Posts Tagged ‘life lessons’

“And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”

Just for the record: while the melody is quite catchy, I do not agree with the sentiments expressed in the 1970 Stephen Stills hit.   EXCEPT when it comes to kitty love.

Since early June, I’ve traveled back East four times to help my sister and brother-in-law, Robin and Ze’ev, deal with our aging and ailing parents.  Of course I know that Roger is taking care of the kitties and all our nonhumans, but I do miss my furry lumps terribly when I’m gone.  However, I have found a new love:  my furry nephew, Avi.

Avi, Prince of Upland Road

Avi came into Robin and Ze’ev’s lives a little over a year ago as an abandoned young cat who adopted them one summer evening after a night of Israeli folk dancing.  As they approached their car, they spotted this youngster near their vehicle.  Robin called for him, and he came right up to them!  They had no choice but to oblige and take him home.  After much due diligence efforting to determine whether he had “on payroll” other human caretakers and ensuring optimum health, Avi officially adopted his new family.

Avi with Auntie Helen

Avi’s sweet temperament belies the fact that he’s quite impish and continually curious.  When he was not occasionally cuddling with his Auntie Helen on the couch, he was looking to play hide-and-go seek, chase balls or rile up his much older and irascible adopted feline sister, Tulip.  I’ve even introduced him to the joy of kitty curls—a benefit for both human and cat!—much to the chagrin of Papa Ze’ev:  with both arms evenly spaced, hold the underside of said kitty length-wise and curl up and down.  You know you’re doing well when you begin to feel the burn of your biceps and the kitty’s tail is up and a-waggin.  Good natured Avi did very well with the new addition to his exercise routine, with only an occasional mew of annoyance.

My unexpected love for my furry nephew has helped me to better cope with my trips back East.  It has also helped me realize that love has no bounds: it is not a finite resource or narrowly defined as romantic love.   Rather, it is a magic elixir, the gift of sharing yourself with others, with being in tune with all of God’s sentient creatures.  And it grows exponentially the more it is expressed and shared in this vexing yet magical experience called life.

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Life has this way of sneaking by, and before I realize it, the moments have passed before I have had the chance to reflect on them.  It’s been a while since I’ve shared on this blog…

My attention has been elsewhere.  Roger and I are striving to become better human beings and partners to each other.  Continuing lessons include staying focused and keeping our commitments to ourselves and to one another… Being in the now does provide momentary relief from the lessons life constantly provides.

It’s been nearly five months since Chewie’s “Great Escape and 11-day Outdoor Adventure.”  It’s as if he never left, and he seems quite content to live the indoor lifestyle.  But we will not be tricked into complacency!

And, Roger has kept his word to Chewie:  We have not one but three tricked out warm water tanks!  In addition to five felines, we are now the caretakers of a variety of warm water fish, two crawfish and two albino African clawed frogs (Pinky and Peetie) .  Yes, we have quite the menagerie of fins, flippers and furbies.  And, yes, I do have an admiration for alliteration…  The tanks are Roger’s primary new hobby.   And all the cats do enjoy their new live “television” experience!

And life has gone on for our kitties.  Throughout all the changes and the passing of time, they remain as they are—beacons of hope, reminders of the present.  Still fighting and cuddling.  Still puking and peeing.  And still remaining lumps of irrepressible love.

My promise is to resume posting regularly to this blog.  This artistic outlet is one of many varied, creative lifelines anchoring me to this world of color, texture, taste…to this sensual life, brimming with joy, love, grief and sorrow.  But a full life, nonetheless.  And I’m not yet done…there are still a few items left on my bucket list.  But, first, I must find and pet a kitty.

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As cat owners, we expect to pay for pet maintenance such as food, vet visits, toys, perhaps an occasional grooming… but when do these lumps of love become too costly?  Is that even a fair calculation?  They are so loveable, yet at times they wreck such wonton destruction!

I have found their crimes fall into main categories:  inorganic and organic transgressions. Tigger is a chewer of inorganic materials. When he gets nervous (which is often) or wants attention, he chews…my computer cords, the plastic slinky on my desk.  And the most expensive offense: I am now on my 4th hands-free ear piece for my landline phone!  And all the cats like to sharpen their claws on the couches.  And the continual peeing by Junior and Blackie have cost Roger and me plenty in laundering time and purchases of drop cloths and carpet cleaner.


"Crime Scene" Photo

And these cats are thieves of all types of organic matter!  On a number of occasions, we have found half eaten food strewn about the floor, evidence their petty crimes.  Just last week, one of them wrangled an organic zucchini out of my shopping sack and chewed through more than half of it, leaving a broken and tattered carcass in its wake.  I  was tempted to draw a chalk line around it…I suspect it was Puffy, who has been caught chewing through plastic bags to get to onions and lemons…who knew he had a sweet tooth, as well?

Sometimes I feel I reach my limit on patience, especially when I am cleaning the same covers three days in a row…But, truly, there is no internal score keeping in terms of which cat is more challenging to maintain.  Because in the end, that score is meaningless.  As forever parents of our five cats—a responsibility, joy and obligation we’ve freely and whole heartedly taken—our felines are priceless in terms of the love they give and the lessons we learn about ourselves and life. 

I’ll readily admit that last week was just a particularly trying one for me in terms of their destructive powers, which seems to multiply geometrically since there five of ‘em.  If I come across one more soiled blanket, I feel my head will explode or spin a-la Linda Blair in The Exorcist…but then I take a deep breathe, sometimes a primal scream, and all is well.  Now, where’s a kitty when I need to pet one?

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He’s  a big boy weighing in at about 12 pounds at his last vet visit in March.  He’s a long haired blondie with hints of red.    He’s Puffy, aka The Puff, Big Puff Daddy, Puffenstein,  and sometimes even The Puffernator.

Puffy is the epitome of persistence and a lesson in the benefits of consistency.  He is a simple cat with a hint of the divine—the kitty reminder of stopping and smelling the roses…Puffy’s  needs are uncomplicated, and he revels in life’s sensual pleasures.  Nearly every morning, Puffy is waiting by the back gate, demanding to be let in for his morning dose of mother love.  With his rump raised high in anticipation, the scratching session begins!  Ooooo….ahhhhh….underneath the chin, now.  Oooooh, the belly.  Prrrr.  PRRRR.

In terms of habits, Puffy has his usual sleeping spots: atop of the closet in my office or in a “slot”-like area of Roger’s wardrobe.  Puffy must think of himself as a circus kitty, a feline contortionist when he wraps his big, bulky body around the pole of a kitty tree, hind legs and front paws akimbo. 

And he certainly enjoys just hanging loose.  With his  limbs a-danglin, you can find him precariously perched on all sorts of surfaces:  most currently, atop of the fish tank; and on various high ledges, carpeted cat stairs, or inside the bottom of one of my congas.  That’s right.  I have a set of congas on a stand, and The Puffernator likes to crawl up through the bottom of one of them and just hang, with a hint of his tail peaking through the bottom.  We believe he just exhales to expand and uses his girth to keep him in place.

He’s won a special place in my heart because he has put the prime bully, Blackie, in his place in the household kitty hierarchy.  The Puff is like a protection detail for Tigger.  Sometimes he overwhelms the woosy poosy with his enthusiasm, but Tigger has certainly expanded his in-home roaming range now that Puffy is on the prowl…

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Cats have this wonderful way of just being—of being present to the present.  At times, I truly envy this ability.  Cats can just enjoy the cool, refreshing breeze as it whispers a kiss across their whiskers…bask in the healing warmth of the late afternoon sun, chasing the rays as they slither and shimmy through the cracks and crevices… Momentary pleasures or pains.  Fleeting as they are, but pass as they must …until the next moment beckons for attention.  Feed me!  Love me!  Play with me or leave me be! 

Cats exist in the moment.  There is no yesterday—nor do they anticipate tomorrow.  There is no crying over past injustices or fear of future betrayals.  There is no need to obliterate the present with mindless activities or substances… 

What a wonderful life lesson—truly experiencing the present.  And being both an observer and active participant in all sensual aspects of this plane of existence—the sights and sounds and the smells, tastes and touch.  In this lifetime, I have come close to quieting my mind long enough to give me hope that there is more to this corporeal reality, but I have yet to “grok” this concept—which seems so ephemeral and just of reach… 

In this sweet spot, the union of the earthly and the divine, I imagine you have the potential to tap into—or at least touch—eternity.  You get a glimpse of existence much greater than the boundaries of your own flesh, blood and bones.

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The Cosmic Catnip plastic jug—the reminder of the incident—now resides all clean and tidy on a high ledge of nick nacks that the indoor cats have yet to discover. The jug that almost did in Orange Kitty four years ago this week.

I asked Roger the other day, and he believes that Orange Kitty hesitantly meandered into our lives the winter of 2006. At that time, we only had one cat , Frisco, an elderly male Himalayan who ruled the roost. Then on one cold winter evening, Roger discovers this young, longhaired, male orange cat. It seemed that this feral orange tabby—which we immediately named Orange Kitty (I know, quite imaginative, ehhh?)—took advantage of the hole in our crawl space cover and had made the warm and moist area underneath our home his shelter from the elements.

Having had no experience with feral cats up until that point, we really did not grasp the emotional and life-changing ride we were about to take, kitty-wise, with the welcoming of this one skittish but seemingly harmless little cat who obviously needed shelter.  Being saps for soft furry things that meow and purr, that winter we decided it would be fun to try to become friends with this outdoor cat.

So Orange Kitty, with his questioning eyes, would come around for meals once or twice a day. Sometimes we would not see him for several days or even a week, but that was just his way; we didn’t make much of those times.  We figured he would return eventually for his free meal. 

Fast forward to early July 2007:  Orange Kitty had been away for over a week.  It was very warm, way into the 90s, and it had not rained for a while.  Roger and I were becoming concerned.  When we did spot him, Orange Kitty’s head was stuck in a plastic jug!  Oh, my…we tried our darndest to get close enough to pull it off, but the cat just ran away. This went on for nearly a week.  Something in his little apricot-sized cat brain compelled the creature to return to us, yet he was too feral to let us get close. In our desperation, we even called Denver animal control. But even a trained animal control officer couldn’t cat him.

Time was running out: Orange Kitty was getting thinner, and we feared he would keel over from dehydration, the heat, the lack of food. And I don’t know where this comes from, really, but Roger took all this oh so personally.  Starting with this incident, it had become apparent to me that Roger was becoming a “cat guy”:  someone who felt personally responsible for all the cats in our midst, no matter the actual circumstances… Only afterwards did we discover that it was jughead’s curiosity and love of catnip that probably precipitated the course of events…we did the best we could humanly do.  But that is no comfort to a man who was enmeshed in the middle of a crisis that had the potential of ending very badly…

We were both feeling quite exhausted over this lack of progress on the jughead fiasco.

Then around day nine (!!), success: Roger was able to corral Orange Kitty underneath the house—he was going to remove that jug, no matter the cost!  With the ambient temperature in the mid 90s, Roger donned heavy jeans, a leather jacket and gloves in preparation to do battle with this wily, feral creature.  After cornering Orange Kitty— who by that point was so weakened, he did not even put up a fight—Roger easily slipped the plastic jug off the cat’s head.  I immediately set up a food (tuna!!) and hydration station for Orange Kitty, who voraciously took advantage of the relief and the food.

Of course, this experience demonstrated how much we both love these creatures and the power of persistence and doing the right thing.  And it was the first time we applied the feline “measuring tool” as a life lesson on responsibility—a lesson that has continued to manifest in a variety of ways…

It’s been four years, and Orange Kitty still meanders off for days and then comes around, running this scam with his questioning expression. And of course we feed him because we must. He is a bit more scrappy these days, getting into (loud!) fights over territory with other ferals. But at dinnertime there is a good chance we will see him lounging on the fence on the north side of our property—no matter how beat up he is—waiting for his hand out.

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So, as I was preparing a post about one of our outdoor ferals, Orange Kitty, Puffy decides to mosey lovingly into the den.  Perhaps, I thought, he wants a session with the brush.  Oh, no! He proceeds to puke up his lunch.  Right at my feet.  No qualms about it; just lets it all go.  Only fitting, ehh, since Orange Kitty is Puffy’s baby daddy (more on Puffy, specifically, later in this blog). Oh, it’s so disgusting to clean up half digested food…uggg, the color.  The texture.  Gross.  And hairballs are no better to clean up, all slimy and stringy…

How can these adorable, loving, goofy playful creatures expend such disgusting detritus from their innards?

Of course, as the loving human kitty mother, I did clean it up right away. Not, though, without verbal complaint on my part… And having a good quantity of carpet and enzyme cleaners at the ready is just prudent.  We have an unwritten rule in our home that whoever discovers the detritus first gets to clean it up.  Ahum…Roger has accused me of purposely not seeing these feline contributions to our household chores.  Who, me?!!

Of course I love all the kitties, unconditionally, no matter how disgusting they might be in the moment.  Perhaps the life lesson is to do right thing no matter the circumstances: just hold your nose and get ‘er done!  And the acceptance, too, that my home will never be truly clean again…sigh.

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Hello world!

Thank you for visiting, and welcome to Life Lessons from Lumps of Love—hereinafter referred to as LLFLOV. I love cats—my husband and I both do!!  They are amazing (ok, sometimes gross) furry, purry creatures who have impacted, influenced and changed our lives in ways we still have yet to realize. With this blog, I will share what I’ve learned about life and living from being the human companion and caretaker of these wonderful creatures.

This is my very first foray into blogging, and this blog will serve as a motivation and inspiration to write regularly. My ultimate goal is to publish a book—that these musings will coalesce into something coherent.

 Well, let’s begin!

 Upcoming posts: meeting the cast of kitty characters (yes, I have a thing for alliteration…lol).

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