Monthly Archives: August 2021

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?

Things Have Changed, and I’m Glad

I finally stopped refusing senior discounts. (Who was I kidding?)

Now, I find it tempting to diss the present and reverence the “good old days.” One morning, a Grouchy Old Gal stared at me from the mirror. Did I really want her to stay?

Instead, I booted her out and listed things I like about 2021. Plus a few I do not miss from the past.

  • First, permanent press is a gift from God. My mother spent hours starching and ironing my puff-sleeved dresses, dresses I wore while emptying mud puddles. I iron now only when I can find mine. The best thing about a no-iron worldview? Though manufacturers lie that their clothes don’t require ironing, everyone pretends it’s true.
  • In this millennium, we enjoy a whole new excuse for playing hooky: the computers are down.
  • Email is cheaper, simpler and faster than snail mail. Unless the computers are down.
  • Microwaves, once a figment of sci-fi imaginations, have forever banished the sinking realization: “Ack! I forgot to defrost the meat!” Okay, so they sometimes produce meals the consistency of cement, with comparable nourishment. Still, speedy microwaves helped feed my skinny physician husband at all hours. They removed gunky warm-up pans from my kitchen’s décor. Nowadays, a microwave suits our lifestyle — that of college students without food service.
  • Few potlucks still feature 15 kinds of marshmallow-Jell-O salad.
  • I’ll take Susan Boyle’s singing, as opposed to Carol Channing’s, anytime. (See YouTube — another current convenience that can take us down Memory Lane, as well as make us glad we don’t live there anymore!)
  • Thanks to technology, we no longer miss favorite programs or movies. We need not suffer withdrawal symptoms when leaving before finding out whodunit.
  • Being a grandma is way more fun than being a mom.
  • In a related thought, little boys’ clothes today are much cuter than those in 1970. This grandma lauds that aspect of gender equality, as I have six grandsons.
  • In a somewhat related thought, I appreciate bicycle helmets. Seat belts. Even kids’ car seats that demand an engineering degree and an acrobat’s body to buckle.
  • Few people drive Pintos anymore.
  • Blow-dryers and curling irons have replaced the overnight torture of brush rollers and orange juice cans. Guys, if you don’t “get” the orange juice cans, ask your wives how they prettied up for Saturday night during the 1960s. Check online photos — if you dare.
  • Men rarely get permanents today. During the ’70s, much of the male population appeared to have been replaced by alien poodles. Wearing leisure suits. And platform shoes.
  • Cigarette commercials now feature cancer victims rather than cool cowboys. In restaurants, puffing and blowing occur only when your food’s too hot.
  • I applaud painless antiseptics that soothe cuts, as opposed to this-is-gonna-make-you-scream Mercurochrome.
  • Experts now assert that chocolate and coffee are good for us.
  • I hate to admit it, but cell phones do keep us safe on the road. Also, if not for cell phones, thousands of husbands might still be wandering Meijer’s aisles, seeking the correct brand of pickles.
  • No more waiting for photos to develop. No more paying for them, either.
  • We now realize God can say both “you” and “thee.”
  • Homemade, homegrown and handcrafted items — food, clothing, even coffins — have become special again.
  • Using an effortless stain stick beats scrubbing grass stains with an old toothbrush. Just ask my kids.
  • Finally, no one sings about yummy love in their tummies anymore.

That last extinction alone brightens the 2021 landscape.

My late father, who loved classical music, would have agreed.

Perhaps I inherited my outlook from Dad. He disliked many modern trends, but he also declared the “good old days” a myth. Dad plowed too many fields behind a mean mule to romanticize the past. Riding a John Deere mower was way better.

Recalling Jim Crow laws in the South — written and unwritten — he celebrated dining with both white and African-American friends without fear.

Occasionally, Dad allowed Grouchy Old Guy to stick around.

I sometimes hang out with Grouchy Old Gal.

But mostly, I celebrate life here and now.

And welcome all the senior discounts.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What don’t you miss from the “good old days,” and what are you thankful for now?

Neat Guys

Before our wedding, my fiancé’s dorm room didn’t accumulate typical guys’ cans-to-the-ceiling décor. He actually knew the laundry room’s location. Such details escaped me then. What woman in the movies melts into a man’s arms because he deposits his dirty socks into the hamper?

But as a newlywed, already in love with my new husband’s gorgeous blue eyes and cute grin, I found such behavior infinitely appealing. He didn’t exhibit the hamster behavior characteristic of males in my family. Unlike Dad, Hubby didn’t file papers on our car’s floor. I now could enter the bathroom without donning a hazmat suit, as I did when sharing one with three brothers.

What a neat guy.

The only difficulty? He was neater than I was.

My siblings had labeled me obsessive because I wore matching socks, I’d taken pride in my orderliness, but mine didn’t match his. We still don’t mesh. The good news: he helps with laundry and would no more leave Permapress to languish in the dryer than he would our grandkids. The bad news: he doesn’t get my closet organizational system.

You have a system?” He hugs clean shirts as if afraid he’ll never see them again.

Certainly. I organize my closet according to good memories. Sparkly holiday outfits and mother-of-the-bride dresses dominate the front so I can enjoy them.

Hubby categorizes long- and short-sleeved shirts. He keeps black socks in one drawer, brown in another. He’ll wear blue/gray ensembles one day, brown/beige the next, until the Second Coming, and maybe afterward. This, he claims, frees brain cells to focus on work, with plenty left over to ponder world peace and the next World Series champion.

When a physician on night call, Hubby’s compulsions made sense. Few people can assemble a wearable outfit in the dark. Still, no woman in labor would worry whether he was wearing black socks with brown pants.

I assumed his good habits would transfer to our son. My hopes rose when our toddler begged to empty the garbage. They faded when he dumped trash baskets into the bathtub. He now lives with a neat wife, so he’s learned to take trash outside for pickup.

I’d hoped my girls could bring fresh neatnik Y chromosomes into the family through marriage. Neither son-in-law professed to be a Mr. Clean. Years later, they haven’t changed.

But they continue to love God, their wives and children — which include my six grandsons. Are any budding neatniks? Nope. Not one insists on Thomas the Tank Engine socks in one drawer, Spiderman socks in another. Still, the male line in our family is wonderful. What neat guys!

And I live with the neatest one of all.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does your family line include neat guys?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Do I Want August to Go Away?

O Lord, part of me longs for the return of autumn’s regular schedules and button-down “Let’s do this!” Not to mention, pumpkin pie and hot cider.

But OMG, when crazy August’s heat wears on me, please remind me that ice cream and other summer delights don’t.    


Me on the trail in Anthony Lakes, Oregon

Camping Afterthoughts

Riding home from a camping trip, I have way too much time to review the whole outdoor scenario.

First, my body takes its revenge. Before vacation, it sat for months, completing a novel. Now, after days of hiking, cycling and kayaking — all just to reach the bathroom — my achy-breaky physique rebels. When inserted into a pickup, it freezes in sitting position.

When we stop for supper, Hubby pries me out with a kayak paddle.

Though near journey’s end, we’ve chosen to eat out of town, so no one will recognize us. However, we have a sneaking suspicion our lunchtime fast-food place in Illinois posted an all-points Internet alert about us. Every restaurant we’ve approached this evening has put out a bait shop sign. Then locked its doors.

We took showers while camping, though given their condition, I wondered if we were adding layers, rather than washing them off. After riding 200 miles with 23 bags of dirty laundry, maybe we’ve absorbed their ambiance?

“Do I smell funny?” I ask my dearly beloved.

“No, you’re good.”

He’s good, too. I worry too much.

Hubby glares as one more restaurant pulls down its shades. “What’s with these people?”

When we open the truck doors at home, however, our shrubbery wilts. We realize the sad truth: while it’s good that we accept each other, camping smells included, others may deposit us into the nearest landfill. Thus, after we unload, two-hour showers follow.

We’re recovering, but after several days at home, we still:

  • Search the house for flashlights instead of flipping on lamps.
  • Pore over Google maps to find grocery stores — when there’s one down the street.
  • Feel uneasy driving a car that isn’t dragging a 3,000-pound camper behind it.
  • Follow The Weather Channel as if it imparts the Gospel.
  • Check the fridge to see if the ice is sufficient.
  • Stir morning coffee with a plastic knife, forgetting a whole drawerful of silverware is available.
  • Reorient ourselves each day to a house we don’t have to park.

Hubby must adapt once more to sleeping through the night without accompanying me to the bathroom as Chief Executor of Unwelcome Wildlife.

If out of clean underwear, we remind ourselves that we own a for-real laundry room. We don’t have to use a hairdryer to make emergency hand-washed items wearable.

Given all these adjustments, is camping worth it?

Yes! When we enter the woods, the Time Tyrant vanishes. Bacon-and-egg breakfasts taste 10 times better. The wonder of our world keeps us spellbound. Even a 3 a.m. bathroom hike treats us to the Creator’s moon-and-stars display that outshines any human-designed light show.

So, we’ll camp again. And again.

And again.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have camping afterthoughts persuaded you to stop?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: True Flower Power

O Lord, nothing looked deader than the brown, shriveled seeds I planted last spring. But You breathed Your life into them, and now, a hundred colorful reminders of Your Resurrection dance for joy in the west wind. OMG, to think that You can do the same for us, if we let You. Alleluia!