In my last Bulletin in August, I said I hoped my subscribers would understand if I needed to take a break from publishing my Bulletin for a couple of months to focus on other things I needed to do. But truth be told, I haven’t done a lick of serious writing or work on my website and book-in-progress since late October.
That’s when I finally admitted to myself that I’d pushed myself so hard this year trying to build a new website that I was once again spang against the wall of burnout. To make matters worse, in August my beloved cat, Charlee, developed a medical problem that couldn’t be fixed with medication or surgery. That literally threw me over the edge emotionally, and it took me six weeks to come to terms with the fact that I had to bring her sweet life to an end on September 21.
I’ve written a lot about dealing with burnout in my various books and articles, so I know how to deal with it: I have to step back from what caused the problem to gain new perspective on what’s really important, and then take appropriate steps to get myself back on track. This experience has reminded me that anyone can burn out from time to time for any number of reasons or life circumstances. And it’s doubly hard when it happens during the holidays.
I’ve been watching a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies this season, and a remark by one character rang a bell when he said, “Why is it that the most magical time of the year is also the time when life gets so crazy?” I was surprised to learn in this study that one out of three people get “holiday burnout” before Christmas. I hope you’re not one of the three . . .
The Emotional Cost of Losing a Pet
You may not like cats, but if you’ve ever loved a pet, you know how hard it is to lose them. Charlee was little more than a year old when I adopted her from the Humane Society shortly after Harry died in 2005, and her companionship made all the difference in my ability to be content as a widow. My loneliness vanished as soon as I brought this little furry-tailed charmer into my home. It was only natural for me to write about Charlee on my website and share photos of her (including my favorite Christmas snapshots) here.
Wrapping my arms around Charlee and saying goodbye to her was doubly hard for me because I also found myself remembering the day I’d held Ginger in my arms as the vet brought her life to an end. (You may recall that Ginger is the dog I’m now writing a book about, the one Harry and I rescued in the woods of Missouri in the seventies. See my HOME page for more info.)
Suddenly without my long-time feline companion, I tried to bury myself in work once again but had no heart for it. I’d talked to Charlee every day for fourteen years, and without her in my life, I quickly began to feel lonely for someone to talk to, to love, to care for. So in October when my sisters urged me to come to California for a vacation, I jumped at the chance. Nothing makes me happier than spending quality time with my two wonderful sisters and their families, and I looked forward to putting work completely out of my mind for awhile. I was also happy to leave Naperville on November 5 because fall was interrupted by an early blast of winter that delivered two snows to the Chicagoland area before Halloween, something that has happened only seven times since 1871. In fact, 2019 will go down in the record book as the snowiest Halloween in Chicago history.
My whole family lives in California, and visits with them have always been rare, so my time with them gave me an abundance of peace and joy, plus time to reflect on my life as a whole and my need to find a better balance between my work and personal life as I continue to work in my older age and write and publish more books. As many of you know, being with family and friends is the best antidote for whatever may ail you. Sister Mollie told me when I left that the tired, worn-out woman she had picked up at the airport was totally different from the relaxed and vibrant one she was sending back to Chicago ten days later.
My Christmas Cat: A Godwink Story
Once home, work was still the last thing on my mind because while in California I’d talked to every cat-loving member of my family about my emotional need to adopt another rescue cat as soon as possible. Many amusing conversations resulted as everyone gave me advice about what kind of cat to adopt (breed, male, female, age, color, etc.), what to feed them, and especially the problems and medical issues I might have with a new cat in comparison to Charlee.
I’m now journaling the story of the amazing and beautiful gray cat named Ivy that I adopted on December 3 and immediately renamed Liza (a shortening of my mother’s middle name of Eliza). Estimated to be about 2-1/2 years old, she was spotted under someone’s porch in September shortly after she’d given birth to three kittens. When the homeowner confirmed this was an “outdoors cat” and that she had no interest in it or the kittens, the “rescuer” went back that night and took mama and her babies to a local pet shelter whose owner just happened to work part time at the animal clinic I’d chosen to euthanize Charlee.
I would later learn that the morning I was saying my final goodbye to her, Ivy was in the clinic’s reception area in a cage with her kittens, waiting to be adopted. The friend who went with me that day was playing with them while I was crying in the treatment room as Charlee took her last breath. I never looked at that cat when I left; just wanted to take Charlee home for burial in the little garden under my kitchen window.
On November 25, some two months later, I awoke with the thought that I needed to go back to the animal clinic that day to thank them for their kindness in helping me give Charlee a peaceful and painless death. I also wanted to tell them I was planning to adopt a new cat and was curious to know how they worked with the Humane Society since I wanted them to be my new vet. When I asked if they happened to have any new cats they were preparing for adoption, they pointed to the cat on the reception desk’s counter that was begging to be petted and told me Ivy’s rescue story.
Ivy was so quiet, laid-back, and friendly that while waiting for someone to adopt her, the clinic had given her the run of the whole place, and now she was their unofficial greeter for everyone that walked in the door. Nothing bothered her; she loved everyone, and clearly was seeking love in return. I was immediately drawn to this cat because she reminded me of the gray cat I’d had as a child that liked to sit in my lap when I played the piano. I learned someone had been thinking about adopting this cat for three weeks, but I'd be considered if I was interested in her. So I went back the next day and spent half an hour with her in a private room to be sure she liked me as much as I liked her. Then I made my case for letting me adopt her instead of the teenage boy that wanted her (and only if she was declawed) because I could give her love and attention 24/7 as long as she lived. And this was an important consideration since I was told Ivy had probably lived outdoors all her life and seemed to need human contact.
Now you might call it a “coincidence” that this cat was still there when I was finally ready two months later to get another cat—and that I “just happened” to feel the need to visit the clinic that particular day—but to me this was clearly a Godwink. (Definition: An event or personal experience, often identified as coincidence, so astonishing that it is seen as a sign of divine intervention, especially when perceived as the answer to a prayer.) And yes, I did pray about this, asking God to pick the right cat for me and let me know when I found it.
I felt as if my Lord had been saving this cat especially for me all the while I was in California, and after a long week of waiting to see if I'd been selected to adopt Ivy, my Christmas wish came true on December 3. I was told she had been spayed three days earlier and was well enough for me to come and get her that afternoon. As excited as a mother with a new baby, I devoted the next five days to Liza, staying in one room with her until she began to feel comfortable with me and her new surroundings. My stress level dropped to zero that week as my happiness meter shot to the moon. Liza quickly learned her new name and immediately began to let me know how happy she was to be with me. I could write reams about her now, but I’ll save this story for my new website.
Suffice it to say that Liza has already proven that she will be as sweet a companion for me as Charlee was. Like Charlee, she seems to have no bad habits and is very obedient. And she is giving me something Charlee could never bring herself to do, which is sit in my lap—thankfully not while I’m at the computer, but in the evening when I want to curl up with a book or movie and in the morning when I want a little snuggle in bed. I've found there’s nothing like petting a cat (or a dog) to lower my stress level at any time of the day.
Above: So far, Liza seems to love my bed better than any of the special soft beds I had waiting for her. But the photo below suggests she may be keeping me company in my office from time to time. The first time she stepped into the basket Charlee also loved, she literally dropped into it with what seemed like a cat sigh of satisfaction.
I couldn’t have wished for a better Christmas present, and I like to think that finding a home with me was like Christmas to Liza, who surely had a challenging life before we met. (Certainly she had to be “street smart” to survive living outdoors in Chicago’s weather for even one year.)
Thanks to everyone who took the time to write to me this past year. I value your friendship and encouragement more than I can say. I’m sure some of you have had a difficult year for one reason or another, often with too much on your plate. I’ve had many difficult years in the past, too, but I learned long ago that asking God for help to get through those times made all the difference between being discouraged or content, even joyful, in any circumstance. Right now, life is very good for me, but the next time I find myself with more than I can handle, I’ll call on the Lord for help, and my family and friends as well. This verse has always given me comfort:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
I pray all of you will have a peaceful and joyful Christmas—or a blessed Hanukkah, as the case may be—and that this will be a time of renewed hope and a strengthening of your faith. If you are having difficulty seeing the wonder of God in your life or the world at large, I pray you will be loved and encouraged by family and friends this most special season of the year. And if you feel lonely and don’t have a pet, I can guarantee that bringing a rescue cat or dog into your life will be one of the best things you’ll ever do for yourself.
May your New Year be bright with surprising opportunities, small miracles, and success in your chosen endeavors. As always, I look forward to another year with hope, expectation, and thanksgiving for all I’ve been given, and I hope you can do the same.
“May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
“Who can add to Christmas?
The perfect motive is that God so loved the world.
The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son.
The only requirement is to believe in Him.
The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”
- Corrie Ten Boom
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