For some of us our love of things shows up early and pronounced. Our parents may scratch their heads and wonder why, but the child doesn’t care about the why, they just know that they love and that’s all that matters. There’s no judgment. And for Pam and her love, it all began in kindergarten.
Like most young girls, Pam looked forward to the picture day at school—a chance to show off her pretty pink flowered dress and her pretty pink elegant shoes. She was so excited for the event, she chose her pink ensemble way in advance. Her parents did her hair. Then that morning, they dropped her off at school as per their usual routine. The teacher called the kids to get ready; they were heading to the gym for pictures. Pam ran in her pink Reebok shoes to her knapsack in the hall closet, to pull out her nice shoes (she had decided earlier that they were too pretty and petite to wear on the way), and discovered to the complete horror of her six-year-old self that her parents had forgotten to pack the shoes she was to wear. She cried but there was nothing to be done. She had to wear the pink Reebok running shoes with the pretty pink dress. She did not feel, on that day, pretty in pink at all, no matter what anyone said to her. And even today, when she pulls out that class picture, she blushes at the sight of her sitting in the front, beside the sign announcing her grade, done up to the nines with these big huge pink Reebok shoes glowing in the middle.
Believe it or not, but this fashion faux pas would leave a mark on Pam, and she vowed from that day forward she would never take her footwear so frivolously—she would always be prepared. And this is how Pam ended up amassing a wardrobe that included over 80 pairs of shoes. And she loves them all.
Shoes, Pam believes, have the capability to make or break an outfit. She has no preference for a style of shoe, only that it accentuates the body shape of the wearer. When she sees a pair of shoes she can add to her collection, her heart beats, her hands get sweaty, she can barely control her excitement and when they happen to be on sale, she bounces with almost uncontrollable joy. As an important part of her life, her shoes take prominence in her closet, with some she keeps in storage (in case they come back in-style), but most in their original boxes (to keep them from being damaged). She occasionally cleans out her stock, giving some to charity, but most of them she keeps; her love for her individual shoes is a tough love to break. She believes everyone should take care when choosing their footwear; if you give a girl the right pair of shoes she can rock the world.
When Brunswick, my black furry male cat, was just a young Tom, he liked to spend his nights outside prowling around the world. He was fixed, so he couldn’t be chasing tale, but he still seemed to like the smell of the night’s air. Although he was alway amorous by nature, he made friends with the other cats around the neighbourhood and his favourite best friend lived up the block from me. I know you make think it’s crazy, and I did at the time too, but there was litterally two gangs of cats and there were cat wars around my street. Brunnie’s best friend was an unneutered male, who I can only assume was his protection. One time, I woke up from a nap to find Brunswick giving his best friend a tour of his home and his food bowl. They had crawled through the open window.
It was like clockwork, really, Brunswick’s inclination to go outside and come back in. At around 8:30 pm he would demand to be let out by wining at the front door. Then at 5:30 in the morning, he would appear at my side window (near my bed) and scratch his claws down the screen, if the window was open, and if not, he’d paw at the closed window like a madman.
So one morning, I woke up at a now trained time of 5:30 am. I rolled out of bed, put on my coffee, brushed my teeth and realized that Brunnie hadn’t come to the window. I thought it was odd, but figured he’d be home soon. So, I went outside, grabbing a cigarette on the way out (yes back when I used to smoke). I sat on the muskoka chair and lit up. Just as I took my second puff I heard a cat wailing. I started looking around, I knew the cry, it was obviously Brunswick but I couldn’t see him anywhere. I followed the sound of his cries around the side of the house. I still couldn’t see him. Then I looked up. There he was on the roof of the neighbours home, obviously terrified.
“Save me. Save me,” he screamed in his own particular wail (honest, I speak cat language).
I didn’t know what to do. It was about 5:45 am, and the neighbours, I was positive, we’re sleeping. I tried to shush him to no avail. I knew that I didn’t have a ladder, so I was going to have to convince Brunswick that he had to get down from the roof by himself.
I walked on to my neighbours porch and motioned for Brunswick to come to the middle of the roof and jump to the tree branch which was about three or four feet away from the roof’s edge. I figured this was how he got up. At first he cried at me then he started to try to make his way over to me, across the middle of the slope. Then he stopped, did an about face and went up the left side of the roof to the back. I couldn’t see him anymore, and I hoped he was getting down the way he came up. I started to quietly retreat off the porch steps. I noticed a couple of cats in the distance, part of the gang that Brunswick belonged to. But then I heard crying again, and Brunswick appeared on the opposite side of the roof. He steathly moved across at the top of the slope and then made his way down the middle. He stopped on the ledge. I made hand gestures for him to jump to the branch. He went around in circles, wondering why I wouldn’t get him from the roof (I can only assume, although I speak cat language, I definitely do not read their minds!). He steadied himself, hunching his hind legs, getting ready to jump, and then he’d loose heart and cry at me again. I spoke in sign language to him, “JUMP” I said. I showed him the route in the air (the roof and branch were several feet above me). Finally, after about 10 minutes of this, Brunnie got into position and jumped. He landed between the branch and the trunk. He was still too high up for me to grab him, so I spent another few minutes coaxing him to climb down the tree. Finally, he started down the tree backwards. Then he slipped, panicking he tried to get back up the tree but couldn’t. He kept slipping until finally I was able to reach him and pull him off the tree. I swung him over my right shoulder, and turned around. There, blocking my way from the steps, was a semi circle of neighbourhood cats that had all come over to watch the show. Brunnie purred into my ear. He was safe. He never went up the roof again (at least not that I knew of).
We’ve all heard the stories of how talented people remember being discovered or discovering their talent when they were only wee young children. That their love for their creative activity started early on when they were just discovering whom they were. But that’s not always the case. My friend Mim, for one, is an anomaly.
Mim loves to sing. Now. But growing up in small-town Ontario, her creative outlet was the theatre and piano, sans singing. And although Mim liked pop stars such as Technotronic and Mariah Carey at that time, she didn’t really sing along to the radio or dream of being a rock-star like other kids her age. She just liked music and liked playing the piano, with no desire to sing while taking center stage in her theatre classes. You see Mim was incredibly shy about singing in front of anyone. Little did she know about the hidden talent that was laying dormant inside her.
Then mid-way through high school something happened. Not even Mim remembers what exactly propelled her to check out musical theater. Maybe she heard Donny Osmond sing in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat or another Andrew Lloyd Webber opera? But she was driven to try it out. Forgetting her shyness about singing, she decided to listen to her inner voice and join the local community musical theater. When she opened her mouth to sing at an audition, she had a voice and she could sing well. It turned out that it was the kind of music that Mim had been listening to that prevented her from wanting to sing. She didn’t like to sing pop or rock ‘n roll. She preferred musicals and jazz repertoire: the old greats from the 30s and 40s, Bing, Frank and The Andrew Sisters. And once Mim started she couldn’t stop listening and singing to them, over and over, developing her voice and her love. Singing this kind of music made her feel lively and engaged and she became hooked. Soon she increased her technical skill making it into Mohawk College as a jazz vocalist.
As Mim said, “if I fell in love with Bob Dylan, then maybe I’d be a better songwriter but I fell in love with Jazz which made me a better singer.”
Mim is by nature a neat and orderly type of person, which actually matches the kind of music she likes to sing. Jazz repertoire is known among the music community for having singing voices that are considered clean in comparison to other singing styles. Singers must have big vocal ranges and technical know-how. Something Mim has learned through her career teaching others to sing
After 17 years of singing, and 10 years teaching full-time, and being part of a band, Mim is still not bored and is still in love with musical and jazz repertoire styles of song. New singers pick up old favourites and develop a new way to colour the sound, bringing richness to her career. She still practices, although not as much as she’d like, but every time she sings she knows she must keep learning, must “do justice to the song, to the human sound that voices make.”
My friends may just kill me because of this blog post. See, one of my friends, who shall remain nameless for now, thinks that I’m obsessed with my cats. I’m not obsessed, I love them, that’s all. You see, she doesn’t have any pets and I think this is why she doesn’t understand.
I’ve had cats since I was a little girl. And although I’m not stereotypical in many ways, in this way it is true; although I am a single, I caved in and got myself a cat again a few years ago which has blossomed into a few more since then. I wanted to have a reason to come home at night, some responsibility for my irresponsible life and I got comfort and entertainment to boot.
My first cat, Brunswick, I bought from an animal rescue organization that had set up in a pet shop. When I finally moved to a bigger apartment I thought that maybe I should rescue him a friend, which is how I ended up with Lexington.
Lexington was a charmer right away from her cage at Toronto Animal Services. Small, black and funny looking, I had picked up her sister who became scared in my hands, while Lexington bolted from the cage and made a run for it. After catching her, I picked her up, and her purr motored and she licked my fingers. I was sold. It’s odd how people say cats have no personality, clearly these people have never had a cat before, because that five-minute introduction to Lexington’s personality would, if I had paid attention, accurately predict what she’d be like later in life.
They say curiosity killed the cat, and in the case of Lexington, she’s almost up on her 9 lives. When ever there’s a mysterious noise in the house, my friend will turn to me and say “Lexington’s up to something again.” And I know those words to be true. I’ve never had a cat so overwhelmed by curiosity that common sense and fear just don’t seem to weigh heavily on her mind.
So, last September, when Lexington was a year old, I moved apartments. My previous apartment had an outdoor courtyard, in which my door led into it. It wasn’t exactly an enclosed space, but it was difficult to get past the cars to get into the wide open. Lexington stayed close to home. My new apartment, however, has what I thought to be an enclosed space, but it turned out that if one were to scale the 12 foot fence at the back of the property, one would have an entry into the larger world outside. And this is exactly what Lexington did one late Wednesday night. I went out to bring her inside and she was nowhere to be found.
I searched and searched. By Thursday night I knew there was something seriously wrong. She was trapped somewhere. I scoured the apartment building stairwells and nooks. I scoured the neighbourhood apartment stairwells that surrounded me. I knew if someone opened a door somewhere her curiosity would drive her in and then she wouldn’t know how to get out. That night I put signs up all over my block. I got a phone call from a woman who said she’d seen her at a major intersection. I ran to find her. I called out her name. No luck. I called the people who supplied her microchip and reported her missing. My vet called. Then another woman called and said she’s spotted her several blocks away. “How could it be?” I asked. There was no way a cat could get across that main road, there was too much traffic. I received more phone calls alerting me to her existence farther than I thought. I woke up early Saturday morning at around 5 and walked over to that road. It was dead. Not a car to be seen. Shit. I went back home and made more signs. I went back out, crossed the road, and began placing signs up. I called in a friend to help. We placed signs up everywhere. He helped me search. I called out her name. He had no hope. People stopped me on the street and said that they’d keep an eye out for her. People called saying that they had spotted her over the week. Some knew that the cat they saw was scared and didn’t belong, but they couldn’t trap her. She had always been so wily, unfortunately for her. I received more phone calls. I zeroed in on where she kept visiting, an area of apartment buildings, that could be mistaken for my old area I lived in. I visited an old lady in the area who had called. I had several conversations with people who heard us speaking, and figured out she’d been in the area two to three times each day. I put food out. Then exhausted, I went home and worried. How scared she must be, how hungry, how dependent on me this tiny cat is, how defeated I felt. What if I come close and can’t find her? How long can I keep up the search for her? I made a promise to fate that because so many people had put forth an effort to rescue my one little cat (I had about 25 phone calls and people went searching on their own for me), that another cat deserved this kind of care if I found Lexington. And so I would adopt an older cat, one that had been in the shelter for a long time, and had little chance for adoption and a good home.
That Sunday morning, I woke up. It was 3:30 am. And I thought I must go out and search for her. Even though the rescue organization said not to put myself in danger searching for my cat, I knew I had to go now when it was completely quiet. I grabbed two flashlights (one to see and one to beat someone with). I went to the apartment complex. Looking in, I thought it was too dark and too many bushes for me to walk through, so I decided to just stick to the main drag with all the lights and softly call her name.
On the third call, I heard a faint meow from across the road. I moved in that direction and kept calling. As I got closer and closer, her meow got stronger and stronger. When I reached the other side, she appeared between two cars bellowing. I went to her and picked her up. She was shaking. She meowed and meowed and tried to purr. I left my coffee on the side of the road, so I could pet and hold her. I brought her home.
I took her to emergency vet because I could see there was something wrong with her eye. The vet told me her injuries were in line with being hit by something, although likely not a car as she lived to tell the tale (at least Brunswick could understand as he smelled her to find out where she’d been this past week). Her fang was broken, her chin and ear had scarring, and her eye had developed conjunctivitis, but otherwise she was healthy and “in good shape for being lost for almost a week,” said the vet.
A week later, I brought Georgia into my home. I knew tongues would wag, but I didn’t care. It was the right thing to do. Lexington is fine now, although, a memory must remain as she’s still a little scared of people and leaving the courtyard. Although she’s still making lots of noise around the house, after this post, I will be heading to my bedroom to clean up the antique glass dish she broke.
Mother Teresa is quoted as saying that “love begins at home, and it’s not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.” A home is a home as long as you add a little bit of love to it. And from the sounds of it, author Sherrida Woodley has put a lot of love into the mobile home she has lived in with her family since the early 90s near Spokane, Washington.
Originally a dilapidated 70 foot trailer she nicknamed, upon viewing, “Misfit Farms” because of its colony of feral cats living in the abandoned chicken coop, the trailer had a few benefits she could see right away. It was close to a wildlife refuge and the area was in the middle of an ancient lava flow. It also had a tip-out (room extension) already in place. Although Sherrida dreamed of a double-wide home, kids, pets, farm animals and wildlife eventually came to her home to roost and now there’s been too much history for her to give it up, not that she would want to.
Her love for her home grew slowly. The rugged land, with precarious snowfalls (that have shut her in) and strong winds (that have toppled trees), but the nature is pristine. “It’s the wildness of it all,” that she loves most about her home. She can hear the birds chirping and singing daily. She can see moose and deer when she goes for a walk. One year, a squirrel stockpiled an abundance of pine cones in her back shed. When she opened the door, she found a neatly stacked and organized mountain of cones. It’s the little things that she sees in and around her home that she finds so absorbing and fulfilling. By mid-summer the outdoors becomes a kaleidoscope of colours from all the flowers. The ruggedness becomes paradise and her love.
There has been a lot of love over the years in the home that Sherrida found. Not just with her children and husband, but a neighbourhood peacock once even tried to court one of her hens. She watched as the peacock shimmered his tail feathers at the little red hen. But her hen was far too solitary, and the peacock’s love remained unrequited. Like the peacock story, there’s an underside to all this love, as there’s been loss in her home. Sherrida’s daughter died of cancer in 2010. But love is, Sherrida states, “one of the hardest critics and deepest, deepest motivators. Thank goodness for the human (and animal) heart.”
Even through her loss, Sherrida believes her home offers a magical sense of protection to her and her family. Their survival within the ruggedness of the outdoor atmosphere leads her to believe, half-jokingly, in the fairy-tale of the ’Nisses’, little beings that help to determine your fate in the area in which you reside. “Do no harm,” is the mantra and one Sherrida has followed for her love. She has never spent her time trying to tame the wilderness she sees before her. She lets it be. And in return, her home has held-up well over the years. Not one leak. Not one tree has crashed down on top of her family. The love of her home and area has given back.
Sherrida Woodley is the author of Quick Fall of Light.
Married, with a toddler and working in a career she loved, Kim was living in her own fairy tale romance with life when the unexpected happened. She was in a car accident, which left her hospitalized for several months.
As a teenager, Kim loved to read. Babysitting one night, she forgot her favourite author, Terry Brooks (one of the best-selling fantasy fiction writers of all time), at home. Bored, after she put the child to bed, she looked on the mother’s bookshelf. She decided to pick up one of the Harlequin Presents series romance novels, giggling at her own silliness for deciding to read a romance novel. But she couldn’t put the novella down. Romance novels, she learned, had characters that were full of depth, with plots that were more than just romance, and a writing style quite emotionally gripping. On that day, Kim discovered that books could be more than just an escape; they could also bring you on a thrilling adventure to visit people and places you’ve never been to in life. Which is why she came to love romance novels; they had all of this and a love story.
After her car accident, Kim momentarily lost the will to read. Feeling depressed about the state her life was in, she stopped laughing. But then, feeling bored again, Kim turned to the nurse and asked if the hospital had anything to read. She became hooked again and read every single book the hospital had on-hand. And that’s when she realized that her accident had one positive outcome; she had all the time to read all the books she ever wanted to read. Soon, her husband Robert was out running around the city purchasing romance novels to help his wife heal. The romance novels made Kim laugh again, become interested in life again, and have hope. She’s now read books from all the romance sub-genres although her favourite are historical romances. To her husband’s amazement, her love of historical romances has even helped her answer questions on Jeopardy.
As Kim slowly recovered while reading romance novels, she began to miss a social atmosphere, and the joy of her friends, who were not able to visit as much as she would have liked. Ever the supportive husband, Robert convinced her to go on-line, to meet new people who had the same passions as hers. Although reluctant at first—that a website could bring her joy—she decided to look on the back of the romance novel she was reading and type in the http://www.eharlequin.com URL she had seen over and over. She chose the Harlequin site because although she had read many different romance series, she felt that with Harlequin she could count on a satisfying story and believed she could then count on a satisfying experience on their website. So she joined their community on-line. Surprising herself, she met a lot of interesting people, who also loved and read romance novels as much as she did. She got involved from her hospital bed, judging writing contests, writing reviews, playing games, meeting authors, and having conversations with people who enriched her life.
Thus when Harlequin went looking for brand ambassadors within the various social media outlets, Kim applied to become one of them. The car accident had left Kim using a cane and sometimes a wheelchair and so although she doesn’t work for Harlequin currently, she would love to one day, but for the time being, it is not foreseeable. Kim has accepted her life. As she wrote to me:
“Life is to precious to dwell on the things I can no longer do. I’m happy. I have life. I have family. I have friends. I have BOOKS for my adventures with the bonus of actually talking with the authors I’ve loved for years. Life threw me a curve ball but I think I hit it out of the park.”
Kim is the current Harlequin Books ambassador on Goodreads.com
When Ellen* met David* she was working her way through college at the Second Cup. David was just one of her Second Cup ‘boyfriends’ a customer she thought was cute and so her co-workers let her serve him when he came in. Ordering coffee, he always spoke politely with a deep British accent, never giving off his interest in her. She knew him in a round-about-way, he was friends with another group that frequented the Second Cup that after her shift, she and her co-workers would sometimes hang out with. One day, they were standing in among the crowd and David asked if anyone would like to go see the Illusionists that weekend. Several agreed, including Ellen, who raised her hand. That weekend, they met outside of the Second Cup for the first time, when the other friends bailed out at the last-minute. It was just the two of them. So they went to the movie and then they became friends.
After several months of friendship, with Ellen’s feelings for David growing and growing, he finally turned to her and admitted that he hated the coffee at Second Cup and asked if she’d like to go out sometime with him. They dated while Ellen finished college and David continued working in the Canadian Army.
Then, after three years, David told Ellen that he felt like he was no longer in love with her. She was devastated. “Why?” She’d ask him. “How can we fix this?” She’d implore. But sometimes, Ellen learned, there just isn’t a reason for feelings and things can’t be repaired. They broke up.
Ellen saw other people. David saw other people. But they still getting together to hang out as friends. One night, both were going to a party of a mutual friend, and David offered to drive Ellen there. But what David didn’t know, was that Ellen’s latest guy was meeting her at the party. And what Ellen didn’t know, was that David was using the excuse of driving Ellen to the party as a way to speak to her about wanting to get back together. He realized he had made a mistake and wanted to love Ellen up close again. She told him about her new boyfriend in the car on the way to the party. And so he decided not to say anything.
Several months later, David, now in Petawawa, began preparing for his trip to Afghanistan. He knew he couldn’t go without telling Ellen how he truly felt. She met him to say goodbye before he left. He told her. They talked. They worked it out. They got back together right before he left. Has she seen him since? When he’s been back. Will she see him again? They’re meeting in Spain over Valentine’s Day weekend.
*Not their real names.