The Bachelor Party

The other day five men came into the sports center together, one of them spinning a shiny new Spalding basketball between his hands.

“Is anyone playing basketball right now?” he asked.

“The gym is available,” I said. “I don’t know if anyone is playing basketball right now though.”

“I think there’s one guy shooting hoops,” my co-worker said.

The guys looked at each other. They looked at what they could see of the facility from the front desk.

Where I work

“You’ve got a rock wall? Can we climb?” one asked.

“Yep,” I said. “It opens in half an hour.”

“How much does it cost?” another asked.

I explained our day pass system and the two different passes they could purchase — $10 for the facility or $15 to include our fitness center.

“Huddle!” one of them said, and they huddled. Right there in the lobby.

“Okay, we’re going to do it,” they said when they broke their huddle.

“Ten dollars or fifteen?” I asked.

“Fifteen. We’re going to do it all,” said the spokesman.

As they stood at the counter filling out the obligatory paperwork — emergency contact information, waiver forms, etc — I learned a little about them. They were all mid-30s. The five of them had lived together in college. This was a bachelor party.

“Let me tell you about what’s available here,” I said as I collected their papers and their money.

I launched into my spiel. “Our fitness center has two levels. The main floor is traditional equipment, free weights, ellipticals, steppers, treadmills. The upper level has things like kettlebells, ropes, those weight bags that people run up and down stairs with, and other machines. We have the rock wall you can see and a bouldering wall in the gym. There are three pools but you probably don’t have your swim suits with you. There’s racquetball, squash –“

One interrupted — “Do you have racquets we can use?”

“Yes, right outside the courts,” I said, and continued, “There are bowling alleys downstairs –“

“Bowling!” I saw a few high fives. “And that’s open?”

“Yes,” I said, laughing. I loved their excitement.

They headed for the gym first and played a little basketball. Over the next few hours, though, we heard shouts, hurrahs, and bursts of uproarious laughter coming from various parts of the building. We watched them try the rock wall before heading into the fitness center.

When they left before closing, I asked how their day had been.

“Great! Best $15 I’ve ever spent one!” one said.

“We did it all,” said another. “Basketball, bowling, ping-pong –“

“Oh! I forgot to tell you about ping-pong!” I said.

“It’s okay. We found it,” he said.

“And had a great time,” another added.

Their delight became my delight. I still smile when I think about that group of men playing, laughing, having fun, enjoying the time spent together.

I’ve reflected back on this many times. Why did I find it so gratifying? I think it’s because the world has become a meaner place over the last few years. Our laughter is usually at someone else’s expense. Camaraderie tends to devolve into bickering. We don’t listen. We don’t enjoy time together. Everything feels like jockeying for position.

So when two Olympic high jumpers agreed to tie for Gold, it’s an anomaly.

And when five guys, from different places and different walks of life, enjoy each other’s company for a full afternoon, it fills my cup.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Qu’est-ce que

Q is for Qu’est-ce que.

Listening at Laity Lodge (photo by Kristen Peterson)
Listening at Laity Lodge (photo by Kristen Peterson)

Dr. Ralph Woods stopped me one day at Laity Lodge.

“I’ve noticed you,” he said.

Noticed me? I thought. Me?

Short of wearing camo, I do my best to blend in with my surroundings.

He continued. “You’re very attentive to your deaf friend. It’s nice the way you help her.”

Oh, goodness. I wanted to tell him that I am the one on the receiving end in that relationship. I wanted to tell him that she helps me in so many ways, ways I could never repay.

But I just said, “Thank you,” and allowed him to believe that I was being nice.

What he had seen was me sitting in the front row with a friend. I tried taking notes so that she could read and understand a little of what was going on, but my notes were terrible and messy. I can’t imagine that she got much from them.

However, scattered through my notes are some odd statements, because there would be times when someone said something funny and the crowd would erupt in laughter.

She would look at me, at times like that, her face a question, and rub her thumb against her fingers, like she wanted the substance. I would try to distill the laughter to the one or two lines from which it originated.

Odd lines in my notes from outbreaks of laughter during sessions:

“He said he would be brief.” — words from a long-winded speaker.

“+2 sword of elf-killing?” — I wasn’t sure I heard that one correctly, but I think it’s close.

“Match the Rabbit Roomer with his neuroses” — a comment from the Rabbit Room panel.

In my mind, whenever she looked at me with the question, I heard “Qu’est-ce que?” — short for qu’est-ce que c’est, literally French for, what is it that it is.

“What?” she wanted to know. “What’s being said? What funny thing happened? What am I missing?”

How hard it must be to be deaf in a crowd of hearing people! We take it for granted — that we can hear the one-liners from the crowd without having seen the one who said it.

We can hear the bell calling us to dinner.

We can hear the music and the laughter.

We can hear the rise and fall of a voice as a story is being told.

And the wind in the trees.

And the water of the Frio River.

On our last night at Laity Lodge, I was heading to the concert with a friend and stopped at my deaf friend’s room to see if she was ready to go.

I opened her door, didn’t see her in there, and called her name in case she was around the corner.

Of course, she didn’t answer, because she couldn’t hear me.

My companion laughed and laughed. “I can’t believe you just did that,” she said.

I can’t believe I did either.

It’s just that when I think of her, I don’t think of a disability. I think of a beautiful person with whom I love spending time.

I hope that’s okay.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Love in Action

Laity Lodge cacti.  The cactus “protects itself against danger, but it harms no other plant…” (from “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtney

L is for Love in Action.

Well did Monty Python choose a rabbit — the Rabbit of Caerbannog — to protect.

The retreat at Laity Lodge was put on by the Rabbit Room, an online community modeled after Lewis and Tolkien’s Inkling community that met in an Oxford pub in a room called The Rabbit Room.

The denizens of this online community now refer to themselves as rabbits. Unlike many online communities, Rabbit Roomers have multiple opportunities for flesh-and-blood meetings via events like Hutchmoot, the Laity Lodge retreat, and concerts.

A group rabbits yesterday turned into Rabbits of Caerbannog when I shared with them that “Joan Jackson” has continued to comment on my blog, although now all her comments go to my spam folder.

Below is their response:

It has come to our attention that repeated attempts have been made to shame and silence Sally, the author of this blog.

It is sad that bitterness could turn into something so consuming. If this weren’t such a damnable waste of time and resources, it would almost be comic that two elderly people would spend their last golden decades on planet earth acting like silly teenage girls. How foolish the human heart grows while seeking revenge. If there weren’t so much to be pitied about this sort of behavior, it would be laughable.

However, because this problem has persisted, Sally’s friends have decided to take action. Below is our plan.

First, we have offered to manage the spam folder for this blog. From this point forward, Sally will appoint a friend to manage her spam. The new manager of this folder will scan the first few lines of every message and immediately delete anything slanderous. No matter what is written in those messages, we will assume every single word to be false. We will not be shocked, and we will not be shaken. Anyone cowardly and immature enough to send anonymous messages over the internet has immediately lost all credibility in our eyes.

Secondly, as a team, we are committing to doing one act of goodness and grace in the world for every negative message received. For each attempt these attackers make to shame our friend, we will make something beautiful or healing for someone in need. Every venomous or poisonous post will result in tenderness and generosity being carried out by a team of friends who knows the wonderful woman that this blogger really is.

Hatred will be turned to laughter. Shame will be turned to healing. Darkness will be turned to light. And all of this will be done in a manner that not only turns evil to good, but that multiplies goodness exponentially. We will do this because this is what God does with broken places; he turns them around and makes them beautiful.

We praise God for this opportunity to stand in the gap for our dear friend. We also hope that a strong and definite stance will help our friend’s abusers move on with life. We stand about her as a shield, accepting her as she was, loving her as she is, and excited about who she is becoming.

Friends of the Blogger

Like the Rabbit of Caerbannog, they will stand as my protectors.

Unlike the Rabbit of Caerbannog, their actions will not be destructive, but healing.

I couldn’t ask for better friends.

A to Z Blogging Challenge


I is for the Inklings.

Ralph Wood, in his first talk at Laity Lodge, spoke about the Inklings, that group of men who met in an English pub to discuss life and literature, and whose best-known members were C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

I scribbled in my notes, “Friendship is the only love that when divided is not diminished,” and looked for the “real” quote later.  I found it, in C. S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves,

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets… Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves.’ For in this love ‘to divide is not to take away.”

Several years ago, when my life journey had taken a steep uphill turn, I summoned a group of Friendlings. We didn’t meet in a pub, but rather, through the magic of the interwebs, through social media and email.

Dr. Wood told us that The Lord of the Rings would not have happened without the constant encouragement of C. S. Lewis.  Sometimes I wonder how I would have fared without the constant encouragement of my Friendlings.

Like the Inklings, mine has been a group with some fluidity, but also with some mainstays.  With them, I have not only shared the trials in my life, but also my joys and the mundane. They share the same with me.

Each of them brings a different perspective, but that only enriches me all the more.

They staunchly stand beside me when I am at my weakest.

They know me at my ugliest and still love me.

In turn, they have shared their sunshine and their dark times with me.

“I’m hurting today,” one might say, and I will stop what I am doing to pray and to reach out across hundred of miles to tell her that I love her.

Friendlings have been a safe place to share and to listen.

Dr. Wood said that we are all Inklings.

Some of us may not be literary types, with ink stains on our fingers, but I daresay we all have the capacity to love and be loved.

Everyone can wear some friend-stains on their heart.



A to Z Blogging Challenge


H is for Hike.

Henri Nouwen said, “Friendship has always belonged to the core of my spiritual journey.”

Friendship is the core of almost any journey — and it was true of my hike at Laity Lodge.

I know that I already mentioned the hike in my post, Bluff, but it really is a three chapter story for which I only told the middle chapter.

Chapter One — One mile hike up.

Chapter Two — Pretty view.

Chapter Three — One mile hike down.

While I loved the view, I think I loved the hiking part more. Because of the friendship aspect.

The hike up
Walking to the start of the trail

When we walk with someone, we learn something — about them and about ourselves.

On the way up, I walked with Dawn — Dawn-of-a-thousand-careers, also known as Dawn-of-the-mutual-friends.

Everyone has a story.

Everyone has a thousand stories.

As much as I love reading stories, I love hearing the stories. I love asking questions so I’m picturing it clearly in my mind. And hearing the rise and fall of the teller’s voice as they emphasize the words that are important in their telling of the story. I love seeing them smile when they tell the parts that make them smile, and bite their lip a little when they tell the parts that are hard.

I loved hearing Dawn’s stories on the way up.  One of her stories involved running a marathon (or was it a half-marathon?) where she completed it by sheer will-power. She’s a strong woman.

What I learned about me while I was hiking with Dawn was that I don’t like to confess to my weaknesses.

I was running out of breath, going what felt like straight up. The gap between us and the next group of hikers grew larger and larger as we hiked slower and slower.

Darned if I would admit needing to rest though!

If Dawn could keep going, I could keep going.

Thankfully, she stopped.

“I need to catch my breath,” she said.

Benevolent me, I said, “No worries. I don’t mind waiting.”

What I meant to say was, “Thankyouthankyouthankyou.” gasp-gasp “Myheartispoundingoutofmychest.” gasp-gasp  “I (gasp) need (gasp) a-rest, (gasp) too!”

On the hike down (which was much easier) I walked with a young woman named Kristen. Tall, beautiful, and with an enviable openness about her — she told me about her work, her church, her family. It hit me as we were talking that she is the same age as Philip, my oldest son.

I could be her mother, I whispered to myself, but the words flew away in the Texas wind.

I marveled at the fact that I had arrived at the enviable stage of life where I have friends, real friends, that span many generations, and I’m right smack dab in the middle of them.

It was a cosy feeling — not out of breath at all.

A hike with friendship at its core.