Feline Farewell

The vet’s estimate was that Maurice had two to four months. Two weeks later I sat with my cat on my lap, sobbing and hugging my crying daughter with my free arm, and whispered in his ear that it was okay to let go, that I loved him and would miss him, but that we would be okay. It was more for me than for him—a mean little voice in my head accused me of anthropomorphizing—but maybe he understood. After more than two hours I finally admitted to myself that I was just imagining that I felt his purr.

On his eighteenth birthday, he had been able to jump up on his favorite chair for the first time in more than a week, and the next day, he ate and purred and seemed almost like the old Moe-man before his last day. When it happened, it happened very much as I’d hoped it would, with Maurice dying at home surrounded by his family.

For all of this, I’m grateful.

In the days since, he seems just around the corner. I reach for his medications and his special food before I remember that he doesn’t need them anymore. I see him curled on our bed in the morning before I realize it’s just a fold of the quilt. I hear his mew before I can remind myself that he’s not here.

I miss the smell of his fur and the way he half-closed his eyes when I would scratch that super-soft spot of fur below his ear. I miss seeing my kids asleep on the bed with Maurice sleeping between them.

I just miss Maurice.

3 months old, Christmas 1996 (with ginger cat Henry in the background)

3 months old, Christmas 1996 (with ginger cat Henry in the background)

In his prime, 2005.

In his prime, 2005.

Not a fan of having a three-year-old to play with, 2008.

Not a fan of having a three-year-old to play with, 2008.

His eighteenth birthday, September 2014.

His eighteenth birthday, September 2014.

September 12, 1996 to September 14, 2014

September 12, 1996, to September 14, 2014

Wordless: Gray Tree Frog

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This one’s just changed from the tadpole stage. He’ll turn gray as he gets bigger. (Photo by my daughter at Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, Massachusetts. She also spotted and caught the little fellow.)

Who Am I?

“Who am I?” I asked myself again and again during the weekend meditation retreat I attended in August.

It was the first time I had been away from my five-year-old son overnight. For two nights I slept in a twin bed in a single dorm room, alone for the first time in nearly a decade.

“Who am I without my children; without my husband?”

For a whole weekend, I had no responsibilities except showing up for my one-hour daily “yogi job” shift, washing dinner dishes or chopping vegetables. With everyone else, I listened to the bells telling us where to go and when, and followed the sound. We were encouraged to seek refuge in the buddha, the dharma, the sangha. I’d been seeking refuge but not in any of those things. For a whole weekend, I was not defined by what I spent my time doing.

“Who am I without my roles: wife, mother, daughter, friend, homeschooler?”

We maintained noble silence, refraining from talking, reading, writing, nonverbal communication, and eye contact until Sunday afternoon. I sat silent in a room with 96 other silent people. I walked the grounds with 96 other silent walkers, silently greeting the same holly leaf every time I returned to the hedge. Pacing slowly across the lawn and back, we looked like disoriented zombies.

“Who am I without my voice?”

I sat in hour after hour of meditation, feeling my presence in the breath tickling the back of my throat, in the movement of my digestive tract. In spite of the pain burning along my spine, I fell asleep sitting up. I had moments-long dreams, strange visions that seemed strangely real, and caught myself before falling over. The breeze from the window raised goosebumps along the left side of my body. Here I am, I thought. But—

“Who am I?”

In my room, a familiar face looked back at me from the mirror above my sink.

“Who are you?” she asked.

I had no answer.

And that was okay.

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The post that helped me actually go to my retreat after I’d signed up for it:

Bookends: August 2014

The first day of each month, I’m posting a summary of what I read the previous month and what I plan to read in the coming month. I would love if this could become a conversation in the comments about what’s on your reading list, too!

Reading took a backseat to other endeavors this month, so my books-completed list is a bit lighter than I’d intended.

Here’s the recap of what I read in August:

Continue reading

Habit Experiment: August Recap, September Kickoff

August Recap

I kind of derailed myself this month. My habit for August was exercise, and to jog your memory, here are my goals:

1) Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.

2) Do 30 minutes of resistance training each day.

3) Keep a log of my exercise and internet use.

The first week I did great. I didn’t keep a log of my internet use, but I kept track of my steps and my other exercise, and I walked at least 10,000 steps every day but one. In fact, I found 10,000 steps so easy, I decided to increase the goal to 20,000 steps a day for the following week (keeping the 30 minutes of daily resistance training), and then just to make it even more fun, I started writing every morning for 30 minutes before my first walk (January’s habit).

And then…I hit the wall.

The third weekend in August I attended a silent meditation retreat (I’ll post about that eventually). The week preceding the retreat I only broke 10,000 steps one day, and I didn’t do resistance training even once. In the week since the retreat, I’m meditating every morning (November’s habit), but I’ve not gone for my morning walk even once. In my defense, my cat got sick the day I got back from the retreat, and between emergency vet visits, clean-up of feline bodily fluids, and endless loads of laundry, my mornings have been rather hectic.

With my cat essentially in home hospice care, I know what the ultimate result will be, but I don’t know how long it will be until then, nor do I know exactly what kind of care the intervening days/weeks/months will involve. But I’ll do my best to fall back into my exercise routine and be gentle with myself in the process.

On to September

In the meantime, September’s habit is:

Drive Less

Continue reading

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life
Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After you read my review, read my friend Lori’s take on the book in her post, “A woman’s life (and what history will make of it)”.

Although I’ve found the name Margaret Fuller familiar probably since my women’s studies classes in college, I didn’t really learn about her until our minister gave a sermon about her this spring. After the sermon I asked the minister for suggestions for further reading, and she recommended The Lives of Margaret Fuller by John Matteson. I bought the book because I like our minister and trust her opinion, but I procrastinated starting it. I wanted a book about Margaret Fuller that was written by a woman. I was pretty sure there was one because I’d heard a radio interview with a woman on the subject of Margaret Fuller, and when I went to investigate, I found Megan Marshall’s Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, which had just won a Pulitzer.

A Pulitzer and a woman author? Clearly this was the biography I wanted to read first. Continue reading

Mom Overboard! (Habit Experiment mid-month check-in)

Two weeks into Exercise month of my Habit Experiment, and I’ve already learned a lot about myself.

For one, I hate keeping emotion journals. To be fair, I already knew this, but for some reason I keep trying them and every time I do, I have to learn again that I hate them. I gave up on my habit journal after three days.

Another thing I already knew about myself but was surprised to learn again is that I dislike half measures. I set up this very reasonable Habit Experiment, adding one habit a month so I wouldn’t become overwhelmed and so I would increase my chances of success. But “reasonable” is so boring and, because I don’t like boredom, reasonable things are unsustainable. So, I made some changes. Continue reading

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What began as Mason Currey’s blog, which began as a way to procrastinate writing projects, Daily Rituals is a compilation of the rituals and routines that creatives in various fields follow (or followed) to get their work done. The contents of the book are gleaned from the reports of biographers, friends and family, or from the reports of the authors, composers, artists, and scientists themselves.  It would be easy to read this an entry or two at a time, but I gleefully went from entry to entry and read the book straight through.

This book has been a comfort to me on so many levels. The biggest help it’s offered is to show me that there are really a ton of different routines productive creatives follow. Continue reading