Saturday, January 13, 2018

Zach-the-Cat Blog Retires

Toy mice are everywhere. My new kitten, a ginger rescue I call Elisha (Eli) Boo Hardin,

hides them under my bed (I counted 4 this morning.), behind the Rosemary potted plant, under the armoire that holds my TV, by the water bowl, in his eating plate, and under most chairs.  

I’ve stepped on one occasionally when I have to get up in the dark of night. Not fun.

Eli is asleep dreaming kitten dreams as I type this about his great predecessor—Zach the Cat. I am retiring this webpage not because Eli has come but because Zach is gone and it is time. Zach died of a heart attach on November 27, 2017. He was toasty warm as I held him and wept. I buried my face in his long, lanky body and felt that soft fur one more time. One minute he was being his happy self. The next minute he was lying on the driveway gone. I cried so hard that I think I drove my next-door neighbor out of his house. I heard him rev his engine and leave.

I inherited Zach when he was nearly a year old. A sweet friend from work was moving and had to give away her cats. Zach’s baby picture melted my heart. “I’ll take him,” I said not knowing what to do with a cat since I had never had one. I was always a “dog person” as us dog people like to say.

Zach changed all my smirks, cringes, sly remarks, and look-down-the-nose attitude towards cats and cat owners. He changed my bad behavior of judging cats and people who love them. He changed my attitude from a sense of superiority to a sense of gratefulness. Before Zach, I was “making it,” “pushing through,” “pressing on,” etc. with life and work.  And that’s not a bad thing. But you have no idea what you are missing until someone—and in my case, some little thing—comes along and purrs your heart into contentment.

I was awkward with Zach the Cat at first. What do you do with a cat? How do you hold him? Pet him? Be around him? A dog is mostly instantaneous affection and closeness. But a cat….well it took some time for us to get used to each other—especially me to him.

But after a while I noticed a strange feeling in my heart. I was experiencing warmth, care, and tenderness because of Zach. When he jumped up beside me on the sofa or on the bed at night and would throw his hinny right against my hip, it amazed me. When he crawled up in my lap as I watched TV or crept under the sheets in the winter and lined up right next to me, falling asleep in the crook of my arm, it all awakened a new joy and delight to love and care for something beyond myself. I discovered a new happiness in myself while appreciating this novel gift called Zach the Cat.

I also found new laughter because Zach made me laugh out loud so many times.

Like when I turned 50 and the 12 helium balloons bobbing on my ceiling with long curly ribbons became an object of Zach’s attack. Before I knew what happened, his lunge to the curly ribbons got him entangled in the mess which made him run. But the more he ran, the more the balloons chased him which he was unknowingly pulling. He ran circles in my house until those ribbons dislodged from him as he dived under a chair.  I laughed tears! Afterward, for several years he would run when I started to wrap my Christmas presents with the curly ribbons. Outside Zach loved to jump in the air to catch whatever I was throwing. His acrobatic antics had me in stitches—except when he would go to the top of the cabinets in the kitchen or to the third story of trees or get stuck on a neighbor’s roof at 10:30 PM or stand on the top of my roof refusing to come down when I said so. HA!

As a chaplain called to a lot of hard things, Zach the Cat brought me much-needed reprieve, laughter, affection, and love. Who knew a cat could do all that?  Also I believe I brought to Zach his much-needed security, attachment, and trust—all that makes an animal happy.

My friend Becky Russell encouraged me to start this blog mostly to get out my intense feelings of grief and loss after my mom suddenly died days before Thanksgiving in 2008. It felt good to label the blog “Zach the Cat” and promote him as I wrote about hard stuff back then. He wrote on it a little, but not much. Zach was more into eating, sleeping, and playing. Not much of a writer.

I can’t say enough about how that cat awakened my heart and spirit. I am grateful to God for such a sweet gift at such a perfect time. Zach has been quietly there as I have gone through the valleys (and hid sometimes when I was shouting from my mountaintops).

That was God’s Kairos timing.

Thank you oh Lord.

So now I say good-bye to this blog with a sense of loss, a sense of great gain, and a sense of incredible gratefulness to the Lord who creates all things and people.

Even birds and animals have much they could teach you; . . . All of them know that the Lord's hand made them. It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power” (Job 12:7-10).

“The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Ps. 145:9).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Up to Your Neck


We cats are cute, but this is beyond cuteness..... 

--Zach the Cat

Sunday, October 23, 2016

First Chili

 How great it is
To share the first pot of chili this fall with a friend.
Oyster crackers,
Thin spaghetti,
Abundant citrus green tea,
And a bubbling pot
of black-bean chili
Filled us up

As we ate from multicolored bowls
And drank from mason jars
And told stories that made us think and laugh and be grateful.

As the Psalmist said: “Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

The Lord delights in the analogy as well as the reality of the table, the meal—
and once again he was present at my table
in laughter, friendship, and hot chili
on this cool evening.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


I've scrubbed
and swished
and wiped down
and put up
and straightened
and folded
and stashed
and vacuumed--
the last of which drove Zach the Cat 
from his comfortable corner on the sofa
to a hidey-hole in the house.

It's 12:04 now on Friday morning.
I'm hours away from getting up to go to work.
I really should be in bed,
and Zach really should be right next to me.

Instead I'm here at the computer and he's somewhere.
Sometimes things just have to get done
no matter sleep, the cat, or the calling of the sofa.

The place is cleaner for sure. Finally.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


I can't hardly stand
Being inside
When it's sunny
and 72 degrees
in February.

Home from work,
I threw off the old
And put on the older--
Grubby clothes,
a hair band,
hole-ly gloves,
and I'm ready
to play in the sun
alongside my cat.

The back yard
is now clean
and I am dirty.
As the sun eased below the horizon
Coloring the sky with pink, yellow, and baby blue,
The birds chattered and sang, calling it a day.

                                                                   Me too.
I sing for joy over
a sunny day,
a yard that's raked,
some hours "playing" outside,
and 72 in February.

What a gift.
Thank You.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Inez Lawrence

How can someone so little
be bigger than life?
I told her she was the toughest little piece of leather
I'd ever met.
She'd look down, purse her lips together to make a sort-of grin,
and say, “You do what you have to do.”

She nearly made it to 96.
She was no bigger than a little spark of fire from two sticks scraped together.
But she could sure make things burn.
Her little spark made her next-door neighbor burn with anger and hostility.
Her little spark made her renters burn with compliance and obedience.
Her little spark made her friends burn with loyalty.
Her little spark made her family burn either with their allegiance to her
Or their absence from her (according to her sometimes strongly opinionated perspective).

She kept her house, her yard, her self--all by herself--
almost to the last.
Her house was her church.
Earth and dirt were her friends.
Clutter was her job.
Authentic, trustworthy people were her family.
And she rode time like a bucking bronco,
daring it to throw her before the buzzer sounded.
She was the victor; she beat the bronco,
Dying in her boots—just like she wanted.

After some years into their marriage,
the young husband lost his job
because of an economy that had tanked from the Great Depression.
He didn't do well.
In those days there was no medicine for the great inner depression
her husband suffered.
And so he took his own life.
But she didn't collapse. She didn't leave home.
She readied the house for years of boarders.
She mowed her own yard and pulled her own weeds. 
She hung her clothes out on the line to dry
right in the middle of town.

Anybody else would have quit. Moved out. Sold the house. Maybe kicked the bucket.
She kept going.

There never was another husband.
There never were children.
She was close to her other siblings, but they had their own lives and families.
And so she went to work for a publisher who made telephone books.
She worked there 40 years.

Disappointment visited too often.
Disease tripped her up too many times.
Desolation gripped her soul during the holidays each year.
But she always regained her energy.
She always rebuilt her hope.
She always resisted the darkness that sought to consume her.

She was opinionated, loving, sharp-tongued, merciful,
A person of humility--yet she stopped at no expense for the quality she liked.
She was full of stories and sometimes gossip.
There were times of cake, coffee, homemade spaghetti sauce, and spice tea.
There were times of asking about my family, my friends, my work, my feelings.

In the 31 years that we were friends, what year did I begin to tell her I loved her?
I can't remember.
It was awkward.
She was not affectionate or verbal
about all that kind of thing.
But her love was sterling-silver real.

After all our time of talking (which was mostly me listening
and her talking),
I'd scoot the kitchen chair back from the giant table in the little kitchen
and walk over to hug her bye.
In the later years
It felt like I was hugging a bag of bones.
“I love you,” I'd say.
“iloveyoutoo” she'd say all shoved together in a hurry.

She gave me her best, her most.
I had no idea I would miss her this much.

I sure do love you, Mrs. Lawrence.

Inez H. Lawrence Dec. 21, 1919--Sept 11, 2015
Nashville, TN

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tennessee Peaches

Tearing open the knotted, plastic bag,
I reached in for each peach--
big, round, no bruises,
still a few days away from ripe.
Five peaches perched on my white tile
kitchen counter top.

Just the day before, in Lebanon, Tennessee at the
Tuesday Farmers Co-op under the metal cover,
My friend, my step-father, and I surveyed the okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, new potatoes, and zucchini.
But it was the peaches that won my heart.
They always do.
“I'll take that carton,” I announced to the farmer woman vendor.
She took my $5 and I took the heavy plastic bag in which she dumped my peaches.
Driving home to North Little Rock, Arkansas I smiled
as I thought about my peaches from Tennessee
riding in the backseat.

But just now, after coming back from a Subway supper
down the road from my Arkansas house,
I unlocked my back door, walked into my kitchen,
And switched on my three little kitchen lamps.
And then I caught the smell,
Oh the smell.
It reached down to my heart, to my soul, and touched something.
A flood of feelings . . . .
Joy and homesickness,
Delight and bygone memories of family,
Pleasure and a gut-grasping need for belonging--
all those feelings and longings and memories
were alive within mere seconds of the peach aroma
infusing my kitchen.

The blessing of where I am,
the longing for where I was,
and the hope for where I'll be
all meet in the smell of
Tennessee peaches.