What Really Happened In Eufaula.

This past weekend, I felt compelled to return to the scene of the crime. My crime.

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The Place: Lakepoint State Park in Eufaula, Alabama.

The time: One year ago.

My conviction: Utter selfishness.

My sentence: a year of guilt.

I never really told my story. How I actually felt that weekend…because it would have been grotesquely insensitive. But it’s been a year now…maybe the trauma has departed enough for me to not seem like such a detestable person.

Or maybe not.

One year ago, I was itching for adventure. For winter wonderland. For snow.

A snowstorm was being predicted several days in advance – a massive one. 9-12 inches perhaps!

The only problem? It was definitely not coming to Birmingham. It might go anywhere around Birmingham, but there was a zero percent chance of Birmingham seeing more than a dusting – a dusting that definitely wouldn’t stick more than two seconds.

No way, no how.

So I made the only logical decision: I decided that I MUST go to the snow.

For the children.

For adventure.

For LIVING.

First, I spent 36 hours chasing the predictions. As the target moved, I changed my plans. I was going to Charleston…Columbia…Augusta…Atlanta…Middle-of-Nowhere-Georgia…

I invited every one of my friends and relatives to join me, one at a time, trying to get someone in on our grand adventure. But everyone had plans that week, or didn’t want to take their kids out of school, or had some reason that they needed to stay in Birmingham.

Finally, the night before, the weather experts said that the Ground Zero of this massive snow event would be…Eufaula, Alabama.

Three hours southeast of Birmingham.

It seemed unlikely and made no sense – Eufaula has probably never seen more than a handful of snow in its history. But the experts were decisive, so I obeyed. I made reservations at a state park, and I dragged the children out of bed and set off early in the morning, because they said the snow was coming quicker than expected.

Some were happier than others.

Leaving

It was a harrowing journey, for a southern driver, anyway – I dealt with flakes of snow and drops of sleet and needing to actually use the defrost for its true purpose for the first time in my life.

As we grew closer to our destination, the snow turned to sleet, and the sleet turned to rain…the temperature gauge in the car kept rising…and I began to feel very nervous on the inside.

As we arrived, the tweets began coming in.

“You should have stayed in Birmingham. My yard is covered in snow.”

“It’s snowing hard here! There’s already an inch on my yard and it’s just started!”

“It’s a shame you didn’t just stay put!”

I HATED MY FRIENDS.

I WANTED TO TELL THEM TO SHUT UP FOREVER.

It was above freezing and raining where we were, with no hope of that turning to snow anytime soon. But the state park attendants assured me that the snow was still coming to Eufaula. LOTS of it.

And so we waited. Extraordinarily nervously.

Then the reports began surfacing that Birmingham didn’t just get snow – but a massive ice underlying the snow that destroyed all transportation in progress. The fact that Birmingham was indeed getting snow was a last minute realization, so the entire city left work to go home and/or pick up their children…which turned the entire city into what was the most massive, epic, city-wide stranding situation ever experienced. The scenes were out of an Apocalyptic Movie. Or The Walking Dead on a snowy day.

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…Photos which I couldn’t TAKE, because I was stuck three hours away. With nothing but rain and melting icicles on an alligator sign.

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The smug tweets turned into panicked tweets. Stories began rolling in about thousands of cars being stuck on the interstate. No possible way for emergency personnel to get to them. And this wasn’t thawing soon – Birmingham was officially iced in – and at the most inconvenient of times. The city’s children were stuck in their preschools and schools with teachers that were now emergency caregivers.

~ My Dad’s cousin was stuck in her car for eleven and a half hours.

~ Noah’s Godfather (who is an elder at our church) was trying to drive uphill, but had to abandon his car in the parking lot of a rather infamous liquor store (called Tootie’s, no less,) and walk ten miles home. In the snow, up the mountain, on a solid sheet of ice.

Meanwhile, I was panicking. Not about them – not about the actual human suffering going on in my city – but about the fact that I had spent all this money…done all this planning…dragged my kids away…and now we were stuck in this tiny cabin, iced out of our city for who knows how many days, in the rain.

I did care very much about what was going on in Birmingham, but I also cared very much about my own mistakes.

Not only were we in the rain, but we were in the only rain in this entire blasted storm. We were supposed to be in the epicenter and we were in the exact spot where the snow ended and the rain began.

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If we had simply stayed home, we would have the winter wonderland I so desired.

But could I tell anyone this? Could I bemoan my situation and find comfort?

Um, no.

Because everyone I knew was having The Biggest Crisis of Their Lives.

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~ My pregnant neighbor had to walk up a mountain, and met another pregnant walker along the way.

~ A blog friend Adrienne had to go door to door asking anyone if they had a breast pump, and my friend Maree recounts this experience:

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Everyone had a story of hours of chaos, tragedy, panic, and having to urinate in their cars.

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My parents, however, had felt like they should stay home that day. And sent my kids a video of them gleefully sledding down their hill.

Which was just great. Because my children, doe-eyed and pitiful, asked dozens of times thereafter, “Mommy, why didn’t we just go to Gramamma and Pop’s?? It was a lot closer….and they have SNOW!”

Regret drowned me.

I paced, stuck in the tiny cottage, rain pouring outside, children bouncing off the walls, cycling between sadness about this ridiculous adventure and guilt about being so emotional about my own situation. Then more regret. And more guilt.

Meanwhile, other people had real problems.

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I read tweet after tweet, status after status about what was going on in Birmingham, trying to tune out my frantic and antsy children, watching every radar in hopes that our rain would turn to snow.

FOR TEN HOURS.

Ten hours is a long time to be stuck in a warm cabin with rain beating on the windows.

Okay it’s a longer time to be stuck in a freezing car on an interstate with ten thousand other commuters while one’s kids are stranded at school. Which is why I’m the worst person on the earth. And why Birmingham may disown me for this confession.

All I had wanted was snow and all I had gotten was the opportunity to try and keep my kid from breaking the overly fancy glasses at the state park restaurant.

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I finally put the children to bed at 8:30pm, after a long day of stir-crazy in Eufaula.

And as I walked out of their room from tucking them in, I looked out the window.

And the snow had begun.

I nearly cried.

I went and jerked those kids out of bed, shoved their rain boots on over their pajamas, and tossed them out the back door.

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It was beautiful. It was snow. We had finally arrived.

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It only snowed for two hours, but I watched every flake fall from that sky. We ended up with as much snow as Birmingham, minus the underlying ice and tragedy. We were in a picturesque place, with beautiful views of both the sunrise and sunset, a frozen shore, and a breakfast buffet – it was the absolute utopia of Southern Snow.

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Which only compounded my guilt about my ten hour attitude issue.

Oh and also? People were still stuck. Just watch a little of this video to see how stuck Birmingham was:

Tens of thousands of kids had spent the night at their schools, roads were filled with thousands of abandoned cars, my husband spent two nights sleeping at his office, all those people who had too many plans to join me on their adventures found their plans cancelled and their lives upturned, and in general my city remained in shambles for about 36 hours.

Meanwhile, we were playing blissfully, exactly where we wanted to be.

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Worried about those at home, but fully enjoying our two inches of winter wonderland.

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Digging up puddles,

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And making snow angels.

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My kids even made friends with the one other family at the state park, who had driven up from Florida for the same purpose as us.

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We had snow cream,

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A warming station,

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And perfect happiness filled every moment.

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Except when it didn’t.

When we drove home two days after the storm had hit, I lost count of the cars still abandoned on the interstates, and we made it home just one hour after Chris – Who had been at his office, which is 20 minutes away, for about 55 hours.

Armageddon had hit my city and I’d missed it – instead, I spent that time worrying about the demise of my personal adventure, and then enjoying it fully.

(For the children, of course.)

I’m sorry, Birmingham. I deserve your wrath.

What really happened to you that weekend?

Where Shopping is Not A Pleasure.

Editor’s Note: “Buggy” is the correct way to say “shopping cart”. I know that not all of you agree, but I cannot force myself to type shopping cart twenty-four times. That’s exactly 168 more characters than are needed. A character savings that I just lost with this explanation.

Publix

1:40pm: Walk through the parking lot of the grocery store, two kids trailing.  Not looking forward to what I know lies ahead, but at least I only need ten items.

Boy Child: “Can we get a race car buggy can we get a race car buggy can we can we can we??”

1:41pm: Locate giant and unwieldy race car buggy, attempt to steer it into the door, run into sides of door several times. Meanwhile, boy child is in a constant, panicked repeat of “Putmein!Putmein!PutmeIN!”

Because it’s so like me to want the most inconvenient, inefficient, drastically reduced capacity buggy – just to let him watch me push it.

1:42pm: Boy child is secured and driving happily. Head to the produce section.

1:44pm: Cannot find pesto. Why wouldn’t pesto be near the herbs and guacamole? But no. I have to ask the strawberry stocker, who explains that the pesto is on the aisle with the oranges.

Of course it is.

1:48pm: Boy Child begins demanding to get out of the buggy. The ridiculously insanely inconvenient buggy that I got just for him. I say what any mother would. No freaking way.

1:50pm: Need cauliflower. WHAT THE CRAP. Cauliflower is $3.99 a head? Nobody even likes cauliflower! I’m basically doing cauliflower a favor by trying to cook it into my recipe and fool my family into thinking it’s not cauliflower. I should get a community service credit, not have to pay nearly eight dollars for the amount of cauliflower I need!

So I find the biggest most beefy heads of cauliflower in the store to justify this insane expense.

1:55pm: Try to get down the pasta aisle. A woman wearing leggings as pants has parked her buggy in the EXACT center of the aisle, and is on the other end of the aisle comparing brands of spaghetti. Her purse is sitting open on the top, so moving her buggy may make me look like a thief.

I don’t like looking like a thief.

I try to maneuver around it, but The Architect of All Publixes designs their aisles to the exact width to never allow this.

She finally looks up and realizes her abuse, and moves her buggy so I can continue on.

1:58pm: Boy child ramps up his demands for freedom. I finally let him out, telling him to stay near me.

He does not.

Girl Child, meanwhile, has noticed that candy is in every conceivable spot that her eyes could land, and is asking for each individual item. It’s as if the store designer measured the fifty-three inch height of my daughter and constructed the entire store around her being able to see all available in the entire universe that includes High Fructose Corn Syrup.

2:00pm: Boy child hooks onto the side of the buggy to ride – since he’s tired of walking. Making my already impossible job of steering into an Elite Olympic Sport.

2:01pm: I try to get sour cream, but another stocker is in the way. And my sour cream isn’t there, despite his restocking. I move on, vowing to come back in hopes that he finds some. He never offers to help.

2:02pm: Girl child forlornly asks if she can ride on the side of the buggy like her brother.

2:03pm: Encounter second person that has left their buggy directly in the middle of the aisle – they are not visible, so I do the moving for them, then manage to not scrape Boy Child’s back while squeezing past. Or at least not scrape it so hard that it bleeds through his shirt.

2:05pm: Head back to the produce to get what I missed. Boy Child takes this moment at the loose leafy vegetables to remember that he has an impressively juicy cough.

He walks up to the vegetables and leans over them so that he has better trajectory.

“Do NOT cough on the lettuce!”

The entire produce section turns and looks.

2:06pm: Boy child begs me to put him back in the buggy. His legs are so tired.

2:07pm: I try to leave the produce section, but a THIRD person has parked their buggy in The Impossible Spot, and on one aisle over, the strawberry stocking lady has now knocked over her load of strawberries, making the entire produce section my own personal Alcatraz.

I finally find the one exit in this Human Maze of Hell.

2:08pm: Boy child is so desperate to ride now that he has crawled up under the buggy and is sitting in the under basket.

I instruct him to get up. AND WALK.

2:09pm: Both children now think that it is their responsibility to pull my buggy. They each grab opposite ends of the front of the buggy and pull in opposite directions, creating a ten-foot berth and distressed shoppers at every intersection.

2:10pm: I try to get to the sandwich meats. Yet another clerk is restocking. IT’S 2:10PM, Publix. Restocking the entire store should happen at 2:10AM.

2:11pm: This reminds me that I needed to check back in on the sour cream. Restocking is still happening, my brand is still out, but I stand there, awkwardly close to the stocker, attempting to get another variety, but alas – he has perfected the art of blocking every canister of sour cream at once.

I wait.

I wait.

I say, “Excuse me – I’m going to grab that sour cream. I was waiting to see if you had the light variety…”

He ignores me, not offering to check his stocking cart or even move so that I don’t have to brush up against his chest to retrieve my dairy product.

2:13pm: We finally head to the check-out line, where I begin taking notes on this Trip to Remember. Leggings as Pants walks up behind me as I’m writing about her superior aisle blocking abilities.

Meanwhile, Girl Child is still begging for every item she sees (“Why don’t we ever buy Apple Jacks? Can I have Swedish Fish? I sure would like some more chocolate…”)

And Boy Child is still begging me to put him back in the buggy.

I realize that I’m never going to make it to the car with him out of the buggy, so I put him in, telling him in no uncertain terms that he cannot get out until we arrive at our car.

So he begins to sit on the side of the buggy. To spite me. To make me wish I had a fork to eat my own eyeball.

Meanwhile, Leggings as Pants is asking me questions about how the sales work.

“If it’s 3 for $5, do I have to buy three, or can I buy one?”

I assure her she can buy as many or as few as her heart desires and still get the deal, but she turns to the cashier and asks again – in case I’m lying to her, obvs.

The cashier agrees with me.

BOOM.

2:20pm: Boy child is performing Pommel Horse on the side of the buggy, begging to get down.

2:21pm: The groceries are all finally bagged and paid for, the bagger does not offer to help me to my car and won’t even make eye contact, and I literally run out of the store, hoping that Girl Child can keep up and that Boy Child sticks his landing, if he does fall.

2:25pm: Load the groceries into the car, notice that the buggy return is one aisle over, attempt to get to it when the blasted behemoth of a buggy gets stuck under my rearview mirror. AND IS STILL NEARLY SCRAPING THE CAR ON THE OTHER SIDE. Not because I’m a bad parker but because this buggy is wider than a full-sized Hummer.

2:26pm: I squeal out of the parking lot, simultaneously mentally cursing Publix and creating a business plan to start a Grocery Delivery Company.

Babysitters are Bad Salesmen.

Marketing is supposedly essential for almost any business. Good marketing doesn’t just inform people about your stuff, or invite people to use your stuff, but it awakens the desires inside people for your stuff.

M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hands.

Disneyland is the happiest place on earth.

You’re not yourself when you’re hungry for a Snickers.

I have realized that there is a vast market of untapped wealth in the world just waiting for the right marketing campaign.

Babysitters.

Parents of small children absolutely adore being alone at a restaurant without asking their spouse to not stand on the chair and not take bites that are too big and not have to take them to the restroom and wipe their rump during the middle of dessert.

And yet, all babysitting is consumer driven.

Who is available?

When are they available?

How early can they come?

How late can they stay?

Texts, tweets, calls to confirm.

It’s a lot of planning ahead, so I theorize that it happens less often because at least one parent has to be free enough or driven enough to plan to make it happen.

But what if babysitters were aggressive marketers?

What if you were sobbing into a pile of laundry and received a text from a trusted, responsible, young lady that your kids adored….

How to Market Babysitting

What if you were fixing your ravenous son his fifth lunch when you sighed and popped open Twitter and saw a DM…

Babysitting Marketing

Or what if you just needed a FEW MINUTES TO YOURSELF WITHOUT HAVING TO ANSWER THE SAME QUESTIONS TWENTY TIMES OVER and happened to get this…

Market Babysitting

What if your overflowing fire hose of email routinely included coupons for package deals of opportunity for peace and quiet?

What if your babysitters realized that you’re good friends with another babysitting client, and offered to let you have a double date, and they’d keep both sets of kids for the bargain of time-and-a-half?

Pro Tip To Babysitters: Kids are easier when they have friends. And you just got time-and-a-half for an easier job.

What if your babysitters saw your Facebook status that said “My son just catapulted a full and open box of Cheerios across the living room after drawing on the walls with Sharpies and the baby won’t nap HELP ME NOW” and texted you, offering to help you right now?

Right???

It could be even better.

Really aggressive babysitters could create branding and slogans, blanketing your parenting life with a constant pulse of hope and excitement.

Laura. Between love and madness lies parenting.

Jordan. The best a kid can get.

Shelby. Live in your world. Play in mine.

Mandy. Save Money. Live Better. Just do it.

Jennifer. The greatest tragedy is marital indifference.

Ainsley. You’re in good hands with Ainsley.

Hayley. When you care enough to love the very best.

And you know that kids memorize a marketing slogan quicker than they can destroy a room. So you’d be hearing,

“Mommy? Can we have Hayley over? She loves us THE VERY BEST. And I know you care enough to give us that.”

Dependable young women of the world, open your eyes and see the easy fortunes that are yours for the taking, from decent and kind people who used to be you, and who miss being you at times in spite of the meaningful love they share with their beloved children. We are such easy marks.

So, babysitters. Why not try a little of that marketing I know you’re learning about in college? Think outside the Instagram standard box.

Get a Square Reader. Take credit cards.

Send spam email.

Be big brother. Maybe creepy Facebook can market to a physical location, but you can super creepy market to the real-time fragile emotional states of every young mother you know.

Get rich!