Tag Archives: Rachael O. Phillips

Love Means Never Having to Play Sorry!®

“Grandma, will you play Sorry!® with us?”

Does that request conjure Norman Rockwell scenes of bright-eyed children and a sweet old lady playing that ultimate in generational togetherness, the board game?

Years later, I know better. If you’re dealing with COVID, you do, too.

But I was naïve then. Questions like, “Grandma, will you play kick-the-grenade with us?” wouldn’t have lulled me into false security. But this rosy prospect of quality time with seven-year-old Ava, five-year-old Josh, and three-year-old Jamie dulled self-preservation instincts. I asked my son-in-law for their Sorry!® game.

His eyes widened. “Sorry!®’s toxic! We hid it on a top shelf beside the roach killer.”

You’re totally overreacting. “Because you care about your children?”

“Because we wanted to survive. Play Candy Land®,” he urged. “Candy makes everybody happy. But Sorry!®? Sign a living will first.”

To reassure him, I did. Then, in my best grandma style, I gathered the children to play Sorry!®.

Game pieces debates ensued before we opened the box.

I intervened. “Ava, use blue pawns, since it’s your favorite color. Josh goes first, since he’s taking yellow.”

Was I good, or what?

Jamie objected. “My pieces.” His dimpled hands grabbed them all. Clever Grandma, however, had bought M&M’s® for such emergencies. “I’ll give you blue candies for blue pawns.” Eventually, Jamie returned all but the green pieces.

World War III, however, raged until the others received corresponding M&M’s®.

Players must draw one or two to exit the start area. Josh drew two, and Ava, one. Jamie drew 12, celebrating with a loud “Ya-a-y!” because he got both numbers. We didn’t contradict him.

I drew eight. With luck, I’d come in last. Of course, some people — specifically, grandpas — insist on winning. They cannot appreciate the skill that goes into playing badly. But children do. That’s why they’d rather play with Grandma.

Jamie decided he’d accept only 12s. Other numbers precipitated a Kewpie-doll pout and, “I can’t want that card.”

I tried to convince Josh to send my pieces back to start, but he targeted Ava’s. She swatted his off the table. The dog and cat, convinced they were big yellow M&M’s®, fought for possession.

Jamie, having drawn two 11s in a row, sent the newly arranged game board flying like a square Frisbee®.

This family afternoon had digressed from Norman Rockwell to Jerry Springer.

Proclaiming them all winners, I distributed the whole bag of M&M’s®, suggesting they improve their minds by watching SpongeBob. The Sorry!® game went back beside roach killer. I ate an extra bag of M&M’s® reserved to treat post-board-game trauma.

Would those kids talk Grandma into such “recreation” again?

Sorry!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What game wreaks havoc at your house?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Even Better in January

O Lord, Thank You for our thoughtful children and their spouses, who together gave us this  firepit for Christmas. Maybe they thought we would wait until summer before making s’mores? OMG, You know better. 

      

Once Upon a Blizzard

This post first appeared on January 13, 2016.

We Midwesterners share a rich heritage of blizzard stories. Deprived tropics dwellers can’t appreciate our anticipation when The Weather Channel threatens wild winds, arctic cold and snow up the wazoo. Nor do they understand the joy of swapping lies — er, stories — of bravery amid Snowmageddon. A lifetime Hoosier, I have plenty to share.

A preschooler during my first blizzard, I recall my mother’s positive thinking. Despite three days in a two-room apartment with three little ones, she described the trees as “chocolate with white icing.” The Frosty we built resembled a malnourished alien, but we waved at him from our window. It seemed a friendly blizzard.

The second blizzard wasn’t. Winds howled like wolves, savaging electricity for several days. Cupboards emptied. Fortunately, shivering neighbors brought groceries when they came to enjoy our gas heat. Thirteen shared our three-bedroom, one-bathroom house. Survivor had nothing on us.

But we nine kids — playing infinite games of Monopoly, Candy Land, and the unofficial but essential Freak the Grown-ups — considered it fun. Our parents, with extended therapy and medication, finally recovered.

A young married couple when the Big One hit in 1978, our car refused to navigate three-foot drifts. My medical student husband hiked to a police station, catching a ride to a hospital. For three days, he, another student, and a young resident physician — aided by stranded visitors — cared for little patients on a pediatric wing.

Meanwhile, I baked bread. A nearby fellow medical student wife, whose husband also was missing in action, helped eat it. Walking home, I foundered in a sea of snow-covered landmarks. Only a faint traffic signal in ghostly darkness sent me the right direction. Then a tall shadow blocked my way.

Gulp. The only rapist crazy enough to be out in this?

“How’s it goin’?” he rasped.

“F-f-fine.” I squeaked.

He passed by. I slogged home. When the snow finally stopped, my husband appeared, fell over like a tree and slept.

Not content with that harrowing weather, we moved north near South Bend, Indiana, where blizzard stories abound even more than blizzards. Babies and emergencies ignored storm warnings, expecting my doctor husband to show up. How rude.

School snow days brought hungry hoards incapable of studying algebra, but well able to conduct snow wars outside our house. Once, I was trapped with snow-dueling middle schoolers, teens armed with boom boxes, and soon-to-be-separated college sweethearts — along with remodelers who braved the storm to sledgehammer walls.

Blizzard days two decades later prove far less traumatic, but can stop our lives cold. Yet even if I must search for leftover Christmas candles to light my longhand efforts, I’ll do my usual January thing: tell blizzard stories.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite Snowmageddon tale?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: A Smart Bet, After All

O Lord, You recall that 46 years ago today, a freshman medical student and his unemployed bride promised You they would love each other for life. The odds of keeping those vows appeared even skinnier than they were. But, OMG, thank You for helping us do the impossible!  

Not so skinny anymore, but still having fun together!

Breakfast with My Brother

Me at 16 with my brothers, circa 1969.

I measure the distance between extended family in states rather than miles. The lone exception, my brother Ned, lives in another part of Indiana.

A year apart, we played together like twins until I started school, where he acknowledged my existence only by a raised eyebrow.

Fortunately, he no longer regards sisters as threats to his manhood. We phone occasionally, but not often enough. I recall several years ago when we met halfway between our homes for breakfast.

We chose a mom-and-pop establishment, where we could indulge in illegal eggs over easy, crispy bacon and infinite cups of curl-your-hair coffee. Or the mortal sin of biscuits with gravy.

Entering, I saw no sign of Ned. As I walked toward a vinyl booth, I expected — and received — the who-are-you-stranger? once-over.

Homeland Security should catch onto this resource, one that could revolutionize national safety procedures. We don’t need metal detectors or X-rays. If the government would pay a tableful of these locals to drink coffee at security points, no terrorist in his right mind would try to get past their scrutiny.

Born and raised in rural Indiana, I knew I’d broken the rules. No woman eats breakfast alone in a strange town. As a sweet-faced waitress brought me blessed coffee, I pulled out my Bible and read while I waited. Eye-lasers clicked off one by one. Their owners swiveled back to their breakfasts. They gave Congress and the weather their morning cussing and analyzed high school basketball with an expertise that would put ESPN out of business.

Until my brother walked in. Immediately, the force field returned. As Ned headed toward my booth, question marks formed in the air, visible as if smokers had blown them.

“Good to see ya, Sis!” Ned trumpeted. He knew the rules, too.

The diners returned to their vivisection of basketball referees, as the waitress took our order. She brought us waffles, eggs and ham. Biscuits and gravy.

With bowed heads, we asked God to bless the cholesterol. Our words filled and warmed us as much as the steaming, delicious food. We solved our kids’ problems (if they would just listen!). We cheered the utter perfection of our grandchildren.

All too soon, our separate worlds called to us. We promised to connect sooner next time.

Before we separated, I demanded a hug, just to give the town conversation material for the next few weeks.

Ned’s eyebrow went up. But the hug happened.

It can’t happen today, in 2020.

But after this blasted COVID crisis ends, I’ll collect every one of those hugs that have piled up in the meantime.

Even if he raises the other eyebrow.

Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Whom do you want to hug post-COVID?

“Fear Not” — Are You Kidding Me?

(Note: I wrote this piece in 2019, with no idea of what lay ahead. Reviewing it, I thought it might prove even more relevant for Christmas 2020.) 

Children nowadays text Santa with requests. Some use PowerPoint presentations. (“Last year, you brought a baby brother instead of a puppy. Seriously, Santa, you and Amazon Prime really messed up.”)  

Yet, up-close-and-personal encounters continue as children assure Santa they’ve been good. He probably doesn’t do background checks, because even mean kids make out like Christmas bandits.

The majority, however, look scared.

Reading storybooks on Mommy’s lap about jolly St. Nick felt cozy and familiar.

Sitting on a big, bearded hippie’s lap doesn’t. Children inform the entire mall this wasn’t their idea. The only photos taken feature close-ups of tonsils. Or kids’ calling Uber for a ride to Bongo Bongo.

Yet loving grown-ups assure them, “Don’t be afraid.”

They’d never endanger children. Even hired Santas probably would have found easier work — like digging ditches — if they didn’t care about kids.

The children are safe. Cherished.

I find similar, odd “fear nots” in the biblical Christmas story.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary about her impossible pregnancy. When another urged Joseph to marry her, carrying a Child not his. When shepherds hit the ground before a regiment of angels. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had real reasons to be afraid.

These strange visitors weren’t wearing wings and halos from Dollar Tree. Seeing genuine angels today while shoveling snow or brewing coffee — who wouldn’t set Olympic records for the 10-mile dash?

Besides, the angels’ words smacked of the revolutionary.    

In Mary’s culture, a woman pregnant with a supposedly illegitimate Child might be stoned.  A man who married her would bear her stigma, affecting relationships and his job. Having left flocks untended, the shepherds also might lose their meager livelihood.

Worse, the angels proclaimed the Baby was a King. Paranoid Herod, who killed family members, considered that high treason. Also, Romans readily crucified anyone who didn’t worship Caesar.

Crazy times. Terrible times. Yet God’s message rang out: “Fear not.”

Today, we want to call Uber and escape this scary mess. Go to Bongo Bongo. Or Neptune.

Adult Jesus did, too. He knew His enemies would kill him. Yet, His life vibrated with that theme: “Fear not.”

Jesus could have blown away his foes. Instead, He used His murder to pay for human sin. Then, He laughed at death — that thing we fear most — and rose again.

Jesus wants us to know if we believe in Him, we are safe. Now. Forever. Loved. Cherished.

“Fear not.”

He wasn’t kidding Mary, Joseph or the shepherds. He isn’t kidding us, either. Or our children and grandchildren bawling on Santa’s lap.

Joy and peace to you this Christmas.

Really.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you trusting Jesus for 2021 — and your forever?

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16 NIV

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Crazy Christmases

O Lord, not a normal Christmas! We exchanged gifts with family, not around our Christmas tree, but met in a park we’d never seen before. Sharing fervent, but distanced love and hot chocolate to combat chilly Michigan weather helped, but — crazy!

What’s that? OMG, of course, You’re right. The first Christmas was pretty crazy, too.

Easy Christmas Shopping? Ho, Ho, Ho!

We veteran Christmas shoppers have seen it all.

We’ve fought kamikaze traffic and circled malls 250 times, searching for parking in the same zip code. We’ve donned body armor to survive elbowing crowds. Defied Klingon clerks who wanted to beam us to Kronos.

During one holiday shopping trip, two scary grandmas in my line battled about who was ahead. Would they take out everyone else, too?

Enter online shopping, the answer to desperate prayers. Especially in 2020.

Image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay.

No traffic. No higher-than-Santa’s-sleigh gasoline costs. No sore feet — unless we type with toes.

I generate Christmas atmosphere for online shopping by concocting a Christmas playlist, donning my loudest holiday sweater and drinking hot chocolate from my favorite Christmas mug. Christmas candles smell like pine … or Pine-Sol®?

Regardless, I pull out credit cards. My password list. Ready. Set. Shop!

My laptop’s crankier than a teen at 8 a.m. on Saturday. When I threaten it with a pitcher of cold water, the laptop finally cooperates. Sort of.

It sends me to the Malwart website, rather than Walmart. (Nothing to do with my spelling, you understand.) A pop-up offers the Garfield beach towel my grandson covets for only $471. When I purchase a puppy-kitty storybook instead, the website informs me other customers who bought this book also purchased “The Preschool Guide to Overthrowing the Government.”

Weary of children’s gifts, I peruse flannel shirts for my son. Surely, with 83,259,441,701 advertised online, I can find one. But 83,259,441,700 are size XXXXX Large.

My son could fit in a sleeve.

Wait. I see it!

The solitary size large, un-girly plaid shirt is in stock! But it can be sent only to Madagascar by Christmas. If sent to Indianapolis, it will arrive on February 29, 2024. If I pay extra.

My laptop emits a distinct chuckle.

Grrr. But if I use the pitcher of water, I’ll have to beg use of Hubby’s laptop. He’s busy ordering camping equipment — my Christmas gifts to him?

I may wait until Valentine’s Day.

Desperate, I return to pricing Garfield beach towels. Three others cost $500 apiece, so I grab the bargain at $471. Using the promotion code BANKRUPT, I owe only $470.12. Surely, this gift qualifies for free shipping. But no, I must spend only $203.77 more. So, I buy a bag of flour.

Image by Daniela Mackova from Pixabay.

I miss pre-Internet shop owners, humanoids who said, “May I help you?” and did.

So, I join other masked shoppers in real stores. Remembering those two scary grandmas, I imagine they’re not Internet shopping. They’re still pushing and shoving to be first.

Other shoppers and I will watch — from a distance.

Maybe we should bring along pitchers of ice water?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you prefer online or traditional shopping?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Miracle Morning Sickness

O Lord, You and I both recall the Christmas I carried my first child — a blessed miracle. However, the smell of Grandma’s traditional Christmas spareribs sent my stomach spinning like a Tilt-a-Whirl®. Not so wonderful. OMG, Mary, who probably traveled to Bethlehem while in early labor, knew what tough miracles were all about.  

   

Don We Now Our Ugly Apparel?

Time to break out the Christmas carols. The Christmas cookies.

Time for us Christmas sweater fans to strut our stuff.

Image by RitaE from Pixabay.

I have worn them since the 1980s. No decent woman then would have appeared in public during December without one. For years, I wore a sweater featuring stripes of geometric snowmen, hearts and Christmas trees, bought during after-Christmas sales. It proved great bargaining material, as my children would do anything to keep it in the closet.

My current numero uno, purchased (of course) during after-Christmas sales, features satin poinsettias, cardinals and gold snowflakes on black background. Tasteful. Perfect with pre- or post-Christmas black pants/skirt.

Yet I doubt it’s Hubby’s favorite.

Perhaps because, when I asked him to drop it off at the cleaners, he admitted to dropping it off a bridge.

I fished it out.

Obviously, he doesn’t realize Christmas sweaters are “in.” Thanks to visionaries, including three Indiana State University students, customers scour stores and the Internet for unique finds. The ISU students, strapped for Christmas cash, invested their pooled $60 in thrift store finds, featuring them on a website. By Christmas, they’d sold a thousand, quadrupling sales the following year.

Justin Bieber shattered the Christmas sweater generation barrier by wearing a red and white snowflake number — costing $1,700 — while performing on Today. Teen girls who would have been boiled in eggnog rather than wear Christmas sweaters soon boasted similar attire, blinged with glitter, ribbons and jingle bells.

This outpouring of support seems a dream come true for Christmas sweater devotees. However, one word disturbs me: ugly.

Ugly?

Every advertiser describes these as “ugly.”

I researched this serious threat to the wear-a-Christmas-sweater movement for 5,000 straight hours.

Sadly, resulting data established that ugly Christmas sweaters do exist. Some display slogans such as “Get your fat pants ready,” “Fruitcake,” “Regift,” and “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.” (The last, featuring a reindeer, slandered poor Rudolph.) Sweaters that include Darth Vader and Grateful Dead teddy bears also deserve askance. One featuring a fireplace lit by a flaming-log video is downright cozy. But a similar device in which Santa’s beady eyes squint back and forth under the caption, “He sees you when you’re sleeping,” could warrant years of therapy.

Still, evidence indicates most Christmas sweaters called “ugly” are, in fact, adorable. What’s not to like about candy canes and Christmas trees? Puppies, kitties, cardinals and penguins? I wouldn’t wear flamingos, feathers and palm trees with neon lights to Christmas Eve service. But you might see me wearing it to a party. …

Especially if I find two similar ones at after-Christmas sales. After all, Hubby dear, matching couples’ sweaters are doubly in.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Is your favorite Christmas sweater ugly?