Categories
Life

A cuppa

For me, a cuppa (most often coffee, but tea or cocoa work just as well) represents warmth, comfort, energy, optimism. It might help me start my day. Or, it might be part of an afternoon pause. It’s sometimes even a nice way to wind down before bed.

I’ve long had the habit of choosing my cuppa cup to match my mood. Recently, I started documenting the connection between these cuppas and my experiences and emotions. I’ve added some of those past posts here and will continue to add new posts daily. Perhaps, through this ritual, I can bring a laugh, or offer some helpful perspective, or just brighten somebody’s day.

Please join me with your own cuppa. Let’s share some moments.

Categories
Family Pets

Tom

My family and I recently got some awful news. Tom, our twelve-and-a-half-year-old cat, is in renal failure.

There’s no cure, but we are doing all we can to care for him. He’s getting lots of ear rubs, cuddles, and under-chin scratches. His appetite waxes and wanes, so we’re offering a steady stream of tasty tidbits and fresh water to tempt him. Often, he prefers quiet isolation, and we’ve created comfy nests of blankets and towels where he can rest.

We want Tom to have more time to roll in the dirt in the backyard and come running when he hears us whistle. To meow at breakfast time and squint contentedly after dinner. To chase a toy across the floor, batting it with his paws and biting it with his fierce little teeth. To sleep, curled up and purring, next to us at night.

We want him to live forever.

But of course, that’s not possible. Not for Tom; not for anybody.

So, we are focused on his comfort, surrounding him with warmth and affection. Making his last days, however many they are, full of whatever makes him happy.

When we welcomed him into our lives, many years ago, we knew the potential for heartbreak. Pets can get sick, injured. They age faster than humans. Always, there is hope for a good, long life, many years of health and vitality, but there is also awareness that there are challenges.

Still, we take a risk. We choose to focus on what makes it all worthwhile.

Perhaps The Beatles said it best –

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.



Categories
Family Life

Home

My childhood home is for sale.

It was designed by my father, an architect. He and my mom imagined it together, planned and coordinated the construction and details for close to a year, and then moved us all in when it was complete.

I vividly remember my first entrance through the front door, a five-year-old excited by the newness of it all, being greeted by my mother in the entryway and told to look around and tell her what I thought. I told her I loved it.

My parents decorated our house in the colors of the times – brown and yellow, rusty red, avocado green and white accents. It would have been easy for them to overdo it, but they managed it well, creating a classy balance of hues and tones. They included personal elements from their lives; large wall hangings from South America, pieces of art they’d created, reminders of their travels together. The house had a distinct personality that was warm and inviting, unique yet comfortable.

After my sister and I grew up and moved out, my parents sold the house. As happens, the new owners made changes to fit their preferences. When they sold, the next owners did the same.

I get it, I understand. The privilege of ownership allows for these decisions, regardless of what was before. But it’s a hard thing, seeing the changes.

Viewing the carefully-staged online photos, the ones intended to attract buyers and encourage showings, I felt cold. Where was the wet bar where my father crafted Pisco Sours while family friends filled the living room with music and dancing and happy energy? What happened to the walls of wooden bookshelves, the ones with a warm glow that perfectly sheltered the collections they contained? Why were walls and doors moved and colors erased? Why did everything seem bland and boring, perfectly perfect yet lacking the personality that I knew so well?

Perhaps if my father was still alive and if my mother wasn’t nearing the end of her life, it wouldn’t matter as much to me. It’s possible I’d look at those photos and be able to focus on the improvements – the extra kitchen space and the hardwood floors and such – and simply be glad that the house exists. Perhaps I could be happy that it is cared for and a place where new memories are being made, even if I don’t like what’s been done to the place itself.

I’m unable, however, to do that right now. All I see is what’s missing. All I notice is that it’s not the house that I remember, the house that I knew.

Not all of my memories are pleasant. There were sometimes troubled times within those walls. And, I have since created my own home, the place where my children grew up and where my adult memories live. When I think of “home” now, that is what first comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will always feel a deep connection to the house my parents built.

Here’s to accepting that life is full of change. Here’s also to allowing for the sad ache that comes from missing what used to be real.

Categories
Family Good Life

Companions

Not long ago, my husband surprised me with a new copy of one of my favorite childhood books. I’d lamented the fact that my copy, saved for decades among my most beloved possessions, was tattered and missing sections. He quietly took note, searched for a replacement, and gifted it to me.

The book is I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, written by P.L. Travers (yes, the Mary Poppins P.L. Travers). It tells the story of Sabrina Lind and the journey she and her brother make from their home in England to the United States during WW II. It’s told from Sabrina’s perspective, a journal of days detailing the people, events, and emotions she feels as she lives the experience. It’s a children’s book, but it’s not a childish story.

As I read my new copy, I felt warm and content, like I was in the presence of a friend. I think of this kind of reading as “comfort reading.” The excitement that comes from reading a book for the first time is wonderful, but the re-reading of a favorite book creates its own special magic. I was grateful for the happy spell made possible by my husband’s loving gift.

Coming to the last sentence, I reflected on how the story, the characters and events, has gently accompanied me throughout my life. It is always present within me, ready to supply an image or a sentence. I can go for days or sometimes weeks without thinking about it and years without rereading the words. Yet when fitting and needed, it is there.

Today’s cuppa celebrates companions – the living ones who listen with their hearts and respond with love, and the ones within our souls, ready to give whenever they are needed. May we all have the good fortune of having both in our lives.


Categories
Family Pets

Busybodies

We’ve brought a new cat into the family. It’s been a rocky process (coincidentally, his name is Rocky). Individually, each of our cats is a soft, loving ball of fur. Put them together, and they become a hissing, yowling mass of claws and teeth.

We are making progress, but it’s been slow. Fortunately, our dogs, Mollie and Charlie, adapted quickly. I’ve even found the three of them – Rocky, Mollie, and Charlie – napping together, content and comfortable in each other’s presence.

Things change, however, when the cats start interacting. At the first sound of feline hissing, the dogs jump to attention and rush to investigate. The process is a noisy one, with much barking and whining and canine gnashing of teeth.

The pups don’t appear to have a favored cat in these kerfluffles. They don’t act as protectors. Rather, they come across as looky-loos, eager to be part of the excitement, full of loud, barking opinions about what’s going on.

I’ve explained to them that they aren’t helping; their involvement in the situation is complicating things. Unsurprisingly, my words haven’t made a difference. They are dogs, after all. So, we’ve learned that any kitty drama will also require some doggy behavior management. There have been many trips outside or into separate rooms, behind closed doors, in recent days.

I suppose this behavior should have been expected, given the way Mollie and Charlie (especially Mollie) respond to squirrels in the yard and neighbors walking on the sidewalk. Busybodies aren’t typically picky when it comes to sharing their opinions about daily life. I do wish, however, that they’d learn from their experiences and notice that we are much happier when they keep the drama to a minimum.

Still, we love them dearly and sometimes even find ourselves laughing at their noisy interference. So, here’s to our busybodies. Their antics may annoy us, but they do make for some funny memories for the family archive.

Categories
Fun Good People

Wordle

Yes, I play Wordle.

No, I don’t post my results.

No, I don’t mind if other people post their results.

Yes, I enjoy being part of this collective social experience.

Here’s to Wordle and all the other games that stretch our brains and bring us together, even if it’s only for a few minutes each day.

Categories
Family Food

Lefse

My great-grandparents (on my mother’s side) immigrated to the United States from Norway, setting up a family farm in Minnesota where my Nanny grew up. I never met them, but when I was a young child, we spent one Thanksgiving with her brother and his family. That was when I was introduced to Lefse.

Lefse is a simple flatbread made from Russet potato dough. It’s traditionally served with butter and sometimes cinnamon sugar or fruit jam. While the bread itself is basic, the process of making it requires patience, skill, and a good amount of counter space.

Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to learn the Lefse process, Nanny was no longer up to teaching it. Consequently, it’s not something I’ve ever attempted on my own, and the deliciousness has been only a memory.

Then yesterday, my sister and I visited a little shop filled with all things Norwegian. In the cooler, there were packages of Lefse, freshly-made, ready to take home and eat. I put a package in my basket and thought of my Nanny. I thought of how she’d have enjoyed this little place, the stories that might have been prompted by the items in the shop, the window into her life that we might have had if she was there with us.

This morning, I’m enjoying a bit of Lefse with my cuppa, and I’m thinking about making my own. There was a woman at the store who said that she offers Lefse-making classes, and I want to learn. Nanny won’t be the one showing me the steps, but I have no doubt she will still be part of the experience.

Categories
Animals Life Nature

Coyotes

Early this morning, before the sun was up, I heard the sound of coyotes, yipping and yapping and howling. They weren’t directly outside of my house, but they were close.

It’s the second time this week I’ve heard them. So, we are now at Coyotecon level 5, meaning that the pups are supervised in the yard, even for short periods of time, and the cats aren’t permitted out at all.

Most likely, the full-on daytime hours are safe; coyotes aren’t typically active when the sun is up. And, we live in a typical suburban neighborhood, with houses and fenced yards and concrete sidewalks. It’s unlikely we’d encounter a carnivorous hunter in the middle of the day. Nevertheless, a hungry coyote can’t be expected to follow the rule book.

I don’t fault coyotes for doing their coyote thing. But – coyote howls are creepy. They echo and fade, casting a warning, sending a message to those in the vicinity: fear us. Run. We have your scent; we are on your trail. I can allow for instinctive animal behavior while at the same time acknowledging the need for human precaution.

Here’s to doors and walls and the safety they provide. Here’s also to vigilance and wisdom, to watchful decision-making and careful awareness. All may be necessary when the night is full of howls.

Categories
Life

Invitation

I’ve read hundreds of books in my life so far. I hope to read hundreds more.

Some were fun and frivolous and made me laugh. Others were darker, containing madmen and their victims, monsters and the suffering they created – but also full of hope and the battle to preserve good, and truth, and love.

Looking back, I realize that they all shared a common thread: the experience of empathy. Each book was the author’s invitation to join not only in the dialogue and action on the surface of the story but also the feelings and thoughts within.

Each time that I accepted an invitation, I added a layer to my personal awareness and increased my capacity for respect, trust, and gratitude. I liken it to the way a pearl develops within a shell; blankets of time and knowledge gradually building into a quiet (and not always perfect) glow.

I think about my reading past a lot these days, likely because the topic of book bans keeps popping up in the news and in conversations and in social media. Perhaps book banning really is becoming more prevalent, or perhaps it’s simply being noticed more often. Either way, I can’t help but wonder: what’s really driving the action?

Is the goal to forbid the words and pictures, the tactical elements that make up the story, because of their potential to offend? Or is the writing itself so terrible that the only solution is to deny access, lest a reader erroneously believe that is how stories should be written?

Or is the true motivation a fear of empathy? Is the real catalyst a desire to prohibit the sharing of emotions and the outcomes that doing so may create?

As I ponder these questions, I raise today’s cuppa to all who offer, and all who accept, the invitation. The journey may require courage to start and wisdom to finish, and there are no guarantees that every story will have a happy ending. Still, I hope the opportunity will always be available for those who want to participate.

Categories
Good Life

Air

My earworm this morning was (is) The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies.

I woke up with the usual internal chatter, questions and thoughts and ideas rolling through my brain, the kind of stuff that makes it impossible to sleep. But there was also this song in the background. Gradually, it moved front and center, draping itself over the words in my head like a warm, cozy blanket.

Here’s to the music that brings us calm delight and reminds us that, sometimes, all we need is the air that we breathe.

Categories
Family Pets

Tiger

“Arise from sleep, old cat,
And with great yawns and stretchings…
Amble out for love.” – Issa, Japanese Haiku

Here’s to Tiger, the gentle presence, the one who grew up alongside our family, our journeys combined. There is sadness in our hearts today. We will miss your sweet meows.