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Posts tagged ‘quotes’

Topic C: CATS

I do not really remember the cat that lived with us when I was a kid back in Chicago.  I must’ve been about five.  I think his name was Tiger.  The only vague memory I have of him is that he would climb our neighbor’s tree and then jump onto their roof and start yowling.  “Meow!  Meow!”  Eventually one of us—usually one of my sisters, perhaps—would go up through the neighbor’s attic and out the window to retrieve him and bring him back down.  We would laugh at how silly he was, not able to get down on his own.  Looking back, I think we were well trained.

At some point before we moved to California, the cat ran away.  My mom was worried about him being lost.  However, she did find him, sitting and purring on an old lady’s lap a few blocks away.  They both looked very content, so my mom let the woman keep him.  This experience is what I knew about cats, other than the neighborhood strays that messed up the garden and stalked the birds.  When I was in graduate school, I visited a cousin who had a Siamese—pretty cat.  But crazy.  Maybe a little mean.  At first I felt pretty good that the cat seemed to take to me, even fell asleep on my lap while I was reading.  But when she woke up, she stretched and then reached out and bit my hand before she jumped away.  My cousin said something reassuring like, “She does that.”

Can you blame me for not being crazy about cats? 

Obviously, it is no surprise that I am not a cat-person (vs. a dog-person).  But I actually grew to like cats.  Once I met a few more.  The first great cats I got to know lived with some friends, when we all lived in Texas.  Those cats were lovely felines:  sleek and beautiful, patient but eventually willing to get to know me, curious and creative in how they played.  And they did not bite!  I saw their personalities, their interplay with their owners, their habits and quirks and fell in love with them.  I may never troll websites for cat videos, but I do now appreciate cats for their beauty, agility, independence, curiosity, playfulness, and assertiveness.  I would not call them aloof, just thoughtful and cautious.  Admit it:  there is something special about a cat sleeping on your lap, purring against your legs, trotting to the door to say hello, and playing with empty boxes or some other silly thing.

I expect some of my readers are cat-people and can share some great cat stories to make me like cats even more than I do already.  If I owned a cat, I think I might be persuaded to build a wall of boxes like the guy in the video below did.  I especially like how he shared the design plans with the cat before construction.

Below are some photos and quotes that show some of the cats I have gotten to know and some quotes that capture the essence of cats.  ENJOY!

Cats always seem so very wise, when staring with their half-closed eyes. Can they be thinking, “I’ll be nice, and maybe she will feed me twice?”   Bette Midler

almost asleep 2

barney gray with yellow eyes

If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.  Nan Porter

Booj what do you want

cat under table

You cannot look at a sleeping cat and be tense.  Jane Pauley


Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want.    Joseph Wood Krutch


A cat in grass is a tiger in the jungle.  English Proverb

Patti Hunting

If there is one spot of sunshine spilling onto the floor, a cat will find it and soak it up.  J. A. McIntosh

cat stripes

The ideal of calm exists in a cat.  H. G. Frommer

so demure

 Happy is the home with at least one cat.  Italian Proverb

Hiding in plain sight

What greater gift than the love of a cat?   Charles Dickens

gorgeous blue eyes

I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.  Edgar Allan Poe

Syd's Tail

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life—music and cats.  Albert Schweitzer

One cat just leads to another.  Ernest Hemingway

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten.  Terry Prachett


Occasionally people say that I look like my mother. And that is basically true. We share some of the same features: the round face, the Birkemoe family nose, the ever-changing blue-green eyes. I always took the statement as a compliment. The similarities were also proof that I was not adopted as some of my older sisters jokingly insisted simply because my baby book was not completed. As the youngest of five girls, things such as empty baby books were to be expected.

Now, on the other hand, the older I became the more I would cringe when I heard myself utter such phrases as, “You sure you don’t want a piece of cake?” or “That’s okay, I can do that work overnight.” I felt like I was channeling my mom, even if I did not say, “What would the neighbors think?”* It was even worse when a sister would say, “You sound just like mother.” But now, as I approach middle age—oh, give me a break! I am not going to say I am old; I could live to be over 110—I not only see more and more similarities, but I appreciate them as well.

Shared Traits

I wouldn’t say Mom is stubborn; instead, I think I would label her very self-sufficient. She knows what and how she wants things done—and she makes certain the house and yard are neat and tidy. I cannot say I inherited her housekeeping skills, but I am fastidious and a bit of a perfectionist. I am apt to do things myself if at all possible, to make sure they are done right. I do think that is a bit of mom sneaking through. “I can do it!” is almost our shared mantra.

A more prominent characteristic Mom demonstrates daily is her care and concern for others. It is at the heart of her insistence that everyone who visits enjoy something to eat or drink—you need to be a good hostess, after all. But the trait runs deeper than that. Mom has always been committed to service, to helping others. Along with taking care of her family, she always worked outside of the home—and most jobs were in the service sector: scout leader, church secretary, and daycare provider, to name a few. She even studied to be a nurse but the opportunity never presented itself to work at the vocation. I took Mom’s lead and devoted myself to service as well, but my avenue was through teaching. Even my leadership style is grounded in Servant Leadership.

Mom extended her love of life and kind generous nature to a love animals, especially dogs and birds. She had dogs growing up as did we—and Mom had dogs even once we all left home. As a kid, she tolerated my running string of pets: little frogs I found somewhere, a parakeet, a lizard, a tarantula, and a kangaroo rat that ran loose through the house only once, hiding out under the sofa in the den. I found my dog when I was in college, and Mom welcomed him to the household, even before he was fully housebroken. Together we would take good care of our dogs and mourn their passing, donate annually to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and take the time to feed the birds and squirrels in the backyard or the ducks and peacocks at the Arboretum.

My love of books, quotes and writing also trace back to Mom and her habits of mind. She was always one to write a personal note of thanks or greetings to others—“mail-mail” we called it in our house to distinguish it from bills and such. Her handwritten notes often incorporated a pertinent quote that she discovered in one of the books of quotes she always had around the house or gave as gifts. It has got to be in the genes, because I too love quotes and sprinkle them into whatever I write. One of Mom’s favorite poems was Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” that ends with the line, “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” I bet that poem and the attitude toward life it represents are the seeds that generated my love of Nature and nature writings.

Right now, Mom is 90 years young, and she is succeeding at staying young at heart. She practiced throughout her life by taking time out to play. I have mental pictures of her pulling her young charges in the little red wagon, or showing another kid how to work the hula hoop. At times, she would even surprise Pastor at work with a funny mask or Groucho Marx nose, tolerating his usual reply: “Children will play.” Looking through a gift store, she could typically be found buying a little something for someone else, often a puzzle or jacks or a spinning top. When she started to reach retirement age, she vowed to wear purple and spit whenever she wanted. Just a few years ago, with some of her adult grandsons, she collected the golden leaves of autumn and took off running to fly a kite. To this day, she keeps Raggedy Ann and Andy sitting on her bed, so great grandkids have something to play with.

As you can tell, Mom loves to play! I sure hope I have inherited that quality too—I try to emulate her playful approach to life as I take off on my own adventures traveling to various state and national parks and collecting do-dads and toys to keep me entertained at work. You just have to enjoy life to avoid regrets—the basic message of one of her other favorite poems, “Maud Muller” by John Greenleaf Whittier: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these, ‘It might have been!’”

Like Mother, Like Daughter

In many ways, I am not like Mom at all. I never married and do not have kids. I do not cook or garden like she does, nor do I attend church regularly any more. Although I like chocolate, I am not crazy about her favorite cookie—chocolate covered marshmallows on a crusty bottom. With me being so much heavier than she, we do not really even look that much alike anymore. But in the ways that matter, I am a lot like Mom—and that’s just fine with me. When I take Mom and Dad out to dinner for Mother’s Day, I will have to remember to tell her how glad I am to be her daughter.

Like Mother, Like Daughter? Sounds good to me!

*Mom, of course, insists she never said this!


“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people,
promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
Tenneva Jordan

“Sweater, n: Garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.” Ambrose Bierce

“What do girls do who haven’t any mother to help them through their troubles?” Louisa May Alcott

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! If you have not called your Mom yet today, do so!

Don’t You Just Love Quotes? Books?

I love quotes. I love books. So it makes sense that I would love books full of quotes. I have many of them on my shelves: quotes about dogs, friendship, teaching, writing, leadership and quotes by specific people like poets and statesmen. When I was a kid, my mom had a book of quotations that I would peruse for hours, enjoying the wonder of what I found. I would sprinkle quotes into letters and into essays at school. In 6th grade I won an American Legion Essay Contest about what it means to be an American—and, if memory serves, I used a quote by JFK. I’m sure I started collecting my first books of quotes back then too.

Back in 1980—when I was taking my first job after graduate school away from home so away from my mom’s book of quotes—I bought myself Familiar Quotations. It was a little bit of home I could take with me. The book was the 15th and 125th year anniversary edition of the book of quotes first published by John Bartlett back in 1855. I can download this book for free now and easily conduct a search by topic or author, maybe even ask for random quotes to be displayed. But there is something more personal about curling up with the book and diving in.

Today, as I pulled my old well worn tome off the shelf, I randomly opened the book to p. 614. There in close juxtaposition I found, “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see” by Lewis Carroll and “There is nothing harder than the softness of indifference” by Juan Montalvo. I have loved Lewis Carroll for years, and the quote brought a smile to my day. But I do not think I would have stumbled onto Montalvo online—and I had not heard of him before. His words made me think about the hurt that can come from staying quiet too long or from moving on even if something needs to be resolved or defended. His quote reminded me that we are all as fragile as Blanche DuBois, who “can’t stand a naked lightbulb, anymore than. . . a rude comment or a vulgar action.” Or just being ignored or overlooked.

But I also stumbled upon a delicious little book full of wit, sarcasm and some downright mean commentary. The book’s title was almost bigger than the book itself: The Little Book of Venom: A Collection of Historical Insults compiled by Jennifer Higgie. This collection of quotes is only 167 pages long, but it contains a wide world of insight and criticism. There are 12 chapters arranged around various categories like art, music, love, history and politics. The largest chapter takes up 36% of the pages and is “On Writing.” The book’s index lets the reader search for quotes by specific people and about specific authors and subjects. To do justice to this little treasure, I simply have to share some of the quotes:

“Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910), on Richard Wagner

“Far too noisy, my dear Mozart, far too many notes. . . “
Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)

“The American has no language. He has dialect, slang, provincialism, accent, and so forth.”
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

“England and America are two countries divided by a common language.”
Attributed to George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot; and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“He grew up from manhood to boyhood.”
R. A. Knox (1888-1957), on G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

“His imagination resembles the wings of an ostrich.”
Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-59), British historian, on John Dryden (1631-
1700), English poet

“A large shaggy dog just unchained scouring the beaches of the world and baying at
the moon.”
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), on Walt Whitman (1819-91)

“The way George Bernard Shaw believes in himself is very refreshing in these
atheistic days when so many people believe in no God at all.”
Israel Zangwill (1864-1926), British dramatist and novelist, on George Bernard
Shaw (1856-1950)

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a man to a dictionary.”
William Faulkner (1897-1962), on Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think emotions come from big words?”
Ernest Hemingway, on William Faulkner

“The Puritan hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but
because it gave pleasure to the spectators.”
Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-59), in his History of England

“The more I see of men, the more I admire dogs.”
Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sevigne (1626-96)

“The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin.”
Honore de Balsac (1799-1850)

“He was meddling too much in my private life.”
Tennessee Williams (1911-83), on why he had stopped visiting his psychoanalyst

But as fun as it was to spend time enjoying these quotes, finding the book was actually rather bittersweet. You see, this book was a gift about seven years ago from a good friend. We were really quite alike, so she ended her inscription with “If you laugh at these too. . . ?” and I definitely did/do. We have not been able to laugh together over a book or piece of chocolate or anything in over a year now. It’s complicated. I guess I am just being wistful, remembering that laughter is sweeter if shared with a friend. There’s got to be a quote about that somewhere.

What’s your favorite quote?

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