A Journey with Yogi

When I was a still in diapers, my small world encompassed our little wood-framed house, and a backyard with a green picket fence that looked very tall to a toddler. It also included my brother, who entered the world 18 months before me, my mom and dad, and the milkman.

    Now before you read into that, you must know that we lived on a dairy, where my father was employed. One of the highlights of my week was when my mother would help me place a wire crate, filled with empty glass milk bottles, on the porch. Then magically, early the next morning, the crate would be full of cold glass bottles filled to the brim with fresh milk. I would excitedly announce it’s arrival to my mother, who would smile and come to the door to help me carry the small crate into the kitchen. She would place it on the table where I watched intrigued as she peeled back the pleated paper cap that acted as a seal at the top of the bottle. Usually, I couldn’t contain my excitement and I would try to help her with this process, and she would patiently oblige my little fingers in between her own. Then she would pour some of the milk into my cup and I would take my first sip. It was creamy and cold, and I could feel it flow all the way down to my round, little tummy. It brought pleasure and contentment, and expectation for more good things to come. 

        
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    I spent my days sharing backyard adventures with my brother. One time I looked up to him as he became superman and stood on the roof of the toolshed announcing that he was going to fly. It was quite exciting until my mother shot out the backdoor and yelled for him to freeze right where he was. She promptly removed him from the top of the shed and his dream of flying came to an end. I decided that she was the villain that day.

    My brother was my icon. He instructed me on the technical things in life, like how to climb a chair if you wanted to reach something higher than you, like the cookie jar, and how to open the door to the outside world by turning its round knob and giving it a good pull. He also taught me how to turn the bathtub knobs and make water come out the spout, and how to make things disappear down the toilet.   

    I learned how to walk by holding onto the back of my brother’s overall straps and toddled around the house behind him. One day he fell backwards onto me and I felt flattened like a pancake. I decided to navigate around the house by holding onto stationary items instead.

    One of our favorite morning television shows was Yogi the Bear. We sat on the living room floor together and shared in Yogi’s adventures, along with his smaller side kick, Boo-boo the bear. Soon my brother began calling me Boo-boo, so I decided that he must be Yogi since he was taller than me. Yogi was lots of fun to be with. He told me interesting stories about what bugs like to eat and how nice snakes don’t bite. I liked it when he called me Boo-boo and I wanted to be a part of his every adventure.

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    One day while mom was at work, and dad was in front of the house working under the car, my brother decided that we that we should go on a trip together. We would walk to town to get an ice cream cone and to pay our mother a surprise visit at the Ranch Boy restaurant, where she worked as a waitress. I loved ice cream, so I thought it was the best idea ever. One great thing about being the ages of two and a half, and almost four, is believing that all things are possible. You just decide to do something and you do it. So my brother hoisted me over the back fence, dropping me on my backside, and then climbed over it himself. We slipped away without dad seeing us, just in case he decided to spoil our plans by using the “No” word. My brother took my hand and we walked together down the dusty road that eventually lead us to a highway overpass. Town was a few miles away. 

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    We had walked a very long way and my legs were tired. My face felt hot and sticky. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to town to get ice cream after all. My brother said, “Don’t worry Boo-boo, we will be there soon.” I felt assured by his words. Then he said that we had to cross the big bridge to get to the other side of the road, because that was the side the restaurant was on. All I saw were a few trees and a long, long road.

    When we were about halfway across the bridge, my nose started bleeding. It dripped down my face to my chin and started dripping on my shirt. So my brother took off my shirt and wiped my nose with it. It was about that time when a big black car stopped on the bridge next to us. A pretty lady with dark hair jumped out of the car and looked very worried. She said we must get into her car with her so she could take us back to our house.

    My brother wasn’t going to have anything to do with that. He insisted that we were on our way to pay our mother a surprise visit at the restaurant. The lady took some Kleenex from her big purse and placed it at my nose instead of my shirt. Then she told my brother that we could not walk to town and we needed to get into her car immediately.

    “No!” My brother yelled. “We aren’t supposed to go in cars with strangers – and you’re a stranger!” I started crying. Strangers were bad, even if they were pretty.

    The lady swooped me up, then took my brother’s hand and pulled him into the back seat of her car and plopped me right next to him. He was hopping mad. I wailed. After some pleading by the woman, my brother finally relented and told her where we lived. Soon we were back on the dusty road and heading toward the dairy where everyone was searching for us.

    When we arrived, dad hugged us tight, then took us inside the house where he changed me and cleaned the dried blood off my face and arms and chest. We took a nap with dad in his big, soft chair, and he wrapped his arms around us tight.

    Mom says that dad left her an apology note explaining the horror of his day. When she arrived home we were still sound asleep in his arms, safe, and unaware of the danger that we had been in that day, and of the urgent prayers spoken for our safety.

    Our adventure didn’t turn out as we had planned, and we were disappointed that we didn’t get to eat ice cream, or surprise momma. But even at a tender age, I learned a lot on our long journey that day. I learned that you can make good plans, but bad things can happen along the way. I learned that there can be goodness in someone that you aren’t so sure about, and that if you lose your way, you can still find your way home. Sometimes it is with the help of others.    
 
    I cuddled up against my father’s chest and I felt safe and secure with his big, strong arms around me. My journey in life had just begun and there would be many more adventures, and seasons of disappointment and tears, and those of contentment and joy. Yet in that moment, life was about bonding with those who loved me, and of hot oatmeal for breakfast with raisins hiding in the middle and brown sugar melting on top. It was about the weekly magic of finding filled milk bottles on the porch at sunrise. It was about daily adventures with Yogi, and it was about being in a place where I felt safe and content and loved.

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At Nest’s Edge

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      I gave birth to my son six days after I celebrated my twenty-third birthday. Although he came into this world four weeks early, while I was lying on the couch with my feet propped up, and staring at the basketball my belly had become, it seemed like an eternity before he would arrive.

     I had always looked forward to being pregnant and to becoming a mother, and to be able to experience all the joys I had heard were attached to those roles. Yet my first experience with pregnancy was anything but joyous. Two weeks into gestation, morning nausea rolled in, and soon stretched into the afternoon and evening hours. I kept hearing that it would end in a few weeks, but those weeks turned into months, and I felt like I had been given a permanent sentence on the deck of the Andrea Gail in the perfect storm. Everything came in waves. Waves of oatmeal and toast and peanut butter, waves of turkey sandwiches on wheat and yogurt with fresh berries. Endless, relentless waves. Even the suggested ginger ale and saltine crackers made their way up the shoot, and sometimes would bubble right out my nose, which felt like a vinegar and baking soda experiment was being performed in my nostrils.

     I dreaded climbing into our old Ford truck on work mornings, knowing that the storm would rise up as soon as I shifted into drive. It didn’t matter that I had already seen my Wheat Chex twice, there was always more waiting in the bilge. It was only two short miles to the office where I worked, and I would fight back the waves as I punched the gas pedal, praying that I would make it there before the second round of barfing would hit. It didn’t matter how fast, or slow, I drove, the nausea swelled up from my stomach and sloshed into my throat with every curve on the road. I would tense the muscles in my esophagus, and press my tongue tight against the roof of my mouth and fight it back. But like clockwork, I would make it to mile marker 1.2, where I would have to whip the truck over into the entrance of a dirt driveway in front of a cute little old house and barf in their ditch. I never looked toward the windows of the house, but I’m sure I spoiled someone’s morning breakfast more than once.

     I read all the books I could about pregnancy and delivery, and I took a natural childbirth class so that, despite my months of suffering with nausea, I would be fully prepared to experience a wonderful delivery. At least that’s what my natural childbirth instructor indicated. I admired this laid-back woman, whose belly bulged with third term pregnancy, and who had already delivered four children au naturele. She surely must know what she was talking about. I listened intently from her sofa as she took a squatting position, to keep her birthing muscles limber, and shared her labor and delivery secrets to a room full of wide-eyed, young women with swollen bellies, each having great hopes of an easy, pain-free birth.

     My co-worker had already given birth to a son and was pregnant with her second child. She told me that that woman was full of bologna and I was wasting my money. Then she said that I had better get ready for the worst pain I’ll ever have in my life. I didn’t like that she told me that. In fact, it really irritated me. I told her that she wasn’t being a very nice friend. She responded by saying that she was my only friend because she was the only one who was telling me the truth. I still didn’t like her for saying it.

     When my labor started I was a little anxious, but mostly excited. Soon I would be holding a new little life in my arms, and I could fit into my skinny jeans again. The first few hours were easy and I was proud that I had learned so much from my au naturele instructor. But as the hours passed, I began to wonder why the labor magic wasn’t working so good. By the time my labor pains were close enough that it was time to drive to the hospital, I wanted to slug my husband. I accused him of hitting every bump in the road, which intensified the pain of each contraction. Where did he learn to drive?

     When we arrived at the hospital, I was quickly rolled into labor and delivery. Everything hurt. Every movement of the bed. Every time the nurse checked my vitals and moved the monitor on my belly. Every touch. Every sound was magnified. I wanted to yell, “No talking!”, but all my muscles were contracted, immoveable, including my voice box, which was silently screaming. I finally was able to drum up a loud, “SHHH!!” The room fell silent. I glanced up at my husband and saw him looking wide-eyed at the nurse. Then he took a step back away from my bed. Smart guy.

     Then suddenly it sounded like all the bells and whistles went off from the equipment surrounding me. There was a blur of nurses and doctors entering and leaving the room. Baby was in trouble. I was being prepped for an emergency c-section.

       My concern for the little life inside of me surpassed the intense pain I was experiencing. It didn’t matter what I had to go through, the pain, the probing, the needles, as long as our baby arrived safely into this world. Through some quick maneuvering by the nurses, and with the help of two doctors, a c-section was avoided. I gave one last gut-breaking push and heard the first cry of our son. I had witnessed my first miracle.

       As they rolled me out of the delivery room, I thanked God for watching over our baby boy, then I wondered how I was going to break the news to my husband that I was never going to go through that again. Two years later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  Then a few years beyond that, our second daughter arrived, adding to our joy. They say that time heals wounds, or sometimes bad memories, but I think God gave me a slight case of amnesia between births, so that I could have the little family I had always dreamed of. He has a way of knowing just what I’m going to need, sometimes in small doses, and sometimes in big doses. 

       Many seasons have come and gone since my husband and I entered the role of parenthood. Our son grew up and moved three states away. That made me cry. Our second child grew up and got married. I cried at her wedding. At least she stayed in town. Then she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I cried again. Recently, I hugged our third baby goodbye at the airport. She’ll be living miles across the Pacific ocean while attending nursing school. You guessed it, I bawled. She did too.

    Crepe paper streamers were left strung across our living room ceiling, and for days I tripped over balloons in every downstairs room of the house, all remnants of a surprise going away party given to our daughter by her friends on the weekend she said goodbye to our small town. I just couldn’t make myself take the decorations down right away. It would be like saying, well, that’s that – that phase of life is done. Mooovin’ on.

       There was a point in my life when I began looking forward to empty nest. In time, each child wobbled at the nest’s edge and I held my breath when I saw that they were ready to spread their wings and fly. But now that I was standing at the edge of the nest watching our last baby fly away into the sunrise of her new life, I wasn’t sure I liked it. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to leave behind a noisy house full of kids, and night-time talks, and mocha dates.

       The once full dinner table has been dwindling, but I have left both leaves in, because it is big and long and inviting. I like to remember how it was when it was crammed full of our kids, and the neighbors kids, and kids from the church youth group, and when our kids teammates gathered there for meals. It was exhaustive, yet fulfilling, and I really loved every minute of it.

       It didn’t matter that on one family vacation, while traveling across Utah in our minivan, with a whining two year old in the back seat, accompanied by her two siblings who were pushing each others hot buttons, that I had threatened to sell them to the nearest family, because people who lived in Utah liked lots of kids. It didn’t matter that there were years of clothes left on the floor, and a continuous parade of socks without a partner. It didn’t matter that I was a constant chauffeur to soccer games and baseball games, basketball games and track meets. It didn’t matter that I had spent hours sitting in the waiting room at the orthodontist office while awkward smiles were turned into lovely grins, or that I spent many long nights in our wooden rocking chair comforting a feverish child.

       There were late nights when I laid restless in bed until I heard our teenagers turn the lock on the front door. There were times when I prayed on my knees for them when they were struggling, and growing, in a very tough world. Sometimes I wondered if we were going to make it. But deep down I knew we would, and we did, and every minute of it was worth it.

       The day I took the crepe paper streamers down, I walked through the house and popped every colorful balloon while reminiscing all those moments, and days, and years that I hold like shining diamonds in my heart. And that’s the truth of it. I don’t have to leave them behind. They will always stay with me, and for that, I am truly grateful.

   

   

I’ve been thinking…

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    Hello there! I am back, and I’ve been thinking…

    When I was a child, life was simple and mostly sweet. As I grew into adulthood, I became aware of a much bigger world that was more complex and bittersweet. There were life-changing decisions to be made, and there were relationships that dissolved as others blossomed and grew into life-long friendships. 

    Along the way, I have discovered that the least expected can happen, like the loss of a great career, or the sudden death of a friend’s child, or that I would travel across the ocean and dance with the Banjara Indians, or that I would end up marrying my brother’s good friend.

    I have found that life is about the opportunities that God offers with each new day. It is facing the sunrise with arms wide open, and celebrating the goodness, and growing through the heartbreaks. It is my past, present and future all folded in together. It is love received and love given, and it is pressing in when life’s challenges become a jagged mountain and my feet become blistered and the air squeezed from my lungs. It is trusting and never giving up hope. It is gathering with family and friends, to share a meal together and to laugh and share stories, and sometimes, to weep together.

It is everyday that we are given breath.

It’s you and me.

This is life…

I’m Tired

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I was in the grocery store when I observed a toddler walking behind his young mother. She was pushing a grocery cart that was laden with food items, along with an infant in it’s carrier that was positioned in the top section of the cart. As the toddler plodded along, I noticed that his pace began to slow, when suddenly, he plopped himself down right in the middle of the canned food isle. His mother noticed that he wasn’t directly behind her and turned to him and asked, “What’s the matter?” He leaned back on his elbows and answered, “I ti-yard!”

As I watched him recline on the tile floor, I thought to myself, “Little man, I’m right there with you!” Then I thought, if big people were allowed to do what this little one was doing, then there would be adults plopping themselves down in grocery store isles all across America!

This little guy was physically tired from walking, what was to him, a long journey through the grocery store. As we become adults, the tiredness that we experience becomes more than physical. There is a mental drain that comes with the daily stressors in our lives, which often transfers and taps our physical energy. It is often called “the daily grind,” but what starts as a small pack on our back can often build to a heavy burden we end up carrying on our shoulders – and we become tired.

Are you feeling tired? What burdens do you carry on your shoulders? A possible job lay off? Bills that surpass your paycheck this month? A negative medical report? Your child’s future? A failing relationship?

If you are like me, there are times when you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. This isn’t what God planned for our lives. In fact, he says for us to bring our burdens to him, to give them to him to carry for us. He offers something that is humanly impossible for others to offer to us.

When I go to him and vent my worries and frustrations, he patiently listens. Then when I am quiet and ready to listen, he tells me to give him all my worries, all my junk, to lay it all down at his feet and leave it there. When I take him up on his offer, I can feel him lift the weight from my shoulders. Doing so gives me a sense of freedom that can’t be found in this world. A wave of peace washes over me and my restless nights dissolve away. Jesus tells us “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Because of what he has done, and what he continues to do, He has become my hope and my resting place.

Trust

I had an injury a few weeks ago that fast became a pain in the neck – literally. I was referred by my physician for physical therapy for pain reduction and correction of vertebrae position. I wondered silently if they could do wrinkle reduction and upward positioning of other body parts while I was there…But I knew that solution lay in an entirely different sort of practice, and after envisioning myself in tight-eyed surprise, with lips of an Orangutan in a permanent cock-eyed smile, and – well, I’ll stop with that, I decided to deal with old-er age and gravity as it comes.

So today my physical therapist decided to use cervical traction as a part of my treatment. He said most people either love it, or hate it. My mind flashed a scene of my body being pulled in two different directions and me screaming out for mercy. But I agreed to give it a try.

Once the therapist placed my head into the contraption that would soon be elongating my physique, he cranked two small, curved bars inward to the sides of my neck to firmly secure my condyle(s), which according to the Greeks, are a rounded projection at the end of a bone that anchors muscle ligaments and articulates with adjacent bones. I wondered if this was comparable to the Terminator taking a firm grip around my neck. Next, he started squeezing a hand pump that moved the unit which embraced my head upward. With each squeeze, my head was pulled northward as my body stayed at the equator. While laying there I began to think about what I was allowing this person to do. I had entrusted him with a very essential part of my body. Although I had never seen his credentials, or checked the America’s most wanted list for his name, I trusted that he was a competent, licensed physical therapist. A slight perspiration began in my underarms, and I wished that I had used deodorant. As my head continued to inch upward, I pictured it like a cork, stuck into the end of a bottle of champagne and at any moment it was going to pop right off my shoulders, bounce off the ceiling and roll out the door. But before that happened, the therapist asked how I was doing. I replied, “I think that’s good.” Fifteen minutes later, I felt like a giraffe and I was free to roam about the room. All in all, I have to say it was worth it. I had a better view of the world below me and I was in less pain.

On my way home, I thought more about the trust I had placed in my physical therapist. He said that he could help me, and without question, I believed him and placed myself in his care. I had put my faith in him. Then I thought about my life, my future, and those I love. I say that I believe in the God of our universe – the one that actually created it, yet so often I hesitate to completely place all that I am and all those I love into his care. When my physical therapist brought out the traction unit, I didn’t say, “Uh, I’ll take it from here”, I let him do what he knew best, even when I was feeling some uncertainty during the process. I didn’t know what the outcome would be, what the future would hold for me, but I had faith that he knew what he was doing.  As I write this, I can see a golden sunset on the horizon that lay in contrast to the dark grey clouds that dominated the day. In my heart I am resolute to give the God that I trust all aspects of my life. I give him the dark clouds that can hover over my day, I give him the good, the bad, and the ugly. I entrust those who are a part of my life to his care, and I look to the horizon of my life with the hope and assurance that he’ll be there with me.

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