Bible Verse

Beg as loud as you can for good common sense. Proverbs 2:3

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Long Road

My dad, Floyd Falconer, was born in 1911 and passed away in 2011, a life-time of 100 years. I once asked him what was the best thing that had happened in his life other than the obvious answer of God and family. He didn’t hesitate at all: “Education,” he said. “Get a good education and you can do anything.”

My dad was born on a farm in South Dakota. They weren’t particularly poor, but they weren’t particularly rich, either. His dad, my Grandpa Harry, had big Belgian horses for plowing and pulling wagons.

Daddy’s education consisted of grade school and then an agricultural school, but no high school. This was a time when a high school diploma really didn’t matter. You didn’t need one to plow your fields or fix your fences.

When Daddy was 17, he left the farm and joined the Army. It was peacetime then, World War I was over and World War II had not yet begun. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor and served as his company’s bugler, among other things. He loved music and had taught himself how to play the banjo and fiddle before leaving South Dakota.

His discharge date from the Army was coming up, so Daddy came back to the mainland. On the trip over, he began to feel sick and by the time he arrived, he was in agony. Something was wrong in his gut. This was in the early 1930’s, before penicillin, before all of the fancy machines and tests we have today.

But my dad was a tough, wiry guy who had grown up working on a farm doing manual labor every day. When they told him his appendix had burst, he saw it as something he had to overcome. Daddy had to stay in bed for a year, but he did it. He had to learn to walk again, but he did that, too.

Since his discharge from the Army was not complete when he got sick, an officer who knew Daddy and liked him, decided that while Daddy was in bed, he could do some typing for him and made it possible for Daddy to be in the Army for another year. That meant free medical care. If he had been discharged, Daddy himself didn’t know what would have happened to him. He didn’t have any money for anything, much less medical care.

My dad lived through the Great Depression. Times were tough. Taking a job through a government program was embarrassing to most men, but it had to be done. It was the only way to feed their families. My dad proudly told me that he had worked only a short time on one of those programs before finding a better job. That started him on his road to successful living.

Successful living doesn’t mean lots of money, a big house, and a fancy car. Daddy worked hard for years, finally moving to a job in an office. He earned his GED when I was a child. It was important because it made him eligible for better positions.

He ended up working in the Civil Service for the Army Missile Command in Alabama. It was the Army that helped him out when he was sick, and it was the Army that he helped out as a technical writer.

Daddy was a natural-born student. He was constantly learning how to do something. His job was to write the manual on how to, for instance, assemble a gun. He had to know how to do it first so he could write the instructions.
But he was curious about a lot of things. He taught himself how to fix television sets back in the late 60’s; he taught himself how to be an auctioneer around that same time and ran an auction in a little town nearby.  He was fascinated by gems so he and my mother would take trips to certain places to look for them so he could make jewelry. The list could go on and on.

There are many types of education. We usually think of colleges and universities. But Daddy’s education was more of a hands-on, self-taught way that served him well throughout his 100 years.

From a South Dakota farm boy to a technical writer for the Army is a pretty long road. But I think he was satisfied with the reward of knowing that he always provided for his wife and two daughters.


I know his wife and two daughters are very satisfied, and we miss him every day.


Friday, June 10, 2016

A Lesson of Life

When I was in high school, I worked each afternoon and all day Saturday at a small dry cleaners satellite location. It was just one big room with lots of clean clothes waiting to be picked up.

People could also drop off clothes at my location, and this is where I learned a very important lesson.

I took in a lot of white shirts to be cleaned, pressed and neatly folded. Most of the time, men would bring their shirts in. I envisioned these guys as single with no one to do their laundry. I was very na├»ve at the tender age of 17, and I had never heard of a dry cleaners doing shirts. Mom always did my dad’s shirts. One of my childhood memories is Mom standing at the ironing board, shaking a little water on a shirt, and then ironing it perfectly.

When I was first hired, the owner of the place explained all of my duties. But the one where I learned a very important lesson involved the shirts.

There were two bins under the counter. One was labeled “No Starch” and the other was labeled “Starch.” This is how my boss explained it:

“If the customer wants no starch or light starch, put it in the No Starch bin. If the customer asks for starch or heavy starch, put it in the Starch bin.”

I was dumbfounded that he would fool his customers this way, but I didn’t have the nerve to call him on it. Every time I took in shirts for light or heavy starch, I felt like I was adding to the lie.

One day a regular customer came in with his shirts. He had always been a no- starch guy, so I could receive his stuff guilt-free. But on this day, he decided he wanted light starch. I opened my mouth to confess the whole, sordid shirt truth, but I just couldn’t tell him. I figured I’d be fired if I let the secret out.

I cringed a few days later when he came for his “light starch” shirts. But when he came back with them later in the week, he was all smiles.

“You know, I really liked that light starch,” he said. “I think I’ll have light starch from now on.”

“Great!” I said, trying to keep a straight face.

After he left, I laughed out loud. There was no difference in the shirts at all, except he thought that there was.

That is a story from the first job I ever had. Now I’ll tell you one from the last job.

I worked in a government office that was jam-packed with desks and filing cabinets. There were four clerks (including me) who worked there. People who came to conduct their business had no place to even fill out a form. They had to go out in the hall for that. None of us had any privacy at all. Everyone could hear every word that was said.

One day as I came back from lunch, I could hear a small child screaming at the top of its lungs. Looking through the window in the door, I could see a clerk and a younger woman talking and an older woman trying to soothe a two-year-old that refused to be soothed.

Hmmmm…. What could I do to fix this?

Then it came to me. I suddenly opened the door and flung it against the wall behind it and said in a loud voice that could be heard even over the child’s wails, “What’s going on in here?”

The older woman immediately yanked the kid’s arm up and started dragging him to the door. “I’ll be in the car,” she said as she passed me.

Then, in the silence that we all yearned for, the younger woman concluded her business and hurriedly left.

What the women didn’t know was that I was in no way a supervisor or anybody else with any authority at all. They assumed I was and acted accordingly.

So starch or no starch? That is the question. Use the answer wisely, my friends.

You’re welcome. 


Monday, May 23, 2016

You've Got a Point

Have you ever been in the position of wanting to point to someone but you can’t because it would be impolite?

My husband and I go through all kinds of expressions and head jerking before one of us finally understands to look in the indicated direction. And, of course, whoever it was has left the building, never to be seen again. At least not by us. Or the one of us who saw the person.

If David was the one signaling to me – well, I don’t know why David even tries anymore. I’m not very good at reading his jerking head and wild-eyed looks. I usually think he is having some sort of health crisis before he finally says, with great disgust, “Oh, never mind. He’s gone now.”

So, of course I want to know who it was.

Me: Who was it?

David: I don’t know, but we know him from somewhere.

Me: What did he look like?

David: Well, I don’t know. Kind of tall….

Me: What was he wearing and what color was it?

David: (by this time wishing he had never started it) I don’t remember the colors. I just know we have seen him before.

Me: Are you sure that I know him?

David: Yes, I’m sure. His wife was with him the last time we saw them.

Me: Wife? You didn’t tell me he had a wife. This could be crucial information. Was she with him today?

David: I didn’t see her. Oh, never mind. Just forget it.

Me: Forget it? No, I can’t forget it. I have to know. What if I’m out somewhere and his wife comes up to me and starts talking like I know what’s going on. What am I going to say to her? “Sorry, my husband doesn’t know your husband’s name and only has a fairly vague recollection of what he looks like.”

David: Just do what I should have done in the first place. Turn your back and pretend you didn’t see her. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell me about it later. I could care less what the color of her dress was and…

I can’t take him anywhere because he always picks a fight like this. Do you see what I have to put up with? 46 years. I’m getting too old for this.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Please Stand By

“What?” I gasp as my head comes off the pillow.
Something woke me. I listen as intently as only a mother who is constantly sleep deprived can.
        Nothing. I’m asleep before my head hits the pillow again.
        Heavy breathing.
        I open my eyes. I’m hearing heavy breathing.
        My husband is at work. My children are in bed. It’s around midnight.
        Who is this heavy breather?
        Heart pounding, I noiselessly slide out of bed and tiptoe to my bedroom door. A quick peek reveals someone on the floor at the end of the hall.
        Before I can think of what to do next, I realize—I know that guy on the floor! He’s my 11-year-old, Mark. Looking closer, I see he has the family television, the old kind with the big tubes, all 19 inches of it, on his chest.
        I casually start down the hall, trying not to smile. “What are you doing?” I ask as if we’ve run into each other in Wal-Mart.
        “Mama, help me get this off!” he says frantically. “I can’t breathe!”
        “Sure you can breathe or you wouldn’t be able to talk. So, what are you doing?” I repeat as I lean against the wall.
        Knowing from experience I wasn’t going to give in, he explained with plenty of dramatic huffing and puffing.
        “When you took away my TV because of that note from the teacher, you said I couldn’t watch my TV in my room.”
        (Gasp)
        “You didn’t say I couldn’t watch this TV in my room. So I pulled the TV stand over to the hall door on the carpet, because I knew that wouldn’t wake you up.”
        (Gasp)
        “But I knew pulling it across the tile here at the end of the hall would make too much noise and wake you up.”
        (Gasp)
        “So I tried to get the TV to my room by putting it on my chest and inching over to the carpet.”
        (Gasp)
        “Then I was going to put it back on the stand and pull it the rest of the way to my room on the carpet.”
        (Gasp)
        Now he is really out of breath. I help him get the TV back on the stand.
        “Wow!” he says when he catches his breath. “I’m never doing that again.”
        “Good idea,” I say wryly. “Now go to bed. And no TV from anywhere on the planet.”       


Monday, December 21, 2015

Weird-o

Getting old is weird. Everyone under the age of 50 looks so young to me.

All my doctors, with the exception of one good old baby boomer like myself, look like they need a permission slip from their mother to even be there, much less be a doctor with years of college and experience.

Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on what a young doctor is saying  because I’m so distracted by their appearance. How can this person have so much knowledge and at the same time have so few wrinkles?

And it doesn’t help to tell me that these youngsters have youngsters of their own. This baby-faced guy has four kids? Surely you don’t expect me to believe that.

Yes, getting old is weird. Inside my head, I’m still 32½, multitasking to beat the band. I’ve never had much energy, but I sure had more back then than I do now. I took the kids to school, worked a full-time job, picked the kids up from after-school care, and then cooked supper, complete with dinner rolls wrapped up in a bread cozy. Then the real work started: cleaning up the kitchen (I’ve always been a messy cook), laundry, making sure the kids did their homework, and on and on.

I don’t want to leave David out of the equation. He was very good to help me. But his job had shifting hours and was very physical. When he was home, day or night, he was trying to get some much needed sleep.

Getting old is weird. I think of family vacations we took and part of me thinks it was just a few years ago and part of me knows it was at least 25 years back.

Another part of getting old, apparently, is that other people either don’t see you at all or they feel compelled to help you.

It really steams my drawers (which is incredibly uncomfortable) when people ignore me when I’m standing right there in front of them. So when I’m checking out at the grocery store and my cashier gets to talking to other cashiers, I tend to step between them so they can’t see who they are talking to. I usually have something to say that pertains to the conversation they feel is more important than their customer. Some cashiers make the transition flawlessly and immediately transfer their attention to me. Other cashiers are a bit slower. I obviously startled one teenager when I came into focus. I smiled at her and made a comment pertinent to the conversation, and she went absolutely blank. Oh, well. Someone who doesn’t or can’t talk is better than someone who can and is ignoring me.

And then there are those who are eager to help, especially when you feel you don’t need it. They open doors, lift semi-heavy objects, put your groceries in your car, reach something on the top shelf in Wal-Mart.

It used to bug me when they did these things. And then one day, I thought, “Carol! What are you doing? If you let people do things for you, that means you don’t have to do it! What a sweet deal!”

Since then, I’ve welcomed any help that has come my way. I smile and thank them, knowing that the only reason they are helping me is because I remind them of their great-grandmother.

Well, the why is not important. I’ll be June Cleaver if it means some nice young man (anyone under 50) putting the 14-pound cat litter jug in my shopping cart.


Maybe next trip to Wal-Mart, I’ll wear pearls…


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Scan That Sucker!

I was at Foodland the other day, and I noticed there was upbeat, boomer music playing – The Eagles; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Ray Charles.

And it got me to thinking about how much grocery shopping has changed since I was a teenager.

As I was checking out, I told the young cashier that years ago the cashier had to put the price of each item into the cash register. She paused her scanning for a few seconds, with her head cocked to one side as if she couldn’t picture that at all, then said, “Oh, you mean they had to enter the UPC code by hand. Yeah, we had to do that once when we were having computer problems.”

I smiled. She was so young.

“No, I mean the cashier would enter the price of each item directly into the cash register. There were no scanners. Each thing had a price tag stuck to it, so the cashier would know how much it was.”

She was scanning in high gear now and looking at me like I was a loon.

Yeah, grocery shopping sure has changed. But maybe next time I’ll just keep the history lesson to myself.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Littering

I love cats. I love to have a cat in my lap, purring while I rub its neck or scratch the top of its head. I love to sleep with a cat. I’ve had more than one who would sleep under the covers, which took some getting used to – for me, the cat seemed okay with it from the start.

But – and this is what turns a lot of folks against having a cat -- it is such a pain dealing with cat litter, whether buying it or disposing of its remains that are supposed to clump and/or be odor free.

First, you have to buy the right brand of litter, and there are plenty of them out there.

This can take longer than you think.

The right brand means that it will at least partially mask the smell, but not good enough to cost twice what the other brands cost. It’s what I call middle-of-the-road shopping.

Once you get the brand established, then you have to whittle it down to the exact type that works best.

Do you need the litter for a single cat or multiple cats?

Do you need clumping or non-clumping?

Do you need extreme odor control because your cat is, at best, a little stinker?

 Or do you get the kind that has a scent already built in, presumably more pleasant than what your cat can offer?

How strong are you? Because you’re going to find yourself lugging multiple jugs or bags of litter into your house every time you go to the grocery store. Or CVS. Or Wal-Mart. Unless you opt for the new lightweight kind that’s supposed to be around 30% lighter. When thinking over this option, remember that however far your car is from your front door, the litter will feel twice as heavy as it really is.

My favorite is one for multiple cats that has Glade in it. I don’t know how Glade can overcome the smell of the litter box, but it works really well.

But, of course, your cat or cats will have the final say. If they won’t use it, you might as well chuck it out and find one they like. All this has to be done by trial and error.

Everyone has a claim to fame, and mine is my Uncle Arnette. He invented a cat litter made of alfalfa and he named it Litter Green. I think I was in grade school, so this happened a long time ago and I can’t remember a lot about it except that Uncle Arnette sent Mom (his sister) his new invention, which were green pellets. There was no such thing as clumping litter back then, just clay litter. So Mom proudly put the green pellets in Barney’s litter box, stepped back, and watched Barney jump into the box, sniff around a little and then jump out of the box, refusing to use it until Mom got the weird green stuff out of there.

What we won’t do for our pets! They are good for us and we are good for them! What a great arrangement!

Praise God!

And if you are looking to donate time or money, try an animal shelter near you. Even if it’s just a couple of bags of food, it’s a couple of bags more than they had before you walked in.

Whatever you do, I know you’ll do your best.

Mom and her cat Gracie taking a nap