I Hereby Resolve . . . Maybe Not

Before you make any resolutions for the upcoming year, let me caution you to think twice.  Until I gave some serious thought to what I would resolve to do in 2016, these are the resolutions I had planned to make.

  • In 2016 I will stop eating junk and eat only healthful, nutritious, organically grown fruits and vegetables that have been thoroughly washed with Veggie Fit.  I will consume no canned, bottled or packaged foods and will eat absolutely nothing containing caffeine, fat, sugar, salt, cholesterol, gluten, carbohydrates, artificial dyes or preservatives.
  • I will power-walk walk three miles a day, every day, regardless of the weather, the road conditions, or my state of health.
  • I will read or listen to all 89 of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels.

Future scenario:  Look for a scowling, emaciated woman slogging along snow-covered streets in a central Indiana neighborhood, gnawing on a stalk of celery, listening to The Old Man and the Sea on her iPod and murmuring, “Caffeine.  Get me some caffeine.”

 

  • In 2016, through careful organization and the efficient use of sticky notes and calendars, I will show up on the right day and at the right time for all dental and doctor appointments, psychologist visits, hair appointments, lunches with friends, Pampered Chef parties, church, etc.
  • I will neatly store all current and future incoming bills, warranties, catalogs, insurance policies, advertisements, receipts, etc. inside my house.  No piece of paper will ever again be placed on my kitchen island to be dealt with later.

Future scenario:    Look for a wild-eyed woman plastered in assorted-color sticky notes and having a large, well-marked calendar taped to the front of her refrigerator, to her car’s steering wheel, to her bathroom mirror, to the edge of the TV screen, beside her laptop, and on both the front and back sides of her husband.  She will spend entire days filing papers in well organized and clearly labeled storage containers, three-ring binders, manila folders, and filing cabinets.

 

  • In 2016 I will finally get a grip on my housework.  My home will be devoid of dust, clutter, dirty dishes, untended  laundry, soap scum, spider webs, grimy windows, sticky refrigerator shelves, and baked-on oven residue.

Future scenario:  Look for a woman whose furniture, appliances, bookshelves, table tops, and electronic equipment will be draped in bed sheets which are not to be removed under any circumstances.  In order to prevent soap scum, her sinks, showers and bathtubs will not be available for use.  You may see this woman and her husband eating in local restaurants, wearing the same items of clothing day after day and emitting an unpleasant odor.

 

  • In 2016 I will dedicate myself to improving the lives of the important people in my world.  I will boldly inform my husband, children and friends of all the changes I think they need to make in the upcoming year.  I will be attentive to my grandchildren 24/7, teaching them life principles, helping them develop their motor skills, reading to them, improving their handwriting and vocabulary, encouraging them in all worthwhile pursuits, and coaching them in memorizing long passages of scripture on a daily basis.

Future scenario:  Look for a lonely woman whose eyes are bloodshot and swollen from continuous crying because her husband, children and grandchildren have moved to another country and left no forwarding address.  Her friends have suddenly become unreachable by phone or email, and no one answers when the doorbell rings at their houses.

 

In short, had this perfectly sane, well-balanced, and productive woman stuck with these resolutions, she would have morphed in 2016 into an angry, skinny, foul-smelling but well-read, psychotic woman who lives alone in an immaculately clean, well-organized, sheet-draped home, eating tasteless food, never bathing, and venturing outside only to walk three miles a day, retrieve her mail, and appear on time for appointments.

Resolutions can ruin your life.  They almost ruined mine.

 

©Debbie Scales           December 27, 2015          657 Words

 

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Do I Stink?

When our son Ryan was about five years old, he asked me one day, “Mom, do I stink?”  I was surprised by the question, but determined to give a truthful answer, I leaned over and took a whiff.  No, he did not stink, and I told him so.  Apparently, during an argument with his big sister, he had been told that he did.

Like many mothers, I was privileged to be the most trusted confidante my young children had.  It was to me that they revealed the dreams, fears and secret ponderings that they disclosed to no one else.  They trusted me to listen and to respond with understanding and love.  They also counted on me to be honest.  If Ryan had to be told that he did indeed stink, he wanted to hear it from me.

Beyond recognizing and revealing my children’s flaws to them, I also provided a way for them to overcome their imperfections.  If my son was in need of a bath, I was the one who would see that he got one.

Morally speaking, this earth is inhabited by many stinky people, but most of them never stop to ask the question that Ryan asked me.  They don’t know whom to ask because they have never established an absolute guide for their lives.  Instead, they follow their hazy consciences or simply fall in line with the current moral code and live their lives according to its dictates.

Everyone needs a life standard that nothing else can trump:  not the current bestselling book, not some smooth-talking guru, not the latest self-serving ism, and not a nebulous, ever-changing conscience that is based on feelings.

Such a standard can be trusted to give honest and authoritative answers to the big questions we all ask:  What is my purpose?  What is evil?  How should I treat the people in my world?  What will happen to me after I die? 

The perfect standard will go beyond simply answering tough questions and pointing out flaws.  It will also provide loving help in making needed changes.

Please identify the standard by which you measure your life.  If that standard is reliable, take seriously your commitment to it.  Adhere closely to its precepts.

Do you stink?  How do you know?

 

©Debbie Scales          December 20, 2015          377 words

 

 

I’m Just Saying

If you have ever watched or listened to Abbott and Costello’s classic Who’s On First? routine, you know that words are funny.  This well-known back-and-forth about baseball was carefully rehearsed and perfectly delivered.

Sometimes though, unrehearsed statements made with no intent to be funny are almost as amusing as Abbott and Costello’s Who’s On First?

 

Our house is located near a farm where two donkeys live.  Our two young granddaughters looked for the animals every time we drove by the farm.  As children do, they often asked if they could stop and feed the donkeys carrots, or pet them through the fence or take a picture.  Eventually our son met the owner of the donkeys, chatted with him about the girls’ interest, and asked the donkeys’ names.

The little girls were thrilled to learn that the donkeys were called Edith and Sunflower.  Their “passing” friendship with the donkeys became richer when the girls could call them by name, speculate that Sunflower must be in the barn when they saw only Edith out grazing, etc.

The next time our son saw the farm owner he told him how enthralled the little girls continued to be with Edith and Sunflower.  “I didn’t tell you their names were Edith and Sunflower,” said the farmer.  “I told you their names were Edith and some flower.  I think it may be Petunia.”

 

With Christmas just around the corner I have asked family members for suggestions of gifts they would like to receive.  Our daughter-in-law Jenny dutifully texted me with two ideas of gifts for herself: a Yankee brand scented candle and an autumn wreath.

I mentioned to my husband that we should buy the autumn wreath quickly because with winter already upon us, fall wreaths might be hard to find.  I also commented that I wished Jenny had been more specific about the fragrance of the Yankee candle she wanted.

The next time I saw Jenny I asked, “What scent do you want when we buy your Yankee candle?”  She answered, “Didn’t I put that in the text?  I want the autumn wreath scent.”

 

My mother was lamenting the sad condition of her vegetable garden to her sister.  The garden was weedy and unkempt.  Without realizing that words which are pronounced the same way can have very different meanings, Mom said, “What I need is a bunch of hoers working in that garden.”

My aunt looked shocked and said, “Goodness, Sister, I don’t think they do that kind of work.”

 

Our son Ryan rented a sod cutter to prepare his garden plot for planting last spring.  I watched as he worked at removing the thick slabs of sod and asked, “How much does it cost to rent machines like that?”

He answered, “Thirty-five dollars a day.  The manual is $20.”

I was astounded!  I asked, “Are you telling me that the rental place charges you $35 for the machine, plus $20 for the user’s manual that goes with it?”

“No, Mom” Ryan said.  “They charge $35 for the power-driven model and $20 for the manual model.”

 

James 3:2–We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

©Debbie Scales          December 13, 2015          542 Words

The Fine Art of the Compliment

“Your hair looks really nice,” my friend said to me when she saw my new haircut.  Then she added, “You’ve needed a new hairstyle for a long time.”

Though my friend was smiling as she spoke, I didn’t feel particularly complimented.  That is because my friend is not polished in the art of the compliment.

The person skilled in paying compliments knows not only what to say but also what not to say.  Consider these suggestions and examples.

  1. Let a nice compliment stand alone.  Say, “You chose a very nice dress to wear to your daughter’s wedding.”  Don’t add, “Remember how we laughed last year when you wore that circus tent to your son’s wedding?”
  2. Keep the compliment short.  Say, “Your new hair color is very attractive.”  Do not say, “Your new hair color is very attractive, but I wouldn’t be brave enough to have it myself.”
  3. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.  When your friend returns from a week at the beach with her skin burnt the color of Georgia red clay, her hair the color and texture of old straw from too much sun exposure, and a nasty rash on her face from eating raw shellfish, say, “Welcome home!”  Do not add the words: “You look great!”
  4. Choose your words carefully.  You may say, “Your sister Pam is very smart and talented.”  Do not add, “The two of you are nothing alike.”
  5. Use a little tact.  Say, “Your essay is wonderful!”  Don’t say, “Your essay is wonderful, but would you like for me to clean up the punctuation for you?”
  6. Don’t “use” a compliment to serve yourself, as in this example.  “Since you’re so good with kids, I suggested to the youth minister that you would be a better nursery supervisor for the next six months than I would be.”

Remember also that there is an art to receiving a compliment.  You’re always safe if you say, “Thank you,” and leave it at that.  Again, consider these suggestions and examples.

Don’t lie.  When a friend tells you that she likes your dress, do not say, “I’ve had this old thing forever but I just don’t wear it much.”  Remember that she may have seen the dress in the shop where you bought it last week.

Avoid responding to a compliment by saying something like, “Oh, you’re just saying that.”  Such a response suggests that you believe the one giving the compliment is, at best, insincere, or, at worst, an outright liar.

Do not “use” the compliment in an effort to get something that the person who complimented you did not intend to offer.  Don’t say, “I am glad you like the curtains I made for my living room.  Would you like me to make curtains for you?  My prices are very reasonable.”

Don’t take a compliment too far.  If your friend says she likes your new coasters, do not scoop them up, drop them into her lap, and say, “Here.  You take them.  I insist.”

In conclusion, I offer this compliment to you, my faithful readers. “You’re the best!”  (Cue:  The proper response for you to make is, “Thank you.”)

©Debbie Scales    December 6, 2015     536 Words

 

Professional Shuffler

I am a professional shuffler, and no, I do not work as a card dealer at a gambling casino.  My shuffling takes place regularly in my own home when I set out to clean my house.

Yesterday, I decided to clean my living room.  I stood in the middle of the room and surveyed my surroundings.  I looked at the furniture, at the wall hangings, at the many bookshelves in the room and at the items on those shelves.   All of these objects needed to be dusted, but before I began the actual dusting process, I decided to do a little shuffling.

First, I shuffled the tall, white silk orchid from where it sat on the bookshelf to the right of the television to a new place on the bookshelf to the left of the television. In order to place the orchid there, I first had to remove the red-berried candle ring that had been sitting in that spot.

I shuffled the red-berried candle ring to the space originally occupied by the tall, white silk orchid, but the candle ring was too short and squat for that space.  I set the red-berried candle ring on the arm of my sofa temporarily as I considered other decorating options.

At that point I had not only to find somewhere to set the red-berried candle ring that was now sitting on the arm of my couch but also to fill the space left empty by the newly shuffled white silk orchid.  I next shuffled the framed family photo from its place on the fireplace mantle to the empty spot on the bookshelf and knew immediately that it didn’t work.  I set the family photo on the other couch arm.

I then took a friendship plaque from a dresser in the guest bedroom and put it in the vacant spot on the bookshelf.  The plaque was tall enough for the space but seemed to need something else on the shelf beside it in order to maintain symmetry.

I took from a bedroom drawer a crumbling, clay tyrannosaurus Rex figurine that my son made in third grade.  I set the T-Rex on the shelf beside the friendship plaque.

Of course, if I put my son’s T-Rex in such a prominent position, I also had to prominently display the slightly wobbly clay flower pot my daughter made when she was in grade school.  I set both artistic creations beside the friendship plaque but decided that the shelf now appeared too cluttered.  I put the friendship plaque, the T-rex and the clay flower pot on a couch cushion and stepped back to think.

I recalled that somewhere in the house I had a sweet little wicker basket that might adequately fill the void left on the mantle when I removed the framed family photo from that spot.  The little wicker basket did not work on the mantle because its base was too wide and threatened to tip the basket off its precarious perch above the fireplace.   I set the wicker basket on the couch with the other items.  I now had two empty spaces to fill and six objects to find homes for.

By this time I was due to retrieve my granddaughter from school and start thinking about making dinner.  I considered the collection of items spread across my living room couch.  The empty spaces on the fireplace mantle and on the shelf to the right of the television still needed to be addressed, but sadly, none of the objects on the couch were exactly right for those spaces.

Since I was nearing a deadline, I gathered from my couch the red-berried candle ring, the framed family photo, the friendship plaque, the T-Rex, the flower pot, and the sweet little wicker basket and carried them to the laundry room to put them on the top of my clothes dryer.  My plan was to leave them there only until I decided where to put them permanently.  I would deal with the empty spots on the bookshelf and mantle later.  The dusting too would have to wait.

When I got to the laundry room with my load, however, I discovered that the space on top of my dryer was already occupied by the artificial Boston fern, the framed photo of my husband and me at the Grand Canyon, the conch shell from Florida, and the Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful cross-stitched sampler that I had stashed there the last time I shuffled.

I am completely over the living room.  Tomorrow, I shuffle the kitchen.

Let’s Hear it for Enablers!

Since bad hair people enable barbers and beauticians to make a living, my eyeglasses enable me to see more clearly, and willing readers enable writers like me to ply their craft, why has the concept of enabling gotten such a bad rap in the past few years?   Enablers are often tossed into the same unsavory group as users, posers and players.  Is this fair?

The definition of the transitive verb “enable” in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary includes the idea of providing another with the means or opportunity to accomplish a task or achieve a goal.  That sounds to me like a good thing.

My sister Joni is a fantastic enabler, and I love her for it.  She (a great driver) is the only person I know who was willing to sit patiently in the passenger seat of my car while I (a navigationally-challenged driver) practiced getting my car in and out of its tight space in the garage.  Her patient guidance enabled me to master this skill.

Joni knew how to talk me through the process.  She avoided clumsy, ill-defined sentences like, “You have approximately six more feet of backing space,” but rather put things in terms I could understand.  “Okay, once the front of your car passes the boxwood bush, you can still back about the length of your kitchen island without running over the clematis trellis.”  What a great enabler!

I would never have graduated from college had not my parents, with their financial generosity, enabled me to do so.  My granddaughter’s persistent demands of “Draw Elmo, Grandma!” enabled me eventually to be able to draw a fairly good representation of the furry, red star of Elmo’s World.

My friend Jan enabled me to survive some dark days of depression by offering to sit with me in the musty, spidery crawlspace of my house if that was where my depression took me.  Jan’s offer included a promise to bring chocolate.  Some people REALLY know how to enable!

I am, of course, fully aware of the negative connotations of the term “enabling.”  I am not advocating that we “provide the means for” another person to continue in an unhealthy habit or lifestyle. Enabling, however, is not a bad thing when it helps someone achieve a worthwhile goal.

I am grateful to the loving enablers in my life.  Most of all, I am grateful to my Spiritual Enabler, without whose help I could do nothing.   This Enabler also goes by the names Savior, Redeemer, Intercessor, and Friend.

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.

 

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