So whats up with us? Not much at the moment, we're all dealing with colds, except dear hubby who had it first and has mostly recovered. He is over helping some handicapped neighbors with their yard. Thankfully there are enough powered tools around that he doesn't need to strain himself to make a difference.
Our young kitties continue to grow. They are brothers from the same litter, and even marked similarly, but what a difference in personalities! The grey & white patched tabby kitty is a chowhound and hunter. He's an independent-minded who lets you know when he wants petted by leaping on you, or will avoid a pet by leaping away. Our orange & white patched kitty is a snugglebunny who loves pets and being near one of us when not playing with his brother. He's a total sweetheart and the cutest kitten we've ever had. Keep trying to get pictures of his most adorable moments, like when he's peeking over the edge of the boxes, but he moves rather quickly and seems camera-shy.
On the health front, things haven't moved all that much. The surgery for those serious hernias is still in the offing. As a matter of fact, hubby has an appointment for the next set of bloodwork for it next week (the old bloodwork info is no longer valid.). Afterward they should be setting a date - again. Hopefully they really will now that the conditions he's developed are stable & treated. Too many major medical procedures in only a few years turns out to have its own cost! Not that anyone had any choice. At least he's all back together again and able to move almost normally. He is losing weight now that his thyroid level is good again too, which pleases him. Old clothes are starting to fit, but he won't be able to wear his old jeans and slacks until they are very loose because of the hernias.
Have had some odd moments in the last week or so. Anyone who has known me any length of time has heard me growl about the awful neighbors - well, they may be thinking about coming around and acting decent or something. Its been more than 15 years since I left the church near our house, and last week one of them finally asked why I wasn't coming. I prayed before speaking, and the answer I got seemed to be to calmly point out the obvious. Pointed out that our whole family had been gossiped evilly about by senior members there, that every time I had gone to their church when we first came back to the area they kept sending back cutesy-pie 'messages' through me that sounded innocent until explained, and which seemed designed to irritate my husband and his family. I reminded her that our sweet, eager-to-please daughter had actually been threatened and assaulted by kids in the area school (as well as one rotten teacher) in first & second grade and that those kids referenced their neighborhood gossip when confronted on it.
They'd have done the same to us if they dared. They almost worked themselves up to it on several occasions. I know perfectly well their little hate-speech clubs have had a lot to do with the harassment in the woods, the repeated efforts to find something 'wrong' code-wise, the people (including 2 deacons at their church) who would swerve AT our car on the backroads near here, the continual suggestion to local law enforcement (until the officers finally got tired of it) that whatever was going down we must somehow be involved. Actually my husband has a very high security clearance & has held a concealment permit for ten years. You can only do that with a spotless record, which is exactly what he has. So yes, the lies have been THAT bad, that evil, that stupid. Sadly, they have found plenty of idiots to take them at face value. One person even went so far as to look up my name online and feed a few idiots there. I knew this was done exactly because I have given them very few openings to pick on me or mine in person. They don't know me at all. Did I mention already they have some really malicious gits in that group, making up the kind of place C.S. Lewis called a 'bad pocket?'
And she wants to know why I don't want to take up her offer now of coming to their Bible study?????
Now the woman speaking is actually very good friends with one of the worst gossips of all - one of the ones whose name has come up again and again when people defended saying or doing something stupid to one of us, or even to my husband's parents. Tom doesn't have fond memories of her as a kid. Seems she once declared him and a bunch of other neighborhood kids hooligans who were having fun tossing mud balls at each other (exempting her own sons, of course). This was mostly because a visiting child in a neat, frilly, little dress got some mud on her from someone's missed shot. He's been persona non grata with her ever since. If you think such normal kid-play was a crazy reason to judge someone harshly for decades, I have heard many similar stories. Here's another one. One guy - now deceased, but a leader in that same church for decades- stole a nice, old brass lamp from an abandoned house on the base where he worked as a private contractor. Fixed it up on the job, using the tools there and made it into an electric lamp. He was very proud of it. One day my hubby's parents were over playing cards when he realized it had been badly damaged and decided to blame their son (my hubby), who was a young teen at the time. It was ridiculous charge. Everyone was close together, so if any huge noises had happened it would have been heard. For once, even his parents knew there was nothing to it. Nevertheless, this deacon also nominated Tom as chief troublemaker and held this lamp against him forever, giving it as proof to everyone how 'disturbed' he was. (Tom later learned the damage was the result of the jealousy one of the deacon's own sons - but even that son went along with the blame game.) He made a point of lighting that lamp in the window every evening, especially if he could see Tom anywhere. Now you add this into several actual errors in judgment that his parents made him apologize and set straight right away (because they ARE decent) and you have a situation in which an ethical, patriotic, military family raised good kids - and got no credit for it at all. Absolutely every error, every lie like that lamp, every angry response they made, and a lot of unsolved local mischief got repeated over and over again as 'proof' of how awful they all were- and especially my poor hubby. After years of this abuse, it was an easy move for those 'elders' to blame him when a young man went missing in the area, but who actually happened to be a friend of his. Tom tried to help the police solve the case -you know, like in all those old tv shows?- but that only made things worse. Good thing by then he'd met me. I am an honest witness and a faithful friend. That proved to be important just then. God protected him from their worst efforts, because after all those years these nuts wanted to see something happen to him, to justify all their rumormongering.
You must be getting the impression that they just didn't like him here from the outset, and you would be right. Tom was targeted because he was different. He spent his early years in Japan, which gave him different sensibilities than what they were used to seeing around here - different even from his siblings who spent some of their early years near Morocco. He was and is ADHD - he was bit of a Calvin & Hobbes type. Basically they targeted him because he was the least favorite, too smart child of a family they already didn't like. They didn't like his parents previous Mormonism or his father's unwillingness to 'play ball' with their various schemes at his work. They picked on Tom's siblings too, but those kids were older, had friends on base, and were trained in martial arts. Those efforts tended to backfire. After awhile they focused on Tom as the safest target. His family often failed to come to his defense back then - and though they regret that now - it is hard to reverse what has become a habit with these people. We would have moved years ago if it had been at all possible. Now we're kinda enjoying the fact that they have been unable to destroy us. Praise God for His faithfulness!
Praise God also that Tom had a chance to live elsewhere for a bit and find out he could be appreciated and well-liked by an entire community, and not just a few down-and-outers. He has his faults, but he also has a great sense of humor, an insightful mind, and a desire to help other folks. Pity they never gave themselves the chance to really know him, isn't it?
Now with a background like that, its unlikely that this woman hadn't heard the outrageous rumors or ever stood against it. Indeed, her next act was to act 'afraid' when my hubby was leaving a couple of days later (probably trying to snow the new pastor into being stupid), though she was bold enough in front of me and even demanded a hug- and got one. I told her I didn't know for certain she was one of them when she finally fessed up her name- which was glossing things over somewhat - but I was surprised she had actually listened when I told her just how bad that congregation has long looked to us all, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Hey, she might never have thought out what was going on. I met the new pastor when he came up while talking to her, and was very favorably impressed. Seemed like a gentle, scholarly fellow. I will be praying for him. May Christ protect his servant from what I know is in that church! I don't think he'll be the only Christian there, but the prevailing influences on them can't be good from what we've seen.
Then - a day or so later after the first conversation with the lady from church- one of the worst remaining MALE gossips in the county decided to talk to Tom face to face at one of the area supermarkets, even offered his business card. Tom took the moment to remind him that the last crew that had been hired to do a job and walked off it unfinished had referenced his name right before leaving (not the guys who just worked on the yard. a previous crew). Actually he could have said a lot more, as plenty of people have referenced him as a 'source' of ugly rumors about Tom (as well as other people) but that answer seemed to be sufficient. He acted embarrassed in the store, but then tried to tailgate Tom when he went home. Obviously he wasn't that repentant.
Then - a day or two after that- one of the other neighbors ended up introducing themselves who had made such a point of being ugly without ever meeting us before (yes, that's right - we've been experiencing enmity from people that we have never spoken to and couldn't even identify without doing a bit of detective work. All that on the excuse of a few well-connected slanderers whose plans may have been thwarted by the honesty of Tom's parents!) Now this one had a clear motive. He hoped that Tom would put in a good word for him with the handicapped neighbors Tom is trying to help clear their yard. They have had a spell of bad health anyway, but when it was compounded by the last tropical damage, it went beyond our friends' ability to manage alone. Tom wasn't able to assist much until now. Anyway, this guy happens to be a neighbor of theirs and wants to let his horses graze on it afterward. Probably won't happen, as while the horses could be helpful in keeping down the overgrowth, that family has been ugly to our friends there too, and they know it. Still it felt weird that the good Lord arranged that this fella, who doesn't know us but has actually flipped us off before, among other things, ended up not recognizing Tom and hearing out a little bit of our side of things. He let them fill his head full of garbage without even meeting us. Now, maybe, he has a few new thoughts to consider.
Just to give you an idea how reflexively slanderous these local idjits are - a small group of them were working on a church repair a couple of weeks ago, and a branch fell down on the line at the end of the lane, knocking out our power and the church's power for a bit. The older men IMMEDIATELY started pointing down at my husband in the backyard, obviously blaming him for the outage to the other guys. Tom went to the end of the road, found & pointed out the branch to them, made a few sardonic comments and then called the power company so it could be repaired.
Another time, near one Christmas, a paper flew off a car window, and Tom picked it up because he doesn't like litter. It turned out to be an ugly note chewing out the owner of the car for using the church's parking lot after hours to go shopping - and it was signed with TOM"S WHOLE LEGAL NAME. One of them had attacked another of them, and libeled him while doing it. Gotta wonder how often that has happened! We reported that one everywhere, including to the pastor they had then, but got no answers, no apologies.
Another time, a now deceased deacon took my husband to task for tires spinning out in their churchyard, fairly obviously sports tires too (we don't even own a sports car), and whispered other things to a new gal in the neighborhood (we were never introduced). Now my husband and I had actually seen the car doing it, and saw what he was pointing it out to her and then pointing at us, so we came up to tell them it was a little red sports car driven by one of their little buddies. He denied loudly this could be so, and called the woman in question who swore she'd been sick in bed all week and was still there. Called us liars to our faces. Insisted to the new gal that we had probably vandalized the churchyard too.
15 minutes later we were still talking to the deacon when Madame 'sick-all-week' came zooming by, probably intending to to be stupid on the driveways there as 'punishment' for having pointed her out. [How do you like her logic? She's embarrassed to be caught so she plans to do the same thing again, and maybe worse. That is also typical of an advanced sin nature - what the Bible calls a 'seared conscience.' All people like that have left is a sense of social embarrassment and fear of consequences. Some of these people wouldn't know remorse or repentance if it bit them in the butt.] She saw the the deacon and speeded up from an estimated 70 mph to what Tom was sure was over 90, as she took off flying, trying, futilely, to avoid being recognized. The deacon just stood there with his mouth open and said "She LIED to me. She lied to ME!" over and over- while my husband and I busted out laughing. It was all ssooo typical of them...
And the reason I know they will use contacts and play on people's gullibilities has to do with the main Protestant churches we attended in county. We'd show up a few Sundays, people would be glad to see us. We'd enjoy the worship and the conversation. Everything would end on a happy note. It'd be like that for a few weeks, then one week you'd turn up and people are giving you the nervous look...oh, no, there's no problem..of course not. Well- actually - we had heard a few things - from who? Some would tell you, some wouldn't... Those who did would either mention them directly or mention a friend of theirs that was also buddies with one these influential clowns. It always - ALWAYS- came back to that mouthy, judgmental, unloving little group of 'church leaders' in our neighborhood.
Now about the churchyard accusation:: There have been plenty of incidents near those graves. We have seen vehicles parked in it empty at all hours. People have come from the churchyard to pick on us with calls (until they found the police WOULD follow up on that) then just obviously faked hoots and hunting calls at the wood edge (and sometimes howls when they encountered a skunk. LOL), running dogs over adjoining properties at all hours (not just ours), and even the occasional pot shots. Yes, really. One friend's wife had a bullet just miss her head while visiting with us out in our backyard near dusk over 10 years ago. That one got called into the cops & was not repeated. The person responsible was charged for reckless endangerment & had the weapon seized but nothing worse. They claimed they were target practicing & just didn't aim low enough to keep it in the trees. There are gun holes in the well house & garages too, but not the house. The plan was intimidation, not murder. They wanted to drive us out. We have heard repeatedly they attached some special value to the land itself. (Investigated that and didn't find much aside from a possible 'southern knights jousting competition' that may have been held nearby. Gotta say, after seeing the photos, that SCA has really improved over the years. Their costumes weren't very good back then - all one color and stuff. ;-)
We, on the other hand, were faithful to report prowlers in their churchyard after hours for years. The police hardly ever came in good time & we think we know why now. You see, another incident took place not long ago when we caught two of them in the act of releasing hunting dogs in the churchyard at midnight, we got their plate, and called the cops on their ignorant butts. One of the better guys in the area had told Tom that his horses were being harassed by dogs and asked to be called if we caught any of them, so Tom called and found out that one of the two bozos we'd just caught had already been turned in as a prowler on an adjacent property. The wife saw him skulking about her outbuildings one afternoon. Claimed to be chasing a dog then too. He has been keeping his hunting dogs with him when doing these stunts. Turns out current rules just about do excuse such criminal trespass when there is a hunting dog around - even out of season! When confronted, the one guy swore he had buddies in the police department and no one would touch him. So far they haven't either. But incidents like this one may yet get dog-hunting rules changed or revoked in Virginia. (Keep going, bud! Those laws need to be changed!)
Now this has all been very negative, so let me tell you the good side of what has happened over time because of these pressures. For one thing I ended up looking up unusual friends, you know, the kind of minorities they don't appreciate in good, white enclaves (this is how they describe themselves). ::grin:: I ended up joining a local acting troupe for awhile until my husband's health made it difficult to manage. I really enjoyed the characters I met there. I am not an actress so I did public relations work, wrote write-ups, that kind of stuff.
And, because we aren't the only family, or even category of people to be targeted, we've become very aware of how real and dangerous bigotry can be:: be it from racism, handicaps, religious preferences or - yes - orientation. There's almost a brotherhood of the downtrodden to be found in our midst. What friends we have are very decent people indeed.
Also, its led me to check out churches in the area that they don't like (and therefore don't have as many contacts in it they can use) - like the Pentecostals, Apostolics, and Catholic RCIA class I am taking right now. I don't know that I will join the Catholic church. I still have a number of doctrinal concerns that I haven't been able to ask about as yet, but I don't know that I would have gone so far in understanding my Catholic brothers and sisters if I had been comfortably ensconced in a Protestant church right along. I have been pressed to 'see the other side' by all this on a number of issues that have divided good people from one another, and I think I am a better person for it.
& This garbage also resulted in my gaining enough support to homeschool first our daughter, and later our son. I always wanted to homeschool, as I experienced tutoring in private schools, cottage homeschooling, as well as different public schools (my folks moved a lot) and found the alternatives to public school to be vastly superior, especially in the early grades. My hubby and in-laws were not convinced it was anything better than an inexpensive way to shield DD from abuse, but I hope by now they see the other benefits.
I am so glad that some Christians here have been able to show my husband's family that there ARE life-changing, positive effects from being in a Christian church, because without those guys , especially the chaplains, priests, and ministers who turn up at hospitals and such, I don't think I alone could have ever have convinced them.
Frankly, if this 'neighborhood church' had been the only witness for Christianity in the area, if he had never met me, I don't believe anyone in his family would have gotten saved.
A couple of years back I was reading the comments of one particular Pagan woman who was denouncing Christianity. I was, naturally, inclined to bristle at her words, until I read a bit further and saw how familiar some of her experiences had been. Then I understood. I don't blame Jesus for what people have done in His name. I know Yeshua. I know how much He loves us all, how much He loves these erring 'church members' and this openly hostile Pagan lady. It grieves me that people like this have turned her away from hearing what would be health and life to her very soul. I can only pray she also sees enough real believers to finally give Him a chance - and in so doing, herself.
I am also still praying fervently for an outpouring of God's Holy Spirit in that 'church' up the road. I truly do not believe many of them are saved, but they think they are, and that's the scariest thing of all. I don't want them to die in that state!
So here I am hoping that this sudden willingness to speak to us directly marks a new and better day. Hoping a truce will be formally established. I know God will make them keep it.