Finding That Conversation Place

I trail the soft, cleansing cloth over each hill, every valley. So much dirt and stain. Why did I ever think I could wear white? What’s wrong with me? The brown would have been a better fit, hiding impurities, all the unlovely, embarrassing yuck. He tried to tell you. Why didn’t you listen?

O Soul Within, it’s been years. You need to wear white. You need to own this. It’s yours. It’s yours for the taking. And it was costly. Don’t let it go to waste.

I swipe my forehead, as the temperature soars to summer-unbearable that only our beloved Texas makes bearable. Every locust on site tunes in to my fuzzy channel. I head inside and grab a popsicle from the freezer. Walking back out, I stand there evaluating everything before me.

Just do it, Shelli.

I sit down in that stained rocking chair that used to be so white. I own it. I start rocking. And this feels so nice. I grab another popsicle and head back out.

Everyone must think I’ve lost my mind. Sitting in that dirty chair? It’s one thing to plop down in what you can’t see, but to take on the seen?

DSC_7273 (4)Little Bit, daughter #1, pops out the door. She couldn’t stand it any longer. “Can I sit with you, Mama?”

“Of course. Grab popsicles.”

It doesn’t take long outside to realize why the chairs are so stained. June bugs, grasshoppers, things that sting (mosquitoes, wasps …), spiders overhead. It’s a jungle out there. Truly it is.

We rock. My hands freeze, as I push up the icy-blue sweetness. “I can’t write,” I say. “At a time in my life when I should feel the most encouraged, I have never been more discouraged. I can’t even manage a blog post. A simple blog post. What’s wrong with me?”

“You’re a good writer, Mama,” Little Bit says.

I release my empty popsicle package to the ground.

DSC_7275 (3)I push out of that chair, grab more popsicles,  and nudge the grasshopper off the seat when I return, while begging his pardon. We continue rocking.

Breaking the short silence, my girl says, “What’s wrong with me, Mama?”

“Not a single thing. You’re perfect just the way you are. You have to be patient, trust, and wait on God,” I say.

Little Bit tosses her empty container to the ground.

Baby Girl, daughter #2, sticks her head out the door. It was only a matter of time. She has forever been my “I go where you go” daughter. “Want another popsicle?” she asks.

DSC_7277 (3)We two smile big and unanimously say, “Yes!”

Baby Girl hands everyone their cold treat and sits on the front porch step. I need one more rocking chair. And in her quietness, she sips on that pink ice until she releases her trash to the ground, along with all her heart’s unspoken. We know.

I toss my hair over the chair’s back, like the once perfectly white, stained wooden slat is a pony-tail holder. I don’t care what my hair touches … stain, tiny spiders. I don’t look; I just use it. The stain doesn’t bother me anymore, and come to think of it, that weathered look has always appealed to me anyway, the perfectly imperfect.

And would you look at that? Each baby girl has followed me, owning that white, distressed as it may be.

The cool air greets my flesh. I prop one bare foot up on the seat, while my other sways that chair and me back and forth. And somehow everything feels so clean and new. Just right.

I observe the pile of emptiness that’s fallen to the ground. “I think we might need a trash can out here.”

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Do you have anything needing to be tossed away? What is threatening to trash your confidence? And do you have a place you love to gather with those who get you? How did you stumble across that conversation place?

I would crawl into bed with my girls when they were little, and we’d talk hours into the night. But somewhere in their growing up, we’d lost that cherished time. I’m so glad I sat down in that rocking chair at the onset of summer, that I found that conversation place, because every day I hear, “Let’s go sit on the front porch.”  I drop everything, because I know that means we’ll gather popsicles and do some mother/daughter talking. I know their reasoning is partly because they get a break, and partly because they love me, but mostly because we always see God.

A Crown-Of-Thorns Moment

Trying to hold my heart and stomach in place where they belong, I take the long walk from the dining room to the stairwell. “Honey?”

“Yes, Mom.”

My hand grips the stair rail, and I lean hard against the wall. “I waited too late to get the tickets. They’re all sold out. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

“It’s okay, Mom.” That’s all. She seemed genuine in her forgiveness. There’s nothing more I can say or do. If I could have an outer body experience and get behind myself, I’d kick myself. My hands drop to my sides in the quiet, and I walk away. How could I have been so …? She’d been asking for weeks about going to see her friend in the Fiddler on the Roof play, a high school play. She wanted to go for support. And she’d been in the same play a few years back. And I’d let her down.

I pull out a chair and sit down at the dining room table. Footsteps speed down the stairs. The garage door opens. “I’m going walking.” Her voice … something unpleasant in her voice.

“I thought you forgave me,” I say. I’m sensing other feelings have begun to emerge. She’d had a few moments to think. The door shuts. I thought you forgave me.

I wait all I can. I walk out the door and see no sign of her. She’s on the trail, I figure. The sheep aren’t in the pen, so she must have let them out. I cut through the middle of the back property. The fabric of her white capris summons me through the forest of trees, the greenery. She’s sitting on the swing.

I feel like a fallen tree, humbled to my knee.

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The two sheep stand there, staring at me, accusing me, almost daring my approach. Like she’d poured out her very soul, her feelings, to the sheep … and now, everyone knows.

Her eyes are red-rimmed and swollen.

My stomach and heart plunge. I wipe off a spot on the swing and sit down. “I’m really sorry. I feel awful. I didn’t want to go to the play without dad, and once I found out he was going with us, there were so many seats still available … I got busy with work. And I just can’t believe they sold out so fast. I can’t believe I did that.” I twist my hands. “Maybe it’s dad’s fault.” We both laugh.

“It’s really okay, Mom.” She smiles at me. We talk it through. “Think we could do pizza and  a movie tonight? Something fun?”

“Sure.”

We head back through the trail, toward the barn. “Look, Mom. This is a mesquite tree. We had these in San Angelo.” She points across the path. “And another one.”

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“It sure is.” I can’t believe it. I’d never noticed them before. Two mesquite trees amongst all the oak and cedar. “We had these in Wichita Falls, too.”

“Look at the long thorns,” she says in cautious admiration. She feels over the leaves on top, the groups of tiny leaves covering the thorns all the way down the limb. “But the leaves are so soft. Like roses, something so soft and pretty needs protecting.” One sheep stands tall, trying to eat the leaves, and fearful that she’ll poke out her eye, we manage to maneuver her front legs back to the ground. “Do you think this is like Jesus’ crown of thorns?”

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“It probably is.” I wind the long limb into a circle. “It’s beautiful though, isn’t it?” We stand there, imagining what it must have felt like to have those long thorns pierce through our foreheads, one by one, all the way around. Or maybe all at once. Gratitude fills my heart for the punishment He took for me.

“Be careful, Mom. Don’t let that pop back on you.”

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“I will.” I release it gently, moving back away and examining the events more closely.

We begin our journey toward the house, sheep following. Peace links our hands together, our hearts together. The capacity of love–nailed to a tree, to be given away, free. A love so soft and pretty, it needs protecting. And I realize that she could have driven the thorns into my head, but she placed the soft side on me instead. 


Have you had a moment of forgiveness that you can share about?

A Hummingbird Moment

The garage door opens, “Mom, hurry! Come here!”

“What’s wrong?” I wipe my hands dry with a kitchen towel.

My husband opens the door. “Shelli, hurry, it’s a hummingbird.”

What? I’ve bought two hummingbird feeders, and the only thing I’ve seen feeding from them are grasshoppers, the size of hummingbirds.

My daughter slips under my husband’s arm, and she’s cupping the tiny thing in her hand. She’s really holding a hummingbird.

“Let me grab the camera.” I run like lightning for the camera and return, opening the garage door. The tiny thing is sitting so contentedly in the palm of my daughter’s hand. Maybe it’s too frightened to move. I take a picture here, a picture there. “What happened?” I ask.

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My daughter tells me that while her best bud was leaving through the garage, the bird hit the fluorescent light. She shut off the light. Her friend saw it land on the shelf and took it down. “Its little wings were spread apart, so I placed it in my hand and folded its wings back into place.” She smiles.

“It was probably confused by the light,” my husband says. “How many people can say they’ve held a hummingbird?”

I marvel at that for a minute.

“Okay, let’s let it go,” says my husband.

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I run into the kitchen to put down my camera. I fly back out the garage door, past the car, and make my way to the darkened sky, to where my family is gathered.

“I opened my hand, and it flew away,” says my daughter, smiling. “It was so soft.”

“It was so soft,” declares my other daughter.

“It flew strong,” everyone says.

“I heard a thud,” someone says.

“No, that was a crow, Mom,” daughter says, possibly rolling her eyes. “It flew strong. I just barely opened my fingers and it took off.”

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Why did I put away the camera? I could have video-taped the moment. I could have left the camera on the car or put it around my neck. I stand there in confusion, a finger touching my temple. I wonder how, in the midst of everything, I missed nearly everything. And the fog clears …

I had hovered right over it, and yet, I didn’t feel it. I missed the softness. I could have touched a real, live hummingbird.

I was so close, and yet, I didn’t see it fly strongly.

I love taking photographs, capturing our lives. I enjoy seeing the world through a camera lens, but nothing can replace the real thing, real life, the real moments in time seen through our eyes. Sometimes we can get a bit confused, get lost in technicalities, get distracted, and head toward the wrong light.

Sometimes we need a hummingbird moment for a little redirection. 

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(And right here is where a video could have been inserted. Ha! But notice the 2 grasshoppers on the door in the picture above)

~~~

The morning after, I plop down on my daughter’s bed and laugh at her puzzled expression. “Tell me about the hummingbird.”

“Mom, you seriously sound just like Pockets from Hatari! …” She laughs (That’s a John Wayne movie we’ve seen a thousand times).

“But I missed everything. I didn’t feel it’s softness. I didn’t see it fly strongly.”

She snuggles up to me. “It’s okay, Mom. I barely saw it.”

“It was fast, wasn’t it?”

She nods.

“You opened the garage door and told me to hurry,” I say …

And we relive the story together once again.


Do you have a hummingbird moment you’d care to share about? A moment where you needed a little redirection.

The Things A Mother Didn’t Do

It’s uncovered … once again.

I open the drawer to my daughter’s chest-of-drawers, shuffling a few items around to make room for the new. Beside me, my daughter’s sweet hands work, shifting and folding.

Ooh, what’s that? My hand glides over the shiny, smooth surface–the object lining the drawer. Stashed away. Purple. Paint. Prints. “Oh.” We carefully reveal and pull it out. It’s the baby, when she was a baby … her tiny handprints. Made in Sunday school.

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Frustration and disappointment sink to my lower tummy. My heart follows, weighing down a little heavier. “I never did hang this,” I admit. I look to my daughter. “I meant to frame this.” I stumble for words. “I just kept forgetting.”

How many times have I said that over the years? How many times have I stumbled across the thing I never did? How many times have I failed to make a change, make a difference? And now, it seems really too late.

“It’s okay, Mom.” She smiles, always assuring. Always forgiving.

We read over the words together, smiling, laughing, remembering how artistic and messy she could be. Oh, the stories there to share.

“Look how tiny your hands were.” She smiles and gives a little nod. It’s amazing how something so tiny can fill you so full … full of wonder and joy and love.

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We plop down for a game of Princess Uno. I marvel at how I manage to get my teenagers to play Princess Uno still. I never managed to shift to the older version. I guess I enjoy hanging onto all little all I can. And I laugh at the irony–that I played the older version when I was a kid, and now I play the princess version as an adult.

We eventually move to the bed, side by side, talking about her best bud, school, drawing, cats … The daughter who doesn’t love to dance jumps up and takes my hands in hers, and we waltz, laughing, tripping over each other. “You’re going to make me fall,” I say, with a frightened giggle.

Before I know it, best bud is joining us and sister, too. We’re looking and sorting through all the items stashed away in baskets on her bookshelf. And laughing. White wicker baskets, lined in pink-and-white polka-dotted fabric. It’s little items. Cherished items belonging to both of my daughters, from their childhood. Things I just couldn’t part with. Things I cherished too much to stash away in the attic. Because … what if we needed to see them, look at them, read them, breath them in … remember? Now.

I pull out tiny baby Bibles, framed baby pictures, tiny photo albums, and notice the dust covering the stuffed animals. A wave of embarrassment washes over me. I never did make my teenager a teenager room.

I mean … it’s cute, but it’s still a little girl room.

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“Do we need to change your room?” I ask. “Are you happy with the pink paint? It was named ‘Lauren’ … remember? After your best friend. Remember how we had moved away, and you were so glad the paint color had her same name?”

“Yeah. I think we should repaint and change things up some,” daughter says, with her cutest typical smirk–the smirk that tells me she loves me just the way I am, behind and all.

“What color would you possibly want? Other than this color?” I can’t think of one that would be better. Not a single one. Translation: do I have one more paint job in me?

She mulls over the idea.

“Can your room just stay little?” I ask. I know the answer to that. I love being a mama. I thought I’d never be one once. And I’ve loved every step along the way. But the uncovered truth is–I always seem to remain a world’s pace behind. What’s wrong with me?

I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that.

Days pass.

Daughter rushes toward me carrying something precious. She cups the tiny somethings in her hand, like she’s protecting it, guarding it, loving it.

Her eyebrows raise, eyes sparkling. Her smile grows. “Look, Mom. Look what I found in the basket on my bookshelf.” She beams, extending the treasured possessions to me, with her fresh prints anew.

It’s two tiny “A Little” Little Golden Books–The Poky Puppy, Little Golden Book Land. “I can’t believe I found these,” she says. “I didn’t know they were there. In my baskets. I loved these.”

One tee-tiny book, having been read so much, is bound by tape. Bound by love. Some things, some actions are just bound to be. Do you agree?

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And something is uncovered right at that moment. Embracing that second-in-time to my heart like a cherished friend, I’m so thankful I didn’t do what I never did. I’d never do what I never did again for another moment like that.


Happy Mother’s Day! Do you have a similar story to share?  Have you found a little favor through your failures? 

What Alzheimer’s Can Never Take Away

Sweet, familiar faces greet me at the glass screen door. Through tender hugs and peering over beloved shoulders, I begin my search for her. It’s hard to believe this day is here. I’m amazed. Her kids weren’t sure she’d live to see this day. It’s been a rough road lately, I hear. But she’s entered into the hour of her 80th birthday.

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The last time I was here, she conversed with me. She won’t be able to today.

I see her. I take in her sweet details from a distance.

She’s so loved. Disease can take so much from a person. People can give up on you, and one can choose to give up on themselves and others, but from where I stand, Alzheimer’s can’t take away your loves. She is curled up on her side, on the couch, cuddled into her pillow and blanket. So much princess pink. Her loyal Maltese blends in to the white cotton pillowcase, taking up more pillow space than my aunt’s precious face is. The beloved caregiver beckons the help of my cousin, the daughter, and they ease her to standing at the walker. The caregiver cups my aunt’s face in her hands and kisses her forehead.

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She’s so strong, even in her weakness. Because she’s all heart–all heart that fought for grandkids, that survived cancer, that survived the loss of two beloved children, that survived the loss of a husband, that fought and survived so much more than I’ll ever be privy to. Her fragile fingers grip the walker rails. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away a fighting spirit. Time after time, her kids wonder if she’s being escorted away into the arms of God, but to everyone’s surprise, He wonderfully escorts her wandering mind and body inch by inch to the table through the hands and feet of Christ. She takes a seat at the queen’s chair, the candles are lit, and everyone gathers around her with love, in love.

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She’s so tiny. Always has been. But a recent chest cold pummeled on top of Alzheimer’s leaves her frailer than ever. Her beautiful skin clings to her precious cheekbones. Yet a glow emits from her eyes, as her two remaining daughters sprinkle her face with kisses. She looks, in part, like a ten-year-old with her sweet braids. The room fills with the fragrance of a struck match and a rising melody, happy birthday over her. And the words we know so well since childhood seep from her lips … happy birthday to you. “She’s singing,” I say. “She’s always singing,” says her caregiver, smiling. She is. She sings hymns with her sisters–my mom, my other aunt. One voice begins and hers will blend, like always, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your treasure. A tiny package containing years of stored-up infinite treasure. Childhood treasure. Leaning-on-the-everlasting-arms kind of treasure.

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She’s so determined. She sits there, wobbly. But she will see this through. Her daughter opens the presents before her, for her. Chocolate and more chocolate. Giggles disperse. I think back over my conversation with my cousin, when I’d inquired over what I could possibly get my aunt for her birthday. If time is short and space is limited, what can I give her? “Chocolate,” said her daughter, my cousin. “She can still eat chocolate?” I asked, surprised. After the week she’d had, being so sick … “She sure can.” Would you look at that? My cousin places a slice of cake before her, crackers and Coke. All her favorites. She parts her lips for one tiny bite after bite, one tiny sip after sip, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your favorites. 

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She’s so … Heading home, I ponder my aunt in admiration. I can’t quite put my finger on the situation. My oldest says, “Mom, did you hear what Aunt Novie said when we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ … when we sang ‘and many more’?” My daughter giggles. I glance at her through the rearview mirror. “No. What?” I say. My daughter gasps for air, trying to compose herself. “She asked, ‘There’s going to be more?'” I laugh. That’s exactly right. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your humor.

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And that’s when I put my finger on it, really put my finger on it–when it seems one doesn’t have a lot to go on, one goes on what they’ve got. Illness can take away much, but some things found in this life can never be removed without authority–love, treasure, a fighting spirit, determination, humor, Coca-Cola, chocolate, and best of all, Jesus. 

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Do you know anyone suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s? What can you add to the list that can never be taken away? 


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©Shelli Littleton

When The Yoke Seems A Little Runny

I take the bread, cupping my fingers over it and guarding it with my life. I glance down the pew at God’s sweet provision. With my head bowed, I take a long look inside …

Life can be excruciating. It can.

My grandfather answers the phone. “Yellow” … (his version of “hello”)

With excruciating fear, I say, “Pa-Paw, we’re thinking about adopting a baby …” I hadn’t been able to sleep. My gut churned. All the “what ifs” …

“I kindly adopted you, didn’t I.” My grandfather’s words wrap peace around me, like an old familiar song. If I could love this man like I do, who took me as his very own, maybe just maybe a child could love me, too.

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I play and replay that scene over in my mind when life is hard. I remember all the ways God came through for me, through fear, how my two daughters resemble me in the seen and unseen. From the perfectly placed freckles to the seemingly imperfectly placed …

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Because I go to my knees with fear these days. I tell my doctor that I’m not handling things well. Is this coping? She assures me that she’s there to help me, should I need it. Medication, she surely means.

The unease in my heart has kept me up many a night. My insides are doing abnormal things. “Or is this my new normal?” I ask myself. When my pulse races away, I count to ten over and over throughout the night. I pray continually. I chastise myself constantly. The Lord offers the light and steady yoke, and time after time, it seems I take on the weight of the heavy yoke and allow it to run away with me, spinning me around and solidifying my impending disaster, allowing the weight of it to press me to my knees.

And the guilt drives me deeper into the mud and mire.

Why? Where is the peace?

And just this morning, I beg God for answers. God, why? Why can’t I have peace in the midst of the storm? The storms that pummel me, one after another. Why can’t I sleep?

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“I kindly adopted you, didn’t I.” That’s what I hear spoken over my heart. And I think of that night after the Passover, in the garden, before Jesus went to the cross, the excruciating pain.

An angel from heaven appeared to him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22: 43-46

“Do you really think you are so different from me?” I hear spoken over me. “You love. Your heart is soft, not hard. You’re in pain, Shelli. You’re scared. You’re sweatin’ it out. But you keep kneeling and praying … kneeling and praying …. You are not crippled. You keep getting out of bed each morning, you keep taking step after step, you keep going a little further … with me.”

And as I sit in the midst of the flood, the guilt of how I should be handling things rolls in waves away from me, back out to the ocean.

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And relief, full of peace, splashes over me like new rain. Like Heaven sent.

“This is my body given for you …” I swallow hard and take the cup, wrapping my fingers securely around it, guarding the lifeblood with my life.

“Do this in remembrance of me …”

Do you ever feel like you are handling things all wrong? Does Jesus’ example comfort you, too? 

Much love and Happy Easter, y’all. 

Living On The Border Of Danger

My girl reclines in the dental chair. Her x-rays hang enlightened on the wall behind her.

“You need to wear this retainer,” the man says.

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Hard to believe two years had already passed, wearing braces. I didn’t really want to get braces for this daughter because her teeth were straight, her bite was just off a bit. She had the cutest crooked smile. But the doctor insisted that her teeth wouldn’t wear correctly, and she’d have trouble in her later years. But she had a gap in her front teeth for years, and I was told she needed this simple surgery to cut the gums between her teeth to allow her teeth to grow together. I didn’t buy it. And sure enough, her two front teeth grew together over time without surgery. Why did she really need braces? We don’t need perfection. My other daughter’s braces came off months ago, and she constantly jokes that it looks like she’s wearing dentures because her teeth are just too perfect. Too straight.

The dental assistant jumps up and runs toward me. “Did you hear there’s been a mountain lion spotted in your area?” She shows me a picture on her phone. “The dog at Tiger Mart got killed” (this is where we refuel our vehicles, and the sad irony …?).

I want to buckle over with grief. I figured there had been a mountain lion, bobcat, but I had no idea it still prowled around. My mind flashes back to nearly two years ago when our lamb had been killed and eaten. The guilt stabs me time after time. We didn’t protect Bindy like we should have. We didn’t  protect our property. I can still envision seeing her, going to my knees our on Texas land, crying, my husband dragging her sweet remains.

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Sandy and Bindy when we first brought them home, and they didn’t like us.
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Working hard to gain their love and trust. We miss our little black sheep of the family.

The same happened to my neighbor’s baby goat. They’d been searching for her, neither hide nor hair surfaced. That had been my warning, but I didn’t heed it. We didn’t realize the danger that lurked, that could so easily cross over into our property.

My heart still breaks at what Sandy witnessed. How long she stood nearby the scene, waiting for us to come out and help her. And from that moment on, she wouldn’t leave my side. She’d jump the entire fence to be with me.

Apparently, there’s been a mountain lion in our area for some time. No one’s stopped it. No one’s caught it. It leaves trails of death, sandy-powdery tracks. We hear about it from time to time.

Some are helpless to do anything about it, helpless to protect their large herds of livestock. How can they?

Some make light of it. Do they have nothing to protect? Have they not been injured?  Do they not understand? Do they not live in the danger zone?

We don’t make light of it anymore.

We basically live in a slim shade of fear. But that’s how the world is … carnivorous. I know that mountain lion needs to eat. And I adore mountain lions. Beautiful. But I don’t want my babies killed. Sheep meat might be purchased at the grocery store, but not my sheep meat. And I don’t want to be hurt or my girls hurt. I’ve heard of mountain lions tearing off people’s faces in broad daylight.

We walk our property line daily.

One must protect their own.

I think of the wall of fencing where we’ve enclosed our sheep. Blankets hang over the wiring to keep out the cold wind, to keep them warm and protected. We’ve done just about all we can do. We can’t keep them totally protected, there’s no way, so I pray the perpetrator isn’t that smart. Maybe it’s just enough to deter.

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Sandy couldn’t make it alone. She needed a companion. So here is baby Ginny.
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Ginny and Sandy

But a few weeks ago, my husband found a powdery print outside the pen in the sandy soil. Right outside the gate. I found the blanket that drapes against the wall of fencing half torn down. Like something had sought to devour.

Some mornings, the babies just seem spooked.

We put the sheep up every evening. By morning, if I think we’ve forgotten, I go into sheer panic mode, unable to recognize myself, until I see their sweet faces, see they’re safe. See that I really did protect them.

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Ginny and Sandy, all grown up
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Sandy and Ginny

My gaze returns to my daughter’s x-rays. The old x-rays versus the new ones. What? Look at those huge gaps in her back teeth. Goodness, that bite was really off. I look at my baby girl smiling. Perfect, straight teeth now.

Was it that bad before? Really? I didn’t realize they were so bad. Sometimes it takes comparing where we are now to where we were to see that we really needed change. Desperately needed change. The danger had just crept in so slowly. Year after childhood year.

“If you wear this retainer every day for six months and every night after that, your teeth will stay in place. They’ll be protected. Everything that you’ve worked all these years for will remain intact. It’s so important,” the dentist says, trying his best to enlighten her.

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