Saturday, August 28, 2010


Sometimes--most times, actually--when I am in the kitchen cooking or doing some other form of food preparation, Oscar will come clicking in there (nails against the hardwood floor) and station himself either on the mat in front of the sink so he has an unobstructed view of my profile, or on the other side of the kitchen peninsula so that he can make direct eye-contact with me. From either position he will sit on his haunches and stare and stare and stare at me with his sad, pleading doggy eyes . . . as if I never fed him anything in his life.

Except that of course I have, and some of it has been people-food, and that is precisely why he knows he can come to me and silently beg--because he knows me and he knows I love him and that sometimes, if he and food are in the same place at the same time, they might actually get to meet up.

His chances of getting a little taste of something are actually pretty good, particularly if I am utilising eggs or cheese . . . or green beans . . . or avocado . . . Sometimes I don't indulge him; I won't give him anything with tomato or onion or garlic or grapes or chocolate, all of which are reputedly doggy-destructive. It doesn't matter how enthralled he is with the smell of frying onions (and really? who isn't?) . . . I'm never going to give him any. But with most other things I feel that a tiny little bite isn't going to hurt, and it's going to make him really happy.

One day this week Oscar came in when I cracked an egg into a bowl. I almost invariably give him egg. But I kind of wanted to finish making the entire breakfast, so I decided I'd give him a little piece when everything else was ready. He sat hopefully in the kitchen for a very long time, but eventually he must have decided I wasn't going to give him anything this time, because he got up and loped back into the living room. (It's kind of tough for such a little dog with such clicky toenails to lope, but on occasion he still manages it.) I guess he figured if he wasn't going to get his preferred option of some Jenn-food, he was going to take the second best thing and chill out on the comfort of the couch. "Too bad for him," I thought to myself. "I guess he's just not interested enough." If he had stayed in the kitchen, I definitely would have given him a taste, but I wasn't going to go bring it out to him on the couch . . .

That day, he ended up coming back into the kitchen for one more try, which was rewarded. But he doesn't always, so it isn't always. Sometimes he will stay in the kitchen until I clear everything away and return to my computer in the living room, just in case I might decide to give him something. And sometimes he misses out because he isn't patient enough and decides not to stick around.

I got to thinking about it, and started wondering if sometimes praying isn't like that. Some things, I suppose, would be to me what tomatoes and onions would be to a dog--no matter how good I think they "smell," it would not be loving of God to let me have them. But I suspect most things aren't like that, actually. And I wonder how many things I miss out on because I feel God's taking so long to get them ready, and I just assume His answer is no, and He's being a killjoy, and so I go off into the living room to sulk on the couch. I wonder if sometimes God doesn't give me what I ask for, not because it's the wrong thing, but because I have gotten impatient and stopped trusting Him and His timing and taken myself out of the right-place-at-the-right-time.

Maybe not, but I wonder . . .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Survey Says . . .

Mr. Junior-High-Science-Teacher used to like to show us "film-strips." These, naturally, bore the brunt of much mockery. They were a little jumpy, they genuinely started out with that number count-down which films like to add in for retro-effect nowadays, the picture was kind of grainy, and the narration was kind of grainy, too. I'm not sure if this was because we were in the 80's or if it's because these film-strips were actually older than the 80's.

Anyway, I guess they were probably pretty boring, and, as I say, all my classmates made fun of them. I sort of secretly liked them, though--maybe because it was something different, and maybe because it was pictures, and even grainy pictures were better than "drawing sketches," which was the other thing Mr. Junior-High-Science-Teacher used to like to have us do. I have numerous memories of the beginnings of these film strips (4, 3, 2 and then a POP of light, and then usually a picture of the Milky Way Galaxy or something and a man's disembodied voice). But I only really remember what two of them were about.

One was about GPS, which, until a couple of years ago, I had relegated in my head to other unfulfilled promises of my childhood ("By the time you're an adult, the US will have converted to the metric system" being the most cliched one, followed until recently by, "By the time you're out of college, they will have built a tunnel system under Boston to decrease the volume of commuter traffic." They now have the tunnel--finally--but I don't know that it's significantly improved the volume of commuter traffic).

The other film-strip I actually remember was about land-surveying. I'm not sure why we were watching a film-strip about land-surveying. I have no idea what we were studying in science that would have made this relevant. I furthermore have very little idea why this film-strip, among all others, is so embedded in my brain, unless it was the question, "Who would want to be this when they grew up?" which lodged it there. I remember being more or less mystified as to what the point of land surveillance was, and I certainly never did figure out how those weird camera-looking things worked. But, in spite of being somewhat agog that anyone could find this a fulfilling career choice, I remember being sort of excited and impressed the first time I saw anyone on the side of the road using one of said weird camera-looking things. I guess I felt a little bit like I was witnessing a celebrity in action. After all, I had seen land-surveyors on a film-strip.

Today I saw some more, and every time I do, I think of junior high and that film-strip, and sometimes I think that, in spite of the fact that the Big Dig is finally over (more or less) and people now have GPS's in their cars--whoa--we still haven't established the metric system as the dominant "rule" of measurement in this country, and land surveillance technology doesn't look like it's changed much since the 1980's either. Although it may have, I suppose. But I'll probably never know without another film-strip to tell me about it.

My Dog Never Ceases to Delight Me

Like a small child who is growing into a bigger one, Oscar's habits change every couple of weeks. Right now he's in a phase where as soon as I walk into the room, he flops over onto his back so I can rub his tummy. He is also (being a morning dog, which is fortunate, as his person is a morning person) is getting lots more playful in the mornings. After we come in from our first Walk of the day, he tumbles himself up the stairs and runs around my room like a crazy thing until I follow him up, drop on all fours, and the two of us mock-growl and run at each other. Then we play tug-of-war with what remains the only dog-toy with which he will pass the time of day: a cheap plastic Wal-mart bone.

Yesterday I told him we were taking today off, not going to work, because I have to work on Saturday. I didn't really expect him to understand this, but I think he might have, because today, instead of following me round the house for every step in the getting-ready process, he parked himself on the couch and stayed there most of the morning. He did, however, come running into the kitchen when my cell phone started ringing upstairs, looking at me as if to say, "Your phone's ringing. Aren't you going to get that?"

Such a smart doggy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Autumn--A Month Early

If you are single with no roommates and there is therefore no one waiting for you at home with a hot meal, the next best thing on a blustery, rainy, chilly day is definitely this:

Get home, slightly damp, and change into sweats or pjs or something. Feed the dog. Feed the birds. (The ones outside, I mean. I don't have indoor birds.) Feed the woodstove. Make a fire in the woodstove which, in itself, is a thing of beauty--starting with the first match, no smoke in the house, no wet wood (on account of Mark-the-Plow-Guy putting some in the garage last winter). Heat up a meal that you made the night before so you don't have to prepare anything else. Curl up on the couch with your meal and a book or a movie and some crocheting (after the meal, naturally), in front of the fire, with your feet on the dog. Finish up with a cup of hot chocolate.

The only thing--and I really do mean the only thing--wrong with this picture is . . . hey, did you notice the date-stamp on this post? August 23rd, people. I do not live in Alaska. Why did using the woodstove seem like the best idea in the world on August 23rd? If I'm writing blogposts from a permanent relocation to Costa Rica come February, you'll know why.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The Good Neighbours just had their baby son christened today. Between the two of them (and therefore in their one baby) the comprise some mix of Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, I think Finnish, and something else. Not surprisingly, their party next door was pretty mammoth, and I'm pretty sure everybody there was somehow related to the baby-of-honour, except for me. I just learned how to crochet at camp last week, though, so I'm making him a blanket, which is almost as good, right? Not surprisingly (what? am I stereotyping? okay . . . yes) the Italian strain at this party was particularly strong, incorporating food, accents, hand gestures, a couple of fresh-off-the-boat teenagers, and a cute but slightly skeevy cousin telling me I was gorgeous while serving me a cheeseburger. (Are cheeseburgers Italian if an Italian makes them?)

Like a wedding in which one only knows the bride and groom, I felt a little awkward for most of the party, though Good Neighbour Dad's dad was friendly. It helped when I brought Oscar over. Then a couple of elementary-aged girls came over to pat him and we sat on the grass and talked for a long time. I told them about the two weeks of day camp I had just finished running, and said that I thought they would like it and maybe they should think about going next year. They were a little uncertain when they heard it was a church camp; they said if we talked about the Bible all the time, it would be too much like CCD. I assured them it wasn't, but then, what do I know? I've never been to CCD . . .

Anyway, while I was sitting there having a smashing time with these children and Oscar, I also found a moment to feel relieved. The Sixes have been back and staying in my house again this fall, and while their presence is a pleasure and we've had some really nice moments (when I've been around and not on teen mission trips and church conferences and day camp to have them). But their kids are--well, kids--and I just spent two weeks running a day camp full of kids, and I tend to be a rather low-energy person anyway, so all this energy has been a little overwhelming. I found myself feeling, on Friday . . . and yesterday . . . and this morning . . . more than a little disappointed with myself. I mean, this is the chick who used to want to run (or at least work in) an orphanage or something. What has happened to me, that I only feel comfortable with teenagers and no younger these days?

It's probably a good sign that I shouldn't have kids of my own, but evidently, if this afternoon is any indication, I can still enjoy spending time with children, and they can still enjoy spending time with me. It just kind of helps to be able to turn them over to their parents at the end of the day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Too Something for Somebody

Pastor Marty retweeted something from a guy named "Pastor Tullian" the other day. The tweet (and the retweet, amazingly enough) said, "If you follow Jesus faithfully you will seem too pagan for your Christian friends and too Christian for your pagan friends."

Something inside me that wasn't John the Baptist leapt at those words; they seem very true to me, although I suspect if I thought about it long enough I could think of a circumstance in which you could be seemingly "too Christian and too pagan" and not be following Christ at all. All the same, that little summation sentence really describes the way I feel most of the time. And reading it like that, it made me feel sort of triumphant. Is triumph a worthy response to something like that? I don't know--that's just how it was. Maybe I just sometimes feel quite certain I am relating to Jesus but that so few Jesus-followers really "get" where I'm coming from that reading that just made me feel a little better about it.

Here's what I've gotta say about the downside to that, though: It makes it a heck of a lot harder when you're visiting dating websites . . .

Saturday, August 07, 2010

All Change

Do you ever have those moments when it suddenly dawns on you that even though you're still the same person you've always been, you're starting to react to the same scenarios in slightly different ways?

I'm a Director of Christian Education at a church in the City, and for the last three summers I've directed their two week day camp. The first summer I shadowed someone else, and last summer was my first one as full-fledged director, and it was scary and stressful because I'm not a very organised person, so trying to organise a whole bunch of other people as well as myself was kind of a 24/7-type of experience . . . even though day camp is supposedly a day camp and only runs five out of the seven days of the week. (It isn't really a day camp though, but that's another story for another time.)

This summer I think I thought was going to be more stressful because we have more teen staff than we have elementary school campers, and I wasn't sure how to keep everyone busy and productive as opposed to destructive and make sure the campers were all happy and not totally overwhelmed by big people. And maybe it should be. I mean . . . there have been a few minor incidents. (There were last summer, too. There probably always will be when you have a considerable posse of kids together.) But about halfway through the week I realised that I was spending much more time with the other adults in the screened-in porch off the lodge, and that it wasn't because I was hiding or shirking responsibility, but because everyone (for the most part) knew where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to be doing, and they were doing it.

I'm pretty sure that would have been the case last summer, too, but last summer I was running from activity to activity, hovering and feeling slightly hyper-ventilated. This summer I've been grouchy, I've told some people off, I've forgotten a couple of things and had to make far more trips to the grocery store than anyone should have to make . . . but I'm not stressed. There is, of course, one more week to go, but I still feel like I must be growing or something, and that, my friends, is a good thing.