The Cat Came Back, Part 2

rex-returned

Last night, we watched a movie called The Christmas Candle . I know it’s February. Don’t judge. We enjoyed a fire in the woodstove along with some pizza. The movie’s themes about faith and prayer and God’s timing touched a nerve. We’re waiting on so many things. Rex needs to come back, I thought. My parents need to find a house of their own. Ruby needs some good neighborhood chums. And many more.

Suddenly, Ruby shouted, “Rex is back!”

His furry face appeared at the back door. I got up to open it to let him in. It’s been so cold, dropping down below freezing the last several nights. I had started to worry about him. I swung the door open. He skittered away. His face registered disbelief. “Do I live here?” he seemed to ask. He crept towards the opening. I stepped back. He sniffed the air, looking for something familiar. He circled to the left. Rex craned his neck forward, peering into the comfortable room. Then he ran into the house.

But he didn’t settle. He trotted into the main part of the house. He looked the downstairs over. He came back and ate some food, then he was off to explore again. He peeked at the woodstove with its fiery logs putting out powerful heat. He looked at each of us. He and Chloe sniffed each other as if to say, you’re back, too. He spied the blanket in my lap and seemed to recall its cozy qualities. Because after he ate and drank and groomed himself, he settled in my lap.

Rex got lost. He’s a little thinner for not having eaten for 2 nights. He had some gunk stuck to his tail. He probably slept little, nervous as he is. When he took off Thursday morning, he had no idea how strange his world had gotten. He dove into it headfirst and then didn’t know how to get back. We left the litterbox outside because I’d heard cats can smell it a long way off and find their way home. But I found little pawprints and scattered litter on the ground. Someone decided they wanted to be civilized instead of pooping in the great outdoors. I don’t think the litterbox acted like a homing beacon, at least not for him.

Rex’s return reminded me about when we get off track with the Lord. Sometimes we’re off for a few days. Sometimes we’re off doing our own thing for years. That time off the road of truth makes us leery to come back. Will God accept me? Does He still love me? How could he, after all I’ve done? The fact is He’s always waiting, His comforting embrace on the other side of the entry way. Yet He won’t barge in. He waits for us. All we have to do is open the door and cross the threshold. Then, like Rex relaxing in his staff’s owners’ presence, we remember that we belong.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” – Revelation 3:20

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Lost in Wisconsin

Views from the front of the cabin

I only planned to run four miles. I should mention that up front. I wanted to round up to 20 miles for the week.

I woke up early and stepped out around 5:40 a.m. Last night’s fog lingered, obscuring the sunrise. I hit the gravel road and turned right, then right again. The other day while driving back and forth from Duluth, I spied a side road, unpaved, that paralleled the highway. I figured I could run on those shady lanes and perhaps stay a bit safer than running on the shoulder of an interstate.

The air felt fresh and cool, if damp, on my skin. The ends of my hair started to drip. Rabbits ran for cover as I pounded by. I found a rhythm as I entered scene after scene of what could have been a Bob Ross painting.

bob ross woods

Like this, only no ramshackle cabin anywhere.

All was well. I found a good turnaround point and headed back. Out of curiosity, I switched on my Garmin’s GPS. I wanted to check out how far I went. Strangely, it found me right away. I’m in the middle of nowhere, and the satellite tracked me. Alrighty. I’ve gotten faster over theses consecutive days of running. Guess I ran a little further than I planned on the front end.

I passed back through the idyllic, tree-lined road. I passed a couple of stop signs where cross streets intersected the path. Suddenly, it didn’t look familiar anymore. Wait, I thought. Where’s the highway? I can’t see it. I ran a little more. Hmm. That hill. I don’t remember it from the out trip. And this curve? Not feeling it. I ran to the end of the street. Lackson Road. Did I run too far? Did I pass the intersection for Twenty-Two Road? Ah, hubris, thy name is Susan. I gazed up the highway,hands on my hips, feeling like the biggest idiot. All was shrouded in the fine mesh of fog. The sign across the street said Wentworth. I don’t remember passing that before.

I gazed down the highway, the way I’d come. A bit risky, running on the shoulder, with traffic, in the fog. I threw up a quick prayer. This way? OK. I ran down the highway. Wisconsin DOT had built up a fine shoulder for me. I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving, because looming in the shadowy veil I saw the welcoming green rectangle announcing Twenty Two Road. Yay!

By this time, I’d run over 5 miles. When I reached the mailbox at the top of our driveway, I calculated I’d run about 5.6 miles, adding what I’d run before the magical Garmin moment and what it said now. I ran further down the red dirt road to a clump of bushes to even it up to 6 miles. Go hard or go home, right?

I had to chuckle. I got caught up in the beauty of the run and stopped paying attention to the signs. I haven’t gotten lost in a new place in awhile. But every time we’ve moved, getting lost is how I’ve learned to navigate the unfamiliar surroundings. Getting lost happens. But we don’t have to stay lost. Signs abound, if we only look.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. -Matthew 7:7-8

 

 

 

Lost Lessons

local roadI apologize for not blogging yesterday. I ran out of time. I can sometimes blog on my lunch hour. However, yesterday, my boss and I took a long walk.  He wasn’t up for running, so we improvised. It was a bright day and pushing 60 degrees. We walked the route we normally run, only this time we found new neighborhoods.

Houses built in the 2000s, one right after the other, with small yards and manicured shrubs, surrounded us.

“Where’s Seattle Street?” he asked, frowning down at his smartphone. He poked it with his index finger.

Nowhere, it seems. Having no technology, I waited for the verdict.

We did an about-face and walked back down the hill in the eerily cookie-cutter neighborhood we’d stumbled upon. Sidewalks, even! Generally not a standard in my neighborhood.

We hiked up another hill, then ran out of road again.

“This doesn’t look familiar,” I volunteered.  I am, as you might recall, directionally challenged.

“No, it doesn’t,” he said. We stopped, puzzled at our turnaround. We got caught up in good conversation and let our feet lead us to places unknown. Suddenly, we both started laughing.  How could we get lost in Shelton?!

“We’d better head back to what we know,” he said after more phone poking.

So we did. We took a right at the blooming dogwood. A large mutt barked at us. The sun smiled down on us while the fresh breeze cooled us. Soon we were back on our regular route.

Sometimes, that’s all we can do, going back to the familiar. Exploring has its merits. I like adventures and doing new things. Meeting new people opens up worlds of experiences I may never have. We stretch our limits and go off-leash to see what’s out there. Getting lost is a way to gather information and another chance to discover a road home.

The Cat Came Back, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my mom and her cat disappearing.  I apologize if that sounded mean.  I’m not a big fan of her cats, but she is. Her orange tiger cat, Baby, came home a couple of weeks ago.  But he was in the neighborhood; he just didn’t know it. He got lost in the wilderness around Shelton.

The bigger news is about her other cat, Little Boy.  She moved to Shelton June 21. Little Boy bolted that moving day and hadn’t been seen since.  Her former neighbor called yesterday to let her know he’d spotted the missing cat loitering around her place in Portland.

Bam!  I love stories like these. 

Remember that old slogan from the 1970s? ,”If you love something, set it free.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours.  If it doesn’t it was never meant to be.”  Que sera, sera. 

Right.

I hated that slogan.  Because I’m the “If it’s truly mine, chain it up and stake it in the yard” kind of gal. Don’t even *think* of running away, because I will find you.  And it won’t be pretty. I don’t like it when those I love – be they animal or people – go away.  It makes me sad.  It hurts. Maybe you feel the same.  It’s less painful if they stick around, near you. Yes, it’s selfish. It’s also protection. I think it’s how we’re wired.  Love invests in others.  It means I extended care and maybe you reached back in kind. When somehow the relationship gets strained or severed, pain ensues.

I’m reminded of this scripture:  So Jesus told them this story:  “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!– Luke 15:1-7

When someone comes back, renewed relationship happens.  In Mom’s case, I imagine there will be lots of petting from her and purring from the cat, with much rejoicing on both sides. Both will dole out reassurance to be there for each other in the future. I pray it’s a long and happy friendship. It’s never too late to come home.

 

Wacky Wednesday

wacky wednesday

I got an email yesterday from our local library, informing me that Ruby’s library books would soon be due.  Great!  She found two of them last night.  One, however, remained outstanding.

Wacky Wednesday.

She loved the silly pictures of shoes walking themselves, cats in strollers, fish casting for humans in a pond.  She even made her own version, complete with drawings.

I looked on Ruby’s downstairs bookshelves for the absent tome .  I remebered it was a yellow book.  I pulled the books out.  Goodnight Moon, princess stories, Fancy Nancy…A yellow book!  But no.  I saw bare toes.  The people were all wearing robes and sandals.  It was a Bible story.

I tromped up to Ruby’s pink haven.  Still fairly clean from her obligatory Saturday pick-up, I did a visual search.  I didn’t see any books on the floor or behind her desk or dresser.  I moved to the bed and shuffled blankets around.  I reached under her stuffed animals and pillows.  I found a ton of pens.  I even found an eraser for a white board.  No book.

Sighing, I knew what came next.  By this time, Ruby was shadowing me.

“Maybe it’s under my bed?” she suggested.

Yep.  Very possible.  Time to move the behemoth.  I elected not to spit on my hands ala Popeye.  I heaved the bed away from the wall a few inches.  Peeking along the wall, I found a book Ruby started to write.  It was all about kittens.  Nice, but no.  I found a clutch of papers.  Most notable among them was a self-portrait.  Still no Dr. Seuss stray.

I stockpiled the other books in the front passenger seat and hoped for better things.  I got Ruby off to school.

“Could the book be in your dad’s car?” I asked Ruby.  She shrugged.  She kissed me goodbye, leaving me behind to ponder missing books.

I searched downstairs again.  I lifted couch cushions.  Zac got involved.

“I’m gonna laugh if I find it on this bookshelf,” he said, searching the notorious bookshelves yet again.

Still no sign of the lost one.

I thought of Jesus’ parables of lost things.  The lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son.  All are in Luke 15.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’  – Luke 15:8-9

Each story has a sense of desperation.  The one experiencing the loss of what once was theirs puts everything on hold to find it, or in the case of the lost son, to wait for him to return. In my case, since books don’t have legs, I realized I needed to commit myself to finding the darn thing.  I prayed for help.  I rolled up my sleeves.  I checked behind Ruby’s bed one last time.  There it was!

Ruby’s concern was that the replacement cost of the book would be $50,000.  I chuckled and told her it wouldn’t be that much.  But I didn’t know how much it would be.  I realize the parables  of Luke 15 are in the context of searching out the lost to tell them about Jesus and his great love.  However, I also think Jesus cares about little things like lost library books, too.  I’m living proof.

The Mystery of the Missing Turquoise Hoodie

This is a (mostly fictional) short story I shared with the writers group yesterday. Enjoy!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

He couldn’t believe it.  It was gone.  So many memories attached to it.  They flooded over him in a wave.

Zac slumped on his bed.

“What am I going to wear?” he wondered aloud.

He pulled on his favorite long-sleeved red shirt. A good inch of wrist showed once his shirt was on.   He jerked a pair of gray jeans from his dresser.  A good inch of sock showed below his pant leg.  Zac never noticed.

Zac trudged downstairs. He scowled at the clock:  7:07 already?!  He had to leave in less than a half hour.

“Morning, Zac!” his ever-cheerful mom chirped.

Geez.  Some of us are NOT morning people, he wanted to retort.  Instead, he grunted.  He picked up an empty bowl from the counter and dumped cereal into it.  He filled in all the airy spaces he could with milk, leveling the liquid at the bowl’s rim.

Zac took his bowl and spoon.  He sat down in his spot at the table.  His little sister Ruby was already there.  She pushed the cereal around in her bowl, her expression sour.  If it were up to her, every day would start off with a hot breakfast.

Mom sat at the head of the table.  She sipped her coffee.

Zac quickly shoveled in the nourishment.  He sucked down the last of his cereal, artfully tilting the bowl into his maw.

Ruby abandoned her despised cereal for her latest creation:  cardboard paper dolls with duct tape dresses.

“Ruby!” Mom exclaimed.  “Finish your breakfast, then play.”

“Sorry, Mom”, Ruby repented.

“Mom,” Zac started, fully fueled now, “have you seen my blue sweatshirt?” Oh please, oh please, he mentally begged.

Mom thought for a moment.

“Hmm.  I thought it was on the floor in your room.”

Zac heard, “You slob!  You threw it on your floor. If you took care of your things, this wouldn’t happen!”

Zac shook his head, mentally rolling his eyes.  Moms could be so impossible.

“It’s not there!” he asserted, his blue-gray eyes daring her to contradict him.

“Well, I haven’t seen it.” Mom returned to her imbibing.

Zac paused a beat.

“Did you take it?”

Mom sat up, startled.

“Did I take it?!  Why would I take it?” Eyes wide open now, she truly looked mystified at the suggestion.

“Come on, Mom.  I know you wear it sometimes,” Zac countered, smirking.

“Yes, I do.  We’re about the same size.  But Zac, I would never take something of yours.  I’m no thief.” She stood up, ending the conversation. She dumped her coffee mug into the sink.

Zac sighed.  Now he would have to actually look for it.  He went back upstairs.  Why did they have so many stairs anyway?  He stalked to his bedroom, at the end of the short hallway.  He peeked under his bed.  He opened his closet and poked around in the clothing littering the floor.  He even picked clothes up, dropping them just as quickly, in his quest to find his favorite article of clothing.

He remembered when he got the sweatshirt, years ago now.  Zac and his mom were back to school shopping for 6th grade.  She made him try on 100 pairs of jeans and at least 50 shirts.

This is tedious, he thought.  He got a brainwave.  He layered all the shirts, one on top of the other, and walked out of the dressing room to where his mom waited.

She looked up.

“Why are you so…round all of a sudden?” Mom asked.

She lifted up the top shirt.  And saw green fabric underneath.

“What are you, a refugee child?!  Nice try, mister.  One at a time, please.”

Zac recalled spotting the turquoise hoodie as they were leaving the boys’ section.

“Hey, that’s cool”, he said, careful to show a proper but not excessive enthusiasm. He shoved a lock of dark blonde hair out of his eyes. Don’t get your hopes up, buddy, he thought.

“That would look good on you,” Mom replied.  She peeked through the rack to find his size.  Zac peeled it off the hanger and shoved his arms into the garment.  It was soft and fleecy inside, a blanket with sleeves, hood and a zipper. Perfect!

Zac had a surprise up his sleeve.  He turned to Mom.

“And….lunch is on me!” He produced a $20 from his back pocket with a flourish.  He saved his allowance for this very purpose.

“Zac!  What a surprise!” Mom grinned.  “Sneaky boy, you just don’t want to go back and do your homework.”

“True,” Zac admitted.  But he also wanted to keep his mom to himself, just a little longer.  They found the food court and he even let her choose the place:  Subway, his least favorite.  He managed to keep his disappointment to himself.  He didn’t want to spoil the meal.

Zac wore gray jeans pretty much every day, changing to a clean pair in the morning.  He also wore a clean shirt every day.  But the hoodie went with everything.  He wore it, zipped up, each day of 6th grade.  He wore it on rainy days and sunny days.  He wore it to school, a protective shield of sorts.  He craved retreat from the world.  He could cover his nearly unrecognizable, ever-changing body.  The hoodie was a safe place.

He met his best friend Carlos wearing that very sweatshirt.

“Dude, what’s the answer to number 1?”

Zac turned around.  A  skinny boy with dark hair and eyes had asked him the question. Math class meant homework and sometimes working problems together in class.  The boy’s brown eyes watched Zac.

“I got 27, “ Zac said.

“Me too!” Carlos beamed approval.  Zac smiled back.  He had a tough time making friends, but his lucky sweatshirt helped.

But that was last year.  Back to reality, dude, Zac reminded himself.  He scanned his room desperately.  Where could it be?  His digital clock screamed 7:27.  Out of time, he dashed downstairs.

School was school, normal and predictable as a rainy November morning.  All day, Zac felt a little off-kilter without his sweatshirt armor.  Even Carlos asked about the missing sweatshirt, a staple on Zac’s back. It couldn’t be helped. Zac stepped off the bus in the near twilight and headed home.  He had stayed late to finish up some school work and his little sister greeted him at the door.

“Hi, Zac!” Ruby called, brown eyes shining with admiration.

“Hi, Ruby!” Zac said.  Little sisters helped to boost one’s ego, he found.  They thought the world of you.

“Hey, Zac, look at what I made”.  Ruby twirled for him.  She sported a new blue skirt, swirling around her ankles. Loving sewing, crafts and art, Ruby was the resident wunderkind for invention and creativity.

“Wow”.  Zac was genuinely blown away.  His sister was amazing.  A seven-year-old who could sew her own clothes?!

Wait a minute.  Was that a zipper down the side? And black block print on the back?

“Ruby”, Zac asked carefully, “where did you get the material?”  Zac knew that sometimes his mom gave Ruby old clothes destined for Goodwill.  Ruby turned these found items into pillows and doll clothes, usually, or made blankets to line cardboard boxes as beds for her cat.  It could be this item was from that stash.

“I found it”, Ruby said.

“Where did you find it?”

“It was on the floor in the bathroom after you took a shower.”  Ruby peered up at him, gauging his reaction.  Was she in trouble?

Zac had a choice now.

Zac’s fists clenched involuntarily.  She.  Took.  My.  Sweatshirt!  He forced himself to breathe in and out, in and out.  She’s just a little kid, he reminded himself.

“Ruby…that was my sweatshirt.  You took it and made it into a…a…” he fumbled as he squeaked out the word.  “Skirt”, he finally finished.

“Oh.”  Ruby looked a little perplexed.  “I thought since you left it on the floor, you didn’t want it anymore.”

What?!  How could she think that? He exploded.

“I can’t believe you did that!  That was my favorite sweatshirt, and you ruined it!”

Zac stomped up the stairs to his lair.

Ruby dissolved into tears and ran to Mom.

Alone in his room, Zac fumed.  How could she take it?  He thought of all the good times he’d had with his friends, laughing and clowning around.  The sweatshirt kept the Northwest drizzle off and the chill away.  It was a constant in his world.

Someone knocked on the door.  Mom, he thought.

“Zac, can I come in?” Mom was tentative.

“Sure,” he begrudged.

Mom came in and sat on the bed next to Zac.  She put her arm around his shoulders.

“Zac, I’m sorry about what happened with your sweatshirt.  So is Ruby.”

He spied Ruby, peeking in at the door, eyes red from crying.

He felt bad for yelling at her but still angry at her willful destruction of his property.

“Zac, I made something for you.”

Ruby crept into the room, fearful of more Zac wrath.  She held out a pillow.  It was blue.  A blue sweatshirt pillow.

Zac couldn’t help but smile.

“Thanks.”

“I’m sorry, Zac.  I really am.  Cross my heart.”  Ruby, all solemnity now, watched her brother.

“Now you can have your sweatshirt even when you sleep!” she said, hopeful her offering pleased him.

How could he resist that pleading face?

“Ok”, he sighed.  “Next time, ask me first.”

He hugged her as Ruby whispered another apology into his leg, a couple of remnant tears on her cheeks.  He watched her swish away in his skirt-shirt.  She had added lace to the bottom.  Ugh!  Little sisters.

The next day at school, he met up with Carlos on the way to algebra.

“Nice sweatshirt, brah,” Carlos said as they ambled along to class.

“Thanks”, Zac smiled as he zipped up his new black hoodie, wrists covered now.  He needed another one anyway.  His mom agreed.  A cozy blanket with sleeves covered his torso. Enshrouded in fleecy goodness, he felt safe again.  New friends and new memories awaited. Life was good.

Playing in the Park with Boys

Yesterday, I took Ruby and a friend to the park.  We decided on the playground where the girls attend school.  We weren’t going to stay long.  We had about an hour.  Nobody else was there; they had the whole place to themselves.  They ran around, chasing each other.  Ruby’s friend climbed to the top of the monkey bars and walked across.  Ruby isn’t there yet.  She went down the slide and maneuvered her way around the crossbars.  They raced little plastic water bottle tops in the covered area when they got too hot.  They played a version of cops and robbers.

After a little while, two little boys rode up on scooters.  They were about 9 or 10, I would guess, both slightly built with short brown hair.  One wore a helmet and glasses; the other did not.  They took over the play structure with the slides and tunnels.  The girls moved onto other activities.  Boys have cooties, ya know.

I sat on a bench in the sun.  The clouds had finally burned off.  It had been the pattern for the last few weeks to have morning clouds that burn off at say 2:00 p.m, possibly later. We never reach our projected highs of near-80 degrees.  Instead, we settle for something closer to 70.  I’m not complaining, but I have a hard time getting warm on days like that.  Still rocking the hoodies. I took off my sweatshirt and basked a little in the sun’s warmth.  I watched the puffy clouds move out like so many enormous sheep.  I spotted one shaped like a UFO.

All of a sudden, I heard the boys yelling behind me.

“I don’t know why I’m even friends with you.  You’re always a jerk!” one of them spouted.

Ouch.

I didn’t turn around.  But I couldn’t hear any more talking.  One, or both of them, had left.

I watched the girls play with the now-empty tetherball poles.  They tried to climb them, but I made them put their shoes back on.  Broken glass hurts your feet.  No bloody playtime on my watch.

Suddenly, I heard a voice.

“There’s a debit card here on the ground”, a voice said.

I turned around.

The boy with glasses was addressing me, as I was the only other person within sight.  Not to mention the only adult.

“It’s not mine,” I replied.  I didn’t even take my purse out of the car. I did lock my car, however.  I’m not an idiot.

The boy, still wearing his helmet, stooped and picked it up.  His neon yellow high-tops glowed in the late afternoon shade.

“It has a name on it,” I helped from my perch.

“It says Diana Prince,” he said. He paused, considering.  “I should take it into the school.”  A handful of cars lurked in the front lot.  Somebody must be inside.

Somehow, he had both scooters.  Must’ve been some fight.  I watched him walk both of them out of the fenced area, holding the green debit card in one hand as he did so.  Discovering this as unwieldy, he put down both scooters and ran back into the enclosure.

He came towards me at a trot.

“Maybe you could take it to the credit union for me instead. ”  He pleaded at me with brown eyes.

“Sure.”  It was my credit union, too.  No trouble for me to turn it in.

“But I’m sure she’s cancelled it by now, if she’s discovered it missing.”  Having a little bit of experience in these matters, I knew something.

The boy smiled, his eyes kind.  He had a light dusting of freckles on his nose. He walked off doubletime with the scooters.

As soon as he was gone, the other boy burst out of the bushes.  He’d been hiding from his friend.  He ran off in the same direction.

As I rounded up the girls to go to the bank and then home, I considered this exchange.  I looked up into the bright blue sky.  The saucer-shaped cloud was long gone.  I don’t know who started the fight or what it was about. All I know is the brown-eyed bespectacled boy is no jerk.