Friday, January 27, 2012

Wildlife Bed And Breakfast

Let's see, would this be considered red-faced or red-handed? I think both!
If you have been following my journal for very long, you might remember that I have a population of groundhogs that makes my life challenging when it comes to planting a vegetable garden. It is so very frustrating to figure out what they won't be interested in eating. I thought it was safe to plant tomatoes, as I never saw any evidence of their activity, such as half-eaten tomatoes on the ground. That all changed this past summer, when I captured this moment with the rodent of unusual size!

I am very blessed to live in a beautiful, quiet, rural setting in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania, and I pray I will have the opportunity to stay here for many years, in the home that Buck and I planned and built together. We worked so hard to get here! The first time we surveyed our little piece of heaven from the center dormer of our unfinished second floor, I got emotional as I shared my thoughts with Buck. I told him that as we started our home-building journey, I had a mental picture in my mind of what our dream home might be like, and this wasn't it. Buck had a visible question mark on his face, waiting to hear what I was going to say next. As I looked at the landscape that lay before us, I was overwhelmed by the wondrous gift from God that we had been given! Truly, this was not the home I had envisioned; it was so much more than I ever dreamed we would have to enjoy! The Lord and Buck provided for me so well!

Home Sweet Comforting Home!

Although I dearly love my home and it brings me great comfort just being here, the location has introduced some challenges, being in close proximity to surrounding farmland. Being a country girl, I am always glad to see the native wildlife (except for groundhogs, of course). Last weekend, while at my computer, I saw seven foxes from my living room window. And although I haven't seen them yet, my neighbors have informed me that there is a population of skunks in our area as well.  In the end of November, I discovered another destructive presence that I was not at all happy about.

So much for sentimental value! All that remains of my beloved tree.
When Buck's obituary was published, in it, I had requested that in lieu of flowers, any contributions could be made to support a much loved charity organization. I knew the room where Buck would be laid out would be very stark as a result. My sister and brother wanted to know what they could do, so, I asked them to provide two  4' tall Leland Cyprus trees to symbolize Buck's love of the outdoors. I later planted the trees on the back corners of my property.

One day, I noticed that I couldn't see one of the trees from my kitchen window. Upon checking on my dearly loved tree, I was shocked to see that nearly all the branches were broken and only the treetop was still in tact. My first thought was: "Wow, I didn't know that freak snowstorm we had in October would do that kind of damage to a young tree!" I was heartbroken, as that tree had great sentimental value to me, but I grieved and moved on.

Big bald spot! I wonder if this one will survive.
The next day, I couldn't believe my eyes, when I noticed that the other tree had a large bald spot right smack in the center of it! This destruction had taken place over-night. It was then that I realized that this was deer damage, and I was not a happy camper!  Often, whenever we would go hiking, Buck had taught me what deer sign looked like. There was no doubt in my mind that a buck had either rubbed the velvet from his rack or was marking his territory while he destroyed my cherished trees. I know (my) Buck would  have been very excited about finding evidence like this, but I was not at all enthused! I was angry! That also explained my missing perennials in the front yard.

That evening, after dark, the thought came to me that I should look outside. I thought I might catch a glimpse of the buck, if he was busy polishing his rack and trashing my tree again. I was not prepared for what I found instead. Just as cozy as could be, were three does bedded down in my lush, green lawn. Up until that moment, I had always welcomed any deer sightings, but now, my attitude had changed and I perceived them as trespassers! Their boyfriend was responsible for killing my tree and I wasn't about to put out the welcome mat. I know they were enjoying the tall, tasty grass since I had not cut it in several weeks and planned to leave it alone till spring. What a cushy, comfortable bedroom they had found! Jackpot! Wildlife Spa! They could rest and eat at the same time.

Now, I was on a mission to discourage their return. Come daylight, I did the only thing I could think to do. It seemed really weird to be mowing the lawn on December 1st, but I had to do something to make my environment less appealing! Then rifle season started in Pa. and my house-guests were smart enough to vacate the premises and stay hidden until last night, when I saw them in a neighbors field.

Having thought about it, I decided that I needed an attitude adjustment and concluded that I am the trespasser here, since the deer were here before we changed the landscape.  I will just have to figure out how to protect any future plantings. I found fresh deer tracks in my resting, manure-covered garden today, so, I suppose I will need to learn how to build fences in the spring. Such is life in the country.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I haven't felt it for some time now, but it hit me pretty hard tonight as I visited a new favorite blog. Her subject was about improving your marriage and falling in love all over again. I'm not even sure why I read it, but my emotional reaction was totally unexpected and came in like a wave, leaving me salty, tear-stained, and downright exhausted!

It's been brewing for a good while, beginning with the arrival of autumn and I have coined my intermittent teary trickles as being leaky. I have been leaking emotionally for many months. This, in contrast to the early tsunami waves of grief; I felt I had come so far, and I really have as I look back. But, just like when the mammoth breakers would surge leaving me defenseless to try to stop the outcome; I have been just as powerless to try to control the leaking. I have decided that leaking is healthy and necessary, just letting the steam of grief to escape little by little, so to speak. I suppose that is why tonight's reaction was so unexpected. Evidently, I have more work to do in acknowledging the reality of the loss of my sweetheart and all that he was to me.

photoIt happens every time I see lovers: couples walking and talking, hand in hand.  Interesting to me though, is the fact that seeing young couples isn't so hard to witness, or even middle-aged couples like Buck and I were. Ironically, the most devastating for me are the senior couples, who are nearing the end of their lives and are obviously still so in love with there mates. Today, I saw a couple in Walmart's parking lot. I melted as I watched the elderly gentleman slowly shuffle to his wife's side and take her handbag for her and I observed through teary eyes as they slowly made their way, holding hands and each supporting themselves with canes in their other hands.

On another occasion when I went for a walk in the fall, I came upon an elderly couple sitting on one of the benches alongside the walking path. As I approached, I didn't notice at first, but on my second loop, the couple were making their way back to their car and I saw it. I saw the tenderness and love in his eyes as they slowly meandered and I saw the vacant, empty stare in the windows of her soul. Witnessing that kind of love and commitment lifts and breaks my heart simultaneously. I had to look away and the tears rinsed my face again. I'm certain that seeing these precious couples has such a strong reaction, because, along with the other many losses, it makes me face the fact that Buck and I will not have the privilege of growing old together. Those reminders are especially painful.

It was a blog photo of the writer's hand holding her husband's, that started this painful outpouring of grief and sadness tonight. Her husband's hand reminded me of Buck's large, thick, strong hands, and it was my undoing. There are so many things that I miss about my man, but tonight, I miss his hands engulfing mine.  I miss his love and tenderness and the way he made everything right in my world with his warmhearted touch.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of tears, for I know that with each one, I grow closer to healing and wholeness. I am thankful that it is so much easier than the earlier days. You are restoring me every day! Though I am "leaky", I can be content in knowing that I am in Your Hands tonight and always! I will be diligent to search for joy again tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year Intruder

I started off my new year with a nasty cold and was laying low in hopes of getting myself well again. I planned to turn in early last night and was reading in my bed, when I started hearing unidentifiable, mysterious noises. At one point, I got up and turned on my outside lights, to see if there were any critters outside. I dismissed the sounds and continued reading. Around 10:30,  I couldn't ignore the full-fledged racket that I heard this time! It clearly sounded like someone was knocking on my front door! I think my heart stopped momentarily, then pounded out of my chest as I faced the unknown!  Thoughts raced : Who would be so inconsiderate to show up on my front porch, late at night, without calling first? Wouldn't anyone who knew me, know that such circumstances would frighten me? Who would come to a darkened house with no outside lights on? Was my house on fire and someone was trying to alert me?  My mind whirled as my pulse rate increased!

I only had my bedroom reading light on above my bed, and my blinds were closed, but, I still felt vulnerable and exposed. Was there any way an intruder might be able to see me? I moved into my darkened living room. I considered calling my next door neighbor, and pondered whether I should call the police. I really didn't want to bother my neighbor, although, I know he would have been happy to put my mind at ease. And as far as calling the local deputy; I thought if someone had ill-intent, they surely wouldn't be announcing their arrival and secondly, there was no law against knocking on someone's door. I was paralyzed and afraid...very afraid!

My mind revisited other terrorizing circumstances from my memory bank that happened in another place I once lived.  I thought about the incident when my cat acted so strangely and sat at attention, staring at my back door, when I lived in a little remote cabin, many years ago. That time, my outside light was on and as I parted the curtain on my door, I fully expected to see a raccoon or other native critter on my tiny back porch, but instead, I saw a pair of legs, wearing large, black, men's boots! Needless to say; I called the police, without hesitation! When the deputy arrived, he found evidence of the intruder's footprints on the snow-covered ground, all around my home. He also pointed out that I had probably discovered this prowler, while he was loosening my floodlight. That was not the first or the last time the Lord protected me while I lived there!

As I stood in my dark living room, I heard the noise again, only this time farther away. I assumed that my insistent, unwelcome guest had moved to the side entrance on the other end of my home. I was firm in my resolve to not answer, or go anywhere near my doors. I was fully aware that Buck was not here to protect me, but, then, I remembered that Jesus was here with me, as He had promised He would never leave or forsake me.  I started to pray, talking to the Lord and myself. I thanked Him for being there with me and protecting me. I thanked and praised Him for the safe, secure home He and Buck had provided for me. I could feel my heart rate slow down, as He restored the Peace that I so desperately needed at that moment! I prayed for the person who had terrorized me, asking the Lord to help if there was some emergency. I stood still and listened for about 15 minutes. Then I decided to return to my bedroom, turn out the light above my bed, and call it a night. I also groped along my bedside to locate my can of Black Flag Wasp and Hornet Spray and stood it on my night stand.

Thankfully, whoever was responsible for the noise, must have given up and left. Although I was feeling better, I was certainly on full alert as I laid in bed, reviewing the details of the night's events. I finally dozed off, but was highly wakeful through the night. During those restless times, I would just listen and I started hearing the same sounds I heard initially, prior to the knocking. It was then, that I considered the possibility that perhaps it really was a wild animal and I searched my front porch, peeking through the blinds... no sign of motion. I had to know where the sound was coming from! I went into private detector mode and I listened again.  In the middle of the night, I heard something vaguely familiar, and a light bulb went on in my mind. It was a faint buzz and the sound of wings... tiny wings...STINK BUG WINGS! After all that stress and anxiety, I realized I had most likely been terrorized by stink bugs in my heat ducts! I had almost called the police because of them! I had prayed for...STINK BUGS! I felt relieved and ridiculous at the same time! I wonder how many 911 calls will be made this winter because of them?

The bottom line for me in this story is my gratitude for the effectual power of prayer and the Peace that came with trusting God with the outcome! Although there was no peril involved, the perceived threat was ultra-real and had the same effect as any authentic danger. I am so thankful that my faith can make such a difference in my life, even if it's about protecting me from STINK BUGS! Even if there had been a real person at my door, it would not have interfered with the security and safety I enjoy because of my relationship with the Lord. Just like when I lived in that little cabin in the woods, I refuse to let the memory of situations such as I experienced long ago, cause me to live in fear. Thank You, Lord, for always being there for me, and calming my fears when I need You the most!

 Psalm 18:1-3 (The Message)

I love you, God— you make me strong.
   God is bedrock under my feet,
      the castle in which I live,
      my rescuing knight.
   My God—the high crag
      where I run for dear life,
      hiding behind the boulders,
      safe in the granite hideout.

  I sing to God, the Praise-Lofty,
      and find myself safe and saved.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Very Different New Year, Three Years Ago

It is hard to comprehend that it has been three years, since the event that set my sweetheart and I on a roller-coaster that would four months later, carry Buck into his eternity with the Lord, and would make me a widow. As I reflect, I am so thankful that the roller-coaster has finally slowed down and I chose not to revisit the emergency, but rather, the memories that I will always cherish as my heart returns to celebrating New Year's Eve, 2008, in the home of dear friends, just hours before Buck's devastating heart attack.

In the presence of our church family friends, Buck openly thanked God and publicly professed his deep love for me! His proclamation was one of the best and most meaningful gifts he ever gave to me in the twelve years we knew each other! If tears must flow tonight, I prefer them to be tears of joy, love and remembrance as the memory of Buck's words flow through my broken, but healing heart.

Tonight as I look back, I thank God for the gift that my husband was to me and I publicly proclaim my love for my God, Who is slowly, but surely, reassembling and healing the shattered pieces of my life. Thank You, Lord, for the restoration that is taking place in my new heart and for helping me to accept and even enjoy my new normal. You know I never would have chosen this journey, but, I trust You will make something beautiful out of this brokenness. Thank You, for a brighter year ahead as we continue to travel together on the journey You have planned for me. I know Buck would be happy to know how much You have helped me to grow. Please remind him of how much I miss him and give him a big hug for  me!

To all of you who have so faithfully followed my painful journey, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring and encouraging me along the way. You will probably never understand what a precious gift you have given to me! I pray the year ahead will be filled with Peace, Joy, Love and health or healinig for you and yours. Happy New Year!

Love and hugs,