Mysterious Maladies

June 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

My toddler woke up with small red blotches covering his chest. Measles? An allergic reaction to a food? Poison ivy? What caused this mysterious rash? I wasn’t sure but my son was scratching vigorously.

We headed to the doctor’s office in search of answers. Entering the room, wearing his white lab coat, the doctor exuded an air of authority. He scrutinized each spot and asked a few questions. Then he pronounced his solemn diagnosis: “erythemia punctalis.”

My knowledge of Latin is limited but it was sufficient to translate this brilliant piece of medical insight. My son had “red itchy spots.” For this wisdom I could now proceed to the check-out desk and render up a co-pay. The spots disappeared on their own several days later.

Fast forward through twenty-three years of scientific research and medical advances.

One day earlier this winter, my son discovered that his torso was again covered with red itchy spots. He observed them over several days. They did not spread. But they did not go away. They itched and distracted my son whenever he wore a shirt.

Once again my son headed to the doctor’s examination room. Once again, an all-wise physician entered, exuding confidence.

My son removed his shirt to reveal the full extent of the rash. The doctor hemmed and hawed. He peered at the back and walked around to the front. With a sagacious nod of his head, he helpfully announced, “It’s pityriasis rosea.”

That is Latin for “inflammatory skin rash.”

“And what caused the rash?” my son asked.

“We don’t know what causes it.”

“How did I get it?”

“We don’t know. It is not contagious.”

“So it’s a mystery?”

“Oh, no. It is not a mystery. It’s pityriasis rosea.”

“But no one knows how I got it.”

“Right. It just happens to some people when they become young adults.”

“So it is a mystery.”

“No, no. I tell you it is pityriasis rosea.”

“How long will I have it?”

“No one can say. It might go away in a few days. It might last six weeks. It might come back again. No one knows.”

“So it really is a mystery, right?”

The doctor shook his head vigorously. “No, no! I told you it was pityriasis rosea.”

The wise physician removed his latex gloves, jotted a note on my son’s chart and walked out of the room.

And my son? He put on his shirt, picked up his paperwork and headed to the check-out desk to pay his bill. His rash cleared up after a few more weeks of therapeutic scratching.

Medicine with or without Latin — it’s a mystery.

“Laughter is good medicine for the soul” (Proverbs 17:22, paraphrased).

(The only thing contagious about this author is her sense of humor. Visit her at emilychase.com to learn about her books, such as Help! My Family’s Messed Up!)

Handle with Care

May 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

What college student does not delight to open up his or her mailbox and find a request to pick up a package at the desk?  Thus I bounced from my mailbox to the counter, and the woman in charge handed me a small brown carton swathed in tape.

This was the first and only time in all my years at college in Ithaca, New York that I had received a care package from my home in Arizona.  I eagerly tore off the wrapping to reveal…a box of candied apricots.  Apricots? My pleasure in receiving a package turned to confusion. What was my mother thinking?  But here in my hands was a tray of shiny apricots, each glazed with a thick sugar syrup coating.

My friends had received stranger gifts from home.  My roommate’s mother once sent an envelope full of little packages of ketchup and mustard that she had picked up with her order at a fast food restaurant.   Perhaps she thought we would find them handy in our campus residence hall?  And we might have used them but she forgot to write “hand cancel” on the envelope, so they went through the automatic cancellation process. The machine pressed the contents flatter than the postage stamp.  Red and yellow stains obliterated all but the address.

Another thoughtful mother mailed an Easter basket.  She went to her local K-mart and picked out a large basket filled with chocolate bunnies, plastic grass and marshmallow eggs, all wrapped in single sheet of cellophane.  She tied a tag to the handle and dropped in in the mail.  I can only imagine that the postal service accepted it as a challenge.  In my mind’s eye I see each carrier setting the basket on the seat next to him in the truck, handing it gently to the next person, and the final mail carrier delivering it in triumph to our dorm.  Not a jelly bean was jostled out of place.

Still, as I looked at the strange gift in my hands, I wondered what had prompted my mother to send this package of fruit.  I did what any intelligent Ivy-League student would do.  I called home.

“Hi, Mom.  I got your package today.”

My mother chuckled, thus confirming my suspicion that a story lurked under that sickly sweet glaze.

“Your brother just moved out of his apartment in California.”

I knew my brother was leaving the country for a year.  He was driving across the country before taking a flight to Greece, and was stopping to see relatives along the way, including my folks in Phoenix.  Mom explained that he found the apricots at the back of a cupboard in his kitchen, and rather than toss them, gave them to her.  She didn’t know what to do with them and so she mailed them to me.

With a saccharine smile, I thanked her for thinking of me and hung up the phone.  Unlike her, I knew exactly what to do with these super-sweet fruit-flavored sugar cubes.

My brother was due to arrive in Ithaca the next week.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, they are sweeter than candied apricots” (Psalm 119:103, paraphrased).

(Send all care packages to the author at emilychase.com and read about her books, including Help! My Family’s Messed Up!)

Counting the Miles

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

“Mom, are we there yet?”

Our kids are no different from yours. Their energetic minds and bodies rebel against the inactivity of sitting in a car for hours at a time. And, as every parent soon learns, we know that idle minds become the devil’s playground.

To head mischief off at the pass, my husband and I use a sure-fire way to entertain our kids on long trips in the car. No, it does not involve OnStar movies or iPods with ear buds. We don’t even hire a professional clown or bribe our kids with stops at Walt Disney World.

Of course old standbys like the alphabet game, I Spy and collecting license plates from fifty states, not to mention the geography game and travel bingo, can help. But with the assistance of my OC husband who has a counting compulsion, we have a new way to keep the kids attention from the start of a trip all the way to the arrival at our destination.

“What shall we count today?” we ask as we settle into our seats and head for the highway.

Flags? US postal trucks? Police cars? Coca Cola signs? Each child suggests a theme. Once we agree on an item, each person in the car, including parents, estimates how many of that item we will encounter in the course of the trip. From then on, everyone joins together in seeking out objects that fit the theme. At the end of the trip, the person closest to the actual total, without going over, receives mega honor and glory.

Of course, counting American flags quickly becomes passé, especially if we plan a trip close to Memorial Day. Do you have any idea how many flags appear in each cemetery along your route? Thus our themes become more targeted. For example, one Fall season we count every orange leaf bag decorated like a pumpkin. Another time, we count houses with dangling Christmas lights. This is in July.

On one memorable trip returning from a visit to my husband’s folks, we decide to count tacky lawn ornaments. Does this sound easy? We soon have to define “tacky.” Is a birdbath, clearly a lawn ornament, tacky? We agree that it serves a useful function and therefore is not tacky. Bathtubs and pedestal sinks, though filled with flowers, are. And crystal balls in varying shades of blue or green, and the plywood cut-outs of female backsides bending over a garden scream tackiness.

Some houses offer more ornaments than we can number as we drive by at 55 miles per hour, so a new rule says that no single domicile may contribute more than six objects to the overall count. That rule saves us from digging out our pocket abacus.

The “tackiest ornament of the day” award? How can you choose between the yard decorated with five porcelain toilets (filled with flowers) and the yard that offered an oversized wagon wheel with ceramic horses attached to each wooden spoke?

We arrive at our own driveway in time for supper. “Aw, are we home already?”

“Preserve sound judgment and discernment . . . [as] an ornament to grace your neck.” (Proverbs 3:21,22 NIV)

The author is busy counting hits at her website. Visit her at emilychase.com to learn more about her books, including Help! My Family’s Messed Up! (Kregel, 2008).

Grampa’s Sermons

March 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

When one of my brothers, in a sentimental mood, decided to give each of our kids a recording of their grandfather’s sermons, the response was, um, muted enthusiasm. So I was surprised when those tapes began to lead a wild life of their own.

Mind you, my children were all under the age of ten at the time. They were not inclined to listen to their mother in person, let alone a series of sermons on a cassette tape. That is why, one day when he was ridding his closet of clutter, my oldest son sneaked the tape into his sister’s room and hid it in her pile of clean laundry. And when she found it? She dutifully returned it to her brother, this time hiding it in his underwear drawer.

From that time on, they passed the tape back and forth year after year, ever escalating the value of the hiding places. When Tim became a teen and began dating, his girlfriend invited him to dinner at her home. After the meal, she served him lime Jell-O for dessert. Inside the green gelatinous mountain, courtesy of his sister, was the cassette, carefully preserved in a ziplock bag.

When children go off to college, don’t they all look forward to receiving care packages? Our daughter asked a house guest from Wisconsin to take along an unmarked box and mail it to Tim’s campus mail box. He ripped open the out-of-state package with enthusiasm only to find not home-baked cookies but Grampa’s sermons.

When our family moved out of state for a year, our daughter Prisca was still in high school. She played volleyball for her new school’s team, and at the end of the season, the coach called her out at halftime for special recognition in front of all the fans.

“Prisca has been a powerful assist to our team this year, and we will miss her greatly next year,” he concluded. Then he presented her with a beautifully wrapped gift. Flushed with pleasure, Prisca returned to the bench, pulled off the ribbon and lifted the lid of the box to discover a note from her brother and . . . the infamous plastic cassette.

Did anyone ever listen to the sermons? Yes. Driving across the country on a road trip, Tim stuck them in his tape deck. Hearing his grandfather’s voice was far sweeter than, um, lime Jell-O.

“Everything that is now hidden . . . will eventually be brought to light,” Mark 4:22 (NLT).

The author is busy listening to sermon tapes. Visit her at www.emilychase.com to learn about her books, including Help! My Family’s Messed Up!

Social Graces

February 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Emily Parke Chase –

While talking with a friend at work, I thanked her for helping me with a project. She was delighted and hurriedly gushed, “Oh, it was no pleasure at all!”

Though I wandered away shaking my head, I decided to extend her grace. After all, “It was no trouble at all” and “It was a pleasure” are not so far apart.  Then my friend’s husband, also a co-worker, apologized for forgetting the name of a client. “You know how it is, in one ear and gone tomorrow.”

Perhaps we all need an occasional reminder to ponder our words before they flow off our tongues. We think at high speed and release a thought before it is fully processed. Our brains switch off and head out to Starbucks without warning.

This issue of mangling phrases is not a modern disease caused by watching too much MTV or texting messages on i-Pods. Anyone can slip up typing 140 characters with his thumbs. But forty years ago, long before e-mail and emoticons, my grandmother encountered a friend in the market one morning and passed along a compliment overheard the day before. Like my co-worker, my grandmother’s friend blushed and, in her excitement, replied, “Oh, thank you so much! And, Mrs. Parke, if I ever hear anything nice about you, I’ll be sure to say so.”

Can it be true that over the course of decades my grandmother’s friends had never said a kind word about her?

The problem of prattling pitfalls only gets worse when we make such errors not before an audience of one but in front of a large group. Consider, for example, the Sunday morning when one of our former pastors looked out over his congregation and noted a large number of empty seats in the worship service. He apologized to us for the meager attendance. “The crowd seems much thinner today. All our ladies are on a weekend retreat.”

Fortunately for him, his wife was among those attending the retreat. Or was it the other way around? Would she have preferred to be seated among those of us whom he considered more slender? Thankfully, if she ever heard about his comment, she too extended him grace. They are still happily married.

Maybe we should all strive to be a bit more like Moses and develop slowness of speech.

“My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19 NLT)

(Emily Parke Chase is busy editing out mangled phrases on her webpage. Visit her at emilychase.com.)

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