Archive | September 25, 2013

How Wisdom Works

I find it terribly interesting that we call upon bits of wisdom stashed away in our inactive memories all of our lives.  Not necessarily those we sought after and committed to memory on purpose, but those precious grains that were sown by our parents or teachers, those that have proven themselves valuable over years of life and its perils.

Now when I see someone slouching I hear Mrs. Anderson, my 6th grade teacher who would line us up against the wall several times during the day and make sure our shoulder blades were touching the wall, that commanding voice rings loud and clear in my mind, “Stand up straight!”  And  I notice that I’ve already squared my shoulders, back straight.

There’s the obvious learned response of “OUCH, that hurts” when you touch a utensil that just came off the grill. But that’s not wisdom, it’s cause and effect.  Wisdom is knowledge that you knew how to apply.  But how did you learn how to apply it properly?

Whenever I sit down to a meal that I haven’t cooked, I hear my Dad’s voice in my memory  (especially when I see my best friend POURING salt over everything on her plate) “you need to taste each dish first and see what it tastes like; then season it if you need to.”  Sound advice—I’ve ruined a few tasty concoctions by salting or peppering first and tasting second.

And not once have I stepped into a bathtub or shower and begun my ablutions that I don’t hear my mother’s voice (asleep in Christ since 2003) telling me to “scrub those rusty knees!”  60 years I’ve continued to hear this.  60 YEARS!  But I still hear it complete with her inflection and tone.

While I sheepishly admit to singing on Memorial Day or other occasions when they play the National Anthem, right down to the high notes and the last phrase, “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”–that it’s all I can do to not yell, “play ball!!”  That’s just a learned response, I suppose.

I find myself, whenever I finish reading a lengthy passage of Scripture, hearing my father-in-law’s voice whenever he completed reading a passage aloud, “And may the Lord add His blessing to the reading of His word.”  And I add the same blessing myself, word for word.  Makes sense.

There’s an old joke of a younger man asking how the older man gained wisdom…he was told that it came from making good choices.  “But how did you learn that a choice was wise?”  “From making bad choices,” came the reply.

Of course, wisdom is a gift from God, and one that you’re instructed repeatedly to search for, to ask for, and to seek with all your heart.  I suppose it may be that nuggets that I’ve retained throughout the years are those my spirit recognized as wisdom.  What do you think?

That Wonderful Language of Toddlers

Shannon, Ivy, Jenni, Jack, and SethYesterday I read a blog about the wonderful language of toddlers.  She’s absolutely right!  (read Texana’s Kitchen) I loved the inventive language that my five children created.  They had special names for their favorite foods, for their toys, and sometimes for family friends, names you hoped they wouldn’t repeat in public.

Yes, there were 5.  The oldest, a boy, produced the coolest games for his siblings to take part in.  He also had a special knack for sounds.  First it was a simple karate-type sound, the ones you make if you’re about 7 and trying to sound like Bruce Lee, you know?  The “ayyy-waaahh” sound?  Then for a while it was “psyche”, drawn out into two or three syllables; the list of his “words” grew to about 25 by the time he reached high school…

Then the twins, boy and girl, were a year younger and worked in tandem with the youngest set of twins, two little girls, 22 months younger.  The games that they invented to play when amusing themselves were the most interesting:  Space Pup was a hero-based game, but my favorite was The Grand Egg (a blog for another day).

We had our share of the typical “hang-coater” to hold our t-shirts in the closet; meatballs and bisketti with tomato sauce; and our own family ‘coined’ words like Swamp Water for mixed fruit juice (that frequently turns a yucky muddy brown when grape juice and citrus are involved), and the Pacmans that we would occasionally have for a quick supper:  mind you, it was back in the feed-everyone-for-a-buck-and-the-heck-with-nutrition-days…

Take five slices of bologna, use a large drinking straw to poke a hole just off-center, split about 1/2 inch from the edge of the slice for a mouth, toss into a hot iron skillet, and as they shrink a bit and curl up, voila, you have a Pacman face complete with smile.  Flip to complete heating for about 30 seconds more, then toss onto mayonnaise-covered bread for an easy (and greasy) open-faced sandwich loved by all our tiny ones. (We were simple folk and easy to please…after all, this was back in the mid-70’s),

Then there was the “Friggible-did game.”  Invented by their Dad during play time:   he would pretend to have a puppet-hand–you know, touching thumb to the four fingers as if you had a puppet pulled over your hand and were making it talk–and as he picked imaginary “things” out of the air with this puppet-hand, he would say, “ere you go, here’s a Friggible-did”.  I have no idea what a friggible-did is.  But we had lots of them, and the kids seemed to be delighted and terrified of them at the same time.

A treasured memory of mine was a trip to the “5 and 10” or our 1970’s version of Walmart, so the kids could spend their allowance. The oldest, Jack, purchased feathers to help him in his constant arrow building (he was a skilled bow and arrow maker from the age of 4 or so).  Seth, his younger brother, would purchase Garfield books or playing cards for a game with the other twins.  His twin Ivy liked cotton candy and purchased those little foil packets that tasted nowhere near what actual cotton candy is supposed to taste like.  Little Shannon, the youngest twin loved lemon salt and if I didn’t watch her, would buy packets of it to empty onto her palm and then lick from her hand along with all the germs they warn you about now. Shannon’s twin, Jenni was a tad shy.  I mean, actually, saying she was shy was like saying the moon is “far away”.  Jenni would panic if I asked her to simply walk up to the counter at McDonald’s and order an ice cream cone.  A trait this extrovert simply couldn’t relate to at the time.  But since those days, I’ve come a long way, I’d have compassion on that little girl today if she hesitated to try new things.

So on this occasion when asked to select a toy or treat and purchase it by herself, she got all agitated, and hung back from the others when they checked out with their treasures.  I wandered through the tiny store in search of her, and found her stressing out–as much as a four-year old can stress.  I asked her what was going on; and she BEGGED me to take her selection, a small book of paper dolls, up to the cash register for her.  She knew the rules, she had to go through the motions herself.

As she begged, in obvious distress, she said in that precious little, pleading voice:

“But Mommy, why won’t you take this money and pay the lady at the castrator for me?”

This is what actually turns mothers gray.  The super-human effort not to fall down laughing at the priceless sincere “mis-speaks” of their children.  So at that point, I simply had to.  I acquiesced, and paid the lady at the castrator for her, and gave her a much-needed hug.  Lessons in independence could wait for another day.