I started the first morning of the cruise (Changes in Latitude ) our family took by taking a wild chance and sitting with people I didn’t know. Some may find this weird and off-putting, but I love hearing the stories of the people I meet by happenstance. My friend Jaime affectionately (I think) refers to me as a freak magnet. I wear the mantle proudly. So it wasn’t really a surprise when the man rolling up in the scooter was seated right next to me at breakfast. His name was Howard and he was just shy of 90. He immediately mentioned he had flown planes in WWII and “bombed the hell out Eastern Europe.” What do you say to that? I asked where he was from and he paused for a long moment. “Um, well, I am not sure. I think I was born in Minnesota and then moved around a lot. I had a great place in Ocala on a lake, but my daughter tricked me into moving down to Naples by her” he grumbled. I smiled and passed the danishes his way.
I read “Searching for God Knows What“* shortly after it came out originally in 2004. I had finished “Blue Like Jazz” on the recommendation of a friend and was hungry for more of Don Miller’s quirky insights that seemed to piece together the jumbled messages of Christianity for me in a comprehensible way. While I enjoyed reading his perspective, I was reading through the filter of my newly formed ideas of what it meant to be a Christian. The expanded edition of “Searching for God Knows What” allowed me to grasp his ideas and precepts a little more deeply than in my first reading. However, my take away was the same: God is who He says He is. The gospel is based on relationship not performance. To live an effective life as a Christian, we cannot hang around exclusively with other Christians; it’s too insular. That being said, it is not just a book for people who follow Christ. It also offers a jumping off point to real discussion about faith or the lack thereof.
After packing and re-packing three times, I was finally down to a reasonable two suitcases for my youngest son and I and a hanging bag stuffed to within an inch of the zipper’s capacity. Which dress makes me look skinnier? Which pants have a looser waistband to wear home? Ah conundrums, how I love you! I shoved in extra strength sunscreen, Tylenol and recounted the cash in my wallet for the adventures that awaited us on the apptly named Dream. Visions of island hopping, fruity drinks with frilly paper parasols and a golden tan danced in my work addled head. We would be cruising with my parents, my brothers, sister in laws, three little boys under six (hence the Tylenol) and my uncle with his long time girlfriend.
The sound of the ice cream truck used to inspire a Pavlovian giddyness in me as a child. My mouth would water even before my sunburned feet hit the sidewalk, my hand clutching a few dollars to buy treats for my little brothers and myself. Rocket pop or creamsicle push-up? Fudgesicle (when they used to be really good, not the faux chocolaty atrocity they dare to call a Fudgesicle now) or the cones with a piece of bubble gum hidden in the bottom? The choices were endless and the ice cream man had infinite patience as we changed our minds three or four times. I remember him being a little surfer dude-ish, which might explain his “laid back” attitude, and the ice cream van smelling vaguely of Zogg’s surfboard sex wax and cherry incense.
I thought it was a fluke at first, but then I started paying attention. I have acquired a super power of sorts, and it mysteriously happened at Target (twice), Costco, and Home Depot too. I apparently have the uncanny power to repel hundred dollar bills. They literally fly out of my wallet and into various retail sites! I have several friends with this same affliction and none of us can understand how we can walk into a store with a list that only has 3 items, including shampoo, dog food and a pair of pantyhose, and walk out missing a hundred bucks every time.
I have this sneaking suspicion that if I stood in just the right light, it would reveal “F” embroidered over and over on my skin. I imagine them scarlet letters of sorts for all I have tried and spectaularly failed at in my life. We all have them, I know, but it often feels like it’s just me when I look around. I have heard about this idea that “to succeed you must fail” several times over the past few weeks and it always resonates with me in an uncomfortable way. Failure is a key component of success. Huh? In a culture that values and lavishes praise for those who achieve whatever the flavor of the month is, it just doesn’t make sense on the surface. I certainly feel anything but success when I fail, but maybe there is some value hidden in this paradox.
Do you remember that Friends episode where Ross and Rachel were going through their “taking a break” phase? They didn’t agreed on when it started exactly but both knew that taking some time away from each other was what had to happen. I am feeling that same way, but not with a man. I am taking a break from Facebook. Oh yes, we have had some good times together and shared many memories over the past year, but the time has come. It’s just not good for me anymore. I hope that we can get back together some day, but not right now.
Well, I have (sort of) survived the first week of working summer school. Every year I say I am not going to do it, but every year I change my mind and think to myself, “It’s only three weeks. How bad can it be?” Uh, pretty bad. The first day started with an impromptu fire drill that sent many of our special ed kiddos into a sensory tizzy. Add to that the fact it was after a week at home and arriving to a new school, the cafeteria was practically buzzing with kids (and teachers) about to completely freak out. One of my students did and he came flying at me, arms flailing and aiming to hurt someone, anyone, within arms reach.
I am convinced all moms are part of the cuckoo continuum of crazy and I fall somewhere in the middle. My personal brand of therapy for said craziness is baking. I bake when I am angry, stressed or frustrated that life just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes in the winter, I throw in a little crock-pot soup making, just to mix things up. There are worse ways to self-medicate, I understand that. There is no Betty Ford clinic for chocolate chip cookies or Dr. Drew show to hold group therapy for those who routinely walk around with a little white flour on their faces. Nope, it is a secret shame that me and my co-dependent Kitchenaid mixer must share.
I need it to write my to-do list for the summer. School is finished and it’s time to tackle all of the projects that I ignore and step over during the year, risking life and limb. I go room by room and take inventory of everything that needs to be done so the HOA doesn’t show up at the house with pitchforks and torches. It used to depress me, but not so much anymore.