What I Learned From Three Foster Kittens

I am an avid animal lover. A few months ago, I took in three, five week old kittens that needed some extra care from a local shelter before they could be put up for adoption. Our family already has three cats and two dogs, so to add more to the family was a bit of a handful. But, the whole family ended up falling in love with them and when they were old enough to be officially adopted, I just couldn’t do it. I could not hand those fur babies to someone else. After a family conference, it was decided we would adopt them ourselves.

Crazy? Most definitely!

Regretful? Not for a minute.

Having three, tiny kittens helped me to remember some very important lessons in life. So, with the permission of Prince, Hobbes, and Bear – our three newest family members – I share their wisdom with you:

1) Try everything once. If it doesn’t work the first time and you really want it to work, try again. You never know where it may lead you. For instance, if that counter is a bit too high, just keep trying to reach it every day. Jump at it a hundred times if you have to. One day, you will be just a little bit bigger and a little bit better at jumping, and lo and behold, you will reach the counter. And there might be cheese. Or a leftover tuna sandwich. Or you may find a box that is awesome for hiding. You won’t know until you try.

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2) Learn the ropes by watching others you admire. You know the old saying: Imitation is the best form of flattery. Would you like to be braver? Learn a new hobby? Get better at a work skill? Being humble enough to watch, listen, and learn from those who have been there can reap some big rewards. For instance, watch that bigger cat steal that Halloween decoration right off the wall and traipse off with it. The next day, when it miraculously is back on the wall after the human stole it from the big cat and the big cat is asleep, try it yourself. Do it exactly like the big cat did. Enjoy that homemade skeleton with the ribbon wrapped around it that you can spend hours taking apart in the closet. It will be totally worth it.

3) Be a part of something bigger than yourself. This will not only make you feel good about yourself, but you will be helping others as well. For instance, when your sister and brother find a cockroach they are circling, join in on the fun. You can bat it around for a while and have some laughs. This will inevitably help your human find it faster and she will proceed to frantically scream and throw a shoe at it. Then, she will hug you and be very happy.

4) Always show others in your life you care. This helps keep the lines of communication open and lets them know they are loved. You can do this in numerous ways. You can bring them small gifts, send an email, hug them, do favors for them, or simply tell them that you love them. For instance, while your loved one is calming cleaning their face, they always appreciate a sneak attack from the side that turns into a fun wrestling match, ending with a sprint down the hallway and up the curtain. Or maybe just save him or her a left over piece of asparagus you found on that counter you finally reached that you put in the dog bowl for safe keeping. That may be just the ticket to help put a smile on his or her face.

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5) Find time to relax. The world is a busy place and can create a ton of stress. Be sure to find moments to let the world go and just be free. Don’t let others judge you in taking time for yourself. For instance, take a nap during the day. Or sleep in. Call in to work for a mental health day to rejuvenate. And if it happens to be on top of your owner’s computer keyboard while they are typing, or on his/her lap just when they were going to get up, or right in the middle of the busiest hallway in the house, so be it. Or, I don’t know, in a basket otherwise known as the “place the chips go.” Take it where you can get it.

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I am sure that these little ones will continue to teach me a lot. If nothing else, they are super soft and help to soothe me when I am a bit down or stressed. Pets are truly a source of strength for many. I advocate pet therapy often for my clients. I have had numerous clients go to their local shelter and then bring their pet to a session to introduce their new family member to me. I am happy to say that I have had everything from dogs to chickens in my office. I have also brought foster kittens to the office for clients who approve beforehand so they can hold them while they work through difficult issues. Many clients with depression and anxiety find that getting a small fur baby to care for can help calm many symptoms they struggle with. So, if you have not incorporated this into your coping skills for clients, I encourage you to do so. That relaxation that animals so naturally exude can actually calm our brains and our minds. And who doesn’t want a little bit of that once in a while?

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The Force of Nature

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I am in Jacksonville, Florida. Today is the day after Hurricane Matthew blew through our beloved town and we have awakened to slight wind and sunshine. For some, there were only a few limbs and an occasional fallen mailbox or tree to clean up. For others, their homes and businesses are flooded and they are still trying to get back into their neighborhoods after being evacuated.

As a whole, all Floridians are mourning the changing of our landscape and beaches, and our beloved haunts that have been affected drastically by the storms. I am especially saddened by the videos of St. Augustine and the flooding of the historic campus, Flagler College. My son went there this summer for two weeks to learn about film production. We visited him at the end of his time there and all the parents and families of the students watched the films they had created. I can’t help but wonder how it all looks now. At the time, it was such an honor to roam those halls – it is full of such history and beauty. It is hard to think about those halls being filled with rain and sea water today.

We all watch with hope to make sure the storm continues to lessen as it blows into our adjacent states and breathe a sigh of relief as the hours tick by and we know it will be gone for good soon.

Today, neighbors came out of their houses to chat, to assess, to commiserate. One neighbor, anonymously, laid down a new piece of lumber in our yard, right next to our fallen mailbox, to save us a trip to the hardware store.

It is times like these that we are reminded that hope reigns eternal and we really do care about one another. It seems even more noteworthy with the presidential parties seemingly tearing our nation into two separate sidelines. All you have to do is check social media and see the lines drawn in the sand, the anger, the confusion. It is a difficult time to remember to try and understand one another, especially if we discover we are on one side of an issue while our neighbor is on the other. It is hard to remember that we are all in this together.

One thing I can say about Hurricane Matthew, it helped us remember.

It brought our thoughts back to what is truly important. All of us want the same things – a place to call home, people who care about us, and a bit of help and support along the way to keep us going.

I would have preferred that Hurricane Matthew had never made an appearance. But I have to admit that since it has, it has helped many of us to lay down our differences and work together. My neighbor has political views that our totally different than my husband’s and my own. But, today, we talked in our front yards together, talked about cleanup and roadblocks and how fortunate our street was to go unscathed. And I know, all around the states affected, and in the Bahamas and Haiti, neighbors are helping neighbors.

Frederick Douglass once said, “It is not light we need, but fire; it is not gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

So, Hurricane Matthew, we heard you. And we remember what is truly important.