Monthly Archives: July 2016

“Go Jump in the Lake!”

A positive expression? Not usually. But during my childhood summers, I obliged anyone who threw it my way — parents, siblings, even dumb boys who said I couldn’t pitch.

Long before tourists clogged the rustic hills of Brown County, Indiana, my parents owned land on spring-fed Lost Lake. Spilling out of the back of Dad’s pickup, we kids took a leap of faith into the narrow bay our lot bordered.

Instant agony. Instant ecstasy. We dropped into an icy-cold, green, sunlit world far removed from report cards, chores and dumb boys.

We often rowed Dad’s boat to the sparsely-populated beach. There we played Shark and Dolphins, dove for rubies and sapphires (red and blue rocks) and built huge sand subdivisions.

During my teens, pressures (a tiny allowance, a tiny bust, and no cute dumb boys in my life) weighed heavily. So I floated on my back, letting a daisy sun in a scrubbed-denim-blue sky warm me. …

LinusBeachBabyFast forward 20 years. I frequented another lakeshore called Price’s Pond, which boasted a small beach edged by grassy, tree-shaded areas. We young mothers with sleeping babies took refuge there while watching sand-throwing toddlers. I joined my kids in playing “Motorboat,” bouncing on big plastic Sea Puppies, and catching minnows. They took swimming lessons with curvy young lifeguards, and my mom radar shifted into hyperdrive as my babies swam past the confining rope, always reaching for deeper water.

We celebrated our children’s baptisms at Price’s. One day a daughter danced with her new husband near the beach where she and I once baked pretend brown-sugar cakes in the summer sun.

Fast forward again. Now Taylor Lake invites me to play hooky. After weeks of hard work, my grouchy laptop and grumpy me need space apart before we kill each other. So I bike to the lake. Surrounded by grassy, tree-shaded areas, young mothers with sleeping babies and sand-throwing toddlers take refuge.

I no longer belong to that club. My baby’s 6’6” frame hangs off any beach towel, and his wife now keeps him out of trouble.

But some things don’t change. Boys with cracking soprano voices stampede the beach. Strains of “Marco!” “Polo!” again fry adults’ brains. A new generation of curvy young lifeguards swings whistles. Perhaps I should spare the world the sight of my lumpy-frumpy-bumpy body. But the sparkling water allures.

RachaelLake_0716Recklessly, I plunge in. The pressures of family, work and a mailbox full of discount burial plot ads vanish. I float on my back, savoring the daisy sun in the denim-blue sky.

Go ahead. Tell me to jump in the lake.

A little bit of heaven awaits me there.

Where is your favorite summer refuge?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

sprinklerOh, my God, July wraps around us like a hot, soggy quilt. Thank You, Lord, for the guy who invented air conditioners. But You and I remember when a day like today was perfect for running through the sprinkler with the neighbors! OMG, do you think that today they might join us?


Parents in the Wild


Uk and Ukette, 2016

Uk and Ukette, 2016

Camping was invented when Uk the caveman said to his wife Ukette, “Honey, let’s go on vacation. We’ll sleep on the ground, roast unidentifiable meats over a campfire, drink questionable water and battle dangerous wildlife.”

“But we already do those things.”

“Yeah, but now we’re gonna pay to do it.”

This ancient tradition not only has survived, but thrived through the ages. When our children were young, my husband and I packed our tiny Plymouth Horizon to the roof. Driving while astride sleeping bags and camp stoves, drowning in water toys, and surrounded by disposable diapers and packages of hot dog buns, we escaped to state and national parks. Unfortunately, clans of mosquitoes, yellow jackets and spiders scheduled family reunions at the same time.

As did every lightning bolt in North America.

My husband and I raised metal poles to the roiling nighttime sky while the tent’s wings flapped like an angry pterodactyl’s. Finally succeeding, we religiously kept the following nightly ritual:

  • Midnight:  Raindrops plop through the tent roof — mass Chinese water torture.
  • 1 a.m.:  Children pop up in my damp sleeping bag like mushrooms.
  • 2 a.m.:  Family death marches commence to the nearest outdoor john.
  • 3 a.m.: Steve and I share tender marital moments bailing out with Happy Meal sand buckets.
  • 4 a.m.:  We retreat to the car, sleeping (sort of) in pretzeled layers, periodically whanging noses on the steering wheel.

Inexplicably, our children wimped out of camping togetherness as teens: “Please let us stay home and mow the grass!”

Fearful for their sanity, we complied.

SteveHikerAs new empty nesters, however, Steve and I reminisced about hiking through verdant, sun-dappled forests. Canoeing silvery green lakes. Snuggling near a campfire, shy stars peeking through a gossamer cloud ceiling above.

Why did we let bored kids keep us from doing what we loved? And why miss out now?

Two-adult camping would be so simple. No more potty-training sprints to mile-distant restrooms. No more explaining the behavior of amorous groundhogs to six-year-olds while wishing for more personal romance sans a tentful of little roommates. No more arranging schedules in and out of the wilderness to accommodate Little League tournaments, band camp, or a first date with Mr. Awesome.

Steve and I could camp together. Alone.

I pulled out a faithful old iron skillet and my most raggedy towels. I bought Sandies Pecan Shortbread cookies, my beloved calorie splurge from camping years past (the kids wouldn’t touch them).

Munching away, I said, “Hey, Uk, want to go camping with me?”

He dragged our ancient tent from the garage. “You got it, Ukette.”


OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer


Oh, my God, we just returned from two fun weeks of living in a pop-up camper. Glad to be home, especially during a stormy night’s bathroom visit! Jesus, during three years of ministry, You didn’t even own a pop-up to shelter You from rain, wind and mosquitoes. OMG, how You must love us!



Divine Doughnuts

My church serves doughnuts. No surprise. As a pastor’s daughter and veteran of hundreds of ecclesiastical gatherings, I know “fellowship” is synonymous with “doughnuts.”

Some insist the tradition began when Jesus and his disciples made regular stops at an ancient Krispy Kreme. Despite intense efforts, I haven’t yet found that in the Bible.

Still, my childhood church’s divine doughnut ritual made a powerful impact. What kid does not feel her spirituality increase a hundredfold with a table-level view of big white boxes of fresh doughnuts?

DoughnutsThe memory lingers: my favorite chocolate-frosted, Boston cream-filled confections; sprinkles, glazes and powdery sugar like sweet fairy dust. Even jelly doughnuts, my last choice, looked as heavenly as the fellowship they represented.

Today, doughnuts no longer symbolize fellowship to me. Alas, they remind me of a major miscue.

As a young mother, I started a kids’ Bible club in my neighborhood, often serving doughnuts.

One swaggering 10-year-old declared himself the world doughnut-eating champion.

I couldn’t let this untruthful claim go unchallenged.

JellyDonutI stuck out my hand. “A doughnut-eating contest. You and me. Next week.”

He sneered, but shook it.

The following week, my excited Bible club assembled. Robby and I stared each other down as a fifth-grader ran the stop watch.

“Ready. Set. Go!”

We stuffed doughnuts with the ease of marathoners running the first mile. But my long-time conditioning began to win out. Robby slowed as I snarfed doughnut after doughnut. (How many? I’m not telling.)

“Ten! Nine! Eight! …” The kids counted down the last seconds.

I won!

I felt the rosy flush of victory.

Robby’s face, however, turned green.

“I don’t feel so good.” He went home.

Suddenly, I found my win hard to swallow — especially with a stomachful of doughnuts. What kind of role model made a kid sick? What would his parents think of my Bible program?

After repenting and praying for Robby — and my stomach — I mustered the courage to call his mother. “I’m so, so sorry.”


 She’ll sue me.

 More silence.

Or have me arrested.

A howl of laughter erupted from the phone. Finally, still chuckling, she said, “He needs to be taken down a peg or two. Thanks!”

Robby showed up the next week. And the next. Apparently, I had earned his respect.

Although that scenario occurred 25 years ago, it replays every time I see doughnuts.

Writing about it now, however, my spiritual vision clears. Doughnuts do not have to symbolize my downfall. Instead, they recall God’s kindness in fixing even my dumbest mistakes.

ChocolateDonutPerhaps next Sunday, I should participate in divine Christian fellowship — especially if it involves the chocolate-frosted Boston cream-filled kind.

What’s your favorite kind of doughnut? Have they taught you a spiritual lesson, too?



Lovin’ that Summer Job

frog-fast-food-white“How do I find a job?” our eldest inquired. Then 16, she needed to support her shoe habit.

Nostalgia washed over me. My father helped me get my first job at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. Because the boss knew Dad — a charming southern gentleman in work coveralls — he hired me, sight unseen.

No wonder you don’t see many Howard Johnson’s restaurants anymore.

I learned more about human nature there than if I’d pursued a Ph.D. in psychology.

I also waitressed one summer in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The town’s welcoming sign read, “Kill your wife in Klamath Falls, the Murder Capital of the World.”

My mother helped me get this job — were my parents trying to tell me something?

I worked night shift, serving inebriated cowboys who wore the menus and pulled me onto their laps. Thank goodness for the 4:30 a.m. arrival of gentlemanly garbage guys!

JanitorCartI switched to janitorial work, often a solo job. Cleaning men’s rooms, I, a college music student, sang loud, high operatic scales. Few guys attempted to use the facilities with Madame Butterfly on the premises. My brother and I tidied lawyers’ offices whose open bottles of whiskey smelled like floor stripper. We also cleaned Klamath County’s 86 phone booths. We ate greasy hamburgers, laughed, sang and spent our best time together.

Then I worked at a nursing home, caring for Alex, an elderly schizophrenic with light-bulb eyes. I also met gentle 90-year-old Minnie, who daily fried imaginary chicken for imaginary threshers, and Freddie, once a dapper young stagecoach driver. I often ducked John, who thought I was an island girl during World War II.

Gradually, I became accustomed to Stan’s Bath Ceremony. Each line of his accompanying song began with a string of profanity in Bohemian, followed by:

“Take off da shoes. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his shoes.

“Take off da socks. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his socks.

“Take off da shirt. Dirrty, loussy, rrrotten, no-good VOOMAN!” He removed his shirt.

“AAAAAHHHHH!” This prelude to verse two was accompanied by a swing of his fist through the air. Once he donned a robe, though, Stan followed me docilely to the shower room.

My first permanent office job didn’t involve serving eggs to menu wearers or bathing Bohemians. Finally, I had arrived.

Within ten minutes I discovered summer jobs were only warm-ups for the real world. …

My daughter snare-drummed her fingers, bringing me out of my reverie. She repeated, as if I were mind-impaired: “Mom, how do you get a summer job?”

“Don’t worry, honey,” I assured her in my most motherly tone.

“I’ll help you find one.”


What was your most memorable summer job?



OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Independence

SurferOh, my God, I am at the beach, celebrating our country’s independence. Yet America’s taken this independence thing a step too far. OMG, does it seem to You as if we are trying to surf upside down? If we followed Your laws, we’d experience a smoother ride. Breathe a little better, too.