Onward



My dog knew something was about to happen. And when I say my dog, I mean Bella, and dog spelled backwards.

I had just begun to rise out of a long season of burnout. I’m not going to list the reasons, I’ll just put out a sentence most or all of you will relate to: I’m a grown up.

On the way to one of my daughter’s cross country meets last fall, I had shed enough stress to let some creativity back in; through the hairpin curves and mountain climbing in my rattly Xterra I got an idea so exciting I started tailgating the blue-hair driving in front of me. I felt guilty as she eventually pulled over to let me pass—tailgating is rude, I know—but I was thrilled to be settled onto the wings of my muse again. I needed to fly.

Come November, I was coming along on this new book, polishing the rusty fingers and creative flow, when my dog began to act strange.

My ultra-sensitive boxador has this code for earthquake. She can sense them from a state away. Bella gets fidgety, impossibly restless. If I’m not fixing it, she’ll go outside to our back patio and focus her bark-growl straight through the house to whatever threat she imagines is lurking in front of our house.

There were a few earthquakes, you know, across the world, so her radar was either ramped up to impossible or she was bothered by something else.

Bella moved out of our daughter’s room where she usually slept and started sleeping in the center of the house.

By January, she was mostly back to normal as she always gets once a storm or natural disaster gets underway. The only difference is that she insisted on keeping watch from the living room, where she can keep an eye everything.

Now that we’re in quarantine, Bella is exceedingly happy. Not only has lizard season begun, but her family is home a lot more. More play, more snuggles, more people to go on walks with.

It took me a while to gather my thoughts after the COVID-19 crisis arrived. From re-calibrating at my day job, to my own health issue right before quarantine to becoming a homeschool mom while trying to balance my novel-writing and…..you know. Being a grown up.

It the beginning, there were the haters spreading their angry at a 9.9 magnitude. It was ugly and so was social media.

But then, from across the world, Italy started singing from their balconies. Locked inside their worst crisis, they reached inside and gave forth their best.

As the hoarders cleared shelf after shelf here in America I started watching Bella more closely since I couldn’t go anywhere except when necessary. She has the gift of being exceedingly happy with so very little. Lizards, a nice breeze, her family, walks. Forwards and backwards, her kind is the very definition of love. I don’t believe this is coincidence. Now is the time for all of us to think about these things.

DoG spelled backwards is giving us a rest, my friends. He’s allowing this to happen for reasons I won’t pretend to know, but one thing I know He’s doing is reaching inside those of us sensing the change within the change, and pulling out our best.

He knew this was coming, and will remain present with every one of us throughout this whole storm. Right where he can see all of us.

It’s onward with the book for me, although I have to think about the new world it will be published in. How will things change? Will my characters still shake hands, or touch their faces? Will medical facilities wear masks all the time, forevermore?

Will I ever see my sweet Doctor’s face again?

Like Bella, I’m going to have to foresee the change so my book will be relevant when I release it.

I could say we’ve been given the opportunity to thoroughly, quietly (as much as mom’s lives with kids can be), intuitively consider how we’ll forever go about our lives. But doG spelled backwards hasn’t given us the choice this time.

I’ll promise to release the beautiful if you do.

Things I Learn From My Dog

My dog can sense earthquakes in our neighboring state of California. Tail in-between legs, bark at the ready, she shifts into high alert as if every flap of wing or roar of an engine electrifies her. She’s protective, and determines to catch every single unsettling current until the threat is gone.
She runs laps. Not one or two, but intermittent laps around the yard in between dinner, TV time & bedtime stories. She’ll do this for one day, or several days, working until the earthquake passes. On nights like these, I can hear her dog door flapping throughout the night as she makes her rounds.
Finally, she’ll collapse and rest.
It reminds me of the days when my mind spins like a broken record, catching on all those ideas that jump track.
On into the night, a mish-mash of unfinished files to sort out.


So, the next morning, I don’t nap—I do like Bella does and I run. I go to the gym and hit the treadmill, then I pop on the elliptical. Finally, I take on the weight machines until I’m exhausted.
s-t-r-e-t-c-h
Now I can get to work. I pull the good ideas from my mind and sort them out on paper, or the computer screen. I work until I feel the tide shift. I don’t always see it, but I feel it. That’s the spot where faith thrives, in the unseen realm where I’m beyond my limits.
Then I can rest.
It’s not real rest until you’ve worked with everything you’ve got. Until you’ve unwrapped your God-given gifts and covered your space of the world with them. The outcome is not up to us, it’s up to God. Our job is to just do our thing.

Old folks and shorts

100_2156When I started working at the retirement resort I thought I would get a lot of reading done. Yep. It was a “transition” job, in between none and no prospects. It has ended up being one of the best learning experiences for me – and humbling as well. The swing shift has always been my favorite because I get several hours of talking with people – a good social time for a mother who hears the words “poo-poo” and “no!” way too often – and several hours of solitude where I can read and write. The idea’s for my children’s books took root in the wee hours of darkness when I got so bored I thought I would dredge my green writing skills from the depths of my “no way is that possible” files. While I was etching out these stories, a few real ones played out in the fire lit lobby.

The residents who brought me endless laughter were Cliff and Paul. Cliff was a very classy man who liked to discuss politics and business. Respect followed him. His knowledge stopped at fashion when he donned the brighter than life green pleated shorts every summer. The contrast between his shorts and his pale legs was enough for any resident with failing vision to spot him in the clubhouse, the park, the sun…

Paul liked to talk about people and what screw-ups they were. All gossip was said with a grin – nothing was edited or glossed over for propriety’s sake. His world was black and white, including his t-shirts that illustrated his sarcasm.

Cliff and Paul liked to chit chat at my reception desk, often competing with each other for attention. If they were 50 years younger, I’m sure they would have approached each other from opposite sides of the tracks with tires spinning and a date for a fight.

But since life had weighed their legs heavy and stride slow, they decided a standing contest was in order. Standing contest. Whoever could stand up the longest won.

They started with grins and square (ish) shoulders, insults and jokes were thrown back and forth. I could see the energy waning as Paul leaned a shoulder against the supply closet. Cliff rested half a green-encased gluteus maximous on my desk. Shoulders slouched and trembles took over until Cliff announced his need to check on his apartment. Paul gloated as he collapsed onto his walker. It’s always the scrappy ones.

Donna and Odell taught me that passions never fade. They were best friends who always graced me with an evening of the latest gossip, dinner menu’s and stories of their youth. Donna laughed about her hair turning white in her 20’s and Odell told me about the wagon she traveled in as a child. They also loved to hang out in the lobby whenever the firefighters came to assist a paramedic team. Smiles as wide as the ambulance, eyes roaming over boots and logos. I’m sure I saw them drool over a tall mustached uniform more than once.

I could go on, but I won’t close without mentioning Bernita. She taught me that as long as a person is living and breathing, they have a purpose. She got locked into a prison of Alzheimer’s disease, forgetting the simplest tasks like dressing herself and asking for something as basic as a drink of water. But when someone needed encouragement, God’s word rolled off her tongue, as smooth as satin. One of her favorites:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11

So despite my thoughts on having a job instead of a career, I learned that life flows with a force strong and lovely in the old as well as the young, in the healthy, in the sick, and with those who wear shorts that could be seen from the moon.

God doesn’t abandon His people. He works with you in whatever season you’re walking through. Bernita taught me that.

Learned something awesome when you thought you were stuck? Tell us in the comments.