Stopping for Rainbows

We keep the Baby Cakes every Thursday and alternate Saturday mornings. The Cakes is,  in a word: Amazing. She teaches me something everyday. We pick her up at daycare and usually head out to Wolf Crossing for tea parties, pancakes and Peppa the Pig videos. Last Thursday was no different. And now that Grandpa built the coolest playhouse in the world out back at Wolf Crossing, the Cakes can hardly wait to get there. IMG_1904[1]IMG_1898[1] Now she has a set of pots and pans and lots of fake food to serve anyone who comes to visit her in the tiny house! The time flies when you have such cool stuff to play wiith. Last Thursday before we even knew it, it was time to go meet Mommy.

We loaded the car, buckled our seat belts and headed to Peoria Heights. But before we got out of our subdivision, I saw a rainbow high in the evening sky. I was certain Baby Cakes couldn’t see the rainbow, and even tho we were running late, I asked her if she had ever seen a rainbow. She said, “No.” So I pulled over and the two of us got out of the car so we could see it. “It’s full of beautiful colors!” the Cakes squeeled with delight while pointing at the sky and jumping up and down. She was so happy to have seen her first rainbow and I was blessed to share it with her. Afterwards, I was so glad that we had stopped and gotten out of the car.

I hope that someday, after I’m gone, whenever Cakes sees a rainbow, she will think of me and smile.rainbow

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The Journey Home

This is a story I wrote to be entered in an animal shelter contest to help the great folks at Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue. They do amazing things. Check them out at http://www.purebredcatrescue.org/?gclid=CL7ptdCZ77MCFe5FMgodAAIAJg

Our kitty’s story begins in Cairo, a city whose people once revered and worshipped cats in ancient times.  Ironically, today millions of stray cats roam the troubled streets of Cairo—starving, neglected and abused. A true Egyptian Mau with bright green eyes, our kitty was born not only homeless, but with both back legs severely deformed and useless, void of joints. It would seem a hopeless situation to most. And for most, it would be.

We can only imagine how our kitty was able to survive his first few months. Dirty, scraggly, bone-thin and dragging his dangling legs behind, he must have been a pitiful sight. Through the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA), our kitty was given a chance at life—a plane ride to Chicago, where he was met by ESMA partner, Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue (SPCR) of Kenosha, WI, USA and whisked to his foster home for love, nourishment and medical care.

When our kitty’s picture appeared on the SPCR website, Miki, a vet tech, instinctively knew she was meant to adopt him.

Our Kitty’s Picture on SPCR Website

But after meeting him for the first time, it was only then Miki understood how extraordinary he is. “He has such a huge personality. He’s very self-confident and always on top of things,” she said. Miki named our kitty Chenzira—Egyptian for “born on a journey.”

Chenzira now happily lives with Miki and her husband, two dogs and four kitties. But don’t tell him he’s handicapped. Chenzira doesn’t know it.  Miki says he’s the fastest of their cats and even faster than the dogs, racing up and down the stairs at will. From the streets of Cairo to the safety of his forever family—a journey indeed. And just one more happily-ever-after ending made possible by SPCR.

Down by the Sea

Vacation. It’s a lovely word, really. And what better vacation is there than a few days with amazing friends in an amazing resort relaxing under Florida’s ever-changing October sky? Our friends and foodie soul mates, Doug and Diane, having made a generous charitable contribution, were in turn given the keys to a small kingdom for a few days of paradise. And they invited us and another lovely set of friends, Mike and Heidi, along for the ride. How lucky are we?

View at Hammock Beach Resort

My, but it was a beautiful place, too, located on Hammock Beach—a three-bedroom mini-palace decorated in hushed earth tones with a striking marble entry, Viking appliances and opulent linens. We spent hours walking on the pristine beach, cooking fresh seafood and drinking wine. Paradise, indeed. Now, the resort is located just a few miles south of St. Augustine–which according to the locals–is the true unsung birthplace of European settlement in North America. Who knew?

St. Augustine, Florida

One evening, about a week before Halloween, we decided to make the trek up to St. Augustine for an evening of tourism-style ghost hunting. And so, anticipating the journey, the six of us piled into our friends’ rented Crown Victoria–a massive, formidable ghost-busting vehicle if ever there was one. Upon our arrival, we met our tour guide for the evening: affable Alice, outfitted in black boots, a flowing-fringed cape and possessing paranormal-activity-locating paraphernalia. And of course, we had our cameras ready, too.

Huguenot Cemetery in St. Augustine

For about two-and-a-half hours, Alice guided us through the city gates, down cobblestone streets and into tiny alleyways where the folklore of yesterday’s mischief and mayhem still live today. And we frequented several pubs along the way. Of course.

Alice encouraged us to take pictures and study them later for aberrational images. Hmm. See the one photo below I took in the upstairs of a 17th century pub where the then-owner, “Annie,” apparently plunged down the stairs to her death.

Aura above the left arm of the chair? You decide.

This photo shows an aura or something that looks like a pillow on the left arm of the chair, although there was nothing in the chair. Who knows? But we had a great time talking with Alice and each other and visiting the history of this lovely little sea-side city to which we hope to return someday.

St. Augustine Beach

Reflecting on Resilience

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written in my blog. No reason, really. I guess not much happened in my life that seemed worth writing about. And isn’t that usually the case? Life. It’s what happens while you’re waiting around for something big. And mine seems to be flying by.

In a couple of weeks, I will turn 54 years old. Wow. Just looking at that number shocks me. How did this happen? Yesterday I was 17. That was the year that I got married-way-too-young. I was 20 when Luke was born and 23 when Amie arrived. I was 27 when I got divorced and 32 when I graduated from Purdue. I was 33 when John and I married and moved to Peoria. I was 38 when I struck gold at Caterpillar and 44 when I became a grandmother for the first time. AND I had a tummy tuck later that same year. I was 45 when I first went to Europe and 50 when we built Wolf Crossing in Morton. These are the milestones of my life.

There are some important things I’ve lost along the way. . .some because of neglect, some due to inconvenience and some just because that’s the way life works.

And while I’ve lost some important things, I’ve kept some unimportant ones. Like a few boxes in the basement John wishes I would part with. And what about the philodendron in my kitchen? It’s origin dates back to my paternal grandfather’s funeral. He died on my birthday 30 years ago when I was pregnant with Amie. Someone–who I also have since lost–sent it to the funeral with my name on it. The plant has been big and small and cut back to a stub more than once. I remember John accidentally dropping it one time and nearly all the roots were broken. He said, “Well, if it’s possible to kill this thing, I just did it.”

Here’s how it looks today.

And so it is. And so let it be. Will I actually buy an apartment in Paris someday? Will I ever again weigh what’s listed on my driver’s license? Will I write that book? Who knows? But life is good and I am happy. So is my philodendron!

A Tale of Two Kitties

Wow. I could never have predicted this.

Our sweet, sweet blue cream Persian kitty, Alley, who has lived with us since she was six-months old, turned 15-years old the first of July. And like most of us who’ve logged a few miles, she wasn’t as spry as she used to be. Her hips didn’t work like they did when she was young. But then, mine don’t either.

Alley sleeping with a mouse

Here she is sleeping with a “mouse” on the deck. She was allowed out on the deck only if we were out there, and she had to stay on the deck. Alley knew the rules and obeyed them. That’s how incredible she was.

So she was slow and a bit needy as she grew old, but still Alley was happy and loved to be with her family. Then one recent Thursday she didn’t come out of her room. We took her to the vet that afternoon where she was diagnosed with kidney failure. Long-heart-wrenching-too-sad-to-tell-it-story short, Alley died the next day. We buried her at Wolf Crossing under twin oak trees. John and I both cried as he dug the hole and placed her in it. A resin angel and goldfinch feeder now mark Alley’s resting place. You might think it’s crazy, but I bought a marker for her which hasn’t yet arrived.

After Alley was gone, our house was immediately quiet and we missed our kitty. Through her, we had fallen in love with Persians–they are such sweet, gentle souls. But I didn’t want to buy from a breeder. I wanted to adopt a kitty in need, not one with a silver spoon. I’m not judgemental about it, but I think buying from a breeder encourages breeding. In my opinion, the world doesn’t need more cats.

After a bit of research, I discovered Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue–an organization dedicated to the rescue and placement of purebred kitties in need. How cool is that?! Even better, they are located just north of Chicago–a three-and-a-half hour drive for us! So I started visiting their website everyday and thinking about the kitties whose heart-melting stories are told there. (Check them out at http://www.purebredcatrescue.org)

Within a few days, guess whose picture appeared?

Alice’s adoption photo

It was Alice! Her picture stole our hearts, and we began the adoption process. According to Alice’s foster mom, there was no shortage of people who wanted to adopt her. We got lucky, tho, and she is now home with us. We are soooo happy to welcome this new little sweetheart into our lives. And, yes, she really is that cute!

So, here’s our tale of two kitties: Alley, we will never forget you and you will live in our hearts always. Alice, welcome to your new life!

Sentimental Irish Journey

I love to travel to Europe. Period. Aside from the obvious fact that I’m of European descent, I’m not really sure why I love it so much. I don’t have any known relatives there, but I go every chance I get. And I am lucky enough even to get to go for work every once in awhile.

So we made our second trip to Ireland a couple of weeks ago. We flew into Dublin, drove to Waterford, visited the magical picture post-card town of Kinsale and slept in a converted old convent in County Tipperary where roosters crow at 4:00 in the morning. We made our way through Kilkenny Castle and walked around the gorgeous little town of Kilkenny boasting a pub that houses the ruins of a 16th century abbey brought over from England. How crazy is that?! And we ate amazing food all along the way.

We were loosely tracing John’s ancestral heritage. His great grandfather, Patrick Tobin came over on the boat in 1868 with his new bride, Margaret Breen Tobin. We visited the church where Patrick was baptized in 1842, and one where John’s great aunt and uncle were married!

But we ended our Irish journey where it began–reflecting on the lives of those who came before.

Those who know me well, won’t be surprised, but Glasnevin Prospect Cemetery was our last stop. It is a short bus ride from Dublin and was opened in 1832, ten years before Patrick Tobin was born. Originally established so Catholics could have proper burials (it was against the law to have Catholic masses in Protestant cemeteries), it is the largest non-denominational burial place in Ireland with an estimated 1.5 million burials.

To be sure, somber Prospect Cemetery isn’t as ornate or cheerful as Paris’ Pere LaChaise Cemetery where Irish son Oscar Wilde rests today. But there’s something gritty, determined and stalwart about its personality. You can actually feel it here, as the ground shelters remains of members of a collective people who suffered and struggled for liberty so long under such great oppression and injustice. According to cemetery records, there are a few Tobins who were buried here in the last 50 years, but we didn’t find them.

During our visit, there was a funeral procession being led by two sleek, black stallions pulling a glass carriage that held a wooden coffin. Out of respect, I didn’t take pictures.
But it was breathtakingly beautiful.

And so our trip is over, but it is far from the end of this journey. Until we return to Ireland–as surely we will because it is a land that calls to us–I’ll continue to look for ancestral clues and think about the past that shaped our present.