Author Archives: Kim Peterson

Classic Post: Booting Up

This post first appeared on January 3, 2018.

“Don’t go outdoors without your boots!”

These winter words echo across decades.

Actually, this child liked clumping boots. Despite Mom’s belief I would catch 19 diseases, their podiatric force field protected me when stomping ice-covered gutters.

Unfortunately for my parents, their children’s feet grew hourly. While my sister acceded to wearing my hand-me-downs, I drew the line at my brother’s galoshes. However, recycled boots weren’t always an option because we had honed losing winter wear to a fine art.

The positive side: Lack of sufficient winter garb kept us inside warm classrooms at recess. While friends shivered outdoors, I read favorite books.

Some stories featured boots. In Little Women, Jo March’s boots helped her play swashbuckling heroes and villains in homegrown dramas. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, a traveling cobbler designed Almanzo Wilder’s first manly pair. Puss in Boots never would have brought his master fame, fortune and a princess if he hadn’t strutted about in that all-powerful footwear.

Still, most boots seemed mundane until go-go boots invaded the fifth grade fashion scene. My ignorant mother refused to buy me white boots amid the muddy slop season.

I whined. I pined. I promised I wouldn’t lose them, not even one.

She wouldn’t budge. So, I languished without the go-go boots every girl owned except me — and Becky Andrews, who wore thigh-high black boots like Nancy Sinatra’s when she sang “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”

Ten years later, I wore a similar pair that stretched my height well past six feet.

But snow time with my toddlers required mommy boots. My little ones readily wore garage sale Strawberry Shortcake and Ninja Turtles boots, even with PJs. They, too, waded in yucky gutters, despite my warnings.

Years later, they cornered me in a boot discourse similar to my go-go debate with Mom decades before. My children wanted me to spend a gazillion dollars on short-topped “boots” designed to frostbite toes.

When I refused, they left a row of sensible boots to an undisturbed existence in the closet — until I discovered my son’s worked well when I shoveled sidewalks.

I couldn’t wear the tall, black leather boots (my size!) I’d found on sale for five bucks.

I still wear them. I just leave them home when it rains. Or sleets. Or snows. Or. …

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Fess up. Do you wear your boots during yucky weather?

January: Love It? Hate It?

Image by Julita from Pixabay.
Image by Enirehtacess from Pixabay.

Some welcomed 2023 with the same enthusiasm as author Jerry Spinelli: “I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.”

Contrariwise, author Roald Dahl would “remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead.”

Thankfully, neither works for a calendar company. But their clash illustrates typical debate.

Image by Alexey Marcov from Pixabay.

My highly scientific poll, based on Walmart eavesdropping, suggests that in January, most shoppers wilt like post-Christmas poinsettias.

Snow-lovers gripe because The Weather Channel sent only flurries. Snow-haters grouse because blizzards lurk behind every cloud. Kids hate January because they return to school. Babies, imprisoned in snowsuits Grandma gave for Christmas, raise loud protests.

Besides, everyone’s broke.

We’re all on diets.

Many people really hate January.

Quiet January was one of Mom’s favorite months.

My mother, a pastor’s wife, loved it. Her Christmas responsibilities ranged from distributing food baskets to ensuring no shepherd in her pageant picked his nose. Plus, we children assumed Mom would make Christmas dreams come true … without money.

Though she loved Jesus supremely, Mom thanked Him when His birthday party was done.

I, too, savor January’s serenity. Time for unhurried worship of the Christ who dared enter our crazy world. A hot-soup-homemade-bread aura helps us settle down and settle in to savor good books. For Hoosier authors, January’s excellent writing weather. (How do unlucky novelists in the Bahamas finish anything?)

Mom and I have passed January preferences to my Michigan grandson. He, however, loves shrieking forays down the highest sledding hills.

Hubby’s the only basketball fanatic in our family … not.

My husband and other sports fans welcome January because they wallow in basketball. Mourn losses. Decimate January peace with insane celebrations.

January also gave the world distinguished citizens: Martin Luther King, Benjamin Franklin and Joan of Arc. Betty White, James Earl Jones, Elvis and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hopefully, their birthday presents weren’t wrapped in leftover Christmas paper.

If this January sends snow, I’ll welcome snowflake kisses. Swish snow angels. Sled with my grandson, shrieking all the way down, “Jesus … he-e-e-elp!”

Then do it again.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.
Image by Public Domain Pictures from Pixabay.

Sorry, Roald Dahl. I’ll never vote these days off the calendar.

John Steinbeck reminds us: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”

Though, Charles Spurgeon offers even better advice: “Let January open with joy in the Lord.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Why do you like or dislike January?

Been There, Done That, Don’t Want to Do It Again

Have you created a bucket list? I’ve considered it.

Image by Tatyana Kazakova from Pixabay.

Instead, I recorded what I’ve done and would rather not repeat:

  • Buy stupid shoes. At 20, I wore platforms with heels so high they gave me altitude sickness. Repentant, I then purchased “healthy” earth shoes — hideous footwear with nonexistent heels and built-up soles that tilted me backward. Either way, I risked possible surgery.
  • Attend the Indianapolis 500. Amazing, but the cars’ incredible speed and incessant roar made me crave 30 quiet seconds inside a refrigerator, away from sizzling heat.
Image by Pexels from Pixabay.
Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay.
  • Tour France without knowing the language. My French, limited to “bonjour” and “french fries,” invoked eye rolls, especially on Petite Street, where shops sold clothes that fit only Tinkerbell.

Other remembrances make me shiver. I never again want to:

  • Camp next to someone a sheriff greeted by name.
  • Read Ku Klux Klan recruitment posters.
  • Lodge in a Honduran hotel room with broken locks.
Our baby liked the red and orange shag carpet, but it wasn’t my first choice.
  • Accept rides with strangers.

Nor will I:

  • Endure red and orange shag carpet.
  • Allow a closet-sized kitchen whose fridge froze lettuce and melted ice cream.
  • Sample saki. It tasted like turpentine.

Finally, I won’t challenge anyone to a doughnut-eating contest. Ronnie, a street kid who attended my Bible club, claimed he could outeat anyone. I devoured twice as many. Humbled, Ronnie went home, sick. Humbled, I realized the Bible didn’t recommend this form of evangelism. I called Ronnie’s mother to apologize.

Silence. Then laughter. “Glad you called his bluff.”

Still, I couldn’t look a doughnut or bathroom scales in the face. God, either, but soon I realized He’d forgiven me and had taught Ronnie and me to engage brains before mouths.

God isn’t limited by clueless mistakes. Amazingly, the kid still attended Bible Club. Decades later, I pray doughnut disaster memories have faded. That Ronnie clearly recalls Jesus loves him.

In reviewing my once-but-never-again list, I realize God’s protected me big-time. I never fell off my shoes. I haven’t been abducted, joined the Ku Klux Klan, or worn French Tinkerbell clothes.

I now can look doughnuts in the face.

Scales? Still working on that.

And God’s bucket list for me.

Image by Edward Lich from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s on your once-but-never-again list?

Classic Post: Brown vs. White Winter

This post first appeared on January 24, 2018.

Today, we’re experiencing a brown winter.

Typing those words makes me quiver with fear. Do I dare mention the weather to neighbors, coworkers or friendly convenience store clerks? With a few unguarded words, I may jinx the entire Midwest!

Despite brown winter’s dreariness, some consider it a gift, especially after enduring Snowmageddon. Anyone who mentioned “global warming” then was sentenced to shoveling the town’s driveways with a teaspoon.

No one battling the notorious Midwestern blizzard of ’78 had ever heard that term. If a foolhardy soul had suggested such to brides whose winter weddings were postponed indefinitely, they might have strangled him with tulle bows and buried him in uneaten wedding cake.

Others who survived that months-long whiteout not only stopped driving, they gave up finding their vehicles until spring.

Brown winter, by comparison, seems good.

  • Midwestern weddings should happen on schedule this weekend.
  • Cars start. They move!
  • Even if buckets of rain fall, we don’t have to shovel them.
  • Lower heating bills and fewer frozen pipes give cause to celebrate.
  • Mothers rejoice. Their offspring won’t need the 25 pounds of clothing required on snowy days. My son rated snowsuits along with vaccinations and boogeymen. Every outing resulted in a mother/son smackdown, the loudest always occurring at either the library or church.
  • A thaw dramatically reduces the likelihood of mistaken identity. Government statistics state that due to warmer temperatures, 77 percent fewer parents bring home the wrong kid from school.

To be sure, skiers and resort owners long for the white stuff. Ice skating rink owners anxiously await frigid temperatures.

No town wants its snow and ice festival to morph into a Sleet and Slop Spectacular. Nor do cities that have busted budgets, buying snowplows and stockpiling mountains of salt, look kindly on brown winters.

Worse, snowbirds cannot bear photos of friends back home visiting mailboxes in their shirtsleeves.

Yes, brown winters remain unpopular with some.

Me? I’m a coat-hater from decades back. (My son’s snowsuit antipathy is no surprise.)

Still, I welcome whispery snowflake kisses on my hood as we walk to church. Thousands of priceless diamonds glittering in my sunny backyard. Wind-carved curves of snow defy human artistry. …

Uh-oh.

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

The Weather Channel predicts snow’s soon return. Do these scientific drama kings and queens truly know their stuff?

Brown or white winter today?

Stay tuned for our latest paranoia.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which do you prefer, a brown or white winter?

New Year’s Resolutions? Already?

Image by Sam from Pixabay.

What do you mean, it’s 2023? Didn’t we just change millennia?

But if we’re going to be delusional, let’s take it all the way: Didn’t The Beatles just arrive from Britain?

Unfortunately, reality refuses to go away. I should believe the mirror and get down to the important — and now, bearable — business of making New Year’s resolutions.

Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay.

Years ago, I revolutionized this prickly process by making only resolutions I could keep. A 100-percent success rate has confirmed my process’s validity. So, with confidence — and not a little smugness — I present:

Rachael’s Resolutions for 2023

First, I resolve not to embrace the Liver Diet.

I will add another size to my black pants collection. Probably not a smaller size.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

Continuing the clothing theme: I will leave ink pens only in wash loads that include my husband’s best shirts.

I will lose 23 of my husband’s left socks. And zero of mine.

In 2023, I promise not to buy a Tibetan mastiff puppy for 1.9 million dollars, as one dog lover did. Hubby, not a canine devotee even when it’s free, breathes easier.

His mood improves further when I resolve to root against the New England Patriots, LA Lakers, Kentucky Wildcats, and St. Louis Cardinals during 2023. Forever and ever.

Image by Jason Pinaster from Pixabay.

I will not attend Punxsutawney Phil’s arrival in full ball dress — even if he and his groundhog buddies are wearing tails.

Next summer, I promise to eat three cherry Popsicles® with real sugar.

I will clear the dining room table in 2023. When in-laws visit.

However, I refuse to disturb dust in my living room. Why disrupt an archaeological wonder in the making?

Ditto for four nonfunctional boom boxes and the garage bulging with 1980s computer equipment.

Image by Azmi Talib from Pixabay.

I resolve to pray for drivers who cut me off: “God, please bless my interstate enemy — and protect everyone in his path. By the way, could You also dismantle his transmission?”

I resolve to yell at my computer more than I yell at people.

That smile crinkles will outnumber frown wrinkles.

Whew. That last goal appears impossible.

Unless I also resolve to ruin someone’s bad day with kindness. Every. Chance. I. Get.

Image by James Chan from Pixabay.

Together, those final two resolutions may blow my 100 percent success record. But don’t you think it’s worth it?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What resolutions will you make for 2023?

Of Blessed Barbarians and Baby Jesus

Image by Case Newton from Pixabay.

Years ago, my husband and I prepared for a barbarian invasion.

We hid valuables. We said prayers. We kept watch, knowing they’d sweep away our well-ordered lives.

They came.

We charged outside … and retrieved the world’s most beloved barbarians, our 2-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson, from car seats.

“Gwandma! Gwandpa!”

Baby allowed us to cuddle him, but his mind was fixed on his search-and-destroy mission.

Baby immediately yanked our books from shelves. When we interrupted, he reacted with a type A personality’s outrage.

His sister flipped light switches. “On! Off!” The little blonde goddess obviously controlled the universe.

Time to civilize barbarians — a little. We played with blocks, love-worn stuffed animals and an ancient Fisher-Price parking garage our children once enjoyed.

The grandchildren zoomed cars down the ramp, cheering wipeouts. The scene reminded me of Christmas parking lots. And (shiver!) future 16th birthdays.

Our little blonde goddess knew she ruled our universe.

I offered a Nativity set with soft finger puppets. Baby happily crawled around with Wise Men in his mouth. Retrieving bowls from my cabinets, his sister made imaginary applesauce for the Nativity crew.

Peace on earth reigned.

Too soon, they had to leave. Hubby and I helped their parents search for bag, bottles, coats.

We wanted to send the Nativity set home with them, an early Christmas present. Hopefully, gnawing the Wise Men would keep Baby quiet during the trip. Mary and Joseph bore evidence Little Girl had found real applesauce for their dinner party. We corralled animals, angels and shepherds.

Where was Baby Jesus?

Hubby sifted through the toy box again. I scanned refrigerator shelves, hoping Little Girl hadn’t decided Jesus needed air-conditioning.

This parking garage has entertained our three children and all seven grandchildren. Like Grandma and Grandpa, its parts creak and groan, but it still works.

“Is Jesus in the parking garage?” I yelled to Hubby.

Not a question I’d ever expected to ask during my lifetime.

Shaking my head as I raised the toilet lid, I hoped He wouldn’t be floating in a not-so-sanitary Sea of Galilee. No, but new anxiety seized me. Had someone flushed Him?

“I’ll find Jesus and mail Him,” I promised.

But I’d wanted our grandchildren to get to know Him during Christmas.

I dove under furniture again and discovered Baby Jesus behind the stereo.

“How did He end up there?” Our daughter dusted Him off.

I shrugged. “Who knows? Jesus sometimes turns up in the oddest places.”

Image by schuylkillcountyink from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where did Jesus show up during your Christmas season?

Classic Post: Christmas Tree Chronicles

This post first appeared on December 2, 2020.

Do you remember that first Christmas tree you, as an adult, hauled home?

Maybe you and your beloved cut a fragrant evergreen at a Christmas tree farm amid silvery snowfall.

Or you procured a Charlie Brown escapee or spent precious dollars on a Salvation Army find.

I wish we, as newlyweds, had considered those alternatives. We’d saved $50 for Christmas. Total. We possessed no lights or ornaments. We spent our bankroll on family gifts instead.

However, neighbors offered bottom branches removed from theirs. Humming “Deck the Halls,” I accented the pine-scented boughs with little red balls.

Voilà! Christmas!

The next year, I vowed to have a tree, though possibly decorated with popcorn strings and spray-painted macaroni — and the red balls.

My sister-in-law to the rescue: “Why didn’t you tell us you needed Christmas stuff? Mom gave us bunches.”

How I celebrated that tree in our government-subsidized apartment! We’d never go without one again — though some Decembers proved more adventurous than others.

Later, when Hubby was training day and night at a hospital, I stuffed our Christmas tree into our only car’s trunk.

Whew! Now to drag it downstairs to our basement apartment. Except, where were my keys?

With the tree. In the trunk.

Did I mention I was pregnant?

After a grand tour per city bus, I finally arrived at Hubby’s hospital. They paged him: “Dr. Phillips. Dr. Phillips. Your wife locked her keys in the car. Please report to the front desk.”

He displayed zero Christmas spirit, but he handed me his keys. After another city tour, I drove myself and the tree home.

Little did I know what Christmas tree tribulations awaited me as a parent.

The following year, Hubby and I set up the tree in our daughter’s playpen.

Why didn’t we corral her instead?

Child-raising theories then advocated free-range offspring. No dastardly playpen for our baby.

As our family expanded, Christmas ideals shrank to survival for us, the kids, and the tree. Trying to hide it from rampaging toddlers, we moved the tree to different locations each year. All in vain. Our son’s destructo gene zeroed in. I covered the tree’s lower branches with harmless ornaments, hoping he would eat those.

He climbed it.

To this day, I don’t know if our son consumed broken ornaments. He is 30-plus now, so I guess the destructo gene was linked to another granting him an iron stomach.

This year, our empty-nest tree mostly fears my smacking it with the vacuum. With no inkling of its predecessors’ sufferings, it basks in gentle serenity, glowing with lights, tinsel and memories.

Unnoticed little red balls, polished by 47 Christmases, still shine.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Christmas-tree tale can you tell?

Has Murphy Visited Your House?

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

This maxim originated in 1949 with Air Force Captain Edward A. Murphy, Jr., who ran a bungled aerospace experiment. Perhaps his holiday gathering didn’t resemble a Hallmark movie’s, either.

Few do. Anyone celebrating Christmas wrestles with Murphy’s Law.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay.
  • If you’ve decorated, young children/grandchildren will un-decorate.
  • If you hide medicines from them, you’ll have hidden them even better from yourself.
  • If you’ve moved plants and breakables to your bedroom, they’ll remain safe — until you and your spouse rise for nocturnal bathroom visits.
  • If light strings work, five minutes later, they’ll short-circuit your entire block’s electrical grid. Repairmen will come “after the holidays.”

Murphy’s Law also wreaks havoc with holiday feasts. Along with meeting fat-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and pescatarian (fish only) requirements as well as free-range partridges that have roosted in pear trees, hosts face numerous other challenges.

Image by Oscar Portan from Pixabay.
  • If everyone shares dinner responsibilities, COVID-19, flu, road construction, blizzards and/or meteorite showers will necessitate a host’s wild dash for a turkey that can thaw and cook in 15 minutes.
  • If you make real giblet gravy, older diners recall Grandma’s tasted better. Younger ones request gravy-in-a-jar.
  • If you overload grandchildren with sugar, parents will disappear for a week.

Then, there is the weather.

  • If half your family votes for snowmen, and the other half for clear roads, you’ll receive a compromise politely called wintry mix. Less politely: slop.
  • If eight grandsons visit, it will slop all day. Every day.
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay.

Murphy’s Law loves to tinker with generational differences.

Image by mpmd2009 from Pixabay.
  • If the eight grandsons play Monopoly, keep ice bags handy.
  • If you own five identical, yellow toy cars from Cheerios® boxes, all your future NASCAR drivers will claim the same one.
  • Mary, Jesus’ mother, might have welcomed a little drummer boy, but most moms of infants — and cranky, old adults — don’t.
  • Though … if grandparents turn up “Jeopardy!” volume to seismic levels, they still insist children are too loud.
  • If no one brings up politics or COVID, the don’t let-your-kids-tell-my-kids-there-isn’t-a-Santa discussion keeps communication flowing.

With Murphy’s Law on the loose, grinches could present an excellent case to ban holiday get-togethers.

But grinches don’t understand that Family Law trumps Murphy’s. It declares love is worth risks. Worth gravy, Santa and Cheerios® car clashes. Worth learning to pronounce “pescatarian.”

After Christmas 2020, who would have it any other way?

We celebrated a merry, outdoors Christmas, but we’re glad we can hug this year!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How does Murphy’s Law affect your Christmas?

If My Christmas Tree Could Talk

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Merry Christmas! I’m the tree chosen by the Phillipses. I’m decorated and lookin’ good, if I do say so myself.

Though, I wasn’t always so full of holiday cheer. You wouldn’t be, either, if you’d hung around Lowe’s while everyone critiqued your figure and bald spots.

Image by Mary Berg from Pixabay.

Still, we trees looked forward to seeing children — despite sibling arguments. Those mostly ended with the famous parental line, “We’re getting this tree because I said so.” Plus, hot chocolate bribes, which parents wanted anyway to medicate away seasonal frustrations.

While I missed kids when these seniors decorated me, I’d heard horror stories about toddlers scaling tree trunks. However, older people own nosy cats and dogs that would over-hydrate me. Or would these seemingly normal Midwesterners allow a pet boa constrictor to wind around my branches?

Image by rvee from Pixabay.

Like I said, I’d heard stories. But saw no animals, not even goldfish.

I like life by their picture window. None of my fellow fauna outside are bedecked with colorful lights and ornaments of every size, shape and hue like me. I love being a Christmas tree — even if the lady piles too much tinsel in the wrong places. She doesn’t like looking fat around the bottom. Why should I?

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay.
Toddlers look so cute at Christmas, but danger lurks under that little Santa hat.

My owners bring coffee, tea and Bibles. Together, we worship our Creator, who gave Himself at Christmas. They pray for their family — 17 strong, who’ll arrive soon.

I can’t wait to see the grandkids’ shining eyes.

Their parents will breathe in my fragrance and memories. A miniature needlepoint mailbox holds a note in their great-grandmother’s handwriting. The figure wearing a serape was brought back from Spain. A one-of-a-kind collection of ornaments made of plastic lids, crayon-scribbled Nativity scenes and spray-painted macaroni reminds these grown-ups they can be children today.

If they spoke conifer, they could ask me what’s inside those packages. We Christmas trees eavesdrop, you know. We also could tattle on who’s shaking gifts, but why spoil the fun?

I’m looking good. Don’t you agree?

It’s a great gig. I work only a few weeks of the year. Afterward, I’ll stay in the garden, covered with food for hungry critters.

A short life. But if I live and give more joy in a few weeks than some people do in a lifetime — who’s complaining?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: If your tree could talk, what would it say?

Classic Post: Easy Christmas Shopping? Ho, Ho, Ho!

This post first appeared on December 16, 2020.

Image by Gerhard from Pixabay.
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay.

Veteran Christmas shoppers have seen it all. We’ve fought kamikaze traffic and circled malls 250 times, seeking parking places in the same zip code. We’ve donned body armor to survive elbowing crowds and hostile, Klingon clerks.

Once, I watched two scary grandmas in line ahead, battling over who was first. Would they take out all of us?

Enter online shopping.

I don my loudest holiday sweater and drink hot chocolate in my favorite Christmas mug. I assemble credit cards and password lists.

Modeling one of my favorite Christmas sweaters.

Ready. Set. Shop!

However, my laptop’s not in the Christmas spirit — crankier than a teen awakened on Saturday. When I threaten it with a pitcher of cold water, the laptop finally cooperates. Sort of.

It sends me to the Malwart website, rather than Walmart. When I Google “Target,” it makes me one, sending my address and accompanying maps to various Middle Eastern websites. Then a pop-up offers the Garfield beach towel my grandson covets for only $471. When I switch to purchasing a storybook instead, the website informs me others who bought this book also purchased “The Preschool Guide to Overthrowing the Government.”

The perfect shirt.

Weary of children’s gifts, I peruse flannel shirts for my tall, thin son. Surely, with 83,259,441,701 advertised, I’ll find one. But 83,259,441,700 are size XXXXXLarge.

Wait. I see it!

One size large, tall, in un-girly blue plaid. In stock! But the perfect shirt can be sent only to Madagascar by Christmas. If sent to Indianapolis, it’ll arrive on February 29, 2024. If I pay extra.

I return to pricing Garfield beach towels. Three cost more than $500 apiece, so I grab the bargain at $471. Using the promotion code BANKRUPT, I owe only $470.12. Surely, I get free shipping. No?! I must spend $203.77 more. So, I buy a bag of flour.

Image by Myriam from Pixabay.
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay.

Pre-Internet nostalgia overwhelms me. I miss Christmas fairylands. Humanoids who said, “May I help you?” and did. I miss harmonizing to “What Child Is This?” in stores, celebrating the true Reason for the season.

So, I’ll again circle for parking spots — in any zip code. Though … the scary grandmas probably are still battling.

We other shoppers will watch — from a distance.

Maybe we should bring along pitchers of cold water?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you prefer online or in-person shopping? Why?