When the Cats Come Home

So, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about the cats. Mostly we’ve chattered about bookish things, but who doesn’t love cats? My cousin doesn’t.

Here we go. A couple weeks ago, my dear friend Lentil – that’s a cat, not a legume – went outside around lunchtime . . . and just didn’t come back. We searched, searched, searched until dark. I fell asleep to dreams of her that night. It was pretty rough, since she has never, ever disappeared like that.

The next day, nothing. We called her name, we triple-checked all her favorite spots. Nothing. And yet I had the strongest sense that she wasn’t dead. She felt so . . . close. As if I could reach out and stroke her soft, gray-striped fur and feel her lick my finger.

Evening closed in. I was in the kitchen when I heard my dad say her name as though he saw her. Then came what we all longed to hear – Lentil was outside in the flower bed. ūüôā

Sure enough, she’d found her way home to us. She came inside, hungry and a little flustered – as well as flabbergasted that Sam, the new stray kitten, was¬†still¬†here.¬†Really?

Lentil’s back to her normal routine. Best we can tell, she either got lost, or was trapped somewhere. But our family – even with the addition of Sam – was disjointed for those roughly thirty hours. Like Mom said as we grinned ear-to-ear after Lentil came back, “Our family’s back together again.”

And just think – my dad used to hate cats!

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
Lentil asleep on the windowsill.
Advertisements

How to Write When the Music Fades – Chronic Writer’s Block

When the music fades, write on, courageous writer!

But when the music fades, it can be hard to find a tune to write to. There are a million “best writing playlists ever” and a million blog posts with guaranteed keys to success in overcoming the fading music disorder, but . . . do they¬†really¬†negate the issue? Or is it something you, personally, must face?

Confession: The music faded recently for me. For now. You see, the WIP you may be familiar with, my YA portal fantasy, was a WIP. It is now RIP. For now. There are simply times when you have to accept the amount of work a story will need in its revising process, and I came to that point with the portal fantasy. However, I also realized that I did not have what it would take to rush into a second draft. It has been moved to the back burner.

And soooo . . . with that confession comes a little announcement. I am presently working on a new idea. Alas! I can’t divulge the details at this time. I must outline, outline, outline, and I must write, write, write! Stay tuned, because I’m eyeing my September “highlights and goals” post in just over two weeks for any *cough*¬†official bookish¬†*cough* announcements. But know, my friend, that I am marching on in the writing world, with or without the music, and I encourage you do to the same.

Everyone gives out tricks to the trade in overcoming writer’s block, but I think there’s only one thing you can really do when writer’s block turns chronic.¬†Step back from your story¬†and ask yourself¬†what might be wrong with it¬†OR¬†what might be wrong with you.¬†It isn’t always the manuscript. Don’t let that become an excuse to not writing. It may be sheer laziness. Yes, I’m being cruel! But believe me when I say I know how it feels.

In the case of chronic writer’s block, it may be the manuscript or it may be you. In my case, it was both.

So does that mean you’ll never read my portal fantasy? I doubt it. I believe in another year or so – maybe after I’ve finished this WIP, providing the outlining goes well in the next few days here – I will pick that story back up again. That’s the beauty of the moment when the music fades.

And so, when the music fades, write on, courageous writer!

Psst . . . ¬†I will say, my critique partner has given the first chapter of this story idea a very good review. ūüôā ¬†Stay tuned.

Books ‘n’ Strawberries – Such Fun!

Show of hands – who among you consumes books and strawberries at the same time????

Okay . . . maybe nobody. I mean, you’d hate to get strawberry juice on the book, so . . . ¬†Yeah, but there’s a reason I brought up the both of them. I mean, yum.

Reason for the strawberries: We are going strawberry picking tomorrow. Yippee! We found what is supposed to be a real nice farm about an hour away, so we’re packin’ up and headin’ out to stock up for the long winter. ūüôā If you want to hear all about our adventure, I’ll be posting on the Diary on Saturday with the details!

Reason for the books: I just finished reading Athol Dickson’s¬†The Cure.¬†That’s reason enough.

The Cure¬†was a hidden gem and a rare find. And the ending . . . ¬†Oh, the¬†ending! But I won’t betray it, or skip ahead. This book is about a man named Riley Keep, former missionary and presently an alcoholic beyond all hope. At the end of his road, he discovers a packet of “medicine” with a note explaining it to be a cure for alcoholism. But sometimes the cure is more dangerous than the disease . . .

OH WOW, was this story a winner. I was so engrossed and so blown away. Athol’s characters – Riley, Hope, Bree, Dylan, and the list goes on – are incredible. So well-fashioned and so brilliant. His writing is doubly so. And the book just happens to take place in a coastal Maine town, so . . .

You cannot go wrong in reading this book. Amazing.

And so, without further ado, we’re off to pick strawberries on the morrow! It ’tis summertime, after all.

So, my friends, what are your plans now that summer is officially underway? What books are you reading? Do tell!

To Shine as Broken Glass – There is Hope!

Broken.

That’s a hurtful place to be, and yet we’ve all been there. We’ve gone to sleep in tears that no one will see left to dry on our cheeks. We’ve woken up feeling as though we waged war through the night. We’ve wandered through days begging¬†why.

Sun reflects brightly on glass. It reflects all the brighter on broken glass, amplified by the jagged edges and reflected by the places where the breaking took place.

When in the place of broken, we can commonly wonder why we feel no hope, if there is any such thing left to feel. Whether we face loss, discouragement, anger, illness or fear, we long for hope, for some remnant of the sun to shine upon us, just once.

Why bear the pain of broken? What is the reward for turmoil?

To shine as broken glass.

If this is your question today, there is hope, my friend, there is. Reach for it with the very last of your strength!

 

hardship quote

As writers – and artists in general – we are not in the least immune to the harsh sting disappointment or depression. In fact, I’ve been told we’re rather susceptible targets. ūüôā ¬†But when these things confront us, when the challenges around us block what may flow upon the page, take heart! My friend, we¬†will¬†come out on the other side alive. There¬†is¬†light at the end of this tunnel. If you are afraid of the dark, take the hand of the person beside you. They’re likely afraid of the dark too.

You’re not alone.

As an artist, coming out on the other side of hardship is quite likely to make you a better writer, or musician, or poet, etc. Sky high is inevitably followed some day by the depths of low, the result of a bitterly fallen world and the basic unfairness of life. Thank the King we do not trudge through the lows alone. Jesus holds my hand.

My friend . . . Jesus holds your hand, too.

Broken.¬†It’s a hurtful place to be. Why suffer through hardship when all we can see is the dark?

Because the sun shines brightest on the broken glass.

Anchor

Let us Pray – Tragedy in Manchester

I don’t think anything can bring together a people separated by space and opinions more than something like the Manchester tragedy that has left so many brokenhearted, injured or killed. Let us pray. Together. For those who are lost, and for those who have lost.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

If you feel this burden, join us as we pray for these people – our neighbors.

I would also like to thank Nadine Brandes, who posted on her blog a call for prayer yesterday.

praying-for-manchester

Father, be with the people of Manchester. Bring peace to the broken hearts and strength to those who are physically and otherwise wounded. Burden more people to pray for them in the days to come. I pray that You would reveal Yourself in powerful ways to these parents who have lost their children, children who have lost their parents. Show them that You are with them, and will never leave or forsake them. Amen.

Musings of a Goat Herdess – Sneak Peak!

Welcome one and all! As a quick recap,¬†Musings of a Goat Herdess¬†is one of my current WIPs. I’ve decided to start this off as a blog series – yay! – which means I’ll get into a schedule of releasing a “chapter” at a time as a blog post. This is the first, and these posts will be done twice a month.

If all goes well – the writing, the feedback, etc. – I will move forward at some point with officially publishing¬†Musings of a Goat Herdess,¬†which, if you haven’t seen my last blog post, is essentially made up of my homesteading experiences with my family, our journey, with the focus on my task of being a “goat shepherd” and some of the discoveries I’ve made along the way.

Sound like fun? Well, I won’t ramble today – news flash! Here is your official sneak peak into¬†Musings of a Goat Herdess,¬†chapter one of our new blog series.

 

C H A P T E R   O N E

~ ~ ~

LIKE A SCENE out of Heidi is our hillside today, glowing in the fleeting and precious rays of May sun. The grass reaches up towards the heavens, eclipsing the infant leaves, their attempts at awakening slow, more cautious than their counterparts in nature. I close my eyes and breathe it in. Spring.

All around me, I hear the hasty, yet contented chop-chops of caprine mouths drinking greedily of the hillside’s offering. The goats have discovered the raspberries today, which sprawl here on Bramble, the northernmost slope of our homestead. These vines left in peace for far too long will meet destruction at the hooves and winter-starved appetites of seven goats.

My eyes flutter open as the adolescents charge by, their buoyant stride enhanced by the steepness of this slope. Wilbur makes his advance into the lead, his twin sister Oka in hot pursuit, and both are dogged by their adopted big sister, the one with ears that can’t decide whether to cooperate with her Nubian dairy heritage and fall flopping, or rise to the calling of her rugged Alpine genetics. Their antics as they pass me by bring out a smile. These three came from the same farm, but at different times, and are unrelated, yet they are inseparable, cohesive like honey to a spoon.

At a doe’s soft, tender voice, my gaze drifts uphill to where the locust trees mark the top of the grassy slope. Spice grazes here, glancing about until her twins come bounding to her call. Satisfied at their presence, she returns to the task of gluttony. My smile broadens the way a patch of grass appears so quickly beneath melting snow. These twins have earned a special place in our hearts since their liberating birth two weeks ago.

Beetle paws at the locust tree nearest to her right, her silky coat shining in this radiant sun like chocolate. The lone black stripe which marches down her back glitters as if someone place minute diamonds upon it to capture the light. She is the image of Spice, though separated by her mother’s three years. Little Cricket joins her, aptly named, and colored by a broad creamy belt and a splashing of gold and white.

A breeze tousles the grass. If you listen close, you might hear the whispers it carries from grass to tree to bird and sky. The hidden messages we miss in our chaos and in our drive for bigger, better, newer. Here, here, is peace. In the sway of the grass, the smile of the sun.

As the three young ones of weaning age did moments ago, Cricket takes to the plaything that is the slope. The bounce to her stride is brought to a zenith with a little jump, a twist and a hop. Beetle thunders after her, never going a moment apart from her sister. Spice notices not, or if she does, she is content. She knows they are safe, I’m sure. The twins join the older three, but at a respectable distance. With such a drastic size difference in effect, they face light bullying from Oka and Jubilee. But we’ve raised many goats of these tender ages, and it will not last forever. Amid the grass, the brambles, the raspberries, friendship will form.

Not to be left behind, Eustace plods along after the five, his shaggy dun fur swaggering with his steps. The others dwarf him in size despite his equality of age with the threesome ‚Äď and though his genetics dictate this fate, the buckling has taken it in his head that he is a great buck, a mighty protector, a fine, noble creature worthy of all respect.

Ah, such pride! In the eyes of our homestead, he is simply Eustace, succumb to smallness, destined to pester the girls with instincts which matured early, son of Phoebe.

As the herd settles, I take a deep breath. There is such peace here, such purpose. Such hope for the soul. How can one explain what can only be felt? How can one express what can only be perceived, sensed in the inmost being? I know I cannot. I may wield the pen, but its power fails me here. So I shall share, but can never express. Show, but can never explain. This is a journey, one my family takes inspired by the words written in the Bible, in Jeremiah, words that challenged us to seek out this lifestyle, to determine the alternative the world has missed.

Stand at the crossroads and look.

Ask for the ancient paths.

Ask where the good way is and walk

in it, and you will find rest for

your souls.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
Wilbur (with Jubilee in the background).
GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
Phoebe in the raspberries.
GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
Beetle during playtime (which is all the time).

Writer’s Doubt – the Epidemic and the Cure

It’s something that plagues all of us, no matter our field, no matter our dreams, no matter our security. It’s something that holds us bound to failure and limitations, to our fears and our confusion.

Doubt – a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction – when you look at it, is really a nasty word. First you have the¬†u,¬†a strange letter to begin with, and it’s followed by a nosy old¬†b and a¬†t that just couldn’t stay away. But doubt is more dangerous than it may seem at first glance. It stops you in your tracks with a mere whisper, a tiny little voice that mutters things like, “Did God really say . . .” or “You just don’t have what it takes.”

We can relate to this epidemic – all of us – because none of us is immune to a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction. This is especially and painfully true when you’re a writer, and I imagine if you’re an artist or a poet or a photographer as well. The hard truth is,¬†doubt knows our name.

I have heard of many writers – and am one myself – that have had to conquer doubt in their work. I, personally, have struggled immensely with this, with the feeling that I’m not good enough, that what I have to say in the written word isn’t good enough. These are dangerous ideas because they’re partly true. Am I a good writer? I don’t know, because I can’t judge that myself. Is my work any good? That depends in part on who reads it.

A huge hurdle for authors is just that – “Is my work good enough?” If you’re asking that question today, in any field, all I can say to you is this – one judge will say yes, another will say no.

But we writers are not here to please the crowd. Okay, maybe you like to please people, and that’s fine, but it will come back to plague you with doubt when someone turns away from your work.¬†We are not here to please the reader, we’re here to serve the Author. And no, not author as in you or me, but author as in¬†the Author. The One Who is writing our story, weaving the tapestry of our life. He is the One we are to write for. And hear me now, my friend – if you know¬†who you are writing for, you will know why you are writing at all.

This goes for any lifestyle, any career, any dream. If you know who you’re doing it for, the hold of doubt can be lessened. You may be doing it for yourself, for your family, for your country, for the crowd. I write – I¬†live – for the One Who gave me breath and Who gave me a passion to wield the written word.

But just because I know the¬†who and the¬†why, doesn’t mean I don’t fight a near constant battle with doubt. I do. There will likely be many more days when I am like this:

writing doubt quote

That’s doubt for you. But hey, if you need to give yourself a good kick in the behind, remember what the Bible has to say about doubt. “. . .¬†the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” ¬†And later in James 1 . . . ¬†“Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Is that not clear enough?

Don’t let doubt linger, no matter how hard it is to dispel it. Pray for strength to endure it, and¬†don’t save that picture up there onto Pinterest. You’ll be looking at it all the time and having a pity-party. ūüôā

My dear writer friend, remember this!¬†If you know who you are writing for, you will know why you are writing at all.¬†And¬†that is a tactic our old buddy doubt can’t stand against.

Once Upon a Kitten Part 2

DSCN1025
Every watchful.

It was a beautiful Easter day here in Maine – temperatures flirting with eighty in some places and just the right amount of cloud cover over our homestead to keep the heat from becoming too much. Best of all, we were able to get together to enjoy the day with friends and family, to cement in our hearts the power and meaning of Easter.

Anyway, we’re back with Once Upon a Kitten! Part 2 will pick up where 1 left you all hanging in utter suspense. What shall it be? What awaits those three MIA stay cats who have vanished in the coldest days of winter? Well, here you go. I won’t keep you hanging.

December 19th . . .

I seem to recall a sort of fog that morning. A dusty curtain of clouds to shroud the dawn. It was when we looked out onto the driveway that we saw her, a thin, bedraggled kitten coming towards the greenhouses. Her focus was set in determination, as though her purpose in returning to us a week and a half after the disappearance could not be thwarted.

We were in shock. Days of temps pummeled well below zero, tempest winds reaching the level of ferocity, not a bit of our cat-food offerings touched . . .  We had given up hope, assumed their lives had been snuffed out. But here Lentil was.

(Side note: If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, please go back and do so, or you will not have any idea what I’m talking about or who this Lentil is. Thank you.)

She hid in the greenhouse/winter-firewood-storage-house for the first hour or so while we set up a have-a-heart trap with cooked chicken inside and some regular cat food outside the trap simply in an effort to nourish her. She looked so scared, her eyes wide, her pitiful meows of hunger coming from behind the firewood where she hid from us.

We watched from inside the house as she spent the morning in refusal to eat, seeking only the snow, which she licked relentlessly while wandering the space between the two greenhouses where she, Yarrow and Ali had lived, had played, had slept. At times she would simply lie down upon the snow above the same place she had once huddled with her family. We were heartbroken.

And then she returned to the greenhouse . . . and entered our trap. And just like that, Lentil entered our lives in a whole new way. After my father had spent the last several years taking a stand that we would never own a cat . . . well, those three strays had earned a special place in his heart. He had no misgivings about saving Lentil. ūüôā

The frightened little creature fled into one of our upstairs rooms and hid behind two boxes. There, she remained. We quickly realized she was coming out at night, as her food was clearly nibbled at. Over the next weeks, I worked to gain her trust. Holding out bits of cooked meat, talking with her, reading to her.

This effort paid off. I’ll never forget the milestone moments. There was the day she first took food from my fingers as I reached into her hiding place. The day she first came out to eat from her dish despite my presence. The first time I succeeded to pet her. The first time she climbed upon my lap and licked my fingers. The day she followed me downstairs and later to sleep on my bed – that lasted all of one night, thanks to her waking me up by tirelessly licking my arm and nibbling my hand.

Long before that point, Yarrow, too, returned. To this day, we feed her in front of the house. She has become a good deal more trusting, even so far as to hide in the bushes while we set out her food, and then come out as soon as we’ve left. Sadly, it was Ali, dear, sweet, gentle Ali, that we lost in that mysterious vanishing of the three so many months ago.

Still, Lentil and Yarrow’s survival is a miracle. Our best assumption of that week and a half in December, is that the three of them were trapped in our neighbor’s barn, among the bales of hay. No food. No water. Maybe it is true what they say of cats’ nine lives. Or maybe it was just God’s way of giving us a little gift, of taking care of the sparrows . . . or cats, as the case may be.

Lentil sleeps on the carpet as I write this post, curled up in a slice of sunlight that peeks through the window. We have begun to allow her passage to the outdoors now, due to her noisy insistence. While this poses a good deal of risks, I believe it has made us all the more grateful for and inspired by her incredible – and true – story of survival.

God has told us through His Word that His eye is on the sparrows. Whether it is on a bird or a helpless cat, it is comforting to me to see firsthand the truth of that scripture. I hope her story inspires you, too! We all have seemingly insurmountable obstacles in our journeys. But God is really good at those.

He took care of and continues to watch out for our dear little Lentil and by His mercy does the same for us. I know He is watching out for you too.

Blessings and happy trails! More to come on stray cats . . . some day. I have a particular fondness for them now. ūüôā Meantime, I’ll be back to blogging about writing, reading, writing and . . . well, writing, of course.

Once Upon a Kitten Part 1 – a Stray’s Story of Survival

Today, I’m taking a little break from the regular writing posts to share with you a true story which, in many ways, is still unfolding. If you’ve come across my Pinterest¬†boards at all, you may have noticed one entitled Kats & Kids. This one divulges some of my love for goats and for our dear little friends, the stray cats. Up until about nine months ago, I had little concern for those particular creatures . . . and that was when three of them showed up on our doorstep.

It was a sultry day in either late June or early July when we saw her. A fluffy stray cat we had seen numerous times around the farm, but never so close. Now she lay just outside our back door, panting heavily, her large stomach heaving with each breath. We were worried. This was the first time we saw how clearly she was pregnant.

We named this frightened, aloof little animal Yarrow.

For days and even weeks at a time, we saw nothing of the stray. She came and she went, sometimes appearing with a mouse ensnared, other times crossing our neighbor’s field in the dusty fog of dawn.

It was August now. Yarrow’s stomach had noticeably decreased in its swollen size, but we knew not where she had placed her kittens or if any were alive. We again saw her coming across our back pasture with another mouse. While we quietly marveled at how many of those she seemed to find, we watched her. Yarrow, oblivious to the audience she had, took purposeful strides across the yard, across the driveway, to our newest greenhouse, which, at that time, was not in use.

We continued to watch like hawks from our living room window. As she went round the back corner of the greenhouse, we saw them. Two tiny kittens rushed out to greet her.

Needless to say, we were thrilled. And though it was expected she had at one time cared for more than just two, we were grateful these had survived. One was a petite, baby-faced calico we lovingly named Ali. The other, a rugged, shy little gray we floundered for a proper name for until my mother found the perfect one. Lentil.

As the weeks passed, days grew shorter, harvest came in from the gardens, our spirits were reliably lifted by the presence of the three homeless felines. We had begun feeding them back in August, which, we surmised, was why Yarrow, so alert and timid, kept her kittens so near to our home. In spite of her wild ways, she trusted us just enough.

That trust, however, was short lived. She began taking Lentil and Ali to our neighbor’s barn. More than once, we would lose track of them for days and be unable to feed them. These disappearances left us worried indeed.

But every time, they came back. And Ali became more and more accustomed to us, more and more trusting. There was one day Yarrow took¬†Lentil, the far more reserved and wild of the two kittens, back to the neighbor’s barn, while Ali remained at the greenhouse the entire day, patiently waiting for her family’s return.

And then the cold weather hit. We were terrified. We knew we could trap the kittens and tame them, but Yarrow? Yarrow was wild. She could never adapt to a home.

And then they disappeared. And did not return.

For a week and a half, through the fiercest drop in temperatures we would endure for the rest of the winter, they were lost to us. We set out food both in the barn and greenhouse. We called them by name. We searched. We searched again. There were no voices to respond. No tracks. No one to nibble the food.

There was snow on the ground. The frigidity did not relent. We were devastated to think those dear little animals had been lost so cruelly.

December 19th . . .

 

 

The rest of their¬†story will be told in Part 2, and also in the Little Red Barn Series, a children’s series my mother and I plan to co-write together in the next year or so, but that’s a post for another day!

And I’ll be back blogging on the Monday after Easter. Part 2 of this story will continue next week. In spite of the way it may look now, there is a happy ending. One that continues to inspire us to this day, and I hope you’re inspired as well! Don’t miss Part 2.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA
Yarrow’s tracks in the snow.

An Easter Surprise for Y’all!

April 10th! Spring has gloriously sprung here in Maine, and Easter is around the corner. As promised, in honor of that blessed holiday, I have a little surprise for you all!

I am sharing with you an incredible story penned for a Faithwriters’ challenge a few years back. Few stories have had such a profound impact on me as this one, and it so vividly captures and reflects the truth of Easter. I am honored to share with you all today “Drawn to a Drip,” a winner in the contest topic “Drip.”

Drawn to a Drip by Allen Povenmire

I hope this story encourages and inspires you as it has inspired me.

May you all have a blessed Easter this weekend, ¬†but I challenge you to remember what – and Who – it is really about, not just on Sunday, when the busyness of the day can lure us away from the day’s meaning, but all through the year.

And, as goes my current blogging schedule, I’ll be back in three days! So take a look at Allen’s story and let it penetrate to your heart. God bless.