Oh my God, thank You for the get-up-and-go You give this little guy. After a blow-out first-year birthday party, he still puts the Energizer Bunny to shame. His grandma? Not so much. But OMG, that baby face’s glow still warms Grandma’s busy Monday morning. …
Do you remember your first Girl Scout Cookie?
During the early 1960s, a neighbor girl rang our doorbell, and my mother happily did her civic duty. I tasted my first Girl Scout Cookie, a peanut butter sandwich called a Savannah.
Today’s savvy cookie-taster insists Savannah Smiles® are lemon-flavored half-moons, a 180-degree turnabout from those I first savored.
I thought my memory must be 11 short of a dozen. Comparing notes with other Boomers, however, I discovered I was right! Those peanut butter confections are now called Do-si-dos®.
I may forget my parking spot location, social security number and computer password, all within the same hour. But I never, ever forget a cookie.
Not that I ate many then. My brothers also tasted their first Savannahs. A severe cookie famine ensued.
I sought to ease it by joining the Girl Scouts myself.
I soon discovered my Girl Scout uniform did not come with a free admission to an endless cookie buffet. Each box cost (gasp!) 50 cents — a king’s ransom to an 11-year-old.
Somehow, I’d signed on an invisible dotted line to sell them. By then, I understood many people did not welcome door-to-door salesmen. Little-girl appeal redeemed my fellow Scouts, but my weed-like growth spurt nixed that angle. Walmart and cookie stands did not exist.
Still, a Girl Scout keeps her promises. So, I trudged through subdivisions, praying with every doorbell’s ring that no one would answer. Sadly, during the 1960s, everybody was at home. When doors opened, I had to say something. Usually, “You don’t want to buy any cookies … do you?”
Amazingly, they often did. Despite setting new substandards for salesmanship, I sold my share.
Both my daughters, cursed with my door-to-door DNA, did well in the cookie-table arena. Tiny, with Bambi-brown eyes, our younger girl even persuaded a kindhearted baker to purchase several boxes.
Our older girl later worked for the Girl Scouts, dedicating weeks of her life to sorting, distributing, selling and collecting payments for stacks of cookies that filled her living room.
Why didn’t she accept my offer to serve as official taster?
Soon, my granddaughter proudly wore the Girl Scout sash and kept the promises, faithfully contributing a million-dollar smile to the cookie cause. Plus thousands of calories to Grandma’s mostly theoretical diet, which she was happy to break to do her civic duty.
I thank the Girl Scouts for promoting superior values, as well as good taste, throughout three generations of my family. Also, for providing inspiring, delicious writing material (munch, munch, munch).
If a cookie quality control position opens up in your organization, you know whom to call.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite Girl Scout Cookie?
Ah, resolutions. As in shaping up. Getting a grip.
You gotta love ’em.
No, you don’t. I don’t, either.
I used to procrastinate, thinking long and deep about resolutions, researching, editing, and reediting. My well-honed list didn’t emerge until February. I ate junk food, remained a couch potato, and avoided being nice a whole extra month.
Recently, though, I discovered a new, improved resolution-making method that reduces procrastination, yet prevents the root-canal effect of good behavior. My secret? I make only resolutions I can keep.
Simple. Profound. Why didn’t Einstein or some other genius with funny hair discover this?
I’m already hard at work, keeping my 2019 list.
In household matters:
- I resolve not to embrace the latest décor: skinny sofas with all the cushy comfort of park benches and chairs designed by those who hate vertebrates. My outdated sofa will continue to encourage naps instead of body casts.
- I also resolve not to rearrange my current furniture. My heart couldn’t take moving it. Or, seeing what’s under it.
- I will resist the temptation to make our bread from scratch. Admittedly, I used to do this. But we must shed past follies, right?
In transportation matters:
- No white car of mine shall remain white.
- I will never take a flight to see my dad in Louisiana that doesn’t include a stop in Fargo, North Dakota.
In sports matters:
- I promise to cheer against the New England Patriots forever, even if they move to the Midwest.
- I promise to cheer the Kentucky Wildcats only if they move away from the Midwest.
In marriage and family matters:
- Even in January, I will crack my bedroom window for fresh air. An added plus: I like sleeping with a giant burrito.
- I resolve to freak out as my only granddaughter blossoms. Two freaked-out parents aren’t enough to supply the embarrassment levels every teen needs.
In miscellaneous matters:
- I promise not to pay perfectly good money to die on Six Flags Great Adventure’s Kingda Ka, the tallest roller coaster in the world.
- I will waste time viewing sunrises and sunsets.
- I promise to sing along with raindrop music, and
- I will click the TV remote when Victoria’s Secret ads appear.
Finally, in post-holiday matters:
I won’t take down my Christmas tree until I’m good and ready. Between Advent celebrations and a January 1 book deadline, I’ve taken little time to enjoy it. Besides, snow deserted Indiana this year. True Christmas tree appreciation requires snowflakes dancing outside my window. So, I’ll cradle my steaming holly mug, with carols playing and tree glowing, until my snow-goal is met.
Not that I’m procrastinating, or anything.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What keepable New Year’s resolutions will you make for 2019?
Hubby says, “Would you like to go out to eat?”
Do I like to breathe?
He complains the car is cold. However, I’m chilly, too — which never happens.
Hubby spots the problem: “Who flipped on air conditioning?”
Who can I blame? Where’s a grandchild when you need one?
Rats. They went home yesterday.
As a child, I never lacked blamees. While I longed to beam little brothers to the planet Gorlojxx, they served as excellent reasons for everything wrong with my life. I couldn’t complete kitchen assignments because they never stopped eating. I couldn’t finish piano practice because they shot me with dart guns. Later, I blamed them for my nonexistent dating life. What guy would brave those little commandos, armed with Crazy Foam™, cherry bombs and Peeping Tom mirrors?
I didn’t blame them for everything, though.
I blamed our parents, too. They should have stopped with me.
My left-handedness also came in handy. I first discovered this instant alibi while learning to tie shoes. No wonder, while doing The Hokey Pokey, I knocked down classmates like dominoes. No wonder I blew story problems, my socks slid down, and skirt zippers always wandered to the front. I was left-handed!
Later, I discovered right-handed people invented algebra. They also designed SAT tests and college applications.
The bank did not buy it, though, when I wrote my first overdrawn check.
And I thought story problems were a problem.
My generation and I blamed the Establishment, then eventually graduated to blaming the government: Democrats for deficits and potholes; Republicans for job losses and crabgrass.
McDonald’s, because they make us spill hot coffee.
If all else fails, we can blame the stars. Perhaps left-handed, too, heavenly bodies stumble in a cosmic Hokey Pokey that affects paychecks, love lives and bowling scores.
Some take the blame straight to God’s Complaint Department. “My life’s a mess. Your fault!”
He eyes the patched-up, parts-missing, jumble of perpetual motion. “Did you read the Directions?”
Funny. We rarely blame Him or other people for good things. Just sayin’.
- Instead of pronouncing traffic “god-awful,” we could describe sunsets, babies and cardinals as “God-beautiful.”
- We might compliment a busy McDonald’s employee for hot coffee.
- Or even praise a hardworking public servant.
- We could thank parents who let us live. Ditto for teachers.
- I might learn to appreciate my brothers, even if they didn’t move to Gorlojxx.
Thankfully, Hubby has not moved, either, despite living with Quirkzilla for 44 years.
Approaching the restaurant, I admit, “I forgot to turn off the air conditioning. Seriously, that hot flash would have melted Alaska.”
“Thanks for dinner out,” I add. “If I’m spoiled, I blame you.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Whom can you blame for something good?
Once upon a time, colleges didn’t evict students from dormitories three minutes after final exams. Back in the Dark Ages, Hubby and I stayed until the following Monday.
Eventually, some grinch discovered that supplying extra days’ heat for 30,000 students spoiled the university’s merry Christmas. College officials also realized that multitudes of sleep-deprived, de-brained students + 24-hour blocks of free time equaled … excitement.
In the early ’70s, though, they assumed we couldn’t wait to go home.
Sure, we’d missed our dogs.
If we’d hacked with colds, cough syrup and aspirin were blocks away instead of steps. We anticipated parents smearing us with love and Vicks® VapoRub®.
We’d languished without Mom’s cooking. Meals with fewer than 500 people might be nice. Plus, a refrigerator of free food would be at our disposal.
Free laundry, too! Mom might reintroduce us to clean clothes, as opposed to those sanctified by optimum time at the bottom of the hamper.
Add Christmas magic, and most students wanted to share the holidays with family.
Just not quite yet.
Having been chained to books, typewriters and labs, we needed to celebrate. Even our nondrinking Bible study required a two-day party.
We snarfed Christmas cookies by the bucket and played Monopoly all night. Only one guy owned a car, but 13 of us jammed into it, rolled down windows, and sang Christmas carols at the top of our flattened lungs. At stoplights, we emptied the car with Chinese fire drills.
Who needed sleep?
Besides, we comrades in the trenches of academia soon would part. For couples, December and January stretched like a forever, empty tundra.
During that long-hair era, guys dreaded welcome-home haircuts. We girls combed bangs out of our eyes to please our moms.
We loved our parents. But they would expect us to talk to them. To hundreds of relatives. We’d repeat our majors and future plans a gazillion times. If we didn’t have any, we’d have to make them up, quick.
Worse, our families went to bed early. At the crack of dawn, they took showers and slammed doors so a normal person couldn’t get proper rest.
Parents would expect help with the dishes. Why not summon the fairies who had done that all semester?
Ditto for putting gas in the car. Whatever happened to “free”?
Sigh. How had we lived at home so long?
After a 48-hour party, though, a 10 o’clock bedtime didn’t sound so bad. Eating a nutrient or two might be nice.
With the arrival of a station wagon loaded with delighted smiles and hugs found nowhere else on earth — well, Christmas break might be worth the sacrifice, after all.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How did (do) you celebrate Christmas break?
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?
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?
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.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: When do you watch the clock?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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 …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What reasons for gratitude help dissolve your gripes?
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.
Even if we never returned to eat pumpkin pie. (Sniff.)
Finally, my daughter straightened her shoulders. “We’re going about this all wrong.”
“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?
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?
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?
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?)