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Saturday, September 18, 2010

The things that last

Five years ago I had an idea that blossomed into a dream--an impossible dream. For me, anyway. It involved hard, heavy labor that I simply could not give. I dreamed about having a hobbit hole under a hill in our back yard. Definitely a big undertaking. But I couldn't give it up. So I kept hoping it would happen.
  Well, I've been blessed with a wonderful spouse who tends to take up my projects and finish them for me. We had already agreed on putting a hill in our back yard, and even started it with the dirt from our trampoline pit and sandbox. So when I mentioned how cool it would be to have a hobbit hole in the hill, it only took him a couple of months to get on board.
  He planned and I planned. Between the two of us we dug up a 1/2 price large diameter pipe (delivered by crane into our yard) for the hobbit hole and enough dirt to make the hill. Then I became pregnant. So I watched from the kitchen window while washing dishes and sweeping floors as Joe sweated and hauled and built and refined.
  He was determined that the hobbit hole would last as long as we would. After two years of working against weather, time constraints, human error, and other odds, he finally got the pipe ends fitted to his satisfaction, guaranteed against the elements, and began working on the hill.
  Today Joe and the kids laid sod over the hobbit hole hill. I watched through the kitchen window as I alternated between canning peaches and entertaining the baby. By evening, Joe was still working, so I took the rest of the kids to the community fair. When we came back, I stepped out into the backyard to take in the vision I had dreamed almost four years ago. A hobbit hole was in my back yard.

  Tears sprang to my eyes as I gazed at this wonder, the fulfillment of my dream by my beloved husband, my champion. And it wasn't just the quality of his work or the beauty of the finished product; it was the underlying strength of his devotion to me and to our children that moved me.
  That is the thing that lasts.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I don't like animals much. I think they're cute and I can appreciate a sweet pet, but I just don't have time for animals myself. This must stem from my allergy to cat and rodent dander that went undiagnosed until I was fourteen. It finally clicked what was wrong when I spent the night in our barn under the stars and woke up surrounded by our four cats and choking for breath. It took an entire week to overcome that particular asthma attack, and I have barely pet a cat since.
  That didn't keep us from getting two outdoor cats when we moved into our first real (free-standing) home six years ago. We found a pretty black long hair we named Panther and the sweetest orange Persian we named Pumpkin. Panther is a typical PMS-ing female who loves you one minute and streaks away the next. Pumpkin, on the other hand, was the first cat I really fell in love with in almost twenty years. He adored without being obnoxious, was companionable without being needy, was playful without intensity or injury, and was intelligent without haughtiness. Our little ones pulled him and pushed him, chased him and teased him, laid on him and carted him, and he never once retaliated or even complained. The worst he would do was occasionally trot away when a toddler came around.
  So of course he had to go. A car hit him when he was barely a year old. Losing him nearly killed us too. I still can't give my heart to another animal.
  Which makes things hard when your kids love animals. Ruth wants a new animal almost daily. She and Rachel begged and pleaded for hamsters until we finally gave in when they kept their room clean for a month. After two months, they were tired of the things not wanting to be held, so they sold them and begged for guinea pigs. "They're bigger and will let us hold them!" So we tried guinea pigs. They made too much mess, and I was finding that I couldn't come within ten feet of their room without my throat choking up and itching. So they wanted a lizard, then changed their minds and wanted a Degu, then decided that was too fragile. When they settled on a hedgehog, I told them to wait a whole month and if they still wanted it, and could pay for it, they could have it.
  Well, they got it, and it's a really cute pet. But guess what? Ruth wants a snake. She wants a snake so badly that when Blake found a little one at a family reunion, she cajoled my husband into letting her bring it home. They put it into our old aquarium with sand and branches and water and a few worms. They played with it for a few days, holding it while doing homework or hanging out with friends. Then, slowly, the fervor died down and the snake got less attention. Until it escaped.
  We have no idea how a twelve inch snake could get out of a twelve-inch high tank with a fitted metal cover. But it did. Which is why I didn't want a snake in the first place. So now there was a snake loose in the house and we had no idea where it could be. Again, we spent a lot of time looking for a couple of days, then gave up and forgot about the snake. Until I was folding clothes.
  The laundry had been washed and was waiting in the hampers to be folded. I dumped out a hamper and was about to sit down to fold when the snake slithered panic-stricken from the pile. I yelled for the Blake to come get his snake and tried to head it off from the deep-darkness of under the couch. All three of the big kids converged on the poor thing and had it firmly held, head angling back for a desperate attack on a thumb, in a matter of seconds. It went back into the tank. And it had a lot of attention for the rest of the day.
  After another week of not hearing about or seeing the snake, I decided it would probably starve with all the attention it was getting. But I'm busy and I didn't remember it myself after that. Until I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  I walked blearily into the bathroom and swept aside the black shoelace I saw crumpled at the base of the toilet with my foot. But when it started madly slithering toward the shadows under the vanity, I yelled for my husband to come get the stupid snake that somehow got out again. It ended up obligingly slithering straight into the cup I put down in front of it and we decided to take it straight back to the great outdoors.
  The kids weren't too sad. They figured he'd be happier in his natural habitat anyway, since he got out twice. Besides, Ruth wants a bigger snake anyway.