Boring Old Dad?

Many pay tributes to caring but unexciting dads who worked hard, fixed things, and helped keep them out of trouble — most of the time.

In honor of my dad’s 90th birthday.

My father did the basic dad drill, too. But boring?

Never.

A pastor, he refused to wear neckties. He led his congregation in “Joy to the World” … every Easter. Even my siblings and I listened intently to Dad’s sermons — because we often comprised the subject matter.

As a missionary, Dad approached challenges in ways that wouldn’t make Sunday school storybooks. Take, for example, the Mexican Chicken Wars.

Fifty years ago, our home in Linares, Mexico, featured an outhouse and nightly rat races. Though poor, my folks shared with neighbors living in shacks. Ready to open his thin wallet, Dad still drew the line at “Thou shalt not steal.”

Gilberto, the mission compound caretaker, said thieves targeted our chicken coop, an important income source for the mission. Determined to protect his feathered flock, Dad kept his ax beside his bed at night.

Those who didn’t know the Ten Commandments would learn them fast.

Soon, Dad awoke to the chickens’ squawking, grabbed his ax and headed for the henhouse. Stooping low, he spotted unknown blue-jeaned legs walking through the orange groves. He let loose his war cry, swinging the ax above his head.

The thief saw Dad — a tall, shirtless phantom with burning eyes who wielded a shining blade. The would-be robber dropped shrieking chickens and scaled the mission compound wall like a terrified spider.

Dad returned the chickens — vastly relieved the ax wasn’t meant for them — to their nests.

A week later, Dad awoke to another hen house ruckus. Again, he swung the ax with Old Testament vengeance.

This crook, however, screamed, “Aaron! It’s me, Aaron!”

Gilberto had checked on the chickens’ safety, too. They were fine, but Gilberto nearly lost his head to Dad’s ax.

Throughout his pastoral career, Dad confronted numerous dangerous situations. He housed ex-gang members and ex-prisoners and provided protection for domestic violence victims whose husbands/boyfriends vowed vengeance.

But few scenarios matched the peril Dad faced when, hiding behind church classroom partitions with his fishing pole, he cast a big, sugary doughnut amid members of a weight-watching group.

That incident nearly drove his guardian angel to drinking. Still, Dad survived to finally retire at 77. He now lives in the Louisiana piney woods where he was born and raised. Occasionally the angel chews his nails when Dad, now 90, wields his ax in a forest full of rattlesnakes.

But the angel’s not bored.

Sigh. Neither am I.

 

Your extraordinary ordinary: What’s your favorite dad story?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Still Daddy and Daughter

O my God, Thank You for my dad, who starts each day with a booming, bass chorus of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Yet this past week, when I traveled to celebrate his 90th birthday, he extended his usual greeting: “So . . . how much weight have you gained this time?”

Thank You that this Monday morning, I’m back home, a thousand miles away. But OMG, how I miss my reverent, rascally dad!

Who Comforted Whom?

This past weekend, when our two-almost-three-year-old grandson was staying with us, an odd November tornado also dropped by our area for a visit.

Thankfully, our little guy slept through much of the storm, then seemed to enjoy the novelty of the accompanying power outage. We cuddled and read stories by the light of a camping lantern and flashlights and sang songs about the wise man who built his house upon a rock.

We comforted him when the thunder and lightning and wind grew too scary. But the scenario reminded me of years ago when my little ones — and a God surprise — comforted me.

Purple-blue clouds raged and roiled in the yellowish sky. Enormous trucks roared around us on the interstate through curtains of blinding rain, shaking my little car like a wet terrier. Tornado warnings crackled on the radio. But my preschooler played contentedly with her Barbie® Dolls in the backseat. My two-year-old munched the crackers I’d given him.

How I envied their serene trust in me! If only I possessed such faith.

“Let’s pray Jesus will take care of us!” I said in the bright mommy-tone I always use when all is lost.

They bowed their heads and folded chubby hands. Their sweet prayer calmed my terrors.

“Look!” I cried.

An exit loomed ahead. We would leave this nightmare and seek shelter!

Even as I pulled into a truck stop and parked, the rain began to diminish.

My little children taught me a little about faith.

I turned to my children, almost crying with joy. “Jesus is with us!”

“’Course He is.” The two-year-old stared at me. “I see Him.”

“No, honey,” I patted his little hand. “We can’t see Jesus. But He’s with us all the time.”

My toddler looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Jesus is right there, Mommy!”

My stomach, which had quieted, lurched anew. “Wh-where?” The hair on my neck prickled. “Where’s Jesus?”

He pointed an indignant finger. “There!

Slowly I turned around, quaking.

On a nearby semitrailer, a huge colorful mural of the smiling Savior with wide-open arms offered us a hug.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you remember when children taught you a thing or two?

 

 

Oh, Baby!

Each day, young mothers parade past my window, taking children to the nearby elementary school.

I feel for pregnant moms whose steps slow as the months pass. Although decades have gone by, I remember well those exhausting days. I doubt these lovely young women believe their husbands’ reassurance any more than I believed mine, who told me I was beautiful.

What insanity had blinded his usual astute vision? Seven months pregnant with our first child, I felt like a walking ottoman.

“Turn around.” Hubby gave me a gentle push. “Look in the mirror. See? From the rear, you can’t even tell you’re pregnant.”

“So if I just walk backwards, nobody will know?”

“It means you’ll lose weight fast after the baby’s born.” A family practice resident at the local hospital, he knew how to handle cranky women in their last trimester.

I kissed him goodbye. Would I splurge and take the bus to my part-time job or ride my bike through our quiet neighborhood? I grinned. Each time I rode up on my three-speed, Mr. Plunkett, an older man in my office, threw his window open in horror.

Mrs. Phillips!” he shouted. “Come in and put your feet up!”

He always brought me a glass of water. Where was my mother? Did my husband really find this acceptable?

But graying skies made a ride risky. Mr. P. might have a coronary if I rode up amid thunder and lightning. So I decided to take the bus.

I donned my pink maternity outfit and slipped into comfortable shoes I’d bought when I no longer could see my feet. I arrived at the bus stop five minutes early, drifting into daydreams of nursery rhymes and rock-a-bye songs.

“Hey, Pink Pants!” Masculine voices called over my shoulder. Long whistles echoed through the air. “Hey, baby! Oh, baby!”

I stared at my stomach, confused. Sure, I was going to have a baby, but—? I cast a cautious glance behind.

Two linemen, perched atop an electrical pole, hooted at me. And yes, unless I had lost feminine instincts along with my waistline, ear-to-ear lecherous smiles gleamed on their faces.

Blank disbelief washed over me—then a joyous rush of wickedness. But Niceness pointed a finger at me, and I wavered. Should I? Or shouldn’t I?

I turned around and waved sweetly at my admirers, who nearly fell to the ground.

I waddled up the steps onto the bus. As it rolled away, I watched them hugging the pole, trying in vain to hide scarlet, guilty faces.

“Whoa, baby,” I whispered to my stomach. “You’re already knocking ’em off their feet.”

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite prego story?

Temperature Tug-of-War

My husband wears quilts in July. I throw open windows in January.

We should have detected this temperature difference from the start. However, the stars in our eyes prevented us from noticing icicles hanging from his chin and people around me turning tan.

I now believe our wedding vows should have limited the number of blankets on our bed to 37. Hubby wishes we had included something about nailing windows shut.

My skeletal new husband’s body temperature never rose above 50 degrees. I determinedly fed him Crisco®, so he finally gained a few pounds. Still, he occasionally builds bonfires in his office to stave off frostbite.

During cold weather, he pushes the thermostat up to the ionosphere. I want to rescue planet earth — and our heating bill — by keeping it at 60. He says I’m cruel. I say, I’m green. And as Kermit the Frog once sang, it’s not easy being green.

His answer: “It’s not easy living with you, either.”

To accomplish temperature compatibility at night, all he has to do is steal the covers, and all I have to do is let him. Problem solved? No way. Hubby slumbers quietly, and even when cold, doesn’t grab my blanket. Is he trying to take me out with heat stroke?

We’re not the only spouses who suffer from irreconcilable temperature differences. One wife told her man if he didn’t like their family room’s cool ambience, he could go someplace hotter. (I don’t think she meant the Bahamas.)

Another couple solved their incompatibility by buying a new car with fancy dual heat-and-air-conditioning controls. She set hers at ten degrees less than his. They spent thousands of dollars to end the temperature tug-of-war. And lived happily ever after, right?

Nope. The fancy new hot-butt button is not dual-control.

Then there’s the frozen wife who bowed to her hot-natured husband’s needs, but rented out her living room as an ice rink. …

And some say married life is boring.

Perhaps the excitement presents one more aspect of imaginative design. God, who invented male and female wiring, apparently wants to keep the sparks alive in today’s marriages. And maybe God wants us to work things out. …

Hubby and I have to admit that sitting on opposite seats of the same seesaw keeps us communicating. Neither has jumped off the temperature teeter-totter during our almost 43 years of togetherness. And we hope our world is a bit cozier for it.

That kind of global warming? Couldn’t we all stand a little more?

 

 Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Who yanks on which side of the temperature tug-of-war at your house?

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Thermostat Debate

O my God, thank You for making Hubby and I unique individuals. But now that it’s October, he wants to turn on the heat. I still want to throw open windows. OMG, for us, marriage gives a whole new meaning to “hot woman” and “cool guy.”

This is Rachael’s inner temperature range.

This is Hubby’s.

 

 

The Saga of Penelope the Peach Tree

Once upon a time, in our backyard, there lived Penelope the peach tree.

Actually, two lived there. But even as we moved in, Percy the peach tree took one look at us, his new owners, and said, “There goes the neighborhood!” He never recovered.

Penelope delayed her judgment. Still, she expressed her disapproval: not one peach appeared that first summer. Next spring, though, pale pink blossoms crowded Penelope’s branches, exquisite as an oriental painting. I told Hubby, “That tree loves us.”

Visions of bubbling, crusty pie à la mode and caramel peach praline shortcake filled my salivating days.

However, when Hubby thinned tiny, excess peaches from Penelope’s branches, she took revenge by producing three edible fruits — and a thousand that resembled green ball bearings rolled in pepper.

The mutant peaches did not go to waste, however. I made jam as Christmas gifts for my less-than-favorite relatives.

Penelope the peach tree can be temperamental.

The following year, we respectfully requested Penelope produce real, peach-colored peaches, bigger than a marble. And no black rash, please.

Some trees, like some people, can’t take constructive criticism. The following spring, she wore only a few sulky blossoms and no fruit. Our fractured relationship distressed me. My relatives started speaking to me again, once they knew they wouldn’t receive pepper peach jam at Christmas.

It was a very sad year.

Next spring, however, blossoms crowded Penelope’s branches. Perhaps she’d repented of her pettiness. More likely, she simply forgot. Peach trees aren’t known for sharp memories.

When hubby thinned Penelope’s too-plentiful peaches again, I exercised caution when walking behind the garage, her domain. Would Penelope throw her remaining peaches at us?

Surprise! Penelope’s green peaches grew from marble to golf ball to baseball size. So many loaded one branch that it cracked. She obligingly provided just enough greenish, pepper-dotted fruit to make Christmas jam for my relatives.

But Penelope’s peaches ripened in her time frame — not when I was free to pick, peel and slice. Because of writing deadlines, I remained chained to my laptop.

Hubby made new weekend plans.

As my dearly beloved donned an apron, we heard devious chuckles from behind the garage. Penelope exacts revenge on peach-pruners, one way or another.

Hubby griped. But I had infected him with my pie and praline shortcake vision. He peeled and packaged.

Is he a peach of a guy, or what?

To Penelope, this ending to her saga may seem like the pits.

But smiling at each other over hot peach pie and ice cream, we’ll take Penelope’s “happily ever after” every time!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite peach indulgence?