Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Lost A Good Friend . . . Go With God, Sophie

 S he came to us five years ago, sick, nearly starved to death, full of infection from having lost her last litter of kittens--we're sure she had nothing physically to sustain those offspring, and having lived for an unknown period of time on the street. She had recently been in some kind of altercation and had a wound over her right eye that had affected her ability to focus. She was a complete mess. And why we even thought about keeping her is a complete mystery to me now. But one of my daughters was visiting, the one that had become a "cat person" over the years, and she challenged us to either (1) take her to animal control and have her euthanized, or (2) take her to the vet, have her tested and checked out, and decide then what to do. (Her offer to pay for the vet visit helped us decide to go that route.)

Sophie was indeed a mess.  She had mastitis, was full of parasites, tested positive for feline HIV, and needed lots of good meals.  Yet the vet was sure that she hadn't manifested any signs of AIDS, wasn't a threat to any other animals, and could expect to live a good life as long as she was not put in situations where her immune system was challenged.  As she was an inside cat, we took her home.

And so began the saga of Sophie as a part of our family.  We named her that because she was all black, and had the most amazing sea-green eyes--almond shaped and so very mysterious.  Just like that illusive thing called "Sophia" by the Greeks--wisdom and mystery.  She was very shy and reticent.  She hissed and rumbled at the picture of a gray wolf we had hanging on the office wall.  She hid under the beds whenever anyone came to the house, but she began to accept the fact that she was a part of a family, even getting along famously with our English Shepherd, Mickey.  She fattened up, got rid of her parasites, and we spayed her as soon as her infections were eliminated.

Sophie loved to sit on people's laps, especially when we were working at the computer.  I don't know if it was because we were sitting in a cramped space and that made her feel more secure, or if she just took a liking to the fact that we were sitting in the same place for long periods.  She would also decide which lap was preferable each evening as we were sitting down to watch the evening news and such.  The rest of the time she was silent skulking around the house, and after our second rescue English Shepherd Beau came to live with us (he was a tri-color--black, white, and tan), she and Beau began to take their naps together.  When Beau had a stroke about two years ago, Sophie seemed to be the one who took this absence the hardest.

Three months ago, right after moving to Tennessee, Sophie's tail quit working--she no longer swished it around like most cats do, but simply dragged it around behind her.  We didn't think much about it as we had moved recently and thought perhaps she had injured it in some way during the move.  Then 10 days ago the rear half of her body began dragging on the floor.  We took her to the vet--I was concerned that she may have had a small stroke--and found out that all the disks in her rear spine were gone and she had significant arthritis in her pelvic region.  We began the usual treatments of anti arthritic meds and steroids in low doses to curb the discomfort, but she just got less and less mobile over those few days.  My "cat" daughter said that cats suffer in silence, that they are the world's most pronounced stoics.  So it was with Sophie and by Memorial Day weekend, she wasn't even moving to come out for her feedings.  We were taking the food to her.  She was making it to the cat box less and less, and we knew she had to be in pain.  Walking was a very obvious chore.

So hubby and I made the hard decision, and on Tuesday we said good-bye to our good and faithful friend.  She was meowing to us plaintively as they took her back into the inner regions of the vet's offices, and we sat their grieving as we waited for them to bring back our cat carrier.

I guess we know that when we take these marvelous creatures into our lives and homes we will have to endure this kind of experience.  That doesn't make it any easier.  And having Sophie for only five years doesn't seem fair.  She was such a good companion to Vashti and our dogs.  Mickey and Beau are both gone now as well, but our present English Shepherd, Murphy, has been pacing around the house at all hours trying to find her.  Vashti has been all over us the last two days, just as she was when Mickey died.  We know that we are not the only ones who miss her.  Hubby and I know that we miss her terribly already, but we are blessed to have had her in our lives.  Go With God, Sophie.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Follow-up on Mommy's Day -- The Special Women in my Life

Yet, that's right!  They're my three daughters and there has never been a mom that is more proud of these very special women.  I can't believe, as I look back over my life, that I was so blessed to have them in my heart and to fill my days.  Even in the years since they have begun following their own paths, our relationship has broadened and deepened and is a factor that keeps my heart filled with a sense of joy and pleasure just thinking about them.

I guess Mother's Day brings so many of these thoughts to the fore, and it humbles me to know that the Powers Beyond deigned to bless me with these three wonderful women.  Only daughter One was planned -- the other two were surprises--or maybe I should be really honest and use the word "shocked."     We weren't really "ready" for more kids but by the time each of them has been born we were delighted and more than happy that our little family wasn't quite so little anymore.

Our oldest is a warm, vibrant, and highly motivated woman who has two grown daughters and is doing some remarkable stuff in the aero-space industry.  We're living closer to her now and both hubby and I are so happy to be able to spend time with her and be a part of her life in a more direct way.  This was the first Mother's Day we have spent together in quite a few years.  Our middle daughter is a talented professional musician in the field of church music, co-owns her own interior decorating business and is a loving presence in the lives of her nieces and nephew.  While she has not had children of her own she has "adopted" all the kids of her siblings and they love her like another parent.  Our youngest daughter has two beautiful daughters and is in possession of a mind that often leaves me in awe.  I'm a smart woman but there are times when I think about all the kinds of things she can do -- all at the same time -- and I am humbled, to say the least.  And her memory:  I don't know what to make of it sometimes.  We are both book reviewers and read piles and mountains of books, but she can remember stuff that puts me right under the table.

Suffice it to say that I am so thankful that these very wonderful women are a part of my life.  Love all three of you, bunches and bunches!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mother's Day OR The Celebration of ALL Women?

Yep!!  Mom's Day has come and gone and it was a very nice day at my house.  Oldest daughter and her hubby and mom-in-law came for a day visit, brought half the meal (I fixed the other half) and then she gave me a beautiful cymbidiam orchid and a very nice little cross necklace.  But the best part was just being together.

Now hubby really went all out:  he gave me a really BIG mom's day gift:  a new riding mower so that I can take care of the nearly two acres of lawn we have to mow every week.  And yes, it's a blast to ride and a really neat "toy."  He told me that he was going to do his part -- haven't seen that happen yet.  I guess the thoughts I had most, though, were that there were so many women who aren't biological mothers, yet they have "mothered" me at some critical times through the years.

There was the really special lady that lived upstairs from us when I was living in Chicago -- a 7 or 8 year old kid in a neighborhood that was not particularly an easy place to make friends. Lots of apartments, lots of fences, and apart from some kids from school, it was a lonely time.  She was a retired school teacher, and she invited me upstairs two or three times a week and we sat and talked about stuff--what was happening in school, what kind of books I liked, and so on.  We read together, and I think she was partly responsible for my love of reading, for moving me ahead of many my age in that we read some pretty hefty stuff.  She will always be special to me.

And then there was the ninth grade English teacher who was about 4'10'' and yet her presence was enormous.  She was a stickler for getting the parts of speech right, for not ending a sentence with a preposition, and for thinking through what one says before it is said.  She was also one of those visionary readers--she helped us to visualize what the words in the story were trying to convey, and for me that was like pushing open a huge door to my imagination.  I will always treasure the gifts she gave me.

Lastly, I am especially grateful for my grandmother--Willie Pearl Woodring Vaughn, a woman who was always ahead of her time.  She was the U. S. Postmistress of her town when she was 17--no one else would do it--and she taught school in the one room school house after she graduated from high school.  She was one of the few girls who had a high school education and in her day, that was almost the same as graduating from college now.  Have you seen what they had to know then in order to graduate?  It's mind boggling!!  She raised all her siblings--four sisters and one brother--and she successfully predicted the winner of every presidential election her entire life.  She graduated from college when she was 72 years old.  And she always understood and applauded every choice I made in my life, even when others in my family were not so supportive.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the women who have impacted us.  What would we have done without them?

Mother's Day Recipe -- Roast Beef (Brisket) and Roasted Potatoes
One fresh brisket -- 4-7 lbs.
Garlic Salt
Onion Soup mix
Peeled russet potatoes

Place fresh brisket in large baking/roasting pan, fat side up..  Surround brisket with peeled russet potatoes.  Sprinkle meat and potatoes heavily with garlic salt--meat should look almost white.  Don't worry;  it's not too much.  Sprinkle dry onion soup mix over meat and potatoes.  (One envelope is usually sufficient.)  Pour water carefully into pan--avoid pouring on meat or potatoes--until about half way up the side of the pan.  Cover with foil and bake for 12-14 hours in 200 degree oven.

Meat will be extremely tender.  Best to cool in refrig, slice in 1/4 inch slices, and then reheat in microwave. May keep juice as au jus or make gravy.  Will yield lots of good meals and makes absolutely wonderful roast beef sandwiches.