Tag Archives: Rachael O. Phillips

Cleaning Combat

Who likes cleaning out refrigerators and freezers?

Not me. And especially, not mine.

But I refuse to feed my garden’s fresh veggies to whatever life forms lurk in fridge and freezer.

Confrontation time.

I review my checklist. Bucket of hot water and disinfectant. Rubber gloves. Body armor. Samurai sword. Hey, past-expiration yogurt gets testy when evicted.

The apron sewn by my husband’s grandma.

I also don an apron sewn by my husband’s grandma. A gentle soul, she nevertheless fought a fierce, lifelong war against germs and dirt.

Her brave spirit pokes me with a scrub brush. “Be strong!”

I straighten, grab my sword and slowly crack the fridge’s door.

Nothing stirs, but I’ve been fooled by silence before.

I throw it open wide.

Ack! Half-filled bottles of lavender salad dressing. Pudding that resembles petri dishes. Mashed potatoes that give a whole new meaning to the term “green vegetable.”

Did something move? A-a-a-a-a-ack!

My chance of survival seems better in the garage, where I slowly open the freezer. No tentacles. I lay down my sword, though I won’t remove body armor or apron.

I summon Golden Oldies to fool my back and muscles into thinking they’re young. A rhythmic tune boogies me across the garage: “Mission Impossible.”

My Cold War almost morphs into peaceful coexistence when the song changes to the “Purple People Eater.” Will Hubby return to find nothing but my eyeglasses and piles of defrosted food? Will he weep more for my demise or the expensive loss of pot roasts?

Thankfully, the music changes to the Star Wars theme: Da, da, da-da-da da da! Retying my mighty apron, I plunge into the freezer’s alternative universe.

White, amorphous, furry-looking packages meet my eyes, their age detectable only by carbon dating. Identifiable or not, each package/container evokes a question:

  • Why did I shred four dozen bags of zucchini? My husband hates zucchini bread.
  • Do Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys grow exponential sets of giblets?
  • Did this single serving of tuna casserole preexist with God in the beginning?

While pondering cosmic questions, I toss out piles of mystery food, moving to the pulsating background of “You’re No Good.” “A Hard Day’s Night” demands endless elbow “Grease,” but eventually the fridge, freezer and I graduate to “Splish Splash.” We revel in unfamiliar spotlessness.

I play H-O-R-S-E with the giblets, shooting them into trash cans. Alas, in attempting a three-pointer, I hit a garbage man.

He doesn’t seem to take my poor aim personally, though he dives for the truck. It roars off to background strains of “Hey hey hey, goodbye. …”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you done recent cleaning combat? (If not recent, I won’t tell.)

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Father, Are You Crazy?!

O Lord, You know I fed, watered, and pampered these plants. I talked to them, even read my books to them, yet the ingrates refused to thrive. So, I dumped these rejects where no one can see. I hope the frost gets them first!

What’s that, Lord? OMG, you love rejects? And You can recreate them … like this?

     

Not on My Bucket List

Have you made a bucket list?

I haven’t. Lists demand thought. Strike-throughs. Check marks.

(Yawn) Sloth — er, contentment — is so much more relaxing.

So is staying in a rut, retort alpha personalities.

Okay, okay. To inspire my grandchildren, I should aspire to higher objectives than counting dust bunnies.

After all, a fascinating world awaits me. Places to go. Things to do. Possibilities swirl through my brain like flocks of starlings. How can I choose a few among thousands of flapping, chirping alternatives?

Finally, I settle on a first step . . . what not to include on my bucket list:

  • I will never run for President. I’d spend 90 percent of my term trying to elude the Secret Service. Who wants their President to live in a dumpster? Bad deal for everyone.
  • I won’t brush with eggplant-flavored toothpaste.
  • I don’t plan to train as a snake milker.
  • I’ll never embrace a low-carb diet. Life without spaghetti? Home-baked bread? Surely, you jest.
  • Nor am I obsessed with memorizing all 49 Vice Presidents.
  • I will never — and no one else had better — line up Metallica to sing “Happy Birthday” to me.
  • Many wish to run with the bulls in Spain. Should this mad urge to sprint with bovines overwhelm me, I can always run with cows in Indiana.
  • I will never don skinny jeans. You’re welcome.
  • I’ve considered visiting England as a for-real bucket-list item. However, I won’t enter the World Worm Charming Championships in Willaston. There, hundreds of participants not only jab with pitchforks, but play ukuleles and clarinets to bring squirmy little friends to the surface. And, no, I am not making this up.
  • You will not see me drive in a NASCAR race. Walmart parking lots provide sufficient excitement.
  • I will never run a marathon in stilettos.
  • I refuse to cultivate Venus flytraps. Plants with teeth give me the willies.
  • Nor will I kiss frogs. I like kissing my husband too much. Besides, he’s already a prince.

I will never aspire to:

  • Rollerblade down Mount Rainier.
  • Chase tornadoes. I also prefer they don’t chase me.
  • Join Chocolate Haters of America.
  • Finally, though I like eating grits, I’ll never enter the Rolling in the Grits Contest in St. George, South Carolina. There, a contestant weighs, then hops into a kiddie pool filled with 27 cases of grits. The goal: to fill pockets and baggy clothes with the sticky Southern favorite. One champion emerged from the kiddie pool 66 pounds heavier! That alone convinces me it doesn’t belong on my bucket list.

This exercise only cuts my bucket list choices from a gazillion to a billion. But, hey, it’s a beginning.

And (yawn) so relaxing . . .

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you compiled a non-bucket list?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Even Principals Can Change

O Lord, You know that when we were in high school, our principal might not have approved of this cuddly pose. But OMG, thank You that after 50 years, he seems to have mellowed.  

First Year on the Bus

On September days, I quadruple travel time, waiting behind school buses. The route doesn’t matter. My car is a bus magnet.

I’m never bored, though. A school bus at a stoplight entertains me more than Animal Planet.

I recall the first year Bus Number 3’s doors flapped open, when I scaled a steep stairway in early steps toward an education. I stopped dead at the top, nearly sending older brother Ned flopping backward.

The bus driver, Mr. Feeney, resembled a giant frog wearing a flannel shirt. Would he catch flies?

Nope. Shucks.

Instead, he nodded a silent greeting. When I dropped into a seat beside Ned, Mr. Feeney grunted, and my brother squawked. I was sitting on the boys’ side! I had violated The Aisle.

Why didn’t they color the girls’ side pink? I shrank into the seat behind Mr. Feeney. To my joy, a classmate soon joined me. Mary Jo and I sat there the remainder of the year. Why? With autumn’s arrival, the heater baked our ankles like apples.

Mr. Feeney often checked his big rearview mirror, from which he monitored the western hemisphere. He controlled our bus through the radio. When crowd noise reached 747-landing levels, he turned off “A Summer Place” or “Alley-Oop” or “Purple People Eater.”

Perhaps we six-year-olds found his big, red-and-black-checkered back comforting. Wiggly minnows in an ocean of big kids, we rode with teenagers big as God and my daddy.

Teen girls pushed cancanned skirts through narrow aisles. But these lost their goddess standing when I discovered their guy obsession. Didn’t they know about boy cooties? Still, I learned a whole new set of life skills, including “going steady,” by observing romance negotiations across The Aisle

            JIMMY’S FRIEND: Brenda, do you like Jimmy?

            (BRENDA hugs the window and stares at cows.)

            BRENDA’S FRIEND: She thinks he’s dreamy!

            (Snickers and catcalls from the boys’ side. JIMMY punches his FRIENDS.)

            (BRENDA’S FRIENDS giggle for 60 minutes straight.)

Undignified, almost indecent. Why didn’t Mr. Feeney do something?

After a girl bagged her male prey, official rules required she bring angora yarn aboard and wrap her prize: the boy’s ring. Those big, sparkly high school rings beat Cracker Jack® prizes every time.

Once, a lovesick couple sat together. The universe tilted. Mr. Feeney began to pull over, frightening the guilty parties into desperate dives back across The Aisle.

Now, waiting behind buses, I wonder if these children will follow one 50 years hence. No. By then, mothers will beam their kids to first grade.

At times, I wish I hadn’t spent hours riding school buses.

But think of all the education I would have missed.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did you ride a school bus as a kid?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Laboring to Avoid Garage Sales

O Lord, You know our annual all-town garage sale is on. You also know our house is already stuffed to the rafters with too much stuff. OMG, please help me stay away from those sales! If I bring home new finds, I may find myself in the driveway with a “Free!” sign around my neck.

Watermelon-Eating Essentials

There’s a right way to eat a watermelon. And then there’s the best way.

The right way: demote store-bought melons to chunks on fancy toothpicks or fake-looking balls. Eat in air-conditioned comfort.

The best way?

First ingredient

Order a summer day so hot that gooey blacktop shifts under your steps.

Second ingredient

Our family, uncharacteristically dressed up in this photo, are more at home lounging on this porch — one of the best places in the world for eating watermelon.

Reserve a screened-in porch with adequate waterproof seating for friends and neighbors, because the best watermelon is never eaten alone. Also, never serve it indoors. Irate mothers, who obsess about irrelevant issues like freshly mopped floors, will cut eating sessions short. Watermelon loses its flavor if eaten where consumers cannot also apply sticky juices directly to arms, legs or tummies.

Backyards, decks and parks present good watermelon-eating sites, but flies and yellow jackets — like some human relatives — come whether invited or not.

Third ingredient

Gather newspapers. My family has used these inexpensive, disposable watermelon-eating place mats for generations. If dampened sufficiently, newspapers imprint “City Sewer Plan Stinks” or similar headlines on new white shorts.

Last ingredient (but not least)

Harvest watermelons, bought not from strangers, but grown in one’s own patch — although my late father declared stolen ones the sweetest. As boys, he and his brothers patronized patches owned by Mr. Purvis Williams. Of course, when Dad amazed his Louisiana hometown by becoming a minister, he swore off such pastimes. Having returned as a 79-year-old retiree, however, he celebrated his first watermelon season back home by investigating local patches filled with fat, green-striped orbs almost bursting with juice.

The best patch’s owner: his new pastor.

Dad complimented him on his beautiful melons. The minister promptly invited Dad to help himself.

A Southerner himself, Dad understood the man was being lyin’-polite. Still posing as an ignorant Yankee, though, he took quick advantage. Dad raided the pastor’s patch. Despite tender consciences, we helped him devour the melon one sweltering July afternoon. It rated only semi-stolen, but I couldn’t imagine anything sweeter.

Still, this feast didn’t compare with those of my childhood, when Grandpa iced down a dozen from his garden in a horse trough. The entire family gathered, and every uncle, aunt and cousin received half a melon. After we finished, the adults, anticipating the imminent Watermelon Seed War, banished us kids to the yard, where we discharged our arsenals without harming any adults. Occasionally, a toddler stuck seeds up his nose. Always good for a little excitement.

Sometimes, Dad peeled thin green slices from the rind. Fashioning these into Billy Bob buckteeth, he gave us big, green-toothed grins.

Decades later, after we’d devoured the last luscious bite of his pastor’s watermelon, Dad saved the seeds to plant the next spring.

God help the rascally kid or retired minister who tried to steal his watermelons.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Is a watermelon feast one of your summer traditions?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: I Take a Number at the BMV. Therefore, I Am

O Lord, You know I’m gathering evidence that I exist. The federal government has declared that unless I produce it, I won’t have a real ID. OMG, does that mean my current driver’s license is imaginary? If so, that cloud has a silver lining. The scary-looking woman on it isn’t real.

Lunch-Packing Crunch

Packing school lunches this year?

I’ll send you a sympathy card. Plus insights gained from years of therapy.

Imagine an alien mother from the planet Zoraxx who never, in her 400 years, has packed even one lunch box. Her reaction: “Honey, what are you thinking? Sending bags of food to school cafeterias full of food?”

Interplanetary viewpoints aside, I feel your pain. I, too, packed lunches. Along with parents today, I allowed quivery-stomach, school-lunch memories to influence me. During the ’60s, school cafeterias provided no salad bars. No a la carte. Just meals that met 700% of federal fat requirements.

Sadly, my cruel mother refused to pack 25 lunches a week.

What attitude. She didn’t go to work or school. She needed activities to keep her out of trouble.

My parents also rationalized by saying a day’s worth of school lunches for five kids cost $1.25. We couldn’t eat hay for that price. They even had the gall to wish they, too, could enjoy school lunches.

Years later, I understood. My children’s school menus sounded delicious! Maybe because my own lunch consisted of a week-old Happy Meal and a half-chewed teething cookie. I tried to sneak into the school cafeteria line, but got carded. Sigh.

Given this perspective, what made me abandon the you-will-clean-your-school-lunch-plate-and/or-die approach?

Fear. My children weighed less than their tennis shoes. If each lost five pounds, teachers might mark them absent.

So, I ensured their survival by packing lunches. I remembered who ate mustard on the sandwich top, who ate mayonnaise on the bottom, and who considered Grey Poupon the devil’s recipe. Still, my little lunch police rendezvoused during recess to confirm I had not committed fraud. They measured cheese slices, weighed bologna and counted peanuts in granola bars.

I did my best, but committed the unforgivable sin: I sent vegetables in their lunches. Not just normal celery and carrots.

Turnips. I sent sliced turnips.

Only later did I comprehend the dire consequences. One piece might trigger lifetime exile from the popular tables, where everyone ate prefabricated food and jockeyed to sit beside the third grade rock star. Turnips banished my children to tables occupied by kids whose mothers had concealed dangerous weapons, such as zucchini, in muffins.

At least they couldn’t trade away the turnips. Even kids with hummus brownies refused to touch turnips.

No matter what the planet Zoraxx mama thinks, lunch-packing instilled character into my family. Later, despite living with college roommates who subsisted on Ramen Noodles with Cheetos sauce, my kids actually bought and ate fresh vegetables.

They now pack school lunches for their offspring.

I will send them sympathy cards, too. And enclose a few turnip slices.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What school lunch item still gives you nightmares?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Please Nix the Gnats!

O Lord, You know we love camping in Your wild, beautiful world. But this year, a gnat plague of biblical (Exodus 8:16-19) proportions swarmed us the entire trip. After we returned home, Hubby even sorted piles of dirty laundry in his truck’s bed, rather than let the pests infest our house. OMG, Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to You, but we want to know: was it something we said?