Category Archives: That’s Life

I Tried But I Couldn’t Do It

I always wanted to play the piano. I love its sound, and my fingers are long and slender, well-suited to piano playing, I am told. When our daughter took piano lessons many years ago, I signed up for lessons too, but I was a busy mom and rarely practiced. After going to class a few times and demonstrating to the teacher that I was unable to play the assigned piece, Mary Had a Little Lamb, for example, I quit.

I always wanted to sew clothes for my grandchildren. I like selecting sweet, simple patterns for sun suits, pants, and dresses. I like choosing fabric and notions (buttons, lace, etc.). I do not, however, like the sewing part. Constantly picking up pieces of thread, fabric scraps, and straight pins scattered across the room, not to mention dealing with my fury when an outfit didn’t turn out right, was too hard. I quit.

I always wanted to grow plants. Nothing is prettier than a multicolored plot of irises or a well weeded vegetable garden. Nothing is tastier than fresh, garden-grown tomatoes and green beans. I like everything about plants except the work that goes into growing my own. After laboring in the hot sun for a growing season, killing insects, pulling weeds, and faithfully watering the ever-needy little seedlings, I quit.

I always wanted to scrapbook. I am creative, love taking family photos, and like the idea of having scrapbooks that document the changes in our family. I like the cutesy craft paper used in scrapbooking, the stencils, the stickers, the fancy cutting implements, and the various page layouts shown in books. What I don’t love is cleaning the mess created when photos get mixed together with scraps of paper, and glue gets stuck to all the wrong pieces, and my creations fail to match the patterns I faithfully followed. Thus, I quit.

Life is too short for me to waste time doing non-compulsory tasks that give me no pleasure. I can enjoy listening to piano played by professionals; dress my grandchildren in adorable outfits from Kohl’s; buy fruits, vegetables, and flowers at Kroger; and look at family photos any time I want. What is more, I can enjoy these life-enhancing activities without stressing myself, destroying my house, and burdening my husband with an angry and depressed wife whose efforts at some project failed.

Writing is the one non-compulsory activity I refuse to quit practicing. I can open my laptop, pull up a clean sheet of paper, write, rewrite, delete, cut and paste, italicize, underline, change fonts, consult a dictionary and thesaurus, research ideas on Google, spell check my work, and save my piece for later without leaving any mess.

When I close my laptop, my room is not littered with scraps of fabric, gluey bits of paper, or piano pieces begging to be practiced. I don’t have to weed my laptop or kill squash bugs or tomato worms on its surface. The only time it gets watered is when I accidentally spill a glass of iced tea on the keyboard.

After much experimenting, I have found that writing is the pastime that makes me happy. I hope you have a pastime that does the same for you.


What About the Rest of Us?

Clothing designers do not consider women of my age and shape when they decide which styles to offer to female shoppers. They aim for another group of women entirely: the young and thin.

I have spent hours searching for shirts, blouses, and dresses that have sleeves. By sleeves I mean an adequate length of fabric to cover the upper arm. I find sleeveless tops, tops with spaghetti straps, tops with one- and two-inch-wide straps, and tops with so-called “cap” sleeves. The “cap” is simply a half-moon piece of fabric extending about one inch from the end of each shoulder seam and covering the tip of the shoulder blade. It has no business calling itself a sleeve.

I looked up the word sleeve in my Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. The definition reads: the part of a shirt, jacket, etc., that covers all or part of your arm. For clarity’s sake and in order to avoid any confusion, I also looked up the word arm. The definition given is: a human upper limb; especially the part between the shoulder and the waist. Surely designers can find a way to make available to us garments with sleeves.

I won’t elaborate on the reasons why I like sleeves. I don’t feel the need to justify my preferences in clothing. I do, however, feel the need to make heard my voice and the voices of countless other women who are not young and thin, and we are legion. To clothing designers everywhere we say, “Give us sleeves, please!”

We also want the waist of our slacks to circle our middles, the area of the body that contains the belly button. We consider pants whose waist is made to sit on the hipbone to be objects of torture.

I see young women wearing jeans that are basically two stovepipe pieces of denim with a waistband attached to their tops. How do these women manage to walk or even to breathe? When I sit down, I want the seat of my pants to accompany me into the chair. A person sitting behind me should not see any skin between the bottom of my shirt (with sleeves) and the top of my pants.

We also would appreciate some consideration from shoe manufacturers. We don’t like wearing shoes whose soles are six-inch-thick platforms made of cork. Neither do we want shoes that define themselves as sandals but in addition to the strap that goes between the toes, have another strap that makes several circles around the lower leg all the way up to the knee.

We value our health and safety too much to buy stilettos. We are not looking for flashy, sparkly, sexy shoes that cry out “Look at me!”  We are looking for stylish little numbers that whisper, “Comfort.”

I suspect that all clothing and shoe designers are engaged in a conspiracy to make older women look hideous. We don’t need any help. Time and gravity have done that for us.

We do not aim to look young, nor is it our goal to look sexy. We don’t wish to look hip, or to show portions of our hips. We want to feel comfortable, to look our rightful ages, to appear neat and coordinated, and to find clothing and shoes that will allow us to meet those goals.

Women, put on your pants with a natural-fitting waist, a top with three-quarter-length or longer sleeves, and a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Join me in the march to end discrimination against the not-young-not-thin women shoppers.

If those in charge of making and selling women’s clothes do not comply with our demands, we may boycott dress shops entirely and stop wearing clothes at all.

Nobody wants to see that.

More or Less

Our minister is leading us in a verse-by-verse study of the Book of Matthew. The study is expected to take about a year to complete. I take notes each Sunday using the printed outline the minister provides.

In addition to filling in the blanks in the outline, I also cover the top, bottom, and side margins of the paper with other pieces of information I want to remember.

My intention when this sermon series started was to use the outline as a study guide during the week. I planned each day to reread the Scripture passage and gradually transfer my scrappy written notes into a neatly typed outline.

On Monday morning I scanned my written notes from the first sermon on Matthew. Wanting to be thorough in my study, I decided to read other reference books in order to gain even more insight into the passage.

From my bookshelves I pulled these titles: MacArthur Bible Commentary, Believer’s Commentary, J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible, The Everyday Life Bible, and the Life Application Bible.

I dutifully opened my reference books and began to work. Three hours later I had in front of me on my kitchen table five opened reference books and three sheets of lined, yellow, legal pad paper covered with more scrappy notes.

That was enough for one day. I had studied Matthew 1:1-17. A good start, I thought. I pushed the books and legal pad to the back of the table so we could eat dinner later.

Early on Tuesday I looked at the books and papers stacked on my kitchen table and felt like the miller’s daughter surveying the straw she was supposed to spin into gold. Is this really what I had signed on to do for a whole  year?

I decided to run some errands.

On Wednesday morning I surveyed the same items and decided to thoroughly clean two bathrooms. On Thursday and Friday I followed the same pattern.

It was at this point I realized my plan was doomed.

How I wished on that first Monday I had simply reviewed the lesson and rewritten some notes.

In like manner, on Wednesday of this week, I took my yellow Swiffer duster into my bedroom to do some dusting.

First, I stripped the bed and washed the sheets. Then I pushed all the furniture to the center of the room and vacuumed thoroughly. I took down the drapes and tossed them into the dryer to fluff them up and remove the dust.

Next, I carted all the lampshades, artificial greenery, silk flowers, and candle creations out into the yard and blew the dust off of them using my husband’s high-powered air compressor.

By 3:00 p.m. I was exhausted. The room had not been dusted and would not be. I couldn’t find my Swiffer duster under all the mess.

How I wished I had simply dusted the bedroom.

My plans often fail because I make easy things hard. I take a doable idea and turn it into a gargantuan endeavor that would challenge even the most disciplined person.

In an effort to curb this tendency to take on too much, I have composed what I hope is a reasonable to-do list for today.

  1. Get dressed.

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.