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The Kramer Chronicles, Part II: The Separation

After living in West Springfield for three years, Missy and I decided to separate for a bit to be certain that we were ready for what could come our way should we move forward with telling friends and family about our relationship. Fortunately for me, Missy’s parents weren’t too keen on the idea of having a pet, so no discussion was needed about who would take Kramer. He was coming home with me!

My parents, who have always been animal lovers (I grew up with almost every animal imaginable), were happy to welcome another pet home. And, because they still lived in the house where they raised seven kids, there was plenty of room upstairs for us to have our own little apartment.

While it was a tearful goodbye for Missy and me, and for Missy and Kramer, we knew we’d be seeing each other frequently. Well, as frequently as we could now living 2 hours apart.

Kramer was so not a fan of the long drive to our new place, and he made it vocally known the entire way. Other than that, we settled in pretty quickly. He had alone time during the day to acclimate while I worked in the family business a couple miles down the road.  Every now and then my Mom said she could hear him running around, having a grand old time. He’s always been a pretty easy-to-please cat.

Ever curious, here's Kramer peeking from on top of the dresser. "Whatcha doin', Mama?"

Ever curious, here's Kramer peeking from on top of the dresser. "Whatcha doin', Mama?"

Like most cats, he loved to sit in the window, so when I’d leave for work, I’d leave some open for him to sunbathe in. One day, Mom calls me at work.

“Hi Kerri, it’s Mom. First off, Kramer is fine.”

That’s never a good start to a conversation. My heart leapt into my throat. “What’s wrong??”

“Well, I was doing dishes, and when I looked out the window into the backyard, I saw Kramer walking alongside the house.”

“How the heck did he get out?? He can’t even get downstairs!”

“Well, I went outside to get him and noticed the window screen on the ground. So I guess he took it upon himself to get out – from the second floor.”

I hung up the phone and jumped in my car. I got home, scooped him up, and squeezed him. He seemed totally unfazed, rolling around in the grass. He’s always had this “It’s all good” attitude. Another Kramer life lesson we’re still trying to adopt. Shortly after this incident, I received another call at work. It was dejá vu. “Hi Kerri, it’s Mom. Kramer did it again, and he’s fine.” Off I went again to check him out and put him back upstairs… and put the screen back in the window. Lesson learned – only crack the window from here on.

With just the two of us now, Kramer took a liking to sleeping in, what I call, the “nook” – inside the curve of where my arm meets my shoulder. OK, my armpit. 🙂 He trained me pretty quickly to get in position for him. If my arm was down by my side, he’d lick it. Because the sandpaper feel of his tongue bugged me, I’d move my arm. The first time, I didn’t move it completely out if his way, so he continued to lick it until it was up next to my head so he could curl up in the nook. This became our nightly ritual; one I would come to cherish. Of course when Missy came to visit, I became invisible, but I appreciated the fact that they had limited time together, so gave them their space.

Just as he was my loyal companion in West Springfield, Kramer was my guiding light for the year or so that Missy and I lived apart – always was and always has been a walking example of unconditional love. He has the incredible ability to love me enough for the both of us when I find myself in a place of not feeling too loving of myself. I don’t know how I would have survived that year without him, my little Angel.

Coming up next: The Kramer Chronicles, Part III: The Reunion

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The Kramer Chronicles, Part I: Welcome Home

Our beloved kitty, Kramer, continues to persevere despite his illness that’s slowly making it harder and harder for him to do so. I will cherish these special moments I’m having with him for a long time to come.

In honor of our loving and loyal companion, I wanted to capture some stories of the joys, trials, and laughter that Kramer has given us over the years. Welcome to the Kramer Chronicles, Part I: Welcome Home.

Just a year out of college, Missy and I had an apartment in West Springfield, MA. Missy knew how hard it was for me living in an area where I knew no one and nothing. She grew up in this part of the state, so had lots of connections – family, friends, familiar sights. Since she and I were still acclimating to our relationship, we hadn’t announced it to anyone in our lives. I’ve never experienced a more isolating feeling. To help keep me company as I got to know the area, Missy surprised me one night with a super-fluffy, super-cute kitten. I burst into tears and held him close to my heart. I was immediately in love. And now that I think about it, that would make Kramer the first one to know about Missy and me. 🙂 Just one of the many special roles he has played in our lives.

Kramer the Kitten sitting in the window of our first apartment. West Springfield, MA. 1994

Kramer sitting in the window of our first apartment. West Springfield, MA. 1994

As I held him, he was trembling a bit and talking in his little, kitty voice. I put him down so he could explore, and explore he did – under the bed, behind the couch, and any place else he could hide. Although it was hard not to constantly pick him up and squeeze him, we let him have his time to get used to the sights and smells of his new home. He scurried about, a  bit erratically, as we sorted through ideas for names. “‘Abu’ could be cute,” I said. “You know, the monkey from Aladdin?” (We had recently been to Disney World so it seemed relevant at the time :-/). With a shrug of her shoulders, Missy didn’t seem too enthused with that name. Then, with a clawing sound to catch our attention, we see our new addition climbing the door frame as if it’s a tree. ” How about ‘Kramer,’ like the character in Seinfeld? I’d say he seems a bit spastic, too, don’tcha think?” Missy smiled. “Yup, Kramer it is.” Well, technically his full name is Kramer Abu Richardson Silk. But, when he misbehaves, it’s just Kramer Silk (said in a firm, parental voice) ;-).

It wasn’t long before he was entertaining us with games of fetch. His toy of choice? A balled up piece of paper. Yup, it’s the simple things in life that matter – a lesson we gleaned from him early on. He learned quickly to get in position either by the sound of our voice saying “Get it, Kramer!” or the sound of the paper being crinkled. He’d get low, ready to attack, shaking his little butt back and forth. We’d throw the paper ball into the kitchen from the living room and watch him launch, run, and slide across the linoleum – often past the paper ball, and sometimes right into the wall! He’d then pick up the ball in his mouth and jog proudly back into the living room, dropping it at my or Missy’s feet. “He does know he’s a cat, right?” I said. And we’d throw again. Throw, repeat, throw, repeat. I don’t know who was having more fun, us or him. We would be hysterically laughing at the idea of this cat playing fetch, and his energy and spirit would be beaming at the excitement of it all. Oh how I loved this little fuzz ball!

That “Get” word, followed by the desired object, would trigger him to “Get the ball”, or, if we looked up, to “Get the buggy” if there was a fly or moth in the house. He loved to play with the moths. Alright, some would call it torment, but I know he saw it as playing. He’d gently take the moth’s wing in his mouth and toss the bug. Then he’d chase it and do it again. When he’d get over excited and actually eat the moth, he’s spend the next 10 minutes or so searching for it. “Kramer, you ate your friend, honey,” I’d tell him. “He’s all gone. They’ll be another…”

Sometimes just a “Get it!” alone would grab his attention. Even today, at almost 15 years old and not feeling his best, we whisper “Get it!” and we still get a bit of a tail wag. It’s so fun to see his kitten traits still shining through.

Below are some more photos of our time in West Springfield (click the thumbnails to make them larger) –

  • Kramer claiming his favorite chair. Despite our intent to get rid of it many times over the years, we couldn’t bring ourselves to take it from him. He still sits in today.
  • Our one and only Christmas tree in the apartment once we learned what he was doing during the day.
  • The bathtub – another of his favorite hang-out spots
  • And he loved to rip up toilet paper. If we didn’t remember to remove the roll before leaving for the day, they’d be nothing left but shreds

Pomp Tree Tub Shred

I look forward to re-living more memories of our precious companion in future installments of The Kramer Chronicles!

Coming up next: The Kramer Chronicles, Part II: The Separation

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If I Could Talk to the Animals…

I had a pretty incredible experience today that gave me such a sense of both exhilaration and peace.

Kramer's model pose

Kramer's model pose

As most know by now, Melissa and I have been dealing with a pretty sick kitty. Our cat, Kramer, was diagnosed with vaccine-induced fibrosarcoma. It’s a form of a very regionally-aggressive cancer that seems to be caused by the rabies vaccine. Our baby has a large tumor on his right, rear leg – pretty high up. The past months have been spent meeting with specialists of all kinds to determine our best course of action, as we understand this to be a terminal diagnosis. (As an aside, I’d encourage all you pet owners, particularly cats, to speak with your vet about this issue. It seems it’s mostly caused by the 3-year vaccine versus the 1-year, but they’re not certain that the 1-year can’t be the culprit as well. While they claim it is rare (about 1 in 10,000 cats), I still feel it is extremely important to discuss with your vet. Should I have any more cats in the future, I plan on strongly considering not vaccinating them.)

Back to my incredible experience… Melissa and I have consulted with vets, oncologists, and homeopaths in an effort to help our little man. The strongly suggested treatment was full amputation of the leg, including the hip area, followed by chemo and radiation. After much consideration, we decided not to put him through that as we feared the stress of those procedures alone could be fatal. It was a difficult decision, but one we feel is in his best interest, not necessarily ours. So while I feel like we’ve been doing a darn good job of tending to him in a most compassionate and Kramer-centered way, we both had a strong sense of needing to know more – from the man himself.

A loving and dear friend of mine, John, connected me with a colleague of his who is an intuitive. Danielle MacKinnon communicates with both humans and animals, and I was eager to speak with her to learn what Kramer wants or needs during this difficult time. And what I learned was unbelievably helpful. Here’s a bit of a recap:

As I imagined, Kramer strongly senses the anxiety and worry we have about him. What I didn’t realize is that he feels responsible for our worry, so he is trying to wish away his leg to calm us down. Danielle told me that he doesn’t even see the leg as a part of him; that it’s disconnected. Both because he doesn’t want to wrap up his entire identity in his illness, and because it’s causing us all stress. He said that he can handle the leg, but doesn’t think I can. 🙂 He also said to her, “I want the leg. Don’t get rid of it.” That was incredible, because Danielle had no idea that that was the recommended treatment! “OK, I’m going to pass along this message,” she said. “I don’t know what it means, but here goes.” I then told her that it was an option we were encouraged to strongly consider and that we both felt like it wasn’t the right move. It was so great to get affirmation that we did the right thing.

Kramer kept referring to his tumor as the “tight ball,” and I was so concerned that he’s really suffering from it, but I now know that he’s not in debilitating pain; that his leg does feel weak and a little achy, kind of like your muscles after a workout. Danielle taught me how to do some energy healing work on him around his “tight ball” to help alleviate the discomfort. We tested it while on the phone and I could feel the loving energy strongly in my body, and coursing into my fingertips! Truly amazing.

She said that Kramer loves when I hand feed him (mind you, she had no idea that I had been doing this because his appetite has been very weak). He prefers that over eating from his dish (oh, great, this should be fun!). He says he can tell my anxiety lessens when I do that, and, as a result, he feels better. Apparently, our worry about him is where most of his discomfort is coming from. So our job during this time is to be with him with less anxiety (easier said than done!). He kept communicating to her, “No more worry energy.” She recommended getting some Rescue Remedy (homeopathic drops used for anxiety) and putting some in his water. Oh, and she also recommended putting some in MY water. 🙂

I learned so many important things during our talk – that I have the ability to do some powerful energy work, that Kramer wants me to gently – and briefly! – massage around his “tight ball,” that he wants us to try and be with him in the way we were before his diagnosis, and to occasionally feed him Wendy’s hamburgers (don’t ask).  🙂

That is just a sampling of what I learned, and Kramer shared, during our time together. There were several specific things she spoke of that she could never have known otherwise. So, believe what you will. All I know is that I’m a believer, and now feel much better about how to tend to him. I am so, so grateful to Johnny for making this connection. Upon thanking him (in tears), in his signature humility,  he simply said, “That’s what friends are for.”

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My Super Bowl

Every year I look forward to that special Sunday in February (or, once in a while, March). I spend hours preparing during the weeks leading up to it, I line up my picks, and I settle in to watch the magic unfold. This is My Super Bowl – The Oscars!

Dustin Lance Black for Milk

Dustin Lance Black for Milk

The fashion (Freida Pinto – stunning! Beyonce – what were  you thinking?), the stars, the acceptance speeches – oh what a night! Two speeches that really moved me (for personal reasons, naturally) were Dustin Lance Black’s (screenwriter for Milk) and Sean Penn’s. )If you haven’t seen Milk yet, GO!)

Below is a portion of Dustin’s speech:

When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.

(He chokes up, audience begins to applaud.)

I want to thank my mom who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government  or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours.

So incredible for Dustin to get up there and give voice to so many who are so often silenced. He provided a very public face to this highly-debated issue and I only hope it made people pause, even for a moment, to consider their positions.

And then there was Sean Penn’s – a bit more in-your-face as we’d expect. He said, in part:

For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, and, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.

This year’s show, while at times a bit erratic from a directing standpoint, offered some unique and lovely additions. It was great to see the Little Movie that Could win so many awards. As difficult as some scenes were in Slumdog, it really was an incredible movie. And I loved, loved, loved how they presented the awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. To have 5 past recipients come out to address a nominee and reflect on their respective performances was such a personal and touching approach. As Kate Winslet said during an interview the next day, “It allowed every one of the nominees to go home with something.” Really beautiful.

Well, another year down and another Superbowl is behind us. This sure was a great year for movies. Here’s hoping for more to come!

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A Fun New Find

Last week, Mis and I finally checked out this little cinema in Amesbury, MA, called Stage Two Cinema Pub. This place rocks! It’s a discount theater (we saw Changeling for $5 – GREAT movie) with old, comfy, first-class airlines seats for chairs. They have a full pub menu, a full bar (cheap drinks!), delectable desserts (including “adult” ones with alcohol in it). And the best thing? A server brings anything you want right to your seat. Even popcorn!

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What a fun, different way to see a film. We were surprised this place wasn’t packed. It’s so darn cute. So, if you find yourself in the Amesbury area, check it out.

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A Very Merry Christmas

A dream came true for us this past Christmas. For years, Missy and I have been looking forward to owning a home and hosting our first big holiday for family and friends. We love the idea of receiving guests and starting new traditions, and Christmas 2008 marked that beginning for us.

Typically, we head to Missy’s family’s house for Christmas day (having spent Christmas Eve with my family). So, much of our holiday is usually spent in the car, which, with as exhausting as that is, doesn’t make us the most riotous revelers. This year, Missy’s family agreed to travel to us for Christmas dinner.

Her parents came, and her two brothers, Brendan and Ryan, and Brendan’s fiance. We also had the pleasure of having two of our neighbors join us whose plans for the day had fallen apart at the last minute – A perfect opportunity for us to fulfill our dream of opening our home and hearts up to others in this way. And, these are the neighbors, who were kind enough to put us (and our cat, Kramer!) up during the ice storm power outage (for three nights, I might add!), and the same couple who hosted the open house for us when we moved to the neighborhood (see The Kindness of Strangers), so it was wonderful to host them for a change.

I realized when we made these plans, that us hosting may be just as big of a deal for Missy’s mom as it was for us. After all, Jeanenne has always hosted most holidays, and, with Missy being her only daughter, it could be quite a rite of passage to hand this responsibility over to her (at least every other year, per our agreement!). Bill and Jeanenne (M’s parents) came early on Christmas Day to help our foray into this grown-up arena.

What a joy it was to be cooking in our big, beautiful kitchen – the three of us – Jeanenne, Missy, and me, with Christmas music playing, and Bill working his decorating magic as he put some final touches on our dining room table (see the photo below). Jeanenne LOVES to cook (and is phenomenal at it) and her relaxing energy was contagious, so we really got to enjoy our new tradition while learning from a master.  🙂 Hopefully the pleasure of the experience also allowed Jeanenne to enjoy this important moment in a mother and daughter’s lives.

table

tree

So we ate a delicious meal, and then ate some more; shared stories and laughter (and lots of wine ;-)). The day went off without a hitch, wrapping up with us sitting around a fire in our living room exchanging presents by the tree. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have illustrated a more perfect scene. It was all we hoped for and more.

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A New Dawn, A New Day

What a site yesterday to see millions of people in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the dawning of a new day!

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We haven’t seen the country come together like this since 9/11. Fortunately, this time, the impetus is of hope and inspiration instead of tragedy. Regardless of your political leaning, you had to have felt the energy in the air on Inauguration Day. I hope, if Obama wasn’t your candidate, you didn’t let that taint the feeling of community.

Now it’s our job to make sure the movement continues. Of course, the cynics are already spewing their rhetoric. “Obama’s not going to live up to everyone’s expectations.” “He’s not the Messiah.” Or as I heard on talk radio today, “Everyone thinks he’s going to be able to fix everything. They’re going to be sorely mistaken.” What these people don’t seem to get is that the difference with this time around is that we feel included; we feel we can be a part of the solution. The message of the Obama administration is that the prosperity of our country is all of our responsibilities. We, as citizens, can’t sit back and expect our leaders to magically fix all the problems or rescue us. We have been called to action this time around instead of frozen by fear.

Below is a note I sent to my eldest niece and nephews yesterday (those of voting age), prompted by the hope I felt watching the inauguration coverage. Upon re-reading, I realized it’s a message not just for them, but for me, too. And you.

Dear Liamarie, Tom, and David,

Please indulge me as I reach out to my eldest niece and nephews on this Inauguration Day with hope and excitement for what the addition of your voting generation can do for our collective world. I hope you seized the opportunity this year to vote in your first presidential election. If you didn’t, let that be the only time you allow that privilege to pass you by. If you did, and regardless of you whom voted for, I ask that you join and/or reaffirm your commitment to the mission of service.

It’s the one-for-all and all-for-one mentality that will make our nation and world thrive. We are all on this journey together. Let’s not forget our brothers and sisters next door and across the globe. Everyone prospers. Everyone suffers. Everyone has a story. Take time to learn someone else’s story. It is by doing so that your compassion and empathy will deepen and grow. And it is those traits that will help to unify.

So, take a few moments today to watch some of the day’s coverage, and realize that you are a significant and crucial part of this new world. Simply live authentically and you will have fulfilled your duties.

I love you,

Auntie Kerri

After sending this note, I learned that my nephew, David, was actually in D.C. for the events. I’m so glad he took the opportunity to go down there and be a part of it all. I’m sure it’s an experience he will never forget! I can’t wait to hear all about it and live vicariously through him. 🙂

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t make a mention of thanks to George W. Bush for the eight years he served in office. While I am less than thrilled with the job he did, I can’t imagine a more difficult position to hold. So, thanks, G.W. for giving it your best.