O Lord, thank You for the avid camper I married. I, too, love sharing in Your beautiful creation. But OMG, I’m wondering if each of us defines camping–and a few other things–a bit differently.
Years ago, my children learned those two words resulted in a fate worse than death.
My standard reply: “Here’s a scrub brush and bucket. When you finish washing the house, you can start on the street.”
Since COVID-19, however, my attitude has softened. Don’t tell my kids, but even I occasionally suffer from ennui.
Social media overachievers hasten to inspire me. They play board games as a family, with a minimum of bloodshed. They are pulling high school band instruments off the closet’s top shelf and practicing “Waltzing Matilda” with 500 other old band kids in Australia.
Workaholics are learning new languages, ballroom dancing and 100 ways to cook with vindaloo curry. They are painting bathrooms and portraits, creating life-sized origami NBA players. Some not only have finished Christmas shopping, but also have baked 19 fruitcakes apiece. Beware.
Some even (gasp!) clean.
The antidote for such pathological behavior, as many on the Internet have discovered, comprises consistent doses of nonproductivity. In a noble effort to help save quarantined humanity, I offer the following suggestions:
- Count the holes in a box of crackers. Hurry, before they, like every other scrap of food in the house, disappear.
- Teach social distancing to your goldfish.
- Practice the polka. You know you always wanted to learn.
- Recall your childhood paper airplane expertise. Fly a squadron late at night or early in the morning, when they’re trying to sleep.
- Per video call, lecture children/grandchildren on the concepts of “rad” and “groovy.” If they close the connection, educate your cats.
- Steal one piece from every puzzle in the house. However, if you share isolation with a puzzle addict, I do not advise this unless you have made all your final arrangements.
- Ask your GPS for directions to Pluto. And no, Pluto, Mississippi, doesn’t count.
- Practice mastodon mating calls on a garden hose. Believe me, this works. Years ago, when I was working nights and sleeping days, a visiting family’s seven-year-old treated me to an hour’s demonstration.
- Debate the actual color of taupe.
- Count the pens in your house that don’t work. Multiply by 23 and divide by 9. No reason. Just do it.
- The walls may be shaking as your teens play a favorite song for the 41st time. But take heart. Knowing the words and music(?) so well, you can perform it for their viewing/listening pleasure. Then post the video on YouTube.
You can even project your concert on a giant outdoor screen.
Then your kids won’t become bored while they’re scrubbing the house.
And the street.
And the nearest water tower. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How have you and your family fought quarantine boredom?
O Lord, You didn’t give plants the ability to speak words, bark, or meow. They can’t even drag their dishes across the floor. But OMG, when we forget to water them (for two whole days!), they make their feelings very clear.
In honor of Father’s Day, I’m celebrating my dad’s independent spirit. Until a few months before his death at 91, he never ceased seeking new adventure — and scaring his kids spitless.
Visiting my parents lapses me into Louisiana slow-mo. Lounging on their front porch, eating Mom’s peach cobbler, we watch mercury in the ancient thermometer soar. A hound dog snores in the road.
This Mayberry moment feels timeless. But it will disappear faster than my cobbler.
In a word, Dad.
My 82-year-old father, rocking away, looks harmless. But this man has given his guardian angel a permanent tic.
Dad regales me with his latest exploits. Although my parents rent Great-granddaddy’s homestead from my cousin, Dad claims responsibility for it. One morning, he scaled the heights — “No dizziness a’ tall when I take my pills” — and cleaned gutters.
When I choked and asked why he hadn’t called my cousin, he said, “Why bother her? I got time.”
However, 96-year-old Great-aunt Footsie spotted Dad on the roof. She told him he hadn’t gained a lick of sense over the years. A polite Southern boy, he agreed. Yes, ma’am, he shoulda called a young ’un to do that. No, ma’am, he wouldn’t climb up on the roof again.
Instead, Dad hauled his buzzing chainsaw up a ladder to trim trees. Suddenly, the ladder lurched, and he tumbled. Lying dazed, his life passed before him. Then, enough of that. Dad stood, revved his chain saw, and finished the job.
Now he sniffs the steamy air. “Something smells bad. Smelled it the other day, too.”
I gag. “Whew. What is it?”
“Don’t know. Thought the cats dragged something dead under the house. Then I wondered if the sewer was leaking. So I—”
He did, though deep in these pine woods, rattlesnakes consider a crawl space the ultimate in creature comfort. Still, Dad slithered through under-the-house muck himself.
No plumbing problems.
Now, he inhales again. His eyes widen. “That’s gas. Better check it out.”
Not with a lantern, I hope. Thank God, he calls the propane company, who sends an inspector. The man’s eyes bulge like a frog’s. “Ya’ll got a prob-lem.”
Years before, someone removed a gas heater from the fireplace. He kind of forgot to cap the gas line.
Escaping gas. In the fireplace, where, for three winters, Dad has built his famous infernos.
When my cousin discovers the current excitement, she calls me. “No more home maintenance, y’ hear? Tell him to take up a different hobby.”
As if Dad listens to me.
At least, he permits the repairman to fix this. And because of his alertness, we escape a trial by fire.
Dad ages me with his antics (my true biological age is 213), but he also has played the hero many times.
But will I be up for the next visit?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does your dad age you, too?
O Lord, when Hubby and I first rode our new tandem, we nearly took out our neighbor’s trash cans. He wasn’t perfect then and isn’t now. And unlike Daisy, I don’t always “look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.” But OMG, thank You for 17 years and 5,500 miles of mostly fun cycling together without a crash.
With the rise of online coursework because of COVID-19, many assume screen education was invented only recently.
Long before the Internet, there were (drumroll, please) classroom movies. Projectors with reels of film shone images onto tipsy screens.
We students sometimes questioned the claim they were educational. Sex ed films we viewed were created in 1920, before sex was invented.
I did enjoy science films. What wasn’t to love about tap-dancing chromosomes?
Movies also promoted catching up on sleep. Sometimes the most exciting part involved counting backward with screen numbers at the beginning and hearing the film’s flap-flap-flap at the end. Or if our instructor wanted to fill the final five minutes of class, he’d bid the AV boy to hit “reverse.” Then, we could watch chromosomes tap dance backward.
During that era, I learned two facts about AV assistants: a) they had to be boys and b) some teachers should have allowed them to also run overheads. Adult attempts often blurred images beyond recognition. Half the time they were upside-down. This new technological advancement really messed with my already math-challenged mind. How did mutant polynomials improve on blackboards and chalk?
Later, as an adjunct professor, I fought with plastic overheads stuck together like Glad® Wrap. At course’s end, my students excelled in one area: I’d taught them to write upside-down.
Screen education during the dark ages. Yay.
Given the current pandemic, we can be thankful modern screen education encompasses all subjects and ages. But even before COVID-19, it was touted as more flexible, more productive, and less expensive than traditional methods.
Screen education provides other unique advantages, e.g., an online student can spend her entire life wearing jammies. When he grows tired of a teacher or subject, he can, with one click, banish the annoyance — until a parent checks his online report card.
My teachers could only fantasize about making me disappear. On difficult days in 2020, those teaching online must be sorely tempted to dispense with an entire class: “Oops. Hit the wrong button.”
However, computers will never take the place of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, who read stories every day. Or Mr. Carpenter, my band teacher, who encouraged me in music and writing.
They weren’t saints. We students weren’t, either. We pressed each other’s buttons, but we couldn’t click each other off. We dealt with real human beings. Every. Day.
And learned to get along.
During this pandemic, screen learning, originally touted as superior, has generated many tough days for teachers and students alike. Most can’t wait until (drumroll, please) they can resume face-to-face education. Rediscover the joys of the human touch …
More than ever before.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How would you grade screen learning?
O Lord, You have blessed us with wonderful grandchildren. Missing them so much, we appreciate technology that helps us connect. OMG, the energy You gave them! A video call feels like I’m in a roomful of human popcorn.
Each year, taking our first tandem bike ride, Hubby and I huff, puff and yell at each other to keep pedaling — and that’s just getting out of the driveway.
In spring 2019, however, we had put on major pounds. Dogs that normally pursued our bicycle built for two didn’t bother. Their snores said, “I’d get more challenge out of chasing a parked car.”
Spring 2020, we decided, would be different. Or did Hubby decide? Whatever — I admit all those stay-sane-during-quarantine walks made us fit and ready to ride.
Hubby services and washes the bikes. Buys new helmets. Fires up his cyclocomputer that records mileage, speed, and number of bugs encountered and swallowed.
Despite lighter traffic than usual, we face certain risks. The above-mentioned dogs might supplement their diets with an ankle or two. Some drivers believe bikes are imaginary. Occasionally, a crazed farmer tries to flatten us with his field planter. Maybe his girlfriend named Daisy dumped him, and he’s hated bicycles built for two ever since.
Still, Hubby and I take to the road.
As we pedal out of town, Hubby supplies most of the power. He also steers, changes gears, brakes, and does maintenance.
Me? As we approach stop signs, I proudly exhibit an innovation: hand signals. Correct, most of the time.
Impressed? Hey, I fill water bottles, too.
Zooming along Hoosier country roads, we spot landscape changes. A new house has sprouted. Young trees have grown. On the familiar route, I notice one homeowner’s switch from planting red geraniums to peach-colored.
“It’s great to be on the bike again,” I yell.
Hubby nods, mostly to keep bug-swallowing statistics low.
After several miles, though, a repressed truth returns full force: we are fit, but that does not mean the bicycle seats fit. A month will pass before our um, muscles, adjust — or total numbness sets in.
Plus, seduced by sunshine on this “perfect bicycling day,” we had ignored the wind’s powerful gusts. With the west wind behind us, we might eat lunch in Pittsburgh.
Then we turned.
Now, with the crosswind, our bike almost flew to Pittsburgh.
Still, even the last gasping miles of our return couldn’t detract from the green rivers’ flowing loveliness. From intoxicating apple blossom and honeysuckle fragrances. From glorious redbuds, as if God had tossed His favorite bouquets to us.
Yes, this first ride is different, and not just because we’re in good physical shape.
In spring 2020, we’re learning to live in the moment. Beauty bursts our hearts with gratitude. We’re extra thankful for health and strength to ride.
More than ever before, we are fit to enjoy it.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you spent more time outside during quarantine?
O Lord, some estimate You designed millions of different kinds of flowers growing on our planet. Whoa, how did You think up such diversity? Though I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me — because OMG, You’ve custom-designed every single one of billions of people.