Wednesday, August 31, 2011

:) progress

After a LONG day in training with the Board of Elections, I had an appointment to give blood last night. Bear in mind that with my long-standing fight against iron deficiency, it is not unheard of for me to be unable to give blood because my iron count was too low. Yesterday it 42! (It has to be over 12 to give, but a "normal" reading is over 35.) I was so happy! And my bp was in a very healthy range, not bordering on too high.  So even though I'm not losing all the weight I want, all my exercise IS paying off in other ways!

I will never be rid of my freckles, will never grace the cover of a magazine because of my beauty, will never have a man do a double-take when I walk by, BUT it is very nice to be heading in the right direction for a healthier self. Who knows? I might actually have more energy by the time I reach the big 40 than before I hit it! Hey, a girl can always dream.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I just might pop

Last Sunday I had the following conversation with one of my little friends who was being VERY still in a chair:

Me: How are you this morning?
B: Both good and bad.
Me: Really?  Tell me what's good about this morning.
B: shrugging, mmm, Life's just good.
Me: Okay, what's so bad?  expecting to hear he just got in trouble for running at church
B: My stomach hurts.  Clearly NOT what I was expecting!
Me: That is bad.  Is it a "I ate too much" hurt or an "I'm hungry" hurt?
B: looking very serious, Well, I did eat half a bowl of cereal this morning. 
Me: uncertain as to whether he's full or not and holding jr church candy: Would a piece of candy help?
B: sitting straight up in his chair, NO! That would make me hurt even worse!!!

I guess I certified myself as crazy, offering candy to someone with a hurt stomach.  Doesn't Mrs. Monica know ANYTHING?  While I've laughed to myself some over that interaction, I've thought about it quite a bit these last two weeks in other ways.

These last two weeks have been both good and bad. It's been a great time of reflection and thanksgiving, of rejoicing over the growth and baptisms of new converts in our church, and simply enjoying life. But in the midst of all that there's also been reflections on situations beyond our control. Sometimes it seems like my life is this neatly bundled package, and I'm interacting with people whose packages aren't so tidily put together. I know what Scripture says, and what the morally correct thing is, but sometimes I fear others only focus on our package and not the One who wrapped it. They want the pretty package, but they don't want to hand over the ripped paper or strings to the One who can take ripped things and tape them or tie them in ways only He can do.

And I hurt for them. But in the midst of it all, I'm reminded again of John 6. After performing miracles and speaking truth, many of Jesus' disciples quit following him. They just up and quit. They didn't like what he had to say.  Jesus turns to his 12 and asks "Are you going to leave, too?"  and they respond "Where would we go?  You've got the Words of Life."  In the midst of hearing people say, "I don't like this; I don't fit in; this isn't for me; I don't want to believe this" I am comforted by the fact that the words of life have not changed, and the WAY has not changed. No matter how many quit or leave, it's a bit comforting to know there's nowhere else to go but to Christ. And even if He decides to decorate my life's package with methods that aren't pleasant to me, I can rest assured that He's in charge of the tape and the scissors, making things as they ought to be.

And in the midst of all these rambling thoughts, a friend of mind posted a VERY challenging post on prayer, reminding me that my greatest duty to these friends is not so much what I say TO them, but FOR them. And so I continue to feel like that pop rock candy we ate as kids: popping with too many thoughts, feelings, and emotions, both good and bad, but SO thankful I can talk to the one who has the power to say, " still."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

getting ready for Irene

It's coming.
We had an earthquake on Tuesday, which had almost everyone all excited.
Friday/Saturday Hurricane Irene will make her presence known, though of course no one really knows how much.

So today's list is my hurricane prep:
  • cutting grass (because it needs it BEFORE it rains)
  • adding some roofing to the chicken house
  • bringing in the chairs and hammock from the pond
  • taking down what is still remaining of the old goose pen
  • buying batteries
  • stocking up on water
and that's it. At times like this I am very thankful I don't have a place at the beach to worry about. I can simply go about my normal life and not have an extra house to weatherize or clean-up. :) Although I have to admit, I did tell Bobby it would be REALLY cool to head to the beach after church Sun AM and spend the night so we could get shells churned up by the storm on Sunday night and Monday morning. Unfortunately, I don't think that is going to happen.  But it's nice to dream.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

an exciting august

This month is not even over, and so far it's held:

  • an earthquake felt here in NC, prompting Bobby's building to evacuate
  • a snake in the hen house
  • two mice in the house, one of which managed to eat all the bait off the trap without being caught for 3 nights running (and Bobby watched it do it the first night!)
  • a chicken who laid about 10 eggs out in the field before we could find her nest, prompting us to pull out the incubator
  • the beginning of Christmas shopping! :)
  • some major cleaning in the Bryan household
  • a 24 hr stomach bug
  • a new great-nephew, born Sunday am
  • some interesting discussions with friends
Before the month is out, we'll have also faced a hurricane, election training and interviews, a football game, and weather permitting, a baptismal service. And I thought August was going to be a quiet month!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Today while waiting at Duke Eye Center for a friend to have surgery, I was able to read To Fly Again by Gracia Burnham.  Her testimony, recorded in the book In the Presence of My Enemies, challenged me like few books do.  Today's book was a much easier read, though just as thought provoking.

Maybe because last night's Bible study was from James 4, [dealing with how God's grace is bigger than anything we face, and I realized I don't always (okay, seldom is more like it) actually live my life that way], but it was like God was gently reminding me of last's night lesson in a different format. I told Bobby on the way home that so many times I focus on the problem, the sin, or the temptation, and not on God's available grace to see me through. Is that a lack of faith, perspective, doubt, or what?

Gracia ended her book on the same note. After her husband's death, she said she was living her life in survival mode, as if the best of her life was over. Only after a fellow Christian in ministry, who had also suffered, challenged her on this point that she realized "the best" in life is not over. That's a radical change in mindset.

This whole concept is not new. I've applied it in other areas of life: singleness, childlessness... but have never applied it to more personal areas such as weight or emotional issues. Sometimes it's easier to say, "Oh, but this is bigger than me."  And the problem is.  But it's never bigger than God's grace. And while that's a very humbling thought, it's a comfort as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

all things chicken (or at least somewhat related)

 Did you know that chickens take baths? They do. Only with dirt, and not water. So now instead of the Beagles digging holes, my chickens are building dirt bath spots near the house. At least they're not ankle breakers and are up against the house or under the ramps.
 Leif, the head rooster, taking his bath in front of my puny (thanks to scratching chickens) hosta. See how they fluff their feathers up? Sometimes they look like they're having convulsions as they flip around.

 And the nesting saga continues. Above is the nest under the shed where at least one hen continues to lay.

And here is one of the nesting boxes with the plastic egg.

And that same nesting box after the chickens found the egg, kicked it out, and then pecked it apart. No funky colored eggs, for us!

 Until two days later, and then we'll lay an egg or two near the plastic eggs we've kicked beside the feeder. And then Joy, oh joy, we had FIVE eggs laid there!  So I bebop out there at goose feeding time for one last check for new eggs, bend down, and find...

GROSS ALERT!!!!! Do NOT scroll down if you are squeamish or faint of heart.

This creature (known as "the farmer's helper" (because they eat mice), chicken snake, or black snake) was INSIDE my hen house, beside the nesting box with the eggs. He moved quickly, going from one end of the house to the other, sliding over the hoe, under the hen house, and then up the side, on top of the roof, and into the tree. We finally had to leave him, hoping I had inflicted enough damage that he would not survive. It was not to be found this morning, and I hope it never returns.

I hope that's all the excitement we have for a while. Oh, and all but two of the birds are now back to laying in the garage. Thanks a lot, Mr. Snake!

Monday, August 15, 2011

life is never boring.

In the words of Charles Dickens: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

You know how sometimes you get that burst of energy and you get a lot of stuff done and you're feeling on top of the world? Most of last week was like that. I love those kinds of week.  We were planning to do something on Saturday and I was actually on top of housework so that could happen (gasp!), and then things started to get a little crazy. 

Thursday night Bobby found a war movie about the holocaust on tv.  While I'm not crazy about the holocaust, I do think it's a somewhat good thing for us to be reminded of the importance of taking a stand against evil. But for those of you who know me, I don't handle war/violent movies very well.  I can seldom sleep after watching them, and when I do sleep it's full of nightmares. We're 3/4 of the way through this movie, which I stupidly keep watching in between loads of laundry and sweeping/mopping floors, when out of the corner of my eye comes this image that terrifies me like nothing else in this world. And Bobby doesn't even see it!  I stand near the kitchen corner, aghast, watching the television and the ceramic piggy bank, desperately hoping I was wrong, when the flurrying nightmare comes scampering back and into the back hallway. By this point I'm crying.

I suppose I should interrupt and tell you that my mother-in-law, who is also a mouse hater, finds it really funny that I can kill a snake, I can slam a spider, swat a fly, spray an insect nest, or shoot at a coyote/fox/wild dog and chase off a raccoon with a broom or an opossum with a shovel, BUT I cannot face a mouse.

So about 1am Friday morning, I'm listening to my husband's breathing, trying not to think about the varmint that has invaded my house and stolen my peace, trying not to think about evil and the movie, trying to remember a Bible verse in my fuzzied brain and only remembering "What time I am afraid I will trust in thee. Psalm 56:3" and telling myself I'm a grown-up now and it's time to suck-it-up and contemplating borrowing a cat from a friend and all the damage it would do to the house when I finally got to sleep.

To make a long story short, I've only been in my sewing room 2x as opposed to spending my planned hour in there Friday, the trap caught the mouse about midnight Saturday, and all my mental pep-talks to myself on how I was going to be a big girl and get the mouse out of the trap went out the window Sunday morning when my wonderful, adoring husband told me to just take the dustpan, scoop the whole thing up, and throw the entire thing in the trash. I did; I cried; and he laughed at me when I made him put part of the newspaper over our open trash can so I didn't have to look at it any more. I know it came from the hallway; I know it did not make it to the kitchen, but I have NO idea where it got in the house. And that unnerves me.

Meanwhile, our chicken saga continues, but in the sakes of giving this already too long post an ending, that part of the story will have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

If you give a chicken an egg...

(my apologies to Laura Numerhoff for stealing her writing concept)

If you give a chicken a plastic egg in hopes that she will lay one beside it,
she will want a clean nesting box to go with it.

And when you gather the cleaning supplies for the hen house,
you'll realize their nesting box needs a larger border.

When you pull out the scrap wood and jigsaw to cut the border,
the hens will get upset because you're making too much noise in the garage.

But when you quickly finish in the garage and move to the hen house,
they'll be curious about what you're doing and will come to supervise and to squawk.

So to help them calm down, you'll move their food outside.
And once the hen house is ready and clean, you'll realize they need more food.

When you get more food from the garage, you'll see them nesting in the brooder box in the garage and realize you forgot to put the plastic eggs (now separated and scattered throughout the pen) back into the nesting boxes.

And when you finish placing the plastic eggs back into the nesting boxes, you'll notice that the pen could use cleaning out as well. But that means you need a place to put the compost.

And before you start shoveling compost around the shrubbery, it needs to be weed-eated and trimmed.

But before you begin to do that chore, you need a bathroom break.  And while you're inside cooling off, you realize you haven't gathered eggs for the day yet.

And when you go back outside to gather the eggs, you'll realize that you need to finish cleaning the pen in front of the nesting boxes, so maybe they'll lay an egg where they're supposed to.  Maybe.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

my new project

It's finally happened to us. People always ask me about it and what we do, and I've never had an answer for them. But this past week, it hit us.

For 2 weeks now we've been getting 3-7 eggs a day.  And then, one egg. The next day...nothing.  I knew that meant one of three things: 1) the heat had finally gotten to them  2) they had a virus or 3) they were laying somewhere else.  Bobby was convinced it was number three and took several short trips outside in the heat trying to find their new nest. We kept hearing the "bwak, bwak, bwak, BWAAAK" cry they make right after laying, but would go to their nesting sites and ...NO eggs. At the end of Day 2 of this, I saw a group of hens huddled behind the little red shed, which is very odd.  Yes, all the grown-ups had laid two days worth of eggs UNDER the shed.

I've never had to teach a hen where to lay before, but according to my chicken Bible, it is possible to do with these little clay or stone eggs called "nesting eggs".  Since hens tend to share a nest, it only requires placing one or two into the spot where you desire them to lay and they'll put their eggs near the sample. Some people use golf balls, others actually use the plastic eggs. I happened to have a few plastic eggs left over from a kids' activity, so I placed them in various places throughout the hen house. I'm happy to report that we're now getting 1/2 the eggs in the brooder box (where many of them had been laying before) and some in the hen house, and two a day under the shed. I'm hoping this craziness will end soon.  The sad news is that since all this began, we've had NO green eggs, and we should be getting at least one a day. In another two weeks we should start smelling them as hot as it's been.

So if my plastic egg project works, I'll post pictures. Meanwhile, they're just getting pecked at and pushed around.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

a way with words

Several years ago I offended two fellow believers by laughing when they said Jesus was a peaceful person. I asked them what was polite or peaceful about calling people stupid, or a cemetery, or a hypocrite, or a poisonous snake, ESPECIALLY when those people were the respected rulers of the day?  I often wonder if people who go by the name Christian a) actually read the Bible  or b) think about what it's actually saying. Our church has been doing a "read through the Bible in 3 years" study, and today's passage had God telling Israel because of their violations of his law that he would smear their own feast "feces" in their face.  EWwww.

But it also reminded me of our trip this weekend. If I lived in a country where it was wrong to disagree with the leaders of the day, where it was illegal to own a copy of the Bible, and to dare believe anything different amounted to either torture or death, what would I do?  The Valdensians (also called Waldensians as it translates from Italian/French to English) would poke holes in their bread to hide their small copies of the Scripture, get down on their hands and knees to crawl through damp caves in order to meet and worship God, and send people to a "college" for 3-6 months. The only thing they studied was their assigned book of the Bible, memorizing it word for word. Their job upon graduation was to recite it daily so as not to forget. Whenever a raid resulted in all the Bibles being destroyed, each member would then gather and write down the words to their assigned book, in essence writing a Bible from memory. One of the tour guides we had at one of the spots (who was of Catholic/Lutheran origin, creating an interesting conversation) made the comment "If they had just kept to themselves instead of trying to evangelize people a lot of their persecution would have never happened."  (In other words, they brought it on themselves.)  We were flabbergasted. She clearly was missing many points.

As we visited the Waldensian church this past Sunday (the main building is still the original from the 1800s), we were saddened at how watered-down the Scriptures were, and contemplated as we left what their ancestors would think today of their descendents. Today's passage (linked above) made me think of that church, and so many others like it in America today.  I hope I never see the type of persecution they faced. But as I see so many fellow believers compromising on clear-cut teachings of the Word, I wonder what is to become of our nation. Potentially coming before the Supreme Court this year is whether or not a Christian pastor has the right to pray in Jesus name or use Scripture in his prayer when praying before a government body such as a city council or legislative assembly. How can we pray without recognizing the One who gives us the very right to speak to an Almighty God?  Maybe I'm over-reaching parallels, but that doesn't seem too different than taking a holy vessel and using it in an unholy way. I fear for many Christian leaders "formality feces" is coming.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

fun...funny houses

 We saw the above house in Pittsboro while on our way to the mountains. It was the strangest house I've ever seen. Evidently this isn't a modification, for Bobby remembers thinking it funny as a child. Evidently a governor lived here at one point. I think the sign said it's now a Masonic lodge. And if seeing one funny house wasn't enough, the latest issue of This Old House had a link to their website that had several galleries of funny (or strange houses). Here's my favorites from their collection:

 Szymbark, Poland  This just makes me laugh, and I would love to visit this house in person. Created by a designer who wanted to demonstrate "wrong-doings against humanity".  Visitors have stood in line for as long as 6 hours to tour the house, and many come out feeling "sea-sick".  

 Kalambaka, Greece...This 1,000 foot cliff drop has housed monastaries since the 11th century. Six of them are open to the public, "assuming, of course, that the public has the fortitude to make the climb."  Can you imagine the view? Being scared of heights, I could never, ever live there, but I have to admit it's both impressive and incredible!

 Margate, NJ..."Lucy" can be seen 8 miles away and was created by a developer as a way of luring people to the subdivision.  Yes, you read that correctly. As a kid, I would have BEGGED my parents to not only buy this house, but I would have also found it quite cool to even live nearby. Now? Not quite so much.

 Glendora, New Jersey  Built in the 1940's this was supposed to be one of many "cookie jar" houses. The others were never built, and the builder admitted the circular design made the house to furnish. If I were a carpenter, I would be tempted to tackle the project of creating round room furniture just for the sake of doing it. However, I have to admit I think more of a pot-bellied stove than a cookie jar when I see this. Perhaps if it were brown stucco with darker brown stones thrown in periodically I might think cookie. 

 West Creek, New Jersey  No one knows why this house has a chair on top, though it has fueled countless urban legends.

 Cappadocia, Turkey  Carved out of volcanic rocks, these holes were used as early as the 7th century by early Christians escaping persecution, They are presently used by Turkish farmers who have upgraded the dwelling places into more traditional homes. Some of these farm-houses have ten floors!

 Wadsworth, Illinois  It's one thing to be fascinated by a culture or nation, but this is just too much! Originally built in the 1970s, this gold-plated home with statues is now behind iron bars and gates.  One must wonder if the designer forsaw the problem such a lavish decoration would cause in times of poor economy. Wonder what it's worth today?

Alnwick, United Kingdom  This 6,000-square-foot treehouse was commissioned by a duchess who read that 1/3 of British kids had never climbed a tree. It has a restaurant, educational facilities, rope bridges and get this: it's wheelchair accessible! Personally, I think the kids would learn a whole lot more if they were given scraps and had to build their own tree houses.
 Klagenfurt, Austria... This dude has a desire to drive Sara Mincy crazy. :) Reading that blue is a calming color and has healing and creative side-effects, the owner painted both the outside AND the inside of his house ONE SHADE of blue. He thought it was great. It seemed to have a non-calming and non-creative effect on his neighbors, though. As much as I dislike homeowner's associations, something like this might make me consider the value of such a group.
 Simi Valley, California  For 25 years the owner of this house collected bottles and has totally sided her house with bottles. Not sure what it does for insulation, but it is certainly unique.

 Cottonwood, Idaho  I like beagles; I like woodcarvings, but a beagle wood-carved inn?  Again, as a kid I would have been thrilled to stay in something like this, but now, not so sure. The owners, wood-carvers who financed this in 1997 through the sales of their woodcarvings, have two such inns (you can see the second in the background of the picture) and have beagle carvings throughout the inn. (some of them are shown on the website).  

 Hillsborough, California Another house derisively named by neighbors, the "Flinstone House" was created by pouring cement over nautical balloons. The second owners painted it orange, (it was the normal cement color) making neighbors even more upset. It's certainly a landmark.

 Wales, United Kingdom   The man who created this house was simply trying to be efficient, organic, and use natural materials. He's not the least upset that people call it a "hobbit house".  Personally, I think it's kind of cute and would live there.

 Suffolk, London  Created in the 1920's to cover up an ugly water tower, the structure remained even after the town replaced its water structure. It's now an inn. Creative, indeed. I think this is as cool as the towns who put something creative on their water towers (like a peach, or baseball) as opposed to an old grey tank with the town's name.

 La Jolla, California  This is what remains of the original "house". The owner instructed the builder to come up with a futuristic-looking, earthquake-proof house in the 1950s.  Evidently their used to be a house dwelling at the top of a cliff and a tram that came down the hill to this part by the ocean, but this section is all that remains now. For some reason it reminds me of Star Wars. Perhaps this where some of the Star Wars designs originated?

 Kailua Kona, Hawaii... Ever heard of McCormick spices? One of the company owners commissioned this house with the request for something "as eccentric as she was".  Neighbors derisively call it "the onion house". It is currently available for vacation rentals. I think I'll pass.

 Isla Mujeres, Mexico  Also available for vacation rentals, this house was created in 1997, and they say all the fixtures inside (sink faucets, etc) resemble seashells. This is a house I would rent for vacation if it were closer and cheap. 

Netherlands...And this is just ugly. Created out of totally recyclable products (mainly old tires) it may save the environment but does absolutely nothing for the soul, in my not so humble opinion.

When all is said and down, there's no place like home. During my vagabond years, I used to laughingly say that home was wherever I unpacked my suitcase for longer than 2 weeks. I suppose home truly is where you are and what you make it, but I have to admit that some of these places I would NOT want to live inside!