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What I Wanted, but Didn’t Get, for Christmas

I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season.

The best part of the holiday was spending time with my family. Have I mentioned I have grandkids?

But, as is always the case, (except in Christmas movies) I didn’t get everything I wanted.

You, good readers, are not responsible for my failure to receive these gifts. You’re the best. The fact that you’re reading this proves it.

Nonetheless, I will discuss some gifts I hoped, but failed, to receive for Christmas.

  1. I wanted all loud, hiked-up, smoke-spewing pick-up trucks to be banned from our streets and highways. This didn’t happen. I am confused. How is it that in a country where the American flag is removed from an academic building because one student claimed its presence offended her, these offensive gas-guzzling, fume-exuding behemoths continue to exist, though they pollute the air and assault the ears of 100% of the population?
  1. I wanted people to stop punctuating every other statement with the phrase, “O my God!” It is the response uttered whether someone has just spied a luscious new color of nail polish or been offered a two-carat diamond ring from a lover on bended knee. If I move into a cave where no one can find me, it will be because I can no longer tolerate hearing this phrase.

  1. I had hoped a magical fairy, something like a useful version of the Elf on the Shelf, would visit my home and organize all my paperwork and computer files. Alas, that gift also failed to arrive.

  1. I wanted to regain my slim figure and my ability to remember names; wished all spam calls and junk emails would stop; and hoped someone would develop a delicious, fat-free, carb-free, calorie-free, vitamin-enriched chocolate brownie that tastes like one made from a Duncan Hines mix, but those were pipe dreams.

  1. I wanted people to start using turn signals EVERY TIME they plan to make a turn, but, again, no.

  1. I had hoped people would learn and practice the rules of good grammar. Let me simply say that the word seen is almost NEVER the second word in a sentence. Speakers should not say, “I seen,” or “He seen,” or even “The Elf on the Shelf seen.” Furthermore, they should not mix subjective case and objective case personal pronouns when . . . oh, well. Never mind.

Thank you, dear readers, for indulging this little rant. What is the use of having a website if you can’t write about what’s on your mind?

I hope you got everything you wanted for Christmas.

FALL’S PLEASURES

Pumpkins and scarecrows

Corn stalks and hay

Leaves on the ground

‘Til winds sweep them away.

 

Cider and sunflowers

Jackets with hoods

Campfires and asters

Colorful woods.

 

Crispy cool mornings

Frost on the ground

Playgrounds abandoned

Squirrels abound.

 

Migrating birds and

Football to play

Your breath in the air

A harvest array.

 

Pools are all covered

Grills put away

The air is now filled with

A wood smoke bouquet.

 

Reruns on TV

Quilts on our beds

Knee socks and mittens

Scarves around heads.

 

Apples, persimmons

Thanksgiving buffet

Sunset comes sooner

To shorten the day.

 

Late fall brings frostbite

Hayrides and s’mores

Get out the board games

We’re staying indoors.

 

Winter looms large now

With cold winds and snow

So savor fall’s pleasures

Before they all go.

Do You Remember

. . . when your grandpa sharpened your school pencil with his pocket knife?

. . . when your mom gave you and your siblings half sticks of chewing gum?

. . . when you wore bread wrappers for winter boots and stomped down in the middle of oil cans to make clogs?

. . . when you could tell if a doll was a real Barbie or a fake one by the way her legs worked when you set her down?

. . . when you used Big Chief writing tablets?

. . . when girls wore those cross-shaped necklace pendants that had a jewel in the center that you could squint into with one eye and read the Lord’s Prayer?

. . . when soda pop bottles had crimped metal lids with cork inside?

. . . when your mom poured warm sweet oil into your ear or your dad blew smoke into it when you had an earache?

. . . when mean kids ripped the fruit loops off boys’ shirts?

. . . when you made long paper chains out of gum wrappers?

. . . when girls often heard the words “It’s snowing down south.”?

. . . when you turned on a ceiling light by pulling on a piece of cotton twine?

. . . when your school class was divided into reading groups called the Blue Birds, the Red Birds, and the Yellow Birds?

. . . when teachers handed out test papers that were ice cold and smelled of mimeograph ink?

. . .  when teenage girls rolled straight hair on empty frozen orange juice cans and ironed wavy hair with a hot iron?

. . . when your mom and grandma unfolded and wore those tacky plastic head coverings that tied under the neck when it rained?

. . . when the school cafeteria always served fish sticks on Friday?

. . . when you used concealed rubber bands to keep your knee socks up?

. . . when kids put those metal clicker things in their shoes and made loud noises every time they took a step?

. . . when your mom dabbed red merthiolate (stung like crazy) or mercurochrome (didn’t sting at all) on your scrapes and cuts?

. . . when girls dipped a comb into water, ran it through their hair, and put in brush rollers that they slept in all night?

. . . when teenage boys thought they were cool when they flipped the back of a girl’s bra through her blouse?

. . . when kids made paper fortune tellers out of paper and could tell you whom you would marry and how many kids you would have?

. . . when you made craft projects using that mucilage glue that had a rubber top with a slit in it?

. . . when ice cream came in those little individual cups with a wooden spoon taped on the top?

. . . when you made up silly names for students who were “absent” when a substitute teacher asked the class if anyone wasn’t there?

. . . when you were sure you would be able to see the minute hand on a clock move if you focused hard enough?

Ahhh, the good old days.

Hit “Comment” below and add to this list.

 

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Five Births

My maternal grandmother was born on June 13, 1908. I know nothing about her birth and early life except that she was born to godly parents who had a large family.

My own mother was born on January 15, 1930. Her birth occurred in an unpainted house that sat on a weedy patch of ground in rural Arkansas. On the day my mother was born, women who came to help my grandmother deliver her baby draped sheets above the bed where Grandma lay in order to keep the snow that was sifting through the roof from settling on Grandma.

I was born on March 24, 1952, in Trinity Lutheran Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. I believe my mom was administered some type of anesthesia while delivering me. My birth was the first in my family’s lineage to occur in a hospital under the supervision of medical professionals.

My daughter, Lara, was born on September 22, 1978, at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin, Indiana. Because at the time “natural childbirth” was in vogue, I patted myself on the back for requesting no anesthesia. Fortunately, the birth was uncomplicated and the labor was not excessively long.

My grandmother’s natural childbirth experience in 1930 undoubtedly differed from my own natural childbirth experience in 1978. For one thing, sheets were not hung over the bed to keep snow from falling onto the delivery field.

Also, my husband was in the delivery room with me and participated as much as possible in the birthing process.  In movies, the 1930s father-to-be is often shown pacing the floor and following instructions to boil water.

My first granddaughter was born on September 29, 2008, at IU North Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her mother, my daughter, was given an epidural injection at some point in the labor process. I remember watching as Lara contentedly watched TV and played Solitaire atop her distended belly while waiting for her labor to progress to the point of delivery.

My grandmother’s and mother’s births came about at no financial cost to their parents. Their caregivers were female friends and relatives who were paid by receiving reciprocal care when they had babies. The equipment and supplies used were items typically found in homes in that era. The “free childbirth care” trend had ended by the time I was born.

Recently my mother gave me this little worn metal penny bank. She and my dad bought the bank when they were expecting me. During the months of waiting, they filled it with dimes that they later converted into paper money that was used to pay for my hospital delivery.

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Regardless of the conditions under which these five daughters were born, their mothers welcomed their babies with delight and wholeheartedly devoted themselves to their care. They fed their babies, changed and bathed them, dressed them appropriately for the season, tended to them through sicknesses, protected them as much as possible from harm, taught them about Jesus, and loved them with a deep maternal passion.

How grateful I am for my rich maternal heritage.

Below is a painting of my beautiful mother and me painted in the summer of 1952. The painting was done by an artist somewhere in Formosa (now Taiwan) or Okinawa where my father was stationed with the Air Force at the time. The artist produced this painting by looking at a photo my mom sent to my dad.

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You’re Welcome

Most of us find ways of succeeding (muddling through) in areas of our lives in which we are not proficient.

People who cannot back a car well, for example, look for pull-through parking spaces. Those who don’t know how to keep a computer functioning make it a point to cozy up to people who do know how.

Homemakers who hate housework develop ways of maintaining reasonably clean and tidy homes. Homes that neither tie them to mops and dust rags nor cause them to panic when unexpected guests show up. Here are some of their time-honored strategies.

They utilize attractive baskets and storage boxes. By scooping up newspapers and magazines and dropping them into an attractive basket, the savvy homemaker creates a clutter-free room in less than two minutes. She stows necessary household supplies like tape, scissors, and pens, as well as necessary evils like remote controls, inside decorative boxes with lids.

She chooses to accept good-enough. She dusts around books and other items on shelves and vacuums around large pieces of furniture. She manipulates window blinds in order to hide the dustiest surfaces and closes the shower curtain to conceal a less-than-sparkling tub. She also uses low-wattage lights and candles to illuminate rooms when guests are in her home, and she discreetly stashes a bottle of Febreze in several rooms of the house.

She focuses on absolute necessities. Though her entire house may not be in mint condition, she gives priority to two rooms: the kitchen and the bathroom. The floors in those two rooms need to be squeaky clean. Her kitchen sink and stove top need to pass a quick inspection, and the guest bathroom must have a clean sink, a clean toilet, a clean hand towel, and a good supply of toilet paper. The other rooms in the house get just a lick and a promise.

She keeps on hand necessary ingredients for making quick and simple meals. Her pantry usually holds taco shells, chili beans, and spaghetti; as well as taco seasoning mixes, chili seasoning, and canned pasta sauces. Her freezer contains several pounds of ground beef, plus frozen pies she can pop into the oven at the last minute, or cheesecakes that go straight from the freezer to the table. If she needs to put together a meal unexpectedly, she is prepared.

She adopts a people-first policy. The smart homemaker reminds herself that friends do not visit to inspect her house for cleanliness. Most guests are comfortable with a bit of dust and clutter. Friends come to see her. They prefer a put-together hostess over a put-together house.

She quits apologizing for the way her house looks. She doesn’t draw attention to dust and clutter by mentioning that she needs to dust and pick up clutter. She doesn’t point out that leaves and pine needles clutter her front porch or that her couch sags in the middle.

Following these tips, this less-than-stellar homemaker can greet her guests the way she has always wanted to greet them. She opens the door, smiles warmly, and says, “Welcome! I’m happy you’re here.”

Who Is Praying for You?

I was humbled recently when a young woman I’ve never met told me via email she was praying for me. She said, “I am praying you will achieve success, as God defines success for you.”

What a gracious act, and what a wonderful prayer! This woman’s words have impacted the way I’ve prayed since then.

Like most people, I pray primarily for the people and situations most important to me. The requests change a bit over time, but not much.

I pray often throughout the day, but my prayers are repetitious: Keep my family and friends safe and healthy. Help me drive safely so I won’t hurt anyone. Bless so-and-so with victory over this-or-that struggle.

I know the power of prayer does not depend upon my ability to do it right. The power rests with the One who is listening. But I want to avoid being selfish in my requests. I want to move past the God bless mommy and daddy and me prayer of children.

For whom and for what are we to pray?

In Matthew 5:44 we are instructed to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. Jesus, in Matthew 6, tells us to ask prayerfully for our daily needs, for forgiveness, and for deliverance from the evil one.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority.”

In James 5:16 we are told to “pray for one another.” It was this command that my online friend obeyed when she prayed for me, her Christian sister.

I will pray for my loved ones whether I am commanded to do so or not, but I need some urging to pray for those who spitefully use me and persecute me. Asking God for forgiveness, for daily provisions, and for deliverance from Satan also comes naturally, but I need the prompting of the Scriptures to remind me to pray for world leaders, whether or not I consider them to be good leaders.

I seldom contemplate who might be praying for me. I do know, though, since my friend told me she is praying for me, I have begun praying for her. And because I am now praying for her, I remember to pray for other people outside my immediate circle of family members and friends.

Consider letting people know when you are praying for them. They will be humbled by that knowledge and, if they are praying people, they will likely respond by praying for you.

There is nothing more important we can do for people, no greater kindness or blessing we can offer, than the gift of praying for them. It is an extra special gift when you let them know you are doing so.

Bad Words

Snot. Barf. Butt. These words were not used in the house where I grew up. They were crude words, and Mom was sure her children could rise above the level of their use.

Other words were banned: idiot, stupid, and dumb. No matter how mad I got at my sister, the highest caliber zinger I could throw at her was goofball.

As Christian adults, most of us have self-imposed limitations on the words we use. We resist using those words not only when children are present but also in our adults-only conversations.

Parents who use crude language when they believe their children aren’t listening need to know this: Children are always listening.

Children are listening because they test their parents to determine whether or not a word or phrase is off limits for them. Children hear friends and television characters use words they suspect, but are not certain, may be on their family’s banned-words list. As soon as children hear those words come from their parents’ mouths, they feel licensed to use the words too.

Your list of banned words may differ from mine, but surely all of us strictly avoid using some words. You know what they are.

In addition, I restrict myself from using holy names (God, Jesus) irreverently. This means, of course, I do not swear. It also means I don’t use those words when I bump my head or get cut off in traffic. I don’t use them to express shock or fear or amazement. I don’t use the acronym OMG in emails or texts. Because God and Jesus are holy, I limit myself to using their names only within holy contexts and when I pray.

I don’t use cruel words to denigrate people: Stupid, idiot, and loser. Added to this list of banned words are phrases like dumber than a box of rocks or uglier than a mud fence. Everyone knows words hurt.

Parents should teach their children acceptable words to use when referring to using the bathroom, having a runny nose, vomiting, etc. I won’t presume to tell you precisely what those words should be. I will tell you, though, you will do well to establish those terms yourself. Otherwise, your child will pick up the words used by daycare friends or cartoon characters, and those words may not be to your liking.

Do you know why I don’t use holy names irreverently and why crude language is not part of my vocabulary? Because some sixty years ago, godly parents made certain my language was in line with their standards. Those standards have served me well. Thus, I have never considered changing them.

Make sure you have established guidelines to govern your own speech. Then pass along those guidelines to your children. Remember: You will eventually hear your words coming out of your children’s mouths.

Extravagance

Last week in my blog I came down hard on those couples on TV who shop for extravagant homes while displaying attitudes of greed and haughtiness.

At the same time I wrote that piece, I wrote another one on the same subject but from a different point of view. I will share it here.

My husband is watching one of those “find-me-a-new-home” programs on television. I am down the hall in another room, but I can hear the conversation between the prospective homebuyers and their real estate agent.

This childless young couple has budgeted $1.5 million for their new home. They currently own a house that has 3800 square feet of living space and too many amenities to list. They admit their current home is “nice,” but they want to upgrade to a house that is bigger and better.

It is easy to be critical of this couple. Are they not merely egotists in search of a spectacular house in order to indulge themselves and impress their friends?

But the passage in Matthew 7 that cautions me against judging other people keeps niggling in the back of my mind. So before I completely write off these two as unredeemable airheads who should be forced to live like ordinary people for a while, I will do a bit of introspection.

Do I live like ordinary people? No, I do not, and here is proof.

According to www.globalissues.org, at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. Almost 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, and nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.

The lifestyle I enjoy is far above ordinary.

Is extravagance a subjective term? Who gets to determine at which point one’s lifestyle becomes excessive? The lifestyle of the house-hunting couple on TV smacks of extravagance to me, but the way I live surely seems extravagant to the people of Haiti.

I remember a story I heard about a man who served as the treasurer of his church. One day he approached one of the church elders saying, “You know I see the checks that are put into the collection plate each Sunday. I am concerned that Jack Smith’s weekly contribution is not proportionate to his income.”

“Do you know,” asked the elder, “that Jack’s mother is in an extended care facility, requires round-the-clock professional care, and is dependent almost solely upon Jack for her sustenance?”

“No,” said the treasurer. “I didn’t know Jack was supporting his mother.”

“I don’t know that he is either,” said the elder. “But he very well may be.”

For all I know, the millionaire couple may be more generous with their abundance than I am with mine. Possibly they sponsor a host of children in Guatemala, contribute to the support of many missionaries, and routinely donate large amounts of money to hospitals and other charitable entities.

I don’t know that they do, but they very well may.

I am answerable only for the way I manage my money. I am not qualified to judge the way other people spend theirs.

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Somebody’s Got to Say It

My husband is watching one of those “find-me-a-new-home” programs on television. I am down the hall in another room, but I can hear the conversation between the 30-something, prospective homebuyers and their real estate agent. Such shows are popular, but somebody’s got to point out what they really are.

“We have budgeted $1.5 million for our new house,” the wife says. “I hope you can find something for us in that price range.”

“We want something spacious,” says the husband.

“One of my requirements in a new house,” says the wife “is a perfect kitchen. This means granite countertops; Travertine floor tiles; a quartz backsplash; commercial-quality, stainless steel appliances; and kitchen windows giving me a view of both the water and the mountains.”

“We also want a large back yard,” interjects her husband, “fully landscaped, having a pool and a roofed patio, an outdoor kitchen, a large fountain, a guesthouse, a privacy fence, and room for a top-of-the-line playground set for the kids we may one day have.”

“Remember also,” says the wife, “we have specific requirements when it comes to location. The ideal house will be outside the city but in close proximity to shops, restaurants, gyms, and theaters.”

“Plus,” says the husband, “we want a minimum of four bedrooms and four full baths, a spacious entertainment area, a wet bar, a mudroom, a large laundry room, plenty of storage space, hardwood floors, custom-built cabinets and bookshelves, a man cave, a three-car garage, a home theater, and an en suite master bedroom with a fireplace, a hot tub, and access to a sun deck.”

“Absolutely,” says the wife.

Then to the realtor the husband says, “Do you think you can find the ideal home for us?”

“Certainly,” says the realtor. “You may have to raise your price ceiling a bit, though. Will that be a problem?”

“I shouldn’t think so,” says the husband, “if you can find the perfect place. Remember, we plan to spend three months of every year in this house.”

URRRGGHHH!

I don’t object to these people having lots of money. They have earned it and have the right to spend it as they wish. What sickens me is their attitude.

Somebody’s got to say it. Many of these shows are grandiose displays of self-centered people searching for spectacular houses in order to indulge themselves, impress everyone in their circle of friends, and make the rest of us envious of their splendid financial success.

Before I’ll watch one of these house-hunting shows, I’ll watch the show where the man stranded on an island eats rabbit brains. It’s less repulsive.

It Has Come to This

I never buy the right purse. Each one I buy is either too big or too small, has too many compartments or not enough, or has an opening that either won’t stay open or won’t stay closed. I would function better with a heavyweight paper bag.

The right purse, above all other features, makes accessing items from it effortless.

When a woman is driving down the highway, for example, she likes to withdraw her sunglasses from her purse without taking her eyes off the road.

When making purchases at a store, she wants to retrieve her wallet and the appropriate coupons in one smooth movement.

As she leaves a store and heads for her parked car, she wants to withdraw her keys from her purse without breaking her stride.

I long to be one of these women. I once thought I could become one by buying the right purse. However, experience has proven I am incapable of buying the right purse. I must, therefore, make do with a wrong purse, rightly organized.

To this end, I laid all my purse paraphernalia on my kitchen table, along with a selected wrong purse from my closet. Then I carefully inserted each item into the purse in what I considered an organized manner.

I put my phone in the outside front pocket.

My hand lotion, compact, nail clippers, toothpicks, and chewing gum went into the outside back pocket.

 My keys I placed in the inner back compartment, along with tissues, hand sanitizer, lipstick, Chapstick, and wet wipes.

I inserted my wallet, sunglasses, pen, notepad, and calendar in the inner front compartment.

Finally, in the skinny, zippered, middle pouch I put my photos of the grandkids, my coupons, and my emergency twenty dollar bill.

This is good, I thought.

Unknown to me, however, the moment I closed the purse, the items inside began playing a sadistic version of musical chairs. Each item left its assigned location and moved to occupy some other item’s space.

Thus, a few days later as I drove down the highway and reached into my purse for my sunglasses, I pulled out instead a package of gum, followed by a compact, and a packet of tissues.

At the store, other customers waited as I dug through my purse for my wallet. I pushed aside photos, a notebook, a calendar, and my sunglasses before finally retrieving the wallet.

Leaving the store in a rainstorm, I dug unsuccessfully in my purse for my keys all the way to my car. My fingers grasped nail clippers, a tube of lipstick, a bottle of hand lotion, and a packet of toothpicks, but no keys.

When I got to my car, angry and frustrated, I dumped the contents of my purse onto the car’s slippery, wet hood. I sorted out my phone and shoved it inside my bra to protect it from moisture.

I rifled through the scattered metal, plastic, and paper items on the car’s hood until I found my keys. I then stuffed the miserable, soggy contents back into my purse, without regard for front pocket, back pocket, zippered inner pouch, or anything else.

My blood pressure cannot take much more of this. I will, I resolve, be victorious in this fight.

And so, sadly, it has come to this.

 

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