Roller Coaster

Life is a great big canvas; throw as much paint on it as you can. ~ Danny Kaye

I know some things about roller coasters. I know that at first glance they scare the crap out of me, but I inevitably think it’s a brilliant idea to get on and ride. I know that the 2-3 minute ride will offer relentless twists, turns, ups, and downs. I know the anticipation of climbing the first hill will give me white knuckles no matter how many deep cleansing Lamaze-type breaths I take.

On the way up, depending upon how many times I’ve ridden the snake-like rails I can ALL BUT memorize the patterns and begin to imagine what is around the next corner. Not to say that knowing helps the foreboding and angst when an unexpected fall sneaks up and steals my stomach for a few seconds. I know it will be over soon.

I know there are different types of coasters, some twist and turn like a corkscrew. Others just have the ups and downs and are labeled “out and backs.” I know the latter are my favorite even though all carry their own set of thrills and level of surprises.

I know I don’t want to ride coasters alone. I want a partner; preferably one I don’t have to coax to go on the ride with me. I know I want them to toss their hands in the air with breathless expectation and I will do the same. I want someone who, as we approach the entrance, is just as giddy and eager as me. And after, as we hustle to the exit, I know that by the jaunt in their step and the avid gleam in their eye we are thinking the same thing. “Let’s go again!”

I’ve learned that life is extremely similar to the roller coaster. I’ve learned that even though, at times, it can be scary, I inevitably think it’s a brilliant idea to get on and ride. I’ve learned it will be over soon. I’ve learned it’s a heck of a lot more fun to ride with friends. I’ve learned to anticipate most twists and turns, but not let my expectations shatter the experience. I’ve learned I want to experience as much as I possibly can. I’ve learned that whatever lies around the next corner can be so severe I need to just hang on and pray. I’ve learned to throw up my hands and scream like a little girl, because the one glaring difference between life and coasters calls out to me at every twist and turn.

 I can only go once.


Great Day To Be Alive

It's a goofy thing but I just gotta say
Hey! I'm doin' alright

Think I'll make me some homemade soup
Feelin' pretty good and that's the truth

It's neither drink nor drug induced
Naw, I'm just doin' alright ~ Travis Tritt       

Somehow, deep down, I knew change was in the air back in May when 2/3 of my family, with a mini van full of belongings, headed north for their great adventure.

There is nothing mystic or spiritual about the colorful teepees, the gutted Cargo C-130 plane, the original cabooses on their Michigan rails, or the Conestoga wagons pulled into their protective circle.

 There's no lofty or heavenly fog you pass through that turns you into a better person, just for having driven down Route 10 and entered the 700 or so acres that is called Springhill.

Just like attendance at church every Sunday does not guarantee a place in line at the pearly gates, attending Springhill, as camper, staff, or parent, cannot, in and of itself, change you. But it does. It has. And, hopefully for a long time to come, it will.

Yes, change is in the air. Even though it was the first time in 18 years we didn't have a camper there, the summer called "Roll Out" at Springhill has affected us all. Tomorrow, when the sun sets, Ben will have wrapped up six years of living, laughing, and loving it in Chicago. His new life will hopefully have challenges, medical benefits, and numerous visits from old friends. His full-time camp position will include directing, acting, creating, writing, and, of course, humor. He has given SH a two-year commitment, but somehow I don't feel like Chicago is permanently done in his mind.

Jennifer has always been one to collect friends, and this summer was no exception. Seems she has collected one very special wrangler named Pete. I do believe she has learned a lot about herself and God in the last 4 summers that she has called Springhill home, so it doesn't surprise me that Pete is about the nicest, cutest, god-fearing', Hoosier, firefighter she's ever met. Thanks to the keeper of the stars!

I guess that means Melissa wins the bronze when it comes to change this summer. Although, she IS somewhat excited for school to start, what??? She has decided to pursue her dreams by auditioning for "The Young Americans.”

Life is good. I feel undeserving, but in the words of David Seamands, "Grace is the unconditional love of God in Christ freely given to us, the undeserving, and the imperfect."


Let The Games Begin

I have never really considered myself an athlete. I love sports and at times, while spectating, I trick myself into thinking; if I would train hard enough and pull from my reservoir of self-will... buckets of determination and consistency I could pull off a sport. The specifics, of which, have yet to be determined. After one day of watching the Olympics, I concede.

I can carry my own weight when the heats are held in the Holiday Inn pool lanes and my competition is a few energetic seniors who have just completed 2 hours of water aerobics and are swimming cool down laps. But synchronized diving? C'mon! I am amazed at the commentators in diving, let alone the athletes who start and finish their dive TOGETHER and make some sort of bubble blurb that can't even by written in the same sentence as the word splash. All without nose-plugs.

There is a 45-year-old biker in the women's road race. And the bike has pedals. Once again, I reiterate that biking is the most grueling of all sports. If you are better than your opponent in tennis you can finish them off in a 6-0, 6-1, one-hour-or-so-match. And you even get to sit down after every set and a towel break after each game. Team sports, with a certain lead, afford some breathing room. Weightlifting: pick it up, hold it for a second, and throw it down. With bike racing, you keep pedaling through wind, rain, snow, and even altitude changes. A bug in your eye does not even constitute a time out. For crying out loud, in basket ball, a shoestring untied, or a microscopic sweat bead on the floor, can hold up the whole game. Even though some Olympic shuttlecocks reach speeds of 200-mph... it's still badminton.

I am going out on limb here. I would venture to say that if I stood (on solid ground, mind you) and held my EMPTY arms out to my side I could hold them for the 2 seconds required of the men in the simple apparatus called the gymnastic rings. I can't for the life of me figure out why they call them games.

Summer games, to me, should always include some type of spirited drink and a deck of cards.

I'm gonna go on a walk now.


Sunrise Sunset

"Don't cry when the sun is gone, the tears won't let you see the stars." ~ Violeta Parra

I remember when I was younger and it seemed like my entire life lay before me. It didn’t matter what decisions I made, whether to come or go, because I felt like if I made a wrong turn or took a path that didn’t suit me I could always double back to the fork in the road.

I remember when summer resembled about a 1/2 year. Whoever decided to measure summer in weeks should be jailed in a 3-season cell. I remember lying in the grass along the road less traveled where I grew up and watching the sun go down and the moon come up.

I remember thinking that I wish I could freeze frame the distinct time of evening; after a magnificent sunset, and just before heavy darkness fell. It was only a minute span of time until the faint, flashing glow of the fireflies became miniature turn signals directing the whole village of insects up and down the yard, on random roadways.

I remember sitting on my porch in Michigan in the middle of July and thinking, this might be one of the most glorious summer nights of the summer. And then, with what seemed like the speed of light, the evil-life-summer thief arrived, the cicadas started their song, and with one fell swoop the whole world took on the aura of fall and middle age.

I remember last minute camping vacations that declared, “we will squeeze a few more days of fun and frolic out of you whether you like it or not.” We watched Nixon resign at Raccoon Lake in Northern Indiana on the neighbor’s mini motor home TV. It was that summer that I “learned” to slalom water ski and ate 1/2 of my lettuce, cheese, onion, and hamburger bun before I realized the patty lay unclaimed on the charcoal. Ahhhh, the summer of ‘74.

It was on one of those late summer camping trips we celebrated my Dad’s 50th birthday. Whatever!

I don’t remember what I did in particular on late summer evenings, besides listening to the cicada choir, catching fireflies, and waiting for the county fair to start.

I don’t remember thinking about how life was a vapor at my DAD’S 50th party.

I don’t remember pining for summers to slow down.

The cadence of time was not within my control, I even had the audacity to look forward to the schedules, clothes, and fresh start that fall would bring. I don’t remember when late summer and early fall was not my favorite time of year.

 I don’t remember when I would pass the point of fresh start with my grades and studies and just hang on for dear life until the marking period passed.

 I don’t remember what I did in particular after the school day ended. I don’t remember when a bologna sandwich on white bread with cheese and miracle whip was not a comfort food to me.

I don’t remember when I discovered the fact that hostess Twinkies had a shelf life of 2 years.

I don’t remember exactly what the clothes looked like or what styles were “in”, but I still get excited in the morning when I have a new outfit to wear.

I don’t remember when the day came when the unwritten rule that girls did not wear pants to school was broken.

I don’t remember ever feeling cheated out of a summer like I do today. Grrrrrrrr, the summer of ‘O4.

What I do remember, clearly, is when the simple life had absolutely nothing to do with a reality TV show.


All Aboard

Well, well, well.... I've almost kept the journaling up for a year. Good for me.

Let's see what's been going on? Months are absolutely still flying by like days. Spent another lovely weekend on the family farm. It doesn't get much better than that.

Reconnecting with my brother John always includes interesting conversation and just plain fun.

My sister Ruth, who is 3 and 1/2 years younger than me, brought her 12-year-old son, Austin along with the news that she is expecting her 2nd baby in early March. WOW, did that give whole new meaning to my newfound mood swings?

Melissa and pals took the train to Chicago for an overnight at the sublet apartment. They didn't have much money, but I don't think that reflected the fun level. They have enough footage for a teens on the loose in the city documentary.

We hosted a Springhill party late in July. And somehow when Ben and Jennifer learned we were heading to Indiana, another camp party erupted here. Not much damage done, except to the refrigerator and somehow the pile of scrip coupons is thinner. That's the evil plot of the scrip program....it doesn't feel like real money.

Can there really be an NFL pre-season game on already? Our 27th wedding anniversary almost slipped by without anyone noticing. We did enjoy a steak dinner and The Bourne Supremacy. I'll give it 2 & 1/3 stars and only the third because of Matt Damon.

The brightly colored school packet arrived in the mail today, along with a truckload of back-to-school ads.... and so we begin our foray into the first of the lasts. The last first day, the last tree, the last dance, the last photo ops, the last time friends will all be together....she is super excited to get this year over with and get on with her life, while I, on the other hand, will do everything in my power to slow this ride down a bit.

I hope we can both remember to savor the journey, together.

The Station by Robert J. Hastings
Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision in which we see ourselves on a long journey that spans an entire continent. We’re traveling by train, and from the windows, we drink in the passing scenes of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at crossings, of cattle grazing in distant pastures, of smoke pouring from chimneys, of row upon row of cotton, corn, and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of city skylines and village halls. But uppermost in our minds is our final destination - for at a certain hour and on a given day, our train will finally pull into the station with bells ringing, flags waving and bands playing. And once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true. So restlessly, we pace the aisles and count the miles, peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.
“Yes, when we reach the station, that will be it!” we promise ourselves. “When we’re 18...win that promotion...get famous...put the last kid through college...buy that new car...pay off the mortgage...retirement.”
From that day on, we will all live happily ever after.
Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no station in this life, no one earthly place to arrive at once and for all. The journey is the joy. The station is an illusion - it constantly outdistances us. Yesterday’s a memory: tomorrow’s a dream. Yesterday belongs to history; tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday’s a fading sunset: tomorrow’s a faint sunrise. Only today is there light enough to love and live.
So gently close the door on yesterday and throw the key away. It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather the regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow.
“Seize the day” is a good motto when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “this is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss the baby, count the stars. Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot. Eat more ice cream. Ride more merry-go-rounds. Watch the sun set. Life must be lived as we go along.