My ‘8 Things that Baffle Me’ (contd.) and their SUPPORT from sources around the web. Check em out:
1.) Disconnecting from tech is important. Connecting with people is important as well. (Spend time with your people!)
2.) I’m still not completely on-board with this one, but apparently they work: banana hangers.
3.) Disney World, according to Jim Gaffigan. He Agrees! that Disney isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
4.) Not just Nicki Minaj (but pop music industry as a whole) is getting worse…louder (about 1 decibel every 8 years).
5.) Sunscreen burns other peoples’ skin too: read here.
6.) Because we could all use a refresher on roundabouts. No shame.
7.) Primaries!! This site helped me understand the ones closer to my home. I’m sure there’s a site out there for every geographic area.
8.) Flavored chips and its link to illness. It’s science. And…if your stomach hurts like mine does after eating them, I recommend staying away from some of these options, especially #20. Blueberry flavored?
Violet Beauregarde, of Willy Wonka fame, would be proud of that flavor.
(LOOK AT THAT GIANT EGG! It’s so hot out there you could fry an egg on the sand!)
Call it a heightened sense of awareness brought on by less structured Summer months – with more time to think and whatnot – but these things have registered (and brought on conundrums) this year. See if your list and mine share any similarities. If you’d like to comment, please do so on this page. I believe, we can have a civil discussion about this list (except #2. My mind is made up on that one!).
Here they are. My 8 Things that Baffle Me (in no particular order):
1.) Why GoGo exists at all (Do we really need high-speed Internet a mile into the sky on some flights that only last 45mins? Can I go without sending that text, watching that movie at least that long? I pray so.)
2.) Banana hangers (Bed Bath & Beyond sells them by the truckload. Guilty: I own one. Does my banana need to be tricked into thinking it’s still hanging on a tree in Ecuador? Is it good to ripen all of the bananas at once? Won’t we just have to eat them even quicker? Hey! What are all of these gnats doing around my bananas. It’s that darn HANGER I bought. Well played, BBB. Well played.)
3.) Disney World (and its presence towards the consumer, the crowds, the Orlando-Kissimmee St. Cloud-I-75 mess, the mice. See you at Harry Potter world this fall?)
4.) Nicki Minaj (a la the majority of music created in the past 5 years. Is Taylor Swift country or isn’t she?)
5.) Why sunscreen burns the skin (Isn’t it supposed to protect us from burns?)
6.) Roundabouts (saw someone going the wrong direction in one earlier this week and…well.)
7.) Primaries (Closed, Open, Semi-Open, Semi-Closed, Blanket, Nonpartisan Blanket, Unified…blah bleh bluh)
8.) Why flavored chips make me sick if eaten on an empty stomach (especially Pringles Sour Cream & Onion. Total nausea.)
I mentioned my vacation a few weeks back. The one where we swam with a Sea Carp. The same week where I followed a fellow vacationer around (unbeknownst to him or me) for almost 9 days and accidentally found him in an unlocked bathroom 1,500 miles from our original destination. Remember that one?
Well, time has a constant tie-in to everything we do on this planet.
I say all of that, because I read this headline last week: Fire breaks out on Royal Caribbean ship.
When you read something like that (and realize it was the ship you traveled on not 2 weeks prior), it puts things in perspective quickly.
Now, I’ve read the article and it looks like the damage was reparable and no one was hurt during the blast, but still…scary nonetheless. Especially since the Freedom of the Seas was a ship just revamped and renovated earlier this year to accommodate 67 more rooms. I’m glad everyone followed protocol and participated in the emergency drill and the one crewman with the injury was treated (and is recovering).
But, this update caused me to think about time as it spins onward and without pause.
It ALL matters. Every bit of it. Time with family and daily stuff and interactions with your favorite (and least favorite) people. Planning a vacation, taking the dog for a walk, and even getting an oil change. All of it matters on the spectrum of your time on this planet.
So we must make it COUNT. We aren’t guaranteed a safe flight, family reunion, or even a long, memory-filled life. But, it’s crazy to not pursue those things, when God gives us another breath to seek them.
The fire could’ve happened when we were on-board the Freedom of the Seas (even though it didn’t). The ship could’ve been stranded for weeks. It could’ve been disastrous. And…even though it didn’t happen that way and we weren’t there when it did…I’m thankful for the perspective it’s offering. The awareness of the here and now.
You might read my words and think this strictly conjecture. I’m reaching for something that’s not there. But, I wouldn’t argue that anyways. It would defeat my whole purpose in telling you TIME is a precious commodity. Don’t wait for something when you can thank God for the ability to go after it straightaway. (I’m taking my own advice here as I type.) What else were we put on this Earth for anyways?
The Great Commission is, verbatim: “GO and MAKE disciples of all nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and TEACHING them to obey everything I have COMMANDED you.”
That’s it. In summary. The ship didn’t sink, and we weren’t on it. But it doesn’t mean we wait around for the next one to go down either. We gotta move, live, love, and listen to God. Daily.
For 2 weeks, I’ve been in a fistfight with – the Summer Cold.
Related to the Common Cold of Winter months (somehow). The Summer Cold has power and it wields it mightily. For weeks. Precious Summer weeks.
I can attest to its power.
Two Saturdays ago, I blamed it on pollen. HAHA
Chattanooga, TN has the highest pollen index (yes, that’s a real thing) in the nation. And, I’m from southern Kentucky where pollen begats more pollen and the bees even pray for release. But, I blamed pollen. Then, I blamed Chattanooga. Said, “Aw, it’ll go away when it rains.”
Pshaw. It didn’t go away. And, I spent the better part of last Saturday, trying to walk.
My highlight (or lowlight) was a BP gas station.
I had a DVD in my possession and it was due back at a Redbox ASAP. So, I saw the red, metal tube in my periphery, and decided to pull over for gas and return the disc.
I stepped out of the vehicle and a nearby temperature gauge read 96 or something. The sweat beaded on my forehead. My nostrils were red from paper towels, friction. I managed to lift the gas lever, swipe the card, push Unleaded 87. Then, when the tank clicked full, I felt my sore nose again, and my head – close to spontaneous combustion.
I looked longingly towards the Redbox–a distance of only 100 feet–and said to myself, Feet, you can do this, and I sneezed. I stopped dead in my tracks. It’s one of the few times I considered succumbing to an ailment and I’ve had a few (heart surgery, diabetes). But, the feet kept moving somehow. The will to live.
I pushed ‘Return Movie’ and let the machine do its retrieval. For a second, I hallucinated that it struggled in the 100-degree blazes to take the movie from my clammy hands. It chug-chug-chugged but eventually clasped the disc and safely tucked it away, inside its metal heart.
I turned and realized I’d forgotten my shades at home, my vampire moment was coming to fruition. A sunburn could happen in a matter of seconds. But, I found my car’s door. I slid into the seat and clung to its fabric as it did mine. I pulled onto the highway without looking either direction and struggled to locate a Kleenex, somewhere anywhere.
To my surprise (and thanks to God), the vehicle found its way home. I was a happy returnee. Saturday bled into Sunday and now, the next Friday. I believe, with my whole heart, Summer Colds are genuine clingers.
I saw a fish on vacation that made me realize it was closest in personality to me. Not an exotic Mahi Mahi. Nope. Not even a treacherous Barracuda. I am closest in disposition to…yes, that’s right: the Caribbean Sea Carp.
Have you seen one of these before?
They are funny looking. And just plain funny.
They like to get out in the sandy parts of the coral reefs and roll around.
My wife and I brought our goggles and snorkeled on Seven Mile Beach at Grand Cayman last week, and I wanted to see “Bigger Fish” than the ones flapping along the shoreline.
So out I went. No life jacket. No flippers even. The water was SUPER clear. And out about 200 yards there were buoys tied off (and weighed down) to the ocean bottom.
There were sea urchins and prickly things everywhere, so I was cautious not to put my feet down anywhere. My goggles allowed me to see everything resting on the bottom.
Whoseits and whatsits galore.
Then, I spotted the big, beastly tumbler that is the beloved Sea Carp.
He blended into the orangish, golden ocean sand quite well. But, his movements gave him away. As I approached him, he rolled and spun over and over again in pure delight. I put my hand out, and he didn’t even try to swim away like the other (smarter) fish. He just kept spinning, reaching into coral, knocking up sand and making the water dusty. I signaled for Leah to join me out there, but the urchins weren’t too inviting without flippers. So, I paddled around out there as long as I had strength and eventually told the thirty-pound bumbler goodbye.
When I got back to the shoreline, I exaggerated the carp’s size to everyone around us, but I knew what I saw. He was quite the spectacle; his aloofness to all those two-legged giants was quite appealing, I thought.
It got me to thinking about humans. Humans. Our purpose. The way we’re made. It made me smile that the Sea Carp resonated so deeply. He just wanted to enjoy the coral, food, and waves; he let them move him around constantly. I thought he had the right idea. Maybe we shouldn’t fight waves all day, everyday? Maybe rolling around and enjoying what’s set before me isn’t so bad? I appreciate God giving all that He has already.
If I’m like any fish, I’d say this fish in the Caribbean is probably the closest match. I hope I can keep the contentment up and the urge to flee my surroundings down.
Happy Hump Day!
LOBSTER MEAT IS SWEET –
(artwork representing this story by Christine Stoddard, 2015, now on physical display in Washington, DC).
Hey guys & gals! My new story “Lobster Meat is Sweet” is now available for reading on Story Shack Magazine here. Check it out and let me know what you think. Love y’all! Thanks for reading my stories and supporting my insanity. God bless you this week.
My wife and I vacationed recently. HAVE I TOLD YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE VACATION? Sorry, I’m not screaming AT you…just TO you out of excitement. Yesterday, we made it back from a 2-week hiatus at the Florida Gulf Coast and then a couple’s cruise.
Now, let me tell you one story that sticks out most clearly in my mind. You’re reading this thinking…I don’t want to hear about the Caribbean, or, Brian’s encounters with sharks, but I promise this is that “other” experience abroad. Just follow along. It goes like this…
We arrived at Port Canaveral on July 4th (mid-afternoon) to check-in at the Radisson. I stand in-line and await my turn. There’s an Asian American man of medium build wrestling with a couple of youngsters (I assume they are his), and he’s sweating profusely. The attendant helps him check-in, and he departs with the anxious Lilliputians in tow.
I check us into the hotel. We rest. We eat Subway. Nothing too glamorous here. (Are you still with me?)
We awake on July 5th, after having slept a restful, fireworks bombarded night. I check us out of the Radisson. We are shuttled to Port Canaveral and our new home, a big ship.
It’s ginormous, my wife says. It’s magnificent, I say. The embarkation goes smoothly. We set sail at 5pmish EST. We dine at 6pm. The ship is like a city. You forget you’re moving, plowing towards Caribbean-filled air at 21 nautical knots.
Then, I spot the same Asian American man wrestling with two elderly folks at the Schooner Bar on deck 4. Where have the two younger rapscallions gone? I wonder. He’s yapping at the two elderly folks, and I know he’s trying to get to dinner just like we are. It’s a big ship, I tell myself again. Plenty of room to not be disturbed. 15 stories. C’mon. Maybe I should just introduce myself and make it less weird? I don’t, but move into the dining hall and feast on salmon.
Day 2–a day at sea.
We lounge on the top deck, my wife and I. I plant my face in a waterfall of cascading agua and threaten to not remove my head until we arrive in Haiti. Leah humors me, says “You’ll drown.”
Again, I see the man with the two young kids sitting across from us on the 11th floor, the sunbathing deck. Here, I also see the two elderly folks with him. At the Solarium bar, I see him order a drink. Still, it’s gone too far for introductions. I chalk it up as “we just happen to travel in the same circles” and laugh it off.
Have you ever wondered how you and someone else could literally travel in the same circles? Even at sea on a boat that’s colossal in size?
Day 3–Labadee, Haiti. We dock. We swim on a beach. The same Asian American man walks in front of our chairs 7-10 times in the course of our 2 hours there. I kid you not!
Day 4–Falmouth, Jamaica. We dock. Leah shops. I shop. We board the boat quickly. Jamaica isn’t a place to linger, unless you have a shore excursion. (I do not see the man, the kids, or the grandparents, I assume are his.)
Day 5–Cozumel, Mexico. We dock. The family leaves the ship right in front of us. We see them in the shops. I spot them walking past Carl’s Jr. (Yes, that’s the same franchise as Hardee’s, but with a different name. And, yes. There’s a random one in Mexico. And, yes again. They do serve the Loaded Omelet Biscuit in Mexico as well.) Leah says innocently, “Where have we seen them before?”
I remain silent. Shocked that this phenomenon has happened and equally so that no one else is noticing it but me. Does God want me to talk to this man or what? Wow!
Then, Day 6–day at sea. We see him, his family. It’s gone too far to strike up a conversation at this point. On a ship with 3,000+ guests there’s no way to fathom how I’d strike up a conversation at this point without seeming touched. It would go something like, “So, I’ve seen you. I know, you’ve seen me. Where are you from?”
And silence would follow. He just wants to enjoy his vacation. I’m enjoying mine, I say to myself. Just let sleeping dogs lie.
Day 7 arrives–sadly. The debarkation. We are one of the few EARLY ones that choose to lug our bags off before the maddening crowd awakes. I spot a trio of dolphins in Port Canaveral. Leah says, “There must be a lot of fish nearby.” I agree. Then, the same man with his family marches past me in the line, and he’s sweating again. The kids are a bit calmer at 6:30am–maybe just grumpy now. The grandparents are stoically staring out at the sea. The soon-forgotten trip is in everyone’s mind.
But, I don’t forget anything yet, because we are suddenly shuttled back to the Radisson parking lot. Leah offers to drive, and we take a different road northwest towards Chattanooga. This one offers countless toll roads. We stop 5+ times and shell out the extravagant payments that keep Florida highways looking so pristine. We try to make it around Disney, Orlando, the mice infestation. We succeed. And, when we’ve finally struck highways with numbers we recognize, Leah exhales and decides to stop at a Dunkin Donuts. When we exit, I run to the restroom like one of those mad children from earlier. Leah follows behind me. The ladies room is unoccupied. We recognize a sign on the men’s room which reads “Please knock before entering…Door doesn’t lock!” She laughs at me and ducks into the women’s room. I hesitantly knock on the door, where the wood is off-colored, because so many other fists have knocked before. I wait. No answer. I call out, “Anybody in there?” Nothing. So, I throw open the door and…
Who do you think should be squatting there?
Yep. You guessed it! The same man from our previous jaunt across the southwestern Caribbean. The same man of 9 days previously! The two wild children were in the lobby with the grandparents, I guessed. It was just he and I. I said, “Oh, I’m ssss-so–ssorry!” and slammed the door shut on his bewildered face.
He mumbled, “Aaaaghhh!” and tried to block his face from view. I shut the door so quickly, his face hadn’t registered with me yet. I was too focused on the embarrassment from seeing another grown man indisposed. But, the seconds ticked by as the door remained closed. I heard a flush. I thought about the previous 9 days.
“No way?!” I mutter under my breath, stifling a laugh.
A lady behind me says, “Don’t you just wish you could just clear those images from your head?”
She was really funny. We both cracked up, but I tried to keep my voice down, because he was literally on the other side of the door. My doppelganger of sorts. We traveled the exact same circles and now we were in a random Dunkin bathroom in southern Georgia at 10am or so after all of our time together…and I still didn’t know his name.
He exited and laughed nervously with us.
I said, “I’m sorry about that.”
He waves it off with a smile, says, “The sign clearly reads that the lock doesn’t work. It’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault,” and he laughs again.
I think I should say, “Hey. I know you from somewhere,” but I know it’ll open a can of awkward worms. Over a week’s worth.
He doesn’t admit our connection either, but marches to the front, orders, and collects his family.
What if we lived in the same exact city and didn’t know it? Pretty odd, huh? How many people have the same circles and just don’t know it? Maybe it takes a 9-day voyage to realize it? I still don’t know his or his family’s name. But, I imagine they live right here in southeastern TN alongside me.
We made it back to our apartment last night, and I still have an odd mix of vertigo and disorientation going on inside my head. The realization that this man and I were so similar is unnerving. He’s out there, and he’s busy. I can only imagine that if we ever have children, and we go on another trip like this, and my folks come with us, I’ll be sweating and running around exactly like he was.
I just hope I’m not trying to use a Dunkin Donuts’ bathroom without a lock and laughing off the intruders as they enter my brief bit of solitude.
Will God give us more than we can handle?
One of the most misunderstood attributes of God is that He wants us to live life care-free. (So much for my Ferris Bueller quest, I guess. Chicka–Chick-oww.)
3 examples of people being overwhelmed–
Exodus 4:10-13 (ESV)
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
Psalm 38:4-8 (ESV)
For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
Mark 14:32-36 (ESV)
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.
And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”
And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
In other words…
God consistently gives overwhelming burdens to those whom He loves.
What does it really mean?
1 Corinthians 10:1-14 (ESV)
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
and all ate the same spiritual food,
and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”
We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.
We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,
nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
In other words…
Followers of Jesus do not have to question whether God is real. BUT…Followers of Jesus will be given more than they can handle…consistently.
Why does God give you more than you can handle?
To strengthen our faith and make you whole.
To be whole.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Why does God give you more than you can handle?
To encourage us to move…
To teach us to depend on a strength other than our own.
To experience His power.
Call on Him…
Psalm 145:18 (ESV)
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
God is more interested in our faithfulness than our comfort.
God is more interested in us demonstrating His glory than trying to pretend like everything is ok.
Will God give us more than we can handle? Most definitely!
And once we realize why, we will be forever grateful.
It’s been a year since its debut! The story collection I never imagined would see daylight..let alone printing presses. (It went to WASHINGTON, DC, at one point, Thanks to Matt Smith and the Marine Barracks, and their private library there. I never imagined real heroes would be reading it. EVER!) It’s been a crazy process, and I admit it’s been a BIG learning curve. From where to submit stories to what types of writing conferences to attend, I’ve learned A TON. And, I still feel like a novice. 🙂
Thanks to Leah for remaining patient with my trips to South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and coffee shops around Chattanooga. I’ve tried to motivate her with, “Hey, one of the future novels will take place in the fictional town of Seton, Kentucky.” I’m not sure she’s convinced, but if you see her, tell her to give it a chance in 2015, 2016, 2017, etc. How ever long it takes, I guess. (*insert nervous laughter*)
Thanks to Leah, Nathan Davis, and Lindsey Frantz for taking a look at this new idea. It consumed a good chunk of 2014-2015, and it’s still undergoing changes, but I’m optimistic to do something with it before the year’s end. While my tentative title isn’t nearly as clever as Russell Helm’s Sprinkle Cheese (to be released later this fall as The Ground Catches Everything), I still hope you consider reading my work, Beef Jerky for All, when it’s published.
Similarly, the 2015-2016 (and newest) project is underway and gaining some steam. It doesn’t have a witty title yet. (It’s the Seton, KY revisiting…and I hope to complete its first draft this summer. We can all make Christmas wish lists, right?)
I write all of this to say, Thank you again for the support–lovely readers. Readers of this blog. Readers of anything I’ve sat down to try and muster up the courage to complete. Prayers appreciated for the journey ahead. It’s exciting and daunting all at once. Like a deep dish, meat lover’s pizza from La Rosa’s. It’s beautiful and scary all at once. You have to dig in and burn the roof of your mouth. Because you know…it’s worth it.
God bless you this week!