An Odiferous Encounter

I take my dog, Joey, for a walk – sometimes in the evening – to beat the heat.

About a week ago, while we were walking on the main street, a few blocks from home, my dog began to quiver excitedly. He began to tug me towards what appeared to be a fluffy cat – at least out of the corner of my eye. I corrected him with a slight tug on his leash and at the same time turned to view said cat.

Oh my! What a pretty kitty, black and fluffy, with a double-white stripe on its tail which then connected as a double-painted line up its back.

Adrenaline rush! Kitties don’t lift their tails over their backs – like a samba dancer – flicking a feathery boa with her hand.

It turned its head – its pointy painted head. It looked directly at us, and then from its tail came a barely audible…hissss.

Skuuuunk!

I ran…pulling poor Joey almost off his feet, while flailing my arms and yelling, “Let’s go Joey! Let’s go!”

As we turned the corner – trembly dog and I – we glanced over our shoulders in unison. It took several blocks for the adrenaline to dissipate; and the pounding in my ears to slow. We barely missed it!

An Odiferous Encounter!

A few days later, I had been invited to a BBQ with some friends. As we sat around the table engaging in light-hearted conversation, I brought up my tale of the skunk.

“Oh”, they said in unison, “Our dog, Nellie, got sprayed full-on by a skunk one night. She ran in the door, covered in black, and proceeded to run all over the house, rubbing every surface she could reach.” They rolled their eyes as they recalled their musky tale.

“We tried everything: tomato juice; a bath at the vet; throwing out the dog bed and curtains she rubbed against, and scrubbing the walls and floors. Nothing worked. We finally found a skunk odor remover spray online, and then after spraying it on every surface in the house and even into the air vents, it still took a few days to eliminate the smell.”

I sighed, and said, “I’m so thankful the skunk didn’t get us.”

A few days later, Joey began scratching on our bedroom door. He usually didn’t need to go out to relieve himself that late (after nine o’clock). I said, “Okay Joey, hurry up.” As I opened the door, he almost bowled me over, as he bolted into the pitch-black, unlit, backyard.

Then he started to bark – sharp staccato barks – into the air.

“Joeeey! Stop!” I hissed into the inky darkness.

My Dachshund-mix dog was bred for the, follow-my-nose-until-I-catch-them; hunting.

As he raced along the along the length of the backyard, I tried to stop him in his tracks. I didn’t see what he was chasing, so I thought, it could just be another opossum, like the one he had cornered a week ago. As we reached the end of the yard where the air-conditioning unit sat on the patio, just under the kitchen window; I snatched him into my arms and turned to look at what he was barking at.

You guessed it! It had a pretty black-and-white tail, flicked over its back, like an s-curved banner. I panicked. I only had the light from the open kitchen door, casting its revelation in the corner, next to the air-conditioner, under the open window; backed up to the fence.

I ran.

Not into the open door, oh nooo! I ran across the patio; around the corner; along the side of the house; out the gate, and to the front door. I pounded on the door, and rang the doorbell. I began glancing around to see if any neighbors, in our quiet gated community, thought this lady – clutching a shaking dog in her nightgown – had gone completely bonkers.My daughter-in-law opened the door. I rushed in while blurting out, “There’s a skunk in the backyard!”

My daughter-in-law very calmly said, “Oh yeah, I heard something outside and then I smelled something.(My daughter –in-law never gets a single feather ruffled. She would probably say in the middle of an earthquake. “Oh yeah…by the way…did you feel that?”)

I ran to the backdoor but she had already quietly shut it.

I raced up the stairs and threw my dog in the tub, doused him with water, squeezed on a glob of doggie shampoo, and then lathered…and lathered…and lathered. He looked at me with a, what-did-I-do wrong-this-time, look. I dumped his collar in a sink with baking soda, and it bled; brown dyed leather blood. I threw the collar out along with my nightgown.

The next morning after Febreezing the entire two-story house, in every air pocket and surface – I poured a solution of bleach and Dawn on the patio. It took three days to completely de-stink the house.

It’s been a week but tonight as I was walking Joey, I saw a black-and-white kitty. My heart raced! But his time it was a kitty. Whew!

Get This Monkey Off My Back

Have you heard the saying, “Get the monkey off your back?”

This saying originally meant; “getting off drugs”, and then took on wider meaning of; “anything at all that you find to be a constant burden,” and also; “when you know you have to do everything perfectly, it puts a giant monkey on your back.”

I’ve had that annoying monkey on my back. The perfection monkey was quite an onerous little imp.

My children were the first to make me aware of that monkey. It started with the dishwasher loading monkey. Oh my goodness, was he annoying. You see, I had an obsession with loading the dishwasher in a logical order – to me. The utensil holder had to have each item loaded separately – eating part down, handle up. The small forks went in one slot; larger forks in another; small spoons; then large spoons, and butter knives separate from the steak knives. But, what really bugged me was, the need to put the plates and bowls next to each other, with the precision of an army rank and file. When they were just right; I would finally push the button.

My children, (at the time in their thirties) one day asked, “Why do you need to do it that way?

I stated tersely, “Don’t you see?” When you put them away: you grab the utensil handles; pull them out in one fell swoop; throw them in the drawer section they belong in, and then you’re at least a minute or two ahead of schedule.”

“Mom, it doesn’t matter!” “Let it go!”

I stomped off, projecting my coiled frustration, and releasing an inky murk – clouding my mind – obscuring my vision – and blocking the grace. I was still unaware of the monkey – screeching in my ear – dancing around on my back.

A few weeks later, I was in my doctor’s office. We had been chatting about routine health issues, when the kind lady doctor, leaned over her desk, looked me straight in the eye, and rather bluntly said.

“Ms. Skarin, are you aware that you have a need to be sooo…precise!”

My face pulled in and I just sat in silence. Inside – I sputtered!

The monkey screeched and grasped my throat in a choke-hold.

That’s when – I noticed. There was a monkey on my back!

I arrived home and threw myself on my neatly made bed; next to my categorized bookshelf, and curled up in a fetal position. I prayed – a little girl needing her “boo-boo” fixed – prayer.

“Help me, Lord.” “Get this monkey off my back.”

And he did; gently reminding – through His transforming grace; reminding. But, first I had to see my need – to get the monkey off my back. I have now learned to put my handle-up utensil, next to the one with the handle-down, and just walk away. Hah! You monkey! Stay off my back!

And…I’m not perfect yet…just a little less of a perfectionist.

My struggles have been mostly from an invisible disorder, that many people call an illness. But, by God’s grace I’m healing – jagged piece – by jagged piece. Maybe you struggle with something people can’t see on the outside. Maybe you feel invisible. I did – for many years. I lived in a “fishbowl silence”, being seen but not heard. I hope you know how much you’re loved, and that…God’s gracious favor is all you need. II Cor. 12:9b (NLT)

My story is about pain covered by grace.

My crazy squirrel encounter

My Crazy Squirrel Encounter.

I knew that squirrels were a nutty bunch of comicality. I guess that’s where we get the word “squirrelly”.

I was living in Washington State, and I would often see the little fluffy flick-tailed critters dashing from ground to treetop.

I was temporarily living in a 1960’s trailer behind our house. My 15-yr.-old nephew was finishing school while his family re-located to California, and he needed my room.

One morning I woke up to a very loud thunk on the aluminum trailer roof. The trailer was next to a row of cypress trees. I thought, “Something must have fallen off the tree.” My curiosity was aroused, so I peeked outside. What I saw was – a flash of fluff – as a squirrel streaked up the tree, and then sat on the top branch – chattering a hyper-squirrel chatter.

The next morning, I woke again to another – thunk. At precisely squirrel-alarm time. This time I grabbed the handle, and flung open the door. A flash of squirrel tail – insane chatter – my fist jabbing skyward. Yes, he was laughing at me – from the top of the tree.

I hoisted up and stood wobbly-kneed on the trailer hitch. There they were – two blatant pieces of  crazy squirrel arsenal. Pine-cone buds. I thought “Okay, this is just a fluke, he surely won’t do it again.” I shrugged and laughed it off.

The next morning – I heard it again. “Oh no, he didn’t!”

This time I knew it was… game on!

This sleepy, disheveled human, tripped out the door to confront the impish prankster. I spewed out a volley of fist-shaking reprimand.

Crazy human alert!

More chattering ensued.

What a silly sight – a human facing off with a squirrel.

This went on day after day, until I finally conceded to…squirrel victory! He moved on. Perhaps – to another victim.

God has given me a sense of humor but this was my first encounter with a crazy squirrel. I’m so thankful God created creatures that can make us chuckle. I sure hope this brought a smile to your face.

The Day I Met Steve McQueen

The Day I Met Steve McQueen

My children were only 6, 7 and 11 years of age when I began a small business to supplement my husband’s sporadic income. The name of my business was called Final Touches Cleaning Company. I would clean up new construction sites and large fancy homes that were being remodeled. A friend of mine, named John Daly, was a carpenter, and I had cleaned his family’s home on a regular basis. I knew John worked for people who were well-known celebrities. His carpentry business grew as word got out about his skill and integrity. I also knew he was good friends with the actor Steve McQueen, who was someone I admired because he seemed so unpretentious. I was very surprised when John called me one day and asked me to do the cleaning for a farmhouse he was remodeling in Santa Paula; owned by Steve. It was a ways to travel but I would be foolish to pass on such an opportunity.

My friend Debbie often worked with me, and we would take our children to our friend Marie’s house. The children were all friends and had great fun together but Marie was always a little frazzled when we returned. Debbie and I snatched the opportunity to eat out without children at a famous omelet place in the town of Carpinteria on the way to the McQueen ranch. They served 100 different omelets which equals 100 different choices.

When we arrived at the town we saw groves of citrus trees everywhere; a quiet little step-back-in-time town; a pretty little rock-lined creek winding through lovely shady oak and maple trees; and best of all – not a stitch of traffic. The sleepy little town had its original old western-style store fronts, the streets were lined with Victorian homes and the hills were dotted with old-fashioned farmhouses. We stopped to ask directions to the ranch because it was hidden amidst the citrus groves, and the street signs had tiny unobtrusive print. We finally found the house but didn’t believe it was the one we were looking for because it surely couldn’t belong to a celebrity. A simple pale yellow farm house set off the road – with no neighbors in sight. An old gray pick-up, with a split-type window, sat in the dirt driveway. A horse corral, very close to the house, was sending out clouds of fine dust, from the horses kicking up their heels.

Our friend John met us in the driveway and led us into the house. He was still finishing the construction, so there was dust covering the beautifully finished hardwood floor. Replicas of old antiques gave the farmhouse its rustic appeal. The bathroom had the antique kind of toilet that hung high on the wall – with a pull chain flusher. Steve kept the original motorcycle, from The Great Escape movie, in his bedroom. I met Barbara, Steve’s wife, who was a natural dark-haired beauty, and a very warm person. She put us at ease immediately. She began asking me many questions about how to keep the floors clean, and what cleaning products to use on the brass water faucets. I felt pretty important because I knew the answers to all her questions.

I enjoyed the daily trips to the farmhouse just for the beauty of the drive. When we were stuck in traffic on the two-lane highway, Debbie and I would play a card game on the seat to make the long trip more bearable.

I met Steve only once in the two weeks we worked there. He was soft-spoken, and down-to-earth. He had deeper creases around his piercing blue eyes than I had pictured. My meeting was very brief and cordial as he had more important things to do than stand around talking with an ordinary house-cleaner. I respected him because I knew about the odds he had to overcome through his growing up and teen years, yet he didn’t let adversity flatten him as a human being. Meeting Steve helped me see that he was just an ordinary guy after all. I know he was because I cleaned his ordinary toilet – the old-fashioned one, with the pull chain flusher.

Steve passed away that year after battling mesothilioma cancer – caused by his many years of working with asbestos on a Navy ship. He made his peace with God, in the months before he died, after many soul-searching talks with my friend John. My brother-in-law, David, also flew out to the Santa Paula airport to give him advice as a doctor. Steve made a request of  Billy Graham, to fly out to his home to pray with him, before he died.

As I prepared to write this story, I found a large book about Steve McQueen’s life at my local library.  I saw John Daly’s name mentioned in the book. I may never see my name  in a celebrity’s book as an important person but all that really matters is that – my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, Rev. 21:27b, (NLT). I matter to God. IT IS FINISHED!!!

Welcome to Annette’s Blog Journey

My name is Annette. I would like to share my story of pain covered by grace. I hope you sense God’s love for you as you take a peek at my blogs, and follow me down the tangled path of struggles – trailing behind me. God has shown me how sufficiently wonderful His grace is – over – and over – and over again. I’ve traveled beside raging rivers, and padded beside still waters. At times I strayed off the clear-cut path, but always I heard a gentle voice of grace calling me back. I follow the voice of my true Shepherd, Jesus. You may relate to fragments of my story, if not, just enjoy the journey with me. Thanks for visiting. I would love for you to come back.

 I lived in a silent fishbowl, until I finally jumped out, and began to swim in the big ocean, with the other fish.