O Lord, thank You for giving us our daily bread. But OMG, sometimes when we least expect it, Your biggie-bag blessings blow our minds!
O, Lord, thank You for our grandchildren, with their bright, shiny, Cadillac brains. But OMG, when one wipes out both Grandma and Grandpa in Monopoly, isn’t that a little much?
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?
Travel often aggravates the phobias we accumulate along life’s journeys.
Football commentator John Madden and many others fear flying, which is known as aerophobia. Others avoid travel in automobiles (ochophobia) or trains (siderodromophobia). Some even fear long words (hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia).
However, I’ve never encountered a term for my own neurosis, the “pack attack.”
My husband does not understand why the sight of a suitcase gives me the shakes.
What could you expect of a man who not only survives, but thrives on taking brown pants, two brown shirts and brown shoes? For fashion excitement, he adds a beige cardigan.
I like brown, too. But which brown will suit my mood tomorrow? Sepia, sienna or russet sweater? Raw or burnt umber toothbrush? So, I bring all my browns.
No wonder my dearly beloved struggles to understand. The man’s wardrobe controls the weather. If he forgets an umbrella, The Weather Channel calls a halt to all thunderstorms within 500 miles of our destination.
My packing paranoia asks, “What if?” I can’t leave city limits unless my suitcase contents cover every climate emergency ranging from a Tallahassee Ice Age to an Indianapolis volcanic eruption.
When we visit grandchildren, my entire wardrobe must be available. As long as Grandpa packs a separate bag, his clothes rarely suffer from baby body fluids. Let him share a suitcase with me, though, and a pee-a-thon — and worse — ensues. Although his preference for brown covers a multitude of sins ….
I marvel how his clothes mysteriously collapse into packets that could fit into a billfold. Once, when I foisted snow boots and my lumpy body armor bathing suit onto his bag, they promptly folded themselves into hankies.
Inspections present the ultimate torture for travelers who suffer pack attacks. Not only do strangers unwrap our Christmas gifts and wave our oversized undies like flags, they risk the entire terminal’s safety. One flip of a suitcase latch, one zzzzzip! — and my bag explodes. Shoes fly like missiles, and hundreds in line suddenly wear my wardrobe. On the positive side, they can expect lots of fashion variety.
When inspected, I miss my plane. My husband, who dashes for the gate before anyone knows we’re together, always makes it.
Airline carriers should offer therapy — and marriage counseling — for travelers in airports. They’d never go bankrupt.
Sessions for luggage also might be in order. My suitcase flips and flops like an angry two-year-old as I drag it through the terminal. It attempts to steal other bags’ identity. It tries to get lost when I travel.
I should send it to luggage obedience school.
If that doesn’t work, I’ll send it packing.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you suffer from pack attacks? Does your spouse?
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?
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?
“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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
For years, my friend Dana and I have met every shopping challenge known to womankind. Blessed with two daughters apiece, we survived the daunting task of finding clothes for bloomers, early and late. Dana and I practiced motherly glares and “Because I said so!” drills for prom season. When the girls all married, we scoured stores for mother-of-the-bride dresses that wouldn’t age us on contact or ready us to dance on the reception tables. Together we played, grayed and prayed through decades of shopping.
Little did we know our retail history would prepare us for the ultimate shopping experience: buying for grandchildren. Serious business, right? We prepare for action by regularly polishing our credit cards.
We go in Dana’s car because she has fewer accidents. Also, her car features dual heating controls so we don’t hot flash each other to death.
At the mall, we try to take interest in clothing purported to fit us. But what grandma wants to face her body in fitting-room triplicate?
Much more fun to buy clothes for grandchildren. Like well-trained hounds, Dana and I follow the sales scent to 80-percent-off signs. We scout baby departments, hungry for the softness of little sleepers and onesies.
We’re such a seasoned team that we don’t need phones. If we chase our prey into separate departments, we rendezvous for critiques and/or celebrations at exactly the right moment. Like Vikings, Dana and I methodically plunder each store until salespeople tremble. The whole retail world is at our mercy until—
Until we encounter racks of lacy velvet dresses at 80-percent off.
Our daughters prefer practical clothes for their children.
Don’t they understand grandmothers do not live by denim alone? We want pictures of little princesses clad in scratchy Cinderella gowns. We want grandsons to wear ties they will soak in ketchup. We covet fairy-tale photos we can show off to friends, relatives and strangers at convenience stores.
But our children frown. Sigh.
We drag our bags outside. After sociable trips through the parking lot, greeting others who cannot find their cars, we remember we entered through Appliances, not Intimates. Dana hits her remote again. Her car grumbles when we load it till it barely clears the ground.
Grandma sales mission accomplished.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Can you recall a favorite shopping trip?