Monthly Archives: May 2016

Trial by Graduation

graduates_hatsThough considered a sentimental rite of passage, graduation more accurately resembles a series of trials — for all involved. Other societies require sticking one’s hand into a glove full of tropical ants or running naked across a herd of cows’ backs. Still, few match the demands of a contemporary American graduation, where we face:

Trial by Speeches. Graduation requires that half the addresses be delivered by people who never make speeches.

Graduates’ talks — generally an exception — are thoughtful and well-practiced, thanks to parents’ and teachers’ threats.

Academic speakers, however, often push listeners to the breaking point. Perhaps the researcher who spoke at my son’s graduation had studied disembodied brains so long she forgot how to connect with those still residing in humans.

If graduates misbehave, the graduation gods will press a button, ejecting them onto Neptune without diplomas. So students Super-Glue their eyelids open. They ready socks to stuff into mouths that issue inappropriate comments or snores. Friends don’t let friends snore during graduation speeches.

Proponents support this polite façade because graduates learn the hypocrisy necessary to keep a job.

The opposition claims such courtesy perpetuates poor speeches. If listeners shot Super Soakers at a sleep-inducing windbag, quality would climb considerably.

Trial by Wardrobe. If aliens attended a graduation, they might conclude the assembly was undergoing mass penance. Suits, ties, high heels, body shapers and control-top pantyhose abound. Graduation gowns trap heat when dry and disintegrate into goo during rainy processionals.

Mortarboards, true to their name, work well for bricklayers. They should not be imposed on human heads. No woman’s hairdo in the history of western civilization has survived the ordeal.

Trial by Music. After 96 repeats of “Pomp and Circumstance,” even the composer might ban the tune forever.

Also, no one ever knows the words to a school’s alma mater. Tunes, however, seem familiar, since many alma maters are based on Cornell University’s “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters” — which borrowed its melody from a song about someone dying of tuberculosis.

No wonder we are moved to tears as, struggling to read the program’s print, we warble:

Steve-RachaelGraduation0001

Steve and me, June, 1971 Columbus (North) High School, Columbus, Indiana

Glory to thy bricks and ivy,

Airy halls of light and truth.

We leave behind thy golden towers,

Built by our bank accounts, forsooth.

Or something like that.

Trial by Smile. Graduates must hug hitherto unknown relatives. This is good practice for their weddings.

Yes, the bravest students, families and friends must endure this rite of passage known as graduation.

And we wouldn’t miss it for the world.

 

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Where Did My Grandbaby Go?

AnnaBirthdayCake12

Oh, my God, my oldest grandchild just turned 12. I thank You that she is growing. But isn’t there some law against her growing up? Still, I’m savoring this birthday, sucking joy like a smoothie through a straw, because, OMG, next year she’ll turn 13.

 

 

Are You a Piler or a Filer?

I have discovered that God designs writers with His usual love for diversity. However, when it comes to the organizational aspects of our profession, we fall into two basic groups. With a scratch-my-head bow to our Father (I never will understand why He created people the way He did), and an apology to Jeff Foxworthy, I suggest the following:

You might be a piler if:

  •  You have an office at home but never work there because you can’t find your computer.
  • You haven’t seen your office carpet since the Bush administration. Is the color still neon mauve?
  • You can’t recall whether you have a window, either.
  • You just moved into the house next door because your to-be-read stack of books has taken over your first home.
  • You still haven’t unpacked from the 2006 American Christian Fiction Writers conference … or 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. … (Not admitting anything, here.)
  • The number of your undeleted e-mail messages exceeds that of the national debt.
  • You still have every story you’ve written since kindergarten. And every story your children have written. And every story your grandchildren have written. Plus all the rough drafts.
  • Your smartphone, having given up on organizing you, has run away from home.MessyOffice

Yes, you are a piler.

On the other hand, you might be a filer if:

  • You can see the top of your desk. No respectable piler would permit such a thing.
  • You have scheduled morning, noon and night tweets and Facebook posts through the year 2021.
  • You can eat on your kitchen table. If your family can, too, give yourself bonus filer points.
  • You actually know where your goal list is.
  • Every Facebook friend of yours has been categorized according to relationship, location, hairdo, and Popsicle flavor preference.
  • Your idea of a good time is to alphabetize your recycling.
  • Your latest mystery’s murderer is the only character in your novel who hates to file.
  • Your smartphone and you go to Starbucks for regular coffee dates. It buys.

 

Yes, God knows where your membership belongs. And mine. So do our spouses or significant others. And our friends.

Your turn. Fill in the blank: you might be a filer/piler if                 .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovin’ This Wild, Crazy May

MaypoleDisneyWhile I like the May Day tradition of hanging surprise flowers on neighbors’ doors, I’ve never been into pole dancing — even the old-fashioned kind, with village maidens and men weaving ribbons around a Maypole. Between my five left feet and mild dyslexia, I might wrap myself, my beloved and innocent bystanders like mummies.

Fortunately, this custom no longer holds a central place in spring tradition.

But wild and crazy May bursts with other rituals.

New beginnings

Baby showers bloom on May calendars like tulips. While most guys prefer the pro basketball play-offs, women flock to these events.

Just as well.

Men wouldn’t understand the games — baby food tasting, bottle bowling or stomach-measuring. Guys in my Sunday school class, eavesdropping on our discussion of a baby shower, growled wrathful references to Child Protective Services — till we informed them we played “Throw the Baby” with a baby doll.

Wedding showers also proliferate. But men probably wouldn’t get the design-a-wedding-dress-with-toilet-paper game, either. Nor would they comprehend the thrill we derive from passing around kitchenware.

They don’t realize this is all about new beginnings. Many women have forgotten what it’s like to own toasters that work and dishtowels with recognizable colors. We rejoice in such novel items and the bride’s shiny, brand-new smiles.

Instead, men invent challenges they can’t win: ““Blast! The lawn isn’t growing.”

Whereupon, they apply tons of fertilizer and pray for rain. The grass flourishes, and they complain, “Blast! The lawn’s growing. Have to cut it again.”

They rise from winter easy chairs to wipe out pretty dandelions and violets, the hardiest spring blossoms, and instead, coax flowers that refuse to rise out of bed. They blow budgets on dirt, rocks and … manure.

Proving their rituals are crazy, too.

Finales

If May overwhelms with new beginnings, it avalanches with finales.

Education-related events precipitate banquets that explode the calendar. Preschools, grade schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges — all aided by sound systems designed by misanthropes and chicken served in its most unrecognizable forms — distribute tributes and trophies.

GraduationThrowHatsStatistics cite May as the month in which ties and control-top pantyhose are worn more than any time of year. After eternal graduation speeches, well-dressed relatives shoot a gazillion fuzzy photos of one special graduate wearing a crooked grin and equally crooked mortarboard.

For the grad and his loved ones, May presents a shifting kaleidoscope of good-byes and fresh dreams.

For me? Breathing in a sweet May morning on my patio, back aching and fingernails dirty from digging into gardens and life, I welcome it all.

Though my five left feet don’t cooperate, my heart can’t help but dance around the Maypole.

Any new beginnings or finales in your May calendar? Are you dancing, too?

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Mom, I Did Do the Dishes!

DishDrainerOverloadOh, my God, I hated washing dishes when I was a kid. Hated it! Even now, drying them seems a waste. My mother would roll her eyes: You know you’ll have to wash them again if they hit the floor, don’t you? Yet OMG, like You, she has loved me anyway.

 

 

 

Nuttin’ Better than Peanut Butter

Peanut_butter-jellyFor kids in the 50s and 60s, the official nutrition pyramid consisted of three food groups: peanut butter, jelly and Wonder Bread. As a preschooler, I turned up my nose at evil bread crusts, but I never refused the peanut butter that clung to me and my clothes as if it really liked me.

Elvis Presley loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches grilled in bacon grease. Yuk! That would not have impressed me. Plus, his gyrations outraged my kindergarten sense of propriety — I thought he had ants in his pants. Still, Elvis and I shared peanut butter passion. I built peanut butter towers, monumental edifices of crackers cemented with peanut butter and butter, to eat while watching TV.

Peanut butter even entered my theology. The Bible story of a widow, her hungry son, and their never-failing flour canister and oil pot translated into an everyday miracle at our house. When refrigerator raids offered mostly coagulated catsup and fuzzy maraschino cherries, an angel slipped a bottomless peanut butter jar onto the door’s shelves.

Whether I stuck in my spoon once or six times, I always found more the next day.peanut-butter-spoon

Once, I unscrewed the jar, only to gawk at the flawless surface of untouched treasure. That it had escaped my brothers made me bow my head in reverence.

The peanut butter that sustained us starving barbarians blessed my mother with glassware. Companies packaged it in lovely crystal goblets and drinking glasses decorated with flowers, dogs, birds, athletes and cartoon characters. We kids improved geography grades drinking from peanut butter tumblers adorned with state maps, birds and songs. (Did you know the state song of Maine is called “State Song of Maine?”) However, Mom should have focused on hockey glasses because a 1961 York Peanut Butter glass featuring Phil Goyette of the Montreal Canadiens recently was auctioned for $17,925.

If only I had hoarded those jars or the thousands we emptied while my husband attended medical school! My peanut butter habit could have created a substantial IRA. But I wasn’t thinking much about investments then; mostly, we were just trying to eat.

Years after medical school, I avoided the peanut butter aisle in grocery stores. When my brother-in-law, hearing of my acquired “allergy,” bought us two jars for Christmas, I nearly threw them at him.

peanut_butter_flowerBut in my late middle age (ahem!), I have returned to my roots. I love peanut butter. As I face the misery of a pre-bathing-suit diet, I’d give anything to build a soda cracker tower or stick a big spoon into yummy peanut butter.

Especially if Phil Goyette smiled at me from the jar.

What’s your favorite peanut butter memory?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Hen Party!

chickensillyOh, my God: Loved speaking to the fun women at Lockwood Community Church in Coldwater, Michigan! I ate chicken soup (homemade noodles!), flunked the Little Red Hen game, and joined in a wicked chicken dance. We admitted that we flap like bald-eaglechickens when You want us to soar like eagles. Yet, OMG, You always welcome us home to Your nest.