Category Archives: That’s Life

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.

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.

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!”