The Crazy Woman of 200 W. Washington Avenue

  I never thought I would be the one the neighbors whispered about over their back fences, but just a few minutes ago it was  officially confirmed.

Let me set the scene. It’s 3pm and 107 degrees in the shade, which I’m sitting under on the cement step of my front porch.  A clothes basket, a new hose with a little nozzle on it, 4 million balloons, and a mission to fill each and every one for recreation at Vacation Bible School tonight is my duty.  As I wrestle the hose to just the right angle, I think about how some folks are called to glamorous ministries like our friend, Emily, who translates bibles in Papua New Guinea or a friend of mine, who brings people into God’s throne room with her gift of leading worship in Atlanta.  Important stuff.  I am sure not a one of them says ‘ah, to be a water balloon filler!”

I sit on the porch with the hose between my knees, trying my best to keep it crinked until I get the itty bitty lip of a lime green water bomb on the end.  About the time the water starts to jet into it, my rear-end alerts my brain that it is being fried like a pancake on a griddle.  My jean shorts had held their ground to protect me as long as they could.  I flew up, thus causing the balloon to fly in a stream of water aimed at me.  The metal end  of the hose landed half on my flip-flop, half on my foot branding a nice little striped rectangle there.  I begin to dance the dance I once saw on Gilligan’s Island, when some jungle voodoo chief was trying to set Lil’ buddy and his grass skirt on fire.   After that, I noticed the traffic on my street picked up dramatically.

The few surviving blades of grass left in the yard loudly shouted ‘hallelujah!’ when I let the hot water run to cool down .

Grabbing a cushion off the glider, I settle myself back to the balloon business.  The hose, I learned, has a mind of its own.  It would build pressure and just take off if I didn’t have a firm grip.  Did you know they can do flips?  They can and will spray you as they somersault across the lawn/beach of our front yard.  As I tried to tame the beast, memories of my only steer riding outing came flashing back as I hung on for dear life.

How much water I allowed in at one time was key.  Too much too fast and the balloon would blow, soaking me from the waist down.  If it went in slowly, but filled too full, it would burp straight up and soak my upper half, including my hair.  Good thing I had changed out of my purple shirt that was the VBS color-of-the-night before taking this on. The ones that exploded for no reason were frustrating.  More so were the ones, once tied and gently laid in the basket, would think it was funny to pop as you were quietly retreating.

Balloon #4, I tried to convince myself that 4 would be enough for all four groups cycling through recreation.  It didn’t work as I was a kid once and there are not enough water balloons in the world to satisfy a kid, let along 50.   So, I figure sacrificing my index finger due to lost circulation from the necks of balloons being wrapped around it might earn me a little jewel in my soaked crown.  I kept at it, knowing that no where in scripture are water balloons mentioned and probably for good reason!

The brand-spanking new mailman drove up.  What do you know this would be the day a package was arriving, causing him to bring the mail to me.  He looked scared as he assessed the streams of water wildly flying through the air as the woman old enough to be someone’s grandma was clamping a geyser between her knees as she tied off a water bomb.  He edged cautiously through the yard.

“I direct bible school at our church and this is for some games tonight.”

He looked even more nervous as he tried to hand the letters to me as I fought the hose.

“Oh!” he said as the light bulb came on that this was not a good time for me to let go and grab the mail.  He slowly kept his bag between me and him like I was a rabid pit bull.  He put the box and mail on the porch, much like someone putting down the gun in a stand-off where the other guy has more firepower.  Did he think I was going to go into attack mode or what?   Like my index finger was going to let me waste any precious ammo.

If my friend, Norma, was still delivering the mail, she would have said “well, done good and faithful servant” and told me her great story about how VBS had got her family to start going to church.  She would have convinced me this work was worthwhile. I would have been renewed and refreshed to do the task at hand.

Instead, Mr. Postman jetted back to the safety of his truck.  I couldn’t help but yell at his fast-moving backside, “So ya want me to get you wet?”   Dust was all I saw as he zoomed down the street-never to be seen again.

Or so I thought.  Four times he drove by in the hour I filled, tied, and  got soaked. My neighborhood isn’t that big for him to get that lost or miss that much mail.  Maybe he was entertained?  From his stares I know he was intrigued.  I would love to know what was going on in his head!  I had to giggle and was encouraged  that I was doing what I needed to be doing.

God asks each of us to be faithful in where he puts us, doing what he wants us to do.  Being a fool for him is evidently pretty important and something that I seem to succeed at on a regular basis.   Being the Crazy Lady at 200 W. Washington may not be so bad after all.



The Wart Hog in My Kitchen

On my porch was delivered a box.  A flat rate postal box.  The return address was familiar, but I had expected a manilla envelope.  Hmmmm????

Friends of mine with the radio ministry God’s Great Outdoors were recently in Alaska and visited Knights Taxidermy, the location for one of my favorite shows Mounted In Alaska.  If you have read the blog post called My Weird Irrational Fear, you know the story that I used to freak with stuffed critters.  I could not enter the Kansas Fish and Game Museum at all, much less eat a meal at Busters.  Much to the relief of my family, I no longer have the fear.  Gerry and Cyndi could not help thinking of me as they roamed amongst the mounts, so they messaged me that an autographed photo of the show’s crew was on its way to my doorstep.

Nestled in packing peanut, this was not expected.  A skull!   Perplexed I twirled this big long headbone, and I wondered what it had been connected to and my current choice of friends.

I’ve messed with my fair share of cow skulls, deer noggins, and buffalo craniums.  Growing up with all the bones lying around our ranch I had dreams of constructing a dinosaur of epic proportions.  Even tried a time or two. This looked nothing like that.  There was no note explaining it, but I found  the promised picture packed in the bottom.  Something good was a foot because I trusted my friends’ character too much to doubt them.

Later, I  learned it was an African wart hog boar.   Yes, Pumba was on my counter with his destiny to belong to our nephew.  You see, Gerry knew about my nephew.  Noah is as wise as an old owl when it comes to fur, feathers, and fins.  He should be a consultant for the Animal Planet Channel.  When he was a little guy he used to wear a full tiger suit around in 100 degree heat and spoke in animal languages.  Dr. Doolittle has to be in his family line somewhere.  This is his thing.

On the other hand, school is not.  This summer his dad and him are playing a little catch up.  Clay has him researching  his skull collection, finding tracks, and reading up on the unfortunate varmint in question.  He is taking to it like a hummingbird to nectar, a bat to a swarm of mosquitoes, an anaconda to Marlin Perkins…..

My question is this:  What has been in the box you have opened recently that you didn’t expect and sure didn’t understand?  Have you wondered ‘why me?’ or said ‘Lord, I just flat don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this?’  And we know this that in all things God works for the good of those who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28.   Having faith in his character is our path through the jungle of questions and intense emotions.  It’ll be all good-somehow, someway.

Even ol’ Pumba had no idea that he would have more purpose in his life than just running around the Seren Gedi, singing Hakuna Matada.   He couldn’t have dreamed he would have the privilege of traveling half way around the world to help a boy in Kansas have a whole world of reading and learning open up to him.   Only God could come up with a plan this original for his glory!  No worries, indeed.

It’s True! God Looks Out For Drunks, Small Children and ME!!!

Tuesday is one of my official days off from my job.  Since my list of ‘other’ things of life pile up, I have come to realize that I have not really had a day off since…oh….1983.

Tuesday was no exception.  Radio, paying bills, and routine shopping tended to clutter my growing list.  My car was loaded with enough recycling goodies to  qualify us as ‘the trashiest people in town.”  A trip to spend some time with Mom in Pratt was interjected between bible study and trying to figure out where my director book for Vacation Bible School had vanished.  (Still MIA, so prayers would greatly be appreciated!)  A nap really wanted me to take advantage of our nice, dark, cool, family room on this blistering day. I traded it for a trip to Attica to pick up beef from the locker I had promised I would pick up last week.

What I felt I needed to be doing for my sanity was writing.  Things had finally lined up so I could do some major league writing.  My fingers had been flying lat the rate of hummingbird wings. My brain was buzzing as God continued to open surprising things about the people who are inhabiting my brain and my laptop.  On top of that, God started teasing me with another tale to tell as I went through some of my mom’s pictures.

“Lord, you are going to make my brain explode!” I half giggled-half screamed in terror.

The hour-long round ride to Attica ended up being wonderful!  Driving tends allow my stories to unfold and sort themselves out.  After depositing a quarter of Ferdinand the Bull in the back of the Blueberry, I knew I had best shake-a-leg to keep this 105+ degree day from turning my backseat into a barbeque pit.

Driving home my mind went from crafting scenes of a family dealing with the crisis using  Colorado as a backdrop to having  random ideas bombard me straight from my hometown (circa 1950) with all the zanyness small town life.   While fun and exciting,  I was stressing about how I was going to keep all the voices straight in my head, let alone not lose one valuable nugget.  Suddenly wisdom was given to handle it, thus diverting a nervous breakdown.

Grabbing an arm load of trash and various clutter from the passenger set, I charged inside to purge my brain before it faded.

Pretty soon our son came home from work sporting his don’t-know-where-the-tan-ends-and-where-the-dirt-begins look.   Exhausted and tired.

“So, Mom, what have you been up to today?” as he watched me pound away on the laptop.

“Oh, just a lot of little things.  Paid bills, ran to Pratt and saw Mermaid, went to Attica to pick up the….oh no!…the beef! ” I screamed as I ditched my project and pushed by him. “It’s still in the car!”

“So how long has it been in there?”

I glanced at the clock.  I could see we had trouble with a capital T-bone, right here in Thaw Out City.

As I darted out the door,  I yelled “3 1/2 hours!”   He followed, as he mentally began plans to check me into the closest memory care facility.

We watched as the hatchback of the Blueberry revealed four huge sacks with condensation glistening on the packages-still frozen!  Simultaneously we let out our breaths at the same time, thanking God big time!  Cole jerked a little and bolted into action.

“We’ve got to get these in the freezer NOW!”

Later, with the cargo safely stowed away in its new home, we collapsed, dumbfounded.

Even with the PT Cruiser’s tinted windows and the blankets that were underneath the meat, I should have created a scene for a whole new book project titled Blood on the Bricks: Murder on Washington Street.  The protagonist is  named…hmmm….Wilder Harris.  A devastatingly handsome ex-FBI agent, who was let go due to a dark secret….

Oh great, here we go again…..

The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon at night.  The Lord will keep watch over you from all harm–he will watch over your life.  The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.  Psalm 121: 5-8

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Thanking God I Am Not Toast-Fed Up and Fiery Attitude Confessions

 About 2 months ago, I wrote about dancing in the rain which renewed our hope in God’s faithfulness.   

When it rained a half an inch on July 3rd, it refreshed more than our crunchy grass. Our spirits drank in the gift. You couldn’t have blown the sappy grins off our faces with a sparkler bomb like my son had just caught my flower bed on fire with. Stresses melted as we celebrated the blessing of living in this great country and our long-lost friend, the rain, coming for a visit.

Last Sunday, a mere one week later, the temperatures had maintained the 100+ degree range. Throw out a few shells on our lawn and I have some beach property for sale-minus the ocean. Some of Cliff’s jobs had shifted from oilfield to helping desperate ranchers dig for water. Waking that morning to overcast skies and rumbles of thunder was like salve to our sun-burnt spirits. Weatherbug Cliff was looking at the radar on the laptop, when I asked him if we had gotten anything yet.

“Nope. It missed us.” He stomped out the door to go water his roses-again.

Surely that couldn’t be right. I grabbed the laptop and checked several sites. Little green blobs danced around us with nary a chance headed our way. My anger flared.

“Lord what is the deal? EVERYONE around has been getting rain. Why not us? We have been praying and counting on ‘If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land‟. My hand was on my hip as I shared my frustrations with the Giver of the Rain. “Everything is burned up. Grasshoppers have stripped the garden. For farmers and ranchers its past critical.” Through clenched teeth, I growled “I think we have been humbled enough, already!”

Only by the grace of God did lightning not strike Little Miss Tude dead. Instead, he answered me in a combination of ways. Like the quiet voice saying: “If you are done, I beg to differ about your humility. When your daughter at Emporia called and mentioned it rained, you popped off ‘well, it must be nice!’  When Pratt or Kiowa had the blessing come their way, you pouted.  Honey, this is not a competition. Everyone is dry and I am using it for good that you can’t see. Can you trust me?”

As I plopped on my porch glider to eat the humble pie the Lord had prepared for breakfast, my Chronological Bible had me hanging out with Elijah. Seriously. Three years of no rain. Even Mr. Chariots of Fire‟s stream dried up. But, as unconventional (and gross) as it was, God sent the ravens to feed him as secretly his good was at work.

Later at church we went to the verses before and after the famous ‘humbling’ verse in 2 Chronicles 7:13-16. Oh my! Read it for yourself. A guaranteed goosebumps passage.

It was enough to bring us Methodists to our knees in a way we hadn’t experienced in ages. Rain came in tears streaming down our faces. May we not forget to humbly come together as we pray for those drying up through all of the plains states, fighting fires next door and far off, and those who are watching their homes and lives float away, and wish they had it as good as we do.

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The Bifocal Debacle-How to Adjust to Vision Impossible

                           I did it.  I got brave and requested bifocals.

The readers have done me well, although they spent a lot of time on my head or accessorized the neckline of my shirt.  It has been a take-it-or-leave it option I embraced.  Most generally I left a trail of the cheaters wherever I went, but lately they were never with me when I really needed to see a menu or tried to read anything.  Besides my arms have gotten shorter and repeating “Go, Go Gadget arms” does not work.

My reluctance is not linked to mortality issues about getting older.  I know they can be  like the first neon sign pointing to middle age.  I’m either in denial or too senile to get wound up about it. Proudly I could sport my Grandma Olive’s cat-eyes around the Lodge.  It was the personal testimonies that blind-sided me.  Wanting to be able to see sounded pretty iffy from all the reports I have heard of people taking the plunge into the land of split-level vision.  “The floor was higher.”  “I walked like a drunk.” “The headaches!” “I will never get used to them.” “I almost broke my neck going down stairs!”  ” I swear I got seasick every time I put them on.”  One of the scariest was “I spent $450 and have never worn them.”  Yikes!  The last card of 3 readers cost me $8.  Alas, common sense said I would never find out unless I tried.

After getting a routine check up and prescription in hand, I met an angel with a Wal-Mart name tag that read “Bobbi”.  I told her what my concerns were and she gave me tips the optometrist’s office never shared.   No one would stumble like they had drunk a fifth of Jack Daniels on her watch.  Confessing that she experienced three months of the twitchiest eyes in the West, she would be the Jed-eye Master and I would be Luka Eyewalker. (Sorry, could not resist!)

Here is what I learned:

1. Follow your nose-Wherever you are going, keep your eyes on the target.  This works going up and down stairs, and judging distances.  In a hurry, it’s hard to remember and stumbles are bound to happen.

2. Don’t expect perfection from the get-go.  Have patience.

3. This kind of goes with #2. Ease into it.  If your eyes get tired or you get frustrated, put down the specs and try again later.

4. I had assumed I knew how the bifocal was arranged.  Boy, was I wrong.  There are all sorts of zones for distance, closer for computer work, and one for reading.  Some areas to the sides are just plain lens.  Make sure the frames will be big enough to accommodate the needs of the lenses.  If you pick tiny frames, there isn’t enough space to get all the prescription zones that are required.  That doesn’t mean you must have frames the size of lab goggles.  Ask the eye care center for a guide to let you know if they fall in that range.  Education and communication opened a whole world for me on this.

Bobbi assured me she is there for my near-sighted adventure.  If I have any problems, adjustments can be made quite easily. We even hugged, which is really unique for this my-space person.

The results?  I have had somebody’s signature collection eyewear for less than a week. I am so thankful I jumped on this when I did, before I needed a stronger prescription.  Getting the hang of them hasn’t been too bad at all.  In bed at night I revert to the readers.  If that’s what works for me and it’s not damaging my eyes, I’m cool with the system.

These lessons remind me a lot about life in general.  As you read through them again, I invite you to think about the parallels. Focusing our faith on Christ as a target suddenly life gets crisper and cleaner.

The complimentary scratch resistant coating  is we never leave his sight-ever! I lift my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber.  Psalm 121:1-3

Where’s my gross of readers now?  I happen to notice Cliff is using them quite a bit.  He seems to be  is quite partial to the black ones with white polka dots.

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Sometimes You Feel Like a Wingnut….

Spinner the Squirrel

…and sometimes you don’t.

There are times in life that circumstances take you places which aren’t your usual place in life.  For example several years ago our family spent 4th of July on the top deck of a three-story yacht with giant fireworks mushrooming above our heads and sparkling on the water like multi-colored prisms.  A big switch from being the tractor inner tube type folk.  The Griswolds and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous collided that night.  Wednesday night, it kind of happened again.

Invited by my daughter, Robin, to meet her and the Fornelli’s (See the blogpost Weekend at the Fornelli’s) to join them in a Skybox at a Wichita Wingnuts game, I jumped at it.  The very young Wingnuts are a minor league baseball team.   We have watched our son play on this very field due to unusual circumstances in high school scheduling , but not to see the Wingnuts. We were in the cheap seats.  Very cheap, like in ‘free.’

As we got past security to the coveted air-conditioned living room with huge picture window and cable tv, I told Robin “Now this is how one watches baseball.”  For 20+ years I have froze or sweated my rear off on bleachers.  I swear some structures had been dragged from the farm, leaving confused chickens as their roosts were now our stadium seats.  But…this was the life.  I could get so used to this!

Ironically this happened to be the one beautiful summer night that we have had in Kansas this season.  We ditched the confines of luxury to sit out in patio seats as we ordered drinks from our own personal waitress.   Other friends and family of the Fornelli’s pour in.  I sat next to a lady who owns a gourmet chocolate and wine shop.  The couple in front of us are off to Botswana on a safari very soon.   Listening to them was great fun.  I threw in about a recent trip to Buster’s at Sun City, which I know  impressed them greatly.  We all have new bifocal and trifocal stories, thus bonding us for life

This is where a different element comes in to take a little batting practice with us.  I go from my social networking to getting ‘squirrely’-literally.  The Wingnuts mascot is a giant squirrel with a jersey and red ball cap.  Freedom to yell ‘Go Nuts’ is encouraged at every ball, strike, or  hit. The announcer delights in saying “and that’s the third out with no nuts left on base.”  Confusion attacked my brain as I couldn’t decide if I was reverting to puberty as I fought to suppress giggles with jr. high bathroom humor or just go with the juvenile humor of this as all in  nutty fun.  I went with the latter.  Afterall was I not the one at Cole’s game last year who tried to talk my daughters into stealing the hot dog and mustard costumes that were left unattended and running across this very field?  To add to the nuts obsession there are no sunflower seeds allowed, but you can buy all the peanuts your little rodent heart desires.

Then hot dog, if they don’t announce it is Weenie Wednesday, where the ultimate ball park food is only $2.  Can it get any better, I ask?

Then Robin points out that on the roof of one dug-out are 3 or 4 young gals in tank tops, shorts, baseball socks and shoes dancing around.  I throw out my best A League of Their Own Tom Hanks impression: “There’s no cheerleaders in baseball!”  Memories of 10 year olds with blond ponytails yelling from a dugout “High baby, high baby, high baby, high! You can’t make it fly if the pitch is too high!”confirmed that organized cheering at ball diamonds is the most obnoxious thing on earth.   I learn the Diamond Dolls’ are actually in charge of running the between inning games.   For the first time since freshman initiation in high school I see the classic stick-your-forehead-on-a-bat-spin-and-then-try-to-walk game. Always a crowd pleaser.  Our skybox yells wildly as two little girls from our group compete in a race around the bases as they put on too big uniforms.

The whole night was fun and I am so grateful for the gift of experiencing this with my oldest baby.  There were just a couple things missing.  One was Cliff.  He loves anything baseball.  He’s the one that should have been in my seat.  The other was my four favorite players were not in the line-up.  Three blond ponytails, who always had to stop at 2nd base and share hair-tips with whatever girl was there and a boy always had to spit before he took a swing of a bat from the Bam Bam Rubble signature collection.  They made  freezing our rears off on chicken roost bleachers and traveling zillions of miles worth every minute of it.   Weenie Wednesday took it’s turn with Taco Tuesdays at Hazelton, KS where combines were cutting right outside the outfield fence as giant mosquitos took balls and flew off with them.   The great lessons in sportsmanship through the spit-in-the-hand controversy after a game almost had the parents going to Fist City or being mortified that your angels had created a cheer that had the phrase ‘we will beat you til you die’ in it.   Seriously, Cliff and I could write a bestseller about these  by-gone days.

So as I walked in the door after going a little nuts on the way home, I realized I walked away with more than a Cliff-sized Wingnuts t-shirt, a bruise on my right calf from a foul ball, and a 30% off the Coleman Outlet store thanks to some spectator who was able to victoriously throw can coozies in a pitch back net.  I have the gift  of being able  run the bases of our family every time I take in a game. When we were in the thick of it, we loved what we were doing,  but didn’t have ability to really truly cherish it.  We didn’t get that every t-ball game was actually the major league when it comes to the memories we have.   It had to end for us to see it.

I will always hold on to the gift that a diamond is forever-even if it is covered with grass, chalk,  3 hair scrunchies, and the spit of a little boy who just knocked one out of the park.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

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