Monthly Archives: April 2016

Living with the Wild Things

No camping trip is complete without wildlife. Years ago, we and our young children made the acquaintance of elegant deer, sunbathing turtles, wading blue herons, and swans trailed by fuzzy gray babies.

I loved all God’s creatures—if they stayed in their own hotels. I did not cheer when Granddaddy Longlegs invited hundreds of his grandchildren to stay in our tent. Nor did I welcome clans of mosquitoes and yellow jackets that hosted family reunions on our campsite. My flyswatter and can of Raid soon made it clear our family values were not the same.

raccoonCuter species — especially raccoons — also posed problems. We refused to let our children feed them. That night, the masked varmints assaulted the campgrounds like commandos. Fortunately, we’d locked our coolers in the car trunk.

Campers next door allowed their kids to feed the animals daily. The raccoons spread this good news with evangelistic fervor, and hordes of raccoons gathered in broad daylight, extending greedy paws, chattering for their fair share — a park version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

Our neighbors also left their coolers out at night, declaring raccoons could not open latches. Were they kidding? These coons could crack a safe.

skunkSoon word of easy pickings reached a rival gang: skunks. Guess who won the ensuing debate?

Thus, four-legged friends and thousand-footed millipedes inhabiting camp showers cause only a fraction of camping complications. Often two-footed wildlife create the most excitement.

Once, after a nearby rock concert, thousands of attendees decided to hug trees where we were camping. The lone park ranger looked 17, unable to control anything more aggressive than delinquent chipmunks. Our neighbors, who wore bandannas, chains and questionable cigarettes in their mouths, treated the campground to heavy metal favorites, courtesy of their oversized boom box. At 1 a.m., our tent walls throbbed in rhythm with the bass. One scary song sent our family over the edge.

“Mommy, it’s a bomb!” Our youngest dove into my sleeping bag.

“Nothing like getting away to peace and quiet,” I said.

“I’m going over there.” The love of my life unzipped the tent and stalked, unarmed, toward the gang zone. I prayed. I covered my eyes. But I could not cover my ears.

“Would you please turn that down?” he asked in a commanding tone. “My children cannot sleep.”

I waited for gunshots.

Instead, a loopy voice said, “Sorry, man.”

Silence. Blessed silence.

Out in the wild — and in the jungles of everyday existence — we often must communicate using fly swatters and worse.

Sometimes, when we least expect it, a forthright, courteous word will suffice.


Tell about a time when you lived with the wild things. Have you won any standoffs — two-legged, four-legged, or otherwise?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Home from Camping

Oh, my God, our home seems palatial, compared to the pop-up camper where Hubby and I spent the weekend. But I miss the wood-smoky campfire and Your sky chocked full of stars. Majestic rivers we viewed while hiking. Paper plates we didn’t have to wash. OMG, do You want to play hooky with us again?

My Purple Passion: Violets

VioletsFourI first noticed these bashful flowers as a preschooler. While dandelions flaunted fuzzy beauty like Hollywood starlets, violet faces peered at me shyly through leafy green hands. Mom said I could pick them! — unless they grew in other people’s yards.

One day my sister and I gathered a legal but meager violet bouquet in our grandparents’ backyard — until we wandered toward the neighbors’ weathered house. It resembled a log cabin. Did Abraham Lincoln live there? Even that possibility paled beside the ocean of violets before us. God liked purple, too!

The serious business of picking them all consumed us. I knew we should ask permission, but loudly legitimized our actions by announcing we were gathering special flowers for Mommy and Grandma. When we brought them wilted, wadded bouquets, Mom confirmed my niggling conscience’s pointing finger. We had crossed moral boundaries. The good news: too late to do anything about it. I loved it when sin worked out that way.

Not long afterward, Grandma died, and I never visited the magic Sea of Violets again. But as I graduated from picking flowers to picking guys, I never forgot them.

The spring break before high school graduation, I took an all-day walk around my hometown. Like any respectable teen, I’d hated it for years. Now, deep inside, I knew I was leaving Columbus, Indiana, forever. One shabby bungalow’s yard stopped me in my tracks. Thousands and thousands of purple violets. Now 18 and an official grown-up, I didn’t dive in. But I stood, mesmerized, for sometime.

I hung that violet picture on my mind’s walls. When my then-boyfriend, now-husband asked about a prom corsage for my lavender dress, I answered, “Violets.” I loved them — and didn’t want him to feel obliged to give me an orchid, the obvious, expensive answer.

Unbeknownst to me, his mother would lie awake nights because she could not find a violet corsage.

“Haven’t used violets in 40 years!” one florist said. “What kind of nut is your son dating, anyway?”

Finally, she told Steve his girlfriend’s purple passion would have to take a different direction. How about white carnations? Pink roses?

Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.

My date, who had remained silent during this woman debate, decided on a white orchid.

The violet vision must have remained with my future mother-in-law, though. After a church banquet, she instructed Steve to give me its centerpiece, a huge bunch of violets. Did she like me? I hoped so. Whether she knew it or not, she had become part of my violet history.

VioletsMeadowWhich continues to this day. My purple passion still guides my walks. If I find violets in your yard, I just might pick them without asking. …

Silly Song Syndrome

BrainyNotesMusic exerts a profound effect on me. Not surprising, as my family sang songs of faith on all occasions. I distinctly remember strains of “God Works in Mysterious Ways” sung around my cradle upon arrival home from the hospital. …

Musical or not, 99.783 percent of humans are susceptible to a mysterious melody malady that defies both art and science. No research has yet produced an effective cure for Silly Song Syndrome, or SSS. At the disease’s onset, a motif or musical phrase appears, repeats itself, then overruns the brain. The National Center for Disease Control reports this virus acts like audio poison ivy. Once it spreads, 24/7 itching sets in, which sufferers cannot scratch.

Unbelievably, our culture fosters the growth of SSS. We, who supposedly value our children, provide toys that encourage destructive repetition. These high-tech days, when an infant pukes on his teddy, it sings “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” in Spanish, French and Chinese. Three hundred and four times each.

Or until a parent flushes the batteries.

Educational authorities claim children need repetition to learn. Oh, please. How many times did you drill your child before she could sing the Viagra jingle to your minister?

The SSS problem is rooted in the past. Remember the songs we Boomers learned? Why didn’t at least one of our brilliant generation compose alternative words to “There’s a Hole in My Bucket,” non-repetitive lyrics in which dear Liza threw the singer, the song and his stupid leaky bucket into a deep, deep well?

Even classical musical exposure cannot counteract SSS. I play it almost daily, yet do you think the “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Gloria” fill my thoughts? No, “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I’ve Got Love in My Tummy” takes over my central nervous system every time.

Sundays prove particularly traumatizing. Once I awoke not with “Amazing Grace” looping in my mind, but “Barbara Manatee,” as sung by a neurotic cucumber named Larry. It is my least favorite from the Veggie Tales DVD I purchased for my grandchildren — and my husband, who requested it for his birthday. In this seemingly harmless tune, an obsessive manatee with a quavering soprano longs to attend a ball, but her love interest cannot dance.

Exactly what I want to consume my thoughts as I enter church to worship God.

Immediately, I counter by feeding my brain a mind-drilling gem from my college years: “Give me gas in my Ford, keep me truckin’ for the Lord.” Despite its commercial side, this ditty was somewhat spiritual.

It beat the heck out of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Having read this, what song will assault your consciousness for a year? If not, how did you get rid of it?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Get Outa My Head!

Oh, my God, yesterday our Energizer Bunny grandkids needed to rest. Not as much as Grandpa and I! We parked them before an old “Veggie Tales” video. This morning, my brain has replayed “Oh, Where Is My Hairbrush?” 157 times — so far. OMG, maybe you’re teaching these grandparents a lesson?

Spring and Mom’s Mighty Paintbrush

All winter my siblings and I redecorated our small home as only a tribe of vandals can. We adorned every door, wall and window with gritty handprints. We decked the halls with crayon and lipstick art. I don’t know how Mom endured the slush and slop tramped on her carpets and waxed floors — courtesy of Mother Nature, who forgets everything she knows about housekeeping that time of year.

Still, Mom always looked ahead to better things and sunny days — when she could lock us outside.

Unlike most women of her generation, she did not begin spring cleaning with scrubbing walls. Not that she was soft on dirt. Mom didn’t tolerate halfway measures in dealing with grime — or sin.

PaintRollerBrushesInstead, she painted.

When I came home from school and found hardware store paint chips on the kitchen table, I knew spring had officially sprung. Before the most optimistic robin chirped, before the calendar made it legal, my mother already had launched her yearly painting campaign.

For weeks she had hoarded a dollar here, a dollar there, so she could hit the paint sales. She held tiny rectangles of Heavenly Blue or Perilous Peach against dingy walls and stared for hours. We kids shrugged off this annual ritual as one more symptom of mom insanity. Fortunately, she ignored us. Every spring she covered our transgressions with coats of forgiving paint, recreating the house from one end to the other.

She also aimed her mighty paintbrush at ugly furniture stained by old bubble gum and purple Kool-Aid. Hand-me-downs from relatives, secondhand store finds, throwaways — she joyously transformed them all into quirky works of art. Once she antiqued a boring 1950s bedroom suite in colonial blue. Another spring she painted end tables orange.

If Mom still felt the paint itch, she sought out other places that needed color and warmth. My dad often pastored small, poor churches with cheerless Sunday school rooms and dark, scary basements. Mom and her paintbrush to the rescue! One spring she climbed a tall ladder and painted the outside of their church.

Eventually, health issues slowed her down, then Alzheimer’s. She still managed to paint both her front and back porches — and, unfortunately, the shower stall.

She is in heaven now, healthy and strong, enjoying the perfect home and a well-deserved rest. But I suspect if her beloved Lord needs a corner of His universe painted, she’s already showing Him color chips.

What spring ritual ushers in spring for your family? Painting? Cleaning? Locking your kids outside?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: It’s Spring? Seriously?

Oh, my God, this weekend it snowed. Thundered. Hailed. Blew. Walking to church, we had to avoid ice on the streets. Yet, with the sun’s chilly afternoon rays, Hubby changed the oil on the lawn mower and raised the pop-up camper. OMG, is he a man of faith or just crazy?