Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Cat's Out of the Bag

The next couple of posts will be about a very important someone who entered my life during those turbulent middle-school years. He was very brave, exceedingly loyal, and incredibly funny. He led one of the most exciting lives ever and his love warms my heart to this day. He was Bumpkin, the cat who lived each of his nine lives like it was his last.

My Daddy's mother, Mommy Ola, owned a small farm in rural, northeast Alabama. She had a bunch of dogs and cats and chickens and usually had a calf or a hog that she was fattening up for future meal-time yumminess. It was indeed a small farm by farming standards, but the garden produced more than enough produce for her and whomever else she chose to share the bounty. Anyway, I usually adopted an animal to call my own during my summer visits and told them goodbye every August. But the summer I was 12, I fell in love with a scrawny, ratty, runt of a black-as-soot kitten. I named him Bumpkin. He was different than any other kitten. He just seemed... special. If you ever had your very own pet as a child, you probably know exactly what I mean.

Mommy Ola and me, 1982-ish
I only visited my Mommy Ola a few weekends in the summer. I lived in Florida with my Mom and (step)Dad, and my Daddy lived in the Birmingham area with my stepmother and stepsister. I spent my summers with my Daddy and absolutely loved the times that he and I would drive the 90-minutes or so northeast, past Albertville, and way out into the country, at the end of Martling Road (Now, the corner of Burgess and Poplar Springs). We'd head out early in the morning and get to Mommy Ola's house while she was still out in the garden. Visits there involved a lunch of fried chicken, fried potatoes, garden-fresh tomatoes and cucumber, and oh-so-yummy homemade buttermilk biscuits. Mid-afternoon, I'd get to walk across the road to the little country store and get (I kid you not) an ice-cold RC cola in a glass bottle and a Moon Pie. Mommy Ola made the best ever fresh lemonade and we'd sit on her wide front porch in old rockers or metal gliders, sipping lemonade from mismatched glasses, and visit with the neighbors who stopped by. We'd enjoy the sweet breeze, the earthy scent of the abundant farmland, and the buzzing of bees that gorged on the unplanned, yet perfectly-placed flowers surrounding the house. At twilight I'd catch lightning bugs and walk out to her pump house to choose a few home-canned fruits, vegetables, and my favorite vegetable soup to take home. Time slowed down and took on a golden glow while I was at Mommy Ola's house. Every visit was a step back in time to a friendlier and gentler era. My heart aches with missing those summer days.

I loved Bumpkin so very much and decided to take him back home with me. To Florida. Which from northeast Alabama, is about a 14-16 hour drive via Panama City Beach. Which also meant I had to get my Daddy on board with it. And even more importantly, and far less likely, I had to get my Mom and (step)Dad on board with the kitten idea. My Daddy was easy. He was probably relishing the anticipated negative reaction from Florida. I'm sure he was disappointed, because my (step)Dad said yes, much to the astonishment and chagrin of my Mom. Instead of my usual (every year, four times a year, from age six through age 12) unaccompanied flight from Birmingham to Tampa, my Daddy and my Mom and Dad decided to meet half-way so that I could take that mangy, little kitten home to Florida with me. You'd think it would have been a simple task, but not so with adventuresome Bumpkin!

He did the first part of the trip just fine, stayed close to me, all that cute and cuddly kitten stuff. I introduced him to the beach at Panama City. He liked the people, especially the little kids. He liked the water, especially when it was moving away from him. He did a lot of sniffing at the beach; the wind, the sand, the grass, the seagulls, the water... which did not go so well. Pretty sure salt water up a cat's nose is equally as horrible as it is up a human's nose. And I am also pretty sure that a 6- or 8-week kitten looks rather like dinner to a flock of hungry seagulls. (Mine! Mine! Mine! -Finding Nemo) There were, however, no mishaps on the first part of the trip back to Florida, but the second part of the trip? 

Bumpkin was introduced to Tiki. Tiki was, well, a Maltese. He was more than a little put off by Bumpkin's overly excited greeting. Tiki acted like one of the guards at Buckingham Palace and Bumpkin like the typical, obnoxious American. The two would soon become friends, but only at Bumpkin's absolute and unending insistence. But we'll get to that part of the story later...

Bumpkin, in later years
Bumpkin began to have tummy troubles and we had to stop several times for potty breaks. Maybe because of his tummy rumblings, or maybe because it was his second day in a vehicle, but he kept hiding from me in my Mom's full-sized van. I could easily coax him back out with my shoelace though, for what feline can resist a slithering shoelace? Then, the worst 30 minutes or so of my life (up to that point): We suspected Bumpkin had been thrown out with the lunch trash. We stopped at McDonald's for lunch and ate on the road. My Dad had a bad habit back then of just throwing trash out the window along the highway. (Please tell me he wasn't the only parent who did that!) Well, the McDonald's trash was all gathered up into the bag and Dad tossed it out the window. While going about 70 miles an hour. A few minutes later, I began to look for Bumpkin. He was nowhere to be found. I couldn't find him. Now, keep in mind, we were on the highway and there weren't many places he could hide. But I couldn't find him. Dad said something along the lines of, "Sh*t. You don't think he could have been in that McDonald's bag, do you?" 

I'm pretty sure I went from casually looking for sweet Bumpkin to hysterically, tearfully, frantically searching for that tiny, black, ball of fur. Dad, sweet and kind-hearted as he can sometimes (often) be, decided to turn around and go back to where he thought he tossed the trash. Several miles later and north again, with me still moving luggage and stuff around and searching under and in and through everything, Dad found the spot where the trash was and pulled over. He jumped out and ran over to the trash and picked it up. And I heard a sweet and plaintive meow. From just behind me in the van. There stood Bumpkin, yawning and stretching from an obviously very cozy nap somewhere in that van. And all that was in that bag of trash, was trash. Which Mom made Dad put back in the van to put in a trash can at our next stop.

Ahhh... Bumpkin. Never a dull moment with that cat.

To be continued...

I know this is different from my normal writing, but I was reminded of Bumpkin this week by my favorite morning radio show, The Wally Show. They asked on the FB page, "What is the worst excuse you ever used for being late?" and I was reminded of Bumpkin. But we'll get to that particular story later. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Husbands and Other Anomalies

Do you know what my husband is doing right now? The dishes. That's right, those things we eat off of at mealtimes, as well as the various bowls, pots, pans, and utensils used to prepare the dinner meal. And he does them every night. And I am so thankful that he does. I won't go so far as to say he cleans the kitchen, as counters and stove top are evidently invisible at this time of day, but the dirty dishes will be properly (read completely) loaded into the dishwasher, detergent will be in the dispenser, and the dishwasher will be turned on even as I type this. Even the stoneware pan and my good knife will be hand washed and put away. Did I mention I am thankful? (Yes, he reads this. 1,000,000 points for me!)

I did not grow up in a home where the husband did the dishes. My Daddy would help in the kitchen and could seriously cook, and my (step)Dad would eat and is beast with breakfast, but sending my Mom to relax for a bit while he did the dishes? Nothing doing. Not happening. And my Granddaddy would always pray over the meal and truly and verbally enjoy the meals, but dishes? I don't ever remember him doing the dishes. And my Granddaddy is the best, most perfect, non-Jesus man who ever lived!

I have a husband who is willing to do the dishes. Why? In his words, "I like to eat your food and you will only cook in a clean kitchen." Win-Win! It helps that I absolutely abhor washing dishes, loading the dishwasher, or unloading the dishwasher and he really doesn't mind doing that. (Who is thankful? This girl!) Cleaning and disinfecting the counters and stove and microwave and sink--I have no problem with. I like it totally clean and germ-free and don't mind ensuring that everything is up to snuff.

My husband also helps with laundry and regularly runs the vacuum cleaner. Again, thankful. Very thankful. Garbage is, according to my good friend Julie, a blue chore. That chore is one my husband just is not good about doing. Cleaning bathrooms? The only way I can tell he attempted to clean them is because everything has a weird, cloudy film. Dusting furniture falls along the lines of cleaning the kitchen counters. Windows? I don't know that he knows how to do that. And oddly, those are the chores I don't hate (I know, not a nice word. My son got in trouble for saying that at church a few weeks ago. I really should stop saying hate.) strongly dislike. Well, except taking out the garbage. I stand by the blue chore thing on that one.

Isn't that weird? It's like we were made for each other or something. :) He doesn't mind doing the chores I detest!

Grampie and Sammy
And, as much as I love my Dad, he complains about almost everything my Mom cooks. He starts griping as soon as he finishes his third helping! And my Mom is a great cook. Dad has complained about my cooking once. I told him if he ever complained again, I'd never cook for him again. Since then, he sings my praises. You don't know this, but when I was 16 and driving our family's full-sized van, he was hollering at me from the middle seat about going too fast or too slow or something and I pulled over in the left turn lane on a major 6-lane street (4th St and about 80ish Ave N) in St. Petersburg, Florida, and told him to get out and walk the 20 or so blocks home. He actually got out and I drove the van home, my Mom laughing the whole way while telling me I shouldn't have done that and to go back and get him. When we got home I took the keys with me and hid them from my Mom. Dad had to walk home. True story. The fact that he actually got out of the van and walked home is truly astonishing. See? Look at him there with the deer-child. Love ya, Dad!

So anyway, my husband (who says I am blah-ing) does the dishes, vacuums, and helps with the laundry. I don't think that is normal, but I am so thankful for him. We have other struggles and issues in our marriage, but housework is not one of them. And on those evenings when guests are coming to dinner or the night before friends come over for a Bible study, I am so very, incredibly, completely thankful for my husband and his willingness to take an active part in our home. Now if I could just get him to give me a foot rub... ;)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"I don't like mac 'n cheese. It's very yuck-able."

My oh-so-picky eater Sammy proclaimed, out of the blue, "I don't like mac 'n cheese. It's very yuck-able." We had just finished a lunch that did NOT include macaroni and cheese. We chose the much more nutritionally sound popcorn, string cheese, and apple sauce. :)

Not Sammy, but this kid is obviously not impressed with the veggies.
My husband and I both enjoy a very adventurous palate and offer a large variety of foods at most meals. But Sammy refuses to even allow most foods onto his plate, let alone into his mouth. Jacob would eat anything, and did, and could be easily coerced into trying a couple of bites of a new food, even if he didn't want to. Not so with The Sam.

Now, don't give me all that talk about "he'll eat when he's hungry" and "he won't starve himself" and the like. He ate NOTHING for two days once because I would fix only foods that he had not and would not try like; mac&cheese, hamburgers, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn. You know, incredibly exotic foods like that. I gave in half-way through day three when he sat sullenly refusing to even look at his plate. I realized that I simply canNOT force the child to eat. I already knew that children cannot be forced to potty or sleep, so I just added eat to that list, as well.

Sammy has a will of iron. He will not follow along with other children unless he wants to do so. He will not simply agree with adults if they try to trick him into believing something. If he believes something to be true, or false, be prepared to offer overwhelming evidence IN WRITING to try to change his point of view. And no, that does not work with food. I've tried it. I wrote a list of foods that he was to eat. He just crossed off the foods he does not like and told me, "Now the list is correct." If Sammy doesn't like something, he proclaims it to be "too yuck," and it then becomes "yuck-able." If he does like a food, it is proclaimed, "yummy," or, if he REALLY likes it, it is "too yumm."

Sammy and me
You see what I'm dealing with here? And the strange thing is, this all seems so very familiar... Oh yeah, I know why. I see myself in Sammy. He struggles with the same issues and sins over and over and over again. And you know what? I struggle with the same issues and sins over and over and over again. I get frustrated with Sammy about the same stuff all the time, and God must feel the same way about me. I have to force myself to remember that even though Sammy keeps getting in trouble for the same things, it is my job to gently guide him to do right, over and over and over again. Just like God gently guides me to do right, over and over and over again. My "yuck-able" behavior must be turned into "too yumm." It is my job to hug Sammy and love him and guide him to keep turning toward God, and never away from God, and to help Sammy develop a relationship with God that is definitely "too yumm."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

October Baby

There is a movie coming out in March that you will want to see, October Baby. The subject matter? Abortion.

A young woman discovers that she is the result of a failed abortion and sets out to find her birth mother. Along the way, she discovers forgiveness, God's idea of beauty, and love. Women who have seen it, who also had an abortion, said the movie was a healing experience. If you click on October Baby Stories: Shari's Story, you will find the actor has a very emotional and personal tie with the movie.

My friend, Cecil, is one of the writers and producers. He owns Tentmakers Entertainment and probably had a hand in some of the TV shows or commercials you have seen. Cecil is a prayer warrior and really and honestly prays for a long list of people every, single day. I am honored to call him my friend.

Anyway... October Baby. The idea and message behind the movie deeply resonates with me. I have several friends who opted for an abortion for varied reasons. Some have since realized that abortion is eliminating the life of a child. They grieve for the children they lost, but no one really grieves with them. Mostly because very few people know of the abortion, but also perhaps because so few people view that as the loss of a child. It is. Losing a baby through abortion or miscarriage is losing a BABY. A human being who is living and breathing and growing. Most abortions happen in the first trimester. This is a picture of an 8-week gestation baby.
His body is still very small, but he is obviously a human begin.

Now, I'm not here to preach about the evils of abortion, but just so we're clear, human life begins at conception. A human sperm and a human egg will combine to form nothing less than another human.

What I'm writing about today is love. And forgiveness. And the fact that almighty God views every human life as beautiful and precious. If you have had an abortion and grieve for that child that was lost, God loves you. He hasn't left you. He forgives you. That child is destined for heaven and you will one day see that sweet baby again. You are beautiful and precious and loved. God loves you so thoroughly, completely, and consumingly (is that even a word?) that he gave the life of his own son to guarantee that your place in eternity could be by his side.

If you have a friend or a sister who had an abortion, accept her as a grieving mother and treat her as such. Show her love and compassion and forgiveness and grace. Keep her confidences, but let her talk about her experience without sitting in judgment. And allow her to grieve.

I am going to see October Baby in the theater, and I encourage you to do the same.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tornado in January?

It's late. Almost 11:00 pm on a Sunday night. Why am I up? Mostly because I was finishing a class assignment (Writing the purpose of my Literature Review, Research Questions, Theoretical Background, and Background Interest. I know, super stimulating.), but partly because there is a tornado watch and tornado warnings are just north of us. In January. The temperature is rising, storms are coming, and the weathermen are fairly dizzy with excitement.

We can do nothing, really, to forestall looming disaster, except prepare. Have your emergency kit packed and ready to go. (Mine is nonexistent.) Have your safe room clean and well appointed for emergencies. (Mine is a wreck.) Have on clean underwear. (Ummm, okay...)
(Kit recommended by The Kentucky Department for Public Health)

Isn't it weird how things happen in life when we aren't
planning them and aren't expecting them? A text message would be nice. "Hey! Look out! Life is about to suck!" But disasters are unexpected. Traumatic. And part of life in this world. Like a tornado in January Or like the death of a child. Unexpected and devastating. We can do nothing, really, to forestall looming disaster, except prepare. But how on God's green earth can we be prepared for that kind of trauma? All I can say is, be ready. Be in communion with God. Read the Bible. Pray. Go to church.

When we are prepared for disaster, it doesn't avert that disaster. Preparedness just makes getting through the devastation a little bit easier. Whether the death of a child, or a tornado in January, get your heart and your home ready. You never know when disaster will strike.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Student Opinions Welcome

I am taking an online class in Educational Research and Assessment at Liberty University. For the first week of class, we were asked to explain our opinions about the intersection of faith and research. Here are my thoughts and my responses to other students. Feel free to share your thoughts and responses in the comments section.

Educational research, and the ability to apply that research, are vital to figuring out the human psyche and empowering teachers to be better equipped to lead students in learning. Research is necessary for determining what works, and does not work, in any learning environment. Interpreting research through the eyes of faith in God imparts a bit of His wisdom to the learning environment. Wisdom comes from taking into account all findings from research and interpreting those findings with a heart turned towards God and His will. Without faith, the benefits of thorough educational research cannot be fully realized in either the teachers or the students.

Some say faith is blind. That may be true in some instances, but faith in Jesus Christ is most definitely not blind. Faith is not blindly following something or someone we know nothing about. I have faith in Jesus Christ because I have read His words and have seen His miraculous works both in history and the lives of people all around me. Proof of Jesus' divinity and God's sovereignty is all around us. I recognized sin in my life and knew, after listening to preaching and teaching by Godly men and women, that I was in desperate need of a Saviour. Faith is a deep, abiding knowledge in the absolute truth of God's word. The very earth testifies to the evidence of reality of God. Even people groups who have not heard the gospel recognize that there is a higher being and they seek to worship that higher authority, seeking favor from him/her/it. Those who make a conscious and willful decision to turn away from God are walking blindly by faith in something they cannot see or feel or comprehend. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Our faith in God is a direct result of someone telling us the good news of Jesus Christ. It is not a blind faith, but an enduring and secure faith in the eternal rightness of belief in absolute truth. When the Bible says we have faith in the "evidence in things not seen," that is directly preceded by the statement that "faith is the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). Substance here means evidence, meaning it can and has been proven. Faith is not blind. Faith is the accumulation of over 6,000 years of evidence of the existence of almighty God. In other words, faith in Jesus Christ is backed up by more research, data, review, and eye-witness accounts than anything else, ever.

Some say faith and research are incompatible and cannot coexist. Finding balance at the intersection of research and faith is a personal quest. The benefits of research cannot be fully realized without the benefit of faith in almighty God. Many researchers do indeed conduct thorough and resourceful research without benefit of a personal Christian faith. Many non-Christian educators, psychologists, and healthcare professionals are able to put that research into practice, and with good results. The benefit in the application of research through faith imparts wisdom in the manner in which that research is utilized. And that wisdom comes only through faith in almighty God.

Some say that because of their faith in Jesus Christ, they are intimidated by research conducted by non-Christians. There is definite benefit to humane research in varied fields. We will often find that research that is in opposition to faith in Jesus Christ will ultimately be revealed as fallacy. As such, I am not at all intimidated by research and see further research in many subjects to simply solidify the absolute truth of God’s Word. In accepting solid and valid research from sources that do not share our faith, we are given the opportunity to show others the love of Christ and lead those researchers to understanding of truth.

And as is often the case with academic writing, it can be a little dull. Feel free to comment, agree, or disagree. Your opinion is welcome!