Wisdom From the Meowing Mouth of a Cat

The smaller of my two cats is Kitty Girl. She appeared on our fenced-in patio shortly after sunrise one hot summer morning. I was awake early that day, sipping coffee at the picnic table, and saw a flash of black and white inside the flower box. At first I panicked, thinking it was a skunk. I studied it for a minute, and deciding it was too small to cause much damage, went over to investigate. Peering into the box, I couldn’t tell what I was seeing. It was a tiny blob of coarse dirty fur, and when I reached out to poke it I heard an almost imperceptible meow. Within a few seconds, the ugliest kitten I’d ever seen unrolled itself and looked at me with a combination of curiosity and desperation. Fleas hopped all over her, and yellow green drainage from her swollen eyes matted her face. I brought her inside, cleaned her up, treated her eyes, and fell in love with the perky, petite cat I call Kitty Girl.

Fast forward 13 years. Kitty Girl is no longer an ugly duckling. She is a dainty, lively, sweet cat who loves adventure and has used up at least six of her nine lives with exploits.

Once she wandered about a quarter mile away and climbed a tree. She was stuck there for three days and we were resigned to the idea that she died. Unwilling to accept that, Jackie and a search party of eight-year-old friends set out to find her. Continue reading →

When God Doesn’t Answer our Prayers

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My last post was about answered prayer. But what about the times when God doesn’t answer my prayers? There are lots of those, and I’m often jealous when I hear other’s miracle stories. “The cancer just disappeared!” or “I am so blessed; God gave me just what I hoped for!”

The Gospels often mention God’s desire to answer our prayers. Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). In Matthew 7:7, he says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and the door will be opened to you.” In Luke, we read about the widow who nagged the judge so much he finally found in her favor so she would leave him alone. Jesus tells us God will not be slow to answer those who cry out to him.

So what am I missing here? Why are some people miraculously cured and others not? Is it because they are somehow more worthy or because God loves them more than others? Did I not pray hard enough for Neil to be cured? Was I not persistent in my prayer? Those questions lead me to feel guilty, believing that if I said one more prayer or did one more good deed Neil would have survived. Continue reading →

Ouch, Am I a Gossip Girl?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about gossip. I have definitely been a victim of it; haven’t you? More important though, I have been trying to pay attention to how much I participate in it, and wondering if I am a gossip girl. I don’t want to be!

Over the years there was a lot of gossip about me and Neil:
“I heard Neil didn’t go home last night. I guess Colleen made him mad – she is so bossy!”
“I heard she was pregnant before they got married. I guess she’s not that Catholic after all.”
“I heard he moved out. I guess Colleen finally had it with his drinking.”

Like all gossip there were nuggets of truth in these comments. For example, Neil struggled with alcoholism and sometimes it was safer for him not to drive home. I wasn’t pregnant for nine months since I went into preterm labor at thirty weeks instead of forty. And, our typical argument involved retreating to separate corners until we cooled off. Sometimes that was an hour, sometimes a night, sometimes weeks. But all the gossipers saw was the way things appeared  to be – not the way they really were. I loved Neil despite his faults and, thankfully, he loved me despite mine.

So what makes a conversation gossip? It isn’t simply talking about other people. In a small town and among friends, that’s how we keep up with each other, how we know who needs extra prayers and who might need a casserole. Continue reading →

Love the Life You Have (Not the One You Wish For)

“I can’t wait until I retire,” my friend said at lunch one day. “Then I can do all the things I want.”

img_2035-jpg“ I can’t wait to finish the semester,” my nephew said during my visit. “Then I can relax and enjoy life for a while.”

“I can’t wait till this chemo is finished,” my patient said at her appointment. “Then I can get back to normal.”

We’ve all said things like this, haven’t we? We’ve all imagined how much better the future will be when we get past the present.

My house is quiet these days. My two younger daughters are away at college and my oldest is married and building her new life. My empty nest is far emptier than I ever imagined without Neil to share it. I often find myself saying, I can’t wait till the girls come home so the house feels alive again.

The other day I came across the very famous Scripture reading from Ecclesiastes that talks about a time for everything. Our lives have seasons just like the weather does – the college season, the work season, the retirement season.
This is my empty nest season. Continue reading →

When You’re Down in the Dumps, Look Up

Buddy's looking up!It was one of those negative days where everything was annoying. The birds were loud and woke me up early. The coffee didn’t brew on time and tasted stale when it finally did. The exercise class was harder than usual and I barely kept up. The toilet upstairs hadn’t stopped running after the last flush and used up all the water in the well. The cat and dog had gotten into a fight and as a result the cat got sick in the bathtub. Worst of all, Neil wasn’t there to listen to me complain. Continue reading →

See Others as God Does: A Lesson from My Cat

IMG_2227Sometimes we are reminded good lessons in the strangest ways. Recently, one of my cats taught me one I need to remember.

Tiger is about 13 years old, having been a birthday present for Jordan on her sixth birthday. Neil did not want another cat back then (we had two other cats and two dogs at the time!) but I was determined to make my little girl’s birthday dream come true. Despite my husband’s strong suggestion for some other present, I sat at the SPCA for the better part of a morning, looking into little eyes, watching the kittens interact with each other and throwing paper towel wads for them to chase before I finally decided Tiger was the one. As a kitten he was beautiful: perfectly proportioned, soft velvety fur, big green eyes and a personality that was cuddly and playful.

Fast forward 13 years later. As a grown cat, Tiger seems distrustful and guarded. He hates poor Buddy the dog, who would love nothing more than to be playmates. He tolerates Kitty Girl, our other cat, mostly by pretending she doesn’t exist. I have often imagined him complaining to himself about the idiotic pets with whom he is forced to reside, and the obnoxious humans who are not much better. Continue reading →

Honeysuckle Dreams: God’s Plans Outdo Mine Every Time

honeysuckle 2I love honeysuckle. As a child I sipped the ‘honey” from the blossoms and wove the flowers around my head in summer crowns. When my daughters were little I showed them the joys of honeysuckle too, and if on a walk or drive we saw some, often stopped to collect a fragrant bouquet. When I worked twelve hour shifts in the Emergency Department, I carried blooming branches in with me to remind me of the summer day outside. Even now, I love to sit on the deck in the evening, enjoying the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle floating in the breeze while crickets chirp their summer song and stars shine gently overhead.

When we first moved into our house, I was determined to surround it with honeysuckle. I bought some tiny plants from the local feed store. When I feared I didn’t have enough, I literally dug it up from alongside our country road. My neighbor, Charlie, laughed and thanked me for weeding the neighborhood. Continue reading →

But is a Bad Word

I have been doing some self-reflection lately, thinking about the words I use and the things I say. I try not to use any curse words and I try to speak kindly to and about others, but….

I realized there is one bad word I use quite regularly. It seems there is often a ‘but’ in my sentence, and the way I use it generally means something bad. Continue reading →

You’re not the Boss of Me!

blog stethescopeMany years of being an emergency physician taught me how to quickly assess a patient and determine what needed to be done. Looking at the patient and the monitors, I could call out orders – meds, IVs, breathing treatments- and my great staff  jumped in and did them.

Many years of being a restaurant manager taught Neil how to quickly assess the dining room and determine what needed to be done. He could read his customers instantly and know who was getting impatient, who didn’t like their meal, who needed something at their table; and he too, could direct his staff to do what was required.

We were two adults used to “bossing” people around and were both very good at what we did. That was great for our jobs, but it was terrible for our marriage. Continue reading →

On Being a Very Important Person

This past New Years my daughters and I weren’t quite ready to celebrate without Neil, so we decided to go on a cruise. A week before the trip, I received a strange message on my cell phone.  It was from an executive at the cruise line, offering a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” I was certain it was one of those offers that are more trouble than they’re worth (“take a short 4 hour tour of the ship and will give you this free gift!”) but something possessed me to call back.

It really was a vice president of the cruise line, and the phone number he had given me was the direct line to his office. As soon as I told him my name, he said, “ I am so glad you called right back. I have great news!” Don’t fall for it, I starting chanting to myself, already regretting the impulsive decision to return the call. “This doesn’t happen often, but the Owner’s Suite on your ship is open and we’d like to offer it to you,” he said. “There are a few fees associated with it, but it’s not much more than the room you’ve already booked and it would be perfect for a group of girls.” Continue reading →