Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Headless Chickens and Other Early Childhood Memories

I saw recently on Facebook where someone asked, “What is your earliest memory?” I posed the question to my husband that evening and we spent the next hour bouncing our earliest childhood memories back and forth.

I was born on a small farm located at 51st Ave and Indian School Rd in Phoenix, AZ in 1948. The city has long ago grown and overtaken that land. We moved from there when I was five years old, so I tried to recall all memories from before we moved, making me five and younger.

  • ·        Probably my earliest: We had relatives staying with us, so a crib was pushed into the living room for me to sleep in. I remember hating it because I felt “too big” for a crib. I have no recollection of my real bed or bedroom. My advice to parents: if your child thinks he/she is too old for a crib, do NOT make the little darling sleep in one. Do you want that to be their earliest memory?
  • ·        My older brother, Gerald, and I going with Dad to fields (usually along the canal) to cut Johnson grass for our cows. I fell or jumped into the bed of the truck loaded with the grass, and the blades had sharp edges that cut. Lesson learned: Do not jump into a pile of grass no matter how cushy it looks.
  • ·         The property to the north of us had several houses where a multi-family Mexican family lived. Nice people, except they had turkeys. We played with their kids frequently and we were visiting and/or playing with the kids one day when a turkey came at me gobbling and flapping its wings. I ran in circles screaming and crying while the possessed-by-the-devil turkey chased me. The kindly neighbors roared with laughter while chattering to each other in a language I didn’t understand. Obviously I survived. Perhaps an exorcism took place, casting Beelzebub out of the turkey. Or did he become dinner?
  • ·         The neighbors to the south of us were Ed and Rose – I think that was their names. I do know they had teenage boys. For some reason I was terrified of the song “Three Blind Mice,” or perhaps those boys made me terrified of it. Because I would cry and try to hide whenever they sang that song, their mother yelled at them. So they would sneak up to me and whisper it in my ear. Note to adults: not all children’s songs and nursery rhymes are cute, funny and endearing. Mice chasing a farmer’s wife who cuts off their tails with a carving knife? Obviously my little-girl-self found that quite frightening. 
  • ·         I remember my mom, grandma, and aunts churning butter in our kitchen with that wooden barrel-like thing with the pole sticking out that you see in movies. Memory: nothing tastes as good as fresh churned butter on warm, freshly baked bread and biscuits.
  • ·         We always had chickens. When Mom needed a chicken for dinner, Dad would grab one by the neck and swing the chicken around until its head detached from its body. For a little girl who cringed at the song, Three Blind Mice, I had no problem watching this happen. In fact it was quite entertaining how that the headless chicken could hop and run around the yard for seconds or minutes until it keeled over. My brother and boy cousins loved to run around with the headless chicken screaming, “It’s chasing me,” while I, and my equally intimidated girl cousins, found a spot high and away, lest the crazy headless chicken chased us. I do recall that a headless chicken (and a puffed-up desert horned toad) made me queasy. The dead chicken would be thrown in a pot of boiling water, feathers and all. This loosened the feathers so we children could pluck out the feathers. The chicken could be cooked once the feathers and insides were removed. Sometimes, once the feet were chopped off, we danced the feet around with our hands. I have never been able to make fried chicken quite as mouthwatering as my mom and Aunts Viola, Nola, and Esther. FYO – we ate chickens, but not desert horned toads, who puffed up because they were getting ready to spit blood from their eyes – at least that’s what Gerald and my boy cousins told me. These creatures, like the turkey, are devil-possessed.
  • ·         A skunk was called a polecat by my family. I am not sure why. Our farmhouse set on cement blocks. A small person could easily crawl around on their belly under the house. But so could critters, which is exactly what a polecat did one day. My grandma and grandpa Brooks were at the house the day this happened, and Dad and Grandpa tried to chase the skunk, er… polecat away. He rewarded them with a smell that lingered for days. Lesson: Just because it’s cute doesn’t mean it’s nice.
  • ·         Being awakened in the middle of the night so my dad could drive my Mom to the hospital to bring my brother, Clifford, into the world. I was four. I did not connect my mother’s bulging belly that disappeared to the birth of my brother. I’m not sure when I realized parents didn’t just go to the hospital to pick up a baby when they wanted one. Parents: It’s okay to let childhood innocence linger. 
  • ·         I remember riding my tricycle in a circle throughout the house – living room, kitchen, bedroom, bedroom, it’s how the rooms opened to each other – and drinking from a can of evaporated milk. I thought it tasted yummy and Mom let me, so that made it okay.  Today: I think I would gag if I drank it straight from the can. Our taste buds really do change as we get older.
  • ·         Gerald always stood to go pee. He even peed in the yard. It looked so simple. He didn’t have to sit or squat. What made him able to do that and not me? So I tried it. I had on a pair of coveralls. I unzipped the fly and peed – all down my legs and the front of me. What? That never happened to Gerald. Apparently I didn’t know or understand the difference between boy and girl anatomy. When I went in to tell Mom, she took one look and asked, “Did you try to pee like your brother?” I was amazed. My mother was genius. How could she know that?  She didn’t even yell at me for ruining my clothes. In fact, I don’t remember my mother ever yelling at us. Or spanking us. Now Dad was a different story. Parents: Do your children remember you as a screamer and punisher? It’s okay if it’s balanced and tempered with love and kindness. That’s how I remember my parents.
  • ·         Mom had us all cleaned up to go somewhere. Across the street there was a ditch, so Gerald and I ran across the street to look at the water while we waited on Mom. Either I slipped or Gerald pushed me – what say you, dear brother? – and I was in the muddy water. I tried to climb up and out on the slippery, muddy bank, but kept sliding back. I did get out, and Mom was not happy to have to change my clothes. Nor was she happy on another day when I went running into the house waving the mail I’d gotten for her from the mailbox, only to be told to put it back because it was outgoing mail. Memory: I was never afraid to tell my parents, especially my mother, anything for fear of the consequences.
  • ·         My mother collected dishes from boxes of Quaker oatmeal. Cups, saucers, and other dishes that all matched. She told of the time she pulled a cup from the oatmeal box and my baby fingers reached for it. She gave it to me and I immediately swung it in the air, hitting her in the mouth and chipping a tooth. The cup survived. My mother and aunts also made diapers and clothes from flour sack material. It was a common thing to do then. Lesson: I learned frugality and resourcefulness from my mom and aunts.
  • ·         While riding that tricycle in the house one day, I was chewing on the metal spring that is inside the stem where we pump air into a tire or inner tube. Do you know what I’m talking about? Somehow I swallowed it, and started to choke. Tears ran from my eyes as I gagged and tried to cough it out. It was lodged there and I was choking, and soon I saw spots before my eyes. I was frantic for someone to help me, but then I reached my own fingers down my throat and pulled it out.  I was so shaken that I ran to find Mom and flung myself sobbing into her arms. I don’t recall if I told her what happened. Revelation: God keeps us on this earth until our purpose is fulfilled. I could have died, but He gave the ability to a toddler to save her own life.
These are a few of my early, before-I-turned-five-years-old memories. I think I had a pleasant childhood and was blessed with good parents. I've included a picture of Gerald and me on the porch of the farmhouse. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Words That Paint A Picture

From words that we read, we form a visual image. Boy. An image of a boy pops into our mind. Ocean. We instantly see an ocean. Tree. We see a tree, although we'll all see a different tree unless the author calls it a pine or mesquite.

John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We know that the Word here refers to Jesus. When you hear or see the word Jesus, what image comes to mind? A baby in a manger? A suffering Jesus on the cross?  The blue-eyed, long-haired, fair-skinned, smiling Jesus depicted in many portraits? 

Revelation 1: 14-16 (ESV) describes Jesus like this. "The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,  his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength."

That image is vastly different than a baby Jesus or a beaten, suffering, dying Jesus. This is a victorious, powerful warrior Jesus. John the Revelator made it very clear by his words who this resurrected Jesus is. He's not a helpless baby or a dying man. He is strong and powerful. 

As writers, we should give people a clear, precise image with our words. When an author describes a love scene, we should be able to feel the beating hearts and the passion of the kiss. When an author describes a walk on the beach, we should not only picture the water, but the waves, the sand, the sound. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Christian Cougar? A Valentine Story

Valentine’s Day 2015. I am Christian. I am cougar. I am woman, hear me roar.

In1964, I was a nice Christian girl. I always excelled in school. So why did I drop out of high school and get married when I was barely 16?  And, no, I wasn’t pregnant.

Several teen couples in our church got married that year. By the time I realized there was no fairy tale ending, no happily-ever-after, I had brought five children into this world. When most girls my age were doing homework, I was having babies, cleaning and cooking, and doing laundry. I stayed in church – actively involved in church, he didn’t. I pasted a smile on my face and pretended things weren’t what they were. I was dying – both figuratively and literally. I have scars on my wrist to prove it.

Sometimes our prison becomes our comfort zone. It’s what we know; what we’re familiar with. We know how to function within the parameters of our prison. Freedom frightens us because it’s unfamiliar. I wanted to be free, but I couldn’t leave. I fasted and prayed for something to happen. Restoration. Release. God could restore and rebuild but only if my husband chose the help God offered.   

He chose to leave in 1986 after twenty two years. I blossomed. I healed. I had five beautiful children and grandchildren. There many people within and without the church who loved and nurtured me and my children.

I wanted to experience a Christian marriage. I wanted to be loved and cherished. I wanted to fall in love. I was thirty-eight and I’d never been in love. I prayed. I headed up our singles’ group at church where there were plenty of women my age but not men. Houston, we have a problem.

Jeff joined our singles’ group. He was younger. We quickly became good friends. But, hey, I had several younger guy friends in the group I hung out with. It was never romantic. Cougar? If it was a term to describe an older woman with a younger man back then, I’d never heard it. If I had heard of it, I wasn’t interested.

Grrrrrowl! Don’t call me cougar. It suggests stalking prey. That’s not me. So….while I watched Jeff and plotted how to make a move. Nope! It wasn’t like that. When I got married in September 1964, Jeff wouldn’t be born until two months later in November. He’s seven months older than my firstborn. But we did date. Off and on. For almost four years

Marriage? It wasn’t happening. He had little kids. I had raised mine. I had visions of being cast aside later when it truly hit Jeff what all our age difference entailed. Rejection and hurt? No thanks. Been there, done that.

Love doesn’t know age. In October 2014, we celebrated our twentieth anniversary. We are still in love. We respect and appreciate each other. I have some grandchildren older than his children. He became a father-in-law to two of my sons-in-law who are older than him.

It has been an adventure. Lots of hilarious situations have happened. Someday I’ll finish my book How Can A harmless Housecat Be A Cougar? You can read all about it then.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Truth and Super Bowl XLIX

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. I live just a few miles from the University of Phoenix stadium where the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots faced each other to see who would be Super Bowl XLIX champions. Regardless of what team you were pulling for, or if you didn’t really care, it was a great game. The Patriots won, but, hey, GO SEAHAWKS!

My friend Kathy’s husband, Randy, although retired, works the events at the stadium for extra income. Since they’re from Seattle, it’s obvious who they wanted to win. Randy loved being in the middle of all the hype of Super Bowl, especially with the Seahawks.

Kathy and Randy attend the same church we do, and she was telling me a story yesterday at church. Randy was already at the stadium working. Kathy took her young granddaughter, Emily, to visit the NFL experience at the stadium on Saturday. While there they encountered a man passing out gospel cards saying Repent or You’re Going to Hell. The man was screaming at those passing by, “You’re all going to hell!”

When does truth become obnoxious? Counter-productive? Not everyone in that crowd was destined for hell, so it’s erroneous to scream such a statement. It was only a partial truth. As Christians, our desire should always be to only speak truth, especially when we set ourselves to be His representatives.

Remember the popularity of paraphernalia that had WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? Well, what would Jesus do if he had walked among the crowds at Super Bowl? Truth as I see it is this: Jesus would ooze love and compassion. His message would be, “I love you. Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden. The joy I give is far greater than anything you receive from Super Bowl.”

Jesus would NOT be screaming, “You’re all going to hell,” in a voice that says he’s happy to send you to hell. He weeps over a lost, hurting, and misguided humanity. Jesus has no problem confronting sin or evil, but the man Kathy encountered does not represent the Jesus I know and serve.  

Have people failed you – those claiming to be Christians? Even the most sincere, compassionate, loving Christian is still fallible, imperfect, and full of human flaws and error. Set your eyes on Jesus. He never fails. He is Truth. He is Love. He is God.