When Life Gives You Compound Fractures

My Real Memoir

I’d never been an athlete. While other kids learned how to follow-through with a baseball bat or how to throw a perfect football spiral, my buddy Jeff and I were learning how to be Tom and Huck on the Mississippi. And my buddy Rory and I were learning how to give “airplane rides” to a never-ending line of giggling neighborhood kids.

Still, I’d acquired a few gymnastic skills. Before our swimming pool was installed, Dad had set up a lightweight trampoline on our patio and, even better, built me a set of high bars. I didn’t develop much arm-strength–I just liked to spin and fly–but years of paperboying had given me surprisingly muscular legs. And those were undoubtedly the key to my nailing the hands-free-backward-falling-land-on-your-feet crowd-pleaser known as the Death Drop. After which I stood and screamed, “I did it!” roughly 800 times (give or take a few hundred). Eventually my rubber-band trampoline got so stretched I started hitting the cement and my high bars got so wobbly they began throwing me into neighbors’ yards. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our new swimming pool.

But, oh, I missed the high bars.

And our junior high school had a set! So, between classes, I’d head straight for the bars and often gather a crowd. First, I’d do some lesser tricks—Propeller Spins, Cherry Drops. Then I’d finish off with a series of hands-free spins ending in my signature Death Drop. Which always received a satisfying round of applause (like “applesauce,” sweet and easy to swallow)!

But one skinny-legged debunker kept saying, “Anyone can do that!” He insisted I was just defending my rep when I tried to dissuade him, and finally climbed up onto the higher bar. “Don’t!” I shouted as he threw himself backward. His knees gave way immediately and he shot head-first toward the ground. Instinctively, he stuck out his hands, but his elbows hit the ground first. The crowd started to laugh, but their laughter ended abruptly when they saw the geyser of blood. It was coming from the area inside his elbow (ironically called the “humerus”) amid two teepeed-up pieces of broken bone!

With his fast-reddening sweater wrapped around his arm, he was rushed to the nurse’s office. It was the first time I’d ever heard the term “compound fracture.” I hadn’t even known such a thing existed. Compound fractures have long-term effects, I’ve since learned: nerve damage, weakened joints, and worst of all, depression and anxiety.

I’m praying for that boy even as I write this. But I’m also thinking about someone else: Less than a year after that incident, at a driving range, I clumsily swung back a golf club and compound-fractured my cousin Larry’s nose!

I’d long-since forgotten about the incident when, thirty-two years later, on a Thanksgiving day, he told me he’d never forgiven me for doing that to him. Life gives us broken bones, and sometimes compound fractures. The former can be as strong as ever, they say. But the latter are different. They need time. And patience. And sometimes, as in the case of my cousin…

Love and forgiveness.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

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Not What I Expected

Thought for the Week

It was an unseasonably warm autumn. Not what I expected. But, hey, it gave me a chance to install a bird bath, something my wife had wanted for a long time. And, being a bird-whisperer, she assured me it was what the birds wanted too.

I even added a solar fountain, powered by state-of-the-art WIFLI technology (When It Feels Like It). Not what I expected, but I enjoyed it when it had nothing better to do than…fount. And so did the birds! They splashed and played adorably…

For about three days.

And then the bees showed up, the birds left, e voilá, we suddenly had a beebath. Not what I expected. Who knew bees were such avid beechgoers? Overnight, our little birdbath became the trendiest bee resort (beesort?) in town. Sadly, bees are not the best swimmers. So I soon became beedom’s largest lifeguard. They would hover anxiously about me as I carried their hapless companions ashore, and buzz excitedly when I refilled their little lagoon. “Happy to help, hymenopteran friends,” I told them, “and if we just happen to see record numbers of flowers next spring, well, we’ll know who to thank.”

Suddenly, our record highs became record lows. Rain fell and froze, fell and froze. Not what I expected. Our little beesort has become a frozen pond. I placed a few Monopoly tokens on the ice to show how solid it is, but so far neither bees nor birds have taken up skating.

Fall has pretty much finished falling. So last Saturday I climbed up to our roof, leaf-blower in hand, as always, to blast the fallen leaves out of our rain gutters. But the leaves didn’t budge. Not what I expected. Why? For the first time ever our rain gutters have turned into giant ice trays full of black “leafcubes”! Solution? Pointy Stick (“Pointy” for short) who has served me faithfully for years. I used him/her/them (sticks are most likely nonbinary) to break our giant leafcubes into not-quite-so-giant leafcubes and finally managed to extract them.

Sadly, in the process, Pointy broke in half. “Rest in pieces, Pointy,” I told him/her/them, “I’ll put you in the Stick Hall of Fame.” (I don’t think there is a Stick Hall of Fame, but, hey, it takes so little to make a stick happy.)

Farewell bees. And leafcubes. And broken stick. None of you were what I expected. But then life, as it so unremittingly reminds us, is seldom what we expect. And that’s the secret of its wonderfully confounding, exasperating beauty, and the point, kind of, of this rambling…

Thought for the Week.

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How Blessed…


“How blessed are those who ignore the advice of the corrupt, who resist the companionship of the wicked, who refuse to become jaded toward others; who delight instead in the teachings of the LORD and in meditating upon His truths day and night. They will be like trees firmly planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in their season, their leaves bright and healthy. In whatever they do, they will thrive.” ~Psalm 1:1-2

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Fairytales Don’t Last Forever

'Sleeping Forever' by Madam Thenadier (redbubble.com)Artwork by Madame Thenadier

The Wishing Map is a full-length fantasy that is being posted episodically at this site. To read the previous episode, click here. To read the entire novel, begin here.Wishing Title (logo only)

Zack had finally become human again and gone searching for his sister Gina. Meanwhile, Gina was being celebrated as the new Dragonmeer of Rennou!

“Why are you still here?” B’frona asked when no one else was near. You have to find your brother! And why are you twitching in that ridiculous manner?”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Gina replied, “and I dance like this when I’m thinking. I have a plan.” She was being tailed by a retinue of volunteers who’d fought over the right to carry the one hundred-plus gifts she’d received. She’d settled it by sagely suggesting each carry only one items, thus allowing as many people as possible the honor of serving her.

She was utterly infatuated with the cobbley, vine-draped Rennou and its handsome, earnest people. She wanted to be their dragonmeer, wanted to be their warrior princess! And why not? She could do it all! Yes, she would find Zack and return to Middleton. But she would also live in Rennou—important people always had homes in more than one place. It was her destiny!

“I could never find Zack by myself,” she told B’frona, “but as Dragonmeer I can send people all over Ismara to search for him, and you can be my Assistant Dragonmeer!”

“I would rather eat my own feces.”

Gina did not hear this remark because the crowd was abuzz about Dragonmirth, the great celebration that would begin in just two hours. “So, this is where I’ll live?” She gestured toward the Dragon Manse.

“Of course,” B’frona sneered. “Are you not ‘the amazing girl knight’ who has broken the curse?” He left without another word.

Gina inspected every corner of her palace, trailed by her dragon whelp Puff, who made it his duty to lick each graven beastie and painted flower. The volunteer brigade of pink-cheeked girls and red-blooded boys distributed the gifts as they went: platters of shrennel-bread, pots of nectair, plaited herbs, satiny capes and bejeweled stomachers, truncheons, swords, daggers and shields!

The heart of the Dragon Manse was its two-floor armory. It was lined with weapons, a veritable Gold’s Gym for knights. One long shelf was filled with artificial limbs made of wood, leather, and hammered rivets. Why would I need these? Gina wondered. She heard two of her volunteers drooling over the weapons: “Rauéill! This must be the finest two-headed ax in all Frenga!” “Yes, and I could wreak glorious havoc with such a mace!”

“Ahhh, mmmm…!” Gina concurred, fingering a lethal looking lance. “And this is the best, um, one of these I’ve ever seen!”

Rennou’s first Dragonmirth in three quarters of a century began two hours later! Glowing lanterns were strung throughout the Marketplace. Children ran back and forth across the Great Porch, fleeing in mock terror from Puff’s sulphured-plum burps, which always ended in colorful showers of sparks. Elders tilted tankards of toogle and celebrated the days ahead when Rennou would once again burst with commerce.

Gina learned to do the utreánn, an addictive dance that began as a series of hops, then exploded into a whirlwind of kicks, and culminated in the hurling of a lucky girl (Gina every time) into the arms of a dozen laughing boys! “I’m never going to stop doing this!” she screamed.

The only sour moment came when Artifíga, the dour boy who’d taunted B’frona earlier, caught her left foot, bit off one of her monster slipper claws, and then, flashing his rotting gums, whispered, “I promise not to tell.”

It was nearly dawn when Gina dragged herself up the magnificent lespinwood staircase to the Manse’s top floor. She giggled and stumbled, falling on purpled knees. By holding onto Puff’s tail she managed to arrive at her bedchamber, and collapsed on top of the massive featherbed, her head on Puff’s belly, his tail draped protectively across her legs.

Her sleep was unperturbed until late morning when her unconscious mind was invaded once again by the figure in the heavy cloak and violet-gold helmet. He came close, secret-sharing close. For the first time Gina could see the intricate zodiacal etchings in the helmet’s surface and the fire inside its numinous gems. She could see his sad, beautiful eyes as never before. And then, for the first time, he spoke:

“Help me!”


Thoughts: Have you ever experienced a pampered retreat from everyday life and longed to live that way forever? Who would you be now if you had?

To read the next episode, click here.

Rennou (mitchteemley.com)

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What Were They Thinking?

They weren’t! Hilarious misnomers, horrendous spellings, “how-did-they-miss-that?” design fails… Life would be boring if everyone got everything right every time, right? Enjoy these prime, anything-but-boring “What were they thinking?” specimens, and have a great weekend!

Click on any image to enlarge it or to begin slide show.

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55 Years Ago

It was the autumn of 1967, and we’d just come off the Summer of Love. My buddy Marc and I had searched for a rumored “Love-in” somewhere in L.A.’s Griffith Park, but never found it. I was enamored with the peace symbol, with the phrase “make love, not war,” with the placing of flowers in soldiers’ rifles (preferably by pretty girls with daisy chains in their hair). I wasn’t sure how to get to this mystical place called Peace, but I desperately wanted to be there. I sensed that the hippie movement hadn’t found it, that they were only chanting about it. Our president certainly didn’t know the way, but neither did Ho Chi Minh. Still, the Peace Movement was something. And something was better than nothing, right?

When I heard about the peace marches in Washington, DC, Europe and the UK, I wanted to ride that wave, instead of floating along in the brackish backwater of my little suburban high school. But I never did.

Yet it didn’t matter. Because peace, real peace, I eventually found out, wasn’t born in the Summer of Love or in the fall protests of 1967. Real peace was born long before that…

In a town called Bethlehem.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. So do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

~John 14:27

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World Kindness Day

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Todd's FriendMy Featured Blogger this week is Todd of Driving Toward the Morning Sun. I know little about Todd, except that I like his writing, his thinking–and his heart. And I suspect you will too!

Driving Toward the Morning Sun

November 13 is World Kindness Day, which was established in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement. The idea and importance of kindness is of course, much older, as well as the struggle to find real kindness.

The very first book of the Bible, Genesis, has an interesting tale of kindness in the story of Joseph, son of Jacob.  His is a long and complicated story, but in Genesis chapter 40 we find him jailed on false charges.  In prison with him were two men – a baker and cupbearer – who had also been imprisoned by Pharaoh.  Joseph had been wronged by an unjust ruler, and the other two “committed an offense.”  All three probably felt resentment toward their government because of what might have been arbitrary treatment.

I think underappreciated verses in the story are Genesis 40:6-7, which read: “When Joseph came to [the baker and cupbearer] in…

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Snogging, The Beatles, and Me

My Real Memoir

I was in love. Not with a girl, but with music. And yet, somehow the two seemed inextricably linked. Music in the 1960s was an explosion of styles:

  • Pop, Soul, R&B were constantly merging and borrowing from each other via artists like Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Carol King, and “Little” Stevie Wonder (who was exactly my age—proof you could be a star at 13!). I still had a taste for silly, too; I bought 45s of “Hello, Muddah, Hello, Fadduh” and “The Martian Hop” with its immortal lyrics, “Ee-ee-ee, ee-ee, the Martian Hop…”
  • Folk and Country – with artists like Peter, Paul & Mary, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan. My buddy Jeff and I made a point of visiting The Mecca, a nearby folk club, every time Hoyt Axton was there (“Joy to the World,” “Greenback Dollar”). Forget Elvis, Hoyt was the epitome of cool!
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll – Surf was the reigning style at the time (“Surfin’ USA,” Wipe Out,” “Wild Weekend”). But it was about to give way to something else:

The Beatles. They’d been nothing but a blip at the end of the previous year, but now this imported novelty act seemed to dominate the airwaves. Of course, they’d never be as popular as our Beach Boys (hey, I lived in SoCal); yeah, yeah, they had a few catchy tunes. But when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show February 4, 1964, everyone in the known universe was watching, and in an instant the world changed.

A pale, pimply kid transferred to our school two weeks later, the kind of guy no official Cute Girl would ever deign to kiss — except that he was from England. Which made him a Beatle! The moment lunchtime arrived on his first day, he was cornered by 10,000 screaming girls on a campus of 950 girls. They begged for his autograph, begged to know what Paul was like, and begged, amazingly, for a kiss. It was “The Beatles Effect!”

A short time later, I was invited to a Beatles-themed party. “Forget dancing cheek-to-cheek,” I told my buddy Jeff the next day, “everyone was dancing mouth-to-mouth!” And then “P.S. I Love You” dropped onto the turntable–a guaranteed snog-inducer. So I grabbed Annie, the second-cutest girl there (her cousin Amy was cuter, but was already kissing someone). We danced slowly and awkwardly. Then Annie tucked her gum into the corner of her mouth…and we kissed. Quickly and awkwardly. Honestly? I was kind of disappointed. After all, I’d heard “Then He Kissed Me” and “Da Do Ron Ron,” so I knew first kisses were supposed to be earth-shattering. Nevertheless, it was a kiss! My long-delayed trifecta was finally complete: I was now a man of the world! And I owed it all to The Beatles Effect!

Sadly, our love didn’t endure. Annie and I went steady for two weeks. Not only hadn’t we fallen instantly in love, we hadn’t even fallen in like. On the other hand, I began slowly, and almost against my will, falling in love with the music of The Beatles. And all these years later…

I’m still in love.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

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Scheduling Happiness


Thought for the Week

It was 1987 and, thanks to the tremendous growth of the mutual fund into which I’d wisely poured our money, we were taking our first real vacation together. It was autumn, and so we’d opted for New England, one of the few places that actually looks like a Photoshopped fall calendar.

After a bumpy start, literally—our plane bounced violently and then lurched to the left upon landing in Boston (Co-pilot to Pilot: “Wake up, Dave, we’re here!”)—and a long delay getting to our foul-smelling “view” hotel, which, in fact, featured a panoramic view of an industrial complex, my wife and I began irritably blaming each other.

All portents pointed to disaster. But we were there, so… We argued our way out of the reservation and drove in tense silence to a chain hotel at the edge of the city. When we got to our upper floor room, we were stunned: it had a breathtaking and completely unadvertised view. And the cords of tension began to loosen. A little.

The next day we drove to Walden Pond. As a young man, I’d cherished my copy of Thoreau’s Walden, and had always wanted to visit its namesake. What we saw immediately re-drew the image in my mind. Rather than the puddle I’d imagined, Walden Pond turned out to be a good-sized lake that mirrored the most beautiful color-saturated woods I’d ever seen. My wife and I walked, talked, prayed, forgave–and began falling back in love again. We determined for the rest of the trip to avoid all vestiges of “the real world” (newspapers, television). There would be only us and God, and his splendid handiwork.

A short time later, we met up with one of my wife’s old friends. She commented on how “honeymoonerish” we seemed, and then asked what we thought about the “crash.” “What crash?” A quick glance in the Boston Globe revealed that, while we’d been blithely strolling Walden, the biggest bear in history had been brutally ravaging Wall Street. They were calling it “Black Monday.”

Thanks to my wise investment strategy, we were more financially in the hole than when we’d first gotten married. And yet at the same time our relationship was stronger than ever. Sensing the latter was far more important, we chose not to let bold Fear drive away diffident Happiness.

Our Autumn in New England was everything we’d hoped for and more–because Happiness decided to join us for the rest of the trip. Our money took a little longer to show up again, but a year later our mutual fund was actually worth more than it had been on Black Monday.

You can’t schedule happiness. But you can focus on the Waldens rather than the Wall Streets, on people rather than things. Because those are, coincidentally, what Happiness values the most. So when it does decide to visit…

It might just stick around for a while.

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If You Know the Way…


“Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do.” ~Ephesians 5:15

In other words:

If you know the way,

show the way.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments