We’ll Never Forget You, John Gates

The kids in Sunday School proffered their feelings of sadness as we opened class.

“I’m going to miss Uncle John.”

“Me too.” Another agreed. “He was always so nice.”

“He called me his grandkid.”

“He always cheered the loudest for me. I could hear him yell my name…”

They were talking about John Gates.

John came into our lives through a simple act of kindness. He was attempting to trim some overgrowth in his yard one day and Curtis happened to be driving by. John had suffered a stroke and was almost complete paralyzed on one side. This made it extremely difficult for him to maneuver the clippers. Curtis and his sons jumped in and were able to make short work of the lawn care.

As they talked, Curtis learned that John was in need a of a lawyer. After years of making payments on his home, he was being told that the checks were not owner-financed mortgage payments as promised, but simply rent. Instead of turning over a deed, the owner wanted to turn him out. Unfortunately, John had been on disability for years and did not have funds to pay for an attorney.

So that was how I first met John; When the Bostic Law Group took his case. Which, I might add, we won. John was in tears when he thanked us for our help. He got to keep his home and we got a new friend.

In fact, John began showing up regularly at church. Despite his severe limp, he would work his way down to the front to sit with the Bostics whom he called, “his family.” He would often then often join them at home for lunch, chatting with Jenny as she would finish preparations. The stroke had left him to struggling some for words and stuttering a little bit, but that didn’t stop him. The man could talk.

I hung around some too and heard him share about his life and background. As best as we could put together all of the pieces, it appeared he had a rough upbringing and some even rougher adult years. In fact, it seemed that the litany of health issues that he dealt with were partially caused by years of drug abuse.

But despite whatever the challenges of life had been, he had kept his tender heart and sensitive nature. And in very little time, the whole church started becoming his family. I remember when Curtis and Jenny threw him a birthday party.

His first birthday party.

Most people thought he was turning 70, but in fact, he was only in his early fifties. And he was as excited as a kid. We were celebrating his first birthday party, but he was celebrating his first family. I remember watching him cry as we sang to him in the law firm conference room.

I thought Curtis was a little crazy when he suggested taking John to Disney World. That generally isn’t where you take fifty-somethings who struggle to walk (even with a cane), have one arm in a sling, have no children or grandchildren, and have frequent health struggles.

But John said it was on his bucket list. So we loaded up and went to Orlando.

And we had a grand time. Curtis rented motor scooters for John which helped him get around and helped all of us get in the “short line” everywhere we went. I felt mildly guilty cutting in front of the poor vacationers spending their whole day weaving back in forth in the long lines. Don’t worry, the feeling passed.

We even went to Sea World, and Stephen got John’s picture on the big screen during the Orca pre show. I doubt he ever forgot that.

One of my favorite memories of John was when I got assigned to a dessert contest judging panel with him and one other guy. After talking about his judging responsibility for days (and telling everyone not to tell him what dessert they were bringing), the time finally arrived for us to taste the huge spread of delicious looking pies, cakes, and cookies.

That’s when he announced that he was allergic to all nuts, berries, and chocolate. So…my apologies to everyone who entered that contest. It was rigged. Sorry.

I think having more to life than watching TV did great things for John’s health. He even seemed to be regaining some of the use of his paralyzed limbs. Weeks before the big day, he asked me to spot him while he walked to the front of the church one morning because he planned to do it without his leg brace. It was a huge deal to him as we paraded to the front—him carrying his cane and me carrying his brace.   It was a good reminder to me of the little things we take for granted every day, like two good legs.

Over the years, folks at church helped John in various ways. Jay and Anita brought him meals. Jenny drove him to the hospital a few times. Families like the Sterretts had him over for meals. People included them in their Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. Mary Lou helped care for his dog and would take him to Walterboro to watch the young people from church show horses. He talked all the time about how much fun he had watching them win ribbons.

John wasn’t just a on the receiving end of love and attention. He liked to “pay it forward” as it called it. He took an interest in all the kids at church, but particularly fell in love with the Remember Hope Children’s Home. He sponsored two girls in Burma faithfully, sending small gifts or funds for them to purchase new school uniforms. He was very proud of his efforts to procure hundreds of pencils, pencil sharpeners, and erasers with the help of the fine folks at the Dollar Store.

Last Tuesday, Jenny hosted another birthday party for John. Little did she know, it would be his last. It was Mary Lou who found him lying unconscious in his home a few days later when she stopped by to give his dog some meds. He passed away quietly at MUSC.

He can walk without his leg brace now. And he doesn’t need me to spot him.

John didn’t leave behind a lot by way of worldly possessions, but as Curtis went through his things he found what was perhaps most important to him—letters and cards written by members of our church over the years. I’m so glad he didn’t die a lonely old man with nothing to do but watch a TV set. He died a member of a huge, loving family.

The next day, I sat with some friends who were explaining to me why they didn’t go to church any more—just watched a service on TV. I thought about Charleston Bible Church and the incredible way this body of believers welcomes and loves others whether or not they can pay it back or “pay it forward.” I thought of our meaningful worship, solid Bible teaching, and practical encouragement for godly living. These folks are missing out.

I told them I loved my church and a little bit of why, but I didn’t say enough though. Or perhaps I said too much.

I can sum up my feelings about church in two words: John Gates.

Episodes of Sunshine

 

In my last blog, I promised a 2017 list coming soon.  Turns out, today is as soon as I could.

So here’s the list.  Things I’m thankful for.  Not exhaustive and not in any particular order..

1. Costco is carrying Lindt dark chocolate.  Thank you.  Why did that take so long?

2. My large…VERY large…collection of original artwork.  After years of being an Awana leader, Sunday School teacher, first grade aide, babysitter, and aunt (now of 18!), let’s not forget missions trips…I now have a home museum in a box.

I would put my collection up against that of anyone’s.  At least in quantity.  I haven’t kept it all.  I just couldn’t wihout renting a self storage unit.  But just the same, I have a bunch of treasured creations from little people everyone.  And I love it!

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3. While I’m talking about my art work, and, because I found so many while sifting through artwork, I’m thankful for all the notes friends have written me over the years.  If you ever wrote me a meaningful note, I probably still have it.    You may not even remember it, but I probably read it last week and cried.  Because, sometimes, that’s what I do when I’m happy.

4. My garage.  And the ability to get in my car in the rain with all the junk I’m forever toting around getting soaked in the Sunday morning downpour.

5. Sundays… NFL… Patriots.

6. Hope.

I’m convinced hope is the most painful of all virtues.  Because it doesn’t let me give up when I want to give up.  Won’t let me quit when I want to quit.  Makes me hang on when I want to let go.

Hope is so stubbornly stubborn.  Like a kudzu vine it keeps coming back.  Like a pitbull… once it clenches its teeth, it’s just done.  Decision made.

Despite all of the frustrating miscarriages of hope here on earth; I’m thankful for the highest calling of hope: to anchor us to heaven.  Hope will attach our soul to the life to come in unforgettable, unquenchable, unyielding confidence that makes all of life’s disappointments not matter.  I’m thankful for hope.

7.  Flowers.  Especially roses.  But also tulips.  And daisies.  I can’t seem to grow any of the above, but I think they are beautiful just the same..

8   Kara Tippetts and the legacy she is still passing on a few years after her transition to heaven.  She knew a think or two about faith and hope.  I started to blog about her a while back, but I lost my work in a computer glitch and I concluded it just wasn’t meant to be.  I probably couldn’t do it justice.

But I’ve read all of her books and I just thought: wow.

9.  Stuart…all my family actually.  But Stuart is the newest member.  I got to hold him on Christmas when he was just a few hours old.  He is a keeper.

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While we’re at it, here’s Riley…giving me a private ukulele concert.

 

I’d better stop here before I get started…remember…I have 18 and they are all the best!

10. Weather and the variety of seasons…and the fact that even some of the grayest of days have moments of grace and episodes of sunshine.

Thank you, Lord.

Are there any happy people out there?

This is a reblog of a post I wrote a few years ago.  I wanted to share it again in case you missed it.   And so I could share some of my 2017 list (coming soon).

Yes, it has been three months since I’ve blogged.  I pretty much gave up blogging.

But recently, some friends encouraged me to continue.  The type of friends that I’m honored even take the time to read my writing–much less miss it when it isn’t there.

One kind soul even took the time to ask if I was “okay.”  So here is the short story:

October and November were difficult months.  I’m not gonna lie.

December was peaceful, pleasant, and even fun.  But with the peace came sort of a spiritual “dryness” that left me really with nothing to say and definitely, nothing to shout above the din of viral videos, cute cartoons, pithy comments, family photos, Christmas music, personal notes, and far, far better blogs than I’ll ever write.

My theory is, when I have nothing to say, I should be quiet.

But there is a competing theory that there is never a perfect time to write.  Life will always be messy in some respect or another.  Sometimes, I just need to do it. Even when it is easier to just be quiet.

Anyway, so in December, I was kind of a cautious happy, not a confident happy.  I tried to blog a few times, but I wasn’t quite able to pull it off. And this week, my spirits seemed to be in a steady decline.

By Tuesday afternoon,  I would listen to anyone who would tell me a tale of woe.  And when anyone else would listen, I would tell my own tale of woe.  Pretty soon, I felt like one unhappy person surrounded by a world of unhappy people.  6 billion unhappy people is a lot of unhappy people.

And we would all say, “Oh, and Happy New Year!”  at the end of the tale.  As if, suddenly, the clock would strike midnight and we would all reset to happy. (No pressure, January 1).

Seriously, though, I found myself asking, “Are there any happy people out there?”  The poor aren’t happy.  The rich aren’t happy.  Students aren’t happy.  Working people aren’t happy.  Retired people aren’t happy.  Parents aren’t happy.  Kids aren’t even happy.  How messed up does a world have to be for kids not be happy? 

I’m willing to wager that if I had been at Disneyworld on Christmas Day, I could have found for you boatloads of people singing the blues to “It’s a Small World After All.” If the happiest place on earth is devoid of people living happily ever after, what hope is there for the rest of us?

I read somewhere that the key to happiness in a relationship is the constant belief that the other person is better than you deserve.  The more I thought about that, the more I have realized there is a lot of wisdom in that simple statement.  Perhaps because, whether they realized it or not, the author’s conclusion was essentially the biblical principles of humility and gratefulness…with a touch of contentment.

I’m convinced that the same truth applies to happiness in life.  Choose to believe that your life is better that you deserve.  And that is the truth—whether you believe it or not.

I don’t intend to be trite—I know that some of us were created to think constantly, feel deeply, and care passionately (not only about our own hurts, but about others’ as well). It can seem cold and even irreverent to cast aside feelings of hurt for feelings of hope.

But, nevertheless, it is never wrong to embrace the joy that humility and gratefulness bring. So, I started to do something new this New Years.  Not a resolution, but maybe a new tradition.  I decided to write down one hundred things I was grateful for—one hundred.

Some came quickly…and in no particular order: New Kitchen cabinets. Working heat.  Ministries I get to be a part of.  Grandparents.  My Sunday School class.  The Bible.  A working car.  Dish soap.  My phone.  Salvation.  Julie Anne.  Photos.

Some brought to mind a negative counterpart…my health (but not migraines).  My paycheck (but not taxes).  But I put a lid on that: no list of things I’m not thankful for.

My resolve was tested before I even hit 20.  My day included poorly timed reminders that all was not well in life—or at least not the way I want it.  But when you keep in mind that what you deserve is hell, that kind of puts a different perspective on things.  Life is good when it is better than you deserve.

I got to 50 without too much trouble. Then I started again:   Roses. Indoor plumbing. Nieces and nephews. A hope of heaven. The USA. Our troops. Sundays.

I named people God has brought into my life; current and past. The Lanes—who let me stay at their house and drive their car for free for 8 weeks while I studied for the bar exam. My sisters and brother – who let me buy annoying toys for their kids. Candi Grinder – my high school yearbook advisor who told me I was good at graphic design. The Kinzers – Clients who have come to be special people in my life.

That brought to mind a story that I just have to share…I was in Kentucky by myself and the weather was an ungodly 1 degree. I needed to leave and I couldn’t get the car to start. It was bitterly cold—my brain was frozen and I couldn’t really think of what to do next.

Jerry Kinzer—one of the wealthiest men I know—happened to call and asked about something. I confessed that it wasn’t the best morning in the world and that I couldn’t get the car to start. Jerry could have done nothing at all. He could have said he was sorry. He could have given me the phone number of a tow company. He could have sent one of the 100 or so men that work for him to come and give me a jump.

But a few minutes later, he showed up in the 1 degree weather, hooked up the cables he brought (with his ungloved hands), and jumped the jeep so I could get on the road.

There are a lot of stories like that in my life. There are a lot of people like that in my life. And before I even got to 100—I was wholly convinced that my life is much better than I deserve.

Are there any happy people out there?

I don’t know. But there is at least one happy person.

In here.

 

Memorize. Memorize. Memorize.

I am one of those people.

One of those people who makes a list of goals on January 1.  I usually make a budget.  Write out a calendar.  Start reading through the Bible and get on a fitness program.

Organization excites me.  I guess that’s why I love New Years Day.  I love getting a new calendar.  Starting new financial software.  Filing the stacks of papers on my desk and making all new files.  It’s glorious!

But over time, I have learned that when I make a long list of goals, I usually get to the end of the year and realize I accomplished about half of them.

And when I write a short list of goals, I usually get to the end of the year and realize I accomplished about half of them.

Almost every year, I have Scripture Memory in my list of goals.  And almost every year, it ends up in the half of goals that went by the wayside.  Around January 5.

Not proud of that fact.  Just being honest.

So I give Katie Blatchford credit for her convicting question to me yesterday…”Are you on a Scripture memory program?”

So I’ve purposed to try in 2017.  Again.

If you, like me, understand the benefits of memorizing Scripture but need a little extra “something something” to keep you going, here are some ideas:

Katie told me about Beth Moore’s blog and Scripture Memory program.  It has you choose your own verses and memorize one every two weeks.  You get a spiral 3×5 card holder to record and review verses with.

I had also recently taken a look at the Fighter Verses Scripture memory program.  It has a plan for one verse a week and you can subscribe to have them e-mailed to you.  I also downloaded their really cool app which has, not only the verses, but some commentary, and the verses set to music.

Music is a good way for me to memorize, so I listened to Psalm 40:8 set to music about 100 times while I got ready this morning.  I plan to do that all week although, admittedly, it’s a verse I memorized as a kid so I think I already know it.  [Also, I was also reminded of one the big reasons I consistently stall out with Scripture memory–the battle of the versions.  The version I used for Scripture memory as a kid isn’t the same most programs are in now, so it gets confusing and sometimes a little counter productive for repeat verses.]

As I was downloading the Fighter Verses app, I found out that there are actually quite a few apps out there specifically for Scripture memory.  So no excuses.  Shoot, they even have an app that will listen to you say the verse and beep when you get a word wrong.

Yep, there’s an app for everything.  Including budgeting, working out, counting calories, meal planning, keeping your house clean, and even blogging.  So…I guess that means I’m pretty much out of excuses for everything in 2017.  Too bad they don’t make an app to live 2017 for me.

I won’t stay organized in 2017.  But this time, I’m determined to at least stick with Scripture memory.  That’s why I’m telling you.  So at the end of 2017, Scripture memory will be in the half of goals with a check mark by them.  Actually, I want it to have a check mark even if it’s the only one.

 

If I Were King

I don’t know about you, but this election cycle about has me thinking we should go back to a dynasty system where nobody runs for anything and kings are just born and not made.

But I don’t really mean that and it really has nothing to do with this post. I’m just really really sick of seeing two specific but unnamed people on the news.

Anyway….

This post is about keys.

Because if we did have a king in the US; and if that king was me; I would get rid of keys. Period.

I hate keys.

Keys hate me.

Keys, or lack thereof, are the reason I have kicked in my own garage door, broken a plate glass window, sat outside in the rain and cried, and not so very long ago, walked with my nephew all over Sturbridge Village with our heads down before sitting outside in the cold for an hour waiting on a locksmith.

I am about $500 poorer thanks to locksmiths I have paid just in the last few years. There are a lot of other things I would rather have done with that $500. Shoot.  I would rather have given it to you.

(And that is only that low because, at least once, I stayed locked out of my house for three days rather than pay a lock smith to get me back in.)

Of course, my best key story involved a 2:00 am search for a single Toyota key…my grandma in her pajamas…raiding the cash drawer in the dining hall…and dragging innocent civilians out of church…But many of you have heard the details of that epic adventure and since being let out on parole after that memorable night, I’ve been on fairly good behavior.

That is, until this week.

Like many of the episodes in my long list of key losing misadventures, this one involved a borrowed car. The borrowed car that means a single key…a loose key…left to its own devices…wreaking havoc…reducing to tears a girl that tries so hard to be brave…and robbing me of hard earned cash.

Some things were never meant to be single.

Keys are one of them.

But due to my recent travels back and forth to Kentucky, I’ve been driving a borrowed van (which I liked until today) and carrying around a fat black fob that has a few simple buttons–the controls to my dignity, my schedule, and my happiness.

It started when, between two 420 mile drives, I tried to squeeze in a house showing. All seemed to go well until we were locked up and ready to go on to the next house.

My clients, their two little girls who had been on extremely good bahvior, and me.   With no key.

The next twenty minutes or so involved walking, unlocking, musing, and searching, before finally discovering the key was, in fact, in my purse all along. The little trouble maker was hiding in the folds of my black purse and evidently escaped the first 1,456 searches.

Thankfully, my clients were understanding and their girls were–well, they deserve medals.

It was just a few days later when I was leaving the office in Kentucky and couldn’t locate my key (I’m so used to the keyless entry…where would I be, who would I be without keyless entry???). I did my best to dig for the same black key in the same black purse holding a water bottle, laptop, and armload of files. It was a futile effort.

Finally, I headed back inside where I dumped the entire contents of my purse onto the table and pawed through the items. Whether it had been on the purse or my table, I don’t know, but I found it!  I practically ran outside and fired up the van before the key had another opportunity to escape.

I drove halfway accross the parking lot before I noted– with terror– that my armload of files was blowing across the parking lot. Apparently, I had set the stack on the hood on my first trip while looking for the key.

To make matters worse–much worse–my laptop was precariously perched against the windshield. My first impulse was to slam on the breaks, but I knew that would be, well, let’s just say I would rather donate a few weeks of my life to holding a sandwich board on a street corner than recreating the files saved on that precious sliver of carefully arranged atoms. Much rather.

Thankfully, I was able to glide to a stop without incident. And after some effort in the start of a summer downpour, I was able to chase down the various papers that were rearranging themselves around the dampening parking lot.

But the incident was not without afterthought. I mean, I couldn’t just go on like this. I couldn’t just let this devious little fob continue to wreak it’s havoc. I had to have a plan.

So I made a plan.

It was a great plan.

I left the key in the cup holder. I left the van unlocked. I mean, who does that?  No one would expect it. No one would notice it. The places I parked, no one would steal it if they did notice it. And it would eliminate so much potential for disaster such as forgetting it in my back pocket and having it end up in the toilet (which may or may not have happened over the course of this narrative).

Okay, so if you are any kind of a sleuth at all you can probably figure out what happens in the next chapter of this story. You probably know jolly well why I’m sitting in a planter in front Moes getting alternately eaten by ants and bitten by mosquitos and watching the sun go down in Irmo, SC writing a blog and feeling my evening slip into the abyss of unfortunate key stories.

The key is right in the cup holder where I left it, but at this moment, I’m really wishing that I at least got the instant gratification of flushing it.  That would have been way cooler.

But I have a take away: if you are looking for a business, locksmith is where it’s at.

Seriously.

You can call every number in the area under locksmith and what you will find is that, apparently, you can run a successful locksmith business without even having a working phone number.

You can have a website that was designed in 1992.

You can have a Facebook page with a photo of your niece eating a marshmallow.

The cool thing is, you stay so busy, you don’t even  have to work. For that matter, you don’t have to answer the phone. Or, just for fun, you can answer the phone with a slick customer service slogan like, “Hi, can I put you on hold?”

And you can exercise absolute power by letting divas in blue jeans stay on hold for indefinate periods of time until the call eventually drops.

And if a particularly persistent customer, such as the type that finds themselves far away from home locked out of their vehicle, consistently calls back, you can right all the evils of the social injustice of our society by asking a long serious of questions such as “what color is your car?” (Which should be illegal under discrimation laws) and then promise to have a tech call them back.

Apparently, you can make so much money, they don’t ever have to call customers back. Or maybe you can choose based on whether you like their car color.

Basically, you can do whatever you want.

And when you show up, you can change your price to any amount you want.

It’s your business.

But you better get in the business soon, because I’m warning you, if I become king, no more keys. Period.

I know, I know, people are always trying to help me out with ideas of hidden keys and keys with neighbors, and I appreciate all that. But they also say you can’t fix stupid. And when it comes to keys, I’m afraid that’s the category I fall in.

So no more keys.

I mean, how much worse off would we really be if we just left our stuff unlocked?  I for one, would be $500 richer.

And I wouldn’t have all these ant bites.

And I would be home by now.

Just sayin.

Five Great Valentine Ideas to Make Your Wife Happy.

It all started because Pastor Joel asked me to design an invite to the church Valentines Dinner. I went of course, to Bing for inspirational graphics, and what I found was a ton of great blogging material. Which reminded me…my Valentines blogs last year were wildly popular. (I mean, as compared to my other blogs which, basically, nobody reads.)

Ahhh yes. Valentines Day. It started the day after Christmas. I guess Wal-Mart finds it necessary to display six aisles of pink and red merchandise beginning the 26th of December as a courtesy to all of the men out there who like to plan their romance a full six weeks in advance.

Six weeks is a long time if, for example, you are babysitting someone else’s kids. But it’s not a long time for other things. Like, being engaged.  Or being pregnant.  Or…well, planning just the right Valentines Day celebration. So, while the bad news is that most of your six weeks is expired, the good news, gentleman, is that I’ve found a few gems for you last-minute planners and there is still time to incorporate them into your epic celebration of all things romantic.  Because I know you’ve been stressing about what to do.

fingersOkay, so here’s the first little gem that popped out at me.  Show your wife you love her by drawing people hugging on your hand.  It’s really a great idea, because all it requires is a gel pen, just the right audience, and a serious lack of sleep and this could win  you some serious creativity points.   If nothing else, she will love the gel pen.

My second “find” was this touching little poem.  The upside: it wouldn’t be hard at all to memorize.  You could quote it to your wife on Valentines morning with very littlefingers5 prompting.  And if memorization isn’t quite your thing, you could tape it on a card and give it to her with a rose or candy.  Apparently, the author of these inspiring words chose to remain anonymous leaving the door wide open for you to take all the credit to be had after your wife recovers from the joy of being loved to bits.  If that makes  you feel guilty, I bet you could grab that gel pen and write a poem all your own (although it might be hard to match this one for quality and creativity).  Then again, if nothing else, she will love the gel pen.

 

fingers2This one I actually don’t recommend.  It sounds noble and all, but it was probably written by a bitter wife and repeated by cheap men who were hoping for a cop out.  Don’t be one of those cheap men looking for a cop out.  Of course we need special days.  Otherwise, we don’t have any special days.  And if nothing is special, well…what’s the fun in that?  Do something special.  Like drawing people with a gel pen.

Now things are getting interesting.  I mean, what wife doesn’t covet these lovely hearts for her finger nails?  What a practical gift.  It won’t make her gain weight like candy.  It won’t wilt like a flower.  It’s cheaper than dinner.  You might even offer to have the family help apply them for her–turning it into a great team building experience and cooperative effort.  She will be grateful for your thoughtfulness and can enjoy the beautiful results for a full couple of hours before she has to wash a dish or something.

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Here’s my final free suggestion:  A page of valuable coupons.

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Because nothing says “I love you” like a sheet of expired coupons.

Seriously though.  The expiration date is only the first clue that this was written by a very, very clever man.  A man who liked hearts, pink and purple, and fancy fonts.

I’ll leave the back rub alone I think and jump in to the dishes.  Note it doesn’t say, “I’ll do the dishes.”  It says, “free get out of dishes.”  That leaves a lot of room.  Room for the kids to do the dishes.  Room for paper plates.  Room for the dishes to be left for another day.  Yep, he was a very clever man, he was.  He used a lot of pink hearts, but he didn’t fool me.  He knows a thing or two about getting out of dishes.

Then notice the next one–“free watch what you want and I will watch too.”  Very clever here.  Very clever.  Because he used “watch what you want” and the “Free Video Game Night” to sandwich in “Free Candle Lit Dinner” in the middle of the page where it will never get clipped and used before the impending expiration date.  Because what wife has time to watch TV or cares about playing video games?  In 34 years, I’ve never heard a single wife complain that her husband won’t play video games with her.  Not once.

But I think he was even smarter than that.  He made the sheet look like something incredibly sweet and thoughtful, when, in reality, half the coupons were things he would enjoy more than she would.  His unsuspecting wife might even find it on the internet and give it to him for Valentines.

Okay, so maybe I’m mistaken about his motives, but I really suspect I’m on to him.  Which doesn’t mean you can’t use the coupons.  As long as your wife doesn’t read this blog.1

Finally, in addition to all the other ingenious attributes of this sheet, notice that the final offer is a “free night out–dinner and a movie.”  Free.  That sounds to me like a lap around Costco tasting all the samples and watching cartoons on the giant big screens.  If she complains, hey, remind her that you can’t get much for free anymore.

Especially not meaningful Valentines Gifts.

If I haven’t made anything else clear perhaps that is it:  Meaningful Valentines gifts are unlikely to be printed off of the World Wide Web.  Sorry I couldn’t carry the water for you on this one.  But Wal-Mart does have six aisles of merchandise.  And Office Depot has great gel pens.

1.She’s the one that showed it to you, didn’t she?  Guess the coupons are out. 😦

Lucy, II

FullSizeRenderI already blogged about Lucy, here. And I didn’t plan to do it again.

When I heard the Bostics were going out of town for a week, I volunteered to watch her only because I knew I was, next to them, the person most familiar with her care. And besides, I’m uniquely suited to keeping her with me all day because all the people at my job are used to working in a zoo.

Lucy gets a bottle at 6:00, 10:00, 2:00, 6:00 and 10:00. So I picked her up last Saturday and I made sure she was fed at all the right times. The day passed uneventfully and Lucy went to bed in her bag— hanging on a doorknob in my kitchen. I went to bed that night relieved. We had evidently found our groove. No drama. No blog.

I was very pleased.

Sunday morning I work up to what sounded like a noise right outside my bedroom door. I soon dismissed it as my imagination, but seeing as it was 6:00 am and time to feed Lucy, I got up.

As I left the bedroom and headed to the stairs, I noticed something dark on a stair. What had I left on the stairs? Books perhaps?

It was Lucy. She had apparently gotten out of her bag, over the baby gate, out of the kitchen, through my living room, up the stairs, and back down. I knew because she had left a trail of small dark circles in her wake. Given the source, I call them Luberries.

I was not at all pleased.

Lucy, I informed her, you are done in my house. You are now strictly an outside pet.

Lucy2I have a sorry excuse for a backyard—just 14’x14’, but thanks to Charlie, it is barricaded by a 6 foot wood fence. Thanks to Christopher, it is reinforced with a roll of chicken wire. So, it’s basically impenetrable for a wallaby. I was very pleased.

Monday we seemed to find our groove again, and Lucy was quite sweet. She would come hopping up to me and lay her hand on my knee while I gave her a bottle. She enjoyed being scratched and petted and before long, all was forgiven.

That brought us to Tuesday. When I got to the office, I put her outside in a kennel so she could eat grass and enjoy the spring air. I checked on her every so often, but she was fairly safe inside the confines of the box, so I wasn’t too worried.

Until I went to check on her and she was gone.

Seriously. She was gone.

I ran outside—sure I was hallucinating. She was ten feet outside the back door. Had she been stolen?

I discovered that although the front door was still shut and latched, the kennel had a back door. And although the back door had been pushed up against the side of the deck, it was now several inches away and the door was open—just enough for a Houdini of a wallaby to squeeze out into the great unknown.

Fortunately, I found her in the parking lot. But finding her and catching her are two different things. I called for reinforcements and the next thing I knew, Tyson, Katie, and I were trying to extract a runaway kangaroo from the hedge. Same hedge. This feels like Déjà vu. I was not at all pleased.

That was Tuesday.

Somewhere in the night Tuesday night I was awakened by a clap of thunder. I could hear rain beating down on the roof like two fists on the bathroom door. I sprang out of bed. Lucy, my outdoor pet, was going to get soaked.

I ran out to the back yard in my bare feet and there was a bright flash of lighting as if God was taking a picture of me and the little gray animal streaking across the yard. She was making a squealing noise I hadn’t heard before. She was not at all pleased.

The flash was immediately followed by a ferocious clap of thunder. You probably think I’m exaggerating. But there is no exaggerating this. It was raining hard, thundering hard, and lightening hard and I was in my pajamas on my hands and knees under the grill cover trying to coax a scared little animal out of her refuge of grease and gas smells.

It was 3:00 am when I brought her back into my kitchen. I’ve been told that kangaroos like hot water, so I placed her in the kitchen sink thinking I’d get her warmed up, cleaned up, and calmed down all at the same time. I gently reassured her as I spooned warm water onto her back. Meanwhile, she was profusely laying luberries. In my kitchen sink.

I was not at all pleased.

Lucy was warm and dry and—in my opinion—ready to go back to bed, but her bag was still thumping around in the dryer. I was ready to go back to bed myself, but there was sort of nothing to do but hold her until her bag finished drying, so I settled my exhausted self into the rocking chair.

Julie Anne, who had been supervising this entire scene, sat near my feet. In the dimness, I could see her white head cocked as if giving me a strange look. Stop it, Julie Anne. I said in my firmest 3:30 am voice. I felt foolish enough sitting there crooning to a kangaroo in my wet pajamas.

Lucy started squirming so I headed back to the kitchen. In case she was getting ready to lay more luberries, I’d rather have them on the tile than in my arms. But Lucy instead headed straight for Julie Anne’s bowl and started eating dog food like a Marine fresh out of boot camp.

It’s 3:30 am! I admonished her. You aren’t supposed to be hungry. Her bag was basically dry and I was ready to put her away.

But Lucy was not interested in her bag. She was interested in dog food. Lucy, you may be from the land down under, but it is 3:30 am here. I do not want my night to end like this.

I was not at all pleased.

Should I give her a bottle? Should I let her eat dog food? I didn’t know. I was out of her formula and I had just paid a premium for supplemental kangaroo pellets; both were on a UPS truck somewhere between Minnesota and Charleston and they were not going to do me any good just then.

Fine. Eat the dog food. We’ll deal with it in the morning.

Well, deal with it we did.

In fact, if you’ve followed this blog long at all, you know that I am extremely unlucky with pets and their excrement. Wednesday was not an exception. In fact, my misfortune rose to new heights.

I’m not sure if it was the substitute formula I tried, the dog food, or just generally eating too much, but Lucy made quite a storm of her own. After I re-washed and dried her bag, of course.

I was not at all pleased.

If it sounds like I’m sparing you the details. It’s because I am SO sparing you the details. The details included rubber gloves, rolls of paper towels, and bottles of cleaner. Thank God for all of the above.

Never did one pray so hard for the UPS man.

I’ve finally officially finished the “hand off” of Lucy to her next caregiver. And I’m not saying I miss her exactly. But I am saying that over the course of the week, I did find myself observing her and thinking, isn’t God creative?

I mean, we start to take for granted the beauty of the scenery around us. We take for granted the fun in our dogs, cats, and kids. We look past the simple creativity in aquarium fish, wildflowers, and waves hitting the beach. But God’s handiwork is such a marvelous living proof of His goodness and His power. Sometimes, at least for me, it takes something we don’t see every day—like a small kangaroo hopping around our house to get a fresh perspective of the overwhelming majesty of our God.

I can just picture that first kangaroo hoping out of the first pouch and laying that first luberry. And God saw everything that He had made. And He was very pleased.

Life’s Not Fair (Part II)

(If you missed the first part of this story, you’ll want to go back and read Part I)

Much to my disgust, the boys were completely over their concern for Blackie by the time I crawled out.

“That’s okay.” They said. “She’ll come back. She always does.”

Always does?

Why was this information not shared with me before I slid through slime?

But, as my mother taught me, Life is not fair.

That was the first cat incident.

The second cat incident happened the last day.

I was exhausted. I’m not gonna lie.

Nevertheless, I got up while the house was still quiet. I was determined that I was going to get showered, dressed, and have my devotions before anything else broke loose. That’s what real moms do, right?

I didn’t have my contacts in (a phrase which herein means, I was blind). This fact does great things for my ability to ignore the world. It is much easier to avoid distractions when you have only the faintest sense of sight.

And I wasn’t going to let anything distract me.

Nothing.

Not even that strange smell wafting into my bedroom.

Not even the fact that the strange smell was the dirty diaper kind of odor.

Not even the fact that the smell seemed to intensify as I headed toward the bathroom.

Whatever it was, I could deal with it after I was clean, my hair was dry, and I had read my Bible.

I brushed back the shower curtain and there, right there, on the white shower floor, was a large, brown pile.

Whitey. Apparently.

It took me a while (in my blind state and in unfamiliar territory) to rummage up proper cleaning materials. I was on my hands and needs scrubbing the tub when I heard a voice behind me.

“What are you doing?” Reformed 3-year old asked. He really was cute.

“Cleaning the tub.”

“Why?”

“Because your cat used it as a potty.”

“Why?”

“That is a very good question.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I understand. Give me a couple of minutes and then…”

“I’m dirty.”

That was the start of another day.

And the end of my plans.

It was that afternoon that the boys’ dad arrived back from his business trip. It had been three days full of competitions and heart breaks, but we had a lot of good times too. I had prepared food, done laundry, cleaned the kitchen, played games, chased a cat, slithered through slime, and now…scrubbed the tub. Needless to say, I had worked very hard not only to keep them changed and fed but also to let them have some fun.

But as their dad unloaded from his car, the five boys went running outside like so many starving sailors who had just spent decades marooned on a dessert island eating roots, slugs, and tree bark.

I was glad they were happy to see their dad, but I felt a bit betrayed as they inundated him with every detail of the days gone wrong and all the reasons why mom should be MAD!

I don’t think they mentioned one good thing from the three days.  Not one.

Tell Miss Danielle, “thank you.”  The dad ordered as I gathered my things.

The boys tilted their heads in my direction.  “Thank you,” they mumbled.

Then I drove off into the sunset.

Mom was right, life isn’t fair.

It was a few days later that the phone call came that put the icing on the cake.

It was the boys’ mom. The summary of what she had to say was this, “For some odd reason, my husband thinks it would be appropriate to pay you A LOT of money. I don’t think that’s necessary, do you?”

I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t need A LOT of money, but I also didn’t know what A LOT of money was.  I think I said something like, “whatever you think, I was happy to do it.”

They did write me a check, I was well paid, and I was grateful to get it.  I didn’t remember thinking it was A LOT of money…And I was a broke law student making $7.25/hr. Anything should have seemed like A LOT of money.

But it hindsight, it was a good thing. It helped me get a better glimpse both of that mother and of life as a mother in general.

She didn’t think much of what I had done, but then, why should she? This was her life. She did it every day without a check. Probably without much thanks at all. And, had she just been through what I had been through, the last three days wouldn’t have stood out to her in the least. It was just life.

And it sometimes it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that some of the toughest jobs earn the smallest paychecks. And that kids who should drop to their knees in eternal gratitude will instead blow off someone’s hard work.  It isn’t fair that cats will use the bathtub when they have a perfectly good litter box just inches away.

But life isn’t fair.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me that.  Bet you thought it would never sink in.

And thanks, moms, for working a job that stinks sometime. And is never quite fair.

EPILOGUE

Blackie did come back (that same day, in fact!) no worse for wear.  The family are still friends although I should probably be wondering why I was never asked to babysit again.  All the boys grew up to be responsible members of society to my knowledge.  And no, this episode is not the reason that I am still single and childless…although it just might have something to do with the fact that I do not have a cat.

Life is not Fair

My Mother’s Day Post (Part I)

They asked me to babysit for their five boys while both parents were out of town for several days.

I was more than willing. I like boys. I like babysitting. And a few days off from my regular job sounded like a little adventure.

In case you don’t have a brood of boys of your own and have never babysat for one, I’ll summarize the experience for you:

For three days, everything was a competition.

Everything. Was. A. Competition.

It could be a game, it could be setting the table, it could be brushing teeth, but it was competition. That means there were cheers from a winner and tears from a loser.

More often than not, that also meant at least one angry boy stomping off in the middle of the competition saying, “You’re cheating! I don’t want to play with you anymore.” That was from the one destined, in just a few short minutes, to be pronounced the loser.

And more often than not, that would be followed by another pious-looking boy saying, “That’s fine. I don’t want to play with a cry baby like you anymore either.”  That was from the one destined, in just a few short minutes, to be the self-pronounced the winner.

Meanwhile, the youngest of the pack would be busy destroying the game pieces, unsetting the table, or eating the toothpaste. He was about three—old enough to know better, but as the baby of the family, he bounced back and forth between baby and big boy at his convenience.

That’s pretty much how the three days unfolded.

We played games. We read stories. We made meals. And I got to show off my mad mothering skills including the timely use of phrases like, “life isn’t fair” and “You need to do what I asked you to do first, then we’ll see.”

And I got to referee a lot. End a lot of competitions. Take a lot of losses for the team. Dry a lot of tears. Whew! They say girls are dramatic.

The only time I really remember having to exercise a serious dose of discipline was when I asked the three-year-old to come to me to go down for his nap. Instead, he ran.

I lunged for him, but he was a bit quicker than I thought. I had been losing a lot of competitions in the last few days to avoid tears and outbursts, but I knew just enough about parenting to know that I could not be the loser of this one.

Unfortunately, he knew the house and the hiding places far better than I. We were in the basement before I caught up with him and when I picked him up, he was screaming and crying as if I was cruelly ripping him limb from limb.

I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I’m sure the most serious part was my tone of voice. I do remember thinking that he was probably going to hate me and turn the rest of the babysitting experience into a miserable one.

Instead, I remember checking on him in his bedroom a little later, and seeing him curled up on his bed fast asleep. He woke up from his nap one of the sweetest, cutest, most obedient boys ever. Who knew?

So now having told you about the boys, I’ll tell you about the real challenge I faced.

The cats.

I don’t remember the names of either one for sure, but for some reason, “Blackie” is coming to mind, so we’ll go with that. We’ll call the other one Whitey, just for balance.

Blackie and Whitey were indoor cats. I found that out when we opened the front door for some reason and Blackie darted out the front door.

That started a mad scramble, a flurry of fear, and a chorus of yelling from all five boys. They were sure that Blackie was going to run into the woods and get eaten by lions, tigers, and bears.

I was less convinced of that that, but I was severely outnumbered, so we all went outside to find that Blackie had taken refuge under the porch. It was one of those long porches—almost the full length of the house—and Blackie’s outline could be made out between the lattice that extended from the ground to the porch floor.

“We have to get her!” the boys were exclaiming. “If she gets out and gets in the woods, my mom will be very mad at us!”

That’s it. They played the “M” card. A babysitter’s worst nightmare…Mom will be MAD!

We all coaxed and called, but it was a cat for Pete’s sake. Cats run their own schedules.

“I think she’s just going to stay under there.” I offered. “She’ll be fine for a while.”

“No!” They all agreed on something for once. “She’s going to run into the woods and get eaten!”

So I gave in.

“Who wants to climb under there and get her?” I asked, surveying the few feet that offered just enough space under the beams for someone to slide on their belly and get the dumb cat.

“We can’t go under there.” They chorus. “We aren’t allowed.” “There might be snakes.”

Why am I not liking this???  I mean, why have five boys if you’re not going to send one of them under the porch to grab the cat?

“Someone needs to get her.” They looked at me—all five of them with imploring eyes about to fill with tears. The fate of Blackie was weighing heavily on my shoulders. And I surely didn’t want Mom to be MAD.

So…I took a deep breath and I crawled gingerly under the stairs, calling gently to Blackie so I wouldn’t startle her.

She waited until just as I was about to reach her, and then…predictably, she jumped back. She still wasn’t far away—close enough to entice me just a little bit further.

Light was coming through the lattice, but not really enough to enable me to navigate the space cleanly. I slid through slime and spider webs. I slid through mud and moss. And every time I got close enough to grab Blackie, she would spring further away, luring me slowly the entire length of the porch.

I hoped that at least there, I would be able to act fast enough to corner her against the lattice, but no such luck. Blackie was through the lattice, across the lawn, and into the woods in one horrible instant— leaving me with nothing to do but slowly inch may way back through the mud, moss, slime, and spider webs and admit my defeat to five broken-hearted boys.

Major fail.

I will continue soon.  And it is a Mother’s Day post.  I promise.

What is it about Costco?

IMG_6824The parking lot was swarming with cars. So much so that I’m pretty sure the parking spot I eventually found was not in the same zip code as the front door.

But alas, I was here. I probably should be somewhere else, but I was here. So I wasn’t going to leave without accomplishing my mission. My mission being spinach, yogurt, and Cape Cod potato chips.

It was raining, of course, so I sprinted toward the door in hopes of staying somewhat dry. Huddled under the overhang were groups of ladies waiting for their fearless husbands to bring their cars to the entrance where they could unload their piled carts.

But… their husbands were taking an awfully long time. And, other than the overloaded carts under the watchful eye of these women, there was not a cart to be seen anywhere.

Actually, that isn’t true. I could see them. I could see the carts scattered around the various outskirts of the parking lot. Their tongues sticking out at me; their fingers in their ears.

I waited.

Then I took a deep breath and headed back to the other zip code.

Just call this Exhibit A in the list of evidence on why I shouldn’t go to Costco on Saturday afternoons.

For Exhibit B, and a reason why I should never go to Costco on any day of the week, you really need to look no further than my refrigerator. I have a half gallon of capers in there. Yes, capers. Capers. Those salty green peas that you use to make chicken piccata.

I guess if I’m ever accused of having nothing in my refrigerator, I can soundly defeat that accusation. Not true. I have capers.

So…what is it about Costco?

What would possess a single person who doesn’t cook to make almost weekly trips to a wholesale super store at which they check your receipt on the way out the door to make sure you’ve spent at least $100?

It isn’t the cheap gas. I long since gave up on their long, inflexible lines in effort to save $.25. Even worse, I have a little bit of a grudge against Costco gas. I pulled in one time and as I jumped out of my truck, a few dead leaves fell out of the floor board. This prompted me to pull up the mat and dump a half-teaspoon full of grit on the pavement.

That attendant was on me like white on rice.

You would have thought I was a teenage boy with six cans of spray paint for the way he accosted me and his withering look. It was a few grains of sand for Pete’s sake! Give me a dust pan; I’ll sweep them back up.

And it isn’t the free samples. I won’t say I’ve never eaten one. I won’t say I never will. But I will say I have an impeccable knack for timing my browsing in between the preparation cycles for anything that looks good. And besides that, I usually avoid them lest I feel guilty for trying something and not buying it. That’s how I came to have a box full of nasty energy drink powder in my cupboards for about two years.

And it isn’t the customer-friendly atmosphere. I have to say, I have long wondered if the sentries at the exit deter enough theft to pay two full time people to stand at the door with Sharpies. It is more likely to me that they deter customers too impatient to stand in line to pay money and then stand in line again to prove that you paid it.

So…I guess that would just leave the great prices on spinach, yogurt, and Cape Cod potato chips. And admittedly, Costco has a lot of lot of cool products. I like trying new things. And generally speaking, by the time I’ve reached the bottom of a Costco-sized bag or box or anything, I’m thoroughly sick of it and won’t be tempted to repeat my mistake.  So at the current pace, in about 88 years, I should be sick of pretty much everything at Costco and I’ll be able to kick the habit.

However, in the meantime, I’m thinking I’ll have to purchase a lot of spinach, yogurt, and potato chips to save enough pay for the capers and energy drink mixes…much less all of the items I’ve purchased to reach the $100 quota.

Good thing I have two good legs, don’t melt in the rain, and like chicken piccata.