Infallible Camping Lists

When our children were small, I maintained a camping list as complicated as a theological treatise. It grew so wise and wonderful that our daughter, now taking her family camping, borrowed it. “I don’t want to forget anything.”

Ha! Campers always forget something.

I balked at handing over my ragged, penciled/inked, 25-year-old list. Part of me celebrated. No more worries about taking Scooby-Doo Band-Aids, the only kind our five-year-old would accept. But I sniffled anew over our empty nest.

I sobbed, “My camping list. …”

Hubby’s face stiffened in his familiar you’re-insane-but-I-won’t-say-it expression. He didn’t protest, “But you hate lists.” Or even, “You didn’t lose it 25 years ago?”

Still, he couldn’t comprehend how listings of bug spray and Imodium® evoked tender memories a mother could cherish.

He did offer to make a new list.

Eyes shining, he plopped beside me. “What do we want on our camping list?”

“We”? I had sort of wanted to do … anything else.

He read me. “If we collaborate, we won’t forget anything.”

We discovered — gasp! — that we define “essentials” differently.

He cannot survive without disgustingly healthy oatmeal raisin cookies. I refuse to leave the driveway without my beloved Pecan Sandies Shortbread cookies. We do agree that a hike without trail mix is like a cruise — not that we’ve taken one — without a buffet.

Hubby stood firm on one point: no melty, messy chocolate chips.

I stood firm. Trail mix without chocolate is not trail mix.

Believe it or not, we completed the list before Christmas.

In hopes of rescuing your future campouts, I include tips on camping items that should never be forgotten:

  • Rain tarp. Leave behind extra clothing (who cares what you look/smell like?). But don’t forget a rain tarp, for which — at 2 a.m., with water drip-drip-dripping on your forehead and your children/grandchildren floating away — you would pay a million dollars.
  • Buckets. Bailing with your spouse’s shoe will make a tenuous situation worse.
  • Overlook a drinker’s joe or means to brew it, and she may tie you to a tree and invite bears to dinner.
  • Entrance rug. Leave it behind just once and you’ll sleep with a stampede of muddy footprints across your pillow.
  • Pillows. You may have included enough bags of marshmallows to substitute, but you’ll share your sleeping bag with a tribe of hungry raccoons.
  • Swimsuit. Bring both pieces.
  • Blanky. Do not forget your child’s blanky, eyeless teddy bear or one-armed Barbie® Doll. If you do, for the sake of the entire campground, be prepared to break into a small-town Walmart at 3 a.m. to find a substitute.
  • Soap. Finally, pack separate soaps. Otherwise, you might find yourself outside the men’s showers, yelling at your dearly beloved to remember your needs, then explaining them to the park ranger.

The good news: even if we’ve forgotten camping list essentials, we’re still married.

But with a new, untried list … with no Scooby-Doo Band-Aids … will we survive the next camping trip?

 Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What item would make the top of your list? (Hint: Room service does not count.)   

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Celebrating My Boy Scout

O my God, You knew — though we didn’t, at 15 and 16 — that we’d be sharing the same boat for a lifetime. Thank You that we celebrated my Boy Scout’s birthday the way he likes best! And OMG, with Your help, may we paddle together for many years to come.

 

The First-Day-of-School Drill

Empty nesters like me have forgotten the, er, thrill of the first-day-of-school drill, right?

Not quite.

I may forget where I left my car … in my garage, because I walked to the store.

But I still can feel Mom brushing my hair into a tight ponytail that relocated my eyes. Before the bus arrived, she asked if I’d changed my underwear, then hugged me goodbye.

Clutching a box of unbroken crayons, I entered a classroom that smelled of chalk dust and my teacher’s flowery perfume.

We were issued information cards to give our parents. I could read and knew my address and phone number. One blank, however, stumped me.

After school, I asked Mom, “What’s sex?”

She straightened.  “Honey, where did you hear about sex?”

“It’s on the cards—”

What cards?”

“The school cards.” I handed her mine.

Why did she chuckle? “The school wants to know if you’re a girl or boy.”

“I’m a girl!” Mystery solved. I felt immense relief.

She probably felt more.

Fast-forward 25 years. My eldest, starting kindergarten, also knew how to read. We had practiced our address and phone number. I had instructed her about sex blanks.

She donned her Strawberry Shortcake backpack. I plunked my toddler into a stroller.

The school, though located across the street, seemed a world away.

“Time to go,” I said brightly.

“I want to go by myself.”

My heart shriveled.  “But—but—all the other mothers get to come.”

“I don’t want you to come.”

“You might get lost!”

“We visited my room. Two whole times.”

How had she mastered a teenage eye-roll? “Uh—”

She looked carefully both ways and crossed the street. But at the school’s entrance, she paused.

She needed me! To my two-year-old’s delight, the stroller and I galloped madly toward the school.

But my kindergartener had disappeared.

Now I paused, chewiing my nails. Should I risk another eye-roll?

Instead, I slunk home and suffered. Had my child indeed found her classroom?

Or had aliens abducted her?

When the school’s dismissal bell rang, the sight of the familiar little figure saved my life. “How was school?”

“Okay. But I didn’t like the cookies.”

She’d found her room! She’d filled out her information card herself. She knew her sex.

But she had balked at the teacher’s listing her race as white. “I told her you said I was pinky-beige.” My daughter groused, “She put a ‘W’ in the blank anyway!”

Apparently, my child had taken our racial discussions to heart. …

Ah, the first day of school. I may be a spectator now, but I haven’t forgotten the thrill of the drill.

As if I ever could.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What first-day-of-school memory stands out for you?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: the Power of Tiny

             

O my God, ginormous sea monsters and  fire monsters roar through our land, wanting to eat us up.

What can itty-bitty flowers do to stop them? Yet, OMG, You sent a little Baby to save the whole world. Let Your tiny mercies bud hope in Your suffering people today.

 

 

Garage Sale Tale

Who invented the first garage sale?

Perhaps Uk and Ukette of prehistoric fame discovered the extra rocks sitting around their cave were gathering dust. Some authorities on ancient civilizations claim the Egyptians, disgusted at having to rent extra Pyramids to accommodate junk their kids brought home from college, decided they’d had enough.

Whoever originated the concept did so without the aid of the Internet. In consulting websites, I discovered one (researched by a Ph.D. in Junkology) that listed 101 tips for running a successful sale. Googling “garage sale” produces more than six million results. Not surprising, because every single respondent visited our small town during Labor Day weekend.

Because of our city-wide, garage-sale tradition, hundreds of women price their husbands’ lucky 1979 The Doobie Brothers tour T-shirts and golf clubs, while men sneak wives’ five-closet shoe collections and 537 Longaberger® baskets out to garages and driveways. All hope to dispose of such “useless” clutter before spouses discover the absence — only to realize that by holiday’s end, the men have bought six sets of used golf clubs and the women have purchased purses to match all the shoes.

My passion for cheap sometimes has strained the seams of my house and my husband’s patience. So I prepared for this garage sale mega-event with moderation in mind.

Besides, Hubby hid the truck keys.

So I rode my bike, carrying a backpack and limited cash.

I chatted with half the town as I bought storybooks and toys for my grandkids, CDs to replace favorite cassette tapes, and a muffin pan to replace those I’d received at a wedding shower — 42  years ago.

I’d have to write a book to list all the excellent, useful items I passed by. (Sigh.) Certainly, not all garage sales present such a tempting array. Nowhere did I encounter the used toothbrushes, deodorants or surgical instruments (!) some Internet cohorts encountered.

Unlike one yard sale queen, I didn’t buy a white toilet plunger decorated with a bride and groom, labeled, “We took the plunge.” Nor did I buy a fountain constructed of five stainless steel bedpans with a frog (also created from a bedpan) poised to dive in.

Call me deprived. But I arrived home only $30 poorer with a backpack full of “valuables.”

Miraculously, my husband, who rates garage sales only slightly above taxes and lima beans, had changed his tune. Seeing the multitude, he sold our old lawnmower within an hour.

I was glad he reformed his attitude toward garage sales. But next year, before I make my annual rounds, will I have to hide all my shoes?

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your all-time favorite garage sale find?

 

 

Suckered Again?

Perhaps, like me, you succumbed to seed catalogs last spring that promised your yard would outflower the Garden of Eden.

Now, nearing August’s end, was all that planting, fertilizing, weeding and watering worth it?

My husband said flowerbeds should always look a little wild — his diplomatic way of likening mine to cow pastures. Still, flowers have taught this gardener lessons even critics with clean knees and nails can appreciate.

Prima Donnas

The impatiens demand I water and fan them hourly. Yet they’ve bloomed only enough to avoid eviction.

          Lesson learned: I won’t cast my pearls before swine or my Miracle-Gro before ingrates.

Interlopers

Surprise! Volunteer zinnias appreciated that Miracle-Gro. The interlopers not only have filled our dining room windows with brilliant blossoms, they’ve attracted butterflies whose exquisite air shows entertain us daily.

Lesson learned: Sometimes unsolicited committee members accomplish more than those on the recruitment list.

Rogues

One zinnia, undaunted, even blooms under a dryer vent. I love its moxie. “But isn’t life challenging enough without stacking the odds against yourself?”

          Lesson learned: Even if you find out — a little late — you’ve created your own problems,             tough it out and bloom anyway.

Type A’s

However, black-eyed Susans, determined to take over the world, remind me that not everyone appreciates a type A personality.

           Lesson learned: Maybe my children and in-laws need a little space to grow, too?

Rugged Individualists

My few marigolds refuse to be intimidated by the Susans, the weather, or anything else. Plus, nothing smells quite like a marigold.

          Lesson learned: They’re not afraid to live spicy-dicey-different, and I shouldn’t be, either.

Friends?

Both hummingbirds and goldfinches appear harmless, single lines of poetry that grew wings. But the hummingbird borrows nectar, tiny head bowed in gratitude. Goldfinches shred flowers as if they were substandard novel manuscripts.

          Lesson learned: I should look past appearances and             Instead, let another’s actions communicate her/his                character.

Survivors

Some of best lessons emerge from my garden’s quiet corners. Dormant lavender, seemingly overwhelmed, knows deep in its roots that though everyone else looks bigger, better and flashier right now, its time will come. The lavender will bloom again.

Wilted begonias bought at an end-of-season sale, now sporting a few red blossoms, shout, “Amen!”

Did they experience a tough past? Yep. Were they put on the shelf? Shoved under it. Even now, with better conditions, do they anticipate limited prospects for the future? Probably.

          Lesson learned: Still, it’s never too late to reach for blessed rainfall, flourish in the Son,                 and come alive again. It’s never too late to bloom.

Were my flowers worth the trouble this summer?  Will they sucker me into fussing with them again next spring? Of course.

And I’ll love them and learn.

What lessons have you learned in Gardening 101?

 

 

Sweet Summer Brew for Yankees

The sun bestows its Midas touch on the flavorful brown brew in my oversized glass, stuffed with ice cubes, chilly rivelets running down its sides.

Does anyone speak of this popular summer beverage as “iced tea”?

Only dictionaries, menus, maître d’s — and column writers who must meet editing standards — have touted good ol’ ice tea with the superfluous “d.”

As southern temperatures soar, my Louisiana relatives greet visitors with a simple “Ya’ll come in and have some tea.”

If you, too, are a Yankee, please note: Never ask if the tea is sweetened or unsweetened.

“Unsweetened? In this house?”

Loyal southern citizens would rather fight the Civil War again than drink unsweetened tea. Even consumers who add artificial sweeteners warrant watching.

So I will try to lose weight before my September visit.

The locals drink it even at breakfast. Just recalling childhood memories of endless frosty glasses consumed while eating huge sorghum-laced biscuits adds layers to my physique.

My mother, though she did not possess the southern genetic code necessary to produce true sweet tea, was an exceptionally wise Yankee. As a young wife, she studied her in-laws’ iced-tea technique and learned the correct way to dump endless scoops of sugar into hers.

For years, Mom’s sweet tea helped cool and fuel her skinny little kids throughout sweltering summers. She steeped teabags in a pan with a ceramic lining — why, I don’t know, but I followed her lead for years. While it brewed, she recruited a child to “throw ice.” Money being short, she never considered store-bought bags. Trayfuls lasted mere minutes. Instead, Mom filled gallon milk cartons with water and froze them. We children took these cartons to our solid cement porch and threw them.

Most of the time, deliberately breaking anything resulted in an immediate Judgment Day. Part of the perk of throwing ice included the soul-satisfying shatter, classified, unbelievably, as “helping Mom.”

When Dad arrived, brown and weary from hammering nails on a sizzling roof or covered with paint, she filled a jar with cracked ice and poured her blessed sweet tea over it, resurrecting his body and soul.

A half century later, I know pitchers of sweet tea will await me when I visit Dad, along with glasses chock-full of ice. No pumpkin chai or caramel truffle for us, and never decaffeinated.

He and my relatives know better than to mess with a great brew.

Better than I, for the last time I visited, I asked, “Is this tea sweetened?”

 

 

What’s your favorite summer tea? Sweetened or unsweetened?

 

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Whoa! What a show-and-tell!

O my God, when a solar eclipse invaded my childhood, I dove under my bed. (No scientific curiosity there.) Decades later, I no longer fit under beds. So today I will marvel as You direct celestial traffic with a flick of Your finger. OMG, Your power still blows me away!