If Only I Could Twist Again!

My cat, Percy, loves to sleep. No, not just sleep–pretzel sleep. He is his most relaxed and deeply asleep when his front half is twisted to the left and his back half is flat-out prone or even twisted fully to the right. He is the picture of calm and relaxation. I envy him!

I used to love doing The Twist when I was younger, able to swing my hips right or left in time to the music. People still do it at wedding receptions and the like. Oh, yes, those were the ‘good old days’.

More recently, I have done Praise Moves (the Christian alternative to YOGA). One of my favorite positions is the one where you lay on the floor and twist your bent legs to the right and then the left and hold the position for a few seconds. After I left that class, I joined the YMCA’s warm water exercise class, taught by the same teacher as Praise Moves. And again, we did a similar twisted position in the warm water. That was very nice.

However, I must be the only person who can severely hurt her back — by doing nothing! That is why I have not posted anything for several weeks now; I could not even sit at my computer. It all started during MLK weekend. After about 4 weeks of crippling pain that even Prednisone did not alleviate, I had an MRI which disclosed that I have a cyst on my lower spine. I could not get an appointment with the recommended neurosurgeon until March 9. The major pain has finally subsided but has left my lower back weak and easily strained by walking or bending over too much. Have you ever counted the number of times you have to bend over in a day to pick something up? Or pet the cat? I am even contemplating raising  Percy’s litter box up about a foot and a half to make it easier for me to sift it! I guarantee you, he will not be pleased.

We all have times when our normally active lives are disrupted by some kind of health issue and we find ourselves spending a lot of time just sitting or laying around, longing to get our lives back. You know, those days when we complain  about not having time to ourselves? Always on the go, running kids to their activities, shopping, laundry, working, cooking, even some activites for ourselves? I have loved volunteering in the church’s cafe twice a week and at the food bank once a month. I also belong to a Christian Writers’ group and an adult coloring group at the local library. I have had to miss all of those things for a over a month now and who knows how much longer this will go on? But the worst part was not being able to help my daughter on some days with the grandkids. That really made me feel guilty. I know it is unreasonable to feel that way, but I like to be useful.

In my book Homeseekers, a faithful old cat warned the other homeless cats he was leading. He said, “There is no other breath but the one you are in.” He knew that each breath we take is a gift, whether we are being ‘useful’ or just laying around. Other breaths or even tomorrows are not promised to us. And I have to realize that there is some usefulness to lying around…I have the time to reflect, to read, to color pictures and do other non-taxing crafts, etc. Now that I can sit at the computer again, I  can write.

Isaiah 40:29-31 says:  “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

So I keep that verse in my heart, knowing that if tomorrow is not to come, I will be cured in Heaven. If my days continue on and the neurosurgeon uses his God-given talents, I will be back to my old self, eventually. Back to my life. Maybe even ‘pretzel sleeping’ beside my cat who is oblivious of everything but the breath he is in.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Surprises

I have spoken about my cat Percy in previous posts. Before Percy, I had Bailey (the hero of Homeseekers: Flight to the Mountain) and Lucy, an orange and white tabby. When I no longer had those two cats in my life, I vowed that I would not get another one; that it was too painful to lose them. About 2 years after Lucy died, my granddaughter Carly, then 13, started talking about some kittens that a neighbor was fostering. I told her, “No, I don’t want another one.” Then the little sneak took pictures and forced me to look at them… two little white and black fluff balls. I had to admit how cute they were but weakly reinforced my intention not to have another.

Then one day she delivered the fatal blow: “Mima,” she said. (My 7 grandchildren all call me that.) “You wrote a book about cats. If you don’t have one, you’re a fraud!” Yes, she really said that to me. A fraud! That tactic really took me by surprise and I had to admit to myself that it was probably true on some level. So I said, “OK. I’ll go look at them, but I’m not promising anything,” but I secretly went right out shopping for supplies.

So on the day, I met the two kittens and let one of them pick me out. He put his tiny paws on my leg and looked up into my eyes and stared at me with his then blue ones and I knew it would be him. I had wanted a sweet, cuddly fur ball, but he turned out to be aloof and feisty. He sits and stares at me, as I have said, but he hates to he held or constricted in any way. He will not even sit beside me on the sofa and he chooses the times when I’m allowed to pet him.

So it surprises me when he shows affection, in his own way. His form of affection is rubbing against my legs, laying on the floor near my feet, or sleeping on the foot of the bed. Once in a great while, he’ll even crawl under the covers near me, but not touching. It is his form of affection. Seemingly small and insignificant, but big for him. Always a nice surprise when that happens, but it encourages me. And I think it means more because it is not a daily occurrence.

Once in a great while we get surprises in life that encourage us, that assure us that we have done something right or that we haven’t been invisible as we go through life. A very surprising thing happened to me the other day that left me glowing. And it wasn’t something big, like acknowledgement of some really creative or difficult accomplishment. In fact, it was very, very small.

I was having lunch at Wendy’s with my daughter Janine and granddaughter Carly, of the infamous “you’re a fraud” statement. At the next table sat a group of people that Carly and Janine recognized. It turned out that one of the women, named Roberta,  had visited my former church right after the 9/11/01 attacks. Some of the ladies of the chcurch had made red, white and blue ribbon pins and I, being a greeter that day was handing them out to the members as they came in. This family had been searching for a church for quite a while and happened to come to ours that Sunday.

She told me that she would never forget what I did that day. Truthfully, I did not remember her or what I might have done. I’m quite embarrassed about that, but she said that I approached her and warmly greeted her and her family. I told her a little about the church and showed them to a seat and introduced her to others sitting nearby. And I gave her a pin. A patriotic little ribbon pin that she still has! She said she would never forget how welcome I had made them feel. How at home. It is now January 2016. All those years have passed and she still remembered it. . .

You never know what affect even small kindnesses can have on people or the ways in which our lives touch the lives of others. A simple smile, a welcoming word, a small token. We go through life thinking that only the big things have significance, that those are the things people will remember about us. But it is really the small things and the ways they can make us and others feel that really matter day to day. That day in church we were all mourning the thousands of sacrifices and deaths of that 9/11 day of infamy, but this woman also remembered a welcoming smile and a little ribbon pin. It surprised and encouraged me.

As I sit here in my little office and look over at the daybed nearby where Percy is laying on the corner, watching me, I pray that I will never overlook an opportunity to do a small kindness or say a word of hospitality, warmth or sympathy to those I come in contact with. Even if I never again hear words of affirmation like I got that day, I’ll know that I’ve touched lives along the way.

 

 

 

PREYING

I will apologize for something before I go any further: In my blog I will be referencing, from time to time, elements from the book I wrote, Homeseekers: Flight to the Mountain.  This is  not a shameless attempt at self-promotion but rather an explanation of how I came to some of my conclusions about the relationship animals, and really all of nature, have with their Creator. The more involved I  got in writing this story as it developed, the more research I did in the Bible and on the internet and my findings are subtly interwoven throughout the pages of Homeseekers.

Early on, I ran across a very interesting bit of information on cat behavior that led me to extend into the spiritual. You may think it to be a great stretch of the imagination, but is it really? In my last blog post, I wrote about how all of nature knows about God and has a relationship with him of some sort and I cited some Biblical references to back that up. And remember my reference from Henry Beston, the American Naturalist, in the posting before that, who said that animals were blessed with an extension of the senses that we have lost or never had? Just keep those in mind as you read on.

So what was that piece of information? I am sure everyone has seen how a cat hunts…the concentration, the tensing of the muscles, the attack and kill of the prey. It has to be quite an adrenaline rush for the cat. (And, by the way, there is really no difference in that regard between your sweet little house cat and the biggest tiger or lion out in the wild.) Unless the cat is starving, it does not dig in right away. Instead it will circle the body calmly and quietly for a few moments or sit and stare at it or at the surroundings. The theory is that this pause helps the cat to calm down after the excitement of the hunt and thus aids in digestion.

So here is my leap, and you may laugh if you want. In Homeseekers, the lost cats are taught to do “The Walking” by an older, wiser cat, in order to acknowledge that the meal had been provided for them by their Creator. They give thanks in their own way.

In my own way, I give thanks throughout my days as well, for things like good parking places, or finding an unexpected sale, or travel safety, things like that. Or I have short ‘chats’ with God as I’m driving. Like little cat prayers as I enjoy the blessings He sends my way but don’t go any deeper than that brief moment.

So my New Year’s Resolution is to pray more. Not just ‘one liners’ or ‘cat chats’ as I go about the busyness of life but to set aside a time each day when I can concentrate, ignoring and protecting myself from distractions, and ‘extend my senses’ toward God, who has given me so much. John 15:7 records a promise made to us by Jesus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” I think we humans tend to jump ahead to the “ask what you desire” part and skip the first, more important part of “abide in me” and what that entails. It means reading the Bible for starters and praying that God’s wisdom will affect and guide your life. There is much that I have asked of God and haven’t gotten…yet. But I have not done the first part, the abiding part, so God’s wisdom has not been guiding me in my requests. A real relationship with God is so much more than just asking for things or saying a brief thank you for undeserved blessings.

There was a time in history when the lives of humans were just as simple and basic as those of the animals: food, shelter, safety. Life for us has become hectic, high tech and complicated, so much more difficult to concentrate on just the basics. Taking time to do nothing but meditate is difficult. I hope I can do it.

I’ll pray about it. I will ‘prey’ on God’s wisdom and guidance and presence in my daily life.

 

Cat Eyes

IMG_0635 (2)
My cat,  Sweet Sir Percy, has beautiful dark yellow eyes with large black pupils. He is a mostly white cat so his eyes really stand out against the white of his face. Sometimes during the day or evening I will look up from what I’m doing and find him just sitting and staring directly at me. I have learned through our life together that his intense staring at me could mean that he wants me to put more food in his bowl. If not that, I think maybe he wants a treat but often he will just glance at the treat I’ve thrown to him and go back to staring at me. His intense gaze is penetrating and concentrated, unblinking. For some people, that could be unnerving. I, however, stare back and talk to  him softly, reassuring him that I love him, that he is safe with me. After a few seconds of that he begins the slow blink. In cat-speak that means he is relaxing and content. Before long, he will lie down and go to sleep.

But I am left wondering what he is thinking behind those big eyes. If you read the “About the Author” portion of my blog site, you will have learned that I have always been fascinated by animals. In 1975, I gave my heart to Jesus and began many years of Bible study. Passages in the Bible that mentioned animals or creatures always captured my imagination. Right off the bat in Genesis and the Creation we learn that God created animals before Man and God  “saw that it was good”. Yes, of course, God saved Man, the creation in His own image, for last but He had a reason for creating the animals and he intended that Man should “rule over all the creatures that move along the ground”. He intended that we have a relationship with them. When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, the animals were banished with them. After the great flood, Noah, his family and all the animals emerged from the ark and God created a rainbow as a sign of the covenant he now made with Man “and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come. God repeated His covenant in that passage, just that way, four times. I think He meant it. I think the animals knew it. Why do I think that?

Animals, or creatures, are mentioned throughout the Bible in different ways until finally, in Revelation 5:13, the writer says: “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

I think animals know. I think they look at us, stare at us, knowing that their fate rests with us. So when Percy stares at me with his big,  golden eyes, I want to give him reassurance that I will care for him and be merciful to him in his life with me. His slow blink is his way of telling me he trusts me.

Why the name “Homeseekers”?

Henry Beston, an American writer and naturalist, once wrote: “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

I was inspired to write Homeseekers: Flight to the  Mountain by a starving cat in need of a home, safety, and food.  In the United states it is estimated that there are 70 million homeless cats. A certain  percentage of that number are called feral and  have adjusted to life in the wild, but so many more had homes at one time and lost them for one reason or another and are searching for that same security again. There is no place like home.

 

In today’s world, there are also thousands, maybe millions, of people who have lost their homes and are seeking new lives, new havens. There are shelters for lost and abused animals and shelters for lost and abused humans. We humans think we are different, but we are really much the same:  Homeseekers “in the splendour and travail of  the earth.”

Welcome to my Blog

Be gentle with me.  I am a writer, not a blogger.  However, I’ve been told that to succeed in this new era of social media I must “up my game” and explore these new methods of communication. So I did what any 67-year-old grandma would do.  I called my son!  He set me up with this blog.  And now, he expects me to drive it.  I took copious notes in my spiral-bound notebook (how quaint).  We will see how this journey into blogging goes. I hope you find humor, insights and a few nuggets of wisdom within these pages, I mean, posts? We will see if this old cat can learn new tricks.