Archive | September, 2016

Saving Phoebe

29 Sep

There’s a poster with a picture of a gray tabby cat on it. The cat has its eyes closed & seems to be smiling. The message on the poster is this:

“Rescuing one cat won’t change the world … but it will change the world for one cat.”

Earlier this year we lost our 19-year-old cat, Max. The love we had for him is indescribable & the grief at his passing can only equal that. Neither my husband nor I could imagine getting another cat. We were both very much against that “replacement cat” thing because we knew how impossible it would ever be to attempt to replace our Max.

From the beginning, people started calling, writing & texting us with offers of cats … “My sister would like to rehome her cat. Please consider taking her.” “We just got 2 kittens & their litter mates are still available …” “I have the PERFECT cat for you …” We just weren’t ready & couldn’t imagine having another cat after Max. So we went with our gut instinct & didn’t even think about getting a cat. Although the house seemed increasingly quiet … empty … without our Max, we didn’t think getting another cat was the answer.

I kept remembering, though, what I’d read in Cat Fancy Magazine a long time ago. It said that the perfect memorial to a lost, beloved cat was to give another in need a loving home. Our Max had been a shelter cat.

Grief is an unusual emotion. It hangs on & can be limiting if you let it. It can hang heavily around our hearts & change us. It can close doors that would be best left open. Dealing with grief is the most difficult thing.

After 2 months without our Max we began opening our hearts … understanding that we could never replace him … that he lived an incredibly long life full of love & NOTHING could change that. We began to understand that the love we had for Max would keep him forever alive in our hearts but that our hearts were big enough to share our home & our love with another cat in need. We believed that Max would have agreed with that.

So we began to talk about the possibility of adopting an older cat. Seniors mostly are unadoptable due to the abundance of available kittens & they truly become lost in the shuffle in shelters. Hopefully they end up in “no kill” shelters so at least they have some hope of a long, if not ideal life.

I began “window shopping” on our local shelter web sites.

I bought a litter box … just in case.

One of our local shelters collects used ink jet cartridges & recycles them for $2 each. The money from that fundraiser goes directly into the care of the animals at the shelter. For years our science fiction club has been saving & donating our empty ink jet cartridges to the shelter. The collection always ends up at our house, so Willy & I took them to the shelter & while we were there we stopped in to look at the senior cats I had seen on the web site. I was especially interested in a 9-year-old female tabby I’d seen whose name was Phoenix.

Phoenix was living in a cat room with 6 other cats. One of the more progressive shelters, most of the cats are not in cages but roam freely in several rooms that have condos, climbing structures & elevated & lower shelving for stretching out & napping. There was a large window that looked out onto a hallway.

I saw her right away.

Sometimes you just KNOW. It can be a sweet face, a look of anticipation or the total lack of it … or the twitch of a whisker. You just know & I think we KNEW immediately when we met Phoenix that she would be our cat.

Because we had a trip planned the coming week we asked the shelter if they could keep Phoenix an additional week until we got home from the trip. They agreed. Because she was a “senior” cat her adoption fee was less & because of a 2 week special, all cats were available at a reduced fee.

For a week we had our “discount” cat on “layaway” & I couldn’t wait to bring her home. I went to Pet Smart & bought a Kitty Condo for our sun room so she could sit & watch birds. I bought her a mouse that squeaked. I visited her in the shelter before we left for our trip.

While we were at the beach we talked about names. It turned out that Phoenix was actually 10 years old & Phoenix was the only name she had ever had through 2 owners. We wanted to give her a more feminine name that matched her petite appearance but didn’t want to change it so drastically that she wouldn’t realize we were talking to her. We tried to find a name with 2 syllables … the first sounding like the first syllable of Phoenix. After much searching & considering, a friend suggested Phoebe & that seemed to check all the boxes, so Phoenix became our Phoebe.

On Monday after returning from our trip I picked Phoebe up at the shelter.

Bringing Phoebe home was filled with anticipation. Would she be frightened? How long would it take for her to adapt to her new surroundings? Would she use the litter box?

She immediately responded to us with head bumping, wanting to be petted & sitting beside us on the sofa. She seemed perfectly at ease with us but frightened of the house, especially our sun room.

I think we don’t realize how traumatic shelter life can be for cats that have known loving homes & have ended up in shelters for whatever reason. There must be so much confusion at the beginning; waiting for the owner to come back – living with strange cats, smells & noises. Phoebe had lived for months in a 10 X 7 room with 6 other cats. That was her world. To her, our home must have seemed like a small city, which she slowly & methodically explored. By the third day she had ventured into the sun room far enough to nap on the ottoman. By the fourth day, she went all the way in & climbed to the top of her condo & watched birds, squirrels & leaves falling past the windows. She slept with us the first night.

Phoebe is going to be alright …

And now, so are we.

I wish we could save them all but, like the poster, we have changed the world for one cat & that just feels good. We have given little Phoebe a second chance at a better life; a chance to spend her senior years being cared for & most of all, being loved.

What has Phoebe done for us? Because we love & appreciate cats, she has already brought us joy & laughter. Her personality is unique … from the way she seems to show us affection to the cat footprints I’ve found in the morning on the glass top of my kitchen stove. Our house isn’t quiet anymore … nor does it seem empty.

Only time will tell whose world has really changed by saving Phoebe ….

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Boldly Going … (for a little while)

14 Sep

I’m a multitasker & am so use to burning my candle at both ends that I mostly don’t pay much attention to doing that anymore. It’s a way of life. So this summer, when my candle …  flaming at both ends … ignited in the middle, I really didn’t notice at first. It was a slow middle ignition that seemed insignificant until the flame took off, literally at WARP Speed.

I’m president of a science fiction club. We do a lot of fun stuff like dressing up in Star Trek costumes, doing promos at businesses, movies & comic shops & just having fun. We also are a helping force within our community & over the past several years have become recognized in our area as a credible helping influence. We have the best of all worlds … or the galaxy if you’d prefer to look at it that way, which we do.

When we started putting together an Annual Public Charity Auction 11 years ago we abandoned our little training cruise & took on a bigger mission. We use proceeds from that event to sponsor 10 local charities at Christmas AND send a local middle school student to Space Camp annually. We lowered our shields, our cloaking device was disabled & we became locally visible. We became CREDIBLE.

Our club’s Annual Charity Auction is a huge undertaking. We begin canvassing local businesses, restaurants & state attractions for donations in March, but as the coordinator of the event, my job starts earlier & doesn’t drop back out of WARP until the event is over & becomes history.

I don’t just coordinate, though. I canvass for donations just like the rest of our club members because I won’t ask someone to do something I won’t do myself, which just seems logical to me.  So in March, we ALL start canvassing & by the third Saturday in August when our auction becomes a reality, we usually have amassed a total of close to or more than 300 auction donations.  We’ve gotten this thing down to a fine system. This isn’t fantasy … it’s reality & we love the way we’re able to pull this off year after year.

2016 has been a big year for Star Trek &, in turn, has been a big year for our club.

A new feature film, Star Trek: Beyond came out in July & we attempted to be a presence at the opening, but our one & only local theater would not allow it, even though we have been a presence in the theaters at the opening of Star Trek films for the past 30 years.

So as Jean Luc suggested, “Seize the time. Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again” we contacted a collectibles shop located right across from the theater & did a promotion there all day long on opening day of Star Trek: Beyond. We signed up over a page of people who were interested in receiving our newsletter & recruited a new member.

At 7 p.m. we all met, still wearing our Star Trek costumes & went to the movie together.  At the movie people stopped us, asked who we were & took our pictures.  We had a wonderful time. As Mr. Spock would have told us that night, “Change is the essential process of all existence,” & mostly to the theaters dismay, we handled that just fine. We’d beaten the Kobyashi Maru!

In May the Executive Director of a local Artspace & personal friend contacted me about partnering with our club in September to present a 50th. Star Trek Anniversary Celebration & Movie Marathon in recognition of the 50th. anniversary of the airing of Star Trek originally on television on September 8, 1966. I discussed the proposal with our club members & all agreed that we should do it. They told me to, “Make it so,” so I did, even though we knew we couldn’t work on it until after the auction. That gave us just 2 weeks to pull together a large 50 Years of Star Trek exhibit, line up volunteers to be at the Movie Marathon for 10 nights in a row & to make an impressive showing … which we DID, but it was work & all of our candles began burning at both ends … AND in the middle.

The thing about the 50 Year Anniversary event was that we would be sharing the proceeds from movie ticket sales with the Artspace & our part of the money would go towards our Space Camp Program, ensuring that we could send a local middle school student to Space Camp for an additional year. It would have been highly illogical to say “NO” to that.

The week before the auction in August we were contacted by Hull’s Drive-in Theater in Lexington, VA asking us to do a promotional appearance at the drive-in the night they were showing Star Trek: Beyond … which just happened to be the night before our Annual Charity Auction.  We were pleased to have been asked, even though the timing was difficult.

Hull’s is one of only 7 remaining drive-ins in the state of Virginia & the ONLY non-profit one & we wanted to help. So, although we were (already) givin’ her all we had, Captain, we struck out to Lexington in Star Trek costumes & did the promo at Hull’s. Even though it was a thrash to get home & get everything ready for the auction the following morning, we DID it … & we had fun at Hull’s, realizing that where making our club more visible is concerned & being a helping force, our resistance is futile.

The auction came off without a hitch & we made the most money that we ever have at an auction. Most of us pushed ourselves, no matter how tired we were becoming, because we knew that the success of our auctions means providing Christmas gifts for children & the elderly, & food for those who would otherwise have none during the holidays. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.

The week following the auction, the Artspace Director & I did a total of 2 television interviews, 5 early morning radio interviews, 2 newspaper interviews & 1 college newsletter interview the week before the 50th. Star Trek Celebration & Movie Marathon began. We did most of the interviews together & a couple each, alone. It was exhausting & fun … & exhausting

“There’s an old saying, fortune favors the bold. Well, I guess we’re about to find out.”

In the end, all that media coverage gave our club & the Artspace a tremendous amount of exposure & added to the success of the more than week-long event.  

The week following the auction our club began work on our 50 Years of Star Trek Exhibit. Because we were strapped for time, only 4 of us provided items, collectibles & memorabilia for the exhibit, which was more than enough. 3 of us spent 7 hours the day before it opened setting up the exhibit that included costumes from the Star Trek TV series & movies, rare collectibles, memorabilia, & original Star Trek artwork that made a small, yet distinct art show as part of the exhibit. Our exhibit was, in a word, Fascinating; bringing in over 100 people in two & a half hours on opening night. The exhibit was so amazing that everyone who saw it will surely Remember …

For 10 days we provided the Artspace with the Star Trek feature films & our club members in costume. The Artspace personnel sold tickets & concessions & showed the films in a comfortable theater. People came, watched the Star Trek films, enjoyed the nostalgia, signed up to get our newsletter & we added 2 new members.

Our club members worked the event & got to see the movies every night. It was fun & never seemed like work at all. What a treat to watch the movies again … together … back-to-back while raising money for a very special cause.

We boldly went where our club had never gone before & learned that, even though it was a HUGE undertaking & we were very tired, we did it & can do it again if the occasion arises.

After 10 days, now that it’s over we will miss it.

It took each of our participating club members to make the auction, the drive-in promotion & the 50th. Star Trek Celebration & Movie Marathon a success because of what we brought to the events as individuals as well as a clubeach according to our gifts.

“In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us.” – Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy, Star Trek.

For just a little while we so enjoyed working together, learning what we can do if we try & Boldly Going …

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