Monday, October 15, 2018

"He that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose." - Anne Bronte


It's 7:15 a.m. Monday morning. My head is chock full of powerful stuff but my body is too tired to do anything with it. I got home about 9:30 last night and was whooped. We meet at a McDonald's to car pool up to the prison (Bob always drives the one-hour trip, which I sure appreciate) and when we got back I decided I wanted to eat before making the 35 minute drive home. I was in bed 30 minutes after walking through the door. Uff-dah.

When I swung my feet out of bed this morning they landed on a Brittany. That was nice.
What wasn't so nice was taking him outside at 4:00 (he's very good at letting me know when he needs to go out). It was 33 degrees! We'll get up to 75 today and hit the low 60s by noon. Autumn.

.....
I took a nap about 8:30 and then went to work. The month's garbage has been taken to the dump and there's a new bale of hay in the barn. I've just finished my lunch and unless I have to take another nap I should be good through small group tonight.

Chip is easily 6'6" and 250 lbs. He has a bit of a baby face so I'm not sure how old he is but the fact he's already done 25 years at the Oregon State Penitentiary says he has to be in his early 40's at least.
I've talked with Chip enough to establish a casual friendship and last night we talked at length about his parole hearing Wednesday. It will be the third and final hearing in this application process (he's been "flopped" at earlier applications) and he'll know at the end of this hearing if he's going to be released in December or spend another 2-10 years at OSP. He'll sit in a room in front of four or five people who will review his record while at OSP and the results of the first two interviews held earlier this year and then tell him their decision.
In 25 years he's had two demerits, the last in 1997 for having cigarette butts on his shelf instead of in the trash. He's had a variety of jobs the entire time, never been fired, and has earned two college degrees.
I don't know what Chip did to get prison time and it's considered inappropriate to ask. What I know is that watching him lead the worship in the chapel service leaves me impressed with his spiritual maturity. Aside from Bob and I the only people in the room are fellow inmates so there's no reason for him to fake it for the sake of making an impression. The guy exudes genuine spiritual sensitivity.
I told him I'll be praying for him Wednesday. He said these decisions can be completely arbitrary, especially if one of the board members has a cynical attitude about all felons.

The first time I went up to speak at OSP I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. Getting to know guys like Chip causes me to look forward to the next opportunity.

Our small group gathering for tonight just got cancelled but that works out well for us. Pam's first flight (Eugene to Denver) leaves at 5:20 tomorrow morning and she could use the extra time for more relaxed preparation. Brett's sermon yesterday was particularly discussion-worthy but we may come back to it next Monday night. (One of the advantages of being the discussion leader - I get to make those decisions.)

Buddy and I got harassed today by five dogs, up one canine from last week's pack. I came home and ordered that sling shot to add to the spray I ordered last week.

I worked on the trailer today. All I have left is installing the lights, the fenders that I just repainted, and the latches. This is made from exterior grade plywood and painted with exterior paint but I may still make a shelter for it to protect it from the weather. It's only 4'x6' (not including the tongue) so making something shouldn't be tricky or expensive. A few 2x4's and a Harbor Freight tarp should do the trick.

I learned today that a friend and colleague who is my age has dementia. They don't know the cause but he's "absent" from his surroundings. He's a good guy, liked and respected by everyone, and has served God faithfully. That makes me sad.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

"A camel makes an elephant feel like a jet plane." - Jackie Kennedy


We have a problem with Buddy. He's most attached to me, which means he gets up when I do, about 3:30 most mornings. By the time we've both had breakfast and relieved ourselves (I do it inside) he's ready to play. One of his favorite games is playing fetch with a tennis ball. If you live in a single wide the only real way to play that game is to throw it from one end (the living room) to the other end (the bedroom).
That would be the bedroom where, at 5:30, Pam is still sleeping. We keep the bedroom door open so the heat from the fire I've built warms that room, too.
A 50 lb. dog barreling down the hall and into the bedroom in hot pursuit of a tennis ball is not conducive to sleep.

Shortly after a few rounds of that game Buddy realized the blanket in his bed was mounting an insurrection that needed to be put down quickly and fiercely. He attacked it full force, dragging it out of the bed, giving it a thorough thrashing, and then ripping particularly dangerous pieces off.

I'm still thinking about the problem of the aggressive dogs down the road. This morning I came up with this as a potential solution:
Rocks, bolts, or the ball shot that's available online. I don't want to kill the dogs, just put the fear of Craig into them, and this allows me to control the velocity some. I could also bounce the shot off the pavement in front of them to decrease velocity. And these things are cheap. This one is $10.
I looked at paint ball guns but most of them are rifles, they're more expensive, and you can't control velocity.

The 9th Circuit Court is the most liberal in the nation and has a history of some crazy rulings. They recently ruled that denying the homeless the freedom to camp in public parks or on sidewalks violates the U.S. Constitution. Homelessness must not be criminalized. You can guess the effect that has had here in Eugene.
Business owners downtown are going crazy because they've got tents set up in front of their shops and all the associated problems you'd expect. Yes, we're talking tents, cook stoves, the whole shebang.
Oregon is a crazy place and the 9th Circuit is keeping it crazy.

Sundae is still off her feed. She eats one of two servings of mash each day and not all of that. She also eats very slowly which has us thinking she may have trouble with one or more teeth. Sundae had listeria when she was young and the only apparent lasting effect is a misaligned lower jaw. That may be the root cause. (See what I did there?)
Marta came over today and did her best to look inside Sundae's mouth to look for anything obvious but a) goats have really sharp teeth in front of their molars, and b) Sundae did NOT think opening wide was a good idea.
Feeling from the outside it's clear there is an upper molar that is WAY out of alignment and positioned so that it seems at least likely to cause problems.
Marta's going to make some phone calls Monday and see what should come next. This can't continue because Sundae isn't getting adequate nutrition. Can the problem be diagnosed and fixed for a reasonable amount?
Sundae is Marta's goat that we have on what's called a "farm lease." We feed and care for her as though she was ours and get to keep whatever kids she has. But if we decide for some reason we don't want her anymore or if Marta wants her back.... It also means that any vet bills would be Marta's to cover. The good part of that: this is totally her call. It might be a tough decision if it comes down to spending significant vet money for a goat nearing the end of her breeding life.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. I teach class at 8:30, take careful notes of the sermon (9:30 worship service) so I can write small group discussion questions, write up a quiz in the afternoon that will get posted to the church web site, and then leave home about 3:30 to speak at the Oregon State Penitentiary. I should get home about 8:00.

We're eating the last of the goat meat Burrito provided us. Donut will be ready for butchering in about a month so we need the room in the freezer. Pam made some spaghetti sauce from the tomatoes she grew and she's going to try using that with the goat meat. Sounds like it should be good. I'll know in about 10 minutes.

Friday, October 12, 2018

"People will buy anything that is 'One to a Customer.'" - Sinclair Lews


First things first.
I'm on a mission, in full-blown Clint Eastwood mode. We've tried all the good citizen remedies without success so it's time to take care of business however that has to happen.

We live almost a mile down a dead end road, meaning if you want to go for a walk there aren't options. Pam walks every morning and I walk Buddy twice a day. About 1/2 mile down is a driveway that goes up to a lot and a house that can't be seen from the road. The homeowner has 4 dogs - one large, one medium, and two small yappers - that regularly come down the driveway and onto the road in a very threatening way. If we continue walking they come up behind us. If we turn and face them they stop but bark aggressively. The second we turn our back they move closer behind us.

I've been chased twice in the last three days and Pam was harassed this morning. I've called county animal control twice as has another neighbor who walks her dog. Today they told us all they can do is talk to the owner and encourage them to keep their dogs fenced. They go out to the owner each time they get a call so they've been there at least three times. Time to find something that works.

I bought some pepper spray at the running store last year and used it this afternoon. But it puts out a very fine stream that makes it difficult to hit any one of the two larger dogs in the face. I got one of them, but only on the fur and that clearly had no effect.

Interestingly, another place on our road with four large and aggressive dogs had their gate left open. One of them came at me and kept coming even when I yelled at it. So I used the spray and got it full in the face. It turned around and went back into the yard shaking his head, clearly irritated. I was hoping for a more drastic reaction, something that guaranteed he'd think twice about charging again and maybe that's accomplished. But that still leaves the pack further up the road.

I looked at bear spray which has a "hotter" mix and sprays up to 30 feet. But it sprays a mist, and I'm afraid of the wind blowing it back on us and on Buddy so I decided against that.

How about one of those monster pump squirt guns that shoots a stream 30+ feet? Fill it with a mix of water and vinegar, or maybe cayenne pepper. It's a hassle to carry.
Paintball gun?
BB gun?

I'm going to put a note in their mailbox telling them I've exhausted all reasonable solutions without effect and am now moving on to more certain measures.
I probably won't sign my name.

A year ago I made a stand for the goats that I could use for trimming hooves, giving shots, etc. I rigged up a head cradle using some heavy PVC pipe and a leather strap. It looked pretty clever but I quickly discovered it didn't work. Even that 2" PVC pipe bent like a twig under the power of a panicking goat.
Today I used scrap lumber to make a wood head gate. I'll get a tray to hold grain to keep the goat busy while I trip hooves.
Especially with my back and hip problems getting them up on the stand will help a lot.

I'm filling in for Brett this Sunday night. Twice a month he and a couple of other guys go up to the Oregon State Penitentiary to conduct the chapel service but he's going to be out of town so I'll do the preaching part of the service. This will be my fourth time doing this and I've always enjoyed the experience. OK, the first time I was terrified going in but coming out was blessed. I'm going to preach Daniel chapter 1. We'll talk about resisting assimilation.
Whatever you picture for this setting it's probably nothing like the reality. At least my expectations that first time were nowhere close to the reality.
I can't wear anything blue. (They wear all blue.)
I'd take pictures but I can't take a cell phone in. Or anything else except my Bible. They take my driver's license at the entry and give it back to me when I leave. Everything else stays locked in the car.

Gonna be a busy weekend. But that's OK. Boring is bad.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

"I used to sell furniture for a living. The trouble was, it was my own" - Les Dawson


It's odd how life sometimes sends a particular thing in waves. I'm in a "wait for it" wave that's testing my patience. And I have very little of it to test.

On Sept. 19 we filed via fax the form that officially requests Pam's medical records from the hospital here. Those records should have arrived by now so yesterday I called the corporate office in Vancouver WA and was told they have nothing in her file that shows a request was ever made. Hmmm.
The gal I talked to was very apologetic and said I should file another request, this time via email. Per her instructions I included in my email a request for confirmation of receipt, an ETA for the records and some specifics about how we wanted to receive them. I'd sent the email within 30 minutes of that conversation - early afternoon yesterday - and heard nothing back. I'll give it 24 hours and then make another call.

Sundae is, as they say, off her feed. She typically shows no interest in her a.m. mash and eats her evening mash unenthusiastically. She also acts oddly during the day. She'll stand a foot from the barn wall and just stare at it, or wander off to a corner of the pen and just stand there staring off into space. She shows no other signs of distress or symptoms of disease. I'll give her some probiotic today just because digestive troubles can happen easily and that's the standard cure. If she doesn't show improvement soon I'll take her temperature (yeah, that's a fun task). But for now all I can do is wait and see if she gets worse or better and respond accordingly.

There's more "wait for it" stuff but that will have to wait.

I don't know anything about the life cycle of the lady bug but it apparently includes finding someplace warm and humid to spend the Oregon winter. The last two autumns have brought clumps of them to the bathroom walls near the ceiling. Last spring I put in a new bathroom window to replace the leaky jalousie window MoHo came with, a window that didn't close tightly and left plenty of gaps for the lady bugs to use as an entrance. I don't know how they're getting in this year. So far we've only got about 10 of the little critters whereas we had dozens before. So maybe the new window makes the difference.

I read that Social Security benefits are going to rise 2.8% next year. Now we can take that trip to Bermuda! (Or maybe Roseburg.)

I had a PT appointment this morning and have two scheduled for next week (T & Th). I think that will be it. I'm doing much better, have a set of exercises to do to continue improving, and am reaady to be done with the drive into and out of town for my appointments. Ultimately it's Melissa's call but I think I'm going to suggest it's time.
I've also started back to the gym. I lost almost all of my conditioning over the last six weeks of near total inactivity. I'm hoping that with my weight down I can recover fairly quickly.

When I was a young buck and early in my time as a pastor I thought I wanted to be the pastor of a larger church with multiple staff. Read: ego.
Looking back I'm thankful God put me in relatively small churches. None of them ever hit 200 on a consistent basis. (90% of all churches in America are under 120.)
And when I see my friends in ministry who are senior pastors struggling with administrative issues related to staffing I'm even more thankful. Goodness.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe." - Jimmy Durante



I was sad to hear Nikki Haley resigned as our U.N. Ambassador. I liked that she is a she, she is a tough no-nonsense advocate for U.S. interests, she's the daughter of immigrants, and she speaks her mind.
I wonder if she's resigning to test the waters for a 2020 GOP presidential bid. I hope so. She makes, IMO, an attractive candidate for the party in many ways.
Ooops. Am I allowed to say that?
I meant that she's got solid conservative bona fides, is politically savvy, well spoken.....

My back and hip are a LOT better. I told Melissa, the PT, that my pain number is maybe a 2. More like discomfort than pain. Is it because of time, or the PT, or as is more likely, a combination of the two? Either way, after talking at length with Melissa about it and tonight with son Josh I'm going to call tomorrow and cancel the injection scheduled for Friday of next week. They were going to use ultrasound to guide a giant needle into the space between my hip's ball and socket so they could fill the space with a steroid. As Josh said, if you're getting relief from what you're doing now why introduce the possibility for another problem with a therapy that turns out to be redundant, or worse?

Buddy is doing great. With much less pain I can take him for longer walks. This afternoon we went a little over a mile. I use the reel leash that came with Buddy but I keep in short enough that he's learning to walk right next to me. Today I started to teach him to stop when I stop and to immediately sit, only getting up when I start to walk. It took four or five times of a command before he picked it right up and did it without me telling him to.
A good dog is one of life's simple joys.

I saw a headline on USAToday.com: "Did Trump's criticisms hurt NFL ratings? We look at the evidence."
What hurt NFL ratings was the players kneeling during the anthem. Trump was (as he so often is) irrelevant noise.

The Univ. of Washington Huskies play the Univ. of OR Ducks here this Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
What's a transplanted Seattleite supposed to do??

All governments need money to do what they do and they get it through taxes. They may tax income, or sales, or property, or all of the above and more.
Oregon has no *sales tax, a feature that played into our decision to move here. It took some getting used to - the crazy notion that if the price on the item is $5.99  when you get to the checkout you pay $5.99 not $6.47.
But because Oregon, like all states, has to fund their services they have to make up for it by having higher taxes on other things. In this case Oregon has an unusually high income tax. (Property taxes are set by counties and vary greatly from the north to the south (higher to lower).
That relatively high income tax has created something of a bother among a growing percentage of the population here and as we enter ballot season that irritation is fuel for candidates and those supporting or opposing ballot initiatives.
"Prop 103 protects special interest groups from taxes while the rest of us pay for it."
(Incumbent) "Governor Brown wants to raise your taxes even higher to pay for her failed programs."

One of the more interesting uses of the anti-tax sentiment is a proposition that would prevent the state from paying for abortions. Right now the state will pay for an abortion for any woman, including illegal aliens undocumented immigrants.
The pro-choice crew (a serious misnomer by my account) says this is a back door attempt to infringe upon reproductive rights. The proposition's advocates say, "Oh no. This is just to reduce our ridiculously high tax rate by saying the public shouldn't have to cover the cost of an individual's abortion."
I don't really care who's right. If it will prevent one child from being killed I'm voting yes.

*When OR legalized pot they included a 17% sales tax on it. Counties can add up to another 3%. That high rate hasn't kept people from getting high. Pot sale continue to soar.

Monday, October 8, 2018

"All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed." - Sean O'Casey

I'm screwed.

By 8 a.m. I'd fed and walked Buddy, made an apple pie for tonight's small group, fed the goats and chickens, made my b'fast (scrambled eggs and BACON), and taken care of some email correspondence.
The pie turned out looking good. I hope it tastes good, too.
Last night we watched a recorded (rerun) episode of the Great British Baking Show. When Pam came out and saw the pie she said I got "Star Baker" for this week.

Buddy is turning out to be the near-perfect dog. He does well on walks, lets us know when he needs to go outside, and seems to have no bad habits that need breaking. The only issue we have is that he does not like to go into his kennel. We only put him there when we're both going to be gone (like tonight for small group). Brittanys respond quickly to positive feedback and a negative response, even a harsh tone, can spook them, so I'm trying hard to encourage him with praise to go into the kennel. So far it ain't working. In every other respect he's a great companion dog.

My hip and back are also in the good news department. I stood for much of yesterday's class and only sat on the stool when the pain was distracting.
"What's your pain level?" There are variations through the day for reasons I can't figure out but an average would be a 3 or 4. Definitely improvement! Standing to make the pie, including peeling and slicing the apples, couldn't have happened a week ago.

Yesterday we met Beth & Nick at church. Beth is the daughter of dear friends Bruce & Debby who were in our church in Prunedale. Beth wasn't born yet when we left in 1983 but I've gotten to know her a bit from being an overnight guest in their home. (That is a story in itself. They have a magazine-beautiful home and Debby is the definition of "gracious host" who can cook like a pro. Bruce is an easy friend who always makes for stimulating conversation.)
Beth and Nick have just moved from CA to Eugene so she can pursue a grad degree at the U of O in autism studies, specializing in early intervention.
We went to Jimmy John's afterward. When we got home Pam said "I like them!" Me, too.

Unlike my dear wife my disposition does not tend naturally toward the upbeat. I too often see what could and should be better in myself, in my circumstances, and in the world around me.
Do you have phrases or sentences that you say to yourself often? One of mine, an admonition to myself: "Ah come on. Do better." Or, "You idiot."  I'm too often frustrated with things; they're never as they should be.
Over the weekend I had a moment of clarity, a glimpse of life as it really is. I was outside doing chores - I don't remember exactly what - and thought about our life here on Baker Rd.
The goats and the chickens represent the rural, nature-oriented life we love. Our setting on this three acres is beautiful, with thick woods and enough openness to give us a sunny garden and area for fruit trees, God has seen us safely through a real danger with Pam's heart issue, we attend and serve in a good church, and we still have a lot of fun in each other's company. Plus, we scored a really great dog!
If our life were a made-for-TV movie it would have to show on the Hallmark channel and even then it would get bad reviews for being too boring.

So, Craig, grow up and give thanks.
You idiot.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

"Now and then an innocent man is sent to the legislature." - Kin Hubbard



Facebook post on the community page here:
"Accident cleanup at the light in Veneta."
Yep, it's a small town

That post wouldn't work in Elmira. Corrected to read:
"Accident cleanup at the intersection in Elmira."

Buddy is overweight because his previous owner fed him table scraps. He's a barrel around the middle. He will NOT get any table food at our house but getting his weight down will require exercise in the form of daily walks (plural). Unfortunately my hip doesn't allow for that right now. I sure wish it did because I think we'd both enjoy that.

I tried but couldn't find it online. While watching a news program this morning I heard that Bill Maher had asked his viewers to respond to a poll question:
"Have we moved from an 'Accusers must be heard' to an 'Accusers must be believed' culture?"
68% of respondents agreed we've moved to the latter. If they're right we've got real problems.

It drizzled most of the day so I worked out in the garage on the trailer. I have two old beat-up moving pads and put one down on the dirt floor. I had Buddy lay down on the pad and he stayed there quietly for over an hour while I worked before lunch and another 90 minutes after. I had to come in to get another drill battery off the charger so I told him to "stay" and he was right there when I came back.
When I got to a convenient stopping point we went for a walk up to the mailboxes.
A man and his dog.

By the way, that walk to get the mail and back was something of a milestone for me. I haven't been able to walk that far in over a month and I did it without any significant pain, just a little discomfort. I am VERY out of shape and it kills me to think that before this happened I was doing 5 mile runs but I am still very thankful for this progress.

More good news: our electric bill dropped 7% last month and our daily use was way down. I think replacing that 40-year old fridge had an even bigger impact than we expected. The next target: our water heater. In a 45 year old MoHo water heaters are behind a door on the exterior of the mobile home made out of the same thin aluminum siding that covers the whole structure. So basically the water heater is outside. I'm going to get one of those insulation blankets that goes around a water heater in the hopes that it will make a noticeable difference through the winter months.

Tomorrow's class will cover their first week's Bible reading, Genesis 1-24. I'm curious to see what questions they have. There were 47 people last week and I'm told a few more are coming. I think some of those people have never done anything like this before, so this will be the first time they've read these OT narratives. And by any measure there are some real head-scratchers in there.