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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

EOD Transitions: Friendships, Scene 2

     I had seen one of the strange black instruments in a friend’s house, but this was the first time there was one sitting on our table. When the sound sprang forth from the little box, well, uh, I sprang forth, too. It was so loud and unexpected. My father lifted part of the instrument up and all he said was, “Okay, thanks.” It had been a test to see if the connection was live.
     “This is called a telephone,” my father said. “We can use it to talk to other people. When it rings you pick this up, putting this part to your ear and this part to your mouth.” He noticed that we were looking at the little white disk in the center of a larger disk. The white disk had three numbers on it and was surrounded by round holes. My mother explained to us that people who had a telephone were given a number and this was ours. I was disappointed in the number we had been given as it was so short and did not have any letters in it. My school friend who lived on a farm in a rural area had a long number and it ended with “J-12.” I thought that this was so cool. Our dumb number was 5 4 7 and that was it. Dad said that it was because we lived in town. He tried to console me by saying that it would be easier to remember since our street address also had only three numbers—two of which were the same as the new phone number— 547 would make the phone ring at 524 Elm Avenue.
    
     The telephone changed a lot of things about my life. I still played outdoors as often as I could. My younger sister’s best friend had been Butchy’s younger sister, Suzie, so Glenda also lost her playmate that sad Saturday. Glenda and I played with the bows and arrows together and she played catch with me, too, as best she could at three years my junior. Our days of neighborhood theater productions with little Suzie struggling to articulate her one line properly were over but, with Butchy and Suzie living miles from us now in another town, Glenda and I enjoyed playing together more than ever. However, the introduction of the telephone opened wide the horizons to developing friendships with kids in our town who lived a long ways from our own neighborhood.
     Soon after I learned the telephone etiquette that my parents expected would go along with our memorizing the phone number, I began developing one such friendship. Linda lived about four miles north of town and rode the school bus each day. It was her cool longer phone number I had recalled when knoting our own three-digit assignment. Another girl was a part of our friendship trio, too, but her farm was located about half a mile from Linda’s and, while she was still able to go to school with us, her parents had chosen to secure their family phone number on the other side of the demarcation line that ran through their property. To call her would be a long distance call so I was not allowed to do that. We, three little girls, became really good friends. Linda and I enjoyed long telephone conversations with one another just about every day—even the days we had already spent together in school!
     This friendship expanded the area of my bike rides, too. With Butchy gone, it was not as much fun to ride around the neighborhood. Now, however, there were many Saturdays I rode my bike the four miles to Linda’s house to enjoy play and learning to help her with her chores around the farm. The three of us were good friends for years, sharing “girl things” that Butchy would never have understood!
    On the other hand, God had understood just what I would need and just when I would need it. The change from having Butchy as my “best friend” to having the two girls in that favorite spot, came with no small measure of pain for me; but, I can say in all honesty, that my friendship with them was, truly, a treasure worth that pain.
    
 In Matthew 6:8 we read, …for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Usually people think of this passage of Scripture in connection with God answering prayer. However, I find that, in the story I just shared with you, our understanding Father God showed a broken-hearted little girl that He had a reason for letting her go through the pain of her very first “best friend’s” move, even though it hurt her a lot. God knew that I was changing and would need girls for my best friends in order to share “girl things”. Though I did enjoy friendly relationships with boys-- and later men—I never again had a “best friend” like the Butchy of my first decade of life. God knew just when the change would need to be made and he arranged things just right! I did not need to ask Him, He just knew!

****A New Decade: Homefront… Coming Tomorrow

Monday, January 30, 2012

End of Decade (EOD) Transitions: Friendships

     “It just can’t be true, Butchy. When did you find out?” I was beside myself with grief. Butchy and I had been friends like forever and I just assumed we would be friends until we were so old we could not throw a baseball any longer. But, what did I know; I was only a kid.
     “My mom just told me. She said Dad gave her the news last night.” Butchy was as sad as I was; both of us were so totally stunned. Apparently his father had a new job and that meant a relocation for the family.
     “What will you do? Do you know when it happens?” What I really meant was what will I do. I didn’t remember a time when Butchy was not in my life
     “I don’t know what I’ll do. I don’t think there are any kids there at all. Who will play catch with me? I am pretty sure there are no frog ponds in that place either.” It seemed to me that Butchy was doing exactly what I was doing—reviewing all the experiences we had shared together. Both of us would be losing something we did not think could be replaced, a friend with whom we could learn new things and work on perfecting others. My sister tried, of course, but she just could not throw a football as far or as hard as Butchy. By the time she would be old enough to do it the way he did, she would be too old to want to. I needed Butchy!
     “How long do we have?” I asked Butchy with tears brimming inside my lower lids. I looked up from my examination of the dirt under the swing to see that Butchy’s tears had already begun to trickle down his cheeks. I wanted to push off and let myself soar high above this new trouble; but, all I could do was twist the swing one way and then the other. I had no strength with which to soar this sad day.
     “Next Saturday or Sunday, at the latest,” Butchy said. He was choking so I didn’t want to ask him anything else. I knew he would not want me to see him cry for real.
     “Want to go to the field and shoot a few arrows?” That was yet another thing Butchy and I had learned together. Oh, neither of us could afford a real bow or arrows but, watching Robin Hood one day we figured out that the weeping willow branches would do for a bow. We found one the right length for each of us and strung a cord taut between the two ends, bending it just right. Then we found somewhat straight pieces of small branches from another tree that had less flexible wood for our arrows. One end was sharpened and the other just left as it was. We had tried to cut slits and shove little pieces of paper in the slots to be the feathers of the arrow but it didn’t work.
     “Nope. I don’t really feel like doing nothing right now. I just wanted to come tell you. I gotta go.” I watched Butchy leave the swing and head towards home, head hanging like a vulture looking for something dead to eat. I don’t think we could have felt worse if he had been given a death sentence.
     Sure enough, Saturday the moving van backed up to Butchy’s house and everything they had was loaded up. I cried hard when Butchy and his family drove away that day. The neighborhood would not be the same without him.
     I had heard the saying “When God closes a door, he opens a window” but I had no idea God knew I needed an open window and I needed it right now! I was certainly surprised when that window began to open in my young life!

Friday, January 27, 2012

EOD Transitions: Attire, Questions and Answers

Q 1: It seems to me that black is a pretty somber color for a little girl to like or was it just that the shirt matched the pants that attracted you to this outfit?

A: Yes, I think that you have guessed right… it was that it matched more than anything else. All that black and white from toes to neck and in-between with that white belt on the black waistline. Normally, though, I liked very vibrant colors, as I do now. Any shade of purple was my favorite.

Q 2: Was your taste in fashion more along the “sporty” style than the ruffles and lace?

A: Not at all, though you might have thought so from my love of any play needing a ball of any size or shape! I loved ruffles, lace and bows—and I still do. I also liked pink, which my friends who prefer more sporty fashions do not normally like. The love of pants had a lot more to do with the convenience and comfort than a fashion preference.

Q 3: Did the dress code in your school system ever change?

A: Yes, thankfully for all of those little girls who had to wear skirts and dresses in such bitter cold weather. Unfortunately for me, it happened a couple of years after I graduated from high school so my entire twelve years of public education were accomplished in a skirt or dress! College/university years were quite another thing, however. Blue bell-bottom jeans and a tee shirt or flannel shirt was the “uniform.”

Q 4: In Lifecycles: The End you mentioned attending the funeral service of your next door neighbor. What did you learn about death during that experience, since you did not mention that she had been sick and the implication was that she had died of old age?

A: Hmm, that is a good question. I think that the answer would be quite simply that I learned that one day everyone will get old enough that they will need to “rest from life”, or die, even if they are not sick. The practical working out of this lesson came soon after the funeral when I was extremely worried about my fifteen-year-old babysitter. As I told my mother, “But, she is already fifteen; really, Mom, how much longer can she live?”

****Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

EOD Transitions: Soap Box

     We were designed by God to have transition periods throughout our lives. When I look back over my own childhood, I can see the innocence of that move from the first to the second decade in my life. It was a wonderfully slow transition as I discovered the changes in my physical body, as well as the shift in just how I viewed boys.
     Prior to the summer between fourth and fifth grade, boys were just playmates. I never thought of them as different from girls, except that they were a better competitor in the outdoor sports available to us in our Eastside neighborhood. The children in my age group for play, other than my own sisters, were boys, so to play outside meant to play what they wanted to play. Since I loved the outdoors and sports, there was not a problem. But, as my own body began to change from the little girl into the pre-adolescent, I noticed that it mattered to me what a boy thought of me. I did not really want to beat him at football or hit the baseball farther than he did. I wanted him to succeed and to do even better than I did sometimes, depending on just which boy. The physical and emotional attraction between the girls and the boys when I was growing up had nothing whatsoever to do with sexual experiences. It didn’t even cross our minds to go to bed with another fifth grader! When a sixteen-year-old girl “got in trouble” everyone was shocked that she was “doing that”, as much as that she was going to have a baby. It just was not the norm.
     Instead, the girls and boys of late grade school and middle school age were just interested in getting to know the members of the other gender. It was meaningful for each side to be noticed by the other but there was, certainly, no expectations of sexual performance in the immediate future. It was a very relaxed time compared with today’s expectations. Our clothing was modest because that was what was comfortable; the styles matched our ages, usually. The skirt lengths started rising and there were some parental conflicts as a result but plunging necklines were just not a part of middle school wardrobes. It was all part of that transition process God had designed for us.
     Who can forget the very first time a boy took hold of your hand? He was so nervous that he probably had to work up the courage for touching your hand during the entire time of chowing down on those burgers and fries. In my own case, on the way home, his hand just slightly slid past mine and the next time it slid, it didn’t pass by but slipped into mine. Neither of us said a word but looked straight ahead as though to speak or look at each other might make the moment even more awkward than this one already was!
     The saying “Sweet Sixteen and never been kissed” was a reality for many girls and boys. In fact, it was not uncommon for the event of the sixteenth birthday to be that very day of the first kiss from the current Mr. Wonderful. How different things are for today’s teens and tweens!
     God intended the maturing process to be one of joyful exploration of our own changing body and emotions but a much slower transition than is currently the mode. Today’s media and promotional hype of all kinds has set that transition process on fast forward and our kids are suffering as a result. Kids don’t get a chance to know their own bodies before someone else is pressuring them to let their body be explored. The media makes the kids think that this is the norm and they are uncool if they don’t want to have sex. They lie and tell them that everyone is doing it by the time they are twelve and to not be involved in sexual relationships means that no one cares about you.
     The cold, hard fact is this: Everyone is not doing it! Two days ago I listened to a pediatric report that just came out on adolescent sexual practices. Whatever the media, or some of the kids, are saying, the fact is that not everyone is doing it. Only one-third of the high school kids are involved in sexual relationship or have ever been. That means that the majority, two-thirds, has not and are not involved in sexual relationships! The stats are even lower for middle school kids but that isn’t what they think. More than one youth pastor has told us that his middle school kids refuse to sign the Focus on the Family purity vow because their friends tell them that they will not be popular if they don’t have sex in middle school and high school. One thirteen-year-old erased her name from the Purity Vow card she had already signed because no one else in her youth group at church had signed it. Another girl of the same age lied to her classmates when they asked her if she was having sex because she didn’t want them to think she was un-cool. The fact is that she was a Christian and just didn’t think it was the right thing to do but if everyone else was doing it… she would just not do it but lie about her abstinence.
     I just want to climb on the tallest soap box and yell as loud as I can to every child in school: Everyone is not doing it; they are lying to you! How I long for the children of the present generation to know how much God loves them and understands the pressures they are under. He can help them resist these lies and stay healthy, physically and emotionally. God can help them grow up and have both sex and babies at the God-ordained time and in the God-ordained relationship that will care for the new life they will bring into this world. They can wait until they are grown up; they don’t have to give away their childhood!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

EOD Transitions: Attire, Conclusion

     “Hi, Sojourner, my name is Ronny. I like yellow, too.” Looking down at my dress, in stunned amazement, I was reminded that, yes indeed, it was yellow and he was looking at me. Where had he come from? I had not noticed him on the baseball field and had never thrown a football to him or anything that I remembered, anyway. Maybe he was in one of the other classes. Whatever, now he was talking to me and he liked the color of my dress. The funny thing is that it didn’t even occur to me to ask him if he had a football or wanted to throw a few pitches. Instead, I was speechless. I felt strangely tongue-tied. My mental processes were frantically running through my wardrobe-- Did I have anymore yellow in there?
     The change in how I saw boys actually began the summer before this, however. It had been the first summer I was old enough to join the school band. Every Thursday the band had a concert in the local community park so, at some point in the morning, we all carried our instruments and music stands over to the park to rehearse. I played the trombone and so did a blond-headed boy the same age as me. Since we shared the same music stand, he offered to carry it over for us. It felt nice to have him carry the stand and we talked all the way from the school to the park each Thursday. We didn’t really talk all that much otherwise, though I am not sure why that was; we just didn’t. He went to another elementary school so I would not see him again until the following summer but it was delightful to be noticed by him. Now, I was being noticed by Ronny; or, at least, my yellow dress was.
     I still played baseball at recess those last two years of elementary school but I don’t remember the dress-thing being as much of an issue, except when the weather was really cold. By the time I hit seventh grade, tennis was my sport and my football put away for good. I played only an occasional game of baseball. My transition to womanhood began that tenth year of life. Included in that transition of desired attire was the switching of my undershirt for the training bra. It would still be awhile before I really needed such a thing but, well, all the girls were getting them, so….
     As I have written earlier, the Bible says in Psalm 139 that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, which does not just cover the physical aspects of our make-up. God has created us with transition in mind. Just as the union of the ovum and sperm begins the many transitions those cells will go through to produce that lovely, vibrant life in only nine months, God has created our emotional side to also pass through transitions both leading up to and continuing on through adult life. God had intended for some of those transitions, such as the very basic boy-girl relationship, to have time to go through the maturing and blossoming stages.  This would give each individual the time to work through the stresses of changing body and emotional make-up.  Transition time would allow one to find one’s own identity before joining it with another and “becoming one.”
     The issue of the dress code was one area where I could see I was changing towards the members of the opposite sex. Perhaps the School Board and my mother were right—if girls are dressed like girls, they will act like girls!” However, there are a lot of feminine outfits in today’s fashions that include pants so we no longer must wear a dress to look like a girl! Yippee!

****EOD Transitions: Soap Box… Coming Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

EOD Transitions: Attire, Scene 2

     My friends on the playground noticed my outfit and said it was cool how it all matched but, boy was I going to get into trouble. Maybe this had not been such a good idea, after all. By the time the school bell rang I was nearly sick.
     One-by-one we filed into the fourth grade classroom, right passed the teacher. She did not say a single word to me as I slipped through the door and headed for my seat. Since my desk was located in the first row, the teacher could not help but notice me as she took her place at the front of the classroom with the blackboard right behind her. I, quite literally, held my breath as she smiled at me. Still, she said nothing. I could just feel the tension from my friends as they waited for her to scold me or send me home to change my clothing. Maybe she would even send me to the Principal’s office. As Mrs. Handy opened her mouth to speak, I was sure my racing heart could be seen moving that left pocket of the striped shirt. 
     “Good morning, Class. Take out your language workbooks and a pencil, please. Turn to page forty-seven.” Mrs. Handy waited until all of us had found the page and she began talking about the stuff on page forty-seven. Nothing more. Okay, maybe she would say something to me at recess. I would be okay until then. Just do my work and don’t draw attention to myself.
     The mid-morning bell rang and we all closed our workbooks and put down our pencils. Everyone but me was more-than-ready for recess. Out we filed again and burst from the line as soon as our feet hit the threshold of the school’s backdoor. I don’t remember just who had secured the baseball equipment from the closet on the way out, but I ran as fast as I could to take my place. We only had fifteen minutes to play so no one bothered to waste a minute talking about how I was dressed; we just got right to the game. How free I felt running from base to base in my cotton pants! I don’t know if my short little legs actually ran faster but I do know that I did not need to worry what was happening with my skirt that morning!
     All-too-soon the bell rang again and that lead ball was back bothering my stomach. It turned out that I didn’t need to worry myself about filing passed the teacher after recess either; she did not say a word to me. The remainder of the morning was spent in the routine schoolwork kinds of things. Oh, if only the forty—five minutes of the lunch period would go as smoothly as the recess had.
     While other teachers were looking at me take my place at the table and open my lunchbox, I tried to be casual and just keep looking down while I ate my baloney sandwich. I ate quickly, stowed my lunchbox and raced outside to play away what remained of the lunch period. It was a mixed blessing kind of playtime that day. On the one hand, I was running free in my pants and hanging upside-down on the monkey bars; but, on the other hand, I kept waiting for the hand that would grab me and tell me to come into the office for a little talk, if you know what I mean. No one did. No one said a word to me and, in fact, I began to tell myself that it was just as I suspected: no one cared what the kids wore to school, as long as it was clean and not junky. I could hardly wait to tell my mother.
     Happily the school day ended without incident or mention of my clothing; I was ecstatic. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Mrs. Handy smiled at me as I was passing through the door of the classroom.
     “Uh, Sojourner, cool outfit there. It looked like you were really enjoying yourself on the playground today.” I was grinning from ear to ear as I enthusiastically confirmed her observation.
     “It was a one-time pass, Sojourner. You will be wearing a dress tomorrow, right?”
     The dress code did not stop being a thorn in my side until something unexpected happened to me.

****EOD Transitions: Attire, Conclusion… Coming Tomorrow

Monday, January 23, 2012

End of Decade (EOD) Transitions: Attire


     “But, Mom, why can’t girls wear pants to school? It just isn’t fair.” It was an argument my mother and I had a lot that ninth year of my life. For as many years as I was in school, the dress code for girls was always skirts or dresses and there were no exceptions. Now, you’ve got to know that in Montana’s extraordinarily bitter winter cold spells where the temperatures would plummet to forty degrees below zero with a wind-chill factor making it a minus-ninety-eight degrees, this was a dumb rule! Oh, we girls could wear pants under our skirts as long as we took them off when on the school grounds but, still, at nine years of age it just didn’t make any sense to me. (In fact the same was true even at seventeen.) 
     “Girls will act like girls if they are dressed like girls,” my mother said, as she always did, parroting the School Board, no doubt.
     “But, they don’t forbid girls from playing baseball at recess or staying off the monkey bars so is a dress supposed to keep us from playing at recess or what? I mean, adults are forever telling us to ‘act like ladies’ and ‘keep your skirt down so your underwear doesn’t show’ but how can we do that and still play? Don’t you see how much better it would be if we could wear pants like the boys?”
     “It doesn’t matter what I think; the rule is that you have to wear a dress so you will wear a dress. Now, stop arguing with me and go change out of those pants right now.” Obviously the tone of my mother’s response let me know I would just not win this time any more than any of the other battles on this subject. I kept thinking I could wear her down but, when it came to rules that others had imposed on us—well, rules were rules with my mother and that was that.
     In later years we would see Laura Ingalls hike up those long skirts and thick petticoats when she ran around the bases or needed to get some place in a hurry; but, let me tell you, what worked on “Little House on the Prairie” just did not work with our “no petticoat and knee-length skirt” little girl fashions of the mid-fifties and sixties. Plus, the boys could wear tennis shoes, while we had to wear saddle shoes. No idea what saddle shoes are? Well, they have nothing to do with saddles and horses or I would have loved them! They were a heavy, leather oxford type shoe, black and white or brown and white, with laces to tie. It was obvious to me that the people who made them did not know much about kids because the toes of the shoes were white—or, at least, they were right after my mother finished polishing them but not much longer than that. I just didn’t see the point of this rule.
     As if the winter weather, the “don’t show anyone your underwear” warning and plain ol’ inconvenience of the dress code were not enough, one day I began to notice the high school boys new fashion. The black and white vertical stripes on their shirt matched the color of their cotton trousers and they wore a thin white leather belt that had two, not one, little buckles to keep it closed. I thought the total effect so cool. I wanted an outfit like that—looked good and was practical for play. Though I cannot tell you this, for sure, but I think it was probably my persistent pleading with my mother that resulted in one such outfit finding its way into my wardrobe. I just loved that outfit! I wore it often and longed to wear it to school.
     One morning I had already put my dress on and was pretty much ready for school; I just needed to lace up my black and white saddle shoes. Maybe it was realizing that my shoes were the same color as my favorite out-of-school outfit, maybe it was just a little spike of rebellion slipping into my thoughts as I laced my shoes—I don’t really know what came over me-- but, without saying a word to anyone, I changed out of my dress and into my black /white striped shirt, black cotton pants and little white belt. I managed to slip by my mother and out the door.
     I was so nervous as I approached the school grounds. My hope was that, since no girl had ever done this before, they would just not know what to do and, well, would do nothing.

****EOD: Transitions: Attire, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lifecycles: The End, Reflections

     When your “number of days appointed to live,” spoken of in Ps. 139:16, has been completed, will you have made a difference in anyone’s life? Mrs. W would probably have answered “No” to that question because she really had no idea just what her kindness had meant to us children. Nearly six decades later, I can still remember her with the fond memories I have shared with you and I can be pretty sure she would be surprised to know that her life meant so much to me. She was kind and giving and that spoke volumes to the people who knew her. Her life had made a difference and I suspect it was not until she arrived in Heaven that she really found out just how much!

     The Argentinean Juan Carlos Ortiz is a well-known world-wide evangelist whose mother had so wanted to be in fulltime ministry during her life. Instead she raised twelve children, all of whom are in fulltime ministry and enjoyed the love of a fulltime mother to hold them accountable for their behavior, demonstrating the love of Jesus to them throughout their childhood. His mother had no idea she was already in fulltime ministry during those years; she just did her best to be their mother. The result of her ministry to her family was a dozen committed workers for the Lord!

     We just never know what the net worth of our life here will be; but, if we live it as fully for the Lord as we can, we can be sure that there will be results that we have never even considered when the end of our own lifecycle comes!

     In Psalm 90, Moses wrote:

10 “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures… for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. 17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.”

****Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lifecycles: The End

     It was so quiet in the church as the ushers led the people to their seats. The organ was playing soft music and no one was talking. That was unusual for our church. Normally, there was a gentle rumble of voices as folks greeted each other and chatted a bit before the service began. But, this was not Sunday so, maybe, things are different when you go to church during the weekday. I didn’t know why exactly we were there as the man directed us to a pew other than the one my mother always chose for us. “Our” pew was the second one on the right. My mother may have thought that we would behave best if we thought the pastor could see us during the service and she may have been right. Although, when we squirmed too much or began to jab each other, it was her “look” that got us to stop. The pastor never said anything and did not come down to shake his finger at us or anything like the teacher would have. In any case, this service was so quiet that even we did not speak.
     Not long after breakfast, my mother called me in from play and told me to put on my patten leather shoes and anklets with the lace on them. Mom hurriedly scrubbed my face and hands, followed by pointing to the “Sunday” clothes that she had laid out for my older sister and me to wear. My younger sister would not be going with us but to a friend’s house because she was too young. Hmmm, I didn’t think anyone was ever too young for church; they have places for the younger kids to go when church happens on a Sunday. Well, I would just wait and see what happens on a weekday.
     Another thing about this time in church: A large, shiny box was in the front of the church and it had a lot of flowers on it. In fact, there were flowers all over the front of the church. People wearing black clothing were sitting in our pew and they looked sad so I guess that is why we didn’t tell the man we wanted to sit there. During the service a lady sang a sad but pretty song and the pastor talked about our next door neighbor a lot. I thought this was funny because we didn’t usually talk about people during church like that. He said a lot of nice things about our neighbor. I could have added even more but no one asked me to speak so I didn’t, of course. I could have told them how Mrs. W was not angry with me when I broke the limb off her Weeping Willow tree but let us plant it in our backyard to make a tree for us, too. I could have told them how our neighbor let us make our tree house in her big backyard tree and seemed to enjoy how happy it made us. I could have told them about her popcorn balls. Every Christmas, Mrs. W made the best popcorn balls in the world, green and red ones. I had never seen popcorn balls like hers before and have never seen them since, as a matter of fact. My older sister could have told them how she let her come and visit and they would have a refreshing drink of some kind together. Even though my sister was just a little girl, Mrs. W told my sister the secret to the popcorn balls and she was the only one who knew it. Mrs. W was the nicest old lady I had ever known. My mother told me that Mrs. W’s life was over now and she would rest from her many kindnesses to folks.
     When the service had finished, the men in Sunday suits stood on each side of the big box and rolled it to the back of the room, just outside the double doors to the sanctuary. Soon after, the usher pointed to our row and we stood and filed out without saying a word. We had to walk by the box but they had lifted the lid. I stopped at the box and looked in. There was Mrs. W already resting from her kindnesses. She was dressed up in a pretty dress, too, like all of us in the church. I figured she would go to Heaven when we all went home because the pastor had said she would enjoy the beauty of Heaven since she just loved her flower garden. Mrs. W was the first person I had ever known who died and this was my first time attending a funeral service. It was a sad time for us; I loved Mrs. W and would miss her, but I was happy for her to get to rest, too. I reckoned she would have fun with Jesus and wondered if He would get to have popcorn balls for His birthday next Christmas now that Mrs. W was there with Him. 

****Lifecycles: The End, Reflections… Coming Tomorrow

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lifecycles: Tadpoles, Scene 3

     “Come see our baby frogs! They have tails right now, but Mom says they will turn into legs soon.” My younger sister was excited to visit the baby frogs and ran with me to the large metal tub.
     “Where are they? I don’t see them?” Kneeling on the damp grass of the early morning, my sister and I peered down over the edge of the tub of water.
     “Well, they are just tiny little thread kind of things that move around in the water. Maybe they are swimming underwater right now?” I tried to find even one slight ripple in the water that might indicate some movement under its surface but it was alarmingly still. Mama Frog was sitting there on a leaf but we just could not see any of the tadpoles.
     “Remember, at Grandpa’s how the Mama Hen gathers her chicks under her wing so we can never see them? Maybe Mama Frog does that to hide her babies, too.” My sister might be right but where would Mama Frog hide them? She couldn’t sit on them or they would get squished; she was way heavier than they were. Besides, they needed to be in the water because of their tails. We knew all-too-well what happened when a fish was not in the water for awhile.
     “Maybe, she is hiding them under the leaf that she is sitting on.” The suggestion seemed possible so I crawled quietly over to the place next to the tub near Mama Frog. I spoke gently to her and asked her if we could just take a peek under the leaf. Seemed like she agreed as she jumped off the leaf and began to swim away from me. Oh so carefully I lifted the edge of the leaf to see if anything would swim out from under it. Nothing so far. Again, I pulled back a tiny bit. Still nothing. At last, the whole leaf was in my hand and the water held not a single tadpole that we could see. Oh, but this was not a good sign. Once again, we sought answers from my mother. Where had the tadpoles gone?
     “Well, I don’t know what has happened to them. I have heard that, sometimes, when an animal senses extreme danger for their offspring, they will actually eat them to keep them away from predators; but, I don’t really know what a frog would do.” Yikes that sounded horrible and why would Mama Frog think they were in danger? We were friends not enemies! When my father got home he did not know what had happened to them either but suggested that we seriously consider returning the adult frog to the pond. Wow, that was a sad proposition for us frog-lovers.
     I dragged my burdened self over to Butchy’s with the sad news about the tadpoles and Daddy’s suggestion. No, he had not said we had to take the frog back, only that it might be a good idea.
     Now, today’s Junior Wildlife Enthusiasts could just head for the family computer and Google whatever it is they needed to know. Back in the fifties, though, none of us had ever heard of a computer, including Bill Gates! Had we been able to do that, we would have learned that even tadpoles will eat each other if they are hungry, not to mention the adult frogs enjoying such a snack. We should have cut up lettuce in small pieces to feed them, not yard grass. Separating the adult and the tadpoles would have been preferred so that they would all get to eat and not the adult chow down on the tadpoles’ portion of the grub before they got to eat. Ah, but that would have been helpful info to have.
     The natural environment of the pond had provided the frogs with just what they needed to eat as there were a lot of mosquitoes and assorted greenery right there. Our big mistake had been in taking them away from the home that God had given them. We could not begin to replicate that home in our backyard and, of course, we also learned that their nuclear family did not behave in the same way as ours, no matter how nice it seemed to work for us. On the more positive note, we learned that God’s creativity extends to the inner workings of the animal kingdom, too, with a variety of unique stages in each lifecycle of His marvelous creation. Indeed, Mama Frog—if this frog even was the Mama—would do a lot better back in the pond; we could just go visit the frogs there.

****Lifecycles: The End… Coming Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lifecycles: Tadpoles, Scene 2

     With sadness in our hearts, Butchy and I walked back to the pond but knew that Froggie would not have found his way back there without us. We would just spend our time practicing our frog language. For quite some time we listened and then began to imitate the sounds as best we could. Amazingly, the frogs began to respond! When the surface of the pond was clear of frogs, one of us gave the call as close to the one we heard as possible. Immediately after the sound, a frog popped up and began swimming towards the sound. Each of us in turn made the call and saw the frogs responding. What an exhilarating moment! It was not long before we had quite a number of frogs on our side of the pond. In our sadness over Froggie’s leaving, we had neglected to bring the Mayonnaise jar to try again. With our newfound success, we figured we could come back the next day since now we knew their call enough to attract their attention. It would be easy to get another guest frog tomorrow.
     Early on this third morning, Butchy and I walked to the pond. In the interim, however, we had decided that it might be better to try to take both a boy frog and a girl frog home with us. Maybe Froggie had left us because he was lonely. Besides, if we had a couple, we could have a family of frogs of our very own.  We could learn more of their language if there were more of them, right? We would look for two frogs so took two Mayonnaise jars with us this time. How did we know which was a male and which a female frog? Funny question… the bigger one is the male, of course.
     Once at the pond Butchy and I discovered there were eggs on the surface, right next to the blades of grass in the water. Could these be frog eggs? We had no idea but scooped up a bunch with the water and grass. That would leave only one jar for the adult so we would take the Mama frog today and return for the Papa frog the next day. We made the croaking sound in the place where the eggs had been and Butchy grabbed up the first frog that appeared. Home we went to install our new almost-family. The water was already warm because we had not emptied it from the previous day.
     Ever-so gently Butchy slid the eggs from the jar into the water. Then I let the Mama frog jump in, too. To us, she looked happy to be with the soon-to-be baby frogs in their new home. We were certain she would not abandon her eggs and, once we had the Papa frog in the tub, what more could they want? Life would be good for them. We would bring them fresh grass each day and make sure that their water was clean.
     Our suspicions of Mama’s contentment were confirmed the next day when, sure enough, Mama frog was still in the tub, sitting on a leaf. But where were her eggs? There were no eggs anywhere we could see. My mother would know what happened; she was a mother, too, wasn’t she?
     “Everything is just fine,” Mom said to us. “What you see here are her tadpoles. See these tiny little creatures swimming around?” Mom was pointing to something that looked a lot like a moving thread with a head and there were a lot of them, too. “The egg comes first and then these little creatures here. They are called tadpoles. After a while their tail there will get shorter and they will have legs. This happens until the tail is pretty much gone and they look just like the frogs you see in the pond, like the Mama frog here.” Wow, that was re-assuring, for certain. We had a family of frogs and all was well. Soon after, we left to fetch the Papa frog.
     It had been easy to find a frog with our croaking now understandable to the local pond population. But was it the right frog? How can we know that this big frog is the Papa frog for those tadpoles?
     By the next day, however, this concern was a nonissue.

****Lifecycles: Tadpoles, Scene 3, Coming Tomorrow

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lifecycles: Tadpoles

     “Over there, Butchy.” I pointed to a spot in the pond where I saw some movement. Butchy whispered back that he had not seen it but could see the waves by the shore.
     “What we really need to do is learn how to make their sound. Then we could call them.” Hmm, he had a good idea there so we settled in on the ground near the pond to just listen to the frogs as they broke through the surface one by one. The “pond” was really only there in the summer because it was more of a deep depression in the dirt field we all played in than an actual pond. By July, though, the summer rains had transformed the barren dip into a great place to watch the frogs. We listened for quite some time, silently pointing out places where we had spotted a frog amongst the weeds. When it was time to head home, we walked away practicing the frog vocalizations. What a variety of sounds we both made in these early attempts!
     The following day Butchy and I carried an empty Mayonnaise jar with us to the pond. We had poked holes in the lid with a nail and had put some green grass blades inside so the frog we planned to bring home would feel more comfortable and would have something to eat. At eight or nine years of age, neither of us had learned what frogs eat or what makes them comfortable, of course, but it seemed like this would be about right. All the way to the pond we practiced our frog call. Butchy sounded a lot more like the frogs I had heard than I did. (Perhaps that was an early indicator just how hard it would be for me to learn to speak a foreign language!) Quietly, we approached the pond and Butchy began making his new sound. Nothing happened. My attempt netted the same result, nada. Okay, so we just needed to wait for one of them to pop up.
     Suddenly the water began to ripple right under the edge nearest us. At nearly the same time, Butchy swept his hand in and out it came, holding the frog he had just captured. We were not sure if the frog had heard Butchy’s call or just happened to pop up at his feet but it was good enough for us. Now we could take the frog home and practice our frog calls on him. We could listen to him and then try ourselves to replicate the sound. Not sure why I thought the frog would be such a willing teacher but home we went with our new acquisition, who was trying to hide himself in the grass of the jar.
     My mother let us use her big metal wash tub as a home for the frog so we dumped him out of the jar and into his new digs as soon as the tub had been filled. Guess the water was a bit too cold for him because he was not in there more than a brief second before jumping out. I re-captured him and gently stroked his back as I held him snuggly in my hand. Tenderly I encouraged him that we were his friends and would take care of him—as well as all those other promises that kids make to the captured wildlife, having not a clue that we could never in a million years keep those promises, of course!
     Once the water had had a chance to warm up a bit in the sun, we re-introduced Froggie to his new home and he seemed to like it. He dove and swam all around the tub. He did not jump out so we both began to practice our frog language on him. He stopped swimming sometimes and appeared to be listening but never answered us. Well, maybe tomorrow Froggie will talk to us and not just listen, we told each other as the time came for Butchy to go home for supper.
     Early the next morning I shot out of the house before breakfast was even on the table and began calling Froggie. When I reached the tub I discovered that Froggie had flown the coop, so to speak. He was nowhere in sight and the water was clear enough to see that he was not swimming underwater either. I gingerly lifted the leaves we had placed for Froggie to sit on when he was tired of swimming but he was not under any of them. I walked carefully all over the lawn with my face as close to the grass as I could get and called Froggie in my primitive frog vocalization. After breakfast, as always, Butchy appeared and I gave him the bad news. Froggie was gone.

****Lifecycles: Tadpoles, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow

Friday, January 13, 2012

Snow Business, Scene 3

     Good old Mrs. Story was a firm believer in the Bible principle recorded in Luke 10:7b, “The laborer is worthy of his wages,” (New American Standard Bible) and I walked home clutching my very first wage that chilly winter day.
     After school the following day I returned to Mrs. Griffin’s house to finish shoveling the walk. Had she even noticed the little bit I had already cleaned or, perhaps, she had not opened her front door yesterday. Having been frightfully startled at the sight of Mrs. Story opening her door to me the previous day, I decided I should ask permission before I continued. I gave a hearty knock on the glass storm door and was rewarded by a slight opening of the inside wooden door.
     “Hello, Mrs. Griffin. I just wanted to ask you if I could finish shoveling the snow off your sidewalk. I did the little bit in front over by the curb yesterday but I didn’t have time to clear the sidewalk here that runs from your step out to the curb. May I do that for you?” To my great surprise, the door did not open one inch more than it already was—about three inches.
     “What do you want? How much will I have to pay you to do that little bit of work?” Hmmm, well, she was not as pleasant as Mrs. Story had been, for sure, but she was probably afraid of people. Lots of old people were.
     “Oh, Mrs. Griffin, you don’t need to pay me anything. I just would like to clear the snow so that you will not slip and fall on the walk if you need to go out for some reason. I will do it as fast as I can but, actually, I have just learned to shovel snow so I am not all that fast yet.” Well, the door never did open any further and with a gruff acquiescence to my request, she shut and locked the wooden door. I worked as fast as I could and headed home.
     Thus began my seasonal career in snow removal. I always asked if I could clear the sidewalks for the elderly folks in our neighborhood and never “charged” them for the work, though they often did reward me with a dime or a quarter. I did not mind it either way, in the beginning. By the second season of snow, however, I found I was getting annoyed with those folks who did not give me what I thought the job should earn and really resented those folks who gave me nothing. I did not mention it to my mother, though, as it was very clear to me that she expected me to volunteer to help the elderly people with their sidewalks.
     One morning I was clearing the snow at the home of a lady I knew would not pay me anything and I decided to just clear a strip of the sidewalk and not fully do the job. Good enough echoed through my thoughts. The funny thing was that when I had finished the single strip and started to leave for the next “paying” customer, my tummy began to hurt. I stopped and looked back at what I had done. Good enough, came to mind again and then a question followed: Is it really good enough? Of course, I knew it was not good enough since I had not done my best. Was I doing the work to help the elderly people or to fill my piggybank? With the wind starting to blow, that one strip would be covered easily by the remaining snow if I just left it. Still, I began to move away, with my thoughts on the next job. I didn’t get far, though. My tummy hurt so much and all joy I had ever had over my snow removal efforts had fled like a thief in the night. What’s the point of a dime if I have to feel so badly that I don’t even want whatever it could buy me? It is amazing just how happy I felt as I turned around and did one of my best jobs on that sidewalk, the second time around!
     I would later learn a Bible passage that would explain this Godly principle for me and it remains one of my favorites:

Colossians 3:23-24 says, Work at everything you do with all your heart. Work as if you were working for the Lord, not for human masters. Work because you know that you will finally receive as a reward what the Lord wants you to have. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (New International Readers Version)

     I very much enjoyed all of my snow removal jobs after this isolated incident and found it a profitable business, in spite of the pro bono work! One day my heart just about burst out of my chest when I stood before the grocery clerk at the little corner store and heard him tell my mother, “If you need more money to buy this other package, too, why not just ask your little money bags here for a loan?” The whole neighborhood knew of my venture and, while my mother and Mr. Weber laughed, I just felt about as good as any little kid could ever feel at that very moment.

(Wondering what a dime or a quarter could buy in the 50’s? Mostly I saved the money but a quarter could buy a quart of milk with money left over for three pieces of bubble gum. A dime could buy two candy bars. Minimum wage? Not a clue but ten years later I would have a “real” job at minimum wage that paid $1.15/hour!)

****Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snow Business, Scene 2

     “You hold the shovel like this so that the snow does not come right off the back of the shovel.” My father was demonstrating the position he found to be best for snow removal on our corner lot sidewalks. I had asked to help him one Saturday morning after an early snowfall but had been frustrated when all the snow I scooped onto my shovel just came out the other end. The problem was that my eagerness to help him had preceded my growth. I was just too short to hold the shovel at the suggested angle and still be hanging on to the handle. No, they did not make smaller shovels; I would just have to wait until I grew a bit more. About then, my mother called to my father and he set down the shovel. As I watched him walk over to the house, I picked up the shovel. I held the handle in my two hands and tried to accomplish the right angle to move the snow properly. It was just too steep an angle—unless—I moved my hands to the shaft of the shovel until I could grasp it at just the right angle. Yes, that would work if only I could move the shovel with my hands in that position. Pushing the snow off the walk and onto the grass worked easily in the new hold. Lifting the snow-laden shovel to throw the snow somewhere else proved a bit more challenging but it could be done.
     I was not as fast as my father at clearing the sidewalks but I soon learned to do the job well enough that he didn’t mind just letting me get a head start if it finished snowing before he got home from work. I really enjoyed watching the progress of my labors as the thick white covering was cleared to reveal the familiar, non-slippery cement walkway. When I had finished my work I would often take a walk around our block to see who else had shoveled their sidewalks already. I loved being the first one on the block to finish the job!
     “Mom, why doesn’t Mrs. Story ever have her sidewalks cleaned off in the winter? It is dangerous for her because she must be, at least, fifty, I would think. She could fall and really hurt herself. Doesn’t she have a son who could do it for her?” Mrs. Story’s home was on the diagonally opposite corner lot of our own block and she really did have a lot of sidewalk to shovel. She was an elderly woman much older than fifty but this sounded like a number that bordered the edge of life and eternity to me.
     “I think that she does have a son but I am not sure he lives in town.”
     “Would you mind if I took our shovel and cleared off her sidewalks for her?” It was too late to do it that day but Mom agreed I could go to Mrs. Story’s house the next day.
     As I made my way over to Mrs. Story’s house, I noticed a small snow-covered patch of sidewalk I would need to cross and decided to just shovel it clear. The thing is, when I had finished I was torn between just continuing on my way to Mrs. Story’s and shoveling the sidewalk that went from Mrs. Griffin’s front door to the curb. Should I do that, too; or, would I not have enough time left to shovel all of the sidewalks at Mrs. Story’s? I decided that I had better do the job my mother was expecting me to do first. If I still had time on the way home, I would stop and shovel the rest of Mrs. Griffin’s walk.
     I worked hard to get the entire sidewalk near the curbs on Mrs. Story’s corner lot clear and then headed for the sidewalk that went from her front steps to the curb. Quietly I began to move the snow off the top step so as not to disturb the old lady should she be taking a nap or resting. Suddenly, the front door swung open and I froze with fright. It was at that very moment that a warning flash zinged across my thoughts, you never asked permission to be on her property, you know. She could call the cops on you!
     “Oh my, little girl. You must be half frozen. Come in and have a cup of tea.” I told Mrs. Story that I was actually pretty warm from the shoveling and I needed to finish because my mother would be wondering where I was. Thanks for the offer but, if she did not mind, I would just finish my job.
     “Oh, dear child. I don’t mind at all. I am so grateful to you. You don’t need to completely clear the walk here, though; just make a path so I can walk out to the curb. Thank you so much for thinking of me. No one has ever done this in all the years I have lived here.” I explained that I had just learned to shovel snow a few weeks before but I would help her with the snow when I could. It made me feel so good to see how happy she was to have the snow gone. I was pushing the last shovel load of snow away from the sidewalk when Mrs. Story appeared on the top step, waving to me. Oh boy, I thought, I hope she hasn’t changed her mind and she wants me to take that other side of snow off this walk, too. I am about ready to drop.
     “Here, little girl. Take this.” I took off my mitten and watched as she put a shiny new quarter into my little hand. Wow, this was a first for me. I had never before earned money for any work I had done outside of our home. This was my very first job ever. There is just no way to describe how terrific I felt. I fairly floated my weary body on home, snow shovel slung over my shoulder and a smile frozen to my face.
     I would soon learn my first real Bible lesson in the world of commerce.

*The names are not the real names simply because I have not a clue what they were!

****Snow Business, Scene 3… Coming Tomorrow

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Snow Business

     “There you are; now, go out and have fun.” My mother had just tugged on the final piece of “fun in the snow” outer wear and, it seemed to me that she was a whole lot happier to be hustling me out the door than I was to be hustled. In fact, I hated the snow. That last idiot mitten to go on just capped it off for me, really. I mean I felt like one of those stiff gingerbread man cookies with my arms straight out from my body and my legs barely able to come together in that bulky snowsuit. Being reminded that there were lots of poor little kids that would just love to be so encumbered with warm outer wear did not serve to remind me of how grateful and happy I should be. To tell you the truth, in later years when I caught sight of the astronauts in their space suits, I felt sorry for them and was taken back, immediately, to those cold Montana winters as a child. If you were one of those “poor kids” who had the joy of never having to go outside during the cold winter snows or were so fortunate to have been born in a place where rain drops never turn white and fluffy, let me clue you in. A “snowsuit” in the fifties looked like this: First, it was put over the regular clothing of jeans and shirt so the bunching up of fabric from the sleeves and pant legs made the donning of the suit a time-consuming venture. We had to lay on the floor for mother to get the pants on us. The suit was thick with some kind of heavy padding. The pants were elastic wasted pull-up style and the jacket had a zipper that just never seemed to be interested in a smooth glide to closure. But, as happened sometimes, if mother had forgotten to thread the idiot mittens in the jacket before putting it on me, I was snuggly zipped up and the error only noticed when she reached for my hand to slip in a mitten--no mitten. Off would come the jacket, while the warm lower garb began to overheat my legs and lower torso. One mitten was threaded through the sleeve and the yarn connecting line adjusted to assure both mittens would be available for wear symmetrically. Okay, back went the jacket, zipped in the usual start-stop-yank-slide manner. One after the other my hands were clothed in warm mittens. Reaching the outside door, the hood was secured with a string under my chin. There was that last minute twisting /shoving each tennis shoe clad foot into the rubber overshoes and, finally, out I went to play. How I hated snowy, cold winters!
     “It is too early for you to come back in the house,” Mom said through the closed glass storm door a full five minutes later. “Why don’t you make a big snow man for Daddy to see when he comes home? He will be so surprised to see what you made.” Okay, waddling back and forth across the front yard, stooped over and rolling the increasingly large ball of snow, I joined my excited sisters in making a snowman for Daddy. Of course, finishing the lower part of his body was no problem, as long as it ended up in the place we would want the snowman to stand. It was the largest ball. Pushing the middle ball over to join the base was a little bit trickier and our snowman sometimes held that middle-aged paunch if the second ball had to be rolled a bit too far to arrive in the right place. No problem, though, Daddy could trim him down later. The last ball was the easiest because it could be carried over to rest on top for his head. Once all three parts of the cold, wet personage had been created and moved to the first ball, the three of us little girls tried, together, to lift his large round tummy up to rest on the lower section. This was quite a feat because to drop the ball would break it up and the whole process would need to begin again. New snow just was not wet enough to hold together right away. There was a lot of grunting and instructing one another to move this way or that; but, sometimes, it actually did get in the right place before it fell off. Then the head ball had to be set on the very top. Depending on just how big the first two sections ended up, we may or may not have been able to put his head on. Yes, there were times when Mr. Snowman was still in three parts when Daddy got home and it was his job to assemble the parts, which would be stuck to the cold ground and not as easy to hoist up as it would have been that morning! When all three parts were in place, snow was stuffed all around the area where the two balls came together. Once it had frozen in place, it would stay there until the thaw came. It is possible that when we were older the snowman actually did get finished before we were so wet and cold we just had to come inside the house, but I don’t really remember—although, that may be due to my constant focus being on just how to get back in the house in the first place! At some point, however, the snowy front yard fixture included a variety of elements to give him eyes, a nose, a mouth, and, of course, some kind of hat and scarf to keep him warm out there! Tree branches were stuck in the middle section to give him arms.
     Once back in the house, wet snowsuits and mittens lying over the wooden clothes rack stretched out on the furnace grate, we carefully sipped our steamy cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top. It was a treat that almost made it worth the wintery torture!
     Since Montana had cold and snow for, at least, half of the year I could hardly wait to grow up to move to warmer winter pastures. There just had to be a better way for a kid to spend her weekends and Christmas vacations. Indeed, there was!

****Snow Business, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Midnight and Beyond, Scene 2

     “Hi, Grandpa! How are you and Grandma? How is Tuffy? Do you want me to get Mom to come to the phone?” I shot off my questions in rapid-fire fashion and heard Grandpa laugh.
     “Whoa there Little Britches. Let me answer you before you run out of breath.” Grandpa assured me that he, Grandma and their rambunctious farm dog were all just fine.
     “Who do you suppose was peeking at me over the edge of the hayloft this morning when I went to milk the cows?” Could be a lot of names to that answer as Grandpa had a ton of animals on his ranch. I selected a few favorite names and received the negative response to each one.
     “Well, it surely could have been any of those but not this time. Nope, this time it was a name closer to home, your home. In fact, when I saw him a lookin’ at me, I about dropped my bucket. I didn’t want to scare him so I quietly said, ‘Hey, Pretty Boy, is that you up there?’ and what do you think he did? He jumped right down into my arms; that’s what he did.”
     “Oh, Grandpa, how could that be? How did he find your house? How did he know if he should go right or left at all of those crossroads? Is he okay? Is he hurt? Are you sure it is really him?” My grandparents’ place was just off a rugged country road about seven or eight miles from our house in town. Midnight had never been taken to their house, not even once. It was a given that Midnight loved my grandpa ‘cuz every animal did; but, how in the world had he found the right house? Midnight had only seen my grandfather when they came to town to visit us. Daddy would never let us take the cat with us when we visited because Grandpa had a lot of cats on the ranch and Daddy thought he didn’t need to have one visit him.
     “Oh, I am sure all right. There is not another cat like this one right here in my arms. He’s a bit worse for wear with his paws all torn up and bleeding and he is a mite skinnier than the last time I saw him. His black fur is rather matted and I can feel his bones under that fur but the brightness of his eyes tells me he is going to be just fine.” I could not hear the purring sounds but had no doubt at all that his motor was working overtime nestled there in Grandpa’s loving arms.
     We had a chance to go visit Midnight not long after and Mom’s call “Pretty Boy, where is my Pretty Boy?”  gave us all that heart-warming joy when he stopped what he was doing and looked right at Mom. It was a hard decision but we all thought it would be better to leave our beloved Midnight with Grandpa. He had walked through all four seasons of an entire Eastern Montana year… including those bone-jarring forty-degree-below-zero winters with snow from October to May. It was totally beyond us how Midnight could have survived the trek. All these decades later it remains quite a mystery to us just how he found his way through all the twists and turns of that gravel rural pathway to wind up in just the right hayloft. We figured he had more than earned the right to live out the rest of his days with Grandpa!
     Be encouraged, dear Reader—you are worth more than a wandering city cat longing for the peace of a country barn! God will direct you on your way, too!
     A couple of my favorite Scripture verses to pass along:

Luke 12:6-7 says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

     Perhaps these snippets from a couple of verses in Psalm 84 would apply to our beloved Midnight Pretty Boy:

 3 Even the sparrow (or tired sojourning cat) has found a home and 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house” (or Granpa’s barn, as it were!)

****Snow Business… Coming Tomorrow

Monday, January 9, 2012

Midnight and Beyond

     Midnight, like most pampered house cats, had the life of royalty with nothing more to want—or so we thought. The children in our home had named him “Midnight” because this little ball of jet black fur just looked like a “Midnight” to us. However, to my mother, the cute little black fuzzball was “Pretty Boy.” Can you guess to which name he would respond most? And, this was the way it was even in his adult life. We still called him “Midnight” unless we really wanted him to pay attention to the call and then we were astute enough to know that it was no use ignoring his preferred handle.
     “Mom, I cannot find Midnight anywhere,” I said. “Do you have any idea where he might be hiding?” There were only a certain number of places he could hide because our tiny house was less than 900 square feet in size. The large double-car garage had not been built yet. Midnight had only two bedrooms, one bathroom, a small kitchen and utility room, as well as the furnishings of one large rectangular open area used for living room and dining room available to him. Being still in the single-digit age I was small enough to sweep my arm under all the furniture and cupboard bottoms to see if he was hiding under them but he was getting too big to fit in many of those places anyway. Mom had all of the drawers and doors of any storage structures tightly closed at all times so none of those was a likely possibility either. His thick black fur made hiding in the hedges or bushes outside something he would not have liked so, if he was hiding anywhere at 524 Elm Avenue, it would be in the house.
     “Maybe he has gone visiting,” mother suggested, “he will, no doubt, be home when he is hungry.” None of our friends had a cat so it was a bit puzzling just where he might have gone visiting. I waited for his return. Since his food was put out for him to consume at whatever particular time of the day he should choose to do so, I kept an eye on the dish, checking from time to time to see if any had been nibbled. No evidence of Midnight’s return. Hours passed and then my mother, also, began to wonder what had happened to the usually close-to-home feline member of the family.
     “Pretty Boy, Pretty Boy, where are you?” Come home my Pretty Boy.” Mom’s voice had this higher pitch when she was calling the cat than when she was calling us and she tended to repeat her call more for him, too. Still, no Pretty Boy.
     When night fell and Midnight had not come home, even my mother began to get worried. He was a tom cat but did like to be inside the house once it was dark. His food had not been touched all day either. Where could he be? Of course we were thinking of the worst, while Mom was trying to think of the not-so-bad possibilities for his absence in the family living room that evening.
     “He’ll be home tomorrow. He might have found a new friend and is sleeping over. Probably the friend shared her food with him so don’t worry.” (Note: We might have had grandparents who ran a ranch but we little kids had not yet heard about the birds and the bees—or, in this case, the boy cats and the girl cats—and how things could have gone for Midnight.) We were wracking our little brains to figure out where he might have found a friend!
     With the passing of each day, our fears that he had been hit by a car or grabbed for the menacing pleasure of bullies grew. Still, Mom called for her Pretty Boy off and on during daylight hours. I looked, in vain, everywhere in the neighborhood. It seemed pretty grim to us all.
    Days turned into weeks. Weeks became months with not one single clue what had happened to our beloved Midnight Pretty Boy. Why would he have wondered off? Had something awful happened to him? Should we have played with him more?  Yes, we knew that the song said “God’s eye is on the sparrow” but we just hoped Midnight’s paw was not knocking the bird into his waiting chops when God was looking!
     And, then, the phone call that we had never expected in a million years…!

****Midnight and Beyond, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow