T Minus 30 Minutes

I’m almost 31. Right now, it seems like a pretty good place to be – I’m enjoying a glass of somewhat less than cheap red wine, wearing a sparkly scarf, and I just got back from watching Joseph Gordon Levitt in “Looper.” I won’t ruin it for you, but it was a good movie. The CGI was still a bit disappointing, though – the whole time I kept waiting for JGL’s fake face to slide off and give me a scene or two of him looking like his normal adorable self. It’s hard to think that a guy that boyish is actually older than I am, but it gives me hope!

My brain is pretty fried from the last couple of weeks of overload on the work front – I’m juggling a lot of responsibilities right now as I try to keep my bank account out of the red. I’m helping one client write grants, helping another keep her social media plan alive, helping another write their bi-weekly eblasts and newsletters, and at my regular job I’m planning (and executing) a fall fashion pop up sale.

The last task has by far been my favorite, but it’s definitely the most insane. We’re only 10 days away from the event, and we just got our final vendor confirmations on Friday. Our marketing collateral was mostly finished this evening when I left work to go to the movies, and I believe that I’ll be able to get the designers everything they need in the morning. After that, the stressful part of the show starts – daily overkill on online marketing to make sure that we meet our desired 300 – 500 visitor range, figuring out how to run the cash table efficiently (which shouldn’t be too bad, as long as the internet doesn’t go down at the studio and our CC machine keeps working), making sure that the vendors have everything they need, and most of all, make sure that the space is absolutely gorgeous. I’m talking magical.

My design concept for the space is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, which I guess isn’t the most creative and inspired idea, but I’m not a designer so I’m going to give myself some slack. I also love rich colors and sumptuous fabrics, mood-setting lanterns, and the sights/sounds/smells of exotic markets, so my gut feeling was to make this project into something I couldn’t help but fall in love with on a daily basis. I’m just hoping that the timeline isn’t too short to get something really good out of our budget and space constraints.

Now, after writing all of this, my brain is even more fried. My eyes burn a little; going to the movies always irritates them a little, and I’m also getting sleepy. The Man wants to give me my birthday presents early, but all I really want to do is pass out and have a good night’s sleep for the first time this week. The sheets are freshly washed and I made the bed myself, so there’s not a single wrinkle to be seen and the bedspread is put on perfectly, to allow both of us enough square area of blanket in the middle of the night. The cats are going crazy behind the couch right now. Isabel has been playing with a little circle that I twisted out of sparkly pipe cleaner; she loves it, and flips it around the house all night long until it gets squished flat. Then she brings it back to me to bend back into a circular shape. She’s a very smart little lady. I think that Munky has been squishing the circle, though. I hear them scuffling a bit right now, but no energy to intervene.

Oh here she is, come to stare at me. I just spent a couple of minutes staring back, then giving her a good ear scratching. Now I’m back. But I really should finish up my wine and stop this rambling. Not too much longer now before I’m 31. Only ten minutes now.

Tomorrow I’ll be making an origami cat. I found the video already, and it’s complicated, but I don’t think it’s too far over my head if I wake up early enough and make enough quiet time to not feel rushed. Here’s the video – cute, eh? Here’s a photo, too:

Another Year

I’m going to be 31 on Thursday.

It’s weird, because when I say “thirty one” I hear “old,” but I’m not old. Hell, I’m taking good enough care of myself that I don’t even have real wrinkles yet, other than my smile lines. I’ve been the same dress size since my freshman year of college, with slight gains and losses as the diets have flown by. My taste in clothing has clearly become more refined, though the other day I was listening to The Cranberries and thinking how I’d really like to have a pair of combat boots again sometime. I’m even POORER now than I’ve ever been – so how’s that for a kick in the face, Old Age?

But is staying somewhat similar the same thing as retaining one’s youth? In some ways, I’m Peter Pan-ing my way through life, I know. I mean, sure, my career ambitions have become defined and I’m finally where I want to be everyday. Otherwise, though…While my friends from high school all have two kids and mortgages now, I sometimes feel trapped just having two cats and a rental apartment. I’ve been dating the same guy for six years, with no intention of getting married any time soon, and definitely no wish to get bogged down by babies or, heaven forbid, a fixed address for more than a couple of years at a time.

The difference is that I’m letting myself age inside more than I wish to admit. I have been following only half of my heart for some time now, and I’m not exactly sure what to do to appease it. The REAL me, the inside me, is a nomad. She hates anchors, despises divulging her secrets, staying in one place too long. She longs to ride with the wind when the urge suits. She sails clipper ships and leads armies. She hunts down poachers in Africa, climbs treacherous mountain trails in China, seeks wisdom with yogis in India.

But me, I’m just 31, and I don’t know what I’ve been waiting for, really. Who will be looking back at me in the mirror when I turn 32?

It’s All Mine

The future looms large. It’s tomorrow. It’s today. It’s a second from now, and from then, and another right after. It’s all mine – every bit of it my own. What else could it be? To whom else could it belong? Who else will be responsible for molding it, filling it, rolling with its punches, sneaking through its cracks? Who else will look back on a future that once was and laugh – or cry – at the way it turned out? No one. Because no one else can have my future. It’s not possible, unless we’re to take body-snatching into account.

So why do I let other people dictate my future for me? Why do I align myself with people intent on crawling on their hands and knees into a bleak obscurity? I don’t mind going silent into the night, but only if it’s MY night and MY silence, a silence of MY choosing. Why do I have to wait beside those who have given up, who believe that fate has dealt a bad hand, and the future (or really, the soon-to-be present of a few minutes, hours, days from now) is entirely out of their control?

It’s all yours for the taking! If you don’t like your job, QUIT. If you don’t like your living situation, MOVE. If you don’t have enough time, MAKE IT. If you are tired, SLEEP. EAT. PRAY. Don’t complain, then sit back and let the future wash over you. Don’t drown in a tide pool without at least trying to swim out past the breakwater!

My choice will have to be made soon. I can’t let it all pass me by because I’m waiting for someone else to get it. You can’t go adventuring with someone who doesn’t take chances.

My future is mine. I guess I was going to do it alone, anyway. I’m still hoping that turns out to be figurative, rather than literal, but hey. That’s life.

 

Thought Provoking Questions

A friend of mine shared a beautiful blog post on her Facebook page earlier. I was so touched by the stunning images and simple but impactful questions that I wanted to share some of the ideas with you, too. The full post is from the blog Random Stuff From My Daily Life, and this particular entry is called 25 Beautifully Illustrated Thought-Provoking Questions. These are a few of my favorite questions…

Adventure!

Living vs. Existing

How Old Are You, Really?

Ignore Judgement - Go for Happiness

These photos aren’t the only big life questioning moments I had today so far – I also had a little chat with my cousin about life and stress and finding out where you’re supposed to be. She’s in college and starting to be scared that she’s not figuring things out quickly enough. From where I’m sitting now, 30 isn’t all that old or wise, but I realize that when you’re in your early 20’s, 30 looks like a lightyear away. I’m not extremely old and wise, but I’ve been around enough times to realize that no one has it all figured out, and it’s pointless to put yourself through the wringer about it. I was trying to write this to her and ended up writing something that I’m so proud of, something I think really does define who I am.

I wrote: “I just figured out what I HOPE to do professionally with my life, provided I can make it happen. Other than that, I’m still utterly lost. But I’ve always liked not being constrained by expectations (mine or anyone else’s), so other than the money woes, everything else can suck it. This is my life, and my time. I’m under no obligation to cut a clear path anywhere.

It’s funny when you’re trying hard to give someone a snippet of helpfulness, and you end up teaching yourself a lesson about you. I’ll come back to this spot when I’m not feeling as driven as I do today, and remember that I’m under no obligation to anyone but myself, and I’m pretty darn happy with me. Sure, improvements can be made – they always can, no matter who you are – but I’m doing a great job at opening my mind and my heart, boldly going where no Anna has gone before in this particular lifetime. That’s the point. I’m getting somewhere.

Hope you’re all feeling at home at your own personal level of success and enlightenment.

Another Day, Another Laundry Pile

Everyday isn’t laundry day in my house, though sometimes it sure does feel like it. I don’t mind doing the laundry, though. This is my first apartment with an in-unit washer and dryer, and they’re both brand new and awesome. For the first time in my adult life, I don’t have to hunt for quarters any time I need clean underwear, and the dryer actually DRIES my clothes. It’s revolutionary, I tell you.

Of course, we all know who absolutely adores laundry day – the gorgeous Miss Isabel. She’s always happiest when towels are part of the mix, but earlier today I was on a roll, and thoughtlessly unloaded and folded a dryer’s worth of towels quicker than she could make it to the bedroom to come play. Realizing my mistake a few minutes later, I threw a couple of the clean towels in with the next load of things to dry, so she could still enjoy a good snuggle. I’m such a sucker, but as you can see, it was totally worth it.

Isabel the Cat in a Laundry Pile

"Mmm...so toasty warm!"

Isabel the Cat in a Laundry Pile - Image 2

"Seriously Mum, this is the best ever..."

Isabel the Cat in a Laundry Pile - Image 3

"I'd invite you to share, but you see, it's such a small pile. It's really only big enough for one of us."

Isabel the Cat in a Laundry Pile - Image 4

"Seriously - you're not going to fit. Especially not with that black box thing strapped to your head."

Isabel the Cat in a Laundry Pile - Image 5

"Oh, all right, you can come play too!"

And much cuddling and purring ensued.

The End.

A Frustrating Day

Maybe not excruciatingly frustrating, but rather one of those days that makes you wish you had just stayed in bed. Except – here’s the punchline – I’ve been in bed all day.

Since I work from home, and my home is a rather small apartment, my work day is conducted from either the couch or the bed. I could sit at the dining table or desk, but neither allows me ability to sprawl out in comfort, surrounded by warm blankets and snoozing cats. It’s finally starting to get cold here in Louisiana, and the house was a humid 61 degrees all day today, which means that along with staying under the blankets, I also stayed in my pajamas.

That’s nothing new, either, though. I rarely get out of my pj’s anymore if I plan to stay in the house. Today I’m wearing what The Man calls my Owl Pants, purple pajama pants with a colorful owl design that my cousin sent me last year for my birthday. I love them, and wear them often. To go with these, I’m also wearing a purple hoodie & black cozy slippers. I’ve worn this ensemble throughout this long and frustrating day, and it’s probably one of the reasons I’ve managed to maintain my sanity.

You see, today was all about putting together an acronym. Well, no, that’s not right. Today I had to force 7 primary concepts to become 10 primary concepts, starting with letters of a pre-arranged slogan. Basically, what I was doing was taking a slogan, for example “We Love You!”, and taking a pre-existing set of concepts (Kittens, Monkeys, Stationery, Motorbikes, etc.) and making each letter of the slogan = the first letter of the pre-existing concepts. Damn luckily, most of the letters match up in my business’ slogan. However, we’re missing a few, which is where things get hairy. In order to make up those extra letters, I either have to cut concepts down into pieces and rename them, or else invent new concepts to join the existing bunch.

Since my boss has already been selling these 7 concepts to our clients for a year and a half now, and even when you align the 7 concepts up with the acronym, it’s still a lot to remember, I believe making up 3 more concepts for people to remember is a foolhardy venture. The point of an acronym is to help people remember a few things – not two hands-full. There’s a reason why acronyms are typically kept to between 3 and 5 letters. It’s not that people can’t remember – it’s that the modern consumer just doesn’t care to be bothered with that much work.

But that doesn’t really matter. It’s my job to do what the boss asks, and in this case, it’s to create an acronym that consumers will find confusing, bulky, and ultimately ignorable. It will be a learning exercise either way, and who knows, maybe it will be a huge, awesome concept that everyone on earth can’t possibly get enough of. Probably not, though. I just don’t see it working.

Hence, a very long day of sorting out words, wearing owl pajamas, and wishing it was Friday again. How was your Monday?

Made of Stars

Sorry that the last post was private. There are two reasons for that:

1) I needed to vent about a problem I’ve been holding inside for the last year or two, a problem that has become more intense since my move. I wanted to share without making my musings public, something I have tried to do in my private journal in the past, but found unsatisfying. I’m a fast typist, and it’s nice to be able to see many full thoughts come out of my head and start to live and work themselves out on the electronic page. Maybe in the future I’ll share my thoughts with the world. For now, however, if you really wanted to read, I wouldn’t mind, I think. The post is password protected, and I’ll share if you’d like to write me for it.

2) Since the problem concerns another person, I didn’t want to air something I really should be able to talk to them about in person. Since this person’s demeanor makes it virtually impossible for me to share real thoughts without getting laughed at for “thinking too much,” and this in itself seems to lead to a much darker future path in our friendship, I didn’t think it good to air grievances quite as publicly as I would like. My few readers know me well enough by now, I think, to know that I really don’t mind telling all about myself. There’s not much about my life that I don’t find is made richer by sharing, but this is one of those rare times when I believe the problem might come back to bite me in the proverbial ass if I let it live outside of my head and one protected blog page. I haven’t even been able to tell my best friends. Another interesting way the internet has changed relationships forever.

But enough with that. I’ve already written a major post on it today, and now I’m tired of letting negativity into my borders. From now on this afternoon, only positive thoughts. The most positive? I’m back with my band again! I have some photos I’d like to share with you of the band’s practice space, so I’ll save more musings on that precious topic for another post, but let it be known that I’m insanely happy about getting to sing again, and also to hang out with dear old friends that I haven’t seen in years, and love, love, love collaborating with.

Also in my personal news? I’m taking two free online courses in pagan studies at The Pagan Campus. I know I told you about these before, but I’m having so much fun that I had to mention them again. One class is in Numerology, and the other is in Sabbats and Esbats. I’m learning a lot, but also learning how much there is to learn, and that I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg. I love it. I’m so excited to spend the rest of my life honing my craft, and following the right path for me. Having grown up in super heavy-duty Christian country, where people believe that the devil ‘planted’ dinosaur bones in the earth to fool the weak-minded (lol, btw) into believing that the earth is older than a few thousand years, among lots of other weird, backward-ass thoughts that make very little sense, it’s so nice to get to meet people who believe in something that makes all the sense in the world, and find a religion where appreciating and honoring Mother Nature is the common thread. I don’t care to separate the Universe into multiple gods and goddesses, as many pagans do, but I also love the fact that for once I’m being given the right of way to practice what the Universe keeps proving to me every day is real and right and logical, and to finally see and embrace the abundance of love and energy we have at our fingertips, just by opening our eyes to the possibility of being proactive healers instead of sheep. Like Moby says, “We Are All Made of Stars“.

What else? Well, I made 100 overall in my last marketing class, which is good. I think that this next class is going to really kick my butt, so I should probably actually be doing homework right now instead of writing a blog post or two. But that leads me to the next interesting bit…

I dreamed a book last night. Not a short story, not part of a storyline, but an entire book. It’s not an earthshaking novel or anything, something more like a Harlequin romance, but hey, a book’s a book, and now I’m going to start putting it together. In all, I have three books in my head now that need to be written. One’s about an old haunted house in NC, one’s about ghosts and voodoo in New Orleans, and this last one is about a centuries-old curse on a New England family. I have got to get a routine developed. This is just getting silly. Think of the money I could be making, or at least the ways that I could be so much freer in my life if I just got some kind of order mapped out. With three books and the idea for a very strong small business in mind, I believe the only thing that’s truly holding me back right now is not procrastination, but rather fear. And for the life of me, I have no clue why I should be afraid of success. After all, I want so much to be self-sufficient.

So I’m sitting in bed on a rainy Saturday afternoon, listening to The Man curse at the pieces of a bench he’s been trying to build from scratch all day, my beloved Miss Isabel cat curled up beside me, thinking of this new book, the many paths of my life stretched out before me in my mind’s eye, trying to choose the right one, trying not to hurt anyone too much, or disappoint anyone too much, but trying most of all to be true to myself.

Esse Quam Videre.

I’m trying.

 

Murphy

Murphy in October of 2011

You’ve already read about my beautiful eldest cat, Isabel. If you’ve been reading along, you’ve probably caught on by now that there’s another fur child in my household, Izzy’s younger brother Murphy. His story is a little less involved than his sister’s, but every bit as important to our household’s history. Some of you might have experienced the feeling of being a family with loose ties, and how those ties tightened in the face of a major event, good or bad. Murphy’s simple story is the event that brought Isabel, The Man and myself together as fully-functioning family unit.

In the years BM (before Murphy), there was Isabel. She started out smelly and small, and grew to be snappish and larger. She loved me, and I loved her. I also loved The Man, whom I had started dating a few months prior to the disappearance of my late cat, Matthew. There was no love lost between Matthew and The Man; in fact, when The Man and I first began dating, he told me that he “didn’t really like pets.” He’s really fortunate that I can spot a lie a mile away, and understood his asinine comment really translated to “I haven’t ever had a pet of my own, so I don’t know what it means to love one.” Well, Matthew would have gladly raised a leg on The Man if he were a dog and The Man stood still long enough, so for awhile I resigned myself to the possibility of eventually having to dump this guy in favor of my cat. Fate chose a different route for us all, however. Matthew passed on, and Isabel entered our lives, so tiny and at first so sweet that The Man’s heart of stone was turned to mush – for awhile. Until she went half wild and took to treating The Man, in particular, like a favored scratching post. So much for their short-lived love affair, but at least there was mutual interest and healthy respect on The Man’s part. I figured it was a good starting place.

Two years later, we moved in together. We were in a new city, in a new house, with a two year old cat who was getting a little bored all on her lonesome. I started to put out feelers. We needed a new member of the household, but not just anyone. This cat had to be special.

I spent a lot of time researching cat personalities, and realized that Izzy was a bit of a mash-up of Beta and Gamma, being talkative, pushy, thoughtful, and very eager to please when dealing with me, but also very shy and non-verbally expressive in some realms, especially if other people are in the house. She’s a tricky little beast, and I spent months envisioning the type of cat I’d be bringing in to be her brother or sister. I knew there was only one chance to get this right, and it could be very difficult for everyone if I didn’t take my time.

A few months later, a friend of a friend moved to town from Texas, bringing with her SEVEN cats, four of whom were part of a litter of kittens. While out at a party one night, the new girl mentioned her kittens, and that they were weaned but she wanted to keep the mother and family all together a little longer. I found it refreshing, a complete 180 from the life Izzy was born into, so I asked for more info. What were their markings and personalities? What was their mother like?

The Black One (Murphy), napping with his litter mates Tooken and Saki, and their Aunt Ro Rittens

Cat 5, the kittens’ mother, had been an indoor cat who went into heat younger than anyone expected, and pretty much immediately got out of the house and knocked up. As her human mother put it, “babies having babies.” When the resulting progeny arrived, the first was a little brown tabby. Their human was happy – an entire litter of dark kitties, just like their mother! Then the next kitten arrived, and the next, and the next – in the end there were four orange and white tabbies, and one little dark kitten, who picked up the moniker The Black One. That night, the story of The Black One stuck in my head. I knew I couldn’t afford to choose a new child by looks alone, but I promised the girl that when the time came to give her kittens new homes, I’d be waiting.

Murphy's brothers & sisters

Murphy's mom, Cat 5, and her daughter Kitteh Fluff (a.k.a. Flurf)

A few weeks later I got a phone call. I’d just had all of my wisdom teeth out the day before, and was heavily drugged. The call was from two of my friends, roommates, who were on their way to choose kittens. Since everyone knew I was looking for something specific, I was to be given first dibs on the litter. All I had to do was get across town, my cheeks swollen like I was chewing softballs, my mind complete mush. Awesome.

A few hours later I sat in my new friend’s living room, surrounded by cats. I ended up sitting there for about five hours. It was a surreal experience, and not just because of the painkillers. I was watching kittens like my life depended on it, rating their actions in my hazy little mental scorecard. My friends humored me, sitting, watching, waiting, drinking beers. Of the four kittens in Chicago (one had remained behind in Texas), there were two males and two females. The long-haired female, the sweetest, silliest ball of fluff, was to stay with her owner. She and her mother are still as thick as thieves, or so I’ve been told. Of the others, there was The Black One, a mostly-orange male tabby named Tooken, and his sister, an orange and white tabby who was later renamed Saki (I can’t remember her original name). It was a very tough decision, but as I watched the kittens play it became obvious that Tooken was the alpha of the litter. Saki deferred to him, and hung tight to his side. The Black One wandered happily about, attacking the broom, crawling inside of a wicker table, jumping on his siblings, and getting bathed often by everyone. It was clear that he was the baby, and he loved it. He looked high maintenance, though. I was gravitating toward Tooken, even though he wouldn’t be the best choice for Isabel. It was a moment of drugged weakness. Luckily, I came to my senses when Tooken climbed up the back of the television. With The Man having just bought a new flat screen beauty a few weeks earlier, I realized the orange tabby was not the most intelligent pick.

And so that’s how I made one of the best decisions of my life, and came to carry a sleepy, utterly calm brown tabby kitten home that night. The Man greeted me at the door (I have no clue why he wasn’t in attendance for the choosing, but it’s probably best), and there was a brief moment where I was sure it was a mistake, he’d hate the new cat, Izzy would hate the new cat, it was all going to go awry…

Murphy still naps belly up, though he doesn't do it mid-play any more.

Then, wonder of wonders, I watched as The Man began to fall in love with a pet for the first time. Over the next day, I tried the method of introducing cats through a closed door, with the kitten in the bathroom and Isabel outside. He was very happy with the arrangement. She – not so much. Eventually he bounded out on accident, and when Izzy didn’t kill him immediately, I decided to let it slide and see what happened. The first few weeks were oddly sweet. The kitten, who became Murphy after taking a sip of my Guinness, trailed after Isabel constantly, despite her obvious disdain. She hissed, spit, and batted, but still he followed her around, looking like her pint-sized doppelganger. He made a habit of ambushing her from high places as she walked, and pouncing on her as she settled into her naps. He stole her toys. In general, he made such a cute little ass of himself that I’m inclined to think she couldn’t help but fall in love a little bit, herself.

Murphy wore Isabel down with good old fashioned love. This is about two weeks into their relationship, when she'd finally given up and let him nap beside her.

Isabel was orphaned as a very young kitten, and had never had this kind of relationship with another cat. When I walked in to find Murphy giving the perfectly relaxed Isabel a bath, I knew they would be just fine together.

One day I walked into the living room to find them giving each other mutual baths, and I knew that all would be well.  Now, Isabel and Murphy have been together for a little over two years. Once less than half her size, now she’s about half of his. At about 14 lbs., he’s a linebacker of a cat, with the sweetest, most lovable personality. He still tackles his sister once or twice a day, and their epic battles rage through the house, but they also nap together, take baths together, and generally pal around together like siblings should. They look so similar that people assume they’re from the same litter. Since Izzy prefers to remain out of the way and Murphy likes to come out and meet people, some folks that see both but never at the same time just assume it’s the same cat, moving around quickly. Of course it’s easy for me to tell them apart, as Isabel is petite and sharp, and Murphy is bulky and soft, but at night, it’s easiest for me to tell by their tails. Like the witch in “Hansel & Gretel”, I often find myself reaching out in the dark, running a hand down an encroaching cat’s back, and gently squeezing the tip of its tail. If it’s a calm, bony tail, waiting for me to ascertain its owner, it’s Isabel, come to curl up for the night. If it’s a thickly padded tail, twitching with impatience, it’s Murphy and he’s only come to tell me he needs more kibble.

True love - Munkey and The Man napping together a couple of years ago. He's too big to sleep on someone's neck now, but this basic scene still plays out most days at our house.

Murphy (a.k.a. Murph/Munky/The Munky/Munky-man) has always been The Man’s cat, even though I feed him, change his litter, take him to the vet, and give him belly rubs whenever he pleases. He likes me just fine, but he and The Man have bonded in a way I’ll never get to be part of. Their mutual love of napping during baseball games probably has something to do with it. He is a gentle cat, interested in simple pleasures – kibble, belly rubs, shoulder massages, tastes of coconut oil, naps on a velvet throw that we keep on the couch just for him. Like his mother, he can’t meow properly, instead squeaking or just opening his mouth and exhaling loudly when he’s perturbed. He can’t stand the idea of an empty bowl, and often lets me know that he’s going to be running out of food in a few hours. Even though he’s not a big eater, a bowl with less than several teaspoons of kibble is cause for complete red alert-style meltdowns, with much frantic squeaking, so I’ve learned to keep an eye out. He loves to knock the water bowl over in the night, as well, so I get woken up pretty often for that calamity.

He’s never been interested in toys, but he is scarily obsessed with straws. You can’t leave a cup with a straw in it alone for even a second if Murphy’s nearby, and he will be nearby because he has a 6th sense that only works to pinpoint a straw’s location in his domain. I’ve forgotten and walked away from a cup a couple of times, and come back to either a spilled drink with no straw, or just no straw if he’s been particularly clever. A few days ago I brought home a cup with a straw and he sat on the end of the couch, his eyes never leaving the straw for the entirety of my meal. I swear he didn’t even blink, just followed the cup’s journey to my face and back every time. His normally sweet, teddy-bearish face was taut with the kind of intense emotional hunger he only experiences when tubular plastic items are around. Once gifted with the desired object, he becomes a furry little madman, batting his prey about the house for ten minutes or so, then leaving it lifeless on the rug, perforated with tooth marks.

Well, there you have it – my weird little fur family, in a nutshell. I consider myself to be so blessed to have found a brother for Izzy who surpassed my expectations, and who has brought so much joy to our lives. The Man will never again say he doesn’t like animals (in fact, I often catch him telling others that he’s “more of a cat person”). My beautiful Isabel will never be a lonely, maladjusted orphan again. Over the last two years, she’s mellowed, become less inclined to bite, stopped using her claws when she plays or reaches out, and has even started being affectionate to The Man on occasion. As for me, there’s nothing like being woken up at 3am to clean a litter box again, or wondering what on earth could be making that weird noise, just to find it’s a by-product of crazy cat games. In other words, it’s the best.

My beautiful little man, all grown up.

Raising the Bar

Today I read an update posted by a dear friend on Facebook. She declared herself to be in a very low place, feeling unlike herself. Being no stranger to highs and lows, I immediately wrote back with a few suggestions for crawling out of the rut, but if she is anything like me, I know she took my suggestions more as meddling than helpful hints.

In my own life, periods of the blues have been frequent and often quite deep. As I aged, I mellowed. Part of this change was no doubt due to pesky hormones, part to a change in lifestyle, and a large part in a change in how I nourish myself spiritually, mentally & physically. We’ve probably all been through this in some way or another. One of the best things about being human is the capacity for growth and change, the journey ever upward (with occasional sidesteps and roadblocks).

I wish that I could help my friend see life in a different light, but we live so far apart, and all I can do is be there in spirit. It’s disappointing, and frustrating, especially when I know my words sound empty to someone in such a different place. All I can do is offer her hope that life gets better, and it doesn’t have to be boring, or sad, or lonely.

You just have to reach out, and someone, somewhere will be there to enrich your experience. It might take awhile. It might not be immediate. It might be the smallest return, like someone commenting on your FB status, or letting you ahead of them in line at the grocery store (talk about small miracles, right?) The Universe is looking after you, whether or not you believe it or choose to acknowledge it. If a beautiful flower can grow out of a crack in the sidewalk, it is possible to make a good life grow out of a series of not so great days. You’ve just got to be open to the opportunities, looking for the tiny happy moments and being conscious of how they all link together. Once you can do that, you’ve got a good thing going. Sometimes I forget this, the same as everyone else. This is as much an affirmation as it is admonishment to myself to be more grateful of the love that surrounds me.

My little advice to my friend: collect one pretty image a day that makes you smile or laugh (online or elsewhere) – that way you’ll always be able to go somewhere for a smile or laugh when life is getting you down. Come to visit, so I can make you laugh. I don’t care how old we are, I will always love to see your beautiful smile.

My own personal plan: look for moments that teach me something, whether or not I like what I’ve been taught. Try to be mindful of these lessons, and carry them with me. Take time to be active every day, and don’t do active things that seem boring or like a chore (I go to Zumba, go dancing, and run, run, run). Get pampered often, even if it’s something as little as taking time to give myself a scalp massage while I’m washing my hair. Tell my friends I love them every time I talk to them. Think about what it means to love. Envision good, wholesome energy flooding from me to my friends & relatives whenever I share my love with them. Share nice thoughts with people I meet – if I see a stranger wearing a beautiful dress, I work up the courage to tell her how nice she looks. All of these things come back to us. Try to imagine what other people are thinking and feeling, and will think and feel about whatever action I’m taking. If I can see a negative outcome, determine if that outcome is what I really want before taking the action. Sometimes I miscalculate, and I end up having to apologize. Either explain why I meant what I said, or just suck it up and apologize – it’s good for everyone involved. Embarrassment is inevitable at some points in life; try to be graceful about it, or at least wear smudge-free mascara. Breathe, breathe, breathe – deeply and often. Eat real food, not processed crap. Hydrate – it makes your brain happy! And I sing and write whenever the hell I feel like it, as a matter of principle.

What do you do to make your life a better place to be? I know that one person who reads my blog travels the world to bring medical care to those who need it. Another takes time out to care for special needs cats at her local shelter. Still another writes enough great content to fuel a small magazine; I wonder if she ever sleeps! Then there’s a very special cat who is training to be a model yet somehow finds time to keep a great blog. I’m so inspired by reading all of your blogs and seeing what inspires you – I’d love to hear your own personal recipes for happiness. Comment away!