The reviews are in! Update on the success of The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One

Thanks to all of you who have ordered The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One – so far we’ve raised over $900 for the Purrfect Pals no-kill cat shelter (exact figures – 102 books sold, $910.68 USD; £17.20 GBP; €17.28 EUR).

Here are reviews from Amazon, :

5 star graphic
I just wanted to let you know that I received my book today. All I can say is….. MARVELOUS!!! This book is a wonderful reminder of all the work and effort John puts into all his fosters. I laughed, I cried. I remembered. The only John left out in his interview is how Dorian flirts with each Momcat. LOL This is great fundraiser for Purrfect Pals. I can’t wait for the next volume. Well done to everyone who was a big part of the creation of this book.
A lovely book! Perfect for any fan of The Critter Room or, really, anyone who loves cats and kittens. Looking forward to Volume 2!
Received my book yesterday and had to look it over on the spot. In a word: PAWSOME! Even if you are not a follower of The Critter Room, the stories about these kitty families, coupled with the tireless efforts Foster Dad John and Purrfect Pals, is absolutely heart warming. I love the fact that you have their early days chronicled in front of you and can the follow them on Facebook to see where they are today. Can’t wait for Volume 2!
What a wonderful book. Foster Dad John and Purrfect Pals will touch your heart.

Double the Donation!

How about buying two or three extra books to send directly to Purrfect Pals so they can sell them in the store?  That doubles the donation and exposes more people to the book. Contact Connie Gabelein on the Purrfect Pals website to let her know of your intention and to find out the shelter’s address.

What inspired me to make the book

1. Two kittens – Ray and Arthur (now Ace) – I wanted high quality prints of these two adorable guys:

ray and arthur

2. All the wonder fan art:

L- Honey welcome Peter by Cazul R; R - Sheba reads to Honey and Peter by Sandra Sarah Bjødstrup Andreasen

L- Honey welcome Peter by Cazul R; R – Sheba reads to Honey and Peter by Sandra Sarah Bjødstrup Andreasen

 3. The fan fiction by Jill Pickford and Annie Staats which includes “Over the Bridge” and Ray’s letter to Trillian.

Now I have my scrapbook of memories and many of you do as well. Grab your copy of The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One if you don’t have one yet, donate copies to Purrfect Pals or give some as gifts – Christmas is coming … :-)

Thanks for all your support of Purrfect Pals!

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Prayer for persecuted Christians

My thanks to Father Steven Labaire from Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA  for passing along this prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world facing persecution. Please join us in praying for them daily.

mary and jesus facesFather in Heaven, you make your sun shine on the good and bad alike. Your Son Jesus Christ died for us all and in his glorious resurrection he still retains the five wounds of his Passion. With his divine power he now sustains all those facing persecution and martydom for the sake of their fidelity to the faith of the Church. Merciful and mighty Father, do not allow Cain to return again to murder helpless Abel, innocent Abel. May persecuted Christians around the world remain, like Mary, their Mother, together at the foot of Christ the Martyr. Comfort those menaced by violence and those oppressed by uncertainty. May your Holy Spirit of love make fruitful the witness and blood of those who die forgiving.


persecuted christian watch list



Book Review: Unsaid by Neil Abramson – the moving story of a husband’s grief journey and how he honors his wife’s life and love of animals

unsaidUnsaid was recommended to me by a friend whom I know to be thoughtful. We are both animal lovers and she warned me to “have the tissues ready.” While the idea of reading about animals drew me in, I was also curious about the lead character’s grief journey since I have journaled extensively about my own since my mother died four years ago. My reflections have been from the point of view of faith in heaven; Unsaid told the story of grief from a purely human angle. And yet I found the same spiritual truth: if we allow our grief to carry us, it will take our loss and help to shape a new life.

The premise of the book

The story is told from the point of view of the beloved dead wife, Helena, pondering the meaning of her life as she observes her husband David trying to carry on without her. She, a dedicated veterinarian, had died of breast cancer at the age of thirty-seven. Her husband, a high-powered Manhattan lawyer cannot deal with his loss.

Author Neil Abramson

Author Neil Abramson

Life regrets

Helena and David met attempting to rescue a deer one night that had been struck by a car. In the ensuing years they bought a farm an hour out from the city which housed two horses, a pig and several dogs and cats. Upon reflection the now dead Helena feels she may have imposed too much of her life upon her husband. She sees how he struggles to maintain the routine of caring for the animals each day. It eventually becomes too much and he hires some help: a nurse from a competing vet and her autistic son Clifford who has extraordinary drawing ability and insight into the mind and heart of animals.

Defending the life of a chimpanzee

Coming into contact with a former colleague of Helena’s, Jaycee, David learns of their work with chimpanzees. Jaycee has developed a strong parental relationship with a four-year-old female, Cindy, who can communicate on the level of a four-year-old child. David finds himself going to trial defending Jaycee who tried to take Cindy from the lab when she found out the chimp was scheduled for medical experiments.

Exploration of the characters

Unsaid builds slowly but I didn’t mind; I was interested in David’s grief process. The book probed the mind of a man who had to come to grips with his loss, not only of his wife, but of his very self. At the same time Helena needed to make peace with her own life, seeing that it did, in fact have value. It is how the value of her life and its impact on David unfolded throughout the book.

Grief is a mysterious and creative process whether we believe in an omnipotent God or not. Unsaid does a wonderful job of pointing out the value of grief and its transforming power so long as we are able to go along for the ride. David is eventually able to move on and as a result, discovers a new and deeper way of living.

paperback version

paperback version

Two sides to the story

Unsaid is provocative in what it says about the value of animals and animal lovers will rejoice in this. While the arguments during the trial certainly favored the chimpanzee, I felt that Abramson tried to be fair in presenting the other side of medical experimentation: the need to find cures for human diseases.

Satisfying conclusion

There are subplots including a sickly dog and his touching relationship with Clifford (and yes, tissues were needed for that subplot) and how his mother, scarred by her own losses, came to embrace the goodness of life again.

The slow boil of this story explodes near the end of the book; one chapter left me positively breathless. The way Abramson resolved the many issues in the story through a series of twists and turns, was very well done. This is not just a feel-good story about animals; it is a gritty and realistic exploration of human love and loss.

Abramson has an interesting background combining his love, respect and knowledge of animals with a thorough knowledge of the law. His understanding of human nature isn’t too shabby either. Unsaid is his first novel; I hope there are many more.

I wrote back to my friend and told her that I loved Unsaid. I hope that you will too.

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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

640 critter room memory book banner1

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:

640 critter room memory book banner1

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.

Issuing the 1K / 10K Challenge

1000 books sold = $10,000 for Purrfect Pals. Let’s sell 1000 copies by October 1!
You can purchase your copy here.

If you prefer to purchase through Amazon and would like to donate extra to Purrfect Pals to make up the difference, here are the royalty payments from Amazon:

  • Amazon.com $6.36
  • Amazon Europe – For books printed in Great Britain £3.44
  • Amazon Europe – For books printed in continental Europe €4.32

Purrfect Pals accepts donations at bookkeeper@purrfectpals.org

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!


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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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Celebrating the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God

virgin mary holy family parish worcester maMany Catholic and Orthodox Christians around the world will be celebrating a feast day in the Church commemorating the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I attended a lovely Vespers Service yesterday at my husband’s Melkite Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic Church in union with the Pope and using Byzantine practices); in the Eastern and Orthodox Churches, the new “day” begins at sundown so a late day prayer service the day before the actual feast is common.

Mary’s role

Devotion to the mother of God is common in these traditions. It is not a form of worship; Mary was merely a human being like ourselves. Instead, Mary is honored as the woman chosen by God to bear his Son Jesus and thus complete the process of Jesus becoming human while retaining his divinity.  As stated by St. Athanasius: “God became man so that man might become God.” Mary’s role has always been to point us to Jesus the Christ. When people pray the rosary or other Marian prayers, they are not praying to Mary but with her to God.

Mary’s example

Celebrating the birth of Jesus

Celebrating the birth of Jesus

Her example is key as well, that of total trust in spite of the risk of accepting the invitation to bear a son without benefit of yet being married.  Quite a predicament. But her “yes” brought the Savior into the world and took her on the adventure of a lifetime. Yes, there were some incredibly tough moments in her life, but the privilege of raising Jesus for thirty years, of having him to herself for all that time … I think she would have done it all again, don’t you?

In honor of Mary’s birthday, I’d like to offer a couple of tributes:

First a song I wrote about Mary.

It was a great comfort to me during my mother’s illness. You will notice that the name of this blog, Be As One, is in the lyrics. Yup, that’s where I got the idea. :-) The song is called “Under My Immaculate Mantle.”

Secondly, here are images of Mary from around the world:

mary mother of god from around the world1

mary mother of god from around the world2

mary mother of god from around the world3

mary mother of god from around the world4

If you are interested in seeing a fairly recent film about Mary, here is further information.

And here are today’s readings in honor of the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Happy Birthday Mary!

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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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