Archive | July 2016

Yanked out by the roots

Another growing season is upon us bringing heat and humidity in abundance. My plants won’t complain as long as I give them plenty of water. I don’t have a green thumb, but I am gratified to see flowers and vegetables adjusting well to the pots in which I planted them, and then moved them where they could drink in the sunshine along the patio’s edge. With a balance of blooms and vegetables, we get to enjoy both beauty and flavor all summer long. The first veggies to parade a pop of color were sweet cherry tomatoes. Yum. They are so good. The blooms? Not so much. Here’s their story.

Hubby and I were scratching our heads. We’d been outsmarted by a critter of some kind. It was determined to turn my patio creation into pots of dead plants. Not many mornings after I finished planting flats of pink and lavender buds, I discovered that something or someone decided to un-pot the tiny impatiens I had so tenderly planted, for there was dirt and plants scattered on the ground! That’s strange, I thought. What animal would do that? Could my outdoor kitty, Rudy, have done it? He didn’t look guilty, but do cats ever look guilty? I picked up the traumatized plants, scraped up the dirt, and repotted the wilted little things. I had no way to anchor them against an unseen foe, except to helplessly add more dirt, pack it down, and hope it wouldn’t happen again.

You guessed it. It did. Whatever was picking on my plants returned in the dead of night and did it again! This time the varmint also trashed my blueberry bush, tossing it out on the lawn. Now I was really ticked. That blueberry had set me back some serious greenbacks. What is going on? If the varmint wanted to play rough, then I’d play rough, too, so off I went to the garden store to buy a roll of chicken wire. I wrapped the rims of the pots, the ones the culprit seemed to favor, with 6-8″ width of wire. If it returned it would have to get creative to dig in my pots again. All became quiet on the patio. Guess the wire worked.

Meanwhile . . . hubby busied himself setting up a chipmunk trap. He thought the wild thing was likely a squirrel or chipmunk. He put a nice little snack of peanut butter and crackers inside the trap, and carefully set it near the patio. The next morning the snack was gone . . . but so was the trap! The guilty creature had hauled the empty trap some 20 ft. away from the patio! What?? Whatever performed this feat had more muscle than a tiny chipmunk.

If you want to catch a bigger “rat” set a bigger trap, right? This time it was personal for hubby, and off to the garden store he went. He returned home with a bigger trap, all right. It was big enough to catch a whole generation of chipmunks. He set the trap with the usual snack, and went to bed dreaming of the big game he’d catch, which would surely to give him bragging rights at the water cooler the next day.

Well. Well. Well. Guess what was looking out at us from inside the trap the next morning? A raccoon! A very unhappy raccoon at that! We took his mug shot so we would not forget his “smile,” then hubby carefully lifted the trap into the truck bed, and hauled him far enough away so he couldn’t easily find his way back. We could only hope he did not leave a family behind to carry on the tradition . . .

file2171253774028 - Raccoon Family

Parent teaching the youngins’ how to forage the neighborhood

Not too many days later, you guessed it. Once again, a critter picked on my impatiens. Somehow it reached over the wire, and unearthed the plants again. (Hmm. Mr. Raccoon must not be a bachelor.) This time hubby got ambitious, and set both traps, loading them with yummy treats. The next morning they were both occupied! There was a large raccoon in the big trap and a baby raccoon in the little trap. Baby was squalling its head off, letting us know its displeasure. They had occupied themselves by pulling up the grass under the traps in their attempt to “eat and run.” Once again hubby made a trip out of town, but this time he went in the opposite direction. No doubt we split up a family. We still have no idea why they took a liking to my plants when, clearly, there was nothing there for them to eat. If some of my readers have had similar experiences (and solutions) they wish to share, I’m all ears.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to relate this story to grief. Or maybe not. After all, I love nature’s beauty; it often soothes my aching heart, changing my focus. (I’m even trying to see the humor in our raccoon fiasco.) You and I face struggles every day in our grief journeys. Like my flowers taking abuse from a mischievous raccoon, I, too, feel yanked out of my place from time to time. When I feel raw and traumatized, it helps me to return to the source of my strength; my Anchor, my Hope.

We both know what it feels like to be blindsided by the sudden, tragic loss of a child to suicide or other unexpected causes. It’s hard to regain one’s footing after loss. Every day we are reminded, in countless ways, that we are outliving one so precious. In my experience it has taken years to come to grips with the loss of my firstborn and to begin healing. Just when I think I have finally settled into my new normal, another “culprit” comes along and “yanks me out by the roots,” making me feel unsettled all over again ~ such as the recent diagnosis of breast cancer. (More about that in a later blog.)

Do you ever feel yanked out by the roots? Misplaced? Hurt by the words or actions of others? Do you wonder if your new normal will be better, worse, or resemble your old normal? Do you find it hard to see beauty, or humor in the quirky happenings of life? Is it easier to be serious than lighthearted? I know. This grief journey is full of highs, lows, bumps, curves, and the unexpected. It can be the pits, but we are survivors, you and I, right? We take baby steps forward, taking one breath at a time, and lean on the one who keeps us anchored.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. We who run for our very lives to God, have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God.” Hebrews 6:19 NIV; 6:18-20a MSG

Scripture from the New International Version (NIV); The Message (MSG) paraphrased

 

 

 

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From lost to found

I have gone astray like a sheep. Psalm 119:176

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I can relate to the text above. Being lost is a physical condition in which I find myself on occasion. Each incident is temporary, but, while in the throes of it, it can seem overwhelming. I also know what it feels like to be emotionally lost. Many of you know exactly what I mean. Being blindsided by tragedy flattens one for an unknown period of time. And even when you can pick yourself up and move forward, it’s easy to fall back into feeling emotionally lost all over again. Don’t lose heart. It’s all about the healing process, slow and sure.

Recalling times when I have felt lost and discouraged, my mind happened upon a cute memory back when I was mommy to two little ones. Memories, such as this one, have helped lighten my emotional load. Bear in mind that I have been on my journey longer than many of you. You may not be able to remember good memories yet; meanwhile, maybe you can enjoy the memory I am about to share.

To set the stage I was fortunate to be able to stay home with my boys while they were preschoolers. Back then there was less pressure to start them early. If I had been working, my paycheck would have gone toward the expense of daycare. Instead we decided that until our children were ready for kindergarten, I would stay home with them. Not everyone could make the same decision, but it was one I have never regretted. Because my boys and I were always together, it sometimes meant we had to run errands, which of course, little boys are never excited to do. This story took place while the boys were quite young, and yes, it was shopping day.

They were two little cherubs most of the time, but shopping was NOT something they enjoyed on their BEST day. Wherever I went, they went. This particular day we were heading to a shopping center outside our familiar part of town.

I have to admit they were being good little guys, entertaining themselves with their toys and books in the back seat, even with their chatter increasing in volume once in a while. Meanwhile, I was making wrong turn after wrong turn ~ there was no GPS back then. The kiddie chatter was distracting me at a critical juncture, so I said, “Boys, Mommy has made a mistake and she needs to have you be quiet for a few minutes until she gets turned around.” Obediently they hushed to a whisper.

Quiet as mice, the boys played with their toys. After just a few minutes, we were headed in the right direction. It was so peaceful in the car that I was reluctant to give it up. Having the opportunity to soak up silence was a rare treat in those early years. We were just humming along when a timid little voice piped up from the back seat, “Mommy, are you through making mistakes now?” A heart-melting question. Rare, sweet footage in my memory garden. Am I finished making mistakes? Hardly.

We fall in love with our first child when excitedly we discover we have a baby bump. Once placed in our arms, we cannot imagine life without this baby. There is never a thought of death. Why should there be? We assume our children will continue to live long, fulfilling lives way after we are gone. We expect the natural order of things, do we not?

We get rudely awakened to the unnatural order of things when we are blindsided by tragedy. We are shocked senseless and flounder in disbelief. Numbness sets in. We feel disconnected between heart and mind. Nothing makes sense from the words tossed about in our hearing. This can’t be real. We feel lost and want to go into hiding. Blame rears its ugly head. Self-doubt and guilt become daily snacks we gulp down without resistance. Instead of nighttime bringing relief, we roll and toss, wondering what we could have done differently. Could other decisions or actions have saved our beloved children? Like a pet hamster, running round and round and getting nowhere on his exercise wheel, our minds can play and replay the facts surrounding the death of our children. It’s as if blame and guilt have been programmed to play in our minds continuously night and day. Will it ever stop?

Is it possible to take a break from the negative feed flowing through one’s mind? Maybe not at first, but after some time has passed, it is possible. I have been able to take a break. In fact, my mind is free from the steady diet of negative thoughts. Please send me a comment if you are ready to take such a break. I will gladly guide you.

For me, connecting with God has helped immensely. When the tempter urges me to return to a place of overwhelming sadness, heaven sends relief in the form of Scripture such as this one:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

Is there possibly a spiritual connection to being lost? Could I lose my way spiritually and not know it? Do I deliberately push God away, especially if I blame Him for the loss of my child? Just as I finally got turned around and headed in the right direction in this story, we can come to realize that we need someone greater than ourselves to help navigate through the waters of grief. The line from a popular hymn comes to mind: “I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” Perhaps this line refers to being lost and found, not only physically, but also spiritually.

PS – Blogging has helped me focus on what’s most important for me, and since I’ve begun to write, I feel a little less lost. I write to help others feel a little less lost, too. My purpose is to help encourage and inspire readers who are also on a grief journey wherever it shall lead them.

Hymn, “Amazing Grace” by John Newton, published 1779.

 Scripture shared from the Amplified Bible (AMP) and The Message (MSG)

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 15, 2016. 4 Comments

Squatter’s rights

Intruder

So ugly he’s cute?

I don’t know about you, but I find relief from grief in the form of an occasional belly laugh. Absolutely not in the beginning, but after some time had passed, I welcomed a diversion from the heaviness of grief. Occasionally I have shared with you stories which provided a bit of humor for me, in hopes that, if you are in such a need, they will provide the opportunity for you to laugh as well. Laughter helps break up the cycle of grief, even if only for a moment . . . before sadness takes over again.

Do you remember reading about my lil’ orphan kitten, Rudy? I thought his story was finished, but, as it turns out, there is an epilogue. If you haven’t read the story of Rudy, you may want to read it first. You will find it in the archives, entitled “Soakin’ Up the Love”, posted April, 2016.

Some of you may remember that I fashioned a cozy house inside an old trash can to help Rudy survive his first winter. Laying the can on its side, I filled it with a variety of fuzzy pillows around the sides to help insulate against winter’s chill. I even included a furry pet bed, refused by my indoor cats, pushing it to the back of the can. It was the least that I could do to help Rudy stay warm and toasty all winter. Luckily he took right to it.

In the mornings I would open the door to the patio and call, “Here, Rudy. Come and eat breakfast!” There would be a rustling in his “den”, followed by a tiny “meow”, then his little black head would poke out. All was well until the temperature outside plummeted to single digits and stayed there. I would let Rudy into the garage so he could curl up close to me for a few moments to get warm. As much as Rudy needed me for warmth, I needed him for comfort. We grievers who have pets know how much they comfort us when we are sad.

Bundled up in the garage in the freezing cold I knew that Rudy was not keeping warm outside, with sharp winds buffeting his den. Plan B began to take shape in my head. Would Rudy stay in the garage? He might still be cold, but he would be out of the wind. Using a blanket and pillow I fashioned a soft spot in a chair where Rudy could curl up. I took into consideration his other needs and made a proper litter box, which he quickly adapted to. Indoor “plumbing” has to be more inviting than cold snow, right? Rudy might still be cold, but at least he would be out of the wind and blowing snow.

About now you are thinking . . . it sounds like outdoor Rudy had taken a giant step toward becoming indoor Rudy . . . making him my 4th furry child, but I haven’t weakened that much . . . yet. lol

When the temperature finally inched upward to a balmy 30 degrees, I attempted to switch Rudy back to his outdoor house. He balked. When he wouldn’t go inside his den on his own, I tried to push him inside. He planted his back feet down firmly and wouldn’t budge. The harder I tried to “help,” the more he resisted. Apparently he preferred being on the chair in the cold rather than in the trash can in the cold. Poor little thing.

Going out the patio door one day, I was surprised to see one of the pillows sticking out of Rudy’s den. Funny, I thought to myself. Rudy isn’t sleeping in there  . . . and hubby isn’t in the “dog house” at the moment, so who or what could be disturbing the pillows? It was time to investigate. It would be dark in the trash can, so I pulled the pillow out, and tossed it aside. There was just enough light as I bent down and peered in.

The trash can was . . . occupied! What? Who had the audacity to set up squatter’s rights in Rudy’s house? It looked like the fur of a light-colored cat, and I supposed it was one of garden-variety critters that regularly jaywalked our property. Then my presence disturbed the occupant . . . and it looked up. I immediately recognized its snout. That was NOT a cat face. You already know from the picture above . . . it was a possum! Yuck! They are such ugly creatures.

Now it was perfectly clear why Rudy did not want to sleep in there! Bug-eyed, I backed away from the den and immediately hurried to find my hubby. Grabbing a broom, my hero poked and prodded at the intruder until, hissing and growling, it begrudgingly vacated the trash can . . . and with further “assistance,” vacated our yard. Hopefully he won’t return, but there are no guarantees. He definitely won’t stop trying if I leave the trash can on its side, inviting him to return where he had been snug and warm.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The possum in this illustration is not a “roaring lion,” but he did barge in uninvited and planned to stay. This is what the enemy does in our lives if given the opportunity, doesn’t he? Satan is sneaky, conniving, and dishonest. He may seem harmless, but don’t be fooled. He preys on the weak and the grieving, to cause further death and pain wherever possible. If not ousted, he considers himself an invited guest . . . and nothing could be further from the truth!

Verse shared from the New International Version (NIV)