How cool was THAT?!

I woke up at 2:00 this morning feeling a cat curled up against my legs, kneading them with gentle kitty paws. “Clara,” I thought, thinking of my calico. And, still half-asleep, it occurred to me that Clara had lost some weight – she was feeling light against me.

I tried to doze off again, but the sleep didn’t come. I finally gave up and decided to get out of bed and do some work in my office. But as I was getting out of bed I reached down to pet “Clara” and realized that this cat wasn’t Clara at all – it was Sparky, our black feral cat, curled up against my legs. Which… whoah… Sparky is usually skittish and scaredy and doesn’t often let people near.

I curled my body around Sparky on top of our wool Pendleton blanket and, for the next half hour, communed with him – scratching him behind his ears, ruffling his fur, petting his paws. I could feel him purring underneath my hand – stretching out so I could pet all of him.

Eventually my husband – who first coaxed Sparky into our lives last autumn – moved abruptly in his sleep and Sparky – maybe deciding the humans were getting a little too lively – scampered off into the night.

But whoah… how cool was THAT half hour visit in the middle of the night?!

Sparky the black cat 2

Sparky last autumn.

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“Every challenge has come with a blessing…”

It has been a challenging month. There has been death, a need to help loved ones make a major transition in their lives, the end of a school year (my fellow teachers will understand what that means), and car troubles. And there have been times when I wondered how in the heck I was going to get from here to there – both figuratively and literally.

But every challenge has come with a blessing:

– You may remember that several weeks ago I wrote about an adventure I had with my car – the alternator gave out on me in downtown Bellingham – and that adventure led me to meeting some really nice people and finding a paper clip at the end, too. But after the alternator adventure my car continued to make squeeks and squawks and screeches, and so last Monday I took it in to have it checked. I do not have the mechanical language to tell you exactly what they diagnosed, but it involved a ball bearing in the clutch, some leaking fluid, and something to do with the thing that’s attached to the muffler. Yup. My car has been in the car hospital all week.

car repair

car repair

My husband has been shuttling me into work in the mornings, and my sons have been shuttling me back home again in the afternoons.  These daily commutes have brought unforeseen blessings to me. I’ve been used to sitting in my own thoughts to and from work – and I’ve always kind of enjoyed that quiet alone time – but I’ve found a lot of joy in being able to hold conversations with my husband and sons while they are trapped… I mean… sitting… in their cars with me.  I’ve had twenty minutes with my husband that I don’t usually have during the day – we’ve gotten caught up on what’s going on with family, friends, his work and mine. We’ve talked about politics, world news, and community happenings. We’ve laughed, and we’ve been serious, and we’ve ended every commute with a kiss.  My sons and I have had the opportunity to talk about past, present, and future. They’ve shared their wisdom with me, and their insights on life, and they’ve shared their humor. I’ve learned a lot from them this week.

– One afternoon I found myself stalled-out on an Algebra problem I was working on with one of my students. It was actually a pretty simple problem – using long division to solve a quadratic equation – but the math compartment in my brain just seemed to shut down all of a sudden. And then I remembered that my eldest son – the mechanical engineer – was going to be picking me up at the end of the day, so I gave him a call and asked him if he could come in a little early and help Carlos and I work through this algebra problem.  The son agreed to come in and help us, and he was wonderful! He was calm, he was patient – he knew exactly what to do to get through the problem, and he knew exactly what to say to help Carlos understand how to get through the problem. A blessing.

– At the end of February my beloved calico cat, Freckle Rose, died. I have felt the loss of Freckle Rose terribly.  But out of this loss has come another blessing. My parents are in the process of moving out of their home of 48 years into a home more suitable to their current needs. My parents have five cats, and knew they were going to need to find homes for at least a couple of them.  Mom asked me if I’d take their cat, Gabby. So I brought the cat carrier down to my folks to pick up Gabby-cat. But as soon as Gabby saw the carrier she headed for the farthest corners of the house – she wanted nothing to do with that thing. Enter Princess. Princess is a fluffy little ball of ebony fur who adopted my parents about four years ago. Princess looked at the carrier, looked up at me, looked back at the carrier, and calmly and deliberately walked right into it! She was meant to be with us.  When we brought her back to our house she was a little shy – but as soon as I sat down on the sofa and opened up my laptop – BOOM! – Princess was there – walking over the keys, rubbing up against my arms – what is it with cats and laptops? 🙂 Princess has brought feline ambiance back into our home. Our home really needed some feline ambiance.

Princess

Princess

– Our neighbor and dear friend, Mike, passed away this week. Mike and his family are some of the most wonderful people you’ll ever meet – kind, funny, quirky, genuinely caring people – all of them were a huge support when I went through a personal crisis a few years ago. Before Mike passed on, his family and friends organized a sky lantern extravaganza in celebration of Mike’s amazing life.  Apparently Mike had bought, like, a gazillion sky lanterns some time ago – never realizing, his wife said, that they’d be used to celebrate HIS life. And so we all met – friends, family, neighbors – in a green field in Bow to send our lanterns of love into the sky for Mike. Mike arrived just before the lanterns alighted and was able to watch the magic from the comfort of a car. It was good to see him there. Being able to celebrate Mike WITH Mike – instead of after him – was a huge blessing – a magical, teary, amazing time. I’m so glad I could be part of that.

celebrating Mike

celebrating Mike

– The end of a school year can be a really stressful time for teachers and students as they try to wrap up the year. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming – there are state assessments for students to pass, courses for them to complete, and graduation busy-ness.  But there have also been a lot of blessings this year.  This week one of my seniors presented her Culminating Project PowerPoint to the staff – and she did a most excellent job of it, too. At the end of it, the director of our school asked my student what the best part of her time at our alternative school has been for her. My student answered, “My teacher. Karen believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”  Oh gosh. I started tearing up. That – right there – that is why I teach. Blessings.

– One of my sons let me use his car to get to the testimony meeting that I needed to conduct on Wednesday. As soon as I started the car I realized I was going to need to get some gas for my son – the tank was almost empty. Normally the getting-of-gas would not be a big deal to me.  But by Wednesday I was feeling totally over-the-top mentally and emotionally stretched – I felt like those street performers who spin plates on their noses and toes whilst juggling fiery torches – adding even one more teensy thing to my juggling torches and twirling plates made me wonder if I had the mental wherewithal to keep it all from crashing around me.  But I took a deep breath – asked myself how hard it could be – and decided it would be best if I stopped on the way to the meeting to get gas, rather than afterwards.

I tried to remember which side of the car the gas tank was on – and I guessed my side – and I remembered that you couldn’t just open the flap to the gas tank – there was some super-secret something I had to do – I figured when the time came I would figure it all out.  My son drives an automatic and I am used to driving a stickshift – so there was that – my left foot kept searching for the clutch. It was raining – where were the windshield wipers? And whoah! How did you slow them down?! And it was getting dark – where were the lights? I got all that sorted out before I reached the gas station – I started to pull into a gas lane just as the attendant put a cone down to block it off – I tried to pull around and ended up in reverse somehow – but there was no one behind me – blessings. I finally got myself pulled next to a gas pump – and found I’d been right about which side of the car it was on. And when I opened the door to get out of the car I looked down and discovered a little lever that would open the car’s gas tank – blessings. I know this all seems like simple stuff – but it’s amazing how each little thing can seem like an almost-insurmountable mountain at times – and it’s amazing how grateful a person can be when it all works out.

– Yesterday I came home from school to find a bouquet of yellow lilies and little pink roses waiting for me on the counter. There was a card attached. I had no idea who could have sent me this beautiful bouquet – Mother’s Day was LAST weekend, right? I opened the card. These words greeted me: “From your wily Amazonian Humoristian hooligans. We love you.”

flowers from the Humoristian hooligans

flowers from the Humoristian hooligans

You’ll need a little background to understand what that bouquet meant to me: Eight years ago, on an Amazon religion discussion forum, I started a new religion – Humoristianity.  The people who were attracted to the Humoristian “temple” represented a wide range of religious and non-religious backgrounds – there were atheists, Methodists, Jews, Catholics, a couple Mormons, and at least one Christian Scientist (moi). But what they all had in common was the ability to laugh at themselves, and to laugh with me at the nonsense of life. This little community of friends has been with me through the good times and the challenging times. I’ve been blest to meet half a dozen of them in the person – and continue to be friends with many of them on Facebook.  They are like a second family to me. And apparently one of them had discerned that I needed flowers. It was totally unexpected – a complete surprise – I never could have seen it coming – but I am so grateful for the love these dear people showed to me with that lovely bouquet.

I am blest – I really am. I’m blest with the physical stuff – the roof over my head, the food on the table, the water coming out of our pipes. But more – so much more than that – I am blest with love – the love of a new cat in our lives, the love of my family, the love expressed in my community for a dear neighbor,  the love from my students, and the love from my Humoristian fellowship.  There is power in Love – the power to lift up a burdened heart, and to help our fellow humans see that they matter.

Dear reader, may your moments and days and years be filled to over-flowing with Love.

Video of the celebration of Mike’s life:

Freckle Rose (1998-2015)

I scratch her behind her ears.
She gives a sweet little meow,
and puts her paw on top of my hand
one last time before she moves on…

 

My cat, Freckle Rose, passed on yesterday. She was almost 17. I guess we recognized she was dying for the last several weeks. There were decisions to make or not to make – should we take her to the vet and let him “put her to sleep” or should we let her die in her own home, in her own time, in her own way? She didn’t seem to be in pain (but who knows with cats, right?) and the last time I’d taken her to the vet she’d been really scared and unahppy – so I decided to keep her home and let her move on in her own way.

She stopped eating. Finally stopped drinking, too. I kept waking up every morning expecting to find she’d died in the night.

Yesterday morning when I went downstairs Scott said he’d found her lying on the floor next to a little stuffed animal that he thinks our dog maybe brought to her. Scott had put her on the couch. He told me he wasn’t sure if she was still with us. I went over to her. She didn’t seem to be moving. I started scratching behind her ears and she stretched – like cats do when they’re enjoying something. She meowed once – but not a grown-up cat meow – it was the same kind of meow she’d had when she was a little kitty – a sweet little meow. And she put her paw on my hand. I sang to her, and told her to look for my Aunt Junie – told her Junie would take care of her – and I told her to look for her mentor-cat, Paws. (She’d loved Paws. When she was still a youngster, she’d seen Paws get run over in front of our house, and had come running to the door to tell me – she’d led me to Paws in the same way that a dog would.)

After awhile I brought her outside into the sunshine – the birds were busy out there and the air was full of birdsong. Freckle meowed three times – really loud – kind of excited – and then her head dropped against my arm. I brought her back inside and laid her back on the couch. Her breaths became gasps with long spaces of nothing in between. I kept my hand on her body and could feel it still pulsing. And then I stopped feeling the life. Her eyes dilated. I think I knew when she was gone – but I’m not sure – it was a very gentle, gradual thing – no definite moment between life and death.

Scott had to go to work, but he said he’d help me bury her when he got home, if I wanted. But I wanted to bury Freckle while the sun was still out and the birds were still singing. So I went out to bury Freckle in my Secret Garden – I was going to do it by myself – I dug a hole and put her in it – but it wasn’t big enough and her little paws were sticking out of it. That was not going to work. So I found another place and started to dig, and then I turned around and my sons had come out to the garden to help me. They dug a nice deep hole for me, and we put Freckle in it and put a spring pansy in it on top of her, and covered her in the good earth.

I think of all Freckle Rose lived through with me. When I got her she was a feral little ball of fluff – only a month or two old. She’d shared most of her entire life with me, and a big chunk of my life: She’d been alive when my youngest had started kindergarten and been alive when he graduated high school; She’d been alive when we moved, and built our new house and moved again; She’d been alive on 9-11-2001;  She’d been alive when I’d lived through my life-changing depression, when I’d published my first book, and my second and third and fourth books; She’d been alive as I’d worked my way through my Master’s program; When my Aunt Junie had passed, Freckle Rose had been here; And when we’d acquired our rambunctious Labradane pup five years ago, Freckle had been alive and might have wondered what in the hell we were thinking. Freckle Rose had lived through a lot.

It’s weird to live in a world with no Freckle Rose.

The Christmas Cat

(Originally published on December 19th, 2011)

I’ve told you about the Christmas Dog. Today I have a Christmas CAT story to share… 🙂

A few days ago my son came home from his walk with Sam the Dog, to tell me that they’d found a bloodied little calico cat on the side of the road. She seemed to be injured, wasn’t moving much, had just enough energy to hiss at the dog, but not much energy beyond that. I grabbed a towel (the yellow Pittsburgh Steelers towel my dear in-laws from Pennsylvania sent us several years ago when the Seahaws and the Steelers were duking it out in some bowl game – I figured if any of my towels was going to end up bloody, it might as well be that one) and followed the son to the kitty.

She was curled up on the side of the road, not moving much – except for one twitchy ear. She hissed defensively when I reached down to hold her, but I wrapped her up in the towel so she couldn’t scratch and held her close to me. I told the son to get my car keys and purse and meet me at the car, and I slowly carried the kitty back to our house.

Once I was holding her, she stopped hissing and fidgeting, and when I sat down in the car with her, she relaxed against me, laid her head on my arm and began to purr as I petted her head and ears. As the son drove us to the vet’s I sang the song I’d once sung, years ago, to the Christmas Dog. “Everlasting arms of Love, are beneath, around, above…” (words by John R. MacDuff) and the kitty looked up at me with the same look of trust and love that the Christmas Dog had once shown me.

I’ll be honest, the picture was not pretty. She looked to have been hit in the head by a car. Her jaw was out of alignment, and her eyes were filling up with blood. In my thoughts, I tried to establish who this little kitty was, as an expression of God – tried to establish her in my thoughts as God’s perfect idea, held whole, complete, and untouched by accident, in the consciousness of Love. What gave me some courage and confidence about the whole situation was the kitty herself – she seemed totally calm, totally unaware that she looked a mess, and completely content just resting on my lap, wrapped up in the towel. She was…well…she was very matter of fact about it all, to tell you the truth.

When we got to the vet’s I carried her inside (she was still purring), and the dear receptionist and assistant there immediately, but gently, removed the cat from my arms and whisked her away to a backroom. Before I left her there, they told me that a microchip had been found on her and that they’d try to contact the owners. I told them that if they couldn’t find the owners, I’d be willing to take responsibility for the kitty. (In the short drive to the vet’s she’d already managed to capture my heart.)

The next morning I called the vet’s to get an update, and was relieved to learn that the kitty was still alive, was actually doing “pretty good,” and was still purring. The owner had come in and decisions were being made as to how to proceed regarding the kitty’s jaw, which had been shattered.

This morning, on our way to church, we noticed our next-door neighbors had a sign in their front yard that read “Slow down” and we wondered if there might be some connection between that sign and the kitty-cat we’d found near their house two days ago. Tonight I knocked on their door and found that they were, indeed, the owners of that sweet kitty. They brought me in to look at her. She was snugly ensconced in a kitty carrier, half-dozing, and looking much better than she did when I first met her. The neighbors were happy to learn that I’d been the person the doctor had referred to as “The Good Samaritan” – “Mystery solved!” said Robert with a grin – and I was happy to learn that my neighbors were the owners of that dear kitty – I know she’s in a good home if she’s living with them.

And here’s the really cool thing: Because the little calico cat lives right next door to me, I’ll get to see her all the time!

Post Script: A year has passed since I originally published this post. The calico cat still lives next door to us and she is one of the sweetest, friendliest little cats I have ever known – she comes over and visits with us a couple times a week, lets herself be picked up and petted, and has even wandered into our home once or twice. And she’s still purring… 🙂

Joy! Peace! Good will to all (and I’m not just talking those with two legs)!

(excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book)

The Christmas Cat

(Originally published on December 19th, 2011)

Yesterday I told you about the Christmas Dog. Today I have a Christmas CAT story to share… 🙂

A few days ago my son came home from his walk with Sam the Dog, to tell me that they’d found a bloodied little calico cat on the side of the road.  She seemed to be injured, wasn’t moving much, had just enough energy to hiss at the dog, but not much energy beyond that. I grabbed a towel (the yellow Pittsburgh Steelers towel my dear in-laws from Pennsylvania sent us several years ago when the Seahaws and the Steelers were duking it out in some bowl game – I figured if any of my towels was going to end up bloody, it might as well be that one) and followed the son to the kitty.

She was curled up on the side of the road, not moving much – except for one twitchy ear. She hissed defensively when I reached down to hold her, but I wrapped her up in the towel so she couldn’t scratch and held her close to me. I told the son to get my car keys and purse and meet me at the car, and I slowly carried the kitty back to our house.

Once I was holding her, she stopped hissing and fidgeting, and when I sat down in the car with her, she relaxed against me, laid her head on my arm and began to purr as I petted her head and ears. As the son drove us to the vet’s I sang the song I’d once sung, years ago, to the Christmas Dog. “Everlasting arms of Love, are beneath, around, above…” (words by John R. MacDuff) and the kitty looked up at me with the same look of trust and love that the Christmas Dog had once shown me.

I’ll be honest, the picture was not pretty. She looked to have been hit in the head by a car. Her jaw was out of alignment, and her eyes were filling up with blood. In my thoughts, I tried to establish who this little kitty was, as an expression of God – tried to establish her in my thoughts as God’s perfect idea, held whole, complete, and untouched by accident, in the consciousness of Love.  What gave me some courage and confidence about the whole situation was the kitty herself – she seemed totally calm, totally unaware that she looked a mess, and completely content just resting on my lap, wrapped up in the towel. She was…well…she was very matter of fact about it all, to tell you the truth.

When we got to the vet’s I carried her inside (she was still purring), and the dear receptionist and assistant there immediately, but gently, removed the cat from my arms and whisked her away to a backroom. Before I left her there, they told me that a microchip had been found on her and that they’d try to contact the owners. I told them that if they couldn’t find the owners, I’d be willing to take responsibility for the kitty.  (In the short drive to the vet’s she’d already managed to capture my heart.)

The next morning I called the vet’s to get an update, and was relieved to learn that the kitty was still alive, was actually doing “pretty good,” and was still purring. The owner had come in and decisions were being made as to how to proceed regarding the kitty’s jaw, which had been shattered.

This morning, on our way to church, we noticed our next-door neighbors had a sign in their front yard that read “Slow down” and we wondered if there might be some connection between that sign and the kitty-cat we’d found near their house two days ago.  Tonight I knocked on their door and found that they were, indeed, the owners of that sweet kitty. They brought me in to look at her. She was snugly ensconced in a kitty carrier, half-dozing, and looking much better than she did when I first met her. The neighbors were happy to learn that I’d been the person the doctor had referred to as “The Good Samaritan” – “Mystery solved!” said Robert with a grin – and I was happy to learn that my neighbors were the owners of that dear kitty – I know she’s in a good home if she’s living with them.

And here’s the really cool thing:  Because the little calico cat lives right next door to me, I’ll get to see her all the time!

Post Script: A year has passed since I originally published this post. The calico cat still lives next door to us and she is one of the sweetest, friendliest little cats I have ever known – she comes over and visits with us a couple times a week, lets herself be picked up and petted, and has even wandered into our home once or twice. And she’s still purring… 🙂

Joy! Peace! Good will to all (and I’m not just talking those with two legs)!

(excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book)

The Christmas Cat

In my post a couple weeks ago, I told the story of our Christmas Dog. Now I have a Christmas CAT story to share…

A few days ago my son came home from his walk with Sam the Dog, to tell me that they’d found a bloodied little calico cat on the side of the road.  She seemed to be injured, wasn’t moving much, had just enough energy to hiss at the dog, but not much energy beyond that. I grabbed a towel (the yellow Pittsburgh Steelers towel my dear in-laws from Pennsylvania sent us several years ago when the Seahaws and the Steelers were duking it out in some bowl game – I figured if any of my towels was going to end up bloody, it might as well be that one) and followed the son to the kitty.

She was curled up on the side of the road, not moving much – except for one twitchy ear. She hissed defensively when I reached down to hold her, but I wrapped her up in the towel so she couldn’t scratch and held her close to me. I told the son to get my car keys and purse and meet me at the car, and I slowly carried the kitty back to our house.

Once I was holding her, she stopped hissing and fidgeting, and when I sat down in the car with her, she relaxed against me, laid her head on my arm and began to purr as I petted her head and ears. As the son drove us to the vet’s I sang the song I’d once sung, years ago, to the Christmas Dog. “Everlasting arms of Love, are beneath, around, above…” (words by John R. MacDuff) and the kitty looked up at me with the same look of trust and love that the Christmas Dog had once shown me.

I’ll be honest, the picture was not pretty. She looked to have been hit in the head by a car. Her jaw was out of alignment, and her eyes were filling up with blood. In my thoughts, I tried to establish who this little kitty was, as an expression of God – tried to establish her in my thoughts as God’s perfect idea, held whole, complete, and untouched by accident, in the consciousness of Love.  What gave me some courage and confidence about the whole situation was the kitty herself – she seemed totally calm, totally unaware that she looked a mess, and completely content just resting on my lap, wrapped up in the towel. She was…well…she was very matter of fact about it all, to tell you the truth.

When we got to the vet’s I carried her inside (she was still purring), and the dear receptionist and assistant there immediately, but gently, removed the cat from my arms and whisked her away to a backroom. Before I left her there, they told me that a microchip had been found on her and that they’d try to contact the owners. I told them that if they couldn’t find the owners, I’d be willing to take responsibility for the kitty.  (In the short drive to the vet’s she’d already managed to capture my heart.)

The next morning I called the vet’s to get an update, and was relieved to learn that the kitty was still alive, was actually doing “pretty good,” and was still purring. The owner had come in and decisions were being made as to how to proceed regarding the kitty’s jaw, which had been shattered.

This morning, on our way to church, we noticed our next-door neighbors had a sign in their front yard that read “Slow down” and we wondered if there might be some connection between that sign and the kitty-cat we’d found near their house two days ago.  Tonight I knocked on their door and found that they were, indeed, the owners of that sweet kitty. They brought me in to look at her. She was snugly ensconced in a kitty carrier, half-dozing, and looking much better than she did when I first met her. The neighbors were happy to learn that I’d been the person the doctor had referred to as “The Good Samaritan” – “Mystery solved!” said Robert with a grin – and I was happy to learn that my neighbors were the owners of that dear kitty – I know she’s in a good home if she’s living with them.

And here’s the really cool thing:  Because the little calico cat lives right next door to me, I’ll get to see her all the time!

Joy! Peace! Good will to all (and I’m not just talking those with two legs)!