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?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black is the New Black - Part I

While discussing possible dance costume choices, I remember a dance instructor telling me that the color black is one of the hardest colors to match. He went on to say that people think "black is black" but he said there are so many shades of black that it is nearly impossible to find a perfect match.

I thought of this statement as I marvelled and enjoyed the distinct differences between our three black cats. Not only is/was their hair texture slightly different, the way the light reflects off them is different as well. The tones, the shades, the hues are all quite unique. And that is just their hair.

Their personalities are so very different and uniquely special unto themselves. The one thing I love best about all three of them is their "beta cat" quality. No one pushed hard to be the leader of the pack but each one of them has/had their own personal limits.

It is hard to pick a tense to write in because I am referring to Andre, our "original black cat"; as well as Ray, formerly known as "Junior Cat"; and Jet, basically known as "Jet" who is the newest black cat to pick us as his family.

Andre - Our Original Black Cat - Cat I of a III Cat Series

We noticed the title of the chapter this book is turned to, long after the fact. Recently, we were sorting through and organizing our cat photos when we noticed the caption "To Be Chosen". I was simply taking a picture of our most cuddly black cat, snuggled up on my lap, half covering the page I was reading. He had the most unique way of getting our attention. For him to choose to settle on my lap on that exact page, then for us not to even notice until after he had died, felt like an omen of some sort.
Andre was the original. He set the bar and broke the mold. He wasn't even supposed to be our cat. Some kids threw him into our yard during a lunch break at school and my second son rescued him and tucked him away safely in his room. As my son left to go back to school, he told me there was a cat in his room. "Just leave him until I get back home..." Well, as they say, the rest is history.

I have written so many Andre Tales within the contents of this blog, I suddenly want to go back and read them. His evolution of being the youngest and newest of a three cat family to becoming our "one and only cat". He was our original Daycare Kitty. He was the trail blazer, an adventure seeker and a friend to one and all. His purr was the best purr I've ever heard in my life. You could hear him across a room. It seemed like he delighted himself by making us smile and he performed on so very many different levels for us.

My youngest son and I spent so much time loving our little black cat, marvelling at his ways, savoring his love, laughing at his antics and simply watching him at play. Andre followed him to bed so when I popped in to say good night, Andre would become the centre of our conversation and this is quite likely when our daily "Cat Chat" originated.

It was a sad day when I realized Andre wasn't eating much and started to lose weight. I was terrified this was the beginning of the end of his story. Looking back, it quite likely was. But I bought soft cat food, found his favorite brand and flavor and slowly, but surely he regained his appetite so by the time he went for his annual vet visit, he was almost back at the weight from the previous year.

I never quite recovered from the scare and I knew how devastated my son (not to mention myself) would be if "anything ever happened" to Andre. So after Andre seemed to be doing much better and eating well again, we went cat shopping. I wasn't ready to commit but I thought we could look into the idea of fostering a cat. And that is the beginning of Ray's story and how his original title, only known to me at the time, was that of a "back up cat".

All we knew for sure when we went looking for cats was that we wanted a male cat. There were only two male cats at the time and one of them was a definite "Alpha" male, so that immediately put him out of the running. Our quiet and respectful Beta cat at home would surely shrivel up and die if some Alpha male walked in and took over. So our attention was drawn to the only other male available. We heard his story and how docile he was among the other cats. Despite the fact that he was one stinky mess (he had a case of diarrhea that resulted in an "accident" of the smelly kind, enroute to this Alley Cat Open House), we went for a drive to think on it. Like I said before, the rest is history.

This picture, with Ray showing his "trusting side" while Andre looks on from a distance makes me think of the present. Ray is still here, trusting us to look out for his best interests even after his original black buddy is gone but still very present in our hearts and memories.
My story does not end here but my window of time has closed and I must go put in a day's work. I will continue on with our Cat Saga - "Black is the New Black  - Part II" tomorrow.

To be continued...

Friday, November 27, 2015

This, That and the Other

I'm sitting here wasting valuable time as I try to slow my thoughts down to settle on one topic and write.

Do I write about our cats who continue to amuse and entertain me? I woke up this morning to find both cats snoozing on my bed with me. This is our new normal. They love our new room and our king sized bed. There is ample room for everyone, with room left over. I have become quite adept at making a bed with two cats still sleeping on it.

Or should I write about the success rate of my on-line auction again? All but five (out of a total of twenty nine) items sold and all but three of those items have been picked up. Our net profit after all is said and done will be $124.75 (the original total is a work in progress as actual selling prices may slightly vary as I go along). Not too bad for a day of shuffling the contents of three closets. I would have earned $136.00 if I had gone to work for that day, so it was a day well spent on all counts.

But I could write about my zero tolerance for keeping-that-which-we-don't-need any more. I bought a used playpen this week and it came with extra accessories I will never use (a bassinet you can clip on and a change table to attach to the side of the playpen). I berated myself for even taking them home with me but I did. I tried hiding them in a closet but they didn't fit. They were huge and cumbersome and took up a great deal of space. So I put them on top of the piano. They were the first thing I saw when we went downstairs to play yesterday. So I immediately listed them for "FREE" on Kijiji. They were spoken for and picked up, two and a half hours later.

There is a lightness within me these days which is coming from opening the closed doors within this house of ours and purging. It gets easier as I go along.

I mentioned to my son that I made almost as much by staying home and selling our "excess" last weekend, than I would have made if I would have worked. That seemed pretty good to me and I wondered if I could consider staying home and selling our belongings in lieu of that extra job. He is so logical minded. He stated the obvious. "We'd soon run out of things to sell", and he popped my little bubble.

I still have a long way to go before my work here is done. Once I get through the items which I can sell or give away, there comes the paperwork. There is a lot of that. Mom sent me a bag of papers to shred, along with thirty six years of Dad's income tax history. I finally finished up her shredding (though I had to buy a new paper shredder to finish the job because mine finally quit for good) and I don't want to get rid of anything within those chocolate boxes (where Dad stored all his notes, papers and receipts) until I dig a little deeper to see what treasures may be hidden within. Probably not much but I cannot dispose of Dad's hard work that easily. There is the story of his life filed within those papers and I don't want to miss a page.

It is Friday. It was a week well spent. Now I just have to tie up the loose ends of my auction and brace myself for my Saturday work day. Maybe I can get a little of that painting (finally?!) done on Sunday. I don't think that job pays well though. ** This just in! Our new blinds have arrived and will be installed on Monday - there is my excuse to get those window casings painted. And while the paint brush is dirty, who knows where else it may travel? **

Gotta run and get ready for my day. Have a great weekend!! Do what you've gotta do, to make the most of it!

P.S. Since I moved into my new bedroom "suite" nineteen days ago,I have worn out five socks. Is the extra mileage I'm putting on in my day, from going up and down the stairs really putting that much wear and tear on my socks? And if it is, I must accidentally be getting myself into better shape at the same time. There are hidden blessings every which way I turn. Life feels good.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Next Smartest Thing

Just a few days ago, I wrote of my new lease on life since the TV moved out of the living room. There is a "part two" to that story that is still unfolding as I type but if I write it down, I may do my part to keep a good thing going.

I am trying to break the habit of using the TV in my room as a sleeping pill. I know exactly when, how and why this habit started. Turning on the TV and tuning into something that holds my attention turns off my own thoughts. The moment I stop thinking, I fall asleep. Thus, my habit began. They say sleeping pills are addictive. From my own personal experience, I wonder if any sleeping aid becomes something you begin to rely on and even look forward to is just as powerful as a drug.

Yes, I have come to look forward to those middle of the night soirées with just me and my TV. During the years where I fell asleep the moment I sat still, I would wake up with great excitement thinking "Now, I can actually watch a whole TV show!!". I would turn on the television, find something that interested me and poof! Sometime during or after the opening credits to said show, I was fast asleep.

I thought I should probably try to break my little habit but wondered, "Why?" It isn't hurting anyone and I love these mini TV marathons I try to run in the middle of the night.

It is only recently that I have admitted I have a problem. The problem began when I started turning on the TV just before my alarm went off. "I'll just stay in bed until 'Leave it to Bryan' is over" I would tell myself. Then the time changed and "Leave it to Bryan" became "Marriage Under Construction" and I got to know that cast of characters and wanted to know how their construction projects ended. The only thing is, I never ever really got to watch any of these shows because I fell fast asleep the moment I became interested. The only thing that could wake me from that deep slumber was Mike Holmes (I just don't like his 'tone' - it wakes me up).

It was becoming harder and harder to climb out of bed in the morning (partially due to the fact that Mike Holmes was delayed by another hour which would make me seriously late in waking up) and my ache to wake up to the TV instead of the alarm pushed me to the breaking point. I actually set the "wake" timer on the TV. It was the dumbest and the smartest move I've made in recent history.

I hated waking up to the TV. It is my sedative, not my wake up call. So I cancelled that timer but some little bell rang in my head. I started wondering what my nights and mornings would be like with the TV turned off. It turns out they are kind of wonderful.

I still wake up in the middle of the night but I can't even recall how long I am awake because the next thing I know, I'm fast asleep. I wake up before my alarm goes off and just lie still with my thoughts. I started to realize that maybe the reason I have been waking up on "empty" is because I have invited television to steal my ability to think. I turn it on and I tune my thoughts out, thus I wake up feeling dull and brainless.

I have had five televisionless nights and mornings now. The combination of moving the TV out of the living room, added to the blackout during my sleeping and waking hours has been a life changer. My thoughts are clearer, I can remember more than two things at once, I can multitask again, words are coming to the tip of my tongue quicker and I feel more energized.

I just now realized I have thought these thoughts before. And thanks to the magic of journalling my every thought, I can tell you the exact day I had this very epiphany. September 15, 2008. I wrote this: http://colleen-lifeasiknowit.blogspot.ca/2008/09/life-in-slow-lane.html

I have also found the exact date when my downward spiral to my TV addiction taking over my life and thoughts began. It was May 3, 2011: http://colleen-lifeasiknowit.blogspot.ca/2011/05/it-all-started-with-spare-tv.html

I wrote it here first. I know when it happened. I now know what I realized seven years ago. "I knew my life was better without 'TV' in it. I just didn't realize how much." (originally written September 15, 2008)

I think the tides have turned. The first step to to addiction is admitting you have a problem: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol television — that our lives had become unmanageable." ~ paraphrased from Alcohols Anonymous 12 Step Program

The knowledge was within me all along. I just had to turn off the TV to find it again.

"When in doubt, look within for the answer. You're more powerful than you think."
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Movies/2009/10/Wizard-of-Oz.aspx?p=6#86uScJ3OSIIqE2UT.99

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Oh, What a Day!

I'll start yesterday at the end and move backwards. It was just "that kind of day". In a good way, of course!


When I finally hit the point in my day where I was ready to call it a night, I looked over and this is the sight my weary eyes had to behold.

Yes, if you squint and look closely, the time is 12:11 a.m. 

And yes, that is an anomaly in my world. Just ask our cats. I am usually waking up for the first time at that time, not just laying my head down on the pillow. So, grateful for our king sized bed, I climbed into the last third of the bed which was left available to me and laid my weary little head down to recoup from the day.

I spent the evening dealing with the end of my on-line auction. I listed twenty nine items on the auction and twenty four of those items sold. Our net gain after cleaning out our closets and ridding ourselves of the excess was $123.75. That averaged just over $5.00 per item sold. Not too shabby for a day of housecleaning and listing items for sale. Then an evening dealing with the administrative end of arranging pick-up times with twenty three different people (one person bought two items). The biggest reward though, is the feeling I get when I walk into a room knowing the closets are not full to overflowing with items we don't use. That is the most satisfying part of all (although my portion of our "take" does cover the daycare spending investing I did this past weekend, so that is pretty good too). 

That was my evening. The day was an even better investment of my time and efforts.

We had a "trial run day" with a potential new daycare daughter. It was busy, labor intensive and I was on high alert all day as I watched over my charges. By the day's end, the day felt like a success. She fit in with our family, she napped very well (that's a very good quality to have!) and I think she was starting to figure me out as the day went along. So if all goes as I expect (and hope), she will start in January. This is not only good for my budget but it feels very right for our daycare dynamic. I think we need to keep the girl to boy ratio evened out and I was desperately seeking a new friend for my little not-quite-three-year-old girl. Another "win" for the day.

And one other thing I snuck into the day, was making home made chicken soup for supper. The aroma of home made chicken soup made me feel like a superhero. I provided healthy nourishment (and a favorite meal) for my son and the bonus prize is that today's lunch is also taken care of. 

Then, after all was said and done (my timeline is really getting messed up now), there was a bunch of new fallen snow to contend with. Thankfully the winning combination of the first snowfall of the season + a good, healthy supper + completed homework + a little dose of mother guilt (don't you want to help me after I helped you earn $35.50 for the stuff you cleaned out of your closets? = a willing and able snow shovelling assistant. By 10:00 p.m., the snow was cleared and my day was almost done.

A little more auction administration awaited me when I got back inside, then I tagged, labelled and sorted through our pile of excess so it is ready to walk out the door as our buyers arrive.


This is the view as I opened the door on a brand new day. Winter has arrived. I knew it had to happen one day and a month before Christmas Eve is as good a day as any.

Now that my house decluttering project is at a manageable level maybe I can spend a little of my excess energy on "Christmas". Maybe...

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Smartest Move I've Made

It is hard to believe that my downward spiral into my time of great laziness and despair could be correlated to the time period when we moved a TV into the living room but I'm beginning to wonder.

As my memory flashes back in time, I remember my pre-television-in-the-living-room days and during the most challenging of times, my coping mechanisms turned to activity. Whether it was painting the fence or cleaning or becoming wrapped up in Zumba and fitness, I moved when life got me down instead of sitting still.

Oh, how obvious it seems to me now. There were several times when I thought I should move the TV out of the living room but I enjoyed it so very much. I didn't have a plan or an excuse or any reason whatsoever to move the TV, so there it stayed.

I could tell how a day off was going to go simply by leaving the TV off or turning it on. Tuning into TV helped me tune out of my life. It became my sedative, my best friend, my excuse to sit down and eat a box of chips and my old stand by. It stole my energy, my drive, my dream state and my enthusiasm. It gave very little in return.

Instead of realizing this while I was in the middle of this state, I became more addicted. I tuned into Netflix, TV on Demand and I PVR'd myself into oblivion. It felt like a drug. The more I watched, the more I wanted to watch, even when I wasn't really in the mood to watch. I turned on the TV because it was a habit and I may have lost some of the best years of my life.

I didn't have to work this past weekend. I didn't really see this time off coming but I did get one day's notice to the possibility and I was told I would get a call the next day to confirm our lack of work plans. That was reason enough not to make any other plans because my work schedule could change in a moment. I knew the "correct answer" was to offer to work on Sunday but I couldn't say the words out loud. I thought I could offer when she called back. I didn't receive a call. So I ended up with an almost accidental weekend without enough warning to fill my days with other things.

But fill my days is exactly what I did.

I felt like I was on the way to wasting my Saturday when I got immersed in checking into Kijiji ads and wound up buying a toy workbench and tools for the kids. Then I wound up at Value Village (dropping off a donation -  YAY me!!) and came home with a few more daycare toys. I came home and scrubbed used toys and wondered what in the world I was doing. I was moving out the excess but moving just as much back in!

I ended up going over to a friend's for coffee and my son offered to set up our new/old computer if I moved whatever had to be moved, to set it up in its permanent location. My job took all of a minute to accomplish and when I came home a renewed "vision" of our daycare TV/computer/quiet room was so much clearer.

I woke up with this vision still clear in my mind but exhaustion wanted to settle in. "I'll just wash my sheets" is how my morning started. I finished shuffling the contents of three closets around and placed thirty five ads to sell &/or give away various items which have been hiding within those very closets. I'm making money by cleaning!

My little in-house reshuffling event has cost absolutely nothing and has energized me in a way I haven't been energized in a very long time. I still long for the day where I have a mini television marathon but it isn't going to be today.

Moving the TV out of the living room was the smartest move I've made in a very long time. It's good for me, it's good for my daycare family and it is very good for our house and those who reside within. I think the cats miss me hanging out in the living room and the "cat chats" my son and I used to have with them as the centre of attention. But they have found their ways to be noticed...

Jet, in the new work bench I bought

Jet investigating the donation pile

Ray, rather disturbed that I was disturbing his rest in "his" new room

Ray, making the best of the tired old sleeping bag which is making its way out of our home.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Making Room For More

One step ahead, three steps back. This seems to be the theme to the progress I am making with the whole decluttering, reshuffling and down-sizing quest I have undertaken.

For every room which has been cleaned up and sorted through, a pile of discards have been left in its wake. Some of these items have been hidden in a closet for months on end, others have found their way to the donation heap, a little may have found its way to the garbage and our luckiest possessions have been rehomed.

I clean up one area and make a mess in another. I clean out the excess and bring home more!

My head is in "winter survival mode" and organizing our house to best suit  my daycare's needs has become high priority. What am I going to do with these young bundles of energy all winter long?

Thus, our living room has been turned into a play centre. Our former playroom has changed locations and has taken on the appearance of a "quiet room". It houses the TV, children's books, an old computer (which I just acquired, so we can play the kid's computer games I have amassed) and it is also the nap area for my older kids.

Our playroom downstairs is having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. It doesn't know what it wants to be. For the most part, it is a toy room with a side order of a huge television which simply does not fit in that room.

I wrote this and walked away for two hours to list a few more items for sale.

While I was rifling through our collection of piano music books, I found the name of a friend-I-had-not-yet-met on my Grade III, Royal Conservatory book of music.

I would have taken this level of music in approximately 1971-72. I met my friend in 1975. We are the best of friends today. Mom must have bought it in the "used" section of a music store. What kind of neat coincidence is that?!

As I continued to move and shuffle, I mused about the excess room we have within our house. We could easily take in a boarder. My thoughts then shifted to another good friend of mine who is in a state of major upheaval in her life. This isn't the location she was looking for, but the peace within these walls?!! That is definitely on her wish list.

If you make room for more, more happens and more comes into your life. I am actually scaring myself a little bit as I cull through the excess. Am I ready for what happens next??

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Photo Album of Our Cat Tales

Mom asked me if we are bored with our cats, since there has not been a cat post lately. Nothing could be further than the truth! And here is the proof (and there is more where that came from, plus a cat tale for a day when I am not in such a rush).

Bird Watching - Ray and Jet

Sooo tired after playing with the kids! (Jet, of course)

Curious George Jet

Jet is fascinated with this new view

Guess who's sleeping in the bathroom? 
Yes, it is Jet of course, This must have been where he camped out for part of the night. I got up and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an extra black shadow with me in the bathroom.

Jet's fascination with the bathroom (he has been known to hide behind the closed shower curtain) has resulted in being locked in a few times. Does he care? In this room full of wonder?!! You be the judge:

Locked in the bathroom - Take 1

Locked in the bathroom - Take 1, Part 2

Locked in the bathroom -Take 2

Jet's fascination with the bathroom never ceases to amaze him. A renewable water source is always been something that has intrigued every cat I've ever owned who has owned me.

Jet enjoying the best of everything - snuggled up in the toy cupboard, in amongst a kid-filled day!

Ray, the copy cat (after daycare hours)

And speaking of sleeping ... they love my new bed!!

"Ahhh! I love our new bed," says Jet

This is what I woke up to this morning. Jet front and centre; Ray stealing Jet's original spot

The Shoelace Heist

Step One - "Jet finds the hiding place!"

Step Two - "The prey is caught!"

Step Three - "Caught in the act! Jet makes his way off with his prize"

Jet discovers he is tall enough to reach the printer paper as it shoots out from the printer. He now swipes at this rogue paper and "files" it on the floor for me.

I opened the oven drawer one morning and Jet hopped in before I had a chance to react.
"This" (a cat toy mouse) is what he knew was hiding underneath the stove.

And he makes his getaway and saved the day. Another mouse has been captured, only to lose another day.

And has Ray noticed that Jet is getting just a little more than his share of the photo album? I went to snap a picture of Jet (again) after posting this and this is what happened:

Ray, the photo-bomber (does  he look angry to you or is this just a bad angle?)

Jet is hogging the attention. Again.

Jet, why is there an orange string in your mouth?
"What are you talking about?! I didn't do anything!!"

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Things That Really Don't Matter

Lately, my early morning thoughts have been pretty lame. I used to jump out of bed with the seed of a thought in my head and by the time I worked my way through my morning routines, this little thought had time to marinade. I had lots of time to sit still and play with my words until they sounded a little more cohesive than a Facebook status update.

These days, sleep wins over all else. I have discovered the latest possible moment I can lay in bed ruminating about the day ahead of me. Then I have to jump into action and I'm lucky if I've had time to pour my second cup of coffee before my daycare day begins.

Last night and early this morning, the only thoughts I seemed to have were, "Whew! I'm too hot." "Brrr ... I'm too cold" and "Ahhh, I'm juuuuust right!"

If I didn't know better, I would think these little heat surges which have become my new norm were part of a fever or "overdoing". But I overdo very little these days. The muscle which gets the biggest workout in this body of mine, is my brain. And I have been know to break a sweat, just by thinking. So like I said, if I hadn't heard the phrase "hot flashes", I would think this was just me. And that I must be thinking too hard.

The interesting part about this very boring post is that I wake up before the surge. I wake up and lie there for a moment. I change my sleeping position and turn on the TV if my brain kicks into full gear. Then it hits. Whoosh! It is like there must be an early warning system as this power surge engages because I never wake up hot. That comes later.[That is, unless it is related to my brain engaging. See! I told you I broke a sweat when I think too hard!]

Add to this already tedious and quite boring post, the fact that I somehow set the automatic thermostat to be particularly chilly on Wednesday nights plus the fact that winter has just arrived in our parts and I have the "freezing factor" all figured out. Maybe I should crack open that little manual and figure out how to change that. One day. Probably some other day.

I finally enjoyed an almost commitment free night last night, so by 7:30 I was home, the house alarm was set, I was in my pajamas and settled into my lovely new "suite" which others may call a bedroom before 8:00. It was a glorious feeling. Except I couldn't stay awake long enough to enjoy it.

By 8:30, I was ready to call it a day. Funny how those days where you do very little are the most tiring. By doing very little, my body wasn't worn out enough to sleep through the heat and chill factors throughout the night.

My goal each and every day is to be settled in for the night and in my pj's as early as possible. My definition of a good day, is being in my pajamas by 6:00. Is it really any wonder why I toss and turn at night?

And does any of this really matter?!! These are the thoughts I woke up with this morning. I may as well have stayed in bed. Or else not bothered writing at all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Out With the Old

After our massive house reshuffling event of 2015 a few weekends ago, I ended up with a pile of excess "stuff" we have amassed. I piled it up at the bottom of the stairs instead of finding new hiding places for it. I was pretty sure I could find homes for most of it and I was right.

I had a light daycare day on Monday, so I took individual pictures of this "stuff" so I could advertise it to give away on Kijiji as soon as I could find a free day. Yesterday was not entirely "free" but I thought I could squeeze my free-for-all into a relatively calm daycare day. And I did.

I placed twelve ads in between 8:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and by 5:30, nine out of twelve ads were answered, spoken for and picked up. I have people interested in two of the three items left over and what used to be a pile that was four feet high by two feet across by another five feet in width is all but a memory. Three boxes sit by the front door in anticipation of being picked up this morning and if the other two items don't go, they will be donated (along with the clothes that I must cull through and get rid of - another weekend's project).

I have at least four closets that need a good culling and the job of shedding that which we no longer use is getting a little easier with time.

I don't know what it is about a heart that constricts as it looks at "too much" and doesn't know where to begin. Is it because I'm overwhelmed? Is it fear of letting go? Is it the longing to hold onto what once was? Or the fear of regret, after giving away something I wish we still had?

It feels good to re-home that which we no longer use or want. I could donate this to a cause who would come and pick it up then resell it, with proceeds going towards their overhead and a charity. But there is something that feels very good and very right about cutting out the middleman. I like giving freely and getting the sense that anyone who makes their way to our doorstep to pick it up will most likely utilize that which has been gathering dust around here.

I gaze at the empty spot where everything has been piling up and smile. My load feels a little lighter when I'm not carrying excess baggage. Every time I do this, I almost look forward to the next cathartic purging of our closets and drawers. Almost.

I long for just a little more time within my weeks. Seven days is just not enough. Not if I want to enjoy that new bedroom I moved into a few weeks ago. Mom asked me how I am enjoying it. "I love it!" I told her. "I just wish I could spend more time in it!" Mom wasn't expecting that answer. She had guessed I would be full of regret over my decision. How could I be? I moved everything except my closet into my new "suite". It holds no excess baggage. It is freeing to walk into a room (which resembles a hotel suite, only better because I don't have to move out of it in a day or two) which is not crying out, "De-clutter me!" in this house full of surplus.

It's coming. Out with the old is making room for the new. Or used. A friend just donated her old computer to our daycare last night, in the hope I will be able use the pile of outdated kid's computer games that I have not been able to part with. Yet ...
Can these be saved or are they the next things to go? 
Stay tuned and I'm sure you'll find out, whether you care or not!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Wide Open Door of Friendship

A few weeks ago I made a public declaration that I wished for more "depth" within the conversations in my world. I felt I was living in a superficial world and I was depleted by having to try so hard to sustain a conversation. Mere days after that blog post, the depth I was looking for was everywhere.

I have been inundated with attention due to my birthday this past week which has spurred on a great deal of contact with those who touch my world. It has been a little bit incredible because the depth of the conversations and visits I have had has been a gift.

I have a few friends that I see once or twice a  year. We always part ways promising to get together more often but life happens and the next thing we know, we are celebrating one or the other or both of our birthdays with the hope of "doing this more often" during the (next) following year.

Each time we get together for that annual birthday supper, I quietly wonder "Are they just doing this to be polite?" "Have we drifted apart and out of each other's lives to hold a conversation?" Even friends I see more often than that get busy and I always fear the day when we may realize we don't connect on the same level that we once did.

Then it happens. We get together and share nourishment and "coffee" (or a coffee substitute) and the words flow effortlessly. The next thing I know, three or four hours have passed and it has felt like the blink of an eye.

These conversations are real and deep and two-sided. Each and every time I sat down with a friend, I heard myself monologuing and I knew it had to stop. Then before I knew it, it was my friend's turn to take the role of being front and centre within our conversation. It worked both ways. I could feel the act of being listened to and I know I was captivated as I listened to the other end of this conversation.

Our lives are so multifaceted and diverse that I found a parallel existence within each and every conversation I had. One of my friends has a son a year younger than me and each of them were going through a similar "crisis" or time of great challenge at the same time this past spring. And the very day we spoke, they had an almost identical out-of-school experience. My friend looked me in the eye and said, "How do you handle this?" "What are you going to do?" and I answered honestly and in real time. Because that very conversation awaited me the moment I got home. Even though our sons are practically the same age, this is her oldest son. This is my third and youngest son. I spoke from a place of making many errors along the way of parenting. The timing of our annual supper was eerily impeccable. There was no one else I would have rather been talking to that evening and the feeling felt reciprocated.

The stories and relate-able tales I have to tell are long and varied and specific to the friend who sat before me. Each one of us opened up and told our story honestly and without filter. Our conversations were filled with a sense of trusting the other guy with your whole self. There were no holds barred. We were real with each other and the conversations took off and became meaningful, deep and they made my knees shake.

I am absolutely blessed with friendships which transcend "Facebook" and virtual and superficiality. I may not see them often or talk like a wide open book each time our paths cross but I think we both know the door is always open.

I wished for it and it came. "If you open the door to friendship, they will walk through and enter." The key word is "open". No holds barred. Trust, honesty, vulnerability and openness are good ingredients to add to a conversation you want to go below the surface.

My friends, you are such a big part of me. Even in your absence, knowing our next conversation will pick up where we last left off is all I need. I hope you feel the same way.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Terrorized

I have lived in fear. It is not a healthy way to live a life.

I was afraid within my marriage. Not all of the time. Just some of the time. It was cyclical and I could feel the waves before the storm rushed in. It took a decade but I finally broke out of that life. I moved five hours away and built a quiet little life with my children.

Our life wasn't perfect but it was very good. I was far from a perfect parent but I was trying my best. Of all the years of my life, "those" are the ones I would like to try to live over. I wonder if there is anything I could have done differently to change the way things unfolded. Because a decade after our move, I felt like I was living with my husband again. The constricted heart, the tension, the waves and the seeds of fear were becoming part of our lives again.

Once again, I made hard choices to "take back my life" and make our house a home again. The calmness, the feeling of safety and security seeped back into these four walls. I felt in control again.

There have been waves of fear since that time. I stopped delivering newspapers after a few incidents that reminded me how vulnerable I was when I was walking up and down the streets while most of the city slept. I loved the exercise, the fresh air, the peace and breathed in the beauty of nature while the world slept. But I was afraid to walk alone.

Our house has been robbed twice, our shed was vandalized and an "intruder" walked in through an unlocked door and wandered through our house before she took a nap on my bed. I learned that our walls of safety and the locks on our doors only bring a sense of peace. They are not foolproof.

I have been angry when fear dictated how we live and threatened our sense of security. "No one has the right to take away another human being's sense of feeling safe. No one!"

I have walked along in my quiet little life within my safe and predictable world and I have lived happily ever after in my place where "fairy tale endings" mean feeling safe and the belief that I am in control of my own sense of security.

I live a peaceful existence within a home, a community, a city and a country where "peace" rules. I have raised my children with the belief that I cannot change the world but I can make my own little impact by modelling a life I hope my children will envelop, live out and perpetuate. I believe little things make a big impact.

Then a read about the acts of terror which are unfolding as I live and breathe within this serene little existence I have come to believe I "deserve". And the ground I walk on begins to shake.

How do you walk away from fear when fear is all around you? How do you fight an enemy who does not have a face? How to you build a fortress of safety when all walls can be penetrated? How do you live in a world that is being infiltrated with fear?

I can't think too hard about this because it makes my head and heart hurt. I need to keep believing if I raise "good citizens" and model the life I believe the next generation should emulate that I will make a small impact on those innocent little beings who have found their way into my care.

I often claim to be "Switzerland" when a dispute arises. I like to stay neutral and safe within the confines of a "country" that is a safe place to land.

Is there a "Switzerland" any place within this new world? I keep doing what I am doing, believing what I have always believed and I plan to hold onto the little peace of serenity I have found within this great big scary world. Because some place, in a land far away another mother has raised her family the only way she knew how and followed the lead of those within her community. An entire generation of children have been raised believing what they have been taught to believe is right.

As Glennon Doyle would say, "Just do the next right thing." It is all we can ever really do. I will not live in fear and I will continue to do the next right thing. Day by day, step by step. And I will continue to be grateful for this quiet little existence of mine, where I wake up to life as I know and expect it to be. Every morning we wake up to that, is a gift.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

No Words, No Time, No Energy

The combination of a busy weekend (moving the contents of our house around), added to a broken up work week (which I thought was the answer to everything, but it wasn't) and a Wednesday off which was so mentally stimulating (I heard from so many people, my head is still spinning) has resulted in ZERO blog posts.

I was so full of energy and stories and inspiration on Tuesday, that I was writing notes to myself so I would remember what I wanted to write another day.

I visited with so many people on Wednesday (it was my birthday and I'm embarrassed over how many people remembered and acknowledged the day) that I think I used up my word quota for the month of November, in one day.

I came back to work after one day off, and it was like we were all confused by the lack of a weekend before we had another Monday. It was a very long two days. I am very grateful for a weekend to reset and reboot myself so I can try again next week.

I have been craving adult conversation in a big way lately. I got what I wished for. It was marvelous! But there was something about going from a day of adult company to a day of the company of one to four year olds that was hard. There wasn't a quiet day to absorb and reflect on the wonder of so many conversations before I was lost in my daycare world.

I must run off to work momentarily. I have words in me somewhere. There are a few notes and an unfinished blog post reminding me of this fact. I just hope to find enough quiet within these two non-daycare-days to find myself, my words, some quiet and some time to reflect.

I think words come from a quiet place inside of me. When my world gets too noisy, I lose my ability to write. I believe I am a hermit by nature. My friend calls me an introvert. We get our energy from solitude. Maybe that sounds better. I need just a little bit of quiet within my days so I can hear what I'm thinking.

What I am feeling is good. I feel happy. I feel content. I feel loved. I feel appreciated. But most of all, I feel wordless. So I feel just a little bit empty too. I need to fill myself up with quiet so the words will fall to the page again. I miss writing and I am afraid I could get out of the habit of writing if I ever stopped. So even when I have nothing to say, I will probably still say it.