Category Archives: That’s Life

CALL THE MAN!

My husband is a do-it-yourself person. Few home-related projects exist that he will not tackle.

We moved nine years ago from a house we lived in for over 30 years. Both our children were born and grew up while we lived there. Leaving behind thousands of good memories was hard.

Dan pulled and/or dug up dozens of overgrown shrubs and bushes on that property. He then planted, pruned, fertilized and otherwise cared for new ones. He put a new roof on the house.

He replaced a water heater and well pump, painted and/or wallpapered every wall inside the house several times, and fixed toilets. He replaced floors and laid carpet and laminate flooring. He hung ceiling lights and fans.

He redesigned closets and built numberless shelves and cabinets. Whenever a thing broke, he fixed it himself.

He replaced a washer, dryer, refrigerator, well pump, and even an old oven that quit working the night before Thanksgiving.

He assembled bikes, skateboards, scooters, and basketball goals. He built trellises and flower boxes and landscaped the entire yard more than once. He unloaded tons of crushed stone. He planted and tended big gardens.

He single-handedly hung drywall on the garage ceiling.

Over the years, we made additions to our property several times: added a family room and a screened-in back porch and built a large two-car-plus size garage. We converted our old garage into a game room.

Dan did 90% of the work himself. (Dan says I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.)

Through trial and error, he became an experienced plumber, electrician, painter, drywall hanger, landscape artist, appliance repairman, carpenter, roofer, screener, and mechanic.

Dan resisted paying experts to do any of the work. When he did, he asked the workers to leave unfinished work he could do himself.

Dan accomplished these projects and dozens more while working as a full-time pharmacist.

We have now lived in our “new” house for nine years. Dan has completed the same tasks on this property.

Yesterday, I drove home to find him working at the back of our yard. Bushes, trees, briars, brambles, weeds, fallen branches, and every other growing thing shrouded him.

He emerged from his trimming, pulling, and chopping tasks, bleeding from many cuts and scrapes. Sweat soaked his shirt.

I studied this now 60-something-year-old man, and once again I marveled at his dogged determination to care for our property.

This man must start paying people to do this work, I thought.

“Dan,” I said to him, “Don’t you know we are on our way out?”

“What do you mean?” he said.

“We are both 65+ years old. God does not guarantee us one more day. We will not see many more years.”

“So?”

“So, it’s time for you to stop pushing your body so hard. No one will be critical of you if you work less.”

“You’ve more than established that you are not lazy. You have met the enemies (weeds, faulty wiring, leaky roofs, outdated home décor, worn out appliances, and cracked drywall) and mastered each one.”

“How am I supposed to defeat those enemies if I don’t do it myself?”

His question thrilled me. It gave me an opportunity to remind him of one of my favorite Andy Griffith episodes, Bargain Day.

Here is a summary.

Aunt Bea bought a side of beef from a discount butcher shop. After she got it home, her freezer stopped working. She was desperate to freeze her meat. Instead of calling a repairman to fix the freezer, she devised every crazy solution to her problem that only Mayberry residents can conceive.

She finally had to confess her folly to Andy, who told her to call the repairman.

Ever frugal, she refused.

With more force, Andy repeated, “Call the man!”

So, to answer Dan’s question about defeating homeowner enemies, I said, “Call someone to do the hard work. Then pay whatever he charges.”

“That’ll cost a fortune!”

“Call the man.”

“It is ridiculous to pay someone to do things I can do myself.”

“Call the man!”

“I’ll wait forever for someone to come.”

“Call the man!!”

“We’ll destroy our retirement savings!”

“Call the man!!!” I said. “Remember we’re on our way out.”

“Ahhh, Deb.”

“CALL THE MAN!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NO, WE ARE NOT!

Dan and I grocery shop together. Each of us carries a shopping list and pushes a cart. We separate as we enter the store and meet again at the registers. It’s a time-efficient way to carry out a task.

Today Dan dropped me off at the store’s entrance because it was raining. He parked the car. Then we walked into the store.

There a young woman spoke to us.

“I knew you two were a couple!” she said. “You’re adorable!”

Now, hear me.

Our 16-month-old granddaughter is adorable.

Kittens and puppies are adorable.

Dan and I are not adorable.

Jessica Tandy is adorable in Driving Miss Daisy, as is Morgan Freeman.

Ed Asner’s character in Up is adorable, though crotchety. Helen Hayes is an icon for adorability.

Dan and I are years away from being adorable. I’ll thank people to recognize that.

Besides, who approaches strangers in a store to make trifling comments? I don’t.

I’m betting this woman never tells two 30-year-olds they are adorable.

Why was she comfortable telling us we were? Did she think we appreciated being reminded we are no longer young or middle-aged?

She saw we did not struggle to stand erectly. Neither of us used a motorized cart. I wasn’t wearing old-lady shoes. Dan had not pulled the waistband of his pants up under his armpits.

We are competent, independent, post middle-age adults. Both of us use smartphones and bank online. We navigate roundabouts, even dress ourselves.

Yet, people expect us, this unadorable couple, to accept sugar-coated, old-people comments with grace.

They wait for our “Why, thank you.” Then they watch us shuffle away, hoping we make it to our parked cars.

This woman should be glad I wasn’t carrying a cane.

After we finished shopping, Dan and I approached the registers to pay for our purchases.

Here another young woman smiled and asked, “Did you find everything you needed, Honey?”

I cringed.

Then, handing me my receipt, she said, “Thank you, Sweetie.” She made a point of lifting my gallon of milk into the cart for me.

Had it not been raining, I might have asked Dan, “Think we can get all this home on our skateboards?”

Business owners should train employees to be courteous but not coddling; professional, not patronizing.

Spare me the special treatment.

It will be worse this winter.

Well-meaning folks offering arms to us as we walk across icy parking lots. Neighbors asking if we need them to run our errands so we can avoid driving on snow-covered roads.

Not to mention those infernal reminders to bundle up, call if you need help, and don’t risk breaking a hip or getting the flu. It can be dangerous “for people your age.”

We are not adorable. We’re too young for such niceties.

God willing, we will one day be adorable.

Don’t rush us.

Unadorable Couple in Alaska July 2018

PRIDE GOES BEFORE DESTRUCTION

Since I am searching for part-time writing/editing work to do at home, I joined several job boards.

One board suggested I take tests to rate my skills. High test scores on an applicant’s Profile impress potential employers.

Sounds reasonable, I thought.

I opted to take the tests.

Tests for writing or editing included Spelling, Word Usage, Punctuation, Grammar, etc.

Cinches.

I began with the Spelling Test. Not only did I score 100%, but I completed the test faster than any other person did.

My confidence increased. I moved on to the Word Usage Test.

This test contained 40 sentences with blanks in them and several word choice options for each blank. The timer gave me 45 seconds to select a word, and that choice was final. I could not review my answers after I finished the test.

My hope of scoring 100% on this test dissolved by the time I completed five sentences. I approached panic by the time I completed ten.

In my defense, these were challenging word selections. No affect/effect, between/among, bring/take, can/may or other easy choices.

One test item required me to select the best word from these options: endless, everlasting, interminable, never-ending, timeless, eternal and unending.

In 45 seconds.

This was synonym nitpicking.

I scored in the 80-something percentile.

So now, beside my 100% rating in Spelling on my Profile, will appear an 80-something percentile rating in Word Usage.

Hoping to hone my writing skills, I bought ProWritingAid, an online editor and personal writing coach.

This program tests the quality of my writing based on these qualities: Style, Grammar, Readability, Overuse of Words, Clichés, Wordiness, Diction, Sentence Lengths and others.

Based upon its evaluation, ProWritingAid gives me an overall score and suggests specific improvements.

The first time I scanned this blog post with ProWritingAid, it assigned me a score of 68/100.

The writer of this post, it said, used too many words, lacked style, and didn’t vary her sentence lengths.

Admitting I am a not-as-good-as-I-thought-I-was writer stings.

Why?

Scoring high on a word usage test and meeting the standards of an electronic editor gain me nothing.

But my performance on them holds the power to make me either ecstatic or miserable.

Is it pride that causes me to aim for perfection?

Do I expect being a good writer to affirm my worth?

I sometimes ponder those unanswerable questions, but mostly I ponder issues like this one.

Should I write “I was sad, or I was melancholy?” Sad is too general, but melancholy is flowery.

I was disappointed?” No, disappointed is weak.

I was unhappy?” No, I was much more than unhappy.

I was crushed?” No, I’m not discussing pretzels.

“I was inconsolable? No, too many letters.

Then my scrutiny leads me to have this conversation:

“Hey, Dan, listen to this. Which sounds better?

“I was sad.”

“I was melancholy.”

“I was disappointed.”

“I was unhappy.”

I was crushed.”

“Or, I was inconsolable.

Dan:   “Don’t they all mean sad?”

Deb:    “Yes, but which one sounds best?”

Dan:   “Well, if you were sad, why don’t you just write ‘I was sad’?”

Deb:    “No! Sad is the worst choice! Anyone can write I was sad.”

Before you assign me to a home for the ridiculously insane, name the meaningless, prideful longing that torments you because you can’t achieve it? Is it:

  • Receiving “exceeds expectations” on your annual review?
  • Aching to be thinner than your girlfriends?
  • Trying to earn more money than your siblings?
  • Striving to outdo other teachers, dancers, or piecrust bakers so you can be best?
  • Having your house guest-ready all the time?

Does failing to meet these goals make you feel sad (melancholy, disappointed, unhappy, crushed, inconsolable)?

My long-term goal for years has been to write and to have an outlet for my writing.

I have achieved those goals.

“Why,” I ask, “am I not content?”

Dan answers, “Deb, you need to learn to just be.”

“Be what?”

“Just be.”

“Okay. Tell me how to just be.”

“I can’t tell you how.”

“Okay. I’ll work on it.”

“You’re missing the point. Don’t work on it. Just be.”

“But I want to just be better than anyone else does!”

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Brush Off

Many nights I delay going to bed because I don’t want to brush my teeth.

I have my pajamas on, the house is locked up, I’m finished reading or watching television or playing Letter Garden on my tablet, and Dan has been snoring for half an hour. But I look around for something else to do so I can put off brushing my teeth.

I’ve never grown out of a childlike hatred of teeth brushing. I am a diligent brusher and flosser. Twice a day, every day. But I don’t like it.

I even bought a new electric toothbrush. It is a Quip brush, and I love it. Well, I love it as much as I can love a toothbrush. It’s kind of like loving a certain kind of scouring pad. I wish I had no need for one, but since I do, this is the one I want.

The minute I turn this toothbrush on, it starts tracking my brushing time. It beeps at 30-second intervals. After the fourth beep, I have brushed for a full two minutes, the brush turns itself off, and I am finished.

My teeth feel cleaner since I’ve been using this brush. The company sends me a new toothbrush head every three months, so I don’t need to remember to buy one. Everything about this brush is good.

Still, when the only thing left for me to do before going to bed is brush my teeth, I dawdle.

Going to bed without brushing is not an option.

Sometimes I persuade myself to brush BEFORE I put on my pajamas, lock the doors, finish watching TV, and tell Dan goodnight. When I follow this plan, going to bed is easy. I press the off button on the remote or the tablet, or close the book, and I’m done.

But when I follow that plan, I delay putting on my pajamas, locking the doors, finishing my TV watching, and telling Dan goodnight because, again, that toothbrushing step stands in my way.

Some nights Dan gets up to go to the bathroom or to get a drink and sees me wearing my pajamas and sitting idly in my recliner at midnight.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“Nothing,” I say.

“Then why don’t you go to bed?” he asks.

“I’m not ready yet,” I say.

He shrugs his shoulders, the same way he does when I tell him all the bills in my wallet must be turned the same way, in ascending value order, with all the Presidents’ heads facing up.

I see commercials claiming that chewing Orbit gum strengthens the teeth, chewing Trident gum helps prevent cavities, and chewing Mentos Pure White Sweet Mint gum whitens the teeth. Maybe I could just pop a threesome of these chewing gums into my mouth twice a day and make toothbrushing redundant.

But, I cringe at the thought of answering my dentist’s question: “Have you been brushing twice a day?” with “No, but I’ve been chewing lots of gum.”

It is getting late. Now that I’ve finished writing this blog post for the week, there really is nothing else for me to do.

I will give up, brush my teeth, and head for bed.

I won’t go to sleep though. I’ll lie awake, looking at the ceiling and dreading the coming of morning when, once again, I must brush my teeth.

THE BEAST

For Christmas, I asked for and received an adult-size, three-wheeled bike. I figured I had passed the age of being able to ride safely on a two-wheeled bike and was sure this oversized tricycle would be a cinch to handle.

I pictured myself pedaling confidently around the neighborhood, waving at the neighbors, my hair ruffling slightly in the wind, and pounds melting off my midsection at a record rate.

But. . .

I no longer believe those people who tell you if you have ever ridden a bike, you’ll always be able to ride one.

I cannot ride this bike. It is heavier, harder to steer, and much wider than a two-wheeled bike.

We live in a neighborhood with paved, flat streets and little traffic. If I can learn to get on, steer, stop, and get off, I should be good to go. I more than likely won’t need to change gears.

For some reason, once I plant myself on that bike seat, I freeze in fear. I am told that though it isn’t impossible to turn the bike over, it won’t tip over easily, and I don’t need to worry that it will.

I was on the bike at least half a dozen times before I pedaled it any distance at all. I was stiff, and terrified of not being able to stop the bike when I needed to.

Dan says I don’t sit straight in the saddle. I hunch my shoulders and lean markedly to the left and that’s why I always run off the driveway on the left side.

He suggested I practice riding in the cul-de-sac, but I wasn’t ready for neighbors to watch me.

Plus, I could imagine someone driving innocently by in a car and suddenly, like a bat out of a cul-de-sac, a big yellow machine maneuvered by a hunched over, left-leaning, crazy woman careens smack into their passenger side door.

I asked my adult daughter Lara to help me with it. She straddled the bike and was all the way down the driveway and headed toward the house next door before I could even ask her if she thought the seat was too high.

She watched me attempt to ride the bike from the center of the garage to the garage entrance.

Then she said, “Get off, Mom. I think you may have some neurological deficits.” (She is an occupational therapist.)

She set me in a chair and tested me by having me mimic some arm and leg movements she demonstrated. I was able to do each exercise easily.

We went back to the bike, I got on it in the driveway, and positioned a foot on each pedal. I sat.

I told the grandkids to go stand on the front porch.

“Go on, Mom,” she said. “You won’t tip over.”

Before I had ridden three feet she said, “Stop, Mom. Why are you hunching your shoulders and leaning to the left? You’re going to ride off the left edge of the driveway.”

I stopped, and she straightened me upright on the bike. She pushed my shoulders into the right position and told me to go.

I pedaled one or two rounds of the wheels. The peony bush on the left side of the driveway trembled.

Lara said, “Stop, Mom. You’re still hunching your shoulders and sitting on the left edge of your seat. And why are you looking down at the front wheel?”

I stopped. She readjusted my posture and lifted my chin, so I looked straight ahead.

“Try again,” she said.

“No,” I said. “I’ve had enough for one day. I’m going inside to take a nerve pill and lie down.”

This getting old business is the pits. I’ll bet I couldn’t even manage to fall off a log backwards.

THE BEAST

WHERE’S THAT AGAIN?

I am thankful for the five senses God gave me: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

I am envious, though, of those lucky people who possess a sixth sense.

I am not referring to ESP, but to a different, equally inexplicable sense some people demonstrate: a sense of direction.

I do not possess that sense.

In fact, I am probably the most directionally challenged person you will ever meet.

I never know exactly where I am in relation to other people, places, or things. I am not even confident of my location when I stand in front of one of those mall signs that read: You are here.

I attribute my lack of navigational skill outdoors to the fact that I grew up in rural Arkansas where every highway eventually became an unpaved road which eventually became a rutted, grassy lane which eventually ended at some creek.

We had no house numbers, no street signs, no traffic lights, and nothing we referred to as an “intersection,” although we did have several places where two roads met up with each other.

When people asked directions to someone’s house, we said something like, “Drive past the cemetery until you see the shot-up, cardboard deer that is used for target practice. Veer left there and drive until you get to the house where all the dogs run out and bark at your car. Then turn right and drive over the cattle grid, The first house you see is the one you want.”

Now that I live in a town, people expect me to find my way around using street signs.

Street signs, as a rule, are not helpful to me. Often the sign is missing when I really need it, or else the sign post has become twisted, making it impossible for me to tell which street is called what. Such signs only confuse me and make me suspect that what I originally thought was correct is probably wrong.

My lack of a sense of direction inside buildings may be even worse. When I leave an exam room at my doctor’s office, I see exit signs  all over the place. But these signs lie. Every exit sign I follow leads me to a new hallway with an exit sign at the end of it. I can exit all day long and never leave the building.

I hate big arenas that have gates, levels, doors, and rows labeled A, B, C,  or 1, 2, 3, etc. Sometimes words like north and south get thrown into the mix, making finding the place I am looking for even harder to locate.

An usher says to me, “Go to Gate C-16 on Level B-4,” as if she thinks those words mean something to me. When she sees my confusion she adds, “Just take elevator 9 on the north side of the building.”

My lack of a sense of direction does not mean I am mentally deficient.

I can work long division problems and convert the remainders to fractions or decimals.

I have won spelling bees.

And I would be a tough competitor in a game of Jeopardy if the categories were Nursery Rhymes, English Grammar, The Bible, Columbo Episodes, The 60s, and Neil Diamond song lyrics.

But unless that Jeopardy contest is held somewhere within sight of my house, someone else will have to drive me there.

I won’t find it on my own.

 

A follower provided some of the visual imagery for this piece.   Thank you, Jane C.!

PECKED TO DEATH

So far today I have spilled a full glass of water on the paper calendar on my kitchen island, washed a Kleenex with a load of dark-colored clothes, and broken a leaf on my African violet, and it isn’t yet noon.

An occasional clogged toilet or chipped windshield can be tolerated. But having to endure a long stretch of such aggravations can cause even the most stalwart person to crack.

According to https://definithing.com, experiencing this steady stream of small, seemingly inconsequential or minor nuisances which build up over a prolonged time and which, eventually, take their toll and exact a heavy price is like being pecked to death by a chicken.

Continuing the chicken analogy and assuming the instigators of such mischief are indeed barnyard fowl, allow me to describe some of their characteristics.

First, their number is legion and their singular goal in life is to frustrate. Often their assaults are launched in secret, which means sometimes I am unaware I have even been pecked.

For example, everyone in the restaurant except me knows I am dragging toilet paper from the sole of one shoe, or everyone at church except me is aware that I entered the sanctuary carrying under my arm, not my Bible, but a giant book of wallpaper samples.

One morning I discovered a leftover lemon pie weeping pitifully on my kitchen cabinet top, when I know I put the pie into the refrigerator the night before. A box of my husband’s favorite cereal mysteriously disappeared from the pantry.

Of course I believe these chicken-launched attacks happen more often to me than to anyone else, but my friends assure me that is not so.

Recently a good friend searched for hours for her missing TV remote control. Finally she found it inside a desk drawer where she never puts anything except her address book.

Other friends have mentioned finding car keys, phones, and garage door openers in places where no sane person would ever put them.

You must admit you have also been a victim of these birds’ antics. Haven’t you noticed that your windshield wipers break only during rainstorms, your flashlight batteries die just as the power goes out, and your missing electric bill turns up on the day after it was due to be paid?

Chickens, I tell you.

Realizing these pesky birds consider nothing off limits, I am now afraid to post this piece on my website. Will it appear riddled with misspelled words and run-on sentences? Will commas have been replaced with exclamation marks? Will my readers shockingly find the word panty in the paragraph where I typed pantry?

Growing up, when my friends and I played tag and one of us wanted temporary immunity (to go to the bathroom, for instance, or more often to set some kid straight on the rules of the game), that child called out, “Tick-a-lock, tick-a-lock all the way around!” This expression was accompanied by a circular motion of the arms and was recognized as the official symbol for “Stop! You can’t tag me!”

If you encounter me one day mumbling nonsense syllables and making circular motions with my arms, don’t overreact. Know that I am merely declaring myself off limits to chicken attacks.

Don’t laugh. Do you have a better idea for stopping the madness?