Random Rantings


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Reality Television is King since the writer’s strike has deprived us of our fix of sit-coms and drama this season.  All the reality shows; such as: Smarter than a 5th Grader, Deal or No-deal, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and a host of others; have flooded the cable and airwaves in a rush to fill the void.  

As I sat there this week watching the Biggest Loser I began to think about what I was ingesting, no, I don’t mean foodstuffs, but thoughts and ideas.  What are the bait, hook and tackle? 

The Bait:

One only has to look around at the average waistline and you can see how our lives of ease and/or materialism-induced-stress have weighed on us.   Daily you can find articles, self-help programs and a mountain of books trying to get their collective arms around the problem of obesity.  In fact we have spent so much time gathering this information that we have had little time for anything else, especially such trivial things as exercise, play, and the like.  At some point one has to conclude it is time to stop thinking about it and do something about it. (I haven’t reached this radical point, yet.)

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So here is the positive premise, if we see people engaged and succeeding in the attempt it will motivate others to get up off their lazy keesters and do likewise.  So… someone put it on television for the masses to see and hopefully emulate.  This is a good thing. 

The negative premise is that now that it is on television our voyeuristic natures kick in and we watch others play the game instead of engaging in it ourselves.  We’ll just sit here and watch how it’s done.  This is not so good. 

The Hook:

Always hidden in the bait is a hook and this is no different.  The hook is the game, who will go who will stay.  How do they accomplish this?  Ah, here is where psychology sets the hook, “challenges and temptations!”  It would truly be a boring show if all it was, was watching rollie-pollies sweat and work out (no matter how much the trainers rant and rave).   One can stand to watch only so much flabby jiggling and man boobs.  Therefore, there has to be some other angle, the hook is: game-play during temptations and challenges.   

The manipulations, the deceptions, the intrigue; and that’s just the commercials.  Raw human nature is front and center in the reality show.  Wrath, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, and pride are the stars, with the players as supporting cast.  Being the voyeurs we are, we enjoy watching it in others as they stumble and fall below the yellow line.  (Yes, it is a cynical view but I believe an accurate one.  It’s like NASCAR, the reason a huge percentage watch is to see a wreck.)  In short it’s addictive

The Tackle:

All this leaves us with the final two ingredients, the weigh-in and the elimination room.  Who will be the biggest loser this week?  Which team will have the greatest percentage weight loss?  Who will be exempt, who will go home?  Ooooo, I get tingly just thinking about it.  Here is the payoff for watching the sweating and the puking and the jiggling: someone is going home.  Who will it be?   

In summary I have to say that I find these reality shows entertaining on the surface but since my mind is warped and wired differently I find these same shows somewhat disturbing.  I realize it is a game, but it seems to reinforce the idea of situational ethics.  The, “I am going to do what it takes to make sure I come out the winner,” the Zen of (Donald) Trump if you will.  That may be understood to be the “American Way” but it is far from the Biblical Way.    

These shows are the very antithesis of Biblical Christianity.  They promote greed, the Bible says to give; they bank on covetousness, the Bible condemns it; they manipulate and lie to get to the next level, the Scriptures tell us to sacrifice self and put others ahead of ourselves.   Even the Golden Rule has changed from, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” to “do unto others before they do unto you.”  Each week millions tune in to get their weeks fix of existentialistic materialism and we never see that it is not only our waists that are getting thicker.  Think about it.   

Well, just thought I’d weigh in on the matter.

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611ldbwioml_aa240_1.jpgI am in the process of reading Ruby Slippers by Jonalyn Grace Fincher.  The book so far is insightful and intriguing.  I was most fascinated by the introductory chapter, which delves into the dilemma of the “corsets” that we wear.

We all wear corsets. We often layer them, multiplying their effect, tightening the cords around our soul, until we look culturally appealing, Christianly appropriate, and feel wretchedly uncomfortable.

As I read this, I had to meditate on my own life. Jonalyn lists corsets that women may wear: the single corset, the sexy corset, the mother corset, the Christian wife corset, the working wife corset, and the list goes on. There are certain roles that others expect me to fulfill…the submissive wife, the doting mother, the office woman, the academic, etc.  These areas are not wrong, actually quite the opposite. The Bible commands me to be a loving and submissive wife and a good mother. Where we have seemed to miss it, is that we put on the “corset” to fit the given role because it is expected of us. We act a certain way and even speak in the tone that is expected in that role. We reduce ourselves to “act the part”. What we are actually doing is suffocating our souls.

Before God made me a wife or a working woman/college student, He made me a living soul, a female soul. In discovering who I am in Christ, I am made free and able to more completely fulfill the responsibilities He has given me. God created me with a personality, with certain gifts and talents.  So why am I content to simply wear the corsets that are assigned to me? Why are we all content to suffocate our souls?

I do not believe Jonalyn is advocating a woman (or man) freeing herself (or himself) of the commands that God has set forth. Rather I believe we have gotten our priorities skewed.  My primary responsibility as a child of God is to discover who He made me to be, and then I am able to filfill the secondary responsibilities. Rather than stuffing my soul into the wife corset, I am now able to be the wife God intends me to be.  Rather than tightening the cords to fit others’ expectations, I am free to live as Christ intends me to be.  Layering corsets stifles the soul, but Christ gives us the freedom to live as He designed us: as female (or male) souls.

Things have been going by so fast that this review was posted in 2007 before it was written… the universe has finally caught up to my time in reality, and here is last year in review.

2007

 

Wow, another year has past. I thought this year we would do one of those Christmas letters.

My problem is remembering what was significant… or even what actually happened this year.

 

This was our first full year since mom’s home going. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, from out of nowhere would come a flood of memories, or an huge dose of reality would steamroll us. The hardest part is going over to the house and trying to clean up. So many memories. But mom left us with the greatest gift of all, a testimony of her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I would not call mom back to this world of pain and suffering, that she knew all too well, even if I could. Her joy is complete in Jesus Christ now. She cannot return to us but she showed the way she went and invited others to believe on Jesus Christ so that we could see her again some day. I am looking forward to that reunion.

This summer we took our vacation in Atlanta Georgia. The main event was a Braves game. Before passing Mom had made me promise to get the kids to a Braves game as soon as we could. She had wanted to go herself but her health was just too bad. So we went to a game the day before the first anniversary of her passing. I remember thinking about how that would play in a Master Card commercial: Trip to Atlanta $$, Tickets to a Braves game $$, Hot dogs and a drink $$$$$$, The memories of a promise kept… priceless.

Children are such a blessing!

I have always thought it was amazing that I have had children who were born in different years (obviously), different decades (1990‘s, 2000‘s), different centuries (1900, 2000), and different millenniums(2nd and 3rd AD) and had twins to boot! 

Can you believe that the twins had the in-class portion of Driver’s education this year??? They are freshmen in high school this year. That can’t be right… but alas ‘me babes’ are suddenly ‘me teens‘. She played both JV and Varsity Volleyball this year. He has been on Varsity Baseball since 7th grade and he made JV Basketball again this year. (He played soccer last year as a fill in, but sat out this year. The soccer team all wanted him to play again this year. Maybe he will play again next year.)

Our little one started pre-school this year. I just turn around and it is another milestone in one of their lives. She is attending pre-school at RHRBC. That is the church I grew up in. Talk about a flood of memories!! The old building is gone but just being there evokes some strong memories of Mom and Dad; good memories.

This year marked two decades my wife has put up with me. She is either incredibly brave and loyal or dain bramaged. She is an incredible woman and a wonderful mother. Right now she is in the hospital recovering from surgery. Everything went very well, the operation was a success, and she is doing very well and may get to come home soon. She can recuperate here at home over the Christmas and New Years holidays.

I guess that leaves me to talk about. How can one describe such legendary grandeur in the mere fifteen lines left on this page? You can’t. It is impossible! Think of the Grand Canyon, the vast Atlantic Ocean, and then think of them being filled… with me, and you can begin to imagine my …. What my pants must daily endure.

You know, they say there are four stages of a man’s life:

1> You believe in Santa Clause.

2> You stop believing in Santa Clause.

3> You play Santa Clause.

4> You look like Santa Clause.

I have reached stage four; beard, belly and all. Ho, Ho, Ho!

So, there you have it, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (maybe I’ll get a copy of that for Christmas) from Us to you.

Seriously, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas (while we are still allowed to say Christmas) and a Happy New Year.

D,T,K,D & E

It was a mild September Sunday. I was languidly perusing the pages of a book when I was startled by a cry from my wife on the opposite end of the house. As I hurried to the location of the sound, she met me in the kitchen waving a small, plastic wand. “It’s positive!” she declared as she danced about the dining table. I stood there blinking as my world rolled off of its axis. There are some things for which we can never prepare ourselves; the announcement of a child is one of them.

The arrival of a pregnancy to hopeful parents brings with it a kaleidoscope of feelings. Emotion washes over you as intense and irresistible as a tidal wave.  Surges of joy and trepidation accompany moments of pride and apprehension as you begin to grapple with a new identity. Parenthood looms over you – promising, threatening, and wonderful.
As time passed I watched my wife transform into a swollen version of that person who danced around me in the kitchen (the dancing had stopped by the fifth month). Morning sickness and mood swings dominated our household as the tiny life within her asserted his presence. Books and videos on parenthood became our primary source of information and many hours were spent in breathless silence as we awaited another kick.

Six months into the pregnancy, a routine doctor’s appointment revealed that Stephanie had developed preeclampsia. This meant critically high blood pressure that was a serious danger to both Stephanie and the baby. She was placed on strict bed rest until delivery, and we were warned that the baby would probably be coming earlier than either of us expected.

And that is precisely what happened. On April 21, 2003 (just six weeks later) Stephanie was admitted into the hospital for an induced labor delivery. That night the doctor informed us that he had scheduled the delivery for the next morning and that we should try to get some sleep. My wife followed his orders; I did not.

I became intimately familiar with the ceiling of my wife’s hospital room that night as I gazed up at it, listening to the seconds tick by on my wristwatch. I was overwhelmed with a feeling strangely akin to the Christmas Eve’s of my childhood. In a matter of hours I would be a father. The thought exhilarated me and terrified me at the same time.
Sunrise came and flooded the room with light. April 22 had arrived and so had the nurses to escort my wife to the delivery room. Pain, fear, and wonder ensued and at 10:00 that morning I was handed a bundle of blankets that had a tiny face inside staring up at me. And this is the point in this narrative when words can no longer fulfill their function in conveying true meaning. At that moment I experienced such emotion that to try to describe it would only risk sentimentality.

Perhaps the only way to explain it is to say that at that moment I felt as though I were holding an extension of myself transformed into a new person.  A life that was indivisibly linked to me in its origin, yet completely individual in its actuality and potential. I was astonished by how fiercely I could love a face that I had only seen for a few moments. I wanted to tell him all of this. I wanted him to let him know how incredibly special he was; how much he had changed me. But I could not find the words and he would not have understood if I had.

This time five years ago, I was expecting our first child.  My pregnancy had been normal as I slowly watched my feet disappear under my expanding belly.  Nausea in the first trimester gave way to butterfly-like feelings in my abdomen.  What a miracle!  My body had become a home for this tiny person that I did not know yet, but whom I loved intensely. Each month ticked away with a visit to the doctor.  “All is well” was each report…that is until the first week of March. 

The week started out terribly.  I got a speeding ticket.  How could a State Trooper give me, a pregnant woman, a ticket?  Sure I was speeding, but who could blame me as distracted as I was?  It did not even bother him that I cried as I squeezed out from behind the steering wheel to find my registration.  This could not be happening, we did not need this extra expense with a baby coming.

The week only got worse.  I went to my normal check up, expecting the same “all is well” tag, but when my doctor came in,  the expression on her face spread panic through my heart. 

“What’s wrong?” I implored.  I had not even been officially checked yet.  They had only gotten my weight, blood pressure and made me pee in a cup.

“You are showing the early signs of preeclampsia, otherwise known as toxemia.” she almost seemed to whisper from the other end of a tunnel.

“What is that?  How can this be?  Things have been going so well.  What is going to happen to me and my baby?” 

“Preeclampsia is basically where your body is rejecting the baby.  Your blood pressure starts to creep up and protein shows up in your urine.  We are going to write you out of work until delivery and put you on strict bedrest.  We don’t want you to even walk outside to check the mail.  Rest, stay put as much as possible, for your sake and for the sake of your baby.”

I could not be written out of work, I had only trained my back-up for one day.  She was not prepared.  What was my boss going to say?  Josh was not with me at this visit. What would he say?  I could not even talk to him when I called, so I had to get the doctor to repeat what she had said to me.  “It’s going to be okay.” He assured me, but my emotions were telling me otherwise.

The next six weeks are kind of fuzzy to me.  People of the church fixed meals for us because if the meal planning were left to Josh, we would have cereal, Chef Boyardee and eggs everyday, although he would have meant heartily well.  I had days that I spent in fellowship with my Father and felt His love assure me that no matter what happened, this was all part of His plan.  Then I had days that I could not feel His presence and I cried…anxious over what would happen to my baby, starving for fellowship outside these four walls, and from just plain boredom (how many times can you watch the PBS lineup before getting sick of it).

Baby shower time came and I feel into deeper depression.  I could not even properly register for the things we needed and wanted.  We started the process, but had to quit because I could feel my feet swelling from the rising blood pressure.  This should not be so hard to accept; it was just a luxury and I knew our family, friends and church members would make sure we had what we needed.  But I longed for everything to be as it should have been.  Even then, God assured me that this was part of His plan.

April came before long, and the doctors had made me their test subject.  I had to do a few 24-hour urine samples and store them in our fridge, yuck!  Then on April 21st, the doctors ran several tests and sent us out to wait closeby for the results.  We headed over to Barnes & Noble to peruse their new selection of books.  After what seemed like hours, they called us to come back.  “Are you ready to have this baby?” they asked.  I had not even packed my bags yet, oh great!  “We have a room ready for you.  We will induce your labor and since you are only 3 1/2 weeks early, all should be okay.”

We got settled in our room, called the family and prepared for the night.  They gave me the medicine to induce and at 5:10am the next morning my water broke.  Luke Christopher was born at 9:09am on April 22nd, just one minute shy of a 4 hour labor.  He was amazing!  This little life that we had been praying for was finally visible!   

Luke had his normal up’s-and-down’s as an infant.  Maybe a few more down’s because his lungs were a little underdeveloped, but now he is a healthy, happy, lively little boy.  I look back on those days and I can see how God protected us, provided for us and used it all to teach me about His faithfulness and His friendship.  All of this was in His plan.

I just had to post this:

IDIOT SIGHTING:
We had to have the garage door repaired. The Sears repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a “large” enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one Sears made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower. He shook his head and said, “Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower.” I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4. He said, “NO, it’s not.” Four is larger than two.”
     We have not used Sears repair since.


 IDIOT SIGHTING
 
My daughter and I went through the McDonald’s take-out window and I gave the clerk a $5 bill. Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her a quarter. She said, “You gave me too much money.” I said, “Yes I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar bill back.”  She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me t o repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the quarter, and said “We’re sorry but they could not do that kind of thing.” The clerk then proceeded to give me back$1 and 75 cents in change. 
 
 
IDIOT SIGHTING
I live in a semi rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the DEER CROSSING sign on our road The reason: “Too many deer are being hit by cars out here!
  I don’t think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.”

IDIOT SIGHTING
My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for “minimal lettuce.” He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg lettuce.

IDIOT SIGHTING
The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it’s safe to cross the street. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged coworker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, “What on earth are blind people doing driving?”

IDIOT SIGHTING
At a good-bye luncheon for an old and dear coworker. She was leaving the company due to “downsizing.” Our manager commented cheerfully, “This is fun. We should do this more often.” Not another word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare.   
   
IDIOT SIGHTING

When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the drivers side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. “Hey,” I announced to the technician, “it
s open!” His reply, “I know. I already got that side.”

 Two months ago, I didn’t love you. Maybe I loved you a little, some of you a little more, some a little less. I certainly didn’t love you the way Christ commands me to love you, that is, as I love myself. Thankfully, God has shown me this problem and I have been praying that He will give me the grace to overcome it. Let me share with you just a few things that have helped me overcome this problem. (I am still a work in progress and believe me, I have not yet arrived at Christ-like love!)

  1. Random Acts of Kindness

           I recently went with a few people from our church to the local mall (the weekend before Christmas of all times) to participate in a Random Acts of Kindness outreach. For a few weeks prior to the event, we received donations from members of the church so we could go to the mall and buy people’s dinners. We went up to individuals and families as they were at the register of their dining establishment of choice in the food court and offered to pay for their meals. Some of them gave us odd looks, some were really pleased, one even broke into tears. Unlike typical evangelism, we didn’t make a deal with them and say, “I’ll buy your food if you sit and talk to me about Jesus.” We just provided a need out of love for our fellow people, and then gave them a church brochure with info about our church and  a message about Christ on it. No gimmicks, no Christian trickery, no evangelistic sleight of hand. For the first time in my life, I understood how Christ must have felt when throngs of people surrounded Him as He ministered to them. In a never before seen phenomenon, as we were buying food and giving church brochures to those for whom we purchased meals, we had people surrounding us asking us for our literature. Understand, they were not asking us to buy their dinners. They saw us showing love to people and it perked their interest, and they just wanted to know who we were. I have never had such a good time in evangelism. And I do very seriously consider this evangelism. Even though we didn’t actually get to talk about the Gospel, we demonstrated the love of Christ and gave them a paper with the word of God on it.

    2. Outreach to the Homeless

        A few weeks later, we took blankets we collected from church members to give to homeless people turned away from shelters. Our city has passed this really stupid law that shelters can only house a certain number of homeless, even if they have beds for more. The result is that several get turned away to sleep on the streets. I was upset the day of this ministry because as I was coming home from work around 5pm (the outreach started at 7pm) I spoke to our minister of evangelism and we only had 4 blankets. I had two problems with this: I was afraid there would be more than 4 people and we would run out of blankets and this would be bad for those who didn’t get one, and I was afraid not only would some be without a blanket, but our church would be embarrassed because we only managed to round up 4 blankets. I prayed that God would either give us more blankets, or give us only 4 people. In His abounding grace, He did both. We actually wound up with 14 blankets, but we didn’t have to give any out because everyone (yes, there were 4 people outside) got a bed that night. We’re going out again next week, it’s supposed to be a lot colder, so there’ll be more people, and thankfully we have more blankets.

    3. Real Conversations

       I have a tendency to teach and lecture without wanting to listen, because I don’t (didn’t, that is) love people enough to really listen to their problems with Christian compassion. I’ve been studying the life of Christ lately in an attempt to learn how to deal with people, and what I have seen is His remarkable ability to talk to people. He certainly didn’t talk like Christians talk. In Mark 10, a man asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life”. Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “You need to believe in me and get saved,” He talked to the man, and gently broke down his worldview. He gave him the little bit of God’s truth that he needed at that time, and sent him away to meditate on it. Maybe he came back, maybe he didn’t, but Jesus had a real conversation with him. Christians have been so determined to see a soul saved that they have neglected the rest of the man. If I really love someone, I’ll be interested in him, not just teaching him. So I’ve been trying to have real conversations with the people I see everyday.

   4. My House as God’s Sanctuary

       I’m terribly hobbit-like, and my house is my hole. This is at least how I felt until God began to change me. There was a “select elite” of people who I enjoyed having over to visit. Now, I can’t really explain the change outside of grace, but I like having more people over, even in-laws! (God really is amazing!) I have for so long wanted to use the abilities God gave me to minister (teaching, preaching etc.), but I was totally blind to this hunk of real estate I sit in every day. God has given me a home, not big but at least big enough to host a few people, and a wife who loves to be a hostess, but I was too thick to see how that could be used for His glory. I’m trying to now make my home a sanctuary for those who need it. (Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight. . .)

So that’s my confession, and a list of just a few things that God’s using to change me more and more into the image of His Son. I love you. (At least I’m trying!)- A.P. Sullivan

Back to the BooksTime for another semester at good ‘ol UNCG.  This semester’s set of subjects promises to be both interesting and challenging.

  • Latin- I continue my journey through this beautiful (and overly complex) language with some advanced grammar and readings from Cicero to Caesar.
  • German– An intro to this language that will be useful for grad. school research.  This one will be interesting since the entire class is online.
  • Abnormal Psychology- What can I say, I like psych!  This upper level class on abnormal pscyhology will be educational, interesting, and (dare I say it?) fun.  I can’t wait to start diagnosing friends and family.
  • Philosophy (Skepticism)- A survey of skepticism from ancient to modern philosophers.  I’m sure we’ll be dwelling on Hume quite a bit in this one.
  • Philosophy (Honors Work)- Now I’m really jazzed about this one.  Not only do I get 6 CREDIT HOURS for this class, but I’ll be working individually with two really sharp professors (one is the head of the department).  This class will function as a preparation for my honor’s thesis: “A History and Analysis of the Cosmological Argument”.  This one’s gonna be great!

DistractedHave you ever contemplated how much time we waste on meandering thoughts?  During any busy day, our minds become crowded with To-Do lists, Have-Done lists, and things you cannot even label because they speed by on the highway of your mind, forgotten as quickly as you thought of them.  Have you ever driven yourself to the store and wondered how you got there because your mind was not on the road, but you cannot really explain what distracted your mind for so long?  I have to admit that I have done this on several occasions.  In meditating on the thought life, I am starting to understand that this is a part of who we are.  Our thought lives reflect our self-discipline, or lack thereof.  Our brains become little more than pinball machines with thoughts darting back and forth with no real goal or focus.  This becomes a habit that we fall into.

 

Having an untrained mind is like a person that is trying to organize the closet.  They start well with the right intentions.  They arrange the shoes by type and color.  They pull out the old boxes to go through and put in their proper place.  But then something distracts them.  They see the closet floor needs to be vacuumed.  Then they see they might as well vacuum the entire bedroom, then the whole house.  As they are vacuuming, they see toys lying around that must be put up, and so goes the day.  At dusk they realize that the boxes are still lying in the bedroom floor, none of the clothes have been boxed up for the season and the only thing they accomplished was sorting the shoes.

 

However the first thing we must do to break a bad habit is to recognize it for what it is.  Is an uncontrolled mind such a bad thing?  I am coming to think that it is.  It shows disorder, lack of discipline, and it affects other areas of the life.  The example of the closet shows a person that cannot focus his or her mind on the task at hand.  The time has been wasted and cannot be gained back.  We see that having an undisciplined mind is a problem and we admit our failures.  But where are we to go from here?  Is there any help for those of us who have difficulty maintaining a constant stream of thought?  I Corinthians 10:5 states, “…bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” Our thoughts are to be brought under Christ’s control.  Does having a well-organized mind glorify God?  I say yes.  I am still meditating on this verse as I learn to control my thought life.  I know it will help organize my day, free myself from stress and most of all, glorify the One who gave me the mind to think.  Not to mention, I can drive to the store and not wonder why I am in the Laundromat parking lot instead.  Any comments or suggestions on this would be most helpful.

The other day, while at the mall, my wife and I went through an oft-repeated routine: she entered a clothing store and I took a seat on a bench outside to wait for her.  Why did I not join her?  There are many reasons actually, but I will give only two.  First – as any married man could testify – entering a clothing store with your wife can be a very hazardous experience, for at some point you are certain to be asked a terrifyingly unanswerable question: “Does this make me look fat?”  If you answer “yes”, you will be called an insensitive pig and will be treated as such for the next two weeks; if you say “no”, you will be called a liar until you say “yes” which will gain you the expanded title of a lying, insensitive pig.  And if you choose to remain silent, your silence will be taken for a “yes” and you will be accused of being unable to communicate. Thus, the wise man upon hearing this question will respond by promptly faking a heart attack.

The second reason why I chose not to accompany my wife is that it gave me an excellent opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes: people watching.  Now, I realize that this may sound like some sort of deranged voyeurism, but I assure you that the kind of “people watching” to which I am referring is perfectly legal.  It consists in observing individuals whom you do not know and trying to guess something about them in that brief moment as they pass by.

The mall is a veritable smorgasbord of humanity and the perfect place for a people watcher.    Take, for example, one the newest trends in parenting: the child safety leash.  I counted at least three children (two boys and one girl) who were tethered to their parents by this strange device.  One of the little boys I saw kept darting in front of his mother only to be jerked back (yo-yo like) by a flick of his mother’s wrist.  She did this nonchalantly while chatting with a friend who walked beside her.  The friend, however, was visibly disturbed and she would wince every time the child was reined in.  I’m surprised that the mother never noticed. 

Then there was the rather large fellow wearing a denim shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots that clicked every time he took a step.  He sported a Fu Manchu and a mullet hairstyle that was billowy on top and stringy in the back.  In one of his meaty fists he clutched a tiny, pink shopping bag that he swung by his side to match his lumbering gait.  I noticed several shoppers point and snicker after passing him, and I must confess that the sight brought a smile to my own face.  Yet he was the epitome of self-confidence; wearing a silly grin as he strode by my bench.  Perhaps he had a gift for his girlfriend or wife in the bag – or maybe for his mother.

Shortly after, a pack of teenaged boys shuffled by.  Nearly everyone of them donned a baseball cap and a polo shirt with the collar turned up in the back.  They appeared to have developed a synchronized strut and seemed to be trying very hard to exude a macho presence to everyone about them.  One of the boys caught my eye in particular; it seemed as if his every gesture was calculated to please his peers.  His eyes darted to and fro from underneath the brim of his cap until once they locked with my own, lingered there for a moment, and then turned away.  I wondered if he was happy – as happy, say, as the big man with the little, pink bag.

All of this had taken quite a while, and I was beginning to worry about my wife (and my bank account).  A quick glance through the store window, revealed her standing at the checkout counter about to make her purchases.  I got up from the bench and strolled over to meet her at the entrance.  As I approached the store, I noticed a man and woman having a heated conversation within.  The man had his hands raised in an exasperated defense.  I smiled to myself.  Poor guy, he should have faked a heart attack.

Well,

I spent $15 for my co-pay and found out that I am fat.  So far that is all they can find wrong with me.  I knew that much $15 ago. 

  • Blood pressure: good  114/82
  • Eye sight: good  passed line 7 and colorblind test
  • Pulse: ok some where in the 70’s (dancing to disco in a Leisure Suit)
  • EKG: good, nothing out of the ordinary
  • chest x-ray: shows some fluid build up but not anything that falls in the “congestive” category.
  • I got the flu shot; so I’ll probably get a shot of the flu next week.  (yea, the glass IS half empty … so’s the head!)

Now we wait for the blood work, and they have scheduled me to go have an “Echo Cardio Gram” sometime next week.  Meanwhile I am on a fluid pill to see if we can shed some of this water weight.  (next thing you know I’ll start having hot flashes)  Right now all the Dr. had to say was, “So far as we can tell right now you’re biggest health concern is the weight.” 

  • Duh?!  What was the first clue?  The talking scale begging for mercy?  “Uncle, Uncle!”  (ba-rum-bum)
  • I just can’t believe they wrote “Poppin’ Fresh” on my chart: then kept poking my belly and giggling.  (ba-rum-bum)
  • I told them about being a camp counselor in the summer and they asked if I was there to provide the shade.   (ba-rum-bum) I gotta a million of ’em. 

There’s nothing like a little humor to liven things up… too bad that was nothing like a little humor.

(crickets chirping)

 

Ooo, tough crowd, tough crowd. 

 

But!

I am thankful for the good report so far.  It could be much worse!  I have no complaints and I have been joking at my own expense but the truth is I am very thankful for the health that I have.

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The drive home was silent, with the exception of an occasional yawn of exhaustion.  The week had rushed past in a flurry of wonderful and intriguing events.  Luke, our three-year-old son, was asleep in his car seat with suitcases on both sides of him and a little wooden train in each hand.  Since my husband Josh was driving I spent my time reflecting on what I had experienced while at the beach.  I knew that Luke’s first trip to Morehead City, North Carolina would be memorable, but I had no idea that he would teach me so much.  My motive for taking Luke to see the ocean was for his benefit, but the amazement that he demonstrated over the smallest things showed me all that I had taken for granted.

 

The drive down Interstate-40 had been filled with an incessant string of, “Where are we going?”, “Are we going to the beach?” and “Are we there yet?”  Luke seemed concerned that we may change our minds.  I knew the bridge crossing the inlet was approaching so I grabbed the camera to capture Luke’s first impression of the “big water”.  His expression was one of utter amazement as his eyes darted from window to window to drink in the vast blueness. “Wow!  That’s a big yoshun!”

 

Within minutes we pulled into the parking lot of the motel.  We grabbed our bags and walked to our room.  It was average-sized, with teal walls and white, wicker furniture.  We reserved a double-bed room so Luke could have his own full-size bed.    I showed him where he would be sleeping and he gasped with glee at his very own “big boy bed”.  He scrambled onto it, rolled around on the covers and bounced on the mattress a few times before exclaiming, “I want to go swimming!

 

I rummaged through our beach gear, slathered sunscreen on every inch of Luke’s body and then we headed for the sand.  We turned the corner of the motel and Luke screamed in delight as he picked up speed.  His bright green eyes were examining something and I followed his gaze to see an abandoned sandcastle.  Before I could stop him, Luke raced to it and crashed into the highest tower.  The structure toppled around him and he giggled at the new sensation of sand on skin.  “Look at the sand, Mommy!” His awe at something so simple puzzled me, and I considered the delight in his voice.  Luke finally noticed the big blue ocean behind him and he jumped to his feet and sprinted to the water, but just as he approached, a wave crashed onto the sand and Luke scurried to my side. 

“But Luke, it’s just water.”  Josh explained as he splashed his feet into the retreating current.  Luke sidled toward him and stuck his feet in the water.  He spotted another wave and ran back to me.  He loved swimming pools and bathtubs, but this experience was altogether different.  Swimming pools did not chase him.  After several advances and retreats, Luke was comfortable enough to splash in knee-deep water.  He squealed at the sand running between his toes and gaped at the minnows darting back and forth.  Were these real fish swimming around his ankles?  The only fish he had known before were in big display tanks, or his own black Beta named Sishy.

 

Just then, a tiny tan crab flashed by in the nearby sand.  “What’s that, Mommy?” 

“That’s a crab, sweetheart.”  I did not realize Luke had never watched a crab scuttle sideways.  He stumbled after the crab, tripping over the mounds of sand. Yet the crab returned to its hole just in time, and Luke proceeded to throw sand into its home in hopes to scare it out.  However, it did not surface again and the sandcastle we had started quickly distracted him.  All afternoon he played in the sand and in the shallow surf until he was bent with exhaustion and even then he refused to leave the fun to go back to the room.  We bribed him into leaving with promises of returning in the morning and proceeded back to the room where he fell asleep within minutes of a warm bath and a slice of pizza.

 

As the events of the trip drifted away, my focus returned to the car and I peered out of the window at the brilliant blue sky.  White puffy clouds were drifting by and I tried to think of how Luke would react to their splendor.  I smiled as I glanced back at him, still sound asleep with his trains clutched in each tiny fist.  I wondered what he may be dreaming of and wished I could peer into his thoughts to watch his excitement and wonder over the simple things of life.

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          I recently had an encounter with a snake.  I am not relating an adventure, however, since it was nothing more than a common backyard brown snake that I saw slithering out of the path of my oncoming lawnmower.  Still, I must confess that a strong revulsion rose up within me – a sudden seizing of the heart – as I watched this small, brown ribbon weave its way through the grass.  The scientific name for this is ophidiophobia, which is just a fancy way of saying that I really don’t care for snakes.

            This may not seem a startling confession, since nearly everyone who reads the above paragraph would share my sentiments.  But it still seems strange to me that I retain this fear of snakes.  Why snakes of all things? 

            Take dogs for example.  Why not be afraid of dogs?  I have much more reason to be, considering the fact that my lower back still bears the dental signature of a particularly unfriendly chow.  I can still remember the day when two enormous rottweilers menacingly circled around me as a neighbor screamed warnings to remain perfectly still.  I ought to be afraid of dogs, but if it had been two garter snakes instead of rottweilers, I would have most likely fainted with fear.

            So what is it about snakes?  From Eden to the Hesperides it seems that mankind has exhibited a peculiar distrust of the serpent.  Is it their reputation for being deceitful, malevolent, and venomous?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  I believe our repulsion for snakes lies in a much more simple fact: they are utterly unlike us. 

          The snake is a writhing, undulating, slick-scaled strand of limbless motion that seems to glide rather than crawl.  It lives in obscurity, under slimy rock and root; silently flicking its forked tongue and surveying its surroundings with its obsidian eyes (and it’s the eyes that get you).  Look into the eyes of a dog – no matter how fierce – and you see the semblance of a soul; a kindred spirit in some way.  Lock eyes with a snake, however, and you see unblinking black windows into nothingness.  It is said that the eyes of a snake can charm you; make you forget everything as it draws you into the nothingness that lurks behind them.  It is no wonder we shudder at the sight of a serpent.

          But not everyone does, and this is a mystery.  You see it in the Hindu Naga and Indian snake charmer, in the spirited services of certain southeastern churches, adorning the heads of the Pharaohs, and healing the smitten who will look upon its brazen form.  An object of hatred for some becomes an article of worship to others.  The infamous reptile, cursed to eat dust, exalted to a place of honor; reviled and revered.  It seems there is no middle ground: we adore or despise that which is most unlike us.

          I must confess that – concerning snakes – I fall into the latter category; which brings me once again to my backyard. As the snake retreated from the whirling blades of my lawnmower, I felt an incredible urge to overtake it; to dice it into a hundred tiny pieces.  But I halted just short of my pursuit when the snake stopped, raised its head, and stared at me with a scaly grin.  I returned its gaze for just a moment, and then the snake darted away.  I did not follow.  Was it my appreciation for life – no matter how personally abhorrent its form – that restrained me? Or maybe a moment of empathetic insight into the existence of this mysterious creature?  Perhaps, but I must confess that my motive was primarily pragmatic.  As you may already know, snakes eat rats, and the only thing that I hate worse than a snake is a rat.

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