Monday, June 22, 2009

The Deadly Attributes of Chow Mein Noodles

 Vietnamese Chow Mein
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Herman Saksono

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a fun, lighthearted account of my discovery of three grave plots available to me.  Though I've only used a little over 1/4 of my measuring cup of life, it was my plan to get right on the task of choosing one of those plots.  As I pointed out, " assume one as puny as I will live to be 100 is humorously presumptuous. I mean, it's quite possible that I will happen upon a doughnut-throwing contest, open-mouthed, and meet a glutenous doom well before my time."

Well, on Thursday night, I did almost meet a glutenous doom. But not via a tasty doughnut. Oh no. I nearly met my end by way of the rather bland, but potent chow mein noodle. Made of little more than fried wheat, chow mein noodles are basically small strands of death. They come in various guises, but in this instance, the little buggers were masked behind the friendly title of "chicken salad."

Allow me to set the stage. About three times a year, I am invited to a small, Union Parish Baptist church to sing at their monthly singing service. A potluck dinner inevitably follows. (It is a Baptist church, after all.)

I hesitantly began searching for something to eat that wouldn't do too much damage, and finally spotted something with a seeming bit of promise. I asked the lady standing behind it what it was. "Chicken salad." Now, the only thing I've ever had to watch out for in chicken salad is the occasional tree nut. I gave the stuff a quick glance, and decided it was harmless enough.

I sat down with my scoop of chicken salad and took a bite. My first thought was something along the lines of, "Bleh! This is the worst chicken salad I've ever tasted. Oh, well." I took a second bite, thinking, "This tastes so strange." The third bite was halfway to my mouth when an all too familiar sensation began in my lips and on my skin.

I excused myself to retrieve Benadryl from my diaper bag. I took two, then returned. I was feeling very annoyed at this point because I knew I would be ill for days over the worst chicken salad I had yet encountered. I sat back down. My grandmother and her friend looked at my skin and freaked out a little. I had a nice rash forming. I started digging through the chicken salad in an attempt to identify the culprit. Finally, I happened upon tiny noodles that had been chopped and softened by the juices in the salad. I was livid.

"Who puts noodles in chicken salad?" I whispered to my Nona.

She shook her head. "I don't know, but it's not even good." So it wasn't just me.

After a couple more minutes passed, I realized I wasn't feeling better but worse. Surprised, I left to take another Benadryl. I gave this capsule another few minutes, but my symptoms didn't improve. I told Nona that I was leaving, and she insisted upon driving me home.

We had not fully left the parking lot of the church when I felt my chest begin to get even tighter. I had never experienced such a thing after taking THREE Benadryl. I wasn't frightened, but I reached for my Epi pen, muttering to Nona about how this was going to be a long night. As most of you know, I have an acute fear of needles, so I had to count to three aloud before I was able to jab the thing into my thigh. But the point is that I did it. I called Brandon who was at home, and told him to get ready to leave, we had to go to the ER. He was annoyed, but not yet overly worried.

When I arrived home, I prepped a bottle for Micah, knowing he would be hungry and assuming I should not nurse. I also packed an overnight bag for him just in case he would have to stay with my mom. Brandon took Nona home and put Daisy in her pen. We were calm and methodical. Half an hour passed before we were on the road.

Brandon drove quickly with his hazard lights on while I fed my hungry boy. He took it like a champ. Five minutes from the hospital, we turned onto an entrance to the interstate when I felt tight in my chest again. But the entrance was closed.

I said to Brandon, "Don't freak out. I have to use the other one." Brandon said a few choice words, made an illegal U-turn, hopped the median, and sped across the Louisville bridge.

We arrived at the ER. I could barely stand, but the receptionist asked me to fill out an information sheet. I couldn't write, so I gave her my license and sat. They then took me to triage where they asked a series of questions which were rather annoying to a person struggling to breathe because she ate two bites of a bad chicken salad. Fortunately, the second Epi did the trick because it was another half hour before I saw the doctor.

The doctor entered the room at a lope. When he spoke, his voice reminded me of Kermit the Frog. I concluded he was having a nice night in the ER because he also possessed Kermit's "always look on the bright side of life" attitude. He asked me what happened. I told him. He said, "The second shot probably wasn't necessary. The tightening in your chest was probably from the first shot."

I wanted to say, "Look here, Kermy--I know what happened, I know what I felt, and I don't have a habit of stabbing myself for fun!" Instead, I said nothing.

He declared me free from swelling at that point, ordered yet a shot of Decadron (another shot!--yay....), and a pack of steroids to take at home. I was free to go.

Fortunately for me, the deadly attributes of chow mein noodles were overcome by the life-saving ones of the Epi pen. I could've been in trouble had I not had them. I may have even needed one of those grave plots, but I never thought about that in the middle of the crisis. I just did what had to be done, and I'm glad to know I can handle something like that.

I scared my poor husband, and I can't nurse until Wednesday evening, but everything is alright now. I'm still irritated, still unwell, but I'm fine. The moral of the story? Don't trust potluck chicken salad, and don't joke about glutenous dooms.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Yesterday, after completing the fourth of nine interviews for my book, I was left with a feeling that I didn't know my dad's mother at all. I was an adult when she passed away, but I never really knew her. I knew she that she was intelligent, kind, talented and tough, but she was so much more. Though she came from meager means and horrid circumstances, she was nothing short of a genius and a miracle. She was more complex than any character I have read or could create in my wildest dreams. She was a study in contrast--traditional but revolutionary, humble but proud, quick-tempered but tender-hearted, poor but generous,spiritual yet potty-mouthed, cultured but trapped at the end of a gravel road in Pioneer, Louisiana. She was full of spirit, fight and passion until the day she passed into eternity.

I deeply regret that I did not know her in life. I have embarked upon an unexpected adventure, and one book just will not do. I would only be scratching the surface with one book. The world needs to meet this woman because she is an inspiration, a voice that reminds us that we were created to "be somebody." I am so thankful that the Chapmans have great memories. This is my opportunity to know her--through what they can recall. I am much less than halfway through my research, but I'm already proud to have her blood coursing through my veins.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe . . .

I began writing a novel last Sunday. I have known for awhile that I wanted to write southern fiction, but I had not yet decided upon a plot or characters, two slightly important details to consider when writing a novel. Micah woke me early Sunday morning (even though that is quite late for him), but my brain wasn't the fog it usually is at 6:00 am. The creative neurons were in overdrive, much like Micah's suction. And there, as I nursed my apparently ravenous son, I was given my idea like rain to a seed. I began writing that morning,but I knew my idea would require a good bit of work in the way of interviews, so I began scheduling them as quickly as I could. I have four lined up for this week!

Yesterday during interview number one, I discovered something that could be described at once as interesting, disturbing, problematic, money-savvy, and extremely confusing. I have my choice of not two, but three burial sites, bought and paid for. That's right. Three different people have located and purchased a place for me to be laid to rest. Until yesterday, I have considered my death only as hypothetical and honestly, in tandem with my husband's. For example, if Brandon and I were to bite the dust, who should raise our child? Yesterday, I was forced to face the fact that even if I were to live to be one hundred years old, 25% of life has passed me by. At best, my life represents my 3/4 measuring cup, and that visual is not so encouraging. Furthermore, to assume one as puny as I will live to be 100 is humorously presumptuous. I mean, it's quite possible that I will happen upon a doughnut-throwing contest, open-mouthed, and meet a glutenous doom well before my time. In that case, what should I do about these three probably costly burial plots which come with all but a tombstone with my name on it? Do you see my dilemma?

Anyway, I'm thinking I should probably start deciding. I could "meet" my prospective neighbors, get a feel for the atmosphere and observe lawn care and maintenance. Maybe dad will take me. He's the only person I can think of who enjoys touring cemeteries in the sweltering summer heat.

I have my work cut out for me between taking care of Micah, keeping house, teaching music lessons, writing a novel and deciding where I should decay.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Favorite Confessions of a Potentially Crazy Person

I feel that my blog has been too heavy this week. After getting my nightmare off my chest this morning, I decided to save my old Myspace blogs to my computer, and shut the account down. I read as I saved them, and started laughing. Magically, I was better. I thought I would recycle the laughter. Keep in mind that these posts are all over a year old. Enjoy!

Confession #6:
I've chosen a career that forces me to stare at little black dots all day long.

Confession #11:
I have a bizarre sense of humor. Those of you who know me understand what I mean. Those of you who don’t will learn if you keep reading.

Confession #15:
Occasionally, I will spontaneously burst into song. This doesn't mean I spontaneously burst into RANDOM song. It's usually after someone says something that activates my extensive song repertoire. Then, I will just start singing. I can do this up to 20 times a conversation. I think this form of craziness is genetic though. There seems to be no escaping it. All of the Chapmans do it (my dad, his brothers and sisters, and his dad). So if I start singing while I'm talking to you, it's your fault!

Confession #17:
I may try to hide it. I might even try to deny it. But THE BOSSY lives inside of me. I was born bossy. I will die bossy. It's a part of my way too opinionated, just way-too-much-in-general personality. God made me this way. If you have a problem, take it up with him.

Because I know that many people consider bossiness an extremely abrasive characteristic, I do whatever I can to keep The Bossy hidden. When I was a child, I didn't do this so well. The Bossy kept screaming to come out. (What? It was suppressed by The Bigger Bossy living inside of my sister.)

My three favorite games to play when the neighborhood kids would come over were:
1. School -- But I SO had to be the teacher. If anyone made me be the student, I would be a BAD student. But if I was the teacher, you did REAL schoolwork from the workbooks I had saved from school over the years. My friends learned in my classroom. I was a good teacher. I still am. Maybe that's why I've chosen this career.
2. Basketball team -- I'm sure you already know that I was the coach. My team began practice by running a lap around our circular subdivision. Then they did strength exercises. Then they did drills. I was tough. I demanded a lot. My team would have kicked your team's butt.
3. Drill sergeant-- Yes, I was the drill sergeant. DROP DOWN AND GIVE ME 50!!! I was training a battle-worthy army . . . until all of the little neighborhood kids got wise and quit playing with me.
It's a good thing that people like Amber, Torey, Morgan and others like them loved me for me. I was a trip to put up with. Still am.

So, drop down and give me 30! I DARE you to tell me I'm crazy!

Confession # 21:
I have several pet-peeves. This fact goes along with my anal, OCD, bi-polar personality, so it's really no wonder. Some of my pet peeves include ignorant dogmatism, my husband not putting his dishes in the dishwasher after I've already done the rest of the dishes, and people keeping hermit crabs as pets. Can we say, “Animal torture?” One of my biggest pet peeves is the dumb quips Baptists put on their church signs.

ex. Is your pew your lawn chair or your launching pad? --- Are we scientologists?
ex. You can depend on God, but can God depend on you? ----- excuse me while I add . . . . Noooooo . . . . Well, maybe to screw up.
ex. God does not put anything on us we can't handle.---That’s not even true.
ex. Remember the banana. When it got separated from the bunch, it got peeled.—What does that even mean?
ex. Three things necessary for a Christian: Determination, Direction and God—How about Grace, Mercy, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit?
ex. You think it’s hot here? Keep living the wrong way.---How is this even helpful?

What must non-Christians think about these signs? If I didn't know that good people that just don't think put these ridiculous sayings up there, I would stay FAR, FAR away. So, if you are in charge of your church's sign, please don't try to be clever. A Bible verse or an announcement is just fine. Thank you.

Confession #23:
I love my sleep. I must have my sleep. I need 9 hours of sleep per night. I never get that. Oh well. Sometimes it's because I'm too busy; other times it's because of other reasons. When something strange or out of the ordinary occurs during the middle of the night, I get a little tickled. For instance, the night before last, I woke myself up with the hiccups. I tried every trick in the book to stop. I couldn't. When I had managed to wake up both Brandon and the dog from their comas, I couldn't help but be amused. I stayed amused until I fell back asleep . . . still hiccuping.

My best example comes from last summer. Brandon and I were in Florida while my parents were in Orange Beach. We decided to meet them where they were staying, and spend the night with them in order to get up early and go deep-sea fishing. This seemed like a clever idea at the time. I was wrong on so many levels. I had thought we would be staying in a condo, first of all. Wrong! We stayed in a one room hotel with two queen beds. (Having your parents sleeping three feet away will kill any romantic vacation spirit you may have.) Even with my parents sleeping so closely to my husband and I, matters managed to worsen. Daddy began to snore. It started out kind of like a pig's grunt, and then the dynamic expanded into the roar of a freight train. I fell in and out of sleep for about an hour. I caught winks in between Daddy's wall-rattling inhalations and exhalations. Then suddenly, I was awakened by a new sound. It was softer than Daddy's snore. It sounded kind of like a little neighing pony. The neighing settled into a rhythm of hitting the off- beat of each of Daddy's snores. Yes--my mother had turned Daddy's raucous solo into a bizarre duet. No more sleeping in between the snores. I was delirious and confused. My parents never snored like this when I lived with them. Believe me, I could have heard it down the hall (and probably down the street, for that matter). No, it was a new habit. Then I realized it--my parents were getting old, and they had lived so long together, they had subliminally learned to make not-so-beautiful nighttime music together. I began to giggle. I tried to restrain myself. I really tried. But I couldn't any longer---I punched Brandon in the side, woke him up, and said, "Listen to this. It's the craziest thing in the world."

I'm not really sure how long I cackled. I just know that the next morning I felt as if I hadn't slept. And thanks to me, Brandon hadn't slept much either. And we didn't even get to go fishing. But I got one of the greatest laughs of my life that night. Too bad I had to sacrifice sleep for it.

Confession 59:
My stomach is a diva. Its personality is larger than my own. It literally cries out for attention. My stomach embarrasses me all the time. Like me, my stomach enjoys singing, acting, can be quite talkative and has a bad habit of acting up at inappropriate times. One day last semester, my stomach insisted upon singing a very high-pitched "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" throughout my Twentieth Century Music Analysis class. On this particular day, it felt it necessary to deliver its opinion of George Crumb. I told it to shut up, that I personally liked George Crumb, and that I really wished it wouldn’t embarrass me like that in front of Dr. Mobley.

But my stomach committed its worst social crime to date during my psychology test this morning. For some reason, it thought it would be clever to make Godzilla-like laughing noises every time I had trouble with a question. Not only was that a highly inappropriate moment to make any noise at all (others were disturbed while taking their tests), but I was mortified that my stomach would be so rude to me! Of course, it fell completely silent the moment that I exited the classroom . . . . once it didn’t have an audience anymore. Hateful digestive system!

Cinderella Had It Wrong

Have you ever had a dream that was so clear, so detailed, so horrible, or so wonderful that you couldn’t put it away from you? I have. Mine are usually horrible, which would make them nightmares rather than dreams, I suppose. Only once have I had a dream stick with me that was neither wonderful nor horrible, but so captivating that I woke in the early morning, and wrote it down. I am not a big believer in reading too much into dreams because if my dreams were truly prophetic, either I or someone I dearly loved would have already met a bloody end, or I would be forced to conclude that I am, in fact, a loon. Night before last, I had what can only be described as a nightmare, and like the sky yesterday, it greyed my day. I thought I was freed this morning until I picked up Micah, and held him in my arms. While I can still recall childhood nightmares with clarity and the feeling of horror as some tragedy took my parents away from me, none can compete with my first nightmare in which I played the role of parent.

I was deep sea fishing off the coast of California with Brandon, Micah, my parents and select members of my extended family when large meteors began raining from the heavens. The ship’s captain immediately began heading for shore so that we could find shelter. We all headed for the basement of our condo as buildings, vehicles and people were obliterated. In my dream, Micah was old enough to walk and talk, seeming to be three or four years old. I encased him in my arms while we hunkered down. He looked at me and asked, “Mommy, are we going to die?” I remember the feeling of nausea as I answered, “I don’t know, baby.” Just then, a meteor flew directly over us to crash only a few hundred yards away, taking our condo with it. We all lay exposed to the threatening sky. I looked around at those I loved, and said, “Just in case we don’t make it, I want you all to know that I love you very much.” Out of the corner of my eye, everything was ablaze, then all went black.

My skin was covered in a clammy sheen when I awoke. I had to remind myself where I was and that I was the mother of a three-month-old, not a three-year-old. I concluded that my dream was not to give me a glimpse into the future, but a glimpse into myself. And I like I what I saw. I was afraid, but I did not give into panic for the sake of my son (and because I knew my destination). When I was given the choice between what was easy and what was right, I chose right. I did not lie to my son. I told him the truth. Then, I was able to bid a loving farewell to my family. If death was our fate, they went knowing they had my love, and I went having had the opportunity to tell them so. In a way, it was beautiful, but mostly gut-wrenching. I hope that now I have “written it out,” I will be able to give a goodbye to the somber and somewhat fateful feeling it has given me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Patience, Patience, Patience

Patience. It is a quality that people generally lack. Most would say that they wish they were more patient. Some people think that patience is a birthright—few have it; most don’t--while other people think of it more as a cosmic trinket from God that they can magically and instantly own. This view is popular among Christians. It is requested of Him often in many prayer circles. There once was a time that I belonged to this group. I quickly learned that I did not really want “the gift” patience, and I now pity those who ask for it without understanding or sincerity.

Galatians 5:22 tells us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. My translation actually uses the synonym “longsuffering.” I like the term longsuffering because anyone with an average intelligence quotient can dissect and rearrange the word into “suffering long.” Suffering long and producing fruit both require a couple of key ingredients—time and nurture. The reason most people flippantly pray for patience or offer the excuse, “I’m just not a patient person,” is because they do not understand the nature of patience. Patience is not something to be received beautifully gift-wrapped and easily opened. Rather, it is something to be earned through much focused practice and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The focus must be on the goal. The only sensible reason to become patient is to be more like Jesus Christ. I see no other rational motive. What other benefit is there in being patient? Patience is not good for self. It does not make us feel better. The cost is not really worth simply being a better person. There are other ways to do that. To become more like Jesus, we must seek Him through the only means with which He has provided us—His word and prayer, and then live as He has commanded us. The focus must be on the goal, for attempting to live the life to which He calls us is difficult, and we will fail miserably if we rely on our instincts. Our instincts are self-seeking, which is why most people are disappointed with the results of their request for this illusive thing. What most people actually want when they ask for patience is the absence of conditions that try their patience, but to request such a thing in front of others or even in private would reveal the worst about themselves. Few of us want to confront such depravity. In reality, to ask for patience is really to ask for the opportunity to practice patience. These opportunities are rarely pleasant. They come in the form of heavy traffic when late, an abrasive personality, a repeated offense, a surrender of our own agendas. The time to pray for patience is not at a moment when there is nothing to try it, but at the very moment of our need. Our reaction to these learning opportunities is what will produce patience, and our only hope of responding well is in remembering God’s patience with us, and calling upon the Holy Spirit.

I will not often use this blog as a soap box. The only reason I chose to write about this topic today is because I have had several opportunities to practice patience in the last 48 hours, and I have mostly failed. I need to confess, refocus and recommit. I am beginning to think that having a child is the fruition of all those well-intended but ill-conceived prayers for patience, for Micah has given me more opportunities to practice patience in these last three months than I have known over my entire 25 years. I have won some, and lost some. While I do not always enjoy denying myself or relinquishing my plans to meet his needs, I find the classroom of parenthood a pleasant one, and as long as I can keep properly focused upon the Great Teacher, I have much to gain.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back to the Pen

It is something to be wounded so deeply that you lose a significant part of yourself for a year and a half. I guess that is what happened to me. I was attacked. I was maimed. I needed time to heal. Eighteen months later, I find all limbs workable once again, but small demons have wheedled their way deep into my psyche. I am afraid. I am cautious. I expect to be hurt again. Should I shy away from topics that contain too much truth? Should I fear the reactions of others? Should I wear the body armor of compromise? I would like to answer with a resounding “no,” but I’m not sure I possess the required amount of conviction. Nonetheless, I am diving in the unknown. Bravery has very little to do with it. It’s a simple matter of must. I must get back on my feet. I must move forward. I must write again. It’s an itch I am compelled to scratch, and though writing has much to do with the ability to create a multitude of images to explain something simple, I cannot explain myself more eloquently than that. So I am baring my fingernails, and I am inviting all who wish to witness it. Some of it, anyway.