauty salon where the moms got their hair teased once a week.  And a barber shop where, it turns out, one of the main employees had to go away for a while for pedophilia but -- strangely -- he came back to work after doing his time and everybody let him cut their hair again.  It was that kind of an era.  We just didn’t make that big of a deal over stuff.  Next to the barber shop was the drugstore where, when we got a little older, we spent all our free time playing PacMan; and then the bakery where I developed my intense love all baked goods.  Most especially black and white cookies and frosted brownies (what is with these chocolate squares people try to pass off as brownies??  True brownies come with a thick slab of chocolate frosting on top and are little pieces of heaven).   Everyone took pride in their work.  The cashiers competed to see who could ring people up the fastest and they cared -- deeply -- about keeping the line moving.  The grocery baggers also would take your groceries out to the car for you.
We loved going to the A & P with my mom when we were little.  I loved the red brick and the signature cupola.  We loved picking out the produce and the cookies and snacks. My mom would get stopped every 15 minutes because she was a 2nd grade teacher and she was constantly running into students, parents, former students.  She acted like she had all the time in the world to talk to them (she didn’t).  It was like walking around with a rock star, kids would literally squeal with delight when they saw her (BTW:  this doesn’t happen to people in my profession.  No one squeals with delight when they see their lawyer in the produce aisle).
Flash forward 40+ years, I pickup Christian, my oldest at crew practice at ACRA on the Monksville Reservoir in Ringwood, NJ everyday except the days I have crew.  And I get there a little early so I can go to the A & P in Greenwood Lake, 3 miles away, and get any groceries I need to fill in the gaps.  And so it was that I was in the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, that I realized this era had finally come to an end.  I even sat and talked to the store manager about it. There will be no more A & P’s.  The lucky stores will be bought out by Stop and Shop or Acme.  The unlucky ones will simply close.  I’m really going to miss the A & P and so will a lot of people.  It wasn’t just a grocery store, it was the last remnant of a way of life that is now long gone.
And so, I will leave you with the first paragraph of the John Updike short story, “A & P” (I have since gone on to do a thesis on John Updike for my American lit class at NYU and, of course, have read everything he has written).  I don’t have permission to put the whole thing in here but I would urge you to go out and read it:  
In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits. I'm in the third check-out slot, with my back to the door, so I don't see them until they're over by the bread. The one that caught my eye first was the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the backs of her legs. I stood there with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not. I ring it up again and the customer starts giving me hell. She's one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, and I know it made her day to trip me up. She'd been watching cash registers forty years and probably never seen a mistake before.” -- from A & P, by John Updike.
Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to count your blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo  
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Friday, October 9, 2015

How to Avoid 6-Pack Abs

For those of you who have 6-pack abs, I commend you.  Really.  Nothing screams “hard work” like washboard abs.  However, for the other 99.5% of the population, including myself, we have never had perfect abs and never will.  Maybe I had them once because I was 14 years old but I can barely remember that far back.

I have noticed that some of the young athletes out there are working toward a goal of 6-pack abs.  To which, I ask:  Why?  I mean, why are 6-pack abs even a thing?  A person can be perfectly healthy and physically fit and never have “abs.”   I, for one, say let’s do away with unattainable goals, especially for our youth.  Let’s replace it with reasonable goals like cutting out sugary foods and drinks; moving around every day; and trying a sport you’ve never done before.  
Here is what a review of my Pinterest feed on “abs” tells us one must do in order to get a 6-pack, and I am summarizing:  First, follow a clean diet.  Ok, I am supposed do to that anyway because of my high cholesterol.  But “clean diet” translates to 3 oz. of chicken and a giant tub of kale.  Pass.   If “eating clean” means giving up tamales (it does), then count me out.   
Next, “Perform cardio in the morning for six consecutive days and lift most afternoons or evenings. For the best results, do it first thing in the morning before breakfast.”  Listen, I love rowing, and rowing is cardio, but I am not going to do it every day before breakfast.  I LOVE breakfast and I especially love coffee.  Give that up to do cardio?  I can’t even contemplate that kind of negativity in my life.
As for lifting:  the most lifting I am going to do, other than lifting boats, is hauling my 11- year old’s ridiculously oversized backpack into the car twice a day.  Seriously, what the heck is in that thing?  I have always secretly wondered if Lands End sews weights into their backpacks to prank the parents of America.  
But wait, there’s more.  There is then a list of all kinds of abdominal exercises I have never even heard of, like the “hack squat” and the “decline incline reverse Smith machine jackhammer blah blah”.  I’m sorry, but these sound like they are dangerous to your health.  Yes, if you are on a varsity team, you are going to have to do that kind of stuff.  But for the rest of us, be serious.  From the moment I wake up all I can think about is when I can go back to bed.  Second choice is when can I sit down and rest.  After a long row, I do not want to do incline decline reverse anything.  I want to take a hot shower and plant my butt in my easy chair. At which time, I will turn on my heated massage pad and then read a book on my iPad or watch Netflix.  I tend to read and watch things that make me laugh.  Out Loud.  While eating tamales.  
I would like to be able to press a button where I am not inundated with images of other people’s unattainable 6-pack abs.  And I would especially like it if kids weren’t bombarded with those images as well.  To the youth of America, I say:  Eat the Tamale!  Because you can be physically active and eat your tamale too.  
Have a great day everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo
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Friday, October 2, 2015


Fair Warning, Dear Friends, this Blog may just be TMI.  As the title suggests.  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me just say I am very excited to be rowing in NJ this Sunday with my Rowing BFF in a women’s open double race.  As with everything, I like to plan ahead.  Are my kids (also rowing -- in two different meets) all set?  Check.  Did I wash my UnderArmour, my racing uniform, and pack my water shoes?  Check.  Boat loaded, tools packed, check, check.  And one more thing -- do I have my Depends?  Check.

I don’t know what to tell you -- it’s a long race -- 4,000 meters, which is 2.5 miles, plus you have to row another 1.5 miles up to the start.  Plus there is just a lot of time waiting around.  Waiting at the start, the referees turning you this way and that.  Plus, we leave early -- the bus leaves at 7 am so I am up at 5:30 am chugging coffee.  Then comes the Hydration phase.  And what it all comes down to is, I don’t like to be uncomfortable. I am too old to be uncomfortable. So I will be wearing Adult Depends during my race JUST IN CASE.  You know, in case Mother Nature calls and I am only halfway down the racecourse.  Hey, surgeons wear them!  This is common knowledge, all you have to do is watch Grey’s Anatomy.
Of course, I bought them at Price Chopper during my lunch hour.  I threw the package of Depends into the grocery cart with all the other stuff and forgot about it.  When I got home and my kids unloaded the groceries, I initially thought that there was a vermin or a dead cockroach in the grocery bag from the way these two boys were carrying on.
“Oh my gosh, what is that??!!”
“Mom, are you wearing DIAPERS now??!!”
“It’s for my race,” I explained coolly as I grabbed my diapers out of their hands.  The ultimate irony, of course, is that I spent YEARS changing their dirty baby diapers.  There is not justice.
“We don’t want to know,” they both said at pretty much the same time.  Smarmy little rugrats.
My husband was much more understanding.  A little too much so.
“What’s that look all about?” I asked him.
“I’m just thinking about that long trip to Maine,” he said, “does this mean we won’t have to make pitstops anymore?”
“Just give me those,” I said, as I hid them in my closet.
“Those will show under your spandex,” my kids pointed out.
“It’s not hygeinic,” they said, “ does Coach Kennedy know about this?”
“Coach Kennedy is the reason I bought these in the first place!” I said and I might have stomped my foot, with great annoyance.  “How do you think I stay out in the motorboat for 8 hours with that man?”
That was a conversation ender.  There were looks of great revulsion and then I heard nothing more on the topic.
So yes, I am prepared for our race this Sunday.  Kathe and I will be racing an a women’s open 2x at the Head of the Passaic in NJ.  Michael will be coxswain of a girls novice 8+ in the same race.  And Christian will be at a race that it twice as big, the Head of the Riverfront in Hartford CT with ACRA, his rowing club, where he will be 2-seat in a LW 4+.  Anthony will be, most sadly, taking his sailboat off the Hudson River for the season and wrapping it up this weekend.  At least one of us will be comfy during our racing ;)
UPDATE:  since I wrote this Blog, a couple of weeks ago, the Head of the Passaic has been canceled on Sunday, or postponed, with a new date to be set, due to the weather predictions.  Head of the Riverfront will go on as planned.  And Mrs. Lo will take that windfall of a day to make apple crisp.  Low cholesterol apple crisp, of course ;)
Have a great day, everyone and, as always Remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo
(Photo of Mrs. Lo and Mrs. Mills at the Coastweeks Fall 2014 Regatta in CT, with our bronze medals).  For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, visit