4/30/08

For Arthur

Many years ago I met a person. This person became an extraordinary friend to me. I'm a country girl who lives in a very small world. This is largely because it's my preference to keep my world small. He was a born and raised New Yorker. He was an immigration attorney, I worked for a company that maintained offices in several countries. We began talking about things outside of office, gossip, silly jokes, life, faith and Arthur became my friend.



Arthur was my friend. My husband is my partner, lover and best friend. Arthur quickly became that person outside of the marriage who I would vent to, gossip with and talk about those things that your husband just seems to not be interested in. The neat thing was that I became that person for Arthur as well. We could laugh at one another, cry with one another and simply share the world via e-mail and telephone conversations.


Arthur's past was troubled. His mom was bitter, his Dad was an unknown entity to him, his lifestyle controversial. All these things led him to be a person like me who kept things close to the heart in a protective dome. My reasons were more selfish, I simply don't share a lot. Arthur's reasons were the result of public judgment, extreme bitterness towards his Mother for rejecting who he was and fear of betrayal were his friends and co-workers given an opportunity to judge. Arthur was a gay man. It took him nearly six months to reveal this to me even though I had already figured out he was unique. It took me less than 5 seconds to remind him that he was my friend first. But, it opened up a part of my heart I did not know existed.


Judgement is a harsh word. My Southern Baptist roots taught me that judgement was a requirement in the world. But, my college years and life experiences were beginning to teach me that I am a person judged before I judge anyone else. Arthur taught me that a Christian is a saved person only through the blood of the cross and the final judgement is God's. Arthur taught me Bible stories, about foreign missions and the truth about unconditional love. Everything he ever earned he gave away. Every minute he had to spare he spent in soup kitchens or serving some other social need in his community. Arthur taught me about honesty - the real honesty that means risking rejection in order to insist that people either love you for who you are or do not love you at all. Arthur taught me that living for Christ was the easiest thing in the world to do since Christ died for me. Good deeds just add bonus to the sense of self you feel knowing you are saved through the cross.

Jesus' final commandment, the one He added to the ten was "love each other as I have loved you". Arthur exemplified that commandment like no person I have ever known.


We would joke with one another about our lives and how incredibly different they were. I am a content southern girl, a wife, a mother and according to Arthur - the Ellie Mae Clampette of the world! He even sent me a full set of "Beverly Hillbilly" shows.

Arthur was a yankee, all caught up in the fast pace of his lawyer lifestyle, a person who could not survive even one single day on a farm. I sent him a huge box of fresh boiled peanuts and moon pies that he shared with his office staff.

If Arthur ever stepped in cow poop, he would have fainted. I had always hoped to be the one to give him that little nudge as we were walking through the field and still giggle thinking how he would react were I able to nudge him just at the right moment - centering those squeeky clean, shiny shoes right in the middle of a good fresh one!




Four years ago, I got a phone call that forever haunts me. Arthur had been found in his driveway. He had gone into diabetic shock and was unable to get help. He had fallen in a spot that was not visible. His co-workers found him after knowing that his being late was not normal for him. I am not the only person who loved Arthur or experienced the severe grief after his loss. I do believe, however, I am one person forever changed, strengthened and humbled by my relationship with this man.


I miss my friend. I miss our daily e-mail conversations. I miss how he could always answer me with just the right words when I thought my life was just going to be over if things didn't change. I miss how he loved me and how he always insisted that truth and honesty were foremost in the character of any individual. I miss how he could direct me to scripture and inspiration when I thought the world hated me. I miss how he always made me want to go home and love my husband at the end of the day, telling me continually how he wanted that same romantic love for himself. Most of all I miss how my relationship with Arthur reminded me daily that there are things in this world that I may not understand but the people in this world loved me despite my inability to understand them.

Father's Day is Sunday. I always think of Arthur because he never knew his father. I will tell you one thing...I am most certainly glad that I go to know Arthur and can't wait to see him on the other side!




Arthur left so much for me not to miss. He left me stronger in my faith than I ever thought I could be. He left me wiser. He left me certain that when I get to the gates, I will be able to embrace him and thank him for welcoming me in. Most of all Arthur left me with the knowledge that people all fall short of the glory of God - each one of us -especially me. As I would hear and read Arthur's dreams and disappointments, I knew that he somehow managed to endure a lifetime of judgment at the lifestyle he lived. It had cost him his relationship with his Mother, not because of him but because she could not see within herself- her own failures and sinful nature and acknowledge that he was a much more pure person than she could ever dream to be.

Our first walk

The kids are now 8 weeks old. Oh how they have changed in 8 weeks time. They now weigh each in excess of 20 pounds. I still remember pulling them out from under the deck, small enough to hold two in one hand. I am in awe of their rapid growth.

So, they don't want to let me leave them behind any longer. It was time to give them their first introduction to the trails. We struck out on a slow pace. All three were waddling along with me panting in excitement of the adventure to come. 100 yards into "the walk" Rubye decided to sit down. She was confused and she was reluctant to move forward. Rubye likes her porch and she likes her domain but she keeps her domain very small. So, 100 yards was a good distance out of her domain.

We tried coaxing. Spin went back several times and sat with her and tried to reassure her it was o.k. and then we finally moved on, Rubye quickly ran back to the porch. Diamond would have never left me but I must not compare mother to daughter.

Another 100 yards and Spin and Joe begin to fall behind. I expected as much. Their legs are not that long and their bodies are massive. The obesity is still an issue but mass is beginning to form into muscle. Spin began to wimper as if confused - should he go forward or should he go check on his sister. Joe stood fast by my side. I coaxed and then decided to let big boys be big boys and moved ahead. Another hundred yards and I turned to see Joe had returned to Spin's side and they were somewhat confused. How could we just keep going now losing site of their secure porch?

I considered our first walk - all 200 yards a complete success. I don't want dogs that roam, just dogs that stay by my side when I roam. For puppies they made quite the effort. I decided to continue my walk converting it into a power walk instead of a puppy adventure.

I finished the first mile and realized that Brutus was barking the strangest bark I have ever heard come from him. First I kept walking assuming he had once again met the armadillo that continually beats him into the ground and frustrates him. But this bark was not one of anger and frustration- the sound coming from his head in a hole while he's digging and crying at his defeat once again. It was a loud, almost alarming bark - as if someone or something was causing him to call for my attention.

So, I turned around. I could do the next mile in reverse and hopefully find the source of Brutus' commotion. As I topped the hill, there he was, almost a half mile into the walk...Spin and Joe under his feet. He ran to me! They ran to me! He literally dropped them off at my feet and gave me the "I got them this far, they are yours from here on" look and headed off to the woods, making sure to step up the pace to the point they could not keep up.

Somehow, father and sons had communicated and somehow he had either insisted they catch up or they insisted he help them catch up. They had refused to abandon the mission. Now THESE are their mothers children! She would never abandon a mission. She would never let me wander the fields and woods alone. She would walk her legs off to make sure she kept up. These little guys had just proven they would as well.

As we walked back to the house, taking a shortcut across the hayfield, puppies panting from both excitement and exhaustion, we had our "moment". I knew they wanted to be with me, they knew I was proud of them. As they got back on the porch with Rubye, she seemed to be asking them where they went and what they saw and they seemed to be excitedly telling her all about it. Then, instead of drinking from the puppy water bowl, they heaved their front legs over the top of the Brutus drinking bowl, which has a ledge over their heads and hung themselves into the water to drink full of the man water that it contained.

Yes, these boys will soon be men. Like their father, they seem to be fully accepting that station in life. Like their father, they will be loved and cherished forever. Then again, that's one thing they share with their mother. The void she has left in my life is quite large. They will never fill it, but the space they are beginning to create, is making that void a little less painful for me to accept.

4/29/08

Dead what?

I read a blog yesterday where a particular blogger, a young fella, bereaved the loss of his dog. What was even sadder is he referred to the individual who hit this beloved pet as "evil". This made my mind begin to reflect. There are a lot of evil people in this world. There are also a lot of innocent people in this world. So, if one hits a dog that another someone has allowed to run loose or has gotten loose without the knowledge of it's owner, is one evil? If they fail to seek out and inform the owner, are they evil? Youth lacks experience and wisdom regarding both good and evil and forgiveness.

What I consider more evil was my sudden reflection over all the animals I may have inadvertently demolished on my daily paths to destinations important to only me. Once, I was driving home in the middle of the night. It was very late, dark and my 1973 Toyota didn't have the best of headlights. I saw a gigantic raccoon as it raised up in what appeared to be a "noooOOOOoo" pose just as I hit it head on. When I pulled into the driveway, the beast released it's death grip from the front of my car and plopped dead into the driveway. It was huge, and it seemed to have been quite angry at the circumstances based on it's final expression. But it was gone. My brothers both fell into hysterical laughter as I tried to get them to help me recesitate the vermin. It was an ongoing family joke for years as to how many rednecks were inspired to follow me home - a gal with an old car and a raccoon mounted on the front - what a catch. I could have been missing all my front teeth and still been a great find!

On another occasion, I ran over a tiny puppy. It somehow got tangled in my wheel and was released to fly over the front of my car. On that occasion, I did stop to confess my evil deed. I knocked on the door of the old house and this 200 year old man came to the door and invited me in. I was in shock, I went in and sat down as he poured me a cup of coffee - I don't drink coffee but this was my first kill and I needed a drink! So, I confessed my evil deed - "I ran over your tiny puppy and I threw it all over the road - I must get you another one!" This wise old man said "did you intend to run it over or did it run in front of you!?" Of course, it ran in front of me, I couldn't have prevented the accident but still.... "Well, young lady, puppies are sometimes out of control as was this one, it's o.k. that you ran over it instead of killing yourself"! Forgiveness!? What a divine gift left for us to utilize. At this point, I broke into body shaking sobs and could not return to work the entire day. I spent half a day in the kitchen with this old man it was one of the best days of my life short of the dehydration for crying at the forgiveness.

Once, my husband and I were driving along a country road and saw a dead skunk in the middle of the road...dead skunk in the middle of the road...you got your dead cat and you got your dead dog on a moonlit night you got your dead toadfrog (I would credit the author for this ditty but can't remember if it was Dr. Hook or someone else)...sorry for the diversion but that's one of my favorite tasteless tunes. Anyway, on top of this dead skunk was a very alive and tiny little baby skunk. As I was picking it up, a farmer came from the other direction and stopped and said "wuzat?" and I held up the tiny prize to show him. He nearly screamed as he squeeled tires. I think I heard something about crazy women being yelled, but can't remember the exact details. We kept this skunk as a novelty pet until it was old enough to fend for itself. It was a great way to empty the house of unwanted guests - turn it loose, watch them run.

Then there were the three deer I have hit. The first one became $14.00 per pound meat for the freezer after paying the damage to the truck. The second survived I assume and the last survived. The last managed to break my windshield and put a nice dent in the side of the truck on it's way to freedom. It actually hit me. I had stopped and it was running and tried to jump over the truck and missed, kicking the windshield. I think it still laughs to this day.

Add to the three deer the many possums, cats and birds. The worst are the birds that fly into your car- don't deny it- you've been there - they hit your windshield and you look in the rear view mirror saying a brief prayer for their lives or their forgiveness whichever is warranted as you watch them bouncing off the road- feathers flying all over the place - little tiny baby birds screaming at you from the power lines - "YOU'RE EVIL!"

For those of you who have lost loved ones to road incidents, I know it is not humorous. I have lost my share of beagles, coonhounds, cats and chickens to sometimes thoughtless and sometimes very regretful drivers. But I do not consider those drivers evil. They simply were in their car, on the road when these creatures got in their path. I am not sure about God's overall plan but I am pretty sure He knows our hearts and He knows the design and fate of all of us including these creatures. If we can't forgive someone for taking a beloved pet even though they did not intend to, how can we forgive people for the greater sins in our life? It has to start somewhere and it all goes back to loving one another. We love our pets; I love mine with all my heart, but I love my fellow man just a tad bit more. Yes, man will more likely hurt me, deny me, even betray me, but he's my brother and if God can forgive ME, I believe I can find a way to forgive him.

4/28/08

Rainy Days and Mondays

There are two things I always like - rainy days and Mondays. Oh yes, there is a song about that! Except in the song, the writer is whining something about how life really takes over and drags them through the mud or something along those lines.

Mondays don't get me down. Sometimes I am completely convinced that Mondays do not like me. I mean, I don't hate Mondays, but they seriously loathe the fact that I show up. Rainy days are the days when I unwind and relax. Even if I am working, the rythm and the melancholy of the rain and sometimes thunder and lightening create an atmosphere where I am able to relax and reflect. Instead of that undying urge to get outside and create a garden or soak up the warmth of the sun, I am resolved to being indoors which gives me the chance to catch up on things that need to be done indoors. Sometimes, I just get a chance to lay back, close my eyes and listen to God's glory chiming upon the metal roof.

Today was both. I woke to a downpour rythmically pounding the metal roof. At first I considered calling in sick and just lazing about the house. Then, I realized that it was also Monday and that's the one day that I refresh myself at work - I plan my work so I can work my plan the rest of the week. It's "do over" day for all the things I may have gotten wrong the previous week. It's the time to come back from a brief break and refresh my mind regarding projects left behind and those yet to be begun. Besides, I'm not sick and I'm not sick and tired of anything.

Do you ever wonder if God counts the days of the week? Does he finish Friday and think "woo hoo - this weekend is all about me - ME ME ME!" Does he sit and wait for us to show up on Sunday and count the heads and prayers to establish some baseline for the next week's soul harvest? Does he take Saturdays and say "well...it's been a long week, time for a nap, prayers can wait until tomorrow."? I can't imagine a world where God actually did that.

God gave us Saturdays to rest. I think he actually gave us Sundays to rest and originally designed Saturdays for praise and worship (sabbath). This leads me to a new research venture. I must further study the days of the week according to the Bible. Woo hoo - see - Monday inspiration!

I see and hear so many people who dismally approach Mondays and then carry their attitudes over to Tuesday and Wednesday declaring Wednesday as the day they are NEARLY through the week. I just wonder - is life so bad that we count it day by day and consider simply getting through the day a significant achievement? I too am guilty of this sometimes, but then I realize that each day and each moment has been gifted to me and I just want to sing, dance and praise Him for the day. Fortunately, the general population is not subjected to the torture of my voice, but yeah- sing and sing loud! Even those days that seem to never end - with projects that seem to challenge us to the lengths of our patience and capabilities - are days that are gifted to us. If I look closely enough, there is opportunity even in the failures that result from those days. If I look even more closely, those failures or disappointments are very often the result of some action or lack thereof on my own part.

So, rejoice people! It's Monday. Bonus for me - it's a rainy Monday. Woo hoo.


Robbi McKenzie

4/25/08

Gizzy's New Crib

My daughter talked her grandparents into allowing her to procure a "pet rat" about a year ago. I am a farmgirl. Rats are offensive, invasive and destructive on the farm. So, when she brought this creature home, we were less than thrilled. His name is Gizmo and he goes by Gizzy most of the time.

Gizzy's "home" was primarily an old birdcage someone gave her with three tiers but rather small - the size you would keep a parakeet in. He lays on the shelf and looks out at the world most days. My husband has fear of two things - snakes and vermin. So, the presence of Gizzy in our computer room was rather unnerving to him.

Time has passed and Gizzy has grown into a full fledged vermin. However, my husband began to feel sorry for him. He never cries, he never makes a mess and he's always willing to sit and listen to conversation. Dave began giving him treats through those bars and soon realized that this creature is not all evil and hate-filled but grateful and gentle. He's never bitten, never growled and never tried to escape.

In the last few months, upon Dave's insistence, Gizzy has been getting brief reprieves from his cage and he's been more than willing to demonstrate his grattitude. My daughter too has been grateful to see her beloved....err....rat...becoming more entrenched in the household. Even the "J's" - A & B - cats for those of you who do not know - have been reluctantly acceptant. Since Gizzy is almost half their size, they seem more respectful than anything else.

This week a small miracle occurred. Dave provided the funds to procure Gizzy a new, much larger cage. The feed store owner allowed us to purchase it wholesale as well, knowing the thrill Leiren was experiencing to see this creature finally being treated as a non-enemy in the household. Previous experiences with vermin such as miniature and full size hamsters have not been so successful. We have scars, our walls have scars and a few cats have full bellies from the constant attacks, escape attempts and temper tantrums these creatures have attempted.

This new cage is glorious! It's huge, it's beautiful, it took two hours to put together and it's consuming my daughter's living space. It's just what she wanted and the $3.00 rat is now living it up in his much more expensive cage. Gizzy can lay on his top shelf and look my daughter in the eye as she lays in her bed. He can reach out and touch her hand when she reaches to him and he can enjoy his never ending treat supply as we slide them through the bars. He's a happy fella today after a year of sacrifice and cramped living.

I have never experienced a "relationship" with such a tiny creature, especially a creature normally so dreaded on a farm. This large rat has reminded me this morning, as I was handing him some left over popcorn and he was presenting his tiny hand to grab it, that each of us have a reality that we are forced to accept. It's only through grace that our realities are changed for the better. Each reality we live within is what we make of it. We may have a tiny house but if we are loved, we have everything.

The truth is, we are loved daily by the most important person in the world - Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. This rat has earned my family's love for what he is. So, I have to ask myself - have I done anything to earn the love of my Lord? While I work hard at that task, He's willing to give me that love regardless of how hard I work to earn it. It's a great way to start a Friday morning, realizing that I am given "unconditional" love. I didn't have to sit in a small space for a year to prove my worthiness, it's just given to me because I exist.

4/24/08

What is Tomorrow?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to reflect on miracles and Miracle. What a glorious opportunity to a simple country girl to hold, play with and experience the glory of a little creature from another part of the world!

This morning I am still in a state of reflection. I am a procrastinator by nature. If it can be put off, I can put it off! If it can wait, it usually will for me. It is a daily exercise in character and commitment for me to complete certain tasks I find menial and boring. The sense of victory upon their completion is amazing. So, I am learning to discipline myself towards not putting something on the corner of my desk but finishing it after I have begun. I am enjoying the rewards of that discipline.

With all this effort towards accomplishing today, what is tomorrow for me? I think the answer to that question is one of the easiest I have ever attempted:

Tomorrow is the opportunity to recover from my failures of today.

Tomorrow is the day I can start something new and see it to completion

Tomorrow is the promise that life will continue if not for me for everyone else. That being said, tomorrow could be the day I meet my Lord and Savior.

So, what about tomorrow? Am I ready to start the new day? Have I spiritually prepared myself for the opportunities that day represents? There are two potential opportunities. Either I wake up and face the drama of another day which makes me ask - Am I ready to let His light shine through me.? Have I prepared myself through scripture and example to represent Him if by only living a wholesome life and glorifying him through it? Will God be pleased with who I am and how I go through my day?

The second opportunity is the most frightening yet the most rewarding one any person can experience. If I don't wake up, if I am gone from this earth forever, have I prepared my daughter to know that I am in my final home - a mansion with many rooms! Will she know that her destiny is the same as mine and live her life in full expectation that we will meet up in the most happy reunion? Will my example in this world have lead and encouraged her to seek Him out?

When I get there, will I EVER be able to get off my knees knowing my unworthiness and not wanting to look Him in the eye? Will I be able to accept that all the things I have done in my life and been forgiven for lead me to a place where I only wanted to glorify Him? I doubt it but the glory is that it won't matter there. He has forgiven me and I will be able to see the holes in the hands that prove to me what He was willing to do for me.

So, what is tomorrow? Tomorrow is quite possibly the greatest adventure I will have ever experienced - no matter how it turns out.

4/23/08

Just another day?

Just this morning I was wondering if the rest of my life was going to be like this. I get up, I get ready, I feed the kids (puppies, chickens, cats, horses and other miscellaneous creatures) and I drive to work. My drive to work is exactly 4.7 miles. It's a wonderful moment to listen to my favorite praise song and group my thoughts for the day. But, this morning, I found myself thinking of the routine I have become so entrenched with.

This routine is honestly a HUGE blessing in my life. I no longer have to endure a 40 mile drive through traffic and involving the ever rising price of gasoline. I no longer have to struggle to get to work on time if there is some accident on my way or in my way. I can simply call the wonderful boss God has blessed me with and explain the situation and get there when I can. The one thing I have never done right in my entire life was venturing to ask my potential employer whether or not the "atmosphere" at this new position was a "Christian" setting. I quickly learned THIS setting was not only a Christian setting but that faith, Love of God, and Biblical principles were the priorities in this environment. What a blessing indeed!

But, today, for some reason, I was simply in a melancholy state of mind and could not see the blessings despite the effort to reflect on God and the song I was playing. I came to work, I logged in and began editing the project I have managed to cause to be a never ending effort. Just a while ago, the usual round of business license applicants arrived at my office and I told myself to put on the smiley face and reflect faith and love. Much to my surprise and amazement, the child that the lady was holding was not a child at all. It was a baby Japanese Snow Monkey! What an amazing revelation. This non-human child of theirs was in my office. A creature I have only read about and longed to be able to experience had just walked through the door with it's parents and I was fortunate enough to be the person with whom they needed to speak.

Of course, they wanted to talk business but in all my excitement I completely forgot why they were there and began pleading to be able to touch, hold, play with and experience this child of theirs. The child was ever so willing to share in my excitement and we began shredding papers together, bouncing on the chair, opening drawers and just exploring the personality that each other presented. Her name is "Miracle" and that's just what she afforded to my otherwise dull day! Two hours later they left my office - only after I paraded them through the other offices and made sure to laugh at Miracle stealing my boss's reading glasses from her face. My boss laughed the loudest.

It took a miracle today- Miracle the little Japanese Snow Monkey- to pull me out of my melancholy. What a revelation that was. A creature that God blessed this world with - put here for OUR amusement and entertainment - to serve us reminded me what I am to God. I am just the same to Him. I am His creature. I am here to serve Him and for no other reason. He can take me away in a split second or He can leave me here blessed or not blessed to continue in my service. What a dishonor it is to Him for me to become selfish and greedy with my time to the point of expecting anything more than the very breath he gave me! What a dishonor to my very life to believe for one minute that each second that I don't put forth my best effort is my right!

Miracle has gone home with her parents now. But the miracle of her existence and of my experience with her lingers on. The remainder of this day will be blessed just by the fact that I met her at all! The remainder of my life is blessed by the very fact that I am forgiven even for my selfish moments and my failures to acknowledge my Lord and Savior. I thank God for this day and for the disrupted routine. I thank Him more that the routine exists at all.

4/22/08

Saga of Puppy- Motherhood.

It IS Thursday. I thought puppy fatigue had taken over but I see that it really IS Thursday. After 8 hours - yes 8 hours - sleep last night, the pups and I headed for an early morning vet visit. This makes me nervous. There are germs in vet offices, but he agreed to see them early so no one has brought in any contaminated filthy dogs yet. Good news! The puppies have made it three weeks. They are over the threshold barring severe something or the others which I did not ask the vet to list for me because I would then be spending all day on the net researching the symptoms. The bad news is that I have two "obese" puppies. Now, to me this isn't bad news but revenge. The vet had been operating under the assumption that I could not keep these puppies fed - instead, they are obese. Yes people, you read this right- there is such a term as "puppy obesity". It's apparently an uncommon term since most puppies are raised with a mother and compete which keeps them more active and less fat. SO, the vet still reminded me, much to my surprise, that I am not a dog or a b....h! Hmmmmmmm.

By the American Puppy Legal Weight Measuring Association Standards (just made that up in case you are wondering), two of my pups are obese. This means that even though they look like warm, furry pumpkins with barking heads, they are actually simply fat. I am now supposed to weigh and measure and measure and weigh but then again, since I am introducing them to eating out of the same bowl of food as their siblings (competition), this situation may resolve itself. I'm sorry folks - there will be no puppy diets implemented in my household! If they eat, they eat. If they cry, they eat. It's who I am- you live with me, you get spoiled/fat. I am sure all the other puppies on the playground will laugh at them and make fun of them as they roll themselves out of the puppy classroom except I intend to homeschool them and protect them from this situation.My husband was sitting in his recliner last night and said "something smells like sh....t!"

My daughter, in her normal smart alec manner said something like "it's probably your feet!" Funny thing was - it was... I know EWWWWWWWWW. He promptly donated the funds to purchase them their new wading pool. This has been a standing request for a week now. While everyone else probably thinks this is gross, just seeing her say that, him actually looking to discover that yes, there were puppy treats on his foot still makes me laugh. Of course, I can laugh now after using an entire bottle of Pine Sol, carpet cleaner and forcing him to take another shower. I am quickly learning that those coveted pristine, disinfected floors are a thing of the distant past. Hopefully, with the new wading pool, I can once again keep them that way.

************

Last night, after consulting with the only experts I know, I decided that the puppies were in need of something more solid in their diets. This was the result of their requesting a bottle on an hourly basis and their inability to sleep or do anything else without wanting more food. If you can't snuggle them without them slurping on you, even after feeding just 30 minutes ago, something has to be wrong. So, last night, I ground up a few morsels of puppy food and placed it in the blender with their food.

My family has now professed to never eat or drink another item from this blender even though it does wash out. I don't think they will have to worry as the blender seems to be having issues with the major useage that has been applied to it.I fed the first puppy. It was little "BB" my brindle baby. After several corrections to the nipple, getting new nipples and correcting them, he went through six ounces of this new concoction without hesitation. I thought I had killed him. He burped, gulped, burped, gulped and literally passed out in my arms. I handed him to my daughter who agreed to snuggle him and wake him every few minutes to make sure he was still alive. First puppy being successfully slaughtered, I didn't back down from my master plan but proceeded to feed two more with the same results - hey - if you go into overkill - go full speed ahead. The fourth puppy simply refused the bottle - he's done this now for that past week. So, I made the mix a little thicker and placed it in a saucer. He dove in with all four feet, head, belly, and proceeded to lick the saucer clean. Wow, this guy is way ahead of his siblings. Then, the result was the same.So, we put the pups to bed and I proceeded to get up about every hour to check to make sure they were still alive. They were. They were simply sleeping very soundly. They have now outgrown their box and when they form their usual "puppy pile" one will eventually fall off and out of the box and onto the floor. Then, they wander off to some spot, do their thing and then begin crying. I would get up, step in their thing and then find the crying mongrel and put it back in the box, next to the pile, turn on the lights, say a few words, clean up the mess and go back to bed. This happened three times last night.

Husband is working as I write on a new box with better walls and easy cleanability. I am a neat freak about my floors and this new intrusion is something I am struggling with accepting - even from beloved puppies - NOT - they can do whatever they want, they are my new children!This morning, they were awake and ready to eat their breakfast. It was the same routine as last night except I tried the saucer with the other three. Two of them played in it and little "BB" my stubborn Brutus offspring, simply kept putting his head into the air looking for his bottle. O.K. He's not ready yet. My assumption that this would reduce the feeding time was quickly negated by the time it took to clean up the mess they made. The cats have taken to sitting within touching distance and staring at the puppies. Their expressions fluctuate from extreme hatred to disgust to the occasional playful expression.

My new trial will be do I or do I not let these puppies get new homes. I have people calling me who knew Diamond and who know Brutus. They want to buy a puppy. But which ones do I let go? How do I screen the applicants? Who will know that these are not just dogs - they are family? Husband doesn't share this sentiment. I think he has horrific visions of four full grown bulldogs destroying the farm one fence post at a time. The cats seem to agree with husband. 3/11/08:The babies suddenly have noticed they have feet. Yes, they are using them to try to walk and easily climb out of their box, but they can be laying around and all of a sudden - FEET!

It's so funny how they react. First they look and their little faces scrunch up as if they never knew those things were there. Then, they begin biting at them in their ever so sluggish 2 1/2 week old method. They eventually end up trying to stand up and look at them, then bite at them and lose their balance and roll over. They are now eating 4 cups of formula a day. That's four recipes worth - nearly a dozen eggs. But, to my good fortune, yesterday evening I discovered that the evil possums had not been consuming my eggs as I had suspected. Well...they have gotten a few, but I found the coveted hidden nest in the chicken house. I got a yield of 18 eggs. With five laying hens at 5 a day, that's about 3 days worth of laying. The other nest must belong to some renegade hen who refuses to go with the flow - a rebel - a hen after my own heart! As a sidenote - the roosters have finally learned to crow.

When I was a child, I did not realize that crowing was a learned artform. It's instinct to want to crow, but it's effort to learn to crow. They began as just a sqawk or sound as if they were choking, but they have now begun crowing. I LOVE waking to that sound. I have three roosters - all beautiful creatures - and all now crowing.Even the most disgusting things puppies do are entertaining. They are learning to stand and relieve themselves. They stand on wobbly legs, strain, moan and groan (the same sounds that have qued us for the last two weeks that it's time to grab the paper towels) and then, normally, tip over and bang their noses on the floor! Of course, as a parent, one tries not to laugh, but it's really hard to not giggle at their er...struggles. This tipping usually results in an equal and opposite reaction of sneezing and then...sitting in their mess! So, they get their revenge because I then have to bathe them......again!

We are now averaging two baths a day and they are rather well tolerant of these baths. I think they like the warmth of the running water and blow drier. And they LOVE the massage I give them as I dry them off.The puppies also have a full force of "puppy breath". Puppy breath is that skunky, distinct odor that only puppies have. It's the scent of love, kisses, hugs and it's memories of childhoods and simpler times. I noticed it in a couple of puppies last week but they now all have it. I am assuming that this means I am providing the appropriate nourishment. I was concerned that I would only get to experience this wonderfully stinky sensation if they were with their mother. I am grateful their breath stinks!And it's Monday again. I like Mondays. I have always found the opportunity to start a fresh new week with a fresh new perspective quite rewarding. Today, however, was Monday an hour earlier. Even that was o.k. The feeding schedule was easily adjusted. The babies are now hungry anytime a bottle is offered even if you wake them from a deep sleep. The chickens are now contributing to the effort -leaving me 3 or 4 eggs a day. I have to beat the possums to them however. Brutus tries to catch them, but hasn't succeeded completely. If I don't get the eggs before dusk, they are quickly devoured. Even with all the wiring and foundation work, they still manage to rip open a section of fence here and there and take whatever spoils are left.One puppy has begun walking on shaking legs and he gets around quite well. He has decided that HE will belong to my daughter. He's not exactly the one she picked out being the only brindle and her wanting the only white one, but he's picked her out. His temperament is identical to his father. He sleeps fitfully making all sorts of noises and jerking around. He barks when he hears his father barking outside and he literally bull dozes over the other puppies even though they are equal in size. Feeding him is a record breaking effort. He can consume five ouces of formula in less than five minutes. Burbing him is another story. Having eaten that fast, the burbing effort is quite gruesome.

The only female is surpassing her brothers in size and formula consumption. I feed her first most days because she insists I do so. Two weeks ago, she was almost dead. Now, she has the largest appetite. We have named her Rubye. She's not her mother - not the Diamond that was such a precious addition to our family- but she's not far from it hopefully. So, we decided to call her a gem just the same.We are now left with only one puppy that we have not named. He's equally adorable and cute. He's just so layed back and easy going we often forget he's there. He will probably be the best of the litter as far as pets go. Nothing disturbs him. He never complains. He simply does what he does. I currently call him "Slow Joe" because the bottle isn't even a big deal to him. He takes as long as the other three combined to consume his formula. He just sips and lays around and sips and lays around as if he's on some vacation.Mother's log - stardate 3/8/08 (I always wanted to do that)

Today I have realized that the puppies have grown. When I crawled under the deck in the pouring rain, they were so small that I could pull out two at the time with one hand. Now, it takes two hands to hold them on their backs while propping them up. It takes two hands to wash them and it takes two hands to hold them and snuggle them. They have at least doubled in size. I probably should have weighed them but I did not.We had a picture of Diamond out from when she just came home to us at 3 weeks old. The smallest male looks just like her even down to the expressions he makes. His name is Chip - he's my Diamond chip. If you are a fan of "King of Queens", there is a character in that show named Spence. As we were watching the reruns the other evening and I was feeding Chip, we laughingly realized that Chip and Spence have the same facial expressions. So, sometimes we call him Spence. However, my daughter's ex-boyfriend is named Spencer and she doesn't like having anything of any value with that name.This morning was quite nice. Yes, I was awakened at 2:00 am as usual - the one day reprieve was really JUST a one day reprieve, but being home today, I have had more time to hold, feed and clean them. They are getting used to their baths and relax when they hear the blow dryer. I am hopeful that I have done some future owner a big favor with this. They are also learning to sit and look around. Their front legs will now support a sitting position. They are also learning to climb out of the box and seem to know which direction the bedroom and the "feeding recliner" are in.

The "J's - A and B" our two cats that we raised on bottles last year, are not really happy about these additions to their household. First, it's highly insulting that the new milk supply goes exclusively to the mongrels. I see them staring into the box often - I believe they are plotting some evil scheme or possibly telling the puppies horrific stories of life on this farm in hopes they will run away the instant their legs can carry them. Second, it's quite disconcerting to the J's that the puppies garner any attention from their humans. If they actually walk across the same spot a puppy just touched, they go into a huge drama of shaking their feet and hissing. They do not like the contamination these creatures have brought into the household.My kitchen, at first glance, could be mistaken for a bar.

Two blenders sit waiting the next time to mix formula, measuring cups and spoons sit on ready as do the various articles that become formula. Several times a day the blender is running and husband asks what I may be mixing. Why doesn't he know now, after two weeks that the only thing I have time to mix is formula. I have considered responding with "Oh, I've invented this great new health drink" and giving it to him. It would be fun to see him freak out, but eggs are too expensive and therefore, I won't waste them even on such an enticing comedy.I have one more week, actually less than a week before I start the puppies on puppy chow. I am looking forward to that. Their appetites have increased astronomically and I think they too may be looking forward to it. But, I actually might miss the 2:00 feedings, the re-runs of old movies I watch during these feedings and the very fact that right now, I am the most needed individual in their life.3/6/08:Two of the puppies were in the floor this morning waddling around on shaky legs. It seems that their new sight has resulted in a new curiosity about the world around them. They seemed glad to see me but I think it was because they KNOW that I bring food. This weekend husband has promised to construct a newer stronger, taller walled box for their home.

There has been discussion about WHEN they will move outside, but it's been a one-sided discussion.I have learned in the last two weeks that puppies when little can not "relieve" themselves as a reflex. They have to be encouraged into it. Yes, it's gross but it's a fact of life. These last few days, however, they are learning to do their dirties on their own. What a relief. I wonder if the fellas will ever stop streaming fountain effects when I rub their bellies. I can see it now-some visitor comes to the house, the little guy rolls over, the visitor rubs the belly and gets it right in the face. It's abnormal for humans to participate in this part of the raising, so I wonder how many habits will be formed that are not there when they are raised naturally.My daughter is thrilled to now discover that the puppies are ready to "cuddle" when held. No longer do they root and try to latch on to anything they can but they actually observe, nuzzle, sniff and snuggle. They are recognizing the hard plastic bottle as their source of nourishment.

They are recognizing the soft, warm, human as comfort. Another relief.Last but not least, I got nearly 8 hours sleep last night. They simply forgot at 2:00 that it was time to start crying out. They remembered it about 4:00 a.m. though. I have attempted to move them from what was once every 2 hours to every 4 hours and now to every 6 hours. But 8 hours was our schedule last night. Perhaps they were as tired as I was.Now....if I can only get my husband to recover from the flu, the normal state of abnormal can be restored in our household.Original entry:Most people who know me here know that my life revolves around family and farm life. Last year, my beloved Trusty, a horse of 34 years, passed away. I was ready for that-he was old and crippled and his spirit outlived his body by a good year or so. I can't describe the grief of losing such an asset in my life nor the thrill of knowing I got to experience him for over 16 years.I don't blog much these days.

I more live life and enjoy each moment of it. Blogging seemed to clutter my life short of my renewed desire to share testimony with others.For now, this blog is my journal. You don't have to read it, respond to it or like it. I am writing it for me because what few spare minutes I have in my days, I am going to record my new experiences here to reflect on at a later date.Two weeks ago tomorrow, my precious Diamond - the dog in my photos- an awesome blue eyed, naked bulldog- had five puppies. After the first five, something went terribly wrong and we lost our Diamond. She was five years old - four and a half years older than the vet said she would ever be. Even though I knew her life was to be short, unlike Trusty, I was not ready. However, I have distractions to ease the suffering.Despite the loss of Diamond, we decided to take the orphans in and raise them the best we could.

Thanks to the advice of some very trusted experts, we have managed so far to keep four of them healthy and alive. The tiny little girl did not make it.So, this blog for now, when I have the time is a documentary of my adventure as a surrogate dog (oh yeah- there are names you can use - but I've heard them before) mother. It's for me and my daughter to reflect back on simply because it's easier than any other method of documentation in the midst of our upcoming move from old place to new one.Last week was a challenge. The puppies would eat, then they wouldn't eat. I spent a virtual fortune on different bottle types, nipple types, etc. until I found just the right one. Two puppies like the "medium flow" nipple, one likes the "newborn" nipple and one simply sits and gulps as we squeeze the milk into his mouth by whatever means we can. They've got it made so far. They have service every four hours, cleaning, no one telling them to shut up, get off the furniture, quit chewing everything or to stop fighting.They did four things in the last week, eat, sleep, poop and tinkle. No five- stink. My days were consumed with feeding, cleaning, washing bedding, going to work, going home on breaks, mixing formula, and starting all over. My husband and daughter also took advantage of this time to contract the flu so, all effort was mine single handedly (I look forward to the day they both recover and I can lay guilt to the level of some new outfit on them for abandoning me in the hour of need). The pups must have been happy because they didn't cry a lot like I expected. My daughter was distressed because she wanted to play with them and they only were awake long enough to eat. One of them, I call him "BB" for Baby Brutus since he's the only brindle, actually took up most of our time since he did not like the bottle or the formula. This week his attitude has changed.

This morning the eyes of the tiniest puppy were opened. I was thrilled to see that they were blue. I was not thrilled to realize that he now is in wonder about his entire world including the bottle, me, my husband and everything else. I wonder what he thought when he saw the blue and pink piece of plastic in front of him that was providing nourishment. From his expression when he saw my husband leaning over him, he was thinking he was on the wrong planet. My "schedule" for the feedings was disrupted by his newfound curiosity. But, his expressions when he SAW the bottle, me, my husband were so entertaining. SO, I opted to go to work late today and enjoy the new personality emerging from this little character.Tomorrow is day 14. My little Diamond clusters - like the shiny one on my finger - have become true jewels in my daily life. Yes, they are just little dogs -puppies all nasty and noisy and useless, but they are Diamond's parting gift to me. I am grateful that the 4 hour feeding schedule will soon end, but I am enjoying every minute of it while it lasts. Then again, I can't wait until my daughter CAN play with them. From the looks of things, that won't be long.