Category Archives: Memories

Cherished messes..

I am sitting here this morning.. drinking my coffee out of my favorite cup.. and looking fondly at the messes I need to clean up this morning.

I know.. I know..

I sound crazy..

No one likes messes..

This weekend I had a few of my favorite kids over to my house.. (ok.. more than a few).. and we had some chaotic organized fun..

Organized.. because there was a plan (in there somewhere)…

Chaotic.. because… well? .. because it's life … and well? …they are kids..

We had game time, swimming at midnight, shaving cream painting, sundaes after dark, bonfires.. beautiful makeovers… movies until dawn..

.. and so much laughter..

For me?

I like to sit back and picture the room full of kids.. full of laughter.. full of memories.. full of chaos… so I can take a picture with my mind.. before I clean up the mess…

Those cherished memories stick with me long past the popcorn under the couch .. or the crayon marks on the table. Long past the grass in the pool or the loads of laundry..

And these little faces grow faster than I like..

Cherish your messes today.. and hug your loved ones..

Campfire stories..

When I was a little girl, I always had stories roaming around my head.

While I was picking flowers.. or doing chores.. or laying in bed.. the stories were there .. flitting in and out like snippets of a movie.

Ha.. many times I would get SO lost in the stories I was creating.. that I would pause in my chores .. and JUST enjoy the storyline I had come up with.

Yes… I probably was frozen in place, still washing the same cup.. with a dopey grin on my face…

((…you can imagine how thrilled my mother was with me.. most of the time….))

Then my two youngest brothers were born… the perfect audience for story snippets .. mwahahahahaha

Sitting out under the trees, I could weave grand adventures for the teenage mutant ninja turtles.. and Star Wars characters. And they would listen enthralled.. and then act them out.

Ok.. ok.. not the best characters for a teenage girl who wanted to be creative and adventurous.. but I honestly didn't mind.

Why?

Well?!? .. probably because for the first time, I was able to let those story snippets out of my brain and into the air. And 2 little faces enjoyed them as much as I did.

It felt amazing…

Years later I am still telling stories to little faces. First to my own kids.. and then to my nieces and nephews.

In fact… if we have a family campfire? I usually have a child or 2 on my lap (of varying shapes and sizes) asking for a story.. or 2 .. or 3..

Sometimes I tell stories of my kids when they were little.. (..especially stories of my daughter and her imaginary friends..)..

…sometimes I tell stories with "not so hidden" messages in them.. little pigs getting lost in the forest.. or trains that keep on trying..

… sometimes stories just for fun… stories about Curly (the smallest pig of 9 brothers.. who never gets enough to eat.. and is always looking for food.. )…

… lately I have been getting requests for stories that put the kids on my lap into harm's way.. so that they can be saved… (..bears, wolves… little old ladies who don't live in "gluten free" homes .. (shudders)..)..

But whatever the storyline, I love to see the upturned faces hanging on to my every word.. waiting to see what will happen next..

..begging for another one..

And it makes my heart happy when they tell me stories in return..

Life is so good..

That moment.. 

A million years ago.. ok.. it was more like 7 years ago.. I stood on my own doorstep letting the tears run down my face.. 

Someone had asked me how my son’s appointment had gone for his legs.. 

..it had NOT gone well.. not even close to well… and I could no longer hold my fears in.. or my sorrow .. 

I am a cry-er.. I am not a loud cry-er .. ha.. but neither am I a pretty cry-er .. I do think that I have cried enough tears (in my lifetime) to fill Lake Michigan. Tears of disappointment, tears of sadness.. tear of joy .. and worry.. and often anger.. 

But in that moment? 

In that moment.. I felt so many emotions I couldn’t sort them out. 

Why? 

Well.. what I thought were simple growing pains for my son? Those pains weren’t simple.. and my son needed an emergency surgery. The appointment that I had put off because it wasn’t convenient for my schedule? Putting it off those few days had caused my son to be in prolonged pain.. 

My 10 year old son’s growth plates were too soft to hold up his weight.. he would need a screw to hold that growth plate in place if he wanted to walk.. 

.. and me? I had been too busy trying to balance everything in my hectic life to notice…

.. so in that moment? 

In that moment.. as I let the tears pour down my cheeks..? 

I was so angry .. angry at myself for not seeing how much pain he was in (even if he didn’t complain).. I was so angry that I hadn’t made it a big deal about it when I called the doc for an appointment.. I was so angry that the surgery was going to cause him pain.. 

..  I was worried because.. well? ..worried because it was a surgery.. and worried because my son did not do well with hospitals …

..and disappointed.. 

.. disappointed because nothing in his short life had gone easy .. 

.. and .. I was sad… 

I was always strong.. I always carried my Faith in God’s plan like a Shield.. I always smiled through my tears .. always cheering others on .. 

..but in that moment? 

I couldn’t breathe.. I was broken.. 

..but on the other side of those tears? I picked myself up and trudged through the unknown territory that God had planned for me..for my son.. for our whole family.. 

I have often heard people say that “God will not give you more than you can handle”… I would often laugh and reply that I wish God didn’t have so much faith in me.. 

..but I think that statement is a lie… 

I think that God absolutely gives us more than we can handle.. but NEVER more than we can handle WITH HIS Strength .. 

With God .. All Things are Possible..       

                                      Matthew 19:26

.. even with my great Faith in my Heavenly Father.. I often find myself thinking I can plow through problems with my own strength.. I find myself not wanting to trouble God with my “little” problems because of all of the BIG problems that deserve His attention MORE than mine do.. 

..sometimes it takes me falling to my knees in tears .. sometimes it takes me feeling broken and alone… sometimes it takes “too much” .. to show me that I can’t do it on my own.. 

.. and then? 

Then God fills me with His Strength and His Love.. and All the things I have to do? They all become possible..

.. and it is all Beautiful in its time… 

Memories.. 

 I grew up a 1/2 mile from my grandparents’ house. An easy walk or ride from my house to theirs..

So is it any wonder that so many of my first memories had them in it?

Most of them were good memories.. at least until that heartbreaking day in fifth grade.. when they loaded up their new 5th wheel and drove to Florida for the winter ..

Even after that LONG winter FINALLY ended..  I collected good memories with them.

As the years passed, the visits became less frequent. I moved to Missouri with my husband (for his job). I became busy with my children… and schedules didn’t always  line up.

… still visits were a treasure ..

The last time I saw my gram, she didn’t recognize me. My aunts warned me ahead of time that it might happen.

But in that moment? That moment that I realized she indeed did NOT recall who I was?

It hurt .. for a moment ..

Then she smiled at me.. and patted my hand..

and I realized..

it didn’t matter if she remembered me..

Why?

Because I remembered her..

I remembered her keeping special toys at her house for us.. A little people’s school and camper..

I remembered how she would always keep fruit around to give us..

how she taught me to eat rhubarb with sugar…

how she loved the color blue, but “hated” her red hair..

How she loved working with her roses and her rhododendrons.. and her fruit trees..

how every card I ever got was simply signed “Gram K”…

I remember how she greeted every LEFT handed person she met.. how she taught us to make her potato salad.. her spending hours with us sewing clothes.. her salt & pepper collection.. and Norman Rockwell plates..

…singing with her.. laughing with her ..

And when I said “good-bye” at the end of that last visit? She smiled and said “I’m so glad I got to meet you.” That same smile that would light up her eyes.

So you see? It isn’t important that my Gram didn’t remember me in the end.. because it wasn’t really about me.

It was about her.. 

..and her legacy that she leaves behind. And as long as I remember her? As long as I continue to retell her stories and sayings?

Then she will continue to live on in our hearts ..

So tell her stories I shall..

Imagine…

Do you know what you get when you are raised in a family with a Strong faith in God.. AND you have a vivid imagination?

Something beautiful .. aaaand a little scary at times. 

When I was little? My dad would tell me that even if I THOUGHT I could get away with doing “little” bad things with no one knowing..? That God would still know.. And it would break His heart to see me make bad choices. 

In my mind’s eye I could see a God like “face” looking at me .. The same way that my earthly father looks at me when he had to punish me.. Broken hearted and sad.. Maybe tears in His majestic eyes? 

Yup.. That kept me on the straight and narrow.. (90% of the time).. 

But sometimes my imagination is just plain good.. 

This morning I received the call that my grandma passed away. 

The only grandma I have ever known .. Had gone home to heaven. 

It was peaceful for her .. She was surrounded by the family who could make it in time.. They were loud at times.. (How could that be peaceful you ask?)  She would have liked it loud and lively. She loved to see the “characters” around her. I think even when she was resting .. she was probably comforted by the loud voices and laughter.. 

But I can imagine that moment when she slipped from this world into the next.. 

In that moment?

 Standing outside those pearly gates.. She would see her 3 children, that went along Home before her, waiting patiently for her. Her parents would be there too.. And her siblings.. 

But in the middle of them all? 

In the middle of them all, I imagine my grandpa standing. I can see his eyes light up when he finally sees her. The way his eyes always lit up when he saw her. 

And then? 

Ha ha.. Then he’d say something sassy like.. “What took you so long?” Or “I’ve been waiting for you for ages!”

Then I imagine my Gram K would smile gently and put him in his place.. With a “It wasn’t my plan to send you on ahead..” Or more likely… “Well .. waiting builds character.”

And then my Grandpa will laugh .. The way he always does when her quiet sass amuses him. 

Someday it will be my turn to meet them all at the pearly gates.. And I know they will show up to meet me. 

Until then I have to finish the things God sent me here to do.. 

But I am so curious.. 

I wonder if my Gram K will have her bright red hair back in heaven.. (Which would make my Grandpa happy..) .. Or if she will be able to convince God that the gray hair suits her better .. (After all? You can’t wear pink with red hair..) 

Deep Roots…

dpp_0017I love family trees.. I love to try to trace my ancestors back to their origins.. The countries they were born in..  Oh the stories these trees would have to tell.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to listen to these ancestors tell their stories..?? And to be able to ask them questions.. like why did you leave your countries? Would it have been for adventure? Greater freedoms? Escaping bad memories?

Oh the possibilities…

I mean .. really? I have a great great grandfather named Dougal McDougall. An afternoon with him?

YES PLEASE

But there is more… Great people like Fredrick Law Olmsted.. or the original Olmsteds who came over when America was young. Sarah Fitzgerald (what a fun name).. the Von Kuhlmans from Germany..

All of it has me so curious and writer side of me ITCHES to record it all…

But then there is the Start side of my family. My Grandma Betty.. and her parents. They are Dutch.. all from the Netherlands. This side of the family never seemed as interesting to me.

Why??

Well… because they were so familiar to me. Familiar and safe. My grandma’s dad had a soft laugh when he was amused. My grandma’s mom was always smiling. They would offer you little candies from little dishes. Their backyard was like a little park. And even when they were upset with you (hey.. we were kids).. you just felt disappointed in yourself.. not scared.

My Gram Betty is in so many of my memories.. I remember her singing Brenda Lee songs with me.. and Johnny Cash’s “Everybody loves a nut.” I remember her always giving us fruit to snack on.. teaching me to eat rhubarb with sugar…. telling me that her “mom always said there would be days like this,”… sometimes adding with a wink, “she never mentioned there would be so many”… I remember her wearing hats… I remember laughing with her when she recalled being relieved to turn gray so “early”.. instead of “that awful red”… (Which we all know her red hair was actually quite pretty.. because grandpa always told us).. and I remember her being called Miss Blue. Because she loved the color blue.

img_3496After my grandparents moved to Florida, my memories of them were more sparse.. but just as loved. I loved hearing about their travel adventures.. their little arguments… and hearing my grandma use her age as an excuse for not having to do things she didn’t want to..

My grandpa died young.. only in his 60’s.. but I have so many teenage memories of him teasing my grandma, winking at me.. his laugh that echoed joyfully where ever he was.. his bear hugs.. and his more serious moments when he encouraged me to reach for the stars. (Not his exact words.. but that’s how I always felt. He had so much faith in my future being great.)

This side of my own family tree is the strongest side.. The Start/Kuhlman Roots of my tree go down deep… Deeper than any roots on paper. The love.. the stability.. the generations of support.. those roots go deeper than any other branch of my family tree.

But as a teenager?

These roots felt like home.. and I wanted adventure.. I wanted to be like Dougal McDougall and set forth from my homeland for adventures and tales across the sea…

As an adult? I realize that I missed an opportunity to explore those roots. I was always exploring the branches.. looking out over the horizons.. looking to the future.

Today?

Today instead of looking for adventures… instead of feeling curious about the great people of the past.. or wondering what tales my exciting ancestors might have to tell?

Today I am wishing for a conversation with my quiet, safe Grandma in Florida… To hear her soft laugh.. or hear her tell me that her “mom always told me there would be days like this”, and that “this too shall pass”.  To hear her tell of her sassy days of dating my grandpa.gram-k-2016

And I’d love to tell her how much I love her .. and how she shaped my life and gave me such strong roots.

Make a mark.. 

  Once upon a time.. I bought a marker board to keep myself organized.. With 2 kids and an exchange daughter.. (2 of which were super busy all the time)..? 

YUP.. Our house was crazy busy.. 

So I found this marker board with slots for the days of the week.. It was perfect!!

..or so I thought.. 

You see.. After the first week of being organized? I started to slack off.. Just listing general activities.. 

Then slipped to weekly routines..

And then?

Ha.. Then names and messages started showing up. My exchange daughter signed her name.. And then her friend followed suit.. Then my niece added her signature (so I’d have it when she was famous).. 

Pretty soon? 

YUP.. Pretty soon there was no room left for a schedule.. In fact the schedule was erased .. 

When my exchange daughter flew home to Italy.. We couldn’t bear to erase the board.. Not one word.. 

Pinned underneath was a note from our very first exchange daughter..  All our pieces of heart.. All in one place..

 When our next exchange daughter signed her name to the board I smiled.. They all made their marks on our hearts.. so why NOT show it on our refrigerator too.. 

I think we all live our lives that way.. Wanting to make a mark on the world.. A mark SO IMPRESSIVE that no one will want to erase it.. 

A long time ago, I started out with grand ideas on how to do just that.. How to make my mark on the world. 

But then my life changed ..

My kids were born.. 

My youngest was born with Autism (and a splash of mood disorders).. So my career plans came to a halt.. And then a detour.. 

..my dreams of making a mark are still there.. 

But lately? Lately, I have been helping my daughter get ready for college.. And listening to my exchange daughters get ready for their exams.. 

ALL of them ready to make their mark on the world.. 

But the one you don’t see easily is my boy.. 

Behind the Autism.. And the smiles.. the quirks.. And the laughter.. Inside that boy lives a dream.. To be a farmer.. To get married .. To be a father.. To travel to Alaska and Egypt .. 

He EVEN has a checklist in his room.. complete with ages next to each goal.. 

You see? Even though his days are sometimes filled with anxiety and frustrations? Sometimes with more stumbles than successes? 

He WANTS to make his mark on the world.. A mark SO beautiful that NO ONE will want to erase it.. 

So my “mark” will wait.. While I help my kids make theirs.. 

A rainbow…

 Growing up, I had a brother who lived next door. He wasn’t actually related to me.. but my heart adopted him as a brother just the same.

With 5 brothers of my own.. and a sister…? Some would ask why I would want to adopt another one. Others explain to me that you can’t just adopt new siblings.. like puppies…

.. but adopt him I did … Him and his older sister were almost as much a part of our family .. as the siblings who lived with me. We laughed together.. we argued… we planned elaborate schemes… we succeeded .. and sometimes we failed. And at times? At times we all got in trouble together.

This brother next door? Terry… He was best friends with my older brother Paul. Where ever Paul and Terry went? Well .. I was never far behind. Me and my moppy head of curls.. often in a dress… would trail behind the boys waiting for whatever mischief they could find. I never had to wait long..

Surprisingly? They never seemed to tire of waiting for me to catch up. They never rolled their eyes at having to nail steps into a tree for me to get into the tree house. They never forgot to warn me to stand clear of danger.. or swarming bee hives.

These 2 boys were my first friends.

When my brother Paul enlisted in the Navy.. it left me and Terry to finish out our Senior year alone. I sure did miss my brother that year.. but it’s the year I got to know Terry the best.

And MAN did we argue that year.. We debated whether Mail Order brides would have worked.. OK.. I debated.. Terry flat refused to believe that anything less than true love in a marriage would succeed… We argued about my boyfriends.. and his girlfriends.. We argued about the best season to visit the beach.. and once we even argued about arguing…

Occasionally I would frustrate him so bad?? He would clamp his mouth shut and walk out the door…

..but he would still pick me up for school the next day… without fail.

 But all the while we were arguing.. I got to know Terry really well.  I knew he wanted to SAVE the world… so he planned on enlisting in the Navy with my brother. I learned more about his “actual” siblings… I saw that he would give away his last dollar.. and even his shirt if he needed to. He loved country music… He loved “hero” movies.. especially Steven Seagal ones. He loved his truck… His family was so very important to him…

… and he wanted to find true love…

Well after graduation .. we parted ways. He enlisted in the Navy and I didn’t hear much from him for years. He was off keeping the world safe… having adventures…

10 years later.. he started calling me when he was home. Especially when he was upset. He would tell me how proud he was of his kids.. and how he still wanted a love that would make him happy.

Eventually he found that love…

He had a couple years with her… Those years made him so happy… His smile practically jumped out of the photos I would see. And he adopted more kids .. (We are very alike in that way..)

Those years made me so happy for him…

I never actually saw Terry again after graduation. I heard his voice so many times… but I never got to see his face in person.. It just never worked out..

… and I will have to wait a while longer it seems…

You see? Terry was in a car accident last week… and God called him home.

Today I sat in church and listened to my brother’s voice shake as he stood in front of everyone… Talking about his friend… sharing about how they had finally reconnected after all those years of going in different directions because of the Navy. I admired how strong Paul was to stand up and share his story.

I am not that brave.. I am not a great speaker.. I have to let my words flow through my fingers…

.. but I loved my adopted brother just the same…

I know that Everything will be Beautiful in its time… and in Time we will see why Terry was taken from this Earth so early… and it will be Beautiful..

…but I have still shed a few (ok.. more than a few) selfish tears.. because I will miss him…

… but I am so glad Terry was put in my life… God knew I needed a good friend.. a faithful and stead fast friend for those frustrating teen years… and I will gladly shed these tears and feel this heartache in exchange for all those wonderful memories…

.. and his smile will always shine through my tears… because he hated anyone to be unhappy… Making it his goal to make people smile..

.. so I will smile for him… and I will see him again soon…

Love you Terry…

My landscape.. 

…in the distance…

I have always had a love of landscape paintings. Even as a child, I would stare at their beauty… Search their depths for color and stories. Each one told a story of a journey to me… a journey that would end in the clouds in the distance.. Those clouds representing Heaven to me. The weightlessness of the clouds.. representing all our cares being lifted from us when we die.

As I have matured, I have started to see these landscapes differently. I still see those clouds as representing Heaven.. Standing firmly in my Horizon.. often with the light of God shining through them.. But I now see the background.. the mountains or distance fields.. not as where I am heading.. but where I have been. Each color representing a different event in my life. Darker colors for the harder trials or disappointments. Brighter colors for the joys that God has blessed me with.

Leaving the Valley in the focus of the portrait.. the valley being what we are living now. And that is how it should be.. focusing on the here and now.. not on the past or the future.. but focusing on what God has set before us.

But sometimes it is good to see where we have come from.

I have a lot of dark shades in my landscape. Disappointment in choices I made when I was younger. Mistakes I have made. Events in my past.. events I had no control over. Events that I had to struggle through.. such as the first few years with my son’s diagnosis of Bipolar. Those years of medicines that didn’t work.. years of trying strategy after strategy. The days I broke down from exhaustion. All of these add darker shades and shadows.

I wouldn’t give up any of those dark colors.. those blacks.. grays.. dark blues… the shadows.. Those shadows? Those shadows made the bright colors.. the deep hues stand out all the more. Because I had known great disappointments.. great sorrow…?  Because of those events, I could appreciate good people.. good memories.. my accomplishments.. my son’s & daughter’s accomplishments.. and the joy my children bring THAT much more.

Having good people in my life definitely makes my landscape prettier. And as I have said before.. it takes a whole village to raise a child… That whole village becomes that child’s landscape. I have a very extensive landscape. So many people have been Blessings in my life. I have been very Blessed indeed.

This week I am looking off into my landscape. At one particular bright spot.. or maybe a few.

I have an Uncle that married into my family. A very jolly man. He always had a smile and a greeting for everyone.. I remember staying at their house and having it always full of people and activity. His enthusiasm for everything.. when we took our annual bike trip. Listening to his strong voice praying in front of groups.. not caring who could hear him.  I listened to stories he told of Mission trips that he went on with my Aunt.. sometimes with a little envy.. (for I know that my Mission field is here in my back yard.. and not around the world.)..  and he always had stories filled with pride for his loving family.

Not that my Uncle couldn’t be serious or firm.. I know I saw those sides of him also… They just don’t stand out like the joy that shone from his face when he caught sight of you.

My Uncle passed away suddenly this last week. He wasn’t sick.. he didn’t suffer.. but God called him home.

You may think that a dark patch of paint has appeared in my landscape because of this… but other than the slight shadow of sadness behind his bright shape? I can’t find any new dark patches.

Now don’t get me wrong.. I will probably tear up when he doesn’t come out to greet us when I go to visit my Aunt the next time. It doesn’t mean I won’t think of my cousins when I hug my own sweet Dad the next time. And it definitely doesn’t mean I am not looking forward to seeing him when I am called Home myself.

But it does mean that sometimes we don’t notice how brightly someone shines in our lives.. until that small shadow of sadness appears behind them.. making their colors.. their strengths.. the Blessings they had to offer… Those shadows make their colors shine all the more brightly.  Especially when the light of God is shining down through the clouds of Heaven onto them.

Taming the beast…

Image 

Once upon a time… a long time ago.. when I was a little girl.. I had a cat.  Ha!!  In truth, my siblings and I had a LOT of cats.  I am not really sure where they all came from.  I can’t remember ACTUALLY picking out a single cat in my life.. They just appeared over night.. often in multiple numbers. 

To little girls?  YUP.. it was heaven.

My sister and I loved all those cats.  But the problem was.. our cats weren’t actually tame. 

They would come to us when we called them.. (because we always had food)… They would follow us… (because we never brought enough food).. But very rarely could you hold a cat for more than a few minutes. 

In fact.. you know the National Geographic Nature shows .. the ones where the tiger lazes peacefully in the sun.. looking elegant and regal… Then the camera man flashes an image of that same tiger in full snarl mode.. attacking its prey…

YUP.. you just got an image of our cats….

One summer day?  My sister and I decided WE were going to tame those cats..

Ok.. we just wanted to tame one cat.. A particularly cute gray cat that we had named.. “Cutie”… (Original right?!?)… So we put our brilliant minds together and came up with a plan….

We needed a leash…

I mean if you saw all those elegant people on Television.. They led their tame and obedient dogs around on leashes all the time… That HAD to be the key… (And besides.. can’t you imagine showing up to social event with your elegant and regal “Cutie” cat walking tamely at the end of a jewel studded leash… YUP… we were going to be the envy of ALL our friends…)

So we NEEDED that leash…

Now as you can imagine… YUP.. no jewel studded leashes were laying around.. But we were NOT to be deterred.  We would simply make one.  So?  We raided my Mother’s yarn stash.

Even though we were young.. my sister and I were intelligent.. So we knew that 1 strand of yarn wouldn’t be effective.. and we suspected it wouldn’t be comfortable.  So we braided 3 strands together for an elegant leash.  We knotted one end into a loop for the handle.. and the other end into a slip knot.. (For easier capturing, of course..)..

Then we were ready…

With a dish of cat food… We began to call KITTY KITTY KITTY…..

And Cutie came running…

So elegant.. so unaware of her new destiny… unsuspecting of the danger that (cleverly hidden behind our back) leash held.  Cutie fell right into our trap…

In a flash, my sister slipped the leash around Cutie’s neck.. and tightened it enough so it fit snuggly.  It was so simple… so easy.. (to steal a phrase from one of my daughter’s favorite kids’ book…)… so perfectly perfect….

And then everything went wrong…

…quickly…

When that leash tightened on Cutie’s neck.. she snarled… I stepped away (..hey.. I had seen that inner tiger in action…).. That hardly tamed cat pulled and pulled on the end of the leash.. terrified and snarling… Until we released the end of the leash..  Freed from the apparent danger, Cutie quickly scaled a 50 foot tree at the edge of the woods… Running gracefully across the first branch … Cutie leapt beautifully to the next tree.. And nearly made it…

Nearly…

You see Cutie still had that beautiful, hand braided yarn leash… trailing behind her… And as you know.. Yarn is like Velcro.. it sticks to everything… And stick it did… The loop caught on a branch.. And Cutie’s elegant escape was cut short, jerking her back…

And she was falling.. falling… until she came to the end of that 3 foot leash..

Our relief that our ingenious leash saved Cutie from a 30 foot drop?  Well that relief was short lived…  It was immediately apparent that our ingenious hand tied slip knot leash had turned into a noose.. A great noose too.. because through some bizarre twist of fate.. apparently my sister and I could make some seriously strong knots… As that cat flailed and snarled and flipped and swatted and flailed… in a constant scurry of motion.. All the time, making the most horrendous wailing noise… We began to pray the knot would fail… and then Cutie could fall to safety…

It did not…

I began to cry… and to call my Dad…

Now… My Dad?… My Dad didn’t like cats… he never has.. And he was especially not fond of the pack that adopted our household…

But with my sister and I calling for him?  He came running out of the garage ..(from whatever important job he was fixing).. Came running to see 2 emotional girls pointing up into a tree.. at a blur of motion he guessed to be a cat.. on the end of a rope..

Now just as Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh.. to do the job God instructed him to do.. My dad’s face was less than eager..  but still he fetched the tallest ladder he owned.  When that ladder fell 10 foot short.. My Dad went and retrieved chunks of 2×4’s .. hammer and nails.. Holding the hammer, nails, and boards.. he scaled the ladder.. and began to nail the “steps” into the trees…

All the while?.. Yup.. my sister and I implored him to hurry…

When my father nailed the last board into the tree.. he climbed those make shift steps.. stood on his tip toes.. and finally reached the cat.  Holding Cutie up with one arm.. my dad tried to unloop the yarn leash from the tree.. which sounds relatively easy..

But you see.. Cutie?  Cutie was NOT tame.. not tame at all.. and she was terrified… So while my dad was saving this cute gray cat..  standing on his tiptoes on a 12 inch board (30 feet above the ground)… risking his life for his daughters’ sake?

That cute gray cat.. was shredding my dad.. I watched in horror as my dad struggled to hold onto the flailing, snarling ball of fur .. who was scratching my dad’s neck and face.. and arm.. the same arm that was saving her life..

And then?

Then when Cutie’s neck was free.. she tore free of my dad’s safe arms and JUMPED to the ground.. landing safely on all four feet.. and sped away.. (In fact.. it was a long time before we saw Cutie again..)..

My dad? 

My dad took in a deep breath.. and slowly climbed down from his death perch.. slowly climbed down the long ladder.. and put his feet on solid ground.  I could see the angry looking scratches on his cheek.  There were trails of blood running down his neck.. But his face?  It was completely emotionless as he looked down into our faces…

Looking down into the faces of his two young daughters’ tear stained faces.. he calmly said.. “Leashes do NOT belong on kittens.”

“Ahhh.. okay dad.”

With that being said?  He folded up his ladder and went back to the garage.

Those steps that my dad had nailed into the tree?  Those steps stayed… For years, we would check to see if they were still there.  I remember pointing them out to my younger brothers and telling them the story of Cutie.  Our attempt to tame a wild cat.. I remember watching their solemn faces as they listened in horror to my dad’s narrow escape with his life.. (ok.. I liked to make it more dramatic then it was..)… Those steps were still there (old and decaying) well into my adult years..

For me they stood as a clear reminder..  

When ever a task was put before me.. whether it was by my parents or put there by God?  When I would be tempted to forget the instructions and run away (Just like Jonah ran from Nineveh?)… I can still see my Dad locking his jaw and climbing that tree to save that untamed beast for my sister and I.. Even though he didn’t like cats.. even though he was probably fixing someone’s car.. even though he doesn’t like heights.. Against all of those undesirable reasons.. my dad moved forward .. determined to do the job expected of him. 

I remember those steps my dad nailed into the tree..  when I move forward to tame my beasts…