One Foot

One Foot

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Comedy Cats Are Such Good Medicine: I Laugh

I was standing at the bathroom lavatory this morning, quietly flossing my teeth.  Since it is a job of a couple of minutes I had closed my eyes and was in some stage of relaxation.  Job complete, I opened my eyes to the face of my Siamese cat about two inches from my nose, intently peering into the cavern of my mouth.  “aacck!” I uttered in surprise, and then laughed out loud.  “Where are those cynical non-cat owners when she does something this funny?” I asked myself.
People often give me a short list of reasons why they don’t want cats – usually when they are left out of a perfectly good cat-observation-discussion by cat owners.  “Too independent for me,” says my bachelor friend.  “Nope,” says my dog-owned friend, “too much cat hair.”  And sadly, a friend who admits she’s afraid of them because they might bite.
I have to admit those are all valid reasons, and I could probably come up with a similar list for dog ownership.  But the reason I DO have cats is for the sheer hilarity and amusement of having them in the house.  After all, no one, other than a grandchild, could make me laugh like these two characters.
My oldest cat, a Siamese, came to me from the animal shelter in a nearby city.  Mama cat has been expecting when someone turned her in, and the three babies were born and raised until adoption in the shelter.  “Aaah,” I thought.  The shelter folks will have them spoiled rotten and they will be real “people” cats.  Not so, said my darling kitty from day one as she revealed her own personality, told me when she wanted to be carried, when she would allow me to pet her, and most certainly what she would and wouldn’t eat.  She was also a comedy routine from the beginning.

At the time, I was doing some hand quilting in a small quilting frame.  If I had a dime for each time I removed her from what she apparently thought was a kitty bed, I would be rich.  It wasn’t the removal that amused me, but rather her style and drama as I did so.  She never did the things other cats do that annoy the heck out of us, but she would sure find creative vaudeville in any room she was in.
The Siamese became so fond of me, I found myself dragging her around as she attached herself to my ankle.   So when I found a kennel full of kittens at the vets’ office one day the idea occurred to me to adopt a sister for her.  The cutest one was a little grey striped model that was hanging off the top of the cage where she had adroitly climbed for escape.  Shouldn’t that have been a clue that I might have a comedic twin to the cat I already owned?  Yi, yi, yi, I am a slow learner.
Sissy Sings at Christmas
My friends told me I was crazy to get a kitten with a full grown Siamese.  They were predisposed to the idea that Siamese are mean and moody, I suppose.  What they didn’t realize was that mine wasn’t either of those, and was so attached to me she had taken to giving me “love bites,” which were getting a little tiresome.  So home came the grey striped kitty with the name of “Sissy.”
“Some adjustment period might be advisable” was the advice I received and once the kitten had taught the old gal how to play tag and race from one end of the house to the other, I realized the advice was meant for me and not the animals. 
Three years later this pair keeps me laughing  - both cats like to ride like a baby sack of flour across my left shoulder and both love to be rocked and told a story.  Grey Sissy likes to have her paws clapped, comes and asks to be picked up and put on my shoulder.  Both cats play “cry wolf” and wait for me to find them helpless and wounded, except they can never wait long enough and usually come to find out why I’m taking so long. 
People who don’t own cats might not realize the facial expressions and feelings cats can relay to their people, but these make them amazing friends.  If I am hurt and crying, a cat will come and brush the tears away from my face.  That always makes me smile at them, and I swear they smile back. They worry, they frown, and yes, they laugh at me. 
As I watched the latest cat race just a few minutes ago, I saw the smartest animals ever.  The Siamese ran and the grey chased.  The Siamese hid behind the door and the grey looked surprised and went another direction.  Curious about her pursuer, the Siamese came out to check and the grey jumped on her from behind the corner.  “HHAA!” her expression said and off the two went, this time with the Siamese in pursuit. 
It being a grey sort of “indoorsy” day around here, I suppose I’ll stay in by the fire and enjoy it with my cats.  The truth be told, they really do like to have me read a story to them around 4:00 p.m.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Bend in The Road

I love to photograph new walking trails, and on a recent trip, I was introduced to two new ones.  One was Audubon crafted around city ball fields, a delight to walk because it rescued an old creek bed and the ecosystem supported by it.  This was the rougher of the two trails.
          The second trail found its home atop an old land fill, circled through transitional woods, and offered access to fields and play areas.  Newly constructed, the entire park would now provide a natural outdoor experience for thousands in the future.
           On each trail, the designers had artfully created intriguing and frequent curves in the path.  I am a real sucker for “bends in the road” as they pull me forward, curious about the unknown and that which might lie ahead.
          How often life presents one of these “bends in the road.”  Such an occurance shows us that the path is not always predictable – as if the path had its own idea of the way things are going to go, and that is not always a pleasant twist.
          I have found these bends usually present something different and new, but seldom do we meet real harm in them.  It’s just that when we took that particular path, we had certain expectations; perhaps we made some promises about our arrival; perhaps we lost our way on the path.
          I like to tell the story of a particular trail I once took that was so rough it caused me to fall several times.  Upon my arrival, the group I was to meet up with quickly heard about my clumsiness from my fellow hikers who ribbed me good naturedly.
          “So, how did you finally overcome the pitfalls of the trail?” asked a friend at the top.
          I grinned.  “Well, when I started, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the peaks we were climbing to,” I said as I extended my deeply scratched hand for consideration.  “And then, I figured out that while I wanted very badly to reach them, it was an awfully good idea to keep my eyes on the trail as well.”
          I know as you meet new trails and the bends in the road that occur, you’ll be looking at the path and not just at the peaks.  We all get where we are going with some skill, some caution, and the belief that Our Lord will also make the crooked straight for us.

Isaiah 40:4
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Friends and Family, Not Recipes, Make the Meal

In my last post, I pulled a recipe from my mother’s old file to try this Christmas – “Honey Oatmeal Cookies.”  Now I love oatmeal cookies, but just because the recipe was in the file doesn’t mean it was a good one – or that she had ever tried it for that matter.  These cookies were so bad, I now find myself standing at the counter, picking out the good cranraisins and pecan chunks rather than throw them away.
          If you share my experience, it isn’t difficult to blow a recipe during the holiday season and have some cherished memories as a result.
          There was the year I couldn’t afford a good turkey and bought on the cheap instead.  I was young and didn’t know I couldn’t rush the bird, so I also cooked it on high and fast.  The finished bird lay on the table, looking and tasting much like a deflated football.
          There was a time I served watery broccoli, lumped potatoes, inedible pies and worse dinner rolls.  But there are also some great recipes in my file.  I can cook a mean turkey now, I know the store that sells the best pies, and I have great friends that invite me to their house for Christmas dinner.  I have just enough great recipes to take a tasty dish along with a good bottle of wine and we are all happy.
          The best recipe of all is the Christmas mix of good family and friends who put together the memorable and unique meal of the year. 
          As we prepare our meals and baked treats today and throughout the next week, I hope that all your dishes turn out well.  When in doubt, just remember that Julia Child was never bashful about butter. 
          And if you really want to make good friends, invite or go to eat with someone.  The people who give you their food give you their heart.[i] 

[i] Cesar Chavez

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Haunting Memories of Pumpkin Pies

My mother, Susie Shoemaker

          Today I am baking Thanksgiving pumpkin pies and missing my mother like crazy.  Pumpkin was the first pie I learned to make and I remember standing on the wooden footstool to stir the filling, taking an occasional, if not often, taste of it.  I suppose it isn’t helping that I am also playing Christmas carols.
          I suppose every woman connects to her mother and grandmothers through their unique recipes and approaches to cooking.  Neither of my grandmothers was much on the cooking other than the basic farm fare –fresh vegetables from the garden and meat we had raised, plus a few cobblers when fruit was available. Can you imagine such a lack of skills!  They didn’t even know how to cook the half-prepared, over-processed foods we are so familiar with.
       I inherited Mom’s card box of recipes.  I thought I would flip through a few of them and choose one to make this year.  Oh, my gosh, they’re in her handwriting (tearing up).  Well, onward.  The family favorite for caramel candy  - every member of the family remembers receiving the candy package in the mail and protecting it like gold.  Here’s one for spinach quiche – no wait, that one came from me. 
        I’m not making much progress.  Just found “Crazy Chocolate Cake (Double recipe)” and must ask my friend Norma if it is the same as hers.  That was such a good cake. 
         German chocolate frosting; meat loaf and sloppy joes for the whole church; date clusters…..each card with a memory.
          Well, guess I’ll try the “Honey Oatmeal Cookies.”  I’m about out of Kleenex tissue and I just heard the timer go off for the pies. 
          Holidays aren’t always joyously happy are they?  Some of those memories can truly make our heart hurt.  But then, we are making new memories and perhaps they will make our hearts sing. 
         And to think I was just going to throw together a couple of pies to take to the gathering tomorrow!
Blessed holidays.  May you be so very grateful for your own good memories.