Author Archives: Kim Peterson

Why I Am a Plant Person

Before pet owners condemn me to deep doo-doo, please believe that I hold the utmost respect for animal lovers. They invest enormous amounts of time, money and love in their animal buds. One friend even shares hot fudge sundaes with her German shepherd.

I’d share with my husband. On his birthday. But with a dog?

Sorry. I don’t get it.

Yes, God made sure Noah took animals aboard the Ark, though it soon would rain cats and dogs. However, plants would have required feeding only once every two weeks. The family wouldn’t have shoveled nearly as many, um, by-products.

But the Lord counted on plants to take care of themselves — a big reason I’m a plant person.

My dear, departed fern was named Carolyn.

I’ve never paper-trained a plant. They don’t nudge me at 5 a.m. to go outside. They don’t bark or jump on guests. Plants don’t lick.

I haven’t lost a single new shoe to a plant’s fangs. Nor does my fern, unlike my daughter’s dog, shred the family’s underwear. If a plant outgrows its space, I can trim it. A plant will even hold still. (Just try this with a Lab.) I don’t scour neighborhoods for runaway plants or pay hefty shelter fees to bail them out. No vet appointments inflate my budget.

Unlike horses, they cannot kick me in the head.

Plants never eye me with the “Oh, is that you, peasant?” stare favored by most felines.

My black-eyed Susans and tiger lilies engage in leaf-to-leaf combat for dominance, but they never yowl under my window during the wee hours.

Plants even diminish carbon dioxide and add oxygen to the air. Animals? The reverse.

Admittedly, plants are not perfect. While they don’t bite, some boast nasty thorns. My child preferred to teethe on poisonous ones.

Plants shed, but their shedding is localized. I don’t find a thousand leaves stuck to my Sunday morning attire.

Plants also can be fussy as your Aunt Prilla Lou. They readily lay on wilt-guilt when I subject them to too much sun, not enough sun, too much moisture, not enough. Despite my friend’s assertion that “you can’t kill herbs,” I am a serial basil killer.

That’s the biggest reason I am a plant person. I grieve the herbs I kill and the poinsettias that shrivel, but I rarely shed tears for them. I never conduct plant funerals, as I did for our children’s hamsters, ceremonies so numerous the neighbors suspected a cult.

Hats off to folks who not only risk tears, but share sundaes with animal buds.

Still, unless my daffodils ask outright for a taste, I’ll handle hot fudge by myself.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a plant or animal person? Both?

Rendezvous with the Rain

“Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day!”

Some preschoolers let weather spoil play-outside plans. But one warm, rainy spring day 60 years ago, my brother Ned and I begged to play outdoors. Mom, seeing no lightning — and desperate for peace — dressed us in bathing suits she’d sewed. Mine was the most beautiful suit in the world, with ruffles on the rear.

At the neighboring playground, we danced through God’s sprinkler system. Ned and I soared on swings, welcoming rain’s laughing pitter-patter. We experienced the joy of mud, chocolate-brownie-batter stuff we smeared on the merry-go-round and watched the rain scrub clean. We worried less about our own state. Mom almost locked us out.

Later, having sworn off mud baths, I still loved awakening to rain rhythms plunking on the roof. I sometimes avoided sibling anarchy with an early morning walk in the rain. At 10, I didn’t run outside in a homemade bathing suit with a ruffled butt. Instead, I ducked raindrops until I found an umbrella under the swing set, where my brothers had conducted parachute jumps.

I strolled along wet, black roads where iridescent oil jewels gleamed. Silence ruled the slumbering village’s lush lawns and rainbow flowers. I breathed newly washed air and listened to raindrops skittering across my umbrella. Sometimes I talked to God. Sometimes neither of us said anything. I counted it a major triumph to return before my family awoke. We had managed this secret rendezvous, the rain and I.

During young adulthood, love often turns to hate. I attended a college under a huge rain cloud with a permanent “on” switch. I spent a bundle on umbrellas because dastardly thieves stole the hundred I forgot in cafeterias.

Noah floods with 30,000 gloomy students wielding 30,000 umbrellas didn’t charm me like my childhood walks. Elevators, where we absorbed each other’s wet-dog fragrances, became danger zones. When the film, Singin’ in the Rain, was shown on campus, the student body flew to California and staged a sit-in at Gene Kelly’s house.

Now an (ahem!) mature adult, I’ve shed youthful habits. I don’t lose umbrellas in cafeterias because I am the cafeteria. Loading groceries into my car amid a deluge, I gnash my teeth and weep.

Yet even on this dreary April day, rain calls to me.

I probably won’t play in the mud. Nor will I wear a bathing suit with ruffles on the rear. But before the nearby school erupts at three, I grab my umbrella.

I know where deep puddles hide. Where wet tulips and daffodils will listen to quiet, spring songs in silence.

I know the perfect route for my rendezvous with the rain.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you love a rainy day?

Classic Post: Loony the Lamb

This post first appeared on April 12, 2017.

For years, I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter, I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.

During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.

Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”

Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles.

Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®.

What other option existed?

God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.

However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?

Wrong.

Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.

The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.

Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.

Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.

Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.

Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.

One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”

Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God.” It meant daily life with stupid sheep and deadly encounters with wolves in sheep’s clothing. What God in His right mind would do that?

Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.

Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which, BTW, means “lamb.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?

Classic Post: Dandelion Treasure

This post first appeared on March 16, 2016.

As I walk past our nearby elementary school, I search for the first fuzzy yellow dandelions. Although I want them out of my yard, deep in my grown-up heart, I still like them.

As a six-year-old, I heard God sprinkled dandelions on lawns like manna. Sometimes, He turned them to gold during the night. The financial possibilities made it worth a try.

The gold coin story did not pan out, but I still welcomed dandelions. Softer than my baby brother’s hair, they dotted the gray-brown Indiana landscape, reminding me better than any catechism that God loves color.

I showered my mother with bouquets. She never turned them down.

One evening Mama surprised my siblings and me. We would pick dandelions for supper! I did not realize they were good to eat. Or that our old refrigerator was empty. Mama acted as if we were going on a picnic.

“These look good.” She bent and nipped off leaves.

Grown-ups rarely made sense. “Aren’t we going to eat the flowers?”

“No. Some people make wine with them, but we’re eating just the greens.”

“Can’t we make wine?”

Mama’s eyebrows rose. “Probably not a good idea.”

My pastor father’s congregation might not take kindly to a bootleg wine-making operation in the church basement.

My seven-year-old brother grabbed the big greens first.

“Thank you.” Mama shook dirt from our offerings. “But little ones are best.”

Ha! My spindly greens topped his!

I asked, “What do cooked dandelions taste like?”

“Spinach.”

I’d never eaten spinach. But on TV, Popeye’s spinach helped him clobber the bad guys!

Maybe dandelions possessed the same magic. I insisted on a big bowl for supper. Muscles would pop out on my skinny arms. I would teach Kevin, the mouthy kid across the alley, some manners!

I took my first bite.

Maybe we should have made wine.

Though I gulped several spoonfuls, I didn’t hear Popeye’s happy music. My arms still looked like plucked chicken wings. Maybe if the dandelions had come from a can instead of the churchyard, the spell might have worked.

Decades later, dandelion greens, no longer a dubious alternative to going hungry, are chopped, pickled and curried in hundreds of international recipes.

I take home the fresh, green pile I’ve gathered. When I find the right recipe, I’ll dine on four-star fare for lunch. My personal skeptic insists I’ll be eating weeds. Ignoring her, I search the Internet for recipes.

Who knows? Chopped in my repent-after-the-holidays salad, dandelions might make me as skinny as Olive Oyl.

Fat chance.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you have a favorite dandelion recipe?

Classic Post: The Great Toothpaste Quest

This post first appeared on May 15, 2019.

My husband pokes his head out the bathroom door. “Would you pick up toothpaste while you’re out?”

“Sure.” If I had a brain, I would not ask the following question. But I am an American — programmed by 5,000 daily ads to love choices. “What kind of toothpaste?”

“No fancy stuff. Plain old toothpaste.” Kissing me goodbye, he leaves for work, not noticing his words just shut down my body systems.

“Plain old toothpaste”? How could the love of my life condemn me to such a fate?

Therapeutic coffee brings me to my senses. A veteran of 10 gazillion shopping trips should not be so easily shaken. Not only will I find plain old toothpaste, I will hit a triple-coupon, buy-10-for-$10 sale.

The 329 brands in the first discount store do not intimidate me. My choice was settled decades ago because, like most parents of Baby Boomers, mine heeded the infallible 1960s “Look, Ma, no cavities!” commercials featuring kids wearing Roy Rogers cowboy hats. If you couldn’t trust Roy Rogers for your dental care, whom could you trust?

So, I gravitate to the familiar logo, searching shelves where I should find a hundred tubes of plain old toothpaste. Instead, in my quest for the pure and simple, I must read each and every label. Hubby never has liked big stripes on his shirts or toothpaste.

Blue gels resemble congealed Windex. No peroxide, baking soda, or Clorox® needed. As for pro-health and clean mint varieties — hopefully, they do not present true breakthroughs Did manufacturers formerly sell anti-health and dirty mint toothpaste?

I cannot find one single tube of plain old toothpaste. But when the going gets tough, wimps hit the Internet. Somewhere in all cyberspace, I will find it.

Instead, I find 3,481 flavors. During the 1960s, any brand that dared deviate from mint was subject to congressional review. Today, however, choices include vanilla, bitter chocolate, caramel, pumpkin pudding, cola, Indian curry and pork. If a person wants to go to work smelling like a distillery, he can brush with bourbon-flavored paste.

However, my husband likes his job. I give up and buy tartar control. Will he notice the difference?

Having spent all energy and brain power on the Great Toothpaste Quest, I have forgotten to buy groceries. Out of milk, I stop by a small village store and discover plain old mint toothpaste. No gel. No bleach. No curry. No bourbon.

I dash home with my treasure, excited. He seems mildly pleased.

Minutes later, he sticks his head out the bathroom door. “Could you buy me more deodorant, please? None of that fancy stuff….”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What “simple” shopping trip turned complicated for you?

Classic Post: March Magic

This post first appeared on March 9, 2016.

Every year, winter-weary people wonder why God didn’t ban March long ago. March lasts for years in the Midwest.

Still, we survive, even thrive. Why?

Two words: tourney time.

Outsiders term our annual basketball obsession “March Madness.” We call it “March Magic.”

Six decades ago, I experienced my first taste of it in a rural elementary gymnasium packed to the rafters. The fans amazed me more than the skinny eighth-grade team. Upstanding grown-ups shrieked from bleachers like outraged crows. Teachers popped up and down, much more fun at games than in the classroom! At halftime, I exchanged my nickel for Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe gum. I chewed all five flavors at once.

None of these, however, compared with the games’ true marvel: referees. A bleat of their whistles, and players and fans alike stopped in their tracks. Even our school principal, a first cousin of God, stood at attention.

One referee power outshone them all: with upraised fingers, these omnipotent beings could change the scoreboard.

Though I tried to “score” points for my team, the Taylorsville Bears, holding up two fingers, I didn’t possess the magic.

Gradually, my awe of the game outgrew my wonder at the referees. Their movements paled compared to the raw poetry of farm kids running, guarding, shooting a ball into a basket with awkward grace.

One year, our center, a six-foot reincarnation of James Dean, kept my eye all season. With the rest of the lovestruck cheer block, I shrieked, “2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate? David!” The pretty cheerleaders definitely appreciated David more than the coach.

That year, when county tourney time arrived, the Taylorsville Bears were the team to beat.

In the early afternoon, Taylorsville defeated Wayne. Our evil archrivals, Rock Creek, pounded on Petersville. Anyone who has experienced small-town basketball can write the script that evening: the hats-off-hands-over-hearts moment of thin civility during the national anthem. The Coliseum roar of a crowd segregated by school colors. The wild choreography of young bodies driving, diving, shooting the basketball. The blast of songs by a Bobble-headed band. The final screams of winners, accompanied by popcorn confetti as fans stormed the court.

Of course, we won. Do you think I’d write this if Rock Creek had beat us?

March Magic persists, yet consolidation and categorization have changed sports scenery.  The sacred barn-like 1920s gymnasium, where I watched my first tourney game, disappeared years ago. Fruit Stripe gum can be ordered on the Internet — for more than a nickel.

While I still love basketball, I don’t get carried away. When March Magic tugs at me, I wouldn’t think of trying to up my team’s score by raising two fingers.

Now I raise three.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you give in to March Madness? Or, like this little soccer fan, do you invest your sports craziness elsewhere?

Mad Makeover; or Where Did You Put the —?

When we moved 11 years ago, we agreed, “These room colors are temporary.” With straight faces, even.

Temporary threatened to stretch into forever. For years, I dreamed of painting our living space. Paint chip displays tempted me as if made of chocolate.

Finally, we lined up a painter. This time, when we visited the paint chip display, my dreams would come true!

The paint names reinforced my fantasies, especially pink hues. Noble Blush, for example, sounded like the color of a drawing room in a Jane Austen novel. Peach Indulgence matched its luscious, ice-creamy name. I will not discuss Romantic Smoke because this is a family-friendly blog.

Still, after 11 years, I was having the time of my life.

“Quit sticking those things in your purse.” My husband tugged on me. “They’ll arrest you for shoplifting.”

“It’s impossible to shoplift paint chips. They’re free,” I said.

What was his problem? I left some for other customers.

Five.

At home, I held up paint chips to walls. Appliances. Toothbrushes.

“What do you think of this?” I asked Hubby for the 3,973rd time.

He clammed up, so I asked the guys who collected our trash. Both were all about Noble Blush.

“Brings a distinctively neutral, yet warm ambiance to a room,” they agreed.

As our makeover date approached, Hubby and I wondered if we would survive the actual painting.

“This wasn’t my idea, remember?” he said.

Give my husband credit. With my writing deadline looming, he removed all our earthly possessions from six rooms, finding space elsewhere. Unfortunately, Hubby’s digging through cabinets and closets uncovered numerous artifacts, including macaroni the same age as the pyramids.

Also, while we expected upheaval, we didn’t anticipate scavenger hunts for each and every possession.

When I griped, Hubby said, “This wasn’t my idea, remember?”

Well, if he’d kept me away from the paint chips …

Halfway through the painting process, I tried to concoct a vaguely nutritious meal. “Where’d you put the bananas?” I called to Hubby.

“In the Ford’s front seat, of course.”

“Of course,” I muttered.

“Or maybe by the second row of boots in my shower.”

Maybe all this was getting to him.

Our pleasant painters worked efficiently and well. Yet, the process seemed endless. Finally, though, my dreams came true.

We thanked the painters who had blessed us with their expertise. I handed out fresh bouquets of gratitude to my helpful husband. “We never could have accomplished this if you hadn’t stepped in.”

He smiled. He preened.

I gave him a big hug. “Okay, start moving everything out again. The carpet guys are coming tomorrow.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How did you survive your last home makeover?

I Flunked Euchre

I was born and raised in Indiana, the heart of the “Euchre Belt.” Along with understanding all things basketball and eating dinner plate-sized tenderloin sandwiches, I learned how to play euchre, right?

Wrong.

My father, a card-shark-turned-pastor, nixed cards. Even Old Maid made him uneasy. While friends learned to play euchre and that favorite pastime of the devil, poker, I grew up calling clubs “clovers.”

Instead, our default family activity consisted of singing around the piano.

Once, at an Indiana University summer music camp for high schoolers, I sowed the wildest of oats. My sort-of boyfriend, who also attended, volunteered to teach me euchre. He became my partner.

By evening’s end, he was crying. Why, I didn’t know. The clover issue bothered him. Also, I considered spades hearts too — pointy black hearts. He took that personally.

The relationship crashed.

Dad was right. Playing cards messed up your life.

Then, I met my dream guy: taller than me, with bigger feet and a cute smile. Like me, he enjoyed school. More important, he shared my Christian faith, as did his family.

Eventually, he invited me to his grandparents’ get-together.

I was ecstatic. Until everyone started playing heathen euchre.

Worse, no piano graced their living room.

How could this relationship survive?

Especially, as I learned his parents and grandparents played euchre every week. Grandma and Grandpa even gambled (gasp!), winning penny pots and cans of applesauce and beanee weenees.

My parents would want me to be polite. When my hosts insisted on teaching me euchre, I tried to learn.

Only now do I realize the extent of their kindness. Even Grandpa didn’t pounce on me — mostly because Grandma fixed a steely eye on him when I, his partner, trumped his aces.

Fortunately, my future husband was too in love to notice when I trumped his.

However, even he tired of waiting while I pondered various plays. He joined the others in extended coffee and bathroom breaks. Grandpa built a garage.

“With practice, you’ll do fine,” my sweet, future mother-in-law assured me.

She was right. After 25 years of marriage, I could play without anyone building garages.

Of course, our children caught on to the game as preschoolers. Their children also are fast learners.

The Phillips family playing euchre.

When we play with friends, the card sharks my father warned me about, they can’t play plain euchre. No, we must bid and think high and low and upside down.

You mean the cards read the same upside down?

My euchre education continues.

Occasionally, even the friendliest card sharks lose patience with me. But the important relationship hasn’t crashed.

He still possesses a cute smile. And Hubby can sing around the piano, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What in-law tradition tripped (trips) you up?

A Good Breakfast

Medical experts preach, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

I’m glad to comply. Unlike those who inexplicably avoid food all morning, I awake, ready to raid the kitchen. However, nutritionists and I cross forks here. Their idea of a good breakfast and mine don’t even try to get along.

During winter, who wants to leave a cozy bed to face a slimy bowl of vitamin-fortified, fiber-rich wood chips?

In the “good old days,” Sugar Blasters or Corn Syrupies were considered positive sources of energy. Question: Who ever gave birth to children who didn’t possess enough energy? We parents and grandparents are the people who should pack in energy-generating foods. Cheese Danish or chocolate-cream-filled doughnuts present a sufficient alternative.

My mother fixed hot breakfasts during winter: eggs; breakfast meat, when we could afford it; and unlimited toast dripping warm butter and jelly. Pancakes, stacked like records above a turntable. French toast, swimming in Mom’s homemade sugar syrup. “Fill ’em up’” comprised the key concept. She did, deliciously.

When we traveled, Dad decreed inexpensive breakfast as our main meal. Breakfast buffets had not yet made an appearance during the ’60s — which explains that period’s prosperity. Had they existed, my younger brother alone would have struck fear into the hearts of restaurant owners.

We did impact one corner of the international market. Upon seeing his citrus groves stripped, our Mexican mission caretaker referred to us tree-climbing missionary kids as “la plaga norteamericana” (North American plague).

I also savored tortillas baked over a community fire, spread with wild honey. Killjoy Mom worried that the cooks washed their hands maybe once a decade. I worried because the Mexican women, concerned about my skinny frame, attempted to make me eat raw egg.

Since then, I’ve encountered other global ideas of a “good breakfast.” Morning menus in England included: fried kidneys; baked beans on toast; and black pudding, consisting of oatmeal, pork, fried onions and pork blood. Russian immigrants my parents harbored preferred beet borscht and dill pickles.

Breakfasts Dad concocted when Mom was sick — watery canned soup and last-of-the-loaf butter sandwiches — almost seem delectable.

Decades later, when Mom suffered from dementia, Dad’s culinary skills improved. When I visited, I wolfed breakfasts of sausage, eggs, biscuits, and coffee strong enough to serve itself. My doctor would have run screaming, dragging me with her, at the sight. After days of these feasts — plus Dad’s dumping extra on my plate with the command, “Finish up! It’ll just go to waste!”— I almost craved my usual wood chips.

Not. Remembering such wonderful food and my parents’ I-love-you bickering — they now keep each other company in heaven — I loved that good breakfast.

One of the best.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite breakfast?

The Meaning of Cleaning

Maybe a COVID-delayed optometric appointment had prevented me from seeing my office’s squalor. After all, I’d told a fellow pedestrian I was sorry for not maintaining a safe distance — only to realize I’d apologized to a mailbox.

Legally blind, I also had hurdled growing piles in my office to reach the printer.

What finally inspired my cleaning turnabout? A check lost in the chaos.

Rummaging through rubble, I did recover it.

I saw carpet. It’s blue — who would have known? I even (drumroll) cleared my desk.

Hubby thought he’d entered the wrong house.

Of course, “clean” is a relative term. I know people who vacuum their garages — and probably their streets. For us, not only is “clean” defined differently, it belongs in separate languages.

For me, “clean” means piles have been boxed. It also implies my bookshelves no longer threaten to collapse, as (sniff!), I gave books to Goodwill. Three.

I follow a never-fail formula for dealing with UFOs — Unidentified Funky Objects. If it doesn’t erupt, tick or grow tentacles, I toss it into a closet or drawer.

Instead of pushing neatnik perfection, my unique organization system accumulates points for varying degrees of success.

I can shut a drawer or closet in which all items are current and in order. (100 points)

Hey, it might happen. In Heaven.

Highly unlikely, but possible: I can shut the drawer or closet containing items less than 30 years old. (50 points)

I have actually scored these below:

  • I can shut the drawer without paying, conning, or blackmailing someone to help. (30 points)
  • I can almost shut the drawer. (20 points)
  • I can shut the drawer until it sticks halfway. Permanently. (10 points)
  • I couldn’t shut the drawer if I backed a tank against it. (1 point)

Some claim I should receive zero for that final effort. But I tried. Doesn’t that count for something?

Using my system, I met my cleaning goal.

Then came Christmas and a longed-for visit from my son and his young family. Bushels of Christmas gifts, boxes, wrappings and holiday survival chocolate migrated to my office, as did anything fragile. Heaps of trash, attracted to new clutter as if magnetized, also appeared. So did the books I thought I’d given to Goodwill.

Now, the unthinkable lodges in my brain: if I don’t want to lose more checks, I should clean again.

Twice within three months? I hyperventilate.

Imagine how many points you’ll earn, I tell myself.

The system really does work.

If my total reaches 10 points, I won’t have to clean the office for another year.

And I won’t have to vacuum my street until 2099.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you define clean?