Friday, November 16, 2012

Ginger's Crime

I had just settled into a chair in the warm sunlight in the living room to tune my sister's mandolin when I realized, "Oops!  I'm sitting in Ginger's chair!"  As a matter of fact, there's hardly ever a time when our family gathers in the living room (usually for Bible reading) that Ginger doesn't sit in her chair and I sit on the floor.  It doesn't bother me at all.  I think the floor is comfortable; the dog simply disagrees.


     We got Ginger as a 3 month old puppy in the spring of 2003.  It wasn't long before she had the run of the neighborhood.  Pretty soon, she brought home a shoe.  "Just 1 shoe, Ginger?" we teased her.  "You should have brought home a pair."  Well, soon enough we had plenty of shoes!  Finally, one day we saw our neighbor Dennis.  "Dennis, do you happen to be missing any shoes?" we asked.  "Well, as a matter of fact I am missing a few..."

     Next, Ginger took to stealing farmers' (my dad's customers') gloves; once she even jumped into the cab of a pick-up truck to steal a glove.  Of course, wild chases ensued, giving Ginger all the fun and attention she craved.  Customers soon learned to keep their truck doors shut.

     When winter came, we started finding a wing here, a drumstick there, and half-eaten chickens everywhere!  How did Ginger develop such an appetite for chicken, and where did she find so many?  She definitely couldn't have been paying secret visits to Kentucky Fried Chicken, could she?  So, we put an ad in the local newspaper: "Found: Red Chickens."  It wasn't long before we got a call from our long-suffering neighbor Dennis.  "Hi, I saw your ad in the newspaper, and I was just wondering...are any of those chickens still alive?"  

     It turned out that he had seen the chicken massacre as he drove home from work one day.    Of course, we paid him for the damages, and set about growing our own flock of chickens.

We finally got Ginger "chicken-trained" (and yes, there were a few casualties during the training).   Then for the next 6 years we trained every stray or neighbor dog (at least 6 dogs in all) that came to visit.   

I guess you reap what you sow...and then some.

After her exploits as a puppy, Ginger had to put up with all of the young neighbor puppies.

Here Ginger tries to keep a puppy in line (2009 or 2010):





For the past couple years, Ginger has settled into a rather placid life.  Our neighbor has promised that if he ever gets another dog it will have short legs and not come over to live at our house.

Ginger has been "converted" since her wild days of youth.  She's now peace-loving, treats the cats well, would never dream of touching a chicken, and spends most of her days lying on the couch or her favorite chair.  

Who could ask for a nicer dog (with a more exciting life-story)--even if she does hog the living room chairs?

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Centenarian

     There's a little white church a couple miles from my home, with a little old cemetery beside it.  Drive in the gate and you'll find a headstone that reads: "Esther Pitts 1900-2009, A Life of Giving."

     October 31, 2009 was her last birthday. We had 2 days of celebrating--a party with friends on the 30th, and then a party with just the family on the 31st--during which we consumed 3 cakes.  I guess eating 3 cakes was nothing--when Aunt Esther was young she would eat a pound of chocolate on the bus on her way home from work.   



Aunt Esther lived with my family from December 2002 (when I was 8 and she was 102) until she died in December of 2009.  Believe me, living with a woman nearly a century older than I was a very interesting experience!

I met Aunt Esther when I was very young (that's me with my mother, Aunt Esther, and the rabbit ear TV, which by the way is sitting on a rack for phonograph records).  My father had known Esther since 1974, and she had shown many kindnesses to my family and many others (A Life of Giving). 
But my first memory of her is actually a memory of me sprinting down the hallway, an elderly lady in a wheelchair, dark hair pulled back neatly, at my heels, determined not to let me leave without giving her a hug!  Over the next few years I was to learn that love is the purest gift, the freest gift, the most needed gift, and that love doesn't run away.
As Aunt Esther's latest caretaker faced ill health, in 2002, my parents "kidnapped" Aunt Esther from a rest home in La Grande, OR. Spirited across the Rockies in our old Ford Ranger, Aunt Esther joined us in Iowa. My siblings and I had the time of our lives wheeling Aunt Esther around the house, showing her where all the light switches were. Then we settled down for a delicious bowl of steaming vegetable soup. To our surprise, Aunt Esther wanted peanut butter on her soup.  It wasn't long before we caught on to the splendid idea of peanut butter on everything--soup, oatmeal, raisin bran, chocolate, pie, and ice cream. I even took Aunt Esther's ideas a bite further and tried peanut butter on salad--not the brightest combination.
Aunt Esther's scrap books were fascinating, and her stories were too--until we had heard them the umpteenth time.  She told us of how her mother fainted when she saw a woman smoking for the first time (in the 1920's), and of how her mother threatened to make her wear a hat in the house if she ever cut her hair (she said she never even wanted to).  When she was a girl, women were arrested if they wore pants in public. She was born before Wilbur and Orville Wright invented their first "flying machine" (airplane) and before the Titanic sunk.   She received post-cards from her cousin who fought in France during World War 1, but didn't remember the Great Depression very well because both she and her brother kept their jobs during the Depression and didn't face financial difficulties.  
Aunt Esther and co-workers in front of the Laundry where she worked.
  She is tall, wearing a dark sweater, and standing in front of the
"5 Thrifty Services" sign.
She told us of the shortage of alarm clocks during World War II, and how after her alarm clock was stolen she had a friend who had a clock call her so she could wake up and get to work in time.  She was a living history book although a great part of her stories were stories that she had read here or there.  She loved animals, particularly cats, and liked to tell stories of cats that had done extraordinary feats.  My dad has told various stories of Esther when she was younger.  Once a preacher came to town, ran up a bill at the local grocery store, and left town without paying the bill.  All over town people talked about what hypocrites these so-called Christians were.  Aunt Esther walked to the grocery store and payed the bill.  I'm sure she did many other good deeds that no one living now knows of.
While she lived with us, Aunt Esther was hard of hearing and had a voice that could shake the cedars--a good thing if she needed help, a bad thing when she had phantom pains in her amputated leg or argued with my parents. She could be heard from the attic to the basement. Aunt Esther had dementia and because of this seemed to love arguing. One evening when arguing was worst, I went outside to escape the scene and bring in the laundry, and I found that God's great peace is always available for His children, regardless of the circumstances. I also developed an allergy for arguing because, while simple disagreement is good for both sides, repeating "I'm right and you're wrong" one hundred times and in a hundred different ways really convinces a person of nothing but "I'm right and she's wrong!" I learned that one must forgive and forget, because an unforgiven deed develops bitter poison, and time does not heal. Sometimes our dear Aunt Esther would sit up crying about some unkind deed someone had committed 70 or even 100 years before!  
I learned that work is valuable and brings great satisfaction and fulfillment. Though "resting" was one of Aunt Esther's favorite pastimes, too much resting did Aunt Esther no good, and my parents knew it. In the summer, Aunt Esther would hull beans and peas, and shuck corn--and she enjoyed it. In the winter, Aunt Esther would complete laps around the house in her wheelchair, dropping a canning jar lid into an empty oatmeal container as she completed each lap. She also did other exercises. If she kept moving, regardless of her complaints, "This wheelchair is killing me!" and "torture!" she stayed healthy and strong.
By God's grace, Aunt Esther did stay alive and strong for 7 years, telling everyone, "I'm glad I still have most of my marbles!" Nearly every night as I grew from a little 8 year-old to a studious 15 year-old I'd shout "Good night, Aunt Esther, I love you!" sometimes give her a hug, and bound up the stairs. Living with a centenarian was difficult at times, but I'm glad my parents "adopted" Aunt Esther. I learned a lesson of extreme love and patience from my parents and valuable lessons about forgiveness and work from Aunt Esther, and I acquired an undying taste for peanut butter. 
 A sign over Aunt Esther's desk read, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last." Even in her senile years, Aunt Esther was a blessing. 
What advice would Aunt Esther give you if she were alive today?  "Do all the good you can while you can, because you never know how soon it will be too late!"  (and yes, I can still hear her intonation of the phrase ringing in my ears as I type).  It's the same advice she gave everyone, and it's true. 
 God calls us to follow him today.  Hebrews 3:15 says, "Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day to make a difference in this world.  If we wait till tomorrow, it may be too late.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Purr-sistence (Persistence)

Skippy
A couple years ago, a stray and very wild tabby Felis Catus moved to our acreage.  We named her Skippy (She's also known as Zippy) because she would zip (or skip, or run, or whatever means was fastest) away at the sight of Homo Sapiens.  We thought she'd never make a good pet.  She was a seemingly hopeless case.  My dad, however, thought differently.  He started feeding her.  By and by, she would allow us to come within 4 feet of her.  Next, she let us scratch her head while she ate.

Today, she sits on the patio (preferably on a comfortable chair on the patio), waiting for us to come out.  Sometimes she begs to be petted; she especially enjoys being scratched under the chin. She purrs, and my sister reports that Skippy has even sat on her lap.  She's a changed cat.  If we (or particularly my dad) had given up on the cat after the first week or two, she would never have become the sweet, playful, domesticated kitty she is today.  Purrsistence, or rather persistence,  payed off. 

But watch out, you might get swatted!
     G.B. Shaw once said, "When I was young I observed that nine out of every ten things I did were failures, so I did ten times more work."

 Most everything is difficult when you first start, but as you persist in your efforts, not only does your work become easier, but also better quality.  

When my dad started his welding business, he had a customer maybe once a month.  A decade later, he rarely has a day when he's not busy working in his shop.  Sometimes 3, or 4... or 5 jobs are brought in in one day, and it's not unusual to see farm equipment parked outside waiting to be worked on.  

When I first started sewing,  it was a headache.  I seemed to take out more stitches than I put in.  But it's almost impossible to find the kind of skirts I like to wear for sale, so I sewed 1 skirt, and then another.  Half a year later, I sewed another just to remind myself how much I dislike sewing.  For my first 5 big sewing projects, crooked seams, days of frustration, 3 or 4 tries before installing a zipper correctly--only to have it break within a week--and the like were the norm.  A couple weeks ago my wardrobe was boring me enough, so I dutifully visited a fabric store and picked out a couple yards of denim.  A few hours in my free-time during 2 days, and ta-da!  Near-perfect hems, a zipper done correctly the first time (and better than any of my others), straight lines for all 10 panels, and exactly the style of flared skirt I like.  I still hate sewing, but believe me, persistence pays off and practice makes perfect.

Often, thinking about doing something can be the hardest part.  When you really decide to get something done, focus on it, and dive into the task, usually you'll find it easier than you had feared.

  Last month, I decided I needed to be able to run a half mile without difficulty.  At the time, I was quite winded after running a quarter mile.  With a little practice, by the end of the month I could run a whole mile with less trouble than I could run the quarter mile at the beginning of the month.  Imagine how hard that would have been if I had just spent the month thinking about it!   

Driving is another example.  When a person is learning, trying to drive without swerving all over the road, failing to look in the rear-view mirror before slowing down, and almost being hit by the car behind him/her can be a nerve-wrecking experience.  With practice, however, the student gradually becomes more relaxed and skilled.  

But, if you're learning to drive, I recommend you take your cat along.  Persistence pays off, but you may need all 9 lives if you want to live to see it.  

On second thought, the cat might be a driving distraction when she climbs up on the dash.  Maybe what we all need is a guardian angel.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

We the People...

          When we walked out of our car to the polling place, the local public library, it was early morning.  As we signed up for our ballots, one of the election officials--whom we all know from the Republican caucuses-- asked us "Is it still raining?"  We said, "Yes."  He said, "Good!" 

      He didn't need to say anymore; we knew exactly what he meant.  Republicans (supposedly) are more determined voters and a little rain wouldn't stop them.  There's always a little humor when it comes to getting the right people out to vote (and encouraging the wrong people to stay home).  In the 2008 Republican caucus here in Iowa, Mike Huckabee told his supporters, "If you've got friends or neighbors that won't vote for me, put all your snow in their driveway and don't let them out tomorrow night."  It must have worked, as Huckabee won with a 9% lead over his nearest opponent.
A little bit of snow in the driveway here in Iowa can sometimes be a big problem, as this photo from February 2010 shows. 
     Perhaps Republicans would vouch for moving the election to January for better chances of snow, except many Democrats also show determination to have their voices heard--as demonstrated by this woman who made her way to the polls even though she was in labor.

I was a little surprised that I wasn't required to show any identification (but Voter ID laws aren't in effect here and everyone knows each other anyway).  My name was in the registered voters book, so I just signed the book, gave my address, was given a ballot, and proceeded to a voting booth.  

I filled in the easy ovals first.  Iowa State Representative Pat Grassley is a decent Republican, and he had no candidate running against him. 

U.S. Representative Steve King was running against former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack.  They've both had energetic campaigns.  Yard signs for King or Vilsack decorate many lawns and I've received many phone calls asking which of the two I like better.  Steve King ranks in my top 10 of politicians.  I was very impressed listening to him at a town hall meeting a couple months ago, so he, of course, got my vote.  I was happy to see him win with 55% of the vote, as opposed to Vilsack's 43%.

On the back side of the ballot was the option of voting "yes" or "no" on retaining Iowa's Supreme Court Justices.  In 2010, 3 of the justices were voted out after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled to strike the words from the Iowa Code which limited marriage to the union of a man and a woman.  Iowa became the first Midwestern state allowing homosexual marriage.  This year, the vote on whether or not to retain Justice Wiggins was seen an important gauge of whether or not most Iowans still protest the homosexual marriage ruling or have now come to accept homosexual marriage as a norm.  To my dismay, Wiggins kept his position with 54% of the vote.

Here in Iowa, we had minor presidential candidates from the Constitutionalist, Libertarian, Green Party, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Socialist Workers' Party, as well as an independent on the ballot, besides Republican candidate Mitt Romney and Democratic candidate President Barack Obama.  Many of the names of these minor candidates were unfamiliar to me; I imagine their election night hopes were as forlorn as Thaddeus McCoter's hopes were at the Ames Straw Poll in August where he played his electric guitar and finished with 0.2 % of the votes.  (I don't know what his stand was on important issues; I do know that I disliked his music!)



This Facebook meme epitomized the presidential election from my perspective.

     As Noah Webster wrote:  Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority...the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions.  There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern.  They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."  

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have dramatically increased the size of government at the price of individual liberty within my lifetime.  Under Republican President George Bush we saw the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, the TARP bailouts, the Patriot Act, and 2 wars which have cost us thousands of American lives as well as the lives of many innocent civilians in the Middle East.  With Barack Obama, we have the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the NDAA, and the auto-industry bailots.

Obama supports homosexual marriage.  In May of this year he said, "I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."   Obama also supports abortion, or "a woman's right to choose."  As I am pro-life and strongly believe in traditional marriage, voting for Obama was out of the question.

Romney, on the other hand, declared in a 2011 GOP primary de-bate: "I believe people understand that I'm firmly pro-life. I will support justices who believe in following the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end."  In a 2007 GOP debate, Romney said, "I’d like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and allow the states to put in place pro-life legislation."  This is a drastic change since Romney said in a debate with Ted Kennedy in 1994: "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country; I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate.  I believe that Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice."

 I found it incredibly difficult to vote for a presidential candidate who has "flip-flopped" on some issues, and whom I suspect may have changed positions on some issues just to please voters.  I can't vote for a man I don't more or less trust.  Additionally, I am not a fan of Romney's foreign policy.

I can't see why the Republican party chose the one of all the candidates in the primaries most like Obama.  Why did they choose the author of Romneycare, a program which was used as a pattern for Obamacare, to run against Obama?  To me, it was a borderline absurdity.

Neither candidate even promised to audit the Federal Reserve, cut various departments and agencies which I consider part of an overgrown, expensive bureaucracy, give young people the choice of opting out of social security without being treated like second or third class (or dead) citizens, or make the drastic changes needed to help our economy get back on its feet..

  So, to the dismay of both my Republican and Democratic friends, I wrote in Ron Paul.  Regardless, My county was won by Romney in nearly a landslide.

Perhaps I am die-hard, perhaps a bit stubborn, but I couldn't bring myself into voting which ice-burg our ship of state should hit.

The absurdity of so many of the laws and policies in these United States irks me daily and occasionally haunts my dreams.  Unfortunately, I don't believe either candidate would have changed the situation drastically for the better.

All I can say is, Oh God, deliver us from the shackles of what has become this gargantuan bureaucratic inferno of archaicness, degradation, oppression, and hypocricy that crushes in the bud so much of the nascent vitality of our people.


I'm disappointed that my fellow citizens chose to re-elect President Barack Obama.

If "We the People" have decided to adopt the new sport of crashing-into-iceburg derbies in an attempt to sell our birthright of liberty, become dependents on our government and not freemen, and enslave ourselves with debt, it would have broken up the monotony at least to hit a different ice-burg.