Three stories – and #payitforward

Well, I won’t lie – it’s been a hard week, for reasons I don’t want to explain to you. Would you like to be entertained? Here are three snippets that made me laugh.


Dear Stranger in the Thrift Store:

I do not usually bum a diaper off someone I do not know. Thank you for being gracious.

You see, I had moved all of my baby’s diapers and wipes to a different purse, to give to the babysitter on the night I had a date—and I forgot to return them to my shopping purse. So that day in the store when I was smelling whiffs of diaper trouble, and whisked my girl off to the bathroom for a change, I got as far as unfastening everything and assessing the damages when I realized I was completely, entirely, 100% fresh out of options.

Several ideas flashed through my mind, none of them pretty.

Then I remembered you and your little girl playing by the toy section, and how we’d smiled at each other. Thank you for letting me come beg from you, and for refusing my money, and for offering me your wipes too as I turned away. I’m sorry that I smiled and clung to my pride and said I was okay, I’d use the paper towels in the bathroom. They were not as helpful as I’d hoped.

But I will remember you and your kindness. If you ever need one, you know where to come.



I’ve been trying to find new coping strategies for worry.

The other day when something was eating at me I thought I would text it to The Boss, but suddenly wished I could text it to Jesus instead – as a way of forgetting about it and letting it go. So just for the kick of it I typed Jesus into the address line (53787) and wrote my little worries and hit send. I knew the message would bounce right back to me, but I didn’t care. What I didn’t anticipate was what my phone said – in large letters on the left side, JESUS, and on the right side, FAILED.

Not quite the sensation I was going for, but it cracked me straight up.

Since then my husband outfitted me with an extra number by which I can text to Jesus, that only he will ever see. I have been keeping it hot.


I do not usually write here about my speaking engagements, for two reasons. First, it feels like showing off, and second, I don’t have many of them. So if you come here hoping for my opinion of your event, I’m sorry – you’re logging up the wrong tree.


Last year about this time I was preparing to speak at an unusually stressful venue, for me. It was going to be a large audience, both men and women, in a Christian setting so conservative-minded that I figured if I mis-dressed or mis-spoke I might as well build my own coffin and go lie down in it, cuz it was all over.

While packing to go, I dithered about what shoes to wear. I’m not a big shoe person, so it came down to a choice of two pairs: snappy black dress shoes with inordinately high heels, which I had not worn for months – having a faint memory of discomfort associated with them – or black flats with big cream fabric flowers on the toes. I thought with a long skirt, the heels would be the less offensive of the two, so I picked them.

All went well, and I wore those shoes for two long days without mishap, until a week or so after the event when I developed shooting pains in my big toes. Both sides.


So, if you were at the event or if you come from a church that has Opinions on such matters, I thought it would comfort you to learn that I lost two toenails to that wretched experience, and everything your pastor tells you about high heels is true. They are from the devil.

I can’t remember just now if I threw them vindictively into the trash can, or donated them to the thrift store to ensnare a new owner.

Like I said,


Issues and autos

My husband is a great man. He’s smart, talented, articulate, and well-informed about the world.

I believe in his character and leadership, trusting him implicitly (at least 60% of the time, faking it the last 40) to make good decisions for the welfare of our family.

You would think that with so much brilliance at hand, we could always chart a clear path forward. But despite all this good information on his part and lovely submission on mine, I have to confess we don’t always— (Are you sitting down? Good.) We don’t always see eye to eye. Some issues require three hours of talk late at night to hash out. Some issues require heavy compromise on both sides. And on some issues we deadlock, putting them on the shelf temporarily until the future time when one of us (the other) will receive greater enlightenment.

You haven’t collapsed from shock yet, have you? I see a few of you down on the sidelines. The rest are standing firmly against wave after wave of disillusionment. Only a few are laughing, demanding—oh my—examples? You really expect me to give examples?


We could mention the Ethics of Computer Games issue. We could mention the How to Enjoy a Holiday issue. We could mention the Who Cares About News? I’ll Just Let the World Rot issue. We could mention the Is Slurping an Acceptable Way of Drinking Coffee? issue. That one took ten years till I had the courage to put my foot down. We could mention the Appropriate Logos on Sons’ Shirts issue. He won, and I’ve never looked back. I like the way his decision shaped our family culture, though I didn’t see or anticipate it then.

But the current issue, the one we’re bashing brains on now, is of utmost importance. Beside this, the Washington Post and coffee etiquette can go on holiday together; this here’s the real hard-hitter—the Vehicle Temperature Control issue.

We bought a different van this spring, and are still getting used to its features. My husband is in love with a little button called “Auto” temperature control. It’s ingenious. Set the degree where you want it, say 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and let the van slowly do the rest, blowing gentle air of varying temperatures until the desired degree is reached.

There are two problems with this in my feminine mind.

First, who knows what degree they want to be? I just want it cool, man.

Second, “slowly” is rarely the effect I have in mind when it comes to temperature. When I jump into a vehicle that’s been slowly marinating in the August sun, I need cool air like now. Like as in yesterday already. Like as in gallons of it streaming past my face. I don’t want this Auto thing “blowing gentle air of varying temperatures.” I’m dying here.

So when I’m in the driver’s seat, I take the Auto off, kick the temperature down to 62 degrees, and turn on the fan full blast. Ahhh.

His turn in the driver’s seat? He reinstates the Auto function and patiently explains to me that lowering the degree to 62 as opposed to 68 does not, in fact, speed up the cooling rate at all. The van just has to work harder and longer. (Me, I don’t mind making vehicles work harder and longer. That’s what I pay them for.) Furthermore, he says gently, the whole point of Auto is Auto, you know? It’s so efficient. You can keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, entirely maintenance free. No adjustments. What part of this is not perfect?

All of it.

The me being out of control of my own comfort part.


The strangely unsettling thing about new vans is that the temperature controls on the driver’s side and passenger’s side are split; each can control his own climate. There’s only an optional little button called Sync if you want to be in it with each other.

The thing is, I’m starting to feel like a rebel when I turn the fan on High, and he’s becoming all gentlemanly and asking me to show him how I like it…!

Oh pishposh–let’s just get in sync, babe. I auto see it your way anyhow.

He’s a great man. There’s no one on earth I’d rather bash heads with.


What are your Issues?

Yes, I really asked that.

Two mites

Confession: My least favorite part of church is taking up the offering.

This has nothing to do with how we take it up (into innocent wicker-and-burgundy-felt baskets) or when (slipped between the announcements and the songs), or who or how much or why

No. It’s all about the drama.

You see, we give our sons an allowance of a dollar a week per child, payable on Saturday in four quarters with the understanding that one quarter goes to Jesus on Sunday.

Problem: I have a very inventive son who loves money.1

1“The love of money is the root of all evil.” Ah. That explains it.

There was the Sunday he forgot to bring his offering quarter along to church.

And then the next Sunday, when he forgot it again.

And then the next, as we headed out the door for church—“Son, did you fetch your offering quarter like I told you?”

“Yes, dad.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, dad.”

“Show me.”

Checking right pants pocket. Dry. Checking left pants pocket. Hmm. Checking breast pocket of shirt. Nope. Innocently puzzled look on face of son. “I thought I had it…”

Bilbo and the Ring, my dear, Bilbo and the Ring. “Go get it please.”

And then there was the Sunday when this scenario was reenacted publicly, as he stood in our pew searching through pocket after pocket, the usher standing patiently looking on.

And then the time when instead of dropping the quarter into the plate, he attempted a heroic rescue out on behalf of the quarter his brother had just placed there.

And the Sunday when he put the quarter in—sort of—and pulled it back out, and put it in, and pulled it out… and at our insistence on actual relinquishment, burst into loud wails.

And finally this Sunday, when after much preliminary grooming he put it in beautifully at last—just as his sister returned from Grandma’s pew with a very distressed face. “Mommy! My purse!” Swiftly we dug out her quarter, but not swiftly enough to catch the basket; hastily we chased our prey back the aisle, and captured it near the back. Rapidly we deposited the quarter; quickly we turned about—and nearly flattened the usher who had sneaked up silently behind.


Church doesn’t have to be easy. I expect to labor in prayer, to face deep exposure in confession and testimony, to be scourged with truth in the sermon…

but the offering??

Father, have mercy.

Regarding plant theft

Confession: I am a plant thief.


If a plant has shoots growing out around the bottom, or leaves that look like they would root well, or seeds hanging out in the open, they will end up in my pocket headed for home. I can’t seem to help myself.

If you invite me over to your house, you’d better check your inventory good, both before and after. Some of it will be gone.

I am now banned from five states in the Midwest.

I have to label my starts by the place from which I took them, because I usually don’t know what they’re called until later. Alden Street rosebush. Willow Street bean trees. Grandpa’s nursing home plant. Spearmint from R— park.

And that doesn’t even touch the plants I actually ask for.

(Exhibit A entered into evidence:)

bean trees

(Exhibit B:)


I don’t seem to have as many friends as I used to; I don’t get it. On the other hand, I have some really great plants…

You should probably help me think through the ethics of this, although I can’t say I’ll reform. What? You don’t think a blog audience is the preferred counselor of morality? Alright. If you don’t give me good advice, I’ll have to ask my pastor—but he’s upstairs right now.

* If anyone takes this post seriously, he or she will be buried alive in moist potting soil and then dug up and watered.

** If anyone does not take this post seriously, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Turkey courtship

Newsflash: My Current Reading page has fresh suggestions for your edification and amusement.


Observations After Watching Turkey Courtship in my Backyard

  1. The males are kind of cute when they show off. Cute in a bombastic sort of way.
  2. The females are either
    1. Extremely smart, or
    2. Extremely dumb.

While Mr. Tom was strutting his stuff in front of them, the chicks were rapt, motionless. (I know they are technically hens, but I call them chicks. I’m sure that’s how he was thinking of them.) When he edged around behind them to make his move, they began demurely pecking at the grass and trailing off.

I see two possible schools of thought. Either

“Whew! He’s gone.”


“Don’t look too interested, Ethel…”

They can’t be of average intelligence. They have to be incredibly blond or incredibly brilliant. Go chicks.