You Might Be a Grandma

I will begin by apologizing to any men reading this article. I do not intend to embarrass anyone.

I have a 5-year-old granddaughter who is intelligent, inquisitive and incredibly fun! I will call her Sparkle. Sparkle is like a little sprite. When she is at my house, she pops up unexpectedly wherever I happen to be—in the laundry area, in the kitchen and even in the bathroom. On Monday I was dressing in the bathroom, thinking that Sparkle was busily engaged watching Nick Jr. on television in the living room. I had my jeans on and was addressing my top half, fastening my bra in the front with the intention of turning it around the right way immediately thereafter. Suddenly, from behind me came Sparkle’s confused comment, “Grandma, I think you have that on backwards.”

I am happy to be a card-carrying grandma, and maybe you are too. Suffice it to say: You Might Be a Grandma If:

  • Your patio door is covered with tiny handprints that you cannot bring yourself to clean off.
  • Your shopping cart contains, in addition to Centrum Silver Multivitamins: Thomas the Train Toothpaste, Hello Kitty Band-aids, a My Little Pony sticker book, and a giant, economy size jug of Gazillion Bubbles.
  • You get a 30% off coupon from Kohl’s and decide it is a perfect time to buy yourself some new clothes. You exit the store with a total of six outfits: two in size 6X, two in size 2 Toddler, and two in size 18 Months.
  • Your granddaughter tells you that you look beautiful in your tent-size, sparkly, butterfly print bathing suit, and you believe her.
  • You wear your red and green striped, light-up, candy cane earrings in June because your grandchild picked them out for you that morning.
  • You tie a sheet around your neck, cape-style, and play Superheroes in the front yard while wearing hair curlers.
  • Some of your best friends are Big Bird, Peppa Pig, Max and Ruby, and the Bubble Guppies.
  • You have a bouquet of dandelions on your kitchen table; a collection of pretty, dried-up leaves on your coffee table; and so many crayon drawings on your refrigerator that you’ve forgotten what color your fridge is.
  • You can read The Cat in the Hat without once having to look at the words.
  • You offer adult guests a glass of iced tea and ask if they prefer the Cinderella glass or the Dora the Explorer one.
  • You always have time to have a tea party, play Patty Cake, draw a hopscotch frame on the sidewalk, push a swing, work a jigsaw puzzle, kiss a boo-boo, read a story, color a picture, or rock a baby.

The writer of Psalm 128 speaks blessings on the people of God, and one of them is this: “May you live to see your children’s children.” I have found this to be a blessing indeed. All you other grandmas say “Amen!”

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My Quest

Diogenes of Sinope trudged through Greece carrying a lantern and looking for an honest man. Ponce de Leon roamed the earth in search of the Fountain of Youth. My goal is a less lofty one: I want just once in my lifetime to buy the right purse.

I need a new purse, but I hesitate to buy one because my closet is full of wrong purses. I have purses with straps too long and straps too short and purses insistent upon toppling from the passenger seat of the car and landing upside down on the floor if I so much as tap the brake pedal. Several of my purses eat pens while manufacturing paper clips. I have purses that require me, when reaching inside for my sunglasses case, first to pull out my cell phone, wallet, car keys, tissue pack, lipstick, checkbook, hand sanitizer, compact, breath mints, photo of the grandkids and a dozen scraps of paper. I hate every purse I own.

I am not a fashionista. Names like Coach, Gucci and Vera Bradley do not allure me. I choose function over form when it comes to purses and everything else I buy. The perfect purse will stand upright on its own when full or empty, even if that requires some kind of weighted bottom. It will have only one strap and will be made of sturdy material. This handbag will possess an adequate number of compartments and will close securely. Surely I do not ask too much.

Off I go to my local department store and enter the accessories area. My eye is caught immediately by a cute straw handbag in a nice, neutral color. A quick look inside reveals, however, no compartments, meaning that everything I carry would amass together in the bottom like a pile of rubbish. Next, I examine a black handbag made of good quality leather and possessing a suitable number of inner pockets. However, this bag has two straps. I know from experience that one strap would rest as it should on my shoulder and the other one would forever tickle my elbow. I move on to look at a pretty, flower print bag made of quilted fabric, but even on the store shelf it has collapsed in upon itself, looking like a sleeping duck. Is there no purse that meets my reasonable requirements?

In order to clear my head and renew my energy, I determine to leave accessories for a while and browse through home furnishings. On my way to the bedspreads, I pass the hardware department. There, prominently displayed on a shelf, is a tan, leather tool bag. It has a weighted bottom, one sturdy handle, and enough pockets to allow both my lipstick and compact to occupy their own niches. I quickly note that the bag is also available in nylon, canvas, and quilted denim—a new look for every season. The bag has a secure top closure, and even the price is reasonable. My heart races as I realize that the perfect bag for me has existed all the time. I was just shopping in the wrong department.

Less Is More

I hate excess. My friends will tell you that I am on a never-ending quest to downsize. If my closet contains clothes that I routinely reject when choosing what to wear, I get rid of them. I am not deterred by such thoughts as, “These pants will fit after I lose some weight,” or “I paid too much money for this dress simply to give it away.” If in the course of a three-month season of the year I choose to wear, wash and re-wear the same five tops, slacks, capri pants, and dresses, my closet should contain 20 items. Do the math.

My kitchen has been streamlined to meet the same guidelines. I have no use for multiple sets of dishes, glasses or flatware. Having to reach around or un-stack 15 serving bowls in order to get to one of the three I always choose to use can send me into a panic attack. When it comes to certain household items, one is enough for any home: one melon baller, one yardstick, and one fever thermometer. No mosquito that gets into my house will escape death while I try to untangle one of eight fly swatters that are hanging on a single nail.

However, I have not completely mastered the art of minimizing. I check out more library books at a time than I can possibly read. No matter how many boxes of pretty greeting cards I own, when I visit Family Christian Store I come home with a new box of DaySpring cards. I have trouble resisting the urge to buy picture books and jigsaw puzzles for the grandkids, scented candles and oils for my house, and adorable fabric panels to be turned into baby quilts.

Plus, I tend to hang onto some bad habits despite the fact that they threaten to destroy my peace and damage my witness as a Christian. I make judgments about people. (Does that woman not realize that every single food item in her shopping cart is pure junk?) I hold grudges. (I’ll never forget the day she said to me, “It’s about time you did something different with your hair!”) I give priority to the wrong things. (I’ll play just one more game of Spider Solitaire and then I’ll do my Bible reading.) I am quick to speak and slow to listen. (“Don’t bother trying to explain. I already know what you meant when you said that.”)

At a deep level I know that less judging, less grudge-holding, and less procrastinating will result in my having more serenity, more friendships and more positive influence upon others. Yet, I have as much trouble eliminating bad habits as Lady Macbeth had in scrubbing blood off her hands. Try as I may, a trace of the evil remains, takes root, and eventually blossoms into full-blown ugliness.

I get tired of fighting the same battles over and over. Even if I managed to avoid saying mean things yesterday, I must wage a new war against gossip and criticism today. Why can’t ridding myself of bad habits be as easy as throwing out an old, bent spatula?

Be My Friend

You amaze me! You are always smiling and appear to be at peace with your world. You are healthy and physically fit. I’ll bet you never binge eat or sleep too much. I am certain that you begin each new day with Bible study and prayer. You are full of good works. Your kids are well-adjusted and happy. Your home, yard, and vehicle are always tidy. You are never late for an appointment and always get a perfect report on dental exams. Your paperwork is neatly filed, bills are paid on time, birthday cards are sent to arrive on the correct dates, and your computer cooperates with you no matter what you ask it to do. On job evaluations, you always get a checkmark on “Exceeds expectations.” You never lose your temper or snap angrily at a family member.

You remember all the things you need to remember and have no need of lists. You never waste time, bite your fingernails, judge another person harshly, or doubt any of God’s promises. You have no problem setting boundaries, so other people are always respectful of your time. You speak clearly and say exactly what you intend to say in a clear and understandable way. You are confident of your ability to accomplish all that is asked of you. You set goals, make plans, stay focused and always succeed.

Furthermore, you have been this way all your life, so you have no need for regret. You don’t dread tomorrow because you know you are well prepared. Nothing sneaks up on you and catches you off-guard because you are diligent and vigilant and never negligent.

Your friends marvel at your poise. You are naturally smart. Making decisions is not difficult for you. You never make a wrong turn or wander aimlessly for half an hour trying to find a friend’s house. If trouble threatens, you know exactly what to do to remedy the situation and you do it without procrastinating. Should you detect a bad habit starting to take hold in your life, you nip it in the bud.

You never waste time or do a slipshod job at any project you undertake. If you sew, your seams are always straight, collar corners are turned sharply, and zippers are put in flawlessly. Neither your crochet projects nor your plans ever unravel. Your piecrusts are always flaky, your roast beef is served medium rare, your vegetables are cooked to perfection and you never let anything boil over and make a mess on your stovetop.

You are the poster child for self-control, humility, tireless service and unquestioning obedience to your God. Beside the dictionary entry for “perfection,” your picture is displayed.

What’s that? Are you telling me that this does not describe you? You say you don’t always have your head on straight, your priorities in order and your ducks in a row? Whew! What a relief! Come and be my friend.

BROKEN

My mother attended high school in the late 1940’s in rural north Arkansas. When she enrolled in her typing class, she had to provide her own typewriter, so she arranged to borrow one from a local storekeeper. This typewriter was black, heavy, and clunky, but all typewriters back then were like that. However, Mom’s typewriter was especially cumbersome to use because it was broken. The bell that indicated that the end of the line was approaching and that it was time to reach up and manually push the carriage to the right, didn’t work. Neither did the tabulator key work. That means that when she wanted to indent a paragraph five spaces, she had to hit the space bar five times. Despite the handicaps of her machine, my mother learned to type and eventually ranked second in her class in typing speed.

All of us occasionally deal with machines that don’t work as they should: lawnmowers that won’t start; cars that leave us stranded on the roadside; those blasted, mechanical can openers that make only a few random cuts around the rim of a can.   Working with broken equipment is just a part of our lives.

It is not only machines that break. Everything and everyone on this earth is broken. Families don’t function as they should, friends fail us, and jobs go down the tubes. Efforts to do good go belly up, and even our most determined attempts to give up bad habits and develop new virtues rarely succeed. Our bodies let us down with more and more frequency as we grow older. Each day dawns to reveal new disappointments and failures.

We are frustrated, sad, and exhausted. It is no wonder; God did not create us to live in the world as it now exists. In God’s plan for earth, there was to be no broken anything. If His way had prevailed, there would have been no need for fix-it shops, hospitals, funeral homes, Hazmat suits, divorce courts, prisons, psychiatric units, storm cellars or even Band-Aids. But we know what happened. Satan intruded. He baited and hooked us and we are living with the sorry consequences. The only things Satan has not damaged are those things that have been declared off limits to him:   God’s Word, God’s Promises, and the eternal destiny of God’s people.

Living with complete brokenness is hard. The only way we will survive is by persevering, getting good people on our side, and going with God. Above all else, we must hold on to an unshakeable belief that this broken condition is temporary.  One day God will make all things new. Believe it.

Wishes and Goals

I read many self-help books. Some are intended to help me to lose weight or to give up bad habits. Others set out to assist me in becoming more decisive, more competent with computers, or more responsible in managing money. I never run out of areas of my life in which I can use some help.

Recently I have been reading books that discuss the difference between goals and wishes. The distinction should be obvious, but for some reason it is not one that I have often considered. Basically, I have learned that a goal is a desirable outcome that I can potentially, by hard work and perseverance, attain. A wish is also a desirable outcome, but one that, solely on my own effort, I am incapable of achieving.

Here is an example that illustrates each. While driving down Highway 31 today I saw a turtle crawling slowly across the road. My first thought when I saw the little animal was, “I don’t want to hit that turtle.” Therefore, I carefully positioned the wheels of my car in order to miss it. Avoiding hitting that turtle was my goal. I took steps to reach the goal and was successful.

At the same time, I sincerely wished the turtle luck in making it to the other side of the road.   I hoped it would not get run over but, realizing that I could not protect the turtle from traffic, I merely hoped for its safety.

I have been successful in reaching several goals in my lifetime. I learned to drive a car. I graduated from college. I gave birth to two babies without the use of anesthetic, though it nearly killed me and was probably a foolish demonstration of pride. In each instance, I established a goal, made and executed plans to achieve it, and enjoyed success.

I have also had and still do have many wishes. I wish I would finish a baby quilt I started two years ago. I wish I could play the piano. I wish I could find a supply of crossword puzzles that are neither too easy nor too hard to solve.  I also wish that birds would stop flying into the windows of my house. Additionally, it is my desire that my son will stop junking up the inside of his vehicle. While I am wishing, I will add to my list a fervent desire that wars will cease, that researchers will find a definitive cure for cancer, and that everyone will come to know and accept Jesus.

My task, then, when I consider a particular desire, is to ask myself three questions about the situation:

(1) Can this desire be turned into an attainable goal? Finishing the quilt, learning to play the piano, and finding a supply of enjoyable crossword puzzles fall into this category.

(2) If this desire could become an attainable goal for me, am I willing to expend the time, money and effort required to accomplish it? Yes, I am willing to work to finish the quilt and to locate a source of good crossword puzzles. I am not willing to do all that would be required of me to learn to play the piano.

(3) Is this desire one that I will continue to hold, will support in any way I can and possibly pray about but, recognizing my limits, give up trying to control? Since I know of no way to stop birds from flying into my windows, and I cannot dictate the choices other people make regarding the tidiness of their vehicles, these desires fall into the category of desires over which I have no control. I am also pretty much powerless to bring about an end to wars or to cancer or to cause the whole world to have faith in Jesus.

One snag I must avoid in step number three of this process is setting as my goal a desire whose success requires the cooperation of another person. For example, I might choose to make it my goal for my son to keep the inside of his vehicle clean. I would probably begin by encouraging him to do the right thing and reasoning with him so that he would see the “rightness” of my goal. If he failed to respond appropriately, I might move on to issuing orders and shouting ultimatums. He might or might not clean up his truck and keep it that way.

Admittedly, having my son drive a clean truck is not a goal that I would risk my relationship with him in order to achieve. It is not particularly important to me. If, however, he abused drugs or was prone to stealing, my desire to remedy those serious problems would be ratcheted up drastically; the same principle, though, would apply. People with free will can always thwart my efforts to reach a goal that relies upon their cooperation. I must choose my goals wisely.

Even when I follow this seemingly logical process, managing to respond in an appropriate way to my desires is not easy for me. I will not master this struggle in one day, check it off my “to do” list and then move on to master something else. It is like a load that I cannot seem to put down. The problem is that I spend more time wishing for outcomes that I cannot make happen than I do working to accomplish goals that are within my reach. It is always easier to wish than to work.

The following strategies, however, are helpful. First, I assure myself that this is a common struggle. Most people have a problem sorting through goals and wishes and responding appropriately. Second, I resolve to pray about everything that I desire. If the desire is a goal I can achieve and am willing to work to accomplish, I will ask God’s help in doing all that I need to do to succeed. If the desire is for something I cannot achieve on my own, I will ask God to bring about a good result using whomever and whatever means He chooses to use.   Third, I will determine to accept the peace that God has for me and wants freely to give to me, regardless of whether or not my desires are fulfilled.

One more fact is worth noting here. Most of the things I truly desire from people, such as love and acceptance, are gifts that must be offered and not actions that I can demand anyway.

Thus ends my summary of what my reading has taught me regarding wishes and goals. The self-help reading material I have chosen to read next will hopefully teach me how to rid my tomato plants of the blossom end rot that afflicts them. You can begin now looking forward to the article I will create from that bit of delightful reading.

Bring Back the Spit Sink

It is a testimony to how little pain I experience on a daily basis when I admit that the two days a year that I go for dental cleanings are two of the most uncomfortable days I live through annually. I dread each visit for six months, take anti-anxiety medication before heading off to the dentist’s office, and routinely reward myself with a Steak ‘n Shake milkshake after the ordeal is over. I positively hate going to the dentist.

I want to be a compliant dental health patient, but somehow I cannot master the art of working “with” the hygienist. She tells me to move my tongue out of her way, and I would happily comply, except I have no clue where my tongue currently lies. I wouldn’t even swear that I have a tongue. She asks me to keep my mouth open during the water spraying process and then closed around the vacuum that is supposed to remove the water. I do exactly the opposite. This results in water running out of my mouth, down my chin and around my neck to soak the tag at the back of my shirt. I tolerated this process better in days gone by when the hygienist cleaned a particular section of teeth and then instructed me to rinse and spit.   Rinsing and spitting I get.

Apparently though, rinsing and spitting were deemed to be undignified actions on a par with exposing an open wound to the public. A new, less unsightly way of cleansing the oral cavity during dental exams was necessary. Enter two new forms of oral torture, the water sprayer and vacuum, and I despise them.

The same people who are responsible for the removal of spit sinks from dentists’ offices also replaced paper towel dispensers in public restrooms with air hand dryers. Air dryers are fine for drying hands, but what am I supposed to use to wipe water droplets off the faucet, clean grape sucker off the face of my grandchild, or blot extra lipstick off my mouth?

Add to my consternation the fact that I no longer have the luxury of checking the date due card in the back of a library book to see if it is time to return my book. Date due cards were thrown out with spit sinks and paper towel dispensers. If I want to know when my book is due back at the library, I must get on the computer, access my personal account, and then navigate to the screen that lets me check the status of borrowed items.

My 5-year-old granddaughter is an aspiring artist and recently I wanted to show her how to draw two identical pictures at once using carbon paper. I searched the shelves of Wal-Mart for carbon paper but found none. I finally asked another shopper, a woman about my own age, if she could help me find carbon paper. She said, “Honey, I don’t think they make it anymore. In fact, you and I are probably the only two people in the world who even know what carbon paper is.”

I prefer chalkboards to touch screens, a paper checkbook ledger to Excel, a friendly-faced teller to a bank machine, and clocks with hands that go around in circles. I also liked it when prices were clearly marked on individual items in the store rather than posted on one shelf in the general area of where the item should be stocked. I liked taking photos with an actual camera, removing the film, taking it to the drugstore and waiting a day or two for pictures to be developed. Call me crazy but sometimes I even long for a phone that lives in one place and is attached to a base with a cord.

Take me back to the days when the judicious use of a spit sink was not considered a breach of etiquette but the flaunting of exposed bra straps was.

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