Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cell Phone Independence

Late yesterday afternoon, I was running around the house multitasking.

I was trying to get my daycare family outside, to play out the remainder of the day. A half hour before I expected my day to end, a potential new daycare family was going to drop by to meet/interview me. The minute they left, I needed to run out the door to go do payroll for my bookkeeping job.

I ate supper at our snack time. I brushed my teeth and tried tending to all my needs before we went outside for the duration of the day.

My cell phone was tucked into my back pocket so I didn't forget it. In the second it took for me to realize going to the bathroom at 4:00 was not going to save me time because I would surely go again before I left the house at 6:00, it was too late.

My cell phone went for a swim in some "slightly used" toilet water (and I am not talking about cologne here).


"OH NO!!"

Then I realized the state of the water its took a nose dive, so I actually rinsed my phone off in clear running water.

"WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?!!" my brain yelled to the part of myself that was running on autopilot.

The next thing I knew, I was running to the rice container and burying my phone. Then I went outside and tended to my kids before I peeked my head in the door and asked my son to google what to do if you immerse your cell phone in water.

He took all the necessary precautions and I am pretty sure my phone may survive this near tragedy. But as I near the 24 hour mark of its rice bath, I am wondering if that is a good thing.

I have been hyper aware of my surroundings today. I cannot begin to count the moments where I simply sat still and listened/watched my day in progress. I was attentive to my day, my surroundings, the small wonders, the banter and my thoughts were so blissful.

I was not in hyper planning mode. I was in a "stop and enjoy the cell phone silence" mode. It was heavenly. It is heavenly.

Do you know the saddest part of this revelation?

The minute I felt my inner peace being restored, I wanted to blog about it. Or email someone. Or text my friend. Or talk on the phone.

I stopped myself in my tracks.

"ENJOY!!" is what my subconscious brain told my conscious self.

And I have.

That didn't prevent a splinter related accident as the kids played right outside the kitchen door as I tidied up our lunch. But it did wonders for my coping strategies.

I have been calm, cool and collected all day.

Without the distractions my cell phone provides me, I like "me" better.

I think the next time my phone goes for a swim, I should think twice. Maybe I should flush...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Distracted Day

Well, that was a day I hope never to repeat. It was a day of "distracted babysitting".

Our weather has gone weird. It was a hot, "summer" day (+20°C), yet there is still snow on the ground. 

I had no idea what to do with my little people as the weather tried to decide on what season it would be. I (foolishly) thought "They have been outside in the morning and afternoon for weeks now, surely to goodness we can spend the morning inside..."

That was perhaps the last (in)sane thought I had.

I rotated toys. I brought up a HUGE box of boxes and containers with lids for them to do with, as they pleased. I rotated more toys. I brought out the LeapPad, the iPad and the McDonald Happy Meal boxes I had folded up and saved for another day...

Them: "What do we do with these [the boxes], Colleen?" 
Me: "Whatever your imagination tells you to do..."

There was bickering and nattering and non-stop talking, doing and needing.

I sat at the computer desk puttering away at a menial, no-brainer type of task. I thought I could do that and watch over my little people at the same time.

I was wrong. I was soooo wrong!

We made it to lunch time. It felt like everyone was soooo needy yesterday (perhaps I was the needy one, as I desperately tried to finish the task I had started). 

We made it to and through quiet time and I thought that would reset and reboot the day. It always does.

Not yesterday.

My "new guy" arrived and stirred a pot which was already stirred, shaken and pureed to oblivion. I was depleted. And this guy cried. And cried. And cried. He cried if I held him. He cried if I didn't. He just cried...

I wanted to cry too. I really did.

But I didn't. I held on and got through the day.

We went outside and the season of discontentment continued. The kids wandered around acting like they had already done, been and conquered all there was to do outside. And it is not even the end of April!!!

Oh. My. Gosh.

We endured. That is about all I can say.

I must go to my bookkeeping job tonight. I must work again this weekend. I have filled the last few weekends with puttering around the house and I tried to putter a little bit throughout the day yesterday and disaster ensued. 

"This" is why I have been getting nothing done around here. 

Maybe it isn't an excuse after all. "This" is my reality. 

Here is to hoping my coping skills return today. Time to shut off my distractions and tune into my day. 

Things are always better when you focus on the moment you are in. And that is exactly what I intend to do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thank You, Road Crews Everywhere!

I like when life hands you an unexpected lesson out of the blue. I received one of those gifts yesterday.

Our snowfall from two days ago was still quite evident yesterday.

Sunday morning
Monday morning
Monday morning
It was gorgeous outside yesterday afternoon and I needed to get my little daycare family out but had no idea what we could do. It was hot and melting. You needed snow gear on your bottom half and a T-shirt for your top half.

Bringing bikes out, onto the driveway was our best option except the snow was still not melted. I had no intention on shovelling that snow again - I had planned on letting Mother Nature take care of that last blast of snow! 

They couldn't drive on top of it - it was too water laden and unfortunately there was still too much snow.

Monday afternoon
I shovelled around the perimeter so they could ride around the snow but that was too restrictive and they were still getting stuck so I started whittling away at shovelling the snow which was in the middle of their raceway. 

It took forever and I had some very impatient and uncourteous drivers as I toiled away at the task. "Col ee ee ee ee n! You are in the way!!" "Col ee ee ee ee n! You are going too slow!

Drivers abandoned their bikes on the road, leaving the snow removal crew to clear the road of vehicles and clear the road. 

I certainly gained some respect for road crews everywhere. They are working to make our roads better and safer, yet as the person travelling the road, how many times have I thought the same thoughts as the kids "You are in my way and going too slow!"?

We are heading into the summer season of road construction and before long traffic delays, lane closures and speed restrictions will be in full force. Drivers everywhere will be thinking much the same as my little bike drivers yesterday.

Our road crews are working to make our roads safer, wider, fixing pot holes, building bridges and double lanes. They work all summer so we can have our roads in the best shape possible for our inevitable long, cold, icy winters.

Slow down, be grateful, smile and wave at those who are working so hard to keep us safe and moving efficiently.

How would you feel, if you were the one working tirelessly repairing, rebuilding and rerouting those roads and people were driving around you, thinking of nothing but their own immediate needs as they are running late and frustrated due to delays?

Leave a little extra time as you make your way through the summer. You may run across a road crew making your roads better for another day.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Change Within

Sometimes the greatest changes take place without a single soul noticing a change in outward appearances.

I worked, along with my Youngest Son, all weekend cleaning up computer files, trading beds, turning two bedrooms upside down and inside out all weekend. 

I wish I would have taken "before" pictures because other than trading a double bed for a single one in one room and shuffling the rest of the furniture about, there isn't a drastic change to room number one. 

Here is "the middle" of the transformation:

Here is "the end". I suppose there is an outward difference within this room. It has morphed from spare room, daycare, book writing and book collecting to mainly my new "office" space.

Room #2 looked bad, really bad in the middle of the transformation.

But the end result was looking exactly the same way as it did when it started.

The difference lies within. 

I have shuffled, organized, decluttered, vacuumed and washed down underneath all that does not show. 

My son aided and abetted me as we cleaned up, dejunked, deleted, moved and sorted computer files. Nothing looks different when you glance over at the computer desk (except perhaps the computer desktop itself. My son has deleted all excess and it looks as neat as a pin).

We worked all weekend and then raced to put things back together so I could open my doors and let small children enter our world this morning.

Nothing looks different.

But I feel lighter. I feel different. The weight I expected to lift after I completed my family book project is finally lightening. 

That weight had little to do with the book and everything to do with all of the excesses in our world adding up without discarding anything along the way.

I don't look any different on the outside after these little bouts of decluttering. But I am feeling oh so much better. 

I have a long way yet to go and the moment I finish, I could probably start over and do it all over again. That is how much excess has accumulated. 

Life is like that. 

The "real work" to become who you are and who you are meant to be happens inside. You can make a complete metamorphosis and no one from the outside, looking in can see the difference. Until they take the time to "open up those cupboard doors" and take a peek inside. 

Don't judge from outside appearances. You never know what is going on inside those doors you have not yet opened.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

More Digging Out

It is another Sunday of "digging myself out". In more ways than one. 

This is the little gift our fair city received yesterday:

I am not in the mood to "unwrap" it. I am too busy inside, digging myself out from under the excess of computer files, collection of papers, notes and "what I deemed important" once upon a time, as well as a bedroom full of daycare supplies and equipment to reorganize.

I have too much of a mess underfoot to linger here for long but since I had all but abandoned the idea of having to deal with this white stuff for another six to seven months, I had to stop and whine for a moment. I'll get over it. Just as soon as it melts.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Two Weeks

It has been two weeks, less a day since we laid our Senior Cat to rest. Two weeks...

I feel guilty for having a heart that healed so quickly.

I still have flashes of where I used to find our senior kitty waiting for me each and every morning. However the reminders of his twice-a-day medication are slipping by.

I love that an extreme close up of his adorable smiling kitty face flashes before me each and every time my cell phone comes to life. The ache in my heart from not seeing that loving little creature in the flesh is starting to wane.

I am so grateful we have our Back Up Cat to help fill the void. I doubt I will ever stop contrasting and comparing who he is, in comparison to who we lost. At the same time, I am wondering when and if we should think about adding a new Junior Pet into our family.

I walked around "the week after" with a quiet emptiness. It was a sad place but at the same time, it was such an honor to hold onto that ache because it kept my memories and feelings close to my heart.

Life has taken over this week and carried on.

I still miss our little black cat but I know his time on earth was so uncomfortable it was time to let him go.

I miss mourning him. That sad, soulful feeling and the quiet ache in my heart filled the void he left.

We will forever remember you, Andre. I miss missing you so much.

Little things are what I remember the most. "This" is the reason we invested in a cat fountain for our two black cats. Their love of running water is just one of many memories which I hope never die.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Parenting - Learning as I Go

I think I should have had more children. I have been at this job almost 37 years and I think I may just be starting to get the hang of it.

To "oldest children" everywhere, can I please just apologize?

Maybe I am just speaking for myself but sometimes I hear a bit of the same as I listen to other parents. We really have no idea what we are in for, when we become a parent.

Add one dose of high expectations to another generous dose of reality, apply generously while raising a unique human being and add an unknown quantity of stressors to the equation and what that equals is: "learning as you go".

Little of what you learned will apply to subsequent children. They will react to the same stimuli in completely and totally unexpected ways. The main thing I learned was to pick my battles. I knew I could not win them all, so I fought over what I deemed important and turned a blind eye to minor infractions.

This lesson I had learned did not go over well with my oldest sibling. He remembered very well, the lessons I had attempted to teach him. He saw his younger brother getting away with stuff he couldn't and there was a feeling of injustice born inside of him.

Perhaps there is an advantage to having your children close together. A two year old isn't scrutinizing your parenting skills and comparing and contrasting them to what they once knew. However, an eighteen year old, watching his nine year old brother get away with things he was never allowed to do, remembers.

I made many mistakes along the way. I know you are not supposed to think of them as "mistakes". But they were. I did have many, many moments I wish I could rewind the tape and do it better. Unfortunately, I wasn't a fast learner. I kept repeating the errors of my ways. I had not yet learned the lesson (aka: definition of insanity) "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" (words of wisdom by Albert Einstein).

Enter my third child.

He was born to a mother who had finally learned a little from what had went awry in her prior two "experiments".

When my oldest two children entered their teen years, I really veered off the course of model parenthood. I was barely surviving this parent-of-a-teen gig. I was learning on the fly and I wasn't learning much.

I merely reacted to the challenges of raising a teen. I did not have one proactive trick up my sleeve.

My youngest child has been a model child. I wish I had had him first. But if I had, I don't think he would be who he is. I think his character is one part me, another part his dad, blended evenly, mixed up into a human body and raised by a mom who had learned a few things the way.

I knew it could not last forever but I still wasn't expecting it when it happened.

My model student and even tempered sixteen year old child "crashed".

I typed that sentence and walked away. As I took some time and space from that statement I wondered if that was the reason I reacted differently this time. Because there was such a stark difference between who he was and who he is.

Maybe I am not so wise after all. Maybe it isn't "lessons learned" that helped me be a better parent. Maybe it is simply a different child, different circumstances, such a stark contrast and (also) a different me.

I am not certain if we have walked through the other end of this tunnel yet but I see sunlight.

He came home from school yesterday and smiled. Sure enough, who couldn't smile when three small children spotted him a half block away from home and started greeting him well before he walked up our driveway? They were akin to three very well behaved puppy dogs who were simply happy to see him and not afraid to show it.

The difference showed itself when he chose to stay and spend time with us. He hasn't had the desire or energy to do that for a very long time.

The difference (I think) is because I stepped up to the plate and acted as his advocate when he had no idea which way to turn.

With his permission, I talked with professionals who had the tools and education to guide him through a dark and anxious time.

He was willing to accept all I had to offer, which was the ability to pick up the phone to call and ask for help.

I didn't have his answers. He didn't know his answers. He needed someone to guide his choices to help him past, through and beyond this point.

As a parent, you just don't know it all. Ever.

Sometimes behaviours mask the underlying issues at hand. Now that I have stepped 20 years and 11 years beyond where my older children were at this very same point, I can see their behaviour was masking a cry for help.

They needed me and I was so busy dealing with the offending behaviours, I didn't truly see what they were battling.

There is a world of people out there dealing with hard things. It is so hard to see beyond the exterior people present to the world. We wear so very many masks. Unfortunately, teenagers quite often mask their confusion, pain and anxiety with actions which distract us from the underlying cause.

Just when I think I have this parenthood thing figured out, someone will go and change the "rules". Thankfully, I get to renew my skills on a daily basis as an up and coming generation continues to test my knowledge and help me grow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Twilight Hours

My thoughts are jumping all over my brain this morning. I have no idea if I can catch one and sit still with it or if the words which follow will be as scattered as I feel.

It feels good to wake up with an excess of words, thoughts and (dare I say it!?) energy. I'm still not quite hopping out of bed with my alarm but the sun is waking up much earlier these days and one day soon it will be wide awake before my alarm sounds.

As I googled the question "What time the sun is sunrise?", I discovered the word which describes what I have been waking up to these days. "Twilight"

It is the time of morning I think I may like the best. The sky is lightening and showing the potential of the day yet to come.

The sun is not yet fully in view but you know daylight is coming.

How many things do we really know within our world these days? Some days it is not enough. Other days it is too much. Even when we think we know what is in store, how many times are we proven wrong?

There is one thing we can count on. And that is the fact that the sun will rise and set each and every day.

The twilight hours.

The day has not yet begun. My home and the world around me is still quiet. I love sitting still and listening to the quiet sounds within our home that get lost throughout the day.

The twilight hours seem to be the hours where I can hear my own voice.

Perhaps that is why winter has become increasingly hard to bear over the course of time. The twilight hours do not correlate with the time I must wake up and do what has to be done before my work day begins.

Maybe it is the reason my need for weekends has become increasingly necessary. There is a little bit of time to savor the quiet before real life happens.

I have found "real life" to be unbearably intrusive these days. I like to invite it in on my terms but it is a rather rude guest. It simply shows up on my doorstep and invites itself in.

I am starting to find my strength again. I am doing "hard things" on a more regular basis and my stamina is increasing.

The definition of "hard things" changes from day to day but most of those things lately have been doing only what is necessary.

A culmination of so very many things has all come together and brought me back to the place I most enjoy. I feel that I am on the cusp of grasping onto the euphoria of life and holding on for dear life as I enjoy the ride.

I don't know what lies in store but I do know the increase in daylight hours is helping. I feel I am sitting still in my very own "twilight hours". Life is full of potential. It is up to me to seek out and discover what I invite into my world.

a time of pause when nature changes her guard. 
All living things would fade and die from too much light or too much dark, 
if twilight were not.
~ Howard Thurman

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Doing the Next Right Thing

A little guy who I take care of within my daycare world is a lovable little gaffer. He has a personality that shines, he has a zest for life and eyes that could light up a city. 

He is as smart as a whip, smarter than me I think, which has caused no end of challenges and struggles but we are working things out. Bit by bit, day by day.

He has developed a habit which cannot continue. He hits. Often he hurts someone with a toy he has in his hand as he delivers a blow. It hurts. his friends are getting angry and frustrated. I am getting angry and frustrated.

I have tried everything I know how to do, to try and help him understand he is hurting people. I have told him to hit himself with the toy in question so he knows how it feels. He does it, continues to do it and I have even noticed him voluntarily hitting himself with a toy when he doesn't even know I'm looking.

There have been time outs, angry/stern voices as I "deliver my lesson" to him, isolating him from others, every thing I can possibly think of, I  have tried.

All of this, yet we still don't see eye-to-eye on this situation. It has been extremely frustrating.

Yesterday, our brand new week started out with a hitting issue. I put him in a time out in the kitchen, I met him on his level and cupped his chubby little cheeks in my hands, looked him directly in the eye and said, "That hurts. You are hurting people. Hands off! Be kind. Be gentle. Be gentle..."

He looked directly into my eyes and soul and ever so quietly, ever so sternly and with great intent behind his words, he said, "I don't like you".

I thought I heard him wrong so I asked him to repeat himself. And he did. "I don't like you."

It was unmistakeable. He doesn't like me. At least not in that moment. 

In that very moment, I didn't particularly like his actions either. So that was my response to him. "I don't like what you are doing right now."

And our day continued to move on in a forward direction. 

He continued to reoffend and I continued to be frustrated and tried my very best to catch him in action so he understood exactly what actions were offensive to me.

The good outweighed the bad, by far, and our day was all-in-all a good one.

Their were many more minor infractions within my small daycare family. I had had a most perfectly balanced and fulfilling weekend and I was on my A-game. Let me stress the word "my" within that sentence. I was by no means perfect, but I was so much better than I have been.

The girls were acting like mean, spiteful teenagers among themselves. They were being unkind and acting in ways which were hurtful to those around them.

One of my little girls is an instigator. I rarely catch her doing wrong but I am quite certain her actions are often the starting point where the second or third person down the line gets caught doing something wrong because they are reacting to her behaviour.

Yesterday, I caught her in action a few times.

She was absolutely devastated. She burst into tears with a dramatic flair and she didn't have to say the words. I knew in that very moment she did not like me either. I was really on a roll.

I felt bad that she felt so badly but I did not want to lose the momentum of catching her in the act of doing something wrong and hurtful to her friends. So I focused on "Do the next right thing" (this is a quote of Glennon Doyle's - I am not that wise). 

I couldn't believe the power I felt by inserting those words into our day, so I elaborated with some of my own.

"Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. All we can do is do the next right thing. Let's start from here and just be kind to each other. Do the next right thing."

I subconsciously propel myself through my days with this mantra in my head. I make so many mistakes. I am not better (probably worse, because I know better) than the small people in my care. I try to stop myself in my tracks, take a deep, long breath and tell myself to do better. "Do the next right thing."

It is really all we can expect of ourselves. 

When we know better, we (try to) do better. We all make mistakes. We all say and do things we wish we could take back the moment we do them. How can I expect my young charges to do any better than me, when I struggle each and every day to simply "do my best, restart and redo whenever I can and do the next right thing"?

Forgiveness, friendship and kindness are what we focus on here within our daycare world. It isn't easy. But it is necessary.

"All relationships take work. Sometimes that work looks like a disagreement or an argument. It may also look like stress that creates tension. Don't worry! It is all part of the work. The key to a successful relationship is to allow the work to take place, to allow the communication to continue, and to keep your heart open to love and be loved." ~ Iyanla Vanzant

Monday, April 20, 2015

Digging Myself Out

It is really no wonder that it is taking a while to feel like I am making a difference, as I have started to try and find my way out of the excess which has amassed within our home over the course of the past six to ten years or so.

It happens ever so slowly and gradually. You accumulate something new and continue to hold onto everything you already have. Please tell me I am not the only one who does this. I know one should develop the habit of "out with the old" when you acquire something new.

I have had so very many excuses over the course of time.

I was too busy. I was writing a book. I went to school. I was too stressed from a new job. Too many kids. Too many jobs. Too many responsibilities. Too tired. Too lazy. Too busy living my life.

Yup, I used all of the aforementioned excuses and I'm sure I invented many more. I live in a bubblewrapped world where my supportive people agree with me and gently pat me on the shoulder saying "There, there. It is okay. Of course you can't do it all!"

Looking backwards, I can see that I really did make some good choices along the way. My life will be much more interesting when I start repeating my stories if they aren't all about cleaning. Yes. That is yet another excuse that I am quite certain I used somewhere along the way.

I'm grateful that cleaning, decluttering and sorting through the rubble of one's home doesn't dominate my life. But perhaps it would be wise for me to get back in the habit of puttering, so slowly but surely I start to see the light again.

That was what yesterday afternoon was all about. You can stop reading now because this is where I insert the details that no one really cares about.

I woke up early yesterday and did all of the "hard things" that I hadn't had time for all week.

I typed up our family's recipes and submitted them for our upcoming family reunion's cookbook. Whew! That felt very good to put behind me.

I did up my second son's book work. Another pesky little job that takes no time at all but kept getting pushed to the wayside last week.

I had one last look at everyone's income taxes, since the tax assessments were mailed to us last week. So far, so good. It is looking like I did a decent job with what I knew and what I did. Time will tell if Revenue Canada agrees with me or not.

I forwarded an email from our family reunion committee to the family. A quick little job but it felt so very rewarding to send it off and take it off my to-do-plate.

I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote Mom's weekly letter. It felt so good to sit still with a cup of coffee and hand write her letter. It is so much easier and faster to type. But the gift of some cat stationary which was not only lined but also a perfectly manageable size of paper made that little task feel like fun.

It was 3:20 in the afternoon by the time I finally finished up my Friday Daycare Blog post. Then I had a little daycare business to tend before I could officially wrap up last week's unfinished business pile.

Then ... I started puttering.

One thing led to another, then another and another and another! I started with arranging a few things in the extra drawer in the new three drawer filing cabinet I purchased last week, which led to reorganizing another place where I have stationary items in the kitchen, which led me to the spare bedroom where our family book project and reunion clutter was never ever dealt with, which led me to finding items to donate, which led to the other spare bedroom downstairs where some of our excess has gone to pile up and die, which led to vacuuming the playroom downstairs, which led to reshuffling the toy selection upstairs for the upcoming week, which led to forgetting about supper.

It was 8:00 when I heard my son rifling through the cupboards to find himself some nourishment. I said, "I suppose supper would be a good idea, huh?" He agreed.

I had absolutely no brain cells which were in the mood to think about what I could scrounge up for supper. I just told him to tell me what he wanted and I would make it appear. Perogies and hot dogs. Okay! Perogies and hot dogs, it was.

I sat down at the end of a very productive day with my Pizza Pops and ginger ale and simply felt good.

The house does not look one tiny bit different. But it feels better.

I have barely made a chip in this iceberg, but I did make one nick out of a very, very big chunk of it.

I woke up this morning remembering little snippets of thoughts and wisdom of others, which I had found along my travels these past few days, rising to my consciousness.

I found a window within the clutter I sorted through and I feel a wisp of fresh air entering our home and my mind.

It is small but it is so big. I am starting to feel just a little bit of the weight lifting off my shoulders.

I read this several days ago and though I forgot the words, I remembered the essence of them as I lived out this past weekend.

"Your home is not only your safe haven, it is a reflection of your consciousness. Whatever is going on in your mind will be reflected in the conditions of your home. To achieve balance and clarity in your life, you must have a solid, clean foundation. Your home and the conditions in which you live are a good place to start." ~ Iyanla Vanzant

I am digging myself out. It isn't going to happen over night but one small shovelful at a time I will make a small impact. No one else in the world may notice a difference. But I will. And for now, that is all that matters.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Courage of a Lion

I feel like I have been living with a very quiet and low grade pain this week.

The first days "without Andre" were lackluster and I felt cloudy and overcast. Then Monday rudely walked in the door and intruded on my quiet, respectful mourning period. I hated Monday, but I knew I needed it just as much.

The loss of a pet is something not everyone understands. I must confess that as much as I empathized and wanted to understand how my friend felt when her 32 year old parrot died, I just didn't get it. I can relate to losing a cat or a dog but I've never loved a bird, so my heart didn't ache the same way as hers did. Andre was not doing well at the time and I could relate but I didn't truly understand.

Now I know. At least what it was like for me.

Other than "work", I did as little as humanly possible this week. I knew I had to do "hard things" but I didn't want to waste a good day of doing nothing, doing just a little bit, so all of those hard things landed on one day. That would be yesterday.

Our (previously) Junior Cat, presently our Only Cat needed to get his nails trimmed. His nails have needed a good trimming for quite some time now. I finally made that appointment and that appointment was last night.

I used that as a catalyst to gather up and donate Andre's unopened cans of cat food and drop off his medication so they could reuse or dispose of it properly. As I went through the process I washed up the cat dish we had upstairs, for Andre's healthy cat food pucks nuggets. I took the remainder of the cat food downstairs. I swept the kitchen floor and went in search of lost "hockey pucks" under the baseboard, kitchen furniture and the stove.

After Andre was gone, I left his dish filled with the much tastier and more popular cat food nuggets out of respect for Andre and not to make sudden changes for the sibling he left behind. But Junior continued to fish out the food (I assume) that was still of the health food variety and continued batting them around the kitchen, so I emptied the dish.

That empty dish was disturbing to me. It screamed "Andre is gone! Andre is gone!!" but I couldn't remove it.

I washed his dish and put it downstairs to use for another purpose on another day.

Slowly but surely our visual reminders of Andre's day-to-day life with us are disappearing.

Last night, we brought home the paw print the vet's office made for us on the day we said our good bye to Andre. The entire staff signed a card and it was attached to Andre's clay paw print. We didn't find that card until we were home from our night of errands, had finished our supper and I opened the package to find a place of honor for Andre's last memory.

"He was a courageous cat ..." was one of the many thoughtful and meaningful comments our veterinarian family wrote within the card.


Yes, I have to agree that was the sentence which packed a punch for me. I truly believe Andre breathed long and hard and those last heavy breaths were his final gift to us.

It was so very hard for him to breathe at the end. He gazed quietly into our eyes and he simply breathed.

It took every ounce of strength he had to live out those quiet last days. A lesser cat may have given up sooner or let it be known how much he was suffering. Not our Andre. He channeled his youthful exuberance for life into those final days, weeks and months.

He had the courage of a lion.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Walking Against the Wind

It has been pretty windy in our parts lately. So windy, that I've decided to put off washing my hair for just one more day because it's just going to look windblown anyway. So why even try?

My thoughts digress to my sister's comment that one of the reasons she likes the wind is that it gives one's hair an excuse to "look this way"...

I will rein myself in and write what I intended to write. I'm running out of time this morning because I made a deal with our cat "I'll sleep a little longer if you cuddle up beside me". He did. Now I'm running out of time.

Anyway ...

Whenever we go out walking, it seems we always walk into the wind on the first lap of our walk. Our only consolation is that very same wind will be on our backs on our way home and make the walk easier and more enjoyable.

Yesterday, we walked to the library. I never even thought of the wind. Until we came home.

We turned around and faced the opposite direction and walked directly into a very windy day. Immediately I thought, "Why do we never notice resistance unless we are walking into it?"

When life is going along as we expect it to, do we stop and appreciate that we are not wading through the mire to get where we need to go?

When we wake up each morning and our body does what we want and expect it to, do we stop and realize how fortunate we are?

When traffic flows easily and we hit all the green lights as we make our way to our destination, do we really notice that fact?

When children come home from school, husbands come home from work and everyone gets to and from their destination without incident do we really stop and think about the little miracles that take place each and every day, all along our way?

We are more apt to notice when life feels hard. We take note of how hard it is to wake up. We really notice when we wake up with a sore neck. Then there is the traffic. Why does it seem whenever you are running late, you run into red lights and delays all along your way?

I know I take it for granted, but in the same breath I am grateful each day when my son comes home from school. I like it when my adult sons check in, so I know they are okay in their worlds but I don't lose sleep over the days (weeks) when I don't hear from them either.

Each and every one of us wakes up to a unique set of circumstances. We trust our day will unfold in a somewhat predictable manner. When all goes (pretty much) as we expect day after day, month after month it is easy to become complacent.

I guess I'm grateful for a little resistance from time to time. It helps me appreciate the little things just a little bit more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The High Cost of Loving

I sat still in the back yard yesterday and memories of Andre flooded my consciousness.

We had "cat proofed" our yard these past few years so he could come out with us and enjoy the great outdoors on his own terms, within the confines of our yard.

I remembered...

The (many) times he escaped our back yard when he was young and feisty.
The time he got "treed" by some crows (he climbed up into a tree and they were swooping down on him and quite disturbed by this black critter in their tree).
Snuggled up on the lawn swing, just enjoying the sun and whoever may have been around.
Hidden and camouflaged in the underbrush of our lilac bush.
Soaking up the sun. Right up until the end of his days.
I was suddenly grateful that he was given the gift of "one last spring" to unwrap with us.

I sat quietly with my thoughts and I revelled in how absolutely lucky I felt. I had no regrets.

Andre was adored. He was an integral part of our family and he made his way quietly throughout our days. Whether our house was full of kids, just our family or if we had company, he was a part of almost every memory I have.

We have so many pictures of our much adored little black kitty. I have written about him on many occasions. Heavens, he was even the theme of one of my Christmas letters ("Because Our Little Black Cat Scratched").

He was loved and he knew it. I am pretty sure he adored us as well because we certainly felt our human/cat relationship was a two way street.

That little guy made my heart swell. Day after day, year after year. I wish I could say I showed my love for my children in a manner that was as unmistakable as the way I openly loved our little black cat.

I have replayed his last years and days with us over and over in my mind.

I know we did all we could for him. I know without a doubt. Our efforts were supported and supplemented by our friendly neighborhood veterinarian's office. I have felt a bond grow with our vet family throughout these past few years.

In his final hours, it was such a gift to simply sit beside him and absorb "the essence of Andre".

He was such a cool cat. So calm. So life affirming. So loving. So adventuresome. He knew how to live the good life.

I replayed the years in my mind and I was so incredibly at peace, knowing that we did everything we could for him. We loved him, nurtured him, took care of him when he was sick and always had our door open for him during all of those years where he was so interested in the great big world beyond our own back yard.

No regrets.

I did everything I could do, throughout his entire life with us. I said all I had to say. I wrote. We took pictures and videos. We have stories and memories which will transcend time.

My heart is full of good, long lasting feelings of loving and being loved.

Loving so deeply comes at a cost. Hearts are broken, great loves are lost and you risk not feeling love in return.

It is a price I would pay any day of the week. The high cost of loving comes with the greatest reward. You just know you would not have done it any other way.

It was a privilege and an honor loving you, Andre. Thank you for opening not only my heart, but the hearts of our entire family. We wouldn't be the same without you.

This is a picture of the sun which set upon the day when we laid Andre to rest.
My son took this picture on our drive home, after burying Andre on his brother's farm.
I knew he took the picture, he showed it to me at the time.
What I didn't know, is where I would find that photo.
It is the last photo within a file of pictures he took of Andre.
It is titled "Rest in Peace".
Our lives have a hole which only you could fill, Andre. Thank you for filling it so fully while you lived here with us.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mondays are Hard (are Tuesdays any better?)

I hope the hardest day of the week is behind me.

10 hours of "children" + 3-1/2 hours at my "bookkeeping" job + 45 minutes of travel time = 1 very long day.

I wasn't really my best self yesterday morning and I could have cried when I saw the clock tick past 9:00 p.m. last night and I was still at work and twenty three minutes away from home.

I can do hard things, if I am within the confines of my home. Take me away from my safe place and all bets are off.

Two of four of my daycare family were exhausted and very hard to deal with yesterday. I had a mini-emotional breakdown (thoughts of Andre wafted through my mind and reminded me of the parallels between him and my mom and I crumbled) moments before my first family walked in the door. It was not a winning combination.

We managed.

We went for a walk and saw "Santa Claus" back out of someone's driveway in his car. Then a few steps later, my little daycare daughter said "I hear jingle bells!" (wind chimes).

A little magic worked its way into our day and got us through one minute at a time.

The day could have been a little more magical. I was less than perfect within my role of daycare provider but I just kept doing my best.

Thankfully everyone closed their eyes at the same time. And slept.

That magical hour is my booster juice. It gets me through.

Add a blue sky and sunshine and I've got enough ammunition to get through our ten hour day.

It was the 4-1/4 hours to, from and at my out-of-home work place that did me in. That is my kryptonite.

I endured Monday. Tuesday will be easier. Right??

Monday, April 13, 2015

Life Without Andre

Monday feels like an assault to my senses this morning. I do not feel like jumping back into life as I knew it, like it was just any other day.

I know it is the only way. It is right and it is good.

I just miss my little black kitty. That's all.

His junior partner in cathood did his best version of snuggling up beside me before I crawled out of bed this morning. He even laid still while I petted him. In fact, he rolled over on his back so I could scratch his belly (I think he is part dog).

I'm still breathing in the cat hair he shed, but he helped me greet a day I didn't want to face.

Life goes on.

I have become so hermit-like lately I have forgotten what wonders lie outside of our doors.

I stepped in for a missing dance partner, at the dance studio where I used to take lessons, Friday night. Once I got over the shock and discomfort of being so far out of my element, I was amused and entertained by "people".

I am not too sure how long I've been wearing these blinders but I forgot how interesting it can be to meet up with new people.

It was hard. I couldn't wait to leave. But there were many moments of enjoyment while I stepped out of my comfortable life at home and into my most uncomfortable dance shoes.

I used to have so much fun while I was dancing that my feet didn't hurt until I took off my shoes and went home. Friday night, every single footfall hurt.

Every forward step hurt. It is so symbolic of how my heart, body and soul feel lately.

I do hope that this is part of a mourning process I have been walking through in the days, weeks and months when I realized our ailing senior cat's days were coming close to an end.

My heart is so tender right now. Perhaps that is why I don't enjoy facing the world outside of these protective walls of our home.

There is so much sadness, illness and loss out there. Inside our home, there have been so very many moments of pure joy and so much of that has been centered around our little cat family.

People are complicated. Cats are a tad bit mysterious too. It's just lately? I prefer the company of my little cat (and human) family over the great adventures that lie outside of these doors.

I guess I will have to peel back the layers and find my "inner Andre". My little black kitty, who could not wait to dash out of these doors to meet and greet the world around him, befriend enemies, make his way through the neighborhood and come home when he was good and ready, is a good role model.

I'm too scared to wander far. But maybe I should start gazing out the window and dreaming of some new adventures.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

In Memory of Andre

He always liked going to the vet.

He got to go for a ride in the car, in his cat carrier once a year. Yet every single time he saw his little cat house he raced into it like a happy little pup. "Where are we going? Where are we going??" seemed to be written in his eyes.

Year after year. After at least fourteen years of trips to the vet, he still had that puppy dog fascination whenever he saw that carrier appear in the kitchen.

There was the emergency trip to the vet after he wrestled with a muskrat. We are sort of making that story up, yet assuming it actually happened, because he had cornered a muskrat by our neighbor's garage the day before. Though he came home from that particular incident unscathed, a day or two later he wandered home, looking a little worse for wear.

The last few years, he has seen our friendly, neighborhood vet more than a few times a year. Yet he still hopped into that cat carrier just like every other time before.

I think, over the course of time, he understood that a trip to the vet meant healing. Almost every time we went with an ailment, we came out with a way to help him feel better.

I like to think he understood that yesterday would be more of what he had come to know. He "knew" they could help him.

When I took him to the vet only three days prior, he was a model patient. He let down his guard and showed our vet all of his symptoms without pretense. I think he has been trying to be strong for his family but it was as if he "knew" his doctor could only help him if he showed her the truth.

He was at his worst for that short office visit. We got home and he was right back to our strong, brave cat.

It all went downhill from there.


Yesterday afternoon, in the hour(s) before his final appointment with our vet, I sat beside him as he rested quietly upon his cushions which my son had placed on "Andre's" chair. I watched and listened to him breathe. We made eye contact. We gazed into each other's eyes and spoke volumes without saying a word.

He barely even tried to purr, though there was a brief moment ...

It was time to get him ready to go.

I picked him up, ever so gently and carried him to his food and water dishes. "Do you want a drink? Anything to eat?"

His body language was very abrupt. I understood. "No"

I directed him over to the litter box. I wanted to ensure he was as comfortable as possible before we left. He desperately "needed a litter box" when we saw the vet on Wednesday. I wasn't going to repeat that mistake.

He needed a moment of privacy as he took me up on my second offer.

My son brought him and "his cushions" upstairs. He created a cozy little bed for Andre as he arranged the cushions inside of the pet carrier. He showed it to Andre. Andre turned around as if to say "No, but thanks" and wandered over to his food dish.

We sat and watched him eat. It did our hearts good to see him enjoying his food so much. It was so little but it was so big. 

We let him eat as long as he wanted to eat. It wasn't long. 

He still wasn't too keen on entering the cat carrier but with the help of a few Temptation treats, he gladly found his way into his cozy little oasis.

Once he settled in, he was completely at peace.

We arrived at the vet's office exactly at the time our appointment was arranged. There are some appointments where you do NOT want to arrive early. This was one of them.

He didn't want to come out of his carrier. So we took the lid off. He just laid on his cozy, familiar cushions in the bottom part of his cat carrier and he looked and sounded better than he had in a month. Maybe two.

He let me pet him. Over and over and over. He was so relaxed and at ease. 

His breathing was easy. So easy.

What did he know? Did he understand we were there to help him through this final hour? Did the antibiotics kick in at that precise moment? 

I asked if we could talk with the vet and she was happy to spend as much time as we needed. She answered all of my questions and concerns. I asked her if she could listen to his breathing again. Were we making a mistake??

It was the hardest decision in the world.

She explained that death due to respiratory illness is very distressing. It is not (usually) a quiet, falling asleep and not waking up kind of death. They struggle for breath and it is very hard for all concerned.

We had no idea if he was two hours, two days or two weeks from that moment. No one could know. No one but Andre knew exactly how he was feeling in that moment.

But the downward spiral he had been on this past week was indicative that his time was so very, very close.

We could choose to help him through this in a quiet, controlled and calm setting like the one we were sitting in right at that moment or we could take him back home with us and hope for another week.

The mere idea of having a medical emergency with him in the middle of a workday at home, with no way to get him help immediately was the deciding factor for me.

He was so absolutely calm. 

He didn't even try and purr. He just breathed deeply and quietly and with his whole body. He was so peaceful.

I think he understood he was exactly where he needed to be.

He "crossed over" without pain or any outward sign of anything but a complete and total acceptance and aura of peace.

It is the way I want to go.

Quickly, painlessly, without a struggle and surrounded in love with the whisper of "It's going to be okay" gently easing one out of a sick and tired body.

It's going to be okay, Andre.

We are heartbroken. There will be a void in this family only you could fill. Thank you for giving us fifteen good cat years.

Thank you for choosing us.

In Memory of Andre

He was dropped into our life when we least expected him,
He made a huge imprint within our hearts,
He shared his love with every critter he met,
And we count ourselves lucky
to be his Chosen Family

January (or February), 2000 - April 11, 2015
Good bye, our friend
May you breathe easy now ...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I Miss You Already

I lingered in bed a little bit longer than necessary this morning. I had hoped for one final wake up call from our ailing senior kitty.

It didn't happen.

Instead, as soon as I walked out into the hallway, I was greeted with this sight for sad eyes.

My son brought up his treasured "flower blanket" to make a softer bed for Andre, who has chosen to sleep on the floor beside the love seat lately.

This flower blanket and my son go back a long way. It was a quilt we already had when was born and he adopted it as his own somewhere along the way. Whenever we slept away from home, we packed up this quilt and it went where he went.

Sometime (not all that long ago), he donated his cherished blanket to his two favorite cats. It became the bed in a cardboard cat house he built for them. They have had as much enjoyment from that blanket as he has.

Oh, the stories that lie within that blanket.

Last night, he brought it upstairs to give Andre a softer resting spot. Before I went to bed, I could see Junior Cat eyeing up the cat blanket and Andre was more interested in his second favorite spot beside the table.

I wasn't surprised to find this scene when I awoke this morning. It is the way of our cats. 

My son fell asleep on the floor between the two of them last night. When he woke up, Andre had abandoned his post so my son forfeited his spot for a softer resting place on the couch.

He needed to sleep close to Andre last night and that is what he did.

Andre can barely tolerate being touched now. I am so glad I lapped up all the snuggling he had left in him for as long as it lasted.

Last weekend, I held him and we stared out the picture window of the living room and reminisced about his adventuresome days. This morning, a mere seven days later, he fought his way out of my arms and left me with three scratches as he fumbled his way to the floor. 

His last night with us.
My last (failed) attempt to hold him.
His labored purr.
His eyes.
Oh, his eyes.

That is all we have left now. It even seems painful for him to listen to our voice because he has always felt the need to respond to our words.

He used to meow a response. 
He has always had a loud, monster purr.
He has never failed to respond to our attempts to communicate with him.

My son said he just laid on the floor with his head beside Andre. Andre nuzzled and smelled his hair. Then gave his face one little lick. Just one.

This is the cat who used to spend an hour grooming His Boy. There was an attachment that transcended words between Andre and his human family.  He seemed to attach himself to each one of us at different times, in different ways. I don't know if he picked up on something we didn't even know about ourselves but I think each of us has had a feeling that we were "someone special" to him. 

As I laid on the floor beside my favored kitty this morning, I asked if he knew how special he was to us. I told him he doesn't have to keep breathing for us. It is okay. We know we were loved by him and I am certain he knows just how much he was loved and adored. It is okay, Andre. You can let go. It is okay ...

We are going to miss him more than words can say. 

I cannot imagine waking up to a world without him tomorrow morning. But we will. 

He is hurting too much. It hurts my heart to hear his purr because it costs him so very dearly to expend the energy it takes to do so. But he can't help himself.

It is as if he is saying, "I'm sorry I can't let you touch me right now, but let me leave you with the gift of my purr."

His purr. His monster purr.

It was the first thing about him that drew him into my heart. It got louder and more persistent as the years went on. 

Fifteen years.

Andre, I have known you almost as long as I've known my youngest son. You are such a big part of my heart and our family. I cannot imagine how hard it will be to let you go. 

Thank you for giving us all you have had to give.
Thank you for purring on.
Thank you for the love, the kitty kisses and the comfort of finding you upon my waking each and every morning (even if some of those mornings, you were on the doorstep waiting to be let in, during your wandering years).
Thank you for dropping into our lives.
You were a gift. 
I am beyond grateful for all of the smiles and laughter you brought into our days.

I cannot imagine waking up tomorrow morning. It hurts my heart to think of it. 

I always wished you had a "kitty cam" on the top of your forehead so I knew what adventures you found outside of our doors. Oh, how I wish I had those stories right now, Andre. You have led a very interesting life and have touched our family in a way we have not been touched before.

I'm going to miss you so very much. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Heart is Slow to Understand

I knew I had to see her. She was the one who walked with us at the beginning and she treated us like gold. I knew we were near the end of this road and I didn't want to walk down this path with anyone else.

Our family's beloved veterinarian returned from maternity leave a short while ago. I was over the moon to hear this, but deflated just as quickly when I found out her work schedule was the same as mine.

I seriously considered asking for time off so I could take our cat to see her. Seriously!

But yesterday, by some amazing string of coincidences, I ended up with only one daycare child for the majority of the day. I took advantage of the lull in the action and booked an appointment to see my most favorite vet.

We had to walk but that was okay. Andre has enjoyed riding in a stroller since he was a kitten. He even allowed the kids to put a bonnet on his head, sat back and let them buckle him in and off they rolled.

Older cat, bigger stroller. So off we went, minus the bonnet. He basked in the sun, relaxed and enjoyed the ride. 

It was all light and easy when we arrived. A cat in a stroller does tend to attract a little attention. I felt the need to explain this was our only mode of transportation (I wasn't really a crazy cat lady).

We settled into our room and before long, our vet came in to see us.

She didn't like what she heard and saw. Every single breath Andre took while he was in the vet's office was loud and labored and raspy. What she heard with her stethoscope was even more than that. His lungs are in bad shape. It takes great effort for him to breathe. He has lost a lot of weight in the past six months.

None of this was good news. None of it was a surprise to me either. I already knew pretty much everything she told me. I knew our days were numbered but I may have been in denial as to how big that number was.

She looked at me with kindly eyes that spoke volumes. She said very little but her eyes told me, "Any time now ... any time."

My eyes filled to overflowing with dampness and I couldn't speak. When I could utter a few words, I said, "My head knew this but apparently my heart hasn't figured it out yet."

All I knew for sure was "Not today ..." to which she responded of course it wouldn't be "today".

I was grasping. I knew it.

She offered to give him some antibiotic which would last for two weeks but at this point it would not be a solution. It is only a band aid.

I felt so very greedy when I said "Yes" to the antibiotic. I'm not ready. I need time.

I need to fill up on all things Andre and ensure he lives out the rest of his days filling up on whatever cat food he prefers to eat (she said at this point, the last thing she is worried about are is kidneys).

He had a gourmet feast of "Friskies" salmon pate last night. The tasty gold nugget cat food (which has been a hit in our cat population since day one) is in his food dish.

It did my heart good to see him gobble down his preferred food choice. Every quiet breath he takes, every purr he manages to muster, every snuggle and every time our eyes connect will be duly noted in these final days.

My head knows this. But my heart is aching with sorrow for the day which is not too far away.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Our Furry Black Felines

These furry felines make my heart sing.

If Junior Cat was a human, I think he would have aspirations on being a comedian. He loves the limelight and I am almost certain hearing his humans laughing is the equivalent of our pleasure at hearing him purr.

His antics amuse and entertain me. I look at him and smile. My heart swells when I hear him pad into a room. He can be as swift and as silent as a panther stalking his prey when he wants to be. But his default walk is one where you can hear his footfall.

His second career choice, if he was a biped, may be that of a future hockey star. His paw handling skills are second to none and he bats around anything that moves. He is swift and adept at this talent. Every time I find a small cache of Senior Cat's "health food pellets" hidden under baseboards or the back door mat or under the stove, fridge or any other immovable object, I wonder what his thought process is, as he "scores" another goal.

I love that he adores my Youngest Son. I often watch him love his human. He will often caress my son's face with his demonstrative tail. I have never ever known a cat who expressed such emotion with their tail. He has a flair for speaking very loudly with his tail. My son lavishes Junior with affection and I don't even think it is conscious. The admiration society is a mutual one.

Our Senior Cat has slowed down so very much. His playful days are long gone but I love that he still thinks it is a sport to dash out the front door when no one is looking. He still has that young, free wandering spirit at his core. He is pretty easy to catch these days. My biggest fear is that he may sneak out one day and no one will notice. Being locked outside on his own would not be an ideal situation.

I love gazing into his soft, expressive eyes. This morning he climbed onto my bed and poised himself face-to-face with me. We just spoke with our eyes. I think it hurts when I touch him. He seems to tolerate being petted but he does not lean into it.

He lets me pick him up and curls up into a small ball in my arms. This morning, we gazed out the living room window and I talked of old times. The time when he went out and hunted down a muskrat, the time when the crows hunted him down when he went to drink out of their puddle, the friends he made when he escaped out the front door and would not allow us to catch him.

Our little senior kitty has a book within him.

I think he has lived a pretty charmed life. I would love to hear his perspective. He loved making friends and when he prowled the neighborhood, I heard of at least one dog-friend he had. He is just that kind of guy. He is a lover, not a fighter.

As he soaked up the spring sunshine on a cool day, I couldn't help but want to snap as many pictures as I could.

Our days are numbered. I can hear it with every breath he takes. I see it in his eyes. I just hope he lets me know when he is hurting too much. I hope I can see it.

It is coming. My heart is already aching as I lose just a small piece of him slowly but surely these last days.

I'm grateful for almost fifteen years of knowing, loving, adoring and forever convincing our wandering little black kitty to stay home where he is safe and loved. 

I think his golden years have been easy ones. There is a lot of "life" within our home and he still chooses to join in and watch the action, even though he isn't a big part of it these days.

I see the evolution of Junior Cat since he moved in. It is as though Senior is grooming him for the day this "kingdom" will be his. He will rule this roost in his own unique way, but the essence of his predecessor will forever live on.

Purr on, my little black kitty. For as long as you are comfortable doing so. 

You are teaching me how precious every breath is. 
You have grown up with us and we have so very many memories.
I'm grateful for every little story, picture, video and remembrance I've saved along our way.
We never took you for granted, little one. 
You know that, because you could hear us calling you when you were out and about roaming the neighborhood. 
You knew our door was always open.
You loved us and all those who wandered through our door. 
Even yet, you like to meet and greet our guests.
It makes me smile that you will rouse yourself from your deep afternoon slumber when you hear the deep voices of your older human siblings, when they drop by for a quick visit.
You are adored. I am pretty sure you know that.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.