Twenty-Two Road

Wisconsin cabin

We’ve been on vacation now for just over a week. We’re staying in Poplar, WI – or Hawthorne, WI – depending on which satellite feed picks up on my phone.

It’s truly the middle of nowhere. We’ve got a three-bedroom, two bath cabin in the near-woods. It’s down a gravel drive lined with farms and silos and tall grass. Birds fly up randomly when I pass, like winged confetti. We’ve seen a doe and her fawn from the upstairs window. Orange butterflies abound. Jonathon and Ruby saw fireflies the first night we slept here.

It’s very quiet. In fact, most of the time the only sound is the wind rustling the trees. Very little traffic passes up or down 22 Road. You have to want to get here. My runs have all been on gravel roads. The good part is that I’m not running with semis on my left. The bad part is gravel.

The weather has turned rainy. It’s 59 degrees right now, with 94% humidity. A light drizzle falls. Checking in at Shelton, WA, it’s 57 degrees and 100% humidity. The cool and humid I am used to. I can run fine in it. It’s when it’s warm and humid that I struggle.

We like it out here. The house has a couple of quirks, however. Like there are no books or games, save the Uno cards we brought. The well-appointed upstairs bath has a shower head that aims at the back wall. It’s mounted over 6 feet up and can’t be adjusted. I have to adjust to it, finding my way into the spray. The mirror over the sink is placed so I can see the top of my head. If I stand on tiptoe, I can see my face down to the top of my cheekbones. Methinks a giant lives here.

So far, traveling has been great. Yet new digs mean a certain amount of accommodation t0 place, food, culture, climate, you name it. I like to know what’s going on and to be in control. I’m pretty good at that. Sometimes I get frustrated at not knowing what’s next. But it’s alright to go with the flow and enjoy what arises. Like going to a church gathering with your best friend from college at a Lake Superior shore. Church on the beach, yes! We got to meet a lot of her youth group and great folks that attend her congregation. We dipped our toes into the largest lake in the U.S. Ruby found a rainbow handful of rounded agates, shaped by the waves of the lake.

Changes in circumstances help take off our rough edges. I think if we pay attention, life has surprises around every corner.  We only have to open our eyes and look. We can find beauty.

 

 

 

 

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Ruby Bloom

Photo by hdwpics.com

                                             Photo by hdwpics.com

Ruby sat at the table, She slouched over her cereal bowl.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” I asked.

“I don’t have any friends.  I’m the only neighborhood kid left.  All my other friends have moved away for the summer,” she said, brown eyes sad.

I know this.  It makes me sad, too.  Growing up, I can’t ever remember not having kids to play with wherever I lived.  In Portland, it was the next-door neighbors.  In Clackamas, it was a friend across the street.  Sure, they took vacations and went away for awhile. But they didn’t move.

“Have you prayed about it? Jesus said we don’t have because we don’t ask.” A lot of times we whine and complain instead of seeking God about stuff.  Not you, of course. Just hypothetically.

She nodded.

“Lots of times,” she said. She slurped up another sludgy bite of cereal.

“Have you gotten an answer?” I asked

She shook her head.

“Are you mad at God about that?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

Well, that was easy. Now what?

“Sometimes we don’t get what we want right away.  Remember when I told you about how your dad and I wanted a baby?”

“Yeah,” she said, bored. “You prayed about it and poof! there was Zac, then poof! I came along,” she said.

It took a little more than poof, mind you, but that’s the general idea.

“God didn’t deny us children.  He just waited for the right babies to come along.  Sometimes when our prayers don’t get answered right away, it isn’t no.  It’s not yet.”

She looked at me. She didn’t like that suggestion.

“How about we pray about it?  The Bible says where two or more are gathered together, God is in the midst of them.  You and I are two.  Chloe makes three,” I said, petting the muppet-cat at our feet.

I took her small hand. We prayed.  We asked for little girls Ruby’s age, 8-10, with nice families, to move into our neck of the woods.

Now, we wait.  What to do in the meantime?  Make the most of what we have.  In Ruby’s case, that means writing stories, making up songs, playing in our “cool” tub (the unconnected hot tub), planting flowers, building with legos, drawing, riding her bike and enjoying the sunny freedom of summer. It’s time to get to know her dad and Zac better, maybe even learn to make jam. We can bloom where we’re planted even as we wait for the good things God has for us.

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:20

Jesus, Coffee, Donuts and Friends

coffee

This morning, I dragged myself into work.  I know.  Not very inspiring, Susan!  Everyone does that on the first day back after a long weekend.  True.  But the flu fatigue tried to linger. It hung on, an invisible mental and physical fog. I slogged through the morning.  My brain, despite many pleadings and Jonathon’s rocket coffee, didn’t stir out of second gear.

“Susan, why don’t you work on this assignment?  We need to combine the project file ideas and the electronic version of project documents.”

She might as well have said, “Susan, make a nuclear bomb out of a paper clip, a snail shell and glitter.” Same result. Spin, spin, half-baked ideas, spin, lose train of thought. Wait…squirrel!

At lunch time, I trudged home. Jonathon had bought donuts while I was away. I needed one.  So with my lunch of cassoulet, a meager half serving of java and two luscious halves of once-whole donuts (hey, less calories, right?), I fortified myself for the second 4-hour chunk of work. Jonathon and I finished out the lunch hour with a sunny stroll.

But wait. Later on in the afternoon, it got really good.

My boss and I took a brisk walk outside, chatting all the while. The sun warmed our backs. As we marched down Cota, I spotted an old friend of mine from out of town.

“Hey!” I greeted her.  I forgot to tell her how great she looked, but we embraced and I introduced my friend to my boss.

This happened again, on the end of our loop.  We passed “Better on You,” and glimpsed another gal I knew, this one an artist and fellow writer.

We hugged and I got to catch up with another friend. We walked into the gallery and my supervisor lexplored the paintings, clothing and jewelry. She told me she’d always wanted to go in there.

I can’t believe how much the day improved. I started out with no energy and very low expectations.  Now, I can’t stop smiling. I didn’t have to just survive the day; I got surprises. I don’t believe in coincidences. I know Who orchestrated those connections and all I have to say is thank you. Between the sunshine, coffee, donuts and good friends, Jesus made it a pretty good day.

Bad Girls?

Not this show.

Not this show.

Ruby has several little girl friends in the neighborhood.  They all have strong points.  One has great snacks.  Another seems to be getting new pets all the time  like kittens, puppies, or guinea pigs.  Great draw for an animal lover like Ruby.  Another one has a trampoline.  The last lets Ruby tag along on family outings.

Yet Ruby doesn’t seem to be able to stay good friends with any of them for long, save the trampoline kid. She’s a teeny bit more amenable, since Ruby is older than her.

“Why don’t you play with Jenny (not her real name)? She should be home today,” I’ll prompt, attempting to pry Ruby’s eyeballs from the TV screen.

“Nah.  She’s too bossy,” Ruby will respond.

Hello pot, meet kettle.

All of these girls have strong personalities.  None just “go with the flow” for very long, if ever.  They all want to be the leader.  They all like calling the shots and making decisions. Hence, the ensuing arguments.

You know what?  That’s not a bad thing.  Each girl knows her own mind.  They don’t get swayed easily.  They know who they are.  It’s a gift, but the flip side, as I’ve written about before. The smooth side of the gift shows the confidence and joy they have, making forays into the world and discovering what it’s all about.  The rough side reveals the intractability and need to control circumstances.  The two make up the whole of a personality trait:  self-assurance.  Confidence.  Boldness.

Confidence and courage make great leaders. In our culture, we value girls who are subdued and submissive.  Confident boys tend to get a lot of kudos.  Our girls should receive the same for these qualities. These girls are world-changers.  Sure, they need some tempering and self-control.  Part of my job entails seeing they learn it.  You don’t wield your WMD (weapons of mass destruction) – cruel words, withholding snacks, or disappearing without notice – on your friends. They deserve your sympathetic listening ear.  They need your half a cookie. And silly jokes make everything better.

I think it’s entirely possible Ruby and her gang are still figuring out what real friendship is.  Over time, people change, especially children.  Your enemy of today might morph into your best friend tomorrow. It can take a lifetime to understand how to love people. These girls, they’ve only just begun.

 

Full House and Donuts

I started writing this yesterday.  Enjoy!

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I win!  Photo courtesy of entertainment.howstuffworks.com

I win! Photo courtesy of entertainment.howstuffworks.com

Today, we have a couple of extra guests.  My mom is up from Portland, visiting over the long weekend.  Zac’s best friend is here, too. He stayed over last night to celebrate Zac’s birthday, which is Tuesday.

I like it.  It’s 34 degrees outside.  It’s warm inside.  Ruby made eggs this morning and I made toast.  Jonathon stayed up late with the boys to play Zac’s new Xbox game, fortified by Mountain Dews all around. Zac’s friend is funny and smart, conversing with all ages easily.  He and Zac get along like two peas in a pod.  Usually.  Not this morning.  Zac was barely awake. He managed to sip water and listen, holding on to consciousness with both hands.  The rest of us talked and laughed, Chloe the minx winding around our feet.  It’s been fun to have so many generations and points of view in the house.

Just two short days ago, the local library put out a new book.  The library here in Mason County asked for submissions to create an anthology of local writers.  Those of us in the writers group were some of the first to hear of it, as we met in one of the library’s conference rooms.  We got excited.  Six of us sent in our work.

We got published!

I’m sort of on a constant high from that.  And I still haven’t come all the way down, not completely.  At first, I felt a little guilty, since I didn’t have to shop my stories or poems around to publishers.  I didn’t “work” for it, technically.  It seemed  like getting an award for just being me –  a short, brown-haired, nearsighted girl who happens to like writing.  But between Jonathon and another friend, who each told me I could work extra hard next time if I wanted, I learned to celebrate it.

I’m finding myself celebrating more things every day. Zac turns 14 on Tuesday!  Amazing. We’ve been seeing sunshine most days this November, which is nothing short of miraculous.  The Voodoo donuts we had for breakfast didn’t tempt me. Much.

You never know what life holds, much like this.

box of donuts

In the past, having too many people at our house felt overwhelming. Now we hardly have a day go by without several of Ruby’s friends – or ours – hanging out with us.  It’s great.  My box runneth over (or did, before the kids got into it).  I’m very blessed. I’ve been dealt a winning hand.

inside the box

Life According to Zac

I have another guest blogger today.  Here is a short memoir Zac penned this morning as an English assignment.  This is the first draft.  He said I could share it.  I did ask!  Hope you like it.

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Get yer own box!

Get yer own box!

We all have those embarrassing moments in the summertime.  For some, it is bringing a white top to a squirt gun fight, for others it may be slipping and hitting your face on the pavement while washing a car.  However, my experience was completely different than most people’s summertime pranks and jokes.  My experience involved a Cheez-It box and my friend’s dog.

It was a cold July morning, around ten o’clock. One of my friends, John, was out in his yard.  I coincidentally live about a block away from him, so the walk was terribly easy.  I had some spare change, and we were hungry as ever.  (If you don’t already know, most teenage boys have not one but TWO hollow legs, if you catch my drift).  We promptly headed down to the local Safeway to get some snacks, when we were met by an old friend by the name of Gibran.

Gibran was one of those kids that you almost never see, but you consider him a good friend.  One thing you have to understand about him is he is tall.  When I say tall I mean he was a good 5’7 when we were twelve.  I, on the other hand, was a measly four foot eleven.

Gibran asked if he could walk with us. I didn’t see any harm in that so we walked down to Safeway, all 3 of us. Soon we arrived, and John and I realized we hadn’t had anything in mind to get at Safeway, so we browsed the snack aisle like those old women with the glasses with cords in the back browse the shelves at the library. We found something decent: a sale on Cheez-Its.

John and I asked Gibran if he wanted some Cheez-Its as well, and he quickly agreed. Our band of preteens was merrily heading to the counter with a prized possession of on-sale snack food, when we found out, after counting change, that “Hey, we can buy TWO boxes!”  We all sprinted for the snack food aisle, much to the astonishment of the nearby shoppers, and ruthlessly grabbed another box.  Now content we couldn’t buy any more snack food, we headed for the checkout line once again.

“Would you like a bag for these?” the clerk asked.

“No, we’ll just carry them.”  I responded.

We headed out of Safeway with big grins on our face as we tore into the first box.  After our appetites were sated for a few minutes, we started brainstorming ideas for the remaining box to be used so we didn’t have to throw it away. I devised a solution: we fill it with John’s dog, Romeo’s feces to get it off the lawn. We hit a brick wall when we realized that we’d have to actually pick up the poop to put it in the box. We all vouched for a different solution: use a picket fence post John had lying around. This actually worked for about the first thirty seconds surprisingly, however, we hypothesized that this was going to go on for hours to fill the box up.  Gibran stopped for a second to watch another neighborhood friend, Eric, come out from his house and wave. We all waved back as he walked over.

“What are ya doin’?” he asked.

I replied, “Eating Cheez-Its. Want some?”

“Sure!”

This is the start of this getting awkward. We didn’t show him the full Cheez-It box, we gave him the one filled with dog poo.  I stifled my laughter as did the others as he shoved his entire hand(up to the elbow) into the box. I could not contain it and laughed so hard I started crying.

Eric, on the other hand, was infuriated and confused.  He pulled out his defiled hand and started trying to prod us with it, much to our astonishment. However, his hand was not brown, oddly enough.
In the course of one day, I bought two Cheez-It boxes, made Eric look stupid, and found Gibran.  This was a successful day for me as far as “seizing it” goes.  John, Gibran, Eric and I all headed up to John’s room in the attic after that to play some video games, barring Eric until he washed his hands.

Coffeemates

It's all of us!

It’s all of us!

On this drizzly, foggy, 100% humidity day, I celebrate coffee.  Join me!
Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! ~”Coffee Cantata”, J.S. Bach

We have a slew of espresso places in town but only a few have places for people to sit and enjoy.  One is a local joint a half mile from my house.  It’s independent.  They have great coffee and you can hang out and use their wi-fi.  Another is a bookstore, with an upscale, brighter vibe.  It’s nice.  It’s more girly and posh.  And then there’s Starbucks inside Safeway.  Meh.  Their coffee is consistent but the ambiance…isn’t.  The restrooms are right there, too.  The stench can be, uh, a deterrent.

Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven. ~Jessi Lane Adams
However, the Northwest is a coffee Mecca.  If you live here, you drink coffee.  In fact, I can only think of one person I know who *doesn’t* drink the stuff at all.  And he’s weird.  Probably due to caffeine deprivation.

Decaffeinated coffee is kind of like kissing your sister. ~Bob Irwin

We have at least a half dozen drive thru places in our  town alone.  It’s the drug of choice up here where it rains 9 months of the year.  I guess meeting someone for coffee would be the equivalent of  going out for drinks at a bar, only this is less hazardous for other drivers. Generally.  Since I’m not a drinker, I do not – would not – hold liquor well.  It wouldn’t be pretty.  I am the poster child for “knows she has a limit of less than one”. However, the same applies for coffee.  No double shots, please!  Nobody needs to see that.

I like my coffee strong, not lethal! ~M*A*S*H
Incidentally, there’s nothing about coffee in the Bible.  Although I wouldn’t be surprised if God created it on the first day to help Himself get through the next five. But wait!  I think I found a scripture…
For I will bring them into the land I swore to give their ancestors–a land flowing with milk  coffee and honey… – Deut. 31:20<

So, I guess what I want to say is that coffee makes me grateful.  Over the last few years, I’ve made good friends with folks while sipping the joe.  Thanks for meeting with me. Thanks for giving this lonely girl transplant a spot in your life.  Thanks for sharing your heart even as we share hot water poured over ground-up beans.  Thanks for getting hyper with me.  Some of you have drunk tea instead.  Wimps!  No, seriously, I don’t discriminate.  You can drink hot leaf-water if you want.  Whatever.  Makes no never mind to me.  And if I can do something that makes me feel more French  (like hanging in a cafe sipping java and people-watching), bring it!

Here’s to you, coffee!  You make the world seem full of possibilities.  Like waking up.

I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless. ~Napoleon Bonaparte

smiley coffee

All quotes taken from http://www.spillingthebeanschicago.com/quotes.