The Ah in Normahl Life

Conference hotel bathroom. Instead of keeping the paper towels stocked, some minimum wage worker had to keep these folded and stacked, all day long.

Conference hotel bathroom. Some minimum wage worker kept these folded and stacked, all day long. Isn’t that just like a day job?

My last several weeks have been absurdly hectic, with long hours preparing for big to-dos at the day job. The deadlines and the events are now past, everything went well, I’m enjoying kudos for my efforts — and I’m trying to not resent the time I had to squander on mere work, the time I’ll never get back to do the things that matter: hang with my kids and my friends and the four-legs, visit the ocean or mountains, write my new book, promote my newly finished book, post to this blog.

During that time, I had to toss my tickets to two different concerts because I was too busy or tired to attend. That is a lot of alliteration and so wrong!

Ah. At last I’m home again. You know you’ve been gone too much when you look forward to sweeping the tumbleweeds of shed dog fur, new clumps of which are repopulating my living room even as I type this. So. Much. Fur. How can she not be bald yet?

Ah. Time to take a few lessons from folks who know how to relax:

 

Shadow and Luna, lounging

Whatever your species, the morning sun feels good.

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Home Is Where The Thoughts Stay

What I see this morning as I write this.

What I see this morning as I write this.

I love meeting new places, and so I am excited to be heading out for a week of work-related travel; however, there’s a part of me that never wants to leave home, and thus I must always shove myself out the door.

There is nothing special about my house. It’s a tiny, nondescript box. I’m always behind with my housework and yard work and I no longer pretend that I intend to catch up. It would be charitable to call the furniture antiques. At one time I had lots of Nice Stuff but multiple moves, kids, pets, and my waning interest in Stuff have all taken a toll.

But of course, that’s not what matters.

Home is where my kids grew up (when we stopped moving around), and where they stay when they need a place to. Home is where we marked their growth spurts on the wall, and now have a funny paint job as we paint around but never over those growth marks.

Home is where the cats and the dog reside, usually doing something goofy. This morning, two of the cats did some play-fighting in the backyard, on opposite sides of a tree trunk. They rose up like bears and batted at each other left right left right but mostly hit the tree trunk.

Home is where I sit on a patio and write novels, and blog posts, while listening to the morning birds or the evening freeway traffic, which really can sound like the ocean.

Home is where I get to choose my changes, or have that illusion. Home is where I can dress however I please, except maybe when a kid walks in out of the bright afternoon sun with a friend and I’m still in my jammies. Home is where I ignore the phone’s ring if that’s what I feel like doing.

Home is where I recharge, revive, restore, and become ready to go back out in the world.

The curious thing is that home is so portable. I have had many homes – big, small, fancy, plain – and they all have the same effect. A house is a building, a home is the state of mind.

An Ode to Repetition

On one level, I hate routine. I’ve made important life decisions based on a futile attempt to avoid repetition. Changes of jobs, homes, cities – and probably relationships. I have to fight feeling trapped once I exhaust the options for fresh experience. But that time will always come. There are only so many ways you can drive to the store, if you are going to the same damn store from the same damn house.

Yet, concurrently, repetition and routine provide essential foundations to so much that matters to me. While it is always great to share a new experience with my kids, the comforting patterns of family life are constructed of routine. There is no question that I plan most of my writing during mundane tasks like toothbrushing or weeding. And one of the richest benefits of travel is how much I appreciate home when I return.

I have a friend who talks about Buddhist intent to stay fully present in each moment – aware of the give of the keyboard as I type, conscious of the flow of water and the scratch of the scrubpad as I wash a plate. She strives for this awareness to feel grounded and calm. I try it and discover subtle variations that make each repetition unique. Doing this seems to be as close as I can get to meditation -with all my Western impatience and resistance to organized faith.

R.I.P. Boink

PottedBoink.small

Is there a cat who is not partial to ridiculous nap sites?

Tomorrow morning I take our nearly 17 yo cat to the vet to be euthanized. Her kidney disease has advanced that far.

She has been part of our lives for most of my kids’ existence and every memory of her lights up some corner of their childhood for me. My son and daughter were 3 when they got to choose kittens. Actually, this cat chose us, and from the moment we entered the big common room shared by all cats at that shelter, she pestered my son until he selected her. He named her Cock Boink Doc but we convinced him to just use her middle name.

It took more than a decade for the scar on my daughter’s cheek to fade. Boink ran across her face one night while she slept. What a wild kitten that was.

She chose us then shunned us. It was years before anyone got to pet her for more than a swipe or two. The kids would get so frustrated with her lack of affection. Then out of the blue she would hook a claw into their clothes as they passed by, to get them to stop and attend to her.

Eventually she transformed into a relentless lap cat – and has remained patient with these clueless humans, too. Remove her from your lap 100 times, she climbs into your lap 101 times. No resentment. Clearly we simply do not understand.  She is in my lap as I write this, but tonight I had to place her there; she lacked the energy to move on her own.

In her day she was lightning fast. We’re grateful she had little interest in hunting, but we did once enjoy having a landlord thank my son profusely “for having such a smart cat”, because she had caught the gopher who was  destroying his lawn.

porch

Boink (back) and Luna (front).

She had a peaceable nature and no ego problems. She never fought although she would stand up to a bully when pressed. Mostly she was indifferent to other cats. She accepted the rabbits, she made friends with the large nervous dog. When she was 7, we got a kitten, Luna, that she has groomed ever since, even though Luna is now 10 and twice her size. The last couple weeks, she hasn’t groomed Luna.

Our vet warned me that it wouldn’t be simple – she isn’t going to die in her sleep from this disease. I have to decide when she is no longer enjoying life.  Certainly, she hasn’t eaten much of anything for ages. But she still has interest in her favorites: asparagus and feta cheese. Every day this week we’ve been staring at her. Sure she looks awful, but does she look worse? Until today, when one answered yes, another answered no. But this evening there is no denying it. She is worse. It is time.

Goodbye dear friend and family member. We will miss you and all the days we shared.