Sunday, September 30, 2012


I dreamt that my long deceased father in law came to see Mom K at the Senior Home. I had my son Matt and my daughter Asherel with me, but neither of them saw him. They didn't know whom I and Mom K were talking to. It was so real, the way some dreams can be, that when I awoke, I wasn't sure it hadn't actually happened.
Strange. I could understand why I might dream about a ghost husband only Mom K could see...after all, she thinks her son Arvo IS her husband. But why can I see him too in the dream? It felt like a hopeful dream. Mom K's husband seemed to be comforting her, assuring her all would be well. And then I took Matt and Asherel out for Panera Bread pastries after the ghost went away. Everyone was happy! Except me. Why had I been able to see the ghost that was not sent for me, and that no one else could see? It puzzled and concerned me.

In a funny way, that feels like what my life's mission is like at times. It is why I write this daily blog. I see things that speak of God everywhere I look. This has not always been well received. I am not trying to be annoying. It just happens naturally. And like in the dream, when the vision is standing there speaking as clear as day, I cannot believe no one else sees it! I am not pretending to be a prophet or one who sees chariots of fire in the sky. Neither is true. But I do see God's messages in every encounter, in every falling leaf of autumn. Sometimes I wish I did not, because at times, the message is hard. But most of the time, the message is a comforting the ghost of my dream coming to soothe his aged and time weary wife.

Psalm 36:1,6-9 (NIV)
I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
[6] Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. [7] How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. [8] They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. [9] For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

-save a dog-

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Where Light Dwells

I think my bruised coccyx is actually improving! Sadly though, my yearly bone scan results indicate my bones are now slowly disappearing, and I have been diagnosed with full blown osteoporosis. If I don't take the medicine, I will soon be a jelly fish. This is very disappointing. What I don't understand is how did I fall down with so much force on my tiny little coccyx bone and NOT break it if my bones are supposedly so light and brittle? It doesn't make sense. I am very anti medication and most medicines make me feel terrible so this little bit of news is not making me jump for joy. In fact, it is making me a little leery of jumping for joy in case I trip and fall and break my brittle bones. Sigh.

ON the plus side, Honeybun's dew claw scar seems to be nicely closed and healing. I think I can remove the cone from her head Monday.

There is always a bit of brightness in the approaching night. A new day will always dawn, and sometimes it will be beautiful, and sometimes it will rain. And through all the vagaries of the weather, and of life, there are always breaks where sunshine and delight poke through. It is good to bottle those for the inevitable storm, to always keep in mind the source of light.

Daniel 2:20-22 (NIV)
and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. [21] He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. [22] He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.

-save a dog-

Friday, September 28, 2012


Did you know that when you sneeze you use your coccyx muscles? Smash your coccyx and I guarantee you will know that. Pain from a sneeze can last hours. And did you know it is impossible to follow doc's orders to "rest your coccyx" since the very act of resting it hurts. It is surprising how few things one can do that does not directly affect the coccyx.

And also, did you know that when a vet recommends stitches come out between 10-14 days, it is best to wait till 14 days so dogs don't lick the newly unstitched wound open? 10 days is too soon.

In both cases, I unfortunately speak from experience.

Things happen that way sometimes, don't they? You think you are on the sunny path out of the woods, on the way to Grandmother's house, and the wolf appears. You think you are finally at the Wizard's door about to receive a brain and a heart, and instead you are handed another impossible task. You think Pharaoh will let your people go, just like he promised and he keeps backing down from his vows, and your people are still slaves. You think that troubles come in threes so you are now ready to sail smooth waters after three disturbing shipwrecks, and then you hit an iceberg.

The cone goes back on your head for four days, no exceptions. The donut pillow goes under your bottom, no exceptions. And you wonder, why is there even a word for "easy"? Why create a word that can never be uttered?

Paul in the Bible gives us a glimpse into why sometimes we are denied the easy path. If things are too easy, we become conceited and complacent. When things seem to be beyond us, we have no choice but to call for help. If we could do it all on our own strength, we wouldn't need God. In our weakness, in our failings, in our crashing and burning, God can do His best work. And we know without Him where we really stand, and an aching coccyx would be the least of our problems there.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. [8] Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. [9] But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. [10] That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

-save a dog-

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Asherel and her friend Josh assembled an awesome Destination Imagination team. I am their manager. What i love most about DI vs. Science Olympiad is that the coach doesn't have to do anything! I don't have to learn incomprehensible material like how helicopters fly and then spend hours nagging the team to build a better helicopter than thousands of other kids. In DI, my main role is to promote creativity, keep bloodshed to a minimum, and stay out of the process as much as possible. And I get to devise maniacally difficult mini Instant Challenges each week where they take common objects and try to solve a usually near impossible technical problem using only those objects. Since this is exactly the way my brain thinks- do things cheaply and creatively with lack of any expertise- it is tailor made for me to manage. I have learned that there are critical roles to any successful team that I never realized were essential.

For example, we have one team member who unfailingly knows when something probably won't work. He seems discouraged at times that he doesn't know what to do to make it work, but he is often correct in his assessment of what won't work. What makes this an invaluable help to a team in a timed situation is if he can learn to use this skill well, it will save the team from running down rabbit trails. They can focus on what will work instead. It is an enormous time saver.

Another team member loves to talk, and entered the group wondering if she had any skill of any use. Well, lo and behold, her insatiable curiosity that spurs her love of talking with others also fuels incessant and very excellent questions. The questions she asks the others always spur them on to better solutions.

Another is very quiet and reflective, and less apt to jump in and grab the materials and have at it. But she is always watching and thinking and notices details, so when something the team makes lacks some crucial detail, she is often the one to chime in with what is needed. She also can take an idea and create a skit instantly to fit any situation.

Then the rest are the workhorses- the tinkerers and builders. One is a magnificent artist and can create a recognizable object out of anything. Another is a "big picture" guy who sees where the discordant elements all need to end up. Another is gifted scientifically and knows intuitively how to engineer his ideas.

This magnificent team that I am so blessed to guide reminds me of humankind, and more specifically the body of Christ-followers. All of us have a part. Not a single part can be discarded without affecting all other parts. I think we often make the mistake of believing our part is unimportant, not crucial, and we grow discouraged that our contribution is insignificant. I think that is a portion of what God is trying to tell us when he says not a sparrow falls to the ground without His notice. We are all inextricably interlinked and every one of us matters. We were meant to work together, with whatever unique skill God has granted us, for the good of the whole.

I loved what one team member said when I went over what I felt each had contributed to the solution they arrived at in the mini Instant Challenge-
"Wow...I didn't think I was doing anything..."
In a way, it was a cry I think most of us utter at times: Do I really matter?
Oh beloved, God tells us, without you there would be a gap exactly your shape and size breaking the circle.

2 Chronicles 31:10,21 (NIV)
and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, “Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.” [21] In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


It is bike riding weather, glorious cool autumn bike riding weather but the last thing my severely bruised tail bone will permit is riding on my tail. So I sit on my donuts, and heating pads, and drink restorative bone broth per my nutritionist friend Carolyn's advice, and hope that soon, very soon, I can get back on my bike. It is hard to wait.

I haven't actually tried. I just presume that sitting on a bike seat would send stars to my eyes and unpleasant nerve impulses to my brain. I could be wrong. And so later on I may give it a go. I CAN kayak, I discovered a few days ago. Getting in and out of the kayak is a little tricky, but it doesn't hurt to kayak itself. The seat is molded in such a way that the sore parts don't get jostled. Or maybe I am just too happy to notice the pain.

I am not suffering in abject misery. I have started a new project, while waiting for my bottom to heal. Concurrently waiting for my two recently completed manuscripts to be edited and reviewed, I have started a fiction book. Thus far I have only written nonfiction because in my experience, nothing tops reality. However, I do have an idea for a novel that I wanted to give a try. I am not very good at it, I can tell already. This novel may take years. It is hard to wait.

Also while waiting for my coccyx to stop complaining, I am waiting for Honeybun's stitches to do their job so they can be removed. The vet had said "10-14" days. Tomorrow is day 10, so first thing tomorrow we are going to the vet and hoping the wound is healed and she can be released from the neck donut and cone.
I awoke today thinking , "Just one more day till Honeybun's stitches come out!" and then my next thought was, "I should not be wishing away a single moment of my life." It is so hard to wait.

Waiting to heal, waiting for pain to move on, waiting for great novels to be much of life is spent waiting. Perhaps it is God's reminder that we are meant to learn how to wait, and to wait well. After all, the greatest event of all creation is yet to occur, the event every believer anxiously awaits. The Second Coming of Jesus will one day crash upon us, and we will be snatched out of this world of delight and woe, to a place where we will never need to worry or wait again.
I cannot wait. But I have no choice, so I must live as exultantly as I can while waiting.

Hebrews 9:28 (NIV)
so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Mark 13:32-37 (NIV)
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. [33] Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come. [34] It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. [35] “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back---whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. [36] If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. [37] What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ”

-save a dog-

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tossing Limestone

I sat out on my back deck last night watching Honeybun to make sure that she didn't pull off the neck donut and get at her stitches. My bruised bottom ached but I was content, watching the dogs and sipping a glass of wine. It was beautiful outside, with a cool breeze, the first day of long jeans weather. There were no mosquitos, which is a rarity here. I never liked mosquitos, but I like them even less now, with a friend that almost died from West Nile Fever and is still struggling to recuperate. The trees were just beginning to change color at the very top. Our yard is covered with trees, so it was like looking out on a forest. The crickets were just beginning to chirp as the evening fell softly and the breeze rustled the leaves.
"People pay money to do this on vacation," I thought, "Sitting on a lovely back deck overlooking a forest...."
Honeybun sprinted across the yard like a deer....
"...and wildlife, and sipping wine in perfect weather. Why don't I do this more often?"

Thoreau was right about so many things. We do indeed clutter our lives with all kinds of unnecessaries, when there is so much wonder and delight in just being still surrounded by nature. We need so little. Why do we work ourselves to death going after so much? Asherel and I are on page 25 of Walden by Thoreau. By the end of the book, I am certain I will be living in a little 10x7 hole dug in the ground and lined with sod, dressed in fig leaves, and eating grubs. At the least I will go through my closet and give one pair of my twenty pairs of shoes to charity....

Of course, Thoreau was not the first to say it. KIng Solomon reminded us that all the riches in the world will never satisfy, the psalmists spoke of contentment in God alone being the source of all peace, and in the New Testament, Paul urges us to cast aside the love of money and be content with what we have. What is is that drives us to have bigger and better and more of it? As Thoreau points out, we then become the "tool of the tool". Our possessions own us, and they are a tyrannical master. I love how Thoreau describes finding 3 lovely pieces of limestone which he placed on his desk. But very quickly he saw they needed dusting. He tossed the limestone out the door.

I am going to start tossing limestone.

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

-save a dog-

Monday, September 24, 2012

Least Lousy Choice

I saw a picture on Facebook of a dog wearing a donut around its neck instead of the horrid huge cone poor Honeybun has had to wear till the stitches come out. So I quickly went on line and found the soft inflatable neck ring. Why had none of my dog friends told me about this!? Petco carries it, though it is cheaper on-line. Since Honeybun only has a week of torture left, I decided to go to Petco. I went to church but didn't stay for the Bible Class after. My sore coccyx was in more pain Sunday than usual and I couldn't sit for another hour anyway. Instead, I raced out to Petco.

I brought home the donut, which is called "Procare Collar". Honeybun was grateful as I removed the cone of shame, and slipped on the inflatable donut. It is a wonderful invention, but like most things, has its drawbacks. So as a public service to all my dog friends, I will enumerate the pros and cons of this new device.

#1 It is fantastic for preventing a pet from getting at stitches ANYWHERE on the body EXCEPT for the front paws up to about the dew claw level. Yes indeedy, the one area that MY dog has stitches is the ONE area this collar does not prevent access to.
#2 The dog can easily eat and drink with this, and doesn't thwack into every table, chair, and door frame in the home. She can see without her vision obstructed and doesn't look quite so pathetic....until she tries to sleep. Then the fully inflated donut prevents her chin from touching down. So she sleeps with her head suspended in space. If she is like my dog, she groans until exhaustion finally overcomes her.
#3 She does not look like a tulip from the side view, like she does with the cone. Instead she looks like Queen Victoria in her formal (ridiculous) white ruffled collar.
#4 Although she can reach her paws, it is not easy, so she doesn't try very hard. As long as I am with her, she stays away from the stitches and is more comfortable (I think) than wearing the cone.

I decided to keep it since the history of our life with HOneybun indicates we have many stitches to go before we sleep, many stitches to go before we sleep. I am sure I will have the "opportunity" to use it again. yipeeee. And, as long as I am with her, it seems to be less annoying than the cone, all things considered.

Sometimes choices boil down to this- neither alternative is really pleasurable. One must make the least objectionable choice. In 2 Samuel of the Bible, King David had taken a census in defiance of God, and God gave him three choices of punishment. None were fun. One involved David's enemies attacking, and David wisely chose the punishments of God, not of human hands. Poor Honeybun did not cause her calamity, but many of the terrible consequences of our lives are caused by bad choices. In the end, we will suffer from lousy decisions. Best to choose to repent and fall into the merciful hands of God, like King David wisely decided.

2 Samuel 24:13-14 (NIV)
[13] So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”[14] David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

-save a dog-

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Songs in the Night

We had to talk Mom K into going to the German restaurant for the Oktoberfest. I had called ahead to see if we would need reservations.
"No reservations accepted, and it will be mobbed," the manager said,"There will be a line."
"We are bringing an 88 year old woman in a wheelchair. She was born in Germany and it will mean a lot to her," I explained, "But she will not be able to wait long."
"I will make an exception," he said, "Be here at 5. We will have a table for you."

I was thrilled to see the menu was not only in English, but in her native language of German as well. We ordered all the traditional German food and she ate heartily. The Biergarten with all the music and dancing was in a huge tent outside the restaurant. Our dinners bought us free admission to the festival. When we finished our delicious meals, I asked Mom K if we should go listen to the music. Mom K didn't seem terribly excited by the idea, but I told her it was free, we may as well go check it out for a few minutes. She squinched her face and waved away the idea with her hand. Maybe just one song? Ok, one song would be ok.

We wheeled her into the tent and up close to the stage where there were some old men dressed in lederhosen with an accordion, and tuba, drums, and saxophone. The music began and while little children polkaed on the stage, I noticed Mom K begin to sway to the music. And then I saw her singing along in German. We stayed a half an hour. She sang each song in German with the old men in the lederhosen.
"Are you enjoying this?" I whispered in her ear.
"I feel I am home," she said, "If I could stand up, I would dance."

As we left, I asked her, "Did you like it?"
"Yes," she said, "It brought back memories. It made me feel...."
She struggles to retrieve words at times, and here she paused and then tapped her heart while trying to bring out the thought.
"....made me feel warm hearted," she finished, smiling at me.
"Would you like to come again?" I asked.
"Yes, to listen to the music," she answered.

Sometimes it is the things we fight against, that will disrupt our schedule, that we don't feel will be worth the effort that end up making us feel 'warm hearted' in the end. And remembering our songs in the night drifting from the past can sometimes even remind us that our future will be worth the effort as well, that our travels in time were never journeyed alone. We were always being accompanied side by side with One who knew the Way. And when not accompanied alongside, carried.

Psalm 77:5-6,19 (NIV)
I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; [6] I remembered my songs in the night...
[19] Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.

-save a dog-

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Strengthen My Hands

For our new semester, I started my art class off with pastels. Most are old students of mine, and they all groaned. Groaned! It is my favorite medium to use in art, other than my iPad. Where have I failed? How can they hate pastel?

Could be the teacher. The picture at the top of this post was my demo drawing from the photo we were working with. The sky and the ocean without the chair would have been a good choice. It turns out the chair was made up of harder shapes than I had originally thought. We only got as far as roughing in the chair shape and then to prevent the whole class from dissolving into tears, we did the sky. We finish it up during the next session.

So I sent them home with a drawing only half completed. Those who do pastels know that if you do them correctly, pastels don't look good until the moment before they are completed. Until that moment, they are unblended, with few details, and smudgy edges. It is in the last few moments, at least when I work with pastels, that the drawing suddenly has a metamorphosis. It can go from a mess to a masterpiece in seconds. But the class doesn't really trust me on this. I think most went home discouraged. That is not a good way to start the year.

It is hard to trust when all one sees is a rather messy smudgy half completed endeavor, and it doesn't seem there is any way this will all work out in the end. I think it is what we all face as we sketch our lives. God is guiding every stroke, or at least is willing to if we will trust Him, but before the work is done, we cannot believe it will ever possibly be anything of beauty and worth! He keeps reminding us, "It will all be beautiful in the last moment, it will be of eternal beauty. Trust me to get you there."

One new student never complained. He quietly drew, using pastels for the very first time.
"Thank you," he said as he left the class, "I like pastels."

Nehemiah 6:9,16 (NIV)
They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” [16] When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

-save a dog-

Friday, September 21, 2012

Quiet Desperation

"The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation." Henry David Thoreau

Asherel and I were supposed to read fifty pages of Walden yesterday for her curriculum. I had not read Walden by Henry David Thoreau in years. I had forgotten, or perhaps had read it at too young an age to realize what a master he was in using words, and symbols, and imagery to convey very deep thoughts. Thoreau was a "transcendentalist", a primary figure in a movement that sprang up in New England in the 1830s and 40s. Transcendentalists believed that institutions corrupted and slowly destroyed mankind. They rose up in particular against the Unitarian church that had taken over Harvard's philosophy in its Divinity school, as well as the intellectualism and haughty pride at that institution. They mistrusted political parties and all religious institutions as being corruptive to the purity of the essential goodness of man and nature.

We made it through 5 pages. And it took us over an hour. While I do not accept one of the premises of Thoreau, that mankind is at heart good, I do accept much of what he finds to be corrupting and desperate in humanity. I LOVE how he says the poor student will not understand a word he says, but for some, his writings will be a coat they can put on but be careful not to pull too much at the seams lest a good garment be destroyed. We discussed that wondrous metaphor for some time. And how about this lovely play of words- "we make ourselves sick that we may lay up against a sick day." Walden is a book tailor made for literary analysis!

And then we hit page 5 and one of Thoreau's most famous lines which I quoted at the start of this post. As Asherel read out loud, "...lives of quiet desperation", I glanced at my poor dog. She groaned a little as she tried to settle in her bed with the huge cone rattling around her head. The e-collar was there to keep her from ripping out her stitches. Since she had already ripped out one, we knew we could not leave the cone off for a second, except during her short walks while she recuperates. She never fights us as we slip the cone on. She submits with her mournful eyes gazing at us. Then she groans again, and thwacks the cone on the surrounding chairs and tables as she tries to find a comfortable place to lie down.

I do believe mankind...and currently Honeybun... lead lives of quiet desperation. King Solomon agreed in his famous line, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. A chasing after the wind." I think we all stumble a little blindly, or with tunnel vision like my conehead dog, after things that are of no value, that in the end will never satisfy. I think quite often the purpose of life for many of us is just to make it through the day so we can start another one just like it. Or maybe to suffer through what we have to do so that we end up doing what we want to do, and find that even *that* leaves us wanting. Transcendentalists find meaning and purpose in simplicity and in nature. I would agree that is better than materialism. But I don't believe transcendentalists ultimately find worth in God. I might be wrong, so don't put that on your answer sheet during the test segment of this post. However, when I ask myself what is of ultimate value, of eternal worth, of any lasting purpose whatsoever...I find no answer outside of God. Everything else leads me on a path of quiet desperation.

"Amen," says Honeybun, shaking her cone head.

Psalm 91:14-16 (NIV)
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. [15] He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. [16] With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. ”

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. [20] But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

-save a dog-

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I am glad for the clouds. They are fun to draw and Asherel told me I should stop drawing Honeybun with her hurt paws. Which, by the way, are still hurt and complicated by the fact that she either busted or sneakingly pulled two stitches out. When she didn't have the e-collar on that prevents her from reaching them, we sat with her and watched her carefully. Perhaps not carefully enough.

As she had been feeling better though, she bounded up the deck stairs, and I think it might have been too much movement for the stitches to hold. So when the vet opens, I am looking at another two hour roundtrip drive today on my sore bottom with the bruised tailbone. whooppee!!!!

I was supposed to go in and visit Mom K and help her do her history biographical intake with the Activity Director this morning. And then there is always homeschool and making sure Asherel is doing what she needs to be doing. I am feeling like a cloud, come to think of it, blown by conflicting winds in too many directions. I know lots of people often feel that way- too much too do with too little time. I don't handle that well, even when I don't have a bruised coccyx and a dog with busted stitches. As you can imagine, I am handling it less well with those lovely add-ons.

But of course, God has some words of advice when faced with a plateful of problems. I love the Psalms. They bring me great comfort because the Psalmist is often a big fat whiney baby...just like me! "How long, Lord," he cries out over and over. And in the end, what he concludes, like me, is that life will be filled with trouble. But it is God who establishes the work of our hands, and ultimately, our duty is to praise Him and trust Him that He will accomplish His purpose. In the midst of all that struggle, know He is there.

Psalm 90:9-17 (NIV)
All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. [10] Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. [11] If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. [12] Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. [13] Relent, Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. [14] Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. [15] Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. [16] May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. [17] May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us---yes, establish the work of our hands.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Causes High Blood Pressure

I managed to cut the bandages off Honeybun's stitches with Asherel's help only to find yet another obstacle. The nonstick pad designed not to stick to wounds was sticking to her wounds. I knew I shouldn't pull and risk ripping out the stitches. So I called the vet.
"Hmmm," said the sweet receptionist, "The nonstick pads shouldn't stick to the wounds."
Perhaps they are just 'nonstick in most situations pads'.
"I guess I should just leave them and hope they fall off?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, "They should just fall off soon."
Of course, they shouldn't be sticking in the first place....
And something else was sticking to her that shouldn't be. She hasn't pooped in three days now.

Meanwhile, I noticed that my own potentially broken coccyx was hurting more than the day before. Trying to help Honeybun navigate with her narcotic induced drunkeness was killing my injured coccyx. I called the doc who advised we xray my bottom. They felt it was important to see that there was nothing more serious going on, and to have baseline information.
So I gave Asherel charge of the hurting Honeybun, and I drove off to the doctor, balancing on the side of my bottom pelvic bones that didn't seem laced with tiny nails.
When the doctor took my blood pressure it was sky high.
"Is this normal for you?" he asked.
"No...I am afraid you are going to hurt me."
"I'll try not to hurt you too much," he promised.
So he prodded while I winced and then he sent me in for xrays. I was certain I was going to have to assume compromising poses, that could be used to blackmail me when I ran for President some day. However, given the location of the injury, the poses were remarkably chaste and the xray technician didn't snicker even once.
While waiting for the xrays, the doctor told me some people NEVER completely heal from a broken coccyx. I was ready to start sobbing, thinking of all the kayaking, skiing, bike riding, running I would never do again when the results came back.
"Good news!" said the doctor, "It is only badly bruised. It is not broken. Your bones all look perfect! You will hurt for a while, but you will recover."

When I returned home, Honeybun's nonstick patches had fallen off. She started licking her wounds so we had to put on the "e-collar", the cone of shame to render her unable to get her head anywhere near any part of her wounds. Asherel had decorated it with duct tape to look like a Star Trek Federation uniform. I don't think it made Honeybun any happier, but ya gotta smile at a dog dressed like Captain Jean Luc Picard.

I thought of a third purpose of pain. Yesterday I mentioned two. #1- it makes us run from harm, #2 It makes us run to God, and now #3- as it subsides it makes us grateful for what we have in just run-of-the-mill normalcy. In all cases, we should all be thanking God for pain, and then for its Godly effects, and finally for its surcease.

Psalm 119:50,57-58,62,64 (NIV)
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. [57] You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words. [58] I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. [62] At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. [64] The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.

Psalm 119:170-171,176 (NIV)
May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise. [171] May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. [176] I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Poor Honeybun is one unhappy puppy. Both dew claws were removed yesterday, as well as a broken canine tooth. The tartar was also scraped off her teeth, but I don't think that left any residual pain. She stumbled home and slept. I checked on her throughout the night and she didn't even open her eyes. This morning, she ate and stumbled out for a bathroom break, but then lay down again groaning. I am waiting for the latest dose of pain meds to kick in so I can unwrap the bandages which are supposed to come off this morning.

Unfortunately, when I plopped down on the hard floor next to her to comfort her, I must have plopped right on my bruised/broken coccyx. I could not sit up for a few moments, given the stars floating in my visual field and the dull knife being wrenched around my nether regions.
"Maybe it *is* broken," I said weakly, as my husband brought me ice.
So today, I am in more pain than yesterday, which is not good, and my poor Honeybun is in more pain than me, which is very not good. We take turns audibly groaning. It is pathetic, and we are both feeling very sorry for ourselves.

In both our cases, time will heal our wounds. I remember reading a comment by someone with a broken tailbone who said, "Just remember, it is ONLY pain. It is not real. It is nerve impulses."
I wanted to claw his eyes out.
Pain is real, and pain makes us want to escape whatever is causing the pain. Therefore, unlike dew claws, pain is designed with purpose. Sometimes, when the injury is past and the pain persists as we heal, I think it is less designed to encourage us to *escape* something and more designed to encourage us to run *towards* something. In Honeybun's case, she wants to be near me, her Master, no matter how much it hurts to limp following me. She is comforted knowing that I love her, and I will pet her, and give her little tasty pieces of steak to take her mind off the pain. In my case, it makes me want to cling to God, my Master, knowing that the world is filled with things that cause pain, and I want to hold on to the One who I know loves me, and will comfort me, and gives me the promise of Eternity where pain will no longer be necessary.

Revelation 21:4-7 (NIV)
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” [5] He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [6] He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. [7] Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

-save a dog-

Monday, September 17, 2012

Leaving us Wondering

I will wait till the last possible minute to take Honeybun this morning to Dr. Love for her dew claws to be whacked off. He told me she needs to be there between 8 and 9 a.m., and I can pick her back up between 4 and 6 p.m. So I will drop her as close to 9 as I can, and retrieve her right at 4. I feel very sad that I have to leave her in that strange scary place, feeling abandoned. But, we have no choice. The dew claw growth looks swollen and painful. It must come off.

Sometimes we have to endure bad things to get to the good things. I wish I could explain it to her. God probably has a similar dilemma. We humans often must go through some pretty inexplicable yuck before we can lollygag in blissful eternity. Just like Honeybun may be blaming me, and wondering why I have left her in such misery as she waits for her operation..., without her breakfast. I think we sometimes do the same. We accuse God of abandoning us, of treating us callously, even cruelly. And we don't, perhaps even can't, understand His Purpose for it. It will only be much later, when we are healed, and whole, with the perspective of Heaven that we will understand. How hard it must be for God to leave us wondering till then.

Job 28:23-28 (NIV)
God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, [24] for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. [25] When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, [26] when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, [27] then he looked at wisdom and appraised it; he confirmed it and tested it. [28] And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord---that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

Deuteronomy 29:3-6 (NIV)
With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. [4] But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. [5] Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. [6] You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.”

-save a dog-

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Good with the Bad

I was pretty sure I broke my tailbone. It was the Vet, Dr. Love's fault. I noticed in the morning yesterday that poor Honeybun had a very nasty looking blob at the base of her dew claw. It was red and swollen. So I quickly called the wonderful vet, Dr. Love, who is about 45 minutes away, but so competent and so much less expensive than my Charlotte vets, that I am willing to do the drive. I raced out there. As long as we were there, I asked Dr. Love to express Honeybun's anal glands, which for some inexplicable and nutty reason, she cannot do herself.
"Well," he said, looking at the swollen blob on her dew claw, "Rather than fiddle with this, the best thing to do with dew claws is just remove them if they become a problem. Dogs don't really need them."
"Why do you think God created them, then?" I asked Dr. Love.
"I plan to ask the good Lord that if I make it to the Pearly Gates," he said, "That and also why He made anal glands."
"Oh, which reminds me, she needs those expressed too."
He then scheduled the surgery for Monday, and sent a technician out, a young man, to trim Honey's nails.
"I run her and the pavement files them," I said, "I don't know that they need trimming."
He trimmed one, and blood spurted out. Poor Honey never growled, or did anything but look mournfully at me.
"Can you stop the bleeding?" I begged. The tech ran out for some powder, which he dipped the mournful Honeybun's paw in and the bleeding stopped.
"Don't trim any more," I said.
So we left, and I felt so sad for Honeybun, that I first stopped and bought her some grilled chicken from Chick FilA. Then, since it was on the way home, I thought I would treat her to a walk on the Catawba Riverwalk in Rock Hill. She loved it, and it was so hot, that we ducked down to the river. Honeybun lay down in the water, and looked blissful.

When we returned to the car, I could not help myself. I always have my kayak in the car, because one never knows when an irresistible river will appear. Where I was then was a very fast section of the river, and there was a kayak launch. Most folks launch and then head downstream over a series of Class 1 and 2 rapids. I decided I would see if Honeybun would fit in the bow of my new kayak, and I would go upstream. I was pretty sure I was strong enough to battle the current. If not, I had my phone. It can dial any emergency number I might need. When I hit rapids, I would turn around. Honeybun loved it. She lay her head on my lap, and occasionally lifted her head, nose twitching, watching the world float by. She seemed utterly content and happy lying in the bow of my wide and cool kayak, tucked away from the sun with my legs on either side of her. When we hit the rapids, I swung the boat downstream, and we had an exciting fast ride back to the launch area. I did that a couple of times. It was great fun and something I have always wanted to do.

Honeybun swam to cool off when we returned to the launch site, and I reloaded the boat and returned home. Now I had to bathe the river water off of her. She was very good about her bath, though when she got out of the tub, she shook water all over the floor. Now it was Lucky's turn for a bath. He likes baths, so he went running with me to the bathroom. When I hit the wet floor, both legs flew out from under me and I came down HARD on my tailbone. I almost passed out. I bathed Lucky while wincing...and then walked gingerly to Asherel's room.
"I broke my tailbone," I told her.
"Did you go to the doctor?"
"No, they can't do anything for it."
"So why are you telling me?" she asked.
"For sympathy," I said.
She laughed. No sympathy there.

So anyway, it is all Dr. Love's fault. If he hadn't made me feel so sorry for my dog telling me she needs surgery, and if his tech hadn't clipped her nail too short and made me feel even sorrier, I would not have taken her for a walk and then kayaking, and she wouldn't have needed a bath, and I wouldn't have slipped and smacked my coccyx on the hard, wet floor.

But except for the broken tailbone, the day with my dog was sheer delight. This morning, after a rather painful sleepless night, it seems not as painful to move! Perhaps it is just a bruise! I can actually walk without pain. I have to sit and bend a little gingerly, but I now think maybe Dr. Love didn't cause me to *break* my tailbone...just bruise it badly. It really was mostly a wonderful time with my sweet dog and probably worth a bruised tailbone. And the prayers and kind words of friends when I told them I thought my tail was broken were so encouraging...Sometimes, we just have to take the good with the bad...but keep our focus on the good.

Ecclesiastes 9:2-4 (NIV)
All share a common destiny---the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. [3] This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. [4] Anyone who is among the living has hope---even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

-save a dog-

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Do Not Underestimate Sleep

One of the least fun parts of getting older is sleep becomes very touch and go. Some nights, I don't sleep at all it seems. I just toss and turn. On those nights, all the worries of the world want to invade my brain. I have to fight to keep them out. I have found that the best antidote to worry and despair is prayer. Sometimes it helps me fall asleep, but sometimes it doesn't. Either way, something good has to come of all that prayer.

Lately, I have slept so little that I can't believe my whole face isn't one dark circle under red bloodshot eyes. My waking patience and mood and persistent headache are all evidence of Mr. Sandman taking a vacation from yours truly. But last night, I don't know what happened. I slept. I slept till 8 a.m. This is unheard of. I awoke and the week or two long headache was gone. I looked in the mirror and was surprised how refreshed my image seemed. I wanted to tackle the day before me. What a different perspective one holds after a good night's sleep. I think the whole Middle East is maybe suffering from lack of sleep, and that's why there is so much unrest out there. This is my antidote for world peace- prayer and a good night's sleep. I am living proof it changes things.

Psalm 4:1,4-5,8 (NIV)
Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. [4] Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. [5] Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord. [8] In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Friday, September 14, 2012

This is Charity

Lucky has gotten weird about walks. He runs away when I ask him if he wants to go for a walk. So I grabbed him, leashed him and headed out. He pulled me on our route as though werewolves were after him. He didn't stop to pee, sniff, or bark at other dogs. Poor Honeybun, attached to him by the coupler leash, was gagging as he dragged her behind him. It was like he was race walking...This is not the lazy, meandering, plodding Lucky I know. What is going on in his brain? Honeybun never complained. She seemed to know he was nuts, and compliantly let herself be dragged behind him. What a charitable dog she is!

Then I got a call from the Assisted Living Home where Mom K resides. The alarm I had installed to warn the staff when Mom K gets up has a monitor that we put on a high shelf. When people help her up, they push the reset button to silence the alarm. Apparently, Mom K figured out how to push the reset button. So she doesn't call for help using the call button like she *is* supposed to, but gets up alone, turns off the alarm and then goes walking alone like she *isn't* supposed to. And the staff doesn't know she is up and about because she has turned off the alarm system I installed to help alert them.
"The nurse says she seems to be getting a lot better," said Jamie, the manager, when he called, "And she certainly has enough on the ball mentally to outfox us."
This is not the ailing, weak, and confused woman I thought was in that body. What is going on in her brain? But the staff wasn't complaining. They knew she was not malicious, just confused. What charitable people!

Asherel and I were already planning to go to the Home for the "Family Day" bonanza they had planned that evening. So we went a little early. We were told Mom K was eating dinner in her room. The dining room was being converted to a talent show stage and auditorium for the big event. There was to be pie tasting for family and residents during the show. On the way in, I noticed that Carol, the activity director had set up an art show to honor "National Assisted Living Week." The horse drawings from the class I had taught were all framed and neatly arranged. The walls and beautifully set up tables in two rooms were covered with tastefully displayed arts and crafts. Some were by residents, some by their families. It showed so much care, devotion, and effort that I wanted to find Carol and hug her. How tenderly and deeply she valued these residents was evident in the lovely display she had engineered.

We went on to Mom K's room. When she saw us, she looked up from her chicken salad sandwich and said bitterly, "This is charity."
I could tell she was not happy, but I could not imagine why.
"What do you mean?"
"Arvo left me with that neighbor over there," she said, waving down the hallway, "And he left me with no money or food. I was starving. Finally someone came by and offered me this food. This is charity. Arvo left me here to starve."
At this point, Asherel sat down on the bed, which set off the pressure sensitive alarm. I saw that Jamie, the manager, had moved the monitor with the shut off switch to the top of a high cabinet. I had to climb on the bed to shut it off. It was like a car alarm...and loud.
"That was going off all night," mentioned Mom K, "And just now he moved it where I can't shut it off."
Asherel sat on the floor.
"Mom," I said, "The alarm is to tell nurses to come help you. You are not supposed to shut it off. You live here. This is your home. Your wonderful health care insurance pays for all of this, including the food. You don't need to worry about money. You will get meals three times a day. And your neighbor lives in this assisted living center too. Everyone here will get food, and care, and everything they need."

She didn't believe me, but I distracted her with the promise of pie and entertainment down the hall. The three of us went off to the talent show/pie tasting down the hall. First, a large group of the residents did a can-can kick line number. One lady was quite vigorous in her kicks and the lady next to her, who was a small frail little thing started to topple. Jamie caught her and the can-can ended with no fatalities. Next a family member came out and did a magic show. He hadn't done magic in some 30 years but his wife had urged him to trot out his show for the residents' special day. In his first act, he made a cone out of newspaper. Then he began to pour milk into the cone. Milk started dripping out the bottom of the cone.
"Oh-oh, malfunction," he said.
"Was that supposed to happen?" asked one resident loudly.
"No," whispered her daughter.
The magician's other tricks mostly worked and the crowd was delighted.
The key lime pie was top quality.
At the activity leader's prompt, Mom K sang with all the other residents, "You are my Sunshine" and everyone waved homemade little suns on sticks.
"This is our version of a flash mob," said Jamie.

Asherel still had some school work left, so we slipped out before it was over. In the lobby, Jamie and the nurse, Deb were standing, watching the show. Deb, asked me if Mom K liked German food. (Mom K was born in Germany.) They thought she would enjoy an outing to the German restaurant one day and Deb thought she would suggest it to the activity leader.
"Oh Jamie," I said, "The alarm went off and it is LOUD."
"We can go try to turn it down afterwards," he offered, "But do you know what she said when I put it on top of the cabinet? 'I can't reach it there.' I told her, 'Gert, you're not supposed to reach it!' "
We laughed. Mom K was right about one thing. No one had deserted her, no one was starving her, but it was indeed charity.

This is how Webster defines Charity:

1: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity

Sometimes charity involves letting ourselves be dragged behind another, like poor Honeybun in my crazy dog Lucky's wake. Sometimes charity involves treating old people with declining health, and tangled thoughts as if they were diamonds- precious and of inestimable worth. I think that is exactly how God would want us to treat one another. It is something that this wonderful Assisted Living Center does exactly right.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. -1 Corinthians 13:13

-save a dog-

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Before we Ask

I got a sensor alarm system that beeps and then says, "hello!" when Mom K tries to get out of her chair or bed without signaling for a nurse. Then the beep transfers to a nurse's belt monitor so she knows she needs to hightail it to Mom K's room, and it is hoped, catch her before she falls. Jamie, the manager, went in to install it for me and as he opened her room door, she was walking back from the bathroom...without anyone there to help her per our repeated pleas.
"Gertrude!" he said, "You are supposed to call for help to get up!"
"Shhhhh," she said to Jamie, putting her finger to her mouth.

I explained the purpose of the alarm when I visited yesterday. It was a good day for her and she seemed to understand.
"This way," I told her, "If you forget to use the call button, the nurses will know to come and help you anyway."
She seemed on board with the idea.

I think it is a great concept for all of us to ponder. Sometimes we forget to call for help. Sometimes we are not even aware we need it. If only there were some sort of heavenly alarm that would go off when we were about to do something we shouldn't do, or at least should not be doing unassisted....

Personally, I like to think there is. I think somewhere in infinity between the stars, there are swarms of aids that are listening for the Master's alarm. I think they are swooping down to assist largely unbeknownst to us, and with our first groan of despair. Every step we take is being monitored and a voice that is sometimes almost audible is calling out ,"hello, I'm here to catch you!"

Matthew 6:7-8 (NIV)
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tangled Rainbow of Words

I spent the entire day editing a book I am working on. Except for the portions of our homeschool I had to teach and a morning run, my day was spent trying to spice up the story, find the errors, and hone the message. And then I could not sleep. All night, I was thinking about what I was trying to say with the book, and how best to say it. But all my thoughts were a bit of a rainbow tangle- too tired to sort out. This is my third or maybe fourth time through the book, revising and rewriting. Having just finished Hawthorne's masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter, I know what great writing looks like. It is fresh in my mind. It tortures me daily.

Since my book is about my senior friend Comer's WWII experiences and life, I called him to see if I could pull out more details of those long ago years to bring my book to life. I know he was happy to spend some of his eventless days chatting, so it was time well spent. However, I didn't really glean a lot more information than I already had for the story. This is probably the hardest part of writing for me. The framework is there, the story is written, and it is pretty good. But it is not good enough...not yet...and to get it to where it should be is tedious, hard work. It often means destroying whole pages of words I had labored over because they really don't belong, though once I thought they did. And it involves the ability to synthesize and pull the whole mess of words into one unified making all the disparate strings on a guitar speak with one voice so the listener clearly discerns the tune.

My son had a rather startling revelation in college. Spend ten minutes more on a paper than you think you should and it will be good. Spend half an hour more, and it will be great. I think this might apply to every single endeavor we undertake. Always stretch a bit further than you think you can, and you may touch excellence.Go further than the point at which you think all is well, and it will be better. This probably applies most strongly in the spiritual realm. The more ardently, fervently, continually, and consistently we seek God, the more He reveals Himself. And the converse is sadly true as well.

Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Always With You

I was riding my bike on Hilton Head beach on a clear sunny day when the skies became silent. It was strange, ominous...I am sure it is not often that planes fly over Hilton Head but there was a palpable silence in the air and disquiet in the people I saw as I biked back to our condo.That is how I knew something awful had happened 11 years ago on this day. Like most of America, when I got home, my family and I watched the television all day long. I can still remember the incredulous horror at the first sight of those airplanes crashing into the Towers, the flames, the anguish. And all of us felt vulnerable in a way I had not known before.

I know many people asked that day, "Where was God?" That isn't what I asked. Very early on in my three decades of faith I realized the God does not always erase the consequence of sin. And sin touches everyone. I know great heroes emerged that day, but many people mourned the loss not only of their sense of safety but of beloved sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers. The question I asked of God was, "What do we do now?"

And I am proud of my country. We went after the perpetrators as best we could, we shored up our safety measures, we applauded the heroic firemen, police, and citizens who rose to the horrific demands of the occasion, and we mourned the friends, family, and countrymen who had died. And we prayed. I prayed for all those who had been murdered, who suffered, who lost, and who were now shaken. And I remember that day praying as well for all the people who would do such a thing to us...or to anyone. Their souls mattered just as much to God as mine. And their souls, I believe, were lost.

The leaves are just starting to change color here, some are starting to drift away from what seemed such a strong hold on the sturdy branches. I know that much as the trees need and love the leaves, they will allow them to fall away, to puddle in great heaps of orange, and scarlet, and gold on the ground. And they will be covered one day by snow (if we are lucky, here in the south where the snow is an unexpected delight), melt into the dirt and mix with the nutrients of the air, and then slowly nourish the tree and be in the molecular mix of the new leaves that will surely return in the spring. And over all of this, God is there, in the very air that shakes the leaves loose and beckons them unfurl when Spring comes.

Psalm 73:21-23,27-28 (NIV)
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, [22] I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. [23] Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. [27] Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. [28] But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

-save a dog-

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blown Back

The weather is changing. The nights are cool, and in the morning instead of walking outside and feeling like you are entering a sauna, there is a crisp wake up call on the breeze. I did get a brief chance to kayak Saturday, and the wind had a different feel to it. It was strong, making waves that splashed over my bow, and if I stopped paddling, it would push my boat backwards. This was not the still, somnolent, scorching laziness of a summer sky. This was winter knock knock knocking on Heaven's door. It is still warm during the day, but the changing of the guard is in the offing. I can feel it. I could not stop paddling or I would have been blown all the way back to where the river began. I could at times make no headway, but I learned a little trick. There were often lulls in the ferocious wind, and I would paddle manically at those times and surge ahead till the next battering of wind assaulted me.

As I sat with Mom K yesterday on the front porch of the Home, other residents lined up looking at the sky, she said, "Look at that blue."
We all looked at the sky.
"You know what we call that blue?"I asked, "That is Carolina Blue. Remember how in Syracuse it was always rainy and gray or snowing? This is why I came to Carolina, for that Carolina blue sky." This comment made the usually silent woman sitting beside Mom K to suddenly speak out, "I come from Pennsylvania." That led to a discussion of birthplaces, and Mom K describing Germany, and then we were talking about the alps, and soon we were comparing skiing stories. The silent woman told us how she lived near a coal mountain in Pennsylvania and used to ski down the coal truck trails in the winter. I kept us all leapfrogging from one subject to the next so that Mom K never had a chance to let her distorted memory accuse me of something only ghosts had done. I could tell she wanted to. She didn't smile when she saw me, and I knew that she was wondering what this incorrigible person was doing here, the one whom she was sure had stolen away her husband, or at best, had married her son secretly. I didn't give her a chance for her dementia to speak. When I helped her in the bathroom, I launched into a discussion of how on earth one gets rid of hard water stains. (bleach, by the way, was her answer.) She became so enthralled with the subject of bleach that she seemed to let the poison of her crazed thoughts seep away, and even kissed me goodbye.

I had a sore throat when I left. I had talked almost nonstop. I knew if I stopped speaking, the wretched and wrongful accusations would begin to flow from her and I would be blown back to where the river of guilt began. I didn't need the despair. Sometimes we really are working as hard as we can, and it feels like we are not making any headway. We are paddling against a hurricane. At times, the best we can do is forge full speed ahead in the lulls between trials, and then just hold steady when our strength to move forward is depleted. The good news is, you never know what hopeful influences you might be scattering on the wind to fellow travelers.

The silent lady smiled and waved goodbye when I wheeled Mom K inside.
"I enjoyed remembering home," she said. I could see that on the reminiscent peaceful gaze she then turned upward watching the clouds skitter by on the Carolina Blue sky.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-10 (NIV)
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, [3] so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. [4] In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. [5] For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. [6] But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. [7] Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. [8] For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. [9] How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? [10] Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

-save a dog-

Sunday, September 9, 2012

awesome mom

So, I snagged three half price tickets from Groupon when I saw, right here in Charlotte, this very weekend, was a Beatles Tribute Band at the Charlotte Fillmore. I had no idea what the Charlotte Fillmore was, but I knew that a Beatles Tribute would be a total joy to my dear child. I excitedly told her and my husband that Saturday night, courtesy of the Awesome Mom, we would be attending a Beatles Tribute at the Fillmore. They were ecstatic. I had gained MAJOR brownie points.
Then I read the fine print.
9 pm was the starting time.
Just so you know, normally at 9 pm, I am in my jammies, with my mouth guard in place, contacts securely stored, and ear plugs and eye mask snapped on. I had a very strong conviction this would not fly at the Charlotte Fillmore.
I printed the tickets on the eve of the great event. Then I read the finer print.
Standing room only? Surely it does not mean standing room only as in no sitting down?
What is this crap?
I called the Fillmore.
"There is a mistake. My ticket from Groupon for the concert tonight says 'Standing Room Only.' hahahahah. I am 56 years old. There WILL be assigned seating, correct?"
"No ma'am...there are no seats in the Fillmore. It is a standing only concert."
"I see. For how long will the dead Beatles be singing while we stand?"
"About 3 1/2 hours."
"Hahahaha. Is the Fillmore a comedy club?"
"No ma'am, I am dead serious."
"And I will be dead after 3 1/2 hours of standing from 9 pm to past midnight. Do you know the median age of people likely to be attending a tribute band to the Beatles?"
"No ma'am, I cannot say as I do."
"Sonny, if you make the median age people likely to attend a tribute band to the Beatles stand for 3 1/2 hours, you will have many ambulance interruptions ."
"I don't know what to tell you ma'am."
"Don't bother telling me anything. I can't hear you anyway with my hearing aid turned off."
So off we went past my bedtime to a concert that was slated to go far into my normal REM cycle sleep time. And I was to be standing the entire time. It will be an adventure, I told myself. I drank several cups of green tea, which although good for you, is loaded with caffeine which I understand can hold off the worse effects of alzheimers and keep you awake so you can be conscious of all you are forgetting.

It was wonderful. The Beatles looked better than dead, and sounded remarkably Beatle-esque. The Eagles Tribute band, who are what most folks had come to see resurrected were also good, though we were there for the Beatles. My feet hurt and my joints ached, but as far as I can remember, I remained upright and even swayed a little in beat with the music. Somewhere close to 1 a.m. we staggered out of there. I don't remember much of the drive home or of my husband carrying me inside and carefully placing me on my side of the bed. I may have been unconscious. I think I recall Asherel smiling. I do remember a small being with wings sitting on my shoulder and whispering, "Close your eyes now. You are an awesome mom." And I remember being very grateful that from what I understand, Heaven is not standing room only.

Genesis 28:16 (NIV)
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

-save a dog-

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Questioned Motives

Well it has happened. Mom K knows I am Vicky but thinks that I have kept my marriage to her son Arvo a secret for all these years. This was a hard won victory. I had to first convince her that I wasn't a hussy who had stolen her husband (who she insists is Arvo) from her. I convinced her of that dubious victory, of only being guilty of a secret marriage, with logic. We sat on the porch in front of the assisted living home, while I tried to patiently work through the tangle in her brain to help her understand that I was not the rotten, conniving trollop that she thinks I am. She does remember her grandkids, my three children. I asked who was their mother, and she did know I was their mother. She scowled when I asked her who was their father, as she had to admit that she couldn't be the grandmom unless her son was the father of the grandkids. And then she realized the son could therefore not be her husband, but she was determined I was still in some way a trouble maker. So then she told me that only yesterday she had discovered I had married Arvo. (We have been married 32 years). She was livid that we had lied to her and kept it a secret. At that point, I figured I had stretched her far enough and we talked about dancing at weddings to distract her.

The strange thing is, while she was accusing me of all this evil, I felt very guilty. And ashamed of who I was. I was not guilty of what she thought I was guilty of, but I am certainly guilty of plenty of other awful stuff. I left there feeling battered. Arvo, on the other hand, returned from his day of work and then his daily visit with his mom saying she seemed to know he was her son this time. He needed a reprieve, so I am glad for his sake. Up till now, I had just been the tender loving daughter in law who Mom K said she could never repay. It was much easier to be treated like that instead of being falsely accused of being so evil.

I know, of course that it is not her speaking, that it is the aging, confused problems inside her head. But it made me think of how easy it is to misunderstand others, to attach evil motives to behavior that one doesn't comprehend fully. How fragile relationships are! How easily wounded by careless words, thoughtless actions, or misinterpretations. I had just a touch of an understanding of how Jesus must have felt, coming to save the world, and being tortured and abhorred instead.

As I helped Mom K back into bed, I had to lift her to keep her from falling off the edge and then gently placed her safely in the middle. She wanted a glass of water, but the water I got her wasn't cold enough. I found a bottle of refrigerated water and poured that for her instead. She approved that with a curt nod. I kissed her goodbye and trotted off to go pick Asherel up from her class. i could tell that even though Mom K was somewhat mollified sipping her cold water, she was still not convinced. I could see she was thinking , "Vicky may be a hussy, but at least she is a helpful hussy."

Jeremiah 4:22 (NIV)
“My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”

Romans 10:19-21 (NIV)
Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” [20] And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” [21] But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

-save a dog-

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Author's Intent

Asherel and I are reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. I am not sure I ever read that growing up, but it is a remarkable book. It is very difficult to read quickly- intense vocabulary with words so advanced we need to look up at least ten each reading session, complex sentences, continual reliance on symbolism which is critical to understanding the plot, and a difficult, nuanced message. I am loving it. I am not sure Asherel is. But it is a perfect book to work through in teaching Literary Analysis, because there is so much to analyze!

I remember long ago being very skeptical when teachers first started trying to convince me that authors purposely used names with specific meanings to advance the thesis, or that all the symbolism was also purposeful and not a happy accident. When I read enough great literature to begin to see how often great authors manipulated words, symbols, names, characters, and settings to mirror the message, I became enthralled. I wanted to be able to do that do. I could not stop reading. I still can't. I love to read. I find every well written book to be an adventure, trying to see how clever the author is in her use of all the tools that craftily point me to understanding what she wants to say. If nothing else comes of all my homeschool efforts this year, I hope and pray that I can help spark that wonder of discovering the author's intent in Asherel.

And what happened to me as a result, or perhaps it was always within me, is I began to see that the Greatest Author of All does exactly the same thing. The world all around me is filled with symbols, characters, and settings that craftily point me to His Message. If nothing else comes of all my parenting efforts this lifetime, I hope and pray that I can help spark the wonder of discovering that Heavenly Author's Intent in Asherel, and in all my loved ones.

Psalm 19:1-4,14 (NIV)
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. [2] Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. [3] They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. [4] Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. [14] May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

-save a dog-

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Solving the little things

Amidst the flurry of the day, I dashed out to visit with Mom K at the Assisted Living Home. It had been an overfull day, and the headache from my illness still flared now and then. It was flaring as I hurried into the Home. Mom K was happy to see me however, and I wheeled her out to the porch where several of her kind lady friends were already gathered, watching the clouds. One of the workers had also just come off duty and sat rocking on the porch with us.

Mom K seems to be increasingly confused that my husband, her son Arvo, is her husband. And she is very upset with him that he goes out every night, certain he is off carousing instead of being where he belongs with her. But strangely, she knows exactly who I am, what I tell her from day to day, and even that I had not been there for a few days as I had been sick. So I told her I had to go to the drugstore, and did she need anything? I knew she had all her needs cared for but I felt it would be kind to ask.
"Yes, I do need the drugstore!" she said.
Oh-oh, I thought, she is thinking she is still living on her own in Florida and has to go stock up on toilet paper.
"I need an emory board," she said, "Look at these nails!"
She was right. She held out a hand with long daggers for nails. I guess I just didn't think about the fact that no one would be cutting her nails. So much that I do for myself, I take for granted. It is much harder than you would think to put yourself totally in the skin of another person and try to understand all they must go through when their life is so different from your own, their strength diminished.
"I will walk over there right now," I said, "You wait here with your friends and I will be right back."
I bought nail clippers and an emory board and returned. The ladies were all still rocking on the porch, watching the clouds.
"Ready for your manicure?" I said.
"I'd like a pedicure," said her friend, smiling at us as Mom K held out her neglected hands to me.
So while the clouds danced overhead, I trimmed Mom K's nails. Then I gave her the emory board.
"You would probably like to file them yourself, right?"
"Yes," she said.

I headed home after that, feeling very useful. It had been a somewhat frustrating homeschool day- so much to learn , to teach, in such limited time. So many areas we need to improve upon. So much responsibility and desire to do it right. And so often it seems I don't. I can't tell you how satisfying it was to discover a problem, deal with it, and solve it so neatly to everyone's satisfaction. All of us need to find someone who just needs their fingernails trimmed. Sometimes solving the little things reminds me that most problems are little things and they all can be trimmed away one by one. God reminds me of that so many times. He gave me a set of long fingernails and a cloud studded sky and a peaceful porch to quiet my soul and whisper, "You can do this. You can do everything I set before you. Trust me, do your best. Challenges, like fingernails are always growing before you, but I always give you the tools to trim them back."

Daniel 5:13-17 (NIV)
So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? [14] I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. [15] The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. [16] Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” [17] Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

1 John 5:3-4 (NIV)
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, [4] for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Enough Thunder already....

I find it interesting that Charlotte NEVER has a string of nasty weather. But since the DNC roared into town it has been dark, muggy, and rainy. Thunder rumbles out of nowhere and then drenching downpours ensue. Lucky, who is very frightened of bad weather, spent the morning whining, till Asherel put aside her school book and offered him to climb into her lap. I had a dream I was interviewed by the DNC. I do not agree philosophically with their platform in many areas, and I let the interviewer know so. Strange weather. Strange dreams.

I had tried to watch some of the convention. Truth be told, I didn't want to hear what they had to say- I don't agree with the core principles. I think government should be small, taxes should not discourage growth, immigration laws should be enforced, creativity and risk should be rewarded even if the innovator becomes stinking rich, Israel should be protected at all costs, innocent life should be protected and valued so the least vulnerable among us too have a choice, and government should not force wealth redistribution, but the charitable impulses of all should be encouraged. I don't think big business is inherently bad nor private enterprise something to be taxed out of existence. I don't believe government should be in charge of my health care or a panel of government officials in charge of deciding who gets care, how much it will cost, and then hoisting it upon me whether I want it or not. The list goes on. But I did want to see if they showed any shots of Charlotte and extolled the virtues of my city. They didn't and I found myself growing more and more disheartened the more I listened to them so I had to turn it off.

The bad weather is predicted to last through Thursday. It clears up Friday, coincidentally as the DNC leaves town. I for one, am longing for the sun and light to return. It is dreary and grey, not at all showcasing Charlotte to the world in its typical splendor. The bright spot in the day is I finally got to see my good friend's new baby. He was adorable with all the promise of a glorious life in his little 9 pound body. I like how God never leaves us without hope. Of all the symbols I sought in the day, that little baby was the one that left me certain I could outlast the rain.

Exodus 9:28 (NIV)
Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labors of Love

Got a great facebook coupon for Sweet Frog yogurt. A Sweet Frog yogurt place just came to our town. So I brought my smartphone with the coupon to the Sweet Frog yogurt store along with my Sweet Frog Yogurt loving teen. It was for 12 ounce cup of yogurt filled as much as you could for just $4. Only problem- the coupon was only for the Florida store. I didn't notice that till I tried to redeem it. ONLY other problem- getting 12 ounces of yogurt *without* the coupon would be cheaper.
This made me mad. A bogus coupon that ends up costing the consumer more than getting the product without the coupon. I believe this proves that the antichrist lives.

I had visited my old senior friend Comer in the morning. I had a print out of the NY Times from 70 years ago that headlined the WWII Battle he was in. I thought he would like to have that. The print is quite small, but with his reading glasses and a magnifying glass, he could read it. He surprised me by handing me a pile of poetry.
"I started writing poetry again," he said.
They were mostly poems about his love for his wife, slowly disintegrating from Alzheimers. She was a lucky lady. I hoped he would read them to her, though I suspect she would not understand. It is hard to say what registers in her head these days.

I came home and made a sumptuous dinner, put it in the oven, and then grabbed Asherel and headed on to the Sweet Frog disappointment. I bought her her yogurt and then we went on to pick Mom K up from the Home to surprise her by bringing her back with us for dinner. Except when I arrived, she was laying down, and told me she was sick (oh dear...probably the illness I had unwittingly carried there last week when I taught the little art class). She was improving, but said she just wanted to stay there and rest.

So instead, Arvo, Asherel and I had the sumptuous early dinner and played a game while eating. We haven't done that in a while. It was nice. Quiet. Peaceful. A fitting end to Labor day that had been full of frustrated labors of love.

Psalm 61:1-2 (NIV)
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. [2] From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

-save a dog-

Monday, September 3, 2012

God Meant it for Good

Having some trouble connecting to the iTunes store from an app called "Cards" on my iPad caused a whole chain of events. After hours of trying to figure out why that app wouldn't work, the Apple Care Genius and I stumbled on the fact that the accounts on my iPad wouldn't accept my VISA security code. After hours of trying a whole mess of different things to get the security code to enter, we finally called VISA, though I told the Apple Care genius it would be a wasted effort. Lo and behold, we found out we had been mailed another card with a new number. It was buried in a pile of unread mail. Our old card would have no longer worked for other purchases, and it might have been bad if we had needed it in an emergency.
What a happy accident!

When the program (Cards) I was trying to use still wouldn't connect to the store, the Apple Care genius, (who are all trained to be the most polite creatures on earth) suggested we troubleshoot by first seeing if I could buy an app with the new VISA card. He told me to just get some cheap 99 cent app that I might like. I found an art app that I had heard of but never bothered to get and the sale went through perfectly well. It turned out to be a wonderful app that creates great watercolor effects and while the apple care genius continued to troubleshoot with me, I doodled the little picture above. What a happy accident!

When the original app continued to tell me "error, cannot connect to iTunes store", the Apple Care genius had me try the same app on my smart phone. Same problem. Then he suggested I turn off the wifi, and just use the cellular connection on my phone and try to use the app. This time, it worked.
"Your internet connection is bad," he told me.
For months, ever since our connection was supposedly "improved" when the Cable people came to "upgrade" our service, I have been having problems. I had insisted they did something that made service worse. Now I had proof. I will call the Cable people tomorrow and maybe my ten or twenty minute waits for programs to load on my computer will finally be over.
What a happy accident!

So often setbacks and failures make us believe that God is no longer with us, and we moan and groan over all the wasted time and lost opportunities. But time and time again, it is in the failures and setbacks of life that new potentials arise. In Bible study class that very morning, our teacher had told us a story of Amy Carpenter, the missionary to India who singlehandedly started an orphanage and rescued scores of young indian children out of prostitution. She had prayed as a little girl that God would change her brown eyes to blue. God had not complied. As an adult, when she went in the cover of darkness to the temples where the prostituted young girls were kept, she disguised herself as an Indian woman. Had her eyes been blue, those frightened girls would never have trusted her, but as a seemingly fellow Indian friend, she was able to convince them to leave the temple and follow her to safety.

You just never know when what looks like setbacks and failures may turn out to be what God intended all along.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

-save a dog-

Sunday, September 2, 2012


I still had the residual headache and fatigue from this bug that has infested our home, but I went to the river anyway. The summer is waning and I thought if anything would scare nasty illness away, it would be kayaking on the beautiful Catawba. I only lasted an hour, but it was a happy hour. I had to stay nearby the marina I launch from, in case the flulike symptoms returned. I much prefer kayaking quickly away from the crowds and heading to the quiet untravelled areas upriver. The wildlife along the river hide from the people. But this time I knew it would not be wise to travel too far with the recent illness still not really gone.

So I only saw a heron flying in the distance, and only one or two turtles popped up their heads. But then as I was daydreaming, and thinking I really didn't feel very good at all, out of the corner of my eye, I saw an enormous black bear on the shore. I had not known there were bears in the land around the river. I almost dropped my paddle swinging around to look again. Oh. It was a giant black dog. He was loose, though there was an empty kayak nearby pulled ashore.
"Hello fella," I called.
He wagged his tail and watched me as I skimmed by.

I saw a helicopter too, probably some sort of surveillance getting things all set for the Democratic National Convention converging on our city Tuesday. The day before, there were fighter jets training over our house. The whole house rattled. I am proud of my little city for hosting such a major event but it is going to be a hassle, trying to navigate the many closed roads and a million extra people. A heron flew across the river as the helicopter banked and whirled out of sight.

I headed home, a little woozy and very tired. Probably shouldn't have done that, I thought. It is just that there is something about visiting the Nursing Home so often where Mom K is residing that makes me want to dash out and live, live, live.

Psalm 34:8-12 (NIV)
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. [9] Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. [10] The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. [11] Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. [12] Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,

-save a dog-