"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Velma, the Fraidy Cat

Velma again

After not having a cat for several years, this past March our family adopted a cat, Velma Kelly.  We kept the name that the animal rescue place had given her (she and her siblings were named after characters in the musical Chicago) and it seemed to suit her.  I’m not sure exactly what made me decide to get a cat that chilly day.  Erin and I had worked at a Girl Scout Cookie Booth in front of the Petsmart store, and when we were finished, we decided to take a look at the dogs and cats they have up for adoption.

When I first saw her in the bottom cat cage, her markings caught my eye.  I thought she was a beautiful little kitty.  I started talking to the woman from Heartland Animal Shelter about her, quickly dismissing the notion we’d ever own a cat again.  Several years ago we had taken in Darrell’s grandmother’s cats when she moved in with his parents, and while I loved them and all their silly feline-ways, I don’t think Darrell ever really connected with them.  Cindy Lou, who was such a sweet, laid-back cat, lived to be over 21 years old.

“We have two crazy dogs at home,” I told the lady from Heartland.  “I’d feel sorry for any cat we’d bring back to the house.”

Well, as it turned out, she was this cat’s foster mom, and they had dogs, too.  “Look,” she said, pulling out her phone.  And there was Ms. Velma, snuggled between two dogs on the couch.  The wheels began to turn.  Could this little kitty be the newest addition to our home?

I went on to explain how our two knuckleheads (my affectionate nickname for the collective Chester and Grendel), were awesome at our house, snuggling with us on the couch, fun to play with and overall great, loyal companions, but lacked social skills with other dogs, and sometimes people.

“Velma loves to sit on your lap and watch TV,” she told me.

Hmmm…I love to watch TV with snuggly pets! I thought to myself.  Visions of me planted on the couch surrounded by my furry friends started to form in my mind.  It was my version of Snow White and her birds and bunnies doing the housework—minus the effort chores take, of course.  “Can we see her?”  I asked.  After bringing up the dogs to make sure they’d be compatible and convincing my husband she’d be perfect for us, two hours and about $250 in cat paraphernalia later, we had ourselves a cat.

 

us on adoption day

Our family, minus Tyler, on adoption day.

Sadly, my Snow White fantasy remains unfulfilled.  I have yet to even get her to stay in the same room with me, let alone sit on my lap.  Velma is quite the Fraidy Cat.

I would say that it’s not without good reason.  The dogs, though not vicious towards her, are a little too curious for her liking—Grendel especially.  He watches her perched upon her cat tree in the family room and whines.  And he never misses the opportunity to give her a good chasing when he can.  To give you a visual, it’s all toenails for brakes across the slick floor followed by ass over teacups.

Grendel head through kitty cat door

This is a regular view from within her sanctuary (Erin’s room) for Velma. They say curiosity killed the cat…but what about the dog? She doesn’t even scratch his nose with her claws.

 

To give her sanctuary, we put in a kitty cat door opening into Erin’s room.  Erin is her human.  For the most part, she’s the one who feeds her, cleans out the kitty litter and as a result, gets all the snuggles I crave.  It’s very heartwarming to see Velma adore both Erin and Emily.  She lets them rub her belly and sometimes carry her around with them.  I’ve tried to be friends with Velma, but still she fears me.  It may be because the first two or three days she was home I was tasked with grabbing her out from behind any furniture, or it may be because she associates me with the dogs.  In any event, even though every time I reach my hand out to her, purposely giving her treats in my outstretched hand, she runs away as if I had just dumped boiling oil on her.

It reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago about a non-believer and some birds.  I searched for it and found it to be a Paul Harvey story.  The story goes that there was a man who was a good person, but found the Christmas story of baby Jesus in the manger hard to swallow, so he opted to not attend Christmas Eve service with the rest of his family.  After his family left, some birds had hit his window trying to get in during the snow storm.  He wanted to help them, but after various ways of trying to get them to safety, realized they were afraid of him.  The thought occurred to him that if he were a bird, they might be more willing to follow him and let him show them the way.  And he had his lightbulb moment of truly understanding the Christmas story.

I’m not sure Velma would like me any better if I were a cat, but I wish she would at least see that I only want her to be a happy part of our family.  Erin was gone this past week on a Mission Trip with Youth Group and now is in Florida with our friends, so I’ve been trying to take advantage of Velma’s loneliness.  The first time we took her to the vet for a checkup after we brought her home, the vet’s office bribed her with baby food.  Since she seemed to like it, this past week both Darrell and I have been trying to coax her to us with little spoonfuls of baby food chicken and gravy. When I feed her, I stroke her silky fur and tell her what a sweet kitty she is.  I play laser pointer with her and let her chase it until she’s worn out.  I sit on Erin’s bed and dangle the kitty fishing pole toy in front of her face to let her bat at the ribbons.  I keep the dogs at bay.

Friendship Goals

Velma’s obvious fear of me and other benevolent people has held her back from moments she might enjoy if she would just relax and not be afraid.  It’s frustrating, but in some ways I can relate a little.  While I’ve never run from the offer of tasty snacks, I have run from opportunities because of a fear of the unknown.  I am guilty of living in my comfort zone because stepping out of it brings the risk of failing and having to say, “That was a mistake.” Who wants to do that?  Or what can be even scarier at times—what if it is successful and I have to keep it up?

Fear has its place.  It keeps us from holding umbrellas on hilltops under trees in lightning storms and hanging out in dark alleys with wads of cash hanging out of our pockets.  But it can also hold us back from our potential—what we were meant to be.

I still haven’t won her over, but I think Velma’s at least accepting me as an Erin substitute this week.  With cats, I’ve learned not to try too hard—they are definitely the ones that like to play hard to get.  Friends have given me hope by saying that they’ve had cats that took over a year to get comfortable in their homes.  While I’ve resigned myself to the fact that she may not be sitting down on my lap and watching TV any time soon, I’m not convinced she won’t ever enjoy hanging out with us in some capacity as her trust in us grows.  Until then, I’ll celebrate the little victories with her like the few times she’ll sit on the stairs and watch me type on the computer.  Who knows?  Someday my Snow White moment with my furry friends may come true.

Velma with toy

Update:  I wrote this three days ago, but was waiting to do a final edit before I posted it.  In fact, it was still pulled up on my screen.  Velma must have read it and felt sorry.  Last night, I decided to read my book in Erin’s room to spend more quality time with the cat.  I didn’t get much reading done, because the game turned into her getting in between me and the book.  So I stopped trying to read and just scratched her behind her ears.  Long story short, I ended up sleeping in Erin’s room to keep the cat company and she is now my best friend.  I was tired this morning after Velma pawed and purred in my ear all night, but I had a thought that maybe the lesson here wasn’t just about fear holding us back.  Maybe it’s about meeting others who are unsure or timid wherever they are, including within their comfort zone, so that trust can become a part of the equation.  But I suppose that’s a whole other post.

Velma

Happy Anniversary!

Wedding pic

Twenty two years ago today, Darrell and I tied the knot. We’ve had wonderful times during those years, and I hope that we have at least twice as many more years together to have even more. After being with one person for that long, it’s so easy to take one another for granted and to let the little things, that in truth do not really matter, take up a lot of precious time and energy. Here are just the first twenty-two things I thought of when I thought about what a great husband I have (there are more!).

 Happy Anniversary!

  1. You kiss me in the morning even when I have morning breath.
  2. You know how to fix just about anything.
  3. You always answer my questions about politics or history—stuff that I should know, but don’t—patiently and don’t make me feel stupid.
  4. You love dogs.
  5. You know how to build awesome decks and remodel bathrooms.
  6. You show compassion towards people that other people ignore.
  7. You try to make me happy every day.
  8. You go with the kids to shop for presents when it’s my birthday or Christmas.
  9. You never complain about my housekeeping, even when you should.
  10. You help the kids with their math homework.
  11. You always drive the kids to school, even though it inconveniences you.
  12. You don’t complain when I watch my ghost shows, even though I know you don’t really like them.
  13. You never say no to Italian food.
  14. You always bring me a cup of coffee in the morning.
  15. You work hard to provide for us.
  16. You endure going to the doctor and having wires attached to you so that you can snore less and I can sleep much better.
  17. You help me be a more loving daughter.
  18. You are an excellent role model for our kids.
  19. You are always willing to share the last beer.
  20. You make me feel beautiful, even on days when I feel dumpy and gross.
  21. You love to reminisce with me about our good old days together. Bonus: You actually remember stuff.
  22. You are my voice of reason when I need one.

Mom on Retainer

 

My cousin, Kim, asked me when, as a Mom, I knew when I didn’t have to be on retainer anymore. Knowing her like I do, (she and I share the same brain wavelength) I understood exactly what she meant without her having to explain. When you’re raising a family, especially as a Mom who doesn’t work outside the home, it’s hard to know when you’re “allowed” to let out some slack when it comes to managing the family’s comings and goings.

For me, it felt like when I wasn’t doing something for my kids like their laundry, picking up after them, or cooking their meals, I was being lazy. After all, I was a stay at home Mom, what else was I supposed to do—it was my full-time job. What I learned, though, was that by always doing those types of things for my kids after they got older, I was enabling them to not be able to be independent little people. As my kids grew into teenagers, I quickly came to realize the error of my ways. I’m a slow learner, but I gave up a little control, suffered from a little bit of guilt, and started expecting more from them. They delivered—well, sort of…although none of them have become laundry-guru-bathroom-scrubbing-neat-freaks. Apologies in advance to their future roommates and spouses.

Kim’s way ahead of the game on me on that one—she’s a fantastic Mom who has always given her boys ownership of their responsibilities. For Kim, the matter wasn’t letting go of the duties of household chores, it’s more of the plain, old being there for the family on standby. You know how it is. There’s always somewhere the kids need to be taken, children’s activities to be involved in and the general duty to leave the schedule open in order to accommodate the rest of the family’s needs. When you’re the Mom on Retainer, the expectation is that you are there to plan everything for the family, so naturally your individual pursuits get put on the back burner. It’s a season in every young family’s life, sometimes more extreme than others, but the question becomes: At what point is Mom not on retainer anymore?

As parents, we knowingly and lovingly make some sacrifices of “me” time for our kids, but on the other hand, kids need to learn that their desires do not rule the household. Parents can’t wait until their children grow up to have lives of their own. Young people having plenty of interests isn’t a bad thing, but if it’s at the cost of a parent living in stagnant waters without the ability to grow as a person, there’s a problem. Everybody knows if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! I also think a person has to consider where these expectations come from.

One could argue that this is self-imposed—another example of extreme people-pleasing. The funny thing is, often there is a fine line between wanting to please everyone by doing the “dirty work” (being a martyr Mom) and the need to feel in control. When I relinquish control to my husband by saying something is his responsibility, I have to do so fully. I can’t gently prod or offer up my suggestion on how I would do something myself if I’m supposed to be letting it go. If he doesn’t handle something exactly how I would, I have to allow that to happen. Which brings up what else is at work: fear.

But what I personally found when I stepped back was that the world did not end. There were mix-ups and scheduling conflicts. I couldn’t volunteer to chaperone all the field trips or plan classroom parties. But life went on, and new expectations for what and when I was available gradually adjusted. In the process, we all grew just a little bit more independent.

In truth, Moms are always on retainer. The Retainer Fee just covers less as the kids get older and need us less. Don’t we drop everything when it really does matter? We do so not because we are obligated by a Mom Code Contract, but because there’s something much more binding us to our children—unconditional love. And that’s one thing that has no expiration date.

Anniversary Poem

Look how young we were!

Look how young we were!

Twenty-one years ago on July 17, Darrell and I were married after knowing each other for four years. We met in college, where so many love stories begin. I’m biased, I know, but I think we have a romantic, beautiful love story. To mark this happy occasion, I’ve tried to put into words what it’s been like being my husband’s bride. You can laugh at my clumsy attempt at rhyming if you’d like. (Just don’t let me see you doing it.)

 

This love story that we call ours

Could be written in a book.

Joined fates aligned across the stars began

When the seat next to me you took.

 

You started off as just a friend

Parking Lot H conversations lasting hours;

Who knew then the “perfect angle” line you said

Would lead to wedding flowers?

 

The seventeenth came bright and sunny

In a summer plagued by flooding rain.

We joined our hearts as man and wife

With a reception party quite insane.

(Not really, but give me some creative license here.)

 Our Wedding Party

The early years of just us two

Seem so long past I can hardly remember.

Two became three when Tyler arrived

Emily and Erin, our final family members.

 

Our family has fond memories

Of the good times that we’ve had

I never dreamed that guy I fell in love with

Would be such an awesome Dad.

 

You take us all out on the boat

When we go to the lake

It’s fun to see kids fly in the air

With the wild tube rides that they take.

(This stanza was requested by Erin.)

 

As we promised in our vows, we’ve made it through

In times of sickness and in health.

We may not own worldly treasure

But of laughter and love we’ve much wealth.

 

You make me a better me

With your generous and loving ways;

With you I can be who I truly am

Throughout each mood and phase.

 

I’m so glad that in this great big world

I’m the person that you chose.

I mean it when I say you’re my better half

And my love each day for you still grows.

 

002

Happy Anniversary, Darrell

Thank you for making these past 25 years amazing!

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