Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Friendly Beasts

“The Friendly Beasts,” an English Christmas carol, has been a favorite of mine since a friend sent me—long ago—a Christmas card with a woodcut featuring the animals who sing in the carol.  

The version I’m sharing with you today has an extra verse featuring a cat. So how could I resist choosing this one from YouTube! I hope you enjoy it and that you, too, will experience the joy of Christmas as do these friendly beasts . . . and the feline. 

Peace as always from me and many purrs from Ellie, Maggie, and Matthew, the three felines with whom I share my life. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Wondrous Reason to Be Grateful

Back in 2014, Maggie, one of the three cats with whom I live, was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. The vet’s attitude suggested that this was just par for the course. She didn’t suggest any medication, so I simply brought Maggie home.

In 2017, when that same vet missed a fracture Maggie had, I took her to another vet who prescribed a pill for Maggie to take which would help make her heart beat more regularly. At home once again, she refused to swallow the crushed pill in her canned food.

Flummoxed, I simply stopped giving the medication to her. I thought there was only one medication available, so why return to the vet. Moreover, because I’ve never talked at any depth with anyone with heart problems, I didn’t know the implications of an enlarged heart; I’d asked no questions of either vet. So foolish. So very foolish of me.

Several months passed with me being unaware of the severity of the condition or the availability of another medication. Maggie became more and more listless. Less curious. She stopped jumping up on the vanity counter to drink water from the faucet. She stopped jumping up on my bed to sleep. She ate less and less. In a human, I’d say she became apathetic.

Finally, this past June, when her eyes became lackluster, I took her back to the second vet. This time I felt real fear for her life and asked the crucial questions I should have asked nearly four years before. In truth, I became the advocate for Maggie that I’ve always been for myself when I was ill.

When I took Maggie in, my news that she hadn’t taken the pills and I’d done nothing about that obviously upset the vet. It was then I learned that because Maggie’s heart is enlarged, it has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood. So the heart is less efficient. The most alarming news was that an enlarged heart could lead to heart failure and early death. The truth came out—most cats live only about 3 years after diagnosis.

At the time of the initial diagnosis, Maggie was 6 years old. By the time I saw the second vet in 2017, she was 9 years old. By June 2018 when I took her to that vet the second time, she was 10 years old. That’s when the vet prescribed a second medication—a crème—and asked me to bring Maggie back in six months.

So for six months, I’ve applied the crème each morning to the inside smooth part of one of Maggie’s ears. (The blood vessels there are close to the surface, so the medication is quickly absorbed.) While nothing can make the heart shrink to its normal size, the medication can keep the heart from enlarging farther. It can also help keep the heartbeat regular.

Last week, Maggie and I went to the vet who listened to her heart and joyfully announced, “Her heartbeat is as regular as clock work! She’s doing fine! No murmur! No skips or misses!”

Then the vet weighed Maggie. “She’s the same weight as before,” she said, then added, “We don’t want her to gain weight. That would be hard on her heart.”

She handed Maggie back to me. Then the vet—her eyes shining—said, “Dee, she’s doing really well. The fact that she’s still alive—and over 10 years old—is amazing in itself. But the way her heart is beating is truly astounding. Just keep giving her the medication and come back in six months unless you get concerned.”

By this time, I’m grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. “How much time does she have?” I ask.
“I can’t say. All I know is that she’s doing wonderfully well.”

With that, Maggie and I came home. Her being alive at 10 ½ and doing so well has put everything in perspective for me. As a sage said, “Don’t sweat the small things.” The success of my books is a small thing; the writing is the large thing. The writing and the cat lying here on the desk, snoozing and inspiring me to keep going.

Maggie is my Christmas miracle. My inspiration.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Today's Gift

Last Sunday, I announced a new gift book for cat lovers—The Gift of Nine Lives. (I neglected to say that it’s also for those who like tongue-in-cheek, somewhat sly, stories.) I admit to hoping for good sells. Back in 1992, when Crown published A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story, it sold 14,000 copies in four months.

Crown said I sold most of those copies by setting up over thirty readings and signings in small and large bookstores in the metro area of the Twin Cities, in Seattle when I visited my cousins there, and in the Kansas City metro when I visited my brother and his family for Christmas. I also contacted radio and television stations and newspapers in all three areas and they responded enthusiastically.

But now, all is different: most small bookstores are gone; most newspapers don’t do book reviews anymore; most chat shows on television feature only celebrities. Moreover, I no longer drive so I couldn’t get to bookstores and television and radio stations if I had an invitation to do so! Finally, there’s a great difference between the energy level of a 56-year-old Dee Ready and an 82-year old crotchety crone!

The biggest thing of course is that, after trying for twenty-five years to find an agent to represent my writing, I finally accepted the truth that agents weren’t looking for my kind of writing. It was then—this past March—that I began to self-publish.

That, of course, implies self-marketing—the use of social media to get the word out. The ability to do that, my friends, eludes me.

So right now I’m feeling as if the world is passing me by. As if I’m on a deserted road that’s familiar to me but seems untraveled by others; I discover, to my dismay, that other writers have taken a detour onto a road named “Twenty-First Century Marketing”—a road that diverged and, as the poet Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the road less traveled by, and that’s made all the difference.”

Right now the difference is that in one week “The Gift of Nine Lives” has sold only 11 copies. Eleven.

By this time in 1992, several hundred copies had sold. So I find myself somewhat dispirited. A little down in the dumps about the fact that I may be too old for this writing game; this marketing game; this selling game.

I’ve always tried to live by the mantra my mother gave me when I was a child. When things were hard, she’d say to me, “Dolores, you find what you look for. If you look for good, you will find it. And if you look for bad, you will surely find that too.”

That mantra has seen me through many difficult chapters of my life. It has helped me be positive when the twists and turns of life seemed intent on wearing me down.

But in this past week, I found myself stymied by my dream of communicating with others the stories I long to share. I’ve felt betrayed by my own unrealistic expectations.

Then it happened. Today I was reading a novel and suddenly came to a passage in which the main character quoted from the Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians.

Here’s the quote: “In everything, give thanks.”

Yes, in everything—the dark days, the painful days, the fearful days, the enlightened days, the sweet days, the emboldened days. This day. And tomorrow. No matter what happens—or doesn’t. No matter what is said—or isn’t. No matter how my body, mind, spirit feels—or doesn’t. No matter what: In everything, give thanks.

That’s what Mom was trying to tell me.

And so I give thanks today for those 11 books that have sold.

And I will give thanks tomorrow for whatever it brings.

And always, I give thanks for all of you who visit me each week. Thank you.