One of the best ways I've found to connect with people is through their pets.
So, rather than just handing my mom a Mother's Day card for our belated celebration recently, I decided to also give her a card from her cat, Clanci (I call her Clanc-meister).
First, a little backstory.
Clanci chose my Mom ten years ago on an otherwise sad day. Mom had just lost her beloved cat of twenty years, Miss Kitty. I suggested that we go the Humane Society that same day – not to replace Miss Kitty, but to find another cat to establish new routines.
As we wandered past dozens of cats, one cat in particular followed Mom along the windowsill of a room she was housed in.
Like I said, Clanci chose my Mom, not the other way around. They’ve been inseparable ever since.
By all standards, Clanci is a spoiled cat. But when I visit Mom, I like to stick up for Clanci because it makes my mom laugh. Which brings us back to the Mother’s Day card Clanci "bought" for Mom.
On the outside, it says, “I’m one lucky cat.”
On the inside, it says, “You’re so good to me that I want to spend all nine lives with you!”
I got a little creative and spoke for Clanci in completing a list of suggested improvements. I typed it up, cut it out, and taped it inside the card.
Mom got quite the laugh out of it, and I suspect she'll return to the card again and again.
Here’s the list:
A Few Suggestions for Improvement:
1. Keep that kid [her great grandson] who visits on Saturdays quieter.
2. That tuna stuff you give me sometimes needs to happen more frequently. Morning. Noon. And night.
3. I'd like to have more food bowls around the house. In my bed and your bed would be two good places to start. The bathroom, maybe, too.
4. I need to be hand-fed. Surely, you can't expect me to bend over for my food like some common house cat.
5. You need to get home earlier from wherever you go every day so you can feed me.
6. Speaking of food, you need to get up earlier to feed me.
7. Stop covering my scratching post (I think you call it a "couch"). The blankets make it hard to get to.
8. My king-size bed has too much stuff on it. I especially despise the stuffed cat. Is this a joke? Or a threat, maybe?
9. Stop yelling at me when I tinkle around my domain. Don’t you understand that I have to mark my territory?
10. Not that I plan to ever eat another fly, but if I do, and the blasted thing is flying around in my mouth, you must come to my rescue and scoop it out!
Last night's episode of "Downward Dog" on ABC included a scene at the end that is resonating with people on social media, with good reason.
But first, if you didn't see it, let me set it up.
The dog, Martin, spent some time as a young pup as a "trash dog," which means pretty much what you think. He and his family foraged through people's trash, looking for food.
During this particular episode, he is tempted by a garbage truck and escapes from his owner's boyfriend (who is house sitting) to return to the trash, only to find out that it wasn't as satisfying as staying at home with his owner, Nan.
Here's what he concludes:
"Because I don't think it's all that hard to be happy. I think you just have to be grateful. Like, you have to remember to be grateful for what's right in front of you. Because me and Nan are really, really different. Like, we're like 60% compatible at best. I mean we have these huge issues we have to work out. But like, when you're always running around looking for what's wrong with everything, you just end up miserable. Yeah, like I'm a trash dog and she's like a fancy lady but we have each other and that's what important. We're not alone. And for that, for that, I'm honestly really truly grateful."
On a recent episode of the Wordslinger podcast with Kevin Tumlinson, he spoke briefly about shooting a video for a literacy promotion that Reedsy is doing. He was supposed to talk about why he writes.
I turned off the podcast and looked up the promotion. Don’t worry, Kevin. I’ll get back to your show. But this intrigued me to the point that I wanted to answer this question right now.
I write because …
I love to write about redemption.
Just this morning, I read about a local artist who transformed some of the concrete barriers around TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha (where the College World Series is about to begin) into works of art.
He decided that the barriers, which were erected for protection, would look better if they were painted blue, yellow, and green — transitioning them into works of art, rather than constant reminders of the state of our world. You can bet I’ll be writing about this.
It helps me understand myself.
I wrote an essay in my book Common Grounds: Contemplations, Confessions, and (Un)Expected Connections from the Coffee Shop in which I observed a gray-haired man who was wearing jorts and it made me consider the choices I make for my own wardrobe.
“I hope the jorts-wearer is blissfully ignorant about them being out of style for men,” I wrote. “At least that’s what I hear, and once I heard it, I tucked my own collection away in my basement. Why I care about such things at the age of forty-eight is beyond me, but as somebody who has always been overweight and a bit self-conscious, I do whatever I can to blend in.”
It helps me remember.
In my book, Sacred Grounds: First Loves, First Experiences, and First Favorites, I wrote the following paragraphs in an essay about my dream job (writing) and the sacrifices previous generations made so I could do it.
“Most people never get the luxury of chasing their dream job, so I feel fortunate to have done so. In fact, the HBO mini-series John Adams is always in the back of my mind. During the series, when Adams (portrayed by Paul Giamatti) arrived in Paris to ask the French for naval support of the American cause, he found a culture he was unfamiliar with—one that was much slower and engaged in the arts. Over a meal, he is asked about music, and his response is thought-provoking.
“I must study politics and war, you see, so that my sons will have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons must study navigation, commerce, and agriculture so that their children will have the right to study painting and poetry and music.
“It’s not lost on me that in my family, my generation is the one that gets to study painting, poetry, and music because of the sacrifices of the two generations ahead of mine … It seems to me that when a generation stops thinking about, appreciating, and building on the sacrifices of the previous generation, we become self-absorbed. But when we build on the sacrifices of previous generations, it gives us a chance to live beyond ourselves.”
Why do you write?
Starting Wednesday, June 7, I’m going to start a 30-day declutter challenge and you are invited to join me.
The goal will be to get rid of 300 items by the end of the challenge. You can purge 10 items per day, or go crazy on the weekends. It’s up to you.
Because physical clutter is mental clutter.
“This is the definition of clutter: things that exist in your outer life to distract you from the inner things that you’re avoiding,” says Brooks Palmer.
Why June 7?
Because there’s no better time to start than now.
If you want to participate, there aren’t any hard and fast rules. Just donate, sell or discard 300 items over the next 30 days. You can keep a running total in a notebook, on your phone or anywhere else you’d like.
It’ll be a lot of work, I know.
But here’s where the fun comes in. Every day, you can join others who are participating by visiting my author Facebook page. Post before and after pictures, or discarded item count totals, or comment on the progress of others. And you can grab a little inspiration while you’re there, too.