CHAPTER ONE

Welcome to

SURRENDER ON THE TRAIL

In the LORD I take refuge; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain…?!”

Psalm 11:1

CHAPTER ONE


MAY 13, 2016

9:00AM

I have agreed to go on an Appalachian Trail section hike May 31 through June 4.

Sounds simple enough: take long walks, camp overnight, repeat 4-5 times, then go home. How hard could that be? 

But I am 44 years old, overweight, stressed out because life is not going as I planned, hoped, or dreamed. AND, I have never gone pee or poo in the woods. 

Never. Not once. 

I am in research mode to prepare for the hike. So far, I read that an Appalachian Trail hiker carries 30-40 pounds of equipment on their back. I already have that much extra in fat that I carry around my waist and hips every single day. Is it possible that I can carry more than my own fat for nearly a week in the woods?

Neither friends nor family would describe me as an outdoor person. Once upon a time I was a Cub Scout Den Mom for 8 years for our two sons. I did not lead the outdoor activities. I outsourced what I did not want to do or what I had no clue how to do. 

I asked other outdoorsy type parents to lead lessons that involved sweat. Or trails. Or fires. Or bugs, fishing, snakes…yeah, pretty much anything having to do with outside was outsourced. I was great at sending emails, keeping a schedule, carpooling, and leading a craft or two. I rocked soap carving and enjoyed taking 6-10 young kids to new places. Guess it is my turn to take a field trip. Yet this is exactly the kind of field trip I would have avoided as a Den Mom.

Cub Scout days are long gone. I hold onto contact information and scout files as if we could start back up at any time. I have a plastic bin filled with Pinewood Derby Car race supplies. Each year I think I will donate them to some younger mother but have not gotten around to it. There are extra car decals, paint, weights, glue, officially licensed Boy Scout of America wheels, a scale and graphite powder which I am not sure is legal in the BSA rules, but everyone used it on race day anyway.

Our children are on the cusp of being grown physically. I am 5’10. In the last year both sons have become over 6 feet tall. Somehow, I am now the shortest person in family pictures.

Jacob turned 18 years old a couple weeks ago. He graduated high school last summer at 17 because he was determined to serve as soon as possible in the United States Air Force. He wanted to clear his path to depart months ago, but the wait game has been challenging. We have taken no less than 5 trips to a Military Entrance Processing Station two hours away from our home. For months I have run back and forth to schools and doctors getting letters and documents together. Jacob finally has a date for Basic Military Training coming up May 24. 

I feel sick and stressed inside. Is Jacob ready to be an adult? He is by far the child I have worked the hardest to support and coach along the way. My shy boy is becoming an adventurous man. What scares me most is his propensity to learn the hard way as a rule. When he was little the moment after I told him not to touch the hot stove, he proceeded to lay his hand flat on a burner. I am shocked by his no fear and eagerness to leave so soon. Older and wiser friends who have already been through this say I should be proud that he has the confidence to go. I try. 

Last month Jacob had an emergency appendectomy. When he was recovering post-surgery, I considered it a privilege to stay overnight in the hospital with him. I stared at his sleeping face as the rain poured outside and the parking lot lights gently shone into his room. What a bookend moment it was. I thought about how the same month 18 years prior I stared at him for hours overnight in a plastic crib after he was born in the same hospital. Now he is departing soon for Texas and who-knows-where in the world after that. He is brave.

Then there is Ben-Just-Ben. He is our youngest, 14 years old. His real name is Benjamin, but he announced after coming home from kindergarten years ago that he is no longer the full name of Benjamin. With a small hand cutting motion he stated, “I am Ben just Ben from now on.” This guy, once the cuddliest child ever, is close to 6’2 tall and begins high school this year. High School?! Wow. One minute you are trying to keep the calendar straight for school age children. The next minute you grieve them leaving home.

I am a risk taker of sorts, but now it is our kids turn to take risks. No matter that them leaving is completely normal and healthy, it hurts. Down deep in my stomach and soul there is a grinding and twisting that I feel these days. I must figure out how to work through the tears of this life transition. 

It does not help that other parts of my life are unstable. I run a tiny non-profit with 7 staff members. We teach positive coping and life skills to children in grades K through 12, and for parents of preschoolers.  Being a small organization means I wear lots of hats. The pay is not great and sometimes the boss, aka me, simply does not get paid. 

My reward is seeing children who once struggled in the classroom then learn new strategies and succeed. It is hard to imagine doing anything else because I love what we do so much. With new skills and knowledge people can make better choices and, in some cases, break negative cycles that have been passed down for generations.

The desire to build the non-profit began in 2005. I thought I heard clearly from God that this was what I was supposed to do. I was confident that if God put the dream in my heart that He would provide. Yet as some of my students say about other things: the struggle is real.

I adore my staff. I am so proud of the work they do. Most of them have spouses who are the main breadwinners. They do not seem to feel the same pain that I do trying to cover the mortgage and decide whether to buy groceries or pay the gas & electric bill. 

My husband, Paul, is a loving, caring spouse and father, but striving to make a good salary has never been an actionable priority for him. We have been married 23 years. He agreed that he would seek a better job or salary when I left the corporate world and took on the non-profit, but to date the steps necessary to improve his pay have not happened.

No matter how much I say I believe in him, he will not believe in himself. He is an intelligent person. I admire his brain, but he is plagued by self-doubt, a touch of OCD and depression—in my unprofessional opinion. Basically, I am married to Eeyore. Loyal and loveable, lack of growth mindset, Eeyore.

Worse, his body is failing him. He is tired all the time. I am not the type of spouse that would say, “Get off the couch!”, but I am thinking it.

Especially due to finances, something must give. I am not sure what. 

In addition to non-profit workshops, marketing, administrative duties, taxes, payroll, school activities, orthodontist appointments, plays, proms, sports, home duties like cleaning, oil changes, laundry, grocery shopping, etc., I also have a side retail job. I wish the retail money helped more than it does. I barely notice the tiny additional funds, but I do notice how much my feet hurt. My brain feels squeezed. Too much. This is all too much.

FLASHBACK:  APRIL 5, 2016

I am in-between school day workshops and an evening parent workshop. I receive a text:

JoAnn–WOULD YOU LIKE TO MEET AT THE PUB RESTAURANT? I HAVE A LITTLE TIME BEFORE A GIG NEARBY.

Heck yes, I do! I love JoAnn. She is one of my favorite people on the planet. JoAnn is a high school social worker. We collaborate from time to time on projects and how best to serve students. 

JoAnn is 5’2 tall. She is 17 years older than me, but in much better shape. She runs marathons and any 5K event she wants to around the city.

We connect well spiritually, and we laugh every time we are together. In the last few years, we call each other “soul sis”. Like me, she grew up in an environment with a functioning alcoholic father and hard-working mother. I sense we both work in the Urban Appalachian town where we do because it is a lot like coming home for both of us. The culture is familiar. We “get” the unwritten rules. 

I arrive at The Pub. JoAnn has already portioned out half of her pot roast and mashed potatoes dinner onto a side plate for me. One, yum. Two, this is a good habit I have seen her do with food. She is a half eater. I am an eat the whole plate and may I have some more eater. 

I ask, “What’s your gig tonight?”

“A compass reading class over at REI.”

That does not sound like social work continuing education to me.

“Tell me more,” I smile.

“I’m starting my AT adventure this summer,” she announces proudly.

I have no idea what REI is either, but start with, “What does AT stand for?”

“Appalachian Trail,” she says. “Oh, I love to hike.”

I have never heard of the AT, “How long is it?”

“The whole AT goes from Maine to Georgia.”

“Wow-“ How in the world?

She reads my face. “Oh honey, I’m not hiking the whole thing this year,” she laughs. “I’m doing a section hike as a recon mission to see if I can handle it. Then I might do more sections each year until I complete it. I have been planning and plotting this adventure since September. I have taken several classes to prepare too.”

Is there anything JoAnn can’t handle? Seriously.

“Who is going with you?”

Then I ask, “When are you going?” And more questions all the while thinking that maybe she should ask me if I want to go.

I do not dare interject that idea. Clearly, this is her thing. She has a plan.

Look at me. I feel the pinch of my too tight pants. I would not be a good hiking partner. I would literally weigh her down.

But…the thought of going sounds amazing. 

My mind wanders. This could be the escape I need to be me-just-me for a week. I could be challenged away from my normal struggles. Lately I feel an ugly angry inside. On the outside most people may think all is well with our family, but the reality is painful. We live in a nice house that we no longer can afford. Our slow pay credit score makes me feel trapped. Moving is expensive. We have old cars that break down constantly. We are blessed with two amazing kids who each wear one pair of shoes for a year straight. Our water has been turned off a couple times and the boys knew when I rushed to scramble to get it turned back on.

JoAnn interrupts my thoughts, “Would you ever be interested in hiking sometime?”

I look at her. My head tilts, “Yes. If the opportunity comes up. Maybe after your recon mission success, then we can plan a different section hike sometime. Let me know how it goes.”

FLASH FORWARD:  MAY 03, 2016

7:00AM

I’m driving to work. The cell phone rings. It’s JoAnn. I put her on speaker.

She says, “Crazy idea. Do NOT feel like you have to answer right now. Sleep on it at least one night….”

“I’m listening.”

“My friend who was supposed to go on the AT hike with me hurt her back. There is no way she can carry the backpack required so she can’t go.” 

There is something about the way JoAnn lovingly pronounces “AT” that I admire.

She continues, “Would you like to go on the trip?  I have a mini camp stove and a bear bag already. I can text you a pic of our hiking plan so you know where we’ll be going….” She trails off. Pun intended.

Meanwhile, I am thinking, What in the world is a Bear Bag?


If you’d like to listen to the Audio Version, click here for my podcast chapters.

Thanks for reading or listening! Check back March 28, 2021 for Chapter Two.

© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

Three Days

Dear Readers,

In three days, I will begin posting one chapter per week of my manuscript Surrender on the Trail.

I plan to have fun with this project. Hope you will have fun too!

If you want to help the process, here are three things you can do.

A) Subscribe to the blog by entering your email address via the top right side of the Home page. This guarantees that you receive an email once per chapter release.

B) Like the post or comment after reading. I would love to hear how the experience resonates with you or answer questions.

C) Share the chapter with people you think might enjoy the story. After the first week, I will include a fresh page link where chapters will be in numerical order in case you want to send someone one link regarding what has been shared so far.

Thanks much!

See you on the trail,

Mind, Body & Soul

Basically, I have spent the weekend on a date with the book Think Again by Adam Grant. Thank you to my dear friend for telling me that his new book is available.

He is a psychologist who speaks all of my brain frequency love languages. I am applying what I’ve learned about re-thinking immediately. I propose this book can help multiple areas of every person’s work/life. Check it out if you dare.

“The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know”

Friday I took time to figure out the $5 Bluetooth wireless headphones that I’ve had since November. My body can roam the condo and walking path handsfree now.

The last three days also have involved editing one of my manuscripts. So, my creative soul is awakening–again.

I am 48 years old for 7 more days, filled with hope for 49.

See this girl with her typewriter and braces headgear? She has always been a writer and always will be.

Hope you have a great week,

New Greeting & COVID-19 Writer Observations

Social distancing among the smart people was in full effect last week.

And darn it, I needed to leave my home to go to the rare event that was not cancelled.

I knew there would be a small number of people I’d never met, people who I want to know, people who are focused on a shared mission, people who agreed in an advance email that we would remain more than 6 feet apart the whole day.

I am a solid hand shake and smile person normally. What do I do now that COVID-19 is here?

I gave it thought well before I entered the ghost town building in downtown Cincinnati.

When I saw the first new-to-me person, I met their eyes with my eyes, paused my inertia way short of their personal space and gave a little namaste nod with a smile. No spittle.

We acknowledged the awkwardness verbally and moved to opposite corners of a large room to re-disinfect our personal tables. I made eye contact with other new people in other corners.

We agree from yards away that we are all good with continuous disinfecting and using a paper towel to open doors when it may not be not possible to prop open a door. Throughout the day I mentally lean in my eyes to their far away eyes to connect in agreement with certain things said. Or, to look away when I did not agree. Oh, and there were the pressed lips, eye brows raised “mmm hmm” moments when someone said something totally on point.

I felt like we got to know one another and accomplished our project over two days. Then I left to work from home as much as possible. Leaving and returning to the house requires a serious self-sanitize process. I am not messing around with what could hurt my family or anyone else’s family.

In this new pandemic world, there are observations that strike my writer/artist brain.

People find new creativity when traditional communication has been altered. Social media is a full spectrum of posts from the inspiring to funny to nice-attempt-but-missed to tasteless memes. Humans need their outlets.

When my brain will focus, I read the long emails that once seemed unnecessary or painful. Phone conversations are the golden prize. I try to have at least one every day. How many years has it been since a phone call about work or general friendship stuff has been relaxed and allotted time without being rushed?

I love hearing people talk about how they discovered that the word cancelled can be spelled appropriately with one l or two. Makes me think, Welcome to my world. I look up things like that all the time.

And can we take a minute to celebrate the creative IT staff all over the world? They have been prepping to help people work remotely for years. Information technology is its own special kind of art. You rock!

My prayers flow right now especially for healthcare professionals and for humans to remain well or to recover from illness.

I predict a post-pandemic automatic door installation surge in public buildings and the remodel of doorless bathroom entrances.

Let’s help others by staying home. We can do this, Earth People. Flatten the curve.

For those who can make time, please use a thesaurus to find other words for “unprecedented”, although I am not sure there is a better word for this time in history. Can we mix it up a little?

Oh, and it is “uncharted waters” not “unchartered waters”. It’s tricky. I know because I already messed that one up once or twice.

Love from a distance,

Glenna

Isaiah 26:20 ~ Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.

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P.S. My hair dryer broke this week. Am I running out to buy a new one? Nope!

Uber Stress

There was no calming my heartbeat. Blood rushed through my body. My back and head hurt. I was scared.

It took me 3 weeks to set up Uber on my phone. I knew how to use Uber as a passenger. I did not know how to be a driver. The app is so simple that I was confused. I watched driver YouTube videos and tutorials, uploaded my car related documents, but understood little. I gathered that in order to learn, I must go do.

I told Hubby Saturday evening that I was off to try my best. We are in the 10 day financial crunch period of the month so this gal’s gotta make extra dough.

Seemed like there is not much trip action for drivers in Kentucky so I nervously headed toward Ohio to a sketch neighborhood that showed fares available on the map. Gotta rip the band-aid off, I told myself.

Suddenly the phone beeped while I was still in Kentucky. I had a trip request. I pushed “accept”.

The app directed me to Bonefish Grill. I looked for a human, then realized I was there for a food pickup.

Ooohhh.

Inside the building, I felt the little kick in the stomach that sometimes comes when I see couples out having fun. Couples without wheelchairs everywhere.

Aside from that soon squelched jealousy, I wanted to scream, “This is my first time with Uber!”

So many thoughts.

Servers brought the food bag. I hoped it was all in there. I glanced at the number of containers, but I am not familiar with that restaurant’s food.

Off I went 10 miles to find house numbers in the dark.

A nonchalant woman took the food after I called her.

8 dollars earned. Was that enough of a trial run or should I continue?

I see a “$5 bonus for 3 series” trip on the map. I am not far away so I head that direction thinking, What type of person needs 3 back to back trips? Will this be a grandma who needs to run a few errands? At 930pm?

Shows how clueless I am. That was simply an enticement to stay in an area and do multiple trips.

Which was fine, bonus either way. My first passenger was named the same as my best friend’s daughter. That gave me comfort. She was a sweetheart too.

At one point, I felt lonely on top of my newbie anxiety. Then inbetween trips, I received a text from my bestie seeing if I was out giving Uber Driver a go. It meant a lot to be checked on and she reminded me of Joshua 1:9 at the very moment I had made $19.19.

Then our 17yo texted at 11:30pm to ask, “Everything ok?” before he went to bed. That warmed my soul.

I stopped around midnight with 5 total trips and 45 dollars. Thank you to Madeline and Autumn who tipped. I can’t figure out if there is a way to say thanks through the app.

That is all I could handle on a first go. No matter how I tried to be calm, I couldn’t manage to be relaxed in this new arena yet.

I’ll keep my car clean and try to pick up more this week.

For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

The In-between

Welcome to the in-between weekend.

  • Christmas lights are hit or miss now.
  • It is hard to remember today’s date.
  • New Years is coming.

I’ve heard some grumbling and sadness around town.

Maybe you are a Have-Not who listened to The-Haves talk about expensive gifts received.

Perhaps you just heard, “but we’ll always be friends” as he shared he is serious about a new relationship.

It’s not even break up season yet. You were blindsided.

Or your mini vacay to-do list is not close to done.

Did you use all the energy you had to cope during a time of grief?

Fear not.

To the person who needs to hear this today, you are valued exactly as you are.

You matter.

Order and routine will be restored.

It’s ok to take a nap.

Embrace what is and give it to God. Allow the feelings to pass through your body so you can move on. If you fight emotions, the pain lasts longer.

As for that to-do list, tackle something manageable first.

This is a good time to pray, praise, rest, connect to your source.

Reset for 2020.

Remember there is a time for everything. Don’t beat yourself up in this short window.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

How may I pray for you? Dm me with prayer requests for the new year.

Love,

Glenna

2 Free Gifts

“I have no gifts to bring parum pum pum pum...”

I feel the Little Drummer Boy’s pain in this season of life.

You may not have material items to give others, but there are free gifts you can give to friends and family during the holidays and throughout the year.

1. CLEAN SOMETHING. Recently in borrowed work space someone said, “Oh, we are not going to sweep. It was already a mess when we got here.” That comment made me feel sad. Aside from the fact that sweeping is on our checklist, I believe in leaving places better than they were whenever possible. The broom and dust pan stood in the corner. I collected debris in 5 minutes. No one may notice, but I know that caring for someone’s space is an act of love and appreciation.

Deposit positive energy. At someone’s home, you can do dishes without making a fuss or be the person who collects discarded wrapping paper. If the trash can is full, then take the bag outside. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Just do the deed that alleviates someone else’s stress.

2. GIVE QUIETLY. Long ago someone told me about how a visiting family member was helpful but then offered a whiny soliloquy about how they mopped the floor and how they ran a load of laundry. Listen, no one wants to hear about the dust bunnies you cleared or the obstacles you faced when searching for the perfect gift. Have a funny story? Then maybe share. Or ask yourself, is your intention to draw light to show how you should be noticed for your efforts? If so, then no. Hush.

Do you volunteer at church? Then do it with grace. People need the peace that can be found in church rather than the distraction of a grumpy volunteer.

Did you just clean your house for guests? Are you exhausted because cleaning was way overdue? Then check yourself before opening the front door. Don’t greet people with your stress. People need your warm welcoming smile.

Just do or not do…quietly.

We could talk about being present for others. We could talk about self-care and doing less around the holidays. We could talk about the Mary and Martha story in the Bible. As much as we hail Mary for simply being with Jesus, there’s a place for Martha in the story too.

An able bodied someone can help others in the spirit of love and kindness without any need of accolades. With ALS in our home, I often find myself silently thanking God that I have legs that can climb stairs and a body that can bend to pick up things. I don’t say that out loud to Hubby, but I do lift my thanks to my Higher Power. Quiet gratitude renews my spirit even in the moments when my body wears out for the day.

Martha might not be mentioned in Luke 10 if she gave quietly.

Be a stealth Bible Martha.

And please take out the trash & recycling–quietly.

Love,

Glenna

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A Kitchen Story

Once upon a time, we were newlyweds living in a sketch area of town apartment.

The recipe on the box said to let the pizza dough rest somewhere warm for 5 minutes.

Well…the oven is warm, my 21-year-old self thought.

Nevermind that the dough was in a teal plastic dollar store bowl.

Hubby watched a Cincinnati Reds baseball game from the living room couch while I fumbled in our tiny kitchen.

I did not grow up cooking. My parents encouraged me to sit down or go play. The only cookies I remember baking were with my sister before she moved out when I was five. We ate sandwiches, and on Thursdays I ate White Castles for dinner. When a microwave moved into our home, I mastered frozen meals quickly.

[Hubby’s first clue of what he was dealing with was when I said I wanted to make him dinner one time while we were dating. He asked to come over to my parents’ house early, but I needed ten hours to prepare. He asked, “Are you sure cooking is all you’re doing today?”]

I saw the flames flash inside the oven.

“Hubby!”

I opened the stove door, choked on smoke, and smelled foul melting plastic.

Maybe his game was on commercial. Maybe the bases were loaded. I don’t know, but Hubby said no words. He stood, exited the apartment, broke glass in the hallway, carried the fire extinguisher to the kitchen, pointed the hose, put out the fire, opened a window, walked back to the couch to continue watching the beloved Reds.

Never a disgruntled word. Total calm. That’s my guy when I need him the most.

I treasure that memory. These days sometimes he can’t stand or get off the couch easily at all.

I remember when he could stand to kiss me or wisely begin cooking in the kitchen with me.

Our time has flown by too fast.

Tonight he mentioned the holidays stink this year. Um, yeah.

I am glad for his honesty out loud. We are on the same for-better-or-worse page.

Slow exhale.

I know there will be good times in unexpected ways because we will make the best of things.

Son-2 asked to put up a tree Friday so that’s what will happen. I did not dare say that that is the last thing I want to do. I know I’ll be glad once it is done. We can’t skip Christmas even if that sounds like a great idea.

So on this special edition Thanksgiving morning post, I wish you patience like Hubby demonstrated when faced with a really dumb kitchen fire. It’s worth it to show grace to others.

One day your kindness may be a memory someone cherishes about you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for reading.

Love,

Glenna

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances….

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Gus Deployment Part Two

Before soaring on United Airlines one day in August, two TSA people panicked when I placed a pet carrier on the security conveyor belt.

I said to their reaching hands, “It’s empty. Don’t worry.”

Whew! Their blue shirts relaxed a bit.

“I am heading to get my son’s cat,” I said to more people than probably wanted to know that day.

My mission: Get the cat. Keep my emotions in check. Spend as little money as possible. Stretch granola in backpack.

One thing I’ve learned about being a military mom is that tears are the enemy to be embraced. I can be happy for our son = tears. I can be proud = tears. Saying hello = tears. Saying goodbye = tears.

Fight them and the tears are worse. I attempt to embrace and let them pass. If you’re a military parent, you know this roller coaster.

Son-1 and I strive for what we call “the good good-bye”. He tries to laugh when my face swells. There is something about military life that makes the words “gut wrenching” meaningful as an experience rather than a phrase.

Once in New Mexico, I see in our son right away that he is feeling about his cat a little like what I feel when he and I separate for months at a time. He hugs Gus, plays with Gus, and takes long looks at Gus. I imagine he is burning the memory of Gus into his soul with enough love to last for many months until they reunite.

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Meanwhile on minimal sleep for a 24 hour trip, my mind focuses on how to get a cat across the country without losing him.

“Ok, Mom. You guys have to go now,” Son-1 said about 40 minutes before I planned to leave that morning. He did not want to cry. I understood.

We place a “calming collar” on Gus and put him in the pet carrier.

“Here. I got you these,” Son-1 hands me breakfast. It was thoughtful of him to stop at a gas station for Pepsi and Swedish Fish with me in mind.

I stress-nosh on the red fish when Gus begins to wail in the car. Have I mentioned that Gus and I had to drive 90 miles to the airport?

Son-1 and GF warned me that Gus does not like car rides, but I know his wail is more than a dislike of the car. Gus knew I was taking him from his people.

Gus cried.

I cried.

Hubby called once while I was stopped in the desert by a police blockade. Missiles were being tested nearby. Stopping only made Gus cry louder.

“It will be ok, Gus.” I turn him so he can see me through his net. That didn’t help. I wonder if his claws will rip the carrier netting. Then I remember that I packed a small roll of duct tape. Hopefully I will not need to figure out how to repair or get him back in the carrier if he escapes.

I hyperventilate on the phone to Hubby, “Don’t. Tell Son-1. That. Gus. Is.” Inhale, “Crying.”

“Honey, catch your own breath. It will be ok.”

Sure it will. I am in new territory: alone with a cat, saying good-bye to our son for his first deployment overseas, and driving toward El Paso, Texas which dripped with sadness in the air from recent events.

There are security options with a pet in an airport. I could take the cat out of the carrier and walk through the screening device. No way. Or I could request the private room to take the cat out of the container. Sigh.

In the private room, the TSA agents share horror stories, “One time a cat died right here at this check point.”

What?!

“Yep, the owner overmedicated the cat.”

I feel so glad we did not medicate Gus. I zip him back inside with our new bonding and determination. We can do this, Gussie-boy. G-ma will protect you.

At our layover, I bravely allow Gus to walk around an indoor pet spot.

I pose him for a picture near the airport’s USO. “We are on task, buddy.”

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He and I people watch at airport gates.

Inside the carrier is one of Son-1’s worn t-shirts. I explain to the cat that the shirt is for comfort.

“Don’t worry, Gus, your owners will be back for you.”

The t-shirt also connects the dots of smells for the pets waiting at home. Once back in Greater Cincinnati, there was minimal quarantine time and/or hissing by our welcome wagon pets. They recognized Son-1’s scent. They gave us looks like, “WTH? Meow. Ok, fine.”

Gus settled in with cat toys, scratch pads, and favorite play-sleep spots. He marvels at the new sights through our window: chipmunks, leaves, grass, snow flurries. It’s different here.

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And sometimes Gus hangs out near the door patiently waiting for Son-1 and GF to return.

Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…

Posts about Gus are dedicated to his cat parents who are currently deployed separately in the military. Please pray for the men and women who endure loneliness in the name of freedom during this holiday season.

Let there be peace on earth.

GF, Son-1, Gus, & their promise rings.

One Less Thing

I realized my self-talk whispers “ok, one more thing” over and over each time a new daily challenge arrives. This came to my attention when suddenly I experienced a fifteen minute window where I soaked in the joy of One-Less-Thing instead.

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My car dashboard mirrors my life with its scattered warnings. The tire maintenance light is forever “on”. I’ve had 5 nail punctured tires over 5 months.

The service engine light greets me each morning. The oil change guy hooked up a gadget reader to tell me the light is nothing to worry about, but I wonder. The brake light won’t go out even when the emergency brake is released. I stopped looking up what the other lights mean in the manual.

The dashboard reminds me of the running narrative in my mind. It goes something like this: I’m still sick. Stress is not helping me get well. Drop the kid off at school. Go to work. Repeat. My voice refuses to come back. The cat puked. -One more thing. I need to make dinner. Sweep the house. Keep trying to sell the house. Clean the bathroom. Move the laundry. I really should write a letter or send a care package to our deployed son. What just fell off the house?! -One more thing. If you sit down, you’ll fall asleep. Get up. Give Hubby the light weight fork because it is easier for him to manage. Position his shoes in a way that will help him be less likely to fall. Move his phone to his next location so he is not thrown off balance by carrying something when he travels inside the house. Help the remaining kid with college applications. I need to go to Lowe’s. Heavy duty caulk. A new vacuum bag. Take out the trash and recycling. Prepare for presentations at work. Who do I need to call back? Have I followed through on all work tasks? Scoop litter box. Check personal email to see if anyone has responded to my manuscript query letters. Send more queries. Do we have gas in both cars? Pay bills in a way that hopefully does not cause an overdraft. It’s going to be close again this month. Is Hubby breathing? Is the cat breathing? I really need to make a vet appointment. -One more thing. There are other people I want to check in with. I text them. There are other people I would like to be there for. My capacity is too narrow. I can’t believe he hasn’t been able to work for a year. We need some mobility equipment. That will have to wait. The kid needs an eye appointment. -One more thing. I can’t make that work financially. How many hours of sleep can I get if I go to sleep right this minute? Why can’t I fall asleep? And so forth.

I try not to complain out loud. “Just keep swimming” as Dory says. But seriously, if there is a Santa out there who wants to buy our house so we can leave and start over, that would be GREAT.

Today I uprooted this tree growing into our fence and felt delighted by the image. Yes, we are ready to be uprooted.

In an attempt to make extra cash, I placed an ad to be a Pet Sitter. I can squeeze in dog walking and more cat litter scooping. I can love on animals and give neighbors peace of mind. The first response? Someone needs help with a cat until they get out of jail in February. So many thoughts. Bless their heart. Sigh….

One day I will not feel so stuck. I visualize selling a manuscript and being in an affordable and accessible home. One day I’ll be in the land of all three. I have learned hard lessons. I can do better.

This week our youngest got a job. Go kid! And he broke my heart by saying, “You won’t have to worry about Christmas, Mom, ’cause I’ll be able to buy my own presents.” The sentiment is good. The reality hurts.

A new job means he needs new pants. We make a plan to go to the store Wednesday. I secretly stress about how to afford the pants, but I think we can make it work. I don’t want him to know how close we are cutting it.

On Tuesday evening I drag my work bag into the house as the guys say, “We have a surprise.”

There on the kitchen table are new pants one day early. Hubby even used a coupon. In my book, that’s hot. Hubby had a decent afternoon and they worked together. I hear that the wheelchair got stuck in the JCPenny door, and they figured that out too.

In the moment, I physically felt something fall off the to-do list. One. Less. Thing. This felt magical. I soaked in the joy for fifteen intentional minutes. I smiled in my own home. This surprise felt so good!

This was a glimpse that things can be better. Will be better. I will trust the process.

To all those who struggle, I send you a giant cyber hug. You can do this. We can do this. Deep, slow breaths.

And now I must go.

The cat puked.

Love,

Glenna