O my God, I’ve already received two Christmas cards. My neighborhood blooms with lights and holiday trees. But other than a drippy winter cold arriving with a promptness Amazon would envy, my Advent is running behind. Again.
No doubt, our Creator appreciates gratitude for freedom to worship Him, for family, friends, food and shelter. But my cornucopia also bursts with weird things for which I am thankful, including:
- Avocados. As a missionary kid in Mexico, I picked them up like apples under big trees. I still am a guacamole junkie. How many other fattening foods are good for me?
- Shots. Immunizations don’t rank as my preferred activity, and certainly not my grandchildren’s. But because of shots’ protection, holiday hugs and kisses induce only mild winter plagues.
- Black, washable pants. They love sparkly holiday tops and simple ones. They’re immune to stains and grandbaby spit. Roomy in the rear, they don’t desert me after the holidays, as many of my clothes do.
- My piano. I don’t own a grand or even a baby grand. But my little Baldwin comprised our first major purchase after Hubby finished medical school. I thought we should spend his first paychecks on practical items. He insisted, “You miss having a piano.” Whenever I play, it still sings a love song.
- Our baby trees, whose lanky little branches and colorful fall foliage inspire me with lavish dreams for their future.
- Our camper. The one Hubby purchased when I was too sick to fight it. Even sitting idle, it sets us free. Already, we picture days in the green woods and s’mores around campfires on starry nights.
- Gummy worms. Incredibly lifelike, they possess magical powers. When decorating a grandson’s birthday cake, they enable me to resist eating it.
- Our brown sofa. Thank God, Hubby talked me out of buying a red one. Otherwise, after eight years, it would present a less-than-artistic mosaic of peanut butter, jelly, pizza, mustard and gravy stains. Because of, um, the grandchildren. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
- My neighbor’s yard. Raked and pristine, it gives me a goal to shoot for when I grow up.
- Free chips and salsa. A highlight of dining in Mexican restaurants.
- Laid-back drivers. People who drive sl-ow-ly on two-lane highways annoy me to the point I pray aloud to occupy mind and mouth. They even force me to notice the loveliness I miss when whipping by as usual.
- Accelerators. Cars wouldn’t be much good without them, right?
- Ditto for brakes. And headlights.
- Paper towels. While living in Ecuador for two months, I missed them terribly. (Thank goodness, Ecuador did manufacture toilet paper.)
- Baby smiles. They always ruin a bad day.
A critic might protest, “Your list goes on forever!”
True. I never run out of weird things for which to be thankful, because my Creator never, ever stops giving.
He’s weird that way — and wonderful.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What odd reasons for gratitude pop up on your list?
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.”
My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, read James Whitcomb Riley poems, along with other Hoosier literature, after noon recess every day.
She brought poems and stories to life in a way that made my ears and mind tingle.
However, she enforced “rest time.” We had to lay our heads on our desks while she read, an indignity that smacked of kindergarten naptime. After all, we were nine-year-olds, soon to reach double digits.
We didn’t need any dumb rest time.
Decades later, I realized that after policing a playground resembling a crash derby without cars, then facing a similar classroom scenario, she might need the break.
Not all of Riley’s poems topped my “favorites” list. Braver classmates asked Mrs. Baker to read “Little Orphant Annie.” Why did they like those repeated references to “gobble-uns” that would get us if we didn’t shape up?
I already slept with my knees near my shoulders to avoid giant spiders lurking at the foot of my bed. Adding gobble-uns to my nighttime freak-out list didn’t induce much sleep.
Even more frightening, Little Orphant Annie had to do lots of housework.
“But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.”
However, James Whitcomb Riley never would have received an A on a grammar test. He would have been the very first down in a spelling bee.
Mrs. Baker and other teachers deluged us with homework, tests and even demerits to ensure my classmates and I spoke and wrote correctly.
Yet my teacher read us his poems almost daily.
Grown-ups never made sense.
Despite my confusion, James Whitcomb Riley’s magic sang in my head and heart. A Hoosier like me, he wrote about the land and life I knew and loved. He instilled pride into us for who we were — kids in a country school in a county where farmers helped feed a nation and the world.
His poems still resonate with me, especially on a crisp, fall Indiana morning with a shimmer of silver on my lawn, and gold, russet, and scarlet leaves flying in the chilly, sunny breeze. James Whitcomb Riley still reminds me of all I cherish in my native state.
Even if he didn’t know how to spell.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did your childhood teachers read to you? What was your favorite read-aloud story/poem?
Is there anything more fun than sneaking a walk when you should be hard at work?
Perhaps balancing the national budget, achieving world peace and losing four dress sizes rank above it. None of these, however, appear imminent. So I pilfer little thrills, like kernels of candy corn, when I can.
Autumn’s tawny, sun-freckled face grins from every yard and field, a mischievous TP-er who messes with trees so we have to clean up many-hued clutter. Scraggly flowers, survivors with colorful personalities, mix well with show-off mums. Ragged, brown corn and soybeans look weathered and friendly as smiling scarecrows that guard small-town yards and grocery store produce sections.
Al mellow and unhurried. Autumn urges me to enjoy its relaxed aura while I can.
However, calling my husband to spring me from jail isn’t the best way to celebrate fall. Forcing my steps past, I promise myself a trip to an orchard.
Squirrels, sociopathic larcenists, don’t worry about raising bail. They freely steal fruit, walnuts and acorns, which they hide in my flower pots—their personal storage units. Fall squirrels are like spring dandelions, fluffy and cute. I love both … in other people’s yards.
All paths lead to the elementary school, easily evidenced by a trail of kid stuff: a flattened baseball hat; a pink bicycle abandoned near a stop sign; a plain strawberry Pop-Tart®, no doubt rejected because someone wanted frosted chocolate with sprinkles. Scholarly endeavors are verified by broken pencils and crinkled homework. How long has this rain-faded permission slip lain here?
Rows of cars at the school speak of the commitment of teachers, administrators and staff. I pray for them, as the place — even when recess is not in session — emits energy unmatched by Hoover Dam turbines.
Ditto for Taylor University. A substantial portion of its science building’s energy needs are supplied by geothermal, solar and wind power. However, the pulsating between-class rhythm of skateboarders, scooter-riders, cyclists and joggers who don’t even notice they’re jogging prompts another energy question: Couldn’t the remainder be supplied by students, who regard midnight as the start of prime time?
I seek quieter streets, where I can saunter, unmolested by the vigorous and motivated.
Instead, yards teem with home improvement projects, and on the town’s outskirts, farmers driving giant combines lumber into fields, braving clouds of chaff. All strive to complete their tasks before cold weather.
In the face of so much diligence, goofing off is downright tough. I head for home.
But that doesn’t mean autumn and I won’t try to play hooky tomorrow. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite goof-off season, and why?
O my God, if I’d drawn on a Thanksgiving tablecloth as a kid—“No pumpkin pie for you!” But this tablecloth invited rowdy games of tic-tac-toe and connect-the-dots, and kids, young and old, colored it with gusto. OMG, thanks for that wild, wonderful three-day feast! And for the put-my-feet-up quiet now.
Welcome to my annual appreciation-of-the-odd list.
Wait. Isn’t gratitude against the law during an election year?
Before I dine, I’ll lose the whine and savor what’s extra-fine. Join me, if you’re so inclined.
- First, I’m thankful the election is over. Enough said.
- I’m thankful for my Pressure Peach, a squishy, foam rubber peach with a perfect blush. My sister, a weird, wonderful pastor who lives near Atlanta, hoped its therapy would keep me out of jail. Whenever I feel like punting my computer (or a few people I know), squeezing my Pressure Peach restores sanity and makes everything go just … peachy.
- I thank God for blue jeans that “go” with 1970s T-shirts, button-downs and blazers, sequins or satins. Accessorized with jungle flip-flops or jeweled high heels, jeans go everywhere with everybody. Stains customize their charm. Rips qualify them for designer status. Baggy, saggy or raggy, fitted or faded, yanked from dryer (or laundry hamper in an emergency), jeans are this girl’s best friend.
- I thank God pens, pencils and paper are still legal. I appreciate computers, especially since my handwriting rivals my two-year-old grandson’s. But my fingers still itch when I spy a freshly sharpened pencil, smell a new notebook, or watch ink flow like dark cream across fresh, untouched paper.
- I’m thankful gas prices dropped. Sigh. Now they’ll rise a dollar a gallon because I said it. Or because it’s Wednesday. Or because Obama ate anchovy pizza. Still, I’m thankful.
- I appreciate street lights. They remind me of Thanksgiving cooks — unnoticed until they take time off.
- I’m thankful for my naked coffee table. No one-of-a-kind knickknacks mar its surface — precious evidence of sticky little grandkid fingers.
- I’m thankful for my mantel clock, all crystal and gold balls that dance in an infinite circle. It keeps lousy time, despite fresh batteries. But my husband gave it to me one Christmas with a note that said his love for me was timeless. So I don’t mind being late to appointments.
- I’m grateful God didn’t outsource tree creation to me. I would have gotten the fall colors all wrong. I would have used Super-Glue to bind trunk, limbs and twigs in awkward lumps and would have forgotten roots. Winter breezes would have sent trees rolling like giant tumbleweeds, resulting in interesting insurance claims. God, however, engineers elaborate systems to anchor and nurture trees. With an artist’s eye, He arranges bare, elegant, black branches like lines of poetry.
- I’m doubly thankful God also welcomes the challenge of caring for me and other higher(?) species. Especially during this election year.
What weird things make your odd-Thanksgiving list?
Something brushed across my arm in the night.
Not my husband’s touch. After decades of marriage, my epidermis recognizes his epidermis, even when I sleep.
Please understand that as a five-year-old missionary kid, I once discovered a tarantula had invited himself to share my covers.
Now, decades later, I slowly wiggled my toes.
Nothing ate them. Whew!
I listened for unauthorized breathing. When our children were little, that sound on the wrong side of the bed indicated our son once again had escaped his crib.
Eventually I realized our son was pursuing a doctorate in Washington, D.C. Probably a safe bet that he wasn’t my brush with the unknown.
A burglar? But our stairs emitted loud cr-r-reaks. I had heard only a quiet swoo-oosh.
Now completely awake, I convinced myself I had dreamed it all.
Until … the next morning, when my no-nonsense husband said he had a similar dream.
That night, I crept up the stairs to our bedroom. A black, shapeless something hung from the fire alarm. I admit to letting refrigerator contents age into anti-matter, but had it been that long since we checked those batteries? Had they disintegrated to black goo?
The “goo” actually resembled a small, folded umbrella … until it shuddered.
Men do not understand why women who weep during puppy food commercials expect their husbands to take a flame thrower to all unwelcome home invaders, including burglars, germs and bats.
Finally, Steve persuaded me we could capture it. Armed with a laundry basket, a sheet and a fly swatter, we approached the bat, apparently a sound sleeper. I held the basket over the fire alarm as Steve tried to pry him loose. If Mr. Bat wasn’t a vampire, he certainly impersonated one well, with fierce, beady eyes and snarling white teeth.
My kindhearted husband finally detached him and slapped the sheet over the laundry basket. We carried him, hissing and flapping, outside and released him. Mr. Bat zoomed off into the blackness like a dark angel.
While I admit to a few bats in the belfry, I never expected to find one in our bedroom. If it happens again, we now have a plan.
I don’t think a laundry basket will work.
Have you ever shared your space with a bat? Or another unwelcome critter?