Stories


In 2 days’ time, it will be Thanksgiving, and it will also be the 2nd anniversary of Nathan’s death.  I wanted to tell a special story that is hard for me to write, but I also think God planned as an allusion to our life together, to our lives apart where I still fight the battle while Nathan stands with the great cloud of witnesses, and to a hint of the life He has planned for us in Heaven, which will no doubt include, the reunion of families that were torn apart on earth.  I can only imagine, but this I know, the greatest is still yet to come.  And on a day created for giving thanks to God, but the same day that a big part of me revolts and wants to make me hate this day forever, I will thank Him for this.  Thank You, God, for all that You have given, but, mostly, thank You that the greatest is still yet to come…

The weekend Nathan died, we had gone to Nate’s father’s house for Thanksgiving.  We’d visited 2 or 3 times, including a stay in the loft of the barn for a few weeks the summer before (re: The Woodrat). I never got to see Nathan much when we went to his father’s house, as he was always out helping his father with manual labor things that needed doing on a large property, but we usually got in some alone time by going fishing in the [what I now consider to be cursed] lake across the street or by walking in the woods.  But this year was different, because there was a little 3 month old boy that wasn’t quite equal to the task of fishing yet and wanted his mama to feed him every hour, so we didn’t get to go fishing together.  By the end of our vacation, I felt I had hardly seen Nate in 4 days and wanted him to walk with me.
We were leaving the next day, and though he had promised me a walk, he had spent the whole day out and about again.  He had invited one of his best friends, Matt, to come out to spend the night, and was excited about taking him fishing the next morning.  I watched as the day waned, the sun started to go down, and the air turn brisker.  There was a cold front coming in, as well as a good friend showing up at any moment, and my hopes for our private walk were distinguishing. So, I thought, we’ll return home to the daily grind of work and life without any time together on our much needed vacation. Disappointed and a little pouty, I took the fussy and tired baby to the back bedroom to nurse him to sleep.
Nate noticed my demeanor, which reminded him of his promise for a walk, and feeling a little badly he had waited so long, came in to smooth talk me.  He walked in and gave me a kiss as I was laying on my side in the bed nursing the mostly sleeping baby.  I remember he laughed a little with fatherly pride as Jack made sweet baby sucking noises, and put his hand on his son’s head.
“He’s such a content baby, Lauren. I think it’s because your such a good mother…” Then he looked into my eyes, and started on a monologue that lasted at least 5 minutes about how much he loved me and every reason why.  Lest you begin to think he was Perfect Husband Incarnate and these were our normal conversations, I will say you are wrong, though he told me he loved me regularly.  Most of the time, I spent my wiley womanish ways attempting to get him to tell me everything I ever wanted to hear:  how his eyes stung with reflecting upon my unmatched beauty, how my sharp wit chopped his mind to pieces, and how he was, even after 3 years, unable to cope with his love for me that consumed his every thought and feeling.  I aimed high and therefore managed to get many wonderful blessings from my husband that were more on the plane of reality, but, for a conversation such as the one he freely gave me that night, I usually had to work hard.  This night, however, he pulled out all the stops to try to woo me.
At the end of his monologue, he had softened me significantly, and he knew it because he could read me like an open book.  So he finished his award-winning speech by giving me a dashing smile, and whispered, “Come for a walk with me, Lauren.”
I was so overly elated at his speech and his eyes staring romantically at mine that I could feel myself begin to smile back, and I still wanted to act pouty. So I sucked in my cheeks while instead my nostrils flared out involuntarily at the effort to appear unmoved. “Nathan, it’s cold outside.  Matt’s going to be here any minute.  It’s already too dark to go for a walk.  And Jack’s sleeping, so I just want to sleep here with him.” Nathan may have given an award-winning speech, but I could win awards for my whining.  But his eyes never turned from my face and his smile never faded. “Sabrina said she would watch Jack.  It’s not too dark yet.  Matt can wait. And I’ll keep you warm. Come for a walk with me.”
Strength…to…withstand…fading…fast…Spotting my crumbling fortitude, Nate pulled in the clencher– the line from Song of Soloman he quoted to propose to me– and said, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one.  Come with me.”
With that, I was up and as long as I shall live I will always thank God that the same scripture that began our union together was also the one that began our last walk.
After piling on layers, boots, and coats, we stepped outside.  It was twilight, and through the quiet and calm, all had the feeling of the world winding down from the day.  We leisurely stopped by a puddle at the edge of the woods, and pointed out frogs in the water.  We walked a little farther, and I saw a mushroom like ones we had gathered and eaten the summer before.  He smiled quietly, proud of my growing knowledge in wild things, and then started on the trail. For the rest of the walk, Nathan and I didn’t say anything more to each other, but more was communicated than I could ever adequately describe.
I remember looking down at his feet as he led me along the trail.  They were so steady and sure, he was always most at home walking trails.  I loved how he could find the most hidden trail, follow it like an Indian, and, most of all, I loved to follow behind him as he led me, because I never knew what adventure he was leading me on.  He had been missing me over the weekend too, and didn’t want to just walk ahead of me.  So he reached back and took my hand, and we walked hand in hand like that with him reaching behind and me holding his hand with both of mine.  There would be a big log, he would step over, then reach back to help me over like a gentleman…  The trail would come close to the edge of a ravine it backed against, he would put his arm across the outside of me to protect me from falling… It would go up a steep, wet incline, he would kick out footholds for me in the earth, or have me step on top of his feet if he knew it was too slippery for me.  But he always held my hand.
Halfway, we came to a point where a humongous old-growth tree had fallen across the ravine, and it made a mossy tree bridge.  The huge stump was left sticking up out of the ground, 10-12 feet high, and hollow inside, for the old tree had rotted from the inside out.  The roots were so tall, they actually made a doorway, and we went inside the treehouse and explored.  He climbed to the top and looked out over the ravine quietly, as I sat down below and looked up at him.  After awhile, he climbed down, and gave me an absentminded kiss as he walked out. I followed him out, and he helped me get down a slope to where the tree bridge began at the edge of the ravine.
I could tell me wanted me to go with him out on the bridge, but I was too afraid.  So he let go of my hand, and quietly walked out to the middle of the bridge.  He just stood there, brooding, for what seems like a long time now.  I’ll never forget the last great image of my husband there.  He wore an Indiana Jones hat, coveralls that he would be unable to unzip with frozen hands the next morning as he tread frozen water, and hiking boots, now tucked neatly away in a chest at the foot of my bed, with the fishing wire that dragged him downwards into the water still wrapped tautly around the left ankle.  He stood still as a statue on that bridge and looked out contemplatively over the ravine and the world.  He was so handsome and strong, but I couldn’t go out on the bridge with him.
It was reflecting upon this image of Nathan the other day that I put something together.  My mother told us when we were engaged that she had had this thought that Nathan would be the “Watchman on the Wall” for our family.  She always stuck with it, and even in her funeral speech for Nathan, she called him the “Watchman on the Wall”.  To be honest, it never had any significant meaning for me.  I mean, yeah, I thought he was the Watchman on the Wall for us, because he looked out for us and protected us and all that.  But I couldn’t really connect it to him, and wondered why she felt so fervently like God had given it to her.  I had always been hesitant to write about our last walk together and never felt the timing was right… until I thought about our last walk as our life together.  And I saw Nathan standing on that bridge that I couldn’t go out on, and he was watching so fervently, so calmly, so contemplatively.  Then, I knew my mother had been right all along…While Nathan was the Watchman on the Wall for us it in our life together, for the remainder of it he will be watching and praying for us from the perspective that one can only have if they are higher than the ground level. Nathan is the Watchman on the Wall for our family from Heaven now, and he was always going to be, even before we were married.
After awhile, Nathan walked off the bridge and I climbed up a hill ahead of him.  We came to a clearing in the trees, and he reached out and grabbed ahold of my coat.  I turned around, and realized he wanted to hold me for awhile.  So I went to him and curled up into his chest while he held me.  We hugged like that for a long time.  We hugged so long we even swayed and slowly danced a little after awhile.  I was listening to his heart beat, and he smelled my hair, and we were content.  Looking back on it, it was a wonderful Goodbye Hug.  A Goodbye Hug where neither of us knew we were saying goodbye, but just thought we were saying we loved each other without words.  It was the last time we would really be together, but I imagine our Hello Again hug will be much the same one day.
After that, the sun finally went to sleep. Nate, the wild Indian man, chose a mysterious path through the woods that must’ve only existed for the rest of that day before growing over again, because I went out to find it many times over the next few days when I needed to get away from people and never found it.  But that night, it led us all the way home where the rest of the family and good friends were waiting for us.
Lord, I haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving since the weekend Nathan went Home, but I want You to know that I give thanks for all my beautiful blessings, and even for the things that I don’t understand.  Thank You for it all.
Happy Heaven Day, Nathan.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Here’s story that I was reminded of when I locked my keys in my car the other day. It happened while Nate and I were dating and he was living in Chicago. My key locking story wasn’t even half as exciting, so I’ll tell this one since I haven’t posted a story in awhile.
I got a call from an angry Nathan one day after I got home from class. He told me that he had gone out with his brother, Tim, and his mom and sister to try to find a dress for something. Having no desire to shop dresses in the store with them, he and Tim had sat in the car while the women shopped. It was a hot summer day, and they decided to get out and walk in front of the car to stretch their legs. While they were talking, they suddenly noticed that a tow truck was backing up to their car. Within 10 seconds, it had clamped the back wheels and, before their eyes, was carrying their car down the street. Nathan ran after it to stop the guy and tell him that they hadn’t parked it illegally. The guy of course continued to pick up speed. Nate eventually ran up and jumped on the sideboard beside the driver.
“Hey! I’m right here! That’s my car! It wasn’t parked illegally!”
“GET OFF MY TRUCK!” roared a guy with with a long, gray, scraggly beard and a hook on his right hand. I’m just kidding about the hook, I was just recalling the movie “Adventures in Babysitting”. I have no idea what the guy looked like, but it obviously had to be something like what I’m describing. Obviously.
“Stop and let me have my car back!” Nate shouted back.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the guy pulled a knife on Nate, and Nate’s intelligent brain thus helped him decide to jump off the truck.
Nathan finished the story, and asked me if I could look up the directions to the towing place. I looked it up, and saw it was in a bad neighborhood in South Chicago.
There was a craziness to his voice. “We’re getting our car back. And we’re not paying for it… We’re going in. I’ll see you when I see you. BWA HA HA HA!” He hung up.
Nathan and Tim took the train or drove another car, I don’t remember, until they found their mark. It was a dumpy, dusty towing lot with trash littered around the fence, and in front stood a dirty, dilapidated trailer with tinted windows so you couldn’t see who was in it. They walked up to the window and immediately a grimey metal box shoved out from a slot below the window, accompanied by a voice through speaker holes.
“IF YOU WANT YOUR CAR BACK, YOU OWE US $300!”
Nathan used a voice I can still hear quite well in my mind. It was one that he used for 3 people: 1) the lady in this story or others similar to her in other stories, 2) Satan, and 3) me. When he got into trouble for something and I was mad at him, my voice changed from being the sweet and innocent voice I actually have to this low, chesty, rumbly mad voice in his stories. Our friends knew it well and would laughingly refer to it as the Satan/Lauren voice, while I pouted in the corner and rocked myself.
Anyway. The lady with the Satan/Lauren voice rumbled at him “YOU HAVE TO PAY US $300! NOW!”
Calm and collected: “We’re not going to pay you $300 when we weren’t parked illegally.”
“I DON’T CARE! GIVE US $300!” There might’ve been some cursing involved…
Less calm and collected: “Look, lady, you don’t need to be so rude. Your guy towed our car illegally and he pulled a knife on us–”
“GIVE ME $300! NOW!”
More conversation ensued. There might have been some more cursing involved. Definitely not calm and collected– “We’re going to call the police!”
Satan/Lauren: “PAY ME NOW OR WE’LL CRUSH YOUR CAR!”
Then they threw a grenade Tim had in his back pocket through the window and ran in to save the car. Just kidding. The rescue mission was much cooler.
After the shouting match proved ineffective, they walked away from the tatty trailer, red-faced (they have Irish blood) and brooding. Finally, they stood in front of it, stance wide and arms crossed to make their biceps bulge, like all men do for whatever testosteronely-charged reason, and scoped out their enemy’s territory. Satan/Lauren eyed them suspiciously from her tinted-window fortress…we assume since it was tinted. They walked around the perimeter of the fence, testing weak spots and concocting a mission plan. The trailer sat dumpily and suspiciously in the distance.
Finally, their plan was hatched. They walked across the street to a gas station. An Indian man waited with a turban wrapped around his head.
“Hi. Can you tell us the story about these guys? That towing place towed our car illegally.” They nodded toward the tatty trailer.
The man spoke animatedly in a heavy accent, “Oh! You are not the only one to have your car taken! Everybody hates those guys. The police do nothing.”
“Hmmm…Well, we have an idea. Um, perhaps do you have…a crowbar?”
The man looked at them sideways, paused. Then he nodded decisively and bent under the counter to pull out a crowbar. It was like God’s blessing on their truck rescue mission.
“Just do not bring it back,” he told them.
The men walked outside with new purpose. After a quick talk, the plan was in action. Splitting up, Tim walked around the front toward the trailer fortress. Nate walked around to the back of the lot where the high chain link fence had a gate held together by a rusted lock. He began to beat it with the crowbar. It came off easily (God’s blessing part 2), and he waited by the gate for his next move. He looked behind him.
A crowd of rough, tattooed basketball players had stopped their game and stood watching him, looking menacing.
“Oh…hey guys. Uh, we’re just breaking our car out of the towing lot…”
The air immediately went from cold and suspicious to animated chatter and warmth.
“Oh yeah, man. Cool!” they called.
“Cool.”
End of conversation.
Nate waited. After about 15 minutes, he heard yelling and a commotion inside the fence. A car revved loudly. The tension mounted in the moments as he waited for the storm to rise over the hill…
When it broke, he said it was most of the beautiful and gratifying sights he had ever seen. Tim’s old truck came roaring like the thunder through the towing lot, dodging cars and back wheels spinning out all over the place. In the middle of the lot, it went through a huge puddle of muddy water that sprayed out in all directions from the truck, something straight out of a scene from Dukes of Hazard. Satan/Lauren and a beefy bouncer ran behind, shaking their fists and screaming insults.
Nate quickly swung the gate open, and jumped in the door while the car was moving. They flew away from the trailer fortress to ecstatic cheers from the basketball crowd and curses from Satan/Lauren and her bouncer.
Turns out, sneaky Tim had run through an open gate when Mr. Bouncer wasn’t looking, and quickly jumped an inside fence, while Mr. Bouncer’s bulk prevented him from doing the same and made him wait to open the gate. Tim had gotten to his car just in time to reproduce the Dukes of Hazard scene we now celebrate.

This is one of my personal favorite Nathan stories.

I am INCREDIBLY embarrassed about my music. I get embarrassed singing it to anyone, I get embarrassed when people tell other people that I write music, I get embarrassed about any and all parts of music + Lauren in any conversation. Honestly, I think it’s stupid of me, probably selfish and prideful in some sort of deep way that needs psychotherapy to drive out of me, and I want to get over it. I want to get over it particularly for Nate.

You see, Nate and I always had an inside joke that I “seduced” him like a siren with my music and then wouldn’t play for him once he had sufficiently fallen in love with me and married me. He said it was a cruel trick of mine, I shrugged and tried not to hum out loud. Again, I don’t understand why I do that. When we were first getting together over a ski trip to Colorado with our church, I brought my guitar, and although he liked me before, this action plus singing my songs with it particularly did the trick in securing his affections for me.

When he moved to Chicago while we were dating, I gave him a CD with my songs on it, and he would listen to it a lot. The CD wasn’t/isn’t much…I had recorded them when I was 18, my voice wasn’t fully matured, some of them I had only been playing the guitar for about 3 months, they were simply done, etc. But he loved it. And he loved me for it.

Once married, I would sing for him occasionally, but not nearly enough as he wanted me to. I guess I thought we had a lifetime for me to sing all the songs he wanted, and I took it for granted. One night, we were driving in the car somewhere, and he said, “Lauren, would you sing for me at my funeral?”

Me: “Heck, no. I wouldn’t even be able to stand up, much less sing for you at your funeral. Besides, let’s hope I die first.”

Him: “You wouldn’t sing for me even at my funeral?”

Me: “Nope.”

Him: “Yes, you would.”

Makes me sad–No, sad isn’t the word…it’s some deep indescribable melancholy about the way things were, are now, the harshness of reality and death–to think about it, because he was absolutely right. I sang for him at his funeral. I sang my heart out until I was bawling like a baby onstage in front of everyone. I made everybody finish the song I had written just for him 5 days after he died. I wrote it on the horrible flight back from Oregon. The one where I had gone with my handsome, strong, invincible husband and sweet almost 3 month baby, and returned a week later with his ashes in a 5 inch long plastic box. It’s overwhelming to even try to think about now…

I’ll just tell you…it was a bad, bad flight for me. I opened my bible, and just asked God to do something, ANYTHING for me. Help me, help me. He showed me Job, “For the Lord gives and He takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Yes, that was it. Hell was glaring me straight in the face, so what was God telling me to do? Praise Him. Thank Him. So I did.

Here are the lyrics to my song I wrote mid-flight. The thing is being weird and won’t let me format it prettily, so I’ll just let it be weird and write it uglily (yep, that’s a word.):

Who am I to question You?/So high above me/For You give, and You take away./Blessed be Your Holy name.

Thank You for the gift You gave/I’ve never known a love like that/A life so full and a heart so true/No, I’ll never forget my beautiful Nate.

Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You.

Lord, Your grace falls on me. Lord, Your grace falls on me.

Now he’s running so wild and free/For You give life eternally/So turn your eyes upon me now/And I will lift up mine and sing.

Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You.

Lord, Your grace falls on me. Lord, Your grace falls on me.

I will keep praising. You have turned my sorrow to joy, my weeping to dancing, and death into Life.

Lord, Your grace falls on us. Lord, Your grace falls on us.

Everybody at Nate’s funeral sang that the Lord’s grace was falling on us. Nate would have loved that. What greater honor could there be that at your funeral, people thank God for His grace and goodness in giving you to them, and them praise Him for eternal life? And I knew God, especially, was proud that we must’ve been screaming back at Satan attempts to destroy us with such powerful words.

So…the point of all this is to say that Coffee Ambassadors is raising funds to buy a building in order to roast more, open a coffee shop, help more farmers, do more missions…etc. I can’t think of a business I want to support more for all the good it does now and the potential good it will one day do.

There are a million ideas floating around about how to raise said funds, but one practical way is selling my music. The CD that I gave Nate when we were falling in love.

So, if you would like to support Coffee Ambassadors, you can go to www.coffeeambassadors.com and buy some songs for 99 cents each. Click on Lauren’s music in the left hand column. If it does well, I’ll probably go in and record the ones I’ve written since we were married, and the ones I’ve written since he died. Also, the introduction, while well-written, makes me sound like some sort of celebrity, and that makes me want to curl up into a ball and die. So, either don’t read it, or just imagine me curled up in a ball, dying while you read it. ha ha.

I’m not going to be afraid to share my music, because Nate always wanted me to, and he would be proud of me. Thank you, Nate. Love you.

Okay, for the third installment of our lovely honeymoon:

We had rented a moped to zip around in. We loved it, though we had problems with it, which I will relay in the last post.

One morning, I woke up to the sound of the moped buzzing outside. As Nate was sleeping next to me, I realized someone must be trying to steal it. I peered through a hole in a slat in the wall (isn’t it horrible that that’s all I had to do?). Nope, it was still there. And turned off.

So what was that sound? It was a huge Jungle Bee/Pepsis Wasp/Tarantula Hawk/Satanic Spawn. About two inches long. I’ve read they get bigger (see previous post for a picture). Every single morning, very very early, It would come in from Its gruesome lair in the jungle and buzz annoyingly around the light fixture in our bedroom. It was hard to sleep because It buzzed so loudly, and It was so big, we were afraid that It would be able to push aside our mosquito net.

So, once again, Nate got up to battle the rainforest elements in our bungalow. He got his trusty stick (the one that would later be used to fight off bats) and started swatting at The Bee. But the problem was that The Bee did not seem to be afraid of the stick in the least (probably because It could pick it up and start hitting Nate with it, if It wanted to), and was very good at dodging the trusty weapon. Then It would just hover in closer at Nate like It was threatening him or something. We figured out very quickly that The Bee was very smart. Weirdly smart for an insect. Finally, after nearly getting stung, Nate crawled back to the protective mosquito netting, which we secured as best we could, and just decided to sleep in and wait it out.

The next night, we decided to dump out an entire trashcan full of sheets and towels and use them to stuff into the cracks in the walls. It took us a very long time, because we were actually bat proofing the room as well, so the job needed to be done well. The next morning, I woke up to the sound of the moped-being-stolen Bee buzz.

“Bwa ha ha. Try as You might, little [big] Bee, You won’t sting me!” Nate garbled at It, half-asleep. We smiled at each other about our victory and were not deterred from our newly-wedded contentedness. This was, after all, our honeymoon. I rolled over and closed my eyes again.

…A few minutes later, I heard The Bee on the outside wall right by my ear. It would get louder, then quieter, louder, then quieter. That’s when I realized The Bee was actually ramming Itself against the sheets we had put up. This slightly worried me, but we just went back to sleep.

…A few minutes more, I heard The Bee ramming again, but this time It was on another wall. “It’s actually testing the structure for weaknesses,” Nate mulled. “This is one scary freaky Rambo Jungle Bee.” Slept a little longer.

…A little while later, and the buzzing was loud. Real loud. Like It had gotten inside loud.

We both popped up to discover The Bee chauvinistically prancing around our light fixture. And now, we had trapped ourselves inside with It.

Eventually Nate ran out of the mosquito netting with the same gall as a man leaving the trenches during war, and yelled as he ferociously ripped all of the sheeting down around the room, then rejoined me in relative safety until The Bee flew away.

Later on during the honeymoon, we went on a zip line through the rainforest canopy (Beautiful! We were very blessed to have gotten to do that in Costa Rica and in Ghana.). Nate came across the biggest ant you have ever seen. It was like an ant on steroids. A bullet ant. Very dangerous. But we didn’t know that.

Nate was pointing his finger at it, relatively closely, when one of the guides calmly said, “Hey, ju know thees ees no good to touch that ant? Eet hurts! Baaad.” We were thankful he told us, though wondered why he had let Nate get so close to it in the first place, as he was watching Nate the entire time of ant exploration. When Nate told him about our Jungle Bee, they told us we needed to stay away from It, because Its sting had been known to kill people. Kill people!!! Geez. We did a better job with our sheeting that night, and The Bee must’ve flown over to a lighting fixture next door or something. BWA HA HA!!! VICTORY!

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This is Nate with his bat/Jungle Bee battling stick, dressed in our closest rendition of native war apparel. Attire courtesy of the huge trashcan of sheets and towels in one of the closets. His demeanor, though readied for battle, looks relatively normal here…

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A few days later… Unfortunately, by the end of the honeymoon, we had had to resort to our ancestral, caveman/woman survival instincts, and looked a little worse for the wear. It took us at least a month to return to civilized behavior once we came back. I could uncurl from fetal position and Nate’s facial twitching stopped a few months after that.

The first few nights in the Bat Cave were interesting. We realized that we just needed to tuck our mosquito net under our bodies and then very few critters could get inside. Our favorite game was to wake up in the mornings and try to guess what the different insects were that crawled around on the net. That was after another unwelcome friend of ours went away. You’ll hear about It later. We also learned that we needed to shut and lock the shutters on our windows, because the howler monkeys and renegade chickens that fought each other in the yard could actually come inside, if they wanted. I’ve mentioned this before, but howler monkeys are not cute. They look and sound more like the trolls on “Willow”, and like to throw poo and rotten fruit at people who get too close. Maybe they bite people’s heads off, too. I don’t know, because I chose not to get that close.

On about the third night, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I was already scared because the shack was pitch black at night, I had to feel my way around and hope that I didn’t land my hands on a termite mound, while listening to the howler monkey trolls running around right outside the wall, which didn’t seem very protective. When I got to the bathroom, I flipped on the light (yes, there was electricity!) and immediately started screaming long, loudly, and shrilly. The bat, that had swooped down from its perch on the shower pole and hung in midair DIRECTLY in front of my face, also screeched loudly in a high-pitched, creepy, bat kind of way. Nate courageously came running from the bedroom and swatted it off, along with about 3 of its friends still hanging from the shower pole.

Remember the mysterious seeds glopped all over the bathroom? That was bat guava, my friends. Our little bat friends flew in from the warm, moist night and came into the house through the foot wide opening at the roof. They loved to glean and preen while hanging upside down from the shower pole.

I don’t know if they just came in groups after that, or if we had been too distracted by the World’s Largest Indoor Termite Mound to notice them, but they started hanging from all the rafters of the house, just gleaning and preening in that disgusting bat licking themselves way. Ugh. Then they would click their sonar sound thing and fly out to go look for something to eat. We stayed there for 10 days, and I could handle everything else, but the bats started to drive me “batty”, if you will (ha ha! I made a funny), by the end. We didn’t have a door on our bedroom, so every time a draft shook the bead curtain, I was sure one was about to land on my face.

We hung garlic from the rafters and that didn’t work. We tried to find sulfur to line along the shower curtain rod, but none was available and we couldn’t figure out how to ask in Spanish. Finally, we hung up one of my cross necklaces along the doorframe to our bedroom, hoping to deter the more vampire-inspired ones.

Nate eventually got tired of having to get up and bang on the ceiling with a huge stick to scare the bats away, then stand look out as I went to the bathroom every night, so he finally decided to take matters into his own hands. He went up to the third floor and found a large group of them up there. I sat huddled under the mosquito net in our room and heard the groaning and burgeoning of the stairs under his weight as he ascended the stairs. When he finally got to the attic room, which was directly above our bedroom, I could hear every sound he made due to non-insulation, which was accompanied by knowledge of every step he took due to the dust and dirt that rained from the ceiling in my room as he walked.

All I know is that I heard him say to the bats, “Oh, there you are. Well, here I am. Alright, it’s GO TIME!!” This was followed by random bangs on the ceiling, swatting sounds, karate screeches from Nathan, sonar clicking sounds in response, and an avalanche of dirt falling from my ceiling. At first, the dirt fell in a circular motion going clockwise. Then, a low moan from Nate. Then the dirt fell in a circular motion going the other way around. A cycle something like this went on for about 5 minutes. Every once in awhile I called up, “Nate…are you still alive?”

A low, muffled, “Yef…” was what would follow.

The shuffling upstairs stopped after awhile. Nate came backstairs, winded, and maybe a little defeated. He explained that when he banged the stick on the ceiling, the bats would go flying around in a circle. At first, he was chasing them. Then, they flew so fast that eventually they were chasing him. Then he would wave his stick of justice and try to chase them again, so they would change directions. Then they would be chasing him again.

We ended up just laughing it off. This was, after all, our honeymoon.

I’m realizing I will have to extend the story to a “Bat Cave: 3” part that was not originally intended, making this a four part series. Sorry if you find this story boring…cuz you’ve still got more to read, baby. :)

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One of our furry flying friends [picture not ours…are you kidding?]. I think I’m going to throw up just looking at it. Now imagine that thing with its wings open and it SCREECHING 6 inches from your face.

I’ve told one story about our honeymoon. Ah, the good ole pterodactyl. But I haven’t told the rest of the stories from that fateful vacation. No no no. I will have to break it down into 3 parts: “The Bat Cave: 1”, “The Bat Cave: 2”, and “The Moped”. Here is the first part, entitled “The Bat Cave: 1”.

Nate had had hernia surgery 4 weeks before our wedding, which basically left him decrepit and unable to work for an entire month– which didn’t matter, because he had gotten the hernia on a job which gave him workers’ compensation and he got lots of money for sitting around on the computer all day. So, what did he do with his time? Definitely didn’t help me put together fine details for the wedding, that’s fo’ sho’. He was more interested in the finer details of our honeymoon, though, so I barely knew anything of what was happening with that until we went.

He decided to take us to Costa Rica– the land of black beaches, tropical rain forests, inspiring latin food, and where you can do a lot of stuff for cheap. He found us this exotic 3-story bungalow that lay at the edge of the great rainforest, and was a short walking distance from a beach lagoon. It was owned by an American, who sounded nice enough, and only cost $300 for an entire week (which isn’t so, so cheap for Costa Rica, but is still quite inexpensive). It was in a quiet town, Cahuita, about 3 hours from the city with the airport.

We landed in San Jose, and took the bus out to Cahuita the next morning. I will skip the part about the sweet little bed and breakfast where the owner offered us pot. Really romantic. Next small adventure: What should have taken 3 hours ended up taking 9. On a hot bus. Thankfully, we chose the one without chickens in cages. You see, there is one main highway that runs across the country. On this day, all the taxi drivers of the country decided to strike, and created a blockade across a part of the highway so that absolutely no one could get across them. We went up to see them ourselves by taking about an hour walk away from our bus. I remember my reaction being really angry at them, and I actually considered walking up to them and saying, “Please stop this! I’m on my honeymoon!” which would have been a very rich American, white girl thing to say.

Eventually we arrived in Cahuita, very hot, very hungry, very tired. A man was supposed to meet us when we got there, but since we were so late, it took about an hour to get in touch with him to take us back to the bungalow. I remember pulling up to the bungalow for the first time… We pulled in through the gate, dodged a few renegade chickens, and avoided piles of burning wood as we drove up to the door. Nate looked at me and said, “Not that bad…” Oh, how very wrong he was.

First of all, it was not really a sound housing structure, but more of a very tall shanty. The walls were wooden slats nailed across support beams, but someone forgot to make sure they actually touched, and the slats had about 1/2 inch to 2 inches of space between them, depending on how drunk or un-drunk the builder was. The roof, made of tin, was approximately 1 foot away from the top slat. To be fair, this was a developing country, so we weren’t a expecting top-notch luxury building. The problem was that when you have as many holes in a place like this that sits on the edge of the rainforest, you encounter wildlife…lots and lots of wildlife. In fact, you don’t even have to venture into the jungle to experience it. You just sit back in your cozy little bungalow and battle the elements from there.

I looked at Nate. “Honey, dearest, love of my life… where exactly did you find this thing?” Smiled sweetly. We were on our honeymoon, after all.
“On craigslist, my little petunia blossom. It supposed to have a rain shower…” Which it did, outside. There was a shower that actually collected rain run-off from the infested roof and dropped into a shower-like edifice. He winced.

Upon further exploration of our deteriorating abode, we found a small kitchen filled with all the cooking utensils we could need (they were crawling with lizards, insects, and droppings of various small fauna), 3 bedrooms upstairs (each with its own beautiful beaded curtain instead of a doorway, mosquito net actually intended for use, and a trashcan filled with new sheets and towels), a bookshelf library (when opened, you couldn’t actually read the books, but you could see the tunnels made by termites galore), a bathroom that had mysterious globs of seeds sprinkled all over the sink basin, and a third floor which was really more like an attic.

As we walked through, I tried not to touch the wall in case my hand landed on a poisonous insect or lizard walking along the wall. At one point, Nate told me to duck just in time of me nearly brushing my hair against the biggest termite mound indoors I have ever seen. It should win an award or something.

Most people would have left. But we, priding ourselves on being rustic, and having pre-paid the entire week in advance, decided to stay. We had no idea what we were in for…

To be continued in “The Bat Cave: 2”.

A few upcoming attractions:

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Scary howler monkeys…if only you could hear them. They’re BIG, too.

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Pepsis wasp, also known as a Tarantula Hawk. Know why? It kills tarantulas and feeds them to its young. Also considered by many to have one of the most painful stings in the entire insect world.

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Those that disagree about the wasp causing the most pain think the Bullet Ant, an inch long ant, causes the most pain. “Bullet Ant” because getting bitten feels like you’ve been hit by a bullet. We encountered both.

And more… (I’m not joking or being dramatic, either. Well, okay, a bit dramatic, but entirely honest.)

So, before I tell my Nathan story, I’d like to mention that Joshua Harris himself must’ve found my comment about the youth group boys wanting me to burn “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” in the Christmas survey. I don’t know how or why, but this is what I have to say about it.
1. Are you happy now, youth group boys?!!!!
2. Sorry for my youth group, Mr. Harris.
3. My husband was my first date and my first kiss. Not dating turned out great for me, because I ended up waiting for the most excellent man I’ve ever met. So, thank you for “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”. It inspired me.
4. But I date now.
Okay, that’s out of the way. Nathan story:
Nathan and I lived in the loft of a barn one summer. We had gone to stay with Nate’s family and work on his dad’s land, and the best place for us was in this loft. I rigged up a closet out of old sheets and plywood, hung dried flowers from the ceiling, and laid out some wood and cinder blocks for our blow-up mattress to lay across without actually touching the floor. The reason I didn’t want the mattress to sit directly on the floor will perhaps best be addressed by the outcome of the rest of the story. After my story is finished, you will think that I did not set the bed off the floor high enough.
One side story before I get into it, though: I have a gigantic fear of heights. Having to do with a bad childhood experience involving cliff faces and the Grand Canyon. Thanks, mom. Anyway, the only way to get into the loft was this ladder and if, for some reason, a freak gust of wind should somehow blow you off the ladder, you would fall 10 feet before being impaled on boat trailer hitch. I tried to climb the ladder, I really did. I just didn’t succeed to the top. So, Nathan tried very hard to set up a wheelie-harness system to get me to the top of the loft. HA HA! Oh my gosh, I laugh so hard to think about it… Me set up with a logging harness around my waist and a rope that went through a ghetto wheelie system connected to the ceiling. Then Nathan would hold the other end of the rope and pathetically try to hoist me up to the top while his slippery sandals made his legs bow and slide along the floor under my weight… BWA HA HA! What were we thinking? Was I going to call out to him every time I wanted to go up and he come running to hoist me up? Or, the most obvious question that remains…how was this possibly safer than me just climbing the stupid ladder? He was so sweet, he spent hours setting it up, only to attempt it for 10 minutes. Then we just moved a cabinet over and it made a step that I could take to get to the top without getting scared. That only took 5 minutes. After he did that, he spoke to himself, saying, “Don’t think harder, Nathan…Think smarter.” He looked at me. “My dad used to tell me that.” Smirked.
Anyway, we were falling asleep one night on our little blow-up mattress when we heard a squeak of a mouse. This was definitely not the first time we had heard those squeaks. But they were always downstairs. I mean, we were in a barn. So we ignored it. But we heard it a couple more times.
I rolled over to Nate, “Nate…um, that kind of sounded like the squeak was NOT downstairs.”
All-knowingly and tired sounding, “Lauren, I heard it, too. I don’t think they can get up here.”
That’s when a board fell over in the corner followed by a long squeak.
I pulled the covers over my head. The sheets were apparently going to protect me from a humongous, black plague-infected barn rat. Nate leapt up, put on his boots and grabbed the flashlight and beebee gun beside the bed (We shot at cans from bed, sometimes. I don’t know. It was good practice.). I have this funny image in my head of Nate standing with that beebee gun in his underwear, with huge work boots on, and this wide eyed look on his face as he spotted the enormity of the rat in our loft.
The rat was still between some boards so I couldn’t see what was going on. This made the commentary from Nathan all the more interesting followed by the soundtrack from the rat itself:
“It’s HUGE! I’ve never seen a rat that big! Um, it has a bushy tail and it’s definitely bigger than a squirrel. Oh, that’s gross.”
He shot at it. Squeak and scratching noises that proved to me the rat was indeed sizeable.
“My beebee didn’t even affect it! WHOA!”
He shot 4 more times. 7 times. Squeak short. Major scratching around now. Squeak long.
“This thing is incredible! It’s like…invinceable. Ah!”
10 shots. Raspy breathing from rat. Scratch. Squeak.
“Ew. I think I got it in the eye. Oh wait, no, it’s still going.”
5 more times. Silence from the rat.
“Um, Lauren? I can’t really see. Will you come hold the flashlight?”
“HECK NO!”
“It’s not moving. I’m pretty sure it’s dead.”
“It’s dead? ARE YOU SURE?”
“Pretty sure. Wait… Yeah. It is.”
So I carefully got up and took the flashlight. As soon as the light hit the rat, it raised up on it front legs and opened it mouth and HISSED at us!!! First of all, it was the size of a small cat. Secondly, it had fangs with blood dripping off of them when it hissed. You can probably imagine our reactions. We fuh-reaked out.
Nate shot at it while yelling disgustedly a few more times. Then it was really dead. We celebrated our victory.
“Did you see that??!!! It was like straight out of a horror movie!! It was great! I LOVE OREGON!!” Nate feverishly cried out in victory.
I love that man. He was pretty funny.
Also, I went home that summer with a mysterious clump of hair that stuck out from the side of my head. I had to hide it with my other hair for 2 months. Coincidence? I think not. I think the dead rat’s friends had sweet revenge by crawling across my face and chewing off my hair. I prefer not to think about that now…

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The bushy tailed woodrat, common to the Northwest U.S. Gets up to 17 inches long. I wasn’t joking when I said it was the size of a small cat.

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