Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Boys Eat Dirt

The kids were old enough to play in the yard; not quite by themselves but not totally supervised either. I was working outside and placed them in the sand box while I went about my chores. Periodically checking to make sure they didn’t get out of the fenced in area and sending a few encouraging “big boy!” words their way. I came back to find one of them shoving a hand full of dirt into their mouth and then looking up to smile at me with his huge blue eyes, sand on his cheeks, a brown/black tongue and brown/black drool all down the front of his shirt. After barely suppressing a laugh I did the obligatory “eww... big boys don’t eat dirt!” and helped him wash it out with the garden hose. After many such eating experiences, some even grosser, we have a healthy, well-adjusted 20-something to be proud of.

I have since come to believe that I was wrong. Big boys DO eat dirt; that is IF they want to grow up as healthy big boys. Today’s parents spend WAY TOO MUCH time protecting their kids from every germ, bug and clump of dirt. A study on over 11,000 kids, done by Discover Magazine, found that “an overly hygienic environment” dramatically increases the risk of eczema and asthma later in life.

This is the very idea behind childhood immunizations. You introduce a small bit of the disease into the child’s system so that the antibodies are built up for if/when the BIG attack comes. Immunization is the practice before the big game. Exposure to germs and bacteria is common and needed. You have over 1000 species of bacteria that occur naturally in/on your body.

This overprotection from every bug and germ is also call “first child syndrome” because usually you go crazy protecting that first child from every possible event that you just read about in the 100 raising-your-child-right books you just ingested. By the time the second child comes around you sit way back and relax for the ride. By the third and fourth child you forget their names and let them eat whatever they want as long as they are quiet.

Now seriously, you don’t have to go crazy and expose your child to every disease infested mud pool you find, but letting them play in the dirt at the beach and eat a handful or two of sand won’t kill them and might even inoculate them. Big, healthy boys DO eat dirt.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hocus Pocus

I looked at the blank stare from the elderly ladies in the nursing home and knew I just gave them more information than they wanted. The question was: “Where did that Bible come from?” And I went into a 15 minute historical recitative of the Bible and its origins. After the blank stares I asked “what?” She smiled and said, “I just wanted to know if you got that Bible from the desk over there.” I got it, but I didn’t get it.

I took my three kids and sat them down in the chaos that used to be our living room. I said that we have had lots of fun and I loved playing with them but now was the time for cleaning up, mom was coming home in about an hour and NONE OF US wanted the repercussions of mom coming home with the house looking like a tornado just went through. “So our Lego armies and airplanes had to have a final battle and put away, the toys needed ...” and I went on to explain what had to be done. We put our hands in the center of the circle and cheered: “Go TEAM!” I went to the kitchen to tackle the mess there while the three of them were to restore the living room. A half hour later they were still playing. So much for calm conversational compliance now came stark, strict instructions. They got it but didn’t get it.

“Daddy, why are they washing that baby? Didn’t they give her a bath at home?” said one of my kids trying to understand the latest baptism in our church. After explaining the spiritual significance of it all, he said, “They still could have done it at home.” He got it but didn’t get it.

Sometime in the 1500’s kids came to Catholic Mass to witness the priest in Latin saying “Hoc est enim corpus meum” which means “This is my body...” and it seemed magical to them how the bread turned into the “body” of Christ. As kids do: they played, practiced and perverted the Latin into (you guessed it) “hocus pocus.” The phrase turned into anything that will magically change from one thing to another, and eventually into something that “falsely” turned from one thing to another; a magician’s sleight of hand. They got it but didn’t get it.

They got but didn’t get it. It sunk in but not quite far enough for complete understanding. Sometimes we nod our head too soon. We tell others we understand when all we have is an unsteady grasp with mentally oiled hands. Many of the problems in our life are caused by us saying we understand – too soon.

STOP! Ask one more question to make sure. Repeat what YOU think they said to make sure that is what they REALLY said and not just mental hocus pocus. It would be better to understand now than to get into trouble when mom gets home.

Holy Days

If you had to put your money on the most popular holiday it would have to be Christmas. This is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus with presents and “good will” towards all people. This holiday is celebrated worldwide now, even though most of the world doesn’t believe in Jesus they still think giving and getting presents is a good idea. The second most popular holiday is Thanksgiving. This is an American holiday, which Canada also picked up and is making its way around the world as a day of giving thanks to – who or what? Most of the world will give thanks to one god or another. After that I don’t know what is most popular. Maybe Halloween or New Years Day or even Valentine’s Day; Easter is up there too as a time of bunnies, baskets, and bonnets.

It was not like this 1000 years ago. Back then, without question, the most popular and significant Holy Day, or holiday, was Easter. Easter was at least a week long and the only week off peasants had through the whole year. Cathedrals and churches alike were filled each of the days as they relived the Passion Week of Christ. From this developed the “Stations of the Cross” and the pilgrimages, and even the Crusades. It was drama at its highest with actors actually whipped and wearing a crown of thorns, bleeding themselves into a holy ecstasy in their devotion. The week was culminated on Easter Sunday with entire communities emptied of flowers so the church could be overflowing with the smell and look of resurrected life.

Interestingly enough Easter actually was named after a pagan goddess. It was an Old English word for a month on the Germanic Calendar (Eostur monath) which was the equivalent of our April. Some believe the goddess Eostre was connected with some folk customs with rabbits and eggs. Most believe that is a modern day Halmark addition. Previous to Easter (899AD) it was called Pascha (Latin for Passover) and celebrated as an alternative to the Jewish Passover.

The second highest Holy Day for 1st millennium Christians was Ascension Day. 40 days after the Resurrection Christ ascended into heaven “to sit at the right hand of God the Father.” The third was the Harvest Festival which would be the equivalent of our Thanksgiving but occurred closer to Halloween in the calendar. Finally, the fourth celebration was Christmas, not such a big thing back in 1000AD.

As with a LOT of things: the date is not important. What is important is what the celebration means. So this particular Sunday is not the actual Sunday when Jesus rose from the grave – so what? It is important that we celebrate his resurrection and what that means for us. Easter has been filled with bunnies, chocolate, and colored eggs – so what? As long as it doesn’t detract from what we are truly celebrating and what it should mean to us. So let’s celebrate, let’s party, and God will smile.

We’re All Full Up Here

I was having a discussion with a friend over a lunch about the recent divorce of a mutual friend. The reason for the divorce was the drug addicted ways of the husband and the controlling ways of the wife. BOTH contributed to the collapse of the marriage; we decided and then my friend said something that has stuck with me since then, he said “we are all in search of our own dysfunction.”

We have heard of dysfunctional homes, co-dependence, dysfunctional marriages, and, yes, all of us are in search of our own dysfunction. I think when my friend said that he could just have easily said “we are all in search of our own excuses.” It would be great if I could put a label on my quirks, call it a dysfunction, get grant funding or social security for it, and never work again in my life. My dad punished me with a belt when I was young – okay – can’t work anymore because of the mental trauma I suffered as a child. One of my brothers hung a spider from and long hair right above my sleeping face and gently woke me, I can still remember it and see it 45 years later. I applied for grant funding for all of us with “spider-trauma” and I expect to research it from my couch and big screen TV for the next 20 years. Then I will find another dysfunction, find a college professor to research it for me, and then take more years off.

My friend could just as easily have said “we are all in search of a reason to shirk responsibility.” We all feel that tendency, especially today, if coffee spills and burns us it is MacDonald’s fault for making the coffee too hot. If a small traffic accident, a mistake, happens then both insurance companies fight over who will pay what to whom, lawyers seek a slice and mistakes become excuses for others to be irresponsible.

After an accident I admitted that it was my fault and the policeman didn’t believe me. He made me write it down and say it again in front of someone else. I am still paying for it in high premiums and a “record.” I am not perfect, in fact FAR FROM IT! But I refuse to use my dysfunctions as an excuse for not working. Nor should you because it is our nature; we are all in search of our own dysfunction.

I like Jack Nicolson’s response in “As Good as it Gets” when someone tried to share their dysfunction. He said “peddle crazy someplace else, we’re all full up here!” In my opinion so is this world.