Lessons I Have Revisited This Week

For a while, I was writing everyday on this platform. Recently, life has gotten busy and I shifted my focus to more organized blog entries than random posts.

So I slowed my writing down to times when I am rested and focused— which sometimes isn’t that often. But seriously, this week brought me great joy and also sorrow. In those emotions, I revisited some favorite life lessons. Many, but not all, involve cats.

First, there is Louise, the freshly amputee cat. She spent two weeks under my bed. Probably still confused and uncomfortable from her surgery, but also scared and scarred from her experiences before someone contacted Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab to get this injured apparent stray some help— both material and medical.

After two weeks under my bed, she’s trusting me. She’s super affectionate, cuddly, purrs like a machine and playful. She’s gentle and sweet and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.

Louise tested my patience and rewarded me with her love.

Hermes, yes another foster, got adopted yesterday. He came to us as a very sick kitten on July 31, 2020 as part of the Greek Pride. His sister Hades sent me to the hospital. But that’s another story.

Hermes was terrified of human hands for most of his life, and he’s still a quirky cat. His new family knows his flaws, but they are confident that he should be their cat.

Hermes reminded me that some growth is slow, but can transform everything about how you live your life. And that we are all on a different timeline.

Touch of Grey, a four-year-old owner surrender, has been with us about two weeks because of her tendency to be bitchy and nasty. She’s been an angel with us, even going so far as to try and convince Hermes’ parents to take her home instead.

Sometimes we only thrive in certain environments. What nurtures me might not work for you.

The hardest part of this week was caring for the Ten Little Kittens who were starving and probably have distemper. Only two survived the week. (More on that here: Ten Tiny Kittens) To see some kitten cuteness: Parker Playing.

Sometimes there is beauty and divinity in the briefest of lives, and knowing you did something, even if it leads to heartache, is better than doing nothing.

Okay. No more cats. I had a conversation with someone whom I’m known for a long time— decades. She has had a good career with the same employer the entire time I’ve known her. She’s my age. She asked where I landed after last year’s job loss. I mentioned the Stitch Fix warehouse and expected the conversation to drop or to get that sense I get from people that my job makes me less important or less of a person now.

Instead, she asked if we were hiring and if I thought it was a good job. I explained the pay, the good and the bad. Apparently she has no holiday pay, no paid time off, and ten hour days. Her job is taking a toll on her body and she just wants to move on.

This country places too much emphasis on our jobs and careers as the definition of who we are. And it’s upsetting how basic quality of life items like health care and paid time off are regulated by/ reliant on corporations and small business owners. Your worth is not based on your occupation.

I went to the diner last night to have pancakes and see the charming teenager #1 at work. One of her regulars asked her to help with his dogs so he and I have been talking. He’s a conservative Christian Trump supporter and I am a liberal with socialist leanings. I told him right off we probably had very different opinions on a lot of issues. But we had a polite discussion and did not attack each other.

Listening and sharing information has to be a polite and earnest exchange. People can have different opinions but respect each other and, even so, cooperate.

FURR: The latest tragedy of ten little kittens

As many of you may already know, my daughter (otherwise known as teenager #1) pet-sits for our cat foster godmother.

I think it was on Monday, with my daughter scheduled to start pet sitting today, that Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab ended up with ten four-week old starving kittens who may or may not have distemper as three adult cats associated with them had mysteriously died.

They were taken to our cat foster godmother’s house and she texted teenager #1 to ask if she could handle syringe feeding them formula five times a day. And if we could take them home if needed.

Two kittens passed yesterday. When we arrived today to feed them two more were gone.

So we set to work with the syringe.

I helped clean up the dead kittens, which will be stored in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer until taken for cremation. Teenager #1 was willing to do it but her witchy empathy made it uncomfortable for her to touch the recently dead thing.

She explained it like feeling a black void. She says living trees feel “fuzzy” and that dead trees feel empty. But this is more intense because of the sentience of the animal.

The little gray kitten in this photo almost died in my daughter’s arms— but he hung on until we put him down with his siblings. We named him Rufus because he has been refusing to die. But I’m told from another FURR volunteer that he is gone now.

Although our foster cat godmother would probably chastise us for going so with creatures that will probably die, we named three others: Parker, Spunky and Extra Crunchy.

Parker kept climbing all over everything like a parcour athlete. Spunky tried to climb out of the playpen. And Extra Crunchy is cover with food and who knows what else so his/her fur is extra crunchy.

It’s going to be an emotionally draining next few days, but this is what happens when domestic animals aren’t properly cared for. Sometimes a rescue group is too late.

Feeding Spunky on YouTube

Rufus and Parker

The adult cats in the house probably died of distemper and passed it to these kittens. So while the owner did not abuse or technically neglect his cats, a vet visit for vaccines and spaying/neutering could have prevented the suffering.

Saturday Animal Adventures, part two: new arrival

Last night I got a text from my foster godmother asking if we could take a special needs cat Louise who needed some time and some love to not only overcome shyness but also to convalescence.

You see, our new foster cat is a friendly stray who had a leg injury that looked like it might have come from being hit by a car. The vet had to amputate her leg last month (almost exactly a month ago). And it’s the same leg our Opie lost to cancer!

I picked her up this afternoon and she is a gentle beauty. So soft!

I allowed Opie to be in my room when we opened her crate hoping that seeing another three-legged cat might give her some self-confidence. It certainly might if she ever sees Opie stand up to our 50-pound puppy.

I also decided to sort and put away my laundry with her present so she could see me move around my room without looking at her specifically. She did make eyes to everyone as a hello before hiding under my bed.

I filmed some first day videos, they are rather boring but serve as a nice “This is where we started” marker. To see Louise’s YouTube playlist, click here.


PS — Teenager #1 had another shift at Tic Toc Family Restaurant today so teenager #2 and I made plans to have a dinner date at the diner. But when Bean the giant puppy ate her glasses, Teenager #2 spent the day with her mom at the mall and couldn’t make it back in time. So, I dined solo.

Speaking of Bean the Dog, a funny thing happened when Bean, her lead, the hammock and I got twisted up. I fell, as I often do, and landed on concrete and mud. My new Democracy Jeans are now literally dirty.

I expect my right palm and the outside of my left upper thigh will be very bruised tomorrow and I have a pretty interesting scrape extending about four inches down my left wrist.

Teenager #1 and I said earlier that today was canceled— maybe we should have listened to our own idea.

But, the good news is, I let the teen pick my meal once I selected the macaroni and cheese special. She delivered the pasta, potato salad, cucumber salad and French fries.

Dinner at Tic Toc

I am always impressed by the playing at the restaurant. The sprinkles of dried herb really make the dish look vibrant. The macaroni and cheese had a smooth hearty texture (I could only eat half of it). The cheese mix was not as exotic as I make at home, but not as creamy and Velveeta-y artificial as a place like Wawa.

I loved the cucumber salad. Crispy. Tangy. Wet but not soggy.

And the potato salad… Not bad. I am not a fan of the yellow potato salads. When I tasted this, the initial flavor was overwhelmingly sweet, which is odd. It quickly mellowed on my tongue and I enjoyed what appeared to be peppers and carrots in the mix.

The more I eat at Tic Toc, the more I marvel at the value for the price.

Saturday Animal Adventures, part 1: Deliveries

My volunteer efforts these days focus on animals instead of people, primarily as a foster family for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. You can visit their website here: http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

We have fostered three litters of kittens in the last nine months, all named after various pantheons of gods: The Greek Pride, The Roman Pride and The Norse Pride.

At 10 a.m. this morning, which is rather early when you get to bed at 2 a.m. after clocking out of work at midnight, teenager #1 and I had an appointment to meet a fellow FURR volunteer at the Petco where Mars and Minerva are in residence awaiting FURRever homes. Today, we wanted to reunite Jupiter with his siblings.

Crating Jupiter did not go as easily as anticipated, the teenager couldn’t find her shoes, we forgot Jupiter’s folder and we missed some of the turns for the store. But we arrived and now the Roman Pride is together again, except for Vesta who is now known as Paisley in her new home.

Jupiter reuniting with siblings, video here.

We left Petco, and retrieved the missing folder. But before returning to Petco we had to catch the baby birds as I was transporting them down to Bird Mania so they could be tamed and potentially sold.

That was a process, moving four baby birds to a separate cage. But teenager #1 managed to do it.

We took the folder to Petco, grabbed some coffee at Wawa, and headed to the bird store. The staff at Bird Mania scooped the baby budgies like cats on the hunt, trimmed their claws and clipped their flight feathers.

On the way back, we got a phone call from FURR that someone was interested in meeting Hermes at the adoption Saturday event at Petsmart on Rte. 248 in lower Nazareth. Our Hermes?

I had to ask because Hermes is an absolute love and a character, the last remaining “kitten” of our Greek Pride litter that we brought home August 1, 2020. He loves to be in the middle of the action, loves to play, loves to sit two-to-three feet away, but will not tolerate being touched by human hands.

You see, he was very sickly as a kitten and received a lot of medicine. Medicine is delivered by human hands.

Oh, and Hermes is the matriarch of all our other fosters. He turns one any day now and has mentored every other kitten we have had.

And this potential adopter thought maybe we could bring him over for a meet-and-greet and that maybe he could go home with them.

I said I would gladly arrange a visit for the future but their was no way we could crate him today. This is Hermes’ adoption page: Adopt Hermes.

Hermes is a very entertaining cat, and would be the perfect for someone who just wants a pet who interacts versus one that cuddles.

So, last but not least, I anticipate a part two to this entry as we are scheduled to acquire a new foster later today, one with special needs that make her very suitable for this house. More on that when it happens…

The joys and lessons of 2020

I know 2020 dealt a lot of people a bad hand at cards, so to speak, and I know so many people have suffered— loved ones lost, food insecurity, unemployment, instability, break-ups.

I naively believe every year will “be a good year” or a better year… but let’s talk Turkey for a minute: I have a disability (cerebral palsy), I come from a certain socio-economic bracket that has made it difficult (but not impossible) for me to achieve long term financial stability, and my own job choices have often valued community, family and altruism over traditionally-defined middle class life.

2019 was the year I resumed my professional career after taking ten years “off” to raise my daughter. (I worked for Target for those 10 years and they gradually increased my part time hours to full time and so I opted to get paid a professional salary versus a retail wage if I were to put that many hours in.)

My husband and I separated in 2019. That was a huge change after 20 years, and it still pains me. My husband is one of the kindest people in the world, and while I still lament that we couldn’t fix our problems, the end had to come.

So what were the joys and lessons of 2020?

Let me share.

  • Cats. December 26, 2019 through late January 2020, the teenager trapped the feral kittens born under our neighbors porch. We kept two of them. Taming feral kittens gave us so much reward. And led to us working with FURR. Our fostering career has involved 12 kittens so far, in seven months. And I cannot tell you how much I love having babies around all the time. On days I don’t want to get out of bed, I do for them.
  • Birds. I met Nala on December 28, 2019 and brought her home in mid-January. By dealing with this obstinate Goffin’s cockatoo, I learned a lot of patience. And the best way to top being “a crazy cat lady” is to be the crazy cat lady with birds. And my parakeets had babies for Christmas 2020. I have three chicks that I have seen grow daily.
  • Professional and personal growth. I found myself crying at my desk more often than I like to admit in 2020. It became apparent by the end of January that my boss was an incredibly toxic person. At the same token, I learned so much from her that when she dismissed me during the pandemic, I could use those new skills to help a young nonprofit grow. Between my original job and my volunteer work with new nonprofits, I showcased this knowledge to steer these organizations to grants. And the success rates for grants, publication of an first-ever annual report, and various media placements throughout the Lehigh Valley was exhilarating.
  • Expanding family. As my faithful readers may know, I have a second teenager staying with me. This teenager has turned our lives upside down, but has shared in our joys and tribulations during the last four months. I always wanted a larger family— and I got it this year: a menagerie of birds, cats and teenagers. It’s been amazing to share our joys and traditions with someone and see my daughter react to no longer being an only child.
  • New attitude toward challenges. I am always the person you can count on when you need someone. So people don’t realize that I am often terrified and insecure. Being “alone” and a single custodial parent has gotten me over that. I had five months with no income and I lived on the $4500 I had in savings. I ended up in the hospital with a cat bite during that time period and it was such a great learning experience. I learned a lot about myself, my neighbors, my friends, and how amazing teenager #1 really is. And then I finally get unemployment after I get my new job at Stitch Fix. I promptly use it to pay off some of my medical bills and a few living expenses I had put on my American Express.
  • We will move beyond Covid. I finally got a job and three weeks in, I contract Covid-19. That whole experience was something, but again— I learned to ask friends, neighbors and family for help. And that GrubHub gift certificate I received during the summer months sure came in handy. This whole pandemic world has me mapping out whom I would recruit for my squad in a real catastrophe.

Maybe I’m just weird— but I see a lot of hope and triumph emerging from struggle. Cheers to 2021.

Those crazy fools got more kittens!

Today we made a very difficult decision regarding the fate of one of our Greek Pride kittens, that we are fostering for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Hades, the little black cat who bit me and sent me to the hospital, is inquisitive but hides most of the time. She now has caught ringworm from her brother Hermes, so we crated her.

Hades

Even in the crate, we can’t get the anti-fungal cream on her.

Video: Zeus proctecting Hades

The complete opposite of her sister, Zeus (the runt!!) loves people and runs into any situation to protect her siblings.

With a heavy heart, the teenager (#1) called our FURR foster godmother and asked if she could help us determine if Hades behavior was based in fear or aggression.

Together we decided that Hades is a female cat who will always feel trapped and cornered in a home environment and would do better as a barn cat.

In more optimistic news, Zeus and Apollo will be returning to Petsmart this weekend for their second adoption fair and may head to an in-store habitat to increase their visibility.

And we’re working on teaching Hermes to cuddle. He’s been the sickest of this group so poor guy has spent most of his life getting scruffed and having medicine applied: first antibiotics and eye cream, then ringworm cream on muzzle and belly.

Onto the insane news, we got MORE kittens! This will be our second set, trapped this morning, and will be named after Roman Gods.

Introducing… drum roll please… The Roman Pride… YouTube video of new kittens

An overdue nonprofit round up

The last several weeks have featured a bevy of local non profit workshops and presentations.

Two of which happened last Wednesday night— the second in the Yes! Empowerment Series from the YWCA of Bethlehem and a panel on Quality of Life Women’s Issues hosted by American Association of University Women Easton Branch featuring Megan Lago (who coincidentally is my neighbor), the communications director for Lisa Boscola; Janice Thomas, homeless services director for Third Street Alliance for Women and Children; and my former colleague Antoinette Cavaliere (pictured below), program director for ProJeCt of Easton.

It’s energizing that local non profits can interact with each other and the public so fluidly and easily through social media and video conferencing platforms.

The focus of the AAUW panel was the problems facing families during the pandemic, which many of them seemed to revert to age old problems like lack of education and domestic violence.

This week’s YWCA session was on giving and receiving feedback, another interesting reflection on how we communicate and interact with others.

Then I opened my LinkedIn to discover that the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley featured a photo of me, my colleagues and one of our Women United supporters on their LinkedIn post to promote their upcoming Women United event.

That was certainly a wonderful start to the day.

A night contemplating white privilege

Last night I stayed up late and joined a Zoom call at 10 pm Eastern Time sponsored by the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center in Seattle. The theme for this social justice “cafe” was “white privilege.”

I love to see what other nonprofits are doing to promote racial and social justice, and more importantly, how they foster discussion on important topics.

So, I picked this Zoom, in part, because the facilitator is the sister of the matriarch of The Velez Family, dear dear friends of mine. It’s so amazing to attend an event where you know the people running it have something impactful to say and come from a diverse background.

And I got to socialize with folks from the West Coast!

Sam opening the session

The really, really neat part of this discussion wasn’t the fact that it covered a very important topic—oh no! The wonderful part of this discussion is that the host organization has designed the materials as a “kit” to allow meaningful conversations that can be reproduced among various groups.

The reflections, questions and materials promote open dialogue of various perspectives and hopefully will challenge the participants to have a better understanding of how race-based privilege, unintentional/ socially ingrained bias and ancient laws/codes all still exist and prevent society from truly “moving on” or working together.

I encourage you if you need resources to launch discussions of social justice, explore this nonprofit’s web site: International Peace & Justice Center. They are a faith-based group, but they recognize that everyone has a different spirituality.

Their web site opens with calling racism a sin. And even though I am not a Christian, I will be the first to agree that racism is a sin. Especially now. It’s 2020. Humanity should be ashamed at how we treat one another.

Inspired by Vu Le, Nonprofit AF

I attended a Zoom Meeting today with Vu Le of Nonprofit AF hosted by The Gruvin Foundation. Now I know it seems odd for a writer and communicator from the Lehigh Valley to spend time with a foundation focused on Ocean County, N.J., but I had a hunch Vu Le would have a message that transcended geography.

But before I get how right I was, let me celebrate the fact that I attended the meeting in true 2020 remote work fashion—

My Zoom Face

While below the waist, I spotted pajamas.

Let me just say that Vu Le speaks the truth and boldly proclaims what those of us who rely on traditional nonprofit institutions to employ us cannot say.

It’s time for the nonprofit sector to be bolder and more assertive.

Vu Le, Nonprofit AF

He so eloquently described what could be improved about the nonprofit sector. From the basic concepts such as fundraisers should not be judged on how much money they bring in and we should reflect upon the greatest needs in the community versus pushing our own mission.

Le advocates for a change in the ecosystem so that nonprofits stop functioning in silos and foundations and philanthropists stop generating mistrust and wasting time and resources.

For instance, Le reminds us all that GRANT PROPOSALS are a WASTE OF TIME since most never get funded. He poses the question— what if nonprofits employed the same tactics as funders?

A hungry family comes to the food pantry. Before they receive food they have to prepare the following:

  1. Compose an essay detailing how hungry they are.
  2. Include a logic model of exactly how all food will be used.
  3. Prepare outcomes of how this food will benefit your children.

We don’t do that, right?

So, Le asks, why do funders do it to us?

He compares the current nonprofit environment to The Hunger Games and like the book series, he challenges those in the sector to end the game and take down the system.

Vu Le speaking, hosted by Gruvin Foundation

Some more of his simple but mind blowing, completely logical ideas to improve inequality in this country:

  • The “easiest” way to fix society is to elect more women of color. It’s the only way to balance the voice is old white men.
  • The wealthy need to pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Remove corporate influence from politics.
  • Change the two-sided narrative so it’s harder to argue.

Then he reminded us all of this fact: If most social injustice and issues that nonprofits seek to correct effect primarily people of color, why is it that typically…

Non profit boards are white

Non profit staff is white

Donors are white

So white people should allow more people of color decision-making capacity in programs to benefit them. To continue to paraphrase Le, white folks need to stop taking jobs as executive directors for programs that don’t have any impact on white people.

And if funders are only participating in philanthropy to receive the tax breaks, they need to accept that the money is no longer theirs. They need to allow those communities facing the issues at hand to make decisions on how it is spent.

And one of the best ways to promote change in the sector is to encourage funders to give general operating expense funds and let the people doing the work decide where it is needed.

Again, these ideas are not mine but belong to Vu Le of the blog “Nonprofit AF.”

Saturday morning silly

First, let me say— hats off to the legendary Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who passed away yesterday at the age of 87. Her time on the Supreme Court, her legacy and the documentary film on her life, RBG, have touched millions of people— male and female—who may or may not know how her thoughts and actions have influenced their lives.

My posting lately has been inconsistent because I have been finishing some grants and the annual report for ASPIRE to Autonomy, Inc. The former I must give credit to my amazing interns Kayla and Sarah, and the latter is in the hands of my talented graphic designer (and partner in crime) Gayle.

Who else would take it in stride when I jokingly send photos like this (below) for the annual report and understand my hastily scrawled notes?

In the midst of it all, I’m still looking for a job, dealing with paperwork, adapting to hybrid school and ever present teenagers (who truly bring laughter and vibrancy into my life), socializing the foster kittens, developing a routine for the sassy cockatoo, battling the teen-and-pet laundry mountain, and collecting hospital bills. And poorly trying to find time and energy to improve my own health and return to weight training.

But this is a Saturday Silly Post!

So random sillies…

Yesterday Darnell popped over to finalize some projects for ASPIRE. He got hungry for a sandwich so I recommended my non-downtown spot. If you are in downtown Easton, the best spot for a sandwich is Josie’s New York Deli.

But when you’re not downtown, the place to go for a sandwich is Park Avenue Market. But they are slow. It takes them forever to make a hoagie. But they are pieces of art.

Darnell had his mind blown by their Dietz and Watson Bacon Lovers Turkey Breast and Bacon Lovers cheddar.

I tried the seafood salad with the dill havarti and shared it with the teenager. But the teenager was in a bit of an impatient frenzy because her Universal Yums box from Colombia came. So, Darnell was kind enough to film our unboxing video.

Colombia Universal Yums unboxing

In addition, I got my Ipsy bag, which had a tiny Tarte mascara (the cutest mascara I’ve ever seen), some color correction crème, and a day-to-night eyeshadow palette very similar to my all time favorite but darker shades so I offered that to the teenager. Her skin tone is darker than mine and I thought it would suit her well.

I’m really tempted to upgrade to the Glam Bag Plus.

And finally, on Thursday, my creative friend Joan came over and asked Nan to join us, so when I went to get Nan we went to Dunkin Donuts since the weather has changed to brisk Autumn. And we got her opinion on the new stuffed bagel minis.

Nan’s review: Nan’s review of stuffed bagel minis

And if you missed the teenager and I in our earlier review: New Dunkin stuffed bagel minis

Remember folks— the fun is in the little things.