Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rest in peace, Skidboot

Skidboot--"part blue heeler, part gift from God"--has gone to his reward at the age of fourteen. I know two cattle dogs as fine as Skidboot (OK, Typist, we'll make it three) but none finer--or smarter. He was an exemplar of this wonderful breed. Farewell, good boy.

Update:Thanks for your kind sympathy...unfortunately for me, Skidboot was not MY dog. I could never have trained this marvelous dog the way his human, David Hartwig, did. Take a look at this amazing video clip.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kitten update

Grisi's babies are nearly seven weeks old, and they are beautiful. As it turned out, four are black and one is a gray tabby like mom. (The little one's fur was so sparse at first, we thought he/she would be gray.) Just before their eyes began to open, she moved them off the patio, and it was nearly three weeks before we saw them again! We moved them back where we could have access to them, and this time she let them stay.

We have done our best to handle them every day and try to socialize them, but several of them are still pretty skittish. We have no way to contain them on the patio, and their favorite hiding place is behind the Coke machine! Since we have not been able to find homes for them, we reluctantly decided that the best thing would be to go ahead and take them to an excellent shelter while they are still young enough for the shelter behaviorists to work with them in a controlled setting and improve their social skills! A few tears were shed around the office this morning when my coworker D. and I managed to corral them in a kitten carrier--and off they went.

Well, D. returned with all five kittens and the report that they are still too small for the shelter to accept them, and probably need another two weeks before they are big enough to go there. Everyone in our office has pets already, but D. is going to foster three of them and my supervisor (who I saw wiping away a tear this morning) is going to foster the other two. What do you bet those foster homes turn into forever homes?

And now our next step is to have Grisi spayed! Think of all the band candy, Girl Scout cookies, and Little League raffle tickets you've had to buy at work over the years. Has anyone in your church or office ever come around collecting for the Kitty Surgery Fund??

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Christmas in March, with love

The Scientist and I have an old friend whom I'll call Millie. For many years, she ran the department where the Scientist used to work at Famous Teaching Hospital. Despite some ongoing physical challenges (nobody would ever call her disabled), she kept that place organized and running. She always knew who to call to get things done. She had no qualms about telling anyone how the cow ate the cabbage, and she affectionately referred to her boss, a sometimes-imperious pathologist, as "the old heifer". The doctors loved and feared her, and her word was law.

When Millie and her good friend Betty Jo retired several years ago, they built a comfortable home in a nearby retirement community, relaxed, and continued to enjoy life. We tended to get together with them around Christmas time and maybe one other time during the year, with occasional phone calls in between. Then shortly before this past Christmas we learned that Millie had been diagnosed with an advanced malignancy, had had extensive surgery, and had a long road of treatment ahead. When we made our usual Christmas visit, bearing the homemade bread and candy they enjoyed, we found both ladies tired but upbeat. However, Millie was quite disappointed that for the first time in sixteen years, I had not made my mother's delicious but highly labor-intensive fruitcake cookies. (Advent was so busy that I had given myself permission to forgo my usual baking frenzy.)

This week I came home one evening to find a phone message from Millie. She thanked us for a card we had sent, and informed us that for various medical and personal reasons, she was discontinuing treatment and had begun hospice care at home. When the Scientist spoke with her later, she sounded weak but was still her matter-of-fact self. When he asked if we could bring her and Betty Jo some homemade bread this weekend, she told him that would be nice, but that she would really like some of those fruitcake cookies!

Now where was I going to find that wierd red and green "fruitcake mix" in March? On a hunch I called the Scientist's mom, since she usually has whatever we need...and lo and behold, she had a 1-pound tub of the stuff in her freezer! This afternoon I came home from a combination choir rehearsal and spring work day at church, and spent about three hours making seven dozen fruitcake cookies. Our own pecans that we shelled last fall were chopped, all the fruits and nuts were dumped into my mom's old Dutch oven along with the batter, and the cookies were mixed the only way they can be--by plunging both hands into the whole shebang and kneading. They bake low and slow--250 degrees for an hour, and there are so many that they have to bake in two batches. The fragrance and flavor are wonderful.

The Scientist will bake bread tonight, and we'll take all of this good stuff to our friends tomorrow. There's nothing morbid about Millie--she is facing her mortality in the same down-to-earth, straightforward way she handles everything else. She did urge the Scientist to keep in touch with Betty Jo "after I join the angels." We are grateful for these friends and hope we will bring cheer and comfort to them tomorrow.

Outside, it's 77 degrees; the Indica azaleas are blooming and the baby peaches are the size of my thumbnail. Inside, it must be December, because the kitchen smells like Christmas.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Five: Whatcha doin'?

Well, the day is half over, and here are the ones I've already done:

1. Exercised. My favorite trainer was there this morning, which was nice, and I indulged in a cafe mocha from my favorite coffee shop after I was finished. (No whipped cream, though! So maybe I did a little more than break even on the caloric exchange.)

2. Drove to our agency's sheltered workshop to meet with a client who is having some roommate problems. Counseling with a person with a cognitive impairment requires a completely different skill set from counseling with a neurotypical person. You have to be very concrete--no metaphors, which is hard for me. You have to be prepared to go over the same ground numerous times. Some of my clients have such a short attention span that they can only hang with me for about 20 minutes, so I have to try to stay focused myself and make those 20 minutes count. I enjoy it, but it's tough work.

3. Met a group of coworkers at a new seafood restaurant (great shrimp!) in honor of our department manager's birthday. To my surprise, they picked up my tab too, making it more of a "March birthdays" lunch. That was nice.

4. Grocery shopping, one of my usual Friday pursuits, along with:

5. Laundry (still in progress).

I try not to work on Fridays, so (2) was more of a "have-to" than a "want-to".

More "have-tos" on the horizon, alas; paying bills and (sigh) organizing my Schedule C info...We have a Family Promise overnight tonight, but we won't be taking Amie this time...Another solitary Saturday is on the horizon, so at least I have plenty to keep me busy...Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More spring babies

About a block from our church is a small lake in the midst of a residential area. A number of ducks and geese live there, and nesting season has begun. This mama waddled all the way to the church, seeking a secluded corner to lay her eggs. I pray that she and her eggs will be undisturbed. I'm told that a duck made a nest in this same spot last year, so perhaps it will work out OK.

Today's Fun Fact: Muscovy duck eggs are incubated for 35 days. So we should have some little ducks shortly before Easter!

Friday, March 09, 2007

In confidence

Cheesehead's recent posts about members of a covenant group who betrayed her confidence have had me thinking about confidentiality and betrayal--especially within the church. I deal with confidential matters for a living, so perhaps I'm a bit more tuned into this issue than some. But what part of THIS IS CONFIDENTIAL don't people understand??

Again, this may be because of my line of work, but over the years I've seen much greater breaches of confidentiality among church members than I have seen among colleagues and other friends. I've known of deacons who provided "encouragement" when people within their flock were in crisis--and later had to be admonished because of their big mouths!

After my first miscarriage, some people at church (not the church we attend now) sent cards, and others gave us hugs and words of sympathy. Appropriate, except...the only people we had told were our pastor and his wife! The worst was when a well-meaning (I guess) but completely clueless woman introduced us to another couple with the cheerful comment, "They lost their baby too." O. M. G. Nice to meet you.

Hey! Everybody! If I tell you something is confidential, that means Don't. Tell. Anybody. Ever.
Got that?

OK, on to more trivial matters.

Monday, March 05, 2007

O Jerusalem!

Sorry I'm a day late, but I thought you might like to see this anyway. This is the best image I could find of a mosaic from Dominus Flevit ("the Lord wept") chapel, which is on the Mount of Olives. It is below a large window that looks out over the city. The inscription around the hen is the Latin text of Luke 13:34, and I am told that right across the bottom it says in Latin, YOU WERE NOT WILLING. Our pastor, who saw this several years ago and told us about it from the pulpit on Sunday, says that the hen looks like she would spit fire at anyone who tried to get to those chicks.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Five: Artsy Crafty

From Reverendmother:

During Lent here at Suburban Presbyterian Church, we are exploring the creative and liturgical arts, with classes and speakers dealing with storytelling, iconography, dance, visual art, writing, and so on. The theme is "A Beautiful Thing," inspired by the story of the woman anointing Jesus and his declaration that "She has done a beautiful thing for me." (Mark 14, NIV)

We are working on the notion that everything we do can be considered a beautiful thing--a creative offering to God--whether it's gardening or scrapbooking or accounting or sorting clothes at the clothes closet or child-rearing. And so:

1. Would you call yourself "creative"? Why or why not?

In a way, I suppose. I have never demonstrated much talent for the visual arts--over the years I've tried drawing, painting, weaving, and batik, and although I enjoy them (especially the fiber arts), it just ain't there. But I love to cook and bake, and am very good at adding and subtracting from recipes just to see what happens. More often than not, something delicious happens. I love to putter around in the kitchen. I also like to write, but I have to write so much in my work that I don't take the time or the discipline to write for my own pleasure regularly, as you may have noticed.

My mother was a gifted gardener; when I was a child, people would come to the door and ask for permission to go into our back yard to admire her handiwork. When we first moved into this house, less than a year after her death, I planted all sorts of things and tended them lovingly, but gardening is one of the things that work has crowded out over the years. I remember planting the pyracantha that is now espaliered along the side of our garage, with my father standing nearby, watching me with a wistful smile.

2. Share a creative or artistic pursuit you currently do that you'd like to develop further.

I love to sing, and have never taken voice lessons. I keep telling myself I'm going to do that, or--a long-term dream--that I'm going to buy a secondhand piano and start playing again. I love dancing, and stuff like jazzercise, and would like to take a jazz dance class. I actually have already started looking into that.

3. Share a creative or artistic pursuit you have never done but would like to try.

If there were an infinite number of days in the week and weeks in the year, I think I would enjoy getting into community theater. I haven't been on stage since college, and I think I would enjoy acting in a non-competitive, fun context.

4. Complete this sentence: "I am in awe of people who can _____________."

I am in awe of people who can sew well and who find joy and satisfaction in doing it. (That would be you, Mindy.) My sewing career ended before it began. I made a dress in eighth grade Home Ec, and when we held our fashion show for the student body, my hem fell out while I was proudly walking across the front of several hundred junior high kids...imagine the rest...Maybe that's why I went into psychology.

5. Share about a person who has encouraged your creativity, who has "called you to your best self." (I'm pretty sure that's from the Gospel of Oprah.

For the past twenty-five years, the Scientist has encouraged me in everything I've attempted, has listened to all of my ideas, has never said "that's dumb," has never laughed at me. Everyone should be so blessed.

P.S. Go me, it's my birthday! Great Italian food and a trip to the MFAH are on the horizon!