Jesus, I know You’re eternal, but for us, a half-century holds a lot of years. M*A*S*H is more than a half-century old. Nerf balls were invented half a century ago. OMG, I never thought I’d say this, but, oh, to be ONLY a half-century old!
I was born and raised in Indiana, the heart of the “Euchre Belt.” Along with understanding all things basketball and eating dinner plate-sized tenderloin sandwiches, I learned how to play euchre, right?
My father, a card-shark-turned-pastor, nixed cards. Even Old Maid made him uneasy. While friends learned to play euchre and that favorite pastime of the devil, poker, I grew up calling clubs “clovers.”
Instead, our default family activity consisted of singing around the piano.
Once, at an Indiana University summer music camp for high schoolers, I sowed the wildest of oats. My sort-of boyfriend, who also attended, volunteered to teach me euchre. He became my partner.
By evening’s end, he was crying. Why, I didn’t know. The clover issue bothered him. Also, I considered spades hearts too — pointy black hearts. He took that personally.
The relationship crashed.
Dad was right. Playing cards messed up your life.
Then, I met my dream guy: taller than me, with bigger feet and a cute smile. Like me, he enjoyed school. More important, he shared my Christian faith, as did his family.
Eventually, he invited me to his grandparents’ get-together.
I was ecstatic. Until everyone started playing heathen euchre.
Worse, no piano graced their living room.
How could this relationship survive?
Especially, as I learned his parents and grandparents played euchre every week. Grandma and Grandpa even gambled (gasp!), winning penny pots and cans of applesauce and beanee weenees.
My parents would want me to be polite. When my hosts insisted on teaching me euchre, I tried to learn.
Only now do I realize the extent of their kindness. Even Grandpa didn’t pounce on me — mostly because Grandma fixed a steely eye on him when I, his partner, trumped his aces.
Fortunately, my future husband was too in love to notice when I trumped his.
However, even he tired of waiting while I pondered various plays. He joined the others in extended coffee and bathroom breaks. Grandpa built a garage.
“With practice, you’ll do fine,” my sweet, future mother-in-law assured me.
She was right. After 25 years of marriage, I could play without anyone building garages.
Of course, our children caught on to the game as preschoolers. Their children also are fast learners.
When we play with friends, the card sharks my father warned me about, they can’t play plain euchre. No, we must bid and think high and low and upside down.
You mean the cards read the same upside down?
My euchre education continues.
Occasionally, even the friendliest card sharks lose patience with me. But the important relationship hasn’t crashed.
He still possesses a cute smile. And Hubby can sing around the piano, too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What in-law tradition tripped (trips) you up?
O Lord, when I tried to peel a banana, it slipped from my hand. The whole bunch was shiny and slick! What idiot would grease a bowl of fruit? Then it hit me. I’d aimed PAM at a pan … with the nozzle pointed elsewhere.
Medical experts preach, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
I’m glad to comply. Unlike those who inexplicably avoid food all morning, I awake, ready to raid the kitchen. However, nutritionists and I cross forks here. Their idea of a good breakfast and mine don’t even try to get along.
During winter, who wants to leave a cozy bed to face a slimy bowl of vitamin-fortified, fiber-rich wood chips?
In the “good old days,” Sugar Blasters or Corn Syrupies were considered positive sources of energy. Question: Who ever gave birth to children who didn’t possess enough energy? We parents and grandparents are the people who should pack in energy-generating foods. Cheese Danish or chocolate-cream-filled doughnuts present a sufficient alternative.
My mother fixed hot breakfasts during winter: eggs; breakfast meat, when we could afford it; and unlimited toast dripping warm butter and jelly. Pancakes, stacked like records above a turntable. French toast, swimming in Mom’s homemade sugar syrup. “Fill ’em up’” comprised the key concept. She did, deliciously.
When we traveled, Dad decreed inexpensive breakfast as our main meal. Breakfast buffets had not yet made an appearance during the ’60s — which explains that period’s prosperity. Had they existed, my younger brother alone would have struck fear into the hearts of restaurant owners.
We did impact one corner of the international market. Upon seeing his citrus groves stripped, our Mexican mission caretaker referred to us tree-climbing missionary kids as “la plaga norteamericana” (North American plague).
I also savored tortillas baked over a community fire, spread with wild honey. Killjoy Mom worried that the cooks washed their hands maybe once a decade. I worried because the Mexican women, concerned about my skinny frame, attempted to make me eat raw egg.
Since then, I’ve encountered other global ideas of a “good breakfast.” Morning menus in England included: fried kidneys; baked beans on toast; and black pudding, consisting of oatmeal, pork, fried onions and pork blood. Russian immigrants my parents harbored preferred beet borscht and dill pickles.
Breakfasts Dad concocted when Mom was sick — watery canned soup and last-of-the-loaf butter sandwiches — almost seem delectable.
Decades later, when Mom suffered from dementia, Dad’s culinary skills improved. When I visited, I wolfed breakfasts of sausage, eggs, biscuits, and coffee strong enough to serve itself. My doctor would have run screaming, dragging me with her, at the sight. After days of these feasts — plus Dad’s dumping extra on my plate with the command, “Finish up! It’ll just go to waste!”— I almost craved my usual wood chips.
Not. Remembering such wonderful food and my parents’ I-love-you bickering — they now keep each other company in heaven — I loved that good breakfast.
One of the best.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite breakfast?
O Lord, on our first date 50 years ago, he was so nervous, he ran two stop signs. I promptly hit the floor. Thank You for stepping in and making sure that date improved! Still, OMG, who would have thought then we’d be valentines for a lifetime?
Maybe a COVID-delayed optometric appointment had prevented me from seeing my office’s squalor. After all, I’d told a fellow pedestrian I was sorry for not maintaining a safe distance — only to realize I’d apologized to a mailbox.
Legally blind, I also had hurdled growing piles in my office to reach the printer.
What finally inspired my cleaning turnabout? A check lost in the chaos.
Rummaging through rubble, I did recover it.
I saw carpet. It’s blue — who would have known? I even (drumroll) cleared my desk.
Hubby thought he’d entered the wrong house.
Of course, “clean” is a relative term. I know people who vacuum their garages — and probably their streets. For us, not only is “clean” defined differently, it belongs in separate languages.
For me, “clean” means piles have been boxed. It also implies my bookshelves no longer threaten to collapse, as (sniff!), I gave books to Goodwill. Three.
I follow a never-fail formula for dealing with UFOs — Unidentified Funky Objects. If it doesn’t erupt, tick or grow tentacles, I toss it into a closet or drawer.
Instead of pushing neatnik perfection, my unique organization system accumulates points for varying degrees of success.
I can shut a drawer or closet in which all items are current and in order. (100 points)
Hey, it might happen. In Heaven.
Highly unlikely, but possible: I can shut the drawer or closet containing items less than 30 years old. (50 points)
I have actually scored these below:
- I can shut the drawer without paying, conning, or blackmailing someone to help. (30 points)
- I can almost shut the drawer. (20 points)
- I can shut the drawer until it sticks halfway. Permanently. (10 points)
- I couldn’t shut the drawer if I backed a tank against it. (1 point)
Some claim I should receive zero for that final effort. But I tried. Doesn’t that count for something?
Using my system, I met my cleaning goal.
Then came Christmas and a longed-for visit from my son and his young family. Bushels of Christmas gifts, boxes, wrappings and holiday survival chocolate migrated to my office, as did anything fragile. Heaps of trash, attracted to new clutter as if magnetized, also appeared. So did the books I thought I’d given to Goodwill.
Now, the unthinkable lodges in my brain: if I don’t want to lose more checks, I should clean again.
Twice within three months? I hyperventilate.
Imagine how many points you’ll earn, I tell myself.
The system really does work.
If my total reaches 10 points, I won’t have to clean the office for another year.
And I won’t have to vacuum my street until 2099.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you define clean?
O Jesus, even though I’m allergic to bathing suits, I love Your beaches with palm trees doing their tropical dance. But, cabin fever notwithstanding, OMG, I hope Your heaven includes one winter planet swathed in Your magnificent snow.
My husband and I share a history of nearsightedness.
When asked to identify letters on the blackboard, I said, “What letters?”
Steve said, “What blackboard?”
With eyeglasses, though, my physician spouse recognizes germs a mile away. However, he cannot see a kitchen range. Returning from an evening away, I find dishes symmetrically loaded in the dishwasher, kitchen gadgets polished — and spaghetti-encrusted pans on the tomato-y stove.
“Oh … I didn’t see those.”
Neither can he see leftovers unless placed on the fridge’s top shelf. Even if I attached a neon sign to food elsewhere, he’d microwave a frozen dinner or starve.
I, too, have blind spots. I can’t see fissures in his 30-year-old lunch Tupperware® containers. They were guaranteed for life. Therefore, cracks do not exist. Just eat the bologna sandwich, okay?
A friend insisted I replace the blackened wooden spoon my kid lit during a power outage.
I shrugged. “Why? It still works.”
Our challenged vision extends beyond the kitchen. He declares I never notice a sick computer’s symptoms until I bring it, clasping a lily, to him to fix.
He should talk about lilies? In my absence, Hubby doesn’t see thirsty plants, even when they email him photos of Death Valley.
Heaven help our finances if I leave the checkbook in my bag.
Hubby growls, “Which purse?” He wants a GPS reading.
I growl back, “Front closet, second shelf, tan purse with black trim, largest zippered pocket inside—”
I roll my eyes. “That’s black with tan trim.”
Eventually he locates it. “I still don’t see the checkbook.”
“You’re blind. The checkbook’s in there.”
At the word “there,” his nearsighted eyes widen in terror.
Hubby associates it with minor interstate-related incidents. When he’s driving 70, and I say, “Go there” — to the exit across six lanes of traffic to the station with the cheapest gas or the last of Nevada’s two rest areas, he doesn’t see it.
But he insists I deny the existence of semitrailers.
Ha! As if, with his lousy eyesight, he would know.
Besides, I find denial very comforting.
I admit, though, that though Hubby never sees dirty pans, checkbooks or cheap gas, he can spot labels poking out of my clothes from Chicago.
You would think he’d also mention wrinkles and poundage on my face and frame. But he doesn’t.
I still see the twinkling blue eyes and cute grin of the boy I dated in high school.
Neither of us can read phone books or decipher teeny-tiny scores on TV screens. But when it comes to each other, we have perfect vision.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you and your spouse blind?
O Lord, when I view Your world, I marvel at the millions of colors You created. What an Imagination! But OMG, just so You know, all those choices sure make it hard to decide whether to paint a room Peach Indulgence or Romantic Smoke.
For years, drivers depended on many sources to guide them safely to destinations. They obtained free gas station maps, flappy guides destined never to fold into neat little rectangles again. Drivers asked guys at the pumps for directions, trusting honest faces and hard-working, dirty-nailed hands to point them the right direction. Or they stopped total strangers who had lived so long in a town, they forgot the names of the streets.
By default, they endured backseat drivers who dispensed a continual stream of advice.
Today’s drivers aren’t content with these tried-and-true resources that cost them nothing but their sanity. Instead, they pay for a Global Positioning System, or GPS — and regard it as God’s Positioning System.
Once, I traveled with a friend who depends on Lavinia, her GPS, for road directions, restaurant locations and tax advice. Like most of her species, Lavinia spoke with a civilized British accent. However, she appeared bipolar. Although 26 lanes of semitrailers blocked our path to an off-ramp, she repeated “Exit!” until we climbed over them.
She often insisted we turn onto airport runways. Occasionally, we encountered a road that in Lavinia’s mind did not exist, resulting in a panicked chorus of “recalculating … recalculating … recalculating!” accompanied by fits of screaming. Not unlike me the week before Christmas.
I offered Lavinia my estrogen, but she refused.
If only she possessed a more pleasant personality. I, like other directionally challenged people, might prefer a Mr. Rogers GPS.
MR. ROGERS: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! I like you just the way you are.
ME: Thanks, Mr. Rogers. Can you help me find the BMV?
MR. ROGERS: That’s a tough one. But you can do anything, if you set your mind to it. Let’s turn right. Can you show me your right hand?”
ME: (raising both) I’m not sure.
MR. ROGERS: Can you count the number of smashed cars?
ME: No, but I can count the cars with flashing lights: one, two, three. …
MR. ROGERS: You’re so special.
Like other low-techies, I wonder if current generations soon won’t be able to find their bathrooms without a GPS. Do we ever stop to think global positioning systems find their locations per satellites — which line up their calculations with millions-of-light-years-away quasars and giant black holes?
Sorry, Lavinia. I know you have the best intentions in the universe.
But I can find black holes all by myself.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Would you rather ask directions or depend on a GPS?