Just a few short months ago in January of this year, my husband and I were not pet owners. We had no plans to get a pet of any kind, no yearnings to adopt an animal. But when an animal adopts you, it can be a different story.
In Crazy Cat Ladies (April 25th, 2021), I told the story of “Katleen,” the gray tiger-striped cat that showed up at our back door in January, promptly got pregnant and gave birth to seven kittens. That monumental birth-giving day was April 13th, just a few days shy of eight weeks ago. Eight weeks. The recommended time to keep kittens with their mother before adopting them out.
This weekend, the kittens went to their new homes–six of them, anyway. So, in less than six months, we have gone from being pet-free to the proud owners of two cats. We decided to keep one kitten for ourselves, as well as Katleen.
Cats have a way of making their owners proud; gushing about them to people who may or may not care, sharing stories and pictures, spending considerable amounts of money on their care and feeding, worrying about them, feeling like one’s heart has grown a few sizes since these creatures came into their lives.
I hardly recognize myself anymore; I am now an official crazy cat lady, just as I posted in the earlier blog. My husband doesn’t look or act the same, either. He has gone from “It’s your cat, figure it out,” to “I can build a pen in my shop for them,” laughing and enjoying them immensely–just as I have.
The mother’s post-birth complications are detailed in the previous blog; she rallied during her overnight stay at the vet just two days after her seven babies were born, championing the 50/50 odds the vet gave her for survival. She slid right back into the role of new mama cat; taking tender loving care of them, always looking out for their well-being and protecting them from any perceived threats.
These “Magnificent Seven” kittens were adorable and lovable, yes, but we knew we couldn’t take care of all eight cats forever. So, early in their new lives, we began looking for homes for at least six of them, thinking we just might want to keep one back for ourselves. The three black and three tiger-striped cats were difficult to tell apart, but the one multi-colored cat–“Slim,” as he was affectionately called as the runt of the litter, stood out. As the underdog (undercat), It didn’t take us long to decide that he would very likely stay with us. He seemed to have to fight harder than the others to find his place at the table, but Mama cat always made sure he got his share as well. In short order, he caught up with the smallest of the other six.
We lined up enough people who gave us a definite ‘yes,’ and more who said ‘maybe.’ When it came time to make adoption plans, however, none of them were able to take a cat (or cats) at this time, so we went back to square one. Once again, I offered them to Gail and Suzanne, but they remained firm. No cats for them–yet. However, when I told Suzanne that we planned to keep the runt, she reminded me that “you were the runt of our parent’s litter of seven, and we kept you….” It was, apparently, meant to be.
In the end, as it always happens, they went to homes that were perfect fits for each of them.
There was one female black cat and one female striped cat; the rest were males. One striped male cat went to an indoor home with several other grown cats. As I knew in my heart, and as the new owner’s pictures throughout this weekend have confirmed, it was a perfect fit.
Apolloseemed a bit uncertain at first–as did the other cats there, but they are all getting along beautifully in the two days they have been together.
The two female kittens made this little boy very happy; “Kitty” and “Pepper” are his first pets.
Tori, the vet tech in training I wrote about in the earlier post, took the remaining three males this morning. Between her home and her parent’s close-by rural home, they will have all the love and care they need in their new homes in the indoor shop areas. She has been a font of useful information from the beginning, and I am so happy she wanted these three. She didn’t have any others, and it was time for cats in her country home.
It’s a lot quieter in our shop now. Katleen and the last kitten–we have renamed him “Kit,” are settling into their new one-on-one routine. Kit is exploring the outdoors more today; we took the others out only for brief supervised outings one at a time; it wouldn’t have been possible to manage all of them outdoors at the same time. Their home base will still be our shop, although Katleen still tries to get in the house when she sees the chance–she remembers the week they spent in our guest room during the April snows.
My heart now has a soft spot for cats, especially my two. If I could have looked into a crystal ball a few years ago to see what I have become, I wouldn’t have recognized myself. Perhaps I needed to soften a bit; these creatures have a definite purpose within the human circle of life–if we let them. I spent many evenings in the shop having “cat therapy,” I could feel myself relax and unwind when I sat and held them; petting a cat brings on a sense of calm.
The kittens don’t sit still for petting as long as they did even a few weeks ago, but that is the feline circle of life. Just like toddlers, they are too busy to be held when there is fun to be had. And that’s the way it should be.
I’d like to offer a big thank-you to the new adoptive owners, they made the letting-go as easy as possible. To any cat lover whom I may have offended in the past when I didn’t seem to care about your cat stories or cat pictures (I probably didn’t), I am offering an apology. I didn’t get it. I do now.
Special thanks to my neighbor Sue who saw me through this adventure, and to the fine folks at Sunflower Veterinary Clinic in Minneapolis, Kansas, who offered continued support when needed.Happy Birthday today–6/6– to my friend Tana, one of the craziest cat ladies I know–and love. I understand you more fully now.
When my son Joel was about 12, our neighbor Sue asked me if he would be interested in cat-sitting for her. I asked him, and he asked me how many cats she had.
“Just one,” I said.
“That’s good,” he said. “Because if she had a bunch, she would be a crazy cat lady.”
I didn’t think I ever really wanted a cat, although I did state in a recent blog that perhaps, I was closer to getting one than ever before. Somehow, with age, I was becoming softer toward cats, and I maybe I would get one someday.
We grew up with multiple cats on the farm, and they were just that: farm cats. They stayed outside, reproduced and gave birth outside; lived and died outside. If I were to get a cat, it would be an outside cat.
In January, a gray tiger-striped cat showed up at our back door. I didn’t see it; I heard it. My head was in the refrigerator, and at the very same moment I was smelling the milk to determine that it was indeed a few days sour, I heard the meowing at the back door.
Here’s your sign.
I gave the milk to the cat, and the saga began.
In honor of my love for all things Abilene and Eisenhower, I wanted to name her Mamie. My husband, however, with his unique sense of humor, did me one better: Katleen.
We had many farm cats, but none as memorable as Goldie. She was the matriarchal family farm feline; having given birth to eighty-some kittens, at our last count. She had one back leg accidentally shortened by a farm mower, but this didn’t stop her. She even went missing several weeks, and we all missed her. I had a dream one night she came back, and the next morning she did. She disappeared another time, and she never came back. Without providing too much detail, we found proof that she was gone forever.
I remember that Suzanne had a favorite farm cat she named Ashley. I also remember that she dressed her up in doll clothes. Suzanne doesn’t have a cat now, but she says she would like one again someday. When she lived in Osborne near our parents, she had Donnie and Salem. When Gail’s kids were younger, they had a housecat: Bojangles. When they found out Bojangles was female, she became Belle Jingles. She hasn’t had a cat since, but hasn’t ruled out another one someday.
Our parents had a very special cat that first belonged to Suzanne. Blackie was adopted by the wonderful people who moved into their house, because she refused to leave. (The Luckiest Black Cat, August 23rd, 2020).
Katleen became a shop cat; my husband’s workshop became her new home. It was heated, and she was happy there. We were happy to have her there, too. She was a nice cat, very friendly. Clearly, she had been loved. No one local claimed her, and she didn’t show any desire to leave us. She was clean and tidy, using the litter box without any training.
In short order, Katleen became pregnant. Knocked up. With kittens. This wasn’t what we signed up for, but, recalling how farm cats take care of this business without any help, I wasn’t worried. She would simply give birth on her own terms. She would take care of the kittens until they were weaned, and we would find homes for them, just like we did with the dozens of farm cats that were born. Easy peasy. Mother Nature would be the only midwife and nurse she needed.
Katleen continued to grow; appearing to be ready any moment, but she just kept growing. And growing.
On Tuesday, April 13th, I went in the shop early in the morning to check on her, just like I had every morning lately. She didn’t spring off her favorite chair to her food bowl, like she usually did. She had been known to sneak around behind the workbench, prowling in and out of the nooks and crannies. She always showed up, so I knew she was in there somewhere. I looked around, but didn’t see her. Then, I heard it: a tiny little mew. Not a big meow, but the tiny little voice of a new born kitten. I traced the sound, and found it coming from behind the workbench, behind the trashcan. I didn’t move it; I knew it wasn’t my place. I needed to leave them alone; I would be a hindrance to what happens naturally, without the need for human intervention.
When I came home that afternoon, I decided it was time to take a look. It was feeding time, and I knew she would be hungry. Like a steak dinner for a new mother in the hospital, I opened a can of tuna for her. I didn’t hear any more mews; perhaps they were all resting. However many there were. Four-five is an average size litter, I found out soon thereafter. I pulled the trashcan out, and found her nest:
She had apparently drug plastic bags back there, knowing she would need something between her and the floor. She got up and went right to the tuna in her dish. It was relatively warm, but I knew her babies needed something softer than the plastic bags on the concrete floor. Hearing Mom’s advice in my head–don’t touch the kittens when they are new,the mother won’t like your scent on her kittens, I put on rubber gloves and put them on a softer bed of rugs and old towels. Katleen didn’t mind. She was hungry; gobbling her food. She did turn her head and look behind her a few times as she ate to check on her babies. She was doing well; the kittens were doing well. All seven of them. The Magnificent Seven–just like our mom called us. They looked like little mice, squirming and wriggling, but always heaping themselves together on a pile. I tucked them all in (figuratively speaking) and left them alone with each other for the night.
All eight felines were doing well the next morning. By afternoon, however, Katleen had stopped eating. She wasn’t interested. And, there was no water gone from her dish. I thought this was strange, but I learned from local experts that she may need a day to rebound. We gave her that day.
She didn’t bounce back. By Thursday morning, all her food and water remained. She was minimally responsive, but lied quietly and nursed her babies. She was losing a bit more afterbirth, and the smell coming from her was awful. My neighbor Sue–the not-crazy-cat-lady I mentioned in the first paragraph, was very concerned. I was, too, but in my state of denial, I heard myself say “She’s a tough farm cat. She’ll be okay, just like all your farm cats from years past.” But deep down, my voice of reason said: “She’s not okay.” I knew of a great local vet from a friend’s recommendation and he wanted to see her right away. Sue, being the stellar neighbor and friend she is, stepped in and stepped up to take her in, because I had to get to work. We loaded up Mama and her babies–the vet said to bring them along, but the babies came right back home.
She went into surgery shortly thereafter to remove her uterus, as it was “full of gunk” from the placentas that didn’t pass, and this material was becoming toxic to her. She was given a 50/50 shot at survival. She wouldn’t have made it much longer if he hadn’t performed surgery, he said.
“This is rare,” the vet told me on the phone when I called that afternoon. “She made it through surgery, and she is starting to wake up. We’ll know in the morning if she’s okay. If she survives, she may not produce enough milk right away, and they may still need to be supplemented.”
He kept her overnight. Sue had brought the kittens back, and jumped right into lifesaving mode. She procured the necessary powdered formula, made two trips back into town to get the right supplies, and, with her partner Rick, they syringe-fed the first feeding. More would need to follow every two hours until midnight, then about every four hours.
My husband was at work, and I got another patient added to my list before we could come home and launch into kitten caregiving. This was not turning out to be a good day, but my faith in my local circle of humanity would soon be enriched.
When we both got home, we went across the road to Sue’s house. She had a highly efficient system set up, and showed us how it worked. We all jumped in and got in the groove of the next feeding.
It was about four o’clock, and they would need to stay on this schedule until about midnight, according to the vet’s recommendations. Then, every four hours would suffice.
This schedule, however, would be daunting for all four of us together, let alone any one of us. I knew it wasn’t feasible for me, as sleep is my highest priority after ten p.m., it is my lifesaving medicine.
Enter Annie–Angel Annie, as she deserves to be called. She came highly recommended from a friend, and she was home from college just a few miles down the road. She loved cats, and was up all night anyway, she said, as many college students are. She came over with her dad, completed Sue’s crash course in syringe-feeding two-day old kittens, and took them home for the night. We were in one-day-at-a-time mode.
God bless her.
I called the vet at 8 a.m., hoping and praying for good news. He had it. Katleen was awake, recovering well and eating. We could pick her up anytime.
God bless him.
This left the weekend. The weekend we had planned to go to Kansas City to celebrate my birthday, which was Saturday. We had big plans with friends, and taking care of seven kittens and their mama–as lovable as they all are– was not in my plan.
Enter more angels. Mark’s brother and his wife agreed to take all eight cats, at least for the weekend. They knew that they would likely need to be fed with a syringe, or, if they took it, a bottle with a small nipple. They stepped up and accepted the challenge.
Mama and her babies were seamlessly reunited, and they all appeared happy to be back together. We delivered the eight felines, and were able to hit the road for Kansas City by noon, as planned.
God bless them.
They kept us updated via text and videos/pictures; all eight cats were hanging in there. Even the lighter-colored runt–Slim, as they affectionately named him/her.
When they got up for a 3 a.m. feeding, there were five kittens in the box, and no mama cat. They searched the house for about half an hour, but no luck. Knowing they were somewhere in their house, and the other kittens were fed and quiet, they went back to bed. In the morning, he found Mama and the two biggest kittens hiding in the back of his closet. She had apparently separated them from the smaller kittens, likely instinctively knowing that the bigger ones may compromise the smaller one’s ability to get enough milk. She knew what she was doing. He put them all back together, and she separated them again.
We arrived Sunday afternoon to pick them up. They were all doing well, and only one–Slim–appeared to need extra milk that morning. And, when they tried, Mama cat wasn’t too happy about it. She apparently wanted them to know she had it under control.
The spring weather still wasn’t very springy last week, as evidenced by the snowfall Tuesday. I don’t ever remember snow like this after my birthday.
So, instead of returning them to the shop–it was warm but not as warm as the house, we welcomed them into our guest bedroom. I set them up in a cardboard box on one side of the bed when we got home, and within ten minutes, Mama had relocated them to a spot under the bed. They stayed there for a while, but then Slim, who has wandered away since day one,
tried to wander away again. I put them back in the box on the other side of the bed, as far away from the door as possible. They have stayed there since. I tried to help Slim along with a supplement when we got home, but again, Mama got mad. I took this as a sign she did indeed have it under control, so I let Mama cat and Mother Nature rule.
Now, one week later as I write, it’s apparent that she did indeed have it under control. All seven kittens are growing, eyes are open, and they don’t scream out much, if at all. They nurse, and fall asleep satisfied in their pile.
She is eating and drinking well, and producing ample milk. The kittens are contained in a cardboard box, but not for long. They will be exploring their world on their own very soon. Mama gets out and naps alone sometimes, and enjoys roaming around outside for a bit every day.
We left the house overnight last night to hang out with the grandkids, and with Sue checking in on them several times. They continue to thrive.
It has taken a village to do what one creature normally does. If not for the help of Sue and Rick, the fine folks at Sunflower Veterinary Clinic in Minneapolis, Kansas, Tori–a local vet-tech in-training, Angel Annie, Mark’s brother and his wife and anyone else who played a role, these eight creatures likely wouldn’t be with us still. Mother Nature is infinitely wiser than any human, even when we think we know it all. Our efforts to help when they weren’t necessary were well-intentioned, and we didn’t yet know what was necessary for their survival, and what wasn’t. I like to think we did the best we could, and we did keep them alive. Remember, we are not cat people. At least, we didn’t used to be.
We went from a “no animals in the house” policy, to “we have eight cats in our guest bedroom.” Secretly, I think both Gail and Suzanne are jealous, although they would never admit it. I offered them each a kitten, but they politely declined. At this time, I think all seven kittens are spoken for. That is, if we can let go of them. We are both feeling a little attached to Slim, perhaps his/her underdog/undercat status has created a soft spot within us.
For his valiant and selfless efforts, we gave Mark’s brother the privilege of naming these kittens, and while Slim and Wolfman are perfect for the two smallest ones, and Shaq and Barkley are perfect for the two largest ones–that’s all the further he got, I have been thinking of them as our parents’ Magnificent Seven: Gary, Gail, David, John, Kathleen, Suzanne and Ryan.
And, in our parent’s litter of seven, I was the runt. Still am. Perhaps that’s why I feel a special bond with Slim. And, according to my son’s definition in the first paragraph, I am now an official Crazy Cat Lady.
They weren’t even “cat people” until they met Blackie. They had to take her; she came with the house. She simply wouldn’t leave.
“Blackie” was our parents’ cat. She was an outside cat, faithfully returning to their step every evening after roaming the neighborhood in their small town every day. She was happy there, and they were happy to have her. Suzanne found her when she was a kitten and got her for Julia, her daughter. They lived in the same town as Mom and Dad, and soon thereafter, they moved to a house a bit further away. Blackie didn’t like their new home, and she would go to Mom and Dad’s house. Knowing she would be a perfect match for Mom and Dad, Suzanne let her stay, but Julia stayed close to her.
She was indeed perfect for them.
When Mom and Dad died, Suzanne took Blackie the four blocks to her home, fully intending to adopt her again and take good care of her just as Mom and Dad did. She did her best, but Blackie kept returning to Mom and Dad’s house. She wouldn’t stay with Suzanne, so she had no choice but to feed and water her there.
The housing market in their small town was tight at the time, and their house sold quickly. Henry and Debbie were hand-picked from above to be the new owners of Mom and Dad’s house. We couldn’t have asked for nicer people to move into the small home that our parents had lived in and enjoyed for eight years after moving to town from the farm. Henry and Debbie moved to Osborne from another town, so they didn’t know our parents.
“We’re not really cat people,” they said. But they knew that they would be entrusted to the resident cat if they bought the house, and it didn’t deter them from becoming the new owners. Not only were they the most perfect stewards for the house, but they were the most perfect adoptive owners for Blackie.
Apparently, she felt the same way. While she had been a happy outdoor cat, in short order, she became an indoor cat. No longer could Henry and Debbie say they were not “cat people.” Blackie had worked them with her charm, and now she lived inside the house. Her favorite spot, they told us, was the soft cushion on the seat of the glider rocker.
That chair had belonged to our parents.
Blackie was not your garden-variety cat. She had special powers; specifically, some form of extra-sensory cat perception.
I mentioned that Blackie typically roamed the neighborhood all day, returning to their step every evening. On the afternoon Mom and Dad died, however, the neighbors told us she spent that afternoon on their step. She knew. She was holding vigil.
Four days later, on the morning of their funeral, Gail was getting ready for the service at her mother-in-laws house. It was just across the street, across an open lot from Mom and Dad’s house. She saw Blackie in that lot, apparently holding her own memorial for her beloved owners. In that lot, there was a gathering of neighborhood cats. It appeared that they had loosely formed a half-circle around Blackie, as if she were delivering her own eulogy to honor her owners who had just passed.
Blackie surely felt lost without Mom and Dad there, but she survived, as cats do. Suzanne continued to take good care of her, and attempted a few more times to take her to back to her house, but she always made her way back to her “real” home.
Henry and Debbie became friends with our family; their kindness during our time of mourning was beyond words. They felt honored to live in the house our parents lived in, often commenting that they wished they had known them. We hate to brag, but it was something about how great their kids were, so surely the parents of these fine folks must have been outstanding people.
Unfortunately for us, they have since moved to a nearby small city for work reasons. We will always be thankful for their stewardship of Mom and Dad’s house, but especially for their friendship, as well as their tender loving care of Blackie.
I’ve heard it said that dogs often take on the personalities of their owners, but I can’t say I have heard—or seen the same—with cats. Cats seem to have their own personalities, their own agendas. Blackie, however, was always a kind, obedient and docile cat, not to mention smart. Of course, this is a direct reflection on our parents, and then Henry and Debbie.
Henry was famous for posting great stories about Blackie on Facebook. His post detailing her last day is below:
If you have spent any time with me in the last few years, you have probably heard me talk about Blackie the sweet cat. She has been with us since we moved to Osborne in 2008 and she was already several years old. We think she was 17.
Blackie’s health has been failing this summer. Thursday, Blackie was able to wander around the yard awhile, but by Friday night it was obvious it was her last day. Those of you who knew her know that she was an amazing cat.
Blackie was smart and obedient. She had a pretty good vocabulary of words she understood and would obey quite a few commands. We let her sharpen her claws anywhere she wanted on the carpet. One day she decided to use a nice rug instead. I told her NO and she never clawed that rug again. That was well over 10 years ago.
One of my favorite things to do with her was to have her hunt for treats. I would tell her “HUNT,” and give her hand signals like you might for a bird dog. She would follow the signals. When she got close I would say “LOOK,” and she would stop and carefully search the immediate area until she found the treat.
Everybody loves their pets and hurts when they are gone. Many tears in Hays tonight.
Thank you to the Ketter family for letting Blackie be a part of our lives. Thank you to the Osborne and Hays Veterinary Clinics for the care they gave Blackie (and us) through the years.
The first picture is as a kitten with Julia (Suzanne’s daughter) who has so graciously allowed us to have Blackie with us. The second photo is the last one of her drinking from the bird bath on Thursday.
I love the last photo because yes Blackie was a black cat and this is the most Black Cat photo we have of her.
Blackie as a kitten with Suzanne’s daughter Julia
Blackie’s last trip outdoors on Thursday of this week
Blackie was truly a black cat.
I’m not even a “cat person,” but I had to wipe a few tears as I copied this.
Gail, Suzanne and I mourned together by phone this weekend. Suzanne and I were consoling each other yesterday after we got the news. I had this thought already, as well as the awareness she then had, but she verbalized it first:
“It’s like the last living piece of Mom and Dad’s history is gone. Wait, I guess all seven of us are still here…”
My faith assures me that a person’s spirit lives on in the next world. Until now, I never though much about an animal’s spirit. Being farm girls, Suzanne and I recently talked about how we knew from early on that animals on the farm—whether it was livestock, or the multiple farm cats and dogs –were destined for a very temporary stay with us. It was the way of the farm world. I remember mourning several of our farm dogs when they passed. They had become family members in a sense, but life always went on. Several cats became beloved as well, but none were as special as Blackie.
I haven’t felt this moved by an animal’s passing since then. Blackie was indeed a part of our family, then she lived on as a part of Henry and Debbie’s family.
I believe her spirit lives on. It has too. She was too smart, too kind, too special for her spirit to be gone forever. I believe this with all my heart.
And I’m not even a cat person.
The luckiest black cat ever, looking out the front window of Mom and Dad’s/Henry and Debbie’s house.
“Game on,” was the thought Tana said was going through her twelve year old mind when I arrived as their new babysitter.
Except that in 1984, that phrase had not yet been coined.
It was probably something like: “We’ve run off all the other babysitters, and we will run you off, too.” Or, “You have no idea what you’re getting into, but we plan to show you.”
It probably didn’t help that one of the first things I said after the initial introduction, upon meeting their cat was “I don’t like cats.” I proceeded to show them that if you blew in a cat’s ear, it would shake its head vigorously.
I thought it was funny. They didn’t. Neither did Cinnamon.
That was 34 years ago, and, having survived those crucial first few weeks, we are now bonded forever. I’m not exactly sure what I did to win their trust after that cat incident, or what I did to make it strong enough for them to decide they wouldn’t run me off, but I apparently did something right.
And—mercifully, I have a new respect for cats.
Tana and Amy were twelve and eight respectively when we met. They spent the summers with their dad on the farm, which was close to ours. They lived with their mother in Arizona during the school year. Their dad was a busy farmer, and he needed a babysitter, as well as a household manager.
I made the grade well enough to keep coming back for many more summers. Even when they were no longer in need of babysitting, they brought me back. It was a great summer gig for a college girl. And when that was over, we kept each other—as friends.
Every year for the last I-can’t-remember-how-many, they come to visit for the July 4th holiday from their homes in the Phoenix area. They bring their husbands and children, who have grown up knowing that “Kathleen’s house” is the Independence Day destination, as well as their summer vacation. According to their mothers, they begin asking months in advance “How long until we go to Kansas?” and “Why can’t we stay longer?” and “Can’t we go in the winter too?” I take all these as confirmation that I did indeed make the grade as their mothers’ babysitter all those years ago.
“My friends ask me ‘So, what do you do there?’” Tana said. “And I say ‘Nothing. We do nothing.’ And they look at me like I’m crazy.”
But a lot of nothing is what we do indeed. Nothings like working on puzzles.
And, of course, eating. After we bake and cook, we eat.
This “nothing” is what makes it so much fun. All three of us feel that having a plan and packing a vacation full of activities is sometimes counterproductive, creating stress of its own, which is exactly what vacations are meant to avoid.
We did take a day trip to their hometown, the same town they were born in. Gail, Suzanne and I were born there, too. “I’s born in Osborne…”
Our two-car convoy approaches their small town.
Lunching at the Pizza Hut there is a highlight, the Pizza Hut we ate at all those years ago, and the one Gail managed for years–just in a new building now.
Stopping along the way at the newly re-opened family market on the way home in Lucas is a highlight. We stopped there on our way to Osborne for the Loads of Sisters (November 19th) post to procure some of the locally famous meats from this iconic market, the market that was our dad’s favorite place to stop for meat and conversation.
Then, having passed by too many times before, we finally took the tour of the locally—and regionally—famous Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas. And yes, there really is a visibly entombed dead guy there. He built this unique creation, and it was his wish to be preserved as such. If you are ever in the vicinity, it’s worth the stop.
The second-place finisher in a national public restroom contest, this work of art is not to be missed. Whether or not you have to go, you have to go.
Nothing is too sacred to be added to the mosaic art that makes this restroom unique, the mosaic art that validates my favorite form of art to create.
The food and libations, the company and conversation, the heat, the pool—it’s all part of the porch experience at our house.
Besides all this, there are some secrets this porch holds, memories that require one to be present to win.
Tana gave this gift to me at the end of the trip, and I treasure it.
Independence Day has come and gone again, just like holidays, and every other day does. The guests have returned home, and it’s back to work for me Monday. The memories remain, and the seeds of anticipation for next year have been planted in all our minds.
This Independence as a nation, as well as our personal independence, needs to be celebrated every day. We are a free country, thanks once again to the brave men and women who made—and keep it that way.
Just like the soldiers fulfill their duty, each of us has a duty to ourselves to free ourselves from anything that holds us back from living our lives to their fullest. Too many people, I learn more each day, are held in chains by their own bitterness and regret, their closely guarded pride and useless fears, and lack of complete awareness of all things beautiful that surround them. I can write this only because I am one of them still. I feel a continued evolution away from all of these, but I know it will be a lifelong journey. A journey it is, not a destination. If I—or any of us—think we have it all perfected, perhaps another look would enlighten us to yet more joy we could unearth and hold within.
Not to be confused with happiness, I have learned that joy is the deeper of the two, the feeling that no matter what sadness may befall us, we have a deep well within to sustain us, a well that will never run dry, even when happiness is in a drought spell.
Happiness, if you dissect the word, looks too much like “happen,” “happening” or “happenstance,” all of which suggest it depends on external things that we may have no control over.
The longer I live, the more I realize it is my duty to myself first, then to my fellow human beings, to find any and all things that make me happy and add to that well of joy, so that I may first savor it for myself, and then share it with others.
As a sister to Gail and Suzanne, I find deep joy having them in my life. This blog, I hope, gives you an insight into this well within me that seems to become deeper with time, thanks in large part to them. I am so grateful that Tana and Amy kept me, long after they needed me. They didn’t have to. They have made my well inside deeper.
Like most sisters, we have had heartbreak in our own lives and within our family. So, too, have Tana and Amy. Like us, they have stuck together through thin and thick. They were the only two children of their parents, having each other as constants when they divorced. They rode through storms of many other forms of loss and sadness, and came out victorious, and with a stronger bond after the storms cleared.
Some sisters, I know too well, do not have this resilience. Some sisters, sadly, don’t ride out the storm.
I recall being struck by this statement I read after our parents died: The two people who knew you the longest are gone. Sisters and brothers are second only to parents for most of us in terms of relationship longevity.
I know, sadly, from seeing others struggle with their families, that the peace I have with my sisters, and the peace Tana and Amy have, is not universal, not a gift granted. It may take work, and for some sisters, no solution can be found. Some sisters—and brothers too—cannot find that middle ground to meet upon; cannot bridge the chasm that lies between them.
Once again—the third time within The Sister Lode, I will make a reference to a profound lyric from a classic 70’s song: “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.”
Tana and I had the privilege of seeing this rock icon who first performed this classic song, right here in the downtown of our small city: (Amy departed that day, so she wasn’t able to join us.)
Sometimes, if we step back and simply try to see the situation through their eyes, we may come closer to meeting in that beautiful middle; not being a good guy or a bad guy.
Stars and stripes are forever, and so are sisters. Forever is a long time. Except when it’s not. Forever could come tomorrow for any of us. Please make the most of whatever is left of forever; none of us know how long that could be.
I hate to brag, but I am kind of an authority on this subject: life can change forever in one second, loved ones can be gone in a blink. If you are at peace with your sisters and any other loved ones, celebrate it every day. If you aren’t, do what you can to meet in the middle, and perhaps just disagree. I get that some people will not budge one inch toward the middle, and we have to leave them in their far left or far right. As long as you have tried. If they were gone tomorrow, I hope you would find peace with whatever efforts you made. If you think perhaps there is more work you can do, then do it.
Until every day is Independence Day.
My life is coming full circle– I find myself liking cats once again. Thank you, Tana and Amy, for giving me a second chance after my failed first impression with Cinnamon.
Suzanne was able to join us for our July 4th celebration, but Gail was not. Gail was here for Memorial Day weekend, and we celebrated then, as we always do.
In her absence, Suzanne and I had our own little pool party yesterday. Anytime there is laughter, Gail is there in spirit.