Another cat’s tale

*Here’s another cat’s tale from Debra Dickey. This post reminds me of all the fur babies I’ve had over the years and how much joy they’ve brought to my life. Thanks, Debra, for the great reminder!*

Growing up, my parents didn’t allow us to have inside pets.  We had plenty of animals, but because we lived on a farm, they all roomed and boarded outside.  Except for an occasional newborn calf or litter of pigs that had to be brought in to warm by the oven or in front of the fireplace, when the temperatures had dropped well below freezing or there was several inches of snow on the ground, our ‘pets’, whatever they were, stayed outdoors!

Gray catHowever, when I had children of my own, and lived in town, I still wanted to give my kids the opportunity to know the mutual love and affection of having a pet, so eventually we ended up with our first inside cat.  This cat was soft gray in color, with the most beautiful emerald green eyes I have ever seen, and a distinctive personality to boot.  She came to us as a kitten, soft, cuddly, and adorable, and quickly became queen of the household!  She was well-cared for, and well-loved, and came, went, and slept as she pleased.  Because she originated from an outdoor cat parent, she still chose to be outside, sometimes more often than she was inside, and would wake me in the middle of the night to be let out.  But she was always at the back door first thing in the morning to be let in to eat, and she soon found the warmest spot in the house to snuggle in for her day-long cat naps!  We never knew where she might be curled up!

After a time, and she was now a grown up, we adopted puppy-Maddie.  Even though the puppy was 4 times her size, the cat still considered herself the ‘mother’, and would watch out for the puppy as any responsible parent would!  As was intended, the puppy lived outdoors, but nevertheless, the cat and the dog remained lifelong friends, and I would often see the cat outside near Maddie’s pen, napping, or just keeping an eye on her “pup”.

Although she was most certainly her own entity, she graciously brought me presents, came when I called, didn’t mind kids and their attempts at petting her, lived with us, let us take care of her, and in her unselfish way, kindly gave us the impression that we were actually in charge.

This cat was unique in many qualities, however, the most comical practice she had was to follow Maddie and me on our walks.  No matter how far or which direction we went, if she was outside, she followed us all the way and back.  I was certain that she was still exercising her ‘parental’ expectations toward the dog, until one day when my car was in the shop, I set out to walk to work, and lo and behold, I looked back (because I heard rr-row-ing), and the cat was following ME!  I realized then that it was not only the dog she was watching out for, but me too.  She continued to be attentive to her chosen ones and allowed us to be part of her life for almost two decades.

We lost her three Januarys ago. After being with us for over 15 years, we’ve truly felt her loss. A beautiful cat with a beautiful soul, she valued her independence, always took care of herself, asked no special help or considerations, and her humans respected her choices.  She loved us unconditionally, as we loved her in return.  I still miss her — her characteristic purr, her unusual habits, her particular meow, and her kitty antics, but mostly, I miss her presence.  Her passing has left a big hole where a soft gray being with a sweet spirit and beautiful green eyes should be.

 

New experiences

*Thanks to my friend Debra Dickey for serving as today’s guest contributor.*

If it hadn’t been for my kids, little people in my life, and even my pets, I would have missed out on an incredible amount of remarkable experiences in my life!  If you recall my previous posts, I have already mentioned that I am not a very adventurous soul, so to say that I am ‘new experiences’ challenged would be, hmmm, an understatement! 

Mt. LandI’ve always wanted to pretend to myself that maybe there was a bit of the wandering pioneer spirit in me, but I will tell you truthfully, that wherever I wandered, I mostly desired the comfort of being able to see my house from wherever I was standing!   But for a time, my world opened up –  often spit in my eye –  and my courage took wings . . . albeit at times, forcefully.

Initial lessons for getting me out of my comfort zones, were learned of course, with and for my children.  We have laughed and had the best times and the most fun just doing things together.  Some of those events were planned, others weren’t as much, and often, we were invited to create the experience for ourselves.  There have also been struggles, rough times, trials by fire, disappointments, and monumental obstacles which have required me to develop strengths that I never imagined I could possess, and doggedly test my resolve; but together, we somehow managed (and continue to manage) those ‘new experiences’ and challenges as well.  My kids have taught me so much, and continue to share so many insights, and such wisdom, strength, knowledge, joy and courage with me, that I cannot begin to imagine a life without the richness and depth which only they could have made possible — treasured experiences memorably shared, an endowment sweetly gained from these two remarkable people.

My most recent opportunity with new ventures has been my privilege and delight to spend time with my 8 year-old niece, who brings her own special brand of prospective, fun and laughter, and genuinely blesses my life with such a myriad of enjoyable hours.

All these experiences serve as an abiding reminder of what is really important, as well as help explain the reason and purpose for my existence, and my presence in the exact right spot at those exact right moments.

MeadowBut only by regular reminders, voluntarily or involuntarily, to make those conscious choices that will, time and again, propel me to step out of my comfort zones, have I been given the incredible opportunities to visit new places, see new sights, hear new music, experience new concepts, value new ideas, appreciate new cultures, share silly laughs, and regard, encounter, and enjoy the world through the eyes of my wise, courageous, and discerning companions.  What wonderful adventures for a homebody like me!  These days, even walks with my dog have prodded me to stray from my typical paths and discover fun tramps through the woods, which often call forward a bit of that wandering spirit.  And at this point in my life, I’ll say, that’s good enough for me.

There’s always a rock

*I’m very thankful that Debra Dickey-Liang sent me this post for today sharing her 2013 word of the year with us. What’s your word or theme for 2013? What’s on your mind? What are you learning right now? What will you be grateful for 11 months from now?*

During my everyday life, with its various tasks and responsibilities, I am invariably looking for, and finding, life-analogies – serious analogies, hilarious analogies, and alas, analogies that hit the nail right on the head!

ImageThe other day, I was out for my weekend walk with Maddie, and we came to one of the usual places on the trek where we cross the branch from one side of the field to the other, and I began to pick our way through the vegetation and duck under tree limbs to find the best way to accomplish that without a mishap.  As this happened to be shortly after the last snow had melted and filled the branches and creeks more than usual, the water level was definitely up, there was quite a bit of run off, and the crossing was fairly wide with several deep spots.  But tada! Never to be disappointed, just where I needed to go, I saw a number of rocks, exactly the right size, perfectly spaced, sticking up out of the water, just enough to make it possible to step across to the other side with ease.  Isn’t that the way it goes?  Coincidence?  Hardly.  My preference is to refer to such occurrences as miracles !

Now before you scoff, let me clarify my personal definition of miracle.  I most often choose to think of a miracle as something ordinary moved to a position of extraordinary.  So see, it fits!

Please don’t misunderstand, I am fully aware that God is in the BIG MIRACLE business – note, creation, the parting of the Red Sea, the birth of Jesus, feeding the 5,000, just to mention a few.  But I choose to also acknowledge such everyday, out-of-the ordinary occurrences that regularly show up in my day-to-day life, as miracles too.  Time and time again, I have had the good fortune to be the recipient of many well placed ‘rocks’ in this existence known as my life.  My fear is that I have not recognized them all, but my hope is that I have remembered to praise the Heavenly Father for each and every one that has been bestowed.

ImageSo the word I have chosen, per Bethany’s example, is ‘MIRACLES’, because, honestly, I could use a couple right now.  There are currently two concerns at the top of my prayer list for which I ‘pray without ceasing’ . . . . and I’m sure those probably won’t be the only two!  Yet I trust, and I know in Whom I believe, that, somewhere at each crossing, there will be a ‘rock’ …. or two, perfectly placed, at exactly the right spot, to make it possible to get across to the other side, perhaps with ease, perhaps not, but safely, with God in the midst of that miracle.

So my personal challenge remains, to look for, recognize, acknowledge, praise, and thank God, not just for the many ‘miracles’ in my own life, but for everyone who seeks His blessings.

“If (Because) God is my Strength,

     Though I may be on a precipice of doubt

And fear and intimidation,

     He can make my feet walk over the high places

With safety and confidence.      (Habakkuk 3:19) 

In the dark

*Special thanks to Debra Dickey-Liang, one of my regular guest contributors, for sharing one way to be thankful and turn a negative into a positive.*

ImageAbout four years ago, I moved from the city back to the country, pretty close to where I grew up.  Now, don’t misinterpret me, I LOVE it out there, but after having lived in town for quite a number of years, there have been a couple of considerations that I’ve had to work out.

One thing that I do miss about living in town is the distance from work.  I used to live right down the road from my job, so I could walk the dog, do household chores, and take care of numerous other tasks during my lunch hour, and by so doing, I typically had daylight left at the end of my day. Now it takes me 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, just to make the drive.  That is not so terribly dreadful; however, during the winter months, that means that I get home after dark.  Which also means that, during those few months with short daylight, I must do my outside chores and walk the dog, in the dark.

At first, I was noticeably disheartened by that. But why? The time was the same, the amount of hours left was the same, the animals didn’t mind, but it was cold and dark, and I just didn’t want to be out there any longer!  I wanted to be done – done with work, done with wearing a coat and gloves and being cold, done with my day!  So I sometimes groused.

ImageBut as usual, He began to share with me lovely presents, giving me a new and unexplored appreciation for the night, and for sure, turning my attitude around.  The first gift that He gave me I received by simply looking skyward – believe me, Montana has nothing on the view of the colossal sky filled with the vast number of stars and constellations that I get to see every night by just stepping out my door!  The feeling is overwhelming, the height, depth, and breadth of which cannot be described.  I never forget to thank Him for that beautiful panorama.  It is like being in a whole different world! 

When the weather got quite cold, the next gift He shared was the experience of walking at night when the moon is brilliant and full, in the unbelievable quiet of the country in winter, down a road that no one has yet driven on, in the snow. There’s not a sound. Your boots make crunching noises as you take each step, the moonlight glistens off the bright white of the fresh snow, and the air is so crisp and clear that you feel as though you can hear into forever.  I completely stopped noticing the cold . . . .  so hushed and surreal.

Then, later, when it began to get much warmer, I had the most inexplicable firefly light show experience that I have ever been privileged to witness!  Just out in the field, all in one place, there must have been hundreds of fireflies, just blinking, continuously and without pause- like multitudes of clear twinkle lights on a great Christmas tree.   It was magnificent!  I just stood and watched for the longest time, because they were absolutely phenomenal.  And just for me!  I will truly never forget the timely artistry of a Gift perfectly given. 

So these days, when the time ‘Falls’ back and the daylight becomes shorter, the dark does not articulate my disposition.  I no longer dread nor feel disinclined to be out at night!  I don my togs, pick up the leash, and we go for a walk.

No quit in me

*Special thanks to guest writer Henry Petty for this wonderful post.*

 

Henry at Race for the Cure 2012

Henry at Race for the Cure 2012

I recently ran a 5k jingle bell run.  I was pacing myself really well, running then walking, walking then running, walking then walking, and running less and less.  I had passed a couple of people I knew were “health nuts,” and I overheard them say, “He runs at lunch, so he’s doing really well.”  This gave me the juice to push myself harder than I ever have.

Then I gassed out.

Around mile 2, the two people who had bragged about me around mile 1 surpassed me with ease, one even patting me on the back almost in an act of charity.  To make things worse, an elderly gentlemen with Santa hat and dress slippers speed walked right past me.  He was the guy I was now pacing with.

So I dug deep down inside to muster up my heart and soul to really get out there and push myself harder than I ever have.  I saw the seemingly never-ending incline on the bridge that connects to the Clinton Presidential Library.  I was booking it.

I passed the older gentlemen, and, within seconds, I passed the two “health nuts” who were walking and striking up a conversation with other runners.

I’ll take that victory.

I’m grateful for my inner drive, knowing that I can overcome anything with enough guts and determination.  There isn’t quit in me, and I’m grateful that inner strength hasn’t quit on me.

These boots were made for walking

“There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.” –Oscar Wilde

Personally, I can attest to the truth in that statement. In my life, I’ve caught myself clinging to things and people who were causing me harm, bringing me down, treating me as an afterthought, or not giving as much as they were getting.

Opportunities. Friendships. Jobs. Men.

I’ve worked in jobs like this–endless hours and frequent overtime, a rude and hateful boss, and the list goes on. Why didn’t I just find another job? Well, eventually, I did. But for a while, I put up with it.

I was too afraid to let go. I was afraid that what I had might be the best thing I could ever get, and if I gave it up, someone else might pick it up.

The opposite is actually true.

Every time I’ve let go of a stressful or miserable job, an unrequited friendship, or a detrimental relationship, I’ve never wound up regretting the decision. I’ve never seen someone else become her best friend and wish I were in her shoes. I’ve never seen my fears become realities when I’ve prayed about it, believed God wanted me to close the door, and quietly closed it. And walked away.

Instead, I’ve found fulfillment in other opportunities. God has always provided for me, whether it’s by sending an old friend back into my life to fill that hole or by giving me time by myself to grieve and contemplate things thoroughly before moving on after ending a sour relationship.

Oscar Wilde is right; we hold on because we’re afraid, and sometimes it is because we believe that someone else might fill our shoes.

But those shoes are muddy, cracked, and rank. I say to the shoe fillers, “Be my guest,” as I walk away. Barefooted.