Saturday, December 27, 2014


I got a compliment last night that was totally unexpected.
I have a phone friend that I’ve known for about 10 years now. We occasionally see each other IRL, but mostly, it’s just on the phone. He is a bit of a hermit, no local friends except for me. But he is seriously One of the Good Guys. (No it’s not the slightest bit romantic, he really is just a friend.) 
He has traveled all over the world, especially in remote countries behind the former iron curtain where he spent time.  He never travels as a tourist but as a learner and listener.  He maintains a friendship via phone and e-mail with people all around the world. (He would hate for me to tell you, but there are several families that he helps financially, especially one in Lebanon.  He is not wealthy, he just believes in doing what he can)   
He was in Moscow shortly after the collapse of Communism and saw first-hand the devastation that happened because the USA did Not live up to it's promises to help.  He tells a story of an old man who was trying to sell his military ribbons of honor, just so he could eat.  He speaks of a Jewish woman and an Islamic man who fell in love, the horrors and the hatred they have faced because they live in the Middle East.  He knows a family in the Ukraine that has divided loyalties because of a mixed heritage.
Knowing all these folks, he has a unique perspective on what is going on in the rest of the world.
Anyway, despite all his sterling qualities, our relationship has pretty much been based on Arguing.  He is one of those folks who will take the other position, even when he actually agrees with you.   [facepalm]   
We mainly argue politics and he is terrifyingly bright (and very opinionated).  I am frequently at a disadvantage which we argue because of my Brain-fog (plus I get tired).    He makes no allowances whatsoever for my disabilities.  Bummer.

Anyway, last night out of the blue he said that he enjoys talking with me because My Logic is spot on and my Insights make him think. He likes that -- it’s just my facts that are wrong (!?!). ( he is mistaken about the facts thing. I have a good grasp of facts, he just doesn’t want to admit it because they weaken his arguments.  But of course, I Would say that.)
I was flabbergasted. 
He Never gives compliments (I think that’s the first one) and he always sounds like he thinks I am crazy when we argue. 
But my Logic is Spot On and my Insights are good.

I'm whelmed.

Like I said, he is one of the Good Guys.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Mood Change

(Addams, scoping out one of the new folks)

Warning: Very Long Rant/Post ahead.  If you get bored, just skip over it.

This post is about my personal journey during the recent past.

Backstory:  A few days ago (ok, maybe a couple of weeks) I took a hard look at my life and attitude.  Lately I have been really angry and sad, mostly (almost entirely) at the fact that I am so isolated by the MM/CFS.  I have so few folks in my life.  I was beginning to be quite miserable and in a bad mood all the time.

It is no fun to be in a bad mood all the time.   I decided that something had to change.

BUT ------ I cannot change the fact that I am fairly bed-ridden.  I cannot change the fact that I can't do all the stuff I used to do.  I cannot change the fact that I don't have family or friends near me to care about.

So, what can I change?  The way I look at things.

 I decided to put away the image I have/had of myself as an outgoing, engaging person, surrounded by laughing people.   You see, I like having other people to think about, to care about.  I like hearing their stories and adventures.  I like having others around to talk with, to engage in discussions about how to accomplish stuff, or how to change the world for the better,  I love political discussions and religious philosophy sharing.  (You can maybe see why I truly loved being a minister)  And, I miss all that.  But that was the Old me.

Fortunately, I am an introvert (actually on the cusp between introvert and extrovert).  That does help. I do enjoy my own company.  And I have all the animals.  They are not so great on the discussion end of things, but they are pretty good at accepting love and caring.

So I decided to change my self-image.  No longer will I see myself as a poor, pathetic, bed-ridden, isolated person.  Instead, I shall see myself as a Hermit.  A Happy Hermit.  A Happy, Spiritually  Inspired Hermit, who gives herself over to the care and well-being of animals.  Someone who can listen to music all day, if need be.  Someone who is called to pay attention to the differences between the cats various personalities and the preferences of the dogs.  Someone who gets to watch the trees being kissed by the sun and the clear blue sky (it's always clear blue here) being a safe backdrop for the miracles below.  Someone who can indulge from time to time in expressing all this beauty and wonder in small works of Art.

Also, someone who does not have to deal with Bad Moods from other folks.  Someone who does not have to apologize for being happy, or laughing at how ridiculous she is from time to time.  Someone who lives in the NOW, because there is no other time.

And strangely enough.  That has worked -- much to my surprise!  It was as if my bad mood simply dissolved.   It just wasn't there any more.  I am calm, relaxed (even when the pain gets really annoying), and non-stressed.  This is my life and that's OK.  I can't save the world from my bed, but I can add to the over-all peacefulness.  And I am happy, calmly happy.   I wake up Happy, even when I am in pain (Lately my pain is between 4 and 7, so not a big deal).  And this has now lasted for well over a week, almost two weeks

Now, add onto this that I haven't taken my Zoloft for about a month or more (and before that it was getting quite sketchy, remembering to take it only about once a week or so) and no pain pills for a very long time.  This is not a chemically-induce euphoria.   It's just me, all by myself, just doing what I can.  I know this calm will not stay forever, but I can invite it to stay for as long as possible and invite it back frequently.

(an old picture of Fred and I)

Of course, no sooner had I decided all these things when I got a phone call.  My social worker had arranged for a non-profit group to some over and clean my yard.  Turns out they were from the Sheriff's Dept, volunteers working with at-risk youth.  3 adults and 7 kids showed up and cleaned my front and side yard.  They were lovely and I enjoyed them very much.  I talked with the head guy and asked him if he would be interested in letting me work with some of the kids, teaching them Art with polymer clay (I have so much extra of the stuff).  He was very interested and it may happen.  They have the facilities, I have the clay and tools.

After they left, I went back to thinking about how to be a Happy Hermit.  It was good, I liked it.  After all, a Hermit does not necessarily have to be totally isolated from other people, just does not seek them out.

Then the phone rang again.  Someone else was taking a van that night with lots of folks to look at the Christmas decorations that people put on their houses, would I like to tag along?  Sure!    We had a lovely time (my favorite was a home that had the house only partly decorated, with a life-size mock-up of the Grinch taking down the lights).  Towards the end of the ride, I was really sore and hurting from sitting up for so long (better part of an hour), but happy.  I didn't say anything because I didn't want to spoil it for the others, but I did have to be helped back into my home.  Ah, well.  The next two days I really paid for it, but I tried to remember the lights and the decorations when it got too bad.  Took my mind somewhat off the pain.

Several days passed.  I was still happy and starting to get over the van ride.

Then, Joy of Joys, the  Half-cat changed her ways (Her name is Tabygail, BTW).  She is now a Full Cat, staying inside all the time except for outside potty breaks.  She still doesn't like to be where people are, because that is also where the dogs are, but at least I know she is safe.  And when I go into her room (it's the junk room), she looks up and purrs and jumps down onto the table and weaves around so that I will sit down and spend some serious petting time with her.  We both love that.

To add to my joy, at least 5 of the ferals came in the house and began to explore.  I left the french doors to the porch open (just a crack) to air out the place, and they took that as an invitation!  Charming lead the pack, followed by Blaze, Xena, Noddy and Scamp.  I think a couple of others may also have come in for a while.   Scamp was especially bold.  He is by far the friendliest of the group.  Scamp took one look at Fred, the Blind dog, and went over and Head Butted him!  Then Scamp started purring up against poor Fred who just stood there, not really knowing what to do.  I saw Fred's tail hesitantly and questioningly wag, just a a bit.  I tried very hard not to laugh out loud.  I didn't want to discourage the scene.

The ferals stayed around for over an hour, but Scamp decided to spend the night.  He was mostly a gentleman the entire time.  Yes, he did a lot of exploring, but he didn't knock too much stuff over, just a few CDs in their cases.  He kept on coming over to me to ask if it was OK he was inside.  I reassured him with pets.  He loved that.  I will be very glad when he finally learns how to use the Cat door.  But the night itself was surprisingly peaceful, what with all the new cats in town.

Then there was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I had no ride to church (my Christmas tradition is the midnight service with candles) so I stayed at home this year.  But I did get to feed the ferals late at night (an extra treat) and it was at that point that I fall into the dark welcoming sky, cats tangling around my legs.  It was pure bliss.  But Christmas Day had a surprise for this newly-minted Hermit.

I decided not to go to the movie on the actual day of Christmas (want to see "Into the Woods").  I wanted to spend the day around home, I can go another day for the movie.  So I lay back in bed, putting the finishing touches on some artwork, when the phone rang.  It was a friend from my polymer clay days (I used to be Very Active in the polymer clay community).  It was a delight to hear from her and we talked for about an hour and a half.  No sooner had I hung up with that conversation (My hand was still on the phone) when it rang again.  Long distance SKYPE call from Ireland.  Yes, It was a Sister of my Heart (not a blood relative, but Dearly Beloved) - who does not usually like to talk on the phone.  We chatted from around 11 AM (my time) until 4 pm.  (!!!?!!)  When we ere finished, I went to the bathroom.  Upon returning, I picked up the phone to return it to the charger -- but it rang again!  Another long-distance friend, another 2 hours.  Then I made a sandwich -- and the phone rang.  A Local friend, four and a half hours.  Finally I was finished.  Turned on a movie.  Before the opening credits were finished, another call.  Total? well over 15 hours on the phone!!!

So much for Hermiting.

Anyway, today I am back in Hermit mode, happy and content.  A quiet calm.  I intend to enjoy this mood while it is here.

I may take a nap.
(Addams, after a long night, hosting)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

When I was 17, I stopped celebrating Christmas. I was really unhappy with all the THINGS and STUFF. It seemed to me that Christmas should not be about that. Christmas felt like a time to be Greedy and it was not a good feeling. So I stopped celebrating. No cards and no gifts. Oh, occasional cookies or fudge. I’d make those and share, but not the store explorations, not the money spent, not the grumpy hassle of unhappy crowds. None of that.
But then I went into the ministry.
Even a UU minister has to celebrate Christmas for the flock, so I had to figure out how to make it meaningful. It seems to me that when we celebrate the birthday of a person who was so exceptionally wise and peace-loving, that to put greed into the mix is unfortunate, at best. I respect Jesus and wanted to honor him in an appropriate way.
So my Christmas traditions became thus: I would put together a Christmas Eve service that contained Beauty and Hope – and lots of music and even some laughter. We would always end by turning out the lights in the church, then each person would have a candle that they would light from their neighbor’s candle as we sang ‘Silent Night’. And a final, soft Benediction of Peace.
After the service was over, I would walk out to my car, then stop, look up into the sky, and fall into it. The deep, dark welcoming sky, that has seen so many humans praying for Hope, for Peace. The prayers of the world, given to the sky, to whatever, whomever is listening, caring.
Then someone would call out “Merry Christmas” and there would be laughter and I would come back to the here and now.
But when I became so disabled five years ago, I had to give up the ministry –- which I dearly loved – and with it, the tradition of putting together the Christmas Eve service went by the wayside. I sorely missed it.
Having moved around so much, I live nowhere near friends or family, so Christmas has become a time to be alone.
You might think this is a bad thing, but it is not. For me, Christmas is a time for quiet celebration, for music and good cheer, love and peace. I live now with 3 dogs and 3 cats, plus a small herd of Ferals that I feed and have been taming. This means I am surrounded by love.
So tonight, when I was feeding the Ferals, I stopped for a moment. The cats were circling at my feet and rubbing my legs, saying “Thank you” for the food. I looked up and once again fell into the sky. The deep, dark, welcoming sky. The sky full of Prayers for Peace.
It is a Beautiful night and I am content.
My hope for each of us is a wonderful and sweet

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Feral Portrait: Prince Charming

Prince Charming is an incredibly beautiful cat.  He is basically cream colored with a very light dusting of gray stripes.  If he spends a lot of time in the sun, he does get darker, as this picture shows.  Without exception, everyone who sees him comments on how handsome he is.  In a fair world, he would be encouraged to breed simply because of his coloring.  But alas, this is the real world, where even stunning and wonderful cats may not find a home, so he was neutered at an early age.

Like many very beautiful people, Charming is rather shy.  He likes to hang out with his siblings in a basket located at the feeding site but humans are always kept at a respectful distance.  Long  after most kittens have gone their own way in the world, Charming has kept close contact with all four of his brothers and sisters, but he is especially close with the triplets.  He is almost always in the company of at least one of them.  He seems a good older brother to them, as they like him and seek him out.

He is most likely not a mighty hunter.  He plays with wind-driven leaves but has never gone for a bird while anyone was watching.

He is a pensive cat, often musing over the Fate of the World.  He has a lot of very serious thoughts as you can tell by the picture above.   He likes to stay around home, but has yet to come up on the porch.  Like his mother, Lil'Mama, he does not allow anyone the familiarity of petting him.  He stays clear of friendly hands, even at feeding time.

He has impeccable manners with other cats.  Unlike many of them, he does not bat felines away from his eating.  Rather, he will move aside and let older cats take over.  He will gladly share his diner with any of the triplets.  And he loves to curl up with his brothers and sisters in the basket or under the tree.

He is very contented.  There is reason to believe that as he ages, he will become a philosopher cat.