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Sunday, July 31, 2016


It was a post on social media, like and unlike many other posts. I can't even remember what the post was about, and I hope that doesn't hurt my friend Cindy's feelings. She is the one who wrote the post, and I made some sort of comment. It is a part of her reply that sticks with me. She said something like "I know, my Katrina!" My heart skipped a beat as my body tried to decide whether to smile or cry or both. As it happened, it was a bit of both. I replied to Cindy that her comment was very special to me, and that I would tell her why at a later time, and more privately. 

A few days later, we were visiting our friends Marie and Thayne. I told Marie that I had to tell her something interesting. "One of my friends posted on social media and when I commented, she called me my Katrina." Marie smiled as the tears streamed down her face. She actually cried for a few minutes, a mixture of sadness, nostalgia, and love. Why the tears? The name my Katrina reminded us of a sweet, big-hearted dog named Bowie.

Bowie, who is now gone from us, was an Aussie-Beagle mix dog that never met a stranger. He was friendly with everyone. If anyone came to the front door, he was so pleased, because he was certain that they had come just to see him. So it wasn't really much of a brag to say that this dog liked you. In what is often true Beagle fashion, Bowie absolutely loved to eat. A herd of guests could come to the door when he was eating, and he would try to see who it was without missing a bite of food or leaving his dish. But we always suspected that Bowie really loved me, which was proven by him abandoning his food dish when I walked in the front door. I was told that I was one of only two people that could make this minor miracle happen.

I visited Bowie and his family many times over the course of his life, and dog-sat him on numerous occasions. Whether I was at the dining table or sitting on the sofa having a snack, Bowie would try to get a snack out of me. He had the whole I-can't hold-up-my-head-because-I'm-weak-with-hunger routine down to an art form. I managed to teach him to roll over and sort of play dead, and when I reached for a treat he would run through his whole repertoire of tricks without me asking, which had me in stitches many times.

Bowie or Bozer or Bozilla loved to get scratches from me too. When I would wake up in the morning while Bowie-sitting, he would sit down in front of me to get scratched all over. He was willing to wait to go potty and eat his breakfast so that he could have a luxurious full-body scratch. And I do mean luxurious - I usually cut him off when we hit the twenty-minute mark.

At one point, we were going over to let Bowie out every day while his parents were at work. He never failed to greet us with excitement, scampering around when we walked in the house. I would sometimes send texts to Marie from Bowie, and she got many chuckles out of them. The one that really stuck, though, was when he told his mother that he was no longer going to call me Katrina. I was now MyKatrina.

You may think that this is a silly thing, to believe that a dog views you in that way, but his behavior proved this to be true. On one memorable occasion, he proved that I was his MyKatrina. His brother was visiting at the same time that Trent and I were there, and Bowie was fussed over as was normal for us. When I came in the front door, I let him out in the back yard. He sat in the grass and I scratched him and stroked his fur. He flopped down on the grass as I rubbed one side and turned him over to rub the other. Done with our ritual, we went back in the house.

After we had been sitting on the sofa for a while, Bowie's 'brother' Scott told me that his back was bothering him. I offered to massage his back and neck, and he sat down on the floor in front of me. When Bowie caught sight of MyKatrina paying attention to someone else, he came over and sat right by me. His paw reached out to my arm as if to say that I should be petting him, not massaging someone else. When I didn't stop, he actually used his paw to forcibly pull my arm away from what I was doing! The message was clear - in his mind, I was Bowie's MyKatrina, not anybody else's!  

As fate would have it, I was to spend the last few days of Bowie's life with him. His parents had to leave town unexpectedly for a family funeral, and I knew when I walked in the house that he was rapidly going downhill. His greeting was full of love, but without the rambunctious joy I had grown to expect and love. He had some growths in his belly that were rupturing and causing him a great deal of pain. I dragged a mattress down from one of the bedrooms and slept on the family room floor. I didn't want Bowie to be alone and in pain during the night.

I fed him eggs and hamburger and anything I could find that he might be interested in eating. There were a few times that he looked at his bowl and walked away. He would ask to go outside and would lay his hurting belly in the snow or ice. Having just lost our sweet Paris eight months before, it hurt to know that I was seeing the last days of another dog that was part of my life.

I cried every day during that time, sometimes more than once. Bowie would come to me as he always had, for love and affection, but he also came to me when he was in pain. I wept when he would jump up and come close to me in the middle of the night, seeking comfort. For the first time in our friendship, I was unable to give him what he asked for. His eyes begged for MyKatrina to take away his pain. I called and told his parents that they needed to get home as soon as possible. When they got home, I went with them for Bowie's last visit to the veterinarian. I had done what I could to help his pain, and now it was gone.

When Cindy referred to me as my Katrina, it pleased me a great deal. I was flooded with feelings about my late friend Bowie. Marie had the same reaction. She was happy that there was someone calling me MyKatrina, sad that Bowie was gone, and happy with her sweet memories. Hearing his name for me made her realize for a moment how much she loved and missed her sweet dog. Cindy knows that she can call me MyKatrina any time that she wants because it will now be her special name for me. It will be a reminder that a name can sometimes be more than a name. It can be love.


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Monday, July 18, 2016


For almost as long as I can remember, I have loved numbers. Not as much as I love words, mind you, but there is a sort of magic in numbers. I will never be a mathematician; I just really love the basic math functions of add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I know enough geometry to figure out answers on the online general knowledge quizzes. Algebra, with its word problems, frustrates me. One of the first questions in my junior high school algebra had to do with the infamous Two Trains. Both trains are on the same track and headed toward one another. If one is going 30 miles per hour and the other is going 50 miles per hour, how long until they crash?

My first thought is, and has always been, that instead of figuring out how long it will be until there is a horrific accident, something should be done to prevent it. Only someone truly heartless would sit and run the numbers when people might be dying. I don't want to know when these unfortunate people will meet their doom, I want to save their lives instead. Since the Two Trains entered my world, algebra and I have not been the best of friends.

But as I said, I love the basic math functions. I still remember my excitement at learning all of the magical things involving the number nine, for example. And I still fondly recall the substitute fifth-grade teacher who had the delightful math game that we played every day. All of us stood at our desks and started counting out loud. Any student whose number contained or was a multiple of three couldn't say the number aloud. If they accidentally did, they were out and sat down. It was fast-paced and fun and we loved it.

I am fairly good at doing math on paper or in my head, and fractions and percentages don't bother me. I can walk through the grocery store with no paper or calculator and keep track of how much I am spending, even with percentages off of certain products. I am seldom surprised by the total, because I am usually pretty close in my tallies. And my tally is generally slightly higher than the eventual total, so no shock happens to us at the cash register.

Division is a math function that can do all sorts of things for us. If you and two friends dig up 87 diamonds and want to split them evenly three ways, division tells you that each will have 29 gems. Yes, someone will say that the others' diamonds are bigger, but that's just how kids people are. As the inverse of multiplication, instead of making numbers larger, division reduces the size of the number. Division always decreases the whole. While it may show us the possible components of the number, the number is nonetheless diminished.

What happens in math can in some ways be related to what happens in human societies of all types. Division takes the amazingly complex human race and diminishes it. It makes us smaller. As we apply increasing numbers of distinctions and divisors to ourselves, the wholeness is lost. There is so much division and lessening going on in the world right now that we are being driven further and further apart. What is scientifically one species is categorized to make us feel separate and different and better than or less than. 

I think that we need to start a new revolution. Instead of dividing, we should be multiplying. And no, I'm not talking about the Biblical be-fruitful-and-multiply. I'm talking about erasing the division signs that diminish us and replacing them with things that magnify us. We don't need to legislate or regulate to make this work. It happens one person, one moment, and one action at a time. We need to go back to the old tradition of looking at one another when we pass by. Instead of trying to ignore each other and shut ourselves in and keep other people out, we need to acknowledge our shared humanity. 

Nobody seems to say hello any more. What happened to how are you? When did can I reach that off the shelf for you disappear? It takes so little time and effort to see that another human is walking by you. And none of us know what is hidden beneath the facade that our eyes see. The person walking by you may be depressed, elated, lonely, or worried, or any combination of things in between. A kind word can indeed be a balm to the mind and soul in a world where we are so crowded but so alienated from one another. Try it. You may find that the light in another person's face when you treat them as a fellow human being is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.


The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

Thank you for reading!