Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Harper Leigh

At 4:30PM, Mountain Standard Time, today, Harper Leigh Pattee made her entrance into the world . . . God be with her!  I would be lying if I did not admit that it is wonderful to have our second granddaughter make an appearance into our lives.  Both the wife and I anxiously await our first encounter at the end of the August . . . in the meantime we just beam with that grandparently glow.

The wife and I, and the other grandparents, think that the daughter and son-in-law do good work.  Harper Leigh looks beautiful, but then again there has never been an ugly baby born.  She looks healthy, she looks alert, and she looks as if she will be a handful in the future . . . all I can say is that what goes around, comes around.  May God be with parents!

It is such a blessing to be a part of an expanding family . . . first, there was little Emily, our granddaughter in Fort Collins, Colorado and all the family she brought with her.  Then there was Harper Leigh in Dothan, Alabama.  The wife and I feel immensely blessed to have two wonderful granddaughters to entertain and teach us in the years to come.  God is good . . . may God be with us all.

I know that this has been an exhausting day for both our daughter and son-in-law . . . it wasn’t quite the way that they imagined it would be, but it is the way that it played out.  They have survived and now begin the journey of parenthood.  Our prayers are with them.  As they turn in for the night, I want to share one of my favorite lullabies . . . yeah, poor Harper Leigh is going to learn the oldies.  For Harper and her parents . . . the Beatles . . .
Golden Slumber.

Another, more modern version for the daughter by Mumford and Sons.

Blessings abound!  Amen!

Monday, July 30, 2012


It is official . . . I am a “twit”!  Yeah, yeah, I know, I should have realized that years ago . . . but now I am officially a “twit”.  At least that is what I think the correct term is for someone who has a Twitter account.  I may be wrong as I have heard others refer to those with Twitter call themselves “tweeters”, but that could just be the plural for “twit”.  After several years of prompting by the daughter and youngest son to get an account, I dove in with both feet.  I feel like a twit!

This week I am attending a technology conference for educators . . . primarily to find instructors for my job as a project coordinator providing professional education to educators.  Since technology is the “hot” topic what better place to find instructors than a technology conference!  The second reason I am there is to learn more about using technology on professional and personal levels.  After the first day I feel like a twit . . . there is a heck of a lot of technology out there and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what is being offered.  I learned a lot during the first day and there are still two more days to go!

It was in a workshop on Twitter that I took the leap.  The instructor—an elementary school teacher—made it sound so simple and easy . . . and it really was.  There is no doubt about the ease at which one can set up an account and be tweeting in minutes.  Within an hour—okay, I am a little slower than most, I had my first “tweet” out in public.  Imagine that, I am just like all of those other important people—the jocks, movie stars, politicians, the rich and famous, and just about everyone else seeking that fifteen minutes in the spot light.  Now that I am among the five trillion other elite users of Twitter I still don’t know what the heck I am supposed to be doing!  What is the point of Twitter?  Even with an account, I still feel like a twit.

So . . . what is the purpose of a “tweet”?  That is the biggest problem I am having with Twitter since I started my account.  Basically I have 140 characters in which I am to convey a message . . . but I have no clue what that message should be.  Should I tweet about the mundane happenings that I call my life . . . you know, “Got up, went to the bathroom, had a BM, and about to take my shower . . . life is good!”  I really don’t think people really care whether or not I had a BM.  Should I entertain folks with cute and witty sayings about observations on life . . . like, “Don’t babies look cute when they startle themselves farting.”  I guess I could talk about work, but no one at work wants to talk about work so why would anyone else?  I am not an expert in any profound subjects outside of drinking beer and whining a lot—no one wants to hear that stuff.  See what I mean . . . what is the purpose of Twitter?

After the workshop I can see the potential in using a Twitter account for networking and developing a professional cadre of experts on the areas I am working in.  I can see how it will help get the organization I work for more publicity.  I can see it all, but I have not yet quite figured out how to do that because it takes time . . . lots of time.  Now I see why those with the real big followings hire someone to do their tweeting for them.  That takes money . . . money which neither I nor the organization I work for have.  Maybe that is what I should tweet about . . . money and how we could use it.  Shoot, if I could get my followers to donate a dollar the organization could be rolling in the dough!  Let’s see . . . after one day I have three followers . . . at this rate I should be able to raise a million dollars about twenty years after I am dead.  Guess that won’t work!

Whatever the case, I am now an official user of Twitter.  Whether that makes me a “twit” or a “tweeter” doesn’t really matter.  Who ever thought that so many even cared what I thought or said?  Now I am wondering who the real twits are. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Better Living

At times I have been known to procrastinate.  At the start of June I had a few health check and blood analysis done through the university where I work.  I got the results back by mid-June.  There were some red flags in the results concerning my health.  I was a little concerned, but I did not panic as the results basically stated that I would live.  About a week ago I finally went to my doctor to go over the results, discuss the red flags, and see what his recommendations would be.  Nothing like dealing with issues as they arise . . . a month and a half later!  Hey!  If I wasn’t dying, what was the rush!

Primarily there were two issues—thyroid and cholesterol.  The thyroid (which I have been on medication for a couple of years) was low and not working as well as it should.  The cholesterol—which I learned there are three reading for—was high in the two “bad” readings and low in the one “good” reading.  The company that did the blood tests basically highlighted these in bright red, described the worse possible scenario, and scared the bejeebers out of me.  Again, there was no mention of dying, so why rush?  Besides who wants to go to see their doctor only to hear “bad news”?  Not me!

Knowing that my doctor was going to probably recommend some drastic life style changes I decided to take the offensive.  I prepared my case: “Yeah, Doc, I know I need to lose some weight.  I need to exercise more.  Take better care of myself.  Eat better.  Sleep a little bit more. Yada, yada, yada.”  I wanted to beat the doctor to the punch, but . . . you know what?  It didn’t happen.  Doc did an end around on me and caught me completely off guard.  He told me that it wouldn’t hurt for me to lose a little weight, but that I was still well within my limits.  Told me that it never hurts to exercise.  Stated that I was taking pretty good care of myself and getting plenty of sleep.  Even stated that the wife was doing an excellent job with our eating—the right balance of everything.  Not a single condemnation towards diet and exercise hell.  I was shocked.  I wasted a good speech.

Years ago I somehow burned out my thyroid.  At that point a doctor prescribed medication to jump start it.  For several years I took the medication and did not feel that anything had changed . . . so I stopped taking the medication.  Felt fine . . . in fact, felt better not taking it than I have since I have resumed taking.  Yeah, I went back on it when I moved to Montana, took one of those health screenings at the university, and discovered—surprise, surprise—that my thyroid was working and my cholesterol was all screwy.  At that point my present doctor decided that my getting back on thyroid medication and getting that regulated my cholesterol problems would go away since they were basically border line at the time.  That was about a year ago . . .

. . . guess what!  It didn’t work!  The thyroid still was not quite up to snuff and the cholesterol numbers went up to a point that they actually concerned the doctor.  Assuring me that, yes, losing weight, eating right (meaning low fat and cholesterol foods), and exercising would probably lower the two bad cholesterol numbers and raise the one good number, he didn’t think it would be enough.  He did not think that it would make enough of a significant change despite my best efforts.  Then he recommended Lipitor—the number one selling legal drug in the world.  He said this would begin to show results in no time.  The option was mine he said.  In the meantime he raised the thyroid medication to turn up the old metabolism flame.

One of the reason I quit taking the thyroid medication in the first place is because I don’t like to take medicine of any type.  The other reason is that I couldn’t see or feel any major differences.  Since going back on the stuff I have seen all sorts of changes in my body—most of which I don’t like.  I liked the way I felt pre-medication, now it seems that I have body functions and parts working that I didn’t know even existed.  Doc assured me that that was a sign that the medication is working . . . except for getting rid of the cholesterol issues.  Which brought us back to the decision he was waiting for me to make . . . better living through chemistry or keep on at the same rate and let nature run its course.  He reminded me, that at my age, nature would win out sooner than later.  But, hey!  It was still my choice!

So, I jumped into the chemical pool.  For a week now I have been taking increased medication for the thyroid and a generic brand of Lipitor.  The thyroid medication has no real side effects that I can discern, but the generic Lipitor had a few surprises for me.  One, which it was stated could happen, is stomach discomfort.  This isn’t so bad—I just feel hungry all the time.  When attempting to lose weight, one should not feel hungry all the time because it has the tendency to make one want to eat.  When one eats, one gains weight.  So I drink a lot of water.  Water fakes the stomach out, except that my stomach isn’t stupid . . . it wants real food.  I imagine that in time this will disappear into the background.

Another issue is that since I started taking the generic Lipitor . . . I wake up at 3:30AM every morning—like clockwork.  I feel like one of those cartoon characters whose eyes pop open and bright lights shine up at the ceiling.  Every morning at 3:30AM I am awake.  It takes me fifteen minutes to get back to sleep . . . that is only an hour before I normally get up.  This disruption in my sleep then makes me sleepy at work.  I have become a nodder at work . . . of which I disguise by saying “Amen” whenever I get caught at the desk nodding.  Everyone at work just thinks I am super religious and pray a lot.

Lastly, it was stated that it would have an effect on my body’s plumbing.  Mainly the issue was that since the medication effects the liver that my urine might change.  I never realized that urine could change, but the doctor said it could happen.  It has added color to this otherwise colorless task—literally.  Looks like I have drank a case of Mountain Dew and I can’t stand the stuff!

Basically the issues are not that bad.  I honestly don’t feel that much difference than prior to adding this additional medication.  In another five weeks I get my first blood test and will supposedly see the changes . . . which both Doc and I hope are for the better.  For the time being I take two little pills a day—one in the morning, one in the evening.  This is probably the biggest hassle of all.  As I am getting older I am getting more forgetful—especially with the tininess of the two pills.  I just forget!  Now if the pills had been the size of a jelly bean I might be more apt to remember . . . in the meantime I scramble to remember.  So far, so good.

This is what they call better living through chemistry.  This is supposed to make my life better.  Two little pills a day . . . I don’t know, but we will see.  The alternatives are not so great—especially now with one grand-daughter and another on the way.  I’d like to be around for a while to enjoy them and the ones yet to come.  The time has come to quit procrastinating and taking this living stuff serious.  A good diet, a little exercise, and two little pills—who would have ever imagined . . . until now, not me.  But if this works I will be a new convert!


Compared to a lot of other states this summer, I shouldn’t complain . . . but it is so hot this summer!  The majority of the days since the start of June have been in the 90s and several jumping over the century mark.  It has been a unnaturally warm—no, make that hot—summer here in Montana.  I can’t speak for the rest of Montana, but frankly I am tired of it.  Tired of all the hot!

I imagine that those of you reading this are wondering the answer to that question of “how hot is it?”  It is so hot that the birds have started to wear potholders to pull worms out of the ground.  It is so hot that farmers have started feeding crushed ice to the chicken to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs.  It is so hot that I have started to determine where I park my car by the amount of shade I can find as opposed to distance—nearly walked a mile to work this morning.  It is so hot you burn your hand opening the car door and have learned to drive with two fingers.  It is so hot that cows are giving evaporated milk.  It is so hot that I have taken to standing half-naked in front of an opened refrigerator . . . well, I did, until the local Sears salesperson told me I couldn’t do that in the store any more.  One person told me that it was so hot that he saw a squirrel fanning his nuts!  It is HOT!

This heat also has a tendency to make other things hot.  A local weather station in College Station, Pennsylvania did a little research to see how the heat affected other things.  This is what they discovered when the temperature hovered around 100 degrees:   
  • Blacktop rises to a temperature of 149 degrees.
  • Sidewalks rise to a temperature of 143 degrees.
  • Sand is a cool 130 degrees.  Now I understand my aversion to walking around barefooted in the summer—who wants blistered feet?
  • Want to punish your kids?  Send them down a slide during the summer!  The temperature of a slide rises to 132 degrees.  Talk about warm buns.
  • A light colored car warms up to 136 degrees, while a dark colored car is at 168 degrees.  Either way I suspect that it is much warmer inside the actual vehicles.  The wife has helped cool down the house this summer by doing all her baking in the VW Jetta that happens to be a dark blue.  We are getting about six loaves of bread to a gallon of gas!
Yessiree . . . it is hot this summer.  Hotter than most Montanans are used to.  It is so hot that I actually have been hearing people here wishing it was winter in Montana.  The nine months of winter in Montana are the months we endure to enjoy the three months of summer.  That is when you know that folks are getting tired of all this heat and we haven’t even gotten into August yet.  August—the hottest time of the year in Montana!  We all await with great anticipation to see what August brings.  In the meantime we have taken to running through sprinklers, kicking the kids out of the wading pools, and buying out the local grocery store’s supply of ice.  We are making the best of it during an unusually hot, hot summer.  We are surviving, but complaining.

But, as my momma used to say, “This, too, will pass.”  The cold will arrive.  The snow will fly.  We will bundle up and wonder when, oh when, will the summer return?  We Montanans have short memories . . . or our minds got fried in this heat!  If this summer is going to pass I hope it at least creates a breeze . . . anything to stifle this heat!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Other Side of the Fence

I am kind of proud of myself.  For once I am that person on the other side of the fence that the neighbors envy . . . well, at least some.  After several weeks of drought-like weather, with temperatures averaging in the mid-90s, my yard is still a pretty green. 

I am amazed at how nice the lawn looks in this hot, hot weather compared to some of my neighbors.  Usually it is my yard that looks like something that would be highlighted in Trailer Park Weekly.  I can thank myself—and the extremely high water bill—for this crowning achievement of keeping the grass green this far into the summer.  Typically, by now, I would be cursing the sun and heat for wilting my lawn into straw . . . but not this year!  All that money I saved up for vacation . . . ah, who needs a vacation . . . it’s in the green of my grass.  The wife ain’t happy, but the dogs appreciate not having to squat in straw.

The neighbors to the left and right of our house have taken the approach of letting the grass fend for itself this summer.  Their yards have taken a beating with the only thing thriving being those heat resistant weeds that grow despite the lack of water.  The problem with this is that most of the neighbors—like me—do not have native grasses growing in their yards.  Nope, we all have that wonderful bluegrass growing in our yards.  Bluegrass is a lousy hot weather grass that only responds to constant watering to look good.   This heat burns it up, dries it out, and it eventually becomes dirt—patches of dirt.  It is no fun mowing dirt.  Because it is no fun mowing dirt the neighbors have let it go for the summer to the weeds and dust.  Though they have not said it, I know that they envy my green lawn.

The neighbors to the front and back of the house have lush green grass, but they have water wells to water their lawns.  They do not have to rely upon the town’s water for the greenness of their yards.  I will admit that I envy their yards, while at the same time know that they have an unfair advantage—they’ve got free water.  I am not sure that either of them would go to the great lengths that I have to keep the grass green.  They also have air conditioning and I envy them more for that than having green lawns.  Darn rich people!  Rubbing my nose in their wealth, comfort, and green grass!

At the same time, I have to admit, I really don’t think that the neighbors should envy my yard.  Yeah, this summer the grass is actually greener on my side of the fence, but under closer inspection I think that they would be surprised by what makes up that green ambience—lots of invasive (translate that into weeds) plants!  As I have always stated, if it weren’t for weeds I would have no yard at all!

The truth is that my yard is composed of a variety of plants—not all grass, but a variety of plants.  Not many dandelions this year, but lots of other plants that have found out that the grass is getting water.  These invasive plants want to be a part of the party and have steadily migrated into the yard.  If I were a good keeper of the lawn, I would pluck those boogers out as I went about the business of mowing.  If I did that I would probably lose approximately 75 percent of my yard.  With that in mind I have adopted a new philosophy—if it is green let it be!  Besides—from a distance the yard looks nice—enviable nice!

For the time being I am going to enjoy finally being the one whose grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  This doesn’t happen too often in my life that folks envy me for something.  Usually I am the one on the other side of the fence envying everyone else.  But not this year!  This year I am the one everyone envies . . . I am the one with the green yard!  I even thought about making up one of those “yard of the week” signs and sticking it in the front yard, but our town doesn’t get into that sort of competition as most the yards look my neighbors’ yards.  Yep, I don’t plan to lose this feeling . . . I don’t plan on losing . . . even if I have to go and buy a case of green spray paint to keep the yard green.  I heard that that is what they do in the National Football League and NCAA—they spray paint their fields to give the illusion that they have lush, green fields in the middle of December.  If it is good enough for the big boys, it is good enough for me.  In the meantime, I will continue to bask in the glow of being envied.  Only six to eight more weeks of watering . . . that should just about eliminate next summer’s vacation too.  Thank goodness we have a guest room as I have a feeling that when the wife figures this out that is where I will be sleeping as I bask in my glory!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bust the Tupperware Lady!

The Internet has been buzzing this week about the arrest of an Arizona Pastor for having weekly Bible studies in his home.  Fox News reported the story and you can read or watch the original story at http://foxnewsinsider.com/2012/07/11/arizona-pastor-arrested-jailed-for-holding-bible-study-in-home-his-wife-says-it-defies-logic/.  Being a long-time pastor I have to admit that these stories usually catch my attention.  This one caught my attention because I typically have Bible studies and sometimes they are in people’s homes.  If the government—on any level—is going to be busting pastors for having Bible studies, well . . . I want to know.  Wanting to know I read the story . . .

. . . and I read a lot of the reactions to the story.  I read everything from this action being a conspiracy against the pastor to the local S.W.A.T. team busting down the doors to arrest the offending pastor.  The rumors are flying and certain spheres of Christendom are up in arms, ranting and raving that this is government persecution against religious freedom.  Lots of folks are jumping on that bandwagon.  It has got to be true . . . hey, Fox News reported it and the Internet is smoking with it.

There is a reason that I quit watching television—especially news-- beyond the college football season . . . you can't trust it.  Whether it is Fox News or CNN or ABC it has been years (lots of years) since you could get the news factually, non-biasly, and without some sort of slant.  Most news now-a-days is not news—it is editorial or opinion pieces—especially on the national level.  When I watch the news I want what Detective Joe Friday used to tell people on Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”  I just want the facts and to be allowed to form my own opinion.  I have learned to take most of what is reported with a grain of salt and to do my own homework to find the facts.

Now I am not dumb enough to believe that Fox News reported all the facts on this story.  Nor am I willing to be spoon fed any news story from any source as being the gospel truth.  I am also not so lazy that I cannot do a little research on my own to discover the whole story—or as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now . . . the rest of the story!”  This was one of those stories that was screaming to be researched some more.  Things weren’t as they seemed when reported by the media . . . it sounds like this pastor needs to go back to school and learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a good citizen.

Apparently the city did have a beef with the pastor . . . a legitimate beef.  It seems that the pastor was not honest about his intentions going all the way back to when he got a building permit to build a recreation room on his property.  A 2,000 square foot recreation room.  That is a pretty big rec room—bigger than a lot of folks’ homes.  Then he furnished the rec room with a pulpit, high tech equipment (microphones, projector, the whole nine yards), and seating for over 70 people.  Then he held his “Bible study” there . . . in the rec room . . . like thousands of others do throughout the United States and beyond.  Man, from the pictures I have seen and from what I have read, this guy’s so-called rec room was nicer than the sanctuary where I preside over weekly worship –I mean where we gather weekly to “re-create”.  The pastor was not honest from the very beginning.  This was never intended to be a rec room. 

Probably the best summary of the whole story is found on John Wootten’s blog called SOMETHNGNESS.  Wootten has done his homework and done it well—complete with documentation.  He shares a whole bunch of information (facts) that Fox News failed to report in the name of good journalism.  Wootten --like me—stated that his first reaction was to defend religious freedom.  Liberal or conservative, defending religious liberty should be embraced whenever it is being stomped on.  At first glance that is what this story reeked of . . . in the end it reeked of something else and it was not religious liberty.  You can read Wootten’s blog on this story at http://johnwootten.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/update-on-arrested-arizona-pastor/

In the end this was not a story about religion being stymied by the government . . . not a story about government dictating how people are to live their faith.  It was a lot of sensationalism meant to get a reaction and stir up trouble for the sake of ratings.  The reaction was exactly what Fox News wanted knowing that most people are not going to do the necessary homework to get the whole story or the facts.  You don’t think so?  Well, consider this, up to this point in my personal blog I have mentioned Fox News eight times—you can’t buy that sort of publicity!  The end result is that people are talking about Fox News and it is making all followers of Jesus look ridiculous as the facts come out.

I agree with what one person stated in the original story . . . if the law is going to start busting Bible studies in people’s homes as illegal gathering, then they need to start busting all those other dens of inequity happening in our communities across the nation.  Bust those Tupperware parties and get them off the streets!  Bust all those Amway pushers and keep our streets clean!  Nail them all!  Shoot!  That sounds funny . . . and stupid.  Get the facts before jumping to conclusions . . . what any of us hear is rarely the whole truth.  I think I can safely say that if you or I want to hold a Bible study in our homes that we are quite safe and within the boundaries of religious freedom . . . but then again, if we build a 2,000 square foot rec room complete with all the furnishings necessary for a comfortable church to have our weekly study . . . well, we had better be on the lookout for the local S.W.A.T. team! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Myths of Dogdom—Solved!

In Sunday’s newspaper, Parade magazine had an article on the “secret life of pets”.  In this article the author, Catherine Price, decided to clear up the top head scratchers that pet owners have about the strange behavior that their pets have—in particular cats and dogs.  Her goal was to find the answers to twelve puzzling things that cats and dogs do—four about cats, five about dogs, and three that were a combination of both.  The article caught my eye as I am always curious to know what is going through the minds of the family’s two dogs—Maddie the Boxer and Dora the Dachshund—pictured above.  I want to know why they are so darn weird!

The number one question that kicked off the article had to do with dogs drooling.  Inquiring minds want to know!  You want to know what the answer was?  Loose lips.  Some dogs have looser lips than other dogs.  Maddie, our Boxer, has her breeds jowls—a fancy name for loose lips.  She drools, but only at certain times—typically around six o’clock in the evening—suppertime.  She likes to sit by our chairs, roll those big brown eyes, and drool—which is usually good for a green bean or broccoli spear.  Yeah, our dogs like vegetables—of course, Dora the Dachshund like everything and anything, but she doesn’t drool.  She sits in a chair, at the table, puts on her pathetic puppy face, whines, and then barks until someone acknowledges her with a scrap.  Maddie is the drooler—a puddle maker—always have to watch your step leaving the table . . . especially on nights when there is steak.  That dog knows her steak. 

Maddie definitely has loose lips . . . thankfully she only drools around food unlike her boyfriend who lives next door—Moose.  Moose is a Great Dane and he is HUGE . . . and he has some of the loosest lips I have ever seen.  He drools all of the time.  Sometimes his greeting is a great big slime-fest.  You especially don’t want to be around him when he shakes his head—the drool goes flying!  But Maddie loves her big boy . . .

. . . she has never minded swapping spit with the big guy.

Tail chasing—that was the next big dog mystery.  Why do dogs chase their tails?  Neither of my dogs ever chased their tails.  Maddie had her tail bobbed when she was an itty bitty puppy, and Dora . . . well, that would be work . . . Dora doesn’t like work.  But our granddog—Blitz the German Shepherd—likes to chase his tail.  Drives the daughter and her husband crazy--especially when he catches it because he has a tendency to gnaw on it.  The answer to the question?  Basically the dog is bored and would like a little interaction.  It is a sign for us owners to get up and play with our dogs.  Now the bigger issue is what is going on when the dog keeps doing this tail chasing all of the time?  Dog behavior experts—yeah, I didn’t know that these people existed—state that it is probably an obsessive compulsive disorder and that the dog’s owner needs to his or her pet some expert help.  A shrink for the dog!  I think you oughta duct tape a tennis ball to the dog’s tail and let the critter have some fun.  Tennis balls are a heck of a lot cheaper than a doggie shrink!

Color blindness in dogs—yep, they are color blind.  Dogs have the same sort of color blindness that humans do—red-green.  Plus the colors that they do see are muted—not as vibrant as the ones we humans see.  That is good to know . . . now I know why the dogs always run to my gold truck when I tell them they are getting a ride in the wife’s red truck—they can’t see it!  I just thought they were being difficult.  But they make up for their color blindness by being able to see super well in the dark and being able to easily detect motion.

The author of the article states this is why dogs are aware of every squirrel in the yard . . . unless they are my dogs.  Maddie is squirrel blind—she rarely can find the squirrel when it is stealing all of the bird food.  Dora, well she is a little better.  But we have more than one squirrel and the two of them are pretty smart.  They play games with the dogs because the dogs think that there is only one squirrel, so when one squirrel is pillaging one bird feeder the other one is distracting the dogs at the other.  We have some of the fattest squirrels in Montana.

“Pee mail” . . . pee mail is like email to dogs.  This is the answer to the next big question: Why do dogs sniff around so much before deciding where to pee?  Because they have to read the pee mail.  Dogs, with their acute sense of smell are able to gather all sorts of information from the scents of other dogs’ urine.  They can determine which dogs passed through the area, how long it was since they were there, and whether or not it was a male or a female.  With so much reading to do it is no wonder that dogs take so long before peeing—besides reading they are composing their own little message.  I am thankful that Maddie had good examples and was trained to pee on the command “Take a break!”  Mention that phrase and she pees wherever she happens to be—like clockwork.  I wonder how the other dogs read that one!

Do dogs have a sense of time?  The author could have come to our house and figured that one out.  A quarter to five in the morning and four o’clock in the afternoon—Dora is raring to eat.  Like clockwork that dog begins to dance and prance in anticipation of her breakfast and supper.  Of course Dora is always ready to eat, but at those two times a person could set his or her watch.  It doesn’t even matter if you switch time zones—she knows when it is time to eat!

Panting . . . this one I was surprised that more people didn’t know the answer to: why do dogs pant?  That is how they cool off since they don’t sweat like us humans.  Oh sure, the pads of their feet sweat, but if they use doggy deodorant (Hey!  If there are shrinks for dogs then surely there is Right Guard for dogs!) . . . the bottom line is that panting cools the dog off.  It can also be a sign of excitement . . . typically Maddie displays this sort of panting when Moose is out in the yard.  Usually, though, it is just to cool off.

Chocolate and onions—bad for dogs?  Why?  Well, onions give dogs bad breath and chocolate makes them fat and sassy.  Actually both have chemicals that are bad for dogs and if taken in large doses can kill them.  I can vouch for that—especially chocolate.

During the holidays the wife likes to leave bowls of candy out for people to treat themselves to when a chocolate pain hits.  For the most part the dogs have never messed with these bowls of chocolate . . . until one Christmas.  The family all pack themselves up and went down the road to enjoy the holiday festivities in a nearby town.  All those years of smelling that chocolate and never succumbing to the temptation must have final caught up to Dora—she ate a whole bowl of the best chocolate money could buy—the very best.  She peeled off every foil cover and left it piled up neatly by the bowl.  I estimate that she must have eaten close to a pound of chocolate—which is quite a bit of chocolate for a fourteen pound dog!  She bloated up like the Hinderberg and could barely move when we returned home.  It was like poking a great big balloon . . . it looked like she could pop at any moment.  She was one sick puppy!  Nearly died.  Thankfully a quick phone call and some fast remembering we had a solution that would save her life—hydrogen peroxide.  A table spoon of that stuff to make her vomit and life would slowly return to her.  She vomited nonstop for over an hour and then slept next to me the whole night—shallow chocolate breath in my face the whole night.  Next morning—at 4:45AM—she was up and ready to go for her breakfast.  Yes, chocolate can kill your dog!

I was glad that the author decided to clear up a few of these myths about dogs for me . . . I just thought that we had gotten a few of the stranger dogs.  Turns out that they are pretty normal.  I like my dogs . . . they are pretty good companions . . . and they make great lap blankets in the winter.  I was disappointed that the author didn’t tackle a few of the questions I had . . . like, why do dogs always fart when they are sleeping?  Why do dogs always thumb their legs when you scratch them behind their ears?  And, why, oh why, do they always poop in the neighbor’s yard even after they have pooped in their own yard?  If the author can answer those questions for me life would be good.  In the meantime, I love my dogs and . . .

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Free Willy

“Free will” doesn’t exist.  Oh sure, the old argument is that we are all created with a free will . . . and that we always have choice to do whatever it is that we want to do . . . but, I don’t think there is such a thing as “free will”.  The only exception I would make for that is the individual who is truly narcissistic.  Only the person who is truly a narcissist –who only thinks of him or herself—thinks that he or she has “free will” to decide however he or she pleases.  The problem with the narcissist is that he or she doesn’t acknowledge—is in denial—to the fact that every decision has ramifications beyond him or herself.  Because of that the narcissist lives a delusion of “free will”—it doesn’t exist except in his or her mind.

 The word narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus "lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour", and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus. (Symington, Neville (1993). Narcissism: A New Theory; H. Karnac Ltd. pp. 6–7.)

I am probably not the best theologian . . . or the best philosopher . . . or the best psychologist to be dealing with the topic of “free will” or narcissism.  At best I probably dabbling in them just enough to get myself in trouble.  But, I can no longer accept the theory that humans have “free will”.  I have seen too many of the consequences when it comes to this idea of “free will”—there is nothing “free” about “free will”.  Every choice, decision, or action has a consequence . . . has a rippling effect that touches many. 

With choice comes responsibility.  With choice comes a moral obligation.  I think that only a person who cannot acknowledge others in his or her life, who cannot see the invisible intricate webs between them and others, and only thinks of him or herself, might have a sense of “free will”.  Delusion or denial—it doesn’t matter as it is not “free will”.

The bottom line is that the choices and decisions that any of makes has some sort of an effect upon others.  None of us is truly an island unto him or herself.  I remember that I could not wait to move out of the house once I graduated high school—couldn’t wait to be out in the world on my own.  And, when the opportunity came I went to college 1,500 miles from my family.  Outside of one summer and Christmas holidays I never did go home.  That decision, which I was told was mine to make as it was my life, changed the relationships in the family.  Even to this day, I am not as close to my siblings and the rest of the family as most families are . . . distance does make a difference.  My decision—my choice—changed forever the dynamics within my family . . . and, bridging the distance has never been easy.  “Free will”?  There was nothing “free” about it.

In a narcissistic society—which pretty well sums up our society, we are implored to just go out and “just do it!”  The words that we read . . . the images that we see . . . they all tell us to grab all the gusto life has to offer each of us and damn the rest.  If it was “free will” to do this then why do I feel so bad when I stop and consider the consequences of my choices and decisions . . . when I consider all those who have been touched by my choices and decisions?  I guess I just don’t do this “free will” thing very well.

 I don’t think that God ever intended us to have “free will”—the freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want.  In the Old Testament of the Bible the Israelites were always getting in trouble because they kept choosing to do whatever they wanted while forgetting everyone else.  They ignored the poor, those with disabilities, the widows . . . and, God.  The Old Testament is filled with stories of God dealing with this problem of delusion and denial.

In the New Testament Jesus tells everyone that the goal of life is to love God with one’s whole being and to love others.  Nowhere does Jesus say to love only one’s self and nothing else.  No, he said to love one another.  There is no “free will” when it comes right down to it because we are to live God’s will.

“Free will”—if there is such a thing—is a tough choice.  Nonetheless, I guess it is a choice.  One that each of us has to decide on our own as to what we are going to do.  Ignore God and others to do whatever we want to do—damn the consequences; or, give it and do God’s will—to love God and others completely.  I guess it is our choice . . . whatever any of us chooses to do, may it be done with the knowledge that it will change our lives and the lives of others forever.  At least it won’t be some boring remake about a whale finding freedom.

 There is no “free will” . . . it is a rippling across the lives of others.