I’ve been thinking on this blog for months. Actually not just the blog, but the entire website. Does it meet its purpose? Why am I feeling like it’s a weight around my neck lately? Am I burned out? Should I stop writing?
My focus over the past few years has been narrow. I did it that way on purpose. But now I have the God>I website to handle the “narrow focus” part, plus I’m feeling rather squished in this box, the one I put myself in.
You see, I secretly have desired to expand into more lifestyle-oriented topics, yet I want to honor who I am as a child of God. Is that possible?
Well, of course it is, I decided; after all we struggle and think on and marinate in all our daily “stuff.” Things like, should I switch churches? Should I send my child to Christian school? Do I really act as a wife/mother/teacher ought to act? What do other people do when X does XYZ?
And I would like to share my wreaths, handmade jewelry, and *maybe even* my paintings-in-progress with you. And yes, recipes. But I’ve felt that I shouldn’t, in order to be true to the ‘purpose’ of the blog.
Then there’s my voice. I talk to you like I speak in person, but I’d really like to talk to you like I think. Like I speak to myself in my head. The silliness, the fun jokes I don’t ever share; I see humor almost everywhere. Really. You didn’t know that, did you?
You thought I was some serious Jesus freak. You were both right, and wrong.
So friends, we’re gonna fix this thang.
Starting now, we are going to embark on a new adventure. First, I am melding the website and blog into one. It has a new look. (Do you like it? I wanted something reaaaally girly) And I’m going to talk about the mundane things of life, the things that affect us whether we are Christians or not, whether we are thinking Christlike thoughts in that moment or not, and whether we are doing the right thing.
I might even share a recipe or two.
I believe this will enable us to have dialogs that are more real, more honest, and probably deeper than we could in the past. I hope this doesn’t offend my 2,000+ followers. I truly believe it will be for the better — but I know we humans hate change.
If you have ever considered a parrot as a pet, let me tell you that rescuing a parrot is nothing like getting a dog from a shelter. As you know if you read this post, I didn’t really adopt Ernie; he adopted me. I have no knowledge about parrots – only little finches, which are a completely different pet. Finches live in the aviary and I provide food, water, clean papers, and a lot of watching. Parrots are interactive, needing to be talked to and petted and tended to almost like a perpetual toddler.
My parrot? Not so much. He’s afraid of everything, and it’s not simply fear. Everything new is a BIG SCARY MONSTER. Dreams of a chattering parrot that goes everywhere with me are out the window. Dreams of him coming out to greet me are out the window too. He prefers his cage. L
Last night I had a small glass in my hand, and it was very frightening. Yet he sees a coffee cup every day. I have to be careful, thoughtful, about everything I touch or move. For every step forward, there are at least 2 backward. Victories are never large, they are tiny. We’re learning to make a really big deal out of a tiny, seemingly insignificant step.
Not knowing what Ernie went through before makes it tough to be a good Parront [parrot parent]. He’s probably set in his ways in addition to having (I think) little interaction with his previous owner. His cage is near my desk, and if I glance over while he’s eating his breakfast, he stops eating and moves back to the top perch. Sigh.
I’ve purchased several books and videos on parrot training; they have titles like ‘teach your parrot to step up in 20 minutes.’ Ernie isn’t learning in 20 minutes, 20 hours, or 20 days.
The instructions all start with feeding your parrot treats. The training gurus all assume a parrot will automatically get a treat from your fingers. Not Ernie. I suspect he was taught to only eat from a bowl. At first Ernie didn’t seem to like anything – except Zupreem fruit blend, and ONLY the purple ones. He picks them out. He hates the all-natural pellets. I figure he’s probably been on an all-seed diet, so pellets are a step forward, let’s go one step at a time.
After two months of offering various foods, I have recently (finally!) found his favorite treats: almonds and cashews. Next is teaching him to take them from my hand. . He has bitten both me and Mickey trying to take an almond from us—nasty bites. I believe they were both accidents, his aim was off. But today he took 3 in a row with no mishaps. Victory!
Now that he takes treats, he needs a solid “step up” which means step onto my hand. He did this occasionally at first, but seems to have forgotten it. Or he’s bluffing. Did I mention, I don’t speak parrot at all? I have trained dogs and horses, and can glance at them and tell you their energy level. Not so with a parrot. I can’t read him. Fortunately he threatens to bite a couple times before he actually does it—otherwise I’d be sporting a lot more scars. But I stress a lot: Am I treating him right? Does he need more, less, better interaction? Would somebody else do a better job? (I’m pretty sure the answer to the last one is yes).
So for the “step up” command, I read about this great tool. It’s a perch that you hold in your hand, a wooden T shape. It has a clear acrylic cover over the part you hold – so if the parrot tries to bite you, he hits the cover. Perfect, right?
No. It is a big, scary monster. It is so scary that I’ve laid it near his cage for a month, and he still can’t stand it. Last night I held it up to him and said “step up” and he ran to the bottom of the cage. I placed him on the perch and he flew down in a huff, going under the secretary to hide. Poor baby.
As I said, the small victories, tiny forward steps, are to be celebrated. One that we have managed to conquer is getting him out of his cage on a consistent basis. I tie his door open every morning and invite him out throughout the day. He is having none of it. OUT is a scary place.
But in the evening, when the sun sets and it’s finally cooling off outside, he seems to relax. Or maybe it’s me that relaxes. At that time of day, Ernie happily comes out. Well, with a bit of urging. He heads straight for my shoulder. You aren’t supposed to let unpredictable parrots ride on your shoulder but that is where Ernie feels safe. It’s where he’s been since that first day at the shelter. So up he runs, and I ask “wanna go outside?”
We go out and sit near the finch cage and watch the action. Ernie makes the most sound then –he’s silent 98% of the time—he squawks quietly to the finches, as they’re pretty quiet themselves. He occasionally chatters to me, and when he hears the baby finches in the nest he says “baby birds!” Last night, he got off my shoulder on his own and went to his play stand, located near the finch cage. He didn’t want to come back to me when I asked (Victory! Cheer!) So I left him there until nearly dark.
I don’t know where this story will go. It seems like everybody else’s parrot will eat from their plate, drink from their glass, scream to be let out in the mornings, and fly straight to them like a child running to meet a parent. Not so my smart, complicated Ernie. He is a project, a constant work in progress. I am learning not to compare my rescue friend with other people’s feathered ones. Like children, we take what we are dealt and learn to make the most of it. Every day you wake up and learn that lesson over again.
We will continue to celebrate the smallest step. I respect that he is older. I respect his high fear level. I absolutely adore him. If three years from now we are still working on step-up, I will be a little sad but we’ll still be training.
Shy Ernie – How One Bird Changed an Entire Household
or, How a Trip for Bird Seed Turned into a Parrot
I recently acquired a new parrot — he’s called a white-capped pionus. The author of Parrots for Dummies, Nikki Moustaki, has this to say about Pionus:
“The pionus isn’t the most popular parrot — it’s often outflashed, outcolored, outtalked, and outnumbered by many of the more commonly kept parrot species.”
I didn’t know anything (and I mean ANYTHING) about parrots. I have 6 finches which I bought myself for my birthday. They’re lovely and wonderful.
One day I went to the local parrot rescue to see their price on finch food. I stepped into the back and was looking at a bright blue Indian Ringneck (it’s a bird). I can’t explain what happened next.
Somehow Ernie, from behind me, got my attention. Now lest you think that was easy, there are at least 30 birds back there shrieking. If you have never heard parrots scream, go find some and listen; they’re ear-splitting! Among all that, quiet little Ernie spoke to me. I turned around. He sat there quivering, and looked at me sideways. Get me out of here.
I spoke to him a few minutes and left–but you know the rest. I kept going back, and being drawn to him. Everyone at the rescue said “He doesn’t like me!” yet when I picked him up, he went straight up to my shoulder and snuggled, giving a cackly little purr when I scratched his head. I filled out an application and ordered a cage.
My husband was, um. Less than ecstatic. I won’t even go into the ‘discussion’ we had. But I asked him just to go look. “Yeah, you can tell them to cancel the cage order,” he snorted.
Off we went.
But at the rescue, someone had let Ernie out of his cage. “He doesn’t like me!” both people present chorused. I picked him up and he snuggled up on my shoulder. My husband looked at them, at the parrot, back at me. “O-o-k-ay-y,” he said, getting the picture: Ernie had picked me.
We brought Ernie home. He is shy, afraid of everything. At 18, the only owner he’d ever known went into a nursing home. He then went to the parrot rescue, and now a completely different household. Everything new is a monster, and his wings are clipped so to “escape” he flies to the floor where there really are monsters (two dogs and a cat).
He shakes and quakes. I’m simply letting him be, and twice a day giving him rides on my shoulder. We play piano (he sways, and occasionally quacks softly), watch tv, surf the Internet. I sing to him a lot. There was that one day when I took him out on the screened porch but he flew into the pool. I jumped in for a rescue; that will be our last time swimming!
Pionus aren’t the wonderful talkers some other parrots are. They have low, rumbly voices that only a mother can understand. He will occasionally say “Good morning, Ernie,” and once he said “NO NO NO.” One day I mumbled to myself, “oh, goodness,” and I can’t promise he said it, but the inflection and the right syllables were there. Mostly he is silent.
I’m learning everything I can as fast as I can about parrots. We’ve bought as many toys and equipment as any parents of a first newborn child. I’m cooking for him, which makes for conversations like this:
Me: Are you hungry?
Husband: Yes! And what you were cooking smelled wonderful, what is that?
Me: That’s for the birds. You can have a sandwich.
Ernie is exploring foods he apparently has never eaten. He likes it steamed or cooked; he likes orange food; he flings cauliflower.
I’m crazy about him. Totally, unequivocally nuts over this silent creature that I don’t understand.
I knew it was only a matter of time until Fella, my 14-year-old Corgi, would pass. He has been unsteady on his back legs for some time. And yes I know they make those wheelie carts for long dogs who lose mobility, but those are not for him…he was afraid of loud noises, and it would’ve scared him to death, among other things.
So this week he went downhill fast. He had a yucky discharge from the nose, he has battled some sort of infection all around his lips for a year, he started dragging himself around by his front legs, refusing to even try the back ones any more. He was also losing control of his bladder. He’d seen vets in TN twice and FL twice, and I was dosing and applying and all the things you do when your dog is a senior citizen. I was even carrying him outside and holding up the back end for him to potty. It wasn’t working.
My husband went out of town and I sorta knew I’d be the one left with the duty of watching him die, or worse having him PTS. I hate putting pets to sleep. It seems like I’m playing God, making decisions that may or may not be the right ones. But I’d been praying that he wouldn’t have to suffer (the dog, that is) and yesterday and today he was suffering.
Speaking of God, you know that for me He’s always right in the middle of what I’m doing and today was no different. All night Fella dragged himself this way and that, trying to get comfortable. During the night I got up and tried to take him potty, which he refused, and served up 2 whole bowls of water, which he gulped from a lying-down position. I awoke with a start at 8:15 and started to call the vet when that still, small voice said wait until 9:00.
So I sat on the edge of the bed and waited. Watching Fella try to breathe, I thought he was going to die about then. I texted my husband: Fella’s all but gone.
During the wait, the Lord spoke to me about these decisions we must make for those who can’t do it themselves, and how it is best that little dogs not suffer, and it’s up to me to keep him from it.
At 9:00 Fella was still hanging on with labored breathing and my husband texted me. I’ll be praying for you. So that was what I waited for—someone to pray on my behalf, as I certainly couldn’t do it on my own. Someone to care what I was going through all alone. I called the vet.
I noticed then it was raining, which is important to the next part I’m going to tell you. I put up the top on the convertible and put a towel on the seat for Fella so he wouldn’t slide. Then I carried him to the car and turned it on. “We’re going to listen to ‘Praise you In This Storm’ by Casting Crowns,” the radio announcer said.
Not only is that one of my favorite songs, but the words were so appropriate I knew that it was the Spirit once again reaching to my heart. Here’s what I heard as I backed out of the drive: I was sure by now God You would have reached down And wiped our tears away Stepped in and saved the day But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining
(The last line as I tried to find the windshield wiper button on my new-to-me car.) The song was exactly what I needed in that moment. The rest of the song is printed below, as well as a link to the video. Even in the horrid grief of what I was about to do I knew I could lift my hands because God is God and He is on His throne. Oh, except I didn’t lift my hands since I was driving. I so appreciate that God cares for the sparrow and even for my ailing, aged dog. I wish I had a better word to describe how much His goodness means to me–appreciate sounds so small.
The vet’s office is very good to whisk you right in, so I put him on the table but he scooted over against me and stuffed his head under my arm. A tech came and held him tight as he struggled—now I wish I had been the one to hold him—and they administered that last painful shot.
It is a blessing that we have this kind of service, that we are able to make decisions for our pets and give them comfort instead of pain. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t bawling my eyes out through the entire thing. I came home and flopped on the floor and cried like never before. Noelle the Honorary Corgi rolled around on me and tried to comfort me; mostly she covered me in hair. I thought only Fella understood my feelings but maybe Noelle pays attention too. Piper, a Maltese, licked crazily like she does every time I come through the door.
“Fella won’t be back,” I told them, and burst into tears again. Fella, my heart dog. They say you only have one like that. One of my friends told me dogs are angels wrapped in fur. I want that to be true. But mostly I want him to be in the living room tossing a toy up in the air and catching it just to make me laugh.
“Praise You In This Storm”
I was sure by now God You would have reached down And wiped our tears away Stepped in and saved the day But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls I barely hear Your whisper through the rain “I’m with you” And as Your mercy falls I raise my hands and praise the God who gives And takes away
[Chorus:] And I’ll praise You in this storm And I will lift my hands For You are who You are No matter where I am And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand You never left my side And though my heart is torn I will praise You in this storm
I remember when I stumbled in the wind You heard my cry to you And you raised me up again My strength is almost gone How can I carry on If I can’t find You
But as the thunder rolls I barely hear You whisper through the rain “I’m with you” And as Your mercy falls I raise my hands and praise the God who gives And takes away
I lift my eyes unto the hills Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord The Maker of Heaven and Earth