All posts by dscales24

I am a wife, mother, and grandmother who enjoys sharing life experiences through writing short, lighthearted articles. These are intended to entertain, inspire, motivate, and inform my readers. I hope to receive responses in which readers tell me if they relate to the articles and share with me ideas that my writings generated in them.

A CAUTIONARY TALE

My friend Roger told a story that caused all his listeners to sit up and listen. I have never forgotten it.

One fall day Roger drove through a neighborhood with lots of trees. Leaves fell steadily from the branches and colored people’s lawns with splashes of orange, red and gold.

Many homeowners had raked or blown their leaves to the edge of the street. Specially designed trucks made regular trips through neighborhoods and sucked up the leaves.

In front of one house Roger noted a long row of piled leaves. He considered driving through them and enjoying the swirling mass of color rising behind his car. But at the last minute, he decided against it.

He glanced in his rear view mirror after passing those leaves. As he looked, he saw two small children pop up, hands raised, scattering the crunchy leaves.

The sight made Roger sick. How close he had come to destroying the lives of two little children.

I tell this story every fall. Resist the urge  to drive through piles of leaves.

Remind people you know to do the same.

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MESSY: A PHOTO ESSAY

Last Sunday our daughter-in-law Jenny reached into my kitchen cabinet to get a sippy cup.

When she opened the cabinet doors, she was surprised to see this.

“Where are the sippy cups?” she asked.

“I reorganized my kitchen this week,” I said. “I was tired of looking at messy cabinets.”

Reorganizing is a fancy word that means moving a mess from one place to another. This is the sippy cups’ new home.

I am generally against messes, but sometimes messy is best.

How many times have you regretted cleaning a cluttered drawer? When it was messy, you could dig through it and find your hole puncher. After you clean it, who knows where the hole puncher is?

Ahhh, tidiness. But where did I put my hole puncher?

The messiest room in your house may also be the one that makes you happiest.

They say a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, and an empty desk is a sign of an empty mind.

If you don’t want to be called empty-headed, follow my example and embrace a cluttered workspace.

We all know you must make a mess before you can clean. I pulled this picture from my own files.

Messy, yes, but a sure sign of orderliness to come.

Messiness can be in the eye of the beholder. Picasso’s famous painting, Three Musicians, looks like a mess to me, but what do I know about art?

The best desserts are messy.

A kiss from a grandchild may be messy, but I never turn one down.

This ends my photo essay on messes.

But know this. I not only create and clean up messes. I AM a mess. That is why I need a Messiah!

 

FALL’S PLEASURES

Pumpkins and scarecrows

Corn stalks and hay

Leaves on the ground

‘Til winds sweep them away.

 

Cider and sunflowers

Jackets with hoods

Campfires and asters

Colorful woods.

 

Crispy cool mornings

Frost on the ground

Playgrounds abandoned

Squirrels abound.

 

Migrating birds and

Football to play

Your breath in the air

A harvest array.

 

Pools are all covered

Grills put away

The air is now filled with

A wood smoke bouquet.

 

Reruns on TV

Quilts on our beds

Knee socks and mittens

Scarves around heads.

 

Apples, persimmons

Thanksgiving buffet

Sunset comes sooner

To shorten the day.

 

Late fall brings frostbite

Hayrides and s’mores

Get out the board games

We’re staying indoors.

 

Winter looms large now

With cold winds and snow

So savor fall’s pleasures

Before they all go.

BOSSY

In honor of National Boss’s Day, I wrote this piece about bad bosses I have had.

Every time I worked under the leadership of a less-than-good boss, I learned.

One of my worst bosses was mentally ill. This man had suffered the loss of a child and subsequently, the breakup of his marriage. He was so emotionally debilitated he could barely get dressed and come to work.

I was young, and this man showed me inappropriate affection. He bought me expensive perfume, wrote songs about me, and wanted me to run away with him. I believed he was stalking me.

I was afraid of him, and as soon as I could, I transferred to a new department.

What I Learned: Bosses bring their personal problems to work. Some problems rise to the level of extreme.

Another supervisor, imbalanced and incompetent, destroyed what had been a successful enterprise. He was arrogant and ignorant but demanded that workers do things his way. Because of this, most of his employees left positions they had once loved. He was eventually fired, but only after I had left and found a new job.

What I Learned: Arrogant, ignorant people sometimes hold leadership positions.

One boss was a foul-mouthed woman who chain-smoked. Our desks butted up against each other and she blew cigarette smoke into my face all day.

What I Learned: All bosses have annoying habits. (And yes, in the 1970s, many office workers smoked. The rest of us suffered.)

Another boss was a Christian, a man with good intentions. But he was unqualified for the position he held.

What I Learned: Even the nicest people, when placed into positions for which they are not qualified, make bad bosses.

Other bosses were weak. They provided no oversight and gave no guidance. They just wanted their underlings to play nicely together in the sandbox.

What I Learned: When a leader doesn’t lead, someone else will. That someone is often a bully.

I cannot tell you when it is time to leave a job because you have a bad boss. Many other factors influence that decision.

I will tell you I have made these determinations:

  • I will never again work for someone I am afraid of.
  • I will trust my instincts. If I think my boss is a slime ball, or incompetent, or spineless, he/she probably is. I will do the best work I can in that environment or I will find a new job.
  • I will not blame myself for my boss’s lack of success. I won’t try to “rescue” a bad boss by hiding her shortcomings and doing her work myself.
  • If my boss has a habit that is extreme enough to affect my job performance, I will try to negotiate a change.

When I complained about the cigarette smoke my boss was blowing into my face, she smiled and said, “Honey, I know you hate this cigarette smoke, but people will always smoke at work. That will never change. You’ll just have to get used to it.”

Not all my bosses were lousy. One or two became lifelong friends.

I hope your boss is stellar and that you, as an employee, had a happy Boss’s Day.

SIXTEEN GRAHAM CRACKERS

In public, people often mask their emotions. They smile and say they are fine. They chat and then walk away.

Heather, Ellen and Tom do this.

And they always look to be the same. Steady ships sailing on the river of life.

 

The Heather I see at the grocery store is not the real Heather.

The real Heather’s boyfriend is becoming abusive. He hasn’t hit her yet, but he has jerked her arm so hard it hurt and shoved away from his car.

Heather fears she may be pregnant again. She can’t have this baby.

I would be a lousy mother, she thinks.

Heather cries and says, “I swore my first abortion would be my last one, but what else can I do?”

The Ellen I smile at during church is not the real Ellen.

The real Ellen is a cancer survivor. She lives every day fearing the disease will return.

Ellen’s husband has checked out. He comes home from work, eats dinner, and then falls asleep in his recliner watching reruns of NCIS.

The two of them exchange only four or five sentences a day.

Ellen cries and vows, “One day I’ll get the courage to leave him. I’ll find a man who understands my fear.”

The Tom I view standing on the sidewalk is not the real Tom.

The real Tom is seeing his psychiatrist later today to ask her to change his medications. He takes antidepressant and antianxiety pills, but they aren’t working.

Every morning, Tom’s first thought is to kill himself.

His job stinks and his wife has moved out. He lives in squalor. Trash litters the floors and furniture. The grass in his yard is eight inches tall but cutting the grass requires energy he does not have.

Tom cries and says, “Tomorrow I will clean the house and mow the grass. I’ll look for a better job. I’ll call my wife and ask her to meet me to talk.”

But when he wakes up the next morning, his first temptation is to kill himself.

Few people see the real Debbie. Everyone else sees my mask.

These few people know the intensity of my struggle with OCD.

An unstoppable, continuous loop of repetitive thoughts plays and replays inside my mind.

These thoughts push me to perform, organize, and count.

This morning, obeying my OCD urgings, I set out to wash both sides of every door inside the house.

My bed sat unmade and two piles of dirty clothes lay on the bathroom floor. My kitchen needed attention.

I cry and tell myself, “Only a stupid person washes doors when her housework and laundry are out of control. I am stupid.”

This sad thought drives me to the kitchen where I finish the last of the graham crackers.

My sister calls.

“How are you?” she asks.

“Awful,” I say.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“I’m standing in the kitchen eating my 16th graham cracker.”

“Sixteen graham crackers will never be enough,” she says.

She is right.

Food, no matter how much of it I eat, cannot fix what is wrong with me.

 

Food is not the solution to my problem.

An abortion is not the solution to Heather’s problem.

Leaving her husband and finding a new mate is not the solution to Ellen’s problem.

Suicide is not the solution to Tom’s problem.

I am thankful my sister cares about me.

She and other family members and  friends encourage me. They check often to see how I am doing.

I am stronger because they care.

I wonder.

Who cares about Heather, Ellen and Tom?

 

 

 

 

YOU’RE WELCOME

Have you ever inserted yourself into a group without an invitation?

At the end of my junior year in college, I needed a roommate for the next year. My current roommate had decided not to return, and my other friends had roommates.

Two girls I knew casually lived on my dorm floor in a room with three beds.

I asked if I could share their room.

These girls were Pam and Patti Sanders, cousins from Paducah, Kentucky.

If they were unhappy getting a new roommate, they didn’t let me know.

Their welcome was a blessed relief.

Forty-plus years later, I remember their kindness.

Compare Patti and Pam’s welcome to this one.

I accepted a medical transcriptionist position at a hospital. On my first day, I faced an unwelcoming committee of one.

As I settled into my new work area, the transcriptionist sitting nearest me said, “You can call that your chair if you want to, but that will always be Jackie’s chair.”

Jackie, the former chair occupant, had left her position to move to another state.

My new coworker’s comment stung.

Entrances are hard. Walking into a party solo is awkward for single people. A student enters a new school with dread. New hires to a workplace crave acceptance. Visitors to a church fear rejection.

One Sunday our minister interviewed, in front of the congregation, four people who attend church nowhere. He asked them why they stay away from church.

One turnoff, they said, was the cool reception they received when they visited a church.

That motivated me, after the service, to approach a couple sitting in front of me. I introduced myself and asked if they were visitors.

“No,” one of them said. “We have been members for 20 years.”

(We attend a large church.)

They didn’t need a welcome, but our conversation was pleasant and embarrassed no one.

Relaxed partygoers do not intentionally shun uncomfortable guests. They eat, drink and mix with friends and assume everyone else is doing the same.

Students established in a school do not intend to avoid new students. They are focused on passing calculus or having a date to the prom.

The unwelcoming woman at my new job didn’t make the chair remark because she wanted to hurt me. She spoke out of her sadness over losing her friend.

Church members who fail to interact with visitors are not unkind people. They are busy people. Distractions keep them from showing visitors a warm reception.

Offering welcomes can be costly.

Patti and Pam’s welcome cost them one-third of their living space.

For relaxed partygoers, students, coworkers, and church members, the cost is less tangible.

It may require them to leave their comfort zones, endure mild inconvenience, and risk rejection.

They must take their focus off themselves and place it on someone else.

Those who master this graceful art leave blessed people in their wake.

One partygoer, one student, one coworker, or one church member can make a difference.

Look for opportunities to be that person.

SQUEAKING ALONG

Your home is a complex machine that requires regular oiling for optimum performance.

As a homemaker, I’ve squeaked along for over 40 years.

Like a Farmers Insurance agent, “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”

Allow me to share a bit of my knowledge.

This piece is practical, not fanciful or filled with sentiment. I will not advise you to hug your kids every day and tell your husband every morning you love him. I assume you do those things.

Suggestion 1

When you buy totes for storage, buy transparent ones. You can tell at a glance what is inside those totes.

Yes, you can label nontransparent totes and cardboard boxes. At this moment, millions of such mystery containers sit on closet shelves and garage floors with their labels turned stubbornly toward the wall.

Suggestion 2

Buy gasoline and toilet paper before you need them. You cannot go without these essentials.

Suggestion 3

Decide early in the day what your dinner plans are. Deciding early prevents last-minute panic and gives you time to go to the store or thaw frozen foods.

Don’t subject yourself and your family to uninterrupted nights of fast-food dinners or Stouffers’ frozen ziti.

Suggestion 4

When you and the family go out to eat, decide before you leave the house where you will go. Don’t drive three miles south and realize you crave cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, which requires driving north.

Suggestion 5

Don’t lie to yourself. If you have forever put off doing a task, admit you will not do it.

Then either resolve to live with the grimy windows and dusty bookshelves OR hire someone to do the job.

Choose the second option only if you can afford it. Don’t use the kids’ school lunch money to pay a gutter cleaner.

Suggestion 6

Clean up your own messes but do not presume to clean up messes left by other adults.

A few months ago, I tidied up Dan’s workspace around his computer. I threw away out-of-date tool catalogs, old maps from the late 1990s, and junk mail advertising special offers whose end dates had come and gone.

Dan had wanted to keep these things for reasons he stated but I can’t now remember.

One woman’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Suggestion 7

Always carry cash. Coins and bills are convenient when paying for small purchases such as a cup of frozen custard at Ritter’s or a 50-cent library fine.

Several years ago, my daughter (name withheld) paid for everything with her debit card. She then stuffed dozens of receipts into her wallet. Her wallet no longer zipped and became the size and shape of a boxing glove. Balancing her checkbook was a nightmare.

Carry twenty dollars, more or less.

Suggestion 8

Give yourself permission not to finish everything you start. If at one time you wanted to knit and now have a bathtub-size container filled with yarn, needles and patterns you will never use, get rid of them.

You’re too smart to hang on to useless things.

Suggestion 9

Open your mail while standing beside a trash can or recycling bin. That is where most of the pieces will go, so save yourself some steps.

Suggestion 10

This suggestion is based upon something my wise father-in-law said: Some decisions need to be made only once.

Here are four of my once-and-forever decisions:

  • I will go to church every week.
  • I and everyone else in my vehicle will wear a seatbelt.
  • I will not dogear a page in a book.
  • I will not give unsolicited advice.

Oops.