Monthly Archives: September 2015

A Camper Pops Up

I awaken, my stomach kicking up a ruckus.

My husband turns over, assuming the little-boy look I deeply distrust. “What would you say if I bought a pop-up camper today?”

Unprintable thoughts. (Deep breath.) “Weren’t we waiting until next year?”

I. Should. Know. Better.

Lately, he has regaled me with facts about hitches, sizes, and secondhand prices. To cut costs further, “They make Airstreams designed only for sleep.”

I snorted. “Translation: we can’t stand, right?”


“We’d slide into bed like bread slices into a sideways toaster?”

He offered, “I could rig something—”

No, thanks. I have never used a catapult to go to bed, and I won’t now.

As usual, he has lined up Excellent Reasons to Buy Today. “Think ‘clearance prices.’”

“They don’t come with catapults, do they?”

Thankfully, no.

He wants to enumerate all his Excellent Reasons, but I dive under my covers. “Buy it. Now.”

When he arrives with his new toy, Stomach and I have reached a cease-fire. I agree to a pop-up demonstration.

Unfortunately, the crank has disappeared. He’s off to the hardware store to buy a wrench that doesn’t work. Hubby ends up using a kayak paddle. But he sets the camper up.

Surveying its heater, he enthuses, “Now we can camp in March and November.”


He raids the cleaning closet, as the savings involved do-it-yourself elbow grease.

Given my uppity stomach, I cannot clean. Sigh.

Hubby scrubs and scours. Where have his cleaning talents been hiding all these years?

Instructional parking videos he watches online make Stomach and me uneasy. We do not trust safety tips that feature crash sounds.

He practices parking the camper in our church’s empty lot, then drafts me as safety spotter as he backs the pop-up into its new home by our garden. “Yell if you see traffic.”

As if on cue, car convoys appear. Clumps of bicycles clog the road. The Taylor University cross country team lopes by. I hope they prayed before practice — and that they take another route back.

Hubby shifts into reverse again. “I can’t hear you. Yell louder.”

Halfway through his next attempt, I spot a pedestrian and shriek, “Walker!”

The poor woman sprints away.

But Hubby completes his maneuver. The camper rolls into its spot. Sort of.

He jumps out, frowning. The pop-up will learn that “crooked” is not in his vocabulary.

Hubby learns that the camper is a slow learner.

I learn not to brainstorm fiction plots when my flowers’ lives are in jeopardy.

Mission accomplished.

We set an October date for our first campout. I don’t really mind his new toy, as he shares it with me.

But I hope nothing else pops up soon.

Piracy at the Pump

Two Great American Pastimes obsess us: comparing gas prices and despairing over gas prices.

When I want to gripe, bashing gas prices works every time, whether fluctuating up or down.

Say what? Don’t we want prices to drop?

Not necessarily. If you and I have just filled our tanks, we want prices to leap higher than a jumping bean on steroids.

Too often, however, we find the convenience store clerk upped the price 30 cents while we were using onsite facilities.

Economists obsess about demographics, political climates and laws of supply and demand. They’re right about that last one. Those who supply gas can demand whatever they want.

Despite recent falling prices, we continue to exchange hot tips as if stations were speakeasies. Lately, as I prowled, looking for the best deal, childhood memories of gas stations overtook me.

“Ding-ding!” In the 1960s, a bell always greeted our car’s arrival at friendly stations. I liked the heady fragrance as our station wagon sucked in fuel like cherry Coke through a straw.

Strong men with greasy hands not only pumped gas, they washed windshields and checked oil. When something broke, they fixed it with manly, clanky tools.

Attendants carried cool metal coin dispensers and wads of dollars in heavy leather wallets. They were rich, since Dad paid them 25.9 cents a gallon. They gave away free road maps and Christmas drinking glasses.

Now, as I drove past stations, I winced.  They probably didn’t give away free toilet paper, let alone glasses. I checked another station where I had posted earlier successes.

Cheap gas at last! I filled up and left quickly so the next customer could use the pump. No friendly “ding-ding” good-bye. Too bad gas stations weren’t the way they used to be.

Passing higher prices on the way home, I celebrated. However, my smugness ended when I walked in the door.

“Did you pay for your gas?” My husband nailed me.

“Of course, I … uh. …”

Of course, I hadn’t.

“The police called.” My beloved didn’t look inclined to post bail. “Go back and pay.”

I flew out the door. Did they put gas thieves in solitary confinement? What if my pastor saw me taken away in shackles?

“There you are!” The manager, who knew me, burst into giggles. “When the cops called, I told them you forgot.”

I poured out thanks and signed my guilty name on the credit card slip. Still looking for helicopters overhead, I sneaked away.

Again, no friendly dings. But I vowed to return soon. This kind station manager didn’t need a ding-ding to take good care of this ding-dong.

Plus, her gasoline was a real steal.

Have you ever driven away or walked out without paying?




OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: O my God, thank you for kind people like that hotel clerk! When I declined staying at her hotel because of the price, she recommended a less expensive one nearby and assured me that if I couldn’t find a place I could afford, “we can work something out for you.” She didn’t know I wasn’t broke, just cheap. But OMG, did I look that pathetic?

Cocoa for Mrs. Cole

A teacher’s daily routines require more study, planning and paperwork than a constitutional amendment. During flu season, they spend 47 percent of their income on tissues.

Such conditions might discourage applicants, even with perfect students. Educational research, however, has yet to discover a cure for classroom chaos.  As one veteran educator expressed it, children operate in reverse gears: they run when they should walk and walk when they should run. Still, teachers attempt to focus 20 or 30 little brains upon lessons, a task which resembles seven hours in a roomful of Super Balls.

Every teacher each Friday should receive a mug of dark chocolate cocoa with double whipped cream served on a silver platter by a grateful former student. (Plus a free box of tissues.)

I recall Mrs. Madge Cole, my elementary teacher, who defied our rural county’s mold. From the moment she arrived from the urban planet of Akron, Ohio, she ran grammar boot camp. She forbade “ain’t” and its essential derivatives. When a freckle-faced child of the cornfields asked, “I hain’t got a Kleenex; cain’t I use my sleeve?” Mrs. Cole fixed said student with a fishy green eye and marked triple demerits in her Grade Book of Doom.

My parents never used the area’s vernacular, so I hadn’t absorbed it. At school, though, I salted my speech with local color to keep from being different, which struck more terror into my heart than the school lunch. When Mrs. Cole came to town, I dropped the habit—fast.

She took no interest in popularity polls. Mrs. Cole gave daily social studies quizzes. As the year wore on, she added notches to her six-shooter. Our class celebrated school’s end with wild relief—until we learned Mrs. Cole, too, had been promoted and would teach us the following year.

Later, attending a high school of 3,000, I could speak well. I could write well. I could look a test in the eye and spit in its face. Mrs. Cole had done us ingrates favors far beyond knowing the date Magellan sailed.

I lost track of my teacher. I wish now I could surprise Mrs. Cole in her classroom some war-weary Friday, grading those quizzes. I’d take her a big mug of hot cocoa with oodles of whipped cream and thank her—again and again. Give her two boxes of tissues.

Afterward, I’d whisper, “I ain’t never had a teacher like you since, Mrs. Cole.”

Then check over my shoulder to see if she heard me.

How about you? Did a certain teacher make a big difference in your life?

Coffee Corner: A Fall Fanatic Looks at September

Are you glad to see September? I’ve already risen to give it a standing ovation.

After a summer of doing our own thing, we’re ready to sit up straight, pay attention and do our homework. Our worldview morphs from beach to businesslike. Surprising in a baggy-shorts person like me, not given to button-down impulses. That’s the magic of September.

I admit to a fall fetish. Air conditioning bills drop, and heating bills have not yet rocketed. Warm weather seems more a treat and less like a punishment. Nights cool down—better snuggling weather, when we can set ceiling fans on “breeze” instead of “tornado.” It’s not an accident the world’s longest kiss, 17 days and 10.5 hours, was recorded in September (1984), not June.

Inexplicably, huggy family events, such as reunions, take place during sweaty summers. Still, the completion of family reunion attendance requirements adds to September satisfaction. We’ve seen every relative who swings from our family tree, eaten our quota of fried chicken and Aunt Gertie’s potato salad, laughed at Uncle Izzy’s jokes and rescued numerous state parks from our cousin’s kids who play with matches. We had a good time.

And we won’t have to do it again until Christmas.

Sure, September gets crazy. But what do we expect from a month that gave us Confucius, Dr. Phil and Shamu the Killer Whale? A month in which we can wear flip-flops or boots? Sweaters or swimsuits? A month that celebrates “Be Late for Something Day” on the fifth and “Fight Procrastination Day” on the sixth?

Bottom line, September is all about changes, most of them good.

All part of the Great Designer’s celebration. In dressing September for the occasion, He spares no expense. Before long, He will clothe sumac in scarlet ribbons. He’ll gild trees with gold and embroider their leaves with russet threads.

He gives us lavish fields of goldenrod and chains of butterfly-brilliant morning glories that spiral up cornstalks and mailboxes. Cicada concerts still grace our nights, as the frosts have not yet arrived.

God gives us September, the best of summer, the best of fall.

Perhaps the very best of all.

We’re not the only ones applauding His artistry. “All the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Psalm 55:12).

Soon they’ll throw confetti, too.

What about you? Which season do you like best?