Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Teaching Mama



With September a week away, I’m thinking about school and supplies and learning, but what if…let’s say, your child has a trunk for a nose; it won’t know what to do with it. Some newborns swing it like it’s a toy for jumping rope; some suck on it like it’s a giant pacifier or the thumb they wish they had; Sometimes they step on it, tripping so they fall into mama who might not like being bumped. A five ton mama is not someone to anger. Baby might get a trunk slap.

But mama is a good teacher. She has to be; God didn’t give baby elephants instincts; they need to be taught what to do with their unusual appendage. From within minutes of birth, when mama and other females help baby stand, until it is weaned about two years later, mama has the important job of teaching her young how to survive. Without words she demonstrates how to siphon water and squirt in its mouth to drink. She pulls down branches with her trunk and plucks fruit. The baby learns to use it like a hose and give itself a dust bath for protection against sun and insects.  It watches mama dig to find underground springs, creating a water hole during the dry season. The mama and other females exemplify love and affection, caressing the young with their trunk, even wrapping it around in an elephant hug.

Since you’re not an elephant…I know this because elephants don’t read, and you’re reading this, you won’t have to teach Trunk Usage 101. But we can appreciate God’s design, the love He instilled in His creation. Like baby elephants, we need to follow Jesus’ example and learn to love and serve others as He did. 


Monday, August 19, 2013

No Time for Tears


Stephen age nine winning award for charcoal portrait of Grandpa
Today we drove our oldest son to FIT in Manhattan to live in the same dorm I lived in.  I had been looking forward to reminiscing about my days there and peeking into Stephen’s future experience. When I was dropped off, my family got teary-eyed saying goodbye; I never forgot the feeling of watching their car drive away. Now I’d get to be on the other end. I expected to have a special moment with Stephen when I say something wise and encouraging that he never forgets. While Gene drove, I flashed back to special times: enjoying Stephen’s first smile… teaching him to read…playing stickball at the beach...and on and on. Twenty years of memories rolled a ball in my throat. 
So I focused on what I could say: “From the first moment I held your wiggly body, I’ve prayed for you, for God’s protection and guidance,” but Gene interrupted my thoughts, reminding me I shouldn’t cry—“He’s only a 45 minute train ride away.” I was sure I would.  
At FIT, security guards blocked off 27th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue and let cars in to drop off students and their stuff—and that’s it. We were handed a sheet explaining the “drop-off policy.” Empty your car and move it.  
We dragged out our time a bit; while Gene set up Stephen’s computer, I guarded our Ford Explorer against tow trucks. The attendants didn’t say a word to me, but checked their watches. I watched the door and planned what I’d say if they told me to move the car. “I don’t have the key; I’m waiting for my husband.” You couldn’t pay me enough to drive the streets of Manhattan. Or I could explain my city-driving phobia…but they didn’t look the sympathetic type. 
I texted, “Hurry up!” still waiting to have my special moment.  
Finally they came down and said goodbye to each other, expecting me to do the same and hop in the car. But wait! I had to go upstairs and see my old dorm and say my words of wisdom. Gene, Stephen, and his roommate looked at me like confused puppies and asked, “Why?” 
I shot Gene a warning look—warning our ride home would be miserable if he didn’t listen. “I’ll just be a second.” I could almost hear the “oh brother,” complaints in their heads as they led me up the stairs. The dorm didn’t have any of the nostalgia I hoped for; it could’ve been any building. I literally walked in their room peeked out the window and said, “This is nice,” and left. There was no “special moment.”
I raced downstairs, gave Stephen a quick hug, and came back to an empty parking spot. A mother guarding her kid’s stuff informed me that my husband tried to stay but was forced to leave. “Oh great!”
I spotted our Explorer turning the corner at the end of the street, so I raced to catch up as fast as I could in flip flops. He didn’t see me waving my arms like a crazy person and kept driving. Thank God for cell phones…he eventually circled the block and found me.  
So that was our day: a whirlwind drop-off with no time for tears and reminiscing. Totally not what I imagined. 
Stephen didn’t get to hear my speech—probably a good thing, so we’ll just have to trust God to guide him. A better idea anyway.
                                 Stephen age 20, the happy animation student

Sunday, August 11, 2013

In Memory of Dexter -- a beautiful Westie

Dexter's Story
(I wrote this about ten months ago before his health deteriorated. We had to say goodbye to Dexter when he was suffering, but he left my parents' home with many fun memories.) 

I thought they left. Just as I finished barking at various trespassers and started to doze on the green couch, I heard the cacophony of children yappin and squealin. “They” bounded inside, without any grace I might add.

Francy and her pack of five came on Sunday. Their noise spanned an octave from the short female’s: “Awww... Dexter” to the largest male’s: “What’s up?” The grandkids, as they’re called by Good Boy, are tolerable for a day or two visit, but something was wrong this time. I knew down to my tail life would be messed up for a while.

On Monday the wind howled louder than Rudy next door, and trees danced and bowed to a prince I couldn’t see. I barked my best, but couldn’t stop this monster everyone kept calling Sandy. Then something went “Crack!” like a bolt of lightning. It was the squirrel’s tree—upside down with angry roots stretched in the air. The house turned black as the deepest whole I’ve ever dug.

Night after night, no movie time to curl up on Good Boy’s lap, no treats, and no room on the couch (kids hogged the soft spot.) Finally, on Thursday they drove off and I thought I could relax. But like I said, they came back.

This time with their little Yorkie terror, Keyra.

“Oh no!” I barked out loud when I saw her. For some unknown reason, everyone assumes we should be best friends. Okay, we are distantly related—I’m Westie, so also of the noble terrier family—but she, well, she has no class.

I tried my best to ignore her, rest my head, and close my eyes while she circled around me jumping and yapping. Did she think I would want to play chase with her? I’m eighty-seven years old. It’s a good day if I can make it outside to do my business.

I overheard Good Boy describing Francy’s house after Sandy came to visit there as well. Not good news. Sounded like Sandy filled her house with water. What a bully. Then it hit me—Francy and her pack weren’t fish, so they might be staying for like…forever?

Each day Keyra stayed, she got more comfortable. She took over my guarding post on the couch; she barked at visitors; she even napped on Good Boy’s lap. And she never understood my low growls to claim my territory. I tried to be nice, but she liked to irritate me…so I can’t be blamed for snapping at her. Especially the day she wiggled under the recliner, found a plastic cup I hid, and pranced down the hall, crunching on it just to see what I’d do. I charged after her with puppy speed, barked and bit her leg til she dropped the cup.

I pranced back to jump up on my favorite spot as she hid in the other room. See, this is my house, Keyra. My cup, my couch, my Good Boy.

The next day, Keyra kept her distance, although she still followed me outside every time as if we were on the same schedule. And she may have ‘roofed’ an apology. Through one squinted eye, I watched her. Her brown bangs shaded her face giving her a pathetic look.

As my irritation subsided, I recalled the description of their home, Keyra’s home. I imagined how she felt, losing all her hidden bones and pizza crust in a wave. She had nothing to guard or protect so she lost her job too. No wonder she tried to take over this house.

Two weeks later, as Francy and the kids crammed into a stuffed car and waved goodbye, I actually felt a twinge of something; maybe I would miss them, even miss Keyra’s bark. Of course I came to my senses when I curled up on my favorite warm spot. Even a rabbit couldn’t bother me now.


I thank Dexter for telling me his point of view on this true story. Even during a time of trial and losing so much, God gave us moments of laughter and is still keeping us focused on what really matters in life.                                   

Sunday, August 4, 2013

To Bark or Not to Bark



Keyra cocks her head, surprised at my angry voice. I’m sure in her mind seven AM is a perfectly good time to bark at the outside world. Rephrased, when isn’t it a good time to bark? And once she gets going, everything makes her bark. A boy wearing a backpack. A mother pushing a stroller.  An old man carrying a bag of groceries. A squirrel. And of course, my son’s friends—the worst enemies of all aside from the mailman. She will only tolerate guests if they stay seated. Heaven forbid they stand up or walk down the hall; she’ll bark and jump on the ankles of the largest visitors. She only nipped once. Or twice…and both times the same friend. She hates him with a doggy passion. 

She’s a dog on a mission—to see how much food she can find or steal. She can’t bury the pizza crust she snatches, so she hides her stash in laundry piles. I’ve come close to washing a hamburger bun and dog biscuits. 

Last week, a whole stick of butter mysteriously vanished from the table. Jordan found the mushy stick in her room the next morning in a pile of toys, but Keyra was there. She grabbed it and ran. We still haven’t found the new spot she hid it. By now it would be a greasy puddle if she hasn’t eaten it. 

She’s mischievous, a troublemaker at heart, but we love her.

God must see us in the same way. We do what we know is wrong; we are intolerant, controlling, even bark sometimes, yet He loves us. We can’t hide from Him; He sees all our hiding spots. If we let Him into our lives, He’ll help us clean our messes and find joy. He’ll even take us for a walk in His light.


Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:5-6 (NIV)