Blog Post #36 July 30, 2017 Bird Watching

July 30, 2017 – Bird Watching

Good morning, cuddlers!

This summer I have noticed more birds and sounds of birds. I think it may have been the positive influence of one of my friends from the Bear River Writers’ Conference who is a nature expert. We had a conversation about being able to appreciate nature even in the midst of the concrete jungle of Chicago.

Whether I’m out for a walk, running errands, or running along the lakefront path, I’ve come to notice the birds and the beautiful sounds of their summertime chirping. I also notice, and stay away from, the Canadian Geese…that’s a story for another time.

If I happen to see a dog on the path stalking a bird or a squirrel it brings a big smile to my face. I know the dog isn’t going to kill the bird or squirrel, so that’s why it’s a cute interaction. It’s especially funny when the squirrel outsmarts the dog and runs around to the opposite side of the tree and the dog is left in utter confusion. I can just hear the dog saying, “Where did that pesky squirrel go?!”

For my cats, I have always felt bad that we don’t have trees right outside our window so they can do their own stalking. This year, though, we seem to have a number of birds flying by on a regular basis. There also must be a tree that has gotten bigger or has become a safe place for birds to land, because I feel like we’re hearing more birds when the windows are open. Or, could it be that I’m paying more attention to the calming sounds of nature? Hmmm….

Well, even though my cats are getting more real-life experience with birds these days, I occasionally will play bird videos for the cats on YouTube. It’s so funny to watch them get so enthralled with the computer screen! I love that they think the bird is in the apartment when the bird flies away on the computer screen. Sometimes I’ll play the squirrel and bird video and Abby gets a little upset with the squirrel. I’d hate to see what would happen if they met in real life! The best part is seeing them intent as they watch the birds fly in and out of the screenshot. Ten minutes of bird videos means they will all sleep through the night.

I hope everyone is able to enjoy the nature in your hometowns this week. Enjoy the cuddle!

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Abby watching bird videos on the computer screen.
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Striker watching bird videos on the computer screen.
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Reggie watching bird videos on the computer screen.

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Reggie watching bird videos on the computer screen, and trying to grab the poor bird.
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One more picture of Reggie watching the bird video.

Blog post #35 – July 23, 2017 It’s new to me!

Good morning, Cuddlers!

Do you ever have those moments when you’re looking at your belongings and get the urge to re-organize? All of a sudden the furniture needs to be rearranged, the books on the shelves need a different organization system, or the closet needs purging of all things stuffed inside of it.

This happens to me about once every 8 months or so. I’ll be sitting on the couch, cuddling with one of the cats (of course), and the view of my “stuff” becomes completely different than it did only a few minutes before. It may be that I’ll notice a DVD that is in my collection that needs to be eliminated, or a framed picture needs to be updated, that will set off an entire cleanse of the apartment. I have limited space and limited ways to rearrange my furniture, so the furniture always stays. Since the furniture has to stay the same, I change other things and I clean out things that don’t bring me joy anymore.

In this process, I also try to go through all of the cat toys. By toys I mostly mean the various boxes and Chipotle bags that the cats once played with that I’m ready to throw away. It never fails that the box I pick up and ask the cats if they’re done with it, is the exact box Reggie, Abby, and Striker have re-claimed. Or, the nearly torn-up Chipotle bag is Abby’s favorite new hiding spot (again). OR…the box that doesn’t look like a box is Reggie’s make-believe fort, and when I try to pick it up to put in the recycle pile, he swats at my hand.

You can probably guess what happens in my apartment. The cats win. If they seem happy, and are playing with something, who am I to take that away from them? I will eventually put my foot down with some things, but most of the time, the cats are the victors.

At least I managed to purge about 4 bags of old school papers and a box full of old magazines. The recycle bins were my friends this past week! My apartment feels new and refreshed and my cats have “new” toys, hideouts, and forts to play with.

Enjoy the cuddle!

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My plan was to put a few more binders on the shelf. Abby decided she would like the spot instead.
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I told Abby and Striker that if they didn’t stop chewing on the plant, I was going to get rid of it. This was Striker’s reaction.
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I’ve tried several times to put this comforter away. According to Striker and Abby, it belongs folded on the bed.
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I was going to buy new cushions for the cats. Reggie and Otis are fine with the old cushions. (Take note of how the cats have scratched up the couch.)

Blog post #34 – July 2, 2017

Happy Birthday, America!

Good morning, Cuddlers!

This time of year is full of BBQs, family and friend gatherings, and plenty of summer activities. It’s also that time of year that many dogs, cats, and other animals despise. The stories of animals being freaked out by the fireworks are endless. So, while we’re about to celebrate our nation’s birthday, our fur babies are looking forward to July 5th.

Growing up it seemed like the dogs in my life were more afraid of the fireworks than the cats. One of my grandparent’s dogs could hear thunder and fireworks from far away distances, even out of human hearing range. She would shiver and hide her head the best she could. I also remember feeling so bad for our dogs in Chicago, because it seemed like people were setting off fireworks right in front of our house. While we were enjoying the 4th of July, our dogs were dreading the entire day. Poor doggies. It sure is hard to reassure a scared dog or cat that they’ll be okay.

Last year I noticed my cats showing signs of not liking the sounds of the fireworks. In my neighborhood we don’t get as many people setting off illegal fireworks, so it’s not a big problem. There are the occasional fireworks set off nearby, which sends the cats running…or at least that look of “What the heck is going on?!”

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Abby found her hiding spot from the noise of the fireworks…in the All-American Coca-Cola box.
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Striker is trying to hold the American flag. Happy birthday, America!

I often wonder about the animals at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, or other zoos near fireworks displays around the country. Are other animals as sensitive to the sounds of the fireworks? Well, I sure hope all animals are safe this year.

Have an enjoyable 4th of July celebration in the midst of cuddling with your fur babies. And, have a piece of watermelon for me (my favorite 4th of July treat).

Enjoy the cuddle!

Blog post #33 – June 25, 2017 Little Surprises

Good morning, Cuddlers!

This week my cats kept me laughing for all of their little, silly moments. Otis was playing with one of the toy mice that Abby usually plays with. Did he learn something from his little sister? Striker initiated a game of tag with Reggie and Abby, which hasn’t happened in a long time. One day this week, Reggie came back into the apartment on his own after playing in the hall. I thought for sure that was a joke…Reggie never comes back on his own. And, I kept catching all of the cats in sleeping positions or sleeping places they don’t normally sleep. I found myself repeating the phrase, “You guys are cracking me up!”

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Reggie, what are you doing to Otis! HAHA!
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Reggie and Striker love sleeping on the warm towels. How can I put the linens away now?
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Abby hasn’t slept on the purple chair in months. This is a usual spot for Otis – you can see by the white cat hair.
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Otis was sleeping up next to the window. He was snoring and looked so relaxed.

Sometime in the middle of the week – perhaps in light of the Summer Solstice – I was a little more aware of the little surprises in my own life. I guess the biggest surprise (which wasn’t little at all) was my mixed emotions on the last day of school. I have a new teaching job for the fall, and after 15 years at John Hope HS, I was leaving the building for the last time. I’m excited for the new adventure, but was caught in a mix of strange emotions from 15 years of memories.

Again, as the cats kept surprising me, I was taking note of the list of little surprises in my week. The strangest little surprise was a $25 check from a physical therapist’s office from an overpayment on my last PT appointment. Okay, maybe not such a little surprise, but this appointment was two years ago! In the six months that followed my 7 sessions of PT, I had to resolve a few things with the insurance company about a miscoded PT appointment (which was an error on their part). Well, that was FINALLY resolved which is why I received the $25 check. So, maybe that should fall under the category of “bizarre surprises.”

As I’m writing this I can’t help but notice Abby snoring and looking so peaceful. She is recovering from an ear infection and she seems to be 100% better. It’s nice to see her looking so peaceful and happy. This was another one of my little surprises, Abby feeling and acting better. I hope we all have a week of “little surprises!” All good surprises, of course.

Enjoy the cuddle!

Blog post #32 – June 18, 2017 Being Still

Good morning, Cuddlers!

I first wanted to wish all of the fathers, uncles, grandfathers, step-fathers, and fur-fathers a Happy Father’s Day! I hope today is a day where fathers are honored and have moments of relaxation.

This past week the idea of “being still” kept coming to mind. Reggie made me think of this early in the week. Sometimes Abby and Reggie will go on the stairs for a quick run up and down a flight. Occasionally, I’ll take Reggie on a “walk” up about five or six flights to give him more exercise and some quality time with me. He gets a small bite of a treat when he runs up each flight, so he’s come to love hanging out on the stairs.

Throughout the week I noticed all the cats in their moments of chillin’ and being quite comfortable with being still for a long period of time. I saw an adorable dog the other day stalking a squirrel. I watched this dog look like a statue for several minutes. He was all set on staring down that squirrel for as long as it took. (I wish I had a picture.)

Then, once again, I was reflecting on my time at the Bear River Writers’ Conference at Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake (check out last week’s blog). There are many reasons that I love Bear River, but one of the reasons that I think many of the participants love our time is our chance to be still. Being in nature, among fellow writers, and away from our busy lives allows us a few days to be still with our thoughts and our writing.

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Looking out onto Walloon Lake from the Education Center at Camp Michigania. (Bear River Writers’ Conference 2017)

It was a somewhat crazy week for me as the end-of-year “stress” piled up; graduation, finals, finishing grades, cleaning and packing up the classroom, and the like. I finally realized that I needed to find moments in my day to be still. Whether it’s sitting down to reminisce about Bear River, or watching Reggie sit on the stairs for five minutes, it was so helpful to me to do something as simple as being still for a few moments. I hope we are all able to find a moment or two to “be still” and appreciate the world around us, as well as, the world within us. Now, if I could only figure out what Reggie is thinking when he’s sitting still!

Enjoy the cuddle!

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Reggie hanging out on the stairs of my building.
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Otis sitting in my spot on the couch.
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Striker loves sitting on the window.
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Abby takes over the window when Striker jumps down.

Blog post #31 – June 11, 2017 A Place I Love

Good morning, Cuddlers!

Some of you may know that I was off last week to attend a writing conference. This is no ordinary conference. It’s a retreat, a chance to re-connect with nature, make new friends, and re-connect with old friends.

The Bear River Writers’ Conference first entered my life in 2015, and I was blown away by the wonderful feeling of being surrounded by like-minded, friendly people for five days. The conference takes place at the University of Michigan Alumni Association’s Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake. During the summer, Camp Michigania is host to Michigan Alums for weeks of family camp. The week before family camp starts, 100 writers and 10 authors/instructors invade the camp for several days of writing and camaraderie. After my first year at Bear River I would say, “It’s time for writing camp!”

This was my third year attending the Bear River Writers’ Conference. For the third year in a row I had a magical time and realized how much I missed the setting as soon as I drove around the bend and saw Walloon Lake. I love everything about it – the intense hours of writing, working hard with your fellow group members, the wonderful food in the dining hall (and soft serve ice cream), staying in a cabin, being disconnected from TV and internet most of the day, being in nature, and the list goes on. For the third year, I felt a little bit of pain in my heart as I left because I didn’t want to leave.

Upon my return home after the 6-hour drive, my cats greeted me with a lot of purring and meowing. I kept saying, “Did you guys miss me?” When they meowed in reply I was thinking they either said, “Yes! We missed you!” or “Hmm…not really…we just want you to feed us.” Well, even though I love going on little trips (and I absolutely love going to the Bear River Writers’ Conference), I also miss my cats when I’m away.

At this point, I’m carrying my positive energy I gained at Bear River this year with plans to return in 2018. It will probably hit me some time in April of 2018 how much I miss Bear River and I’ll start doing the countdown once again. I love the peace and serenity of Camp Michigania, and connecting with so many amazing writers. I’m sure all of my “cuddlers” have a place they love, too! Hopefully, this post has brought you to the place you love.

Enjoy the cuddle!

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Looking out onto Walloon Lake from the Education Center at Camp Michigania.
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On the walk from my cabin to the dining hall I kept thinking I was seeing a sleeping cow in the distance.
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The Nature Center – this is where my group met.
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Camp Michigania has about 20 beautiful horses on the property.
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Camp Michigania and Walloon Lake – the first view after coming around the bend on the dirt road.
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A wonderful friend, author, and fan of the Sunday Morning Cuddle!