A Lesson in Goodbye

Living in beautiful farm country, we are surrounded by acres of gorgeous country side, serene views, peaceful mornings (no sounds of traffic ever!) and some of the most beautiful bike riding trails around.

However, we do have our share of heartache.

I’ve lost count of all the stray cats, most barely surviving on the scraps of food they find and the kindness of busy people who take the time to feed them.

Enter Little Mommy Cat, the feisty, but sweet girl who appeared on our doorstep a year+ ago with her brother, both emaciated. Like all of the other strays, we started feeding them. They would disappear for days then reappear intermittently, always looking thin but determined. Little Mommy got pregnant twice and after many fruitless searches, we were never able to locate her kittens. It broke my heart knowing they were out there without anyone to feed or protect them. And even though she seemed tough, there is only so much a small stray cat can do.

This summer she got pregnant a third time. This time I was determined to find her kittens no matter what. We followed her repeatedly across the road to our neighbors barn but she would never lead us to her hiding spot. Several evenings when our neighbors were not home, my daughters and I would search their barn. My older daughter would shine the flashlight from her iPhone while I searched every crack, crevice and hay stack, while my younger daughter, who is afraid of spiders (ha) would keep watch outside, warning us each time she saw an oncoming car. [And yes I do believe that might be considered breaking and entering but the door was unlocked, so..].

After 2 weeks of ardent searching, we finally found them. She had made a nest in the corner of the barn. Six, 2-week old kittens, hiding in plain sight on the floor of the barn where 75 + cows walked, ate and slept. It amazed me that one had not accidentally stepped on and killed one.

That evening we had 6 beautiful two week old kittens in our house. *heavy sigh*

My daughters were thrilled. KITTENS. However, I felt my usual range of emotions: exhausted, overwhelmed and yes, also KITTENS. I am human of course.

The next few weeks were fun. We layered the floor of our guest bathroom with soft blankets and cat toys. We kept them isolated with their mom so she had a quiet place to feed them and rest. Every evening we would let them explore and play.

If six kittens sounds like a lot, let me reassure you. IT IS A LOT. A lot of fun but also a lot of work.

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That was 4 weeks ago.

Today they are 6 weeks old and running and jumping and playing and so much cuteness. They are the most adorably sweet kittens I have ever seen. And I am not biased at all.

But unfortunately it’s not fair to keep six, ever-growing kittens locked up in a small guest bath all day long. They have outgrown the room and need space to exercise and play. They need forever homes.

I posted photos of them on social media (IG, FB and twitter]. I shared photos and videos with people I work with and I even stopped a man in the cat food aisle at Target to show him how cute they were.  I am not proud to admit that I did this, but he was sweet and actually considered taking one. Still,  I was unable to find homes for any of them. *even heavier sigh*

We always knew we could take them to a shelter but still, I was hopeful I would be able to find them homes myself.

From day one, I decided we would keep the mom because I knew she would be considered un-adoptable. No one ever wants a grown cat, especially when they can have a kitten instead.  So for 4 very long weeks we tried to make it work. Although she was friendly around people, she became very aggressive and defensive around our other pets, repeatedly attacking our older cat and dog. But 2 years of barely surviving had hardened her.

This week, I finally made the extremely difficult decision to give her up. 😦

The plan is to take her to the shelter [along with her kittens] and hope with every ounce of my heart that a kind person will see through her tough exterior and give her the loving home she deserves. Even as I write this, my heart is breaking. Because even though we’ve only had her in our home for a short time, I know her tough exterior is just that: a wall she created to protect herself out of the need to survive. I also know that underneath lies a beautifully sweet animal that is so deserving of kind and loving home.

And as horrible as I feel about giving her up, I know that is just how life is. Each one of us does what we can to make the world a better place. We help each other out. We volunteer our time. We rescue stray dogs and cats.  Even if it’s just one small gesture, we do what we can and hope someone else comes along and picks it up from where we left off.

Life is sort of like passing the baton. You pass the baton to the next person and hope they’ll keep it going. You hope they’ll pay it forward too and help the next person (or animal) who is in need.

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This weekend we are taking Little Mommy and her kittens to a wonderful shelter in Baltimore. Unfortunately, we have gone through this process before. We know the shelter staff are kind and that all of them will be safe. We’ve done all we can do and now it’s time to pass the baton.  All of the kittens are healthy and sweet.  We know that anyone who is lucky enough to adopt one will have a loving and affectionate friend for the rest of their life. And they are still young enough where they have a really good chance of being adopted.

So this weekend we’ll make the hour long drive to the shelter. My daughters and I will cry as we attempt to say goodbye to each one. Our hearts will break when it’s finally time to leave. The drive back home will seem even longer. I’ll stop along the way to get them ice cream in the hopes of cheering them up. But it won’t make a difference.  When we return home, we’ll all cry again because the house feels so empty. Each time we use the guest bathroom, we’ll remember how excited they would get each time we came home and opened the door, and we’ll feel sad all over again.

We hope that some kind person at the SPCA will watch over them until they find homes. And I hope that one kind stranger, an angel perhaps, will see Little Mommy cat and decide that she is the one they want and that she deserves a loving forever home, too.

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If you are reading this and think you would like to adopt either the mom or one of her kittens [or if you have any questions at all] please contact me ASAP. Thank you.

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The Letter

The forecast was calling for hurricane like winds. It was Friday afternoon.

We had plans to stay in a beautiful, romantic hotel in Arlington all weekend. It was part of my birthday gift to him. But 2 weeks before, we broke up. It was too late to get a refund so I decided to go anyway. Without him. I asked my girls “Who wants to stay in a 5 star hotel this weekend?”  They were ecstatic.

As we drove to the hotel Friday night, it was pouring rain. Luckily the hotel had indoor parking. I parked, we grabbed our bags and went to check in. The lobby was beautiful but all I wanted to do was get into our room and fall onto the bed. It had been an emotionally exhausting few weeks.

As we checked in, the manager overheard us and asked me my name. “Are you Nicole? Someone left a package here for you.”

At first I thought he was mistaken. No one knew we were staying there. Except for one other person.

I walked over to him and he handed me a large manila envelope. I couldn’t imagine what was inside. I’m the girl who can’t wait until Christmas to open a present. So I opened it in front of him as I stood in the lobby.

Inside was a ring box and this letter:

My sweet Nicole,

I love you so much. The thought of losing you causes me great pain. You will always be the only girl for me. I know how to make this work and I want to be with you and the girls. Please accept this ring as a token of my commitment to you. We can get a nicer one later. I want to be with you forever. I’m asking you to marry me. Please say yes.

 

It was from him.

The rest of this story doesn’t matter. What does matter is this:

Most men are too afraid to open up and say how they truly feel. They think it’s cool to keep a girl guessing and to never show their emotions. Usually until it’s too late.

It’s okay to tell a girl “I like you” or “I love you” or even “I don’t know where this relationship is heading but I want you to know I care.”

Or even “I’m sorry. I messed up.” Anything is almost always better than nothing.

The important thing is to be honest and say something.

Ask any guy and most will have a story of how he was dating this amazing girl at one time — and ultimately how he lost her. Because he was too afraid of opening up. Or how he went out and got drunk with his friends (again) instead of returning her call. Or because he let his friends’ opinions dictate what he should do, instead of deciding for himself. Because guys like that are too cool to ever let a girl know they actually might care.

And it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as leaving a beautifully romantic letter (and a ring) in a hotel. It could be as simple as a text that says “I’m sorry. I messed up. I miss you.”

If she still has any feelings left for you, she will probably respond to pretty much anything you say, as long as you are honest and sincere.

The guys who wait too long to tell a girl how they feel, usually lose the girl. Because great girls don’t sit around and wait for a guy to come to his senses.

Great girls bounce back and move forward and go on living their interesting, busy lives. And it’s usually not long before someone else takes notice and sweeps them off their feet.

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