There comes a time when even the most independent, stubborn, do-it-myself-or-do-without woman has to run up the white flag and ask for help.

That time came this week. I had put off grocery shopping for awhile now, opting instead to use up what’s in the freezer and the pantry before it went bad. The fact that I hate to shop had a bit to do with the procrastination, too.

And then … when I got up a little more than a week ago, my back decided it didn’t want to straighten up. When I finally got over the shock of being stabbed with a dozen ice picks in my lower back and hip, I managed to bend at the waist and watch the floor as I held onto the wall and got to the bathroom.

Of all the days to have this particular malady, that Saturday was the absolute worst. I had planned to attend the Cades Cove Homecoming celebration with my daughter Emily and my grandchildren, then we were going to meet one of my “adopted” kids — a friend of Emily’s from elementary school on up — and her fiancé in Cades Cove to take their engagement photos.

Not being able to take a step without the ice picks going crazy put an end to the homecoming plans, but with ice packs, acetaminophen, stretches and lots of prayer, I was able to meet Emily in town and head on up to Cades Cove. I made it pretty well and thought I’d be completely upright again in a few days. I was still planning to do my marathon grocery run on Sunday.

My back had other plans. When Wednesday came and I still couldn’t stand upright for very long at a time, I knew the writing was on the wall. I managed to do the work I needed to do and meet the people I needed to see, but there was no way I was getting groceries. Even using the grocery pickup service wouldn’t have helped. I could drive to get them, but who’d carry them in the house?

I’d have kept scrounging around for food at home but the last straw was when the toilet paper was gone. That’s when the white flag of surrender went up, and I sent an email to my kids, asking which one wanted to stay in the will badly enough to pick up some groceries and, most importantly, toilet paper.

They both wanted to stay in the will, but Emily won out since she was getting her own groceries the next day, anyway. I sent her a list, she picked them up, and she, her husband and all three kids carried them in and put them away. Now, THAT is service!

The kids like to do some “shopping” of their own when they come to visit. You never know what you might find in my house that once belonged to their mom or their Uncle Adam, or even me or their grandpa. Their favorite shopping area is now the basement, and sure enough, they asked to go downstairs and look around.

Their haul was pretty good this time. An orange, plastic Slinky, a metal Slinky, a book identifying rocks and minerals that their grandpa had when he was a kid, two film cameras that had belonged to their mom and uncle when they were teens, and two toy rifles. I told them to ask Uncle Adam before they took the toy guns, though. Their dad called, and Uncle Adam said OK.

The kids weren’t the only shoppers. Their dad found a golf ball picker-upper and a bag of golf balls. And Emily, the one who fusses at the kids for dragging more stuff into her house from mine, went browsing, too. I heard a squeal of delight wafting up from the basement and hollered down the steps to ask what she found.

“Vanilla Ice!” she said. “My old CDs!” She went through and found a dozen or so and carted them off with her.

My back is improving. By next week, with ice packs, heat packs, light stretches and rest, I should be walking upright again. Even better, my family’s version of “American Pickers” got some more junk — I mean, treasures — out of my house.

Groceries for treasures. Not a bad trade at all.

Contact Linda Braden Albert with story ideas at

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