MY IDEA OF ROMANCE

     When I first met my (future) wife around 1977, I drove a 1976 Monte Carlo, much like the one below only different!  Mine was white with the black vinyl top.  And maybe not quite as shiny.  It also had magnesium wheels.

1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo picture, exterior

     After we were married for a while, we sold the Monte Carlo and our major source of transportation was a 1946 Chevy pickup, much like the one below, only different!

     Mine 1946 Chevy was not shiny but was rust and white colored.  The white color had been painted over the original  dark green color as was evident by the paint still on the engine’s firewall.  The rust was not actually a paint color but was the color of oxidized metal or car cancer. 

     Anyhow, a friend of mine had installed a 1969 Chevy Impala, automatic engine in place of the old engine which had ‘died’.  It died when a piston went through the wall of the engine which has the same effect as a bullet through the heart!  The friend did a ‘transplant’ for me with much metallic surgery. 

     After work one afternoon, I drove my potential wife to the place of my chosing where I was going to have a serious talk with her.  Living in western Nebraska, my choice location just happened to be an old abandoned sugar beet pulp pit.  This pit was an eight sided ‘pit’ which looked much like a football stadium in shape.  Though it was large, it was nowhere near as large as a true stadium.  Its sloping cement walls looked as if they could have once held bleachers for fans to sit in.  Over the years, one of the walls of the pit had crumbled which made it easier for us to climb up and over.  Once we were  inside, we would be completely out of sight of everyone which meant that we would have the whole place to ourselves.  Though we were alone, it was clear that in previous years, we had not been the only ones to have visited the place.  Others ‘visitors’ had used the pit as a dump site but I, in my romantic quest, played all of it into my plan. 
     Ideally, I would have taken my sweetheart into the mountains or at least used them as a backdrop, with a stream gently cascading at our feet.  But, having no mountains closer than 100 miles away and the Platte River about three miles away, I adapted things in my own way.  We walked, arm in arm over to an old, rusting wash machine which was resting on its side.  I asked my Love to have a seat because I had something to ‘talk’ about.  She cautiously obliged and I began my un-rehearsed speel.
     “Pretend this washing machine is a huge rock.  See the dry, dirt-clogged gutter where juice from the beet pulp used to drain into?  Pretend it is actually a beautiful stream flowing down from the mountains all around us”.
     Not quite seeing the same picture I was giving, “What mountains”? she asked.
    I pointed to the edges of the pit which were maybe twenty feet high and said, “Those mountains”. 
     Eventually, she humored me although I’m sure she still didn’t see the same romantic setting I was laying out for her.
     I continued.  “Those weeds over there are rose bushes, for pretends and the sounds of the (nearby, still functioning) sugar factory are little birdies singing at the top of their little birdie lungs.  Okay?”
     Before she had a chance to question my wild imaginations any further, I decided I better get down to the business I had brought her to the pit for in the first place.  I got down on one knee in the dirt, took her hand and asked her if she would marry me.  How she could she resist my plea amongst such a romantic atmosphere was beyond me!  At that point, it didn’t matter whether she saw the same scene I was seeing.  The important thing was that she did not resist or refuse but accepted my offer and we sealed it with one of many thousands of kisses before and since then.  I don’t mean one of thousands of pulp pit kisses!  From there on out, we still haven’t lost the feeling of true love, going on 33 years now.  I have come to the CONCLUSION that perhaps there are more romantic places than where I took my gal.  If some guy ever wants to take one of my daughters down to the pit, I better be going along.  You know, as part of the pretty scenery!

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ROMANCE, RATS AND SHOELACES

     Romance, rats and shoelaces hardly are kissing cousins when it comes to being related to each other yet, somehow I managed to lump the three together!  It all was so innocent and began when I had just cleaned up from a hard days work and was sitting on the couch with the love of my wife for eighteen years, my wife.  She was looking lovely as ever.  It was early in the evening and we were leisurely sitting in front of the flickering glow of the TV set.  Although we were all alone on the couch, we were not at all, all alone.  Strategically seated around the room were all six of our children, each one in their personal favorite spot.  With that setting, I could tell that romance for the evening was going to be tough but still, I was going to try.  I was not embarrassed to show romance to my wife in front of the kids.  They had seen us smooch and snuggle too many times to count and each of those countless times were enough to gross them out.  They freely showed true feelings by their reactions of gagging or complaining or both simultaneously.  With those visions vaguely on the back of my mind, I leaned close to my wife’s ear and whispered these six little words;

     “Sweet nothings.  Sweet nothings.  Sweet nothings.”

     I was whispering sweet nothings into her ear.  In between crunches of the corn chips she was munching on, her response to my romantic gesture was, “What”?

     I tried to tell her to hush because I didn’t want it to be obvious to the kids that I was trying to work my romantic magic.  After all, any couple that was near the forty-year old mark should not be romantic, at least according to them.  Their biggest nightmare was to see their own parents being romantic!  How terrible could that be? 

     Looking around, I noticed that not a kid had seemed to have noticed nor had any one of them lost their focus on whatever it was they were doing at the time.  That gave me reason to be encouraged enough to try it again.  Once more, I whispered the same six words.

     “Sweet nothings.  Sweet nothings.  Sweet nothings.”

     Ah, but the second time, her response was different.  She turned to me and repeated what she had heard.

     “Sweena, sweena, sweena?  Who’s Sweena”? she asked as she took  another corn chip and put it in her mouth.

     Instantly, I began to question the futility of the situation but decided it was time for me to step things up and take desperate measures.  Taking her face in my hands I kissed her long and deep.  Then I said the next six little words that popped into my head.

     “You smell like a rat, Dear”!

     What I said and what I meant were two entirely different things!  Of course, after my bold statement, it was at that exact moment that the radar of each kid came on.  Normally, anytime an adult spoke, their radar was turned off.  Not then.  It was up and running.  Full blast!

     Glancing over his shoulder, my sixteen year old son said, “That really sets the mood for romance, Dad!”

     Our fourteen year old daughter then said, “Smooth move, Dad”!

     Of course, her comment was followed by, “Way to go, Dad” from my eleven year old son. 

     His seven-year old brother chimed in and said, “”Awe ver!  Dad said Mom is a rat”!

     Not to be outdone, our four-year old daughter said, “Dad!”

     And last but not entirely least, our eight month old baby girl had to get her two cents worth in.  For some reason, she simply started to cry.  

     It was at that precise moment that the whole ball of wax of romance, rats and shoelaces came together.  All I was trying to do was to be a little romantic but when I mixed in the part about the rat, the shoelaces naturally had to follow! 

     My wife looked long and hard at me then spoke her feelings on what I had just said, thus, the introduction of the shoelaces.

     “You just stuck your foot into your mouth, Mister”!

     Quickly, I tried to cover my verbal tracks by saying, “I mean, your breath smells like a rat.” 

     Wrong line number two!

     Glaring in my general direction, she continued by saying, “You just stuck your other foot into your mouth, Buster”.

     I could see the ice beginning to form over any romantic attempt I was going to put forth from there on.  And yet again, I tried to come to my own rescue.

     “It doesn’t smell like a rat all the time”.

     “You just swallowed both feet, clear up to the laces of knee-high army boots!  Thanks a lot, Dear!”

     With that said, I knew I had just put a polar icecap on my own iceage which was going to last a very long time, especially if I didn’t stop before I got any further behind.

     By that time, none of the kids had any idea of what was on the TV nor did they didn’t care.  As it turned out, I was more entertaining than anything they could ever think about viewing on the TV! 

     Looking back on it so many years later, I still ask, “How was I to know that one little ‘rat’ comment could cause such a big stink”? 

     All I could do that night was to head off to bed, pull the covers over my head and wait for the thaw.  One CONCLUSION I have learned from all I had  been through was this:  Corn chips, when eaten, will always smell like a rat!   And whatever a husband may do, he must never tell his wife what her breath smells like!  Never!

     PS:  This is another one of the stories I wrote about 1996.  As said before, since that time, I have discovered white, unlined and uncolored paper; pencils and erasure for rough draft sketches and colored pencils to add color to my sketches.  Has my artistry improved?  Probably not but I still love giving it a try.  Hope you liked what you just read.

I’M REALLY BUMMED

     One day, I took it upon myself to do something really nice for my beloved wife.  I was carrying on a tradition I had been doing for a long time.  Years earlier, I heard a radio broadcast from Paul Harvey’s, The Rest Of The Story about a man who had bought roses for his wife every day for something like fifty years.  It sounded like a good, romantic idea so I began  my own tradition.  Every payday, I would buy my wife flowers, well, one flower and take it home to her.  When I first began this tradition, I had also used roses as my flower of choice.  A single rose for my love.  Nothing was too good for her!  She loved the roses and I loved giving them to her but there were one or two flaws with roses.  One, roses had thorns.  Two, roses were quite expensive and their cost could fluctuate greatly from one week to the next, especially around the holidays.  It wasn’t like my wife was not worth the cost of a single rose every two weeks because she was.  Rather than look on the cost of flowers as an expense, I looked upon the price as an investment.  I was practically a banker with my investment way of thinking!What played into my second choice of flowers were reasons three, four and five.  Carnations were less expensive.  Even during times of special occasions, their prices didn’t fluctuate from season to season.  At the original time of this writing in 1996, a buck a piece was the norm.  

     Another thing about carnations that made me make them our flower of choice was that they lasted longer than one week.  Some, if they were completely fresh when I bought them could last from one payday until the next. 

     And lastly but most important was the fact that my wife really did love to receive carnations more than she did roses.  Ah, what sweet luck. 

     The particular payday I referenced in the beginning was like many of the other 364 days in Portland, Oregon.  It was raining and though it was, the rain was not the problem I am endeavoring to explain. 

     On my way home, I had parked about a block from my flower shop and was walking back to my car in the rain, holding a fresh, white carnation in my hand.  Having become a regular, my florist had wrapped my flower in a funnel-shaped tube of colored paper.  She had also tied a pretty ribbon around it making it look quite impressive for a dollar. 

     I was feeling pretty good about myself because I just knew that when my wife got her flower, her eyes would light up.  Perhaps, her eyes would then cloud over with tears as they had in times past.  After presenting her with such a beautiful flower, I would say those three little words she had become so used to hearing.

     “What’s for dinner”?

     Her response would be something like:  “What?  No, ‘Honey, I’m home, how was your day’?  No, ‘I love you Dear’, it’s good to see you?  Not even a kiss?” 

     Of course, after that, I did only what I thought was proper and right.  I repeated, “Honey, I’m home.  How was your day?  I love you Dear.  It’s good to see you”.

     With that being taken care of, I followed it all up with a kiss.  My wife’s response to what I had just done was, “Do you really mean it or are you just saying those things because I just said them”?

     “Yes to both questions.”

     That’s pretty much how it went that night.  I announced my arrival by asking for dinner, she asked her questions and I gave her the responses she wanted me to say.  Before she had a chance to say more, I quickly asked, “Do you like your flower?”

     She had told me before how much she loved getting a flower each payday.  Sadly, for me that evening, I really didn’t have a flower to offer her.   Things had changed in between the time I had purchased her flower and my walk in the rain back to my car.  As it turned out, just before I got to my car, I was trying my hardest to avoid all of the puddles and keep from getting drenched.  It wasn’t working because I was getting soaked through and through.  With my car was in sight, I just happened to glance to my left and noticed a man sitting on the low brick wall of a flowerbed in front of a bank.  Looking closer as I hurried past him, I could see that the man was not just any man.  He was a homeless man.  A street person.  Some might even call him a bum.  He was someone who slept out in the open and rummaged through dumpsters in allies, looking for pop cans and any other useful items he could fill his empty shopping cart with. 

     As I walked past him, I was truly grateful that it wasn’t me sitting in the rain.  I was blessed with a job and a home to go to at nights.  I was also blessed with a car.  I was thankful I wasn’t living off of the streets like he was.  I was glad I could afford such luxuries as the white carnation I had just purchased for my wife.  Closing the door of my car, suddenly, I had a twinge of conscience  which quickly erupted into a full-fledged attack of guilt.  There, in the rain, sat a man holding on to an empty shopping cart, save for a coffee mug in the bottom.  He just sat there in the rain, watching people go by on the busy street.  Very few of them even noticed him and those who did, hurried on past him before he had a chance to ask them for something.  He was bothering no one because he was asking for nothing.  All he was doing was watching.  I just sat there, out of the rain in my nice, warm car watching him in my mirror as he watched what was going on around him. 

     It was then that I began to notice a few more details about this man.  I could see that he wore a red baseball cap with the brim turned off to the right.  It was perched crookedly on his head with a mess of unkempt hair spilling out from under it.  The side of the cap, which had become the front, had a big patch of grey duct tape on it.  On the tape was what I presumed was his name.  It said, “Old Stu”. 

     Finally, after several tense moments, I could not take it anymore.  I was going to leave the security of my car and approach the man.  Just before I got out, I came up with a plan of what I was going to do once I actually made contact with him.  I grabbed my wife’s carnation and headed in his direction.  He saw my approach but did not move.  He just sat there as the rain continued to come down.  I held out the flower and awkwardly said, “Here, this is for you”.  Then I quickly asked, “Want a carnation?”

     He smiled slightly.  I got a better view of him as we stared silently at each other for what seemed like an awfully long time.  He looked a bit ragged as he was sporting what must have been a week or more of facial stubble.  I could not help but notice that he was missing most of his teeth which caused his face to cave in around his hollow mouth.  When he spoke, his words came out slightly mush-mouthed and was a little hard to understand.

     “A pflower pfor me?” he asked 

     Though he identified that the ‘pflower’ I was holding out at arm’s length was for him, he made no move to take it from me.  Not knowing what else I could do or what I should say next, I stuck the point of the funnel-shaped flower paper in a coffee mug that was sitting in the bottom of his shopping cart.  It then fell over and leaned against the side of the cart. 

     I had accomplished what I had intended to accomplish.  As I turned to go, again, he smiled only slightly and said “Pfank you.”

     I nodded as I walked away and was suddenly feeling pretty good about myself and my selflessness as I got back into my car.  I had done something special, for a total stranger, who appeared to be living off of the streets in the inclement weather.  I was trying to not get too puffed up with myself although I was pretty proud of myself for what I had just done.  I had never done anything like that before.

     The whole way home, I kept thinking of my wife’s response when I shared with her the hospitality I had shown to Old Stu.  Surely, she would be pleased and I would be recognized as somewhat of a hero.  She would practically fall down at my humble feet in adoration of my thoughtfulness to a perfect stranger! I was going to be her Knight in shinning armour.  Her beloved husband!  Her Prince!  Her everything!  I tried to not dwell on how just how great I really was!  There was no one else like me!

     Once I got home, I was almost bursting with a desire to tell my wife of my good deed but I decided to contain myself.  I wanted the moment to be just right, the mood to be perfect.  All of the kids needed to be present, just in case they felt the necessity to add to the admiration that I soon would be getting from my wife!

     Finally, the proper time came while we were all seated at the supper table.  I hushed all conversation and eliminated all distractions.  All eyes were on me.  clearing my throat, I said to my wife, “I guess you have noticed that I didn’t bring you your usual carnation”. 

     I was going to draw the occasion out, play out enough line, set the hook deep in all of their hearts then reel in their emotional affections!  That was my plan alright. 

     “Didn’t you get paid today”? my wife innocently asked.  I answered her that I had indeed, to which she followed up with another question.

     “You just forgot to buy my flower, didn’t you?  That’s alright.  You don’t have to get me a flower.”

     My plan was going to be harder to carry out than I had initially thought.  It was getting hard to tell just who was fishing who.

     “Well, no I didn’t forget to buy your flower”I said.  “As a matter of fact, I did buy your flower.”

     Her response was, “I thought you said you didn’t buy me a flower”.

     “I never said I did not buy you a flower.  What I said was that you may have noticed that you didn’t get your flower”.

     I went on to explain my act of unmatched kindness in as much detail and with as much enthusiasm as I  could as my wife and kids looked on with awe!

     “I did buy you a flower but I gave it to someone else” I announced cheerfully.  With the attention of the whole family, I had them all right where I wanted them.  And yet, the expressions on their faces began to worry me.  It was like a silent look of unspoken accusation so I continued on with my explanation.

     “I gave your flower to an old man”! I said proudly, perhaps puffing my chest out just a bit.

     “You what”? she asked in surprise, not batting an eyelid.  In fact, if I had not known better, I would have said that her eyes bugged out…..just a bit.

     Still, I felt like I had finally hooked her and I slowly began to reel her in. 

     Smiling, I said, “I gave your flower to an old man sitting on a wall by the bank”.

     “You gave my flower to a bum”? my wife asked. 

      At last, she was getting the picture!  I found myself fighting hard to not radiate in my humble act of earlier kindness but evidently, for my wife’s sake, I still had a bit more explaining to do.  No problem!  I would just give her the facts.

     “He wasn’t a bum.  He was a street person”!

     “He was a homeless bum!  You gave my flower away to a nameless, homeless bum”! 

     She sounded a little bit irritated.  Things were not going exactly the way I had pictured that they would go but I thought I could still save face.

     “He wasn’t nameless.  His cap said, ‘Old Stu’ on it.

     “Old Stew”? she asked.  “You gave my flower to an old, stewed, homeless bum”?

     It’s not that my wife is a card-carrying, nameless bum hater or anything like that.  Quite the opposite.  She is a loving, caring, generous individual who would do just about anything for anybody.  Perhaps, I had crossed a fine line in giving her flower, (my small token of my undying love to her) to a….to Old Stu.  Just perhaps!

     It was somewhere around that point in the conversation that the more I tried to back pedal, the deeper in I got.  From there on out, each little detail I added only made matters worse.  The hole I was digging seemed to be turning into a deep grave that threatened to cave in on me at any second.  Finally, I just gave up when some of the kids chanted, “You gave moms flower to a drunk!”  “You gave moms flower to a complete stranger!”  “You gave moms flower away!”

     Needless to say, I had not earned any brownie points with my wife and the whole flower issue like I generally did ever pay-day!  Instead of feeling like I was floating on cloud nine, I felt like I was in the middle of a big black rain cloud of guilt.  All that was missing under my storm cloud was Old Stu!  The rest of the evening only went downhill from there!

     The next day, the guilt cloud followed me all day long until after work, on my way home, I went back to my flower shop.  That time, I didn’t stop with just one single carnation.  No siree!  Instead, I bought two carnations to replace the one I had sacrifically given away the night before.  Walking back to the car, I was relieved that Old Stu was not sitting on the wall where he had been seated the night before.  Good!  I wouldn’t feel compelled to give him half of my wife’s flowers!

     On my own initative, when I got home, I walked in the door, kissed my wife, asked her how her day went, told her I loved her and handed her two neatly wrapped white carnations! Her eyes clouded over and I was where I should have been the night before if it had not been for some random act of kindness to one named Old Stu. 

     Looking back on it all now, I have come to the CONCLUSION that the whole experience could have left me feeling really bummed!      

FALL IN OREGON

 

I went walking a few days ago around Aloha, Oregon, which is almost a part of Portland, Oregon.  My goal was to capture some of the fall colors and whatever else I came across.  Here is what I found. 

I believe this is a Sumac tree.  

 I was not the only one who was out and about trying to capture something on a foggy fall day in November.

What looks like maggots or grubs are actually what had fallen off of a tree.

Only a few more days and all the leaves will fall off.

Apples take on such a nice color and flavor as the nights get cooler and cooler.  People are not the only ones to love apples.  Worms do too.

I pass under this bridge every work day and the seasons, the time of day and the amount of sunlight gives it a different look at different times.

It was going to be a day of fogginess and less fogginess then more fogginess…..  Sure made the dead weeds look neat against their backdrop.

The needles were dying and changing their colors.

I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot of where I work as a city bus driver.

I began to snap more shots just about a mile from work.

 The reds were quite vibrant.

This is just a few miles away from my bus garage and is part of my route in Lake Oswego, Oregon. 

A mushroom managed to catch some rain and hold it for quite a while.

This mushroom is quite common in certain locations.  Where there is one, there will be many more.

These mushrooms had surfaced not much earlier before the day I saw them.

A worms eye view of mushrooms.

 I always hope the fall colors never stop but I know they won’t last.

After a branch was trimmed off, the heart left behind “bleeds” tree sap.

These Canadian Geese were not to fond of close-ups.  I had to be careful where I walked because as the geese eat grass, it quickly passes through them and they leave many droppings.

Looking more like a spoked wheel, this mushroom cap had been knocked off by something other than me.

This group of mushrooms made me think of sliced bananas that were starting to turn brown.

More colors.

I was actually trying to capture the moisture on the spider’s web not even realizing at the time that the spider was also in the picture.

Fall is a beautiful time of year.

The different colored leaves in the background and the early morning silence of the cemetery and the fog was more fascinating than eerie to me.

 A walk down a tree-lined road gave me a real sense of peace.

One of several feathers I saw around the pond at the cemetery. 

 I love the trees on the other side of the pond.  Too bad they were on private property.

 This tree was interesting enough on its own but to me, it looks like another kind of tree is trying to crowd into the center of the picture.

The early morning humidity stuck to the spider webs in its crown.

 A cemetery next to a pond is a serene setting.

These two leaves were suspended by a spiderweb and gently twirled in the breeze.  If you magnify and look closely, you can see the web.

If I was right about Sumac, here is more Sumac.

From the top looking down on a four-foot high “tree”.

These leaves reminded me of fillets of Salmon drying in the sun.

I thought these were nuts but when I squished one, it was gooey and sticky and filled with seeds.

I believe this is a Lace Leaf Maple.

They look like velvet and feel like velvet too.

This apple was very appealing to the birds.

This jogger ran right out of their shoe and judging by the moss growing on it, it was quite a while back.

It was great finding a rose so late in the year.  I thought it was about to open but upon closer inspection, I discovered that something had bored a hole in the side of the bloom.

An old, abandoned manufactured home park was at one time wired for sound or phones or something.

Though most of this plant was dying or dead, a few spears still held beautiful flowers.

 Another ‘soft as velvet’ plant.

This may not be the Yellow Brick Road but I found it interesting that the moss filled in the cracks of the driveway making it look like a cobble stone street. 

This was no ‘turkey in the straw’ but a turkey in the bushes.  I was glad to find it again because I had discovered it about two years previously and had re-hid it.

The day is getting ready to come to an end.

And a glorious end it was!

Aside

    Warning! 

     Before you view the pictures at the end, know that what you see may be a bit disturbing to animal lovers.  Also, know what you see could not have been avoided.  I am serious. 

     (Welcome back to those who just had to see the pictures.  I wasn’t kidding that the pictures may be disturbing.)

     As you can see, I hit a deer with the car.  Didn’t see it in time to stop and I did try to stop but in the same split second I saw the deer, I hit it.  It happened that fast.

     There were several factors that contributed to the accident.                 

  • First, it was dark. 
  • Second, it was misting/raining. 
  • Third, I was traveling about the 55 MPH speed limit. 
  • Fourth, the area it chose to cross at has low hills and forested areas where it came from with a river at where it was going. 
  • Fifth, apparently it didn’t see me coming.  

      After I had pulled over to the side of the road, I backed up to where the deer was.  There was a lot of traffic on the four lane Highway 30 between Scappoose, Oregon and Portland, Oregon.  By the time I was able to drag it off to the side of the road by its hind leg, three other vehicles ran over it.  For the deer’s sake, at that point, it didn’t matter because it had been killed instantly by my car.  I must admit that I was glad that other drivers changed into the inside lane even though I had parked on a wide shoulder of the road with my hazard lights flashing.  Unfortunately, the deer lay in the inside lane where most everyone had pulled into to give room to the ‘disabled car’ along the side of the road.  Several cars stopped, some of which were perhaps the ones who had run over the deer.  One woman did stop in front of where I was parked and walked back to inspect what was in the road.  She said, “Is that what I hit?  I’m glad it wasn’t a person”.  Then she got in her pickup and drove off.

     I too am extremely glad I had not hit a person.  Hitting an animal is bad enough.  I am grateful for those who care when an animal is hurt or killed.  I was grateful for the one or two that recognized it was my car that had hit the deer and asked if I was alright or if there was anything they could do.

     Through it all, I saw the hand of God in all of it.  Know first of all that I am not advocating that Almighty God, the Creator of the universe and all things in it, deer included, is for the accidental deaths of animals.  He allows it to happen.  It’s part of the price paid because of fast highways and the mixing of animals and man. 

My personal application is this:

     Over the last few weeks, I had been preaching a series entitled Adversities And Trials.  I was talking about “momentary light afflictions” we all go through.  I was going to use the  suffering I was going through with a head cold and nagging tickle/cough as a personal illustration of an affliction I was going through.  Then I got an e-mail form a friend who had an acquaintance who had been in a coma for 21 days from a severe head injury.  Suddenly, my afflictions and trials seemed so small and trivial compared to hers.  I have kept the congregation updated on the young mans condition over the last three weeks, (last word, he has had surgeries, out of his coma and is “killing brownies”, his favorite food). 

     His situation and my incident with the deer has caused me to draw a few CONCLUSIONS.

    

   

 This 1976 Nova had been in “mothballs” for a few weeks as it needed some electrical work done and we didn’t seem to have the money to do it till the first of this week.  I had been shorted a few days work, due to a vacation/day off mix up some months earlier so one of my pay checks was bigger than usual.  We were able to get it in and out of the shop but the very day it was being worked on, our other car, a 1992 Ford Taurus tried my patience.  About 4:30 AM, on my way to work, all of a sudden, I heard a loud rumbling coming from the left, front tire area.  I had just applied the brakes and the noise I heard sounded like a semi truck down shifting.  I just knew I had thrown a brake shoe but I still had to get to work.  I was just getting ready to turn off of Highway 30, on to a curvy, narrow, hilly two lane road named Cornelius Pass.  The pass, though about six miles long is known for many accidents, some being fatalities.  I prayed a multi-legged prayer.  Safety in general.  More specifically, that the ‘thing’ making all the noise would not cause the brakes to lock up and throw me and the car into the canyon that the pass road followed.  My prayers were answered and I finished the last 15 miles of my 29 mile trip to work.  It had been dark going to work and it was dark going home the same 29 miles, the front wheel constantly making a metal to metal scraping sound as I drove.  I did note that the noise was less when I turned left but unfortunately, my route home was not all lefts.  All that would have done for me was to get me dizzy by making left turn square circles! 

     Again, the trip home had its potential hazards.  First, the pass was five miles down those same curvy roads I had driven to work.  If the brakes locked up, I wouldn’t be thrown into the canyon on my right but into the path of traffic in the uphill lane.  Because of no shoulder, they had nowhere to pull off to, even if they had seen a potential accident about to happen.  Again, my prayers were answered and I made it safely to the shop that was going to work on it.  (Turns out, the calipers were loose and for $92, that and a few other minor things were done.  The repairs were less than the extra money I had received so I felt good about that.)

     That is what led me to drive the Nova the next day.  (The work on the signal switch in the steering column had taken most of the ‘extra’ money but fortunately, it was on payday so we had it.) 

     The blessings I count in all of this are these:

  1. As I already mentioned, the repair work came when we had the money.
  2. We had two cars to drive; when one was in the shop, I drove the other.
  3. I was the one driving at the time of the accident, not my wife or daughter.  I freaked enough for them though I never screamed like a girl………I don’t think!
  4. It was the, almost all metal, 1976 Nova and not the almost all plastic 1992 Taurus.
  5. The deer was walking and not in mid-bound as they do when running.  Otherwise, perhaps it could have come through the windshield.
  6. No one else was involved; no other accidents because of mine.
  7. There was only one deer (as far as I knew) instead of as many as six I had seen in a different location just the night before.
  8. That it wasn’t an Elk as I have (slowly) driven through a herd of Elk, in the dark, on Cornelius Pass.
  9. The damage to the car wasn’t any worse than it was.  The car burns oil anyhow and when I stopped, I was sure the impact had driven the grill and radiator into the fan. 
  10. The Lord still hears and answers prayer as He always has and always will!

     On the last one, you may question, why did God allow this to happen?  I don’t know.  I just know that I always start a trip, even if it is just the one mile to Church, with a prayer for safety.  I had prayed for safety.  I had safety.  I walked away, literally drove away without a scratch.  I could have been in as bad of shape as the deer but I wasn’t.  I find it ironic that just about two weeks before my accident, I was following a girl down the curvy Pass when suddenly, she slammed on her brakes.  Suddenly, I saw a deer leap from in front of her, over a metal gate of a logging road and disappear.  The girls car had slid into the opposing lane of traffic because, judging by the tire marks, only her left brake(s) was/were working.  She rolled down her window and made some kind of gesture.  I think it was good but I wasn’t certain.  At the bottom of the Pass, I managed to flag her down as she pulled on to Highway 30.  That’s when I found out she was a young girl, 18-25.  I asked her if she was alright, (she was) and had she hit the deer, she had not.  Missed it by inches).

     Also, the week between her near deer incident, I had a deer cross the road, relatively close enough that if I had been about three seconds earlier, we would have made contact.  I specifically told the Lord how much I enjoyed the nature He had created but “please don’t let me hit on of them”.  That day and for the next week and a half, I didn’t.  AM I blaming Him for me hitting the one I did?  Certainly not.  Does that mean God doesn’t answer prayer.  No He always answers.  The deer or I or both of us were at the wrong/right place at the wrong/right time.  It happened.  Just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean I am exempt from trials and adversities.  Mine pale in comparison to what others have and are going through.  I have no room to whine and moan and ask why things are always happening to me.  Things, worse, sometimes, are happening to those around us and we never even know about it.

     So, how has your week been?  Start counting the blessings you do have instead of focusing on your own adversities and trials.  These too will pass!   

     II Corinthians 4:17  “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USED TOO

 

     Generally, I put on my pants just like anyone else.  First one leg-Okay, take them off.  Had started putting them on backwards.  Usually, I’m not always wide awake when I first wake up so you can understand how a guy like me could make a  simple mistake like that!  One leg on at a time, zipper in the front.  All is well.  But then, one morning, there was one thing in particular that really irritated me.  It really rubbed me the wrong way.  What caught me a little off-center was the seam running up and down the back of my work pants.  Let me explain.

     A few days earlier, I decided that it would be cheaper for me to buy my work uniforms rather than rent them.  That way, when I laundered my clothes, I had the ability to spread the dirt, grease, odors and all sorts of germs from my work place to the clothes of the rest of my family!  Yep, I could save money by owning my own dark prison blue pants and light blue, pinstriped shirts.  In other words, clothing that could also be known as ‘Picasso grease rags’.  The whole idea was that if I repaired my own buttons, furnished my own laundry soap, repaired my own rips and replaced the clothing when it became thread-bare, it would be cheaper than paying someone else to do it all for me.  Yes siree, I was going to save myself a bundle by purchasing my work clothes!

     I would be buying five sets of clothes, a set for each work day though I had never  considered what I would do if I ever had to work on a Saturday!  So, since I was on a thrifty, tightwad money-saving spree, I was not going to buy new uniforms, I was going to buy used ones.  I was offered that option.  Compared to buying new blue jeans, it would be cheaper to buy the uniforms. 

     As soon as the guy who delivered the uniforms to my other co-workers, I would talk to him about my purchase.   When he came around, I approached him and he asked me what I had in mind.   I didn’t want to sound too cheap but finally, I weasled my way around to the question of how much my uniforms would cost.  He started at $15 and I silently panicked. 

     “$15 for a pair of pants and a shirt”? I asked.

     “That’s right”, he said.  “$15 for the shirt and another $15 for the pants”.

     Let’s see; $15 times two times five would run me$150!  $150! Was he crazy?  I quickly asked him if he had anything else, something I wouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage on the White House for!

     He looked me up and down til I felt a little uneasy.  Then he confided that he could get me some Grade D uniforms.  Finally, we were talking!  Well, he was talking, I was listening.  Granted, the other guys at my work place were being rented Grade B uniforms, as I had been so how much difference could there be between Grade D and Grade B?  Of course, it still depended on how much it was going to cost me to buy my clothing before I signed on any dotted line.

     $1.50 was the price I was quoted so I asked if that was $1.50 for both the shirt and the pants to which he gave me a crusty look as well as a crusty reply. 

     “$1.50 for the shirt.  $1.50 for the pants.  $1.50 apiece!” 

     He seemed to turn up the volume when he said “apiece”.  Maybe it was just the acoustics in my head but I don’t think so! 

     I was still doing the math in my head when he said, “$15”!

     Again, the pitch level of his voice was a little bit more than I thought it should have been.  He turned and headed for his van.  As he drove off, I guess I never realized that one of those big delivery vans could turn a corner so fast and still keep it on two wheels!  

     I could hardly wait for the week to pass, the end of which would bring my new “threads” to me!  

     Sure enough, bright and early the next Friday morning, the uniform man showed up with a bundle of freshly laundered, crisp looking uniforms for the rest of the guys.  Poor suckers!  Renting when they could buy!  What losers!

     After hanging up the uniforms, the man stopped long enough to explain to me that he did not have my uniforms that day. As a matter of fact, he was hand-picking my uniforms, personally, for a guy like me.  As it turned out, I would wait another two weeks before my clothes finally showed up.  After giving me my new possessions, he again seemed to leave on two wheels, this time appearing to be laughing up his sleeve, so to speak.  (A little bit hard to do since he was wearing short sleeves.)

     Five o’clock the next Monday morning rolled around way too soon as all Monday mornings do but I was excited that the day would see me in my newly acquired clothes.  It was going to be a day I would remember, one that would stand out more than others.

     I slipped on my uniform shirt and sniffed deeply the odor of cheap laundry soap.  As I reached the top button to finish buttoning up, I noticed that there was an extra button-hole. Upon further inspection, I discovered that one of the middle buttons were missing which had caused me to mismatch about half of the buttons.  All I could do to deal with the situation was to deal with the situation like a reasoning adult should do.  I could just set that shirt aside to be repaired later, get another shirt and continue.  Or, I could….just let it go.  If I didn’t allow my shirt to ‘pooch’, the missing button was hardly noticeable.

     I went for the pants next because, well, they were the next thing I needed to put on.  Pulling them on, I immediately began to wonder if I had put them on backwards because of the uncomfortable feeling I was getting.  My left hind side was feeling a little bit restricted, more so than my right side.  Not a proper feeling.  I tried twisting the pants to the right while keeping the back seam right where it should be, directly in the center.  My left side still felt way too tight, like my pants were holding that side of my posterior in a death grip, trying to suffocate it.  Try as I might, no amount of adjusting and adjustment would remedy the out-of-balance situation.  Slowly, carefully, cautiously and awkwardly, I backed up towards the mirror on the medicine cabinet mounted in the wall above the hand sink.  That feat in itself was hard but somehow, I got the view I was looking for.  Sure enough, my back side appeared to be out of kilter. 

     By the time I had made the assessment, it was getting late enough that I needed to be heading out of the door, off to work.   On the drive there, for some reason, I kept trying to rearrange and shift and make things right but all to no avail.  The seam that had gone astray would not be tamed.  No amount of digging could fix the crooked ‘terrorizer’.  The longer the day wore on, the worse the chaffing got but I felt that no matter how bad the situation was, I could put up with it for 1/5 of my work week.  At least the other four newly purchased pants would make up for the one bad sheep of the pant flock. 

     Sadly, I could not have been more wrong.  Yes, every pair of pants were in next to new condition with few stains, rips and working zippers.  Of course!  Whoever had previously rented them had probably worn them just once before they were exchanged for pants that were fit for humans, not aliens, to wear! 

     On top of the lop-sided fitting pants, there were also the zippers that wouldn’t stay zipped, pockets without bottoms or pockets sewn shut at the top.  I could deal with my change sliding down my leg and sometimes dropping in my shoes.  I could handle not being able to put both of my hands into their respective pockets and I got in the habit of checking often for fallen zippers.  But what I could not get past was the idea that if I continued wearing such ill-fitting pants, I could be deformed on the back side for the rest of my life. 

     What did I do?  What could I do?  I endured till I wore those uniforms completely out and wouldn’t you know it?  Those were the ones that lasted me the longest in my working career. 

     Anyhow, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

     Regarding my uniforms, did I mention they were USED TOO?

YOU ARE SUCH A GARFIELD, MAX!

Of mice and men and Max.  Forget the mice and men. 

 Max thinks it’s all about Max!

 

     Max is our cat.  Originally, she was free but we have paid dearly for her ever since she first owned us.

 

      To begin with, her name is Max because, when we first got her, we thought she was a guy cat, a male.  She soon proved she wasn’t but by the time we figured out her sex, the name “Max” had stuck.  Personally, I think “Maxine” would have been just as sticky but not so with my kids so she has been “Max” ever since. 

      Max first made her appearance on our front porch as a small black ball of fluffy kitten.  Sure, she was cute but we (my wife and I) had agreed we were not going to have pets, neither cat or dog.  Of course that rule had already been broken because we already had four goldfish and a turtle.  We would not have had goldfish except for the fact that we  had bought some goldfish for the  turtle (Hank) to eat.  Hank was still rather small and for some reason, would not eat more than one or two.  Both Hank and the gold-fish continued to grow, each in separate containers of course.  So……like I said, we already had no pets!

     I was to find out later from my pre-teen son that Max, the cute, little kitty had looked so hungry that he fed it a can of tuna while I was at work.  When I came home, the kitty was still hanging around and only after much inquiry, I found out the rest of the story. My son was not the only one to feed her a can of tuna.  My wife had also fed the kitty a can of tuna as well.  No wonder the little fur ball stuck around!  When I was asked by the rest of my family if we could keep the kitten, I stuck to my guns and said, “No”.  Evidently, my guns were shooting blanks because it wasn’t very long before Max took up permanent residence on the porch!  I don’t know how many cans of tuna we went through but enough that Max saw no need to look for food anywhere else.  I’m sure she was hooked that first day she received the double dose of canned fish she had been given.

     For an outdoor, front porch cat, Max sure spent a lot of time inside but at nights, she definitely stayed outside. I am humbled to say that rule lasted less than a week .  She moved in and went from canned tuna to bags of cat food. 

     If feeding her had been the end of the expenses we incurred on Max’s account, I might have been content to write her off as just another member of the family.  As expected, the expenses didn’t stop there.  That’s where they began. 

     Not so far into her life, Max’s hormones decided to wake up.  During all hours and especially in the middle of the night, Max sent up pathetic calls hoping to attract any stray tom-cat within 500 miles of our neighborhood!  What she attracted was my wrath.  I hated the noise that emitted from the depths of her throat.  Not the cute story book, “Meow! but instead, a “Maw!  Maw!  Mawwwwwww!  MAAAAAWWWW!!!!!!!  Over and over and over again!  She would lower her front end, much like a car with hydraulics, raise her back-end, twitch her tail and bawl.    MAAAAWWWWWWW!!!!!!!   Nothing was going to satisfy her except a male which she was so desperately seeking and which we were continually shooing away from our front door.  Suddenly, tom cats came from everywhere.  Cats we had never seen before.  Cats, which would never have come near a house that had six kids of our own and loads of neighborhood kids daily.   Each one made it’s personal appearance, hoping to satisfy Max’s longings. 

     I felt compelled to help Max’s situation and mine out at the same time.  Within days, I fixed everything by having Max fixed which might I be quick to point out, cost me a bundle.  How can a few small cuts, some stitches and so forth cost so much money?  Once Max recovered, the noise quit and so did the visits from the Toms.

     And a litter box and litter, cat toys and cat nip to fill those toys.  All for a free cat!  Another expense came when distemper shots were deemed necessary.  Even after the shots, she still had a temper!

     And then there were the flea treatments.  At first, we allowed her to remain an indoor/outdoor cat.  Whenever she needed to relieve herself, we would let her out and she would use the neighbor’s flowerbed.  For some reason, that neighbor, the one she visited, the only one with a flower bed, hated us!  Whenever Max went out , for whatever reason or excuse she had, she usually came back in with visitors.  I hate fleas!  Max seemed indifferent to them, except for the constant scratching and itching.  To make matters worse, her “guests” would leave her fur to take up residency anywhere on her humans!  I grew to hate fleas even more than I had before.  Nothing says creepy more than finding fleas on one’s body!  This flea scenario happened a few times till we decided to keep Max as an indoor only cat.  Even that didn’t fully solve the flea problem though.  Our kids visited other kids who had cats.  Their cats were outdoor cats and therefore were hosts to fleas.  Some of those fleas ended up on my kids which in turn brought them home to Max and the rest of us.  Time for another flea treatment.

     But lest I digress from my original theme, (you know I already did), I must say, “You are such a Garfield, Max”!  By that I mean that we have a cat much like Garfield who doesn’t act like a cat when it comes to mice.  Garfield will not raise a paw against a mouse.  Neither will Max!  We had a mouse and I’m sure Max was well aware of it.  Did she do anything about it?  Not a thing!  I ended up buying a mouse trap to do her dirty work!

     Has Max always been so anti-cat?  No.  When she was younger, she brought in dead birds and lovingly stashed them under beds and livingroom furniture.  She always sat in the window and twitched her tail like crazy at birds and squirrels across the street.  She wanted them so badly that it almost killed her when she couldn’t go out.  Not so now days.  It’s like she retired from normal household duties and cat-like responsibilities.  She gave up her animal nature in exchange for a bowl of bagged food and another bowl of water. 

     Sometimes, when Max eats, Max pukes!  She doesn’t need the excuse of hacking up a hairball, she just does it because she can.  She will sit in the most unladylike fashion and lick herself in more places than you care to know!  When she licks, she accumulates hair and when too much hair is accumulated to pass through to the kitty box, she regurgitates it up, usually along with some freshly swallowed cat food.  Sadly, both of my girls which are still at home and my wife can not handle handling cat puke.  Their warnings are, “If we clean it up, you end up cleaning up Max’s puke and ours too”!  So yours truly gets the honor of being head puke remover.  What they fail to remember is that I gag and retch and almost vomit myself, yet somehow, I get the nasty job done anyhow. 

      And then there is the matter of the litter box.  The food Max eats and the food she digests and the food she doesn’t puke up, end up in the litter box.  Fortunately, I am not in charge of feeding her or cleaning up her litter box.  The girls are.  What bothers me about Max using the liter box is how she uses it.  She makes it to the box and everything she leaves is in the box.  Most cats dig a hole, do their thing and then cover it up.  Not Max.  She just squats, does her thing then, instead of actually covering up the movement, she paws at the air that reeks heavily of cat feces.  She paws at the wall where the smell seems to be the strongest and when the smell dissipates a little, she is  content to leave the box and her mess behind for someone else to cover up. 

     Max is now over ten years old in human years and has put on a little weight.  I too have put on a little weight over the last ten years although mine has not been due to eating bagged cat food!  Anyhow, Max has gone from lazy to lazier still.  She doesn’t romp through the house like she used to.  Usually, she likes her space and only seeks me out when I am the busiest.  She will come up to me, nudge and rub against my leg.  When I bend over to pet her, she walks a few feet away and waits.  I move up to pet het, maybe pet her once and she slinks away another few feet to where she stops again.  I stoop, I touch, she moves.  When we finally make it to the couch, she jumps up on it and waits on the back of it.  I reach to pet her and she lets me, leaning into my back rubs, ear tickling and chin scratching.  She seems to be enjoying this until out of nowhere, Max growls and takes a swipe at my hand.  The time she has made contact, I have come away with minor skin loss and major irritation.

     “Stupid cat”! I say.  She just looks at me like I had offended her last nerve.  She may have gotten her feelings hurt but I got my hand hurt.  Who got hurt worse?  I play a cat and mouse game with her and she gets mad when I play by her rules.

     My biggest fear is that if this is the first of nine lives, what do I have to look forward to in the next of her eight lives?