Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yellow car syndrome

Someone came up with this funny phrase to describe a sudden hyper-awareness of something that you really hadn't much noticed before. For example, you buy a yellow car—and then, over and over, you are amazed at how many other people drive yellow vehicles, too. (We here in our home call it the "super-old Chevy Cavalier station wagon" syndrome... Or, we would call it that if we ever saw any other old Chevy wagons...)

I'm experiencing the yellow car syndrome myself these days; in the past few months, I've become extremely sensitive to the aging, frail population around me. I had already known that Pittsburgh was way up there on the list of cities with unusually high numbers of oldsters; I remember fretting about it in my single days. Yet suddenly, everywhere I look, I am visually accosted by the elderly, many of them struggling to complete simple daily tasks.

Now, I realize that this is partly because I have free time during weekday mornings in which to run errands, do shopping, and complete other household tasks. Of course I'm going to see more retired and infirm people then. (Weekends, on the other hand, are the time when you are inundated with babies and toddlers being dragged from place to place.) But my awareness isn't just age-related—it goes deeper. I am noticing crippled and gnarled fingers, bent-over spines, and people with walkers and canes. I even find myself counting the walkers, noting without trying just how many people around me require walking assistance. I am frequently arrested by just how many of the handicapped spaces are taken—sometimes all of them. Without trying, I notice a delicate white-haired lady at the grocery, trying desperately, with swollen, bent fingers, to open the clear plastic bag in which to put her produce. (Yes, I helped her.) It seems that everywhere, overnight, people have begun moving slowly, painstakingly, with difficulty.

And it's not just the older folks. I am suddenly, by way of association, aware of young people with physical limitations,too. We know a few people who have ongoing physical conditions, and now I find myself making note of similar symptoms and movements that would indicate that same or a related condition. I recognize the expression of pain on someone's face, the stiffness of joints that necessitates careful, gradual movements.

I'm sure my heightened sensitivity is related to my mother's failing health. I'm equally certain that my own advancing age, well into middle years at this point, might also be bringing home the point that these bodies of ours aren't meant to last forever. They are weak, and breakable. They can mend themselves in our youth and well beyond. But then? Those so-called golden years? Nature demands that we begin to deteriorate.

The most heartbreaking scene for me lately was a perky older woman pushing a younger lady in a wheelchair through Michaels craft store. There I was, inwardly kvetching about the traffic, and how I wasn't getting everything done that I'd hope to do, and how the sun wasn't out, grouch, groan. At that moment, the woman rolled her wheelchair-bound companion slowly past me, talking gently as she went. She reached for something on the shelf for her friend, placed it in her lap, and the recipient offered a barely audible, hardly decipherable word of thanks. I noticed how lovingly the elder woman responded, the kindness in her voice, the unhurried way she helped the other. I felt very small, and spoiled, and shallow.

It is good to be aware of this sort of thing. Good, because I can act when I see a need. Good, because I will appreciate my health, my body that still mostly does what I ask it to do. Good, because God has opened my eyes. I pray I will remember to be His hands to this growing number of opportunities. I hope I will remember to be thankful, and to act with gladness and obedience. Any of the folks I've been noticing could be, likely will be, me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Game changer

Knowing how these extended holiday weekends shake out (very busy, lots of running and distractions), I thought I'd better jump on here now. Better early than absent, eh?

Everybody thinks Christmas is the big Christian holy day. But Christmas means nothing without the climax of the resurrection.

Don't let Easter Sunday slip by without watching this.

(I haven't a clue who's behind it—just stumbled upon it, and consequently was lifted and encouraged.)

Happy Easter to you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Aw, for cryin' out loud...

Snow? Really? On tax day??? We've all had quite enough, thank you very much. Everywhere I went, people wore sour expressions with narrowed eyes. The neighbors even went so far as to stage an impromptu protest. Of course, they quickly became distracted by some new, chilled grass niblets... (See photo.)

There's something so wrong about admiring a blooming magnolia tree through a veil of icy flakes. SO wrong.

Alas. It is what it is. I guess I'll give up, put on some socks, and hold my kvetchin' tongue.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Not everything is awesome

This'll come much later than the what-was-big-and-now-is-past release of The Lego Movie. I haven't yet seen said movie, because when my boys went on opening day, it was a Daddy/Son event and I was not invited. Wahh. (It's all right, really—I'll see it on vid.) After they returned, though, our home was filled for the next few days with a catchy yet increasingly annoying little ditty called "Everything Is Awesome."

I don't know if Tegan and Sara wrote the lyrics; I was never a huge fan of theirs to begin with. I guess it really doesn't matter; some adult wrote them, likely. The words are sung very quickly, especially the "rapping" (talking) sections of the song, where men's voices are heard speaking the lyrics at lightning speed. Even sung quickly, however, most of the words are easily understood.

After a few [tens of] times hearing the song, I couldn't help feeling disgruntled by the lyrics. They're brainless. I clearly grok that this song is not intended to be a lasting contribution to the world's collection of meaningful compositions. Yet. A lot of the words are inane, and some of them? Downright lies.

Have you heard the news? Everyone's talking
Life is good 'cause everything's awesome
Lost my job, there's a new opportunity
More free time for my awesome community
I feel more awesome than an awesome possum
Dip my body in chocolate frosting
Three years later wash off the frosting
Smelling like a blossom, everything is awesome
Stepped in mud, got new brown shoes
It's awesome to win and it's awesome to lose


Blue skies, bouncy springs
We just named two awesome things
A Nobel prize, a piece of string
You know what's awesome? Everything!
Trees, frogs, clogs they're awesome
Rocks, clocks and socks they're awesome
Figs and jigs and twigs that's awesome
Everything you see or think or say is awesome

Okay, I took out all the touchy-feely parts of the song, where the girls shriek about how it's awesome to be part of a team, and we should all party forever... It's basically harmless, I suppose. This song is not a terrible song, and it's certainly not the first popular song to feature pointless, random lyrics (although it might be the only song I've ever heard that talks about frosting—no, wait, there's that awful MacArthur Park song from the 70s...)

But the line that broke my straw was that last line. The one I marked in bold. It's crap. It flies absolutely in the face of every Biblical tenant about mankind. So, I had to go and get all serious and address this with my kid. We've seen poverty, and illness, and people abusing other people, I said to him. We've seen car accidents, and arguments. Are those awesome? No, answered my son. And God tells us that thinking a sin is as bad as doing it, right (Matthew 5:27-28)? That's right. And the tongue? God calls is a fire, full of deadly poison (James 3:5-8). Not such a ringing endorsement for what we say, eh? And my boy agreed.

Obviously, this Lego song is not meant to deliver serious, meaningful messages to kids. Still, they're all walking around singing it. Not as much, now that it's not so new... but the lyrics are being written on kids' hearts. Those lyrics are being learned, internalized. Do the kids who hear and sing them also believe them? I have to think that some of them do. And that disturbs me.

Here is something that I'd rather hide in my heart, and my kiddo's heart. This is what I'd rather remember and refer to in times of confusion:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9