Cats and more cats!

You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats.” — English proverb

According to the Feral Cat Coalition, wild (or “feral”) cats are the offspring of domestic cats. These feral kitties are the result of negligent pet owners who abandon their pets — and fail to spay or neuter them.

Feral cat colonies can be found behind local businesses or in alleys, parks, abandoned buildings, and rural areas. Or even in well-manicured subdivisions like my own Vinsetta Park in Royal Oak.

This week’s “No Place Like Home” column describes how we found our new kitten, Izzie — and what our neighborhood is doing to find homes for other orphaned kittens. Also includes are tips and reader comments on what to do if you find a feral cat or kitten you’re unable to keep. Click here to read it and to see more photos of the adorable, incomparable Izzie. –CL

–Photo above: Izzie relaxing at home, a week after she was rescued.–

Homecoming memories

Nobody cares if you can’t dance well.  Just get up and dance.”  ~Dave Barry

My son Nate is 25 now, and past the stage of high school homecoming dances. But this week, some of my neighbors are gearing up for this sweet tradition, and I remembered this essay from my book, Writing Home. Happy news: Nate is engaged to the young woman mentioned at the end of the essay and shown in the photo at left. –CL

“The Homecoming Dance”

September 21, 2003

From baptism to bar mitzvah, rituals and rites of passage honor the milestones in our lives.  Certain rituals are so closely tied to autumn, in fact, that I cant imagine the season without them. Raking leaves, visiting cider mills, and digging woolens out of storage are just a few.

But the annual high school homecoming dance crowns them all.

At our house, as surely as the maples shed yellow leaves on the lawn, this semi-formal event kicks up a whirlwind of activity and emotion. Some of it is not pretty.

Since Im the mother of a son, my homecoming rituals do not include shopping for the ultimate evening gown and the perfect shade of nail polish. Admittedly, I miss playing Fairy Godmother to Cinderella, so I live vicariously through other moms who have teenaged daughters. Thats how Ive learned that things are different with boys. The angst level, for instance, is much lower in the wardrobe department. Guys dont worry about their hair, and they dont have to obsess over finding a purse to coordinate with a pair of shoes that will be worn only once.

Traditionally, a boy waits until forty-five minutes before the big event to consider whether or not his dress shirt needs to be unearthed from the closet floor. (This is based on the assumption that he owns a dress shirt.) At that point, all hell breaks loose, sending his beleaguered parents in search of an ironing board while the boy hunts down a pair of matching socks. He also waits until the final hour to announce that his good suit has cake frosting on the lapel – a souvenir from the last semi-formal event he attended.

Homecoming rituals will test any parents mettle, but I believe Im a sturdier person because of them.

I miss playing Fairy Godmother to Cinderella, so I live vicariously through other moms who have teenaged daughters.

Last year, a week before the big dance, we drove Nate to Nordstroms to shop for a new shirt and tie. Anticipating conflict, I backed off and let him sort through the merchandise with his dad. I tried to keep quiet – until I spotted a handsome gold dress shirt that was perfect for his black suit.

“Look at this one, guys!” I shouted, holding up the prize. On cue, Doug spotted a great tie to go with it. Our sweet son glanced at the ensemble, rolled his eyes, and muttered his new favorite word: “Hideous.”

Seconds later, Nates cell phone rang. It was Andrea – a young lady with impeccable fashion sense. Andrea happened to be shopping in the area and would come to his rescue. She would help him find the right shirt.

Well, when the fashionista arrived in the mens department, she immediately chose – you guessed it – the gold shirt. Suddenly this shirt was awesome, and the tie was fairly cool, too. (I bit my tongue and reminded myself that God really does look out for parents, and He is everywhere, including Nordstroms.)

As I type this, the next homecoming dance is a week away. Just as I did last year, and the year before that, Ive reminded Nate to ask a date in advance. Once again, Ive explained how girls need time to shop for dresses and book hair appointments. And just as he did last year, the kid kept his plans under wraps until he needed advice on ordering a corsage.

As it turns out, Nates date this year is Andrea, the sharp young lady with good taste in mens shirts. Thinking ahead last week, we bought Nate a new shirt and tie to co-ordinate with her dress. Thank goodness, Andrea approves. Meanwhile, I am not taking any chances and have dropped off the black suit at the dry cleaner.

This is senior year, after all, and weve finally learned the steps to the homecoming dance. — Cindy La Ferle

Writing Home is available in local bookstores and on Amazon.com (see link at the top of this page). Proceeds from my book sales are donated annually to organizations serving the homeless, including the Welcome Inn and South Oakland Shelter, at holiday time.

 

Love those red shoes!

When in doubt, wear red. Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” –Bill Blass

Big news for devoted fans of red shoes: A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz will be auctioned off in December by Profiles in History, a California auction house.

As MSN Entertainment reported last week, replicas of the ruby slippers, including stunt shoes for the film, were sold in previous auctions. But the pair that’s up for bidding at the “Icons of Hollywood” event is one of four original pairs used in the filming of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. (One pair is displayed at the “Icons of American Culture” exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.)

I’ve always thought it strange that the famous shoes were called “slippers” in the classic film. Most women would agree that they were actually pumps with substantial heels. Those heels took Dorothy on a major detour through the haunted woods and held up for her big chase scene at the Wicked Witch’s castle. By the time she finally reached Oz, her footwear hadn’t lost a single sequin. That was one powerful pair of slippers.

The ruby slippers inspired me, early on, to start my own small collection of red shoes. Shopping online last month, I discovered a glittery pair that conjured a cheerful memory of Garland dancing with Ray Bolger’s “Scarecrow” down the Yellow Brick Road. Mine will likely dance with my husband at a Christmas party or a wedding reception. But even though I had no specific occasion in mind — and I really didn’t need more shoes! — I had to purchase the pair right away.

So, what is it about red shoes? Aside from their literary ties to the fabled Oz, why do red shoes seem to possess magical attributes?

For some fresh insight, I approached a long-distance friend, Bridgette, whose delightful blog is titled Life in Red Shoes. Bridgette claims that you can’t have a bad day if you’re wearing a pair of red shoes.

“I love them, wildly, madly, deeply. Just can’t get enough,” Bridgette told me.

“It was during a low point, one that lasted several years, that I bought my first pair of red shoes. It must have been the late 80s, and color was all the rage…remember neon? I was in a Payless shoe store, the only place I could afford at the time, and there they were — a pair of cherry red moc crock loafers!”

Bridgette was smitten, but she wondered: Were the shoes too bold? Do I dare wear them? What would people think? Of course, she bought the shoes anyway, and it didn’t take her long to find the courage to wear them. Today, she owns an impressive collection of footwear in riotous shades of red.


So, what is it about red shoes? Aside from their literary ties to the fabled Oz, why do red shoes seem to possess magical attributes?

As most women agree, red shoes aren’t for shrinking violets. They’re for women who refuse to surrender to a lousy mood; women who believe they have a God-given right to have fun — at any age.

“Wearing red shoes makes a statement,” Bridgette explains. “When you wear red shoes, you’re saying: I don’t take myself too seriously, I laugh out loud, and I don’t let the bastards get me down! Wearing a pair of red shoes is like adding an exclamation mark to your outfit, a smile to your feet, sunbeams streaming to your toes!”

But Bridgette’s blog isn’t limited to the topic of collecting shoes. For this grandmother in Utah, “Life in Red Shoes” is a byproduct of her midlife mission. It’s all about rediscovering what makes her happy — and finding inspiration in her daily round. She might post a reflection on her experience as a school teacher or share photos of a new craft project she just finished.

That said, when I first discovered Bridgette’s blog, I was inspired to pull my own collection of red shoes from the back of my closet — and to start wearing them.

My red shoes are a small but powerful antidote to the problems I’ve been wrestling with lately — including finding the right help for an elderly mother who’s falling under the cruel spell of dementia. As Bridgette reminded me, it’s important for all of us to savor the simple pleasures that lift our spirits, and to seize, as Dorothy did, every chance we get to step out of our comfort zones.

If you’re not a wearer of red shoes, do you have another article of footwear or clothing that wakes you up and makes your heart sing? — Cindy La Ferle

QUICK UPDATE: Bridgette, otherwise known to her friends as “Red,” just posted some photographs of her feet wearing red shoes from her impressive collection. Click here to see the photos on “Life in Red Shoes.”

School supplies for Mom

The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small and scary step.” — Julia Cameron

Remember the late-summer thrill of buying notebooks, Magic Markers, and bright yellow Ticonderoga pencils for a new year of grade school? And who could forget the incomparable scent of a fresh box of Crayolas? For me, the ritual of buying school supplies softened the hard reality of summer’s end.

Even if your kids have flown from the nest, the beginning of the new school year still inspires personal growth and renewal.

Is there a dormant passion you’d like to rekindle? A hobby waiting for you to explore? My new column on Royal Oak Patch details the first season my son left home for college, and how I started a new “term” in the school of lifelong learning. Included with the essay are several photos of my art projects.  Please click here to read it. — Cindy La Ferle

Refeathering our nest

Field notes on an empty nest

Last week I found a birds nest on the brick walk leading to our backyard.  Im guessing the nest fell from a nearby silver maple; or maybe a neighbor found it while jogging and left it by the garden gate for us to admire.

Not much larger than a cereal bowl, the nest now perches indoors on a shelf near my desk.  Crafted from hundreds of delicate twigs, strands of grass, and patches of moss, its truly a work of art — and a timely reminder to prepare for my sons return to college after the long summer break.

Children of baby boomers are heading off to college in greater numbers than children of previous generations.  At the same time, the age-old ritual of “letting go” is the final frontier for those of us who’ve made child rearing a major focus of our adult lives.

Ive been discussing this tender rite of passage with other middle-aged parents. And we all agree there has to be a better term to describe our next season of parenting – something that doesnt sound as final or forlorn as “The Empty Nest.”  Our nests, after all, are not completely empty. Not yet.  My only child, for example, still has a bedroom here at home in addition to a loft in a crowded dormitory four hours away in South Bend, Indiana.

Whatever you want to call it, this to-and-from college phase is a thorny adjustment for parents and their almost-adult kids. College students are bound to ignore house rules when they return home for summer and holiday breaks. (“Curfew? What curfew?”) Even the most agreeable families discover that this can be a volatile time – a time when teen-aged tempers ignite and middle-aged feelings get scorched. All said and done, were all learning how to grow up and move on.

“When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth…. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” — Erma Bombeck

A lot has changed since my son started college. Im still adjusting to the hollow echo of his (oddly) clean and empty bedroom, looking for remnants of my old self — my mothering self — in the bits and pieces he left behind.  The family calendar in our kitchen has some blank spaces, too, and is no longer buried under neon-color sticky notes announcing band concerts, Quiz Bowl meets, school conferences, and carpool schedules. At first, this was not cause for celebration.  Id become what our high school mothers club affectionately refers to as one of the “Alumni Moms.”

While I suddenly found myself with unlimited bolts of time to devote to my marriage and writing career, I mourned what I perceived to be the loss of my role as a hands-on parent. Despite the fact that I had a cleaner, quieter house, I missed all the athletic shoes and flip-flops piled near the back door. I missed the boisterous teenagers gathered around the kitchen counter, or in front of the television downstairs. I missed bumping into other parents at school functions, and wondered if life would ever be the same.

Life isnt the same, but Im OK with that now. Ive come to realize that a mom is always a mom, even though her parenting role changes over time.

Not long ago, I stayed at my own mothers place for a few weeks while I recovered from major surgery. When I apologized for disrupting her normal routine, she said, “My home will always be your home, too.”  I found comfort in knowing that. Yet at the same time, I missed my own house. And I felt grateful that Mom had encouraged me, years ago, to craft a life — and a home — of my own.

Its hard to believe my son is packing for another year of college this week. The hall outside his bedroom is now an obstacle course of boxes, crates, and suitcases stuffed with everything he needs for the months ahead. Im still not very good at saying good-bye when his dad and I leave him at the dorm and steer our emptied SUV back to the expressway. I manage to compose myself until I notice the tearful parents of college freshmen going through this ritual for the first time. But it does get easier each term.

So, is the nest half-full or half empty?

Reflecting on the small birds nest perched near my desk, Ive come to believe that every family is a labor of love and a work in progress. Its a bittersweet adjustment, but Im at peace with the idea that our household is just one stop on our sons way to his future.  Hell be flying back and forth over the next couple of years or so. And hopefully, patience and love will be the threads that weave our family together, no matter how far he travels. Cindy La Ferle, September 2006

— Top photo: Detail from “Nature,” a mixed-media collage by Cindy La Ferle. Bottom photo (nest) by Cindy La Ferle —