Herding Cats

Any animal lover married to a non-animal lover has learned that some people just lack natural affection towards pets.

My husband Greg is one of those people. Unfortunately for me, neither of my parents were particularly fond of animals either, so my only pet growing up was Swimmy the goldfish. Despite this, I always considered myself a dog person. As a newlywed, Greg agreed to get a dog, a black lab named Flanders, who lived to the age of 13. As a 30-something part-time student/farmer and father of two young children, there was no way he would agree to another. Which, at the time, was okay with me.

As far as cats went, he disliked the look of diseased, in-bred cats roaming on farms, so he instructed me not to feed stray cats. I liked cats, but was allergic to them so this wasn’t a problem.

But that was before we had kids. As soon as my daughter Julia could talk, she made it clear that she loved cats. Even at age eight, she still has 33 stuffed cats, prefers wearing shirts with cats on them to anything else and often meows rather than speaks when she is nervous or excited.

So when a gray cat appeared at our house three years ago, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity for Julia to have a cat without having a cat, i.e barn cats rather than house cats. We started feeding this cat, and soon other cats showed up, including a pregnant orange tiger cat we named Meringue.

After Meringue’s kittens were born, my anxiety built regarding my lack of control over the cats. I worried about rabies and precisely the in-bred, diseased cat herd that Greg had long ago warned me about. A farm wife friend directed me to the Humane League of Lancaster County’s spay and neuter/shots program for stray cats. Shortly thereafter, I borrowed a friend’s cat carrier and purchased a Havahart trap to catch the cats. My plan was to have Meringue and her kittens — Dessy and Creamsicle — spayed and neutered and vaccinated against rabies. Unfortunately, I didn’t act quickly enough. As soon as I set up the appointments, I discovered Meringue was pregnant again.

She gave birth to four more kittens, and our cat situation spiraled out of control.

Anytime Julia was outside, she spent hours searching for the cats and playing with them. After much thought, I decided the only way to prevent her from touching the kittens was to allow her to bring one inside. I could deal with my allergies by taking medication, but I knew it would be hard to convince Greg.

Rather than saying no, he came up with a counter plan. For years he had been trying to persuade me to pay for NFL Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV. Now he had a new bargaining tool. He agreed to bring the outside cat inside in exchange for Sunday Ticket.

Two and a half years later, Oreo is still in our house. Meringue and Creamsicle continue to live outside, but are spayed and neutered and vaccinated against rabies. We found homes for the other kittens. Greg tolerates Oreo and is enjoying Sunday Ticket.

I, on the other hand, have become Crazy Cat Lady. Oreo keeps me company on days when I’m home alone. She is smart and loyal and sweet. For now Greg and I have reached a truce. Until I can convince him of my next crazy plan – buying a goat.

From left: Dessy, Creamsicle, Meringue and her kittens, including Oreo

Chocolate at the Finish Line

Running has not always been my favorite pastime. The hate started in the summer of 1988. My dad decided I was too much of a bookworm and that I should spend my summer getting exercise by running to the tennis courts, practicing my tennis and running home. While I have good memories of the time he spent with me, I dreaded the runs. That same year, I came in dead last in the eighth-grade mile run in gym class.

In high school I tried running at various times, mostly because I hoped it would improve my tennis game, but it never stuck. While studying in Germany in 1996, I furthered my half-hearted attempt by running regularly to shed weight from all the pastries and beer I consumed.

Then, I quit running until 2010. Around that time, I attended a friend’s wedding where I visited with an acquaintance who hadn’t been a runner in college. In recent years, she had participated in several races, including a marathon. Also a professor, she told me she was persistent, which is why she was able to accomplish goals like getting her Ph.D. and running a marathon.  When some friends suggested running a 5k that year, I agreed to join them.

Since that time, I have run 16 5ks, two 10ks and three half marathons. I am still not fast, nor will I ever be. But I have gained much from running. Not only is it low-cost exercise, but it is also convenient since I don’t live near a gym or well, let’s face it, near anything. For me, running is natural anti-anxiety medication. I can feel completely down when I wake up in the morning, go for a run, and feel so much better. I mostly run alone, but have strengthened many friendships by traveling to races and in some cases running with others. I have explored beautiful country roads on foot that I never would have driven down (always with my pepper spray :)). My 11-year-old son, who is faster than me, has run five 5ks with me and that has been fulfilling, too.

Tomorrow I will run in the Hershey Half Marathon for the second time and am feeling about as lukewarm as I’ve felt about a race yet. My ankle hurts, and I have a cold. But for some crazy reason, I am still looking forward to it. Driving to the race with my friend, who is running her first half, meeting up with some other good friends before the race and accomplishing a goal that I never would have believed I would achieve will make the struggle worth it. And of course, the chocolate at the finish line. 🙂

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Photos from my runs

Why Blog? Why Now?

I spent many hours thinking about this question, mostly while running the country roads near my house. It comes down to this:  I enjoy writing and have written little in the last seven years.

Also, life can get busy with two active elementary-aged children. Last winter, while driving to an early morning swim meet, I turned on NPR and heard an interview with the poet Mary Oliver on Krista Tippett’s show On Being. At 7 a.m. on this particular Sunday in February, I was riveted.  The following week I bought Oliver’s book New and Selected Poems, Volume I. Oliver has spent her life observing and appreciating.  Despite the hardship she’s faced, she finds the beauty in our world. My goal with this blog is to slow down in this crazy world and appreciate more, whether it be in nature, my relationships or experiences.

With that said, here’s what my readers (hoping there are some) will NOT find on this blog:
Cleaning tips

What You May Find Here:
Stories about my interests and family
Photos (hopefully)