Ups and Downs

This week is only half gone. Highs and lows.

On the low side

Bad weather… Boo

Meds with side effects… Yawn

Shuffled Schedules… Sigh

On the high side

Freshly-baked cookies… with no one guarding them

Long visits to catch up with dear friends… and their dogsUps and Downs 2

Timely encouragement from the Word of God

Ups and Downs_Psalm 37_16

©2015-2017 Our Lives In Stories

Monday’s Shopping Adventures: The Stowaway Cat and the Brat

shopping-cart-1275480_960_720My family and facebook friends are aware of the knack my daughter and I have for stumbling into the strangest situations while shopping. Actually all we have to do is leave the house and high-jinks follow. It is a gift inherited from my father. Today’s shopping trip was no exception.

Kat and I had to pick up medicine from the pharmacy, a few household items, and some groceries. Luckily there is a dollar store next door to the pharmacy. I can get cleaning and paper products cheaper there than at the grocery store, and avoid the super-store mega retailer we all love to hate.

First stop, meds. Those are in hand, and I’m waiting to ask James the pharmacist a question. Normally there are at least two staff working in the back at all times, but we only see James filling prescriptions. Lunch, perhaps?

In just a second, Deann the pharmacy tech pops her head in the drive-up window from outside. She announces that she must open the hood on the customer’s car that is sitting in the drive-up. Car trouble? Nope. The customer “heard a cat” when she stopped her car at the window.

Deann checks underneath the car first. Nothing out of the ordinary there. She pops the hood and there sits a fuzzy gray kitten in no mood to meet someone new. Deann plucks the frightened feline off the car’s frame. She is hissed at and scratched for her trouble. The customer is now the proud owner of a little cat with her own tale to tell, no pun intended.

My question to the pharmacist asked and answered, Kat and I proceed to the dollar store. All seems peaceful for a hot August day. Not crowded. Fans whirring at the front and back. We split up to do our shopping.

I’m in the back of the store searching for Soft Scrub when I hear cursing — a lot of cursing. Personal standards of the average person having degraded over the years, it’s not unusual to hear “colorful” language in public. But there’s something weird about this. The voice is too, well, juvenile. In about half a second, I am staring at the source of the obscenities.

Flying around the corner and almost barreling into my cart is a potty-mouthed kid who looks to be no more than five years old. He is still fleeing from someone at top speed, careening around corners and sprinting up and down aisles, spouting profanity all the while. Judging by his favorite curse word, I’d say a female was at the top of his hate list.

My first thought was to suppress the desire to reach out and pinch his little head off. He undoubtedly hears that verbal sewage spewed at home and has grown up thinking that’s how normal people communicate their frustrations. Suspecting the subject of his rage is his mother, I give him room to fly around me and proceed with shopping.

Almost immediately the situation becomes a little clearer, if not somewhat amusing. His mother evidently grew tired of his disobedience. She sought reinforcements.

From the front of the store comes a bellowing female voice, raspy with age, lifelong cigarette smoking and Lord only knows what else.

“Boy… this is your GRANDMOTHER. Get your butt to the car… NOW!!”

This is repeated a couple of times before the little miscreant obliges and peace once again settles on the dollar store. My sympathies lie with the public school teacher whose classroom will be graced with his presence in a few short days.

As Kat and I finished our shopping and approached the cash registers, the employees were discussing their experiences with less than stellar customers. We added a few of our own stories to the mix. Apparently Walmart is not the only retailer with shoppers fit for the looney bin. Anybody looking for an adventure on a smaller scale need only hang out at their local dollar store.

©2015-2017 Our Lives in Stories

The Littlest Laundry Helper

Feeling a bit better today, I decided to catch up on laundry. Pausing in front of the washing machine, I felt a slight tickle on the top of my foot. I looked down and noticed what appeared to be a small brown leaf between my toes and ankle. A gentle swish of my foot shook the “leaf” off onto the floor. More careful observation showed that the “leaf” wiggled… a lot!

Helping me with laundry today was one of the newest additions to the gecko colony that lives in the walls of our house. I scooped the little fellow up and let him ride on the end of a bright yellow flyswatter. (No, I did not swat him. He rather liked it there.) He was safer off the ground where he would not get stepped on. I set the flyswatter on top of the dryer and resumed my work.

Opening the lid on the washer revealed a large, bright green grasshopper staring back at me. Nope, nope, nope… Oh, the joys of a laundry room with outdoor access!

SLAM went the lid. I grabbed the baby gecko, bright yellow fly swatter and all, and ran for help. Reptiles and amphibians I will tolerate, or at least attempt to catch and release. Bugs are another matter entirely.

Sam’s opinion is the polar opposite of my own. He takes care of the insect kingdom and all things arachnid. But don’t count on him for assistance with lizards or geckos or snakes. Sam relocated Mr. Grasshopper to the back yard while keeping one eye on me and my flyswatter friend.

Once laundry was started I had to figure out something to do with the little laundry helper. I couldn’t let him fall into the paws of the Hogwarts sisters. That would mean certain doom.

Littlest Laundry Helper
Left: The Littlest Laundry Helper. Right: The Hogwarts Sisters – Dobby (top) & Hermione (bottom)

Dobby and Hermione have made a very big dent in the local gecko population. No amount of reasoning can convince them of the helpfulness of the little critters. I try to explain how the geckos in residence help control the bug population. But I just don’t think I’m getting through to the girls.

I set the tiny gecko on the floor in a small space between the dryer and a storage shelf. Even the wily felines couldn’t reach him there. He grudgingly let go of the fly swatter and pattered a few steps away.

I did several loads of laundry this afternoon and caught a glimpse of the little fellow several times. He changed color from dark brown on the concrete floor– to nearly white on the linoleum — and then back to dark brown again. I hope his camouflage serves him well and he grows up to be one of the three- or four-inch adults that feast on bugs outside our back door. But don’t tell Sam I said that.

©2015 – 2017 Our Lives in Stories

The Low Key Summer, or How Not to Cook Dinner

Facebook has been so kind as to inform me that it’s been two weeks since my last status update. It has been much longer than that on the blog. High time I got back to writing.

It has been a very stressful summer. Medical problems have been constant companions. I never thought I’d see the day that CFS and fibro were the least of my worries. While I did not receive great news from the nurse practitioner yesterday, there is hope that I can get something done in the near future about these new concerns. I leave it in the Lord’s hands.

As far as our “status” goes, I have not been out and about enough to generate many fascinating stories lately. I was hopeful to hit the ground running at the start of Kathryn’s last year of home school. But we’ve got one surgery in our family, and possibly two, to get through first. We will start our studies at home quietly in a week or so and see how things go from there.

Kathryn is assisting with makeup at the Chickasaw Civic Theater’s production of The Little Mermaid. Daunting task considering the size of the cast and ensemble. This week has been tech week. If you’re familiar with theater you know what a hectic time that can be. I am super proud of Kathryn for her commitment and willingness to share her talents. The whole bunch has put in long days and nights of practice. Opening night is tomorrow — Thursday, August 3rd.

Our last year of school promises to be a busy one. I am hopeful that Kat will like her subjects, though no one will dare hold their breath over Biology. She adamantly refuses to do dissections or even watch them on video. Since the young lady has no intention of pursuing a career in science or medicine, I believe we may let that battle go. We shall see.

Although I said I haven’t been out and don’t have any great stories to tell at the moment, I hate to leave everyone completely disappointed. Tonight’s excitement came from  my attempt to cook dinner. All who know me well are aware of what an adventure that can be.

My husband has taken up quite a bit of slack lately with cooking and laundry and running errands. He has also taken advantage of the few days with low humidity to keep up with the yard. A slight plumbing problem cropped up today, too, and I really didn’t want him to have to worry about feeding anyone. So I stumbled into the kitchen, drowsy from the new meds I’m taking, determined to handle it myself.

Chicken baking in the oven… check. Potatoes mashed and staying warm on the stove top… check. Green beans sitting on the warmer burner… check. Gravy simmering on the small back burner… Why isn’t that gravy simmering by now?

“What’s that smell,” you ask? Char-broiled pot holder, which did not begin to smoke in the slightest or burn (thank goodness) until a foul smell had wafted through the back of the house. In my state of drowsiness, I turned on the big burner in front of the gravy — the one with the potholder on it. Potholder

Yes, that is the sound of the vent fan running on high to draw out the less-than-appetizing-odor. Yes, that is the remains of the pot holder cooling its heels in my almond-colored, 1960’s era sink. Mother, please cover your eyes and close your ears… I love my almond-colored, 1960’s era sink.

Happy Summer, Y’all! 😉

©2015-2017 Our Lives in Stories

When to Keep Your Mouth Shut, Promise-Maker

A few days ago, I started a series titled When to Keep Your Mouth Shut. You can read the first post and inspiration behind the series here.

Day 2 - Ecclesiastes 5_2

Standing under the cypress trees on the shore of Fairhope Bay looking up through the boughs as the sun filters down to the ground below. Dappled light. A cool breeze. The sound of the waves and the shore birds drowning out the cares of the day.

Standing beside those massive trunks it is easy to feel small, humble, diminutive. How then do we so easily lose that frame of mind when we come into the presence of Almighty God?

The folly of an empty religious profession, of empty promises, of going through the motions before a sovereign God. I am among the chief offenders.

As Matthew Henry writes in his commentary: “Never let our tongue outrun our thoughts in our devotions… Thoughts are words to God, and words are but wind if they be not copied from the thoughts. Lip-labour, though ever so well laboured, if that be all, is but lost labour in religion.”

Lord, help us to form words that are more than just wind to you, words from a sincere and humble heart. Praise be to God.

©2015-2017 Our Lives in Stories

When To Keep Your Mouth Shut, Calamity Jane

Several weeks ago, a friend pinned a photo to Pinterest that caught my attention. It wasn’t particularly beautiful as Pinterest photos go. No gorgeous shot of someone’s garden, latest home improvement project, or sunset photo to top all sunset photos. It was a snapshot of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, slightly bent in the middle but otherwise in decent condition.

The paper was a printed list of some sort. It has begun to fade ever so slightly. And someone highlighted much of the content in yellow.

Seeing as how this photo stood out among the jewels of Pinterest for having no luster or curb appeal whatsoever, and being the nosy… errr, inquisitive… person that I am, I had to stop and take a look at the title printed in large font across the top of that piece of paper: When to Keep Your Mouth Shut. Hmmm… Talking to me, aren’t you God?

The paper is a list of Bible verses that warn of situations in which we should take care to keep our mouths closed. Not doing so seems to be a problem everywhere we turn. I will step forward and say that I am among the chief offenders.

A situation arises. Within 2.46 nanoseconds I have made observations, sized up the matter and the motives, and formed an opinion. Sometimes I do not take care to keep my mouth shut and out flies said opinion. Maybe I need to linger over this list for awhile?

The evidence of a culture unable to keep its mouth shut is absolutely everywhere. Children and their parents have no qualms about back-talking teachers, preachers, librarians, flight attendants, nurses, even law enforcement. Television is loaded with “talk shows,” most of which turn into shouting matches and serve no purpose other than stirring up discontent among the masses.

Social media has its own sad contribution to make to the problem. We bully one another with our opinions, our beliefs, our inability to keep our mouths shut. We cry for peaceful dialogue and mutual understanding but seem unable to comprehend what that entails… probably because we can’t hush long enough to think and listen.

In the spirit of letting the Word of God do its work, so begins the first in the When To Keep Your Mouth Shut series.

I chose the first verse for its irony because of a particular word in the NIV translation.

Day 1 - Proverbs 21_23

My current facebook profile picture is a meme featuring a picture of Calamity Jane egging people on to go ahead and be a legend if the urge overtakes them. I chose that picture after a particularly horrible week of everything mechanical breaking down that possibly could at my house. It’s been awhile, but I seem to remember we had a vehicle and at least one appliance failing, and we were dealing with plumbing issues as well.

The abundance of calamity in my life at that time prompted a friend to refer to me as Calamity Jane and me to pick that meme. This was not self-imposed calamity but that which comes as a part of living in a fallen world. Things break down and circumstances don’t always go well — the mostly unavoidable stuff.

However, according to the Proverbs, there is another kind of calamity that is self inflicted — the kind that comes from not keeping our mouths shut. I seem to have so much of the former type of calamity that I think I’ll pay better attention to the Scriptures so as to avoid the latter.

Lord, help us to guard our mouths and keep our tongues from calamity with our families, our friends, in “real life” and on social media. Praise be to God.

©2015-2017 Our Lives in Stories

Insecta Gargantua or The “Stinky” Truth About Spring

Spring is indeed here. The Springtime Roundup post from a few days ago contained photos of many of the lovely little flowering plants and berry vines that managed to make a fantastic debut on our property with little to no help from me. While that photo collage was lovely, it doesn’t quite capture the “stinky side” of springtime.

I began work on a back flower bed a couple of days ago, only to have the work halted almost immediately by a monstrous underground ant nest. Several of those jumbo-sized pests made their way onto my hands and feet. Let’s just say the run-in was unpleasant for all parties. Sam applied ant killer and suggested I wait several days before tackling work in that area.

About midday today we picked more dewberries. Some are left for the birds. But those growing on vines around the back of the house are fair game for humans. Only after placing the berries in a bowl did I find a third party who had taken an interest in the juicy black fruit. Worm and Berries

After discovering the little fellow I tried desperately to remember whether or not I’d popped any of those berries into my mouth before bringing them indoors. I’m going with “No, I certainly hope not,” on this one.

Dobby was awakened from her nap by the ruckus over the worm’s discovery. She was less than impressed at my angst. I made my apologies for disturbing her beauty sleep and placed the newly washed berries in the refrigerator.

Worm Animal Comments

After supper we played with the animals in the yard. Holly wasn’t quite sure whether she should get in on the game her dad was playing with the cats. Her feline sisters’ fascination over a dried stick with dangling branches was lost on Holly. Her serenade of questions didn’t seem to bother the cats much, though.

Dangling Branch Game

I took over the dangling stick game so Sam could have a break. He went inside while both the cats and I got a bit of exercise and Holly played referee. Our party came to a crashing halt, however. We could hear it coming in the air before it arrived.  BBBBBBRRRRRRRTTTTTTT…. like a helicopter flying low. And arrive, it did. Latched right on to the side of my pants and refused to turn loose.

At first glance I thought it was a cicada, though it isn’t quite time for them yet. My confusion was understandable as it was dusky and I was in a mild state of panic, growing stronger by the millisecond thanks to Insecta Gargantua attached to my leg. Beating it with the dangling stick didn’t do a thing. Shrieking for help didn’t either. So as a very last resort, I ran.  Sprinted all the way to the back door thinking that would somehow motivate Godzilla to turn loose of my clothing. Nope!

I really had a problem at that point. If I ran inside, Insecta Gargantua would come in, too. I made a very fast appraisal of the situation and praised the good Lord for the bounty of spring that causes the leaves on the bushes and trees to grow thick and full again. Thanks to the wooded area at the back of our property, and the hydrangea bushes that Sam hates so much in the back flower beds, no one could see me… no one but the cats and dog, that is.

My only option was clear. Off came the pants, open flew the door, and in I dove, slamming it behind me.

In the confusion of the second ruckus of the day, my husband failed to adequately understand the situation. He listened to my gibberish and promptly got comfortable on the chaise lounge in front of the television. He thought there was a problem WITH the pants, not a problem ATTACHED TO the pants. Problems WITH the pants should be my jurisdiction. A problem ATTACHED TO the pants should have been his.

Feeling slighted, but determined to win my pants back with no help from man or beast, I found a replacement pair of shorts and made my way into the kitchen. I cautiously opened the back door. There sat the pants, turned inside out just as I’d left them. I gave them a slight kick with my toe. No movement.

I ever so carefully picked the pants up, holding them way out at arm’s length. If that bug came flying off those pants, I wanted it to happen far away from the porch. I marched straight out to the saw horse near the burn pile. I briefly considered torching the pants, bug and all, but thought that would be like conceding defeat.

Ever so carefully and with close examination lest my hand touch something with more legs than me, I turned the pants right side out again. Nothing. I shook them slightly at first and then more vigorously. That ominous buzzing flap of wings we’d heard earlier was followed by a thud and brief skittering in the grass. And then we saw it, staring back at us…  The largest stink bug I have seen in YEARS!

Stink Bugs

The cats were unconcerned about my ordeal and not even remotely interested in this new plaything from Mama’s pants. Holly the pit bull struggled to understand what the commotion was all about. She was more concerned with joining her daddy in the comfort of the living room. Some rescue party they turned out to be.

I’m sure there’s a lesson here but I’m still a bit too perturbed by this evening’s experience to pull it together. I can offer a word to the wise: Don’t be fooled by those lovely pictures of springtime flowers, little bunny rabbits, and puffy happy clouds in the sky. There is danger lurking behind those leaves and in those blades of grass!

For those die hard readers who just must have a moral to every story, “Wash your berries before you eat them” is a great place to start.

©2015-2017 Our Lives In Stories