Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Lot of Times Jimmy Does Know Best

     Most people that know my husband know him as somewhat serious, an avid reader, and someone that has a knowledge of just about everything. This comes in handy because he is a good conversationalist, which is useful when meeting new people. He is able to ask thoughtful questions.
     I didn't know him when he was a child so I have only ever known him as Jim or the more serious James. For some reason, though, the young people and children we have in our lives quite often call him Jimmy.
     This just makes me smile and brings a happy feeling to my soul. Most of the time that is now how I thing of him now, hence the title for this post.
     And the reason I am thinking on this is because I have spent quite a bit of time brushing our long hair cat black cat, Vader, again today. I am just lucky that he comes to me and hops up on my lap when he wants brushing. It makes it so much easier to care for him. It is also so soothing and relaxing to me to brush his log, soft fur.
     Vader is also the inspiration for a new children's story I am working on. It may be a high/low concept chapter book or a beginner reader chapter book. I have not decided. He is also a playful cat. The thing he likes to do the most is chase shadows. I have taken several pictures of him doing this and even tried to take a video clip for the first time with my little old flip phone. I have never had a cat that enjoyed this type of game.
     I still struggle with having the discipline to work on my stories and write. This past year has been one of the most difficult of my life, but that is for another post, another time. The main point of bringing up the difficulties is that Vader and our other cats have been a great comfort and source of companionship for me.
     And this brings me back around to Jimmy. There is thing that not everyone knows about him. He has a very generous and caring heart and that extends to rescue animals. He is the reason we have the fabulous black cat that has been such a great companion to me. If he hadn't insisted we did have the resources, room, and time, we would not have this little one. I would have missed out on a great blessing.
     All this also reminds me of one of my favorite books from when I was a kid, "One Kitten Is Not Too Many." That was a favorite early reader of mine. I may need to buy a copy of it again someday, just because it brought me so much happiness when I was younger.






   

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Just Like That

     So, a few weeks ago I was happily wrapped in my soft Star Wars blanket in my recliner, chatting away with my sister in our little chat box online, minding my own business. One of our favorite TV shows was on in the background and my husband was reading his Kindle over on the couch. 
     All of a sudden out of no where I had a searing pain tear through my side. It took away all my thoughts. It was all I could do to just end the conversation and let my sister know that I was retreating to bed. I scooted off to the bathroom, hoping that an over the counter medicine would be able to combat this misery. Then I crawled in to bed and waited for sleep.
     Sadly, I ended up back in my recliner, twisting about in pain, trying to find a way to sit or lie that would alleviate the intense, unending agony. It just wasn't happening. 
     As I was writhing about in my chair, I happened to glance up at the ceiling in the living room. And that was when I noticed the odd stain in the ceiling. A stain like that should not be on a ceiling in a living room, I thought to myself. And then I was done with that thought as there was only room in my brain for the screaming pain that was reminding me that something unhappy was occurring in my side. 
     Fortunately, I recognized the pain. I knew this foe. I also knew that all I had to do was make it until morning and then I could call my doctor. Then I could get an x-ray and hopefully confirm what I figured had gone wrong.
     Little did I know, it would be another whole day before I could be fitted in for an appointment and x-ray. Two days later I was able to be seen by the doctor. And then they said there was nothing visible on the x-ray so a CT scan was needed. 
     Happily, the doctor did prescribe a lovely pain pill. I am a light weight, so it knocked me right out, even at a small dose. And that was why I missed the call later that night that I would be a work in for surgery the next day.
     The surgery went well due to the care of all the nurses, doctors, and technicians. I was back home and in bed before evening. And I was grateful for a new dose of pain medication. There was a whole new piercing pain from the procedure. The medication seemed to smack it down well. 
     However, over the course of the next couple days, it seemed to quickly lose its effectiveness. I called my doctor asking what I should do. The bottle said one pill every four hours. He said I could change it to one pill every three hours if it seemed to be wearing off more quickly or two pills every four hours.
     And suddenly I had more insight in to the slippery slope of how addictions can start. I was stunned at how quickly my body got used to a dose of medication, how I needed to up the dose to find the same relief that would allow temporary escape from pain and sleep. I felt a wave of sympathy and understanding in a a whole new way for anyone that has struggled with an addiction. It was a tiny bit clearer to me how this can happen to about anyone.
     I was fortunate. My healing process followed a fairly typical timeline and I was able to transition from prescribed pain medication, back to over the counter, and then back to needing nothing on an hourly or daily basis. So many people are not that lucky. Their pain doesn't end, not after surgery, not after the bone has supposedly healed, or the last stitch removed.
     I was able to finally focus on other things again, such as why there was the stain on the ceiling. It turned out there was a need for calking along a seam in the roof and a few replacement tiles. One good thing that came out of my nights of misery.
     My healing was also helped by having soothing, purring cats for my lap and some good books to read, to distract my mind while my body healed. A warm, purring cat curled up on the lap is ever so comforting.


     

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dumbfounded: My State Most Days

     Even at my great age (I recently had a birthday) I am still astonished by how much I do not know. This is in reference to things both big and small. On a daily basis I discover some idea, concept, place, or thing that I had no previous knowledge of.
     The other day my sister sent me a link about Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome, AKA ACHOO.
     Now, this is actually not one of my unknowns as it is something that I deal with quite often. It does, however, remind me of a small but important lesson I learned over a decade ago. Or Re-learned. Or was reminded of, as I often forget.
     I was busily working away on the factory floor, helping my team build the headliners for BMW SUVs. A colleague complained that he had a tickle in his nose and really wished he could just sneeze and get it over with. I cheerily told him to just walk over to one of our super bright lights at the end inspection station and gaze up in it briefly as it would surely induce the sinus clearing sneeze he was looking for.
     He looked at me somewhat quizzically. My co-worker Krista asked if I had just gone plain loopy. Now it was time for me to be baffled. I walked over to the light to show them what I meant. I looked in to the light and a sneeze soon followed, just as it does when I exit a dark room/building and walk out to a bright, sunny parking lot, or any other similar scenarios.
     The thing that was most surprising to me was I thought this was something everyone experiences. It was an assumption on my part that it would be common to how everyone experiences the world.
     It was a small but good admonition not everything is a shared event, feeling, or thought. It also reminded me, again, to not make assumptions about what others think, feel, understand, or have had as a common experience.


                                                             

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Not Quite Tapped Out: Good-bye, 2016!

     It has been a rough year. I am part of that encampment, that group of folks that seem to be stunned by everything that is happening around them. I know some brilliant things have happened. I know in reality, it has been a typical year filled with a mixture of good and bad. But for some reason, the discouraging moments have been particularly difficult. I'm not sure why that is. I know I bear some of the responsibility for that, in that we all are ultimately responsible for our own emotions, how we react to our circumstances, and in that how we either thrive or barely survive is often a matter of our own choice.
     I also get that time is an illusion. The whole concept of the ending of one year, the starting of another year, the opportunity to lay to rest some bad moments, and to grasp the chance for starting over-I get that this is a man made concept, a thing we have created to help us cope and to give us the illusion that we have more control than we really do over all things. But, I am ready for the fresh start of 2017 and the letting go of the negativity that has accumulated in 2016.
     I think one of the last shining examples of how complicated 2016 has been for me, happened on Christmas Eve day. I was happily humming along, having dear family and friends in town, having worked only a half day the day before at my day job-the one that pays the bills, and it seemed that 2016 might actually fade out rather peacefully.
     Then I saw the pile of mail my husband had brought in. And on the top of the pile was the self addressed/stamped envelope. But that couldn't be possible. I had turned in the manuscript only two months ago. The publishing house I had so carefully researched said it would be more than six months before you could expect to hear back. As my stomach sank, I still clung to a glimmer of hope, because that is just what I do.
     Nope. There it was in black and white, the last piece of the dream that had been residing quietly at the back of my mind, my fall back thought when the day to day of life and work was too stressful, that this wee little story was safely under consideration at the publishing house. Not any more.
     Back when I was actively promoting my other storybooks I would speak at local schools and do readings of my three storybooks. One of the questions I would always ask the students was what I should write about next. Hands down, the most popular request was to write about Christmas. And that is what I did with this little storybook I had so carefully crafted over the last couple of years. It was loosely based on a real incident in my own childhood. It had been well received by my test readers.
     And yet, on Christmas Eve, what I had hoped would maybe be my best present of the year, now seemed like one last cruel joke.
     If that was how I wanted to leave it, that is what it would be. And for a few moments it really was. I wallowed in that sorrow. I mentally railed against this harsh blow. I let the despair wash over me, almost causing me to stagger as I sat down to re-read the rejection. I had even adored the name of this publishing group. I would have been so proud to say I had a book published with them. I let the tears well in my eyes, and then I blinked them back.
     I still love this little storybook. I still think it is worth sharing. I will continue the quest in 2017 to try to find a home for this wee Christmas tale. That is my choice. I choose to continue.
     The day after Christmas, I had the opportunity to go with some of my siblings to Chicago. It was everything good that you would hope for in a day trip to Chicago. The weather was fabulous for a late December day, actual sunshine and blue skies as we traveled to the Field Museum. We went to see the Terracotta Warriors display. These are artifacts from the tomb of China's first emperor. I can remember reading about this find in National Geographic way back in the day when I was a kid.
     It was truly amazing. It was stunning to see the craftsmanship of the figures, to learn a bit about the people and culture and time that they came from, and to witness artifacts that are thousands of years old. One of the figures was a cleric official, not all are actually warriors. The emperor had all types of figures made, everyone he would need in the afterlife to make sure that his eternal life went well. This cleric has on his belt the tools he would need for writing and keeping records. They also had a display of the instruments that would have been used at that time for writing. This made me heart hum with happiness.
     We also had time to look through so many other displays, including ancient Egypt. In that display there was also a section of writing tools because the scribes were important in that society as well. They were important for business, for religious ritual, recordings of histories, and for inventory of properties.
     For thousands of years, the scribes, clerics, storytellers, and writers have been important assets of their societies. I am only one teeny little component of that in our current society, but I am content with that choice. I choose to keep moving forward as a writer, a storyteller, and one who records some small moments of truth along the way.







Saturday, July 2, 2016

Really, We Are Fortunate!

     Hard to believe it is already July. Almost time to celebrate another holiday, our country's Independence Day. I know there will be many who think we don't have much to celebrate this year. There is too much turmoil within our own borders and with our relationships throughout the world. And that is true. And yet, every day I am given a glimpse of how really fortunate we are overall.
     The other night I had the privilege of being able to go out for dinner with some of the other "host moms" from the program we participated in last year. We all were able to host a student from outside the U.S. to stay with us during their winter break for two weeks and also during a month of their summer break. We received updates on all the kids, learned how they were doing in their assigned trade schools now that they are out of their high school programs. Some are doing well, some struggle. We are trying to learn how we can partner from a distance and still provide encouragement, guidance, and assistance as they work to make a, hopefully, successful transition to adulthood.
     So often, we feel we have limited choices here. Yet, at least we have choices. I know that depending where you fall your choices are limited, but not like anything these kids are facing. I just learned that due to their backgrounds and the type of school they had been given over to for care since they were young children their lives will be restricted forever.
     The students we found to be bright, engaging, kind, and fun loving, were at a school for children that were considered to have been born with some kind of defect. This basically means that even though they have graduated out of this school, there is a permanent mark on their record. They can never have the right to vote in their home country. They can never own a home. They can never have a driver's license.These are kids that can speak 2-3 languages, tear apart and put back together a computer, repair a bicycle when it breaks down, cooked beautiful dishes from their home country while they were here, and yet, because they were once judged less than, will never be allowed to catch up or succeed.
     It can be hard to succeed here, depending where you are born and what resources your family has. It can be hard to move from one atmosphere to another. I spent years working on the factory floor. I was proud of that. I helped make car parts for a company that supplied to The Big Three. My grandfather spent years on the assembly line building cars for Checker Cabs. He retired from that job. I remember his cake with the taxi cab on it. I was proud to carry on that tradition. My other grandfather was a ding man at Kelvinator, repairing refrigerators on the assembly line. I did something similar for a time at a local furniture factory repairing filing cabinets when I was out of high school.
     And yet, I longed to do something different, something more. I didn't always want to be known as a factory rat. I had tried college right out of high school but had not succeeded for a variety of reasons. But by the time I was well into my thirties I was ready to give it another go.
     I managed to finish my BA degree and then began the long process of working to convince employers that I was more than my work history showed. It took a lot of effort. I began to realize that the saying is true, "The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence" or the other side of the door in the factory. Life off the factory floor is not always easier. It is in many ways, especially nice generally not having to deal with extreme heat in the summer, but there is still stress.
     I have managed to make that transition. I was allowed to change my goals, to dream my dreams. I was given chances. I still vividly remember the day I walked in and saw my phone, with my name and number on my desk. It was amazing and validating and so very frightening. It has been an amazing journey so far, as I learn and grow on the job. There are days when I am still so overwhelmed that I don't quite know what to do, but I never forget how really fortunate we are that we can work to make changes in our lives. We really do have a lot of independence!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Five Is Not Too Many

     I wish I could say it was all on my husband, but it isn't. I would argue that at least one of them picked us out himself and moved in, rather on his own. I always felt 3 was a bit much and that we were really pushing things at 4. But it was when the 5th one moved in this summer that I sort of felt we had crossed a line.
     My sister has a steadfast rule of thumb, you should only ever be at plus one. If there are two humans living in your residence, that means you should really only have 3 cats. One human in the home, limit is 2 cats, and so on and so forth.
     When we got married, we were a blended family. My husband had two male rescue cats from a shelter near his mother's home up north. Taz and Munch were litter mates and brothers, peaceable companions. I had my little orange shrieking Princess Nala, also a rescue. She has always been small and fierce. She enjoys her humans but reigns mercilessly over the other cats, always huffing and puffing and hissing at them if they get near her.
     Overall, we were a happy little family and enjoyed each others company, aside from the occasional spats and swats from Nala. She enjoys playing with her humans and her assorted feather fishing poles, but if she thinks another cat has even dared to cross her shadow's path, she tends to lose it.
     But, as with all creatures, age sneaks up, even on stealthy cats. Our boys ended up with kidney disease, and we lost Taz to complications from a tumor 3 years ago. 2 seemed so much less than 3 as we all adjusted to his loss.
     Several months later there was a call from our vet. An elderly lady living in a near by senior apartment complex had found a stray hanging about on her patio furniture. She called our vet and asked if they knew of anyone that would provide a loving home. She already had 2 cats and that was the limit for her complex. We agreed to meet him, but through miscommunication she ended up calling an animal shelter to come get the kitty, so then we had to go through them and apply to adopt this magnificent boy.
     Simon joined us at the end of the summer. He had lost weight and had a sort of kennel cough by the time we got him home. It was a bit rough as we had to give him pills and keep him isolated the first few weeks. He was also clever and would hide the pills under his tongue and spit them out later. He has always been a bit too smart for his own good.
     And so we went on happily for the next year, content with 3, at our happy maximum again. In our neighborhood there was also an outdoor cat that wandered happily from home to home. Surprisingly friendly, he would sit on our front porch with my husband, back when he used to sit outside and smoke and read. For years, every evening they would sit there companionably . Then my husband quit smoking, but he would still sit outside and read so Squeaks could come visit.
     Squeaks would often come stop by when we had company. He would run over and actually interact with people as they got out of their cars and walked toward our house or as they left. They would pet him, scratch his ears, and he would chatter, as if asking questions after their health and well being.
     He was a mighty hunter and would often leave gifts for us by our garage door. One time he left a pair of perfectly splayed birds wings, as if he had placed them there gently like our own little guardian angel.
     We took to leaving our garage door open, so in winter he could hop up on a lawn chair and curl up for a nap. He still seemed like he belonged somewhere else, so we never tried to force the issue.
     Then there was the chilly November day when he was curled up tight in the chair and did not respond when we called his name. Ordinarily he would come running from across the street if you called out his name.  We tried calling his name repeatedly. He sort of opened one eye, but it seemed to roll up in his head. I called our vet right away and they took him right in. He had a massive infection because several of his teeth were broken, maybe in a fight. He already had ragged ears. We got him the antibiotics he needed and the vet removed the infected teeth. We brought him home to heal. We alerted the neighbor that seemed to be his original owners and they were fine with him staying with us. We always joke that Squeaks picked us for his retirement home and that he chose wisely!
     So, that was it for the next 2 years. I was a little embarrassed when people would ask, do we have pets and would hurriedly explain how we ended up with 4 rescues, hoping if I talked quickly we could just move on to the next subject.
     And then my husband mentioned his coworker was in a tough situation and would have to move to a different apartment and would not be able to take their cat with then. He said they all tried to find other options but that he agreed that we could at least take this cat temporarily. I was not thrilled. I could already imagine other people's judgement. I was a little afraid they would be true when saying we had lost it. I really didn't want to be known as the crazy cat lady of the family. I shouldn't have been concerned. My brother said, no, I wasn't the crazy cat lady, I had just married the crazy cat lady. This made me snicker and opened my heart up a bit more to the situation.
     And so, that is how Jerry, as he was called, came to live with us. I never would have picked him out as he is a domestic long hair and we already have enough issues with lots and lots of cat hair in our home. But he was so elegant with his giant gold/green eyes, black velvet nose, and black fur with a thick white under coat . Our vet says it is called being smoked or smoky. His under coat is so thick it is almost as if he has two coats of fur.
     I renamed him Vader because he seemed so regal and coolly detached. Nala can hiss and spit at him as she does with all the boys. He is not phased. He just sits down next to her and curls his tail around himself, sitting quietly with her until she stops puffing herself up and growling. When I am working in my office, he will carefully crawl up on my lap and sit, purring in his soft, soothing way. He has helped alleviate a lot of the stress and anxiety that I feel in association with my work.
     If I had been asked, I would have said we did not need another cat, not even a rescue. I would have been wrong. And really, in his own way, he has brought as much comfort to me as we  could ever bring to him.

Friday, November 20, 2015

"Adulting" Can Be Overhwelming

     It has  been a while. It isn't that I have nothing to say, more along the lines of it seemed pointless. It was a tenuous dream at best, that of being a "legit" writer. But to feel it slipping away was a real, heavy loss. Especially when it seemed that for all the progress I thought I made, it might really be only a fantasy in my own imagination.
     In June, I was rolling along, much as usual. I had a small speaking engagement for a local theater class. The students were very receptive to my chat about one of my storybooks. Happily, that was the case, since the main class project was a play version of "Emily Cat's Tale." I do wish I could have seen it, but my day job schedule does not currently allow for such luxuries since the bulk of my hours are worked on the weekend, and the show was a Sunday afternoon, which works well for the majority of the population in our area, just not me.
     Then we had the joy, after a suspenseful month of working out details, of having our student return from Ukraine. The month of July flew by. There was so much we wanted to be to do with him, to have him experience, since we knew this would be the last time he could come stay with us as he was ageing out of the system for orphan care.
     We were able to take him to the beach, he jumped off the pier into the big lake, and that memory is on video for him. We took him riding the dunes at Silver Lake, something I had never done before either. We had a graduation party for him and brought all our family and friends together at our house. It was an amazing outpouring of love and generosity. Friends I worked with years ago came bearing gifts and words of encouragement for our young man.
     And then he was gone, and the house seemed smaller, quieter, diminished. And in that silence, another blow was dealt.An email arrived that I almost deleted. I didn't recognize the sender, you see. My publisher for my three storybooks was sold. The status of their digital content is still in question. I am not sure of my storybooks platform, how long they may be available, or if they will cease to exist, much like a dream after waking.
     Four years ago, I was given an amazing opportunity when my first storybook, "Green Goo" was published. It seemed that after decades of work, doors were being opened and everything was falling in place that  I secretly hoped for over the years. And by the end of July, it seemed as if the doors of opportunity were slamming shut in my face.
     And I have to say, it was all too much. Close friends had been struggling with health issues. It is hard too watch friends suffer through death and loss, feeling that there is nothing that you can do to ease their pain in any real way. And then there were the every day disappointments in life like feeling inadequate at my day job and also loosing the narrative thread of current writing projects took me right off track. So I stopped writing anything at all. It seemed like maybe the time had finally come to admit that my time and energy might be better served by letting go of my dreams and waiting to see what might come to fill that space.
     And then the opportunity came to again sponsor a children's gift prize at a world renowned cake competition. I presented the opportunity to my new publisher. And they denied it. With a heavy heart I went to the cake competition program director and explained my situation. And-she helped me come up with a work around. I created coloring packets and a certificate of recognition instead of a gift certificate. She allowed me to promote my books in that coloring packet. I was still able to participate!
     And then she said the best thing she could have said, that next year we will work on this earlier in the season. Such a small thing, and yet it spoke of another year, new possibilities, and not giving up. She mentioned I could use images from her own cake creations in a storybook. If I self publish, then I could do a give away of my own storybook by this time next year.
     The fog began to clear, ideas started to churn through my mind again, much as they used to do, and I wanted to hurry to write them all down. I don't know what will happen, if this can happen, but I do know that I am going to go for it.
     As my overall emotional status has improved, it again allows me to think that anything is possible, that even whatever small gestures we make in gratitude will make a difference. This has allowed me to again embrace all the many things I have to be grateful for such as family, friends, a place to live, work to do, and people to share it with.
     I may not be able to help sponsor a refugee family or take in a foreign orphan this Thanksgiving, but we were able to put together a household care box for our local rescue mission and we will be donating food for their Thanksgiving feast. Small gestures to be sure, but I am again embracing my firm belief that those small gestures can all come together and lead to bigger change for the better. "Adulting" was feeling overwhelming for a while, but I think I am willing to give it another go.

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