Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Squeaker...

[This post will have to wait a few days to be published, because we have a rule about making it public (as in broadcasting it to the world on the web) when Mark is out of town. This week he's in Costa Rica for business. The events described took place on the night of December 7th and the following day, Thursday, December 8th.]

I am SUCH a sap. 

We have mice. Now, I am not the kind of woman who sees a mouse and runs screaming for help. (I reserve that for spiders, as they are clearly the deadliest creatures on earth and perfectly capable of ripping my arm off and beating me to death with it.) I do not fear or even hate mice, per se, but neither do I appreciate them chewing on and/or pooping all over my stuff. We have made several attempts to deal with them. Poison seems to have no effect. (Judging by the fact that I put it out, they scarf it down, and yet still keep right on living.) We tried one of those live "catch and release" traps but our mice are apparently too smart to fall for it. Neither Mark nor I could quite bring ourselves to set out the old-fashioned snap traps. 1) I don't want to have to empty them; 2) we have cats who would undoubtedly get their noses or feet snapped off while trying to steal the mouse bait. Which brings up the whole thing with the cats.

We have 3 cats. Generally speaking, they are fairly sucky at mouse catching. That, or they are just too lazy to bother. (Mark's theory.) At least one of them is capable of catching mice. There have been a few times the we got up in the morning to find a partially eaten and/or mutilated mouse corpse waiting for us on the kitchen floor. (Gross, I know, but at least she doesn't feel the need to bring her "present" into the bedroom and leave it on the bed for us.) There has been much debate about which cat is the capable, if lazy, mouser. Of the 3, there are 2 candidates: Lily and Marble.

The 3rd cat is not an option. Phoebe is too old to care about chasing much of anything. She spends most of her time sleeping. Plus, she has this frustrating little problem with being unable to retract her claws. We call her the Velcro kitty because she tends to stick to things. Just walking across the carpet can be funny to watch. If she took a swipe at a mouse, the thing would still be stuck her foot hours later. So, either Marble or Lily is our off/on mouser. 

Mark is not a big fan of cats. He prefers dogs. You wouldn't know he has a preference, though, considering how willing he is to buy them toys. Lily generally deems herself above playing with "fake" mice and plastic balls with bells in them. Marble, on the other hand, goes bonkers for all of them. She will carry the fake mice around the house in her mouth, sometimes meowing at them. She chases the jingle balls until she loses them beneath furniture. Watching her play is not only cute, but entertaining as well. Which might explain why, when we were browsing the pet aisle at our local Wal-Mart a few weeks back, Mark took me seriously when I picked up a specific cat toy and joked that we ought to buy it.

Normally, when I get toys for the cats, I stick to the cheapest stuff I can find. I get the multi-packs of ridiculously colored fake mice or plastic jingle balls. This toy was different, though. It was a good-sized fake, stuffed mouse. What makes this mouse so special, besides its cute little ears, is that it makes a realistic squeaking noise. Every time the mouse moves, even just a tiny bit, it squeaks. I joked about how much the cats would love it and Mark was like, "Get it." So we did.
We brought it home and tossed it in the floor and Marble went nuts for it. Lily even plays with it sometimes. The cats find and lose and find and lose it over and over again. We'll see them batting it all over the place and laugh about someone finding "The Squeaker." Then it will disappear for a couple of days. The squeaking is fairly loud, so we can hear it whenever they have it, even if the TV is on. Mark says he's been woken up a few times during the night by the non-stop squeaking while Marble swatted it around. I've never heard it then, but I'm good at tuning those kinds of things out.

So I tell you all this so that I can tell you THIS. I was sitting here last night messing with my computer. Not sure what I was actually doing. Reading or something. Anyway, the TV was on but I wasn't really watching it. Then I heard the squeaker start up and I thought, "Oh, they've found it." I haven't seen or heard it in a few days. There's no telling where it was. I heard the squeak, then the sound of cat feet running around in the kitchen, then more squeaking. This went on for a few minutes before I sat aside the computer and glanced over into the kitchen. That's when I realized that the "squeaker" Lily and Marble were playing with was NOT the one we'd bought in the store.

There, in the middle of the floor, was a little mouse. A live one. Lily was doing that thing cats do where they let it go and wait for it to try to run before they smack it again. Now, as I have said, I do not appreciate the mice making themselves at home in my cabinets. I am always proud of my cats when I find that they've rid the house of one more of the little pests. However, I am way too much of a sap to actually sit and watch them kill one. So, idiot that I am, I got up and grabbed a cup and a paper plate and joined Lily and Marble in chasing the thing around the kitchen. It was pretty much worn out after what it had already been through. Plus, Lily and Marble actually helped herd it. I put the cup on the floor and used the paper plate to prod the mouse into the cup, then stood there trying to figure out what to do next.

If it were summer, I would have just put it outside. No doubt the mouse would have just found its way back into the house, but my primary goal was to not have to watch it die. But it was freezing cold out and since the thing is used to living in the house, I was standing there thinking that tossing it outside would be no better than letting the cats kill it. So I parked myself on the couch with my cup o'mouse beside me and sent Mark an email.

This is the actual email exchange between us.

Me: I heard squeaking & figured the cats were playing with the mouse.

I was right. It just wasn't the one I thought.

I couldn't stand to watch (or listen to) them kill it, so now I have it in a cup & have no idea what to do with it. I'm such a sap!

Mark: Unfortunately if they broke the skin it is dead already. I can get a habitrail for Christmas if otherwise

Me: I think it's actually all right, unless there's some kind of internal damage. It was clearly terrified, but running all over the place trying to escape Lily and Marble. I'm not actually going to try to handle it, of course, but from what I can see, it looks fine physically. It was panting like mad, but has settled down now that it's not getting cat paws to the head. It'd toss it outside, but I figure it'll just freeze to death.

Mark: Keep it. There is a small aquarium in the barn you can get tomorrow rip up the old clothes for bedding water cheese what more does a mouse need until we buy some bedding chips and a habitrail . I not sure what to put it  in until tomorrow. Probably needs water and warm dark place.

Me: Great. A pet mouse. What the heck are we going to call him? Her? God in heaven, I'm screwed up!
Love and miss you. Guess I'll go hunt up something to keep the little twerp in.
Mark: Twerp is a unisex name.
Me: I have to be in Madison tomorrow so assuming the mouse survives the night, I'll stop in at China-mart (our nickname lately for Wal-Mart) and see if they have a small habitrail. At the very least, I'll pick him up some hamster food, as apparently cheese is not actually what they should be fed. Seems that they are lactose intolerant. Who knew? I gave him some dog and cat food, plus some sunflower seeds. Water too, of course. We'll see how it goes.

My appt. tomorrow isn't until 9:45, so you should have no trouble getting hold of me in the morning.

I love you. Twerp loves you, too, since you didn't suggest I let the cats eat him/her. :) happy

And so, Twerp got moved into a fairly large plastic tub that once held kitty litter. This seemed somehow appropriate to me. I stuck him/her in the hall bathroom, so that I could shut the door and prevent the cats from finishing what they'd started. This morning I got up to check on Twerp and sure enough, he/she was fine. (I'm leaning toward she, because as I told Mark earlier, with my luck she's already pregnant and will soon give birth to a dozen more little Twerps.)
The big white thing in front is a toilet paper tube that I put in there thinking Twerp would like the idea of hiding in it. When I first checked on her this morning, she was inside it. I could just see her little butt sticking out. When I went back to check on her right before I left, she'd come out and was just sitting there.

So I went to my doctor's appointment, then went by Wal-Mart and picked up some stuff, including a little cage, complete with wheel, house, and water bottle. I got a couple of different kinds of feed, one for rats and mice that looks like little cardboard bricks and a hamster/gerbil mix that has seeds and stuff in it. Plus Twerp has a little salt wheel to lick and some apple sticks to chew on. Mice are like rabbits that way. They need to chew. Anyway, I got home and put the cage together, then added some bedding/litter made from ground up corn cobs. (I figure Twerp will like to eat that, too.) And finally I was ready to add Twerp. This was a bit more complicated than I expected, mostly because the door on the cage isn't all that large. Plus, Twerp proved to be completely uninterested in getting back into another cup. Eventually, I did convince her to go into her little toilet paper tube and so I picked it up and carefully put her into her new home. She does not like it.

She spent a couple of minutes running around, trying to figure out how to escape through the bars. Then she just parked herself in a corner and glared at me.
Of course, she has no idea that I not only saved her life last night, but am bending over backwards to keep her alive. See, when I got home from the store this morning. I found a gruesome little present waiting for me in the kitchen floor. This mouse - possibly Twerp's sister or brother or even a parent - was not as fortunate as Twerp. I was not here to rescue it. And so all that was left was a head and a bloody smear on the linoleum. (Double gross!)

Apparently, Lily did not appreciate me taking her super realistic "squeaker" away from her last night, so she went and caught herself another one. I do feel kinda sorry for it, but honestly, I'm just glad that she waited until I was gone to do it so that I wouldn't wind up with a pair of mice instead of just the one!

Ah, well, such is life. I don't know what's worse, me for being too much of a sissy to condemn the thing to death (either by cat or by freezing) or Mark for immediately suggesting we keep it like a pet. I have told him many times that when I was a kid I always wanted a hamster or gerbil. I had friends who had one and I thought it was just so cute. Mamma wasn't going for it, though. Dogs and cats were as far into the pet pool as we were going. Well, there were some chickens and a horse. And a duck named Seymour who was actually a female. But no rodents of any kind. Mark had a hamster when he was a kid and it escaped. His mom never quite forgave him for that.

Anyway, we now have a pet mouse. More accurately, we have a captive mouse, since Twerp does not actually seem interested in being a pet. I guess she'll live out her live in comfort and luxury though.

Anybody know how long mice live?

UPDATE: Well, I got up this morning (Friday, Dec. 9) and went to check on Twerp. Apparently, I did not secure the door properly and there was no Twerp in the cage. I looked all over the place, just to make sure, but she/he was gone. I was both saddened and relieved by this.

Then, tonight, right about the time I was due to start getting ready to go pick Mark up at the airport, I heard something fall over on the counter. A second later I heard a cat hit the floor. Sure enough, here came Lily trotting around the bar with a mouse in her mouth. I sighed, then got up and grabbed a cup. By the time I'd done that, Lily had dropped the mouse and it was making a run for it. She and Marble gave chase with me right behind them. This went on for a few minutes, Lily or Marble grabbing the mouse or swatting the mouse, me trying to keep them from killing it, it running behind anything and everything trying to get away from all of us. Eventually, the mouse faked the cats out and ran behind a box. I moved the box and it shot across the kitchen and behind the door that leads to the laundry room. The cats went after it and I followed. None of us was sure if it was still behind the door or if it had gone around the corner into the half bath. I was going in there to check when it took off back toward the kitchen then hung a right and darted across the living room floor. Lily caught sight of it and gave chase all the way to the end table. I sank onto the floor to look under the end table to see if Lily had caught it or if it was hiding somewhere. Right about that time, Katie (the dog) decided that she needed to join the fun. She came over to investigate all the action going on around the end table. The mouse picked that moment to dart out from behind the curtain where it had hidden. It spotted Lily and veered off, disappearing under the couch. Lily came out from under the end table, trying to follow the mouse. Katie took that opportunity to give Lily some of what she'd been dishing out to the mouse. She smacked Lily with her foot and tried to hold her down. Lily was too slick for her, though, and slid out between her back legs.

So, the mouse was safe beneath the couch. I have no idea if it was Twerp or not. If it was, then she clearly didn't learn her lesson about tangling with the cats. Mark came in and took a look at the cage and all the stuff in it and was like, "What mouse would leave this?" I must say I agree. It's a pretty snazzy setup. We're now thinking about getting a gerbil for it.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Old Prejudices...

I am positive that I have talked about racism here before. Being Southern by birth and heritage, it's an inescapable part of me. I openly admit that I had racist parents. But I also will add that they were what I think of as "generational" racists, meaning that they believed and repeated what they'd heard from their own parents. It had nothing to do with their personal experiences with people of color. They just grew up hearing a bunch of garbage and regurgitated it right back out.

This brings to mind a snippet from a live recording of a Carmen concert that I have on tape. On it he quotes Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Then he says, "Basically, garbage in, garbage out." I have never forgotten that. And as it relates to the vast majority of the racism I grew up being exposed to, I know most were just dumping out the same old garbage they'd been ingesting all their lives.

I grew up being exposed to it all, too. I won't even repeat the countless things I remember hearing my parents say. And I know I repeated at least some of it before I was old enough to recognize it for the garbage it was. I also know that my mother at least learned that much of what she'd been taught to believe was wrong. Mostly this came when she was finally in a situation where she worked with a black woman on a daily basis. That experience changed much of how she thought and felt. Still, I can only imagine the bedlam that would have ensued if I had met and fallen in love with someone of color, then tried to bring him home.

Which brings us to the situation that has got me thinking about all this. You may or may not have already heard about it.  But it comes from a Freewill Baptist church in Eastern Kentucky. Here's the link: US Church Bans Mixed-Race Couples.

Man, my heart sank when I first read that headline a day or so ago. Mostly because I knew that it would ignite a firestorm of backlash from untold numbers calling the church in question racists and worse. I know that it is likely less about straightforward racism though, than about a handful of people clinging to old prejudices and Bible verses taken out of context.

God laid out an extensive list of rules for the Israelites. One of them was that they were not to intermarry with other nations. The Old Testament mentions this more than once. Clearly God meant what He was saying. And He was kind enough to give us the reasons why He did not want His people marrying those of other nationalities. That reason is not only a sensible one, but a practical one. In short, He didn't want His people marrying people from other nations because those people would have their own gods and beliefs and this likely would cause the Jews to stray from their devotion to God. Makes a lot of sense. I can't imagine how hard it would be to remain strong in your faith when the person you are closest to not only didn't share it, but urged you to dump your faith and follow theirs. And even if your spouse wasn't pushing you to share their beliefs, it would inhibit complete unity between you if your core beliefs differed. So God forbade His people from mixed-nationality marriage. (Notice I said nationality, not race.)

As a quick aside, He also forbade them from wearing blended fabrics. He commanded that they should wear tassels on the corners of their garments. He commanded that men should not cut the hair on their temples. He commanded that His people observe a series of festivals and feasts throughout the year. He commanded that on the seventh day no work of any kind was to be done. He declared that certain animals could not be eaten because they were "unclean." The list - if you want to call it that - goes on and on and on.

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely believe that God laid down these laws. And I believe that He not only expected but demanded that they be obeyed. There are multiple examples in the Bible of people who flaunted these laws and rules and paid some steep consequences. Many of the great men of God were led astray by wives (or concubines - another thing God did not condone) and wound up turning their backs on God and worshiping other deities. Most of them came back to God eventually, but that straying caused them a lot of grief. So, there is absolutely Biblical evidence that God did indeed prohibit certain marriages.

HOWEVER - and this is the thing that so many seem to either miss or intentionally turn a blind eye to - these edicts about marriage are all in the Old Testament. They are all a part of the Law that was given to the Jews. Which is where the problem with prohibiting interracial marriage TODAY arises.

First, we are not under the Law. Jesus made that abundantly clear. He came to fulfill the Law. And even if one wants to make some kind of argument against that (though I can't imagine how) there is the also ignored point that the Law was given to the Jews, not the rest of the world. I am not a Jew. I am not a descendant of Abraham. Nor, I assume, are any of the members of this Baptist church. Since we are what the Bible refers to as "Gentiles" we have never been under the Law. Not buying that either? Then please, for the love of everything Holy, explain to me why it is that this particular tenet of the Law is the only one that seems to be singled out for adherence? What about that tassel thing? Or not eating pork? Or not wearing clothes made of mixed fabrics? And why is it that I've never heard a Protestant Christian teach or preach that we ought to be observing the Feast of Tabernacles or Passover? What about stoning our kids when they lie to us? Or how about stoning a woman who is raped in a town but didn't scream for help? And if sin is sin (which the Bible tells us it is) then how is any man who cuts the hair at his temples different than someone who marries a person with a different skin color?

You see the problem, I hope. We cannot pick and choose bits and pieces of the Law and claim that they are still in effect without in turn declaring the entire Law to still be our governor. This is exactly what we are taught NOT to do! The Law is not our master any longer. The New Testament tells us repeatedly that we have been freed from the Law. It's rules are no longer binding. Circumcision is no longer required. Sacrifices are no longer necessary. And God made it abundantly clear that the strict separation laws are no longer valid as well.

This is what I have always had trouble understanding. How is it that so many Christians flat out overlook what God tells us in Acts 10? God didn't just tell Peter to go preach to a Gentile. I mean, most Christians will swear with their last breath that God wants everyone to be saved, regardless of the color of their skin. Anyone who would dare to say otherwise is not what I'd call a Christian. Anyway, people have no problem with the idea of people of other colors being saved. (They'd have to flat out ignore that whole Ethiopian getting saved and baptized in Acts 8.) Yet some of these same Christians draw some kind of line at the idea of - lets just say it - a black man marrying a white woman or a white man marrying a black woman. I've often wondered if they would make the same distinction with say a person of Hispanic descent, or Asian, or Native American ancestry, or is it just black/white? I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they would.

So, God tells Peter to go preach to Cornelius, a non-Jew. No problem. But wait, that isn't just what God said in this passage. Remember all those rules from the Old Testament? One of them is "No pork, because it's unclean." Yet, while Peter is praying, his stomach presumably growling because the Bible tells us he was hungry, God gives him a vision. He shows Peter an assortment of animals, some of which were obviously on the "Do Not Eat" list and says, "Get up and kill yourself some food here and eat it." (Obviously I'm paraphrasing, here. If you want the word for word version, read Acts chapter 10.) Peter is not only stunned, but seems to be a bit insulted. He puffs out his chest and says, "No way! I've never eaten anything unclean!" Does God give him a big old pat on the back? Nope, He says, "Don't call anything unclean that I have cleansed." And God didn't just say this once, He repeated it two more times. I reckon He wanted to make sure Peter got the message.

While Peter is sitting there, trying to figure out exactly what God was trying to tell him, here comes a bunch of Gentiles wanting him to come with them. And suddenly, things start to click in his head. He goes off with them and meets Cornelius where he says, "I know it's supposed to be unlawful for me to keep company with a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should call no man common or unclean." The actual verse just for emphasis:
And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Acts 10:28 (KJV)
Peter goes on to point out that he now realizes that God is no respecter of persons, meaning that God has done away with that whole "I'm extra special because I was born a Jew and everyone else is lower than the dirt beneath my feet." (I am not saying that the Jews are no longer "God's chosen people." God made a covenant with them that is everlasting. They hold a unique and special place in God's heart and in His plan. But they are NOT the only ones who can or will be saved. Not anymore.)
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
Acts 10:35 (KJV)
Tell me that this does not expressly say that anyone, in any nation, of any nationality, who fears God and accepts Him is deemed acceptable in His sight. Jesus didn't die just for the Jews. He didn't die only for a select group of people with a single color of skin. The fact is, we are all the same race. We are human. The color of our skin is a quirk of nature and genetics. God is no respecter of persons. He isn't a blue eyed, white man with flowing white hair and beard. Jesus absolutely did not have blonde hair and blue eyes. Which brings us full circle back to old prejudices.

God made it abundantly clear with the story of Cornelius and Peter that the old laws about who the Jews could and could not associate with were null and void thanks to the sacrifice made by His Son, Jesus. Peter points out that it was previously unlawful for a Jew to even spend time with someone from another nation. Never mind marrying one of them. Remember how surprised the Samaritan woman at the well was when Jesus not only spoke to her, but asked her to give him water? She had good reason to be surprised considering Jewish tradition and Law. Yet Jesus Himself refused to be swayed by such prejudices.

He staunchly ignored the Jewish notion of superiority and routinely spent His time with the very people the Jews abhorred. I don't imagine it was easy for Peter and the others to let go of the things they'd spent their lives being taught and possibly even believing themselves. The Bible doesn't give us any extra info about Peter's meeting with Cornelius, like whether or not Peter felt uncomfortable but pushed it aside so that he could honor God by obeying His will. I can't help but wonder if Peter had to remind himself a few times that things were different than they used to be. Oh, wait, I'm pretty sure the Bible told us that he did struggle with such issues. In Galatians 2 Paul has to call Peter to task because Peter is living a dual life, one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles. Basically, Peter seems to understand and accept that God has done away with the separation between the Jews and Gentiles, but when other Jews show up, he falls back into the old prejudices and starts observing the old traditions. So clearly it took some time for old habits and patterns of thinking to be done away with. If Peter had to work at letting go of the prejudices that had been instilled in him all his life, then I don't expect it to be any easier for us.

I don't know how old I was when I first started to realize that the things I'd heard my whole life were based in ignorance and prejudice. I can't remember when I first turned that corner in my understanding. I only know that these days, I'm regularly appalled by the racism I see in people who proclaim themselves to be Christians. (Let's not even get into political and social racism, which is not just a problem with whites.) Got told us that all scripture is given by God and is of benefit to us.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2 Tim 3:16 (KJV)
All means ALL, including the Old Testament. We aren't under the Law any longer, but that doesn't mean that there's no value in it and no lessons to be learned from it. My take from the whole ban on marriage with other nationalities is that there is plenty of reason to be careful when entering into a relationship with someone of a different nationality or "race." Along with different nationalities come different cultures. I've known white people from South Africa who believe and practice things I find exotic and strange. They're white and so fair game as far as marriage goes according to the Kentucky church and those who share their beliefs. But I say that "legal" marriage could be far more troublesome than one between people of different skin colors because if both of them aren't Christians, then all those same problems that God mentioned back in the Old Testament come into play. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, it matters who your God is. This is such a simple, undeniable truth, that I find myself repeatedly stunned by how unwilling some are to accept it.

To be sure, interracial marriage isn't something to be entered into lightly. Obviously, it is still going to cause some issues because there are clearly some out there who find it offensive. But I can see no believable, sustainable argument against it in the Bible. What I do see is Christians, often very decent people, who just can't quite seem to rid themselves of the deeply imbedded threads of racism that they very often aren't even willing to admit they possess. But then that's the flaw we all suffer from, isn't it? We are all incredibly skilled at ignoring and/or excusing our own flaws and failings. And that's why I'm writing this. Because I wonder how many of us are willing to take a long, hard, critical look at why we believe what we believe? How many of us are willing or even able to look at our own motives and beliefs objectively? It isn't an easy thing to do, especially when our beliefs and prejudices are challenged openly. So how about taking a little time wherever you are to look inward at what you believe? Is it really something you can back up with Scripture, or are you merely clinging to things you've heard or been told that conveniently line up with your personal feelings? It would do us all good to ask ourselves these kinds of questions. And it would do the whole world good if we would not just ask the questions, but act on the answers.