Deus volt; Deus mittit me.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Escaped Hippopotamus Alert

 Maybe you've seen me running down the side of the road. I use the word 'running' loosely. It's more like slowly falling forward and catching myself with each footstep. And if you did witness such a spectacle, you might have thought to yourself, "Wow. There's an escaped hippopotamus lumbering down the street! I wonder if I should give the zoo a call."

Don't call. It's just me trying to shed a couple of tons of flopping blubber. It probably looks as if I sit home every day eating bon bons and watching soaps, which isn't true. Actually I run at least three times a week and do probably 15 or so hours per week of service--often free house cleaning help, among other things.

I also think about doing massive amounts of sit-ups and leg lifts and other exercises. Apparently thinking about it isn't quite enough. Which is wretched. I think when I do mental calisthenics and when I turn down chunk-inducing food I should get points which, when totaled, take off a pound or two. If that were the case, I'd be another 25 lbs. lighter.

I never thought of myself as being one of "those" people who had so much time on their hands that they could sit around counting calories and obsessing over their tonnage. I was always too busy doing things.

Besides running, I like to dance, swim, and occasionally hike, fight, and climb a little. I work for the Boy Scouts and Church and I'm the Attendance Clerk for my international writing club. I ride herd on a family of eight with three teens still at home. I sing in three choirs, play several instruments, and do art gigs. I also read and write. Lots. So that means the scales of injustice are tipping unforgivably towards a widening posterior and stomach.

The funny thing is, the 'me' inside my head looks nothing like this horrid mirror apparition. (Who let that hag in? She needs to go back to being the doorkeeper at Hogwarts.) Inside Me is twenty five, slender, gorgeous, gifted, and successful. For her, the running and dancing and swimming and climbing, and sword-fighting has paid off quite well. Outer Me is always flummoxed (it even sounds like a FAT word) at the viscous nature of fat. Man, that gunk sticks to everything! Maybe glue companies should research fat as a new kind of glue.

Someone said I should carry weights when I'm running. To them I say, I already am. I carry a tube of it around my middle and two fanny packs worth on my behind. Hasn't helped.

The other thing that annoys the heck out of me is the recalcitrance of that torture implement squirreled away under my bathroom sink called a scales. Whoever invented that contraption should be put to the rack. It taunts me when I go in to brush my teeth. This is the gist of the conversation:

Scales: If you climb on, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Me: Right.
Scales: No really. You look like you've lost a little around the chest area.
Me: Yeah thanks. No.
Scales: Don't you feel a little lighter? And you didn't have that extra helping at dinner. You probably dropped a whole pound.
Me: Not likely.
Scales: Oh come on. You have to know how much you weigh. They ask you in all kinds of places.
Me: It's none of their business, really.
Scales: But you should know the number so you can know if you're healthy or not.
Me: Your weight isn't the be-all and end-all of the health index.
Scales: That's an excuse.
Me: *sigh* All right. All right. Shut up. I know I should at least check it out. But it's night time and I still have clothes on. It'll throw things off if I'm still wearing my watch and clothes. And they all say you should weigh yourself at the same time of day.
Scales: I'll be lying in wait. Hah! Pun intended.
The next morning.
Scales: Okay, Chubby. Put up or shut up.
Me: Don't let me weigh more than ***. It's GOT to be under ***.
I step on, quivering. The dang thing bursts into horrid little snickers. I step off and back on several times, hoping it was asleep or lying or I can trick it into reading less. No dice. The tonnage glows at me maleficently. 
Me: I HATE YOU!
Scales: I'll be waiting. Again, pun intended.

Someday I'm going to loft that thing into a running creek. Or a landfill right before the dozer shoves dirt over it. Or the desert along with a half ton of other garbage. (Just kidding. I'm not a litterer. Just plump.)

No. Wait. I hear hippos can be pretty vicious. I'm going to bite that thing in half and then stomp on it until the stinkin' springs pop out. Yeah. We hippopotami can be sneaky.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Own Miracle

About twelve years ago I slipped on a hidden book and dislocated my shoulder. I also broke the part of the bone off where the ligament attaches to the shoulder. Instant excruciating pain! It lasted well over three hours while the hospital needlessly (and unknown to me) waited for my Hubs to sign paperwork. I hope never to repeat that kind of searing, burning, mind-robbing pain.

A few weeks ago I revisited some of that misery. For unknown reasons, my shoulder injured itself in my sleep or something. Apparently it swelled up inside and became inflamed and the muscle "froze" up. Which is a misnomer since nothing felt icy at all. There was PLENTY of heat. In fact, there was so much ache that I couldn't lift my arm more than two inches away from straight down.

The bad thing was that my babies were here from Texas. Most of the time they were here I spent in a pain-scarred haze. All I could do was sit on the couch and veg. If people jumped into my arms I went into orbit around Saturn. Not fun.

On Sunday I consulted a couple of my chiropractor friends at church. One of them did some tests that made me dance with agony. They told me my shoulder was frozen and that, beyond some exercises, they couldn't really do anything.

I decided I needed to have a blessing. I knew that my faith plus that Priesthood blessing would make me, if not completely whole immediately, at least able to function. In my mind, I knew it would happen in a day or so. So I got my Hubs and my daughter's boyfriend to bless me. That night, for the first night since The Pain began, I slept through the night. The next day the arm was noticeably better.

Then I looked up Frozen Shoulder on the Internet and several sites (Mayo Clinic etc) said this pain would last anywhere from a year to two years. I was floored. That long? No Way. Wasn't happening. I'd had a blessing.

That day I got a call from my friend Christine, who does therapeutic massage and kinesio taping. She's very good and always studying and perfecting. (I can put you in touch with her.) Immediately she asked me what was wrong. I've got to say this isn't really that normal for her to instantly ask what's wrong. We usually chat about a bunch of things and sometimes don't get around to my own problems. It's just that kind of give and take friendship. We deal with what's happening.

That day, right to the bacon.

I told her what I'd been experiencing and she scolded me for not immediately calling her. She nearly flew over here and taped up my shoulder. She could see I was still suffering terribly and she knows the kind of pain threshold I have. I sword-fight for fun. I get honking bruises on a regular basis and don't even blink at them. I had 5 of my 6 children without any kind of pain meds. With the first baby I only had a shot of local anesthetic. So when Christine saw me wince, she knew I was feeling as if a bull shark was tearing off my arm.

I'm here to say that by the end of that day, I could lift my arm to horizontal. Without pain.

I'm not kidding. And the healing went on from there. She saw me one other time to do some massage on it and was completely amazed. We took the tape off to see if the pain would still hold off and it did.

Don't get me wrong. There's still some kind of impingement in there. But I can raise my arm clear up to vertical. I can dress myself and lift loads. I can put my arm behind my back.

I know that the power of the Priesthood is real. It calmed the agony in such a graphic way that I could never ignore it. It sent my friend to call me and then to do the things she could do to help me. She told me herself that when she saw how much pain I was in, she didn't think she could do much for me. Alone she probably couldn't have. But together with the blessing, she did it. There's no good reason why it should have worked so completely, except that the Lord needed to use me to show what He can do.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Good-bye My Babies

Every time I came out to check on the dog, there were more skeins of yarn out...like he was starting a knitting project. The sign says: Where's my scarf, Howdy?
 Sigh...Big sigh. The Grand Monsters (lovingly said, of course) went home today, back to the land of the giant star. At last my home is quiet. Almost too quiet. Nobody is demanding that I fill up their candy container. There are no calls for cartoons or mass fairy book readings. Nowhere is there a baby climbing up to clutch at things on the table or frazzled moms grabbing them back down. No one scrambles to catch the dog before it escapes out the front door to go sniff everything or eats a W&W off the floor. There are no more horse clopping sounds or shouts of, "Stand and Deliver!" or "Reach for da sky!" (I have BRILLIANT babies.)

It smells of fairy wing glue, and spilled dog food and faintly of dirty diaper and W&W's and the duct tape with which all good knights repair their swords. It no longer reeks of old doll clothes and ancient books and childhood, as they took the bags of dolls and toys we bestowed upon them, some to keep and some to give to others. It smells of Uno cards and defeat at the hands of El Scarifo. And the spicy scents of a large Pasketti dinner still hang about the dish mountain.

I must say that a few tears always escape my eyes when I see the back end of their car pulling into the distance. Such scenes are always accompanied by the echoing strains of the song from Fiddler on the Roof, Far From the Home I Love. There's always that hint of a question, "When will I see them again?"

The simple answer is, "Never." Never at that adorable age will I see them again--that moment caught in magical amber. By the next time they'll have learned to speak in full sentences, perform complex algorithms, tie theirs and other people's shoes (together), and dance the pas de deux from Swan Lake. They'll have learned to speak several different languages and crochet doilies and lop the heads off dragons with one fell swoop. 

Or something.

Will I ever be vanquished again by a sword I just gave the boy? Who knows? Will the Boo ever give such deliciously messy kisses? No clue. Will he ever come to my knee and gently eat all my breakfast? Maybe. Will he still enjoy drinking Ranch dressing straight, no chasers? Doubtful. Will the Ace ever need my help deciphering Presidential facts? Probably not. She'll be running for president soon.

Howdy-the-Dog will be greatly missed as well, even though he killed a sock, a peanut butter lid, two W&W containers, and several skeins of yarn. What will we do for jolting dog-hop exercise now? And how will we ever get our feet licked clean? My son is definitely going to miss his snoring buddy. He wants a dog so much he can taste it.

So. Even though several things lie in more pieces than they did before the Rumbling Herd got here, and even though I got exactly Zero words written, and even though we were up until well after midnight every night trying to corner the market on flax or swipe El Scarifo's rifle, I already miss them.

Ah for Christmas vacation. We shall be armed with more W&W's than even the Glazed Donut Monster can consume in a month, chew toys we don't care about, and a hefty supply of card-game vengeance.

Bring it on, Babies.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Boy in a Boat

This is my nod to Scouting leadership.

A Boy in a Boat



I set a boy adrift in a boat, out on a choppy sea.
The waves were high, 
Crashing over the bow
So I bid him come back to me.

But I gave him no oars nor a brave coxswain
Nor a captain to guide his hand
I expected the boy to save himself
Tho he truly did not understand.

Who, then, should I blame if the boy in the boat
Founders and sinks 'neath the waves?
I stood safely on shore, merely looking on
'Stead of being the one who saves.

Be the brave lighthouse, be the Captain, the rope
Be the person who shows the boy in
Don't let him founder for want of a guide
Be the one he can count on to win.

Give him the oars he can use himself
To pull the boat into the shore
Then light his way o'er the rocks and the shoals
For that's what a leader is for.
© 2014 by H. Linn Murphy



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Swamp Camping

Recently we went camping with another family with lots of little children. Those children are brilliant, as geeky as we in our family are, and hilarious. I just had to get that in there.
Ramming speed, Girl!

So we trundled out to the area, not in the mountains as once I had hoped, but in a valley. Here in the desert that means normally it would be hotter than a smoker in the Marianas Trench (pretty toasty for those of you who don't keep up with marine biology or watch Blue Planet). To add to that, the campsite was located on a road between two weed-filled ponds. I envisioned hoards of goat-sized mosquitoes plunging from the clouds to siphon up gallons of our blood. I also envisioned one or more of the tots flinging themselves (or accidentally falling) into any of three large ponds.

What I did not envision was that directly after dinner the first salad plate-sized drops of an all-night deluge would begin. Luckily we'd already set up our tents...on the road in a line. I quickly questioned the parents of aforesaid tots about whether there was any history of sleepwalking in their family, as our own is rife with it. Luckily none of their children had sleepwalked while camping. A felicitous thought.

Normally I make three or four trips to the facilities each night. I was dreading the thought. I made one trek out to the outhouses down a muck-glazed road. Before I'd gotten ten feet I looked as if I'd fallen in the pond. I found that what had been touted as a rain poncho on the cover, was actually a windbreaker sans hat. So much for being prepared for every eventuality. To add to that and the knee-deep mud, the hand washing hose pump was solar-powered. Hence no water. Which wasn't a problem right then. I could simply hold my hands in the air and they'd be washed clean in under thirty seconds.
Hunting the great carp

Upon getting back to the tents after nearly slipping to my drowning death in the pond nearby, I found that not only was I covered in mud, but I really had no wish to sit outside in the rain and chat, as my Hubs was. So I went to bed. Which would have been pleasant, except that the rain was making it inside in about eight different ways. I tried unsuccessfully to make my bed an island. It was warm enough that I slept on top of the sleeping bag in a blanket sack I'd made as a liner for cold weather camps. Unfortunately that sack made a fabulous wick. The tip of it dipped into the burgeoning puddle and as the night wore on, wicked up further and further. Finally I sat up and yelled, "OK! TAKE THE REST OF IT!" at the puddle and donated the sack to the cause of sopping up the water so that it wouldn't soak my clothes. Which didn't work.

So everything was soaking wet. I could deal with that for a night. No problem. I wasn't even chilly. What I had a rougher time hacking was the chorus of bullfrog mating honks. All night. LOUD. Right next to us. I wanted to yell, "GET A ROOM!!!" until I realized we were sitting in their room. Around two pm we heard something that seemed to be trying to get into our food coolers. Anticipating a coon or a ring-tailed cat or coatimundi, the Hubs shone his flashlight out there and the rustles retreated to the tree. We continued to chat and suddenly heard a Ca-RACKKKK and a SPLOOSH. The Hubs and I doubled over in laughter thinking that that coon had fallen into the pond. But we didn't hear any splashing of a struggle. So apparently it either didn't fall in and was still lurking in the tree somewhere, or was immediately consumed by the cow-sized carp that lurk in the ponds. At any rate, it left the coolers alone. I got maybe an hour of light dozing that night.

The next day dawned watery but sunny. We aired things out clear up until we left, not wanting to haul home exceeding amounts of muck. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, and sausage, we packed up most of it and went canoing.
We can beat 'em on the turn

The ponds could be called tiny lakes. I believe those things were mostly under five feet deep. I reached my paddle down to the bottom several times to check. Also, they were infested with lake weed which rose above the surface in many places. So for the giant carp to navigate, much of their bodies were above the surface. They left wakes like a motorboat. The Hubs was in front and saw several of the monsters. We chased them all over the pond. I wanted to see them up close too, but the bounders were too fast. Later when I went back out with my friend Lisa, we could find none of them. We found out that they had made their way to an underground culvert, which they used to escape to another of the ponds for safety.

After much pirate talk and plans to "ram the beggars" which we nixed after we saw how easy it would be to hole a canoe, we packed up the cars and wended our way home. That afternoon the house looked as if it was infested with mud monsters from the Black Lagoon. I still have several loads of tent and sleeping bags to wash and dry and put back together. And I hope none of those coolers contain anything other than bullrushes and air.


That 'squint-into-the-sun selfie
And of course there was the dialogue about what we'd do differently as we drove home. For one thing, I'm bringing my REAL poncho, not that stupid windbreaker. And for another, there's got to be a better way to keep the water out of our tent. And earplugs for the bullfrogs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ELIAS OF ELDERBERRY Review

Today I'm reviewing a book by my good friend Theresa Sneed called ELIAS OF ELDERBERRY.

This is an allegory of life; before, during, and after this existence, in my opinion. Instead of pre-Earth humans awaiting a long-anticipated turn to go down and get their fleshy envelope, we have fairies taking on human form. We have the wizards of a special family caught up in an epic battle between good and evil in a bid to save humanity from the clutches of Sirusas, who will stop at nothing to possess the power he craves. He's already got their big brother locked away. Those wizards are having to learn the ropes (just as we are in this book) because of spells which have caused them to forget all to save their lives until they were ready to defend themselves.

The story? A strange boy at Elias' school hands him a scroll which turns out to be very powerful and magical. He's all set to ask for his own baby dragon and a spate of other wacky wishes, when he gets zapped to a magical castle, only to find out he has not only a brother, but three or four, plus a grandfather older than dinosaurs and a whole bunch of new fairy friends. Not only that, but he's inherited his own powers...and a very powerful enemy.

I enjoyed this take on the whole life-on-earth spectrum. The action sizzled and the story sparkled. Great twists!

At times the book got a little confusing as the main characters tried to navigate through the pitfalls of their learning process. I'm sure those characters would agree that they spent most of their time being utterly discombobulated. And the ending was rather abrupt--quite the cliffhanger. Also I was confused about the lack of curiosity about family members (I thought they once mentioned a sister but never heard another peep about her. We never heard much at all about their parents either. I thought that tidbit sort of wretched. I personally would have asked immediately about my mother, father, and siblings as soon as I knew I had some sort of family, and not stopped asking until they'd told me everything about them.)

There were zero nasty words.
Zilch on the sexy scale.
Some sword pokes and explosions.
A teacup of death.
A smidgeon of rebirth.
Lovely magical fu.
Sweet gadget fu.
Dastardly villain fu.
And a possible prodigal son.

ELIAS OF ELDERBERRY is a romp. You can purchase it here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Porch Debacle

Yeah, it was almost this bad.
 Yesterday I cleaned off the front porch. Now to you that might be a normal thing to do. Heck, you can probably eat directly off your porch. But for me, the junk took on sentience and was lying in wait to eat an unsuspecting visitor. I could sense the latent vengence growing.

Then it started raining on all that crap and I figured if I didn't want it to be complete muck, I'd have to deal with it. The thing is, The Hubs gets angry when I straighten up the shed or the walk-in or the porch. He says he has everything just where he wants it, although he often grouses about not being able to find things. In my head I'm always grumbling, "Look down, look down. You're standing in your...crud."

So I snapped. I took my mental health in hand and just did it. Luckily there were no domestic dispute calls to the cops. In fact The Man was pretty much okay with it after I timidly queried him. No kidding. I nearly fainted. (He's really not an ogre. He just likes his stuff a certain way...that I don't.)

The other problem (besides questionable insect life and the occasional four foot rattlesnake or pack rat) is that the temperature is distinctly oven-like, if you have steam incorporated. Maybe more like a sauna. We're talking the inside of an underwater volcano here. So doing anything outdoors for any length of time necessitates a gallon of ice cream, a half hour cold (relative since water here never gets below about 80 degrees) shower, and a three hour nap.

The Christmas lights were a huge part of the mountain. I don't usually deal with them since the year I neatly wound them up and stowed them in a bin. Apparently I broke a light or two, rendering the strings inert. Of course that breakage couldn't have happened between May when we took the lights down and October when I packed them nicely away.

Another ingredient of Mt. St. Murphy was The Hubs' empty box collection. Now at times those boxes come in handy. But when they've been rained on for several months, the boxes get all Stachybotrus-y and shredded, rendering them useless. He gets upset at me when I put them in the shed, since they get in the way of his tool collection spread felicitously all over the floor. I guess I'll just have to "use them up."

Various tools, rusty nails, and sharp bits of duct work metal provide foot mines for the uninformed barefooted and very intrepid person. (He's re-doing our roof and also installing new ductwork for our new cooler he put in. He's a very Very handy guy. I'm quite lucky to have him. Until he's done with that, though, we keep cans in our hall for those lovely impromptu roof hole fountains.)

And lastly the camping gear, baking in the grueling sun. Ah yes. One always wants to find out that their tent has been baked full of large holes, during a downpour of Noah-like proportions when they are far from home and everything in their backpack is sitting under one of those downspouts. We wonder why nobody wants to share a tent with us.

At any rate, the front porch is pristine, now. The junk is accessible and readily available. And I shall now go hang the laundry. And make plans for making the back porch livable again. There might even be a yard back there we can use for something other than to hold our gracefully-used-but-at-this-moment-non-functioning-nor-ever-will-run-again-if-we're-being-totally-honest station wagon and collection of old Christmas tree stumps.

If only our junker looked this pretty.
I'm really not a red-neck. Really. I mean, I do like banjos and practical jokes, but I'm not poor white trash. Yeah. Sticking with that.