Update and Pine Cone Killer

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I ran 3 miles today in the subfreezing temps. Yes, we have had at least 2 mornings where the weather was below 32 degrees, very cold for October. The stars sparkled up above me. Decked out in fleece, Wonder Woman socks (don’t judge) and as much speed as possible, I shaved 2 minutes off the time. And, drumroll, please, that makes 10 miles total run for the week. It has taken a long time to get back to running consistently. I sort of hate that it’s happening now, when the weather will be turning to straight rain pretty much next week. But it happened! I am grateful.

I am onto the next quarter for school. This time, I have 2 project management electives, one for basic project management overview and the other for project execution. Taking anything having to do with project management, my emphasis, feels like a foretaste of glory divine. The overview class has a good mix of men and women; the second is almost all women, which surprised me. In fact, both PM 5331 and PM 5332 are taught by the same woman. Even better, her requirements for posts and papers are less stringent than past courses. No word limit, no page limit, no 6-8 references required. Wow. It’s like…we need to think for ourselves and converse intelligently with others. I might have a wee bit of excitement about this quarter, complete with girlie squeals. But don’t tell anyone.

In other news, Rex, our 20-lb. American Bombay cat, has been busy. The photo above shows his latest accumulation of kills. Before dinner last night, he jumped into the red porch swing, making it sway back and forth with gusto. As the sun set, I carefully stacked the accumulated pine cones from the past several twilights. His yellow eyes watched me play with his catch. I watched the mountain turn from white to pink to lavender to purple, then disappeared. A full moon rose over the mountain. Rex slept.

Rex is a hunter. Despite our encouragement to concentrate on killing furry things – rats, squirrels, mice, rats, voles – pine cones remain his newest prey of choice. He likes to sneak up on the unsuspecting pine cones. I can only imagine the violent struggle that ensues, the pine cone filled with sudden rage and fear. Then, once subdued, they sit securely in his maw. He meows. “M-WAO! M-WAO!” You can hear it all over the house. The pine cone sitting apart in the photo died last night, probably a stray. The weak ones get picked off first, I reckon.

I don’t see the appeal, frankly. They don’t run away, as they lack legs. Pine cones are inedible. I think. I haven’t seen Rex chowing down on any, despite their crunchy consistency. So why the cones? The only theory I can come up with is they’re easy. Rex expends little effort in capturing a pine cone. They lie on the ground and only move if pushed or blown by the wind. Rex gets the glory of a kill without even getting dirty.

Aren’t we the same? We want things to be easy. We like commutes to run smoothly. We try to avoid wardrobe malfunctions. We plan ahead as much as we can in order to reduce road blocks or friction in our lives. But life doesn’t always oblige. Car tires go flat. Hair, though dead, refuses to cooperate. Our closet, somehow, is filled with unflattering clothes. What then? We make do. We change the tire and get to work a little late. We wear a hat or come up with a unique hairstyle. We cobble together an outfit that makes us look semi-respectable, or at least like we made an effort. And that’s okay. We are more than all these things, as is Rex. My affection for Rex is not diminished at all by his lazy hunting skills. In fact, it makes me laugh. Because we didn’t pick Rex to keep us vermin-free; we picked him to love. God made us to love and to love Him as well, even with wacky hair, strange clothes and car trouble. Performing is not necessary.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. – I John 4:16

Saturday Status

Rex has been very busy lately. He killed this

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and this

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We live surrounded by very tall Douglas firs, cedars, etc., so pine needles everywhere, all the time.

I wonder if the pipe pieces put up much of a struggle? I should also mention he killed 5 moles and a rat. Guess he got tired of mammals.

In other news, it’s been a long week. Jonathon lost his job at Concordia. It had been coming for awhile. The reorg of his department was announced in February, with a few meetings and deadlines from his team in between. Other than that, it was lots of questions and rumors for answers.  Jonathon drove down Monday morning for a meeting with the provost, his supervisor and HR. Never a good combination. The upside is that he’ll get severance until October, allowing him to vest.

Jonathon’s mom entered a nursing home on Monday as well. She’s in the last stages of inoperable brain cancer. Ever the servant, she has continued to make christening dresses and bake communion bread up until the very end. She doesn’t have much in the way of pain, she says, and looks forward to going home to be with Jesus. She still makes me laugh. Her courageous spirit inspires as she embarks on her last great adventure.

My heart is heavy. I am so tired. I haven’t slept much in  weeks, between all of these personal things and master’s classes and the reorg at my job. I should get to keep my job. All of us in Central Services will, according to the County Manager. But where we will end up is still a mystery, at least for certain admin positions. It’s not helping morale but it is bringing things into focus.

Continuing my reign as Queen of Delayed Reactions,  this combo plate of circumstances hit me yesterday. I went home early and took a 2-hour nap. I never do that. After I woke up, I sat on the porch swing and looked at Mt. Rainier, ate peanut M&Ms (current addiction) and chatted with Zac. He told me about his friend from college. We’ll call him Allen. Allen has by turns pursued teaching, modeling, soccer, philosophy and now firefighting. Allen just broke up with his apathetic girlfriend. Zac left me to play video games with him and cheer him up.

Because what really matters, at the end of the day? Not all the stuff. Not the achievements. Not the status or money or our appearance. What have we done with our time here? Have we loved people? Have we encouraged? Have we let God’s beautiful gift of life permeate our souls and been grateful?

Thanks to all of you who have given hugs, prayers and general encouragement. It’s not over yet. Through resting and trusting, I know restoration, inspiration and healing will come. Jesus is the ultimate upcycler.

Isaiah 61:3 – To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.

Summer Morning

 

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A moon-sliver floated above Dakota and I. The days are already getting shorter as darkness holds out against morning. The day dawned still and cool. A few choppy clouds floated in the sky, glowing peach against the blue.

Rex, behemoth cat, loves summer as much as I do. Lately, he’s been heading outside when I exercise Dakota. He sits on the front steps, black cat hidden in the shadows, meowing for some attention. My hand glides over his sleek fur. He arches his back into it. Then I move back to tossing the ball up and down the yard. As the sun rises and warms the earth, Rex stays outside. He camps out by a large fern and meditates and/or plots. He lolls on the ground. He soaks up the rays, a furry sun worshiper.

Rex
Carefree and cozy
Stretched out and shiny
Golden eyes blink pinpoint pupils
High on summer

Sorry. Poetry break. Next time I’ll warn you.

Summer won’t last much longer. Soon enough the rains will return and we’ll wonder if the sun has drowned. But this is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. Rex reminds me to make the most of today, and to be grateful.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever. – Psalm 23:6

Fountain of Youth

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Zac decided, on a whim, to fill up our hot tub. This particular container has been known to leak. As you can see, the water stayed in. Rex peered at it from behind the sliding doors. He watched it. He pondered it. Finally, I let him outside. He wandered over to the rim of the hot tub. He leaned over and sniffed the water, delicately. He watched his reflection. He walked to the other side of the tub. Then, he drank.

Eww.

Rex is, in a word, weird. He does strange things. He catches inanimate objects and crows about it, often in the middle of the night. He kills small rodents and leaves them on porches. He talks – a lot – and needs oodles of attention. He spies on Dakota and ambushes her on the regular. He loves music, any music. Rex, in the words of my coworker, Lisa, is an alien.

So it’s no wonder he found the fountain of youth in our backyard. Who knew it was chlorine-laced hose water all along?

Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy? I’m still trudging around in the boot. I’ll visit Dr. B. on Wednesday, and hopefully move on to physical therapy. What if I found a magic elixir to cure this foot once and for all? Oh, and to make me a teensy bit taller while we’re at it. Say, 2 inches. That’s all I want.

But life isn’t like that. Ponce de Leon looked for it and didn’t find it. He wanted to “cure his aging”. Folks, I believe the only real cure for aging is death. Can I get a witness? So let’s make the most of the life we do have. And don’t drink the nasty pool water.

This is the day the Lord has made.
    We will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24

 

Petapalooza

I guess today is National Pet Day. We have a couple.

Dakota in sun

That’s our dog, Dakota. We’ve had her – or she’s had us – since August. Last night she spent 20 minutes barking at non-existent people on the pedestrian path last night. I finally went out to investigate. Some runners had made it up the hill earlier. Did one get left behind, perhaps passed out and bathed in sweat, lying facedown on the incline? We still had daylight. I walked up to the gate and peeked around it. Nothing. Dakota sniffed the gate where the two sides joined together. I could spot no suspicious activity. I went back in the house. Dakota kept on barking.

twin yearners

These are the old timers (above), Rex and Chloe. They yearn for Ruby’s leftover milk from her cereal. This is the closest they ever sit next to each other. They seem to have gotten a little closer, at least in proximity, since Dakota arrived. You know what they say: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They sleep with Ruby every night, jockeying for position on her bed.

Chicks

Ruby’s cousins got baby chicks the Saturday before Easter. They picked up one extra one for Ruby. I think she named it Cookie. Or was it Pretzel? I guess this counts as a long-distance pet.

Ruby & chick

Last, but certainly not least, Thurston County has its own pair of ducks. They hang around, hoping for handouts. I spotted the female this morning and I took a photo as I walked into Building 1. She just stood there, as if waiting for her paparazzi to arrive.

female duck

“Oh, I did that yesterday, too!” A young male coworker stopped and scrolled through his phone to show me the photo. He got the duck couple out on a stroll.

“It looked like they were on a date. I had to do it,” he said, with an impish grin.

Indeed. Ducks dating. Who knew?

 

Friday Morning Freedom

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I let the cats onto the back deck this morning. I can see them out the dining room window, together but not together, exploring the backyard. Chloe sticks close to the chain link fence. She sniffs to discover all the places where nocturnal animals have crossed into or out of our yard. Rex hears the window open and stares at me. His golden gaze says “what do you want?” He’s more concerned with the small gaps in the fencing. He pokes his face through them and gazes at the trees and bushes and birds on the other side. Meanwhile, Chloe bites off grass tips that stand up taller than other pieces. I figure this is okay, since we don’t have goats.

Out the front dining room window, I can see and hear traffic. Cars, trucks and buses rush by in their morning commute. The occasional runner or cyclist pass on the pedestrian path. Walkers pound up and down the hill in pairs, like heeding the last call to board Noah’s Ark. Mornings inspire momentum.

Mornings have always seemed sort of magical to me. How does God do it, day after day? Each one crops up new and whole, sprung out of the earth’s turning. As children, we learned Earth’s rotation causes us to see a sunrise and a sunset every day. Systems for seasons  and moon phases have been set for millennia, yet still present unique and ever new. This morning, the clouds pulled back from the north like a sunlit snowy blanket. A thin scrim of hazy cloud remained, hiding the mountain. Our infamous marine layer lingered nearly all day yesterday, allowing us to barely reach 70 degrees by day’s end.

This is my last free Friday before I step back into the working world. I’m not sure what lies ahead. But I think I’m ready to rejoin the fray. Mornings bring hope. I’m reminded of this Bible verse, written in one of the darkest times in Israel’s history:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!” – Lamentations 3:22-24

 

 

Aside

Tuesday Life

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I’m sitting here on our side deck. The sun warms my back. The wind sways the hanging baskets, releasing the intoxicating fragrance of yellow, purple, white and pink-striped petunias. Rex lounges on the porch at my side, soaking up the sunshine and the company.

It’s pretty great.

Part of me doesn’t want to go back to work. Ever. This summer, home with the kids, Jonathon and my folks, has been lovely. I only want to play and have fun, like a female version of Peter Pan. The other part of me, the practical big sister-mom part, longs to do something constructive and lucrative. Those don’t necessarily go together, mind you, but it would be nice.

I walked down to the bank earlier today to deposit a birthday check. I ran into someone I used to work with.

“I miss seeing your smiling face every morning!” she exclaimed upon seeing me.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love those people who work at the City? I miss them. But I know I’m in the right place for now.

I’ve applied for at least a dozen different positions. I had an interview last week for a job that sounds promising. They’re checking my references now, and the references of the other possible candidates.

I hate waiting.

I’m trying to keep busy. I clean. I do laundry. I bake. I shop. I meet up with friends (thank you, by the way). We attend church and serve in the worship ministry. These all help keep hope alive and to focus on other things.

But I detest limbo. It makes me squirm. What’s next? What now?

I can hear the bell tower in Evergreen Square tolling the hour. I can see the blue mirror of Oakland Bay shimmering in the distance. Our house sits above the city, and I can see a bit of Loop Field, Railroad Avenue, and the edge of City Hall.

It’s strange to be outside of it all.

All around me, the tall Douglas firs testify of God’s faithfulness. Running into friends reminds me of God’s goodness in all circumstances. Sitting out here in the fresh air, just breathing, helps me to find peace. I don’t have to be in the thick of it all right now. I don’t have to know all the answers. Instead, I can embrace what is.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.” – Psalm 46:10