Life Lessons From Furry Friends Pt. 4

Garfield

Garfield truly deserves his namesake. He is a massive 21 lb orange Maine Coon mix that loves affection and eating food. He is smart and lazy and uses his intelligence to assist in his laziness. Above all, Garfield is persistent. It’s a quality I have grown to admire and delight in watching him display.

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Garfield was adopted with his sister Elphaba (who I will write about next) when they were just a few weeks old. They were abandoned in a barn and my sister’s friend was trying to find good homes for them. My sister has always loved the cartoon Garfield, it was her favorite all through childhood, so when she saw this little orange fluffball needed a home she could not say no. Garfield quickly melted the hearts of all who came in contact with him. He was deeply affectionate and loved cuddles. His personality was only aided by his undeniable cuteness. As he grew older we began to witness some of his most entertaining quirks in development.

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First of all, no amount of attention was ever enough. Garfield needed a way to solve this dilemma and somehow knew meowing endlessly was not the way to go about it. He observed the way people interacted, standing on two feet, and decided to try it out himself. Typically, when he stands on two feet this is enough to get a few pets, but when even that novelty wears off Garfield will gently paw the person he seeks attention from. As if he is petting them to let them know they can now return the favor. When that person has exhausted their potential he will simply move on to the next candidate and begin to tenderly paw at them until they comply with his wishes. Gentle paw not doing the trick? He will literally grab your hand with his two paws and pull it down to his body. Persistence.

Garfield standing

Garfield and Elphaba share their food and water bowls, but sometimes Garfield doesn’t want to share. If they are both going to eat at the same time he will take his paw and pull the bowl away from Elphaba and begin eating. Sure enough, Elphaba will pause as if to ask herself, “Why did that bowl just move?”, and then she will move forward and push Garfield out of the way. He then will patiently pull the bowl farther from her and begin to eat again. This process will continue until his hunger and taunting has been satisfied. Then he will move onto another activity.

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One activity he enjoys is chasing light. This is a game that he WILL NOT stop. You always have to be the one to stop it. I’m not sure what it is about this game in particular, but once he gets his sight on a beam of light, there’s no stopping his chasing until the light has completely disappeared. He does not care that his paw touches where the light is at least a dozen times, he does not care that no matter how many times he’s played this game he’s never actually “caught” the light… he will not give up.

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Garfield is a cat who enjoys the simple pleasures in life: attention, food, taunting his sister, and chasing light. He knows what he likes and he goes after it without any hesitation, guilt, or second-guessing. Not only does he endlessly entertain me, but he has proven what a powerful trait persistence really is.

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Check out my other  Life Lessons From Furry Friends posts here!:

Life Lessons From Furry Friends Pt. 1

Life Lessons From Furry Friends Pt. 2

Life Lessons From Furry Friends Pt. 3

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Footprints in the Sand

When my mom first shared this story with me, even as a child, I easily gleaned its importance to her. We sat on her side of the bed, the room dark, but for her small nightstand light providing a welcoming glow. The words were printed on a bookmark, and she read the story aloud, glancing up to catch my eyes, insuring my rapt attention. And, as a child often does, I wondered in awe of my mother’s wisdom. To me, she was not reading someone else’s words or story. The tie she felt wove its way into her speech so that the language became her own. She stared at me for a moment when her heart had been lifted by the sharing of stirring words. I don’t remember what conversation passed between us after, only that I carried the moment and message forever after. Now, I have a chance to intertwine myself and share my own version.

footprints

I think of my mom often. I think of what our relationship would be now if Alzheimer’s hadn’t come to claim her body and infect her mind. Now I must rely on my memories of my childhood. Memory is such an unreliable thing, but these words I write, they help me remember.

My dad always carried this air of intelligence. When he spoke to me I would marvel at his charisma and strive to earn his approval as he taught me the power of experience and wisdom. He insured I understood the difference between that and intellect, and although both important, the real goal is the journey to wisdom.

My mom did not speak like this. She did not spell out lessons or share time-worn stories riddled with morals. Where my dad’s cleverness and penchant for solving puzzles eagerly filled space with awe, my mom’s heart delicately encased it. And so, I was taught gentleness with wisdom, kindness with logic, and love with reason. These scales are not always balanced, but I yearn to honor them both and make it so.

The Footprints though, my mom did share that story. And how poetic, how unifying when I reflect on it now. My mom marveled at how when the narrator is at the lowest of the low they cry out in anguish to be left alone by their Savior, when in fact He had been carrying them through the bleakest of moments, the darkest of nights.

My mom only had one boyfriend, one husband, one love. She met my dad when she was twenty and that was that. When she was diagnosed he helped her make and complete a bucket list. And now, even as we near the inevitable end, he is still by her side, caring for her more than most spouses will ever have to care for each other. He stayed for better and for the literal worst. Her white knight, her caregiver, her endless one love.

I was in the car the other day listening to Sia. My mind slightly wandering until I hear her sing the words, “Your footprints in the sand“. I remembered the story my mom had shared with me all those years ago. I heard her sing, “but you were carrying me, carrying me to safety” and it hit me.

My mom can no longer make her own footprints in the sand. She could not control her toes to squeeze them through the warm sand, letting it sift over her skin. But now, in her bleakest moments, in her darkest hours, my dad carries her. And I know when she looks back at her journey she will see their path together as they wandered through forests and scaled mountains, as they struggled through hard times and basked in the good, how they raised three children and embedded themselves in a community, how they supported each other through career and job changes, how they embraced nature with an understanding that few posses… Yes, she will look back and see how long they traveled together and then she will marvel when the two footprints become one, knowing exactly who it was that carried her to safety.

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Z is for Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, #AtoZChallenge

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day…

I can’t hear Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and not think of my dad. When I was trying to think of an idea for Z this song popped in my head and I knew it was time to make a post.

I can perfectly picture my dad belting this song out. I see myself on the street I grew up, warm sunshine, lush green grass, shade from the maple and oak trees. When I was little my dad would carry me on his shoulders and sing.  My dad sings a lot. His singing to me as a child is the reason I love sharing songs with my students today. This is how we pass on our folk songs and traditions. This is how we connect generation to generation.

I have a book called “The Fox Went Out On A Chilly Night” and it’s held together by duct tape from decades of use. I take it out to sing with my students and I tell them how my dad used to sing it to me when I was a child like they are now. Their eyes get big and they scoot in closer to listen and join me with the town-o, town-o, town-o parts. Now when I take out this book they exclaim, “This is the song your dad sings you!” It makes me smile every time.

When I sing to my students “One finger, One Thumb” I can hear my dad leading the youth group in our church. Making us all jump up and down, frantically waving our limbs trying to keep up with the words and his enthusiasm. My students always appreciate the songs I love, and I love so many songs because of my dad.

I sing when I’m happy. It’s something I’ve noticed about myself because it’s just a general reaction to happiness, not a planned event. What better song to sing to express happiness than Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah? A song that brings me back to my childhood and makes me appreciate the love of music my dad gave to me.

…Plenty of sunshine headin’ my way. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

Y is for Your, #AtoZChallenge

Your name ignites a whispering hope.

Moonlight white bathes the scene-

Perfection in the nighttime glow.

A setting; mysterious, but serene.

 

Something right turned out wrong.

A decoration not for display,

But instead for target practice.

True violence masked as play.

 

Morning disaster unobserved-

The realization cold.

Lessons sometimes cannot be learned.

The truth gets hard to hold.

 

Electric flames lead the way,

Paving a road in humming light.

Which way we go I cannot say,

But we’ll end in the depths of night.

 

A voice heard on high

Signals those who are below.

More audible than a sigh

With words coming slow.

 

There is one weapon above the rest:

The power of thought and a persuasive tongue.

Most would overlook it as the best,

But there’s a reason we start off young.

 

My destination remains unknown

While everyone else knows where to go.

And it seems I’m always on my own,

But I find it’s better not to know.

 

 

V is for Void, #AtoZChallenge

The door slams shut,

sucked from his clammy fingers

by persistent wind.

He slumps against the frame,

sighing.

His stale air like the breeze

trapped within the still apartment.

He calls out

an aching tone, desperate.

His lips spill apologies.

His voice yearns for forgiveness.

He rubs his eyes until they are rimmed red,

pokes a finger to draw out droplets

of forced sorrow.

He makes his way to the closed bedroom door,

throwing his pleas like a fishing net,

aiming to trap innocence as it wriggles unknowingly,

baiting his prey with the lure of hope.

A gentle knock returns no reply.

His facade slowly peels away.

Slamming fists thrust through his barrier

And finally, finally,

there is nothing left to catch.

He stands in the center of the room,

realizing.

He is the black hole

that turned his life into a void.

 

U is for Uniform, #AtoZChallenge

Oh, look how lame we’ve become!

Trading our senses just to feel numb.

Investing more into poisoned hallucinations

than potential creativity and imagination.

 

And our darkest secrets have become

broadcasted for a handsome sum.

We’ve got nothing more to prove,

abandoned pride, it’s style to lose.

 

Fashion we use as a lethal weapon.

Don’t mistake these clothes for a second.

Dress to please, but you or me?

I’d say myself, but look who I’m trying to be.

T is for Tears, #AtoZChallenge

Tears stain faces,

Clinging like evening shadows.

Lips tremble, kissed by cold,

Moisture stolen, chapped, blistered.

 

Saline soaked cheeks

Drenched in humiliation.

A blush of remorse,

Red haze to tinge a guilty conscience.

 

Strangers crowd into a stuffy room

Clothed in dark, robes of night,

To pay respects to a deadly visitor.

The breath of death on a cool breeze.

 

Their faces stand clear,

Set in stone, gray and grave.

Eyes blank, but knowing.

What do they know?

 

Madness. It must be.

But no one shivers,

Shaking with loss.

No one mutters regret.

 

Panic. Disorder.

Non-existent for the moment.

Such an odd display,

People just nodding their heads,

 

Ignorant to disaster,

Or maybe it was planned.

Tears stain faces.

What wipes the slate clean?

 

 

S is for Sacrifice, #AtoZChallenge

Slowly, dragging out this one stance,

the apologetic nod of approval

convinces wavering confidence

to continue in the inhalation

of time and tranquility welded as one.

Matched like playing cards

dropped in sun’s dripping rays,

melting upon upturned faces,

fading out to the corner of the mind.

Blank and dull, cobwebs collect to a colony

while a drowsy smile slides out of tune.

A wreath of regret drifts lazily in the evening

sending smokey shivers down the spine.

Sweet toxin sipped from a gold chalice

dribbles down a craving throat,

hungering for this appetite of desire.

Memories turn blurry, smudging focus obsolete.

Eyelids droop to battered lashes,

crying out for some liquid relief.