Tag Archives: Rachael O. Phillips

In Praise of Blue Jeans

Packing for a weekend trip, I panicked. No sign of my favorite jeans!

I dumped the clothes hamper. Searched my closet. Rummaged dresser drawers where my multi-size jean collection resides, waiting for me to lose anywhere from five to 75 pounds.

I later discovered my truant jeans sulking in the dryer. Having taken them for granted, I promised to mend my ways. Hence, this blog post.

During college, I was a blue jeans girl.

I wore my first pair at age five in Mexico, loving their multicolored embroidery. When my missionary family returned to the States, we noticed little girls rarely wore jeans. So, upon outgrowing my Mexican pants, I donned starchy dresses. Not a problem; boring U.S. jeans couldn’t compare to my dear, departed, south-of-the-border favorites.

After years of white Levis, I bought blue jeans during high school. However, they were considered inappropriate for school events, even ball games. When our local school board finally got radical, they permitted pantsuits — not jeans.

Upon entering college, though, I discovered pantsuits were outlawed. Jeans comprised the official campus uniform. When someone robbed my dormitory washer, my near-zero bank balance left me with only one pair of jeans till Christmas. I became an early advocate of grunge.

After finals, I chased my jeans to wash them. Strengthened by long-accustomed grubby splendor, they escaped me for a few blocks. But they and a few other rarely-washed pairs remained true friends throughout college.

However, I didn’t fully appreciate jeans until married with three little kids. Wearing darling denim overalls, my children qualified for Cute Baby of the Year, regardless. What other clothing in my own wardrobe cheerfully endured the perils of finger paint, squishy banana, baby drool and toddler unmentionables? Our magic jeans looked almost as good washed as unwashed — though that might have been due to their stained state, plus frequent, long-term residence in the washer or dryer.

Another virtue of blue jeans: they go with everything. They’re easily coupled with a purple T-shirt, orange lace bustier, tiger-striped socks, peacock feather boa — or all of the above.

However, the fashion world is achieving new lows: Torn jeans appear on the world’s most stylish runways.

Me? I personally don’t give a rip.

Nor can I advocate the other extreme. According to Guinness World Records, Escada’s Couture Jeans — studded with Swarovski crystals — are the most expensive pair commercially available at $10,000.

Not even these developments outrage me, though, like “skinnies,” designed for people who haven’t eaten since 1999.

Whatever happened to “relaxed fit”? Let’s mount a protest. In good, old, 1960s fashion, let’s conduct a sit-in.

First, though, I have to unbutton my jeans. …


Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you own a favorite pair of jeans?

What Time Is It, Anyway?

I live in Indiana, where longstanding time change gripes have solidified into a Hoosier tradition. A child during the 1960s, I recall debates: Should the Eastern Time Zone stop at the Ohio or Illinois border? In the middle of Indiana?

When the time changed, I was dragged out of bed and taken to church or school when I’d rather sleep. But I endured those indignities daily, so why the brouhaha? Neither “springing forward” nor “falling back” made sense. Both sounded dangerous, possibly resulting in scraped knees and Mercurochrome, an orange antiseptic (now rarely used) that stung worse than any injury.

Early controversy centered on urban versus agricultural concerns. Some farmers believed Daylight Saving Time undermined cows’ health and confused chickens. Extended morning darkness, they claimed — the farmers, not the chickens — would make their children lazy. Long summer evenings would encourage kids to party late like decadent city cousins.

As a teen, I reconsidered time changes. Maybe my parents would miscalculate my curfew?

No, they were pastors. Congregation members, upon finding an empty church, might bang on the parsonage door early or arrive only to hear the last amen, but my folks always got it right.

Finally, in 1972, lawmakers established a mostly Eastern plan, with no Daylight Saving. Everyone carried slide rules to calculate the timing of television programs and events in neighboring states. We and our chickens were content. Cows never missed church or favorite sitcoms. We Hoosiers, along with the independent-thinking citizens of Arizona, thumbed our noses at the rest of the country.

Until 2005, when Daylight Saving Time, in the name of energy conservation and business, became law. My children and their spouses endured a nightly barrage of theological questions: Why does God want us to go to bed when it’s light outside? God made the sun. Why isn’t it working right? Where does God keep all that daylight He saves?

Excellent questions, especially the last concept. Did you save any daylight last summer? Me, neither. If only I could have deposited the daily 9:00 – 10:00 p.m. sunshine into a rainy-day account, accumulating enough interest to brighten March.

Perhaps daylight can be preserved like pickles. We could offer jars of daylight to relatives who threaten to stay extra because “it’s too dark to start home.”

Politicians, so good at passing bills, would you also mandate the best method whereby we can save summer daylight?

Until then, I, like thousands of other Hoosiers, (yawn) will keep our semi-annual griping tradition alive and well.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a Daylight Saving fan? Why or why not?


OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Daylight Losing Time*

O my God, thank You for seeing us through another time change. I feel for pastors, as yesterday was the crankiest Sunday of the year. OMG, shouldn’t the law that gave us Daylight Savings Time also fund high-octane coffee, plus three doughnuts apiece, to sweeten tempers?

*Title credited to Phil Callaway

March Insanity or Therapy?

I am writing a dangerous blog because it’s a dangerous time of year.

March Madness, rendered Hoosier Hysteria in Indiana, attacks even the most level-headed citizens of our sensible state.

Take my husband, for example. He wears navy/gray one day and brown/khaki the next. Hubby functions as the voice of sanity on boards and committees. While airport officers seem to regard me as a permanent threat to national security, they never search him.

But when Hubby watches Indiana University play basketball, I don a helmet. With earplugs.

When they lose, I steel myself for the usual statistical post-mortem and week of mourning.

Yet despite our team’s early tourney exit this year, we continue to watch the games. While Hubby perpetuates his (loud) role as High Judge of Referees, I occasionally can remove my protective gear.

Still recovering from a recent cold, I retired last night at halftime. When he came to bed, Hubby turned on the brightest light possible and whispered tenderly in my ear: “Just so you’ll sleep better, Fairfield beat Quinnipiac.”

That’s the gentle side of his fanaticism.

Hubby’s grandma cheered against Grandpa’s team, but later married him.

I can’t blame him, as Hubby’s very DNA impacts his tourney-time behavior. While reserved during off-season, his grandmother displayed no gentle side during March. A lovely old lady, she resembled Mrs. Santa Claus, with bright blue eyes, wavy white hair and pink cheeks. No doubt, she was Etna Green High’s prettiest cheerleader when she met Grandpa, a player on the opposing Atwood High School team. Their marriage marked the last time she fraternized with the enemy, however. When I.U. played, she yelled for their foes’ blood. And for that of the referees, who were crooks! Liars! Democrats!

Some critics, appalled by March Madness’ bizarre symptoms, insist this disease should be eliminated.

Contrariwise, I believe it serves as an important coping measure for those living in the rural Midwest. During long, dreary winters, we cannot linger on sunny beaches. We cannot ski down scenic mountains to deal with stress.

Nevertheless, with the exception of school bus rocking and mascot theft, we enjoy lower crime rates than other sections of the country.

Why? Because basketball games function as group therapy. We shriek, clap and stomp, taking out frustrations and hostilities on the refs. My family’s good health testifies to the positive effects of March Madness. Grandma lived to be 95. Hubby possesses enviable blood pressure numbers.

Do the referees?

Um … not so much. Perhaps they, like the rest of the world, believe we all were dropped on our heads.

We do abdicate our signature sanity during Hoosier Hysteria.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What sports madness seizes your community or state every year? Do you join in?


Birthday Cake vs. Birthday Pie

Birthday cakes boast a long, illustrious history. According to the Huffington Post, Greeks and Romans commemorated births of gods and men with candle-lit cakes. As wine flowed freely at birthday feasts, the honoree occasionally set his robe/toga on fire.

Birthday cake traditions still are regarded as sacred. Abstainers offend the family/office/church Cake Queen. (Watch your back, or she may stuff you into her oven.)

So, for survival reasons, I eat birthday cake. Thankfully, lighted candles suck out all calories.

On my upcoming birthday, however, I will indulge in raspberry pie. À la mode? Of course, à la mode. Do you think I’m an idiot?

Don’t answer that. You, either, Hubby.

Obviously, this crucial subject demands discussion. Though my sweet tooth welcomes sugar, regardless of origin or creed, I have always liked pie best, especially my mother’s — fruit-plump, with ambrosial juices bubbling through golden, flaky crusts.

As a child, I even loved reading about pie. Almanzo Wilder, in Laura  Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, reverently scanned hundreds at a county fair: “When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else.”

Mom would have made me birthday pies, if I’d dared request them. But tradition ruled. I blew candles out on cakes.

Pie Heaven does exist on this earth. My brother not only married a woman who bakes the world’s best peanut butter pie, he practices optometry where Amish patients gift him with luscious offerings. Amazingly, he once shared his birthday shoofly pie with me … which made me suspicious. Had he stuck bananas up my Ford’s tailpipe? Informed the IRS I never had the three children I claimed? Volunteered me for a ten-year mission in the Sahara? I still wonder. …

Some opponents caution that deviating from the cake custom opens the door to chaos. Only at one’s wedding does one deal with cake-in-the-face. But birthday pie increases pie-in-the-face risks exponentially.

And their point is?

The lemon cream pie that once smeared my visage caused no dire effects. Fellow conference-goers, however, fussed about my suit and hair as if I’d suffered a blast of radiation.

When globs of luscious pie are within licking distance, who cares about my hair? Some people should get their priorities straight.

Did you hear that, Almanzo? I know you’d bravely take a pie in the face. And choose birthday pie, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which would you choose? Birthday pie or cake? Which kind?


OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Dumb Daffodils?

Oh, my God, I’m so thankful You made daffodils, though perhaps You might have given them a higher IQ?  I warn them every February, “Stay in bed!” yet these sunny optimists pop up, ready to share their smiles with a sullen, frozen world. OMG, maybe I should be so brave!


Olympic Oddities

Along with with millions of other global spectators, I’ve been fixating on the Winter Olympics, averaging one blink per day.

No wonder. Guy skaters wear Vegas outfits and Norwegian curlers sport pajama pants stolen from Grandma.

Curlers actually win gold medals for wielding brooms. (Shouldn’t I receive one for vacuuming?)*

Competitors also careen on sleds at 90 miles per hour. How did insane sports like the bobsled, the skeleton and the luge ever come to be?

I discovered they all originated in the nineteenth-century spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, where, ironically, visitors hoped to improve their health. Caspar Badrutt, a hotel owner, pushed the new concept of winter resorts. However, complaints that young tourists were running down local fraus with sleds threatened the town’s reputation. A track built to keep them off the streets continues to serve Olympic hopefuls today.

That’s the official version. More likely, these sports were invented by snowed-in women whose men had been lying around the house. “Go sled to the store at 90 mph and pick up bread,” the wives ordered. “Better yet, do it face first.”

The husbands must have wanted to escape their women, too, because the idea caught on.

Perhaps cabin fever drove others to aerial skiing and snowboarding, when besieged parents told antsy offspring, “You need exercise. Go jump off a mountain.”

Even odder sports have been showcased during past Olympics. In the Paris Games of 1900, for example, champions took medals in firefighting, kite flying, delivery van racing, hot air ballooning and fencing with walking canes.

Club swinging, despite Neanderthal images that come to mind, often involved intricate choreography — and more trust of fellow club swingers than that required by ribbon-wielding rhythmic gymnasts today. Perhaps by 1932, when club swinging was eliminated, everyone had discovered new ways to get concussions.

Spectators need not fear that the Olympics will suffer from future lack of weirdness. The Summer Olympics include the equestrian sport of dressage. I assumed the horses wore clothes, a modesty trend not reflected throughout the Olympics. Authorities didn’t confirm this, but said the animals do perform moves “Dancing with the Stars” competitors would envy.

It’s not enough that perfect-bodied athletes flood my TV screen? No, a horse with two left feet outdoes me on the dance floor.

Worse yet, pole dancing, or “pole fitness” is now considered an Olympic sport — and no, I’m not making this up. Children will be told to turn off the TV and go jump off a mountain. Spouses will be sent on sleds at 90 mph to pick up bread.

Me? I cast my vote for more dressage.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Olympic sport keeps you glued to the TV?

*My friend, Ruth, awarded me this gold in the Vacuuming Olympics!




OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: the Mother–Er, Father–of Our Country

O my God, the first time I saw George Washington’s portrait in my first-grade classroom, I mistook him for Martha. And why did he chop down a tree that produced yummy cherries? That he told his dad was admirable, but not too bright!

Subsequent presidents also have strained my brain, yet, this Presidents’ Day, I appreciate their service. But OMG, I’m grateful that ultimately, You are in charge!