Winding Roads

Since I got the two cats that currently own my home, people have asked me the question, “Larry, why cats?” Other than the fact that I am allergic, and grew up having horrible asthma attacks until we realized it was our cat Smiley causing them, I truly didn’t understand this question. People were not asking the question out of concern for my physical health. They were asking because I’ve always been a dog lover, and I have a very happy dog whom I’ve learned to take care of through advice, and trial and error. So why would I gets cats which would present a whole new challenge?

I still didn’t understand the question. I mean, why wouldn’t I want a whole new challenge? Well, honestly, I didn’t know what I was in for.

– Dog eating litter covered Tootsie Rolls and having diarrhea in the house.
– Cats eating dog diarrhea and getting diarrhea.
– Cats wanting to play at 3:00 AM and chasing each other around the house.
– Cats knocking stuff off shelves and counters and breaking them.
– Anything small object that cats can bat around, they will bat around until the object is inaccessible to, and at a minimum hidden from me. Dammit where are those ear buds?!
– Having to fire the housekeeper because I’m afraid of her squashing the cats when she moves furniture that I’ve asked her a million times not to move.

For the past two weeks, I’ve not had a lot of sleep. I’m constantly cleaning. I’ve put in a cat door into the laundry room where the litter box is. I’ve had to break off the flap from the cat door because the cats are afraid of it and won’t use it with the flap closed. I’ve had very little time to just relax, and have some moments to myself to just chill.

I’ll tell you what though, one by one I’m figure out how to either accept or fix each of these problems. The cat door is working as long as I keep the laundry room door closed. The cats no longer eat dog diarrhea because there isn’t any. I can’t keep the cats from playing, but I can use earplugs. I’m keeping breakable stuff off the shelves, or just accepting that things I need to leave on the shelves may just get broken. I keep small objects, especially valuable ones, in places where the cats can’t get to them. And as inefficient as I am at cleaning the house, I’m learning, becoming more efficient, and I’m saving money for the huge vet bills to come.

So what does this all have to do with winding roads? Well, I could have gotten another dog, but I wanted cats. I know how to take care of a dog, and I know that with the way I was living my life a few short months ago, I would be able to take care of another dog. I may still get another dog. But the cats are transforming my life. I’m not as lazy, I’m always moving, my home is better organized. And those free moments that I spoke of I sure do appreciate more when I have them.

I had a few free hours yesterday afternoon, so I got on my motorcycle and rode over to a friends house for a ride to Middleburg. My friend asked the perfect question. “Are you looking to just get there, or to have fun along the way?” Every person who rides a motorcycle knows the answer to this question. Take the winding road. The one that is unexplored, or the one where I can test my skills. We could have taken the highway almost all the way there, but we didn’t. In fact, we never even made it to Middleburg. We stopped to eat, and then headed back home. On the trip back I was following my friend, and there were many signs to get back onto the highway, but we just drove straight on by and took the next curve.

For me, life is not about the straight line that takes me to where everyone, including myself, will eventually go. It’s about zig-zagging and winding around the straight line, pushing myself to become a stronger, smarter, and skillful human being. It’s about learning that it’s not always about my comfort. Sometimes it’s about the challenge of learning how to better take care of myself, so I have more time to be with and take care of the ones I love. It’s not about learning how to predict what is in front of me. It’s about becoming the man who can better handle whatever is around the next bend.

Challenge which educates us, and changes our actions for the better is growth. Growth that makes us better capable of handling the next challenge is evolution. Some people can live in a box all their lives and be perfectly happy. But those who choose to push their boundaries, cause the human race to evolve. Either of these paths is a personal choice. I choose the winding road.

By the way, I’ve not had a single asthma attack since I’ve had these cats. I guess my body has evolved as well.

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Growth?

Growth? Growth is when you find yourself making sacrifices for the well being of others, knowing that ultimately, helping others makes you feel good inside, so it’s really no sacrifice at all.

I just asked the company who has been cleaning my house for many years to give me my key back because I was worried about the cats getting out or getting squashed when the cleaning crew moved my furniture. The reason I’m worried is because I will tell the owner something, and they will do what I’m asking for a while, but then someone forgets, and suddenly I’m walking into a dark house, and none of the light switches work because they’ve unplugged all the lamps. So now I’m cleaning my home by myself. I never realized how much work this is, especially for a lazy person like myself.

Growth? Growth is when you’ve accepted that you are just going to have a dirty house.

Kids?

This is my first posting. I’m so excited. I realized this morning that a very few of my friends and family are not on Facebook, or are not my “friends” on Facebook. This is the perfect way to share what I am writing with everyone I know.

For my first post, I’d like to talk about kids. Sometimes I regret not having any, but then I realize that there’s probably a reason for that, and I may even be able to take a gander as to what that reason is.

When I wanted to have kids, I mean really wanted them, I wasn’t mature enough for them. It was all about me, and the women who I met, who would want a long term relationship probably noticed that, and would probably not want to commit to anything long term. I lacked the confidence they were looking for, and who could blame them for not wanting to be with a man who didn’t believe in himself.

I had to grow that confidence. I had to slowly build that maturity. I remember about 14 years ago when I killed a Chia Pet out of neglect and thought I was doomed to solitude for the rest of my life. But then a friend gave me a peace lily, a very hard to kill plant, and I watched it grow. I watered it, I gave it exactly the amount of sunlight it needed, and it grew. Not a great accomplishment considering the heartiness of this plant, but still, some confidence was born.

When I moved to my new home in Sterling, the peace lily died. I tried to keep it alive, but my new home just didn’t have enough light to sustain it. It was about that time that I rescued a dog. I had to! Her name was Jamaica, and her add said, “Woof mon! Bark mon! Take me home mon!”. So I did. I took her home. She is still with me today, 11 years old, happy, active, and for the most part healthy. Lately she has been having some balance problems, and a year ago her spleen needed to be removed on an emergency basis because it had filled with blood, and was about to rupture. But she doesn’t know that she isn’t as healthy as she used to be. She still has a light in her eyes when I pick her up from dog daycare, or when I come home after being out for a few hours. She still greets me, still wags her tail, and every once in a while, when, I’m taking her for a walk, she starts prancing, and turns to look up at me, and I swear she is smiling.

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A few months ago, my neighbor dragged me to a nursery to by some plants. I decided to buy another peace lily, and some petunias for outside. Why? Well, I wanted to give the peace lily another try, because I thought I might have figured out why the last plant stopped growing and then died. The petunias seemed to required the correct light for what the outside of my home had to offer, but really I knew nothing about them. I asked the salesperson at the nursery what type of soil I should buy, how much water I should give them, and whether or not I should use fertilizer. She gave me all of the information, and I did exactly what she said to do. At first, they thrived. So much that I had to replant some of them in a second pot. But then they started to die, and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. So again I asked for some help from some friends and family. They told me I needed to pluck off the dead flowers, and two more would grow in each flower’s place. So I started to do this, and here is the result.

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The Peace Lily also thrived, so I decided to buy a second plant. A nerve plant is what it’s called. Also very hearty. It began to grow so quickly that I had to replant it in a bigger container within a week. Now it’s stretching the boundaries of that container, so it’s time to get a bigger one.

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Then Seri the cat became a part of my life. Seri was my first cat, and I had no idea what I was doing. She disappeared for 3 days, and I wasn’t seeing anything in her litter box. I asked for help, and most people just said to relax and that she will be fine, but when I find her to confine her to a room until she get’s comfortable with the dog and with me. She did turn up, and I did what I was told, and now I have a happy cat.

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After about 2 weeks, I decided Seri needed a playmate. So Bene the kitten entered our lives. I didn’t make the same mistakes I made before. I did what people told me to do. I didn’t worry that the cats were hissing at each other, or that Bene was terrified of the dog. Jamaica was showing no aggression towards either cat, so I simply kept introducing her slowly to Bene, and I would slowly let the cats spend time together in my bedroom unsupervised since they weren’t killing each other.

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Then one day I walked into the room after leaving them alone for a couple of hours to find them rolling around on the bed like they were one big fur ball. They chased each other around the room, jumped on each other; they were playing! I brought the dog in, and although Bene was obviously still scared, he was also batting at the dogs tail and chasing her around. Now if he finishes eating before Jamaica does, he will go down and sit next to her, and growl at her to try to get more food. All 2 pounds of him growling at my 45 pound dog.

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Then I found out the Peace Lily was toxic to cats. My neighbor took it off my hands and I purchased an Ardie, which is perfectly safe.

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I started thinking about why people have kids. Of course some of it is to make sure the human race continues forward, or to carry on the traditions or customs of the family, or the family name. But for me it would mostly be about being able to take care of something. It would be about making mistakes and learning from them. It would be about watching them grow, and thrive, be happy. It would be about knowing that I had something to do with that happiness.

So I guess I do have kids. They just aren’t human, but in a way, they will teach me and have taught me and offered me even more. In the case of Jamaica, I’ve become so much stronger, being able to nurture her through her struggles and illness. When it’s finally her time, and I truly hope that isn’t any time soon, I will know that she lived a happy, fulfilling life, and not because I did everything right, but because I did the best I could possibly do for her and loved her so much. I plan to do this with all of my kids, whether or not I ever have human ones, and at least for me, that is what being a parent is all about.

By the way, just in case you haven’t noticed it, there’s a lot of metaphor here. Possibly the biggest lesson I’ve learned here is that nothing grows in the dark, including me. When I first moved to Sterling, I isolated a lot. I got the dog, and that got me outside, but at home, I was deeply depressed and lonely. The Peace Lily died, and I couldn’t figure out why. After being here a little while though, I started to become more active. I got to know my neighbors, I would speak to them outside when we would be taking our dogs for walks, and I began to feel comfortable in my new home. So if you haven’t guessed it yet, I did one, very simple thing that allowed the plants which are currently in my home to survive. It took me about 7 1/2 years to figure this out, and finally decide to get more plants. What did I do? I pulled back the curtains, I opened the blinds, I let in the sunlight.

Nothing grows in isolation. We all need to love and to be loved. We teach each other, we learn from each other, and together we thrive. Today I have a zoo in my home, but I occasionally call it my family. I let the outside world into my home, and in turn I explore it. Today I have grown up just a little bit, and there is nothing I can’t do.

My thoughts, stories, opinions, photos, and adventures, all in one place where the whole world can see them!

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