Evening Desert Walks

In the evening, when the sun is not as intense in the hot desert summer sky, I take my dog for his walks.  I really should say “our” walks because I need them just as much as he does, sitting inside the house with cold air blowing on me all day gives me a case of cabin fever.  Once I see the living room clock point at 7pm I know it’s time to break free from my air-conditioned prison and go outside in the not-so-hot fresh air.

Our favorite place to walk is along the dirt road that begins a quarter a mile from my house.  Once we go past the small cabins along the dirt road it’s open desert and Bo gets to go off his leash.  Bo is a tailless but handsome German Shepherd we got from the Desert Hot Springs pound and his stumpy tail wags as he voices his impatience to go for a walk with his yips and barks, seeing me put on my sneakers and pressing the buttons of my Garmin GPS watch.  He’s jumping and turning circles when I finally get down his leash from its place by the door.

When we go outside Bo pulls at the leash, he knows where we are going, and he could probably take us to the dirt road himself.  We walk along the dirt road with its small vacation cabins  tucked in among cactus gardens and palo verde trees.  They’re empty most of the time, looked after in the owner’s absence by an old couple in a green jeep, their cocker spaniels leaning out of the windows as they circle the driveways of the cabins, leaving tire tracks to make it look like people frequent the cabins.

We finally walk by all the small cabins and came to what I call the Cross Roads, where the  dirt road makes a junction with other dirt roads and depending on what I feel like I could go down to a wash, through hilly terrain, or toward a main road where a church sits on the corner.  I opted for the church road as it’s not used often by dirt bikers and Bo hates dirt bikes.  A dirt bike came from behind us one time and I heard the distinctive whine of the motor too late over the blowing desert wind.  Bo saw it and gave chase to the dirt bike and when the dirt biker saw he had a big dog on his heals he kicked it up into high gear and gave Bo his dust.  It didn’t detour my dog from having a good chase after that dirt bike, finding his way back to me a half mile down the dirt road with his tongue hanging, a doggish grin on his face from the good chase.

It’s only a half mile from the Cross Roads to the Church, a mile round trip, and Bo spends the time searching out rabbits, lizards, and peeing on creosote bushes, trotting contentedly from one location to another.  He must run around twice as far as I do, maybe even three times as far.

An idea came to me and I took of my Garmin GPS watch and looped it through Bo’s collar.  It stayed at the top of his collar, right by his pointed ears, I pressed the start button to begin recording the trip and took off Bo’s leash.  Let’s find out just how far he runs.

Immediately Bo started making his rounds, peeing on a bush here, sniffing a branch there, standing at attention with his ears perked looking intently at a creosote bush where a lizard was hiding.  Meanwhile I continued to walk toward the church.  I reached the church and made the u-turn back toward the Cross Roads with Bo a few feet from me trotting off the path, tongue hanging.

He saw something in the distance toward the Cross Roads and took off after it and for a while I didn’t see him.  I kept walking and noticed that there was a slow moving green Jeep coming down the hill path approaching the Cross Roads.  Where was Bo?  The Jeep slowed down and paused for a moment out of sight behind a swell in the desert.  Uh-oh, I’ll bet Bo is saying hello, I hoped he wasn’t bothering those cocker spaniels.  I started to call Bo and after a few minutes he finally came into view.  I told him what a good boy he was and patted his head all the while continuing to walk to the Cross Roads.  I leashed him when we got there in the middle of the fresh tracks of the Jeep and that was when I saw that Bo was limping a little bit in his front right paw.

Later on, after performing home surgery to remove the cactus thorns lodged in Bo’s front right paw, I took a look at my Garmin watch to see how far Bo went.  There was a film over the watch and I used my finger nail to scratch it off.  What did that come from?  Oh, it’s Bo’s drool, yuck!  The watch settled to the bottom of his collar as he ran and he drooled all over it.  I took a scour pad from the kitchen sink and scrubbed it off then synced the watch with its app on the phone to see the results.

I know that it’s a mile round trip from the Cross Roads to the  church.  Bo went 1.5 miles during that walk.  So does that mean that Bo runs 1.5 times further than I do?  If I did 3 miles would he go 4.5 miles?  Surely more data is needed to make a sound conclusion.  I could also tell from the map on the app that Bo did in fact go and see the old couple in the Jeep.  But he turned around and trotted through the desert when I called.  What a good dog!

 

 

Bible.In.1.Year:The Three Mighty Men

The “begats” finally let up after chapter 9 and now the book of 1 Chronicles is giving a history of King David and Solomon.  The stories that I’ve read about in 1 Chronicles sound like they belong in an old book of legends like “The Adventures of Robin Hood” or “King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table” because there’s all sorts of battles that are recorded and deeds done by “mighty men.”  The best story is one about three mighty men who overheard King David say how much he longed to have a drink from the spring of water in Jerusalem but the Philistines held the city and it was impossible (1 Chronicles 11:15-19).  Not for these nameless three mighty men!  They came together and broke through the stronghold of the Philistines to get the spring water and returned, unscathed, to King David and offered the water to him.

King David didn’t say “Thank you” to these three mighty men and then took a drink, maybe offering the three men a taste for their trouble.  I would have done that.  No, King David showed why he was a king, he took the spring water and poured it out to the Lord.  What a striking way to acknowledge God.  David took what he wanted the most, a drink from a spring in Jerusalem, and sacrificed it to God.  What an example of humility and sacrifice to God.

When I get a gift that I’ve longed for, my first thought is how much I will enjoy it, how much I deserve it.  King David shows us an example of how to be unselfish and how to give freely.  It’s also interesting that the three mighty men are anonymous, their deeds certainly deserve to be recorded, breaking through the Philistine’s stronghold and bringing back water is a notable act.  But their names weren’t recorded in the account in 1 Chronicles.  Being nameless emphasizes their actions were to honor their king and not bring honor to themselves.  It’s another example of selflessness, honoring someone else above yourself.

 

Reading the Bible in a Year

I’ve been an avid Bible reader for a long time and I believe that it is the inspired word of God, useful for teaching and correcting (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  While I’ve read the New Testament many times over I can’t say that I’ve read the Bible in it’s entirety.  I think I’ve missed some Old Testament stuff and I know for sure that I haven’t read any of the “begats” the lineage found in chapters upon chapters of some books of the Bible.  Since I believe that the whole of Scripture is worth while I decided that I should try to read the whole Bible.

My husband for Christmas gave me this beautiful olive green Bible with my name engraved in the bottom right in gold script.  It’s an ESV Study Bible and is about 2-3 inches thick, chock full of notes, commentaries, full-color maps, and in the last few pages, a year-long reading plan.  This reading plan is different than the others I’ve seen because it gives four sections of reading for each day: the Psalms and Wisdom Literature, the Pentateuch and history of Israel, the Chronicles and Prophets, and the Gospels and Epistles.  The fact that there’s a sampling of four different types of books in the Bible appealed to my dynamic personality.  I like to change things up: my nail polish is changed weekly, I like different hand soaps at my sinks, and I enjoy wearing diverse kinds of earrings.  Plugging through the Bible a book at a time, is dreary to me, and I’ve tried it, never making it past Exodus.  By the time I’ve made it through Genesis I’m exhausted.  I’m hoping this new reading plan will help with that.

I know that I will likely not make it to reading the four sections every day and so I will give myself grace when (not if) I miss a day.  I bought a spiral notebook and wrote down, in advance, the week’s readings in a section, undated.  The reading plan in the Bible broke the readings into days and has everything laid out from January to December.  I’ve taken liberties with the plan as I’ve started it on July 1.  I figure the first of July is a reasonable alternative to the first of the year.  The year begins for me in August since I’m a high school teacher, what’s one more month back for the beginning of the school year?

I’ve made it through the first week and have already got a lot out of it.  The introduction to the Daily Bible Study Reading Plan in my ESV Study Bible says that I ought to “…Pray(ing) to the Father that the Spirit will take what all the Scriptures teach about Christ and apply it to your mind and heart and life.”  I have been doing that and I’ve found throughout this week for it to be the case.  I’ve read scriptures this week that my spirit found comfort in and reassurance.  “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3).

I did make it through the first seven chapter of Chronicles without my eyes glazing over too much.  This is one of the books with all the “begats” and lists all the descendants of many, many, people, most of them men.  I perked up whenever the Chronicler mentioned the sister of so-and-so, and I wonder why she was mentioned.  What special thing did she do?  In exasperation on the first day after reading 1 Chronicles 1, I looked in my ESV’s “Introduction to I Chronicles” to find out what the point was for these lists upon lists of descendants. I counted 23 names in a list of descendants one time and thought how impressive that is.  I don’t know 23 of my ancestors!  Why would this be in the Bible?  According to the ESV’s “Introduction of I Chronicles” the point of all those lists of ancestors is to remind the newly-returned exiled Jews that they are still people of God.  It was to remind them of where they came from as I’m sure they had trouble remembering, being in captivity for all those years.

I’m excited to continue this reading plan and see where the Holy Spirit takes me.  This year-long plan may take me a year and a half but I’ll get through it.  The key is to do my reading the same time everyday: in the morning before I start my day.

Here is a link to the ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan that I’m following.  It is meant to be cut into four bookmarks and each reading checked off of as you go and starts on January 1.  I’ve started only a week ago and chose to write down the day’s listing in an undated notebook so I can read the selection and not get confused about the dates or give myself grace when I miss a day.

Pavlov’s Dogs and Candy Dishes

I rewarded myself for finishing my essay by opening my autumn-themed candy dish at my desk.  I carefully lifted the lid to reveal the assortment of See’s hard candy inside. I took the hard candy out and carefully, very carefully, placed the lid back on the candy dish.  It made a slight clinking sound.

Both my children materialized from the other side of the house at the minute sound of the lid returning to the candy dish.  I’m going to have to share my candy. Like Pavlov’s dogs my kids salivate at the sound of the lid clinking against the dish and come running to my desk and say “Can I have some candy?”

It’s not that I mind sharing.  I have enough candy for all but it’s my candy, special stuff that I buy specifically for my candy dish.  Their extra candy is kept in the glass family candy dish near the DVD player and is filled with DumDums, Jolly Ranchers, and Now and Laters.  My children are not candy snobs and like any type of candy that happens to be in the dish. They turn into Pavlov’s dogs at the sound of the family candy dish’s lid being opened and closed too.  I despair of enjoying a piece of any kind of candy without having the pack of Pavlov’s dogs racing toward the clink of the candy dish lid being returned to its base.

My mom kept extra candy in a family candy dish only when she had extra candies left from the holidays.  Extra candy from the Christmas stockings and Easter baskets found its way into the candy dish. After I ate all my own candy I would get into the family candy dish, carefully open the lid, select the candy, and then carefully close the lid afterwards, just in case I wasn’t allowed to have any candy.  That dish always made a slight clang no matter how carefully I tried to return the lid. My sister remedied the problem when she “accidentally” broke the lid in half when she dropped it on the floor while dusting it. It made getting into the candy dish easier because there was no lid to quietly open and return and leftover candy from Christmas and Easter didn’t last long after that.

We had our own “accident” here in our household.  My son plugged in the cord for the DVD player with the candy dish nearby.  The cord tangled around the dish and pulled the dish right onto the floor where the lid smashed into a million pieces.  My son looked at me and I looked at him. It was an accident, I told him, it’s okay. You’re okay? You’re not cut by the glass?  I cleaned up the glass and put the lidless candy dish back to its place, far away from the tangled cords. If it was a planned “accident” it was well planned.  Now our family candy dish doesn’t have a lid on it which will make getting into it much easier.

Short of breaking the lid on my favorite candy dish, which I don’t want to do, I haven’t found a way to cure Pavlov’s dogs from that sound.  Then I got a marvelous idea from my Aunt on a recent family gathering. She said she kept her special candy in the freezer hidden inside an empty frozen vegetable bag.  Genius. Her kids, my cousins, never knew it was there because all they saw were frozen peas.

I had an empty coffee can and put my candy inside.  My candy-filled coffee can was placed in the freezer next to the can of decaf coffee, they’ll never know what’s really inside, I happily told myself.  When I wanted one of my special candies, I opened the freezer and took one from the camouflaged candy can. I unwrapped the candy, popped it into my mouth, and enjoyed having a special piece of my candy alone.  My solitude ended after a few moments when my son rushed into the kitchen, he must have heard the sound of my unwrapping the candy.

“What are you eating Mom?  Can I have some too?”

My camouflaged candy can worked, but my children are conditioned to the sound of candy wrappers too.  I have to wait until they are in bed or out of the house to enjoy a piece of candy alone. That’s too much to ask of myself because when I want a candy, I want one now, so I get one, and usually share some with my kids.

Yellow-Flower Weeds

The first thing that I noticed as I pulled into my driveway coming home from work were all the ankle-high weeds sprouting from my landscaped front yard. The weeds seemed to appear overnight, sprouting through the layered black lining and pushing through the decorative small rocks that make up the majority of the landscaping.  The weeds were a blemish to the perfectly textured terracotta-colored small rocks.

Seeing the front yard like this reminded me that I have weeding to do.  I added it to the list of things I had to do when I went inside the house: make dinner, supervise my kid’s homework, write my essay for my online class, and a bunch of other small tasks that I know will pop up.  I worked all day and I don’t want to do anything. Why should I have to be the one to pull the weeds? Because I’m the only one who’s bothered by them, that’s why. I parked the car, sighed, and went inside.

A little while later, changed out of my work clothes and into my weeding clothes, I began to pull up the easiest and tallest weeds to yank out of the ground.  They are bright green and have a single yellow flower perched above it’s spindly plumage. I’ve seen these types of weeds reach monstrous proportions but I never let them get that big in my yard.  I moved around the front yard focusing only on the yellow-flower weeds. My back soon started to ache and I sat down on the decorative rock which was uncomfortable on my rear-end. Why am I out here?  I already worked my 8 hours today and I still have to make dinner and have an essay to write. I looked up from my uncomfortable seat and surveyed the remaining weeds. There were so many of them, it will take me forever to weed through the whole front yard.  

I stood up and went over to my cactus garden to check the yellow-flower weed status.  I’ve received compliments about my cactus garden from strangers taking their evening walk past my house.  I am fastidious about keeping it free of weeds and there were only a few to pull. I glanced toward my barrel cactus and saw a yellow-flower weed rising above the golden spines, the lone yellow flower swaying in the breeze.

I walked to the barrel cactus, going slow to avoid the spines of the garden, intent on pulling out the offending weed.  I looked down at its base, fingers ready to grasp it like pinchers and pluck it from the earth but sharp golden spines thwart my attack.  The yellow-flower weed sprouted so close to the barrel cactus that I couldn’t get to the base of the weed as it was protected by very sharp golden spines.  The weed grew close to the green flesh of the cactus, twisting and intertwining itself through the spines like a vine. Its yellow flower sprouted just above the topmost spines of the golden-covered barrel.  

This yellow-flower weed clung to the safety of the golden barrel cactus like I am to cling to the old rugged cross.  The golden spines hugged the yellow-flower weed close to it and protected it. The golden barrel cactus was the yellow-weed’s salvation as it saved the weed from certain destruction by my hands.   I remembered the rock of my own salvation and my perspective changed. Weeding my front yard meant that I had a plot of land of my own, having a job meant I was able to provide my family’s material needs, and helping my kids with their homework meant that I had family near me.  

I stood up and looked down at the yellow-flower weed protected by the impenetrable golden spines.  There was no choice but to leave the yellow-flower weed where it was. I’ve heard it said that a weed is just an unwanted flower.  My children have picked yellow-flowered weeds and gave them to me with smiles on their faces, holding out a bouquet of very much wanted flowers.  What an amazing thing perspective is, I thought as I stretched my back, loosening the kinks that come with bending over to weed. I went inside to make dinner, satisfied that I had done enough weeding for the day and refreshed with a new perspective thanks to the rock of my salvation.

What to See in Joshua Tree National Park

My kids and I scrambled up the boulders that form Mastodon Peak on a family hike in the Cottonwood Springs area in Joshua Tree National Park.  It was fun but it was steep. “You’re not allowed to fall!” I told my kids from the back of the line we made as we scrambled up the large boulders that made up the mountain.  “If you fall, fall into the mountain.”

The bouldering was enough that it made me feel I accomplished something once I reached the top.  A couple of women were sitting down and eating sandwiches, looking at the view that went on for miles.  A group of hikers were sitting further down the peak speaking French to each other as they took pictures and selfies.

“This is a great place to eat a sandwich” I said to the women who were eating their peanut butter and jelly as we passed them to find our own perch on this rocky mountain.  Both women agreed with me with enthusiasm and went back to appreciating the view. I opened my backpack and give my kids a couple of brownie-filled cookies as our own Mastodon Peak treat.  We sat down nearby the women to enjoy our cookies and take in the panorama of distant snowy mountains, blue hills, and desert.

One woman mentioned to the other that she should put on sunscreen and dug some out of her backpack leaning on a nearby rock.  She squirted some into her palm and then rubbed her legs and arms. I chat more with the two women. They are from Colorado and are only at Joshua Tree National Park for a couple of days.  They didn’t realize how big it was. I agreed, I’ve been to Joshua Tree a bazillion times and I’m still seeing new things. This was the first time I’ve been up here, on Mastodon Peak.

“What would you suggest we see while we’re here?” Asked one as she put her sunblock away in her backpack.

I shared with them my favorites:

  • Key’s View:  It’s super easy to get to and the view is outstanding.  You can see the Salton Sea over a 100 miles away on a clear day.
  • Hidden Valley Loop:  A short hiking loop through a valley that horse rustlers utilized back when people used to rustle horses.  Across the parking area from the Hidden Valley trailhead are picnic tables and if you wander around the large boulders nearby you’ll come across some “caves” formed by one giant wall of rock placed just a few feet from another.  My kids love running through the passages, their laughter and footsteps echoing off the enormous rock walls.
  • The Cholla Cactus Garden:  It is impressive to see hundreds and hundreds of these large golden-spiked cactus with their dark trunks.  I’ve always wondered about the people who came through the Cholla Garden before there were roads. Did they see all the cholla and turn around, not daring to hack through the forest of the large and daunting cactus?
  • The Forty-Nine Palms Oasis:  Like in the movies, the Forty-Nine Palms Oasis rises out of the desert landscape with its palm trees visible in the distance.  It’s a moderate 1.5 mile there and back hike to the palm trees with actual water pooled at their base. Once you get there, it’s easy to find a shady spot and enjoy your lunch as you watch the birds flitter past to the water below and hear the palm trees rustle in the breeze.

 

The two women opened a map of the park and began to plan their next move armed with my information.  “I’m not sure where we are,” said one woman to her friend “The Rockies aren’t here to guide me!”

Chutes and Ladders

Our Chutes and Ladders game has seen lots of use.  The spinner has long broken apart and the cheap card board playing pieces have torn in half from multiple instances of small hands grasping their middle and counting the squares off, hopping in each square as they are counted.  The game board had to be reinforced with packing tape because it almost tore in two.

Rather than toss this game in the trash, we’ve made it work.  Instead of the spinner with six sections we’re using a die which must land on the game board when tossed.  The cheap cardboard figures have been replaced with small game pieces of choice. Lego mini-figures are our preferred game pieces but any small figure will do.  It has made the game more personalized by far and it is fun to see an armed Star Wars Storm Trooper, a Lego Lady, and a Pokemon march up the ladders and slide down the slides.  What rejoicing when we land on a ladder and what lamentations when we land on a slide.

This is likely why my daughter doesn’t like the game very much.  She is devastated even when her Pokemon lands on the smallest slide.  If she lands on more than two or three slides during the same game, tears of frustration fall down her cheeks and she needs to be encouraged to continue to stay in the game.  My son remains optimistic after he encounters the slides and looks forward to the possibility of landing on a large ladder. The Storm Trooper adjusts his grip on his gun and waits for the next roll of the die confident he’ll land on a ladder eventually.

Chutes and Ladders is a counting game in which there are 100 spaces that need to be crossed before you land in the winner space in box 100.  Along the way are perils in the forms of slides. If you land in a box that a slide begins, you must slide all the way down. Some slides are very long and drop you down several rows down the board and some are short, just taking you back a few spaces.  The beginning of the slide always shows a child being naughty in some way and the base of the slide shows their consequence. The longest slide is for the child who reached high to sneak cookies. His consequence was falling to the ground and a broken cookie jar.  The smallest slide was for the child who went outside and walked through the rain with their shoes off. The result is a cold and three spaces back. The message: sneaking cookies is much worse than going outside with your shoes off.

The game designers placed two slides in boxes 48  and 49 where I succumb to the temptation of skating on thin ice or eating too many cookies (bad things happen with cookies in this game).  The other dangerous row is the last row. From boxes 91 to 100 there are 3 small slides that tempt you just before you get to the winners box.  We always hold our breath as we roll the die, hoping we avoid writing on walls, breaking windows with a baseball bat, or pulling a cat’s tail.

As there are equal slides and ladders, the fun part is when you get a ladder.  The bigger the better as it gets you closer to the finish in box 100. Happiness abounds when you help the cat out of the tree and go up from the 20s row all the way to the 80s row. The best ladder is when you land in the 80 box and shoot directly up two rows to the winners box.  Shouts of joy and happy dances occur when that happens.

The game takes only about 15 minutes to play and we get a lot of bang for our buck.  It lets my kids practice their counting and teaches perseverance. Character is built when the Storm Trooper and Pokemon have to go down a long slide and choose to stay in the game.  There’s nothing like instant cause and effect to illustrate what Stephen Covey says about our actions: “We are free to choose our actions… but we are not free to choose the consequences of these actions.” Sneaking cookies? You will fall down and have a broken cookie jar.  Help a cat out of the tree? You’ll have cat loving you, rubbing your legs, and go up 60 spaces. All in the time frame of 15 minutes and a die.