Archive for the 'Cats' Category



16
Feb
10

home again

It has been nearly two weeks since I returned from the Mennonite Arts Weekend in Cincinnati (MAW). I wanted  to write about this  earlier,  but I couldn’t seem to find enough interior space to organize the experience into words and sentences. This was our last trip together, Big Dawg, Adopted Daughter and I. We would not get to retirement at 50. We would not head out together to roam the country, visiting churches in an RV with a big PEACE sign on its side. This trip to Cincinnati would be all of it and none of it. She wanted to come along. We rented a very big van with room for her to lay down all the way and still plenty of room for all the equipment and artwork I had to bring along. A dear old friend (DOF) flew in to go along with us. The trip was a sober reality, not the devil-may-care trip we’d dreamed about.

We arrived early, set up our hotel suite and headed into the weekend’s business on the following day.  AD slept all of that next day. The trip was more tiring for her than she’d expected. We three, BG, DOF and I went on to set up my installation and panel display in  the gallery and the projection equipment in the chapel for my presentation the next day. The hosts of the event were very gracious and helpful, but there were snafus and unexpected problems to be solved, so set-up took a very long time. Anxiety was not completely absent. I had spent two years thinking about my theme of suffering as Sacred Spaces/Common Ground, and six months in actual preparation. All the while working at liturgical installations at our church, keeping house, keeping the blog, maintaining activity in an online Mennonite listserve, mentoring a young woman friend, and then since January, taking on the responsibilities of primary care-giver for AD. I was exhausted and sad…running on empty. This was not what I had expected the MAW weekend to look like. It was to be a celebration, but I did not feel celebratory. Four friends and Darling Daughter came to support and celebrate with us. I could not manage a light heart.

At 9:00 on Saturday morning, I began my presentation:

I chose suffering as my contribution to our theme for this weekend—The Art of Place: Sacred Spaces and Common Ground. Before I plunge into my talk, I want to say that it is a great privilege to take part in this festival of the arts and to be here with you tonight, sharing some of the experiences that have transformed my life. I’d like to thank Hal Hess, Anne Hevener and the committee for inviting me to share my journey with you this weekend.

I concluded with a PowerPoint presentation of a cross-section of my work. It went very well despite the hang-over I felt from too much insomnia sedation  the night before. I see this as God’s grace and myself as messenger. During this past year I seem to have miraculously acquired a skill in reading a prepared text in an intimate, conversational fashion and I cannot account for this. I had hoped to make contacts for my liturgical art, but that didn’t happen. I had lots of positive feedback from lots of people, but it was all centered on my Dying to Live installation…my cancer story.

The rest of the day was a bit of a fog for me as I hadn’t had much sleep and was running on fumes. By afternoon I was a ghost and spent a couple of hours asleep on one of the back, padded pews of the church, while the assembled faithful blended their voices in Mennonite singing. If I haven’t ever mentioned Mennonite singing before, let me do so now: every Mennonite grows up singing and reading and/or playing music. Even the poorest congregation sings beautifully. They are not so up to speed in the liturgical art and dance as worship category, but music is exemplary, so I must have slept very well. I don’t remember ever waking up during those two hours, and when I did wake up, I wished I hadn’t had to do so.

My memory of the event is hazy. I know there were fun times with friends and wonderful events, but I can’t seem to recall them very well. It is as though a veil covers my memory. I felt relief once we arrived home on Monday. My buddy OM came to help us put the seats back in the van and stayed for dinner. Empress Bird joined us at table as well and that was good. Afterward, Ad rested while BD, OM, EB and DOF all played Scrabble. They had a hilarious time and it was good to feel joy and light around me.

The next day AD slept a lot and wasn’t feeling all that well. I found her mood and affect markedly different and didn’t know what to think. As novice care-giver I was concerned. The following day the new strange behavior continued. When the hospice nurse came, she took all the necessary readings and suggested it was time to start oxygen and increase the morphine. So, the oxygen machine arrived and the meds increased, and  AD began to feel better.

Before DOF, who is a former dancer and interplay leader,  left for the airport, she and AD did some hand-dancing together. It was lovely to see Ad’s face light up like a child seeing a robin’s nest of hatchlings for the first time. Small pleasures count big sometimes. After DOF left, we began slowing putting the pieces of our life back together…post Cincinnati… looking toward the next phase of living and loving together. The oxygen machine is a noisy presence, hissing and phewing its life-sustaining presence. We named it Darth Vader! It’s hard to ignore and hard to accept. Morphine is strangely helpful, both for the sufferer and the care-givers. I watch her take it and feel relief as though it were a healthful potion rather than the addictive opiate that it is.

I am waiting for the hospice nurse to arrive. I need to know that stats. My AD doesn’t say much about how she is feeling…doesn’t often know…I rely on the stats and the experienced nurse to tell me. When we’ve reached a new plateau in the dying process it is always a shock to my system, so this time I’m prepared. No more flying around in my head. I know there is a process underway here. The cancer will take over and the morphine will increase and eventually the two will shake hands and my dear friend, AD will go home.

But right now, we still have work to do and lives to live. We are busy…she with dying well and I with helping her to do that as best I can. It is not time for grieving yet. I am so busy keeping lots of balls in the air and picking them up when they bounce to the floor. Sometimes have to dust them off before tossing them back into my small universe. Dear God, don’t let go of us.

Our nearly twenty old cat, Frank had begun sleeping most of each day with AD. They were a great comfort to each other. This morning at 5:20 a.m. he  was in a lot of pain. We knew it was time and woke AD to say goodbye. We took him to the Emergency Vet Clinic straight-away. She says he will be waiting for her.

The nurse left. Oxygen has increased from 2 to 2.5; morphine increased by 2.5 ml. Ad is sleeping now and I have to get on with my list for today. I’m glad I had a chance to talk with you.

25
Sep
09

please leave a comment

So why don’t readers leave comments? Do they know that they can be anonymous or even use a pseudonym? I love to read what others have to say about my musings…and I often reply. One can contribute another point of view, add from one’s own experience or anything else, so long as it is appropriate and not end up in the Spam file. So what’s the problem? My dear friend OM has 300 comments on his blog. Called by Name is nowhere near that. I had hoped for an interactive blog. Maybe I should offer rewards for comments…

I could have the baby kitty, Bella award

Bella - 2 years old

Bella - 2 years old

or the brave and handsome, Bennie award

Ben - 2 years old

Ben - 2 years old

or the grumpy old, Frank award.

Frank - 18 years young

Frank - 18 years young

Or, I could just go on talking, and musing, and wondering who is reading the stuff.

03
Aug
09

one more for cats

While I am yet in a cheery mood, let me post another little kitty story for your feline pleasure:

Toulouse the Tabby Cat Saves Christmas, by Darling Daughter

Brown TabbyOnce upon a time there was a brown striped tabby cat named Toulouse.  Toulouse lived in a big old house in Chicago with his person, a nice girl who fed him well, and a big yard full of birds and leaves to chase, and if he was very lucky, and very quiet, a mouse or two at night.

Toulouse was happy in his house and yard.  His life was well ordered in cat-like fashion:  meals twice a day, sleep as needed – most of the day, in the spring and summer he hunted, in the fall he chased dried leaves and in the winter he curled up contentedly on the soft red couch in the living room and watched snowflakes fall or the flames lap up the fireplace walls.  “Birds, mice, squirrels, food, bed, what a nice life,” Toulouse thought as he purred himself to sleep.

Then one day, Toulouse’s world was turned upside down in a most uncat-like way: his person got a new cat.  The new cat was gray and white with silver tips where the sun hit the edges of his fur.  The new cat had long elegant whiskers and a way of striding around the house that gave no indication that he was going to be the second place cat.  The new cat was soon named Pablo and just as soon tried to take over.  “Yes, I’ll be king of this house,” he thought firmly.  “What a perfect setting the girl gave me to rule.”
Toulouse was focused on his orderly pursuits – hunting, sleeping, eating.

******

It was that time of year again, the time when the house began to smell of warm, nutty baked goods, when the snow began to pile up against the cat door and when the girl began to spend lots of time with the shiny strings and paper that Toulouse loved to play with.  “All those good smells, Pablo,” said Toulouse, “you know it means we’ll be getting salmon and turkey ourselves.”

“Yeah, especially when we steal them off the counter when the girl gets careless,” purred Pablo.”

All was cozy and content in the big house in Chicago until one day the girl and her friend brought home a fir tree.  Pablo and Toulouse stared wide eyed as the two humans lugged it in and set it up in the living room.  “A tree, a real live tree, just like the ones the birds live in!” thought Toulouse to himself.  “Maybe, if I’m real quiet and stay hidden under the couch I’ll catch one.”  But Pablo had other thoughts.

“Wow, my own climber!  How nice of them to get a tall one for me.  I’ll just wait ‘til the girl goes into the other room to try it.”  And when evening came, the tree glowed with lights and jangly, bobbly, twizly toys that cats love and the girl soon went to bed.  Pablo crouched low at the living room door, “a running start, that’s what I need,” he plotted.

“No!” Toulouse shouted, “you must not, Pablo.  You’ll ruin Christmas for the girl.”

“Out of my way, Toulouse,” Pablo growled, “try and stop me!”  And Toulouse did just that.  From under the couch he shot, tackling Pablo full on.  The two cats tousled, brown and gray balls of fur rolling and flopping and spitting at each other.  Until finally, Toulouse backed Pablo into a corner “say you won’t do it, say it!” he hissed at Pablo.  “No!” A quick swat of a brown paw and Pablo conceded, “I didn’t want to climb that stupid tree anyway,” he said licking himself.

And so it was that the next day the girl and her friend woke to a perfect Christmas morning and enjoyed a happy Christmas with Pablo and Toulouse, who got their extra turkey, plus what they managed to steal off the counters.

Finis

01
Aug
09

the gift of the magae

In my last post I told you all about Bennie and Bella and the joy they are to me and my family. As a child I loved cats, but my mother was frightened of all four-legged creatures. Despite that, my father brought one home once, when I was about 7 or 8. I had her for about a month, all the while knowing how much my mother actively hated her. One day, when I came home from school for lunch I couldn’t find her. My mother had given the kitty away, but claimed that she had run away. I was heart-sick about it—heart broken. I think it might have been my first such experience of loss. I knew my mother was not being truthful and the relationship between us suffered ever after because I could not trust her. I don’t think I could have responded any differently than I did as a child. The kitten had been my solace in a lonely world of blond, blue-eyed Americans. Once grown up, I filled my life with cats, to be sure, and even had a talk with my mother about the incident. She was sorry, I forgave her but we could not go backward in time. We both missed out on a trusting relationship between us.

When I learned that my friend’s family was going to welcome a cat into their home…an orange tabby no less…I was overjoyed for the children, especially the middle daughter who seems to yearn for her own place in the sun. (It’s hard to be a middle child.) I asked and received permission to post a drawing she had done of Jack the cat and he is below, at the very end of this post, watching over us all with grace and peace.

Also posted here is a little story called The Gift of the Magae, that my daughter wrote for me about 10 years ago.  She changed my childhood story to one with a happy ending. Although it is not quite biographical, it is a sweet little story and a sweet thing to do.

The Gift of the Magae, by Darling Daughter

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Merry, who grew up in Chicago during World War II. She lived in an old house with her parents, her two older sisters and a brother. During the summer, Merry and her family went to Lake Michigan to swim.  They took vacations in St. Joe Michigan and went to Armenian picnics in the park. Merry and her friends had lemonade stands and held scrap metal drives to raise money for the war effort. (Merry’s family were not Mennonites!) In the winter, she and her sisters listened to radio shows after school and went to the Saturday cinemas. But Christmas was the most magical time of all; Merry and her family would take the trolley downtown to see the decorations in the big department store windows, shop and have lunch in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field’s. She always looked forward to getting a new doll for Christmas. Sometimes, Merry and her sisters got to decorate the Armenian Christmas tree at the Museum of Science and Industry, or even see the toy train set in the there.

Merry was happy except for one thing: she dearly wanted a pet, a warm, furry creature all her own to love and hug. Many times Merry had asked her mother for a cat, but she had said no each time. “Oh, Merry, what do you want that for? It’s dirty, it will scratch the furniture and scratch you too.”

“Please Ma I really want a kitty,” she said.

But the answer was always no. Merry tried her father, who looked at her as if she had lost her mind: “A WHAT! A cat, are you crazy? An animal in the house, no! Go do your homework,” he said.

“But Maureen Finley has a cat,” Merry begged her father. He gave her an annoyed look and sent her off to do her homework.

One day in the late fall, Merry’s sister came home with a small bundle for Merry. “Look what I found, Merry. It begged me to bring it home to you.”

“What is it…a kitten? Oh, thank you, thank you Faith,” Merry cried. “Ma, please can I keep it, please?” begged Merry, as the small bundle of brown tabby stripes nestled into her arms.

Merry’s parents grudgingly allowed her to keep the kitten. Merry was overjoyed with her kitty, which she named Mittens. She fed it every morning before school and in the afternoons when she came home. She brushed Mittens and played with her, and at night, the cat slept on her bed in a tight curl of fur. Merry and her kitty were very happy.

A few weeks later, Merry came home from school to find her tabby cat was gone. She called and called for it, she  looked in every nook and cranny but still could not find the cat. “Ma.,” she asked, “where’s my kitty? Have you seen her?”

“Oh, she ran away,” replied her mother casually.

“What, that’s not possible! You took her, you got rid of her, you know where  she is, you never wanted me to have it,” Merry wailed in helpless fury at her mother. She was inconsolable over the loss of  her furry friend and cried for days, but there was nothing she could do.

Christmas Eve came and the family prepared to decorate the tree and bake the paklava and lamb for the night’s dinner. Merry was helping her sister cut out paper chains for the tree garland when she heard a faint scratching noise at the  back door. She ignored it and bent her head back over the red paper, but…”scritch, scratch” there it was again. “I wonder what that is,” she thought and got up to look outside. At first, she saw nothing in the fading afternoon light and was  about to close the door again when she heard a tiny mew from behind the door. Merry stooped down and saw a cat. “No it couldn’t be,” she though… her kitty cat? She held out her hand and the kitten came close and rubbed against her hand. It was…it was her tabby cat! She had miraculously found her old home and came back from where ever she had been.

Merry picked up Mittens and brought her inside. She showed the cat to Faith who promised she would talk to their mom. Merry gave Mittens some food and she was soon purring happily in Merry’s arms again.

Faith was true to her word and convinced her parents to let Merry keep the cat. Her mother kept her promise and made Merry’s favorite desert to make up for the loss of her cat. Mittens lived with Merry and her family for many years, bringing warmth and fun into the old house. Merry grew up and had more cats in her life but she nevver forgot the wonderful Christmas and the cat who came to stay. The End.

This is Jack the cat, a lovely drawing by my dear friend’s middle daughter.  I think he is quite grand and will soon come out to play.

Jack by JillHe hopes middle daughter will understand his shyness and wait for him to get used to his new house and his new people.

01
Aug
09

the joy of four orange feet

My first year of cancer remission was not filled with joy and gladness. I had an oncologist without any bedside manner whatsoever and referrals to doctors whose characters resembled his own. In short, while the side effects lingered and I had no where to turn for help, I became very depressed. One day my partner (Big Dawg) and I drove by a Homes for Endangered and Lost Pets mobile and we decided to stop in for a breath of fresh joy. Well, how can you resist two darling little kitties with perfect markings and teeny, tiny meows, not to mention sweet tempers and loving dispositions? We couldn’t and I couldn’t and they brought me joy, plain and simple. They still bring me joy, especially the little girl kitty who is beautifully orange with pink paws and such, just like an orange Creamsicle?

I believed then, and I believe now that both kitties—Ben and Bella—were gifts of God for the Journey before me. No one who lays eyes on Bella can deny her charm. She brings out the idiot voice in me and my family. Bennie is a bit different…busy with his cat career of eating, sleeping and waiting for the day when he can get out and catch a bird or chipmunk. He is the one who walks across my desk with total assurance that he may. Bella jumps up with total expectation that I have been waiting and hoping she would do just that. And how can I say no? No one in this house says no. If Bella wants to lie across the keyboard, we just type with one finger until she decides her nap is over. We are blessed to have her warm, furry body close, warming the very cockles of our hearts.

Is this insane? To some it would be, but to me—an orange, four footed, gift of God is a gift to treasure. The memory of those dismal days, without adequate medical help is stored in my left brain, along with the more recent oppressive church events, and you already know that joy resides in the moment. Kitties are of the moment. We love them.

Ben&Bella Oct. 07

13
Jul
09

something for everyone

Today I was going to write about how all three of our kitties went scurrying into hiding places (which of course we think is adorable of them), the minute they saw the landscape crew in the back yard.  After checking email, I’ve decided to write another reflective piece about us—we imperfect human beings—imperfect compared to animals which were made perfect and remain so (except where humans have meddled).

My subject is the “acceptance of same-gender-covenanted-couples-into-membership” issue has been kicking around in my denomination for about 30 years. In our local church we had inadvertently become poster children for it this  past year—the first half privately and the second half publicly. One day, amid the confusion of bells, whistles, hoots and hollers, the roof fell in disastrously on everyone, leaving a wake of division and pain. We  were down to our last nerve and had to leave. It had been our year of living dangerously. Now truths,  half-truths and quarter truths abound, but mostly there is grief,  anguish, division and a bit of scapegoating.

If you’ve ever seen one of those old movies where a person boards the train and looks back from the window as the train leaves the station, while the beloved other person runs after it just trying to hang on a moment or two longer…that’s how some of us feel (at least that’s how I feel). The person in the movie running to keep the other in sight knows full well that he/she may never (or will never) be reunited again, and yet for those few running steps, there is hope. “I believe; help my unbelief!. (Mk 9:24)

We walked in hope with the leadership through many months of dark rain clouds before the congregation entered in. When it did, the clouds increased and the weather turned stormy. Fear and uncertainty made itself at home. Eventually the sky turned a deep, dark, gray and the rain came down in buckets. We were drenched with rain. There was no shelter. The joy we’d come aboard with had turned to deep sorrow and that is how we left the congregation I had come to love—in anguish.

Several people left as well, or are on hiatus. It’s difficult to know the difference. The church lumbers on in an effort to heal itself, but the fatal flaw is still front and center. This congregation does not seem to want to see it. Our denomination believes in the priesthood of all believers, but one very important prerequisite for this is found in Matt 18. It is chock full of good advice for priestly believers, especially verses 15 to 17. Without the humility to give and receive counsel, we are locked in to our own views accompanied by the fear that keeps us from walking in another’s shoes. If we cannot do this, we remain separated while appearing to be united in love as the Body of Christ. Because fear cannot exist alongside love, we cannot agree to disagree except in love (I John 4:18). This is a conundrum…people clinging to their own views and beliefs…not accepting our account of the past year as our truth…not walking in our shoes or those of their neighbor.

So, when good folks go scurrying about in fear and denial, beliefs stack up like firewood, while those who were first encounterers go unheard…unbelieved. Careful! Don’t anyone drop a match nearby.

Oh, and did I mention hate mail? Yes, during that last, fateful, stormy month we received an unsigned letter telling us that there was no place for us in the Kingdom of God at all. The next Sunday, this was gently referred to as a letter of condemnation. Needless to say, the priestly congregation didn’t understand what such a letter could mean as it was so graciously understated. There is so much already being swept under the rug…something for everyone.

We grieve. The friends we leave behind grieve. And for what? So that everyone could have something…a sacred cow perhaps??

Emoticon_Rose_1.42K

BTW, Cats are okay now. the patio is taking shape and the sun is shining without fear.

10
Jul
09

cats rule

Another grim and grainy day. My half empty glass is closer to half full  today because I have had a good idea for a project I’ve been asked to do, and this gives me a bit of a zing. So I’m going to bypass gray and dismal and introduce my cats to the blogoshpere. Cats definitely rule in our house. My partner, Big Dawg,  my friend, Adopted Daughter and I are unanimous in our commitment to completely spoil them with some degree of consistency.
Frank - 18 years young

Frank - 18 years young

Among the feline population I am considered the top cat, not because I purr better than they do, but because I am the magician who makes food appear from the refrigerator with regularity. None of us in this house is ashamed of our kowtowing to their every whim. We don’t have grandchildren, so we make do.

Ben - 2 years old

Ben - 2 years old

Bella - 2 years old

Bella - 2 years old

Our two young cats are siblings with markings and character suspiciously akin to the American Shorthair breed. They are very sweet with teeny tiny kittenish meows. What’s not to like about that?  Any of the three of us will set aside whatever we are doing whenever one of them decides to grace us with their soft, furry, napping selves.

Now Frank is another story. He is very old, senile, hard of hearing, has cataracts and meows loudly and insistently whenever he is confused or uncomfortable. Some would call it caterwauling. This is annoying, but what can we do? He is our senior citizen and deserves elder care, which we give knowing that one day we will help him along to his final sleep. We can do that compassionate thing for our animals…we humans are not so fortunate.

My friend, ordinary (mostly) has three daughters, all of whom love the cats. It is quite lovely to see them brighten up and make that human/animal bond that is so simple and rewarding. These little girls are naturals with animals. Last I heard, a guinea pig was being discussed as a first pet in their house. I think that is a good idea. Much better than worms!! Takes a bit of knowing to keep cats as they preferred to be kept. Cats rule…of course!




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