Tag Archives: Humor

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?

Living in Corn Country

My taste buds are readying for a treat they’ve anticipated all year: sweet corn.

I’ve doctored starchiness in store-bought corn by sprinkling sugar into its boiling water. However, it can’t make the grade if you’ve savored the fresh, Hoosier version since toddlerhood.

Early summer mornings, my mother paid a farmer 25 cents a dozen for dewy ears he loaded into our station wagon.

Helping Mom shuck, I played with silks resembling golden locks adorning fairy-tale princesses — and my little sister. Tresses I, a brunette, couldn’t hope to possess.

The corn’s taste, however, erased that frustration. My siblings and I, dribbling melted butter, pretended to type with our teeth: chomp-chomp-chomp-chomp-chomp-chompding!

Mom battled greedy little hands that pilfered from bowls of kernels she was preparing for the freezer.

Our obsession, however, couldn’t compare with that of one consumer who ate 57 ears in 12 minutes. Gideon Oji won the 2021 National Sweet Corn Eating Championship in West Palm Beach, Florida.

I’ll bet Gideon’s mom wished she paid only 25 cents a dozen. Maybe she sneaked bagsful into the freezer at 2 a.m., hoping to hide them from her son.

Good luck with that, Mrs. Oji. He’s probably microwaving them as we speak.

I don’t possess Gideon’s speed, but might compete with his capacity. I could eat sweet corn all day, every day.

So, I eagerly await July, exchanging information at church with fellow corn addicts.

Me: Does the guy on Highway 5 have any?

Fellow Corn Addict 1: Not yet, but I saw him pull his wagon into the driveway. Should have the good stuff soon.

Fellow Corn Addict 2: Maybe the farmer who sells from his golf cart?

Me: Actually, I think he was off to play golf.

FCA 1: How about the little stand at the gas station?

FCA 2: Shh! (She glances around the fellowship area.) There’s Erma Plunk, and when it comes to corn, she’s all ears. Yesterday, I thought I’d beat her to the gas station, but she’d cleaned it out.

Me: Erma’s pulled the same thing for years. Let’s all go super early tomorrow and stuff our cars to the roof. (All nod.)

FCA 1: What if Erma shows up?

Me: We’ll pray for her.

However, the corn’s real Owner reminded me He’d grown those ears for everyone. My partners in corn conspiracy received the same memo.

We shared with Erma.

Sadly, all good things — even Hoosier sweet corn — come to an end. When we visit favorite sources and view “see you next year” signs, our taste buds languish.

Still, the corn we froze will keep us going when fields are covered with snow.

Sigh. We’ll survive until another summer in corn country.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a sweet corn fanatic?

Classic OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer. O my God, Thank You for blessing our garden with squash. We have eaten sautéed squash, squash salad, squash fritters, squash in spaghetti sauce and tacos and desserts. OMG, is squash Your 21st-century version of manna?

This prayer was originally published on August 22, 2016.

In Defense of Muzak

Yes, it’s true. Without bribery, I listen to Muzak®, aka elevator music, aka easy listening.

Writers who discuss music of any kind may as well bungee jump into a volcano. Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry learned this when he dissed singer Neil Diamond. When a flabbergasted Barry received piles of hate mail, his delighted publisher commissioned Barry to write an entire book about music he loathed. And hired an army of lawyers.

No one’s hired even one for me, so I’ll stick to easy listening’s positive aspects — though nobody admits to liking Muzak®. Like scorn for gluten, happy endings and the Pledge of Allegiance, disdain for elevator music has become fashionable.

Critics dismiss it as simple — God protect us from simplicity! — and even happy.

Everyone knows happiness is for lightweights like Jane Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, who flunked Mr. Darcy’s standards: “Miss Bennet he admitted to be pretty, but she smiled too much.”

Contemporary Mr. Darcys believe Muzak® should be banished to avoid annoying unhappy people who want to stay that way.

Still, I don’t rubber-stamp all easy listening songs, Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s hit, “Somethin’ Stupid,” sounded stupid in 1967 and still does. When I am put on hold with “Send in the Clowns,” I can grind my teeth with any Muzak® hater.

Still, is it fair to label all elevator music as unworthy of elevators? Many arrangements, instrumentalists, and vocalists are superior to the originals.

While you writhe in shock, allow me to mention other Muzak® positives:

  • It sounds better than “Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line for the next decade or until you die, whichever comes first.”
  • Elevator music evokes naps, which benefit all humankind.
  • It employs hungry musicians, so they’re less likely to play under our windows on Saturday nights.
  • It provides opportunities to sing along in stores, mortifying children and grandchildren.
  • Actually, elevator music brings generations together. Oldie lovers feel smug because they know what “real” music is. Critics of yesterday’s hits flaunt trendy musical taste. Everyone feels superior — truly a win-win situation.
  • Easy listening music also transports one to the past e.g., dancing at the prom. Sure, Muzak® also may provoke memories of a date painful as shin splints, or a breakup that resembled a Sylvester Stallone film. Given enough violins, though, such misery can be transmogrified into sweet melancholy at the remembrance of young love. At worst, you can congratulate yourself that you dodged that bullet.
  • Finally, Muzak®, in provoking memories, proves I still have one.

I imagine Dave Barry, my fellow bungee-volcano jumper, would agree this discussion is worth it.

“Sweet Caroline,” anyone?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you secretly like Muzak®?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: I’ve Missed You, You Turkey

O Lord, once upon a time, we were Bossy Big Sister and Ornery Baby Brother. You know perfectly well that hasn’t changed completely. But now, reunited after several years, OMG, thank You we can share a big hug.

Classic Post: Lilies of the Field

This post first appeared on July 11, 2018.

Near our yard’s edges, orange lilies accentuate the breathtaking beauty of street signs: speed limit, street name, even dead end.

Surely no one deliberately planted flowers of such pathetic pedigree. These gangly commoners share none of the refinement of day lilies, their aristocratic cousins.     

Whoever nurtured mine did not stop with signs. She/he invited them to surround the patio, where an army of orange sentinels stand at attention. Neither horizontal rain, windstorm, nor hail beat them down. Nothing short of a nuclear blast prevents their annual return.

I know this because their anonymous planter also nurtured them around our mailbox — until my husband, replacing it, obliterated the lily bulbs.

Undaunted, the invaders returned, only to be mowed down again and again. And again.

Stubborn? Worse than a gang of telemarketers.

Why, then, did I transfer orange lily shoots to a spot near our front door?

Um … maybe the gardener who introduced the lilies wasn’t so dumb. Perhaps, like me, she/he was desperate. I had nicknamed that flower bed the “Sahara.”

Morning glories, petunias, zinnias, marigolds — none of my usual stalwarts had survived it. Would I have to comb the Internet for Martian cacti?

Instead, I planted lily shoots. Three days later, they had not shriveled.

Gasp! What had I done?

Yet, I could not yank them. I just … kind of forgot to water them.

Finally, the hopeful sprigs disintegrated into yellow July dust. I could forget my embarrassing temporary insanity.

Until the following March. Tiny, green leaves stuck out, na-na-na-boo-boo tongues that grew into spindly plants.

How could I pull them? They have flourished unpampered.

I rarely talk to the lilies. Other plants do not socialize with them. We all fear they will take over the yard — maybe the world.

Though I wouldn’t mind if they conquered the crabgrass.

Vases chock full of lilies do brighten my mantels. My dining room table. My piano. …

All right, so my deep, dark secret is out.

I have plebian tastes. I like orange lilies.

These flowers scorn Better Homes and Gardens ratings. They grow in vacant lots, parking lots, behind Big Lots. Their determination to cover their world with beauty knows no limits.

I must have passed down my plebian tastes to a daughter. Scorning roses for her senior picture, she held a cluster of orange lilies.

Funny, her people bouquets consist of the unsung, too. She gathers needy children, cherishing beauty bypassed by others. Maybe the wealth of orange lilies edging her fence inspire her days.

As mine should.

Anyone blessed with orange-lilyfied street signs — even a dead-end one — is bound to see her world in a beautiful way.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What “plebian” flowers do you like?

Lost and Found Superhero

If I were to design a superhero, I wouldn’t create a Man of Steel or Woman in spandex. No power bracelets or magic rings. My superhero wouldn’t need a gas-guzzling super-car that always breaks the speed limit but never is issued even a warning.

Instead, I’d invent a superhero who finds things.

No computers or radar allowed. I want a superhero with an inborn, omniscient talent for zipping up black holes before they suck in all left socks, kids’ Spam Museum permission slips, and pens that write.

My superhero need not leap tall buildings in a single bound. I just want her to find fat-free mayo on sale. Minty breath mints. And Seductive Salmon.

Not an amorous fish. I want the lipstick. The moment I deem one my favorite, cosmetic gurus shriek, “Rachael Phillips likes it! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” My marketing kiss of death sends Seductive Salmon posthaste to a black hole.

Where our keys also reside. They disappear, especially when I was due somewhere 20 minutes ago. I find the keys to our first apartment and those to old cars we maintained when our children still (theoretically) lived at home. But current car keys? They vanished upon our signing the purchase agreement. I eventually find them — often in the freezer, beside my frosted-over cell phone. Still, both continually play truant.

As do gas stations. When driving to catch a predawn flight, I inevitably discover my gas gauge points below E. At this signal, all stations at all freeway exits disguise themselves as bait shops.

Please do not tell me to trust a GPS. Once, when I traveled with writers so hungry we gnawed our books, one of those cruel, lady-voiced demons sent us to five different boarded-up restaurants.

I might consider a super-GPS that could locate tax receipts. Correction: the right tax receipts. I readily unearth one that records I ate a Belly Burger in Yazoo City, Mississippi, in 1999. But has anyone seen my 2020 W-2?

I also should program my superhero to lose things for me.

For example, my champion would swallow hated lyrics and toxic tunes that imprint themselves on my mental hard drive.

However, my superhero wouldn’t swallow pizza, strawberry-rhubarb pie, or moose tracks sundaes. That’s my job. Hers: banish the calories.

She’d deliver me from public restroom stalls with empty toilet paper spools and broken locks. My superhero would absorb the fines for library books I checked out during the first Bush administration. She’d scare away dandelions and crabgrass.

Oh, Lost and Found Superhero, please be real! I’ll give you a big, gas-guzzling superhero car.

But you will have to find the keys.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you need a Lost and Found Superhero?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: 60 Years? Seriously?

Lord, how can a person get lost in her hometown? Yet You helped me find and feast on lasagna with these friends with whom I once read Dick and Jane books. Played jacks and hopscotch at recess. Graduated from high school. OMG, what a fun evening You gave us — together again!    

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: How Many Squash Recipes Did Adam and Eve Have?

O Lord, Thank You for our garden’s superior squash production — I think. Anticipating dead-in-the-night porch gifts to unsuspecting friends and neighbors, I wonder how Adam and Eve coped with Eden’s abundance. OMG, maybe in that perfect garden, squash grew and ripened one at a time?

And this is only one plant. …