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

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

The Pumpkins Are Coming, The Pumpkins Are Coming

Family Portrait (…sometimes, I wonder if I’m adopted…)

Yes, listen indeed, my itty bitty children and you shall hear… As legendarily proclaimed by Paul Revere during his renowned midnight ride to warn citizens of the impending harvest hayrides and incessant fall festivals with their outrageous apple bobbings and gluttonous blue ribbon pie contests. At least, I think that’s how it went.

Steady yourselves and hold fast. Local cafés around the country will display exorbitant lines of leggings-wearing, post-yoga, pre-brunch patrons salivating for that sweet, hot-gourd-infused nectar. Yes, give me some of that black, boiling bean juice stirred with a creamy, chemical-enhanced syrup. What does “other natural flavors” on the ingredients list mean anyways?

Be still my beating heart. Or maybe run away. Pumpkin-colored, pumpkin-flavored everything is near and already here.

Pumpkin spiced lattes/coffee, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin juice, pumpkin casserole, pumpkin bologna, pumpkin soap, pumpkin deodorant, pumpkin toothpaste, pumpkin hats, pumpkin costumes, pumpkin vitamin water, pumpkin ornaments, pumpkin displays, pumpkin yoga pants, pumpkin candles, pumpkin mugs, pumpkin cigars, pumpkin wine, pumpkin spiced pepper spray, and pumpkin buckets for holding all your pumpkin stuff.

For some, today’s reflection will be exhilarating and ingratiating. For others, shear anxiety and terror. Is there a National Pumpkin Day? More like Indulgence Day. A time when we can truly celebrate what America’s all about: consuming copious amounts of calories in celebratory cause.

And if you’re wondering whether pumpkins are a fruit or a vegetable—well then, they’re definitely a pie.

You know the rest. In the books you have read…,


A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!

– excerpt from “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longellow

Shirt Tags Are—Just the Worst

Once a week, I sit down at my home desk and contemplate the cosmos. I make odd observations about life, our world, and society. Usually, these musings turn into me just complaining about random nonsense as I shout into the empty, dark void of the Internet. Anyone unfortunate enough to be exposed to my various virtual ventilations has unbeknownst to them become a small part of my self-medicated, self-therapy sessions.

Do you remember how shirts used to have these really annoying and itchy tags in the back of the collar until someone realized that they could just print the same information directly into the fabric? Yeah, those were awful. But do you know what’s worse than having a hideous tag scratching the back of your neck all day? Having an infuriating tag cutting into the side of your abdomen all day.

Seriously, who thinks that these terrible torso tags are any better than the collar tags of lore? At least before, the aggravation was symmetrical. Now my burden to bear is isolated to one side. It makes me think of what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he bemoaned his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Are these thorns in the side some corporate conspiracy to make consumers constantly anxious and agitated so we’ll waste more money on buying their stuff?

Do you have a prickly, tickly life-tag in your side that just won’t go away? Sometimes we can cut them out without doing any harm. Other times, we just have to carry on and let it make us stronger. Either way, my hope is that we can all find contentment in whatever cotton-picking, irritating circumstances we find ourselves in.

But for real, why do we even need the tags sewn into the shirts? Are they really necessary? A shirt tag, regardless of its size, shape, structure, location, affinity, denomination, etc., would still be a horrible shirt tag. Let’s just get rid of those dreadful things.

For the 2020 presidential election, I’ll be running on the sole campaign platform of abolishing shirt tags. Let the people be free. Let the shirts be tagless! See you at the polls: Finanigans 2020.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. – Viktor E. Frankl

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

Row-Row-Row Your Boat (as retold by Dr. Fin)

Yo, look at me Jack! I’m on top of the world y’all!

Once upon a time…

Some pushy, bossy coxswain ordered me to “Row, row, row your boat! Row it now, but gently down this stream!”

And I was like, “I don’t even have a boat… How am I supposed to row gently and joyfully and peacefully, when you’re barking out orders like I’m training for Brown University’s rowing team? And what stream, you bald mongoose posing as a ship captain?”

I was so confused on so many levels.

And then, merrily,-merrily-merrily, I realized it was all just a dream.

If today you feel life is too demanding—like some inescapably irritating middle-schooler taunting and droning like a broken record-player, “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you. I know you are but what am I?”—then simply say, “Row your own dirty boat!” When life gives you lemons… take those lemons and squirt that acidic juice right into life’s corneas, and say “Get out of here! No one asked for these disgusting, sour citrus balls! What’s with this sassy, lost child?

Know your limits. Learn to say no. It’s ok, you don’t have to do everything. Not even Superman can prevent tax season. You can’t throw a life preserver out to someone in the ocean if you’re also out in the water drowning. [Insert other pithy axioms here.]

Also, why would someone row anyways? We’ve got speed boats with engines. Better yet, I’ll just drive across the bridge. No need to risk getting wet. I feel much better now. Sometimes you just need to vent a little bit. What a therapeutic exercise this was!

Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life. – Brian Andreas