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Thankful Thursdays #57: my itty bitty sweetie

Continuing with my top ten thanksgivings, this one is expanding on #3:

“Here is where I would likely list my children if I had them, but my Jessie girl takes the number three spot because she is my only child.  A dog-hater my entire life, it’s hard to believe how quickly she turned me around with those puppy grunts and her tiny tongue and tiny, dime-sized paws.  Now, it is such a joyful thing to come home to her enthusiastic greeting every day.  The big smile, the wagging tail, the soft panting as I pet her.  I now fully comprehend the saying “dogs are a man’s best friend” because I have experienced firsthand how well-suited they are as human companions.  Their devotion and unconditional love is something that we’d do well to learn from and apply to our own relationships!”

OK, as the title of this blog suggests, I call Jessie my “itty bitty sweetie,” but the truth is, she hasn’t been “itty bitty” for a long time.  She’s a larger mixed-breed dog, and according to the vet, is about 10 lbs. overweight.  Most dog parents are probably aghast that we have overfed our dog to this degree, but I’m kinda proud she’s not any heavier.  It is really hard for me to say no to this face.

There is a song called “God Gave Me You”  by Dave Barnes that Blake Shelton remade after hearing it during a low point in his relationship with his wife, Miranda Lambert.  The chorus goes, “God gave me you for the ups and downs.  God gave me you for the days of doubt.  For when I think I’ve lost my way, there are no words here left to say, it’s true.  God gave me you.”  The song really is meant for a partner, but the music video applies it to other relationships (like mother-daughter), and to other random people God puts in our paths to help us through life (like an EMT at the scene of an accident).  And that’s how I feel about my Bitty.  God gave her to me, to us, because we really, desperately needed her.  And we didn’t even know it!

Jessie was born on June 4, 2004, on our fourth wedding anniversary.  It was a year after we’d been trying to get pregnant, and at that point we weren’t very concerned that it hadn’t happened.  But God saw there would be a need to fill a hole, and helped fill it before we even realized there was going to be one, and Jessie certainly has.

My youngest sister, Lacey, rescued the last surviving puppy from a litter in a bad home, where they were starving the Mom and she had eaten all her other puppies to survive.  Dad wouldn’t let Lacey keep her, and she asked us if we would take her since we had just bought our own home.  Well, I had been an avowed dog-hater my entire life because I thought they were stupid and ugly, dirty and smelly, and worst of all, they barked at everything.  But when I saw Jessie, who was rescued at just three weeks and was so young she couldn’t walk without falling over, I couldn’t say no.  I couldn’t see the last surviving puppy go to the pound and possibly be killed there.  So we took her home, and I’m so glad we did.

When we got her, Jessie was covered in fleas, and when she got sick a week later, we discovered that she also had worms.  We got rid of her fleas and worms and gave her the nourishment she’d been lacking.  (Her pot belly in the above picture is due to the worms, not fat.)  I really became this fur baby’s mother, and would even wake up in the middle of the night if I heard her get up–once falling out of bed in my rush to go to her.  She wasn’t fully housebroken until a month later, and I can’t tell you how many times I had to spot-clean the carpet and shampoo it.

She became the most horrible little hellion, biting, biting, biting, biting, BITING!  She drove me to tears one night because she had been so nice to my sister while she was visiting, and then bit me bloody after Danielle was gone.  She had so much energy, and we simply couldn’t walk/run, or play with her enough to diminish it.  And she would. not. listen.  Jessie chewed on the baseboards, ate our shoes, and our once clean carpets and floors turned into stained messes with dog fur in the corners.

I tell you what, this dog taught me patience, and to let go of my “clean house standards.”  If I ever have a child, whether of my own or adopted, I can tell you right now that I will be a much better mother because I first raised Jessie.   Marker & crayon all over the walls?  I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. You should see what Jessie has done to our front door!  (Dirt and claw marks out the wazoo.)  It will never recover.  And here she is, pretending to be so innocent!

Besides teaching me patience, her energy also whipped us into physical shape because we had to walk her an hour a day, minimum, or suffer the consequences (i.e. come home to a house  that looked like a Tasmanian devil had spun through it a couple dozen times).  Coming home from work became something I looked forward to, because I knew I’d have a puppy spazzing out with glee on the other side of the door as soon as she heard me pull into the driveway.  There was something about her huge smile and heavy panting (something I’ve come to recognize as almost the dog version of laughter or an expression of deep-seated contentedness) that could fix anything and everything.  Just her presence made me feel whole, even through all the tears of frustration as hopes of becoming pregnant were crushed month after month.  In addition to my relationship with God, I really feel her presence helped me come to terms with our infertility a lot easier and faster than if we hadn’t had her as a “child”  already.  (You can read my sob story about our childless-ness here if you care to.)  There is nothing like a dog head resting on your lap to make you feel better. :)

It has taken Jessie almost eight years, but her energy has finally diminished to what I would consider a “normal” level and she has turned into the dog I had hoped we were getting when we took her in.  She is kind, loving, and best of all listens and obeys!  I really  never thought there would be a day when I would call her and she would come to me, even for a treat.  But it’s here.  And Dennis is glad that she no longer pulls his arm out of socket every time we take her on a walk.  She walks at our pace now–a miracle!

Recently, Jessie was attacked by another dog at our vet’s office and her knee cap has been out of place ever since, about a month.  She is on pain medication and glucosamine to rebuild the cartilage and we hope that it will go back in place on it’s own because otherwise she might need a surgery we can’t afford yet.  Seeing her limping around gave me a preview of what it will be like when she is old, and has left me more aware than ever of how short a time we will have with her.  At best, another eight or so years.  I do not look forward to the day when I will have to say good bye, but I do relish every day we have with her.  She is my sunshine and makes me happy when skies are gray.  She not only fills the hole where children would be, but fills in every hole where sadness might lurk.

Jessie does this thing when she can tell I’m mad (well, it’s obvious, I start to get loud).  She comes into the room I’m in and gives me a worried look with her tail wagging cautiously.  Sometimes she’ll come up and put her head underneath my hand to make me pet her instead of yelling.  She knows that her presence will instantly change my mood and it works every time.  She is the magic cure.  It doesn’t matter how mad I am, as soon as I see her expression and that tail, as soon as she puts her head under my hand or reaches out to me with her paw and pushes on my leg, everything bad in my heart flies away in an instant and I apologize and comfort her so she knows I’m not really that mad.  What a gift!

I know I said Dennis completes me a couple weeks ago, but honestly, Jessie does too.  Life wouldn’t be the same without her and I thank God for her.  She is such a blessing.


My Week as a Farmer, Part I

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Most of my life I’ve fantasized about being a Midwestern pioneer woman in the 1800s, living a hard and fulfilling life on the prairie.  (If they had a more moderate farmer-woman type outfit, I surely would have picked that for the above photo, and forced Dennis into overalls.)  It started with the Little House on the Prairie books when I was in elementary school, and it was kindled again when I started watching the PBS television programs where they send people back in time, to live in the colonial era, as pioneers in Montana, in England during World War II, in a Manor House in Edwardian times, etc., doing the types of things people did in those times, wearing the style of clothing, living in the type of house, for months at a stretch.  It is utterly fascinating, at least to me.    My favorite of the programs is The Frontier House.  (If you’ve never watched or heard of these, I highly recommend renting them from Netflix or your library.  There is a complete list of these programs at the end of this post.)

Last month was the closest I’ve ever come to living out my fantasy.  Our friends, Ben and Ashley, went on their family’s annual camping trip, and they asked us to take care of their birds and garden while they were gone.  Now, I’m not talking parakeets or parrots, I’m talking chickens and ducks.  Being a city girl all of my life, to me, having chickens equates to living in the pioneer days so, of course, I readily agreed before Dennis had a chance to say anything.

Every day, we arrived to the happy sound of chickens squawking and clucking.  If I could define the sound of peace, those squawks and clucks would definitely be in the mix.  It’s the sound I awoke to as a child, during the summer on my Grandparents’ farm.

Our first priority was to feed the birds.  Because if we didn’t, they tried to eat things like my toenail polish, or the back of my ankle, where I cut myself with a razor one morning.

When they started pecking at me, I turned the other cheek and tried to pet them, which really freaked them out and they steered clear of me after that.  But I still tried to pet them.  It’s my instinct with animals, I can’t help it.

After we fed the chickens, we checked around for eggs.  The white duck was reliable, pumping out an egg every day.  We missed the first one, so we found two on the second day.  We got to keep any plunder we found while the Allens were away, including eggs and vegetables. Score!

The chickens are young and only one is laying, but we never found her eggs.  When Ashley and Ben came home, they found seven eggs in the mama duck’s nest!  She had been stealing the chicken’s eggs every day and rolling them into her nest.  Talk about an overactive mothering instinct.  Here she is with her baby.  I guess she didn’t want him to be an only child!

We also washed out their water pans and refilled them, then moved on to the garden.  Jessie came with us to supervise.

“It’s looking kind of dry, Mom.  Time for another soaking!”  OK, sweets, just don’t think about lifting your leg while you’re in there!

While caring for it, we harvested a yellow summer squash and two tomatoes.  I think this was a pepper plant but we left it alone.  I don’t think they were quite ready.

The temps were in the 110s and even made it to 115 while they were gone.  We tried to save this squash plant but couldn’t revive the poor thing.

Once we finished the duties were were commissioned for, we went onto those which we most desired but weren’t required: tending the livestock.  AKA, the canines.   :)  Another friend was feeding them, but we were compelled to stay and extra hour or so to give them some companionship while their humans were away. They greeted us at the fence every day with cheerful barks.

From left to right, Little Anne (aka Big Girl), Beans, Daisy, and Scout.

Little Anne is the eldest and mildest in manner.  Undemanding, unassuming, and grateful for attention.

We love hanging out with the black girls. :)

The dachshund on the ground, looking up at me, is Beans, I believe, but it’s hard to tell her and her mother, Scout, apart.  Meet Beans and/or Scout, up close and personal.

The best part about Scout and/or Beans is watching them run.  Their ears stick out and flap like bat wings!

“You talkin’ to me?”

What I loved best about Scout in particular was her velvety soft, squishy chest.  You would not believe how soft it is.

And then there’s Daisy.  AKA “Diva Daisy,” as I call her.

This pooch demands to be carried at all times.  No compromising.

I’m convinced her destiny of being adopted by a celebrity and toted in a purse around Hollywood was cruelly thwarted when she was adopted by an upstanding, hard working, and practical Midwestern family that would scoff at such a notion as carrying her in an oversized handbag.  Or better yet, baby sling.

“Sigh.  I was never meant for farm life.  It’s so hard to keep a clean manicure when I have to walk on grass every day!”

But there is one canine that they couldn’t leave out with the others.  Because he’s a menace and a danger.  A chicken murderer, and as we would soon discover, a thief to boot.  Meet…ARLISS! (cue scary music)

To be continued…

Read “When Arliss Attacks” on Monday!

Check out PBS’s living history reality television programs:

Colonial House

Regency House Party

Frontier House*

1900 House

Manor House*

Texas Ranch House

The 1940s House

*My favorites

Thankful Thursdays #27: our fallen soldiers

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I made a thanksgiving resolution to find something to be thankful for every day until next Thanksgiving.  Here’s what I am thankful for this week!

Thursday: Dogs, dogs, dogs, dogs, dogs! We have made three new puppy friends in our area while taking Jessie on her nightly walk and it is such a joy to pet those wriggling happy bodies over the fences.  I think we’re up to 7 dogs on our walk that love us and one that loves to hate us.  I melt for those lovers!  I used to detest dogs, but now they have a magical power over me.  I almost wish I could take them all home, but I’m pretty happy with the stinker we can call our own.

Friday: I’m the treasurer in our home and I made a miscalculation that prepared us for the worst after paying all the bills, but the bottom line was a lot prettier than I had expected once the last check was mailed.  Facing a bigger balance than we have had in several weeks after expecting to live off canned goods was a pleasant surprise!  Thankfully I don’t make the other kind of miscalculation too often.

Saturday: To get the grocery shopping done ON TIME!  Saturday is grocery day but we’ve skipped it for two or three weeks now, which has led us to eat out more often that we should have, which has led us to have less money than we should have.  Thankfully, we had a free day with nothing scheduled so we could use it for errands and chores.  Hahaha, did I just say “thankfully” right before “errands and chores?!”  What is wrong with me? lol

Sunday:  That my Dad’s foot, which has been giving him a lot of trouble, has healed enough that he can walk without the assistance of a walker.  This is good, because the chances of getting him to the doctor other than for his quarterly check-ups is .001%.

Monday: For those who lost their lives fighting for the quality of ours.

And to spend a day with dear, dear friends.

Tuesday: Free tickets to a Wingnuts (Wichita’s baseball team) game!  Wingnuts won 6 to 2 and we had a great time.

Wednesday: Grilled burgers. Amen.

Corn(bread) Dogs

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I got this idea off a picture I saw on another blog but since I didn’t save the recipe, I had to make it up.  I’m pleased with the results!  It’s obviously a bit different than a fried corndog–healthier too, since it’s baked–but it’s close enough and so much easier.  I imagine this would go over pretty well with the kiddos.

Corn(bread) Dogs
Serves 6

1 ¼ c stone-ground yellow cornmeal
¾ c all-purpose flour
2 ½ t baking powder
3 T sugar
¾ t salt
2 large eggs, beaten
2 T vegetable oil
1 c milk (I used skim)
6 hot dogs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray & set aside.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl, then make a well in the center.  Add the eggs, oil & milk to the middle of the flour mixture and whisk it up in a few rapid strokes—leave it slightly lumpy.

Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly.  Place the hotdogs 3 x 3 on top so that they’re evenly space and will be surrounded by cornbread when cut.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cornbread is cooked through.

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then cut around the hotdogs with a sharp knife, leaving an even amount of cornbread surrounding each hotdog.

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