In a cartoon episode, the main character is afraid of a legendary monster that has shown itself and taken up residence at the edge of town. He shares his fear with a friend who “ain’t from around here” and therefore is unimpressed by the stories. Known for her strength, her smarts, and her over-confidence, she dusts off her hands and assures him that she will rid the town of the threat. He says, “I don’t think you understand. This is the meanest, toughest, biggest worm you’ve ever seen.” After a country “pshaw” she begins the march to the outskirts of town all the while listing for him the critters, creatures, and varmints she’d wrangled with back home as he whimpers along following her. With her head held high she cheers herself on by asking him, “Now, who’s gonna tie this critter into knot?” He says weakly, “You are.” She asks in a chant, “Who’s gonna rip this varmint apart?” He says, “Umm, you are?” The dialogue continues in that manner until they reach the lair. “Awwh, why this ain’t nothin’. Wait here; I’ll only be a minute.” She throws her head back and broadens her shoulders as she marches straight inside. An awful racket can be heard as she yells out a play-by-play of her victory brawl for his reassurance. She walks out dragging her unresponsive opponent, tosses it to the ground and props her foot on it proudly. “See, I told ya.” He says quietly, “Umm, that was just his tongue.” “I’m sorry, what did you say, I couldn’t hear ya?” He says a little louder but cautiously, “His tongue, that was just his tongue… umm, you just hog-tied his tongue, that’s all.” “Just his tongue, you say,” she says calmly. “Well, I see, hmm.” Behind chattering teeth he asks, “What now?” After calm consideration of the situation she yells, “Run for it!” Eli has had another uneventful day today. And, please, please, include thankfulness for days like this in your prayers. We are mindful that each day there is no stumble is more than just a day without a stumble. It’s a day we have climbed higher and dug deeper into the mountain that we are moving. And, really, on the days we stumble or slide down the mountain, it is comforting to know that God is directing even our downward path. For example, consider Eli’s most recent days in ICU. Even though sepsis, a word that haunts me, was being tossed around as a possibility, if he hadn’t been so sick, the doctors may not have examined him close enough to find that his shunt was on the wrong setting causing hemorrhaging in his brain – again. That had nothing to do with his current treatment, and he was asymptomatic, so when they were searching for answers to his deteriorating condition it was by chance that I mentioned it has been a past problem. They were diligent and thorough, so it was pursued. Though it was found not to be associated with any of his problems at the time, it was an issue that was slowly building and we are thankful to know about it at an earlier stage than before. Some days we are not going to know the blessings that shake out when the day is done, but we can trust they are there. Eli has a long day tomorrow. He will have a CT scan to see if the new setting on the shunt has helped the hemorrhaging, plus he has some peripheral tests, school, blood draws, his stem cell boost, stomach med, and lots of waiting on results, and more results. He is getting apartment fever by now, so pray for his patience and Vic’s stamina to do what he needs to do to keep him safe while his counts are nil. So, I was regretting my stance on top of the mountain beating my chest Sunday night. Yep, by Monday morning, I couldn’t jump off the top of that mountain fast enough. Caleb’s demon virus that he shared with me was looking for the nearest exit out of my body for hours. To make it worse, the girls were struck as well. For those of you that don’t know me well, quite simply, I am a draw-your-sword kind of gal. Yep, point me to the dragon because I’m all in for taking it out. Then, while standing in front of the dragon, with little fire puff smoke signals rising out of my silver locks, I realize, hey, I don’t really know how to use a sword. Or, I realize I can’t use a sword as well as I thought I could. That one hurts. My intensity and enthusiasm is sometimes mistaken for competiveness. But in reality, I just want to play well against an opponent that also plays well. I’m never disappointed that I lose. I’m always disappointed that I stink. Before the sky fell I had taken up tennis. Now, I have taken tennis lessons on and off since I was 16, but never dedicated myself to it because of other sports interests. At age 42, I realized that I needed to be planning for my athletic future. So, I picked up the racket yet again last year for lessons and joined a league. Realize that I have never played tennis consistently or competitively, yet without even a fleeting thought fully believed I could not just do this, but do this well. Cockiness is always a big red flag that I’m about to get plastered to the wall. In my first tournament, partner Casie Barksdale and I played the Piccadilly Early-bird specials, yep a couple of older ladies. My first impression walking up is “oh, we got this.” Red flag! I think they could have sat on the court and still won. I'm not being funny. If you added up all (of my, at least) hits out, in the net, and double-faults, I seriously think they could have slapped their Vainty Fairs on the clay and still won. Hey, what a great Sunday afternoon for the Easy Spirit Sisters - play tennis and take a nap at the same time... and WIN! Casie had some bright spots that day. She has been determined to be dedicated and makes the time to practice and play and it was paying off for her. But, I think I could have head-butted Grandma Poly-Grip's serve that day and had a better chance of getting it over than using my racket. It was a swift kick right in the ego. Under my gray-hair disguise, I'm a cocky kid who thinks she should be able to do anything anybody else does. Serena Williams? Point me to her court. Do I really believe I could take her on? YES, what are you reading? I have no self-awareness. So, there's the frustration when I do not live up to my unrealistic expectations. So, that day, when I stepped into that AARP promo, I full expected to do well, but instead had a heaping helping of Fuzzy Ball soup made with love by Grandma Poly-grip and Nana Nosehair. Still, the lesson was short-learned, and I continue to draw my sword. The picture I’m including tonight was taken a year ago on the Fourth. We’ve only got a couple of holiday “traditions” that we try to keep consistent, like going to Mom’s on Christmas Eve, but other than that not too much else. Vic and I had our 14th wedding anniversary pass last month and neither of us noticed. Birthdays are for children and the elderly. Sometimes the kids think it’s fun to celebrate our birthdays, so if they remember, then we let them do it. If they don’t mention it, then we don’t worry about it. I told him many years ago that I didn’t get hung up on dates and I meant it. There has never been any pressure from me or him for the other to fall prey to the commercialization of relationships. Nor have I or he ever felt the need to be “pampered” on specific days in order to feel special or loved. It’s propaganda, commercial and familial. As I’ve alluded to before, I don’t like being told what I should do, and that includes Hallmark telling Vic that he needs to stop by a store after work on February 14th to buy me a stuffed hound dog with Elvis hair singing Love Me Tender. Dates just don’t matter and I don’t need jewelry or stuffed animals or a candle. I’m not sure what pressurizing guilt trips the women in his life laid on him, but he had a hard time believing me for a couple of years. I just don’t like doing what everybody else does because they say to do it. Just wait till I write about my wedding. Cool. My original point was that we do try to do something kind of special on the Fourth and I was a little sad today because we are at home and the boys are in Memphis, and I miss them terribly.