Tag Archives: Rachael O. Phillips

Popcorn and Me

Not many foods remain friends for life. Chocolate turned traitor during my teen years as I fought the Pimple Wars and later put on pounds. But popcorn has always been there for me.

My family owes its survival to popcorn. Mom faced two snack choices: a bale of hay or a dishpan-sized bowl of popcorn. While she threw handfuls of yellow seeds into a pan, we gathered close, quiet as if attending a theater performance — until the first pop pinged. Suddenly kernels exploded in a mad dance of joyful pop-pop-pops. A few sneaky ones fooled Mom and leaped out when she removed the lid — a punch line we enjoyed as if it had never happened before.

Fresh wonder filled me at seeing hundreds of fluffy white kernels, a miracle that rivaled the Feeding of the Five Thousand. If only candy bars multiplied like that!

As cornfields surrounded our house, I became convinced we were not utilizing a huge, free popcorn resource. My mother disagreed. But I filched an ear from a neighbor’s field and set it on fire anyway. Sadly, Mom was right — again.

Later we grew our own popcorn, including a “strawberry” variety. Hoeing the plants, I imagined the pink strawberry-sucker-flavored popcorn we would savor. At harvest, we shucked wine-colored kernels off little cones and waited breathlessly as Mom popped this amazing new treat. Only red hulls evidenced anything different about strawberry popcorn. After initial disappointment, though, we made a hit at school with our special red-and-white popcorn.

But the popcorn my siblings and I really craved was Jiffy Pop®. On TV commercials, smiling kids watched it rise like a silver Space Age balloon. I was sure the Jetsons ate Jiffy Pop®. Mom, however, vetoed it as too expensive.

When I, too, became a mean mother, plain old popcorn remained my friend. My children gathered as kernels tumbled in the air popper. Like my mother, I poured sizzling butter over theirs. Mine? I ate handfuls that tasted like Styrofoam packing peanuts. But they filled me up and kept me from expanding as much as Jiffy Pop®.

Now, growing older, I still cling to popcorn. Even the Jetsons would envy my microwave method. However, the time saved is used to read popcorn cautionary commandments on every bag, probably more than accompanied the original atomic bomb: HANDLE CAREFULLY: VERY HOT OIL & BAG! THIS SIDE UP! THIS SIDE DOWN! PICK UP HERE! PICK UP FROM OTHER END! OPEN CAREFULLY! HOT! CAUTION! OR YOU WILL DIE VERY, VERY SLOWLY WITH RADIOACTIVE POPCORN UP YOUR NOSE.

Is that any way to talk to a friend?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are your favorite popcorn memories?

A Kind-of World Series Fan

Like many Hoosiers, I am addicted to basketball. I count the days until the season’s first games, even watching Little Sisters of the Poor battle St. Insignificant. I will referee the NCAA finals forever and ever, amen.

To my utter surprise, I also have become a baseball fan.

Not that I didn’t love baseball as a child. In our tiny town, baseball comprised a weighty part of recess and sweltering-summer-evening entertainment. Teams ranged from two to nine players. We often invented convenient ghosts to run bases who were called out by nonexistent referees. I even played benchwarmer for the Taylorsville Hillbillies (and no, I am not making that up).

But that passion did not translate to professional baseball. I remember the World Series because boys smuggled transistor radios and earphones into class. Mr. Daily, my sixth grade teacher, also got in trouble for teaching while thus plugged in. I got in enough trouble for other reasons, so I skipped the Series.

Baseball reawakening took place decades later when I moved to northern Indiana. Vast numbers of Chicago Cubs fans thrived there, despite their not having won a World Series since 1908. My friend Joleen didn’t miss a Cubs opening day for 40 years. The Cubs did win a doubleheader the day she passed away. In her honor, I became their fan forever.

My out-of-print biography about Billy Sunday can still be purchased on Amazon and other online sources.

At the time, I was writing a book about Billy Sunday, an evangelist. Billy, a speed-of-light base runner, played for the Chicago White Stockings during the 1880s (which, paradoxically, later became the Cubs). Sadly, Billy suffered from Cubs Disease, a malady that survives to the present, in which batters develop a severe allergy to RBIs. Regardless, I cheered for Billy as the White Stockings/Cubs battled St. Louis in World Series contests.

When the Cubs finally won the Series in 2016, we fans anticipated blowing out the competition every year.

That has not happened.

Still, less than desirable World Series contests can prove advantageous. Due to lack of emotional investment, a kind-of fan wastes less time actually watching games. Instead, a “viewer” can sort socks, clip coupons, give herself a pedicure, address early Christmas cards and paint the family room ceiling — all during the first inning.

Who says watching TV sports accomplishes nothing?

Kind-of fans also sleep more than rabid World Series viewers. They doze throughout the game and retire early. This ensures productivity the next day — although well-rested fans discover the next morning that teams, indignant at abandonment, hit 15 runs.

A kind-of fan avoids the strain/overexcitement of winning the World Series.

At least, that’s what Cubs fans have been telling each other since 2016.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you watch the World Series?

He and She Share a Bathroom

When the plumber announced the death of my bathroom’s leaky shower and faucets, I didn’t cry, though I’d repainted the bathroom less than two years ago. Even the cost didn’t shake me — much.

No, the crisis struck when I shared my husband’s bathroom.

My dearly beloved turned white as his bathroom tile.

Anxiously, I prodded the plumber: “This is only for a few days, right?”

Well, the drywall had suffered water damage and needed repair. …

Hubby and I have survived 80-hour work weeks, colic, soccer seasons, crabgrass, teen drivers, four family members in college, menopause, and choosing movies. Though our last remodeling project broke me out in hives, and Hubby considered leaving the country, we knew we would handle this one better.

Mainly because someone else would do it.

Our optimism lasted, maybe, ten minutes.

According to him, I committed the first trespass: I moved things. The soap dispenser. The drinking cup. The wastebasket. Simple little adjustments to meet my lefty needs.

He crossed his arms. “They belong on the right.”

I crossed mine. “This is in the Bible?”

Not only did Hubby and I cross theological swords, but my hairbrush and toothbrush played unauthorized games of hide-and-seek. My wrinkle cream vanished, creating a world crisis of epic proportions.

My husband disagreed. The world crisis of epic proportions was created when I used his rare and wonderful tooth floss instead of my cheapo brand.

Sharing a bathroom with Hubby was like living in a hotel where you have to scrub the toilet and wash towels.

Speaking of towels, I must say he exhibited surprising patience when I jammed his rack with mine. I, however, struggled with sharing bathroom space with his big, brown fuzzies.

SHE: Those towels shed brown, hairy stuff everywhere. It’s like sharing a bathroom with Smokey the Bear.

HE: You bought them.

SHE: You always make a big deal out of nothing.

He does, you know. When I suggested his shower be checked by the plumber, too, he acted as if I had suggested we amend the Constitution. “Don’t touch it. I like my shower.”

“Don’t you want a flexible nozzle like mine? It helps in cleaning out the shower.”

That didn’t appear an issue to him.

Days passed.

Drywall had to dry. Several times.

Days passed.

I had to repaint. (What happened to “someone else would do this”?)

The paint had to dry.

I repainted again.

And so on.

Somehow, our marriage survivor skills saw us through.

When his cherished showerhead breaks someday, I’ll graciously share my lovely, left-handed bathroom with him.

But with Smokey the Bear and his towels? No way.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What First-World adjustments have you and your spouse made lately?

Pumpkins: Supersized, Scary, and Scrumptious

Years before “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” I recall visiting a farm market as a preschooler. Accustomed to our family’s economizing, my brother and I were ecstatic when Daddy hoisted a pumpkin almost as tall as I to his shoulder. We danced around him (endangering Daddy, the pumpkin and us) as he carried it to the farmer to pay.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. Our children repeated the scene as if they’d read the script. Fast-forward a couple more decades, and the grandchildren do the same pumpkin dance.

Some things don’t change, namely, everyone wants a BIG one.

Fortunately for parents, kids don’t know how big they can grow.

When Hubby and I moved last, we inherited a garden with a huge pumpkin we couldn’t budge. Little did we know that compared to the biggest pumpkin ever recorded, ours resembled wussy ones piled in a basket on the dining room table.

All together, now: “How big did it grow?”

According to Guinness World Records, Mathias Willemijns of Belgium grew the biggest pumpkin ever in 2016: 2,624.6 pounds — about as much as a 2019 Honda Fit.

Imagine turning a monster like that into a jack-o’-lantern. Imagine encountering it in your neighborhood at midnight.

Size isn’t the only scary factor in pumpkin carving. Some pumpkin-loving adults also sculpt artistic renditions of famous people like George Washington and Ben Franklin. Don’t you think these bodyless visages would appear creepy, too? Especially when lit by candles on a dark night?

Just sayin’.

Some carvers, unafraid of freaky faces, express what scares them most in pumpkin graffiti: “The WiFi is down.” “Windows 7.” And “Student Loans.”

Thankfully, more pumpkin aficionados demonstrate their creativity through cooking. Sorry, pumpkin-spice opponents, I love those recipes. Once, I even declared that I loved all things pumpkin.

Though still a devotee, I now make exceptions.

Unappreciative of their popularity, pumpkins are fighting back. They have conceived a brilliant solution: expanding to products that cause former fans to gag. These include pumpkin-spice pizza, hummus, garbanzo beans, and kale chips. Not content with turning human stomachs, they have pushed an additional innovation: pumpkin-spice fish bait.

Some pumpkins have grown openly aggressive in their revenge. According to the Pumpkin Nook website (http://www.pumpkinnook.com/commune/stories.htm), one Florida grower, Barbara Kincaid — and former friends who helped carry her 200-pounder — suffered a pumpkin explosion. Rotten inside, it swelled from built-up gases. Its detonation coated all with what Ms. Kincaid described as stinky “pumpkin puke.”

Ewww!

Given that danger, will I swear off jack-o’-lanterns? It’s doubful.

Spicy pumpkin bread and muffins? Lattes? Pie?

Sorry, pumpkins. That thought is too scary to contemplate.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like all things pumpkin?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: What Are You Doing Here?

O Lord, Your flowers are a mystery. I pamper them — they die. I’ve never, ever planted white petunias — yet they pop up and bloom. In October. On my porch, without a pot! OMG, teach me to welcome beauty into my life, even when it wasn’t invited.  

Oh, well, invited or not, I watered it.

 

Loser, Weeper — Why Can’t I Be a Keeper?

The list of things I lose keeps growing, as if I am trying to fulfill a quota.

Are you a loser, too?

Unfortunately, I admit to a long history of misplacement. The only time I recall a blowup with my sweet, elderly first grade teacher occurred when I lost my first reader. No problem, I told her. Mom would look for it. After all, what were mothers for? Dick, Jane, and Baby Sally would find their way back to school eventually.

Mrs. Carr did not buy it. “You are responsible for that book. Not your mother.” She even implied that I should look for it!

Oh, well. Everyone has bad days. Even teachers.

If you are of a certain age, you probably recall skate keys — at least, in theory. My neighbor-hood buddies and I probably would not have recognized one if we saw it, we lost them so quickly. Ditto for the skates’ leather straps. We tied skates on with rags and never noticed any difference.

What works for kid transportation, however, does not necessarily apply to adult transportation. Rags exert little kinetic effect on automobiles. As for replacing keys, no one can truck to the hardware store anymore and do it for a few bucks in a few minutes. Instead, the culprit is forced to purchase a pricey mini-computer disguised as a key. Or she must break into her own car. Or hot-wire the engine.

Losing one’s keys — and the above “solutions” — tend to annoy parking lot security personnel.

Their crankiness ups several notches when the car itself vanishes.

“It’s gray,” I told the parking attendants after a 1988 Amy Grant concert.

Tsk, tsk. Maybe they experience even more bad days than first grade teachers.

I have lost more items than I have ever owned. Four umbrellas during my freshman year in college. A leather belt I bought in England. The only hat my husband ever liked, bought in Hawaii, lost in Israel.

I try to think positively. After all, someone is enjoying the use of the umbrellas, the belt, and the hat. I try to impress my husband with my global generosity.

Well, husbands have bad days, too. Especially when I lose my passwords.

Please do not suggest I make a list. I lose lists.

Put reminders on my cell phone? My cell phone?

We won’t even go there.

Unfortunately, every loss morphs into a double loss, as I lose my temper.

But if I have lost it, why doesn’t my temper go away, too?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever lost?