Category Archives: Coffee Corner

Hotel Versus Home

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

Everyone knows the opening words to “Home! Sweet Home,” penned by John Howard Payne in 1823. Few know that Payne, an American whose family opposed his theatrical career, wandered Europe most of his life, dying in Tunisia.

What did he know about “home”? Payne rarely stayed around long enough to pay for trash pickup and roof leaks.

No doubt, his home-sweet-home fantasy was fed by the reality of 1820s lodgings, in which guests often shared rooms with scary strangers. If Payne were traveling today, he’d discover modern hotels present their own unique challenges.

For example, the more expensive a room, the harder it is to operate its coffee maker. Ditto for the clock — at least, I assume it’s a clock. Both devices appear to have been designed by NASA.

Likewise, nice hotel rooms feature remarkably complex TV remotes … whose batteries are always on the blink.

Given all this advanced technology, one would expect more than two clothes hangers in the closet, right?

I do appreciate hotel rooms’ multiple electrical outlets, as our 1960s home features one extra, originally intended for summer’s single oscillating fan. In most hotel rooms today, I’m not surprised to find outlets in the ice bucket.

But where the heck are the light switches?

John Payne probably took baths in a horse trough. Unlike us, he never faced crucial questions: will turning the faucet to red guarantee tepid or scalding water? Even worse (gaaaaahhh!), was the installer color-blind?

Payne surely couldn’t have imagined hotel grooming aids labeled “Clean Sand Spa.” Racier names almost prevent me from taking them home, for fear grandchildren will discover them in a bathroom drawer: “Grandma, what’s a French Fruity Massage?”

The French factor in today’s hotels does seem overdone. Who uses a duvet at home? Why do we need more French stuff in this country? Aren’t fries and toast sufficient?

I do, however, laud hotel king-size beds, loving those 26 pillows.

Did Payne pay extra for breakfast? Probably. Past, present, or future, nothing’s free. However, some modern “free” breakfasts are worth the hidden cost. Others feature orange water and cereal resembling kitty litter.

A less familiar verse of Payne’s song reveals his mind felt at ease at home. Is this true in my case? Not always, especially as I’m eating while sneaky ants pursue “free” breakfasts.

They picked the wrong ant hotel.

For me, though, it’s home. I can make coffee here, find light switches, and sleep well, even without French influence and with only one pillow.

“Be it ever so humble,” there’s no other place I’d rather be —

If only a housekeeper would show up.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite hotel amenity?

Star Wars Oldie, er, Veteran

My husband and I wait in line to see The Rise of Skywalker.

Annoyingly skinny and unwrinkled, few fellow moviegoers viewed the original film. I am seized with the urge to proclaim — complete with drumroll and spotlight — “I’ve seen every Star Wars movie since 1977.”

Hubby indicates where his sock hat will go if I do.

Spoilsport.

Ignoring him, I recall that first, magical night. A medical student then, Hubby orchestrated a rare evening off. We scraped together five dollars for tickets. Annoyingly skinny and unwrinkled, we stood in a long line.

That money could have bought more groceries. This had better be worth it.

“Daaa, da, da-da-da daaa, da. …”

The music captured me. When “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. …” crawled up the screen, I followed the words into dark, velvety space.

I was there.

Breathless.

By movie’s end, this Trekkie admitted Luke Skywalker and Han Solo could compete with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Besides, Princess Leia defied an evil empire with battle savvy — keeping her clothes on, which I appreciated, even back in 1977.

Though I never would twist my long hair into weird side buns.

Hubby interrupts my reverie with ticket choices that didn’t exist 40 years ago. “3-D? Or IMAX?”

I’m cheap. Besides, running screaming from storm troopers doesn’t sound fun. 

As for IMAX — “If I collapse with a heart attack,” I say, “you can explain to the ER why four-story-high space slugs were a great idea.”

“Maybe D-BOX seats?”

Supposedly, full-motion chairs also would immerse us in the action.

“Not after that brunch,” I say.

Hubby agrees.

Finally purchasing plain old (senior) tickets, we find our theater, mostly inhabited by other moldy oldies and cheapskates.

Pre-movie blather runs on forever. This had better be worth it.   

“Daaa, da, da-da-da daaa, da. …”

Huge words crawl into dark, velvet space.

I am there.

Breathless.

New characters, plot twists, and weird, intergalactic creatures. Past characters we greet as longtime friends, old glitches, and familiar, weird intergalactic creatures.

All entangled in a horrible, wonderful battle of good versus evil. Despite radical cultural shifts the past four decades, those values remain.

I do like Princess Leia’s new hairdo.

Still, how can “young Skywalker” have aged so? And Carrie Fisher looks like a … a matron. 

Um, so do I. Unlike Yoda, we can’t live 900 years.

Despite gray hair, Hubby and I anticipate additional chapters in our own stories. Exciting chapters.

As will the annoyingly skinny and unwrinkled.

Whether young or old, and regardless of Star Wars sequels, prequels or equals, let’s all grab the nearest Wookiee and fly high into new adventures!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite Star Wars movie?

What Happened to Two Decades?

Has it really been 20 years since Y2K? Hoarding batteries, bottled water and turkey jerky, we feared computers would crash worldwide, technological brains scrambled until capable only of playing nonstop games.  

That didn’t happen, enabling millions of relieved humans to continue that role.

Others choose self-improvement, including making New Year’s resolutions.

Opponents argue that such resolutions last as long as a snowflake chomped by a kindergartner. Do resolutions accomplish even less than computer games?

Several years ago, I formulated a brilliant solution; I make only resolutions I can keep. Below, I’ve listed My Astute Pledges for 2020:

  • I vow to put away my Christmas decorations before Easter.
  • Obeying my mother’s long-ago admonitions, I promise to wear my boots outside … when there’s no snow to ruin them.
  • I will make at least one snow angel this winter. But not before Hubby rents a hydraulic lift to hoist me back on my feet.
  • I vow to amaze my neighborhood with spectacular spins and leaps on my icy way to the mailbox. Also, as I back our car out of the driveway. (I expect all 10s, folks.)
  • I resolve to wear lots of fuzzy, checkered socks. January needs all the excitement it can get.
  • I promise to go camping with my husband. I will, however, ignore all conversations that begin with, “I’ll bet Iceland is beautiful in January.”
  • I will continue to let my kitchen range outwit me. Weeks after the time change, it finally allowed me to change the hour on its digital clock. However, it adjusts the minutes to please itself, just to show who’s boss.
  • I promise to wow servers at our favorite Mexican restaurants with my Spanish. Never mind that I’ve ordered enchiladas with pineapple-lizard salsa and included a short treatise on jaywalking laws. I know they appreciate hearing their native language.
  • I pledge never to need a box for uneaten pizza.
  • Regarding chocolate: I will double my intake this year. Are you aware that, averaging nine pounds per year, Americans are 20th in world consumption? Unthinkable that the Swiss, Austrians and 17 other countries should out-chocolate us. So, I’ll do my patriotic duty.
  • When we play board games with grandchildren, I aspire to always come in last. (Unfortunately, older grandkids now refuse to be my partner.)
  • I promise to deny my adolescent grandchildren will ever, ever drive.
  • Finally, I resolve to LOL and hahaha more in person this year than on Facebook.

You, too? Then regardless of scrambled brains, computer or human, turkey jerky or patriotic chocolate, 2020 is well on its way to being a Happy New Year. Let’s go for it!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What weird resolution will you make this year?

Baby Jesus’ Christmas Portrait

Wishing you a blessed Christmas as I share this painting by my late mother, Betty Oglesbee. Largely untaught, Mom understood there was much more to newborn Jesus than just a cute baby!

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and … to reconcile to himself all things … through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20






Big Bear

When our daughter was born, I splurged on a pink teddy bear whose music box played tinkling lullabies.

I placed it in her line of vision. “Honey, she’s singing to you.”

Baby appeared more interested in shiny doorknobs.

Even as she grew, she took little notice of the prissy teddy.

Several years later, her kindergarten class planned to celebrate Teddy Bear Day, bringing their little buddies to school.

When I suggested Callie take her prissy teddy, she rolled her eyes, but hauled the bear in her backpack.

After school, an odd sight met my eyes. An enormous teddy bear ambled toward me, underscored by thin, little legs.

“Big Bear wanted to come home with me,” Callie explained.

“But — it doesn’t belong to you.”

“Teacher said we could exchange bears for a week. Sarah took mine, and she let me take him.”

Big Bear made himself at home in Callie’s appliance-box house. He starred in made-up plays and musicals. At bedtime check, I did a double take.

Twins in Callie’s bed?

I often messed up carpools. Had I lost track of how many children I’d birthed?

No, Big Bear was bunking with her. Relief poured through me, relief that soon vanished as her tiny arm curled possessively around his large, furry body.

Soon, I had to say, “Honey, Big Bear has to go home.”

Callie stared at me with sad, dark eyes, but returned him.

Christmas was coming soon. Usually, the Santa at our house frowned on extravagant gifts. But when I encountered Big Bear’s cousin at Kmart, I brought him home.

Hiding him from Callie was like concealing a body from the FBI, but the wide-eyed grin that greeted him Christmas morning made Operation Big Bear worth it. In no time, he was singing in basement Broadway productions and snuggling with Callie at night. He smiled from her bed every day.

When she married, Big Bear moved with her to her new home.

One recent weekend, Callie’s ferret-fast son and I were engaged in a pillow fight. Desperate for ammunition, I grabbed the nearest soft object.

Big Bear.

My opponent took gross advantage of my surprise and knocked me flat. Big Bear, ever the sympathizer, stayed by me.

Despite a missing eye, Big Bear had survived little-boy love and numerous pillow wars. Judging by his purple-stained face, someone must have fed him jelly doughnuts — which explained why he appeared as flabby as I. He’d lost padding, though, which I’d found. Not fair.

Still, Big Bear’s presence was strangely comforting. Did Callie — now a strong, loving woman — still sneak moments with him?

Kindergartner, teenager, mom or grandma. Sometimes, we all need a Big Bear hug.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you still cherish a childhood stuffed animal?

Online Santas

The day after Thanksgiving, a friend’s Facebook post evoked 93 envious comments, four offers of psychological help, and a death threat or two. What elicited such passionate response? She dared reveal that she’d wrapped the final gift on her list.

I gave serious consideration to the last reaction, but one of her gifts may be for me.

Like many today, she’d viewed an amazing variety of gifts online.

If a guy craves a purple monkey wrench with a peace sign, he can open it Christmas morning. Those seeking bedroom slippers find pairs online that could fit a native of Neptune, let alone, hard-to-please Uncle Ralph.

Five-inch-thick toy catalogs once dragged home from the mailbox no longer limit little ones’ choices. Now, children who navigate cyberspace better than their parents explore infinite Christmas Wish websites. Some “accidentally” hit purchase buttons without their folks’ knowledge — until five semis dump 42,111 teddy bears singing “Feliz Navidad” in Chinese on their doorsteps.

Internet shopping also promotes less driving. No coats, mittens or car seats. No bloodshed over parking spaces. Pollution-belching cars remain home, while bargain hunters apply gas money to bigger and better holiday gifts for others — plus giant screen TVs for themselves.

Virtual store visitors choose gifts anytime day or night. They avoid hostile store clerks who install trapdoors in front of cash registers.

Certainly, online buyers encounter uncooperative sellers — shopping carts that charge double and helpful sites that publish customers’ credit card numbers on Facebook. But if an annoyed Internet shopper assaults her computer, it can be replaced with no jail time involved — unless she shoplifts one.

Online purchasers avoid traditional Christmas brawls when stores run out of Preschool Techno Marbles or Uber Dogcatcher Barbie. Nor do they wait in line behind 76 other customers, only to discover the computers are down. An online shopper can experience similar computer fun at home with no wait whatsoever.

Internet customers do risk the unknown. A pan-for-gold set might not come with genuine six-inch nuggets, as advertised. Once, unaware a website’s owners couldn’t count, I received a sweater that sported five arms.

Online shoppers also deal with predators who steal identities. However, I wouldn’t mind procuring a new one. I’ll take a twentyish blonde, size six, with an unlimited credit ceiling, please.

Believe it or not, I later discovered my high-tech friend didn’t stick to Internet gift-giving. She’d not only bought presents at downtown stores and personally wrapped them — she’d made several.

Such inefficiency, when in one evening, she could have selected identical presents for 127 people, had them professionally gift-wrapped, then sent in time for Christmas. This, without ever touching gifts or recipients.

What was she thinking?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like shopping online? Why or why not?

Christmas Classic Post: The Most Wonderful Songs of the Year?

This post first appeared on December 16, 2015.

My name is Rachael, and I’m a Christmas music addict.

Recently, I found a station that plays one 100 percent Christmas music. “O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “What Child Is This?” filled the room, sung by rich-voiced choirs and artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Sandi Patty and Perry Como.

However, intermingled “cute” Christmas carols triggered memories of long-ago kiddie programs in which I wore scratchy can-cans and pinched-toe Mary Janes while singing “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a way-too-much-information ballad, caused me, like the Chipmunks, to wish Christmas wouldn’t be late — partly so I wouldn’t have to sing that stupid kissing song anymore.

Fortunately, I missed out on other animal holiday favorites during that era, including “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” so popular that listeners raised funds to buy one for the 10-year-old singer. Her mother wouldn’t let it sleep in her room, so the girl donated it to a zoo.

Like every Boomer kid, though, I donned western gear to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with cowboy Gene Autry.

Even with annoying add-ons (“like a light bulb,” “like Pinocchio,” etc.) Rudolph can’t begin to compete with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” for holiday crassness. And yes, I held that opinion long before I became one (a grandma, not a reindeer).

Lately, however, I discovered a song that surpasses that twisted tune, a rap entitled “Reindeer Poop.” Although the lyrics laud a chocolate mounded candy, wouldn’t your mother have washed your mouth out with soap if you’d taught that to your little brother?

The Seedy Greedy Award goes to “Santa Baby.” This singer doesn’t welcome partridges in a pear tree from her true love. She goes for sables, a convertible, checks … and, Santa, baby, a platinum mine would be nice, too.

Actually, the gifts lauded by the English carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” aren’t so economical, either. Their cost totals $107,300, according to Kevin Bagos of AP News. If necessary, one can always go in for a less expensive version, Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck 12 Days of Christmas,” which includes three shotgun shells, two huntin’ dogs and parts to a Mustang GT, as well as nine years of probation and six cans of Spam.

Six cans of Spam? Not a Christmas dinner to settle the stomach. If that doesn’t make you squeamish, “Vincent the Christmas Virus” by Canadian band The Arrogant Worms will.

My name is Rachael, and I’m still an Advent music addict.

But some Christmas songs out there come close to effecting a cure.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you know one you’d like to fixate in your worst enemy’s mind till 2023?

Weird Things for Which I Am Thankful

Winter, like an obnoxious relative, blew in early in Indiana and now threatens to stay forever. When we have to shovel snow within days of Halloween, our backs and arms ache too much to assume a posture of gratitude. But I will exercise some Thanksgiving muscle.

Me being me, though, most of my reasons for gratitude sound a little weird. Nevertheless, I am thankful for:

Aisle signs in parking lots. I usually disregard them, but when I do memorize my car’s location and actually find it after shopping, I experience a real rush — and sweet sense of superiority to wandering souls who set off car alarms to find theirs.

Deep purple hand towels. They defy even my grandchildren’s noblest efforts to stain them.

Piano tuners. As much as I loathe off-key music, my very bones scream when a piano tuner pounds and adjusts my keys. As tuners possess sensitive ears, too, I salute their bravery in attacking enemy tones.

Flatware. That the majority of the 330,044,724 people in the U.S. advocate the use of forks and spoons, as opposed to sporks.

For television. Within minutes of flicking the remote, some lauded, lunatic sports figure or pubescent program convinces me I am actually pretty sane.

Black olives, a time-honored flavor fetish in our family. My children and grandchildren share my taste for them on pizza, though my son-in-law attempted to teach his toddler the little black things were bugs. Grandma’s DNA prevailed (Ha!), and I am thankful for descendants who are fellow olive-eaters.

Mugs. Especially those that, when clasped by left-handed people, display a design as pretty as the one right-handers see.

Pennies. They are such generous little coins, willing to make a small difference whenever necessary. Plus, a fistful of them still gives me a vestige of that billionaire feeling I savored as a child, carrying them to Charlie’s General Store to exchange for a sucker-bubblegum-Pixy-Stix® feast.

Greeting cards. The ones that do not need extra postage because of wordiness.

My big, ugly, rubber boots. They are best buddies whether mudding through the garden or wading through snow.

Hundred-calorie bags of popcorn.

Rear window heaters and wipers.

People who spell my name without apostrophes.

Winds that blow our leaves into other people’s yards.

Expired calendars that abound in my purse, office and on my refrigerator. They remind me of: A. sweet memories; B. moments of misery endured (whew!); and that life, whether A or B, is precious and passes swiftly.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: This Thanksgiving, what weird things do you appreciate?

Yay, November!

Embrace November, with its nasty weather and nastier heating bills?

Warm hats have gone AWOL, except the pom-pom wonder Aunt Mabel knitted last Christmas. Buttonless and zipper-challenged coats should have been dry-cleaned in August. Umbrellas are too obsessed with their broken ribs to provide protection.

Fortunately, fireplaces ignite so we can toast our toes. Along with the season’s first steaming cup of hot chocolate, we’ll savor equally delicious books.

Although, authors sometimes diss November. Poet Robert Burns speaks of “chill November’s surly blast,” and in Little Women, Louisa May Alcott’s alter ego, Jo March, considers November the worst month of the year: “That’s the reason I was born in it.”

But readers rejoice that both Jo and Louisa made their first appearance in November, along with C.S. Lewis, Robert Louis Stevenson, Madeleine L’Engle, Stephen Crane, William Blake and Mark Twain.

My dad also was born this month. Pastor, missionary, tie-hater, woodchopper, even at age 91 — without him, I remind my husband, I wouldn’t be here. Another reason to appreciate November, right?

Hubby pleads the Fifth.

Continuing on.

Cozied up on November evenings, we forget about washing windows or putting away garden hoses and patio furniture. If coulda-shouldas yammer, congratulate yourself that you are not wearing a back brace like the people who did.

November also grants a few weeks to meet pre-holiday weight loss goals. But why let downer diet thoughts bother you? The red top and black pants you’ve worn the past 19 Christmases will suffice.

Speaking of weight, ice cream lovers don’t stand in long lines in November. So what if it’s cold? Be brave. Add hot fudge or caramel to counteract frostbite. An even more appropriate choice: warm peanut butter, as November is National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month.

It’s also International Drum Month in which we celebrate school bands whose stirring rhythms warm frozen football crowds. Mothers whose toddlers bang toy drums may not cheer much, nor parents whose garages house teen bands. But November 19, Have a Bad Day Day, serves these moms and dads well.

All that daylight we saved since March is nowhere to be found. But November, National Sleep Comfort Month, confirms that snuggling in bed an extra hour only makes sense.

Jogging in the dark doesn’t.

Nor does yard work — especially with the blessing of an early snow. If we’re lucky, frozen ground won’t permit our planting 900 bulbs bought while under the influence of Lowe’s commercials.

Then we can watch football, “Face the Nation” or “Punkin Chunkin,” depending on whether we want to cheer the demise of quarterbacks, politicians, or vegetables. We’ll welcome Thanksgiving with true gratitude that we remain safe in our recliners.

Yay, November!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite/least favorite thing about November?

The Slippers of My Dreams

I don’t mind falling temperatures this time of year, but my crampy toes beg to differ.

“We’re freezing down here. Lose the sandals!” they whine. “Time for fuzzy-wuzzy slippers!”

This wasn’t always the case. My warm-blooded siblings and I zipped around the house in our bare feet summer and winter, donning shoes and socks only when our shivering mother, using typical Mom logic, complained, “You’re making me cold!”

Slippers? Too spendy for a big family with a small income.

I read in a storybook that ragged Cinderella gained a prince, a kingdom and a pretty ball gown, all because her slippers fit. But my chances to share her magic looked grim, even if a fairy godmother showed up at our door bearing a free pair in my size. My mother would never allow me to run around in glass slippers. At that point, she wouldn’t even permit me to dry glass dishes.

The fuzzy slippers my friends received for Christmas from grandmas and grandpas caught my attention: brown puppies for boys and pink kitties for girls. An elite few boasted cowboy or cowgirl slippers, just like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

By the time I grew old enough to make my dreams come true using hard-earned babysitting cash, I craved white go-go boots instead. Fuzzy pink kitty slippers no longer appeared on my gotta-have list.

College dorm-mates, however, made poufy slippers a priority — although they favored Disney characters and yellow smiley faces. Serious-minded and penny-pinching, I found their frivolous fetish difficult to understand. During those early feminist days, we eschewed evil pink aprons, hair spray and anything else that threatened our position as free, mature women. We had declared war on any and all fluffy mindsets. So why didn’t my ideological sisters reject the corresponding footwear?

I refused to bow to such mindless leanings. Besides, I couldn’t find Minnie Mouse slippers in size 10.

A few years later, my new husband and I made many marital adjustments. However, we discovered common ground in dealing with crucial slipper issues. I grabbed 80-percent markdowns. He continued to wear the leather moccasins his grandparents gave him during high school. (I finally sneaked them out of the house and burned them.)

But slipper dreams refused to die. Spurred on by my childhood cravings, I bought colorful Strawberry Shortcake and Ninja Turtles slippers that matched our children’s PJs. They preferred plastic rain boots.

Fast-forward a few decades. When my roommate at a writers’ retreat organized a Goofy Slippers Day, my heart and toes warmed to the idea. But I owned only sensible cheapos and nice argyles my daughter knitted for me — nothing of sufficient bad taste. I perused secondhand and discount stores. Where would I find the slippers of my dreams — in my size?

I had almost had given up hope when, at the last store on my list, I encountered plastic ooh-la-la eyes and a smirky, whiskered grin. I pulled huge, fluffy pink kitty slippers from the pile. A perfect size 11 (my feet — like other parts of my anatomy — have spread).

It was a sign from God.

I named the right slipper Zsa Zsa and the left Eva. They made a hit at my writing get-together. Not so with Hubby, who rated them only slightly above an ancient, ratty housecoat that still gives him nightmares.

But my warm, grateful toes adored Zsa Zsa and Eva. So did my grandkids, until they (the slippers, not the children) fell apart.

If Cinderella had offered me her glass slippers in exchange, she would have been out of luck.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you own a favorite pair of slippers?