Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Four More Dirty Little Paws

She's charming, cunning, lithe, stealthy, fierce-looking, with intelligent eyes and a perfect face.  And she has turned Thor's world upside-down.

Of course we named her Loki.

Ross and I had been toying with the idea of getting another cat for a few months, but we hadn't really made a concrete decision.  We vascillated over the cost, the benefits, and the twice-as-stinky litter box that would result from an additional feline in the house.  Two weeks ago, however, we made the fateful decision to walk around at Robinson Mall and browse while longingly savoring the aroma of Chick-Fil-A and McDonald's (we're trying to cut back on fried food, and that is, naturally, when it is most alluring).  We happened upon a display set up by the Humane Society for their cat adopting promotion. 

As we learned when we attempted to drop off Thor with them last year, many kittens are born between May and July, making it "kitten season".  Hundreds of babies are born to mommy cats who haven't been spayed, and animal shelters are literally up to their ears in frisky, adorable felines who need homes.  We had seen quite a few in our neighborhood without collars or bells - one of whom we even guessed might be Thor's mother - and all of the cats I had during my childhood had been strays.  (Moral of the story: spay and neuter your pets, people!  I don't have to get all Sarah McLachlan on you, do I?)

There were three cats at the mall.  One was a charming, calm black and white male, perhaps a year old, an antsy brindle-coated female of the same age...and a gorgeous, frisky, bright-eyed brown tabby.  Ross asked to pet her, and the volunteer hesitated, saying that she'd been handled a lot and she'd really only prefer if we played with her if we were seriously considering adoption.  Ross confirmed that we were - to my surprise, of course.  "She's just had her nap," the girl added, "So she will probably be really energetic."  Ross opened the cage and out sprung the tabby, inquisitive and excited.  Within a minute, though, she had fallen asleep in his arms. 

As children came up to pet and admire the kitty, I saw that Ross had fallen in love with her faster than he had fallen for me!  "Where can we sign?" I heard him asking of the kitten, whose name was actually Luna - but it wouldn't be for long.

I thought she was a pretty cute little catch, but admittedly, I was worried about my unsuspecting fur-baby at home.  Thor hadn't had much time to play with his litter mates, if there were any - we'd found him at five weeks.  He had gotten used to us and our schedules.  How would he take the arrival of a new kitten?  Would she be a compatriot or a competitor?

I read through the literature given to us, as well as did some research online about how to introduce a new cat to the existing one.  I read that the cats were not to see each other for a full week, resticted to simply smelling each others' scent on towels or washclothes.  Then, they were to be allowed to briefly see each other through a mostly-closed door, and even then, only while being given treats so that seeing each other becomes associated with positive things.

And I am so glad I disregarded all of that.

The layout of our house didn't permit it, and, frankly, I am too lazy to fuss that much over pets.  I'm sure the advice is excellent, but, after only a few hours of segregation, Thor noticed Loki through the glass door between the kitchen and the dining room.  He was shocked, it seemed, but he wasn't on the defensive.  He wasn't yowling or hissing, his tail wasn't lashing, and he puffed up only when I unexpectedly opened the door to come to pet him.

The separation lasted a day.

When they met nose-to-nose, Loki was in her glory.  A friend!  A friend just like me - but bigger!  Oh, yay!  Thor was hesitant and wary, and his confusion resulted in Loki backing him playfully into the corner on more than one occasion.  Really?  My mighty thunder-cat, perplexed by a two-pound kitten?  It was entertaining, to say the very least. 

Even as I watched them play (or, in Thor's case, avoid playing), I was thanking God that they were getting along.  I had heard horror stories of cats having to be separated permanently, or being returned to the shelter for not getting along with the existing pets - or children.  That was actually another reason we had gotten Loki.  The time will come when I do have a full-term pregnancy, and we didn't want  Thor to lose his little kitty mind having to adjust his lifestyle.  Now that he's adapted once to an interloper, hopefully it will not be as traumatic when we finally do bring home a baby.

Thor plays a bit rough sometimes, and Loki is certainly lively.  But there haven't been many instances when we've actually been worried about them hurting each other.  In fact, there was an interesting moment in the dining room just last week...

Ross had gotten home and was preparing the grill for burgers.  He came back into the house and we were playing with the cats when, suddenly, Thor puffed up to twice his size and began hissing and growling.  We followed his gaze; from atop the buffet table (his favorite spot), he was glaring angrily into the backyard at a little black female cat who was passing through.  The Black Widow, as we'd nicknamed her (come on, people, if we're naming our cats after Avengers, we'd best keep the theme), had appeared before, sparking Thor's interest, but this time he seemed particularly aggressive.  When his puffing and spitting finally intimidated (or bored) the cat enough for her to leave, Thor turned to Loki and protectively licked her ears. 

Okay, so maybe I'm projecting a little too much humanity onto my cats.  But that's okay.  Clearly, they get along and Thor has accepted Loki as his little sister.

Oh, and if you think it's strange for us to name a female cat after the Norse god of mischief...put down your DVDs and brush up on your mythology.  There's a lot more to Loki than Tom Hiddleston in a cape and horns - although his portrayal is certainly nothing to scoff at!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Blog Bit: Size Twelve Superhero

For some time now, I've been toying with the idea of creating a plus-size superheroine.  Mostly, when I've shared this idea, it's been met with praise.  Some people have felt that it's not realistic.  Which is funny, because the whole idea of superheroes in any form is unrealistic.  But isn't that why it's so much fun?  Besides, "plus-size" doesn't mean unhealthy, or morbidly obese, or lazy.  According to the standards of fashion, I myself am most decidedly plus size (granted, I'm not a great example, because I love food and I am pretty lazy).  I'm talking about a girl who might not want to wear a bodysuit while she fights crime.  A girl who thinks that four-inch-high stilettos are for a night on the town - not kicking bad-guy butt.  A girl who doesn't need a brass bustier to intimidate people - or to feel like a woman.  A girl who is healthy, takes care of herself, and has confidence...but can't quite button her size ten jeans.

What's wrong with that?

We have female superheroes (Wonder Woman, Marvel Girl, Supergirl),  black superheroes (Black Panther, The Falcon, Bishop, Nick Fury), Native American superheroes (Forge, Warpath),  Asian superheroes (Jubilee, Psylocke, Solstice), Jewish superheroes (Shadowcat, The Thing), disabled superheroes (Professor X, Oracle), gay and lesbian superheroes (Northstar, Batwoman, Obsidian), ginger superheroes (Jean Grey, Rogue, Batgirl, Black Widow, Mystique, Medusa...need I go on?) alien superheroes (Superman, Warlock) and underage superheroes (Hit Girl, Powerpuff Girls).  Heck - we even have a Canadian superhero (Wolverine himself!).  The only "minorities" left are geriatric and plus-size.

It's time, ladies.

It's time.

One Year Later

It's America's Independence Day, and other than my gratitude towards all parties whose contributions have made that possible, I'm not really thinking about it.

It was a year ago on July 1 that my husband and I first learned we were pregnant.  The twelve long months that followed were easily the worst in my life.  Ross felt forced to take a job, within his company, further from home, tripling his commute time.  I took a pay cut to leave the bank for a job with better hours.  My uncle lost both his parents.  And, worst of all for us, we lost two babies.

Even though I fancy myself a writer, I find it hard to find the words to describe exactly what it feels like to learn that a baby has died within your body.  I've written about my own experience, yes, but the waves of guilt, shock, disbelief, fear, anger, depression, hopelessness and jealousy that continually flood over a woman during and afterward are beyond words.

I had really been struggling with the feelings that developed with my second miscarriage.  I knew that healing would not come overnight, but I found myself really wrestling with my feelings towards God, trying to convince myself I wasn't angry with him.  I internalized a lot of anger.  I stopped listening to Christian music entirely because it didn't feel real to me anymore.  It's not that I stopped believing in God or that I stopped being a Christian.  It was just that this situation had become a huge hurdle in my life...something I didn't feel like I was clearing.

It's hard for me to admit this, but I felt completely and utterly deceived.  Deflated.    I could not reconcile the fact that everyone around me, including my church, believed in their hearts that this was it - with the fact that my baby had passed away.  This was supposed to be God's promise fulfilled and it was supposed to be my time.  This baby was supposed to a blessing - which is why we named him Bennett - and he was supposed to bring a lot of people joy. 

We supposed everything wrong.  Having walked through it myself, I can absolutely see why such a tragedy would sour a person's faith in God.  "God," I even found myself saying, "What is wrong with you?  Why did you do this?  Why did you promise everything, and surround me with those who supported that promise, and then allow my baby to die?"  Those half-hearted murmurs of "something was probably wrong with the baby" never help.  I found myself truly fighting, coming out swinging against the Lord.  "God - you created the universe.  You created the heavens and the earth and every star in the sky.  You created seasons and trees and oceans and the FREAKING PLATYPUS, God.  YOU MADE A PLATYPUS.  Why would you not step in and create a healthy baby in my womb?" 

I never got a response.  For a time, I retreated further into myself, snapping more at my husband, avoiding social situations, and craving sleep a whole lot more.  I was seriously considering talking to someone about therapy or counseling.  I was empty.

Over the past several weeks, Pastor Mark has been sharing an excellent series on healing - how we receive it, how we keep it, how Jesus ministered it.  I've been taking what he has been saying and applying it to my life - believing that my womb is healed, even thanking God the next time I get pregnant, it will be at the right time, with the right cells meeting, and that I will be able to sustain it.  Yet I still struggled with doubt and sorrow.  Two weeks ago, however, as he was praying for those who came to the altar for prayer and healing, he leaned over and spoke a few gentle words of encouragement in my ear.  I truly feel that the Spirit had whispered those words to his heart, because they were exactly what I needed - and from a spiritual leader in my life.  It wasn't a deep, profound prophetic word.  I didn't fall to the ground shaking.  There was no deep, booming "THUS SAITH THE LORD" echoing around me. 

But that's the cool thing with God: he knows just what you need, when you need it.  Even if you don't know it yourself. 

Since then I have been able to find peace in my situation.  Of course, I am still sad about my children.  I still have pangs of jealousy when I see glowing pregnant women.  But the hopelessness is gone.  The dragging-myself-through-mud feeling is gone.  I am beginning to believe again that I can have a child.  These experiences weren't the end of the line for me, but they also weren't little bumps in the road, to be disregarded and forgotten.  Maybe they were a detour.  But now I'm back on track. 

A former Starbucks co-worker has asked me to write about my experience for her website.  I was hugely honored, and agreed right away because writing has always helped me deal with my feelings.  I wrote the article but something told me not to send it to her just yet.  I still needed to distance myself a little bit from the event.  A week later, I was able to finish the article with confidence and hope, knowing that hope is the one treasure that cannot be taken away - only given away.  And I won't give mine away for anything.

On Sunday, one year after that big fat plus sign showed up on a stick, one year after tragedy and sorrow filled my life, one year after my emotions have run my ragged...I was able to visit with my friend Dawn's newborn baby girl.

And I was at peace.