Archive for ‘Dog’

November 5, 2013

Thoughts from the Edge of 29

My schedule these days is pretty bizarre. Since I work with students, who obviously can’t work with me when they are in school, I get to do things like go to Thursday Morning Bible Study (henceforth to be referred to as TMBS) at my church. We are working our way through Exodus (with some forays into Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), and it has been really really good for me.

Exodus is one of those books I know pretty well – conceptually. But I feel like I’m noticing so much I’d missed before.  Reading the same passage 5-7 times each week is helping me do more than just absorb information. I’m getting a feel for Moses’ style, appreciating how the story is being told, mulling over things that are confusing (which, interestingly, I am noticing more, now that I’m reading the same passages over and over again), and picking up on different things with each read. I think typically, when I’ve read, say, Jude, 4 times in 4 years, I have noticed more or less the same stuff each time. But with such intense focus over the course of several days, I am gleaning more and more.

In addition to being excited about connecting with Scripture in a deeper way, I’m fascinated by this shift. I went to seminary largely to learn the Bible better – which totally happened – and to learn to love it better – which also happened. I am learning so much now that I would have loved to learn several years ago. But I don’t think I would be able to see what I’m seeing now without those years – all 29 (plus nine months, I suppose) – of learning. Everything that I’ve learned is somehow incorporated into a foundation of understanding, which frees me to pay attention to things differently.

This feels bizarre because I’ve become more childlike, especially in the way I am engaging Scriptural texts. That’s weird on a number of levels – like how complex and involved and mature the thinking I’m doing is. But the weirdest part, experientially, springs from the fact that I was a very unchildlike child.

It wasn’t until senior year of high school that I stopped trying so hard to be older and more grown up, that I stopped being quite so serious, so die-hard, so ready to go to bat for just about anything. A few examples: When I was about 10, my fashion goal was to dress (convincingly) like a secretary. I stopped reading children’s books (except where required for school) at way too young an age, and missed greats like The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and The Chronicles of Prydain. (I’ve been playing catch-up since I was 20.) I picked fights about philosophy with high school students when I was in 7th grade. (Ok, so that one has more to do with being obnoxious than grown up.) I was SERIOUS, y’all.

My dog was raised in a racing kennel. He was taught to run fast, go into his crate, and walk on a leash. But he wasn’t allowed to be a puppy; he didn’t learn how to play. Westley was injured in a racing mishap not long after he turned two, and when he came to live with me, I had to teach him to play. He’s still not stellar at it, but he does play every day. He has learned how to be silly and have fun. I think I can appreciate where he’s coming from, having lightened up significantly since my serious childhood. It’s probably one of the reasons we’ve connected so well.

Jesus talks a lot about being like little children when we come to the Father. I am trying to get better at it. Here’s hoping 29 looks a lot more like 10 than 10 did.

Well, in some ways at least.

August 20, 2013

Westley: An Update

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It’s been about six and a half months since I brought Westley home. Despite a few rough patches in the beginning, we have made excellent progress, and are settled into something that decently approximates a schedule. He had a lot of trouble getting used to my dad, but they exist in affable companionship now. He has definitely decided that he likes the whole family, except maybe Brad. Brad is so short compared to the rest of us; I think Westley hasn’t figured out what species he is yet. Lately, when my mother and I are in the same room with him, and one of us gets up to go to another room, he experiences visible distress as he tries to figure out who he should stay with.

Westley’s a bit neurotic and definitely has more than a touch of OCD. His foster mom described him as routine-driven, which is a massive understatement when he’s a solo dog, as it turns out. He’s kind of emotionally needy. (That’s a massive understatement, too.) He is affectionate and demands affection from us, but can decide suddenly that he needs space. He is even more food driven than he was when I got him – he goes and stands in his crate about 30 times a day in hopes of getting a treat. He is silly sometimes, and these days plays at least once a day. (It took him weeks to figure out the whole playing thing.) He is shockingly obedient 90% of the time with commands he knows – “down,” “leave it,” and “sit” he totally owns. “Off” is the one he sometimes has trouble with. He seems to think “stay” is an interjection of indeterminate meaning.

I am most amused these days by Westley’s butter obsession. If you go to the fridge and pull out a box of strawberries, he’ll still be in the den lying on his bed. But the second he hears the butter tray cover move, he is THERE. He has, so far as we know, eaten about a stick and a half of butter since we got him – he once got a whole stick of it off the counter. He’s not nearly as bad a “counter-surfer” as he used to be, but he manages to swipe something or put those big front paws of his on the counter and inspect the “offerings” once a week or so.

Because he is so routine-oriented, it has taken awhile for him to learn some basic things like “Mommy always comes home eventually,” “Mommy always comes home eventually,” and “Mommy always comes home eventually.” Here are some other things he’s figured out.

  • Uncle KJ goes and comes and comes and goes. He is my very favorite person who isn’t Mommy. Or Nana, sometimes. Or whoever has a treat.
  • Nana is great to hang out with when Mommy is gone (and sometimes even when Mommy is not gone).
  • Grandpa is pretty nice.
  • Aunt Katie takes me on walks ALL THE TIME when I’m at her house.
  • But she doesn’t like me running around when the baby is up.
  • The baby is weird.
  • Uncle David lives at Aunt Katie’s house. He is fun when we are outside. He is boring inside.
  • I rather dislike being wet, but if I’m going to get a little muddy, I might as well get REALLY muddy all over.
  • Getting a bath won’t cause me any permanent physical damage.
  • Apple flavored treats are the best! OMG!

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May 30, 2013

The Next 37: An Annotated Bibliography

So I’ve been putting this off because I’m reading David Copperfield and it’s taking me SO LONG, but I wanted to be able to put it on this list. But I can’t. So here it is, as it stands today.

  1. A Pocket Full of Rye (Agatha Christie) – This one is quite clever.
  2. Into the Wild (Warriors Book 1) (Erin Hunter) – I read this because it has been such a successful series in children’s literature of late. I did not expect fighting clans of wild warrior cats would be interesting, but in the hands of Erin Hunter, they are.
  3. Flood Summer (Trenton Lee Stewart) – Boy, if anyone ever started out in the wrong genre, it’s Trenton Lee Stewart. His children’s books (you may have heard of them – The Mysterious Benedict Society series) are brilliant, delightful, and timeless. Flood Summer, on the other hand, nearly killed me. It’s not that it’s a bad story, or that it’s badly written, or that the characters are flat – I think if it had been by someone I’d never heard of, I would have been more pleased. But knowing what Stewart can do gave me high hopes. Alas.
  4. Snow White Must Die (Nele Neuhaus) – Classic small town mystery story. Or is it?
  5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) – I think I was distracted by all the drugs.
  6. The Casual Vacancy (J.K. Rowling) – Fine, if a bit rambly. Lacked the universality of Harry Potter, and every single one of the characters was pitiable for a good chunk of the story.
  7. The Serial Killers Club (Jeff Povey) – It was fine. I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before (at least to my knowledge), although Dexter kind of fills this niche a little.
  8. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (John le Carre) – Very good. Why haven’t I been read le Carre before?
  9. Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective (Agatha Christie) – I’m a huge Christie fan, but if Parker Pyne is a detective, I’m the keynote speaker at the American Glassblowers Association summit in Nome, Alaska next summer.
  10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (JK Rowling) – It’s at this point in the story that I realize I cannot possibly pick a favorite book, let alone character.
  11. The Hangman’s Daughter (Oliver Potzsch) – Fine. I liked the “young love” romance angle. The size of the story’s tangled web was a little silly.
  12. Good Dog! (Steve Dale) – This little ebook was full of great advice, and as a first-time sighthound owner, I appreciated the nuances of Dale’s approach. “Breeding will out,” as they say – and I think particularly that’s the case with animal breeds.
  13. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (JK Rowling) – Love.
  14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling) – Also love. This was my first time to read the whole series through since the first time, right around when this 7th book came out. It doesn’t get old.
  15. Firebird (Firebird Trilogy #1) (Kathy Tyers) – Read this for the first time in high school. Not be the best sci-fi out there, but I think it’s pretty good.
  16. Leaving Everything Most Loved (Maisie Dobbs #10) (Jacqueline Winspear) – To my thinking, this is the weakest so far of the Maisie Dobbs series. I feel about Maisie like I do about Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s bestselling series – MAKE A DECISION YOU ARE KILLING ME HERE. Being in limbo for multiple books on the same decision makes a character begin to feel dull.
  17. Fusion Fire (Firebird Trilogy #1) (Kathy Tyers) – The sequel to Firebird; not as strong as it’s predecessor.
  18.  Galahad: Enough of His Life to Explain His Reputation (John Erskine) – Hilarious, if you’re an Arthurian legend junkie.
  19. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (Erik Larson) – Absolutely fascinating. Talk about a chunk of history I had only the vaguest clue about. I’m sure not everyone would go in for a story about the rise of Chicago, architecture, personal politics, and a serial killer, but, man, I thought it was great. And apparently so have millions of other readers.
  20. The Accusers (Marcus Didius Falco #15) (Lindsey Davis) – Books like this are the payoff for sticking with a series for a long time. Fantastic.
  21. The Gates of Zion (Zion Chronicles #1) (Bodie Thoene) – I read this series, and most of the connected series, in middle and early high school (starting in 5th grade). I was completely obsessed. If you and I went to elementary or middle school together, you might even remember what the covers look like, simply because of me! (Note: No, you are not remembering wrong. The cover didn’t look back then like it does in the edition they are selling now.) Rereading this book made me embarrassed for my 5th grade self. There is so much kissing! And the theology is kind of wack! And the people are bizarre caricatures of actual human beings! And there is so much kissing! And the plot is silly! And there is so much kissing! And the writing is not very good! And there is so much kissing! I decided that I owed it to my 5th grade self to finish the book I had so loved, but then abandoned the series, hopefully forever. (Another note: I am by no means opposed to kissing. But HOLY COW.)
  22. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Agatha Christie) – After reading The Gates of Zion, I needed my faith in fiction restored. This book helped.
  23. Scandal Takes a Holiday (Marcus Didius Falco #16) (Lindsey Davis) – So did this.
  24. Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt) – I finally get what the fuss is about with this book. Not my favorite, but not all good books are.
  25. The Singer (Singer Trilogy Book 1) (Calvin Miller) – HOLY COW. I read this in third grade, and apparently (understandably) DID NOT UNDERSTAND ALL THE TRINITARIAN AND CHRISTOLOGICAL HERESIES being voiced here. In the words of El Guapo, “a plethora.” I think that probably, Miller is extremely orthodox, but since he was trying to write an epic poem (which had some more minor theological problems, btw), he got all kinds of “creative” with describing the Trinity and wound up voicing tons of different heresies, one right after another in many cases. Poor guy was trying to 1) explain the ineffable and 2) was using language long-since trashed by the church councils in the, you know, 4th century AD. Good times.
  26. A Lasting Impression (Tamera Alexander) – This was just fun historical fiction, with some mystery, some romance, and some art. I may be a terrible painter/sketcher/sculptor, but I sure do love art, and reading about art and artists. Oh, and it’s set in Nashville, in a real house, and stays true to the real character of its mistress at the time.
  27. Touch & Go (Lisa Gardner) – Typical of the DD Warren books, this one barely featured the series’s eponymous character and was quite engaging. I like this series so much better than the FBI Profiler series she did before.
  28. Bossypants (Tina Fey) – Good. Worth the read.
  29. Behind the Scenes at the Museum (Kate Atkinson) – I think somewhere along the way I got in my head that Kate Atkinson and Kate Morton are sort of similar. This is NOT the case. At all. I think I will stop reading Kate Atkinson. I just am not that into her style. If you liked The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise, it might be your sort of thing.
  30. Far in the Wilds (Deanna Raybourn) – This novella served as backstory for her then-soon-to-be-released new novel, A Spear of Summer Grass. It did a decent job of that, and I appreciated that backstory when I read the actual book (see below).
  31. A Spear of Summer Grass (Deanna Raybourn) – Let me go out of my way to say how much I like Deanna Raybourn as a person and an author; in fact, it’s safe to say she is my favorite living novelist. BUT. This book. I did not like it. It was interesting – Raybourn always does copious amounts of research, and doesn’t let her characters do anything unless she has proof it was done by someone, at least, in that time period. I learned some very interesting things about English imperialism and the colonization of Africa. BUT. When a book revels in debauchery, I have a hard time liking it. And I felt like this book reveled. And the redeeming qualities in the main characters, while valuable and important traits, were just insufficient to make up for the hot mess that was sprawling throughout the book. (And by “hot,” I mean both sexy – as in sex-related – and very warm. After all, it is Africa.) Bring back Lady Julia. (Raybourn is, never fear.)
  32. Murder Is Binding (Lorna Barrett) – This book is Exhibit B of the “cozy mystery” genre. (Exhibit A would have to be either a Father Brown story or a Miss Marple, no question.) In my opinion, it was a little too cozy and cute.
  33. The Mind of the Maker (Dorothy Sayers) – If I didn’t already adore Dorothy Sayers for Lord Peter Wimsey, or for Are Women Human?, or for “The Lost Tools of Learning,” this book would have demanded my adoration of her. This was so good. In contrast to The Singer (#22 on this list), Sayers writes a long, complicated, extended metaphor of the Trinity, and specifically for the type of reader most likely to understand it best – artists. And I think that it’s the best metaphor for explaining the Trinity I’ve ever heard of, except maybe a triangle (which is nice and simple because everybody can grasp the concept of a triangle). I know that the intention of this book is not to teach people to write – or create any type of art – but it sort of does help with that, particularly if you are interested in “theology of ____” type things (in this case, creative work). Also, Madeleine L’Engle’s introduction is delightful.
  34. Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3) (Patrick Ness) – Ness shines here, closing out his trilogy with a really well-thought-out plot, and world, really. I was pleased, especially as book 2 (The Ask and the Answer) had not lived up to the promise of book 1 (The Knife of Never Letting Go). This is in the same genre as The Hunger Games, but I think is thought-provoking in a more personal way. The Hunger Games makes you think about society and government; this trilogy makes you think about yourself as a person, and how we as individuals try to hide from each other. Some of that is, I think, ok – privacy is not a bad thing per se – but there is much in our application of it that looks more like Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden when God comes for their daily walk, dressing up in fig leaves and feeling so alienated and alone.
  35. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King) – I loved it. Loved it loved it. Marked it up like crazy. And have begun writing daily (except for Sundays).
  36. Carrie (Stephen King) – He talked about it so much in On Writing that I had to read it to figure out what he was talking about. Side note: It turns out that I don’t like horror. Shocking, I know. (But I was shocked that books like Relic and Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are classed as “horror,” and I enjoy those and would never classify them as such. If monsters make the genre, I guess they are, and I guess I like some horror, but I think that’s silly.)
  37. Interrupted (Jen Hatmaker) – What if American evangelical Christians are missing out on a huge part of the kingdom Jesus came to establish, namely, caring for the poor? Hatmaker describes how she and her family were changed by exploring the answer to this question. I think it shook me out of some lazy-weird thinking.
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April 26, 2013

So, the dog and I haven’t turned into giant mushrooms….

I thought I’d drop in and say “Hi,” since it’s been awhile. The dog is doing really well – had a bit of a rough patch in the beginning, but we seem to have things under control thanks to some expert help. Westley is great fun and very reassuring to have around. He is the most patient dog I can think up that isn’t a stuffed animal. And he is so soft!

I have had some unpleasant set backs in my pain levels. For a few weeks I was seeing continuous progress – I started driving myself places and making it through days without napping. But then about a month ago I hit a rough patch that has lingered for about a month now and been very painful.

I’ve started physical therapy, but, holy cow, it is slow going.

So I’ve been doing this whole waiting/healing/recovering/pain thing for 10 months now, (more like 11 if you are counting the rather dreadfully painful June of 2012). It is tough work, waiting. It rubs against my desire to produce, to succeed, to progress. You know how everybody talks about “being” rather than “doing” in evangelical circles? Well, try being bedridden for 3 months and tell me that being without doing doesn’t suck.

Of course, unless you are a rock, it’s quite impossible to be without doing, and there is doing to be done in my life as it is. There is thankfulness to cultivate and express, a dog to feed and train, a bunch of books to read, sins to sort through, personal patterns to analyze, wrongs to confess. Most of these things don’t satisfy my desire to accomplish, but they are important, and I am trying to appreciate them for their worth and be faithful with the little bit I have before me.

March 1, 2013

First 23 Books of 2013

Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner – Lisa Gardner is good at the whole mystery/thriller-writing-thing
The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung – very good
The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson – 3rd book in the 100 Cupboards series
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie – dude writes just like Dr. House talks
The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie – this one was particularly great fun
At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie
Adopting the Racing Greyhound by Cynthia A. Brannigan
A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
The Priest’s Graveyard by Ted Dekker
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowens – quite a bit of “meh” to be found here
The Devil Colony by James Rollins – who doesn’t love a ridiculous conspiracy theory thriller?
The Skeleton Key by James Rollins (novella)
Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies by Lee Livingood – most helpful book on greyhounds so far
My Life in France by Julia Child, with Alex Prud’homme – very interesting; strong motivation to learn how to make beurre blanc
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane – enjoyed it
The Lost Van Gogh by A.J. Zerries – ridic
The Racketeer by John Grisham
What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw by Agatha Christie
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Love Walked In by Maria De Los Santos – LOVE LOVE LOVE
Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis – LOVE LOVE LOVE
A Conspiracy of Tall Men by Noah Hawley – barely made it throug
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – very, very good – I can see why it managed to make most of the “best novels of 2012” lists

February 10, 2013

I Own a Dog!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud and excited to announce that I finally have a pooch in residence! Westley came home today at 2:30, we showed him all around, and I signed the paperwork, and he’s all mine!!! He is so sweet. I love this dog.


It turns out Westley (fka “Ugo Faust”) was quite the runner. He won 9 races, including the one before the race in which he broke his leg. He was very fast, but when a racing greyhound gets injured, there are two currently practiced options: giving him up for adoption or putting him down. Thankfully, he was given to an organization called GALT (Greyhound Adoption League of Texas) instead of him getting a shot. GALT is a greyhound rescue and adoption group, but they are unique for three reasons: they take all greyhounds and greyhound mixes, they do whatever they must to get the dog in the best physical shape possible, and they put their dogs in foster care before they adopt them out. This means their dogs are highly adoptable: they have started figuring out what house living is like, their injuries are dealt with using the best veterinary care available, and they are living a retired lifestyle.

Greyhounds are very mellowed and laid-back, especially this one. They sleep a lot, but only require a 10-20 minute walk per day. They are snuggly, and love to be near their human friends. They are amiable and patient. Former racers have been taught very good leash manners, so they rarely pull on the leash on a walk. Their noses drip when they are anxious, and Westley seems to be relaxing, so his nose is going back to normal dog wetness. I am so happy, and he is quickly getting the hang of things.



January 20, 2013

So, Guess What!?!

Random facts that are new and exciting:

  • I have been feeling better! Better means I helped quite a bit making dinner by doing some actually labor-intensive work. Better means I managed to make it to church a couple of weeks ago, and have good reason to expect that I will again tomorrow. Better means I should be able to go see my students from last year play basketball sometime soon. Better means Advil actually makes enough of a difference that I could venture out to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday with my brother before he went back to college. Better means I often – maybe even usually? – walk around like a normal person. (In case you’re curious, I’ll tell you I have been typically walking around slowly, bent over, using my hands to put pressure on the most painful parts of my abdomen du jour.)
  • That fancy surgery out in California is finally on the planner in ink: January 31st! I am so excited!!! We’ll have a little bit of time to do sightseeing before the surgery, between pre-op appointments, so that will be fun. I’ve never been to California, but several regions in Cali are very high on my must-visit list. I doubt we’ll really get to see San Francisco (which is my #1), but we’ll get to explore farther south – San Jose and Silicon Valley mostly. I’m super-excited about the Winchester Mystery House – if I am only up for seeing one thing, I want it to be that. The surgery will take place near Palo Alto (read: Stanford), but the doctor’s actual office is in Los Gatos. So we’ll be kinda all over the place.
  • When I get back from surgery in California, I am getting a greyhound! His name is currently Faust, but we are so not sticking with a name with such notorious connections. (Not a fan of selling-souls-to-the-devil.) So I am changing his name to Westley. He is incredibly mellow, and when he met my nephew Brad, was soooooo patient with him. (Obviously, Brad does not know what “Don’t pull his ears” means – not that I’m planning to let that happen again.) He loves to just be near his “person,” so he’ll be a great companion for surgery recovery – and full recovery from this whole mess. Plus, I just like a dog who wants to hang out with you, who wants to snuggle or even just sit near you. He is smart and very food-driven, so it will be quite easy to train him, although he already knows a thing or two about a thing or two. IMG_0559
  • I am about to get a Tempurpedic mattress set!!! The mattress I’ve had for the last 5.5 years started to be uncomfortable last year, and in the last 8 months or so has become painful, bruising my hips and knees because of inadequate pressure support. I swapped beds with my sister’s old room, and it’s better, but I’m still bruising. So, new bed! One that will support me quite enough. I am rather jazzed. I think Westley will like it too – I anticipate he will be sleeping with me. (We got a killer deal on this thing, which is always tremendously helpful.)
  • This post by my friend Missy whose family is adopting a little girl from Ethiopia made me reexamine my expectations. It’s really easy to look at the people and not the land. I thought I’d share, since that sort of thing is good for humans – the reexamining of expectations, I mean. (Although adoption is also good for humans.)
January 16, 2013

Greyhounds loved to be massaged everywhere, but particularly on their necks and butts. Additionally, they like their noses rubbed — top and bottom. After they’ve eaten, they will often try to clean off their noses by rubbing them on your furniture, blankets or you. The more you pet them, the quicker they will bond to you.

– Claudia Presto’s Greyhound Guide