Cat Fostering: Amelie and Nelly

In my previous post about fostering, I ended by saying that Nine Lives, a cat shelter in Athens, Greece, was going to send me a kitten to help Amelie feel more comfortable after being rescued from a pack of dogs.  I showed a picture of a kitten who…did not come!  He ended up having some diseases that could have spread to Amelie, so instead  Nelly joined our temporary family.

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But first, an update on Amelie!  A woman from Nine Lives came to the house to take care of her while I was gone for a weekend vacation, and when I came back she was a totally different cat.  It was as though the fear of another stranger made my return a desperate, “Thank God, a familiar face!”  She started letting me sit beside her on the couch, and she was making so much progress I was a little scared that the introduction of a kitten would set her back.

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When Nelly first arrived, Amelie reverted to hiding under coffee tables and footstools.  I resented Nelly for that, which was unfair because she was relentlessly cute.  She’s a total kitten: playful and curious and slightly dumb.  And SO cute and cuddly.  She follows me around, burrows into the covers when I sleep, and falls asleep next to me like this.

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After a while, though, Amelie realized that she is a full-sized cat.  Instead of letting a kitten bully her around, she stood up for herself and asserted her dominance.  I was very proud that she came to this realization because of food.  Nelly tried to eat Amelie’s food, at which point Amelie slapped the kitten in the face and never had a problem again.

They still don’t cuddle with each other, but they will chase each other between rooms, and Nelly likes to sneak up on Amelie and try to catch her tail.  Somehow, all of this HAS made Amelie more comfortable, since she will now go into every room, and when I’m away for a while, she’ll actually follow me around and watch me from various doorways.  Most adorably, she will sit beside the couch and meow until I sit there, since she has apparently learned that that is where she will be petted.

Both Amelie and Nelly need to be adopted by mid-January, and at the rate they’re going, they will probably do well either separately or together!  If you or someone you know lives in Greece and wants two very cute cats, drop a line to Nine Lives and let them know!  If you can’t adopt cats, I still suggest you go to Nine Lives and leave a donation.  I love what they do, and I’m happy to do what I can to support them and the stray cats of Athens that they care for.

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Cat Fostering: Meet Amelie!

One of the first things I did when I returned to Athens was visit Hans Harrison, the cat I fostered for 9 months, in his forever home.  I sent pictures of him to Nine Lives, the cat shelter that had given him to me, and within hours I’d gotten a reply, “Do you want to foster another?”  I explained that I would only be in Greece for three months this time, but the offer was repeated.  A week later, Amelie was brought to my house!

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Amelie was part of a cat colony that Nine Lives checks in on from time to time.  She was taken to a vet a couple weeks ago when she developed an abscess on her back paw.  Soon after she was returned to the streets, a pack of dogs attacked the colony, killing several.  Knowing that the dogs would return to a successful hunting ground, Nine Lives rescued the remaining cats, Amelie included.  She stayed with two USian university students for a week before returning to the vet for a second abscess on her other back paw.  The next day, she came to me.

Clearly, she has been through a lot in the last couple weeks!  This is her first time living indoors with a human, and she has been very skittish.  She has made a home under my desk, first hiding under my footrest and then settling into a bucket with a rug.  At the slightest change in environment, she hides under the footrest and stares at me with wide eyes.

I’m used to floppy, friendly cats, so this would have been discouraging but for one thing.  Whenever I pet her, she goes mad with purring and leaning into my touch.  She’s simultaneously desperate for affection but scared of literally everything.  She’s an anxious introvert, and I can totally understand that.

It’s been slow going, but there have been small steps of progress in the last week!  She will come out from under the desk during the night (though she rarely leaves the room, even though the door has been open for days), and last night I heard her playing with the catnip toy I left her.  She also comes out of hiding to eat and use the litter box.

Last night, we had a major breakthrough when I came home, sat beside her bucket, and she came out to sit next to me!  This morning, she went further, crawling out of her bucket and then up into my lap for cuddles!  She’s also becoming blasé to my movements around the room, sleeping through noises she now considers normal instead of immediately darting for cover.

I’ve had Amelie for only five days, but it’s taking longer than I expected for her to settle in and feel safe.  Still, she’s such a sweetie, and if you’re reading this from Greece, I’m confident that in two months she’ll be ready to cuddle in a forever home!  She could be yours!


STAY POSTED:  Nine Lives and I have decided that Amelie needs a friend!  There is a kitten from her cat colony who is small enough to not intimidate her, but who is playful enough to hopefully help her feel more confident in her new home.  He cannot join us yet, since Amelie is not yet vaccinated due to being on antibiotics for her abscesses.  Once that is done, this little guy should be joining us!

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Where Is Your Heart? QUIZ

I was recently sent this prompt originated by A. W. Tozer that is meant to reveal what our heart invests in.  I’m a sucker for surveys and self-discovery, so here goes!

Rules for Self Discovery:

1. What you want most

I most want to live a stress-free life.  It’s exhausting to be anxious all the time.

2. What you think about most

Honestly, for the past month, Black Sails.  BECAUSE IT’S SO AWESOME.  But to break that down, that means I’ve been thinking about history and the potential for alternate histories, which makes me think of potential futures if only people are brave enough to unite with oppressed people groups and demand freedom for all.  I’ve also been thinking about queer relationships and what love really means, and how love can inspire people to the best and worst versions of themselves.

3. How you use your money

I save it!  If I’m going to spend money, it almost always goes toward travel.  I guess that means I value new experiences, broadening my outlook on life, and enjoying beauty.

4. What you do with your leisure time

I read and watch TV, because when I’m not living my life, I want to live as many other people’s lives as possible.

5. The company you enjoy

I enjoy people who are smart, thoughtful, and funny.  If we aren’t laughing while discussing all the ways we could change the world for the better, then what’s the point of hanging out (I’m being only mostly facetious)?

6. Who and what you admire

I admire talented people who use their skills to create beauty or unity or something unique.  I’m thinking Lin-Manuel Miranda level here.  But in my day-to-day life, I admire people who are creative and living life outside the norm as well as people whose perspective on life allows them to find joy in the little things.

7. What you laugh at

I laugh at snarky tweets, my cat running through his cat-tunnel, Try Guys videos, and…most things.  I like to laugh.

This exercise is meant to reveal the idols in your life, which is very uninteresting to me.  I used to think that when I loved something too much, I needed to get rid of it in order to prove (to God? to myself? to my church?) that I loved God most of all.  Now I think these things are gifts from God, and if anything, I should bring God into them and love them all the more.

Why Do So Many Enneagram Fours Want to Be Nines?

I still get comments on the blog post in which I discovered that I was not an Enneagram Nine, but a Four, and went through an emotional meltdown of sorts (I’ve since come to terms with being a Four, and now I love it…mostly).  There are apparently many people out there who misidentified themselves as Nines and were super disappointed when they found out they were, in fact, Fours.

It got me thinking: why do Fours want to be Nines so badly?  I can’t answer for everyone, but when I think about my upbringing, the answer seems pretty obvious for myself.

My family was very uncomfortable with emotions when I was a kid.  We were Polite Nice People who didn’t get angry or sad.  When a huge family tragedy/mystery happened my sophomore year of high school, we talked about it for the week in which it happened and then literally never again.  We avoid conversations in which disagreements might arise, and there is very much an unspoken attitude of wanting to maintain the status quo.

Added to this is the fact that my childhood was very much influenced by growing up going to a (white) Southern Baptist Church.  In my faith upbringing, there was a huge emphasis on a salvation that separated the sinful past (which implicitly included “bad” emotions like anger and depression) from the saved present.  There was an implicit, and often explicit, rule that being at church meant being happy.  But also not, like, too happy.  White Baptists don’t raise their hands while worshipping.  Everything in my childhood encouraged me to be even-handed and only mildly emotional.

It’s no real surprise, then, that I would learn to play the role of a Nine who is a peacemaker, who is detached from emotions, who sees all sides of a conflict and can navigate a resolution quickly.  More than learning to play the role, of course I would WANT to be a Nine, because that is the sort of personality that everyone I knew valued.

Not a FOUR, ugh.  It’s funny to think that I thought I was a Nine when looking back, everything I felt internally as a child was very Four.  I constantly felt like an outsider looking in, never special in friendships or achievements.  The things that did make me stand out (my passionate nerd interests) were things to be squashed into appropriate outlets if I wanted to avoid ridicule.  Ah, the number of hours I spent looking up Harry Potter fan theories or creating Lord of the Rings scrapbooks.  Alone.

On top of that, I was full of doubt and sadness.  I’ve talked many times before about the depression I went through in middle school and how I would pray that God would kill me.  It strikes me now that it needn’t have been so bad – the feelings I had weren’t all that strange.  If I’d had safe people who allowed me to be angry and irreverent, maybe I wouldn’t have turned those feelings inward as a toxic self-hatred.

But all the while, I had perfected the Peaceable Nine Mask.  I performed a Normal Happy Person very well, so well that eventually I believed that’s what I was.

I think for Fours, who are so often ruled by their emotions and can feel like we’re drowning in the worst ones, there’s something so appealing about being a Nine who seems to be above all of that chaos.  For those of us trained in the art of suppressing our emotions (I genuinely didn’t think I ever experienced anger until I went to counseling as a 23-year-old), it eventually seems possible to be our “Best Selves.”

What I love about the Enneagram is that it has taught me that my Best Self is not pretending to be a Nine.  It is leaning into my Fourness, admitting and celebrating the fact that I feel emotions far more deeply and quickly than many others.  My love is obsessive, my sadness is total, my anger is furious.  I’m still learning when it is appropriate to share those feelings and when to keep them inside.  But exploring the heights and depths and sidewaynesses of emotions has given me a level of self-awareness that many others don’t have.  And with that self-awareness, I’ve learned about showing grace to myself.  And when I learned to have grace for myself, it became so much more natural to give grace to others.  We’re all crazy beings with desires and fears that contradict, hinder, and inspire us, and I love being with people at their most confused.  My Fourness helps me appreciate people for the things they’re often ashamed of, and that is a gift I could never give if I continued to pretend I was Nine.

 

Enneagram 4 Life Hack

  1. Accept that you need to feel special.
  2. Realize that you can determine what “special” is.

For example, I have spent the last four months living in a world in which I lost most of the things that I thought made me special.  While waiting for visa paperwork to come through so that I can return to Greece, I am 1) living with my parents, 2) attending my childhood church, 3) working where I did five years ago 4) at a lower position for less money.

BUT.  When I consider all of that and think, “Wow, it would take a pretty special person to endure all of this and still find meaning and joy,” everything feels better.  I’m not even kidding, it is so easy to trick myself into feeling fulfilled.

Life HACKED!

Year 2 | A Week in the United States #17: SEATTLE, PEORIA, and DALLAS

I’ve been all over the country this week!  Last Friday, my brother met me in Vancouver, and we had dinner with my Greek coworkers and Canadian trainers. Then we drove across the border, and I spent the weekend in Seattle with him and his partner. We did some touristy things on Saturday, like touring fancy houseboats, drinking bubble tea (my one request), and going to Vidiot, a bar with free video games. On Sunday we had a lazier day, culminating in Thai takeout and streaming Logan. I left Monday, but the short weekend didn’t feel too short because they will be in Peoria in a couple weeks. 

I spent two days in Peoria, one mostly at the library and the second ending  with a talk about HD at my church. 

On Thursday, I drove to Dallas! It’s a 12 hour drive plus stops, and I had been looking forward to this trip since I arrived in the US a month ago. I love long car trips, especially alone. It takes about four hours before my brain is willing to slow down and shut up, and then I got some serious mental vegging in. Lovely. 

I’m staying with the family I nannied for while getting my Master’s, and I’m reminded just how lucky I am to have employers who turned into family. We stayed up the first night talking about their vacation to New Zealand and then Hamilton, proving that even while apart our interests are the same. 

When I woke up on Friday, everyone was gone for work/school, but they had left breakfast and a key for me. I went out for lunch with my old counseling coworkers, then sold some books at Half Price, and got back to the house when the kids got off school. Sanjay, Anju, and Ketan and I got dinner together before meeting Chrisette at the movie theater to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Today, I’m being lazy. We all went out for lunch together, and then the kids and I played LEGO Star Wars. Tonight I’ll go out for dinner with my favorite professor and his wife. 

It’s all so great! Too great! I’m loving being back in the States, and it’s so comforting to know I have such a huge support system all around the country. It’s also so much fun to hang out with Anju and Ketan again, and to know that even when years pass between our hanging out, we can fall back into old rhythms immediately. And driving! It’s so intoxicating to have the freedom to go where I want, when I want, whether that means to a store or another state. And driving down Dallas roads does things to my heart. 

I do love this city – I’ve got a lot of good memories here!

Year 2 | A Week in Canada #15: FIRST WEEK OF TRAINING

I’ve been in Vancouver for a week, and I feel amazing! Two of my coworkers got here before me, and it was so fun to see them in a new context. We are at our parent organization for two weeks of training, since two of us have new positions and the third wanted additional training after a year of experience. 

We’re staying at their safe house, and it’s been really cool to see the day-to-day life here. It’s made me really jealous, actually, because the ease with which you can interact when everyone speaks the same language is something you take for granted until you can’t say even the simplest thing without first finding an interpreter. 

From the first training session, their staff picked up on just that: that we are overwhelmed and feeling desperate, so after two hours they said, “What you need is a rest.” We put everything away and they treated us to a fantastic meal downtown. It was at the restaurant that we started to have our best conversations, safe, happy, and protected. 

This continued throughout the week: afternoon trips to Stanley Park, Granville Island, Queen Elizabeth Park, and a whole day reading through material at a restaurant overlooking the sea. It’s so lush here, and spring is kicking in, and I feel restored! I have three pages filled with ideas I want to implement when I return to Athens. It took leaving to have the space to think creatively and excitedly again.

 

We were assigned homework over the weekend, but we stayed up late Friday and got up early Saturday to finish. For what? The most introverted weekend ever. We stayed in our rooms until dinner, then ordered pizza and watched three episodes of Planet Earth. Just what I needed. 

I’m so glad I was able to come here. It’s inspiring to see an organization like ours, but decades old. They are well-organized and established, so crises are familiar and they aren’t hurrying around reacting to things all the time. I hope we can reach that point at HD…and soon!