Fostering kittens provides awareness

11731966_10153493119337438_8239754883956526393_o The Humane Society put out the call for foster families for a mama cat with five babies. The rest of their foster families were already full, so I stepped up.

Claire and I have been visiting the kitten room at the shelter for a few weeks and we had discussed fostering. Yes, we have two cats of our own and a very awesome golden retriever, but kittens are something special.

Any rational person would look at my life and say, “You’ve got too much going on. Taking care of kittens is the last thing you need.”

But this small act of giving through caring for a mama and her babies is giving us all a lot more in return. It’s a small gift to them, and it is a larger gift of experience for me.

We’ve named them. Three girls, two boys.

Want to meet them?

magiMagi started out as Magellan, the first intrepid explorer to venture out and say hello. He’s very sweet and affectionate. He was also the first kitten to try solid food and is always the first kitten at the door to say hello and climb my ankles, which are looking like I am a piranha victim.

maiaMaia is very sweet and the smallest of the litter. She is a tortie with adorable tan paws. She loves to jump into my lap and invite her brothers to attack her as she defends herself, using my legs as her castle walls. She is especially fond of Claire and never stops playing.

skyaiaSkye is also called Skyaia, to rhyme with her sister Maia. She is shy and was very clear about her boundaries at first. She even did a whole, “talk to the paw” to Claire when she didn’t want to be picked up. She’s starting to warm up to us all, though. She’s curious, very smart, and the first kitten to step up and defend the family from the evil you and I know as the broom. Don’t tell anyone, but she might be our favorite.

midnight-gaiaMidnight isn’t as black as you’d think, but Claire wanted to name a cat midnight. She’s cute, sweet, and has fallen asleep in Claire’s lap more than once. I want to change her name to Gaia, and then we’d have Maia, Gaia, and Skyaia. But alas, Claire insists on Midnight. Max suggested Maddie and Claire used that as another opportunity to start one of our summer arguments I have nicknamed, “when does school start.”

bruceLast but not least, our shy boy, Bruce. It took a while before we figured out his name. It was Dave for a long time. His name is different dependent upon who you ask in the family. Claire called him Dave. Max called him Bartholomew. Mark wanted to name him Donald J. Trump. Hanging out with him over the last few days, I kept accidentally calling him Bruce, looked at him intently and said, “Yep, you’re Bruce!” A few hours later, Claire asked to call him Brooks, which was pretty close. Ever since renaming him Bruce, he’s been more friendly with us. His personality shifted a bit.

My legs look like I’ve been wading in a piranha-infested South American river. I’m covered in scratches and scrapes and little nips from their tiny razor-sharp claws.

I sat watching Sapphire, their mama, nursing them patiently. And I had memories of how I nursed my own children. I watched as the kittens tried solid food for the first time and began the transition of weaning. They’re now knocking down 3 small cans of cat food every day, and I know it won’t be long before they’re all completely weaned and mama will express her disdain with them. It’s all happening very fast.

Too fast. All of it.

mamaSomething very primal in me was awakened, and the temporary nature of all life started becoming very visceral.

In a few weeks, this little family will be broken up as the kittens go back to the shelter to get adopted. They’ll find new families and new humans to love them, new homes to explore. They’ll never see mama again, they’ll never see their siblings.

Right now, they need the safety of a small room, shelter, mama’s protection, and food. But soon, that safety and protection will become restrictive and confining.

And, too, that will happen for my babies who are no longer babies. Max is already starting high school and asserting his own independence. Claire no longer needs me the way she used to. The safety and protection I provide them will no longer suit them and will be confining and restrictive.

Watching Sapphire and her babies, the parenting experience is compressed into a few weeks. Things that to me seem like they’re going to go on forever, like Claire and Max arguing over everything from dinner to naming kittens, that fighting will end. They’ll go off and move in with friends and meet someone special and start their own families. Empty nest. New experiences.

I know, I’ve got years. Sapphire only has weeks.

But watching these guys, I can feel time dissolve into nothingness. I plug into so many endings, so many beginnings, so many transitions. They say life goes by like a blink of an eye, and the older we get the faster it seems to go. What seems like a blink of an eye of this magical experience of meeting Sapphire and her babies for a few short weeks is a microcosm of our own lives as parents. It goes way too fast.

Nothing on this planet is permanent

Even the things that seem permanent can disappear in a heartbeat. Disaster can wipe out entire communities, wiping out all we hold dear. Our relationships will morph and grow, or they will wither and fade away. Even our bodies are just temporary housing. The only thing of permanence is our consciousness, and yet it is the one thing we neglect all too frequently. We wake up in the morning, forget our dreams, and start worrying about everything we have to do for the day… everything that is transient in our life but sucks up so much of our attention. We forget about the one asset that we carry with us for eternity: our very selves.

Sitting with her, I felt tears well up in my eyes, for Sapphire’s little family being broken up soon, for my own family’s eventual and inevitable shifts, for my life that seems to be on hold in certain ways. Everything is going way too fast.

After trying in vain to get happy doing web work again, I found myself at my wits end with everything and everyone. I just cannot do it anymore. There is no joy, no creativity, no passion. I found myself pushing pixels for dollars, and wondering why I felt so horrible doing it. And in so doing, I was avoiding the one thing I needed to do. It’s too hard, I thought. Too complicated. It challenges other people in my life that get threatened when I speak out about what I see happening in the world. It is too challenging for some when I speak out about pretty much anything. I was allowing others’ discomfort to silence me, though I know deep down their discomfort is their thing and I need to get clear and clean with my own voice.

It’s not just me

On the global scale, we’re going through so many changes. It is like labor pains, as a new way of being human is being birthed. We get squeezed. We know something is going to change in a big way, but we have no idea when and we have no idea what the new way of being is going to look like.

Like a mama in her 9th month, we’re feeling done with the experience of being pregnant, and we’re ready for something new to show up. We keep looking for signs, wondering how much we’re dilated and effaced, looking for anything to give us an idea that our next experience is here.

And like a mama in her 9th month, we have no idea. We don’t know. We aren’t going to know. But when it’s time, you KNOW. There’s no question about it; when it’s time, it is time.

So when you’re in this place between a dying experience and a rebirth, what do you do? Do you distract yourself looking for signs? Do you scan the news, social media, and message boards looking for a sign of impending rebirth? Or do you just live out today the best you can?

Balancing knowing and not knowing

Likely, it’s a little of both. But there is great power in not knowing, in just allowing it to unfold the way it will. To know that you’re here, you’re still here for a reason. That you’re holding space for yourself and others to become more than you ever allowed yourself to be. That you’re expanding into a new world that will no longer restrict you. But along with that new world, you’re going to have to let go of what you think is so true for you.

mama-skyaiaFor today, Sapphire and her little family are here, safe, cared for, and loved. Soon, they’ll be off on great adventures of love and experience elsewhere.

For today, we’re all here and loved. Whatever tomorrow brings, trust that it will bring adventure, love, and excitement. We’re too confined and shut down in this system, and whatever happens next will give us much more freedom to explore. It has to.

But that freedom comes with a whole ton of uncertainty. It’s time to get really comfortable with that and welcome it. It’s time for us to step into ourselves, to grow up and move out of the nest as human beings, and claim our true power. That power is rooted in love and grace, and it’s that love and grace that are going to ground us and see us through.

Doesn’t mean there won’t be tears at the loss of what we no longer need, but trust that what’s on the other side is stepping into a playground of unlimited possibility and freedom.


Living in Mount Shasta

I was asked by someone if it is expensive to live in Mount Shasta. The answer started unpacking in a number of different ways, so I figured it was a good writing prompt. What is it like to live in Mount Shasta?

Of course, after 6 years of living here, I have my own perspectives on things. Other people’s experience of Mount Shasta might be completely different. But this is what it is like for me.

Is it expensive? Yes and no. Like most of California, there is a wide disparity between the haves and the have-nots. There are many more have-nots in Siskiyou County than there are haves. If you want to live somewhere in the middle, there are not a lot of options.

Housing. Finding nice, clean, inexpensive housing in Mount Shasta is next to impossible. If you’ve found it, you have found the proverbial housing unicorn. Enjoy it.

Housing is split between small rentals where owners just don’t care and won’t fix a darn thing or expensive 4,000 s.f. houses that are triple the rental price of a small rental. Finding something in between is rare.

Living in Mount Shasta or close to the city is the most challenging. There is plenty of housing out in Lake Shastina, but you’re then 30 minutes from town. Even getting to Weed is a long trip from Shastina. There’s Dunsmuir, a small town south of Mount Shasta with fantastic restaurants and a quaint downtown. Houses there are typically older and smaller, but less expensive than Mount Shasta City.

Shopping. Groceries here are expensive. The local grocery store, Ray’s Food Place, is typically twice the price of shopping in Redding or Medford, Oregon, the two larger cities south and north of us. There is a stealthy protester who puts post-it notes on food in the store letting us know we can get things 1/2 of the marked price at Walmart. There is a really fantastic, small organic grocery store, Berryvale. The food is fresh and all organic, but it also comes with a price. There’s also a small grocer, Mount Shasta Market which is a quick easy-in, easy-out market that also makes a great bbq chicken if you’re into that.

Shopping at big box stores, or shopping anywhere really, is a challenge. The only big box store in the county is Walmart in Yreka. Yreka has a good grocery store next to the Walmart, so sometimes I’ll swallow my pride and hit Walmart and Raley’s for shopping when I don’t want to go all the way to Redding or Medford.

Most of the stores in town cater to tourists, but we have a few real gems. A great health food/supplement store, a specialty tea store, and a few other boutiques.

Food. It is very easy to support local farmers, which makes shopping challenges less of a pain. The farmers market, a herd share for fresh raw milk, a local coffee roaster, and everyone and their brother raises chickens and has at the very least a backyard farm. In the summertime, there are plenty of opportunities to get fresh, organic locally grown produce. Almost everyone makes their own kombucha and grows at least some of their own food.

Restaurants. Mount Shasta has a couple of good restaurants, and Dunsmuir is loaded with good restaurants. Hours are wacky no matter where you go, so always check if they’re open. Most places close fairly early.

Nightlife. Uhm, no. I think there is one bar, I’ve never been. I’d rather go look at some stars at night. Or sleep. Sleep is so underrated.

Jobs. Hahaha. There are no jobs here to speak of. There is no manufacturing other than a lumber mill in Weed. Crystal Geyser is opening a bottling facility which they say is going to bring the area jobs, but not many of them. There are jobs in healthcare at the hospital, but since I’ve been here, there have been rumors of the hospital closing. Best bet: work from home for a company elsewhere, be an internet entrepreneur, or fabulously wealthy. Oh, or a pot grower. There are a ton of pot growers all over northern California.

Healthcare. It is VERY easy to find alternative health support here. Of course, we’ve got a hospital and doctors that are willing to prescribe mainstream medications if that’s your thing, but if you’re looking to manage your health in a less invasive and less toxic way, in a way that supports your connection to nature, you can find that in Mount Shasta. Acupuncture, chiropractic, energy healing, herbalists, and of course food as medicine are all par for the course. And even some of the mainstream doctors are as suspicious of mainstream pharmaceuticals as I am and prescribe nutritional support instead of medications.

Things to do. If you’re not really into outdoor activities, Mount Shasta is probably not for you. If you’re into outdoor stuff, you’ll absolutely love it here. Lake Siskiyou is a magical place. Just walking there does something for me. The mountain has many magical places to explore. The trees are immensely beautiful. The natural environment here is so supportive of our spirit. Hiking, boating, skiing, just being outside does something to my soul.

The train. Mount Shasta City is a valley between mountains. You’ve got Mount Shasta to the east, and the Eddy’s to the west. In between you’ve got Interstate 5, which you will travel on a lot, and there’s the train. You’ll hear the train everywhere. If you’re in town, you’ll hear it a lot. If you’re outside of town like I am, you’ll hear it a lot. Sometimes it’s this sweet haunting sound off in the distance. Other times it seems like it is in your backyard.

The snow. When I first moved here, it snowed hard and a lot. If a storm was coming, forecasts were in feet not inches. In the last few years, we haven’t had any snow to speak of. I never thought I would say it, but I miss the snow.

The cold. I came from Chicago. The cold does not really bother me. And the cold of Chicago was much, much worse. Our typical winter temps are in the 20’s at night and in the 40’s in the daytime. We’ll have some a little colder, some a little warmer. But typically, it is not that bad.

The summer. The glorious summer. The wonderful, hypnotically enticing summer. Cool at night, warm during the day, dry clean mountain air, crystal clear, deep blue skies, a Shasta summer is typically something to behold. Lately, we’ve had crappy summers. We’ve had a few glimpses of those wonderful Shasta days, but I miss them.

Fires. With the drought and dry, hot summers,  fires happen in California and Oregon. Fires could be happening miles and miles away, and the smoke can still affect us.

The people. Nearly everyone I know here is spiritually inclined in some way. Even the Christians I know are very devoted to their belief system. There are a ton of people who are into new age thought, probably more per capita than anywhere else. It is quite common to meet people who believe in alternative belief systems, and talking about energetic weather is about as common as talking about the weather itself.

Mount Shasta is partially a transient town. People come and go a lot. Actually, I was expecting to come for a little while and go, but apparently I cannot go. I’ve been told that this is one of the few places on earth that matches my frequency. So I am here, for now, and I’ll stay here for as long as I need to. Because people come and go so frequently, some locals are a little standoffish. I understand it; you meet someone but you’re not really sure if they’re going to be here next week or not.  Once you do connect with people, it feels as if you’ve met an old friend from many decades (or lifetimes) ago.

Once someone has been around for a few years, there seems to be a different type of camaraderie here than I have experienced elsewhere. There is a relaxed nature with people, a place where you can really fully be yourself.

Raising kids. Raising kids here is spectacular. I have absolute trust allowing my teenager to run around town, and there are enough outdoor activities for my younger kiddo to stay active. I’ve found a home with the local charter school. My kids absolutely love school, learning, and their teachers.

Politics. As with everywhere on earth, there are local politics. Siskiyou County tends to be a red county, an outlier in blue-state California. However, most people I know are fairly socially liberal with a live-and-let-live attitude, but quite libertarian in desiring freedom from government oversight. Sometimes things happen statewide that make perfect sense for Los Angeles but no sense for a rural area like Siskiyou County. There was a push in 1941 to create a new state called Jefferson, however, after Pearl Harbor, it was abandoned. It was not abandoned in the hearts and minds of the people who live here, however. The desire for many to escape the tyranny of Sacramento is still an issue.

Honestly, it does not feel like California. Anything north of Sacramento has a much different feel altogether. Shasta is, in many ways, an oasis in the middle of it all, almost like it doesn’t belong to the region, almost like it doesn’t belong to the earth.

Could I live somewhere else? Probably. But from an energetic standpoint, this place is home for me. During a vacation 6 years ago, a few months before we moved here, I heard very strongly, “You can take care of yourself here. And if you can take care of yourself, you can take care of your family better.” And so it has been that way. Here, I somehow find ways to take care of myself a little better than I could elsewhere. I have more work to do, however, and I have gotten some strong messages that I need to stay here for quite some more time.

After all, life is about going with the flow. It’s about going with what feels right. It is about moving through life in the easiest way. And thinking about moving anywhere else doesn’t work. I’ve tried looking elsewhere, and I hit nothing but dead ends. I’m supposed to stay here.

So, that’s kind of what life is like here in Mount Shasta, for me anyway. I’ve found my paradise on earth, and earth is going to have to change a lot before I find comfort elsewhere.