Sunday, January 27, 2008

Oh the Pain, the Pain!

Elsi left such a beautiful comment to my last post--touched my heart--that I thought I'd clarify something here, rather than in a comment.

The thing about my shoulder now is that it is not painful--except when I do my rehab stuff. So I could go the rest of my life like this, arm that works somewhat, and never have pain.

Or, to regain the function that my arm was created for, I must go through the pain. In these months, my therapist has been the expert at dealing out the pain for my own gain, but now that I've "graduated", it's up to me to apply and endure the pain...for my own health.

Each time my therapist pushed and pulled my arm, causing enough pain so I was kicking the table, she'd whisper, "Relax, relax. It's okay." As the months went on, I began to believe her, because I saw the results. And I trusted her to cause such pain for my own benefit. And now I'm an expert at working my shoulder into that pain, knowing it's the best thing for me.

I could sit this one out, and have no more pain. Or, I could keep working.

And if this isn't a marvelous (though painful) analogy of our Christian walk, I don't know what is!


Speaking of good sure to check out my sister Janice's blog. She's running a series on Osteoporosis, and she did one post on Alli which should dissuade anyone from trying it. Do check it out at:

Friday, January 25, 2008

Use It or Lose It

File this one under "you don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it."

I graduated from physical therapy yesterday, but I'm still getting "it" back. The "it" in question was my ponytail, something I'd totally taken for granted until September 29 when I took at header at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and smashed my shoulder to pieces.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, I had a plate and many, many screws put in before I could come home to Massachusetts. I've been in physical therapy since. That therapy has required enough pain that I would leave the session with a bright red face and teeth marks in my tongue.

I was declared "graduated" because I have become proficient enough in administering my own pain to progress at home. Two hours a day, I listen to sports talk radio and scream. Given that, in the time I've been doing this, the Red Sox have won the World Series and the Patriots are heading for the Super Bowl, you may rest assured that my screaming (and cursing) are because of the pain and not celebration--though in my case, one could argue they are synonymous.

When I came home from Dallas, I required neither a cast nor a sling because of the hardware in my arm. My arm, however, hung like a swollen, dead fish at my side. I could move my fingers but little else. My early goal in therapy was to be able to rest my arm on the table long enough to type. This took almost a month.

My ultimate goal in therapy is to get my ponytail back. I still cannot easily raise my left hand to the crown of my head, and I certainly struggle to hold it higher than my shoulder for the period of time it takes to pull my hair through a scrunchie. Today I bit the bullet (or would have, if I had one), bent my face to my lap, and tried my best to get a ponytail in. As you can see by my self-portrait, I did it, though not without a couple of karate yelps.

Though my ponytail is far from perfect, I got what I wanted.

God, being ever so much wiser, may desire something else.

Earlier in the day, I had knelt at the door for a moment of prayer. I began to sing and, as with so many songs, needed to lift my hands. My right arm shot up but my left arm creaked and chugged its way heavenward, pain surging as I stretched and stretched. And I was struck by two thoughts.
The first don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it. Before my accident, I wouldn't have thought twice about raising my arms--though perhaps more too often to cheer the Sox than to cheer our God.

The other thought is this: how often do I take the privilege of prayer and worship for granted? If it is too often, then stretching heavenward will become painful, perhaps to the point of almost impossible.

Use it or lose it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meet George, Valerie Comer's Charmer of a Cat

I continue to be astounded at these clever and loving cats we're meeting. I'm also a bit irked since I have the only unredeemable cat in the group -- but I'm enjoying all the cyber cuddles. Please welcome Valerie Comer and her cat George.

George, aka Fur Face, is almost 13 and looks like a Himalayan. His actual lineage is purebred Alley Cat. He was born behind my sister-in-law's couch and dubbed George by her toddlers, who dragged him around by his hind legs and tortured him. This actually made him into quite a tolerant cat. My kids, much older than their wee cousins, weren't too sure about the new kitten's name when he moved to our house, but they decided that rather than Curious George he was the George of Warner Brothers fame, where Marvin the Martian squishily hugs Bugs Bunny and says: "I will hug him and love him and call him George, and he will be my best friend forever and ever."

The most annoying thing about George is that he isn't as attached to his hair as I'd like him to be.
But astounding? Yes, in several ways. We've had open stairs for much of George's life. His favorite game involves touch-and-go tag on the stairs. There are so many directions we can tag him from but he does a superb job of defending all angles. He rarely plays with claws out unless he has given plenty of warning that he no longer finds the game amusing.

The most amazing thing is that he acknowledges his name every single time it is uttered. If he is asleep (on the chair that folks notice does not contain the permanent indentations of any human bottom) his ears will twitch. After speaking to him a few times he will open his eyes and look at me as if to say, yes? What is it this time? The funniest aspect of that is every time my husband calls him, the cat comes running. In the past few months, Jim has been training George to come when he snaps his fingers. I can still scarcely believe that any self-respecting cat would leap to attention when summoned, but the evidence plays itself out for me often!

There is nothing in life that compares to a snuggling, purring cat. Babies grow up, but the kitten remains inside the cat. This Christmas is the first year that George hasn't removed an ornament to play soccer with at least once, so maybe he is growing up at last. He is nearly always ready to snuggle if I need it and makes sure I have something to laugh at every day.

The main life lesson that my cat teaches me is how little it takes to be content. His life is full and complete with a roof over his head, food and water, a litter box, and someone to tickle his tummy. He can play for hours with the simplest of toys; the plastic tab off a milk jug is one of his favorites.

We people get so busy with Important Things that we often forget to count the blessings that God has given us. We fret over what happened yesterday or might happen tomorrow. George, however, is secure just being a cat and living in the present. He trusts us completely to fill his water and food dishes, to scoop his litter, and to come home from work to play with him. Why do we agitate so needlessly in our own lives? Why can we not rest in the assurance that the God who made us loves us and will care for us?

Valerie Comer

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jack Be Nimble

Our friend, "Accidental Poet", has been gracious enough to introduce me to her pre-born nephew, Jack. Jack's got a few months to go in the womb and is growing well. Unfortunately, a tumor on his back is growing equally as well.

Jack's life will be an adventure and a blessing, and is worthy of walking alongside (with our dogs) and sharing our prayers. I am convinced he will one day frolic with his own puppy, and thanks to many prayers and the Internet, we'll be jumping for joy with him.

I invited you to meet Jack at his mother's blog Scroll to the first entry for his story, and be captivated by this young soul.

Next up in Cat Month: Valerie Comer's kitty George.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Marj and the "Redeemed" Anastasia

Today we welcome Marj, and Maddie's...well, they aren't exactly friend's so we'll say...Maddie's "acquaintance."


This is Anastasia. We acquired her a year ago October. Anastasia was a stray, found by my boss's friend Dan as she was nursing four kittens under a hollow in a rock wall. Although she was pathetically thin (starved, really), she was clean and friendly with an air of elegance about her. That's how she came to be called Anastasia - she was a sort of an aristocrat living in reduced circumstances.

After the kittens were weaned and placed, we brought her home, and took her for shots and to be spayed. The vet said she was only about a year and a half old, and apparently had had a family at some point, since she was so comfortable with people. They probably tossed her out when they found she was pregnant.

She's a funny little thing. Although she's friendly, she isn't very affectionate - well, not cuddly, anyway. She follows me everywhere, insists on being as physically close as she can be, as long as I don't try to hold her. Sometimes, when she's feeling particularly mellow, she may allow herself to be held for 4 or even up to 6 seconds as a time - but no more. She likes to sit on my lap, but there is to be no cuddling. Absolutely - no cuddling.

There are things that she didn't know how to do when we got her - like opening doors. Most cats will work away at the side of a door with their paws until it opens enough to get through. Not this one. At first, she would wait and mew until somebody opened it. Then she started to watch us - and took to standing on her hind legs and trying to turn the knob with her front paws. I'm afraid it wasn't very successful. She finally got the hang of doing it in the usual cat way, but it took months.

There's another thing she wasn't up to speed on right away. Early last spring I discovered why she was so scrawny when we got her - she can't hunt. I learned this after she came to get me one morning to show me something. We were both perplexed by the presence of a large, bright green, live frog in the living room. Anastasia would oh, so tentatively, give it a gentle poke with her paw, and it would hop up and away, and she would hop back, and then forward, and so it went. She was interested enough to go after it (slowly) but didn't have the least idea what to do next. So I scooped it up and plopped it outside.

Many months later I woke up in the middle at night to use the bathroom, and there, laid neatly next to the toilet, was a little dead mouse. "By gum", I thought, "she's finally figured it out." Then I went back to bed, being unwilling dispose of the unfortunate beast at that hour. Anastasia beat me to it, anyway. My husband found the back half of that mouse at the bottom of the stairs when he got up.

Later it occured to me that really, it was very nice of her to give me her mouse. It must have represented quite an accomplishment to her (I'm not just anthropomorphising - she was positively preening all next day), and it was quite touching to think that instead of immediately consuming the fruit of her labor, she was willing to give it to me. And then I felt ashamed, because my odd little cat knows more than I do about how to show love and appreciation to her master.

It isn't easy to give your first-fruits to God. It's much easier to rationalize - "I need this", "I worked hard for this", "I deserve this". But what better way to demonstrate the depth of your attachment than to give away, with no guarantee of getting it back, the things that mean the most.

It's even better than cuddling.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Oh, What a Mess!

The forester has expanded his operation, now cutting trees along the main path. It's not the cutting that is the issue for we dog-walkers, it's the heavy equipment that is turning the path into a pitted, treacherous ditch, and it is the debris that he scatters behind as he strips the trees of branches and drags off the main trunk.

Not my woods, I tell myself. Yet they are so much a part of the fabric of my heart, the mess is distressing. Strangely enough, though he's cutting and hauling out so many huge, ancient trees, the forest is still populated with many more that will--as he promised, and I know to be true--grow taller and straighter because of the foresting.

What I hate is the demolishment of paths that have clearly been around for decades, maybe a century or more.

There is a certain grace to an old path, with its finely trod ground and exposed roots, a sense of history that many others walked these paths, eyes on the trees and stone walls and sky, perhaps snatching that moment of praise and letting it go to the One to whom it belongs.

Walking is now a horror show. It doesn't show well with the snow but the path has become partially a deep ditch (from the heavy equipment) and partially a slick track (from the trees being dragged.) On top of that peril are branches and sticks everywhere that you has to pick around, often time obscured by snow. It's hard to go off the path because the forester piles the branches there, a wall of wood and pine needles.

Marj walked Maddie here yesterday and remarked that, the problem with having to watch ones feet to pick one's way through such destruction is that one loses sight of the beauty all around. I like to think that I am wise enough to stop and take that moment before I trudge on, but my impulse is always to just rush forward and put this all behind me. I want to get into the woods beyond the forested property, where nothing has changed.

Yet this morning, when I did stop, I had to struggle to look past the mess at my feet, the mountain of tree branches at the side of the path, the trees that have been downed simply by collateral damage (a bigger tree falling on them). Looking in the long view, I saw a new woods with plenty of trees but more sky, more expanse in which to praise the Lord who made this all.

And isn't that the view I need to take when God is foresting my life, and leaving a mess in my path? Not my woods--and not my life--I need to remember.

Next up for Cat Month: Marj and her aristocratic Anastasia.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sharon Dunn and her "Crazy" Kitties

I am a crazy cat lady. Cats are in almost all my books. I have a cat who is an affliction when she first arrived her name was TinkerBell. We now call her Craziness.

Anyway, the two cats I want to talk about are Buzzsaw and Big Rat. Buzzsaw and Big Rat came to us after much prayer. My daughter had lost her sweet calico Cozette and I wanted some healing and grief to happen before we got new cats.

We prayed for "just right kitties." I wanted short haired sisters. Short hair because I am tired of hair balls. Sisters because I thought two of them would keep each other company and be able to stand up to our Evil Queen Cat, Craziness.

God gave us exactly what we prayed for. Buzzsaw (so named because she started to purr loudly when my son picked her up in the shelter) sleeps on my son's head. She has an issue with being able to find the litter box, but she loves my son.

Big Rat is my daughter's cat, the cat who brought some closure after we lost the little calico.
The sisters play together and lick each other. I often find them, one using the other for a pillow, sleeping in front of the space heater. Cats are after all, heat seeking missiles.

Just as a note, these cats, like all of our cats have evolving names because cats don't call when you call them. They came from the shelter as Cashmira and Pewter. When the potty challenged one has one of her accidents, my hubby calls her Stupidhead.

My recent releases is book two in the Bargain Hunters mysteries, Death of a Six Foot Teddy Bear features Phoebe, the monster cat as a character. whodunits, including book two in the Bargain Hunters mysteries
I blog twice a month at
Death of a Six-foot Teddy Bearfrom Multnomah Publishers, a division of Random House

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


As evil as Sultana is, our neighbor has a cat named Patches who outdoes her in the nastiness department. Patches is so domineeringly ornery that their other cat, a sweet thing named Mischief, had to be put on anti-anxiety drugs. A couple years ago, my neighbors went on vacation and the friends charged with caring for their cats didn't give Mischief his medication. When my neighbors got home, Mischief FLEW out of the door and hasn't been seen again.

Since then, Patches has turned his considerable charm to Sultana. He has beat her up in so many places and chased her up so many trees, I've lost count. So it was with great surprise (and okay, a little delight...I fear my cat but don't hate her) that three weeks ago I saw Sullie chase Patches out of our yard!

A couple of days ago, I was working in my office when I heard a horrible howl on my front porch. It didn't sound so much like cat-fighting as like a cat getting killed. I ran out, expecting to see Sullie being carried off in some coyote's jaws.

Instead, I saw Sullie running along the railing, jumping to the ground and peeking under the porch (which is enclosed with latticework ), running to the stairs, back on the railing, on and on. The triumphant cast of her shoulders leads me to believe she had trapped some poor cat (probably not Patches) under our porch. I tried to get her to come in but she was too busy patrolling all possible exits from the latticework.

When she finally did come in, her fur was still all fluffed up and her tail lashing. She immediately went to Tasha's blanket and plopped herself down. As you can see by the picture, and other pictures I've shared, Tasha clearly is not thrilled to have Sultana anywhere near her. Didn't matter...BadCat was in a conquering mood and my poor dog was next.

As always, the spiritual analogies are too sweet to skip. The question is we see God like this, trying to keep us contained, staying near us even when we try to turn away? Or is Sultana a smaller version of the lion roaring around our souls, trapping us and laying claim to us even when we've offered no invitation to do so.

I decide.

Next up: Sharon Dunn and her cats, Buzzsaw and Big Rat. (Great names, eh?)

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Amazing Mr. Hemingway Halter

When I initiated Cat Month, I thought (based on my evil kitty) "what could people possibly share about their cats?" You're all proving me foolish, as does Pam's cat Hemmy. Read on and enjoy! He is a remarkable cat, though, based on his wild-eyed photo in the tree, I'm not sure I'd want to be walking past him in that moment!


Hemingway (better known as Hemmy) is a multi-toed, American short hair. Ernest Hemingway loved multi-toed cats, hence the name for our kitty. He is 4 years old, has huge paws (called mittens) with 6 toes on the front and the rare 5 toes on the back. He thinks he's king of the house. We got him for our daughter, Mary . . . my hubby, Daryl, and I were in the pet store with the intention of getting a couple of hamsters for Mary. I had my arms full of hamster paraphernalia when Daryl sticks his head around the corner and says, "Hey, you gotta some and see these kittens!" I thought, well, we're not getting a hamster today, and I put the stuff back on the shelves. Sure enough, there was a fiesty kitten who seemed to love us. We bought him.

Hemmy knows he's Mary's cat. She can do anything to him and he'll just lay there. The rest of us, he bites.

He likes to play hide & seek with her. It has to be seen to be appreciated. He eats fruit and peanut butter. He trots behind us when we walk.

He's a great hunter, even capturing and killing squirrels. But his favorite treat is a praying mantis. He shows up on the porch every summer with several. I try to tell him they are protected and we'd get fined if he was caught . . . but that doesn't seem to bother him.

Hemmy really loves the Christmas tree. But he doesn't want ornaments. He will knock off anything we hang on the branches. It's pretty funny. So, we have a wildlife theme for our tree. Two cats . . . because our other cat loves the tree, too, although Hemmy is king of the tree and our other kitty must stay in the lower branches.

The most astounding thing Hemmy has done was to take Mary's cell phone in his big paws and manage to take a picture of himself. We laughed and laughed. None of Mary's friends believe he did it.

When we lost another kitty, Dusty, 2 years ago, Hemmy grieved deeply with me. For the first four days after we buried Dusty in the back yard, Hemmy sat on the grave. When I wept, Hemmy laid with me. He walked the house and called for the longest time. I believe he still misses Dusty. I know I do.

He is loyal to a fault to Mary. He loves her and provides a safe, comforting place for her when troubled.

We all grieve when we lose a pet. Then we go out and get another one, knowing we will go through it all again. One time, while kneeing and weeping at another cat's grave, I asked this out loud. Why do we do it? Daryl said, in the beginning, God gave man dominion over the animals ... to care for them ... he believes that's why most of us have an almost inborn desire to have some kind of pet. An interesting thought, don't you think?
Visit Pam at:

Joy, Pure Joy

Pam's kitty Hemmy will be up in a few hours but I had to post this video that Bonnie shared in her comments. It is too precious not to hightlight!

Bailey (the dog in the video) is the very soul of exuberance. Check it out!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

An Apple a Day

Marj was busy the other day so I volunteered to take Maddie for her walk. Walk is a misnomer...for Maddie, it's ready-set-gallup. It had snowed a foot the day before so the going was very slow for me but apparently Maddie didn't get the memo. She only has one speed, and that's heart-busting.

That's why, when she skidded to a stop and started digging, I knew I'd better check it out. Once she dug up a rotting rat and brought it home in the car with her. (Fortunately, Marj was the designated walker on that day.)

On this day, her find was a rotten apple. Worried it would make her sick, I tried to get her to give it up. She'd drop it at my feet but take it up again before I could snatch it away. I'm not sure what I would have done with it's not like I'd stick it in my pocket, and anywhere I tossed it, she'd managed to retrieve.

I had one dog biscuit with me, enough to lure her momentarily away. (She doesn't eat the biscuits, she inhales them.) I kicked the apple deeper into the snow and patted more snow on top of it.

Of course, she found it. How she smelled it through what had to be two feet of snow is the blessing of being a dog, I suppose. No rotting treat can ever be buried so deep as to be lost. We once had a Lab who kept bringing a rotted, unidentifiable carcass home. Steve buried it and Barney dug it up. Finally I picked a hole in the ice on the pond next to our yard, shoved in the fetid flesh-and-bones, and left it overnight to freeze over.

Barney smelled it through the ice and dug and dug until he actually broke through and retrieved it.

Once more I'm reminded of how our dogs model the role of the Holy Spirit. We dig things deep, cover them good, and pretend they're gone. But that wonderful and fearsome Spirit sniffs us out.

When the hound of heaven is on your tail, dog biscuits will not suffice.

Up next for Cat Month: Pam Halter and her Hemingway!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dolphin and Elsi

Say hello to Elsi Dodge's charming kitty, Dolphin. You may remember Dolphin's travelmate who joined us during Dog Month, the equally-charming Lady.

I had to laugh at Elsi's sharing that she always wanted a gray kitty. That same desire got me stuck with BadCat!

Sounds like Dolphin could teach BadCat a thing or two!

What kind of cat is he and how old is he? (Dolphin answers this one.)

I am a brilliant saber-toothed tiger, cleverly camouflaged as a tabby cat. I’m almost five, and I’m sure I’m going to learn to drive soon. When I do—and as soon as I’ve conquered the task of opening cat food cans—I’m taking the RV and striking out on my own!

How did your cat become part of your family?
I was on vacation in Florida, swimming with the dolphins at Discovery Cove, when my 18-year-old cat died. She’d been home with a sitter, and Lady (beagle) was in a kennel. Lady was devastated at having her best friend gone; she would search the house, crying. She kept telling me, “If you loved me, you’d get me another kitty friend!”

I thought I’d get a dolphin-colored (gray) kitten and call it Dolphin, or any kitten and call it Mellon (which is elvish for Friend). A buddy called me one evening to say, “There’s a gray kitten at the pet shop; come quick!” I know better than to get a pet shop animal, but Lady wanted a new friend, so I just went to look …

I brought the adorable baby home at once. He barely filled my cupped hand, but had a purr that filled the house! I set him down on the living room rug and said, “Lady, here’s your new kitty friend!”

Lady came over and sniffed him, delicately and respectfully. And Dolphin swore at her! He said … on second thought, I can’t write the words he said, but they were BAD! Lady was devastated.
They’ve reached a mutual cooperation agreement now, but every once in a while Lady looks at Dolphin in utter bewilderment.

What is the most annoying and/or astounding thing your cat has ever done?

Dolphin’s a funny little guy. He was ill with giardia when I got him, and only about five weeks old (which is illegal here). But returning him to the pet store wouldn’t have helped him, so … But he’s an unbonded child, suffering from attachment disorder. He lives in his own world, and tolerates the rest of us. He loves traveling in the RV. He chases the windshield wipers; I’m sure he thinks they’re pterodactyls. He’s apparently a member of Homeland Security, and takes his responsibilities seriously. Without him, we would be overrun by terrorist rabbits, squirrels, and robins.

But with all that, the above picture is still the most astounding thing I’ve seen. I pulled into a gas station, glanced at the passenger seat … and there he sat!

How does your cat’s companionship enrich your life?
I always have something to laugh at when Dolphin’s around. He has his own slant on life, and doesn’t really understand why I don’t see things the same way. He is a happy traveler, loves to go for walks on his harness and leash, slaps the dog when he’s mad at me, bites me in the ankle when I punish him for something (and then we’re even and can be friends again).

What does your cat teach you about God?
Dolphin, my pudgy, strange cat, has always been quite certain the world is his kitty toy. He is confident it was created for his pleasure, and for him to use as he chooses. After all, isn’t the world full of people who want to feed and pat him? And many of them wear dangly earrings, long scarves or belts, fringed sleeves and hems, or floppy shoelaces—all clearly meant for cats to play with. Not to mention keys, coins, and spoons, all sitting on the counter waiting to be batted about, and flies and windshield wipers just waiting to be chased, and birds and squirrels outside the window … oh, it is a wonderful world, and everything in it is intended as a plaything for him!
Dolphin has a strange sense of justice. He will not tolerate being restrained or constrained as he goes through his day. The world has been made for him, and he should be free to enjoy it. He has discovered that his mama (me) has a different attitude and, reluctantly, he makes a few allowances for my prejudices (at least, until he learns to open cat food cans). He doesn’t bite me when I’m asleep, he refrains from walking under my accelerator foot in the RV, and he allows me to retrieve him when he escapes to the great outdoors.

He will not, however, tolerate being held down or squirted with water, no matter how naughty he’s been. For example, he enjoys shredding the side of the sofa, though only when I’m there to be bothered by it. He will scratch, then look to see if I’ve noticed. A flick of his tail says, You’re not the boss of me! Then he goes back to scratching, secure in his knowledge that he’s put me in my place.

When I tell him, “NO!” the tail twitches faster. Yes, indeed, he’s showing me who’s boss!
A firmer NO earns me another look. If I’m threatening him, he evaluates the profit/loss ratio (is it worth it? yes!) and continues. And when I squirt him, he is shocked. How dare you? He immediately stops what he was doing and leaves.

Within a minute or two, however, he is back. He walks up to me and nips me in the ankle. Now we are even—I punished him, and he retaliated—and we can be friends again.

Just after 4th of July, I went to Breckenridge with friends. Kaitlyn, 16, bullied Dolphin, rolling him about and forcing his compliance. Soon all she had to do was touch his forehead and remind him, “Calm!” and he would settle down.

To my surprise, this effect has stuck. He allows me to rub his tummy and tousle his ears. He purrs and snuggles. And when he forgets and starts to use his teeth, all I have to do is reach out a finger to the fur between his eyes and tell him, “Be calm,” and he stops!

Oh, I am so much like my cat! I know how the world should function, and I get irritated when it doesn’t work out my way. “That’s not fair!” is often my response when I lose something, when I’m late, when there’s road construction on my highway, when I run out of shampoo.
I panicked when I lost my credit cards, praised the Lord when we were able to replace them, and found myself highly indignant when the replacement cards were delivered late. How dare they interfere with my trip?!

So what am I saying? Maybe I’m quoting Romans 9:14: “Is God unjust? Not at all!”

In any event, I see God, leaning down in love, pressing His finger on my forehead and saying, “Be calm. Be still, and know that I AM God.”

And I roll over, paws relaxed, purring softly—secure in the knowledge that God is in control. I don’t have to worry about making things right. He’s in charge. What happens “does not, therefore, depend on [my] desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16).

The Heart of the Matter

Dolphin will be making his appearance later today (and he'll steal everyone's heart) but I wanted to take a moment to point you all to my sister's blog entry on heart disease. Even though I worked for years in a hospital lab and knew all the terms like MI and A-Fib, I never understood what was happening.

Janice's blog explains a lot, and it's the opening round in a discussion on healthy hearts. Please check it out at:

Elsi Dodge's Dolphin is next up. For now, remember a lot of elements go into a healthy heart, not the least of which is a dog or cat to hug to it!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Woman's Best Friend

I've got my share of phobias. Snakes top the list. I scream at brightly-colored ropes and hoses. If I see a dead snake on the path, I'll stay away for weeks.
Anything involved with taxes and the IRS makes me shake. (Ask my's true.) Tax preparation and submission is a nightmare for me, even though we have a splendid accountant.

My most inconvenient phobia is having my picture taken. I am the most unphotographic person in the world. I don't have good cheekbones, my smile shows too much gum, my eyes are saggy, I have no eyelashes.


The problem with being an author is that publishers are always looking for a photo. I haven't gone to a studio to have one done because it will be agony. I won't photograph well and it will be a waste of money. Steve sometimes does my photos, almost invariably ending in us sniping at each other. I asked Marj to do this latest round and, though we've shot about 50, I still don't have a usable one.

We had tried photographing me after Sunday School, with a red curtain as background. I looked stark white, with too dark lipstick, red-eye, and just stiff-stiff-stiff. I changed clothes and makeup and went to her house to be photographed in front of her lovely bookshelves. My makeup was better but I still looked like someone was setting my toes on fire.

So she sicced Maddie on me.

The photos are a riot, and I don't know if I can even use them (given Maddie's glowing eyes) but clearly, they showed the real me. I needed Maddie to become who I really am, and not who I'm trying to be.

And isn't that what friends do--help you discover yourself?

NEXT UP for Cat Month--Elsi Dodge's Dolphin.

CORRECTION TO MY ENTRY ON 'BOILS.' Marj said: "If it's melanoma and you ignore it, you won't have to worry about old age spots."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hellyer Takes Center Stage

To kick off "cat month," today we welcome Dineen Miller and her Hellyer. (I have to admit, when I first saw that name, I thought she must have a BadCat of her own...but she'll explain the name as you read.)
Please welcome Dineen Miller and her cat Hellyer, aka Little Bit or Helly Belly

What kind of cat is he/she and how old is he/she?

Hellyer is just a tabby, white and tan. He's a year and half old. How did your cat become part of your family?My husband is an avid disc golfer. One day he was playing at Hellyer Park (that explains the name) on a record 110 degree day and heard a crying/mewing come from the brush. He went down and found this little 10 week old kitten, abandoned. We already had four cats, but he brought him home anyway.

At first look, we were all smitten by this kitten! Hubby named him Hellyer but I kept referring to the little fuzz ball as Little Bit and it stuck.

What is the most annoying/astounding thing your cat has ever done? (Feel free to answer both.)

Most annoying, he sprays all the time. Good thing he likes the outdoors. Most astounding, he likes to ride on my husband's shoulder. :-)

How does your cat’s companionship enrich your life?

He's kept us laughing since the day we adopted him. He's so unique in his personality and when he mews, he sounds like he's saying no. LOL! He's so much fun!

What does your cat teach you about God?

That God loves us SO much that He actually took the time and care to create these wonderful little creatures for our enjoyment. No other reason! That just amazes me that our enjoyment of life matters that much to God. This makes us treasure our pets even more. Since rescuing Hellyer, we've also rescued a puppy through California Underdogs. And she is precious and has been the best therapy for our daughter. :-)

Thanks for letting me participate!


* * * *

Dineen A. Miller2007 ACFW Genesis 2nd Place Winner

ACFW Featured Author Coordinator

Kittens Come From Eggs—

Designer Girl Graphics—Specializing in the design needs of writers and authors.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sometimes a Boil is Just a Boil, and Sometimes It is a Blessing

So I came home from Dallas in early October, my arm plated-and-pinned back together, and a small red spot on the interior of my calf.

Uh-oh, I thought. Flesh eating bacteria. (Come on, this is me...)

I followed its progress, watching the purple grow to a little bigger than a pencil eraser over the course of the next month. Finally, it seemed to be settling back into my skin and I thought, okay, I will survive.

Then it turned a toasty brown color. I watched it for a few weeks, decided it wasn't my imagination that it was developing a darker splotch inside.

I emailed Marj and said I thought I either had melanoma or old age spots (and didn't know which was worse). Supportive friend that she is, she reminded me if it were melanoma, I wouldn't have to worry about old age spots.

So I visited my PCP who thought it looked like enough of a concern to send me to the dermatologist. Hm, the dermatologist said, it's probably a sebhorric keratosis. What's that, I ask.

An old age spot.

Kill me now, I thought--ever the ungrateful child.

He biopsied it and was ready to dismiss me when I asked him to look at a spot on my eyebrow. Look is the wrong term...nothing was visible but it felt like a little, dried pimple. (Hope you're not eating...oh're all dog people so you're tough).

He biopsied that, too, and called me a couple days ago with the results. The thing on my eyebrow is basal cell carcinoma, the most common and least threatening of all skin cancers. 100% cure rate unless you let it go forever and ever. The only issue is the amount of scarring if it's not removed until much later in its run.

And the thing on my leg? Nothing. Not even an old age spot. Just a little inflammation, even though it looked like enough of a concern for a couple of doctors to say hm, better check this out. As the dermatologist was explaining to me that the brown lump that he had excised was nothing, he had this perplexed tone like...why wasn't it at least the sebhorric keratosis? It sure looked like something.

Of course, you and I know the answer to that. I never would have gone to the dermatologist for the tiny, dry spot on my eyebrow.

Sometimes a boil is just a boil. And hm...sometimes it's a blessing.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Welcome to Cat Month (Sorry, pups)

Meet Sultana, aka BadCat. This is not a term of's a warning! Note how she disrespects her owner (me) by sleeping on my manuscript. Note the terrifying gleam in her angry eyes. And look at those double paws, all the better to swipe (and strike) me with.

I do hope your cat is a far nicer member of the species than mine is. Whether a purring pussycat or a roaring lion, all cats are welcome this month. Every few days, we'll meet another kitty...and hope our dogs understand.

Send your cat's bio and photo to me at kathrynmackel at aol. Here's some questions to use as a guide.

What kind of cat is he/she and how old is he/she?
How did your cat become part of your family?
What is the most annoying and/or astounding thing your cat has ever done?
How does your cat’s companionship enrich your life?
What does your cat teach you about God?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Good Calories/Bad Calories?

My friend Lisa has become a disciple. No, not of Jesus the Christ but of a book called Good Calories/Bad Calories. It’s a best-seller, written by a Gary Taubes.

Taubes is no slouch or shill for the next best diet. According to his bio on Amazon, he “is a correspondent for Science magazine. The only print journalist to have won three Science in Society Journalism awards, given by the National Association of Science Writers, he has contributed articles to The Best American Science Writing 2002 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000 and 2003. ”

The premise is (quoting from that “everything we believe about a healthy diet is wrong,” and, in regard to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, “the problem lies in refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, easily digested starches) and sugars–via their dramatic and long term effects on insulin, the hormone that regulates fat accumulation–and that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. There are good calories, and bad ones.”

Lisa is thrilled with this book and its approach because, as she lives on cream, butter, and animal protein (including the fat) she’s dropping weight, body fat, and clothing size. Her blood pressure has gone down and she’s anticipating a lowering of her cholesterol and LDLs. (I’m eagerly awaiting that result.)

Still quoting from, here’s a listing of the “good” calories and “bad” calories.”

Good Calories
These are from foods without easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars. These foods can be eaten without restraint.Meat, fish, fowl, cheese, eggs, butter, and non-starchy vegetables.

Bad Calories
These are from foods that stimulate excessive insulin secretion and so make us fat and increase our risk of chronic disease—all refined and easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars. The key is not how much vitamins and minerals they contain, but how quickly they are digested. (So apple juice or even green vegetable juices are not necessarily any healthier than soda.) Bread and other baked goods, potatoes, yams, rice, pasta, cereal grains, corn, sugar (sucrose and high fructose corn syrup), ice cream, candy, soft drinks, fruit juices, bananas and other tropical fruits, and beer.

Kathy again: I struggle with the notion of loading my diet with animal fats while minimizing what I consider healthy starches, such as peas, yams, potatoes, and oatmeal. As a lifetime member of Weight Watchers and the wife/cook for a man with cardio-concerns, I can’t envision a healthy diet without whole wheat or pasta, or without oranges and bananas.

I checked in with my own expert, my sister Janice Freeman.( ) She's a scientist, medical expert, and fitness trainer in her own right. Here’s what she told me:

…I suspect the "scientific' studies quoted in the book are observational or epidemiological. The problem with those kinds of studies is that they can only show correlation, not cause and effect. And the same is true of meta analysis of studies designed to study a particular question, where some one uses the data to try to answer another question. These were the kinds of studies that led us to believe for so many years that post-menopausal estrogen supplements protected women from heart disease. There is great (unintended) bias in such studies. In the case of estrogen, it was probably due to the fact that women who took estrogen replacement took better care of themselves in general. It was not until the first double blind, placebo controlled study of (matched) post menopausal women with and without estrogen replacement was done that the medical community learned that correlation was not cause and effect. And although the famous Framingham study showed higher cholesterol is associated with higher heart disease risk, it was not until the landmark West of Scotland study (double blind, placebo controlled, 5 years), that the medical community became convinced that statins helped prevent heart attacks, even if the individual never head a heart attack.

It is very easy to mislead even relatively scientific minds when quoting "studies." Unless there is a 10 year study of high protein vs. food pyramid eating and weight control, no one can claim to be superior. I am familiar with the good cal concept, and know some people who have tried it. It actually leads to calorie restriction, since people get very tired of so much protein. It is a strain on the renal system when protein is continuously converted to glucose for fuel; the by products that need to be eliminated tax the kidneys.

Kathy again: It seems to me there’s a far larger issue at play here, one with a spiritual basis. If we believe Taubes, the human body is designed to be a carnivore.

But in the first book of Genesis we’re told:

29Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

This posits us before the fall —humans and animals alike—as vegetarians. The first animal in the Bible was not killed to feed Adam and Eve, but to cover their sin. We see Daniel and his friends prove a diet of vegetables and water to make them vigorous with health but Peter’s vision releasing Christians of Jewish descent from dietary strictures. While the Lord instructed the Israelites to commemorate the Passover with unblemished lamb and bread without yeast, Jesus celebrated the coming fulfillment of this meal with what Taubes might consider "bad calories" --bread and wine.

I’m rooting for Lisa as she works her way to blooming health. No way am I a vegetarian but the notion that bacon is healthier than cheerios just rattles me. I remain convinced of two things.

First, common sense in enjoying all of creation's bounty and giving thanks for that bounty is good.

And second, the path to good health is always broader and smoother when you take a dog along.