Breaking up with Costco.

For the last ten years, I’ve been in a bad relationship.  Girlfriend, you know how these things start.  Enticed by the usual suspects–looks, wealth, and a really good smell–I have allowed myself to fall, and great has been the fall thereof.

Oh, we have fun in this relationship–no doubt about that–but the fun comes at a high price.  Engaging in this tango gives me a short, dizzying high (I’m flung up with the gods!), but it is invariably followed by a plummeting low of guilt and shame.  I could blame my partner for bringing out the worst in me but, as with all bad relationships, I must bear some responsibility for choosing to stay in it.  I know the time we spend together is toxic; it’s wrangled and warped and removes me ever further from reality.  I know that what seems too good to be true–the glamour, the excitement, the smell–probably is.  I know that continuing this relationship could very well cost me others (not to mention, a whole lotta money.)  But I also know that without it, my weekends and holidays get so long and lonely I can scarce endure them, and My Overall Persona loses that sparkle-and-glow that complete strangers so often compliment me on.  (oh they don’t?)  And so, though I know many things, of one thing I am certain:  it is time to end this relationship.  Which means, my dear faithfuls:  I’m breaking up with Costco.


 The last time I went to Costco, I spent

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two-hundred and seventy-five dollars.  Two hundred and seventy-five dollars.  What did I buy, you ask?  An i-Touch, a patio table, some dweeby but irresistible Tommy Hilfiger sweaters for my husband?  (Only at Costco can Tommy Hilfiger sweaters be afforded.  But are they really Tommy Hilfiger?  I have my doubts.)  No, mis vidas, no such luxuries came through the fleeting checkout line as I passed over my debit card, hands shaking and ‘stache sweating.  The truth is, I can’t really remember what I bought.  And therein lies the problem.  I only remember that thirty dollars went to new pillows for the kids (this was the Great Need that justified my trip in the first place), and the rest went, it would seem, to mini-bags of Cheezits and Sun Chips.  I usually don’t buy mini bags of anything, let alone Cheez-its and Sun Chips (too expensive!)  But see, Costco had this rockin’ coupon knocking three dollars–three whole dollars!–off their fourteen-dollar boxes of Cheez-its and Sun Chips mini bags.  And the boxes were BIG.  So big, I decided, that it must be a good deal.

I’m sure there were some legitimate groceries in my cart somewhere.  I vaguely remember putting chicken and cheese in the fridge when I got home, and of course the standard four-foot tall bag of corn strips found its way into my pantry.  A carton of eggs and a twin-wrapped pack of milk did appear, and surely I brought home the stack of fourteen-thousand flour tortillas my husband adores (he’s made breakfast burritos an art form.)  In my defense (see My Standard Line of Defense)*, there were some pricey household items–paper towels, Ziploc bags, dishwasher tabs–all purchased in quantities massive enough to carry us through…drumroll, please…the next month or two.  The next month or two?  The final price tag would suggest a much longer life for my items purchased.  And yet, in a month or two, I’ll be back spending another three hundred dollars on other things I “need” in massive quantities.  I know shopping at Costco is supposed to save me money in the hereafter, but the problem is that I need to save money now.  Did spending that two hundred and seventy-five dollars today save me hundreds–or even twenty–dollars next month?  Somehow I doubt it.  Out of discretion, I will not tell you what my monthly grocery budget is, but I will tell you that those Sun Chips and Cheez-its took a heckuva whack at it.

A cold reality remains:  I could have gotten all this stuff at Winco, and I wouldn’t have been tempted by the Kirkland Signature Reversible Christmas Wrapping Paper on my way out.  (It’s shiny!  It’s pretty!  The holidays are coming, and the scout motto says, Be Prepared!)  I once had a cashier at Winco tell me that Costco reps actually came through their store and matched their prices, since Winco is the least expensive grocery outlet by a margin.  So I can get olive oil for the same price at Winco as at Costco, and I don’t have to buy in such volume, which means I spend less in the here and now while still getting the same price ounce-for-ounce.  On top of which, I will not accidentally-on-purpose throw a bag of those Dark Chocolate Acai Blueberries (it’s an anti-aging superfood!) in my cart.  I can shop at Winco with confidence that I am getting the best price and getting only what I need.  Winco is where smart people shop.  Winco offers me a long-term, mature, emotionally intelligent relationship.

But here is what Winco doesn’t offer me:

  • samples of microwaved bean burrito slices that somehow taste decadent when given to you on a toothpick for free.
  • a lunch counter with 60-cent refillable sodas (!)
  • a skincare and makeup section with department-store brands offered at “deep” discounts.  ($199 is nothin’ for wrinkle-zapping cream that would cost you $250 at Nordies.  So what if you have to buy four bottles of it today–it’ll last you into your eighties.  Think how hot you’ll still be.)
  • fresh flowers, also offered at “deep” discounts ($14.99 is nothin’ for a Harvest Bouquet to grace your autumnal table.  So what if you didn’t need it and shouldn’t have bought it in the first place?  At Costco, Overspending is Saving.)
  • a free, live Juicer! show, performed every hour on the hour by a grown man who…well, I don’t want to be mean.  Suffice it to say, the Juicer! show is performed by a grown man.
  • dazzling vacation packages, family health insurance, printer cartridge refills, and big black tires for your car.

Do you see what I’ll have to give up?  Do you see why it’s so hard?  Switching from Costco to Winco is like dumping the Bad Boy for the Nice Guy:  it’s healthy but it hurts.  Sure, the nice guy will please your parents and give you a long-term commitment, but he’ll never share a romantic evening with you inside the Almost Heaven Outdoor Steam Sauna ($5,999.99), feeding you four ounces of Farmed Russian Sturgeoun Caviar ($249.99) while describing the Metropolis Playset ($17, 999.99) he’ll assemble for the children you’ll one day have together.  Can you blame a girl for wanting just one more rendezvous with a chicken bake and churro?  I promise it will be the last.  What can I say?  Love hurts.

*It’s Really Not My Fault.


October morning.

Do you ever open your eyes in the early morning, lying in bed against the dark window and silent streetlight, only to realize–clearly, as if for the first time–all the things that you are not?  The blank slate of dawn is unforgiving, for you cannot blame these thoughts on a long day or noisy night.  Your family will sleep peacefully for a few more hours while you lie awake, looking at the wall and quietly taking these soft, shameful punches to the stomach.  The disinterested stillness has chased your normally confident self out of bed, leaving its lumpy, unimpressive counterpart behind.  You recognize these forces and try to combat them with your old tricks:  I am many things, you tell yourself, as you’ve told yourself before.  Mother, wife, daughter, friend.  Those are good things (you know this) and you are good at them.  But there are many good things that you are not and never will be.  Things that you just can’t be; things that you weren’t born to be.  Most days, what you are not barely enters your mind.  But on this dark and dreamless morning, with a clarity cold enough to ache, it’s all you can see.


What is it that, every now and again, casts this grim net over our unsuspecting hearts?  Is it last night’s bad dream, forgotten in detail but lingering in mood?  Is it a belated response to thoughtless words, tossed dismissively at us the day before?  Or is it simply a psychological law of motion–for every action, an equal and opposite reaction–that is keeping our egos in check lest we get haughty in our successes?  I would accept any of these explanations, so long as I don’t have to accept the most frightening one:

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that my self-doubt is real and, worse yet, justified.  Insecurity at the hand of one’s peer or one’s psyche is a cakewalk compared to insecurity at the hand of What, in fact, Is.

Have you ever had such a morning?  I have.  Yesterday, I did.  And though I didn’t talk much about it (what’s to say–welcome to adulthood?), its blackness stayed with me as I woke the kids, made the lunches, did the dishes.  Wiping down the kitchen counters, I listened to a lecture on the university station wherein a professor was talking about finding the divine in our every day life.  We should recognize it and we should record it, he said.  Every single day.

What a sweet sentiment, I thought grimly.  Trite and tired, but sweet.  I changed the station and turned my attention back to my heavy heart.  Few things satisfy like self-pity.

Ten long hours later I drove across town to pick up my daughter from swim practice.  She chatted happily in the car while I listened, quiet and distracted.  She was sparkly and teenager-y and oblivious to my mood, and I was glad.  Had she asked me what was wrong, what could I have told her?  That I was sad because I was me?

We walked through the house to the fridge, where I opened the door and pulled out a covered plate.  She chirped happily as I peeled off the wrap, revealing the Asian chicken–“my fave!”–I had made earlier.  She bounced through the kitchen, foraging for food to hold her over until dinner was warmed.  I smiled thinly and put the plate in the microwave.  Punching the black buttons, I suddenly felt two gangly adolescent arms thrown about me from behind.   A head of brown curls burrowed into my back as a hint of her little-girl voice laced the maturing one.

“I love you!”

“Oh, wow…I love you too.”

It was that trite and tired, and that sweet. And I don’t think it was all that deep; my daughter had thrown her arms around me with the sheer joy–I’m pretty sure–of anticipating a good meal after a hard workout.  Right then, it was all she wanted in the world and I had made it for her and she loved me for it.  And in that dim kitchen on that dim day, despite all my efforts to the contrary, I found a smidge of divinity.

She started to pull away but I turned around and held her tightly against me, breathing in the mass of tangled brown hair that has soothed me since forever.

“Thanks, honey.  I really needed to hear that today.”

“Why today?”  Her voice was muffled against my sweater.

“Oh, I just did.”  I couldn’t explain things to her–or maybe I just didn’t want to.  How do you explain depression?  I kissed the top of her head and thought about what my daughter, and the professor, had said.  Their words did not change anything or solve anything, but they got me through the night.  And the next morning, when I opened my eyes against the dark window and silent streetlight, for some inexplicable reason (time? weather? sleep?) I no longer saw what I was not.  I saw, instead, that the world–and my own self in it–was just as it should be.  And that it wasn’t only good, it was good enough.



Our Sunday night dinner.



 I bought this lasagna for my hubby to feed the kids while I was out of town last weekend, but he never got around to it.  I’m guessing it’s because there were too many steps involved.  See, when it comes to anything in the kitchen, if there’s more than one “step,” my husband withdraws.  As with his finances and his fashion, Derrick is very conservative with his Steps.

Example:  If I’m leaving for the evening and there’s a pizza in the oven, I’ll say, “Honey, in about ten minutes when the timer goes off, can you take the pizza out of the oven?”

“Sure.”  This will be said without looking up from his phone.

“Okay.  Then, let it cool for a few minutes, slice up some pieces up for the kids, and–”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!  That’s alot of steps.  Let me get a pen…”  I’ll then wait quietly for approximately one minute while he gropes haplessly around the kitchen for a pen.  After approximately one minute,

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I will hand him a pen and a post-it note.  He will take both wordlessly, eyebrows now furrowed and expression studious.  He will stick the post-it note to the counter and lean deeply over it, pen poised and ready to write.

“Okay.  Break it down for me.”

I will then explain to him, slowly, how to remove said pizza from the oven and serve it to the children.  He will take copious notes, organized by Steps and SubSteps for clarity.  This system is slow but it works–until I go out of town.  Because then, regardless of the explicit instructions on the box of whatever he’s “making,” there’s nobody to dictate “Step 1:  Open freezer and remove lasagna” for him.  And can you imagine the number of steps that would follow?  You’ve got Step 2:  Opening the box.  Step 3:  Preheating the oven.  Step 4:  Listening for the preheat beep.  Step 5:  Opening the oven door.  Step 6:  Changing the oven rack position.  Step 7:  Placing lasagna on oven rack…and ohmygosh it goes on and on and on.  I’m getting exhausted just thinking about all the Steps.  No wonder he ignored the lasagna and took the kids out for Indian food instead; forty dollars is a small price to pay when your sanity’s at stake.  I mean, the lasagna effort fell on Friday night after a long week of work and church.  Didn’t the poor guy have enough on his mind without having to become Emeril and look good doing it?

The good news is that, due to my husband’s Steplessness, I didn’t have to make dinner tonight.

The bad news is that the upper left hand corner of that box boasts the Great Value brand, which everyone knows is code for WalMart.  Yep, I didn’t even spring for Marie Callenders.  It’s getting bad around here, people.