It’s time again for some light-hearted, laughter-inducing entertainment, so find a comfy chair, relax in a hammock (or, even, take a knee…I’m not looking and I don’t care!!). As long as you’re relaxed and ready to be entertained, that’s all that … Continue reading
The summer I graduated from high school, and my horse and pony had been sold in anticipation of me going off to photography school, my dad used part of our former pasture area for his first vegetable garden. He tilled and planted a whopper of a plot, considering our family size. By mid-August, we were drowning in egg plant, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini. My dad lugged piles of produce off to work each morning, to share with his co-workers at Goodyear, and there was still plenty left over for us. My absolute favorite was the zucchini…breaded and fried zucchini, to be exact. My dad and I could polish off two large zucs between the two of us, because they were so incredibly yummy. It was a special thing we shared between us, that hankerin’ for fried zucchini. Now that I’m much older, and my dad is long gone, I can transport myself back to that bittersweet, transitional summer, with overgrown zucchini from my own garden. I slice them up, just like I did for my dad and I, then I dip them in egg and flour (actually, gluten-free flour, or sometimes almond meal), fry those babies up, close my eyes and take a big bite…and suddenly, I’m back in our old kitchen, with my father, living that zucchini summer all over again.
It’s an inexpensive and safe method of time-travel, these sensory memory triggers. I travel the taste bud route quite often, with certain foods that take me back to times shared with my dad (because when little tag-along me joined the family, my mom went to work full-time, my Grandma Casey moved in with us, and my dad pitched in by taking over most of the meal preparation for our family). There were other food favorites that we had in common, like soup beans and ham with cornbread, and pot roast with potatoes and carrots. One bite of any of those, and the gustation process can carry me back in a second, if I close my eyes, sit quietly, and savor the flavor, along with the memories.
The olfactory passage to the past is closely related to the taste route, so it often takes me to the same places, but is has the power to transport me to a myriad of other memories. All I have to do is walk into a horse barn, catch one wonderful whiff, and I am at the county fair, hanging out with my 4-H buddies, cleaning the stall, showing Paco (my quarter horse) in the ring, rubbing my hand down his soft, sweaty neck, or sometimes lunching on corndogs and lemon shake-ups, or inhaling the helium from a balloon to talk like Donald Duck. I am young and carefree, my parents are there with me at our campsite, and we are sitting around the fire with friends. Or, how about the passage power of holding a baby, and smelling his/her sweet head (what is it with the smell of baby’s heads?!). These days, when a baby is in my arms, I fly back to the early days of parenting, holding my own little ones, nursing them, rocking them in my arms while singing lullabies – it’s all there, in full color and complete, sensual detail. The quality of transport and the clear view of those days-gone-by is really quite amazing.
Other times, I travel back by way of an old song that slides from my ears right down to my heart, and I find myself with an old friend, hanging out in their basement, or at one of our favorite haunts. Or I might end up at a high school prom, dancing in the arms of a high school heart throb. Sometimes it’s the sound of laughter that reminds me of my mom, and takes me back “home” again. She was the kind who would occasionally get unexplainably tickled by some silly episode, then laugh for 15 minutes, until she was crying and could hardly breathe, while the rest of us were all laughing at her (even though we were often clueless regarding the original trigger for her laughter, and she would be laughing way to hard to fill us in!). There are other times when a sound can transport me to completely unexpected places: I hear a train whistle, and suddenly, I am sitting at the tracks, in the car with my mom, counting the railway cars to make the time pass more pleasantly, and trying to be the first one to spot the caboose. A rumble of thunder, of the boom of fireworks can also occasionally work their magic on me. The hearing path to yesterday is probably the most surprising and mysterious for me, because I just never know when or where it will strike, and where I might end up.
Of course, we can’t leave out the sight triggers for time travel – there are so many opportunities. We live in the age of photography, so all we have to do is pull out an old photo album, and BAM…we’re there again, with ease. Or how about digging through those storage boxes of sentimental items? Those have serious transference power, too. But there are also more subtle ways that sneak up on us, like coming upon a field of sunflowers, or finding a beautiful shell on the beach, or witnessing a breath-taking sunset. Our mind can latch onto anything our eyes take in, and, in a millisecond, carry us back to some almost forgotten place.
And then there’s that last sense….touch. In my opinion, touch kind of tags along with the other senses, and enhances the time-travel journey. When I’m eating fried zucchini, just the feel of it in my mouth adds to the full effect. And those 4-H fair memories….if I get a chance to run my hands down a horse’s neck or side, or touch his soft nose…that just makes all the above-mentioned images come more clearly into focus. Same concept with the touch of my lips on a baby’s head, or feeling the warmth of a wee one against my body, or their soft breath upon my neck as I rock them – the memories they trigger are like a 3D movie, with all senses fully functioning.
If you have days of old that you would like to revisit, step away from the rush of life this week, and enjoy a cruise down memory lane. Your very own time travel voyage is just a taste (or a smell, or a vision, or a sound, or a touch) away, but you have to be open to the excursion and willing to put some effort into quiet reflection. I hope you have pleasant travel, and don’t forget to send me a postcard!
Everyone owns an interior cache of heroism, which rises to the surface in time of need. We can choose to act upon the gallant impulse, or talk ourselves out of it. That’s the dilemma with use-of-valor evaluation – the call to action does not ride alone. It comes accompanied by fear, suspicion, and the instinct of self-preservation. Not that those are bad traveling companions. In most cases, it really is quite prudent and essential to think twice before diving in, but sometimes, you just gotta trust your gut. Some of us are called to a continuous, high level of heroism. These are the kinds of people you will find most often in jobs of civil service, such as police officers and fire fighters. Take that one step further, and you’ll find members of our armed forces. They’re the folks who personify courage and self-sacrifice, living examples of bravery each and every day on the job. They also practice safety and prudence, but, because of their desire to serve others, they knowingly face unseen dangers at every turn. This is what is known as “laying one’s life down for a friend.” For the truly heroic, everyone in need of protection is a friend.
However, that’s not to say that smaller deeds of valor have no significance – quite the opposite, actually. Tiny deeds, done with love, are magnified by God’s grace into life-changing acts of intervention. I have, in my lifetime, executed several acts of pint-sized prowess, and have often been repaid with unexpected blessing beyond measure. I believe that God sees into the heart, and is filled with joy by any act of courageous self-sacrifice, be it big or small, and just as any loving father, he rewards such actions with a big hug and “words” of encouragement. As a means of inspiring you in your day-to-day heroic efforts, I will share with you a few stories of my meager, super-hero exploits.
I grew up in a rough neighborhood. At first glance, it might appear to be the quintessential, small town neighborhood – old houses with big yards and plentiful gardens, mixed in amongst farms with cows and/or horses in the pasture. I was raised on local produce, freshly harvested honey, and…..street fights. Yeah, you heard that right. And it wasn’t gang warfare, it was rugrat girls. We just could not get along. We’d pair up in groups of two, and wage battles against the other pairs. This way of interacting wasn’t limited to my local turf. This happened all around our little village. At the pool, down by the village Lawson’s store, at school, on a local playground, anywhere there was likely to be a group of young lassies, you could almost count on a girl-fight. Most of the time, it was a rather tempered tiff, with hair-pulling, scratching, kicking, pushing, throwing whatever was handy (and sometimes, even biting!) being the weapons of choice. At any rate, I often tried to step in and save the day, especially if things seemed to be getting a little out of hand, or if other people joined in and starting ganging up on someone. The intervention I remember most vividly actually did involve my small neighborhood group of girls. One winter, while going in search of my friend, I discovered her being attacked by the other girls. She was holed up in a small barn, which housed a pony that she was caring for. The enemy had taken up position outside the fence and would not allow my friend to walk out of the barn without being pelted by hard, icy snowballs. I swung into immediate action. I ran through the gate into the barn and grabbed a 5 gallon bucket. Using it as a shield, I ran out to the small watering pond and managed to break enough ice to fill the bucket half-way with water. Then, I worked my way over to the enemy camp, dodging ice-balls as I stumbled along under the weight of the bucket. I will never figure out why those girls just stood there while I walked right up to them, in plain view, with an arsenal of (literally!) freezing cold water in my possession, but that’s what they did. I strategized and aimed, and tossed the water so that it saturated both of them, and no one has heard anything about those girls since that day. Just kidding about that last part. They were around for many years after that, and I ended up being friends with both of them, after we outgrew that warring stage of adolescence, but, I did gain a reputation after that day of someone who should not be messed with, so our neighborhood really was a lot more peaceful after that brush with death!
Some other escapades (from later in my life) that I can recall are:
1) Chasing a young guy through the streets and alleys of downtown, after I witnessed him stealing an old lady’s purse. I followed him relentlessly and kept him in sight until he decided to drop the purse, which I was able to retrieve. I found some ID in the purse and returned it to its rightful owner.
2) I saw an older man struggling to get the door open to his downtown living quarters. I held his meager bag of groceries (which he was probably afraid to put down, in fear of them being grabbed by someone) while he got the door open. I looked in the door and saw a long flight of stairs heading up…no lobby, no elevator, just a poorly lit, steep stairwell for this elderly fellow. So, I offered to carry his groceries. Up we went, two flights, until we came to his tiny apartment, which was packed to the gills with all of his earthly possessions. He felt so blessed by my kind assistance that he gave me 25¢, and I graciously accepted it, along with the memory of helping out this sweet, old guy. I was filled with the hope that I somehow made a difference in his lonely, impoverished life.
3) Planning and executing many service/mission trips over the years, for teenagers and young adults in our homeschool community. We have had amazing, life-changing adventures, and made a difference in Appalachia & Tijuana, Mexico, and also right here in our own city, and God has allowed me to help fill many young hearts with a love for service and humble self-sacrifice.
As you can see, being a hero doesn’t require a cape and/or local news coverage of the event. It only calls for you to step out of your comfort zone, practice compassion (and, maybe a little war-like strategy on occasion), and affect positive change on someone’s life. Be courageous this week. You might even earn a quarter!
Over the past few months, a stray, black cat has been making fugitive appearances around my client’s house. We cleaned out the freezer a few weeks ago and found some pre-cooked bacon to put out for the wildlife. (My client and her dad live on a wooded lot, and they love feeding the wild critters, especially the raccoons, possums, and birds.) Minutes later, as I watched, the petite, black kitty snuck stealthily up onto the deck, snagged a piece of bacon from one of the bowls, and hightailed it off into the underbrush. Sometimes, a member of the local cat society will stop by for a check of the daily lunch special, and I guess the menu had finally appealed to this feline “critter.” However a few weeks passed without another sighting of the black mouser (or, should I say, “baconer”).
Seemingly out of the blue, she showed up again earlier this week, and, bold as you please, tried to waltz right into the house when we opened the door onto the deck. I finally got a chance to hold her and get a good look at her. She was sweet as could be, but the poor little thing was missing her left eye. It was an old injury, the wound healed and shrunken, but still, it broke my heart. She did not appear to be underfed, but there was no collar (which to me, always implies homelessness for a cat!), plus, she seemed more than ready to move in with my client. I concluded that she was probably an unwanted pet who had been dropped off in the woods. My cat-loving instincts, along with my cat-whispering skills, came bubbling to the surface. I called my personal, cat-rescue mentor, Regina, and asked her what I should do, in my efforts to save this cat. First thing to do, she advised, would be to get the cat to a local animal clinic, get her scanned, and see if she had a microchip. By the time I had received that message, the cat was gone. I went walking through the woods, calling and calling, to no avail. I put my cat-saving super hero cloak away for the day.
Two days later, I was at work again, no sign of the cat. At 3:00 in the afternoon, my client decided she wanted to go to Ikea. Considering the time of day, the potential traffic, and my shift ending in three hours, I was a bit skeptical about this Ikea idea, but I rallied, as any good employee (and loving friend!) would, and we were on our way to the van, when, “MEOW, MEEOOWW, MEEEEOOOWWW!” broke into our thoughts. Where was that noise coming from?! I scrutinizingly scanned the landscape, as I grew closer and closer to the source of the caterwaul, until I seemed to be standing right under it. I looked up, and sure enough, there was that black cat, stuck in a tree, the nearest branch at least 15 feet up. (Photo below, actual tree, she was in that little crook, where limbs start branching out! Okay…..maybe it was only 12 feet, but it felt like 15, or more!) I did what any self-respecting lion tamer would do…I tried to sweet talk her into coming down. No dice. She continued to complain…loudly. Time to call out the heavy rescue team.
I went back inside to rustle up the rest of the emergency brigade, my client’s 88 year old dad. Together, we managed to drag a huge, heavy, extendable ladder out of the garage, up the driveway, and painstakingly (not to mention rather three-stoogishly, with only two stooges) get the ladder leaning, somewhat securely, against the tree. I started climbing. After a few rungs, I came back down to see if we could get the top of the ladder settled a bit more snuggly against the tree. I started back up, still noticing that the ladder was slipping off the tree a bit on the right side, but knowing that the two of us were not going to do any better with a third attempt. Each rung of the ladder became a prayer. Slowly, nervously, I inched my way to the top. Once there, I grabbed the cat like a mama cat would, by the back of the neck. She was not happy about that, at all! She howled at the top of her lungs and grabbed onto the tree for dear life. I am wrestling with this cat at the top of this ladder, thinking to myself, “If I fall, and I don’t die, my husband will kill me for taking this risk for a cat!” Somehow (no doubt through my prayers, my client’s prayers, and the watchful eye and intercessory prayers of St. Francis), I got the little lynx into my arms (or, one arm, to be exact), curled her up close to me and said, over and over, “You gotta trust me babe, you gotta trust me!” Then, painstakingly, white-knuckling the ladder with one hand, I deliberately worked my way down, one careful step at a time, until we were back on solid ground. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking as I placed the sweet (and now, calm) little girl into a carrier, which we had waiting and ready.
Fast forward through, 1: getting her to the vet; 2: getting a reading from the chip (YAY!); 3: calls made to the pet recovery service; 4: attempted calls to the registered owner which went unanswered; 5: realizing that we were obliged to house this cat until the owner responded, and stuck with finding alternative housing if the owner had vanished; 6: providing my cell number in the hope that they would hear from the owner and he or she wanted to contact me about getting pussycat back.
After returning to my client’s home, we set up plush, temporary housing in a basement room, which would protect little missy from my client’s two cats, and vice-versa. I headed home, after hearing from Regina that our only option for kitty (if we failed to hear from the owner) was to take her to the local SPCA, where she had originally been adopted from. They promised she would not be euthanized, and a new home would be found for her.
Finally at 9:30 pm, my phone rang. IT WAS THE CAT OWNER, very surprised to have received a message that his cat, Olivia, had “been found,” because he had no idea she was even lost! Turns out, he lives practically in my client’s back yard (albeit an acre’s worth of woods away)! He was thinking that she had stayed out a little later than usual, but wasn’t really worried. I related the entire adventure, from bacon to basement and (luckily) he laughed and laughed, and so did I! We ended our conversation in hopeful agreement that Olivia’s tree-climbing days were over. But I was left with a slightly guilty conscience, realizing that I had been gloating about my successful foray into cat rescuing, while all along, I had actually been carrying out a clandestine cat kidnapping! After sheepishly swallowing my disagreeable dose of humility, I texted Regina to tell her the news, and apologize for wasting her time. She promptly forgave me by signing me up as an official volunteer for her cat rescue non-profit. Wow….I am an official cat rescuer now! Regina….., can I have a cape?!