Our Sweet Girls

 

 

Ten years ago this month, we brought these two adorable bundles of joy home from the animal shelter:

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Cute, right?

We don’t know their exact date of birth, but they were estimated to have arrived late March/early April. These two sisters. Lizzy and Izzy, as we so cleverly named them.

They looked so much alike, we put a drop of white-out on Izzy’s head, so we could tell who was who. (Not even noticing that Lizzy, as she does today, had more white hair in her little ears.)

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We’d only planned to adopt one cat, but when we learned these two were sisters…well, we just couldn’t break them up, you know?

And, like any two sisters, they have their own individual personalities, along with their times of getting along and not getting along.

Mostly, thank goodness, they get along.

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And they have given us so much joy in these ten years. We can’t imagine life without them.

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I wrote part of this while sitting on the couch with my feet propped up and Izzy lying comfortably between my legs. Life is good.

Izzy is definitely Daddy’s Girl. She runs to greet me when I get home from work, accompanied by her audio stream of “Meow”, which she can say about a hundred different ways. She’s probably the most eloquent “meower” I’ve ever met. I don’t know what all those meows mean, but I think they all have the same basic subtext: “Give me ATTENTION!”

Although she may be Daddy’s Girl, Izzy is Mama’s Sleeping Buddy. She’ll come get in bed with us at night and, though she may visit Dad for awhile, she eventually gravitates to Mom and lies down next to her, because she knows Mom will cover her in a blanket, so she can stay good and warm while she sleeps. Only thing is, if you ask Mom, she’ll say Izzy takes up too much space in the bed. She’s sweet, but she’s a bedhog.

And, in the morning, brother, that girl is ready to eat! (Izzy, I mean, not Mom. Well, maybe, Mom, too.) You had best get her some breakfast right away. Fortunately, she’s not picky; pretty much anything you set in front of her will do. But you will hear from her until she gets it.

Izzy always wants to be where we are: in bed with us at night, on the couch with us while we watch TV…whatever you’ve heard about cats being antisocial, she ain’t that.

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One thing about the couch, though: she gets up on top and lays there while she whips us in the head with her swishing tail. Gets a little annoying. Well, not when she does it to my wife, just me.

Then there’s Lizzy, Mama’s Baby. Our quiet girl. Relatively speaking, anyway. She has gotten a lot more vocal than she used to be, we’ve noticed. Used to just be a cute little peep now and then, but she’s, um, found her voice now.

She’s slightly bigger than Izzy, so we call Lizzy our “full-figured kitty.” Like I said before, she’s still got the white hair in her ears. And whiskers that go nearly to the floor. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

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Lizzy’s much choosier than Izzy about where you may pet her. Izzy’s basically an “anywhere, anytime” gal, but Lizzy prefers Mom’s closet. Sometimes Dad’s. No, I’m serious. I guess she wants privacy; she wants to feel like there’s no other cat but her in our world. They can both get pretty jealous of our attention.

And Lizzy never passes up an opportunity. When she hears one of us get up from the couch, that’s her cue to come from wherever she is in the house to the living room, where she will shamelessly try to guilt someone into taking her to the closet for some well-deserved petting. Shameless, I tell you!

Oh, and Lizzy and Izzy both love weekends; Mom and Dad are home, instead of at work all day, so they have more time to pet those kitties!! And these girls will take full advantage of that. Hey, can you blame them?

Well obviously, I could just go on about these two. They’re our precious babies, and we love them so much. We’re happy they are in our lives, and we sure hope they are a while longer.

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One last thing: Studies have shown the benefits for people with depression and anxiety of having a pet, and I can definitely vouch for the wonderful “kitty therapy” I’ve received from our girls. You listen to the blissful purring of a cat sometime, and tell me it doesn’t just make your heart melt.

Or, if it doesn’t, don’t tell me. I’d rather not know.

Do yourself a huge favor: Go to your local animal shelter and find somebody (cat, dog, whatever you choose) that’s so anxious to give you all the unconditional love he or she has to give. I guarantee, you’ll gain a new best friend.

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty…

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The Fab Four

 

Okay, show of hands: How many of you became an uncle or aunt before your eighth birthday?

My hand is up.

By virtue of my two brothers being so much older than me (so much older!), my first of three adorable nieces showed up in January of 1967. Yeah, I know, I’m old, too. The other girls showed up in 1970; one in March, the other in July. Last to arrive was the nephew, just before Christmas, 1971.

(Don’t tell any of the girls this, but by the time that boy came along, I was elated!)

I was taken with all of them from the start.

I’m not sharing any pictures here but, trust me, they all were cute.

And, I had fun with them. I guess it was good that I was close to their age, so I could match them in energy. Most of the time. We did plenty of running around, indoors and out. And, I always loved making them laugh, usually by being silly some way or other.

Of course, to hear them tell it, I did cruel and terrible things to them when they were little.

Believe all of it. I could be kind of a devil sometimes. Couldn’t help it. 😈

But, they were all sweet kids, and I enjoyed our time together. Naturally, it’s just in retrospect that I understand exactly how much they meant to me, then.

They still mean a lot to me, of course. They’re all adults now with their own families and obligations, so I almost never see them anymore, but I think of them, often.

And, I love them all very much.

You hear that, guys? Your old uncle loves you, like he always has.

I promise, I’ll try to do better at staying in touch, but always remember how special the four of you are to me. And always will be.

 

Oh, and that also goes for the two nieces and nephew on my wife’s side. Y’all are pretty darn special, too. I don’t know why the nephew’s always last to arrive, though; what is up with that?

Say, Your Ties Are Loose

 

But, last night, I thought, what is a family, anyway? They’re just people who make you feel less alone, and really loved.

Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

 

So, when was the last time you spoke with certain members of your family? The ones you’ve been meaning to contact, but time just got away from you?

Yeah, it’s been awhile for me, too.

I have tried, in the past, to reconnect with some family members I haven’t spoken to or heard from in years, with very little success. It seems, at times, like I’m the only one trying to reach out. Nobody wants to reach me.

That’s how it feels, anyway.

Now, please understand me. I don’t blame anyone for this condition. I fully realize, we all have our own lives to lead, with our own schedules and activities and appointments and such. We’re all busy; I get it. And that’s good. We shouldn’t just be sitting around, watching weeds grow.

And I’m sure, in some cases, we simply don’t know how to get ahold of each other, or we surely would.

Besides, trust me, I let the time get away from me, as well.

But…I don’t know, I just wish we were all closer to each other. Maybe with age, there comes an undercurrent of urgency, a keener awareness of the sands of time running out, and a greater need to connect.

Plus, doggone it, I miss these folks. They’re blood, they’re family. I’m tied to them. Part of all of them is in me, and vice versa.

And, I’d prefer to not wait until someone’s funeral to catch up with them. That’s how it usually works, sadly.

Is it like this with your family?

If it isn’t, if you’re all in close contact with each other and the ties are strong, bless you; I admire you. (And envy you, a little)

If it is, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself, as I am, “What am I doing to get us closer together? Do I need to just quit waiting for someone else to take the lead? What if I keep waiting until it’s too late?”

That would be a crying shame. Literally.

So, I’m just going to have to work harder at this. I can’t help but think it’ll be worth it. Whether they want to hear from me or not, if I can help it, they’re going to. And hopefully, I’ll hear back from them.

 

One other thing: Even when we don’t correspond as often as we probably should, I still know I’m extraordinarily lucky to be part of a family that I love, and that loves me. If you’re alone, and have no family, or you have the kind you’d just as soon never hear from, my heart goes out to you. I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel. I can only hope that you can find a family somewhere, a group of loving, caring people you can be a part of.

The essence of why we’re all here, I believe, is to give and receive love. Don’t cheat yourself out of it.

 

Don’t Blink, You’ll Miss 33 Years

 

July 7th. A searing hot, typical Texas summer Saturday.

That morning, I went and washed my car, a clunker with a squeaky fan belt.

That afternoon, I married the girl of my dreams.

All in all, a darn good day.

After the reception, we changed into our travelin’ clothes, ran the traditional Gauntlet of Rice, climbed into my clunker with the squeaky fan belt, flashed our biggest smile for the photographer, and drove off under the blazing sun, on our way to the much more pleasant climes of Vail, Colorado.

Our life together, like the Colorado Rockies, lay stretched out before us…

 

And then, thirty-three years happened.

Just like that. I swear to you, just like that.

I don’t mean to be cliche, but honestly, had I known it would go by this fast, I would have tried to enjoy it more. I would have squeezed more juice from the sweet, luscious fruit of life. (oh, brother, let’s just stop here, okay?)

Still, the time moved just slowly enough for me to gather a whole basket load of wonderful memories, which I will cherish all my days.

And that cute girl standing next to me on that July 7th afternoon has been right there beside me through everything, good and bad, funny and sad, easy and tough. And I couldn’t be happier, or luckier.

Happy Anniversary, darling. I love you more every fleeting year. Thank you for being my wife.

Alright, All You Mothers!

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Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

We all owe our lives to you. Without you, there is no us.

So, thank you for going through the exquisite pain of bringing us into the world, and the more excruciating pain of bringing us up.

Sometimes, we wouldn’t listen to you. Sometimes, we willfully disobeyed you. Sometimes, we openly defied you. And occasionally, we just hated you. Maybe even told you so.

But, through all those times, deep down, we always loved you.

Because, we sat in your lap while you read to us. We played games and sang silly songs with you. We settled into our beds while you tucked us in and kissed us goodnight. We ran to you with our skinned knees, bloody noses, bee stings and broken hearts, knowing you would make it all better, as only you could.

Some of you are just amazing. All you single mothers, who do your best to fit a job (or more) in with the daily care and feeding of your children. All you moms who adopt children and welcome them into your family, loving them as though they were your own. All you “soccer moms,” endlessly shuttling your kids to this activity and that one, so they can have fun with other kids and get yelled at by all the insane parents.

Unfortunately, some of you have gone through the most painful experience there is: burying your child. You’ve lost them to disease, or to violence or, more and more lately, to suicide. I absolutely can’t imagine how deeply that must cut into your soul. I know you miss them every single day, and would sacrifice anything to bring them back. I’m so very sorry for you and your families. I wish you comfort and strength.

Bottom line, all of you are just extraordinary women, and you have certainly earned your own day. I hope you spend it in the company of your children.

Mothers around the world, I salute you. Many, many blessings on you all.

Looking With a Different Eye

 

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Okay, kids, here’s a fun little experiment for you to do:

Look at some object in the distance. Focus on it. Then, close one eye, hold up your thumb and position it so that it blocks your view of that object.

Got it? Great! Now, without moving the thumb, close that eye and open the other one.

Holy smokes! What just happened??

The object didn’t move, the thumb didn’t move, everything stayed the same. Only now, that object is right out there in plain view. Cool!

Yeah, I know, it’s nothing you didn’t already know, what else ya got, this was lame, yada, yada, yada…

But, really, how much of your time did that just take up, a few seconds?

And it’s a good reminder of how different the same picture can appear when viewed from a different eye.

 

One of the toughest things in the world to change is…an attitude. Especially the longer you cling to it, and the more comfortable you get with it. To change the way you look at something is risky, but oftentimes necessary.

One of the symptoms of depression, which I’ve had for years, is the tendency to get easily irritated by everyone and everything. All the time. Little things can just drive you nuts.

I’m around certain people, on a regular basis, who say things and do things that aggravate me to no end. Sometimes, I dread even being around them, for that very reason; I know I’m gonna get annoyed. 😠

Which is sad, considering they’re family.

I realize, I need to look at them with a different eye. They simply are what they are. The picture will not change; my view has to. Instead of resenting their idiosyncrasies, I need to accept them, to embrace them. I need to remember, these are people I love, that I’m glad I have them in my life, that it’s important to cherish the time we spend together, as long as we have it.

Besides, I know I’m definitely no day at the beach, either.

So, to whom it may concern:

Just a reminder, I love you all dearly. I’m glad you’re here. I will work on getting annoyed by you less and appreciating you more, because you are family, and family is priceless.

I’ll try to be less of a pain, too. Thanks for tolerating me, in the meantime.

Now, to the rest of you:

If you find yourself around some family members over the holidays who stir up the same emotions, try your best at looking through a different eye at them. I know, it’ll be tough. Remember, they didn’t get to pick you, either. Family is, or at least, should be, a refuge in the turbulent storms of life. We need each other, now more than ever.

Then maybe, we can summon up the courage to train that different eye on the rest of the world, and see something we never did before.

Who knows what can happen, then?

Oh, yeah…you can put your thumb down, now. 😏