Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Lesser-Known Strain

Sorry I haven't checked in, this week, but I've been sick since Sunday afternoon with some type of illness, so this will be brief. It's had the fever and malaise of the flu, but the aches and sore throat of only a cold........and, oddly, the raging appetite of a third trimester pregnancy. I guess if the flu and a cold had a baby, it would be what I've had. A flold. It's just been weird. I've never had anything like this before, where I've felt so awful but, at the same time, couldn't think of anything except how bad I wanted tacos, Cheetos, lasagna, and fudgecicles.

I'm feeling better today, which is good, because, well, I was starting to put on weight lying in bed with this unappeasable appetite but, mostly, because Friday is Carson's senior night for basketball and, aside from starting some type of deadly, sweeping epidemic of the flold virus, I wouldn't miss that for anything. Blair and John Samuel are coming and so it will be a good weekend.

I can't believe his senior year is more than half over and I'm trying so hard to document everything he's doing. It's becoming increasingly apparent how difficult it is to record a teenage boy's life through pictures. They'd rather have their molars pulled with no anesthetic than pose for a picture. As a matter of fact, even the suggestion of it to a group of teenage guys produces the similar agonizing sounds as molar removal. Come to think of it, it takes about as long, too, hampered by all the protests.

It was so different with Blair and her friends. Girls are all too eager to pose for pictures. You just told them where to stand and they'd run there with the speed of a gazelle. Then, they'd find mirrors to check the hair and apply fresh lipstick, shrieking with excitement as they'd line up. The only problem with them is that everyone in the group has to sign off on the picture as photos must be flattering of everyone in girl world. It's an unspoken pact. Because of this contract, unanimous agreement on a picture could take 5 or 6 takes. So, going from a daughter experience to a son is proving to be a challenge as I try to gather a respectable amount of pictorial memories for him.

This past weekend, Carson and a couple of guys went to Mississippi State on their own for a basketball game. Our sweet friends had given us tickets and I thought it would be something worth noting for my senior year record keeping. So, all I asked was that they take a quick picture of themselves while they were there. One picture. Very discreetly. Nothing posed. Nothing fancy.

After a gentle reminder text, I received what resembled a gang recruitment poster for Death's Angels............or possibly a resume photo for the casting of an overnight laxative commercial.  Either way, they looked pained with some homicidal undertones. I will have it printed and add it to the others in my modest but hard earned stack. I just wanted to share that the struggle is real for teen boy moms behind the camera.

Let's meet, next week, and talk more.

Y'all have a good weekend........and use that hand sanitizer!

Or just stay home.

It's awfully germy out there.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Sizing Up the Competition

Carson is on the high school basketball team. His school is fairly small and their team is very young with only two seniors.....and only one of those has played all the way through high school. But, they do have a lot of talent and potential. A lot of heart. A lot of fight. And a great coach, who we all just love....parents and kids alike. One thing they don't have, though, is height. I guess you could say that we generally don't grow them very tall in this part of our Mississippi county, at least, by basketball standards. And there have been a couple of injuries, which have taken out what little height they had. So, in conclusion, they're a talented, hardworking albeit young and somewhat vertically challenged group of guys. 

Well, two or three weeks ago, our team traveled, a couple of counties away, to play one of their regular season games. The parents started to trickle in and fill up the visitors' side just about the time the teams came out to do their warm-ups. First, our team ran out and did their pre-game drills. There weren't a lot of them but, as usual, they looked awfully sharp with their well-oiled routine. We, parents, were confident and proud of our boys with absolutely no reason to doubt a victory.

Then, all of a sudden, the home team came charging out of their locker room and jogged onto the hardwoods to the rhythmic beat of their enthusiastic band. It was a long train of grown men with 5 o'clock shadows is what is was. They looked like the Lakers. The Lakers had shown up to play our small high school team. And there seemed to be 100 of them. And they all had on these blue and gold warm up suits. I think the garish colors marching in unison past our somewhat less imposing team in their more muted hues, well, that made them look even larger. Their gold basketball shoes gave their feet a Big Bird appearance. We, visiting parents, all exchanged concerned glances as they dwarfed even the dads in our stands. Maybe we came to the wrong gym. Maybe we'd gotten the nights mixed up.

Well, the game got going and the score quickly grew as uneven as their sizes. It almost became painful to watch. We'd make strides by getting a shot, but they'd always answer. We just couldn't seem to gain any ground. Our guys were having trouble covering the Lakers, who seemed, at least, a foot taller than them. They were sinking threes, over and over. I even believe there was a dunk or two with some rim hanging. We'd need a ladder to do that. It was just a miserable matchup, so no one minded a bit when they decided to leave the clock running in the second half. Our side of the gym just wanted to be put out of our misery. But, our boys played hard until the final buzzer. Even with the lopsided score, they ran and fought and got their hands up in their faces difficult as that task was.

I don't know about where you are but, where I live, there have been so many tragedies and losses, and so much sickness, over the last few months. The last several weeks have really seemed bad for people we know. It feels like we learn of something new almost every day and, after a while, it's hard not to carry that around with you. Maybe you've sensed it in my writing.

I guess I had a lot on my mind as I sat in the basketball gym, that day. I thought about how when we show up for this life, we never know who we'll have to face. Sometimes, we encounter some pretty intimidating foes......and their blue and gold warm up suits cause them to look twice their already daunting size. When we eyeball cancer, a wayward child, being widowed way too young, or an undiagnosed illness, well, we can feel painfully small and insufficient to take those things stop their destructive threat. I guess we can be like our basketball team. Sometimes, we walk in the gym, see the competition, and feel pretty confident about our chances for victory that day. Other days, the looming shadows of the oversized opponent shine a bright light on all of our shortcomings and we feel insecure......and fear quickly follows.

God never promised that we'd always have it easy. Life is a continuous battle. He knew we'd be outmatched, sometimes, at least from the human perspective. He knew that we'd have days when we'd just be too tired to face a seemingly insurmountable opposition. He knew that some adversaries would hit us where we're weakest and, some nights, we'd go to bed feeling the soreness of battle.

That's why He promised to be strong in the places where we're frail. To stand tall for us when we feel like we don't measure up. To give us strength even when everyone around us is exchanging concerned looks at the sight of the uneven matchup. "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness...." If victory was only up to us, we might have good reason to sit down and forfeit in fear. But, thank God, the One who put us together and knows where our most fragile parts are and where our deepest fears live, well, He promises to shore up all the wobbly places and become "the One who lifts my head" (Psalm 3:3) to face each and every day no matter what opposes me.

"So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."  2 Corinthians 12:9

I pray that you'll have the strength you need to stand tall today.

Your God is bigger.

Have a great Tuesday!


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Snow Day Birthday

Well, Mississippi has gotten its second round of snow in one winter, which is almost unheard of, and, thus, we are starting to feel pretty seasoned and sassy when it comes to icy travel and calm and collected preparedness. I don't want to sound too cocky about us but, yesterday, when I ran to the store for a few survival essentials, I found the pandemonium level to be only low to moderate as opposed to our usual high level hysteria which basically resembles an episode of Supermarket Sweep.
Last night, our low was 11 degrees and when the temp hit about 19 with a wind chill of 12, Davis comes out of the bedroom in his Carhartt coveralls, hat, earphones, and gloves. I asked if he was going somewhere or if he was just cold, at which point, he announced he was going to get a walk in for some exercise. He was tired of sitting around and felt the urge to get up and move. I wasn't having those same urges as I was kind of enjoying the sitting around thing, myself, so I decided that I wouldn't join him as (A) I wasn't in the mood for frostbit extremities and (B) I didn't want to hinder my body's valiant attempt to layer itself up, this cold winter. So, he headed out into the frigid darkness and I felt like Ma Ingalls watching Pa go out into the blizzardy night to fetch a doctor for Laura.....not knowing if I'd ever see him again.
This morning, when the thermometer had climbed up to about 15 degrees with the roads iced over, I staggered out of the bedroom around 9:45 to find him checking reports on the weather and road conditions in a desperate attempt to find a way, any way, to salvage the work day. With sleep gunk still in my eyes, I decided, then and there, that there were simply two kinds of people in this world. The kind of people who want to get out there and work and exercise, despite all the legitimate excuses that are handed to them on a silver platter, and the kind of people who think those people are nuts. Davis is the first kind. I am the latter.

Today was his birthday and, since Carson was on his second snow-ish day out of school and it was too risky for Davis to travel where he needed to work, the three of us went out for lunch and celebrated the man of our house. I think I'm so amazed by him because he belongs in that first group of people of which I'm not a part. The kind whose feet hit the floor before 6:00 am, so excited to start their work day. The kind who can't think of one, single thing they'd like to get for their birthday. The kind who stick to their disciplined routine and don't jump on every excuse that comes along. The kind who order broccoli as a side at their birthday lunch.

Yeah, he's everything I'm not and that's what I love about him. We're thankful to celebrate another year with our steady, dependable, hard-working, selfless Davis and we'll continue the celebration, this weekend, with Blair and John Samuel.

Happy Birthday, Davis!  
 Y'all have a great weekend!


Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Offering

I'd gotten home from church, last night, and was sitting in my chair doing some ordering for the stores when Sugar, our aged Chi-Weenie, started to whimper at the front door. She was wanting out....for the thousandth time since we'd been home. In and out. In and out. It's what she does.

Anyway, Carson was close by and I called for him to open the door for her, so I wouldn't have to get up from all the comfy-ness. It's one of the many reasons I dread the empty one left to get up and do stuff for you. Anyway, of course, it wasn't long before we heard a scratch at the door and he let her back in again.

No one was really paying attention to her. Carson let her in and walked away. Davis was busy in another room. I was looking at my laptop. I did notice, after a while, that she was still hanging around the entrance area and so I looked up to see what she was doing.

She was chewing on something. Hmm. She'd gotten a toy skunk and a stuffed chicken for Christmas. Maybe that was it. Wait. No, I could tell this was indeed something animal-like, but it appeared to be no toy. I mean, none of her toys ooze blood or crunch when she chews on them. "Oh, crud. What is that?!!" 

I ran over and grabbed her collar because she was headed to the carpeted area with whatever kind of bloody carcass it was. She dropped the remains on the floor. What gruesome injuries the poor creature of God had sustained. And, at this point, only God knew what it once was. It had spent enough time between Sugar's jaws that it was unrecognizable. Yes, there were eyes. And legs. And some kind of claw-like things. Was it a bat? A kitten? A rodent?   

Hanging onto her collar so she'd stop crunching on the oozing snack, I let out a desperate, "DAVIS! DAVIS! CARSON! DAVIS! CARSON!!" I just needed a man. I've never been a feminist and I don't know about y'all, but I couldn't care less about gender equality when it comes to getting dead animals out of my house......or killing snakes......or a host of other unpalatable chores that I deem to be a man's job.

I remembered reading that when your dog brings a dead animal to you, they're trying to impress you with their prowess. An offering of sorts. So, I'm sure Sugar was awfully perplexed by my unhinged and feverish reaction as I pulled tighter on her collar and screamed for help. I could imagine her thinking, "What's the problem here? I'm just trying to display how I protect the premises and destroy invaders thereof."

Well, at this point, Sugar had obviously misinterpreted all the collar tugging for me wanting to get in on her nighttime snack, so she made a sort of instinctive growling noise as if to say, "Hey, this one's mine. Go out in the yard and get your own if you're hungry."

Finally, the boys come running into the room as I'm sure they thought that, by the sound of it, I'd fallen, cracked my skull, broken my leg, and the bone poking through the skin was shooting blood out like a geyser and splattering off the ceiling. I'm almost certain they were relieved that it was only a dead mammal in the foyer. 

"What is this, Davis?" I demanded answers. I knew he'd know. You see, he grew up a country boy and, for all I knew, had even likely eaten one of whatever this was on my floor, so I looked to him to I.D. the body. Upon close inspection of the mangled parts, he suspected it was a mole and scooped it up with a paper towel. I commenced with the disinfection. Even so, I've come to terms with the fact that my mother will likely never visit our home again after reading this. Sugar went to bed still unsure of what she'd done. And I continue to take the long way around the sterilized scene.

One thing's for certain.

Even after a couple of beef flavored DentaStix, there will be no dog kissing for a while.

A long, long, long while.   
 The hunter.

Who knows what all is in that bulge, really.

Y'all have a fun weekend!



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Time to Work and a Be Sorry?

I've always been one to love cloudy, cool weather. I could almost hear your jeers as I typed that. I can't help it, though. Even as a kid, my favorite kind of day was cloudy, cool, and windy. I guess it plays to the part of me that likes to hunker down and nestle in. Maybe it's because winter slows the pace and brings us inside and closer together with our tribe. I just love the coziness of this time of year. A little rest before the warmth of spring and summer has us running around like chickens with their heads cut off as we like to say here in the South.

We've got one more week of our after-Christmas clearance sales at the stores and then I'll have to get back to more routine working hours but, since Christmas, I've been just taking it easy. Just being plain sorry, really. After the craziness of holiday retail, the bustle of Christmas activities, losing my mother-in-law right before Christmas and a cousin unexpectedly on Christmas day, and then contracting the dreadful sinus crud, I was in desperate need of some quiet rest. Physical and mental and emotional rest.

As a matter of fact, on the fifth consecutive day of Christmas celebrations, when the final family gathering was over and the relatives all pulled out of town, I decided I needed a nap. "I'm going to lie down for a few minutes before supper," I announced to Davis. It was 4:00 in the afternoon and when I woke up at 6:40, I thought it was morning. I'd slept so hard that I had no idea what day it was or if it was time for breakfast or supper. It was one of those moments when you stand in a dark room, looking puzzled at the clock, trying to piece together what has happened. I cracked the bedroom door open to look for clues and saw Davis working in his office. He's usually gone by 6:40 in the morning, I thought. That, along with the fact that I had on regular clothes and not pajamas, made me finally decide it was nighttime and that it was time to get up and cook chicken, not eggs. I'd been out like a light. As dormant as the crepe myrtle in my front yard.  

Now, I'll have to say, even for me, the cloudiness and dreariness are beginning to get a little old. I'm not sure but I might have the beginnings of a bedsore on my backside from my favorite chair. But, with the Kleenex-raw nose finally healing, I may be ready for a little more activity. A little more sunshine. A little less hunkering.

I'm certainly not complaining but it's just been uncharacteristically cold and wet around here. For the last two years, I'd bought cute scarves and hats and gloves to sell in the stores around Christmas time and it was like trying to peddle hot chocolate on the fourth of July. It just never got cold and even the sight of their wooliness made everyone break out in a sweat. So, this year, I'd vowed not to buy many cold weather accessories and so, naturally, we've broken all kinds of cold records.

Like all seasons, my friend, winter, has its purpose. If we spent everyday flourishing and growing and producing, we'd wear ourselves completely out. If we spent everyday resting and lying dormant and inactive, we'd never accomplish a single thing that's worthwhile. I love how God mixes rest with labor on the clock and on the calendar. We can't go too long without doing one and then the other.   

Maybe your work has seasonal peaks like mine or maybe you're uncharacteristically still because of sickness or caregiving or retirement or job loss. Never underestimate the power of rejuvenating rest and just sitting still. But, as soon as it's possible, we have to get back at it. Whatever "it" is for you, after you rest, get up and "work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord."

That first day back at "it" is always a doozy, though.

Before I go, I'd like to ask you to pray for my friend, Ellen. She received a serious cancer diagnosis over the holidays and is actively recruiting as many praying people as she can to pray with her. She's a beautiful and precious lady who's on staff at our church as a counselor and so many people are praying for her healing and peace. She's full of unbelievable faith and is an example of God giving incomprehensible strength and calm to those who will trust Him even on the most daunting paths. If you will, just pray for Ellen. God will know exactly who you're talking about.

We'll talk soon. I've got to get back at my "it"!