Category Archives: That’s Life

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!

 

Advertisements

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!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.