Sunday, June 20, 2010

Critters in the Thick Woods

When we first moved into our house in the thick woods about six years ago, the first night was rather eye-opening.  A massive rain storm struck and we had tree frogs on our windows. Our driveway was a winding ribbon of white cement with a muddy torrent on each side, yet R. - who was making a quick Walmart run - nearly ran into the mud in an attempt to run over a large snake that crossed her path.

I think we were having second thoughts about our choice to bring our children into this wilderness.

During the time we have lived here, we have learned to co-exist.  We have a family of chimney sweeps that arrive every April to our chimney where they nest until the weather begins to cool.  On our front porch there are bird nests on top of the pillars on either corner.  The succession of residents there seem to follow the same pattern for each summer:  first a nest is constructed on the left and little ones are hatched and leave, then another nest is built on the right for the next family.

With the return of normal rainfalls this year (something for which we are most thankful), our woods are much greener and the "critter" activity seems to be enjoying an uptick as well.

Each night, it falls my lot to perform the final lock up and usually that means that I must be sure the cat is taken care of.  Since her highness prefers to spend the nights out of doors in the summer, then I must be sure that she is able to get to her food. On two recent occasions I have surprised a good sized raccoon - once eating her food and on another occasion eating the dogs food.

Because of this, I have adopted a "look before you leap" mindset.  So now I look out the window before opening the door to the garage. On at least two occasions, said cat has waited until I opened the door and then bolted toward me out of no where! She would say (if she could talk) that she was only lurching for the door in order to get to her food which I am prone to withhold from her.... but she would say it with a rye grin.

We have also found two of her likely victims in the garage this summer. Apparently she was distracted from her systematic torture and left them for a time.  One was a dazed little mole I happened upon one morning. He would move - even when I stomped my feet very near him.  I saw a little movement and deemed him to still be alive.  I scooped him up in a shovel, tossed him into the woods and he happily scampered away. 

On another instance, R. and the kids found a baby rabbit in the garage.  It too was acting strangely. I could not find it when I came home from work but the kids found its carcass the next day.

There's nothing quite like holding a funeral and interment for a dead woodland creature for breaking the monotony of summer boredom.  So they said a few words over him and buried him near the goat pen.

The final visitor to our garage - so far - was probably a descendant of one of those first visitors. The other night shortly after or during a rain, I opened the door to the garage and there on the stoop, within inches of the kitchen was a little tree frog.  He too, did not offer to flee at my threatening gestures so I closed the door and left him to his own pleasure.

I think it is a good experience for our kids to be this close to nature - not something I experienced much having grown up mostly in subdivisions.  My hope and prayer is that they will always be amazed and in wonder at the beauty of God's creation.

Praying for the Gulf Oil Spill

With No Gulf Solution in Sight, Louisiana Turns to Prayer

I was very pleased to see this headline on FOXNews' website this morning. It was the state senators that made the proclamation but it is a start toward our nation beginning to look to the Right Source for our problems.

We have trusted our technological skills -born out of exceptionalism and good-ole-American-know-how -so much that we have come to expect everything to go right.  And if it doesn't, someone must be to blame.

The fact is, we as a nation are fallible. We are humans and there are times that we will come to the end of our abilities.  It is at those times that we must turn to a Higher Power.  We turn to God.

It is also a fact that if we turn to Him prior to our problems becoming unmanageable - He will hear us.

It's how God deals with individuals and -I believe - it is how He deals with nations . . . as long as we try harder and utilize only all that is humanly possible He will stand aside (in most cases) waiting for us to invite His involvement.

I am so glad that the Louisiana State Senate made this step, and I am glad FoxNews chose to publish it.  

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Etowah Indian Mounds

*POST SCRIPT - I am getting close to "getting done" with Snapfish and Photo-bucket because of my great distress in getting any slide shows to my blog... I am probably the problem, but they should make it easier for old reluctant social media socialites like myself.  Anyway the following post has been posted and reposted several times... I am giving up having lost sleep last night and the better part of a Sunday afternoon. . . so I will attach the link if you want to see pictures.
                                                                                                                  Thanks - The Management¤t=79707aff.pbw

I took a couple of days off this week to spend some time with the kids (the human ones) while their grandparents vacationed and Mom worked.

One day was a work day and they participated as we tried to complete some items on our "Big List" - a list of short term goals we need to accomplish as a family.

I wanted Friday to be a reward day so we decided to visit a nearby exhibit or something.

Of the three on our short list - AA spoke up first in favor of Etowah Indian Mounds near Cartersville, Georgia.  The thing that set this one apart from the others was that I told him that they would see real skeletons.

I later learned during our visit that the unearthed skeletons that were on display when I was a youngster have long since been covered up because it was determined to be disrespectful.

Below is a slide show, you will notice that early on there is a "detour" sign and a factory.  I took advantage of Mom not being along and did something really impractical - we took "Covered Bridge Road" in search of seeing a "covered bridge" (as the name implies).  Mom usually quickly vetoes any side trips or wild-goose chases. 

And rightly so, for we had not traveled far before we had to detour, then when we finally got back on "Covered Bridge Road" we found no covered bridge, but rather a Georgia Power plant.

The Indian Mounds are still pretty amazing.  The mounds were constructed by digging dirt from a "borrow pit" and from a "defensive ditch" using very crude instruments - like a spade made of stone. They then removed the dirt with baskets not much larger than a sombrero.

The society centered around the mounds.

I thought the short film we viewed took a cheap shot at DeSoto and other Europeans, blaming them for the demise of the peoples that populated that area.  According to one of the museum guides, about 80% of the people died from famine and disease.

It was an interesting day because I spent it with two of my three favorite people in the whole world - Ab and AA!

As I prayed with each child at bed time and we said our good nights, they both thanked me... imagine that!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Great Raid

It was one of those days.
Two of my personality flaws were on grand display:  a desire to try and please everyone and the inability or unwillingness to juggle.

AA is starting in a new cub scout pack this Fall and it is a brand new pack.  So we had a "getting to know you" picnic. Because I was working out of town and R. didn't have any work flexibility that day, it became one of those events in which our entire family was scrambling around and we just hoped we would all arrive at the same place near the same time and with all our people and the stuff we were supposed to bring.

Well, we pretty much all arrived at the same place at about the same time.

I had prepared typical picnic clothes to change into, but had left them at home; so I donned my dress shirt, slacks and shoes.  We forgot the water bottles we were supposed to bring for a fun project the kids were going to do.  We brought our dessert and the soft drink for our family - except that the soft drink was a warm 2 litre and there were no cups or ice. I had to leave -mid-picnic- to go buy cool bottled waters.

We made it through the meeting but my pre-game stress level was so high that I did a crummy job of mixing.

Then it happened.

For whom the ringtone tolls
We received a sudden cell call from Oregon and the evening went into frenzy mode . . . it was almost as if you could hear the striking trills of the theme music from the shower scene in "Psycho".

R.'s parents were on vacation in Oregon and Seattle and had called her to let her know that our goats were out of their pen.  What's more, they had left off grazing in our yard and had moved on to the only next door neighbors we have - R.'s brother's home.

The story was that he was chasing them around and had been unable to get them back in their pen.  I could picture him in under the duress of panic - waving his hands and shouting "No! No! not my begonias! Not the crepe myrtles!"

AA and I headed out in my car, meanwhile I called on my cell to try and let them know that help was on the way.  Now you must know that while R. consented to my little "goat project" - it had been with some reluctance and it was understood that there was an "I told you so" held in reserve, should things get ugly.

My sister-in-law and next door neighbor was obvious in her distaste for the idea.  When I had told her of my plans her face had borne a distinct "there goes the neighborhood" look.

What ever possessed you?

As I spoke with said sister-in-law on the phone, the details she laid out were sketchy. There were tales of goat-droppings in the driveway and something about the goats trying to get into the house and butting the glass door.  "What ever possessed you to get goats?!" she said, as I pictured her standing amid a heap of rubble and the goats nearby, munching down the last remnants of what had once been her peaceful home. 

I tried to inject calm into the situation by suggesting solutions "if you can just rattle some food in a cup, they will come to you" I offered.  Over and over I offered my sincere apologies and assured them that I would be home soon.

I hung up and tried to prepare AA for the loss of Floyd and Thunder.  My sister's husband had mentioned lately that he would like a couple goats.  Perhaps he would take them off our hands.

It was dusk when we arrived home - happily the house next door was still standing.
I began barking orders like John Wayne, dispatching AA to grab some meal in a cup and shake it while I tried to figure out the escape route they had taken.

AA quickly returned with the cup at which time the two goats came barreling around the Leland Cypress trees next to the trail to next door. Their bellies bulged as if they had each consumed a Goodyear spare tire.  Meanwhile, I had discovered that they had pushed the wiring lose at the back of their pen.

Repairing the breach
As darkness fell, I grabbed a hammer and some materials to repair the breach.  Haunted by recent tales of a friends granddaughter who was bitten by a copperhead while feeding their dogs at night - I made my way into the woods to the back of the pen.
The pen was fairly secured by the time R. and Ab. made it home and all seemed calm.
AA and I donned our head lights and headed through the woods to the neighbor's house to try and clean up.
I still had on my dress clothes - hardly Mr. Greenjeans.

We only found one scatter of droppings which we quickly swept up.  My brother-in-law came out and talked awhile.  Surprisingly, he was quite calm, they had only nibbled a few flowers and had mostly spent their time in his clover.

Apparently some of the "panic" was a ruse targeted at inciting my natural guilt tendencies.

So we still have the goats.  After their great raid I think they may have ruminated with a little too much a sense of satisfaction.

It was one of those days that I was glad to say good-bye to.  I don't know that I learned anything from it . . . except this:

I'm reading Francis Chan's book about the Holy Spirit called, The Forgotten God, and have been prompted to acknowledge and be more aware of the Spirit's involvement and leading in each moment of my day. So on this day, I had prayed something to the effect of asking God to help me see Him in whatever I encountered that day.
Throughout the evening I had felt frustrated and had sneaked in some frustrated snatches of prayer here and there, but near the end I thought about that earlier request and realized that the Holy Spirit had a purpose in all those little frustrating details of the day.

Perhaps His purpose was just to point out my weaknesses and the need to just rely on Him with every emotion and reaction.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A D-Day Salute

Most of them were just kids. . .

...but they were a different breed.  They were children of the "Greatest Generation", hardened by the crucible of the Great Depression, yet grateful for the opportunities afforded by the liberty of this nation, and still these "children" were men of great hearts with a die-hard commitment to their sense of duty.

Maybe that's why they could leave those landing crafts and Higgins boats and plunge into the cold surf and the hot steely death that was the beach at Normandy.

Maybe that's why others could leap from a shrapnel infested transport plane into a French sky that was a fireworks display of tracers and anti-aircraft fire.  They leaped - many of them - way too early and way too low and most of them - if they survived the jump - landed into a state of mass confusion having missed their drop zones.

It was the beginning of the end for that great conflict but for those amazing troops on that first D-Day the war seemed to just be heating up!

We enjoy freedom today because of those brave men.

 "The eyes of the world are upon you.  The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you"

General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Normandy Invasion Message to the Troops

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pray Mr. President, It's What We Do.

We, in the U.S.A., live in a country that is steeped in the tradition of prayer.

Throughout our long history, there are countless examples of prayers to Christ playing a primary role in our history.

So why is it that when our nation is again at a point of great crisis with what some are calling the "the worst  environmental disaster in our history" - no one among our national leadership is calling for prayer?

The Pilgrims of Plymouth, to whom we owe a great debt for the planting the seeds of self-government under God, regularly addressed every situation - every crisis - with prayer.

When we visited Williamsburg, VA, a couple of years ago, we saw pillows or cushions under the benches where those that ruled the courts sat.  Even though the government of that one-time British colony, was ruled by a state-run religion, there was a strong tradition of daily prayers.  When prayer time was called, the justices utilized those cushions to kneel upon.

There is the legend of George Washington being found praying in the woods during that terrible winter at Valley Forge, newspaper articles from the 1930's give an account of the entire nation praying for the safe return of the Lindbergh baby, FDR called for prayer when the nation was attacked at Pearl Harbor, Lincoln often called for days of prayer during the War Between The States, and of course Bush 43 responded to the 9-11 attack with a call for prayer.

The oil crisis in the Gulf is notable because we seem to have no where else to turn.  All the other resources we have looked to have dried up.

Innovation, an American Characteristic
Typically in a crisis of this sort, Americans could just count on technology.

Innovation has long been an American hallmark.  Because America has a tradition of self-reliance, they instinctively knew how to fix things.  But we have spent at least the past two decades focusing heavily on punishing achievers and blaming them.

Americans came up with the idea of interchangeable parts - leading to manufacturing and the industrial revolution.  Americans like, George Washington Carver, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford used innovation and invention to change the world.

However our education system has greatly downplayed capitalism or treated it as an evil. Achievement is labeled by many as greed and those who are successful are scolded as not having "paid their fair share". 

We have at least one generation that knows little of the grand tradition of American Know-How.  So where do they turn?

The Message of The Great Society

Well, at least since the 1960's- and in great part since the 1930's - the message that has been promulgated is that our government is the best source to address most problems.  To test the rabid dependence of a large segment of our population, you have but to suggest the defunding of most any government program.  They will come out of the woodwork. 
During the Clinton era, the President shut down the government for a few days over budget disagreements and because school lunch programs could possibly be affected, the Republicans were portrayed as "starving our children".  That is an example of how our national mind-set seems to be focused entirely on the government for solutions.

Well they don't seem to have any solutions to this crisis. 

In fact, the government only appears to have been able to hamper efforts to fix the problem.  The EPA halted the use of disbursement chemicals to try and dissipate the oil, Governor Bobby Jindall is still waiting for approval to construct barrier islands to protect the marshes. 

Other than expressing his "anger and outrage" and lecturing others - our President has been void of solutions.  In a rare moment of common sense, he did take time to lecture us saying we need to spend our energies on fixing the leak instead of "pointing the finger of blame" (logic that has somehow escaped the President when in comes to fixing the "leaks" at our borders).

Clean Up After Yourself
The only other place that we can look to for a solution is to British Petroleum - after all it's their mess.  They should have possessed the know-how to correct this type of scenario.

They are trying.

And trying ... and trying.
But nothing seems to be working.

Time for the Nation to Pray
I have slowly arrived at the opinion that all that is going on in our nation today is not without God's constant attention.  In fact, I believe that God - like our President - doesn't believe in "wasting a crisis"; God uses them to awaken us to the need for Him.  In that sense, a crisis can be the most wonderful gift we could imagine.

This could very well be our "best of times" if we only viewed these crises in that light.

In an example on a smaller scale, our state suffered recently through a protracted period of draught. It threatened drinking water and resulted in the destruction of plant-life and tight restrictions.

A little over a year and one-half ago, our Governor, Sonny Purdue, called the state to pray.  Not long after, the rains began to fall and we have surprisingly returned to normal levels again.  In fact, people have slowly begun to complain again about rain - for a long time we didn't dare.

We need to understand that we are subject to the Almighty God, He is ultimately in control.

It would be so helpful if those that lead us would begin to recognize and point that out.

Embrace prayer.