I have recently arrived at this terrifying realization. And no, it has nothing do with the new strain of coronavirus and how the world’s gone mad (or madder than usual I guess… maybe… actually it’s probably all about the same; the world’s always been nuts). No, no, this has to do with beloved anthropomorphized animal characters intended for children. Let me explain.
Our practically three-year-old highness loves to read, and one of her favorites is the Llama Llama Red Pajama series by Anna Dewdney. And look, don’t get me wrong, because they are genuinely great children’s books, and I would recommend them for any family.
But I noticed something, something rather quite disturbing to my constitution the other day (Note: I’m referring to the original books, not the cartoon). If you pay attention, you’ll notice that Llama Llama and Mama Llama both have an exorbitant amount of hair coming out of their ears. It’s like an exploding bouquet of spider legs. The quantity of fur and ear wax is nothing short of alarming. And I’m just thinking: why? What the what? Why in the world was this artistic decision made? At some point, the artist had to ponder this choice and land on the decision to illustrate the spindling threads protruding from the cute llama’s hearing orifices. It’s one of those things that once you see, you can never unsee. Now, every time I read one of these books, I’m constantly distracted by the frightening truth—unable to turn my gaze from the bushy ear brows.
It doesn’t end there either. There’s this other character, one of Llama Llama’s friends (by the way, what if we all had repeating, self-identifying names like Llama Llama? I’d be called, “Hey, you, Guy Guy!), and her name is Nelly Gnu. She’s an adorable little goat character, all except one very specific detail. She has such a prominently, well-groomed and conspicuous goatee that would make Colonel Sanders blush. The thickness of her facial hair makes me embarrassed to pass on my genetics to future generations. Again, I ask, “Why, just why?”
Sometimes, the world is a scary and confusing place. There are life questions too big for our small human minds to comprehend. Answers are elusive. As I muse on existence and my own mortality, I am haunted by the hair; oh, the hair. My only comfort and solace is the knowledge that in death the hair will finally stop growing (yeah, that whole “nails and hair continue to grow after you die” thing is totally a myth). Until then, I sleep with an eye open and a razor under my pillow.
I have this secret about me that I’ve always been hesitant to share for fear of the social consequences that inevitably come about at such a reveal. I’m ticklish. I mean, like, I’m very ticklish—arguably, unreasonably so. Like I have an unhealthy, debilitating fear of all things feathery and fluffy. I hate soft, cuddly things so much so that after a shower, I forgo the towel and dry off with sandpaper instead.
And now, I fear, that I’ve passed on this incurable condition to my son. I never thought being ticklish was genetic. But I also didn’t think newborns could be so ticklish. Alas, he has inherited my burden; suffering from generation to generation, which sin of the father I do not know. I pray that he will be strengthened in the years to come as others seek to take advantage of this ailment. Humans, after all, are anti-fragile. We must experience the purifying crucible of trials and tribulations if we are to become who we are meant to be. Stand firm and courageous, my son, as I have had to do…
Such was a time as this, years ago, in a faraway land of Pad Thai and spring rolls that I overcame a significant trauma: a full-body Thai massage (loud, ominous music plays in the background).
One summer for a college program, I led a team of high school students on a mission trip to Thailand. We were mostly in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, working with different student ministries, teaching English camps, and serving in mountain village orphanages. At the end of our monthly stay, the national missionaries that we were partnering with took us all out for a day in the city. We experienced many of the fun and joyous activities of both locals and tourists: riding elephants, haggling in the market, drinking Thai tea, eating locusts, finding pirated DVDs, and eating at McDonald’s. Don’t worry, I’m just joking about some of those. Of course, we didn’t eat McDonald’s—this was a mission trip after all.
But before the night was done, my team asked the local missionaries if there was one more thing that they should all do before leaving the country. One unique Thai experience to take home with them in their cherished memories forever. After thinking for a bit, they said, “For the time and cost, you should all get an authentic Thai massage and/or pedicure!”
Immediately, I protested, “No thanks! Y’all enjoy that and I’ll stand guard outside to make sure no one steals our bootlegged merchandise.” I should have known better. The team of irritating teenagers immediately started to taunt and bully me. Sometimes, being a leader means doing inspirational and sacrificial things. But in my experience, most of the time, being a leader means doing ridiculous and embarrassing things.
Eventually, I coalesced and accepted my fate. I cannot exaggerate when I say it was pure torture. It was supposed to be on the condition that I just got a normalish back massage. I didn’t want someone touching my feet or putting weird oil on me or anything. But oh, how self-deceived I was. The whole team was so excited. Some of them got full pedicures and some of them tried other bizarre spa treatments. Afterwards, they all expressed such refreshing delight at the pampering and relaxation they received.
But me, the horror, oh the horror. Mind you, this was one of those institutions where you weren’t allowed to wear your own clothes. Everyone had to change into these designated pajama uniforms. It felt like prison clothes. As I walked with a few of my team to one of the massage parlors, I thought we’d all be in the same open room with chairs. Looking back on it all, I believe it was a cruel conspiracy against me arranged by the missionaries. As my team was seated, I was coaxed farther into the depths of hades to a back hall and then a back room where I was instructed to lay down on a mat. Just moments later, a sadistic employee of torment entered the room of which the cruelest war interrogators would cringe. There was no escape from the five foot, ninety pound executioner with her iron, spear nails and torture death hands (and feet, oh yes, and they stand and jump on you). I’ll save you from anymore imagery. Although the imagination is probably the most terrifying. I shouted for help. I cringed and flailed like a fish suffocating on a sun-beaten concrete slab. I pleaded for mercy but there was none as I was twisted into a pretzel and contorted into an abomination of humanity. It became one the most spiritual moments of my life as I sought God’s forgiveness for any and all of my transgressions.
I literally could not stop laughing for the entire thirty minutes (felt like thirty years). And the lady—well, she just thought it was hilarious. Half-way through, I don’t even think she was trying to massage anymore. I think she just switched over to straight-up tickling. I could hear from the other rooms my teammates laughing as well. Death by a thousand cuticles.
But I have survived to tell the tale. My son, listen to me, heed my warnings: never, ever under any circumstances repeat your father’s errors. Never get a Thai massage… so that you may live a long, prosperous, and blessed life.
I had a birthday a little while back. I don’t know, sometime ago or something. Some people are all about birthdays. They live for it (I guess literally, they live because of it). Like my wife: she doesn’t have a birthday—she has a birthweek. And then she also has a half-birthday and extra special celebratory milestone birthyears like when numbers match or add up in some weird way. But me, I’ve never been really big into my birthday. Most years, I completely forget until someone else reminds me. When I was a kid, I couldn’t remember when my birthday was. It always made for a nice surprise.
Like this one year, when my grandparents took me to the toy store to just “look around.” I asked them if they could please get me this action figure for my birthday. They then proceeded to put the toy in the buggy (shopping cart for those of you linguist sheriffs out there).
I said, “No, no, it’s okay. You don’t have to get it now—for my birthday.”
They replied, “Oh yes, fine, well we’ll just get it now and save it until then.”
Later that day when we arrived back home my extended family was all there waiting, and it looked like there was some kind of party or gathering. I asked, “What’s going on? Why is everyone here?”
“Umm, Finley… today is your birthday.”
“Ohh… wow. Cool.”
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against people who love their birthday. And it’s not like I hate birth or days or fun. I just, I don’t know, I never really got into it. For one, I hardly even remember being born. It’s pretty hazy, so how am I supposed to properly celebrate some occasion that I don’t recollect. It’s not like I have all these fond memories of exiting the womb and entering the cold, chemically disinfected hospital air. For two, I don’t like having so much attention on me and everyone being soo excited that I’m another year closer to death.
I have heard though, that those who have more birthdays tend to live longer. So that’s a thing.
And I do love all the free coffee and donuts I can get on my birthday. Makes it worth staying alive for another year.
Again, without any effort whatsoever to conduct any research
The world is still a confusing place. So, in no particular order, here are some more things that just don’t make any sense to me:
They’re absolutely worthless. Actually, they’re worse than worthless: they’re expensive. We (our country) spend more money making a penny than the penny is actually worth. If you see a penny laying on the ground, it’s not even worth your effort to pick it up. It’s basically expensive trash; some pseudo-copper hot garbage. We’ve gotten rid of plenty of different currencies throughout history once they became irrelevant. So why do we still have pennies? The same reason for most everything else that’s illogical and inefficient about our government: lobbyists. The people that make money off of making the penny lobby the government so that the American people can continue to be ripped off in small and subtle ways that eventually lead to our total bondage and destruction. Not to be overly dramatic or anything.
Okay, so this one really gives be a brain wedgie! First of all, what a terrible name. You can’t save daylight! That doesn’t even make any sense. The day is what the day is, and we’re gonna have the light that we’re gonna have. What do you mean “save?” Second, almost no other country in the world follows this nonsense. Third, literally no one wants this thing around. It’s inconvenient, irrational, and dangerous. Millions, if not billions, of dollars in productivity and system transitions are wasted each year because of the time change. The time change was originally meant as a temporary war-time effort during WWII to save money and energy. And guess what, it didn’t even work. We ended up spending more money and energy. Don’t believe that stuff about farmers either because that’s just a myth. Farmers don’t want daylight savings. Why would they? Hey, here’s a little secret: farm animals don’t care about daylight savings time. They still sleep, wake, and function based on the same time frame as before. And as a parent of small children I can tell you this: kids also don’t acknowledge ambiguous time changes. So twice a year, our entire lives and schedules are rattled for seemingly no purpose.
No other nation has such an aggressively negative relationship with its citizens in regard to taxes than America. There’s no reason for taxes to be so overly complicated. And it’s a double annoyance because we’re actually having to pay the taxes to support the ridiculously convoluted tax system. It’s an irony of the highest order. A type of tragic self-cannibalism. Think about it like this: what if the credit card companies all sent us these blank bills, told us that we need to go back and fill them out correctly to make our payment, and then if we make a mistake, we’ll be severely penalized for it? That would be stupid. They keep records on everything, so they know what we owe. But this is exactly what the government does to us. Why? You already know: lobbyists.
Dogs Licking Faces
And since we’re on this “frustrated with my government” kick right now: dogs licking faces (totally awesome segue and definitely still on topic). What’s up with that‽ Please, someone explain this to me. I am so grossed out and disgusted. I realize I’m offending some people, but I’m too horrified to care, and I threw up a little bit in my mouth. You realize that dogs eat their own poop and vomit right? Fantastic. Oh, a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s you say? Wrong! That doesn’t make any sense either. Even if it were true, who cares? They still have poop on their tongues! A dog simply has the bacteria in its mouth necessary for it to eat all of those repulsive things and not get terminally ill. Obviously, if a person ate all of those things they’d just die. It gives a whole new meaning to a kiss of death. So why do people allow this? Lobbyists probably.
I blame everything on the lobbyists like a faceless, generic hoard of comic book movie villains that I’m incapable of sympathizing with.
So, what other weird wonders of our world leave you wandering and wondering?
I remember the first time as a kid that I was allowed to stay up until midnight for New Year’s Eve. My family watched the ball drop in Times Square on the tube (although this TV probably didn’t have tubes, I don’t know).
I remember being so excited, thinking, “Wow, that’s a really big disco ball! And it’s dropping down to the ground while there’s a countdown! Everyone’s shouting and counting in excitement and anticipation! The ball is getting closer. I know what this means… obviously, that ball is going to explode! Oh yeah, it’s gonna blow up with lights, confetti, and sparkles when the clock hits midnight! This is so awesome!”
I was like, “Wait, what? That’s it? How anticlimactic (yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what I thought even at such a young, prepubescent age)!” Nothing happened. Not even a wet noodle of a toot. The ball just drops and then goes back up I guess. It was then that I realized the world is full of disappointments. Vanity of vanities.
I also thought, “I stayed up for this? What a rip off! I’m tired and grumpy. What’s wrong with adults? They think this stuff is fun? Why would they keep themselves awake just to watch some lame ball slowly descend while waiting for the clock to change numbers? It’s all rather ambiguous, actually, the whole new year thing. You know what’s fun? A piñata. They should make that ball a piñata and fill it with candy and prizes. Now that would be a New Year’s to celebrate!”
So yeah, I hope everyone has an awesome end of the year into the new of the year these next couple of weeks. Whatever that means.
Without any effort whatsoever to conduct any research
The world can be a confusing place. I’m perplexed on nearly a daily basis. In no particular order, here are some things that just don’t make any sense to me:
Before there was the Internet. Before virtual trolls. Before there was social media and tweets and the comment section. There was the highway. Road rage like digital rage takes place in this weird space of social limbo where offenders are protected by the anonymity of their vehicle or their computer. People act like absolute idiots toward their fellow humans when behind a wheel—yelling, gesturing, throwing a total toddler tantrum. And why? Seriously, would you act that way if the person was face-to-face? If yes, then surprise: you have no friends. And what does it even matter? None of your cursing or obscenity makes one bit of difference to the other driver. It just makes the roadways a more dangerous and annoying place. So please stop it.
And on that note: what is up with glitter? It is by far one of my least favorite things. A bane to torment my soul. It gets everywhere and it never goes away. In your eyes, ears, and esophagus. In just all the orifices. ALL of them. It’s these tiny fragments of sparkly synthetic carcinogen specks. Plastic dust that gives you respiratory issues, itchy eyes, and early onset madness. Just the worse.
Why are they called unicorns; shouldn’t they be called unihorns? It’s not like they have a stalk of corn on their heads. If you ate the magical horn would it taste like corn? If unicorns fart rainbows and poop rainbow sherbet, then does that mean that their horns make rainbow kettle corn? I wonder what unicorn meat tastes like. Now I’m hungry.
Seriously, what’s the point? Hey, here’s an idea. You know how cardboard is really great for packing things and holding them together. Well, what if we had a tube of green cardboard and called it a vegetable and told people to eat it because it’s maybe healthy or something like that? Wouldn’t that be a hilarious prank? Plus, it can be really stringy like the packing tape so it gets impossibly stuck in between your teeth until your next dentist appointment. Celery basically tastes like dry sarcasm because that’s what it is. You know a vegetable is bad when they just give it away for free as a garnish on plates. Celery definitely wasn’t in the Garden of Eden. It was a part of the thorns and thistles that came with the Fall.
What weird wonders of our world leave you wondering?
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
When you first opened your eyes, The moment before I blinked With vista full of tears, I thought I saw The galaxy swirling. That a universe so incomprehensibly vast Could be confined to such small vessels.
As hopes and
All shot by at over eleven million miles per minute.
As you became,
I became something new under sun and moon.
More than dreams imagined.
Wishes turned truth.
With a soft cry pushed into being by tiny lungs.
I thought I saw the galaxy be born.
I believe I heard the voice of God.
Safety First: wear your helmet, buckle your seat-belt, tie your shoelaces, and always use a drink coaster before putting a beverage down on mommy’s nice end-table.
Learn to listen before speaking. You have two ears and one mouth which means you need to listen twice as much—especially to me, listen to me. Plus, people will just assume you’re smarter if you stay the strong, stoic type.
Inactivity kills. Get moving. But always use the potty before going on a long trip.
Wash your hands you filthy animal. Ain’t nobody got time to be sick.
Always do the right thing—which is usually the harder thing—and never assume that someone else will do it. Just be the one who does it.
Drink Dunkin’, not Starbucks.
Try not to care too much about what other people think. People are dumb. Except me and your mother. And your grandparents and maybe some of your other relatives. Also, probably the pastor. I guess there’s a handful of people that aren’t total nincompoops, but still.
Write down your goals and plans to accomplish them. Write down thoughts, inspirations, prayers, and checklists. When writing a list for the Internet, be sure to try and include an even 10 things like the “Top Ten List of Top Ten Lists.”
When you grow up and leave home, please remember to call your mother. You don’t have to call me.
Start and end each day with gratitude.
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9)
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.
Do you have a terrifying toddler tale? Let me know, and we can commiserate with one another on that true life.