O my God, so far, my husband has discussed the state of our camper’s spare tire and the stock market, the Chicago Cubs’ woes, and sixth-century Boethius’ theology. OMG, thank You for Hubby’s astute mind. But first, may I pour my second cup of coffee?
Having finished writing a novel, I crave ice cream, human conversation and sunlight. A Moose Tracks sundae proves perfect therapy. My husband, still awaiting a coherent word, takes my grunts as portents of better things to come. Then — ah, the sunlight. Fresh summer air. Green, living things.
Ha! They do not realize this pale, flabby author will wage a down-and-dirty battle to rescue her oppressed plants. To arms, garden warrior!
I don grubby jeans, “No Fear” T-shirt, and holey tennis shoes.
Hubby: “No pajamas? You’re wearing real clothes?”
For him, it was a long novel.
We bathe in sunscreen, then assemble deadly weapons: hoe, rake and digger.
Weed phasers would be nice additions. But Hubby strikes vicious blows with his hoe. I attack a beleaguered tomato plant’s foes.
Sleek-looking cyclists zoom past. Hubby looks after them longingly, but continues his valiant efforts. Cute runners wearing designer exercise attire and perfect makeup stare as if they hope what I have isn’t contagious.
Whew! After a morning-long battle, we shower and wolf sandwiches. Hubby leaves for work. I decide to savor a rare view of our tidy garden.
My jaw drops.
An overloaded mulberry tree branch has dropped across it.
Hardly a whisper of a breeze cooled us this morning. Yet this beam-like limb collapsed, bending tomato plants’ cages. Branches, leaves and mushy berries smother veggie rows.
The tree providing our sole shade was in cahoots with the Klingon sticker weeds!
The moment Hubby’s truck departed, it unleashed its barrage. Briefly, I wonder if my dearly beloved is in league with them, too. But he did hoe all morning. …
The gnarly branch barely budges.
A swoosh of anger can fuel a woman to do great things, even energize an everyday person to ninja feats. Armed with hedge trimmer, two saws, and Hubby’s old Boy Scout hatchet, I reduce my enemy to sawdust.
Well, not exactly. But by evening, I’ve consigned most of the purply mess to trash cans. And myself.
This ninja still can’t move the big branch. Later, Hubby saws it into sections and hauls them away.
Miraculously, the garden suffered little actual damage. We wish we could we say the same.
But now I savor the rare sight of tidy vegetable rows.
Ah, the colorful sunset. The fragrant summer evening. Green, living things that are legal.
A tired writer’s perfect therapy.
Guaranteed to send her back to her laptop forever!
What has been your biggest gardening battle?
The U.S. government’s recent studies concluded that women purchase 85 to 90 percent of all greeting cards. How many thousands that report cost, no one is saying. Uncle Sam could have asked any mall shopper and received the same information for free. But we women consider the research money well spent … because we like to be proven right.
Let’s discuss the origins of these fascinating communication tools. The Chinese sent Happy New Year cards centuries ago. Apparently, the Egyptians also shared in the ancient greeting card market. I find elegant Oriental characters and pictures easier to imagine than a card containing hieroglyphics. Gushy sentiments conveyed by zoned-out, staring people and creepy birds and snakes? Egyptians no doubt could distinguish between “I love you madly” and “Death to you, neighbor, and your loud 2 a.m. parties,” but I would find it challenging.
With polygamy the norm among ancient families, spending statistics might have been reversed: perhaps men spent more on cards than women. Take, for example, King Solomon, who boasted 700 wives. Every day was his anniversary.
No records have survived to tell us how much Solomon, Confucius or Cleopatra paid for a card, but I’ll bet contemporary consumers shell out more. Gone are the days when we “just bought a card” to commemorate an occasion. Today, it often proves cheaper to “just buy a gift.”
Craftsy folks have returned to creating handmade cards. Recipients of these works of art ponder how special they make them feel — and suffer intense guilt if they dare toss them. (The cards, not the givers.)
No grandmother can dispose of a card sporting a pink seven-legged puppy and two purple Doritos that states, “Gadma U nice.” My current grandkid card count is 937. I’m thinking of building an addition to house my collection. Or at least, adding another refrigerator or two.
However, the following are greeting cards I would rather not receive:
- Thoughts of you . . . make me want to leave the country.
- Congratulations … We heard you’re expecting twins!
When illness strikes, I don’t want cheery thoughts. What I’d really like: “Enclosed is an official edict from God commanding you to stay in bed three days, during which no one is allowed to ask you about dinner.”
Most women would treasure Mother’s Day cards with similar language: “Mom, I love you enough to clean bathrooms.” Or, “To the perfect mother of my children: you have not, do not, and never will look fat.”
Brace yourself: I am about the reveal the ultimate romantic card that knows no gender prejudices, covers every occasion, and never becomes obsolete.
- one piece of paper, folded in half.
- one pen (or crayon if the kids have absconded with all your pens)
Front sentiment: I love you.
Inside sentiment: I’m sorry. You were right.
Sign your name.
What card would you like most to receive?
In the Oregon desert where I lived two years, the few thunderstorms rated newspaper headlines. People ran for cover as if King Kong had invaded. They spoke in hushed tones of thunder, lightning and the deluge that made them search for the nearest Ark to rent.
Those storms hardly would have rated an umbrella in Indiana. Still, my father’s congregation trembled when he assumed the storm watcher persona he adopted long before The Weather Channel. Piles of purple clouds — if rotating, all the better — called for his scrutiny.
Mom, however, insisted that my siblings and I remain safe inside. How boring.
Later, back in Indiana, I was a passenger in a car that defied a white sheet of rain stretched across the road. Tree branches ripped, grabbing sparking power lines as they crashed. A chimney exploded.
The driver very appropriately prayed, “Dear Jesus, keep us safe. But if not, please take us to heaven.”
This struck me as unnecessarily pessimistic. In one of my less holy moments, I yelled at the top of my 18-year-old lungs, “Knock it off, Jo. Quit giving me last rites, okay?”
God in His mercy listened to Jo and ignored me.
I later succumbed to Boring Mother Disease during storm season. One spring, my small children and I spent so much time snuggled in our bathtub, they regarded it as a second library, the normal place to read storybooks.
My husband, bone-tired from a 24/7 medical practice, refused to budge from his nice warm bed just because pesky tornadoes suffered from insomnia.
Our next house featured an ancient basement. Hubby still favored Oz during tornado warnings. The kids and I, however, preferred the dungeon to our former cramped porcelain refuge. We added Play-Doh and Yahtzee tournaments to the storm regimen.
Now empty-nesters, Steve and I again live in a one-story ranch. Upon purchase, I assured myself that no storm could hoist my post-middle-age body more than a few feet.
Soon, however, lightning seemingly sizzled around my pillow, and moaning wind and rain drowned my husband’s snores. I craved my former dungeon, but tried to reassure myself.
You’ll laugh about this tomorrow.
The next morning, our ceiling had not moved. Peeking out windows, I saw no branches on the ground — not even many twigs. Why had I been such a nervous Nellie?
Back to Bathtub Story Hour for me.
Are you a storm watcher? Or do you run for a basement–or bathtub?
During peak energy hours, both can conquer their respective worlds. During lethargy hours, they also conquer those worlds, but they require coffee. Oxygen. And a spouse/parent/boss wielding a high-voltage cattle prod.
All toddlers and preschoolers are morning people. Their shiny inner weaponry systems launch them from bed at the crack of dawn. They will begin search and destroy missions unless intercepted with a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.®
Fortunately, they retire early, which explains why the human race has survived.
The lone exception: if a parent must reach a destination before 8:00 a.m. Then little ones portend the future when, as comatose teenaged princesses, they won’t awaken if 10 Prince Charmings appear; or, as hairy 17-year-olds, they must be spatulaed from their beds.
I, an oddball teen, retained my morning person habits. As a college student, however, I had to change my ways.
Even my boyfriend, Steve, who shared my staunch early-to-bed-early-to-rise background, joyously embraced night-person status. I attempted staying awake till midnight. According to Steve, I learned new study skills, including turning pages for hours while dead asleep. When our weekend Bible study group partied, I never lasted through a game of Monopoly. Dragged to a quiet corner, I snoozed until awakened for breakfast.
Regardless, I, a dedicated music student, hit the practice rooms by 8 a.m. Afterward, I phoned my boyfriend.
Groggily, he asked, “Did I miss breakfast?”
“You missed lunch.”
“Oh.” Then, “You want to get something to eat?”
I’d already eaten twice. But if the early bird got the worm, pecan pie proved a satisfactory substitute.
After marriage, a studio apartment, medical school/practice and new babies helped us cope with our incompatibility. We no longer categorized ourselves as morning or night people. We mostly were exhausted.
Fast forward a few decades. Steve has slipped into old patterns, staying up to finish compelling books or ball games. He occasionally sleeps in, wrapped in blankets like a giant burrito. I confess to adopting his stay-in-bed vice during dark, arctic months.
But soon, dew-fresh spring mornings will arrive. I’ll run outside early to welcome delicious fragrances wafting from earth, trees and flowers. Most birds are morning people, too, singing their best concerts at dawn. On days like that, how could I be anything else?
Which do you do better, mornings or nights?
Hubby came running. “Did you warm your car keys in the microwave again?”
I crept from under the table. “I just wanted some tea.”
He tentatively examined the microwave. “Whatever you did sent it to its Happy Heating Ground.”
“At least, it didn’t leave a crater.” Our son had shared scary dormitory stories of popcorn-popping microwave doom.
Too cheap to buy a new one, I considered repairs. We might even survive without one.
“How do I do this?” Hubby, holding his mug with deer-in-the-headlights uncertainty, dampened my optimism.
“Easy. Fill a teakettle, set it on a burner and boil until it yells.”
“Sounds barbaric.” He took a step back. “What’s a teakettle?”
I’d given ours away, so I showed him how to fill a little pan.
He said, “Microwaving is the only cooking I do.”
“Perhaps you should return to the simple life,” I said loftily.
“Sure.” A sudden smile broke through. “You’ll do all the cooking.”
Now that sounded barbaric.
The plumber came. Five hundred dollars later, he introduced us to an appliance that actually heated water. Accustomed to our decrepit one, I burned my hands whenever I turned on the faucet.
We reset the temperature. Problem solved. But the new microwave and I had issues.
“Someday, I’ll get the hang of this,” I tried to say. The ice bag on my tongue muffled my words.
“Too bad the owner’s manual is in Sanskrit,” my husband sympathized.
After a few trips to the burn unit, we adjusted. But then, the oven’s thermostat malfunctioned.
“Maybe it likes cornbread rare?” I said to Hubby.
The fridge, taking its cue, froze a dozen eggs and melted 27 boxes of popsicles I’d bought on sale. The icemaker swore as if in labor.
The repairman suggested Band-Aid possibilities, but didn’t pull punches with his diagnosis: at best, my stove and refrigerator had six months to live. All we could do was keep them comfortable. Keep them comfortable?
Feeling flatlined myself, I decided to self-resuscitate with enough French Roast to make me lift appliances.
Like all appliances, he won’t live forever, and the guarantee ran out ages ago.
But, praise Jesus, I will, and mine won’t.
When no more replacement parts are available, will you go to the Master Designer for a new you?
If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Will you take a picture?” I asked the young hotel clerk. “We’re celebrating our 42nd anniversary.”
Summoning a be-nice-to-the-old-people smile, he took one shot before escaping.
My husband is photogenic, but saying “cheese” automatically signals my eyes to close and my teeth to grin like a horse’s.
Had this clerk captured a decent image?
Well, put up a plaque! My eyes were open. Natural smiles lit our faces. The lobby’s glowing fireplace behind us exuded a lovely halo effect.
My middle looked as if I’d swallowed the pool’s life preserver. “I must have put on a little weight this Christmas.”
My husband glanced at the photo and said …
This was the mark of a long-married man. A husband who answered, “Well, 30 dozen Christmas cookies will do it to ya,” would have died young.
From the beginning, Steve has proved exceptionally wise. As a newlywed, only once did he say, “Where’s the five dollars we had yesterday?”, “My mother doesn’t do it that way,” and “You know I don’t like my underwear dyed pink, right?”
However, I deserve credit, too. When he wanted his brown and black socks placed in separate drawers, toes pointing the same direction, I considered dyeing them all pink. Color problem solved, and they would match the underwear.
But I didn’t.
When he tap-tap-tappity-tapped research papers all night on his manual typewriter in our one-room apartment, I didn’t sign him up for a semester overseas. Or on Mars.
Instead, we learned together.
We discovered that no couple with a six-inch difference in leg length should ever, ever attempt couples’ jogging. That if one partner is lugging groceries to a third-story apartment, the other shouldn’t drop onto a sofa for a nap. That peanut butter and love sandwiches taste really good.
We learned that people could stay married.
Even if one partner orders healthy fish at a restaurant, and the other craves fried chicken.
Even if spouses share identical body temperatures only when one wears a space suit.
Even if one scrapes every ice crystal from the car (including tires), while the other thinks driving an igloo is fun.
People can stay married.
Even if their children take after the other’s side of the family … and produce flocks of grandchildren who do likewise.
Complications? Sure, but dozens of peanut butter and love sandwiches, eaten together, taste better than ever. And steak with candlelight, just he and me, isn’t bad, either.
Steve and I should have shared a few seasoned insights with that young clerk. Because he may someday learn—the oh-so-hard way—that his wife prefers her photos taken from the neck up.
What helpful, hard-earned hint can you share that helped you stay married?