Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Boy, what a day! Yesterday was one of those special days when one vexation seemed to pile onto the heels of the next - you know, the kind of day that ends with "Okay, God, could you give me just a little clue what in the world is going on here?! Would it be alright for me to have a minute or two to catch my breath?!"

The kids and I were busy at schoolwork yesterday morning when an unfamiliar silver SUV pulled up in front of the house. I opened the door to find a very distressed man, obviously struggling to control his emotions, cradling a tiny toy pinscher in his arms. "Lady, your dogs have just torn my dog up! I know it was your dogs, because I recognized that blue heeler that lives here." About the time the fellow finished this accusation, "my" three dogs trotted up onto the porch, gleefully incriminating themselves. The rat-sized dog in his arms looked from the new arrivals to me, as if to say, "Yep, those are the ones!" I ordered Nate to put our two dogs, Jessie and OB, in their pen immediately, and I assured my distraught neighbor that I would call the owner of the little blue dog at once to let him know what had happened as well. Then I spent the better part of ten minutes apologizing profusely, struggling to keep my own emotions in check, before I finally convinced my neighbor that I was as upset about the situation as himself and that we would do what we could to help with any vet bills. (Thankfully, the little lap dog didn't look too terribly injured - he was quite bright-eyed and animated the entire time he was following our conversation. Also, as upset as the owner was, he obviously didn't feel like he had to rush down the highway before having a lengthy discussion with me on the front porch.)

In order to communicate the emotional impact that yesterday's Vexation #1 had on my nerves and my mood, I'll have to give you a little background. Shortly after we first moved to the country 3+ years ago, someone dropped a mangy, starved, lab-mix dog off at our house. Of course, the kids pleaded to be able to feed it and nurse it back to health, and, being the pushover that I am, I agreed. With some TLC, Jessie turned out to be a beautiful, well-behaved, affectionate family pet. About the time Jessie's coat was finally filling in, someone dropped a wormy, ancient, immensely-pregnant beagle off at our house. The mercy pleading began all over again. This time, I stood firm: "We absolutely can not keep another dog!" However, since I am irrationally sympathetic with any creature that is PREGNANT, I did agree that we could care for the little beagle until she delivered her puppies; then, we would find homes for her and her offspring. Our first Christmas Eve in Obion County, the beagle birthed three adorable puppies. Within a matter of weeks, Jessie birthed 9 more of her own. Talk about dog overload! The short story is that at tremendous effort and inconvenience to ourselves, we did eventually find homes for everyone and ended up with only.....two dogs.

In my opinion, one dog is almost one dog too many. Two dogs are most certainly one dog too many. So how did we end up with two dogs? This part of the story needs a little more explanation. One of the beagle's puppies was an adorable roly-poly black male with a white bib and boots. Although he was a tub of lard, loose folds of skin draped over his sides and down his legs. When he sat down, a puddle of black fur slid down around his feet and behind. This little fellow looked like something from a Hallmark greeting card - cute, cute, cute! Now, it so happened that Steve took a particular liking to this delicious tidbit of dogdom, and soon started talking about the possibility of keeping "just this one" puppy. My initial response was, "Absolutely not!", but then things got a bit complicated in a weird kind of way.

My husband is one of the most gentle, patient, gracious men I know, and he tries to be considerate of my feelings and concerns. If I had insisted - "No more dogs!" - I am sure he would have consented to giving the puppy away without any fuss or regret. At the time of our great Puppy Fest, however, we were in the process of building the house we live in now....lots of decisions to be made, lots of things to be discussed, etc. ....and Steve was also in the process of a major career change. In the midst of these circumstances, an insensitive relative made the comment to Steve, "You don't ever make any decisions without checking things out with Camille first. What kind of man are you? You don't have to have her input on everything: just do whatever you want!" Although the comment wasn't true - Steve does indeed make LOTS of decisions without any input from me, many of which I would probably address differently - the bitter jab hurt. So, when Steve mentioned he really liked the little black puppy, I suppressed my internal opposition to the idea of keeping him and agreed. "You just do whatever you want, honey. You don't need my permission to keep that puppy." This puppy would be a living testimony to the fallacy of my relative's unkind remark. Incredibly, that tiny puppy with a mother who stood less than twelve inches tall, grew to over knee-high and now weighs close to 70 pounds. OB is a moose. And, although he has proven himself to be about as smart as a brick, he is extremely gentle and has a wonderful disposition. He is the kind of dog I can imagine someone taking to the hospital for pet-therapy with small children. (I should mention here that although OB is very docile towards people, he will lay into a raccoon or snake like the devil, and without a moment's hesitation.)

So what about dog #3 - the blue heeler? Blue (or Blue Dog, Jack-Jack, Dog, Hey You....he doesn't officially have a name at our house) showed up at our house almost a year ago. He hung out with our dogs for a couple of months before the UPS lady positively identified him for us as belonging to our neighbor Earl, who lives about a mile down the road. Earl came and picked him up promptly as soon as we called. "That dumb dog...he has a habit of just wandering off, and then can't seem to find his way back home! My wife will sure be glad to get him back - we thought maybe he'd gotten killed or something." Earl laughed as he loaded Blue into his pickup. Earl pulled out of the driveway and headed down the highway. Forty minutes later, Blue Dog was back on our porch. Obviously, he had NO PROBLEM finding his way home - he just preferred to think that his home was with us instead of with his other family. Thus began an exasperating game of Take the Blue Dog Home. Every time Steve left for an appointment, he would load Blue into the car and run him over to Earl's. We would start the stopwatch - 15 minutes was the average time it took Blue to trot his way back over. Several times, we called Earl to come pick Blue up, but we finally gave up when we saw the futility of the dog shuttle service. When we see Earl in town now, the joke is always, "Come on over and pick your dog up any time!"

And so, all our goodwill and noble sacrifice in the service of Dogdom was finally rewarded yesterday with, "Lady, your dogs have just torn my dog up!" I have to admit that I had wildly mixed emotions as I stood on the porch with my irate neighbor. My first thought was, "Alright, I'm ready to shoot all three of these mutts right now. Boys, bring me a gun!" My second thought was, "Good Lord, man, do you not realize that you are living in the country?! What kind of an idiot would turn a 4-pound dog loose outdoors in an area infested with coyotes, raccoons, and hawks? Never mind my dogs, mister - your little rodent dog is going to be coyote bait if you don't have any more sense than that!" Then I thought, "We'll just have to keep OB and Jessie always shut in the pen now, to keep them from harrassing this fellow's pooch." But that wouldn't do - "No, we can't keep the dogs locked up all day. We let the dogs out during the day to keep the raccoons and coyotes away from the chickens and the cat." (These reprobate mongrels actually do provide us a meaningful service.)

So, I spent much of yesterday stewing over the dog crisis. I was mad at OB and Jessie for being nefarious, cannibalistic criminals. I was mad at Blue Dog for NOT GOING HOME, and I was mad at Earl for not giving him a good reason to stay there. I was mad at my neighbor for behaving like a petowner from a California apartment complex and so endangering his own dog. I was mad at myself for not having absolute control over Jessie and OB, and for having ever agreed to more than one dog in the first place. I was mad at the thought of having to pay unanticipated vet bills when I don't even have grocery money for next week.

So how will this all work out? Looks like I'm going to have to quit being so passive and namby-pamby and take a more deliberate, active role in the pet situation around here. And that probably means I'm going to have to step into the familiar role of being the Mean Mom, a role I particularly loathe even though I understand it goes with the job. Looks like I'm going to have to "clean house" around here - the dog house, that is. And I haven't even mentioned yesterday's Vexation #2 yet, have I?!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What happened to October?

I woke up this morning and discovered that it is now November. Was that blur on the horizon October whizzing by? Since I haven't posted a single thing in an entire month, here's a quick update from my neck of the woods.

I felt a faint butterfly tickle in my belly a few weeks ago. "Hmmmmm, is that the hiccup of a tiny new life?" I called my OB/GYN to schedule an appointment. Within a matter of days, I was sitting on the chilly exam table of a tiny room at the Women's Clinic.

"Exciting news!" the doctor beamed. "You're pregnant!"

"Really?" My mouth fell open in stunned disbelief. "You're kidding!"

The doctor laughed and nodded. "Absolutely positive!"

It took me a few minutes to process this startling bit of information. "I had no idea....I mean, I really didn't think....this can't be possible!" I fumbled for words while my doctor stood grinning like a monkey. "Well," I inhaled deeply, "Any idea of a due date?"

The doctor flashed an impish grin and pointed to a calendar hanging on the wall. "Next week!"

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Okay, okay, everbody calm down! Truth be told, this forty-something-year-old is closer to dementia than to giving birth. The above illustration is simply to give you an idea of the remarkable development of a Reformed church plant in our area. Less than two months ago, God very suddenly drew together a community of believers committed to the authority of Scripture and to proclaiming the sovereignty of God and His salvation of His people by grace alone. Grace Community Church is currently meeting in an unused Jewish community center (doesn't God have a delightful sense of humor?); and, for many of us, we are still amazed by the working of God's providence in forming and building this new body. In mid-September, a small handful of saints gathered to discuss the possibility of forming a Reformed church plant in the Obion County area. In less than a week from that first meeting, we had secured a place to meet and were having our first worship service. (Did I mention how suddenly this all happened?) God has provided a strong core of about a dozen committed Christian men to oversee this fledgling church, including four ordained pastors. He has added new faces to our assembly each week, to the point that we are already outgrowing our present meeting space. Members are excited by the doctrines of grace, and are eager to read, study, and discuss Scripture together. We have been meeting now for six weeks, and are overjoyed and astounded at the work God is doing from week to week among us. Soli Deo Gloria!
* * * * *
On Wednesday nights at Grace Community, I have the delight of working with eight (more this next week?!) very enthusiastic, wiggly 6-9-year-olds. Using Bibles loaned to us by First Presbyterian Church, Dyersburg, we have a kind of home-made Bible Drill every week, and are learning the books of the Bible, the location of key passages (ie., Where do you find the Ten Commandments?), and memory verses. In the short time that we've been meeting, we have learned the names and locations of the books of the Bible from Genesis to the Song of Solomon. A favorite study method with the class is reciting the names of the books as we take turns skipping rope. Last week, one of the young boys suggested we recite them while we did push-ups - I suppose that seemed a more manly approach to our study! Anyway, everyone sprawled in the floor and began doing push-ups. "Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, ...." For those of you who don't know, I am in my mid-40's, overweight, and have given birth to seven children. Yes, I DID do twenty-two push-ups on the hard linoleum, thank you very much, although I must admit that I was puffing pretty hard by the time I finally gasped out "...Song of Solomon!" By Thursday evening, my arms were so sore that I couldn't even lift them over my head. (Okay, Dalton, why don't we try jumping jacks next week?)
* * * * *
(For complete lyrics, Google The Reformation Polka, by Paul Gebel.)
Brothers and sisters from Grace Community and FPC Dyersburg, along with a few neighbors from our rural community, joined us here at Kendallville for the annual Reformation Party this past Wednesday evening. About a hundred folks celebrated with fellowship, music, games, good food, and a bonfire that was probably visible from space. Some of my favorite highlights: the caramel apple eating contest (Oh, I'm sorry, were those caramel onions? Shame on you, Gaye Lynn!); watching Julie and Melissa compete in the banana race (Yes, ladies, we have this on video!); singing I'll Fly Away, with Mr. Ed and Billy playing guitars; and visiting with old friends and new friends while getting toasty around the fire. Several people thought the traditional singing of The Reformation Polka would've been more fun - more authentic? - if we'd had steins of German beer on hand. Maybe next year....
* * * * *
I am enjoying the mild weather we've had this past week. Monday's freeze has brought the color out in the trees around our hay-field yard, but the grass is still emerald green. Gorgeous contrast. Ben's beautiful Rhode Island Reds are giving us 15+ eggs a day now. Ben supplies the family egg demand, and sells or gifts away the rest. That's a nice chunk out of our grocery bill - thanks, Ben! Nate harvested his first deer of the season last Saturday ("Looks like meat's back on the menu!"), and is pleased to have a jumpstart on the trapping season with two prime coyote pelts in the deep freeze. Martha has successfully put a saddle on Little John - he was perfectly acquiescent and didn't protest an iota. I tell you, that horse is in love with his girl! Thomas seems to be pulling out of the moody teen thing, and has been a hard, cheerful, willing worker of late. He has such a fun personality and often has the entire family in stitches. He and his brothers fired a blackpowder, Civil War-era replica pistol this afternoon, and now he wants to try out the blackpowder rifle - the ghost of Daniel Boone walks! Helen has been busy in her room all afternoon working on Christmas presents for her siblings (I think Martha has been teaching her how to knit.) She and Martha have also been practicing cosmetology on one another - we've seen some wild hairdos over the past couple of days! Reuben, Emily, and Dennis are plugging their way through fall semester classes at UTM, and we are counting down the weeks until winter break with them. Reuben is sacked out on the couch at present, catching up on some much-needed sleep....guess that means he studies really hard during the week, right?! Well, I've been officially notified that my husband and children are in danger of starving to death any minute, so I'd better post and head to the kitchen. Hope I'll be back before another month slips by!