Monthly Archives: August 2016

Driven Crazy!

CarMomGirl2Our children are grown, and their offspring have not yet reached their teens—a comfortable stage for all involved.

But that will change the day their oldest turns 16.

How can I forget that era? Our teens learned to drive. My husband and I learned to pray.

Our kids were responsible. So why did the sight of a driver’s education car squeeze my stomach even more than the course fees?

Some blame rests on Mr. Doom, my long-ago driver education teacher. His first words: “I don’t like women drivers.”

Among four 16-year-olds, we could not scrape up a single Y chromosome. If we girls took driver’s ed today, we could sue him for sexual harassment and his hideous neckties.

Instead, we gulped meekly and tried our best to kill him.

My friend Linda eclipsed us all by wrecking the department’s new 1970 Cutlass (odometer reading: 11 miles).

I attempted to console her: “You did what he said.”

How could Linda know that when Mr. Doom ordered, “Pull over,” he meant after we passed the telephone pole?

His inspirational thought for the day: “You’re all going to die within 10 years.”

But I survived. I even lived to list my minivan as my legal address during our children’s school years.

But me, their unofficial driving instructor? It was like Homer Simpson giving sensitivity lessons.

I did discover excellent practice sites. The first was our church parking lot. I felt Cemeterycloser to God there.

I found our second driving course at the cemetery, where most of the people were already dead.

Such parental dedication contributed to eventual success: all our children obtained drivers’ licenses. No longer did I drag out of bed to retrieve a teen worker at midnight. Nor did I risk mugging as I dozed in a dark parking lot, awaiting the end of a youth lock-in.

Instead, we parents languished at home, monitoring car rates on the Insurance Channel.

We were proud of our children’s safe driving records, though, crediting superior instruction, constant practice and boring cars. When our grandchildren turn 16, Steve and I will highly recommend the latter as an efficient means of ruining their fun.

Their parents will recall our shopping for their first cars. Chunky and colorless, the perfect choice sat, an empty space on either side (the other cars didn’t want to hang around it). The car had visited only the grocery, library and church with its aged owner. It had forgotten how to drive above 55.

bmw-dashboardYes, sirree, their dad and I had found the car. Teens couldn’t sin in that car if they had to.

Could they?

If they did, they’re still not telling.

 

How about your first car? Anything you’re not telling your folks, either?

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

HotelWindowO my God, thank You for this ritzy hotel. But given the $$$$, don’t You think they could fix my window view? Construction, complete with crane, is not my favorite. What’s that? OMG, You’re right! Looking closer, I might see hardworking people, a morning-glory sky, and a million stars hiding only from those with limited vision.

 

The Great Zucchini Mystery

In the history of mankind, has anyone ever recorded a zucchini shortage?

My husband and I certainly have not suffered such famine. Which is odd, because in April, the seeds we bought reflected our zucchini prejudice: lettuce, spinach, green beans, and cucumbers.

No zucchini.

Steve did not place zucchini in the same class as lima beans — he declares God never meant them to be eaten — but he dislikes zucchini, even in sweet breads welcomed by most zucchini haters.

Besides, we heard frightening tales about this squash intent on world domination. Our pastor warned the congregation to lock their cars during zucchini season, as desperate gardeners had been seen stuffing boxfuls into back seats.

What next? Would innocent citizens be forced at gunpoint to accept a minimum of two oversized zucchini per mugging?

Enough corruption existed in the world. We would never plant zucchini.

Actually, I planted nothing, because my workload doubled. My less experienced husband attacked gardening with great enthusiasm. Steve faithfully followed every jot and tittle of planting directions, identifying vegetables with empty packets.

ZucchiniPlantOur garden flourished. The cucumber plants seemed bunchy, but perhaps seed companies had invented new varieties.

Soon long, green vegetables emerged from yellow blossoms. But they sported speckles instead of bumps. Slices of our firstfruits confirmed the truth: The seed packet said “cucumbers,” with the corresponding picture, but we planted zucchini.

Three hills. With several plants apiece.

I hated to break the news to my hardworking husband. Perhaps weeding made him crack, because when I did, he refused to believe. He had sown seeds from a cucumber packet, and those long, green things were cucumbers.  End of discussion.

But not the end of the zucchini.

ZucchiniBirdHeadOur plants laid them daily, like eggs.

In our hour of need, I called on our grown children, waving one in their faces: “What’s this?”

Our daughter didn’t hesitate. “A zucchini.”

Our son, married to a master gardener, agreed. “Besides, those are zucchini plants, not cucumber. Zu’s are bunchy.”

The kids’ verdicts shook Steve, though he didn’t visibly back down. When I skewered zucchini chunks on beef kebobs, he said, “You’re grilling cucumbers?”

GrilledZucchiniBut he did check on-line, and in answer to my prayers, admitted, “You’re right.” He even learned to like zucchini grilled. We freeze them, and we’ve brainstormed about other ways to use our excess.

His favorite theory: Grow ’em big so we can market them as sports equipment.

Some consumers would have sued the seed company for this serious error. Instead, we share our blessings. As we speak, a dump truck, filled to capacity, speeds on its way to the seed company’s corporate headquarters.

And they don’t lock their driveway.

 

Prayer for the First Day of School

Me, First Grade, Circa 1959

Me, First Grade, Circa 1959

I’m excited, though now I’m a spectator. When convoys of buses and SUVs queue up in front of schools and the local parade of backpack-carrying children and stroller-pushing mothers march past, I feel like throwing confetti.

But a crazy lady, hopping up and down, yelling her head off, might scare the kids. Instead, I offer a silent, heartfelt prayer. (That’s still legal, isn’t it?)

Father God,

 Thank you for this opportunity for thousands of children to gain an education.

 Many parents wondered if they and their offspring would live to see this day.

 The back-to-school sales proved rugged tests. Brave mothers mediated arguments about who-gets-what that made Middle East diplomacy seem easy. Girls tried on 51 pairs of jeans, alternating cell phone consultations with their friends and their parents’ bankers. Little brothers suffered untold anguish when forced to accompany families to Intimate Departments.

 By registration, some parents considered mortgaging their organs.

Thank you, Father, for talking them out of it. Thank You for never taking vacations during August, but remaining on the job to help everyone start the school year right.  

This first morning hasn’t been easy, though kids jumped out of bed like kangaroos. Showers commenced with a minimum of hot-water controversy. The second-grader even used soap. But the middle-schooler discovered her first zit, and the teen, having spent four hours battling a bad hair day, had to be chained in the SUV. 

Earplugs were distributed because of weeping and wailing.             

Not the teen’s. The mom’s, because she was sending her youngest to kindergarten. 

Who has experienced all of the above, plus planning lessons, decorating and attending group therapy sessions? Teachers, who wonder if their salaries will cover 963 boxes of Kleenex during flu season. 

Yet You, Lord, have brought them all to this special morning. 

Thanks for Your promise to be with everyone in coming days. New tennis shoes will blacken—by day two. Homework will be eaten by hungry dogs and sneaky computers. Trumpets will be forgotten/broken/hidden, or all of the above. Lesson plans that should soar will crash and burn. Taxi moms will handle schedules that defy the skills of an O’Hare International Airport flight controller. 

Amid all these, You are there, Lord—the Father and Teacher of millions. Even recess duty is not beyond Your love and expertise. 

You once were a student, so You know exactly how the first day of school feels. The second. And the one-hundred-third. 

So as the back-to-school parade marches by, we know You — Who are immortal and invisible — jump for joy on the curb, throwing confetti. Please bless these students, parents, teachers and staff, and give them their best year ever. Amen.

 

What is your prayer for the coming school year?           

           

 

 

 

 

 

Flower Power

BlackeyedSusans-Zinnias IIDo you advocate being one with nature? Good luck with that. Flowers — especially mine — possess minds of their own.

May madness sent me to greenhouses and discount stores, lusting after flower displays, amassing bags of manure as if hefting bags of gold. My car (a.k.a. the Flowermobile) resembled an escapee from the Rose Parade.

For awhile, I dove into dirt with the joyful frenzy of a toddler dressed for Sunday school.

I cooed at my baby plants, positive they would star as celebrities on the cover of Burpee Catalog. All this, despite 35 years of profound evidence to the contrary.

Each August, I finally face the truth: flowers growing between railroad tracks look better than mine.

No wonder. We own the only infertile piece of ground in Indiana.

Still, I nurture my flowers. I even read my blog to them every week. Yet the little rebels conspire to make me crazy.

Maybe some of their gripes are legitimate. My flower pot arrangements look as if Alien Florists, Inc., designed them. My petunias now realize the awful truth: they were adopted by a gardener with a mutant thumb.

“Be patient,” I advise. “In time, those lumps will shift to the right places.”

My mother told me a similar tale when I was 13.

It has never happened — for the petunias or me.

While I sleep, a flora/fauna mafia operation flourishes. Impatiens on one side of the flower bed strike protection deals with the rabbits. How else can I explain why impatiens thrive there, unmolested, while the other side resembles the Garden of Eaten?

My flowers do not appreciate the armies of weeds I’ve fought, the lethal squads of mosquitoes I’ve defied to water them. No gratitude is expressed for expensive gourmet fertilizers I’ve served them. Just flower attitude: I will bloom if, when and where I please.

Meanwhile, the only thing that grows prolifically is my Visa bill.

Finally, I snap. Instead of pampering the little ingrates, I bike through the countryside. But I find no refuge from flowers there. Fields of elegant Queen Anne’s lace mingle with masses of fuzzy blue bachelor’s buttons. Blooming morning glories overrun miles of fences and fields.

“Rub it in, Lord,” I mutter. “Even cow pastures look better than my yard.”

Still, I can’t help but enjoy His exterior decorating and appreciate once more where flower power comes from. Even a Better Homes and Gardens guru can’t grow one petunia unless the Master Gardener supplies miracles of seed, soil, sun and rain.

The biggest miracle of all? He lets gardeners with mutant thumbs help Him.

PetuniasPot

Tell me about the Flower Power in your yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Gotta Grow

PetuniaPatio

Oh, my God, when Hubby said, “Rachael, did you plant flowers under our patio table?” I answered, “Yeah, right.” But this stubborn petunia had bloomed from a crack in our patio, and instead of yanking it, I’ve watered it. OMG, You know I’m cracked, too. But let your beauty find a place to grow in me.

Ten Ways to Play Coffee-Break Hooky

Articles offering answers to workplace stress abound. These ideas usually involve yoga, meditation and/or unemployment.

Or possibly homicide. Especially when the sun shines while you remain chained to your computer — next to a gum-popping coworker’s day-long phone conversations with her boyfriend.

I suggest a different approach.

Decades ago, summer was spelled R-E-L-A-X. We children simmered in blissful boredom. Brief exercises can simulate that past. They cost little or nothing and require equipment available in most neighborhoods.

Ready to change your life?

  1. Slam a screen door. Again. Someone will yell at you — especially if you do not own it. Fond memories of Mom’s tender threats will surface: “If you kids slam that door one more time, I’m sending you to the principal’s house!”
  2. popsicleInstead of an overpriced iced latte, buy a Popsicle. Eat another. Let them dribble down your chin so that at a key afternoon meeting, your tie-dyed clothing indicates you think young.
  3. Observe an anthill. Note how one teeny creature tugs a hot dog a hundred times its size down its hole. You will conclude that your corporate life is a picnic.
  4. Remove shoes and socks or ditch control-top pantyhose. Wiggle your toes in nice, cool dirt. For greater enjoyment, mix mud pies. I do not recommend, however, that you bake them in the company microwave.
  5. Locate a full clothesline and bury your nose in freshly dried laundry. Invite a stray to play “yank the shirt.” Set new cardio records when the laundry’s owner seeks your head in a clothes basket.
  6. Lie under an unoccupied tree and count leaves. Ponder why God likes the color green. And why He invited chiggers and mosquitoes aboard the Ark.
  7. Jump into a car with other stressed coworkers, roll down the windows and play a Beach Boys song at break-the-sound-barrier levels. Hang outside and yell at the opposite sex as you screech tires throughout downtown. This is good for an extended coffee break, especially if Dad refuses to post bail.
  8. Sing “Jesus Loves Me,” glue sticks from the aforementioned Popsicles and drink cherry Kool-Aid. Presto! You’re back in Vacation Bible School.
  9. Chase grasshoppers through their favorite habitat: Queen Anne’s lace and bachelor’s buttons near railroad tracks. The resulting exercise will supply fresh oxygen to the brain and sharpen your intelligence — no matter what passing motorists say.
  10. Write a column about playing hooky during coffee breaks. Try each activity to make sure it works. When family/coworkers/boss question your sanity, inform them you are doing important literary research.

cat_hammockThen sit in the sun under an achingly blue sky. Eat another Popsicle. And …

R-E-L-A-X.

What’s your go-to hooky strategy?

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Swimming by Faith

JonahSwimOh, my God, what an incredible lake campout with all our children and grandchildren! This morning, though, a Loch Ness monster of a to-do list emerges from the deep. OMG, walking on water isn’t my specialty. But with Your help, let me dive into today with the joy of my grandson.