Category Archives: Coffee Corner

An Ordinary Drive

Image by RitaE from Pixabay.

My husband and I often drive to Ohio to care for his elderly father.

Not like traveling along California’s coastline, with its infinite, sparkling waves. Not like coaxing our car up Appalachian heights, where scary curves rival breathless beauty.

A between-snows drive on Midwestern highways doesn’t raise pulse rates — unless a semi crosses the line.

Or if we focus on a sunrise. Pastel hues stripe the gray horizon, then amid sherbet-colored clouds, the butter-cake sun shines on dark chocolate fields —

Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

Sorry. I’m driving under the influence of a post-Christmas diet. But the delicious scene raises my pulse rate. Maybe a bakery lurks nearby?

Hubby points. “The sun’s position has changed considerably since the fall equinox.” As he continues enthusiastic commentary on light angles, his pulse rate probably rises to new heights.

Mine doesn’t. Until he mentions ancient tribes who built mounds in the Anderson, Indiana, area. They marked seasons by studying scenes like this.

That’s how those Native Americans survived without phones?

My fascination with human behavior — Hubby calls it nosiness — quickly spreads to houses we pass.

I indicate a typical Indiana farmhouse. “Do they like strawberry or grape PBJ? Whatever, I’ll bet it’s homemade.”

Image by Stephen Marc from Pixabay.

Hubby’s look silences my mouth, but not my mind.

Yards that sport tired-looking Santas warm my heart. Someone’s farther behind than I. Others boast shining windows and perfectly sculpted bushes. Even their snowdrifts appear symmetrical. How do people live that way?

Pristine Amish homes grab me, though, with their simplicity and clotheslines full of black shirts and dresses dancing wildly in winter wind.

Slowing for buggies lets us enjoy trotting horses and large families snuggled like birds in a nest. However, rumspringa Amish teens skating down the middle of the highway don’t generate warm fuzzies.

Small-town businesses catch my eye, e.g., Red Hot Scott’s Driving Academy. Do parents entrust beginning drivers — and insurance policies — to Red Hot Scott?

Later, after a day of hugs, time with Dad and conversations with health care workers, we say bittersweet goodbyes. Hubby and I could drive the route home in our sleep, but watch each other closely so we don’t.

Against the sunset’s fiery rose, orange and purples, steeples along the way reach for Heaven. My thoughts do too.

Glory to God in the highest.

One more extraordinary ordinary drive.

Image by adonisbluemusic from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Describe your latest amazing, everyday drive.

Classic Post: The Love Trials

Image by Maura Nicolaita from Pixabay.

This post first appeared on February 10, 2016.

Even successful speed dating requires major time investment to identify Mr. or Ms. Right. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those longing for true love could detect it within one day?

Ta-da! My revolutionary concept, Love Trials, cuts to the chase. This approach will benefit all humankind, plus make me a few million dollars. Each participating couple will know whether they have found their soulmates after five short sessions in which they:

Trial #1: Pack a suitcase. The girl and guy are given one small bag. Not one each — one. She does her best, but it only holds a weekend’s supply of lipsticks. And is he really going to wear that?

Trial #2: Visit a buffet with one plate. When a woman’s salad vies for space with the guy’s giant nachos topped with five pounds of bacon, she may reconsider. His passion may cool when she doesn’t want his food touching hers.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay.

Trial #3: Dig a car out of a snowdrift. Even without debate as to who should have known about road conditions, speed and directions, this trial proves invaluable in unmasking polite claims of gender equality. She dubs him the stronger; therefore, he should push. He thumbs his nose at her so-called dedication to equal rights and claims superior judgment in rocking and rolling out of the predicament.

Trial #4: Hang wallpaper. Participants ask themselves: Do they really want to pledge their lives to someone who can’t distinguish a rectangle from a trapezoid?

This is the way they imagined remodeling together. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.

Trial #5: Buy each other a $10 gift. She purchases an extra-long towel and embroiders his baby-in-the-bath picture on it (winning his mother over). He buys her a heavy-duty ice scraper.

Have the starry-eyed lovers fled the scene? If not, do they still speak? (Grunts count. So do weepy “how could you!”s.)

If so, light up a huge neon Congratulations! sign. Release balloons and confetti!

In the Love Trials, if he and she have not escaped to Mars and Venus, a relationship with a real, live human being has begun. Break out the chocolates, flowers, music and romance! This couple can celebrate true love until the next great Love Trial:

Planning a wedding.

Image by Pintera Studio from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What tried-and-true Love Trial would you suggest?

I’m Glad I’m Not in Florida

Image in PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Maybe you think I, from chilly Indiana, have finally flipped?

Perhaps I can persuade you to see things my way.

First, pleasant weather conditions during winter confuse us Hoosiers worse than a time change. Is it January or June? Has someone sneaked six months past us?

Lovely weather also demands we go outdoors. If I’d been raised in Florida, my mother would never have let me inside: “Sunshine’s good for you!”

If I were a Floridian, I’d have to do (gulp) yard work. I much prefer curling up each winter with my sherpa throw to read or watch basketball.

In Florida, forget about warm fuzzies. Or the waistline-camouflage layers I love.

Besides, we Midwesterners enjoy griping about weather. Could we survive without our favorite pastime?

If Indiana’s environment resembled Florida’s, our state would be flooded with touristy relatives. Hoosier parents do bribe grown children to come home for Christmas. Soon, though, bored offspring return to nests elsewhere. As a result, parents truly own their homes and cars.

Speaking of cars, no one in the Midwest keeps vehicles clean during winter as expected in Florida.

Besides, without wintry mix, we and our cars would miss the joy of doing figure eights on the interstate. That’s the only wild life we experience after New Year’s.

Regarding Florida’s wildlife: boo for bugs the size of Volkswagens! While winter camping might prove more fun there, alligator warning signs made me rethink my antipathy toward raccoons. They might steal a week’s groceries, but raccoons don’t abscond with several limbs as well.

Becoming a snowbird requires the packing and moving I despise. Besides, snowbirds inhabit rows and rows of mobile homes so close dwellers know their neighbors are eating Popeyes’ fried chicken for the third time this week.

Finally, wouldn’t Florida’s continuous green grow monotonous? The never-changing, brilliant blue of sea and sky?

Sure, we Hoosiers endure dreary months. But nothing will excite us like the first baby leaves that invade Old Man Winter’s domain. Sunny daffodils will send us into spring ecstasy.

Poor Floridians know nothing of these extreme Hoosier joys. Pity them.

And move closer to the fire.

Image by s-wlocyzyk 2 from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where would you like to spend the winter?

Little Joys

Everyone loves huge joys, the take-my-breath-away, can-this-be-me, yippee-yahoo-yaaaay! joys. Some people even become speechless. (A lover of words and hyphens, I’m not one of those.)

Many, though, experience bits of gladness that barely raise adrenaline levels, yet light blahness like a candle’s flame. For example:

  • Being the very first to stick a spoon into a jar of peanut butter.
Image by sebastianhausi from Pixabay.
  • Discovering an in-law’s dog chewed your shoes already destined for the trash.
Image by wixon lubhon from Pixabay.
  • Putting away groceries without remembering what you forgot.
  • Buying avocados at exactly the right stage of ripeness.
  • Almost spilling something purple on a friend’s white carpet but recovering in time.
  • Seeing someone else has reloaded toilet paper. She may have been a burglar, but wouldn’t you like to shake her hand?
Image by Carola68 from Pixabay.
  • Baking brownies with crispy edges and gooey middles — though someone will inform you they are too crispy. Or too gooey. Which doubles the little joy, as you can eat them all yourself.
  • Discovering you really did leave your phone at home, rather than at O’Hare.

Maybe that last qualifies as a big joy, an end-zone-dance celebration. But other small joys make a difference:

  • That someone held the door open for you when your arms were full. And didn’t let go too soon.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.
  • That your car, even more hostile toward winter than you, started at first try.
  • That a human hug is something computers will never replace.
  • That rain doesn’t have to be shoveled.
  • That no one cares whether pink or blue baby sleepers are politically correct. At least, not in Indiana.
  • That you finished a book delightful as a hot fudge sundae — and no calories!

“It doesn’t take much to make you happy,” critics might say.

As if everyday happinesses don’t matter. As if little joys collected throughout a lifetime don’t add up to something substantial.

On the contrary, they shine in a person’s face, walk and talk. In memories of them long after they pass on.

That is no small thing.

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What little joys brighten your days?

Help Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Do you like to ask for help? Me, neither.

Even then, I thought I knew it all.

Even as a toddler, I yanked my hand from my mother’s and ran into a street in downtown Indianapolis. Terrified by screeches and honks, though, I clung to her at the next crossing.

Maybe I learned I wasn’t ready to take charge of my life? Nope. Instead, I believed Mommy needed help with hers. She needed me to iron while she was busy with my baby sister. That I ironed my left hand (I still bear the scar) should have made me question my choices.

It did. I still avoid ironing whenever possible.

But cautions about so-called independence learned during childhood vanished during my teens. My friends and I knew everything. Parents resembled forerunners of ATMs, except they gave advice along with money.

I should have wondered why The Beatles, the 1960s epitome of youth and success, sang lines about needing help and growing older. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were only 25 and 23 when they penned “Help” and McCartney wrote “Yesterday.”

But I didn’t until I married and had our first baby. Where was the faucet to shut off drool, puke and pee? I finally admitted that perhaps … I needed guidance.

Image by Natalia Lavrinenko from Pixabay.

Did I ask my parents or in-laws? No. Instead, I consulted books.

Though I did learn from several good ones, none provided critical answers I needed.

Most of the books then and today tell us to look within. That we know all the answers.

Instead, shouldn’t we open the Book that tells us to look up? To realize Someone much bigger and smarter stands waiting to help us?

We Americans pretend every day is Independence Day — even in January. However, 2024 stretches before us, its kamikaze traffic already whizzing by. Can we really navigate it alone?

Or, when we cross unknown streets, should we reach for the Helping Hand always ready to guide us?

Image by reenablack from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where does your help come from?

Wild Winter Sports

When winter boredom sets in, don’t you wish the Winter Olympics took place every year? There’s nothing like watching other people exercise to inspire us all.

We spectators used to achieve similar exploits — though if someone tattled to Mom, we got in trouble.

My siblings and I rode sleds, standing up, into icy creek beds. We skated across frozen lakes. When ice c-r-r-a-acked under me once, I set Olympic records, darting to shore.

Image by Julius H. from Pixabay.

A skinny kid taking skating lessons, my husband risked life and limbs lifting a girl twice his weight. She informed him that he risked her life and limbs.

Self-preservation instincts grew with us. My winter daring-do ceased at 21 when I tubed down a mountain. Somersaulting, I received a black eye. Two weeks before my wedding.

Despite that cure, I still crave occasional winter excitement.

But how can anyone — other than fish — consider ice fishing exciting? Nevertheless, while hiking near a frozen lake where we’ve kayaked during summer, Hubby and I saw a subdivision of huts on the ice.

Though fishermen didn’t jump into the lake. Polar dips flourish everywhere!

Some adventurers in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula and Minnesota achieve a rush climbing frozen waterfalls.

Image by Simon from Pixabay.

An international solution to winter boredom: wok racing, which originated not in China, but in Austria and Germany. Competitors sometimes reach 100 mph. The wok-er who borrows his equipment from wife or mother faces the wrath of a woman deprived of cookware — and no dinner.

Skijoring, popular in the U.S., Canada, Norway and Russia, sounds friendlier because a horse or dog pulls a skier through snow and ice. This pastime reminds me of my eight-year-old efforts to harness my dog — or little sister — to pull me in a wagon. My ride ended under the overturned wagon, with bumped heads and bruised knees for everyone.

A souped-up version with Fido or Seabiscuit might prove less appealing.

While I enjoy cycling, fat-tire racing on ice doesn’t tempt me. As for motorcycle racing on the ice — forget the helmet. Wear a suit of padded armor!

Instead, when the Olympics finally come around again, I’ll even follow curling. After all, how could such a wild, wonderful sports event exist without spectators?

Spectators who experience the thrill. The pageantry. The soft, safe sofa.

Sufficient winter excitement for me.

Image by Alexa from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite winter sport? Why?

Rachael’s Resolutions

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay.

In 2012, I revolutionized the practice of making New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of lying through my teeth about diets, exercise and tiresome niceness, I included only promises I could keep.

Still, I didn’t accomplish all my goals. I kept a pair of gloves intact, forgetting to lose one of every pair. I remembered to charge my phone before it quit four times that year. Despite my efforts to destroy the previous Christmas’s poinsettias, one still lives. I didn’t kill it completely, though judging from its appearance, it probably wishes I had.

Given these failures, an attack of perfectionism prevented me from attempting resolutions again.

But I’ve recovered. Noble aspirations for 2024 are listed below:

I promise to harmonize with background music in stores. Singing is gluten-free, contains zero calories and harbors no toxic substances (if on key).

While I may not be the best snow shoveler, I find ways to have fun.

Shoveling snow, I’ll throw half our driveway’s gravel into the yard. Come spring, I’ll pick up 15 percent and let Hubby’s lawnmower retrieve the rest.

I’ll wear only mom jeans, sparing myself and the rest of the world any attempts at wearing skinnies. Instead, I’ll move up a pants size. Moving up is a promotion, right?

I will not label freezer items. Plus, if I’m careful to maintain its chaos, a ten-pound unknown will tumble out every time I open it.

Image by Maayan2007 from Pixabay.

I’ll continue to laugh too loud at our pastor’s jokes on Sunday morning. Sorry, fellow church members, but my laughter comes in one-size-fits-all.

I will growl at the gas gods, whether they zap my pocketbook or lower prices and mess with the world economy.

I’ll never open the front window at drive-throughs without opening a back one first.

I will introduce my grandchildren to a new form of sugar their folks have banned.

I’ll bore my grandkids with “when I was a girl” stories. (The last time I did this, one grandson asked if I knew Betsy Ross.)

I will hand out free smiles, no limits, and no coupon needed.

I won’t change a single light bulb, even if we’re cast into outer darkness. Hubby needs to feel needed.

Finally, I will leave at least one cell phone unmuted, one car horn braying for no reason, and one zipper unzipped at the worst possible moments of 2024.

Too lofty a list?

Sigh. Perfectionism strikes again. …

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What doable resolutions will you make for 2024?

Classic Post: Of Blessed Barbarians and Baby Jesus

Image by Case Newton from Pixabay.

This post first appeared on December 28, 2022.

Years ago, my husband and I prepared for a barbarian invasion.

We hid valuables. We said prayers. We kept watch, knowing they’d sweep away our well-ordered lives.

They came.

We charged outside … and retrieved the world’s most beloved barbarians, our two-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson, from car seats.

Baby allowed us to cuddle, but his mind was fixed on his search-and-destroy mission.

“Gwandma! Gwandpa!”

Baby immediately yanked our books from shelves. When we interrupted, he reacted with a type A personality’s outrage.

His sister flipped light switches. “On! Off!” The little blonde goddess obviously controlled the universe.

Time to civilize barbarians — a little. We played with blocks, love-worn stuffed animals and an ancient Fisher-Price parking garage our children enjoyed.

The grandchildren zoomed cars down the ramp, cheering wipeouts. The scene reminded me of Christmas parking lots. And (shiver!) future 16th birthdays.

This parking garage has entertained our three children and all seven grandchildren. Like Grandma and Grandpa, its parts creak and groan, but it still works.

I offered a Nativity set with soft finger puppets. Baby happily crawled around with Wise Men in his mouth. Retrieving bowls from my cabinets, his sister made imaginary applesauce for the Nativity crew.

Peace on earth reigned.

Too soon, they had to leave. Hubby and I helped their parents search for bag, bottles, coats.

Our little blonde goddess knew she ruled our universe.

We wanted to send the Nativity set home with them, an early Christmas present. Hopefully, gnawing the Wise Men would keep Baby quiet during the trip. Mary and Joseph bore evidence Little Girl had found real applesauce for their dinner party. We corralled animals, angels and shepherds.

Where was Baby Jesus?

Hubby sifted through the toy box again. I scanned refrigerator shelves, hoping Little Girl hadn’t decided Jesus needed air-conditioning.

“Is Jesus in the parking garage?” I yelled to Hubby.

Not a question I’d ever expected to ask during my lifetime.

Shaking my head as I raised the toilet lid, I hoped He wouldn’t be floating in a not-so-sanitary Sea of Galilee. No, but new anxiety seized me. Had someone flushed Him?

“I’ll find Jesus and mail Him,” I promised.

But I’d wanted our grandchildren to get to know Him during Christmas.

I dove under furniture again and discovered Baby Jesus behind the stereo.

“How did He end up there?” Our daughter dusted Him off.

I shrugged. “Who knows? Jesus sometimes turns up in the oddest places.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where did Jesus show up during your Christmas season?

Classic Post: Miracle Morning Sickness

Image by Eukalyptus from Pixabay.

This post first appeared on December 22, 2021.

Unlike Mary, Jesus’s mother, and Zechariah, John the Baptist’s dad, my husband and I didn’t see angels when we learned we would be parents. Medical tests one December confirmed our first child was under construction. Our Christmas miracle.

Other confirmations seemed less wonderful. Entering Grandma’s kitchen Christmas morning, I nearly fainted. The fragrance of spareribs, usually mouth-watering, spun my stomach onto a Tilt-A-Whirl ride.

Soon my waistline and feet vanished. One guy, playing a game at my couples’ shower, guessed my belly diameter measured seven feet. He shouldn’t have lived to procreate. Because his wife was my friend, I allowed it.

Given pregnancy and delivery, how does the human race continue?

Yet, according to Dr. Luke’s biblical account, devout, elderly Zechariah and Elizabeth longed for that miracle. Marginalized because of infertility, they’d lost hope.

Then Gabriel, an angel, appeared to the freaked-out priest, proclaiming they’d have a son.

Even an angel couldn’t convince Zechariah. Still, as Elizabeth’s baby bump swelled, his faith grew.

Meanwhile, Gabriel visited teenaged Mary in Nazareth and greeted her as the soon-to-be mother of the Messiah.

Image by dodo71 from Pixabay.

Mary was engaged, not married. She hadn’t been with Joseph or anyone else. This intruder was delusional, maybe dangerous. If I’d been Mary, I would’ve called 911.

Instead, she believed he came from God. Mary offered herself to whatever He had in store.

Gabriel also said Elizabeth was pregnant too.

This, Mary had to see. Had Gabriel shared God’s truth? Or was that stranger crazier than she?

When big-bellied Elizabeth greeted Mary as the mother of her Lord, Mary’s festering doubts disappeared.

Elizabeth knew. Mary didn’t have to explain. Or hide.

Image by gamagapix from Pixabay.

The pregos could tell their stories without boring each other. They could gripe about swelling feet. They agreed that neither could stand spareribs.

Both, however, had developed cravings for pickled goat. If Zechariah balked at buying it, Mary would.

God gave those women each other. Elizabeth could face people asking if John was her grandson. Mary could go home to her parents. Face Joseph. Face rabbis who might throw rocks.

Our daughter’s first Christmas. She made the spareribs worth it.

Mary would need more miracles. Thankfully, God wasn’t finished yet.

Because Mary accepted stressing along with blessing, Jesus came and redeemed humankind.

Today, His miracles also may include not-so-spiritual complications, some nastier than morning sickness. Some, dreams come true.

He’s not finished yet.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you think He will work in 2024?

A Different Christmas

Do your holidays cooperate? Occasionally, Christmas thumbs its Rudolph-red nose at me. Sometimes, though, it’s simply different.

In 1958, my family celebrated Christmas in our Mexican mission compound with a bare-limbed, thorny bush.

We dogmatic preschoolers protested, “That’s not a Christmas tree!”

Image by Alexander Kliem from Pixabay.
At a park for Christmas 2020.

With spun-glass angel hair, that odd, but lovely tree and borrowed Nativity introduced a different celebration. Hot-air balloons and fireworks lit the nights. Instead of dime-store trinkets, I received a wooden doll bed made by our handyman. My nine-months-pregnant mother, while sewing baby blankets, made doll versions from scraps. We ate weird sweets. We watched village children scramble for candy showered from a clay piñata my blindfolded dad smacked.

Strange for a five-year-old far from her Indiana home — but what wasn’t to like about candy and presents?

Although, if we’d spent Christmas in Austria, the celebration might have seemed less merry. Masked ghouls, representing Krampus, St. Nicholas’s evil counterpart, stalk city streets, shaking sticks at bad children. Scary for a kid who, despite missionary roots, pushed her little sister around.

Hot chocolate helped keep us warm.

Nearly meatless in Mexico, my family and I would have embraced the Japanese tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Day.

However, I wouldn’t have savored South Africans’ holiday delicacy: deep-fried Emperor Moth caterpillars.

Bereft of television in Mexico, I would’ve welcomed Sweden’s Christmas Eve tradition: watching vintage clips of Donald Duck. According to one American visiting future Swedish in-laws, nothing can disturb this sacred ritual.

We all have holiday expectations. My missionary family was no exception. We didn’t want a different Christmas!

Grandpa watched the fun.

I didn’t want a different Christmas during 2020, either. I wanted normal, when our children and grandchildren filled the house.

Yet that odd Mexican holiday’s sights and sounds linger, 65 years later.

My parents treasured them too, despite hard times. Mom delivered my 12-pound brother at home.

Dad, who broke the clay piñata with his forehead, suspected villagers controlling it had intentionally smacked the gringo. Despite major headaches and self-taught Spanish, Dad pioneered a church.

The beautiful, thorny Christmas tree embodied that beautiful, thorny year.

Appropriate for followers of a Savior who experienced thorny years.

Image by S. Greendragon from Pixabay.
Even COVID couldn’t stop us from enjoying a special Christmas.

In 2020, Christmas was different.

We Zoomed gatherings. Met family in a park for masked Christmas walks. Pantomimed hugs.

Different. Thorny.

But Christmas 2020 was good.

One I will never forget.

Image by James Chan from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What unique Christmas sticks in your mind?