How a once-fat cat changed my life

Today I am celebrating the fourth adoption anniversary of my blue point Siamese Tiki. I’d always wanted to own a Siamese cat (despite the stories I’ve heard about their infant-like crying, which isn’t true for all Siamese — at least not Tiki).

Like everything else you can find online, I stumbled upon the Michigan Siamese Rescue’s website. Call it a ‘dating’ site for potential human owners looking for felines! Tiki’s photo was the first I saw. He was the equivalent of a feline Hindenburg. But he also looked absolutely adorable!


Tiki weighed in at a solid 19 pounds. As the description on his profile said, he had passed through the rescue’s doors a couple times and was an ’emotional eater.’ It didn’t help that he had been subsisting on a diet of cat treats, or as Tiki’s “godmother” Denise described it, a diet akin to ‘crack and Doritos.’  He had claws, which made me nervous, and he was almost eight years old. But at the time, I was working full time and going to school part-time. I didn’t really have the energy to take on a kitten, cute though they may be. I wanted a cat that would sit with me while I did homework in the evenings.

Tiki’s previous mom had unfortunately passed away and her husband was moving from the family home to a place that didn’t accept cats. So, considering Tiki was portly, clawed and mature, it’s safe to say his fate was shaky.

I fell in love with Tiki from the moment I saw his picture online. Somehow, you just know when a cat will fit with you. The adoption process was interesting. I had to fill out a multi-page adoption application, had two friends provide personal references for me (yeah, references, which they require to make sure you’re not a cat hoarder), and designated Denise as the “godmother” who would care for Tiki if I couldn’t.

When I went with Denise to meet Tiki in person, he was tucked in a corner, curled up on a blanket. He had the sweetest face and purred almost immediately when I petted him. How do cats know they’ve got you at the sound of a purr? I pretty much knew even before seeing Tiki in person that I was going home with him that day. I wouldn’t have to think twice about it.

Perhaps it’s because I chose Tiki myself that I love him so much. To me, he’s a true companion. Despite my reservations about adopting an obese, clawed, aging cat, it’s the best thing I ever did!

Today, Tiki has slimmed down thanks to “designer” diet cat food. This morning, I found him in a closet, nestled amid a bunch of quilts I put away for the summer season. Yeah, he still likes his cushy privacy!

Having adopted Tiki, I’ve also converted most of my beauty and health care products to cruelty-free brands.  Additionally, I’ve cut down on meat consumption, adopting a vegetarian diet some days of the week. I’ve become much more cognizant of how animals are treated and have contributed financially to organizations that care for abused animals.

For me, adopting Tiki was a lesson in facing a fear and about taking care of a life that could easily be passed over. Happy Fourth Adoption Birthday, Mr. Tiki!


The evolution of a story

During this highly abnormal time of COVID-19, I’ve found it interesting when people say they have a hard time coming up with things to do during the day. Some say they don’t get out of their pajamas or find themselves losing track of days. That makes me scratch my head.

Don’t get me wrong. The days for me are blurring together too and I’ve come to appreciate the small liberties we all used to enjoy, such as going to the store without having to wear a face mask and rubber gloves. Imagine: grocery shopping without fear. I long for the days I can go back to the mall. And thank you to everyone out there, whether you’re a doctor, nurse or grocery worker, helping to keep us all healthy and fed!

I’ve worked from home for about two years as a free-lance writer, editor and communications consultant. I already had a routine down. While my free-lance work has slowed, I’m finally finding time to finish rewrites on my book, “Restoration.” I’m learning that working as a novelist is a really hard job!

I sent my book to a New York publishing company in the fall last year and the editor told me that while there is much to like about the story, it needed work. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Working on it … and working some more on it … and some more and some more and some  more!

I’ve finally gotten it to the stage where I’m sending query letters, synopses, and portions of it to literary agencies for possible agent representation. All I can say is, ‘It’s exhausting!’ I have a new-found respect for how tough it is to write a book, write a synopsis, write a query, research possible agents and publishing companies, etc., etc., etc.

Continue reading

The Joy in Facing Fear

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… . You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

Last week, I received news no writer really likes to receive – a rejection on a work of fiction that I sent to a major New York publisher.

For me, to receive this rejection was a joy of sorts.

Some of you know that I write fiction. I’ve done so at a rather steady and sometimes prolific rate since my early 30s. Actually, it goes back to my teens when I first started writing fiction. And ideas for stories go back even further than that. Let’s just say I’ve been contemplating this practice since I was around 12 years old — a long time.

In September, I submitted a ‘finished’ manuscript of a book that has been percolating in my head for many years. I sent it to Harlequin, the major romance publishing company that doesn’t require an agent for some of its imprints. Long-time Harlequin Editor Patience Bloom emailed me back and had very positive and constructive comments about the story. Ultimately, though, the piece needs more work.

I was thrilled to receive this news — not that it wasn’t accepted. For me, that wasn’t really the entire point of pitching the story to Patience and submitting the whole story to her.

My point is that I finally submitted my fiction to a publisher. I put skin in the game. Having it accepted for publication was almost secondary to why I did it.

Color coordinated book spines

I’ve been a paid writer for almost half my life, as a journalist, a marketing, public relations and communications professional, and a free-lance magazine and newspaper writer. There’s always been this voice in my head though that says to me, ‘what about your fiction?’ I hear it almost every day. I hear it in the wee small hours of the morning. Sometimes the voice screams at me, ‘What about your fiction?!!!!!!’

I felt terrified to pitch and then send my story. Sometimes when you overthink things, the ‘threat’ of rejection and judgment becomes conflated in your brain. That’s exactly what has happened with me. Sometimes we get in the way of our own success (or rejection) and we fail to even try to do something.

By the way, here’s the pitch:

Small town girl Amelia Addison, 25, is coming to terms with the impending death of her estranged father Daniel when she literally crashes into sweet, goofy restoration expert Joe McKellar, 31, who has designs not only on renovating her grandparents’ old Victorian farmhouse kitchen, but also convincing her he wants to be more than just a silly ‘older brother’ figure to her.

Though Amelia does everything to ignore Joe’s playful and often immature teasing – including falling into a torrid physical relationship with her sophisticated and worldly older boss – she finds Joe is the man who finally convinces her to leave behind her self-contained world. He shows her how to live beyond her imagination and love despite loss.

Pitching my story and sending the manuscript was like kicking down a wall of fear for me. It was scary, but it was exhilarating too!

It’s hard to write a book. It’s hard to finish it. It’s hard to make edits and changes. It takes courage to share that book with someone. It felt a bit like sending my ‘children’ off to New York City, on their own, unprotected.

It’s a bit scary to even post this blog and to share with others that I write fiction! But, as I’ve read before, life begins outside of your comfort zone.

Now that my ‘children’ have returned from New York, I feel victorious that I had the courage to put a piece of myself out there. I love my first completed story – a book with the working title, “Restoration.” But, it’s a work in progress.

I have many other stories that I have been ‘constructing’ for many years. It takes time and real effort to finish a book, to complete the story arcs, to get to know your characters and to make them three dimensional. It takes perhaps even more time to research the market, to determine if you need an agent, or to just send it to a publishing company yourself. These days, many people bypass the whole process and publish their own fiction, an option that has its own benefits and drawbacks.

I so admire those fellow creative individuals, whether it be writers, artists or whomever, who have the courage to follow their passion, put themselves out there, and to share part of who they are with others. For me, it’s a process, one day at a time. It’s a labor of love and it’s an act of courage to be vulnerable.

Here’s looking to the new year and fresh acts of bravery.

BTW, here’s a link to Patience’s book, “Romance is my Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last.” It’s a great read!


Happiness through setting and achieving goals

This year has been an incredible year for me. New opportunities to travel. New career paths. New directions for personal and professional growth. A new chapter in my life.

Over the past seven years, while working full time, I also worked on obtaining a master’s degree in Public Relations and Organizational Communications, as well as a graduate certificate in health communication, at Wayne State University.


In some ways, I think I took the hard road with this process – taking one class a semester while I worked a full-time job. It took a lot of years to receive the graduate certificate and master’s degree but I also wanted to balance work, school and life.

I am grateful every day that I completed my graduate work. It gave me a sense of purpose and helped me discover that I’m able to rise to any challenge I may face.

Attending the graduation ceremony at WSU in May was amazing and exhilarating, with my family and loved ones sharing the day with me. And every day since that special day, I have been thankful for achieving that goal. It took an amazing amount of grit, determination and just plain hard work, day after day after day. Talk about feeling like you’re in a fox hole!

But what balancing work, school and life taught me was tremendous self-discipline, project management skills, keeping an eye on every minute of the day so that I could maximize my productivity – skills that translate both to the work world and to personal life too.

After achieving the goal of receiving my master’s degree, I worked towards and met another goal: traveling to Paris with my companion Rick. I told myself that if I finished my master’s degree, I would reward myself with a trip to the City of Light. And so, in mid September of this year, Rick and I traveled to France. It was everything I had anticipated and more. There is no city in the world like Paris!

RickAndLizEiffel compressed

If I’ve learned anything over the last seven, eight, even 10 years, I know that true happiness isn’t achieved by buying the next new thing, having a fancy car, or anything else that might come about through conspicuous consumption. Happiness occurs when you set a difficult goal for yourself, work your ass off to achieve it, and then bask in the relief and glory of achieving that goal.

I’m not certain what my next big adventure will be – and for now, I don’t need to concoct another big adventure — but I look forward to coming up with new goals, working towards those goals, and feeling the pleasure of making my dreams come true.

One thing I know though — it’s going to be hard to top Paris!

Empathy: Good or bad …. black or white?

Have you ever felt carried along by the tide of emotions? I feel that way all the time. You might characterize me as emotionally sensitive. That can be good. And that can also be tricky sometimes, when it comes to ranking high on the empathy scale.

According to Merriam Webster, my go-to source when I want to know the nuances of words (and that’s a favorite pastime for me!), empathy is defined as ‘the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.’

When is empathy appropriate? Inappropriate? Are ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ the right words to use? Can we really know what people are feeling if they don’t share their feelings with us? How much are our own feelings a form of projection or transference?

Are there certain people for whom we shouldn’t feel empathy towards? Criminals? Mean people? People you don’t care for, for whatever reason? Should empathy be black or white? Should we have empathy for everyone simply because they are human? Should it be dictated by the situation?

Continue reading

Great Expectations

“Peace begins when expectation ends.”  — Sri Chinmoy

One of my dear friends has this as part of her email signature. I believe this to be mostly true.

I find I have a lot of expectations about things that may be unreasonable. I have an expectation that the holidays will be a fun time. Well, they are except that a series of unfortunate incidents have occurred over the years that have drawn a veil over Thanksgiving and Christmas, such as my parents falling ill.

I expect to get good grades in school. Yes, until my professor gives me and my classmates a particularly hard final exam and I don’t do as well as I’d like.

I expect that everyone will like me because I try to be a “nice person.”

Oooh. That’s not always the way it goes. Nice is a relative term and what’s nice for one person may not be nice for another. It’s all about perspective.

Continue reading

Hillary, you’re the inspiration

Every so often, you meet a person who truly inspires you in how they approach life, their attitude about dealing with a chronic illness, and who influenced them to be the best person they can be.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Hillary Turk, a woman who has been battling two types of lung cancer since 2008.

Hillary Turk

Hillary Turk

Hillary works as a therapist in private practice in Farmington Hills and has been treated at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, my employer, for the duration of her illness.

Hillary and I spoke about a lot of things during our interview – her illness and her treatments; her son, Ian; her life and her family; and how her maternal grandmother was a role model for her.

Hillary is the type of person with whom it’s easy to build a fast and warm rapport. At the age of 65, she’s seems (at least for me) to be at the quintessential grandmotherly age – someone who is different from a mother and in some ways better – someone very wise, warm and accepting.

Continue reading

The beauty of silence

Back in my 20s and 30s, when socializing and grabbing life by the horns was extremely important to me, I lived a very “loud” life. My job as a former reporter was action-packed. My personal life was action-packed. My marriage — which incidentally didn’t last — was action-packed.

Silence photo

It was a fun, dizzying, chaotic, crazy time. I ran from adventure to adventure with hardly a breath. I travelled everywhere – to Europe, to Asia, across this country and back. My head swam with grand schemes. It seems I lived with high drama and in a lot of circumstances, crises.

And then, by my own design, it all stopped. I mean, it didn’t stop immediately. Even as my life continued to be in upheaval, it took me a while to figure out that I could stop living a life tantamount to existing in an airplane hangar, with the plane’s engines going full bore.

There’s been something remarkable about making all of it stop: The silence and tranquility that ensues.

Continue reading

An homage to my father



“Don’t play that song for me/‘cuz it brings back memories/Of the day that I once knew/The day I spent with you”

— Lyrics written by Betty Nelson and Ahmet Ertegun; song interpreted by Aretha Franklin

I love music. There are some songs that when they come on, from the very first note, it’s like a religious experience. For me, these songs include “Everyday is like Sunday” by the Smiths; “Everyday I Write the Book” by Elvis Costello; “Take it to the Limit” by the Eagles and, going way back, “Kentucky Rain” by Elvis Presley. Those songs have literally worked their way down into my soul.

Another song that’s just magical for me is Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.” I think I may have heard it first on the 70s music channel or during the closing credits of 1997 film starring Peter Fonda, “Ulee’s Gold.” I love everything about the song, from the acoustic guitars to the flutes playing the delicate melody.

And though I love the almost-seven minute song, it’s not an easy one to slow dance to, as I found out.

I hadn’t listened to “Tupelo Honey” since the night of November 3, 2001. That’s a long time to go without hearing one of your favorite tunes.

I played it recently and it triggered all sorts of strong memories and emotions in me. It continues to be one of my favorites. I love the lyrics, “You can’t stop us, on the road to freedom, you can’t stop us, ‘cuz our eyes can see, men within sight, men in granite, knights in armor intent on chivalry.”

The last time I listened to that song, and tried to dance to it, was on the night of my wedding. It was the song that I danced to with my father, Robert Dale Carter, who’s been gone now for more than four years.

Is there anything more special to a woman than dancing with her father on her wedding day? I can’t think of many moments more poignant than that.

My relationship with my father, to put in simple terms, was complicated. My father never expressed emotions very well. And it was always difficult for me to talk to him and relate to him.

It’s even more difficult to write about him, considering my complicated emotions I have over my dad. I spent so many years being angry at my father for what he couldn’t express to me. He was a man beset by issues that kept him from expressing things that he felt.

Continue reading

Farewell, dear companions

On July 4 Eve, I had to make the very difficult decision of helping my cat find her way to the Rainbow Bridge. Anyone who has had to put an animal down prematurely probably knows about the Rainbow Bridge. It’s a poem written about the place animals go when they die.

Don’t read it if you’ve recently lost a pet. You’ll end up in tears – that I can guarantee.

My cat had reached the age where she was disintegrating healthwise in numerous ways – she was senile, arthritic, had allergies, couldn’t groom herself well, used various rooms of my home as her personal litter box and was just about on the precipice of losing whatever continence she’d been holding onto.

Abby was probably more than 20 years old. I was the envy of friends whose cats had only reached their young teens before they left this mortal coil.


And to be sure, Abby was a wonderful companion. She would lay with me on the couch in the evenings and watch TV. She purred during my before-bed meditations, to help set the relaxed mood. It seemed to make up for all the mornings where she would literally be bouncing off the walls, caterwauling obnoxiously for her moist food.

I cried all the way to the vet and all the way back when I knew that she had reached the end of her life. I was with her when she breathed her last.

As much as she made a mess of my house, day in and day out, I hated to part with her. She had become a part of my regular routine. Feedings in the morning. Following me up the stairs at night to get her treats.

Continue reading