Sour Sucker

A pickle puss and sour sucker,
Sam was such a boy,
That nothing ever pleased him,
Nor gave him any joy.

When given treats and candy,
He would fret about his teeth,
When taken to a movie,
He complained about his seat.

The swimming pool was much too cool,
The hot tub much too warm,
The sofa cushions way to soft,
Rain showers were all storms.

Then one day a passing man,
Questioned very loud,
If there could be anything,
Of which Sam would be proud.

Hearing this Sam wondered,
Just what it was he liked,
And smiling he concluded that,
He really liked to gripe.

 

Young Jabberwok

The brillig brinds had long died down
The wabe had gone to sleep
The slithy toves their gimble drown
The mome raths lost their peep. 

All the shorf was calm and geep,
A peaceful fugel filled the air,
But calmness only runs so deep,
Around the monster's lair.

Young Jabberwok the mighty heir,
Had grown into a beast,
And sought our former hero fair,
On his heart to feast.

In fraptuous fields his mind would dwell, 
He'd pace from flomp to flounce,
His sire's words remembered well,
"When scrundled you should pounce."

So lurking out to seek his foe,
Gnashing teeth and jaw,
He crossed the groob and forest loe,
Catching with his claws.

He found the hero at his plate
Scratching with his pen,
Then orkled through the portal gate,
And crundled round the fen.

In the void the hero sat,
Suspecting crunktious deeds,
Scribing ballads inked in black,
About some noxious weeds.

Then charged in young Jabberwok,
With scrouching siffs and swits,
And grabbed the hero by the sock,
And other hanging bits.

The vorpal sword once swift and sleek,
Had lost its edge to time,
The hero's back now bent and weak,
To food must be resigned.

The snacker snick of claws and teeth,
Crickled swiftly through the air,
And swallowed whole both sword and sheath,
And our hero fair.

 

Healthy?

This slimy sludge from who knows where,
Slithers coldly off the spoon,
Then down my throat disgusting goes,
So foul it makes me swoon.

They say this stuff is good for me,
Will make me tall and strong,
Will give me muscles piled high,
And hair grow lush and long.

But 'seems to me that all of them,
Are more than common plain,
Giving me no evidence,
To support their claims.

Living Room Circus

The living room has changed its form,
No longer holding to the norms,
Established by society, 
Of taste and propriety,
For a room of this design,
Should have an aspect most refined.

But today a troop of clowns,
Looted blankets all around,
And with them built a monstrous tent,
In the space for adults meant,
Pressing benches, chairs and all,
Into service as the walls.

The comfey couch with bouncy seat,
Is used by one who's planned a feat,
As a vault to launch him high,
For a trick none else would try,
Soaring high in flips and twists,
Watchers praying he won't miss.

 

Nonsense Song

Skip-de-doodle, hop along,
Sing yourself a nonsense song,
Loud and proud with power voice,
Any words - they are your choice,
Holler higher than the trees,
Hear it echo if you please,
Squawk like chickens laying eggs,
Thump the ground with dino legs,
Chirp and roar your heart's content,
Heeding not who's ear is bent,
Not a care what others do,
Sing it simply to please you.

 

Common Denominator

When everyone must be the same,
In how and what they do,
Meet a standard clearly set,
And send results to experts true,

Anyone who stands apart,
Ahead those in the rear,
Must be dragged clear to the back,
By force or threats and fear,

Lest those failing to keep up,
Should have their feelings hurt,
Everyone in syncronous step,
Must wallow in the dirt.

Gratitude

A few years ago, I was asked to share something for the youth standards night hosted by our church for kids between 14 and 18.  These events sometimes get a bad rap as being forums for old people to tell young people about the things they shouldn’t be doing, and as a result the leaders organizing this particular one wanted to lighten things up some.  They asked those of us participating and sharing messages to focus on something the youth “could” do.  I was to talk about how the youth could be grateful.

The first thing that came to mind when I got this request was a story from “The Hiding Place.”  For the uninitiated, this book details the experiences of Corrie Ten Boom during World War II.  Her family had been sheltering Jews in the Netherlands who were being rounded up by the Nazis.  Ultimately, they were caught and Corrie, her sister Betsy, and their father were arrested.  Their father rather rapidly succumbed to the combination of his age and the conditions he was forced to live in and died.  Corrie and Betsy were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in northern Germany.

Conditions in Ravensbrück were abysmal.  However, in the process of processing into the camp Betsy, who was already frail and sick, was able to keep hold on her sweater to help keep her warm, and they were able to hide and keep their Bible.  As the day progressed, they were introduced to the bunk house where they would sleep and spend most of their time.  This introduction made quite the impression on Corrie… The filth was overwhelming, the inmates disturbing, and the fleas something along the lines of a biblical plague.

Growing up in Utah, I had little experience with fleas.  The winter’s are too col, and the Summers to dry for fleas to really thrive.  In fact, I don’t remember ever treating one of my dogs for fleas before I left the state.  I had never had a flea bite, never seen one of the nasty little buggers up close, and had no idea how awful they were.  Then I moved to Ohio, Florida, and Texas — all home to perfect conditions for flea infestations.

My first experience with fleas was in Ohio.  We owned a house in something of a distressed neighborhood, and the home across the back fence was a poster child for a distressed property.  In the back yard of this house was a dilapidated shed full of who knows what that spontaneously collapsed one day late in the fall.  This collapse sent a large colony of rats that had been living there scrambling for shelter from the coming winter.   They found my house.

Over the course of several weeks, I trapped or otherwise killed something like two dozen rats the size of a puntable puppy, including a few that crawled up into inaccessible spaces before dying and leaving their rotting carcasses where we could smell the lovely aroma of routing rat and not do anything about it.  That wasn’t the only blessing the little devils left though… They brought fleas.  Fleas that got hold of my dog and made him miserable.  Fleas that laid eggs all over my house that would hatch, crawl into things like my wife’s slippers, and bite her all over.  Fleas that were bad enough we bug bombed the whole house and then washed every piece of laundry and every dish, washed every wall and horizontal surface, and treated the dog with rather expensive stuff.  It was a horrible experience, and one that was repeated several more times over the course of the next several moves, without it being any easier.  I have since developed a pure loathing for the little blood sucking vermin.

Given my experiences with fleas, I can sympathize with the state of mind that must have been prevalent in the inmates at Ravensbrück.  I would have been revolted, disgusted, angry, and a whole host of other negative emotions if I were to have been introduced to that environment.  However, at least one of the Ten Boom sisters managed to overcome that natural tendency.  That first night, while the two were paying, Betsy expressed gratitude to their God that they were together, that she had her sweater to keep her warm, and thanked the Lord for the fleas.

Corrie, like I would have been, was horrified.  How could Betsy be grateful for fleas, the pestilent bringers of itching and sores, the transmitters of disease, the good for nothing detritus of creation.  Betsy didn’t back down, and again thanked the Lord for fleas.  However, as time wore on, they realized the guards NEVER came into the bunk house.  While in there, the prisoners were free from the abuse.  Free from torture.  Free from oversight. Free to use the Bible they had smuggled to teach and comfort the other inmates. At first, the reason wasn’t clear, but eventually it was discovered that it all came down to the fleas.  The guards hated the fleas, and wouldn’t go in the bunkhouse because of them.  The fleas were in fact a blessing, and Corrie learned to become truly grateful for them.

When I shared this story with the young men and women in our congregation, none of them were facing challenges like the Ten Boom’s.  However, I’m certain that every one of them were struggling with something challenging that was hard to see how it could be a blessing.  I still struggle to be grateful a lot of the time, especially when times are tough, but I try to keep this story and it’s perspective in mind.  So far, life has been pretty effective at teaching me to trust that things will turn out to my benefit eventually.  Most things I viewed as trials in the last have found a way to be a blessing in the end.   For the remainder, I have faith that the things I can’t yet chalk up to blessings will turn out to be one in the end when I have a little better perspective.

My acrobat kids

One of the things the family did to keep themselves sane while I was on my extended “vacation” to DC was enroll at “Ninja Park,” an obstacle fitness gym.  Isaac was the driving force behind the decision, but the way things work around here, they either all do it, or they just don’t.  We’ve never been willing to spend the time and resources to send each kid to their own special thing three times a week.  If one of ’em does Tae Kwan Do for fitness, they all do it.   What that meant for Sydney was wrapping her mind around the fact that she would be forced to do obstacles and other “functional fitness” activities.

For the last seven or eight months, the whole fam-damily (except for me) has been packing up in the car three to four days a week for an hour or two at the gym.  Michael does the kids class, Liz the adult class and open-gym, Isaac does every class he can get into, and Syd has been working with a personal trainer.   The results have been tangible.  Isaac routinely “complains” about his “5-pack” abs (he’s such a show-off), Liz can bury me at anaerobic activity, and Sydney has become an expert at tying herself up in fabric.  If you doubt my assessment…  consider the following pictures:

 

Writers Block…

Roughly a year or two ago, I got a bug in my ear to try my hand at writing fiction.  On a whim early one morning after dropping Sydney off at her weekend babysitting job, and before Liz and the kids woke up, I started to outline a story that I thought might eventually morph into a novel.  I had no intentions of ever publishing said work, but I thought it might be fun to go through the process.  Initially it was fun…  words flowed rather freely, characters developed into more than just a name, and the story seemed to just come together.  However, that didn’t last.  Life around me devolved into a mix of chaos and depression, and the book project got kicked off the stove — it didn’t even merit a back-burner.

Several times over the last eight or so months, I have pulled up the program I use to typeset the book, read through what I have written,  fixed a few typos, been fairly happy with the overall effort, and stopped without being able to really push the story to the next evolution.  Once or twice I was able to break free and crank out several pages or even a chapter, but I quickly found myself at a spot where I knew the general direction I needed to go, but couldn’t find the path that would get me there in a manner I felt would be worth the journey.  That’s where I am now.  It kind of feels like driving across the Texas panhandle on the way to the painted deserts of New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona…  Amazing things (like the Grand Canyon) lay on the other end of the drive, but the passage through Amarillo is boring and long without much to break up the view on the horizon.

Having read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and suffered through seemingly endless passages on Napoleonic battles, inner-city slang, and the intricacies of the Paris sewer system, I refuse to burden any unfortunate reader who may happen to encounter what I write with that kind of pain.   So… my story languishes until I can come up with a creative way of traversing the wasteland.  One might reasonably suggest skipping it, but like Hugo, there are critical components of the story that can only be told through that journey. Unlike Hugo, I don’t get paid by the page and don’t benefit by afflicting readers with a tortuous slog through boring back-story.  In fact, I have a counter-incentive…  every word I write is non-reimbursed effort, so I have strong incentive to make that journey as pleasurable and direct as possible.

One of these days, I’ll be sitting in Sunday school, work, or somewhere else where my mind is supposed to be occupied with weightier things, and a viable path (or at least it’s beginning) will become clear.  However, that hasn’t happened yet, so my pet project will continue to sit roughly 1/3 complete for the indeterminate future.  It doesn’t help that the odds of more than blood-relatives ever reading what I write are astronomically low…  Aside from the sick pleasure I get in putting words on paper (so to speak), and my near obsessive need to finish what I start, there is nothing pushing me to complete it.

The Bear’s Lament

He loves me or he loves me not,
I guess I'll never know,
With claws like these to pluck the flowers,
My progress is quite slow.

The petals on these flowers too,
Are oh so very small,
To pull them one by one apart,
Is no fun at all.

Since the plants won't play along,
To help me know my fate,
I guess I'll leave it up to luck,
To help me find a mate.