And Then There Were Two

“Mom, can I bring Terra?”

My daughter speaking. She had not yet seen her new home and so was coming for a visit. But she needed to bring along her new feline friend. If you read last month’s post, Terra is one of the litter of kittens born to the stray cat that found its way to my sister’s back porch just in time to give birth. Said daughter happened to be visiting after the birth event and, you guessed it, simply had to have a kitten. (Thanks a lot, sis.)

Never mind that come fall she would be back in the college dorm where cats would not be welcomed (to her credit, sis did bring that fact up to her niece). Never mind that she would need to find a home for her kitten during the semester. No. All that would be, well, logical thinking. Instead, running on the emotions all of us have felt when visiting any pet store or after handling tiny kittens or puppies, my daughter brought one home. The little gray speckled one. The one she and her fiance named Terra–earth.

OK, so daughter and Terra arrive on our doorstep. Snickers, immediately sensing a new friendship on the horizon, leapt to the opportunity (literally) and quickly discovered that some friendships take time. KitKat, sensing competition, stalked around the edges.

During this week, the humans in the house had hospital appointments, which ended in a tonsillectomy for my daughter. Good for her, but decidedly not fun. By the end of the week she still felt miserable and was in no shape to do a nine-hour drive. We got a plane ticket . . .

. . . and a cat.

But you know what? I have discovered a brand new joy in life. There really is nothing quite like a cat snuggled up on your chest and purring. What an incredibly amazing and comforting sound! Having never owned or been around cats, I had never experienced that. What an amazing God to create these creatures who just love us so much! I have heard that cats are “stand-offish” and “sinister” and even “loners.” Well, not these two cats; they are lovers from the word go. And with a dog in my lap and two cats purring on either side, I can’t imagine feeling anything but joy.

And the three animals have decided to all just get along. They pounce, play, wrestle, and then fall asleep together in a furry heap.

So we have attracted yet another furry friend. We also have found a couple of garden snakes by the pond, plus several frogs who hang on the lily pads and along the rocks . . . but they’re way less fun.

I’ll stick with the furry, purry ones. But maybe we have enough now . . .

The Kitten Who Found Us

It seems that our “animal attraction” continues. I’ve written about the dog who came to visit (twice), and last month about the lost black kitten who found its way into our garden. The saucer of milk we left out that night?

Empty in the morning.

The next day, we continued to hear meowing in the unmowed acre of our property. Patient waiting allowed us to glimpse black fur and blue-green eyes. “Blackie” was there all right. Stalking us. Watching us. We filled a bowl with milk, took it into the field, and set it where she would find it. Our rustling into the field only made her run away, but the bowl of milk was again empty the next day. We worried about her spending the night out there what with truly wild animals around and hawks circling above, but she wouldn’t let us come close. She’d just stare at us through the grass and keep her distance.

The next morning, however, Tom found her in the garage. She was hiding under his equipment and climbing around the motorcyle and bouncing across cabinets as if totally at home.

“Let me have one of your shoestrings,” he said, pulling one out of my gym shoe before I could answer. “I’ll make friends with her.” And he sat on the cement garage floor dangling that string until the kitten could stand the curiosity no longer and reached out with a little clawed paw.

Another day went by, another round of shoestring play, and kitten was in his arms . . . and on the porch . . . and in my lap . . . and in our hearts.

I’ve never in my life owned a cat, so don’t know a thing about them. My sister Carol offered advice (she of her own animal attraction, now currently caring for several kittens born to the stray cat who found its way to her porch just in time to give birth). We would need to get her to a vet, should she decide to stay (and once we get her to a vet, we’ll know for sure whether we have a he or a she. I told you, I’ve never had a cat and I’m not interested in figuring out that part).

Next problem, however, was a planned family vacation. We were just getting her used to us; would she stick around? We went out and purchased a self-watering bowl for water and another for food along with a bag of kitten vittles. We left the garage open just enough to let her in and out. We even (silly us) left the porch door slightly ajar for her to make her way there should she decide she wanted to cool off.

But would she decide to stay? That was the question.

After a week away, we arrived back to look for “our” kitten. “Here, kitty kitty kitty,” we called as we wandered around the yard and garage.

Nothing. We feared the worst. She had gone away, or she’d been . . .

Then, there stood Snickers, still, staring under the truck. Our beloved Shih Tzu, who was still trying to figure out this black creature, had found something. I got down on my hands and knees to peer under the vehicle and saw the familiar blue eyes. A dangling of a shoelace later, and she was back.

She hadn’t left after all, and she didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Each morning, she was in the garage and would bound onto the porch when we called to her. But now that she was apparently going to be part of the family, she needed a name–a candy bar name to follow in the tradition of our dogs Reese Cup and Snickers. I went to Facebook for advice (where else?), and Karen gave me the most obvious and perfect name–KitKat.

KitKat made her way out of spending nights in the garage to making her home on the porch, and was meant to stay there. I even put up one of those gates across the doorway, the kind we used across the stairway when our kids were toddlers. KitKat just jumped up and over. I had no idea they could do that. She liked the idea of coming into the house where the action was–where she could be chased by her new furry playmate.

We tried to keep her on the porch, but every time we closed the door, she would look so pathetically through the glass at us and the resident dog that we couldn’t bear it any longer.

“Pllleeeaaassseee can I come in?”

Good grief. We are just such suckers. I don’t know who did it first, but the door was soon opened and the invitation made. “Come on in, KitKat.”

What can I say? We fell in love with the kitten who found us.

Chalk it up to “animal attraction.” Wonder what we’ll attract next?

Of Fields, Fireflies, and Furry Friends

Summer in the country. I fondly remember summer visits to my relatives in decades past when we would spend days at the dairy farm with Uncle Howard and Aunt Gladys and the cousins, and then with Aunt Dot and Uncle Homer on their acreage at the end of Pork Road. On those hot summer days, this suburban-often-moving-military-kid found a little slice of heaven. Where else can you ride a tractor, watch cows be milked, play a family softball game (with every member participating), ride a scooter at high speed across a field (and not get hurt when you dump it), and build a massive bonfire for cooking weinies and marshmallows?

Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why this little slice of heaven at Green Acres is so magical. When I watch my college-age kids and their friends play ultimate frisbee in our back yard, I’m grateful for God’s grace in providing this home with its–well–green acres.

This month I saw I two sights I have never seen before and they astounded me to the point that I had to stop my car and simply take them in (and both occurred on the same trip, same stretch of road). At this time of year, the cornfields are bursting with their green stalks (“knee high by the fourth of July”? Forgeddaboudit. These stalks already tower over me!). I was passing through along a country road between those lush fields following a rainstorm as the sun was setting behind me. I don’t know if it was the combination of dusk and the moisture in the just-watered fields or what, but the fields were literally alive with lighting bugs. I mean teeming with them. Millions of sparkles dancing at eye level, blinking, creating a visual feast of light and movement. I literally gasped. As I drove, the show continued until I stopped simply to watch, a lone audience applauding one of God’s one-act plays.

At the same time, a rainbow appeared–not just any rainbow but a rainbow where I could actually see both ends!

Big sky, massive rainbow, light show in the fields. Applause for you, God. Amazing!

And what would a Linda blog be without a furry friend? Last night as I sat on the porch at my computer (oh the joys of a home office), I kept hearing an incessant meowing. The TV was on in the house with no one watching (why is that?) and I thought the noise was coming from some sitcom. When I went to turn it down, the detective show with the guy being questioned in that little room in the police station was decidedly void of cats. Back on the porch, the sound continued. I opened the door of the porch and sure enough, something was meowing–something sounding very little and helpless. Armed with flashlights, my husband and I scoured the pond area where rustling grass gave away our little intruder’s whereabouts. As he/she dashed away, we caught a glimpse of a little black kitten, perhaps several weeks old–old enough to get lost but seemingly still calling out for momma.

He/she would have nothing to do with us (to avoid further using the annoying he/she, I will now name said kitten Blackie. Lame, I know, but it goes with “Buddy” and I like it and he/she was black, so there). Our soft tones and calls notwithstanding, Blackie fled across the yard. Several minutes later, however, Blackie was back, apparently enjoying the safety of our garden and maybe the comforting sounds of the little fountain and waterfall in the pond.

Another round of coaxing by said humans ensued, to no avail. We left a saucer of milk, hoping Blackie would at least take some sustenance.

The saucer was empty this morning. Well, perhaps Blackie will return? I’ll keep you posted.

“Buddy,” Part Deux

We really didn’t think we’d ever see him again–Buddy, that is. As noted in my previous blog, he came, he saw, he went back home. I have to say we sort of missed him.

Until two weeks ago.

Suddenly, there he was . . . standing at the bottom of the steps by our porch. Snickers was headed out to the yard for her, well, what dogs do in the yard, and she ran almost smack into Buddy as she bounded down the steps. His rather large presence blocked her way and he scared her into a barking frenzy. He looked at us apologetically before climbing the steps and ambling into our house.

“Guess who’s back?” I shouted through the front door. “It’s Buddy!”

This time, our older son was home visiting. “See, I told you he was real!” I exclaimed as Buddy nuzzled up to him. Sure enough, Buddy had a collar with a tag–name and phone number.

Buddy’s real name is Rocky. And he stayed with us the rest of the day, and overnight, and into the next day. He laid on the floor. He laid on couch. He laid on the nearest person. All we had to do was say his name–his real name–and he was up off the floor with his head on our laps.

“I want a big dog,” said Son Number One. There is something about a warm animal, almost as big as you are, who wants to give so much love! I mean, we wouldn’t trade little Snickers for anything, but big dogs have a certain je ne sais crois. I took pictures on my phone of Rocky snuggling us and sent them to our other two kids.

I called the phone number on Rocky’s collar and left a voice mail to the effect that Rocky was with us, he was safe, he’d stayed the night, and we really enjoyed having him. Got a call back later basically saying, “He’s a good dog. He roams all over the place. If he ever bothers you just call us up and we’ll come get him!” Well, he’s no bother at all!

That afternoon we had to run some errands and didn’t want to leave Rocky pent up in our house, but neither did we want to lock him out of the house. We decided after much discussion to put him in the van and return him across the river to his home. No people were around, but Rocky knew where he was and headed into the back yard. Apparently the entire county is his playground.

Son Number Two arrived home last weekend. “I want to see Rocky,” he said, “Wish he’d come over.” We thought about borrowing Rocky for a couple hours before heading to the airport to send Son Number Two on his summer trip. As we headed out across the river and through the next town, guess who just happened to be standing in a field by the road?

You got it.

We pulled the van into the weeds beside the road, and all of us jumped out. Rocky scampered toward us like we were long-lost friends. Son Number Two got to meet Rocky at last!

He may not be ours, but we sure do love this big old country dog. Rocky, come on back anytime. You know where we live!

He Came, He Saw, He Went Back Home

We called him Buddy, for lack of a better name. He arrived on our doorstep on a cold April night and–well–he stayed the night.

Buddy is a dog of some mixed breeding. Very large, short reddish hair, with big brown “doncha just love me” eyes.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A new friend had visited us and stayed to chat for the evening. As we stood at the front door saying good-bye, “Buddy” ran up the steps onto our porch and right into the house. He saw the open door as an open invitation apparently, and in he came. We all looked at each other as if to ask, “Do you know who this dog is?” We didn’t.

But he was already inside, had found a place on the floor to plop himself, and appeared to be here to stay. He was cold and simply wanted to warm up, we surmised. Perhaps he had wandered too far from home and couldn’t make his way back in the dark. So we gave him water and put out some of our Shih Tzu’s food–he managed to eat more in those couple minutes than Snickers does in a week. Then Buddy returned to the living room to lie down beside Tom on the floor, put his head in the crook of Tom’s arm, and make himself totally at home.

We fell in love.

Snickers fell into confusion.

In any case, we put a blanket beside our bed and Buddy slept there all night. At one point, both dogs needed to go out. Tom got up and let them outside. Buddy disappeared. We assumed that he had warmed up enough to now head home. But only moments after Tom and Snickers were back in bed, we heard a deep “woof” from the porch. “Hey! Let me in!” and Buddy settled back into his makeshift bed.

The next day, we figured he would find his way back home, but instead he hung around. He slept at my feet as I worked in my office. He followed Tom around the barn. He and Snickers laid on the warm sidewalk almost side by side.

We thought about calling the police–that’s what we would do with lost-and-found dogs in the city where we’d lived. But do people in the country report lost or found dogs? Dogs wander all over the place. Sometimes dogs get dropped off on purpose because the owners don’t want them–at least that’s what we’ve heard. Is that what had happened to Buddy? Is that why he couldn’t find his way home? We knew Buddy was not abused–he looked clean and well fed. He had a chain collar, but no tags. Did his owners not want him? It broke my heart, however, to think about a little boy crying all night because his dog had disappeared and not returned. What should we do? If no one wanted him, we’d keep him–we decided that much. But we wanted to get him back to his owners if we could locate them and determine if they wanted him.

Our neighbor walked by and I asked her if she recognized him. She’d seen him out and about before, and thought he lived across the river in the little town about a half mile from us. Maybe I could take his picture, make a poster, and say, “Lost Dog. If you don’t want him we’ll keep him. But call this phone number and tell us his name . . .”

Then, that evening, Buddy left for good. Tom has seen him a couple of times–sure enough, wandering in the town across the river. Buddy has a new collar, with tags.

Thanks for visiting Buddy. We’re glad we could warm you up on a cold night. If you ever get lost again, we’ll leave the light on for ya!

Water, Water Everywhere

This month we learn about melting snow . . . and spring rain . . . and how the slightest almost unnoticeable crack in a foundation allows for rivulets of fresh spring water–right across the basement floor.

I’m not complaining. I did say fresh spring water. In our previous home we dealt with the other kind of water–you know, the kind that gurgles backward up into the basement from sewer pipes blocked by tree roots and who knows what else. Trust me, this is much more pleasant. Not less wet, but at least not smelly and gross.

That said, it’s still water. Lest you think the house will crumble at any minute, it’s actually very solid, but those two minor cracks will definitely need to be patched. Tom says it’s easy (what a blessing to be married to a guy who, when any home repair comes along, says, “That’s easy”). So we trekked to town last weekend (past farmfields that might as well have been shallow lakes) and purchased those thingys that send water from the gutters out farther from the house. (I don’t know what they’re called. I just know what they look like.) And concrete patch. And whatever else hubby said he needed for this particular repair.

And also lest you think we experienced damage to our “stuff,” we were fortunate to have known of this slight water issue beforehand (I mean, we didn’t anticipate streams of water, but still we knew), and so everything in the basement is on shelves and off the floor. So as we mopped the water to the drain, the floor got a good cleaning.

See? Glass half full. That’s my motto.

I sit here this morning in our little country home with the snow finally melted, anticipating what perennials will peek out in the garden behind our house. The sun rises behind the trees across the field causing me to squint at the computer screen. A layer of fog makes its last stand.

Half full nothin’. My cup overflows.

A Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night . . .
Seriously, it really was!

Thing’s I’ve learned in the last week about the country:

(1) On a dark and stormy night, the wind howls and makes me wish I hadn’t watched that Poltergeist channel.
(2) Snow drifts three feet high at the side of the house that cover the DirecTV dish will cause the TV to randomly shut off.
(3) The snow may not appear anywhere on the driveway, but will instead have drifted to cover the porch.
(4) Country roads do not get plowed in any hurry–hence the snow drift across the road in front of our house. Judging from the tire tracks, it appears that some enterprising neighbor actually went around the drift and across the neighboring field–there’s very little snow there!

And this week we’ve learned about heating oil. You see, in the city where we used to live, one just turned on one’s heater and voila, heat! Here in the country, one must call the heating oil guy who comes with his big truck and big hose which he attaches to a pipe on the outside of the house. He proceeds to send in however many gallons of oil we request and then we write him a check. When we first moved in (that day Tom arrived by himself and awaited the hallowed heating oil guy), we got about 150 gallons of the elixir of heat and our house stayed toasty warm until the end of December.

At that point, we arrived back here after Christmas to a very cold house (our poor fishy was rather dormant). Anyway, we got kerosene to allow us to sleep the night and then ordered more heating oil the next day. Same amount, 150 gallons, same price (high). We dropped our temperature and piled on the sweaters, vowing to make this tank last much longer than the two months it had previously lasted.

We awoke last week to a cold house and a dry tank. Which means we went through those 150 gallons in ONE month. That can’t be! We kept the temperature low! We piled on sweaters. Life is not fair! Life is COLD!

Well this time we determined to not buy any oil but to find another source of heat. This week we’ve used our electric space heaters as we studied Craigslist looking for wood stoves. Today we purchased one (well, we went out and purchased it after the plow came through to allow us access to our road). Tom is out buying flues and pipes and whatever else is needed to make it work. (I don’t try to understand these things.) We figure that wood will be much cheaper than oil.

Of course, we’re new to the country. What do we know?

And finally, one more thing I’ve learned this week,

(5) Hoosiers are CRAZY when the Colts go to the Superbowl!

Green Acres We Are There!

After many years and many angst-ridden conversations, we finally did it.  My husband and I packed up our home where we had lived for twenty years, where our children had been born and raised and sent off to take the world, and where we had spent almost all of our married lives.

For many years we had been dreaming of a move from the suburbs to the country, to a place where we could b-r-e-a-t-h-e. We really had had our fill of the suburbs/city and hoped to spend our empty-nest years in a place that would feed our souls with bigger skies, endless fields, and tiny towns with funny names. And we found it . . . by God’s grace, we found it.

We had humbly asked God for provision–a place with a few minor amenities. Coming from McMansion-ville, we knew we had probably lost all concept of what really constitutes a “house.” We didn’t need big and impressive . . . We just wanted a simple, sturdy home with a basement, a little bit of land, and a pole barn for a workshop for Tom. And you know what? God delivered. He didn’t have to, but he did. All that we asked–and a little bit more (which seems to be His way, ya know?).

So here we are, nestled in the country. The adventure began on October 29 of last year for Tom, who had to spend the night in a very cold house in order to take arrival of heating oil the next day. I arrived (to a warm house) on Saturday, Halloween. We had two twin mattresses on the floor, a chair, a TV (hookup happened on Saturday–can’t go too long without a TV), and not much else. The first couple of weeks meant a lot of cleaning, for the house had sat for over a year. (Ever have to clean a fridge that has sat closed for a year? You don’t wanna know. Tom did it and I will be forever grateful.)

We moved in all of our furniture the weekend after Thanksgiving–renting a 27-foot Ryder truck that carried all of our belongings from Illinois (we emptied the truck), then all of our belongings from three storage units locally (two more trips with a full truck, which we emptied). Thank goodness for strong college boys–but after filling and emptying that huge truck three times in three days, we were exhausted but happy.

We aren’t exactly sure why we’re here–all we know is that this is where God wants us. Tom compares us to Abraham and Sarah being called away from one place to settle in another, with not much more to go on then a sense of God’s guidance (which, of course should be enough).

So now we’re Hoosiers. Happy Hoosiers. Green acres we are there!