Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Death of a Brat

The way I  remember it, I was an obnoxious adolescent.

I was the youngest of the three girls with a five year gap between us. Virtue did not develop within me in a timely fashion. Mother didn't seem too disturbed about it, perhaps she had enough experience under her belt to know the ugly duckling stage truly was a stage, but I grated on my older sisters. The one, in particular. (If  I grated on the other one she was too meek to mention it much.)

Being lazy, I didn't want to pull my weight in the housework department.
Being stubborn, I didn't want her telling me what to do regardless how diplomatically she said it. And she was extraordinarily diplomatic.

I could spot from miles away her housework "bargains".... the ones where she would agree to do 2/3rds of the housework if I would do 1/3 of it. The only legit bargain I would officially appreciate was the one where I would slip unnoticed out of the house and do what I pleased. I never pleased to do housework.  Mother could make me, but my sister wasn't my boss.

Being a brat, I said things to her that were just mean.
I told her once, "I love you, but I don't like you."
 It hurt her, and she told me so, but I didn't care.
I remember feeling smug when I said it. She bugged me. Always and forever presenting me with "bargains", when all I wanted was to go walking along the pond, or a tree-lined creek, sit on a big rock in the middle maybe, watch the water go around it on both sides and try to predict on which side of it approaching leaves would float.

I'd think about things. And imagine myself in the middle of interesting stories.  I was the quintessential tom-boy and I thought boys had a lot more fun than girls did. They didn't, for instance have to do housework. Not in my family they didn't.

But I was right there at "that" point in life....
I was kind of excited about growing up. Being a young lady held a certain appeal. I imagined being pretty, even though I wasn't. And having nice clothes, even though the ones I wore were just plain practical and I made them dirty with activities like lounging on the backs of the steers while they grazed, and sitting on boulders in the middle of the creek.

It never occurred to me that maturity was part of the package. Or working.

I did lots and lots of thinking. I didn't really, at this stage of my life, have any close friends because of factors that were beyond my control. This did not bother me at all. I liked being by myself to think. I thought of lots of things. I considered a lot of issues. I loved nature and solitude and making up story  plots. I did not love housework. Especially not cleaning. Or washing dishes. I didn't want anyone bugging me about doing it. Except maybe Mother because she was my legitimate boss.

I could hold up the only bathroom and experiment with possible ladylike hair arrangements in there for 45 minutes, but please, do not expect me to sign my name to any house cleaning "bargains" especially ones that make you look good and me like a wretch for doing only 1/3 of the work!!

 I can still hear her saying brightly, "Rhon, would you agree to do so and so if I would do so and so and so and so and so and so and so and so?" She actually could hardly wait for Sundays to be over so she could start cleaning again. That's the truth.

Spare me.

In retrospect, I cannot stand the girl that was me. How my sister managed to keep her manipulation diplomatic is beyond me, but she did. I was self absorbed and selfish and lazy and meanish. And ugly. I have pictures of me sporting the results of some of those 45 minute bathroom sessions.

But somewhere along the way the tension between us started to fade. I didn't know when. I didn't notice it at all. But here one day, we were friends. And I liked her. A lot. And I loved her.  And she liked me too.

We had good times. We did things together.

I never did like to do housework and I still don't, really. But I did do it.

One day, years later, she told me this:

She was forever frustrated with my stubborn, selfish, brattiness. And nothing she ever tried could dissuade me from my irritating resistance of her reformation attempts.

So one day she changed tactics and decided to treat me as if I were a princess and she were my servant.

And so, if I expressed a wish, no matter how small, she would jump to fulfill it. If I asked if anybody had seen my jacket, she would hop up right away and help me hunt for it, instead of simply saying "no".
Her entire mentality was geared toward serving me in any way possible.

Of course I was too self-absorbed to notice. Or appreciate it.  Or resist.

And so, we became friends. And I think after I quit defending against her improvement programs, I  became  invested in actually improving myself.

And then, by the time she told me what she had done it was too late to defy her efforts.
The door of opportunity was shut. There was no turning back.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Come We That Love a Rant

The tribe just returned to the wig-wam from a road trip. This gave birth to a succinct, three point sermon. None of these points, no doubt, apply to my above-average readers, which means they will be wasted breath, except for the therapeutic effect on the preacher, but here goes:

#1. If you are driving, drive.
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but apparently not.

If you come up on somebody driving 7 degrees slower than anyone else, with a biggish gap between himself and the car in front of him, as likely as not when you pull around him he will be texting.
Just stop, people. It makes no sense to be doing that and navigating a two ton machine with your leftover brain. At the very least you impede the smooth flow of traffic. At most you endanger your life and the life of everyone else in proximity. Put your phone down and drive. You don't have to be communicating 24/7, world without perceivable end. You can sit there and drive. You can.

#2. Pay attention and be thoughtful.
There are other people on the road besides you.

If you are going down a two-lane interstate don't pull adjacent to someone in the right hand lane and just hover there. Go around him. If he's going too fast to pass, slow down and pull in behind him. Don't sit there while traffic piles up behind you mile after oblivious mile. If you are the innocent party in the right-hand lane and somebody pulls next to you and stays there, don't be contrary just because you're not doing anything wrong.  Be a sweetie. Hit the brake or the gas till the people behind you can pass. It won't kill you to reset your cruise.

#3 Stopping to merge is not smart.

If traffic is fast and heavy, the gaps are already precious. It takes a FAR LARGER gap to merge when you are creeping, and the chances of you finding one plummet if you are at a standstill.

Matching your speed to the traffic is the way to go. Unless traffic is truly bumper to bumper and there is no where to get in, period, put on your signal light, and merge. Just do it. The traveling public will thank you. Amen.

Would the song leader please lead us in a song?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Mothering "Light-bulb"

Here is a bit of something I dashed off to a facebook  "Mommy" group two days ago.
I was asked if I would post it on my blog, so I modified it ever so slightly and am posting it here, NOT as an expert parent, but just as a mom, who, with the help of God, stumbles upon things that work now and then. (Hallelujah!)

There is one thing I have learned along the way that has majorly transformed my relationship with my children....
Let me take that back. I didn't feel like I had a bad relationship with them before, so "transform" might be a strong word, but I was just amazed how much richer and funner, lacking in tension and more congenial it became after I figured this out.

It came about when I became aware how much of my interaction with them, was initiated by my children:

They cry, I respond.
They whine, I react.
They ask a question, I answer.
They show me something, I look at it and say something appropriate.
They ask for a drink, I get them a drink.

The exception to that rule was when I was telling them to do something.
"It's time to pick up your toys. It's time to take a bath. Would you please bring me the scissors? Would you please call Daddy for supper?"...etc. and so on, ad nauseum, world without end, amen.

Occasionally I would ask them questions, but usually the "polite routine" types of questions, "Did you sleep well last night? How was the volley-ball game? How was school?..."...blah-de blah..

So after I noticed this, I decided to try to change it.

I began initiating conversations..asking their opinions on whatever. Initiating fun imagination-type things: 'What do you think would happen if..?"
Specific questions: "What was your favorite thing about today?"

Instead of trying to sneak a drink of tea without them seeing so I didn't have to pour four glasses of tea instead of one, I start out from an entirely different place: "Would anyone care for a glass of tea?" I'll say, and serve them first.

Or instead of waiting till they ask me to read to them, I'll suggest it, "I got this book I thought y'all would enjoy, if you'll get your baths quick, I'll read to you."
Or instead of waiting till they ask to play a game I'll say, "If you like, I'll play you two rounds of the matching game."

I will sometimes hop in and help them with their jobs...say it's setting or clearing the table, or picking up toys....especially when they are working well and don't expect or need help...."Here, let me get the blocks while you get the Legos.."

Even SMALL kindnesses/compliments if they are "extra" work wonders. "You have the best freckles EVER!" "How did I ever get so lucky to have you for my little boy?" Just whatever....

The atmosphere and dynamic of our home really changed to a much more positive tone! Our relationships just are far more open, generous, warm and giving, because they have just responded in kind. "Can I bring you a cookie too, Mom?" And to each other, "I'll carry your lunch box for you."

I have been so blessed and amazed, in all honesty. Borderline stunned.

There have been few things that will diffuse the grumpies as quick as me doing something for them that is clearly proactively caring, "Would you like me to pick out your songs for you tonight?" (...if your son is leading songs and he hates choosing them.)
It's so easy to switch to that dreaded parental tone and say something like "Well, picking songs is just part of the song-leader's job, so you might as well quietly do it without complaint."
(I have older children so some of these suggestions won't fit littles, but the idea holds true..)

Just to balance what I have said, I am not suggesting abdicating the parental role, neglecting necessary discipline, or ignoring disobedience, I am simply suggesting proactively putting goodness and blessing in your children's lives, and pursuing them with happy conversation rather than waiting for them to say "Mommy mommy..."

Friday, June 12, 2015

To Do or Dye

 The Chief and I were at a second hand store a number of weeks ago looking for work shirts for him. His work shirt situation was getting dire.

We paged through the long line of options, rejects from some other man's closet, most of them for apparent reasons.

Eventually he pulled one out. It looked entirely new and it was a good brand name. "How about this one?" he said. We discussed it a little bit. It was red. There are a some people in our congregation who feel it is wrong to wear red. We like to take things like that into consideration when we make choices. We thought about putting it back.
"Maybe I could dye it." I said.

What color would you die it? he asked.
"Maroon, maybe?" I mused. "It's cotton. It should take a dye, I think."
"Have you ever dyed anything" he asked.
"No," I said. "But how hard can it be? You can get those little dye boxes at the grocery store, and do it in your washing machine."
We had to stop at the grocery store anyway.

"Alright," he said, "let's get it."

So we got it. And one night I carefully read the directions, and gingerly started my machine using the hottest water, which is quite hot, adding salt, putting in the pre-wetted shirt, and extra dye which should result in a "richer color", it said. I like "rich color". Then I carefully made sure nothing else was within splashing distance, shut the lid, and went away.

I came back often and peered in, though, because I don't believe in letting stuff like that alone unsupervised in the dark. Also, I was suppose to let it go through three entire agitator cycles before I let it spin out so every now and again I had to turn the knob back so it could start over.  It looked practically black in there. Like black cherries. The kind of color that makes you smile.

Finally it was done agitating. Time to rinse.

"Rinse with cold water until the water is clear." the directions said.

So I ran it through the rinse cycle.
Spun it out.
Ran it through again.
Spun it out.
Ran it through again.
Spun it out.

It was getting kind of late. The water was not running clear. It was running rose.
I ran it through again. Still rose. Pretty much the same hue it had been the last three times.

I don't remember how many times I rinsed it for sure, but I do know I finally decided the thing it probably needed was to have the color "set" by putting it in a very hot dryer.

I put it in the dryer, and headed to bed.

Thus, the Chief came into possession of a new work shirt.

All was fine and good until the shirt came through the laundry again.
I should have switched to supervisory mode again, but I didn't. I didn't think about it one way or the other. I just put it in the dark load and lah-de-dah went on my way.

Everything in that load came out pink. A towel that had once been green, a dress that had once been brown, underwear that had once been gray.

"My underwear are pink?" The native whose they were suddenly popped out of the revery he had been in with visible concern.

From then on I have been very careful what I wash the shirt with. It either gets washed alone, or with red towels or things that don't matter. If you see me cleaning with pink rags you'll know why.

So we have a lot of lovely pink things. And one weirdly pinky-green towel.

The shirt itself looks pretty much like it did when the Chief first pulled it out and asked, "How about this one?"

The rinse water is still not running clear.

I'm choosing to believe, just for my own mental well-being, that everything in our septic tank is that beautiful black cherry shade.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


A crazy busy day! We cut up fresh veggies and fruit enough for 100 people probably, and made pasta salad for the same amount in preparation for the third native's  high school graduation party.

Regan and I went shopping a big hunk of the day. We weren't anticipating it taking as long as it did. We hadn't planned to stop and eat, but we eventually succumbed to the cry of our fainting bodies, and stopped at Burger King.

We were trying to eat as cheaply a possible. She got a $1 spicy chicken and I ordered a Jr. cheeseburger, we shared a small fry and a small Dr Pepper...

The first bite I took of my cheeseburger I was 8 years old again, or 9, or of my siblings had left home to do could have been anything,  something more interesting than staying home at any rate.

As soon as we had waved the lucky bum off into the magical beyond, Mother would turn to the rest of us with a conspiratorial grin and say, "Now, we can do anything we want!!", as if the person who had just left had been somehow shackling us all to the dreadful mundane existence that previously bound us.

That "anything we want" generally meant going to McDonald's one night during the absence of the person who had disappeared into the magical beyond, and was so rare and fine a treat as to rise to nearly the top of my favorite childhood memories.

I don't know what anyone else chose to eat, but I think I always got a cheeseburger and small fries, and a Dr Pepper. Sometimes I got a fried apple pie.

We never ate inside. We would go through the drive-through, and then, in half-darkness in the old Wagoneer, by the lights of the parking lot, watch the people who went and came, and relish every bite of our stolen freedom.

It was the best food in the world. And now and then, I am once more unshackled from the dreadful confines of mundane existence into a magical beyond of my very own, with just one bite.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

An April List

I read once that everyone loves a list. This was asserted by a person getting ready to make a list.
I forget what sort of list she proceeded to share. I think I sort of did love it.

But lists are handy. With lists, none of your thoughts have to relate in any way to any of your other thoughts. But they may, if they happen to. And with lists you don't have to create context for any given thought. You can just spit the thought out and move on unencumbered.


1. I love this sunshine!!

2. I love this warmness!

3. I love all these things that are blooming! They are all blooming at once this year, everything that blooms in the spring is overlapping everything else that blooms in the spring. I can hardly stand it, it's so overwhelmingly wonderful.

4. We should all hire laundresses and housekeepers in April so we can spend the whole glorious time outside, digging in dirt, planting things, reading our Bibles, taking walks. talking with God, not thinking about laundry, watching birds build their nests, imagining which bird you would choose to be if you were a bird, imagining that there really are  fairies, imagining what the world would be like without sin and if you didn't have to try to be good but just were automatically cheerful and industrious and compassionate and thoughtful.... Things like that.

5. I hate when you are doing laundry and find a pair of dirty socks balled-up in the corner of the couch after you have washed everything.

6. I also hate when the last person who ironed does not fold the ironing board up and put it away. It is very hard for me to fit in the 5 and a half inches that remain in my laundry room when the ironing board is up. Just because there are natives in this wig-wam who can comfortably stand and iron in 5 and a half  inches of space does not mean that I can fit into that same amount of space to put the ironing board away. Plus, it just reminds me how small I am not.

7. I am losing weight! I love losing weight. I felt very happy about my progress... then I heard today of a man who lost 390 pounds in one year. That's over 1 lb a day. A whole pound a day! Plus some!

8. I will not try to sell you anything to help you lose weight. I hate trying to sell stuff.  I also hate when people try to sell me stuff.

9. The radio ad that says if you use their tooth whitener product all your friends will be talking about how great you look? Don't believe it. Do you and your friends ever stand around and discuss how great your friends' teeth look? No? Well, they aren't standing around discussing how great you look either. Even if you look fantastic and your teeth are blazing. They don't really care how you look.

10. A possum died in the woods right in front of our house. I really wish the buzzard that tended it for a day or two had been taught by his mama to finish what he started.

11. We planted peas this year, the Chief and I. It's the first year in our entire married life that I have planted peas. The Chief does not like English peas, and most of my cooking joys are derived from how much he loves to eat what I make so I have not put up peas. But I love peas and I decided to plant two rows of peas, for my own enjoyment. He made the rows and helped me plant them and covered the rows for me with all good cheer. This cheer was pretty much eclipsed by his full-blown laughter when Dustin plowed right over them, not knowing they existed.

12. I love the Chief. I can't help it. But I really do not understand how he can not like peas.

13. I found, when I was walking, a little disk of grasses. I stopped and picked it up. It looked like the beginnings of a bird nest. I looked straight up, and in the crook of the dogwood above me was a darling little nest.

14. Last Sunday in church we sang,  "I will Sing of My Redeemer" and as soon as we started to sing, tears started running down my face. I didn't know why. Later I remembered that we sang that song at Mother's funeral. How can a person start crying before he remembers?   I wonder how many other reactions we have to things without knowing why we have them. Like peas. Maybe The Chief was forced to eat peas in April when all he wanted was to be outside digging in the dirt.

15. I have the best friends. I can get choked up just thinking about how God blessed me with the best friends.

16. The other evening the Chief went walking with me in the orchard because it was getting a little late and he didn't want me walking alone. The trees against the sunset sky were just so pretty my heart ached. We scared up a big rabbit and startled some deer, and talked about things. Then the moon rose. We saw our moon shadows. And I remembered how we used to go on moonlight hikes when the moon was full when I was a little girl, down the straight dirt road that ran in front of our little cinder block house. Mother went along, and my siblings, and other children and their moms. The whole world is enchanting in the moonlight.

17. The world is different now. I would not walk alone with my children down a public road at night.

18. The world is going to be even more different in the future.

19. No matter what happens no one can take our memories from us. Nor our God. Nor our hearts.

20. And no one can take heaven, either.

21. I like odd numbers, so I will stop on this number in case I don't make it to 23.

Monday, March 9, 2015

So, I Ordered This Coverlet...

The coverlet on our bed was shrinking. I loved it; it was beautiful, but every time I washed it it  shrank some more until it ventured only timidly over the sides and foot of the bed. Weighed on both the aesthetic and practicality scales it was found more and more wanting.

So for the last 6 months I have been keeping my eyes open for another coverlet that I liked and a week and a half ago, I found one and ordered it. It was white. I recently read a study which showed that people sleep better under white bedding. Our last coverlet was ecru, so we should be sleeping a shade better.

I ordered it Wednesday or Thursday. It would be shipped Tuesday. On Tuesday morning I stripped the mattress pad and sheets and pillowcases off our bed and washed them and dried them and ironed them and made up the bed, minus the diminutive old coverlet, in happy anticipation of my arriving new coverlet and pillow shams. You can't put a new coverlet on unwashed sheets.

It was all fresh and beautiful. And waiting.

But the package did not come. I went and double checked the order. OoooHH! It was suppose to SHIP on Tuesday. Not be delivered. It was suppose to be delivered on FRIDAY. Why it would take them from Thursday to Tuesday to ship it I do not know, but I'm sure they do, and I'm sure they had a very good reason!!

 Friday wasn't all that far away. I could wait.

Friday came. I don't usually wash my sheets more than once a week but you cannot put a fresh new coverlet and shams on slightly dirty sheets. I stripped the sheets off the bed again with undampened spirits. Washed them, ironed them, made up the bed once more, and kept my ear cocked for the delivery man.

Afternoon gave way to evening, and evening faded to night. And nobody came. I had checked the order before I took the sheets off the bed. It said "Order status: In transit, on time". I guess on time means different things to different people.

I really kinda like to get a bed looking pretty. I find a good deal of satisfaction in pressing the pillowcases, and perching them just so on top of smooth sheets. I like sliding between crisp sweet smelling sheets at night. But I didn't just LOVE it. I mean, not quite that much.

When the Chief came home he did some better investigating than I knew how to do and it said the package was in Hodgkins, Ill ...."Severe weather conditions have delayed delivery. / We’re working to deliver your package as soon as possible."
At least it was in the country. At least it was not we who were having severe weather. At least I had not cut up the old coverlet into rags.
We went to bed that night breathing in the springy freshness of clean, ironed sheets, "too blessed to be depressed."

(Don't you adore cheesy platitudes?? They come in so handy when all else fails.)

Over the weekend the package made it to Atlanta! At least it was in the state.
This morning I checked and it was in our town!! "Out for delivery". WOOT!

I cranked up the washing machine and jerked the sheets off the bed, thwumped the pillows out of their cases and stuffed it all in the washer with the rest of the white stuff.
My package was "out for delivery!!"
I called the Chief. "You will never believe what I'm doing!!" I said. "I'm washing sheets!" He laughed, but he didn't sound in the least bit disbelieving.

Then I set up the ironing board. Got my trusty Magic Sizing. Put water in the iron. plugged it in...and started ironing.

And this afternoon right after I got home from retrieving the natives from school, the dogs set up a howl. This could only mean one thing. My package had arrived! I opened it with great joy and went to start my iron again. One of the natives, who had just been eating Cheetos, helped unfold it. "Watch out" said another snack eating native, "you're getting cheesy stuff on the cover!"

"I washed my hands" he said limply, looking at the damage. And he spoke the truth. It was wet cheesy stuff. There was some on the sheets too.

I got a white cloth and scrubbed at it, trying to decided just how obsessive to be. Should I launder them before I even put them on the bed? They probably had factory germs after all.

But the orange stuff came off  with only a little effort, so I quit trying to decide, I just ironed it all and put it on the bed, like the sensible person I am.