Category Archives: cats

Here Comes the Rain Again….


by Lillian Csernica on February 9, 2017

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I live in Santa Cruz County. Right now we’re getting hammered by another storm system. A creek runs along one property line of our land. To say that it’s “swollen” is right up there with saying the Grand Canyon is a big hole in the ground.

At the moment, the creek is sporting various clumps of tree debris, PVC piping from the neighbor’s irrigation system, and other bits and pieces washed away from yards farther up the creek. A bright yellow ball is bobbing in one of the little whirlpools off to one side of the main current.

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Driving is a chancy business right now. In my particular neighborhood there are a number of places where hydroplaning is a real possibility if you don’t keep your speed down. Fishtailing, spinning out, and taking out the neighbor’s trash bins are not happy options.

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Spring promises to be glorious. The ornamental plum trees in my front yard are already showing buds that will soon become blossoms burst out all over the tree limbs like pink popcorn.

Acacia bushes line many of the roads around here. Their lovely yellow flowers spell doom for people with allergies.

The daffodils and pink ladies are already beginning to show. It’s nice to see the green and brown and gray of the mountains enlivened with colors.

School has been closed for two days, which has caused some logistical juggling around here. Word is school will be open, but I won’t believe that until the school bus for Michael shows up. I just heard something crack and splash out back.

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The picnic table in the lower back yard was under water two days ago, which was more than a little alarming. I can’t help thinking about Sir Terry Pratchett’s marvelous Discworld book, SNUFF. Commander Vimes takes on the task of steering a hijacked riverboat ahead of a giant wave roaring down the river known as Old Treachery. The phenomenon called a “dam slam” results in a logjam of debris sweeping away everything before it.

I’m really hoping we don’t get to see one of those live and in person!

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The 12 Rules of Christmas


by Lillian Csernica on December 15, 2016

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1) Thou shalt slow down. We’re all in a hurry. It’s that time of year. If we can “proceed in a calm, orderly fashion” the way we’re directed to do during emergencies, then maybe we can avoid the kind of emergency that will ruin everybody’s day. Yes, I mean traffic. I also mean elevators, escalators, check out lines, and any other point where the crowd tends to hit a bottle neck.

2)Thou shalt hurry up. This means have your ticket ready when you exit the parking garage. This means get off your cell phone and stop blocking the aisle. This means know what you want to order by the time you get to the head of the fast food line.

3)Thou shalt have mercy on servers, salespeople, and other customer service representatives unless and until they demonstrate deliberate rudeness. Once that happens, demand to see the supervisor or manager. Take the time to make sure those rude people get busted for their bad behavior. You deserve polite service.

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4)Thou shalt give no gifts that require labor or maintenance unless by prior explicit agreement. This means any living creature in the pet category, any plant growing in a container, anything from any DIY category on Pinterest, and especially any of those “In A Jar” projects.

5) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s parking space. This goes double for the handicapped slots. Just because you can’t see why a person has a handicapped placard or special license plate, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a disability that qualifies.

6) Thou shalt contain thy children. This includes both physical movement and volume control.

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7)Thou shalt prepare, taste, and evaluate any new recipes before inflicting them on innocent and unsuspecting family and/or guests. Have you ever wondered why the women’s magazines bring out all those bizarre recipes for the holiday season? If those food items are so delightful, why aren’t people making them anymore?

8) Thou shalt keep thy receipts. Big stores like Toys R Us and Macy’s are pretty good about “gift receipts,” making returns possible without the person knowing exactly how much you spent on the gift.

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9) Thou shalt not put up so many Christmas lights, inflatable snowmen, animatronic reindeer, etc. etc. that you create a traffic hazard by either distracting drivers, blinding them, or both.

10)Thou shalt cover thy nose or mouth in the event of a sneeze or cough. Come on, people. Do the elbow thing. Do NOT use your hands, because you will then spread whatever germs didn’t already escape into the air.

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11)Thou shalt send actual written thank you notes. I know, this must sound unbearably old-fashioned in the Digital Age, but it’s the right thing to do. My sons send written thank you notes, and everybody knows Michael and John both need some help to do that. People are surprised and very pleased. Word gets all the way back to my mother, who sat me down and made me write thank you notes as soon as I had learned how to write.

12)Thou shalt give thyself permission to stop trying to make everybody happy all at once, especially when that means losing sight of making thyself happy too. Figure out what really makes you happy, be it baking cookies or driving around looking at Christmas lights or going to church or playing silly board games with your friends. Do those things. Give yourself the gift of “Peace on earth, goodwill toward Man.”

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99 Cents Sale!


Thinking Ink Press, the publisher of Thirty Days Later, Steaming Forward: 30 Adventures in Time” is putting the Kindle version of the anthology on sale for 99 cents! This is a limited time sale, just until September 7th. Get your Harry Turtledove fix for under a buck!

via Sale on Thirty Days Later — Welcome to the Treehouse!

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Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!


by Lillian Csernica on July 27, 2016

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Yesterday we went on a family outing to the San Francisco Zoo. Back in late April, during his birthday preparations, Michael had asked for a trip to the zoo. Chris told him we’d go in the summer when the weather was better and the animals were more likely to be active.

This was my first visit to this particular zoo, which happens to be Northern California’s largest zoological park. Here are some of the marvelous creatures I had the pleasure of seeing live and in person:

Eagle Owl

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This owl is enormous! While I was studying her, Athena flew toward me. I now know what it feels like to be a small, furry creature seeing that shadow coming for me. In the Harry Potter books, Draco’s familiar is an Eagle Owl. The owl’s eyes really are that intense orange color!

 

Grizzly Bear

Kachina and Kiona are orphaned cubs from Montana. They were found foraging for food in a barn. Fortunately, arrangements were made for the zoo to give them a home.

Red Panda

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There are few creatures on this planet more adorable than a red panda. Even when one is just hanging out, munching leaves, it’s a delight. To judge from the number of stuffed toys red pandas I saw people carrying around, the zoo must sell more of those than any other animal.

Fishing Cat

This is when I got really excited. I didn’t know the zoo had a Fishing Cat. There she sat, on a stony ledge right beside the waterfall in her enclosure. She took no notice of us humans until a man with a service dog came closer. Then the Fishing Cat stood up and took a good look at that dog! Fishing cats’ paws are partly webbed. They pat the water to imitate how bugs move. That draws the fish, then the cats dive in!

Tigers

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Tigers are my favorite animal, especially the white tiger. We saw a Bengal tiger and a Sumatran tiger. Tigers are supremely cool and they know it.

Gray Rhinoceros

 

You need to understand just how big a rhino really is. Six feet tall at the shoulder, weighing up to three thousand pounds. My car, a Dodge Neon, weighs a bit over twenty-five hundred pounds and comes up to my chest. I had to stand there staring at the rhino for a good few minutes just to get my mind around the sheer size!

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Speaking of size, I was also boggled by the length and girth of the hippo, who was underwater and stayed there aside from a few brief bobs to the surface for air. This photo gives you some perspective. Do not annoy a hippo. It may well be the last thing you ever do.

Snow leopard

How gorgeous can one large feline get? What impressed me is the fact that a snow leopard’s tail is usually as long as its body.

These animals are all endangered species. Please, if you haven’t been able to see them in person, do so as soon as possible. If you find yourself captivated by one or more of these wonderful creatures, consider a donation or volunteer work or whatever you can manage.

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A Lesson in Priorities


by Lillian Csernica on June 6, 2016

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Ever had one of those days when no matter how hard you try, life just keeps getting between you and what you’re trying to accomplish?

Today fought me from the minute I dragged myself out of bed.  Phone calls, interruptions, distractions, failures to communicate.  This resulted in me being late picking up John at school, something I try my very best to avoid.

When I was a little kid, my mother had occasion to leave me with babysitters or at day care centers.  Either Mom wasn’t good at time management, or life got in her way too, because she was often quite late picking me up.  When you’re six, this causes the kind of anxiety that scorches your little tiny soul for life.  I don’t EVER want John to feel that.

Once I picked up John, he alerted me to the sudden need for two dozen cupcakes.  P.E. class will be having a BBQ to celebrate the end of school.  The cupcakes are John’s contribution to the feast.  OK.  Since I had to drive to the store with the best bakery, I did a few other errands in that part of town.  One resulted in upsetting news.  The other took three times longer than I’d anticipated.

Tomorrow is the Spousal Unit’s birthday.  I also have a group luncheon to attend.  I have to duck out of that early because we’re interviewing new R.N.s for Michael.  Summer school is bearing down on us and we really need more help.

So I’m a little stressed out, right?

I get home with John to discover my sister has rescued a baby robin from the clutches of our male cat, Hunter.  (That’s his name, job description, species niche, and favorite occupation.  Not bad for a single word. )  We suspect the baby fell out of its nest, because it’s too young to fly.  My sister set it on a branch in the camellia bushes out of the cats’ reach and we shut all three feline predators inside the house.

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I fed the baby robin some water with a small syringe.  We watched and waited, hoping its mother would appear.  Even if she did, how would she return her baby to the nest?  This was not a happy situation, especially with John looking on hoping everything would be OK.

Night was closing in.  I took the baby robin to the local native animal rescue.  Finding the place involved a wild ride that is exactly what kept me from getting my own car for so many years.  God and the police must have both been feeling kindly toward me.  I finally found the rescue center, which was part of a private residence.

Now came the hard part.  I had to leave the baby robin there and walk away.  I sat in my car and cried for a while.  I can call in a day or two and see how things are going.  I dread doing so, for all the obvious reasons.

What’s important here is no matter how horrible today was, once that baby bird turned up, everything fell into a very simple perspective.

Save the baby bird.

A while back I wrote a blog post about lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness.  All the stress I’m mired in right now fell away before that one clear priority.

Save the baby bird.

I’ll let you know what happens.

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I is for Island


by Lillian Csernica on April 11, 2016

Islands offer some unique opportunities to travelers.  Arriving on the island can be as simple as a ferry ride or as complex as multiple international flights.  Some islands are popular tourist destinations, and others are best-kept local secrets.  When I began working on this post, I was startled to realize just how many islands I’ve visited!

 

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Alameda Island — Located in the San Francisco Bay, “the Alameda” is home to the U.S.S. Hornet.  When John was in grade school, I went with him on a field trip to see this national historical monument.  For me this was quite a sentimental journey.  My father served aboard the U.S.S. Shangri-la.  To be able to show John this huge aircraft carrier similar to where his grandfather had served meant so much to me.

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Santa Catalina Island— I’ve been to the island a total of three times.  The most memorable trip had to be in my junior year of high school.  Mr. Gilbert, my Marine Biology teacher, took a group of us students to one of the quieter coves away from the busy harbor closest to Avalon, the main city.  We camped out on wooden platforms with no tents, just sleeping bags.  We must have done experiments or some type of lab work.  Unfortunately , what I remember most about that trip was falling off the boat into the water and losing my contact lenses.  I had to spend a day and a half being led around by somebody, which didn’t endear me to my classmates.  Worse, I dreaded going home and telling Mom I needed a new pair of lenses.  Back then they cost two hundred dollars!

 

 

Manhattan — Before the kids came along, my husband and I spent Christmas vacation with his mother in New Jersey.  She gave us tickets to see “Les Miserables” on Broadway.  Oh wow.  Nothing in live theater has blown my mind like the moment when Javert jumps off the bridge.  The way the stage crew made that happen, between the lighting and the turntable in the stage and flying the bridge upward….  I really believed I saw Javert’s body spinning in the current of the river.  After the performance was over, I couldn’t stop crying for a solid hour.  I was so moved, and so overwhelmed by the superb quality of the performers.

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Maui — Once upon a time I went to Maui with my mother.  This was the first time I’d been to Hawaii, so I was quite excited.  At one point I gave serious thought to Marine Biology as a career.  Given that, I was really looking forward to the ride around the coral reefs offered by Atlantis Submarines.  An obstacle arose in the form of a tropical storm.  Ye gods and little fish!  The rain came down so hard I felt like an extra in Key Largo. Mom and I had only so many days to spend on Maui.  We were worried we’d have to leave before weather conditions made the submarine ride possible.  The big concern was whether or not the ocean currents would be strong enough to sweep the small, battery-powered submarine out over the island’s shelf and into the deeper waters.

We did get to take the ride, which involved a boat ride out to the spot offshore where we boarded the submarine.  The ride was everything I’d hoped for.  The tour guide pointed out various species of fish.  Much to my satisfaction, I spotted a rockfish despite its excellent camouflage.

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Vashon Island — When Michael was just a baby, Chris and I went to Vashon Island on a pilgrimage to the All-Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery.  The abbot is Priestmonk Tryphon, shown here with Hammi, his Norwegian Forest Cat.  The gold badge Fr. Tryphon is wearing on his belt represents his rank as the Chaplain for the Vashon Island Police and Fire Departments.  The pilgrimage included several presentations.  I gave a speech on the life of St. Xenia of St. Petersburg, one of the few female Fools for Christ.  St. Xenia is one of my favorite saints.  She’s known in particular for helping people overcome alcoholism.  Given how much damage alcoholism did to my father’s body, I’m sure that’s a big part of what took him from us before he could see his grandsons.  Holy St. Xenia, pray to God for us!

Japan, on the main island of Honshu:

Narita Airport, Tokyo

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I regret to say that the only time I’ve spent in Tokyo has been inside Narita Airport, entering the country before I caught a train or a flight to my final destination.

Kyoto

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Ah, Kyoto.   The adventure of a lifetime!

Yokohama

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Yokohama hosted the first World Science Fiction Convention in Asia, Nippon 2007.  I was there!

Kansai International Airport (Osaka)

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Osaka is a marvelous city.  Once again, I was there just long enough to land and make my connection to my next flight.  I must go back, if only for the okinomiyaki!

 

 

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F is for Folk Art


by Lillian Csernica on April 7, 2016

 

MEXICO

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One of the aspects of traveling in Mexico I really enjoy is the vibrant color to be found in the clothing, the flowers, and especially in the art.  I’m a big fan of El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  The folk art and pop art imagery that has arisen from the traditional El Dia De Los Muertos decorations, sugar skulls, etc. is, if you’ll pardon the expression, positively alive with color!

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BELGIUM

I passed through Belgium on my way from the Netherlands to France.  That took me through the northern part of the country.  Belgium is lovely, and in the summer it’s quite sunny and green.  Most of the tourism in Belgium happens in the south, so I myself was something of an oddity as a lone American teenager riding along with a bus tour of Dutch folks!  You know how much I love history, so here are some fascinating facts about Belgian folk art and handicrafts.

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From Countries and Their Cultures:

Wooden shoes called sabots (Walloon) or klompen (Flemish) were traditional footwear for men, women, and children. Like the people of Belgium, they wore these shoes outdoors; they were left by the door when entering the house. Some immigrants brought the knowledge and the tools for making wooden shoes with them from Belgium. Belgian Americans who could afford them wore wooden shoes decorated with carvings of leaves and flowers. Children sometimes used their wooden shoes as skates or sleds. The early immigrants were usually clothed in homespun cloth and caps. Belgian lace, the fine handwork which originated in sixteenth-century Flanders, was often used to trim religious vestments, altar cloths, handkerchiefs, table cloths, napkins, and bed linens. This fine art was practiced by Belgian immigrants in every area of settlement in the United States. When celebrating the Kermiss, which is a Belgian harvest festival, the organizers of the Kermiss wore red, white, and blue sashes while leading the people of the community in a procession to the church to give thanks.

Pennsylvania, UNITED STATES

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Pennsylvania Dutch folk art is often referred to as “hex signs.”  People who live on working farms have a lot to be worried about, from crop failure to cattle disease to the illnesses that plague human beings.  It’s no wonder these good luck charms and protective symbols came into being.  Painting one’s barn led naturally to decorating it as well.  There is some controversy about whether or not these hex signs have any actual talismanic power.

My mother-in-law lives in New Jersey.  At one time she was right across the Delaware from Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  On one of our visits to her, my husband and I bought this particular hex sign:

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Doves, heart, tulip = Peace, Love, Faith

 

 

 JAPAN

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Kokeshi dolls are everywhere in Japan.  On the Sannen-zaka, the outdoor shopping mall that leads to Kiyomizudera, there were several shops that sold kokeshi dolls.  The variety is staggering!  I was so amazed by all the sizes and the designs I could not decide on a favorite.  I had much the same dilemma when looking over all the maneki neko, or good luck cats, available.  (Upon reflection I do wish I’d bought the good luck cat lying there on its back as if asking for a tummy rub!)

The history of kokeshi dolls

 

 

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January: Month of Good Intentions


by Lillian Csernica on January 3, 2016

Here we are on the doorstep of a brand new year.  I live in the Northern Hemisphere, so it’s cold, damp, cloudy, often rainy.  This kind of weather makes me want to stay in bed with a good book in hand and at least one cat curled up at my side.  This is not the state of mind that goes well with all the usual resolutions people make at the start of the year.  Most such resolutions involve exercise, diet, taking up some good habit or abandoning some bad one.  I’ve expressed my feelings on the subject of New Year’s Resolutions here and here.

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I’ve been up all night.  Part of that was due to an effort to make progress on the climax of my current novel.  Part of that was due to me falling asleep repeatedly throughout the day.  I sat down on the couch, a cat would sit on my lap, and I’d wake up two hours later.  This is the true meaning of the phrase “cat nap.”  On a cold, wintry day, there’s nothing like a bundle of warm, purring fur to act on me like the strongest tranquilizer.  More than once lately John has had to wake me up because I’ve been snoring while he’s been trying to watch something on TV.

Takes me right back to the days when I had to do the same thing with my mother.  Ah, how history repeats itself.

It’s not just a matter of the cats sleeping on me at every opportunity.  Yes, I am cat furniture.  This role in my life has been well established.  The real problem here has to do with what I’m not calling this year’s resolution.  I have decided for several health reasons that it’s time for me to give up drinking soda.  Soda, pop, cola, whatever you call it in the region where you come from.  The salt, sugar, caffeine, and acid content are bad for my weight, my blood pressure, and my insomnia.  So that’s it.  No more.  I’m going cold turkey.

I figured I’d go through a certain period of withdrawal.  I’ve been expecting the headaches that come in the absence of caffeine.  What I forgot about was how my dependency on caffeine has a lot to do with my level of alertness throughout the day.  Now that I don’t have my caffeine fix, I’m going to have to come up with another way to achieve the level of alertness I need to write well.

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Yes, I know, there are other sources of caffeine.  Coffee leaps to mind.  The trouble is, I do not like coffee.  I never have.  I don’t even like mocha-flavored ice cream.  So becoming a coffee drinker is just not an attractive option.

Tea would be next on the list.  Here now is another one of my peculiar little quirks.  I don’t like drinking hot liquids.  I don’t care how cold out it might be, I’d rather have cold juice or lemonade or quinine.  Hot liquids and I just don’t get along.

Clearly, some kind of adjustments will have to be made.  I might actually achieve a regular sleep schedule.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  That might even lead to keeping regular work hours in my office.  Good heavens, I could be well on my way to tidying up my messy artistic lifestyle.  I can already imagine my husband and my sister making bets on when I go completely nuts and fall off the wagon, demanding a frosty Coke immediately or there will be hell to pay.

That brings to mind a classic aphorism oft quoted at this time of year: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  I suppose that’s second cousin to “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  We want to be virtuous, we think about doing the right/healthy thing, but when the moment of truth arrives, we are weak, wretched, flabby creatures.

And so I say to you, the truth of the matter should be phrased this way: “The road to good intentions is paved with hell.”  Giving up one of my key addictions in the name of living longer is a noble goal.  I’m just not going to be all that much fun to live with until I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Withdrawal and come out into the land of Better Living.

Wish me luck!

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We Three Cats


by Lillian Csernica on December 25, 2015

It is very, very early on Christmas morning.  I sit here in the pleasant exhaustion of knowing the gifts are all wrapped and tagged, the stockings are stuffed, Chris and I ate the cookies John put out for Santa Claus, and we are as ready as we are going to get.  Chris has begun preparations for Christmas dinner.  The smells wafting up the stairway from the kitchen promise quite a feast.

Allow me to introduce you to three members of our household you’ve heard about but thus far haven’t seen.  These are my cats.

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Rayas, my torby, is around 10 years old.  She’s John’s cat, but I am her human.  That means I’m expected to provide pets, love, and a warm lap on demand.  She’s small, but she’s feisty.  Hunter has a bigger frame and outweighs her, but she routinely cleans his clock when it comes to the late night Bushwhack Wars.

The gray fellow with the impressive whiskers is Hunter.  We got him from a shelter about 5 years ago.  When he’s lonely he’ll wander around the house with his catnip mousie in his mouth, making those yowling sounds.  Whoever he presents his trophy to had better respond with much praise and petting.  Hunter is everybody’s cat, but my sister is his human.  When she comes home, he gets all excited and goes galloping outside to jump up on the hood of her truck and try to climb in the driver’s side window.

Coco is the fluffy black longhair.  She is my cat, acquired as a kitten for my 43rd birthday present, so she’s 7 years old as of the 29th.  She is my big furry baby, but my husband is her absolute slave.  She will demand “brushies” as we call them, and he cannot help but obey.  She has commandeered the penthouse sleep berth of our multi-level cat tree, where the convection currents bring her the best heat in the house.

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After dinner the cats will come sit on my bed while I’m working.  Combinations vary depending on who gets in here first and seizes the best spot on the inevitable pile of clothing that occupies the foot of my bed.  Rayas will sleep on my pillow.  Neither Coco nor Hunter are brave enough to usurp that spot.

Why do I mention my beasties on this, the Feast of the Incarnation of Christ?  Pious legend says that on this night you can hear the animals speak just as they did in the manger on that holy night so long ago.  At this point, Hunter has been snoring, Coco demanded more brushies, and Rayas is off somewhere curled into a tight little stripey ball.  My cats are not all that religious.

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In the morning there will be happiness and laughter and the usual joyful craziness that accompanies tearing into all that gift wrap and trying to keep track of who gave who what so I can keep the thank-you notes straight.  The cats will take part, chasing each other around the tree, diving into the piles of gift wrap, and trying to run off with the spiraling bundles of curling ribbon.

I love my cats.  The holidays are often a hard time of year for those of us with intense family issues.  Cats are pretty straightforward.  They are the supreme beings, and I’m just cat furniture.  Given how complicated my life can get, I find the simplicity of our relationship downright refreshing.

Wherever you are, whatever particular feast you’re celebrating, I wish you a New Year full of all good things.

 

 

 

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Counting Down to Christmas


by Lillian Csernica on December 20th, 2015

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If I didn’t keep a running To Do list, I don’t know how I’d get anything done.  When I’m stressed out I tend to lose my long range focus and the ability to structure my time effectively.  I’ve done a lot of my shopping online this year.  The rain coming down in buckets outside my window makes me very happy for that option.

This year has been such an ordeal for our family.  I decided back in November to pay attention to all those articles on managing holiday stress and choose the activities most important and meaningful for both me and the boys.

Here’s what got checked off the To Do list this weekend:

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On Saturday night I took John to “The Nutcracker.”  He’s been asking to go tothe ballet for a month or two now.  We know he enjoys seeing and hearing a live orchestra perform.  I think the main attraction of the ballet was A) the costumes for this particular show and B) the emphasis on all those pretty girls with their long legs.

The Santa Cruz Ballet Theater put on a marvelous performance.  Hearing Tchaikovsky played live was a treat in itself.  The production values and the special effects left both me and John wide-eyed with wonder.  As for the dancing….  Wow.  The Snow Queen and her Cavalier made it seem like gravity had no power over them at all.  This was the first of John’s Christmas presents.  He kept saying it was “Amazing!”

John and I had dinner on Pacific Avenue after the show, talking about our favorite parts of the show.  Despite the 40+ degree weather, we stopped in at Cold Stone Creamery for some dark chocolate peppermint ice cream.   Oh my stars and garters.  That was heaven on a spoon!

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Today Chris and John got our Christmas tree.  It’s become a tradition for the two of them to go to a tree farm and cut down a fresh tree.  I had to admire their determination.  Soon after they left, the skies darkened and it started raining.  They did return victorious, if a little damp.

John has graduated to stringing the lights on the tree himself.  He loves the colored lights that blink on and off and change colors in varying patterns.  Out came all the boxes from the garage with our wide variety of Christmas ornaments, table linens, and John’s personal treasure, his Peanuts cuckoo clock.  On the hour, Snoopy comes out where the cuckoo would be and the Peanuts theme song plays.  We put this up only during the holiday season.

Once the lights and gold tinsel garlands were in place, Michael sat in his wheelchair to help choose ornaments and where they should go.  As each of us pulled the tissue off an ornament, we’d hold it up for Michael to see and ask him if that one should hang on the tree.  Once he gave us his yes or no, then he’d pick the right spot on the tree.  After spending two months watching Michael lying there in his ICU bed, I cannot tell you the joy I felt seeing him sitting there happy and smiling, reaching out to touch an ornament or grab John’s shirt and make him laugh.  Michael’s R.N., a wonderful lady named Joan, had a good time helping with the ornaments.  They were all new to her, so I shared some of the stories attached to them.

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Here it is, courtesy of Michael and John!

As for me, I put on a Christmas jazz CD and drank eggnog.  All of a sudden, there it was.  Our family gathered around the Christmas tree, breathing in the fresh pine scent, joking about hanging the good ornaments up where our three cats can’t get at them.  My mother is visiting my brother right now, but she’ll be back for Christmas Eve.  My sister is down in Southern California, but she’ll be back for New Year’s.  It’s good to have time with just us and the boys.

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In my family we party a lot during the holidays.  My birthday is December 29.  My sister’s is on January 1st, and my mother’s on January 3rd.  I keep careful track of who gave who this or that Christmas present, along with who gave who that birthday gift.  Lists!  More lists!  One of the traditions I consider most important is writing thank-you notes.  Michael likes to create his own stationery, and John will add little drawings to his cards.

We have so much to be grateful for, and so many people to whom we owe our thanks.

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