Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reflections from Christmas Present

It is almost "all but a memory" now. Christmas Present will soon be Christmas Past and I can carry on living my happy little life in the moment. The place I most like to be.

My trip to see Mom couldn't have went much better.

It was summer-like driving conditions, in winter weather. No drifting snow, no ice, no worries. It was a very carefree and easy drive.

The visit was very much the same.

I thought my stay may feel too long without the added company of one or the other of my sons along. But it felt like the perfect amount of time with an ideal amount of distractions.

Mom cooked a turkey meal and preparing for that filled in the cracks of the "day before". Preparing a meal doesn't even feel like work when you divide the job in two. She filled her table for six and commented that she had enough dinnerware for "two more". And I quietly thought of how much my sons would have enjoyed sharing that meal.

The day after the big meal was spent hanging out at the mall. A light breakfast and a stroll down the mall just looking at things and buying nothing was a most leisurely way to pass the time. A few more stops were made before we took a coffee break on our way home. I'm not certain how many hours we passed out of the house but it felt like the perfect amount of time.

The exhaustion that seemed to wash over Mom in preparation for her big meal was replaced by an energy that seemed to come from a place of "a job well done". She gathered and fed her family a Christmas meal and her work was done.

I had the chance to see a few friends and we managed to pack in a day's worth of visiting into the hours we had at our disposal. These friends go back so many years and we share so much history. We have walked such parallel paths, we are kindred spirits and our friendship is one of the sisterhood variety.

No gifts were exchanged, other than the assortment of my "favorite things" I packed up in a plain, brown bag and gave to Mom. In reality, I didn't need that package at all. All I had to do was pick up what I noticed Mom needed and listen for cues as to what she wanted while I was there and that was truly my gift. She really, really doesn't like shopping. But I don't think she would mind a little grocery/household elf to survey her house at night and just fill it with what is lacking so she could find it when she needed it. I made an attempt to be that "elf" and it felt good. It felt right.

I made my way home and the long road to Mom's became shorter as I made my way back. Thoughts of my visit wafted in and out and through my mind. No one thought sat still. They moved and shifted and shifted like the landscape I drove past.

I returned home and all was well. I opened the door and our two cats were there to greet me and my son was hot on their tails. The cats did their "I didn't miss you!" but "Where in the world were you?!" and "I'm mad at you" but "I still love you" routine. They didn't need me. My son tended to all their physical and emotional needs in my absence. I'm just the person who buys the cat food and cat litter.

I am the little grocery/household elf in this house. I am appreciated as needs are quietly fulfilled, supplies are replenished and more often than not what we need is at our fingertips.

Our life and household runs pretty smoothly. So smoothly, I can walk away for a few days and these guys just pick up my slack and when I return, I just have to pick up where I last left off and carry on.

I have a very good life to come home to. I think of one of my sister-friends whose life is in a complete state of upheaval, renewal, loss, change and evolution as I sit here and write. I think of my other friend who described the scene in her home one short hour before we met for supper. I looked at her in amazement that she walked out the door like everything was perfect in her world. She just replied, "That's just a day in my life..."

I lead such a "bubble wrapped" existence. All is calm, all is bright, I am surrounded by people who value me, believe in me and support me when I'm down. I work for and with people who appreciate me. There is so much contentment within the core of my being. I have strong bonds with the people within my world.

I found myself reflecting on the relationships I was unable to sustain throughout my adult years and I am starting to see the common thread. At one time I gave myself away. I gave all I had until I was empty. When I was empty, the relationships died. These days I don't give myself away. I share what I have. I do my best to plant what has "gone to seed" in my life and hope those seeds can grow in someone else's garden.

I don't give until I am empty any more. I keep trying to keep myself nourished so I can continue to share what I have. My nourishment comes from a place of quiet.

I have one more day to push through and then I can nourish myself. And our cats. Perhaps my son will join us.

"Jet" (our young and "I'll take all you have to give" cat) just tried to jump up on my lap a few minutes ago. "Tomorrow", I said to him. Tomorrow, we will have a cat day. Tomorrow, we will fill up on all things light and easy and simple and just breathe in the same air. Tomorrow, I will be still. I will make turkey soup with the turkey bones Mom sent home with me. It will be a "Turkey Soup for the Soul" kind of day.

Take some time to nourish your soul today. I am stealing this time this morning when I should be working on something else. It all works out in the end. If I don't "feed myself" I have nothing to give. I am hopeful that by taking this time, the one project left undone will come together with ease when I return from my work day this afternoon.

One more hard day to go. Just one ...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

It Wasn't Such a Blue Christmas After All

 I was given a bouquet of yellow, white and blue flowers a few weeks ago. I looked up one day and happened to notice they looked pretty bad so I went to throw them out yesterday morning and I realized how vibrant the blue ones were. So I culled the other flowers and three blue ones remained.

"It is a blue Christmas for so many" were the first words that came to my mind.


I sat still with the thought and let it marinade. I didn't do much with it but just sat still and thought of those who may be looking back on "Christmases past" and remembering and missing and longing for  just a little bit of the way life used to be.

While I was at it, I fast tracked through Christmases past, in my own mind. I didn't stop and linger anywhere for very long but the one Christmas that stood out in my mind was the first year I didn't spend with my own family. I remember the emptiness I felt, when I thought of what I was missing. 

As Christmas evolved throughout the years, it has become a little bit "less" with each passing year. This year, it was the least of all Christmases but it still shone like the north star and will probably be one that stands out in my mind as one of the best.

The last time I went out to see Mom, she announced that she thought this would be the year she would "cancel Christmas". Those are not her words. I can't remember her words. But when there are children and grand children and great grandchildren it is a very good idea to put a "cap" on an age when the gift giving comes to an end. Since Mom never did that, it seemed to me that she just thought "this year" would be a very good place to start.

I told this to my Second Son and he was in total agreement. I was too, because the idea of giving something that no one really needs or wants is not high on my list of things I enjoy doing. And so began our Christmas Expectations of 2015. 

It was the year of no expectations. It is very easy to meet or beat what happens when you set your expectation level at nil. This sounds dreary and depressing but it was not that way at all.

I still "gave" what I have to give at this time of year. "Words" are where it is at for me. It is what I do, how I share and it is the gift I share when I have them in me to give. I wrote my Christmas cards, I put together my daycare yearbook, I wrote notes of gratitude to those who unknowingly make a difference in my world and I was done.

Except I wasn't. 

I placed a white envelope for each of my sons in our Christmas tree and wrote them a note about what I did in lieu of a gift for them. Not only did it give them something to do while I cleaned up after our Christmas meal, but it got a quiet nod of approval from my Second Son. 

But, as my mom has often said, "Charity begins at home" and I know how much difference a little unexpected cash can make. So I suppose I took away from the spirit of the white envelope, when I handed each of my sons a red envelope which contained a little bit of something "extra" for them. 

We didn't have gifts to open this year. Perhaps because our gift was in opening up a Christmas morning, much like any other morning. We woke up to life as we expect it to be. Life may not be easy all of the time but when you wake up to a peaceful life, with a heart that is beating a good, strong beat and a body that does everything you need it to do, that is a gift like no other.

This was the year I cooked for my family again. I can't remember the last time I cooked a Christmas meal. My Second Son took over that tradition for several years and it has been so long since I took the reins and actually cooked, I knew it was time.

I dried out our roast, our potatoes were a little "off", the Yorkshire pudding could have been cooked a tad longer and all I said before we sat down to eat is "About the potatoes ... I know". My son hates it when I go on and on about this, that and the other thing that is wrong about my cooking. So I just had to say "I know", so they knew I knew it was not a perfect meal. But my Second Son ate up his meal, told me that if I made Yorkshire pudding, it would make his year. And when the meal was over, he tactfully said, "It tastes just the way I remember it!

We played a rousing game of Monopoly, shared a lot of laughter, my Second Son videoed a "Monopoly Moment" and sent it via "Snapchat" to Oldest Son, halfway across the world (while he is vacationing in Bali) and for the moments they "chatted" our whole family sat together at our kitchen table.

We had our "midnight snack" by 6:00, then retired to the living room where we chatted for a little while. We tried to call Mom, to bring her into our day but she was talking with her sister so I called her later. 

My son left by 7:00 and we laughed at how we fast-tracked our way through an entire Christmas day in four hours. 

Four light and easy hours, sitting around a table, eating, playing, laughing and chatting. My Second Son threw his hands up into the air and said (something to the effect of), "Some people spend all day doing what we just did in four hours!

It is a gift to spend time with those you want to spend your time with. It makes the quietness of the "before" and the reflection of the "after" a little sweeter.

It is those who are missing "those they wish they could be spending time with" or missing the plain old ordinary life they used to wake up to who were in my thoughts. 

Waking up with a light heart, a content and peaceful life and a body that does what you need and want it to do is a gift. Any day of the year. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Giving Until it Hurts

I did my part and donated towards a worthy cause yesterday, but it didn't "hurt". I know my giving is coming from the right place when it stings a little.

I wrote a little blog about it over at MyKawartha: "Giving Until it Hurts".  http://www.mykawartha.com/blogs/post/6205892-giving-until-it-hurts/

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Inspired *UPDATED* $1,000,000 raised in 31 hours!

I don't have any of my own words right now. Please read these instead:

Europe is facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. People are drowning in tiny rubber rafts, freezing on cold beaches. They are walking for miles, for days—carrying their babies on their backs and in their arms—only to be met by fences, border guards and seizures. Fleeing from a terrible war to seek a peaceful future for their children has left them in danger and without country. Read more at ~ http://momastery.com/blog/2015/12/22/darkest-day-bring-the-light/

I am reading about the refugee crisis and watching/reading about the work Glennon Doyle Melton, Cheryl Strayed, BrenĂ© Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell are doing. They have started The Compassion Collective, and set a goal of raising one million dollars to bring aid, support, comfort and care to refugees in Europe. Within almost 24 hours, they raised $500,000.

As of two hours ago, they had reached the $750,000.00 mark. One hundred percent of the money they raise goes directly into the hands of those who are helping the refugees in Germany, Serbia, France and Greek Isles (read more here: http://momastery.com/blog/2015/12/18/saving-lives/)

Here is a direct quote from Doctor Linda, a volunteer working on the ground in Lesvos :
“There are thousands of children here and their feet are literally rotting, they can’t keep dry, they have high fevers and they’re standing in the pouring rain for days on end. You have one month guys, and then all these people will be dead.”
And this: “The mamas are standing at the gates asking the guards to let them and their children in, or to kill them and put them out of their misery because that would be more bearable. Because they are watching their babies slowly starve and freeze to death.” 
I started following the work of "The Compassion Collective" yesterday morning and donated the maximum they accept ($25.00). I woke up and read some more this morning and donated on behalf of my three children and my mom."We" don't need things. $25.00 (times five) can make a difference on the other side of the world.
$3 will buy a pair of gloves, $4 will purchase warm blanket. $2 buys a warm hat. It’s $5 for socks, $29 dollars for a sleeping bag, $33 for a warm coat.
A baby sling for a family costs $25.
The floodlights and heaters project costs $328 a day. It designed to light up cold waters at night—to provide for lamps so that rescuers can find people in the water when they cry out, and warm tents with heaters in them so that refugees warm up and get dry after they arrive.
Building a shelter for a vulnerable family in Calais costs around $300, and feeding all the refugees on the Greek island of Samos on meal a day for a month costs $50,000. It costs around $110 to feed a family of five for a month.
Twenty five dollars doesn't even "hurt". It doesn't seem like enough, so I shared links on my Facebook page in the hope that one more person would read it and feel the same as I did. The whole premise behind the work of these brave warriors who have done all the leg work, research and found the best way to help, is that they "want to raise one million dollars through small gifts with great love" ~Glennon Doyle Melton
It amazes me to think that the positive forces of the world can come together and make this happen. I am awestruck. 
From Elizabeth Gilbert's Facebook page:
This is where your money is going:
BLANKETS.
BABY CARRIERS.
LIFE JACKETS.
FOOD.
WARM CLOTHING.
FLOOD LIGHTS (for pulling people out of the water at night)
LAMPS.
WOODEN SHELTERS.
LIFE.
This money is going to to life — to save human lives.
Like: IMMEDIATELY, in real time. You have no idea how efficient these people are, who we are working on the ground, helping out. They're amazing.
Those of us who are warm and dry and safe and well-fed must show up for those who are cold and wet and endangered and hungry. That's a rule of life. Every ethical and religious and spiritual tradition in the world agrees on that rule.
It is impossible to comprehend what these people are going through. I cannot even begin to think of this happening in our country. Ever. I feel safe. I hope this is not an illusion. 
Within the safety, warmth, comfort and security of my home, I sat at my computer this morning, tapped a few buttons and donated enough to buy gloves, a warm blanket, a warm hat, socks, a sleeping bag, a warm coat and a baby sling. I didn't even need to get dressed to do so. It didn't even hurt. 
This year, the Christmas story isn’t ancient history. The Christmas story is unfolding in real time. Once again—the world is deciding if we will feed and clothe and love little ones with God inside of them. ~ Glennon Doyle Melton


**UPDATE!! Love Wins!!**

Monday, December 21, 2015

Daycare Wonderland

I am working on little sleep and even less time, so here is one more poem/song from my 2015 Daycare Yearbook. As always, the job was a big one but one of the most rewarding accomplishments of the festive season. A year end recap is good for all of us. The good stuff tends to sift to the top and that is exactly what happened. Again. 

Daycare Wonderland
Children sing
I am listening
Winter's here,
Noses glistening.
Oh dear, what a sight,
They're happy despite
Cold season in our daycare wonderland.

Gone away, off to preschool 
Here to stay, is our new girl.
They sing their new songs,
As we hum along
Changes in our daycare wonderland.

When it's mild we can build a snowman
We'll pretend we're making Olaf too.
He'll say are you Elsa?

We'll say "Yes Man!"
And we can play with you
While you're all new.

Later on
They'll conspire
And they say, "We're not tired!"
But they fall asleep
They make not a peep
Resting in our daycare wonderland.


My ears ring
No one's listening
It's okay
All's forgiven.
When spring comes around,
We're happy and bound
Outside in our daycare wonderland.

Gone away, is the snow time
Here for now, is the spring time
We sing and we play
Outside all the day
Summer in our daycare wonderland.

In the summer we can play out longer
And pretend we're Sweeties, Mommies too.
We'll have lots of fun with everybody
Come back each day and start it all anew!

When we play,
ain't it thrilling?
With our friends, so fulfilling
We'll climb and we'll play, throughout the whole day
Playing in our daycare wonderland
Playing in our daycare wonderland.

**Inspired (stolen) by "Winter Wonderland"**

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Little Drummer Girl

It's been a long day. All my thoughts are in rhymes (oh, the poems I have written this season). This one has been sitting in a state of incompleteness since I found out my brother already bought the gift I thought I could give my mom. I finally finished it tonight:

Come she told me, pa rum pum pum pum 
She had no Christmas tree, pa rum pum pum pum 
I'm not sure who will come, pa rum pum pum pum 
To keep us company, pa rum pum pum pum, 
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Her, pa rum pum pum pum, 
I will come. 

Oh, dear mother, pa rum pum pum pum 
I have not shopped for you, pa rum pum pum pum 
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum 
But I could buy some wings, pa rum pum pum pum, 
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, 

What shall I bring for you, pa rum pum pum pum, 
When I come? 

My mom nodded, pa rum pum pum pum 
The clock ticked and kept time, pa rum pum pum pum 
I'd bring my sons for Her, pa rum pum pum pum 
That would best for Her, pa rum pum pum pum, 
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, 

Then She smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum 
Me and my sons.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Do-Over Kind of Daycare Day

Remnants of a rather challenging daycare day were awaiting me this morning.

I got up at 5:00 a.m. so I would have a chance to scrub down the couch that needed to dry out before I could even begin the process of cleaning. Hopefully three towels worth of "blotting", a generous sprinkling of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, covered up with a beach towel in between all the cracks and crevices of the two cushions and back of the couch, did their job of wicking up any moisture left in a urine-soaked couch last night.

I followed this up by scrubbing down the infected affected areas with a 50/50 solution of hot water and rubbing alcohol and hoping this does the job so the couch may survive yet another "day at daycare".

I did what any mother would do, to test the effectiveness of my work thus far. I unzipped the couch cover, felt the inside of the cushion for any sign of wetness and then nuzzled my nose into said "insides" and did a smell test. I am not a cat, nor do I have a black light to support my theory, but this fifty five year old nose has given it the go ahead. The couch has been saved to face another day.

My first thought yesterday afternoon was "We NEED a new couch!" But thirty minutes into the blotting and washing of said couch and child, my saner and wiser inner voice revealed the true answer "WHY?! Because this is just going to happen again and again and again. You run a daycare. Remember??"

Is it really any wonder that I want to turn one area of our home into a daycare-free zone??

I wondered why I am loving my new "suite" downstairs so much. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I can sit down at the end of my day on a couch that has no trace of children's urine, vomit, saliva nor nose juices. Sure, I may be covered in cat hair and who knows what "dog history" this lovely little portion of a sectional couch may have in its history. But it doesn't scream "daycare" to me.

******************************************************************************

I walked away from this and came back with the memory of what was happening when my fully trained, almost three-year-old, with a full bladder was doing when this happened. I think she was annoyed because she didn't get the first turn on the iPad. She was sitting beside her buddy, waiting for her turn when "this" happened. Instead of getting a turn on the iPad, she got a bath and a time out while I cooled off (honestly, I think time outs are for the sake of the care-givers). All I can wonder is "Who won that round?"

Oh, the joys of running a daycare. There are a lot of them but yesterday was a "day" of spilt milk, dropped bowls of Alphagetti, running in circles and much challenge.

When is it going to be summer again?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sparkle

I've written a "sparkly" little piece over at MyKawartha.com today.

Please come and join me: http://www.mykawartha.com/blogs/post/6196093-sparkle/

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fading Fast

I woke up in the middle of the night last night (falling asleep at 7:00 tends to do that to a person) with thoughts that were wide awake. Once I snapped myself out of my dream state, I tuned into my real life thoughts and they did not lull me back to sleep. I do remember counting down the days until December 31st. "Sixteen more days ... and then I can relax!" Then I resorted to turning on the TV to tune out my thoughts. It worked like a charm.

I slept in an extra hour to make up for that hour of wakefulness and here I am.

I have no idea why I'm counting down the days until I can "relax". I live the most relaxing, unstressful life of anyone I know. If I didn't create my own stress, I would have none at all.

For me, my biggest worry is "to color or not to color". I have one more hair-washing day before Christmas. Do I invest the extra time to dye my roots or just show up with a few extra shades of gray? I would normally wait one more month but I'll be out of the house and seeing so many more people over the Christmas holiday. I feel like I should look like I care about my appearance. I should probably book a hair cut too but I won't. I have no desire to sit and waste a few hours out of the house in a hair salon.

A pedicure however, is very tempting. Something just for me, that doesn't make one bit of difference to my outside appearance but makes me feel better inside.

I just walked away from this post to make myself another cup of coffee and thought of Mom doing her Christmas baking this year. I abandoned that tradition several years ago. People don't associate "me" with "food" in any capacity and I kind of like it that way. Instead, I walked over to my list and wrote down "Bulk Barn". Yes, I think I'll pick up some candies to go in our candy dishes over the holidays. Maybe I'll do that while I'm out getting a pedicure.

Yes, I still have some cards to write and a daycare newsletter to create. But that isn't "stress" to me. It is sitting still and letting my thoughts and words run wild. I enjoy those days. I simply don't like to cram them into the cracks of an otherwise occupied day.

I'm looking forward to seeing people I don't normally get a chance to visit. I'm looking forward to some time off. I'm looking forward to wrapping myself up in family and coasting through the season. I'm also looking forward to being back home, sitting in the stillness and reflecting on all I have enjoyed throughout the season and beyond.

I (sort of) can't wait until it's all over.

Signed,
Scrooge of Christmas Present

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's a Beginning

It was a little bit like cleaning out the closets. I needed a strategy, some uninterrupted time and the motivation to all land on the same day. I wrote Christmas cards yesterday. All day. And it was good.

I apologize in advance for the ones I wrote under extreme caffeinated conditions. You will recognize them when you read them. Trust me. The envelopes are sealed. The deed is done. I'm not doing it again. Just ... I'm sorry. I got weird there for a while.

Then I climbed back on board the sanity train and continued. Some letters are down right boring. Others are better. I wrote a silly little poem to get the ball rolling. Me and my "poetry"! I'm not a poet and I know it (then again, maybe I am).

I have about twelve more cards to go before I call it a wrap, but the lion's share is done. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? I may not be stronger but I'm a little bit more in the Christmas spirit than I once was.That is a win.

Twelve cards to go and then my daycare yearbook project. I'm not sure where that is going to go but I have one more free Sunday on my hands. I'll see what comes of it as it comes.

My "poem" came to me from a song. Who knows what inspiration is lying around the next corner? Not me, that is for sure.

I've got a long way to go but I'm much further ahead than I was at this time yesterday morning. Strategy + time + motivation = Success (at least on some level).

Now I have a week I must take care of while I wait for Sunday to roll around again. Gotta run!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sitting Still With the Morning

I'm sitting here in my warm, quiet little "writing room" nestled deep inside of our home and enclosed in three "inside walls" which seem to be exactly what I need and where I most want to be.

The evolution of where the computer now lives, since it got ousted out of the living room proves to be an interesting one.

During the week, it lives on the movable "island" (a little white table) in the kitchen. It is in the hub of our home and everything I write feels like it's all part of the job when it lives there.

I tote it into the daycare "quiet room" while my little people settle in for their afternoon naps and I start to write our daily daycare blog post from there.

But the weekend!? Ahh!! The weekend! I ceremoniously carried the most precious extension of my brain into my warm, cozy and quiet little oasis last night and I couldn't wait to sit still with my coffee and see what words came to me this morning.

Our little black cats have shadowed me throughout the morning. I go through the paces of what-I-do, enveloped in a sense of wonder and awe of the simplest of things which bring the greatest feelings of contentment. "I have a wonderful life" is a very common theme to the thoughts I think, as I wake up and step into a new day.

How very fortunate I am to wake up to "this". All of this. This peace and contentment within my heart, my home, my family and all of its extensions. I live in a world without drama, except that which I create in my own mind (well maybe my little daycare family creates a little self imposed drama which infects our day from time to time too).

Let me stop here and take a little snapshot of this moment in time because we all know this can change in a fraction of a second.

I am centered, I feel whole, I feel content and I feel strong. I am living in a world I have created. I work from home, my income exceeds my outgoing expenses, my family unit is at peace with one another and I feel capable of handling "whatever happens" within my small little world.

Life is not perfect. I know I don't know all my children are thinking, feeling and living with but I feel like they know they can talk to me. I sit here and think of all I don't know, but all that I feel. I feel so much. So much of what I feel is good. I am so grateful for the harmony within our family. So grateful.

Last Sunday, I spent the day rereading the events of the first five months of this year. I reflected on all the words I didn't write. The way I felt blind sided before Mom had surgery this past spring. I looked back on the months before Andre, our Senior Cat, died. Before Mom told us of her trip to the doctor, we knew nothing. Before Andre died, I kept thinking maybe I was over-reacting. Maybe he wasn't as sick as I thought he was...

I remember the peace and contentment I felt when I woke up to a quiet, innocent Christmas morning last year and just revelled in the moment. Then we flipped the calendar page into a new year and "life happened". There are so many details I have omitted. So many who touch my world have walked such a tough and twisty and difficult new path.

The past year was scary, it was sad and it was hard, but we endured. I look back and think of all the wheels that were already set in motion at this time last year, that I was completely oblivious to. I just marvelled in the moment when the moment was good.

Life can change on a dime. It has in the past, it is happening as I sit still in this moment and it will happen again. But "this", this contentment, this strength, this state of feeling whole and centred and grounded ... "this" is what I have to keep coming back to when the hard times hit home. "This" is good. "This" is real. All the other stuff is inevitable and hard. But if you have "this" at the core of it all, all the other stuff feels a little more manageable.

"This" is not at all what I thought I was going to write when I sat still with my cup of coffee in my cozy little writing den. But I'm glad these are the words that my fingertips had to tell.

Find your cozy little oasis today. Nestle deep into it, grab a hot cup of your favorite beverage and be still. Find your centre. When you feel grounded, you start to find your strength. May your world be solid under your feet today so you can move forward from "here", no matter where "here" is for you.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Invested

I am not sure if I am becoming a little bit of a window-shopaholic or if I am simply becoming more invested in my life.

I haven't been throwing away my money on frivolous items and I have been concentrating on ridding myself of the excess so I don't think I'm spending money for the sake of filling a void. I feel like I'm making choices based on future developments.

My daycare day consumes 67% of my waking hours so I guess it is no wonder that is where I am concentrating my investments these days. I want to create a diverse, changeable, interactive and stimulating environment for my little people. My daycare is the foundation of all that I am, all that I do and it pays for all of my bills. I would say it is wise to invest my efforts here.

Writing keeps getting put to the bottom of my priority list but I had a recent "wake up call". If I don't invest a little bit of time and energy improving and promoting myself, I could jeopardize an opportunity that I have been given. I frantically put a band aid on that situation but I know I need to keep focused on where I want to go and invest my time and energy accordingly.

My bookkeeping endeavours are waning. I have a brand new accounting program that I haven't even installed on my computer. I seem to think I need/want a completely separate computer for anything accounting related. Do I really want to make that investment when my heart is just not in it? Bookkeeping was part of my retirement plan. I planned on this subsidizing my income and balance my work to fun ratio when my life becomes less about running a daycare and more about creating a life outside my box house.

Speaking of my house, I have invested an extraordinary amount of money here lately. During my trial period of working outside my box house, one fact became blatantly clear to me. I need to find a way to make my house work for me. Whether it is housing a daycare, renting a room or an entire floor, creating a bed & breakfast or simply selling it and buying something smaller and cheaper in small town Saskatchewan. My home is not only where my heart lives, it is the foundation of my decision making process.

I am in a place where I am looking forward a lot right now. "You are here" is planted deeply within the root of my subconscious mind and I am gazing at the map of where I could go from this point in time. I like where I am. I feel like any decisions made from this place of feeling safe, secure, grounded and happy will be good ones.

The moment I typed those words, I felt myself back in the forks in the roads I travelled when I stepped out of my comfort zone the last time. Decisions made when my feet were planted on solid ground were good, easy, comfortable and exactly right for me at the time. It is when I stepped into the quicksand and the terrain under my feet became so uncertain that fear dictated my next move. It was one of the most frightening places I've been in my life. I was terrified of making another choice when I felt like I kept hopping from one sinking ship, onto the next.

I am on solid ground again. I am looking forward. I have my eye on where I want to go. My time, energy and resources are being spent on the future I am building. It feels very good to invest in "myself" again!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Call to Action Moments

I'm writing over at my MyKawartha blog today. Come on over and join me! Here is your "Call to Action"!

Please click on this link and read a little bit more on what I like to call my "Call to Action Moments":
http://www.mykawartha.com/blogs/post/6168066-call-to-action-moments/

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Today's To-Do List (this is a boring one)

My internal clock (aided and abetted by two rather frisky kitten-like cats) woke me up and got me out of bed a half hour before my alarm went off this morning. I felt wide awake so I was quite pleased to find myself with an extra half hour on my hands. Except I seem to be wasting it.

I sit here with two blog post ideas before me and the urge to write is missing. I move my gaze to the kitchen table and spot Mom's weekly letter that has not yet been sent and a pile of recipes and meal/snack planning ideas. I have a membership to cancel, a text to send (just did that) and lurking behind me is a stack of Christmas cards begging for attention. Not to mention the daycare yearbook I haven't even started ...

An extra half hour wasn't going to make a difference in that stack of things-to-be-done, so I sat here and did word puzzles, perused on-line auctions sites and basically frittered away the half hour that I was so excited to find this morning. I want a day. No, make that TWO days. I would really enjoy a weekend to tend to all I am not tending right now.

Thus, I am really, really looking forward to my Christmas holidays. I am starting to feel a little tapped out. I think that feeling is coming from not tending to what needs to be tended, more than anything else.

I really need to grab hold of ONE task and see it through to completion. 

The recipe pile? Who do I think I'm kidding!? Nothing is going to happen there today, next week or most likely until January. Take it away! DONE!

The writing ideas? They need to be tended to on a day when the words are flowing more freely. That is obviously not this morning. File that away for the moment. OKAY!

The membership to be cancelled? Leave it in front of the computer with the phone number and account number to tend to that as soon as they open. WILL DO!

Mom's letter? Stop writing this post that's going no where and finish it off to the best of my ability. Just get it done and off the table!! OKAY, OKAY!!

Christmas cards? Soon, very soon. If nothing else, I can address a few envelopes. That always moves me in a forward direction. I will address envelopes today. I WILL!

Daycare yearbook? That one needs a little time to process. Don't squeeze this into a busy day. Take a full day and enjoy the process. I always come out the other end of these creative projects happier, more positive and content in the year I just spent. Take Sunday to revel in the process. In the meantime, scribble down any ideas as they come. If I make time for it, it will come. Sunday will be my day for creativity. I am LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!

Right now? Get ready for the day. Use whatever time is left over to finish the letter I started to Mom. Then move onto the next item on my list.

Man, I'm looking forward to my upcoming holidays. Sigh...

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Annual Most Un-Christmasy Post of All

The Christmas spirit feels more elusive to me with each passing year. I am trying to go through the motions but I haven't gotten very far yet.

The lights are up, the decorations are out and my address book is sitting on top of a box of Christmas cards. Writing always pushes me through the part where I think I don't want any part of this season.

I don't enjoy shopping anywhere during the month of December. I feel there should be an express lane for those of us who are not inundated with Christmas shopping, Christmas groceries and/or anything Christmas related.

I am so grateful for the fact I don't have any Christmas related functions to attend. No need to worry about  hair, shoes, nails or a sparkly new outfit (or dusting off an old one), I am so relieved I have created a life where my social calendar in December really doesn't feel all that much different than the eleven months which preceded it. I cringe when people talk of all the Christmas functions they must attend. It is just not my cup of tea.

I'm looking forward to ten consecutive days off during the holidays. I'm looking forward to a relaxed family supper with my own little family. I'm looking forward to going out to see Mom and hopefully have the chance to see a few friends while I'm out there.  I am looking forward to a break from the routine. But Christmas itself? Not really a big deal.

I like an excuse to reach out and visit a few people via my Christmas letters. I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. The lights are pretty and (again) I'm really looking forward to some time off. But other than that, the Christmas hype is lost on me.

Let the gifts of the season be harmony within our relationships, treating each other with kindness and respect, being generous with our praise and letting others know how they impact your world in a positive way. But let's not save it just for Christmas. Let's share the joy, the kindness, the praise and respect the following eleven months as well.

I used to feel I did a better job at that. I'm losing ground with keeping in touch with people. I used to be better than I have become.

There is an idea of a "Grateful Jar" that I have stumbled upon a few times recently. Rather than making New Years resolutions, you keep track of the good things that happen throughout the year then you dump the jar full of your notations at the end of that year and reflect on all the good things that happened throughout the year.

I'm thinking an empty jar, with a little stack of notes would make a perfect gift. In fact maybe I will just make one up for myself. I think I need to focus on gratitude a little more often. It honestly changes my whole outlook on life, my "self talk" and the way I react to the world in general.

Life "is" the way you perceive that. And speaking of that and since I don't seem to have an original thought in my head today, I'm going to leave you with this little note to ponder. Life IS the way you choose to "read" it:

~ Chanie Gorkin, an 11th grader from Brooklyn

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sensitive

I had the best day of my daycare career a few days ago. I was calling it a "textbook" kind of day. The kind of day that was nothing out of the ordinary but it was extraordinary in its ordinariness. Does that make any sense? It was simply the kind of day I envisioned having every day when I took on this daycare career. I felt the way I expect myself to feel every day. I was calm, cool and attentive. The kids were all getting along and content with everything we were doing. It was really quite wonderful.

I was wafting along on that delicate little cloud feeling absolutely marvellous about a thoroughly ordinary day. I should have known something was up. Why did I feel that good over something so little? Hmmm.

Well, no more did I not have the time to ponder the thought that never crossed my mind before an innocent message from one of my parents knocked me off my cloud and into a deep, dark valley. I became obsessively worried about another non-event. A simple question which had me questioning "What was I thinking?? Why didn't I handle that differently?? What is wrong with me?"

I tossed and turned all night, knowing that I was over-reacting, over-feeling, overly concerned about something that simply needed a little clarification. I needed to be let off the hook. I needed to hear the words, "Oh, okay. I understand." You don't always get what you need in life. Get over it, girl! Pull up your socks and move on.

So I did.

The next morning, I got the  "Oh, okay. I understand" message I needed so badly. Then I heard from one of the editors I write for. I simply asked a question and I wasn't prepared for the answer I received. I just wondered how my stats were doing on the blog I write. I stopped promoting myself on my Facebook page and I wondered if that had had any impact. Turns out the answer is a resounding "YES". Recently my page views have been "zero to five" per post. Yikes. I'm not writing anything of value it seems (you may find me doing a little promoting on this page too). And hey, if anyone has a moment, please feel free to stop by and read me at http://www.mykawartha.com/blog/1594830 (link is on the left hand side of this page). At the moment I just use some of what I write here as my posts over there, but I'm thinking it's time to change that up, to spur on a little better quality of writing...

Back to my original point.

It seems every little thing I felt, the past few days has been magnified by about a hundred (maybe a thousand). My good day that felt extraordinary was the best side effect of all of this. Little things that should have gotten no more than a passing glance (and note-to-self, to do better in the future)? Not such a good feeling to have magnified by a thousand (maybe a million).

Back in the day, one may have blamed hormones on this swell of emotions over nothing that really matters. In fact there may be a little hormonal imbalance that wreaks havoc on my coping mechanisms to this day. It seems likely, because I can usually roll with this kind of stuff better.

Let's just say I've been overly sensitive the past few days. I'm much better now. Except today .... (and I could go on and on and on about a story about taking three small children for a forty five minute walk to buy batteries for a singing Christmas tree which (once it got the batteries it needed) just about drove me around the bend I had just drove around about a million times before today). I'm sure you don't want to hear about "today". Maybe I won't write for a few days. Maybe every little thought I write doesn't need to be written down and documented (except maybe I should document these overly sensitive days, so I can plan a little better for them if I discover a cycle).

Well that is enough out of me for a week. It's time to turn off my brain, turn on some Christmas lights and stare into space without thinking. Maybe I'll try that. Feeling a little overly sensitive yourself? Why not come join me? We can sit and stare and not talk and not feel together.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Guilty as Charged - Misdemeanors of an Electronic Kind

I woke up on "guilt" this morning and I am not even going to put words to my thoughts because I know the only way to rid myself of guilty feelings is to act. The moment I take action or talk my way through, the thoughts will lose their power and this will become one of a million non-events in the history of my thoughts.

I hate knowing I've done wrong or could have handled a situation ever-so-much better. Because the moment I hear the other guy's perspective, I feel defensive. I feel like I am the one who has been wronged when I start defending my actions.

I hate waking up in the middle of the night feeling an unresolved conversation playing out in my mind. As much as I tried to talk myself down, reminding myself I will forget this feeling as soon as both parties have had a chance to talk, I couldn't rid myself of the thoughts that kept waking me up.

In the old days, a person would have had a two way conversation on the phone or in person. A minor little non-event or misunderstanding would be lost in the events of the day because both people would have had a chance to speak and listen and resolve the emotions-of-the-moment on the spot.

Nowadays, a person can send a text or message or email to voice a concern. This has its benefits because you have time to weigh your thoughts and your words carefully and "without emotion" (this is debatable because sometimes the words chosen do not depict the reality of what you are trying to say).

Then the other person can respond in kind. Or ... (and why didn't I think of this last night??) one could still always pick up the phone and chat. Just to clear the air and have that interplay of words without trying to read between the lines.

As I said, the "event" is really nothing. The "feelings" are what are bothering me. I responded to the query and didn't receive a confirmation of "It's okay" in return. You sit in cyber wonderland and wonder if your words were received in the manner they were sent.

Mom is right again. This whole "texting" and "messaging" and non-personal, non-interactive generation could so easily go down the tubes. Just because of a few ill chosen words. You really have to know a person to communicate without the aid of body language and all the cues you get when you listen to the inflection of a person's tone. Smiley faces and "laugh out loud" notations just don't get the point across well enough (especially when a person thinks LOL means "lots of love" and sends a "LOL" message after hearing someone's bad news) at times.

This whole non-event should have been a three minute conversation. One where you see the other guy's smile or sheepish look when they have done something another may have misunderstood. One where the other guy had a chance to respond and offer the chance for further clarification. One where a minor little thing (I am probably the only party who lost sleep over this, but then again maybe not - otherwise why wouldn't there have been that smiley face or thumbs up or "It's okay" message to tie up our virtual conversation?).

A little thing has become bigger than it needed to be. I am equally responsible for things unfolding the way they did. Thus, my guilt.

[Insert sheepish grin here]

I know it will be okay. I know it without a doubt. I just need to hear the other side of the conversation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Little Things - A Painting Story

Our new living room blinds finally arrived and were installed first thing Monday morning. I was rather relieved at their delay because I hadn't gotten around to painting the moulding around our new windows. I knew I needed the nudge the arrival of our blinds would provide and I was grateful their installation date fell on a Monday. That meant I had all weekend to paint the new window casing.

It is a good thing I had all weekend because that is exactly how long it took.

I had to work on Saturday and then I received a last minute invitation to go to my son's for supper after work. I left the house at 9:00 a.m. and didn't get home until 10:30 p.m. For a person who loves nothing more than being at home, it was an exhausting day. 

I was elated to wake up Sunday morning, knowing I could stay home and revel in the day. Then I remembered the dreaded painting job that had to get done. That could wait. I had "Part II and III" of my "III Part Cat Series" of posts to work on. I immersed myself in cat pictures and videos and lost the entire morning.

I poked my head out of my "writing room" (boy! I love having a laptop because I can move it into whatever room is most conducive to writing at the time) and discovered more than half the day was gone. I still hadn't picked up a paint brush. I almost felt queasy thinking of it. I think I am allergic to painting. No, not paint, the noun. Painting, the verb. What else could explain the physical deterioration of my soul as I considered the idea of picking up a paint brush?

Finally, I could hold off no longer. My oldest son was going to drop by. He said he would come in an hour to an hour and a half. Eureka! The race was on. I would paint until my son arrived. I had a reason to start the job. And more importantly, I had a valid excuse to stop

So I painted. I don't like painting when you can barely see the difference in the "before" and "after". The sun was shining in my eyes, so I used my paint cloth to block the sun while I painted a board that looked no different after I was done. Assuming I missed half of what needed to be painted, I went around the new window moulding twice. Where was my son? Shouldn't he be here by now??

Well, I had no excuse to stop, so I kept on going. I started painting the baseboards that were revealed because furniture had been pulled away from the walls. I could paint behind the furniture, put the furniture back and paint the rest later. Ya, right. I kind of knew that wouldn't work, but I honestly did start painting the baseboards "thinking small". Just in case my son arrived shortly thereafter.

He didn't arrive, so I kept painting. Amazingly (after I dipped the tail of my sweater into the paint can and immediately scrubbed it out), the job went fairly well. And it looks even better than that. I couldn't believe I painted an entire wall of baseboard, plus a small nook and my son still hadn't arrived. I checked my phone to find the message, "I'm not gonna have time to make it over today. Sorry."

That message ended my painting for the day. Perhaps, for the year. 

I finished my painting, moved the furniture back against the wall and appreciated the look of the spruced up baseboards. Unlike my brand new window casing, there was a vast difference in the "before" and "after" look. I should keep on painting! Ya, right.

The next morning, our new window blinds were installed but I didn't have time to sit and admire them during my daycare day. But when Mom called the moment my day was done, I closed the blinds, sat down on the love seat and just gazed at them like I was staring off into an ocean. They were beautiful. I was so grateful I had gone the extra mile and painted the baseboards below the window. Unchipped baseboards accessorized the new blinds beautifully. I should get back to painting as soon as I hang up the phone! Ya, right.

My new favorite place to talk on the phone, is sitting on the love seat as I gaze at our new blinds. A friend called me last night after my daycare day was done. I grabbed the phone and immediately made my way to the living room so I could marvel at our new blinds and beautifully painted baseboards. I really should just paint the entrance way baseboards at the very least. Ya, right.

The paint can is still sitting in the kitchen, just begging to be opened and utilized. It gives me such a lift to spruce up that which I already have. The paint and everything I need is all bought and paid for. All I need to provide is the time and energy to paint just a little bit more. 

Even without the TV in the living room, I seem to have ZERO energy at the end of my days. Maybe I can blame the lack of sun. At least until spring...

And because I feel as excited as a new parent, here are my blinds "baby pictures" and all the new ways we can use them (of course, there are a few cats tossed in for good measure).

New blinds - closed
New blinds - open
New blinds - daycare ready
Aren't they lovely?? And be sure to check out the baseboards. Beautiful, right?! I think I'm going to get ready for my day so I can stare at them a little while longer before my real life settles in and stays.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Waking Up to the Month of December

Flipping the calendar page is an onerous task on a regular, ordinary month. Turning the next page on the calendar and finding the month "December" staring me in the face is daunting.

When I woke up to a new month this morning, I went about my business updating bank books, expense sheets, submitting income reports and tied up the month for my daycare. Then I went to physically turn the page on the calendar and was assaulted by the month "December".

How could this happen so quickly? December = Christmas. Though my Christmas preparations are few, they are time consuming. Have I left myself enough time to do what I want to do before the year's end?

I like to come up with a yearbook as my gift to my daycare families. I haven't even started.

I still send Christmas cards and letters, an age old tradition which (I hope) makes up for my lack of baking, gifts and the Christmas socialization that I tend to avoid. Give me a quiet afternoon with a pen, a bunch of empty cards, a healthy supply of stamps and an endless supply of coffee over a Christmas party or gathering any day of the year.

In the past, I've tried to come up with a personalized gift for my children but they aren't quite at the place in their lives where they appreciate my efforts so that has gone by the wayside.

My idea well has run dry and my personalized gifts to others have dwindled down to next to nothing. I'm starting to feel like a shrivelled up old prune as time goes by. In giving less, I feel less motivated and the well runs even drier.

The more I "create", the more creative I become. The more I give, more I have to give.  Walking into a department store and spending money on things that no one really wants or needs is not where the "giving" is at for me. It is in the things that money cannot buy where my truest spirit of giving lies.

I used to feel more creative and "Christmasy" once upon a lifetime ago. Now I utilize the Christmas season as an excuse to push me into what I should be doing all along. Keeping in touch with family and friends and an annual recap of events for my daycare families.

I hope I have left enough white space on my December calendar so I can hang up a few strings of white lights and let the words flow. So far, so good. Maybe I should string up a strand of those white lights tonight to start me on my way to create a little of the light and peace which soothes my soul and spurs me into action. If I don't nourish that which feeds my soul, I will continue to dry up and could end up like that wrinkled old prune (literally and figuratively) sooner than I think. I hope it's not too late...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Black is the New Black - The Final Instalment (or is it?)

Jet - Not Just Another Black Cat

What does a person do, when they have room in their heart to love another pet and a free Saturday at their disposal? Our answer? We went to the SPCA to look for a dog. We came home with "Jet" instead. Let's just call him our pup, for lack of a better description.


Jet, our new not-so-little "pup", has turned out to be quite the imposter. He is not only a cat, but he put out a little bit of false advertising when he jumped into my arms at the SPCA five months ago ...

He purred for us and even drooled a bit. Andre had a monster purr we could hear across the room. Jet was not a loud purrer but he purred. That little drop of drool was the clincher. Andre purred so loud and so long that he could not contain his saliva. It was a weird little quirk but one of the many things we grew to love about him.

We thought Jet was going to be a cuddler. It turns out he was just desperate to get out of that cage. He loved us so hard in those moments of freedom and gave us the illusion that he was going to nestle into our lives and provide the snuggles we missed so dearly.

Jet, doing his best "snuggling" impression in his early days with us
We were told Jet was a year old so we assumed he was full grown. He came into our world a tiny, adult cat and fit perfectly into Andre's old cat harness. That was one of many signs that told us he was "just the right fit" for us. Well, that little adult cat still had some growing to do. He isn't quite as big as our little black panther cat, Ray. But he is close. So much for the petite little cat we assumed we adopted. But that's okay, we just have a few more pounds of him to love.

Our sociable little fur ball must have been so lacking for human companionship that he was over the moon to be skin to fur with another living being. Knowing now, what we didn't know then, I can't imagine how Jet survived in a tiny little pen for twenty days. He can barely survive a weekend without my daycare family, he gets bored so easily.

Yet our little black fraud has become so much more than we ever could imagined during that brief interview at the SPCA.

He has become a best buddy to our cat already in residence. I don't think Ray really minded being an only cat after Andre died. He has a quiet, loving presence and loves to be loved but he is so scared by the world in general. He has lived with us for two and a half years. yet he still jumps at any sudden (or not so sudden) move or noise. Watching the companionship blossom between our two black buddies has been heart warming. Ray came into our lives ready, willing and eager to play with Andre but Andre's kitten days were long over and we now know that his health was already starting to decline. Ray's attempts to play with our ailing cat were met with nips at his ankles. Enter "Jet" our playful little kitten, in a black cat's fur coat and our house is lively and the fur is flying once more.

Jet must have been getting tired of being confused with "who's who" and all the comparisons to his black furred predecessors, because as soon as the opportunity presented itself, he tried to distinguish himself from the others:

"A little dab of white paint on my left paw and ear ought to teach them I am NOT just another black cat!" Jet must have thought as a white paintbrush went flying and our Curious Cat ended up looking quite unique in his new coat of paint.
Little did he realize at the time, he came with his own distinguishing features. No additional paint required. He has three little splotches of white on his left hip, he has a fluffy tail and when the light is right, you can see that he will most likely turn a shade of rusty brown as he ages.



Our "jet black" cat is many shades of black in and of himself, with a few "paint splotches" tossed in for good measure.

He stepped into Andre's role as "Daycare Kitty" like a champ and perhaps he takes it one or two steps further:

Andre
Jet
Andre
Jet
Andre
Jet
Andre
Jet
 Meanwhile, Ray tends to investigate the daycare toys when the kids have gone home for the day ...


... or from a safe vantage point behind a child proof gate.


These guys are not just another black cat. They are unique in their shades of ebony, the way they reflect their lives within our home and hearts and uniqueness that goes far deeper than the color of their fur.

This is the end of my "Black Cat Series" for now. Will it end here or will we perpetuate the trend of choosing another black cat some time in the future? My youngest son commented that he felt badly that so many people wouldn't choose a black cat, I can see "black" being his color of choice for any cat he may get in his future. Personally, I just hope these guys have a good, long life with us. I look forward to the years where their fur becomes speckled in grey and their blackness may evolve to brown. I like what our little black cats have brought into our lives. And I've enjoyed having an excuse to bring Andre back into my Cat Tales. Andre, the Original Black Cat. Who knew that little cat who was tossed into our back yard would make such a difference?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Black is the New Black - Our Second Shade of Black

Ray - Our "Back Up Cat" and So Much More - Cat II, in our III Cat Series

When we went "window shopping" for our second cat, it was just supposed to be an excuse to go for a drive out to a town just outside of our city. It was supposed to give us food for thought for another day.

We came home that night and I was sold on the idea of fostering the quiet big, black panther of a cat who was looking for a home. My son was adamant we adopt him. "What if someone else wanted to adopt him after he has become part of our family?" He couldn't bear the thought of falling in love with a cat, only to have him taken away from us. It was an unlikely possibility (we were told that many people won't adopt a black cat), but it was there.

I liked the idea that the vet bills would have been covered, if we had gone the fostering route but time would tell us that my son's route was the best way to go. For all of us.

It seems ironic to me that our skittish big, black panther's signature pose was this:

Who can resist reaching out and loving a cat who shows such trust? Certainly not us! Ray's body language was very deceiving though. He is the most fearful and skittish cat I have ever known.
I would love to know Ray's back story. He must have led a very traumatic life before he found us because he is scared of everything and everybody. I called him our "Scaredy Cat" but I have since realized he is more like a butterfly. Sit still, let him come to you and he will gingerly approach you. Pursue him and he is gone. Like a butterfly.

Ray's gentle nature was endearing to our senior cat, Andre. He approached Andre with respect and reverence. He would hunker his head down and nuzzle into Andre's chest as if to say, "Do you want to play??" Andre's playing days were nearing an end by the time Ray joined us. But we enjoyed the cat tussles while they lasted.

We adopted Ray in the spring and Andre started doctoring in the fall. We weren't quite sure what Andre was fighting but lungs were compromised and we savored each breath he took for the year and a half that followed.

Ray followed Andre's lead, showed us what a gentleman and gentle cat he was and he worked his way deep into our hearts.

video
Ray is laying on the floor; Andre is gingerly playing with the ear plug Ray snatched from my second son's room. Andre nips at Ray and Ray just backs off and lets him be. What a gentle and respectful cat  he is!

I will always wonder how well cats understand each other. Did Ray know how ill his brother cat really was? Did he know more than we did at that point? No matter what he knew or didn't know, or what Andre was able to communicate to him or not, Ray took it upon himself to endear himself to my son.

When my son returned home from a long day at school, Ray would wait to be invited onto my son's lap, then he would lap up all the love my son had to offer. I sat back and watched the non-verbal communication between the two of them. Ray's tail is the most animated tail I've ever known. He would caress my son's face and chin with his tail as my son petted him. It was a mutual adoration society for two.
It was not a surprise but it was still a shock to our systems when Andre died this year. He was loved and he knew it. We were with him when he took his last labored breaths and it was an honor. He left this world surrounded in love. Our hearts ached and there was a crater in our life where Andre used to be. Ray stepped up to the plate and let us hold and love him in the way we needed to during those dark days. Our skittish, stand offish, not-so-cuddly cat crawled onto my empty lap and helped my heart heal. Maybe he needed us as much as we needed him. It was a very good time to have a "back up cat". But by that time he was so much more. Just as he always has been.

Ray is so sensitive and gentle with us, as we are with him. He knows he is adored and he seems secure in that knowledge even though he still doesn't trust me enough to know I'm not going to hurt him if he is sitting, standing or laying in my way. Our little "broken" cat may always have trust issues but we are certainly not going to make matters worse for him. We just keep loving him in the way he needs to be loved and he reciprocates the feeling.

Andre's last Christmas with us. He snuggled up on my lap, while Ray stood by in the background, ready to take on the role of "Only Cat" when the time came.
Note the shade of black in one of Andre's later pictures. Our first and original black cat changed to a rusty shade of brown/black in his final years. Apparently this is normal but it was the first we had heard of it. 

Ray's healthy shiny, ebony coat of blackness would carry us through one of the saddest periods of our lives. He filled our broken hearts with cat-love and antics which continue to endear him to us more with each passing day.

Andre could never be replaced. We didn't even want to try. Maybe we would get a dog one day, but not a cat. No cat could step into the paw prints Andre left in our hearts.

Stay tuned for the third instalment of our story. Would we get a black dog? Or would Andre's shadow forever remain a lighter shade of blackness within our lives? Is one cat ever enough once you know you have room in your heart for two?