Peace

Check this article out on my new blog page.

The hour before sunset is my favorite time of day. This is when I feel a pull to drive to the Cape beach or plant myself on the sidewalk outside our front door. There I sit with five cats lounging beside me, all of us silent. The sky is filled with hues of yellow, pink, orange, and blue. Palm trees wave in the wind. A dove coos. I am grateful. I find that silence heals me from the clutter of life.

Here are the words of Sue Monk Kidd taken from her book, FIRSTLIGHT.

There is an extraordinary need in our lives for silence. The constant noise and chatter, internal and external, causes us to lose touch with the center of our being. When that happens, we become caught in all kinds of unimportant things. We suffer from this noise. Many of us even cling to this pollution of noise because it drowns out painful hungers inside. There is an old contemplative saying: “If you cannot improve the silence, do not speak.”

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Busch Gardens Fabulous to First Day Blues

Friday was a great day. We woke early, hit the road, and arrived at Busch Gardens before noon.

I prefer not to be dropped from hundreds of feet and jolted and shaken and turned upside down. However, the rest of my family finds it entertaining. Here I am taking a picture of them while they’re waving at me and screaming, “mom!” Funny thing was, I never heard them, was completely oblivious, snapped the shot because it was something to do. Imagine my surprise when I uploaded my pictures. And they laughed at me for not hearing them. Ha, I showed them. Or actually I will show them when they read this.

Montu 3.85 G's!

The boys put up with me peacefully watching the animals and taking hundreds of pictures. Here’s one of my favorites. Probably because she wandered away from the group and did her own thing. I can relate.

Elephants

Did you know some elephants like to dance? I saw it with my own eyes. An elephant swaying to the Busch Gardens soundtrack. I wanted to take video but my camera battery decided it was too worn out. Sitting on the curb, his hand on his chin, my husband interrupted my zen like state with,”they should be playing ___g ____s (that famous AC/DC – Ozzy Osbourne song.) Now that would be funny.” He got a big laugh from teenage son and two glares from me and daughter. See what I’m going to have to live with when the only other female in the house leaves for college? I’m in trouble. Serious trouble.

We found our way to the kangaroos and wallabies after getting thoroughly soaked. You would think after all of these years of living through Florida summers I would have been prepared for the afternoon rain. Nope. We didn’t even take cover. Just provided entertainment for the intelligent guests of Busch Gardens who stood under awnings and umbrellas.

It had been many years since we’d visited Busch Gardens. We used to go every summer when the kids were little. Memories were around every corner. Like this…

Which is now this…

When my son grabbed his stomach and squinted his eyes, we knew he had enough rollercoaster rides for one day. Luckily our hotel was across the street. Unluckily, none of us thought to pack more than one change of clothes in case we got wet. Dinner was a bit uncomfortable. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sopping socks and sneakers.

You know how everyone says that time flies and you get so sick of hearing it and just want to say please come up with a new phrase that ones been done already! Well, I think people say it because they have children graduating and they don’t feel any older and they are trying to figure out how the little baby they held in their arms has grown into the young adult that will soon be saying good-bye. Ouch!

I have two graduates this school year, one from twelfth grade and one from eighth. Monday morning thunder could be heard for miles. Students all over Lee County were waking before dawn to lightning flashes and pouring rain. The trees were happy but these two… not so much. August eigth was way too early to be the first day of school. Of course they won’t think that in May but that’s ten months from now which seems like forever to a teenager. Ten months to a mom can feel like tomorrow because time flies. I mean, time insists upon change whether we are ready or not. So ready or not I’m venturing into my daughter’s last full school year at home with her family. Ouch!

Puerto Rico and 100th Post!

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  • Proud people eager to share their culture.
  • Under my feet, brick streets, Old San Juan.
  • El Yunque Rainforest, lush, wet, enchanting.
  • Reading on the beach, plump clouds hovering over aqua waves.
  • Tanned bodies scurrying, sun to rain to sun in minutes.
  • Ordering Mofungo surrounded by tourists venturing off their ship.
  • Rum! Free admission and free samples at the Bacardi Distillery.
  • In awe of the two fortresses, El Morro and San Cristobal.
  • Coque frogs sing through the night.
  • Once only a name, now an island memory and a longing to return to:

PUERTO RICO

http://www.saveagato.org/About_Us.html

Open The Door

Everyday I drive to the end of our street, stop at the sign and glance to my right. There on a lanai in a tall metal cage is a beautiful Blue and Gold Macaw. Tied to the bars of his cage is a toddler’s busy box. He sits on his perch silent.

Surrounded by bars on a beautiful spring day he listens to the calls of the gulls, doves and osprey around him. Is he happy? His existence mind-numbing. My heart clenches every time I see him. Trapped. He’s blessed with wings that have a span of three and half feet, intelligence, thirty to fifty years of life and beautiful bright yellow and blue feathers. But he must wait for someone to open his cage.

How lucky am I that I don’t have to wait for anyone to set me free. If I choose to live my life following the same habits and patterns am I no different from the trapped Macaw?

I am rereading Sue Monk Kidd’s, FirstLight. It’s one of my favorite books. These are her beautiful words. The most gracious and courageous gift we can offer the world is our authenticity, our uniqueness, the expression of our true selves.

The Lonely Dog

All week as I sat at my computer editing MYSTIC, I listened to a howling, whining dog from across the canal. From early morning until mid afternoon, this dog was determined to let the neighbors know of his loneliness.

The Cape has many empty houses. I worried that maybe he was abandoned and starving. A group of trees blocked my view of where I thought the howling was coming from. Refusing to close my window because soon our air conditioning will replace our fresh air, I began talking to the dog in between chapters. “I hear you. It’s okay.” He would quiet down.

Finally, I decided to act. I drove to the house where I thought he was and rang the doorbell. No answer and no barking. Strange. I gave up and continued with my errands.

Later that night, the howling started again. I made my family stop eating dinner and listen. Where was it coming from? I explained my concern. This dog could be in trouble. I asked my husband to drive around with me and search. After over twenty years together he knew better than to try to convince me the dog was okay. “Let’s go.”

We drove up and down streets, parking in empty lots, listening for his howls. I realized that with all the time I had spent writing I could identify all the dogs in our neighborhood not by their names but by their bark. My friend across the canal was silent.

The sun had set. We parked in the empty lot next to the original house where I first believed the dog lived. We found him! Chained up, with access to an open patio and a backyard. Big, beautiful, fat,Weimaraner. He greeted us with only a wag of his tail, as if he recognized my voice. His food dish was full and his water dish empty. A hose sat next to his dish. We filled it up. He was safe so we said goodbye.

This morning my Weimaraner friend is not calling out to me. Maybe his owners are home, maybe he is satisfied because his water dish is full, or maybe he just needed to know that someone was out there and someone heard his cries. It makes me wonder how many people feel the same.

Graceling Cat



The beautiful cat we found in the Chili’s parking lot two days before Christmas has made herself quite comfortable in my bedroom and bathroom. She has no desire to explore the house. She simply greets me with a nod and a closed mouth meow when I enter her territory. It’s as if we have been roommates forever.

I call her the Graceling Cat after Kristin Cashore’s novels Graceling and Fire. She has one yellow eye and one blue eye. Recently I discovered her Grace. (A Grace is a special ability those with mismatched eyes possess. Read the books, they’re terrific.)

Graceling Cat has made her napping place on the ledge of my tub. It’s long and wide, perfect for displaying knick-knacks or supporting a lazy cat. Before she arrived, I had placed two tiles decorated by my children in their early elementary years, and a framed photo neatly on the ledge. This apparently was not acceptable to Graceling Cat. Every afternoon I would walk into my bathroom and find my framed picture knocked down. I’d set it back up and move it to give her more space. She’d knock it over again. I’d set it back up. This went on for at least two weeks.

Then one day I found the picture upside down facing the wall. I looked at her, shook my head, brushed it off and repositioned it even further down the ledge. The tiles, sitting on their tiny easel, remained untouched.

The very next day, I discovered my picture face down in the middle of my tub. I gave up. “Fine, you win.” She ignored me like cats do. I picked up the frame and gazed at the three smiling faces staring back at me. This was one of my favorite photos. Kai, Arielle and Eric standing on a small cement bridge over a stream on the side of a mountain surrounded by lush greenery. It was our first real family vacation. We rented a cabin in the Smoky Mountains and I took the picture during a day long hike. I flipped the picture over. In ink was written 7/03. It was taken four months before the accident that left Arielle paralyzed.

I asked myself why I had placed this picture in a spot where I would see it every day. The answer came quickly. It’s not to mourn what was lost but to remember to appreciate what is. Our family has been blessed with the knowledge that life can change at any moment.

During these same few weeks of back and forth with the picture and Graceling Cat, I had been working on a poem. I know nothing of poetry, I rarely read poetry, but sometimes phrases blink in my mind and I must write them down immediately or they will get lost in my mental “to do” lists. I was loading groceries into the car one day when two words flashed through my mind. Be Bold. I jumped in the front seat and scribbled them down on a piece of envelope. Several days later, the words flashed back and I sat down and listened to the silence. This is what I wrote.

When Life’s path seems long and no different from the day before-Be Bold.

When you’re standing on the line of indecision, afraid-Be Bold.

When you see suffering and feel compassion-Be Bold.

We are not the circumstances that drift across our path or the thoughts that mask our true selves. Be Bold-Let Go!

The day I finished the poem is the day I found the picture upside down in the tub. I realized that the two were connected and my Graceling Cat had helped me put the pieces together and understand the meaning hidden in a picture I had gazed upon for years. A picture that will always remind me to-Be Bold.

Can’t You Smell That Smell… Not Anymore!

Bella keeps the boys in line.

I am doing the happy dance. No, not because I have signed with an agent, almost as good-I have discovered a formula that gets rid of the cat pee smell. After years of throwing away bathroom mats, backpacks and bedspreads and spending hours searching for the perfect product to spray or pour on the contaminated area, I am joyous to report that I have found the magic solution via the internet.

One of my five little darlings decided to use my couch as a litter box. My first thought was who was going to help me carry the couch to curb. It was ten years old anyway, perhaps it was time to redecorate. My husband didn’t feel the same way. Any good wife knows she must choose her battles wisely. And any money saved on preserving our odoriferous couch could be spent on a new Kindle or a writing conference in New York City. So, to the internet I went and actually typed in- How To Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell. To my surprise up popped http://www.getridofthings.com/get-rid-of-cat-urine.htm

First, I laughed because the author of the blog had also carried a backpack that smelled funny. Then I bought all of the ingredients and decided I didn’t care if the hydrogen peroxide discolored my couch. I would rather have a good smelling couch than a pretty one. I poured the concoction over the cushions, scrubbed, and waited.

This morning I came downstairs and had a sudden urge to color Easter eggs. The pungent smell of vinegar tickled my nose. I grabbed the vacuum and got to work. My expectations were low. In twenty years of sharing my home with cats, nothing has ever worked to get rid of that horrid smell. I turned off the vacuum, pulled my hair back and leaned over to take a whiff. Nothing. I smelled nothing. I breathed in again. Gone! Victory! The smell had been defeated. My couch was saved. I high fived my husband and did my happy dance. Maybe now I can start planning my trip to New York City.

Racing For Their Lives

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I remember the day I first saw her. The barn doors opened and rows of cages held long nosed, pointy eared dogs eager to be set free. How was I going to choose just one?
Luckily, the kind woman who cared for all the greyhounds, took one shy brindle female from her cage and introduced her to me. “This is Anastasia.” I ran my hand along her bony spine, took the leash climbed into my two door, Pontiac and headed home.

I was told Anna was approximately three to five years old. She was an ex-racer. Numbers that identified her previous owner and birth date were tattooed in her ear. Anna’s life had been spent in a cage. She joined our family in our small two bedroom home in 1995. Arielle was two years old. Anna was the best dog I have ever had the joy of knowing and perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to write about her. She has been gone for over two years and thoughts of her bring a tinge of longing to feel her wet nose on my hand or see her run one last time.

Memories of Anna make me smile. Like the day Eric got the bright idea to put on a pair of roller blades and race with her on the leash-he forgot that Anna could stop instantly and he couldn’t. When they reached the end of the street, Eric dropped the leash and went flying and Anna stood and looked at him quizzically. I laughed.

Then there was the time I made paper mache Easter eggs. I tied all the balloons covered in paper mache outside on our porch to dry. Several hours later, I found only strings dangling from my chairs. Anna had eaten all of them. Colorful pieces of balloon decorated my patio. I should have known better because a year earlier we woke Easter morning to find all of our hidden decorated hard-boiled eggs, gone. Anna.

Anna’s favorite activity was sleeping. I had read that greyhounds sleep up to seventy percent of a day and Anna certainly proved that correct. She could curl her bony body up on a single couch cushion and stay there for hours even with little hands poking her chest and pulling on her ears. One day, when I was eight months pregnant with Kai, I decided to go for a half mile walk to the bagel store. I took Anna with me thinking she would enjoy a little outing. On the way home she directed me to a grassy area along the sidewalk. When I walked her over onto the grass, she plopped down. She was done with our little walk. There I stood with my huge belly and napping greyhound on the side of the road.

Before Anna died, I began to research greyhound racing and Florida tracks. I was horrified at what I read. Thousands of greyhound puppies and ex-racers are killed every year. Litters of puppies are culled and the dogs that make it to the track often live in disgusting conditions. When owners cannot afford their care or do not have use for them sometimes they are destroyed inhumanely. One disturbing story tells of a man in Georgia who was paid to kill greyhounds illegally and then mysteriously died before he went to trial.

I made my own bumper sticker and put it on my car: Greyhounds For Pets-Not Profit. I believed that one day greyhound racing would be banned. But here it is fifteen years later and still thousands of greyhounds are killed for the sport. Personally, I cannot understand why as a society we need to abuse animals for profit when there are many other ways to gamble. Stick a quarter in a slot machine and know that no greyhounds were brutally slaughtered-it makes sense. I love living in Florida but I am ashamed of our greyhound tracks. I think there’s a better way for Florida to collect revenue. It’s time to think outside of the the cage.




K.D. Rausin

Cute Pet Pictures and Finishing a Novel

 

It all began in 2006 with a trip to the Chautauqua Institute. I had heard that Highlights had a wonderful week long program for writers. I wanted to learn more about writing for children. I drove from Michigan where I had been staying for the summer to New York and discovered the world of Chautauqua.

There have been times in my life when I see something and immediately get chills as if what I’m looking at is special but I don’t fully understand the significance it will have in my life. It happened when I first saw my husband walk across the lobby of our apartment building in Hollywood. It happened when I stood on a lot that wasn’t for sale and knew it was where I wanted to build our home. And it happened when I walked into the Chautauqua Institute.

There was a lot going on in my life at the time. Arielle had been injured three years earlier in a car accident. My marriage was not strong. I had been working an outrageous number of hours. Our family had been separated for four months while we took turns living between Florida and Michigan so Arielle could try an intense physical therapy program. I was exhausted, confused, keeping all emotions locked up tight, living day to day in constant busyness.

Chautauqua was life changing for me. I finally slowed down long enough to listen from within and discover my true path. Just like Billy Crystal in City Slickers, I went on a journey and found what was most important.

That week, I attended a class on writing fantasy novels. I sat, listened and became inspired. I remember thinking; I want to try it-why not? Looking back it’s easy to see why writing about a hero’s journey appealed to me. I was on my own journey.

Driving home from New York to Florida, I began to create my characters. I took notes along the way. I came home and got started. It took me from August 2006 to Aug. 27, 2008 to finish Mystic. It was 350 pages and over 72,000 words. I had been working full time, so most of my writing took place on the weekends. My family was very patient.

May of 2009 I attended a Highlights workshop with the same teacher who had originally inspired me, Patti Gauch. I brought Mystic, sat and listened again and realized I had a lot of rewriting to do.

I flew home inspired, posted notes that read- Energy, Obsession, Texture-on top of my computer, constant reminders of what I had learned. I worked almost everyday (I took a little vacation to North Carolina) from the end of May to Sunday October 18th. I rewrote Mystic. I cut over 80 pages and 17,000 words. Our family celebrated with banana splits.

Tomorrow I leave for the second half of my workshop in Boyd’s Mills, Pa. I don’t know what will happen with Mystic but I do know I will enjoy every minute of my workshop. There is something special that happens when a group of writers get together and share their passion for writing. I am the happiest and most peaceful I have ever been in my life and that’s what matters most.

 Here are chapters 1-16 with two of my favorite writing buddies- coffee and chocolate!

Bella was very happy for me!

Nahla’s snoring created the perfect background noise while I typed.

Mama Duck flew in to express her congratulations.Ollie was in awe.

Loss

Billy’s Story

I listened to her peep and peck from the inside of her egg. I stared at her large slimy black body that emerged from the cracked shell. Now what? I scooped her up and held her close. I was a mom again and this time my baby had wings and webbed feet.

I don’t know why I felt such a need to put the egg in an incubator. Perhaps it was because I had watched so many duck eggs get eaten by predators. I thought I could intervene and help a life thrive. But Billy’s story does not have a happy ending. Maybe I was like the person who tries to help a butterfly emerge from a cocoon. They create more harm than good. Billy’s story left me questioning loss, and what the living learns from loving those who have past.

Billy was in our life for exactly eight weeks. In that time our whole family and some friends became attached to her. She required more care than any other animal I have ever had. I knew early on that I would never hatch another egg again or recommend that anyone have a duck for a pet. But in caring for her, I fell in love with her. All she had to do was start peeping and like a mother duck, I came running. My plan was that I would raise her until she could fly. Then, she would join the other ducks coming and going as she pleased.

When she was seven weeks old it was obvious to me that Billy wanted desperately to be outside. I put her on my large screened lanai, blocked off our doggie door and watched her throughout the day through our sliding glass doors. In the evening, I would let her waddle around our yard under my watchful eye and then bring her inside for the night. This worked perfectly until one horrible day in mid July.

If the spider web hadn’t hit me in the face and freaked me out, I would have put the doggie door in correctly. If I would have had more patience with my dog, I wouldn’t have felt the need to put him in the side yard. If I would have listened to that fleeting thought that reminded me the doggie door wasn’t attached all the way- If I wouldn’t have thought I knew better and there was no way my dog could bend plastic and squeeze through such a tiny space, Billy would still be here.

I saw my dog, Ollie, from upstairs. He was sitting at our sliding glass door whining. Suddenly I realized what had happened. He was on the lanai with Billy. I bolted downstairs and spotted her lifeless body on the ground. The same body I had just held and talked to. I couldn’t breathe. What had I done? I wanted everything to instantly rewind. Do over-I wanted a do over because this was never supposed to happen! I took good care of Billy. I had been so careful. I really didn’t think she was in danger. My daughter cried and cried. My son came downstairs, took one look, turned and walked away. Not a word. I tried to console my daughter. “It’s my fault, it’s all my fault, I never thought Ollie could get through the doggie door. Ollie peed all over the floor because he knew we were upset. He didn’t understand what was happening.

This was not like the time our old beloved Greyhound died. We had her for thirteen years and we knew it was coming. This was death at its worst-unexpected and could have been prevented. I felt the familiar numbness of my heart when I don’t want to face something. Like my son, I did not shed a tear. I felt the pain running through my veins and fogging my mind. I went into cleaning mode. I had to remove all traces of Billy from our house. For the next three hours I scrubbed our deck, cleaned and threw away her cage. And for the past several weeks I’ve been missing her and thinking about loss.

Last night while trying to fall a sleep I closed my eyes and suddenly I was sixteen years old sitting in my grandparent’s living room. Their voices clear, my grandfather’s blue recliner by the television, the smell of breaded zucchini frying in oil; it was as if it was yesterday. “Tell us about your day.” It wasn’t a dream, it was a memory filled with love. An ordinary day, but my grandparents understood how extraordinary it was. They knew about loss. At the time, I didn’t. Now, if I could only bring them back- I’d hug them and not want to let go, I’d spend every minute I could with them, I’d tell them how much they meant to me. Is this the purpose of loss? Is it in losing that we find true value and appreciation for life? Even after losing loved ones, do I remember what I have learned? Do I remember to value life and the life of those around me daily?

What did I learn from Billy? I learned that mother ducks should care for their ducklings, not humans. I learned that life is precious and sometimes things happen despite all our planning and good intentions. I learned that loss is a common thread that weaves through us all. Everyone deals with it in their own way and in their own time. I learned not to ask why but to seek wisdom and understanding. And above all, I learned that love like loss weaves through us, but love is the balm that soothes the pain that loss leaves behind.


Motherhood

Picture this, me in the shower, door propped open and a crying baby sitting in a bouncy seat distraught because he’s not in his mother’s arms. Jump ahead several years. Me in the shower, door propped open, a whining puppy, distraught because he’s not in his mother’s arms. Jump ahead several more years. I’m in the shower, door propped open, and a tiny duckling is peeping and peeping for her mother….me!

One day, I was vacuuming our living room and something outside caught my eye. It was Mama Duck laying another egg. She had laid over ten eggs and all them were destroyed within three days by a nocturnal predator. My heart couldn’t take it anymore. I found an incubator on eBay for thirty dollars, took the egg, and our journey began.

In between writing, cleaning, errands and two busy children, I turned a duck egg three to four times a day. I even played classical music for the egg. If I did it while pregnant with my children, why not an egg? The scientist in me wanted to see if eventually the music would have any impact on the duck. Perhaps music would aide in brain development, just like in humans. Perhaps I would hatch a duck with a very high IQ!

When our family went out of town, I found an egg sitter. keep in mind there was still some question as to whether the egg was fertile. Imagine taking an egg out of your refrigerator…. My husband and friends laughed at me. Of course the crazy cat lady would try to hatch a duck egg. If she had more land she’d have her own zoo! (I was named the crazy cat lady for always taking in strays.)

One afternoon while washing my hands, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something in the incubator move. I froze. Was it real? I took the plastic lid off the incubator and began talking to the egg. (Yes, along with classical music, I also talked to the egg.) It moved at the sound of my voice. I couldn’t believe it. There really was something inside. I ran to get my kids and the video camera. Every so often as we spoke, the egg would move. It was exhilarating. I wasn’t spending hours foolishly caring for a dud; I was caring for a life.

We waited and waited and nothing happened for several days. I worried that maybe I had done something wrong and the egg was never going to hatch. I went away to my writing workshop leaving my son in charge. I accepted that while I had cared for this egg for over forty days, it may never hatch. I had tried my best. I really wasn’t an expert on ducks.

When I called to say I was on my way home, my son told me the good news. There was a tiny hole in the egg. She was breaking out. I arrived home that evening and the hole was bigger. I could hear her peeping inside. We named her Billy. My daughter’s high school had just performed the musical Honk, and our friend Josh did a superior job portraying Billy, the adorable duckling. She would be named after him.

I stayed up with Billy and talked to her as she peeped and pecked. It was a long process. She pecked diligently from 9:00 pm. to 2:00am and finally at 2:00 am she hatched! Wow, there she was. I didn’t know what to do. I scooped her up in my arms and talked to her. Exhausted, I placed her in her plastic storage bin nest with water and longed for sleep. I couldn’t leave her alone after all she had just been through. My mind flashed to a sad video I had seen in a psychology class many years ago. It was an experiment with two baby monkeys. They both had a surrogate wire mother, but the experimenters put fur on one of the wire mothers. The baby who had the mother with fur thrived while the other did not. I rummaged in my closet. There sat the boxing gorilla someone had given me one Valentine’s Day. I placed him in her nest. She immediately climbed in the gorilla’s lap for comfort. It worked. She had a friend. I could go to bed.

I’ve spent the past three and a half weeks watching Billy grow. She’s adorable but she is also the messiest animal I have ever cared for. Her cage must be cleaned four times a day and her friend the gorilla gets washed more than her cage. She still sleeps with him. Well, she sleeps on him because if I sit him up, she will climb on his head and jump out of her cage. Her legs are strong and her webbed feet can grip just like a bird. (I was surprised.) I take her outdoors to socialize with the other ducks. She watches them from her spot between my feet.

School is out for the summer and last night Billy slept in my daughter’s room. This morning I asked, “How’s Billy?” She looked at me with tired eyes and said, “She got out of her cage in the middle of the night and pooped about thirty times all over my room AND she’s very loud!” She said this while cutting up tomatoes and spinach for Billy’s breakfast. I laughed. After she scolded me for laughing my daughter said, “I figured out a way to get Billy to eat all her spinach… chop it up very small and mix it in with the tomatoes.” I smiled. That’s motherhood, exhaustion, frustration, and an unexplainable love that will make you clean up poop, give up sleep, put yourself second, and smile like you’ve never smiled.

(Billy will be an only duck. Just as there are too many feral cats without homes and too many ex- racing greyhounds without homes, there are too many ducks with little room for a home.)






Life

I came home the afternoon of the 24th all smiles. I had it all planned. I was going to keep an organized journal with pictures and detailed notes of the eggs and Mama Duck. I was going to get pictures of the hatchlings breaking through their shells and following Mama Duck down the slope to the canal. I was going to take pictures every day as they grew and write notes on their duck behavior and communication. It was a perfect little plan in my mind.

We pulled in the driveway and Kai immediately ran to check by the front door. He returned with his eybrow’s furrowed. “Something ate the eggs.”  My heart sank. Poor Mama Duck. She had laid four beautiful eggs and now all that was left were cracked shells. She returned later that evening acting duck normal. I talked to her and watched her for signs of melancholy but it was as if nothing ever happened. It was me who was feeling sad and a bit frustrated. My perfect plan was ruined.

I was reminded of a parable Deepok Chopra told in his book, Fire In the Heart. It goes something like this.

A man lived in a village and loved two things, his son and his pony. One day the pony ran away. People in the village came to him and told him they were sorry for his misfortune and bad luck. He simply said, “It’s not over.”

A few days later the pony returned followed by a glorious white stallion. Everyone in the village came to see the beautiful creature and congratulated the man for his good fortune. The man simply said, “It’s not over.”

The man’s son went riding on the beautiful stallion, fell off and broke both his legs. Everyone in the village rushed to help and lamented over the son. They told the man he was veryunlucky. He said, “It’s not over.”

The next day the army came and recruited all the young males in the village to fight in the war. The man’s son could not go. Everyone in the village told him he was so fortunate to still have his son by his side. The man said, “It’s not over.”

The man represents our Soul, God, the Universe, … The villagers represent our mind. Events happen and our mind categorizes them as good or bad. We react with certain emotions according to our mind’s interpretation of these events. Life becomes a rollercoaster. I was elated when I saw the duck eggs and then devastated when they were destroyed. Mama Duck however was calm, going about her day as if everything would be fine. After watching Mama Duck for the past year with her previous ducklings, I found it hard to believe she was acting so normal. She had ten ducklings last year that she protected and communicated with. She was one busy Mama. Still her life consists of laying eight to sixteen eggs, having about half of them hatch and then watching her babies slowly disappear from predators. That’s why losing four eggs doesn’t seem to phase her. It’s simply life.

Many people believe things happen for a reason. It’s often words used to offer comfort when there is a tragedy. I’m still trying to figure this one out. I think life is a lot more complicated and I don’t feel comfortable telling people things happen for a reason. Yet this parable makes sense to me. Life is much more enjoyable when you’re peaceful. That I know.

So, I like Mama Duck went about my days as normal. And yesterday as I walked to my car, I noticed something white by my gutter.

   “It’s not over.”

Our Family is Growing!

I could tell who she was by her eyes. For the past year I have watched her waddle up to my front door with a trail of little ones following close behind. I call her Mama Duck.

Sunday afternoon I went outside and found her all alone sitting on my sidewalk. This was unusual since her family has grown quite big and even her babies, who now outweigh her still keep her company. “Hi Mama Duck. What are doing out here by yourself?” Yes, amazingly enough I find it easier to talk to animals and children than adults. I pulled out the hose to water our new tree when I noticed something white in our mulch. It was an egg! A big egg!

    Feb.22nd Mama Duck

Monday morning Kai and I left for school at 7:30. There was Mama Duck laying her second egg with the proud father guarding her. We tiptoed away and when I returned…..

 Feb. 23rd   They love
drinking our well water-even though the canal is steps away.

This morning we left earlier. By 7:00 am, this is what we saw…

 Feb. 24th   They are
all watching over the eggs.
 I took this picture an hour ago- 9:15 am Feb. 24th. When I went outside there was a different female duck near the nest. Mama Duck was further away in the yard. This leads me to wonder if they take turns sitting on the eggs. Curiously, Mama Duck seems to spend more time watching over her eggs than actually sitting on them. Today when I bent down to take these pictures she came right up to me, stared with her knowing eyes and then waddled over to the water dish as if she was showing me it was empty.

I didn’t mention that these are Muscovy Ducks. More to come on that later. For now the estimated due date is March 29th!

While all this excitement was happening down below on our porch, there were some watchful eyes up above.

Fern

I’m home….sweet home. This morning the kids are back in school and the house is quiet. I fed the cats to keep it that way.

Ideas ricochet in my mind. Where do I begin…editing, journaling, or a new adventure? Since today is volunteer with third graders day, I have chosen journaling. I’m cheating a bit and posting someone elses writing.  Kimberly Willis Holt :  http://apenandanest.blogspot.com/

Good news! It seems I have had two articles published. I received a check from Gannett Publications. Now, I am curious to find out which two articles and where they have been published. I’m putting my research skills to good use.

I read two good books last week- Crash by Jerry Spinelli and Tiger Rising by Kate Di Camillo- Both were excellent! Teachers, if you have any boy reluctant readers, give these books a try.

Gulls are gliding past my window, peeking in to see if I have any bread. They sit on my roof and wait. My writing buddy has returned once again and is bouncing on a thin branch staring into the canal.The ducks have increased in number and sit at my front door. Who knew ducks liked sharing their meals with cats. Mama duck will show up any day now with a trail of ducklings. She would lead them right into our house if we let her. Our dog sitter told us that the otters have found a way into our fence. I think they share a cramped home with the racoons. I have always wanted to be a Fern….now I am.

MY Writing Buddy Has Returned!

Saturday afternoon I was at the gym trying yet again to accomplish a nine minute mile on the treadmill when much to my dismay my MP3 player died. I was forced to look at the televisions hanging from the ceiling. There was some show featuring a man out in the wilderness trying to survive. He was making a guitar trap. Me being the true vegetarian that I am hoped the little mouse he was trying to catch would be smart enough not to get caught. Eat a berry and be done with it! Don’t kill poor little Mickey. Anyway, this man in the woods saidsomething about seeing your world in a different way can help you reach your goals. I knew this but it was a good slap in the face. Even though I turned my world up side down by deciding to write full time instead of teach full time, I was falling into a rut. I hate ruts!

Sunday morning I woke up and decided to skip my computer session and sit outside on my pool deck admiring nature. This is what all the German tourists that stay in the house next door do every day. They even wear bathing suits in seventy degree weather. “BRRRRR” My husband joined me and we sat and watched the sea gulls hover, anxiously waiting for the old woman to come out and feed them scraps. (Just like my Grandma used to do) I said to Eric, “I miss the Pelican that used to come and hang out in our canal. He hasn’t been around for at least four or five months. I loved watching him dive and splash into the water. I wish he would come back again.” My desk with my computer is in our spare bedroom. While I worked on my novel, I would gaze out the window and see my buddy flying, floating or splashing into our canal. Seeing him brought me peace.

Our family went about our day. Around noon, I was folding clothes and I looked out my bedroom sliding glass door. I saw something floating in the canal. It was too big to be a duck and too wide to be a heron. I went out on my upstairs deck. It was my buddy!

My Writing Buddy!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was as if he was saying…. “You called?”

Later that day, look who else showed up.

 He brought a friend. Now I’m doubly inspired.

This morning I spotted him fishing from the neighbor’s sea wall.

 

See the dot in the water? That’s a turtle watching him fish.

 These are my boys wondering why in world I’m taking pictures outside on a Monday morning and not upstairs typing away. (Edison, Bob, Max and Merlin) They are really watching Nahla and Ollie sniff around the canal. I know what they’re thinking…”Stupid dogs-don’t you know you’ll get all wet if you go in there?”

I was watching Book TV last evening. I’m hooked. First I watched the National Book Awards and I listened to Mark Doty talk about his editor and agent. He said “They love the way the word gives voice to the soul.”    That’s why I write and that’s why I gaze out my window and notice. When I stop noticing, I’m in a rut. I hate ruts!

Here’s to a rut free week and a HAPPY THANKSGIVING to EVERYONE!!! Class of 88- Thank you for finding me on Facebook. It’s been wonderful reconnecting with you.

K.D.Rausin

Send Us Your Cutest Names!


Everything I needed to know about life I learned from a stray kitten.

1. When you’re lost, be brave. The Universe will send help.

2. Trusting someone can be difficult but it will make your life a lot happier.

3. People will see your true beauty even when you look your worst.

4. Make some noise when you want to be recognized.

5. Love and love will be returned.

6. Change can be frightening. It’s okay to sit quietly and take it all in until you’re ready to investigate.

7. Don’t worry about anything. If you see an opportunity to pounce or play, take it!

My story begins several months ago when Eric and I were out to dinner. Eric says I have an unusual talent for spotting stray cats. I’m simply observant and unfortunately there arestray cats all over Cape Coral and Ft. Myers. It breaks my heart when I find them and I do all I can to catch them, fix them, and take care of them. Thus the name, The Crazy Cat Lady.

I looked out my window of the restaurant and saw a tiny kitten in the bushes. “Look!” Eric quietly shook his head because he knew what was coming. When he proposed many, many years ago he added into his proposal…  “and we can have as many pets as you want.”

We finished dinner and I asked for scraps to try and catch the kitten. I was surprised at the complacency of the restaurant personnel. They knew the kitten was out there and didn’t feel obligated to help it. I think they were under the misconception that a feral cat or kitten cannot be tamed. They brought me some scraps and Eric and I stood outside for at least an hour trying to catch this little kitten. Seeing our diligence inspired one of the restaurant hosts to join us and ask questions about ferral cats. Finally, the mosquitoes got the best of us and I knew this kitten was not going to allow us to catch him. Fortunately there was a little bit of landscaping around the restaurant to protect the kitten from traffic. I told the young man at the restaurant to keep feeding the kitten and eventually he would be able to catch him and care for him. This young man showed concern and I took that as a good sign.

Eric and I got into our car to go home. I felt defeated. I clung to the hope that the young man was kind hearted enough to help the tiny kitten he was going to see every day at work. Now, are you reading this Jack Canfield? I thought to myself….I’ll never know if that kitten gets the help it needs. Then I thought, I know it will and he will find a good home. It seemed like a far fetched wish or thought but I wanted to someday know that this kitten had found a loving home. I laughed at myself. How could that be possible? Faith…belief….positive thoughts…..call it what you will, but this is what happened.

Three months later I asked my son if he wanted to bring one of his friends from his previous school to the Skate Night at his new school. Of course he did so we picked him up and headed to BK (sorry Elena, they have veggie burgers) for a quick dinner. In the car, Kai’s friend Alec says, “We have a new cat. He used to live under the Bahama Breeze restaurant.” I couldn’t believe my ears. This was the kitten! Alec just blurted it out. We weren’t even talking about animals.How could that be possible?I took a deep breath and questioned Alec about his new cat. It really was the same kitten. I got my wish. I learned that this precious kitten had a good home. But wait….the story doesn’t end there….

We get to BK and go up to the counter. We are the only customers. Suddenly, I look over at the glass doors and there’s this tiny kitten meowing and raising it’s front paws on the door. See the cute face above. That’s her. We all go outside and she runs and hides in the bushes. Burger King is on 41, one of our busiest streets and there is only a small patch of dirt and bushes in front of the restaurant.I knew I had to catch this kitten or it would most likely get run over. It took some time and a hamburger, but the boys and I were successful. We got her into a box and brought her home.

She’s beautiful, shy, and yipee! uses a litter box. She’s living in Kai’s room until she’s ready to meet the rest of our zoo. If there’s anyone reading this who can offer her a lifetime loving home, please contact me. We already have five male cats who were once strays like her.
I do need suggestions for a name. So if your allergic or your house is full please send us some of your ideas for a name.You can leave a comment or email me at Kristarausin@earthlink.net.

I know my house is full of pets.I know it makes no sense to take on another mouth to feed and more vet bills. I know I will have to spend more time cleaning. But more importantly, I know that when an animal or another person needs help, I must act.

Today is Tuesday…Happy Veterans’ Day!…and it’s race day! That means I can have chocolate tonight. I’m going to need it after watching Elle race down a bridge in her racing chair. Crazy Kid! She loves it.

Fear- Is it real or imagined?

Last May we adopted a new family member. Arielle and Kai named him Ollie. He is an adorable mix between a Basset Hound and Cocker Spaniel with a smidgen of Chihuahua. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I knew nothing about taking care of puppies. I had always adopted older dogs from shelters. I had no idea puppies were so much work.

I always believed that dogs who growl or bite must have been abused by their owners. I thought all dogs were inherently happy creatures who loved all humans. (Man’s best friend!) I thought that if we showed Ollie love and kindness he would be a well adjusted, easy, people liking dog. Not so,Ollie has his own personality with a healthy dose of fear. How can this be? How can a puppy who has had a loving home be so fearful? You can see it in his eyes. There is a definite gaze of mistrust. I started wondering if he was a cow or a pig in a past life.

Any unique sound like the hair dryer or vacuum upsets him. At night when he wants to go outside, I have to turn all the lights on because he refuses to walk through a dark room. Once outside he refuses to go to our side yard. It’s dark.Ollie has a complicated relationship with Eric. One minute he jumps on him and wants to play and the next Eric is drenched in a fountain of urine from a submissive puppy lying on his back. Ollie insists on being by my side every second. I swear he suffers from separation anxiety if I try and escape for a few minutes. Ollie even learned how to open our bedroom door. He figured out that if he jumps up and hits the handle enough times, it eventually stays down and opens.

Crates always worked well for our older dogs. Not Ollie. The first crate he ripped the netting and escaped. The second crate was too big and he created a bathroom on the opposite end. The third crate he figured out how to open. Luckily, it’s only freedom he wants. Once out of the crate he’s very well behaved.

Naturally, since my theory on friendly dogs was shot, I started thinking about fear. Where does it come from? How does it affect our lives?
I realized that there were two types of fear in my life, imagined and real. For Ollie as far as I know, he only experiences real fear. He’s pleasant and care free until the moment I turn on the vaccuum or turn off the lights. But for me, there is a constant looming fear that hides in my imagination. The “What if…….” fear.

What if there’s a hurricane? What if I get cancer? What if we can’t pay all our bills? What if my daughter never walks again? What if …..
This fear is exhausting. It drains the joy right out of me. Wouldn’t it be better to be like Ollie?

Was there ever a time when I felt real fear? My answer was yes and it was a much different feeling. I was living in Los Angeles with my roommate Beth. Another friend of mine, Ann Marie was visiting from New Jersey with her two friends. The five of us were all getting ready to go out for the evening. There was a knock on the door. I thought it was our neighbor Bryan coming to talk to Beth. I opened the door without a second thought. A man stepped in and grabbed me. I remember yelling at him at first and then when he told me he had a gun in his backpack, I froze. He held me by the back of my neck and told me to search the apartment for money. Suddenly, my world was crystal clear. I was calm, I could sense his fear. I was aware of every second that passed. I instantly remembered my mother once telling me that if I ever was robbed, to just give them what they want-don’t try and fight. I didn’t know if he had a gun and I didn’t want to find out. I gave him my high school class ring that I loved and $300.00 of Beth’s savings. Luckily, the phone rang and he let me answer it. I tried to give the casting director on the other end a cryptic message. She sensed something was wrong. So did he and he bolted. Years later when Ann Marie and I talked about what happened she commented on how calm I was. Perhaps it appeared as though I wasn’t afraid. I was very scared. So scared I could think of nothing else except what was happening at each moment. That’s real fear.

Another time I can picture vividly in my mind was when Eric took me to the hospital to have Arielle. The nurse handed me the lovely gown and told me to go into the bathroom and change. Alone with my future child in the bathroom, I started to panick. This baby was coming out no matter what and I had heard too many horrible birth stories. My heart was pounding and I was trying to fight back the tears. I squeezed the gown, buried my face and breathed. That crystal clear calm came over me again. You’re going to be fine. One step at a time, first put on the gown….breathe. That was real fear.

What is the purpose of all the imagined fear when I know I will calmly face real fear when it arises?What if, there were no more fearful, “What ifs…?”

I think Ollie has the right idea. Live happily and when something scares you…..just growl, bite, or pee!

The Picture Book Review

Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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