From Type A to Type Ahh

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World – Ghandi


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Mindful Cat Care: Kali’s Storyline

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This will be a different post and a little longer.  Most of this blog focuses on my current pursuit of a more meaningful and mindful life but more than 20 years ago I met the cat  that made me a more mindful pet owner and was my first foray into mindfulness, but I did not know it then.

Kali came to us as so many cats did back then, an owner brought her in to euthanize her at the vet I worked with at the time. They said she peed on the floor and they had hit her over and over and she stilled peed.  She was almost 3 at the time and absolutely terrified.  I said, “will you agree to turn her over to me instead of euthanasia?”  I received the usual response, “what do I care.”  I took Kali home and she proceeded to hide in the back of the closet for nearly three weeks.  We had her urine checked for a medical issue.  None was found.  After a few months at our house Kali never had an accident.  I came home and found Kali laying on the floor.  She was lethargic, barely responsive, the veins in her neck, visible through her fur, were black.  I rushed her to the clinic.

I knew when I heard the vet say, those can’t be her kidneys they are smaller than raisins that Kali’s life was hanging in the balance.  That proved true.  The vet came in explained Kali must have been born with congenital kidney failure.  Her numbers were higher than they had ever seen.  They advised I say good-bye and end her suffering.  I asked for a few minutes with Kali, a cat I had only known a few months, but felt a connection to instantly.  I sat quietly with Kali.  She was one of those cats who change your life.   She was a very clear communicator.  I sat with her and asked her if she was ready to go.  I asked her if she even wanted to try.  In that quiet I got a very clear answer.  “I want to live.  I looked in her eyes and promised right then.  “Okay.  I will try, if you will try.”  My vets stabilized Kali.  It took a week in hospital, two weeks at home on IV fluid diaeresis and two trips to the ER.  After a month Kali’s numbers were down to what would be considered within the range of CRF, Chronic Renal Failure.  IMG_5318

Here is where our real journey began.  My vet said they were surprised we got her values down, and I should enjoy her, but at most we would have 6 months.  I could tell Kali did not agree.  I was so tuned into her and I felt like she and I worked together.  I started researching and one of the things I researched and joined was the Holisticat CRF internet group.  There I learned about nutrition and the companion role of traditional medicine and holistic medicine.  I got Kali to Susan Wynn, DVM and we worked on nutrition and supplementation.  Nutrition is Kali’s lasting legacy in my feline household.  I learned about how cats digestive tract is designed for meat.  I learned about the pet food industry and what is in most pet food.  Working with Dr. Wynn we created a homemade diet.  Since we had 7 cats at the time all of our cats transitioned to this diet.

At first we started with a cooked diet and after they were weaned off of kibble we transitioned to raw.  For a long time we fed whole ground chicken with a few supplements and some rotating vegetables.  This is what we fed Kali for her whole life and the other cats for about 10 years.  Kali thrived on this diet and the Chinese herbs she was prescribed.  She went for regular bloodwork and blossomed into the funny mischievous calico she was always meant to be.  Kali did not leave us after 6 months.  She never had to go back on IV fluid therapy.IMG_5316

As I mentioned Kali was the clearest feline communicator I have ever known.  When Kali was 8, nearly 9, I noticed she was slowing down.  I again talked to Kali and this time I got a different feeling.  I made a different promise.  “No more this time.  When you are ready let me know, and I will let you go.”  About a month after that my husband and I woke up on a Saturday.  Kali was sitting on the dresser and my husband and I turned to each other at the same time tears in our eyes and said “Kali is ready.”  We spent that weekend letting Kali do everything she loved.  We put up the Christmas tree, event though it was July, because she loved laying under the lights.  We let her lick down an ice pop because she loved that and we helped her go out to the cat enclosure to enjoy the sun.  On Monday I held Kali and I hope I was a clear communicator when I told her how much I loved her and how much I learned from her.

Why tell Kali’s story?  So many people have asked me about why I feed what I feed?  Kali taught me that my cats’ health is my responsibility.  What I learned through research and then what I experienced in my own cats changed the way I viewed cat nutrition.  Yes we lost Kali at 8 but those other cats I told you about lived into their 20s and late teens.  Mo is the last of those 7 cats.  He has been raised on raw. He is now 18.  More than how long they live is how amazing their coats are, how much energy and vitality they have while they are with us.

It is work and I am not perfect.  About 10 years ago.  Work was crazy and I had left the animal field.  I thought now there are so many organic and grain-free foods.  Surely I can feed that.  So I did.  I mean these cats were on premium all natural, grain-free kibble.  All but Mo.  He never ate anything except homemade food and he refused to recognize anything else as food so I continued to cook for him, a smaller undertaking than cooking for 6.  The others became quickly addicted to kibble and the cats that joined us and were on kibble did not understand homemade food.  After about 5 years I had 6 obese cats, lazy,with no energy, greasy coats, bad teeth.

Again a funny demanding cat would lead me back.  My little Georgia was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.  She was only 5.

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“Really, after all that, Kibble?”

I had to prioritize and my cat’s health is my priority.  Fast forward 5 years I have 5 cats: 3 are 10, 1 is 9 and Mo is 18.  If you walked in my house you would never guess it is full of senior cats.  They now eat three small meals a day.  Georgia’s HCM is controlled on a 1/4th of what would be considered a normal dose and there is little to no real evidence of heart disease anymore.  She goes every 6 months for a check up.  Pablo, who topped the scales at 21 ponds is down to 16 pounds and my cats continue to be the picture of health.  I don’t know what pet food manufacturer will watch everything my cats eat and adjust their diet weekly based on preference and reaction.  Right now we have a diet that is partially lightly cooked and raw and we use a complete supplement Wysong Taste of the Wild.  We no longer feed bone.  It was too much for our cats and research has changed.   In closing I will give you the diet that works for me. Also some encouragement.  I have over the years gotten a lot of push back from vets.  Fortunately, my vet now supports me in my decision.  She readily admits she wishes she had received more independent research and education on nutrition in vet school.  She says she can’t argue with the health of my cats and my commitment to research.

My cats Diet prepared weekly for 5 cats

6 lbs boneless skinless chick thighs – lightly cooked

2 Turkey thighs with skin- lightly cooked

1/2 pound chick organ meat (Hearts, kidneys, liver, etc.) – Raw

1 package chicken breast strips – raw

Wysong Taste of the Wild added per instructions for weight

Two Gerber Pumpkin Baby Foods

24-36 oz. of water

The chicken and organ meat is ground with a Maverick meat grinder.  Everything is mixed together.  Packaged per day and frozen.

Yes it takes work and time.  I think of all the time I have freed up not running them back and forth to the vet and chasing them to medicate them.  Also there is nothing like sitting with your little carnivores listening to them eat a species appropriate diet and knowing their bodies don’t have to eliminate all the junk in  traditional cat food.  Also I can still clearly hear Kali.  Telling me she came to us for a reason.  All the cats we have had, with her and since her, have one tough, plucky, funny, loud calico to thank.  To this day I miss Kali, but her legacy lives on my cats clear eyes and healthy lives.  IMG_5319


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Minimal Cats?

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Lena enjoying a box, I am sure from something we bought them

I have been wanting to do this blog topic for a while.  Mostly to help me process the inconsistency or find that maybe I am right where I need to be.  I do strive to be more of a minimalist. I want to have less material possessions and focus more on experiences and the people and beings in my life that matter.  I have pared down my wardrobe, my kitchen paraphernalia, my coats and jackets.  I try to be a more conscious consumer and still I struggle, but I keep trying.  That leads to my cats.  I would say my cats are where minimalism goes to die in my house.

First we have 5 cats.  Most people would not consider that minimal.  For us this is the smallest number of cats we have ever had.  The most was 7 cats that lived with us full-time and 1 foster mama and 4 kittens.  The truth is if I ever won the lottery I would spend it creating a no-kill haven for kitties no one wanted.  Difficult to win the lottery when you don’t play it.  That is another story.  Back to my feline minimalism quandary.  If you walked into my house you might first ask, “how many cats do you have?”  When my husband and I moved into our current home a couple of years ago the movers commented that the cats had more furniture than we did.  My husband just calmly stated, “there are more of them and don’t break any of their stuff. ”

My cats have stuff.  They have their own “bedroom”  really it is a place to call their own.  It houses their toys (when they have not carried them all over the house) the food bowls and the litter boxes that are upstairs.  It also has a floor to ceiling post and a loveseat my husband brought home from work just for them.  They have cat posts and cat jungle gyms in every significant room in the house, including our bedroom.  Pablo and I share the downstairs as a meditation space and his cat man cave.  He has a bean bag chair he took over from us, a litter box, window perch and cat tree.  I still get my meditation chairs a sofa and the second TV so I can watch Hulu while hubby watches sports.  The cats are fed a diet I make because they are obligate carnivores and they need meat and who is going to take more care with their diet me or a cat food conglomerate?

All that is to say the cats take space, they take money, they take time, they have stuff.  With all of that, maybe, to many I am not a true minimalist.  I had to ask myself that.  Here is where I landed.

I like the concept that minimalism helps you clear the things that don’t matter so you can focus on what does matter.  To me and my husband those cats matter.  We say what we are grateful for before dinner every night and there is rarely a night where we don’t mention one or all of the cats as something we are grateful for.  When I think about life without them, or minimizing them, I feel like I would be missing out. Not FOMO, I know for real what they bring into our lives.  I feel like I am comfortable with where I am with our cats.  I am grateful we have the means and shared will to help cats and give our cats, all of whom are rescues who were thrown away, a pretty spectacular life.  I don’t see us without cats and as long as we have cats those cats will have everything they need to have a fulfilling life indoors.  What is it that makes you question whether or not you have simplified enough?


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The Not So Pretty Truth

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So I guess the whole reason that we, people, try new things, adopt resolutions, set goals is to be a better version of ourselves.  At least that is true for me.  A better version for me means a more present, calmer, and compassionate person.  I have been working on that.  It means letting go of  a lot.  For a self-proclaimed, and let’s be honest, other proclaimed uptight perfectionist it isn’t easy.

Again more honesty.  I was feeling pretty good about my progress.  I am less reactive, I do notice when I am acting out of judgement, etc.  For god sake I meditate!  Then I decided to set limits on my phone.  What no one tells you about the road to a better you is that you walk a lot of it in the harsh light of day with the current version of you.  I have to say limiting my phone has been harder than meditating everyday.  A fact I am not proud of!  Could I really be so dependent on some small metal and glass device.  Sadly, the answer is yes.

I had a couple of hurdles to overcome.  The first is well-known and often written about FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.  Without accessing social media for a month and not accessing my phone for several days a week once I leave work, I felt two things I was unprepared for: anxiety and guilt.  Anxiety came from the fear of not being responsive to a work issue that might rise.  It had been a long time since I physically and mentally left the office.  It felt strange.  I somehow felt unmoored.  What was going on at the office and if I was not fixing it who was?  Yeah I know right? Ego much?  I had kind of taken a lot of pride in being the always available hero of my own narrative.

The other issue of guilt took me more by surprise.  I felt really guilty being home and setting that boundary between work and home.  They had inadvertently over the years melted into one thing. I am home but mentally tethered to my work umbilical cord courtesy of Apple.  Why was I feeling guilty about leaving work at work and trying to be present with my husband, family, friends and cats?  As if that question was not bad enough.  I found an even worse one.  Why wasn’t I guilty about all the time I was not being physically and mentally present at home and in my relationships?

Well the struggle is real, and the truth can be ugly.  Until we look it dead in the eyes and set the phone to airplane mode.  Still on the uncertain road to better version of myself.  One missed tweet at a time!


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Happy New Year

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So 2017 is coming to an end.  It has been a good year and I have definitely made progress toward becoming less of a Type A personality.  I would not say the road has been smooth, without detours, nor have we reached the Nirvana destination.  I will reserve my next steps in the New year post for 2018.  Today I want to say Happy New year and thanks to those who have read about my journey and whose journeys I have enjoyed following.

In closing I will hit a few highlights from this year.

  1. Today is day 405 of consecutive meditation.  I can say I don’t think I have ever done anything that has been as personally life changing. It is now an indelible part of my life.
  2. Cultivating a gratitude attitude.  There have been ups and downs.  I write this right now and I am waiting for the third day for my landlord to fix our backed up sewer I am finding it a struggle to focus on gratitude.  I know that I have a home during the polar vortex.  I have heat and I have someone to celebrate the new year with.  My hubby, myself and our kitties are healthy.  In general my husband and I have embraced starting our meals with three things we are grateful for.  So I am better at being able to find those things even if it does not completely stop my frustration.  I suspect hubby and I will continue this.
  3. I found my way back to vegetarianism very organically which I did not expect.  When you start recognizing and acting from your priorities things seem to more naturally align.
  4. I have cleared out some physical clutter, but still my husband and I added some purchases to our lives and homes. I am still not entirely sure where that line is for me.  It is ever a work in progress.  I do find myself asking more questions about whether we really need something.
  5. Lastly, I finally actually really pulled the trigger on volunteering outside my career field.  It has been really rewarding.  I find it has given me much more than I have given.

Tomorrow will be a day to focus on this year’s shortcomings and how to improve.  For today Happy New Year!  I hope you are looking back at the progress you made with a peaceful and happy heart.


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Merry Christmas

 

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Hubby and I last week at the Jeff Galloway Half

It is Christmas today and I hope everyone is enjoying time and making memories with their families.  This has been a pretty successful slow Christmas for me.  I thought I would take a moment to wish you all a happy holiday and record, mostly for me what made this holiday successful.

  1. Hubby and I don’t do gifts.  What we do instead is both take off the end of the year for his school break.  We spend time together and are able to slow down and fully appreciate all that we have, especially each other.
  2. Even though I was fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of parties, some I even intended to go to, I ended up saying no to all of them.  A snow storm pushed back the minimal Christmas activities I had to accomplish and I did not want to experience that harried Christmas rush.
  3. We don’t really do gifts for anyone, instead we donate to charities that mean something to them.
  4. Christmas is for children, and it is certainly the most fun to shop for kids.  Since hubby and I do not have kids we adopt a kid for Christmas from the local Boys and Girls Club.  It is fun to see if we can fulfill their Christmas list within the program’s budget cap.
  5. Listening to Christmas Music, taking  walk through the lights in your neighborhood costs zero dollars but provides the warm holiday glow.
  6. Spoil our cats.  This is where we fall down on the minimalism train. Our cats are spoiled, super spoiled.  They have floor to ceiling posts in almost every room, beds and toys.  I guess at its heart minimalism clears the way for what is important.  To hubby and I, that is our cats.  Also though they have a lot now, all 5 are rescues who were thrown away like trash, by someone else.
  7. Kept up my healthy habits.  You don’t have to spend money to enjoy the holidays but being healthy really helps.  I always found time to run and meditate.  Returning to a vegetarian diet really helped keep holiday over-indulgence to a minimum.  Left some room and calories for the occasional glass of wine too.

I hope you and yours are happy and healthy this Christmas and ready to start 2018.  Merry Christmas.

 


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What I Learned from Winter Storm Benji

I live in Georgia and I have off and on since I was 12 years old.  Mostly on, if you must know.  Two weeks ago I experienced something I have never experienced in 36 years here.  We got 10-inches of snow.  As you can see it was quite beautiful.  I should be writing about the majesty of this once in a southern girl’s lifetime experience.  I wish I could say that I was able to let go of being out of power for nearly 3 days and surrender to the moment.  That would not really be the truth.  If I am being perfectly honest there was good and bad out of the experience and it served to further teach me both, how far I have come and how far I have left to go.  I believe our whole life is a work in a progress.  Sometimes we feel like we are nailing it and sometimes we feel like we are being nailed by it.

To say the region was somewhat unprepared for an actual snow storm is an understatement.  We are usually a rumor of snow, strip the shelves of bread and milk kind of people in Atlanta.  This time was different.  We were coming off a few years of anticipated winter events that never were.  Even our usually jacked up local meteorologists had a “chill it is just flurries” vibe as the models rolled in hinting at a more serious event.  Well the snow started falling Friday morning and by 10 AM businesses and schools were issuing early closings.  I was excited about a weekend snowed in with hubby and my cats though a little frustrated that it might put me further behind my chill holiday schedule.  That changed pretty much as I slid into our garage after a challenging ride home.  I think I was in the door 5 minutes when our power went out for the first time.  This time it as out a little less than 4 hours.

When it came back I was grateful.  I was so nervous about my husband making it home because they dismissed elementary school last.  I was truly grateful when he pulled up even though I had to yell out that the garage door would not work because we had no power.  Still we were able to enjoy a run in big fluffy snow.  This is not the kind we ever see.  I could fully immerse myself in that.  The power remained on that evening and I felt a sense of gratitude and peace that you get when you realize the riches of having a home and all of your loved ones safe.

Long story short we awoke at 4 AM Saturday to a cold house and no power.  It had gone out sometime during the night as snow continued to accumulate all night, into the morning.   There were catastrophic power outages, icy and snowy roads.  We were without power until Sunday evening at 7 PM.  This turned out to be earlier than many folks were restored.  I would like to say that I handled it all in stride.  I was frustrated and aggravated.  I had cold kitties, a dark house, dwindling battery on my cellphone, no knowledge of how to disengage my garage doors, and little to no food in the house.  The frustration was definitely a companion.  I will say, though I had moments of frustration, I was calmer than I would have been in the past.  I was able to meditate, I was able to recognize we still had much, even without power.  In all of this there was gratitude to be found.

My Winter Storm Benji Gratitude List

  1. We had a house, even a cold one.
  2. The cats, though cold, were eating and using each other and us to keep warm
  3. We had costs, gloves, blankets, flashlights, batteries, a boom box, and candles
  4. The Chinese place that delivered every tofu dish on their menu on Saturday through the snow.
  5. My husband.  He chipped away ice on the driveway, set up a kitty snow camp, and reminded me of what truly good partners we are.
  6. My mom who kept calling and checking in and told us how to disengage our garage doors
  7. We could turn on the cars to warm the kitties and charge our phones
  8. A gas stove that allowed us to make tea and coffee
  9. Wine, enough said.
  10. Social media.  That may sound weird but during the storm social media made us feel connected to friends and family some offering help and a place to warm up, some comparing our new Little House on the Prairie lifestyles.  Also it helped us keep up to date with the power issues and road conditions.

All in all we made out okay.  When the power came back on and ever since I have been more cognizant of how truly easy our lives really are.  I am also grateful to all the lineman, who were probably also out of power but slept in their trucks, drove in dangerous conditions, and did dangerous work to get power restored.

 

 

 


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The Benefits of Lazy Days

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Sometimes I feel like I am on a never-ending treadmill to get it done, check it off.  In an effort to have more experiences and be more present, my homebody hubby and I have lost most of our quiet weekends.  It seems with volunteering, races, going out, seeing friends, plays, festivals, concerts, and sporting events; we have had later nights and busier weekends.  With all of that I have been pleased that we have spent our resources of time and money on those experiences over stuff.  That being said I am tired.

Maybe it seems wrong to those who are naturally extroverted and gain energy from being surrounded by people and stimuli a plenty!  Give me a Saturday at home with a cold rain falling, meaningless TV, some hot tea, PJs, and cats to cuddle and I feel recharged.  It is not that I have not done anything today.  We went grocery shopping, a necessity unless your idea of sustenance is Cheerios and 2% organic milk.  Also I cleaned the house and made my cat’s homemade cat food.  The difference was I did them in my own time and did not have to fit them in before jetting off to an activity.  I love doing these things with my husband and my friends.  In fact in November Hubby and I will be catching the Atlanta leg of the Minimalists’ Less is Now Tour and my best friend and I will be going to see my cat hero, Jackson Galaxy, and get a signed copy  of his new book.  I am really looking forward to those.

I think the key is balance.  Lately, I haven’t felt like I have had any lazy/do nothing time.  All rest was like breathing in the pause.  I found myself at the end of this crazy week looking forward to this weekend where we had nothing planned like it was Christmas.  I think maybe I have said yes to too many outside things and not yes to me enough. I can enjoy all of those things, but only if my introverted self gets a break.  Meditation provides some space for me to evaluate and I feel like that has helped me look at things more clearly and really be able to assess.  “How do I really feel?” It has been one of the surprising benefits of regular practice.

Clearing clutter and trying to live more simply and minimally has shortened the time and frustration I used to feel cleaning up.  I still think I can simplify more and this last month we definitely purchased more than we had the previous couple of months. A lot of it was necessary, or at least it seemed to be at the time.  I don’t know maybe after a lazy weekend I will be able to look at things with a clearer head.  Here’s to cold rainy Saturdays watching mindless TV in the clean house with a fridge full of human and kitty food.