Waking Up to Cat Breath

This morning, my cat who looks more like a skunk wakes me up with very loud purring.  She’s right in my face, purring with that horrible cat-breath.  I’m not moving, so she puts one little paw on my nose.  Purr, purr, purr. 

I pet her and lean in to figure out the source of her purring.  The purring mechanism confuses even the most intelligent of scientists; nobody can discover how a cat actually purrs.  It just seems to happen.  It’s not even daylight yet, and already I’m encountering mystery.  How do you purr, little cat?

We don’t know how they purr, but we hypothesize why.  I read that cats purr for three reasons:  happiness, friendship, and intention.   They purr to communicate contentment and relaxation.  They purr as a sign of offering friendship.  Finally, they purr to express a specific request or intention (feed me, love me). 

What if my communication today rose up from a deep mysterious place of good tidings?  What if my sounds offered to the world around me today, even from daybreak, expressed happiness, friendship, and clear, good intentions?

Consider the mysterious cat.  I approach you purring, pouring out happiness, friendship, and good intention.

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Just so dogs don’t feel left out today (hello, Roberta!), I wanted to leave you with the quote, “Wag more, bark less.”  For cats, it’s “purr more, hiss less.”  I’m asking God to help me turn from hiss to purr today. 

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Unlikely Sucess

Today, Jack alerts me to a beautiful bird in the Weeping Cherry.

He talks to the bird with that strange broken meowing sound, moving his jaw rapidly.  I’ve wondered for years why cats make this sound when they look at birds. 

My husband tells me that cats imagine eating the bird and therefore make munching sounds with their mouths.

Jack’s on the hunt, imagining success.  Would a cat ever capture a bird like this?  Unlikely.  Would a cat with one eye, indoors, catch a bird like this?  Never.

Still, the cat munches.  Still, he visualizes success.

Maybe one day.  The confidence of my One-Eyed Cat inspires me.  The bird flies from the tree, uncaught, and Jack, undaunted, settles under the lights of the Christmas tree.  Maybe, in his mind, he simply let the bird go. 

Oh, Jack, you crazy cat, living with flair, in lights for all to see.  You don’t give up.  We won’t either.      
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Happy Saturday!  Are you inspired to persevere today? 

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Do You Get Territorial?

My One-Eyed cat, Jack, taught me something else last night.  You can read his whole journey of healing here: Jack’s Story

Are you ready to see something strange and wonderful about these little cats?  Well, they each choose a child to “protect” in the night.  Louie curls up by the oldest daughter, and Jack guards the youngest.  Every night at bedtime, they assume their posts in each respective bedroom.  It’s been this way all year. 

Last night, the girls want to have a sleepover in the oldest daughter’s bed.  Jack innocently follows the youngest wherever she happens to be sleeping.  But Louie is the alpha male cat, and this is his territory.  Normally, he’ll hiss and claw at Jack if he even dares to approach the bed.

Jack has an assignment, though.  He’s on a mission to guard the youngest, so he dutifully curls up at her feet right next to where Louie guards the oldest.

A staring contest ensues.  Jack’s one eye doesn’t even blink. 

Finally, Louie recognizes Jack’s purpose here.  No fighting, no clawing.

As I tuck the girls in for the night, I realize that Jack has a specific role now that everyone acknowledges and supports.  And in the midst of this service, enemies are brought together.

There’s something more important than our need to control or our need to be territorial. Jack knows this.  He risked the danger to do what he was supposed to do.  And Louie let him, risking his own position and power. 

And in case you’re wondering where Snowflake serves in the midst of all this, well, she’s recovering from a Bridal Shower where she sat peacefully on the couch in a bridal veil.

And then she came to sleep at my feet. 

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Journal:  Am I afraid to do certain things because it’s someone’s “territory?”  Do I need to let others serve even if I think they are in my “territory?”

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From Cowardly to Courageous

My little cat, Jack, advances even further in the direction of being fully alive.  Once wounded, this now strong kitty first relearns how to purr.  Then he figures out how to meow again.   Then, he moves past his wounds and chooses to love and serve others.  Finally, he begins to master basic feline behaviors like kneading. 

My daughter asks me, “Mom, what else will Jack do as he becomes more and more like a healthy cat?”  I have no idea.  But we wait and we watch.

Recently, a friend delivers a gift to our three cats.  It’s a huge, fluffy cat bed to sit by my rocking chair.  But we have three cats.  Who will get this soft bed?   Jack has no chance, especially with that one cat (Louie,  alpha male) who dominates every household scene.  Normally, Jack cowers around the others.  The three cats stand there, observing this amazing bed. 

Then it happens.  Jack moves forward and claims the bed for his own.  He transforms from cowardly to courageous right before our eyes.  He kneads the bed, turns a few circles, and has slept there ever since. 

I watch that little cat, and I remember God’s work as Healer.  

On our way to recovering from whatever wounds us, we suddenly realize the plans in store for us.  One day, we find we have the courage to move forward, claim our dreams, and stand up to those that threaten us.  We discover our place.   We find we are so healthy that nobody even remembers where we came from or how we were wounded. 

We find we are fully alive, doing all the things we were meant to do.  Nothing holds us back. 

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Take a Minute

I’m officially overloaded with work obligations and writing tasks.  As I sit at my computer, I become annoyed by my cat, Louie Von Whiskers, who knows the exact moment when I start to type on my keyboard.

This crazy cat believes that my computer work signals his need to nap across the keyboard.  I push him down onto the carpet, and he jumps right back on top of the computer–audacious, insistent, and. . . adorable.

“OK, you kitty,” I say.  I take him in my arms, and he immediately curls up into a soft ball.  Purring loudly, he stays put, and when I try to lean over to type, he actually puts a paw on my arm to restrain me.  So I’m stuck here, holding this ball of fur. 

I do have one hand free.  Can I type with this one hand?  Not really.  But I can reach for my hot cup of tea that I’d forgotten I’d made. 

Here I sit, cup of tea in one hand, purring cat on my lap.  I think God gave me this cat to make me take a minute–a non-productive minute–to do nothing at all. 

I find myself so refreshed that I have to wonder what other non-productive minutes I might take today.  More tea?  More snuggling with animals?  What if I listened to a new song or gazed out the back window?

It can’t all be work in 2011.  Imagine a cat sleeps on your lap and you can’t move at all.  You have no choice but to lean back, drink your tea, and enjoy yourself for a minute. 

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How You Know You’re Getting Better

Do you remember the story of my one-eyed cat, Jack?  We rescued this wounded kitty and brought him into our home.  He couldn’t even purr, he was that broken.  But we knew his purr was in there somewhere. 

We brushed him, fed him, bathed him, pet him, and loved and loved and loved him.  And one day, he found his purr. 

But he still had no voice; this kitty could not meow.  We stuck with this messed up cat–despite the one eye, the injured mouth, and the tail that wouldn’t hang right.  We kept loving him. 

And a year later, he stood tall and proud in the kitchen and let out his first squeaky meow. That cat found his voice.  It took a year, but he learned to meow again.

A few months later, I discover that my wounded cat is serving another cat, holding her down and bathing her.  Jack couldn’t purr a year ago, and now he is taking care of others.  I couldn’t believe it. 

Well, it gets better. 

Last night, I’m reading books with my daughter in her bed, and Jack hops up on top of us and starts doing this strange dance.  He’d press his front paws in and then arch his back and press his back paws into the blanket.  He could hardly keep his balance, and he was tangling himself up in the sheets. 

“What is Jack trying to do?”  we laugh and ask each other.  We stay very still and observe him.  Then, we realize what is happening. 

Jack is attempting a behavior that all domestic cats do (but Jack never did).  He is kneading. 

All cats, when they feel content and safe, press their front paws in and out like they’re kneading bread.   Some say that when cats do this, they remember their kitten days of pressing against their mother to get milk.  Others claim that cats only enact this ritual when they feel at home.  They knead a space to mark it as their bed, usually right next to their mother. 

Jack never did this. It’s like he had no memory of even being a happy kitten or being at home.  Maybe because he wasn’t.   But last night, Jack tries to knead.  Kneading, however, represents a complex instinctual action.  Cats alternatively flex each paw, press in, and then retract their claws as they lift each paw.  Only the front paws knead. 

Jack has no idea how to do it, but some kitty instinct kicks in.  We watch Jack attempt to knead the bed.  He starts, falls over, and then tries again with his back paws (all wrong!).  Eventually, as he purrs loudly and rolls all over us, he gets it right.  He presses his front paws in, alternating between left and right, before he curls up and falls asleep beside my daughter.

He found his purr.  Then he found his voice.  Then he found a way to serve despite his wounds.  Then, then, he began to remember his true self–becoming fully alive and doing what he was meant to do.  Finally safe, finally at home, Jack starts to act like a real cat in every way. 

There’s hope for us all, no matter how wounded.  

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When Your Cat Looks Like a Skunk

My Skunk Kitty

When you’re sick in bed, you have a lot of time to think about your life.  You can have bizarre thoughts, brought on by fever and narcotics and the reality television shows you’ve been watching to pass the time. 

You start asking yourself if you’re dying, and you wonder what the whole point of life is anyway.  Then you start thinking you’ll never have another moment of flair again in your whole life.  You think that God has abandoned you and everything you thought was true is now untrue. 

You can’t remember any of God’s promises.  

And then your kitty comes up to snuggle with you, and she rolls over to show you the single white stripe on her belly.  She looks exactly like a skunk. 

But she’s not a skunk.  She’s a kitty.  She only looks like a skunk. 

What I see from this bed is not reality. 

There’s another system, another actuality, that God knows and God sees.  Good, beautiful, right, and true.  As warm and comforting as this cat beside me. 

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The Next Step

My one-eyed cat, Jack, has taken another important step.  

Remember how wounded and sick Jack was?  How unattractive and miserable?   We brought him home and gave him all the love we could.   He’d lost his ability to purr.  He couldn’t even meow.  His whole kitty identity seemed withered and dying. 

Then one day, he found his purr again, deep and rich and wild.  We were petting him, and we heard the slow chug, like some distant train coming from a far-off country.  He’s purring!  Then, nearly a year into his recovery, he stood in the kitchen, proud and tall, and let out his first meow.  That kitty self was back. 

The One-Eyed Cat Serves

It gets even better.  Yesterday, I walk into my bedroom, and I see the once lonely and wounded kitty in a warm embrace.  He’s holding another cat.  He’s holding her still and bathing her face and the back of her ears!  As I watch this display, I realize that Jack’s journey has reached yet another point of healing. 

I snap a picture of him and think of what it means to care for somebody.  The once-wounded cat is now serving others.   

Living with flair means that we don’t stay wounded.  We press on, find ourselves again, and discover where we might serve.  Even if you’ve had a loss that changes how you see everything (and limits you), there’s hope towards a journey of healing-turned-ministry.  Maybe that’s the best kind.  Maybe Jack is particularly good at caring for other cats because he’s come back from the worst. 

The One-Eyed Cat and His Friend

Maybe I’m particularly good at helping folks live with flair because I lived without it for so long.  How could I not offer an embrace, hold you still for a moment, and speak out whatever words might help make today meaningful? 

 

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Annoyed or Delighted?

Whenever it’s time to make up a bed with fresh, clean sheets, it’s as if the cats know.

They run to the bedroom.  Soon, I wrestle two kitties out from underneath the sheets.  They return to burrow and tumble, peek out and retreat.   I coax them out, urge them to the side of the bed, and start to make the bed again.

Just as I tuck in the last corner and turn to smooth the blankets on top, I see the perfect round lump right in the middle of the bed and under my sheets.  

These cats!  They infuriate me!  I start from the beginning and remake the bed so the sheets and blankets rest smooth and precise.  Somehow, a cat wriggles his way back up beneath the covers and lounges there.

I hear purring.  I hear satisfied and taunting purring.

I look at that rumpled mess of a made bed.  No order, no smooth lines.  Finally I realize that as long as I have these mischievous felines, I will have a lumpy bed.  You can’t make a bed properly with cats around.

Once I realize this, I just go about the process of making the bed differently.  I loosen the corners, I fluff up the blankets, and I invite a cat into caverns and caves I design. 

Those things I resist, those battles I fight, might be moments of surrender to the annoyance.  Some evenings, I retire to bed to see round lumps hiding under the covers.   Purring.  Loud purring.   It’s funny.  It’s endearing.  It’s a source of delight.

Could the things that annoy me the most become a source of delight somehow?  Those things about my family members that I want to change might become endearing things.  Things I would miss if I didn’t have them around.

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What You Bring to the Fight

A great big dog and his owner arrive at our front door yesterday.  This neighbor has stopped by to visit on the front porch, but while fumbling with his gloves, he lets the leash loose.  The enormous dog squeezes past the screen door and rockets into the house.

Our cat, Louie, sits in the foyer, minding his own business.  He’s licking a paw; he’s yawning. 

And then, in a blur of fur and teeth, the dog nearly devours my cat.

Louie barely escapes.  He then exits the scene in what I think is a cowardly retreat.  But no!  That cat has hidden himself from view momentarily.  While hiding, the cat puffs out his fur in a magnificent display and returns to fight. 

Huge canine beast verses tiny (but now very fluffy) kitty.  There’s no chance, folks.

But Louie knows he can dominate by speed, sharp claws, and clever maneuvering.  Size does not matter when you know what you bring to the fight.

We intervene and stop the brawl.  But all night, I’m laughing about Louie’s bravery.  I’m chuckling about how he hid away, like Clark Kent in a telephone booth, to make his Superman transformation of fluffed-up fur that wasn’t even impressive. Did he not realize how out-sized he was?  Did he not think of the danger?

It’s ridiculous to take on such a monstrous dog.  But in kitty logic, size rarely matters.  Besides, Louie knew that my husband had his back.  And this was his turf.  No dogs allowed. 

That cat has flair.  His confidence, despite his size, amazes me.  Might I enter my mental and spiritual battles with the same fervor?  The enemy looms large, but I know what I bring to the fight.  I know who has my back.  Kitty logic might just save the day.

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