Monday, April 25, 2016

Dangers Unseen

All of life is the exercise of risk. ~William Sloane Coffin

Half of my backyard is a part of a larger woods. When we first moved here, our wooded area was fairly cleared and I envisioned starting with a small shade garden with ferns, hardy cyclamen, hostas, dead nettle, purple shamrocks, lily of the valley, miniature bleeding hearts, and vinca so that is what I planted. I started with a simple island of three trees. I place stones to make a border all around it. Along one side I cleared a path with stones edging the woods on the other side. The path led to the back where I had leveled a spot for a bench. I also planted English ivy in the woods hoping it would carpet the wooded areas. I envisioned sitting on the bench barely able to see our my house let alone the rest of the neighborhood and communing with my Lord, petting a sleepy cat, and reading books with my young daughter in cool of the shade on hot summer days.

It was all going to be beautiful and serene...then came in reality. Mosquitoes made sitting back there on the bench quite a miserable experience except perhaps on the breeziest of days. Also, smack in the middle between the woods' edge that wrapped around my backyard where it had been flat began to sink. When our house was built, it is a common practice for builders to bury the wood they cleared, which in time rots away and creates a sink hole. Builders are no longer allowed to do this for obvious reasons, thankfully.

Not knowing how big the sink hole was going to become, I mostly left the woods alone. Some of my plants survived and some did not. Vinca jumped the rock border of the island and the English ivy took off towards the yard instead of filling the woods. Last spring I removed all the plants in the back shade garden and brought them to the front shade garden where they can be enjoyed and look lovely. I did this because another undesirable had taken residence in my woods: poison ivy.

I hate to use chemicals so the first time I saw some poison ivy, I pulled it out. Crazy as it may sound, you have to understand that I never had a reaction to poison ivy that was more than a very slight rash after lots of exposure. My aunt's horses used to eat it and I remember even locking my bike up on a tree that had it when I was camping thinking that no one would bother with my bike because of it. It has been that way with most of my family, including my maternal grandmother until one time and then she had a very bad reaction and nearly died. So, my aunt warned me to be careful anyway, because I could have a reaction later on in life...and I did. It was not until I moved to Georgia and was pulling out poison ivy that I had a reaction.

After that I was more careful, but for the last six summers I have suffered with poison ivy rashes—from a cat!


I get it from both the Mitten Kittens actually, but it is Little Miss Midnight that gives it to me the most. How do I know? Well, Midnight likes being held and when I pick her up, she immediately perches her head over my left shoulder. I am recovering from a poison ivy rash that covered my throat up to my jaw on the left side and a little rather itchy blister in the middle of my right palm with a smaller one on the side of one finger also on the right hand that holds her while she happily views the world as I walk with her. It would really be so nice if there was some warning that she has this invisible urushiol oil on her fur before I touch her. Of course, Midnight is innocently unaware that when she hunts in the woods that she ends up with urushiol oil on her fur. It does not a thing to her, even when she licks it off.


Sharii does not long tolerate being held, but he loves to wrap himself around legs purring so loudly that it sounds painful. I may have gotten mere touches of the volatile oil from him. My daughter thought they were bug bites but there were not many biting bugs out when I got them so I am thinking that they were not.

I have avoided poison ivy completely and burned it out when I see creeping out of the woods, but I just have not been diligent with killing it. Actually, since I alone was doing it, I kind of gave up. However, you cannot turn your back on poison ivy and wish it away. It has entrenched itself and, camouflaged by English ivy, it climbed trees unfettered. Sad really, because it is quite beautiful particularly in autumn and its hairy vines on the trees add interest in the winter.


Last year, I removed all the plants I wanted to keep from the backyard to wage a war on the poison ivy, even if it meant I would chemically burn out every plant in the woods area! I started by spraying every leaf of poison ivy I could see on the edge of the woods and when they died back I moved in deeper. The problem was another vine was draped from tree to tree so that making my way back carefully was not easy, but this spring before the poison ivy leaves were out, my husband and I cut down what we now know were native muscadine vines. My husband loves muscadine wine and preserves, but since I have not seen any grapes, I am assuming we only have a male vine.

Now I am able to get through our little woods to spray down all the ivy and let me tell you that it is far worse than I thought, but it is dying down. I go out about once a week looking for healthy leaves to spray. Yeah, I am that determined!

However, clearing my yard of the stuff will not cure my problem. Sharii has claimed our property has his territory and sticks around the house, but even so our cats do not stay in the boundaries of your yard, particularly Midnight. She is the smallest cat I have ever had, half the size and weight of Sharii, who tends to get rough. He will be wrapping himself around your legs for a few minutes before he decides it is time to grab and bite them. Although I see them sleep near each other in the afternoon and tag team a mouse hunt, Midnight generally does not like Sharii's rough ways and usually takes off for neighboring areas for most of the day, unless I am outside working so I can protect her.

That being said, Midnight often goes toward the neighbor's yard and to the corner lot they own that was never cleared. The woods there is a great place to hide and hunt...and it is drenched in poison ivy! There is no escaping the cats bringing it to me. Every time I spend a few minutes with them, I have to carefully change my clothes and wash off with Fels Naptha soap. Not fun!

After this bout with the poison ivy, I am just as determined to desensitize to it as I am to burn it out of my yard. I found a homeopathic remedy that is a very low potency, 4x, that I will be taking every day until the poison ivy dies. It is said that Indians did not get poison ivy because they ate it. Well, I am not that brave, but I have had wonderful results with homeopathics so this is worth a try. Besides, how can I resist cuddling with little Midnight!

My Lord, may this remedy work so that I can stop trying to avoid my cats.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Purple Cockroach Story

Violet will be a good color for hair at just about the same time that brunette becomes a good color for flowers. ~Fran Lebowitz

Somewhere hiding around my house is a purple cockroach.

You think I am kidding, don't you? I so wish I was.

This is one of those stories that I was told, by the perpetrator, would be funny ten years from now, but there was some question earlier that she would live long enough to see that day.  

Yes, the perpetrator was my very own Princess.

My story begins with me preparing for bedtime in my bathroom and hearing a scrubbing noise on the wall adjacent to my daughter's bathroom. I walked around to knock on her bathroom door to ask what she was doing: "Cleaning."

Now I knew something was up because I have to go from reminding to begging to threatening her liberty for 20 years before she will clean her bathroom, and it is never done at night. However, I was having some back pain, so not too in the mood to investigate, and I remembered that she had not done it on Saturday as she is supposed to do.

Yeah, I tend to be hopelessly idealistic at times, especially when I am not up to dealing with reality.

Back in my bathroom resuming the nightly routine, I again hear the scrubbing, only worse. I walk back around and again knock.

"What are you doing? It sounds like you are trying to scratch through the wall?"

"I'm not." (I did notice the lack of volunteering more information.)

"Uh-huh. Open the door now!"

On the wall behind the door is a purple spot about two inches in diameter. I am immediately upset.

Now, to understand what is going on in my mind, you have to remember that because we had the windows replaced last summer that every single room in my house with an exterior wall needed to be touched up at the very least to the entire room painted and I have only one room done and another partially done, because life threw us some curves so progress has been slow. Besides the hallway, my daughter's bathroom—the guest bathroom, actually—is the only room (quite literally, the ONLY room) in my house that does not have a window (other than one of the basement rooms, which has the wallpaper peeling off and needs painted as well).

Also, there is a sentimental value to my guest bathroom. Before the Princess was born, my mother came for a visit and this was the room I finished especially for that occasion with a hand stenciled border of magnolias that I liked but also knew that my mother would like. Although my mother acted like it was nothing to her when she saw it (and that was typical of our relationship), I still remember the efforts I made fondly.

All this went through my mind in just a quick moment.... Then came the next moment.

Why was there a purple spot on the wall?
 
I turned to look around and found all the cans of colored hair spray we gave our daughter for Christmas. My daughter quickly explained that she was going to tell me once she cleaned it up.

Okay, but.... Why was there a purple spot on the wall?

Apparently, she saw a cockroach too high for her to kill herself, so instead of calling her father, who was actually home that night, or me, she decided to kill it with hairspray—colored hair spray. She said it was kind of a joke and that hair spray would come off with water...but then it did not.

I just looked at her thinking how, in just a little more than a month, this girl will be fifteen years old...not under ten, when I would have expected this kind of naivety, but fifteen? Of course, I am beyond talking to her at this stage, because I am livid; I am yelling at her that the color of the hair spray is made to wash out when it is on hair as it is meant to be used and about how it must have escaped her when she took science classes that putting one chemical formula onto another can have unexpected results like adhesion or bleed through as dyes can do, all while grabbing cleaning supplies hoping that I will find something that will not damage the paint, yet remove the purple spot.

Yes, I did say all that in just one breath...and more too!

My husband had come up from his desk in the basement to see what I was raging about and used the calm approach to talk to the perpetrator while I finally made some progress with the purple spot. She came to apologize, a genuine apology. I looked at her sweet face with her heartbreaking, pleading eyes and said that I was very appreciative that she want to do the right thing, but I was far too angry to receive it at the moment. That is when my husband tried that same calm and gentle approach on me...and you would think the man should know better after the first two decades that we have been married.

"Have you never done something that you tried to hide and fix it before your parents found out?"

I honestly was too angry to think of anything right then because I was not living with my parents most of my teenage years, but I do know this one thing: I never graffitied walls!

Later, after the purple spot was eliminated and the paint on the wall did not seemed to be damaged by the third chemical formula I had to use to remove it, I accepted the Princess' apology...and I allowed her to retrieve all cans of the colored hair spray that I had thrown into the trash as I complained loudly to my husband that she never allows me to use them in her hair after begging for them, yet she will use them on things she should not, like to graffiti a wall!

The perpetrator has been pardoned and I am laughing about this now nine years, eleven months, and thirty days earlier than predicted. 

In a much calmer state, I began to think over the scene. The Princess did not just grab the first color but specifically looked for the purple one. A day or two before she wanted me to give her an idea or even just a word to challenge her in starting a new fictional story and I came up with something I thought would be fun and challenging off the top of my head: purple kitty.

I really have to be more careful of my suggestions with a child having such a creative mind, but who would have ever thought...well, other than her, that is?

After all was said and done, my Princess was giving me my goodnight kiss and it was then that it hit me....

Where was the purple cockroach?




She said it escaped down the vent.


My Lord, may the purple cockroach rest in peace...if not yet, then very soon.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Am So Going to Need Therapy!

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ~Plato

The presidential election years are always stressful, but this one is just plain crazy wild! I am not going to name names (or body parts, as if that could ever be appropriate behavior for presidential hopeful, although it has happened this time repeatedly) but I just have to say: My Lord, please save us from ourselves!

For the Democrats:
  • A liberal woman, who was a former First Lady and a former Secretary of State, has been under in investigation for using an unsecured personal email address and server to send and receive messages so top secret that the FBI does not even have clearance to read them. In other words, she should be indicted for treason!
  • A self-declared socialist—a solialist!—who will be 75 years old before this election ends, would be the oldest president at inauguration we have ever had. (To date the oldest president at inauguration was Ronald Reagan just three weeks shy of 70.)

For the Republicans (presently):
  • A wheeling-dealing business man, who inherited millions and turned it into billions, admittedly bought Congressmen, bragged about having affairs while married and with married women, and seems to think he can insult people to their face while smiling as if they are friends, but whines when he feels people are being mean to him. He reminds me of a schoolyard bully, but who would dare not be nice to and a "friend" with a multi-billionaire, after all?
  • A Constitutionalist senator, who has a Cuban born father, an American mother, was born in Canada, and speaks with a Texan accent, would be our first president of Hispanic descent and has been threaten with a lawsuit about his eligibility, even though he personally has won cases regarding was is constitutional in the Supreme Court. He is so principled and unwilling to compromise or make deals that he has alienated himself in Washington, D.C. (yet his home state loves him because he has been doing what he promised to do in the Senate).
  • Another Senator of Hispanic descent made a huge mistake by saying he was absolutely against amnesty to get elected, but then was one of the Gang of Eight who wrote a bill permitting illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. He played it the establishment way (go along to get along) and got called out by his constituents. He is hoping to win his winner-take-all home state to force a contested or brokered convention, although the polls are not looking that good there for him.
  • Lastly, a governor from my home state, who is the epitome of how that state sits on the fence and just leans slightly according to which party is promising the best goodies that election year. He invokes the name of Reagan, the most popular conservative president in my lifetime, because he worked under his administration, but the only state he may win is his own, which is winner take all. He is purposely staying in the race hoping to force a brokered convention, because that is the only way he could possibly win.
As for the rules of the Republican convention—well, the rules allow the rules to be changed up until the convention begins, so who will know what the rules will be? Whether it will be a contested or brokered convention depends on the rules. Basically, with that kind of flexibility, the establishment Republicans can change the rules so they can pick their man regardless of the popular vote and the two top candidates are definitely not the establishment types. One has to wonder what will happen if the establishment Republicans pick a candidate that was not popular or had not even ran!

As I watched debates and results with each primary and caucus, I was just bewildered by what I was seeing and hearing. It is too painful to watch and yet I cannot just not watch. (If you are an U.S. citizen and you cannot tell who is who by my descriptions then you have some research to do to be an informed voter rather than a voter of a brand name.)

Personally, I believe in voting for the most principled Christian conservative, who truly understands and respects the limits placed on the president and all of our government by our Constitution, because I believe that if we have that then the issues, on which campaigns promises are made and often broken, will be rectified accordingly.

I am definitely going to need therapy to recover from this election year no matter how it turns out (but maybe a little less if the one I believe should be president is elected).
 
My Lord, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The 6th Time!

As for the piano, the faster her fingers flew over it, the more he marveled. She struck the keys with aplomb and ran from one end of the keyboard to the other without a stop.
-Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

On this day, March 5, 2016, my daughter, whom I still call the Princess here on my blog, again earned a superior score on her piano judging, making this the 6th year in a row. In other words, she has so far always scored a superior rating!


It was touch and go, really. During all the emotional challenges from September to December, my daughter had more difficulty than usual in learning two rather complicated pieces, Toccata and Puck, and she was way behind in what her piano teacher expected if she was going to be in the judging. She finally memorized the pieces but still had fine tuning to do on some timing and dynamics just two weeks ago when she came down with a cold and could not really practice. These pieces also have to be played quite fast, even faster than her piano teacher could ever play, so she admitted. I just was not sure my Princess would pull it together in time and be comfortable with them. Although she did not play either piece flawlessly, she always recovers well and that impresses most judges.

Since the Princess now has a score of 30 points, she will be receiving another trophy soon. Trophies are earned at 15 points increments with one judging per year with different judges each year and the more points, the more impressive the trophy, but there is no trophy that could possibly represent how very proud I am of my daughter.

While this is admittedly a brag, it is also the truth. There are people who can play the piano and there are pianists who perform music. My daughter is in the latter category, even though she still does not realize or appreciate how gifted she is.

My Lord, my God, how can this child not see this amazing gift You have given her?

Friday, March 4, 2016

God's Protection and Grace Times Three

Grace means undeserved kindness. It is the gift of God to man the moment he sees he is unworthy of God's favor.
~Dwight L. Moody

Wednesday is our errand day each week currently. This week I planned to pay my electric bill at the drive through window, drop off items at the first of two consignment sales at 9:00 am, and then pay my dentist a balance not covered by our insurance. Then the plan was to go on to the health food stores and my daughter's piano lesson.

My daughter has had a cold and has not been getting up early, but she did make it that morning. We made it to pay the electric company, but I noticed as my window was down that the van sounded rough without any specific sound. We then made our way and while I was driving to the consignment sale, something crazy happened. My foot was on the accelerator, but it felt almost like it was stuck, but it was not. Also, the van was still running but it was like it had slipped into neutral and was losing speed, but I could step down on the accelerator and it would not rev or do anything. Just as I was looking for a place where I might need to pull over, it just corrected everything.

We made it to the consignment sale and from there to the dentist office, but then it would shudder and stall after it started, whether I was giving it more gas or not. Then it would not start. Then it would. Finally, it kept running long enough that I made it to the closest gas station and put in some fuel injector cleaner, hoping that was the problem. I just sat there, trying to keep it running while that circulated a few minutes, while I called my husband, who was in town, so to speak. We decided that it might be the wisest decision to turn back and stop at the garage. So, I prayed asking my Lord to make it work so we could get there.

Dragon Heart ran absolutely like a dream all the way. I talked to the mechanic with my husband on the phone and since there was no engine light at any time, there were no codes and he would be taking a guess as to what it might be, but he did suggest the fuel pump, which was one I considered too, but I do not like how much they cost to replace. Then he suggested that I could just have gotten some bad gas or water in the tank and to stop at an auto place to get an fuel additive to fix that. He told me that it would be fine, even though I had just added the fuel injector cleaner. So, that is what I did and the van was just fine the entire time before and after.

Since we had left the house so early, we still had time to shop before going to my daughter's piano lesson, her last lesson before the judging on Saturday so it was very important to go. I decided that we would go on with the day's plans. I was turning right at a red light onto a four lane divided highway. I thought that the three approaching vehicles were in the left lane and I usually check twice before turning, but something made me wait just a bit before turning into the right lane. As I stepped on the gas, I realized that I barely missed one of the vehicles! That unnerved me but, again, I just thanked my Lord and went on.

We did everything we needed to do and arrived back home without one problem. I was still haunted by how close I was to causing an accident but everything was well. My daughter decided that despite her headache, she wanted to go to youth group in the evening. When my husband is home, he takes her, but he needed to work late all week so it fell to me.

Again, no problems all the way there. However, on the way back home....


I chose to take newer shorter route, which is under construction to make into a divided four lane road. It was started over a year ago and, for whatever reason, it has not been worked on for months, but it is still considered a construction zone with just a 35 mph speed limit. I was not paying attention to my speed because it is not a busy road at that time in the evening, which resulted in a deputy pulling me over. He asked me if I knew how fast I was going. I thought 40 to 45 mph and he said his laser read 47 mph but then I accelerated to 51. Ouch! Now 15 mph over the speed limit is a serious fine, but worse is that fines are doubled in construction areas in our state, even if there is no real construction being done (for months).

I was as polite as I could be, because I wanted my daughter to learn the proper way to show respect to and obey a law enforcement officer, especially with all the bad press of late. I fully expected to get a sizable fine, that I was going to have to tell my husband about when I got home, but instead the deputy only gave me a warning. He said the last time I had a ticket was in 2005 (and that time I was purposely speeding because my daughter, then four, and I were late in meeting my husband for lunch).

I rarely ever speed, I rarely ever not look three times before pulling out into a lane, and my 14-year-old mini van rarely has any problems, but it all happened in one single day. When I got home for the night, I told my husband of the rest of the day that he did not know, including the speeding thing just minutes away from home, and promptly prepared for bed to pray before I fell asleep. I was not terribly frazzled, but enough was enough for the day. As my Lord would have it, He placed something on my heart and I could not fall asleep as soon as I hoped.

I felt very strongly that I was to write a letter to the deputy to thank him for doing his largely thankless job to keep us all safe and for having the opportunity to demonstrate for my future driver how she should properly conduct herself  should a law enforcement officer pull her over. I mentioned that my daughter has always been uncomfortable with people in uniforms, so I appreciated his professionalism. Also, I thank him for showing me grace when I was in the wrong and deserving of the fine, writing that all the other times I have driven within the speed limit does not wipe away the one time I did not, which reminded me of how God's grace works, that the good we do does not compensate for even one bad thing. I felt God wanted to speak to him through me.

So, my Lord, protected us and showed us His grace three times and then asked me to do just one thing for Him. It was a good reminder of how He always does more for us than He asks of us.

My Lord, I cannot thank you enough for Your protection and grace. Thank you so much, my Lord, that I did not cause an accident in which people could have injured, including my daughter. The ticket would have been nothing in comparison to that, but You still showed grace that I did not deserve there as well. Thank you, My Lord.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Todd White and Healing

Jesus didn't just pay a price to get you to heaven. He paid a price to get heaven into you. -Todd White

Todd White has been one of my Christian heroes ever since I happened on a video on YouTube of him healing people on the street about three years ago. I wrote about my find in Healing on the Streets. The guy is just infectious with his love of God and of people.

Last week he was the speaker at a student rally just a mere 20 minutes from my home!!! We volunteered to be drivers, so we had to go 25 minutes south to our church and go another 25 minutes north and east to get to the church where this was taking place. They really did not need us to be drivers, so we went straight home afterward. I think there were as many adults there from my church as there were youth.

The event started with a DJ playing Christian rap. Definitely not my thing, but the youth was into it with the hip-hop dancers. I sat playing a game on my phone thinking how much I wish it was not so loud and how much the times have changed. When my husband and I were youth group leaders 20 years ago, there was no Christian rap at such events. I might have enjoyed the messages in the music just a bit more if I could understand what was being said, but I could only catch a word here and there or a short phase, no more than three words.

After that, there was a contemporary praise and worship band with break dancing injected now and then. Again, so not my thing, but I sang along with the words on the screen because most of the songs were ones I know.

Then came my hero, Todd White, taking the stage shouting "J-e-s-u-s, J-e-s-u-s!" He is just...well, I could just listen to him for hours and hours but we only got about one! He told us about an encounter with two unbelievers on his flight, how he prayed to heal them, and how they responded. The guy just does not take no for an answer. It is just so obvious that he believes not in just God's ability to heal, but in His love overcoming any resistance a person may present. His tenacity and optimism is just amazing.

From the moment we arrived, I felt the pull to go up front, but it was when Todd asked for anyone who had not yet been baptized in the Spirit to come up that I looked back to my husband in dismay as I found myself making my way up through the seats. Honestly, I had no idea why I was going, but I felt strongly that I was to go. I have not been slain in the Spirit, but I have surrendered to the Spirit. People passed by praying briefly, but I was still wondering why I was there. Then I felt I could leave; I turned, took one step, between a line of people, and there in front of me was my daughter. Then I knew why I was there.

Within a minute or two, a young woman came to her and began praying for her. I tried to listen, but it was just so loud there. So, I introduced myself as her mother and asked what she had prayed about. She told me she was praying about her anxiety and depression. I asked if my daughter had asked for that and she said it was what she was told by the Lord.

My daughter has had a skin condition, dry, cracking skin flaking and peeling off, that began on one hand and has spread to both forearms and her lower legs. I have prayed about it many times and I keep getting that it is a manifestation of her anxiety and depression, which is why it does not go away. She is not acting depressed as she was, but I know that deep depressions leave residuals and this is one of the reasons I have been more focused on guiding her these last few months and putting academics as a lesser consideration presently.

I believe it much of this mindset started when she was bullied by a girl and her brother in the neighborhood years ago. The Princess just never understood why anyone would treat another person that way, especially one who said she was a Christian. She also felt unsafe in the neighborhood because of them and her best friend in the neighborhood lived across the cul-de-sac from them. At times she still wanted to play with the girl, I think because she hoped every time would be different and a few times things went well, so she told me, but then the very next time.... And then there have been a few times, when we dug into the issue, that my Princess has screamed out about how I did not believe her about specifics or I did not protect her; she includes her father in that as well, but it is mostly directed at me. I know she feels that way because she trusted me, but she often allowed herself to be vulnerable against my wishes and advice.

I know that her perception and memories of what I did and did not do is skewed by her feelings. I took steps to protect her as much as I could given that she also wanted her freedom and to play with her best friend. When I asked about stepping into the situation, talking to her parents (which the parents of her best friend and I had already done a few times), or anything else, she begged me not to do so saying it only had things worse. That girl's mother and I agreed to have her daughter come to my house to play so the other girl would not see them playing from the cul-de-sac, but then the girl and her brother began to play with our neighbors' children who were younger. Eventually, even my neighbor had enough of her children being bossed and bullied, but it took a couple of years. (This was the same neighbor that banned my daughter from talking about anything religious.) In the meantime, my daughter and her best friend ping-ponged between our homes to avoid the bullying girl, who had turned particularly mean toward my daughter, but was not that kind to either of the girls.

My daughter was prayed over and I am hopeful that she is healed in body and soul. While waiting for the skin condition to completely disappear, I keep working with her to bring to the Light what she has tried to keep hidden within and show her acceptance and love.

While we were up near the stage, my husband was being prayed out for healing of a pain in his foot caused by a cyst by all the remaining of our church that was sitting near him and he was healed of the pain instantly. He still had the cyst and gets a little twinge a time or two during the day, but he no longer has constant pain.

My Lord, please help my daughter get past her hurts and heal. Let heaven be in her...and me and my husband, too.