Archive for the ‘Reasons to be happy’ Category

Goodbye Brigsby, our 20-year-old cat and great friend

February 2, 2011

The last day of my friend’s life, it was a blindingly bright sunny day – the kind of February first in Portland, Oregon that makes you close your eyes and smile directly into the sun.

I moved a pillow and blanket to the sliding glass door so she could lie baking in the sun stream, one of her favorite places to rest.

Briggs, full name Brigsby, came to me in late October, 1991. A sophomore in college, I had rented the basement of a house in Havre, Mt. with my girlfriend, Holly. In typical Montana Hi-Line fashion, it was freezing that October night so I was shocked when a small Indian boy – probably 10 or younger – knocked on the door. He was holding the mini-Briggs; a tiny black-base calico (which I now know is called tortoiseshell) with an orange spot on her forehead and half a white mustache. His parents said he could not return home until he got rid of her. So, I said I’d put up signs and the college and find her a place.

But she was already home.

I laid out newspaper that first night and tried to explain that it was the bathroom. But after a day, she hadn’t messed anywhere. I called a vet who explained that cats are often litter trained early by their moms and that I should get a litterbox. The second I presented her with a shoebox of litter, she jumped in and went.

And that’s the kind of cat she was – didn’t make messes or damage furniture – despite being a hellcat for years.

In our nearly 20 years together, Briggs and I lived in 10 different places in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Portland. She became a bit of a traitor in the past eight years as she became inseparable from my husband, Bob. In fact, her tired body might have given out sooner if Bob hadn’t been in a terrible accident this August and nearly lost his leg. Briggs spent every day of his recovery lying with him, or on him, as they watched every TV program worth muster.

It would take a book to recount all of the memories we’ve had with this cat. But some really stick in mind.

First, the name: I was very lonely my first couple years in college. I used to go to this little dive bar in Havre for the great juke box. When I decided to keep Briggs, I named her after the Beatles song often played there. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice the song is “Eleanor Rigby,” not “Brigsby,” but I didn’t. With her, I wouldn’t be lonely.

She was a spit-fire rez kitten, always wanting outside and always looking to scrap. My roommate Holly taught her the “fight game,” in which you’d hold your cupped hand over her face and shake her a little while she clawed the hell out of your arm. (Thanks, Holly. We all have scars from that one.)

When Briggs first noticed her reflection in the stand-up mirror in the hall, she threw-down, batting the “other” kitten until she’d pushed the flimsy mirror flat against the wall and it fell over on her with a whoomp; I’m not sure who won that fight. She also attacked Holly’s butt one morning as she did dishes. I can still see this little kitten hanging by the claws from my friend’s backside. (Paybacks for the fight game.)

The next year I found out how unique Briggs was internally. She’d gotten pregnant and for an unknown reason both kittens died. Since I wanted another kitten, I let her get pregnant again. This time, she forced me to stay in the closet with her as three kittens were born into my hands. They were all fine and adorable, until the next morning when the first-born was already dead. I freaked and took her to the vet. It turns out that Briggs was Type B blood – only common in other parts of the world – and it caused an RH Factor reaction, her blood’s antibodies attacked the kitten’s Type A when they nursed. The vet was only able to save one kitten, Frosty, who also had Type B blood. Frosty also lived a privileged life with us until she died 2 ½ years ago.

Briggs was the mighty protector of Frosty and my other cats. Once, I saw her and Frosty chase the neighbor’s German shepherd out of the yard. She’d go after anything that moved if it was in her territory – birds, snakes, bats and her possible favorite, chipmunks.

But mostly, Brigsby was a lover. As a kitten, she would ride around in my housecoat pocket. Throughout my life, she’d come running to comfort me every time I cried. As an old, crabby senior, she would still let Bob rock her like a baby – hold her overhead like an airplane – roll her up like a burrito – pose her for hundreds of duo self-portraits – or pretty much do anything he wanted.

Although Briggs was suffering greatly these past two weeks, she would climb the stairs every night, find the step stool next to the bed, and get in to snuggle me. (I’ve forgotten to mention that Briggs has been totally blind for over a year!) She’d whimper when I got up to use the bathroom eight times a night (I’m 31 weeks pregnant), and then snuggle against my belly.

Last night we let Briggs go. It was time to release her feisty brain from that failing body. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. She’d been with me half my life.

I’m going to miss her for a long, long time. Yet today, I’m going to remember my “fat cat,” who was always motivated by food and could hear a package of saltines being opened across the house … and knew what T-R-E-A-T spelled. She was my talkative girl who became such a buddy to my husband that I was jealous.

It was my true fortune to have such a good friend for such a long time. Thank you for the immense joy you brought to my life. I love you forever.

(And to the many, many sitters who’ve cared for my cats when I was away, thank you for watching over my family.)

Sorry ladybugs, I’m at a failure at playing God

May 10, 2010

I like to act like the world revolves around me, but every time I play God – even in the slightest bit – I am quickly reminded of my true place (little spec next to ant).

I’ve long been a gardening enthusiast. In the past decade I’ve focused on organic, natural ways to create and to kill. Although I really wanted to poison the mole that put 34 holes in our yard in a month last summer, I bought a vibrating underground stick instead.

Bugs are just as challenging – not to mention prolific – here in Oregon. Little plastic tubs of beer attract slugs like garage sale signs attract me, but putting one in each garden bed requires a beer a night, so I found natural slug bait instead. (Egg shells and penny perimeters work until you water and they get covered by dirt.)

When I saw the ladybug guy at the farmer’s market Saturday, I decided it was time to play God just a little. Ladybugs feed on annoying little critters like the whiteflies and aphids that came home with me on a couple geranium starts. We read the instructions and waited until dusk as ladybugs apparently don’t fly away at night.

The directions also said you can spray the ladybugs with a 50/50 mixture of pop and water so their little wings get sticky and they can’t fly away for a few days. Since we don’t drink sugar pop, we thought a sugar-water solution would do the trick. Bob found a spray bottle, cleaned it and made a solution. I released them throughout the yard and garden, asking them to bring luck and prosperity to our crop.

Sunday morning I bounced out into the sun to check on my little ladies only to find that most of them were dead. Of 1,500 ladybugs I’d killed all but 100 or less. My little “God” experiment failed miserably. Maybe the spray bottle had been used for soap, although we thought it was thoroughly cleaned. Perhaps it was just too much sugar in the water and we candied their little breathing apparatuses. Regardless of the reason they died, I felt a complete failure.

Now, I cannot stand an unanswered question so I went to the Sunday farmers market and found the ladybug man and asked him if it’s possible to kill them with sugar. Turns out it is possible. Too much chlorine in the water can kill them too.

Despite the previous day’s tragedy, the ladybug guy kindly gave me a fresh bag of 1,500 bugs – and he advised me not to spray them at all.

So, I did my part and let them go. I don’t think they all survived for whatever reason, but I see hundreds crawling around looking for little pests to chomp. I don’t feel so badly about the dead ones, partially because I can’t tell if they were from the first batch or the second, and partially because I understand that like most things, it is out of my control.

I just need to chill, and let my Father do his job.

Lights, camera, success! Mind movie = rave reviews

January 2, 2010

Today I am creating a mind movie to guide me in this new decade and my new business.

I know visualizing my destination is crucial to easing my stress and worry about “how” I will get there. I also know that if I can’t see my success, I won’t know it when I have it.

I have read a lot about visualization, starting with The Secret a couple of years ago and in every positive attitude-building book since. Yet for some reason, I have not implemented a good practice.

Friday I had my first experience with muscle testing (applied kinesiology) and guided EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). My session with Pointman Consulting was specifically to help me move forward with my business without fear and old contradicting beliefs.

Despite being very open minded about these practices, I was still surprised when the invisible weight lifted. My coach Noah led me through a visualization exercise that filled me with a comfortable warm and tingly energy. At the end of the session my subconscious said “make a mind movie” in which I see, hear and feel my desired goal.

So today I need to make a short movie of me using my creative skills in marketing, sales and writing. What does it look like? Well, I am enjoying my work and making plenty of money to pay bills. I feel excited by challenges and satisfied as I help other small business owners achieve success. I work hard, but balance life with exercise and time with my husband. People meet me and are eager to work with me. I hear them saying I am such a great help and positive spirit. People congratulate me on my new adventure. Everyone I meet has a gift for me: wisdom, connections, education and means of making money. I feel so secure and stable that I bound through the days in happiness and love. I don’t get tripped up on the little stuff.

Yep, that’s my movie. This is who I am. Magazines publish my articles. I have extra money to buy the SLR camera I’ve dreamed of since their inception. Great ideas pop into my head for business owners and other clients.

I’m not an expert at mind movies but this is fairly simple. Imagine what the goal looks like, feels like and sounds like. The Secret and many websites provide guidance and examples. Another example of mine is that instead of saying “I must loose 20 pounds,” I imagine how I look and feel at this weight. When I go to bed and when I wake up, I visualize myself looking thin and fit, exclaiming how great it is to wear my old jeans and hearing people say how I look great. I support this vision throughout the day by banning negative self talk.

Start the decade off right with a movie of your own. Since you are the star, the superhero, you can achieve anything you imagine. As Napoleon’s Pedro would say: “All your wildest dreams will come true.”

Don’t wait for cancer to ask for a miracle

December 30, 2009

I was the typical person complaining to everyone about all my struggles until I starting taking responsibility for them.

We all have struggles in our lives, whether physical, financial, spiritual or mental/emotional. Instead of lamenting about my struggles, I ask myself if I am willing work on them – or simply feeding them.

Because I read a lot of spiritual/positive books, I am certain that thoughts attract similar thoughts and events to our lives. I also know that thoughts make our reality. (Olympic athletes improved their races by visualizing wins. The brain didn’t know the difference.)

I have been trying to catch my “whoa is me attitude” before it spills out of my lips. I ask myself, “Are you willing to work on this?”

For example, I have gained weight since I was laid off, and was never thin before, so I don’t like way it feels. My old reaction was to stand in the closet and bawl, complain to others and resent skinny people. But today I ask myself “what are you willing to do to change?” I am willing to walk more and try to eat less. I am thinking seriously about hitting the weights, but I’m not ready yet. So, I focus on making small improvements and BANNING negative self talk. (I tell my reflection I’m looking thinner whether it’s true or not.)

Most people have genuine reasons to complain. I used try to solve their problems until a life coach suggested another approach – ask people what they could do for themselves.

Since I don’t always have immediate answers for my issues, you might not either. However, we must keep asking how we can change, improve or ease the struggle.

Now I am going to pick on us a little. Friends lament to me about their horrible jobs, bad relationships, financial strife and health issues. They don’t know how to fix these issues, won’t seek help and don’t make even the smallest changes in themselves.

This describes decades of my life. It seems we want to wallow in our self-pitying, whoa-is-me attitude. Every time we complain, we bring more of the same crap into our lives.

Irritated? When the mirror was in front of my face, I didn’t like it either. But, I didn’t want to be a crying, complaining, fearful victim of the world. So I started making changes; first in my thoughts, then in my reactions and now in not trying to solve others’ problems.

Want to really feel like a whiner? Listen to this. A friend has a successful business and beautiful family. He is caring and does much for others. You know what he got for Christmas? He got three tumors on his beautiful wife’s brain; cancer in the worse degree.

In their daily journal this couple talks about reasons to be positive, seeking knowledge and support everywhere possible and multiplying their faith exponentially.

This woman could be sobbing all day over her struggle, yet she seeks healing by praying for others.

I am not saying that because other people have bigger problems, ours are somehow easier or overshadowed. I am saying you don’t have to wait for cancer to ask God for a miracle.

Do you really want relief from this burden? What can do to ease the struggle a tiny bit? Ask the Universe for help and expect it.

Today I will concentrate on what I DO HAVE, what I LOVE and ways I am BLESSED. I expect a miracle.

Christmas presence and a new breakfast spot

December 27, 2009

It just occurred to me that I got my presence for Christmas. I didn’t even realize I was living in the moment until I got out the pad and pen for tomorrow’s to-do list.

As it turns out, I’ve been going with the flow since Thursday.

It’s nice to have a stretch of time that is not choreographed or over-produced. I enjoy week-long backpacking trips because concerns and distractions are narrowed down to food, water, warmth and comfortable feet. Once you hit the trail, it doesn’t matter what you meant to pack – only what is in the pack.

It wasn’t that I planned some perfect holiday either. I didn’t send one card. I also forgot to fortify the fridge for Christmas breakfast. I quickly accepted that cards simply didn’t get done (rather than lament over it). And the search for Christmas morning grub unearthed a great breakfast spot we’ve been driving past for five years.

I see that being present, for me, means I must continue to work toward a balanced life. I have duties and obligations, goals to pursue and knowledge to attain. However, I need to stop thinking of the next item on the list. I need to be flexible for the unexpected. I need to allow dishes to sit in the sink while I enjoy company – or sun.

The Jumping Duck Media 30-day Blogging Challenge helped me realize that I shouldn’t fuel one passion to the point of extinguishing another. A few nights ago my husband and I were having wine by the Christmas tree and sharing stories of the busy day. I had already missed blogging days, so I really needed to write. But I decided the moment was too good. Instead of blogging, I refilled my wine.

I’ve mulled over the decision. Even if laziness was the reason I missed days of writing, I’m okay with that. Some days I am the task master of myself and go way overboard. Other days I struggle to get in the groove. I am hoping to have more days I accept for what they are – a moment I am meant to be in.

Enough maturity. It’s time to play.

December 23, 2009

An undefined absence has lingered in me lately. So I prayed for a miracle with earnest. I prayed for a miracle of joy and love in my heart so great that it must spill over to others. As I made a second lap around Gabriel Park I was drawn into the dog park.

A collie, a Bernese mountain dog and a greyhound mix bombarded me and my heart was immediately overflowing with joy. I knew what I have been missing – play.

I’ve been taking life a bit too seriously. I’ve been a bit too grown up for my own good. My focus on cleanliness is so overboard that I am often affronted by a dog’s muddy paws on my clean clothes.

Yet I grinned all the way home in the running tights and jacket I just washed, now covered in sand and muddy paw prints.

This childlike elation spilled into the evening as I joined a group of gals for a night out. I cannot remember the last time I really let Larque out to play, especially with girls. I’m accustomed to drama-free guys (for the most part) who watch sports and live simply. Truthfully, girls scare me a little – which is another blog entirely.

But thanks to some random dogs I was in a playful mood, eager to play. I was met by three tables of other playful girls who just want to enjoy life, share stories, sip over-priced concoctions and laugh loudly.

Again, I ventured out of my comfort zone and found what I’d been missing. I already yearn to know more about these gals. I crave further details of the wild tales that assemble their life stories. I want to laugh until my sides hurt. And I feel like I could dance ridiculously or sing horribly and they would join in, rather than judge.

My husband says I “collect people,” which is why people needing comfort seek me and tell me their stories. But what if I let down my guard and allow others to collect me? I can only anticipate continued joy and love from new friends. Every day is truly a gift.

“There are two ways to live your life – one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle,” Albert Einstein.

Thanks girls.

Solstice mirrors my life; from darkness I expect light

December 21, 2009

My body knows it is the winter solstice. Today is a day of passage into a new phase. Today I am meant to stand still and await the rebirth of the sun.

Since standing still and waiting are not innate in my brain, my body assists. Weeks of rain teamed with the short days have deterred me from hiking. Not good for Larque’s whirling brain.

While I drove home from a Small Business Development Center class, the sun broke through nearly blinding me. I hustled to get into walking gear and climb some hills before the sun set. I felt elated and refreshed by the glorious break in staging.

And now I am spent. I’ve been a bit sluggish all day. Mentally, I’m overwhelmed with all the possibilities, choices, education and obligations on my plate. It is a good time to contemplate the winter solstice and how it mirrors my life.

From the darkness, I do expect light. My conviction that money and some semblance of order will return to my life is as strong as my belief that I will be playing outdoors at 9 p.m. in the near future. It will happen.

Like the Earth, I have felt tilted with this pull in a new direction. I know I can stand straight, but find myself leaning on pillars of support. I’m not just incubating an idea; I’m incubating my new self. One of these days I will decide to bust out completely and leave the old shell behind.

But today I am happy to stop spinning and relax. I could cuddle into bed with a cat on each side right now. Instead, I am going to read my book and sip tea. Homework, emails, research, business plan and bills can all wait. I will not anticipate tomorrow or resent yesterday.

I want to be present and happy for Bob, heat from the vents, a kitty who wants to play and at least five sunny days to come. Enjoy your solstice.

Tis the season to stomp ANTs (Auto Negative Thoughts)

December 19, 2009

Five days until Christmas and my focus is on the battle against ants. Not the little black sugar ants trying to find goodies in the kitchen, Automatic Negative Thoughts.

I’m listening to and reading Happy for No Reason. I heard this gal on the web, so I know this book discusses how most of us are not born happy, but raise our happy thermometer over time.

As I drove past two malls this morning, on a mission to the vet, I saw the usual hustle and bustle of people out buying happiness – or attempting to buy it. Simultaneously, the chapter about ANTs came on. Based on fight or flight, we are programmed to think cynically to survive. Since survival requirements have changed completely since our caveman days, we don’t really need to be so cynical.

Author Marci Shimoff says we only have to comprehend one thing to battle – and defeat – our ANTs. “What we think is not necessarily true.”

She says we have 60,000 thoughts a day and 45,000 of them are negative. Holy smokes Batman. Thoughts are like ants at a July picnic in the park. And if they are ANTs, then the picnic sucks, it’s too hot out, the watermelon is mushy and that potato salad is probably going bad.

I use many brain exercises, so this isn’t my first circuit at the mental gym. Still, I need to treat positive thinking like a workout habit. I can’t do it once a week and expect results. I figure this next week will provide plenty of opportunities to catch ANTs, put them under the magnifying glass and fry them. I expect a few of the ANTs to be nasty, flying carpenter ants (like Christmas will suck because we have no money), so this will be fun.

And I will replace the zapped ANTs with thrilling thoughts that may not be true, yet have potential. Wow, I think I just lost five pounds. My hair is perfect today. There are so many job offers awaiting me. The bills are covered for the month.

Plus, I will concentrate on the positive resounding truths. I have the best husband, a beautiful house, good health and enough wit to survive. My belly is full of yummy casserole, my energy is high and I hear the rain will stop for Christmas. (hike, hike, hike)

Last but not least, today’s blog is done! Woo-hoo.

Now get out there and stomp some ANTs.

My 10 favorite habits, so far

December 12, 2009

A chat with my little brother reminded me how much I enjoy saying “love you” rather than good-bye. This habit started in my early teens and is a rewarding life change. It tops my 10 favorite habits.

1) Telling people I love them – today. Possibly I read too many romantic novels in which the character lost someone and didn’t get to say it. I don’t wait until tomorrow to say “love ya.”

2) Build a positive outlook. If I said “keep” a positive outlook I’d be a liar at least some times. I keep constructing a solid positive foundation one brick at a time.

3) Be honest, but not harmful. Both parts are crucially important. A boss once said I am honest to a fault. He thought the fault kept me from selling. Much worse, the fault caused me to be rude and hurtful. I try to be candid, yet not blunt or inappropriate.

4) Laugh at myself often. A best friend knows when to laugh with me. So should I. When I do something silly, I chuckle. In the middle of disaster, I laugh. Of course I snicker and snort at my own stories. I just can’t help it.

5) Talk to myself, and listen for response. It runs in my family. My brothers sing little made-up songs or hum all the time and my mom states her next move before she does it. Dad’s not so obvious, except the little remarks to the air.

Naturally, I talk to myself (the cats, the plants, the garden and nearly everything). I recently began listening for a reply. An answer could lie in my words or body language. What is my heart really saying?

6) Strive to be a better listener. Quick with a word on anything, I had to learn to listen. Instead of letting my mind race ahead in the conversation, I try to focus on what’s said, not said and suggested. I can only improve.

7) Seek adventure/try new things. I do something new for my birthday every year. I also taste new things, listen to different music and join people in unique adventures. Even more significant, I give childhood dislikes a second chance. I still gag on sweetened squash, but adore little oysters on the half shell.

8) Read, read, read. I’m not Oprah, yet I do cram a lot of text in the noggin. Reading is one of my oldest habits. It connects me to fantasy, truth and people. Most days I wish I had more time to read from my pile of books, RSS and social media.

9) Always ask the question. Whatever the question may be, I typically ask it. I’m an outgoing, natural speaker, but crave stories and knowledge from others. So my philosophy is “ask and you shall know.”

10) Smile as often as physically possible. My face is literally tired at the end of a good day. I like to smile at people. I visited New York at 17 and was perplexed because everyone looks down and walks fast. A New Yorker friend explained that there are too many people to attempt connecting. Thankfully I live in Portland, because I like connecting.

No mistake; Mishap prompted my best habit

December 10, 2009

Walking is one of my favorite habits that started by accident, literally.

In my early 20s, I lived in Northern Idaho where freezing rain is a winter standard. One wrong step and I landed a reconstructed ankle complete with titanium pins, screws and plate. After months of casts and physical therapy, workout options were few so I started walking.

Slow, unsteady strolling led to intense power walks on the St. Maries River dike. The injury came without invite, but the new habit became an addiction I need to feel good.

Walking provides time to pray, brainstorm new ideas and explore. Some days a dog or a cat will join me until I pause to send them back home. Squirrels and crows fighting over nuts induce laughter.

Walking is ideal for people with low back pain, poor posture or goals of improved fitness, according to our roommate Nick, a physical therapist intern. He suggests walking 20-30 minutes three to four times a week. Within 21 days, it should be habit.

“Make it a habit after a meal. Or just make it part of your daily routine,” he says. “Start slow. Get a partner; someone to hold you responsible will help.”

I know shoes are important gear because I grew up in an athletic family of marathoners, bike racers and backpackers. I realized talking with Nick that some people may not know how, or why, to pick great shoes. He likes the “shoe dog” on www.roadrunnersports.com. It’s a guide to the correct amount of support, cushion and control for each foot type. A good shoe prevents stress fractures, poor posture and collapsing arch, all of which can lead to injury.

When shopping in store, bend, poke and prod at the shoe. Nick says the toe break should match the natural break of the foot, the heal cup should be sturdy and the arch needs increased “medial support,” (less give). He isn’t fan of all-leather shoes because they stretch with wear. Lastly, Nick reminds us to replace walking shoes at least once a year. I replace mine every six months.

A mishap prompted my habit, but it was no mistake. Walking is an option everywhere I go. It has no dues or fees and always yields countless rewards. It’s a journey with every step.

(Note: Nicholas Adams is a bodybuilder and physical therapy student living with us while interning in Portland. He is a proponent of making small changes and building on them.)