Category Archives: That’s Life

I’M FIXING TO

I grew up in the South, and as a child I heard words, phrases, idioms, etc. that are not commonly heard in the North, where I now live. One such phrase is fixing to.

I hear the single word fixing here in Indiana, but seldom do I hear the phrase fixing to.

For example, in the North people fix flat tires, fix dinner, and fix their hair, just as people do in the South. Northerners also speak of fixed rates and fixed incomes. Rarely, however, is anyone or anything in the North fixing to do anything.

The phrase fixing to is essentially the same as the phrase about to, but with a slightly stronger meaning. Fixing to as we used it when I was growing up in Arkansas carried a sense of immediacy that about to didn’t quite capture.

The phrase about to worked fine in some sentences. For example, a Southern woman might have said, “Guess what! I’m about to become a grandmother!”

A few moths later though, that same woman might be heard to say, “I’m fixing to tell my daughter to put a cap on that baby’s head!”

Down South, we routinely heard sentences like these.

“It’s fixing to rain.”

“School is fixing to start.”

“I’m fixing to spank your bottom.”

I don’t know what we would have done without that useful phrase. For example, if Mom asked me if I had done my homework, I often responded, “No, but I’m fixing to.” Enough said.

Dad often told us kids to clear all of our stuff out of the yard because he was fixing to mow. Dad didn’t need to add the words “right now” to his instructions because we knew if he was fixing to mow the yard, he didn’t mean later today.

On Sunday morning we kids were encouraged to get a move on because “It’s a quarter to ten and we’re fixing to be late for church!” We complied because we knew anyone walking into church late was fixing to get the evil eye from the on-time arrivers.

Most of us grew up using terms that other people are not familiar with. For example, some people (not I) say, “I carried my grandpa to the grocery store.” Of course they mean they drove him there. Other people refer to shopping carts as buggies and to bottles of pop as bottles of soda. (How can some people be so wrong?)

And depending upon where you grew up, those Sunday get-togethers when church members take food and share it after the worship service are either potlucks, pitch-ins, basket dinners, or covered-dish meals.

I try to be tolerant and sensitive with word anomalies used by people who grew up differently from me, but it isn’t always easy.

A few years ago I taught the Cradle Roll class with a woman who grew up farther south of the Mason-Dixon Line than I did. One Sunday she and I were using a flip chart and leading our baby students in singing the song, If I Plant a Button, Will It Grow?

When we came to the end of the song, I sang: “A button’s not a living thing so it won’t grow. God didn’t plan for buttons to grow.”

My friend sang: “A button’s not a living thing so it won’t grow. God didn’t aim for buttons to grow.” Same theology expressed in different words.

But her “aim for” struck me as so funny I had to turn and look away because I knew I was fixing to laugh.

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WHY I DISLIKE SOCIAL MEDIA

I am not a fan of social media.

First of all, I dislike social media because it was not designed for people my age. We resist buying things that cause us to pull out our hair and run screaming for help from our kids.

Please understand that I am not opposed to all electronic devices. After resisting, I finally learned to use three remote controls to operate our TV. I have made peace with using a “virtual teller” at the bank. I have even become a little less impatient when listening to a recorded list of menu options before talking to a real person on the phone.

But becoming accustomed to electronics wasn’t easy.

I know it was easy for you in the under-50 age group. That is because you are “native” electronics users. You cut your teeth on an iPod. I, on the other hand, am an “immigrant” to this land of electronics. I don’t know the landscape and have not learned the language. I am not sure I want to live here permanently, as if I have a choice.

I do not like social media because I rarely see anyone’s face anymore. What I see are the outer edges of a face that appear around the phone in front of it. This is particularly disturbing when the person is driving a car or leading a toddler across a busy street.

I don’t like social media because it gives people an opportunity to rant, criticize, campaign, promote products, forward other’s people’s opinions, brag, and inform anyone who is interested that they are going to Starbucks for a pumpkin cinnamon latte. Can anyone say TMI?

I do not like social media because in some cases, the use of it ruins lives. People fall victim to scams and unwittingly expose their children to sexual predators. Marriages are ruined when one partner connects with an old love interest and rekindles a one-time romance.

I do not like social media because it provides yet one more way for people to know specific details about me without actually knowing me. Via Facebook you may learn I am a fan of the Dateline series and enjoy scrapbooking, but those facts reveal little of who I am.

Truly knowing me requires personal interaction, eye contact, body language, and sincere back-and-forth conversation. Most of all, it requires time spent with me.

Some people think because I resist using social media, I am not engaged with the world around me. They assume I don’t care about current issues; I don’t want to stay in contact with friends and family; and I am, in fact, ignorant and antisocial.

I suspect I have lost friends because I failed to accept their friend requests.

But true friends should know I was not rejecting them. I was rejecting the social medium they were using. I reject that medium for the reasons I have already listed.

If you are my friend, it is not because you requested, via an electronic device, to be friended by me. It is because I know you well and I care about you. I look forward to seeing you and receiving your hugs, which social media will never be able to provide.

Don’t even try to tell me that { } is the equivalent of a real hug. If you do, I may give you a virtual punch in the nose.

HUH?

My husband and I have reached that unenviable age when the sense of hearing diminishes. Rarely does either of us get to say anything only once. The most often heard questions in our house are: “What did you say?”, “What’s that again?”, and “Don’t you know I can’t hear you when I’m in the bedroom and you’re in the kitchen?”

Because Dan and I were having trouble hearing/understanding each other, I had my hearing checked. After the test the audiologist told me my hearing fell within normal limits, but there was one particular tone I could not hear in either ear.

I explained this test result to Dan and speculated that maybe that singular tone is the tone into which his voice naturally falls. That could explain why I fail to hear him.

So now, in addition to calling out to Dan, “What did you say?” and “Speak up!” I can also legitimately yell, “And don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!”

I love it.

Hearing well is important. In fact failing to hear or mishearing can be dangerous and lead to comical or unfortunate results. “The mare will be shod at noon,” can be heard as “The mayor will be shot at noon.”

I am reading a novel in which the main character, a musician, got a chance to play his guitar with a well-known musical artist at an outdoor concert. It was evening, and the sky played with the sunbeams, creating many beautiful colors.

At some point while he was playing, the amateur guitarist heard his idol artist say, “Man! This guy’s great!”

He savored that compliment for years.

Eventually though, he realized that what the renowned musician had actually said was not, “Man! This guy’s great!” He had said, “Man! This sky’s great!”

I am a word nerd and enjoy, in a sick sort of way, hearing mispronounced and misused words and phrases. Very often I hear, “For all intensive purposes.” The actual phrase is “For all intents and purposes.” Though some people say, “Nip it in the butt,” the actual phrase is “Nip it in the bud.”

Hymnal lyrics are often misheard. Low in the Grave He Lay becomes “Low in the Gravy Lay.” Gladly the Cross I’d Bear is heard as “Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear.” And from Victory in Jesus, instead of He Sought Me and Bought Me, some hear, “He socked me and boxed me.” (All right, I stole that last one from Google.)

As I have already indicated, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to the written and spoken English language. I once bought a Sara Lee cheesecake and read on the box Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee. I had heard that jingle a thousand times when I had perfect hearing, and I knew the correct words were Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee.

I called the company’s 800 number to set them straight. The woman on the phone listened to me patiently and then told me, “Our slogan is Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee.”

“What?” I asked. “But that can’t be right!  Nobody Doesn’t is a double negative!”

“We know,” she said, “but it works for us.”

I hate it when wrong is right.

 

 

 

 

 

FROM DUST TO DUST

One of the main reasons I hate housework is I am never finished with it. If I empty the clothes hampers, wash, dry, fold, hang up, or otherwise put away every item, I am at the same time wearing clothes and thus creating more laundry. The dishes I washed this morning will need to be washed again this evening. Floors swept today will need to be swept again tomorrow.

Dusting is the worst. In fact, dusting is the ultimate effort in futility. Even if all the dust in a house could be magically sucked out, within less than a minute more dust would appear to take its place.

Dan never mentions the dust in our house, so it apparently doesn’t bother him. The grandkids don’t give a hoot about it. In fact, they enjoy writing their names in it. We have few guests, and those who do visit don’t appear interested in dust. So I am the only one who is bothered by it.

Following this line of reasoning, I sometimes think I should stop fighting an unwinnable war. So I wave a dusty white flag in the air, declare dust the winner, and vow never to dust again.

But, the resolve never to dust again usually lasts about one day. The next day I declare outright war on it. I pull out the big guns: two vacuums, various brooms, dust mops, dust rags, window cleaner, furniture polish, long-handled spider web destroyers, Febreze, and every Swiffer product on the market.

I start and finish in the master bedroom. I don’t mean I start in that room and move through the whole house until I reach that bedroom again. I mean I start in that room and never move to another one.

I take everything off tabletops and dressers, take down the curtains, strip the bed, remove all wall hangings, pull every loose item out of the closet, disassemble lamps, pull heavy furniture away from the walls, collect all dried and silk flowers for dusting, and open the windows and remove the screens for cleaning.

By the time I get everything ready to be dusted, I’m too tired to lift a dust rag.

Frustration overwhelms me. If I resisted dusting a tidy room, what made me think I would want to dust one that was in complete disarray and barely navigable?

I sweep the books, lamps, flower arrangements, wall hangings, and window screens off the bed onto the floor. I lie down on the bare mattress and cover myself with a window curtain.

Dan usually comes home to find me there curled up in the fetal position. It doesn’t take him long to figure out what happened.

He gently awakens me, gets me to a sitting position, and asks, “You decided to dust again?”

I nod.

“It’s okay,” he says, “We’ll go get something to eat, just as soon as I return the ladders, the air compressor, the tool chest, and the appliance dolly to the garage.”

I drag myself off the bed and say, “But we can’t possibly sleep in here tonight.”

“That’s all right,” he says. “We can sleep in the spare bedroom.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “It’s awfully dusty in there.”

Household Hints

Just before Dan and I married in 1973, my college roommates gave me a copy of the book, Heloise’s Housekeeping Hints (Pocket Books, 1972). This paperback reference manual is filled with ideas for making one’s home function more smoothly.

Many of Heloise’s suggestions begin with the words how to: how to remove stains from clothes, how to organize your kitchen cabinets, how to make windows sparkle.

When I was a young bride, I consulted this book fairly often. Now I hold on to it only for sentimental reasons. The cover is faded and creased, and every time I open the book, pages fall out.

I read some of those dried and discolored pages today and found a few suggestions that made me laugh out loud. I will share them with you.

WAX YOUR PETTICOATS (page 91)

I have found the answer to the nylon and cotton petticoats that go limp after washing. Since they have to be ironed anyway, I place waxed paper over the petticoat and press. The wax from the paper transfers to the garment and it looks new again. This is especially good in damp weather when everything goes limp.

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TRIM YOUR LIPSTICK, GIRLS (pages 119-120)

If you use a razor blade to slice off the end of your lipstick tube diagonally, it will give you a very sharp outline when applied. It seems to fill out those minute wrinkles and cracks around your lips. Put the discarded lipstick ends in a small jar and use them with your lipstick brush.

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QUICK TRICKS (page 124)

When hanging nylons or leotards outdoors to dry, slip a teaspoon into each toe. This prevents the hose from wrapping around the clothesline and getting snagged.

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I am no Heloise, but in my 44 years of homemaking, I have discovered some excellent tips that I will now share with you.

VINYL GLOVES

Buy and keep in your kitchen a box of disposable, vinyl gloves. I use these gloves whenever I handle raw meat. I am especially glad to have them at Thanksgiving when I am forced to get up close and personal with a tom turkey. I also wear them when I cut up pickles and other smelly foods in order to keep their odors off my hands.

I wear them when I mix meatloaf with my hands and whenever I handle food coloring, such as at Easter when I dye eggs with my grandkids. As an additional bonus, these gloves can be turned into balloons for the grandkids to decorate.

FROZEN CHOPPED ONIONS

Buy and keep in your freezer several bags of frozen chopped or diced onions. I hate chopping onions and have often rejected recipes that directed me to do that. Now I simply take a bag out of the freezer, use as many of the onions as I need, and return the bag to the freezer.

My husband has been heard to say on multiple occasions, “There’s not a thing in this house to eat for lunch but thank goodness we have five bags of onions in the freezer!”

 

DECORATIVE BOXES

Prepare and stash in several rooms of your house small, decorative boxes containing household items that you reach for daily. These include paper clips, scissors, Scotch tape, sticky notes, a nail file and clippers, a small stapler, a reliable ink pen, a sharp pencil with a good eraser, and a highlighter. Throw in a few Hershey Kisses if you are so inclined.

Now I have those things at hand wherever I am in the house. Before I did this, I often had to get up out of a chair or out of bed to retrieve an item kept in only one room of the house. I have these boxes in my living room near my recliner, in my kitchen, and on two bedside tables.

 

Of course we all want to wear clean clothes and have a tidy house, but those things are not of highest importance. What is much more important is maintaining loving relationships with the people who share your house with you.

 

Dan and me, housemates since 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping It Together

The arguments my husband and I have usually begin with something trivial. One of us figuratively steps on the other’s toes. The offended one complains and the offender goes into defense mode. Before we know it, we are airing grievances going back 15 or 20 years. We resolve nothing but simply decide to move on.

I wish neither one of us would step on the other’s toes. I wish when one of us does step on the other’s toes, the offender would apologize, the offended one would graciously accept that apology, and life would move on.

That has not been our history.

I have a friend who has been married to the same man longer than I have been married to Dan. She told me, “My husband and I never fight. We had one argument shortly after we married. The argument was over which one of us had left the donut box open. We realized later how silly that spat was and vowed never to have another one, and we never have.”

Good for them.

Surely no couple has ever divorced because of one single argument over an open donut box. But I suspect that many, many couples have divorced after having multiple arguments of the “donut box” variety every day for several years.

I know couples like this. They appear to agree on nothing, argue over every trivial matter and then sulk and go for days without speaking to each other. These couples either eventually divorce or decide to remain in an unhappy  marriage.

I don’t want either of those eventualities to occur in my marriage or in yours.

If your spouse is unfaithful, a habitual liar, an abuser, or a wanted felon, I have no advice for you.

I will, however, share with you some basic rules that Dan and I have established in order to ward off silly arguments.

  1. No spouse is allowed to leave one small 5 x 5-inch sheet of toilet paper on a roll and claim, when asked why he/she didn’t replace the roll, “There was paper on the roll when I left the bathroom.”
  2. Similarly, no spouse is allowed to leave a tablespoon of milk in the jug in the refrigerator and claim, “I left some milk for you.”
  3. No spouse is to pretend she/he didn’t clean up the big blue glob of toothpaste left on the white bathroom sink, claiming, “I didn’t see it.”
  4. No spouse is allowed to drive home and park in the driveway a vehicle whose gas level indicator is in the red zone.
  5. The spouse who does not return the TV remote controls to their designated place on the round table beside the recliner will be hanged by the neck until dead.
  6. Any spouse who washes a load of clothes is required to dry, hang up, fold, and put away those same clothes. (This admonition is aimed at the spouse who says, “I thought I would help you with the laundry by starting a load of clothes.”)
  7. The spouse who wants to cut open an old metal can is not allowed to do so using the nice Fiskars scissors from the sewing basket. In a related vein, no spouse is permitted to borrow a wrench from the garage in order to remove a stuck-on lid on a bottle of nail polish and leave the wrench inside the bathroom linen closet.
  8. It is considered courteous to announce when you are eating the last Oreo, “I am eating the last Oreo.”
  9. A spouse sitting on the living room couch is not allowed to criticize the other spouse who is productively working. I remember as a child watching my mother work to get Sunday dinner on the table. Whenever she turned on the mixer, my dad shouted from the living room, “Turn off that mixer! It’s messing up the TV and I’m missing the game!”
  10. No spouse is allowed to sit idly by and watch the other spouse carry in armloads of groceries from the car.
  11. If one spouse says, “When you are reading in bed while I am still up, please do not use my pillow to prop up your head. It makes my pillow hot and I like to sleep on a cool pillow,” the other spouse should comply, regardless of how silly he/she believes the request to be.

My Purse Is Cursed

During our minister’s sermon last Sunday morning, I felt the need for a breath mint. I take a medication that makes my mouth as dry as cotton, so I carry with me wintergreen flavored mints.

I quietly opened my purse in order to withdraw my little round box of mints, but it wasn’t there. I looked in both large compartments of my purse, and inside the small zippered section, twice. The mints simply were not there, so I did without.

When we got home from church, I opened my purse for some reason or another, and there, in plain view, was my box of wintergreen breath mints.

On Monday I bought each of our four grandchildren a pair of pajamas. When I paid for them, I asked the clerk to give me gift receipts, which she did. I dropped the receipts into my purse.

That evening when I gave the kids their pj’s, I looked inside my purse for those gift receipts. They were not there. I withdrew grocery lists, cash register receipts, gum wrappers, tissues, and various other papers from my purse, but the gift receipts simply were not there.

Before I went to bed that night, I opened my purse for some reason or another, and there, as clear as day, were the gift receipts for the four pairs of pajamas.

I wanted to scream!

Recently I went to lunch at Panera Bread with two friends. As we sipped our soup and munched on Italian bread, another customer stood and addressed the entire dining room.

“Excuse me,” she said, “but I’ve lost my keys. I know I brought them in here with me, but now I can’t find them anywhere. There are about eight keys on the key ring, and a heart-shaped charm hangs on it. Will you please look around you for a set of keys?”

Forty or so diners rose from their chairs, dropped to their knees, and crawled under their tables to search for the keys. They were not to be found.

I sympathized with the woman. I have some experience with lost items.

I left Panera Bread and drove home.

Later that day I opened my purse for some reason or another. There I saw two sets of keys, my own familiar set and an unfamiliar set attached to a heart-shaped charm.

As the puzzle pieces fell into place mentally, my stomach sank.

I am not believing this, I thought.

Through a gym membership card attached to the key chain, I was able to locate the owner of the keys. I called her and apologized my head off.

Apparently, she and I had paid for our purchases at the same time. She had laid her keys on the counter and I picked them up, thinking they were mine.

I returned the keys to their owner, along with a Panera Bread gift card as an added apology.

What is it with me and my purse? Are my planets misaligned? Am I suffering bad luck from walking under too many ladders and seeing too many black cats? Is Satan so intent on harassing me that he takes my breath mints out of my purse and replaces them with keys?

Earlier today I went to my purse to get my good pen, the one I paid $12 for. I wanted to use it to sign a birthday card for my aunt. Again, I searched every compartment but couldn’t find the pen that is always, always in my purse.

But I am not panicking. Sometime later today I will once again open my purse for some reason or another and there, standing upright and waving its tiny little pen arms, will be my good pen.

I am going to hate reciting this story to a police officer when he asks me to show him my driver’s license.

 

“You see, it’s like this, officer . . .”