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It’s here! A scrapbook of your favorite kitten cam memories

box artI am pleased to present The Critter Room Memory Book  Volume One packed with all kinds of goodies! Within its 68 full color pages you will find:

  • tons of color photos from Foster Dad John, “Mr  Ripley” (James Petts) and Tam Woods  including closeups of your favorite kittens and mama cats. Lots of Facebook screen shots.
  • an interview with Foster Dad John by Connie of “Tails of Foster Kittens”
  • fan art by Cazul R, “Thorn” and Sandra Andreasen
  • kitten collages by Nicoya Grobman
  • fan fiction by Jill Pickford and Annie Staats
  • remembrances of Peter and Honey

This volume includes the following litters:

  • Hitchhiker Fosters
  • Ghostbuster Kittens
  • Pixar Fosters
  • AI Fosters

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There is something here for everyone, including Purrfect Pals.

purrfect palsPurrfect Pals, located in Arlington, WA is the no-kill cat shelter that sponsors The Critter Room. Your purchases will help Purrfect Pals find homes for deserving cats and kittens, including cats with medical conditions. Foster Dad John volunteers for the shelter; they provide him with the food, litter and veterinary care needed for each of his litters.

Purrfect Pals receives the entire royalty;
for every book sold, they receive $10.25.

With that in mind, consider what would happen if we were able to sell 1000 books. Think about that for a moment …

Purchase your copy here.

Meanwhile …

Just what is The Critter Room?

Are you a cat lover but have never heard of The Critter Room or Foster Dad John? Check out the live kitten cam on Livestream – I dare you to tear yourself away. Then check out The Critter Room Facebook page for more information on all the good work being done by Foster Dad John (John Barlett).

Then rush right back here and place your order!

People are benefiting from The Critter Room as much as cats and kittens.
Here are some examples:

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Take up the challenge!

Let’s look at the numbers …

With over 37,00 followers on Facebook and over 42,000 followers on Livestream, we should easily be able to sell 1000 books by October 1st, giving Purrfect Pals a donation of $10,350.

We depend upon you to spread the word.

  • Share on all your social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and on your websites and blogs.
  • Tell your cat loving friends about The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One.
  • Go to Amazon.com and write a review after you’ve received your book.
  • Buy copies as gifts.
  • Leave comments on this page with suggestions on blogs and websites that I can contact to promote this book.

Let’s sell 1000 copies by October 1!
You can purchase your copy here.

My thanks to John Bartlett, the photographers, screen shot shooters, artists, writers, my proofreader and Connie Gabelein, Executive Director of Purrfect Pals for making this book possible and for making it a joy to put together. I have personally wanted a book I could pull out with my favorite kittens inside and now it is here!

Enjoy!

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Resisting the slide of fatalism: dealing with all the bad news

lt1fHBJI am a news junkie. It’s an addiction and no addiction is ever good. Right now that addiction is seriously interfering with work that I must get done. It’s not just the time wasted surfing the internet and listening to the radio. It’s what all this bad news is doing to my head and my heart.

I can feel fatalism knocking at the door. The dictionary defines it as, “the acceptance of all things and events as inevitable; submission to fate.” Fatalism can often be confused with faith but that is a misperception.

With faith, we trust in a higher power (for Christians, God). The scriptures wax eloquent about how we were made in the image and likeness of God and how, despite our rejection of him, he did not reject us. Instead, he took on our human form and experience to show us that there was hope beyond suffering and death. When we claim this hope, our lives become meaningful and we are led to great actions.

Fatalism, however, has the opposite effect: it fuels despair and inaction. You perceive the world around you as hopeless; you are overwhelmed and you retreat. Your work, your life begins to lose meaning.

fatalism collageThe week of August 17-23 was particularly horrendous, first with the death of Michael Brown followed by violence, riots and looting in Ferguson, MO. Then there was the unspeakable beheading of American journalist James Foley videotaped for the world to see. The talk of another possible 9-11 terrorist attack on our shores and the prospect of global war reached a fevered pitch. I could feel that first trickle of fatalism creeping into my psyche. I willed myself away from the TV, radio and internet and took a break.

Fatalism works against God’s will. I am in the middle of preparing a manuscript for publication. It has a due date that I must meet. This requires retreating to my writer’s room and blocking out all other thoughts except for the work at hand. The slow poison of fatalism is making this difficult. I have begun to question the reason for doing this work. How can writing away in basement room have any effect on mitigating what is going on in the world? How can my hidden work comfort the Christians persecuted and killed for their faith? How can writing take care of the poor souls stricken with the Ebola virus? What can a single person do to let an increasingly stubborn, blind, deaf world know that there is a God, that He brings peace; that He means to heal us; that His love seeks to free us rather than to bind us?

I worry too about being persecuted for my faith like the Christians in Iraq. Many have died in the same fashion as James Foley and I wonder: could I exhibit his bravery? It is reported that he was a devout Catholic who regularly prayed the rosary. I can barely look at his picture because I feel that phantom pain on my neck where he was beheaded, accompanied by the pit in my stomach. I wonder if he felt the consolation of God in the midst of his terror. In his mind and heart did he cry out like Jesus to his Father, feeling abandoned? Did his thoughts turn to Heaven? What would I do?

This is why Jesus admonishes us to “not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) He knows that too much knowledge of the future can be overwhelming. Such knowledge can encourage fatalism.

little roles collageThe media presents a distorted view of the world, exaggerating the evil and missing the good. Evil is perceived as “glamorous” while good doesn’t make for high ratings. Evil is done for show while true good is done in secret. Embedded among the weeds of evil is the wheat of countless people, quietly doing good things. They pray and they worship. They are faithful in doing their work. They visit the sick. They encourage and befriend those who are feeling down. They take care of their families. All done with fidelity, all done in secret. These pockets of goodness spread throughout the world remind us that our quiet works do mean something and do make a difference.

Only God knows how all things work together for the good. We each are meant to play our small parts, working with fidelity and intent.

There is no room for fatalism in this plan. Rather, there is only room for a life pregnant with potential and meaning.

 

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Be As One makes it into print! Now available monthly in the Catholic Free Press

Be As One is now in print!

Beginning this month, I will be writing a monthly column for the Catholic Free Press, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts (previously I had written columns in the Catholic Free Press for the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester). The column is called “Be as One,” after this blog.

My first column appeared today in the paper:

640 be as one in CFP

Regular readers of this blog have seen this theme before; it is central to this blog. Here is the actual column:

Important lessons a kayak taught me

How could satisfying a husband’s request for a kayak end up teaching me one of the most important lessons of my life?

Back in 2007, my husband Rich suggested we get a kayak. In exploring our central Massachusetts town, we discovered that it and surrounding towns were peppered with lakes, ponds and streams. We both loved the water so it made sense. Having done test runs in both canoes and kayaks, I knew the minute I sat in the kayak that it was the right fit. It put me closest to the water where I could run my hand through it and dip my toes.

At first I resisted the idea of purchasing one because money was tight but Rich wore me down. He drove four hours to New Hampshire with our daughter to get the best price and returned with a beautiful, slightly used green tandem kayak. The boat landing was right down the street and so we set sail. Right away I knew this new hobby was going to have a positive effect on our lives.

Rich and I have enjoyed a happy, lifelong relationship. We dated in high school and married just out of college. We share the same values about life, particularly when it comes to our faith, but when it came doing things together, we came up short. The kayak solved that problem. Right away we noticed the harmony between us whenever we went out in the boat. Rather than compete with each other (which we always did), we worked in partnership. Leisurely trips included appreciating the natural landscape on the quieter ponds and looking over all the beautiful waterfront properties on the larger lakes. We’d pick out houses and imagine them as our dream homes. The harmony we experienced in the kayak began to be manifested in our everyday lives; we had finally learned how to work as a team.

I enjoyed kayaking so much that I began to daydream about it. Sitting as close to the water as I could without being in it … warm sunshine on my face … surrounded by lush, sweet-smelling greenery … dragging my hands lazily through the warm, clear water … splashing the water on my hot feet … drifting downstream, letting the current carry me … taking time just to be

I realized that the peace and harmony I experienced in the kayak with Rich, the delight in being carried downstream surrounded by water and greenery was a metaphor for a lifestyle, one I could have if I allowed God to be that current that carried me. Bit by bit I started letting go, releasing all the anxieties that used to wake me up at four in the morning in a cold sweat. I had worried most about our finances and now those worries were slowly floating away downstream.

I no longer wake up at 4 am in a cold sweat.

I realized that my whole life could be that single flow, directed by God’s current. All the different roles I take on: wife of a deacon, mother to two grown children, daughter, friend, marketing assistant, writer, musician, church volunteer, nature lover, lifelong student, a woman of faith–all of these roles, passions and interests could merge together into that one flow rather than exist as compartments with no relation to one other.

The Trinity is the perfect example of that wholeness: three separate persons in a continuous circle of unending love. Jesus was one with the Father and the Spirit and prayed that his followers could also be one. We are called to be in union with each other and we are also called be unified within ourselves. The flow of the water taught me that living my life in fragments that had no relation to one other was unhealthy. Following the example of the Trinity is the way. All I have to do is let myself float down God’s river of grace.

That’s what I’m learning to do now. I’m still at the beginning point of the journey. Knowledge however, is half the battle.

Susan lives in North Grafton and calls St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Westboro her home. She blogs regularly at www.beasone.org

I am grateful to the editor, Margaret Russell, for giving me this opportunity and I am pleased to be a small part of the excellent staff of the Catholic Free Press. Follow them on Twitter at @cfpnews.

 

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The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One is nearly ready! How much should the book cost? Answer this poll …

The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One is nearly ready!
All we need to do is to set the price.

Designed as a scrapbook for all of us who have wanted to just pull out a book and look at wonderful pictures of kittens we’ve loved, The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One features these litters:

  • Hitchhiker Fosters
  • Ghostbuster Kittens
  • Pixar Fosters
  • AI Fosters

The book is in full color, 68 pages in length, measuring 8.5″ x 8.5″. The cover is glossy. It is chock full of photos contributed by Foster Dad John (John Bartlett), “Mr. Ripley” (James Petts) and Tam Wood; it also includes numerous screen shots found on the Critter Room Facebook page. I’ve included photos of time spent in the Critter Room plus photos of adoption days.

The book also features artwork by Thorn, Cazul R and Sandra Andreasen, collages by Nicoya Grobman, stories by Jill Pickford and Annie Staats, and my essay on the impact of Little Peter.

Here is a small sample:

memory book

The Prison-Foster program, from the Purrfect Pals website

The Prison-Foster program, from the Purrfect Pals website

For those of you not familiar with The Critter Room and Purrfect Pals, this no-kill shelter for cats in Arlington, WA does extraordinary work placing kittens and cats of all ages in good homes. They also care for cats with conditions (such as their Feline Leukemia Room for cats with FIV) and socialize cats and kittens through their Prison-Foster program.

This is much more than supporting kittens and cats. The Critter Room has provided companionship, solace and endless hours of entertainment for thousands of people who need it. Our world is in a tough place right now. The Critter Room and Purrfect Pals are helpful reminders that the quiet majority of people out there are caring, good and decent. Supporting Purrfect Pals helps God’s creatures: man and beast.

The book will be sold on Amazon.com through CreateSpace. After production costs and Amazon taking its cut, all royalties will be donated to Purrfect Pals.

We now need to set a price.

Please take a moment to take the poll. It will be up for one week; on Friday, August 22, I will set the final price. Thanks for your participation!


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Memories … and then … Encountering the complex Native American spirituality at Mesa Verde

This is a reblog of one of my favorite sites, The Holy Rover blog by Lori Erikson. When I saw that her latest post was about Mesa Verde, I experienced a wave of nostalgia that made me smile. I saw this fascinating place when I was about nine but did not get out of it what I was supposed to.

Mesa Verde in July of 1965, from the family photo album

Mesa Verde in July of 1965, from the family photo album

We were traveling out West as a family and visited California, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado; Mesa Verde is in Colorado. It is here that ruins were found of cliff-dwelling Indians. It’s truly a fascinating place which you will see in Lori’s blog. I had to share my little vignette though before sharing her post.

In the museum at Mesa Verde, there was a mummy on display named Esther; she was 1500 years old. I was nine at the time and was petrified when I saw her! That night when we all went to bed, my older sister and I argued about who had to sleep on the side of the bed facing the wall. I didn’t want to sleep there because I knew I’d see Esther on that wall all night long!

Guess who ended up facing the wall? Older sisters always prevail (turns out Esther freaked my older sister too and she didn’t want to face the wall. And she was always the brave one!). The next day I came down with the grip, the worst I’d ever had.

So the mention of Mesa Verde always brought up an assortment of memories which I now think are kind of funny. :-) It’s good to see what Mesa Verde is REALLY all about!

Amid the Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde

In my travels around the world I’ve learned that most spiritual sites have layers upon layers of history, meaning and mystery. Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado may be the best example I’ve encountered of just how complicated the intertwining of those layers can be.

Mesa Verde; photo by Bob Sessions

When I was planning my visit, I contacted the park staff to say that I was a writer interested in learning about the spiritual traditions of Mesa Verde. I got a diplomatically worded reply, telling me in the nicest possible way that I had no idea just how difficult that seemingly simple request was.

The staff at the national park has good reason to be wary of the minefields of interpretation that exist at Mesa Verde. The people who once lived there left no written records. The Indian tribes that trace their ancestry to them are fiercely protective of their own spiritual traditions, many of which derive from what was once practiced at Mesa Verde. And so when clueless travel writers like myself arrive full of questions, there’s an understandable reluctance to be too speculative in their theorizing.

Click here to continue reading.

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Patience pays off – an encounter with a green heron

Yesterday’s kayak trip took place just down the street at Eckblaw Landing. Here you can take a trip down the Quinsigamond River. I’ve done this trip several times and don’t usually see all that much in the way of birds because the MA Turnpike runs right over the river. Still, sometimes you really hit the jackpot:

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This is the green heron, not to be confused with his much bigger counterpart, the blue heron:

560 great blue heron other side

The green heron is not nearly as common. This one put on quite a show for me, staying for a long time and allowing me to get quite close:

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It’s hard to describe how I feel when I see such a site and have the privilege of viewing it for such a long time. I credit my mother with passing along this joy of nature to me. It fills my heart, mind and soul with things beyond words. Sitting in my kayak I found myself wishing my mother had had the chance to enjoy birding in this way, totally still on the river, watching the show unfold. She was afraid of the water and I don’t think she would have enjoyed kayaking for that reason but the thrill of seeing such a magnificent creature up close and personal might have assuaged her fear. Someday when we meet again, we will have to talk about this.

9-painted turtle2 featuredIn the meantime, I hope you enjoy the show. By the way, did I tell you I also saw a painted turtle swimming under the water? I wish I could have captured him on film but rather than take the time to find my camera, I decided to just watch another one of God’s creatures paddling under water without a care in the world.

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Clash of civilizations, loss of heritage, courage to change: Review of “Flight of the Sparrow” by Amy Belding Brown

Note: I love historical fiction and when Amy Belding Brown asked me to review her latest book, I jumped at the chance. Her last book, Mr. Emerson’s Wife had been a game-changing book for me. I couldn’t wait to read Flight of the Sparrow given my deep interest in spiritual matters, a lifelong residency in Massachusetts plus my passion for history. I also enjoy reading about moral dilemmas and inner turmoil and how the characters resolve their issues. If you have similar loves, this is the book for you!

See the end of this review for a book giveaway!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

amy belding brown latte shop-1The last time I saw Amy Belding Brown, we were having coffee at a shop in the center of picturesque Grafton, Massachusetts talking about Mr. Emerson’s Wife (see previous post). It turns out Brown had lived in my hometown all this time and I never knew. At that get-together she talked about a new historical novel she was working on which covered the period of King Phillip’s War. Having no knowledge of that war I was to discover that in fact, that period of history was right on my doorstep, not only in the present, but in my past as well.

Setting

flight of the sparrowFlight of the Sparrow, set for release on July 1, goes back to the beginning of the Puritan settlement in Massachusetts, using historical fiction to portray the devastating consequences of the epic clash between the English and the Native American. The setting is King Phillip’s war, taking place in the mid 1670’s; its consequences are played out through one Puritan woman and one Nipmuc man.

Main characters

Mary Rowlandson was the wife of a minister in the town of Lancaster. Brown’s main character is based upon a real-life woman whose experiences are documented in a book she co-wrote called The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed, Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (available here as text and here as ebook). This religious memoir of her three months as an Indian captive was the first “best-seller” in English America (pg. 329).

James Printer, also known as Wowaus, came from Hassanamesit, a Praying Indian settlement founded by John Elliot who translated the Bible for the Indians to aid in their conversion to Christianity. The remains of Hassanemesit are located in my hometown of Grafton, Massachusetts.

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James Printer helped to set the type for the first edition of Mary Rowlandson’s book. For a time after the war he resided in the sole remaining Praying Indian settlement, Natick, just one town over from my childhood home of Wellesley.

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Summary of story

After the town of Lancaster is attacked and burned, Mary is taken captive along with her three children by the Nipmuc tribe (her husband Joseph was away at the time). In the course of the battle, her sister Elizabeth is wounded and then killed by fire, Mary herself is wounded, and her youngest daughter Sarah is also wounded mortally; she would die several days later as the captives are led away bound with rope. Mary carries Sarah as far as she can, struggling to ease her daughter’s pain, knowing there is nothing she could do to save her. Adding to her burden is her separation from her other daughter Marie and son Joss.

Living in sheer terror from moment to moment during that march, Mary experiences unexpected kindness from James Printer, who frees her from the rope around her neck. It would prove to be the first of several encounters for Mary with this mysterious, handsome and compassionate man.

Collision of cultures

During the first half of Flight of the Sparrow, Brown describes Mary’s captivity, weaving in detailed, colorful and honest descriptions of Native American life. Presenting the beauty and nobility along with the cruelty, Brown brings us into the increasing turmoil of Mary’s mind and heart. Terrified of and angry with her captives one moment, she finds herself admiring their way of life in the next. She gradually accepts Indian ways, from the freestyle way of dress to time spent outdoors, finding solace in the beauty that had before eluded her. She experiences the growing pains of a personal horizon expanding, a heart growing, and the old orderly and rigid ways of her life slowly falling away. In her captivity she discovers a freedom of movement and thought denied to her as a Puritan woman. It is a freedom she will sorely miss when she returns to English society. She is frightened to discover that her rock-solid Christian faith, regimented by spoken prayers and long scripture passages, is failing her. In the end she tries to bargain with James Printer to stay with the tribe when her time to be ransomed arrives.

Personal involvement

There is of course one other problem: Mary has developed feelings for James and the feelings are mutual. She is able to talk with him freely, expressing herself in ways she never could with her husband Joseph. She finds herself thinking of him and wishing to stay with him despite her status as a married woman.

Inner turmoil

Brown does an excellent job of presenting the moral dilemmas Mary faces both in her captivity and her restoration to the English. I struggled with her status as a slave and the cruelty she endured and yet rejoiced too at the unexpected generosity and kindness of the captors towards that slave. I empathized with Mary’s painful and yet exhilarating transformation as she grew to accept and then love her life with the Indians. I mourned as she was separated from James, the man she truly loved, having to return to the oppressive life she led with Joseph, whom she no longer loved. I felt her grief over Sarah and her concern for her other missing children, her longing to be back with the Indians and her surprising loss of personal freedom as she returned to her old life of repression, rules and propriety. I mourned the loss of her faith and her inability to transcend her Puritan ingraining which favored the letter of the law over than the spirit. While she was able to embrace that all peoples are children of God thus deserving respect and compassion, she could not see that God himself existed beyond the Bible and spoken prayers.

Turmoil of a nation

The empathy did not stop with the individual characters. Brown expands that empathy to an entire nation of people who, because they lost King Phillip’s war to the English, had their way of life taken from them. Although Brown is equally honest regarding the horrific actions of both sides in the war, the consequences for the Indians prove to be the most heartbreaking.

The value of the story

The depth of research that went into the creation of Flight of the Sparrow was evident in the compelling and authentic telling of the story. Brown is not hemmed in by the facts but rather uses those facts as a means of letting her imagination create a multi-layered and emotionally satisfying story. The life journeys of Mary and James not only touch the heart but challenge the mind as well. Just as Mr. Emerson’s Wife exposed and expanded my narrow way of thinking, Flight of the Sparrow caused me to search my heart when it came to meeting and knowing people who are not like me. While Brown’s aim may have been to tell a story about a period she was not familiar with so that she could learn more about her herself and her New England heritage, she has provided that service to this reader as well.

Visit Amy Belding Brown’s website for links to sites carrying Flight of the Sparrow.

Win a free copy of Flight of the Sparrow! Be the first to comment on this post and you will win!

For a quick history of the setting for the story, visit these sites:

Grafton, Massachusetts

Natick, Massachusetts

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