Category Archives: That’s Life

I’ve Run My Last Red Light

I walk a pretty straight line.

I don’t mean I’m perfect. I am as flawed as the next person.

In fact, I dwell so much on how flawed I am that dwelling on my flaws has become one of my chief flaws.

But, back to my walking a straight line.

If I see a sign that reads, “Keep Off The Grass,” I keep off the grass.

If the speed limit sign reads, “Speed Limit 30,” I drive 30 MPH.

I may be the only person in this state who tries always to drive the posted speed limit.

Most people fudge a bit. I’m not judging. I’m just saying.

My husband Dan has been wearing an orthopedic boot on his right foot because of a sprained ankle tendon.

Therefore, his driving is limited.

For the first time in over 45 years of marriage, I am the chief driver.

And it isn’t easy.

For either of us.

Like you, I have established driving habits:

  • How and when I change lanes
  • Where I park on big department store lots
  • How closely I follow another vehicle
  • The route I take when entering and exiting our neighborhood
  • How I judge whether a yellow light leaves me time to continue

I have the luxury these days of rarely being in a hurry. I don’t have a job or kids to shuttle to events. I am, I guess you could say, a leisurely driver.

The kind of driver non-leisurely drivers hate.

I plan my car trips to make my stops in a prescribed order, trying to avoid making left-hand turns on busy highways.

And I get along just fine.

But now that I’m chauffeuring Dan, I have forgotten how to drive.

That’s because I’m trying to drive the way he drives.

And, I’m trying to drive the way he drives because I am a . . . wait for it.

I am a people-pleaser.

On about our second outing after I began driving, Dan asked, “Why do you take this street out of the neighborhood when you’re planning to turn south onto Sawmill Road?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just do.”

“If you go down one more street, you’ll avoid a stop sign.”

“Oh . . . well,” I said.

Now, at this point, a string of questions starts running through my brain. My thoughts go something like this.

Why does this matter to Dan? And, if it does matter to him, why can’t he just tolerate the way I choose to exit the neighborhood? Why does he have to comment? Why can’t he keep his mouth shut and let me drive?

You may be shocked at the route my thoughts took (not at the route I took exiting the neighborhood) because you think I’m a nice person.

I am a nice person. Most of the time.

Can you make a higher claim? Hmmm?

But, and this won’t surprise you, when Dan is in the car, I now take his route when I leave the neighborhood, intending to turn left onto Sawmill Road.

And why is that?

Because I am a people pleaser.

I also choose my parking spots based upon his recommendations.

I change lanes or don’t change lanes, stop at yellow lights or proceed through yellow lights, cross a double yellow line to go around a mail delivery vehicle or don’t cross a double yellow line to go around a mail delivery vehicle based upon what I think HE thinks I should do.

I try to do every driving-thing the way HE believes every driving-thing should be done.

I might as well wear a bracelet engraved with “WWDD?”

Not only do I do things his way, I—heaven help me—ask his advice as I drive.

“Do you think I should go around this truck?”

“Is this the best place for me to park?”

“Should I have stopped at that yellow light instead of going on through?”

“What would YOU have done?”

And, I hate myself for it.

Hate, hate, hate myself for this people-pleasing approach to life I have chosen.

On the first Sunday I drove us to church, the inevitable happened.

We were running late. That is not the inevitable thing. Well, it sort of is, but it isn’t THE inevitable thing for the telling of this story.

As I said, we were running late. I won’t go into whose fault it was that we ran late. That subject is for another day and another blog.

We were running late. Dan was checking his watch, sighing heavily, squirming in the passenger seat, looking at the speedometer, and showing other signs of discomfort.

We approached a traffic light. The light was at not a major intersection but not a minor intersection either. I would rate it a Class Two intersection. Moderately busy.

The light was yellow. It had been yellow for a prolonged time. No way I could make my way through the intersection before the light turned red.

Muhammad had met the mountain.

Should I break the law and proceed through the intersection, knowing the light would turn red as I was halfway through, or should I stop and wait for the next green light, knowing that would cause Dan more discomfort?

WHAT SHOULD I DO???

I gunned the engine and raced through the yellow/red light.

And then I was mad!

Mad at Dan!

In my mind I vowed, “That is the LAST red light I’m running for you, Mister!”

Now, if I had uttered that vow aloud, Dan would have been shocked.

“What are you talking about?” he would have asked. “I didn’t ask you to run that red light!”

“Yes, you did!” I would have countered. “I wouldn’t have run that light if you hadn’t been in the car! It’s your fault!”

“You’re crazy!” he would have said.

“Oh, yeah?” I would have said. “If I’m crazy, you MADE me crazy. When are you going to be finished wearing that blasted boot?”

I check our mailbox every day as soon as I hear the mail truck go by.

I anticipate receiving a traffic violation notice. Certainly, that traffic light at that intersection had a camera attached. It is probably the ONLY traffic light in the county with a camera snapping away all day every day to catch lawbreakers like me.

Me. A lawbreaker.

I can’t take it.

When that traffic violation notice arrives in our mailbox, I will tell you this.

Dan is the one who is going to traffic court.

He ran that red light.

I don’t run red lights.

I walk a straight line.

SAY IT ISN’T SO!

Lean in closely while I whisper something in your ear.

Please don’t overreact, and don’t SAY anything.

Wait for it.

Here it is.

“I don’t like to travel.”

WHAT?? YOU DON’T LIKE TO TRAVEL?!!!”

Go ahead. Grab your phone and fire up your computer. Broadcast that blasphemous statement, and be sure to credit it to me.

To some people, my saying, “I don’t like to travel” is equivalent to saying:

  • “I’m glad Bambi’s mother got shot.”
  • “I dump my trash in the Ohio River, and I’m proud of it.”
  • “Bring on higher taxes and fewer benefits.”

In her wonderful piece at https://www.huffpost.com/entry/i-dont-want-to-travel, Jenna Woginrich writes:

Somehow getting on a plane and going far away became the highest form of purchasable enlightenment. To experience real life is to experience it somewhere else.

If travel is being recreationally uncomfortable in a controlled environment ― I chose the opposite.

(Jenna lives as a homesteader and hasn’t left her farm for a single night in over five years.)

I’m with Jenna.

Leave me at home. Go. Have fun. Bring back pretty photos and funny stories.

I’ll look. I’ll listen. I’ll be pleasant, but I won’t envy you the trip.

Maybe I will receive less condemnation if I say, “I like being at home.”

At home I take comfort in knowing:

  1. Where my nail clippers are.
  2. Which restaurants I like.
  3. Where I can park.
  4. That I can savor a beautiful garden tomorrow if I skip it today.
  5. That I’m not interfering with other people’s plans if I decide to take a nap.
  6. That I can lay my book down and pick it up from the same place tomorrow.

My husband would travel 26 weeks of the year if he could. And, he could, with some limitations.

But he likes to travel with me. And I like to make him happy.

There, as the British say, is the rub.

The rub can chafe. The chafe can fester into a wound. The wound can become infected and kill the relationship.

Neither of us wants that.

So, sometimes I travel with him.

Here are my suggestions for non-travelers who vacation with avid travelers.

  • Be honest: Say, “I don’t want to make that two-mile hike to the waterfall.”
  • Compromise: “If I rest in the condo today, I’ll enjoy the luau tonight.”
  • Ask questions: “How disappointed will you be if I don’t go on the boat ride?”
  • Volunteer your preferences: “I would rather not attend the lecture on lava types.”

Dan and I are two different people. We are glad we are.

He will not convince me to enjoy war movies. I will not persuade him to read The Woman in White.

But I will not tell him that watching war movies is wrong, ignorant, stupid or a waste of time.

He will not tell me that reading The Woman in White is a moronic indulgence and I should be doing something else.

If I harp on Dan about watching war movies, I diminish his enjoyment of them. I take from him something that is not mine to take.

If he ridicules my enjoyment of British literature, he belittles my choice of reading material. He robs me of some of the pleasure that reading gives me.

He likes to travel. I like to be at home.

We live and let live.

That is because more than liking things, we love each other.

Win-Win arrows concept handwritten on yellow sticky note pinned on bulletin cork board.

 

 

 

 

THIS GRANDMOTHER’S MISTAKES

When I learned I was to become a grandmother, I celebrated. My mind swirled with thoughts of booties, bibs and bassinets.

My daughter involved me in the pre-birth excitement. I helped decorate the nursery and discussed potential names for baby girls and boys.

News from every prenatal doctor visit thrilled me. I framed photos of ultrasound images.

My every plan for the upcoming year was made contingent upon my responsibilities as a grandmother.

And grand parenting has been every bit as wonderful as I expected. Each of my four grandchildren is a unique blessing.

Grand parenting is God’s way of compensating us for the things time takes away.

My goal was to be the best grandmother in the universe.

Ten years later, that is still my goal, but time has revealed misconceptions I once held about grand parenting.

Here are three.

I underestimated the limitations aging brings.

When my first granddaughter was born, I offered to babysit every workday for my daughter and her husband. Driving the 20 miles between their house and mine twice a day would be no problem.

In addition to nurturing my compliant infant granddaughter, I would also do the family’s laundry, clean their house and have dinner ready when her parents got home from work.

I would do this five days a week, every week.

And that is what I did.

For about three weeks.

Then, sanity returned, and I realized I could not keep up that pace.

Housework and laundry at my house went undone.  Takeout food and pizza for dinner three times a week wasn’t cutting it for my husband.

My back ached.

Worse, I didn’t look forward to seeing my granddaughter.

What gives? I wondered.

When my own kids were babies, I retrieved them from car seats, cribs or baby swings without grabbing my lower back.

When I knelt on the floor to wipe up strained peas, I stood up with no effort.

I survived on four hours of sleep a night.

Why was this so much harder?

Childcare is harder now because I am older.

When my kids were babies, I had to show my driver’s license to sit in Applebee’s bar. Now I show my driver’s license to get senior-citizen discounts at restaurants.

My body reminded me I was not the same woman at 56 I had been at 26.

I thought if my grandkids were with me, I needed to entertain them.

When my cooing infant grandbabies grew into speaking, playful toddlers, I recognized how much fun it was to play with them.

So, we played. In fact, I played whatever the grandkids wanted to play. When they were at my house, they owned me.

Peek-a-Boo, gave way to Ring-Around-the-Rosie and Duck-Duck-Goose. We graduated to board games and Play-Doh. We pinned towels to our backs and had Superhero exploits in the backyard.

We went on tricycle trips around the block. Many times, I carried the tricycle three-fourths of the way home.

Later I carried home a Big Wheel and then a scooter.

Finally, I had to call Grandpa to rescue me from carrying home a small bicycle with training wheels.

Every time the grandkids visited, I gave 100% of myself to their entertainment.

Then I collapsed on the couch before they and their parents left my driveway.

Grand parenting experts cautioned me against this. My kids urged me to “just say no.” My husband told me I was being ridiculous.

They were correct.

Retraining the grandkids to entertain themselves at Grandma’s house proved to be a gargantuan task.

This leads me to my third mistake.

I thought I would want my grandkids with me all the time.

Some of my long-time favorite activities are:

  • Reading and writing
  • Browsing bookstores
  • Doing Bible studies
  • Going to lunch and dinner with friends
  • Spending time alone with my husband

I can’t do those things with my grandchildren.

So, I need time without them.

Accepting that truth is hard.

I mean, what kind of grandmother doesn’t want her grandchildren 24/7?

Answer: The realistic kind.

Conclusion

I entered grandmother-hood with starry eyes and unrealistic expectations.

And being a grandmother is great!

But it turns out life is a long line of reality checks.

Almost every activity I undertake turns out to be harder than I expected. I don’t meet every goal I set. Often, I settle for Plan B.

That doesn’t mean I failed. It means some of my ideas and goals were unrealistic.

I am not the best grandmother in the world.

I can accept that, and my grandkids aren’t complaining.

It is what it is.

 

Visit these websites to read more articles about grandparenting.

https://www.aarp.org/relationships/grandparenting/info-11-2010/goyer_grandparenting_advice.html

https://www.scarymommy.com/10-tips-reasonable-%C2%ADlaw/

https://thestir.cafemom.com/being_a_mom/214038/parentsshare-worst-grandparent-mistakes

YOUR SLIP IS SHOWING

When I was young, women and girls wore slips.

If you are not familiar with this female undergarment, Google the term.

Or, better still, watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. Liz wears only a slip for much of the movie.

Women did not violate the slip etiquette of the day. We wore “full slips” with most dresses. (The slip Liz is wearing is a full slip.)

Half-slips (just a skirt slip) could be worn if the bodice (top) of the dress was not made of see-through fabric.

We wore crinolines (cancans) to make skirts flair

Slip wearers followed two inviolable rules.

  1. We never allowed our slips to show beneath the hem of our skirts. One woman would approach a woman to whisper, “Your slip is showing.” The grateful woman would scuttle off to fix the problem.

 

  1. Never did we allow our slip’s straps to show. To prevent this, we used a single, unsecured stitch (made with a needle and thread) and tacked the slip’s strap to the inside shoulder seam of the blouse. When we undressed, we removed the stitches. Some women, instead of stitching the strap to the blouse, used a tiny gold pin to accomplish the same thing.

In the 1960s, we did not slip up in our wearing of undergarments.

The rules governing women’s underwear today confuse me.

Young women wear tops designed to show off multiple straps of different colors. They probably don’t own slips.

On the Saturday afternoon before Easter Sunday, my daughter called.

“Mom,” she asked, “can Sparkle borrow one of your slips to wear with her Easter dress? When she walks in front of a window or door, I can see right through her dress.”

Sparkle is the pet name for my 10-year-old granddaughter.

By the time I was Sparkle’s age, I had outgrown several slips and passed them down to my younger sister. Never was I without a suitable slip.

“She doesn’t own a slip?” I asked.

“No,” said my daughter, “and I don’t either. Can she borrow one of yours?”

“Yes,” I said, “but my slips won’t fit Sparkle.”

“That’s okay. We can use stitches to tack up the hem and cinch in the waist.”

At least I taught her how to use tacking stitches.

But how had my daughter, who lived with me for 18 years and watched me wear a slip every time I wore a dress, grown into a woman who didn’t even own one?

Maybe I hadn’t preached what I practiced.

Sparkle wore my slip underneath her Easter dress and looked beautiful.

When my daughter handed my slip back after Easter, she said, “I haven’t taken out the stitching. Do you mind doing that?”

That slip was contorted, stitched and cinched top, bottom and sides. It looked like a fifth-grader’s botched-up sewing project.

I removed the stitches and placed the slip back into the drawer with its nylon companions.

I no longer understand the guidelines regarding women’s lingerie.

When and how did this change take place?

I don’t know.

I must be slipping.

WRITE ON!

Wikipedia defines a writer as one who uses written words in various styles and techniques to communicate ideas.

Photo by Sergiu Vălenaș on Unsplash

Earth’s first writers did not use pigments (ink). They chiseled figures and symbols into hard surfaces.

Babylonians drew on wet clay tablets and then baked them. The Chinese chiseled messages on empty turtle shells.

These surfaces were durable but did not allow corrections. Plus, the turtle shells were awkward to stack, and the clay tablets were real backbreakers in the kids’ backpacks.

Later, Romans wrote on wax tablets. These offered writers the convenience of being able to make corrections, but the wax was not heat resistant.

Imagine a young Roman student telling his teacher, “Honestly, I did my homework, but it melted.”

The scribes of Egypt used pigments and sharp reeds to write on papyrus until reeds gave way to quills. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating back to 100 BC, were written with quills.

Pens followed, first those with a split metal nib that held a small quantity of ink, and later ball-point pens, markers and highlighters. Now we have the choice of rollerball pens and pens with liquid gel ink in innumerable colors. The most modern writing instrument is a stylus for use on touch screens.

Today’s writing instruments and surfaces are many and varied. People write with pencils, pens, crayons, markers, lipsticks and chalk on paper, blackboards, whiteboards and cardboard.

And, as sophisticated as we are, we still write with our fingers on dirty cars, dusty countertops and steamed mirrors.

People write on trees, park benches, train cars and bathroom walls. They write MARRY ME in the sky to dazzle girlfriends and HELP! on beaches when they are stranded.

They write on glass, fabric and skin.

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

The great humorist, Erma Bombeck, claimed she once grabbed a coloring crayon and ripped off a strip of loose wallpaper to compose a note to her son’s teacher.

When I was a senior in college, engaged to marry Dan after graduation, my roommates used a black marker and numbered the squares on a roll of toilet paper so I could tear off one strip a day and count down the days to my wedding.

This writer appreciates inexpensive, 8.5 x 11-inch, 20 pound, erasable white paper. Being a pen snob, I insist upon using my EnerGel liquid gel ink pen from Pentel, with blue ink and a 0.7 mm point.

The Irish story writer and poet, James Joyce, wrote in large red letters on big slabs of cardboard because he was nearly blind. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, admits to jotting story ideas on empty airplane sickness bags.

Ernest Hemingway once bet his literary friends he could write a story with a beginning, middle and end in just six words. On a table napkin he scrawled For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn. His buddies paid up, and Hemingway left with the winnings.

 Photo by Marcos Gabarda on Unsplash

I scrutinize all my writing projects, searching for errors. Even so, if an error exists, I don’t see it until it leaps out at me from a published document.

This thorough proofreading is unnecessary. Research from the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit of Cambridge University shows that readers are amazingly astute.

You can prove that fact by reading the paragraph below.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

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!

 

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.