Wednesday, May 28, 2008

...and deer roamed everywhere.

I love my job. I really do! If I shared every comical, odd, or unbelievable thing that happened to me on the job, I'd have a story for you every day, just about. I enjoy people, and in this job, working with toddlers in their homes, I get to know people from all walks of life. Some perfectly normal people, and some very... colorful... people. :) As a result, I have a lot of fun, and never lack for entertainment.

But while I knew this job would lead to spending a great deal of time with all sorts of people, what I didn't count on was all the wildlife I'd encounter. And I'm not referring to the older brothers and sisters!

After all, there was the evaluation of the child who couldn't say a single word, but I was informed that the family had four goats and they each made a distinctly different sound, and the child could imitate all four goat sounds. Now that's a skill to be proud of... I got to know those goats quite well, as the child's favorite place to have therapy was the barn, but I certainly was never able to imitate those four goat calls!

And then there was the stifling hot humid summer afternoon last year where I arrived to find the family in the pool because their electricity was off and the house was even more hot and humid than the outdoors. The dripping wet toddler was handed out to me -- I put him down as quickly as possible to avoid getting drenched myself, and he headed straight for the sandbox, of all places. You know what he looked like when he came out of there, having gone into it soaked... At this point, the mother shrieks to the older son that the horse is loose... I'm personally not thinking this is any big deal, go get your horse and put it back in the fence, right? But no, this mother then informs me that this is a MEAN horse, and it will attack, that this horse pinned her against the car the other day and she was sure she was a goner. Okay, so why do you OWN an animal like this, I'm wondering? So I am assigned the job of keeping the toddler on the sidewalk outside the house, because the horse won't step on the sidewalk because he doesn't like the way it feels. I'm serious, this is what the mother tells me. I then proceed to try to keep a very hyperactive wet sandy toddler on a sidewalk for the next 45 minutes in the hot sticky heat while the mother and older son are attempting to round up this horse, and they're both positively terrified of it, which is why it took so long. The horse just stood there this entire time beside the barn looking at us and swishing its tail calmly, not looking at all like the ferocious beast it was made out to be, while the son and mother are skirting around trying to entice it into the fence while maintaining their distance. At long last, some food placed inside the fence caused the horse to meander slowly around the barn and into the fence, at which point the mom rushed up and locked the gate triumphantly. I am thinking, "THAT is the dangerous horse they're so afraid of?" when the mother returns to where I am waiting with the toddler and says, "Did you see the dirty look that horse gave me when I shut the gate?"

I'll pause while you take in that entire preposterous event.

My favorite wildlife story is the house where I have to drive 45 minutes into the middle of absolutely nowhere. I went there one morning and the mother says to me, laughing, "Boy, was he ever scared last night. He heard a sound outside, and BOLTED right off the couch and dashed to the other side of the room!" I waited for an explanation that never came, so finally said, "What WAS the sound?" "Oh," the mother shrugs, "just a mountain lion or something."

A MOUNTAIN lion!? I didn't even know they existed in this state! Sure enough, the mother says there are several roaming around in the woods near their house, and a black panther has been spotted on numerous occasions, as well. A panther!! I felt like I was in the middle of a "Little House" story...! I looked it up online when I got home, and sure enough, there have been a few rare sightings in the most rural areas of the state, which is exactly where this child lives. Who knew!?

But today, I had a very tame wildlife experience. I pulled into the driveway of a house, and as I got out of the car, saw the little boy dash out the front door excitedly to meet me, holding something brown and wriggling in his arms. He has a brown dog that he carries around at times, and I assumed that's what he was holding. Imagine my surprise as I begin to walk down the hill toward him and discover it's a FAWN he's holding! He put the deer down and it let us pet it, and then trotted right into the house with us. I asked his mother what happened to the mommy deer, and she said the kids had found it in the woods and the mother deer wouldn't come back to it after the kids had been messing with it, so now they were going to have to raise it. It was only two days old, it had just been born, still covered with blood, when they found it. I was a bit skeptical, but didn't really know for sure, so I didn't say anything. The deer was so sweet and so friendly, the little boy got to feed it with a baby bottle, and then it curled up in their dog's cage and went to sleep.

And then the older siblings came home from school. With friends, to see their new pet. The poor little fawn... I don't know how it tolerated all the attention, because the chaos about drove me nuts and I'm not two days old... I just hope it survives. I looked info on baby deer up this evening to see if what they said was true about the mother not taking care of it once it had been disturbed by humans, and they're wrong. The mother would have come back after the kids had left. But apparently a "kidnapped" fawn should be returned within 12-18 hours so the mother will come care for it, and they've already had this deer for two days, so I've no idea if it still would or not if they put it back. Apparently, raising a deer can have serious consequences for both the deer and for humans, and they need to either try to take it back to the mother or give it to a wildlife rehabilitator. So I guess now I need to tell them that. I bet they keep the deer anyway...

Update: The deer? It died.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lessons from Harry Potter and Laura Ingalls Wilder

"You... This isn't a criticism, Harry! But you do... sort of... I mean -- don't you think you've got a bit of a -- a -- saving-people-thing?" she said." (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling, Ch. 32)

I remember the first time I ever read these words spoken by Hermione Granger, and the eye-opening experience it was for me. "That's me!" I thought. "I have a saving-people-thing... perhaps that's what I like so much about Harry."

It's an interesting concept -- it's one of Harry's strengths, and yet in the chapter above, as Hermione so intelligently predicted, his very strength is used by the enemy and it becomes his downfall.

I've been thinking about my "saving-people-thing" a lot in recent weeks, as numerous situations with people have come up to bring it to the surface. So many people are hurting or in need, and I find myself just wanting to fix everything, and being so frustrated when my hands are tied. Harry's situation reminds me that I need to be so careful that what could be a strength doesn't become my downfall.

I have to come to terms with the fact that some people simply don't want to be fixed, or don't even recognize that there's something that needs fixing. Other people may say they want your help, but when it comes to actually changing something about their behaviors, they give up. Some people want help and could improve their situations, but they don't want MY help, they want someone else's. I so often find myself heartbroken over situations like these, and I have to be careful not to intervene when my presence isn't wanted, and yet to be sure that people know I am totally there for them and willing to do anything I can to help them if they do want it. It's an intricate balance, one that is hard to maintain.

Depression and the ongoing emotional struggle it brings is an especially difficult issue for me to watch others battle, because I battled it myself for years and intimately know the damage it brings to one's life and relationships. Because I found my way through the darkness, and that's a battle I've conquered (through Christ, of course), I also know how different, how joyful and content, that life can be without that cloud overshadowing everything. I want the peace I've experienced over the last few years to belong to everyone who is suffering, and it frustrates me to no end when for various reasons, I'm unable to help a person find that.

Arguments and friction between people is another situation that really burdens me, especially of late, as I watch yet another one evolve... one small explosion in a war that has been raging for years, really. I think most people expect me to take sides -- to take a particular side, in fact, given the circumstances -- but I simply can't find myself doing that. I see all the sides and understand that underlying issues are spurring on the conflict, and it's all so unnecessary. If only people would accept other people regardless of their flaws, and understand that hurting someone else or getting even with them really isn't going to make you feel any better about yourself or your own hurt, the whole thing could be put to rest; and yet, this is one of those frustrating situations where I recognize that my hands are tied and there's really nothing I can do but watch, because my help simply isn't wanted.

I read this poem on another blog, and it summed up my feelings regarding this so exactly that I just had to share it. Laura Ingalls Wilder quoted it in an article where she explained the reasons behind the behaviors of a woman who had been harshly judged by people who didn't know the whole situation. It may be anonymous, but it's also been attributed to Rudyard Kipling.

Could we but draw back the curtain
That surrounds each other's lives,
See the naked heart and spirit,
Know what spur the action drives,
Often we would find it clearer,
Purer than we judge we would--
We would love each other better
If we only understood.

Could we judge all deeds by motives,
See the good and bad within,
Often we would love the sinner
All the while we loathed the sin.
Could we know the powers working
To o'erthrow integrity,
We would judge each other's errors
With more patient charity.

If we knew the care and trials,
Knew the efforts all in vain,
All the bitter disappointment,
Understood the loss and gain.
Would the grim external roughness
Seem, I wonder, just the same?
Would we help where now we hinder?
Would we pity where now we blame?

Ah! we judge each other harshly,
Knowing not life's hidden force;
Knowing not the fount of action
Is less turbid at its source;
Seeing not amid the evil
All the golden strains of good--
Oh, we'd love each other better,
If we only understood.

All I can say to that is amen and amen and amen.

And I suppose the lesson I'm to learn from this entire situation is that there really is something I can do even when... especially when my hands are tied. They can be tied together, in prayer, to another who has a saving-people-thing, but One whose hands are never tied.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What is God up to?

My prayers go out for the Chapmans... and especially their son. I know God did not allow this to happen in vain. I don't know what His plans are, but He must have something tremendous in store to accomplish through this tragedy. I keep thinking, "What if it were Little Girl?" Their daughter was the same age. What a tremendous loss for the family, and to have to cope with the complicating issue of a sibling's feelings of guilt as well, it all just seems overwhelming.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Compassion -- yes, again... :)

So I found out via Boomama that there is going to be another Compassion blogging trip, this time to the Dominican Republic. I'm so excited about that -- following the Uganda trip was such an amazing experience and so informative, and I love knowing so much about the way my sponsored kids Milton and Rebecca in Uganda live and how Compassion works in their country.

But the Dominican... I'm really thrilled about this, because of course, Staurin, my very first sponsored child, lives in the Dominican Republic. I remember when he was maybe 9 or 10 years old, he hoped we would get to meet someday. Now he's all grown up and in high school. I'd love to meet him and his family, and see firsthand what a difference Compassion has made in his life, and in theirs.

I'll have to hope that the bloggers end up at his project and I get a glimpse of him through one of their videos or something.

To learn more about Compassion or to sponsor a child, please check out this link!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Presidential Nominee

So my mom and sister were involved in a conversation about the presidential candidates when Little Girl, always wanting to be part of the action, spoke up.

"Do you know who I'm going to vote for?" she asked.

Surprised that she even had any measure of comprehension of what they were talking about, they both hesitated and looked at her. She then announced:

"I'm going to vote for Abraham Lincoln!"

I think the kid's onto something...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mothers Day Visit

My favorite lines of the weekend:

My grandmother, after looking through an album of pictures from the Disney trip my sister and I took Little Girl on this winter:

"Why, you two look enough alike to be sisters!"

That's good, Mammaw. We ARE sisters...


And Little Girl, upon walking past the gravestone my mother put out in the garden for our cat who died a couple years ago:

"Why did Socks die?" Someone answered her that she got very old, and dying is just something that happens when you get old. "Do people die when they get old too?" she queried, and was told that yes, they do.

Little Girl then pointed to Mammaw, who is 84 years old, and said, "All except HER -- she's doing a good job!"


My mother to Little Girl, concerning Baby Boy: "Oh, don't hurt his little legs!"

They were play-wrestling on the floor, and Baby Boy had Little Girl in a headlock with his legs and was kicking her face to death. Don't hurt his little legs, indeed.


My other favorite lines were:
"Little Girl!" (her real name, of course)

Baby Boy is finally adding WORDS to his vast vocabulary of signs for his most favorite things. Hooray!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Train Up a Child in the Way (S)he Should Go...

...and Little Girl is well-trained, I must say. :)

Her sixth birthday is approaching, and my sister was discussing with her what kind of birthday party she would like to have this year. A swimming party, perhaps, or a skating party, a gymnastics party, or a bowling party...

Little Girl, without hesitation, responded, "I want to go to South Dakota for my birthday."

(Background: My mother and I took her to the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites last summer, trip report posted here.)

My sister said, "But don't you want the whole family to come to your birthday party?"

Little Girl replied, "Yes, I want the whole family to go to South Dakota and have my birthday party there."

Seeing as how we are a VERY LONG WAY from South Dakota, my sister then questioned, "But how would the whole family get to South Dakota?"

Matter-of-factly, Little Girl answered, "On an airplane."

Because the cost of airline tickets for the entire family is of no concern when one is five years old. :)

Regardless, I am thrilled to see that she has her priorities in life straight. Of course she should go to South Dakota for her birthday; what better place than the Ingalls Homestead to spend one's special day? (And now I feel guilty, because I am going to South Dakota this summer and had no plans to take her with me...)

But can you see why I love this kid!? :)