Saturday, August 30, 2014

On Sleeping with Skunks.....

I know what you thought when you read that title. Deb is going to recall her life with two ex-husbands...ick. Well, you can relax. I kinda like both of my exes, so we will let those sleeping dogs lie. And no I am not calling them dogs. The 'lie' part I will live alone, too.

Actually I slept with a skunk. Or rather, I dreamed about encountering a skunk. The real kind. You know, black with white stripes, pungent, musky odor. Star of many cartoons and a few Disney films. The one that National Geographic tells you is a mammal that digs, an omnivore with bad eyesight and sleeps and births in dens. How do they typically meet their Skunk Creator? By getting hit by cars while dining on roadkill. Who knew? Most predators leave them alone, except dogs, who heed little warning when little Miss DePew lets lose with those anal glands. The remedy for that awful odor? A combination of things, including vinegar, tomato juice, and hydrogen peroxide. The best idea? Leave the skunk alone.

Now, you may ask, why am I writing a blog about a skunk. I really don't know. But I think it has to do with the notion that many of us seem to like sneaking up on life's skunks and wondering why our present situation stinks. I am talking to me, not you. Not that I have a stinky life. If you follow this blog, you probably know that I spend a lot of time laughing at life. And at myself. I truly don't believe in bad days...but recognize that there are stinky events in good days. So noted. But I have taken on the skunk to blast this blog with another kind of nuisance: 'stinkin' thinkin'. Yep. Heard it once in a teacher workshop and remembered it. But how does this skunk-like neural transfer really work?

Easy. Surround yourself with folks who paint everything with negativity, "It won't work," "Things are never going to get better," and 'effing this and that' and well, you'll begin to smell. Or worse yet, life will take on a toxic odor and then you are in big trouble.

Now....I share this because we all have skunks in our lives: the workplace, neighborhood, families,  and God help us (really!) in our churches. Why do I know this? Because I can be one. Not that I don't find skunks necessary, vital to creation, and kinda cute, but in the metaphoric sense, I can be one of the worst offenders. I condemn, complain, judge, and criticize, even though I am called to serve, uplift, forgive, and love. I walk around and release that dreadful odor then ask, "What smells so bad?"

I will bet your there is not one actual skunk--spotted or striped---who thinks that the odor they emit from their glands smells bad. Nope. To them it signals survival. And for that nocturnal, 3 year life span-living mammal, life smells sweet.

I am not sure why I dreamed of a skunk. Can't say that I ever have before and can share with all certainty that I hope I never do again. But, this REM-inspired vision caused me to google 'skunk' to learn more about them. Since authors tend to look at things in varied colored lenses, I  decided to share my findings with you. I have only one wish: please don't say this blog stinks!

And maybe tonight I will sleep alone. Unless one of those pesky ex-husbands show up!

Yeah....I am thinking skunks are safer.

But that 'stinkin-thinkin'? That's for the dogs.

And skunks.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Life: Breathing is the Next Step

A very dear, family friend received a double lung transplant yesterday. And we appreciate the fact that  one person's misery can be another person's miracle. We also know his road to recovery is long, but we are tugging on God's robe begging for these new lungs to function properly. His one wish is to be able to mow his lawn again. Extravagant man, isn't he?

All of this got me thinking about the ordinary joy and necessity of taking our next breath. It is so automatic, we hardly even consider it. Until that breath doesn't come. Then our sanity and safety whirls out of reality, while absolute, indescribable panic overtakes our body and soul. And this is from an observer's I doubt I even came close to capturing that moment.

Growing up, my youngest son was a severe asthmatic. In my book there is a story entitled: 'Waiting for the Next Breath: Life with an Asthmatic'. My son is now 27 years old and has relatively few problems breathing. I never thought I would be writing that sentence, because between the ages of nine months and twelve years, I made many deals with God on his behalf. This same young man recorded a cd with his band. The first song entitled, 'Hey Love..."is my favorite. You want to know why? Because at the very onset of this tune he takes a breath. A small thing, I suppose, unless you are the mother. Then that small intake of air, becomes the most wondrous part of the musical composition. I doubt any other person has ever noticed it. A clear, innocent, expected breath sailing on that sea of music. I never tire of hearing it.

I can't really remember a time when breathing was an issue for me. Oh yeah, maybe in gym class when I had to run some ridiculous amount of laps in a baggy gym suit. (If you have to ask what a gym suit is, you never had to wear one. That article of clothing is a blog of its own). Or when I fell and got the wind knocked out of that was pretty scary. But a few sobs later, it was all better. Life went on.

Do you remember, back in the day, when a baby was born and the infant was grasped by the ankles and held upside down--then whacked on the backside? How barbaric! But the truth of the matter was that the doc was using gravity to help drain the airway and the smack startled the babe into crying, thus breathing. maybe Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil would poo-poo it but hey, it inflated new lungs. Should we revert back to that medical practice? Heck no! Life smacks us around enough as it is.

My son-in-law is a fire fighter. In his training, the recruits had to drain their oxygen bottle to see how long they could react and make decisions under those conditions, and to truly appreciate the terror of being without oxygen. It is something a recruit never forgets. It is always my prayer that this training exercise is never repeated in his daily line of duty. That being said, how many of us get up and go to work, realizing that wearing an oxygen tank is part of the regimen? No thanks. I'll stick to grading papers, thank you.

There is a common phrase that says: "Life is not counted by how many breaths we take, but by how many times life takes our breath away." Pretty cool. What if we HAD to keep count of every breath we took? You know, like some pulmonary inventory or something. And in our obits it said, "Ralph Smith passed away on January 1, 2014 and took ------------recorded breaths. (My apologies to Ralph Smith, if you are reading this. Keep breathing. You're fine). I am thinking our breaths would not be squandered, but honored and handled with sacred care.

Perhaps I am making a big deal out of a biological process we call breathing. But we all know that when the process becomes flawed, life is gravely interrupted.

There's no going back to catch that lost breath. Make it count.

Tomorrow depends on it.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

If It's Not One Polar Vortex, It's Another!

         Hey! The Weather Channel has a new kid in town. Her name is Pole R. Vortex and she is one frosty lady. Now...I don't know about you, but I live in Indiana. We have a lot of seasonal calamities and I just kind of roll with it. My phrase is, "Oh, it's just weather." But Ms. Vortex is getting a lot of attention. I know a bit about polar regions and vortex action is best explained by having kids watch the swirling water go down the drain of a bathtub. Or, it can be substituted with a real tornado. But that homework assignment is unpopular with parents and emergency first responders. Most people don't know it, but there was a line in 'The Wizard of Oz' in which Dorothy shouts to Aunty Em: "That is vortex action we don't usually see here in Kansas!" Umm...the line was deleted because the audience didn't have Smart Phones to look up the word 'vortex'. Oh! There is an amusement park in Ohio which has a roller coaster entitled the 'Vortex' and has cork-screw-like turns that can scare the bejesus out of ya! I rather like the Vortex, but then, I am fond of most roller coasters. Fun with physics--that is what an amusement park is all about anyway. And as usual, I am off topic.

          What is the world coming to? The 'climate change' debate rages on while we simple folks have to add 'polar vortex' to our word bank. Some days it is more than I can take. My thinking is this: forecasters just need to say stuff like "A helluva cold blast is coming your way" and I will bundle up. The media does not need to conjure up scary meteorologic terminology to make me wear my mittens. The truth be known, I'm still pretty dazzled by wind chill temperatures. When I was a little girl, I just played outside in the snow until I couldn't feel my face. My little brain was not registering "wind chill of negative twenty degrees" and my parents weren't racing out to wrap scarves around my face, you know, the face that I could not feel? Nope. They were inside standing on the floor register enjoying the heat, while thinking, "I wonder if Debbie will come in when she realizes her face is frozen. Oh well, let's enjoy the peace and quiet a little longer." I was not a coddled youngster. Nor was I very bright.

           But I am now. Heck, I now know the meaning of 'vortex' and I already knew about the 'polar' stuff from writing letters to Santa and reading 'The Polar Express' to my kids. I am a bit of a quick study, am I not? NOAA is not going to befuddle me. I am going to have the upper hand. After all, it is just weather, and if it is not one polar vortex, it's another. I will really start paying attention when the weather folks start broadcasting real phenomenon.

           Like the FFI: Frozen Face Index. You wait. It's coming. And I will be the first to say, "I told you so!" Just as soon as my face thaws out.