Consider This Smoke Signals

Darling Creepers (read: Parents),

I am still alive. Don’t worry.

I know I haven’t called you. Or texted you. Or emailed you. Or written letters. Or used smoke signals. But I’m still breathing, and the trusty heart is still doing its thing!

I haven’t quite died of exhaustion, studying, and general life without you yet. This is probably only because Twin and Turtle cook for me, though. Otherwise I’d be a super-dead, gross, starved thing.

Also, because of the rule that I have to wear evil, nasty pants in all common areas, I think I’m becoming more acclimatized to wearing pants. Sure, after a full day of being out and about with people and classes and things, the only thing I can think about is going home and taking my pants off, but I’m actually wearing sweatpants in common areas now. I’m calling it an improvement. I know Twin and Turtle are thankful.

School is still bluh. It will always be bluh because I’ve passed the years of nap time, crayons, and glitter.

But let’s think about this for a minute – I think I would learn everything I’m learning a whole lot better if there were snacks and glue sticks involved. I’m not really sure how to fit stickers and coloring books in with learning about the intrapartum period of pregnancy (gross), but I’m sure a creative teacher could figure it out.

Also, I just wanted to let you know that, if you ever want grandchildren, they’re going to have to come from one of your other children. I have learned waaaaaaay too much in the past few weeks about what those tiny monsters do to your body to ever willingly let one steal half my blood supply and feng shui my vital organs.

Uh-uh. Ain’t happening.

And Twin won’t be having any kids either if I can ever get her to listen to my dire warnings. Those things are nasty. And they smell funny.

Princess Sweet Beans is your only hope. Not that he can ever have kids personally, but you know, he might get married one day. Maybe?

It might be best just to not count on grandkids?

At least I’m warning you now…

Anyway. That was a little off topic.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m still kicking, things are going great, I’m tired, I miss you, and I still like you a whole lot.

And, you know, it’s really a good thing that I haven’t been writing here.

I write to order my thoughts. I write when things don’t make sense. I write when I’m overwhelmed and I need to understand things. I write because my brain is all sorts of jumbled up, and if I can just get it all out somewhere in a cohesive manner, I can make sense of it. I write because my brain is not always my friend, and it doesn’t always make a lot of sense.

If I can write something, I can understand it. If I can jump inside it and accurately map out my thoughts, I can successfully navigate myself through them. That’s part of why my thoughts don’t always seem finished – they’re not. I’m still trying to find my way through them.

So why am I writing tonight? Because tonight I’m a little homesick, and I didn’t want to call you at 10:30 at night. You’d probably panic and assume that I was either dead or in jail for trespassing (I haven’t done that any this semester so far. No worries.) when I just wanted to chat about normal things.

So I’ll probably have another cup of coffee and study some more, then go to bed. I had a test this morning that was really awful, and I’ve got my first OB test next Wednesday. Not looking forward to that.

So I need to study. And I should probably go to bed sometime tonight. But I definitely need to water my plants. Poor creatures.

But don’t worry. The semester’s getting all kinds of busy, so I’ll be writing a lot more here soon.

All this to say, I love you, I miss you, and I’ll probably call you soon!

Love,

Your favorite daughter (It’s okay to admit it. We all know it’s true.)

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Peeing Behind Trees and Eating Gross Food and Sleeping With Rocks

I went backpacking this weekend with my Venturing Crew to Savage Gulf. We did about 17.5 miles. We started on Friday and camped beside the ranger’s station, got up Saturday morning, hiked 8.2 miles (the North Rim trail to Hobb’s Cabin), stayed there for the night, got up Sunday morning, and hiked the North Plateau trail back to the ranger’s station.

It was a really easy trip because we had a bunch of new people with us, and my crew has a problem with actually getting started in the morning. We didn’t get going until 8:47 Saturday and 9:26 Sunday.

I know the times are really exact, but I made note of it so we could figure out our pace.

Also, I have this really creepy ability to remember times. I can’t remember my own phone number or birthday (literally), but I can remember the exact time I woke up this morning (8:24). Strange, huh?

So, anyway…backpacking.

There’s this strange joy that comes from carrying everything you need to survive on your back and walking around in the middle of the woods. It’s something that can’t really be described, but, if you’ve ever done it, you know what I’m talking about.

It does seem sort of strange, I bet, to think of someone actually liking being dirty and sweaty and gross and walking aimlessly and peeing behind trees and drinking (purified) water out of streams. I can understand thinking someone who just takes off for a while, carrying everything they need to survive on their back, is a little crazy. Taking a weekend (or a week or a few weeks) to do nothing but walk around in the woods does seem a bit like something a lunatic would do.

But, once you do it (and do it right), there’s no going back. There’s freedom there. There’s peace there. You’re in a place that smells, sounds, and looks amazing. It feels like you’re in another world, completely cut off from everything bad. It’s an escape. It’s proving to yourself (and sometimes the people you go with) that you’re stronger than you thought you were.

As a girl, it’s proving that I’m not ordinary. It’s a reminder to myself that I don’t need makeup, it’s okay to get nasty and smell funny, I can take care of myself, and I don’t need everything I’ve grown accustomed to.

Also, I know peeing is usually a taboo subject, but, I’ve just got to say – there is nothing more fun than peeing behind a tree. I know that’s really weird and a little awkward, but it’s great. It makes me feel…powerful? My thought process goes something like this:

“I’m peeing behind a tree. Oh gravy. Cold breeze. I’m peeing behind a tree. I’M PEEING BEHIND A TREE! Take that, Nature! Feel my kick in the face, Toilet! I don’t need you no more! Nothing can stop me! Nothing can hold me back! I’M INVINCIBLE! I CAN DO ANYTHING! I CAN GO ANYWHERE! I’M THE QUEEN OF THE WORLD!!!!”

And then I get really hyper, and everyone in the group just thinks I’m really weird (like usual). But, seriously, I love peeing in the woods.

When you’re backpacking, you can also eat the most disgusting food in the world, and it tastes delicious.

I hate canned chicken. I know I exaggerate about a lot of things, but not that. It’s a serious loathing. To me, it tastes like salty cardboard. I can’t stand it.

But, while we were out this weekend, I ate it for lunch on two separate occasions, and it was like a party in my mouth. I adored it. This is just what happens. I also loathe tuna, especially canned tuna, but I have eaten that as well.

Basically, it goes like this – if you’re backpacking and it’s food, it’s delicious. It’s like magic. I think the walking alters your taste buds. True scientific fact.

And rocks. Rocks are glorious. Well, when you’re winter backpacking and it’s very cold at night, they are. See, rocks will hold heat for a long time. So, if you can get a rock hot, it will keep you warm for that very long time. If you have a fire (which you usually always do even if you don’t really need it) (cause they’re just so much fun!), you can find a glorious rock, name it (optional), and stick it beside the fire.

If you leave it there for a few hours and let it get so hot you have to wrap a bandana around it so it doesn’t catch your hands on fire, then take it with you to bed, and then zip it inside your sleeping bag with you, it will keep you toasty warm until the wee hours of the morning.

It might also melt your sleeping bag a little bit and burn your stomach some, so be very careful.

Once you reach the wee hours of the morning and the rock has cooled off, you will wake up. It is inevitable. You will roll over on top of the rock and it will jab you in the stomach (or face), and you will be in pain (which wakes most people up).

Once you wake up, you will have a very awkward moment where you try to decide if you should kick the rock out of your sleeping bag or not. After all, it had kept you warm up until that point. It had been so useful and friendly, sharing generously of its warmth out of the goodness of its little, rock heart. But now it is just dead weight. It is cold and poking you and bothersome.

So, you will usually decide to throw it out. You will grab it and be about to chuck it out into the cold, harsh world…and you will remember that you named it. At this point it will probably be at eye level and you will stare at it, imagining its little, rock eyes staring back at you, pleading with you, asking to stay in the warmth.

To your great shame and consternation, you will usually give in to the imaginary rock eyes. Your heart will turn to mush, and you won’t be able to throw it out. You will whisper your apologies and hold it close for the rest of the night. It will forevermore be a low point in your life.

Not that I’ve had any personal experience with this. His name was Timothy. Timothy Rock. He was so nice…

This is backpacking. Well, part of the part that I can explain. This is something I love dearly. DEAL WITH IT!

Christmas

It’s a time where we remember a child in an itchy manger in a smelly stable surrounded by noisy animals being visited by complete strangers.

His poor mother, who has just given birth (not the most comfortable of things) probably looks like a mess and feels even worse. And here come a bunch of shepherds who smell like the sheep they tend telling a story of a bunch of angels and so eager for a glimpse of the child.

Graciously, she extends a welcome to them, believing the story that would have had them locked away today, and knowing, deep inside, just how special this child of hers is.

Who knows what Joseph is doing then. I always imagine that he’s proud, like a new father should be, but a little confused because he knows the child isn’t really his – that the child is, in fact, God’s Son. I imagine him being worried about Mary and the baby and a little upset because the only thing he could give her was a stable. I imagine him being a little frazzled and constantly running his hands through his hair and pacing around. I picture him trying to shelter Mary and the child from the shepherds when they first come in with their story, but then accepting them and letting them see and worship.

The story’s usually really cute and sweet, but I imagine it was a little rough around the edges back then. They were probably a little (a lot) stressed out. Mary and Joseph were probably exhausted.

I really don’t believe the Christmas carols that say that Jesus didn’t cry. Babies cry. And scream. And smell funny. And look like strange, mutant lizards.

It probably wasn’t as peaceful as we’d like it to be, but, in that moment, God became fully man and salvation was on its way. That makes it beautiful.

I wonder if Mary knew that.

Fast forward a couple of years to when the wise men show up. They come wearing funny clothes, talking in strange accents, bringing magnificent gifts, and telling an unlikely story about a star and King Herod wanting to know where the child is. Once again, she believes them and understands and welcomes them and lets them worship the Son of  God.

The kinds of people who came to see Jesus after he was born tell a lot about who he would be serving later.

The shepherds were poor. They were social outcasts. They weren’t normally accepted into people’s homes. They kept to themselves and did their own thing.

The wise men were Gentiles. In fact, they came from the East, where most of Israel’s enemies had come from throughout the years. They were pagans and, to the Jews, salvation for them was unattainable.

These were the people the Jesus was going to open doors for. These were the people he was going to bring the light of salvation to. These were the people he died for. He came for the poor, the outcast, the pagan, the Gentile, the rich, and the enemies of God. Jesus was God’s gift to the world. The whole world. No exceptions. He was the gift for all of us.

Christmas is a time to remember the child, the manger, the hope, and the gift. We should be humbled and so extremely thankful.