Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Life Lessons (and How I Learned Them) by Carolyn

Lesson #1: Do not hug a dog that is guarding something.
Long, long ago when I was about four years old, my father and grandfather and some uncles had gone fishing and deposited their catch (live and still swimming) in a large galvanized washtub, which they put down in the yard. My grandparents had a medium-large black dog, creatively named Midnight, that had always been very friendly and playful. As I heard the story, my mother was washing dishes in the house when she looked out the window and saw me hug Midnight playfully, as I often did. Midnight must have thought that I was trying to steal some of the fish he was guarding, a job he obviously took very seriously. As my mother watched helplessly through the window, he flipped me over flat on my back in the yard, stood stiff-legged over me, and took a big chunk of my cheek out of my face. My mother raised the alarm, of course, and I was soon scooped up and carried away from the scene, probably bleeding copiously and screaming hysterically. I, fortunately, do not remember any of these events. Midnight, unfortunately, was deemed unsafe to keep around and was put down. I have always been sad about that, especially since we were the ones who gave Midnight to my grandparents. The moral of this story is that no matter how mild-mannered a dog normally is, a dog that is "on guard" is not something to play with.

Lesson #2: Don't make a habit of sitting on a sink.
When my sister and I were teenagers we shared a bathroom. Every morning, that bathroom was where we put on our (probably too heavy) makeup and fixed our hair. The bathroom did not have a convenient place to allow us to get close to the mirror. There was a large mirror above a countertop, which was too wide to lean across. The other mirror was the front of a medicine cabinet located above the sink. The sink was not set into a cabinet, but was caulked to the wall and had a water pipe running from under it into the wall below.  It became our custom to take turns sitting on the sink so we could get close enough to the mirror to put on our makeup. (I am trying to make it clear here that the succeeding event was not totally my fault!) One morning after Mom left for work, I perched on the sink, mascara wand in hand, ready to start my beauty routine. We heard a loud crack . . . and suddenly the sink was on the floor, the pipe had detached itself from the wall, and water was gushing out onto the bathroom floor. By the time the water was ankle-deep, we came to our senses enough to call for help. Fortunately, our across-the-street-neighbor was a fireman so we called him. Mom, returning to the house for something she had forgotten, walked down the street from the bus stop to find a firetruck and a flooded house. Bless her heart, she was probably tempted to strangle us, but she didn't, and I am still alive to tell the tale. Corollary to Lesson #2: Always know where the water shut-off is for your house.

Lesson #3: Never have two dates at the same time.
I must admit that I did not learn this from first-hand experience - having an overabundance of dates has never been a problem for me. However, I am smart enough to know a good life lesson when I see one. Many years ago, a college roommate of mine (who shall remain nameless) had the questionable blessing of having made a date and being set up with a date at exactly the same time. At that time we lived in one-half of a dorm suite that had a matching room on the other side of a shared bathroom. For several hours she ran back and forth between the two rooms (and the two guys), pretending to each date that he was the only one she was seeing that night. Fortunately, both of the dates were the stay-in-and-watch-TV kind of date, as opposed to a go-out-and-do- something date. I don't know what she would have done if one of the guys had suggested going out. I do know that she was exhausted (and out of excuses for going into the restroom) at the end of the evening!

Lesson #4: Do not fire a gun in the house, even if you have been told it is not loaded.
Once when I was home from college, my sister and her boyfriend were also visiting my mother's house. He was showing off the handgun he had bought for my sister to carry in the glove compartment of her car. (Have I mentioned that we are born-and-bred Texans?) He brought it into the house, assuring us it was not loaded. I believed him. After all, he was in law enforcement, and knew a lot about guns. I picked up the gun, aimed it, and pulled the trigger. A bullet, which was not supposed to be in the chamber, flashed across the living room and buried itself in the small strip of metal between a window pane and the wall surrounding the window. Even if I had been Annie Oakley, I could not have placed that bullet anywhere in that whole room where it would do less damage. Praise God, I had the good sense not to point an (unloaded) gun at any of the people in the room!

Lesson #5: Let the bakery deliver the wedding cake.
My sister married the gun guy from Lesson #4. Their wedding was to be held in my mother's house (yes, the one with the bullet-hole in the window sash). We had tried to make the wedding as inexpensive (but lovely) as it could be. One of the ways we decided to save money was to pick up the wedding cake ourselves, rather than having the bakery deliver it (for a fee). Bad idea. My then-boyfriend and I were deputized to perform cake-fetching duty. As we were traveling back to Mom's house with the three-tier cake in my lap, I may have reminded Don one too many times to be sure to drive carefully because of the delicate cargo I was holding. Whether I nagged too much or not, he hit the brakes just a little too hard at a stop sign. The cake followed the action-reaction rule of physics and slammed into the dashboard. I did what any woman would do - I cried - and put all the blame on Don. The top of my sister's beautiful, three-tier, white icing-with-beautiful-piped-flowers wedding cake was smushed in.  Bless my sister, she was very gracious and forgiving. We smeared the icing around a little to cover the dent, turned the smushed part of the cake toward the wall, and pretended it was perfect. I guess the wedding was okay, since their marriage lasted thirty-three years, until his death a few years ago. Maybe the cake is not so important after all.

Lesson #6: Don't walk backwards without looking behind you.
Earlier in my career, I taught in an "open concept" school - the classrooms had no walls between them. You can imagine that sound traveled very easily between the rooms. One day, the teacher across the way from me was being visited by the principal for her evaluation. I felt that it was very important for my class to be as quiet as possible so that we did not disturb the other teacher's lesson. To that end, I was conducting our usual warm-up activities in total silence. During our warm-up activities, many of my students had the habit of sitting on the floor so that they could better see the screen where the activity was projected. As we were about to finish up, I began to back up across the room to reach the light switch. I did not take the precaution of looking behind me to see if any small bodies were crouched there. I should have. I tripped backwards over a child, flew head over heels (my full circle skirt doing a fluttery cartwheel around me) and immediately bounced back up to my feet, and, thinking of the evaluation going on behind me, held my finger to my lips to caution my students not to make a sound so we would not disturb the class next to us. My students and I laughed hysterically for five minutes over my less-than-graceful acrobatic feat, all the while maintaining a perfect silence!

Lesson #7: The number of dogs in a house should never exceed the number of human hands available in the same house.
I live alone. I have three dogs. Enough said.



  1. Once again you have completely delighted me as a reader! Your writing is whimsical and wise, funny and real, absolutely full of life. Such a humorist in the style of Erma Bombeck.

  2. A really enjoyable read! Also some practical advice! ; )