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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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A Hobby or a Job?

 

What happens when your hobby becomes a job?

I was once an avid cross-stitcher. For anyone who does not know what cross-stitching entails, I will explain.

A cross-stitched project begins with a piece of finely woven fabric dotted with tiny holes placed equal distances apart, usually 11, 14, 18 or 22 holes per inch of fabric. Numerous skeins of colored floss (thread), a blunt-tipped sewing needle, an embroidery hoop, and a pair of sharp scissors are also needed.

Following a color-coded pattern printed on a tiny grid, the cross-stitch worker counts tediously and sews tiny x’s or half-x’s or quarter-x’s, using the appropriate color floss. She does this by pushing her needle up and down in exactly the correct holes of the fabric, sometimes even between the holes of the fabric, thus replicating the picture on the paper pattern.

Cross-stitching, like other hobbies, can become work. The more beautiful projects I completed, the more driven I was to begin new ones. Never mind that I was ruining my eyesight and developing pressure sores on my behind.

Over the years I have dabbled in other hobbies including scrapbooking, gardening, and sewing clothes. Once again I discovered I didn’t own these projects. They owned me.

Progress on the scrapbook I was assembling for my seven-year-old granddaughter halted after her first birthday. Soon I had as much hope of catching up on her scrapbook as I would have of running after and catching a bus traveling 50 miles an hour.

My gardening hobby hit a snag when I realized my tomato plants were producing tomatoes faster than I could use them. The sight of ripe tomatoes rotting on the ground because I neglected them caused me to feel wasteful and irresponsible.

My sewing hobby tortured me most. Every time my eyes lit on a sewing project left unfinished because I couldn’t figure out how to put in sleeves or create pleats or insert a zipper, I felt like a ninth-grader well on her way to flunking home economics.

Unfinished projects taunted me everywhere I looked. When I had a bit of free time, I couldn’t decide which one of them to tackle. Frustrated by indecision, I usually retreated to the hammock to take a nap.

I have finally developed a strategy that keeps me from obsessing over abandoned hobbies. First, I shush the little voice inside my head that tells me quitting is always bad.

I shove my cross-stitch projects and supplies, along with all unfinished sewing projects, into a dresser drawer. Then I stay away from stores like JoAnn Fabrics where such materials are sold.

I plant only enough tomatoes to supply my family and friends, not the whole county. I then invite neighbors to help themselves to my crop. That way I share not only my harvest but also any guilt that comes when tomatoes are left unused.

The scrapbook for my granddaughter is one project I passionately want to complete. If I give up cross-stitching, gardening, and sewing, maybe I will make some progress on it.

Or maybe I won’t. To move forward with the scrapbook project, I will need to stop writing, working crossword puzzles, crocheting, reading, listening to audio books, and playing Bookworm on my laptop. So many interests. So little time.

I think I hear the hammock calling.

Second-Day Hair

My hair looks better the day after it has been washed and styled than it does on the day it gets special treatment. Second-day hair is shinier and fuller than first-day hair.

Many things are better when they are not brand new. The best wines and cheeses, for example, are intentionally aged. The quilt my grandmother made when I was a little girl is softer and comfier now than it was the day Grandma finished it.

Chili is better on day two, and so are marinated salads. Who wants to eat a lime-green banana the day it is brought home from the grocery store?

Worn shoes are more comfortable than new ones. An old deck of playing cards is easier to play with than a new deck right out of a cellophane-wrapped box.

Old baseball cards are more valuable than new ones. So are old coins and furniture. Old movies and television shows, in many people’s opinion, are better than the new ones. When it comes to great works of art, the older the better.

Go to an auction or estate sale and take note of the most sought after items: Old dishes; old tools; old toys; and even old, framed, black-and-white photos of people the new owners never even met.

Savvy entrepreneurs know consumers are always in the market for used items. Where would the Exit 76 Antique Mall, the Used Car Factory, Half Price Books, eBay, and Craigslist be if everyone demanded new?

Though I read from the New International Version Bible today, I revert back to the language of the Old King James Bible when I quote familiar passages such as Psalms 23 and John 3:16. Words like leadeth and believeth touch my heart in a warmer, softer way than the words leads and believes.

Some second-hand items are better because of the person who used them first. My mother’s old pastry blender has a worn, wooden handle that was once painted red, and bent blades that were once straight and sharp. It might look worse for wear, but it is the one thing I am claiming as my own when Mom doesn’t need her things anymore.

All friends are treasures, but old friends are best because they have been loyal for a long time. An oft-quoted poem expresses this sentiment well: Make new friends. Keep the old. The one is silver. The other is gold.

New certainly has its place. I’m not advocating eating moldy bread or driving an old clunker if you don’t have to. But don’t discredit old.

As the old songs say, Give Me That Old-Time Religion, That Old-Time Rock and Roll, Those Old Cotton Fields Back Home, and My Old Kentucky Home (Arkansas, actually).

Today I am making a pan of lasagna. It will taste great for supper … tomorrow night, when it isn’t brand new.

Tomato Bounty

Tomatoes are her favorite fruit. She just can’t get enough.

She hates tomatoes from the store. They’re colorless and tough.

And so she buys some tender plants and puts them in the soil.

Waits patiently ‘til she can see reward for all her toil.

And then one day some blooms appear. She’s happy, awed and pleased.

She looks through cookbooks, Google too, to find new recipes.

She thought the day would never come when she would find one red.

She checked them every single day, but all were green instead.

And then one day her hope picked up.  She saw a hint of red.

She dreamed of rich spaghetti sauce, that night while in her bed.

Within a week her garden peaked.  Tomatoes everywhere!

She picked them morning, noon and night, but still there were more there.

She filled up buckets, tubs and crates. She pawned them off on friends.

She cooked them every way she knew, made sauces, stews and blends.

Her hairdresser, her postman too partook of her excess.

She left some on each neighbor’s porch (at night, she did confess).

At last, she sighs.  They’re finally gone.  Now she can get some rest.

But then she spies her apple tree producing with a zest!

Not Another Day

Lord, please don’t let me live another day focused only on myself: how I look and how I feel, striving to be seen as attractive, intelligent, well-liked, and productive, but mostly striving just to be seen. If these are the prizes I choose to run after, don’t let me slog through another self-centered day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day with a crippling mindset of fear.  Don’t allow the dark presence of evil to overwhelm me. Give me a confidence born of faith. If I opt instead to live in dread and to dwell only upon fearful possibilities, please don’t let me agonize my way through another day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day as a self-appointed judge. Keep me from scrutinizing other people’s actions, weighing them on my balance, and assigning motives based only on my own understanding. Don’t let me believe the lie that I function upon a higher, nobler level than the level upon which other people function. If I am determined to spend my time doling out criticism, don’t let me live another miserable, judgmental day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day engaged in whining and complaining. Impress upon my heart the truth that I am blessed beyond measure. No person living in the past or in the present has received more good things than I have. If I am to insist upon feeling sorry for myself, don’t let me live another self-pitying day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day bogged down with guilt. Help me believe Your promise to “remember my sins no more.” Cause me live in the light of redemption and not in the darkness of doubt. If I am determined to question Your forgiveness and consider myself unredeemable, don’t let me suffer through another day of self-condemnation.

Lord, don’t let me live another day wasted in chasing such idols as comfort, accomplishment, approval. Though these are not manmade gods of metal or stone, they are, nonetheless, idols and have no more power to satisfy and bless than had the Golden Calf. If I am to choose these gods over You, don’t let me live another idolatrous day.

Lord, please don’t let me live another day so caught up in the busyness of life that I find no time to spend with You. Motivate me to take advantage of opportunities to pray, to read and study Your Word, to speak of Your goodness, and to glorify Your name. If I find these activities so unimportant that I fail to involve myself in them, don’t let me live through another day of neglecting You.

Lord, when I ask that You not let me live another day engaged in worthless indulgences, I am not asking You to take my life from me. I am asking You to grace me with the new life that you have already died to give to me.

Help me hunger and thirst for that life: a life characterized by selflessness, gratitude, grace, peace, and humility. And help me not to give up on reaching this goal until it is fully mine. Let my entire existence be grounded upon the sureness of Your promises, the certainty of Your love, and the unwavering assurance of Your presence in my life.

And in that new life, Lord, give me many days to praise Your Name to the highest heights.

 

Now Hear This!

When I taught first grade many years ago, I looked for opportunities to praise my little students. Every day I awarded a “Best Rester” ribbon to the child who was quietest and most compliant during our rest period after lunch. I also gave “Best Listener” awards to those who paid careful attention to what I said.

I want to be a good listener, but lately I realize I am deserving of no award in that area.

Since my husband and I have been together forty-plus years, I think I can anticipate what he is about to say. Thus, I often cut him off in mid-statement. For example, the other day while Dan and I were relaxing in the hammock, he said to me, “I am thinking ….” I interrupted and said, “I know. You are thinking we should have made this screened-in porch bigger.”

“Well, I do wish that,” he said, “but I was going to say I am thinking I might be more comfortable if you shifted a bit to the left.”

Listening Rule #1: Allow the speaker to finish what he/she is saying instead of interrupting and finishing the speaker’s sentence yourself.

One day last week I offered to fill a little wading pool with water for our four-year-old granddaughter to play in. As I hooked up the hose, she said to me, “Don’t put yucky water in it, Grandma.”

I was surprised. “I won’t put yucky water in the pool,” I assured her.

Within a few minutes she repeated her request. “Don’t put yucky water in the pool, Grandma,” she said.

I said to my little granddaughter, “I would never put yucky water in your pool, Sweetheart.”

“This morning you did,” she said.

I barely stopped myself from snapping, “No, I didn’t!”

Then I remembered that earlier in the day she had asked to play in the little pool. But the pool contained water (along with grass clippings, dead insects, etc.) from the previous day. Therefore, I had told her she couldn’t play in it because, in my exact words, the water was yucky. I understood then that she, with her four-year-old power of reasoning, thought I had intentionally filled the pool with yucky water that morning.

Listening Rule #2: When people say things that sound outlandish, pause and consider all the possible meanings of the statement before you shoot them that Are you crazy? look.

The other day my husband was scrolling through ads on the Internet. He called me into the room and said, “Look at these nice blouses, Deb. Do you want to order some?”

That is honestly what he said, but because I must have been in a snarky mood, this is what I heard: “Deb, you buy the wrong clothes. You should let me shop for you.”

Listening Rule #3: Resist assigning unkind meanings to the things people say. Be gracious enough to assume the person means what he/she says, and nothing more.

I am not likely to qualify as a finalist for the “Best Listener” Award. However, give me a soft, comfortable recliner and a light quilt; open the window and let a sweet breeze blow into the room, and I’ll be a shoo-in for the Best Rester Award.

Zzzzzzz

 

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