Lessons in Love from a Hedgehog

As the coordinator of educational experiences for gifted children where I am now working, I like to be there for the end result and see how things go.

This weekend we invited our local zoo to bring their outreach animals and other objects to a class for second and third graders who are studying various biomes and the animals found in each one.

We love our local zoo!  They brought a gopher tortoise, a bard owl, a skull and preserved pelt from a jaguar that once lived at the zoo, and a hedgehog. They also brought a variety of veterinary equipment to demonstrate training techniques, the darting process for medicating dangerous animals, and to expemplify the connections between training and providing medical care. 

I learned along with the children and was just as fascinated, but one thing keeps coming back to my heart.  The hedgehog. 

The hedgehog exhibits a behavior known as self-anointing. The words themselves made me immediately think- now that’s not right- aren’t we supposed to seek God’s anointing? But then I saw him do it and not only did I change my mind, I decided that I wanted to be more like the hedgehog.  Here’s why. . .

In the process of self-anointing, the hedgehog will lick the skin or bark of another animal or object, swish the licked scent, or particles of whatever he licked around in his mouth to create foam, and then lick them back onto himself. Sounds pretty gross, I know.

In the wild, “they” think this helps to protect the hedgehog by making him smell like something else that preditors are more likely to ignore. Now I could have seen this as a negative spiritual lesson, something regarding hiding our identity and not being who we were created to be, but- I noticed something about this particular hedgehog- he was partial.

Which I guess is a southern way of saying he had a distinct preference.

He was surrounded by children who all smelled interesting to him- he made his way around the circle sniffing many small feet that were seated in criss-cross-applesauce fashion as they observed him hunting and eating his favorite worms that the zoo’s veterinarian had placed on the floor for him to find. 

But no matter how many children he sniffed-or even licked – the only person with whom he performed the anointing ritual was the zoo keeper who had held and comforted him as he had sleepily been introduced to each child.  He was partial to her – to her scent, to her comforting hands that held him.

He chose the scent of his provider, protector, and comforter to use for his anointing. He chose to smell like the one he trusted. 

Shouldn’t we all do that with God? Shouldn’t we choose to cover ourselves in His essential character, grace, forgiveness, and love?

I could go on for a long time with all the implications that I am finding, but this time, I will leave you to ponder your own thoughts.  

 

Perspective

When what you know

Shifts all off course

It may not be as bad

As it felt

When the ground began shaking

Maybe

It’s just Jesus

Calling you forth 

From the tomb

You’ve been shrouded in

Thank you

I’ve started to write several different things this summer, but nothing seems to be much more than a beginning. I know that if I focused, the middle and end would take shape, but I still haven’t made it to really writing.

I have, instead, truly enjoyed reading all the updates that the blogs I follow have had recently. Thank you all for your inspiring words and the beautiful way that each of you share your lives. I am grateful.

Turning the Cape Inside Out

When did I ask for it?

When did I say to the world, “Please challenge me!”

When did I begin to take every word spoken to me as a challenge?

I used to think that resilience was found in marching up any of life’s metaphorical hills and shouting in the face of any and all challengers (even at the hill itself) and saying – GET OUTA MY WAY – THIS IS MINE -I’VE GOT THIS COVERED!!!  But the trick was – I’m a nice person, so I didn’t really shout- I just stood there glaring at it all until it decided to go away – a passive aggressive version if you will.

It works pretty well – until a friend tells you you’re an intimidating person. Until a family member tells you you don’t listen.

???? Really? Me? How????

But I’m so nice.

But I’m defending the defenseless against bureaucratic nonsense.

But I’m just trying to right wrongs and make sure that people don’t see the nitpicky things as the important ones.

I don’t yell at people. (At least not outside of my imagination or unless they yelled at me or threatened me first.)

I don’t tell people that aren’t my students what to do. (At least not out loud.)

I don’t drop names. (Unless I’m letting you know to watch out for someone I’ve decided is demented or evil.)

Hmmm….

I think I’m beginning to see something. Maybe, as Joyce Meyer puts it, there is some stinkin’ thinkin’ going on in my mind.

Could it be that my thoughts reflect attitudes that are just slightly (and perhaps importantly) off point and off purpose?

Could the following thoughts be in my way?

  • When I work for something- other people should think it is as important as I do and should therefore give me credit for my efforts, my thoughts, my unspoken outlook.
  • When someone challenges me in an area of my expertise- they are obviously seeking to understand something that they are clueless about and must need an explanation of why what I do is right.
  • When someone doesn’t listen to my explanation- they are obviously either mentally incapable of understanding the simple logic I used or they are an emotional terrorist sent to torment me.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Sometimes we see ourselves as Superwoman (or man) and imagine our cape billowing out behind us covering and protecting all those we have chosen to protect.

Do we see the cape smacking others in the face as we leap out in front of them? Do we see that those others have valuable contributions that could actually aid our cause if only we would share the task at hand?

Do we relish the sound of the cape snapping in the breeze stirred up by our own momentum so much that we ignore the small voices coming out from under it? Do we tell our rescuee to “stay calm ma’am” while ignoring the fact that she’s telling us about an invisible force field we are about to slam into?

The problem with thinking of ourselves as superheros with battles to fight against injustice – is that we are human heros -and every hero has his fatal flaw- we are no exception.

Not everyone who seems to stand in our path is a challenger. Sometimes they are messengers. Sometimes they are mentors. (Anyone else picturing Hermes and Athena?)

Messengers don’t always bring good news. We need to listen anyway.

Mentors don’t always pat us on the back and congratulate our fine efforts. We need to follow anyway.

All year, I’ve had a messenger – so obviously outside of the battle that I didn’t hear the relationship between what was said and any situation, that I ignored his voice (not really ignored, because we had the coversation, but didn’t apply it to anything outside of the conversation). One of my students (that loves Marvel comics – NOT DC), has told me he can’t stand Superman. Really? Who doesn’t love Superman – beautiful man that he is, reversing time itself to rescue his obviously flawed and imperfect love interest from death- what’s not to love?

My student’s answer:

He’s too powerful. His weakness isn’t internal, but external (Kryptonite). It makes him uninteresting, boring.

Wow! Our flaws are what make us interesting.

Now it doesn’t matter that I’ve taught about fatal flaws in epic heros for years – because I didn’t realize I thought of myself as a hero. It took someone saying – I admire you, but you are an intimidating person. It took my dear love telling me – you are better than what you think of yourself- AND telling me – you think too much of yourself. (A contradiction I could not understand for a long long time. But I have finally realized – I am thinking of myself unrealistically in a lot of ways.

So, here are a few realizations for myself:

I’m not a one-woman rescue squad for every student I encounter.

I’m not above needing to improve my domestic effectiveness.

I’m not impervious to needing help.

I’m not creating a perfect image when I insist that the problems are outside of me – I’m creating a boring one.

A boring person isn’t someone with no ideas – it’s someone who won’t let others share the load.

So, overall – there’s  a mountain that I thought was outside of me, but it wasn’t – it was inside. So my eyes focusing on all the problems around me could never be effective. It isn’t in me to perfect what I see. Because I’m not so perfect. The flaws make me better, more interesting, more human. Acknowledging that allows me to look at things from the right side. I’m not Superwoman – I’m not the help that others need. Help is on the outside – found in my savior. My submission to him is the only super thing I can do, and I can’t even do that without the help of the Holy Spirit. So that leaves nothing. What a relief to not have to wear the cape.

As Edna Mode says:

NO CAPES!

Lessons from the Zoo 

Opportunistic eaters – king snakes – according to the zoo expert that is speaking to our middle-schoolers right now.

  
I think that applies to teachers too – many of us skip breakfast but we all headed for the meeting room when we found out the Beta club brought us breakfast this morning.

She’s now discussing the difference between poisonous and venomous. That may bring about a completely different analogy for teaching and learning. I’ll have to think about that one.

Hold on!

All those great poems my students were writing over the extra-long, weather-extended spring break – now must be graded double-quick!  They got more time to procrastinate and turn in mushy stuff, yet I’m now held to stringent deadlines for term reporting! Ah, the (ahem) joys of teaching!

My boys gave up and went to bed, my husband’s soft snores punctuate the poetry – often much better than the punctuation that already exists in it, and I – I would like to rebel. Yet, I’m the one who made it due the day before break – the day that never came because of flooded and washed-out roads. An act of God? Maybe – sent just to remind me to space things out for myself. 

And my best students are out on the Jr. Beta Convention – how is it that we grade what cannot be turned in? 

But good is out there- I got my car back today- after a fender bender relegated me to a smoky rental car that I’m sure was the majority of the cause of my January malaise. My car is back home – safe in the garage and it actually smells nice.

My dream job does exist – it just exists about a 12 to 15 hour drive away. It could exist ten minutes from here, but the local university still cannot seem to find the value of opening the position for a full directorship. So – I’m holding on to hopes and holding on to sanity and holding on to the dreams that were rekindled when I slowed down last week to look at them again. 

Not certain of a path, but assured that God is still in control, and that he holds my future – and He is truly all I need to hold on to.

For all of you who are holding on too, know that He is exceedingly and abundantly providing for your future – even if it’s difficult to see right now. We are going to make it!

Where’s Your Joy?

This week has been a joy for me. My husband is back home, and (miracle that it is) all four schools had spring break the same week, so all five of us have been home together. 

Today is the last day, though. I made breakfast and got everyone to come eat before it was cold. My husband looked at my sleepy daughter and asked, “where’s your joy?”  Sleepy as she was, she didn’t miss a beat and replied, “in the bed.” So he told her she needed to go get it – meaning she should perk up. She ate her last bite and announced that she would go get it – and promptly crawled back under the covers in her room. 

It’s her last chance to sleep before the push toward research projects, living history performances, and ACT studies take over her life again. I see her sleeping and just smile. I may miss a moment or two of her silliness, but I’m glad to see her sleeping. I know that sleep is rare in her world.

The boys linger at the table listening to my husband’s favorite gospel songs and talking trucks – new colors, engine power, grills, EPA regulations, etc. They could sit there all day. I enjoy listening to them even though I have no clue what they are really saying. 

And without the pressures of school, I’ve been able to rejoin the blogosphere. I have missed so many of you and you just can’t know how my heart has found peace reading about the exploits of my fellow bloggers this week. Anne, Iva, Peggy, Gabriel, Dawn, Lillian, and Joanna – just to name a few – your words and pictures are so wonderful to me!  Thank you for helping me find joy in my day to day once more. I may never meet any of you this side of heaven, but as my husband’s music is reminding me, there’s a great glad morning coming one day and I’m sure that there’s a special place in heaven for all those who have the gift of encouragement that I have found in each of you. 

Be blessed this week as we look forward to Resurrection Day!

Shamrock Surprise

Okay Folks! It’s been a while since I had a cake disaster and since the disasters are much more fun to write about than the successes, I have to skip sharing all the great cakes and share this one instead. 

Inspired by my family’s Irish heritage and the Today Show’s cooking segment yesterday, I decided on Shepherd’s Pie with a Champ Mash topping and Guiness cake for supper. However, impending hail storms in the area yesterday made a trip to the local package store to buy the Guiness less than advisable. 

Now this story does not involve any adjustments to the space/time continuum in my kitchen as last year’s king cake disaster did, but it does involve the need to improvise because of the weather. With the Guiness cake out of the picture, and my daughter calling for “something green” on the menu, I thought about the shamrock cupcakes I had seen on television yesterday morning. (We are out on spring break and morning news/entertainment is my guilty pleasure/time waster.)

I rummaged the pantry shelves looking for cupcake paper- I know there is a small package of them in there – but it has apparently gone into hiding. So, with time passing quickly and no way to do cupcakes I thought of doing a regular sized cake using the method they showed for the smaller version. To accomplish this, you have to use the paper in the cupcake pan so that you can place small rolls of foil or heatproof beads between the paper and the sides of the pan to squeeze the sides of the paper into the shamrock shape.  I should have used just a regular round cake pan I guess, but I thought the heart shaped pans I have would give at least two of the shamrock leaves a pretty, rounded shape and I would only have to shape the foil to pinch in the bottom leaf. 

I cut two big pieces of parchment paper to line the pans (which I could have done for cupcakes but cutting 24small circles is much more time consuming than just two big sheets of parchment).  I got them in place with the rolls of foil on the sides and noticed that I might need to line the point of the heart shaped pans with a roll of foil too – since it was pointed after all. That was trickier than I expected and the clock was ticking – the mash was almost done and I only had just enough time to bake the cake before  I would need to assemble the shepard’s pie and put it in the oven.  So I abandoned lining the bottom point of the pans and convinced myself that the parchment being pinched on the sides would round it out anyway. Ummm- yeah.

So batter (box of store bought butter yellow with a teaspoon of cream de menthe candy flavoring and some green food coloring added) went into the pans and I shoved them in the oven. 

Twenty five minutes later, this came out of my oven:

  
I snapped the picture and texted my mom and my sister – always my partners in crime and hilarity – and asked, “shamrock or leprechaun’s …?” (Use your imagination people.)

The texts themselves were truly hilarious and continued I as I debated conducting a bris for the cake and my teenagers argued over who would get to eat the cut off part.   I finally just iced it – and my daughter wrote “kiss me” on top in chocolate morsels.  

My husband even laughed and since he is the most Irish of us (he argues that my red hair and green eyes don’t count because I’m more Scottswoman than Irish) we asked him to bless the food. Heaven knows we all needed to be blessed at that point – well, maybe just forgiven. His blessing began and I heard a rare thing – spontaneous verse – in true Irish form spilled from his lips and gave us all the joy we needed.  

Here’s the whole meal: Shepard’s Pie, pea salad (for extra green), and the cake.  
My husband once said my china pattern belonged to an old woman – I told him to stick around for fifty years and it would match.  

 
We finished the night by watching Leap Year- which I always giggle through-while we ate our shamrock cake. It was delicious if you were wondering.

My sister has promised to blog our text messages since she is the media queen – go check them out on her blog Imperfectly Nice if you are brave enough.

What is it?

  
Ok. During the early 1990s, we called these something with a South American sounding name. My children just call them “drug rugs.” Whatever the other word was has been on the tip of my tongue for months because I’d like to give them a better name for this thing.  So blogging friends, anyone remember the word that I can’t?

Poetry with Middle School

Middle schoolers are so literal, that trying to teach haiku (5-7-5) while also explaining the difficulties in translation, become an excercise in futility. (Sorry for the bullet points – my app is not letting go of what looks to be a triple space at each hard return without them.)

Good Grades

  • Paper everywhere
  • Red pen ready for battle
  • Not much blood today