Shopping for school supplies is like getting stabbed in the eye with a #2 pencil

My awesome guest blogger today is Lenora Rand. She writes a blog here on ChicagoNow called Spiritual Suckitude – great fucking blog title, right? Who doesn’t want to be more spiritual? I know I do. You can find Lenora’s not sucky blog by clicking HERE and also “like” her on Facebook by clicking HERE. Now – read her rant on buying school supplies. And what the FUCK is with the kleenex boxes anyway?

Shopping for school supplies is like getting stabbed in the eye with a #2 pencil

by Lenora Rand

There’s a quote from a relatively famous Catholic saint, Teresa of Avila, that goes something like this:

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
 Patience obtains all things
. Whoever has God lacks nothing.

Clearly St. Teresa never downloaded the PDF of the required school supplies for her children’s school district and grade level. Certainly she never took her kids shopping for said school supplies.

Every year, this has kicked any illusions of saintly shit right out of me.

First, there are the crowds, me among them, wild, unruly, shark-feeding frenzied in a quest to get through the List, not get completely ripped off and get out of there. And then there’s the desperation, everyone frantically looking for the 24 fucking #2 pencils, as well as, of course…

a handheld pencil sharpener, 1 pkg. colored pencils*,
+5 red pens*,
+10 blue or black pens*,
1 pkg (4-6) multi-colored highlighters,
1 large glue stick,*
1 pair pointed scissors,
1 standard/metric ruler,
2 pads of post-it notes,
2 boxes of tissues
etc. etc. etc… (and what do all those stupid ass asterisks and plus signs mean, anyway?)

All of us, hoping against hope, to locate and purchase these items as if they are the lifeboat and we are on the Titanic. (Have you ever noticed that the number required on the List hardly ever matches the item count on the packaging? If 24 #2 pencils are required, they will only come in packages of 20. This is enough to make you believe in conspiracy theories. Or at the very least, Satan.)

Don’t get me wrong. I love shopping. It is one of the ways I suck the most at being a more spiritual-ish-type person. As opposed to those folks who could live in a cave on simply air and prayer and possibly a stray wild mushroom or two, I like me some Target. And DSW. Even a Home Depot makes me happy now and then. But this tyrannical List…it’s almost been enough to make me swear off shopping forever.

And it’s not just the vast quantity of indecipherable items on the List. It’s the specificity of them. Spoken and unspoken. Like two boxes of tissues. Simple enough, yeah? No, not just any two boxes of tissues. My children have scolded me in the aisle of the Staples for picking up square boxes versus rectangular ones. “What difference does it make?” I’ve pleaded. “We’ll get in trouble if we bring in those,” one of them explains. I laugh – this is clearly a joke. “No, we will Mom,” the other child chimes in, ominously. “I’ve seen it happen.”

As I write this I’m on the road back from dropping off my youngest daughter at her college, 9 hours away from home, for her Sophomore year. Yesterday I put my oldest on a plane to Guatemala, for her semester studying abroad. Their lists were a little different this year. But I think I finally realized what they really are, these back to school supply lists.
They are what we focus on, go batshit crazy over, so we don’t have to think about all the unknowns. So we don’t have to stare into the scowling face of our fear. We go to the fluorescent, over-lit super store so we don’t have to go to the dark place, of all we can’t predict or control.

Every fall, since they were in preschool, before they headed off to their first day, I took a picture of the girls on our back steps. It was, I think now, a kind of a sacred moment. “Sit right here. Let me take your picture,” I said. What I left unspoken was: Let me look at you, and hold you here, before you go off to face godknowswhat: new and amazing knowledge and relationships that will open you up and send you flying, hopefully…but also craziness, meanness and loss.

Before you go out into the world without me, write this list on your skin with your washable magic markers, the list Aibileen recites in The Help:

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Then go. Do your best, win and lose, fail miserably, like we all do, get back up, and keep going.

And come back to me. At the end of it all. Come back to me. I’ll be here.


Sniff….I TOLD YOU Lenora was rad….

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