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I Want You Back

Ah Paco, I miss your little kitty breath. Yes, I have two wonderful kitties now, but you were older and needed your teeth cleaned more often to keep them fresh, so frankly, you had…kitty breath. It smelled like love.

I miss you so much sometimes it just hurts. You were my sweet baby, you saved my life when no one else was there to help. When, in the last months of your life, I needed you so desperately, you sacrificed for me again, and I’m in pain today knowing you were probably in pain then, and didn’t show it. I know better now. My two new babies won’t suffer like I fear you may have.

Paco (1)

Paco, my sweet baby

But those were the bad times. Mostly it was just day-to-day, me and Paco being best buds. I’d come home at night and you were at the door. When you were little you’d run out and I was scared you were going to run away, but instead you ran to the upstairs apartment, backing yourself into a corner. I’d pick you up and carry you home, you purrrrrrring all the way back.

Then you’d eat, and wow, you had an appetite. You got really fat, but when I tried to cut back, you were relentless in your pursuit of more food. It wasn’t worth it to me to try to hold out on you. Now I know better, and my two new kitties maintain a good diet, a good weight.

Despite that extra weight you never got diabetes or any of the other diseases related to weight gain in cats. You lived a good long life. I wanted you to live until you were 22; that was unrealistic, and you made it to 16.

Older Paco

All snuggled up

I miss you, the way you snuggled up to me and fell sound asleep, leaving me stranded on the sofa until you woke up because I didn’t want to disturb you. I miss the way you played with Mr. Green Satin Mouse on a String, your favorite toy. I haven’t been able to find another toy that durable for my new babies. We go through those fishing pole toys so fast!!

I miss you, I miss your kitty breath, I miss your little fashion spot on your front right leg and your little pink nose. I want you back and I know that can’t happen. I love my new babies, but you Paco, you were the cat of my heart.

Thank you for being there for me, and forgive me all my faults.

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Help or Hindrance

While living in my last apartment, I got to know an amazing variety of people, most poor, and several with stories that oftentimes seemed unbelievable. One of these woman was Cecilia, a bright lady with a distorted view of her role in the world.

bird-1048269_1920She had twin daughters, Chantal and Sabra, who had just turned 18, but were both emotionally much younger. Chantal was the cherished child; as a result of her mother’s difficult pregnancy she had mild cerebral palsy, and every accomplishment was heralded by Cecilia as a miracle. When I say every accomplishment, I mean each one, no matter how mundane, routine, or handily achieved.

I believe in helping those with disabilities deal with their disabilities.

That is the fair and decent thing to do, to give everyone a chance to live a decent life and fulfill their dreams. But it ends there. Children with cerebral palsy are not angels. They are children.  Yes, they have special needs that must be cared for, emotionally and practically. Beyond that, they have the same mix of good and bad every child has, and need to be treated with love and discipline.

Chantal had been taught that because of her cerebral palsy, she was the angel child, entitled to whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted it. In the months after I met her, I began to get calls at all hours asking me to take her to the store and buy her treats, DVDs, games or anything else she desired at that moment. It never daunted her to ask me to spend my limited funds — and limited time — on this child I barely knew. When I refused her, she very nearly got violent in telling me off.

Sabra, healthy, smart and beautiful, was, in Cecilia’s mind, the demon child. Never mind that the girl was obedient and disciplined, she not only could do nothing right, but as she grew older her mother began to accuse her “evil” daughter of beating both her and Chantal. Cecelia showed up at my door one day and pointed to her cheek, saying, “See what Sabra did this time?!”

Hummingbirds FightingI could see nothing amiss. Cecelia asked me to come over and help her care for Chantal, whom she claimed had been beaten with a wooden spoon and thrown repeatedly to the floor by Sabra. I had my doubts. I’d caught this woman in a number of lies before, and I’d figured out the family dynamics. Still, I was concerned about Chantal. Even if Sabra had done nothing, I was beginning to wonder what her mother was capable of doing simply to get a little attention.

Chantal was stationed in front of the television, watching cartoons and eating cookies. She greeted me with surprise, and when I asked how she was doing, said, “okay, I guess, but my favorite DVD is broken and no one will buy me a new one.”

I knew that story.

“Where’s Sabra?” I asked, ignoring her attempts to manipulate me.

“I dunno.” Just at that moment, a sleepy Sabra emerged from the girl’s bedroom.

In the meantime,

Cecelia was calling 911, once again claiming one daughter had beaten the other and smacked her around as well. Since Cecelia was a good six inches and 100 pounds bigger than either girl, it was hard to believe she couldn’t have overpowered Sabra. But that was only a small part of my doubt.

The ambulance and police showed up a few minutes later. “Hi, Cecelia,” the first officer through the door said. “What’s going on today?” He sounded weary and as skeptical about the situation as I was, and asked some very pointed questions clearly meant to poke holes in the woman’s story.

It turns out Cecelia made this accusation, or one similar, on almost a weekly basis. At her insistence, Chantal was always taken to the hospital, and would return home within two hours. Charges were never pressed against Sabra.

canary-20522_1920Until a month later. I never did find out whether or not she actually struck Cecelia (at some point I figured the girl would break), but Sabra ended up in jail for two days before appearing in court, where the judge dropped the charges and advised her to move out of her mother’s home. She did just that, and within a few weeks, Cecelia and Chantal left their apartment in the middle of the night.

Two years later,

I ran into Sabra while shopping at Walgreen’s. She gave me a big hug, and when I asked how she was doing, told me in great detail about the good things in her life. Her boyfriend, her apartment, her job…it all seemed good. I knew she had a lot to overcome, but she seemed genuinely happy. Relaxed.

“Do you ever see your mom?” I asked.

Bee eater BirdThe smile faded a bit. “Never,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again.” She paused. “They removed Chantal from her home. I want to see her, but she thinks I was the one who took her away from our mom.”

I decided not to ask if she had anything to do with it. “I think that’s the best thing for her,” I said. “And I don’t think you should see your mom either, at least not right now. Maybe someday.”

I hope the day comes when Sabra can see her mother again without falling back into the emotional abyss she had to be living in. This woman raised both daughters in such a manner the courts took action, but she is still their mother.

Help or hindrance, they will always need their mother. Just not the one they got while they were growing up.

Photo Credits: (birds in nests) and (bird in cage) courtesy of Pixabay; (fighting hummingbirds) and (bee-eaters) © Adobe Stock

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Tales of Wolves

About this time six years ago, I had a peculiar, eerie dream that shook me to the core. There was no clear message, no strange to story to recount, but the imagery was so strong I looked it up in a book on the meaning of dreams.

mask-1674106_1920There were four elements to the dream, and I’m not clear on all of them anymore, but they included a wolf wearing a mask, dancing in darkness on the edge of road that disappeared in the distance. Dancing isn’t quite the right word. Cavorting better describes what was going on, and it felt evil.

On the side of the road were some tiny white flowers, nearly glowing in the darkness.

I was frightened.

Wolves themselves don’t frighten me; while I may not wish to walk up to one and scratch him behind the ears (I have respect for their wild nature), I think they are beautiful, almost romantic creatures. My admiration of wolves began when I was very young, and my parents received an album they really didn’t want from the Columbia Record of the Month club . That club sent you a notice of the record of the month, and would send that album to you if you didn’t return the card saying you didn’t want it. We ended up with a few odd choices in the family record collection that way.

91bve0avh1l-_sx522_You could return the unwanted selection, but that was a hassle, especially when both parents work and the kids are always underfoot. This particular month’s record was “The Language and Music of the Wolves,” narrated by Robert Redford. It was 1967, and he was just hitting it big, but I’d never heard of him. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t get someone famous to narrate the tale of the wolves.

For us kids, the chief value of that album was the B side, which had recordings of the wolves howling. It was great for Halloween. It wasn’t until years, decades, really, later, that I realized that album had done its work. I appreciated wolves.

I say that to help make it clear in part why an evil wolf would be so disturbing to me. Aside from Little Red Riding Hood, that wasn’t part of how I pictured them. This masked invader into my subconscious seemed to be bringing me a message, something I don’t typically find in my dreams, but I couldn’t shake it.

According to the dream interpretation book, the meaning was clear. All four elements, each in its own way, pointed to the same thing. Someone I trusted was going to betray me.

I was shaken, but didn’t believe it. I talked to my co-workers about it, people I absolutely did trust and knew would not turn against me. (They didn’t.) We mulled over the possibilities of what my dream might specifically mean, and eventually, I laughed if off.

Two months later I wasn’t laughing.

A man who I not only believed in, but supported against the beliefs and words of others because he had always treated me properly, turned on me and accused me doing something I simply didn’t do. The proof of my innocence was strong, concrete, even, but in the end, it didn’t matter.

No, that isn’t completely true. It mattered to those who mattered to me, who knew me best, who believed in me regardless of what was said and where it was said. The police believed me and didn’t trust the information they were given by that man in the beginning; they recognized the inconsistencies in both his statements and my behavior.

But I paid a price. A very high price.

Spring Background. Spring Blooming Apple Tree With Rain Drops.There’s one part of the dream that didn’t mean betrayal, but rather, hope. The white flowers. I clung to that imagery in my darkest moments and never lost hope and faith in the future.

The future is continuing to roll out, and the hope and faith are finding their fulfillment.

The next wolf I see in my dreams is going to be beautiful.

Photo Credits: (Mask in Tree)and (flowers, header image) courtesy Pixabay; (Flowers) © Bigstock

Vivid

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When the Bad Defines Us

adobestock_96444752-convertedI finally got in for my long-overdue eye exam on Monday, and was disappointed when I learned the office manager, Corinna*, no longer worked there. “Corinna hasn’t been here since October,” the new manager told me, with pursed lips.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, “but happy to meet you.” The latter statement was a moment of graciousness. I really would have preferred to see Corinna. Several years ago, when I was broke and struggling to put food on my table, she called a local charitable organization and arranged to have them pay for my eye exam, three months of contact lenses and a new pair of glasses.

Since my previous pair was more than ten years old, and my prescription typically results in glasses that cost more than $300, the glasses alone were a huge gift. Throw in the exam and the contact lenses, and I was ecstatic.

I’ve been seeing this eye doctor for at least eight years now, and when I mentioned to him how sorry I was Corinna had left, he, too, grimaced a little, and said, “She was embezzling from me for seven or eight months. I had to fire her.”

He went on to tell me how his attorney relayed four or five more similar stories from other doctors in the area. In my doctor’s case, he chose not to prosecute, since Corinna agreed to pay him back in full, and he didn’t want her children to see her in jail. His wife was ready to throw her behind bars and lose the key, but the long-term relationship, while destroyed, meant something to him.

I learned about this shortly after hearing more details of another similar, but more troublesome, story about a woman who’s dating a friend of mine. I wrote about this once before, and I need to be clear that no charges have yet been filed. However, on the local news, they reported she had embezzled 1.1 million dollars of county funds over ten years.

AdobeStock_112894681 [Converted]Of course the question arises, how could this happen? Why didn’t they catch it? The bigger question, in my mind, is what was she thinking? She had to understand she’d get caught someday. Her boyfriend’s ex-wife is a good friend of mine, and has told me this woman is in complete denial about what she’s done. She believes she’ll get probation, but not jail time.

This is being investigated by the FBI and IRS as a federal crime, and whether she wants to believe it or not, she is facing years of federal time, which makes me terribly sad, and angry at the same time.

I’ve heard of people who, when facing a financial problem, commit a crime just as a matter of course. That’s how they solve their money woes. For most of us, it’s time to get creative within the bounds of the law and whatever other moral boundaries exist for us.

More than a million dollars over ten years is a lot of money in my world, and I know it was in this woman’s circle as well. She didn’t need that money. She wanted something she wasn’t able to afford, and she sought to hurt others to do it.

I don’t wish prison time on her, but I do wish to see some remorse, some understanding of what she’s done to others in her community.

I don’t know what led her, or Corinna, to steal from their employer. I try to remain empathetic and compassionate. I still like Corinna; she was good to me.

Judge not lest ye be judged. But it’s hard not to judge a little.

*not her real name.

All images © geosap – Fotolia

Desire

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Who, What, Where, When — and Why Should I Care?

Know your audience. The first rule of communication, whether it’s newspapers, entertainment, preaching, or whatever. Makes it difficult for me to find an uninteresting news item, because as a journalism major, I know how reporters think. What’s more, I worked as both a reporter and a public relations media specialist, and I can find something interesting about dirt. You just need to know how to work it.

girl-with-newspaper-smThat’s not to say every news item is going to hold a high level of interest for every reader of a local newspaper. That would be impossible. It’s why most people have a section or three they typically skip, or perhaps have only one section they’ll read on a regular basis. Newspapers, as a rule, aren’t particularly expensive, so most readers can afford the luxury of throwing away something of which they read less than 10 percent.

Still, it’s impossible for me to call any story uninteresting, because I can almost immediately identify its audience and understand their concern about the issue. What I’m better at doing is calling out the reporter on how they covered the story, and I’m sympathetic even there — sometimes time constraints, poor direction from editors, unwilling witnesses & experts and always, always, those pesky deadlines get in the way. Add the final insult to injury, that is, sloppy late-night editing and headline writing and you may have a story you cringe at seeing the next day.

Of course there’s always the story that comes together beautifully, and you pray everyone you love and everyone you hate reads it with jaw-dropping admiration. The story that’s so compelling people who don’t generally care about the topic can’t put it down and post the online version to their Facebook pages. The one that makes them say, now I get it.

What’s more likely to happen if a story is truly uninteresting is that it’s poorly written, sadly researched and half-heartedly pulled together because the reporter doesn’t care or isn’t experienced enough to consider their audience.

Media Signpost Showing Internet Television Newspapers Magazines And RadioThere are major news organizations who’ve created a niche market — sometimes an exceptionally large and influential one — because they’re savvy about the audience they’re catering to and have talented, experienced editors & reporters who target that audiences’ wants & needs, hopes & fears. They exist for all forms of media.

Their stories are less likely to be uninteresting to anybody and more likely to be divisive because of the skill of those developing & writing the material. Local news has a far greater risk of being boring than national news, by its very nature.

Still, anything published likely has its readers, and anything on the air has its viewers, or it will soon disappear. So if you wonder why that terrible magazine or godawful news program is still around, it’s because they know their audience.


Image Credits: © GraphicStock.com

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On the Balance, Fear is an Equal Weight

In July 1999, while in New York for my brother’s wedding, my aunt & I stopped to shop in the World Trade Center. She pushed for the $20 elevator ride to the top, but I balked.

“I’m scared of heights,” I admitted. “I mean, it’s not like I think I’m going to fall off the building if we go up there, but I’d be too terrified to enjoy it.”

“Once you’ve had brain surgery,” she replied, referring to a tumor she’d had removed a few years earlier, “nothing scares you.”

As I stared at the Twin Towers, I hoped she’d never endure nothing more frightening than that growth in her brain. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, as her health problems dwindled in comparison to events the following May. Her son, my cousin, went missing, and has never been found. He is presumed to have been murdered.

And of course, just two years later, those buildings we shopped under and gazed upon collapsed under the force and heat of two jet airplanes that had deliberately been flown at horrific speed straight into them.

I don’t live in fear of events like those on a daily basis, although clearly they can and do happen, but living without the awareness and respect for what life can bring you on any scale seems foolhardy.

Is fear holding you back is a legitimate question, but one that should be coupled with, is that fear a safety measure or a roadblock? If you aren’t pursuing your dreams because the risk greatly outweighs the reward, then consider the fear a gift. Not all dreams are golden opportunities waiting for you to have the courage to make them come true. Some are escapist fantasies with little basis in reality.

cat-320536_640-pixabay

Now what?

At different points in our life, when our responsibilities shift and change, we have a greater or lesser tolerance for risk. Some of us, quite frankly, aren’t good at “jumping off cliffs.” There needs to be some stability in our decisions or we fall apart before the outcome of our decision is determined.

Others thrive on risk, the fear is a motivator, a fuel that sends them from one adventure to another.

We all land somewhere on a tolerance spectrum of risk vs. reward, and as appealing as the phrase “let go of your fears” may be, not all of us should do just that. Our fears can be our friend, not because they rule us, but because they guide us.

Respect yourself, respect your fears, but respect the proper opportunities before they go by, as well. Life is a balancing act.


Photos courtesy Pixabay

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The Letter (sigh)

Cargo Overload

When I was 36, I moved from Minneapolis to Nashville for a relationship. I distinguish “moving for a relationship” from “moving for a man.” It was a decision I made because it was what I wanted to do, and not because I was one of those women who would sacrifice anything for the man in her life. I’d made big moves before, so I knew what I was getting into. In fact, I was looking forward to the change and opportunities.

I had a good job lined up in Nashville, or so it seemed. Okay, that job lasted a mere six months, but ultimately I worked for a company where I truly was happy, maybe for the first time, ever.

Sad love heart symbol backgroundBut overall I wasn’t content in Nashville. I broke up with that boyfriend a year after my move, and made only one true friend in the three years I was there.

Still, something special did happen, a seemingly small event, but one that lifted my spirits for years. I wish I could go back in time for this simple reason: to save that letter.

It was January,

a few months before Mark and I split up, and I knew our relationship was coming to an end. Still, I wasn’t going to go out with anybody else until it was officially over, no matter how appealing he might be.

No matter how appealing he might be.

The apartments I lived in at the time were nice, but they didn’t have a washer & dryer hookup in the units. Instead, there were a handful of washers and dryers in the mail room. To avoid the crowd, I did my laundry early Saturday mornings. I didn’t dress up by any means — sweats, no makeup, my hair looking like a bird’s nest. I think I even wore slippers. I did take a shower and brush my teeth (my concession to public sensibilities), and likely wore my contacts out of habit. But it was not a moment to capture in either mind or photo.

A man started showing up at the same time, somewhat older than me, and very kind. We’d talk, but I’m not a morning person, and generally I was there to throw my laundry in and haul back to my apartment. I barely noticed him.

Then one day I got a letter,

in an ordinary office envelope, written on plain yellow ruled paper. The return address was the apartment in the building next to mine. I was curious, and a little nervous. Who on earth?

adobestock_125247617-convertedIt was the gentleman who’d been doing his laundry at the same time I was. Turns out it was no coincidence he showed up every Saturday morning for weeks on end. Despite my scarecrow appearance and nominal conversation, he wanted to get to know me.

It was the warmest, most heartfelt letter I’ve ever gotten, ending with an invitation to dinner.  It made me feel treasured. I kept that letter for years, and today I have no idea what happened to it.

I spoke to him the following Saturday and told him while I truly valued his letter, I wouldn’t be comfortable going out with him since I was still dating Mark. He suggested coffee, but I knew how Mark would feel about even that casual of a meeting (despite the growing distance between us), and I knew how I would feel about it, too. I told this gracious man if I ever broke up with my boyfriend, I’d look him up.

By the time Mark and I did split, the man had moved away.

I don’t regret not going out with him. I believe in honoring the relationship you’re in, even if it’s rocky. Tempting yourself isn’t wise.

If I could go back in time, I’d travel to the moment I decided to throw away that letter (if indeed I did, perhaps it was tossed accidentally) and save it instead as the rare gift it was.


Image Credits: (car) © James Group Studios Inc — Adobe Stock; (window) © robsonphoto — Adobe Stock; (letter)  © vladwel — Adobe Stock
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