A Ruff Night Out

Yesterday there was a strong possibility of seeing the Northern Lights so I went outside at around 11 p.m. in the hope that I would see them. Usually the Northern Lights are low on the horizon and on our hill surrounded by forest we usually can’t see them unless they are high in the sky–or unless we go drive somewhere with a clearer view. Last night the Lights were supposed to be right overhead so we had a good chance of seeing them but I saw nothing except a large wolf spider lurking at the bottom of the porch door. It scared me so much that I declared that I wasn’t going to go out again that night.

Plans have a way of changing.

I was going to go to bed at midnight, as soon as I took my last antibiotic of the day. I have to take them every six hours. I was very tired because I hadn’t slept much the night before. I wondered if the over-the-counter sinus medication kept me awake so I didn’t take it last night just in case. I was hoping for a good night’s sleep.

Hannah tore up some egg cartons a week or so ago.

Hannah was unusually restless last night, wandering around and licking the floor and stuff, which was kind of annoying because she made slurping sounds as she did it. At first I just thought she was acting weird. She does sometimes. She likes to lick things. For example, after we eat popcorn, she licks our shirts as if she’s hoovering up every particle. But she usually goes right to sleep when we go to bed, and last night she didn’t even want to jump on the bed. So I figured that she must have eaten something that disagreed with her. She eats everything and anything she can find–paper towels…grasshoppers…she tore up several egg cartons the other day, as well as an ink pen. She often takes her “eatables” onto our bed. We try to Hannah-proof the house, but she still manages to find things to eat, especially if we leave her alone in the house for any length of time.

Except for being restless, Hannah seemed ok but I worried about her. I was prepared to stay up all night to keep an eye on her. Plus, I couldn’t sleep even if I had wanted to with her being so restless. About 1:30 am I finally took her outside in case she had to vomit any anything. I was scared of the spider lurking near the porch door so I took her through the living room door, which leads out onto our deck. I’ve never seen spiders on the deck although I once saw a snake–I think it was a garter snake– right under the door.

Hannah didn’t vomit, but she did eat a lot of grass. I’ve heard that dogs will often eat grass if their tummies are upset. I think it helps them vomit up bad stuff. So I trusted Hannah to find what she needed. She seemed to carefully select the grass she wanted. She’d snuffle around, eat a bunch of grass, then snuffle around to a new spot and eat more grass. I was out in the dark at 2 am with a dog grazing like a cow. As long as I was out there, I looked up into the night sky to see if I could spot any Northern Lights. I didn’t. Bummer. But there were a billion billion stars out, and the Milky Way was like a rip in the sky. The photo at the top of this post is not mine–it’s from Pixabay, a site that allows people to download royalty-free photos. However, that’s exactly what the sky looked like last night. I have a friend who lives in a city on the east coast. She says she has never seen a sky filled with stars like this. She says she can only see about five stars. That makes me sad because it’s such a breathtaking experience. I hope someday she can see a star-filled sky.

Finally, after a long, long time, I told Hannah it was time to go back inside. She was much calmer when we got back in the house and she went right to sleep. Later this afternoon I found a pile of vomit in the house so she obviously got rid of whatever was troubling her.

For the second night in a row, I had almost no sleep. After EJ drove off to work, I let the chickens out of their coop, took a shower, ate breakfast while my hair dried a little, and then Hannah and I went back to bed. We slept all morning. Occasionally I heard Sassy the rooster crowing through the open window, but it wasn’t annoying and didn’t really wake me up.

The rest of the day was pretty slow. I felt like I had a low battery. I did get to the grocery store for a few items, including a bag of jelly beans. EJ has foods he is supposed to avoid, and I’m more or less following the same diet, although I don’t have to. However, I was craving jelly beans.

 

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Garden Chickens

EJ and I had a very quiet weekend. He was going to go to a gun show with his friend on Saturday, mostly just to hang out. EJ invited me to come along because he enjoys being with me, but I figured that he and his friend should enjoy the day together. Besides, my tooth still hurt quite a bit from the root canal I had done on Thursday. I think I also have been struggling with a sinus infection for quite a while. When JJ was very young, I had chronic sinus problems but usually the only symptom I have is fatigue. I used to go to my doctor for some issue or another, and she would check me over and declare that I had a really bad sinus infection. I didn’t even know it. Anyway, I’m hoping that the antibiotic that I’m taking for the tooth infection will also knock out any sinus infection.

EJ ended up staying home Saturday because he was suffering from a few side effects from a new medication his doctor had prescribed for him. And he has also been struggling with some sort of respiratory infection. So we both spent the weekend not feeling particularly well.

We did get a few little things done on Sunday. We want to fence in our three cherry trees to prevent the deer from eating them in the winter. We carried t-posts over to them–to the trees, not the deer–and EJ pounded them into the ground. We were going to attach the fencing to them, but we ran out of energy after pounding in the t-posts.

After putting up the t-posts, stopped at the store for a few items, including a vaporizer and over-the-counter medications. As we stood in front of the shelves of medicines, I told EJ that I wanted something very strong to help destroy my sinus infection. He quipped that Americans always want medications just one notch below “strong enough to kill us.” I said, “Yup. That sounds just about right.”  Bring it on.

Gate thingy

At home again, we temporarily made the dog cage panel gate more secure. The hardware store only had one gate hinge/screw thingy the last time we went there. We need another one or two–they screw into the wooden post and the gate is set on the upright arm so it can swing open and closed. Until we can get there to buy another, we just wired the gate to the posts.

We wanted to make the gate secure so we could let the chickens into the garden. I wasn’t sure if the chickens would try to eat our produce–like the ducks always did–but with the end of the growing season approaching, I thought it would be worth the risk of letting them into the garden. They didn’t try to eat our produce–they weren’t even interested in it–and they really seemed to enjoy the larger area. They clucked contentedly as they searched for grass and insects to eat. The garden is so large now that it’s almost like letting them free-range. It’s really pleasant looking out the window and seeing the chickens wandering about.

While the chickens explored the garden, EJ and I picked some of our ripe herbs and veggies. Then we came into the house, took care of the produce, and rested for the remainder of the day.

The news reported that the geomagnetic activity from the sun was very strong so there was a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights tonight. EJ and I went out to look at the sky just before he went to bed but we didn’t see anything. A couple of hours later I went outside by myself to see if I could see the Northern Lights. First I changed the batteries in the flashlight because its light has gotten so weak that I can barely see anything. When I had a strong light again, I went outside, turned off the flashlight, and looked up. It’s a very clear night and there were a billion billion stars out. I could clearly see the Milky Way, like a rip in space. I stayed outside for several minutes but didn’t see any beautiful Northern Lights. I thought, well, I’ll come back out just before I go to bed. I have to take my antibiotic every six hours so I’ve been staying up until midnight to take the last dose of the night.

I walked toward the house, scanning the porch for spiders with the strong light of the flashlight. In the autumn, the wolf spiders like to lurk on the porch for some reason. They sort of ruin the season for me–at least when it comes to going out at night. I breathed a sigh of relief when I didn’t see any spiders, but then as I near the door I spied a large wolf spider in the bottom corner of the door. That’s one of their favorite places to lurk so I always check it. I knew that if I opened the door, it could–and probably would–slip inside the house. THAT would be scary! I pondered my dilemma. I couldn’t stay outside all night, and I was not going to open the door and let the spider in the house. Nope. No way. I spotted a long thin board on the porch. I grabbed it and scooted the spider away from the door, hoping it wouldn’t get mad at me and attack. Then, with a shudder, I quickly slid past the spider and into the house where I quickly locked the door.

I have decided that I will not go outside any more to see if there are any Northern Lights.

Upgrade

I had a root canal this morning.

It wasn’t planned. I didn’t get up this morning thinking, “This is the day I get my root canal.”

For one reason or another, I haven’t been to a dentist in a really, really long time. I’m embarrassed to say how long. The longer I didn’t go to a dentist, the more I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want the dentist to scold for not going. And the last time I went to a dentist, before JJ was diagnosed with cancer, on my second appointment I thought he was going to do some dental work, but instead he just talked, telling me the same information he had given me on my first visit–and then he charged me for it. I was sort of disgusted about that because it wasn’t easy to get there–I think I had to drop EJ off at work that day so I’d have the car. And on EJ’s first visit with him, the guy wanted to totally reconstruct his jaw–when EJ has never had a problem with his jaw before. So, nuts to that.

I’ve had a problem with a tooth for quite a while. Sometimes the tooth would hurt and I’d think, “Ouch! I really need to go to the dentist!” But then it would stop hurting and, hey, out of sight, out of mind. But a few weeks ago–maybe a month or two–my gum near the tooth became swollen, so I knew it was infected and I really needed to find a dentist. But I kept putting it off: “I’ll do it after we get the new floor in,” I told myself, “or when we get the gravel for the driveway done, or in September. Maybe I’ll do it in October–after my birthday, of course.” But the swelling didn’t go away and became a bit annoying and worrisome so this morning I took a deep breath and finally called a dentist that EJ had gone to. They said they could get me in to look at my tooth today. So, yeah, ok.

The dentist and all his staff were actually very caring and kind. The dentist didn’t scold me, he was very empathetic, and he understood that people get anxious going to dentists. He said my tooth was abscessed and that he couldn’t remove it because then there would be nothing there, which would cause problems because it was a tooth that was heavily used for chewing. So the only real solution was a root canal. Option 1 was that he could arrange for complete anesthesia so I would be totally out and not feel or remember anything. I would, of course, need someone to drive me home afterwards.  Option 2 was that I could have a gas. I would be awake and aware but feel no pain, and I could drive myself home. Besides being less expensive, the dentist said he had time to do it today. Although I tend to get nervous about medical procedures of any kind, I thought, “Let’s just get this over with,” and I chose Option 2. It would give me less time to get nervous, EJ wouldn’t have to take a day off to drive me home, and it’s less expensive.

Once I made my choice, they all jumped into action. I really was aware all through it, but I felt absolutely no pain. The dentist told me what to expect all through the procedure with statements like “Now I’m going to use a drill which will make a rather loud noise…Now I will be pushing into your teeth…How are you doing?” and so on. It wasn’t bad at all. Although I must say that I’m a Doctor Who fan, and with all the drilling and everything, I couldn’t help imagining myself being upgraded into a cyberman.

The dentist said I’d have a toothache when the local anesthesia wore off so he told me to take Motrin when I got home. He also gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to knock out the infection. I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home to get it fill.

I still have to get a crown on the tooth, but that’s for later.

 

Where Your Nose Begins

We had quite a bit of rain this morning, or rather yesterday morning–it’s after midnight here–and I was very tired from a sleepless night, so I wrote much of the day. Most of the time I write about our simple life in Northern Michigan. Sometimes, however, I have to write about more serious topics because they are filling my mind and heart, and weighing me down, and I literally can’t sleep unless I empty them out. I’ve been writing about abuse for the last several days, describing behaviors and beliefs that empower abusers and increase the suffering of victims. Yesterday I included a description of an interaction I had at Facebook with a friend who commented that “women who dress like sluts deserve to be treated like one.” This, I mean yesterday morning, I wrote It’s Not Your Fault, which I shared on my blog. It was still raining and I was still full of thoughts so I continued on to write another post intending to share it the next day. I almost got it finished. I was just going to tweak it a little more.

Then I suddenly I said aloud: “I feel like a pompous ass.”  Usually I don’t say things like “pompous ass,” but it’s the only phrase that came close to describing what I felt. Earlier I had read the post aloud to EJ, and he said that I wasn’t a “pompous ass” and my post didn’t sound pompous, but that didn’t exactly reassure me.

In the post I had written but not shared, I wrote that the friend I had interacted with on Sunday had gotten very upset when I cautioned her to please be careful about what she said to/about survivors of abuse.  She angrily said, “How DARE you tell a survivor to be careful what I say to other abuse victims! I will SAY anything and EVERYTHING that I wish!” She threw a few insults my way and then unfriended me. This made me think about the struggle of balancing between reaching out with compassion to others and not losing our own identity and voice in the process.

So I wrote a little about the dangerous currents under the calm surface of my family of origin. I described my relationship with my next-older sister, who was a scapegoat who never felt loved. When I began to encounter abuse from my Mom, I had reached out to this sister and we became friends–or so I thought. I had figured that nothing in our childhood had been real, our relationships had all been manipulated, so I decided to wipe all that away and get to know my sister as she was NOW, as an adult, as if we were meeting for the first time. I thought she had done the same for me. However, she never let go of the past resentments and jealousies, she never corrected her childhood misconceptions, she never forgave me for being more loved than her, she never recognized that no one in an abusive family is really loved–we are just forced into different roles. Through the years, I always forgave when she hurt me because I cared about her and I knew she had been unloved. But the insults increased and eventually our relationship staggered to an end.

I tried to explain in that unshared post what I had learned in the 20 years that we tried to be friends. For example:

I think most victims of abuse become more compassionate toward others who are suffering. They know what it’s like to suffer, so they reach out to support others who are also suffering. But some become abusers themselves, as I think my sister did. It’s like they implode. Their focus becomes all about them. They are the only ones who have ever suffered, no one has suffered as greatly as they have, everyone must make allowances for them because they have suffered. They can’t seem to see beyond their own pain to the pain of others. The truth is that other people have also suffered, sometimes more terribly than they have. Yes, we have suffered, but our suffering shouldn’t make us insensitive to the pain of others. It ought to make us more compassionate.

I learned that being a victim of abuse does not give a person an automatic right to hurt others. A person may state that “I will SAY anything and EVERYTHING that I wish” but she still must be careful with her words. I had a history teacher in high school who used to quote, “My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” In other words, we have the right to swing our fist, but not the right to hit others with it. Speak out, voice your opinions, find your voice…but don’t use it to hurt others. To state, “I will SAY anything and EVERYTHING that I wish” but also declare, “How DARE you say…!” is a huge double standard. It demands rights for yourself but takes it away from others. I personally believe that we should never demand rights for ourselves that we are unwilling to give to others. I have a right to speak out, but so do others. I have a right to voice an opinion, but so do they. I have a right to be treated with respect, and so do they. I have a right to set boundaries, but so do they.

I learned that there has to be a balance between “you” and “me.” We have to balance compassion for others with compassion for ourselves.  Yes, it was good for me to be compassionate toward my sister, but at the same time, I didn’t have to allow her to treat me abusively. She needed love but so did I. She needed to be treated with understanding and patience, but so did I. She has value, but so do I. She needed forgiveness and so did I. I loved her and I tried my best to be her sister and friend, but I don’t think I did her any favors by never stopping her from treating me as she did. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for another is to confront them when they step over a line. But we can confront kindly, without descending into personal insults.

I learned that we can try our very hardest to tread carefully in the lives of others and be kind, compassionate, understanding, and patient with them, but sooner or later, somewhere along the line, in spite of our very best efforts, we are going to trip over a hidden landmine and offend them. People’s memories of abuse are triggered by all sorts of things–a remark, a joke, a song, a smell, an item, a place. They are different for each person and it is impossible to avoid every single trigger. I remember hearing a story of a guy who fled from a church service in a panic when the congregation sang a hymn that had been sung while he was being ritually abused in a cult. There was nothing wrong with the hymn, the congregation did nothing wrong in singing it, but it triggered the guy. Sometimes it’s like that. The most we can do at such times is apologize and try to be careful in the future. Sometimes the person will forgive us, sometimes not.

I learned that it’s ok to be ourselves. The only way we can never offend others is to never have an opinion, never have a preference, never have a belief, never make an independent decision, and to try to always be agreeable to whatever opinions, preferences, beliefs, or decisions that they might have. But even if we tried to empty ourselves of our individuality, we’d still manage to offend someone. And in the process, we’d lose ourselves, our identity. We’d become empty shells. So, yes, be compassionate toward others, but also maintain your own identity and freedom. It’s ok to be you, it’s ok to be different. You don’t have to apologize for being you. You don’t always have to make yourself small so others can feel big.

I learned that some words are worth saying and some battles are worth fighting even if it offends others. Not all of them, not all of the time, and we must be careful. Sometimes we should keep our mouths shut–but there are also times to speak up for yourself and others. I don’t always know when it’s best to keep silent or to speak. I do the best I can to make the right choice. Mostly I’ve decided that if I feel passionately about something, I should go ahead and speak. If I express my opinion/belief, I need to be aware that some people might disagree or even get angry. If I’m feeling fragile that day and feel I can’t handle the pushback, I tell myself that it is ok to be silent.

I have considered the interaction at Facebook. I have wondered if I should have said what I said to my friend. After some thought, I think that if I could redo it, I would probably have still said the things that I said. I’m very sorry she got angry, I’m very sad she has experienced abuse, but I think her comment crossed a line and could be very damaging to others. Just because she is an abuse victim doesn’t mean she gets everything right 100% of the time, or that she never makes a mistake, or that she doesn’t have something more to learn, or that she should never be confronted. I have learned over the years–and I’m still learning–that life is a journey that can get very messy. Sometimes we handle things well, sometimes we mess up. Sometimes we are strong and sometimes we are weak. Sometimes we trip over other’s triggers and sometimes they trip over ours. There are things I know now that I didn’t know a while back. I’m hopeful that tomorrow I will learn things I didn’t know today. Some of my opinions and beliefs have changed and I cringe at what I once believed. I would do some things differently if I could, but other things I wouldn’t change. The thing is that no one has everything figured out, we all have more we could learn. I would defend my friend’s right to speak up but I’ll also speak up if I think she is wrong, and I will defend those who might get damaged by beliefs and words such as hers. So, yes, I’m glad I spoke.

I wrote all this, and then I felt like a pompous ass.

So I deleted the descriptions of my family as unimportant muck and I retained the portion about what I learned through it all. I asked myself, “Do I really believe what I wrote? Did I really learn those things?” I think the answer is yes and no. Yes, I believe what I wrote and I did learn those things through my relationship with my sister. But at the same time I still struggle with these things, and there are other emotions that occasionally seep in to complicate things, so I’m not sure I FULLY learned them. I still struggle to believe that I have value and that compassion doesn’t mean that I have to accept abusive insults.

I can recognize that probably something I wrote triggered my Facebook friend so that she lashed out with me. I think that recovery from abuse is a very rough journey and can be rather messy with many ups and downs, emotional highs and lows, with many things to process and overcome. So I feel empathy for her and want to show her understanding.

I thought of what she wrote: “But go ahead and keep posting and posting and posting … I’ll actually get up and go out and change the world for people with disabilities AND post tips and lessons on what others may do to help others that may suffer from low vision or blindness. What nerve!”

Then I thought, “Dog-gone it! She didn’t have to be so nasty!” Yes, she has been abused but that doesn’t give her the right to hurt others. She matters, but so do others. She has no idea what the girls she has condemned suffered. She has no idea what EJ and I have suffered–what wounds she ripped open with her metaphorical swinging fist. She made me feel small and useless. She made me wish that I could shut my mouth and keep my head down. I don’t really know if anything I share matters, changes people’s minds, or helps anyone.

So there’s all these mingled emotions of empathy, anger, tears, feelings of uselessness. And I think that, you know, most of us just seem to go bumbling through life, trying to find a balance between reaching out with compassion to others and trying not to get destroyed in the process. I usually don’t have a clue whether I should speak up or be silent, or do this thing or that. I think relationships can be very complicated with a lot of swirls and eddies and rocks under the surface that can spin you around and tear you to pieces if you are not careful. Sometimes I’m just plain tired.

I no longer feel like a pompous ass. Right now I feel hit in the nose.

It’s Not Your Fault

I was up until 4 a.m. writing my last post. I was up until around 1 a.m., I think, working on this post, until I was so tired that I finally decided I was too tired to think and should get some sleep.

I know that I get very passionate when discussing abuse. It’s because I care so very, very deeply about victims. Sometimes when I hear their stories of appalling suffering, I seriously feel as if my heart is breaking in two. My stomach hurts, I can’t sleep, and I feel like crying for them. When my heart aches and my mind is filled with thoughts, I often cannot sleep until I pour it all out into words. I process my thoughts, feelings, experiences in writing and sometimes I just have to write about stuff in order to empty it all out–like taking out the trash–before I can move on.

Yesterday I wrote about the dysfunctional loyalty that causes people to defend, protect, and cover up the crimes of abusers. I explained that this sort of loyalty is not Biblical and that such loyalty to family, institutions, or other groups allows evil to flourish. I have wanted to write about this ever since I heard about the Grand Jury report, but I wanted to wait until I had thought about it, had time to write without interruption, and had my own computer back from the repair shop. Using someone else’s computer feels like driving someone else’s car–they all have the same features, more or less, but everything is in a different place so I want to turn on the wipers but turn on the lights instead. I didn’t want to have that sort of distraction when I needed to focus on expressing my thoughts. It can be difficult writing about difficult topics. It feels almost impossible to take all these complicated things and reduce them to words. I kept putting off writing about it, but it remained like a lump in my stomach until something happened the other day that stirred me to at last write at last. In this post, I want to describe what happened on Sunday and to describe another aspect of abuse that empowers abusers and allows him (or her) to continue hurting others.

Yesterday an abuse advocate who I am friends with at Facebook shared this photo, which was taken at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. Notice that the pastor has his arm around the young woman and his hand is pressing her breast as he introduces her. She is a young actress and singer who sang at the funeral. Along with the photo, my FB friend shared a few thoughts:

Look at this. 
Look at the eyes. 
Look at the body language.

This is the leer of a predator marking his prey. And the prey has that deer-in-the-headlights look that says “is this really even happening to me?”

Ariana Grande is trying desperately to figure out whether to fight or flee, but that choice is really hard because she’s there to do a job, everyone is watching, and just like so many other victims — she already froze.

This right here is how sexual assault happens in plain sight. This likely isn’t the first time he’s done this to a woman, used his platform and power and position to intimidate. It’s also not the first time a crowd of witnesses have excused it by saying he couldn’t possibly have meant to, or “he’s a PASTOR, it wasn’t like THAT!”

Most of my friends who responded understood the implications of this photo, but one said, “That dress don’t belong in church either.”

This comment distressed me because, without fail, whenever a story about abuse is shared, someone always blames the victim. Seriously. Start paying attention to how often victims are blamed–including how many times YOU believe the victim is to blame for what she suffered. I spoke up and said that no matter how a woman is dressed, she doesn’t deserve to be inappropriately touched. My friend said, “You’re very much entitled to your opinion! In my school, the hos dress as such, are treated as such, and relish the attention. Dressing modestly is my preference. No kid of mine will be allowed to leave the house like that unless she earned her salary on the pole. Behave in a manner in which you wish to be treated. Behaviors also include clothing. You want to be the neighborhood slut? Or do you want to be the neighborhood good girl that attracts a different variety of man.”

Her comment made me feel sick to my stomach. Hardly anyone ever blames the predator, no matter how bad his actions are.

Victims are battered with the accusations from their abusers, but they also are often guilted, shamed, and blamed when they seek help. Christians are especially prone to blaming the victim. It’s so bad that, as one person posted at Facebook, “The other day, I posted that 96 percent of abuse victims who sought help from their churches would NOT recommend that to other victims. Today, I read that 87 percent of pastors surveyed said their churches would be a safe haven for someone experiencing domestic violence. What a profound disconnection.”

Depending on the situation, victims are told things like: “You should have dressed more modestly,” “You shouldn’t have gone to that place,” “You must have provoked him…or led him on,” “You weren’t respectful enough,” “You weren’t submissive enough,” “You should have been more attentive to his needs,” “Why didn’t you scream or fight back?” “You need to honor your father and mother no matter how they treat you,” “I’m sure your (abusive) Mom really loves you.” “You need to focus on your own sins.” When victims speak out about the abuse, they are typically told that they are bitter, angry, negative, gossipy, judgmental, unloving, unforgiving. So when a victim hears statements such as “If you dress like a slut, you have to expect to be treated like one…” a tsunami of guilt, shame, and self-blame overwhelms them–even if they were “the good girl” who didn’t “dress like a slut,” or go to bad places, or do anything to provoke the abuser.

I was emotionally abused, not sexually abused, but I still have to battle guilt: “Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I am not loving enough. Maybe I’m not forgiving enough. Maybe I am a terrible person. Maybe if I had said this instead of that…maybe if I had done this and not the other thing…what if I’m the monster and not them?”  EJ often tells me during these times, “You are not the monster and it wasn’t your fault.” I have to remind myself of the truth in order to beat back the false guilt, which is why I often quote Scripture when I’m describing abuse. I have to hold to it or I will sink.

Here’s something I tried to explain the other night:

Yeah, we could get into a long discussion about modesty and what a woman should/shouldn’t wear. I would agree that I wouldn’t go out dressed like Ariana Grande did and I wouldn’t want my daughter (if I had one) to dress like this. By the way, I also think it’s really stupid and inappropriate for guys to wear their pants below their butts. Seriously, I have no desire to see their underwear. We could also have discussions about whether it’s wise for a woman–or man–to go out partying and drinking. But this isn’t really an issue about modesty or unwise places. It’s an issue about predators and sexual abuse.

It is a common belief that a woman who “dresses like a slut” has to expect to be treated like one and she pretty much deserves what she gets. But let’s examine this: If that belief is true then logically we have to assume that a woman who is a “good girl” who dresses modestly wouldn’t ever get sexually assaulted. And if it’s true that a woman who goes out partying shouldn’t be surprised if she gets assaulted then we should assume that a woman who goes to a “safe place” like a church wouldn’t ever get assaulted. Yet, many women who dress modestly and many people who go to church are sexually assaulted.

The reality is that a sexual abuser doesn’t assault his victim because of what she is wearing, but because he is a sexual abuser and has the opportunity to do so. A rapist rapes because he is a rapist. A molester molests children because he is a molester. An abuser abuses because he is an abuser. These predators carefully seek out places where they can find victims (i.e., a molester will go to places where he can access children). They seek opportunity. Abusers LOVE the church because they can find people there who will believe the best about them and give them unconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance, no matter what they do, and with no accountability.

If the young woman in the photo above had dressed modestly at the funeral, it is very probable that the pastor would have still touched her inappropriately because he is a predator. What she wore–whether immodest or modest, whether wise or unwise–wouldn’t have mattered to him. In fact, I have a friend who loves God, attends church, and never dresses “like a slut.” She is a wonderful godly woman. She gave me permission to share what she told me privately today: “I’ve been completely covered and had older men hold my arm in such a way that their fingers brushed my breast, and I KNOW they had to recalculate to make it happen.” Do you understand? With predators, opportunity matters, not clothing. A victim will be abused no matter how good or perfectly or wisely she acts because an abuser abuses. It is not the victim’s fault. The abuser chose to abuse. The guilt belongs to the abuser, not the victim. Stop blaming the victim!

Sam Powell is a pastor and abuse advocate. I love what he shared today on his Facebook pagestop:
Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

I have to add that I read an interesting discussion on Sam Powell’s Facebook page yesterday. He posted that “Just so you know, Bathsheba wasn’t taking a long, languid bubble bath on the roof. She was doing a ritual purification, commanded in the law, most likely after menstruation. She was preparing for worship.” Sam and others continued the discussion:

“And she wasn’t on the roof. David was on the roof, she was most likely within the walls of her own courtyard or possibly at the river or well.”

“What an example of how prone societies are to victim blaming that we have spoken of her as bathing on a roof for thousands of years when it was him that was described as being on the roof!”

“I have heard more sermons from the pulpit on Bathsheba enticing David and inappropriately tempting him. Because they were there, obviously, even though the Bible never portrays this.”

“Nathan referred to Bathsheba as the lamb, and David as the wealthy predator.”

“At least Nathan didn’t blame Bathsheba like most modern-day laymen and pastors would. He laid it squarely on David.”

“To this day, that analogy that Nathan used makes me cringe. Makes me want to cry, because it was so intense and tragic how he described David’s sin. Very much on point, of course. David didn’t see it that way (at first), but that is how the Lord saw it, which made it 100% valid and true. When a person is violated and abused (or sinned against in general; these are just a few examples), this is how I believe the Lord views it from above: You are taking a sweet, precious lamb and killing it for your own selfish, sinful purposes. You are stealing something that doesn’t belong to you, and have no right to take. Yet you take it anyway, regardless of the consequences.”

I share a lot about abuse on my personal Facebook page. I do so because 1. Too many people are ignorant about the dynamics of abuse, and because they are ignorant, they end up causing victims/survivors more trauma, more guilt, more shame. 2. If people do not learn about abuse, they are more likely to become victims themselves and/or find themselves being deceived by abusers and supporting, defending, and enabling them. 3. I know the guilt and shame that abuse survivors struggle with, and I want them to understand that it wasn’t their fault.  They didn’t deserve the abuse. Their actions–wise or unwise–didn’t cause the abuse, the predator chose to abuse.

I love this scene from the movie, Goodwill Hunting, which takes place between a young man who had been abused and his therapist. I can never get through it without sobbing. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault.

Let My Heart Be Broken

Today was rather cloudy and gloomy–and later in the afternoon it began to rain. It was just as well because EJ has been quite miserable as he battles some sort of respiratory infection. It’s easier to rest on gloomy days than nice, bright, sunny days. He took medication, I set him up with a vaporizer, I made him chicken soup, and we had a quiet day. In some ways, I think it’s rather bad that EJ can’t enjoy his three-day Labor Day weekend. On the other hand, it’s good that he gets three days to rest and try to get healthy.

There is a quote–really it’s a prayer–that I occasionally hear that goes like this:

Image result for may my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of god

My heart is very broken by abuse in the church. Abuse of all kinds is terrible, but I think that abuse that occurs in the church is especially heinous because abusers there claim to speak for God Himself, and in doing so they misrepresent who God is and they cause many people to struggle with–and sometimes abandon–their faith. I hate that church people typically support, defend, and cover up the evil of vile people while they condemn, guilt, shame, and sometimes even excommunicate the victims. Proverbs 17:15 says:  “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous —  both alike are an abomination to Adonai.”

I think it’s ok to have my heart broken by abuse. Sometimes I don’t understand how people can pray for their heart to be broken with the things that break God’s heart, and yet when I’ve mentioned how my heart is broken by the sufferings of abuse victims, I’ve been told that I should just focus on happy things. I like to be happy as much as the next person, and it’s good to remember and enjoy blessings, but I sometimes wonder whatever happened to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep“? (Romans 12:15). I don’t want to ignore victims, to pretend they aren’t there. I think we have to also remember verses like these:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? (Prov 24:11-12)

A few weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released a report naming more than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania who sexually abused more than a thousand children over seven decades, protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered it up. EJ and I have also watched programs called “The Keepers” and “Spotlight” on Netflix which describes the abuse and cover up of terrible abuse by the Catholic Church. We’ve also read articles about abuse in Catholic orphanages and we have friends at Facebook who have been abused by priests and nuns. It’s horrendous and breaks my heart.

I’m not a Catholic. It would be easy to feel arrogant that OUR Protestant righteousness exceeds theirs. However, there is also a lot of abuse in Protestant churches and organizations. In fact, I’ve read some abuse advocates who believe that abuse in Protestant churches might be as bad or even worse than in Catholic churches. It’s hard to know the numbers in Protestant churches because there are so many denominations and independent churches. Websites such as A Cry for JusticeThou Art The Man and The Wartburg Watch, among others, describe abuse in many Protestant churches and organizations.

I knew an abuse advocate who spoke at churches to train them how to “predator-proof” their churches. He sounded really good, very caring about victims, and I almost joined his ministry. Then about a year ago–maybe less–a woman revealed that she had been drugged and raped at a restaurant while a student at a Christian university and the administration mishandled her situation–they actually condemned her and wanted her to immediately forgive her rapist, sit next to him every Sunday in church, and even marry him. The university and its leader was respected by the abuse advocate and he ended up defending them instead of supporting the victim. Because, you know, this was HIS favorite leader/ministry.

It’s always easy to point fingers at others–at them because they are not us. But too often we express outrage about the abuse in their group and are not willing to deal with the abuse that happens in ours–within OUR church, or OUR leaders, or OUR school, or OUR family. We just don’t want to believe it’s true. So we deny it, we pretend that we are a loving group, we accuse the victims of lying, we support and defend our leaders because they are “godly” men who do a lot of good for Christ, we help in the cover up, and we bring more trauma to the victims.

I personally believe that evil is evil. It doesn’t matter to me if an abusive person, ministry, or group is yours, mine, or ours. It doesn’t matter if he is a Catholic or Protestant, or any other religion. It doesn’t matter if he is a priest, bishop, cardinal, or the pope himself. It doesn’t matter if he is a pastor, elder, Sunday School Teacher, or head of a denomination. It doesn’t matter how spiritual he sounds. In fact, evil people are skilled at looking and sounding good. Ps. 55:21 says, “His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” And Ps 28:3 says “Don’t drag me off with the wicked, with those whose deeds are evil; they speak words of peace to their fellowmen, but evil is in their hearts.” Evil people can appear to be workers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Just because they look and sound good, doesn’t mean that they actually are.

We are taught in church that God always loves everyone and that it is wrong for us to hate. But Psalms 11:5 says: “The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” Psalms 97:10 says “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” Psalms 45:7 says: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” Therefore, I do not think it’s wrong to hate evil. The evil actions of wicked people make me sick and angry. Yet, I’m also heartbroken, sickened, and disgusted by people who support, defend, and cover up evil. Evil can only thrive when people deny it, look away, accept it, cover it up, and silence victims. If we would expose it, stand up to it, oppose it, it would not be able to exist. I’m not sure which sickens me more–the abusers or their enablers.

I was trying to think of an example of attitudes that allows evil to thrive. I know many abuse stories–but I think it’s best to share from my own life as an example.

When JJ was about 9 or so, EJ’s brother lived with us for about a month. He had been going through a bad time and EJ really wanted to help him out. While he lived with us, we learned that, well, uh, he wasn’t the best sort of person. He was manipulative, had cheated people, and did other things. One day, the brother acted toward JJ in a way that really alarmed us. EJ confronted his brother who moved out soon after. JJ said his uncle hadn’t touched him so we never told the family what had happened, we never insulted the brother to them or tried to prevent them from having a relationship with him. Not ever. We didn’t understand about victim grooming then. To protect JJ and our family, we had very limited contact with EJ’s brother. It helped that he moved quite far away. EJ talked to him on the phone and FB infrequently. The rare times we saw him at a family event, we were polite. The others in EJ’s family didn’t even know we had a problem with him until one of his sisters directed a comment to him in the family FB group that I admined. I privately messaged her that he wasn’t a part of the group, and wouldn’t be,  and that she needed to contact him directly.  I didn’t tell her exactly what had happened because, frankly, I didn’t think I’d be believed and I didn’t want to have to defend our actions. A few months later several in the family demanded in the FB group that I add the brother to the group. Obviously, the one sister had told the others and they decided as a group to insist on their brother’s inclusion. I refused, telling them that I couldn’t add him because he wasn’t safe and I had blocked him on my page. They began to pressure me to include him because, after all, he was a “true blood” member of the family, one of the “original” group of siblings–thereby placing those of us who married into the family as “lesser.” They said how terrible it was that we were so unforgiving, unloving, ungrace-filled, unChristlike in not having contact with the brother.

They were so awful that I contacted an abuse advocate for help. I explained everything EJ’s brother had done, what we had done, and how his family was now acting. The advocate said that the brother had engaged in victim-grooming behaviors that are very typical of molesters and that we had done exactly the right thing–only she thought we should warn the family in order to protect the children. So I did, which made the family even angrier at me. (The one who exposes evil in a family is usually the target of their intense anger.)  EJ and I have since talked with several abuse advocates–maybe five or six–and every single one said that the brother had definitely been victim-grooming JJ. EJ also discussed it with his family doctor who became so upset that she was going to report the brother to the authorities–until EJ told her that it had happened years ago and JJ said his uncle hadn’t touched him. I mean, it’s difficult getting a predator convicted even when there is strong evidence of abuse. We didn’t have enough to report him. But that’s how serious the behavior was. One of EJ’s sisters said that “Well, it could have been victim-grooming, but it also could have been innocent”–and that their brother was just a man-boy. Excuse me? A “man-boy” is a teen who is transitioning from a boy into a man. A man in his (at that time) 40s is many things, but a “man-boy” he is not. The sad thing is that none of the relatives expressed any concern for JJ or the possible harm that could be done to other children in the families. Only a couple of the family supported us.

Another sister said that obviously I didn’t come from a family who understood love of family. She wrote the following, which is only a portion of a longer message that sounded reasonable, sweet, and caring on the surface, but was actually very condescending and belittling. I mean, a person knows when someone genuinely cares and when “the words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.”

Down here in SC, I am sometimes at a cultural disadvantage. What I mean is that there are things that every Southern lady takes as fact that are completely foreign to me. For example, we are expected to wear lipstick and fix our hair to go to the grocery store. In the same way, many of us J**’s take for granted as fact that in the J** family, every terrible crime/negative thing that could happen–physical, sexual, emotional, financial, pure craziness, etc. any drama, you name it, has happened within this group and our universal truth is we work to forgive each other and we stay family…Our mother always insisted we include everyone…But like keeping toe nails polished and wearing lipstick to Walmart, it is what we expect because we grew up with it and is not necessarily what TJ understood to be facts-of-life.

We are not simply talking about “keeping toe nails polished and wearing lipstick to Walmart.” We are talking about a family who tried to bully us into allowing someone into our family whom we had strong reasons to believe was a predator. Here are some facts of life that I know: My family was not filled with dirty, bare-footed children who wiped our noses on our sleeves and ate with our fingers. When I was a child, family friends thought we were the “all-American family”–like the Waltons or something. We were polite, considerate, hard-working, well-dressed, and intelligent. We excelled in school. My parents didn’t beat us, they didn’t drink, we had family vacations and birthday and Christmas presents. No one in my family–parents, siblings, or me–has ever been divorced or had a child outside of marriage. EJ says he definitely believes that his family is far worse than mine.

In my family, I, personally, was called “The Smart One,” “The [Real] Christian,” “The Caring One,” and “The One Who Could Be Counted On to Help Out.” My Mom told me once that she and Dad knew that I would do anything for them–but they understood that I could never be forced to do anything that I believed was wrong. When I was engaged to EJ, my Mom told him (when I wasn’t in the room) that I was VERY loyal. EJ thought that was a strange thing to say, but he decided she meant that I would be committed and faithful to him. Later, we realized that she was warning him that I would be loyal to my family rather than him. So, yeah, I understand about family love and loyalty. I understand the cost of not submitting to the family.

On the surface, my family was good, but underneath there was a lot of manipulation, favoritism, and other abusive behaviors. I didn’t realize this until I got engaged to EJ and my Mom tried to seize control of our relationship. It was terrible, she turned my whole family against me, but  I’ll spare you the details. The thing is, that there are certain behaviors that exist in dysfunctional families. They are in mine and they are in EJ’s family. They include excessive control, group think (everyone has to believe and do what the group says), bullying, hiding abuse, a belief that the family is “loving,” and a demand for complete family loyalty. Loyalty to the family is everything.

But what does the Bible say? Does it teach that members of a family (or group) must have such a strong loyalty that they accept each other no matter what terrible crimes or abuses are committed? Let’s see, shall we?

Deuteronomy 13 says this: “If your brother the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or your wife whom you love, or your friend who means as much to you as yourself, secretly tries to entice you to go and serve other gods, which you haven’t known, neither you nor your ancestors — gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near or far away from you, anywhere in the world — you are not to consent, and you are not to listen to him; and you must not pity him or spare him; and you may not conceal him….” Earlier in the chapter, the Israelis were commanded “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him….You must purge the evil from among you.” So even if your family or your closest friend entices you to rebel against God, you are not to do it. You are not to consent, listen, pity, or spare him. You are not to conceal the wrong.

I was taught all my life that the whole Bible is the Word of God, and yet it is astonishing how many people will quote from the OT if it supports their belief but say, “But that’s the OT and is no longer applicable” if it doesn’t support their belief. Either the whole Bible is the Word of God or not. You can’t pick and choose which you think still applies. But…for their sake I will go from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

Galatians 1:8-9 says:  “But even if we — or, for that matter, an angel from heaven! — were to announce to you some so-called “Good News” contrary to the Good News we did announce to you, let him be under a curse forever!  We said it before, and I say it again: if anyone announces “Good News” contrary to what you received, let him be under a curse forever!”

Do you understand this? If someone teaches something that is contrary to what God says, he is under a curse. What does God say? He says that “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous —  both alike are an abomination to Adonai.” He says that “the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” He says that He loves the poor and needy and will deliver them from the hand of the wicked. He tells us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice…Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. And He says that even if your family or your closest friend tells you to rebel against God, you are not to do it. You are not to consent, listen, pity, or spare him. You are not to conceal the wrong. Jesus, in the New Testament, says this:

“Don’t suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Land. It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, so that a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Whoever loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than he loves me is not worthy of me. (Matt 10:34-37)

Paul wrote this in 1 Corinthians 5:11:

No, what I wrote you was not to associate with anyone who is supposedly a brother but who also engages in sexual immorality, is greedy, worships idols, is abusive, gets drunk or steals. With such a person you shouldn’t even eat!

Our primary loyalty is not to be to our family. It is to be toward God. If we love our family more than we love God, we are not worthy of Him. Jesus said in John 14:15:  “If you love me, keep my commands.” That means do what He says. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to families, but to any other person or organization.

EJ’s sister wrote that “in the J** family, every terrible crime/negative thing that could happen–physical, sexual, emotional, financial, pure craziness, etc. any drama, you name it, has happened within this group and our universal truth is we work to forgive each other and we stay family.” This is considered admirable to them; this is considered “love.” I think it is reprehensible and heartbreaking. This sort of loyalty is twisted. It’s not wrong to love, forgive, or be committed to each other. However, if we demand complete loyalty no matter what, right or wrong, if we demand that an evil person is forgiven and accepted even if he doesn’t repent, if we cover up crimes and abuses and protect the one committing them, if we try to force people to submit to the group, evil flourishes and innocent people are damaged. It’s not Christlike to do these things. It is precisely the sort of attitude that allows abuse to occur in families, in churches, in universities, and in any other dysfunctional group where the group’s image must be protected at all costs.

When people support, defend, and cover up the evil of abusers, the world is not looking at them and saying, “Oh, wow! Christians are amazing! They are so loving and forgiving toward even the most vile people!” No, they are disgusted. As Paul said in 1 Cor. 5: “It is actually being reported that there is sexual sin among you, and it is sexual sin of a kind that is condemned even by pagans…And you stay proud? Shouldn’t you rather have felt some sadness that would have led you to remove from your company the man who has done this thing?” Here is what was said at the end of an interview with an abuse advocate who had been abused by a priest:

So please understand that it is a serious thing to support and/or conceal an evil person. A person who abuses others is NOT a good man, NOT godly, no matter how spiritual he looks and sounds. A victim who speaks up is not destroying a ministry–the abuser is by his actions. If you support, defend, protect an abuser, and help silence victims then you empower him to victimize others. You share in his guilt. An accusation of abuse should always be taken seriously and law enforcement should be called in to investigate. Period. If you really care about others, you will stand against evil people who hurt them. And, please, educate yourself about the dynamics of abuse. Abusers love religious organizations because the people within them will give them unconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance no matter what they do. The odds are high that if you don’t understand abuse, you will either become a victim or will support and enable the abuser.

26183-letmyheartbebroken

 

Update: An abuse advocate just posted an article about the young woman I mentioned above who had been drugged at her Christian university. I think it’s very excellent and timely:  Should The Master’s University insist on loyalty to authority more than care for the oppressed?

The Knife

Yesterday the weather was very beautiful. So I decided to mow the lawn.

I usually like to mow early in the day when the morning is still fresh and cool. However, yesterday I had to wait until about noon because there was heavy dew on the ground–so much that the grass was as wet as it would have been after a rain. The weather was actually kind of odd in that there was an autumn chill in the air and yet at the same time it was quite humid so I quickly became overheated, just as I do in the middle of summer.  One good thing about our new fenced in garden area in the back yard is that I have much less lawn to mow.

In addition to mowing the lawn, I did laundry and hung the clothes out to dry on the clothesline. There won’t be many more weeks when I will be doing that.

Later, not long after EJ got home from work, I moved a sweater that I had been laying on the bed and a small sharp knife fell on the floor. My mind froze in confusion: What was a knife doing in my sweater? Had I put it the knife in my pocket earlier when I was wearing the sweater? Why would I do that? I don’t remember doing it. Then EJ said, “Look at the handle! Hannah chewed it up!” Then I realized that while I was working outside, Hannah had taken the knife off the counter. I think it’s a bit scary that my dog is hiding knives in my bed. Was she planning to murder me in my sleep? EJ said, “The only thing scarier than a pitbull is a pitbull with a knife.” It was funny…although in reality pitbulls aren’t any scarier than any other dog with a knife. LOL.

Hannah also had carried a Lipton teabag onto the bed and tore it all up. I had to take the bedspread outside and shake it to get the tea grounds off. I guess my doggy got bored while she was in the house alone.

Today was quite rainy. It was a quiet steady rain with no dramatic lightning or thunder. I think it has rained more in the last few days than it has all summer combined. EJ and I walked in the rain to get the mail. I carried an umbrella while EJ just wore a hat. The rest of the day we just did quiet, restful activities. EJ isn’t feeling well–he has some sort of cold or sinus infection that he has been battling so the rest will do him some good.

A walk in the rain.

 

 

It’s BAAAAAACK…Mostly

This morning I got a call that my laptop was ready! Yay!

I immediately drove to the computer repair shop and pick it up. The guy who repaired it said, “Did you spill coffee in your computer or something?” He noticed that the disk drive kind of stuck when he tried to open it. I told him that, uh, one of my cats probably did during one of the times when they knocked over my coffee. I actually have a cat that likes to knock stuff over, but I didn’t tell him that. Then he said, “Uh, did you drop your computer?” He said that he noticed the laptop cover (or whatever you call it) was a little loose. I told him that, uh,  yes, my dog has knocked it to the floor before. The pets have several times, actually, but I didn’t tell him that. I wondered if my excuses sounded a bit like “My dog ate my homework.” I do try to protect my computer, but the animals always find ways to mess things up.

My computer now runs beautifully–almost like it’s new! It’s kind of like the difference between driving on a bumpy road full of potholes and a brand new, very smooth, road. But I always kind of hate these re-installs because they change my computer a bit. A re-install is when they reinstall Windows 10. (I think.) I didn’t lose any of my data–my photos, documents, or even my bookmarks. However, I have a handy Chrome app called FVD Speed Dial that comes up every time I open a new tab. It lets me quickly find and click on my favorite sites. I can even group them so they are easy to find–like I put all my frequently used sites like FB together, and all my weather-related sites together, and so on. I lost all those and have to redo them. Oh, well.

I have to reinstall programs like my printer and my camera. I’m always afraid that I won’t be able to find the install disks for them or that I won’t be able to get them to work again. I found the printer disk and easily installed the program. It worked the first thing! I finally found an install disk for a camera, but I’m not sure it’s the correct one because I couldn’t get the camera to upload my photos via WIFI. I tried all evening until I finally emailed support, explained the situation, and asked if they could send me a new install disk and manual. If they can’t or won’t, I will have to upload my photos with a USB cable. That sucks because I’ve gotten rather spoiled with the WIFI capability.

Also, it’s a bit clunky having my photos on an external drive. However, I’m glad I have it because I won’t lose all my photos if my computer dies.

So there are advantages and disadvantages. I’m glad my computer runs so much better. I’m sure I’ll get used to the changes eventually. I always do.

 

After the Storm

The clouds were thick and low-hanging today. It was cool and misty all day today–rainy enough to need windshield wipers on, but not rainy enough to drum on the roof of our house. Weather like today always reminds me of the old children’s poem, which begins:

“One misty, moisty morning,
when cloudy was the weather…”

When I walked down the driveway to get the mail this morning, I heard the sounds of chainsaws in the distance. EJ said later that our neighbor had a large tree get knocked down by the storm, and he saw other trees down on his way to work. I found a little storm damage on our property, but nothing major. It had rained so hard last night that there was a bit of erosion in the driveway. I also found the top half of a small tree in the driveway. I grabbed it and moved it out of the way. I also saw that a large dead pine tree had fallen. Fortunately it didn’t fall on any power lines. EJ really would like to cut down the dead trees but we don’t yet have a chainsaw. We have a list of things we want to do around here, but there is only so much we can do in a week, or month, or year.

Just before noon the computer repair shop called to tell me I could pick up my laptop. Yay! Apparently the WIFI driver had gotten turned off somehow. The guy said my laptop was running very slowly, and that it would need a new hard drive in the near future, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the  money just then. So I drove into the city to pick up my baby.

At the computer shop, I was greeted by a Weimaraner named Ruger.  He sniffed me–probably smelling Hannah, the cats, and the chickens–and I gave him some lovings. I thought that if I ever had a shop (which I don’t plan ever to have), I would definitely have a dog there to greet customers.

The repair guy discussed my computer in greater detail with me. Some things I think are easier to understand face-to-face. He turned on my computer and showed me that I had a program on my computer that would allow someone to steal my identity. Also, I have a lot of gig used up, and he asked me if I knew what was taking so much memory. I said, “Photos?” He said he knows many professional photographers who take thousands of photos every month and they don’t use so much memory. He strongly suggested that I let him do a reinstall to wipe the computer and get rid of the unwanted programs. He said I really didn’t need as many gigs as I had–and he rarely comes across a computer with so much–and he could put in a new hard drive with less gig (and less $$) and with an external drive to archive my photos and get them off the computer. I was kind of thinking of that already because if my computer dies, there goes my photos. And my computer has been running really slow and this would fix it. And I don’t want my identity stolen. So I told him to go ahead. He told me that he is expecting a shipment of drives this afternoon and my laptop will be the first he works on. So I should have it back this week. Tomorrow would be nice. I’m thinking that once my laptop is fixed up, we ought to take EJ’s in for maintenance.

Other than that, it was a relatively quiet day. Tonight I had no problem getting the chickens in their coop. All eight were already in the coop settling down for the night when I went out to shut them in.

 

 

 

The Eighth Chicken

We had severe storms during last night. I woke once to the sound of heavy rain tap-tap-tapping on the skylight in the bathroom but I fell back to sleep again. In the morning I heard that trees were down and many people lost their power, but our power didn’t even flicker and I saw no newly fallen trees on our property.

I felt drowsy all day, like my mind was in a thick fog. I did my normal chores today, including laundry, but I didn’t do anything extra. I dried the clothes in the drier rathern than out on the clothesline because it was overcast all day, and meteorologists warned that another round of severe storms would roll in during the late afternoon and evening. It was very humid but I was comfortable in our air-conditioned house. In between doing my chores, I settled down with ice tea and the next Steve Hamilton book, with Hannah Joy on my lap.

The day became increasingly gloomy during the afternoon. I watched radar on EJ’s computer and saw a massive storm cross Lake Michigan and move into the state. EJ got home from work around 6:30 p.m. The storm followed him home and hit not long after he arrived. It came with wildly swaying trees, frequent lightning, and very heavy rainfall. EJ kept us updated on the weather with his radio and computer. There were reports of a tornado or two not far from us.

I went outside several times before the storm hit hoping to get the chickens safe and snug in their coop, but they were wandering around outside. Usually they all go into their coop in the evening and all I have to do is count them and then shut the doors. It’s almost impossible to herd them into the coop until they are willing to go themselves. So when I saw them outside I went back into the house for a few more minutes before going back out to see if they were in their coop yet. No luck.

The storm hit with sudden fury, and I figured the chickens would have all gone into the coop. I waited until there was a lull in the storm and then I ran out to the coop.

The chickens were in their nesting spot on top of the fancy coop we had bought at TSC when we first decided to buy chickens. The fancy coop and an old doghouse are both inside the large coop–which is a shed we bought from Lowes. I counted the chickens to make sure they were all there: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…one was missing. I counted again in case I had miscounted the first time:  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…The eighth chicken–a hen–was still missing. I looked inside the fancy coop and inside the old doghouse, but they were both empty. I figured the eighth chicken must have taken refuge from the storm in one of the three dog houses we have scattered outside that they can run to for sanctuary.

I didn’t want to leave the hen out in a doghouse all alone in the storm. I didn’t think it would be easy to get her into the coop if she settled down for the night in a doghouse. I didn’t want her to be out there all night where she was at risk of becoming a meal for a predator.

So I took the cane down from where it was hanging in the shed. I call it my “rooster whacker” but I don’t really whack roosters with it. I use it more like a shepherd’s staff or to pull out-of-reach eggs closer. I took it with me and went out in the rain and looked in the dog-gloo. I thought I could see a dark hen-shaped form in there. I used the cane to guide her out. She ran into the large open door of the coop and into the chicken area. Before I could close their little chicken-sized door, she and Sassy, our alpha rooster, went out into the storm. Sassy came back in but the little hen didn’t.

I sighed and went back out into the rain. It was raining harder again and lightning was flashing. I walked around to the back side of the coop where there was a plastic doghouse. I bent down and looked inside. The little hen was in there. Once again, I used my cane to nudge her out. She ran out and into the coop through the little door, which was only a few feet away. I hurried around the coop, through the large human doors, and into the coop to quickly shut the little door before any more chickens could get out. Then I hung up my cane, turned off the lights, and went out of the coop.

As I turned to shut and lock the coop door, a huge streak of lightning hit and thunder roared right over my head. I think the lightning strike wasn’t far away. Spooked, I ran into the garage and from there into the house. I was pretty wet by the time I got inside. The storm raged for a while longer before it finally moved off.  It looks like it will rain for most of the night but hopefully the worst of the storm is past. I hope so. We need rain, but I’d prefer not to have tornadic weather.

Oh, the photo at the top of this post is not mine. It’s a royalty-free photo I found on the Internet. I was too busy trying to get the eighth chicken into the coop to take photos.

Reading Through Michigan

Today was a slower day, which I needed after helping EJ put up the fence around the garden yesterday. I couldn’t have worked outside even if I had wanted to because it rained off and on all day and was very humid. Thankfully, we have air conditioning. The weather cleared a little toward sunset, but more storms are moving in across Lake Michigan. Meteorologists say that we could get some severe storms during the night with high winds, hail, heavy rain, and the possibility of tornadoes. I hope we don’t get storms that are so severe they cause power outages or damage, but it’s nice to finally get a few days of rain after such a dry summer.

I didn’t well last night–I have struggled with sleep ever since JJ battled cancer in 2013-2014–so after EJ went to work, Hannah Joy and I went back to bed. I had a leisurely morning drinking coffee, using EJ’s computer while he was at work, and reading. After lunch, in a lull in the rain, I went to the post office to mail a package and then stopped at the local grocery store to buy some groceries. When I got home, I carried the groceries into the house and then put them all away–yelling at Hannah several times to get her nose out of the bags. She was particularly interested in the package of paper towels and was ripping open the bag when I stopped her. She loves eating paper towels and toilet paper.

I miss my laptop, which is still at the repair shop. I’m thankful that EJ so generously lets me share his laptop, but I miss my own laptop with its larger screen. I miss my own bookmarks and programs.

However, although I miss my laptop, I’m really enjoying reading books. I often buy used books at thrift shops or yard sales. If a book looks interesting, I buy it for those times when I really want something new to read. I always have a book nearby to read–in my purse or in the bathroom or wherever. Often I find new authors to enjoy–but even if I don’t like the book, it’s not like I paid a lot of money for it so I just donate it back to the thrift shop. My favorites I keep to re-read.

One of the used books I bought is a murder/mystery called The Hunting Wind by Steve Hamilton. I can’t remember when or where I bought the book, but I’m sure I bought it because the story was set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which I thought was cool. I was born, raised, and have lived all my life in Michigan, and I totally love my state. When I was younger, my friends used to tell me that I should work for Michigan’s tourist industry because of my love for Michigan. EJ says I’m “Michi-centric.” Anyway, without my computer, I have more time to read, so I searched through our home library and pulled out The Hunting Wind. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but I thought I’d give it a try.

I loved the novel. I loved it so much that when I discovered it is one of a series of nine books about the ex-cop, private investigator Alex McKnight, I started to buy them on Amazon. I’ve read three so far. I learned that the author has won many awards, and I can understand why. His books are well-written, interesting, and is sprinkled with a sense of humor.

One of the reasons that I’m enjoying the books is that, duh, it’s set in Michigan. Throughout the books, the main character, Alex McKnight, travels to many Michigan places: Paradise, Newberry, Hiawatha National Forest, “the Soo,” St. Ignace, Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, Mackinac Island, Gaylord, Grand Rapids, Montague/Whitehall, Cadillac, Lansing, Detroit, Jackson…I have lived near, worked in, shopped at, traveled through, or vacationed in all these places. It’s cool to read about these places that I am familiar with.

I also love the books because the author very vividly describes Michigan’s scenery, culture, and soul. I know these things he describes, I feel it deep down inside of me. Sometimes a scene is so well described that I read it aloud to EJ. Like this scene:

On the ride home, there’s a stretch on the main road where the trees open up and you get a great look at the lake. There wasn’t much moonlight coming through the clouds, but there was enough to see that the waves were getting bigger, maybe four or five feet. I could feel the truck, rocking in the wind as I drove. Somewhere out there, a good thousand feet under the waves, there were twenty-nine men still sleeping, twenty years after the Edmund Fitzgerald went down. I bet that night felt just like this one….

EJ and I have driven on nights like this. And every Michigan native knows the terrible story of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which went down in Lake Superior during a terrible November gale.

I laughed in delight when I read a conversation in one of the books between Alex and an old Indian who hadn’t been in Michigan for 30 years. Michigan, by the way, has several Indian reservations. The old Indian begins:

“I know I’ve been gone a long time, but everybody on the plane was saying you guys have been having a big heat wave up here. People passing out on the street, having to go to the hospital…is that true?”

“It almost hit ninety a couple of days ago. So yes.”

“When I left Vegas, it was a hundred and fifteen. You realize you’re all pussies up here, right?”

“Come back when there’s six feet of snow on the ground,” I said. “We’ll see who’s a pussy.”

I laughed because I complain that I’m melting if the temperature goes much above 80. I can’t endure the heat but we Michiganders brag about our toughness in handling Winter weather. The author totally captured this about us.

I hate being without my laptop, but I’m really enjoying sitting down and enjoying Michigan through these books. I can’t wait to read the next one…

 

Our Garden Stockade

Miracle of miracles, it actually began to rain Friday night and it continued into Saturday. Just before 6 am on Saturday morning, I heard thunder and thought, “Well, no sense getting up now since I’m not going to let the chickens out of the coop when it’s storming,” and I went back to sleep. EJ, however, got out of bed when he heard the storm. He said it rained very hard. Most of the day we had periods of steady rain. Rain is good, especially with the dry summer we’ve had. It was a good day to be cozy.

We are also getting some rain this (Sunday) evening, and we could get severe storms through the night and into tomorrow. However, today was sunny. We heard it was going to get hot and humid later and we had a lot to do so after the coffee pot was emptied, we went out to work on the garden fence while the day was still cool. Later, when the day began to warm up, we shut the windows and turned on the air conditioning so we could take breaks in the cool house.

downsized_0826181134Putting up the fence was much easier with both of us working–although once the fence wrapped around me and trapped me. Since I was in position to hold the fence, I told EJ to just continue his hammering. After a couple whacks of his hammer, he helped me get untrapped. Another time I happened to look down and was surprised to see blood dripping down my hand and onto my shirt. I don’t know exactly how I cut my hand, although I’m sure the fence must have cut me. I didn’t even feel it. EJ asked if I wanted to go get a band-aid, but I just wrapped my finger in a Kleenex from my pocket and told him that we could keep going. It was really just a small cut. I have learned a lot from EJ–he gets cuts sometimes and just wraps it up and keeps working. And he always works with his painful back.

Aside from those minor problems, things went well. I held up the fence and stretched it while EJ hammered the staples in. The hardest part was that the sand didn’t hold the posts very well so they tilted a bit when EJ hammered them. I used my level to straighten them and we stomped the ground around them. It took us about two hours to put up the fence. The new part of the garden doubles the size of the garden, and then some. Our whole back yard is now our garden and chicken coop.

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The dog kennel gate

Our soil is sandy and not great for growing, which is the major reason we have raised garden beds–that and it’s easier on our backs to weed raised beds. We would like to grow corn and asparagus next year and we think they would be best just planted in the ground, so we are thinking that next Spring we might have some good soil delivered. Because of this, we moved the 10-foot long section of dog kennel further down the fence and will make it into a gate. That way the delivery truck can just back up and dump it in the garden.

downsized_0826181625JJ called his Dad just before we finished putting up the last section of fence. So while EJ talked to him, I did some little one-person jobs. I removed the shorter fence dividing the old and new sections of the garden and pulled up the t-posts. I was pleasantly surprised that we still have most of the second roll of fencing left. We will use the t-posts and leftover fencing in a fence to protect our fruit trees from the deer over the winter.

Next I turned the old dog house that’s in the garden. It was facing into the old garden, but I turned so it’s easily accessible from both parts of the garden. I figure that if we let the chickens into the garden, they can run into the dog house if a predator threatens them. Or they can lay eggs in it. Whatever. The dog house in the garden and the one in the coop were both left here by the previous owners. They are very well-built and very heavy. I couldn’t move the dog house until I had removed the roof to lighten it. After EJ finished talking to JJ, he helped me put the heavy roof back on.

We decided to leave the burning barrel in the garden for now. (Yes, we can burn papers here.) We’d prefer not to have the barrel there, but we don’t know where to put it right now. It needs to be not too close to the house, and not too close to the forest, and we don’t want it in the front yard because we don’t want to ruin the beautiful view.  Our back yard has our garden stockade while our front yard has the view. So we have to think about where to put the barrel.

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The small garden gate

We had to replace the short posts holding the small gate with the taller posts. After we got all the fencing up, we put the wire garden gate back on using staples for hinges. The gate is shorter than the posts and EJ was concerned that the deer could easier jump it. He was thinking he might have to construct a taller gate. But then we decided to just put a board across the gate posts. Doing this means we wouldn’t have to spend time or effort making a taller gate, and the deer wouldn’t have enough space over the gate and I doubt they could jump over the “doorway.” EJ hammered it in place. He says he is going to cut off the top of the left post so they are even.

downsized_0826181650We made a quick trip to the hardware store to get some hinges for the dog kennel gate. We took Hannah Joy with us because she enjoys car rides and hasn’t had one for a while. When we got back home, EJ worked on that gate for a while. The hardware store didn’t have everything he needed so he wasn’t able to get it all finished. He temporarily wired the gate to the posts until he can get what he needs.

We worked together from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. We were very tired and crippled by the time we called it quits, but we are very satisfied with all we accomplished today.

Our next big project is to get gravel for the driveway.

 

 

 

First Blood

This morning I decided to start attaching the wire fencing to the posts for the garden fence.

But first I drank several cups of coffee to fortify myself because I knew the roll of fencing was heavy and unwieldy. When I felt that I could face the ordeal, I put on my old work clothes, which is really just a favorite t-shirt that now is shabby and has several holes in it. I tied my hair out of the way and went outside.

The morning was beautiful–comfortably warm with a tinge of autumn coolness  underneath and very breezy. Summer would be perfect if every day was like today. Rain is forecasted for this evening and tomorrow, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The weather has toyed with me all summer, promising rain that never came.

downsized_0824180833I carried my kitty litter bucket filled with tools–hammer, staples, huge wire cutters, and assorted other things–over to where I was going to begin. The “old” garden currently has a four-foot fence around it; we are replacing it with six-foot fencing and then continuing on to fence in the new garden area. I decided to start at the back of the garden and work over to the front.

I tugged the heavy roll of fencing to position it and then rolled it across the new garden area to the first post, which is in the corner of the chicken coop and the garden. The curious chickens gathered around to gossip about what I was doing. I left the roll on the ground while I pulled out staples, removed the old fencing, and pulled up the t-posts that had held it. I had originally planned to remove the old fence in sections as I worked so that if I had to stop, there would be no opening into the garden for the deer to get in and eat our crops. However, it didn’t work out that way.

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Starting post

I unrolled enough fencing to go from one post to another. Then taking a deep breath, I heaved up the roll so it was standing on end. I felt like a highlander in a caber toss competition. While I tried to move the end of the fencing to the post, the whole roll tipped over. I heaved the roll up again, and it fought back, tearing my glasses off my face and nicking my face in the process. Fortunately my glasses were neither scratched nor broken. “Well played,” I silently saluted the roll. “You have gotten first blood.” I imagined the fencing dueling with me. I imagined it grabbing hold of me and scratching me. I imagined it wrapping itself around me and tipping over, imprisoning me on the ground where ants and wolf spiders could crawl over me until EJ came to my rescue hours later, after he returned from work. “Ah ha!” I thought. “I am not giving up so easily.”

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The back side of the garden

I finally had to remove the old fence all along the back. I lay the roll on the ground and unrolled it until I could stand it up and lean it against the old dog house in the corner of the garden. Then I moved the wheelbarrow halfway between the starting post and the dog house so that it held up the fencing. Wrestling with the free end of the roll, I positioned it on the starting post and hammered two staples into it–one at the top and one at the bottom. Then I pulled the fencing to the next post. I tried to hammer staples in, but I could not pull the fencing tight and hammer at the same time. I could stretch the fencing tight or I could hammer–not both. Finally I realized that this was a two-person job. I will have to wait until EJ can help me. Without worrying about making it tight, I loosely hammered the fencing to each post–just enough so it won’t fall down. “You won this match,” I told the fence. “But this isn’t over yet.”

From far away, the fence looks good. (See the photo at the top of this post.) The really good thing about such a tall fence is that we can plant climbing veggies along it so that it doubles as a trellis. I can’t wait until we can get the fence up.

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Bowl full of beans

When I put my tools  away, I picked green beans from the garden, filling a colander with them. Soon I will go out to the kitchen and blanche and freeze them so we can enjoy them in the winter months.

The rest of my day I spent cleaning the house, doing laundry, and planning my next battle with the fence–with EJ as my reinforcement.

 

What’s An Xterra?

I’m using EJ’s computer because I had to take mine to the repair shop this morning. Last night I lost my WIFI connection. I tried doing all the usual things: turning the router off and on, troubleshooting my connections, and restarting my computer. When my computer started back on, it told me that there were problems, it was repairing them, and then it would automaticaly restart. When it restarted again, it took me to my regular desktop screen, but I still had no Internet connection. Sometimes my computer gave me a message that there was no default gateway, whatever that means. My settings said that my WIFI was turned off, but when I clicked “enable,” it didn’t turn back on. Sometimes it didn’t even show that I had WIFI capability. This morning I called my internet service provider in case it was a problem that they could fix, but they said it was a computer problem and needed to be taken to a repair shop.

While I waited for the repair shop to open, I paid bills using EJ’s laptop. I do not really enjoy using his computer because it’s smaller, the keys are smaller and aren’t in the same places as mine, and, of course, it has none of my settings or bookmarks. But I’m extremely grateful he lets me use it.

Once the repair shop was opened, I headed out. I had other errands to do as well. EJ wanted me to stop at a thrift shop to buy an ice fishing shanty he had seen outside the building. The thrift shop is closed by the time he gets out of work so he couldn’t do it. I was going to stop at the thrift shop first because it’s on the right side of the road. In the summer the city fills with tourist traffic and it’s almost impossible to make left turns so we always plan our errands to make as many right turns as possible. I missed the driveway though so instead of turning around, I continued on to the repair shop. I hate going to the repair shop because I have to make a left turn into their small parking lot, which is on a curve on a very busy main street. I made it ok–and it was a right turn leaving, so that was good.

When I started to explain my computer problem to the guy at the computer repair shop, he said, “This is not a computer problem, it’s an ISP problem.” I told him that the person at my ISP said it was not an ISP problem, it was a computer problem. I explained the problem more fully and described the error messages and then he took my computer. He seemed to think it might be a problem with the WIFI card, which is sort of what I thought too. They are busy so it could be three days before they can begin working on it–I’m assuming work days, not weekend days. I’m guessing it will be about a week before I get it back. I hope it’s not more than that.

Anyway, I will have to share a computer with EJ now, so I will be on here only sporadically. During the week I can use EJ’s computer while he’s at work, but in the evenings and weekend, he will be on it. I know he will let me use his computer whenever I want, but I don’t want to cut into his computer time. I hate being without a computer but, oh, well, I have books to read, crocheting to do, and projects to work on. I will keep busy.

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This is our Xterra

After I left my precious computer at the shop, I headed over to the thrift shop. Before I paid for the shanty, I asked the clerk if she thought it would fit in my Xterra. She asked, “What’s an Xterra?” She called a guy employee, and he went out to look at it, and he said, “It’s not going to fit.” He said that he would move it behind the store and EJ could pick it up in his Suburban after work.

Yesterday I put up 16 posts for the fence around the new extended garden. I tied a rope around a post that was already there and stretched it out so that I could get all the posts in a straight line. EJ taught me that. The soil (which is sand) was so dry that it poured out of the jaws of the post-hole digger so I had to pour water on the spot before I could dig a hole. (We were supposed to get “possibly heavy” rain on Tuesday night/Wednesday but we only got about 3 raindrops.) When I put each post in the hole I dug for it, I used a level to make sure it was standing straight. When EJ looked at my work when he got home yesterday evening, he said I did an extremely good job.

I was going to ask EJ to pick up some fencing at TSC after work tonight so I could get started on putting up the fence tomorrow. However, I didn’t think he could fit the shanty and 1-2 rolls of fencing in his Surburban so after I left the thrift shop, I headed over to TSC. I told the store cashier that I needed a 6-foot tall, 100-foot long roll of wire fencing. “Do you think it will fit in my Xterra,” I asked before I bought it. The cashier asked, “What is an Xterra?” He called another employee to go out and look at it. That guy said, “Sure, it will fit easy.” So I paid for the fencing, drove over to their outside yard, and the guy loaded it up for me. I think that I probably could have fit 2 rolls in the Xterra, but I wasn’t sure so I only bought one. EJ texted that he can pick up both shanty and fencing tonight. If he discovers that he can’t fit both, he can either pick up the additional rolls of fencing tomorrow after work or on Sunday.

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A roll of fencing

Once I got home, I drove the Xterra to the back yard and unloaded the roll of fencing. Ugh. It’s very heavy and after I pulled it from the back of the Xterra, I had to roll it over to the fence. I’m actually wondering if I’ll be able to put it up myself–but my determination enables me to do a lot of things that people think I don’t have the muscles for. I would get started on the fencing this afternoon, but I’m tired because I stayed up way too late last night trying to figure out what was wrong with my computer. Also, EJ said something about maybe bracing the corner posts of the fence. I’ll discuss the project with him tonight and see what he wants to do. Even if he wants to brace it, I can put up fencing to just before the corner posts.

I took photos with my camera of the posts that I put up, but they are on my computer, which is inaccessible. So I took the photos in this post with my dumb phone (i.e., not a smart phone).

 

The Terminal Dog

Wow! I haven’t posted anything for a week! The week sure went by quickly. It feels as if I blinked and it was suddenly seven days later.

Well, last week was relatively quiet. I cared for my various animals: dog, cats, and chickens. I weeded the gardens–both the backyard veggie/herb garden and the front yard flower garden. I picked beans, blanched them, and then froze them to enjoy in the coming months. I picked and dried a few more herbs in my Magic Mills dehydrator.

The days are getting shorter at both ends so a few days ago I plugged in the extension cord so I have lights in the coop. They are Christmas tree lights, and their soft glow makes the coop look festive. EJ has been coming outside with me while I shut the chickens in their coop. We always look for Montgomery the bat–Monty for short. Yes, we named the bat that swoops around the Enchanted Forest  eating insects. Sometimes there are two bats, but we call them both Monty because we can’t tell the difference between them. EJ always says he is concerned because we see only two. A lot of bats are dying from a disease.

The Turkey flock often comes up near the house to eat grasshopper or berries. It’s fun watching the young ones leap up to eat the berries from the bushes, as in this video:

Hannah continues to chase the cats–especially Timmy and Luke. She doesn’t hurt them, but we don’t want to encourage this undesirable behavior so I’ve been trying to teach her to leave them alone. I say, “Hannah, be nice” and I reward her if she chooses to come to me for a treat rather than chase a cat. Sometimes she growls or lunges at a cat and then runs to me for her treat, which makes EJ and me a bit concerned that she is becoming like Harry Benson, a character in Michael Crichton’s book, The Terminal Man. In the book, a man named Harry Benson suffered from violent seizures and blackouts during which he sometimes committed violent acts. Dr. Roger McPherson, head of the prestigious Neuropsychiatric Research Unit, was convinced he could cure Benson with an experimental procedure that would place electrodes deep in his brain’s pleasure centers, effectively short-circuiting Harry’s seizures with pulses of bliss. The surgery was successful…except Benson discovered that every time he was violent, the electrodes activated his pleasure center so it actually caused him to become MORE violent. I don’t want Hannah to become the Terminal Dog who feels rewarded when she goes after cats, so I try to reward her when I see her overcome temptation and choose her treat over chasing cats. It’s rather difficult to catch her in the moment of temptation. If she constantly goes after the cats, I shut her in the bedroom for a while because it’s annoying to have her launch herself from our laps. She is beginning to choose her treat instead of  chasing the cats, so I think that with patience she will learn.

Sunday morning EJ and I listed the home improvement projects we want to accomplish. We prioritized which ones we would still like to complete this year and which ones need to wait. In the next couple of months we need to buy a supply of straw for the garden and coop. We will also need to put fencing around the fruit trees to protect them from the deer who like to eat them in the Winter. And we’d like to get extra dog, cat, and chicken feed so we don’t run out in the Winter. Before Winter, EJ needs to fix the Xterra’s exhaust and get some new tires for the Suburban. We would really like to get a tractor with a snowblower on it because it’s very exhausting using the walk-behind snowblower for our very long, steep driveway. However, the tractor will have to wait until we can save more money. Maybe next year? I would like to get wooden railings around our small deck for the morning glories to climb instead of the t-posts and chicken wire, but that will be another year too.

We need gravel for our bumpy driveway.

At the top of our list is to get a load of gravel for the driveway, which has become quite bumpy. When we call the gravel guy, he will arrive with his dump truck and will dump several tons of gravel into our driveway. With wheelbarrow, shovels, rakes, and determination, we will spread it out to fill in the low spots. Our first summer here, we spread 90 tons of topsoil and gravel this way on and along the driveway to fix the awful erosion.

We also would like to extend the garden to get it ready for next Spring. We hope to double it in size and plant corn, asparagus, watermelon, among other things. Since we are thinking about planting them in the ground rather than in a raised bed, we will need to lay in some good dirt…but first things first. After we discussed our projects, EJ and I paced out the new area to figure out how many wooden posts we will needed for the fence. We have to fence our garden in or the deer will eat everything. Once our garden is surrounded by tall fences, and once our garden has been harvested, we can let the chickens in there. 

EJ loading the posts at Lowes

After we figured out how many wooden posts we needed, we drove to Lowes. We had to take the Suburban to transport the posts because they were too long for the Xterra. It was sort of an adventure because the front passenger door of the Suburban doesn’t open–we have to get it fixed but that’s not really a priority yet. I had to go through the driver’s side to climb over the middle console to get into my chair. We made several stops and each time it was a little bit more difficult to climb into and out of my chair. EJ said it was good exercise and we laughed.

At Lowes we bought 21 posts. We bought landscape timbers instead of regular fence posts because they were much, much cheaper–about $4 each instead of $12. The landscape timbers work just as well and we don’t need expensive posts for the garden fence. We will buy wire fencing at TSC in a paycheck or two–after we get the driveway gravel.

It was difficult to resist temptation.

After Lowes, we went to Jay’s Sporting Goods store. Next to Jay’s was a Cops & Donuts bakery, which just opened in the last year or two. The original Cops & Donuts is in Clare, Michigan. When a historic bakery that had been in business since 1896 was weeks from closing, the local Clare police department stepped in and bought it. It was a huge success and they have opened other branches, which they call “precincts,” in a few other Michigan cities. We always stopped at the Cops & Donuts headquarters in Clare when we were moving. The bakery goods are DELICIOUS and I was so tempted to stop in yesterday, but EJ has to stay away from sugary treats so I resisted temptation for his sake. But as we left Jays, I told him to grab my arm and not let me drift over to the bakery. If you are ever in a Michigan city that has a Cops & Donuts bakery, make sure you stop.

Our final stop was at the hardware store to get some paint for a whimsical project I am going to work on. I’ll tell you about that later when I get all the supplies together and start working on it.

Farm animals toilet paper holders. You can buy them at my Etsy store.

I didn’t sleep well last night–I got less than four hours of sleep–so I went back to bed after EJ left for work this morning. When I woke up again, I did laundry and continued working on a cute cow toilet paper holder for an Etsy customer. (You can buy them and other items at my Etsy store here.) I finished it today and boxed it, and I’ll take it to the posts office tomorrow. In between my other projects, I am working at creating a custom crocheted item for a friend.

I decided to put up a few wooden posts for the garden fence this afternoon, but our sandy soil is so dry that it poured out of the jaws of the post-hole digger like water. I got one post up and then decided to wait until we get some rain. We have a good chance to get some tonight and tomorrow.

There’s a lot to do in the next couple of months!

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