Suspicious Activity Around Cats

Being a cat is not as easy as you might think. Our 12-year-old cat Jezebelle likes to wander through our front yard with occasional sojourns into other neighborhood yards. This tiny, affectionate kitty is known and loved by everyone on the block.

A couple of weeks ago I went on a hike. As I was returning home, my partner Herb and I received a text from a neighbor: "A man just tried to steal Jezebelle. She escaped. The man sped away in a red van, license number 7....."

I ran home and called for Jezebelle, who came running from a few houses away. I put her in the house for safe keeping.

Meanwhile, Herb called the police and reported what had happened. The police talked to our neighbor and looked up the license plate. The officer told Herb that they had encountered the man before and that he lives in his van.

He asked if Herb wanted to press charges. Herb responded that he had compassion for the man's plight and wanted first to learn what the man had to say for himself. Herb hung up and told his concerned and bewildered coworkers the news.

The next morning on this way to work, Herb saw a red van parked three blocks from the police station. He stopped to check the license plate. It was the same van!

He called the police and talked to the dispatcher.

"I'm calling about the man who tried to steal my cat yesterday."

"You're calling about what?"

"My cat. A man tried to steal my cat, and I see his van."

"This is the police department. Are you sure you have the right number?"

"Yes, I talked to an officer yesterday, and there's a police report. He's just three blocks from your office. If you send someone now, you can still intercept him."

The dispatcher made Herb go through the whole story again until she understood the situation. An officer was dispatched. By then, of course, the van was gone.

A few minutes later, one of Herb's coworkers saw a red van on her way to visit an ailing friend. Remembering Herb's story from the day before, she texted Herb with the van's license plate number. Same van! She told Herb that the driver was changing clothes in a parking lot, which, it so happens, adjoined the property of the police department.

Herb called the police department. The dispatcher (a different one) listened to his story. Herb  pleaded, "Just send someone out your back door, and you'll see him!" As precious moments passed, she tried to make sense of the situation. So Herb switched tactics.

"Are all of you dispatchers in the same room."

"Yes, we are."

"Then please just stand up and say, 'Who talked to the crazy guy about the cat and red van?'"


"Just ask!"

"Ok....Who talked to the crazy guy about the cat and red van?"

A muffled voice is heard: "Oh, that was me! I'll take it."

Soon an officer was dispatched. As Herb waited on the phone, his coworker called to say the van was on the move. She followed. A genuine car chase ensued!

Herb connected his coworker with the police. The van travelled about a mile to a locksmith, located next to a pet grooming salon. Why was he going to a locksmith? Were incarcerated, elderly kitties being held for ransom somewhere?

Herb received a text from his coworker: "Got him!" The police officer questioned the man and then called Herb, who, after hearing the story, agreed with the officer that there was no need to press charges. What happened?

The man explained that he sees Jezebelle in our yard everyday and just wanted to pet her. He knew he should have stopped to explain to our neighbor what he was doing, but he just got back in his van and drove off.

The officer admonished the man for unsafe driving and disturbing behavior. "You can understand how stopping in the middle of the street, running into someone's yard chasing after one of their pets, and then speeding away, would raise concerns. You can't just stop in the middle of the street like that. And you can't run into people's yards after their pets."

The man said he understood and that it would not happen again. The officer replied, "We now have you on record as someone having 'suspicious activity around cats'."

Over the next few days I slowly began to coax Jezebelle back outside. She was in no hurry to leave the safety of indoor kitty life. Adding to her trauma was an incident three days beforehand when another neighbor's black behemoth of a dog escaped his back yard and bounded onto our front porch, where Herb saw the dog with Jezebelle in his mouth, shaking her violently back and forth.

But that's a story for another time. Suffice it to say, Jezebelle escaped unharmed. Tonight, she snoozes, curled into the tiniest ball of fur, snuggled safely between her two humans.

First World Problems

"Weird Al" Yankovic's new album "Mandatory Fun" just became the first comedy album in over 50 years to top the Billboard charts. Buoyed by a viral campaign to release eight videos in eight days, the album's new videos were watched over 46 million times during the first week of their release. One of the more interesting songs is entitled "First World Problems". In it, "Weird Al" parodies the trials of modern life:

  • The angst of missing the breakfast menu because of oversleeping on a weekend.
  • The moral outrage of a barista failing to create an artsy design in latte foam.
  • The unbearable burden of having to brush one's teeth manually because the electric toothbrush isn't charged.

What are your "first world problems"? How do you respond when they arise? 

I've noticed my own irritation lately with first world problems. My newish iPhone is past its warranty and is virtually impossible to charge because the lightning port is damaged. My car's air conditioner takes ten to fifteen minutes to kick in. How can I possibly live with such misery and injustice?

Meanwhile, in my county, activists are pushing (against ongoing opposition) for local governments to create a permanent shelter for the homeless. Health Affairs Blog, a public health policy website, estimates that between 7,000 and 17,000 people will die because they live in states that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children crowd detention camps along our southern border. Not all problems in this country are "first world problems".

First world problems narrow my aperture so that my immediate pesky concern becomes my entire universe. In that moment, I can become a self-entitled, raging diva, or I can widen my aperture and let in the light of gratitude. Gratitude shrinks first world problems down to their appropriate size.

My spiritual path tells me to "not worry about your life...but seek first the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6). What does that mean? Isn't it human nature to worry? Of course, but seek to keep your worries in perspective. What's the bigger picture here?

Yes, my iPhone isn't recharging. And I'm also breathing and walking. I had a wonderful dinner last night, have interesting work to do today, have a great partner, and I live in an amazing home nestled in a glorious, sunny valley. I seek first to remember that I'm blessed, I'm loved, and I'm part of a bigger Cause called Life.

Check out "Weird Al" Yankovic's new video and take a moment to share how you deal with "first world problems". How do you widen your aperture and regain perspective?

Your Holiday Movie Previews! (With a Few Twists)

As we approach the end of the year, Hollywood is poised to release several blockbusters featuring household names in starring roles. While you may be familiar with the movie titles, you might not be familiar with the plots. So, below is a brief synopsis of three prominent upcoming films: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Katniss Everdeen, an obscure woman representing her district (brilliantly performed by newcomer Wendy Davis) rises to become a household name almost overnight. She ignites a firestorm when she dares to defy the Capitol's heavy-handed cabal (portrayed by the lusciously malevolent David Dewhurst and the Texas Legislature), who ruthlessly suppress any opposition as their authoritarian power structure begins to crumble.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Bilbo Baggins, a diminutive Hobbit (portrayed by the small in stature but large in spirit Robert Reich) attempts to cajole and inspire a bumbling gang of infighting dwarves (the Democratic Party), in a quest to reclaim their lost homeland. Bilbo is in possession of a dangerous yet powerful ring (a.k.a. Truth-Telling) and leads an effort to save Middle Earth (the Middle Class) from its impending demise by facing down Orcs (the Republican Party) and, in this sequel, the dragon Smaug (voiced by Ted Cruz), which Tolkein described as "a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm."

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - A narcissistic, misogynistic anchorman stuck in the 1970's (played flawlessly by Bill O'Reilly) gains a vast national audience on a cable news network, where with the help of his cohorts (played by Sean Hannity, Chris Wallace, Karl Rove and a host of over-the-top character actors), he makes a mockery of journalism and distracts the public from honest debate with news that is anything but fair and balanced.

A Fox Terrier Halloween

Most dogs despise being dressed up in costumes in order to amuse their human companions. What our canine friends tolerate from us deserves ample treats and affection. Our dog Cowboy is an exception. As you can see from the above photo taken a couple of years ago at Halloween, he loves to be dressed up in costumes…Halloween, Christmas…whatever the season he's eager to be festooned with festive apparel. Why? Because costumes mean attention, and the only thing more important to Cowboy than being the center of human attention is ensuring that no other pet in the house receives a moment of the attention that rightly belongs only to him.

We've come to discover that Cowboy is not alone in his costume fetish. In fact, his breed, the Fox Terrier (Winner of 13 Best in Show titles at the Westminster Dog Show...Cowboy would have you know that is far more than any other breed, thank you!), seems to be particularly fond of wearing silly clothing. Check out the video link below of another Fox Terrier in costume. I hope it makes you laugh as much as it made us laugh.

Happy Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Reformation Day and Dia de los Muertos!

Kitties on the Savannah: A Haiku

Here is a photo I took of our two cats, Jezebel and Beebee, lazing in the backyard (the savannah) underneath Mexican Bamboo. Below is a haiku inspired by the photo. Please share a haiku that comes to you as you view the photo. (A traditional haiku is 3 lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables.)

Savannah kitties...

Zen, docile, they purrrrrrrrrrr with love: 

"Come close little bird."

P.S. Would you like six months of free spiritual direction/spiritual guidance? In order to complete the spiritual direction certificate program I'm taking, I need to offer six hour-long sessions at no charge. Please contact me if you or someone you know is interested. For more information, check out my page on spiritual guidance.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World: A Haiku

Here is a photo I took of our fox terrier, Cowboy, reigning as top pet in the house. Below is a haiku inspired by the photo. Please share a haiku that comes to you as you view the photo. (A traditional haiku is 3 lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables.)

I rule this house. Snarl

At dogs; bite cats; it's hard work!

You can pet me now.

P.S. If you or someone you know has lost a pet, please join us for a night to remember and celebrate the lives of our animal companions this Wednesday, April 3 in San Rafael, California. For more details, go to the Classes webpage.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today would have been my dad's 80th Birthday. He was a football star, a loan officer at a bank, an avid fishermen, and a genuinely good man. His humor and laid back demeanor made him a pleasure to be around. At his funeral, elderly men came to me with tears in their eyes saying that my father had been their dearest friend. Some told funny stories about wild college parties, mishaps on fishing trips, and practical jokes played decades ago. Others shared how his generosity blessed them. A tailor who immigrated from Mexico with his family said that no one would give them a loan to open a new business when they arrived in the U.S. My dad, however, took the time to get to know them and made the loan. The business and family thrived.

My dad taught more by example than with eloquent speeches. Here are some lessons he taught me:

  • No matter how wonderful or painful your past, the present is where to put your attention. Old stories are fun to recount, but keep creating new ones.
  • Invest time, energy, fun and heart in true friends. The return on investment is worth the effort.
  • Whatever happens, just roll with it. The phrases "I have a hangnail" and "the car caught on fire today" would get about the same reaction out of him. He approached life with a calm pragmatism that readily accepted what is (sometimes with a few expletives for good measure) and then moved forward.
  • You're never too old to act silly. I remember watching him put on my old Halloween mask of The Cowardly Lion, wrap a blanket around himself,  and roar and play with our dog Skippy, who wasn't sure if it was really a lion or dad. Personally, if I were Skippy, I would have bitten him either way.
  • The more seriously you take yourself and life, the less you enjoy it. My dad was always joking and being mischievous. When I was a baby, the police detained and castigated several neighborhood kids for shooting off fireworks illegally. They were particularly harsh, however, with the one adult in the gang: my dad.
  • When you can't do what you used to be able to do, enjoy and celebrate what you still can do.
  • Live in such as way that at your funeral, the tears flow just as much from laughter as from sorrow.

Thank you Dad for all you taught me. I miss you and love you. Happy Birthday!

That Pig Can Fly

A few weeks ago we attended the Marin County Fair. It was fantastic fun. Chair decorating contests. Bee keepers. Rides. Carnival games. Alpacas and mules. Phenomenal fireworks. And, of course, what would a county fair be without pig races? At a pig race, each section of the audience is assigned a different little piggy for whom to cheer. On the race shown in the video below, each racer was named for a country music star. Our piggy, wearing #4 on a red cape, was named "Julio Hoglesias".  I hope it makes you snort and squeal with delight.

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