Apr 162016

COFFEECUPApril 16, 2016 — My husband is the Love of My Life. But high on the list is coffee.

I love coffee. I love everything about coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I love the feel of coffee on my tongue. I love the sound our coffeemaker makes as the fresh brew gurgles through the filter. I love the sight of my familiar pink and green mug filled to the brim with the sublime medium-roast.  I love the taste of rich, full-bodied coffee, black with no irritating powders or creams.

Most important, I love the things that coffee does for me. Coffee helps me in ways I beyond my ability to spell them out. Here are a few: coffee gets me up and going.  Coffee kills the morning troll that’s been hiding under my side of the bed since I got up to use the bathroom at 2 a.m. The troll that wants to throw a rock at Wretched Morning Breath Spouse when he speaks nicely to the cat before the sun is up.  That troll that makes me swear every day that I’ll never watch “The Today Show” again if Matt and Savannah don’t stop being so effing chipper. The troll that makes me hate every other human being on the planet.  Dr. Phil (and what does he know?) says that the first 15 minutes in the morning are key to a couple’s long-term happiness.

Really?  Before I have my coffee, I would like to clean Dr. Phil’s molars with a rusty meat hook.

Coffee provides the routine I need in my life.  I’m not talking about connecting with my Android calendar.  If I drink my coffee, as  I normally do, between 8 and 8:30 .m., life is glorious and joyous at 9:30 a.m.  Butterflies, Unicorns and fairies appear, and life is good.

We don’t even want to think about what happens when The Editorial We doesn’t get coffee until, say, 10 a.m.  Bad, bad things happen. The earth stops revolving around the sun.

We’re ending a long week. I had four days of meetings either at 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m.  I am not a morning person, despite my mother telling me every day of my childhood that I would magically turn into one someday.  Mom, you’ve been dead for four years.  I’m almost 59 years old.  Never going to happen.

We slept in late today, and I nearly killed the Love of My Life when he made goo-goo eyes at our ancient cat and asked him, “Are you my baby kitty?”

No, he is not your baby kitty. He is eighteen years old and just had diarrhea and threw up in my bathroom.

The cat would probably do a whole lot better if he just drank some coffee with his fish crunchies in the morning.

Crossposted at BlogHer.


Apr 092016

catfoodThis is my life now.  Never mind I have a busy full-time job, an active secondary writing career, a human family, and a home. Never mind all that.

The complete and entire focus of every free waking minute is caring for and feeding an 18-year-old blind, demented, toothless, deaf, arthritic feline.

About three months ago,  Fala was diagnosed with pancreatitis. And the vet recommended a switch to wet food.  That was a difficult change for the Gray Prince, who loves his “crunchy fish”  as we deem his Acana Pacifica food. Despite having only two teeth, he manages to crunch it from his little red cartoon mousie-covered bowl.

Our kitty sitter, Nan, suggested the Pacifica after she learned we were feeding him bowls of Friskies Original Party Mix.  Offering this high fat snack is the equivalent of feeding your two-year-old child Cheetos for three meals a day.  Salt and fat are yummy.  Are they good for old kitties?  That’s a resounding no.

Since the vet changed Fala to wet food, we’ve been feeding him Lil’ Friskies chicken with gravy (he favors chicken. In younger years, he stealthfully stole the chicken from a plate). He’s been licking the sauce off and leaving the rest.  This behavior cannot continue, or he’ll die. Last night I went on a buying spree at our local pet food store.  The clerk told me they have food for senior cats, but none of them work for a toothless old Tom. She suggested I check out the gourmet food, as well as the kitten chow. The clerk also instructed me to look for cans with the labels, “pate”, and “minced” and “kitten”.   I bought fourteen cans  (mostly gourmet labels, so my total was about $341.)

Sure, he’s worth it.  There’s constant midnight cater walling, hairballs on a newly washed bedspread,  puking on my rug daily, and his timely and odiferous evening constitutional 10 feet from us during “Wheel of Fortune”.  Who wouldn’t want to care for a kitty like this one?

There is this one tiny payoff. His Majesty cuddles  up between us each weeknight as we watch “Perry Mason.” And he purrs and acts as he likes us. A lot.

This morning the Potentate of Pussycats limped to the kitchen for breakfast, “Super Premium Fussy Cat Grain Free Chicken with Egg Formula in Gravy.”  Herman put out the food and immediately the Czar of Catdom started eating. We decided to leave him alone for the first course.  He acts an adolescent; any encouragement means he’ll eschew instead of chew.

His walk is so distinctive and lumbering that I heard him return to the kitchen thirty minutes later. And then a third trip. I grabbed my camera. He heard me.  I think he likes the new food, but God forbid his handlers observe him enjoying himself. Feeding the cat  He turned his back on me and walked away. We might be on to something.  So what if it is the most expensive cat food in the world?  Why else do I work?  I mean, seriously?  Taxes, bills, the occasional vacation?  None of that is as important as catering to the whim of a cat, who in human years, is 89 years old.

And the damn bowl still isn’t empty.

© Amy McVay Abbott, The Raven Lunatic, April 9, 2016

If you are interested in reading more about Fala Jo, buy his book.  You didn’t realize he was a famous feline, did you?  The Many Moods of Fala Jo by Herman and Bernadine Spitzsnogel












Jan 162016

January 16, 2016 — I’m a world-class complainer,  one who has hoisted a  trophy for kvetching and donned the medal around my neck for my lamentations. I’m a champion griper.

Complaining is the absolute opposite of gratitude, and gratitude is something I want in my life every day. So, when a high school acquaintance posted the following on Facebook, I was intrigued.  Here’s what Kelly wrote:

I’m reading the book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker. I LOVE this book! His concepts can be applied to so many aspects of our lives. His challenge to readers, which I pass on to you, and hopefully you’ll pass on to others, is this: “Here’s some homework that I promise will change your life. For the next seven days, I challenge you to not complain adare_to_complaint all. Not just out loud, but in your head as well. But you have to do it for the full seven days. Why? Because for the first few days, you may still have some “residual crap” coming to you from before. Unfortunately, crap doesn’t travel at the speed of light, you know, it travels at the speed of crap, so it might take a while to clear out.” Let the challenge begin! Thanks Harv!

I saw this challenge on Facebook on January 8.  Today is January 15, the seventh day.  What I have to report is that I was an utter failure, but I learned much about myself and others.  I will use this knowledge to move forward, and honestly, I’m much more aware now of how my thoughts affect my mood, and possibly, actions. Have I stopped complaining?  No, not completely.

(A caveat, however, sometimes complaining is good, and sometimes it is justified.  Bad things happen. Repairing the damage involves productive complaining when something is repairable.  So, let’s focus on the unproductive, no-good-nik complaint, the one that nobody can fix, particularly the person you are laying it on.)

The first morning of the challenge I was in the drive-up line at Starbucks, early. If I’m in the line, of course, I’ve not had my coffee yet.  Bad situation for all concerned. I am not nice. I am not a morning person, and it sets me off if you are.

The car in front of me had the trunk and rear doors closed with a large piece of duct tape. The sedan was about thirty years old and spewed something smelly and seemingly toxic.  Naturally, I’m car #6, and it is caImage result for giant lipsr #5.  (I know: first world problem, right?)  After inhaling this distillation for five minutes, I finally got to the window where the smiling man with the long ponytail greeted me warmly.

What do I say to this young man?

I complain about the car ahead of me.  Woe is me! The car smells bad! My car now smells bad! Nevermind that this person has to open the drive-up window to every fragrant car in the drive-up.

Bingo!  I lose and not an hour into the first day of the challenge.  Seriously, what can this Starbucks employee do about a car with a bad muffler?  I’m spewing forth toxic words to him just as the car was spewing toxic air at me.

That initial incident made me think. Several adverse events happened in my work life this week that were completely out of my control.  I handled them better when I didn’t complain about those things out of my control.  I call this PERSPECTIVE.  Good word perspective.  Not complaining because there’s not a darn thing that complaining will accomplish is a good thing. And it is not only the complaining to others, it is the complaining to self.  The spinning in my head that I allow to continue has to stop, the harmful ruminating over things I cannot change.  Channels the AA motto, “Grant me the wisdom to change the things I cannot accept, accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (paraphrased.)

This self-awareness (which is a word in progress, believe me, I’m still trying to outfox the negativity) may lead to better understanding of those around us. We listen to our friends because we care for them. Is the listening proImage result for banging head against wallductive?  Are you doing them any favors by listening to a rerun of last week’s complaint, if they have changed nothing that could be changed?  No, it is not our role to judge. However, it is not healthy for you or your friend to complain endlessly over things that cannot be changed.

 Why do you beat your head against the wall, goes the old joke?  Because it feels so good when I stop, is the punch line.
Find your peace where you may, perhaps doing this challenge is for you, or reading, or sleeping, or a hot cup of tea. I’ll share a favorite poem by Wendell Berry, our Kentucky neighbor to the south,  that may bring you peace as it has me. (Copyright by Amy McVay Abbott, 2016, cross-posted at BlogHer.)


 The Peace of Wild Things


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press.

Source: Collected Poems 1957-1982 (Counterpoint Press, 1985)

Jun 202015

 No good deed goes unpunished

English Proverb

June 20, 2015 — We  recently returned from a trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Before we left, a man who works for me asked me to purchase  soap made in England.  Since I would be “over there” he hoped I could find this rare and highly desired product for his wife. I agreed even though I wasn’t setting foot in the United Kingdom, and I’m not sure he knew that England is not in Europe.  Sceptered isle and all that.

This is one of those damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.  If you say “No” you are a bad boss and if you say “Yes” you are also committing your partner’s precious overseas time.  A no-win situation.

Several days later my employee — who lives in Louisville and manages our eastern sales territory — forwarded me an email from his wife with specifics. She did not want soap, but listed four different kinds of perfume from a store called Lush.

In Amsterdam, we had an afternoon of free time apart from the planned tour.  I looked on my tablet for the store and found there were two, miles away in the suburbs. Another was a  15-minute cab ride away. I learned this brand was not sold in department stores, which deflated Plan B.  We visit local department stores in a new country.  Lush items are  only available at  Lush stores. I had not heard of Lush products, but I was game.

Should we spend our one free afternoon in Amsterdam chasing perfume for someone we’ve never met? Or would we visit the heralded Van Gogh Museum and see the translucent, golden painting of sunflowers?  The sunflowers won out.

When we returned to the Hotel Americano after dinner, I went to the Business Center to order the products on-line and have them sent home.  Of course, my employee wouldn’t know the difference.  This would avoid the Value-added Tax, and mean I didn’t have to lug fragile liquids in my suitcase for two weeks.

Here’s the problem.  I don’t speak or read Dutch.  Everyone else at the business center spoke French or Chinese and the keyboard was completely different.  With hook or crook, I figured out the program, but was afraid I was having a Peugeot sedan sent to South Africa.  I stopped, and decided to punt.

On to Brussels we committed to finding a store. The Google told us there were multiple Lush stores in the metro area.  After a walking tour of the City Center, we chose to stroll down a pedestrian “straat” and walked directly past the tiny Lush store.  Problem was I didn’t have my tablet with me with the email on it describing the desired items.

Easy fix. We were returning to the area the next day. After a wonderful day at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts and the Rene Magritte Museum, we walked back to the Lush store.  The store was tiny and overcrowded with tourists.  I found a helpful clerk and handed her my list.  The clerk’s name was Emma.

The helpful clerk at Lush in Brussels, Belgium.

The helpful clerk at Lush in Brussels, Belgium.

Emma  looked at the crumpled paper in my fist and said in perfect English, “I don’t understand.”  She added, “Most of these products were discontinued years ago.  We have the last one, but it’s for men.”

Emma took my list and went for a manager.  The manager explained that sometimes products in Europe have different names than products in the USA and that inventories can be different.

So here we are.  I might as well buy something,  something for myself that didn’t offend my asthma.  I recently recovered from two weeks of a nasty bronchitis and the overwhelming fragrance in the store hung heavy in the air.

I told Emma that I would take the man’s product on the list.  I wanted to get something for my employees’ wife, having come all this way.  She suggested something nice and had me sniff a few different products. One that she gave me to try was called Vanilliary.  It was so rich and luscious (pardon the pun) I felt I was wallowing in those expensive Madagascarian vanilla beans used for premium ice cream. Emma said there was a special version without alcohol for people who were bothered by certain  fragrances.

I was sold and bought a tin of the solid parfum as the French say for myself, as well as the two products for my employee.  That was an adventure, and we left the store feeling good that we had at least accomplished some of what my employee wanted for his wife.

The trip continued, and as we arrived in Paris we spied another Lush store on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine.  Our mission  accomplished, I felt a little smug that I actually found the place.

In Paris, I used the Vanilliary solid parfum every day, and realized I loved this scent and wanted more.  On our last day in Europe, I searched The Google for ordering instructions to ship more Vanilliary to my home.

But, wait!  There are Lush USA stores.  Seriously!  Wow!  800 Lush stores in 51 countries.  Where have I been?

There are Lush stores in almost every state, including two in Indiana and two in Kentucky.

Louisville has a store twenty minutes from my employees’ home in the city’s primary mall.

At least I got a good story out of it, and  smell heavenly.