Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Kind Decision

We make so many decisions every day, decisions we don’t even think about. What socks to wear, whether to buy gas today or hope there’s enough in the tank until tomorrow, what to have for supper, what TV show to watch or what book (or blog) to read instead. And some decisions are big. Should I apply for that job? Should I go back to school? Should I have another kid (what? Absolutely not.)?

When we make the decision to get a pet, we make a commitment to that animal for as long as it lives. Even if we decide to give that pet away, I know at least for me, I cannot give that pet away in my heart. And what kind of decision do we make when they are old and suffering? How do we make that decision to end their pain?

Keshia, our black cat, the first pet I owned that was truly mine, was nineteen years old. She had gone from playful kitten, to lazy housecat, to a frail bag of bones which cried day and night. She would wander the house as if looking for something which she just could never find. When she finally laid down someplace and the meowing subsided, she would drool.

With trembling fingers, I punched the numbers into the phone. Yes, they could fit her in that afternoon. I set her on a blanket in the backseat of the car. She didn’t move, but she continued to cry. Once inside the office, though, her wailing stopped. I held her up to the window so she could look outside as we waited for them to call her name. Did she know why we had come?

The vet examined her, explained the physical condition of cats her age, but I didn’t listen. I couldn’t. He offered some options. I nodded my head, and chose the option which I had come for. He agreed with my decision. I transferred her into a pair of kind hands and took my seat back in the waiting room.

The clock on the wall ticked. Ticked. Ticked. A man came in with a yellow lab who wore the “collar of shame”. She had several healing wounds on her side and legs. “We think a wolf attacked her,” her owner explained, even though I hadn’t asked.

“Chris,” the vet tech was at the counter. “She’s not suffering anymore. She quietly slipped away. We will call you when she’s ready to be picked up. You can pay the bill then.”

Weird. My husband picked her up in a flowered can the following week. Another decision. What am I supposed to do with her now? And so there her tin can of ashes sits, next to Shadow’s and Pepper’s, but I’ll write about that another time.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

pray, pray, pray

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 New King James Version

As you may have noticed from previous blogs, I am not much in to picking apart Bible verses and giving you a play by play of what they mean. I usually share a story from my life and use my God-given ability of finding a Bible passage that goes with it. I can think of countless life experiences that go with this particular verse from the New Testament, but today, for a change of pace, I’m going to analyze it.

OK, I hope you saw right through that. Like I could ever analyze anything in the Bible. But I am going to go as far as giving this sort of passage a name. A sandwich.

I love the “rejoice always” and the “in everything give thanks”. Those are such important words, instructions from God. For me, they are like pieces of fresh whole wheat bread, spread with Miracle Whip. It is not truly a sandwich without the bread. The thinly sliced turkey? That would be the “pray without ceasing”.

Those three words compose one of my favorite verses. I may not be able to do much. I am not about to preach to the masses. I feel uncomfortable sharing my faith with a stranger. I cannot heal disease with the touch of my hands. But you know what I can do? I can pray.

I have prayed day and night. I have prayed on my knees and in the fetal position. I have prayed in my closet and in the bathroom. And that’s all that God asks. That I pray continually, conversing with Him constantly, keeping Him close every minute of every day.

Dear God, Heavenly Father, my prayers may not be the most eloquent, but Lord, you know that my words come from my heart. You know my prayers before I even say them, and yet it brings You joy to hear my simple words, to know that I want You as part of my life. Father, I know You hear my every prayer and that You answer my every request. And I humbly accept that Your answer may not always be the one that I want. Amen

Thursday, January 26, 2012


We've all seen this sign and most of us slow down for this bump that goes from one end of the road to the other. Or sometimes we don't slow down at all and our teeth rattle and rust falls of our car as we fly over it.

Or sometimes, there is no bump at all.

In my clinic's parking lot, they take the speed bump out every fall so that it doesn't interfere with the snow plow. Doesn't make sense to me. Either you have a speed bump or you don't. They want you to drive slow in the summer, but in the winter all bets are off? Or are speed bumps really just all in our heads?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Long Ride Home

In the late summer of 1987, my first husband landed a job near my hometown. Yes! I was finally able to pack up and leave Colorado to return to Wisconsin. Daniel moved in with my parents sometime in August and the first part of September I packed up all of our possessions, twenty-month-old Nicholas, and our black cat Keshia and began the 1200 mile drive.

OK, it really wasn’t so dramatic. My in-laws loaded their truck and rented a U-Haul. They rode most of the way with Nicholas, while I followed in my Chevy Citation packed full of my clothes, other personal items and the cat. Oh, and for the first half of the trip, Grandma rode shotgun, until we dropped her off at her son’s house near Lincoln, Nebraska.

For that first entire five hundred miles, Keshia remained in her cat carrier on the car seat between me and Daniel’s grandma. The cat cried the entire time, nonstop. In an attempt at added attention, she kept poking her paw out of the cage and clawing at poor grandma. After we dropped off Grandma, the cat continued to mew, but at least from the passenger seat she was no longer able to reach anyone to claw. It wasn’t until I was fifty miles from home that I finally left her out. She explored the car gingerly, but then settled on the back of the car seat just behind my head.

The poor traumatized cat. She ended up living in my parents’ garage for nearly a year, before I was finally able to take her home, to the trailer house that Daniel and I had bought. Two years after that she moved with us to the house we bought, the house I am still in and the house where my pride of cats really started.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Mustard Egg

“It was because you do not have enough faith,” answered Jesus. “I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, Go from here to there! and it will go. You could do anything!” Matthew 17:20 Good News Translation

For my fourteenth birthday, my parents gave me a charm bracelet. It was a popular gift for teen-age girls at the time, so kind of surprising that I got one. But anyway, over the years I even amassed a few charms. My sister Pat bought me a tiny Edelweiss bell in Germany. Someone gave me a cocker spaniel

charm; who knew that 25 years later I would have two cocker spaniels.

My aunt Helen gave me the one with the little seed under glass. The inscription on the reverse side of it reads: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible unto you. Matthew 17:20” Once one of my friends made the mistake of calling it a mustard egg. That kind of stuck, as dumb things do.

Elsewhere in the Bible is the explanation that the mustard seed starts out so small but from the tiny seed it grows into the largest plant in the garden. The mustard egg – I mean seed – doesn’t think to itself, “I am too small to amount to anything.” Instead it does what God gave it to. It doesn’t question its goal, it just does it. It grows.

So, just as Jesus told his disciples, that is what we need to do. Have faith strong enough to make anything happen. Don’t think about it, don’t come up with excuses, just do it.

Lord, strengthen my faith. Remind me daily that with You at my side, nothing will be too much for You and me to handle. Nothing will be impossible.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

with the breath of kindness . . .

A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of the heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. Arabian proverb

At the Green Lake Writers Conference last summer, Patty O'Hara is seen letting go of all the bad, just blowing it away.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My first very own pet

During one 18 month stretch in the middle of the 1980s, I got married, had a baby, bought a house, held several different jobs and started school. To bring balance into all of that, my husband of the time suggested that we get a cat. Of course, thus began my life as the cat lady. (Oh, it only seems that way, but someday I will write a story about the Pride of Road Lake.)

Daniel had heard of a cat rescue center on the north side of Denver. This neighborhood had once been home to middle class families consisting of a working dad, stay-at-home mom, 2.3 children, and 1.7 pets. The day we visited this neighborhood however, all of those families had moved out to the up and coming suburbs, leaving behind fenced yards full of weeds and homes with peeling paint and cracked windows.

The particular residence we went into looked more like a crack-house than a place any self-respecting stray cat would find itself. The woman who ran the place explained her mission, but I don’t remember a thing she said. I was just thinking, “They need to invent a hand sanitizer in a spray pump”.

The woman guided us down a set of wooden stairs to a dank dimly lit basement. Lined up along the walls and stacked three or four high were wire cages each holding a meowing feline. She directed us to the kittens who had their own section under a boarded up window.

I don’t know how we ever picked one. I think Daniel asked, “How about that black one?” And I nodded, just wanting to get out of there.

We loaded the little waif into a box, signed some papers and headed to the car, surprised that it had not been stolen. A few days later we took the all black kitten to the vet for a checkup, and miraculously she turned out to be totally healthy.

My mother-in-law gave her her name. Keshia. I don’t know where that came from. Except that the Bill Cosby show was popular at the time and Keshia Knight Pulliam played the youngest daughter Rudy. And the cat was small and black, too.

She let me stay in her life for 19 years.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Just Visiting

Israel, the Lord who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 Good News Translation (GNT)

As you may have heard, I am taking care of a friend’s cat for three months while she is working out of town. When she dropped off Brewster, she gave me his rabies tag along with a small collar she had just bought him. I’ve never had a cat wear a collar before, it never seemed necessary. To comply with his mom’s wishes, however, Brewster has dutifully worn his collar since coming here. It sets him apart from the rest of our cats, but none of them seem to notice. And when he goes back home the first of March, I’ll be back to having an all collarless cat collection.

Like Brewster, we Christians are set apart. Maybe we don’t wear a collar announcing our faith, but we still wear the mark of our Lord and Savior. And also just like Brewster, this is only temporary. We may fit in perfectly in this Earthly home. We have our beds to sleep in at night, our jobs to go to during the day. Most of the time we are very comfortable, but at times we wonder why we are here, why we feel like an outsider.

The first of March, Brewster’s owner will return for him. And someday, our Heavenly Father will return for us, we will leave this place and be taken to our eternal home.

Lord, help us to be patient with this place where we are. Help to realize that when we are faced with challenges and struggles, that this is all temporary. Someday You will call us home where we will live in peace for eternity.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Fun Place to Play

Bring your children to our park and let them play in the traffic. Sure to be fun for all.

I saw this sign while we were driving through the streets of Nairobi one day. It just cracks me up. Does that make me weird?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blog Under Pressure

Well, I am not starting the New Year off so well. For four days now I have been writing today’s blog in my head. Heaven forbid I actually write anything ahead of time. Of course, as often happens, the picture that I also had in my head had not yet been scanned. But - waa-ha – I got a printer/scanner/copier for Christmas, which has been set up for printing and copying. Miraculously it only took a few minutes to find a cable and set it up to scan. Now I am in business. Except that I can’t find the snapshot that I had in mind to scan. I don’t know what is wrong with me. Why am I so disorganized?

Ok, so because I only seem to work well – or work at all – under pressure, I grabbed a picture out of my family archive file. And here it is. Christmas 1967.

I just turned six, which would make my sister Pat eight years old. I don’t quite know what we are playing with. Looks like Pat is about to open one of those snake cans. You know the ones where the snake on a spring jumps out at you scaring you half to death? I don’t think that’s what it is.

I love the tree, though. Not like any trees I have had in my house recently. I think Dad probably cut this one out of the swamp. And Mom spent hours hanging the tinsel, strand by delicate strand.

Also, note where the stockings are hung in the background. We were too poor to even afford a fire place. We had to hang our stockings on the built-in bookcase. (I blogged about that once already.)

Ok, that’s it for Christmas this year. I promise I will be back on task by Thursday. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Flying Free

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24 (New International Version)

Dove 1: What are you doing out there?

Me: Who me?

Dove 1: You’re the only one out there. The rest of us are stuck in these cages.

Me: I’m sorry about that. What are you doing in there?

Dove 1: I asked you first.

Me: Well, see that couple over there, the one with the baby?

Dove 2: The people who are looking to buy one or two of us?

Me: Yes. I have been following them all over the country side for months. Their baby was born about six weeks ago, and I think he is the reason I have been tracking them.

Dove 1: But you don’t know why you are following them?

Dove 2: That doesn’t make any sense.

Me: I know. I just wish I could talk to them. Find out who the baby is. Other animals I have talked to have said that he is a savior and a king.

Dove 1: All I know is that if you don’t want to end up in one of these cages with us, you should fly away. You should appreciate your freedom while you have it.

Just then a man lifted the cage with the two doves in it and handed it to Joseph.

Dove 1: Fly away now!

I raised my wings and did as the caged bird had commanded. I flew high into the air above the crowded city. Yes, indeed, I had my freedom. Looking down on all those people in the market place on their way to the temple, it dawned on me. That’s why the baby had been born. That’s why he was called Savior and King. He had come to grant them all freedom, the freedom from sin, that only comes from believing in him, in Jesus Christ.

Sorry that it took so long to bring this to a conclusion. I hope that you enjoyed my inspirational blogs for the last six Sundays. Today's picture is another one from my daughter while she was in Kenya in 2010. The picture alone is inspirational to me. And one reason why this series of blogs had to last so long; I had to include this picture.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

One More Look Back

“Through bitter tears and wounded years, those ties of blood were strong. So much to say, those yesterdays. So now don’t you turn away, when lightning strikes the family. Have faith. Believe.”

While I was working on my blog this past Sunday morning, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey came on Pandora on my laptop. As I was writing the last few sentences, a line from another Journey song popped into my head: “Have faith, believe.”

With the rock band Journey still on my mind, I wrote Tuesday’s blog about one of my college roommates. I didn’t include it in that day’s ramblings, but Gundy’s favorite song was “Open Arms” and she wouldn’t leave for class in the morning until the radio had played it, which they did around seven o’clock every single morning for months.

I got to work this morning and one of my co-workers said that her sixth grade daughter told her that the choir is going to be performing “Don’t Stop Believing” at the spring concert. And she is thinking of trying out for a solo in the song.

Which brings me to today and a saying or a song or a sign. Seems kind of obvious. I wrote these lyrics in my journal a long, long time ago. Man, I need to get back in the here and now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wow, this is where I was 30 years ago?

It appears that it has been a very long time since I have been on my schedule of writing about people, places or pets on Tuesdays. There was the whole Christmas theme going in the month of December, and November was all about that writing a book in a month goal. (By the way, I have added another 343 words and am on chapter four of the revision; my current goal is to start sending it off to agents by the end of the month.) It is time to get back on track.

This week’s person I met in the fall of 1981. I was in my second year of college, living in Marathon Hall, the only dorm on the tiny UWC-Marathon County Campus. A few of my friends from the year before had signed up to room together, but I wanted to take a chance on meeting someone new. Plus I knew that sometimes the best friends made the worst roommates.

I can’t remember who my original roommate was supposed to be. I could possibly find it in my old journals, but I’m not that ambitious tonight. Whoever it was supposed to be, something fell through or she dropped out or her plane crashed. I was remorseful for a very short time, before I became excited to hear who I would get next.

The rumor was that it would be the sister of one of my friends already living in the dorm. Deb was from Antigo and a total brainiac. She currently has a string of degrees and works for the CDC in Atlanta. I stay in contact with her coz I never know when I will need a connection in the CDC.

Like most sisters, Deb held her younger sibling at arm’s length. They could get along fine when they had to, but got along the best when they were in different cities. Plus they had another seven brothers and sisters at home. That scared me a lot.

I wish I had a video of Gundy. Ok, I won’t go into where that nickname came from (just like I won’t tell you what they called me or why), but Gundy just seemed to fit her. Someday I will have to at least scan a picture of her, but my scanner isn’t quite working yet.

Anyway, Gundy had this little dance move, jiving her hands up and down and jutting out her butt. She couldn’t jut out her chest because she didn’t have one and joked about it constantly. “Honestly, I put my bra on backwards this morning and never even noticed.” Some of the things she said. “I am hotter than a bee in Siberia”. She was the sweetest girl, never talking bad about anyone, and slapping her hand across her mouth if a swear word spilled out.

She wasn’t the best housekeeper and how we got our room deposit back when we moved out in the spring is beyond me. I have no clue how all those floor tiles came loose or how that lamp broke. And the Halloween pumpkin that Gundy found in the bottom of her closet in May? It didn’t leave much of a stain on the floor and the room actually did air out rather quickly. Ah, college memories.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Is My Quest Nearly Finished?

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:9-12 (New Living Translation)

Me: Hi, there. You guys look tired.

Camel 1: Not so much.

Camel 2: Really? We just trekked half-way across the world, loaded down with all sorts of stuff.

Camel 1: Are you truly whining? We are camels, we were born to carry heavy loads for days on end. We do not whine.

Me: I didn’t mean to start anything. Why did you come all this way?

Camel 1: Our masters were on a quest to find the new-born king. We have been following the king’s star for a very long time. Our masters are well-educated men who knew the meaning of the star and it brought us here.

Me: Something brought me here too, but it wasn’t a star.

Camel 2: What was it then?

Me: Something drawing me to the baby. You say he is a king?

Camel 1: The king of the Jews.

Me: Hmm? But I’m not a Jew, so why do you think I care so much about this child?

Camel 1: Maybe he really came to be the king of all.

Me: Wow, but he’s so little, so young. And his parents are so poor. How can he be a king?

Camel 2: We are just camels. How should we know? We don’t need a king. We have our masters who care for us and feed us. And then work us half to death.

Camel 1: Stop your whining. All I know is that our masters are good men. They have brought expensive gifts to this boy-king. You need to just keep following him. You will get your answers.

Me: Thank you so much. I have been questioning all the animals that I have met along the way, but you have been the most helpful of all of them.

Camel 1: Good luck on your own quest. Have faith.

(Today's picture is from the park, Paradise Lost, outside of Nairobi. When I was in Kenya in 2006, we took a group of orphans to this park where they got to ride the camels and have all sorts of other fun. Also, if you haven't been following my Sunday blog, you need to go back to the first of December and read them all. Then you will know where this has been going.)