Tag Archives: Family

To Watch the Clock or Not?

While riding our exercise bike, I pondered the importance of clocks — mostly because after achieving sufficient torture minutes, I could get off. And reward myself with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Usually, though, I’m not a clock-watcher; my devout, free-spirited parents lauded flexibility as a key virtue. Keeping track of time? Not so much. Church services they led not only seemed to go on forever, they actually did.

So, when my second-grade teacher instructed our class about telling time, I didn’t see the point. Besides, if the big hand was on two, plain as day, why did she insist it read 10 minutes after the hour? Why should insignificant dots between the numbers dictate the operation of the universe?

Given that cosmic view, I didn’t own my first wristwatch until eighth grade.

My husband received his as a kindergartner. Perhaps his family operated like normal people?

Liam, our time-loving toddler, is now 10 and still watches clocks.

Decades later, our toddler grandson, Liam, exhibited that “normal” behavior tenfold. Every visit.

LIAM: Grandma, want pretty “numbers-clock.”

GRANDMA: If you wear my watch, you must give it back before I leave.

LIAM: (nodding vigorously) I will.

(Grandma doubles the band around his tiny wrist.)

LIAM: (caressing the watch) My numbers-clock.

At least, I escaped the mugging Liam’s library storyteller suffered when he refused to give up his numbers-clock.

While most North Americans don’t go to that extreme, other cultures do puzzle about our clock fetish. The Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels, captured that viewpoint perfectly in describing Gulliver’s pocket watch as a god he worshipped: “He assured us … that he seldom did anything without consulting it. He called it his oracle and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life.”

Centuries later, I find this true, even at night. Do you, too, play peekaboo during the wee hours with merciless numbers that scare away sleep?

Cell phones, rather than clocks, often rule both nights and days. Still, I consult my watchless wrist. That failing, I consult my phone — after I find it.

Perhaps a residue of freedom from time survives, as demonstrated in our living room. Two clocks reside there, neither of which works. As dusty décor, they read 1:57 and 3:01, respectively. This annoys Liam, no longer a mugger, but still a clock-watcher at 10.

The first is my husband’s great-great-grandfather’s mantel clock, with its ornate brass lions, rings and trims. But I like the other best, a modest crystal clock Hubby gave me for Christmas long ago.

A note accompanied it: “My love for you is timeless.”

Clock-watcher or not, exercise-bike rider or chocolate-eating slacker, I have time for that.

Anytime.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: When do you watch the clock?

The Blue Dresser

How did the dresser start out in life? I don’t know, but its size and plain, sturdy lines said, “I belong to a kid.”

The dresser’s original kid probably wadded clothes Mom had folded and stuffed them into its drawers. Perhaps he yanked out drawers, climbed the “stairs” and jumped off the top with an umbrella parachute.

Years later, I discovered that dresser in a secondhand store, marked half-price. It would do until my three-year-old son started school. However, it wore a woebegone, cast-off aura.

My mother, two thousand miles away, whispered in my mind, “Nice find. Great price. But this little dresser needs happy paint.”

As a teen, I’d rolled my eyes when Mom painted end tables orange and a bedroom suite blue. Who did that?

Well … I did. After a critical paint chip comparison, I began painting the chest eye-popping blue. I planned to paint its handles equally vivid red.

Then my young husband needed an emergency appendectomy. While Hubby slowly recovered from complications, I slowly finished the dresser. Late at night, I added a second coat, a third, maybe more — I don’t remember. I experienced a glad moment when I hauled the completed dresser upstairs to my son’s bedroom. An even happier one when I brought his daddy home.

David, flanked by his older sisters, was a toddler when I painted the dresser a vivid blue.

Both had jobs to do. Daddy returned to work. The dresser once more endured yanks, shoves and a “helpful” kid who stuffed clothes Mom had folded into its drawers. (He also attempted to climb to the dresser top, but I stopped him on the second step.)

A doggie bank constructed from a Pringles can resided on it, along with half-consumed PB&J sandwiches and piles of baseball cards. With ABC curtains, Mickey Mouse sheets, and a carpet perpetually layered with toys, the dresser helped make the room my kid’s haven.

But adolescence sneaked in. The first clouds of Eau de Gym Shoe settled over his room and, with them, a dark cloud of protest: Mickey Mouse sheets? Seriously? Did he really need ABCs displayed on his curtains?

David with his wife and their first baby.

I changed his décor to manly navy blue. Strangely, he didn’t ask me to lose the dresser.

Perhaps, even he realized he didn’t need a bigger one. Why, when his wardrobe resided in heaps on the floor?

Plus, the doggie bank’s big smile still matched the dresser perfectly.

One day, he departed for college, then marriage. The cheerful blue dresser, deprived of its kid, looked a little sad.

Now, though, it proudly houses coloring books, finger paints, and Play-Doh for grandchildren.

That dresser was made for kids.

And this old kid still loves it.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What furniture in your home tells your family’s story?

Gripes vs. Gratitude

Do you enjoy a good gripe?

Me, too. The recent election itches like a mosquito bite. I scratch and complain as if that will make it all better.

Maybe, as Mom often said, I should leave it alone so it will heal?

Better yet, applying something soothing — like gratitude — speeds the process. Even …

Gratitude for Weird Things

For example, I’m thankful pumpkins don’t grow on trees. Falling pumpkins every autumn would prove traumatic. Messier to rake, too.

I’m thankful for Indianapolis International Airport shuttle buses. Even when passengers can’t remember in which state they landed — let alone, parking row numbers — drivers remain courteous and coherent. Which is more than I am at midnight.

As we’re discussing air travel, I give thanks for screaming babies. They make me grateful to be old.

Not too old, though, to appreciate new bell bottoms for which I paid $4.80. Retro fashion, retro price! The only down side: the last time I wore bell bottoms, I didn’t, um, possess one.

Still thinking retro, I’m grateful I no longer endure home permanents or soup-can curlers.

I’m thankful, too, that unlike my first year of driving (two wrecks), I have driven accident-free for years.

I remind myself to give thanks at stoplights for drivers with honking disease. They strip away any religious façade: Will I swear or pray?

So far, prayers way outnumber swear words — though a few prayers have consisted of, “Lord, strike that guy’s battery dead.”

Oops. My “gratitude” is beginning to itch.

Changing the subject … I am grateful for Britisher Thomas Hancock (1786-1865), who invented elastic. At Thanksgiving, real waistlines might prove fatal.

I am incredibly thankful for my favorite Thanksgiving foods: pie, pie and pie! I’m also blessed with my sweet mother-in-law, a wonderful pie baker. And my kind father-in-law.

Also, my funny, ornery, 91-year-old dad. When I phone, he always answers, “Rachael who?” As long as he doesn’t turn polite, I don’t worry.

Speaking of near and dear, I should express gratitude that my love is not a vampire. Or zombie. Just a camper. Though some friends would rather deal with the other alternatives, I’m happy with my guy. Among other considerations, he pumps gas, even if I’m driving. Always.

I’m also thankful that as empty nesters, we no longer must be good examples. Feet on the furniture, supper in front of TV, yelling at referees — life together is good.

Fortunately, our children and their spouses are good examples. They have given us seven awesome grandkids who have taught us peace and quiet are highly overrated.

We are so thankful. When I think of those blessings and a gazillion more …

What gripes?

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What reasons for gratitude help dissolve your gripes?

The Amazing Corn Maze Adventure

In autumn, we Midwestern grandparents like to complicate our lives by taking our families to corn mazes.

On our first outing, my husband eyed me. “Some people need 12 hours to find their way out.”

“Ha!” I say.

But that’s all I can say. Maybe, I’ll exit before Thanksgiving. Or Christmas?

Like my mother before me, I possess zero sense of direction. Unfortunately, our daughter inherited something of our deficiency.

Her husband and mine took over. “No way are these kids getting lost with you.”

One grandson wailed, “I don’t wanna get lost with Mommy!”

His brother backed away. “Grandma’s trying get rid of us!”

The men hurried the kids into the maze. Onlookers, fingers poised to dial 911, glared at my daughter and me.

The maze looked friendlier. I have always liked rustling cornfields, with thousands of leafy stalks whispering autumn secrets. Once we entered, though, other participants vanished. Where, exactly, were we?

My daughter said, “Let’s retrace our steps. We went this way, didn’t we?”

At the next intersection, I boldly pointed the way. “We came from this direction.”

“You think so?”

“Uh …”

Cornstalks moaned with the wind. My skin prickled, but I summoned the confident tone that faked me through years of parenting. “As long as we see the barn, we’re fine.”

The only problem: the barn kept moving. Farther and farther away.

Suddenly, from the opposite direction, it pounced on us like a daytime goblin.

My daughter, who once hitchhiked a Mexican highway without fear, halted, eyes wide.

I checked my phone’s GPS.

“Recalculating …” The GPS Lady snickered. “Recalcu — bwahahaha!”

My daughter’s GPS Lady joined in. They loved the corn maze.

Us? Not so much.

We switched off those annoying voices. But those of our family? No. This corn maze tale would be repeated at holidays forever.

Even if we never returned to eat pumpkin pie. (Sniff.)

Finally, my daughter straightened her shoulders. “We’re going about this all wrong.”

“We are?”

“Sure. Let’s walk away from the barn. At the next fork, close your eyes. Pick a path, any path. At the next one, I’ll do the same.”

“Right! That always works with interstate ramps.”

We found an exit. Before relief gave way to gloating, the guys emerged from another.

“Grandpa and I figured the way out from the sun’s angles!” one grandson crowed. “Did you do that, Grandma?”

“You used a GPS.” My husband sounded as if we were running a Ponzi scheme.

No, we had used our own special system, based on navigational instincts those guys couldn’t begin to understand.

My mother would have been proud.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a corn maze adventure?

Confessions of a Mug-aholic

My name is Rachael, and I’m a mug-aholic.

I wouldn’t admit that, except last Thanksgiving, my family engineered an anti-mug intervention group.

“You promised to quit this.” My husband stared me down. “Instead, you’ve been smuggling mugs from the flea market. Sneaking off to Cracker Barrel when allegedly picking up milk. The cabinets are so stuffed, we’re afraid to open them.”

“Why are you uptight?” I countered. “It’s not like I stole any from the church.”

Had he found my blueprints for a new wing — a Mug Museum — hidden in my office?

I knew my grown kids weren’t backing off when they made the grandkids wear helmets in my kitchen.

Unreasonable. Mugs save lives. Would civilization survive chilly mornings without steaming drinks that keep workers functioning and murderless?

Perhaps I should consider tossing my snowman mug which, despite its exorbitant price, chipped the first time I microwaved coffee. A few heated sessions later, Frosty lost his nose. Made in China, the mug probably was coated with mercury. Still, I sneak occasional coffee with Frosty. How will I make it through the approaching winter without his cheerful grin?

Hubby catches me. “I’m surprised you haven’t grown an extra eyeball, drinking out of that thing. Throw it out.”

So far, I’ve ignored him. But given Frosty’s uncertain future, I’ll have to buy a clearance snowman mug after Christmas.

Please don’t tell my little coffee buddy. Such disloyalty might make him fall to pieces, and if I tried to fix him … the only thing superglued together would be my thumbs.

I rarely use my smaller mugs except to torture unpopular relatives with a stingy supply of caffeine. But I can’t bring myself to give them away. (The mugs, not the relatives.) They might feel rejected. What if someone wrapped you in newspaper, tossed you into a box and dropped you off at Goodwill?

A new epiphany strikes me.

My shelves teem with flowery mugs. Mugs with hearts. Mugs with angels. Soon, I’ll bring out a hundred girly, Christmas mugs.

My husband’s collection: a sacred Indiana University mug; one boasting New Testament books of the Bible, including “He Brews” (guess who gave the tea lover that one); and a 1983 Doctor’s Day mug.

No wonder he borrows my Oreo mug.

Such inequity is downright unjust.

Fair play will result in even more crowded conditions. And an absolute mandate to construct the Mug Museum.

My name is Rachael, and I’m a mug-aholic.

You, too? Let’s fill a couple with favorite brews and drink to that!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you regard your mugs as family members? If not, what collection do you treasure? (Does your spouse?)

The Eyes Have It

My stylish glasses worn in fifth grade.

“Rachael needs glasses.”

My mother stared at my teacher. Neither she nor Dad wore glasses. How could their six-year-old mistake “Dick” for “Jane” on the blackboard? But my siblings also misread “Boys” and “Girls” on restroom doors. Mom soon made weekly visits to the grocery and the optometrist’s.

Meanwhile, my husband languished with poor vision longer than his parents realized. They coaxed him to the optometrist’s, promising his bat would connect with the baseball better.

“Ball?” Steve said. “They throw a ball?”

As a Phillips, he probably took good care of his glasses.

My siblings and I, however, used them as fresh opportunities to annoy our parents. We don’t recall the color of brother Ned’s glasses because Mom was always swathing his bent/ fractured/twisted spectacles with new duct tape.

We all discovered innovative ways to lose our glasses. We left them on school lunch trays. Baby brothers flushed them down toilets and dropped them down heating vents. On vacation, Jean left her glasses in Louisville … or Memphis? The wind blew mine from my face as I rode in the back of Dad’s pickup.

My high school singing group, Debuteens. I’m sitting on the front row, far right, sans glasses.

Eventually, I graduated to the ultimate cool: contact lenses. Why I bothered, I don’t know. My bangs reached my nostrils. My own mother had forgotten my eye color. Eyes? What eyes?

I couldn’t wear soft lenses, so I paid hard-earned dollars for pieces of glass I stuck into my eyes like tacks. They worked great — except on sunny, dry days. Or cold, windy days. Or when I opened my eyes.

After several masochistic years, I decided they weren’t worth it. My boyfriend-turned husband didn’t mind my glasses at all. Not surprisingly, we produced three bespectacled children.

Inheriting my fussy corneas, our eldest gave up on contacts, too. Apparently, gentlemen still made passes at lasses in glasses, because her future husband saw past hers. When our family shed spectacles for a swim, though, he discovered we couldn’t tell time on the hotel’s large clock.

“I can almost see numbers,” our daughter said.

“I can make out the hands,” I told him. “Sort of.”

“What clock?” said Hubby and our son in unison.

Brave soul, the boyfriend married into our family anyway.

Eventually, I did the bobble-headed thing while adjusting to new bifocals. Now the media hypes laser surgery for cool Boomers.

I prefer to blow my wad elsewhere. Besides, not-so-great vision can prove positive.

Seeing the blackboard clearly for the first time, my six-year-old self never would have believed it. At this life stage, though, Hubby and I don’t miss seeing gray hairs, wrinkles or love handles.

A little blindness can be a blessing.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Describe your first pair of glasses. Or do you possess perfect vision?

Cars Hate Me

When purchasing a car, I emphasize one feature, difficult to judge when the shiny vehicle is on its best behavior.

Will this car like me?

Some have detested me the moment I sat behind the wheel, e.g., my driver’s education car. Like my teacher, Mr. Doom, the brand-new Cutlass hated all four of us women drivers.

My fellow driver, Linda, paid it back by sideswiping a telephone pole. We learned about police procedure, an educational experience that would serve me well in future, um … situations.

I practiced frequently, using my parents’ dinosaur-sized station wagon. Long before email, that car notified our neighborhood and took bets whether I’d hit something.

When I backed the behemoth, it aimed straight for our neighbor’s driveway. I usually missed her car. But not her roses.

Eventually, I passed driver’s ed, but the DMV examiner’s car didn’t like me. I flunked.

My second attempt, I passed! Neither the DMV car nor the examiner wanted to see me again.

After a few accidents (Not my fault, really!), I experienced a reprieve from mean cars. During college, I was too poor to own one.

Until our honeymoon, when we borrowed a car that died only on left turns.

Even the first car we owned, a deceptively cute, green Opel, hated me. It emitted puffs of smoke when I forgot to take off the parking brake. The Opel delighted in springing leaks in unfindable places.

A later car, my Pontiac, initially seemed reliable. However, it nearly exploded when I drove to a neighboring city to rescue my sister. Her car hated her, too.

Looking back on my ownership history, I should have blamed my mother, who also attracted nasty cars. One barge-sized LTD ground out weird noises as we ascended Oregon’s Strawberry Mountain. I insinuated the car might be disintegrating.

She shrugged. “Oh, honey, that’s just the transmission.”

Mom let the cars know who was boss. Despite hostile vehicles — and, occasionally, police officers — she lived to be 84.

Some insist my continuing problems aren’t the car’s, but mine. They predict as I grow older, cars will like me even less.

Modern technology, though, has created self-driven cars, a solution my children may embrace on my behalf. However, having set up safe routes in my car, they probably won’t teach me how to program it.

They underestimate their mother.

I simply will consult a five-year-old great-grandchild: “Honey, here’s a Jolly Rancher and $1,000” — hey, inflation will hit bribery, too — “if you’ll just program this car to take me to Hawaii.”

My self-driven machine may not like me.

But that newly rich little kindergartner will.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did you ever own a lemon?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: October and Liver

O my God, thank You for October, with its colorful leaves and pumpkin-spice everything. But some of Your humans have declared it National Liver Awareness Month. OMG, do You think we should spend 30 days thinking about liver? After half a century, I’m still trying to forget my mother made me taste it.

End-of-Summer Reflections

Do you like that word, “reflections”? When young, I identified it with the forced reading of smarmy poetry, staring at my navel, and/or listening to some windbag.

I will never inflict such harm on my readers. I keep my lousy poetry to myself. I never coerce anyone into studying her belly button. As for my being a windbag — perish the thought!

Having dispelled these unfortunate associations, let us return to my profound end-of-summer reflections:

  • Regardless of propaganda touting it as the ingredient for pizza, smoothies and cheesecakes, nobody likes kale.
  • My husband’s “short” bike rides require a passport.
  • Grandbabies’ discriminating palates prefer four summer food groups: sand, mud, gravel and sticks.
  • My palate also dictates four summer food groups: butter pecan, salted caramel fudge, chocolate almond, and Moose Tracks.
  • A related reflection: Skinny, beautiful people on TV drool over yogurt, but they never, ever will convince us it can replace ice cream.
  • I sleep with only a sheet, but still need a quilt on my feet.
  • If we water gardens to induce rain, the clouds know.
  • Also, the probability of rain is in direct proportion to the amount we spent on Cubs tickets.
  • If not for relatives’ summer visits, would the carpet get swept from June through September?
  • Nobody really likes an ecologically diverse yard. Or wants me to preserve the prairie.
  • Morning glories I plant always shrivel as if my trellis were radioactive. Yet a thousand healthy, nasty lovelies strangle my cucumbers.
  • Deer who scavenge neighborhoods never eat crabgrass.
  • Scratching sounds in an attic mean raccoons have started a summer obstetric ward there — or mosquitoes have grown bigger than I expected.
  • While rainy days ruin human vacations, my fern, Carolyn, considers steamy conditions a five-star experience.
  • If you live by a lake, visit kin who live by a different lake. Hurry, because it’s almost fall, and that’s the only way you’ll get a free vacation, too.
  • I and other Stain Queens should be forbidden by law to wear white pants.
  • People who grill only vegetables are not to be trusted.
  • If a certain age, never shop the weekend before school starts. You will park in a different zip code. You also will return home with 143 15-cent notebooks.
  • Ferris wheels at county fairs still fill me with six-year-old wow.
  • After a lifetime of watching people voluntarily buying cotton candy, I still haven’t figured out why.
  • Finally, when police know campers next to your site on a first-name basis, pitch a tent in your backyard instead.

Yes, summer will fade, but never fear. I soon will supply my readers with a whole new set of reflections — autumn reflections.

Not that I’m a windbag, or anything. …

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What end-of-summer musings fill your mind?