The Way Things Were


IMG_2355I’m old, but not that old. However, I have memories of growing up that are probably very different from yours if you were born in the 70s, 80s, or beyond.

Recently, on Facebook a friend posted about how our lives were so different during the fifties and sixties. It got me to thinking about my own childhood and adolescence.

How about the following memories: Can you relate?

At home:

Our bedtime was 8:00 pm, strictly enforced. In high school, it was 9:00.

We almost never ate out. It was oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich and an apple or banana for lunch, and a hamburger patty and a green salad for dinner. We rarely had dessert, either.

We watched TV, three channels, black and white, and the programs were almost always westerns and a few variety shows.

We had one phone, a rotary type.

One typewriter. My dad’s. (I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when IBM made the Selectrix in the 70s.

My mother was progressive: we ate whole wheat bread.

My mother made us  hand-write thank you notes, cursive, of course.

We never, and I mean never, sassed our parents. That was unthinkable.

My dad was progressive: he taught me how to make Mulligan Stew, and he made Saturday morning breakfasts.

My family was fairly secular, but we occasionally went to church.

I had to practice my piano for one hour each day, and every piece had to be memorized.

At school:

Our teachers were deeply respected, even feared.

We had PE every day. Yes, every day.

We had penmanship classes. And typing classes in high school.

We always said the pledge of allegiance first class of the day.

In the sixties, we frequently practiced ‘duck and cover.’

No one thought dodge ball was child abuse.

Girls were encouraged to become nurses or secretaries. Boys could be anything they wanted, but if they didn’t do too well in their IQ tests, they were  steered toward a technical college after graduation. Also, when the ice cream joint, Baskin and Robbins first opened, girls weren’t hired because scooping ice cream was considered too strenuous.

College men were paid more for doing the exact same job I performed.  I answered phones and got paid 1.60 per hour. Men got 1.80 for the same job. When I worked in the cafeteria, the supervisor frequently slapped me on the fanny with a plate as he passed my work station.

Bullying did happen, but not nearly like today.

Up until my junior year in high school, girls had to wear dresses. After that, school districts allowed girls to wear slacks, but not jeans.

I could go on an on but I’ll bet you could, too. What do you remember from those days?




The Crazy Lady and the Sales Lady


Occasionally, I like to check out resale shops for surprise treasures. Today I went to my local shop, looking for a certain type of Asian bowl to replace the one at home that has a big chip in it. Nothing of that sort sat on the stores’s housewares shelf, so I turned to inspect some of the clothing aisles. Just then, a woman’s loud voice made everyone’s heads turn.

There were at least twenty other shoppers in the store—all women— and we all tried to watch but not watch. The angry woman at the check-out counter was berating the clerk and using terrible language, too. I wouldn’t have been more scared if the woman had been replaced by a bison!


I kept peeking out from behind displays to see if the woman would become violent, praying she didn’t have a weapon. She was right by the only exit I could see and I’m sure none of us wanted to try to slip by her during this altercation. The sales lady informed the woman that the police had been called, which prompted more angry gestures and even worse language. The woman’s two companions tried to steer her out the door, but she was having none of it.

All the shoppers huddled behind displays near the back of the store. And it wasn’t until a police SUV pulled up and the crazy lady, still ranting about her supposed bad treatment, met him in the parking lot. Before I left, I approached the poor sales lady, who had kept a professional demeanor the entire time, and told her how sorry I was that she had to experience that.

I hopped into my car and pulled slowly around the trouble-maker and her two companions still standing in the parking lot, while she gestured and shouted at the policeman.

In retrospect, I hadn’t seen anything that would have made the lady go ballistic. But she was sure she had been singled out for special scrutiny, and it wasn’t fair, and she had always paid for anything she bought in this store and so on. Later, during her harangue, she said she’d never been in this store and why was everybody watching her.

The day before, I had attended an inservice at the Pregnancy Clinic where we had our annual go-through-all-the-government-procedures-and-policies class. One of our sessions covered what to do if a dangerous or angry person comes into the Clinic.

I have to say, the sales lady did everything right. She singled for another clerk in the back to call the police, kept her voice and body language low-key, listened, and spoke respectfully. She stayed behind the counter while gently informing the angry lady that the police would arrive soon.

Good job, Mrs. Sales Lady, I think we could all take lessons from you.

There are two quotations that spring to mind: “Speak softly but carry a big stick (the police).”

The other is from Proverbs: “Angry words stir up strife, but a soft answer turns away wrath.”



What a Mess I Am!


(Me, with my grand girls a couple of months ago.)

I stuck my lunch in the microwave and punched in the recommended six minutes. Then I returned to my laptop and got distracted by email.

After a few minutes—it felt like four or five minutes—my nose detected an overcooked smell coming from the kitchen. But, heck, my nose must have been mistaken because nothing is overcooked after only four or five minutes, right?

I went back to my email. But a ‘minute’ later, the overcooked smell was turning to the burning smell. I went to investigate. That’s when I noticed the countdown display on the microwave at forty-five minutes.

Uh oh. Must’ve accidentally punched in an extra 0. So now the microwave thinks it should cook for 60 minutes, not 6 minutes.

Dummy Dena! I punched cancel, turned on the fan and opened the microwave door. Smoke billowed forth. My chicken pot pie was a total loss.


I opened the kitchen door and tried to shoo the noxious-ness out. Even pumping the door to try to draw in good clean air only accomplished turning the kitchen into an icebox—a stinky icebox. (Temperatures have hovered in the teens this entire week.)

Darn! I was really in the mood for a nice, piping hot, comfy-food chicken pot pie.

I thought, this must happen all over the USA at least ten times a day. I love machines and I love that they never question my orders. They just do whatever they’re programmed to do.

Nine-nine times out of a hundred, when something goes wrong, it’s not the machine’s fault. It’s you-know-who’s fault.

I am so consistently fallible:

  • I forget dates
  •  I lose papers I really, really need
  • I make snap—almost always incorrect—judgments
  • I can’t come up with the word or phrase I need right now
  • I say or do something I shouldn’t or don’t say the right thing or do the right thing
  • I forget all of God’s benefits…

…and so on.

So now, to make me a little less fallible, I keep a little calendar in my purse. I train myself to always put my important papers in the same place, I counsel myself not to make snap judgments, I warn myself to keep my mouth shut., and prod myself to get up and do what I know I should.

And most importantly, the sixth item on my agenda to not be quite so fallible: I’m training myself to notice and thank God for ALL his benefits: every fleeting moment of northwest sunshine, every trill of a bird, even a burned meal, because I’ve got more good stuff in my freezer, every morning that I wake up and can still see, feel, move, touch, or think.

Thankfulness to God will override those moments of complete exasperation at my own fallibility.


Psalm 103:13,14: “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.

For he knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.”


The Parking Sign That Hit Me!


We traded in the Toyota for this two-year-old Mercedes beauty. Powerful, loaded, even equipped with a towing package.

Problem is, these German cars do things a bit differently. Like, their gear shift is on the wheel column, on the right. No problem with that. But, to reverse, you push the lever up, and to go forward, you push the lever down. Huh?

Doesn’t it seem logical to push the lever down to go backward, and up to go forward? Aren’t we Americans used to doing it that way?

It took some getting used to that darned lever. Caught myself several times about to do the ‘logical’ ‘thing with the lever.

After a few weeks, I was doing pretty good. The car handles like a dream and is super comfortable, plus it pulls our trailer effortlessly.

A couple of weeks ago I had some errands to run downtown, and the only parking spot available was one of those super-narrow spots. I pulled in, right in front of a two-hour parking sign.  I needed to reverse a bit to straighten out. Concentrating on not scraping the cars on either side, I put my car in reverse and gently pressed the accelerator. The car wasn’t budging. Hmmm.  So I gave it a bit more juice and that’s when the car lurched up and over the lip of the curb with the roar of a charging lion.

Only then did my brain register that I was going forward, not backward, and that the two-hour parking sign was dangerously descending toward my bumper. With a Wagnerian scream, I jammed on the brakes. But not before I had knocked over the sign, and, in trying to reverse over the metal foot of the uprooted pole, scraped and pulled my bumper out.

“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh,” I jabbered to myself. “What do I do?! What do I do? I’ve never been in a car accident. This is awful, just awful. Who do I call?”

I got out and went to inspect the damage. The sign was a goner. No way it could be repaired. There was about a four-inch dent on the front right of my car, smudged with the sign’s green paint. And the bumper? Scraaaaaaaaaaaped like some maleficent had taken a key to it.


I got back inside the car and called the police. When I got dispatch and told them what I’d done, the lady seemed kind of confused. So I repeated, “I knocked down a parking sign and did some damage to my car, as well.”

While I waited for the traffic officer to arrive, a woman walked by, stopped, surveyed the damage. I could see her wheels turning, wondering if she should do anything, Finally, she stepped over the sign and continued on her way. A man walked by and I told him the obvious: “Yes, I’ve already called the police.” He nodded, smiled, and went on his way.

A big, stern-faced police officer showed up about fifteen minutes later and I explained what I’d done, but he obviously didn’t understand about the gear lever and its counter-intuitive ups and downs.

My hands shook and my fingers went clumsy as I tried to retrieve my license, registration and proof of insurance. The officer noted immediately that neither Bruce nor I had signed the registration sheet. Then he also noted that we didn’t have a license plate on the front of the vehicle. Oh boy! This was going to be one whopper of a ticket. And I’m also glad that he didn’t make a stink about my expired proof of insurance card. The new one was still at home.

In the end, the very nice, but stern officer didn’t even give me a ticket. What?!

He gave me his police report and instructed me to call my insurance and send them photos, too. I said thank you and pulled out of the parking spot ever so slowly, aware that he was watching my driving style.

Some lessons for me:

  • Stay in the moment when I’m driving, particularly in parking lots, particularly with an unfamiliar vehicle.
  • This little accident was the perfect example of Jesus’s words: “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
  • God can use all sorts of difficulties to teach us, and to bring glory to His name. I’m thankful to the Lord that no one was harmed, and I’m thankful that I didn’t panic and drive away from the scene of the accident. And I’m thankful that He instructed that nice officer not to give me a ticket.


Life is good even when it isn’t because He has overcome the world.

Merry Christmas, and I wish you a New Year filled with His constant presence and protection.

I love Christmas!


(Two of my beautiful grand girls. They decorated our tree this year.)

I’m a Christmas Eve baby. But before you go and pity me, let me say that this was a blessing. Because I’ve got a twin brother, and my mother was born on December 27th, which made her very sensitive to the fact that birthdays surrounding Christmas tend to be ignored.

And my relatives—the ones who entertained our clan—made sure that my brother and I were acknowledged, too.

Those Christmas parties were wonderful. We got to share in the ‘specialness’ of the season, complete with amazing music. Several of my relatives were professional singers and pianists. After those parties we kids went home sleepy, arms filled with gifts, and minds saturated with fine music, hearts filled with the wonder of Christ’s birth.

I’ve never lost my love for Christmas. Everything about it. I love the crowds at the mall, the Christmas music, the Salvation Army ringers, the Santa, the decorations and trees and lights. I love preparing a feast and feeding my family and friends.

The other day I caught our local Santa—who has a real beard and twinkling eyes—checking his cell during an off hour. It made me laugh because it’s so illustrative of the times. I wonder if Santa even has a paper list anymore. Maybe he’s got some giant database where he alphabetically stores names and gifts given.



Santa caught me smiling and waved me over for a selfie:


Isn’t he adorable?

And this is a closeup of part of my tree. I love to turn on the tree lights late afternoon so people driving by on the their way home can see it through my window and be cheered by it.


I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Put on some music, pour yourself some cider or egg nog, invite some friends over, share a meal.

Thank God for Christmas!




Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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