Monday, July 28, 2014

Thoughts that crawl and climb like ivy

I have been a terrible blogger this summer. Appointments have cropped up, weddings and parties, weird weather, visits with friends and family—all have been speeding past me until my head is spinning a tad.

Then last week, somehow, I was struck by dreaded poison ivy. And I don't just get a happy patch or two, heck NO—I get bumpy, itchy rashes all over my body. Apparently my skin reacts to the oil, then all the rest of my body reacts to that bit of skin... Fun stuff. And then, the rash stays, and stays. Sometimes the redness dies down, and I get excited and think that perhaps, the urushiol oil is finished binding to the proteins in my skin and has begun to break down. But then, as I said, white bumps start to show up everywhere else... and I realize that the suffering isn't over yet.

Knowing this pattern, and my skin, I gave up fairly quickly after discerning the problem and I made a doctor appointment. I alternately scratched and applied calamine lotions for 36 hours, then drove to the doc to beg and weep for a steroid of some kind. I hate to be a quitter, but honestly, I'm going to let myself off the hook this time. I have washed every item that could possibly have housed the awful oil. I have threatened husband and son who may have brought it into the house. I have directed countless hairy eyeballs at the neighbor's side yard, which was littered with the stuff until just a few days ago. And I've been taking steroids, which are working, although not without other issues: sleepless nights, restless days, fingers and toes I can't keep still, stomach yuck. But I'm not scratching myself raw, so that's something. Right?

I keep thinking about the experience, though, and a few thoughts stand out. I think, not for the first time, of how different this rash might have looked for some poor pioneers who set out and had to clear trees and woods in order to do pretty much anything else, even just move forward. If I've been miserable, I with my lotions and air conditioning and comfy light fabrics—then how much more must they have suffered with long, heavy clothes, perspiration, and relentless heat beating on them. I wonder if they knew of the devilish green poison, if perhaps some of them knew where to find aloe or jewel weed to ease the irritation. I wonder if any ignorant newcomers, city-folk perhaps, touched the terrible plant, or (worse) burned it... and then scratched every part of themselves, thus spreading the horror. I wonder how long it took for people to get smart and recognize the cause. Or give their oil-bearing dog a bath. Or whatever.

(I think about older cultures often; I thought of them constantly after having a baby. I think of them when I do laundry in my easy-peasey washing machine. I think of them when I drive a car and arrive in minutes instead of hours. How lazy they would likely think us all. No wonder there's an obesity epidemic.)

I've been pondering, too, just how remarkably easy it is to be unaware of suffering and torment unless it is your own. I know other people with skin issues, far more serious conditions than a temporary redness. With constant pain, even. So I itch for a couple of days and have a mini-breakdown... Pretty pathetic. Our son woke up last week with a pinched nerve in his neck, and for a day had trouble turning his head one way, and it was so awful—yet we know someone who has that trouble daily, and on a much more serious scale. Even my 9-year-old recognized the teachable moment by commenting that now he understood better what life must be like for that friend of ours.

We are all such self-centered creatures for the most part, and then our shallow, me-first culture further ingrains that sort of thinking until it is quite easy to avoid considering, especially in depth, what others around us are suffering. My prayer today is not just to be grateful, but also to have more sensitivity to whatever the people around me are enduring. Whatever their troubles are, I know that to each of them who carry the burden, that trouble is heaviest. We are all shouldering something, but we can help each other, notice each other, connect personally, and most of all? We can take our burdens to the Savior. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes and hearts, and Jesus invites us to accept His mercy and share it with all.

This was a rather meandering post, wasn't it? Back to the rash, I think this is officially an item on my "questions to ask God someday" list. Why poison ivy? It'll show up slightly above or below the "why mosquitos?" question, depending on the timing of my most recent ivy outbreak.

Wear gloves and spray on some Deet, then go in peace.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. -John 14:27 (KJV)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Diatribe, or die tryin'

My goodness, I certainly have been an absentee blogger, haven't I?! I didn't realize just how many days had passed since my last post. It's been a loooong time. This might be my new record for blog neglect. Alas, the hiatus has ended because I am moved to write.

I finally caved and became a Facebook member; I'm sad to report that it is often as pathetic and pointless as I feared. Yet. It seems to invite people to become at least partially informed, if you happen to be friendly with informed people who post meaningful links to factual information. Facebook is responsible, at least in part, for my need to express myself today.

Why am I writing? I suppose that I'm at my wit's end with clueless people. I'm frustrated by the general lack of interest most Americans display. I'm embarrassed that my fellows would rather follow the World Cup than the immigration crisis and its mealy-mouthed managers. I want to shout at the masses, to expound upon the reasons why we even had all those picnics and fireworks last weekend. Did you know that an alarming amount of Americans don't understand the point of Independence Day, let alone how and when it came to exist? They know the finalists on the latest television talent show, but they don't know about the recent Supreme Court rulings that had conservatives celebrating a tad.

When did apathy become fashionable? And more importantly, when did the land of the free become the land of free? How quickly we choose to be distracted from bad news, from violence and murdered children, from evil marching across a country with intent to destroy good. If it's not our country, or our children, we turn the channel. It's disheartening how quickly we disconnect from everything that does not directly affect us.

But what happens here will affect us, you see. Because we're a united group of states, under Oblamma's inept leadership and tutelage. We're like the separate systems of the body, which also function to create one large being. And we all end up impacting each other—just like all the water eventually gets mixed with all the other water, rain and storm drain and purified sewage and chemical run-off. One drop must be affected by the rest. We are not exclusive.

And what happens in our high levels of government affects us all, in time. What happens in other countries and their economies affects us, in time. We're all globally interconnected. But I can't even touch on that whole mishmash of ignorance about world affairs. I'm too concerned about ignorance at home.

People came to this country years and years ago because they were desperate. They wanted freedom to pursue the things they valued: God, jobs, family, community, food and homes. They wanted to start fresh in a place where your rank in society paled in comparison to your work ethic. Equal opportunity was intended to mean access to opportunities, not assured success and acceptance. The home of the free was aptly named because people exchanged tyranny and control for opportunities to work and earn, to climb from poverty on a sturdy ladder that would not sway or snap when the government changed hands.

The land of the free isn't supposed to offer everything for free. Capitalism believes in competition. That is where opportunity truly lies. And everybody in America will never all be completely equal. Some people are smarter or richer, some are destitute or unattractive, some had a great childhood while other scraped a living out of garbage. But the opportunities still exist for everyone to grow, to learn, to change their story. That's freedom. It's not government-dictated equality. People will share when they have enough to do so, or when they are moved by their faith in someone bigger than themselves to help them multiply what they have to help take care for others. Charity and generosity of spirit can't be mandated without resulting bitterness and hard feelings.

Hobby Lobby is not telling its employees they cannot seek an abortion. Hobby Lobby is not denying its employees the opportunity to end an unborn life. It's not even forbidding them to use birth control; in fact, it's still paying for some of those prescriptions. Hobby Lobby's offense? It's simply not interested in paying for the more gruesome forms of that "choice" to terminate a pregnancy. Isn't that the right of the employer? If I owned a business, and had an employee who drank loads of hard liquor daily, then came to me and wanted me to pay for a life-or-death kidney transplant, I'd have a problem with that. The condition, after all, was caused by choices that person made. That's why people created this country—to have choices. Isn't it? Why is a bakery being forced to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple? Isn't that the choice of the bakery? It's certainly the choice of the people in love who are shopping for a cake to go where they want. That's why competition works, people. Because there are choices. If someone bakes horrid cakes, no one goes there. If someone bakes great gay cakes, then word gets out. Right?

Choices. We must uphold the ability to choose in this country. To choose. Period. Our self-appointed king and his big-mouthed wife can tell their own children what to eat for lunch; I'll make that decision for myself and my own family. And citizenship? Yes, it's a choice, and an opportunity. We will never be able to make all those helpless children into comfortable citizens. Even if we do? By the time they're grown, the term "citizen" will have no meaning, and the greatness of the country that drew those people will have fallen to unrecognizable standards that no longer even resemble our forefathers' Republic.

Those first true Americans weren't perfect. They were determined, and they had an opportunity... and ultimately those were worth more than any hand-out. Don't let their hard work slip away. Watch, read, learn, and speak when informed. It's still your choice.

For now, at least.