While I was cleaning the kitchen and waiting for the last batch of cookies to bake, I whipped up a batch of corn bread for AdventureMan – no use in wasting a hot oven! It is a perfect, cold day in Pensacola. Perfect I say, because it really really is NOT fun baking Christmas cookies – or anything else – in a hot, humid kitchen. How did our grandmother’s and great great’s do it, especially in those voluminous dresses and no air conditioning??
The secret to truly great cornbread is to cook it in a cast iron skillet. You put the skillet in the oven until it is very hot, you take it out (using a pot holder, of course), melt a little butter in the pan, then pour the batter in. It will sizzle, and form a delicious crust. Pop the skillet back into the oven and in 22 minutes (at 425°F) your cornbread will be finished, with a toasty crust. If you want to guild the lily, you can swirl a pat of butter over the top, too.
AdventureMan dunks his corn bread in a glass of milk, which I find totally disgusting, but reminds him of when he was a little boy. It’s just a custom, I know, but I can’t look.
We have a pot of chili brewing, with the last of our home grown tomatoes:
The Qatari Cat is following AdventureMan around, telling him to lie down so they can take a snooze together . . . I think it worked. I can hear them both sleeping . . .
AdventureMan looked at the map. We had thought we would stop somewhere in Louisiana today, spend the night, but . . . you get this close, and with just a little effort, we could be home. We could pick up the Qatari Cat. We could have dinner with our son and his wife and our sweet little grandson . . .
We smile at each other, and head home.
We stop for gas in Jackson, Mississippi, and find a family run BBQ nearby, where lunch is quick, and delicious, and we are back on the road in no time. Traffic runs our way, we zip through Mobile before rush traffic clogs the tunnel, and head straight to the cat hotel to pick up the Qatari cat. He is So glad to see us. :-)
And so is the Happy Toddler.
Winter in Pensacola is mercurial, one minute the temperatures are in the seventies, and the next minute we are covering our more fragile plantings and hoping they make it through the freeze. This year we had hibiscus blooming that has suffered from the winter two winters ago, a very cold winter, and we weren’t sure they would survive – for two years!
When the temperatures go down, the Qatari Cat begs to go out into the garage (he remembers it is a very warm place) but two minutes later he is saying “I made a big mistake! Let me in!”
Last year we bought an electric bed for him. It doesn’t get really warm, not as warm as a heating pad, but it gets warm enough that he thinks it is heaven. He could stay in the bed just about all day, rolling around so that every part of him gets some of the warmth some of the time. He doesn’t leave it much except to eat.
I keep it in my office, at my feet. He dreams, snorts, shudders, moans and growls, and nothing I do bothers him in the least. He has found his happy place. :-)
“What a dumb cat!” AdventureMan says. “Every morning, he goes to the door and says ‘MEOW! Let me out!’ I NEVER let him out, but he goes to the door every morning and does the same thing!”
The Qatari cat sighs.
“I know he’s not stupid . . . ” he thinks, “I patiently go to the door every morning to let him know I want to go out. One of these days he is going to get it! I know it! One of these days he will understand, and let me out! All I have to do is to get him to understand just once, and then I will be OUTSIDE!”
Who knows what a cat is thinking? This morning, I found the Qatari Cat’s baby by my side of the bed. Sometimes I find him at the foot of the stairs. Never in the Qatari Cat’s chair. But when we came home, I saw this:
Before I left, my bible study group promised to pray for me, for safe travel, and for travel mercies.
What are travel mercies? Travel mercies are blessings you don’t even know you need, small interventions that make a big difference. So many times on this trip to Kuwait, I smiled, thinking “I know my friends are praying for me,” I could feel the travel mercies.
The trip down to the Mubarakiyya for dinner – a serious travel mercy. It wasn’t a life or death thing, and I didn’t even dare to bring it up, AdventureMan was so busy. And yet, we got there, we had a wonderful dinner with friends, we got to see the lights of the Seif Palace. Oh Wow, and thank you, Lord, for these blessings, these unexpected mercies.
Our trip home was flawless. Flights on time, and although we were on a flight I don’t usually like, it was fine. Sometimes on this late-night flight you’ll get a blow-hard or two, guys that want to drink and share all their insights and knowledge in a loud voice, long into the flight, when everyone else wants to sleep. Not this time. :-) This flight was quiet, even the babies were quiet. Everyone slept. And slept. And slept. Perfect travel mercy.
Schlepping through immigration and customs was about as painless as it can be, given that it is a pain-in-the-neck. More travel mercies, the kind you can fail to even notice – unless these little things go wrong, so terribly wrong.
“Welcome home,” our immigrations guy said cheerfully. We grinned. It is good to be back.
We got into Pensacola with enough time to run out to We Tuck ‘Em Inn to pick up the Qatteri Cat, who let us know how annoyed he was to be left behind. We knew – from experience – that dealing with his annoyance was waaaaayyyy better than dealing with a traumatized cat at the end of those brutal flights. He is in great condition, maybe a little bored, but happy, and his fur is clean. Mercy. Merci.
Home again, home again. Our son and his wife had left AdventureMan’s car at the airport for us, and had left a delicious chile, vegetables and dip, and apples in our refrigerator for us, such a loving welcome home. We were able to drop by and hug the Happy Baby before he shut down for the night. All is well. Infinite mercies.
By the Grace of God, and in his mercy. I thank God for my believer-sisters, whatever their faiths, that keep me wealthy in travel mercies.
I had to take the Qatteri Cat to a boarding facility today, and I had a really hard time with it. First, when I got home, he was all stretched out in his heated bed. I had unplugged it earlier, and I had not filled his bowl at noon, and I figured the combination of hunger and not-warm bed would encourage him to come downstairs, where I waited for him with his cage. I had brought the carrying cage out several days ago, because he always freaks out when he sees it, so I leave it out until he gets so he can walk past it without running.
But this time, I kept going upstairs to check on him, and even though his bed was no longer heated, he just kept stretching and turning over.
Finally, I took his bird/stick toy, and teased him a little, at which point he was wide awake, and chased me merrily down the stairs and around the house until we got to the cage, where I scooped him up and popped him in.
As we drove to the inn, he complained a little, but he was lying down in the cage and looked pretty relaxed. I had a big pit in my stomach. I felt bad about tricking him out of his bed and turning his toy into a manipulation to get him into the cage. I know, I know, I am over-thinking this and feeling bad over not much.
So we get to the inn, and QC goes right into his upper berth, a two room suite with a special covered area for his litter. He steps right out of the carry-cage and into his room, and doesn’t even look back. We fill his dish with lunch, and shut the door. The tech brings out the kitty-treats and QC’s eyes light up.
I don’t know which was worse, feeling bad about bringing him to the boarding place, or feeling bad because QC didn’t appear to mind it that much, LOL.
Thanks be to God, it was only a bad 24 hours. I thought it was something I ate that had maybe gone bad, but I was also so tired, and so cold. I huddled under layers of covers, including a feather bed, and slept and slept and slept.
I worried that sleeping on and off all day, I wouldn’t sleep at night, but again, I slept and slept and slept. Woke up this morning to the Qatari Cat coughing up a hairball, and felt like my normal self. :-)
LOL, at one point last evening, a plumber came by to take a look at some little things we need done, and he referred to “the dog sleeping on the bed.” I laughed and said “that’s not a dog, it’s our cat!” He was astonished. The Qateri Cat is a very long cat, with great big fur, so he does look a lot bigger than he really is. (He doesn’t look like a small dog, either, but more like a very medium sized dog.)
As many of you who know me may know, I am mildly obsessive-compulsive. I like things to be in their designated space. I like a clean house, down to the baseboards and the hidden places. I suppose it gives me some mystical illusion of control in a world where there is little (I believe) that can be controlled.
I believe my faith is pragmatic; I have learned – at least in my life – that God is in control, and that his plans are far better than my plans, although when I am in the midst of chaos, I have problems clinging to that belief, LOL.
But he sends me messages. As I have ended the old year and started the new year in a frenzy of cleaning out and organizing, I have come across lists from nightmare times in my life, mostly getting ready to move or settling in to a new location. Lists and lists of things to be done, things to be checked on . . . and I am comforted to know that what – at the time – was overwhelming, the details sorted themselves out. Things got done. Little by little, we ate the elephant.
As I came across notes and lists this morning, for buying this house and getting settled in Pensacola, I was able to take a deep breath. We survived. We got it all done. Lists and lists of details, and we got it all done. All of a sudden, things assume their proper perspective, and I thank God for this view of what my life looked like a year ago compared to what it looks like today.
We are settled.
I have friends.
We can pay our bills.
We have a house to live in and cars to drive.
We are in good health, and we have a good doctor.
We have a place where the Qattari Cat can stay when we go out of town.
We are registered voters, and have driver’s licenses and pay our taxes on time (insh’allah.)
We have a strong and rewarding family life, and activities we enjoy.
Life is sweet.