But Joy Comes with the Morning

20 Nov

It’s been 2 weeks since we lost our sweet Doogie.  Turns out, life goes on.

Ninja grieved hard for about a week.  He’s adjusted now, although he has become a bit clingy.  When we first adopted him, he couldn’t believe his good fortune in getting a real home of his own.  He spent his days plastered to me, gratitude pouring off of him in a most uncharacteristic fashion for a feline.  Now he spends his days next to me because he’s lonely without his brother.  Doogie didn’t play with him much these last few months, but he was a presence, a warm body to snuggle with, a buddy to take meals with.

Never underestimate the power of just being there.  There’s definitely a lesson in that.

A surprisingly good photo of Ninja, taken by the toddler

A surprisingly good photo of Ninja, taken by the toddler

Alex no longer asks about Doogie, although I did have to field a question from the little neighbor girl about what happened to the other cat.  I just said that he got old and sick and went to live in heaven.

The leaves on the ground no longer seem to mimic our sorrow.  They’re just leaves, and they’re kind of fun.  Alex and I have been crunching our way through the yard, kicking leaves and having a good time.  This really is a beautiful time of year.

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We’re already talking about a new cat.  We’d love to go ahead and get one now, as Ninja really needs a buddy.  But somehow that seems foolish when we’re about to leave for Thanksgiving.  “Bye guys!  Hope you get along and don’t tear the house apart!”  So Ninja will just have to get through Thanksgiving, then he can have a new friend.  I worry about leaving him for a few days without a buddy, but we have a sweet friend coming to check on him daily, so I think he’ll be all right, just lonely.  But hey, it’ll make him appreciate a new cat all the more, right?  (I’m laughing right now because introducing a new cat into the household is never an easy process for the resident cat.)

Are we crazy for wanting to bring in a new cat just when we’ll be putting up the Christmas tree?  Probably.  I remember Doogie’s first Christmas with us.  He was such a climber when he was a kitten.  The Christmas tree proved irresistible for him.  He was up at the very top in probably 2 seconds flat.  So, we may be dealing with more of that, but right now, it sounds pretty great.  Life goes on, and it’s time to rescue a cat who needs a home.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.  Psalm 30:5

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Grief

8 Nov

I sit outside, sun down, floodlights on, and watch my toddler cram fallen leaves into the cab of his toy dump truck.  When the week started, the leaves were still on the maple trees.  By week’s end, many lay on the ground, having fallen in their annual ritual.  It seems a fitting end to this week of sadness, as if the trees are crying leafy tears.

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The whole household is grieving.  How do you explain to a toddler the concept of heaven?  He asks for his cat, and there is no explanation he understands.  He just knows the cat is gone.  Our Ninja Cat roams the house, searching Doogie’s favorite hiding places, calling to his brother and getting no answer.  He spends his days plastered to my side, curled in my lap in the moments I sit, snuggled into me when I sleep at night.  He runs to us and looks relieved when we return home after leaving him alone for a while to run errands.  He doesn’t know how to be an only cat.

I wrestle with the decision of life or death.  Did we do the right thing?  Should we have waited to see if he got better?  The idea of putting a suffering creature out of its misery is a noble one…until you have to make the decision yourself.  Humans aren’t meant to play God, and it’s good that we aren’t allowed to make these sorts of decisions for each other.  

My husband sees my pain, feels my wet tears as he holds me.  He reassures me that what we did was right.  He even says that he made the decision, so I need not feel the pressing guilt that threatens to crush me.  In my head, I know he’s right.  But my heart.  Oh, my heart.  How deeply it hurts.  Doogie was my baby, the sweet, spunky kitten I chose over 14 years ago to join our family.  The kitten who won over our crotchety tabby cat.  The little cat who accepted Ninja willingly when our tabby died, and we brought a new brother home.  The cat who seemed to shrug his little shoulders when we brought Alex home from the hospital.  He could take anything we threw at him.  But kidney disease did him in.

I wish his last days had been better.  He made Alex cry the day before he died.  We were in the vet’s waiting room, surrounded by other pet owners and their dogs, a toddler he didn’t like getting in his face in his carrier and exuberantly saying, “Hi!”  When Alex stuck a finger in his carrier, Doogie reacted in terror.  A paw came slashing through the carrier bars and smacked Alex.  He didn’t hurt him, but oh my heart, Alex’s face crumpled with the betrayal of it all, then the hot tears came.  I gathered my human baby up in my arms, while saying soothing words to the furry one.

This isn’t the way I want to remember Doogie.

I see something out of the corner of my eye, and I turn, expecting to see a little gray-and-white cat.  But it’s just a toy.  Or the laundry basket.  My heart hurts all over again when I remember he’s not here.

We have a board book, Busy Kitties, which Alex loves.  We read it together, and I smile as Alex imitates the cats.  I say something about Ninja, and Alex meows in response.  Then he says, “Doo-ie!”  I ask if he wants to see Doogie.  He nods enthusiastically with a grin on his face.  He has forgotten that Doogie slapped at him.  He remembers only that a Doogie sighting is a thing of excitement.  Doogie avoided Alex as much as possible, but Alex squealed with joy whenever Doogie made an appearance.  I smile and try not to cry as I explain again that Doogie went to live in heaven.  He looks puzzled, but he quickly moves on to something else.

I wash dishes while Steven is upstairs bathing Alex.  Ninja cries.  His meows grow desperate and ever louder.  I call him to me, and he comes, but he looks confused and runs back out of the room.  I see him under a chair, calling out with everything in him.  I come undone because I realize he is wanting Doogie to answer him, and I know that it isn’t coming.  I stop what I’m doing, pull off washing-up gloves, and go to him.  I sit on the floor, drawing him into my lap.  He sinks into me, burrowing his head under my hand, wanting comfort.  His grief is palpable, and I cry with him.  Tell him he’s loved and not alone.  We sit together for a while, and then I go back to my work.  Ninja is quiet.

This is life after loss.  It is guilt, sadness, pain, loneliness.  But it is also joy.  Joy that Doogie no longer suffers.  That he is with his beloved big brother, Calvin, the tabby who ended up adoring him.  My husband reminds me we had 14 good years with him.  He lived long, and he lived well.  We have so many happy memories of him, and they will come back to me when I’m less encumbered by the weight of fresh grief.

And then there’s the joy in knowing that in a few weeks, we’ll be ready to start all over, choosing just the right cat for our family, one who will win over his or her new big brother and steal our hearts.  Just like Doogie.

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Saying Good-bye

5 Nov

It all happened so fast.

Doogie, our sweet little 14-year-old cat, spent the weekend vomiting profusely.  He was obviously weakening.  The weather had grown colder, and his arthritis made him limp in pain.  I had to wait until Monday to take him to the vet, as there is no emergency vet here.  The news was bad.  His kidney levels had dropped significantly, and he had become anemic.

The vet asked, “You do know what’s coming, right?”  Tears sprang to my eyes.  Yes, I knew.  I wasn’t ready, but I knew.  (Is anyone ever ready?)

Doogie was sent home, having had a shot to quell his nausea.  He had a fresh bottle of Azodyl, his medication for his kidneys.  We were all set to get him feeling better.  But it wasn’t meant to be.

Once we returned home, Doogie went into hiding.  This isn’t unusual for a cat who isn’t feeling well, and I figured his excessive sleeping was just a side effect of the shot he’d received.  But he also stopped eating and drinking.

Then today, he wet his bed and messed himself in the process.  This is the cat who once did the Potty Dance in front of the litter box while Steven cleaned it.  Ninja was new in our household, and he had an undiagnosed infection in his digestive tract.  He was making the litter box really disgusting, and Doogie held his bladder until nearly bursting all night until Steven woke up and cleaned the box.  This is a cat who would never go outside his box.  So this was the final signal that it was time.

Doogie needed his dignity.  We chose to give him that.

I spent the afternoon second guessing the decision.  But I had to drag Doogie out from under the bed just to hold him for a while.  Sweet baby sat in my lap and purred and let me pet him, but after a while, he jumped down.  He really just wanted to be left alone, and it was obvious that he was in pain.  I knew we were doing the right thing.

My neighbor was kind enough to watch Alex for me.  I didn’t want to wrangle a toddler while saying good-bye to the cat, and frankly, as Doogie never liked Alex, it was best for him.

We held Doogie, petted him, kissed him, and told him how special and wonderful he was.  Sweet kitten purred until the very end.

And my heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces.

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Happier

31 Oct

We’ve now lived in Oklahoma for a year and a half.  In that time, I had nothing to call my own.  I was wife and I was mother, and that was all.  That was all.  I’m sure there are those who think that should be enough.  Taking care of my family is important.  It is good and noble and refining.

For me, though, it’s also a tad depressing.  I don’t do well without something to call my own.

It’s why, when my son was a premature newborn under doctor’s orders to stay home for his first 6 weeks of life, my husband let me go to church every single Sunday during that period, instead of trading off Sundays with me, as was the original plan.  He saw how happy getting out of the house made me.  My plan at that time had been to quit singing on the praise team at church for a couple of months.  My hope had been to be back by Christmas Eve service.  I’m not sure I even made it a full month before I was back on stage singing.  I needed music to give me the feeling that I was still me.  I was drowning in mom-ness at that time, and singing on the praise team for those few minutes on Sunday mornings reminded me that I was still in there somewhere.  I didn’t have to give up everything.

Then we moved to Oklahoma, and I did have to give up everything.  Sometimes following God is really, really hard.

I am blessed.  I get to be at home every day.  I know there are many women who would love to be in my shoes.  I do know this is precious time with my son, and I love taking care of my home and family.  But I need something that is just mine.  Something that has nothing to do with my husband or son.

My husband jumped back into working with youth back in the spring.  He took a much-needed year off from ministry, then jumped back in.  He leads a high school boys’ small group.  Alex has been so sick this year that I didn’t think I was going to get to ever do anything, as one parent needs to be home with him when he can’t go to the nursery.  So I did nothing.

As summer came to a close, the assistant youth director said she’d heard that music is my thing, and she asked if I would be willing to help out with the youth praise team.  Once I made it clear that I might be unpredictable due to my son’s frequent bouts with sickness, and she was okay with that, I said yes.  Then amazingly, I was also approached by the children’s director asking me to lead music in AWANA.  The youth and children’s schedules worked so that I would be able to do both, so I said yes to that, too.

Talk about jumping back in with both feet.

After a few weeks, it became clear that doing both is just too much.  I’m running from youth rehearsals to feeding my family (a packed dinner I haul to church with us), to AWANA, and back to youth.  And did I mention I’m co-leading a middle school girls’ group?  The old Sesame Street song comes to mind.  “One of these things is not like the others…”  AWANA has to go.  It’s not just choosing music each week; I have to spend a lot of time on YouTube looking for actions to go with every song.  Because in my inexperience with children, I didn’t have actions for the songs the first night, and it didn’t go well at all.  It’s all just adding an extra level of stress to my Wednesdays, and I’m missing out on some youth stuff while I’m with the children.

But you know what?  Even with the stress and the crazy that is now known as Wednesday, I’m loving it.  It’s amazing how much happier I’ve been since I started doing something outside of my home and family.  It was definitely time.

The Toddler and My Craft Room

24 Oct

I had a question in the comments of my craft room re-do post about how I keep my toddler from getting into my stuff in my craft room.  Short answer: I don’t.  At least, not completely.  We do have a baby gate over the doorway into the kitchen, and you have to go through the kitchen to get to the craft room. That means Alex doesn’t always have free rein in the house.  However, the craft room is next to the laundry room, and we have to go through the laundry room to get to the garage.  That means that any time we go somewhere, we go through my room.  Alex almost always stops to open a drawer and grab some stuff.  I find my craft things all over the house sometimes.  Or in the car.

I found pipe cleaners in the kitchen.

I found pipe cleaners in the kitchen.

Craft felt strewn about.  You'd be surprised how many times my child insists he has to bring an armful of felt with him when we go somewhere.

Craft felt strewn about. You’d be surprised how many times my child insists he has to bring an armful of felt with him when we go somewhere.

More pipe cleaners, some stuffed animals, and other mess thrown about my work area by the toddler

More pipe cleaners, some stuffed animals, and other mess thrown about my work area by the toddler

I used to get pretty frustrated that he wouldn’t leave my stuff alone.  So, I changed my storage up a bit.  I moved anything dangerous or disastrously messy out of his reach.  Then I put stuff that I don’t mind him messing with in some of the drawers.  He figured out pretty quickly which drawers are his to play in, and he leaves my other drawers alone.  This made things so much more peaceful for both of us, as I don’t constantly have to pry things out of that death grip he has, and he doesn’t end up in frustrated, angry tears because I took stuff away.  He’s a curious toddler, so I figure it’s better to give him things he can dig around in, rather than fight with him every time we’re in that room.  The drawer pictured above with the craft felt?  That’s his.

He likes sponges, so even though I use this stuff, he's allowed to play with it.  And tongue depressors are just super cool--as long as his doctor isn't using one to check his throat for strep.

He likes sponges, so even though I use this stuff, he’s allowed to play with it. And tongue depressors are just super cool–as long as his doctor isn’t using one to check his throat for strep.

And finally, I added a little more hidden storage where I can place things up high and out of his reach.  The door leading into the laundry room is always kept open, as the cats’ litterbox is in there, and they need to have access to it at all times.  It was a great place to keep things hidden–until the toddler started messing with the door one day and discovered this new treasure trove!  I’ve had to move a few more things (hello glue sticks all over my house!), but for the most part, he leaves all that stuff alone.

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This is what’s working for us right now.  I may need to change a few things up in the future, but for now, this is good.

Craft Room Re-do

20 Oct

The previous owner of our house decided to paint the entire interior a neutral color.  Instead of being all HGTV, it comes off as dingy and depressing in many of the rooms.  My plans all along were to paint the kitchen and adjoining breakfast room, which serves as my craft room, a combination of pink and white.  Non-traditional for sure, but it works well with the green and white tile floor.  More importantly, it makes me happy.  I’d hoped to get the painting done before we moved in, but our house was given to us in a filthy state, so I had to spend the time prior to move-in cleaning like a madwoman.  Painting didn’t happen.

I also learned how impossible it is to get extra, nonessential projects done when you have a baby to look after.  Somehow, it always seems more important to cook dinner and do the laundry and cleaning during nap time.

I finally got fed up and decided to paint.  I pulled meals from the freezer for our dinners and got to work.  My husband (wisely) advised me to do only the craft room and not the kitchen at that time.  I was annoyed, but he was right.  It was too much work and mess to have done it all at once.  But the bad thing is that the kitchen is still ugly-dingy.

The horrible before pictures:

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During the painting process:

While I'm proud to say that I did most of the painting myself, my husband did help.  He even replaced all the outlets and light switches so all would be new and clean.

While I’m proud to say that I did most of the painting myself, my husband did help. He even replaced all the outlets and light switches so all would be new and clean.

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Painting is finished:

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This was all done back in May.  I’m finally posting about it in October because I just finished putting the room together.  All the furniture was moved back in right after we cleaned up all the painting mess, but I wanted to get stuff on the walls and clean up my other mess before I took completed photos.

This is the view if you're standing in the kitchen.

This is the view if you’re standing in the kitchen.

My craft table

My craft table

Storage

Storage

My lovely butterfly batiks that my dad brought back from Barbados for my sister and me over 30 years ago

My lovely butterfly batiks that my dad brought back from Barbados for my sister and me over 30 years ago

More storage

More storage

My craft table (covered in paper-punch mess from the toddler) with my inks and some of my ribbons on the wall.  You can also see my kitchen, which still has our mess from lunch on the counter.  Oops.

My craft table (covered in paper-punch mess from the toddler) with my inks and some of my ribbons on the wall. You can also see my kitchen, which still has our mess from lunch on the counter. Oops.

I was so happy to finally have all this put together that I made some stuff last night.  It’s so nice to have a functional and cheerful space again.  The only problem is that this room has now made the kitchen look even more dingy and drab than it did before!

Christmas Ornaments

8 Oct

I had another wedding shower to send a gift to.  (My attendance would have required a trip to Texas, something I would have loved to do, but it’s inconvenient and expensive.)  In addition to sending a regular gift, I made a Christmas ornament for the couple’s first Christmas tree.  Like last time, I went for a bluebird of happiness, but I changed things up a bit.  First, this shower was for the sister of the young man I previously made an ornament for.  I didn’t want to do something identical.  Second, this one fits the recipient better than the first one would have.  Third, it turns out that I like this one better.

I used the same technique of gluing my design to a piece of acetate, which is then rolled up and placed inside a glass ornament.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I purchased iridescent glass rather than clear glass until it was too late.  So the photos are not as clear as I would like.  I used the initial of the couple’s soon-to-be joint last name, added a punched-out bluebird, and voila!

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While I was at it, I made an ornament for my own tree.  I either buy or make an ornament each year for my husband and me.  Since having Alex, I now do the same for him so that he’ll have a collection of ornaments to take with him when he’s all grown up and leaves home.  Because coloring has become one of his favorite pastimes, I wanted to preserve some of his early artwork in some way.  But let’s be honest; a toddler’s scribbles aren’t exactly frame-worthy.  However, they are definitely ornament worthy.

I punched several heart shapes out of one of his drawings.  I folded each heart in half, then glued the hearts to each other, essentially making a bit of a fan.  I then glued the hearts to a piece of acetate and rolled it all up and put it into an ornament.  Add ribbon, and it’s done.  Beautifully preserved artwork from my favorite little person.

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This one is mine, but I’m going to make a second one for Alex’s collection, as I think it well sums up the thing he has been most into in 2013: crayons!