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The Saga of Goose

saga of gooseSometimes I write just for fun. No lessons, no brilliant epiphanies (ha), simply the fun stuff that happens in life. Today is one of those days. And, surprise, surprise, my fun story revolves around my pets.

I have two dogs. My Chihuahua Sparrow is my tiny guardian. He spends nearly all his life at my feet or in my lap or snuggled on my pillow (yes, I’m one of those crazy people who sleeps with her dog.) Skye is a 9 month-old Australian cattledog. She is a never-ending font of energy.

Because Skye loves to be outside, we taught her to use a dog door. It wasn’t an easy task. For the longest time she’d only exit or enter when we touched the door and gave her permission. Then finally, after several weeks, she did it on her own. She could come and go into our fenced yard at will. That made life easier for those of us called on to let her in and out a thousand times a day.

Unfortunately, she can also take things outside. One day my slipper ended up on the garden path outside the door. I need to have a talk with her about being cliché—I mean, stealing slippers? One afternoon I came home to find half the stuffing from one of the couch cushions out there. Kitchen towels, toilet paper tubes—she loves to take things out there because I can’t see her chewing them. And, of course, she can take dog toys out there, especially toys she wants to hide from Sparrow.

The other day my husband mowed the yard. Skye watched this from indoors, because she doesn’t like the mower. She sat in the back window and stared, and then she began to whimper. She ran to the door, put her head out, decided she didn’t like the sound, and returned to the window to whimper. Over and over again. I thought she was scared because my husband and the mower were getting closer and closer to the house and therefore to her.

The mower stopped, and my husband walked in with goose in his hand. Goose is the third player in this story. For an inanimate object, he’s very important in the life of my dogs.

When Sparrow was small, we bought him a stuffed goose toy. He loved it. He chewed it. As he tore up a section, I would cut it off–wings, feet, the head. It was pretty creepy. Eventually I had to throw goose away, and I replaced it. The third time this happened, I replaced it with a similar toy that was a pheasant. And the fourth time, it was a fox. But Sparrow knows the term goose, so we call all these similar toys goose.

The toy my husband ran over was the fox incarnation of goose. Goose was now in three parts: head, torso, tail. Sparrow saw this, grabbed the head, and ran off to chew it. Skye took the torso. My husband returned to mowing, and Skye no longer paid any attention. I’m pretty sure she knew where she’d left goose, and she knew my husband was getting closer and closer to it with the loud, scary machine. It scared her to death. But when goose came inside, even in pieces, she was okay again.

I need to get a new goose. We still have the one hit with the mower, but it completely freaks me out when Sparrow carries around the head. It’s always lying there with its eyes peering up at everyone. Often Sparrow sits a couple feet away and growls at Skye when she gets too close. I find myself wondering if the disembodied head of his toy doesn’t wig him out a little bit, too, because he’ll sit close enough to watch it but not close enough to touch it. Also, Sparrow likes to play tug of war with goose, and the little head is simply too small for a good game of tug of war.

The fate of the dog door is still up in the air. I’m too lazy to let Skye in and out a thousand times a day. But our back yard looks like a trash heap. A couple days ago it was a big square of sandpaper. I don’t know where she found it, and it frustrates me that I think I’ve decluttered my house, and yet she finds zillions of little things in hidden nooks and crannies and puts them outside. I should put a low trash can out there and train her to throw things away. Yeah, right.

As I said, this post has no point, except I like dog stories. For animals with no jobs, no purposes, they love dramas. I also have four cats, and the cat-dog dramas are fun, too. They entertain us all the time.

I honestly don’t know why God made animals. I don’t think most of them have a practical role on the planet. But I’m so thankful he did. I think originally they were all made to entertain us, to be companions, to enrich our lives, before we sinned and they were filled with fear of us. Those we’ve tamed remind us of how things were meant to be, a little glimpse back into the garden.

I hope very much that our heavenly home will have animals. I want to laugh at them and enjoy them and snuggle with them. Only we won’t be limited to dogs and cats, I think. We’ll snuggle wombats and wallabies and tigers and elephants. Koalas. Aye Ayes. I want to see whales up close and swim with dolphins. I want birds to land on my shoulder. Animals are cool. Just one more way God went over and above making a complex, beautiful world for us.

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Prayer and the Cattledog

DSC00933I’ve mentioned that I’m getting serious about some spiritual practices. I am reading the Bible cover to cover this year, so that daily reading is my non-negotiable practice. In the evenings, I’m reading a couple meaty devotionals. Those are regular, but on nights when my husband is home (weekends), they don’t happen. And then I’m also learning about prayer.

Prayer requires some discipline. Distractions need to be minimal. It takes time. Clearing my head of everything around me isn’t easy. I’m a writer, so my head is full of words and stories, where prayer, while made of words, isn’t made of the random storytelling, blog-writing words. It takes focus and concentration to speak to God and listen for his answers.

But I love it. My house is normally quiet, so that part isn’t hard. When my kids were small it would have been another story, but I’m at the quieter end of my existence now. I write with music in the background, but I turn that off for prayer. I find a time of day when nobody is conversing in the kitchen, when nobody has a TV on, and I take a tiny retreat, God and me.

When I first added some serious prayer time to my disciplines, I had a vision of doing it in the morning, when nobody was up, the day was new, before I had a chance to get bogged down in whatever the day brought. However, I forgot one little detail. Her name is Skye.

We have two dogs. Sparrow is a two year-old Chihuahua who is my shadow and my tiny protector. Skye is a six month-old mini Australian Cattledog. Mini as in 13 pounds, not mini as in energy. I have no doubt she could still herd cattle if they showed up in our back yard. She loves life, people, Sparrow, our cats, dirt, food, and especially mornings. She LOVES mornings. That’s when she races in circles, leaps on furniture and people, dances, spins, and simply basks in the extreme wonderfulness of another day. I imagine God grinning every morning as Skye greets his new day with such intense joy.

My first prayer morning was spent on the couch deflecting the dog. I close my eyes to clear my head, so I could hear her coming before I felt her leap into my lap, licking my cheek or ear or hand with pure excitement. She was so excited I was up she couldn’t contain herself. Eventually I calmed her down, so she and Sparrow were both sprawling in my lap, only after three seconds she reached out her snout and bit Sparrow, a nip of Hey, friend, let’s play. Sparrow responded with his own nip: You’re on. Snarling ensued, which sounds vicious but isn’t. My lap became ground zero for mighty warriors showing their stuff. A prayer book flew to the floor, the dogs looked at me startled as though wondering why I was throwing things, and I realized perhaps early morning wasn’t the best time for this. Not until Skye grows up and learns some manners.

Now my prayer time with God happens mid-afternoon or early evening, depending on when the dogs are asleep. I plan to talk more about it, because I love what happens during those retreats between God and me. However, it didn’t start well, and it didn’t start easily. It still isn’t easy, because in the quiet I see so many truths about myself, not all good, and about God, ALL good, and what he wants for me versus what I want for me…the list goes on. But that’s the future. Today it’s simply the tale of a dog who reminded me that every morning is awesome, that I need to be flexible because my plans aren’t always the right way, and sometimes it’s best to keep one’s eyes open, or one might get one’s ear licked. It’s a lesson I know all of you needed today.

Church and the Art of Small Talk

I am an introvert.  I am an introvert among introverts, and as such, I want to assure you this is NOT a blog about how to conquer fear and become an expert at small talk.  I wish, but no.  This is just a little anecdote to assure you that if you are an introvert who is lousy at small talk, you are not alone.  If you are an extrovert who’s awesome at small talk, this is a gentle plea to be good to those of us without your superpower.  And yes, I truly believe the ability to make small talk is a superpower.  And I don’t have it.

Case in point.  A few weeks ago I cornered a young woman at church.  I’m a late middle-aged mom, and she’s young, just out of college.  We’ve talked a couple times briefly, and I’d like to get to know her better.  So, I put aside the introvert which was screaming We can just go home now.  You remember what happens when you try small talk.  It’s never pretty.

Posh.  I can do this.  Approach, ask a couple questions, get a couple answers.  So far so good.  But I’m not great at tone or dialogue.  I’m a writer, so I can write the perfect dialogue.  Out loud, though, I’m a wreck.  My husband has expressed a disbelief that someone who can write conversations can’t actually have them, and he’s right. But in books, I control both sides of every conversation, and I can take my time to figure out my next move.  Makes a difference.IMG_9228

Back to the girl I’ve cornered. I ask a question, and even to me it just sounds wrong.  I asked this girl where she works, and it sounds like a challenge, like maybe I’m daring her to lie to me.  I take a deep breath.  Surely I didn’t say it that way.  But maybe I did.  Maybe I should let her move on and talk to someone who’s good at this.

I say a couple more inane things, because I am now certain I’ve done this wrong.  Tone of voice is wrong, questions are wrong, and I’m pretty sure the look in her eyes is something akin to How can I escape this lady who is asking me these dumb questions?  What I want to say to her is something brutally honest.  I want to say, Sweetheart, it’s okay.  You can go talk to your friends now.  You’re dismissed.  You get spiritual brownie points for listening to me this long.  But who says that?  That’s even a worse fail.

So I ask another question or two.  Say something silly, laugh it off, and watch her eyes.  I mentioned being a writer.  It means I’m not bad at reading people.  And this person was tired of me asking her questions.  Also, I realized I didn’t offer much of myself.  I’m feeling old lately, a little out of touch, and I don’t know if I have anything to offer a young person.  Isn’t it better to be interested in someone else? Does anyone really want to hear me go on and on about myself?

Finally, this girl says I think I need to get home now.  I need to clean house.  Yep. I’m less exciting than cleaning house.  And yet I’m pretty happy about this, because I knew I had overstayed my small talk quota.  Like I said, I’ve never figured out the rules.  When do you ask questions?  How do you dissolve one conversation and move to the next?  How do you know if someone gives a darn about what you’re saying or is just being polite?  If I’m sick of hearing my own voice, does that mean the person I’m with is, too?

So.  This girl probably doesn’t even remember our conversation.  It was five minutes of her life and likely meant nothing at all.  But to an introvert who can’t do small talk, the end of every church service is the same. It can feel traumatic and like a personal failure, that I’ve let down God and my church family.

I’m not a bad friend.  Sometimes I’m clever and even make sense.  I tell jokes with actual humor and hold conversations with both give and take.  And I’m a sweet person who feels incredible love toward the people in my church. Honest. But wow, most people never see that.  Only the inner circle, those who were able to get past those first few awkward, painful small talk conversations. I know, it’s amazing, but a few do.  I’m thankful for those people, because that small talk wreck? That’s not me. I promise. And I say that for the rest of my introvert sisters and brothers out there–please ignore those first ridiculous moments.We may hide silently in the corners (if you’re lucky!!) or we may strike up awkward conversations, but if you give us a chance, you’ll find that in other situations, we might be worth the effort.

And, by the way, the young lady I cornered–we’ve spoken again. So maybe I didn’t ruin things after all.

Internet Training Wheels

file000275257704.jpgIn my quest to organize and simplify my home, which was–is–overfull of things we don’t need, I’ve been working to simplify other things, as well, like my schedule. All this thinking about what I need, what I don’t need–it has now drifted into a quest to deal with some of my time wasters. And I bet you can guess one of my biggest time wasters, since you likely had to tap into that today to read this post.

Yep. Like huge numbers of people around the world, I can sink into the internet and not come up for air for hours. And half the time I can’t tell you where I was or what I was doing. Whatever it was, there’s a good chance it didn’t matter, and a better chance that I could have used that time for something better.

I don’t have a phone. I mean, I have a landline, but that’s it. No smart phone. I’m a relic, I know. And yet, that doesn’t stop me from being connected way, way, WAY too much. I write on the computer, both fiction and blog, so the internet is here, at my fingertips, all the time. When I’m stuck on a sentence, I might as well swing over to Facebook and waste a minute or two until my brain clears.  While I’m writing my blog, I’m on the internet already, and it’s no problem to multitask a little bit and switch from here to email and back.

And then, suddenly, time is gone. What happened?

I should be strong enough and controlled enough to deal with this on my own, but at the moment I’m not. Funny thing is that I likely spend more wasted time on Facebook than anywhere else, and I hate it. It’s a very rare moment that I leave Facebook feeling good about anything. It’s filled with bad news and lots of blog posts meant to teach me by pointing out my failures. You know the ones. Titles like Real Christians Would Never (fill in the blank with something I’ve done.) Ten Things a Good Person Would NEVER say to a (single person, tall person, short person, poor person, person from another race), again, filled with things I’ve said. Five Parenting Fails. Yep. I’m usually guilty of one or two. And yet, I still go back to Facebook. What on earth is wrong with me?

Anyway, I need a little help. So I looked for it. And, fortunately, found it. There are many apps out there that can help those of us who spend time on our computers stay on task. Seems Google has one called Nanny. I stayed away from that one. Too much truth in that name, thanks. There are others, but the one I finally landed on is called Freedom.to. I like that. It’s all in the marketing. Freedom to do other things. Freedom to use my time wisely. Freedom to stay away from articles and blog posts that make me feel like a monster. Yes, it’s a nanny, since I can’t do this myself yet, but I can pretend it’s nobler than that.It’s a productivity tool, not a babysitter. And it’s easier on my waistline than my other time management trick–taking my computer to Culver’s restaurant across town, which has no internet but does have French fries.

So, now I’m blocking myself off a bunch of websites while I work. I don’t want to block the entire internet, because while I write I use online dictionaries, a thesaurus, baby name sites, Pandora for music, and sometimes do research for my books. I need those. So, this is the next best thing, blocking the sites where I lose time when I need to focus on other things.

Soon I hope I can take off the training wheels and manage my time alone. But until then, or if that never happens, I’m pleased to find ways to deal with my weaknesses and focus my energy. The internet can be a great tool. And it can be the ruination of a soul. I hope to be wiser about my use of it as I continue my journey toward a life where I can be all God wants, in the physical realm as well as the spiritual and emotional. And if you have a favorite way to use the internet wisely, productively, and without wasting hours of time, I’d love to hear it. I am not too proud to admit I need all the help I can get.

Laundry Room Chronicles

file1951347375763On Tuesday I posted a blog that was meant to be scheduled next week, so the rest of this week is out of line.  I started a story in my last blog that I will continue next week. For now, just bear with me. On Mondays and Wednesdays I hope to tell that story, about how I drifted to sea and what God is doing to bring me back and protect me from drifting into such dark, lonely waters again. Fridays will be a little more practical as I journey toward simplifying and restoring my space and my life. So. Onward.

I’m decluttering my house. I’m starting with the hidden areas like closets and drawers, and I will reward myself with the public areas when I’m done. For a while, though, I decided to shift gears just a bit and tackle the laundry room.

I have a tiny laundry room. In the depths of this itty bitty room hide a litter box, every tool we own, a million cans of paint, cleaning supplies, a washer, a dryer, and a host of things I don’t even know are there. Maybe the worst is the shelf where I have cans of paint. You know, saved to touch up a wall. Except that, in my 47 years on this planet, I have never once touched up paint.  Ever.

But this year, I tell myself, I’m simplifying my life.  I will have time and energy to prettify (?) my house and touch things up. I will use all those old cleaners to clean. Those shelves represent the person I want to be. Clean house, perfect paint, tools used to create lovely new things. My house will look like something out of Better Homes and Gardens.

Um, right. Time for a little reality checking. I like the idea of minimalism and simple living. But I’m still me. I know me. Changing my house isn’t going to provide me with a new personality. Time to look at my stuff with a little more reality and a little less dreaming.

I’m tossing the old cleaning supplies. I enjoy buying them, so if I get done with the simplifying and need a new cleaning supply, I’ll go buy it. And the paint cans are history, too. I considered writing down the brand and color of each paint on an index card, along with a little dab of the color, but again–I will lose the cards, and I won’t use them. I get bored with paint colors. I’m more likely to repaint a room entirely than touch up scuffs.

I’m enjoying my simple life journey. Makes me laugh. I’m such a dreamer. Sure, God can change me, and he is. But I think, in the end, I’m still going to be the me who won’t put in the effort to have a perfect house. I also realize decluttering won’t be a one-time thing where I can move on to better pastimes. Just like restoring my soul won’t be a one-time event. I will have to be diligent and honest with myself and careful of my space, my time, my beliefs, my heart. Time to be honest about that and move on to the next shelves, which include boxes of screws and tubes of grout.  Three-quarter-empty boxes of screws and mostly-dried-up tubes of grout.  Wonder how long I can agonize over those.

A Kentucky Visit From St. Nick

Sitting up in a rainstorm waiting for my husband to get home from his late shift, two nights before Christmas, three days after this rain started…rainonglass text

Two nights before Christmas, when all through the land, rainstorms were pounding; it was getting out of hand. Umbrellas were propped beside the front door, dripping all over Mom’s Christmas-cleaned floor. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while wind howled outside and rain pounded overhead. And mamma in her Wellies and I in my cap, were bringing in the dogs from one final lap.

Then out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, we ran to the window to see what was the matter.   There at the window we saw a bright flash, and tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. We had no Christmas snow, but there were quite a few puddles, and there we found eight reindeer in a soggy, tired huddle.

“Why are you here?” I asked a sopping old elf, who stood with a sleigh and shook rain off himself.

“Trial run,” he said sadly, “but we didn’t count on the storm. Now we’re trapped in your back yard and can’t get into flying form.”

For a moment we stared and didn’t know what to do, and then my so-clever wife suggested the canoe. Nick laughed in that moment, his eyes—how they twinkled. His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. His red hat and gloves, they dripped with the rain, and water ran down his beard like it headed down a drain.

“I’ll be back for this,” he called as he unhitched the sleigh and hitched up the deer to the boat the same way. “If you worry about your neighbors, you’ve got nothing to fear. By morning you won’t even know I was here.”

He sprang to the canoe and gave his team a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim as he hit the dark mist, “Kentucky in the winter—I will never get the gist.”

 

Skewered

So, this is one of those most embarrassing moments posts.  Except nobody would know a thing about it except I’m posting it.  Which makes me a little bit crazy, because I HATE to be embarrassed.  I’m the invisible woman.  Really, when I attend an event, my goal–my whole entire goal–is to enter and exit without a soul knowing I was there.  Shameful but true. Not looking to be the life of any party.

That’s neither here nor there, though. This is all about a skewer.

Right now, I teach a pottery class at my house on Tuesday evenings.  This week the students were going to glaze, so I rearranged the room a bit, moving jars of tools to the glazing shelves and the brushes and glaze samples to the table.  The students came, and we started to glaze.

At this point I realized I needed to grab a jar of glaze from the bottom shelf.  I leaned down, forgetting I’d put a jar of tools on the top shelf, forgetting the jar had a very long wooden skewer sticking out into the room, point out.  I forgot until the dumb thing was lodged in my head.

Yes, I’d leaned over, and the skewer sort of skewered me.  I jerked upright, which knocked over the entire jar, and I grabbed the wood, which was rather stuck in my head, and pulled it out.  It had hit me in the temple, up in my hairline, and I decided to pretend this had never happened.

So, for the next few minutes I nonchalantly pressed my fingers against my head, which was bleeding quite nicely, and I helped people glaze.  At some point I felt a little queasy, not because this was a huge injury–it really wasn’t–but because I realized I had STABBED myself with a SKEWER and that’s just…disconcerting.

Eventually pottery class was over; the students went home; and I applauded myself for keeping the whole skewer thing to myself, because really, who wants to take a class from a teacher who stabs herself in the head with her tools?

Needless to say, by this time my head hurt.  Every time I leaned forward I felt my pulse at the wound, but I also kept bursting into near-hysterical laughter, because who does these things?  One of my sons asked what was wrong, and honestly I couldn’t tell him with a straight face.  I had to go to bed early so I could lie back, but that didn’t really help, either.  Sort of a ridiculous night.

The question is really what would have happened if I’d admitted I was bleeding and excused myself for a moment to mop blood off my head and maybe take an ibuprofen after I hurt myself?  Why was I so afraid to be human?  It’s okay not to be the invisible woman, and being a little bit embarrassed isn’t really the end of the world.  I’m pretty sure the students wouldn’t have packed up and gone home that minute.  And even if they’d laughed–they’d probably have waited until after I finished bleeding to be polite–it wouldn’t have killed me.

This summer I’m taking a few risks.  Risks with my writing.  Risks with my art.  And I know I need a slightly thicker skin if I’m going to succeed.  (Ouch, the painful but unintended pun.)  The ability to laugh at myself will be vital.  So, this is my first step in that direction.    I’m human.  I’ll flub things sometimes.  It won’t be the end of me.

As long as I am careful not to skewer myself in the head again, I think I’ll be just fine.