Smoking

I can’t believe it.  They are smoking.  Grumble.  Stomp.  Hello – fake smile.

All of this because my neighbors had stepped out into the coolish evening air to have a cigarette while I was trying to finish a little yard work.  My,  but things have changed.

I grew up with two smoking parents, who smoked in the house, in the car, and if we went out we sat in the smoking section of the restaurant so they could, you guessed it, smoke.   I often had the job of digging the pack of cigarettes out of Mom’s purse while she drove (pre-seatbelts), removing a cigarette and handing it to her.  I recall being scandalized when I was in fifth or sixth grade and she suggested I light it for her.  She was either testing me or more likely trying to loosen me up a little.  I was required to make mudpies  probably only  the previous year when she found I hadn’t ever done that.

Cigarette smoke really bothers me now whenever I am around it.  I don’t know if it is psychosomatic or a real reaction now that I am no longer exposed to smoke on a daily basis.  After Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and died I seem to be much more sensitive to smoke.  Beside just being annoyed at the smell, my chest seems to tighten if I breath even a little smoke.  But this really isn’t an issue.  Even NASCAR races are smoke free and it is easier to find the spot to curb your service dog at a theme park than a place to smoke.

I have to confess.  I have never smoked a single cigarette.  The yearly anti-smoking campaign in elementary school worked for me.  The black lungs we passed around, which by the way look nothing like what I saw on Dr. Oz today, you don’t think they were just a model do you?  And the cost analysis.  Did you have to calculate the cost of smoking each year?  We did.  I know this because I took the number to my mother with the toy catalog and showed her what she could buy me if she just stopped smoking.  And this was in the early 1970’s.  She was not impressed.  But as much as both of my parents smoked, and as much as I liked the smell of that freshly opened pack of cigarettes, I knew if I just smoked one I would be hooked.  One bullet dodged!

I will admit that I learned a lot hanging out in the smoking teachers’ lounge when I student taught and later when I subbed.  There was a camaraderie that didn’t exist in the non-smoking teaching lounge.   Plus the Pepsi machine was in there.  Now teachers have to drive off campus and smoke a cigarette during lunch to carry them through the day and the rest of us pretend not to know why they are zooming out of the parking lot.

This year I listened to a talk that mentioned third hand smoke, the harmful residue left behind when someone smokes and they made the statement that research has found that one is not safe from smoking residue in a hotel if any rooms are designated smoking rooms.   It makes you think.

But smoking was on my mind today I guess.   First Whoopie Goldberg on Dr. Oz having finally kicked the habit, then the neighbors, although I really wish they wouldn’t throw the butts on the ground but that is a different rant entirely and finally Final Jeopardy.  So, now you know where I stand, in the middle of the non-smoking section!

Joy

Shout for joy, you heavens;

Rejoice, you earth;

Burst into song, you mountains!

For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 49:13

Have you ever returned from a concert, a worship service, an important event and just felt joy? I wish that feeling would last longer. It may have been a while since you felt an over abundance of joy. It may have been within the last day. But whether we feel the joy or not, Isaiah 49:13 reminds us that the Lord comforts his people. Thank you Lord. No matter what the circumstances I can come to you to be comforted.

But on those days when you have joy overflowing, do you take the time to share it? Do you tell others or do you keep it as your private secret? Some events we share with everyone. The birth of your new grandchild, the adoption of a kitten or puppy, a wonderful reunion of friends who haven’t seen each other in years. But do we share other experiences? Those days we clearly hear God’s calling for us, or feel that His hand is upon us. Do we talk about Him to those who may not know him? I confess that often I hold back. I don’t want to do that anymore. Will you join me in being bold for our Lord? Will you join me in sharing my joy, especially when the source is so clearly from our Heavenly Father?

The Princess

Meet Princess.  I inherited her from my dad.  Sadly she only was able to retire to Florida for a short time before cancer took her life.  I hope she saw her time in Florida as her retirement.  I have a feeling she thought I kidnapped her.

My dad called and said he wanted me to go visit him for his birthday.  That was in the middle of October.  There are no school breaks in October.  Uh, no.  That won’t work.  A few days later I see Sidney on my caller ID.  Oh no.  Sidney was my dad’s neighbor and friend.  If Sidney called it wasn’t good news.  We had been through Dad’s ambulance ride to the ER when he had a heart attack, transfer to another hospital, quadruple bypass and subsequent infection.  With dread, I answered.  Dad had lung cancer.  Well, he smoked for his entire life.  A lot.  In fact, after his heart attack the cardiologist said he would not treat him if he didn’t quit smoking.  So Dad quit going to the cardiologist.  I think that is how it got so bad without being caught.  I took off work and made the 12 hour drive.

“Have you been to the house yet?”  asked Dad.

“No, your house is passed the hospital. ”

“There is Pepsi in the fridge.  I had Sidney buy it last week.  I knew you were coming. ”

Never was one to miss an opportunity to say, I told you so.   At some point in that visit, he asked me to take his cat when he died.  Of course I said yes.  And I was really relieved.  Dad also had three outside dogs.  I could not imagine even one of the dogs in my condo.  Okay, I can add a cat into my family.

Dad was always a dog person.  The fact that this blue-eyed, mouthy cat won him over amazed everyone who knew him.  On one of our weekly phone calls Dad mentioned his friend Mike wanted him to take this cat.  Her family, parents and two little girls, had moved away and left the cat.  Another week passed, and Mike was still trying to talk him into the cat.  Eventually he picked the cat up, put her in his car and brought her home without any thought of actually taking care of the cat.  He opened the car door and let her out in the yard.  Problem solved.

I was talking to Dad on the phone and he is making all sorts of distress noises.  Hold on,  Princess wants out.  Princess?  Dad was married six times, never to take anything for granted, I needed more information.  When Princess, the cat, wanted outside she jumped on the arm of his recliner, then batted his face or bit his ears.  She also did this every day at 4am to go outside.  Isn’t that cute.

Who was I talking to?  Cute?  And when she wanted back in she sat at one of the two sliding glass doors and glared until you let her in.  And at 4am he would wait for her to come back for breakfast.  Nuts!

I first met Princess after Dad’s heart attack.  Sidney had called and I made the trip.  A word about my dad’s house.  It was a one bedroom on stilts in a flood plain.  I often said you drove to the middle of no where and kept going for another half an hour.   The first time I visited he insisted I take the bedroom.  The bed was the most uncomfortable thing ever and in the morning he mentioned the squirrel that was chewing holes in the ceiling.  The chewing sounds had worked their way into my nightmares.  There was a hole in the bathroom floor near the toilet and you could see daylight through it.  This was dad’s house.

Flash back a couple of years.  My dad wakes up while having a heart attack, calls 911, walks out back and turns the gas off to the house and sits on the steps and has a cigarette while waiting for the ambulance.  We found this out two days after I was there and he was with it enough to explain why the heat and the stove didn’t work in a very chilly November.  Thankfully Princess was not adverse to being a blanket at night and she and I sat 3 feet away from the space heater (I read the safety warnings) the rest of the time.  And of course I fed her so Princess and I were friends.

The hospital stabilized dad and were trying to find him a rehab facility.  There was never any discussion of treating the cancer, just ways to manage the pain.  I went home.

Less than two weeks after that first phone call, as I left school I got a message from the hospital.  They had been trying to call all day.  There was no way I could make it before he died but I could try.  I drove home, threw stuff in the car and made the 12 hour drive in 10 hours.  It was just after 1 am and I sent Sidney home.  He had managed to get this very lapsed Catholic last rights.  He never woke up but I think he knew I was there.  He passed away around 6am.  After making the funeral arrangements and starting the nightmare of settling the estate, I put Princess in a carrier and brought her back to Florida.   More on the Princess later, I am sure.

 

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Kitty Lovers Only

You have been warned.  If you don’t live with and rearrange your life around a cat, read no further.  You just won’t understand.

My cats like to follow me around.  They often hide from strangers, or at least try.  Recently Miss Belle tried to hide under my chair, but her entire bottom half and fluffy tail were sticking out.    Heidi is rarely even seen by houseguests.  Belle is the black and white kitty sitting atop Heidi, my polydactyl tiger.  Of course they are both helping me with the computer.  Belle thinks she should be an only kitty but apparently this attempt to crush Heidi didn’t work.

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I am a permissive cat parent.  They don’t have manners and Belle especially begs for food.  She will also steal food if given half a chance. One night she was begging for food, trying to jump and take it.  I may still qualify as a child.  I eat in front of the TV and  I often leave my vegetables until the end to eat.  The only thing left on my plate was steamed asparagus with a little bit of butter on it.  In order to get rid of the begging, annoying fur ball I figured I would give her a piece of asparagus and she would look at me in disgust and walk away.  I couldn’t wait to finish my meal in peace.

But she ate the asparagus.  And you are wondering why this is so amazing.  I didn’t really think much of it until a little later.  Remember, the cats follow me everywhere.  So if I go to the bathroom, there is often a cat with me, or two, or…you get the picture.  And they like going potty with company.  I must have praised them too much for using a litter pan when they were little.  So Belle uses the litter pan.  According to WebMD I must be one of the “lucky” 25% of the people who can smell the sulfides in urine produced during the digestion of asparagus.  So take smelly urine, don’t be fooled by that perfume quote, this stuff smells in humans, and then add it on top of the bad odor of cat urine.  Add them together and you get the title of my book, should I ever write one.  Never Feed a Cat Asparagus!  Don’t steal it, it is mine!

Oh, and is anyone else truly concerned that WebMD refers to it as pee and not urine?  That bothers me.  Are we really that dumb?  Wait, please don’t answer that.  And, don’t feed asparagus to your cat either.  Really, it is a bad idea.