The awwws and ughs of Schnauzers

March 28, 2016 | My Jottings

If you’ve visited my blog much you know that we have two Miniature German Schnauzers. Edith Elaine Bubbleloo (Edith) and Mildred Virginia Sizzlelorum (Millie) are 14 and 10 years old, respectively. We are schmitten schnauzer folks without a doubt, and the small breed’s traits of affection, loyalty, cleanliness (no fur and no shedding) and devotion to their owners has won us over four times now, as Millie and Edith are our third and fourth foray into the schnauzery world of über vigilance and shrieky, high pitched barking.

There are so many awwww moments with these little girl doggies, like this one below. I took this photo with my iPhone a while back, of Millie stretched out on a plaid wingback chair in our living room, head resting on the arm, looking at me the whole time as if saying, “Do you have anything fun planned next?” I couldn’t resist putting it on Instagram as you see here, and calling Millie a doggie diva.



Isn’t she just about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? She had just been to The Bad Lady (their name for the groomer) and her beard was short and puppy looking.

A while later, I started following a superbly talented artist on Instagram who draws schnauzers. She randomly picks photos from her schnauzer owner IG followers and surprises them with a sketch of their dog. Yesterday I woke to find this on my instagram feed, her drawing of the photo above:



What a likeness! It was such a great surprise and gift, and it made me say “awwwww” and then show it to anyone else I felt sure would also say, “awwwww.”

Now we’re moving onto the “ughs” of schnauzerdom. Edith, our 14 year old elderly lady schnauzer, has a huge, benign tumor in her left thigh. We’ve been to the vet and it has been biopsied so we know it’s not going to spread systemically. But it’s a lipoma that is infiltrating her leg muscles and her thigh is about three times the size it should be. She walks well albeit stiffly, and has to be very careful how she lays down since her leg won’t bend easily. I keep an eye on her for three things: lack of thirst, lack of appetite, and pain. So far, she hasn’t shown any of those, so we take it day by day. As hard as it will be when the time comes, I believe in her own way she is trusting me to make sure she doesn’t suffer more than she can bear, and to make the final decision for her. I can’t think about it much, really, or tears come. She has been such a patient, faithful doogins to our family and to her younger sister who came in and demanded to be Alpha when Edith was four years old and Millie was only six weeks.

Because Edith’s lipoma presses up against her urethra, she has to go potty outside a lot now. Gone are the days when we could let the dogs out morning, noon and night. Now it’s more like 5:15 a.m., 7:30, 10:00, noon, 2:00, 4:30, 6:30, 8:00 and then right before bed. No exaggeration. We have had an accident or four, and since I am more than a little OCD about my carpet, I try to stay on top of the task of letting the dogs out frequently. Even so, I’ve stepped in a few wet spots on the carpet before, so I decided to buy an inexpective black light flash light designed to help you find old urine stains in your carpet that aren’t showing up normally.


The light arrived recently and I waited until dark to walk around our living room and my bedroom to see if there were a few spots I’d missed. And I said to myself, “Oh. My. Gosh.” Because Edith’s urinary offerings don’t smell much and don’t discolor the carpet, I’ve missed a lot.

Here’s a photo I took this morning (black light photography is not my thing), and the very bright spot in the middle of the ring is part of a urine spot about the size of the palm of your hand. Take away the black light, and you can’t see one iota of the spot. Who knows how long this has been there?



I found at least six stains on our living room carpet this way, and about ten in my bedroom with the deep, off-white shag carpet. I wearily groaned, “Uggghhhhhhh!” I’ve already learned that scrubbing and soaking and wicking and rescrubbing and rinsing doesn’t do much. I need an enzyme cleaner apparently, which was ordered about an hour ago.

Later this week I’ll be starting my first day at the University for Seniors, and I’m quite looking forward to that. And I’m also considering a huge lifestyle change that is making me cringe often enough that I may not have the courage for it. But at least I’m praying about it.

That’s always a good place to start.

One day and dream at a time

March 18, 2016 | My Jottings

I have a blessed morning at home planned, with only puttering to do today. I love looking at my calendar and seeing white space on a given day. When I think ahead to when I’m finished with this post, the thought of cleaning the kitchen, folding a load of laundry, writing out a few bills, and putting something in the crock pot for dinner, a contented sigh forms in my heart. Then, sitting down with a cup of tea and my CBS lesson, my Bible and journal in hand, seems like riches untold.

Yesterday we had some snowfall and this morning the wind is whipping our across-the-street neighbor’s Norwegian flag to tatters. The sky is low and grey, and every branch and twig is outlined in white against the dark, drab colors of tree bark everywhere I look. Minnesota may be known for her lakes, but there must be ten trillion trees in our fair state as well. I can see the steely blue choppiness of Lake Superior from my bedroom window as I type, perched on my bed with Mildred the Schnauzer breathing heavily next to me.

Do any of you listen to Pandora radio online? I do now and then, especially when I’m in my office doing paperwork for our foster gals. Well, I happened upon a new Pandora station, and if you like old music, you might like to try the Pied Pipers station. Click here for a sample of the kind of music it plays. I’m not sure why, but this kind of music is absolutely transporting to me. I love it.

Now that I’ve finished reading Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place again, I’ve felt compelled to immerse myself in all her books. I didn’t know there were so many. I bought at least eight, and they’re trickling in from different used booksellers now. I’ve started with In My Father’s House, which is all about Corrie’s young life before the years of The Hiding Place began. hiding-placeThis photo is of Corrie in her old bedroom in the Beje, her home in Holland, standing in front of the tiny bricked up “room” where the ten Booms hid Jews during World War II. Her home is a small museum now and oh, how I would love to visit someday.

The family life which Corrie’s loving, wise and godly parents provided for every member is absolutely inspiring. Such a rich heritage she had! It’s so clear to see how she was being prepared for the extraordinary and difficult life God planned for her. The way her parents taught Corrie and her siblings to pray makes my heart wrench. They taught them to pray not by lessons, but by living lives of prayer. They talked to God in front of their children in loving, constant, lively and effortless ways, instilling in all of them how deeply loved and secure they were in God’s will. I don’t know what God is preparing me for, but I certainly feel as though I must, must, must soak in everything He might want to teach me through this blessed servant. I want to talk to Corrie and Betsie ten Boom in heaven someday! I want to hear their stories first hand, want to rejoice with them about the ways Jesus became more and more beautiful to them. I know these might seem like silly daydreams to some, but I even wonder if Michael has met them yet.

I’ve taken a leap of sorts, and enrolled in The University for Seniors, at our local University of Minnesota-Duluth campus. I know a couple of people who’ve attended for years, and they rave about how enjoyable it is. One must be over 50 to enroll (I’m 58), and there are many interesting and quirky classes offered, three quarters a year. Some are brainy classes, like the one this quarter about the Higgs boson particle. It only costs $140 per quarter to attend, and you can take up to ten classes each term, so that’s quite a bargain I think. I signed up for two — “Great Books,” which covers some of the best short stories ever written, and “Memory to Memoir,” which is a writing class. I love the academic setting even though it’s been years since I’ve been an official student, and I’m very excited to begin. I’ve never stopped being curious and I love to learn, so hopefully this new frontier will bring enjoyable challenges.

I’m off to putter now. God’s peace to every one…

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 126

March 16, 2016 | My Jottings

“It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.”  — C.S. Lewis

And these are only some of them…

March 11, 2016 | My Jottings

I love decorative pillows. I like solid color couches and beds that are dressed up with colorful pillows with different prints. I like plaids and florals paired, buffalo checks and toiles, solids and different shapes and styles. I think throw pillows add texture, richness and whimsy to a room. It would not be out of my decorating realm to get a Schnauzer pillow one day, either. Something super classy, like this. 🙂

Here is what the pillows on my bed look like this week — and there are three or four more I didn’t grab:


I think I might have to put a schematic drawing in my nightstand, to help me remember how they should be placed. I like them just so. Although this is not my favorite arrangement.

And here’s little Phoebe the parakeet, who is the house chatterbox and flibbertigibbet.


She’s wishing everyone a good weekend, even though we’re all going to lose an hour of sleep on Saturday night.

When love is blocked

March 9, 2016 | My Jottings

Yesterday I went to my Community Bible Study class and came home so grateful for all it has meant in my life. If I could stand out on a corner (like they do on election days) waving and smiling at people as they drive by, and holding a sign that says, “Community Bible Study today — you should try it!” and I thought it would bring one person to CBS, I might do it.

CBS gives me more than church ever has, and I’m not in any way denigrating church. The deep, personal study of God’s Word, challenging, practical questions that help me see that what Isaiah (the book we’re studying this year) had to say has everything to do with my life today, the joy of getting to know women of all ages in a quiet, non-threatening setting, gleaning from each other in our core group discussions, and the nuggets of truth we take home from the short lecture that sums everything up — this is what nourishes me week after week, year after year. I’ve been going to CBS nineteen years now, which means I started in my thirties, went through my forties, and have continued on into my fifties. If the Lord should give me many more years on earth, I hope I can journey through my sixties and seventies in Community Bible Study. I’m hoping to be in heaven before I see my eighties, though. Here’s a little video with a few people saying what CBS has meant to them.

My next door neighbor Martha invited me over for tea yesterday after I got home from CBS, and we had a nice visit. She’s a very young sixty-nine years old, and is also a widow. We trade books, chat about our lives and hopes, and I (yes I did) invited her to Community Bible Study. She has another commitment on Tuesdays but said if it ever changed, she would come to CBS with me. I showed Martha how to use her DVR then came home to make a dinner I’d planned with ingredients I knew I had in the house, except after I got the meat prepared I realized the main ingredients I thought I had were gone. You can’t make a taco casserole without tortillas and cheese and chilies, in my opinion. So I improvised and no one died.

Tonight we’ll go out to dinner to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of one of my foster gals. Each year on my fosters’ birthdays they choose which restaurant they prefer, and their parents and friends are invited, and it’s usually a fun time for all. Since dogsledding last Sunday was a total blast, having a nice dinner out will be the icing on the cake for our gal’s BD, and I know she will talk about it happily for a long time to come.

Did you watch the last episode of Downton Abbey? Sara and I did, and we were so happy about most of the endings the characters were given. I was thrilled for Edith and quite inwardly smug that she was going to outrank Mary (and her whole family) after being mistreated by her sister for most of her life. I was not a great fan of Edith’s new husband Bertie, but that’s okay. I also loved Mr. Mason’s veiled assurance to Mrs. Patmore that romantic things were ahead for them. Yesss! And when Barrow was given the position of head butler because Mr. Carson had to step down due to his palsy (Parkinson’s disease), I teared up. Somehow I believed that the new page Barrow was attempting to turn in his life would cause him to treat Mr. Carson with much more kindness than he was ever given. And all those Happy New Year kisses at the end, with Mrs. Hughes/Carson starting them all off singing “Auld Lang Syne?” So wonderful. If you watched, what did you think? Did anything surprise you or delight you? Would you have written someone’s ending another way? I read online that someone said, “We’re all a little Downton in the dumps today, since the show is over.” Indeed, I thought, what in the world will I ever watch now?

I’m about half way through my fourth reading of The Hiding Place, and I’m going to share a quote with you that was so wise and powerful, so painfully beautiful to me. Corrie ten Boom fell in love once in her life, with a young Dutch man named Karel. They talked of marriage, what kind of house they’d like to live in, and their relationship was innocent and tender and full of hope for Corrie. But Karel’s parents had intended for him to “marry well” and he was going to do what they wished. So when (insensitive) Karel came to the ten Boom door one day with his new fiancee on his arm, introducing her to Corrie and the rest of her family, she was devastated. Here are her words:

“Somehow the half-hour passed. Somehow I managed to shake her hand, then Karel’s hand, and to wish them every happiness. Betsie took them down to the door. Before it clicked shut, I was fleeing up the stairs to my own room at the top of the house where the tears would come.

“How long I lay on my bed sobbing for the one love of my life I do not know. Later, I heard Father’s footsteps coming up the stairs. For a moment I was a little girl again, waiting for him to tuck the blankets tight. But this was a hurt that no blanket could shut out, and suddenly I was afraid of what Father would say. Afraid he would say, ‘There’ll be someone else soon,’ and that forever afterward this untruth would lie between us. For in some deep part of me I knew already that there would not–soon or ever–be anyone else.

“The sweet cigar-smell came into the room with Father. And of course he did not say the false, idle words.

“‘Corrie,’ he began instead, ‘do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.

“‘There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.

“‘God loves Karel–even more than you do–and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way.’

“I did not know, as I listened to Father’s footsteps winding back down the stairs, that he had given me more than the key to this hard moment. I did not know that he had put into my hands the secret that would open far darker rooms than this–places where there was not, on a human level, anything to love at all.

“I was still in kindergarten in these matters of love. My task just then was to give up my feeling for Karel without giving up the joy and wonder that had grown with it. And so, that very hour, lying there on my bed, I whispered this enormous prayer:

“‘Lord, I give You the way I feel about Karel, my thoughts about our future–oh, You know! Everything! Give me Your way of seeing Karel instead. Help me to love him that way. That much.’

“And even as I said the words I fell asleep.”

If ever something called for a pause, this does.

Aside from being overcome by the beauty of this pure and shining truth, I began to ponder all the ways love is blocked. Or the ways that allow it to flow freely.

Pride blocks love. Divorce blocks love too. It dams it up for our children and sometimes only lets little trickles come through. War blocks love. Selfishness blocks love. Anger blocks it. And greed. And lying. Busyness blocks it too. Anything we do which is contrary to what God has designed, blocks perfect love. Sometimes I wonder how God, who IS love, bears it as He watches His people fumble along in their selfishness and sin, being impediments to His love instead of conduits. And I also wonder how His great smile looks when he finds someone trying to let that love flow to others, however feeble their attempts.

I thought about all the ways in which I’ve allowed love to be blocked in my life, and the ways I have blocked love in the lives of those I love, and of course the tears fell. In my own family of origin, all of us had this great capacity for love, I believe. Some of the wider channels for love to flow were the traits I saw in all of us…like generosity, words of affirmation, physical affection, time given to people in need, and a desire for God.


But the deep and wide channels God built into my family’s lives for His love to freely flow, were often clogged by the negative things mentioned above. And of course destruction followed. And the saddest thing of all is that many of those ancient familial channels are still clogged with sin’s debris. Dried up rivers full of pride and anger and arrogance and bitterness. And nothing will ever make those bone-dry channels flow with love again, apart from a colossal move of God.

Maybe this is why most everyone is so satisfied with the ending of Downton Abbey. Could it be that simple? Yes, we loved the clothes and the attention to detail and the glimpses into the lives of the English aristocracy, but we all just longed for love to flow for all of them. And I’m not talking about mere romantic love. I mean kindness and respect and deference and humility and reconciliation and selflessness. The love described in 1 Corinthians 13. There’s something innate in all of us, placed there by God, that yearns for love and good to flow unhindered, and we feel real, wrenching pain when that love is blocked.

Maybe one of the reasons I love CBS so much is that God’s love flows freely there. His love for His people pours from His Word right into our hearts. We learn to love each other in our core groups, many of us experiencing a “debris removal” as we sit around His Word week after week.

I think Casper ten Boom’s words of truth and comfort to his grieving daughter Corrie ring out with a beauty that pierces the heart. Certainly God used them to help equip her for the the extraordinary future He had planned for her.

When love is blocked, it brings such pain.

When God’s love is allowed to surge through our lives, joy and hope and strength come.

These are just some of my fragmented thoughts today. I’m praying that God will forgive and remove the sin that clogs my life. I want to love, but often look back at a situation and see I’ve missed it.

Community Bible Study and Corrie ten Boom’s story are making way in my life, I pray.

“Let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.'”   –John 7:38

Cooking, Cataracts, Corrie and the Circus

March 4, 2016 | My Jottings

Every Friday, one of my foster gals crows, “TGIF! Thank God it’s Friday!” and we all heartily join in with her. I like Fridays too. I have a nice day planned and I hope you do as well.

You might never guess by the sun streaming into the windows on the front of our house that a big snowstorm is making its way toward us. Beginning around noon, we’re supposed to get up to three inches today, and I guess this might be our “March comes in like a lion” storm. I told Vivienne and Audrey yesterday while I was driving them home from school that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb and suddenly there was quiet in the back seat as they both contemplated what the heck Grandma was talking about.

sunphoto (1)

I’ll be driving out into the country today to have lunch at my friend Lana’s new house. She and her husband John have retired to a lake home and I haven’t seen it yet. I have no idea what she’s preparing (except she knows I am not a tuna or lima bean fan) but I know it will be a restful, refreshing time. That’s the way Lana is. Have you ever met anyone whose presence and home and way of speaking and listening ushers you into a state of calm and grace? Aren’t they wonderful people? Lana is like that.

I tried to watch part of the Republican debate last night and was able to endure about five minutes. I have no idea why I subjected myself to even that amount of time. I guess I’m just hoping I’ll eventually see some respect, humility, reasonable ideas, dignity and true leadership. Those who had any of that to offer have already dropped out of the race, and what we have left are supposed Christians who are now reduced to talking about genital size and yoga. It’s like a political circus and I keep waiting for the lady on the trapeze to swing down from overhead or the clown to drive up in his mini-car, honking his horn, while this music plays. This American presidential election is an embarrassment, and it makes me feel sad. It makes me wish I could be an expat and buy a little cottage in the Highlands of Scotland and move. I sound like a traitor saying that probably, but I guess all of us have said things out of discouragement at one time or another.

mornphoto (1)

A breath of fresh air in all of this is the book I’m reading right now. I’ve read it twice before years ago, but I’ve picked up the newest edition (with new photos) of The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Oh, there’s such beauty in that book. True, elevating, aching beauty, that inspires me to pray and praise and repent. If you have never read The Hiding Place or haven’t read it in years, I encourage you to pick it up again. It seems more appropriate than ever, with all that’s going on in our world.

We’ve been eating delicious soup for two nights now. My friend Carey is a wonderful cook and baker who actually enjoys it. I like to cook and bake if I’m having company, but it has become something I don’t look forward to as much as I used to. Maybe I miss Michael’s oohs and aahs of appreciation when I used to cook for him. Anyway, Carey comes over every couple of weeks after Community Bible Study, and cooks a big pot of whatever I ask her to make. While she cheerfully chops and stirs, I sit at the dining room table and catch up on my piles of paperwork, and we chat. And laugh, and cry. And then I have at least three nights of dinner to serve to my happy campers that I don’t have to make myself, and is truly better than any restaurant fare.

I asked Carey to make a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen recently, and it was definitely moanworthy. Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, with a variety of fresh mushrooms, Minnesota wild rice, chives, a bit of tomato paste in the rich broth. Here’s a photo from the ATK website, and ours looked just like it:


On Sunday I’ll be taking my two foster residents dogsledding. One of them has been obsessed with the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon her whole adult life, so when I learned of an organization which takes folks with disabilities on dog sled rides through the snowy woods of northern Minnesota, I signed my gals up.

Here’s our powerful and indefatigable sled dog.

milphoto (1)

Her name is Mildred Virginia Sizzlelorum and she dashes through the snow in her dreams, while she’s stretched out in “her” plaid wingback chair in the living room, her closed eyes rolling with REM sleep, those schnauzery eyebrows twitching, and adorable muffled barks puffing out her little doggy cheeks.

I went to the eye doctor yesterday since my distance vision has become remarkably blurry, and learned why. I have cataracts. Oh yay. I won’t schedule surgery quite yet, because as I age it takes me a while to mentally process big things. I’m noticing other quirks of aging too, that make me laugh at myself. That might be a blog post for another day.

I have one more recommendation before I post this and start my day. Audrey Assad has a new CD out called Inheritance, and it’s beautiful. She says she made this CD with these particular songs, to help her pray. She calls it “a soundtrack for prayer.” I bought it and understand why she said that. It’s a worshipful CD that helps me put my mind on the Lord, rather than perseverate on all the situations that beckon me down into the ditch of despair. If you need an occasional hand out of the ditch of despair, you might consider this CD. Here’s a sample with video, and here’s another one I love.

What are you listening to these days? What wonderful book have you read more than twice? And more importantly, how are you doing today?

Wednesday’s Word – Edition 125

March 2, 2016 | My Jottings


“And for a widow, that’s how it goes. Remembering, forgetting. Remembering, forgetting.”

Margaret Nyman, (Hope for an Aching Heart – Uplifting Devotions for Widows.)

*         *         *         *         *         *         *