Weakness does not discriminate

Did you read the title? Weakness does not discriminate. This is important for two reasons:
(1) It’s true. We’ll get back to that in a moment.
(2) I lost my grasp on the word “discriminate” for about 40 minutes today and finally had to call the Informinator while I was ironing to try and describe to her the word I was trying to remember. The fact that I was ironing at all really deserves to be noted here, and though it adds Shock Value to the post, it doesn’t add interest. I’ll move on. So I called the Informinator. I had to wait a good 90 seconds to ask her my question, as two children had shown up at her doorstep to “scare” her. She pretended to be scared. Come on, come on, come on….I’ve got Brain Block, people.

“May I speak to the Informinator, please?” I asked, politely, though urgently.
“Speaking,” she answered, when the Boo Kids had moved on. (We’re formal like this, at times…)
“I need a word. It has left me. I know you can help me. It is a verb. It starts with a ‘d’ and it means to be prejudiced against or show bias or something like that.”
“Ohhh-Kayyyy,” she said, thinking.
“I keep saying the word ‘disintegrate’ in my mind, so I think it sounds like that.” Still nothing from her. I kept going. “OK, OK. It’s against the law to DO THIS WORD against people who are a certain race or gender or handicapped or something. You cannot _______ on the basis of race or gender. You cannot “disintegrate” on the basis of race…” I said.
“DISCRIMINATE!” She shouted out.
“THAT’S IT!!!” I yelled. “Thank you.” I was a whole lot more excited than she was, because now I could move on with my day. And now the phrase, “Weakness does not disintegrate” (I wish it did…) made more sense as “Weakness does not discriminate.”

Which brings me back to Point #1.

Weakness, as a state of being, is interesting. Instead of disintegrating, it actually infiltrates every facet of something. You break a bone and the muscle around it atrophies and the body weakens. If you lie on a couch for a month, which in THEORY should be GOOD FOR A BODY (rest does a body good), you turn into a sickly huff-n-puff.

I haven’t been on a couch for a solid month or anything quite like that, but I haven’t broken any records of impressiveness, either. I’ve been weak. And while I thought that was just a physical thing, it appears to attach its tentacles everywhere. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, etc. As it turns out, becoming slothful doesn’t just affect the pants I wear. It affects how I think, how or if I pray, my reactions, my productivity, etc.

I’m not sure which came first and gave birth to the others, but my theory is that my lack of care over my physical health has caused me to care very little about all the others. Actually, it isn’t that I don’t care. I actually care a lot. I just haven’t had the gumption to do anything about it.

Until Tuesday night.  That is when I decided I was not going to let the non-discriminatory weakness control me. I was determined to control it. And while weakness is typically a bad thing, there is a weakness that achieves the opposite. By choosing weakness, in denying myself or fasting or something else that might fall in one of these categories, all of the things that have been chipping me slowly into an unrecognizable blob come into razor sharp focus. Where I was too busy checking up on Facebook Friend #156 to pray, suddenly I am too needy not to pray. I have to pray. And where I had allowed myself 2 hours of TV to watch, now I am ironing and trying to remember the words of Romans 12. The ironing thing still freaks me out a little. I’m working through that one. It won’t last, I’m certain.

I know the Bible talks about fasting in secret and not acting all “woe is me” and “Hey! Check me out…I’m fasting!” (paraphrase by Missy). I am not fasting today and I’m not in any way bragging. I’m just sharing some recent observations that pulled me up out of convalescence. In the case that someone else might be where I was, maybe this will help.

I have to remove some distractions. I’m not going to delete my facebook account or join a Trappist Monastery or sell all my iPods (ha) and go sit up on a hill and watch the sky. But I am going to rein myself in. The screen time in this house has been unbridled and that is just as bad as bad can be. I’m not going to declare TVs and computers bad. They aren’t bad. Like everything, they have to be controlled. And I’m not going to to declare that by Friday we’ll have this fixed. I’m not going to declare anything. I’m just going to work toward some things. I found a couple of blog articles helpful that I will be linking to over the next few days.

I’ve decided to try to “fast” from something every day. I have quite a few things I’m addicted to in some way. It’s no Betty Ford Clinic situation, but still debilitating to some extent. Some days it will be food. When you are hungry, you are focused and praying. And God knows you are serious. And answers come. Things change. Some days it will be TV or my computer.  Some days, as strange as it may seem, it will be music. When my car or house is silent, I think real thoughts and pray real prayers. Even music can distract me away from what I should be doing.

Maybe I’m just easily distracted.

It’s time to get back into shape. Physically. SPIRITUALLY. Emotionally. Mentally. It’s time to be back in control again.

Just so you don’t think I’m being all “check me out,” my 4 year old is sitting at the table eating chocolate ice cream for breakfast while watching Super WHY. (It’s dairy…and educational.)

Baby steps. I still have a few things to work on…

Mama’s Boy survives 8 years in a world that may not quite understand him…

Today is the anniversary of the birth of one very amazing kid. Mama’s boy was born 8 years ago today. I am grateful beyond words for him. Last year I wrote a post on his birthday and if you’ll indulge a re-read,I’m just going to repost that entry. It ws better than one I could write after a night of thunderstorms on the mountain. I am grateful to be here in the mountains, with my freshly 8 year old boy.

It is 2:13 a.m. on March 16, 2011. It is my Mama’s Boy’s birthday. Every part of my back and eyelids are telling me to climb in bed next to Jingle Joints (my 9-yr-old. Why he is here on MY side of the bed is a lengthy, rather dull story, so I’ll skip that one for a slow day in Blogville.), but my heart is telling me to take a few moments and honor one of the most extraordinary boys ever born.

He truly is. Extraordinary. Almost extra-terrestrial really.

He was born on a Tuesday afternoon and placed immediately up against me for a first hold in this world. After about a minute of a strained cry, the doctor determined he wasn’t quite all right, so they ushered him away from me and he was gone for the next 8 hours. That was an exhausting 8 hours, swollen with anxiety about what was actually happening in the NICU. As it turned out, it was fairly standard stuff. But it isn’t standard to not have your arms around the baby you’ve loved for 9 months and who has only been in the world for a few hours. There is nothing that feels standard about that. When they finally let me see him, it was about 8 p.m. I was shot. But I was so happy to be headed down that corridor in a wheelchair. He was hungry. And screaming. Really. Really. Screaming. He can still scream, 7 years later. I scrubbed my hands, rolled around by his bassinet, and the nurse handed me my pink, wrinkly disgruntled baby. I laid him up against my chest and said,

“Hey, boy. It’s mama.”

And in that exact instant, he stopped crying. Not a peep. And then I started up. Because I couldn’t believe that he was here. That he was mine. That the sound of my words could be a salve to anyone’s soul. It was a moment I will remember until I don’t remember how to string two words together anymore.

That was the day he became my mama’s boy.

I ruined that beautiful scene 10 minutes later by almost passing out, actually throwing up into a cup, and handing that sweet swaddled nugget back to a stranger. Who knew having a baby could be so hard? Oh, yes. Everyone. But it got better from there. And it has ever since.

Since it is 2:27 now, I will not try to recap the 7 years following. They have been amazing. How can he be that cute? That smart? That weird? How can he not know that someone is about to club him for being so annoying at the worst possible moment? How does he not sense when the joke has gone too far? How can his jokes make me laugh so hard right before they go bad? How could God have been so good to me?

I need to find him a good wife. He’s amazing…but he’s going to need a good, good wife. I have begun praying on that one and will continue. But as with everything, I believe I should try to do my part. And so I will post a video that I hope will serve as a Meet the Arranged Husband audition tape. Have your daughters watch it. Send me one in return. And we’ll talk.

Happy Birthday, boy. You are amazing.

Gatlinburg – City of Catastrophe and Adventure – Part 4 of too many to count…

Louisiana should take notes from Gatlinburg. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Let’s try bullets again. Maybe it’ll work for me this time.

Every vacation has highs and lows. Let’s discuss both, ok? Good.

* High: Finding Mama’s Boy the perfect slingshot, hewn by a real Cherokee Indian.
* Low: Shooting the pants off that slingshot until the not-so-sturdy wood broke. I bet if it had been made in China, we’d still be shooting rocks off the bluff. Take a lesson, local artisans.
* High: Seeing a jillion Tampa people at church in Pigeon Forge tonight.
* Low: Driving up one side of a mountain and down another. I was very, very close to tossing my cookies. Dad, where is your orange juice cup? I guess we know where the boy got his Vomit Gene.
* High: Taking a 3-mile-hike down our mountain which ended at the Gatlinburg Visitor’s Center.
* Low: Impaling my own lip with my hiking stick. Seriously. What kind of idiot?

A couple of standout moments for me included the babies, of course. My dad had driven down to the visitor’s center with the girls, knowing full well they’d gripe or fall apart during a 3 mile hike. So they gave us time to hike it, drove down, and walked up to meet us. Seeing my girls round the bend on that trail with hiking sticks and pigtails was a scene to warm my heart and soothe my knees and quads.

Also, this afternoon while I was cooking dinner. I heard Beloved complaining about the Smoky Mountain Bear puzzle she was trying to put together. AG came out of his room and said,
“What’s the matter, Beloved?” (He doesn’t call her that. He calls her by name. We aren’t THAT weird. But I don’t name the under 12 set on here…) She told him her puzzle wasn’t working out. He said, “I can help you.” And then he sat down and spent the next 15 minutes or more, just doing a puzzle with his 5-year-old sister, a scene I would never have predicted. Everyone offers to help SassyBritches with whatever plagues her at the moment, but the AG-Beloved combo is a rare one. And I took note of that. Forever.

Tomorrow we will hike to a one-room schoolhouse on the outskirts of town. A mile from this little school is the home of 5 sisters who attended that school. The government wanted their land when they started turning this place into a national park. The sisters held out. Finally, in 1941, they sold their property to the U.S. for $4750 on the condition that the little spinsters could live there until death. They did live there. Without plumbing and electricity until 1964 when the last Walker sister died. Will my kids find this interesting? Maybe. Maybe not. I love history. In the moment, you wonder if what you do and say is having an impact or leaving a legacy. After the fact, the trail is clear. You can see how we got from there to here.

I have uttered this statement a lot this week, “Kids, there were no cell phones or iPads then. Can you imagine?” They couldn’t.

Yeah, I know.

Well, the bullets worked for a little while.

Gatlinburg – City of Catastrophe and Adventure – Part 3 of One Thousand Million

A person’s experience in Gatlinburg depends on who they are with and what time of year they go. You can have vastly different trips based upon these two factors.

Wait. There is a third factor. Your Gatlinburg vacation can also depend on how much money you are willing to spend. Or not spend. There can be a great deal of difference between $0 and $5….MUCH greater than the literal five dollars. Don’t get tripped up in this math. Move on.

I was nine. We were going to travel to Gatlinburg the week after Christmas and we would be there on my ninth birthday. I was naive enough to think the planning of the trip had something to do with my birthday when in fact it did not. It was Christmas break, Missy. Get over yourself.

We drove up in a 1980 Buick Century. It was a 9 hour drive from Tallahassee. Unlike today’s spoiled brats (I’m including my own offspring in this…let’s not judge each other), the greatest technology we had was to twist the knob on the radio until a non-country station tuned in. The two songs I remember hearing over and over AND OVER were Sara by Fleetwood Mac and Longer by Dan Fogelberg. Longer was Number 1 on the charts. Fortunately, I loved both of these tunes and was pleased as punch to listen to them 159 times in 5 days. When that got old, we could try to make gassy noises with our arm pits. That was always a blast.

We stayed in a Best Western in downtown, located right above a quaint little babbling brook. I thought I was in the best place on earth. Truly. And as if it weren’t perfect enough, God sent snow. And one gangly little girl with hair like a worn-out Brillo pad was ecstatic beyond words.

Actually, we did manage to find words. They were deep and meaningful words. It’s snowing! It’s snowing! Can we go play in it? It’s snowing! Can we go? Please? Can we sled? We drove our parents crazy begging to get out on this beautiful snow while it was fresh and clean. And we begged them for some equipment. We needed something to slide down a mountain on.

How about a snow disc? Or a sled? A toboggan? Even a cookie sheet?

The parents on this story…shall we call them Spike and Fran…convinced us that there was a much better way to experience a snowy mountain.
A free way.
It was called pull discarded cardboard boxes out of the dumpster and make your own sleds. My brother and I were too dumb to know all the reasons why this was a scientific FAIL. We were too inexperienced to successfully argue for anything else. And we were too broke to step in and buy our own snow disc. We had no choice but to accept Plan B.

We drove around the outskirts of Gatlinburg looking for a hill that was clear enough for sledding but that wouldn’t empty out onto a road. There are a lot of spots that would be nothing shy of an Instant Death by Sledding. We didn’t want that. When we found our hill, we parked our car, pulled our Dumpster Board out of the trunk and began the long trek up a steep, snowy hill.

The farther from the road we got, the quieter it became. The trees and snow formed a silent blanket around us as we climbed. Our shoes and voices clamored against this hush that somehow it seemed we were violating.

Finally, we were at what we declared to be the top.
This was it.
We were going to sled to the bottom from here. Standing at the top, peering down on our path to glory, was my 9-year-old self, my brother, and my dad. My mother was waiting at the bottom. For what, I didn’t know.

Because it was my birthday, I was “allowed” to go first. At the time, I deemed this to be a winning lottery ticket. Now I believe it was a devious setup. Either way, it was my turn. I was first. And it was time.

I placed my Dumpster Board about 10 feet from where I planned to begin and then I climbed back up to the starting block. This was going to be T-O-T-A-L-L-Y awesome (insert strange accent). I had it pictured in my head as something that would someday wind up on Extreme Sports on the someday ESPN.
It was going to be that good.
I flashed a confident grin at my dad and brother. They smiled back at me and gave me the thumbs-up. Did they know? And then I took a running start. I whizzed toward that cardboard like I was being chased by hungry vampires…vampires that have never heard of Twilight and don’t have babies with shirtless werewolves. And at just the right moment, I leapt–sailing past birch trees, maple trees, and maybe even a couple of chestnuts–to land on the Dumpster Board.
My angle and velocity were stellar.
My landing was flawless.
I had decided at the last possible second to go for a head-first landing, so I could careen through the trees on my belly, directing the cardboard with my outstretched arms.

So I landed there on my belly.
And I went down that mountain–on my belly.
And as you might have already predicted, if your scientific prowess is greater than a 9-year-old’s, the cardboard stayed behind. It didn’t move even a little tiny bit. It sustained the blow of my scrawny little body and promptly sent me on my way.

Because wet cardboard doesn’t slide.

So I went all the way down that mountain on my stomach gathering snow in my pants as I went. Well, Stinkadoodle. Who’s brilliant idea was THIS? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t mine. When I arrived at the bottom, my mother greeted me by clapping with joy. Somehow she didn’t read the expression on my face. This wasn’t a lack of fiber in my diet. I was mad. And I stood up and threw the rowdiest temper tantrum I could possibly muster with the energy I had left.

Completely soaked, I had so much snow in my pants I looked like I was waiting in line for gastric bypass surgery. It was horrifying.

I don’t remember anything else about that day except that fateful trip down SnowPants Mountain. I don’t remember if my dad and brother braved their way down, too, or if I ever went back up. I do remember crying. A lot. Over cardboard. And my wet underpants.

There’s a reason they don’t make snow discs out of paper products.

And I remember we went pretty much straight to a store to spend $5 on a snow disc.
Made of plastic.

That one worked a whole lot better.
$5 made all the difference between Kill me and ROCK ON. Think about that the next time you pull an old UPS box out of the trash while on vacation.


Hot Water

The other night, I was cold. A damp kind of cold that i could feel deep in my bones. The girls were asleep in my room in the mountain house and I knew it was a risk to turn on the powerful blast of the jacuzzi faucet that was right there in my room. But I was moments from a hypothermic death coma, so I decided to risk it. My feet needed hot water. Immediately.

I turned the water on. The girls stayed asleep. All was well. I messed with the temperature of the water spewing from the faucet to get it just perfect. I like very hot water. I’ve been told I have the skin of a gila monster, but this is offensive and makes me picture myself as a lizard so I reject this theory. At any rate, I got the water hot and plunged my feet down in it near the faucet. Ahh. Molten lava. Perfect.

Well, if you are going to get your feet all wet right before going to sleep, you may as well be clean shaven. So I started looking for my razor. It was at the other end of the jacuzzi, so I had to wade over to it. I couldn’t help but notice how much different the temperature was at the other end of the tub. It was 2 1/2 feet away in the SAME TUB and it had come out of the faucet just a few minutes ago. How could it be that much colder? I ditched the razor and waded back to the heat, huddling close to the heat that was pouring out of the faucet. It occurred to me that things are always at their purest and best when close to the source. You pull the hot water away from the faucet and spread it out, and it gets cold. You pluck the dainty little bloom off the plant and it withers up in a matter of minutes.

This made me think about Jesus. He is the Source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). He is the Vine. I am the branch. If I remain in Him, I will bear fruit. If I wander off, the best I can hope for is to plunge my feet into lukewarm water.

Quite honestly, I’ve been too far away from the faucet for a long time. I’m going to try to walk back into the heat.

Gatlinburg Chronicles – Part 2 of One million Thousand Hundred

Still Present Day. Flashbacks are coming at some point…

I cannot linger over my usual wordy prose. I’ve got places to go and indian artifacts that were made in China to buy. So I will offer you a few bullet points from yesterday:

* If there is even the remotest chance that the deodorant you are about to apply is brand new with one of those harsh plastic pieces on the end of it, by all means look before you roll. Series injuries can occur. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

* We spent the day at Ober Gatlinburg yesterday and bought an armband to do all the stuff. After wandering down a series of ramps to look at hibernating bears and a few indigenous animals they scrounged out of the woods out back, AG had to go to the restroom. And I mean, he HAD to go. Right then. So we had to run back up the series of ramps to a bathroom that was clearly designed for young, spry people who only meander to bathrooms. Certainly the person who designed this restroom had never had an emergency while looking at otters in the “wildlife encounter.” At one point, while I was huffing and sucking wind, I asked AG, “Did we really come down ALL THESE RAMPS?” He said yes. I have GOT to get back in shape.

*My dad and I were flagged by the Alpine Slide guys as “too fast.” I beg to differ. I think all the other people on the mountain should have been flagged as “Go to the Lam-O Hospital or Get off the TRACK!”

* We ice skated. Beloved, AG, me, Dad, and Mama’s Boy. It went a whole lot better than I expected it to, until the last time around the rink. I always go one time too many around the rink, metaphorically speaking. Mama’s Boy was ten feet behind me, holding his own. Then I heard a combination thud splat sound and I whipped around to see him lying flat out on the ice. He had fallen on his face without breaking his fall in any way. His face hit the ice in two spots and he got a goose egg abrasion from it. Pictures to follow, at some point. The good news was that he took it well. The bad news was that I had to set aside my hopes he’ll become a figure skater.

* Somehow I can manage to even turn bullet points into books. Sheesh.

* I’m off to Cherokee in the rain to curse Andrew Jackson for forcing the Indians onto the Trail of Tears. Shame on you, President AJ. Shame on you.

Universally awkward forms of expression

Have you ever stopped for just 15 seconds to consider just how terribly awkward winking is? Stop right now and think about it. No one pulls it off successfully. Men in their 30s and 40s try it and come off looking like creepy stalkers. Toddlers try it and look like their face is spasming. We laugh at them squeezing not one eye shut, but two. No one — and I mean NO ONE — can pull off the perfect wink.

No one.

And yet, I’ve taken up the habit. I was never a winker as a younger person. I don’t know when, how, or why this occurred, but it seems to have had something to do with turning 40. Though the number 40 doesn’t bother me, it hasn’t been graceful. I’ve been packing pounds on like I’m storing nuts for a 6 year winter and my face now flinches at men, women, and children as I attempt to convince them this this is all perfectly natural.

But it isn’t.

I think it started with winking at my kids when I would deliver information that I knew they weren’t going to accept with joy. Hey kids, when we get home I’m going to scour your hands with a fingernail brush, ok? Wink, wink. Kids, we’re headed to the doctor for your booster shots. There will be about 10 minutes of searing pain when the medicine goes in. It’ll be great. Wink, wink, wink. Hey, everybody, today is cleaning day! You get to scrape toothpaste off your counters! ANDDDD, wink.

Somehow I have become convinced that the wink takes the edge off when it fact it adds a whole new edge that’s a whole lot worse than the original edgy edge. Now, not only have I hit them with bad news of some sort, I am creeping them out with facial tics.

But the biggest problem of all is this: once you start winking, you can’t stop. You’ll end up winking at the sacker in Publix, the little old man building your chicken coop, and maybe even your mother-in-law.

See ya at home, Mother-in-Law.
Wow, that was awkward.

So with this one blog and the 17 people that will see it, I am issuing a formal and sober declaration to put an end to winking. Let there be no discrimination. Young or old. Mexican-American, Norwegian, or Pakistagliafghanisargan. Guy with hook for hand. Lady who needs to pluck her upper lip. NO MORE WINKING.

I’ll do my part. If I wink at you, feel free to react with utter disdain. Or smack me. Maybe that would break the cycle…

Wink, wink.

Gatlinburg – City of Catastrophe and Adventure [Part 1 of One Million Thousand]

The Gatlinburg Chronicles
March 11, 2012. PRESENT DAY

Saturday night I went to bed at 1 a.m. On the night of turning forward our clocks for daylight savings time (don’t even get me started on this topic), 1 a.m. was an especially bad bedtime. That’s 2 a.m. on the new time and I was unfortunately due to be up again at 4:20 a.m. For the numbers-impaired, that’s 2 hours and 20 minutes of sleep if you fall asleep the moment you hunker down. I did not. I never do. Strangely enough, I felt just fine all the next day. Why the wacky schedule? We were leaving town and needed to make it to Cordele, GA for church by 10:30.

Today we began our Spring Break pilgrimage to the mountains. Gatlinburg, TN. I don’t have the time or the discipline to count how many times I’ve been here. I have memories of this place and the roadtrips as far back as when I was 4 years old. Every single trip has some sort of stand out moment. I don’t yet know what this trip’s stand out moment will be, but I will share the standout moment from Sunday:

We pulled away from my driveway at 5:10 a.m. With my mom and dad in the front seat, Beloved and me in the middle seats, and SassyMonkey in the back seat between the two boys. The kids’ chattering voices bounced around in the darkness like a pinball. They were so excited. I settled back into my comfy bucket seat to enjoy a flawless ride when I heard Mama’s Boy pipe up from the back,

“My throat is hurting and I feel like I’m gonna throw up.”

Now. If I had a dime for every time he has said this, I could buy myself a tricked-out Schwinn with a side car. You get me? When I do hear this phrase, which–again–is a lot, I have two very basic choices: to over-react or under-react. Both have their risks.

Sunday I chose a new approach: React calmly and then, if you can’t solve the problem, pretend it doesn’t exist. He didn’t want a drink. He didn’t want to switch seats to alleviate the motion sickness. What he wanted was a cup.

“Get me a cup to throw up, Mama. I need a cup.”

I leaned forward toward my parents in the front seat. “Um, does anyone have a cup, because as many times as I’ve been through this exact scenario, I didn’t bring a cup labeled Vomit.”

“I have an orange juice cup here,” my dad said. “It’s still got some in it. You’ll have to drink it down first.”

Oh dear. These are not good options. I can risk not handing the Current Reigning Vomit Champion of the Southeast a vomit cup, OR I can drink the watered down orange juice leftovers of my dad and hand the boy the cup. As I considered these choices, he began to gag in the back. I whipped my head around, raised the juice-and-vomit cup to my lips, and sucked down the last of the juice. Mmm. Gross. Here you go, boy. Bottoms up.

And he did indeed throw up. And when he was done, he handed me back that cup. For the second time I was holding this cup that I didn’t want. And it was only 6 a.m. It was hard to get cozy after that. I just kept waiting for the other Vomit Cup to drop…

The rest of the journey was uneventful, though a little bit longish. We popped in some bluegrass music to listen to as we began our winding ascent into the Smokies. Just as my parents and I began to belt out our best John Denver, the kids started howling like coyotes. Thanks for nothing, guys.

Since we’ve been here, the kids have been drinking orange juice like starving babies.

Somehow I just can’t bring myself to do it…