Keep the Bar Low

Dearest Rachel –

In all the letters that I’ve written to you since I’ve started doing this, I’ve mentioned several times about your parents’ astonishingly low expectations for the two of us; how they were afraid that ours was no more than a ‘starter marriage,’ whatever that is, and how they were pleasantly surprised at our faithfulness in paying back their loan/mortgage to us. In both of those cases, they had picked their expectations for us so low that it was reasonably easy for us to clear them – which we did (presumably, they had experience with people that couldn’t, or wouldn’t – I have my suspicions about who, specifically, that might be).

I may have also mentioned my own attitude towards optimism and pessimism (which you and Daniel teased me about last Christmas, labeling a gift to me as ‘to the family pessimist,’ leaving me to explain myself to my parents about that, particularly having to do with the political situation at that time – which, by the way, I should point out still stands, and indeed has gotten considerably worse than even I expected); boiled down to a nutshell, my philosophy toward certain possibilities was to expect as little as possible. That way, if you’re right, you’re already prepared for the worst, and if you’re wrong, the surprise is always pleasant.

It would seem, just from the few days that we’ve experienced of this year so far, this is a good year to keep one’s expectations low.

You probably recall that I’ve talked about the snowstorm on the first of the year, and how that very nearly gummed up the works for my plans to get together with the girls before Daniel was unable to go out in public anymore. Well, I wasn’t the only one whose plans were interfered with. Throughout the course of New Year’s Day, I kept getting emails from church about my booth assignment on Sunday. Essentially, it boiled down to the fact that, because of the snowfall, and people having to dig their way out of it first thing on a Sunday morning, it was determined that the first service would be canceled, to allow people to do just that.

To be honest, I was appreciative for the opportunity, as it proved somewhat difficult to dig out, even with that monster snowthrower – having left the snow on the ground overnight, some of it got frozen pretty hard. Combine that with a depth of about five inches, and even it was struggling from time to time to throw the stuff very far. And when I ran over sections that I’ve thrown snow onto previously, it just became that much more recalcitrant. I actually had to give up at a certain point, and just dig my way out of certain sections.

But I did get it done, and in enough time to pick up coffee and a breakfast sandwich on my way. And while normally I would park behind the church when I’m working in the booth, that wasn’t an option when I pulled in:

They didn’t even bother to clear the back side of the parking lot.

To be sure, by the time I was leaving, it had either been cleared or the sun had melted it (because it was shining pretty brightly by then). Still, there was some talk among folks that trickled in as to how many people would make it, with (I think) 150 as the over/under – which isn’t anywhere near a full house, as you know.

We didn’t make that. But in fairness, we hadn’t been expecting to.

Yesterday, I had been looking forward to getting back to my work with the Awana club, and helping out with the Sparks in particular, now that the Grief Share sessions are over for now (it’s apparently recommended that we attend multiple times; even Mike and Ruth, our leaders, indicated that they’ve been to multiple sessions before leading, and would get something different out of it each time. It seems strange to me that it would be necessary, but I can at least get the fact that a different – or later – perspective would result in different insights).

As I was preparing to leave the ‘office’ yesterday – early, of course, so that Daniel and I could pick up an early dinner (or late lunch, depending on your point of view) on our way there, Mom and Dad informed me that several of the main leaders had fallen sick, and Monday’s club activities had been canceled. It’s a good thing they told me; had I not heard that, I’d have gone home, picked up Daniel, gotten us both something to eat, and showed up at church, only to find out that nothing was happening, which would have been both embarrassing and a waste of time.

I did attempt to get in touch with Ms. Joan; she sent me a copy of the text that she sent as part of her New Year’s greeting to confirm I received that (which I had); she had included a small note about the cancellation in there, but both Daniel and I had completely overlooked it. Anyway, we got it confirmed before I did something silly. It did allow me to get some grocery shopping done, as well as picking up dinner (although, to be fair, poor Daniel didn’t get his first choice for dinner, as the place he wanted a grilled mac & cheese sandwich from closed at one in the afternoon because of lack of help), so there was that.

While I was at the grocery store – and I’m almost embarrassed to admit this – I noticed that the current lottery drawing had ascended past $500 million. I couldn’t resist; from a narrative standpoint (as opposed to a mathematical odds standpoint, which renders it next to impossible for basically anyone bothering to play to win), someone winning that kind of money is either one of those ridiculous rags-to-riches cases, like Charlie Bucket and his golden ticket, or someone who absolutely has no need of it – kind of like how banks are all too willing to lend us all manner of funds (you would not – or maybe you would – believe the emails I’m getting out of the blue these days). It’s like someone handing your life preserver while you’re walking on the beach; it’s ridiculous.

Anyway, I confess to having bought a couple, and sticking it in the grocery bag. However, by the time I emptied it upon returning home, I couldn’t find a ticket. I’m guessing it may have blown out of the bag while I was bringing it to the car, or bringing it into the house. Either way, I’d wasted a few bucks (which, considering I’d saved twenty in coupons on the trip, isn’t a terrible trade-off).

Admittedly, I find myself thinking that wouldn’t it be just everybody’s luck that that ticket holds the winning numbers, and nobody’s going to find it? Or if someone does find it blowing along the street, they’re going to assume that somebody threw it out for having losing numbers on it, and finish the job by relegating it to the nearest garbage container. Meanwhile, the state gets to keep all the money for itself; which, considering it’s probably blown that kind of money already this year, won’t make a whole lot of difference to it.

And finally, and what is probably an unrelated note, I might as well share last night’s dream that I just woke up from. In it, Daniel and I were just getting back from…somewhere, when the home phone rang.

It turns out it was a follow up call about a payment (but of course) for a vacation reservation that I’d made during 2021. As they gave out further details, both the premise and the price (about $1,500) actually seemed reasonable. The whole package included a week-long cottage stay in either the Northwoods of Wisconsin or the upper peninsula, or the southern tip of Illinois or Western Kentucky (the Cairo/Paducah area); either it wasn’t specific, or there were multiple locations that were optional.

The stay even included certain… educational lectures, and this is where it began to get weird. Because the course is being covered we’re on the topic of safecracking. Not only that, but we were required to indicate our weight as part of our personal information that we would need to fill out in order to finalize our registration. It turns out, that information was necessary for them to calculate the dosage of either a cyanide or nitroglycerin capsule that we would each be issued when we went on our first assignment, just in case we were captured.

Not that we were required to attend the classes, or go on the assignment. The agent booking the trip actually mentioned a previous guest, an artist of some repute whose name escapes me – in fact, I don’t remember if he was an physical artist or a composer, but for the sake of the story, it doesn’t really matter. He apparently spent the entire week in his cottage, creating a handful of final masterpieces, but then took his capsule regardless, leaving behind a note claiming that he had offended God by creating art that was not up to His level.

Guess he should’ve kept his expectations lower; wouldn’t you agree, honey?

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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