Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Unhusband

Sacrifices - I have made many.

They seem to be attached to love, and loving others, even when every bone in my body was saying “are you crazy?”

I had to dig deep at first; bit my nails and forgive, but it was all for the good, for the sake of a friend. 

A friend I married and then we divorced. It was actually my decision and he didn't protest.

Yes we are Unmarried;not ex’s and yes; some of my deepest sacrifices were to my Unhusband; Forgiveness being the hardest.

My unhusband … it is the name I have given the man I am divorced from. It was the word that Kristin Armstrong used for her first husband, Lance, after their divorce. It was in her book “Work in Progress.” I loved that book, it was a healing book for me. I was glad I had something so uplifting and positive and nurturing during my divorce. It was like a balm to sooth the ache in my heart and drew me closer to God. That book stuck with me. It made sense to me. I still pick it up once in a while for a refresher. 

My marriage was not all bad – in fact it was great most of the time, but then little foxes came in and stole the low hanging fruit. I just wasn't being attentive to the right things. So it wasn't entirely my husband’s fault; I played a part in my marriage and its demise, so calling him an EX is to biting. Unhusband is much easier on the ears and on the heart.

initially though, I did fall to pieces. I felt like I was floating around outside of my body – watching myself go through the motions of everyday. It took a long time before any day meant anything to me again. I just "was," and there were days I found myself crumbled in the corner in my friends office at my job, crying my eyes out.

It was all I could do to get up and go to work and make it home again to bed. I did remember to eat, most days. I just “did” it. I thank God for guiding me and being my co-pilot. He is the only real reason I made it out of the divorce pit with all of my wits about me.

Divorce is so biting and it cuts so deep, but our divorce was actually the beginning of healing for the two of us; and it brought us back to being good friend.

That didn't surprise me, really, I had always wanted to reconcile. The waiting is the thing that tries your heart and makes healing seems to take forever.

Or so it seemed like forever.

Until I woke up one day and I felt nothing but good about him again. That was what I had been waiting for. That day was a good day. That was the day I knew all was forgiven.

But by all rights I should have walked away for good, leaving him with the decision he made; I should not have acknowledge him, but I couldn't forget him.

In my humanness, I should have slandered him and made him pay for what he did, him and his Affair.

But Love requires MUCH more than that. Especially love for my Unhusband.

This divorce was an emotional divorce; conceived in outright, in my face unfaithfulness, full of lies and slander; and name calling and a “paradigm shifts,” as he called it … but from a Christian point of view, it still deserved and required forgiveness.

It tore my heart out. It was a tear to my soul, and to his, though his Affair soothed it by feeding him stories of how she could take care of him better than me and that I was outdated.

But, he was my husband … the one I had waited for (through several other UN-relationships), he was the one who swept me off my feet; quieted all of my fears and put a smile on my face every day; he gave me a skip in my step and hope in my heart of all good things to come.

And in an instant - it was over. I saw a side of him I didn't know existed. None of the by-products of unfaithfulness were ever seen in the man I knew.

That is when I hit a brick wall, flat faced, unable to go on. NO one understood; how could anyone have possibly understood? I could have listened to a hundred testimonies of couples who had been divorced and to me, no one understood.

Your divorce is always the worst; no one else’s can compare.

But when it first happened; I despised him, to his core.

The energy used to fuel such hate; hate that can produce deadly venom; venom needed to back-bite and fuel the blaming that is caused by such an act of betrayal, to keep rekindling the “junk” that need to be left behind is exhausting.

It devastated me. This man that I loved so much and that loved me; how does one suddenly “shift” on a dime, throwing years, and me under the bus?
It was utter betrayal, and how do you love and forgive that? 

Is it really humanly possible?

I hated him and his Affair. She was shorter than me and had darker, longer curlier hair, with dark skin and more endowment than I had been given; and she was pushy and prickly and very abrasive and intimidating, a bully for sure … and beguiling enough to tempt a married man away from his wife.

I had dreams of doing terrible things to them, like, running them over with my school bus or running head-on into them at the red light in town. Or a variety of other things that are probably better left unsaid.

I chose to not cause a scene. I chose to be a woman of virtue and put my fists down, put my head up high, my shoulders back, and walk away from both of them.

I didn't look back.

I NEVER felt such passionate, intense feelings of hatred and bitterness toward two people ever in my whole life.

The Affair, you can expect that part of the equation to hate you, because when it gets right down to it, I was a threat to her; I was his wife; But my husband turning on me? That I didn't understand. He was not a hater. Having both of them turn on me … my humanness did not understand.

How does someone turn so quickly?

I will never wrap my mind around it.

And the hateful feelings I had, they were getting worse. I began to spiral backward. I was developing a biting tongue and I didn't want to live like that; life is too good and too short to be bitter and base.

I needed to do something, and I needed to do it fast.

SO … I called on my pastor for advice and a few women who had been through divorce to see if they had struggled with these things and how they dealt with it, and every person I talked to repeated what the one before had said … that I had to forgive them.

And to that I just said … “
, you are kidding, right?”

I was totally caught off guard with that response; but I took their advice and I started my forgiveness journey.

I was sure there was a lot in the Word about it, so I went there first.And sure enough, right there in black and white it was written that we must forgive.
REALLY – was Paul kidding? How did he expect me to do that?

So I read up on it some more, and prayed for understanding and sure enough, this is what I found.

Ephesians 4:31-32
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Also in Colossians 3:13 he says again;
13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

I meditated on these verses for many, many days; days that turned into weeks; and weeks into months; and months into a few years. Meditating on the Word made me think about the kind of person I wanted to be, because I sure didn't want to be a nasty, unforgiving, bitter, slandering person going forward in my life.

I thought to myself, “Being that way could put me in my grave,” so I got to work.

I wanted peace in my soul. I wanted to be happy again and smile, not let the enemy steal my joy and take away my chance to be happy in my life.

I really believe that un-forgiveness is something the enemy uses to destroy people and I was NOT going to be destroyed. I had always been happy and joyful and I was bound and determined to be that way again.

Friendship with my Un-husband was my main goal. To talk with him and laugh with him again; To me, that would be a great reward.

And four years later that is exactly what happened. 

My first and only instruction on forgiveness from my pastor was to just start saying, “Jesus, I forgive them, and I am sorry for my part in it too.”

I prayed for their lives to be blessed and for him and his girlfriend to be in safety. I prayed they would realize that God does want them to know that he loved them, but mostly, that I did too. I spoke no ill will toward his Affair, and the fire of hate I felt toward her began to go out.

The first few prayers I felt like I had sand in my mouth, but after a couple of days the prayers got lighter and easier. And forgiveness felt less and less like a sacrifice and more like a gift.

I don’t know how God does the things he does, but within the last year my Un-husband and I have become good friends again; and he has ever stopped living with the woman he left me for. 

To me that is proof of answered prayer.

Forgiveness is a spiritual as well as a command. Jesus wants us to forgive for a reason, and that is for reconciliation, and to stop living in the past, because staying in the past will eat a hole in your soul. 

And no one gets anywhere when they keep looking backward.

I had to understand that Jesus forgave me when I sinned, and he forgives with no hesitation. And for me as a Christian; I had to forgive and love my Unhusband even when I still felt so terrible toward him, it is just amazing how it works.

I can honestly say today, I love my Unhusband with a love like no other; a pure love, a friend love, an “Agape” love. One that isn't selfish or unkind or full of expectations.

 It just is.

Praying the prayers for forgiveness that I prayed was a sacrifice. It was very hard to begin a forgiveness journey, and it took a long time (to me) to reap the rewards of them; but it was something I needed to do to make myself whole again, and my unhusband too. 

Forgiveness has allowed me to love someone I found very unlovable at one time, and that is a great gift from God, a sacrifices worth making.

One closing thought:

"Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

Whoever Unknown is ... they were a very wise person.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bald Eagle Guide

Bald eagles and I, we have a very peculiar relationship. It seems, sometimes, like I know where they are going to be on certain days, or I spot them flying suddenly, and most times I spot them with ease. It can be near the lake or in town near the creek or driving down the road, unexpectedly, I find them – or they find me?

Whatever it is, I am amazed with them, every time I see one, or one sees me ... I'm not too sure of the order.

It is like I am seeing them for the very first time, all over again.

We also have a long history, Bald eagles and I. It started about 11 years ago when a very special Native American friend passed away and a group of us at the funeral had an encounter with one of the most spectacular eagles we had ever seen.

I have never seen another like him since, and I have seen a lot of Bald eagles.

The Native America’s believe in Spirit guides, and one of the most prestigious is the Bald eagle. Being characterized as a creature of nobility and honor – and learning that they only select those who are honest and noble in action and thought, I understood why this amazing Bald eagle was in our presence.

There was no denying that the manifestation of this awesome bird was a Spiritual one – no matter what religion or belief one may have had; It was on the edge of the Supernatural.

A Funeral for a Native American last three days, with their body being viewed at their home for that amount of time and then on the day of their burial they are taken to their final resting place.

My friend would be laid to rest in his family cemetery along with all those who had gone before him; The coffin was placed in its designated spot, and family stood close together along with other relatives and friend, and the service was commenced, in Seneca, in ceremonial fashion.

No funeral is a happy occasion, and this man, this patriarch who loved his family and cared so deeply for so many, and who believed in honor and justice and truth; created a loss indescribable with his passing; a loss different, deep, and as individual as all of us who loved him.

To leave that day was to lay to rest the Cornerstone of a great family, and the permanence of his physical presence being gone was just beginning to sink in.

It was hard to break away when it was over.

We all wanted to stay as long as we could. People lingered for some time afterward, talking, reminiscing and just spending time together.

As we began to trickle slowly out of the cemetery toward the parking lot, suddenly, out of nowhere a majestic Bald eagle, like no one there had ever seen before, landed and perched in the tulip tree right above us. He was literally 25 feet away from us, sitting in that tree, looking at all of us; we could see him blink his eye he was so close.

The Bald eagle on that day ... perched and looked exactly like this!

My young niece screamed when she saw the eagle, a scream so piercing it sounded just like the eagle's call, and the sound went through all of us. It was like we were all struck dumb, and when everyone finally noticed him, we were all speechless. We just stared and pointed at this magnificent bird who had come to guide our friend to his new world – it was surreal. We just stared at that eagle ... at his presence and his beauty.

No one knows how long he perched there in that tree watching us. Five minutes, but probably less ... it seemed much longer than it actually was.

What he looked like as he began to fly away.

And then suddenly, he flapped his wings a bit, which had to have been 6 feet in length from tip to tip, cocked his head and with one powerful downward swoop, he turned his head and he flew, in slow motion it seemed, to a height where he could still see us clearly and we clearly could see him.

He circled and watched us for about ten more minutes.

He would glide and dive, ascend and descend, all the while keeping watch. He was beauty and power and grace all wrapped into this bird of such enormous size. Even in flight, we could not stop watching him. He was mesmerizing.

Right before he flew to a height where he would seem to vanish, a small Red-Tailed hawk joined him, and it followed him around as he circled, keeping up quite well, like it was an invited guest. Eagles and hawks don’t usually get along too well, but oddly enough, these two seemed content.

A few years prior my friends daughter had died too, and it was said that this little hawk was her – she was finally with her dad again, where they could fly and be free.

(All of this still makes my me cry).

Who is to say the hawk wasn't her?

They finally stopped circling and departed, hawk behind eagle, slowing gliding up as far as the hawk could go and then out of sight, suddenly vanishing into thin air.

We stood there, speechless, my cousin and I, and everyone else, not believing what we’d seen. I know for sure that I will never - ever forget it. It was one of those things that is forever etched in you memory.

I can’t say I don’t believe in the Bald eagle Spirit guide – who am I to say? I am not Native American, and I do have my own beliefs – but I have many friends who are Native American, and they were satisfied, and not at all as surprised as I was that eagle showed up. It was agreed it was a very special sign.

It was Spiritual to them and was a symbol of great meaning, so who am I to argue with that?

I know for me it was hands-down my most amazing experience of seeing a Bald eagle, and ever since then I see them more than I ever thought possible.
It seems that ever sense that day I am more sensitive to their presence - I even feel connected to them, oddly enough.

They fly so high above everything - they can see a fish from a mile, into deep water, and catch it every time. That is just one of their many skills. They can also fly up to 10,000 feet in the air and up to 35 miles per hour is steady flight ... all I can say is WOW, what a bird.

I can just imagine his perspective of the crowd of people below who had gathered to watch him fly? If only I could have been a passenger on his wing. I bet he wondered what all the fuss was about.

God even speaks of eagles, encouraging strength like eagles wings if we wait on him. In Isaiah 40:32 it is written;

32 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

After watching the eagle exit that day I must confess, their strength is unmatched by any other bird I have seen take flight before that day, or since. 

Admittedly, there is something powerful and good and spiritual about an eagle - no matter what you believe in. I know that seeing one stirs the soul to excitement, like finding a rare jewel in the sky; they are a wonder to behold and the sight of one lifts a person's soul immediately.

I could not have asked for a more special ending to a long and mournful week for my family ... it seemed the eagle flew away with my friend in tow, taking all of our sadness and tears with him.

The feeling we were left with was pure amazement, at least for me it was amazing; I can't speak for everyone else.

Now I always have my eyes to the sky, watching for eagles, they can be hard to sight sometimes. One never knows when one of these beautiful birds will be out flying, waiting to be seen, they are beautiful to behold.

I hope one day everyone get a chance to see one of these magnificent birds.  And when you do, I promise it will a something you will want to share, and you will cherish that moment for a very long time.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thank You Summer School - That's Why I Write

Buffalo Botanical Gardens - 2013

I was asked the question recently of why do I write?

Here’s the answer.

I write because at a young age, (14) I realized, through a huge fail, (failed 8th grade and I was doomed with Summer School) that I had something to say, and that people did want to hear my stories. I just got caught up in life and pushed it aside for others, (except for a few years when I worked for a Newspaper as a writer/reporter) until the 500 word challenge came along.

I found the 500 Word Challenge on Facebook and it has changed everything for me. My expectations of myself have gotten higher in writing, and the endless stories that have begun to pop into my head that I thought were long gone are back and begging to come to life.

My ability to actually SIT DOWN and write them down now, instead of letting them float off into the wild blue yonder, has been the biggest hurtle of all and to me shows the beginning of a renewed desire to create and write.

I know now I will never give up writing again. It really was foolish to quite in the first place. I have found I love getting up every day with fresh ideas in my head. There are so many possibilities I have to offer to whoever I happen to conger up that day; I can create whoever I want and I can do whatever I want to do and go where ever I dream; so I would say that’s pretty good for someone who had been a huge procrastinator, and wasn't even writing in her journal. I have begun to go to places I have been dreaming of – and they are beginning to “breathe” and that shows progress.

I give an applaud to writing as an oasis, a retreat to the center of the imagination; writing every day has fueled a old flame for me. And if an idea begins to smolder, I just have to blow on it a little to get the flames burning again. 

That is what writing every day has done for me.

The writing could be my blog, or it could be a comment, or developing a character’s charm or disgust; or weaving the scene of Southern Charm and mystery of the Antebellum South, but its productive and I loose myself in another place and isn't that what writing is about? Transporting someone to another place? I am learning that I have not lost the ability to transport – it was just dormant, just waiting for a spark. Thank goodness its back.

I am weaving these stories in my head and getting them down permanently and that is a great, GREAT accomplishment for me. And to see the scenes and the people develop and to anticipate and then relish even one comment on my blog or fuel one dream for someone else, that is why I write.

I do it for myself but I do it mostly for others. Because writing isn’t about me, it’s for everyone who reads it. Isn't it? 

I will never regret that I failed 8th grade or the summer I sacrificed to go to Summer School. I can honestly say I am glad I had to take English over and write Essays, those were some of the most creative stories I have ever written.

I don’t even have them on paper anymore, just in my mind. Bits and pieces come back from time to time to tempt those memories. I remember giving the stories to my Great Aunt, she was so proud I did so well, not just because I needed to pass, but because she knew how much I loved it by the grades I got.

One of my first stories was about a man who had gotten stranded in the dessert, It was so hot during the day, and at night he would bury himself in the sand as deep as he could with only his face sticking out so he could breath and he wouldn't freeze. He had holy sneakers and Levi jeans and no idea what direction to go, he just knew if he gave up he would die. I can’t remember the end; I think he lived, but barely. I do remember he had blue eyes and red hair, and the rest, I am at a loss for.

I also remember the awesome red A+ on the top of the page from the grease pencil my Summer School teacher used to show my success. He thought my Essays were great too and he couldn't believe I had such a hard time in English. That mark was a badge of honor for me and I kept it up on every new Essay I did for the whole 6 weeks of Summer School.

That school experience really inspired me; and I think I started to journal that year. My great Aunt was such a motivator and she loved to build me up and encourage me in all I did, she wanted me to shoot for the stars. She was a very successful single woman – a trail blazer for her time (she’s a whole other story!) and to get a compliment from her was better than any pat on the back from anyone else I knew.

I think today I have over 30 journals that I have hung onto and there is always one in progress. I am neglecting it a bit, due to my 500 Word Challenge, but they are still full of story material and just reading one sentence can bring a whole new world to life.

I am not bitter from my Summer School experience. It sparked a flame that has never gone out, not completely, and it is starting to burn brighter than ever and that is progress.

I have more than one book inside of me – I could write one just on Summer School, the new friends I met there and never saw again, the hill across the street where we would go to smoke cigarettes before our first class, the struggle to get up all summer at 7 a.m. to make it to the bus … and the laughs.

Most of all I would have to say the best part about Summer School was passing. My Aunt celebrated by having “Congratulations Amy” put on the Dairy Queen sign in a town, I wasn't surprised, not at all. She loved a celebration and my success, to her, was well worth a celebration.

So  a Thank You goes to my Great Aunt Grace and to 8th grade Summer School and to all of you whom I am writing for,  it is because of these things that I write.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Mulligan Day ... the One I Would Do Over

The Garden Lady Buffalo Botanical Gardens
My mom would have loved her.
There is always that one day in your life you wish you could do over, the one filled with regret and  "If I had only known."  

For me that day was the day I lost my Mom; and the few days leading up to it run a close second. I wish I had listened to my heart and not others; listening to others kept me from spending precious time with her, time that I will never get back.

It was a warm, overcast windy day in May. I will never forget it, and it was a few days before Mother’s day. I had planned on visiting her during the week to help sort through some things that she was getting rid of.

I never got the chance. Work had been very busy for me and as a school bus driver my days were broken up into 3 or four hours chunks of time. Time there was never enough of. I kept putting it off for tomorrow morning, or Friday after work or Sunday after church. I just never found the time.

She had gone in the hospital a couple days earlier for a biopsy of her lung. There was suspicion of possible lung cancer, and because she had been on oxygen for the last year, the doctor wanted to confirm his suspicions. The procedure was supposed to be out-patient and she was supposed to be home the same day. The details were a bit sketchy.

I got the phone message that night after work from her husband that she was in the hospital and she wasn’t doing to good and I should get down to see her. When I called he said  "her lung had collapsed with the biopsy and she had to spend the night for observation, and a visit would lift her spirits." Her husband sounded uncertain about her prognosis, but that I should just stop down.

The next day was a Saturday, so I went before going to a birthday party.

Had I known it was one of the last days we could spend together I would have stayed with her, I would not have gone to that party.

We can always go to parties. We don’t always get to spend times with our mom.

When I got to her room I paused at the door and caught my breath, saying a simple prayer for strength. Never in my life had I seen my mom sick or at the mercy of doctors and nurses or the restraints of a hospital bed. It was surreal.

It wasn’t natural to see her helpless. My mom was many things, helpless was not one of them. I needed to be strong, not only for her but for myself. It was a jolting scene to see her sitting in that bed, to say the very least.

“Hi mom,” I said joyfully as I walked in. Despite the fact that my whole being wanted to shake and I could feel my eyes getting moist. “Are they treating you good?” I smiled as I said it.  She looked up and smiled at me, with a little bit of worry mixed in and said, “yea, they are doing OK.” She chucked a little and said “it will be better when I get home.”

I told her about the party I was going to for my cousin and she said to make sure I wished him a happy birthday, “There is no reason for you to hang around here, go to the party and I will be home tomorrow,” she smiled and gave me a hug. “Come visit me at home.”
“OK, are you sure? I can stay for a while longer, give Charlie a break,” and he broke in saying, “I don’t need a break. Go ahead; I will call if I need to.”

So I gave her another kiss on the cheek and hug, told her I loved her and to get some rest, and I would see her at home.

I never saw her at home, not ever again.

The next call I got was from her husband saying that she was in ICU and that there had been complications, and I should get there as soon as I could.

I was in a panic. How does one go from going home the next day to ICU? I was so distressed and so confused and so distraught with the horrible thoughts going through my head that I don’t remember how I got there. My husband took me I think.

It was a long walk to ICU.

The "beep," "beep," "beep" of the monitors in different rooms cut the silence of the hospital corridor as I slowly walked to see my mom. I kept saying to myself over and over again in my head, “she’s OK; she will recover and be home in no time. The doctor will find a way to get her back on her feet again,” as I tried to talk myself into believing these things.

My thoughts couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

It was a sobering truth, like someone threw ice water in my face. My tiny little brain could not wrap itself around the fact that my mom was in ICU and it was more likely than not that she wasn’t going to leave there the way she went in. 

And thoughts of living without her flooded my mind. I think my whole life with her flashed before my eyes. 

These thoughts where disturbing to me, and hard to get out of my head; but I shoved them to the back of my mind and stepped though the doorway of into ICU.

She smiled and had me come over to the bed and as she held my hand, she started telling me what had happened and how she “got a promotion to the end of the hall where they could keep a better eye on me,” she said. We made small talk and laughed and remembered fun things. My brother and some other family members stopped in too, making light of the whole scene, and then it was time to go. 

I fought to stay to the last minute but there were others who insisted I leave, so to avoid a scene, I took the high road and I left.

Had I know that was the last day I could talk to her I would have stayed overnight; in a chair or in the waiting room. I just know I would have sat vigil until she no longer needed me; I would have stayed no matter how long it would have taken.

I will never get that opportunity again.

In the next two days she deteriorated quickly. She was on high doses of pain medicine and other medications due to a heart attack she had from a "complication." On the fourth day she seemed to be getting much more distant, like she was always dreaming, and the visits were made up of holding hands and waiting. I returned to work the morning of that last day with a heavy heart because I didn’t want to leave her.

Shortly after I got to work they received the call from the hospital for me to go back. As I walked through the door of the office my friend said,  “Amy you need to go back to the hospital, your mom has very little time left,” and I turned around and left.

This was such a blur … I called my brother, I called my husband and my sister … and I think my girlfriend rushed me to the hospital.

I ran down the hall of the hospital as fast as I could and when I got into her room she was slowly going into cardiac arrest. She was slowly slipping away, and it was not peaceful. She was fighting it the whole way. 

I just stood, staring, holding her hand, her best friend Alex sitting next to her on her bed, and her husband Charlie sitting close by in a chair, her hand in his. It is one of those moments that is branded into you memory.

Her sister, my aunt, called and I had to go talk to her and tell her what was going on and that I had to go. “she’s leaving us, I have to go. I will call you later,” I told her. I heard her scream as I hung up the phone and ran over to grab her hand again.

She was breathing shallowly, finally not fighting, and after taking the oxygen off and letter the medication take over, within moments, and after one last labored breath, she was gone.

And the tears flowed and the sadness filled every corner of that ICU room. There was no way to hold it back now and we let the emotions take over for a while. 

We sat there for about an hour next to her and then it was time to go. Leaving her was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

As a Christian I had been wondering about my mom’s salvation, she was not one to talk of religion or politics or other "politically incorrect" subjects. As I left the room Alex, my mom’s best friend, pulled me close and told me "Amy, your mom is in Heaven, she accepted the Lord - I  prayed with her." That was music to my ears. There is no better news at someone’s death as knowing they have chosen life eternal. That is the hope that Christians have, that they will see their family again in Heaven. I am looking forward to that reunion.

My biggest regret is leaving her so many times. Not talking with her and staying late and worrying about so many things and NOT being with my mom. I cheated my self and my mom, and I have adjusted my life accordingly so that never happens with anyone else in my life.

What I do know is this; no one will care how late you worked or how much money you have or how big your house is, or isn't, when death is at your door. They will only regret time not spent with you, missed chances to have fun with you and memories not made. 

Not doing those things make us the biggest losses.

And lastly, Love and honor your mother, she is the only one you have. She has done the best she could and she loves you more than you know. Mom's are people too, they all deserve a chance, just like we do.  Make peace, forgive and let it go, but no matter what, let bygones be bygones because the best is yet to come. 

You will never be sorry that you took the initiative to love, forgive and spend time with your mom, and neither will your mother. It is never too late to honor her.

Ephesians 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother(which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that and that you may live long on the earth.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Finding Rambo

There comes a time in life when, for our own good, we try to convince ourselves that we can live with fewer things.

Fewer nick-knacks to collect dust, fewer pieces of clothing to adorn our “mature” bodies, fewer pieces of furniture and fewer pictures on the wall and my favorite, fewer animals to fill our days and nights.

That special friend we swore would be the last, and made a declaration to ourselves that the one that just passed away was it … that was enough and there was no more room for another and that was that … no more animals. No matter how cute and fuzzy and irresistible they are. There is just no more room for them.

But I have to tell you in my case, God had a different idea.

Because you see, God KNOWS the desires of our hearts. That’s plural, not singular. He made us to want things, pretty things, comfortable things like nice cloths and great pictures for the walls and lots of food, and soft sheets and beds that you never want to get out of, and yes, pets.

He said in Psalm 37:3-5 to;

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

Yes, there are a couple of requirements, to trust Him and do good, (that is a desire of all of our hearts I believe), Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness … I think He just wants us to stay steadfast. He wants us to stay close to him; Dwell with him, in all things as we trust him and become faithful to him (yes, it is a process). Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of you heart. If we commit and trust in Him while doing those things, he says He will do it. That is so awesome to me. And God is not a lair.

That is my verse – and it says it all for me in this instance.  

The definition of delight is a high degree of gratification:  joy; also:  extreme satisfaction and I have to agree that I am grateful to God for loving me. It’s a love I don’t deserve.  I find great joy in knowing he is in charge of my life and there is a good plan in store for me.  I am satisfied with the results I have gotten as I follow his lead and not mine. I decided that my ways are much less satisfying than his. I have committed to him, trusting him, because looking back on my history with him, he has never disappointed me, and he knows what I want and need before I do, and that is comforting to me.

So with that I will get on with the story.

In this particular instance, the desire was specifically a cat; but I kept saying no to the idea. The subject was a very tiny, scared black kitten that was oddly out of place, but fit right in, immediately, after I rescued him from the jungle of my side yard.

It was three days after my cat, Midnight, who I had for ten years, passed away. He was the pick-of-the-litter in the cat world and he had grown to an enormous size and weight of about 20 pound. He could barely walk he was so fat. He had been outside a few days near the end, not wanting to come in, not moving from his spot next to the porch, so I brought him inside to stay warm. He felt oddly cold so I made him a little bed in the entry way and I sat on the floor with him and combed him and talked to him until he was resting.

Sadly, it would turn out to be his last night.

I found him under my the coffee table in the living room early the next morning, curled up as I usually found him resting, this time for the last time,  peacefully leaving this life of ten long years.

I sat and cried for a very long time. We had been through a lot together. We had tackled divorce, moving to a new house, loss of a job, little money, sickness, cans of tuna when there was no cat food(he loved that treat), and perfect timing to get him outside to do his business. He was too big to fit into a regular litter box. He made it out most times. Other times …

I buried him in the side yard next to the Purple Lilac bush. I had found him out there a few times in the heat of a summers day and I figured it would be nice to remember him enjoying the shade there.

 I cried a little more after the tiny little farewell I did for him, and I smoothed out the ruff dirt on the grave, leaving another piece of my life behind. His name was Mid-Night and he was pure black with golden eyes and had the longest whiskers I have ever seen. His death really left a void in my life. Little did I realize God knew that too, and he had plans to take care of it, in an unusual almost sneaky way;  because believe it or not, God has a great sense of humor.

It was a Sunday afternoon and I was spending the day alone. I decided to take a stroll over to where Mid-Night was buried. It had only been three days, and the first time I had gone near his grave.  I remembered him a bit standing there, and when I was done I took a seat and rested on a large rock hidden in the bushes near that spot.

It was a beautiful day, very warm, overcast, and as I sat there listening to the birds singing, a tiny little MEOW began penetrating the air,  getting louder and louder as I listened. Looking around, off to my left, under the Honey Suckle bush was, yes, to my surprise, the tiniest peanut of a black kitten I had ever seen.

Abandon and hungry, he hadn't been away from his mother very long, and he and I fell in love at first sight, though I did try to fight it. I am just a sap for kittens.

"SURPRISE!", I said to myself,  …  and I just started to laugh and I mean belly  laugh out loud right there in the lawn. I finally said to God, “it’s not funny,” and I smiled at the thought that he really did know what I wanted, because I really did miss Mid-Night, and I then decided that this kitten must have been sent, just for me.  He was pure black with golden eyes. He looked just like Midnight. He was bit beat up, with a sore ear, dirty eyes and nose and an empty stomach, for sure, and he meowed his way right into my heart.

Not only did I get a new cat, I got one that looked exactly like the one I just lost. That was just God’s way of telling me … “I am listening to your heart.”

After I caught this fast moving kitten, I could set him in the palm of my hand, he was so very tiny. He sat there, head up, looking at me with those golden eyes, meowing as loud as he could as I carried him to the house, and straight into my heart. There was no turning back.

 I was going to try and be mean and leave him outside, hoping he would take off, but there was none of that happening. So I let him in to meet Patch (my dog) and a friendship was cast like no other. To this day I think the cat thinks he is dog. After Patch gave the kitten a quick Bulldog drool bath, they formed a bond that would never be broken; and the rest, as they say,  is history.

Then it came time to name him, and that was a challenge, because everyone had THE name for him. From Miracle to Surprise to Ebony … but he deserved something strong, something that would reveal his character, how tough and resilient he was, a name that showed courage and charm and survival. So after many days of listening and contemplation, I named him Rambo.
He lives up to that name every day, and I just could not imagine my life or my home without him now. He livens up my house, he greets company like he is the “other” dog, he sleeps on my pillow, very early in the morning, keeping a watchful eye out; and if his food bowl is empty, he will gently come in and touch my face and walk on me until I get up to feed him, following happily under my feet the whole way.

His favorite toys are bells that he carries around in his mouth and swats around in the bathtub, hitting them in the air and across the room. He is a very smart, very playful cat.

He even has a special way of talking to me and the other animals in the house with a soft little purr-meow. He does it a lot when he is playing or looking for something. It is distinctly his.

He is a simply a blessing and I thank God for him every day. 

God knew that there would always be room for a cat, so he gave me this little orphan so we could live our lives together. I will never regret taking him in; he has become a permanent member of my family.

I still laugh at and love God’s sense of humor in all of this. Where Rambo came from is still a mystery, but wherever he came from, I have been blessed with having him in my life. He is a very special cat. It is clearly THEIR loss, whoever they are.

Realizing that God knows what I need and what I desire is a comfort, and it’s because he loves to see me happy that he gives me little surprises- God winks I call them – and Rambo has been one of the most special little gifts I have gotten thus far. 

I plan to enjoy Rambo for many years to come, because when I look at him I remember he is a desire of my heart, manifest. One I wasn't aware of, but one God gladly provided to bring joy into my life. For that I am very thankful. 

Rambo sleeping with his baby! 
Baby Rambo
Do you have a desires in your heart, known or secret? Let God know … you might just get what you are hoping for, even if you think you don't know you want it! 

Rambo ... watching it snow 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sea Ponies

There has never been a time in my life that I have been without a pet. As far back as I can remember I have had a cat, or a dog or a fish or a hamster, or a menagerie of all of them at once, and I would never want it to be different.

As a kid that loved ANY kind of pet, the oddest pets I ever had were Sea Ponies. They were tiny little Sea Horses that I ordered through the mail from the back of a Teen magazine. The ad was located next to the Sea Monkey’s and the Spider Monkeys (real monkeys) that were somehow once available through the United States Postal Service, no questions asked.

I was very excited as I filled out the order blank and put it in the envelope along with a check for $9.99 plus tax and proudly licked and shut the envelope, then I licked the stamp and enthusiastically placed it on the envelope, and without another thought ran to the mailbox, slid that envelope in the box, and proudly shut the door and put the flag up.  I was so happy; I skipped all the way back to the house.

The order blank said they would be delivered in 7 to ten days. I started the 7 day count down the next day – when I got home from school and the flag was down.

Seven days later my Sea Ponies arrived enclosed in an air tight bag full of salty sea water ready to slowly release into an oblong, sea blue plastic aquarium they sent along for them to live in. (That is what my mom told me anyway.)

They were a gift for my 8th birthday present.

My birthday is in December and I live in Western New York. The weather in December is COLD.

The mail came at 10 a.m.

My mom never got the mail out of the mail box until after 1 p.m.

Needless to say, my experience with Sea Ponies was very traumatic and frankly almost never happened because they were almost frozen.

Thank goodness for salty water, it takes a long time for it to become slushy in the mail box. The cardboard box they were delivered in helped keep them from freezing too, but I credit the sea water. Had it been a different kind of tropical fish, the story would have ended at the mailbox.

When I got off the bus that day I was so excited and I remember running into the house expecting them to be there. It had been seven days, I knew, I JUST knew they would be there in seven day and not ten like the ad said.  I distinctly remember the ad saying “delivered alive in 7 to 10 days,” and I always seemed to pick the 7 days, no matter what it was.

I ran to the house and swung open the door and immediately yelled, “MOM…Did my Sea Ponies come?”  There was no answer. I knew she was home; she stayed home from work that day. The car was in the driveway.

 “MOM,” I yelled again, just in case she didn’t hear me the first time.

 “I’m in the kitchen. Something came for you today, come and look,” she said like she didn’t hear me yelling and ask her if they had come just a minute before. Her voice sounded weird. It was a happy-skeptical-sarcastic voice, like she wasn’t too sure how to answer me.  

I ripped off my boots and whipped my jacket and mittens into the corner of the entry-way and skipped into the kitchen where all the action was I guessed;  and tuning the corner, there on the desk, was a 12 inch high Sea Pony tank, with twenty or twenty- five tiny Sea Ponies … barley swimming around the tank in their salt water.

“Oh,  wow,  Mom, look at them. Look how cute they are,” I said as I looked at them, and then back up at my Mom with a big grin on my face, and then I returned my gaze to the tank. My nose was pressed up against the plastic tank to get a better look at them through the blue tinted plastic. They seemed to be trying to gain some momentum as they pushed to the top of the tank. It seemed weird to me. They were having a hard time swimming.

 “What’s the matter with them?” I asked her. “Are they sick or something?”
When I turned around to look at my Mom she had a little bit of grin on her face and she immediately turned in the other direction so I didn’t see her start giggling. I knew she was, and it made me mad.

“MOM! What is wrong with them?” I yelled.

Their swimming seemed labored.  Five or six of them would push and rock forward, laboring hard to get to the top of the take, their little curled tails pushing backward and then forward like they were on a swing. Then when they got to the top, as far as they could go,  they would just nose-dive straight back down to where they came from, down to the rocky bottom to huddle together with the rest of the group. None of them seemed to be very lively. Lethargic is a good description – and from my vantage point their momentum was not getting any better.

That was when my Mom told me what happened, and that she had left them out in the mailbox most of the day on that freezing cold snowy day. 

I vaguely remember screaming and yelling, “M-O-M … how could you forget to get the mail? YOU almost killed them. What if they all die? They are my birthday present.  M-O-M, how are you gonna save ‘em?” And I put my head down and cried. I had waited seven whole days for my Sea Ponies and now they were almost dead – in cold salty sea water, and I was in a state of panic no girl of 8 should have ever been in. 

It was pure torture.

I remember pushing my face up against the tank as I cried. I felt such a sense of loss, and they weren’t even dead. They weren’t even dying, really, they were just cold. But I couldn’t help it, they were my Sea Ponies, it just wasn’t right.

I cried for a while, my face stuck to the side of the tank, tears rolling down my face. My brother walked by and looked at me and said “what’s wrong with her?” to my Mom and kept on walking. I think he knew to steer clear.

 My Mom finally said, “OK, enough, they will be OK. Look at them, they are starting to act better, it looks like you face up against the plastic warmed them up a bit, what do you think?” she said.

I looked up, rubbed the tears off my face and looked, and sure enough, they were moving around much steadier, with purpose, as if seahorses even have a purpose. But they looked better to me and I credited the heat from my face for that.

“Yea, look Mom, look, they are moving faster. Do you think they will be OK?” I asked, in a whiny little voice that can only be made by an emotionally whiny girl. “Yes, Amy, I think they will be OK. I am sorry I forgot to check the mail. Next time I will make sure I check it right away.” My Mom said. “You and your Ponies are gonna be OK honey,” my Mom tried not to giggle and I tried to smile.

All was well in the world.

Thumbs up go to my Mom. In the end, she still made everything OK, just by the words that she said.

The Sea Ponies lived for about six months, which according to the information I got with them predicted. It was sad when one or two died, but in the end I was so excited to have these cool little pets for even that long. I couldn’t help but show them off when we had company.

When the last Sea Pony died, I cried again, and my Mom and I flushed him down the porcelain grave to join the rest of his family. 

I tried to get my Mom to get me more, but she said “once was enough,” stating we needed something that would survive in cold and warm temperatures. I even tried to get her to buy that Spider Monkey in the back of the magazine, but she shook her head in that “no way” shake Mom’s have, and that was the end of that conversation.

Pets are still a big part of my life, I think they are necessary. They keep me company and make up my family and honestly I could never be without pets.

My mom is gone now – and memories with her are so precious. I love bringing her back when I remember these bonding times with her. It just goes to show that these special times, which seems so insignificant, will one day, like today, serve as a pleasant reminder that my Mom and I had a special relationship, different than any other, and Sea Ponies seemed to solidify that.

If I could talk to my Mom now, I would bring up all the memories I could remember that we shared, and it would be fabulous. I think we would laugh more than we would cry, and we would remember things we thought for sure were gone forever.

You should remember these times with you mom too. If you still have your mom, go make some memories. If you don’t, remember the best of them – they are the glue that holds your unique bond together.

I will never forget those Sea Ponies and the memories they made for me and my Mom – they are now a treasure for me. Remembering these times is like little nuggets of Gold … Priceless.

What are some of your favorite memories with you Mom? Write about them. They will make you laugh and cry and help you remember what a great friend you had (have) in your Mom.

My Mom and Me ... another great memory.