I’ve meant to write something every day we’ve been in Wisconsin. There simply hasn’t been a good time. Now, as we prepare to fly back to Washington, I have a little time. Everyone else is asleep.

Finding a place to stay in the Madison area proved challenging. Turns out the National Cross Fit Games are coming up in the beginning of August. Competitors have checked in early to get used to the humidity, aka swimming while walking on land. We found a place in McFarland. We arrived at midnight local time to a house located on a quiet, established street. We walked into a house that smelled sour. However, a few unique touches greeted us.

I love me some Betty Boop.

I mean, how often do you show up at an Air B&B place and find a piccolo in your room? This is a first for me. Memories flowed over me. Marching band. Stars & Stripes Forever. The ringing in my right ear. Anyway, I picked it up and squeaked out a few notes. Because, why not?

The décor was…eclectic.

I won’t even mention the collection of pig mugs.


But these are the sum total of the good things. The carpet smells of paprika. We had doors made of paneling and 1970s mass production hollow core. Every time someone opened or closed a door, the hallway shook. Each bathroom had exactly only 2 sets of towels, one of them white. White! The A/C kicked up to 75 at midnight, leaving us drenched in sweat. Jonathon would stumble out to the hallway and push it back down to habitable levels.

But this, folks, was the capper for me.

Separate microwave for guests and family.

No use of the basement at all.

It felt like we weren’t welcome here, despite paying a hefty sum for the privilege. I am all for quirky and understand the nature of staying in someone’s home. We’re guests. We were blessed to find a place to stay at all. Yet this attitude of guilty until proven innocent grated on us. We asked the homeowner for the key to do laundry but she wasn’t available. Tra-la! Thanks a million. Probably better at this point if I *don’t* sign the guest book.

Just when I couldn’t handle another bratty detail from the homeowner, I remembered the backyard. Stepping out of the hermetically sealed house onto the back deck brought us into another world brimming with life. Hibiscus bushes hosted hummingbirds. Wild rabbits came and grazed any time of the day, seeking a quiet, shady spot. Cardinals called to each other from treetops. Masses of cicadas alternately roared and whispered. Ruby and I spotted orange and blue butterflies fluttering around. And yesterday, out of nowhere, a wild turkey wandered into the yard. The yard is only maybe 20 x 50′, hemmed in by woods and a broken-down fence. Nothing impeded the creatures from finding their way to us.

This 5-day trip has been busy and frustrating at times. Sometimes, in the moment, the minor irritations eclipse the greater blessings. I have searched for God’s peace as we move from one venue to another to honor Barb. This tiny yard offered a respite for us weary travelers, reminding me of who has it all under control. He welcomes us to come to him every moment of every day.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. – John 14:27




Last night, we took Ruby trick or treating. Since she’s 12 now, I’m not sure how many more times we will do this. We closed up the house and left Dakota in the yard for good measure. Our home sits on a short road off a main thoroughfare. It’s hard to get to, and not much payoff for the detour, as only 3 houses sit on it.

Two thirds of a moon shone down. A chill wind shoved a scrim of scraggly clouds across the sky. Wind picked up fallen leaves and swirled them around. Trees shook and cast moving shadows on the ground.

Ruby dressed as a pumpkin. She painted her face orange and put glittery orange goo on her eyelids. She had no orange shirt so substituted a green one instead. She donned orange tights and a tutu with her brown boots. I don’t know if anyone asked her what she was. I thought she sort of resembled a festive oompa loompa. But don’t tell her that.

We drove down the hill to our old neighborhood behind the library. We scoped out the old haunts, hoping to spot friends. Nope. We parked and started scavenging, by knocking politely. We managed to hit most of the houses in the block, though several had their lights off. The wind made me pull my hat down and snuggle into my fleece coat. It’s still fall, despite the day’s high in the low 60s.

We walked around the creek loop. We passed a house with porch lights on, but nobody inside. A wave of marijuana smoke crested over us. We kept moving, figuring they’d already eaten what candy they had anyway.

We left our old house for last. We stepped up the concrete walk to the front door. As we waited for the door to open, I spotted a black cat lurking in the terraced garden. I had a deja-vu moment. Was that Chloe? A sweet flood of memories came back.

A young clean-shaven man answered the door with a large metal bowl filled with candy. Behind him, a chubby baby waited in a high chair. We told him we used to own the house.

“Oh, we love it,” he said with a smile.

Jonathon mentioned he liked the window boxes installed on the second floor. He also noticed the new porch lights. They looked great. We chatted for a moment, then left. Don’t want to be a stalker family or anything.

Ruby felt she had enough candy. For Ruby, it’s always been about dreaming up a costume – nothing scary – and putting it together. The candy is a nice bonus. We returned home and watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” while sampling candy.

It felt good to know our old house had a young family in it. A new generation gets to enjoy it, create  memories and live their own stories. We stood at the juncture of two rivers – the past and the future – last night. Life goes on, despite us wanting to press pause and linger in a season. Our new season might turn out to be the best one yet.

Where We Begin

Yesterday at 10:00 a.m., my folks signed papers to sell their house.

Yesterday at 3:00 p.m., we signed papers to buy their house.

This journey took us just over a year, from discussion to putting our house on the market to selling to closing. Now we’re full circle.

It hasn’t sunk in yet.

the house

This life is full of endings and beginnings, starts and stops. They happen every day. Some take a moment. Some take longer.

“So, will you kick your parents out now that you’ve purchased their home?”I got this question from almost everyone I work with.

We joked about them pitching a tent in the front yard. I can see it now. “Hey, guys, you have plenty of room, and it’s only a temporary floodwatch. I’m sure the rain will ease up soon. And think of the great sunrises!”

Not going to do it. Because they have a journey ahead of them, too. They haven’t found their next home yet. But we want to be with them when they uncover that jewel. As much as they rejoice in our living here, we will get excited about their next address.

Thanks be to God.

The Cat Came Back, Part 1

Our cats have acclimated to the new, larger house surrounded by a  circle of tall trees.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Yesterday, I headed out for a run. Both cats wanted to go out. They had each been out for a few minutes on their own. I thought, Cool. I can get a short run in and let them back into the house when I return. They’d be more than ready, on sensory overload with all the new smells and creatures and crevices to explore.

Only they weren’t around when I returned. I called. I traipsed around the back of the house a little, calling. Silence. Not even crickets.

I went back into the house to get ready for work. By sunup, I reasoned, their furry faces would appear at the back door. No big deal.

Sunup came and went. So did the afternoon, then the evening. I got home from kettlebells and everyone else greeted me except the cats.

Now I felt terrible. If only I’d kept the felines corralled. I could have nudged them away from the door and then they would be safe.

After rehearsal last night, we drove by our old house to see if they’d gathered there, like a safe place. We wandered the yard and turned lights on. We cried out. Again, silence.

Ruby was pretty upset. We prayed for the cats’ safe return. I prayed, too.

“What if they’re gone for years?”Ruby wondered.

I told her we had to have faith and be patient. Nobody’s good at it, but everyone gets a chance to practice it.

“You know,” Jonathon said. “I’m going to miss Rex more than I missed Rita. Rex and I have a love-hate relationship. He thinks I hate him,” he mused.

I know I did.

This morning, I had a feeling. I dressed for a run and walked out back. A light snow fell, stinging my eyes.

“Chloe! Rex!” I called, trying to be quiet because everyone else slept.


Chloe appeared. Somehow, she got stuck on the other side of the fence from us, in the neighbor’s yard. I walked her over to the gap in the fences and she slid through. “Reunited, and it feels so good…”I held the black Muppet cat in my arms.

She ran into the rotunda and straight to her food bowl. I petted her back. Little bits of pine needles and burrs stuck to her, a testament to her 24-hour exile. She plopped down on the carpet. Her purr filled the room.

Thanks, Jesus, for returning Ruby’s favorite cat. We praise you for answered prayers. OK, Lord. Please send Rex right over.  We’re ready.







Wednesday Welcome



Today’s run started out damp. Nothing fell from the sky, but nothing dried out, either. I looked up and spied a tangerine moon sliver in a charcoal gray expanse. Our new house is in the middle of a hillside, so I’m finding new distances to run up and down to get mileage in. Truth be told, I’m still building back up after pulling some muscle in my right leg.

We’re finding our rhythm here. Most of our worldly possessions sit in a metal box on site. The rest are squirreled away in bedrooms, the basement, or other handy nooks. The cats have acclimated. The first day, they hid and peeked out at everyone. They didn’t know what to make of their new digs. Now, they have the run of the house, loving the extra hands to pet them. Chloe even ventured outside today. Rex has yet to dare.

Shelton in February seems a mushroom world, filled with moss and slimy dead leaves and lots of gray.The air is sometimes a pale smoke against the darkest green trees in the early morning and twilight. Shreds of mist linger among branches. Rain falls at random times to sustain this universe.

We’re finally starting to catch our breath from the move. It’s a blessing to be here, in this house, with my dad and stepmom, for such a time as this. This season will give way to another, then another. But I don’t want to miss this. I look out at the mammoth cedars surrounding us and thank God for all His blessings.




Moving Day

It’s here. We’re moving into the new place. Of course, my dad and stepmom are still in it, so it’ll be a new adventure in family togetherness and bonding. I look forward to making memories. But the house belongs to us.

This house, the one where I sit and type this, doesn’t.

A good friend of mine and I packed up the rest of the kitchen, the winter coats, and she tackled Jonathon’s basement workshop area yesterday. I got the stuff out from under the bathroom sink. Oh, the places you’ll go!

I ran one last time in our neighborhood. A typical Shelton “mizzle” fell from the dark sky. Every muscle group ached from all the packing of yesterday. I wanted to feel something, anything, about this house and area we’ve inhabited for just over 10 years. But sometimes  feelings don’t hop to our schedules. No memories came to mind. I only felt numb from exhaustion.

Ruby wrote this note and magnetized it to our new-old refrigerator.




I had to smile. This note says it better than I could ever say. I love it when someone else is able to express what you can’t. Sometimes, words aren’t enough. We need pictures, too.

Thanks, house, for sheltering us, keeping us warm and keeping us cool, for being our first home in Shelton. Thanks for helping us be a part of this welcoming community and for letting us learn how to welcome others, too. Thanks for your proximity to both our church and the library, as well as the kids’ grade school. Thanks for blessing us. May you bless the new family who settles here. We’ll see you around.

Once More, With Feeling


Today, our house appraises. It’s the last major hurdle in selling our house and buying Dad’s place. We all went to work yesterday, sweeping and polishing and picking up. The idea is to get it to appraise above asking price so the bank will approve the loan for the people purchasing our house.

Ruby cleans her room every Saturday. I use the term “clean” loosely, for it’s a constant battle. Granted, she has the smallest bedroom of all of us. But the accumulation of toys, art supplies, art projects, leftover food, stray clothes, books and the cat puts it over the top every week.

As I tucked her in last night, I picked my way through the rubble to her bed. However, Chloe had already claimed the only open spot, up near Ruby’s pillow.

“Didn’t you clean your room yesterday?” I asked, surveying the aftermath.

“Yes,” Ruby said. “I’m cleaning out my closet.”

That explained the overflowing tub of sequins, pom-poms, fabric and paper sitting in the middle of the floor. Chloe jumped down off her perch to squat on top of the flat box next to it. It also contained arty items.

“What’s the plan here?” I asked. I patted the bed down before I sat. Ever sat on scissors?

“Well, I need to get this cleaned up,” she said, tossing things out of her closet. “Will you help me?”

“No,” I said without hesitation. “But I will keep you company.”

I’ve spent too many hours in that small, formerly pink prison performing excavation. I’ve uncovered dried-up apple cores, butterfly ink stamps, spilled nail polish and dollar bills. Despite having a smart collection of tiny purses, Ruby used to lose her allowance on a regular basis. All of that was before she figured out the value of money. Cleaning her room proved a true treasure hunt.

“Look, Mom!” she’d shout, waving the green rectangle in the air. “I found $5!”

We’d both cheer. It felt like getting a raise every week.

Ruby sat down next to me on the fuzzy pink blanket.

“I’m going to miss this house,” she said.

“Me too, baby,” I said, holding her close.

This is the last big push before we move out of the home we’ve lived in and loved for the last 10 years. Sure, she’ll keep on cleaning her room until we move. And then, every week after, world without end.

Just don’t tell Ruby.