Category Archives: That’s Life

My Way or the Highway

I don’t like to travel. Being in my own space, with my own things, following my usual routine is both comfortable and comforting. For me, spending a week away from home is equivalent to having a  dental appointment seven days in a row.

I enjoy looking at pretty scenery as much as the next person. But I prefer looking at it via my television or computer screen. If it were up to me, I would travel occasionally to visit relatives in Arkansas and Missouri and that would be it.

My husband, on the other hand, lives to travel. He wants to see every beautiful sight on earth—several times. Maps, travel brochures, and adventure magazines are his favorite reading materials. If it were up to him, he would visit home occasionally to see the grandkids, and the rest of the time he would be traveling.

I remind Dan that travel is expensive. Plus, making pre-travel arrangements is a hassle.  Someone must be asked to mow the yard, water the plants, and collect the mail.

The person who stays at home incurs no new expenses and needs to make no pre-staying-at-home arrangements. She simply does what she usually does.

Dan reminds me that most people enjoy a break from the ordinary and an opportunity to see the glories of nature on display. The hassle of making pre-travel arrangements is well worth it, he says, and money used for vacationing is well spent.

Since neither of us is keen on the idea of Dan making long trips alone, my husband and I must compromise.

Over the years, we have set up guidelines to follow when we are negotiating compromises. Perhaps you and your spouse will find these rules helpful.

  • Agree that the relationship itself is more important than any choice we make about traveling or not traveling. Neither one of us will say, “That’s it! If I don’t get my way, I’m chucking this 44-year marriage!” (No one gets to act like an idiot.)
  • Agree that liking or disliking travel is a matter of opinion. Neither person is right or wrong. (There will be no name-calling.)
  • Agree that each partner gets some of what he or she wants. (No one gets his or her way 100% of the time.)
  • Agree that in this game of give and take, each partner remains pleasant and cooperative both at home and away from home. (There is to be no pouting.)

Of course we developed these rules of behavior only after we realized that acting like an idiot, indulging in name-calling, demanding our own way, and pouting didn’t work for us.

It takes a while to hammer out a good marriage.


The Loser

I am a loser and I can prove it.

About half an hour ago, I made myself a glass of iced tea. Then I lost it before taking a single drink. At the time, I was moving back and forth between cleaning my kitchen, responding to texts, and working on blog pieces.

I searched through every room that I had been in this morning. I searched through each of those rooms again. I searched through rooms I didn’t remember having been in today. For a third time, I searched through the rooms I had been in.

Just as I was giving up and heading to the kitchen to make myself a new glass of tea, I saw the top two inches of a drinking glass sticking up out of a deep-pocketed drink holder in our double recliner.

Losing my glass of tea is not a big problem. I endured no unwanted consequences from that loss other than realizing that, once again, I had lost something I should not have lost.

Yesterday, I took my granddaughters to the splash park in Greenwood. Before we left the house, I gathered swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, my purse, some ice water, my phone, and my two girls.

The younger girl, Twinkle, was wearing her sunglasses. I put the sunglasses belonging to the older girl, Sparkle, into the Wal-Mart bag with the towels and other things.

When we got out of the car at the park, Twinkle was not wearing her sunglasses.

“Where are your sunglasses?” I asked her.

“I don’t know.”

“Weren’t you wearing them when we left the house?”

“I don’t know.”

I did a cursory search of the back seat of my car. No sunglasses.

I opened the bag containing the towels, etc. to get Sparkle’s sunglasses. They were not there.

“Do you know where your sunglasses are?” I asked her.

“No. You had them.”

I got Twinkle changed into her swimsuit in the back seat of the car. Sparkle had decided she would not splash; she would just play on the playground. I greased both girls down with sunscreen, particularly the pale-skinned redhead.

I dumped the contents of the Wal-mart bag out into the back of my car to conduct another search for Sparkle’s sunglasses. No luck.

I positioned both girls safely on the sidewalk away from traffic and re-searched the back seat more thoroughly for Twinkle’s glasses. In the netherworld beneath her carseat,  I found the sunglasses, along with three crayons, several pretzel pieces, some melted M&M’s, and a dime-store necklace.

I returned to the sidewalk to retrieve the girls. There I opened my purse to drop in my car keys, and I spotted Sparkle’s sunglasses inside my purse.

We spent about an hour playing at the park and about an hour looking for things so we could play at the park. I guess it all came out evenly.

Earlier this week I lost a can of cream of mushroom soup I had taken from my pantry to use in making a crock-pot dinner. I also lost my gardening gloves, my earphones, my house slippers, my toilet scrubber, the necklace my husband brought me from the Dominican Republic, my white sweater that does not have the stained front, and my eyeglasses. I estimate I lost my phone approximately 176 times.

The world moves on. People feed the hungry, rescue the stranded, start and end wars, and work to shut down Planned Parenthood. They watch baby giraffes being born, princesses showing off their babies, and movie stars throwing temper tantrums. They clip coupons and buy gas. They smile and wish everyone a nice day.

Me? I look for things I’ve lost.

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.