Wasp Watcher

This bug – probably a wasp – has been hanging around all week.  He snuck in Monday afternoon somehow.  Jonathon and I tried opening the front door to lure him out to greener pastures. We encouraged him and waved our hands at the open door. Nothing doing.  Instead, he flew towards our large window that looks out over the driveway.  To be fair, mornings fill this living room/dining room with light.  The place glows.  Poor misguided bug went towards the light, he did.

He’s larger than a honeybee, but long, and almost all black.  He lacks the tubby roundedness of a bumblebee.  Somewhere along the way, he lost his stinger.  He beat himself against the windowpane, trying to get free.  He buzzed, angry now, and beat some more.  Realizing he wouldn’t be exiting our home any time soon, I closed the curtains around him.

“Mom,” Zac protested.  “That’s mean!”

“Yes,” I chuckled.  “And he’ll be dead by morning.” Mom – 1, Wasp – 0.

Only he wasn’t.

As we ate breakfast, Ruby and I heard the busy humming of the trapped insect. He survived, and kept on surviving. Cue Donna Summer, folks.

WaspHe looks roach-like in this photo, but he’s really not.  Anyway, it’s Thursday now.  The wasp, near the end of his life cycle, managed to crawl out of the curtains.  Yet he’s still stuck.  Lacking energy to fly or seek another passage, he alternately rests and vibrates.  Both cats have monitored his progress.  Rex found him first, gazing up at the mysterious flying object. Even now, Chloe sits next to the big window.  It’s her turn, apparently. The wasp fights against the glass, again, loudly, without success. He flies and drops, flies and drops.

I have to admire his tenacity.  He is nothing if not persistent.  Lest you think me incredibly cruel, the window he chose doesn’t open.  Never has.  It’s been painted shut since we moved in almost 8 years ago now. All the muscle I possess won’t budge it.

It’s quiet. I hear no buzzing now.  Rex dozes on the rug in front of me. Chloe waits and watches, a fuzzy paragon of patience.  It’s only a matter of time.

Compassion rose up within me.  I couldn’t watch him die, not after witnessing such chutzpah. With no fight – or stinger – left in him, he wouldn’t be able to hurt me. I grabbed a plastic container and a piece of paper to cover it with.  I gently scraped him into the container and opened the front door.  He clung to the paper until I flung him off.  He landed on the ground in the sun.

I felt the wasp’s frustration.  How many times have I beat my head against a wall, willing situations and the people in them to change?  My willfulness traps us into thinking we know the only way to do something, get somewhere. That’s when I know I need the Lord’s wisdom and probably a little surrender, too. Tenacity doesn’t always reap benefits. Sometimes windows don’t open; doors either.  It’s time to turn around and retrace our steps back to what we know. Or rather, who we know.

Dead Rats Tell No Tales

 

This morning, a special present lay in the carport.  Sigh. I love cats, but sometimes I wish they’d bring home rubies instead of rodents.  Of course, those rubies would probably be stolen, so maybe not such a great idea. I wouldn’t do well in a maximum-security prison. Rex would balk at the orange jumpsuit.

Over the years, the cats have killed dozens of mice, rats, moles, voles, birds and, a crunchy cricket and one very large squirrel.  I should mention the first spring we lived in our house, lizards roamed the countryside.  Rex made short work of the scaly gray reptiles, ripping off their tails first. I’ve also seen Rex eat insects caught mid-flight.  Chloe, the feather weight, is our resident bird-catcher. Quite coordinated, our furry friends.

One thing I noticed about dead critters:  they get quiet.  No more flapping, squeaking, scratching, digging or chirping.  The varmints are d-e-a-d. Birds won’t greet the morning with trilling song.  Squirrels won’t scamper across tree limbs to power lines, dodging the street below.  Mice and rats, well, won’t burrow into our house.  Rex and Chloe put an end to their regularly scheduled programming. I always feel a little sad about finding downed birds.  I love watching them soar and dip and enjoy their songs.

As a human being, I’m on the predator end of the spectrum.  I’m rarely considered prey.  I do the hunting and gathering. Yet as a Christian, I know the devil considers me fresh meat.  He tries to discourage, derail and generally discombobulate me on a regular basis.  I Peter 5:8 says:  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Gulp.  The context makes it sound like El Diablo wants to swallow me whole. I don’t like thinking about it.  I get a little uneasy, considering somebody wants me destroyed. Satan would like nothing better than for all evidence of God wiped off the face of the earth.  What better way to hurt the Creator than to attack the redeemed ones, bought by the sacrifice of Jesus?

I must up my game and be on guard.  I need to pay attention to what I’m thinking about (Phil. 4:8) and how I speak (Phil 2:14-16).  I don’t want to end up spiritually dead, silent and still.  Because that’s what the devil does:  he silences us by making us feel impotent and unworthy.  He squelches our praise even as it rises in our throats. God’s plan is for us to be soaring above our circumstances, riding the current of the Holy Spirit, singing our songs.  That’s where I plan to be.

 

 

 

Out of the Box

Some things look really, really good.

Rex in the box

Rex in the box

Chloe near the box

Chloe near the box

Both cats adored this box.  Rex spent at least 10 minutes trying to fit inside.  He managed to get his round head and broad shoulders into the narrow opening.  Failing to fit the rest of his bulk into the cavern, he sniffed around the box. He circled the box, searching for another, easier entrance. He rubbed his furry face all over the outside, anointing every flap with his scent.

Chloe, on the other hand, sniffed the box daintily.  She poked her small head inside, then realized it wasn’t for her.  Perhaps Rex’s scent put her off.  Anyway, she had better things to do with her time.  Like lie in the sunshine, purring.

I think of how many boxes I’ve tried to fit into in my life.  The ideal wife – “an angel in the kitchen, and a tiger in the bedroom” – to quote “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.  The perfect, selfless, nurturing yet firm mother who exemplifies godliness and grace with every breath.  The hardworking employee, meeting deadlines right and left, perpetual cheerful smile and attitude firmly in place.  The hardcore athlete, always up for a new challenge, facing sore muscles and mental fatigue with grit and determination.  And last but not least, the superstar Christian, serving until exhaustion overtakes.

These human-imposed standards are tough to reach.  Yet we put them on ourselves and others all the time.  Frankly, I simply don’t measure up.  But I excel at being myself.  I win at listening to the still, small voice of Jesus and following His lead.  I finish well when my heart is free of bitterness and I serve in His strength, not my own.  The beauty  in all of us lies in our uniqueness.  Squelching it, over and over, only frustrates us and those we love. Living in rebellion won’t do, either.  Only letting God work in us will.

So I’m leaving these old, empty boxes behind.  They never held any goodies for me, anyway.  One thing about boxes:  they cover very little real estate.  They’re cramped, dark and lonely.  And they were only full when I crawled inside them.

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.2 Corinthians 3:17

 

Saturday Slivers

pie sliver

Some of you haven’t yet been subject privileged  enough to read my haikus.  They come to me, pretty much on the spot, usually inspired by a humorous circumstance.  For example, when the chipmunk decided to move in with us, I came up with a few.  Here are some:

Chipmunk, run away
Under the stove, to be safe
From feet, teeth and claws

Chipmunk, I love you!
Your tender flesh, fuzzy tail –
Your friend, Rex, the cat

Black-striped cheeks, bright eyes
Fuzzy, small, quick and nimble
Dizzying antics

Or a more modern take…

Alvin, the leader.
Simon, the smart one.  That leaves
Theodore, the plump.

I realized, through reading some of my back blog posts, I haven’t given our cat Chloe, whose personality greatly resembles a surfer, enough screen time.  Here, in honor of the quiet one, are some haiku just for her.

Black yeti ninja
Wild fur, loud purr, gold eyes gleam
Creep, stealthy muppet!

The windowsill holds
A dark shape-shifter, drowsy,
Warmed by the sunlight

Pointy face, small mew
Seeks a friend’s hand to stroke her
Contented side flop

My fuzzy, running-weary brain thanks you for reading.  Happy Saturday!

Chipmunk’s Big Adventure

Much less cute at this point.

Much less cute at this point.

So, some of you know that very recently we house a chipmunk. It skittered across the kitchen floor late yesterday afternoon. Seeing it pass by out of the corner of my eye from the family room couch, I initially thought it was a rat.

I screamed like a little girl. Now you know.  Especially after I saw the tail flick and triangular face.  It wasn’t until Chloe caught it and paraded it around the living room that I realized my error.  Thank God!  I was shaking.  I am so glad Ruby is away at camp this week.  Otherwise, we might have added a new pet.

Each of the cats participated in the “catch and release”  as well as the “toss ‘n tap” program yesterday, which is why our striped friend found himself dividing his time between two different dressers, the piano and a heavy black leather sleeper sofa instead of  simply mort. The cats staged a long stake out at the couch position, black shadows of doom.  The chipmunk chirped at Rex.  Rex meowed back.  No deal.

Now, friends, the rodent is behind the stove. This is what comes from trying to “help” the cats get at the chipmunk by moving furniture. Rex went outside last night and Chloe stood vigil by resting her weary, fuzzy body on the linoleum in front of said stove. We closed the pocket doors when we went to bed, praying Chloe, patient harbinger of death, would do the deed while we slept.

No such luck. This morning after her crunchy breakfast, Chloe exited. Rex replaced Chloe at her post. I found a small dead mole by the back door, a reminder that there are 2 predators in the house and Rex didn’t want to be upstaged by a girl.   At one point this morning, Rex leapt onto the kitchen counter. We don’t allow cats up there. As I moved to shoo him, I  heard a crackling noise coming from the stove. The chipmunk was behind it!  His little pointy face peeked at us from behind the grate at the back of the stove.  Seriously?!  Cheeky beggar!

Ahem. We aren’t big fans of rodents in the house.  This one certainly didn’t come inside of his own volition.  One of our felines brought it in God knows when. He’s been lying in wait and planning his escape for some time.  We hope.

I looked online for some answers. I am past the “it’s so cute, don’t hurt it!” humane society business.  Sorry, PETA peeps.  I want it gone or I want it dead.  I tossed a small pile of sunflower seeds on the floor in front of the stove.  I propped open the front door. Smell the fresh air of freedom!  This mammal doesn’t seem particularly bright but since both cats are outdoors at the moment, I hope for a good resolution.  Exit, stage left!

Update:  Zac discovered the chipmunk’s lifeless body at 11:14 this morning.  Rex, your family thanks you for your service.  Huzzah!

Short Story Wednesday

So today, I have for you a short story I’ve been working on a for a few days.  Inspired by our two cats, Chloe and Rex, and influenced a bit by Ruby, here it is.  Enjoy!

Chloe’s New Friend

 

Rex sat on the windowsill.

‘Wonder what I should do today,’ he thought.

‘I could chase birds.’  He flicked his tail, pensive, as he contemplated the tiny sparrow pecking at the grass right under his nose.  His eyes widened and his nostrils flared.  It was just on the other side of the glass…

‘Nah.’ Rex stretched, arching his back into a perfect ‘C’.  Too much effort.

Rex lowered his royal black bulk back down onto the warmth of the sill.  The sun made his fur gleam like polished ebony.  He was a glorious specimen, a full 20 lbs of feline perfection, and he knew it.  He gazed out at the summer day, his eyelids at half-mast.

‘Hi.’

Chloe jumped up next to him.  All long, black, messy fur to Rex’s sleekness, she contrasted perfectly.  She touched her nose to his, her yellow-green eyes taking in his reclining form.

‘Whatcha doing?’ she asked.

Rex sighed.  He lifted his round head and stared at her.  Little moron!

‘What does it look like I’m doing?’ he retorted.  He flicked her a withering gaze and squeezed his eyes closed again, the picture of repose.

‘Oh.’

Chloe, unfazed, curled her smaller body next to his.

‘What are YOU doing?!’ Rex yelled.

He sat up straight, annoyed now.

‘Well…I thought maybe we could snuggle…’ Chloe said.

‘Snuggle?!  I don’t snuggle.’ Rex marched to the end of the windowsill and jumped down.  He stalked across the carpet and out of the room.

Chloe sat alone on the sill.  She sighed.  She tried so hard to be friends with Rex.  She’d lived with the family for four years now and never seemed to make any headway.

Chloe recalled her first days with the family.  Her current owners had picked her up from the back of a car.

“Ooh!  She’s so cute!” a tiny voice said.

A little girl with big brown eyes looked at Chloe, resting in a cardboard box.  The girl had long brown hair ending in ringlets, held back with an enormous headband.

A woman whom Chloe later learned was ‘Mom’ carefully picked Chloe up and carried her to another car with a carrier inside.  Mom took Chloe to her new home and placed her in a room with her own water, food and litter box.  Chloe, still a tiny, black blue-eyed ball of fluff, had the run of the space.

Chloe spent those days racing up the underside of the box spring of the queen-sized bed.  She crept behind the enormous shelves of books.  She became an adept spider hunter – and eater – during this time.  She smiled at the memory.

However, Chloe was lonely.  She missed her mom, brothers, and sisters.  One by one, Chloe’s original owner gave each of them each away.  Finally, only Chloe remained.  She tried to be brave, but sometimes, in the deep heart of the night, Chloe cried for all she had lost.

Interrupting her reverie, Ruby, the little girl walked up.

“Hello, sweet girl!” Ruby cooed.  Ruby stroked Chloe’s head gently.  Chloe extended up into her hand and purred with appreciation.  Ruby loved her.  She snuggled Chloe every chance she got.  She loved Chloe so much she dressed her up in doll clothes and paraded her up and down the driveway in a hot-pink baby stroller.  That, along with the cardboard house Ruby made her, showed her love.  Every night when Ruby went to bed, Chloe did too.  She flopped down on Ruby’s cluttered bedroom floor.  As soon as Ruby’s breath became the stuff of dreaming, Chloe resumed her nightly guard post in the hallway, right outside Ruby’s door.

Unless Rex wanted to sleep there.  In the wintertime, it was the warmest place in the house.

Chloe frowned.  Her temporary home in the spare bedroom lasted 2 months.  Rex prowled around outside the door, trying to force his way in.  He did not want another cat in the house.  Especially not a kitten!  Alpha cats don’t cotton to competition in any form.

Ruby left Chloe’s side at the window, got a book from her pile and settled down on the couch.  Chloe, still lost in remembering, hardly noticed.

Chloe, while a kitten, played with Rex.  She hid behind corners and when he came into view – wham! – she pounced on him.  Rex hissed at her, bit and kicked her.  Surprised, she didn’t know how to react.  She meant no harm.  But Rex didn’t like it.  At all.

‘Why did you do that?’ he growled, fangs bared.

‘I – I – wanted to play with you,’ Chloe squeaked.  ‘Don’t you like to play?’

Rex pulled himself up to his full height.  His eyes glowed golden with contempt.

‘ I do not play,’ he said.  With a swish of his tail, he departed.

‘And that is how it is to this day,’ thought Chloe from her perch, squarely back in the present.  She slumped down on the ledge.

‘I wish I had a friend,’ she whispered to herself.

Overcome by drowsiness brought on by the glow of the sun and the power of her emotions, she dropped off to sleep.  A whistling snore escaped her lips.

Morning dawned clear. Chloe headed outside after breakfast.  The intoxicating morning smells beckoned to her.  She paced the perimeter of the driveway.  Hmm.  She smelled a raccoon, a deer and several mice.  She licked her lips at the thought of mice steaks.

Suddenly, she saw a rustling in the ivy.

Mouse!  Chloe bounded toward the waving plants.  She crouched down in anticipation, wiggling her backside in preparation.  Now!  She bounced into the greenery.

‘Hey!’ a voice yelled.  ‘Ouch!’

Chloe found herself on her back, legs in the air.  Something large rolled her.  She looked up into the furry face of another cat.

‘Who are you?’ she shrieked, jumping three feet straight up.

The other cat laughed.

‘If you could see your face!’ He chortled until tears rolled down his cheeks.

‘I’m Mario,’ he said, once he recovered.  ‘I almost caught a cool blue-striped snake.  Until you jumped me, that is.’

Chloe stared at him.  He was mostly Tabby, she decided.  His silver fur undulated with striking black stripes.  His big green eyes watched her expectantly.

Remembering her manners, Chloe said, ‘Pleased to meet you.  I’m Chloe.  This is my yard.  My people and I live there.’ She gestured toward the two-story yellow house behind her.

‘Awesome,’ he said.  ‘Mind if I play in your yard?’

Chloe shook her head.  Mind?  This was wonderful!

I don’t, she replied.  ‘But Rex might.’ She filled Mario in on the resident alpha feline.

‘Ooh,’ shivered Mario.  ‘I’ll steer clear of him.’

Silent for a moment, they listened to the ever-teasing chirping of the birds above them.

‘Hey,’ Chloe said.  ‘Wanna play?’

Mario grinned, showing his beautiful pointy whites.

‘Sure!’

They were off.  They chased each other up trees, birds squawking in their wake.  They played hide-and-pounce.  Mario found great big beetles and tossed them at Chloe, who sometimes tossed them back.  Other times she bit into their heads.  She liked the crunch!  Delicious.

The sprinkler made lazy arcs across the lawn.

‘Bet you can’t get as low as I can!’ Mario challenged.

He lowered himself into the grass.

‘Be the ground, be the ground,’ he said to himself.  He groveled in the dirt.

The sparkling water danced over his head.  Lower, lower, it came…and sprayed his ears.

‘Darn it!’ he howled and danced away.

Chloe laughed.

‘My turn!’

Mom had often said Chloe was the original boneless cat.  She showed it now.  Chloe made herself very small, like a mini shag rug.

The water came closer.

‘You’re gonna get we-et!’ Mario jeered.

Closer.

Rex!

Chloe sprang up, right through the pulsing water.  Aack!  She dashed off into the bushes, embarrassed and cold.

Rex surveyed the surroundings.

‘What have we here?’ he asked.  He circled Mario warily.  Mario trembled.

‘I don’t believe we’ve been introduced,’ Rex said, eyes hard.

‘I’m M-Mario.’

‘Ah.’ Rex took a step forward.  ‘You don’t belong here.’

Mario looked Rex in the eyes.

‘Maybe not.’  He paused. ‘But I like it here.  I’m not leaving.’ He glanced back to where Chloe entered the brush.  He didn’t want to see her terrorized anymore.

Rex’s handsome face twisted into a snarl.

‘Oh yes you are!’

With  a spring, Mario jumped Rex.  They rolled over and over in the grass. Rex clawed at Mario’s face. Mario dodged Rex’s small paw-daggers and jerked to the left. Mario landed on top, pinning Rex’s head down. Rex struggled to sit up.  Mario pushed down, harder. Rex huffed with anger and exertion.  Finally, Rex let out a guttural song of defeat and wrestled himself free.  He scampered off into the hole in the neighbor’s fence, tail hanging low.

‘You did it!’ Chloe shouted.  She bounded out from her hiding place.

‘I did, didn’t I?’ said Mario.  He couldn’t keep the grin from his striped face.

But it seemed a little hollow to Mario.  He felt guilty.

‘Hey, Chloe…’he began.

‘Yes?’

‘I think we should make friends with Rex.’

His words hung in the air.

‘What did you say?’ Chloe asked.

‘I said, I think we should apologize to Rex.  He was here first.  Maybe….maybe we can all get along, somehow.’ Mario didn’t like anyone being mad at him.  Besides, anything was possible, right?

Chloe considered this possibility.  She nodded her fuzzy head slowly.  She really did like Rex and had seen him be kind to their humans, purring in their laps contentedly, bringing them live mice.  He meant well.

‘Alright.  But we’ll have to think of a way to make it up to him.’

They sat together and brainstormed.  Mario suggested a dead mouse.  Chloe nixed it. Chloe brought up the idea of a catnip-stuffed sock, but then remembered Rex didn’t like catnip.  He preferred roses.

‘Aha!’ Mario said.  ‘How about a live mouse?  He could have the privilege of dispatching it himself but not having to expend the effort to catch it.’

‘Perfect!’ Chloe pronounced.

They watched for Rex without looking like they were waiting.  They lounged in the front yard, soaking up the afternoon sun leaching out of the cement.  The sun slipped lower and lower in the sky.  Finally, as the last rays faded, Rex slunk out of the hole in the fence.

He froze.

‘What are you two doing here?’ he rasped.

Mario sat up.  He reached a large paw into a small box he had been lying on.  He picked up the wriggling, squeaking mouse in his teeth.  He held it out to Rex.

Rex, stunned, didn’t move.

Chloe spoke up.

‘It’s for you.  Mario is sorry for beating you up. You belong here.  Mario and I are hoping we can all become friends.’

‘Why would you want to be friends with me?’ Rex wondered.  ‘I’ve never been…nice to you.’

Chloe had to agree, but she didn’t say so.  Her mama taught her you don’t have to spout everything that comes into your head.

‘But you can change that now.  Chloe told me you saved a baby bird last spring.  It almost got swallowed by another cat.  You drove the other cat away and you carried the chick back up to its nest before its mother returned. You are merciful.’ Mario still marveled at that story.  Looking at the menacing hulk of a cat in front of him, he had trouble believing it.

Rex’s eyes registered surprise.  Chloe saw that?  He had no idea.  He had forgotten all about it.

Rex hesitated, then took the peace offering.  He grabbed it by the neck and bit into its juicy center.  Yum!  He closed his eyes in ecstasy.

Mario and Chloe smiled at each other.

‘Thank you,’ Rex murmured.  ‘I would like to be friends.  I have been a bit lonely, myself.  I am… sorry for my bad behavior.’  He almost choked on “sorry”.  Pride is a tough master.

‘But I’ve never had any friends before, so you might need to teach me, ‘ Rex finished, bowing his head with the admission.

Chloe and Mario were only too glad to show Rex what being a real friend meant.  From that day on, the three cats were inseparable.  They hunted together.  They played together.  They shared whatever they caught and learned the synergistic heat value of snuggling.

“Mom!  Come look at this!” Ruby called.  “We have another cat now!”

The three friends looked up at her from the bottom of their eyes and smiled a secret smile.

Serendipity

zinnias

It was an early release day. That means three extra hours of freedom for the schoolchildren in our district.  Both kids are home.  Zac is on the computer.  His visiting neighbor friend is on the x-box.  They’re playing the same game, chatting across their made-up worlds.  Zac, the known master of the game, offers help to his friend now and then.  They discuss strategy and school.

The girls are outside – Ruby and her friend.  They’re making a bird bath.  I hear their voices, bossing each other and laughing.  They pretend all kinds of games, with princesses and babies and animals.  They dig in the dirt, making tunnels or possibly mock graves.  I can’t quite make out the stories, only the joyful treble voices.

Sometimes, the best days have no plans in them.  I’ve gotten all my work done so I could enjoy the kids and just be available.  Miraculously, they’ve found their own entertainment.

Today, the clouds parted.  Lo, the sun appeared.  The temperature soared into the 50s.  It’s a beautiful day.

But it wasn’t on the schedule.  I find myself lazing in a chair by the window, looking outside every few minutes.  It’s like I’ve somehow gotten ensconced inside a bright blue Easter egg.  It’s Susan through the Looking Glass or somesuch. If so, I never want to leave.  Especially if there’s chocolate in here somewhere.

I look at a glossy magazine, reading the stories or not.  Rex lounges in a blue wing chair next to me, dozing and stretching. Occasionally, he peers at me out of one golden eye.  He’s making sure I’m behaving. I am his meal ticket, after all.  Chloe, no dummy, is hiding someplace where the girls can’t find her

I had anticipated a long afternoon of dress-up (girls) and video games (boys), filled with a bit of quarreling due to staying indoors due to the weather.  Instead, I’ve found a feast for the eyes, both indoors and out.  Bliss.