Babies and Cats and Dogs – Oh, my!

I love to laugh. I hope I’m that grandma with laugh lines deeply imbedded in her face (which shouldn’t be hard – I’m well on the way). Obviously it’s not always appropriate to laugh, but sometimes those can be the times when it’s hardest not to. Like during communion when your grandma drops her little plastic cup and it bounces its way across the sanctuary (and bounces and bounces…), pinging off the granite floor in the silence.

Or during a sermon on a summer morning, when the sun reflects off the floor and makes a giant silhouette image of a friend of yours on the back wall (and they don’t know they’re bigger than life).

Or trying to be solemn while assembling for a graveside service right after someone comments about the Rolloff family being buried at the top of the hill (they had noticed the marker of someone buried long ago in that tiny town’s cemetery).

I have a file of “Keepers” in my inbox where I store emails people have sent that struck me particularly funny. More than once I’ve opened it and read a few – sure enough, I was soon smiling and feeling better.

Here are a few YouTube links that I hope will make you laugh today. Who can NOT laugh when a baby lets loose with that adorable belly laugh? Or when twins crack themselves up (and leave us out of the fun!)?

Even if you don’t like cats or dogs, it’s hard not to giggle at the predicaments they get themselves into or when they share a special talent.

Life can be pretty rough on occasion. I thank our God for laughter (He must have a sense of humor – He created the hippopotamus, after all!).

Cats and Squirrels and Rats, Oh My

Animal stories always make me laugh, so here’s mine. Once upon a time, my son had a tiny nursery. He quickly outgrew it, so we moved him into a bigger bedroom and I got the tiny nursery as my office. 10’ by 10’ all mine. 100 square feet closed off from the rest of the house with a working door.

I painted my office my favorite thistle shade—a retired Crayola color—a mix of pink and lavender. I put up seashell wallpaper border, made curtains and cushion covers for my white wicker furniture using pastel seashell fabric, and displayed all the seashells I’ve collected over the years. It was perfect.

Until I decided that since it was my office, my two outdoor charcoal gray cats should be able to come in. It was my 100 square feet and I could share it if I wanted to. Right? Hubby even agreed and installed a cat door. Since they’d always been outdoor cats, they were used to going outside to do their business. What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing did for a while. They understood that the vast outdoors was their bathroom. They spent their days with me while I wrote and prowled or slept at night.

Smokey—my scaredy cat—was no problem. She huddled thankfully under the wicker couch and I never saw her go out. But everything smelled okay, so I knew she did. Charcoal prowled all night, came inside in the morning, ate and slept the day away.

Until one morning after everyone left and I heard something in my office.

I opened the door and something flew by my head about eye level. I searched the shelves and saw a flying squirrel. I didn’t even know we had those in Arkansas. Charcoal was in stalk mode and the poor squirrel flew all over my office. I learned they not only live in Arkansas, but they’re very fast.

I stuffed Charcoal out the cat door and locked it, found thick gloves, and pursued the squirrel. They’re really fast. That squirrel perched on all eight shelves and every time I’d reach for him, he’d fly in my face and land on another shelf, my desk, the wicker, or the curtains.

After about forty-five minutes or so, I wore him down. He started running instead of flying and I learned that flying squirrels run even faster than they fly. He finally ran in the end of a 3 ring binder notebook. I clamped a gloved hand on each end, but I couldn’t open to the door with no hands.

So, I quickly stood the notebook on the floor closing off one hole, then shook the poor squirrel up. He came running up right into my hand and I had him. He bit my thick glove and squealed all the way out the back door—where the cat wasn’t—and to the woods behind our house.

Charcoal treated me to three more flying squirrel capers and I learned there are at least four where I live, they are all very fast, but you can catch them with thick gloves once you tire them out. I guess my great gray hunter got bored with squirrels, so he brought me a rat instead. I didn’t know we had rats that big in Arkansas. I propped the cat door open, screamed and hopped around on the wicker furniture, and poked at the beast with a yard stick until it scurried out the door.

That was it. The cat door got sealed off. Charcoal and Smokey got their gray butts kicked out. Even though poor Smokey was innocent, she now huddles under the house and Charcoal lives in the shed.

But during the day, when nobody’s home, I make sure Charcoal doesn’t have any guests and let them in. Shhh!!!

Cats? Dogs? Don't make me choose!

I’ve had pets since I was six. Prissy was a black poodle. She slept with me, rode in the basket on my bicycle, and shared my love for fuzzy house shoes. Every Christmas I got a new pair of pink fuzzy house shoes, but I couldn’t walk across the room because Prissy barked and snapped at them.

Morris was an orange and white cat. He looked just like Morris on TV. I can’t even remember what kind of cat food the Morris on TV advertised. My Morris and Prissy had one spat when he first arrived. He spatted her nose and made it bleed and she never bothered him again. He was a cuddler and moved from Georgia to Arkansas with me and Prissy.

Killer was a female calico. I named her that because I was in love with Erik Estrada and he had a tiny little dog named Killer. I thought that was funny, so I named her Killer. She was a cuddle cat. She loved sitting on my knees and digging her claws in. My knees were like sponges. Prissy was still around when Killer arrived, but she’d learned her lesson with Morris.

After I got married, my husband brought me a puppy one night. Oscar Mayer Weiner–you guessed it, a red dachshund. He was my baby. If I was sitting, he was in my lap. My husband even got jealous of him. Oscar loved tennis balls and would chase and retrieve as long as you’d throw.

He had terrible allergies and had sneezing fits. Five or six sneezes in a row and his legs were so short he’d bang his nose on the floor with each sneeze. We had an ugly brown chair we got for five dollars from a yard sale. No one ever sat in it–it just filled a corner. So when he started sneezing, we’d put him in the brown chair. After a few times of that, every time he started sneezing, he’d jump up in the sneeze chair. We kept that ugly chair until he went to doggy heaven.

It took two to get me over Oscar. Zach and Abby were red dachshunds. Brother and sister. She was very adventurous. He was afraid of his own shadow. Her greatest delight was to go out the doggy door so Zach would follow. Then she’d run back in and bark and snap when he tried to follow her inside. He’d take it for a long time, then he’d get tired of her antics and come barreling through, sending her rolling. After they went to doggy heaven, I decided my heart couldn’t take any more lap dogs.

My son kept asking for a dog, but we wanted to wait until he was a little older. When he was four, a kitten appeared at my Mom and Dad’s (across an Arkansas hayfield from our house). Even painfully skinny, he was the prettiest cat I’d ever seen. Charcoal gray with grass green eyes. We called him across the field and he came just like a dog. Now, he’s a big cuddle cat and follows us when we go on walks. In the hot summer, he’ll pant all the way until we think he’s going to die, but he goes every time. When I’m writing, my outdoor cat visits my office often. That’s him guarding my books in the picture above.

When I took Charcoal to the vet to make sure he didn’t do any tomcatting, we discovered Smoky. She looks just like him, but is oh so different. She hides from life and only comes out when it’s really quiet. She used to go on top of the house when she got scared, but then the satellite guy went up there with her. It took her days to get over that. Then she took refuge under the house. And the bug man went under there with her. When her world gets disturbed, she only comes out after dark.

Sometimes days go by without us seeing her. She doesn’t like to be held or cuddled, but loves to be petted. But she won’t be still. She constantly spins and turns getting just out of your reach to where you almost have to chase her to pet her. She doesn’t get to visit the office because she won’t be still and settle. She walks all over me and my computer which makes writing difficult. But when I’m not writing, I let her in and she spins and twirls until her heart is content. Occasionally she’ll sit on my lap as long as I don’t hold her there.

Our son finally got a dog when he was six. Hershey is a chocolate lab. She loves everybody, including cats, but especially her boy. She hates it when he goes to school, hates it when he goes home with a friend, and doesn’t rest properly until her boy is home. She makes every step he does and every round he makes on his four-wheeler.

When we go for a walk, she goes with us. Imagine a boy, a mom, a chocolate lab, and a charcoal gray cat trailing up the gravel road. Smoky never joins us on our walks. She’s too busy huddling under the house. She has finally come to the conclusion—after about four years—that Hershey isn’t going to eat her. On a quiet night, you’ll find Smoky on the porch with Hershey. But not Charcoal, he hunts at night and brings me all kinds of headless critters in the morning.

All the pets I’ve had have left paw prints on my heart. I’m sure the current ones will also. But they add so much love and fun to life. I doubt I’ll ever be petless for long.

Inspired to Write

My husband freaked out when we learned I was pregnant. Though planned, our son had nowhere to sleep. Our house has a bedroom at each end with a good thirty-five feet between. Hubby decided to partition off a 10 x 10 area from our large living room. I didn’t like the idea of losing part of my space, but hubby wouldn’t sleep until we had a nursery. Within two years, the toys had overflowed the tiny room. We moved our son to one of the bedrooms and converted the nearby den into our room.

Despite my begging, hubby refused to deconstruct the walls and restore my huge living room. He always has issues with knocking down anything he’s built. Slowly, I began to see the potential for the unused space. In the past, my desk occupied the den or living room since I don’t require peace to write. But how awesome it would be to have an own office to hole up in, surrounded with things that inspire me.

autumn_colours I painted the baby green walls my favorite lilac/mauve color and took down the Noah’s Ark curtains. My seashell collection, books, and sentimental knickknacks mix with family photos lining shelves. Framed writing awards grace the walls. My white wicker furniture gives the room a fresh, cozy feel with an enormous seascape hanging above the loveseat. Reference, writing craft, and favorite novels line a tall bookshelf.

The picture window occasionally offers a distraction according to the season. I watch the leaves turn, birds peck the frozen ground for worms, butterflies flutter among wildflowers, and hummingbirds flit about my althea bush. A list of deadlines hangs on the bulletin board next to my computer to snap me back to reality.

Smoky & Charcoal lounge on son's bed. Don't tell hubby.
Smoky & Charcoal lounge on son's bed. Don't tell hubby.

My filing cabinet holds first drafts of my novels, publishers guidelines, and at last—contracts. Two charcoal gray cats with grass green eyes adorn the windowsill or sprawl on the furniture. My oak desk (a yard sale find) sits in the middle of the room with a narrow slotted shelf on top to organize my work. Four books in various stages of completion each get a slot with character sheets of pictures cut from magazines or catalogs to help me visualize my fictional people, along with research materials. One nook is full of writing tips and my journal of future ideas. The sixth is my real-life to-do box.

When friends or family ask to see my office, the awards catch their eye, but I didn’t put the certificates up to brag. Most of them, I won at local, small conferences, with a few from magazines, and Romance Writers’ of America sponsored contests. Having validation that I can write well, right there on the walls, with all my favorite photos, collections, and soothing pastel colors I love, this room inspires me.

In my office, I feel invincible. Sure, it took me six years to craft my book well enough that a publisher bought it. Sure, I have a mere ten months to write another that I’ve already signed the contract for. Sure, knowing this is stressful. But I trust God to see me through. In this room, I can do it. In this room, I was born to write. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 KJV.