Can I Be You?

“Can I be you when I grow up?” the lady at the gas station asked because she drooled over my little foreign sports car. She made me laugh. It feels good to be envied.

But if she only knew! I have been at the extreme opposite end of the feeling. I remember driving my teenage son’s old station wagon while the family car was having engine repairs. His sister would scrunch down in the passenger seat when the big old hunk of junk would backfire, puff smoke and die at inopportune moments. One day a frustrated motorist shouted, “Fix it or park it, lady!”

Station Wagon

Driving a Big White House Shoe

We both felt near tears but we laughed instead and said we were driving a big, white house shoe.

Pride and humiliation—I wonder if they are innate in us or if they’re learned.

Our parents teach us to take pride in our accomplishments and feel disappointment and embarrassment when we fail. Or perhaps they merely encourage what is already there.

School teachers use pride and shame to encourage good behavior and study. The very system of grading supports comparison of ourselves to other students. Maybe even class “show and tell” gets us started on that path.

Advertisers encourage this thinking, of course, in order to sell goods and services. They know everyone wants to throw the ball like a sports hero, cook like a professional chef, look like a model, and charm like a movie star. Owning what our heroes own or recommend is surely the way to be enviable.

Some of the newest advertising uses shame as well, portraying young people whispering behind someone’s back. Human imagination convinces us we could be the subject of secret derision if we don’t use that product, drive that vehicle or wear that brand.

We are not allowed to see the heartache involved, the plastic surgery, clothes altering, photo airbrushing, contract negotiations or legal wrangling that goes on behind product promotions. We only see what they want us to see.

The same is true of my beautiful car. Success is the finished product you see. You are not allowed to see my fourteen-hour days behind the counter at Quik Trip, hauling rocks up the side of a mountain, living in the back of an office or driving the big, white house shoe.

If that young lady who was jealous of my car could have known the path I’ve walked, would she have been willing to trade places with me? Or would she have said, “No, thank you! I’ll keep the life I’m comfortable with”?

Audi TT

Audi TT looks like success

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Growly Bushes

Dense woods

Dense woods get a little scary…when they growl

A low, threatening growl emanated from the underbrush, halting my trek through the woods. Not sure if the sound was real or imagined, I drew my pistol from the holster and moved one foot through the dry, crunchy leaves.

Grrrrrr. Definitely real; most definitely close enough to make me break out in a sweat. Now I stood motionless in a shooter’s crouch, my feet too far apart to feel comfortable on the rocky forest floor, my gun pointed at a clump of greenery. Each time I tried to move my feet, I was threatened by another deep growl from the bush.

Shooter's Stance

Right or not, when I need to shoot suddenly, my knees bend

Though I stared long and hard, I could discern no movement and no variance in color to give me a clue as to what was hiding less than three feet away.

My body was frozen in place; my mind was going ninety miles an hour. I thought about just firing into the bushes but then I thought if it was a bear this would only provoke it. I imagined being mauled by an angry bear with a .38 slug in its foot.

The growl sounded like a dog to me, so maybe it was a coyote. Only bigger. Maybe it was a wolf. Were there wolves around here?

Why would a wolf hide in the bush? Maybe it was injured. Perhaps it had just given birth. I didn’t want to kill a mother!

What if it was the neighbor’s dog, a huge half-Saint Bernard mongrel who ran loose and enjoyed being a territorial bully. What if he was rabid?

What if it was my husband, pulling a prank? I didn’t want to shoot my husband!

I decided to warn the growler. “I have a gun and I will shoot you!” That didn’t send anyone scrambling from the undergrowth. It didn’t even elicit a growl. I decided to talk some more.

“What’s wrong? Why are you hiding? Are you hurt? I won’t hurt you. I just want to go on my way…” I don’t remember all the nonsense out of my adrenaline-crazed brain but I think my tone got softer.

I survived. But to this day I remain a little surprised at my reluctance to pull the trigger on the unknown menace in the bush.

Our reactions to new, foreign, scary and unfamiliar things can vary widely. Some of us react without thinking things through. Some of us (like me) think so long the opportunity to react (good or bad) passes us by. Some people run; some pull the trigger and run; some talk sweet through their sweat and fear.

Usually the thing we fear is just as afraid of us as we are of it. The people who intimidate are terrified and their false front is to make sure we stay three feet away.

My walk in the woods turned out okay except I’ll never know what growled at me. I will probably continue to talk sweet to growly bushes. Hey, it works!

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Two-Dollar Plant

In January, I bought an English Primrose at the grocery store. They were only two dollars, and so pretty, blooming in a variety of colors and in cheap plastic pots to match the blooms. I picked yellow because it made me feel cheery in the middle of winter’s gloom.

Two dollar plant

For two dollars, I’ll enjoy it while it lasts

When I bought this, I said, “I’ll probably kill it but for two dollars, I will enjoy it while it lasts.” I also put it in the category of cut flowers for a vase–beauty for a moment.

Now it is May and my little two-dollar plant lives on. As a matter of fact, the last blossom is starting to fade after four months of flowers. What a bargain!

Now I have to decide if my investment should be thrown away (Who wants a pot of leaves?) or invested in further by picking a spot and planting it outdoors, watering it all summer, protecting it all winter and generally fertilizing and fretting over it for all of its natural life.

I am of the old-school when it comes to throwing things away. I still have my first potato masher, given to me in 1972. It’s American-made stainless steel and will surely outlast me.

The new school of thought is that things should be made as cheaply as possible, look good but be replaced every few months. That way, one always has a shiny new thing.

I would rather have quality stuff that is made to last. I am distressed whenever a relatively new thing breaks or is lost. I expected to have it in service for thirty years or more!

I feel almost the same way about relationships. When misunderstandings occur and feelings get hurt, I do my best to mend things, patch them up and make things last forever. Unlike a broken kitchen utensil or a spent flower, the other people have something to say about it. If they’d rather throw the relationship away than to invest time and emotion into making it last, there’s little I can do to save it.

I see my grandkids dismissing people from their lives, left and right. “Who needs toxic relationships?” they say. Or, “Accept me the way I am or disappear.” It seems they are always naming a new BFF or a new lover/boyfriend/fiancé.

I wonder what they’d do with a two-dollar primrose. I think I’ll plant mine and see how it goes. Maybe it will bloom again next spring.

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I heard the weatherman say March first begins “meteorological spring” here in Texas. I wasn’t sure all that implied but, after living here seven years, I am inclined to agree: the last of February always greens up like early spring.

When it rains (which is a big deal) the earth turns loose of its pungent mold waiting to escape and scent the air with nature’s patchouli. Green is just a few hours away!

Alfalfa in mountains

Alfalfa fields speak life to me

In late February this year we drove south to Austin and the alfalfa fields were gloriously green. The hedges were blooming, even roses. I’ve been to Galveston in mid-winter, so I am confident they have green palm trees and their oleanders are blooming all winter.

I love flowers, even the tiny little things that bloom in the grass: dandelions, Venus’ looking glass, grape hyacinths, violets, dianthus, sedum, gill-over-the-ground, blue-eyed grass and chickweed. They all signal spring is near.

In winter, when the world is mostly gray and white and brown, even olive looks cheery. But the pines and cedars and cypress put on new, bright shades when warm spring rains invigorate them.

The thing that lightens my heart the most is green grass. There is something revitalizing about the color green. Nothing looks lusher than bright emerald fields. Even the wild buffalo grass brightens my mood when its color perks up from winter’s yellowing.

I wonder if children and animals feel livelier when they see green or if it is a psychological effect that is learned?

To me, green sends a message of new life, energy, fertility and at the same time, soothing calmness, relief and success.

God named the first month of the year Abib, which is Hebrew for “green shoot” or “green ears of grain.” That’s a little like the English word “spring” as in “spring forth.” If I had been consulted, I think I would have called it “Green”!


Read more on the psychology of green (and other colors) here:

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Persuasive Words

Have you ever shared information and had the intended recipient turn on you with a defensive tone? And then days later (or weeks or months) heard or seen that person sharing that very information with someone else or putting it into practice? I have.

It is quite gratifying to realize the power of your persuasive words. And when it happens to me, it is almost always a surprise.

Depending on the initial response, I typically think I’m not very good at communicating. Misunderstandings happen all too often. Sometimes, even though I’m a better-than-average writer, I think there is no power in my pen at all.

When those gratifying moments come, when I realize I did get my point across–that person did hear me and receive my helpful words–I tend to make light of it because of the delayed response.

That’s human nature: we focus on the negative and shrug off the positive. So I’m writing down positive words today.

A certain person did not like my suggestion about how to put the liner in the trash can. That person defensively told me he had his own way of doing it. This week that adorable person put the liner in correctly (i.e. the way I suggested) and my faith in the mighty power of persuasive words has been restored.

That said, and believed, and recorded, (and laughed about) we ought to be careful with words, both those we speak and those we hear. Words have brought down nations, started wars, ended wars and dissolved marriage vows. The words we allow in our heads can build us up or tear us down. They’ve even been known to drive a person to take his own life.

Sometimes when we feel torn down at the end of a long day, we simply need to hear some positive, build-up words and remember our successes.

A couple of people lately have told me I’m “bubbly,” “always upbeat regardless of circumstances,” and “caring.” I’ve also heard I’m a “good hostess.” I’m writing those down! The Good Lord knows about all the negative ones that will pop in my head from time to time.

Bulwer-lytton quote

Indeed, ’tis true!

Readers might also want to read some words about the power of the public press. I think it’s a good reminder. Blog: Who Is Everybody?/2013/10/15/289/

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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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