Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ang !!

Here's to Angela, our first daughter who has brought such joy to our hearts. We must have been anticipating this, for we named her Angela Joy. :-)

How would I describe Angela?
  • Loving
  • Respectful
  • Courageous (as noted in a former post)
  • Organized
  • Punctual
  • Responsible
  • Persevering
  • Logical
  • Intelligent
  • Undemanding
  • Considerate
  • Comfortable to be around
  • Analytical
(I was going to try to make an acrostic out of that, but...) And if she had written that list, it would have been better organized! :-)
Two of my favorite photos from when Angela was a kid:
How I love that smile!
That's Angela at 3 years old, when we went to the Prairie Farm school on photo day.

Here's Angela with Jane, her first horse. She was totally responsible for Jane's care from the time we brought Jane home. I remember telling Angela that we would get her a horse, but if the horse started interferring with her piano lessons, it would be the horse that goes. I don't know if that was just a horrid threat, but she never let horse business keep her from piano practice. And she went out day and night, blistering heat or sub-zero, rain or shine, sleet or snow to take care of that horse! (It's a wonder she didn't grow up to be a mail carrier.)

I can't wait to spend time with you in March, Birthday Girl!

Love, Mom

Friday, February 26, 2010

John McClellan Timblin's Store

When my great aunts had an auction years ago, Kevin and I purchased this root beer jug and mugs which had been used in my great grandfather's store.

This post is particularly for Bobby, my dear friend and cousin, adopted sister and confidant. I came across this photo of our great grandfather, one of our great aunts, and a hired girl in Great Grandpa Timblin's store in Barron - where the root beer jug and mugs were used to serve customers.

John McClellan Timblin was born in September of 1862, after his father Isaac B. Timblin of Armstrong County Pennsylvania went off to fight in the great American Civil War. I'm not sure when John was named, whether his father chose the name after he returned home, or if a letter home instructed his wife Sarah McFarland Timblin to name the baby John McClellan. In any event, the middle name was chosen because of the fondness Isaac had for the general under whom he fought - General George B. McClellan. (Actually, it would be more accurate to say 'served,' since McClellan was notorious for not getting around to the fighting part.) And evidently my great-great grandpa's fondness for McClellan lasted longer than Lincoln's did.

Unfortuntely, although I do have a photo of Gen. George B. McClellan, I do not have a photo of Isaac Timblin. ( wouldn't that make a great name for a baby!) :-)

The photo below is of my mom Maxine, far left, and Bobby's mom Ruby, far right. Between them are Margaret and Claude (Bud), their siblings. Evidently, Uncle Johnny, the youngest of the five, was in the house being spoiled by my grandma. I'm thinking the photo could have been taken c. 1927 or so, and that the photo of the store was taken c. 1910.

My mom had fond memories of Grandpa Timblin's store. I have no idea where the store was located, other than somewhere in Barron, Wisconsin. I wish I'd thought to ask her.

Be sure to ask your relatives for their family history. The time comes quickly upon us when those whom we wish we had asked are no longer with us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


You know what they are - those nearest bits of paper you grab when the phone rings or you've found an important number online that you don't dare trust to your memory. Sure. Because those pieces of paper are going to be there as a permanent record, right? Of course not. They're edges of newspapers that will get thrown away, a bank deposit ticket that ends up as a bookmark, or a grocery receipt that slides nicely under the microwave, not to be seen again for months. These are called FLOATERS, and floaters have been my nemesis.

Here are the notebooks I told you about in an earlier post - the ones I jot notes in in an attempt to break the nasty habit of 'floaters.' I've made one advancement, at least. I try to remember to periodically put the floaters that litter my desk into my notebooks, for then they will at least be contained. I figure it's a step in the right direction.

I homeschooled for twenty-one years. During that time, I was very organized. Long before school started each year, I had created a curriculum guide, a weekly schedule, and a daily schedule for that year. Really! I knew exactly where I was headed each day, each week, etc. In other words, the entire scope and sequence was totally planned out. I knew where every test paper and answer key was, where every supplementary book or video was stored. I loved it. I had it totally nailed down.

Then my thoughtless children grew up and flew the coop. I don't have to make curriculum guides for Bridger and Misty. I don't need a weekly schedule to remember to scoop the litter boxes for Lionel and Tuppence, do the laundry, make meals, or much of anything else I do these days. I am so out of practice at being organized. Don't even ask to see my refrigerator.

The truth is, at this point, I don't need the high level of organization I had when I homeschooled. So why can't there be a lower level of organization - the one I need now, at this stage of my life. There doesn't seem to be any halfway mark. It seems to be one of those all-or-nothing things for me.

Anyway, now that I've got those great notebooks, I'm putting forth a huge effort to actually take notes in them and work toward the goal of saying goodbye to floaters forever.

P.S. Do you know how hard it is to walk into an office supply store and pass up rainbow-colored Post-it Notes? Sigh.

What's your nemesis? C'mon. You can tell me. :-)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rejoicing in the Mundane

Life is rarely exciting. Typically, my days are filled with the mundane:
  • emptying the dishwasher
  • cleaning up the kitchen
  • vacuuming the doghair from the carpets (while my dog stands nearby, ready to lay down another layer as soon as I'm done)
  • sweeping up wood chips from the area in front of our stove
  • making the bed
  • working at my desk
  • filing papers (never to find them again)
  • doing laundry
  • making meals
  • turning my soaps

Doesn't that sound thrilling?

It's strange how my heart sinks when I open the dishwasher, ready to put in the dirty dishes and find that I need to unload the dishwasher first.

Then I think of my grandma, who would have marveled at the thought of being able stash her dirty dishes into a machine that would save her the hours she spent standing in front of the sink with her hands in dishwater.

Or that same feeling that appears when I have an armload of wet jeans to put in the dryer, but I open the dryer to find the load of towels I forgot to fold the night before. Would my grandma have had this problem?

No, in the winter her laundry would have been hung on lines strung across the basement, ensuring that they would be dry (and stiff) in the morning. Grandma would have loved an electric dryer that gave her warm, fluffy towels to fold.

Why do I find myself annoyed when I go to use the vacuum cleaner and discover that I hadn't taken the time to empty the canister before I put it away last time? My grandma had a carpet sweeper. It managed to pick up bits of stuff, but certainly didn't get the dirt out like a vacuum cleaner does. And I can't imagine that it would have picked up all the dog hair that Bridger generously contributes on a daily basis.

I'm challenging myself today to rejoice in the work that God has for me today, even my boring work, rather than waiting for my work to get more exciting. Exciting isn't always good. I'm sure that as a ship is sinking or a jet is going down for a crash landing the people are excited.

And it might help me to remember my grandma, or all the people in the world today who can't even imagine having the modern conveniences I enjoy.

Okay, I better start with this desk. Anyone want to take the challenge with me?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Sign of Confusion

I think I'm going to designate Tuesdays as 'Travelogue Day' and post some of my favorite photos of places I've been. Starting off with today's post about signs, I'm always fascinated by signs in England. Why? Probably because they are not the signs I see every day. Also, they have some pretty amusing road signs. Well, amusing and confusing, if you're a first-time tourist. So take a look at this sign. This is a photo I took in a wonderful little village called Askrigg in the North Yorkshire Dales. Incidentally, much of the filming for building exteriors to represent the fictional town of Darrowby in the TV series 'All Creatures Great and Small' was done in Askrigg. This photo was taken on my trip to England with our daughter, Angela.

That brave girl rented a car in Bath where she, along with her terrified passenger, was suddenly catapulted into the British experience of Driving On The Wrong Side of the Road While Sitting On The Wrong Side of The Car and Going a Zillion Miles Per Hour on the M-Whichever. How she did it, I'll never know. How I survived it without hiding below the dash of the car, I'll also never know. Once or twice, when my heart was throbbing in my throat, I quietly implored her to slow down. Other than that, I think I was pretty manageable.

Back to Askrigg. Back to the above photo. While driving around the countryside, we came across this road sign many times: the white disk with the black horizontal bar. Okay, so we assumed that we were barred from travel on those roads. You know, like 'No Entry.' Doesn't that look like a 'No Entry' sign to you? Yes, I know what you're thinking - that it might have been a good idea to familiarize ourselves with British road signs before we left the States. Yeah, well... And I do remember that we asked the natives for an interpretation - or did we ask them which way to the store that sells Turkish Delight. Can't remember. And yes, I am unashamed to say that I was an obvious TOURIST.

It wasn't until we returned home that we discovered that the mystery road sign means 'National Speed Limit.' What?? I couldn't believe it. Any time I see a sign with a strikethrough...oh well, who am I to argue with the Brits. I'm sure they have some very logical reason.

Then there was this wonderful sign - Elderly People. I'm thinking of getting one of those to put at the end of our driveway. :-)

The George Shut. So what does that mean? Well, I think it's what we call a 'dead end' or 'no outlet.' I'll have to admit, 'dead end' is a stranger term than 'shut.' And I think you can see why no cycling is allowed. The opening is about three or four feet high. You wouldn't want to try riding your bicycle into that place. I took this photo in Much Wenlock.

Pandy Inn. Out in the enchanted Golden Valley of Herefordshire stands this lovely sign in front of, as it says, a 12th century free house. TWELFTH CENTURY!! Good grief! I think our local pub has been in Dallas for maybe 50 years tops. Kevin and I had dinner at the Pandy Inn one night. It was a never-to-forget evening of live music, great food, and the pleasant company of our friends who live in The Golden Valley with beautiful hedgerow-lined roads and plenty of really cute and friendly neighbors who even came out to the road to greet us! - the sheep.

I know this was going to be about signs, but I just can't resist those sweet little sheep.

The footpath sign is common in the English countryside, since thousands of miles of footpaths are available for public use. It's great to be able to traverse a property with confidence that you're not going to be arrested for trespassing.

We discovered this little sign while walking through a churchyard in Askrigg. I'm not sure how one keeps one's dog from fouling on church property... but I like the fact that the sign is low to the ground where the literate canine can read it.
It was fascinating to me how often we saw dogs out and about with their owners. In England, dogs are allowed to go into pubs as long as there's someone on the other end of the leash. Next to the entrance of one pub, we saw a sign that read, Dogs and well-behaved children welcome. Unfortunately, you'll just have to take my word for it, since I've searched my files and can't seem to locate it just now, (my chronic filing problem.)

To the left of the door of The Bull Inn in West Tanfield was the following sign. I love that it starts out with 'Very Polite Notice.' We could take a lesson.

and this one at the entrance to a craft fair in Hawes, home of the Wensleydale Creamery of Wallace and Grommit fame. (I'll be writing more about that later.)

Below is a photo of one of the easier-to-understand roundabout signs, near York. Some roundabout signs have all sorts of spokes sticking out - which makes a pretty tense moment when the navigator, road map in hand, is frantically trying to figure out exactly which one you're supposed to take, as fellow drivers are calmly zipping on and off the roundabout.

Last but not least, one of my favorite signs in London - the Westminster Tube Stop sign, looking toward the Houses of Parliament.
This is what you see when you come up out of the Underground station at Westminster. It's an awesome sight! Just ask Anna, our granddaughter, who was with us when I took this photo in March of 2008.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Waiting for the Cure

I think the shelves are now full. We moved the 19th century wicker perambulator (yes, that's what my mom called those contraptions when I was a kid - and no, I wasn't alive in the 19th century) out of our bedroom to make room for soap-drying shelves. I needed a place for the soaps to cure without being surrounded by airborne dog hair or ash from our wood-burning stove.

The upstairs seemed like a good idea, for the dogs have been gated from the upstairs so long that when the gate is left open, they don't remember that they can actually walk up the steps to kill the cats who live there - Lionel and Tuppence. Miraculously, the cats have been ignoring the soaps, rather than walking among them, knocking them over, or batting them about the floor like hockey pucks - or more likely, mice.

These are generous slices of lemon verbena, fresh out of the mold. At this stage, they are very soft. If I had a stamp that read 'Cranberry Morning,' rather than 'Library of Judy Masrud,' I would stamp my soaps at this stage.

We've got only a few more weeks before the first soaps are fully cured. Then I can put labels on them and push them out into the big, cruel world. I can hardly wait.

Today I'm going to try to swirl two colors of soap together. I think it's like making a marble cake, only scarier.

Do you have a project for the day?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Beauty of Winter

Most winters, by mid-January, I find myself in the 'winter doldrums.' And then we still have February and March ahead of us! Of course, you couldn't budge me from Wisconsin in the summer and fall. I love walking to the top of our hill and looking at the woods and fields below, or just taking the dogs on our laps around the alfalfa field. And gardening, I love gardening. But winter? That was always something to try to endure until summer and fall were here again.

I know that we could always move to a warmer climate, but that climate would have its own problems, such as snakes and termites, maybe, or having to water the foundation of my house just so it didn't crack! How odd that is.

Besides, how comfortable would it be for my German Shepherd to live where it's beastly hot? And where else is it as beautiful as Wisconsin in April, May, June, July, August, September, and October!

I think it was about a year ago that I realized that my continual complaints against winter were really against a loving and gracious God who gave me winter as part of the package of My Life in Wisconsin.

The point is, this year, rather than complaining for an entire three months, I've decided to look for the beauty in winter. And now that I'm looking, well...just take a look at what I've found!

What's the beauty you've found this winter?

P.S. For anyone who woke up to frozen water pipes, I'm sorry for this post.

P.P.S. Expect relapses. I'm only human.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Useful Junk

I thought I would write a post entitled, 'Useful Junk.' And then I could tell about the long list of stuff that resides in various nooks and crannies of our property, such as a chartreuse-gold ceramic bedpan my husband found on a jobsite. He came home with 'Hey, look what I found! I bet it's an antique!'

or the several perfectly good slate blackboards we acquired because the schools were pitching them. 'How can they DO that?? Why would anyone want a dry-erase board when they could have this beautiful slate board??' I would demand, stroking the blackboard and for some strange reason, feeling a little sorry for it for being discarded.

Then there are the time-capsule-worthy artifacts, like the huge pink rollers I used on my hair when I was sixteen. Yes, sixteen for me was quite some time ago. In fact, just a year after the Kennedy assassination - and I do remember where I was. I may not have any Kennedy memorabilia, which might actually have some monetary value, but I do have 3" diameter pink rollers! I've hung onto those rollers all these years so that my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren could see them some day and appreciate what great lengths young women of the 1960s went to, to ensure they would wake up with a stiff neck.

And someday, as the wee great-grandchildren crowd around to hear Great Grandma croak out another story, I will tell about the days I used to iron my long hair in attempt to look hip, like Mary, as in 'Peter, Paul, and...' who were always leavin' on a jet plane, while I was always just leavin' on the school bus. And have you noticed, that you can turn on your TV and still find Peter, Paul, and Mary, still leavin' on a jet plane! for yet another pledge drive.

My pink rollers are still in the granary - where I put them when we moved here 21 years ago.

And our collection wouldn't be complete without lawnmowers in various stages of disrepair. Then again, one never knows when someone will show up with just the right part to fix it - and leave it lying there, next to the broken lawn mower, for another generation.

Growing up with parents who endured The Great Depression of the 1930s, some things just rub off on you. I'll admit, it's not just my husband who falls easy prey to the unusual and possibly useless. For me too, it's hard to throw away a plastic ground-turkey container when I know it can be converted into a drawer divider or a picnic lunch box or a raspberry 'basket' or a crayon box! That type of thing.

Just wait. In a year or two, or sooner, when times get really tough, when unemployment has risen through the roof and hyperinflation has kicked in, you'll wish you'd hung onto your pink rollers and your chartreuse-gold bedpan too, I bet!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Herefordshire, England

It's now February 16. A year ago today, the thermo- meter outside my schoolroom window read -32 degrees F. We've much to be thankful for. Today it's a balmy 20 degrees, and springtime can't be far away.

Always, at this time of year, I think of our visit to friends in Herefordshire, England, friends who were gracious enough to invite us to stay with them in their home. What fun that was! I'm posting a few photos of the beautiful countryside in The Golden Valley where they live.

To an outsider like me, the Hereford- shire country- side is the most enchanting place with its hedgerows lined with daffodils, the ever-present sheep, and its narrow, winding roads.

True, it would probably take me a long time to get used to driving on those roads, and I'd always want to be stopping to view the scenery. I don't think that would work out too well, for you never know when another car - or a huge piece of farm equipment will come zipping around the curve - and then one of you has to figure out where to go to get out of the way of the other. Being tourists, we thought that deferring to the natives might be a good idea. :-)

I just placed an order for a few natural soap colorants and can't wait to use them! In the kitchen, I have my spinach-infused olive oil ready to use for today's soap. I'll post more soap pics later. Today, I hope you'll enjoy The Golden Valley. It will take your mind off the snowbanks and slippery winter roads.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tools of the Trade

It's amazing how much space all my soap-making tools require! It's not just a matter of storing the goggles, apron, and rubber gloves, but also the various types of oils (solid and liquid), lye, and distilled water. Then there are the different sizes and types of molds, stainless steel pans, towels, knives, thermometers, and plastic scrapers.

I love stirring in the botanicals I've dried and the essential oils. The whole house smells wonderful as this caustic (yes, caustic) mix gets poured into a lined wood mold. There it will stay for 24 hours, after which time I will unmold the soap and cut it into bars.

The soap loses its caustic property as a chemical reaction between the lye water and oils takes place over the next 6 to 8 weeks. That curing process renders a fine-grained, fragrant, and luxurious bar of soap. What's so lovely about handcrafted soaps is that they contain none of the common chemical additives and preservatives that are found in most big name-brand soaps, so they're kinder to your skin.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine Treats

It kinda got away from me. Having signed up to bring treats for the break between the church service and Sunday School, the plan was to bake enough cake to serve 120 people. I found Pillsbury strawberry cake mixes on sale for 88c each, so baked two in each of the three half-sheet foil pans I have.

I think I've got enough cake, so that part worked out okay. So far, so good. Then I frosted them. It took two entire bags of confectioner's sugar and one cup of butter, a half teaspoon of vanilla and about a quarter teaspoon of almond extract.

Now, I know that a little Wilton Cake Decorator's Rose Gel goes a long way, but had no idea just how long that was. No kidding. I only put in a teensy little bit, so I was quite surprised to see the screaming pink that resulted. Oh well. Here are the cakes, sprinkled with a variety of Valentine candy bits, and in a color certainly not known in nature - except maybe for the time when Mt. St. Helens erupted. I do remember some intensely pink/red sunsets.

Still, I'm hoping the kids at church will enjoy the cakes. I remember as a child how excited I was to get frosted and decorated cookies or cakes, and how much I loved the garishly decorated treats from the bakery. I'm counting on that running true in the youngest generation also. We'll see. It just occurred to me that after tomorrow, I may be called upon to replace the church carpet.

I still love frosting. I wish I didn't. Even wedding cake frosting, which everyone else thinks is way too sweet and disgusting - and yet they keep using it for wedding cakes!

How about you? What are the treats you remember best from when you were a kid? You know, the ones that caused us to be child slaves to Little Debbie and Hershey's, the ones we longed to find when we opened our lunch boxes - instead of a hardboiled egg and a tomato.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Two Old Hearts

Yes, I said

The neighbor boy is still here, even after 40 years. What keeps us together? To begin with, I'd say, first and foremost, the grace of God. That's definitely what has brought us through the years with a stronger relationship now than ever before. Believe it or not, I can remember being young. I shudder to think of how naive, selfish, and unrealistic I was when we got married.

What else keeps us together? A well-tuned sense of humor. How generous of God to give me a husband who has a good sense of humor! We spend a lot of time laughing at things that would probably not be funny to anyone else.

Yesterday, while running a few errands in town, we were talking about Valentine's Day and the unrealistic expectations that a lot of young people have toward one another. This conversation had waxed on at great length, when my Valentine turned to me and asked, 'So, Honey, what would you like for Valentine's Day?' With that kind of setup, what could I say?? I turned to him and, soapmaker that I am, said pleadingly, 'Please, could I just have a bottle of lye?' He smiled lovingly at me and replied, 'Honey, I can do better than that! I'll get you TWO bottles of lye.'

Okay, so I know it's corny and lame, but we got a good laugh from it. And this is the kind of silly banter that truly enriches our lives. Humor is a great gift that God has given us.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on humor, funny incidents, things that make you laugh.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chicken Tomato Bean Soup Recipe

Last night we had chicken tomato bean soup for supper. I love its delicious aroma as it spends the afternoon simmering on the stove. This is a recipe I like to make on Thursdays, the day my Bible study ladies meet, for I can get everything done ahead of time and just let it simmer while we study - and talk - and visit - and enjoy one another's company - and pray. (More about the ladies' Bible study later.)

Some of the ingredients for this soup come from our garden: tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, potatoes, parsnips, and rutabaga. I was going to plant garlic in October, but by then the rest of the garden was in the cleaning-off stage and I totally forgot about planting garlic.

I've also considered raising chickens - for meat and for eggs, and I could probably put them in the 18' x 71' dog pen which almost never gets used by the dogs. But I can't imagine chicken meat being tender if the chickens have spent their days in terror, running and fluttering inside the pen as the dogs chase them from the outside perimeter. And they would, of course.

I'm not going to bother to try to train my 9 year old German Shepherd and 10 year old Shepherd/Chow/Lab to leave chickens alone. I've heard that you actually can teach old dogs new tricks, but this one seems quite unreasonable, quite against the nature of Shepherds.

So here's the soup recipe. I think you'll like it!


4 cans of petite diced tomatoes OR 1 quart home-canned tomatoes

2 large (13 oz.) cans Hormel chicken breast, drained OR 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 qt. Kitchen Basics chicken broth (no additives or preservatives, the only broth I'll use)

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

3 ribs celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 large jalapeno, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 small-medium potatoes, cubed

3 parsnips, pared and diced

4 carrots, pared and sliced

1/2 rutabaga, pared and diced

1 t.+ cumin

1 t.+ coriander

1 t. coarse, black pepper

Set salt shaker and cayenne shaker on the table for those who may want it.

Stir all ingredients together in large stockpot. I use my 8.5 qt. stainless. Bring to a boil, stir again, then turn down to low in order to simmer for four hours.

I think this would serve at least 10 people if they're not greedy. Kevin and I tend to be greedy when it comes to this soup. It's a wonderful soup to have on a cold winter day, and one that makes it difficult to put down your spoon and walk away from the table!

My husband, sitting as his desk nearby as I'm writing this, just said, 'Judy, Misty's chewing something.' I leaned down to pick up the paper she was chewing on (she's always under my desk when I'm at my desk) and what I found were the last shreds of my chicken/tomato/bean soup recipe! Good thing I had just typed it out on this blog! But poor Misty. I hope the recipe had a drop or two of soup spilled on it so at least some good came from ingesting it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter

I'm trying to remember what it was I accom- plished yesterday. Surely there must have been something, something worth remembering, something worth sharing with my kids...

but no, I think it was one of those winter days occupied with the mundane: feeding the dogs, feeding the cats, letting dogs out and in, turning my soaps, washing a few batches of clothes, folding clothes, taking a few phone calls, and thinking of fascinating things to research online. Yeah, that's sorta the biggest chunk of yesterday, I'm afraid.

Oh. And then there's the half hour I wasted worrying about a mouse stuck on a glue pad. Don't worry. He managed to struggle his creepy little self off the pad before I could get Kevin into the house to attend to him. (That's Kevin - as in 'the man who was not wasting his day, but was diligently plowing the driveway.')

I know what you're thinking, but I absolutely will not touch a filthy glue pad with an angry mouse attached. No way. Of course, by the time Kevin had arrived, the mouse had managed to escape to who-knows-where. So now we're back to square one.

Yes, it's another mouse. That's two this winter, and two in a 48-hour period. I don't know what's happening, but I can tell you that it's what happens when you remodel an old house that's neither square nor plumb. There are just microscopic places near the foundation, presumably, with 'Enter Here' and 'Vacancy' written all over them in whatever language it is that mice read.

During my 21 years of homeschooling, I would call a day like yesterday a 'Mental Health Day.' That was my excuse for getting absolutely nothing done that day, without feeling the least bit guilty about it. Not surprisingly, those days almost always occurred in the winter.

Please tell me that I'm not alone in this, that you have days like this too. And do not tell me if you spent yesterday finding the cure for cancer. Maybe I can handle that tomorrow, but just not today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lionel and Tuppence and Mice

I knew it would happen, I just didn't know when. My brothers warned me about it from the time I was probably 10 years old. When my little sister and I were applying our interior decorating skills to the old corn crib, in order to change it to a Captain Kangaroo club house, my brother warned, in a menacing tone, 'Watch out. A mouse will run up your pant leg!'

Believe me, from that moment forward, I was afraid of mice. And why did I believe my brother? Maybe, just maybe, it's because he always followed through on a threat. There was a sad chapter in my life during which my brother would, at some point each day, sidle up to me and whisper, sinisterly, 'Sis, sometime before you go to bed tonight, I'm going to hit you really, really hard.' My heart would sink. I knew, just as surely as I knew the sun would rise the next day, that sometime before I went to bed that night, my brother would, indeed, ambush me and deliver the threatened punch - a really hard punch - on my upper arm, right on my smallpox vaccination. I spent my days in dread and fear.

And that's my explanation, my justification, for my fear of mice. It wasn't just the usual, 'oh eek a mouse' fear, but the 'standing on a chair when I saw one in the room' fear.

Am I afraid of snakes? Absolutely not. I can calmly snuggle up to a snake and feel its fascinating dry, smooth skin. It always reminds me of the plastic lanyard necklace I made when I was a kid at Bible camp. And I have no fear of spiders - at all. I could even squish a spider with my fingers if I had to, although I'm not sure what circumstance would warrant that necessity. But mice? I think it's because they don't just walk around, they SCURRY. They DART. And I think they carry the PLAGUE. Well, maybe not, but then again, one can't be too cautious.

Fortunately, my fear of mice has waned considerably over the years. Maybe it was when we got cats and I realized that the cats would keep the mice at bay. Mouse fear, however, lingers there just enough so that I'm still a little worried about what I'd do if I were driving and one crawled up my pantleg (as my brothers warned).

And that brings me to last night. I was sitting at my computer, oblivious to the world around me, when I suddenly felt something run up my leg. NO, I'm NOT KIDDING. I screamed and shook my leg furiously and sure enough, a MOUSE FELL OUT OF MY PANTLEG. Admittedly, it was no bigger than a 'Lil Smokie sausage, but it was a mouse nonetheless. Kevin suggested that perhaps it was actually a ladybug that scurried up my leg. Oh Sure. A lady bug that's 2" x .5" x .5"?? It still makes me shudder to think of it. As I'm sitting here at the computer today, I have my pantlegs pushed up to my knees.

And where are those two good-for-nothing cats for whom we provide room and board and all sorts of pleasantness?? I can see that things have gotta change around here. Maybe I'll give them less food in the evening, so they'll be encouraged to spend their nights chasing mice rather than lounging around on my pillow with their whiskers up my nose.

Now I'm wondering if there are any other unpleasant predictions my brothers made that have yet to be fulfilled.

UPDATE: May my cats forgive me for casting aspersions on their character. I discovered that Tuppence, that most remarkable cat, dispatched the mouse late last night. Good kitty.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Rich Inheritance

Look at that little boy, proudly holding the skis he got for Christmas, 1927. That's my dad. What a cute kid! Now that little boy is nearly 93 years old and living in a nursing home. And actually, he's still really cute!

My father is not, nor has he ever been, rich in a worldly sense, but he most definitely gave me a rich inheritance. He taught me who God is and who I am. I can clearly see my dad and mom sitting at the table, reading the Bible and praying daily for their children, their friends, their pastor, and their church.

I learned by Dad's example that God is gracious and kind and 100% reliable. Dad never expected me to be perfect, but he certainly wasted no time in instructing me when I'd done something wrong. He brought me to repentance - and eagerly forgave me. And that's what God does.

I learned from my father that I am a sinner, that Jesus took all of God's wrath toward my sin on himself when he was crucified. Because of that great love for me, I am forgiven of not only my sin but also my GUILT. Jesus freed me from the bondage of sin and guilt. Only through Jesus do I have complete joy and peace in my soul! My Dad taught me that.

Even though it is I now who reads the Bible to him, rather than the other way around, Dad has a calm assurance that he is in God's hands and believes God absolutely. He's still teaching me by example. What a rich inheritance!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Following Instructions

My parents told me not to lie, that liars go to hell. I never lied - well, almost never. My parents told me not to steal, that thieves go to hell. I didn't steal. (And now, of course, I realize I can't convince you of that because of my record on lying.)

Anyway, the point is, I tend to be a person who reads and follows instructions. I've even been known to read the three-foot long paper enclosed with a prescription drug and usually decide not to take it because of its 1500 possible side effects.

When taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills as a child, I always followed the instructions of the teacher proctoring the test: 'Be sure to read the ENTIRE paragraph before looking at the questions.' So, I read the entire paragraph first. As my eyes encountered the words, my brain was screaming, 'HURRY HURRY. THIS IS A TEST. HURRY HURRY.' Then I got to the questions, and none of the words looked vaguely familiar. Then I had to go back to the questions. I have sometimes thought I must have had A.D.D., but I think it's probably more a matter of P.A.N.I.C. Even today, any memory of test taking is stored in my brain where nightmares are stored.

All that to say...for years, I've bought Petromalt to feed my cats so that they don't get hairballs stuck in their gut. Petromalt is greasy brown stuff that comes in a tube and I guess makes the hair that cats ingest, during their obsessive grooming, slide right through. Okay. So, years ago I was instructed to pick up the cat, put a glob of Petromalt onto the top of his paw. The theory was that he wouldn't be able to stand the feeling of the glob, so he would lick it off. Of course, unless you get the greasy stuff mashed well enough into the fur on the cat's paw, he will flick it off onto the carpet, the bed, your pile of laundry, the pants you're wearing, etc. And, believe me, it's a real trick to get this stuff onto the paw of a squirming cat with long, sharp claws.

After 8+ years of doing this, one night recently I went into our bedroom to find my husband holding the tube of Petromalt and our two cats standing on their hind legs in order to lick the grease right out of the tube. RIGHT OUT OF THE TUBE.

I'm beginning to feel betrayed by my conscience.


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