Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The True Purpose of Life

My fridge died over the weekend. (Why do these things happen on a Sunday, when businesses are closed???) You don’t need to answer, that was a rhetorical question. And I think I know the reason…something to do with a Law named after some guy who was christened Murphy.

It had started making little clicking noises. Not regularly, but often enough that it was concerning. My brother, bless his heart, tried to diagnose the problem from 900 miles away and told me it was most likely a bit of dust or scrap of paper caught in the fan. He told me to either vacuum the coils myself or call on Monday to have a repair guy come out and service it.

Unfortunately, the patient didn’t last until Monday.

I opened the freezer, sending a spray of bright pink liquid all over the floor. (Popsicles.) Nothing else was “messy” in that way, but everything was thawed and somewhat gooshy. I saved a bottle of freezer jam – which would keep in the refrigerator (now on its own slow decline to terminal warmth). But everything else would have to be tossed…because my chest freezer in the garage was more than full. (And, of course, the floor would have to be mopped.)

I admit I had a moment when the tears came…it seems like this summer it’s just been one crisis after another…and occasionally you reach (what you think is) a breaking point.

But Monday came and I went down with my friend Kay and bought a new refrigerator. While it was an expense I certainly wasn’t planning on, and while it ratcheted my credit card balance up to a lovely new high, the problem was solvable…and survivable. On my way back home, after everything had been taken care of, I asked God how He thought I’d done on this particular challenge.

And then it came to me in a flash – The True Purpose of Life. (I guess on one level I knew this, but somehow the situation made it very real and immediate.)

I’ve mentioned that I love The Next Food Network Star…I’m hooked, can’t help it. (And not just because it’s about food.) Each week the contestants are given at least one challenge, most of the time two. And of course, these are tough challenges (because otherwise what would be the point?).


Stand in the middle of Times Square at noon with a teakettle and a hankie and film a 30 second commercial about puff pastry.


Do a nouvelle cuisine twist on Beanie Weenies in under 6 ½ minutes and serve it to Wolfgang Puck in a gorilla costume. (You can take your pick – the contestant, wearing a gorilla costume, serves Mr. Puck, or Wolfgang, wearing a gorilla suit, gets served upscale franks and beans – either way it would be interesting!)

Well, I’ve decided Life is just one endless Next Food Network Star episode. Only with different kinds of challenges. The challenges change as we get older…from “Throwing Up in Front of the Entire School Right Before Your Band Concert,” to “The Family Van, Filled with Eight Six-Graders Breaks Down at the Entrance to the Oakland Bay Bridge at Rush Hour” to “You Accidentally Swallow Your Contact While Camping and Can't Go Buy a New One.”

Some challenges are not the kind that can be given a humorous (after the fact) spin that you can use as a self-deprecating anecdote down the road. Losing a loved one or a best friend to Death. Being forced to place a parent in a nursing home. Going through a bitter divorce. Discovering a lump or an odd mole or something equally frightening. Watching a child spiral out of control into drugs. Losing a house to foreclosure. (Since I’m a veteran of the first two, I can vouch that there’s really no way to try to temper the difficulty of these kinds of trials. No way to make them sound less harrowing than they really are.)

The whole point of a challenge is to test someone. On reality programs the contestants are either cut at the end of the episode or allowed to move on to the next set of challenges. Sometimes in Life an individual is “cut” early, but more often we just have to continue on to the next challenge and then the challenge after that and so on…hopefully along the way growing in maturity and getting stronger because of the testing and trying we receive.

(I’m really praying I won’t get any stronger this summer.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

And The Walls DON'T Come Tumblin' Down

I had a fabulous opportunity on Saturday. I got to go to Jerusalem. Not the real Jerusalem (boy I wish I could afford that trip!!), so don’t get all envy-stricken on me. I went to the Jerusalem that’s being built in the boonies of central Utah.

My neighbor is over the LDS Church’s Motion Picture Studio (hereafter referred to as “MPS”). They are going to be making a film on the life of Christ next year...and what with travel costs (location shooting is so expensive!) and things like terrorist bombings and such, they thought that it might be easier to bring Jerusalem here rather than going there…um…so to speak.

It wasn’t just me going on the tour, there were a group of us from the ‘hood, and we carpooled the 35+ miles to the site. (By the way, you won’t be able to find it, even if I told you kind of where it is…so don’t bother. Besides there’s a really nice guy in a security booth that probably wouldn’t be so nice if you showed up unannounced. Just sayin’…)

Now if you’ve ever been on a movie set (and you’re at all like me) you’re always struck by how real everything looks. (They actually try hard to get it that way.) And it’s always been kind of magical for me to tour back lots and studios. On this particular set they’re going for more of an “aged and distressed look” if you know what I mean. After all, the city was at least a thousand years old when Jesus was there…so a lot of it looked pretty…well, ancient.

David told us how they construct the stones for the walls and steps… they build them out of STYROFOAM. Seriously! They framed them, of course, but basically these enormous, huge stone walls are the same stuff the last shipment from whatever catalog place you ordered with came packed in. Polystyrene foam. Who knew?? I mean, they look massive and pretty danged indestructible. But looks can, as we all know, be deceiving.

Yesterday at church someone noted a lady whose ankle was wrapped in an ace bandage. (She was on the tour…and we walked a lot. I’m surprised both of my ankles (and knees) weren’t wrapped, too!) Then that person made the comment that there were probably a lot of “wrapped ankles” in the classroom…but we couldn’t see them. And it’s true…we all try to carry on, wearing the best face we can, hiding our troubles and challenges as much as possible.

But we all have them.

I was sitting, yesterday, by my neighbor (who I’ve written about before) and we were commiserating in that same class. I found out some new challenges she’s going through, she listened to mine. And then, fortunately, we made each other laugh…and somehow shared laughter makes the burdens a bit lighter.

We might be Styrofoam underneath (squooshy and squashable and vulnerable), but we’re framed and supported by other people in our lives – our families, our friends and neighbors, and most of all, by God. He does his best to buoy us up, if we let Him. That support keeps the walls from falling down.

We might sometimes look indestructible on the surface, but knowing just how utterly and completely destructible I really am, I’m grateful for all those moments of support and commiseration that helps keep my walls from totally going all Jericho on me.

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: By the way, this is NOT an actual picture from the tour. There were subtle implied threats against posting any pics on-line…they wouldn’t kill me, or anything. But I would like to keep on good terms with my neighbor…and not get kicked out of the Church!  This is just to illustrate the concept, savvy?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Anything With Fur

PETA would have a field day with me. I love animals…all animals. (I don’t include reptiles or amphibians in this category…they are…well…reptiles…and...um...amphibians. I did have a frog once and a turtle (and my brother had a horned toad - or horned frog if you're a TCU fan). And I actually don’t mind handling snakes – as long as I’ve been assured they are non-venomous. But I would not consider either species for a pet. My definition of pet is something that you can hold in your lap and PET…have you tried to pet a snake? In your lap?? Right, my point exactly.)

I have every confidence that I will someday end up in the newspaper:

"Eighty-six year-old woman found dead in apartment with seventy-four cats, three dogs and a goat."

(The cats are a probability, the dogs a possibility...the goat just sounded good for the story.)

I have had pets my whole life. I wouldn’t know what to do without a little furry presence around the house. I think I would be considered a “cat person,” because I’ve mostly had cats. But I love dogs, too. We had two when I was growing up, a black Cocker Spaniel that I don’t remember, and a Pekingese named Minka when I was in high school. But mostly cats.

Although I am fairly non-discriminatory…I like anything with fur – even rodents. I love hamsters, they’re so cute and fuzzy little guinea pigs (every time I see one I expect it to talk like Rodney from Dr. Doolittle) and even rats. I think rats get a bad rap…they make excellent pets.

I gravitate to animals. If I walk into someone’s house and there’s a dog or a cat, the people can fend for themselves…I engage in conversation with the furry critter. People think I’m anti-social…but I’m not, I’m just more social with animals. So…I guess that would make me anima-social”….hmmm….

We went through a period a few years ago when Cleo (my current furry roommate) was a great huntress. And she wouldn’t just bring me a dead mouse as a present, she’d invite them into the house to play. My rule is, if it’s survivable it gets caught and returned to the wild. If it’s beyond help, the cat can have its way with the poor thing. (I used to scold my cats…but I understand this creates severe psychological problems for Kitty – hunting is instinctive behavior and should therefore be praised, not condemned. I worked on that for a long time, and while I just couldn’t bring myself to praise my cats for slaughtering helpless creatures (and they didn't eat them, they just slaughtered them), I don’t discipline. I just try to remain neutral.)

One day a very small, gray mouse was invited over for a visit. I discovered this addition to the household when it skittered across the living room and ran up the drapes behind the couch. While I’m not afraid of mice, per se, it is somewhat startling when one runs across your toes. So I did let out a yelp. When I’d calmed down I found myself staring up at the valance, where the little guy was staring down at me, breathing heavily (and little heart pounding...assumably). Teeny and furry and gray...twitchy pink little nose...twitchy pink little ears...

What to do? What to do?

Well, it looked like it was in excellent health, so the “catch and release” rule was obviously in effect. I got a large Tupperware container, the step stool and proceeded to stalk the mouse. I carefully moved the lamp table away from the drapes, slowly stepped up on the stool…and the mouse immediately ran down to the other end of the valance. I was concerned that this would probably happen again…and again and again…and we’d get nowhere. So I started talking to the mouse. In a very quiet, calm tone of voice I just kept reassuring the mouse it had nothing to worry about, I wasn’t going to hurt it and I definitely was not going to give it back to the cat.

I went to the other end of the couch, carefully moved the other lamp table away, slid the step stool up to the drapes…all the while carrying on this quiet, gentle one-sided conversation with the mouse. I stepped onto the stool and very slowly lifted the container up to the mouse. It just sat there for a moment and then, incredibly, it hopped into the container. I kept talking (and kept the container away from my body so it didn't freak out) and just as slowly stepped down. I walked to the kitchen door and as soon as I’d reached the threshold, the mouse leaped out of the Tupperware into the garage and disappeared.

That guy…what’s his name? Monty Roberts? The one they call the Horse Whisperer and based the Redford movie on? Well, eat your heart out, Monty. I’m a MOUSE WHISPERER!

For now,