Convalescence Coalescence

FREEDOM!!!

Disclaimer: Some readers may find today’s post slightly insensitive and/or politically incorrect. Please consult your doctor before reading if you are pregnant, nursing, take heart medication, or in general just have a weak countenance.

When I was in high school, my youth group occasionally served with a convalescent ministry. Basically, we would visit assisted living facilities and meet with the residents. We might sing songs or help serve lunch or something, but mostly, we were there to bring the warmth and kindness of genuine human interaction to those that many in society are comfortable to ignore because they’re kept away in forgotten places.

Believe it or not, these visits were always events of hijinks and hilarity; mischief and mayhem; shenanigans and silliness. Something interesting was always bound to happen.

On one such particular occasion, a friend and I were walking down one of the hallways to find someone to visit with when we heard a call from one of the rooms. A crispy voice implored us to come inside. We turned and looked inside a room with the door wide open to find a petite, elderly woman sitting in a chair. She reached out one feeble hand and with one wrinkled index finger curling in and out, she beckoned us to come inside.

As she was summoning us, she said with a soft, crackled tone, “Come here young man. Come closer. Closer.”

We obeyed. “Yes ma’am, how are you today? Can we help you with anything?”

With sharp, piercing eyes and firm, raspy voice, “Do either of you boys have a pocketknife to cut me out of this chair? I gotta use the bathroom.”

It was then that we realized that she was harnessed into the chair with straps across her lap and torso. I stuttered a reply, “Umm, no ma’am, I’m sorry, but I don’t have a pocketknife. Would you like me to go get a nurse to help…?”

“No!” she exclaimed, quickly cutting me off. “No, no, no. No need for that. Just come here closer. Closer. See if you can loosen these straps for me.”

I cannot justly describe this scenario in words. But the combination of her calculated mannerisms, her menacing tone, and her unblinking stare of death had us terrified. The entire time she smacked her lips as if she was about to savor more than just the sweet taste of freedom from her shackles. Was this a Hansel and Gretel situation? Which was I—Hansel or Gretel?

I can still hear those smacking lips. In my nightmares.

As we spoke, we inched our way methodically backwards. “Sorry ma’am. I think we should get some help…” As soon as we were out of the doorway, we sped down the corridor to find a staff person. When we recounted our encounter with a nurse she coolly stated, “Oh yes, her, don’t worry about her. She’s always trying to escape.”

As odd and as frightening as this incident was, I’ve also found myself inspired by this woman who’s name I never caught. She lived in the moment. She lived with purpose and intention. She had a plan and goal. Many of us are content to live in our self-made prisons and self-locked chains. We’re okay to just let life happen to us and never take charge. We let circumstances define us, sitting in the cuckoo’s nest and never taking a chance to fly. We’re spoon-fed the soylent green of the media. We’re too consumed by our past and too preoccupied with our future that we never truly live in the present. Be thankful for your life. Be thankful for today and the time you have on this cherished earth.

As this elderly woman’s words have lingered over—haunted me—I am motivated to strive to live everyday full and free. Also, if I ever need to live in a nursing home, I’ll be sure to stow away a pocketknife just in case.

“All good things are wild and free.” – Henry David Thoreau

A Suitable Sunday School Shape-Sorter Sermon

Fits like a glove… if chickens wore gloves…

We have this little, wooden Noah’s Ark shape sorter—a toy set with pairs of animals that match slots in the ark so your little one can put the animals inside. (God’s judgment poured out on the entire earth always seemed like an odd choice for nursery paintings and children toys… but I guess it is a convenient way to teach animal names?)

The other day, our two-year-old (or two-and-a-half, thank you very much) was playing with this wooden ark toy. What transpired was equal parts hilarious and horrifying. A sight to behold; a just can’t look away at the impending disaster moment.

In her infinite creativity and premature cynicism, our cute, precious, little child was grabbing the various animals out of the ark, one by one, and throwing them out into “the ocean” and commanding the wooden figurines to “Swim you animals! Swim giraffe! Swim zebra! Swim lion! Swim!” The only thing missing was a maniacal cackle.

I guess these animals had been found wanting, and now they would feel the full measure of wrath of 26 pounds of pure, unbridled princess rage. The day of reckoning had come.

I’m really not sure what lesson to take from this. Don’t mess with the princess, I guess. You shall rue the day. But everyone already knows that. Also, learn to swim just in case you ever find yourself in an Aqua-Armageddon scenario.

One of the Four Horsemen of the Toddlerpocalypse.

Do you have a terrifying toddler tale? Let me know, and we can commiserate with one another on that true life.

The Miracle of Toast

Okay, my little nugget, time to go into the oven.

Our niece and nephew recently offered some interesting insight into the miracle of childbirth. As a little context, my wife is currently very pregnant—like within two weeks of delivery pregnant!

The conversation centered around the whole “got a bun in the oven” idiom, which they found rather perplexing. The discussion quickly turned to making toast, I suppose because they were more familiar with cooking bread in a toaster rather than an oven.

However, their toaster doesn’t quite work at the optimal level. The toast doesn’t just pop out when it’s ready. You have to manually push the lever in order to retrieve your warm, crispy wheat square. And sometimes, the lever gets stuck and it’s rather difficult to get the toast out.

At this point, my brother-in-law was able to point out to his children the meaning of this timely metaphor: getting toast out of the broken toaster is just like getting a baby out of the mommy… except without a lever, I guess?

So, when my wife is writhing in pain during the delivery, I’ll just need to remind her not to fret and that it’s just like making toast.

Well, now it’s time to grab some seasonal pumpkin butter and enjoy a slice of processed gluten with high fructose corn syrup.

Potty Humor

Coulda sworn I left something in here…

Welcome to another tickling tidbit of Thrilling Tales of Toddlerdom!

The other day I was sitting with our toddler (me on a stool, her on the potty) and waiting for the punctually scheduled morning bowel movement. After one-two-three little grunts and a squinched up face like a dehydrated lemon, I knew we had another successful fiber deposit.

Suddenly, she peeked down into the toilet bowl and exclaimed with astonishment, “Oh! There’s a mommy poop and a daddy poop and a baby poop—the baby poop goes ‘waahhh!’” A terrific example of transfer and application of knowledge. A truly laugh out loud moment.

No convoluted life metaphor this week. I’m not comparing poo portions to some deeper philosophical thought. Just: it’s good to take time to find and enjoy the funny moments in life. At work, over a meal, in bed, or on the potty; allow yourself a chortle or two. Enjoy the odd and comical and absurd, like warm soup for a sick soul.

This has been Thrilling Tales of Toddlerdom!

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thunder Like a Toddler

The storms come. They always do.

On one such day, when our wobbly, bobbly toddler heard the roaring clouds, she exclaimed with fierce certainty, “The thunder is loud…! Just like me!” Oh yes, the thunder is loud just like you. Well, almost. Maybe the thunder isn’t quite that loud.

It reminds me of the often reconceptualized proverb: “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the coming storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”

Perhaps you’re in the midst of a cruel storm right now. It’s dark and deafening and there’s no end in sight. But let me tell you a secret: the storm is not greater. The sun rises, not the night. Darkness never covers the light. The smallest flame spreads and illuminates the entire room.

When the thunder yells, you can yell right back: “I know you are, but what am I‽” 😝

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami

Alexa… Alexa… ALEXA!!!

Alexa, why oh why did I cross the road?

Our doting toddler recently mastered the ability to use our Echo Dot which can only mean two things:

  1. Listening to “Baby Shark” a bazillion times.
  2. Never listening to any particular song all the way through again. Ever.

Initially, it’s one of the cutest things to hear that tiny, squeaky voice peep out “Alexa, play Baby Shark please!” But all good things must come to an end. What begins as adorable quickly fades into aberration. Alexa becomes an insanity-inducing device; a form of cruel and unusual punishment like waterboarding, except, it’s song-and-rhyme-boarding.

Seriously, what is it with kids’ songs anyways and all the morbid undertones? A song about a family of bloodthirsty carnivores on the hunt for their next unsuspecting prey with cheerful hand motions to accompany the death and despair?

If I hear that song one more time, I’m gonna go nuts. It’s like someone has cut open my skull, scrubbed my head with bleach and a Brillo pad, and then blended my brain with jalapenos, sandburs, and thumbtacks.

But then I remember: these are precious moments, and they won’t last forever. I must learn to cherish them, all of them. Despite the monotonous, repetitive dribble drabble, there is a contemplative solace to be found in ritual. Life doesn’t have to be “just going through the motions” even when you’re just going through the motions—even when those motions involve toothless sharks. Within the daily routine we might find a divine rite. If we stop to look for it; if we have eyes to see. The simple spaces become sacred places.

Because re-experiencing the familiar time and again allows one to focus in on the deeper, often overlooked realities. As my daughter and I sing and dance to Baby Shark for the tenth time in a row, my heart and mind become free to see my beloved child in fresh new ways. I see the sparkle in her eyes. I hear the giggle in her voice. I feel the delight in her soul. And my heart is overwhelmed.

Although, of course, sometimes Alexa doesn’t “work” because she’s tired and needs to rest (i.e., mommy or daddy unplugged her). That’s ok too. We can live life to the fullest in silence as well.

The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard but must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

Slippery Slope

We took the kids to this natural spring swimming area located in a national park. Overall, it was delightful experience. But there’s a couple of things about these parks that aren’t ideal. Specifically, I’m talking the slick algae and moss growing on all the rocks and steps and ladders. I always feel like I’m gonna slip and bust my head open while trying to get in the water.

But the real kicker is this: the park had installed these railings around the entire swimming area. They looked as if they would function both as safety rails (to prevent people from accidently falling in the water) and as hand rails (to help people safely enter and exit the water).

But if you thought that these rails were for helping people to not slide and tumble while getting in and out of the pool, then you would be so very wrong, and the livid lifeguards perched atop their judgment nests would surely let you know of your transgressions with the blowing of trumpets blasting forth from the clouds and with cups of wrath flooded out onto the earth as fire and brimstone from the grave.

“Stay off the rails!!!”

The shouts of condemnation would pierce into a person’s soul and then some would inevitably fall like lemmings to their demise (actually, the lemmings jumping off cliffs thing is a total myth).

One friendlier lifeguard approached us and said, “Hey guys, you can climb and jump off the rocks all you want, but you’ve got to stay off the rails please.”

And I’m thinking… wait, wait, wait a second here… First of all, there are no signs about staying off the rails. Maybe if there were signs, you wouldn’t have to scare people half to death with your four horses of the apocalypse war cries.

Secondly, maybe there were signs, but I don’t know because I wasn’t paying attention. Who has time to read when you’re too busy trying not to die while algae figure-skating?

But thirdly, seriously? We need to stay away from these securely mounted railings, but those super slippery, goo-covered rocks are fine‽ These rocks are by far the most dangerous thing out here! And what’s the point of all these rails in the first place if not to use them?

Sometimes, life doesn’t quite make sense. Like pineapple on pizza or pickles on peanut butter or hot sauce on mango… it can be difficult to rationalize the sanity of the world. But take heart, and do not lose hope! For to hope is to be human. That we can continue to imagine a better world and believe in a better future is a testament to the divine nature in all of us. At times I start to lose faith in humanity like I’ve lost faith in Sony’s ability to produce good a Spider-Man movie. But then I remember: Hey, chicken and waffles are delicious! What an unexpectedly great idea‽ Perhaps, truly, there is hope after all.

(By the way, if you happen to know why these park rail rules exist, then please don’t bother letting me know why; you can feel free to not email me at MySpace… is that still a thing? Don’t let me know. Not really interested.)

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. – Mahatma Gandhi