O Lord, I know all creatures, great and small — including deer, raccoons, and squirrels — that You in Your wisdom made them all. But OMG, would You mind sending them a memo that our garden is NOT the Golden Corral for Critters?
First, we were advised not to go to church. Then forbidden to go.
I’ve attended since a newborn. As a toddler, I sat on the front pew as my mother played the piano. Mom dressed my brother and me in sleepers, as we nodded off before services ended.
Sleepers! In front of God and everybody! An indignity not to be endured.
Finally, Mom gave in, and I wore proper church attire.
Our small church supplied infinite hugs. I played hide-and-seek after services with friends more like cousins. And the potlucks! I still embrace the credo that the church supplies the ultimate food for both body and soul.
Best of all, I not only learned the song, “Jesus Loves Me,” at church, I grew in that truth.
As a teen, though, I fantasized about skipping services. Later, as a busy church music director, I occasionally longed to worship per TV, where everyone sang on key.
Sometimes, the following prayer cropped up: “God, just this Sunday, may I stay in bed?” Worshipping while wearing sleepers sounded downright spiritual.
Then the coronavirus, a dark angel, swooped in.
Watching online worship while wearing bathrobes, our shaggy-haired congregation probably looked quite biblical. So good to see our pastors. To drink in the Scriptures, living water for parched people in a COVID-19 desert.
Yet, a cyber hug can never replace a real one. When restrictions were lifted, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Except those — including seniors — considered high risk.
As a teen, I’d wanted to sneak out of services. Now I considered sneaking in.
Could I lie about my age to attend church? What if a bouncer carded me — “She’s got Medicare B!” — and tossed me out?
Reluctantly, Hubby and I continued online worship. The small congregation practiced “social distancing,” as if all had forgotten to shower. The long-haired, masked group resembled a gathering of hippie surgeons.
Yet, I ached to be there. …
Finally, when seniors received a sort-of green light, Hubby and I donned masks and went to church, sitting miles away from friends we’d missed so much.
My mask fogged my glasses, causing hymn lyrics to disappear. The mask contracted when I inhaled, poufed when I sang. Still, loving the church family voices around us, Hubby and I belted out hymns with vigor.
Despite the odd, reduced gathering, Jesus was there.
We and our brothers and sisters at home pray fervently that soon, we will all be together again. Meanwhile, we connect through prayer, technology, and conversations across yards, streets, and parking lots.
Above all, we connect through joy that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Even wearing sleepers for church can’t take that away.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Has the pandemic changed your church?
O Lord, This big snapper we encountered pulled into his shell, glaring at the world. Sheesh, what a grouch! But, OMG … plodding through this pandemic, am I getting a little snappish, too?
Do you know any senior wannabes?
Underclassmen — especially freshmen — have always envied these advanced aristocrats.
As a lowly 15-year-old with a learner’s permit, I drove with Mom beside me. Seniors, on the other hand, often drove in their own cars, the ultimate in coolness.
While we freshmen sweated Algebra I and basic biology, seniors studied calculus and genetics. They were the star quarterbacks, the strutters on the musical stage, the academic superstars. They wore their steadies’ class rings wound with angora. Their slips didn’t show, their shoestrings didn’t trip them, and when they laughed in the cafeteria, chocolate milk never squirted out their noses.
At our school, they owned the Senior Circle, etched into the floor. Underclassmen caught touching it scrubbed the Circle with toothbrushes while the entire school watched.
Even when a senior, I stepped into the Circle only once — ready to hit the floor if attacked by toothbrushes.
For me, the Senior Circle didn’t live up to its billing.
Neither did the fabled senior year. I still didn’t understand algebra. The starring role in the musical went to somebody else. I achieved my driver’s license, only to have two accidents. I gained the boyfriend, then had to give back the class ring. Graduation was bittersweet, with many goodbyes.
Strangely, reverting to freshman status recharged my batteries. I explored a fascinating, new world: college.
Decades later, I’ve achieved senior status again. Not many wannabes stand in line to join me.
Who signed me up for this senior club when I wasn’t looking? I still don’t know algebra. I hear not-so-distant rumbles about taking drivers’ tests again. (Noooooo!) Starring roles go to younger people.
Where’s the Senior Circle in all this?
For many of us, grandchildren light it up like a movie marquee. No angora adorns our rings, but they’ve worn sweet grooves into our fingers and our hearts. Longtime friends, belly-laugh memories, and watch-TV dinners in which we don’t have to be good examples fill our days. Quiet wisdom gained only by those who have walked the road, won and lost — all these and more make our Senior Circle special.
Best of all, the God who drafted 80-year-old Moses to lead a national exodus still inhabits the Senior Circle. He inspired Caleb, a geriatric commando, to conquer a mountain inhabited by giants. He told 87-year-old Anna a secret few knew: the newborn she blessed at the temple was Jesus, the Savior of the world — including seniors.
God urges us to live, grow and achieve, and to look forward to graduation. Yes, it will be bittersweet with many goodbyes.
But we can become heavenly freshmen, exploring the infinite, fascinating world we will inhabit forever with Jesus.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you think of growing older?
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?