Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Confessions of a foster dog mom

Meet Homer -- this picture was taken shortly after I picked him up from a city shelter in a nearby suburb:


Yep, Homer's a pit bull. And yep, he shatters any negative stereotype you might have of pit bulls. Gentle, even-tempered, downright sweet and affectionate.

Homer was never going to be ours. It's just not practical for us to keep three large dogs for the long term (we learned that when we provided a temporary home for a friend's big 7-month-old pup earlier this year). I was only getting Homer out of the place where he had run out of time, in the worst way.

He settled right in here, though. Tuesday and The Boy were decent hosts, even with The Boy's occasional neurotic fits in Homer's direction.


He only stayed two nights at our house, but I have tons of pictures of him cuddling with The Alpha. And a few of him hanging out with me:


Homer is a Very Good Boy, a Very Sweet Boy. And, I think, a Very Cute Boy (though The Alpha admits he disagrees with me on that point).

The next person in the rescue/placement process picked him up this morning. I cried.

Yes, it was only a two-day, two-night stay. I know this. Honestly, I didn't expect him to be so darn endearing. I thought it would be easier to let him pass on through this way.

A friend sent me a message while Homer was at our house: "You're my doggy connection. FB friend from HS is moving back to TX from CT in the spring and wants a big dog. I told her I know the Harriet Tubman of big dogs. :)"

I'll be happy to send leads to my friend's friend. I may shy away from future dog-fostering, though.

I'm not sure I'm strong enough for all the letting go.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Because it's been too long since I blogged.

Check out these paper-collage portraits my friend J made of my The Boy and my Tueserday:


If you look closely, you can see that The Boy's nose paper has stars embossed on it. It just seems right that he has a starry nose. Also, the white blaze has kind of a worn gray wood-grain that really looks like the blend of white and blue in his fur. Notice, too, how she got his Bentley mark a little off-center, just like the real one.



And this one just captures the whimsy of Teh Tueser, we think. "I'm cute, I know it, and I may or may not listen to anything you say. Oh, and food? Really, some food please? I'm starving."

Other items of note:
- The Alpha and I weren't going to get each other Christmas presents this year. Then the clothes washer busted, in spectacular fashion, this weekend. Our Christmas gift was delivered today and has already done several loads of laundry for us.
- We are very glad we went with the wood-look porcelain tile in the kitchen, laundry room, dining room, and entryway during this summer's remodel. All four of those rooms were hit by the Great Washer Failure of Aught-Nine, and if we'd chosen actual wood, the ShopVac wouldn't have been the only thing needed for clean-up.
- Got to see/hear my nephew as part of my alma mater's choir last week. I sang 36 of those Candlelight Carol services in my four years as a student. Damn shame they've cut the tour portion so short now (two stops a tour hardly makes) that he will only get to sing 24 of them. Yeah, I'm old. "In my day, we did five tour stops in four days! Count 'em! And get off my lawn."
- Christmas Music Extravaganza day is over. *Contented sigh* The podcast is online, too. If you want a link and I haven't sent you one already, let me know in the comments.
- I wondered how it would go, really, but I'm pleased to report that I'm still completely happy with my choice to not put up a Christmas tree this year. *Contented sigh*
- On tap for final-week-of-the-year activities: Sort through back bedroom contents for donating, listing, recycling, trashing, keeping. Oh, and the vintage 1978 harvest gold range hood and cooktop are still in the patio. Those need to find a new home, too.
- Time for bed.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Best. Wedding. Ever.

At least, the best wedding I've ever attended, including my own.

Lovely Niece and -- ooh, should I give him a blog name? Let's see... oh, maybe later -- he who shall be known in the short-term as New Nephew made it official last weekend. The bride was simply gorgeous... here she is an hour or so before the ceremony, held at our home church:


No photos during the event itself -- it was a thoughtfully planned and meaningful worship service, and even if I'd wanted to take pics, I was kinda busy with singing. It was a great honor to have that role in the event. (My 19-year-old nephew walked by me afterward with his girlfriend and ordered, "You're singing at my wedding." So I take that as a good sign. Also, one of my mother's best friends was there, and she said I sound like my mom did. Loved hearing that.)

The bride and groom included sweet individual touches in memory of several people. Candles were lighted in the official remembrance of six people listed in the program, but most people probably weren't aware that the bride's bouquet included a single sunflower in memory of her little sister; that her grandmother's Bible lay on the altar; and that the groom was wearing his grandfather's boots -- the ones worn to walk the groom's mother down the aisle at his parents' wedding.

One of our hometown national park's renovated bath houses made a great reception site, as it's now an art museum -- an elegant setting for a joyful evening. Here are Lovely Niece and New Nephew during their first dance:


The DJ did a nice job of keeping things understated and elegant as far as the music mix was concerned. But a few hours before the wedding, we managed to arrange a little musical surprise for the groom.

You see... Last year, after my oldest nephew's wedding, The Alpha and I met up with Lovely Niece and he who was to become New Nephew, plus another couple who were to become their honor attendants, at a local establishment featuring German cuisine. We walked in to find a tuba/accordion duo onstage. I don't remember exactly what they were playing when we arrived, but their repertoire included a mix of genres, all polkafied. Before we even got to our table, New Nephew stopped, pointed, and announced, "I want them to play at my wedding!"

That's when it all started. It took more than a year to bring the plan to fruition.

After the engagement was announced this summer, planning rolled into high gear, and we kept teasing Lovely Niece and New Nephew about hiring the band for their reception. I became a Fan of The Itinerant Locals on Spacehook. We even checked to make sure they would indeed be local, not itinerant, on the date in question. They were, and their gig that evening ended at 9:00. But we didn't book them. We weren't sure how long the reception would run, and the bride and groom had decided on a DJ, after all. Wouldn't want to step on any toes.

Then, a few hours before the wedding, Lovely Niece was in the Bride's Room of the church, having her makeup done, and I was sitting nearby, checking Spacehook on my iPhone to pass the time. Guess who popped onto the screen with a status update? Yes, our favorite polka duo was promoting their 7 to 9 p.m. gig at the Brau Haus. Two blocks from the reception location.

I informed Lovely Niece of this opportunity. Should I go for it? As a special surprise for the man who would by then be her husband? She gave me the nod.

Via the comment field on the status update, I asked the Locals if they'd like to stop by a wedding afterwards. Their response was enthusiastic: "We'll have the kids with us, but we are game--that sounds like fun. We love weddings! Kids ok? 9:30ish ok? Just go through the front door?" A couple more exchanges, and we had secured a visit from the entire family.


When they walked in, New Nephew's jaw hit the floor. At that moment, The Alpha and I officially sealed our status as The Cool Aunt and Uncle. At one point he was hollering at us, "I love y'all SO MUCH!"

I leave you with a selection of video clips. My only regret is that I didn't have the camera set on high resolution.

video


video

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Five Do Nothing Edition

Over at RevGalBlogPals, Sally writes:

I am reading a wonderful little book for Advent. Its title: Do Nothing, Christmas is Coming!

So this week's Friday Five is simple. List five things you won't be doing to prepare for Christmas.

1. We are pretty sure we're going to skip putting up the tree this time around. I haven't been too excited about it for several years now, and it feels like such an unnecessary chore.

2. No other decorations, either -- other than the gigantic Advent wreath that's already in the front yard.

3. No aimless shopping. We're pretty good at having an idea of what we're going to buy for a person before we go looking for it, thereby minimizing our time lost on attention to retail. Also, we are donating to organizations like Nothing But Nets, Heifer International, and Arkansas Rice Depot as part of our gifts to family members.

4. No cooking special foods. We always eat way too much when we go to visit family during the holidays, so there's no need to go overboard here at home. (Besides, we got sent home from Thanksgiving with peanut brittle and fudge, and I suspect there will be something else to take with us after Christmas.)

5. I will not be one of the people insisting that this is "the most wonderful time of the year" and that everyone should be happy. I'm attending a funeral tomorrow for the husband of a friend. I'm singing at the Blue Christmas worship service our church is offering in a couple of weeks. I'm praying for those dealing with loss and uncertainty in the face of forced joy.

Bonus: Things I will be doing include obsessing about musical obligations (not the Blue Christmas one, but the other stuff that's more complicated), traveling, and being intentional about keeping my stress level down in the middle of it all. (I have a massage scheduled for this evening.)

Also, some time this weekend I'm going to blog about last weekend's wonderful wedding of my niece and nephew-in-law!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday night randomosity

...Here's a pic I took of The Boy earlier today. He was all curled up on the couch, on his dog blanket, and he actually let me wrap it up around him.


...This week is the countdown to Lovely Niece's wedding. I have yet to find out exactly when the pianist wants me there for vocal rehearsal in advance of wedding rehearsal proper, but I am happily at Lovely Niece's disposal for the better part of two days, so I'll be there when I'm told.

...My dad is part of a clinical study for cancer treatment now. He was diagnosed about 11 years ago, and it's starting to resist methods that have worked for a while. So my side of the family's Thanksgiving supper isn't an organized event this year, because he and his wife will be driving back from Amazing Cancer Center to Land of Our Roots that day. It's the first of his bi-weekly trips relating to this study. I'm hoping they don't get too road-weary in the coming months, and that he's not on the stinkin' placebo, which is a possibility.

...Despite all the stress surrounding this (and pretty much every) wedding, I'm really looking forward to seeing Lovely Niece give me my first Nephew-in-Law on Saturday. They've been together for about 8 years. It's time. I also love that she has an appreciation for liturgy, and that she and her groom are both clear that this ceremony is worship, and follows the order thereof.

...The sanctuary in Hometown Church will already be decorated for Advent, which begins the morning after the wedding. We ended Worship Committee meeting tonight by preparing our own sanctuary for Advent. I felt a bit younger climbing up the ladder to add the crown atop the Chrismon tree. (I don't enjoy decorating my tree anymore. Haven't for years. I just see it as a hassle these days.)

...I just finished my supper: One bottle of Newcastle. (No, that's not at all a normal supper for me.)

...I've known for some time that my dogs have it better than a lot of people, but I received reinforcement of that knowledge this afternoon when I upgraded The Boy's bed to the same kind we just bought for Tuesday (there was some coveting action going on). First-world guilt, served up right here.

...There's something else I want to blog, but I don't know what it is. There's a good chance it could be something unbloggable anyway, so I'm just going to leave it alone for now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th Five

Over at RevGalBlogPals, Sophia writes:

The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή) (meaning Friday), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς) (meaning thirteen), attached to phobía (φοβία) (meaning fear). The term triskaidekaphobia derives from the Greek words "tris", meaning 'three', "kai", meaning 'and', and "deka", meaning 'ten'. the whole word means three and ten. The word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953.
(Wikipedia)

1. How is this Friday the 13th looking for you? It's looking okay... so far... (cue the creepy music!). I'm working from home, and I need to make another specimen delivery to the vet on behalf of Tuesday and her problem. Might take her in, too, just because she lived there before we adopted her and they love seeing her.

2. Have you ever had anything unlucky happen on Friday the 13th? Not that I can remember at the moment.

3. Did your family of origin embrace or scorn superstitions? Mostly scorned them. My brother is a 13th-of-the-month baby, turned 13 on Friday the 13th, and considered it his lucky day.

4. Are there any unique or amusing ones from your family, region, or ethnic background? When I worked at a flower shop in college, I arrived at the store one morning while my boss was nibbling on a donut. I didn't think anything of it; she often ate breakfast there. But as she threw away the napkin she said, "Okay, now I've had breakfast so I can tell you about my dream." Before I heard her account of the strange dream, I made her explain what she meant. Turns out there was a superstition I hadn't heard of before: If you tell someone about your dream before breakfast, it will come true. Her dream had been bizarre and she didn't want it to happen in real life. The funniest thing about this one: I now tend to wait until after breakfast to tell anyone about my dreams!

5. Do you love or hate horror movies like "Friday the 13th"? I can do without them. I enjoy a suspenseful movie, but don't really care for the gore of the horror genre.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oooh, they gave me one again!

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and I had a lot going on, so I forgot to share my big birthday joy:

I got another goat!!!

Yes, once again, my wonderful husband's wonderful parents got me a goat for my birthday. They got it from Heifer.org's online gift catalog, which has this to say about it:

Goats Are Great for Families

The gift of a dairy goat represents a lasting, meaningful way for you to help a little boy or girl on the other side of the world.

Goats can thrive in extreme climates and on poor, dry land by eating grass and leaves. The gift of a dairy goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day - a ton of milk a year. Extra milk can be sold or used to make cheese, butter or yogurt. Families learn to use goat manure to fertilize gardens.


There's probably somebody out there thinking, "But hey, your birthday was your birthday! Why did you want a goat?" Well, I've wanted one for years, and when I finally got one last year, it was so cool that I wanted another one. (And don't think for a minute that I'm the least bit underprivileged in my birthday haul: The Alpha got me a Phone with an i in front of it.)

If you're looking for a way to honor someone with a different kind of Christmas gift this year, this is just one of many ideas out there. As we're reminding people at worship during November and December, "Christmas is not your birthday. So instead of giving to each other, or thinking about what we want, why not give to the One whose birthday it is?"

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Five: What's New?

Over at RevGalBlogPals, Songbird writes:

There's a new baby on my street, a double PK whose Mom and Dad are Methodist pastors and church planters [in the Small World department: I know these pastors, too! Congratulations, S and A!]. I'm hoping to go over and meet her today. I love new babies, the way they smell and their sweet little fingers and toes. Little K has me thinking about all the new things that please us with their shiny freshness.

Please share with us five things you like *especially* when they are new.

1. Dogs -- I love dogs of all ages, but puppies who I am not going to take home with me are especially cute, and great for cuddling and playing. Having adopted three dogs now, I've decided that almost-grown or full-out adult adoption is probably the way to go for us (not that I would give up the memories of raising our tiny baby Cub!), but that doesn't make new babydogs any less appealing.

2. Books -- which is a problem, because I haven't read many of the ones already in my possession! I've become really careful about buying new books, because I need to read those others first.

3. Cars -- they're nice and clean and shiny and pretty and good-smelling and more fuel-efficient, if I'm going to get excited about them... and in the case of the last one we bought, paid for, in full, up front!

4. Cookies -- nothing quite like a fresh-baked cookie, eaten while it's still warm from the oven. Which reminds me, I have some dough in the freezer...

5. Kitchens -- specifically, our kitchen. I chronicled the remodeling saga on this blog earlier this year. We're enjoying it very much, but now that it's a few months old and we're used to it, keeping the clutter of our lives out of the way is becoming more of a challenge.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in brief

Okay, we confess that we totally lifted this idea from over here, but The Alpha was pretty pleased at how his first attempt at creepy candy apples turned out:


Sticks collected from the yard (and washed, yes) are way better than the ones that belong in popsicles.

Speaking of the yard:



And, the zombie gravedigger was such a hit in '08, he came back again this year:



In addition to trick-or-treaters, several friends came, and it was good seeing them all. It was also good to have their help hauling the extremely heavy wrought-iron fencing around to the backyard after the evening's festivities were over.

There are other pics, too, but it's time for me to get ready for bed. So there.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Update on Tueser, and extras

  • Tuesday is doing fine. Still using the lampshade collar to keep her from licking herself raw, but when we're around and can observe her, we let her go without it. As we tell her: "It's not that we don't trust you, girl, it's just that we don't trust you."
  • Had a college buddy send me positive feedback on my tithing rant and its more nuanced revision. Coolness.
  • Went to El Paso earlier this week for a meeting. Glad that the flight crew of a certain favorite and way-fun airline didn't notice it was my birthday. I've seen them give someone a cake made of a toilet paper roll and drink stirrers.
  • A friend of mine is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame these days. I knew him when...
  • There's a pumpkin-carving contest at work tomorrow. Wondering how that'll turn out. Maybe I should take the camera.
  • T-minus one month until Wonderful Niece M adds a Wonderful Nephew-in-Law to our family. Their pianist canceled, so I don't know who's accompanying me, but capable people are on it, so I'm sure it'll be fine. Still, stress level is pretty high right now. But her mom finally found our mom's Bible, which I handed down to M in 1996. It is to be prominently placed at the wedding (my mom's three daughters carried it under their flowers; due to the structure of bouquets these days, M is planning to place it on the altar or another honored location in her Grammy's memory).
  • It's my bedtime.
  • G'night!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dog-intensive day

Our Tuesday girl has a severe bladder infection. We took her into the vet this morning and they had to sedate her to drain her bladder and flush it out. Poor thing could barely walk from the lingering anesthesia when we took her home, so The Alpha carried all 66 pounds of her to the car, and in from the car to the couch, where she (and I) spent the afternoon:


She's on heavy antibiotics and something for pain now. She has started to eat again, but we aren't satisfied with the amount of water she's getting. We need to see that her urinary tract is functioning again. (Yes, I need to see my dog pee. I know how silly that might sound to some, but it's true.)

And today we also bade goodbye to Rusty, our guest dog for the past few weeks. Here we are, all together in the den between Tuesday's vet visit and Rusty's farewell:


He was a handful, yes, but he's really a good boy, with lots of potential to be a good grown-up dog. I hope once he gets settled in Corpus Christi he adjusts well and is the best dog he can be.

Now, off to see if I can convince the Tueser to drink some water.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Temporary Guest Dog

Less than a week ago, with about an hour's notice, we opened our home to Rusty, a 7-month-old pup. We're pretty sure he'll be around for the rest of the month while his family makes plans to relocate.



The Boy did not approve this decision.



But he seems to be adjusting well. I mean, look at what a gracious host he is.


He's even sharing the Dog Couch, complete with Dog Blanket.


The Boy and Tuesday (and the thumb-havers) will get a reprieve next weekend, when we'll have some human houseguests and will farm Rusty out to a family who adopted one of his litter-mates.



As you can see, The Boy's excited about that part.




I'm sure, eventually, this brief, two-part stay will have a happy ending.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend of adventure

This weekend the dogs coped quite well with extensive traveling and new experiences. ("Cope" is one of the commands they know, along with "sit," "stay," "lie down," etc. In context: "Good dogs can cope. Those are some good dogs who cope, yes they are.")

Zorra has graciously posted Tuesday's account of the weekend over on her blog, so I'll just share a couple of other things.

We tried a new canine restraint method for this trip:


The Alpha's car has these nifty metal loops in the cargo hold that can be used for tying things down... or for slip-knotting a leash that is attached to a dog's seat-belt harness. The dogs had freedom to stand, sit, lie down on their beds, and move around a bit, but couldn't get into the human-passenger area of the car. They got tangled up far less often than they do when they are similarly restrained in the back seat, and the back seat stayed largely free of fur. Which was a great help the next day, when we packed all four adults and two dogs in the car and headed to Galveston:



...where The Boy determined that the ocean was chasing him, coming at him like that over and over. He decided that the best course of action was to bite the waves, as shown above. At first glance, it might look like he's drinking sea water, but no. He's biting the foam at the leading edge of the wave. (We took him back off the beach and into town after just a few minutes, and he calmed down. Well, as calm as a blue heeler can get, anyway.)

A wonderful time was had by all. Again, for a more complete picture of the weekend, go visit Zorra's blog... we are home now, and there is laundry to be done before bed, so I'm stepping away from the keyboard.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Let's start a post and see what flows forth.

I just came upon Cheesehead's post from Thursday, and she has a point. Lots of us are blogging less frequently. It's not all for the same reasons, as you can see from her comments, but as the social media landscape continues to blow about like so much sand, it's true that different demands on our time, online or offline, play into it.

I haven't blogged in a week, and though for a while I had been much more consistent, I realize that consistency had a lot to do with the remodeling our kitchen, and not much about life in general.

One factor of holding back on blogging is that I'm not anonymous. So there's lots of stuff I could write, but won't.

Another one: My schedule has been packed. Have had to pay attention to other things on Friday mornings lately, which means skipping the RevGals' Friday Five. And yesterday was my first obligation-free Saturday in weeks. I spent it walking dogs, hanging out on the couch finishing up The Vicar of Dibley on DVD, taking supper to some friends, playing a round of Scrabble with The Alpha. Doing laundry in between all of those things, too. And yes, intentionally staying a little less connected to the Intarwebs than is typical.

I feel a list coming on. Category? Who needs one? I don't.

- Actually cooked a meal on Friday and had a friend over for lunch. She ate everything I put before her: salad, apricot chicken (a recipe shared by a neighbor just before I got married, which was a great help in my newlywedhood), even the brownie that turned out to be a bit under-done, despite my having checked it according to the instructions on the box. Such a gracious woman! (It helps if you really do like brownie batter, as we both do...)

- Introduced my friend's four-year-old to Alice Cooper and Vincent Price, via a DVD of The Muppet Show (really, she picked that disk herself... no kidding).

- Getting excited about going to visit Zorra and The Scientist soon.

- As instructed by my sweet niece, bugged said niece about getting an engagement photo made. Hasn't worked yet. My powers may be weakening.

- I get my temporary crown replaced with the real one in 2 days, and look forward to being able to once again chew on the right side of my mouth.

- Halloween decorations go up this Thursday. I'm trying to convince The Alpha to wait until someone else is here to help him before he hauls out the sections of wrought-iron fence. This is no prop. It's a real fence, given to us upon a friend's backyard reconfiguration last fall. It's freakishly heavy. I'll take more pics of the setup than I did last year.

- How are you?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tough talk update

For those who commented on my recent rant/post: Thought you might like to know that The Alpha and I pretty much purged the anger out of our stewardship talk. Not until 11:30 the night before, mind you, but we did do it. Here's the script, very similar to what we delivered at two worship services this morning.

ALPHA: During this focus on our membership vows in the context of stewardship, The Typist and I have been talking over what we might say.

TYPIST: Two words that have come to mind are Vision and Commitment. For us, they go hand in hand.

ALPHA: The best description of vision I’ve seen is something Bobby Kennedy said, which I’ll paraphrase: “Some people look at the way the world is and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of the way the world could be and ask ‘Why not?”

TYPIST: Commitment is deeper than just being involved. The difference between "involvement" and "commitment" is like a ham-and-egg breakfast: the chicken was "involved"; the pig was "committed."

ALPHA: Commitment without Vision is drudgery. Why are you committed, and what are you committed to, if there’s no vision behind it?

TYPIST: And Vision without Commitment is just wishful thinking. How are you going to help vision become reality if you’re not willing to work toward it?
In our culture we don’t make vows very often – but vows are to be taken seriously. When my parents had me baptized as an infant, they made vows before God and the church about how they would raise me. Through those vows, they made a commitment to a vision for my life, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I stand before you today.

ALPHA: When we got married, we took vows. In our 13 years of marriage, we’ve encountered situations where the words, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” mattered. We’re committed to each other, and to a common vision for our marriage, and are stronger for it.

TYPIST: We have vision beyond our own household, though. We have a vision that a family will have enough to eat. That’s why we’re committed to the Food Share ministry.

ALPHA: We have a vision that young people will grow strong in their own personal faith. That’s why we’re committed to the youth ministry.

TYPIST: We had a vision of a new, well-built, and welcoming facility. That’s why we’re committed to the Capital Campaign.

ALPHA: We have a vision of God’s people transforming the world by making disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s why we’re committed to uphold the church through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

TYPIST: There was a time when we didn’t take our membership vows quite as seriously. But when we arrived at here nine years ago, something changed. It was in this place that we, as a family, made our first real commitment to a community of faith. Our lives are sustained by the prayers we vowed to pray. Our presence here is a requirement for us: If we are in town and well enough to leave the house, we are here on Sunday morning. We made a vow to be here. And when things have been less than comfortable here, we’ve stayed committed, waiting to see what God’s vision would be for us in this place.

ALPHA: Vowing to uphold the church with our gifts has helped us grow in generosity and faith. If you’d told us ten years ago that we would be tithing by the time we hit our early thirties, we wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, several years ago, we began to work up to giving that 10 percent, and here we are. It’s like physical exercise; you have to start where you are, and be willing to work harder to reach a higher goal. Even incremental improvement is still improvement. Working at our giving has helped us grow spiritually.

TYPIST: Our service has taken many forms here: things like working with the youth, teaching Sunday school, serving as a member of the choir and of MorningSong, sticking it out through committee meetings. Less-noticeable things, too, like setting up and taking down tables and chairs, folding bulletins, and making sure the lights get turned off after classes.
Our faith community means so much to us, and we are thankful that this church has helped us become willing to stay committed to a vision higher than our own, and we joyfully renew that commitment at every opportunity.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh, teh cuteness.

I think that I need to make time very soon to go through all the pics I took of a certain sweet puppy girl nine years ago and submit any napping shots to this site.

Now, follow the link and start up with the "Awwwww"s.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tough talk

So, I volunteered us (The Alpha and me) to give a talk during our church's annual stewardship focus (for the uninitiated, that's the church version of the public television pledge drive). Our turn is one week from today.

Typically, people have been sharing what our faith community means to them, and maybe a little about giving.

The Alpha and I have strong opinions about what this faith community means to us. It means a great deal to us. We could have found various excuses or opportunities over the years to give up and walk away from it. Others have, but we haven't. That's not who we are.

The investments we make in this faith community mean a great deal to us, too. This is the place where we really began to understand that our lives and our money can make a positive difference in the world. That we really do have the power to help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. That it really is our job to do all those things.

I think where The Alpha and I tend to get bogged down, though, is that we notice all the ways in which we aren't, as a church community, living up to our potential. The average United Methodist gives less than 2 percent of his or her annual income. He and I realized years ago that we could do better than that, and started moving toward tithing -- giving 10 percent of our incomes. Now that we are tithing, it seems easy. It took years of working up to that goal to reach it, though. We want to encourage others to do the same... which is where the urge to rant begins:

We want to say, Seriously, y'all. Come. ON. Isn't our church community worth more than an average of 2 percent of our incomes? Don't y'all like having electricity in this pretty new building we moved into last year? Wouldn't you love it if the youth didn't come before you to beg for money for their mission trip? If we all gave up front, they wouldn't have to do that.

My personal favorite example of misplaced effort is the church auction
[which, this year, is the night before The Alpha and I are speaking to the congregation]. People spend a lot of time planning, gathering donations, and working really hard so we can essentially convince ourselves to give a few thousand more dollars to ourselves -- in the form of moving it from our own bank accounts to the church's account. What if all that time and work could be used on mission instead? If we all really took a hard look at where our money goes, we wouldn't need extra funds from a church auction, or a variety show, or a chili supper, or any other kind of fund raiser. Instead, we'd have the time we spend on those events freed up... to do more ministry!

As The Alpha likes to say, "This church has all the money it needs to carry out any number of ministries. The trick is getting it out of people's pockets."

Abundance, y'all. The vast majority of our congregation has it. There are people all around us who we could be reaching with the love of Christ if y'all would quit pretending you're poor when you come to church, but that you're rich when you go to the mall.
---

But I'm guessing all that shame would backfire on us.

I've got to quit fantasizing about grabbing people by the scruff of the neck, demanding to see last year's income tax statement, showing them how to calculate 10 percent of that number, and rearranging their checkbooks so it works out. That isn't our job.

That isn't our job. That isn't our job. That isn't our job. Really, it isn't. So we're not going to do it. It isn't our job.

Ideas for how to do what is our job, anyone?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another who's being missed this week.

Sweet Amie, who came to visit us this spring, has gone on to claim her golden tail. She was a darling girl, and I had the privilege of spending time with her on two occasions. Please keep Zorra and The Scientist in your prayers as they grieve.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Peace for Steve

After a long struggle, Steve Damm is at peace.

Please pray for Tyra, Cooper, and Katie as they grieve and give thanks for the amazing life of their beloved husband and daddy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Recharged/ recharging Friday Five

It's been way too long since I played the RevGals' Friday Five, and Sally's invitation today was just perfect for me, so here we go... Sally writes:

A few weeks ago my lap-top battery died, suddenly I found myself looking at a blank screen and was rather relieved to find that it was only the battery and not the whole computer that had failed. This morning a new battery arrived in the post, and suddenly I am mobile again!

After a week with what feels like wall to wall meetings, and Synod looming on the horizon for tomorrow I find myself pondering my own need to recharge my batteries. This afternoon Tim and I are setting off to explore the countryside around our new home, I always find that walking in the fresh air away from phones and e-mails recharges me. But that is not the only thing that restores my soul, so do some people, books, pieces of music etc....

So I wonder what/who gives you energy?

1. Is there a person who encourages and uplifts you, whose company you seek when you are feeling low? Just this week I sought out Mid-Life Rookie for that very reason. Thanks, friend.

2. How about a piece of music that either invigorates or relaxes you? Oh, this is almost too difficult to answer. I've been listening to a lot of Terri Hendrix lately. A couple of months ago she gave me permission to sing one of her songs in worship, so the band worked it up, and it fit really well with what our pastor was preaching. She's a wonderful musician, composer, and person.
But I'm thinking it's probably time for a change of pace in my listening habits -- even good stuff can get you in a rut. So today, right now (hang on a sec...), I'm pulling out some of my long-time musical comfort food: Billy Joel's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1. Ahhh.... Piano Man...

3. Which book of the Bible do you most readily turn to for refreshment and encouragement? Is there a particular story that brings you hope? While I have a few problems with Paul, he did write some spiritually-uplifting gems. Romans 8:28 comes to mind, as do verses 35-39 just a few sentences later.

4. A bracing walk or a cosy fireside? (Notice Sally's British spelling of "cozy." Lovely!) I think one, followed by the other, would be refreshing. (Unfortunately, there are storms in the forecast and the high today is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit where I live, so neither will be happening.)

5. Are you feeling refreshed and restored at the moment or in need of recharging, write a prayer or a prayer request to finish this weeks Friday Five.... Oh, am I ever in need of recharging! I realized a couple of days ago that I don't have a free Saturday until the end of the month. Friends are coming this weekend, and I'm looking forward to spending time with them, but the next two Saturdays are booked with church-nerd activities. I'd appreciate prayers for my energy level and a positive outlook.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Dog's Tale

It's been entirely too long since my last blog entry. But lots of stuff has been happening. Most blogworthy is the story of Bo the Rescue Dog.

It all started when I got a message from a fellow church member and animal person, on Thursday the 6th. There were several photos attached, including this one:


The message made it clear that this was Bo, a stray who had been picked up by Sulphur Springs Animal Control, and he was scheduled to be... well... gone, one way or another, on Friday the 7th.

Something about him got my attention. So I posted him on my profile in the social networking platform referred to herein as Tracelook and asked if anyone could help. I got several comments. Enough that the next morning, I called the animal control officer's number listed in the email, and sure enough, Bo was still there.

But, there was good news: There was someone who wanted to adopt him! In Houston. With a schedule that didn't permit her driving to Sulphur Springs to get him (a 300-mile trip, one-way). I told the animal control officer, who had totally fallen in love with Bo, that I'd see what I could do... and went back to Tracelook.

Several people (including RevGals from several different states) offered up prayer, and I'm pretty sure it worked... It couldn't have been much longer than 15 minutes before I had offers of a possible ride for Bo to the DFW area, someone willing to keep him for a few days if nobody else surfaced to fill that need, and a ride from the DFW area to Houston the following Thursday from a friend who was headed there anyway.

Within a few hours, each of those elements worked themselves into place. A former boyfriend of Susie's lives in Sulphur Springs and is as much of a sucker for animals as we are. He filled out Bo's adoption forms after work that day and drove him to Dallas. He and Susie made arrangements to meet Liz and Ken for a foster-family handoff. Liz kept him from Friday night until Thursday morning, quickly becoming attached and deciding that this fostering thing wasn't something she could do all the time (I don't blame her!).

Here's Bo in his temporary home, sitting with Ken and Angel (he's the little blurry one on the right):


...and here cuddling with Liz while Angel watches:


The following Monday I got to go meet sweet Bo at Liz and Ken's house. What a doll...


And on Thursday, Mary Brooke and Clayton picked him up and took him to his new home in Houston. Here MB (on the right) is leaves him with Vickie, his new mama (left):

Bo now has his own page on Tracelook and many people involved in his trip to Houston are keeping up with him. We're glad Vickie is sharing him with us in that small way.

Yes, social media's uses are limited. It's not the same as face-to-face relationships. But I'm mighty glad that in this case, it provided the framework for our impromptu Underpup Railroad, and we know one little dog has a happy home because of it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Finished kitchen!

Okay, it's all done! Now we just have to put up the window coverings, seal the granite, and move everything back in there... and I have to leave for work five minutes ago, so I'll quit writing and just post the pics:





Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Groutness.

The grout went in yesterday... a day's delay because it didn't dawn on anyone that we hadn't yet chosen the grout color. We wound up picking "Earth." Here it is.

... annnd, on the floor:


....annnd, in the dining room and foyer, too:


This afternoon The Alpha began sealing the grout, and I joined him when I got home from work. (Sealing the grout and hanging one light fixture are pretty much the only labor we ourselves have contributed to this process, beyond moving stuff out of the area. Why? So we can say, "It's Shake-n-Bake, and we helped...")

We have both coats of sealant over the laundry room and kitchen floor grout, and over the portion of the backsplash that will be covered by the microwave and range hood. The rest of the second coat will happen later. For now, this is enough. The pros can now install appliances and do paint touch-ups. I think there's still a chance this will all be finished tomorrow, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are some little things that don't wrap up until the weekend. I'm amazed at how many details are involved. (I haven't even told the full Tale of the Hinges on the blog. I'm not sure I want to; I think it took four attempts to get the proper cabinet door hinges... but dang, I gotta hand it to our contractor friend for his persistence on that point.)

So, I'm thinking I probably won't take more update photos until we have some furnishings back in the kitchen. Because it's really getting that close to being finished!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two sweeties

Well, Tuesday got a little less nervous when we had our special house guest for a few days. Apparently, house guests are good for dogs who aren't sure about kitchen remodeling.

Several times we found her hanging out in the guest bedroom, our niece's space for the extended weekend visit. But this pic is the two of them hanging out in the den, just a couple of hours before Meredith flew back to the Land of Our Roots. (The Boy seemed to appreciate M's presence, too, but he's generally more subtle with his affections.)

We found out that the timing for her return was serendipitous; while waiting at the airport she learned her mother was being admitted to the hospital for IV steroid treatments (stupid MS). Even while making some progress on wedding plans, she has been quite the advocate for her mom these last couple of days. This evening I was treated to The Tale of How We Are Finally Getting to Replace That Lame-Ass Neurologist. I'm eager to hear how Chapter 2 of that one turns out.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Stressed much?

Between several thunderstorms in the past week and the big remodeling project causing the reconfiguration of daily patterns around here, Tuesday has had a touch of nervous behavior.


Here she is earlier this week in the guest bathroom, one of her centrally-located hidey-holes. (Her top spot is The Alpha's side of the master bathroom, but she decided at some point that this one would do, too.)

There were more storms this morning while we were out for a late breakfast. The tile guy was here, and he let the dogs in from the patio because he could tell they didn't like being so close to the rain and thunder. Apparently they were content to just hang out in the den instead of stepping in his work, so I'm glad that went smoothly.

Today the old tile in the foyer was chipped away, and the dining room is now ready for tiling, too. Sunday, a day off. (It's Sunday. Seriously. Tile Guy offered to come, but we will wait. Rest time is important.) Monday, grout will go between the laundry room tiles so we can move our washer and dryer back into place a.s.a.p. The whole project -- well, except for us moving all our kitchen-related supplies back into the kitchen -- should be wrapped up on Wednesday. Two weeks, two days, I think. Not bad.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Floored.

There's no grout yet, and the floors of the foyer, dining room, and laundry room are yet to be done to match, but here's the new kitchen floor:


We think the porcelain does a great impression of wood.

Had a great time not being near a computer all day the last two days. We'll see if I repeat the feat tomorrow. Lovely niece and I have been making progress on wedding-related decisions. Yeah, I'm not gonna lie to you. It's great girly fun we're having here.

Rapid subject shift: Backyard farm report. The three of us split Unintentional Cantaloupe #1 this evening, and it was quite good. UC#2 fell off the vine this morning, looking near-perfect, so it's in the fridge now. (The seeds must've come from last year's compost, because we didn't plant any. And dang if they aren't working out better than they did last year, when we tried to grow them on purpose and the birds kept eating them.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Splish, (Back)splash

There's no grout yet, but every tile for the backsplash is in place.


Even the ones that will be hidden from view by the microwave and range hood:


Pretty nifty, huh?


Floor tiling begins tomorrow... we're really getting there!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Doors and hardware

We have our cabinet doors back!


And the hardware installed, for the most part:


The hinges have their own story. They were the third set purchased, because the first two sets wouldn't work, for different reasons. Contractor David had to drive all the way to Ft. Worth to find them. Which he did this afternoon.

And, also today, the vinyl disappeared from our floor! Tile work starts tomorrow.


Newly Engaged Niece arrived today, so I'm taking the rest of the week off work; I will divide my time between avoiding becoming an annoyance to the people working on my kitchen, and girl-centric stuff like going to bridal shops and Ikea and Container Store. (Among other things, I have to find a more stylish dog food bin to go in that pretty new kitchen.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Granite!


The granite countertops were installed today!


We decided to extend the peninsula an extra few inches out into the breakfast area, in case we ever want to put a couple of bar stools there.

We even got matching granite windowsills. (They really tie the room together... just like The Dude's rug.)



As you can see, the backsplash comes next.


Prep work for the tile will probably begin tomorrow. And our kitchen sink will soon be usable.

Our contractor hadn't had anyone use this granite color before (it's a variety of New Caledonia, if I remember correctly). We're pleased with it. The main countertop was installed in three pieces, but you really have to look hard to find the seams. The epoxy, which a co-worker had warned me about, turned out not to smell near as bad as the oil-based paint (so, no more backyard camping necessary).

It's starting to look like a kitchen again. Only not the one we had before. Which is refreshing.