Most of you know my feeling about malls. I’m a real believer in supporting local business, and secondarily, buying pre-owned stuff….no sense killing more than one tree if you don’t have to.

I used to love to shop. Would get off work, change clothes, hit the mall for food-court Chinese and shop till the place closed down. Always found something cute for work, and never left the house without something cute on casual nights. Back in Charleston, WV were I kinda grew up, I caught slack because when I bought an outfit, it was always paired with matching shoes, purse and gloves. Yes, gloves. I got called prim and proper more than once.

Then life got complicated. Married, baby, stuff….you know. it happens.

But I’ve lost some weight and wanted clothes that fit. I need some tops that aren’t tee shirts, and wanted new capris. So, yesterday I decided to go shopping (something I now hate to do, primarily because I go during day hours instead of waiting till all the under-10-year old set is at home.)

My first thought was to hit up my consignment shops. My favorite is Haute Seconds on Wilshire between Brentwood and Santa Monica — they have great designer stuff and several production companies use them after films wraps. I scored Abbi the $3000 Loubitons Cameron Diaz wore in “Bad Teacher” there. And a couple equally good shops are within a couple miles. It seemed like a good idea until I reminded myself that it takes a dedicated day to find clothes for myself in consignment shops because I’m not a size 4. Never have been, never will be, and I would probably end up buying shoes for Abbi or a Fendi, Louis or Gucci purse instead of my intended purchases…and I’d still have to make another shoing trip for the stuff I needed in the first place. Problem Number Two is that I’m in Fullerton. Haute Seconds is anywhere from 40 minutes to 3 hours away — one way — and that would only be my first stop. To add to the frustration, there’s always construction on the 405. Logic dictated that drastic measures were in order, so in a moment of utter weakness, I went to the mall.

What I didn’t take into consideration was that Saturday, May 4, 2013, was “early shopping” day for Mothers Day, or maybe just the day that very large families decided taking their pre-pubescent crew to a crowded mall was more fun than a trip to the beach in 90 degree weather or Magic Mountain, Disney Land, or Knott’s Berry Farm where kids are both entertained and appreciated.

Not only was the place packed, it was packed with entire families, and evidently most families have 4+ children…..all running rapant, all in charge of their own little individual gift bags, and all ready for a) food, b) a bathroom break, or c) a nap. Mostly, they decided I was a target catch in their track meets, or something to use as blocking dummy. Not one parent intervened. I just wanted a peaceful day of putting together a spring/summer wardrobe that didn’t consist of jean capris and university/sports/hot spot tee shirts. Those of you who went to Myrtle Beach with me know I can’t resist a fun tee shirt. My all-time favorite is AJ’s in Destin, Florida. Down the sleeves are “Suck the Heads,” and b) “Eat the Tails.” The other favorite in Destin is Busters, an off-the-beaten path burger joint, and I can’t resist buying Cara Roy tee shirts that are copies of Seaside’s Spring and Fall wine festival posters.

But back to the mall, along with those tiny bundles of energy were at least one, usually two, and in some cases generations of adults…all in states of a) hunger, b) need of a bathroom break, c) in need of a good hockey game or a nap, and d) in serious need of a valium, xanax, or at least a beer. Mostly, they were in need of a couple hours with no kids. I’ve never understood why one parent couldn’t stay at home with the kids while the other one shopped. Men hate shopping anyway. Why should they be subjected.

Put those two classes of people together in a scenario that had been out of my frame of reference for over 6 years, and there I was…a) wanting to go up to some parents and say those words I used to utter on a regular basis before Abbi was born, “If you can’t control that thing, leave it at home,” b) still in re-coup mode from surgery when I really shouldn’t have been stressing myself out, c) in my usually-impatient state, and d) resolute to not leave until my mission was accomplished. I mean after all, I’d given up Haute Seconds (and probably a new purse) for this.

What (the f—) was I thinking?

Maybe I wasn’t. Maybe there are still some meds or toxins hiding deep within my body that made me less than lucid for just a nano-second. Maybe I forgot the frustration of going into a mall where I didn’t know the locations of the brands I like, the restroom, or my much-needed Coke for the first time. And on a Saturday. For whatever reason, there I was. There I would stay…..praying that I would find what I needed very quickly so I could get the hell out of there and finish the other things I’d planned for the day — filling the car’s tank and going grocery shopping for my 17 charges who go through snacks, Lucky Charms, apple juice, and toilet paper quicker than I can get them purchased and put away.

It seemed a logical move to go to Macy’s first. They carry both Ralph Lauren and Jones New York. Both brands have the butt to waist ratio.

I surveyed the first floor, which usually houses women’s clothes…..but after discovering only a warehouse full of cosmetics, perfume, shoes, jewelry, accessories, junior stuff and bathing suits, I headed upstairs, where I found nothing but “Women’s” clothes. A whole floor of “Women’s” (plus-size) clothes. Oh, and a sections of regular-sized suits and formal/cocktail wear. It made me wonder if that was the only assortment of regular clothes they carried.

There was no 3rd floor.

I headed back to First floor, asked about casual wear, and was directed to the basement. The basement? Really? But I was on a mission, so off to the basement I went. Mini-munchkins were still circle-eighting themselves around and between my legs or assaulting me with tiny gift bags. It amazed me that parents were letting their kids run wild. My assumption was they weren’t concerned about the kids being abducted — 20-minutes, and they’d be returned.

This made me long for the days when we dressed up to take a bus to downtown Charleston, wander through The Diamond, Stone & Thomas, Pecks, Frankenberger’s, and other stores where we could shop like ladies, pick clothes we liked with just enough staff to be helpful when needed but not obnoxious enough to want to establish long-term relationships, and could charge our purchases to our parents’ accounts before hitting The Diamond’s winding lunch bar, Valley Bell, or the Quarrier Diner for a hot dog with chili and slaw with a Coke in a coned cup (I’m thinking it was about 10 ounces, which was plenty).

But the good news was that the first thing I spotted in the basement was the Ralph Lauren department, where I picked out a couple pair of capris and some cute tops. The pants I chose were the size I thought I would wear, and they were a little loose, so I tried the next size down…and they fit. And the tops I’d always worn wear open with a cami underneath now closed all the way without leaving gaps between the buttons. It was then I realized that I’m only one size away from being where I was before my assault on December 7, 2007. It hit me that once the doctor gives me permission to exercise again, though I’ll have to take it easy for awhile, I’m scant months away from being back to my normal size. No, I’ll never be a size 4 — or even 6 for that matter. I don’t want to be. I enjoy being a real woman with a real body. I may get a mini-six-pack, and it’s great to feel my hip bones again, but I never want to be a “rail.” And I can get back down to my “fighting weight” well before the Writers’ Police Academy in September. That makes me really excited. Can’t wait to get my tee shirt with “WRITER” on the back. Even more excited to gain information that will make my mystery/thrillers more accurate and believable while meeting other authors from all over the country. They only accept 150 people, and I’m thrilled to be one of them.

But back to the mall. There wasn’t anything in the Jones New York section that tripped my trigger, and I was starting to feel a little light headed, so decided to take a break and hit the food court. Finding it was another matter, and brought up yet another of my pet peeves. Why don’t people understand that driving rules apply at malls. Drive/walk/push the damned 3-kid stroller down the same side of the walkway you’d normally drive on. We’re not in the freaking UK– not down the middle or and certainly not maneuvering the bus of a stroller with your stomach while holding a Coke in one hand and your cell phone in the other. And if the kid is screaming its head off, pick it up. Feed it. Change it. Take it home. Immediately. Not after you’ve finished trying on every bra in Victoria’s Secret while annoying the hell out of all the other customers.

And it was damned near impossible to find the food court, which was nowhere close to the picture on the huge map depicting where it should have been…..they should have made a note that there are TWO Macy’s stores — one for women’s crap, and one for men’s and house stuff. Telling me it was beside Macy’s wasn’t enough information.

Finally got there, ordered a taco salad without the shell and the obligatory Coke to get my body revving again, but it didn’t work. After eating, I still was light-headed and came home without filling the car or grocery shopping for my little piranhas. But that happened Sunday, so no gallows were erected and they’re still happy with food back in the cabinets.

And in spite of the angst, I learned a couple of lessons…..a) if possible, schedule time to get to the Santa Monica area where I can shop in the upscale designer consignment shops I love, and where the staffs know me, or b) hit the mall during school hours or after the dinner hour when stroller or over-active-cookie-propelled kids are behind the closed doors at home playing video games. And I came home with a killer new outfit that I can wear for business casual, another trip to the mall, or even a date if that strange event should ever come up.

Other good news is that my website is back. My year-long subscription had run out, and they hadn’t sent me an invoice so I had no way of knowing. I’ve written down the date for next year so I can be proactive. See, I’m becoming a responsible adult again. (At least in some areas, but don’t expect miracles. I still gotta be me.)

Until next time, take care of yourself, and know you’re important to me. I’ll be more proactive with the blog from now on; so much has happened in the last month, and we need to catch up.

Enjoy your day. Tell someone you love them. Complement a stranger. Hug someone. Laugh out loud. Live life as if this is the last day you have. And love yourself. See you soon.