Happy Birthday, Bart

Bart head shotBart the wimpy dog turned 10 years old today. You can see it when you look closely at him. Much of the gold on his face has turned to silver, but he wears it well because he’s blond. He shows his age when he goes down steep stairs and the wrinkles around his jowls. He’s in no rush to get up in the morning, content to stay in the warm, thermal foam mattress topper rather than jump down to the cold floor. When I leave for work, he settles himself on the couch, where he stays till I come home—unless he goes back to the bed. He no longer bounds to meet me at the door when I get home, instead waiting for me to come to him on the couch or the bed.

And yet, when he gets a human on the end of a leash, he’s a puppy, bounding ahead with joy, tail waving like a flag. He explores the news on every tree and bush, and approaches people on the trail certain each one wants to be his new best friend. Every task I undertake finds him at my side, eager to help. Just today, as I ate my 6” sub sandwich for lunch, a worker came to the door to mark utility lines so I could avoid hitting the lines on a fencing project. When I came back in ten minutes later, Bart appeared happy, and my sandwich was no longer on the kitchen table. The only evidence was a piece of lettuce and part of the wrapper on the floor.

Happy birthday, Bart. Here’s to many more years of being my exercise accountability partner, my cuddle buddy, my confidant and critic. Sorry I didn’t put a candle in that sandwich for you.

Diary of a Wimpy Dog – The Doggy Boots

The dog boots I ordered during the blizzard came the day after life went back to normal. Snow had been cleared from the roads, melting began and I went back to work. Then the dog boots arrived.

Anxious to see Bart’s reaction, I slipped the boots on his front paws, which was about as easy as putting shoes on a two-year-old child that wants to go barefoot. Finally, both boots were cinched on. He lowered himself from the couch and began to paddle his way to the front door, lifting each paw up around his ears with each step. When I could stop laughing enough to find the leash, I snapped it on him.

Evidently, his trek from couch to door had told him the boots cushioned his feet. He bounded down the front steps, still covered in snow, and pranced all around the snow in the driveway and yard. His paws hitting the snow sounded like a shod Clydesdale on a brick street. I told him “short walk,” and he trotted across the street to make our usual circle of two trees, a fence row, an alley and a big tree. That’s when I discovered that the boots helped him stay on top of the crusty snow, while my shoes, plus the fact that my weight was concentrated on two feet instead of four, caused me to break through. I was huffing and puffing by the time we made it to the alley at the top of the hill.

When we got back to the house, I stood with my sides heaving like I had just run the Kentucky Derby. Which is a whole lot easier to train for, at a mile and a quarter, than a marathon of 26 miles, but that’s another philosophical discussion. Bart paced into the bedroom, plopped down on his dog cushion, and immediately began to gnaw on his boots. I guess even dog boots need breaking in. I took them off him and put them up for the next walk.

Unanswered Prayer

This morning when I woke up and looked out the window, it was another glorious spring day—in February! Crocuses bloomed in my flower bed and it promised to be a great day for a walk. And that made me think about how often we pray for weather (let it be cold, let it be warm, let it rain, let it not rain). Personally, I like the warm winter we’ve been having, but there is a down side to it. Some plants need a certain number of cold days to bloom properly in the spring. If we don’t get enough cold days, we’ll have more bugs of the annoying kind. We could take it further to the economic impact of those who depend on selling items needed in cold weather. There’s also the problem that the warmth fools plants, animals and insects into believing it really is spring and then—whammo. Kansas weather changes hit, and it’s below freezing for a solid week, killing the tender buds and baby animals.

We plead for outcomes all the time, even for sporting events. I can imagine God saying, “Really, you want that team to win?” Yet, how many times has God provided not what we want, but what we NEED. For instance, seventeen years ago, I prayed that God would hold my marriage together, despite our problems. Yet God provided what my husband and I needed, not what we wanted. Neither of us would have grown as persons had we stayed together. We had become like an ill-fitting shoe and a sore foot. It was time to change.

Twelve years later, when my new-found love Charles was facing leukemia, I prayed he would be healed, that we could share our lives for many years. God healed him—by taking him home, and we had only five months. Yet both of us learned profound truths in those five months, and we lived our many years together in that short few weeks.

A few years ago, a spring blizzard we didn’t believe would materialize dumped 28 inches of snow on our town, and led to our mad rush stopping for three days, as, trapped in our homes, we marveled at this reminder of Who is really in charge.

Sometimes I have prayed to be spared certain experiences, and yet, those have often been the very experiences I now cherish. As Garth Brooks sings, “Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayer … Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” When has God not answered your prayers the way you wanted, and you later gave thanks for that?

Sonrise Does Not Appear Imminent

Easter morning the alarm yanked me from a comfortable sleep far too early. Deep darkness still pressed against all my windows. “Sunrise does not appear imminent,” I thought, as I stumbled across the room to shut off the insistent alarm. Sunrise had to be further away than an hour. The odd thought repeated itself in my head, like a chorus — Sunrise does not appear imminent. Why didn’t my mind simply say, “It’s still dark?”

I yawned and swayed between staying up and resetting the alarm. Trust in wisdom beyond mine (the wisdom of the pastors who had set the time for the sunrise service after consulting solar-lunar tables) held me up, and I set about waking my daughter and her friend, who had agreed to attend with me. We made coffee, and even stopped for cappuccino on the way to the island in the center of our county lake. Still, even though pale light now surrounded us, the thought came back — Sunrise does not appear imminent.

The service had already begun as we walked along the low causeway that allowed access to the island. Other people followed us. We joined the crowd, huddled close for both fellowship and warmth. I glanced at the treeline as the congregation, combined Methodists and Friends, sang and worshiped. A great blue heron rose majestically from the lake, while a trio of ducks dipped and rolled in an acrobatic show above us. A chorus of wildlife joined our hymn. Sunrise does not appear imminent.

As my pastor stepped to the podium to begin his sermon, rays of light broke through the low cloud bank that hovered just above the treeline. Like a fanfare of trumpets, these rays heralded the coming of the true dawn. Within seconds, as Don spoke of the risen Lord, a radiant sun, too bright to behold directly, rose to shine its light upon us.

Sonrise does not appear imminent! Suddenly, the message was as clear to me as the brilliant day. Sonrise does not appear imminent. As we go about our daily lives, absorbed in the many details of modern life, how many of us notice the heralds of the dawn? I know that most mornings I arise in the dark, then realize that while I went about my business, daylight has come without my taking note of it.

Will we treat the Christ the same way? Sonrise does not appear imminent. Do we listen for the trumpets? Do we watch for the heralds? Do we heed the wisdom of those who read the signs? Or do we arise in the dark, thinking, Sonrise does not appear imminent? Will we be suddenly faced with the presence of the radiant majesty of God, too bright to behold directly, and realize that a new day has come?

Sonrise does not appear imminent, but it may be closer than we think. Will we be ready?

Diary of a Wimpy Dog – Snow Day

The snow just kept falling, until we had 14 inches of it. I awoke to a text from my boss, telling me work had been cancelled. I rolled over to get back to sleep. Bart sighed and dropped his head on my knees, as if to say, “So, we don’t have to get up yet?”

We finally arose, and he seemed eager to go outside for his “constitutional.” I opened the utility room door to the enclosed back porch. He went to the door that led to the deck, propped open to make it easier for him to get out, and looked back at me as if to say, “But there’s snow!” He came back into the house.

We did this same exercise several times until late afternoon. He went to the deck entrance, then came back to the utility room door, where I stood. “Do you want back in, buddy?” I opened the door for him. He looked at me, then back at the deck, as if he was saying, “Yeah, but I really, really gotta GO!”

“Aw, is Barty afraid of getting his ittle-bitty pawsies cold?” I admit it, I teased him. He paced between the house and deck about three times, went out on the deck, came back in twice and finally eased his way down the steps like a little old lady afraid she would break a hip. He approached a tree in the yard and circled it, puzzled as to how he could pee above the snow.

Soon he was back at the door, wanting in. He went right to sleep on my feet, while I ordered him doggy boots. And THAT is an interesting story…

Spring

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Today the window I looked through was anticipation of spring. Walking on break, I heard the unmistakable trill of sandhill cranes flying north. My heart leaped; sandhills going north is a sure indicator of spring. Going south in the fall, they signal winter. I caught sight of the flock for just an instant before they were lost against the blinding bright sky.

Bart took me for a nice walk after work this balmy evening. People and dogs were everywhere, eager to release a winter’s pent up activity on this, the first truly spring-like day. The twenty inches of snow released green as it retreated. My garden sprouts with hyacinths, tulips, daffodils and paper-whites. Soon, riotous blooms will show in wild extravagance.

Later, we took our before-bed short walk in the open field across from my house. The air as we went down the steps smelled of rain—somewhere. As I stood at the end of the leash while Bart “read” the notes left on a bush by other animals, I looked up at the night sky. It was so clear and bright that I could almost feel the earth rotating beneath my feet and see the stars spinning above me.

Then I caught the honk of geese. Our local resident, over-wintering geese do not fly at night. They go out to forage after daybreak and come home to roost before dusk. These geese flew with a purpose, day and night, focused on reaching the summer nesting grounds. I saw the ghostly gray vee above me against the navy blue sky.

I felt connected to the history that has gone before me as well as the history that will go on beyond me, the consistent circle of season following season. This was proof that God is in His heaven, that hope springs fresh, dawn after darkness.

One of my favorite poems by Carl Sandburg says:
I want to do the right thing, but often I don’t know just what the right thing is. Every day I know I have come short of what I would like to have done. Yet as the years pass and I see the very world itself, with its oceans and mountains and plains, as something unfinished, a peculiar little satisfaction hunts out the corners of my heart. Sunsets and evening shadows find me regretful at tasks undone, but sleep and the dawn and the air of the morning touch me with freshening hopes. Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.

 

 

Through My Window – Kansas Sunsets

Tonight, the window through which I viewed the world was Bart the dog walking me. We’d both been needing it for a while. I’d been under the weather with the respiratory stuff, either too busy, too cold, or too sickly to let him walk me in the past couple of weeks. So tonight felt good.

And then we saw the sunset. Started out with a blue the color of the sky blue crayon, and the clouds (no rain, but moisture) and a translucent peach the color of peach jello. I could hear the terrain underfoot—crunching buffalo grass, the slippery pine needles, the rasp of the sandy soil against paved parts of the alley. By the time we got down the alley to the hill across from the house, the blue of the sky had paled and the peach turned to crimson. As one color grew stronger, the other had to fade, yin and yang.
And then there was the fact that the temperature from the low this morning to the high late this afternoon was 39 degrees. Ah, Kansas. What did you see today that resonated with you?

Through My Window – Dads

When I woke up today and looked out my bedroom window, I was thinking about fathers. My sister-in-law just lost her father this week, and a friend learned her father is in the early stage of Alzheimer’s. It made me thankful for the wonderful times I had with my father, as I tagged along at his heel while he went about his work on the farm.

All those times we went traipsing through the pasture looking for a cow, I remember finding ripe persimmons, gooseberries and blackberries, but never a cow. I remember “driving” the pickup back from the pasture seated on his lap. And “driving” the tractor while he and my brother tossed hay bales onto the wagon. On trips to the sale barn to buy calves, I always sat on my hands to keep from making any move that could be considered a bid. When our purchases were done and paid for, we went to the auction barn café for a piece of pie. Dad never got a piece for himself, or a donut for that matter. He always said he’d just take a bite or two of mine, a bite that ended up being half of whatever we had ordered. I really didn’t mind, because we had such adventures.

Trips to the grain elevator in Hepler, where I watched the pickup load of wheat run like a golden river into the belly of the elevator. The smell of leather saddles, bridles and other gear at the feed store. How the smell of sweet feed almost made me wish I was a horse or cow—until I smelled the fried chicken or chocolate cake my mom was famous for. I remember helping Dad load the pickup with hay we’d bought, so proud when I got strong enough to stack it four high myself. The imagination I use as a writer developed when I stayed at the truck while Dad worked the different fields. That pickup bed became a ship, or a tree house, or a cabin in the woods, or a smoke spotter’s tower.

My brother was old enough to leave home for a full-time job about the time I was old enough to be a little help tagging along with dad. I doubt I was much help, but I’ll always treasure those times. I’m thankful to have had a father who was a dad. I hope that what I learned at his heel made me a better mom, a better writer and a better person.