Tag Archives: Legend

The Family Frosty

A legend in his own mind.
A legend in his own mind.

Frosty is a member of our family, and a legend in the making. He was born one winter in the usual way: a clap-patted bit of snow pressed into the standard lumpy form and decorated with a mix of twigs, outdated accessories, and withered vegetables. I don’t know what it was about this particular snowman that earned our pity, but we soon committed to rescuing him from the sun.

But we didn’t have that magic hat. So we took a starter from his slushy side (like sour dough or friendship bread starter) hoping to capture his essence. Now, with a tradition of thirteen years and counting, we can hardly call him a guest even when he gets a little obnoxious.

To begin your own tradition you need a good snowfall, a ziplock bag, and a little freezer space.

Build and decorate your snowman in the usual, or unusual, way. If you like turtles or hula dancers (both seen on our street last year), go with it. You might even have your snow-person morph from character to character each year. Whatever inspires you.

While snowmen from the north may have weeks to enjoy their usual pursuits, those living in warmer climes have time enough for only a few photo ops, a snowball fight, or a change or two of accessories before sun tanning becomes their primary activity. Whatever the case, when your guy gets a little listless, it’s time to begin thinking about moving him indoors.



Watch carefully at this stage.

You might want to intervene as soon as his shoulders sag and his stare becomes vacant. I’m of the school that freedom is important enough to him that we dare the sun until the last minute. I allow Frosty to sink into total unresponsiveness, knowing he will revive as soon as the freezer kicks on.

An expectant Frosty wonders what color of scarf he'll wear this year.

An expectant Frosty wonders what color of scarf he’ll wear this year.

Whenever you decide, scoop a generous heart-sized ball of snow out of your snowman. (Actual heart tissue is not necessary and is difficult to determine in any case.) Pop the ball into a Ziploc bag and take him inside. I recommend a visible spot in your freezer until your snowman has made several outings.

Once everyone looks forward to his yearly return, you won’t forget about him. You can safely move him to the back, out of the way of your day-to-day activity. He won’t complain, but you might notice that the ice cream seems to disappear a bit faster without close supervision.

With every snowfall, or at least once a year, bring your snowman starter out of hibernation.

In our family we form the base of the new body around the ball. But those who are medically minded might enjoy a surgical procedure–inserting the starter as gallbladder one time and cerebellum the next. You can be creative here.

Oops! Make that Frostina. And boy is she surprised by how much the grandkids have grown.

Oops! Make that Frostina. And boy is she surprised by how much the grandkids have grown.

When it comes to long-term storage, you might be concerned about power outages or equipment or human failure. We faced that situation last year. When the freezer door was left ajar, our starter went limp. His color, though often white, was positively transparent. We feared the worst.

Luckily, Frosty’s health wasn’t compromised because we had a good seal on the bag. We simply refroze him.

If anything, his heart was strengthened by the experience.

Following these directions should give you and your snowman many happy years together. One day his legend may be the stuff of stories. So start your family tradition this winter.


The Stuck Pickup…and other legends III

Stuck in the Mind

See Part I here, and here for Part II

The Innocent Party

The Innocent Party

Now we come to the finer points of waiting out a hot…did I say hot? Make that a miserable  day of extreme heat.

But I had no right to gripe. I got to spend it at the river, plunging in to cool off when I wanted. Nicole was easily the happiest member of our party, swimming, watching the boats, even napping in the porta-crib with sweat beaded on her face. My Dad, on the other hand—

But I’ll get to that in a minute.

We had high hopes of rescue every time a group of canoe and kayakers rallied to the chore of delivering us from the river. And that was often. The Buffalo National River is almost a mandatory pilgrimage for those who love paddle boats. And since it was summer and high season, an unending stream of boats nosed past us while our pickup dangled its slipper in the river’s main channel.

So how many canoeists did it take to lever us out of the water? I can tell you the magic wasn’t in two or three or even four additional sets of biceps. The legend gets a little hazy at this point. I chalk that up to that honest fish tale phenomenon mentioned earlier. While I’m sure it was ten who couldn’t lift the rear of the truck, my husband remembers it as at least eight.

With the truck resting on its belly, and the water deeper just off the right rear fender, those trying to muscle it upward stood low enough that they had to lift from the chest, unable to get their legs into it. My father was cautious too, not allowing anyone to get into a position that had a potential for danger. He didn’t want anyone swept under the truck or to have it fall on them.

After many attempts, my dad accepted the commission for a of a six mile slog through the Arkansas jungle to Morning Star in one hundred plus degree heat to get a tow truck . The fortunate got to spend the next several hours politely rebuffing all the high school youth who passed in their flotillas, assuring them that stronger men than they had already failed to evict the truck from the river.

A better way to cross rivers

A better way to cross rivers


The question is: why is repeating this adventure something of a family tradition? Why any story? Quirky details or hyped emotions might decide which stories we choose to tell, but they don’t explain our need to tell them.

I think storytelling reminds us who we are. Our lives are in a constant state of change as we grow, leave families, and make new connections and relationships. And the future will bring more changes.

Stories about our life link us to a fixed moment in time—something we can hold on to.

We spend most of our lives focused on the next thing—what we have to do, where we’re going. A Yoda quote puts it like this: “Never his mind on where he was—what he was doing.” Yoda taught that real life is not in a future that may not even happen. It inhabits the moment in which you find yourself—in other words, the now.

In that case, some might counter, stories about the past would be equally pointless

I disagree here When we tell a story, we slow down the motion picture of our life and get a freeze frame of a real moment—the people, the detail, the emotion, everything. We capture a little slice of life that continues to breathe. In telling our stories, we affirm that the puzzle pieces of our lives are important, not just the completed work.

And because we rightly make plans for the future, and look forward to our life with Christ, It is right to plant our feet deep in the life we are living. As we honor the past and the future we affirm the eternal nature of our souls. We affirm that God has been good, he is good, and he will be good.


Thankful to have hitched a ride the last few miles, my dad returned only half melted. With no tow trucks available he accepted help from a jeep owner who promptly got stuck himself in our thick bottomland sand. The driver had to wench both his truck and ours, one at a time, in a piecemeal fashion through a hundred yards of seasonally flooded ground.

Our river crossing was not an almost. With the boggy sand that awaited us we never came close to making it.

It would be great if all our stories were heroic and inspiring…or would it?

We’re seldom heroic people, after all. Things often go wrong. Even if its only the little stuff. (Don’t get me started on the farina again.)

But our stories still have the power to unite. In remembering them we frame our relationships and connect generations. But only if we are faithful to tell them over and over. So when your teenagers or grandchildren roll their eyes at you, ignore them. Remind yourself that you’re busy working on their legacy as well as yours.

A New Generation Takes to the River

A New Generation Takes to the River


The Stuck Pickup…and other legends II

Season with Emotion

Almost, but not quite.

Almost, but not quite.

For Part I check here.

We’d finished choking down the farina. With the crossing place chosen, we loaded our all too inadequate camping gear into the truck for a committed run at the Buffalo River. If we took it just slow enough not to throw loose rocks from under the tires, maybe….

The scouts had told us the water was slow and flowed no more than a foot deep for most of the crossing—no sweat. But, while rivers run anywhere in their course during the wet season, they like to carve themselves at least one deeper channel as insurance against going summer dry. That channel nested close to the opposite bank. It wasn’t more than a few feet wide and a foot deeper than the rest of the river, the rise from it quick. With a little speed, it should be no problem for the macho truck that had rappelled down to the riverbed.

That’s what we kept telling ourselves, anyway.

The Dodge powered across the sleeping river, bobbing up and down over the firm rock bed. When we came to the far side it lurched down into the deeper gully then pulled itself forward and up as the front tires found dry land. We started to congratulate ourselves.

But the right rear wheel lost contact with the riverbed. Our eyes grew wide as the river woke up, grabbing the flat panel of the rear fender. We feared the front tires would be torn from the bank. But instead, the river lifted and spun the back of the truck, pinning us against the bank with the one tire dangling.

Besides the details, there’s another thing that brings good stories to life—that gives them a shot at becoming a legend.

Stories with big emotions are stories we want to hear and tell.

I still remember the horror of the ride down the hill that day, and the sick “oh no” when the river grabbed the truck. I feel disgust at the thought of unsalted farina, though I’m pretty certain it couldn’t as bad as I remembered.

Garlic...or sand? You be the judge.

Garlic…or sand? You be the judge.

I bet you might have a story or legend about a time when you felt triumphant, like we did when we survived the descent to the river. Or maybe one that makes you laugh, like we do when we remember the time my Mom seasoned her Italian dressing with sand instead of garlic and we nearly rounded off our molars. (She forgot she’d refilled the empty bottle to make a music shaker for her preschool class.)

Telling the story of their vacation across several western states is a tradition in my husband’s family. The youngest, barely a toddler then, was in a hip brace consisting of a metal bar affixed between two industrial strength shoes. In the days before child restraints, my father-in-law built a raised platform in the middle of the back seat, extending across the foot space and butting against the front seatback, where little Julianne could stretch out for a nap or see out the windows with ease.

The only problem with the setup was that she used it for neither. She spent the entire trip climbing back and forth from the front seat to the back, flailing her weapon clad feet at the heads and arms of her older siblings, John and Margie, while they howled and whimpered.


Continental Divide

Continental Divide

When the story of this vacation needs telling, and it often does, no one relives the natural glories of Yellowstone. Nobody reminisces about Jackson Hole and the magnificent Tetons either. (In fact, I didn’t even know Jackson Hole was part of the itinerary until the first edit of this post.) But every time the story is told, I half expect my husband to cradle his arm and whine about the horror of his sister’s brace.

Though they might mellow a bit, they still have a kick.

Obviously, your feelings can be changed by time. You might laugh now at what once embarrassed you. And what scared you silly might only give you a shiver. But whether we exaggerate, or deny them, the drama of the past flavors your storytelling .

My dad wrestled the steering wheel while trying various combinations of gas, but it did no good. The engine sputtered and died. Like a half-submerged rock or a snag, the pickup had become a water feature in the Buffalo River, chevron waves rippling from its fender.

We got out of the truck on the dry side, of course. It was a shame; we’d come so close to making it. At least it was a relief to find the Dodge stable, resting on its belly like a Seaworld whale on the deck of a pool.

Only one question remained: How many canoeists does it take to pick up a truck?

The finale next week.

Run with the Donkeys

Donkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Games are serious business. Psychology tells us they play an important part in childhood development.

Time out while I do a memory check; it’s been a few years.

Yes, my daughter-in-law, who has a psychology degree, confirms the above statements are still true. Beyond basic mental development, games are beneficial, not only to children, but also to adults because they help build relationships within friendships and families.

So we should break out a board game or run down to the basketball court for a little bonding. Or we could conjure up a game of our own. From peek-a-boo to parting rituals, from inside and practical jokes to feats of one-upmanship there are a lot of possibilities for connecting with each other.

But some games are the stuff of legend.

Sara was out on her daily, OK, not so daily run. She had just moved from the country to the city, where pavement was no longer a random acquaintance. Veering around one of the plentiful green garbage bins, she turned onto West Rose Avenue and stumbled onto a field in the middle of town.

And there, standing near the tree, was a donkey.

“Hello, Donkey,” she said, approaching his fence. Her fake British accent, rounded by a southern drawl, wasn’t good, but at least it was better than her brother’s attempts at an Aussie tour guide.

Then Sara noticed the two unshaved men standing in the shadow of the shed, their eyes fixed on her.  The jaw of one hung open in disbelief.

Guess they weren’t fans of Dr. Doolittle.

She gave them a feeble smile, then stretched out her stride, hoping to get around the corner before she busted up laughing.

We laughed too. Enough that, a few days later, her sister texted her a picture of Donkey from Shrek with the caption “Hello, Donkey.”

Since it was the holiday season, Sara responded in like spirit with a photo of a Nativity donkey  taken outside a nearby McDonald’s.

“You don’t think they serve donkey burgers, do you?” asked Nicole, batting it back into Sara’s court. (I’m hoping the donkey burgers were not a prophetic utterance.)

The escalation of the fledgling game led to a grand tour of Christmas Nativities and search engine images as texts flew back and forth between the two. Pictures of Samaritan’s Purse pledge animals, children’s storybooks, flannel graphs, cement yard animals, sale merchandise, flea market finds, and coloring books, as well as live video entered the fray, as donkeys became a subject of ardent pursuit.

Double DonkeysWe have discovered double donkey (pairs, including the original, since it turned out he had a companion Sara didn’t spot that first day), faux donkey (Nicole’s cat with paper donkey ears affixed) and three iterations of donkey down (a dropped manger donkey, a stuffed donkey chewed by a dog, and the famous, or infamous, Google truck mishap and rebuttal).

The game is now in its fourth month and shows signs of attaining the status of family legend, so I decided to appropriate Nicole and Sara’s “run with the donkeys” as a name for any game in which the participants run with a theme or idea for an extended period of time. The actual game itself is unimportant.

A recent news story highlighted a game of tag played over a span of 23 years. Four men, now in their 40s, continue a game they started in high school with cross-country ambushes and 2:00 a.m. break-ins. It’s a little more work than it used to be, but they haven’t thrown in the towel. You have to admit that’s quite a run.

Kaylee Donkey smallThe great thing about both of these games is that they nurture long-distance relationships by sparking creativity and encouraging communication. As a bonus, personal interaction is multiplied when family members get involved as cheerleaders and accomplices. In our family, everyone waits eagerly for the next round, sometimes hoping to score a donkey or be featured in a photo.

It’s not hard to spot a potential donkey, if you keep your eyes open, because donkeys are social creatures by nature. Any slip of the tongue, inside joke, or coincidence might prove to be the fodder you need.

So find a donkey and start a run of your own. You just might have the makings of a legend.