Squirrel!

Family Friday

You already know we have a Squirrel in the living room–the kind that TWCN (The World’s Cutest Niece, who, by the way, drew us some more pictures recently) calls “sculpture-dermied.”

Even our squirrels are devout

Even our squirrels are devout.

But did you know? We also have one in the freezer.

Yes. I said the freezer. Not the attic. Not the basement (although both have happened). The freezer.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’m in favour of living “off the grid” and “off the land,” and squirrels are “clean”–they’re vegetarian, and I mean . . . free range? Truly. Also, I used to get really ticked off at the Squirrel bandits at the birdfeeder when I was single and living at my parents’ house. I never thought of eating them, though–although actually, we have a retro-1950’s reprint cookbook that has at least one recipe for Squirrel in it.

“Well,” I asked, “when are you going to make that stew you’ve been talking about?” I still feel kind of weird about a Squirrel in the freezer.

He got a mischievous grin on his face and said, “When the muse strikes, I guess.”

“There’s a Squirrel-eating muse, now?” I said.

We both burst out laughing. I kind of got the feeling it might be me. I’m not sure how that’s possible. Anyway. It wasn’t today. For now, there is a Squirrel in the freezer.

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Who Do I Think God Is?

Theology Thursday
The assignment: choose ten passages and write mini-papers on each, delving into the context, and then applying them to myself personally. Here's another one. (I'm not going to inflict all of them on you.)

Job 42.1-6

            Job, a man who has lost everything and blamed God for it, in this passage puts himself back in his place when he realizes just who this God is that he’s dealing with.

Job has been completely devastated, and then to add insult to injury his three (four?) so-called friends start blaming him for his calamity. Most of the book of Job consists of his defending himself against these ignorant verbal assaults, with an “If I could just get my hands on God, I’d show Him!” kind of attitude. But then God Himself shows up. In contrast to how He managed Elijah, God reveals Himself to Job in a whirlwind.

By this time, God has had His say and Job is mortified. In light of the fact that God has told him, “I’ll ask the questions and you give the answers,” (which Job cites), Job admits that he’s been speaking of things far beyond his purview. These “things” seem to be his attempts to argue for his own righteousness, and also to divine what God’s purposes really are, in the grand scheme of life and creation. He recognizes that God is, in fact, sovereign and can do whatever He wants, both by right and by power. In light of all these realizations, Job “despises” or “abhors” himself and repents for his ignorant blabbering.

In Job’s day, neither the Abrahamic nor the Davidic covenants had been given yet, but the promise of a deliverer had been. There is something characteristic of this promise and the future covenant even in these six short verses. God is reaching out to an individual (not just a whole nation), making sure he knows who He is, but also allowing that individual  to speak his mind, to approach Him, to get personal. When Job says, in effect, “I had heard about You, but now I see what You’re really like,” he is expressing the experience of many, many humans since (including the ones to whom the covenant was given), who have also “heard of” God, and then are stunned when that God breaks into their lives and shows them both who He is and who they are—via relationship.

Though I was never bereaved in the manner of Job, I spent most of my 30’s angry at God. Job might as well have been my patron saint. In that time, though I did not actively rebel—in fact I tried very hard to be obedient—I deeply resented what felt like God’s “holding out on me.” I wanted to get to the place where I could say, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know,” but I still didn’t understand, and I wanted answers, and I wasn’t ready to repent.

I’m in a different place now, psychologically, spiritually and circumstantially, but I still don’t have the answers. I guess I might still be asking the questions, too, but I think maybe, like Job, I’ve finally (though in my case not literally) seen God instead of just hearing about Him, and so now I can just ask the questions without spouting off ignorance about God’s character and purposes. At least, I hope I’m getting to that point. I’m learning to repent and not just feel guilty. There’s a difference.

I think I had “seen” God before, but this time I’m experiencing something more of Him. Maybe at different points in life I have to re-encounter Him, to remind me where my place is in relation to the One who is so far beyond my understanding, but who still speaks out of storms and silence, forgives, and lets me talk back.

Storm waves at the Giant's Causeway

Storm waves at the Giant’s Causeway

Trusting the Dearest with the Dearest

Theology Thursday
The assignment: choose ten passages and write mini-papers on each, delving into the context, and then applying them to myself personally. Here's one of them.

Genesis 22.1-19

The story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham his father provides the final in a series of impossibilities to the fulfillment of the promise God has given Abraham to make him into a great, world-blessing nation, and demonstrates that truly, nothing is too hard for God (Genesis 18.14).

By the time the events in this passage occur, a lot of other things have occurred first. Abraham has left Ur, moved to Canaan, divided the land with Lot, rescued Lot, conceived Ishmael, prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah, seen the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, experienced the miracle of Isaac’s birth, and sent Ishmael away. After decades of waiting, sometimes more and sometimes less faithfully, Abraham now has his promised son, through whom the rest of the promise is to be fulfilled.

So when God says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love . . . and offer him there as a burnt offering . . . ” (Genesis 22.2, ESV), He is effectively stating two unbearable things. First, He implies that Ishmael might as well not exist (and that he cannot be Plan B a second time). Second, He is commanding Abraham to kill off not just a beloved and long overdue son, but the entire promise itself.

Before Isaac’s birth, it seemed impossible for the promise even to get started. In this story, it seems impossible to get it back. Going through with the sacrifice until God stops him, Abraham seems truly to have learned to trust the God who had such great designs for him. In all four English translations I consulted, however, God’s declaration is, “Now I know that you fear God” (22.12). Are trust and fear more related than opposites? In light of Abraham’s confirmed fear/faith, God once more reiterates His promise of offspring, land and world-blessing.

Although the first audience for this story—and quite likely Abraham and Isaac themselves—wouldn’t have known it, God not only reiterated His promise in words at the end of the ordeal, but through this very harrowing object lesson. Through Abraham, God built into His promised people’s “DNA” the pain of a willingly bereaved Father, the fear of a sacrificed Son, and the very real salvation of a substitutionary sacrifice. He showed through Abraham’s own deeds what that promised blessing would look like.

blackfacedram

The announcement of the closure of the Seminary has felt surprisingly personal. I am not the only one affected, nor am I most affected, but in a “dry and thirsty land,” this seminary has been an oasis, and the idea of losing it makes me feel I am losing something important to keep me going in the pursuit of God’s promise. I am not founding a new people, and the Seminary is not the Messiah, but it existed for Him, and I have felt called in some fashion to follow in this wake of promise-carrying and world-blessing. I struggle with applying this passage to myself, because in every past scenario, I have never “received back” what I was relinquishing, like Abraham got Isaac, so sometimes I’m tempted to cynicism. Giving up the beloved Seminary, while not volitional, is still an act of trust for me as I hold on to the Promise and the smaller promises I feel God has given. I can rail angrily, or I can sacrifice this situation to the care of God and trust that He will fulfill those promises to and through me, with or without Seminary.

[Note: At the end of the day, it may not be the end of the day for the Seminary, but this was “where I was at” when I was writing this. So . . . maybe we will “get it back.” Watch this space, I guess.]

Remembering 1838

Memory Monday

Let it be known that Martin Luther King Day (which is today) is my favourite Monday holiday. I even like it better than the Fourth of July. But I have nothing else to say about it, so I hereby acknowledge it, sincerely wish you a happy one, and am now going to talk about something else.

I have really early memories. I mean really early. But I’ll bet you didn’t know they go all the way back more than 130 years before I was born.

Back then, my name was Anna Russell.

Welcome, friends.

Welcome, friends.

I was the daughter of a Congregational minister. (These days, I’m the daughter of a Baptist one.)

Yo, 1830's Dad.

Yo, 1830’s Dad.

In 1838, I was 18, commuting to a nearby town each week and boarding with an older couple, so I could teach children in a one-room school. I would travel home, usually by wagon and the kindness of some passing tradesman on the weekends. While there, I would visit neighbours with my mother, knit, sew, draw and write. I joined the Ladies’ Charitable Society and many of my handcrafted clothing items were sent to mission efforts in wilder parts of America or sometimes even other parts of the world. I liked to take walks on my own or with a friend or two in the fields and paths of my small New England town.

We used to walk in the woods and pray. For reals.

We used to walk in the woods and pray. For reals.

I had two older brothers, one of whom had disappointed my father by taking a degree at Harvard, that somewhat newly Unitarian school. My parents and I were staunch Trinitarians and I was very serious about my faith. My other brother was a lawyer. We didn’t see either of them very often.

I was keeping a diary in those days, recording my hopes and dreams. There was a young man who had been paying attention to me, and I was intrigued by him, but also afraid, because I knew he did not share the same beliefs about God and the Bible that I did. I was contemplating joining a mission to the Indians (sorry–that’s what we called them in 1838) out west–like Ohio or something. This may have been because I genuinely wanted them to hear about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ–but it also might have been because I was afraid of my feelings for that young man.

AndthenIwokeup.

Okay, not exactly, but kind of. This was my character when I worked at the Living History Museum in 2002. (They don’t role-play there anymore, but I’m sure glad I got to be there when they did.) The name, family and vocational details were all made up by others and assigned to me, and I made the most of it. How great is it when you want to spend your life talking to other people about Jesus, to get assigned to the one place in a secular job where you can talk about Jesus as much as you want? I made up the part about the guy, because there really was a guy working at the Museum at the time who seemed to be interested in me, but we truly didn’t share the same faith and he already had a girlfriend. But it was okay because I also really was going out West–as far as Denver, in fact–to get a degree at a seminary. Then I quit and started working at Starbucks instead, but that’s another story.

When the BroFam was here we visited the Museum together, and then I went back with two friends on New Year’s Day, and I am pretty sure that this means Anna Russell’s diary–completed and expanded–is going to be my next novel.

Sabbath for Other Reasons

Theology Thursday
This is the (slightly abridged) Integrative Learning Report that I wrote three months after I started that GLE I told you about last week.

SABBATH REST – Guided Learning Experience – Final Report – Autumn 2013

After making the seemingly momentous decision to study the concept and practice of Sabbath for this semester’s GLE, I almost immediately took something of a Sabbath. By which I mean my husband Paul and I went away for three days to the Middle-of-Nowhere, New Hampshire. This time away had already been planned, but it fit in very nicely as a kick-off to my study of holy rest. We had no internet, very little phone service, access to very few stores. We hiked, cooked together, read, and went to church together (which is a rare occurrence, even though we both go to church) and felt refreshed.

Learning Activities

As I had committed to do, I examined a minimum of ten (I think it was really closer to thirty) passages about Sabbath, both prescriptive and illustrative, and including many more than three from the New Testament. I read The Sense of the Call (Marva Dawn), The Sabbath World (Judith Shulevitz), and Craig Blomberg’s essay on Sabbath for a book edited by Christopher J. Donato. I had an extended phone conversation with my brother, about Sabbath-keeping. I also spoke about Sabbath at length with both of my mentors and my colleagues in class. Along with the three-day time away mentioned above, Paul and I ended up dedicating most of our Sunday afternoons to experimenting with keeping a “half-Sabbath.” When it became clear that he was intentionally setting aside time to try this with me, I scrapped the solo-Sabbath experience, and rearranged my schedule to try to ensure my Sunday afternoons were as free as his were.

Challenges

Sometimes, unfortunately, keeping a Sunday afternoon free was impossible, usually due to extended youth group activities after church. In one or two cases, Paul and I simply shifted our time of rest and reconnection to another weekend afternoon. In the case of this past weekend [before Christmas], even that was impossible. The best course of action then seemed to be to shrug and carry on, in hopes of more breathing space next weekend. Also, I opted not to have the conversation about Sabbath with my pastor; she has been understandably quite busy with getting established in her new position at our church, and the Christmas season hasn’t calmed things down for either of us, so I decided not to put more pressure on her at this time by engaging her in that conversation, although I hope at some point to be able to do so, partly out of my own curiosity. In any case, she seems as protective as she can be of her staff’s scheduled time off, so I have learned at least that much from her.

Insights and the Unexpected

Overall, this semester seems to have been a time of solidifying what I know intellectually about the grace of God and what it means to practice disciplines in light of that—disciplines I used to practice much more legalistically as a younger person. Regarding Sabbath in particular, I think I began the semester feeling stressed enough to know I needed Sabbath, but also stressed by the very idea that I needed Sabbath (and hadn’t taken any in about two years). Now, at the end of the term, I have a much better grasp of the truth that Jesus is my Sabbath, and that I don’t need to observe it simply to incur God’s favor. (This truth also helps me countenance the fact that, although I am now incorporating some version of Sabbath into my life, it is at this point merely “some version” and not even a full day.)

Probably the most striking realization I had around this was that, as Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial law by becoming a sacrifice Himself, it’s possible to say that He fulfilled the Sabbath (even became Sabbath) by “resting” in the grave on the literal Sabbath, after His crucifixion and before rising to newly empowered life on Sunday. Sabbath is thereby shown to be fulfilled. At the same time, it’s arguable that observing Sabbath in some form is an excellent way to embrace and celebrate that truth, and to move forward, “recharged,” into Christ-empowered life through the rest of the week. If Jesus is even infusing our resting, then Christian dedicated rest should be more restorative than any other kind.

Broader Application

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to study Sabbath in more depth this term; I only wish I would have had the time and impetus to do so sooner. Sabbath (even when I’m not keeping it) has always been important to me; I can say that now maybe I understand it to be important less as an act of obedience (though I believe obedience is also important) and more as an act of trust and devotion—and also of actual need. I think this is already changing the way I approach my work, both at school and church. I feel less frantic (except maybe last weekend!) knowing that there is (usually) a regular period of pause in my week, and trusting that everything that needs doing will ultimately get done. Learning trust in God in this area will not only strengthen my faith in Him generally, but, I hope, also give me a more peaceful and restful approach to life even when I’m not “actively pausing.” I think this study will also help me to teach about Sabbath, should I ever have the opportunity to do so in future. At any rate, I’m more likely to look for opportunities to do so.

The discipline of setting time aside to rest affects every area of life and ministry, because almost all of those activities will cease during that time, which ensures that they don’t dominate, and also that I am giving and “re-giving” them over to God at that time. I can only imagine that ministry dedicated in that way will be enhanced, not as a function of quid pro quo, but because God wants us to give Him control of our lives and ministry in the first place. I am still learning to be conscious and intentional about this rededication, but I believe it can be a result of what I have learned here. I think that periodic rest will provide me with more energy and motivation to do the work that I am, in fact, called to do.

Expectations

This GLE was hugely beneficial as interacting with God and others about this topic helped freed me from any sense of dread and obligation surrounding this discipline. At the same time, that freedom has not resulted in my deciding I don’t need to observe Sabbath at all. It has simply changed my perspective and what’s behind my desire for it. In future, I would certainly love to be able to have an entire day for Sabbath rest—and for worship, in the same spot on the space-time continuum as my husband. However, I guess some things do progress more slowly, and maybe this GLE is also teaching me to be more patient (restful) with process.

I certainly do intend to continue (though maybe not as concentratedly) to investigate this topic, and to experiment with the practice. Evidently I will still be reading about it during J-term at the very least—a term which from this vantage point looks to be shaping up into a perfect academic storm of unrestfulness. Simply trying to maintain what I learned this semester will probably be a challenging enough exercise next month. I suspect, however, that the timing of this GLE was no accident, and that I will continue pursuing Sabbath in Bible study, reading, and practice for years to come.

"He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul . . . " (Psalm 23.2,3)

“He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul . . . ” (Psalm 23.2,3)

Forgive and Hang On!

Wordy Wednesday

You may or may not remember that my car, Kermit, wears one bumper sticker, with one word on it:

44032277v2_225x225_front_padtosquare-true

 

I got it because I believe forgiveness is the signature attribute of Christianity and also one of the hardest things to do, and I wanted it as a reminder to myself and to anyone else who happened to see it. Only after I put it on my car, I kept imagining that anyone seeing it, instead of thinking of some person in their own lives they needed to forgive, would instead wonder what I was asking them to forgive me for.

After I bought it I had a feeling I was going to end up doing something that was going to require someone actually in my life to forgive me, and whaddayaknow? It actually happened like that, and I drove around for about a year feeling self-conscious and anxious about forgiveness–but I still believe in forgiveness, so I left it there.

Nowadays, if I make a driving error (I’m rarely a jerk on purpose), I wonder if the person I cut off (or whatever) will see the sticker and question my sincerity, assuming that I got it precisely because I am the type of person who routinely cuts people off in traffic. And when I drive past a police vehicle, I wonder if the cop in it wonders if my sticker is a pre-emptive strike in case I really warrant a parking ticket, or a speeding ticket, or something else.

I wondered about that today, as I inched past a cop car under the overpass on the way home. There was no way he was pulling anyone over unless they did something incredibly stupid (which still could have happened, I guess, given the way we drive around here), because it was Our Fair City’s version of rush hour and it was impossible for anyone to go very fast. But I still wondered if the Statie sitting cozily in his crossover was rubbing his swarthy chin and thinking, ‘Forgive,’ eh? If there weren’t so much traffic right now, I’ll bet she’d be going 100.

(I don’t really think real life cops talk like 1940’s villains and I have no idea if that guy had a swarthy chin–or even if it were a guy, for that matter–but . . . they do in my head, I guess.)

I tried to decide if having a bumper sticker on your car that says Forgive made it more likely for police to actually forgive you and cut you some slack, or made them more likely to find something you were doing wrong and penalise you for it. As I was wondering about this, a pick-up truck muscled by in the crush. On the back of the pickup truck, there was a bumper sticker, too. It said,

I ripped this from someone's Etsy site. Since you can get there by clicking on the picture, I hope they'll Forgive me . . .

I ripped this from someone’s Etsy site. Since you can get there by clicking on the picture, I hope they’ll Forgive me . . .

At which point I began wondering the same exact thing about that bumper sticker as I had been wondering about Forgive. If a cop saw that going by, would they be more likely to laugh and let the driver get away with shenanigans, or would they keep a close eye because that person would be sure to be reckless? It might depend on whether the cop liked Toby Keith, I guess.

It struck me, then, that people can say two totally opposite things and potentially elicit exactly the same response. Words are weird like that.

Sing Me a Story

Memory Monday

My Paul’s and my childhoods could probably not be more different from each other. I guess my parents’ childhoods probably had some distinct differences, too, but all the same, in comparison to Paul’s and mine, theirs are almost identical. One similarity is the emphasis on hymns. Grandma G wasn’t the only one who sang hymns while doing housework–or maybe she was, but the rest of us sing hymns at other times. Anyway, the point is, hymns. Lots of them.

I have trouble imagining the American youth I work with going for quite this approach . . .

I have trouble imagining the American youth I work with going for quite this approach . . . but it’s a good one.

One Sunday after church, RevCD said, “I saw you singing that whole hymn by memory!” Thing is, I kind of do that a lot, and don’t even think about it. Doesn’t everybody do that? Grandma and Grandpa G used to have us sing hymns and choruses after dinner. We have stories about hymns in my family, like my Pennsylvania Dutch Grandpa M’s family singing “O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness” while working on their dairy farm or something like that. Grandma M, meantime, would tell us the stories behind hymns, and quote them at length in her Christmas cards.

There’s the well-known story of how “Amazing Grace” got written by the ex-slave trader John Newton. There’s the only slightly less-well-known story of Horatio G. Spafford’s family dying at sea, after which horrific losses, he wrote “It Is Well With My Soul.” Then there’s the completely obscure hymn, “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,” which I happen to know was written by a French Catholic priest as he tried to introduce some Native Americans to Jesus and the Christmas story.

A Moonlit Winter Landscape, by Remigius van Haanen (1812-1894)

A Moonlit Winter Landscape, by Remigius van Haanen (1812-1894)

The thing about hymns is, half the time they’re stories themselves, and they were written by people with stories, and they reflect the story of God in those peoples’ lives so that people like my grandparents . . . my parents . . . me . . . you, too, if you wanted . . . draw closer to the God whose truth we sing, and to the people who followed Him before us.

Even on old messed up keys, the Master can play some sweet tunes.

Even on old messed up keys, the Master can play some sweet tunes.

Harried into the Sabbath

Theology Thursday
Here's an example of what I mean by a GLE:

SABBATH REST – GUIDED LEARNING EXPERIENCE – AUTUMN 2013

shabbat

Part I: Learning Need

If I were actively journaling these days [which I am again, but I wasn’t when I wrote this], I would probably be able to point to all the circumstances and readings and conversations in the last three weeks which have revolved around the idea of Sabbath. In any case, there have been a lot of them, and I have simultaneously been feeling harried and frantic since just before Labor Day. The accumulation of all these events and facts have served to remind me of times when my practice of Sabbath keeping was much more disciplined, and have also made me realize how much I miss it. It is challenging to set aside a time to truly rest when both job and academics revolve around spiritual things, and the little “down time” one has must usually be dedicated to home upkeep. Furthermore, are creative hobbies “work”? God did, after all, create on the six days and stop creating (rested) on the seventh. If those are to be eschewed from true Sabbath rest, then there will never be time for those joy-giving, relaxing activities at all.

I need to revisit my understanding of Sabbath and perhaps come to a new one, or at least a clearer vision of it. I also need to re-incorporate Sabbath into my living routine.

Part II: Learning Objectives

My learning goals are for me to come to a firmer (though not more rigid) understanding of Sabbath, and to discover a way to employ that discipline which is, it seems to me, really a gift to us from God, so that I may draw closer to Him in Sabbath rest, in order to better serve Him and the people He puts in my path the rest of the time.

Part III: Learning Activities

A. Scriptural: I will examine a minimum of ten passages about Sabbath, particularly the ones where the concept of Sabbath is first introduced (including that disturbing story in Numbers where the man is killed because of carrying firewood on the Sabbath), and at least three stories about Jesus’ approach to Sabbath.

B. Cognitive: I will read Marva Dawn’s The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, the Church, and the World for a Christian perspective, and Judith Shulevitz’s The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time for a Jewish one. I will also consult the essay on Sabbath which Craig Blomberg (mentor) wrote for Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views, ed. Christopher J. Donato. I will discuss Sabbath-keeping with my brother and sister-in-law, who are Christians but lived in Israel and whose practices have been affected by that experience.

C. Experiential: Although I probably can’t discern what these will look like, exactly, until I’ve begun my study, and although technically there should be a lot more Sabbaths in the time I’ve got for this course, I will take three intentional Sabbath rests on my own during the course of this term and, if he’s agreeable to it, two with my husband as well.

D. Interactive: I will interact with my husband, my classmates at BSoE, and my mentors about what I am learning in this process. I also intend to discuss this process with my new pastor, as she has indicated it is an important spiritual discipline to her.

E. Reflective: I will reinstate my journaling habits to track what I am learning and thinking about these interactions, readings and activities, and I will complete my Integrated Learning Report for the end of this course.

A Tale Simultaneously Hilarious and Sad

Wordy Wednesday

Tomorrow is T-TAC (Third Time’s a Charmer)’s first birthday. I didn’t forget the birthday, but somehow (maybe because because I’ve given both TWCN and Smiley-Guy my  most favourite kid-things for Christmases and birthdays for the last five years already) I forgot that it might behoove us to get him a present–until my Paul said, “What are we getting him?” and I realised that I had no idea, but I knew we hadn’t given him any books yet–which is quite unlike me.

This question instigated a flurry of emails between us and TheBro and Sister-in-Lu, and at one point Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham came up in the discussion. (Paul brought it up, but it happens to be a particularly a propos book for me.) The BroFam already has that book, but my Paul decided to make an MP3 recording of himself reading it, so that maybe sometimes the kids could listen to him reading it to them even though we’re geographically so far away from each other. (There is a history of this kind of activity in my family, which I will describe some Memory Monday or other.) He emailed the MP3 to TheBro, and to Sister-in-Lu, and to me.

I was eating my lunch in my office at work, with Oscar staring longingly at me while I did so, when the MP3 arrived, and because it was lunchtime, I played it.

Oscar@Lunch

About at the point where Sam-I-Am is asking the unnamed irritated protagonist if he would like green eggs and ham in a box or with a fox, Shemp, at home in the background of the recording, shook himself and his collar jingled. Oscar sat right up.

I don’t know how one dog can tell another dog’s collar jingle, but I guess it’s possible, because Oscar, shy guy that he is, was definitely more engaged than, say, when RevCD brings her dog into the office. It seemed like identifying Shemp helped him realise the voice he was hearing was my Paul’s, as well. So Oscar continued head up, ears cocked, for the rest of the story until just before the denouement, when Shemp shook himself again. At that, Oscar leapt off the office couch and began trotting back and forth, back and forth between the door and the desk, whimpering and whining. Then he lay by the armchairs and stared wistfully into the middle distance, as if he could make Shemp materialise by so doing.

Wistful and confused. (For more funny pet stories, "like" the That's a Jenn Story facebook page!)

Wistful and confused. (For more funny pet stories, “like” the That’s a Jenn Story facebook page!)

My Paul and I had a two-minute emergency Skype session so Oscar could see him and Shemp on the computer, but all that did was make both dogs run to their respective doors in hopes that the other one would run through it. It took about another hour for Oscar to jump back up on the couch and curl up as he normally does.

They say most dogs have the equivalent IQ of a human toddler. T-TAC’s not even a toddler yet, and he doesn’t really know Uncle Paul or Auntie Jenn that well yet, but I’m pretty sure he has a better chance of figuring the recorded story out than Oscar ever would.

Shemp Doesn’t Like Saturdays

Saturday Snippets
Dogs on Ice

Dogs on Ice

Shemp and Oscar are not big fans of Saturdays.

Oscar has a visceral need to spend all his time lying on the couch next to my hip, and Shemp can’t seem to manage without his bed, and on Saturdays, I clean house. Sometimes I sing hymns while washing dishes, but I don’t think I’ve ever found myself doing so while vacuuming, so I guess, unlike my grandmother, Saturdays (at least Saturday mornings) are not my favourite either.

But spending Saturday mornings cleaning is not really optional. Oscar has such unusually thick cocker spaniel/poodle fur that the vet comments on it every year when he goes in for his annual check-up–but he doesn’t shed much, and on the rare occasions that he does, his hair comes out in clumps which I can pick up with my fingers and throw away. Shemp, on the other hand, has nice, reasonable, short fur–which sheds like crazy, all year long. If I had the time and temperament for it, I really should vacuum in here every single day–maybe twice, he sheds so badly. Rosie the Cat sheds, too, but not as profusely. When I work out in the living room during the week and do any variety of jump-squats, my feet kick up little walls of fur behind them, which are also pick-up-able, but simultaneously get further dug into the carpet. You’ll probably never find me cleaning every day, but Saturday cleaning is pretty unavoidable.

My cleaning house means that I am obviously not sitting on the couch, much to Oscar’s consternation. It also means I am washing Shemp’s bedding, to his. While Shemp’s bedding is in the washing machine, I clean the bathroom, and Shemp wanders by every ten minutes or so, as if to ask, “Is it ready yet? Can I have my bed back, yet?” He has no idea what to do with himself. Oscar huddles up against a pillow on the couch.

Oscar is afraid of most things, except for the vacuum cleaner. Shemp is afraid of almost nothing, except for the vacuum cleaner. When I begin vacuuming, Shemp runs away and I let him outside. Oscar seems to think he needs to be afraid of the vacuum cleaner because Shemp is, but he’ll run right in between the nozzle and the body of the vacuum to get away from it, because he isn’t afraid of it, really. Also, he’d much rather be indoors than out, unless we’re going for a hike.

Sometimes on Saturday afternoons, when I’m all done with the cleaning, we do go for a hike. My Paul and I will let the dogs into the truck and we’ll drive off somewhere that the dogs can get out and have a run. But today it was so cold, the dogs were getting leg-cramps when they went outside, so my Paul and I went snowshoeing by ourselves across the pond, around the little island in the middle, and back again. Fortunately by that time, Shemp’s bed was washed and dried, and Oscar still had his couch. They were quite good today, really. But I think now that Shemp’s bed has returned to its rightful place, and I’ve returned to my rightful place on the couch next to Oscar, they’re much happier. They’re both okay with Saturdays once the cleaning is over. So am I.

"German spiced wine served hot after a snowshoe around the pond" - my Paul

“German spiced wine served hot after a snowshoe around the pond” – my Paul