Monday, January 28, 2013

New Love

Meet Morgana and Merlin.  They're our new cats, that we rescued from the P.A.W.S shelter here in Chicago.  We love them and they love us.  They're three years old, and were kittens together, but probably not siblings, and were adopted from the shelter.  Their first home was clearly a very good place for them, but the lady who owned them fell and broke her hip, and is now in the nursing home, so the shelter took them back. 

Morgana is quiet and dainty and elegant and mysterious - and *all* black, except for the gold of her eyes and her pink tongue.  Merlin is a bit of a doofus, who has thunderpaws as he is running full-tilt down the length of our apartment.  He's very tiger-stripey.  He drinks from the faucet, and needs occasional reassurance that everything is ok.  Both of them love belly rubs.  We're still figuring out mealtimes and noises and whether or not its ok to be on the bed or not. (We think its fine, but I think they were not allowed on the bed in their last home...)  

Rescue cats are great.  If you're thinking of new pets, consider going to your local pound.  These cats came all fixed, with all their shots, microchips and they're even under warrantee!  We had to go back to the vet this week for a little issue, and it was all covered by the shelter.  

We still miss Oberon and Diva very much, but they've been gone a good length of time now, and our house just did not seem to be much of a home without cats.  We're happy to have these two in our lives now.  I am sure there will be more posts and pictures about them to come.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch...

Well, it has started.  The Xmas season is just about in full swing.  There have been Xmas decorations in the stores since mid October, but the full-on media and commercial blitz has started.  The first Xmas ad I saw on TV was from Radio Shack, nearly three weeks ago.  And if I hear the Hershey's We Wish You a Merry Xmas jingle one more time I am going to isn't even Thanksgiving yet.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I love the preparatory season of Advent, with its readings full of double meaning.  The anticipation of the birth of Christ, and the anticipation of his promised return.  I love the stories full of promise.  I love the stories of Mary and Joseph in their human doubt, and the angels in their divine comedy.  I love the Advent hymnody and anthems from the western European Christian tradition. I particularly love the English and German hymnody, but also newer hymns and carols and anthems from around the world.  (I really must replace my tattered copy of Oxford Anthems for Choirs one year...) I love that at last, on Christmas Eve, when the colors change from purple (or blue) to white,  when in the deepest darkness of a winter night we sing christus natus est.  I love that we put away the Advent wreath and light just one single, white candle, remind ourselves of the already-not-yetness of our celebration, and share a meal at Christ's table.  I even love the sometimes mixed up story when there are angels and wise men and shepherds all at the manger at once.

But this is not what faces us in the weeks ahead.  No, we face the onslaught of a secular, crass, demanding, commercial Xmas that invades our lives in the weeks before Thanksgiving, and is unrelenting until Christmas Day, when Christmas is just beginning.

The news stories this week have not been about this important (or, formerly important) national holiday when we gathered with family and friends to be grateful for whatever blessings we might have.  We have not even heard much of the inaccurate and euro-centric mythology of the Pilgrims.  We have not even taken the time remind ourselves that brave people seeking to live in freedom made a scary and dangerous journey to settle in an unknown land, and in doing so, unleashed a genocide on the native inhabitants of this continent.

No, not Thanksgiving...we are in full Xmas mode.  Buy this, not that!  Your life is incomplete without spending a small fortune on this year's newest gadget or perfume or car!  Target and Wal*Mart and other retailers can't wait just a few more hours to open;  they'll be open this year at 8 p.m! And imagine the horror; this year's Xmas sales are only going to increase a paltry 4% over last years sales (you can read the full details here...).  You haven't decorated your home with pounds of useless and tacky plastic crap (mostly made in China) yet?  You're un-American! It's Xmas!!!

This year, as I have for several years, I will not participate in most of Xmas.  I will decorate our home, because it makes my husband happy, and I do honestly enjoy the memories that each of the hand-made, or gift, or childhood ornaments bring.  I will send out a handful of cards to people I dearly care about.  I will attend a couple of parties, because I am a social person and I enjoy them.  I will even buy gifts for my loved ones, from as many locally owned businesses as possible, and will give them at Christmas, not Epiphany.

But inside, quietly, I will struggle to not let Xmas overwhelm my celebration of Advent and Christmas and Epiphany and I won't always feel like I've been successful.

I will struggle with resolving the call that Christ has on my life to give away everything that I own to follow him while simultaneously preparing to give and receive gifts I neither truly want nor need; participating in a capitalist system where no-one ever really wins.

I will try very hard not to be a Grinch; to look as if I am enjoying the utter nonsense, the social whirlwind, the secular traditions that have nothing to do with the celebration of the Nativity of Christ.

I will try very hard not to be acerbic about the exhausting orgy of shopping and buying and eating and merrymaking that are the hallmarks of the Xmas season.

I will try very hard not to withdraw even further into myself as the darkness lengthens towards the winter solstice, and the manic forced joy of the season presses in on every side.

I will strive to keep a holy Advent, keeping a part of my heart and mind and soul attentive and waiting, anticipating his promised coming.

I will rejoice on Christmas Day and then sing the carols with abandon.

I will wait and watch as the wise men come weeks afterwards, only then bringing gifts of unimaginable value, and of deepest symbolism.

Will you quietly do the same, with me?

Monday, November 19, 2012

And then there were none...

On Thursday, 11/15, Oberon left us and joined his 'sister' Diva in the next world.  For the first time in 20 years, there is no cat in my house.  

Oberon was the first pet I ever owned as an adult.  Art and Jeanne Cooper, members of First Churches in Northampton where I was a member at the time had a cat with kittens.  Oberon was the last one left.  He was the roundest, furriest most adorable kitten I had ever seen.  He was only about seven weeks old.  I had no idea what I was doing...kittens are easy, right?  He was completely spherical when seated, with little furry ears and tail and enormous paws.  I originally named him Mabden, thinking he was a little I knew of cats.  The vet thought this amusing.  

I worked during the day, and I ended up having to leave him alone a lot.  He would come running to the door still half asleep when I got home.  He loved the laser pointer.  His purrer didn't work when he was very little, but one day, he purred and surprised himself.  

Oberon was a complex cat.  At first, you'd think he wasn't very bright. But as you got to know him, his personality came out.  He wasn't a cuddler, though he did like a good ear scratch, and liked to be near us.  As he got older, he lost his interest in toys.  He and Diva were not littermates, but learned to tolerate, even like each other, and could frequently be found curled up sleeping together.  He was a handsome, beautiful cat, at his top weight more than 15 lbs, with a long, silky double coat.  Shedding season was epic, and he never really did like to be brushed.  He particularly did not like having to have the knots cut out of his underfur.  He particularly disliked the twice-annual bath he required to really keep his fur up to snuff.  He did not like going outside, even though with his huge webbed and furry feet he was clearly an excellent example of the Norwegian Forest Cat breed he was.  I can just imagine him bounding through the snow over the tundra, with his pride-mates, hunting wild reindeer in the forests of Norway...or not.  

As he aged, and his hearing diminished, he became much more relaxed, and less of a 'scaredy-cat'.  He no longer jumped at the sounds of traffic.  At the end, he could even sleep through the noise of the vacuum cleaner.  

A chapter of my life has passed.  The two cats that I've had all of my adult life, through over a dozen moves, graduate school three times, three churches and my marriage to Darrick are now both gone.  At the end, I knew it was time for Oberon, but was just not quite ready to let go, and, as with Diva, I probably kept putting off having him put to sleep too long.  The vet said that at 20, he had lived twice.  

It seems, as we travel through this life, we collect griefs.  Our pets are just as much a part of our families as anyone else, and the hardest part is that we outlive them.  18 and 20 years is a good long life; there were several times over the years that I thought that Oberon wasn't going to make it, and somehow, he always did.  I suppose the balance is to collect just as many joys.  Oberon, in his secretive, sometimes skittish,  sometimes aloof way was a joy to have in my life.  I am so grateful for the years and years I had with both of them.  We will have cats again, and perhaps soon.  I think they would want it that way.  

Elderly cat, dreaming
Whose world went silent long ago
Ears twitching in sleep as if they still heard
Every rustle, the can opener, his name. 

Elderly cat, dreaming
Whose joints ache, whose legs are frail
Paws flexing in his dream world as if they still hunted
Mice and toys, the red dot. 

Elderly cat, dreaming
House cat, fur unkempt and dull with age
In his dream world still sleek and agile
Startled awake by my footfall on the floor.

A purr, a blink, a struggle to get up.
His frail frame slowly, but inevitably headed the way of all flesh, 
But first, some dinner?

(November 10, 2012)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We're moving to Chicago - would you help out?

Thank you, everyone who helped.  We're settled into our new place and Darrick has started his new job.  I'm still in search, but hopeful.

Friends, as you know, Darrick got a job in Chicago, and we're moving at the end of June.  Would you help us do so?

Jim and Darrick are Moving to Chicago

Monday, February 20, 2012

In which Doing a Good Deed turns into a Feel-Like-Crap moment.

So, this afternoon on my way to the grocery store from lunch, I came upon a small traffic jam at the corner of Rt. 5 and Hall Ave. in Meriden; a usually very busy intersection.

A very small dog, not the sort you would ordinarily see roaming out by himself, was in the middle of traffic, darting unpredictably to and fro, and barking madly at everything. He was confused, lost and scared, and was going to be run over at any minute. I, and another motorist, pulled our cars over, got out, and managed to lure this frightened little animal out of traffic and into a yard, where we managed to get hold of him by the collar. As we began to look around for where he might have come from, a woman emerged from the house.

While she screamed at us to let her dog go (with much profanity), we tried to explain that her little dog had nearly just been killed in traffic and we managed to save him. He wriggled free and dashed for the house; obviously his home. She continued to spew obscenities at us until we excused ourselves and ran for the safety of our own cars.

Like the Good Samaritan, I did not stop because I thought there might be some reward in this for me. I stopped because this little dog was in real danger of being immediately run over and killed in traffic, and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time to do something about it. I did not, honestly, expect to even find where he lived right at that moment, I just knew that if I didn't stop my car and get out, he would be killed and I couldn't let that happen.

But it would have been nice for the lady to at least thank us. I've been annoyed and hurt about this all afternoon. What have we become in this country when two strangers, who, frankly risked our own safety to rescue this dog, are not thanked, but are treated to a tirade of abuse and invective? Have we become so jaded and insensitive to the things that others do for us? I have no idea what sort of day or what sort of life, or what sort of situation the woman in the house was having. Perhaps the dog got out during a domestic fight. Perhaps she let it out in a fit of fury? Who knows. This whole experience has left me slightly rattled and annoyed and upset. And, I'd do it all again. Or would I?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Disturb us, Lord...

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ. 

Prayer of Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596), 
in the year 1577 as he departed Portsmouth.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Why I don't attend Gay Pride events.

It should come as no surprise to some of my regular readers that I have never attended a "gay pride" event. This article parses out why I believe that "pride" events are not good for LGBT Americans, and why ultimately, they will go out of favor.

 "Why I'm not 'Proud' of Being Gay.