Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hot, Hot...


We're back on the west coast, and IT IS HOT.

(Hot, hot, damhot, in Southernese.)

I am spoiled.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to live in a house with no air conditioning.

It’s in the high 80’s, low 90’s here in West L.A.  (100’s further inland.) Lower humidity than home, but that doesn’t seem to matter around 4:00 p.m. or so.  If you try to take a nap to escape for a while, a trickle of sweat will wake you up. Then you’re even grouchier.

I was born in a hospital with no air conditioning. On a day in June when the temperature was 102. My mother has fond memories of the experience. (Or she did until recently.) I went to schools with no air conditioning. My home didn’t have central air until I was 10 years old.

In those days, Back-to-School jitters were intensified by the knowledge that you’d soon be trading the cool waters of an all-day pool adventure (complete with ice cream), for the torture of sticking to a hot wooden seat with sweat pooling under your pretty little cotton dress and starchy petticoat. (*BF, could you please send me that pic of us on the first day of First Grade? Pretty please?)

Anyway, I should be accustomed to scorching, unairconditioned afternoons. It shouldn’t be such a shock. But I feel like I’m in a time warp. The Depression South of literature.

Does anyone remember Harper Lee’s description of the heat in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Maybe I’m in a scene from Streetcar Named Desire. I think I hear Stanley Kowalski screaming on the sidewalk beside my open window. (But this one has a different accent.)

Too much heat can change your personality. Make you into someone petty and mean and lazy and crazy.

I feel like my brain is baking.

Tensions soar as the thermometer rises. Fuses are short. Tempers are as hot as the burning air.

Yesterday, an older woman stood on the corner across from the house and screamed profanity. But I didn’t see anyone else around. Maybe she was just cussing out the air.

When I’m perpetually hot like this, all I want to do is escape.

Instead, I walk around the house as scantily clad as possible. On extreme days, I leave the tub full of tepid water and take frequent dippings throughout the long afternoons. We keep the blinds shut, the lights off. Anything to take it down a notch or two.

Why have I become such a baby… a wimp?

I bet Katie in Uganda doesn’t live in an air-conditioned house. I wonder what percent of the world’s population even has the ability to “control climate.” I tried to Google the question, and ran across some interesting articles.

Many environmentalists are concerned that our obsession with keeping cool is actually contributing to global warming. Yikes. What will it feel like in 10 or 15 years? 70,000 people died from heat-related causes in the European Heat Wave of 2003. Less than 10 years ago.

This sentence from an article in Salon made me contemplate:

“…we get into a downward spiral with air conditioning, because science shows that our biological tolerance for the heat is eroded if we spend almost all of our time in climate-controlled bubbles.” (Losing Our Cool,” Ryan Brown, Salon.

I want to live in a bubble.

A bubble whose luminescent borders keep out discomfort, pain, inconvenience, and ugliness. I want an anesthetized life.

But that not’s a real life.

The quote above revealed what’s wrong with me:

…years of ease have eroded my tolerance for discomfort.


I’ve been desultorily writing this over a period of days. Five minutes here, five there. I’m not going to lie. This has been an extremely hard and stressful time. Katherine is still in active pain and having terrible side effects from the meds. Situations have been complicated. Even a bath is a complicated and exhausting procedure. The unusual heat has exacerbated the suffering. We’re all feeling frayed around the edges.

Yesterday morning, I read this in my quiet time:

“…it is important not to be surprised or alarmed by the many trials that enter your life. Until you reach your ultimate home in heaven, you will be at war. When you have a wartime mentality, it’s easier to handle difficulties as they arise: You don’t waste time and energy bemoaning your circumstances; you avoid the trap of feeling singled out for hardship.
     I do indeed equip you fully to handle your difficulties. But you have to have to make the effort to use what I provide: My Presence, My Word, and My Spirit. Come to me when you are heavy-laden and you will find rest for your soul.” (Dear Jesus, Sarah Young, page 102.)

And I remember:

The tolerance we manage to develop in dealing with the small battles in life equips us with the stamina to fight the big ones.

We’ve got plenty of big ones to fight around here.

Help me put my big girl panties on…  and deal.


Okay, you know that I’m prone to hyperbole. It’s cooled down a few degrees in the meantime. My body is learning to tolerate. My son-in-law has promised to find me a window unit. And James and I have found a great way to escape. (Not to mention the weekend trip the whole family made to a wonderful resort.) So don’t feel too sorry for whiny old me.

Is anyone else old enough to remember when schools weren't air conditioned?

Is anyone else affected by the heat like this, or is it just me?


Best way to escape a sweltering day in L.A.????

Best dime I ever spent.

"...the cool waters of an all-day pool adventure (complete with ice cream...)"

Thursday, August 2, 2012


After two and a half weeks of suffering, stress, and boredom, the Olympics came as a welcome distraction for all of us.

Sunday night, we were in Katherine’s room (the family room) watching the swimming competition. I was happy about the timing, because I’d been working with James on his swimming the day before. He’s been totally fearless around water since birth. My goal is to get him “drown-proof.” So far, he’s learned to dog-paddle on the surface, and ‘tadpole’ under the surface. He moves around fairly well in the water, but I keep trying to get him to use his arms more. I was thrilled to see all those big, strong Olympian arms propelling the athletes to the finish line. I thought they might make a greater visual impression on James than grandma’s demonstration of the butterfly or breast-stroke.

We tried to get James interested in watching by cheering on the USA. I found a flag to wave. It’s funny how kids have to learn affiliation. (Our team needs to win.) It made me a little sad to destroy the preschool innocence of everyone being a winner.

But such is the way of the world. The fact that someone “wins” means that someone must “lose.” I’m not going to get all philosophical about it now. At the time, I just wanted James to be engaged with the swimmers. Get him invested in watching so he could observe the powerful arm strokes.

So we cheered and cheered for Team USA and our friends. “Are we the winners, Mimi?” James asked. (“We” won the Bronze in that one.)

I thought Katherine watched a bit pensively. I imagined how hard it must be for her to witness the human body at the apex of freedom, movement and performance, when hers is so restricted and broken. So painful.

While the athletes were collecting their medals, something possessed me to run to the stairs going down to the basement and snatch a picture off the wall. I wanted James to see that his mom is a winner, too.

The picture was taken at our girls’ beloved Camp DeSoto in Mentone, Alabama. It was the only year when all three girls were there at the same time. It was Katherine’s senior year, Grace’s first year. That summer, Katherine received the honor of being elected “Chief” of her tribe. Her two sisters were also loyal “Chickasaws.”

The ‘Olympics’ of Camp DeSoto is an intense competition between the Creeks, Cherokees, and Chickasaws. Various events go on throughout the session. It is done in a spirit of loving Christian fun, but the loyalty to one’s individual tribe builds to a crescendo during the competition for the Cup.  

I got to witness the final night as a “backdoor blessing.” Grace got terribly sick the last week of camp. She was living in the infirmary. After a few days, the director called and said I needed to come. I high-tailed it up to the mountain and rented a room in a funky old boarding house, where I coddled my baby until she felt a little better. She was devastated about missing the end of the tribal competition. By the final night, we decided she was well enough to participate.

It’s a good thing she did: The Chicks won the cup.

I’m so glad Grace got sick so I could see it. The victory joy was wild. I tried to capture it from my seat in the balcony. (Forgive the quality. Our printer’s broken, so these are photos of bad photos. But you get the idea.)

I handed James the picture of his mom and aunts from that happy night, and he ran to show Katherine. “My mom’s a winner!” he announced as the TV crowd cheered for the Olympians.

A few minutes later, I noticed a tear trickle down Katherine’s face. She tried to whisk it away before anyone noticed.

Did the picture trigger it? Too much Before-and-After?

Later that night, Katherine made it upstairs for the first time since her surgery. It was a long, tiring, painful process. She had to go up seated backwards, holding the hurt leg out in front. She thought it would be worth it to get her first real shower in weeks.

But once upstairs, she started really crying.

It’s all just too much.

I was relieved. She needed to get it out. I did what moms always do: I hugged her and gave her a pep talk. (In other words, threw out some scripture. Frankly, I don’t have much positive to say at this point.)

I reminded her of that mysterious verse that had come to me when writing It’s All Good: “It has been granted unto you… to suffer.” (Phil. 1:29)

 A boon.

boon <a noun
1. something to be thankful for; blessing; benefit.
2. something that is asked; a favor sought.

(i.e. “He asked a boon of the king.”)

No matter how much it appears to be just the opposite, the King has granted Katherine a boon. A special blessing of suffering. He has shown her His favor. He has entrusted her with a difficult job. He has chosen her for His special purposes.

It helps us to be reminded of these things now. The eternal perspective is the only one that makes any sense at all.

This week, as I’ve cheered and shared in the joy of Olympic medalists, I’ve contemplated this question:

Who are the real winners?

It’s not the ones who get all the glory and fame in the world.

Ultimately, the victor’s laurel goes to those who just finish whatever race is laid out before them. The ones who, with God’s help, bear their pain and suffering, and allow it to be used for His glory and for the good of their teammates. Those who keep the faith even when they’ve lost the laurels that don’t last.

I think my kid’s a real winner.


“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”  (James 1:12)
"...I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."   (II Timothy 4:7-8).

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”  ( I Corinthians 9:25)


Re-reading this, it all sounds vaguely familiar. I think I’ve already shared about Camp DeSoto somewhere. And maybe talked about the “boon” concept.  The joys of old age: everything is new again. Oh well. I need to be reminded of these things right now. Because I forget.

Note to parents of girls 8-16: If you're looking for a wonderful, life-changing experience for your daughter, send her to Camp DeSoto next summer. It will impact her for life. Seeds were planted in Katherine's heart there that are bearing fruit even now. (And in the lives of my other two girls.)