Friday, April 22, 2011

Following my heart

I've written before about my love of birds, the love of feeding them, identifying their kind, gazing upon their beauty and talking about them with friends (Hi Sherri!). Once I had a painted bunting eat from my feeder. It just so happened to show up when the battery in my camera was dead. But it really happened. I swear. It was so glorious an event that I got one of those chest tightening, heart-cramps. I tend to get those easily anyway but this one was big. Rodney happened to be here to witness it too. Not only did he see the amazingly colorful bird sweetly eating from the feeder, but he was also here to witness my come-to-Jesus, speaking-in-tongues, hallelujah, praise God, moment unfold before his very eyes. And, amazingly enough, he continues to live with me.

I was watching Oprah the other day. I've always been an Oprah fan but since she is beginning the countdown to her final show (only 24 left), I'm pretty diligent to watch every one. On Wednesday, her guest was Tom Shadyac. He is best known for directing Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, and Bruce Almighty. Definitely my genre of movie. I'll not go into the whole thing, but he was speaking about his new documentary called "I AM" and the principles behind it. He was speaking about following your heart, not taking more than you need, and living in a cooperative community. I was really fascinated by the whole thing. I was also very happy to note that I am basically following all of these simple principles.

The show was still on and right at the point when they were discussing following your heart when I looked out my window and saw an unfamiliar bird.
I ran to find my camera (battery fully charged thank you very much) and zoom lens to snap some pictures. It was so odd that there was a conversation going on about following ones heart while I was snapping pictures of a bird. Photography is, without doubt, one of my hearts desires as is bird watching. God was just having a moment with me, reminding me of this. After I took the pictures, I got out my bird book (that thing is about worn out) and identified it as a blue grosbeak. If it had a little more of a crest on it's head, he'd look like a blue cardinal. I read every detail about him and was fascinated, not surprisingly, that he is only this color during mating season. He's been hanging out in my front yard, and frequenting my feeder. I believe his mate is hanging around too, although she is such a dull brown that she blends in with the cow birds. I'll not expound upon my dislike of those cowbirds other than they are squatters in the most literal sense.

All of this pondering my heart's desires got me to thinking about it's roots. Where did it all come from? I love to hear stories about my ancestors. Like how my great grandmother Green was very creative. I thought of her a lot when I was painting my kitchen cabinets bright red, wondering if she was looking down from heaven and admiring my work. My Dad's mother was a hoot and a half. She was a little Irish woman...and full of herself. Sometimes when my tongue outwits my brain, I pause and pay respects to her shrewd cleverness. This is the woman that, when faced with something fearful or upsetting, would say, "that makes my hiney want to suck a lemon!" And there was no explanation needed. I knew what she meant.

As for my love of all nature, I owe that to this woman.

I still remember so clearly pausing with her to admire every little flower hidden in the grass. There was one occasion I remember being in the back of the pick-up with her when Papaw pulled the truck over just so we could get out and pick wildflowers from the side of the road. There was something so authentically blissful about the way she touched their petals and asked me to look at what God had done. I don't believe that we ever passed up watching a sunset when I was staying with her on the farm. "God is an amazing artist" she would say. There was always a pair of binoculars hanging by the door so we could look out over the land, watch birds, and see what might be happening down at the pond. I keep a pair by my door now.

Remembering all of this also makes me aware of how much I'm missing because of the TV, computer and iPhone. My Papaw never was big on TV. When he and Mamaw were living in the "little house" in Gillham while building the "big house", there was no TV. I stayed a whole summer with them in that little house. It is probably one of the defining summers of my life and probably a big reason why I wanted to live on a farm so badly. When we (my brother and cousin, Jeremiah) would ask why there was no TV, Papaw would say, "look out the window. You don't need TV". And we didn't.

I like to follow my heart. I am thankful that God has allowed me to follow it almost exactly where I've wanted to go. And, I'm thankful for those who've inspired me to be who I am and who continue to encourage me to keep dreaming.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Turning 38

I called my mom on Wednesday in a panic, "how old am I going to be?!" You would think a person would know their age but I'm extremely right-brained (can't do simple arithmetic) and I have this short-term memory loss thing going on as well. I was just out filling the water bucket for the goats and my mind was wandering........

I was 19 when Taylor was born and she is 18 now. I thought the last digits of our age were supposed to be the same. She's 18 so am I 38 now? Am I going to be 39!!? I just posted on facebook that I was going to be 38! Did I just make a big fool of myself to all my friends? HOW OLD AM I??

This is when I called Mom.

How old am I going to be??

In her familiar Mom tone...

Well, lets see. You were born in 1973 and it's 2011. Do you have a calculator?

I actually got out the calculator...

2011-1973=38. Whew!

I breathe a sigh of relief after having just faced the idea of only having a year before I hit forty. Now I have 2!! Two whole years. And I wonder what my life will look like then.

Today, I received one of the best, most thoughtful gifts I think I've ever gotten. A couple years ago, my dad and I were helping my Uncle Larry build (well, rebuild) his house in Gillham. He and my Aunt Mary had recently retired and moved to Arkansas. As we worked on the construction site, I frequently used Larry's rake. It was old and worn but worked incredibly well. The end of the rake was very heavy steel, so when you were pulling it through the dirt/rocks/gravel there was no effort needed to dig into the soil, you simply had to drag it. I went on and on about how much I liked it and asked where he got it. It was one of those unusual finds like at a garage sale or something and he had never seen another one like it since. I was quite covetous of it and found every excuse to use it when I was there working. This is when I stop and wonder about myself.

We were at Larry's house not long ago for a wedding shower and afterwards, we visited. Larry and I started talking about chainsaws, (another tool I'm anxious to get) so we went to his shop to look at one of his chainsaws that he thought would be the right size for me. Oh, the things I could accomplish if I had me a chainsaw! Ain't no tellin what I could do. We went over every aspect of the thing and he even started it for me and made me really jealous. As we were exiting the shop, there, in a beckon of angelic-light was the rake. I went on and on about it again and how I really wished I could find one like it. Again, we went round and round about how one might find something like this. Perhaps I could just have one made?

Then today, I was in my bedroom finishing wrapping a present for Kyle when I heard the dogs bark. I glanced out the window and saw Larry coming up my front porch steps. I could only see a long wooden pole in his hand with a ribbon on it. Then it hit me. He got me a rake!! Rodney greeted him and Mary at the door and I followed behind with my entourage of excited dogs. (it gets crazy when people come to the door). Larry made it all the way to the kitchen before I could see what he had. The chaos of hugging, quieting dogs, and "where do you want me to put the potato salad" kept me from immediately seeing it. When things settled, I saw it. "Is this for me??" Duh, who's birthday party is this?

Not only did he get me the rake I wanted, he took his rake to a welder in DeQueen and had him make one exactly like it.

You can't even know how exciting this is. I can actually feel tears stinging my eyes. Seriously.

Tools are invaluable on a farm and when you find something that works and works well, it is a true gift, a blessing. This gift blessed me in ways I'm not sure I've even comprehending yet.
He even stamped my initials in the handle!! The thought, the time, the love and the care that went into this gift is more precious than the gift itself. I was literally jumping up and down.

My mom and dad got me a rake and a hoe too. The hoe started a whole conversation that had me giggling. My uncle Leland was talking about how valuable hoe's used to be (giggles) and that they used to make hoe's better than they are now (more giggles), in fact, the prison hoe's were the best ones, (burst out in a belly laugh).

I got a rosemary plant from my Aunt Sandy who started the plant from one of her own. We do this a lot in our family, root and share plants. It's always one of my favorite gifts. I rubbed my fingers all over it and felt euphoric as I breathed in the scent.
Sandy also made my birthday cake. Rave Review. It is almost the same thing as an Italian Cream Cake. I really don't know what the difference is but it is go oo ood. My grandmother has made me this cake for at least the last 20 something years. She is getting more feeble and a little more careless in the kitchen so we don't let her cook much anymore. It is kind of sad but it happens. The love of family and the support of each member to take up the slack where others are weakening is just the coolest thing.
I managed to snap one picture amidst the chaos of my birthday party. Sometimes I wish I'd just calm down a little bit and think about doing these vital things, like taking pictures. As I observed my one sad snapshot, I see a million things that amuse me. The syringes in the dish drain because I've been dealing with a sick goat. The two diet cokes on the bar which Larry always brings with him because I don't keep that poison in my house. Rodney, in a semi-coma from having been up all Thursday night/Friday morning selling chickens. The milk pail hanging above the sink. The deer head on the wall in the back. Dad pretending to look interested in what Larry is saying but thinking about Mom who is alone at home, still recovering from surgery. The bar being full of stuff again after I've cleaned it off a hundred times, just today. Mamaw's hand on the bar, probably telling somebody how to do something. The light from the lamps, 4 on just this wall and I still think I need more.

This is what my life looks like now. And now, having reassured myself that I've got a whole two years left before forty, I am content. I always look forward to that which is to come, but I make it my priority to live now. And right now, there is a place for me to lie down, next to my snoring comatose husband. It is my favorite place to be.

Friday, April 8, 2011


God gave me a heart for the dog. He gave me a love for all animals but somehow, my heart is geared toward the canine among us. I've known this about myself for probably my whole life. There were seasons that I believed that this affinity was somehow frivolous, that there were better things to do with my time and love than to shower it upon my pet dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love the upright, two-legged people as well especially the ones who live in my house.

Who does God want me to be and what is my assignment here on earth? I can't tell you how many times I've asked myself that. There have been times when I've known absolutely, without doubt of my mission. God gave me two children in the span of 18 months. I think my task was clear here. Girlfriend had a job to do, yes indeed. He moved me to a farm with my husband over a decade ago...girlfriend had more work to do. But, what about my "special purpose"? Surely I wasn't sent to this planet to make sure everybody has clean socks and underwear.

Since I'm very rapidly reaching middle age, I've been soul-searching. Not that it is any shock, I've always been a seeker, a question asker. But lately I've been coming to some actual conclusions about myself. I really don't think God would have given me such compassion and deep abiding affection of animals if I wasn't meant to somehow use it. I don't believe that I'm to ditch my family and go live with the wolves or throw myself into a 24 hour a day volunteer schedule at the Humane society. God simply calls me to move...He also calls me to write. So here is my latest entry in the God-driven gift of rambling on about my thoughts, and rambling on about dogs. A very special one, in particular.

This is Patrick...

Some of you may have already heard his story. If not, I will briefly fill you in. Patrick was found on March 16th in a garbage bag. He had been tossed down the garbage shoot of the apartment building in Newark where his owners lived. By all appearances, he hadn't been fed for months and when the starvation had all but consumed him, he was thrown away and left to die. A maintenance worker, who was emptying the garbage shoot, saw the trash bag that Patrick was in move and opened it up to find the poor lifeless little guy barely alive.

The following picture is disturbing. The first time I saw it I couldn't believe that this was an animal that was even alive. This is Patrick, on March 16th 2011.

Oh, the emotions that flooded me when I first saw this. I immediately went to the place of condemnation of whoever was responsible for such torment. Why? Why in the world would anything like this ever happen? Who could do such a thing?

I've been reading a lot of comments that folks have been leaving on Patrick's now very popular facebook page. Most people, well all people, are angry about what happened. There are petitions being signed to make sure that the responsible party receives the maximum penalty and they are even seeking new laws that would further penalize the tormenter.

It has been weighing heavily on my mind. I've been to the place of "they should lock them up and starve those people to the point that he was starved". Then I quietly hear the voice of my savior whisper, "judge not". I've never been quite so tempted to argue with God. Judge not?? Did you see that poor dog?

So, I'm asked to take another road. The judge not road...

There is a righteous judgement, I've heard this a million times from my mother. I began to think what a righteous judgement would be in a case like this.
This is the woman accused of the neglect and torment of Patrick. I won't divulge her name but you can google it if you'd like. She's all over the internet about this hot-topic case.

I've heard this saying before and it was recently brought back to my attention, "hurt people, hurt people". My heart began to bleed as I wondered what kind of hurt would have to happen to a person to make them so neglectful to an innocent creature. What kind of hurt?

Then as I thought about the judgement that has quickly come down on this woman, I started to think what I would do if I were the judge and jury. Like I said, my first reaction would have been to tie her up and let her starve. But the Holy Spirit never lets me stay in a place like that long.

This would be my sentencing. She would be assigned to work at a shelter for dogs. Daily she would feed them, clean their cages, administer medications, walk them, play with them, make sure they were warm, and clean up after them. She would be made to organize fundraisers to raise money to buy food to feed the homeless dogs. It would be up to her to find the means to feed every dog in the shelter. Sure, there would have to be guidance from those who know how to do such things, but it would ultimately be her who would be responsible for feeding them. I would also require that she sit long hours with the animals that were sick, the ones that need the most attention, like Patrick. Sometimes, people simply have never experienced the fulfillment of properly caring for another living thing. They only know abuse and neglect so that's what they do. We should pray for the people that only know neglect. We should try and find some compassion even when our nature tells us to point fingers.

I've read a lot about animal assisted therapy. There is a children's home that our church supports that assigns the children regular chores involving animals. They are given responsibility to care for them and, in turn, experience that joy and peace that comes with a job well done and the reward of an animal that loves them unconditionally. You can't get better therapy than that.

God gave us the animals. They were provided by an almighty being to give us food, clothes, companionship, and love. They have much to teach us. We have much to learn.

Patrick is a miracle. There is a reason for everything, I know this well. He was saved for a reason, if for nothing more than to give us all hope and to teach us all about compassion. Let not the lesson be about vengeance, but about humanity. God bless us all.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Green Thumb?

I am still planning on blogging about why Martha is a necessity in my life, this is just a sliver of it.

I usually don't have time to watch Martha everyday, but when I do get some T.V. time, she is one of my first choices. For a while I've been quite covetous of a maiden-hair fern that sits atop her counter in her "kitchen". There are actually a few of these whimsical plants peppered about the set and I admire them greatly. It wasn't until a show about a couple of months ago when she had a segment on ferns that I even knew what the name of the plant was. See? It's important to know these things, thus important to have an ever-ready supply of Martha Stewart stored in the DVR.

Here is a shot (background) of one of the larger ones on the set.

Martha frequently features these guys too, Sharky and Francesca. And, yes, I am covetous of them as well.

About mid-February, some of us girls were out shopping for a birthday gift for a family member. One of our stops was a local garden nursery. I had been in the market for a maiden hair fern for a little bit, even shopping online where it was more expensive to have them shipped than the plant cost. So, while we were wandering about the nursery, I asked one of the staff workers if they had any maiden-hair ferns for sale. She said she thought so and took me to another part of the nursery, into a lovely greenhouse. We walked all the way to the back and there in the corner, sad and alone was the most pitiful little fern I'd ever seen.

I was hoping to find one that looked exactly like Martha's and bring it home to display it oh-so proudly. But, this was just sad. Now I was compelled to bring it home like a stray dog. It almost said to me, "please take me home and love me." So, I did. In fact, there were two of these pitiful things and, not wanting to leave either behind, I asked if I could have a bit of a discount since they were so scrawny and sad. She agreed to discount them and I gathered them up, paid for them and brought them home.

This is what they looked like when I got them home. Remember, there were two and they both looked exactly like this.

I did some trimming of old spindly stems and then transplanted both of them into one large pot. After doing some research, I found that they like indirect sun and that a bathroom was one of the better rooms for them because they would receive periodic humidity. There happened to be a perfect spot in my bathroom near my tub to keep it while it recuperated and grew from it's sad state.

I've been known to kill even the easiest to care for plants. I neglect them because I forget about them. Then I try to revive them with so much force, they just give up and die. The last few years, I've slowly been adding a few plants to my house. They are good to keep the air clean and really brighten up the house. Amazingly enough, I've done a really good job of keeping all of them happy and thriving. Maybe it just comes with age, or maybe I just have more time on my hands now. Or maybe God is slowly releasing me from my attention deficit prison. Whatever the reason, I'm very much loving having a few beautiful plants to grace my home and to love and care for.

And, I think this one is my favorite!

In just 6 weeks, look what has become of it! I can hardly wait to see what this things is going to do. And, I am pretty sure I need to find another one to keep in company.