vicious to vicTORious

Three letters inserted in a word that means spiteful, malicious, hateful… tor. It’s not a much-used word. These 3 little letters, meaning “a high rock, a pile of stones” (Oxford English Dictionary) change the basest attitude to triumph.

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I recently read a devotion by author Lysa Terkeurst about the devil. He does all he can to distract, delude, dissuade, discourage, divert me off track. He wants to make me sad, angry, self-pitying, ungrateful, hopeless, discouraged. And sometimes he is almost successful. The tears he covets are cleansing, not destructive. The more he produces frustrated tears, the more washed my soul. He never wins.

Because of my Rock.

Dorian, as destructive as it was to many places did very little damage to my area. But it did not miss me. Maybe the damage began with last year’s storms and became evident this year. I am among those now waiting for insurance companies, adjusters, appraisers to give me a final word about the roof. But the Rock in my life is my steady, strong anchor. Not a stumbling block. This Rock keeps me on course, gives me hope, strength and encouragement.

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So though repairs are largely a frustrating plan-and-wait, at the mercy of other people and their schedules I cling to the Rock.

No matter how capricious life is, He never leaves.

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(pinterest.com)

He puts His power in me through my faith in Him.

 

 

 

preparation

Before Dorian blew by nobody knew what it would be like. We watched horrified as it sat over the Bahamas with high screaming winds and drowning storm surge and rain. We saw it cruelly inch away from the little archipelago toward the east coast. Until it had passed the North Carolina shores it took its sweet time moving by. I don’t think I have ever been through a storm during the daytime. They come at night when sounds are amplified by the dark.

A few days before we began preparing for it– brought bird feeders in, overturned bird baths, moved furniture, I noticed the milkweed had almost been eaten to nubs, even managed to get a picture of the monarch caterpillars I have so eagerly awaited.

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I have watched swallowtail caterpillars gorge on fennel almost all summer, and there were one or two still munching away

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But only more recently did I notice the Gulf fritillaries. I have planted passionflowers year after year and had no luck. They just would not grow. So a neighbor who was moving offered a trellis which I gratefully accepted and planted what I decided would be my last attempt at the maypop. It grew and attracted its companion caterpillar

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So I wondered, did these survive and move on to make their cocoons?

There are still a few butterflies even though it is late in the year for them to be laying eggs. A fritillary (not my picture)

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And swallowtail

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and monarch

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An angel trumpet, late bloomer since I only planted it end of June

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And an interesting moth discovered under the headboard on the backyard fence, I don’t know what kind it is

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So except for a couple more roof shingles, and Lily having to go outside once in the wind and rain most were fortunate the storm stayed largely off shore.

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impulse

So rescue dog Lily’s first knee surgery her vet said to get a crate for her. Oh no! I could not imagine Lily confined. I explained I was completely certain she would injure herself in there either trying to get out or just on general principle.

So no crate.

This time. Different surgeon, different procedure. She got on ok. I had to figure some sort of tether though, but she still was relatively free. Until she nearly throttled herself. So I caved.

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This worked out well. In the end. I have this terrible habit of not reading item descriptions when I buy things online. Well not all the time. But yes, in this case. I truly thought I was ordering what Lily is resting comfortably in above. I thought it was a large crate. What I got was the size of a small bathroom. For a great Dane. To compare I have placed the box her present crate came in, in front of what I bought online.

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I called the company I bought it from to ask for a return label, explaining my error. They said they would also call FedEx for a pickup. This was appreciated since it weighed 77 pounds, is about 5-1/2 feet by 5 feet and it took everything I had to haul it in the house. Being naturally dubious I called FedEx myself to confirm the pickup. There was no such request, they said, so I placed one.

Next day I dragged it back out to the porch to wait for FedEx to come get it. I also waited.

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They said it would be picked up between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Around 11:30 a.m. I got a call. There was an attempted pickup. No one was home, they said. The item was not outside, they said. We verified the address. Same. So most of these large companies have satellite phone banks in central America, Asia and India. I got Indonesia. Jose’ assured me they had the correct address. What he did not tell me was there were two requests for pickup. I insisted they give me the dispatch number to verify they were coming back that same day. About an hour later they did come back and the large, heavy crate is now on its way back to point of origin.

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Earlier today I noticed this little anole on the porch happily eating all the flies that come in the door I leave open for Lulu to go out. He is content to be inside it seems. As long as the food supply holds out.

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This empty cicada exoskeleton clung to a rose that has never bloomed. This insect was able to escape its confinement.

Maybe confinement is a state of mind?

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Miss Frances

The inn where my brother and his family stay is over 80 years old. Some sort of record for an ocean front property. We have vacationed there for the past 10 years. The current owners bought it 11 or 12 years ago and have kept things as they have always been with a few modifications to the menu. Three full meals a day are included in reservations. So a lot of walking is required to at least be the same weight when you arrived as when you leave.

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Miss Frances runs the Inn. And has. Forever.

She manages the kitchen, the staff, the laundry and schedules. It is expected that every guest is at every meal when the bells are rung. If there is any deviation it is expected that Miss Frances know in advance to plan the meal. It is an unspoken discourtesy to do otherwise.

Naturally an early riser, the last couple of summers I have quietly crept down the creaky wooden staircase to the kitchen to help set up the dining room for breakfast, brew coffee, move tables according to additional guests, fill cream, sugar, jams, jellies, syrup. And quietly listen as Miss Frances witnesses to me about her faith. A faith we share, but she brings the Gospel to vibrant life in that pre-dawn kitchen. She holds informal Bible studies with interested staff. And I have always loved hearing her lilting Gullah cadence speaking of her love for Jesus.

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So this year rescue dogs Lily and Lulu accompanied me and we stayed in a nearby cottage. I began my day with the distant roar and hush of the ocean, watching the light emerge in faded color as I walked Lily and Lulu toward the beach. The rising rosy glow still holding a dewy chill in the air. My thoughts drifted to Miss Frances moving slowly about her domain, gently polishing the stainless service before setting places at the tables. Glancing occasionally toward the porch overlooking the awakening day.

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I shared those three meals with my brother and his family during our brief stay, then packed us back in the car for our drive home. My brother texted me a day or so later to let me know this year is Miss Frances’ last, she is retiring.

Sad that I was not a part of this, she leaves a legacy. Her larger-than-life presence being absent will leave a strange void. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I cannot think of anyone who could comparably carry on.

But someone will.

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rejoice!

Stress, worry, anxiety is like exercise for the brain, adrenal glands, sweat glands except it isn’t very healthy. But we are told to rejoice, no matter what. We are told to be grateful even when there doesn’t seem to be anything to give thanks for.

It sounds perverse but it is the pathway to peace. Sanity.

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Rescue dog Lily did fine in her surgery. She thanks everyone for thoughts and prayers.  She is textbook recovery dog. Not licking sutures, allowing for physical therapy, ice compresses, hot compresses no whining or objection. Once again a hind leg is completely naked from top of the hip to her ankle, but it’s summer! So even though I have never shaved her hair in hot months now she has her own partial cooling system.

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She rests quietly. She tries, when I ‘carry’ her in her walker sling, to drag me over to the garage. This is to let me know that surgery or no surgery she is ready to get in the car and go to the park or the river or anywhere and start taking her walkies again.

Well, not quite, Baby Girl. We have a ways to go yet. She will get her stitches out in a couple of weeks. Then her walkies can go from 5 minutes to 10. A month or so after that her surgeon will look at her and decide how much more she will be able to do.

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But right now, pain or no pain, she wants to be free. She wants to have her walks and chase little anole lizards and toadies. She is not at all happy having restrictions of any kind.

She is a very good girl. She is obedient and knows her commands and likes to do what makes me happy. But this? This even though she just went through it with her other leg, she is not too patient with.

It will get better.

Sooner than she thinks.

Rejoice!

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test flight

One of my past lives was as a librarian. I enjoyed this work because I helped people chase their dreams, start small businesses, children learn the joy of reading, way more than telling people to “Shhhh” or sternly with thin lips accuse them of the desperate owing of library fines. I came into libraries by volunteering, then having to study for a masters, right about the time they began to digitize. Pretty exciting. Besides loving books and reading I am something of a trivia addict.

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Maybe all those other career pursuits I thought would happen but didn’t were just practice. Veterinary assistant, legal assistant, newspaper production, travel agent, and the many years as a temp so I could be home for my son after school. Some are born and just know what they want to ‘be’. I didn’t. So my working life was kind of trial and error. I don’t know that I ever earned my wings but I had many fascinating pursuits trying.

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This is one of those kind of scary large bugs that occasionally appear in great numbers but in off years there aren’t many. On their best years the sound cicadas make is almost deafening. For some reason this one was having a hard time flying the morning I saw it on the front walk. It welcomed my help and grasped my finger for a free ride. I suppose it didn’t know I wouldn’t eat it but climbed on anyway. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu were very interested until it started its loud chirring, then backed away. I found a thick bush where it climbed into the branches. Maybe a bird tried to have it for breakfast and it escaped, who knows.

This morning after the dogs had their breakfast I walked out to the porch to greet the day and immediately Lulu raced to a corner at the front of the porch and tried to get around the flower pots and chair legs at something. I looked over to find a  fledged baby cardinal that had flown in fluttering against the screen which explained the loud chirping and frantic flying of the adult birds just outside. I leaned over and gently grasped the little ball of fluff, its crest straight up and it stopped struggling momentarily. I walked outside to the fence where its parents darted back and forth chirping loudly, held it at the top of the fence and opened my hand. A flash of red swooped past and the baby immediately followed leaving no trace. A few moments later I saw both parents loudly chirping,  perched in the butterfly bush near where I had released their baby. Maybe they came back to thank me.

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I guess we all are here for a reason. Some of us just have our metamorphosis later.

 

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surprise endings

For many years in late summer I have enjoyed a week in the cool, forested North Carolina mountains in the heart of the Blue Ridge. It’s kind of a reset. On the surface my life appears stress-free… I am retired, my son is grown and living a happy, successful life on his own. But stuff does happen. Things build up. So these precious few days alone in the cooler air seem to clear my head and I get maybe not a do-over but a restart.

This is usually in prelude to a visit with my family at a beach south of where I live. We’ve been meeting there for the past ten years, for a week at a little inn where the same families come back each year. For better or worse it is our “family vacation” and I always look forward to it.

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Until Lily.

Two weeks ago today we were outside for the last perimeter check before bed. The people on the other side of the fence behind my house have a super-aggressive dog that loudly charges the privacy fence between us. Rescue dog Lulu, all 20-pounds of terrier responds in kind. Rescue dog Lily, somewhat protective of her little sister wandered over to be sure aggressive neighbor dog failed at her efforts.

Then Lily quickly walked back by me and sat down. Hard. I looked over at her. “Lily?”

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She turned to me. “Can you come over here?” I asked. She rose, painfully and with a pronounced limp came over to me.

No. But yes. The other acl is now torn.

So no plans. Cancelled the little mountain cabin the end of this month (I’d planned to bring Lily and Lulu this year). The only pet sitter I trust Lily with declined staying with her, understandably concerned about the intensive care Lily will require after her surgery.

I have not yet told my family I won’t be joining them though I have cancelled my reservation at the inn.  There is a reason for everything.

I reflected on life, years ago in my chaotic vortex, newly divorced, sudden responsibilities of single parenthood, jobs, schools for my son, sitters, car maintenance, the whole aspect of LIFE that happens for everyone but I had never had it all. And I believed that. I believed it was all on me.

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Bit by bit, mistake by mistake I gradually learned I could depend on God. No matter what it was… a new clutch for my car, an unexpected medical bill, leak in the ceiling. No, God did not come here to fix these things Himself. But He gave me peace. He strengthened me when I wanted to run away. He helped me persevere, gave light and calm in the storms.

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And I remembered my feeble prayers! Sometimes just a faint, “Help, please!” And He did. He heard me. He strengthened me. Every time. For any reason, crisis or not. He truly never left me. He keeps His promises, even when we forget, ignore, disbelieve or panic. He doesn’t give up on us.

My prayers in those times weren’t great. Sometimes I don’t think even I believed them. But He did. Because what or how or why I prayed them was not the point. His faithfulness is all that matters.

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So Lily and I will get through this. And about the time she is finished with her physical therapy and beginning to be strong the weather will have cooled enough for her to enjoy her walkies again.

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