Tag Archives: Family

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?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: The Morning After

Never too early for a smile!

*Note* No unblurred photo is possible because he never stops moving.

O my God, Hubby and I are so glad we could be present for our youngest grandsons’ dedication to You. Thank You for their wiggling, jiggling, giggling joy in living! Though, OMG, after a weekend together, guess who needs an all-day nap?

 

August: the Not-So-Special Month?

My daughter once wished for a different birthday month. I referred her to God for further discussion.

I do see her point, however. August boasts no holidays — not even a fake holiday like St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody throws big parties on the eve of August 1, as they do in January.

The hotter the weather, the more we chill. Dressing up is wearing matched right and left flip-flops. Days pass before we turn the calendar page.

When we do, though, a tiny tadpole of awareness wiggles into our days.

It’s August. Something’s different.

Outdoor projects delayed till warm weather now have been postponed till fall. Yards need extreme makeovers, but we’re so sick of yard work, we pay 4-Hers to release goat herds on our premises.

August presents an end-of-summer reality check. I purchased a “miracle” swimsuit in May. Now I realize the only miracle is that I paid big bucks for it.

August affects mothers in peculiar ways. They buy pencil boxes, though no one in human history has ever proved pencil boxes serve a useful purpose. Kids talk Mom into buying cool new backpacks, though 23 uncool backpacks languish at home.

Mothers also obsess about imminent changes in schedules: “Go to bed now so you’ll be ready when school starts.” My mother, who had five kids, did this. As of August 1, we went to bed at 4:00 p.m.

Even the sun listens to Mom and retires earlier in August. Yet during daytime, it unfurls golden rays as if leading an everlasting summer, ticker-tape parade. While eating home-grown, ice-cold watermelon in the backyard, we experience a different kind of reality check:

It’s been a great summer.

By August, every able-bodied person in the Midwest has ridden a Ferris wheel and consumed a warm, crisp elephant ear.

While still recovering from that gathering of DNA-related strangers known as a family reunion, we rendezvoused with cousins who long ago sneaked into drive-ins with us. We kissed sweet baby kin’s brand-new cheeks and gave grandmas and grandpas a smile.

In August, homeowners stop vying for the Yard of the Year. Instead, we concede the grand champion ribbon to God for His spectacular pastures of goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace and Sweet Williams.

He treats us to evening concerts by cicada choirs that sing their best in August. Fireflies, now veteran presenters, perform spectacular light shows at dusk with few technical glitches.

Whether we own farms or only farmers’ tans, the ripe cornucopia of gardens, tasseled cornfields and leafy rows of soybeans reassure us: After harvest, we will celebrate with plenty of food on our tables.

All during August — the not-so-special month.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you like best about August?

The Bouncy Life

When I was a pre-schooler, jumping on a bed made perfect sense. Sleeping? Resting?

Bor-ing.

Why flop like an emptied-out Raggedy Ann when I could soar like Peter Pan?

Boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba—

My parents, official killjoys of the universe, decreed I take naps, not turn somersaults. Lying still took 10 times more energy.

Why did those fun monkeys stop jumping on the bed just because of the doctor’s orders? The doctor also gave shots. Who in her right mind would trust him, anyway?

Despite adult meddling, children continue to jump on beds — until they graduate to trampolines.

In my first up-close-and-personal encounter with one in high school gym class, little-kid instincts came roaring back. This magic trampoline would morph me, with my uncoordinated-octopus body, into a graceful gymnast.

I climbed aboard. My P.E. teacher droned instructions.

What? I had to jump straight up and down? Teachers showed no more imagination than parents.

She called, “Try a knee drop.”

In order to wow the world and the guys’ class across the gym, I bounced …

Higher.

Higher.

HIGHER.

“Take it easy,” she cautioned.

What did she know? Boom-ba-boom-ba—

PLOP.

Ouch.

I had just demonstrated before God — and the boys’ gym class — the land version of a face-busting, ego-crushing belly flop.

They all smothered grins.

My teacher didn’t smile. She checked to see if I was alive. Then she did her best to kill me.

Grandma took this pic while still safe on the ground!

Maybe the bouncy life wasn’t so great.

Fast-forward 40-plus years.

“Grandma, jump with us!” My grandsons, ages four and seven, bounce on their trampoline.

My jump-on-the-bed instincts pop up. Shedding shoes, I stare at the trampoline. Don’t these things come equipped with stairs now? Escalators? Cranes?

“Climb up,” one grandson urges.

The little one offers, “I help you, Gwandma!”

I hoist and heave. The boys yank on me like two ants with a watermelon.

Finally, I sprawl over the edge.

“Ya-a-a-y! Jump!” Both shoot into the air like twin rockets. Boom-ba-boom-ba—

Bleeeaaah. My stomach jiggles. So does my bladder. My internal organs love gravity way, way too much.

Still, I play bounce tag with my grandsons for a few minutes. Will my body parts ever return to their original location?

Soon I resort to the usual grandma functions: applauding, refereeing and preventing the destruction of the universe — at least that of my grandchildren, their backyard and adjoining properties.

Finally, they flop onto their backs and I with them. We discuss why God made the sky blue and trees green, instead of the other way around.

The bouncy life is fun. But know what? This looks like a really good place … for a nap … zzzzz.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever tried to return to the bouncy life?

Soda Fountain Magic

Entering Zaharakos Soda Fountain as a preschooler, I knew magic was for real.

I spotted curlicue iron tables and chairs my size. Glass cases held hundreds of chocolates, hard candies and jelly beans. Had I reached heaven early? The adult friend who brought me confirmed this with ice cream I didn’t have to share.

Tired of the rock-hard chair, I pattered across the gleaming black-and-white floor to the counter’s red stools. They turned round and round! My friend’s objection didn’t surprise me. Even if a stool was designed to twirl, grown-ups always said you shouldn’t.

An enormous 1908 orchestrion — a self-playing pipe organ with drums, cymbals and triangles — fascinated me. Did jolly ghosts fill the high-ceilinged room with music?

Occasionally, Mama took us to Zaharakos. How I longed to dig into that pile of roasted cashews! But even a small packet cost too much.

My mother’s generation had frequented the place during their teens, so we cool adolescents of the 1960s avoided the fountain as if it radiated fallout. Still, celebrating my first job, I treated my little sister at Zaharakos.

I said grandly, “Order whatever you want.”

We ate huge sundaes. I played the orchestrion and bought cashews, toasty and delicious beyond belief.

Later, newly engaged, I chose fabulous Zaharakos candies for my future in-laws’ Christmas gift.

Fast-forward a few years to a visit by my mother. Adulting had drained away my coolness, so we visited Zaharakos. The mirrors gleamed, but the near-empty soda fountain’s stained counter, dull woodwork and damaged tin-patterned ceiling didn’t brighten our day.

“Everyone came here after school. ‘Meet you at the Greek’s!’ we’d say.” Mom gazed at the broken orchestrion. “The fountain’s dated now. I guess I am, too.”

Decades later, I shared a similar feeling when visiting the area. I stopped for a treat, but Zaharakos, a landmark since 1900, had closed. The orchestrion? Sold to a California collector.

Not long ago, though, as I traveled past my childhood hometown, something sent me off the interstate.

Miracles do happen.

Inside Zaharakos, red stools flanked gleaming, marble counters, and mirrors glimmered amid rich woodwork. Pint-sized curlicue tables and chairs again held little diners. The original orchestrion played, grand as ever.

I sent yummy birthday chocolates to my mother.

She no longer remembered events of five minutes ago, but she recalled Zaharakos.

The soda fountain had worked its sweet magic once again.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite soda fountain treat?

Want to travel back in time? Visit Zaharakos on the Web or plan a trip to experience the magic of their old-fashioned soda fountain: http://www.zaharakos.com/

 

Summer Driving: Going Crazy

Is road construction a good thing?

During my pre-driving days, I liked it, especially on long family trips. Bright-colored signs, flags, cones and barricades broke up eternal stretches of highway. Huge trucks, bulldozers, and graders growled and spouted smoke. Burly men (there were no women road construction workers then) drove the heavy equipment. Jackhammers appeared to enjoy breaking up Planet Earth. Lines of traffic snaked along roads, semitrailers’ air brakes whooshed and horns honked — all very exciting.

Road construction kept Dad and Mom occupied. Flapping maps, they forgot to monitor my siblings and me. When who-was-looking-at-whom crises arose, we kicked each other freely.

Dad’s mutterings soon graduated to addressing aloud the sins of fellow drivers and construction workers. A pastor, he did not swear. Instead, he called them Zeke, Pete, Cedric and Mephibosheth:

“Zeke and Cedric, are you going to yak all day? Or actually work?”

“Look out, Mephibosheth! Somebody else, take the wheel!”

He addressed irritating women drivers as Gertrude. Unless he was really mad. Then they became Sister Shumpett.

“Sister Shumpett, are you trying to send us to Jesus?!”

We kids loved the drama.

As an adult, I’m not so thrilled. Traveling anywhere during summer, I go crazy. Hostile plastic barrels target my car. I drive in reduced lanes that can’t accommodate a skateboard, let alone semis rocking around me.

Other drivers go crazy, too. Construction zones become existential: “I drive. Therefore, I am.”

Our Visa bills for gas support that mantra. But that’s all we know in construction areas, as highway signs become mere mirages. Drivers rocket past at warp speed. Others meander across skinny lanes as if they are middle-schoolers riding bikes on a summer afternoon. Pete, Cedric, Mephibosheth, Gertrude and Sister Shumpett are alive and well on summer highways in this millennium, too.

So how can I ask a stupid question like, “Is road construction good?”

Before you add my name to the above list, consider this: The only thing worse than road construction is no road construction. In the Bahamas, Hubby and I nearly drove into the sea because no one had bothered to barricade a washed-out road, let alone, fix it. In Ecuador, we smacked our skulls repeatedly on a bouncing truck’s ceiling, following la calle para burros (the road made for burros).

We’ve also driven in Michigan, a state whose annual highway repair budget is $15.83.

Unfortunately, for family reasons, we continue to drive in Michigan. I may soon pull our pop-up camper, as Hubby insists I learn to spell him.

Look out, Zeke, Pete, Cedric, Gertrude, and Sister Shumpett!

And you thought you already were going crazy.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: So … is road construction a good thing?

Recovering Neatnik

Those who know me best — especially my husband — do not believe I battled neatnik neurosis during my childhood. Sharing a bedroom with my sister, who suffered from chronic clutteritis, I developed OC tendencies in self-defense. My dolls stayed in their bed — cute, clean and quiet — until I wanted to play. Stuffed animals lined up in military order on the bed. I liked clean, shiny, bare surfaces, including floors, bureaus, and walls. As a teen, I kept my organized closet full of freshly-ironed clothes.

Life in an Indiana University dormitory cured me. Forever.

Perhaps my newfound maturity added to my messy success. Perfect order seemed less essential when I had to choose between going out Friday nights and cleaning my room or doing laundry and ironing. Besides, nobody at college had ever heard of an iron. Some had never heard of laundry.

I also credit much of my lifetime recovery to my three children. Gifts from God, they drove my neatnik tendencies away forever. No clean, shiny, bare surfaces appeared in our house for a couple of decades.

True, a period of danger ensued when they left home. Without their loving, anarchic presence, I might have succumbed once again to this terrible affliction. But they loved their old mom and, out of pure concern, left behind sufficient junk to defeat my tidy demons.

Now my grandchildren have joined their parents in concern for my well-being. The spare rooms bulge with toys I gave away 15 years ago, then re-bought at garage sales. An inflated monkey I purchased for fun days at the beach then hid to keep my grandchildren from fighting over it. Stacks of free cereal box books. A fuzzy Frosty the Snowman and Petey the Penguin, still in their 70-percent off package, bought to wiggle, jiggle and delight my grandchildren this coming Christmas. Or maybe they were supposed to thrill the kids five Christmases ago?

Even more touching, my in-laws joined in the fight to end my obsessive-compulsiveness forever. Not long ago they visited us, bringing my husband’s childhood scrapbooks and his favorite deer farm drinking glass, preserved from those exotic vacations in Hayward, Wisconsin.

With all this family support, I won’t see clean, shiny bare surfaces until heaven.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a neatnik or a clutter queen (king)?