Friday, September 25, 2015

Reflections On Love, Wisdom and the Pre-frontal Cortex

My oldest child just married a beautiful young woman and I'm so grateful that he's found someone he loves and someone who also loves him. She makes him happy.

I'll never forget my first sight of Justin.  When the nurses placed him in my arms, he looked so wise. He cocked his little round head sideways as if he was already thinking deep thoughts. Turns out what he was thinking was that he wanted to sleep.  So he did.  He slept for so long that the nurses were worried that he wouldn't wake up.  They made us rub him with wet washcloths and jiggle him.  He ignored everything and slept until he was hungry. We were worried and a bit frantic, but he knew what he was doing. He was preparing us for his teen years.

His childhood plays through my head like a movie.  I see him crouched at the edge of the garden in his boots pulling up weeds and sometimes a vegetable.  Holding up the first fish he caught.  Pulling a stubborn calf along. Opening some Christmas presents.  Always opening our hearts a little more to love.

Children take us where we never thought we would go.  They give us the very deepest joys but they also teach us about the darker parts of ourselves. With my firstborn, I discovered that I wasn't as patient a person as I had once thought, and the addition of a second child to our family cemented that knowledge.  I discovered that I was more selfish than I wanted to be and more easily frustrated than I had ever realized. On the day that my boys dropped their plastic soldiers into the toilet and flushed them, I discovered my temper.

But, I also discovered that the kind of love that I give my children is the one that sits deepest in my soul. It doesn't require reciprocation.  I'm pretty certain that I love my children more than they can ever love me. That's the nature of the parent child relationship.   And it's a good thing that it works that way, because sweet toddlers grow into complex teenagers.

Teen aged boys lack a fully functioning pre-frontal cortex and Justin was no exception. He ran experiments with hairspray, a lighter and his newly acquired arm hair in the back of the school bus.  He piloted a truck over the edge of a mountain.  He played mailbox baseball.  There are rumors that he rode a shopping cart down a mountain.

He met Lisa in those pre-frontal cortex days and she loved him anyway. She's warm and kind and funny. She understands his deepest parts. He asked her to marry him.

Twenty five years ago, I held a tiny baby in my arms and wondered if he was as wise as he looked.  It turns out, he is.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Scoop on Poop

     Mountain women don't have conversations like those of city women.  You'd probably never catch a city woman discussing the kind of poop she sees when she's walking.  Yet, that's exactly the conversation that Lori and I had this morning on our walk.  And, it's not the first time.   It's not that we're grossed out by it or even too focused on it to be considered healthy.  It's just that we come across it all the time and we can tell so much about the wildlife in the area by taking a minute to examine what we're seeing.
     The first time I realized this, I wasn't with Lori.  I was trail riding with some friends.  We were deep in the woods on a narrow  trail that paralleled a ridge top when I spotted it.  "Robin, what kind of poop is that?"  I asked.
     He didn't look at me like I was crazy.  He pulled his horse up beside mine and said, "It's bear poop. Bear poop looks like human poop."
    He was right.  It did look like a wayward hillbilly had squatted on the path.  "Oh," I said.  "I wish I had a way to get it out of here and take it home with me.  We're talking about scat in class right now and that's a great example."
     Robin climbed off of his horse.  "I've got a little paper bag in my saddle bags," he said.  "We'll just put it in there and you can take it to your classroom."
     He scooped up the poop with a leaf and popped it in the bag.  Later in my classroom, we dissected it and determined that the bear had been feasting on grubs and poke berries.
     Three years later, I was glad I knew what bear poop looks like.  It was early summer and Lori and Caroline and I were hiking a portion of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail.  The trail started out wide and friendly. The sun was shining, but the further we got, the narrower and more closed in the trail became. Soon we had climbed high enough to be walking through a cloud which just made everything feel spooky.  Of course that's when we spotted it. A pile of fresh poop deposited right in front of us, and I knew what it was.  "That's bear poop," I pointed out.
     Lori looked around.  "Geez, we can't see anything much in this mess and if it's a momma bear she could be close by.  In fact her cub could be on one side of the trail and we might be between her and it and we wouldn't even be able to see her.  That could make her mad...."  Lori didn't need to finish. We turned around and high tailed it out of there.  We didn't stop to dissect the pile to see what the bear had been eating.  It didn't really matter as long as it wasn't going to be us.
     Since then, I've become pretty interested in animal scat.  Each morning, when Lori and I walk, we stop at any little pile (other than deer pellets which are everywhere) and try to figure out what's been there before us and what it was eating.  Here's some of what I've learned.
     Coyote poop looks like dog poop, but it's often full of hair or wool since coyotes feast on rabbits, fawns and lambs.  Raccoon poop is small and kind of looks like tootsie rolls, but it's usually full of seeds of some sort.  We've seen bear scat twice more and both times it had berry seeds and bug wings in it. Rabbit poop is pelleted and light brown because they eat a lot of bark.  Sometimes we find a pile we can't identify, but I'm not interested in walking around with a handful of poo, so we leave it alone.  I do however, try to remember if it was a plop, pellet or tube and then look it up on this website: What Pooped Here?    I'd really like to find some toad scat and some owl pellets which are not poop but regurgitated bones and fur.
    So, next time you're out for a country walk, look down. You might discover what's walked the path in front of you.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Blessings2

   There's nothing sweeter than gathering around the table to share a meal with family and friends. At those times I'm always so aware of God's great blessings to me, my family and all of us who live in a place where we have food, shelter and the freedom to pray and worship as God leads us. I love the times when we bow our heads together, hold hands and thank God for the blessings he gives us each day.

    With that in mind, I thought I would share some of my favorite table blessings.

  • (I learned this one at Sunday School when I was very young)

Thank You for the world so sweet,
thank You for the food we eat,
thank You for the birds that sing,
Thank you, Lord, for everything.

  • (We sang the next four at Camp Hanover when I was a camper and a lifeguard there.)

Evening has come, the board is spread
Thanks be to God, who gives us bread
Praise God for bread.
( I can still hear the sound of the whole dining hall singing this as my group, which was always late, was pulling itself across the lake on the raft.)

Oh, the Lord's been good to me
and so I thank the Lord
for giving me the things I need,
the sun and the rain and the apple-seed
the Lord's been good to me.
(We always thought this one was guaranteed to bring rain)

For health, and strength and daily bread,
we give Thee thanks Oh Lord.
(This one was sung as a round)

We thank thee Lord, for this amazing day
For the leafy, green leaf spirit of trees
for the true blue dream of the sky
for everything that is natural,
that is infinite
that is Yes, Lord, Yes Lord,
Yes!  Yes!
(My friend Doug Walker taught us this one and I can still picture him leading it)

  • (I like this one because it reminds me that God has a sense of humor)

Rub a dub dub
Thanks for the grub
Yea God!

  • (My son Scott learned this one when he was really young, but he always mixed up the last words in the first two lines.  I'm writing it the way he always said it)

God is good,
God is great,
and we thank Him for our food.
By His hands, we all are fed
Thank You, Lord, for daily bread.

  • (and finally, my Daddy's prayer...)

Bless  this food to our use
and us to thy service,
and Please Lord, save this nation unto Yourself. (and then my mama always adds..."and Please Lord bless all those who suffer.")  In Jesus' name we pray...Amen.