Just Write: Little Earthquakes

September 11, 2012

Sometimes it’s not pretty, or particularly elegant, but you have to Just Write.

Our new cat, Aria, is having a hard time adjusting to our noisy family. Under our roof, we have two dudes over 6’2, with heavy bones that clonk down stairs and through doorways. We have Minx 1, who twirls in the morning, and Minx 2, who spies her sister twirling and then starts galloping over our hardwood floors. And then there’s me, toasting waffles and cleaning up spills and organizing lunches for the day. In short: it’s chaos.

Aria doesn’t like chaos. I think her former owner was a little old lady who moved with accuracy and deliberation. Aria hears a sudden noise and flees, tail tucked, down to the safety of the basement.

Miss M. is heartsick. “I don’t think Aria likes me,” she says, watching the tail whisk its way down basement steps.

“She likes you, baby,” I say. “She does. She’s just adjusting to us, and the way we clash around. We’re a big family, and we take some getting used to.”

Miss M. is now on a campaign to make Aria feel more welcome. She’s learned to sit (rather) quietly when Aria comes up in the morning, waiting for her to rub her fuzzy flank against waiting arms. She’s declared herself the “official” cat brusher, even though she has an uneven hand. Watching my daughter sit, criss-cross applesauce, before I’ve even had time to make coffee, desperate for the affection of a creature who is skittish and unpredictable…God, it breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart because how often do we love someone or something and are left, standing in the dust, heart in our hands?

It takes courage, this human being thing. And animal thing. But I watch my daughter, and she gets it. She sits down in quiet corners, waiting. She waits and takes deep breaths, which is a reminder that I need to do more of the same. The focus she puts forth at being still, just sitting there and waiting for things to happen–how is she so much wiser than I am already?

She plants herself patiently every morning in corners. I pack lunches that are less nutritious than I’d like but guaranteed to be consumed and hope that her heart doesn’t break before 8 am.

That’s what mothering is. Riding out the little tremors–dozens and dozens of potential earthquakes in a day. Together.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin September 11, 2012 at 5:23 am

Love this! I wouldn’t worry too much about Miss M getting her heart broken. She is learning to be patient with and have compassion for a broken thing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cats, it’s that they’re adaptable and they always learn to go where the snuggles are, eventually.

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Jane September 11, 2012 at 7:10 am

Awwww. I just want to cuddle Miss M. and give her an “atta girl” hug. So beautiful, this event that you’ve captured. Patience. Kindness. Compassion. Her Mama has taught her well. Truly.

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Carol September 11, 2012 at 9:04 am

Love it!

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Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes September 11, 2012 at 9:13 am

Awwwww. *giving virtual hug*
That is so sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.
At least yours understand that the cat needs ‘quit’. Ours don’t, therefore they get scratched and run to mama to kiss their booboo. Let her take her time with Aria and it will all pay off in the end (this coming from the lady who has a cat in her NECK at this very moment, our Atilla likes to roll himself around my neck scarfwise and will then just purr purr purrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)

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TKW September 11, 2012 at 9:52 am

Tinne,

My mom had a cat growing up named “Baby.” Baby liked to be worn scarf-style, too. My mom would watch Grandma Rhetta iron clothes and do dishes with baby draped around her for hours. Too funny!

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Jenna September 11, 2012 at 9:17 am

I already feel like crying about all the times Alice will experience disappointment, unrequited love (from boys or kitty-cats), and heartache. And she’s not even born! How do mothers handle it??? Are you in a state of permanent heartache yourself?

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TKW September 11, 2012 at 9:54 am

Jenna,

They rip your heart out, these kids. But they also make it full. I think the thing I struggle with most is the constant worry and wringing of hands. You want to protect them from everything, but you know that’s not the way this world works.

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Jamie September 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

That Miss M sounds like a different breed, with her constant compassion, wisdom and patience. You are a lucky Mama!

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pamela September 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

This is beautiful and so elegant and true. Thank you. Love your minxes!!! And you. xoxo

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Jennifer September 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Let’s hope this is a skill that she doesn’t lose. The sitting, waiting and understanding.

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TKW September 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Jennifer,

I’ve never been good at it, so I hope she keeps her skills sharp.

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Stacia September 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm

My kids careen through life, leading with their hearts and tennis shoes. The pets don’t seem to mind, but I worry about those figurative walls out there (people, things, actual walls) that they’re inevitably going to crash into. I just hope I can fix those boo-boos, too.

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Contemporary Troubadour September 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Good for Miss M., keeping at it so patiently. Shy kitties can be very, very hard but definitely rewarding when they come around.

For what it’s worth, some ideas to reduce the heartbreak: If Aria is food-motivated in any way, giving Miss M. treats to hold while she’s sitting in a corner waiting can help a lot in building Aria’s trust. So can keeping her confined to a “safe” space for the first few weeks at home (maybe even just in the morning?), like a single room (it’s what our local shelter recommends to foster parents — even if it sounds restrictive, limiting the area a cat has access to when she is adjusting to a big new house makes the experience less overwhelming for her, even if kitty is screaming for attention). You visit the safe space with food several times a day (or during those mornings when she’s confined) so the kitty learns to associate you with positive things. You can sit on the floor while kitty eats and then let her come to you once she decides to (no attempting to interrupt kitty while she eats so she doesn’t get spooked or associate you with anything negative). Eventually, the cat learns to trust and can then be given more access to the house without her freaking out.

I do realize this may not be something you can do in your house, but if it is, I’ve had success with several shy cats using this strategy — hope Aria relaxes a bit more soon!

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TKW September 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm

CT,

I love you. Aria is social but only on her terms, which is much more cat-like than our last feline, Harryboy, who behaved like a dog. I am going to try your suggestions. I don’t want any girl in this house to feel unhinged. xoxo

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Katybeth September 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Do not torture yourself over this one. Cats are cats and kids move on and I don’t think this one is going to make it through the therapist door. Take a different tactic–tell M to leave the dam cat alone, and get ready for school (knowing full well cats don’t like to be ignored) when she leaves you can tell the cat if she doesn’t make it work with your girls–a no kill shelter is going to be too good for her.

P.S.: you are a lot nicer and more patient that I am–I think I could use lessons.

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TKW September 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Katybeth,

I think you know that you are one in a million.

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ayala September 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I just love this! Miss M has a beautiful heart!

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TKW September 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Ayala,
She does. Alas, it breaks mine sometimes.

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suzicate September 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Kids are often much wiser and more patient than we give them credit for. She and Aria will soon be fast friends. And that mothering thing…oh, we continue riding out the little tremors and occasional earthquakes all of our lives.

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The Meaning of Me September 11, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Sweet. All of it. Kidzilla was upset this morning because our Rotten Cat One didn’t come to the bathroom to help her brush her teeth and get ready before school as he does every morning. You’re right, heartbreaking. Poor girl.

And then when we came home from school, Rotten Cat One had left a pile o’ poop right inside the front door in the foyer. Jerk.

Thanks for a great one today…your mother/daughter ones get me right where my poor heart is bursting at the seems with my own. :)

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TKW September 12, 2012 at 5:44 am

Meaning,

Sounds like Rotten Cat is pushing his luck!

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The Meaning of Me September 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

For just a second I thought about holding the front door open for him to make his exit and make his way in the wild world…but my Rotten Cats are probably so spoiled and pathetic they wouldn’t make it past the driveway before they came running back. And, of course, my feet would get cold at night. Turns out RC was mad at the Hub for moving his favorite carpet.

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idiosyncratic eye September 12, 2012 at 2:38 am

It’s hard handing over your heart, you have no idea how the other party is going to treat it. :)

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TKW September 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Idiosyncratic.

That is so very true.

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Maggie S. September 12, 2012 at 3:33 am

Perhaps this will be one of those dozens of times she’ll have been right all along. Like kids do to us all the time.

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Barbara September 12, 2012 at 4:11 am

Lots of lessons your daughter is learning. Animals can teach us so much. I always had them when I was young and so did my kids.
(Although my daughter’s cat ran and hid from the boys the minute they entered the room back then. I nearly did too. Hah!)

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TKW September 12, 2012 at 5:45 am

Barbara,

My girls are so noisy that I joke that they’re boys in girls’ bodies.

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The Curious Cat September 12, 2012 at 11:56 am

I was feeling a bit fed up about some of my so-called friends when I came to read this entry. I feel as of late that despite my best efforts friendship ties have unravelled and there is little I can do to save the situations because when I do my so-called friends feel like I am pressuring them – they can’t see that our friendship is withering like I do… It makes me feel sad…and unloved but then I read this and I remembered that I should just have some more patience and a bit more hope. Maybe they’ll come to me…

…eventually… ah well…x

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TKW September 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Curious,

You deserve a friendship that gives you something back. ((you))

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Kristen @ Motherese September 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I am not an animal person, but pets seem to gravitate to me, especially when I don’t want them to. Maybe playing hard to get is the solution? Not that that’s a relationship model I want to inflict on the minxes! xo

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TKW September 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Kristen,

Those girls couldn’t play hard to get if their lives depended on it. Aria’s too irresistible and fluffy!

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Kate September 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Gorgeous Kitch. Gorgeous.

Though that cat may be too loud and too needy, she’s an invaluable addition to the family if she teaches that stillness brings gifts.

It’s hard to have patience, to seek the pockets of calm where relationships can grow. Something to meditate on, and live towards.

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alita September 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

Little Miss sounds just like my youngest. So patient to love. Heart on his sleeve. And I know those tremors, too.

You are doing a fantastic job. Also, I’m making those very same lunches. I know they will be consumed, but I just wish their gusto would lean towards the carrots instead of the pre-packaged cheese stick.

Alita

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ck September 14, 2012 at 3:42 am

Miss M is such a gentle spirit. Just like her Mama.

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