OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Not How the Storybook Goes

O Lord, thank You for a blue-sky, storybook day when we picked strawberries with hard-working grandchildren. But when Grandma nearly set their house on fire while baking soupy pies, OMG, thank You that they — and our daughter — still love me. 

     

Stay Outa My Space!

Oreos were my go-to comfort food when my personal space requirements felt squashed.

Do you, like most Americans, value personal space?

Because my large family was stuffed into small houses, I developed an early yen for breathing room. If a genie had offered me wishes, I would have wished three younger siblings elsewhere.

But when I rubbed living room lamps, the genie never showed. So, I competed for the bathroom, the best car window, phone privacy, and a quiet place to read.

Recently, our pastor reminded me of those futile cravings. Using a room and duct tape, he illustrated how we compartmentalize our lives, attempting to bar God from areas we want to control.

My husband’s righteous elbow jabbed me.

He knew that as a child, I’d done exactly that — though I used The String, not duct tape. Another difference: I wanted to live close to God. I didn’t want to share a bedroom with my sister.

A pack rat, she never made our double bed. Her kitten never messed on her pillow. Only mine.

With that almighty String, I divided our bed and our room. “You and Kitty stay on your side,” I decreed, “and I’ll stay on mine. If we touch each other’s side, we pay fifty cents.”

She stared. “But you have the door.”

“And you’re standing in it. Fifty cents, please.”

Our parents spoiled my privacy plan. They showed zero respect for budding capitalism. How could they destroy such a profitable enterprise?

Little did I know I someday would share dormitory rooms with aliens. A fellow introvert, also smothered by a 30,000-student campus, wallpapered the inside of an appliance box. Whenever excessive togetherness made her crazy, she retreated into The Box.

Our family at Christmas 1985.

A similar box wouldn’t have worked for me as a young parent. First, I always flunk do-it-yourself projects. Second, three small children — two probably fragrant with needed diaper changes — would have crawled inside with me.

Hubby and I had stuffed our family into a tiny house. When I began consuming whole packages of Oreos, he realized something my parents didn’t get: I truly needed space.

Terribly North American. In some countries, whole families could have resided in our little home’s closet space.

Our move to a larger home provided breathing space for our family — especially me.

But we moved to a larger house. My Oreo-snarfing behavior — rather than my children — disappeared. Of course, a parent never possesses sufficient personal space. Amid slumber parties, snow days, and laser tag battles, I didn’t realize my personal space would expand beyond belief.

The pandemic provided more distance for us North Americans than we’d ever dreamed of. The pastor preached his duct tape message to a socially distanced, masked congregation.

For months, my siblings and I couldn’t visit. Now, with loosening restrictions, we will. There will be no Strings or Boxes at my house.

Unless they try to move in.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you crave space?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Baseball DNA

O Lord, You know I spent many summer nights, sitting on hard bleachers, watching our baseball-crazy son and his team play T-ball. I slapped at mosquitoes and applauded every player (“Yay! You only missed that catch by 20 feet!”). OMG, You didn’t tell me that one day, I would watch my son coach his son too. 

Our son, circa 1990, taking a swing at his birthday T-ball while Great-Grandpa cheers him on.
Our son, who disliked his beauty parlor sponsor, nevertheless encourages his son to welcome his funeral parlor sponsor.

Pandemic Positives

Written during Summer 2020, hopefully, this piece will remind us of what we’ve learned.

Can you believe COVID-19 has stolen headlines for four months?

Many would answer, “No. I thought it was four decades.”

March through July 2020 will not highlight anyone’s yearbook. Still, some good has emerged.

You don’t believe it?

I don’t, either.

Just kidding. In a grouchy, 2020 sort of way. Despite endless complications, this bizarre experience has presented us with positives. Even if you’re grumpy, too, check out a few below:

We no longer must dream up excuses to avoid boring events. First, events — boring and otherwise — have been cancelled. Or delayed until this virus learns some manners. Second, a reluctant attendee need only cough, and both crowd and event vanish.

For some, credit card bills have dropped. Ours have diminished to 1990 amounts. Because I’ve overdosed on screens, online shopping holds zero appeal. Besides, why buy new clothes to check the mail? They don’t impress the mailbox at all.

Our cars may last another decade. Though my ten-year-old Ford has doddered so long around the garage, it may forget how to start.

As TV time has shrunk, reading time has expanded. Because of aforementioned aversion to screens, I avoid TV like an irritating relative. Instead, I read more books the past four months than during the past four years.

Canceled sporting events = big savings. Hubby and I have not blown a single dollar on Cubs games, only to sit in the rain for hours. Or watch them lose. (Usually both.)

Masks cover a multitude of greens. For chronic spinach-between-the-teeth people like myself, masks are a godsend.

Toilet paper never looked so good. The shortage has eased. Stacks lining Walmart’s back wall assure me that when a crisis arises, America will triumph.

Entertainment costs have dropped. Not once have I spent big bucks on a lousy movie with a soul-sucking ending, as theaters are closed. Nor have I squandered ten bucks — or 200 million calories — on popcorn.

Cleanliness is off the charts. Personal and business cleanliness standards have set new records. The U.S. population has never boasted such clean hands. My mom would be proud.

Finally, we’ve become a country hungry for conversation. When people do gather, fewer stare at phones and more talk to humans. When a driver stopped in the street to chat with us — a small-town practice that usually annoys Hubby’s safety sense — he welcomed the chance to talk. The young driver (gasp!) seemed to enjoy it, too.

Living through a pandemic isn’t easy. But unlike many during the 1918 flu and Europe’s bubonic plagues, most of us are living through COVID-19.

If we pilfer small positives, our days will brighten. We may even become easier to live with.

You don’t believe it?

Hubby doesn’t, either.

But if our credit card bills continue to drop, he can live with that.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What positives have you gleaned from the pandemic?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Is This Egypt?

O Lord, Thank You for the complexity of Your creatures. It’s amazing how hordes of little cicadas know exactly when and where to show up every 17 years. OMG, I’m also very thankful they didn’t choose our campsite!

Elevator Experiences: Eeek! And Otherwise

I’ve often attended Christian writers’ conferences with hundreds of participants. Attendees squish so close into hotel elevators that we could receive organ transplants by osmosis.

Such unsolicited togetherness recalls college days when other music students and I — considerably skinnier than now — packed into elevators like Pringles® into a can. We made room for tuba players. Once, we squeezed the string bass section in and dropped a floor.

Dormitory elevators also presented perils. Picture riding morning elevators with a thousand women, all having a bad hair day. Or sneaking to your room at 3 a.m., hoping to avoid trash can terrorists. These attackers prowled outside elevator doors with full cans of water, waiting to douse their victims.

As a child, though, I loved elevators. An early memory recalls a department store where the elevator operator exchanged pleasantries with me. Like a fairy godmother, she made the windowless little room rise as if it possessed wings.

I gasped, then giggled. Other nice people in the elevator laughed with me.

“Look at her eyes.” One gentleman sounded as if he wanted to borrow my joy.

But kids grow up. Eventually I, like other grown-ups, discovered official Elevator Etiquette, listed below:

  • Never look other passengers in the eye or initiate friendly conversation. These will make the elevator drop.
  • The person whose destination is the farthest must occupy the front. She is required to bring seven suitcases, a rolling office, and a large, predatory parrot on her shoulder.
  • No elevator’s population should exceed that of Indianapolis.
  • Smiling is restricted unless adults are accompanied by children.
  • Lighted numbers must be scrutinized by all passengers. Otherwise, the elevator will drop.
  • Passengers under age 12 are required by law to jump up and down, preferably while eating ice cream cones.
  • Adults should not. But they may bring overflowing cups of beer.
  • Follow posted emergency procedures — even if the fire alarm, gunshot or rattlesnake’s warning is only mimicked by a passenger’s cell phone ringtone.
  • In a glass elevator, passengers must never face outward. Otherwise, atrium spectators will be denied a traveling view of their backs and butts.
Fellow author Christy Miller and I attended the awards banquet at the 2016 American Christian Fiction Writers Conference.

Fortunately, most attendees of the aforementioned conferences break these rules. Though we compete for space, oxygen and publication of our writing, we smile a lot. We introduce ourselves: “Oh, so the elbow mutilating my right kidney belongs to you. Glad to meet you. Where are you from?”

We press buttons for others and hold our collective breath to accommodate new passengers. Twice, a fellow passenger took my heavy box of office folders, giving me a temporary, but much-needed, break.

Flouting Elevator Etiquette together helps make it an uplifting experience for all.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like to ride elevators?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: The Shirt Lies

O Lord, Hubby donned a shirt this morning whose label implied he’d owned it since the early permanent-press era. Laundry instructions: “Tumble dry. Hang on a hanger. No starch.” OMG, that’s a misprint, right? The pictures lie, too, because the shirt can’t be that old!

We can’t be that old, either. …    

A Tempting Spring Walk; or Why Did I Move Near an Ice Cream Mecca?

My husband and I walk after supper for good reasons. First, burgeoning trees and flowers replenish the famine of beauty we suffered during the gloom of early spring. I love the scent of cut grass — if someone else mows.

Second, walks grow relationships, including Hubby’s and mine. Our eyes and fingers are not glued to screens. Instead, we grow attached to us.

Third, we also greet neighbors, people who eat, sleep, work, play and worship within a stone’s throw. Yet, we rarely see them during winter. God created spring to lure us from it’s-all-about-me caves.

If we must mention exercise (sigh), walking qualifies. I’d rather walk than jog, run or sumo wrestle.

We take walks for good reasons, you understand.

Not to buy ice cream.

Temptation lurks in every springlike Eden. In our town, no conniving snake persuades us to stray from the straight and narrow. Instead, a legendary drive-in presents a menu of 100 ice cream sundaes, including my nemesis, the Moose Tracks.

Its name, which evokes somewhat unpleasant images, should ruin appetites.

Not mine.

The sundae’s frozen yogurt initially hooked me. Yogurt is healthy, I rationalized. Surely, it sucks the calories and cholesterol from the accompanying chopped Reese’s Cups, warm spoonfuls of peanut butter and globs of hot fudge.

I have successfully battled such enticements elsewhere.

But this drive-in is located a few blocks from my house.

When Hubby suggests we walk north, not east, I breathe a sigh of relief. We head north to homes and parks graced with newly planted petunias and geraniums. North past the grade school, where homework escapees flip on monkey bars. Past baseball diamonds where miniature players sport mitts bigger than they. North away from the drive-in.

The sunset throws a feast of sherbet colors in the west … did I say “feast”? And “sherbet”?

At town’s edge, Hubby halts. “Where to now?”

He should know better than to ask. Because I always tell the truth. At least, part of it. “Let’s take Main Street. I’ll bet the flowers are gorgeous.”

A few blocks from our home, friendly Garfield and delicious ice cream always greet my grandkids at Ivanhoe’s.

They don’t disappoint. Fragrant honeysuckle intoxicates us. Fluffy peonies beckon, and brilliant blue, purple and yellow pansies pour from flowerpots. Somebody tilled his garden, a field of moist chocolate fudge … did I say “chocolate”? Whipped cream clouds swirl in the golden peanut-butter sky. …

We find ourselves at the drive-in.

Imagine that.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite ice cream treat — er, walk?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Children + Computer = Unique Zoom Meetings.

O Lord, even in my empty nest, I find working at home a challenge. But, OMG, please give my daughter and other parents braving the joys of computer-savvy children the courage to carry on. Help the kids survive, too.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Did your parents insist on holding your hand?

At age three, I declared my independence. Yanking my hand from Mommy’s, I zipped into a busy street. After that, she chained me to her.

Holding hands took on different dimensions when I entered fifth grade. In 1964, The Beatles had serenaded the world with “I wanna hold your hand!” Some classmates dared embrace the lyrics. Cool boys and girls sat in the back of the bus, (gasp!) holding hands.

I wasn’t cool.

A late-blooming teen, I continued to observe friends holding hands at ball games and parties. Eventually, at a roller rink, I entered that mysterious world where a touch could electrify an entire nervous system — making me so nervous, I tripped and nearly crippled my skating partner for life.

Dangerous business, holding hands.

When a super-shy guy asked me out, I figured that after dating six months, we might hold hands. During the romantic play, though, his fingers found mine. Electricity! Four years later, we held hands as we said wedding vows.

When did hand-holding become another memory snapshot in our wedding album? Hubby’s 24/7 medical career often kept us apart. Our outnumbered hands constantly clasped six little ones, protecting them. Perhaps we kept the chiseled-in-wedding-ring commandment: Never let anyone know you like each other. Especially your kids. And God forbid you hold hands at church.

Our children began to explore college possibilities. Hubby kept busy as ever, caring for patients. I was writing and going to school. We could run in circles that never touched until our 50th anniversary.

Was that right?

One evening, I said to Hubby, “Let’s go for a walk.”

“Where?”

“It doesn’t matter. Just a walk. Together.” Then, I dropped the bomb: “I want to hold your hand.”

“Huh?” A walk without a clear destination? Holding hands, when we’d been married two decades?

He cooperated, though his narrow-eyed gaze said he suspected a woman-trap.

Not the walk I had in mind.

Despite un-movie results, I asked him again.

The second experiment went better. He even said, “This is kind of nice.” And after our third stroll, “This was a good idea.”

The added bonus: We embarrassed our children.

Years later, we continue hand-holding walks. We don’t count steps. We don’t measure our heartbeats — we share them. Sometimes we, er, discuss things. We laugh.

College students alternate incredulous looks (“Old people like each other?”) and the Lord-bless-’em gazes they’d expect from us.

I always was a rebel.

Unlike my three-year-old self, though, I don’t want to declare my independence.

I always wanna hold your hand, babe.

I never wanna let go.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: When did you and your spouse last hold hands?