Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nursing Home for Dogs: A New Toy

Everyone needs a little something  to spice up their lives, right? No matter how old a dog you are?

I don't know where it came from, but a toy turtle showed up in our front yard after the snow melted.

Maybe a closer look, um, taste, is in order?

Buster Black might be interested, too.

Nah, Buster Brown isn't in the mood to share.

I will let you play with it after I've punctured the annoying squeaky box with my sharp teeth.

Old dogs like to have fun, too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Digging Your Head Through

My dad leads the way on our evening walk down one of the dirt roads of the ranch. Close behind him are my granddaughters, three-year-old Kate and two-year-old Allie, then me. Daddy holds the machete, in case we run into the “Mud Monster,” the legendary beast that lives in an ancient and run-down deer blind. As we round a bend in the road and the weathered plywood blind comes into view, Daddy suddenly stops and leans down, placing a protective hand on Kate’s shoulder. Squinting toward the ramshackle, deteriorated structure that is about the size of an outhouse, he whispers, “Be very quiet! We don’t want to wake up the Mud Monster!”  Daddy draws out the words, so that you can almost hear the symphonic baritone and trombone play ominously -- dumm-da-DUM-dum -- as he says mysteriously, “Muuud Monnngster!” She looks up at him, her face full of questions and fear, then with wide eyes looks down the path.

“It’s okay,” I tell her, “Grandpa will take care of us.” (And those words are the subject of another blog entirely.)

For now, I reassure Kate, wondering if she will have nightmares tonight. But I can’t resist the mischief, and I play along with Daddy. “You just have to be really quiet so he won’t see us.”

As we approach the Mud Monster’s home, I can see her shoulders shrink and tremble, yet she forges on quietly and carefully, glancing often at my dad to make sure he’s in control of the situation. She looks anxiously from behind his leg into the Mud Monster’s home:  but he’s not there. Daddy shrugs and says cheerfully, “Well, I guess he’s out somewhere in the brush, looking for his supper.” Kate is happily relieved, but still cautious about staying too long at his doorway. 

We move on down the dirt road, but now she is all excitement and talk, something about “scary adventures” and wondering if the Mud Monster is nice or mean, telling her sister Allie that she needs to be careful if she ever sees him.

Daddy and I see a well-traveled game trail that winds its way through the brush and trees. We veer off the road and onto what we call “the pig trail.”

At first I lead, trying to hold the lowest limbs of the brush back so Kate can get through. Allie is unable to step on or over the tough huisache and shrub sage, so I carry her on my hip, trying to shelter her from the head-high brush and thorns that block our way.

As it becomes denser, Daddy takes the lead and hacks through with the machete. Kate follows behind him, still talking.  Daddy teaches her to step on some of the twigs and follow the trail “elbow first” in order to shield her face. She is still talking non-stop, repeating what Daddy has told her, wondering where the pigs are since we’re on the pig trail, telling us that her baby sister Emma Jo could never get through this scary adventure, and occasionally asking Daddy, “Do you see the Mud Monster, Grandpa?”

She has become confident and adept at wending her way through the thicket. In one particularly dense patch, she lowers her head, sticks both elbows out in front of her and says, “Sometimes you just have to dig your head through, see, like this,” and presses past the snagging branches and scratchy shrubs, explaining to Allie that when she gets big she can do this.

I needed Kate’s advice as soon as I returned from my vacation. My schedule and obligations appeared as a dense thicket with obstacles and challenges in every direction. Fulfilling my responsibilities prevented me from blogging, reading, or paying attention to my dogs.

But that’s simply how life is.

Sometimes we just have to grow up, dig our heads through, and keep moving forward. Mud Monsters notwithstanding.

Romans 12:11 (Be) not slothful in business; be fervent in spirit.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Health Tip I Can Use

I was browsing through the February issue of my dad’s subscription to “Good Housekeeping.” Since my mom died three years ago, Daddy has been interested in good housekeeping, I guess. He also subscribes to “Cook’s Illustrated,” and says he enjoys trying new recipes.  

But back to the February 2010 issue. A one-page article caught my eye. It listed health tips for reducing risk of heart disease. At the top of the page was the statement, “Drinking three eight-ounce glasses of cranberry juice per day reduces risk of heart disease by 40%.”

I read the other items on the page. None of them came even close to that level of effectiveness. Not even regular exercise.

Since footnotes weren’t included in the article, and I wasn’t certain I could trust the editor of Good Housekeeping, I ran an Internet search that led me to a health study that was probably the source used by the GH staff writer.

The study showed that after participants drank three glasses of cranberry juice per day for a month, they experienced physical improvements that corresponded to a forty percent risk reduction for heart disease.

I continued my Internet research. The cranberry juice should be 27-30% actual cranberry juice, such as is common in the cranberry juice cocktail in the juice aisle at the grocery story. Or you can purchase 100% cranberry juice (usually around $6 a quart in my local grocery stores), and dilute two ounces of it with six ounces of water or apple juice.

For a whopping 40% risk reduction, I’m totally in. Drinking three cups of cranberry juice is so much easier than abstaining from chips and onion dip. And I’ve already listed my Bowflex on Ebay.

Used in this post:  American Chemical Society (2003, March 26). Study Provides New Evidence That Cranberry Juice May Help Fight Heart Disease. ScienceDaily. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Getting Home

“Please return to the guidance route,” said the electronic female voice from the navigation device. She said it distinctly, calmly, yet firmly.

“What?” I asked her. “I thought I was on the guidance route.”

She did not answer me. I looked at the navigation screen.

At least, I tried to look at the navigation screen. I was in an unknown city during evening rush hour. It was snowing heavily, and we were all driving at high speed without the appropriate “cushion of safety” that I learned about in driver’s ed. Everyone wanted to get home before the snow started accumulating;  as it was right then, it was only slushy. But you know what that means at 65 mph behind a semi, right? My “rain sensor” windshield wiper blades were in “frantic” mode.

They matched my growing apprehension. I was in a high-end car that didn’t belong to me; I was just the delivery girl. And I had a $52,082 check for the car dealership sitting on the passenger seat next to me. My fingers tightened around the steering wheel, and I changed lanes to the right.

The nav screen looked like a tangle of colored lines with my red location arrow pointing west. “Wait a minute,” I asked Nav Woman. “Shouldn’t I be going east?” I tried to decipher the route lines on the screen in the split seconds I could take my eyes off the road. It looks like I may have to loop around first, but then, it takes me back around . . . that can’t be right. I changed lanes to the right again, seeing an exit.

After I was parked in the safety of a bank parking lot, I found and corrected the program error that caused Nav Woman to instruct me to drive in a never-ending east/west loop.  I took a deep breath and reentered the craziness of West Dodge Road with new confidence in my navigation device to get me home.


This morning I read words of comfort, promise, and challenge in the Bible. I have no worries about programming errors in this guide, although frequently I need to exit to a quiet place to study the route. But I am certain of my destination:  Home. I am confident of my Guide to get me there. 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Grrr. Angry.

I was at a women’s seminar. The topic was “Understanding Your Emotions.” The speaker said that we can’t control what we don’t even understand and suggested that we keep an “emotions diary.”

“Divide your page into two columns,” she instructed. “As things happen through the day that affect you emotionally, record what happened in the first column. Write down the emotion that you felt in the second column.”

I felt in complete control of my emotions. I thoroughly understood me. So I decided to keep an Emotions Diary just to feel good about myself. Not really. Well, maybe a little bit. I imagined scenarios such as: 

Column 1:  Baby keeps crying. Column 2: Love and compassion.

Column 1:  Hot water heater broke. Column 2:  Gratitude that Husband can fix it.

Column 1:  Grocery money runs out. Column 2: Peace and trust in God to provide.

Oh, how I reveled in my imaginary composure!

Monday morning after the seminar I got out my sheet of paper and made my neat columns. I placed the paper and a pencil on the kitchen counter, thinking, “Life, just bring it on. I can’t wait to write something down.” I smugly began my day.

It didn’t take long for life to happen. A phone call. A long phone call. A long phone call from a whiney woman. She talked so much I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. While she was talking I wrote:

Column 1:  LONG whiney phone call. Column 2: Angry. Could she just get over herself?

I prayed for an interruption so I could hang up, like maybe the Rapture. Or maybe the baby could cry so I would have a good excuse. The baby did cry. I hung up. But the baby didn’t stop crying.

Column 1: Grrr. Baby keeps crying. Column 2:  Angry. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?! I meant what was wrong with Baby, not me.

I added to the list throughout the day.

Column 1:  Homemade cookies came out crunchy, not chewy. Column 2: AAUGH! Angry.

Column 1:  Nursery duty tonight -- a kid threw up and I had to clean it up. Column 2: GAG! I hate throw-up. Angry. Why me!? Also, no one seemed to appreciate that. Grrr. Angry again.
By the end of the day, I had used the paper to record numerous entries, to jot a couple of notes, write down a phone message, and doodle. It had a large grease stain from when I was whipping the butter and sugar for the cookies and the beater suddenly detached from the mixer and rocketed across the kitchen (Column 2:  Angry).
I looked through Column 2. Reading past the commentary and butter stain, I saw the same word over and over again. “Just as I suspected,” I sighed to myself. “I’m an angry person.”
I felt flattened, deflated. And ashamed. For the root of anger is pride. “Only by pride cometh contention.” Prov. 13:10.
Thomas à Kempis, in The Imitation of Christ, said, “Continual peace is with the humble; but in the heart of the proud is envy and frequent indignation.”
How much of each day is wasted on “frequent indignation,” anger, or irritation? What a waste! What a robber of peace, and destroyer of composure. Fortunately, we have a loving Father who lets us take out an entirely new sheet of paper each day. Life still happens. But He works with us to create new responses for Column 2.

Photo from

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Birthday

Sure, it was hard work to be born. I had to go through the scary birth canal, for one thing, and then the doctor and nurses poked around and made me cry and all. But actually, I don’t have any recollection of it. During my mother’s labor that resulted in my birth, whatever traumas I suffered must have been permanently soothed by her love and care.

Birthdays never really cease to be work for mothers. First they endure the entire package of physical, emotional, and hormonal change that comes with pregnancy. So even before your birth day, they are already working for you, abstaining from too much salt, from too much sugar, from alcohol, from most medications. They eat more vegetables, drink more water, religiously take prenatal vitamins, and -- oh the love expressed -- may even eat liver. They read, attend classes, rearrange their furniture, their work schedules, their plans and futures, preparing in one way or another for your arrival.

Then they give birth to you. And of course, that’s really hard work.

They take care of you every day after that, too, but they try to make your birthdays extra special. They plan and prepare parties and celebrations, even at age one, when you won’t remember the event except through snapshots of you in the high chair, paying studied attention to the lone birthday candle stuck in the center of a cake baked just for this grand occasion. (My parents put fire right here on my high chair tray? Does that mean I can touch it?)

On birthdays, mothers take you on special outings, cook your favorite foods, invite and allow gatherings of friends and relatives. They give you presents. They hug you tight even during the horrible meanness of your teen years. If you move to a city far away, they send you gifts or money; they send you birthday cards with poems about how great you are and how glad they are to have you, and they call to let you know that they love you and are thinking about you because you are extra special on this day particularly, your birthday.

Mothers don’t mention all the work they’ve done on all your past birthdates and those days in between. They don’t even think about the work, they are so blinded by how much they love you.

That’s why, on my birthday each year, I think a lot about my mother.

She used to tell me that she was so naïve after she and Daddy married that she didn’t even know she was pregnant; she and Daddy thought her constant morning sickness meant she had some terrible illness, and she was going to die. She was not yet nineteen when she went into the hospital to have me, and the physician gave her scopolamine, the drug that put her in Twilight Sleep, as was the custom in 1955. She remembered hearing a scream, then realizing it was her own voice. She said that a nurse told her to do something, but she yelled at her, “You big fat COW!” which, to my knowledge, is the only time my mother expressed out loud anything mean to another human being.

Daddy and Mama had planned to name me Debbie, but before they left the hospital, Daddy said, “No, we’re going to name her ‘Doris’,” and then, instead of going home, they drove to the home of my great grandparents, “Because Daddy wanted to show you off,” she said and smiled, remembering.

Do you think Hallmark could come up with some kind of Happy Birthday/Mother’s Work Day card? Nah, I guess not, plus, that would be too hard to sing. And mothers don’t mind that they’re not recognized for such profound and timeless work on the day of your birth and all the rest of your birthdays. They don’t even think about it. They are so blinded by how much they love you.

Proverbs 31:28  Her children shall arise up, and call her blessed.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Moments in Marriage: Hinting Is Not Good Enough

Fiona: (Looking at the explosion of disorganization in the garage, speaking to husband.)  It sure will be nice when we get all this squared away. (Interpretation:  Will you please clean the garage?)

Phineas:  (Searching for the ice scraper.) Uh-huh. (Interpretation: Where can that ice scraper be?)

Fiona:  Do you think we should buy some shelving? (Interpretation: I mean really, we can’t even find AN ICE SCRAPER! We’ve got to get organized.)

Phineas:  Yeah, sometime. (Interpretation: I think I left it on the radial arm saw.)

Fiona:  It would be great if we could start this weekend. (Interpretation: Will you please clean the garage soon?)

Phineas:  Maybe so. (Interpretation:  No.)

Have you ever heard a conversation like the above? Have you ever HAD a conversation like the above? Fiona’s communication is the most difficult for others to understand and the easiest for others to refuse. That is, she is using “the hint.” It is referred to as “mitigated speech,” and is what we use when we’re trying to be polite or diplomatic, such as when we’re talking to our boss or supervisor. The strongest level of speech is a clear command (“Clean the garage. Now.”), while strength decreases through statements, suggestions, queries, preferences, and finally, Fiona’s fav, hinting.

There are certainly appropriate occasions for us to use mitigated speech, to be polite and diplomatic. But in a marriage relationship, what does the listener get out of a hinting interchange? Not much. It’s no newsflash that the garage needs cleaning. And what does the listener need to do after that interchange? Not much. There are plenty more urgent items that need attention. Result: ineffective communication. Nothing is resolved and Fiona is probably frustrated.

A proven methodology has been used to train pilots and co-pilots to communicate effectively. During training, the co-pilot learns to cast himself in an alternate identity, different from his learned cultural role. He learns and practices more assertive communication based on statements such as “I think,” “I feel,” or “I believe.”

The pilot is also trained to solicit input by responding positively and requesting more information from the co-pilot. In the aviation industry, this type of communication training has been successful in vastly reducing the number of airplane crashes in the last decade.

Hmmm. Maybe Phineas and Fiona would benefit from some communication training; it might help them avoid a crash.

Research used for this blog:
James Detert and Amy Edmondson in the field of business management in 2007 
Geert Hofstede in business psychology 1970s
Linguists Fischer and Orasanu in the field of business communication
Malcolm Gladwell, author, Outliers, 2008