The Force of Nature

I have always enjoyed Memorial Day.   It has been a time for great reflection on the sacrifices that others have made which has allowed me the freedoms that I sometimes take for granted.  This year was the 75th anniversary of D Day with all of the pageantry that helped remind us of the great sacrifices that were made on that day to secure freedoms for the world.

As the day came to an end,  the night sky changed from a beautiful sunset to a summer like thunderstorm.   The pleasant thought of drifting off to sleep to the sounds of rain dancing on the roof with the roll of thunder in the distance was shattered by the sounds of tornado sirens blaring all around.

It was so dark and rainy that you couldn’t see anything.   My phone gave me a message at 10:45 p.m. to take cover because a tornado had been spotted in my area.  I went to the first floor of my house and turned on the TV to find out more information,  but my TV kept going to no signal.

All of a sudden the rain had stopped as if someone had turned off a faucet.  Everything got deathly still.  I called my parents to find out if they still had TV and could let me know what was going on.  Although the tornado sirens had stopped,  I had received another take cover warning on my phone at 11:06 pm.  My parents informed me that a tornado was on the ground in Trotwood heading towards my direction.

All of a sudden the wind picked up and the rain came pouring down.  Every time the thunder roared it shook my house so violently that I thought it was going to collapse.   Outside came loud noises that sounded like cannons and bombs going off.  I could hear things breaking and falling. This violent force of nature seemed like it was going on for an hour, but in reality it was only several minutes.

The TV flickered and all that I could think of was being ready to tell my parents that I loved them for the last time.  Looking out the windows,  all I could see was strong winds bending tree branches every time the lightning flashed.  The lights in my neighbors’ houses across the street went out.

As quickly as it came, it was gone.  My parents put the phone up to their TV so I could hear that the storm was over.  After telling my parents I loved them and hung up my phone,  I quickly checked the inside of my house for any damage.   Seeing none, I went back upstairs to bed.  When I reached, my bed my phone went off again warning me to take cover because a tornado was spotted in my area.  It was around 11:20 p.m.   However, the weather forecasters were saying that the storms had passed and we were in the clear.

I didn’t get much sleep that night for fear of another storm happening.   In the morning,  I noticed that the water in my sink was a low trickle.  I  wondered what my drive would be like heading to work since I live in a wooded neighborhood.   There was very little tree damage,  but several stop lights were either out or blinking red.

Later in the morning I found out that 2 pumping stations had lost power due to the storm and my area was under a boil advisory.   At lunch, I came home to check on my property.   The only damage that I had were a few large branches and several small branches in my yard.  My veggie garden with its fence was fine.  I moved the branches to my woods where I could retrieve it a few days later and with the help of a friend, take it to the yard waste place.

After work I decided to go to Huber Heights to get some water at a store as I knew that Dayton might be out of water.  On the drive there from my house,  I discovered how lucky I had been.   Just up the road and around the curve from my house is where the  major damage from the storm started.  There were several big trees down on houses, lawns and the road.  The drug store where I get my prescriptions had its entrance blown in and siding blown off its side walls.  The Family Dollar store was totally gone.  There were sheriff’s deputies manning the intersection of Siebenthaler and Dixie.   No driving north on Dixie was allowed due to downed power line.

The hotel and neighborhood east of I-75 looked like a war zone.   There were many destroyed houses along with some houses with minor damage.  The trees looked like toothpicks reaching up to the sky with their leafy arms.  Just to view this devastation, left a sickening feeling in my stomach.

Although there’s been much division in this country,  the citizens of the Dayton area have been rolling up their sleeves and helping out their fellow citizens.   The neighborhood chain saw brigade was out helping clean up trees that their skills allowed.   A neighbor was offering to sharpen chain blades for free for these responders.  African American churches provided food and water to everyone.   There’s a lot of love going on even though it has been nearly a month since the EF4 tornado ripped through my neighborhood.

Surviving a strong force of nature can wreak havoc on the psyche.   I still get extremely nervous when we have thunderstorms and strong winds.  I also have troubles sleeping when it’s storming.  My stomach gets very queasy and my head starts hurting.

The more I can share this story, the more healing I feel.   If you are ever helping someone who has lived through a tornado or other devastating forces of nature, please let them tell their stories.   It can go along way to helping them feel whole again.

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Rescued

On a September morning, I got up early and went to Panera to pick up something for breakfast usually a fruit cup with a create your own breakfast sandwich.  As I was walking towards the door I heard a loud noise coming from the bushes.  Looking through the branches of the bushes, I saw a little orange tabby kitten.  I tried for a few minutes to catch the little kitten to no avail.  I went in and picked up my breakfast.  I decided to try again to catch the kitten when I came out.  I spent several minutes, but the kitten was too quick for me to catch it.

At work, I was really worried about that little kitten as the temperature was already 85 degrees and it was only 6:45 a.m.   It was supposed to be in the high 90s with over 100% humidity.  That was too hot for a little kitten to be out in the elements.  I was able to get a hold of one of my friends who said that he could meet me at Panera around 10 to try to get the kitten if it was still there.  Time seemed to go so slow as I waited to head out to try to rescue the kitten.

I was a little bit late getting to Panera.  My friend was already there and had captured the kitten.  He asked “Is this what you were looking for?  It’s a  boy!”  My friend handed the kitten to me and drove me to my house where we got the kitten a litter box, some food and water.  I made a vet appointment for later in the day and was eager to see what the vet had to say about the kitten.  I was hoping that my vet would be able to help me find a home for the little boy as I already had grown cats.

At the vet’s office, all of the staff were so enamored with the little kitten.  Unfortunately they were not able to help me find him a home because it was kitten season and there were too many kittens that needed homes.  When my vet saw the kitten, she fell in love with him.  It was hard for her to get his pulse because he was scared and his little heart was beating so fast.  Every staff member took turns holding him and giving him pets hoping to calm him down.  The vet said that he was a  healthy 2 month old baby that could eat kitten food.  They gave him some meds for worms and fleas.  She said that I needed to give him a warm bath around lunch time the next day to wash off all of the dead fleas.  I needed to bring him back in a few weeks so he could get the rest of his shots.

When I arrived home, I set up a room for this little baby and spent a lot of time with him.  Each day I got up early to spend time socializing the kitten and showering him with love.  Being a feral kitten he was slightly skiddish.  Every evening I stayed up late spending as much time as I could with him.  My other cats were curious about this new baby.  By the time of his next appointment, I decided to keep the kitten and had named him Binx.

I had gone through a major surgery earlier in the summer and was feeling a little bit down about it.  Binx filled the emptiness I was experiencing.  He needed nurturing and we spent many hours together bonding.   I looked forward to spending time with him.  It was a month before he was brave enough to meet the other cats.  I was so happy that he no longer had to be in a room by himself.  He had other siblings to hang out with, no more lonely days.

One of the things that Binx does that brings a big smile to my face is when it’s bedtime  he crawls under the covers, snuggles tightly against me, his paw outstretched, his sweet face laying next to mine purring.  He does this at least once a night and in the morning after having his breakfast.  It seems as if he knows when I need an extra hug or cuddling.  He has truly been a godsend.

It could be said that I rescued Binx, but I feel that he has rescued me.  He came into my life when I was experience a very “blue” time.  He has provided me with so much happiness and joy that I am glad he is a part of my family.  If you are feeling lonely or blue, check out a rescued animal.  They will fill your life with lots of joy and happiness.

 

 

The Power of Redemption

Last night, my sister and I went to go see a production of Les Miserables.  Although this is kind of a sad story, I love the message it gives.  The story starts out with Jean Valjean getting release from prison.  Jean Valjean’s only crime was to steal some food for his sister’s sick son.  The punishment for such a crime, 20 years of hard labor.  Javert, the law official, tells Valjean that he will always be a bad person… the old saying of “once a con, always a con”.  Valjean struggles to cope with his life outside the prison system which is very cruel to him because of his “con” status.

As he wallows in his despair, a Bishop takes him into his house and provides for his immediate needs…food, shelter, and a warm bed to rest his weary head.  But there is more thing that the Bishop provides to Valjean.  When the law confront the Bishop with the silver that Valjean has stolen from the Bishop, instead of calling Valjean a thief, the Bishop embraces Valjean’s soul by saying that the silver was a gift and that Valjean in his haste to leave, forgot the candle holders that were gifts as well.  After the law leave, the Bishop tells Valjean that he (the Bishop) has paid for Valjean’s soul with God and that Valjean now needs to pay it forward by doing good works for God.  Throughout the story Valjean continues to pay it forward by coming to Fantine’s aid, raising Fantine’s daughter after Fantine dies, saving Marius’ life and giving forgiveness to Javert.

Javert, the ruthless law official, spends most of his life hunting down Valjean, hoping one day to return Valjean to the tortured life of prison.  He truly believes that no man can change.  When Valjean shows mercy and forgiveness, Javert’s hardened heart begins to change.  He confronts Valjean once more as Valjean is trying to get Marius to safety.  Instead of preventing Valjean from continuing his journey to safety, he stands aside.  This sudden change of heart confuses Javert.  It shakes him to his very core so hard that Javert decides to seek redemption in the only way he knows how.  As he jumps to his death, Javert seeks God.

Eponine had grown up with Cozette, Fantine’s daughter.  She was treated better than Cozette and flaunted this.  Years later, Eponine is in love with her best friend Marius.  One day as they are walking down a street, Marius bumps into Cozette and falls in love with her.  Eponine helps Marius find Cozette and even takes a message from Marius to Cozette before the battle which she gives to Valjean.  Why does Eponine do this?  Would we have done the same?  She totally loves Marius, but he only has eyes for Cozette.  Eponine makes the ultimate sacrifice for her friend, when she takes a bullet for him.  Marius finally realizes as he is holding the dying Eponine in his arms that she loves him.  He comforts her through her last breath.  I think Eponine did what she did for Marius because she was secretly seeking redemption for the way she treated Cozette when they were children.

Isn’t this what Lent is all about.  We are seeking out redemption from God.  Didn’t Jesus share this good news with us?  When we do good works, we are seeing the face of God.  Whether we are providing food for the homeless, helping someone with daily chores or greeting a stranger and making them feel welcomed, we are doing God’s work.

Yes, Les Miserables can be seen as a tragic story.  But if all you see is the death and despair, then you miss the great message this story is telling.  The power of redemption provides hope, faith and love.  When we have those, we can do good things.  During this Lenten season, don’t be afraid to embrace the power of redemption.

An American Gem

Going to the Blue Ridge Parkway is always a special treat for me.  Every curve along the mountains gives you a beautiful view, especially when you are on a high elevation.  It is hidden below these majestic mountains that a national gem resides.  In a little town named Bedford in Virginia is where this treasure lies.

The National D Day Memorial was created through the vision of one of the Bedford WWII survivors, Bob Slaughter.  This memorial tells the story of the D Day Invasion through a series of different monuments, statues, plaques and very well versed tour guides.

Why is this national memorial located in such a small town instead of somewhere more prominent?  Bedford is a rural town located in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  During WWII, the young men of Bedford answered the call to defend their country.  Most of the young men were boys that were in their teens, which is why they are called the Bedford Boys.

At that time, Bedford’s population was 3,200.   Thirty of these young men made up Company A of the 29th Infantry Division of the National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment and were a part of the assault on the Omaha Beach.  There were Bedford Boys in other Companies that took part in the D Day Invasion.  By the end of the day, 19 men of Company A were dead.  Two more soldiers died in Normandy and another 2 died from other D Day companies.  Bedford’s loses were proportionally the largest casualty for D Day loses of any community in the US.  Establishing this national memorial here was to recognize Bedford for its D Day sacrifices.

The beginning of the tour starts at the Bedford Visitor Center where you can view a short video that tells of the D Day Invasion and you purchase your ticket.  Then you drive up a top of a hill and follow the memorial road to the Quonset hut where you park and meet your tour guide.  The tour guide takes you through the memorial via golf cart.  The first stop is the bust of Bob Slaughter, a Bedford survivor of WWII who was involved in the D Day Invasion.

Next you are taken to the area that was designed after the D Day Patch and has busts of the officers who served Eisenhower during the invasion strategy.  Inside the ceiling of the folly where Eisenhower’s statue stands is a mosaic copy of the invasion map.

The next level has very graphic statues and sculptures that depict the beach invasion.  There are also plaques and a huge open area that is to represent a quarter of the distance that the soldiers had to traverse due to the landing occurring during low tide.  There is a sculpture that depicts the two Army ranger groups that were assigned to scale the cliff and take out the German pillbox located at the top of the cliff.  There is a sculpture of what the landing craft looked like.

On the eastern edge outside of this area along the sidewalks around the memorial is the Gold Star Monument.  The center is a cut out of the soldier.  When the sun sets, it casts a shadow of a fallen soldier.  On the back side of this monument are pictures of the Bedford soldiers and their wives and girlfriends, the invasion and the burial during the invasion and afterwards.  The US is the only country in the world that lets families decide whether to bury their dead where they died or bury them in the US.

At the very top of the level is the Memorial Arch that stands 44 feet tall to represent the year of the invasion, has the word Overload embellished on the top crossbar of the arch which represents the name of the invasion and has the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.  In an circle around the base of the arch are the names of the beaches where the invasion took place.  Down the sidewalk toward the entrance is a couple of statues, one that depicts two soldiers and the other is a replica of a French statue that has part of its face blown away.

This national memorial was dedicated on 6 June 2001.  President George W. Bush stated in his dedication speech “Fifty-seven years ago, America and the nations of Europe formed a bond that has never been broken. And all of us incurred a debt that can never be repaid. Today, as America dedicates our D-Day Memorial, we pray that our country will always be worthy of the courage that delivered us from evil and saved the free world.”

If you are ever on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Peaks of Otter Lodge, take State Route 43 South into Bedford and follow the signs to the D Day Memorial to explore this national gem.  Touring this site will definitely give you a special appreciation for the sacrifices that were made to keep world free from tyranny.

 

 

The Beauty of Summer

This summer has been an awkward one for me.  I had to have surgery that required 6 weeks of recovery.  I love gardening, but my ability to maintain my gardens after my surgery would be severely limited.  Nevertheless I planted several plants  and well watered them up to the day before my surgery.  My first couple of weeks after surgery would restrict me to no driving, so I decided to make sure I had something pretty to look at while reclining on my front porch swing.

Despite the high heat and humidity, my flowers have been thriving.  My bare flower beds have become a gorgeous landscape of flowing colors.  It has been wonderful to walk along the beds and see new flowers blooming.  My prairie flowers have really outdone themselves.  The Joe-Pye Weed is fuller than it has been in previous years with its dainty light pink and warm darker pink.  The prairie coneflower and tall prairie coreopsis has transformed the green prairie into radiant yellow.  The pink star shaped flowers of the common milkweed provided a sweet welcoming scent and the chance to see monarch caterpillars.

After the second week, I finally received permission to drive again and do some hiking (alas not the long hikes that I enjoy). My first hike was to the boardwalk at Carriage Hill Metro Park, where I looked for turtles and frogs while crossing the boardwalk at Cedar Lake. It was fun listening to the “out of tune” banjo string plucking sound of the green frog. The sun was kind of hot, so I decided to take refuge in the woods. The trail was short, but provided me a small preview of the tall grass prairie. Here I spied some thistle, rattlesnake master, monarda and some other prairie flowers.

Although I longed to hike through more prairie, I took the trail to the left that headed back into the woods. As I took my first steps in, I was greeted by the coolness found under the tree canopy. A gentle breeze made the shade of the woods even cooler. Along the trail scurried a chipmunk. From the branches came the afternoon chorus of songbirds. Nothing is so special as a walk in the woods on a hot day.

The second hike I did was at Dog Wood Pond. I wanted to hike in the woods to see the flowing natural springs, but the trail was too impassible beyond the first spring. While walking along the path at the pond, I was treated to the sweet chorus of green and bullfrogs. Stopping at the bridge that crosses area of the pond where the water tumbles down a manmade waterfall, I looked for turtles. Instead I saw two large mouth bass swimming among the blue gill. One of the wooden swings was open, so I spent sometime enjoying the scenery while swinging in the shade.

Summer tends to be a very busy time. We rush off to work, spend afternoons barbecuing, enjoy outdoor festival and concerts and other fun things. Next time life gives you a chance to pause, make sure to take in the beauty of Summer.

 

Brown-eyed Susan
Brown-Eyed Susan
Daisy Fleabane
Daisy Fleabane
Hole in Tree Stump
Hole in Tree Stump
Monarda
Monarda
Pretty Pink Flowers along the trail to the woods
Pink Flowers
Raspberries
Raspberries
Rattlesnake Master
Rattlesnake Master
Sunflowers in the Prairie
Sunflowers
Thistle
Thistle

 

Lending a Helping Hand

Spring has always been a time for new beginnings.  The blooming of flowers and trees change the muted colors of winter into a colorful bouquet of Spring.  Working for Facilities Management, I usually receive phone calls about issues that are occurring at the various facilities that my division manages.  The recent calls I have been receiving have been about air conditioning issues.  Today’s call was different.

I received a phone call from a police facility that needed help with some baby birds.  Did I have someone who could handle this?  Having worked with wildlife during my park career, I decided to take on this issue.  When I arrived on scene, I was led to a small electrical closet where there were three baby starlings on the floor.  They had apparently fell out of their nest.

After checking them over, they were too young to be on their own and needed to be placed back in their nest.  The woman who had called me helped me get a box to carry the babies in.  They kept opening their mouths for food.  She was able to get me some tuna which the babies gulped down quickly.  After they were done eating, it was time to put them back in their nest.  I decided to feed them because we didn’t know how long they had been out of their nest.

Some other staff helped us get an extension ladder so that we could reach the hole where the nest was located.  I carefully climbed the ladder and placed a baby bird one at a time back into their nest.  After they were safely back in their nest, I suggested that the staff cover the inside hole with some cardboard and duct tape to prevent the babies from falling out of the nest again.  I would send some staff to make a more permanent cover.

You never know when you are going to be asked to lend a helping hand.   When that call comes, be prepared to make a difference

 

 

A Leap of Faith

At the end of 2016 I was really feeling extremely tired.  Little did I know that I was going to take a leap of faith… one full of twists and turns and unexpected revelations.  Work had become so all consuming that I didn’t have much energy to do anything.  My personal life was suffering, though no one knew this because I always kept up a happy demeanor.  I felt like I was being swallowed into the depths of darkness that I couldn’t not escape.  One day I remember saying to myself that I wished I could have a year off from work.  Little did I know someone was listening.

At the beginning of 2017 I had to find a new church as the church I was attending had disbanded after Christmas Eve Service.  I spent the month of January attending different churches looking for one that I felt God really was there.  I went to David’s United Church of Christ on the third Sunday in January.  The members there were so welcoming that I decided to come back the next Sunday.  After worshipping there two Sundays in a row, this church just felt right to me.  It also didn’t hurt that I received two welcome bags (one each Sunday) that contained a loving message from David’s and a box of homemade buckeyes.

The beginning of 2017 was very rough for me.  I had sunk into such a low funk due to all of the stress.  Finding this new church was my first leap.  I was invited to join an evening Church Study group that would be meeting for four weeks.  I was a little bit nervous at the first group since I wasn’t a member of the church.  However, the people at this group made me feel welcomed and I was starting to make new friends.

One night as I was heading home from the church study night, I saw a license plate that had a frame which read “No Worries… God’s got it covered!”  I wondered if this was a message from God to me about the struggles I was currently going through.  It was an extremely really tough time… one with fears of not just losing my house but also everything I owned.  It felt like my world was collapsing before me.  Was this God letting me know that He was there with me and that He had my back?

At the beginning of my vacation around the end of Spring, I was walking in the woods.  I thought about what I was going through and wondering what my outcome would be.  I prayed later that night asking for an answer to my dilemma.  The next day as I was driving down the interstate highway a car passed me whose license plate frame read “Be Ever in Your Favor”.

I had been reading some books.  One was by Max Lucado, one of my favorite Christian authors, called “Traveling Light… Letting Go of the Things You Were Never Meant to Carry”.  This book is about how we tend to take on burdens that God never intended for us to carry.  It gave some great advice on how to start letting go of those burdens.  Another book I read was “God Winks” which talked about how God communicates with us through things that we think are coincidences.

During my turbulent summer, I prayed that God would grant me success and provide me with an opportunity to do what I like to do and that was more suited to my skills.   Having almost a year off from work was very scary.  I wanted to be happy again and feel like I was making a difference.  Towards the end of the year this prayer was answered… I was offered a new position that was exactly what I had asked for in my prayers!

God truly answers prayers.  It may not occur when we want it to.  He is always there in the good times and the bad.  He never leaves us.  If you are ever in a quandary… sitting on a ledge… take that leap of faith.  God is there … waiting to catch you.