Pawprints Forever on my Heart

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Meet our furry children: Simba, Guerita & Roly Poly (Simba- bottom left, Roly- bottom middle, Guerita- bottom right)

Once upon a time, the pitter-patter of three beautiful cats were heard in the Crayola House.

They lived.

They stretched.

They napped!

They left behind their pawprints.

Life with a cat or three can change your lives in ways you can’t even imagine. There was a time when we were first married and we enjoyed sleeping in. I was not born a morning person; I was gifted with a body clock of a night owl. Married life wasn’t much different; Vidal is a night owl as well (we were meant to be together!). Getting up early used to be a chore for Vidal and I, until we adopted the girls: Simba and Guerita, when God introduced “The Kitty Alarm”. Our lives would never be the sameContinue reading

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The Cat in the Box

Guerita was a dainty little cat. She was very playful as a kitten, but it seemed that taking care of her little sister was priority over toys. Investigating, that was her thing. Dora had nothing on this explorer. As she got older, the toys she used to pounce upon (paper clips and wads of paper) were boring. She had the whole world at her paws outside, and she wanted to explore. She had moved on. She had found her royal aloofness worked best for her, and enjoyed ruling the outside world. She didn’t have time for nonsensical childish things anymore.

Unless there was an empty box.

I remember when she was a kitten, she would go nuts if we put an empty box out; Simba would as well. Then along came the Prodigal Years, and if Guerita played, it was not in our house. Then one day, I heard this frantic bumping and scratching. Confused, I headed straight for the noise, which was coming from a box. I peeked inside, the noise stopped, and Guerita stared at me in mid-scratch, wide-eyed with a “What are YOU looking at?” look on her face. That took about 2 seconds, after which she proceeded to run around inside the box with glee, stopping to scratch with frenzy again, then leaped out, raced across the house and left!

I was still praying Guerita would return home, so I started leaving empty boxes out whenever I could. Guerita would come in to eat, find the box and go bonkers. So I guess the moral of the story is… If you are feeling boxed in, dig in, go bonkers and have a blast!

Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.  Galatians 6:10

 

9 Lives and 8 Legs: Bathtime for Simba!

If you have ever given a cat a bath, you will know the experience can be described by one of the following: Funny, challenging, heartbreaking (the look that says “why are you trying to kill me?”), soaked-to-the-bone wetter than the cat, ear-shattering as in louder than a blast-off at Cape Canaveral, or excruciating torture (blood and all). One thing it can never be described as: A Dull Moment.

Every few years, I became a glutton for punishment by deciding to bathe all three of our feline children on the same day. What can I say, except I love a challenge? I figured I always ended up as a drenched rat in a flooded bathroom with each kitty bath, so might as well make it one day rather than spread it out…  I would start with Guerita and Roly Poly, as they were the easier ones to bathe. Actually, “easier” might not be the right choice of words… “Less difficult” would be more accurate!!  Guerita’s cries for freedom inevitably pierced my ears, and Roly… well, Roly hated baths, but mostly he just pierced my heart with his pitiful “why are you trying to kill me?” look!

And then there was Simba.

If it was a single-cat-bath-Simba-only day, I would approach Simba quietly, fully wrapped in my Cat Bath Armour (4 long-sleeved shirts – one wit a turtle neck, thick sweat pants, flip-flops), with a towel over my shoulder for wrapping the kitty to be bathed. The second she saw that towel, Simba took off running, looking desperately for a place to hide. On those days when I bathed all three kids, Simba would go into hiding the moment I picked up Guerita. As Simba’s chubby little body wouldn’t fit into small places, it was never difficult to find her. But picking her up- that was another story. Her tiny razor-sharp claws dug into anything and everything to prevent me from taking her out of hiding, as she clung desperately to her sanctuary, growling in protest. Yes, the fun had begun!

Before I gave Simba baths, I did not know that cats could growl. Simba was most definitely a growler. I also did not know that cats were related to octopuses. I have no doubt – NO doubt- that Simba was part octopoda, as I was witness. My entire body was witness, as each of her eight fully-clawed paws sprung to action. Each of my arms, legs, back, stomach and neck had claws clinging to it, while her 8th leg was desperately trying to grab a piece of a nearby wall to climb. Simba’s growls turned to howls when I managed to free one leg to shut the bathroom door behind us, locking us inside with no place for her to hide. The soothing words that came from my lips seemed more for me than for Simba, as they did nothing to calm her. I had early-on realized it was best to bathe the kitties in the shower, where I had more control.

Control? Who was I kidding?  I never had control!

Basically, bathing a feline octopoda is best done like this: First- have courage. Without courage, don’t even try, as your kitty will know your weakness. Be prepared: Be on the alert.  Stand firm, and be ready for anything! In a shower, where there are 8 liters of lukewarm water in various bowls set in the corner, next to the open bottle of kitty shampoo. Make sure it is open BEFORE kitty arrives, as the second you release both hands to open the bottle, the kitty will be clinging to your back, knowing she has you beat. Lock kitty with your legs and one hand holding the back of her neck, swiftly take the shampoo and pour a little on kitty’s back. Just a little, as you don’t want lots of suds. You won’t have enough water to rinse kitty off, which will be worse for YOU than for kitty!  Slowly pour a quarter cup of water to get suds going, moving as quickly as you can to get the suds around while avoiding all 8 fully-clawed legs trying to pin you down. Gently pour water over kitty to rinse, rinse, rinse.  Don’t worry that most of the eight liters of water have already been knocked over by kitty- it helps her feel empowered! Slowly get up and grab the dry towel from where you set it on the one spot in the shower that you knew would remain dry – the shower head. For safety reasons, you may want to wait until all of the water has drained before grabbing kitty off of the floor to dry her. This could take an hour, so hopefully you have no appointments on Kitty Bath Day.

After the Cat Bath: Tend to your wounds (those claws inevitability find a way through your armour), drain the bathtub that is now your entire bathroom, use the last remaining 5 over-sized bath towels that you own to soak up your now very pruny skin, and most importantly – don’t forget the kitty treats. When all was said and done, Simba always forgave me once I opened that can of tuna.  I was once more her BFF!

Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13

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All will be forgiven if you hand over that tuna, Mommy!

Just Where Do You Think You Are Going?

Little boys like to be near their daddies.  Seeing them off to work each day becomes the norm, knowing Daddy will return for dinner. Seeing a daddy off who travels often is another story.  Little boys need and want their daddies around, and will often try to stop them from heading out that door for yet another trip.  Our little boy Roly Poly was no exception.  He did that to both Daddy and me.

Both Daddy and I did a lot of traveling each year, throughout Roly Poly’s life. The first time, he didn’t understand we were leaving, so there was no fuss. Simba never said a peep, and Guerita had simply given me The Look.  The crying happened when I returned; it was a joyful cry as if he couldn’t believe Mommy had returned!

When he was old enough to figure out that Mommy packing a suitcase meant she was about to leave for more than a day, he quietly rebelled by laying on top of my suitcase. He didn’t cry; he didn’t say a word.  He simply napped there in quiet opposition, hoping I would get the hint. Mommy was needed at home!

Times changed, and our budgets didn’t allow Daddy and I to travel together on vacation. For a few years, Daddy had to spend 6 months per year working in another state. Roly tried to stop that as well- by laying on Daddy’s shoes. Roly was no dummy.  He knew humans need our shoes, and Daddy wouldn’t be able to walk out the door without them!

Roly later came to accept Daddy’s travels, knowing he would always come home.  Roly showed us that by trying on Daddy’s shoes to let Daddy know he was big enough to take care of the house while Daddy was away.  Truly a wise kitty!

The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Proverbs 10:1

Cuba: Getting to Santiago… Without Losing It!

2000:  When I think of Santiago de Cuba, a few things come to mind. First, its contribution to the arts: it is the birthplace of legendary Cubans such as Desi Arnaz, José Martí (a great writer, poet and a revolutionary known as the ‘Apostle of Cuban Independence’) and Compay Segundo; it is also the birthplace of Trova music, as well as home to the world famous Casa de la Trova. Second, I think of the history of the city: the second largest city in Cuba, it being one of the oldest settlements in Cuba, the still beautiful fort, Castillo del Morro, looking over a cliff to the sea, and the role the city played in the revolution, known as the 26 July movement. Third, I think of a certain Russian plane and a hysterical two-hour flight. Vidal sold tours to his clients to many places around Cuba, including a day trip to Santiago by plane. Naturally, we had to experience it ourselves, and were we ever glad we did. It was historical, and hysterical.

Vidal hated to fly. When we got to the Varadero airport and saw the small, ancient Russian Aeroflot propeller plane we were about to get on, he was ready to turn around, but he did not. There were eight of us; we were to be met in Santiago by our tour guide. We sat up front, a loud propeller right outside our window (quite possibly duct-taped), the emergency door was on our left with full instructions and we had a close-up and personal view of the cockpit. But let’s get back to the emergency door instructions. They were in Spanish and translated into something that resembled English, but which made no sense whatsoever. I read it, giggled, guffawed and nearly choked on my own laughter; Vidal looked at me like I was crazy at first until he read it, and followed suit.

BREAKING WIRED IT PULL

HANDCUFF UNTIL THE IT COLLIDE

AND WITHOUT LOOSING IT PULL THE HATCH

I do believe the last line has a major typo. I am convinced they meant to say, ‘Without LOSING it, pull the hatch’; I know I certainly came close to losing it when I read it! We would occasionally stop to breath, wipe our tears and desperately hold our stomachs in for fear we had each bust a gut, only to fall back into fits of laughter for pretty much the entire two-hour flight to the southeastern part of Cuba, a stone’s throw away from GTMO Bay. At least it was that close to it on the map.

We arrived, met our guide, and we all headed out, thankfully, by bus. We visited many places in the city, first going to the Castillo del Morro. Built in the 17th century to protect the city from pirates, it was a marvelous structure which almost looked Greek to me, as the backdrop of the Caribbean looked more like the Mediterranean with its shade of blue. We also visited the center of the city, marveling at the colonial architecture; although not exactly in the best shape, it seemed some of the buildings of Santiago were better maintained than those of Havana. Or maybe it was just the area we were taken to on the tour, I am not sure.

We went by the Caney rum factory, built by the Bacardi family for its rum (the grand exterior still bears the name); the Bacardi family took its name and fled the country right before Castro started to nationalize all businesses and property. We toured the Plaza de la Revolución; a huge monument dedicated to Antonio Maceo- the ‘Bronze Titan’ hero of the Cuban independence wars, showing him on a horse reared on its hind legs and 23 machetes coming up out of the ground. We went up to a rooftop to view downtown Santiago and its magnificent cathedral from above, and went to a 4-star hotel for lunch. The latter part we could have done without; as hot as it was, I did not care about seeing a hotel that had no historical significance whatsoever and had no desire to swim; I would have preferred that extra time to have stayed in the city, to have eaten near La Casa de la Trova so we could have time to see it. As it was, our guide took us past the famous home of trova music and the museum of the Carnival, we only had time to snap a photo (he rushed us to do that), and we were off to see the military barracks, still riddled with bullet holes from the famous 26 July Movement, otherwise known as the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. We toured the cemetery, where many illustrious Cubans were buried, the most important (to me) being José Martí. The last part of our tour was of the mercado; I was at least excited about that, hoping to see how different it would be. It was larger than the mercado in Cárdenas for sure, but not a whole lot more to offer. I did pick up a few veggies I had not seen in Cárdenas, so I was happy.

In the end, I was disappointed in the tour, partly due to the guide, but mostly because I had wanted more focus on the music that I loved. Maybe I am not the typical tourist and the typical tourist just does not care, but seriously- why program a tour to spend more time in a silly place such as a hotel, and leave out a place that is has so much significance to the recent history of Cuba? What, after all, are Cubans, if not inextricably intertwined with their music? Okay, so maybe La Trova does not allow tours within, but what’s to stop tourists from going in to have a cold drink, even if it’s just a soda? I would have even skipped the mercado for that!

So, we headed back to the airport, helped give the propellers a spin to get it going, gave it a push down the runway before running to get on board, and promising the pilot not to laugh so hard this time around.

  • Excerpt from: What’s a Taco Doing on the Forbidden Island? Taco’s Adventures in Cuba, Chapter  5

Hide & Seek

I remember when I was a kid, it was a treat to stay up late. I don’t remember if I

I remember one time we had family over, and we were all playing Bingo. My dad wouldn’t let anyone leave until he won a game- and that included me and my brother.  How exciting it was to have permission to stay up late! It was all in good fun, and we probably only stayed up until 10pm – but to us, it felt like after midnight!

Kids will be kids, even if they have fur and four legs. When Simba and Guerita were kittens, we let them come and play in our bedroom, but they had to go to back to their own room when it was time to go to sleep. Of course, they were having too much fun exploring our bedroom with so many places to leap up on!  Back then, we had a tall armoire which became a favorite hiding place for both of them. They figured out it was too high for us to reach them, so they’d back up all the way to the wall. One of us would use an umbrella to gently push a kitten to the front, while the other grabbed the kitten. This worked… for all of one minute. As soon as we got one of the little stinkers back in their room and got the other- the kitten who had been caught first would escape!

The Hide & Seek game usually went on for a half hour. The armoire was their favorite, but below the bed or other furniture would also suffice. And the instigator?  Guerita.  It was always Guerita. Our adventurous Guerita.

My all-time favorite Hide & Seek moment was when Guerita figured out how to get back in our room without the door. We thought Hide & Seek was over and we could get some sleep… and suddenly, there was Guerita! We put her back in her room, being careful to not allow Simba to escape. Five minutes later, there was Guerita!  It turns out that Guerita had found the flaw in the wall: open bricks. And we caught her teaching Simba how to get out! We plugged in the hole, but Guerita figured it out the next day.

Yes, kids will be kids. But we loved them, and as we both remembered what it was like to be a kid, wanting to stay up late- we enjoyed their games, encouraging them to listen to us, yet still be their adorable selves.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they will not become discouraged. Colossians 3:21

Just Call Me Grace

I close my eyes and picture what graceful looks like to me.  I see a cat. I see my kitties. Graceful – full of grace.

We had a saying when I was a kid: “Just Call Me Grace”.  It was reserved for those funny moments when one would walk into things or trip over air. The name “Grace” given to the not-so-graceful one by their best friends in between howls of laughter; the saying was our way of laughing at ourselves. All in good fun! And yes, that was often me.

What a beautiful word: Grace. If I were to describe a cat, I would say grace & elegance defined. I would smile, close my eyes and picture an agile, flexible, graceful creature who can leap tall buildings in one fluid movement, land on all four paws and stop on a dime to bath itself afterward. Truly the case for most cats. Guerita and Roly Poly were at that end of the graceful feline spectrum.  And then there’s the other end: Simba.

We learned early on that not all cats are created to be equally graceful. Oh, those early days when Simba and Guerita were kittens, exploring our bedroom with lots of places to leap up on!  The armoire was the highest place where they could hang out and see the world- or at least, see every corner of our room.  There was a dresser in between the armoire and the bed, so our furry girls would have to jump on the bed to the dresser to the armoire, and the reverse to get down. Within a few days, Guerita figured out how to jump up and back down on the dresser without knocking anything over; shortly thereafter she was able to bypass the dresser altogether on the way down. Gracefully, without a sound. Simba… not so much.

If we weren’t paying attention, we’d still know what Simba was up to by the sounds… Crash! Boom! Bang!  -the sound of anything on the dresser falling off as Simba made her way to the top of the armoire. If we saw her about to jump down from the armoire, we’d run for cover…  “Oh no! Here she comes! Look out!!“- Daddy & I would say to each other through fits of laughter! It was priceless: Simba, concentrating heavily on landing on her mark/the dresser, would make the leap, always knocking something off. Without fail.

We thought Simba would figure it out as time went by, but she never did. She did change her tune, however. She continued to leap onto the dresser and knock things off, but then she would sit down and begin to bathe herself. With the “I meat to do that” look on her face!  Priceless, Simba- our little “Grace”!

In her adult years, Simba’s favorite seated position was slumped over with outstretched rear legs. We called her Grace when she sat like that. Further into adulthood as Simba blossomed into her royal chubbiness, that graceful posture looked even more adorable! Oh, how we loved our little Grace- the Chubby One!

Grace. What defines someone as graceful?  The dictionary gives us these words as synonyms: Charming, poised,  distinguished. Simba certainly was charming. Simba was certainly poised and distinguished in her own way. In her own graceful way. I now think Simba just wanted us to remember that the picture of one who is “graceful” is in the eye of the beholder. She truly earned her nickname, that little sweetheart!

I close my eyes and picture what a graceful cat looks like to me.  I still see Guerita and Roly Poly in their perfect leaps – but I also see Simba. Sweet, chubby, charming Simba.  Perfectly poised in her own Simba way.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life. Ephesians 2:10

Dinner for Daddy

Cats are supposed to be hunters by instinct. Actually, I’ve read that the females are the instinctive hunters… My furry girls laughed at that: Guerita demanded her food; Simba just plain refused to hunt.

When our little boy Roly Poly came along and started pointing at geckos, I thought we had a hunter on our hands.  Early on, Roly did bring us a live gecko. But Roly was a good listener; we told him we didn’t eat geckos, and he never hunted them again.  He continued to point, but just so we were aware that there was a gecko around. No more hunting geckos.  And, we thought, no more hunting, period. So we thought…

When Roly was young, Daddy and I went away for the summer, leaving our furry children and our home with housesitting friends. I returned home first.  Our friends told me that Roly had brought them an iguana one night.  Huh? A young cat bringing home an iguana? Remembering Roly’s obsession with geckos, I thought they were confusing words, and just laughed it off. The next summer, we went away again.  When we returned, my mother-in-law told us she had seen Roly walking up the stairs to our house, dragging a live iguana.  She told us she rebuked him, and he let the iguana go free.  We scratched our heads in disbelief, and kept our eyes open for further iguana hunting.  As it was normal to have iguanas in our garden all year long, we figured it would happen again.  Nope.

The following year, it was just me who went away for the summer, leaving house and kitties in Daddy’s care.  Daddy was home, getting ready for dinner… And in walked Roly Poly, dragging a live iguana bigger than him into the kitchen!

Roly Poly took his role with us seriously. I had left strict instructions for him to take care of Daddy while I was away, and that was exactly what he did. He watched over Daddy, and even brought him dinner.

Daddy took the iguana from Roly and let it go free, thanking Roly for thinking of him, and letting him know he already had dinner figured out.  And he had a good Daddy-to-feline son talk about not bringing food home anymore.  So that was the end of Roly’s hunting days.

That is, until the dinner party with a certain mouse- but that, my dear reader, is another tale from that tail!

Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. Genesis 9:3