Category Archives: That’s Life

The Bickersons

My children are not only sharp-witted but also sharp-tongued. Unlike their mealy-mouthed mother, they call things as they see them.

That is why several years ago, these two offspring began referring to a particular older couple as the Bickersons. I will let you figure out how this couple earned that nickname.

I was young at the time and resolved that my husband and I would never fall into the habit of bickering. We would not, with age, become testy, snippy, surly, rude, or curt.

As yet, Dan and I have not become the Bickersons, but we are getting close.

This morning the doorbell rang. We both knew the night alarm was still set and if the front door was opened, it would sound. From opposite ends of the house we both headed for the front door. Both of us yelled to the other, “Turn off the alarm!” Neither of us heard the other. Thus, we collided at the front door, simultaneously grabbed the doorknob, heard the alarm blare, and tried to smile at the FedEx delivery man.

That in itself is not bickering, but what followed fringes on it. “Didn’t you hear me say . . . ?” we both began.

That explains one reason why older couples get testy. We don’t hear as well as we once did. Each accuses the other of not listening when, in fact, he or she is listening as intently as ever. It isn’t the listening that is at fault. It is the hearing.

Older folks also tend to get a bit snippy because, over the years, they’ve let their good manners slip. I remember a time when I would not sneeze in front of Dan. I faithfully “caught” each sneeze. I actually told him I never burped. When we visited a park that had side-by-side, men’s and women’s, outside toilets, I refused to use the facility because I feared that Dan, separated from me by only one thin, wooden wall, would hear me tinkle. I had probably told him I didn’t do that either.

Now, sneezes, burps, tinkling, and other less-than-polite body noises are generally tolerated. That is, until one of us becomes particularly offensive in one area or the other. The offended one snaps, “Would you show a little consideration, please?” That prompts the offender to respond, “Me? What about all the times you . . . ?” Such discussions never end well.

Thirdly, older couples snarl at each other because they’ve never put to rest ongoing arguments about how to load the dishwasher, hang the toilet paper, pack the car for a trip, or set the thermostat for the right temperature.

My husband and I don’t fight over many things. We fight many times over the same things.

Also, as one gets older, the distinction between fact and opinion becomes blurred. I say it is a fact that our sagging, stained, threadbare recliner needs to be replaced. He says that is my opinion.

He claims it is a fact the grandkids already have more toys than they know what to do with, and I tell him that is his opinion.

We haven’t yet heard our kids refer to us as the Bickersons, but of course we wouldn’t. For one thing, they probably wouldn’t call us that to our faces and for another thing, we probably wouldn’t hear them if they did.

Cheap Thrills

I do not pursue wealth and fame and all those other things the pagans run after.  Maybe that is because I have learned to celebrate tiny successes and happy surprises every day.

The following run-of-the-mill experiences always lift my spirits and make me smile.

  • Seeing my car’s fuel indicator sitting on “F” instead of on “E” because my husband filled the tank the last time he drove the car.
  • Thinking I was wrong about something and finding out I was actually right.
  • Calling a credit card’s toll-free number and hearing the recorded voice say, “Your current unpaid balance is zero dollars and zero cents.”
  • Completing and checking off the final item on my to-do list.
  • Finding that my checkbook balance agrees with the bank’s balance.
  • Sleeping on clean sheets.
  • Remembering to mail a birthday card on exactly the right date.
  • Locating whatever it is I’ve spent the last half hour searching for, usually my phone.
  • Giving myself liberty to abuse the English language. I enjoy violating the rule that says a preposition is a word you should never end a sentence with.
  • Walking into a store or restaurant and hearing a Neil Diamond song playing on the speaker.
  • Standing in a department store’s dressing room and saying to the sales assistant, “Please bring me these same jeans in a smaller size.”
  • Hearing a high-paid newscaster fumble with the use of the pronouns who and whom.
  • Discovering I am the youngest person in a room.
  • Experiencing merriment when I discover exactly the right word to use when constructing a sentence, as I did with the word merriment in this sentence.
  • Hearing my dentist say, as she unsnaps my bib, “Everything looks great. You’re outta here!”
  • Arriving at church early.
  • Finding a Dilly Bar in the freezer when I thought the grandkids had eaten all of them.
  • Pulling from my mailbox, along with bills, sales papers, and junk mail, an actual check. Even if the check is for less than $10, it is still a check.
  • Knowing the words to every song we sing during a church service.
  • Hearing James Taylor sing the word “lovely” and give it three syllables.
  • Handing a cashier the exact change, right down to the penny, when I make a purchase.
  • Realizing I can meet my deadline for posting a new blog by simply making a list of things that make me smile.



Things That Make Me Go ERRGGHHH!!

Before setting out to run errands on Monday, I loaded my arms with items to carry to the car: two library books; plastic bags for recycling in a bundle the size of one of those sit-on exercise balls, a package to be mailed at the post office, my coat because I don’t like wearing the cumbersome thing in the car, and my freshly made glass of iced tea. Stepping off the front porch I dropped a book, bent down to retrieve it, and emptied my iced tea into my shoes. ERRGGHHH!


I carefully filled my plastic medicine case, the kind with the days of the week printed on the tops of seven little compartments. I put in the prescription pills, the vitamins, and the supplements. Finished, I stood to close the little case and put it inside my cabinet. In doing so, however, my left thumb tapped the open lid at one end of the pillbox, tipping it backward, and spilling onto and under the table an array of pink, white, blue, and orange pills that I then had to find, re-sort, and put back inside the box. ERRGGHHH!


I ran all over the county looking for just the right black sweater to go with my black and white top. I found, of course, exactly the right sweater, but the store did not have my size. At the next store I found only black sweaters with flashy sequins down both sleeves. At the third store I located no black sweaters at all.

I went back to the first store and tried on the wrong-size sweater again and found that it was still too small. I considered buying the sweater with the sequined sleeves, thinking possibly I could remove those sequins if I were very careful and used tiny, sharp-pointed scissors, but I rejected that idea. I visited one last store and there I found and bought a sweater that fit into the category of “This is not what I wanted but it’ll have to do.”

I got home and opened my closet to hang the sweater I had just bought. There, hanging on my clothes rod, I spied an identical black sweater, price tag dangling, that I had purchased on a different but equally frustrating shopping trip six months ago. ERRGGHHH!


I decided to make a corn casserole for dinner. The recipe called for a cup of sour cream and I was all out. I put on my coat, drove through rush-hour traffic, and reached the grocery store where I had to park a half mile from the entrance. I entered the store and made my way down an aisle blocked by people leaning on filled carts and renewing friendships they made 12 years ago. Finally I reached the very back of the store where the sour cream was. I grabbed a container (checking to make certain I had sour cream and not cottage cheese), and headed for the check-out area where I stood in line behind a woman with an overflowing cart and a shoebox full of coupons. I made my purchase, returned to my car, drove back home, and headed for the kitchen, noting that by then I was an hour late starting dinner. That’s when I discovered I had no corn. ERRGGHHH!

That describes my Monday. I’ll write about Tuesday another time.




I Know Nothing

When I was a child, I knew some things: I knew I needed to do my homework, to wash my hands after going to the bathroom, to wear a coat in the winter, and to move to the side of the road when a car was coming. I had most of the information I needed.

Today I know nothing because I have too much information. Just when I think I’ve found an immutable truth, some authority labels that truth a lie and purports a totally different truth.

Take the egg for example. When I was a child, people ate eggs often: scrambled, fried, and boiled. We ate them as deviled eggs and in egg salad sandwiches. We dyed and decorated them at Easter and ate the ones that didn’t get smashed in the hiding and finding process. We ate eggs without thinking about it.

Then we learned that eggs contained cholesterol which contributed to heart disease. Experts urged us to eat no more than one egg per week. We complied.

Then a few years ago scientists announced that eating eggs does not endanger one’s health. In fact, the egg may be nature’s perfect food, they said.

I Googled the question: Are eggs good or bad for your health? In 0.66 seconds, I was given access to 12,000,000 answers. I couldn’t read all of them, but I read a few and got differing answers. Which of the answers was the right one?

A few years ago as I made sugar water for my hummingbird feeder, I debated on whether or not to put red food coloring into it. One expert told me that if female hummingbirds consumed red food coloring, their eggs would not hatch. Another expert promised that food coloring would do no harm. Again, I turned to Google and asked the question: Is red food coloring harmful to hummingbirds? This time I received 400,000 answers in 0.88 seconds. Which answer was the correct one?

Should I feed a fever and starve a cold or feed a cold and starve a fever? 367,000 answers in 0.89 seconds.

Do we lose half of our body heat in the winter when we go outside with our heads uncovered? 717,000 answers in 1.2 seconds.

Should fresh tomatoes be refrigerated? 1,540,000 answers in 0.62 seconds.

Are the pale yellow flowers that bloom around Easter called jonquils or daffodils? 203,000 answers in 1.19 seconds.

With this abundance of information at my fingertips, I still don’t know whether or not to eat eggs regularly, or if putting food coloring into my hummingbirds’ sugar water is okay. I don’t know whether to eat when I have a cold or when I have a fever, and I have no idea whether or not I lose half of my body heat in the winter if I go outside with my head uncovered.

I do not put fresh tomatoes into the refrigerator because that is just wrong, regardless of what the experts say.  And I call Easter flowers jonquils one day and daffodils the next.

In all my research, I learned nothing.

A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but too much knowledge is useless.



I grew up in a small rural community in North Arkansas in the 1950s and 60s. In 1966 my parents bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia. I remember looking in Volume A of the set and finding the population listings for cities and towns in Arkansas. Our own little community was listed as having about 20 residents. My parents, siblings, and I made up six of those.

My dad owned the local grocery store, and on Saturdays and during summer months, I helped him in the store. I filled orders; dusted and cleaned; ran the loud, clanging cash register; and occasionally pumped gas.

Often a man walked in and handed me a grocery list his wife had sent and asked me to fill it. I soon knew what brand of coffee and laundry detergent many of our local families used. Occasionally he said, “Add a dollar’s worth of gas to that.”

I collected the requested items, wrote down the purchases in a small credit booklet using carbon paper to make a copy for the store, sacked the items, dropped in the customer’s copy of the receipt, pumped the gas, and moved on to the next customer. Our clientele appreciated my dad’s “buy now, pay later” policy, and most of them honored the “pay later” part.

We understood the meaning of community. We celebrated the good times together and helped out during the bad. When one of our townsfolk died, local men dug the grave with their own shovels, even in deep winter when the ground was frozen. Everyone from miles around attended the funeral, women showering the family with pies, cakes, casseroles, hams, and pans of homemade yeast rolls.

After a death, my dad often shook his head sadly and said to me, “Well, Mr. So-and-So has paid his debts and gone on.” Then occasionally, with a wink, he added, “Well, at least he has gone on,” indicating that the man had died leaving debts unpaid at our store.

I learned early that some debts never get paid.

I sometimes wonder why God planted me where He did, within the confines of a loving, store-owning family on a tiny dot of a town in northern Arkansas in the middle of the Twentieth Century. But I was planted there, and I grew and matured and eventually moved into the adult population and out of northern Arkansas.

I owe much to the people who shared the world I inhabited as a child. They taught me the difference between right and wrong and showed me we all need each other. The values of honesty, hard work, cooperation, and general courtesy they modeled rubbed off on me and have stood me well. Most of these people are now gone, and for what they taught me, I owe them a debt I cannot repay.

Never underestimate your influence on your world.