Category Archives: That’s Life

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

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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?

 

A COMEDY OF ERRORS

It had been a frustrating few days

They weren’t bad days because I have few days that can be legitimately cataloged as bad, and I am thankful.

On Monday I wrote a check for the wrong amount of money and had to straighten out that mess.

On Tuesday I caught my foot in the strap of my purse and fell out of my car right onto the Kroger parking lot.

Then yesterday I prepared to mail four stacks of paper to four family members.

I separated the papers, folded them, and placed them inside four 6” x 9” envelopes.

These envelopes had metal fasteners. Since I know the Postal Service does not like those closures, I placed wide packing tape over the backs to seal the envelopes and cover up the metal brads.

As I picked up the four envelopes, I discovered one was lighter than the other three. This meant I had accidentally left something out of that envelope.

I reopened it and found I had indeed failed to include two papers. Using my keen sense of deduction, I concluded one of the other envelopes contained two extra papers.

Using great care, I tore open the other envelopes, messing up the packing tape and damaging the flaps in several places. I found the two papers I needed, corrected my error, and resealed the envelopes, trying to patch the torn spots.

Then I added stick-on return address labels and postage stamps. (I keep on hand the special 68-cent stamps I routinely use for these mailings.) Finally, I wrote addresses on each envelope.

As I headed out the door to take the envelopes to the mailbox, I realized I had written each address upside down, so when the mailing address was readable, the postage stamp was affixed to the lower left corner of the envelope and the return address label was in the lower right corner.

The driver of the mail truck waved at me as she drove past my house.

In a wretched mood, I drove to the post office and mailed my mutilated envelopes. Then I swung by the store to pick up mint chocolate chip ice cream, the one thing guaranteed to make me feel better.

I brooded over my growing list of mess-ups as I roamed the ice cream aisle. By the time I got home from the store, I was in a major funk.

I put my ice cream in the freezer and lay down on my bed, not to pout or to have a pity party really, but just to decompress. My thoughts ran along these lines.

This constant flow of stupid mistakes is killing me. I am a beaten woman and can’t take it anymore. I’m never getting out of this bed.

Of course, I knew I would get out of bed because I refuse to spend the remainder of my life lying on sheets that never get washed. Not to mention with teeth that never get brushed or hair roots that never get touched up.

And then, of course, there were other reasons to get up: the grandchildren and brownies and springtime and another season of Victoria to watch on Netflix and an Easter dress someone would have to wear.

From my bed, I called out to Dan in a weak, mournful voice.

“If you will bring me a dish of the mint chocolate chip ice cream I bought today, I think I might be able to get up and face the world again.”

I heard Dan open the freezer door.

Then I heard him laugh.

“You just think you bought mint chocolate chip ice cream,” he said.

“The only thing in the freezer is a box of rum raisin ice cream. How many scoops do you want?”

DEFAULT SETTINGS

I want a clean and tidy house.

But as I write that sentence, I am reminded of a theory I accept as truth.

Except in extreme cases which are out of our control, we usually manage to obtain what we want.

We buy a new coat. We pay someone to paint our living room. We learn a new skill.

The common factors in attaining what we want are these: a strong desire to have the thing plus the willingness to do what we must do to have it.

I desire a clean house, but often I am not willing to do what I must do to have it.

My plans for this day were to pick up and put away various displaced items; vacuum all carpets; mop my kitchen floor; and wash, dry, and put away a load of jeans. That sounds like a reasonable list of tasks to accomplish on a Saturday.

It is now 1:10 p.m. So far today I have:

  1. Slept late. (I had not been sleeping well and took a sleep aid last night.)
  2. Gone to visit my grandson and granddaughter.
  3. Written this blog post.

Nothing is wrong with doing those things, other than doing them prevented me from reaching the goals I had set.

I have the desire to see my boring and onerous to-do list accomplished but achieving that goal would have cost me extra sleep, a visit with my grandchildren, and time spent writing.

I elected not to pay the price required to have a clean house.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and the chance that I will choose to pick up, vacuum, mop, and do laundry then is slim. I will instead go to church, visit with my kids and grandkids, do some writing, and take a nap.

Unless I deliberately elect to do something else, those are the things I will automatically do. They are my default settings. I am often shocked to realize I’ve spent hours doing them when it seemed like mere minutes.

Cleaning, mopping, vacuuming, doing laundry, etc. are tasks I must take care of at some time and I will. When I absolutely must.

But I am not drawn toward those tasks. I will not look at a clock and realize I have spent three hours dusting shelves when I had no intention to dust shelves.

I challenge you to determine what your default settings are. Do your findings surprise you?

If, while taking this inventory you discover your true passions are cleaning, vacuuming, mopping, and doing laundry, get in touch with me immediately.

Reminder: 

Visit www.upperroom.org on Friday, March 2, to read my newly published devotional based upon 1 Corinthians 2:12.

 

COMMUNICATIONS 202

Dan and I got into the car this morning to drive to our son’s house.

As he started the engine, Dan looked through the windshield at his workshop that sat directly in front of the car.

“Hmmm,” he said. “That light always looks like it’s on even when it’s off.”

I looked toward the workshop.

“I don’t see a light on,” I said. “The only light I see is a little red indicator light on one of your tools.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

“I just said the light in your shop doesn’t appear to me to be on.”

Dan shook his head.

“It never fails to amaze me how often you misunderstand me,” he said.

I braced for the next line.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Well, I looked at my shop, at the exterior light above the door of my shop to be exact, and said it appeared to be on.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Then,” he continued, “instead of looking at the prominent exterior light above the door, you looked all the way through the window of the shop, all the way to my work table in the back of the shop and saw a tiny red light.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “The way you said I looked ‘all the way through the window’ and ‘all the way to the back of the shop’ sounds accusatory, as if I should have known better.”

“Well,” he said, “Why wouldn’t you have looked at the closest light, the exterior one above the door of the shop?”

“I don’t know why,” I said. “Why didn’t you specify ‘the exterior light above the door of the shop’ when you made your first statement?”

“Because I thought you would know what I was talking about.”

“Well, I didn’t. Obviously, we miscommunicated, but my point is the way you said I looked ‘all the way through the window of the shop’ and ‘all the way to the back of the shop’ indicated to me that you think I was stupid to misunderstand you.”

“For crying out loud! I didn’t mean to indicate I think you are stupid. I don’t think you’re stupid. I simply don’t understand why when I said, ‘the light appears to be on even when it’s off,’ you wouldn’t assume I was talking about the light closest to us. Let’s not talk any more about it.”

“Yes,” I said. “Let’s talk about it a bit more.”

Dan groaned and laid his head on the steering wheel.

“You think this miscommunication is entirely my fault,” I said.

“No, I don’t. It just seems to me you should have understood what I was talking about without me having to explain it.”

“Well, when you realized I had misunderstood, you could have simply said, ‘No, I don’t mean the light inside the shop. I mean the exterior light.’”

“I wish to high heavens I had said that.”

“I wish you had too, but you didn’t. Instead, you emphasized that I missed the obvious and very unreasonably looked all the way into the shop and all the way to the back of the shop.”

“I wish I had never even mentioned that light,” he said, backing out of the drive.

“I wish you hadn’t either,” I said.

————————-

Please understand, readers, that I don’t always push my point as hard as I pushed this one, but occasionally I feel I must.

Especially when we are discussing important things. Like workshop lights.

LOSING IT

My daughter says the thing she hates most of all is being cold. I believe her. When I ride with her, summer or winter, the temperature inside her car is at least 100 degrees.

What I hate worst is having to look for things.

My history of losing things goes way back. When I was in high school, I loved writing with fountain pens, fine point ones with blue ink. I still do, in fact. Back then, I almost looked forward to doing homework if I had my fountain pen.

I got off the bus about 100 yards from my house. One day when I got home from school, I discovered I had lost my pen.

I retraced my steps back to the bus stop to see if I had dropped it while walking home. Sure enough, there it lay, my red fountain pen, completely squashed in the middle of the road. A car had run over it.

That was a sad day, but here is the pathetic part. The exact same event occurred a few weeks later, this time with a blue fountain pen.

I routinely lose my car in parking lots. I try hard to remember where I parked my car before going into a store. Yet invariably, I later wind up pushing my loaded cart up and down parking aisles, frantically pressing the unlock button on my key fob, listening for the familiar beep signaling me that my car is nearby.

Often, I get myself lost.

I grew up in the country and our house was situated on a dirt road. I knew nothing about towns being laid out on grids. Most of our roads had no names. They were referred to in terms that made perfect sense to those of us who lived there. My friend, for example, lived on the dirt road near the old field where Mr. Shelton used to keep his cows.

Therefore, though I’ve lived in a “gridded” town for many years, I don’t trust the people who laid out those grids. To be on the safe side, when I drive to a new place, I turn around and return home by the exact same path.

Recently I picked up my four-year-old grandson from his preschool. I parked in front of the house in which his school is located. When we left, I drove halfway down the block in the same direction, turned my car around using someone’s driveway, and started home using the same route.

My grandson asked, “Grandma, why are you turning around in someone’s driveway?”

I answered, “So we can take the same street out of this neighborhood.”

He said, “Why don’t you just drive to the end of this street, turn right, turn right again, and you’ll get to the street we need?”

“Because that’s too hard,” I said.

Top among the things I look for is my phone. I average making a phone search five times a day.

My kids and grandkids laugh because whenever someone asks, “Where’s Grandma?” the rest of the people in the room join in a chorus of “Looking for her phone.”

I would consider wearing my phone inside a fanny pack except my hips are already wide enough. I carried it inside my bra until one day, while digging through a bin of frozen chicken pieces at the grocery store, I accidentally sent my sister a picture of my chest.

Remembering each time where I laid the phone down is, like making three right turns in an unfamiliar neighborhood, too hard.

If I could pull together all the hours I spend looking for things, say one hour each day, I would have an additional seven hours per week, 30 hours per month, 360+ hours per year to do other, more enjoyable, things.

Like recording a detailed inventory of everything inside my house using a fine-tipped fountain pen with blue ink.

Ahhhh