I will admit that we treat our three cats like babies. We anthropomorphize them – give them human traits – and it is a rare moment when they feel any discomfort, much less stress or pain. It may be because we got them when they were around 4 weeks old – feeding them on “vetalac,” a sweet, malty vitamin rich milky solution that stuck to the fur around their mouths. Of course, Cheri is the housemother – every cat comes to her, and they actually pile on to her when she is trying to sleep, or trying to finish some charts she is working on.
But the babies – now fourteen years old – have all learned how to demand and get what they want. Hermes loves butter – and lemon bars – and anything that smells a bit malty, like cookie dough. Thor has found his favorite people food to be cream cheese, and cheese, and more cheese. Phoenix isn’t really a big people food eater, but her demands are that the boys bow down before her, and acquiesce to her slightest desire. She will stand at the top of the stairs, and since she is what you might call a bit porky, she has a little trouble getting up and down them. She will stand and howl, until one of the sons runs up the stairs, and carries her down, gently placing her on the blanket that is super soft, and folded on the couch. She rewards them with a huge purr, and an adorable big-headed face.
Back to the boy cats and their food preferences. A very few weeks ago, Adam decided to put some cream cheese on a bagel. The cats found their way into the kitchen and decided there should be a little cheese tax demanded. Adam put a little cream cheese on his two fingers, and the boys licked it off like it was – cream cheese. One thing we have discovered is that it takes perhaps one time, at the most twice, before a new habit is cemented in the cats’ minds. The two boy cats have progressed from knowing what the opening of a cream cheese container sounds like, and so will come running into the kitchen, to standing by the kitchen every morning until Adam comes upstairs, and then begin crying for a taste of cream cheese, to now, it seems, Hermes will come downstairs and stand in Adam’s room, whining until he finally will come upstairs, at which time Thor meets them at the top of the stairs, and the three of them parade into the kitchen for the (what has become) daily cream cheese presentation.
Please note – it’s not a lot of cheese. It’s a small daub of the stuff that is licked off the fingers in about ten seconds. You would think, however, that it is either Thanksgiving with the pilgrims, or entry into the Willy Wonka’s factory. Please also note that as soon – to the second – that the cream cheese is eaten, the cats disperse and find their places to sleep for most of the morning. No “let’s sit and chat for a while” – they got what they wanted, and they are gone.
I should probably note that the same routine exists whenever a can of tun is opened. You would think it was filet mignon that was served. Or eggs, or in Phoenix’s case, she likes to quickly dart (which is amazing to see, given her girth) over to an un-tended cool cup of coffee, and stick her nose into it and drink for a good 15-20 seconds. You have to know that none of us drink coffee with sugar or cream or anything in it – just black coffee. She loves it, and more than once we have had to get another cup, since we draw the boundary of sharing a cup with a cat.
Yes – we are terribly indulgent. Yes, we spoil them rotten, and none of the two-leggers in the house are able in any way to demand discipline or for the cats to simply act like cats. Or, maybe that’s how cats act, at least in the Cross home. We laugh at their persistence, and even their creativity to get what they need/want, and we say, “Silly cats – look at your behavior…”
I suppose we should also look in the mirror. We may chuckle at the earnest approach the cats take to treat themselves, but of course, we all do the same thing. It doesn’t matter the reason – coronavirus, weather change, not feeling well, job is hard, kids are unruly, lonely, facemasks, or whatever, we also become very adept at hunting for treats and getting special attention – rewarding ourselves. I have to say I am glad we are done with Halloween, but it’s still going to take some time to clear out the leftover candy… or unfortunately, it appears it won’t take that much time…
My dad would say any excuse would do to make sure something would happen or not happen. He would say, “the person can’t do that – they have a bone in their leg.” As though that were a perfect reason to do or not do whatever it might be. We all form habits – some very quickly – that allow us to cope or thrive or survive depending on the environment around us. The pandemic has not been a good time for self- discipline, since instead it become the best reason for creating a habit of self-indulgence, which arises out of self-centeredness, and which leads to believing the world owes it, whatever it is, to us. Sort of like cream cheese in the morning.
I have to say that this behavior is as accidental as anything in this world. When our only intention becomes the desire to please ourselves, it will carry us far away from a thoughtful, response-able bearing in life. Cats can act that way – they are cats, for crying out loud, and their job is to be self-centered. That’s why they say cats don’t have owners – they have staff. We however are not created that way, and when we act that way, it is because we have given away the thoughtful part of our lives.
When a habit comes to be part of our lives without our thinking about it, it’s an accident. However, when a habit is borne out of a thinking, considering, decision-making mind, we will find it to be far deeper and more profound that running after the cream cheese, however that presents itself. Let this time become for you much more than a time of self-indulgence. How exciting it would be if through discipline and careful discernment, we could make decisions that not only lead us into a more significant life, but also care for the world around us with the Love that is part of who we are.
Go ahead and enjoy some cheese, but then do something real, and really good.
Word for the day: ultracrepidarian. Pronounced ultra-kreh-pa-DARE-ian. Our word is actually the last part of an old Roman/Latin phrase, that actually has been appropriated by dozens of different languages. The Latin was ne suto ultra crepidarian. Translated, it roughly means, “Shoemaker – venture no further than your shoes.” The caution or warning was to keep someone from becoming ultracrepidarian – who is someone who talks about something they know nothing about. A shoemaker may know a lot about making and repairing shoes, but the Romans believed that perhaps he should not offer his opinion on world politics, or strategic military movements or such. Stick to what you know, and be silent in the rest, or else – you deserve to be called an ultracrepidarian! Or worse…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.