Category Archives: blessings


I am grieving.

I am grieving, but I am hesitant to say it aloud because it feels somehow wrong and small and silly to grieve for a cat.

But she wasn’t just a cat. She was my constant and my comfort. She was waiting at home 14 years ago when our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. She was waiting at home 12 years ago when we brought our first baby home. She always knew which one of us needed her, be it because we were sick or sad or just a little bit cold. And she was always there.

I wanted her to be the Oldest Cat Ever, but it wasn’t in the cards for her. We’ve known for a few months that she was in her final days. We took her to the vet after a sudden and dramatic weight gain, and we learned that she had advanced heart disease. We could try to treat it, the vet said, but the medication would hurt her already-struggling kidneys.

She was a strange, funny little cat. She was the runt of the litter, and she chose us. She loved to be carried, and she liked it when we danced around the living room with her. She always wanted to be where her people were, even if it meant being dressed in Santa suits, doll dresses or cowboy hats. She never met a person she didn’t like, and she adored every member of our household.

I thought I was ready. She was always a communicative cat, and she let me know she was ready to go on Saturday morning. I was not ready. I carried her to my bed and woke the kids up, and we gathered around her and thanked her and told her we loved her. Then we took her to the vet and said goodbye. It was peaceful, and it was horrible. I was not ready. I would never have been ready.

I’ve been struggling a lot this week. I cried when I put some ice cubes in my cup, because she wasn’t there to remind me that she too would like some ice cubes in her water. I cried when I walked past her spot on the couch and absentmindedly reached out to scratch her head. I cried when I drove past the vet’s office and when I cleared away her litter box and when I heard a sad song on the radio.

Marsha T. Cat was the finest of felines. I am so grateful to have had her in my life, and I am heartbroken that she’s gone. She was 16 years old, and she was beloved for each and every one of those years. I hope she knew it.

On Joy and Sorrow
“The Prophet”

by Khalil Gibran

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the reassure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.


Poppy looked different yesterday when she hopped out of the car after soccer practice.

She was glowing a little more than usual, but that was probably just from spending an hour and a half running around the soccer field. She’s been growing her pixie cut out, so she’s currently a bit shaggy around the edges. But that wasn’t it either. I shrugged it off and gave her a hug and we went inside to finish our day with a late dinner and an episode of “Blackish.”

Poppy is 79 days into being 12. Twelve hasn’t been the easiest age for her. She had her first breakup this year, and a lot of her homeschooled friends joined the public school ranks. She was cut from her soccer team, and two-thirds of her three-person tae kwon do crew advanced to the next belt level without her.

She’s weathered it all with aplomb, but I know it’s been difficult for her.

Poppy’s always been slow to wake up in the mornings, much like her mother. It was lovely letting our mornings unfold slowly when she was 6. It’s more stressful now that she’s 12 and has a 12-year-old’s schedule and responsibilities. This morning, as I have most every morning for the last 12 years, I rubbed her head and told her it was time to get up.

“I’m heading to the shower,” I said. “You need to be up and getting ready when I get out.”

She stretched and grunted and I headed to the shower, full in the knowledge that I’d be waking her up again in a few minutes.

There was a Boy for a brief moment. They texted a lot and went to a dance together, and then the fascination just kind of faded away. It stung, but I think most of that sting came from not knowing how to be friends again. They’re working on it.

Those former homeschooled friends, we don’t see much of them any more. That stung, too, at first, but Poppy has found that there are more friendly kids out there and, as a pretty friendly kid herself, she hasn’t had much trouble befriending them.

Sometimes she surprises me. I came out of the bathroom this morning and there she was in my bedroom, her hair going every which way and her arms stretched to the sky.

I think the sports setbacks stung the most of all. I’m not sure what happened with soccer tryouts. She was on the team last year, and I suspect she figured that was 90 percent of the battle. Getting cut from the team was a bitter and tearful way to learn that she actually did need to bring 100 percent of her effort to tryouts.

Poppy is a red-black belt in tae kwon do, as were two of her friends. They’ve talked a lot about testing for black belt together. But when the other girls were ready to test for recommended black belt, Poppy just wasn’t quite there.

We’ve talked a lot about Kyle Schwarber this year. Schwarber won the World Series and then got sent back to the minors. Which was almost certainly mortifying for him, but he didn’t quit. He set a goal and worked hard and made it back onto the Cubs.

So Poppy, she’s taken a cue from Schwarber. She’s spent this season playing soccer at a less prestigious level, and she committed to going to two additional practices every week to help build her skills for next year’s tryouts. She’s going to as many tae kwon do classes as she can fit into a week, and she’s meeting outside of class with her instructors to ask for constructive criticism and to hone her skills.

She still looked different this morning, and I still couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. I shrugged it off and gave her a hug and then I saw it.

Poppy’s sweet sleepy gaze was in the wrong place. Her eyes were in the wrong place, and her nose was in the wrong place, and her pillow-wild mop was in the wrong place.

Until very recently I’ve always seen her face from above. She’s been exactly the same height as me for long enough to get used to seeing eye-to-eye with her, literally if not always figuratively. And now, suddenly, I’m looking up at her.

This kid. She grew a quarter of an inch in 18 days. She’s grown leaps and bounds more than that emotionally since her birthday 79 days ago.

And all I can do is give her the tools she needs and then sit over here on the sidelines cheering her on. The growing pains are so tough, but watching her grow is such a beautiful thing.