The Beginning of the End

One of my best friends told me last spring that she was excited about graduation and looking forward to getting her diploma, but the day after graduation “scared the poop out of her.”

Well, now I understand how she felt. The mister and I will graduate with our respective bachelor’s degrees this December, and while I will miss our college days, I’m looking forward to starting the next phase of our lives. December 15th can’t seem to get here fast enough; but December 16th scares me to death.

Today is the first day of our last undergraduate semester, and I can’t believe we’ve already come this far. I could spend hours talking about memories of the first day of my first semester, the girls I shared so many good years with and the things I’ve learned along the way. But I’ll focus on the future instead.

I’ve decided not to go to graduate school, despite the frequent and increasingly annoying assertions from my boss that “he knows I will.” (Sorry Dr. R, but you can’t change my mind.) However the mister needs to go somewhere. . . but “where???” is the question.

He could apply to graduate schools and earn his master’s and maybe even doctoral degrees. He could go straight into the work force anywhere in the country. Or, as I suppose is no longer a secret, he could go to vet school. . . in the Caribbean.

Yes, the Caribbean. The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, to be exact. The school is called Ross Veterinary School and it has all the same classes, licenses and accreditations of a regular U.S. school. Our reasons for choosing this location are many and varied so I won’t get into them now, but it is an option we are seriously considering.

When I tell people their first reaction of course is “Wow that’s so cool! Who wouldn’t want to live in paradise for two years?” Well. . . it’s not that simple. We have to go through shipping our essentials and storing the non-essentials, for one thing. Then there are the residency laws and the fact that I probably won’t be able to get a job at all on the island. My only hope at this point seems to be finding freelance writing I can do over the internet.

Some I know would say, “No job? No problem! Just go to the beach!” But I am the sort of person who HATES to be bored. I hate not having constant things to do. I hate being useless. And we’ll need extra income somehow, because the mister will be in classes and clinicals full-time and sure won’t be working. And even the laziest of people would go crazy with NOTHING to do for two straight years!

But this is something he needs to do and this is the only way he can do it. He was born to be a vet; he’s good at it, it comes naturally, and animals of all kinds flock to him constantly. And I will go with him. I don’t know how it will all work out yet; I may spend my days scavenging the beach for food, but somehow it will work.

The mister and I would appreciate the prayers of all my readers that we lean on the Lord to help us choose the right path, that the mister is accepted and that we can find a way to support ourselves.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I Don’t Know Much, but I Do Know Some

“Nut House” has had 70 visits on its busiest day. Most weeks I spike around 50-60 visitors on Monday with new posts and trickle down throughout the week.

            But I’ve become increasingly aware lately that my readership is much larger than that – including grandparents, coworkers of my in-laws and church members who read printed rather than online versions.

            And I hope those 50-60+ visitors continue to read regardless of content, because this week I’m going to take a short break from the newlywed theme and address a few things I don’t know and a few things that I do.

            I don’t know why the Lord permits bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why a young mother in the prime of her life, with two young boys and a fabulous husband, has stage four colon cancer and has called in hospice. I don’t know why someone who has never smoked a day in his/her life can suffer long years with emphysema. I don’t know why deserving couples can’t have children and crack addicts can have multiples.

            Now for what I do know.

            I do know that the Lord loves us all and that nothing can separate us from that (Romans 8:35, 38-39). I do know he wants everyone to spend eternity with Him in heaven (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

            BUT, I also know that we must play by the rules. We can’t just pick and choose which areas we like and throw out the ones we don’t. We can’t say, “I think God would like this because. . . .” If the Lord had wanted full-fledged concerts in His worship He would have added “electric guitars” to Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 when he commands us to worship Him with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” He didn’t need to wait for electric guitars to be invented – He knew they were coming.

            So many people want to turn the situation around and say that those who “judge others” for being homosexual are the ones who anger God because of their intolerance. No, we should not judge people from our own hearts because we are not perfect ourselves and must avoid hypocrisy. Yes, we must reach out to all people because all souls are worth the same. But when I tell you that homosexuality is a sin, it’s not me that judges you – it’s God. It’s the many instances when He specifically lists homosexuality as an “abomination.” I didn’t write that. He did.

            Christians must belong to Christ – to the church that belongs to Him. He bought it with His own pain and suffering and does not deserve to be pushed aside in favor of any man. The church of the Lord was not founded by Joseph Smith (Galatians 1:6-9). It was not established by the Nicene Creed in the 4th century. It did not include a catalog of special prayers or a crowd of men wearing tall white hats deciding what sin is and is not. If we needed extra books or extra creeds the Lord would have provided them.

            When the Lord sends a soul to Hell for disobedience that does not mean He does not love you. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. But parents punish their children – who they love – when they are disobedient and unruly. Thus will the Lord, our Father, punish those who disobey. None of us will be able to stand before Him on judgment day and say “Well I thought. . .” and reason our way out of the punishment we have earned. Not just been given – but earned. All those who end up in Hell will have earned that position. Scary thought, huh?

            Now for something else I know.

            I know this is not a religious column. But I also know that while that may not be the main focus of this blog, it should not be something I purposely avoid. I know that “political correctness” is a tool of Satan to silence those who carry the truth. I have the greatest of friends, the finest of coworkers and the most beloved of family members who would be lost if the world ended today. I know that and it eats at my heart that I have not done more to show them their separation from God.

            Why are certain topics taboo at family gatherings? Why do we not tell those we love that they are wrong? It’s because we are afraid to lose them. I don’t want to lose them. But at the same time, if I see them in Heaven one day it will make up for never speaking to them again in this life. This is hard to accept, but it must be accepted.

            I expect comments and controversy. I expect to be told that I am wrong and hateful. But I also expect each and every person who responds to provide me with scripture to back up your “I think” or “Well we believe.” Prove me wrong. Show me it’s ok to walk your own path. Show me an example where the Lord has ever accepted someone into Heaven who was “a good person” but not an obedient, baptized Christian. Only the Lord knows the heart of a man, and only the Lord can judge us. But He also provides us with instructions. He knows when we willfully decide to lay them aside and we will be held accountable for them all, even those we do not choose to acknowledge.

I struggle with my own demons and I fail my Lord in countless ways each and every day. I am just as much in danger of falling as anyone else. I am not claiming to be beyond the influence of sin; to make such a claim would not only be a lie but would make God a liar as well, since he has said that “every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

            One day we will ALL have to face the music. We will ALL kneel before the Lord, whether you believe in Him or not. Those who do not live in obedience will be lost. So I ask you now, why should you be the exception?

How I’ve Been “Countrified”

Isn’t it funny how, sometimes, what we once tried so hard to avoid turns out to be just what we always wanted?

I’m not exactly a “city girl,” but I grew up in rather large towns full of traffic, bright lights and ever-widening boulevards.

I always imagined myself ending up with a polished business-type who wore a tie to work and a jacket to church. Cowboy boots, layers of mud and a television show called “Swamp People” never factored into this daydream of mine.

But somehow that’s what I got. A southern-drawl cowboy who sometimes comes home from work with his boots and clothes so covered in mud that he LOOKS like a swamp person.

Since meeting the mister I have been exposed to many things, most of which I had no idea existed. For example, who knew that people dismantle the safety features on lawnmowers for the specific purpose of racing them through fields?

Who knew that TV shows about people who auction off the contents of old mini-storage lockers or sell things in pawnshops could be so interesting? Since when are there fishing rodeos? And why do people try to catch catfish with their hands when they make perfectly good fishing poles?

Since the mister and I started dating, I have not only been fishing and caught something, but forced to actually TOUCH said fish. I have registered for (and gotten) a deep fryer for our wedding.

I have spent hours on end watching Storage Wars and Pawn Stars and might (MIGHT!) finally be able to tell the difference between a “cool” car and a “not cool” car. (We’re still working on that one though. And, as of last weekend, I have actually seen a real “live” scarecrow. As in, a stick with clothes on it in the middle of a field. People still use those!!

Now that I’ve found it, I can’t imagine being with anyone who didn’t wear cowboy boots to almost every occasion, have calluses on his hands and a tan line on his shoulders, and come home with stories of chasing rebel goats through a muddy pasture (and looking like the goats might have won).

My husband has cut open animal carcasses, turned bulls into steers and had his arm up the back of a cow.

But he has also helped a cow in trouble have her calf and helped nurse malnourished puppies back to health. He has so much tenderness in his muddy hands that sometimes it blows my mind I could have ever wanted anything else.

Seems like God really does know what he’s doing, huh?

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs that just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”
–Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayers”

Life’s Fourth Certainty

As I mentioned in “Coveting Quarters,” the two certainties in life are said to be death and taxes.

In her collection of columns “Burnt Toast: Musings on Living, Loving and Saying Goodbye,” my favorite columnist, Lenore Skomal, adds laundry to the list. But I have a fourth offering: dirty dishes.

I’m the type of person who likes to do things quickly and efficiently, mark them off the list and move on with life. But dishes refuse to let me go.

Dishwashing is not terribly difficult, thanks to the blessing of non-stick cookware, but no matter how organized and efficient I am, they always pile up again. There is no escape from the unending cycle.

My method is ironic, though. I don’t like to just wash one or two pieces at a time. I want to wait until there is a full load and then wash everything together. But at the same time, that means the sink is perpetually full and I am constantly staring at the pile with growing dread.

One of the mister’s old college roommates used to let his dishes pile up and sit in the kitchen to the point that there were never-before-seen life forms in the coffee pot. The other boys living in that house eventually began washing their own pieces and keeping them in their respective bedrooms while this fourth roommate’s filth piled up in the rest of the house.

I think this contributes to my guilt whenever the mister helps me with the dishes. He’s good about pitching in, either to wash or dry (he calls himself my “Matt-tag”), but I somehow feel like I’m not doing my job as a wife to keep the house clean. He had to live with piles of dishes before he got married; he shouldn’t have to now.

But I just hate doing it. Once I get started it’s over fast, but it’s turning the water on that’s somehow the hardest part. It’s hard to shake the knowledge that even if I wash everything now I’m just going to have to do it again tomorrow. Or possibly even in a few hours.

The suggestion has been made to use more paper products, but that just builds up in the trashcan. I’ve also been told to cook less-complicated meals, but even the one-skillet dish requires, at minimum, a skillet and serving spoon and sometimes a mixing bowl and measuring utensils. Not to mention the plates, forks and glasses from when we actually eat.

Admittedly, a dishwasher will not be the first major household appliance the mister and I purchase. That will be a washer and dryer for the clothes. But shortly on the heels of that will come a dishwasher, and I will probably sit in the kitchen floor and stare at it admiringly for the first few days.

I’ll cover it lovingly in magnets like my grandmother does. I’ll fill it with care and empty it with love. It will be as much a part of our family as our pets and children. And when it ultimately washes its last dish, I will have the mister dig a giant hole in the backyard under a favorite tree so we can bury it with dignity beneath a headstone bearing appropriately loving sentiments.

People will come from miles around to see the Great Buried Dishwasher. We’ll be a national tourist attraction. Which, of course, will finance the purchase of new and improved kitchen appliances.

…NOT, as my husband would like to think, his “mid-life crisis car” (which he has, at 22, already picked out, by the way).

Coveting Quarters

Twenty-five is my favorite number.

It’s half of 50, one fourth of 100, 5 x 5 and the letters for mine and my brother’s first initials (B=2, E=5).

It’s also what you have to put in the washers at the Laundromat. Eight of them, to be precise. Two dollars a load. And you can’t have other change that equals two dollars. No, you must have quarters.

It amazes me how attached I’ve become to those little coins. I squirrel them away in a big pill bottle full of our laundry money. I count them at least three times before heading to the Laundromat. And every time I forget and hand one over as change at the grocery store, I feel a little voice inside me screaming.

My quarter! Why did I just use my quarter? I have two dimes and a nickel to use instead. Oh please, nice cashier lady, would you please trade me back my quarter?

I want to ask. But I don’t. Because that would just be sad.

Even though I spent four years behind a cash register, and if someone had asked me to trade back their quarter for laundry money, I would have understood. Sometimes I wonder how many quarters I put into my drawer that the customer was secretly wishing to trade back.

Like the other day at Dollar General – I had just finished loading the laundry and went to buy toilet paper. Getting out of the car, I realized I had left my wallet at home. All I had was that precious roll of quarters.

Toilet paper or quarters. Toilet paper or quarters. I am sad to say I actually deliberated about this for several minutes. Ultimately, the thought of that one last square clinging to the roll in the bathroom drove me inside.

The total was 1.26 (I had found the cheapest package in the store), and as I handed over six quarters I felt like I was committing a crime. Six whole quarters!! I actually felt joy when the cashier found a penny and handed back one of my precious coins.

When I got back to the apartment and explained my terrible mistake, the mister’s first question was not, “Why were you driving without a license?” It was, “Do we have any quarters left?!”

I’ve heard it said that “Only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.” One of my favorite newspaper columnists, Lenore Skomal, added laundry to that list and I am learning to agree.

It will likely be several years yet before I am released from the task of loading our laundry baskets into the back seat, carrying everything into the laundry building and returning every 45 minutes until the clothes have been cleaned, transferred to the dryers and pronounced finished. Someday. . . I can have my own washer and dryer.

Oh how I long for the days of my mother’s washing machine. There it sits, in its own little room off the kitchen, with its many fancy cycle buttons glowing softly in the dark. Temperature settings, fabric settings, load size settings, timer settings, stain removal settings. . .

I only have two settings: cold and hot. And they take the same number of quarters.

I try to remind myself that at least I don’t have to walk to the river and battle the alligators to scrub our clothes clean. But all I can ever think is that at least those women don’t have to pump quarters into the riverbank.

Where in the World is Hwy 54?

My Tennessee map says Martin and Trenton are connected by two key highways: south 45 and south 54.

The problem, though, as the mister and I discovered early Friday morning, is that west Tennessee confuses the poop out of Google maps.

The directions we printed said to turn right onto highway 54/Main Street about 20 minutes south of Martin. Well, there is a Main Street intersection in Greenfield (about 20 minutes south of Martin). This intersection also has a sign indicating that highway 54 north branches to the left.

So, logically, to follow 54 south we turned right at this intersection. We drove around a school and through some dead-end residential areas for ten minutes before deciding this was definitely not a highway and was not going to take us to Trenton.

So we take option number two: continue south of Greenfield on highway 45. We got to Bradford and found a sign that said 54, with no directions or other instructions to help the wayward traveler. We turn right, hoping this is the right highway. Again, ten minutes of wandering and no luck.

By this point, 8 a.m. (our appointment time in Trenton) is getting closer and we’re no closer to figuring out how to get there. I’ve called several local friends for directions and none of them answer. I’ve asked the mister to call the animal clinic we’re meeting with to ask for directions, but of course he can figure it out himself.

We eventually found a sign pointing to Trenton (on a different highway) and at least end up in the right city. Another 20 minutes of wandering through and around Trenton puts us on yet another highway. . . a highway that leads straight back to Martin.

. . . that we could have taken in the first place.

Of course.

I’ve always considered the mister a practical person, but his true “man-side” came out when I asked him repeatedly to call for directions and he continued to insist that he could figure it out. All the while saying how lost we were and asking why I didn’t bring my GPS.

And of course, when he finally does call, we spot the building just as the receptionist answers. Somehow proving his point that we did not need directions. Even though we found the building completely by accident. And we were ten minutes late.

But thankfully, the veterinarians we were meeting were even later than us, so our panic turned out to be for nothing. But still, why is it such a big deal to ask for directions????

(I must add as a final note that the mister’s first question upon our arrival was, “There’s going to be a blog about this, isn’t there?”)