Five Great Valentine Ideas to Make Your Wife Happy.

It all started because Pastor Joel asked me to design an invite to the church Valentines Dinner. I went of course, to Bing for inspirational graphics, and what I found was a ton of great blogging material. Which reminded me…my Valentines blogs last year were wildly popular. (I mean, as compared to my other blogs which, basically, nobody reads.)

Ahhh yes. Valentines Day. It started the day after Christmas. I guess Wal-Mart finds it necessary to display six aisles of pink and red merchandise beginning the 26th of December as a courtesy to all of the men out there who like to plan their romance a full six weeks in advance.

Six weeks is a long time if, for example, you are babysitting someone else’s kids. But it’s not a long time for other things. Like, being engaged.  Or being pregnant.  Or…well, planning just the right Valentines Day celebration. So, while the bad news is that most of your six weeks is expired, the good news, gentleman, is that I’ve found a few gems for you last-minute planners and there is still time to incorporate them into your epic celebration of all things romantic.  Because I know you’ve been stressing about what to do.

fingersOkay, so here’s the first little gem that popped out at me.  Show your wife you love her by drawing people hugging on your hand.  It’s really a great idea, because all it requires is a gel pen, just the right audience, and a serious lack of sleep and this could win  you some serious creativity points.   If nothing else, she will love the gel pen.

My second “find” was this touching little poem.  The upside: it wouldn’t be hard at all to memorize.  You could quote it to your wife on Valentines morning with very littlefingers5 prompting.  And if memorization isn’t quite your thing, you could tape it on a card and give it to her with a rose or candy.  Apparently, the author of these inspiring words chose to remain anonymous leaving the door wide open for you to take all the credit to be had after your wife recovers from the joy of being loved to bits.  If that makes  you feel guilty, I bet you could grab that gel pen and write a poem all your own (although it might be hard to match this one for quality and creativity).  Then again, if nothing else, she will love the gel pen.


fingers2This one I actually don’t recommend.  It sounds noble and all, but it was probably written by a bitter wife and repeated by cheap men who were hoping for a cop out.  Don’t be one of those cheap men looking for a cop out.  Of course we need special days.  Otherwise, we don’t have any special days.  And if nothing is special, well…what’s the fun in that?  Do something special.  Like drawing people with a gel pen.

Now things are getting interesting.  I mean, what wife doesn’t covet these lovely hearts for her finger nails?  What a practical gift.  It won’t make her gain weight like candy.  It won’t wilt like a flower.  It’s cheaper than dinner.  You might even offer to have the family help apply them for her–turning it into a great team building experience and cooperative effort.  She will be grateful for your thoughtfulness and can enjoy the beautiful results for a full couple of hours before she has to wash a dish or something.


Here’s my final free suggestion:  A page of valuable coupons.


Because nothing says “I love you” like a sheet of expired coupons.

Seriously though.  The expiration date is only the first clue that this was written by a very, very clever man.  A man who liked hearts, pink and purple, and fancy fonts.

I’ll leave the back rub alone I think and jump in to the dishes.  Note it doesn’t say, “I’ll do the dishes.”  It says, “free get out of dishes.”  That leaves a lot of room.  Room for the kids to do the dishes.  Room for paper plates.  Room for the dishes to be left for another day.  Yep, he was a very clever man, he was.  He used a lot of pink hearts, but he didn’t fool me.  He knows a thing or two about getting out of dishes.

Then notice the next one–“free watch what you want and I will watch too.”  Very clever here.  Very clever.  Because he used “watch what you want” and the “Free Video Game Night” to sandwich in “Free Candle Lit Dinner” in the middle of the page where it will never get clipped and used before the impending expiration date.  Because what wife has time to watch TV or cares about playing video games?  In 34 years, I’ve never heard a single wife complain that her husband won’t play video games with her.  Not once.

But I think he was even smarter than that.  He made the sheet look like something incredibly sweet and thoughtful, when, in reality, half the coupons were things he would enjoy more than she would.  His unsuspecting wife might even find it on the internet and give it to him for Valentines.

Okay, so maybe I’m mistaken about his motives, but I really suspect I’m on to him.  Which doesn’t mean you can’t use the coupons.  As long as your wife doesn’t read this blog.1

Finally, in addition to all the other ingenious attributes of this sheet, notice that the final offer is a “free night out–dinner and a movie.”  Free.  That sounds to me like a lap around Costco tasting all the samples and watching cartoons on the giant big screens.  If she complains, hey, remind her that you can’t get much for free anymore.

Especially not meaningful Valentines Gifts.

If I haven’t made anything else clear perhaps that is it:  Meaningful Valentines gifts are unlikely to be printed off of the World Wide Web.  Sorry I couldn’t carry the water for you on this one.  But Wal-Mart does have six aisles of merchandise.  And Office Depot has great gel pens.

1.She’s the one that showed it to you, didn’t she?  Guess the coupons are out. 😦

Lucy, II

FullSizeRenderI already blogged about Lucy, here. And I didn’t plan to do it again.

When I heard the Bostics were going out of town for a week, I volunteered to watch her only because I knew I was, next to them, the person most familiar with her care. And besides, I’m uniquely suited to keeping her with me all day because all the people at my job are used to working in a zoo.

Lucy gets a bottle at 6:00, 10:00, 2:00, 6:00 and 10:00. So I picked her up last Saturday and I made sure she was fed at all the right times. The day passed uneventfully and Lucy went to bed in her bag— hanging on a doorknob in my kitchen. I went to bed that night relieved. We had evidently found our groove. No drama. No blog.

I was very pleased.

Sunday morning I work up to what sounded like a noise right outside my bedroom door. I soon dismissed it as my imagination, but seeing as it was 6:00 am and time to feed Lucy, I got up.

As I left the bedroom and headed to the stairs, I noticed something dark on a stair. What had I left on the stairs? Books perhaps?

It was Lucy. She had apparently gotten out of her bag, over the baby gate, out of the kitchen, through my living room, up the stairs, and back down. I knew because she had left a trail of small dark circles in her wake. Given the source, I call them Luberries.

I was not at all pleased.

Lucy, I informed her, you are done in my house. You are now strictly an outside pet.

Lucy2I have a sorry excuse for a backyard—just 14’x14’, but thanks to Charlie, it is barricaded by a 6 foot wood fence. Thanks to Christopher, it is reinforced with a roll of chicken wire. So, it’s basically impenetrable for a wallaby. I was very pleased.

Monday we seemed to find our groove again, and Lucy was quite sweet. She would come hopping up to me and lay her hand on my knee while I gave her a bottle. She enjoyed being scratched and petted and before long, all was forgiven.

That brought us to Tuesday. When I got to the office, I put her outside in a kennel so she could eat grass and enjoy the spring air. I checked on her every so often, but she was fairly safe inside the confines of the box, so I wasn’t too worried.

Until I went to check on her and she was gone.

Seriously. She was gone.

I ran outside—sure I was hallucinating. She was ten feet outside the back door. Had she been stolen?

I discovered that although the front door was still shut and latched, the kennel had a back door. And although the back door had been pushed up against the side of the deck, it was now several inches away and the door was open—just enough for a Houdini of a wallaby to squeeze out into the great unknown.

Fortunately, I found her in the parking lot. But finding her and catching her are two different things. I called for reinforcements and the next thing I knew, Tyson, Katie, and I were trying to extract a runaway kangaroo from the hedge. Same hedge. This feels like Déjà vu. I was not at all pleased.

That was Tuesday.

Somewhere in the night Tuesday night I was awakened by a clap of thunder. I could hear rain beating down on the roof like two fists on the bathroom door. I sprang out of bed. Lucy, my outdoor pet, was going to get soaked.

I ran out to the back yard in my bare feet and there was a bright flash of lighting as if God was taking a picture of me and the little gray animal streaking across the yard. She was making a squealing noise I hadn’t heard before. She was not at all pleased.

The flash was immediately followed by a ferocious clap of thunder. You probably think I’m exaggerating. But there is no exaggerating this. It was raining hard, thundering hard, and lightening hard and I was in my pajamas on my hands and knees under the grill cover trying to coax a scared little animal out of her refuge of grease and gas smells.

It was 3:00 am when I brought her back into my kitchen. I’ve been told that kangaroos like hot water, so I placed her in the kitchen sink thinking I’d get her warmed up, cleaned up, and calmed down all at the same time. I gently reassured her as I spooned warm water onto her back. Meanwhile, she was profusely laying luberries. In my kitchen sink.

I was not at all pleased.

Lucy was warm and dry and—in my opinion—ready to go back to bed, but her bag was still thumping around in the dryer. I was ready to go back to bed myself, but there was sort of nothing to do but hold her until her bag finished drying, so I settled my exhausted self into the rocking chair.

Julie Anne, who had been supervising this entire scene, sat near my feet. In the dimness, I could see her white head cocked as if giving me a strange look. Stop it, Julie Anne. I said in my firmest 3:30 am voice. I felt foolish enough sitting there crooning to a kangaroo in my wet pajamas.

Lucy started squirming so I headed back to the kitchen. In case she was getting ready to lay more luberries, I’d rather have them on the tile than in my arms. But Lucy instead headed straight for Julie Anne’s bowl and started eating dog food like a Marine fresh out of boot camp.

It’s 3:30 am! I admonished her. You aren’t supposed to be hungry. Her bag was basically dry and I was ready to put her away.

But Lucy was not interested in her bag. She was interested in dog food. Lucy, you may be from the land down under, but it is 3:30 am here. I do not want my night to end like this.

I was not at all pleased.

Should I give her a bottle? Should I let her eat dog food? I didn’t know. I was out of her formula and I had just paid a premium for supplemental kangaroo pellets; both were on a UPS truck somewhere between Minnesota and Charleston and they were not going to do me any good just then.

Fine. Eat the dog food. We’ll deal with it in the morning.

Well, deal with it we did.

In fact, if you’ve followed this blog long at all, you know that I am extremely unlucky with pets and their excrement. Wednesday was not an exception. In fact, my misfortune rose to new heights.

I’m not sure if it was the substitute formula I tried, the dog food, or just generally eating too much, but Lucy made quite a storm of her own. After I re-washed and dried her bag, of course.

I was not at all pleased.

If it sounds like I’m sparing you the details. It’s because I am SO sparing you the details. The details included rubber gloves, rolls of paper towels, and bottles of cleaner. Thank God for all of the above.

Never did one pray so hard for the UPS man.

I’ve finally officially finished the “hand off” of Lucy to her next caregiver. And I’m not saying I miss her exactly. But I am saying that over the course of the week, I did find myself observing her and thinking, isn’t God creative?

I mean, we start to take for granted the beauty of the scenery around us. We take for granted the fun in our dogs, cats, and kids. We look past the simple creativity in aquarium fish, wildflowers, and waves hitting the beach. But God’s handiwork is such a marvelous living proof of His goodness and His power. Sometimes, at least for me, it takes something we don’t see every day—like a small kangaroo hopping around our house to get a fresh perspective of the overwhelming majesty of our God.

I can just picture that first kangaroo hoping out of the first pouch and laying that first luberry. And God saw everything that He had made. And He was very pleased.

Life’s Not Fair (Part II)

(If you missed the first part of this story, you’ll want to go back and read Part I)

Much to my disgust, the boys were completely over their concern for Blackie by the time I crawled out.

“That’s okay.” They said. “She’ll come back. She always does.”

Always does?

Why was this information not shared with me before I slid through slime?

But, as my mother taught me, Life is not fair.

That was the first cat incident.

The second cat incident happened the last day.

I was exhausted. I’m not gonna lie.

Nevertheless, I got up while the house was still quiet. I was determined that I was going to get showered, dressed, and have my devotions before anything else broke loose. That’s what real moms do, right?

I didn’t have my contacts in (a phrase which herein means, I was blind). This fact does great things for my ability to ignore the world. It is much easier to avoid distractions when you have only the faintest sense of sight.

And I wasn’t going to let anything distract me.


Not even that strange smell wafting into my bedroom.

Not even the fact that the strange smell was the dirty diaper kind of odor.

Not even the fact that the smell seemed to intensify as I headed toward the bathroom.

Whatever it was, I could deal with it after I was clean, my hair was dry, and I had read my Bible.

I brushed back the shower curtain and there, right there, on the white shower floor, was a large, brown pile.

Whitey. Apparently.

It took me a while (in my blind state and in unfamiliar territory) to rummage up proper cleaning materials. I was on my hands and needs scrubbing the tub when I heard a voice behind me.

“What are you doing?” Reformed 3-year old asked. He really was cute.

“Cleaning the tub.”


“Because your cat used it as a potty.”


“That is a very good question.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I understand. Give me a couple of minutes and then…”

“I’m dirty.”

That was the start of another day.

And the end of my plans.

It was that afternoon that the boys’ dad arrived back from his business trip. It had been three days full of competitions and heart breaks, but we had a lot of good times too. I had prepared food, done laundry, cleaned the kitchen, played games, chased a cat, slithered through slime, and now…scrubbed the tub. Needless to say, I had worked very hard not only to keep them changed and fed but also to let them have some fun.

But as their dad unloaded from his car, the five boys went running outside like so many starving sailors who had just spent decades marooned on a dessert island eating roots, slugs, and tree bark.

I was glad they were happy to see their dad, but I felt a bit betrayed as they inundated him with every detail of the days gone wrong and all the reasons why mom should be MAD!

I don’t think they mentioned one good thing from the three days.  Not one.

Tell Miss Danielle, “thank you.”  The dad ordered as I gathered my things.

The boys tilted their heads in my direction.  “Thank you,” they mumbled.

Then I drove off into the sunset.

Mom was right, life isn’t fair.

It was a few days later that the phone call came that put the icing on the cake.

It was the boys’ mom. The summary of what she had to say was this, “For some odd reason, my husband thinks it would be appropriate to pay you A LOT of money. I don’t think that’s necessary, do you?”

I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t need A LOT of money, but I also didn’t know what A LOT of money was.  I think I said something like, “whatever you think, I was happy to do it.”

They did write me a check, I was well paid, and I was grateful to get it.  I didn’t remember thinking it was A LOT of money…And I was a broke law student making $7.25/hr. Anything should have seemed like A LOT of money.

But it hindsight, it was a good thing. It helped me get a better glimpse both of that mother and of life as a mother in general.

She didn’t think much of what I had done, but then, why should she? This was her life. She did it every day without a check. Probably without much thanks at all. And, had she just been through what I had been through, the last three days wouldn’t have stood out to her in the least. It was just life.

And it sometimes it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that some of the toughest jobs earn the smallest paychecks. And that kids who should drop to their knees in eternal gratitude will instead blow off someone’s hard work.  It isn’t fair that cats will use the bathtub when they have a perfectly good litter box just inches away.

But life isn’t fair.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me that.  Bet you thought it would never sink in.

And thanks, moms, for working a job that stinks sometime. And is never quite fair.


Blackie did come back (that same day, in fact!) no worse for wear.  The family are still friends although I should probably be wondering why I was never asked to babysit again.  All the boys grew up to be responsible members of society to my knowledge.  And no, this episode is not the reason that I am still single and childless…although it just might have something to do with the fact that I do not have a cat.

Life is not Fair

My Mother’s Day Post (Part I)

They asked me to babysit for their five boys while both parents were out of town for several days.

I was more than willing. I like boys. I like babysitting. And a few days off from my regular job sounded like a little adventure.

In case you don’t have a brood of boys of your own and have never babysat for one, I’ll summarize the experience for you:

For three days, everything was a competition.

Everything. Was. A. Competition.

It could be a game, it could be setting the table, it could be brushing teeth, but it was competition. That means there were cheers from a winner and tears from a loser.

More often than not, that also meant at least one angry boy stomping off in the middle of the competition saying, “You’re cheating! I don’t want to play with you anymore.” That was from the one destined, in just a few short minutes, to be pronounced the loser.

And more often than not, that would be followed by another pious-looking boy saying, “That’s fine. I don’t want to play with a cry baby like you anymore either.”  That was from the one destined, in just a few short minutes, to be the self-pronounced the winner.

Meanwhile, the youngest of the pack would be busy destroying the game pieces, unsetting the table, or eating the toothpaste. He was about three—old enough to know better, but as the baby of the family, he bounced back and forth between baby and big boy at his convenience.

That’s pretty much how the three days unfolded.

We played games. We read stories. We made meals. And I got to show off my mad mothering skills including the timely use of phrases like, “life isn’t fair” and “You need to do what I asked you to do first, then we’ll see.”

And I got to referee a lot. End a lot of competitions. Take a lot of losses for the team. Dry a lot of tears. Whew! They say girls are dramatic.

The only time I really remember having to exercise a serious dose of discipline was when I asked the three-year-old to come to me to go down for his nap. Instead, he ran.

I lunged for him, but he was a bit quicker than I thought. I had been losing a lot of competitions in the last few days to avoid tears and outbursts, but I knew just enough about parenting to know that I could not be the loser of this one.

Unfortunately, he knew the house and the hiding places far better than I. We were in the basement before I caught up with him and when I picked him up, he was screaming and crying as if I was cruelly ripping him limb from limb.

I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I’m sure the most serious part was my tone of voice. I do remember thinking that he was probably going to hate me and turn the rest of the babysitting experience into a miserable one.

Instead, I remember checking on him in his bedroom a little later, and seeing him curled up on his bed fast asleep. He woke up from his nap one of the sweetest, cutest, most obedient boys ever. Who knew?

So now having told you about the boys, I’ll tell you about the real challenge I faced.

The cats.

I don’t remember the names of either one for sure, but for some reason, “Blackie” is coming to mind, so we’ll go with that. We’ll call the other one Whitey, just for balance.

Blackie and Whitey were indoor cats. I found that out when we opened the front door for some reason and Blackie darted out the front door.

That started a mad scramble, a flurry of fear, and a chorus of yelling from all five boys. They were sure that Blackie was going to run into the woods and get eaten by lions, tigers, and bears.

I was less convinced of that that, but I was severely outnumbered, so we all went outside to find that Blackie had taken refuge under the porch. It was one of those long porches—almost the full length of the house—and Blackie’s outline could be made out between the lattice that extended from the ground to the porch floor.

“We have to get her!” the boys were exclaiming. “If she gets out and gets in the woods, my mom will be very mad at us!”

That’s it. They played the “M” card. A babysitter’s worst nightmare…Mom will be MAD!

We all coaxed and called, but it was a cat for Pete’s sake. Cats run their own schedules.

“I think she’s just going to stay under there.” I offered. “She’ll be fine for a while.”

“No!” They all agreed on something for once. “She’s going to run into the woods and get eaten!”

So I gave in.

“Who wants to climb under there and get her?” I asked, surveying the few feet that offered just enough space under the beams for someone to slide on their belly and get the dumb cat.

“We can’t go under there.” They chorus. “We aren’t allowed.” “There might be snakes.”

Why am I not liking this???  I mean, why have five boys if you’re not going to send one of them under the porch to grab the cat?

“Someone needs to get her.” They looked at me—all five of them with imploring eyes about to fill with tears. The fate of Blackie was weighing heavily on my shoulders. And I surely didn’t want Mom to be MAD.

So…I took a deep breath and I crawled gingerly under the stairs, calling gently to Blackie so I wouldn’t startle her.

She waited until just as I was about to reach her, and then…predictably, she jumped back. She still wasn’t far away—close enough to entice me just a little bit further.

Light was coming through the lattice, but not really enough to enable me to navigate the space cleanly. I slid through slime and spider webs. I slid through mud and moss. And every time I got close enough to grab Blackie, she would spring further away, luring me slowly the entire length of the porch.

I hoped that at least there, I would be able to act fast enough to corner her against the lattice, but no such luck. Blackie was through the lattice, across the lawn, and into the woods in one horrible instant— leaving me with nothing to do but slowly inch may way back through the mud, moss, slime, and spider webs and admit my defeat to five broken-hearted boys.

Major fail.

I will continue soon.  And it is a Mother’s Day post.  I promise.

Lucy, the Kangaroo

Due to a series of events, I was elected to babysit for the weekend. Joseph dropped off Lucy and her bag of formula, bottles, and other doodads for the proper care and feeding of a baby kangaroo.

I just acknowledged my new charge with a wave—I was in the middle of an intense conference call with two other parties—one in Arizona and one in Pennsylvania. I was the official note-taker and trying to focus on the conversation. Lucy was in a little harness clipped to a tether fastened to the deck where I sat taking advantage of the outside cell reception, the spring sun, and the only clean secIMG_8845tion of the pollen-coated table.

Lucy has to be bottle fed every four hours. It is possible to mix kangaroo milk and take notes at the same time. Just FYI.

It was a few hours—yes, hours—into the telephone call when I looked over to see Lucy go hopping into the hedge. Dismayed, I noticed that the clip had come off her harness. Just a few hours and I had already lost my charge.

I did my best to make it seem like my head was in Pennsylvania helping solve the problems facing our clients when in reality, my head was in a hedge with one hand pressing my cell phone to my ear and the other feeling its way through the branches in effort to locate one small marsupial who blended perfectly with the sticks holding up the leaves.

If they could see me now…

I had read somewhere that if you overfeed a baby kangaroo they will get diarrhea. Well, Lucy and I were on the five-hour drive to Jacksonville later that day when she jumped out of her pouch onto the passenger seat.

It was then that I discovered that I had been over-feeding Lucy.

And before I could figure out what to do, Lucy had dragged her tail through the mess and jumped onto my lap.

I saw a cop slyly parked by a break in the trees and checked my speedometer. All I needed now was to try to explain to an officer why I was speeding through Georgia with a stinky kangaroo on my lap.

My car smelled like you might imagine it would smell under the circumstances. We had 100 miles to go. 

Needless to say, I was questioning the wisdom of my decision to take the little girl on a little adventure. If there isn’t a law against taking these things across state lines there should be.

Things got worse when I arrived to learn that my grandpa had a medical condition that would require an immediate visit to the doctor. I could just picture myself sitting in a hospital waiting room with my 96-year old grandmother bottle feeding a wallaby. Grandma hates attention.

But I didn’t have many options. Lucy tends to make friends rather quickly—and I had expected she would there at the retirement community—but the novelty wears off in a hurry, and…well…there was that overfeeding thing we were still dealing with.

My latest babysitting attempt was turning into a disaster.

But Lucy did charm my grandpa when I gave him her in a bag and a bottle—being very careful not to give her too photo (4)much. It got his mind off other issues temporarily and that was some redemption anyway.

And thankfully, we were able to get by with a fairly short doctor’s visit.

And the over-feeding thing did start to resolve, which seemed to give her a little bit more confidence.

While my grandparents napped, I saw one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. One elderly gentleman in a powered wheeled chair, pushing his wife—in a wheel chair of her own—around the courtyard. He was singing aloud a song I didn’t recognize. I suspect he might have written it himself. As he was singing it. “I love you…” he was singing, “…from the bottom of my heart.”

I took a picture, but I was at such a distance it you couldn’t really see it. Not really. And a picture just didn’t do it justice anyway. It was one of the sweetest things I ever saw. Especially since it didn’t look like his wife was the least bit conscious of what was going on.

It was a few hours later when I saw the same gentleman outside in the parking lot. I wanted to meet him. And I had an idea. I had something that he might like to meet too.

I introduced myself and Lucy. He introduced himself as Dean and told me about his wife, Mary. She had suffered from Alzheimers for the last fifteen years.

Fifteen years.

And for the last ten, she hadn’t even known who he was. Her mind was gone but her soul was still trapped in this earthly body. And as long as it was, she was still Mary. And he still loved her. And he was going to serve her just like he had in the happy days when she had known and appreciated him.

Dean enjoyed meeting Lucy, but I don’t think she made as much of an impression on him as he did I me. I was just glad Lucy was there so I would have an excuse to meet this faithful man.

And, I suppose, if he can take of his sick wife from a wheel chair, I can bottle feed a wallaby.

Just not tophoto (5)o much.

Happy Employee Appreciation Day!!!

First there was Mother’s Day. Which made sense. Because who, in their right mind, wouldn’t want a special day to thank mothers for their tremendous investments in the lives of the world’s most valuable resource? We don’t have to look far to stand amazed at all the sacrifices mothers quietly make from their mobile offices…a/k/a mini vans. Besides, with all that was going on in our country, President Lincoln needed a little positive PR.

Then there was Father’s Day. Which made sense. Because if the general course of life is not enough to thank mothers, then it shouldn’t be considered adequate for the head of the family who often serves as the primary bread winner, T-ball coach, lawn mower, taste tester, bed time story reader, and anchor.

Then there was Grandparents Day. Which made sense. Because even though all grandparents are either Fathers or mothers, schools across America recognized grandparents as a great source of guilt-based fundraising and Grandparents Day was a perfect time to tap into that resource with special programs, lunches, and other cool gifts.

Then there was national Teacher’s Day. Which made sense. Because there is a high caliber demographic of our society—some of whom are not mothers or fathers–that weren’t getting an annual supply of cards, chocolates, Starbucks gift cards, and soap-on-a-rope.

Then there was Administrative Professionals Day (f/k/a “Secretaries Day”). Which made sense. Because Administrative Professionals are often the people who get all the work and none of the credit. And it’s convenient to only have them expect a “thank you” once a year.

Then there was Boss’ Day. Which made sense. Because no one ever thinks to tell their boss thank you unless prompted by Hallmark. And most won’t even then.

And then there was Employee Appreciation Day. Which made sense. Because most bosses in this particular era of world history find themselves entirely confused about who their Administrative Professionals are. Believe me, this is quite a dilemma. And I bet there are bosses out there who didn’t get a card on National Boss’s Day solely because they got it wrong. After all, hurting people hurt people.

Mind you—I have skipped things like Memorial Day and Veterans Day—days when a percentage of our working population actually get time off, because those kinds of holidays serve an entirely different function. I mean, if you actually get a day off, you feel thanked and thankful. You don’t really need soap on a rope.

So…while I stand by my previous post affirming the importance of Valentines Day, I have to say that I think that all the days have pretty much been used up already.

If you don’t believe me, ask Google (actually, I use Duck Duck Go) and you’ll discover that yesterday you missed National Cheese Doodle day, National Multiple Personality Day, and World Spelling Day. That was just one day in World Orphan Week.

And today, in addition to being National Employee Appreciation Day, it is National Dentist Day, National Frozen Food Day, and Middle Name Pride Day. Who thinks this stuff up???

No wonder employees don’t feel appreciated. Having to share your day with dentists, middle names, and frozen food is pretty much a bummer.

And to make matters worse, most employers don’t even know its Employee Appreciation Day, much less, that it is the 20th Anniversary of Employee Appreciation Day. This is big. I think the federal government should start spending tax payer dollars on billboards and TV commercials so next year employers can be better prepared. They could raise payroll taxes a couple of percent to cover the cost so it doesn’t have to come out of our defense budget. And if they have any extra, they can also mention cheese doodles and frozen food.

The other thing I think we should do is start a Twitter campaign with epic tweets like this one:

RED – ‘Recognise Every Day’
67% of employees record they’d work much harder if they were better recognised by their managers. If your want your people to give your their best, give the best to your people. #recogniseeveryday

I hope that wasn’t your administrative professional. Because I strongly suspect she is one of that 67%.

So…in case your boss forgets or just doesn’t know, here is a heartfelt “thanks” for all you do.

I hope it means a lot to you.

And that it inspires you to give your best to your people.

Perhaps you can celebrate by going to the dentist, giving him your middle name, and eating frozen food.  It just makes sense.

There Are Worse Things than Nothing to do on Valentine’s Day

I’ve had some terrible Valentines Days. I’m not gonna lie.

But there is at least one bad Valentine’s Day that I can finally laugh about. I’m over it. It just has just taken about, well, twelve years.

Our church had an annual Sweetheart Banquet.

The reason that matters is that this particular year, they decided to do things more informally and just have a dessert and a program. The program was to be put on by two couples that I knew were excellent musicians. Translated: It would be good.

Kevin was taking Allyson, so my sister Erin and I (we’ll share equal blame in this part of the story) thought that it would be really fun to go too. Mom and Paul we’re going to be out of town, so, good sport that he is, Dad said he would take us if we really wanted to go.

The next Sunday after church, Dad decided that he’d better put his plan into action. Just as Dad was ready to hand over the money for the tickets, I raced over to the table. I had changed my mind. What on earth had I been thinking? I didn’t want to go to a sweetheart banquet! Going as a family would be like advertising the fact that…well…never mind.

Dad had his money poised in the air, and the lady had the tickets also poised. Dad was buying tickets for the two of us girls plus my grandma and another friend of ours, Meg, who had happened to be sitting in church with us that day.

Dad said since he had already asked Meg, he really shouldn’t change his mind. I agreed and braced myself for an evening of feeling foolish sitting with my sister and grandmother eating dessert with a bunch of married couples.

Too bad Sweetheart Banquets hadn’t gone extinct prior to that year.

Later, at home, we had a big discussion. Erin had changed her mind too. Dad didn’t want to take Meg unless we girls were going, etc. We all groaned and travailed, but finally came to the conclusion that we would come up with something else to do and have Meg over for that. It was an unfortunate waste of ticket money, but anything was better than being stuck at that awful sweetheart banquet.

Before I was able to tell Meg about the change of plans, things got worse. She was so excited about getting invited to the Valentine Banquet that she announced it in Wednesday Bible Study. The news got back to us in the form of “So, I heard…”

It was too late to change plans. Everyone knew that Mom was going to be out of town and that we were coming—we were ALL coming—to the banquet. Oh, I wanted to die.

So the next Sunday, our youth pastor announced that the church would like to provide babysitting for the banquet. I poked Meg, who was conveniently sitting next to me, and asked her if she would rather babysit than go to the banquet. She hesitated, but said both sounded like fun. That did it, I ran to Pastor Steve afterwards and volunteered Meg, my sister, and I to help babysit.

Ahhh! The sweet taste of freedom.

Well, the dessert didn’t start until 7:30, so one of the girls at church invited us all over to come to her house first. Even better. We’d go to Leslie’s for dinner and then babysit. We’d get out of going to the banquet, have some fun, and make a little money in the process. Maybe I wasn’t going to have to dread Valentine’s Day after all.

That brings me to Tuesday. I was minding my own business when Pastor Steve gave me a memo about the Valentines babysitting. I glanced at it briefly and then let out a squeal. The babysitting was supposed to begin at 5:00 so parents could go out to dinner before the dessert. Now I had double booked myself.

So I talked to Pastor Steve about it. Surely he would let me come at 7:00.

Pastor Steve said that he wished he could let me off, but he only had one other person to babysit—a teenage girl with no experience. I couldn’t leave her stuck there by herself, so I would have to cop out on the dinner invitation.

Then I asked, innocently, “How many kids are signed up to come Friday night?” He handed me the list.

There were 36 names!

36 kids ages 6 months to 13 years for four hours among the four of us. I nearly croaked. We had 11 kids under the age of three. That alone would take four of us. He said he’d try to get more help.

Oh, the tangled web…I was just trying to get out of going to a Valentines Banquet and here I had just put myself, my sister, and my friend on the struggle bus.

Wednesday I talked to Meg again. Wouldn’t you know it, she was going to have to work Friday night! All this and she wasn’t even going to be able to come at all. I just wanted to sit down and cry.

But I didn’t have time to cry. I had to try to figure out what three babysitters were going to do with 36 kids for four hours. I was seriously considering getting married in the next two days so I could ditch the whole mess.

Things got worse. Erin said she saw enough of kids during the week. That put us down to two. I tried to do some recruiting, but most of the other single girls at church were also school teachers or else they had other babysitting plans. Pastor Steve was running into the same problems.

Thirty six kids. Two babysitters. Four hours.

This was February in New Hampshire–it was far too cold too take the kids outside even if we could control them once we were out there.  The church approved list of movies was far too short to be of any use. The large spread of ages made it difficult to try to plan anything meaningful.

I was getting an ulcer.  And I love to babysit.

Who invented Valentines Day and where does one go to file a complaint?

When all else fails, recruit Dad.

Like a trooper, my dad (who had taken my Mom out before she left town) said he’d help. Now we were back up to three babysitters. Whoohoo! 

So Valentines morning, I had to work for eight hours, teach a music lesson on my lunch break, make a fast run to Wal-Mart for activity supplies, and then came back to church for four long hours of 36 kids ages 6 months and up.

The point of this story—and there is one—is that I have a wonderful Dad. How many men do you know who would invite four girls to a Sweetheart Banquet, get dumped by them all, and then come and help babysit? I know only one, and I’m very, very grateful I do. As a return favor, I sweet-talked the church secretary into giving Dad his ticket money back.

As my memory has gotten dim, I don’t remember what they paid us. But I do recall that the donations jar was sadly neglected if not wholly unloved.

Just the same, I swore to myself that if I heard any of any single people complaining about their boring evening, I’d gladly provide their names to Pastor Steve for the next Valentine’s Banquet. Just so they can come to appreciate having nothing to do on Valentine’s Day.

My First Dance

It was my mistake. My bad.

I was visiting at Penney Farms—my favorite vacation destination—where 20% of the population is over the age of 90. Old people live in Florida; their parents live in Penney Farms.

My grandma has been laid up with wounds on her leg that have caused pretty severe pain, and my grandfather, now wheelchair bound, is pretty limited in how he can help her out.

So that’s how I made my mistake. I saw signs posted up all over campus advertising a square dance that evening. I thought I would be funny and suggest that we all go. It wasn’t that I needed something to do—If there’s one thing I didn’t need, it was something else to do.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be a funny idea was taken by my grandparents to be a great idea. For me. I said I wouldn’t go without them—thinking that would be the end of it, but it was not. I may be the only one of our little triumvirate with two good legs, but I do not wear the pants.

Grandpa was better than a secretary, reminding me several times including 15 minutes before and 5 minutes before. He was not about to let me out of this one. In fact, he instructed that I go inside and he would stay outside and watch from a distance through the glass doors.

So here I was, headed to my first dance. With my grandpa as a chaperone.

I don’t dance. I don’t know how.

My plan was to hide in the back as much as possible, watch a bit, and then sneak out and get some other things done that evening.

“We have a guest.” The caller boomed into the microphone after being prompted by one of the residents. The microphone was necessary—despite the rather small crowd—because, remember, these are folks in their golden years and hearing is no longer an asset.

“Her name is Danielle. This is her first time. We’re going to teach her to square dance.”

He proceeded to teach me to square dance via the microphone and my name—“Okay, Danielle…” and everyone would get to stand by and wait while he taught me the next step.

Most of the ladies had on skirts—some were “poofy” sticking almost straight out; some were matching with their partners. One lady was even complete with braids and a cowboy hat.   Everyone there was north of 50 and most were north of 75. But they were there to have a good time and have a good time they did.

As the caller called the various steps, he often sang along with the words and many of the dancers joined in. I found myself being promenaded by a half-skipping gentleman singing “Zippidee-doo-dah” with a big grin. What choice did I have but to have fun too?

At the end of every dance, everyone would look around and say, “Did anyone get hurt?”   And at the end of every two dances, they would stop the music and have a sit down break. During some of the breaks, one of the residents would get up and tell a joke or a story. This, one of them informed me, was the hot time in the old town that night.

And I had no doubt they were telling the truth.

Men were in high demand—there weren’t really enough of them to go around—so I felt a little bad that I got a steady stream of partners. This was no high school prom, though, and the other women were gracious—even sweet. I tried to sit a few out to make sure I wasn’t wearing out my welcome and one of the men sat out with me. We had just met for the first time.

Actually, this is at least the fourth time we have met for the first time—he has dementia. He asked a steady stream of questions while we waited and at one point asked me what I did. “I work in a law firm.” I said generically.

“You want to be a lawyer?” He asked, and then without waiting for a reply, he announced loudly to the group, “Danielle wants to be a lawyer!” I felt like an 8-year-old on career day. Apparently, he thought it was the best joke of the night.

The dance was just getting ready to start again when he asked, “where do you want to go to school?” but thankfully, the caller saved me from a long explanation by calling a Grand Square. I walked my four steps away, and left him hanging. We will have to start over next time anyway.

If you are ever hard up for compliments, I recommend hanging out with a group of people 50 years or so your senior. I was told how well I was doing and how quickly I caught on numerous times. The caller put it all in perspective though—“there are seven levels in square dancing.” He said. “This is level one.”

Earlier that day, I had been bemoaning the fact that I had forgotten the most critical part of my workout get up—shoes. It’s a little hard to run in boots and that’s all I had with me. God had just provided the perfect exercise for a woman in boots. Unfortunately, Caller burst that bubble too: “This is great exercise.” He said. “In two hours you’ll walk about three miles!”

Hmmm…Some people run a mile in four minutes. I would be walking a mile in forty. 1.5 MPH. That must be some kind of a record.

But forget the three miles…the two hours part! Shoot, this fun group of seniors was going to have me out way past my bedtime. But there was no escape. Pretty much every move I made was being boomed into the microphone.

But all good things must come to an end.   This one ended with “Love Me Tender” which Caller—who is also an Elvis impersonator—sang convincingly (as did my partner with dementia). Then we asked, “Did anyone get hurt?” and we had a round of applause to celebrate that we had a full two hours of fun and no one got hurt.

So as it turns out… if suggesting a square dance is the biggest mistake I make this trip, I should at least be able return to Charleston unhurt.   And, if nothing else, I’ve finally found some things I can look forward to about getting old and crazy: A chance to wear a poufy skirt to a party, singing Zippidee- doo-dah, and dancing with some of the nicest people on earth.

“Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.”
Proverbs 31:25

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from Traveling

It’s that time when I add up mileage from the previous year. Here are a few thoughts from a weary traveler…

– Salad is meant to be eaten at a table.

– You can never have too many cell phone chargers.  (They are cheapest at Big Lots and will probably last till you lose them).

– There are two kinds of gas stations; neither have nice restrooms.

– There is nothing like endless miles in a car that brings out the side of me that eats gummy bears and sour patch kids alternately.

– There is a Golden Corral in Johnson City.  The Sunday afternoon staff knows us by name.

– Hotel work out rooms are never what they look like in the photos.

– If you are going to pack your curling iron while it’s still hot, you have to live with the consequences.

– Always pack your unmentionables first.  It is really a bummer to get where you were going without them.

– Rented books on CD from Cracker Barrel are a great way to pass the time.  And losing one CD from each book is a great way to waste money.

– You don’t get to keep the rental car.  That’s okay.  You probably won’t want to.  You know…by the time you wreck it and all…

Visibility is Terrible (Part 2)

But it was stolen.

And all we had to go on was that our computer snatcher had brown shoes, a Grateful Dead T-shirt, and a tight connection to Madison, Wisconsin.

Fortunately, that turned out to be enough. Just barely enough to catch him in the men’s room near his gate. You just can’t make this stuff up.

I was shocked to get it back in time to catch our flight…and even more so by the fact that some friendly Delta agents took the time to help us with the heist. God forgive me for all the ugly things I’ve said about Delta agents.

Proof that miracles do still happen. Kinda like the time that the bag of apples confiscated from me at security were returned as I boarded my flight. Only more so.

Anyway…that brings me back to this particular day and the fact that I didn’t have a boarding pass for my Dulles to Lancaster flight.

I arrived in Dulles with a few hours to kill; I planned to kill them by working. I had plenty of juice in my laptop which, as of yet, had not been lost, left, broken, or pilfered by followers of the Grateful Dead. Yes, same laptop. She and I go way back and all the way around the world quite a few times. Yes, there are more stories where those come from.

But before I killed too much time, I decided to go ahead and track down my boarding pass for the next flight. Upon surveying the screens, I saw that there was an earlier flight to Lancaster leaving right then and both were operated by a United affiliate I had never heard of before. Something about the Sun or the Sunrise…it sounded a little too close to “Lucky Airlines” for my comfort, but hey, I had my lucky laptop with me.

I was surprised to see four men standing behind a small desk at my gate. One of them wore an orange vest and the other three wore dark uniforms.

“I need to check in.” I said.

“Are you Danielle Walker?” They asked.

That’s a little weird.

“Do you want to get on the earlier flight?” Orange Vest asked in broken English. His name tag identified him as being from Trinidad.

“Sure…” It might just mean I end up killing the same time on the other end, but I believe in taking a seat in a moving plane when it’s available.

“We have to call to change your plans.” Orange Vest from Trinidad informed me. He dialed up a long number on a cellular flip phone and handed it to me.

The lady on the other end sounded like it could be his wife. Still in Trinidad.

“You want to get on the flight?” She asked me.


“Fifteen dollar.” She said.

“You’re joking.”

“Fifteen dollar.”

Did she really think I was going to give my credit card information…over a flip phone…to Sunshine Airlines…in Trinidad???

One of the men at the counter said he was finalizing a report for the flight. “I’ll add you in by hand,” he said. And he started writing on a clipboard in pencil.

“How much do you weight?” Orange Vest asked me (emphasis on the “T”).

I looked around the uncrowded terminal. Hmmm… Maybe I should just wait for the next flight.

One of the men picked up my bag. “Probably 30 pounds.” He guessed. “Maybe 40.”

The men were eager for me to finish my phone call which ended in a fight between Orange Vest and the lady, and before I knew it, the four of them were escorting me outside. No boarding pass. No other passengers. Just me and the mafia, for all I knew.

“Visibility is terrible.” One of the men commented as he lowered two stairs up onto a small aircraft. “But I think we’ll make it.”

You can take a seat anywhere, the pilots instructed. That is, two of the men evidently were the pilots although it was stretching it to call them “men.”   They didn’t look old enough to be allowed to touch a razor. Orange Vest was the wing walker. The fourth man climbed in a different plane headed for parts unknown.

My one checked bag appeared on a seat next to me. What? A bag on a seat? Talk about breaking every FAA rule I’ve ever heard.

I’m pretty sure I broke a few myself when I put my feet up on the rear-facing seat across from me and pulled out my laptop. Ahh! No one to bust me for such crimes as putting my seat back before take off or not tucking a bag far enough under the seat in front of me.

One of the pilots did, however, give me a safety briefing and he managed to keep a straight face the whole time despite the fact that I was the sole passenger in an eight-seater plane with no oxygen masks and a ceiling so low, he had to do it sitting in the seat next to me. I nodded appreciatively as he pointed out the safety exits. I agreed to help in the event of an emergency.

As we pulled from the fog into the clouds, I started to really enjoy my private ride from Dulles to Lancaster. All the while, of course, wondering what kind of tax dollars were subsidizing this ride and enjoying the fabulous view from out my window[s].

The pilots, who were right in the cabin with me, put on their headsets and I reveled in the fact that I would not have to worry about another passenger stealing my computer. Of course, there were bigger worries—like whether two kids could land a plane in the soup, and what the lady in Trinadad was doing with my credit card info—but I chose just to sit back and pretend this was Air Force One. It isn’t every day I have my own crew to fly me to my destination on my schedule.

There was no red carpet rolled out when I arrived. No crowds. No photographers. No latte salutes.

But one of the pilots did pull off my check bag for me so I could claim it inside. Really, I assured him, that wasn’t necessary.

Even my imagination wore thin by the time I waited 30 minutes for my driver. He showed up in a green 1980-something Chrysler with crumbs littering the floor boards.

“Sorry.” He said with broken English and a broad smile. “Taxi broken.”

This is more like the travel I know and love.

“You like Ethiopian food?” He asked me as we zoomed past corn fields and Amish buggies.

“I don’t know.” I said. “I’ve never had it.”

“You should travel more. I take you to Philadelphia. They have good Ethiopian restaurant.”

“I appreciate the offer, but…I think I’ve had enough travel for one day.”

Only in America.

the view
They weren’t kidding about visibility…I took a picture so I could share the view with you!