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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye, 2016. You Were Unexpected.

I can't think of a better word. The weather returned to normal, but the Kansas wind blew plenty of change in with it.

I was promoted in an unexpected fashion. It's been a learning curve, but not as steep as, say, learning to drive. I dare to think it's gone fairly well.

I began the countdown to paying off my mortgage. It's never seemed more possible.

Life without Farmville created Bible study time, and I read the whole thing this year without skipping. I plan to focus on the New Testament in 2017. I've always preferred the Old Testament, so it's time to branch out.

The city code violation reminded me how much I like working in The Swamp, front or back. It got me in shape, it got me meeting my neighbors, and it got me a chipper/shredder that makes my heart sing and my compost pile grow.

I returned to church. It's been a while.

I was happy Trump won. I didn't expect it, I tried very hard to be OK with whatever would happen as God's will - permissive or directed - but I was pleased the election went that way. Donald is no saint by any stretch of the imagination, but he's way funnier than Hillary.

You would think losing four dear friends in seventeen days would be enough to make me curse this year, but it hasn't. God loaned them to me, and he took them back. I wish it hadn't been quite so one-after-the-other, but I don't know that any way would have been easier. I find myself embracing stoicism.

Despite the roller-coaster ride of stress that was 2016, I dare to face the new year with a sense of hope. Not because things can't get worse. They can always get worse. More that God has seen me this far, and I don't think he's going to leave me now. This may just be the year I lean into God's love instead of hairy-eyeballing it.

May the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, comfort you abundantly, both in what has passed and what is to come. May he comfort us all and bind us together by his Spirit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Empty Explanations

It's grown very quiet in the Turtle household. Caleb was my main talker, with an astounding variety of chirps, trills, squeaks, and yowls as running commentary. Sweetie panted all the time (thanks to her advancing years and thickening of heart and lungs) and occasionally barked at a rabbit outside. Simon complained about stuff. Toffee made all kinds of weird noises.

More than once, I considered making a recording of the sounds of the Turtle household. Not sure if I'm glad I didn't.

The remaining three only open their mouths to complain about lack of food. I should be happy about that.

Simon died of intestinal cancer. I'd known something was wrong with him since July. It just took that long to manifest. Sweetie died of lymphoma. She'd been getting weaker for a while, especially in her back legs, so when I felt the lumps in her throat, I knew. The last days were sudden, but the result was expected.

Caleb came out of left field. It now seems he was dead when I took him to the emergency vet that Saturday; we just didn't know it. The treatment that should have worked to flush out the toxins in his kidneys and restored him to stable health and maintenance didn't work on him. The vet suspects cancer was at the root. He was eight, and I'd planned a longer life together. He is the one I'm having the hardest time not being bitter about.

Toffee was my fault. I killed her because I couldn't live with her grief, and I couldn't find a solution for it after seventeen days. She was fifteen, stopped eating in October, and had to be coaxed back. She got better while Simon got worse. After Simon died, she started screaming at night as only a Siamese can scream, for hours at a time, with no obvious trigger or solution. My only weak defense is I truly thought that something physical was wrong with her, something that would take a while to find, like it did with Simon. Something terminal. Maybe I was right, but I'll never know, because she's dead.

I have never believed in killing an animal for convenience, any more than I believe in killing babies for convenience, and I regret the decision hourly. She's having her revenge, though, because she's haunting me. I see her at the table waiting to lick my breakfast bowl. Peering around the door into the kitchen. Sleeping near me or in my chair when I get up. Blinking at me from behind the curtain as I open it for the day. After twelve years of living here, her absence has riddled this house with holes.

I remember when she came, she stayed in the basement, terrified. She'd been traumatized by a Lhasa Apso in a foster home between living with mom and living with me. I knew I could either have a cat that lived in the basement, or I could have a cat I who lived with me, so I spent weeks digging her out of her hidey holes and bringing her upstairs to learn that it wasn't scary up here in the sunlight.

I now have a chair no one sits in, because only Sweetie sat there for nine years. I now have beds that no one uses because the remaining three no longer need to go "up" to get away from the crazy. No one meets me at the door like Caleb and Simon did, and no one says good-bye when I leave.

Stress is the cause, if you need a cause. Seven animals who do not get along cannot live in the same tiny space for eight years without consequences. The consequences are cancer, and kidney failure, and inconsolable grief. I wish someone would kill me, too, because I can't self-terminate.

The remaining three have noticed the absences. I don't know if they're talking amongst themselves or not, but I am walking on eggshells, afraid to make any move that might disrupt the current calm and send someone else into a death spiral. I would predict Skamper, except Caleb had no symptoms until he did. I'm frankly afraid to draw close to them, as if my attention will mark them out for annihilation.

It has been 19 days since the first death, and 2 days since Toffee. I'm only just starting to process some of it, in my dreams of all places. Long dead people are visiting me nightly, now that I can sleep more than an hour at a time.

I must adapt. I cannot be Toffee. I cannot live buried in grief or, worse, fearing the next death. Because there will be more death. That's how life works. None of us are getting out alive.

I hope Toffee will forgive me. I hope she is happy now, and her bad wiring has finally been repaired. I hope by writing this I will gain some peace in confession. I promise you, no one can judge me more harshly than I judge myself.

I'm sorry. I hate when people tell me their horror stories just because I have gone through something horrific. As if sharing their pain with me makes my pain less. Why would I feel better because you've also had trouble? What kind of monster do you think I am to rejoice in your grief? Maybe this is one of those normal people things I don't get.

Anyway, thanks for listening. Despise me if you want. I have no defense.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Toffee Turtle

My heart is filled with silence. My friend stopped running today.
Matt 2:18 

Friday, December 23, 2016


When people of good heart see someone in pain, they want to do something to help. They want to lend support, bring meals, give hugs or chocolate or both. They want to make the pain stop.

I wish to thank all my friends, family and co-workers - for thinking of me, for praying for me and mine, and for wanting to help.

Like Little Brother, I will repel your advances. I cannot be cuddled. I cannot be gifted out of grief. I will accept chocolate for later, but I have no stomach for it now. I cannot talk about this with you right now. I cannot cry in front of you.

I know this is not typical. Most people seem to find comfort in other people. I assume this is why they marry and have families.

Friendship has a shape. It has weight. It displaces volume. When a friend is ripped away, a hole is left. Nothing but that friend fits that hole. Other friends can gather close and press against that hole, but they don't fill it.

Grief is the process of transferring the shape that used to walk across the bed into a shape that walks across the heart only, until we all meet again on the Last Day.

I am not despairing. I am not contemplating self-harm. I am not cursing God. I am missing my friends.

Thank God grief, even intense grief, cannot be sustained. I will have periods of distress and periods of calm, and one will grow shorter while the other grows longer. Grief comes in like the tide, but it rolls out again, too.

Thank you all for your love. I value it. If you must do something, show love to each other all the more. You never know when a hole will come.

Keep the faith.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Caleb Turtle

My heart is filled with silence. My best friend stopped running today. 

Job 1:21 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


That's my life this year. Waiting.

Waiting to figure out what was wrong with Simon. Waiting for the election with the same hyper-alertness I usually reserve for severe weather outbreak days. Waiting for information on Second Dad. Waiting for Sweetie's fatty tumors to turn malignant.

The waiting is over for those issues, except for Second Dad, but that has turned into waiting with treatments.

Now, waiting for Caleb to heal or die.

Those are the choices, really. Because if his medical condition was kidney infection triggered by the stress of losing housemates and a grieving human, I have four other potential patients living in this house, and I cannot afford emergency or long-term treatment for all of them.

So I wait for enough time to pass to get a clear blood test to confirm kidney infection vs disease. I wait for Caleb to decide what food he will eat, and I wait to see if he can keep it down. I wait for him to pee normally, and I wait for him to stop peeing and require further medical intervention. I choose to wait, and I wait to choose.

I wait for Toffee to either stop screaming at two hour intervals all night or for it to happen long enough that I kill her because sleep deprivation has deprived me of all reason. There is no way to muffle a yowling Siamese in an 823 square foot house.

I wait for Skamper to fall ill, since he is the one who should be having bladder problems. I can't afford it if he does, so I'm basically waiting for him to die, too.

This is an extremely whiny post, and more than a little self-pitying. I apologize. I hope by writing it down, I remove its power over me.

I am not a fighter. If God wants to remove my cats, I can't stop him, and I won't try anymore. I could be down to two by Spring.

I am currently waiting for a Feliway multi-cat stress-reducing pheromone dispenser to arrive. Then I must wait to see if it works.

Dear God, let it work.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sweetie Turtle

My heart is filled with silence. My friend stopped running today. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Aslan's Country

I knew Simon was unwell. I didn't realize how much of our lives were Simon-focused this year.

The house is quiet, but it is a peaceful quiet (except when Skamper is flexing his new Chief Noodlehead muscles). No vulturing. No crying for food that won't be eaten. No open door escape attempts. No multiple nightly feedings. No straining to hear the warning growls that presage a dangerous cat fight. No charting of food that stays down and food that doesn't.

We had a good last day. I'm grateful we gave him anesthetic before the last shot. While we waited for the anesthetic to take effect, the vet asked, "isn't this the one you always have a story about?" Yes. Yes, he is. Even his last visit was a story. His nerves kept firing for a while, and my vet said he could have been the one in a thousand cats that has a seizure had he not been asleep. It would have been just like him to cause trouble, so I'm glad we didn't have to go through that.

It occurred to me that Simon and I are much like Reepicheep and Lucy. I've always wanted to cuddle with him, but his natural dignity and independence simply wouldn't allow it. He's a warrior who protects the weak and puts the bully in his place. Perhaps his exploration of every opening was a lifelong search for the door to Aslan's country.

I see him there, vulturing at the gate, inspecting the newcomers and pointing the way inward and upward. Chatting up the ladies and sizing up the gentlemen as he waits for his friends to arrive.

Good journey, Little Brother. See you on the other side.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Simon Theodore Turtle

My heart is filled with silence. My friend stopped running today.

2 Samuel 12:23

My Simon

One thing Timmi taught me is just because I can doesn't mean I should. Yes, Ian Malcolm taught me that about cloning dinosaurs, but Timmi taught me that about cats.

I kept Timmi with me far longer than I should have because I couldn't let her go. She never complained, and I couldn't have chosen differently at the time, but I will choose differently now.

Simon will not get better. We might squeeze out another month or two, but I can tell he's not comfortable. I don't know that it's extreme pain (it's hard to tell with cats) but it's bothering him.

We'll say good-bye today. Mom is going with us because, as she says, "I was there the first time. I'll be there the last time."

I wish I had solid biblical evidence that I will see him again. I have inferences, and a hope that I will, but the truth is, I don't know for sure. It bothers me a lot. I am choosing to believe that God has bigger plans for all of us in our new Heaven and new Earth, and those plans include my fur friends.

As My Dear Friend once assured me, "It's Heaven. Of course it's big enough."

I will imagine Simon jumping through green fields of soft grass, chasing things that can't die when he catches them - Tribble the rabbit, the now flying fish Ferghani Shen Tsu, Merry, Pippin and Fatty Bolger, ferrets Loki, Freya, Oden-Thor, Rafiki, Tasselhoff and Tandy, and maybe even little Flutterby the moth; meeting Sugar and Timmi, Shawn, Ceaser, Snuffy, Tasha, Tamaran, and Sassy Sasha, and Kneesa, Sera and Wicket; reuniting with Hachiko, Jasper and Mica; sharing stories about how I've grown up, and how much I miss them all and look forward to seeing them again. I'm sure if he could, Simon would break something in the mansion Jesus is preparing for me, just to remind me I'm not all that.

Oh, I will miss my Little Brother. He brought me back to life twelve years ago. I haven't always appreciated how he did it, but he did it. I'm so sorry for all the times I've yelled, and misunderstood, and ignored. I'm so glad for the times we cuddled, and for your silly growly meow, and for The Paw in my cereal, even when you don't eat cereal, Noodlehead. I'm glad we had those sunny times in The Swamp.

I will never know anyone else like you, heart-brother. You earned many names but you will always be my Simon.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Names of Simon: Chunky Monkey

For most of his life, Simon has been my Chunky Monkey.

Simon is what vets call "a competitive eater." This means he will eat everything in the bowl, puke it up, and eat it again. He used to race the dog whenever that horrific uk-ka uk-ka uk-ka noise started elsewhere.

Aside: I do not allow anyone to eat puke if I am there to stop it. Ick, and beyond ick.

Even though he rarely ate Human Food (touching and tasting with The Paw didn't count), he roamed the house searching for any morsel of dog or cat food that might have been overlooked. It's possible all his interest in open doors might stem from looking for the next meal.

One terrifying time, he slipped out the back door to chase a stray tom. They raced around the neighbor's house, and the stray darted through the space between the privacy gate and the main fence. Simon tried to follow and did one of those cartoon blubber-bounce-backs (think Mr. Incredible in the rocket tube). I thank God for it; it was the only way I would have caught him. He was big, but fast.

Three or four years ago he topped out at 19 lbs. This on a 13 lb frame. The dieting began in earnest. The hardest part was Hungry Simon was even more vicious than Fat Simon. Balancing between what was healthy for him and what was healthy for the household was almost more than I could handle.

As the weight came off, he resumed some obnoxious behavior I'd forgotten. Jumping on top of the fridge when there wasn't room. Chasing the others off the catwalks. Nearly jumping into the electric skillet. Jumping anywhere, really.

Which is why his weight loss was so flummoxing. I'd always expected diabetes to kill Simon, not intestinal cancer.

My Chunky Monkey will finish his race at 9.3 pounds. He's never looked better. I've never been sorrier.

The Names of Simon: Uncle Simon

The crying has stopped for the moment. It may be the top of the grief wave or dehydration, but I'll take it.

Since his diagnosis, Simon has been feeling better, which means he's behaving like a royal jackass. Rather than go to bed last night, he vultured me until I gave him food he didn't want, fell into and toppled the trash can trying to get to dog food he can't have, tipped over a box that hadn't been in that space before, and tried to pick a fight with Caleb.

I'm grateful for this. Such antics make it easier to say good-bye. The date is set.

I woke after midnight to him hogging the bed. I only got it back after I fed him.

I had two dogs when Simon came to us: Hachiko, my Akita dog-nephew, and Jasper, known to some of you through Star of Justice. Simon was fostered with three German shepherds and he loved my dogs. He was not their uncle.

He did not turn Toffee into a normal cat, but he did get along with her. They often slept close to each other, and occasionally cuddled. He was not her uncle.

When I took in the feral kids, Skuttle and Skamper, Simon took Skuttle under his paw immediately and began teaching her every rotten trick he knew. He became Uncle Simon.

Skamper is a Mama's Boy, so it worked out.

When Simon fell behind the fridge and was too fat to either jump or squeeze out, Skuttle followed him down and stayed with him until I finally figured out where two cats could hide in my house for 40 MINUTES OF SEARCHING. I wish I'd had a phone for that pic of Simon's eye looking at me through the half inch gap between the fridge and the wall.

Skuttle learned that houseguests aren't scary because Uncle Simon never ran from them. Skuttle learned that one paw could sneak cereal out of the bowl before the Scary Hooman noticed and moved the bowl. When brother Skamper annoyed either girl, Uncle Simon came to the rescue and made him behave.

I'm frankly worried about the Turtle Household with Skamper in charge.

Simon watches out for Miss Kitty, too, and she is the only cat that can play with him. He is a perfect gentlemen with the girls, but he a real a$$ to the boys. Caleb takes the brunt because he and Simon are both bush cats and Caleb doesn't jump out of the way like Skamper does (Skamper is a tree cat). Before he got sick, we had a fur-flying fight every two to four weeks. There's a reason lion prides have one boy and a bunch of girls.

I used to get angry at Simon for fighting with the boys. Until I realized he was doing what Dad did for Mom in the old days by letting me know the Turtle Household was closed to new cat members. We had enough. He was absolutely right, and I have thanked him many times for being so sensible. Six cats are too many for one tiny house.

I wish he wasn't leaving us so soon, but I hope that his absence will alleviate some tension. I desperately hope Skuttle will adjust to his absence. I hope even more fervently she will not take his place as the Master of Jackassery of the family.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Names of Simon: The Paw

I've explained why Simon Theodore is Little Brother. In fact, if I read him my last two posts, I'm certain he would roll his eyes and give me a "being a little melodramatic, aren't we?" mrrow. Much as my human brothers are no doubt doing (and I appreciate their silence on the matter). He is more sibling than child.

The Paw in action. 
One of Simon's odd former-stray habits is touching things.

I've read that outside cats will test the waters with one paw in case a new experience isn't safe. For Simon, it's the right paw, and he puts it everywhere.

It goes into the water dish first, followed, not by a test lick, oh no, but by a vigorous shake that shares the wealth. For a cat who doesn't like to have wet hands shaken at him, he can dish it out.

The Paw has shown up in my spaghetti, cereal bowl and once, my hot chocolate. I learned to eat around it because I wasn't throwing an entire dinner away for one touch. The only people food he ever truly liked was Bolthouse Farms Mocha Cappucino, and I would put his little sip into a mug wide enough for his head so he didn't have to use The Paw.

The Paw is the pre-cursor to a cat fight, so that's one sign the Turtle reads quite well when she's home. She's found evidence of The Paw stuck in Caleb's back as shed nails.

The Paw has rested quietly on my cheek at 2 AM, insisting breakfast is now, not three hours from now. The claws don't come out until 4:30.

The Paw has something to say about my art projects and reading habits. Mostly "Hello, you should be paying attention to the rest of me over here. I'm far more interesting than whatever that is."

Simon Theodore, The Paw. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about Uncle Simon.

A Tale of Two Cats, part Two

I adopted Simon from the Petsmart Adoption Program. He had been a resident of a more rural animal shelter and a foster mom enrolled him in the program to save his life. Momma Turtle met him first, and pointed him out to me.

I didn't want another cat. Timmi's death had eviscerated me, and I had no desire to love anything else with fur. Since Toffee had a screw loose, I had no concerns about getting attached to her. However, there was a possibility that hanging with a more normal cat might level Toffee out, and this big black weirdo had been sitting there so long, waiting. I adopted Simon.

It was touch-and-go the first month. More than once I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

He was stand-offish. Timmi had literally been in my lap every time I sat down. Simon sat one piece of furniture away, at my eye level, and stared at me. We call it "vulturing." Sometimes this is what he wanted to do. Sometimes he wanted my attention, and if I didn't figure out the difference, he knocked pictures off the wall to explain it.

At 2 AM, he became a cuddle-whore. I've heard men are like that.

He has never met a door he didn't try to go through, or a space he didn't try to fill. More than once he spent the day in a closet I didn't realize he'd snuck into while I pulled out a coat, shirt or pair of pants. Once he almost got sealed into the bathtub while the plumber was working on it. Did you know bathtubs are hollow? Thank God for that.

He liked Hide and Seek. I would realize he wasn't staring at me or coming out for food and drop everything to search my 823 square foot house for a fifteen pound black cat who refused to help by calling back to me. More than once I feared he'd somehow snuck outside while the door was closed and locked and my back was turned. He'd be staring at me from on top of something or under something, laughing, I'm sure.

These kinds of exasperating shenanigans earned him the name Little Brother. Like the little brother who follows you around and breaks your toys and irritates the snot out of you until he falls asleep and then looks like an angel so you don't kill him.

This also led to the Simon Alvin Theodore! I would yell when he knocked something off the counter to get my attention. That was eventually shortened to Simon Theodore, which is more lyrical.

The best part is he helped me live through losing Timmi. I stopped crying every night because Simon was there to be ridiculous and exasperating and hilarious and impossible. Simon touched a different part of my heart, a part that didn't hurt. He was my little brother, not my baby, and he had needs, too. Needs involving play and eating and generally making a nuisance of himself.

Simon has been losing weight since summer, and the vet has finally found evidence of a tumor in his intestines. He's lost a pound in the last two weeks, so his time with me is short. Very, very soon, we will close this chapter together, and wait impatiently for our reunion in the sequel.

I dug his grave this last weekend, because I could feel him slipping away, and the ground will freeze soon. I wish I'd been wrong.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Tale of Two Cats

I intend to blog about Simon Theodore, aka Little Brother, aka Uncle Simon, aka The Paw, but before I tell you about him, I have to tell you about the First Cat of the Turtle Household.

Once upon a time, the Turtle had only one cat. Her name was Timmi, and she would tolerate no competition.

Some of you may be wondering about Sugar, but she was a fursibling, not a furbaby.

Timmi came from the vet, and originally from the VA. She had been adopted as a kitten from a lady who died shortly thereafter, and the family intended to have her put down. Nice family. She stayed at the vet's for 3 months before I adopted her at six months old. Yeah, real nice family. Her one redeeming feature was a long, fluffy tail.

I am a sucker for a fluffy tail. Timmi lived before smart phones, so I have very few pictures of her. She wasn't terribly photogenic anyway. I drew a lovely one and finished it in marker. This is what her soul looked like.

I hear Big Brother laughing at me.

Timmi was a snuggler. She wanted to be carried around like a baby, and she slept in my lap whenever I sat down. Much of Star of Justice was written with Timmi in my lap.

Timmi was a sickly cat. Around seven years old she got sick enough to stop eating, seriously enough that the liver got involved and I resorted to a feeding tube until she recovered. She used up all nine of her lives before she was done, and I am convinced that on one occasion God miraculously healed her.

Eventually, her colon stopped working, and there was nothing more to be done. Somewhere around the age of thirteen, Timmi took the Long Step and broke my heart. I think this happened in late 2004, early 2005. I'd have to check my records and I don't really want to.

I had been mourning her sickness and dreading her passing for years. I had no idea how hard it would be to lose her for real until it happened.

A house with one needy cat became a house with no cat at all. I came home every night and wept for hours, pretty much every time I sat down and she wasn't there.

Mom needed to break up her two stray Siamese sisters, so Toffee came to live with me (after an unsuccessful re-homing attempt with a former neighbor). Although Toffee was needy, she was no Timmi, and the crying continued. For months.

Then, in July 2005, came Simon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Disappointing Books

Thanks to MTV's (who would've thought?) The Chronicles of Shannara, I'm rereading Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara and Elfstones of Shannara. I first read both of these somewhere between 10 and 14 years old (I know I read Lord of the Rings in Hawaii when I was 12, but I can't remember if these came before or after that). Barely remembered Sword, so I'm thinking I read it once and Elfstones more than once.

Sword is... well, it reads like a first book. Lots of unnecessary words. A more than passing resemblance to Lord of the Rings (Elder Brother was less kind in his opinion on that). Omniscient POV that irks. In short, a good story made harder by less than stellar execution. If I can finish this second read, I won't pick it up again.

Elfstones was smoother, as happens when a writer continues to hone his skills. I hadn't realized how much Star of Justice pays homage to Amberle Elessedil, who was my favorite character.

I'm also rereading Mansfield Park by Jane Austin. I say "rereading" only because I find evidence in my copy that I read it in 2008. I have literally no memory of anything from the book. If it weren't my handwriting in the margins, I would swear I'd never even seen it before. Since I'm halfway through and unable to find a single character I like, I'm not sure I'll finish it, either.

I remember loving the Arrows of the Queen triology by Mercedes Lackey when I was young (although her Companions were a total rip-off of Anne McCaffrey's dragons). I reread it as an adult and threw the books away because the writing was so poor. I'll never read anything of hers again.

I wish I was able to pick up a book and just read it. The books I finish anymore are rare. Too much effort for too little reward. I find myself wishing the author would just leave these people alone and let them live out their little lives in peace and quiet. Hardly the stuff of legends.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Prayer Garden

A little over two weeks since the election. The amount of time it takes most New Year's resolutions to fall by the wayside. How are you doing?

My prayers have slacked a bit. Could be the holidays. More likely, I'm not used to endurance prayers.

When I wrote Daughter of Anasca, I was studying prayer as taught by Jim Cymbala of the Mormon Tabernacle*. If you didn't see it in the story, you weren't paying attention.

Now I'm reading Destined for the Throne by Paul Billheimer, originally published in 1975, revised in 1996. Hardly new thoughts, but new to me. I don't know that I agree with all the conclusions but I do agree - emphatically - that intercessory prayer matters, and the state of our world is a sad reflection of how seldom and how poorly Christians pray.

When God doesn't answer my prayer of the morning by dinner, I'm inclined to believe he didn't hear me. I forget that God is a God of timing, not just time. His timing is perfect, and his plans always blossom at the perfect moment.

I have a medicine bag given to me by a former boss with a feather bead on it. I was told certain tribes believe their prayers are carried to heaven on smoke and feathers, and the bead is the symbol of those prayers. While that is a beautiful image, my prayers aren't smoke that vanishes. They have substance.

TT: The "search" feature on this blog stinks. I know I've written about this before (House of Prayer), but it won't pull it up. I had to go straight to Google, and found results in the top five.

Prayer builds on itself. Choose your image, or perhaps the image changes depending on the prayer. Prayers become a house, a wall, a ladder. Or a garden. I like the garden idea. Some prayer is the hardscaping, some the plants, some the fertilizer. What if my prayers really do create a garden in heaven, a place I will one day walk, and recognize, and rejoice over? If that happens, I want that garden to be as big and beautiful as I can make it, not a tiny, feeble chicken-scratch patch of dust.

I decided before the election to pray. I haven't changed my mind. I don't stop eating because I miss one meal, and I won't stop praying if I miss one day. That prayer garden means too much, and my world needs those prayers too badly.

If I'm hearing mainstream Christian media clearly, and it's mostly what I listen to, this urge to return to prayer is something God is telling us to do. It's showing up in too many places as the exact same message to think otherwise. We are God's church, and his Spirit calls us to oneness. Is it too hard to believe that oneness should be in purpose first, i.e. to turn to God and pray for a change in the hearts of his people and the unsaved?

Pray, Believer. Pray for God to call us to oneness, as he is one. Pray that he limits the evil that runs so rampant, and strengthens his children to produce good fruit in accordance with his will. Pray that demons are bound, and their prisoners are set free in Christ. Those are my top prayers.

May God bless you and keep you and give you peace.

Keep the faith.

*A friend pointed out I meant "Brooklyn Tabernacle." Yep. That's the one I meant. Hard day, folks.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Stay of Execution

That sums up my feelings on this election.

Worldview-wise, I am a traditionalist. I believe in a supernatural Creator of awesome power, who designed me specifically to serve and worship him by choice. I believe the Bible literally, except in those instances where it specifically tells me it is being figurative. I am a conservative, who supports the Constitution as written, and the Republican platform as written. I believe there is nothing new under the sun, and sin for every generation is the same-old story in new wrapping paper.

I believe the vast majority of people have no idea what they believe or why. When confronted with questions about how they arrived at their views, most flounder about and walk away confused or retaliate with meaningless cliches. I've done a little of that myself when confronted with completely new thoughts.

TT: I'm still mulling the whole "Holy Spirit as she" issue, but I cannot reconcile it to my worldview. I won't argue the gender of a spirit, but I also have no need to find my "femaleness" in my God. I'm made in his image. I don't need part of him to be female to make that true, and referring to any part of God as "she" summons images of Gaia and Isis and paganism. Sorry, ladies. I'm a female male chauvinist. I don't see that changing.

I was prepared for a Clinton win. I believe the Supreme Court decision legalizing unnatural marriage was the death-knell of America as I knew it. I know that anti-Christ rules a one-world government that cannot emerge until America is dead.  I know we have sacrificed our firstborns at Molech's altar thanks to Roe v. Wade for 40 years. I know we practice adultery and fornication under every spreading umbrella of a free wifi coffee shop. We are Judah before the exile, and who better to lead us into destruction than Jezebel?

My prayers before the election were for God to sustain his children and allow persecution to purify us of all unrighteousness. There are many today who say "Lord, Lord" who do not know God, and more importantly, are not known by God. Persecution separates sheep from goats, and American Christians are long overdue to suffer for our faith.

My hope before the election was that God would be merciful and give our nation a little more time for the homeschoolers to grow up and take over. I believe he granted that hope, and a day later, I'm as surprised that he did as I am every time he relents over Israel and Judah and gives them another chance.

A day after the election, I see the most ungrateful, corrupt, self-involved flesh-worshippers in the history of the world acting out the temper-tantrums of undisciplined children. I see those who should be buckling down in repentance for our apathy, and mourning for the lost, instead crowing over a worldly victory. Why God bothers with us at all is a continual question for me. But it is not my place to question God's reasons. It is my place to not squander the time I have been given.

So, whether Trump turns out to be Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus or Josiah, I will step out boldly. I will pray daily for God to move the hearts of his people to be actual salt and light instead of a freshwater lightshow of pick-and-choose paganism with a Jesus-flavored coating. I will pray for the hearts of our leaders to turn toward the people they represent, instead of their own glorification and enrichment. I will pray for the heart change that must come before an end to child sacrifice. I will pray for God's truth to spoken and lived, his whole truth, that he is both loving and just. We have forgotten the "just" part, and one day soon, it will devour us whole as he gives us over to the depravity we are determined to indulge.

My hope is not in this world. My hope is in Christ, now and always.

Keep the faith.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Prayer Updates

Toffee has resumed eating. In typical cat fashion, she doesn't want the wet food the vet specifically recommended but the dry food she has eaten for most of her life. It is certainly cheaper and easier to feed her dry food so I'm not complaining. I'm also hoping she doesn't read this blog and change her mind.

(She's on the table while I type, so I'm good for now. I don't think she knows my computer password.)

Simon has decided he likes the wet food. I do not believe he will ever go back to dry. I have accepted this and open can after can because at least he's eating and not throwing up.

Second Dad's situation is not good. It will take an honest-to-God miracle for his physical healing, not a thank-you-God-for-medical-breakthroughs miracle, which are amazing in their own right, don't get me wrong. I believe in supernatural miracles, so I have no doubt such healing can come. Second Dad is optimistic as ever and determined to do what he can to help with nutrition and vigilance.

I've already reported on Swamp progress.

The work situation is entirely in God's hands, and I pray for serenity, courage and wisdom. I thank God for his daily grace and provision.

I am grateful for your prayers, and for God's mercies. I don't know if I can say I'm at peace, but I have found a place of calm acceptance for the time being. I am taking one day at a time with the knowledge God is already in the future and I'm just walking toward him.

Can I pray for you this week?

Happy Thursday, dear readers. God will meet you where you are.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


I tried to write this last night, but I was too tired to make my fingers move. Don't believe me? I went to bed at 6:15 and mostly stayed there. Each time I did wake up, I applied pain relieving oils, so this morning was easier than expected.

Getting a code violation for weeds is not only frightening; it's insulting. There were weeds, yes, but not enough for a code violation, and the "brush pile" was a compost pile. Years of work completely failing to look like years of work grates on my artistic sensibilities. Of course, a sense of betrayal and paranoia creeps in as the time passes. Who is watching? Who am I trying to convince? Should I cave and conform, plow it under and settle for hated grass?

A week without another violation letter or fine has helped a bit, although knowing that such a letter could come produces a sense of dread with each approach to the mailbox. My trauma is a small-scale version of Second Dad's battle with melanoma. When will the next bout begin? Should I fight? Do I have a chance of winning? I have screwed my courage to the sticking place and decided to see the violation as a wake-up call. I have been slack this year. I do love my yard, and spending time in it, even if Hippy Neighbor Down the Street stares at me while he smokes.

(He's the one who sound-proofed his house within a week of moving in because he "plays the drums." Should I ever vanish, check out the house three to the south and the long-haired dude living there. My parts may be in his basement. My soul will be with God.)

My birthday happened this week. Forty-five. Close to paying off the mortgage. Wondering what the future will hold. If I had a husband and kids, I'd be ready for a mid-life crisis, but, really, how many of those can one person have?

In continuation of my birthday tradition, and with some need since my Leaf Hog died last year, I bought a Predator 6.5 hp gas-powered chipper-shredder. It was on sale; what could I do? I will no longer have compost piles that can be confused with brush piles. I can once again steal other people's yard waste with impunity. I doubt the 3 hours of break-in time was supposed to happen on the same day, but it did. There is something cathartic about turning dead things into life-giving things, and I could use a little catharsis.

A big Thank You to Younger Sis for helping with assembly, which turned out to be a two-person job when one person not only doesn't have the right tools, but has the finger-strength of the average chicken (Chickens don't have fingers? Yes, that's the point). Also, many thanks to Big Brother and Little Sis for getting it out of the van. Elder Brother was at his day job, or I'm certain he would have come, too.

I need to purchase additional tools for maintenance purposes, again proving that every major purchase leads to minor purchases. I also need to watch a few more YouTube videos of men using this machine. I do not test limits, but men seem to live on the principle of "what exactly can I shove into this before it breaks?" My horizons expanded, I can tell you. Had I watched some of those before assembly, it wouldn't have taken three hours to put the kickstand on.

In all, a good vacation, full of physical activity and very little mental effort - the exact opposite of my day job.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. Hope you put your trash out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

God's Answers

Have you been praying? I have.

Second Dad's appointment in Texas was cancelled because it was with the wrong department, and scheduled for next month. One of my prayers was that God would make the path obvious, close the wrong doors and open the right ones.

As we prepared for next month by scheduling other tests and biopsies here, Second Dad went into the ER with a severe kidney infection that would have incapacitated him while they driving to Texas. He was in the hospital with his regular doctors for all his tests, and one of them was able to perform plastic surgery during the biopsy to repair the head damage from the removal of the melanoma.

While they were there, MD Anderson rescheduled them for next week, so the travel plans are back on, and God remains in control.

Toffee started eating again, although she's off again thanks to her vet visit. I'm waiting for her test results now.

I spoke with the city code officer, and believe I have solved the issue to everyone's satisfaction. I will find that out tomorrow, too. On a side note, I'm used to The Swamp hating me, but it's never gone so far as to try to get me jailed. I may have to reconsider my plans and turn the front yard back into stupid, unsightly lawn because that's all stupid, unimaginative people can understand. I do not speak of the code officer, but of the person I believe turned in the code violation.

The cough abates slowly. I fear I've damaged myself permanently, but it's a bit early to beat that drum.

The work problem is with God. I have no solution.

In short, God is listening, and He is acting. I will continue to pray, and I hope you will, too. Jen S., I'd love to know how things are going with you.

How can I pray for you this week?

Applaud the jellyfish.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Prayer Cat

This is Toffee. She's 16 (or so). She was a bully in her younger days, although she's become the victim as she has aged in a house with five other cats. She chews her food, and her jaw makes startlingly loud grinding noises while she does. She loves to be petted, her meow sounds like nails on chalkboard, and she wets outside the litter box when she's upset. I try very hard not to upset her.

She is wired wrong in the head. Her eyes don't work quite right, although that doesn't stop her from climbing The Heights. She's the cat who fell on me and my burrito one lunch hour last year. The scars are still visible on my right hand.

Like all animals that aren't wired quite right in the head, she has enjoyed remarkable health. No tartar, no diseases. She even missed out on the flea epidemic of 2007.

A week ago, she stopped eating.

Well, not stopped, exactly, but her volume fell to maybe 20 nuggets a day, 5 per meal. Cats, unlike dogs, will not eat when they get hungry enough. If they stop eating, they don't start again, their livers shut down, and they die. It's a mess.

I had a can of wet food left over from someone else's momentary freak out, and she ate it. I had that conversation with myself that no one thinks I have: the "am I willing to do X or is X too crazy/not worth it?" argument usually had between spouses.  I drew my line and got more wet food. Being a cat, she stopped eating it as soon as I got a two-week supply.

I learned she will eat it - as long as I sit right beside her and pet her the entire time. This morning was 40 minutes to eat a third of a can. To maintain her weight, she needs a can and a half a day.

This is ridiculous. I cannot spend an hour and a half each day coaxing a 16 year old, ashamed-to-admit-not-my-favorite-cat to eat. I have been less than patient the last couple of days while I again had that "am I willing to do X?" argument with myself with new parameters. It's not like I just have to be in the room (the separate room closed off from the five other protesters living in this house who also want the new food stuff). I literally have to sit quietly next to her while she licks the bowl clean, petting her when she slows or gets restless.

However, the one other thing I can do during those times is pray. I can pet while I pray, and I certainly have an hour and a half's worth of things to pray about lately.

We go to see the vet Saturday to make sure there isn't a medical reason for this. I suspect it's the stress of too many houseguests too close together that threw her off, and I should be grateful she's not wetting outside the litter box.

I can't do this forever, but I can do it for a while. Long enough to see if she'll pull out on her own or is just ready to take The Long Step.

Just call her The Prayer Cat.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Monday, October 10, 2016

My Week in Prayer Requests

Been one of those weeks when the hits keep coming. I'm asking for prayer. Let me know how I can pray for you while I'm closeted with the Big Guy.

The hard stuff:

Second Dad was diagnosed with melanoma. He and Mom are on their way to MD Anderson for additional tests, prognosis and possible treatment.

I was served with a city code violation for -get this- "weeds, annual grasses and vegetation more than 12" tall." Since 95% of my yards are spring-blooming perennials more than 12" tall, I can only assume the code officer doesn't know what those look like. I have until Sunday to appeal, "correct" the problem, or face $499 fine and 179 days in jail for non-compliance. I'll be calling today for more details on the situation.

I have a problem at work that I am both responsible for and completely unable to control that has made my eyes numb from stress for the first time in three years. It won't kill me, but it's trying.

I now have two cats turned finicky eaters: Simon and Toffee. I am about ready to kiss them both good-bye and let them starve to death.

The cough is back. I believe this is week eight, but, frankly, I'm too tired to count.

The good news:

The weather is supposed to be nice until Sunday. I have a handy friend with a chainsaw and a chipper who is helping me tidy up (since I doubt the garden awareness of the code officer, we're trying to make it look more like what people expect to see in a garden instead of my "prettyish little wilderness").

I have super, supportive bosses who are ultimately in charge and act like it.

I've lost 5 lbs and the desire to eat, so the cats and I can starve to death together in a final bonding ritual.

All the house guests are gone home. I'm hoping this will solve some of the not-eating issues.

The cough mostly shows up morning and evening, so it doesn't keep me awake and doesn't interfere with work.

Thank you for your prayers. Let me know how I can pray for you.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Power by Frank M. Robinson

I haven't coughed in 3 days. Last night, I start coughing again. Back to hot honey and lemon juice, which are not doing my teeth any favors, let me tell you.

I watched The Power with George Hamilton and Suzanne Pleshette as a child. IMDB says it came out in 1968 (before I was born) so I probably saw it on HBO sometime in the early 80s in my preteen years. I have a vague memory of writing fanfic about it, although that might be mixing it up with Scanners, another telekinetic thriller that left an impression and an obsession with movies starring Michael Ironside. I was young enough not to notice the movie was based on a book.

Amazon now sells The Power as a DVD, so in my very recent rewatch, I learned about the book. Amazon also provided a dealer of the unrevised 1957 version so I didn't have to cope with the "updated" 90s version that has come out since. The reviews were disappointed in that one, and preferred the original.

I hate revised books, btw, even when its the author's idea. You published; it's out there. Cope by writing another book if you're that unhappy.

Normally, I like the version I encounter first. If it's the book, I like the book better. If it's the movie, I like the movie better. I'm torn on this one.

I liked the book a lot. It was tense, dark, logical and tightly written. I didn't mind where the movie varied. Some made a lot of sense - the removal of Marge as a companion, for one, which added to the tension. Even knowing how I expected it to end didn't make it boring, because there were enough differences I wasn't sure it would end the same.

It didn't. It ended as most early scifi ends, on a sour note.

I like the movie ending better. I suspect, in the future, I will treat it as William Goldman treated the end of The Princess Bride as read by his father. Don't know what that means? Read the book. It's good, and the movie makes a lot more sense after.

I have two other gripes. First, the protagonist is "Jim" in the movie and "Bill" in the book. I have no idea why, and it annoys me when names get changed for no obvious reason. Maybe George didn't want to play a "Bill." Second, a tendency to run-on sentences. Should I read it again, I may just add a few semicolons in my copy.

Those are small, very personal gripes about what was otherwise an interesting adventure, so I give the book 5 stars.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Spoiler: A dog is killed in this book. Normally, that would make me close the cover, pitch it in the trash and never think on it again, but, frankly, I could see it coming, it wasn't dwelt on, and it didn't seem to be thrown in just to get me upset. I've moved on with my life, but I'll understand if that's too much for you.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Layers of Friendship

Growing up, I was a one friend per year kind of person. I had one specific friend in school, and one specific friend outside of school (only because she attended a different school). I ignored most other people, and tended to ignore my friends except during those specific "school" or "play" times.

I was not a nice child.

In college, I learned about variety in relationships, specifically proximal friendships, meaning you're friends because you're in proximity to each other. Most friendships fall into this category, btw. Close when physically close, and separate when separated. These can be intense relationships, but they rarely outlast a change in distance.

I've made deals with several friends since learning this. We will never recriminate on why we've fallen out of touch. Each meeting will begin with the enthusiasm of a dog greeting an owner, no matter how much time has passed. It works great, as long as you really mean it. Which I do.

When I think the word friendship, though, I think of something more. That C.S. Lewis definition of "What! You, too? I thought that no one but myself..." A similarity that goes beyond working in the same office, or attending the same Sunday School class. A similarity of worldview.

I have tried to expand my friendship base as an adult. To be friendly with those not like myself and enjoy our differences. It is useful to measure life against a different viewpoint, and one of the benefits of a true friend is enough difference in perspective to keep conversation interesting.

However, some perspectives are just too different. I may love, admire, respect a person, but if the differences in our worldviews are too pronounced, they move out of the friendship circle into the proximal friendship circle. This may be a sudden shift or a gradual decline.

I have heard friendship likened to a well (although maybe a money jar is more accurate). A friend must contribute to the well before drawing out. If more is drawn out than put in, the friendship cannot last.

In a perfect world, I could be friends with everyone. I could handle all differences and never find opposing viewpoints toxic. I do not live in a perfect world, and I am far from perfect. I do not find comfort in contention. I will do my best to minister daily to the world around me, but my friends enjoy a special, peaceful, pleasant place in my heart, and I will seek them out for that reason.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Finish What You Start

I can't say this enough.

It isn't an issue for all writers (or people, for that matter). Some exist who write a story, give it a good once-over and publish that sucker. I can't rightly say I admire that, but I can say they're on the right track.

Some of us agonize over every word. We neglect story for the art of implementation. Every day, sometimes in mid-sentence, we see ways the story could be different, better, deeper, more lyrical, whatever. Yes, my daily experiences add layers to my thoughts like rings on a tree, but that doesn't mean every story has to be the sum total of my entire being. It's not possible.

A newspaper is old news before it hits the stands. A story is the same. It's a snapshot of my desires at the time of writing.

Make an outline. Write quickly in whatever style you prefer. Follow the outline when the muse isn't musing, and make something happen when you're bored. The goal is to finish this story. I recommend stuffing as much melodrama as you can manage into your first draft because emotion is what makes most readers read, and it's nearly impossible to add emotion later.

The young writer laughs at the thought of not being able to write. When I was a youngster, you couldn't keep me away from the keyboard. But you also couldn't make me finish a single story because I got bored and wandered off to the next exciting thing.

Now I am old. An old woman with a dozen half-finished ideas that keep getting in the way when I'm trying to write something worth reading. Had I finished those when I was young, I would know them for garbage and move on. As it is, I keep puking them up and stalling on the chunks.

Sorry. Hope you weren't eating breakfast.

Finish what you start. It is worth the effort.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cats and Litter Boxes

When you wake up at 3:38 thanks to a full moon, and check FB on your phone app, and see that a Friend posted something meant to be funny that instead triggered your uptight-over-zealous-cat-mommy gland, you don't comment on the post and ruin the joke. That's rude. You write a blog post to relieve your angst.

Here it is.

If a cat pees outside its litter box, either 1) the cat is sick, or 2) something in the environment is causing severe stress for the cat and needs to be addressed.

Cats are generally fastidious creatures who prefer cleanliness more than you do. This is why they burrow into clean laundry, sprawl on freshly opened newspapers, and plant themselves in sanitizing sunlight. It only takes one or two tries to litterbox train a kitten, and if they miss, it's because they were too far away when they realized they had to go or they couldn't manage to get into the box.

Make sure the cat isn't sick. Cats generally don't drink enough water, so urinary infections can happen, requiring antibiotics. It could also be a sign of kidney failure, and that means the death of the cat, and you should treat them with respect until their last breath, you callous scum. Keep lots of clean, fresh water available in different sized bowls at various heights in the house (and NEVER put food and water next to the litter box. Would YOU like to eat where you crap?). I always use glass bowls because some cats can get "black acne" from plastic. I use wide bowls, brandy snifters, fish bowls and plant cache pots. I like the shapes and all of my six cats seem to like drinking in different ways.

The easiest solution for most peeing issues is to add a litter box to another area of the house. Older cats, like older people, have to go NOW, and they may not make it if the box is stashed away in the basement or a door gets closed accidentally. It's also nice when you clean the box regularly. If you're having trouble getting all the clumps out, imagine how hard it is for the cat to cover its business. A smelly box is generally an overflowing box. The general rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one. This is because some cats will guard the litter box and not let other cats use it. Where would you go if a bully blocked the bathroom?

Cats are sensitive to their environments, and when a cat gets upset, peeing can be the first sign. New people or pets in the house, a change in schedule, a change in litter or food: just about anything can cause anxiety depending on your cat. Do some research and find a way to help the cat adapt. My Cat From Hell offers a lot of advice on this subject (I can't watch much of it because I want to beat most of those owners to death for being selfish morons).

Use your brain before you start screaming. Cats, like people, don't come right out and tell you what their problem is. They expect you to figure it out. A good cat parent does, and fixes the problem rather than the blame. A bad cat parent takes the cat to the shelter to die, or kicks it outside to die. I hope all bad cat parents burn in Hell, but I admit I am not rational on the subject of cat care.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Too Adult?

I've often complained about how dead my inner child is. I blame graduating from college, and all that "life" that happens afterwards. You know, the part where you work really hard to improve your circumstances until you can afford all the things your parents used to pay for (for all the lemmings out there, that's how it's supposed to work).

Anyway, I've noticed a trend in my TV viewing habits, possibly because I'm watching things that went off air before I was born or hit puberty. Rather than just watching the show, I want to know about the making of the show. I'm going to IMDB daily for research. Was The Virginian shot in Wyoming? Where did they get the cattle? Were they used multiple years or did each batch go off to slaughter after filming? Did they boast in line about getting hog-tied by Doug McClure or James Drury? Were the same cowboys or cowboy footage used in Bonanza? The High Chapparal? The same guest actors show up in all the shows, oftentimes as different characters in different seasons, so the same could happen with the horses, too, right? Although, the horses seem as distinguishable as the wardrobes. Does anyone else get tired of the men wearing only one set of clothes for 9 to 14 seasons? The coats I understand, but the same shirts and pants? Was that a budget decision?

What was NASA's position on I Dream of Jeannie? They can't have been pleased with Roger Healey.

Are these adult musings? I used to be able to watch a show and follow the story. Or maybe these shows don't have stories, so I look for the stories about them. Maybe this is the resurrection of my inner child and her relentless questioning.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Pain Is Pain

I've kept my pain comments to a minimum this year (if you don't think so, you aren't living in my body). Until this morning. This morning I received permission (in an odd way) from a Friend I identify as the most long-suffering of the chronic pain sufferers among my Friends (although I doubt I know how many such Friends I have).

She started a conversation about how pain is different for everyone and there's no point comparing pains. It had an Apostle Paul quality to it. I haven't posted this year because of all those Friends who hurt far more and far more often and far longer than I have (according to FB, this is Year 3). It feels insulting to them to gripe about my pain when theirs is likely worse.

However, there is no comparison. Pain is pain. The same way I would never mock someone grieving the loss of hamster because it isn't a person (my inclination with such mockers is to punch them in the throat). The grief is the salient point, not the supposed worthiness of the cause of the grief. Besides, I would grieve a hamster more than most people.

So I'm going to write about my pain this year this once, and then fall quiet again.

Here's something I also grabbed from my Friend:

Four years ago, I fell on my left knee on my driveway in early Spring. It began bothering me at the first Realm Makers conference in St. Louis. I believe that was four years ago. I remember clearly because the 4 hour drive there set it off, and I prayed I had enough ibuprofen to get me home. The drive home was torture, even with ibuprofen.

The knee has flared ever since, but two years ago, my left jaw began to hurt in a way my tooth splint didn't correct. Although not debilitating, I was desperate enough to seek physical therapy, which cost over $800 and failed to help in any significant way other than to confirm I'm too rigid and need to relax.

I began Classical Stretch last autumn, which did help me relax, but has not lessened my pain. It taught me to keep moving through the pain, and that was valuable because the pain increases. In addition to my knee and jaw, my back has joined in. Nearly all the time. I cannot lie down for any reasonable length of time. I've found myself considering the purchase of a recliner, which I hate, because it might hurt less than my bed, which is adjustable. I'm grateful for insomnia because it means I don't wake up in more pain than I laid down with.

January was the last time I wasn't in pain every single day, and I suspect that was because January had no weather fronts to speak of.

Have I exhausted every medical recourse? No. I haven't even sought an official diagnosis of arthritis because I don't know where to start or how much money I want to spend to get one. Do I take meds every day? No. Some days I'm willing to power through because the pain is only a 3 or 4, and I don't want to ruin my liver or become victim to the law of diminishing returns over that. Some days, I have to take drugs to keep the pain at a 3 or 4.

I find myself wondering if OxyRub or OmegaXcel really work like the infomercials say, or whether there'll be a lawyer commercial in 5 years telling me to call for the payout because of some horrific side-effect the FDA didn't know about. Then I wonder if the side-effect is worth it for 5 years of no pain. I wonder if my insomnia is really night pain I've almost gotten used to.

Have I become a chronic pain sufferer? I guess I have. Grandma Turtle lived the last decade of her life with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, and never once did I hear her complain or snap at anyone. I hope I can live up to her example.

Mom heard about a stem cell pain treatment center in Manhattan, and I've requested an application for consideration. I have plenty of fat cells for them to harvest. We'll see how it goes.

That's all I have to say about that. For now. For all of you who hurt, too, I'm sorry. I'm praying for us.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Still Writing

I've added another 5 pages. Five pages in a month isn't much, but it's more than 1 page in a year.

My aim is one to two sentences a day. They don't have to be good. They just have to be story-relevant. I can write them at any time during the day. I've taken to leaving my WIP open where I left off, so I can write the moment something occurs to me. If I write more, great. If I don't, I've at least got my two sentences.

I have a lot of reasons writing has become so hard. The cats are an automatic initial six reasons (literally as I write this sentence, Skamper picks himself up from the floor across the room and stations himself between me and the keyboard with his enormous fluffy tail directly in front of my face. ARRGH!). I have trouble pacing myself at work, so little brain is left after hours for creation. I've found The Waltons and Bonanza on INSP from 6-8. Doesn't matter. Two sentences don't take that long to write, and INSP commercials are long and frequent.

Editing is easier than fresh writing. Maybe you aren't old and weary enough to know this. Good for you, whippersnapper. I, too, was young once, and I never believed the words would stop, either.

Finish what you start. Once sentence at a time.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Am Writing

Naturally, the moment I excuse myself from blogging, I get the urge to blog. I have ignored it and opened my WIP instead.

I wish there was a way to open to where I left off. I'm using Word (old, old Word - 2003, maybe?) and it always opens to the first page. Like it's supposed to. Except I now like the Scrivener feature of opening to wherever I left off. This is probably a google search in the making.

I am writing. Not every day. Not huge amounts. But at least a sentence, and sometimes more. My page count has moved from 75 to 80. They aren't polished, but they're written.

Sounds pretty small. That would have been an hour's work back in my SOJ writing days. But life was less complicated then, and I had fewer cats, and no need to truly use my brain at work.

My only goal at the moment is to write something everyday. I took Lioness' advice and printed a calendar to track the days I write. That should help with the "one sentence or 10 words" goal. The big trick is to just write something.

Even writing this, Skamper is pacing in front of me, head-butting at random, purring loudly. Cats are hellspawn, sent to plague, torment and distract writers. This is why wizards don't have cats as familiars. They couldn't get a single spell formulated.

Push button. Receive bacon.

PS. Skamper moved to the back of the chair, and Miss Kitty jumped up to block the keyboard and headbutt and climb me. sigh

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Gone Writin'

I finally remembered to turn the furnace on after our streak of warm weather, and I have cats sprawled across every vent to prove it. This is why I wear socks.

With Farmville out of my life, politics making it impossible to stomach nearly any form of electronic media, and the busiest time of year at work compounded with my recent promotion, I am stressed. The kind of stress I would usually rely on my mouthpiece to counter, but the mouthpiece didn't fit after the crown, and it didn't seem to be working that last year anyway, so I'm searching for a new stress-combating strategy.

Fortunately, it's Spring. Swamp Time. Time to be out in the muck battling the Curse and cursing the battle to make one space somewhat vital for an all-too-brief span. That takes care of the exercise portion of stress release, but it doesn't help with the emotional portion.

I'm writing. In the morning during my normal blogging time, and in the evening after Swamp Time. I have no idea how long it will last, or whether anything useful will grow out of it, but I'm doing it.

Therefore, for an undetermined time, I will be writing elsewhere in what I hope to be a productive and stress-reducing manner.

Enjoy your Spring.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Marketable Skills: Responsibility

I considered calling this one Accepting Blame, except my general rule is fix the problem, not the blame. Unless you're the problem. Then the blame is yours, too.

When interviewing for a job, generally you are given a list of job duties that you are expected to perform on a routine basis. This is rarely a comprehensive list, but it will cover the minimum expectations of both you and your employer. Meaning, if you can't do these things on a routine basis with a minimum of mistakes and no supervision, you should be fired.

If you are a server at Sonic and can't make change, you should be fired. If you work at a phone bank answering calls all day and regularly forget to turn on your phone or yell at back at frustrated customers, you should be fired. If you data-enter numbers, and you regularly transpose them, you should be fired.

The above paragraph makes the mistake most employees make: it assumes it is your employer's responsibility to remove you. Wrong. It is your responsibility to remove yourself. A person of integrity who agrees to perform certain tasks in exchange for money, who discovers he cannot perform those tasks, should refuse payment and find another job better suited to his skill set. Unfortunately, the workplace is full of lemmings who would rather be told what to do than lionesses who solve problems, especially when that problem is herself.

I do not mean people cannot make mistakes. People are people, competent or not, and everyone has bad days. When those happen, own them, do your best anyway, and expect to have some messes to clean up later. That's normal. But the consistent failure to do the minimum your job requires is unacceptable to everyone: the customer who can take his business elsewhere, your co-workers who have to bail you out while still doing their own jobs, and your boss who's literally paying you to cause problems she doesn't need.

If you make simple mistakes on a regular basis that cause extra work for everyone, you can expect to work in a hostile environment. I recommend accepting responsibility and doing what you need to do to get your act together. If you don't, your boss will do her job and fire you, and you will have only yourself to blame. If you're a lemming, that won't stop you from blaming everyone else anyway.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Wind in the Willows

I've heard of this story, but never read it. I believe Disneyland has a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, but my motion sickness made that impossible.

I bought a very used book at a charity drive, and, after reading one too many Lovecraft horrors (the nightmares started), picked it up for a stroll on the brighter side. I'm halfway through, because life got busy as it usually does, but far enough to say a few things.

One, charming prose. Some truly lovely sentences in there that beautifully capture the image or moment.

Two, welcome innocence coupled with strong moral character. Friendship, hospitality, generosity, hard work, and hard winter rest - a concept I heartily endorse - are illustrated in each story. Even flighty Toad has a good heart.

Three, while I generally don't care for short stories, these are just the right size for reading before bed. Since I haven't slept through the night in about two weeks, I don't have a lot of eye stamina for long bouts of reading.

The hardest part of reading these stories comes from me being too adult. Rat has a boat, a brace of pistols and a cudgel. Mole has Italian sculptures in his burrow. Badger eats ham and bacon, and wears slippers. However, they are animals, and the stories don't dispute their size. Would a rat-sized pistol even fire? Where does Badger get his ham? How do they earn their money? Children don't worry about this sort of thing (except me. This is exactly the kind of thing I worried about as a child). I keep derailing as I try to categorize the logic of the world. Alice in Wonderland is the closest I can come.

The illustrations don't help. Toad's carriage is people-sized, pulled by a horse, and contains a bird in a cage they later carry away. What bird is small enough to be carried in a cage by a toad? Toad is tried in a human court of law, and held in a human prison, if the pictures are to be counted as accurate, which they probably aren't. The author does make some attempts at reconciling the inconsistencies, since they have to coax the horse to pull the carriage when the horse would rather be part of the party, and Badger does explain that humans built what eventually became his burrows. Still, I've stumbled more than once as my brain balks at pure fancy.

I wonder if Mom never read me this book because these are the questions I would have asked as a child, and didn't want to deal with it at bedtime. Can't blame her, if that's the case.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Marketable Skills: Flexibility

This isn't easy for Turtles, and it isn't easy for some humans. Most of the time, things go as expected. That's why we're surprised when they don't. No matter how carefully you plan your work day, something is going to come up to derail it. That's when flexibility is useful.

Sometimes, the network goes down, taking the computers with it. Sometimes, the freezer goes out, leaving you with a potential loss of income and product. Sometimes, you get a bitter, jagged-edged disappointment instead of the news you want. You have to deal with these issues with calm courtesy (and hopefully some humor, which I haven't covered) instead of allowing the potential avalanche of disaster to crush you.

I think of Randall from Monsters, Inc. twining his monster-snaky way around obstacles with spineless ease. Computers are down? OK. Computers haven't always existed, so grab a pen, paper and calculator and do what you can, even if it's get a phone number to call them when the network is back up. A broken freezer might lead to half-priced ice cream, a call to a repair service and a trip to get ice from the gas station. Bitter disappointment is harder, but for a Christian, all things work together for good for those who love the Lord (Rom 8:28), so God will use even disappointment in His grand plan. You don't know the future. Don't bemoan the present.

Flexibility is about remembering your goal, and finding another way to reach it, preferably without panicking. Don't Panic isn't just advice for Hitchhikers. Or maybe it is. Aren't we all hitchhikers in this crazy galaxy?

If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don't give way to hating, 
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise. 

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools; 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, 
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son! 

It's true of women, too, and it's probably something you should post at your workstation and memorize. I knew it once.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Marketable Skills: Mind Your Business

Yes, it seems odd after harping on how important it is to be aware of your surroundings and courteous of your co-workers that I would tell you to mind your business. However, I don't mean mind your beeswax. I mean put your mind on your own business and keep it there.

It is very easy for humans to compare themselves with other humans. What is she doing? What is he getting? Why do they get X and I don't? That's not fair!

TT: Along with The Goblin King, I have to ask I wonder what your basis for comparison is? For all the life I've lived so far, I've never known any of it to be fair. I'm living proof life isn't fair, because I'm blessed above and beyond the norm, and way more than I deserve.

Even Peter asked Jesus what about John? (John 21:22) Jesus told Pete flat out, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" Meaning, mind your own business, Peter. I'm dealing with you, not John. I'll deal with John later, and it has nothing to do with you.

Talk about slap-down from the Savior.

As recently as yesterday, I would have said I have a pretty good handle on this skill. Between a very harsh lesson in my 12's, 6 years of therapy school about boundaries, and a natural tendency to not give a hoot and a half about other people's problems since I have plenty of my own, I'm good at minding my own business. In fact, when I start looking around for how co-workers may not be doing their jobs the way I would, I know I'm compensating for feeling out of control in my own life by trying to bring order to someone else's. Not helpful. Certainly not cool.

Today I had an extremely sharp reminder that I don't get my way all the time. I'm not in control of anything, really, except my attitude, and that's going to need at least one night of sleep to adjust. Things I thought were my business aren't, and things I didn't think were my business now are, and the whole world looks different than this morning, more of a yellow grey, with a bit of an acrid taste at the back of my nose. Time to reread Joseph's story.

Ah well. For what do we live but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?

Mind your business, and do your best at whatever job God puts in front of you. Your reward is in heaven, not here. Some days, that's all the hope we have.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Marketable Skills: Empathy

This one has been a little hard for me lately, which is no excuse. The skill exists regardless of my feelings. It is a thought exercise, not an emotional one.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another's place, even if you've never directly experienced what they're experiencing. Most people are completely incapable of doing this. This explains some of the incredibly stupid and hurtful things people say with good intentions at funerals. If you've experienced loss, you know it's better to keep your jaw clenched shut until you get home.

I've heard that people who read fiction have more empathy because they've experienced other lives through the written characters. Whatever. Good excuse to read fiction, as if you need one.

Your universe revolves around you. This is completely normal. However, at some point, you should realize that this is how every person experiences life. We are all little Suns thinking the entire universe rotates around us, when, in fact, we're lucky if we're one of those bits of shattered planet that circles Saturn or Jupiter.

When you understand you are not the Center of the Universe, you can start imagining what it would be like to be your customer. You work at Walmart (or don't. I mean, have you ever been asked where to find something in a store? It's because I have a "pleasant resting face," I know it is). Anyway, your customer needs X. You had a million things to do before the customer ever walked up. Congratulations! You now have a million and one. And you're going to treat Million and One like Number One because that's what you would want if your positions were reversed. If you needed X, would you want an employee who brushes you off and waves a vague direction with a mumbled reply, or one that leads you to the spot and hunts down the item? I will settle for clear directions and a specific pointed direction, but I'm more independent than most.

An old lady with a quavering voice calls in, and your heart sinks because she's going to take forever to help. Do you think she doesn't know that? Do you think she's not embarrassed by the quaver in her voice, or her slowness? She remembers when she was a fast, young whippersnapper like you, and she could leave you in her dust back then. She's someone's grandmother, for goodness' sake, not your personal hobgoblin! Show respect, treat her with the kindness and patience you would want extended to you (or your grandmother) in the same circumstances, and let God sort out the rest.

Empathy allows you to put your issues on hold, and help someone else in a calm, courteous way because that's how you would want to be helped. Empathy is essential in good communication, and it's quite useful in customer service.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Why I'm Writing Marketable Skills

Perhaps this should have been the first post, except sometimes I do things for a while without knowing why.

1) As I creep toward the management level, I see how rare most of these skills are. Typical employees only have one or two. Good employees maybe four or five, and good attitude is usually at the top.

2) I am frustrated by how rare these skills are (and that is most definitely feeding into the increasing snark of these posts). I haven't yet touched on a single skill that should not be practiced daily by an adult human in any aspect of his life. Yet, they aren't. Being courteous, considerate of others, and calm; having a good attitude, taking initiative and communicating your needs clearly: are these really that hard to do?

I work customer service. I trained as a therapist for 6 years before going into administrative fields (that's another post about don't indenture yourself to higher education for a career you may not pursue). Even before I started thinking management, I thought service. How can I serve the customer, my co-workers and my boss today? That's what adults think.

But we don't rear adults anymore. When 26 year-olds can be claimed as dependents by their parents for health insurance, when people with children come home and play video games instead of helping their children with homework (and who can when government education is now designed to make the parent obsolete?), when no one takes out the rotting trash because it's someone else's chore and you did yours already, we have a problem.

We are a nation of thoughtless brats doing our own thing, and screw anyone who gets in the way of our fun, and that goes twice for The Big Bad Boss. Newsflash, all you would-be socialists: the State doesn't give two biological waste deposits how you feel about your job. You'll get your "free" college, but you'll spend the rest of your educated life paying back the government in the job they give you while they take increasing percentages of your wages because they've run out of "rich people" to steal from. You don't want to be responsible for your own life? You won't be. You'll be told what to do, where to go, how much you'll make and how much you'll get to keep, and when you complain, it will be about how the Tea Party made all this happen (because providing scapegoats for the unhappy populace to blame is how socialists stay in power. Until the military outnumbers the disarmed civilians, that is).

That's why I'm frustrated. That's why I'm snarky. But it doesn't matter. Your brains barely understand human speech, let alone reading comprehension, so I'm ultimately writing as stress relief for myself, not as a way to convince you.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Marketable Skills: Communication

This is a skill that can be learned in school. In fact, you will almost never see it in the real world, so I recommend taking a few classes in case you're one of the vast majority of lemmings who has never written or spoken a coherent sentence. It will be years before you truly grasp what you're doing, but you can fake it until then.

Communication requires you to 1) know what you're trying to say, 2) organize your thoughts to maximize the impact of how you say it, and 3) know your audience to maximize their retention of what you have to say. Like when Peggy Hill wants to get Hank's attention, she mentions propane.

Rule 1: Communication is your responsibility. You are the one with something to say, and no one else, frankly, gives a rat's hind end about it. If you want to be heard, you must make your presentation clear and compelling.

Rule 2: Have a plan. Think before you speak or write. I seriously do not have the time to listen to you stammer and mutter around whatever point you have.*

Rule 3: Keep it brief. No one is going to wade through four dense paragraphs of anything to get the point at the last sentence. NO ONE. You don't do, so don't do it.

As a writer, this stuff is kind of basic for me, but it is a total freaking mystery to most of the world, who seem to believe all they have to do to communicate is open their mouths and let whatever unedited nonsense passing through their white matter at the time pour out. That may work for the significant other who just wants to get to the fun stuff, but it does not work on anyone else, so stop it.

Communication is hard work. People today are generally dumb as a bag of hammers and shallow as a rain puddle in Arizona. They aren't used to thinking at all, so you have to think for them in what you communicate. The proof is how easily lemmings believe anything they hear on TV. They're like that chick who knows they can't put anything on the Internet that isn't true. A news reporter can't possibly lie. He's a reporter.

Which leads to the caveat. There is great power in communicating well. People do tend to believe something written down, no matter how ridiculous, just because someone took the time to write it down without emoticons and punctuate it. If you are one of those communicative people, you can quickly rise to a position of authority over lemmings. Use your power wisely, because to those whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48), teachers will be judged more harshly (James 3:1), and causing little ones to stumble leads to serious consequences (Matt 18:6 and Mark 9:42).

Push button. Receive bacon.

*This attitude absolutely does not fly in the work world. You must practice patience in your dealings with the everyday, whether customers, co-workers or bosses. We'll cover that later.