Aunt Millie and The Diamond Ring

The will said “share and share alike.”

Does that include The Diamond Ring?” my parents, aunts and uncles asked.

What diamond ring?” my sister and I asked.

My dad settled in to tell the story, “There was this gypsy ..”

It was a French man!” my mother interrupted.

My dad looked at her. “There was this gypsy …”

He was a French man!”

There was this French gypsy who came to America with diamonds hidden in his boot’s heels.”

Andre settled in New York. Aunt Millie, a country girl, went to the big city to work. The two met. Andre gave Millie The Diamond Ring. They married. “Then the French Gypsy disappeared and was never heard from again,” my dad concluded.

My aunt’s began the story differently, “Aunt Millie had three diamonds. Two in earrings and The Ring. Aunt Millie were not married very long when we children were told she was coming home to ‘help Aunt Belle with her three children.’ Belle’s husband, a railroad worker, had fallen off the caboose and died. There had been so many railroad worker accidents back then that we had an Engineer’s Room for the injured when I worked at the hospital.”

No one said divorce. Millie moved in with Aunt Belle, sold magazines and they lived together until Aunt Belle died. Neither remarried. “When we went to Hornell to visit the aunts, there were no men there.” my aunt recalled.

After Aunt Belle’s death, mother looked at Aunt Millie and said, ‘You can come live with us.’”

So she did and stayed even when dementia took over her mind. Family history includes the day she accompanied a young adult to town wearing three dresses. Left in the car alone for a few minutes, Milllie slipped out of the car and began pulling off her top dress to the amazement of nearby folks.

Belle’s daughter Gladys asked to buy the diamond earrings with regular payments. When the payments stopped. Millie said, “Write to Gladys and tell her I’m not dead yet.” Payments resumed, according to my aunt.

Before her death, Millie gave The Diamond Ring to my grandmother who cared for her. Grandma went about her life as a farmer’s wife. Grandpa retired. The ring sparkled on Grandma’s hand as she knitted and sewed. Grandpa’s health failed. When he passed no one asked about the ring. Grandma gave the ring to her daughter, my aunt.. Grandma asked to have it back and later handed it back to my aunt. When Grandma died, my aunt had The Ring. That’s when her brothers began asking, who owned the ring? Their sister or the estate?

As executor for the estate my uncle insisted my aunt give him the ring. The next day my father teased his brother into letting him hold the ring then he refused to return it. The Diamond Ring became a bone of contention, the focus of the family’s pain from their loss of Grandma. It took months before they agreed that my father inherited The Ring and the other two inherited other unique items.

My mother put it away. When Mom died, Dad offered the ring to my sister. She took it. Dad asked for it back. He gave it to her again and took it back again.

The next time my sister had the ring she gave it to my brother. He put the ring in a safe deposit box. Many years later the ring went on another finger as an engagement ring. The fiancee never heard about the French gypsy who brought the diamond to America. And that’s the way we will leave it.

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I looked up from my book and sniffed. Something smelled medicinal. Turning to my husband working behind me in the kitchen, I asked, “Are you doing something with medicine?”

Crushing pills, measuring out drops of Nervestra to stop the sciatic nerve pain,” he said. 

I shook my head. No, that wasn’t it. Nervestra smells like the daily vitamins my mother gave all of her children. We took the red coated pills obediently and faithfully until one of us asked, “I wonder what’s inside?”

Here’s a knife. Let’s cut one open,” my sister said. We cut open the pill and wrinkled our noses, at the smell emanating from the yellow-brown substance. “Ewww! It smells like ca-nure!” As farm kids, ca-nure was our code for cow manure.

That ended the daily vitamin ritual for both of us. That smell so seared our brains that even as new mothers we both struggled to remember to give our own children drops from the brown bottle filled with those disgusting yellow drops of health. My sister taped a large sign “Vitamins!” to her son’s high chair to remind her to add them to his cereal and still forgot.

So I knew the smell of Nervestra did not match the medicinal whiff akin to rubbing alcohol that filled my nostrils. I sniffed again.

Definitely medicinal but not the smell of medicine that I associated with old Doctor McDonald’s who treated me as a child. Dr. McDonald held office hours in the parlor and office of his home in the village of Woodhull, N.Y. The waiting room smelled of tobacco and rubbing alcohol. Tobacco because McDonald took cigarette breaks between patients.

No, I detected a modern medicinal smell. Not finding the source, I gave up and went to bed. Next morning, with my husband sound asleep in the bedroom, I again sat on the couch and the smell returned. Curious, I reached for the source of all knowledge: the Internet. I googled, “smelling something that is not there” and learned a new word: Phantosmia: a phantom smell. Or cacosmia if it smells really disgusting. I posted my new word on Facebook. Friends replied with their personal experiences with phantosmia.

It can be linked to autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia or lupus.” a local woman wrote speaking from personal experience.

One elderly woman suffered from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and already was the cleanest person ever when she began smelling an intolerable stench. “She was getting up twice nightly to wash and dry bed sheets. We printed all the information about phantosmia for her, but she never believed. She actually smelled like beautiful flowers, but could not be convinced. It also did not help that her regular doctor was less than sympathetic or informative.” her daughter-in-law said.

Before one woman realized the smell originated from a sinus infection, she made her husband “tear out a bathroom wall because I could smell something rotten. Bless his sweet heart. Now, I have a wonderful immunologist, allergist who treats me for this. I am so glad I found a good doctor and found my problem. Before that I cleaned, sprayed and threw away. It takes a good specialist to keep you out of the nut house with this,” she concluded.

Thank goodness my experience with phantosmia came and went in a 24 hour period and did not send me into a cleaning frenzy. For all my friends who suffered longer and more miserably with cacosmia, please accept my sympathy. I enjoyed learning a new word, but I would not care to share the experiences you have described beyond that passing medicinal smell.

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Grumpy prayers

Sometimes, I simply cannot be a sympathetic listener. Sometimes, I have to bite my tongue to not laugh as happened decades ago when an acquaintance vehemently said “Those cousins better not try to get all her money away from us when she dies.”

“Where does she live ?” I asked.

Several states away.

“And when was the last time you visited, called or wrote to her or them?” I asked.

After a bit of thought, “about eight years.”

“So how do you know she is still alive?” I received no answer – maybe because I failed in my struggle to not laugh.

Sometimes it’s folks focusing on their half empty cup such as the person who ended their birthday stating, “This has been the worst birthday ever.”

Why? Short answer, “Except for many birthday greetings, a couple meals made just for me and an early party, nothing else happened. I had to clean house, let the cats in and out, fix my own dinner and make my own coffee.”

I could not say a thing because ‘make my own coffee’ tickled my funny bone instead of my sympathy. Most sympathized. One person observed, “So you got two meals! I never get that.”

I wish having a miserable birthday had been my only issue a few months ago. Perhaps then I would not have had so work to hard obey the Good Book’s admonition, “In everything give thanks.”

Everything? Even birthdays that are the worst! Even when cousins and relatives I have not seen in years may inherit while I get nothing?

Yes. And even when I think circumstances excuse me from giving thanks. Those words reverberated within as I sat in my figurative corner pouting and silently fussing over all the details of wrongs done me.

Finally, I relented, “All right, God, I will give thanks. But only because you said I should. Thank you for this miserable situation.” I told Him everything and I caught a glimpse of a different perspective. I saw what I had: God with me even through difficult times.

The Good Book has another difficult command that really eats my lunch, “Pray for your enemies, for those who mistreat you.”

Say what?! “Pray for that person, God? The one who did steal my inheritance, ruined my birthday?”

No way. Not when I want to list all the wrongs done to me. I don’t know how many times in my life I have fought with God over that verse. In my 20s I remember sitting in an overstuffed chair mulling over the flaws of my enemy of the day when that verse came to mind.

Very grumpily I grouched out a prayer, “Well, God, you told me to do it, so I am doing it. I am praying for my enemy – this person who mistreats me. I don’t like doing it. I don’t like them. I don’t think it is fair, but you said to pray for them. So I am praying for them, but I sure do not want to do so.”

My argument of a prayer went on for a while. When I finished, I slept better. I had a calmer stomach and I could focus on all the blessings I enjoyed even in the midst of my problems with my enemy.

When I do pray as God tells me to pray, I catch a glimpse of ‘why’ He commanded it. It changes my perspective. But if you think I am going let you know more about my miserable situations, think again. I do not want you chuckling at my misery of the moment.

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Parker speaks up

Naptime and Parker could not rest. He had a very important question. “Mom, did the workers pop my head on?”
Mom looked at him in astonishment, “What workers and what do you mean?”
Parker looked at her in exasperation before he impatiently explained, “When I was made at the baby factory. Did they pop my head onto my neck?”
His mom giggled, “Sure. Go to sleep Bud.”
Parker studied her face before promising, “Okay, but we’ll finish this conversation when I wake up.”
When his mom posted the story on her Facebook page she clarified, “I didn’t tell him that babies come from a baby factory. He got that from the Boss Baby movie.”
Parker watches enough videos that when his mom turned on a modern day cartoon for the boys recently, he said, “Wow! this show is old school.”
This from a child who has yet to go to kindergarten. Puzzled his mom asked, “Why do you say that?”
“Because I haven’t seen it in a few weeks.”
Those same weeks he has been doing chores around the house and saving his money to buy toys or candy – or so his mother thought. The other night he asked her, “Mom, how much money do I have in my piggy bank?”
“About twelve dollars. Why? What do you want to buy?” she asked.
“I want to buy you a Christmas present, Mommy.” he said.
Her heart melted, “Aww, that is so sweet of you! But we don’t need anything.” she said referring to herself and his dad.
Parker shook his head, “No, not Dad … you, Mom.”
Mom is the center of the world for pre-schoolers like Parker and his little brother Carter. They want her around all the time. Usually they wake her up early as they begin the day playing. Recently, however, they surprised her and crawled into bed with her instead of pulling out their toys. Everyone slept in until nearly nine. “I don’t even know what to do with this kind of rest,” she said.
Perhaps get ready for more questions from Parker. After viewing a video of himself as an infant trying new sounds, Parker asked, “why couldn’t I talk?”
“He did not take long after that video to start talking,” his mom notes wryly. He keeps her on her toes. Before Christmas he had a thousand questions about Santa Claus and she had to come up with an answer for each one. One day’s worth of questions follows:
Q: How does Santa fit down the chimney?
A: Santa has magic dust that makes him fit in chimneys of all sizes.
Q: How many elves does Santa have?”
A: 900
Q: Why can’t I be awake when Santa gets here?
A: If every kid was awake, they’d all wanna talk and hang out with Santa and he wouldn’t have time to get to every house in one night….so we have to be asleep.
Q: Which United State is Santa going to first?
A: He goes to whichever state has the presents on top of the bag.
Q: Would it take us about three days to get to the North Pole?
A: We can’t go to the North Pole because it’s a magic place and only Santa knows where it is.
Q: Why is Santa so fat?
A: Because of all the cookies.
Parker’s mom encourages him to question and learn. As they assembled a puzzle of the country, Parker pointed to a state and asked, “Have you ever been there?”
“Yes. I visited friends there.”
“What? Wait, you have friends?” Parker asked.
So much information awaits to fill the head popped on Parker’s neck at the baby factory.

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A week after New Year’s my husband and I celebrate our Birth-aversary: his birthday, our anniversary and then my birthday. During those three days my daughter posted the following on her Facebook page.

Happy birthday to my dad.
You taught me to use tools and stick with a project until it’s done. … and if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
You taught me to love travel and ‘stop in’ to see people when we’re traveling.
You taught me to identify plants, bugs and birds.
You helped mold me into a lifelong learner who isn’t afraid to ask questions or do research when I don’t know the answer.
You modeled reading the Bible, with your brown, leather Bible under a single light.
You helped me get the presentations right for science fairs, yet allowed me to do my own (usually shoddy) work when I thought I was too smart for your help.
You set boundaries that I hated with my best interest at heart.
You have helped us with countless construction projects. …and when I say ‘helped,’ I mean you did them because we couldn’t.

I’m thankful for the modern medicine that helped you regain much of your stamina this year. In your 30s, you didn’t think you would have your real teeth in your 40s or live through your 50s to see 60, but here you are, saying farewell to your 70s and knocking on 80’s door with all your teeth and wits!

Happy Anniversary to my parents.

For 47 years they have upheld their vows. I’m thankful for the example of commitment they have set for our family. They are promise keepers. Their marriage has morphed and changed. Some of the changes over the decades possibly threatened the fortitude of their vows.

They have remained committed through plenty of trials. Some of the difficulties have been theirs, some their children’s or grandchildren’s: Renovations that lasted years, legal woes, joblessness, broken cars and hearts, individual and family counseling, mental and physical illness, addictions and thousands of miles on the road, chasing bucket list items or hobbies.

When I was younger, I thought maybe my parents were just incredibly strong (stubborn). They ARE strong, but more than that, they both took their vows before God seriously. For better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. I won’t say, “they make it look easy” because marriage isn’t easy. They make it look real. It takes two people choosing every day to do what it takes to stay the course. I am thankful for the legacy of love they are still making.

Happy birthday to my mom.

If you have known me very long, you have heard me refer to my mom with deference and respect. Her advice, stories, and perspective are golden. I share them frequently. Our personalities are completely opposite. I often find myself wishing I could be more like her.

She listens first. Rarely overreacts. Reads voraciously. Serves consistently and quietly. Isn’t afraid to try new things. Thinks before she speaks. Forgives readily. Examines both sides of issues that often divide. Studies the Bible, praying for fresh eyes. Prays consistently. Travels to see family. Wakes early. Uses her resources wisely and generously. Sews warm blankets. She makes plans, but often just goes with the flow. She’s practical, but has a good sense of humor. She answers her phone all hours of the day and night. She remembers my family’s preferences and loves us well.

She’s great at math but terrible at punctuation. Love you, Mom. Thanks for being you.

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To diet or not to diet: intermittent fasting

December flew by with a feast of chocolate covered nut clusters, pecan pies and sugar cookies. Now, it’s January with resolutions to lose the holiday weight. Except for me, I enjoyed the treats and the weight remained stable through the feasting season. It only took me 40 years to figure out how to lose and keep off weight.

That lesson began last spring. I went to bed with the flu. I drank chicken broth, nibbled crackers, and slowly sipped a glass of Sprite to help settle my stomach. I stood up and quickly sat down. My chest felt explosive. For the next half hour I entertained my husband with loud, rumbling belches. It was months before I drank another carbonated beverage.

Several days of the flu convinced me I needed to go to the clinic. I received a prescription and an x-ray for possible digestive issues. The x-ray showed lots of gas and no food. Of course, I hadn’t had much after that glass of Sprite.

For six or eight weeks, I ate little more than a couple bites at any meal, drank lots of chicken broth and a spoonful of sauerkraut. For some reason, pickled cabbage helped. I lost weight. Not from eating sauerkraut – I lost it from not eating. Not from exercising, I had no energy for that.

Finally, I learned I didn’t have the flu, digestive or gall bladder issues. I had an infection. By the time a couple rounds of antibiotics fixed me, I had lost 25 pounds. I absolutely do not recommend the method.

I did want to keep the weight off though so I practiced my hard earned lesson: eat a third or a half of what I usually ate. When I bake cookies, I eat half a cookie instead of half a dozen. I returned to my thrice weekly exercise class at Champagnolle Landing. When we traveled, instead of gaining five, I lost five.

About the time I started eating too much, I read a couple articles about intermittent fasting. The studies showed that folks who did not eat anything for 14-16 hours each day, could pretty much eat as normal and some lost a bit. For me it meant cutting out early morning breakfasts and bedtime snacks.

I have no forbidden foods. However, I always eat lots of fruits and vegetables, including a large green salad most days. Some days I quit eating earlier than 6 because I feel full and realize I have eaten quite enough for one day.

During the feasting season I continued exercising and enjoyed pecan pie, dressing and my share of holiday treats. I never went to bed saying, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing …”

I did say, “I feel great!”

And I should. Looking at old photos, I no longer have a spare tire, “just the tube … and a small one at that,” as my husband says. I could still lose another 10 or 15 pounds. I might. Still, after losing those 30 pounds, I feel healthier and am quite pleased with this no forbidden food diet which gives my digestive system a daily 14-hour rest.
A couple years ago, I joined an exercise class at Champagnolle Landing after breaking my leg. With the weight loss, I realized I could jog again. Thank you, Lord, for good health. It is a greater blessing than great riches and laying in bed sick. I saw recently that Healthworks begins an Intermittent Fasting program this week. It worked for me. May this be the year you find a healthy life style that works for you.

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KFC here we come!

If you die before me, I am going to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken every Monday for their special,” my husband confided

I knew exactly how to respond. Years before he had said, “When my mom dies, I want her balance beam doctor’s scales.” I bought him a medical scale for weighing himself. His mom lived another decade and he enjoyed his scales every day without waiting for her to die. Some other family member inherited the scales.

So I knew what to do about that Monday special. “You want that kind of chicken, we will go to KFC every Monday. I’d hate for you to be waiting for me to die so you can eat there,” I said.

We ate there several weeks, then circumstances and increasing numbers on the scales dictated cutting back.

Still, many Mondays as we drive through town, I ask if he wants to go to KFC for lunch. If I don’t ask, as we turn toward home he’ll say, “I thought about going …”

You’re driving. We can go if you want.”

I don’t need to,” his voice slumps as he resigns himself to salad and water.

My man likes his KFC. He always wants to take friends and family there when we visit. His preference for chicken over steak has saved us a lot of money over the years. So when we took a trip to Kentucky to see the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, it was no surprise that he mentioned ahead of time, “we will be close to the original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.”

“Whatever,” I said and promptly forgot about it.

He did not. It was now on his bucket list.

We walked through the Ark, studied the displays and enjoyed the plays. The next day we explored the Creation Museum. Then my husband said, “We can go south to the original KFC or we can go north to the quilt shop in Paducah.”

I compared the price of walking into a fabric store versus a meal at KFC. I have lots of fabric. We needed lunch. We went to Corbin, Kentuckey to Colonel Sanders’ original restaurant with its addition of a modern KFC. We ate at one of the dozen tables in the original dining room.

Sanders had a motel and a restaurant. Because wives always wanted to see the rooms before staying, he built a model motel unit onto the restaurant – now a part of the museum. The 1940s style motel room had a pay phone in the closet, an impressive feature at the time.

On the other side of the room we viewed the original kitchen with its pressure cookers, sinks, pots and pans. In a separate booth sat an old cash register – just like Sanders used. I snapped a photo of my husband sitting right beside a seated statue of Sanders in his classic white suit and string tie. They appear to be having an afternoon chat about the odds and ends in the museum display case and the model of the original restaurant and motel.

It took us an hour to eat and look at everything before we hit the road home. We had not only visited the original KFC, we ate a meal there. We could now check one more item off his bucket list. (If someone did not keep adding to the list, we would have finished that list a long time ago.)

Now when we enjoy an occasional KFC Monday special, we do so with the satisfaction of having personally experienced the origins of my guy’s favorite dinner.

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A Grinch-y attack on Christmas

In this season, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” will be read or viewed as a movie innumerable times. Dr. Seuss’ classic story portrays a creature who had a heart too small. He did not like Christmas, the noise, the presents or the feast. Why, he didn’t even like the roast beast.

After 53 years of enduring his neighbors’ Christmas festivities, the Grinch determines how to stop Christmas and all its excesses from happening. That night he dresses up like Santa, ties antlers on his dog, drives a sleigh to the village, and steals everything from everybody. He returns home, quite confident that Christmas can not happen because he has all the trees, gifts and food.

Gloating in his victory over those noisy, festive neighbors, the Grinch leans his ear to hear the wail of the awakening villagers. He hears something, but not wails. The villagers have gathered and are singing their Christmas songs together – the one thing he really hated. It took him three hours to puzzle through the fact that Christmas had come in spite of everything he had done. And then he thought, “Maybe Christmas is more than gifts, trees and food. Maybe Christmas does not come from a store. Maybe Christmas is something more.”

With that his heart grew three sizes and the Grinch takes his overflowing sleigh back to the village, returns everything and he, himself, the Grinch carves the roast beast.

As I prepare to carve a small roast beast, I think back to a recent study in our series about Women in the Bible. You would have to call her a Bad Woman of the Bible: Athaliah. I call her the Grinch who tried to stop Christmas from ever arriving in the first place.

Like Herod, the second Grinch who tries to kill off Christmas by attacking all the boys under two, Athaliah the queen mother orders all the male relatives killed after her son Ahaziah dies one year into his reign. Athaliah liked being in the palace. She liked the power it gave her and wanted more. This descendant of Jezebel, this worshiper of idols, succeeds in her grab for the throne. She becomes the only female monarch over Israel. Her story can be found in II Kings 11.

How would this have stopped Christmas from coming? She ordered the death of all the descendants of King David. God had promised that through David, the promised Messiah, the eternal king would come. With all of David’s heirs destroyed, there would have been no Mary to be His mother or Joseph to wed and protect her.

Athaliah dictated death to all; but God preserved one life.

“She began by massacring the entire royal family. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram and sister of Ahaziah, took Ahaziah’s son Joash and kidnapped him from among the king’s sons slated for slaughter.”

That phrase “the king’s sons slated for slaughter” catches my attention every time. I envision a room or building of guys gathered for the executioner. Somehow in slips Jehoseheba (Ahaziah’s sister and possibly Athaliah’s daugher). This is the only time she is mentioned, this brave woman who is married to a temple priest, She grabs and runs with the child Joash taking him to her husband a priest at the temple.

One woman doing a Grinchy things and grabbing the sons of the king to kill them; another woman grabbing one son to hide in the temple and save him. Jehosheba, like the Who villagers, does not slump down in defeat during  this political coup. She dares to defy the circumstances. In Whoville they sang. In Jerusalem, they hid the child king in the temple until he turns seven and then they shouted and sang.

When Jehoiada, declares it is time to celebrate and have a coronation for the king, the citizens of Jerusalem gather and sing like the Whos. The palace guards protectively circle the child king and blow the trumpets announcing his arrival. (As the trumpet will sound when our eternal King and Lord arrives to take over this wicked world.)

Athaliah hears the sound of victory, runs to the temple she has never visited before (she is a Baal worshiper), sees the coronation and cries out “Treason! Treason!” The priest Jehoida orders her taken out of the temple and killed. No one comes to her rescue. No one mourns her degrading death at the Horse Gate. No one buries her. Unlike the Grinch, the longer she reigned, the more her heart shrank.

And so through a young woman, Jehosheba, Christmas was saved because she believed in God’s promise and risked her life to save the baby’s life. Because of her, Christmas did arrive hundreds of years later with the birth of Christ, a descendant of King David. Because of her, and her husband’s protection during the next six years, the line of David returned to the throne.

Because Christ came at Christmas, we each can embrace our Messiah and Savior, the one sent to die for our sins. The Grinch may try to steal Christmas from our hearts, but if we stop and listen to the music of God’s love, our hearts too can grow three sizes, big enough to accept Christ as our Savior and eternal King.

And then we, like the Grinch, can join in the wedding feast God has promised to those who believe.

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The phone rings

Never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for retirees. … not exactly what John Donne said, but it’s close to my reality.

I do not ask for whom the phone rings, I already know it rings to remind me of a medical appointment or it is a telemarketer, a fundraiser or some outright scam artist who begins, “We have detected a problem with the Microsoft on your computer. We can help fix it.”

Sounds so helpful, doesn’t it? My husband responded once because obviously this caller from Microsoft had our computer’s best interests at heart. He walked over to the computer sat down and step by step proceeded to do as instructed until something made him stop. Puzzled at their procedure, he hung up and called our local technician. That ever so helpful caller had initiated problems that the technician looked at, sighed and said, “next time, hang up immediately and call me. I can check it out from the office.”

We now answer those calls with, “We already have a contract with a local computer support group who monitors and fixes anything wrong with the computer.”

That phone call comes to anybody including my friend who does not have a computer. She has a cell phone and that suffices for what she needs to do digitally. Still the scammers call to alert her, “We see you have a problem with Microsoft on your computer. If you will go over to your computer, we can help you fix it.”

“I do?” she responds with a shocked, concerned voice. “I will have my secretary get right on that. Thank you for calling,” and she hangs up.

After she told me that she said, “I felt awful that I lied to them, but then I realized they had lied to me. I don’t have a computer, how could I have a problem with Microsoft?”

“One day they they called me back on the same day to say the same thing. I said, ‘What?! I told my secretary to fix that this morning. I am going to write her a note, leave it on her desk and tell her to fix it this afternoon. Thank you.’ and I hung up.” she said. Of course she had as much of a secretary as the person on the phone had seen a problem with her Microsoft.

Still if it weren’t for telemarketers and scammers, the phones in our old folks’ home rarely rings. Over the years we have developed one response for fundraisers and telemarketers toll the bell, “we do not make any financial commitments over the phone.”

But wait there’s more to our exciting phone calls! We also receive robo-calls reminding us of our next medical appointment. I think we retired to have time for medical appointments. I don’t need a check-up, but obviously someone thinks I am about to fall apart. My first year of retirement I counted four physicals and a mini-physical every other month when I donated blood. Ten times that year someone measured my vitals, asked if I have any problems and asked a list of specific questions about disorders. Four, count them, four regular physicals: two that are mandatory for retirees on Medicare, one simply because I am a woman and once a year our insurance company bribes us to let them come to our house and check us out in person.

So yes, the bell tolls for us: to check our computer, check our health, drain our checkbook and every once in a while someone calls to check on us, chat and make our day.

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That Mom

Standing at the counter signing her child into the Mother’s Day out program my daughter Sharon met a flustered mom who declared, “I’m sorry my daughter looks like a mess. She slept in until 8:15. We had to hurry, so I did not get her clothes ironed before she came. Today I am That Mom.”

The child’s clean, frilly cotton shirt had a couple wrinkles, but no big deal.

Sharon silently laughed. She is That Mom all the time. If she purchases clothes from the thrift store that need ironing, she donates them back. She never irons.

Other moms post pictures of children in “mismatched” and label themselves That Mom for allowing it this time. Sharon prefers being That Mom who lets her children choose their clothes, dress themselves and save her time every day.

For Sharon the That Mom label was an insult. It said, “If you do not iron, then you do not have it all together and you have low standards for your children.”

The That Mom label just depends on perspective. After spending three years of fussing about everything, Sharon realized, “I was That Mom who had to have it all together and my child had to meet every growth point. It frustrated us. I quit. I am That Mom who does not insist that her children be in every activity, but reads books to them every day.”

“I am That Mom who is not worried about kid soccer teams. I do not let others set my standards or dictate how I parent. For me, That Mom dusts the base boards, is never frazzled, has everything tucked in, matched and a bow on top. That Mom lives a Pinterest perfect life.”

“I’m fine with being That Mom: the one with low standards; who does not iron and lets kids dress themselves. I am That Mom who lets her kids learn and do in the kitchen, even if the food looks a mess.”

Sharon remembers her years of perfect parenting. “There was always a schedule of what people said we should be doing. I was over stressed until I realized my child would not fit the square hole, and we would have to find the shape of hole that fit.”

“Different moms have different standards. It is okay to be the mom who has it all together or the one who does not.”

“That other mom’s words said I fell below her standard. They also conveyed to her child, ‘you are not enough today because I did not have time to iron.’ She sets a standard her daughter may not be able to meet in the future.”

During a course on family finances, a friend exclaimed, “I have been lied to my whole life. I don’t have to own and do certain things. I don’t have to keep up. My kids don’t have to be in every sport.” The insight gave her financial freedom.

“If I had been newer as a parent, when I heard the mom at MDO,” Sharon said, “I could have been heart broken and wondered, ‘What is wrong with me?’ Today I know nothing is wrong with me. If you like to iron, go for it, but that does not make you a better mom. Just like I’m not a better mom for allowing my kids to make giant messes.”

These days Sharon prefers to ask “Is this going to matter in 30 years? Will my kid need counseling because I did not iron his shirt? Will my actions point him to Christ, or help him be a light in a dark world? That’s what is important, not the freshly ironed shirt.”

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