Sunday, February 28, 2010

Voting ends March 5!!!!!

Hi everyone! Honeybun is still leading in votes in the Petco contest, although her rating is not high as someone is still sabotaging it. (sigh) However, if you can vote and give her a 5 rating and everyone I know votes 10 times a day, I bet we can get that rating up!!!!! Instructions are below:

EAsiest steps: click on this little link below and skip to step 8 below. (if you find pleasure in ripping your hair out, cursing, and slamming your head against the wall, you may prefer to follow the full set of instructions below, but most of you may find it simpler to go for the easy option.)

> 1. Click on this link:
> 2. In upperish right side, select "sort by OLDEST STORIES FIRST"
> 3. Scroll down to bottom and select page "5".
> 4. Scroll down to bottom and select page "6".
> 5. Honeybun is the second story (picture: doge sleeping on pillow,
> covered with a blanket. title: A Last Chance Dog.
> 6. Click on "Read my story and vote"
> 7. Click on the 5th (rightmost) gold medal (it will say "5 stars" when
> you hover over it.)
> 8. On the Righthand side of the page enter your/an email address and
> click the continue button.
> 9. You will be returned to Honeybun's story page.
> 10. Close your BROWSER program (not just the window).
> 11. Repeat steps 1-10.

Calling Ducks

Asherel and I took the dogs to the Greenway and we brought the lovely wooden duck caller she got at a Wildlife festival last year. It was rather expensive, but she paid for it herself. She could not live without it. You know how all the 12 year olds are raving over duck callers. It is of beautiful ash wood and if you are skillful, not only can you call ducks, but you can call geese, swans, crows, and an occasional orangutan.

We rarely remember to bring it with us when we are going someplace that might have ducks, but we remembered this time. The Greenway was crowded, as it was a lovely day, suggestive of a break in the Global warming freeze we all have been experiencing lately. No sooner had we started down the trail when we saw ducks.
"Call them!" I cry.
"I don't want to disturb them," says Asherel, glancing at the hordes of people.
So we travel on and come to a place in the trail where we have often seen ducks in the past.
We sit on the bench and I tell her, "Now call some ducks."
"But there aren't any here," she responds.
"That is why you are calling them. You are bringing them here."
"No, if they aren't here, I don't want to bother him."
So her duck caller is more a duck invitation, a duck suggestion.
I grab the duck caller and blow away. I don't sound anything like a duck, but I do attract some people. Asherel snatches the duck caller and we proceed on with our walk. Finally we come to two sleeping ducks. They are on a log with their heads tucked under their wings, both balanced on one foot. They are only a few feet away.
"Ducks! Call them!" I exult joyfully.
"I don't want to wake them up," responds Asherel.
"Ducks can go back to sleep... call them. Why did we buy this expensive duck caller if you are never going to call ducks with it?"
So she glances left and right. No people in sight.
She raises the caller to her lips and makes very very quiet duck noises.
The sleeping ducks sleep on.
"Not loud enough!" I insist.
"Ducks are not very loud," she counters, but tries again, this time a touch louder.
No ducks stir from their slumber.
I snatch the caller and blast out Duck in e minor. Still the ducks are unmoving.
"Maybe they are decoys," I say.
"Maybe we aren't speaking duck," says Asherel, "Besides, remember all the duck callers at the contest told us these things don't really call ducks. It's just for show."

Maybe not. Speaking another language is a tough skill...particularly if the species is not your own, like teenagers or young adults. You have to crawl inside their skin and see the world through their eyes. You have to have the same wild chemical imbalance, the same insecurities as they face the world with alarming independence, the same onslaught of peer influences that counter all they have been taught. At least you have to empathize with it.

In the same way, you can't easily communicate eternal, timeless, omnipresent immortality to a being locked in decaying, mortal, time bound finiteness. Sometimes you have to become a man, just like the creatures you want to speak to. To call a duck, you maybe have to be a duck.

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Call of Beauty

I had a painting class yesterday and so had a rare opportunity to paint. I rarely paint anymore, as most of my artwork begins as a demonstration in classes I teach, and I don't do painting classes. I teach kids and have found that kids and paint in general need wide open spaces to paint and ideally, no carpets, clothes, or walls that would be ruined should paint spatter on them. So I deal mostly with safer materials like pastels, or pencils. But everyone is a closet painter in their heart I think. Give anyone a big canvas, a few lovely colors, and a brush to sail her with, and they will embark on a voyage of beauty and delight.

It was a three hour class which may seem like a long time, but we were racing to get a painting completed in that time, and it flew by. My demo painting is never good- just a snapshot to help them with basic techniques, and I will even show them what not to do on my painting, so it is not meant to be a work of art. Yet, I find myself at times lost in the joy of mixing color, stroking
swaths of meandering color across the sky.... and then have to shake myself back to the class.

"Who are you all and why have you interrupted my painting?" I demand.
They blink back at me and one of the braver little girls says, "We are your class. Remember my daddy had to sell my brother to afford your lessons and you are teaching us how to paint?"
"Are you certain?"
Since they insist, I sigh and turn from my painting to teach the little urchins.

This is the danger of painting. I have all my class members sign a release, because art is not considered a dangerous sport but there are hidden traps in art. When I start a painting, my children often have to go sit on street corners with little tin cups to beg for dinner. Time stands still and I forget the rest of the world. The beauty of color and form beckon so strongly, that even the strongest often succumb.

There are few things in life that so totally captivate my attention that I forget all my worries, concerns, struggles, or drooping skin. Consumed with the pursuit of the perfect color, the elegant line, the balanced design, everything else melts into irrelevance. I think this is how we are supposed to worship God- that all consuming melting into His presence, His desires, His direction. He is the one that fills my brush with the color of Heaven, and draws the road that leads me there.

Psalm 27:4
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

It is triple handkerchief week at the Blog, and so the theme of children growing up and leaving their parents seemingly in the midst of a diaper change continues. My friend wrote to me today to tell me her son passed his driving test. No more chauffeuring him to band, karate, youth group, friends, etc. etc. I remember those days when my pillow and change of clothes were stored in the car, since I rarely left it.

But in the next line, my friend continued, No more long talks alone with my son as I drive him to endless places.sniff sniff.

Some of my happiest memories are those interminable car trips, carting my boys to math and debate competitions. The only time I recall Anders, my quiet oldest, ever really talking to me is when we were in the car, driving somewhere. On the way to contests, there was the excitement, the nervousness, the anticipation. On the way back there was the exultation with victory, the commiseration with defeat. Some of life's best lessons with my children happened in the car.

I was the one who taught them both to drive. I taught them on a stick shift, as I believed that knowledge might come in handy should ease and comfort in new automobiles ever go the way of the dinosaur. I had to squelch my natural tendency to scream and cover my face with every curb we almost missed.... I sat in the DMV, one of the most shining examples of why we do not want the government to take over health care, waiting for endless hours for them to return from their driver test, and then I was there as they walked in with the tester, sheepishly smiling as the tester gave me a thumbs up.

I was there, peeking from behind the curtain as they drove off all alone in the car their first time. I was the one, hiding in the bathroom crying and praying that God would protect them as they were out of my reach now.

So I feel for my friend. It is a great day, but a bittersweet one.

Proverbs 17:6
Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Looking for Light

I was closing Asherel's door early this morning and glanced in the empty boy's room. Despite it being 6 years since Anders left and now Matt's been away to college for four, I always feel a momentary sob wanting to erupt when I walk in that room. My sister says I need medication, my boys feel I need a "life", and I feel a piece of my body is missing. It is not a pervasive, constant, or overwhelming grief.... it is just a little self-indulgent twinge. But this morning as I glanced in, I saw a little red light dancing in the air, near the curtains. It was like a little red Tinkerbell. I walked into the empty room. Mind you, I use the word "empty" as in empty of sons. It is hardly empty of "stuff" as it is currently housing 5 seven foot puppets. All those lifeless figures loomed in the darkness as I crept in, looking for the little light.

It must be some electronic device that was left on, I thought. So I gingerly tiptoed among the puppet giants searching. Hmmmm. Strange. Nothing plugged in over there.... no little red light. Perhaps it was something out the window, behind the blinds. I pull them aside to look out. Nothing there that might cause a little red light. The giant puppets all leer at me with their unseeing eyes and unfeeling hands. Lifeless mouths gape open, refusing to tell me the source of that light. Maybe it reflected off something in the hallway. I look at every wall, every corner. There is nothing that might have cast a little red light into their room.

So, I conclude, it must be God. This would drive my son nuts as he is brilliant and can't stand that anything I don't understand I instantly label God. Like gravity. I mean we all know what gravity feels like and everyone knows what you are talking about when you mention gravity....
but it is one of those things we feel so certain of, so basically convinced we understand.... and yet it is one of the baffling mysteries of the universe. Newton thought he understood and explained it perfectly while eating his apple pie, and then Einstein comes along with his theory of relativity and blows Newton's musings about gravity out of the water. But even Einstein couldn't explain some puzzling basics... like every other force on earth attracts and repels... why does gravity only attract? Of all the immensely powerful fundamental forces of the universe, gravity is inexplicably weak. And how did it become so fine tuned... if just a little weaker, or a little stronger, it would not exist! All life needs gravity to survive- just think of the rubber legged astronauts that have been in space very long and need to be carried off the spaceships. Quantum mechanics and relativity, the two best working theories we have so far seem to be at odds regarding gravity.

So I just conclude, Gravity is God. Now I am not saying that is all God is, but it is part of Him. The Bible supports me on this one.

"My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them,
they all stand up together." Isaiah 48:13

and Colossians 1:16-17
16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Long before anyone had labeled or had a notion of gravity, or even of the gravitational forces of the universe, these simple Bible figures talked about how in God, the very universe holds together.

So back to that little red light in the boys' empty room. I think God was reminding me that it is not as empty as I feel. I think He was reminding me that He binds us all together, as He binds the universe together, and I may not see them but His hand is on them as solidly as it is on me and gravity never repels, it only pulls us closer....We all are being drawn back to Him.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Invariably, I tell my relatively new art students to bring a "simple" picture to sketch from and they show up with a picture of a forest. Since the focus of my class is not creativity, but exact drawing skill, we are now faced with trying to replicate all the sinews and tendons of a tree. This is almost as exacting as my college art class where I spent a semester drawing a stalk of broccoli. That professor was clearly out of his mind, and I suspect long ago in some sort of institution other than higher education.

So here is a free art lesson. Everyone grab paper and pencil- I'll wait. I tell the student first find the main part of the tree, the trunk, and draw that as exactly as you can. Most trunks are straight, though of course not all are, and start thickest at the base and grow narrower as they rise. I find that many young students consistently draw their trunks growing fatter as they rise.
One of my jobs is to help the student figure out what part of the drawing is "off".

"What will happen to your tree in the first breeze?" I ask, pointing to the skinny bottom and top heavy upper limit of the trunk.

And then, I have them draw only the 3 or 4 main limbs coming off the trunk. Again, those they are to draw as exactly as they can, following the sinuous and often shockingly beautiful curves.
And again, they often begin their life as a tree artist drawing the point where the limbs connect to the trunk skinny, getting fatter as they reach to their outer edges.

"What will happen to this limb when the first squirrel scampers on this branch?"

My young artists' trunks and branches will be snapping off right and left, crashing right off the page, smooshing innocent squirrels in a haze of pencil dust. They see it when I point it out, but strangely, most don't notice this incongruity until I do.

For various reasons, I have been thinking lately a good bit about the source of strength. I believe that the ultimate source of strength is God, He is the root of the tree of my life. But I also believe that like a tree, He has provided branches of strengthening influences that have varying effects depending on the distance from the trunk. I guess in my analogy, I am a branch, needing to stay connected to the trunk, but still reaching out to a life that will extend to a world filled with strong winds and fat squirrels. If my connection point is weak, I won't be a part of the tree much longer. I think one of the critical branches is the family, and the connection to family is one that is weakened only at our peril. I have reached the age where all the little twigs in my family are anxious to reach out even further and further to the endless sky of possibilities and I totally understand the need. I just hope they never feel that the twig can or should exist without the rest of the tree.

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD Isaiah 11:1-3

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Member of the Pack

My daughter decided that she is going to give me away. She hates to do it, because I have been in the family for so many years, but she has run into some difficulties with my long winded lectures and refusal to let her eat apple fritters at every meal.

So much as she really feels bad, she will be listing me on the well-known site "mother-finders." She has taken a nice picture, along with proof of all my shots and rabies vaccination. She will also accentuate my good qualities to entice potential new families. She is careful to say that she really loves this mother, but simply is unable to keep her due to difficult circumstances at this time, and will only give her up to a loving family, as she truly wants what is best for me.

I am not sure, not having the brain of a dog, but I suspect the dog that is being kicked out of a family feels a similar gut wrenching despair as I would feel if that first part of my post were true. I am not trying to be unkind to anyone, but since becoming involved with Hollow Creek Farm, I am seeing far too many letters like the one above, where some loving family can no longer keep the dog and are therefore seeking a new home. Of course, I know there are times some families have no choice, but those are not the letters I am receiving. Dogs can be a pain in the neck. Believe me, I know.... our rescued dog tried to kill my other dog. They are expensive too. Again, our rescue dog cost us more in vet bills than braces would have cost our daughter (and may still cost as we hit those troublesome years when orthodontists are looking for work....)

But I would urge all you dog owners to study up on pack mentality. Removing a dog from his pack, and that is his human pack I am talking about, is like cutting off his nose. I know sometimes it is easy to think of a dog as expendable.... but honestly, I think God rewards us when we take even these little responsibilities with great seriousness. If you get a letter urging you to help find a home for a "beloved" canine member, first maybe send them this post. You may help prevent the breaking of a dog's heart, and sometimes in saving the dog, unexpected blessings come barking at your door.

Hosea 2:18
In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Tears of a Cloud

It looks like our snowboard adventure is rained out. The weather report warns that only ducks or polar bears would enjoy being outside today on the mountain we would be enjoying before our hospital stay. This of course is in no way to be construed as being said with great relief and praising God for providing a gracious out because I was not at all fearful of careening down a mountain with my brittle bones standing balanced sideways on a small piece of wood. After all, I have been watching the Olympics and taking prodigious notes. I paid particularly close attention to the scenes where the snow enthusiasts were being carted away unconscious on a stretcher. I cannot begin to tell you how excited that made me for our upcoming snowboarding trip. But alas, it appears that we will have to wait. I made reservations for March 10 when Matt will be home and able to go with us so we could maybe split the cost of the physician in the ER.

Rain is not usually welcome. It is often a plan-spoiler. The folks in Seattle can attest to the depressive disorders caused by constant rain. It can be known to push some people out there over the edge, right into Communism. One of my favorite disorders is caused by lack of sun- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I just chuckle every time I see that disease mentioned, though of course I realize how unkind that is. It is just that I know some people with pencil and notepad spent hours coming up with that acronym and I admire good slogans. It apparently requires many days of rain in a row to develop SAD. Until the critical number of days have transpired, most sufferers have the less serious condition known as MAD, or Muttering Against Dreariness, and even just one day of rain can invoke BAD, which involves swear words that have no place in an uplifting blog like this one.

If you google rain and depression, there is a whole plethora of unhappy people who are sitting by the grey window picking lint out of their belly buttons and listening to "The Tears of a Clown." So among the questions I intend to ask God someday is why did He invent rain?

I know that spring showers bring May flowers. My question is deeper than that. When you are the Creator and can plan the universe anyway you want, choosing details right down to the color of the wallpaper, why make a planet dependent on a source of water that makes us SAD, MAD, and BAD? Water could have just bubbled up from below leaving the sun free to shine and give us all enough vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis.

I think Asherel came to the proper answer a few days ago. It was Friday, and we had finished school and were spending time in one of our favorite stores, LOWES building supplies.
Out of nowhere she said, "I guess if we didn't have Mondays, we wouldn't appreciate Fridays so much."

I suspect that is the crux of many of the hard things we grapple with. If we didn't have pain, how would we understand and appreciate its absence? Without evil, would we understand good? Without rain, would we know to dance in the sun?

Hosea 6:3
Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."

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Sunday, February 21, 2010


Last week there was snow in every state except Hawaii and it might have been snowing there but no one noticed cause they are all so busy hula dancing and comparing belly buttons. Our capitol was snowed under nearly three feet of snow, bringing new meaning to the phrase, "The wheels of government move slowly." It has been a cold grey winter even here in the sunny South.

So it was with surprise that I noticed sprouting from beneath the fall leaves that we still haven't raked (oops....when did we forget to do that?) the daffodil shoots. I was scurrying by with 10 bags of groceries and one was ripped like it always is and I was running like Groucho Marx low to the ground so I could balance the soon to spill contents on my knees... when I almost missed them. In fact, at first I did miss them though I saw them. I noted them in a distracted corner of my brain but sprinted by, slammed through the door, scattered the groceries with a whoosh onto the counter and said, "whew."
All the bags safely in again in one trip, no eggs rolling down the sidewalk, and I think I remembered to close the car door.

Or did I?

And so of course I have to go out and check and as I walk outside my brain is nagging me to remember something, and then I remember the daffodils. Finally I pause and look at them, surprised. Spring always takes me by surprise.

In the grocery store I had seen all the Peeps and chocolate eggs as I was hurrying to find milk, and I briefly thought surely Easter is not almost here... is it? And when I stepped out to my car, I saw a flock of robins, and I realized that even without my coat, I was not shivering. A week ago I had seen bluebirds, but it was still so cold out that it didn't occur to me that I hadn't seen bluebirds since the summer. I thought it was just the color all frozen birds attain.

And then -those daffodil stalks, just starting but reaching above the leaves we never raked from the garden. (I use the term "garden" with a bit of literary license- it might more accurately be pictured in your mind as dead leaves which cover the potential of a garden should anyone with a green thumb happen to move in to our home.)

I love surprises. Blessed with a wretched memory, almost every fact of course is a surprise for me, but the surprise of Spring is always a favorite. God usually speaks in whispers, but Spring is His shout-out. I don't think He could be saying any louder or clearer, "Hang in there all you frozen worms! The thaw is coming!" How more eloquent could He be than to follow the dark, dreary, cold of a lifeless winter with the sudden profusion of birds singing, flowers budding, tree limbs greening, and tax returns mailing?

It was of course no accident Jesus was crucified and rose again, taking on Himself the penalty of all sin for all time, in the spring. Rebirth and renewal is grabbing us all by the throat and shaking the snowdrifts from our chilled souls. It is not the end! It ain't over even after the fat lady sings! It is never the end! Don't lose heart, don't give up! The daffodils are poking out again from under the leaves, and a Promise is echoing throughout the Earth.

Psalm 85:11
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wave Calls To Wave

There are so many voices to hear. We have had our new "surround sound system" for about a year now. As we sit and watch the Olympics, we see the athletes racing down the slopes and hear the icy crescendo of their skis.... and then suddenly I will hear some voice in the crowd call out from the speaker behind me. I jump every time. Even the dogs will suddenly cringe as they walk by one of the corner speakers and a disembodied voice starts yelling, detached from any visual image that would convince us he is really there. I really think I prefer the old regular television where the sound all comes from the images we see in front of us. It also turned on and off by pushing one button. To operate our new improved TV, I have to begin pushing buttons twenty minutes before the show, and only that short an amount of time if I remember the correct sequence. It is more complicated than detonating the atom bomb.

But I digress.

Back to voices.

The skier is swooshing down the slope and most of the sound of the show is in front of my face, but there are four speakers with our new system, and sometimes, those background voices are saying things that are vying for my attention. Often it is the voice of a family member, calling her son's name, encouraging him. I doubt he hears her on top of the mountain, but I do, coming from the left rear speaker, out of nowhere, a voice of encouragement and love.

I love the verse in Psalm 42 that speaks of the waves calling to each other and the psalmist in the depths of his despair crying, "Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me." The voice he hears amplifies his despair. I love the verse not for the pain of the psalmist, but for the recognition that creation all around us is calling out to us. Voices are lifting everywhere. Perhaps my favorite story about a voice calling out in the Bible is in 1 Samuel, when Samuel hears God call his name audibly, but mistakes it for his benefactor Eli calling from a back room. It is Eli who gently tells Samuel, "That is God speaking, you dumbkof, go back and listen to what He is saying." ( some liberty taken with translation).

When all is silent around me, especially in these early mornings, and the days are fairly routine with no exciting events more momentous than lunch, it is sometimes easy to think God is not calling. But sometimes, if I am listening and my heart is tuned to His channel, I do hear a voice calling from a left hidden speaker, and it is a voice of love and encouragement.

Hebrews 4:7
Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

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Friday, February 19, 2010

City on A Hill

The book Asherel and I are reading for History is about a boy from the middle ages who is drawn to an old mapmaker, a man that can create magic with his artistic talent. When the boy wants to be taught, the mapmaker cautions him that not only must he have a great gift, but he must have a special kind of courage.

As an artist, I understood instantly what he was saying, though I suppose most people would not think of artists as needing courage. It is not as though the brush is a dangerous weapon, or the canvas a large steep hill that he must somehow snowboard down without skill or a helmet. Still, every time an artist steps before a blank canvas and has the audacity to put the first mark of his creation, there is a moment of panic. What if I cannot do it, what if what I create is a disaster, what if someone looks at it and laughs, or worse, scorns it?

A true artist bares his soul with every piece of art. His character is vulnerable and on display. His vision of the world is now available for ripping apart by the inevitable critics. It is very painful for an artist in any field to see his "baby" massacred and derided. It really does take courage to first dare to reveal his soul, and then to hear the verdicts of those who understand what he has revealed.

This is not only true for artists. To varying degrees it is true for everyone, I think. I know it is true for Christians. We are told that we are salt and light, that we are a "shining city on a hill" where all can see us, and weigh us in the balance. If we are hypocrites, the world sees that. If we are petty, or jealous, or angry, or ungenerous.... the world is watching and ready to condemn. It is painfully true that we all are imperfect and most of our lives will not shine forth like a masterpiece, but there is no doubt that a masterpiece should be our goal. It is a frightening burden, but one we don't have to carry alone.

Matthew 5:14
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010


We have an unexpected free Monday next week. The group I was working with ditched me to go skiing. Now I don't blame them, skiing is way more fun than me. And the offer was awfully hard to pass up- lessons, rental, and lift tix for less than $25.... but I still snivelled in the corner feeling sorry for myself for a little while.

Then I thought, hey, if they can do it.... "carpe diem", so can I! Asherel and I have been deliriously watching the Olympics and we both think snowboarding looks fun. I called the ski resort and booked the same fantastic deal for Asherel and me to go out Monday and learn to snowboard.

"Did you know, Mom," said Asherel who quickly set to work researching snowboarding, "That snowboarding is the MOST injurious sport?"
"You mean even more than sky diving... or bungee jumping,
or cutting fins off of sharks?"
She nodded.
So when my art class shuffled in I quickly asked if anyone snowboarded. One had and told me it would be great fun.
"Will I break my hip?" I asked.
She looked me over, "Probably not."
Then we went to our dog training class. Danielle is an expert snowboarder. I told her about our upcoming adventure.
"Will I break my hip?" I asked.
"Oh no," she answered, "Your knees."
Carpe Diem is not without its risks, apparently.
So there will probably not be a blog post on Monday as we need to leave early in the morning. There might not be a post on Tuesday unless the hospital has internet access.
Proverbs 22:3
A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Time of Need

Sometimes evil is wearing some fancy perfume and it is hard to smell the stink at first. And sometimes it is so rank that you cannot bear to be within miles of its presence. The story of the beheading of the dog Rigsby is the kind of evil that is so horrifying, I am ashamed to be human like the perpetrators. If you want to help bring those wretched people to justice, you can follow this site - ( Because I am involved with an animal rescue group, I get these kinds of emails all the time. It is hard to not vomit all day.

And atrocities against animals are hardly the only perversions of evil. Our church had a speaker this weekend from the IJM- International Justice Mission. He told us about the rampant child slavery and sexual exploitation trade particularly in India, but in many countries and largely among the very poor. IJM is a small group of lawyers and concerned people that is making a difference freeing these children, and trying to fight the laws and policies that permit such horrors. He reminded us that in the face of overwhelming evil, it is easy to feel paralyzed, and feel that anything we do is just a drop in an ocean of misery. He urged us however to do as much as we could with the little we are given, and let God multiply the effect.

I know the problem of evil turns many sincere and compassionate people from God. I certainly can't answer why evil is allowed or even created. I do know that in the face of it, anyone with any kind of heart would be totally crushed if they allowed themselves to dwell on the awful enormity of it. For me, the only solace I have is that there will be absolute and ultimate justice one day, and we will all face an accounting for what we have done. In the meantime, I think the speaker at our church is right. I can't do it all, or maybe even much, but I can do a little, and let God provide the increase.

John 6:9
"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not Letting Go

I started my book on Honeybun two years ago, when we first found her. I knew something special was happening and I wanted to record it, at first just because I love to write and wanted to keep my family informed. As our unexpected success with her began to look possible, I realized that she was changing us as much as we were changing her. The idea for the book solidified and I wrote many hours a day for about a year. Then I sought publishers. I knew nothing about the book publishing world. I did what every naive, humble book writer wannabe does- booked airfare for NYC where I was sure hordes of admirers would be descending upon me to ask for my autograph before my taping on the Today Show. NOT.
I got writer's cramp, but not from writing my book. No, my fingers cramped from wadding all the rejection letters to toss into the garbage can. The book about a hopeless dog looking for a miracle became the pursuit of a hopeless writer looking for a miracle. The parallel would be breathtaking if it wasn't so depressing.
Many agents expressed interest, gave suggestions, asked for the full manuscript. Some still have it and are either reading it now, or using it to line their bird's cages. Hard to know which at this point. I don't want to be like one of those singers on American Idol that everyone laughs at because they are so deluded about their talent. On the other hand, I really believe the book is good and could be a hopeful inspiration to people struggling to achieve something they cannot achieve.... at least not easily. I have slogged along, through mounds of rejections, wrote a second book, and as you know, practice writing each day on all of you.
So last night, an agent wrote. She says the book has potential and gave me a "to do" list. I love lists. I love the act of checking them off and looking back at how much I accomplished. After two years of clinging to this dream and on the verge of slipping away from discouragement and weariness.... I have boxes to check!

It seems that a major lesson God is slamming me with on every front is that I must hang on to Him, to His direction, and to the goals I think He is directing me towards with every fiber of my being. If homeschool is not going well, and it often is not, I am to remember why I am doing it and hang on, my arms wrapped solidly around His promises. If my prayers for others to know and love God seem unanswered, I need to clasp my hands more fervently and repeatedly in supplication. If I feel attacked and misunderstood, I am to dig my fingernails in to what I believe is His guidance and keep my focus not on others but on Him. If I am rejected for the thousandth time, I have a Lord who was rejected much more severely and completely. When I want to give up, I know He understands, because even He asked that if it be possible, the bitter cup He was about to drink could pass him by, yet not "my will, but thy will."

Each time I revise the book it gets better. Each struggle I endure and hang in there, I get stronger. Each prayer of despair I pray is answered, and sometimes I see victory just around the corner..... though the corner is a very very distant corner. I love the triumphant verse from Invictus by Willian Henley,

It matters not how strait the gate
how charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

but it is not my cry. I cling instead, in weakness, to the master of my fate and the captain of my soul, and I will not let go. Gotta run now, back to my editing.......

"I will not let you go, unless you bless me." Genesis 32:26

PS- keep those votes for Honeybun coming!!!!!

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Monday, February 15, 2010

When The Path Is Lit

I broke my toe once stumbling in the darkness. And all the horrid nightmares I used to have always came in the middle of deep black night.
I am a morning person. I love the light of day. The shroud of night spooks me. I don't like walking where I can't see where to place my feet. I like clear paths, well -lit passageways, goals that may be distant but are still discernible before falling off the edge of the earth.

Yet, most of the time the paths in life are not at all like that. Most of the time I look back on a life that is more like the circuitous wanderings of the Israelites in the desert. The goals I thought I was heading for kept shifting and transforming, or like toppled vases, just shattering. I don't know if I am particularly blind or if everyone's life feels that way.

My second son Matt was the one who as a child bounced off the walls. He never stopped moving and he was always asking for something more, something bigger, something tastier.... and yet, from age 11, Matt wanted to be a lawyer someday. He began reading law books in middle school, and studying about different cases. His exuberant bouncy nature ping-ponged from one activity to the next, but his goal of law-school remained steadfast. He was a typical second child, fun-loving and social and not as committed to hard work as I would have liked, but he was always smart and his native intelligence got him into a very good college. His first semester was a disaster, however, as he chose some very high level classes and bumped up against the shocking demands of reading and writing assignments 4,000 times more than he had ever faced, as well as laundry, getting up early, and tempting diversions everywhere he looked. Not only did it look like his dream of law school was probably over at the end of that horrible first semester, but maybe his dream of graduating. Health issues were multiplying and he was chronically sick and tired, and now battling just to pass, let alone have a GPA that would get him into law school.

It really would have been very easy to give up, or to change his goal. But he didn't. He fought back to the path he had hacked out for himself, and stumbled along, often in darkness. I know there were periods of great despair. Each semester, his grades got better and better. He took the LSAT, the law school entrance exam, while coming down with yet another illness, but did well. Despite his last semester being sick with mono, and very hard classes, he got straight A's. He applied to several law schools. Last night he called to tell me he had gotten his first law school acceptance letter. He is still waiting on the others, but he was thrilled. It is a top 30 school, and not his first choice, but he would happily go there. I had not realized I'd been holding my breath for the past ten years for my son the dreamer, til I let it out with that phone call.

Night inevitably follows day. There are periods of darkness no matter how hard we try to hang on to the sun. Sometimes I just take it by faith that God is there, lighting the way. I have to just huddle against my fear, and know that morning is coming. And when it does, it is always most beautiful when the sun is blazing after a long period of gloom.

The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them
along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light.
Exodus 13:21

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Becoming Strange

I think it is possible I am becoming strange. Maybe 18 years of homeschooling has finally loosened the last bolt holding the normal section in my brain in place. Maybe being a loner happy to have hours of time just to contemplate life has removed me too far from what humans do and think. I returned home from walking the dogs yesterday and we had a couple of visitors chatting with Arvo. The giant 6 foot tree and 4 foot banana that are part of our Destination Imagination Set were in the middle of our empty great room. I am pretty sure the last time those visitors were here, we had had furniture in the room.

When they left, I asked Asherel if they had inquired why our great room had no furniture, or why it had a giant banana in it? She told me they had not. That is when I realized that it is highly likely that I had passed so far over to the "not typical" side that it no longer could even be talked about openly. It is with some sadness that I realize this. But it probably is hard wired in me, this avoidance of the middle of the bell curve. I always seem to be hovering on the edges, a genetically unavoidable crack-pot.

I am certain there is a gene for weirdness. It was with astonishment that I read about the largest piece of preserved hair from one of our ancient ancestors. From that single batch of hair, scientists were able to decode the entire genome, including the color of his eyes. And this is the part that struck me forcefully- they were also able to determine that he had dry ear wax. This is not a joke. There is a gene for ear wax- and even more remarkably, whether it is wet or dry ear wax. Can you imagine being so caught up in the detail of your creation that as you are knitting away you plan for the consistency of ear wax?

Today is my mother's birthday. She is a gem, a sweet and gentle soul with a passionate love of beauty and nature. She instilled all the good qualities she could in me, and she is off the hook for my strangeness. That, like my ear wax, was designed before she laid eyes on me.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. Psalm 139: 13-14

Honeybun is neck and tail for the lead with Parvo dog but someone is continuing to sabotage her rating which is only 3 stars. Sigh. I can't do much about that, but if you want to vote, I am most grateful!
go to drop down menu, oldest dog first.
go to page 5, then click on page 6.
she is "Last Chance Dog" with photo of dog covered by blanket.
Click on far right (5th) gold award for highest 5 star rating.
You will then be directed to sign in , do so as "new customer" (and you can put any email there).
If you close your browser when done, you can do this as many times as you wish.
To view her rating you can go to "top rated stories" and she is usually just after Parvo dog. You are allowed to rate all the stories you want after you vote for her. I am pretty sure someone doesn't want her to win and is rating her 1 to lower her score. Oh well.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Surprised by Beauty

The snow took me totally by surprise. I am glad I had finished a little snow picture with my art class last week or I wouldn't have had one for my blog. There are few inspirations to draw snow in the house of the brutal sun.
I guess I didn't know about the snow because I was busy trying to understand the "if A then B except when A is not but B is or B is not when the converse of when A is not...." in Asherel's Geometry lesson. We were so busy tying our brain in knots that I didn't see the first flakes fall and hadn't known they were expected until Asherel called out,"It's snowing." I thought it was just an excuse to lift her finger from our Evelyn Wood Speed Reading session, but I glanced up, totally losing what B does when A has to take a bathroom break. It was true. The first little dusts of snow were drifting quietly by the window. I didn't take them seriously, having not read the weather report. Everyone else had already bought their milk and toilet paper, but I had not because I didn't know the snow was coming.
And while we camped in front of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on television, the snow kept falling. All through the night, it sparkled in the air against the yellow lamplight, falling, falling.....
I piled my ski clothes neatly for the morning, and put my skis in the corner. I prayed the liquid nails I'd used to repair them would hold. This morning, I awoke to a good 4 or 5 inches of snow. Right after breakfast I will ski, and then right after skiing I will do some snow paintings. With all this global warming going on in Charlotte, I seem to need a backlog of winter snow scenes.

And speaking of painting, today is the official opening of the first annual Hollow Creek Farm Kids Art Contest!!!! Details can be found at . This is a bona fide national art contest which means if you are age 18 and under, you could enter and win not only prizes, but satisfaction too, as you can help Hollow Creek Farm with your entry donation which will be used entirely for the care and help of HCF animals. The world renowned judges are experts in their field. Linda Ostrow owns the wonderful jewel of an art gallery tucked away on The Plaza in Charlotte- Queens Gallery ( ) . Angela Purcell is a devoted volunteer at HCF so knows the animals you will be drawing well, and has artist parents that instilled a deep love and understanding of art in her. And finally (this is the section where there is a huge drum roll and the fans are holding their breath while the older women pass out in anticipation)- the last judge is me. For all of you budding artists that hope to major in art, or just impress potential colleges with achievements on a national level, this is a very good contest to enter. The contest ends May 1 so you have plenty of time to find an HCF adoptable animal you want to immortalize in art.

But about the snow that snuck in here like a thief returning money..... I had been having a bad day. School was not going well for us. I will spare the gorey details but suffice it to say that I was ready to retire from all the perks of being a highly paid and respected home school teacher and join the Foreign Legion. Just as I was ready to pack my bags, the snow started falling. Who can watch snow fall and not feel the talons of despair melt away? My rising blood pressure with an angry spirit had called out like Gideon, "If the Lord is with us, why then
has all this happened to us?" (Judges 6:13.) But then I saw the snow. Flake by flake it fell, collecting slowly to a blanket of soft white covering all the harsh edges of the world. That is how my emotions had built, anger by anger, frustration by frustration..... and the blanket over our home was not one of gentle peace. Oh Lord, give me a heart that falls gently like the snow on my family!

And don't forget to vote for Honeybun. It seems her vote is being sabotaged as her rating keeps going down though she leads in number of votes. Since I have given clear instructions that when you vote you should only click on the 5th gold star to give her the highest rating, I think some devious souls are going in and clicking on the first star, which lowers her rating. So please vote per the instructions below:
just click on this little link below and skip to step 8.
1. Click on this link:
2. In upperish right side, select "sort by OLDEST STORIES FIRST"
3. Scroll down to bottom and select page "5".
4. Scroll down to bottom and select page "6".
5. Honeybun is the second story (picture: doge sleeping on pillow,
covered with a blanket. title: A Last Chance Dog.
6. Click on "Read my story and vote"
7. Click on the 5th (rightmost) gold medal (it will say "5 stars" when
you hover over it.)
8. On the Righthand side of the page enter your/an email address and
click the continue button.
9. You will be returned to Honeybun's story page.
10. Close your BROWSER program (not just the window).
11. Repeat steps 1-10.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Glimpses of God

I love the rare, the unusual, the under-dog, the shy, the elusive, the mysterious, the miraculous. I equally love the thing so common that it is overlooked. I think God is both.

When we lived in Syracuse, NY, we had a home right on the Erie Canal. The part we lived on was pretty decrepit, but you could still walk along the tow path and see the old locks that used to raise and lower the water level. If you listened very carefully, you could hear the tow mules bray amid the shots of hunters who thought it was great sport to hunt deer along the canal, shooting towards the neighborhood filled with small children. I once demonstrated my mind boggling lack of common sense when I confronted one of those hunters with his gun dangling towards me, and told him didn't he know he was not allowed to shoot on state park lands and that there were little children playing just beyond the tree line? he didn't answer, and his gun lowered slowly, but he turned and walked away. (whew)
The path went on for endless miles, and most of it was parkland, so it was filled with nature and largely deserted. On snowy winter days of which there were approximately 300 a year in upstate NY, I would cross-country ski on the tow path. That, in and of itself was enough to make my toes curl with delight. But as though a peaceful winter wonderland with the sounds of skis swishing and the soft snow hushing the moans of troubles were not joy enough, I would invariably catch a glimpse of my favorite bird, the Great Blue Heron. It would be quiet and beautiful, and I would be contemplating deep and significant thoughts like whether I should get my hair cut.... when I would see something move out of the corner of my eye. I would look for it, whatever it was, and it would be nothing, just a shifting of snow from the bridge of my nose. And then, as I would swish off again, the heron would suddenly flap its enormous six foot wings, and it would glide down the middle of the Erie Canal. It would settle a hundred feet ahead, until I caught up, and then sail off to the sky again, leading me further down this path of peace and elusive silence. Every single time it happened, and it happened many times, I thought of God. Every time I see a Great Blue Heron, I feel the presence of God.

I am not saying that God is a Heron, mind you. But the qualities of the Heron always remind me of God. They are magnificently large and yet it is rare to see them as they are masters at blending in to their surroundings. You can pass them by and never know they are there. But if you draw close, they will always show themselves with their awesome presence bursting heavenward. I always wonder how this huge bird can be so hard to find, but so unmistakably present. If I hike while make a lot of noise, I will almost never see one.... but if I enter the forest sanctuary and still my chattering soul, and look with quiet but searching eyes, I almost always see one.

I think that is the way God reveals Himself. You can't hear Him if you are busy talking yourself, and you can't see Him if you aren't ardently looking. And just when you think you have it all figured out, like how to submit a post without underlines appearing at the most inopportune moments, He is hiding again, and all you get are glimpses from the corner of your eye. So much of the Christian life is a walk of faith, but it is not blind faith. Like the Great Blue Heron, God is there and at times His presence will manifest itself in such a dazzling life-altering way that all you can do is shield your eyes from the blinding light of the sun and watch Him draw with wings of mercy and grace the path to Heaven.

I had a glimpse last night, right before we went to bed. We had just prayed for a dear family who had been without work for a year. He had had an interview that morning, one of many he had had over the hard and draining year. I went to my computer to shut it down, weary from all the demands of the day, and of Wii Yoga which is harder than you would think.... and there was an email from my friend. Her husband had gotten the job in a most unlikely way. I could hear the beat of a heron's wings, rising like a miracle into the sky.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

PS_ One dog is only a few votes ahead of Honeybun in the contest. You can vote every day when you first log on, and the steps are below. Please vote for Honeybun, and help win dogfood for a year for Hollow Creek Farm.

click on this little link below and skip to step 8.

1. Click on this link:
2. In upperish right side, select "sort by OLDEST STORIES FIRST"
3. Scroll down to bottom and select page "5".
4. Scroll down to bottom and select page "6".
5. Honeybun is the second story (picture: doge sleeping on pillow,
covered with a blanket. title: A Last Chance Dog.
6. Click on "Read my story and vote"
7. Click on the 5th (rightmost) gold medal (it will say "5 stars" when
you hover over it.)
8. On the Righthand side of the page enter your/an email address and
click the continue button.
9. You will be returned to Honeybun's story page.
10. Close your BROWSER program (not just the window).
11. Repeat steps 1-10.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Clinging to Hope

The irony in being prepared for life when you are young is most of the time you are clueless about what you are preparing for. When you ask, like every other child on earth, "but why do I need to know this, I will never use it...", the Older and Wiser Ones smile like Mona Lisa. It is as futile as telling a kitten it climbs and shreds the draperies for the day when it is being chased by a fox as it is to tell a child that Algebra may reenter his life in ways he never thought to consider. Since we don't know the future, we are forced to prepare for all eventualities. This is a daunting task, and more so if you are a home school parent as the whole chinchilla rests on your shoulders. (For those of you who excel in catching malapropisms, I know that most people think the proper phrase is "the whole enchilada". But I ask you, which would you rather have resting on your shoulder- a messy dripping oily enchilada or a furry soft chinchilla?)

So every morning, while petting the Chinchilla, I do a Bible study with Asherel, forging through the blank stares when I talk about trials, and suffering and struggles in life. For a kid whose been blessed so mightily that her most heart wrenching problem for the day is how to talk me into letting her have icecream for dessert 3 nights in a row, these biblical issues of struggle and temptations that lead to death have as much relevance to her life as the Middle Ages, which coincidentally, we are also studying with similar attenuating interest.

So like I find myself doing with other subjects that don't seem to have any significance to her now, I try to emphasise that we never know when something we thought we would never need suddenly is all we need.

For example, despite the fact that I never knew why my words were underlined like they are now, I did not research it, or ask for help from someone who might know. And now, for no reason at all, my words are underlined yet again, and I am unable to correct it. This gives me an aura of "lack of credibility" which detracts from the truth of my message.

So I continue to help Asherel find and even memorize those verses that give hope and strength for a day that she cannot yet envision. You just never know when you may need to find comfort from God- affirming words like a curtain to cling to covering a window of despair.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

By the way, Honeybun is one point behind the leader!!!! OH NO! Please go to and vote for Last Chance Dog, and click on the far right (5th star). If you click on the first star, it will record as the lowest rating and will hurt her chances. Tell all your friends!!!!! And you can vote as many times as you log it, I think, as long as you are not registered with Petco, but just click on "new customer".

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Right Way to Say Hello

No one greets you like a dog. Dogs do "hello" right. No matter how smelly or ill-tempered or depressed or ugly you are, when you walk in the door, a dog suddenly realizes that all creation was engineered to create you and you alone. With unrestrained delight the dog gallops across the floor barking "hallelujah!" the whole way. His tail, which I understand is powered by microscopic nuclear explosions, gyrates wildly as the absence of clear English makes it difficult for him to otherwise convey the words, "My reason for being is you!"

If your dog is like my dog, within nanoseconds of greeting you, he then remembers he is hungry. In his infinite kindness, he escorts you to the food cannister. He knows that your mind is foggy and not fully tuned in to the needs of the day, so with careful placement of his body, he nudges you closer and closer to the Gravy Train that you may not find on your own, and certainly not with the necessary speed. If you get sidetracked and Heaven Forbid, must use the bathroom before attending to the dog's breakfast, he does not berate you. Instead, he waits patiently at the door, occasionally ripping irreparable deep grooves in it, and as soon as you emerge, he behaves as though he had not just reminded the world that the most incredible human being on earth has just appeared and his exultant greeting begins all over again.

I have often watched our dogs greet my husband Arvo when he returns from work. First, I don't know how they do it, but ten minutes before his car pulls into the driveway, they start barking and running from the bedroom to the front door. Lucky runs to find his bone, which he then picks up and carries around for the next many minutes til Arvo arrives. It is his offering. When the car rolls in, the dogs become more frantic. Their tails are wagging so fast that they momentarily lift off the ground and hover like a helicopter. When the door opens, it is a bedlam of rapture. The dogs swirl like frenzied sharks around Arvo's legs. Lucky drops his bone at Arvo's feet. They paw at him, and bark, and jump to lick his face. Oh happy day, the pack is complete again!

I know I should be there with them, drooling with delight, welcoming my tired husband home from his long day in a similar manner. The dogs put me to shame. I am woefully inadequate and am humbled by a dog. Instead of showering him with exuberant joy at his presence, I often have a litany of all the things that went wrong, that need fixing, that need doing, that need attending......
It is never all about the dog, in the dog's eyes. It is all about the Master.
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I, whom you have redeemed. Psalm 71: 23

PS- Honeybun has over 200 votes! It is hard to determine if she is still in first place, but there was a dog close on her heels. Please please vote!!! Find specific instructions in the post 2 days ago about the Petco contest. Thank you!
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Breaking Out

As we were preparing my son's pile of things for him to leave for his first year at college, he refused to bring an umbrella. Young adults have bizarre perceptions of what makes them conspicuous when they would often prefer to just melt into the wall. As Anders was heading to Boston, the cold and desolate north where there is cold and rain, and he would be without me to remind him that it was cold and rainy so that he could then ignore me and go out unprepared in the cold and rain.....I wanted at the very least that he would have an umbrella. Who would have thought that the very suggestion of an umbrella would cause my son to shudder with the gruesomeness of my deviousness for even thinking such a thing. I could not imagine why the thought of an umbrella would cause such a reaction, particularly in Anders, who probably more than anyone I know could not care less what others thought of him.
"Really Anders," I insisted, "It is perfectly normal to carry an umbrella when it rains."
"I have no intention of being normal!" he barked.

Well now. This could probably be emblazoned on our door, the rallying cry of our family.
"Give me abnormality, or give me Death!"
"I only regret that I have but one not normal life to live for my country!"
"I think, therefore I am not normal!"
You get the picture.
I think this is the blessing and the curse of the creative, artistic soul. There is something that rebels deep inside against conformity, against sameness. There is a constant drive to be unique, to show a soul that sparkles in the fog. It is a blessing when the bubble of creative juices boil above the simmering mass and splatters a fresh thought to a world tired of the same old mush. It is a curse when the creative soul languors in weary exhaustion, every new thought depleted and dry, with the crushing realization that Shakespeare already said it, or else it is in the Bible. There is nothing new under the sun. We are living in a world of left overs.
And just when the creative soul is ready to hang up his beret, something bizarrely wonderful and new is unveiled.....creatures like the Dumbo Octopod are discovered a mile beneathe the sea- 6 foot long octopus like animals with fins that look like ears of giant elephants. Or the recently discovered ghost slug, a blind huge white carnivorous blob found in Wales. It feeds at night with razor sharp teeth. Ick. If that isn't the stuff of nightmares, I don't know what is. Picture yourself out for an evening stroll and being stalked by a slimy blind blob that then goes after your toes with a mouth full of razor blades. (I am canceling my trip to Wales....)However, who would have thought to make such a creature? Creativity is not dead!
So the very same Bible that bemoans that nothing new is under the sun in Ecclesiastes 1:9, also lifts our drowning spirits with this exaltation:

22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

PS- Honeybun is in first place!!!! Keep voting- instructions on post from yesterday. Also, if you don't register, but log in as a new customer each time, you can vote more than once! The rules do not say you can't vote more than once! And very important, when you vote, only click the far right star or our rating goes down. Many thanks from the bottom of our wagging tail.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Vote for Honeybun!!!!!!

The dog that inspired my book is now in a Petco Writing contest. She is currently in 4th place and has a definite shot at winning! When I first read the rules, I was concerned as I know very few dogs that know how to write, and even fewer that can do it well enough to win a writing contest. Upon closer perusal of the rules however, I see that Honeybun does not have to actually write the story. She just has to dictate it to someone with opposable thumbs.
Her story has to be about why she is a champion. If you want the full version, you will have to buy my book.... and if you want the fullest version, you will have to find me a publisher willing to take a chance on a new author who will publish my book. But if you act now, today, in the next hour, you may read her story free of charge. I entered her in the writing contest with high hopes. The winner gets a whole doghouse full of dog food. If she wins, she plans to eat as much as she can before I donate it to Hollow Creek Farm, who could really use it in these trying economic times of hope and change.
Unfortunately, to vote for her requires a doctorate in computer programming. I think Petco needs to hire someone other than the babysitter to develop the website. It is not easy to navigate but my dear cousin who is highly trained in understanding gobblydegook has sent these instructions which I will paste below. Please note, when you vote, click on the star to the far right of the row of 5 stars. This is what rates Honeybun's story. If you click on the first star like some less savvy voters did, that is all the points she receives and we can just kiss that dog food goodbye. Honeybun would thank you herself, but is extremely busy right now writing her sequel.

EAsiest steps: click on this little link below and skip to step 8 below. (if you find pleasure in ripping your hair out, cursing, and slamming your head against the wall, you may prefer to follow the full set of instructions below, but most of you may find it simpler to go for the easy option.)

> 1. Click on this link:
> 2. In upperish right side, select "sort by OLDEST STORIES FIRST"
> 3. Scroll down to bottom and select page "5".
> 4. Scroll down to bottom and select page "6".
> 5. Honeybun is the second story (picture: doge sleeping on pillow,
> covered with a blanket. title: A Last Chance Dog.
> 6. Click on "Read my story and vote"
> 7. Click on the 5th (rightmost) gold medal (it will say "5 stars" when
> you hover over it.)
> 8. On the Righthand side of the page enter your/an email address and
> click the continue button.
> 9. You will be returned to Honeybun's story page.
> 10. Close your BROWSER program (not just the window).
> 11. Repeat steps 1-10.

For the few of you still reading who are not over at Honeybun's story, I did not forget the spiritual application. It probably did not escape your notice that I told you if Honeybun wins she will donate (unwillingly) most of the dogfood to Hollow Creek Farm. This probably left a bad taste in your mouth because it sounds like self promotion. Oh look at me, wonderful me, promising kibbles out of my largesse. Our sermon this weekend was all about generosity of God's people, but we were to give in a very unusual way. ... and I quote:
Matthew 6:3
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing

That of course means that when your left hand is giving out dog food, your right hand should not be holding a bullhorn and notifying everyone in sight what a good and generous person you are. While my motives are not pure, I will state in self defense that some of you might not bother to vote if you thought it would just fill our larder with dogfood, as some of you have met our dogs, and know they hardly lack for food. However, if you know it goes for a good cause like Hollow Creek Farm, you might be willing to take the time to vote. I am not guilty of the sin of hypocrisy so much as the sin of manipulative behavior. We will discuss that in another post.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010


There was a large spooky forest that bumped up to our backyard in the house where I spent my first five years.
My earliest clear memory was of that forest, and the frightening thing that emerged from it one day as I was playing in the backyard. My mother used to tell us it was time to go out and play, send us out back, and then lock the door. It was Enforced Playtime til her eyes stopped rattling in her head. While children are, as everyone knows, a source of great comfort and joy, four children under age 6 can stretch the definition of joy til it is almost like torture. I loved being outside, but the spooky forest really scared me. It was big, and dark and menacing and I knew that very large and dangerous things lived there. So I would stick close to the house and play with less scary things like the snakes under the doorstep.

Most of the time my siblings were near, so the forest didn't hold the terror it could have, but on the day of my vision , I was all alone. I don't know where my siblings were off to, probably stealing the farmer's corn and outrunning his shotgun, which was another favorite memory. (Well, ok, I am not quite certain I remember him actually shooting, but he did scream at us....I think.)

I was happily feeding apples to the snake, whom I called Slidey, when I saw something on the edge of the forest out of the corner of my eye. There was a lot of shouting and thrashing of underbrush, and horrible growling noises. I raced to the door, which of course was locked, and pounded on it. Mom's policy was the door remained locked for at least an hour, on a sliding scale
of time based on how long it had taken her to get us into all our outdoor clothes. If snowpants and boots and hats and scarves and mittens were involved for all four of us, we could count on being locked out til the next meal. This was a summer day, but nonetheless, Enforced Playtime was not over, and so children were still required to fend for themselves, unless "we saw blood".

I cringed against the door and opened one eye to see what unspeakable creepy thing had been raising the ruckus. It was then that I saw, clear as day, a large bear break out of the forest. Well, actually he did not break out of the forest.... he rolled out of the forest. It was a fearsome large brown bear, at least as tall as a large man, on roller skates. I huddled against the door, whispering, "Mom! Mommy... let me in. There is a bear!"
Fortunately, the bear stayed along the edge of the forest, and was actually skating quite well considering the less than ideal surface of tree roots and rutted ground. Why was a bear roller skating...? At the time, it did strike me as odd, but then the answer became clear. A farmer with a pitchfork burst out of the forest waving his arms and giving chase. It was obvious the bear needed to roller skate to outpace the man. I watched in amazement as they raced across the far backyard, and then both disappeared again back into the forest.

To this day, when my family feels I am not being quite accurate in my rendition of events, they will say, "Like the bear on roller skates?" and then smirk. I get the distinct impression that no one believes me. My blessed mother turns 78 on Valentine's Day, but I am sure she too remembers opening the door to the hysterical child telling her there was a bear on roller skates in our forest.

I have never been able to discern what message God was sending with that vision. Try as hard as I can, I cannot make sense of it. Surprisingly, bears are mentioned in the Bible. When the prophet Elisha is taunted by some youths who call him "bald head!", bears come out of the forest and maul them. Those bears were not roller skating. In Isaiah 59:11, the prophet mourns the state of a sinful people, lost in their sins, who don't know where to turn to find solace and atonement-
"We all growl like bears;
we moan mournfully like doves.
We look for justice, but find none;
for deliverance, but it is far away. "

That might explain the vision of the bear... God was reminding me of the horror of sin.... but the rolling part still flummoxed me. Roller skates had not been invented during Bible times, but there are zillions of references to things rolling. And amazingly, the rolling is usually a good thing, except in a few places like when God tells Jeremiah to tell his people He will "roll you off a cliff" because they refuse to repent. But in Joshua 5:9, God "rolls" away the reproach of Egypt from his people, and the most happy rolling of all occurs in the Gospels when the angel rolls away the large stone to reveal Jesus' empty tomb.

Of course, sometimes a bear on roller skates is just a bear on roller skates.
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Saturday, February 6, 2010

He is My Song

I wish I could sing, or play an instrument other than the kazoo with skill. Every member of my family can either sing or play guitar or piano.... except me. I mean, I can play a few chords, and I can sing within a very narrow range. In fact, my ability to sing was one of the delusions of my childhood. And it was my mom's fault. As I have mentioned in prior posts, my sister Wendy was highly intelligent and highly talented. All the things I could do, Wendy could do better, and yes, that included art. I hated Wendy, which was the only way I knew to cope with all the feelings of inferiority. My mother, wisely seeing me drowning in my paucity of self esteem, tried to bolster me by focusing on the two things Wendy didn't have that I did. Everyone else in our family (except Mom) had brown eyes, but I had green eyes. My mother made such a big deal about my green eyes that I came to believe I had personally selected them and then special ordered them to arrive on the day of my birth. Were it not for my exceptional ability to procure those emerald orbs, I would have eyes like dirt like Wendy did. (I use the past tense, because in His infinite sense of humor, God gave Wendy brown eyes that faded to green with age, removing one of the two things I had that she did not.) The second thing I had over Wendy which I believe persists to this day was that I could carry a tune. As far as I know, Wendy still can not sing without bats torpedoing out of their caves. So while I honestly probably could sing better than Wendy, with all respect, the bar was not very high in that endeavor.
However, I trusted my mom and so I joined the elementary school chorus. I was put in the soprano section, but I don't think it was really that I was a soprano. I think it was just that since I was such a shy and frightened child when placed before humans, whenever I sang to anyone but myself in the shower, my vocal cords constricted and the squeak that emerged was labeled the closest thing the choir teacher could compare it to. I huddled with the other sopranos.
Despite my debilitating shyness, I had moments throughout my life when I was determined to rise above my temerity. When the tryouts for the School Choir solos were announced, I had such a moment.
When I told the choir teacher I wanted to try out, she paused and said, "Are you sure?"
This may be interpreted by more astute minds as an indication that perhaps I should take up another calling, like removing lint from dryers, but I persisted.
On the day of the tryouts, we were called one by one into a small room, and we sang a verse in front of the choir director. I wore my new dress, the one I can still picture to this day with a white top, green full skirt to match the eyes I had selected, and a yellow sash. I loved that dress and I felt beautiful in it. Inexplicably, when I sang my solo, my voice didn't squeak and I remembered all the words. It was with astonishment (I am sure to the entire choir) when it was announced that I would sing the solo.
So the next month was to be spent practicing for the big event. In practice, as far as I can remember, every single time we came to the part where I was to sing in front of all my fellow choir members my one small solo, I blew it. My terrified vocal chords would take one gander at the crowd and go hide behind my tonsils.
The choir director would try to smile. There would often be shocked silence from my choir mates. How had this worm with no voice won the coveted solo?
After two weeks of this farce, the choir director announced that due to an unforeseen event, the song with my solo would have to be cut from the program. Now of course, I understand that the unforeseen event is that the soloist sang like a wounded burro, but at the time, I only felt a twinge of disappointment. Mostly I felt relief.
With age and dawning wisdom, I understand that whether I want to be a swan or not, if I am a duck, I must be satisfied with what a duck is made to do. And much as I wish I could sing with notes that have the scent of Heaven upon them, I really don't need to. God tells me that in my weakness is where He shines. What joy to read in Exodus, 15:2_

The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Goat That Saved Me

When I was in third grade, I was "Wendy's sister." This was spoken in hushed tones with reverence and awe. When it was time for our research papers to be presented, the teachers gathered expectantly, as Wendy had done her 3rd grade paper on "The Study of the Brain" and presented it to college students. When I revealed my 3rd grade topic the following year, there was the whoosh of air leaving the room- "The Care and Feeding of the Black Capped Chickadee." I think it is safe to say all college symposiums on the subject were canceled.

When I hit 6th grade, the assignment was to do a "How To" report. We could teach the class how to do anything we wanted. I had heard rumors that in years past, such topics as "How to Ride an Elephant" had been presented, with a real elephant. I was a painfully shy child and these teacher exercises in student humiliation and terror always produced months of angst. How could I get in front of all those faces and speak a word? I was the child who had run home and cried all afternoon when a little boy behind me in the lunch line had kindly and gently pointed out that my slip was showing. The mortification of that event would be nothing compared to the idiotic babbling I was sure to produce for my How To talk. I had learned from my father that when in doubt, be outrageous and so far over the top, people might not notice little insignificant things like you have no idea what you are talking about. So I settled on my speech topic. I went to my mother and asked if she could help with the logistics.
"I think you will need to clear this with the principal," she said.
By now my topic had assumed a life of its own, and despite the horror of talking out loud to the principal, who in those days still had the power to paddle, I marched in to his office and asked politely if I could bring a goat to school.
He asked if the goat was house-trained, which of course it was not. It lived on the farm that I raced to every day after school. Every day I shoveled manure for hours, in ecstasy as I was surrounded by horses, cows, cats, and the goat. One of my jobs at the farm was to milk the goat. Then I would take the goat milk and pour it in a row of endless saucers for the many barn cats and homeless creatures that wandered to the farm. Milking a goat, while not at the level of navigating the mysteries of the brain, is not a totally mindless or simple task. If you do it improperly, instead of the milk coming out the spigot, it is squeezed back into the goat and she then bellows and kicks over the pail. It took a good bit of practice to learn to properly milk a goat, and I had become proudly proficient.
I promised the principal that I would lay papers down in case the goat needed to potty in the school, and we decided that it would be ok if I just brought the goat in the front doors, and had my class come to the entry hallway to watch my speech. That way, should the goat need a quick escape, I could usher it immediately out the doors.
I don't think I was well liked. I am not sure it was because of my personality so much as no one really knew my personality. I was just a formless blob, too frightened to speak to most people. But I related well to animals, and animals liked me. At that point in my life, that was enough.
The day of the speech, Mom picked me up from school and we drove to the farm for the goat. We loaded her in the VW minibus, and I sat in the back seat with her, stroking her neck and telling her what an adventure she was about to have.
The class was already gathered when we arrived. They didn't know why they were in the front hall so all craned necks expectantly as my mom, and me, and the goat hopped out of the car. There was a huge crowd. This was not just my class I could see immediately. As I have mentioned in the past, I have a horrid memory, but I am pretty sure the entire 6th grade was there, and many teachers, and the principal too. It is not every day a goat goes to school.
Instead of laughing at me, or as was more typical, just looking through me, there was a crowd of peers smiling at me, and when I gave my talk and demonstrated how to milk, there were rapturous faces and arms shooting into the air begging me to let them try. I forgot to be frightened in my earnest attempts to turn every student into a competent milkmaid, who would not hurt my friend, the goat.
I got an A+ on my talk. It is one of my favorite memories of school.
So of course I have always had a soft spot for goats. It was with great delight and astonishment that I discovered the greatest miracle of the Christian faith, the atonement of sin, was to be symbolized by a goat. In Leviticus, each year the priests were to gather the people and take two goats. The peoples' sins were symbolically cast upon the goats. One goat was sacrificed (to my great dismay) but the second goat carried the sins and was to be released into the desert- the scape goat. It was a poignant symbol of what Christ demonstrated with one act- sin was so repugnant that the punishment had to be death, but mercy was so strong, that He offered an escape. Christ became our scape-goat.
" But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat." Leviticus 16:10

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