Monday, April 30, 2012

Turning Weakness to Strength

Yesterday was Day 7 on my Jericho March around the neighborhood for the Ferret Hunt. I put on my running shoes. For the last formal march, I was going to circle the neighborhood seven times. I did not hear a command from God to do this...I just want you all to be clear on that. I just wanted to do it, and I figured what better model for my attempts to secure victory for my friend who lost his ferret than to follow a Biblical story of victory. I realized after lap 3, two important things. One, I was going to be tired at the end of this. Two, I was going to lose track of how many laps I had run.
"Siri," I commanded my smart phone, "Remind me I am on lap three."
Siri computed this message and then said, "Why?"
"Because I am on a 7 lap march around my Jericho and I am already losing count."
"Did God ask you to do this?"
"No, but God is going to have to find the ferret. I am just making myself available."
"Have you ever been tested for mental imbalance?"
"Siri, just remind me, ok?"
"If you insist. When do you want to be reminded?"
"In 10 minutes."
"I will do this, but only under protest and with deep concern. Most people use this application to remind themselves to buy eggs, you know."
"But I don't need eggs...I need a miracle."
Part of that conversation was true, by they way. I really did have my phone remind me what lap I was on.

Meanwhile, as I ran my seven laps, I thought of the Jericho story. God wanted the Israelites to know in no uncertain terms that victory was not obtained unless God was with them. It is not recorded that any of the soldiers asked their leader, "Are you crazy? Why are we doing this nutty thing? Why don't we just bash down the wall and skewer the enemy?" Without grumbling, they seem to have gone along with this crazy battle plan. I find enormous comfort in this story. I have a battle looming that I am pretty sure we will not win on our own. The next two weeks we will be practicing the US History AP essays. I have required tiny essays throughout the year, but nothing like the practice essays I printed yesterday for Asherel. I had a small meltdown and wrote my sister, who was a history teacher long ago, and told her the task before me was impossible. She talked me down from my panic. What happens, happens. She will either pass or not. Use the few days remaining to prepare her as best I can. There is nothing else I can do.

Yes, there is. I am going to march seven times around our history book! And on the final march I am going to give a great shout, "The victory belongs to the Lord!"

On my seventh lap around the lost ferret neighborhood, I circled the ferret's house. Fortunately, the family was out of town, so they didn't call the police or the Psychiatric unit. I marched while calling the ferret's name, "Leo! Leo!" Leo didn't show up. I haven't lost hope however. After all, the Israelites also marched forty years in the desert before they reached the Promised Land. But in the end, they reached it. I think I will need new running shoes.

Hebrews 11:30-40
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

-save a dog-

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Riding in Triumph

Our last event at the NC Science Olympiad state contest was Helicopter. We had prepared and engineered based on a 50 foot ceiling. We walked into the designated contest area. The ceiling was barely higher than the ones in our house. The room was a narrow lobby, no seating for anyone to watch. Spectators could stand along an adjoining stairway on either end of the narrow room. The venue for the event had changed just 3 days ago, so we didn't have time to restructure or change our helicopter. Ben, Asherel's team mate, tested the copter with a taller protective spire on top, but it took so much time off the flight that we decided it really was best to take our chances and let it fly as it was. Our fear was it would be smashed and broken against the low ceiling.

The kids felt they had done well on their other events so I was not as anxious for them as I might have been as they entered the helicopter room. I got a front row perch along the stair railing. I heard a lady behind me say, "Oh, those are the Science Hounds. They are good!" I beamed inside. We are the Science Hounds Club.

Asherel and Ben chose the perfect position in the room, away from walls and obstructions. They wound the copter. This is always tense as the key is to wind the rubber to the maximum tension without breaking it. We purposely broke rubbers over the year to get a sense of how many winds it could take. I was holding my breath. They stopped winding and as they were attaching the rubber to the copter, there was a loud "twang" and I knew some attachment on the copter had broken. Ben hurried to our repair kit and rifled through, looking for the super glue. He pried open the cap and squeezed. I could see the glue had congealed. (Note to self: should have gotten brand new glue for the repair kit.) After a hurried consultation with Asherel who was still gripping the wound motor tightly against the point where the attachment had snapped, Ben found our pliers in the kit and snapped off the top of the super glue. A mess of it spilled on his fingers, which he was careful to keep spread apart so they wouldn't glue together. Meanwhile, what was their coach doing? I am not allowed to say a word once they are on the floor, so I was quietly and unobtrusively hyperventilating.

Ben hurried back, glued the broken part together, sprayed on the accelerant to speed the drying, and took the copter carefully from Asherel. Just as he was about to release it for flight #1 (we are allowed 2 flights in 8 minute time limit), the helicopter rotors snapped as the broken piece flew off and the copter was destroyed.

We had a back up helicopter, which was almost as good as the first. The timer looked annoyed as the kids raced to prep copter #2. He kept glancing at his watch. The kids looked intent, but not overly frenzied or worried. I knew well over half their time was up, from when I had seen the timer start his watch. I also knew copter #2 was the one Ben had added a spire to, and then taken it off. Of the two copters, it was likely the weaker one structurally, therefore. And copter #1, the stronger, better copter lay in smithereens. I resisted looking at my watch or taking my pulse. Since the kids could see me, I knew I needed to look as though I was not in early stages of cardiac arrest. I prayed, "Oh please Lord, let them get that copter off in time." After this incredibly hard year of work, I couldn't bear to think they would not even get in a single flight. Ben's mom, Rebecca, was quietly resting her head on a garbage can.

They wound copter two, and I saw them conferring. Asherel was shaking her head, and Ben paused. I knew this was the tense moment when they had to decide whether to add more winds. The more winds, the longer the flight, but it must have been close to the breaking point. Ben stopped winding and I exhaled. My fingers were turning blue as he removed the tight rubber from the winder and carefully slipped it onto the copter prop hangar wire. I heard a snap, but thankfully, it was the snap of the rubber slipping in place.

Then he stepped to the middle of the room, held the copter aloft, and released his hand. The helicopter went up and then started dancing all across the ceiling. It wove back and forth, sideways, diagonally, and once even threatened to tip over (disaster!). I had started my video at lift off. I could barely breathe as i watched the seconds tick away. I knew some copters had hit 2 minutes and more. Their flights had been straight up and down. This flight was wild. One minute thirty...oh no....don't hit the wall! Whew! Watch out for the light! Oh my! Two is still right up on that ceiling! At 2:15 it started to lose height and landed at 2:19, the best flight that copter had ever done. The crowd along the two stair wells exploded into applause.

The kids grabbed their copter and rummaged for another motor for flight number two. Just as they began winding, the timer walked over to them.
"Time's up," he said.
The kids looked disappointed, but they knew flight #1 was good, and flight #2 only enters consideration in case of a tie.

As I discussed the event with our club coach a few minutes later, we reread the rules, feeling fairly certain that the timer had started too soon. The club coach, Amy, felt we needed to enter a formal concern since according to the rules, the time was not supposed to start until the copter was released. Our team had never released the first copter, so no time should have started till the second copter lifted off. They would have had plenty of time for flight two. On our protest, we wrote that we didn't need to do a second flight unless there was a tie, since that would decide our placement. We left my cell phone number, but as the last hour before awards ended, no one had called. They had either denied the protest, or there was no need for a tie breaker.

When it came time to announce the helicopter awards, I gripped Rebecca's arms. The top ten places receive medals. When they hit 7th place, I began to get nervous. I knew we had a good flight, but was it good enough at the State level? I had heard of 3 minute flights prior to the event. 3rd place? nope, not us. My heart was pounding. 2nd place...not us. Oh no...they hadn't even been in the top ten! And then, yes folks, and then, they announced the NC State Helicopter Champions of 2012- the Science Hounds. Ben sprang to his feet. Asherel just sat there a moment, looking a little stunned. I lost my voice shrieking and threatened to capsize the stadium, jumping up and down.

The Science Hounds club racked up medal after medal. My team did well in Trebuchet, the other event I coach, but at 13th, didn't medal. However, it was a good score. The top two teams go on to Nationals. We knew we had to be close. Our club came in third in the state overall. Our incredibly hard year of Science Olympiad ended with triumph, almost making it to Nationals!

Funny how so often when all looks lost, when what one's hope had rested on lies blasted to smithereens at one's feet, is sometimes when triumph raises its whirling rotors. This was just a contest, and one that in the grand scheme of things doesn't matter in and of itself. What does matter is that maybe the kids...and maybe I....learned that until the time runs out, never give up. Always work as though being lifted up is possible, and out of wreckage, hope can still soar; redemption is still possible.

Isaiah 58:14
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land

-save a dog-

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What we all need more of

We drove to Raleigh early yesterday for the Science Olympiad State contest. I wanted to show Asherel the Chapel Hill campus, start her thinking about the flavor of different colleges. She could not really understand why we were doing this 3 years or so before she had to think about college, but she plodded along without quite the enthusiasm I might have liked. Until we hit the Chapel Hill funky little boutiques. Then she came alive. There were oodles of "vintage" shops, filled with the clothes, jewelry, shoes, bell bottom jeans and fringy things that I wore when I was a teen. I remember thinking I was as cool as cool gets wearing my bell bottom jeans with orange pompoms dangling all along the hem. All that wild stuff is coming back in style. Well maybe not the orange pompon fringe....Anyway, Asherel was already wearing her John Lennon sunglasses I got her in Las Vegas. She found a peace symbol necklace, a steal at $6. It completed her vintage 60s outfit she was wearing, complete with bandana and the ever present Beatles T-shirt. So I think she wants to go to the University at Chapel Hill now, just so she can prowl the cool little vintage shops.

The contest starts this morning, and I am so happy to soon be saying goodbye to helicopters and trebuchets. For two years now, I have coached those events, and I think I have sucked out all I ever need to know about either of those things. I hope she does really well, but I think she already has gotten more out of the trip than she had hoped for. The peace necklace is really quite striking.

It is a good symbol, and one we all should hang around our necks. Of all the things that Jesus could have given, as He was preparing to leave His disciples on their own, Peace was what He knew they needed to hold in their hearts. He knew they were frightened, that they were unsure they could manage without Him, that their hearts were troubled. He could have left them a pile of money, a squadron of soldiers, a bottomless glass of pink lemonade....but instead, He leaves them what He knows they most need. He leaves them Peace.

Peace be with you.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

-save a dog-

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Little Things

I was on a run, day number 4 of our 7 day march around ShadowLake on The Lost Ferret Hunt, when I saw a cat chasing a tiny creature across the street. It wasn't the ferret, too small, but I decided if I wasn't being sent to save the ferret, maybe I was being sent to save whatever little thing the cat was batting. I ran up calling, "Kitty! Kitty! Stop Kitty!" The cat ignored me till I was upon it, bent upon tormenting its prey. The prey was a little chipmunk.
"Hey cat!" I screamed, "Leave him alone!"
The cat glared at me, but then ran and leaped over a fence and was gone. The chipmunk huddled and looked at me, drawing in deep breaths. He appeared to be unscathed.
He hurried into some deep grass, and then stopped, watching me.
"Rest up," I said softly, "I don't think the cat will be back anytime soon, but you ought to hide as soon as you catch your breath."
I turned to continue on my run, and noticed a man on a porch across the street watching me. He had seen the whole drama. I wondered why he hadn't bothered to try and save the chipmunk.

And as I ran, I thought about how I had believed my mission was to find our friend's ferret, but maybe that wasn't what God had in mind. Maybe that grand and noble and glorious intention was only my dream. Could God have urged me on this run, on this very street, for the small and inconspicuous act of scaring a cat off a little chipmunk?
I believe we all are called to a purpose, and the more intently we listen for the Call, the more clearly we understand that He is always calling. Little acts have a way of snowballing into bigger consequences. I remember my engineer brother once telling me that the beat of a butterfly's wing ends in a hurricane. I believe, nutty as it makes me sound, that I was on that very street presented with that very frightened chipmunk for a reason. I hope I fulfilled my duty.

Jonah was sent by God to preach repentance and redemption to the Ninevites. Jonah was horrified. No way was he going to go try to help those most lowly of beings, those treacherous, sinful, idolaters! Not only did he hate them, but he knew they would not listen anyway! Jonah ran from God, ended up in the belly of a great fish, and after three days, was spit out on dry land. He grudgingly agreed to do what God had asked. He was not pleased. This was hardly the grand and glorious mission he had perhaps dreamed of one day fulfilling. But three days in the stinky belly of a whale convinced him that it is the better part of valor to do as God commands.

When I got home, I received a phone call. It was from the committee to select the Methane Pipe Public Art contest winners. My design won. I am to turn an ugly blue methane pipe eyesore into a thing of beauty. A little thing, but how my heart soared!

Jonah 3:3-10
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day's journey into the city, proclaiming, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown." The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah's warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
"By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

-save a dog-

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Never Lost

Our friend's ferret escaped and is having a party in the great outdoors. So Asherel and I have changed our walking routes the past few days to hunt for the ferret. If you have ever seen ferrets, you know they can squish through impossibly small spaces, turning their bones into liquid. They move like they are made of water. And so, they can hide anywhere. Asherel and I split up. She took the lower neighborhood and I took the upper. We were told to scan hedges and border plants, as that is where the ferret was most likely to hang out.

I got a text from Asherel early on in her hunt: "This is impossible! How are we ever going to find him?"
I remembered the old Star Trek show we had just seen the night before. It was about Spock and a few crew members lost on a planet without any communication. Captain Kirk, in the starship Enterprise, was circling the planet, a huge planet. He had to try to find them by actually spotting them, seeing their tiny speck on that huge planet, since communication was down.
"It is like finding a needle in a haystack!" cried one incredulous searcher.
Of course, in the end, Kirk miraculously finds Spock and it ends well.
I texted back to Asherel: "While you are walking, be praying. And remember Star Trek!"

I also thought of Jericho, and how God commanded the Israelites to spend seven days silently circling the city. God could have annihilated the enemy Himself in a split second. But for reasons we are not likely to fully understand *ever*, he required that the Israelites march without attacking, seemingly fruitlessly, seven times around the city. The point seemed to be that the Israelites were to trust God and obey...and leave the results to Him. I don't know why I thought of that, but I felt that what I was called to do in the Ferret Hunt was just march around the neighborhood. I decided I would do it for seven days. God knows where the Ferret is, and if He wants it found, it will be found. Our role is just to trust God, do what He asks, and leave the results to Him.

I feel really bad for the ferret owner. I know he is sad about his lost ferret. I wish our lives were all not so prone to loss and regrets. There are always issues that threaten to sink my happy ship. I am often only a memory away from wrenching sorrow. So much of what surrounds me seems as hopeless as the wandering ferret. I could easily wallow in despair, feeling adrift and rudderless in a sea of sorrow. But God sees me. He knows exactly where I am. In His eyes, I am never lost, and I am certainly not without the aid of His Power. Perhaps the best I can do is march and keep my eyes open.

Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our Concierge

Bad news on the State Science Olympiad front...we got word yesterday, three days before the competition, that the venue where we expected the helicopter event to be held, (the tall ceilinged gyms of the college where it was held last year), was changed. The officials were concerned about all the banners and rafters that could entrap copters in the gym. The helicopter event will instead be held in a room with about a 12 foot ceiling. Our helicopter design and rubber motor size were all based on the 50 foot ceiling (or so?) of the gym. It is too late to do anything about it with three days to go. We are just praying our copter is strong enough to withstand the high torque of the motor and heavy battering we think the lower ceiling will inflict upon it. I called to politely register my concern, and was told my concerns would be taken under consideration. Maybe other schools, with less money constraints, were able to buy oodles of different rubber for the motor, thus can adjust the impact with which the copter smacks against the ceiling. We put our limited resources in one motor size once we determined what we felt was best for the tall ceilings we expected. But then again, I am not an aeronautics expert. Maybe it will matter less than I fear. And really, most things matter less than I fear. I am pretty high on the fear factor.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Arvo, dear hubby, always seeking the best TV experience possible, told me Time Warner was coming to do an upgrade that would not cost any more than what we currently pay. They were installing a new cable that would give us faster internet, better reception, and get this, a personal concierge we could call should we ever have problems. I thought about calling my concierge for advice on the helicopter issue.

But instead, worn out by the busy day, I settled down in front of our upgraded TV cable, and decided to test it out. Arvo and Asherel were off to dog class, and I was very excited about a few quiet moments to test out our new improved TV capabilities. I turned it on. It wouldn't turn on. I used the new improved remote the cable man had left. Nothing. Tried the old remote. It turned on to a black and white old movie. I tried to switch channels but neither remote would change channels. I sat there flummoxed as my quiet time slipped away, and dark veins began popping out all over my forehead. After frantically pushing every button twenty times, suddenly the channel changed. I'd only missed half a show. When the show ended, I pushed the off button. Nothing happened. With both remotes in hand I went back and forth pushing "off" a good hundred times. Finally, the TV shut down.

Disappointment, frustration, unexpected monkeys in the wrench. It seems that life is more often following that pattern than not. We can't seem to turn on what we think we want, or turn off what we think we don't desire any longer. We seem stuck powerless in a world that we have no impact upon. We are paralyzed observers, watching life pass before us unimpeded by our hopes, needs, or desires. I know many people feel that way about God. They pray but He never answers. They live good lives but all they reap is sorrow. They eat vegetables 5 times a day and they still get cancer. They push the off button a hundred times, but still the horrible program stays on. They beg Him to change the channel of their lives, but He leaves them stuck in a colorless movie they desperately want to shut down.

The prophet Jeremiah tried to do good. He told his people about the one true God. He chastised them for their sin, and begged them to acknowledge their wrong-doing, repent, and open their hearts to the Lord, who longed to redeem them. For his reward, he was thrown in a deep muddy pit, and left to die. Somehow, Jeremiah understood that even in the pit, God was listening. I am sure Jeremiah didn't like it, but he accepted that God had a purpose based on the whole picture that Jeremiah was unable to understand. Ultimately, he was pulled out of the pit. But it was while he was being consumed by his enemies that he proclaimed, "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed!" He knew that in the end, The One True Concierge would fix everything.

When Arvo returned, I told him, "Oh, I have a request of our concierge. Could you tell them to please come out and make one remote with one button turn the TV on, and off when it is supposed to do so?" The concierge had promised to come should we have any problems, and I just can't wait to meet him.

Lamentations 3: 55-58
I called on your name, Lord,
from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: "Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief." You came near when I called you,
and you said, "Do not fear."
You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life.

Lamentations 3: 21-25
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

-save a dog-

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Do Not Forsake Me

As our interview for the day ended, I stood up wearily, stretching my cramped fingers. Comer, my WWII veteran friend, was rifling through pictures from the years surrounding the war.
"Here I am as a soldier boy," he said, handing it to me. He was a very handsome man. Had a Rock Hudson kind of look. No wonder so many of his WWII stories ended up with him finding a "pretty little girl".
"I was kinda day dreaming," he said, looking at me sheepishly, "Do you think we could get this made into a movie?"
A movie? I haven't even written the book yet, nor attracted an agent or publisher, and he is ready to start handing out movie rights? How am I not bound in the end to disappoint this 93 year old man, sitting there with his notes he'd prepared for the interview neatly arranged on his lap?
"I been thinking about a name for the book," he added.
I sensed I was losing control of this process.
But I remembered what my neighbor Dee, who also takes time every week with her husband to visit Comer, had said.
"Your book is what's keeping him alive," she had told me.
I sat back down.
"What name did you want to call it?" I asked.

Psalm 71:9
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my
strength is spent.

2 Corinthians 4:16
Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being
renewed day by day.

-save a dog-

Monday, April 23, 2012

Now is the Time

The presenter at the Parent Magazine Art Awards ceremony, called Asherel up to accept the accolades for her Grand Prize win. Asherel would frankly have preferred to stay home, but knew it was important to be tormented through the public acknowledgement of her achievement. She had submitted answers to a list of questions that might be asked of her. Now as she stood before the packed room, she was indeed asked several questions. Most of them, however, were not from the list. She did well, in front of a room of strangers, and I credit her third year of Gavel Club (Toastmasters) in teaching her poise in front of audiences. I especially loved her answer to this question:
"Tell me," said the magazine editor, "I am not an artist and I have always wondered how an artist knows when a picture is done. How do you know when to stop?"
OOOh, I thought, that is a good question! As an artist myself, many ideas popped into my head. I couldn't wait to hear what Asherel would say.
She paused, considering her response, and then said, "When the deadline arrives."

In Sunday school class, we were discussing Jesus' second coming, the rapture, and the day of judgement, both for those who accept and those who reject God. It is described as coming in a "twinkling of an eye", no warning of the moment. It will happen in a flash, before we can blink, and we will be called to account before the God of all creation. There will be no time for excuses, rationalizations, or even last chance decisions. The time for action will be over. The deadline will have passed.

I am not a last minute person. Never have been. I have always believed one should finish one's work before play and do what needs doing when it needs doing. I get very stressed if I bump up close to a deadline. I know I am a little far to the extreme, but I have never been a procrastinator. I can see how my attitude can be rough on those who prefer to bump up against deadlines. But I do believe that on this issue, no one should wait. Now is the time to believe. Ask God for belief. As one who has been there, I know He answers that prayer. If God is who He says He is, in a twinkling of an eye, I will be very saddened by those who chose to ignore Him thinking they had all the time in the world to finish what they were doing.

John 16: 22-31
So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God." "Do you now believe?" Jesus replied.

-save a dog-

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Out of the Rain

Well, I never heard back from the Greenway Contest to artistically enhance the Methane Pipes along the path. So I guess my giraffe idea didn't grab them. I presume by now the artists have been chosen and other creative artsy contraptions will be soon rearing their heads along the Matthews Greenway. I passed one of those ugly, still unenhanced methane pipes on our walk on the Greenway yesterday, and remembered the contest.
"I guess my giraffe wasn't chosen," I said, to any and all who would listen.
"You're not the only artist in the world," reminded my encouraging companion,"Maybe the other ideas were better."
"Or maybe everyone submitted giraffes."
I hope that wasn't the case. I hate being *usual*. Does everyone see a giraffe in a methane pipe?

Perhaps it is for the best, however. I had begun to worry a little about the effects of being up close to the unseen but deadly outpouring of methane gas. It would've taken me a good bit of time to transform the green metal pipe and concrete base into a convincing giraffe. Imagine all the methane that I would have had to breathe in during that process. Besides, I have begun writing my third book in earnest and really didn't need the distraction of giraffe painting, no matter how noble an endeavor that might be.

As we walked on the greenway, we had a small disagreement over which way to go, north or south. I wanted to go north, as I felt we would see more creatures. I was outvoted. We went south. I warned my family we better not walk far, as I felt certain it was going to rain. I was naysayed. We were about 20 minutes out when it began to rain. Fortunately, the rain chased the other people away, and it brought out the bullfrogs. Up until that point, we had not seen a single fauna, just as I had predicted. But with the rain, all along the path, we passed giant green bullfrogs sitting like little Buddhas in the swamp. I wouldn't have minded the rain but I was concerned about my phone in my pocket. However, on the tree lined path, it was like walking under a leafy umbrella, and by the time we hit the more exposed boardwalk, the sun came back out. The frogs hopped away and burrowed back in their mud. We passed another ugly methane pipe. A large painted turtle was along the path edge. We paused to put him a little deeper in the foliage out of the reach of bicycles racing along the Greenway.

I thought about transformations- the transformation of the ugly pipe in my mind to a smile-invoking giraffe, the transformation of the blue sky to a grey rain, the transformation of the empty swamps to one teeming with bull frogs, and then the transformation of the rain soaked pathway to one glinting in golden sunlight, the transformation of a sinful, lonely soul to a child of God, washed clean by redemptive love. I thought about how there are days when little disagreements, like whether to go North or South on a pathway, or to turn around before the rain, have led to blowups totally out of proportion to the incident. We all know how those seemingly little things can get under our skin and abscess. It doesn't need to be that way. We can be transformed. The rain doesn't need to bring despair. It can bring bullfrogs, and turtles, and when the sun shines, we might laugh at visions of giraffes shimmering on the horizon.

Philippians 3:20-21
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

-save a dog-

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Wrong Direction

OK, I have always been involved in my little personal attempts at animal rescue, but the number of turtles I have rescued this spring is getting ridiculous. What gives? Forget the chickens....why do turtles cross the road?

On some level they have to know it is a kamikaze mission. Surely they must sense the pulverized remains of their brethren telling them they might have a chance with a VW bug but NO ONE'S shell can survive an SUV. I saw some hot-rodder teens yesterday gunning through the adjoining neighborhood. Two boys. Then I saw the closed up turtle shell in the middle of the road. I was certain two wild teen boys would not have been able to resist the lure of a turtle on their racetrack. I walked over to the shell with trepidation, imagining blood and broken turtle fragments. However, he was ok. He peeked out at me. I picked the frightened turtle up and tried to talk some sense into him.

"Look Pal, I know that shell seems impenetrable, but you do not know the power of the enemy. You are not invincible and it is foolish to think you are. Remember the Titanic? And another thing. Why are you leaving that lush vegetation and ready water source of that lovely lake to cross over to suburbia? What possible allure could a chemical laden lawn and raised ranch have for you?"

The turtle blinked at me with wide eyed innocence and kept his legs and neck squished tightly into his shell. At least he didn't close the shell up, which frankly would have made me laugh. I love it that even the turtles know how to slam a door disrespectfully in my face.

"So I am setting you here, on the right path. You follow this down that little hillock and you will hit the creek. Notice all the bugs and grass along the way? That is what turtles eat. This is the ideal turtle world. You don't ever need to go the other way.Don't cross that road again. It is purely by the grace of God that those wild boys didn't run over you."

I placed him on the path, and gave him a little nudge in the direction he should go. Then I continued on my way and gasped as I almost stepped on a turtle carcass. I shuddered with revulsion and despair. That one was past saving.

I am working through the book of Isaiah, one of my favorite books in the Bible. Yesterday I came upon one of my favorite verses:
This is the way; walk in it. (Isaiah 30:21)
God is right there, picking me off of the dangerous road, steering me to the source of all life and delight...and yet, how many times do I ignore his direction and go my own way? Go the way that at the time seems better, unable to resist the allure, though God's voice grows faint along that ill-begotten path? And then when dangers come, I crawl into a shell that will never be able to protect me from destruction and lie helplessly exposed to the driving onslaught of an enemy that can crush everything in its path. It just makes so much more sense to heed God's nudges in the proper direction. Why do the turtle and I so often insist on crossing the forbidden road?

Isaiah 30: 18-21
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him! People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

-save a dog-

Friday, April 20, 2012

Eternal Encouragement

"The doctor told me I need to enjoy every moment with Evelyn. She is failing."
Comer told me this dry-eyed. We had spent the past two hours talking over his WWII memories for my book. I was exhausted by the constant writing, as well as by the often horrific events he recounted. My head ached and I wanted to leave.
"All those people on the Alzheimers floor...I don't know how they live," he said, "Half of them are out of their heads, some are 80 pounds, they don't eat, can barely move. Evelyn is doing poorly...I can see it myself. The doctor told me I need to live for the moment."
"You know, that is really how we all should live every day, every one of us," I told Comer, "Cherishing each moment we have."
I had been gathering my things, standing to go when he dropped that cheery news on me.
"I always believed in God," said Comer, "But I never really thought much about Jesus. Walt talked with me about Jesus, and I still don't really understand, but I do believe. What do you make of Jesus?"

I sat back down.

"Well, I didn't use to believe. And then when my son was born, I looked at him, and I knew, I just knew there had to be a God. And a God who made a creation like that...He had to love us. If I came across a watch lying on the ground, I would KNOW there was an intelligent designer. That's how I felt when I looked at my baby. That baby was designed."
"I agree," said Comer, "But that empty tomb...that big stone rolled away? How can you believe that?"
I laughed, "As soon as you believe that there is a God and He created the universe, well, anything else He does is easy to believe. Rolling a stone would not be a problem."
"But why Jesus...?" asked Comer.
His old dear face looked honestly puzzled. I know my presence helped fill a lonely day, but he wasn't holding me there to bide away the hours. He wanted to know.
"I don't have all the answers," I told my friend, "But I know that God is so big and so impossible to grasp that to be able to understand Him, it helps to picture Him as a man. I mean, if I were an ant, I could not understand anything but another ant. And if I want to feel what an ant feels and relate perfectly to an ant...I would have to be an ant."
Comer laughed, "That makes sense."
"If God came as a man, then He would experience all the struggles that a man experienced. We would know that He truly understood what we as humans endure. But it is a mystery. The Bible says Jesus is fully God and fully man. He had to be a man to understand us and relate to us and struggle like us, but he had to be God to save us."
"I never used to pray...then I prayed to God...and now I pray to Jesus," said Comer, "And I pray all the time."
"I think that life would be unbearable at times," I said, "If i didn't have the hope of Heaven, that there is a better place and one day we will be there."
Comer looked thoughtful, not sad, just pensive. He pointed to the picture of he and Evelyn, and their newborn daughter, taken 45 years ago.
"I have had a good life," he said, "Those were happy days."

My phone beeped. Arvo had sent me a text message. My sister in law's Mother had died. We knew it was coming soon, but it was sad nonetheless.
I stood again and hugged Comer, "I need to go."
"I sure look forward to these visits," he said, struggling to his feet.
I could not have come up with another intelligent theological argument if my life depended on it. I felt bone weary.
"Do you remember when we were on a luncheon car drive with Evelyn, early on," I said, " and she was still aware enough to know that something was wrong? She said she knew that she was loved, eternally loved, but she was so confused. And then she said, 'I don't know anything!' And I told her, 'But you just told me you know you are eternally loved!' and she told me yes...and then we sang ' Jesus Loves Me'. "
Comer laughed, "I don't remember that very well."
"I do," I said, "I wrote about it because it touched me so deeply at the time."
My head pounded and my arms ached from all the writing.
"I will come again next week," I told Comer, as he hobbled next to me, opening the door.
"I'll be here," he said.

2 Thessalonians 2:16,17
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

-save a dog-

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Trust Not in Appearances

In preparing for my interviews of my old WW II friend, Comer, I tackled a 10 pound book in its entirety. The book is about a 3 week period in 1942 when the Japanese attacked little Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea where Comer was stationed. It was the longest, most technical WWII book I have ever read. Now my elbows and wrists were aching NOT from writing, but from hoisting that book around.
"What are you doing with that book?" Asherel asked.
"Hurting myself."

Which reminds me, I had a dream last night that I broke every bone in my body, and reset them all myself. In the dream when I got out of bed the next morning I almost passed out from the pain. All my limbs were swollen and disfigured.
"Maybe 'heal thyself' is not the best advice for you," said my friend in the dream.

One of the things that struck me about Milne Bay is how beautiful that small stretch of beach was before it was decimated by bombings or jungles ripped up and set afire by crashing Kamikaze planes. The thick lush impenetrable jungle of that island harbored one of the deadliest snakes known to mankind, as well as Japanese troops bent on killing every Allied soldier they could find. How could such a beautiful, idyllic setting on the surface, seethe with so much hatred and evil and even death deep within? I remember Comer recounting the scene, as he and the other troops waiting in the airstrip clearing peered into the thick, tangled web of jungle plants. They knew that the lush green profusion of plants and life concealed agents of death. They knew the enemy was there, and they knew they had to be flushed out, or the battle would be lost.

In the end it was fierce and courageous fighting by the Australians that won Milne Bay. I learned while reading the 2 ton book that the famous General MacArthur had said the Australians were the worst army of the Allied forces, and would not fight. He proved to be wrong, luckily for Comer, who felt he owed his survival to the prowess of the Australian corps in the Battle of Milne Bay.

This is the way things often are, I thought. What one sees is just a veneer, a false impression covering the real truth. The peaceful looking idyllic jungle was anything but peaceful or idyllic within. The vision MacArthur had of the lazy Australian troops was far from the true understanding of their skills as soldiers under fire. Things are so often not what they seem. And I think that every one of us is like the Milne Bay jungle. Every one of us have impenetrable places that harbor secrets, regrets, dismays, struggles. But every one of us tries to hide those awful places at times, too ashamed, hurting, or frightened to reveal them. And some of us, like in my dream, try to fix it ourselves with disastrous results.

I thought about our last interview and one story that Comer urged me, "Don't write this one." It was too painful, and I could tell once he had told it to me, he wished he hadn't. I try very hard not to reveal confidences so I will not tell that story. I do think by telling it, he let a little of the poison of those years begin to seep away. I don't think we were meant to cover the truth with a facade of peace when what our hearts are filled with is war. And I don't think we are meant to face the horror of what sometimes confronts us alone, nor can we always fix it ourselves. Sometimes setting our own bones, like in my dream, makes everything worse.

I asked Comer how he accounted for his survival in such unlikely odds against him.
"God must have been watching over me," he said.
I knew he had not believed in God at that time.
"Would you have said that then?" I asked.
"Not on one level," he said, "But you know the saying, there are no atheists in foxholes when the bombs are falling."

That seems likely. I think we are all in foxholes though, sometimes of our own making. There is a battle raging in every soul. The enemy is real and seeks to devour us. Things are often not what they seem in our fellow soldiers of living. But our backs are covered, and we don't face the enemy alone. That's the key to winning this battle.

Deuteronomy 3:22
Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.

Proverbs 16:9, 25, 32-33
In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.
There is a way that appears to be right,
but in the end it leads to death.
Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city.
The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways, acknowledge Him,
And He will direct your paths.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Finest of Wheat

I grind my own wheat and bake bread from it. Then I have one slice of that bread every morning. I have done so for 3 or 4 years now. I started when I developed arthritis so sudden and painful, inflaming my drawing hand, that I had to have my wedding rings cut off. A friend advised that if wheat is ground and then baked into bread within 24 hours, all the restorative, healing properties of the wheat are preserved. Since she was someone I trusted and did not consider loony, I followed her advice. The arthritis appears to have vanished and not returned. I order my wheat in bulk from a great lady out of Columbia, SC ( . She sells all kinds of wonderful, healthy things. Why do I tell you this? Well, a few people wrote to me after my "Miracle Balls" healing joint pain advice. So many people hurt. They don't like that. So many health fixes cost a bundle. I am an expert at being a cheap-skate. I seek and find health fixes that avoid paying massive moola. I decided maybe I need to expand my readership by passing out health advice for the penny pincher. So that is my advice for today: grind your own wheat, bake your own bread, and if you want to do so with pain free joints, roll around on the $20 miracle balls I told you about yesterday. It won't heal all the world's ills, but it is not a bad start.

I headed out to interview my old WWII veteran friend Comer again yesterday. Again, he and Evelyn were feeling too poorly for a lunch out, but Comer was delighted to regale me with more WWII stories. In preparation, I had read a massive book on the Milne Bay battle. Comer had loaned it to me. He had also told me that there were no references in that book to his battalion, for which he was miffed. The book was written by an Australian, and the Australian infantry had fought the ground war that memorialized Milne Bay. But they couldn't have done it without the American airstrip gunners, and Comer felt they deserved a mention.

The book is enormous, and filled with technical, military language that makes it somewhat heavy reading. However, I had found several references to the American antiaircraft gunners, and even some personal anecdotes that sounded like the stories Comer had been telling me. So I opened our interview telling Comer, "I found many pages in this book that I think are about you."
"You did?!" he exclaimed, "Well to tell you the truth, I have never read it. I just skimmed it."
But his eyes lit up.
"What did they say?" he asked.
As I read to him, he sat very still, absorbing it, remembering it. I mentioned the first recorded "kill" or downing of a Japanese kamikaze plane at Milne Bay by a group of American gunners.
"That was me," he said, "Leastways they told me that I was officially the gun commander credited with the first kill."
I read to him the section that described that feat. I was surprised he had not mentioned that earlier in our sessions.
He went on to describe some brutal memories, and before I knew it, our time was up. I leaned back sighing as he sadly recounted a moment in the war he would clearly rather forget.
"I can't imagine my boys being able to do any of that," I said, "They have such gentle souls."
"I was mean, and tough," said Comer, "I had to be. Grew up in poverty, hard area. Small kid. Had to fight my way to success. You know I was a Golden Glove amateur boxer."
"I didn't know that."
"Yep, pretty good too on the amateur circuit. Won all my fights. Then they set me up to fight Gov. Wallace."
"THE Gov. Wallace?" I asked.
"Well he wasn't governor yet," said Comer, "And he was a good fighter. I declined. That's when I hung up my boxing gloves. I knew he was a better fighter than me. I decided then this was not the way I wanted my life to go. No, your boys might not have been suited to war. But me, I was mean and no one was going to tell me what to do."
I looked at him, trying to see past the kind old man I knew. I just could not picture him shooting anyone.
"Has your daughter heard any of these stories?" I asked.
"No, no one has heard these stories," he answered, "But I am ready to share them. I told my daughter to remember I was just a young man then. She and Evelyn weren't there yet."
I suspect he had wanted to hang up those wartime memories along with his boxing gloves, but then in the end, decided we needed to know. In some ways, I suspect sharing those secrets were healing his soul, like the finest of wheat had healed my arthritis.
"War is not pretty, is it?" I said.
"No, it is not," he said, glancing at a picture on his wall, snapped by a photographer at the front. It was the tense moment when the American gun crew was told to "fix bayonets; the enemy is a quarter mile away and coming."

Psalm 147:14
He grants peace to your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It Was the Circumstances

I went walking on the greenway hoping to see the Great Heron tree. When the greenway was being built we used to stand at the unfinished end of it and watch the herons in the multiple nests of a single old tree not far off the path.
"Do you think the people walking on the greenway when it's finished will scare them away?" I asked Arvo then.
And it seems it had. I never saw the herons any more. They were being replaced by a pathway for people to look at nature. The only problem was nature decided to hightail it out of there. It isn't really the people I is just the circumstances. I miss the Herons.

Yesterday, I called Comer, my old friend in the assisted living center. I asked if I could take him and his wife Evelyn out for lunch.
"After lunch, I could interview you some more for the WW II book," I said.
"Oh we are not doing well," he said, "Evelyn fell and banged her head. They kept her in bed all day to watch for signs of concussion. She is up today, but very shaky. I can help feed her lunch and then I would love to interview."
"Oh my! Are you sure you are up to it?"
"Yes," he said firmly, "I'm just sitting here."
"How is your hip?" I asked, knowing a blood clot there had made walking painful the week before.
"Not good," he said.
When I got there, Comer was already seated in the little parlor of his room, the two "interview chairs" side by side, his notes neatly arranged on the small table in front of him. He was dressed impeccably, except for a pair of old shoes.
"Had to wear these old shoes," he said, "My feet are too swollen to put on my good ones."
"Evelyn's not doing well?" I asked.
"No, she's mighty unstable. I helped her walk to her chair, for lunch, and she walked like this. " He mimicked slow shuffling steps, arms out like a tightrope walker.
"...and my daughter is going to fuss with me over this...I did a bad thing."
"What happened?"
"Well, my daughter always tells me get someone to help with Mother sitting down. I can't hold her up...she's too heavy. But no one came to help and she started to fall as I was helping her sit. I was struggling to hold her up and she was falling. They were looking right at me but no one came to help. So I'm afraid I cussed, G-- D---IT! SOMEONE HELP ME! I apologized afterwards. Told them it wasn't them I was cussing; it was the circumstances."
"Of course," I said.
I remembered our interview when he had said that he was always a gentleman during the war, except for when he was knocking heads.
"You were only trying to help your beloved wife," I said, "I hope they understood."
"They told me I should have asked for help, but why do I have to ask? They were looking right at me and saw it all. Wasn't it obvious I needed help?"

Comer's memories brought on many choked up moments of tears during this interview session. Memories of his twin brother, who manned the #3 antiaircraft guns, just down the runway from Comer's #1 position. For three years of the war, they had fought together. And then the day came for them to be reassigned.
Comer went in to the colonel and told me, "I could've been court-martialed for what I said when I heard they were separating us. I told him, 'Colonel, that's my twin brother you just spoke to about his assignment. I'm his twin. I want to tell you that the only way I will be separated from him is if you throw us in separate stockades.' And do you know, that Colonel issued a standing order that these two boys were never to be posted apart?"
Comer wiped his eyes, "Makes me a little emotional to think of that."
"Did they keep you together?"
"They sure did," he said.
I know his brother had died a few years ago, and Comer had said it was like a piece of himself falling away.

My hands had taken all the writing they could stand. I rose to leave.
"If Evelyn is feeling up to it later in the week, let me know. We could try lunch then," I offered.
"My daughter is going to fuss at me," mused Comer, remembering his moment of weakness before the Alzheimer Floor staff.
"It wasn't them you were screaming at," I reminded him, "It was the circumstances."

A piece of good news awaited me at home. The dear woman I had been counseling through 3 days of unbearable despair called. The impossible issue had been resolved.
"I can hardly believe this," I said to her, "It is a miracle."
"It was not me," she told me, that had caused all the angst and sadness in what seemed to be irreparable relationships just a few hours ago,"It was the circumstances. But yes, it is a miracle. I am so happy now."

I went for a walk down by our little lake in the adjoining neighborhood, and saw a heron fly overhead.

Psalm 51:1-12, 16, 17
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

-save a dog-

Monday, April 16, 2012


so sorry! the post from this morning erroneously called the balls I used to help my neck "Wonder Balls." The are actually called "Miracle Balls". It is easy to confuse all the balls in the world.

-save a dog-

Soothing Soothing Soothing....

All right, this isn't right. Those of you familiar with Facebook know that they have a whole department labeled "Snoops". The role of the Snoops crew is to read every post of their assigned Snoop-ee, and then target ads to that Facebook user. Those ads scroll down along the right side of the Facebook page. Normally I ignore those ads, but one today caught my eye: "Constipation."

Now I am not going to divulge to a potentially international audience whether or not I suffer from constipation, but I am virtually certain that even if I do, I certainly have never written any emails about that condition. I am wondering how and where the Snoops department came up with that one.

What I will divulge is that I do suffer from chronic neck pain. Sometimes it is less severe than others, but I sleep on a special pillow, I am careful never to sleep on my stomach or my neck cricks horribly, and I can never turn my head very long to one side without pain. I mentioned this to my sister while in Vegas and she recommended a simple cure called "Wonder Balls." Since I can't afford chiropractors and am frankly a little frightened by all their cracking and snapping, I ordered the balls which are very inexpensive and I even had an Amazon gift certificate that covered them. They arrived yesterday. They are grapefruit sized squishy blue balls. A small booklet of exercises came with them. The exercises are simple. Basically, one is supposed to put the ball under the sore joint and let one's body "sink into the ball" while doing relaxed breathing. Small movements are added to the repertoire, all of which feel almost as wonderful as going to the hairdresser for a scalp and neck massage. (Again, not ideal, but cheaper than a chiropractor and you get a haircut as well as neck treatment.)

Arvo walked into the room and saw me lying there, eyes closed, arms outstretched, flat on my back totally relaxed as I was sinking into the blue ball.

"Oh!" he cried, as I opened one eye,"I thought you were dead!"

At any rate, the Wonder Ball book makes pretty astonishing claims. Most people have immediate pain relief, though not all. Most people report other benefits like sleeping more soundly or relief from constipation (!), and everyone finds them helpful for whatever body joint/muscular tightness they have. I did enjoy the utter peacefulness of the gentle exercises, and the pressure of my "body sinking into the ball" was like a balmy moonlit night on Hilton Head Island....soothing, soothing, soothing....

This morning I awoke and realized my neck pain which has been here for 3 months this latest bout was GONE. If I turned my head to the end of its range, I could still feel the crick but it was definitely improved. My neck feels tired, like weak muscles are now being asked to work. If there is subtle realignment going on, I guess that would make sense. At any rate, as the Monkees sang in the 60s concert we just attended, "I'm a believer."

A friend called with unbearable problems yesterday. I was on the phone off and on with her all day, advising and mostly just listening. The last call was a hopeful one. It looked like miraculously, the problem would be resolved. I am hoping and praying for such instant relief. She has suffered many years and it is time for a Wonder Ball type of immediate remedy in my eyes. I know that sometimes God has a different understanding of how much we can bear before we will break. He has a Snoops department too, a host of angelic beings that know our needs even before we do. Their purpose is never to advertise their presence or their help, however...their purpose is always to direct our attention back to God. One of His promises throughout the Bible is ultimately He WILL grant relief. Instead of sinking into a grapefruit sized blue ball, we are urged to sink into Him. I have found that when I do, when I truly let go and rest in Him, it is soothing, soothing, soothing like a balmy moonlit night in Heaven.

Psalm 4:1
Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

-save a dog-

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Answer, My Friend

One of my long time art students and a friend of Asherel's was singing in a homeschool choir production called, "Groovin". It was comprised of songs from the 60s. We went with low expectations, but happy to hear any rendition of Beatles music. We were shocked by how wonderful it was. The little skits and quotes from famous figures of that decade along with the music rocketed me back to that tumultuous decade. During the sweet and tender singing of "Blowing in the Wind", I found tears dribbling out of my eyes. There is much in the 60s I would not want to return to, including oversized bellbottom jeans, but the idealism of the period was laudable. Peace, love, Jesus.

My art student, Conner, is not only a talented artist, but I discovered watching her in the musical that she is a natural and gifted dancer and singer. She lit up the stage with such innocent and guileless enthusiasm that I found it difficult to look at anyone else. I kept watching her with pride. That is MY student, I kept thinking, as though I had something to do with the excellence with which she performed in all her artistic endeavors such as music and dance.

I was unaware in the 60s. I was a child, barely into my teens when the decade closed, and knew we were fighting in Viet Nam but was not very clued in to what it was all about. I knew JFK was shot, and I knew it made people sad, but I didn't know anything about the finality of death or the crushing of dreams and hopes yet. As a sheltered Northerner, I knew little about the struggles for Civil Rights, or the false antidotes for social struggles with drugs or sexual abandon. I did know about the peace sign, and flashed it happily along with everyone else. I thought the Jesus movement was comprised of lunatics.

It was nice to revisit the 60s with a little more experience and awareness under my hat. I was able to filter through some of the bad stuff going on then to understand that there was much beauty and hope and optimism for better things to one day come.

As the sweet voices sang, "How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky", I thought of how often God beckons, God urges, God speaks, God reveals Himself, and we still turn away without seeing, without hearing, without loving Him back....Then indeed the answer is blowin' in the wind. Yet the Bible tells us over and over again that if we ask of God, He answers. There IS an answer and we can find it if when we look up, we see not the ungraspable wind, but we see Him.

"Blowin' In The Wind"

How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Ezra 5:11
This is the answer they gave us:
"We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished.

Isaiah 58:9
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

-save a dog-

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Heaven is Under-rated

Whirlwind day yesterday- finished the last practice sessions of Science Olympiad for the State Contest in 2 weeks, sneaking in a guitar lesson between the 3 practice sessions of Experimental Design, Helicopter, and Trebuchet flinging. Asherel takes her end of year test today, so I gathered and laid out all the supplies she will need. It is the standardized high-school ACT and she has to be there early in the morning for which we are all silently cursing and gnashing our teeth. We continued studying and practicing for her AP tests in 3 weeks, and I started transcribing some of Comer's WW2 adventures onto my manuscript. Finally, I settled down with a glass of wine, as the crickets began to murmur in the night, and looked over the wedding photos from Vegas. Honeybun, drugged on Benadryl for her allergies, snored on the couch. Lucky crawled up beside her, grunted and lay down.

This is a good gig I have going here, I thought.

I don't often feel contentment. I usually feel harried. But when the end is in sight of a long, hard season, I almost always feel peace. Summer is almost here.

As I took my Science Olympiad team out for Rita's Custard last night, I asked Ben if he was looking forward to the end of school.
"I am looking forward to the summer," he said, "Summer is underrated."
"Oh no it isn't," I laughed, "We rate summer very highly, don't we Asherel?"
"That's what I mean, it is underrated."
"Oh, you mean you cannot rate it highly enough?"
My sentiments too.
Resting after hard work feels indescribably good. It just feels lazy however if the hard work doesn't precede it. Summer would not feel so good it there wasn't winter.

Perhaps that is why God seems to feel the need to make us struggle so much. He promises us a rest, an eternal place of contentment and repose for the faithful. But He also expects us to undergo many trials before we get there. I suppose it is a good system...since He designed it, it has to be....but I don't much enjoy the frenzy preceding the rest. I guess I just need to keep in mind where it is all leading, I thought, as I smiled at the two dogs now snoring in tandem. Heaven is under-rated.

Hebrews 12:1-3, 7, 11-13, 22, 28
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe

-save a dog-

Friday, April 13, 2012

What is Written About Me

Just as I walked in the door to conduct another interview with my WW2 veteran friend Comer, a nurse's aid was walking out with a book in hand.
"You must be Vicky," she said, "I was just showing Comer this book by one of our residents and he told me you were coming to interview him for his book!"
"Yes, I am going to write a book about him. There are not many WW2 vets left."
"Well when you finish, I am going to read it," she said.
Good! That means one sure sale, I thought.

Comer was well prepared. He had pages of notes he had carefully organized for our interview.
"I think we skipped a good bit," he told me. I glanced through my 30 pages of notes I had taken over our last sessions.
"We did?"
"There is so much to tell," he said.
"Well I bought a nice recorder so I don't have to write so fast," I told him,"Shall I turn it on now?"
He nodded.
He began telling stories now as though he were on TV. He sat up straighter and spoke in full sentences, carefully choosing his words. I saw a glimmer of the charismatic man that had led a gun crew through the decisive battle of the south Pacific that turned the Japanese assault on Australia around.
"Wait a moment," I said interrupting, "Do you mean that you were having to duck your head under water in the trenches to avoid the bombs?"
He looked straight at the tape recorder and said, "A question has been raised about whether I had to duck my head under water in the trenches during bombing raids. The answer is yes. The water was so deep during the rainy season that we stood for 3 weeks nearly underwater during the bombing runs."
I cringed at the image, but smiled at the professional demeanor with which he was approaching our interview sessions. This was a man who had worked hard his whole life, a self made millionaire who needed a job as badly as I needed a nice haircut, maybe more. If the book never got written, I thought, it didn't even matter. Comer was honored and delighted to be involved. He was overjoyed that someone wanted to write his story.

Before I left, he handed me a 6 inch thick book titled, "Milne Bay- 1942".
"This is my battle, but from the Australian perspective."
Comer had been the gun crew #1 leader- a significant position in the battle of Milne Bay.
"Are you in this book!?"
"No," he said, clearly miffed,"I looked and looked but they don't seem to mention the American gun crews at all. I have never found a book about what the Americans did at Milne Bay."
"Then mine will be a first!" I said happily.
"Yes," he said, dabbing at his eyes.

As I walked down the hall of the Assisted Living Center, an old woman with a walker looked at me and shouted, "Where's Alice?"
I stopped and said, "Is she in her room?"
(I had no idea who the woman was or who Alice was, but assumed she had a room somewhere.)
"No, I just looked!"
"I bet the receptionist out there can tell you," I told the woman gently.
She smiled at me and in a quieter voice said, "Thankyou."

We just want to be acknowledged. We want to be heard. We want our accomplishments noted. We want to know we were more than just a vapor that materialized briefly and then vanished with no one taking notice. I wish I could write a book about everyone. Everyone I have ever met has a story worth telling, worth remembering, worth chronicling. I want to write my own grandparents and great-grandparents story. It is a fascinating history of the struggle of immigrants in a new world. But, I can only do so much. My aching ulnar nerve is prohibiting extensive writing from a physical perspective, and my homeschooling obligations prevent it from a time perspective.

However, our stories are not being lost, nor the ones I can't write going unnoticed. None of them. God is numbering every hair on our head. With such attention to detail, He is not forgetting a single scene from a single life. Everything is known, something that gives me comfort...and also makes me gulp. Before Jesus was incarnated as a man on earth, His life was prophesied and written about thousands of years prior to His coming. And the Bible reminds us that if everything Jesus taught and said were recorded, there would not be enough books to hold it! But there is a Book of Life, and we are in it, unless we request through unbelief that our name be crossed off. That is one interview we really all ought to take seriously.

Luke 24:44
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Revelation 20:15
Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 3:5
The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.

-save a dog-

Thursday, April 12, 2012

No Chair for Me

I dreamt that I walked into church, and many of my family members were there, but there was no chair for me. I went looking for a chair, but all the empty ones were being saved for someone else. So I was directed to a storeroom where there were stacks of chairs, but when I got there, the chairs disappeared. The service was starting, I was off on a wild goose chase, and still, no chair for me.

This stinks. Even in my dreams I manage to feel all alone and like I just don't make the cut. Am I just a hopeless nut or does everyone feel this way? Excluded, abandoned, room made for me even in church where God is supposed to love everyone?

Meanwhile, Honeybun is on drugs. Her sneezing and paw licking had reached an intolerable level. We had to do something or the pollen was going to end her agility career. Her pads were getting raw from all the licking. I hate to drug my dog. I am a firm believer that the body is designed to heal itself. But like the chair that wasn't ever going to be set out for me, I had to admit defeat on the drugged dog issue too. She needed better living through pharmaceutics. Then my phone died, but that might be on the plus side of the day's ledger because I was due for an upgrade and I got the iPhone which is probably what I should have gotten in the first place.

But why no chair for me? I thought about the dream and wished I could remember the conclusion. I remember it was a revelation of sorts and I fell asleep thinking I need to write this down. But I didn't write it down, and now I don't remember how it ended. All I remember was the sorrow of no chair for me.

The Bible would strongly differ with my dream, at least the part of my dream that I remembered. God says that He desires that not one of us be lost, not one of us be excluded.All are invited to His mansion. It is our choice to accept the invitation or not. All have rooms reserved, and my guess is, everyone of us will have a chair to hang our halo.

Acts 27:22
But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

John 18:9
This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."

Matthew 22:9
So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Better Place to Be

Before we left Las Vegas, Holly and I had walked through one of the ultra high end indoor shopping venues of a fancy casino/hotel. It was filled with stores whose lowest priced item exceeded my mortgage.
"We should go in one," I said, "I just want to pretend I can afford those shoes."
We walked in, casually holding up shoes that caught our eye, and flipping them over as though to examine the fine Italian sole so we could gawk at the price tag.
"Do you think they know we can't afford these?" I whispered.
Holly glanced at my belly pack snapped around my waist, "Oh I am sure one look at you and they are fooled...."
We meandered by a teenager trying on a $2,000 pair of sandals. Her mother sat next to her, bored, texting on her phone.
"What do you think of these?" the teen said.
"Those are fine," said the mother, glancing over.
Holly and I looked at each other, our eyes wide.
"Do you think she would adopt me?" whispered Holly.

Later Amy and I took one last walk on the strip in the early morning before my flight left. I had crept out even earlier to see fog still shrouding some of the streets. It cast an angelic glow on a decidedly unangelic city. The little cards advertising the girls willing to accompany anyone for a night lay scattered on the pavement. Street cleaners were scrubbing disinfectant where people had spewed overindulgence from their orgies of gambling, drinking, and eating. While, Amy was telling me stories of her increasingly sore knees, how at times they would buckle.
"I am spending a lot of time falling and on my knees," she said.
"That's not a bad thing," I reminded her, "All of us should be spending more time on our knees."

I am so glad to be home. It is quiet and affordable. But even as I nestled in the comfort of my dear city, I was thinking of other cities. It is my dear first born son's birthday. I wish I could tele-transport to Boston to hug him. I already miss the siblings that I got to see in Las Vegas. If only I could simultaneously be in Endwell, Owego, Seattle, Chicago, Forth Worth, where they are scattered, or Boston or Lexington with my sons. Discontent seems to always be lurking next to satisfaction in me....In fact, I was feeling such strong conflicting emotions last night that I couldn't sleep.
I opened my Bible and read these words: "and he will delight in the fear of the Lord." It is not in any particular city where contentment lies, but it *is* in a place. Like Amy, I see I really need to be spending more time on my knees.

Isaiah 11:1-9 (NIV)
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 might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord--- [3] and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; [4] but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. [5] Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. [6] The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. [7] The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. [8] The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. [9] They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

For I Can't Help Falling in Love With You

We arrived at the Las Vegas Chapel to see three brides pour out with their grooms dressed as Elvis. The "real" Elvis, or the one who was being paid to fake Elvis, took some final photo ops with them, they entered a stretch limo, and were gone. Our wedding couple was next, but Elvis had dashed back inside to freshen up, remove thirty years of death somehow.

I went in with modest expectations. I grabbed a tissue to dab at my eyes which were already leaking tears. The tears were not from joy or weeping at the sweetness of another blessed union, I am sorry to admit. They were from squeezing my eyes shut really hard so I wouldn't laugh uncontrollably. Jim, who had raised the lovely bride with Amy, had showed me a photo he had taken of the sign at the counter of the marriage license bureau: People under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the degree that their judgement is impaired will not be issued a license till they sober up.
This was a fitting epitaph for this town.

The crinoline under my poodle skirt was biting into my legs. I had considered carrying a can marked "TIPS" on my walk to the cab stop. I thought it might help pay for this Vegas trip. I thought the sight of a 50 some year old woman wearing ruffled bobby socks was worth at least a dollar. The rest of the wedding group was similarly attired. All the groomsmen and fathers wore 50's style bowling shirts. Even the Playboy bunnies on the corner were noticing us.

Elvis emerged from the chapel. It was our turn. The bride and groom were whisked away while we were all seated. There were only 14 of us, and the baby dressed in a little tux.
"Scatter around the chapel," we were advised.
A silence descended while I bit my lip till it was bloody to maintain the proper facial expression of respect at the solemnity of the sacrament of marriage.
Just then, there was a crescendo of the first few bars from "2001 Space Odyssey" and fake fog began swirling around the wedding party standing in anticipation at the front of the chapel. The groom was not there. The fog billowed and 2001 Space Odyssey theme built in volume and drama. Suddenly the back garage door of the chapel opened, and a pink cadillac arrived, pulling in with the bride and groom in back. They emerged and Elvis danced with them to the altar, singing in a surprisingly excellent voice.

Elvis as wedding officiator was hilarious. By now, it was clear that this was not a mockery or even any longer cheesy. It was so far over the top that the ridiculous had become sublime. It was just plain fun. I stopped biting my lip and like everyone, including the dancing bride and groom, laughed so hard that I almost wilted my crinoline.

And then when Elvis told the bride and groom to dance slowly now with each other, he crooned "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You" with such sweetness that I found I was needing the tissue to dab at my eyes. And this time is was with more somber tears for the hopeful, so often daunting future of learning to live a life of love with another human being. I was, inexplicably, in the midst of all this facade of life that Vegas excels at, touched by the beautiful voice and words of Elvis, and the sweet sincere face of my niece beaming blissfully at her groom.

When we returned to the hotel, my sister Amy, mother of the bride, had created a gorgeous cake reception. She had decorated the room in the beautiful colors of the wedding, and created a cake that was topped by ceramic figures of the bride and groom she had made herself. Elvis stood with them atop the cake with tiny ceramic records as accent points. And the painting I had started a half a year ago now stood at the back of the room, resplendent in a gold frame, waiting for the bride and groom.

I had painted Elvis and the wedding couple on black velvet. It had been much harder than I had anticipated, not having ever painted on velvet before. But Amy had told me that one of the bride Jennifer's life long wishes was to own a black velvet painting of Elvis. She had never found the right one. I hoped this was the right one. Jennifer and the groom entered the room and we all formed a pathway holding aloft blue and green ribbon streamers that swirled above them. The path ended at the painting. Jennifer saw it and then gasped and her hands flew to her cheeks. She stared at it with her mouth open. I had waited 6 months keeping the painting secret from all but my sister, just to see that reaction. She swirled around and crushed me in a wonderful bear hug. Our joint crinoline scratched at our knees.

I leave Vegas this morning, and I can't say I am sorry to go. I will of course miss my beloved family, all my siblings together however briefly, the dear nieces and nephews I haven't seen in so long. However, I will not miss the moral standards of Vegas, the crowds, the noise, the facade and cheesy fakeness of everything on the Strip. But there is one thing that happened in Vegas that I hope and pray doesn't STAY in Vegas, and that is the pledge of a young and sweet couple to remain together in a world that is too often big on show, and short on commitment.

"What God has joined together, let no man cast asunder."

1 John 3:23
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

-save a dog-

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Rosy Outlook

"Hello, how are you this morning?" I said into my phone, calling my brother who was in the hotel next door to mine.
"Just fine," he answered.
"Better than when you got in last evening?"
"I guess so. May I ask who is calling?"
"This is your sister. Do you have to ask which one?"
"I only have one sister."
"Is this John C, my brother?"
"No, this is William."
"You're lying."
"No, I really am William."
"Oh. Well sorry. Wrong number."
That is how my day three in Vegas began.

But it was ok. I then called my real brother. He was going to be driving me and his lovely wife, Jenny and sister, Holly to visit the Hoover dam. While Vegas held little allure for me, I was very excited to visit the Hoover dam.

I was wearing my new John Lennon sunglasses I had gotten for $10 on the Strip. I put them on as we arrived at Hoover dam. They had pink lenses, and cast a rosy hue on the world.

John is an exceptional photographer, and would be photographing my niece's wedding which will be tonight. He had a huge expensive camera with a lens as long as Pinocchio's nose. We hopped out of the car.
John looked at me, with my Lennon glasses and a dangly sparkly thing in my hair, another Vegas trinket.
"All you need is a peasant skirt and you will look just like a hippie from the 60s," he said.

We walked across the top of the Hoover dam. It is 700 feet high, and looking over the edge made me woozy. Still I mustered all the courage I had and leaned over the edge to take a picture.
"Let's do a self portrait of all of us," I suggested.
"Good, I have a tripod," said photographer John. He set up his tripod and screwed the camera onto it, the fancy huge lens pointing at us. We posed by that vertigo inducing edge. John was busy setting controls on his big fancy camera.
"Com'on," I said, "We can't pose here forever. I'm getting dizzy."
"Can't find my self-timer control..." he said. He continued fidgeting with his big expensive camera.
I pulled out a tiny camera from my pocket.
I set the self timer. "We'll use mine, I have a self timer."
I plopped the tiny camera on the edge of the wall pointing at us and ten seconds later we said, "Cheese!" and the picture was a done deal.
I adjusted my rose colored glasses, which had a tendency to rise too high on my nose, while John packed away the little tripod and slung his big fancy camera over his neck again.

We had a dam fine time, and that was just one of the many dam jokes we had to endure before heading back. By the time we returned to our Vegas hotel, the rest of the wedding group had arrived. They were all heading out to a Vegas show, but I had offered to stay back and watch my new grand nephew so that the new mom could have a night out with her husband. Having not cared for a baby in 14 years, I was rusty, but figured it was like riding a bicycle; you never forget. Fortunately, Holly, who has a slew of children and was only two years out of the new baby years, didn't want to go to the show, so stayed with me. John and Jenny, who were on their third round of Happy Hour, offered to hang out with us a while too. With all that mother power and experience before her, Renee, the new mom, agreed that her baby might survive for the 90 minute show.

Soon after she walked out the door, the baby began to fuss.
"How much time do we have left?" I asked Holly, while jiggling the baby.
"89 minutes."
"Could he be hungry?"
"He ate 5 minutes ago."
I jiggled some more, and then there was an explosion from his nether region.
"Want me to change him?" asked Holly.
"No...I think I will remember how..."
And it was just like riding a bicycle, except the view was a little less appetizing. I finished cleaning and diapering him, and we headed back to the living room. He was happier...for a little while.
I jiggled and showed him the lights, which his mom says he likes.
"How much longer?" I asked Holly.
"86 minutes."
I think he was testing us, because for the next half hour, we traded him off and on and he was not outright unhappy, but he was fussy.
"How much time left now?" I asked.
"The show is just starting," she said, "Now our 90 minutes actually begins. And then they have to walk back."
John and Jenny left for round 4 of Happy Hour. I jiggled the baby.
"I think he's hungry," I said.
Holly heated his formula while I jiggled. He was rooting into my arm and beginning to be seriously urgent in his squawking. In the nick of time the bottle arrived, and I plugged it into his mouth. He sucked it down furiously.
"I guess he was hungry," said Holly.
After burping and completing the bottle, little Gregory fell fast asleep.
Whew. We were going to return him intact, I thought, with increasing confidence.
Then he woke up.
"How much time left?"
"If they get out on time, another hour."
"I don't remember time moving so slowly," I said, as Holly jiggled the now happy, but squirmy baby. We figured out that he was sick of us and wanted to be on his back in the bassinet squirming. He kicked his little arms and legs delightedly.

John and Jenny returned, and we three grand-aunts all gathered around the bassinet, jiggling the overhanging toys, cooing, and smiling. Gregory was happy.
"This is easy, all it takes is three mothers. How does just one do it?" I asked.

My sister Amy, gathered with the group at the show, called to tell us the show was over, and they wanted to know if the baby had survived. We assured her that the baby was fine. They were on their way back, she promised, and would arrive to the hotel in half an hour. John and Jenny and Holly, all yawning, waved goodbye to me and the happy baby, and left.

As soon as the door clicked closed behind them, I smiled at Gregory, "Just you and me now."
"Ma?" asked Gregory.
His face scowled, and he began murmurings of revolt again.
Soon the fidgeting became more pronounced, the face less happy with his world. I picked him up again, and now it was clear, life was no longer so rosy. All by myself, I heated the formula, grabbed the spit rag, covered him with a soft blanket in my arms while he wailed.
Then I collapsed on the couch and as he sucked on the bottle like there was no tomorrow, he calmed and blissfully closed his eyes. It is for moments like this that we procreate, I thought.

Just as I had finished burping, changing his diaper, and putting on his jammies, his Daddy and Grandma arrived back. They had rushed home before the others, NOT because they were worried about Vicky alone with the baby. My mission complete, I returned to my room and sank into bed.

Sometimes the world is rose colored even without John Lennon glasses.

Psalm 34:12-15
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry; (Psalm 34:12-15 NIV)

-save a dog-