The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Caveat and Disclaimer: Dan says from now on I need to run these by him before I publish! LOL!

Almost all of us love the good, detest the bad and avoid the ugly, I think. Good people and good actions make us want to embrace the human condition. Bad or evil people frighten us or make us angry, depending on how much power they have. But ugly often simply makes us turn away. We don’t want to look at it or even be reminded it exists.

The whole truth is, we all have some of these three traits. If we could look at ourselves honestly, good people are only mostly good and there is good to be found in the ugliest hearts.

All that taken into account, I think my husband is one of the best! He is a good man. He is also pleasant to look at. I am blessed with the good and he’s not ugly.

But even a good man can have some bad moods. He can be surly, sometimes for no apparent reason. He will lash out at the person closest to him. He can be mean and he can be ugly.

I hear my single friends bemoaning their single states but with a caveat like, “She must sign a pre-nup divesting her interest in my house,” or “I won’t put up with a guy who throws his clothes in the floor.” I think they don’t understand the commitment required for marriage! Not that there is anything wrong with having these understandings up front, but what about the next uncomfortable scenario?

Wedding vows are important to get us through the times when we are ugly to one another. “For better, for worse; in sickness and in health…”

It’s sort of like a contract signed with a business partner to guarantee one of you can’t skip out when stocks take a downturn. Because you are signed on for a certain period of time, you are forced to ride it out and you benefit when things look up. It’s a commitment for the long-term and it makes you work hard toward the success of the business venture. If there is a flood or a fire or simply a bad mistake by the company accountant, you work to fix it.

The analogy isn’t perfect because wedding vows don’t typically include a breach clause spelling out the repercussions of quitting, like getting sued for the harm caused the company, forfeiting your capital and so forth. But neither are the proposed benefits spelled out, such as a 20% profit in the fourth year.

Marriage is all done “on faith,” supposing you to be a person of your word. That’s why it is important to really know and understand the person you marry, perhaps to seek the advice of people who know him and know you.

What may be even more important is realization and acceptance of the fact we can all be good, we can all be bad and we can all be ugly. It’s part of the human condition.goodbadugly_140pyxurz

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Falling Off Sideways

Segway gear

All that protective gear!

I love Segways—the two-wheel kind—so when Dan put off the booking of excursions during our day in the Bahamas, I found a Segway tour of the beach at Freeport.

We’ve ridden the wonderful balancing machines at seaports and tourist attractions and even at home. We feel confident on Segways. So we already knew about the helmets, kneepads, elbow pads and even the blue sanitary head covering they made us put over our hair. We geared up fairly quickly and went to practice riding in the sand.

Sand is not pavement, as we quickly discovered. We had bounced down a flight of stairs at Nassau and navigated up and down spiral ramps at Corpus Christi. Everywhere we’ve ridden, some of the paths were not paved. But sand is tricky; it moves.

So here I go wheeling through the sand, on a prepared course meant for the initiation of dumb tourists. I hit a soft spot, one wheel went down and the machine threw me off sideways. I landed on my bottom in soft sand so it should have been no big deal. But my foot stayed on the machine until the last possible second, twisting my ankle and wrenching my toe. I remember lying prone in the sand watching my shoe fly up in the air and thinking, “Ouch!”

Our guides had warned us repeatedly about the big boulders, about how we should steer clear lest we even touch them with our wheels. They had girded us up with every protective device. They had warned us about traffic driving on the left side of the road. But they had not warned us about shifting sand.

So I learned some things. Over confidence will get me hurt every time. Just because something looks stable, does not mean it is. Just because I’ve done a thing before, doesn’t mean I still can. Always do the tricky thing on the last day of vacation…just in case. If I have to fall off a Segway, try to fall backwards—not sideways. Always carry arnica and aspirin in my luggage. Always go dancing on the first night of the cruise…just in case. Always be prepared to laugh at myself just in case I wind up looking silly.

But I knew all these things already! I’ve been here before. This is why I pack three zip-close gallon bags with every just-in-case over-the-counter remedy for whatever is going to go wrong.

I’ve also learned I would rather laugh at myself crashed in the sand on a beautiful Bahamas beach than sit home and wish I could. I would rather limp around on a bruised foot than relax in a lounge by the pool. Vacation is not what we do to rest; it is how we expand our horizons. Life is an adventure; bumps are a given.

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It’s Only Money

My husband was ready to fill out and sign a birthday card for a client turning 100 years in a few days. I told him where to find the card and, because it was near a pile of other cards, added, “I think it’s blue.”

It turns out there were two blue birthday cards on the table. He got the one intended for our nonagenarian aunt and wrote a note to his client on it before he read it. “Baby! Did I get the wrong card? This is too mushy, too personal for my client.”

What a waste that such a beautiful card must be thrown away. To console myself, I said, “It’s only money.”

I then started thinking about that phrase and what I meant by it. Recently I heard someone say, “Rich people always say that.” I suppose that made me think harder.

I’m not rich and I’m not wasteful, generally speaking. I can scrape the mayonnaise jar with the best of them! I did not mean to devalue frugality or excuse excess.

By saying what I did, I was telling myself, more than him, that I refuse to get upset about a small, careless mistake.

My inclination, my first impulse, was to chide him for not reading the card before signing and personalizing it. The purpose would have been to make sure he didn’t do it again. But his pocketbook was injured by his mistake — a better deterrent than a nagging wife.

“It’s only money,” was my indirect way of pointing out that his haste had made waste.

I can think of other appropriate times to say, “It’s only money.” It’s a way to laugh at oneself for wasting money or it can be a way to dismiss the guilt that comes with our indulgence in a pricey pleasure, like a rich meal or the best seats at a concert.

It could be a tongue-in-cheek way to tell someone they owe you for a loss they caused.

I suppose it could also be spoken in certain situations to diffuse sorrow and worry, like at a stock market loss or a house fire. “It’s only money,” highlights the greater things: life, family, health.

But it’s certainly not a good way to brag about how much a person has.

Saying, “Rich people always say that,” can be taken as a joke. It could also be a way of refusing to laugh off a costly mistake, and demand an apology or recompense, implying you can better afford the loss.

At the risk of rebuff, I think I’ll keep saying, “It’s only money.” If anyone objects, I’ll tell them what I mean.

antique scales

Money doesn’t outweigh other important things in life!

Don’t let money control your life or make you anxious. It’s important to be wise stewards but we must keep it in balance. Don’t waste but don’t hoard. Keep it in perspective.

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The Grace of Gratitude

While making the big king-size bed this morning, I lifted the plush, heavy comforter and had a moment of regret about the good-old days when I only had a simple bedspread to deal with. It was lighter and easier–but not nearly so beautiful. My niggling of nostalgic regret was followed by a wave of gratitude.

Life is full of burdens, disappointment and trials. But it is also full of luxury and comfort, joy and pleasure. I think when the bad outweighs the good, we give up. Sometimes the weight is determined by our state of mind more than the state of circumstances.

If I focus on “this heavy comforter hurts my back to lift it” then I can be unhappy. If I focus on how blessed I am to have a beautiful bed, it makes my life a joy. One of the ways to get and keep that positive attitude is to make a concerted effort to give thanks.

Our church recently had a series of sermons from the Song of Solomon, a Biblical book of love poems. Out of that, it was suggested we each make a list of our spouse’s positive attributes. It took a while, but I managed to come up with a list of 29. When I’m upset and disappointed with my husband’s actions, I can look at the list and be reminded of all his good points that I’m thankful for.

As I was jotting things on my list, it was tempting to insert a “but” into some of them. For instance, when I wrote, “helps with housework,” I also thought, “when the mood strikes him.” When I wrote, “punctual,” I thought, “to a fault.”

I didn’t write the negative aspects down because that would defeat the purpose of the list. I can always think of negative things; they don’t need any prompting.

Wise Owl

What are you thankful for?

Years ago, a clerk at the post office greeted me with, “How are you this fine morning?” I was in a foul mood and I began to dump on him. I gave him a list of three or four things that had gone wrong so far, “and it’s only nine o’clock!”

There was a line of people behind me but the clerk, with a look of concern on his face, took a second to give me some advice. He said, “When I have a day like that, I ask God to get me through it. That always helps me, knowing that He cares.”

I was shocked and embarrassed. Since that day, I have worked to develop “an attitude of gratitude.” Some days it takes a lot of grace. Some days it takes a conscious effort. But I’ve discovered that the more I practice it, the more naturally it comes out of my mouth.

I am so thankful to have my eyesight, a brain that works, a computer at home and readers like you! What are you thankful for?

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Dripping, Dripping, Dripping Evermore

This year we have been hosting rats in our attic. This is something we’ve never before encountered. It has been A BIG DEAL!

First there was a tiny scratching noise in the wall of my husband’s office. He couldn’t hear it but it was driving me to distraction. “There’s something in the wall!”

When the noise intensified to a frantic scrambling, he heard and investigated. He even drilled a 3-inch hole in the closet wall, set a trap and waited for a varmint to come out. It didn’t work. Neither did the next four holes. But the noise stopped.

After about a day, we began to be assaulted with a terrible smell in his office. It was intense in the closet. Unfortunately, that closet wall adjoins our master bedroom. The stench soon permeated all that corner of the house. We turned off that air conditioning system, opened the windows, closed the doors and moved into the guest bedroom on the other side of the house.

After the smell dissipated we moved back into our bedroom and hoped it was over. But no, we still had scurrying noises in various places at odd times. I was a little distressed but my husband, who freaks out over simple bugs, went on the warpath.

He checked for mouse holes, patched impossible ¼-inch gaps, bought live traps, snap traps, poison bait and moth balls. We got stinky again and discovered a dead rat in a live trap at the top of the stairs.

Dan went to Home Depot for more ammo and came back with six “ultrasonic repellents.” We already had a few of those scattered around the house but these were bigger and super-duper, with little red LED lights to show they were working.

 

Sonic pest repellents

Blinking red light AND a soft dripping noise!

A few hours after he installed them–two in the attic and four throughout the house, we developed a dripping.

Drip…drip…drip in the kitchen. Drip…drip…drip in the bathroom. Drip…drip…drip in the living room! It had rained the day before so maybe the gutters need cleaning? Finally I realized the dripping was synchronized with the flashing LED lights. When I complained, my husband, who can’t hear the drip, put little bits of black electrician’s tape over the red lights.

Now we had scratching, scrambling and dripping!

We called an exterminator, who, for the price of a road trip across the continent, somehow eliminated the scratching and scrambling.

Darest I complain about a little dripping?

Quoth the Beatles, “Let it Be.”

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Giggling in the Dark

Several times recently I’ve slipped into bed after my husband has gone to sleep. Using a tiny flashlight I crept in quietly so as not to wake him. And then, lying in bed, trying not to squirm too much, I got the giggles.

The first time this happened, I shook the bed so hard that I woke Dan. “I’m sorry, baby! I’m sorry…I’ve got the giggles!”

He mumbled something that sounded like, “Is okay; I unnerstan.”

Really? You understand? How could you when I had no idea what got into me? That is, I knew what I was laughing about but could neither fathom why I was thinking about it nor why it struck me as so very funny at that time of night.

My giggles were triggered by memory of the morning I woke up early and tried to sneak out without waking him. He opened his eyes and said, “Turn off the alarm.”

To get to the house alarm keypad, I had to step up 2 steps, and they are curved. Because I was still half asleep I was staggering a little. I stumbled, began to fall sideways, twisted to avoid the nightstand and landed smack in the middle of my sleepy husband’s back. I jumped off him as quickly as I could and…well, began to laugh.

“What are you doing! Baby, what are you doing!” Dan sat straight up in bed.

Between snorts and giggles, all I could do was apologize and say, “I fell; I fell over.”

I get giggly to the point of tears every time I think about it. And there I was disturbing his sleep a second time.

But then, I like to giggle and I look for excuses to burst out in laughter.

Baby Laughing

Any excuse will do!

It’s not funny to fall and it’s not funny to be rudely awakened but in my mind’s eye, I see the incident from a (nonexistent) viewer’s point of reference. I am standing there watching this woman stagger around and fall on her sleeping husband and it is America’s Funniest Home Video!

Sometimes I will start laughing at the evening news. It’s not usually funny stuff; it may be simply awful; perhaps someone died. But there are elements that send me into a spin.

It might be a teenager jumping up and down on the hood of a car. Or a bathtub left standing after a tornado. Or a misspelled word. Or a mispronounced word. Or a politician’s promise.

I think I’m really looking for an excuse to laugh. (See Make Me Smile, Make Me Laugh for more on that subject.)

Laughing is fun; giggling is great. I only pray it doesn’t hit me in the middle of a church service. And I sure wish I could turn it off when the lights go out at night.

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The School of Hard Knocks

While checking out at the dollar store, I heard a customer ask for an eyeglass repair kit. She asked my checker and then asked another store assistant.

“Um…I don’t think we have anything like that.” Both clerks seemed unsure.

Since I like to be helpful, I butted in and pointed her to the rack with reading glasses. “Most places keep them with those magnifiers,” I offered.

The customer found the little kits and thanked me profusely, calling me “Ma’am.”

I went out of the store with my purchase, thinking, I know stuff! I know more about how retail stores work than the people who work there.

I can’t begin to tell you how much stuff I know, a good deal of it useful.

I know how to trim tree branches properly and I know to add a few grains of salt to the coffee pot when brewing with filtered water. I know to not pop blisters on bad sunburn; to soak ant bites in Epsom salt and I know to face a snarling dog. I know tricks to raise my credit score and I know how to reduce the principal on a loan. I know how to write a will, how to oversee a trust fund and do a tax return for a business. I know how to save seeds from heirloom tomatoes.

I have read and I have listened to advice but mostly I’ve just lived a long time, made mistakes and tried things.

 

Where do they keep the magnifying glasses?

Some things one has to figure out for oneself

I knew where the eyeglass repair kits are kept because I recently wasted a lot of time looking for a magnifying glass that store clerks said they didn’t think they stocked. (I found one with the readers and one with the office supplies.)

I have worked a total of about twelve years in retail and there’s a certain logic to how stores are organized. I worked as an executive secretary for 30 and as a legal secretary for three. I packed pop bottles back when they were glass. I served up ice cream at Dairy Queen. I baby sat three kids one summer. I have done graphic art for book authors, coal mining entities and municipalities, an architect and an equestrian camp. I know how to bind a book and design a kitchen.

I’ve been poorer than Ol’ Job’s Turkey so I know how to make a meal with beans, rice, cornmeal and powdered milk. I know stuff about living in the woods with no electricity and no indoor plumbing. I know how to cook on a wood stove.

I’ve cruised in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. I know how to get a passport and the best ways to pack for overseas travel. I know a little bit about the airports at Frankfort, Tokyo, Tel Aviv and Hong Kong. And Dallas; don’t forget Dallas!

I am so amazed at how much stuff I know, I think all my kids and grandkids should be calling or texting continually with a stream of questions.

Yet, I also know enough about human nature to know it won’t occur to them to ask me. They will learn things the way I did: by experience, also known as The School of Hard Knocks.

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