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Elegy for the Final Generation of Toys R Us Kids

Toys R Us v. Green Lantern!

It’s official: everything that stupid movie touched dies. Some just took years longer than others.

Parents and other former children lamented, waxed nostalgic, and raged at the news this week that Toys R Us, the last American large-scale brick-‘n’-mortar toy store chain, may be shuttering its remaining 800 stores over the next several weeks due to the long-term shenanigans of the evil corporate overlords who bought it in 2005 and basically ransacked it for cash for years. Soon that kaleidoscopically immersive childhood shopping experience, one of the few places a family could go and spend a day surrounded only by wall-to-wall playthings, will be downgraded from endangered to extinct.

I’m saddened by the loss, but not devastated. My life has been one long series of toy store collapses.

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Faces in a Crowd of Caring

Gleaners Food bank!

Our team of volunteers busy and bustling and bagging away.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, each year from 2014 to 2016:

[My employers] gave several hundred of us the opportunity to spend half a workday (on the clock!) participating in scheduled acts of service at various charities throughout Indianapolis — charitable synergy courtesy of United Way. I signed up and went forth to serve at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, one of the most prominent resources in local hunger relief efforts. Despite their long-standing presence and far-reaching efforts, Gleaners has yet to run out of work. Like any major city, Indianapolis has its share of poverty-stricken residents, food deserts, regrettable layoffs, and hard times during recessions. Officially, the Food Bank doesn’t hand out food directly to the needy; it’s the distributor that provides foods to food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, domestic abuse hideaways, and the like. The Food Bank, in turn, receives its supplies via donations from the big-box stores (Kroger, Meijer, Marsh, Walmart), from government suppliers, and from food drives held by other corporations and organizations. It’s a complex delivery system with many important components, and help is always welcome.

…and so it went again in this outtake from September 2017, when dozens of my coworkers and I flocked to Gleaners once more for another round of assistance with their various anti-hunger processes. This year I was on a team tasked with filling up bags of groceries that would be handed out to local schoolchildren in need — canned, boxed, and pouch-shaped items of varying degrees of nourishment, all to ensure they’d have something to eat besides their school lunches.

I didn’t write up the experience this time for MCC because honestly, after four years, what else is there to say? Other than copying-and-pasting the same description, which I just did there? The work is sadly still necessary, and many of us were happy to pitch in. We weren’t there to show off or stand out or selfie our way to victory. We were just faces in a crowd ready and willing to do our little part. I lost track of how many bags we put together in all — somewhere in triple digits? — but we kept busy, kept the assembly line going steady, and kept up hopes that we made a difference to someone out there.

security camera!

A reflection of our volunteer group off the overhead camera shield, milling about in our service.

Girl Scout Cookies of 2018, Ranked from Best to Bleah

Girl Scout Cookies!

Today’s haul courtesy of a troop tabling at a local Kroger. It was fun watching three girls race to see who could total up our purchases in their head the fastest.

It’s that time again! Every year my wife and I look forward to Girl Scout cookie season, when young-lady empowerment meets the spirit of entrepreneurship and the happy result is another satisfying fix for this perennial craving of ours. Times have gotten harder ever since our usual suppliers went to ground, by which I mean the Girl Scouts we used to know got old and got out of the game. Unfortunately our relatives haven’t been spawning replacement Girl Scouts to hook us up lately, and we’re sadly not hanging out with the right twenty- or thirtysomething crowds whose households harbor these adorable dealers that we can’t live without. That means we have to go prowling around our local groceries and big-box stores in hopes of finding a troop and their moms hanging out by the front door and selling whatever leftovers their own families didn’t buy off them by the crateload.

Today we lucked into a batch early in the season, but had to extricate ourselves from a slowly escalating debate over which ones are best. Rather than keep sowing seeds of dissent between those loyal friends, we walked away and left the two moms and a dad to restore order. That conversation haunted me for the rest of the day. When that happens, I usually have no choice but to type out those thoughts, thereby freeing up that obsessing brain space and clearing my head once again.

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What “Christmas Shoes” Means to Me

shoes!

Guess which ones are mine and win an MCC No-Prize!

No, not the song. Egad, no. No no no no no.

Once again it’s the season for family making the visitation rounds for the sake and spirit of Christmas. Our largest family gathering every year is at my father-in-law’s place, where this year over three dozen relatives and plus-ones convened on Saturday morning, though just to brag for the record, Anne and I were among the three (3) people who could be bothered to arrived on time.

One of the major house rules is shoes come off at the front door, because older couples who think white carpet is a splendid decorating choice are finicky that way. By the time everyone arrived and got down to eating and mingling throughout the afternoon, the entryway was a cluttered war zone of castoff footwear. No heels, no Manolo Blahniks, nothing you’d wear to a shoeshine stand. Neither our families nor our gatherings see high rollers like that. Anyone who would object to such carefree shoe storage would be recognized right away as Not One of Us.

And yes, I see you number-crunchers out there scrunching your nose because you count two dozen pairs at most in the photo. Several more pairs were offscreen to my left. It’s also possible that a few of the toddlers were allowed to keep theirs on. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t looking because no one assigned me to Christmas Shoe Police duty.

The shoe pile is emblematic of our gatherings themselves, whether it’s holidays, kids’ birthday parties, or the annual reunions where we’re joined by a few extra strangers of shared blood. Everyone who’s a citizen of our tiny microcosm nation agrees to throw in together and make one big mess. At the end we agree to retrieve the parts of the mess that were our fault, one by one, family unit by family unit, until order is restored and my in-laws have their foyer back.

It’s Christmas. It’s what we do. In our finer moments it’s how we can be as a family in other matters as well.

Merry Christmas to you ‘n’ yours from us here at Midlife Crisis Crossover. May your days be merry and bright, may your celebrations of our Savior be blessed and comforting, and here’s hoping the circles you belong to will set aside their reservations and come together in happy, sloppy, love-filled pileups of their own.

Our Dog Looks Like We Feel

Lucky surgery!

Never thought I’d see the day when our dog Lucky would find himself dressed like a Sno-Cone, but here we are.

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Mamaw’s Temporary Setback

Mamaw!

Nine time out of ten, when Mamaw believes she’s smiling for a photo, this is the result. Technically it’s a good sign.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: each November my wife Anne and I take her grandmother to the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Now on its 68th year, the Show provides a variety of vendors selling Christmas decor, Christmas gift ideas, loving handicrafts, licensed character products, off-topic home improvement services, telemarketing schemes, and more more more. For Mamaw the fairgrounds are a premier destination for her two biggest annual affairs. The Indiana Flower and Patio Show in March is her Super Bowl; the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show is her San Diego Comic Con. Longtime MCC readers were treated to photos of previous expeditions from 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

This year, we’ve run into a bit of a complication.

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