Cheap Thrills

I do not pursue wealth and fame and all those other things that the pagans run after.  Maybe that is because I have learned to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

For example, I get a little splash of happiness every time I hand a cashier the exact change, right down to the penny, when I make a purchase.  I feel like a champion when I open my clothes dryer to put in wet clothes and find no dry clothes waiting there to be put away.  A moony-eyed contentment descends upon me when I hear James Taylor singing the word “lovely” and giving it three syllables.

Being able to operate smoothly all three of our television remotes makes me happier than owning a cabin in the Rockies would do.  I get a cheap thrill when I hear a high-paid network newscaster fumble with the use of the pronouns who and whom As a writer, I shout with merriment when I discover precisely the right word to use when constructing a sentence, as I did with the word merriment in this sentence.

When I find that the purchases in my amazon.com shopping cart already total $35 or more and thus qualify for free shipping without my having to add one more thing to my cart, I do fist pumps.  I am proud of the fact that should I be on Jeopardy and find in the category “Nursery Rhymes” the answer, “Bobby Shafto,” I would know that the correct question is, “Who has gone to sea, silver buckles at his knee?”   How many people can say that?

By sequentially taking a bite of my cheeseburger, followed by eating one French fry, and taking one sip of my sweet tea, I can finish every element of my fast-food meal at the same time. Who doesn’t like it when things come out even?  (That last word should have been evenly, but occasionally I enjoy taking liberties with the English language.)

When I see 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, I feel like doing the happy dance right in the middle of my driveway.  I get a sense of accomplishment when I decide upon five different radio stations to assign to my car radio’s five selection options because who wants a selection option hanging out there uselessly?

Just for fun, after I pay off a credit card, I call the card’s toll-free number so I can hear the recorded voice say, “Your current unpaid balance is zero dollars and zero cents.”  WOO HOO!

Like many people, I feel great satisfaction when I complete and check off the final item on my to-do list.  If I need a real pick-me-up, I add to the list several other tasks that I accomplished that day, just for the joy of checking them off!

Admittedly, not every thornbush in my life’s garden bears a rose. I do suffer disappointments, like realizing that I spent $13 on a tiny bottle of pure vanilla extract when I already had a brand new bottle at home.  I will confess too that I occasionally tip over and spill my half-full glass of life.  On balance though, the good things outweigh the bad.

Little successes and lucky flips of life’s coin bring me happiness every day.  You’ve got to get your kicks where you can find them.

 

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Advice for New Grandmothers (from a gently used one)

First, buy batteries and lots of them.  Half of your grandchild’s toys will require one or more.  Look for sales and rebates from Duracell and Energizer.  You can’t have too many 9-volt, AA, AAA, C-size and D-size batteries.  Even if you stock up on these, you will occasionally have to buy one of those little round batteries that cost as much as $12 each, so budget accordingly.  Do NOT take batteries out of smoke detectors to put them into toys.  If the house burns, all of those batteries inside toys will be lost anyway.

Toughen up!  Expect questions like: “Grandma, what is that hang-y down skin under your chin?”  “Are those blue lines on your legs boo-boos?”   “Your breath smells bad.  Have you brushed your teeth?”

When you sit down on the floor to play with the grandkids, always sit with your back against a couch or a sturdy chair.  You will need its support when it is time to stand up.

When you bend down to pick up a toy, take a look around and see what other toys, Cheerios, crayons or pieces of shredded cheese need to be picked up while you are down there.  There’s no use bending down five times when you can pick up everything with one bend.

When you take the grandkids outside to play in the yard, anticipate absolutely everything you may need once you get out there and take it with you:  insect repellant, sunglasses, jackets, sunscreen, Band-Aids, hand sanitizer, tissues, and a cup of water for everyone.  You should need to round up the herd for a trip indoors only when one of them needs to visit the potty or have a diaper changed.

Expect constructive and all other kinds of criticism.  It comes in various forms.  “Grandma, you should have  stopped at that yellow light because the light turned red before you got completely turned.”  “Your house smells funny, Grandma, kind of like throw-up or maybe spinach.”  “Grandma, my mom says you shouldn’t open Happy Meal Toys with your teeth.”

Admit to the grandkids right up front that you don’t know the answer to every question.  “Why is this the road to your house, Grandma?” is one of them.

If you have more than one grandchild in the car at any given time, do not ask, “Where would you like to have lunch?”

Know that you will feel unspeakably sad when you notice that your grandchild has stopped using words like “pasghetti,” “amblience,” “hopsital,” and “poottaste.”

Expect to learn intimate details of your grandkids’ home lives. My granddaughter told me the other day, “My mommy and daddy kiss on the lips.”

Once a grandchild starts school, you will become incredibly stupid.  You are likely to hear this: “My teacher says you are wrong, Grandma, when you say that 80% of my body heat escapes through my head if it isn’t covered up.”

Don’t be shocked at anything you hear or see during the potty-training process.  If your grandchild waves, throws kisses and says “I love you” as the contents of the toilet are flushed away, know that this is normal.

Plan on living with smudges on your eyeglasses, spit-up on your sweater, and sore earlobes from having hoop earrings jerked off of you (usually during church).

Know that your carpet will have Play Doh embedded in its fibers, your car seats will have melted M & M’s on them, your kitchen cabinet will contain at any given time at least six different kinds of cereal boxes, and your heart will be so full of love that you cannot look at one of your little ones without wanting to cry.

HIDE-AND-SEEK

My things are hiding from me with more and more regularity.  I have long been accustomed to searching for my keys, my phone and my to-do lists, but lately it seems that everything in my world is playing hide-and-seek with me, and I am always the seeker.

For at least a week, two halves of a broken refrigerator magnet in the form of a teddy bear lay on my kitchen island.  I didn’t throw the pieces away because the magnet was given to me by my mom and I wanted to repair it and keep it.  A few days ago I finally searched out the bottle of glue and went into the kitchen to fix the broken magnet.  When I got there, half of the magnet had disappeared.  I could find the head of the teddy bear but where was the body?

It seemed inconceivable to me that the magnet-half could have left the kitchen island. I was even more surprised when my husband found the piece in the pocket of one of his sweatshirts.  He swore that he had not put the magnet there, and I believe him.

The next day, having recovered the missing piece of magnet, I once more approached the island with the glue bottle in hand to make my repair.  Again, I was mystified to find only one piece of the broken magnet where I had left both of them. This time the body of the teddy bear lay on the island but the head was nowhere to be seen.

It is at this point in any given situation that I begin to despair.  I start questioning my sanity, the laws of physics, and the existence of gremlins.  I obsess over the lost item, no matter how insignificant it is.  Meals are not prepared, the house is not cleaned, daily showers become optional and even getting dressed in the morning becomes less and less important.  Nothing else matters except finding the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son or the lost piece of a teddy bear magnet.

I search everywhere, disassembling furniture and pulling out major appliances in an effort to find what is lost.  Invariably, the item turns up after I decide once and for all that it has fallen into the Bermuda Triangle never to be seen again.  In the case of the teddy bear head, I found it days later in a side pocket of one of my purses.  I did not put it there.  Why would I have?

I smell a conspiracy.  My cell phone whispered to my favorite ink pen that it should spend some time in the silverware drawer.  The pen then suggested to a table knife that it might like to hang out for a while in my make-up cabinet.  The table knife persuaded my eyeliner pencil to take a trip to my sock drawer, and my iPod got a wild hair and hid under the driver’s seat of my husband’s pick-up truck.

I refuse to be bested by these inanimate objects!  Their day is coming.  I feel like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.  “I’ll get you, my pretties,” I murmur.  And I will too.  I will show no mercy.  I’ll use my rolling pin to pound all of them into indistinguishable masses of matter . . . just as soon as I find my rolling pin.

ISLAND LIVING

 

Our house is spacious and has many closets, cabinets, bookshelves and other storage areas.  However, the area my husband and I use most for storage is our kitchen island.  In theory, items placed on the island are intended to have only temporary stays there. In reality, many items make the island their permanent home.

At any given time, items like these can be seen scattered across our kitchen island:  my purse, two cell phones, a large paper calendar, the day’s mail, a broken refrigerator magnet waiting to be glued back together, two AA batteries, two pairs of sunglasses, an unpaid doctor bill, three library books, two bags of Kraft caramels, and a crazy balloon that I made for the grandkids by blowing up a latex kitchen glove.

These items are on the island because they fall into one of the following categories.

(1) Items that have no assigned home:  the broken magnet and the glove-balloon.

(2) Items that need to be quickly accessible and not actually “stored” because they are used often:  the phones, the calendar, the sunglasses and the purse.

(3)  Items that have assigned homes, but my husband and I are too busy/distracted/lazy to put them there at the moment:  the mail, the batteries, the doctor bill, the books, and the caramels.

This island living is driving me crazy.  Routinely, questions are shouted from one of us to the other.  “Have you seen the car keys, the stapler, my black-beaded necklace, the remote control for the TV in the bedroom, the new ink cartridge for my printer, the electric bill, my sweatshirt, the weed killer?”  The answer to all of those queries is always, “Have you looked on the island?”

I see kitchen islands on TV and in magazines that have nothing on them except a bowl of artificial fruit.  Why can’t our island look like that?

I have tried unsuccessfully to maintain an uncluttered island.  First, I bought two wire baskets and set one on each end of the island, one for Dan’s stuff and the other for my stuff.  Within two days, though, those baskets were running over and their contents comingling like the paper clips, rubber bands, and thumbtacks in my office drawer.

Another day I slid all of the items off of the island and into a big cardboard box.  I set the box on the washer in the laundry room. Ah, finally a more discreet storage space and a clean island, I thought.  My joy was short-lived though when two days later a paperback library book made its way out of the box and into the washer along with a load of dark-colored clothes.

I moved the box to the bed in the guest bedroom (too unhandy), to the top of the refrigerator (too tacky-looking), and to the work table in the garage (completely ridiculous).   By this time the question most often heard in our house was, “Where’s the box?”

Yesterday I once again cleared the stuff off the island.  I then bought a huge ivy plant and set it in the center of the space, carefully stretching out its tendrils to cover as much of the island top as possible.  Will Dan and I continue to stash things there, despite the leafy obstacle?  My guess is that we will.

I wonder where I can buy poison ivy.

Carded

I am not an alcohol drinker and never have been.  Therefore, I have not had the experience of being “carded” at a restaurant or store.  My only chance of being asked to show my ID these days would be to verify that I qualify for the senior-citizen discount.

I am, however, routinely “carded” in other ways.  On my key ring right now hang 12 plastic-coated, miniature-size discount cards for local businesses.  I have three times as many discount cards on my key ring as I have keys.  I think I will start referring to it as my card ring.

Of course I have trouble finding the right card when I need it.  I usually go through 11 other cards before I locate the right one.  Sometimes I never locate the right one.  Recently, as I was ordering food at McAlister’s Deli, I asked the clerk to wait a minute.  I dug through my purse to retrieve my card ring and flashed a card at her.  “That’s a Panera Bread Card,” she said to me.  In a similar situation, I was informed a few days ago that my Speedway Rewards Card would not get me a discount at Circle K.

I have considered tossing out all of these little money-saving but time-consuming discount cards.  Like coupons, they often are more trouble than they are worth.  When a clerk hands me my receipt and smilingly says, “You saved 12 cents today with your rewards card,” I want to say, “Wow!  Now I can really help my children.”

Those little reward cards are not the only cards that have become out of control.  My wallet will not snap shut anymore, and that is not because I have too much cash in it.  I have too many cards:  four credit cards, two ATM debit cards, my health insurance card, my dental insurance card, two library cards, my AARP card, an auto insurance card for each of our three vehicles, three cards containing encouraging Bible verses, and a card on which I have jotted down various passwords I use (scrambled a bit in order to thwart identity thieves).  I am a card-carrying fool! Apparently, if I want my wallet to snap shut, I will have to get rid of my driver’s license.

Speaking of cards, has anyone else noticed how expensive greeting cards have become?  My daughter’s birthday was in September, and I spent half an hour at the drug store choosing exactly the right birthday card for her.  As I headed for the register, I glanced at the back of the card and saw that it cost $6.99!  Mortified at seeing that high price, I stopped where I was and backtracked to the card aisle.  I shoved that card back into the rack and spent another half hour finding an acceptable but less expensive card.  I then proceeded to the check-out with a card that cost only $5.99.  There the clerk smiled warmly at me and asked, “Do you have one of our customer rewards cards?”

Sitting at home later and thinking about how much hassle cards have caused me lately, I heard my phone ring.  It was a friend asking, “Do you and Dan want to come over Friday night?  We’ll play cards.”

Conventional Wisdom

I took a break from working crossword puzzles and watching old episodes of Dateline to waste my time in a new way:  composing  the following list.  I did not lift this list from the Internet.  I pulled each item from the dark recesses of my mind where I should have stored useful information like how to fold a fitted sheet and whether to feed a fever and starve a cold or starve a fever and feed a cold.

Here for your consideration is a list of common admonitions beginning with the word don’t.   If you can think of some that I have left out, click the “Comment” button below and tell me what they are.  Don’t let me be the only one who wastes time.

  1. Don’t ask what your country can do for you.
  2. Don’t bank on it.
  3. Don’t beat a dead horse.
  4. Don’t beat around the bush.
  5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  6. Don’t be too sure.
  7. Don’t beleaguer the point.
  8. Don’t believe everything you hear.
  9. Don’t blame me.
  10. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
  11. Don’t cast stones.
  12. Don’t change horses in midstream.
  13. Don’t come back empty-handed.
  14. Don’t count on it.
  15. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  16. Don’t cry over spilled milk.
  17. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.
  18. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
  19. Don’t do as I do; do as I say.
  20. Don’t drag your feet.
  21. Don’t drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.
  22. Don’t drop the ball.
  23. Don’t even think about it.
  24. Don’t expect too much.
  25. Don’t fiddle around.
  26. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.
  27. Don’t fool yourself.
  28. Don’t get me wrong.
  29. Don’t gild the lily.
  30. Don’t go blaming me.
  31. Don’t go it alone.
  32. Don’t go off half-cocked.
  33. Don’t go there.
  34. Don’t have a cow.
  35. Don’t jump the gun.
  36. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  37. Don’t just sit there.
  38. Don’t kill the messenger.
  39. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.
  40. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
  41. Don’t let the sun catch you crying.
  42. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  43. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.
  44. Don’t make a scene.
  45. Don’t make me stop this car.
  46. Don’t mince words.
  47. Don’t muddy the water.
  48. Don’t overstay your welcome.
  49. Don’t start a fight you can’t finish.
  50. Don’t play with fire.
  51. Don’t point fingers.
  52. Don’t push your luck.
  53. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  54. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  55. Don’t put the cart before the horse.
  56. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul.
  57. Don’t rock the boat.
  58. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  59. Don’t say you heard it from me.
  60. Don’t shoot the piano player.
  61. Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me.
  62. Don’t spend all your money in one place.
  63. Don’t spill the beans.
  64. Don’t spit into the wind.
  65. Don’t state the obvious.
  66. Don’t start what you can’t finish.
  67. Don’t stick your nose in where it doesn’t belong.
  68. Don’t strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.
  69. Don’t take any wooden nickels.
  70. Don’t take anything for granted.
  71. Don’t take no for an answer.
  72. Don’t take your love to town.
  73. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  74. Don’t tempt fate.
  75. Don’t think for a minute that I won’t do it.
  76. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
  77. Don’t toot your own horn.
  78. Don’t touch that dial.
  79. Don’t trump your partner’s ace.
  80. Don’t underestimate yourself.
  81. Don’t whittle your life away.
  82. Don’t you believe it.

 

The Great Put-Down

I don’t like being told what to do.  Even when the advice is good, my initial reaction upon receiving it is resistance.  I also do not like telling other people what they should do.

When I was about eight years old, I watched my grandfather install new tiles in our living room ceiling.  I noticed after a while that he had made a mistake.  He had put one of the tiles in the wrong way.  I didn’t tell him, though.  I waited for him to notice what he had done and correct it, which he eventually did do.

I wished fervently that I had found the courage to tell Grandpa kindly what he had unintentionally done.  It would have saved him some time and labor and would have prevented my feeling miserable until he noticed the mistake himself.

Thus, today I have summoned up the courage to say this:  People are using their phones too much.  In fact, many seem to be on the phone almost all the time.  They make and receive calls, texts, emails and instant messages.  They surf the Web, play games and obsess over Facebook.  Someone has suggested that if an alien were sent to observe the behavior of humans from a distance, he would return to report that most people spend the day holding one hand to an ear or scrutinizing one of their palms.

Last week while taking a walk, I observed a young mother out for a stroll with her toddler.  I watched with sadness as the mother, engrossed in using her phone, failed to notice that her toddler was walking down the middle of the street.  Though we were not walking in an area of heavy or fast traffic, I wanted to say to the mom, “Your little boy is in the street,” but I didn’t say anything.  She must have eventually recognized what was happening and rectified the situation because I heard of no children being run over in my neighborhood.

Diners at restaurants often spend more time using their phones than they do conversing with the other people at their table.  Shoppers split their attention between selecting their purchases and using their phones.  Thousands of times a day young children are admonished, “Wait a second.  I’m on my phone.”  More disturbing, according to safety experts, texting while driving is now a leading cause of death among teenagers.

People use their phones while doing their banking, while working in their houses and yards, while bathing their children and while supposedly “visiting” with someone else. While it was once considered rude to ignore the people around you, that practice is commonplace anymore.  Do people ever make eye contact?

I don’t like being told what to do.  You probably don’t either, but I am telling you this: Focus upon what it is that you are doing and upon the real-life people who are in front of your face.  Put down your phone.

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.