Friday, May 21, 2010

Quit Mocking Me

Back in my day, we didn't have personal computers. Our p c was pickup the Colliers. Now we can simply click on Wikipedia and discover abstruse volumes of information.

Wikipedia's description of 'hair' is, "An outgrowth of filamentous cells, containing keratin, that grows from follicles found in the dermis." 

My description of hair is this: "The lovely, long locks that transform a five year old into a screaming blond banshee yelling, "I want Theresa, my big sister, to do it", whenever mother comes near with a brush." Who would have thought that  female fussy would grow up to be such a stylish stylist.

After years of her whishin' and  hopin' and  thinkin' and prayin', moanin', and groanin' and a little side-steppin' my Rachel finally enrolled in VICI Aveda Institute. For nearly a year now she has been pursuing her passion; that multifaceted world of cosmetology. She has always possessed the rare, raw talent. But now she is refining her skills.

A few days ago she had her mocks, which means exactly what it implies. A mock test of various  hair color, curl, and cuts. She asked me to be her 'mock' model or guinea pig if you prefer. Without  too much squealing I complied. Although, falling somewhere between the two generations,  I  did threaten to show up wearing a Lady Gaga, or Phylis Diller hairstyle,  just to bring some comic relief. 

As soon as I walked into the pseudo salon I could feel the fear. Whispers of last minute reminders bounced around like a badminton birdie. Twelve female wannabe cosmetologists all a tangle of stress so thick you couldn't get a comb through it. 

Even though 'us mocks' were told not to talk too much because it was a test, I couldn't help cracking up a little even if it was silently. With head down, watching only the floor, I noticed an ant scurrying across the ceramic tile. "Hey", I called out in my mind, "someone get your 'ant' a chair." Or, when the instructor announced the use of cholesterol for one of the procedures and I commented, "No cholesterol for me thanks I'm watching my levels."

With nothing else to do but mere minor chit-chat and a lot of thinking, I came up with a rhyme for those mocking birds ready to fly.  It's admiringly called, Mocks in Smocks.

Here's an easy way to hair.
Here's an easy thing to bear...
Blond mocks.
Red mocks.
Whose smocks?
Head mocks.
Who smocks whose mocks?
You smock head mocks.

As the better part of the morning passed I got a bit nostalgic about my little girl all grown up, with a bouncy boy of her own, on her way to a cosmetized career. And I was reminded of a few lines from a song my mother used to sing. 

Darling, I am growing old,
Silver threads among the gold
Shine upon my brow today,
Life is fading fast away.
But, my darling, you will be,
Always young and fair to me,

For a few hours I sat there while my daughter mocked up my hair. I got a pretend perm, an unreal retouch, and a counterfeit color. All for the priceless bond of weaving some older silver threads among the younger gold.  

And after a shampoo and a blow dry, I think we all left looking very 'hott' from twelve as close as can be cosmetologists in a room with a dozen little hot air machines all blowing at the same time.

I don't know about the others, but I had so much fun it mocked my smocks off.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just a Pop Tart in a Toaster

Garfield, that nefarious feline said, "If people were meant to pop out of bed we'd all sleep in toasters." My toaster was queen size. As soon as the pop up alarm went off I hit the floor running. 

I could peanut butter and jelly, stack a double decker and diaper a derriere with the best of them. Kwan Yin had nothing on me. My other half and five little fractions were figured into the equation with seconds to spare.

The halls were monitored, lessons chalked up, the classroom decorated, and Sunday field trips planned before the lunch bell rang. But all that was back when I was a rookie freshman in the school of life. Now that I'm a senior and getting closer to graduation day I find it harder to get up for school.

The young sportster traveling down life's highway like Lightning McQueen in fast gear is gone, replaced by Tow Mater. I'm down to three gears, slow, slower and slowest. My engine is sluggish, there's rust on the frame and my tires are flat. Body parts haven't just headed south they've relocated there. With all that drag, at least it pulls the wrinkles out of my face. 

One of the things I have purposed to do is age gracefully with the ability to laugh at myself; something I did not always do in my youth. I was always a few fries short of a happy meal.  I don't know why I took life so seriously. I'm not going to get out of it alive anyhow. So, with that in mind, I tell myself I'm only old on the outside.

I've successfully ridden that menopausal bull, Hormone Hurricane, and decided to pass on a few tips to you younger gals. Menobull can't gore you but he sure can beat the estrogen out of you. Ride with care and stay on low levels. Skipping too quickly to levels of difficulty throws you for a hard landing. If you're not careful, you can lose teeth, and break bones. Do not hang on with both hands. Lift one hand in the air toward Heaven and hold on to your hat.

There is joy in the cesspool of life, but sometimes we have to pump that stinker to find it. Other times it just floats to the surface. I remember one Thanksgiving after some hard  times, my daughters were helping dress the turkey. It started out innocently discussing fashion sense for a bird on a holiday. Soon, they were down to the nitty gritty. Finding the fowl still firmly frozen in some areas, they proceeded to seek the help of a professional. This required a cavity search and rescue. Dr. David, equipped with only a sterilized hammer and chisel, and his turkey triage combined their efforts. 

With sisters grasping the legs and holding firmly while brother grappled with the slippery, iced collar, an unexpected twist separated the turkey from its neck and it flew across the room like a scud missile. The grounded bird escaped with only a fractured forelimb. That day they saved the bird with a broken wing. But I suggested they quit cold turkey.
No matter where you are on the highway of life, enjoy the ride.  Seek laughter in the scenery and joy in the journey. Whether you're nailing jello to the wall, fishing frogs from the washing machine, peeling noodles off the ceiling, or keeping the midnight watch, find the fruity filling in the toaster of life.

As for me, my pop-tart toaster mornings are more like late dinner. And the future?  Well...just depends :) 

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Dark Mile

It was nearly midnight. The highway narrowed to two lanes miles back and now it rose over hill, and fell over dale. Deep forested pines coaxed the ribbon road to curl through their dark, eerie boughs. The only illumination, cast from the beam of my headlights, created creepy shadows on the shoulder.

Except for my three pound Pomeranian tucked safely in her petal pink carrier, I was traveling the pitch dark pavement alone. Seeing her curled up, I wished I was secure as she, a furry, blond ball of fuzz, fast asleep. Ruing circumstances that dictated the decision about my lonely road trip I picked up my cell, checking for service. There was none. In an effort to keep my mind from reeling over the edge of imagination I recalled a story about Dr. Richard H. Hutton. 

He did most of his traveling by foot. Something I would not do at this time of night in this type of country. I did not dress to be the guest of the three bears, nor did I care to be an appetizer before their porridge, hot, cold or nine days old. Even without cell service, I was thankful to be surrounded by heavy metal and door locks.

Long story short. Dr. Hutton and a friend desired to see the most beautiful lake in Scotland. To do this they hiked through a deep, dark and gloomy gorge known as the 'dark mile'. The path was fearful and frightening and normally no one traveled it by choice.

Treading slowly and apprehensively through the murky, mysterious  gorge they encouraged one another to keep going and gave each other support. Finally a faint light marked the miles end. It had been a frightening, dismal journey through a treacherous trench.  As they left the perilous passage behind them, both gasped at what lay before them. A beautiful lake surrounded by majestic mountains was a magnificent sight.

I am not going to paint you a scenic picture of a placid lake mountain top experience. I think if we're honest it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes we come out on the other side of purgatory pass feeling relieved we made it through but thinking, "Big deal, it's just another lake".

Instead of breathless beauty we grunt at the gravity of another horrible hike. Run over by life's truck, burned and bitter, we inch along. We haven't traced a map choosing to walk where Hutton walked. We are hard pressed into the path by some secular semi. 

Dragging ourselves through a gory gorge we watch others. Perched like cute cottages along the lake, they are painted with prosperity, trimmed with good fortune, and decorated with honor. While we travel along, broken, forsaken, ignored, and hurt. The relentless winds of adversity continue to drive us further into the descent of despair, where the depth of pain is so great, it is inescapable.

The death of a child, that bores a sorrow so wretched that the heart is wrenched to squeeze out the misery like drops of blood drawn from a pricked finger. The unfaithful spouse, that slits a spirit and leaves bitter herbs that foul the taste for love. The abuse of an innocent child, that strangles trust. The disablement of a life, that swallows up hope. A debilitating disease that burns with the acid of discouragement. These are more than a dark mile. They are jeremiad journeys.

The trek through prolonged pain under a burdensome pack can make us feel like God is the one who took a hike. We feel like He has left us at a cold, dank rock bottom. Abandoned and alone, we cry out in misery and misunderstanding. But while we are shaking our fist toward heaven our feet are forced to something profound. We break through superficial crusts and find the God we never knew. We discover life and love at a deeper level.

While questioning God in agony, we begin to know and understand the God of the dark. The God that lays His hand upon you and carves you into his palm; who weaves his own story of suffering deep into the pattern of your life and enters into your pain. Supremely skilled, He forms you in the dark and lays down beside you in the bed he has made in the depths. You soon discover that earth holds nothing you desire, while the God of the universe holds his only desire, you.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

God Is Bigger Than The Boogey Nose

It was a frosty winter night. The lights were low, a warm fire crackled, and The Toy That Saved Christmas played on the small screen. Josh, our first grandson, was a picture of merry mirth dressed in his jingle jammies and cuddled up in his mommy's lap. It was our first encounter with Veggie Tales, and when Larry the Cucumber sang Oh Santa, we were hooked.

Since that night, nearly fifteen years ago, those lovable vegetables have been crashing our crisper. And, six more grandchildren are talking to tomatoes and waltzing with potatoes.

The youngest veggi-maniac in the family is two. Magnolia loves her veggies. One of her favorites is Where's God When I'm Scared. When she's not watching, she's singing. So, it was no surprise when she bounced on the chair like Junior, the adolescent asparagus, and started a serenade.  What was sweetly surprising were the words to her song. In her best Jr voice she belted out "God is bigger than the boogey nose..." with all the zappy zesto she could muster.

I laughed till I cried. With nose running faster than my tears, I summed up my nostril nostalgia. My life right now is a boogey nose. The harder I try to dig in, the more sneeze weed blows out.

My clothes dryer dried up. The washing machine took a dive. The refrigerator is nearly on ice. The car's exhaust is fuming and the riding mower moved to death row. The only mortgage I can afford is on a board game. Money is tighter than a rusty bolt. So tight that when my daughter offered me a penny for my thoughts, I took it! Yup, definitely a big, snotty, runny, boogey nose.

As my tears dyed a trail down my cheeks, the innocent words out of the mouth of a babe sunk into my heart. In that tiny tune from a tender tot came the wisdom from above.

God is bigger! He is bigger than that nasal cavity with a giant size sheet for a tissue. He is bigger than the virus of vexation. He is bigger than sneeze weed. He is bigger than what life blows at ya. God is bigger than the boogey nose, and He watches out for you and me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Etch a Sketch Heroes And Tootsie Role Models

I heard the toilet swoosh and a pint of panic washed over me. The mental picture of 2000 Flushes flooding the floor swept me into action. Dashing 'round the corner with yellow playtex hands and do-do dunger in tow, I was a water-closet warrior ready for war. 

I arrived in time to see the tip of a sock caught in the undertow of rising water. Reaching into the vortex of swirling sapphire I snatched up the hulky hosiery. It hung in my code yellow hand dripping droplets of blue bile into a toilet whirlpool twirling freely down the drain. 

I exhaled exasperation and smiled down at my pint sized progeny. "David, we don't put daddy's socks down the toilet." My latrine stuffing toddler gazed up at me, an admiring flush on his face.  To his joy and amazement I had successfully delivered a drowning sock and secured the floor from a chemical bath. In that moment frozen in time I was a motherhood hero.

But what constitutes a hero? Real heroes never think themselves to be one. You rarely hear about them. They shine in the secret shadows. Motherhood is heroic. Etching out lines and lessons is an exhausting labor of love and heroism. But, maybe the real heroes are the little, and not so little ones, that etch a sketch on a mother's life and heart. 

Etched into my body are the sketchy, stretchy lines of pregnancy that prove, contrary to medical belief, that it does not take six weeks to get back to normal after childbirth. Once you are a mother normal is history. 

Labor and delivery is not the hardest part of motherhood. Seeing your baby off for the first day of school or watching your only son pack for college delivers an etch so deep, you never forget. 

Little hero etchings come in many forms. A smidget smile can tenderize a trying day. Toddler tears etch streaks on your heart. Roly-poly giggles tickle you pink. Pudgy hugs and sticky kisses can romance away life's riddles. Smudgy fat  feet will sketch footprints on your life.

Knobby lessons and laugh lines can turn a comedy that roughs out the best of them, and years down the road the outlined memories still make you chuckle. 

  • A quart of grape juice does not make purple floor cleaner.
  • Baby sisters do not bounce back after being pushed over like a wobbly weeble.
  • A Bob Ross oil spill on ocean blue carpet will not kill baby seals but will make mom cry.
  • Christmas trees can be felled by pulling the skirt out from under them. 
  • The vet does not find it funny when you paint a Doberman Pinscher's claws hot pink.
  •  You cannot stick a Doberman to a refrigerator by feeding her magnets. 
  • Grandma's hand held casino game is called Pocket Slots not Pocket Sluts. 

To my Etch a Sketch Heroes and Tootsie role models: 
Thank you for finger painting me rainbows in life's storms and teaching me that hugs go further than tugs. You have honored me by forgiving me when I was wrong, loving me on my worst days, and showing me kindness when the world has beaten me up. You helped me to be myself, not to set unrealistic expectations, to do less correcting and more connecting, and to grow along with you. 

Sharon, Theresa, David, Rachel and Rebekah, I love you!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Life is Lobsterlabile

Many of us as children were told not to play with our food. But when I had my own family and we sat down to a meal at Red Lobster we couldn't help but make play with those crusty crustaceans. Each one of those aquatic arthropods took on a character of its own. Claws  became clothespins, nose pickers, barrettes, and every other kind of grippers imaginable. The empty shells were a restaurant raucous. Yes, our fabulous five along with their petrified parents were lobster lunatics. 

Since normal for my family is only a setting on the washer, it seemed normal for me to get up close and personal with my lobster. I invited mine to come along but she said she's already been where I am  going.

The up close part is this. 
In order to mature, lobsters have to rid themselves of their old, hard, protective shell and grow a new, larger one. You get the picture. Off with the old, on with the new. They do this about twenty five times in the first five years of their life and once a year thereafter. 

Along with being a lot of hard work, you can imagine what a grisly, goopy mess that must be. Water and blood leave the claw, and the flesh inside shrivels up to about a quarter of its normal size. Then, under pressure the stony covering cracks. The labile lobster then lies on its side, flexes its muscles,  and pulls itself from the cracked crust. 

Even though the meat inside the claw shrinks, it sometimes gets stuck inside the narrow knuckle and the crusty creature must throw the claw and abandon both flesh and shell. What's left is a clueless, clawless, naked lobster lying on a bed of sand waiting for new housing. 

This part is the personal.
In some sense I am like a lobster. I have matured some. I have rid myself of some hard, protective layers and grown new coverings. But sometimes, still growing into newness, I live in an undersized shell refusing to come out and face the elements. I refuse to be vulnerable. Let's face it, life can be an ugly, gooey mess. It's threatening at any age and none of us are immune to it. 

We have all suffered abuses in one form or another; some emotional, some physical, some spiritual. But if we want to grow we must learn to lie down and cast the crust.  Sometimes that means letting go of something precious, throwing the claw. Life is the irritable sand we must muddle through while growing and molting. Living, on the other hand, is being vulnerable and accepting the crusty changes.

We are designed for authenticity; to walk in realness, and relationship, to share our habitat with others different than ourselves even if it means being vulnerable to our surroundings. If we fight to stay inside our shell we only multiply the pain in growing. If we hide, we tend to build our lives in ways that cover up how damaged and cracked we really are. 
One of my favorite struggles to shed the shell is found in the writings of C.S. Lewis. Voyage of the Dawn Treader  gives us an idea of what it is like to allow God to have a hand in our molting and expose our vulnerability.

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it - if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it.”
“You mean it spoke?”
“I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden - trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells - like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.
“I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
“Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.
“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me –“
“Dressed you. With his paws?”
“Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes - the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”
“No. It wasn't a dream,” said Edmund.
“Why not?”
“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been - well, un-dragoned, for another.”
“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.
“I think you've seen Aslan,” said Edmund.
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