Friday, July 31, 2009

Goat Memories

“If you’re short of trouble, take a goat.”~ Finnish saying

When one gets old, the slightest little thing can send one’s mind spinning down memory lane. This morning I watched at a little video of my nephew Christopher’s sons at a petting zoo. They had accidentally let one of the little goats out of its pen, and the boys and their dad were trying to coax it back in. It was funny and sent my memory whirling to a time when my daughter, Shannon, (age 4 at the time) and I had a goat experience of our own.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. I had just recently received the Lord-that made it the best of times. But I was struggling financially, following a divorce. Things were so tight; the best I could afford for us was a little cabin back off the road in Olivehurst, California. The rent was $50 per month including utilities, and I still had a hard time making it!

I worked in Sacramento, which was an hour’s commute, so I was gone from our little shack a long time each day. I started having a problem with my neighbors breaking into my cabin while I was gone. I was broken into seven times, in a two-month period, but did not have the money to move. I had almost everything stolen, including my daughter’s toys, clothes, iron and ironing board, and even the meat out of my freezer. I remember my mother coming to visit and her remarking to me, “Chere, you have no earthly goods!”

One hot summer day, I came home to find my door wide open. As I drove up, I was shocked to see two big horned Billy goats munching on my couch in the living room. Leaving my daughter in the car, I jumped out and grabbed a two-by-four lying on the ground. I started yelling at them and hitting the side of the house with the board, hoping to scare them out. They were not even fazed; as a matter of fact, they simply looked at me as if to say, “What are you doing here?” The only one that seemed to be scared was me. Their big horns were very frightening to me. Shannon started laughing, and I kept on yelling and crying.

It was “hot as a Billy goat in a pepper patch,” as the old Texas saying goes. I was tired, frustrated and scared, and just when I had reached the apex of my hysteria; I looked up and observed a Mexican man with a piece of garden hose in his hand moseying towards my cabin. As he reached the door of my house, he yelled something in Spanish to the goats and waved the hose and out they flew. The Mexican man gave me an apologetic look and nod. As the goats wandered past me, they paused to stare with vacant brown eyes, bleated sneeringly, and then they and their master moved on back over to their property behind my cabin.

I learned a few things about goats that day. All goats are mischievous thieves, gatecrashers, and trespassers. It was OK to be afraid for Edgar Watson Howe said, “One has fear in front of a goat, in back of a mule, and on every side of a fool.” Goats will eat just about anything-including couches. That is why an Italian proverb states, “No one ever saw a goat dead of hunger.” But most important, I learned that one must speak in a language that goats understand, if you are to get their cooperation. An Indonesian proverb says, “If you enter a goat stable, bleat; if you enter a water buffalo stable, bellow.” I would like to add, if your goats speak Spanish, then bleat in Spanish and carry a big hose.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Comeback Queen Is Home

Shannon is back home and recovering well. Shannon’s favorite sign is the OK sign, which she greeted me with the day before she was discharged from the hospital. She is in great spirits and trying to talk up a storm. We want to thank all of you for your prayers and encouragement during her recent hospitalization. We have a visiting nurse, who will be following her for a few weeks, that will do blood draws and labs for us. Things are getting back to normal, so I hope to resume my blogging and twittering; or maybe I’ll just twiddle my thumbs and listen to the birds sing outside my door.

Shannon’s other favorite sign is the I Love You sign. If you were here, I know she would be waving this sign to all of you for your love towards her.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Update on Shannon

Just spoke with the doctor. He says Shannon is improving, but will have to remain in the hospital of at least another 24 hours for IV antibiotics. Her sodium's are coming down, but her sugar is still somewhat high. Shannon apparently had both a skin infection on her arm and a urinary track infection. Your continued prayers are appreciated.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Comeback Queen

Writing is a strange thing. Sometimes it is pure joy and other times it is pure torture. I seem to do my best writing in both of those states. It’s the blah times of life that writing seems most difficult for me. I cannot say that I have had writer’s block for the past few weeks, as I have hundreds of topics I would like to write about. It’s just in the blah times; I have no enthusiasm, and therefore figure anything I write will be dull to my reader as well.

Yesterday, my daughter, Shannon, was hospitalized for the 100th plus time in the last 30 years. For those of you that don’t know about my daughter, let be briefly explain. Shannon was a normal healthy child until age eleven, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although she underwent an eleven-hour surgery, the surgeons were not able to remove the tumor. They therefore radiated 80% of her brain. This shrunk the tumor down, but over the years a side effect of the radiation has caused her to have nine strokes. Other side affects of the tumor and radiation where numerous diagnoses of diabetes insepitus (very rare), sugar diabetes, osteoporosis, high triglycerides, a condition called panhypopit-where the pituitary gland was knocked out and requires hormone replacement.

Over the years Shannon has broken many bones due to the osteoporosis including both hips. She is now full of arthritis, but seldom complains. She has been comatose for as long as 28 day on seven occasions. She has lost her speech four different times. Following a stroke about five years ago, she did not regain her speech. Two years ago she lost the sight in her right eye, and then in November 2008, she lost the sight in her left eye after her last stroke. She is now totally blind. Two months ago Shannon’s hips became too painful to walk on, so she has stopped walking. Because of the strokes effect on her swallowing, she is now fed with a g-tube in her stomach. We constantly fight the battle of keeping her sodium and sugars in balance.

Most people cannot believe that Shannon is forty years old, because she looks like she is about 14. She stopped growing at age eleven. Because she did not go through puberty, she still looks almost the same as she did thirty years ago. I call Shannon my “Comeback Queen”, because no matter how hopeless the doctors say her prognosis is, no matter how sick, no matter what she has to go through-She ALWAYS comes back.

For the last week Shannon had been slowly deteriorating in health. She often goes up and down. Sometimes she pulls out at home, and at other times, she needs to be hospitalized. It is in the times of not knowing that my blahs seem to set in the most. It is like treading water, where one neither goes forward or backwards, but one just stays in place, trying to keep ones head above water. When I left the hospital last night, I felt encouraged. I believe we are once again swimming forward, and Shannon is in her comeback mode. She once again is going to retain her “Comeback Queen” title.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Wonder of Fireworks

“A man is a very small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.” Lord Dunsany

I am so glad America's earliest settlers brought their enthusiasm for fireworks to the United States. Fireworks and black ash were used to celebrate important events long before the American Revolutionary War. The very first celebration of Independence Day was in 1777, six years before Americans knew whether the new nation would survive the war; fireworks were a part of all festivities. This early fascination with their noise and color continues today.

My first recollections of fireworks where at a baseball field in my hometown of Yerington, Nevada. My mother had an old Dodge Station Wagon, which she backed into the field so us four kids could watch from the back of it. My two brothers with their fresh new crew cuts and matching short outfits, which my Aunt Jerry had made them, where so excited. They kept asking, “When is it going to get dark enough?” The anticipation of the show was unnerving them. As we waited for the Nevada sky to darken, we ate a picnic and swatted mosquitoes off our arms and legs. I hated mosquitoes; and so I was more anxious for the show to be over; so I could get away from these pesky bloodsuckers.

My town was made up of copper miners, farmers, and cattlemen. There was no shortage of pickup trucks with their .22 rifles in the back window gun racks, filled with families picnicking and anticipated the great event. We also had a Piute Indian reservation right in our town. The Indians sat on spread out blankets or on the few bleachers available. We were positioned so we could see not only the fireworks in the sky, but the men setting them off, which was a show in itself.

As the sky finally reached an acceptable point of darkness, I had bumps all over me; I could not stop scratching. I just knew that the mosquitoes had carried off a pint of my blood in their now fat little bellies. BAM, BOOM, SIZZLE, CRACK! I looked to the sky and saw the fireworks explode into a beautiful artwork. My mouth dropped open, and during the entire show I forgot all about the mosquitoes and the itch.

Wonder of wonders! One definition of wonder is rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one's experience. I think that pretty well describes my experience that night.

Bill Withrow expresses better than I, how I feel about the wonder of fireworks. "I often use the word "joy" when describing fireworks. It is a considered word, deliberate in choice. Not just amusement, entertainment, astonishment, but joy. Our art makes us all into children again for a while. We become one in our experience for the moment; lost in the sound and color and light. We see large forces, stronger than we could ever be, yet beautiful in their effects. “

Long before I knew the Lord, I think I was fulfilling Edward Young’s quote, “Wonder is involuntary praise”; I just didn’t know how to express it. Later I learned that the Bible states, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” I am glad that every 4th of July we shoot off brilliant fireworks, because as Lao Tzu said, “From wonder into wonder existence opens.” It is easy as we get older to fall into the rut of ‘same oh, same oh’. Nothing shakes me out of that blasé state like a fireworks show. It puts the wonder back in my life. At least once a year, wonder becomes the wow,wow, wow of my life.


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