Another cat post? Yes. Considering I saw Bolla almost every day for close to 8 years, two posthumous blog posts are a case of too little, too late.
Just to be clear, I didn’t learn only two things from my years with Bolla, but these are probably going to stick with me for longer than the rest.
1. The ugliness of disease and death
Bolla was a very lively cat when we first got her. I’d tie stuff to the end of a string and have her chase me around the apartment (a game neither of the other two cats took to). I’d get breathless long before she did. As age and disease set in, she ran around less, became less fastidious about cleaning herself, and so on. Her last 48 hours were the nadir of her existence. She lost all muscle control and suffered violent convulsions.
The Lord has spared me in that I haven’t walked this path with a human loved one. But the alternating and intermingled rage and despair I felt was no less real. Some passages in scripture are now less remote and more precious to me, like the raising of Lazarus, Paul’s triumphant cry in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 and Isaiah 25:8 (quoted in Revelation 21:4).
2. The beauty of trust
I remember the first time we gave Bolla and her long, thick fur a bath. She sulked at us for hours, refusing any advances. Immediately after her last bath (exactly a week before she died) it was like nothing had happened. Why the change? I believe it was because she knew she could trust us. She had been a recipient of our love, care and concern for her over the years (sometimes in the form of a pill stuck down her throat!) and knew, in her own kitty way, that we were on her side. And you know what? Bolla’s confidence in me brought me great joy and satisfaction.
I’m envious. I’d love to be able to have the same faith in my God that Bolla had in me. I’ve received so much more from my heavenly Father than I could ever give a pet, and yet I’m still prone to not setting my hope fully on Him. I therefore cry out with the anguished father, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
A week ago today the first feline love of my life, Bolla, was put to sleep.
I called her my fur coat because she had (a) an extraordinary ability to shed fur, and (b) a tendency to deposit herself on the laps of seated humans. I very much appreciated this last characteristic the time when the winter heating wasn’t working!
Bolla was abandoned by her previous owner(s) who at least had the decency to leave her at the door of a cat sanctuary here in Rome. The personnel named her Bolla (‘bubble’ in Italian) because she was as round as one. She was at the sanctuary for about a month before we came along to give her a new home. She would stay with us for 7 years, 9 months and 3 weeks.
Bolla had expensive tastes—she turned up her nose at cheap cat food and cheap litter sand. She loved meat for humans, whether raw or cooked. She became our quality control expert: if she liked a particular cut of meat, then it was a good one. She was friendly and easy-going, though only with humans. Her interaction with other cats was mostly in the form of hostile hissing or ignoring.
Close to four years after acquiring Bolla, we were given a kitten whom we named Tempesta. Until that point, I’d never seen Bolla upset or angry. Poor Tempesta got paw swipes and was hissed at. About one and a half years after Tempesta disappeared, Wikileaks moved in with us. She too got more than her fair share of one-way aggression.
When we got her, Bolla was obese. We had no idea what that would mean for our future together. The first health scare was when she was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. So that’s why she had a silent meow. The next scare was the diabetes. So that’s why she was peeing all over the place and drinking vast amounts of water. The last was the feline leukemia. In the end, it wasn’t any of those that led to the painful decision to put her to sleep, but neurological complications arising from the diabetes.
I’m sure there will be animals in the new heavens and the new earth. If both Bolla and I will be there, I look forward to some cuddling and tickles under the chin, just like in old times.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)
I rearranged the scarf around my head so that I could see only straight ahead of me: I couldn’t bear the disapproving looks of the townsfolk. There was nothing I could do about the verbal insults, however. I hurried along the path for the day (I used a different route each day) thinking about nothing in particular.
I came round the corner and looked down the slope towards the well and saw a man—a Jew— sitting there. I wondered what the stranger was doing at the well at that time of day, but then again the same question could be asked of me. I self-consciously adjusted my head-scarf again before reaching to uncover the well.
“Give me a drink.”
I might have jumped back a little from the surprise, I don’t know. My response tumbled unbidden out of my mouth, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?”
He let my question linger in the air for a moment or two. As I awaited his reply, I got a chance to look at his face. He had a kind look about him which lessened my apprehension. His lips curved in a gentle smile as he replied, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
Men had promised me numerous things before, but this was the first time I got an offer for a secret source of water. I pointed out the obvious. “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get that living water?” I just couldn’t resist the urge to show up this Jew so I added, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”
He let the comment on Jacob slide. “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of his words for he said them with such… authority. I was drawn to him. I wanted to hear more. “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”
“Go, call your husband and come here.” He might have as well struck me physically. I’d not expected the conversation would take such a turn. My mind tried to come up with something to say to cover up the truth, but I found I couldn’t lie to this man. He was having a most unusual effect on me.
“I have no husband,” I feebly replied, focusing my eyes on a patch of dirt at my feet.
“You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”
Blood rushed to my face as my head shot up. How did he know that? Who told him? Certainly, my life was common knowledge around these parts, but surely no-one would have been sharing the town gossip with a Jew! In the turmoil of my thoughts, I failed to notice that the tone of voice he’d used contained neither contempt nor condemnation. All I knew at the time was that I had to change the subject.
I suppressed the emotion and said, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” The scripture lessons Mother had given me as a little girl had now come in handy.
As before, there was a pause before he gave his reply. “Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
His words burned inside me, even though I didn’t fully comprehend them. So I fell back on an answer Mother often gave when she couldn’t answer my questions. “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when that one comes, he will declare all things to us.”
“I who speak to you am He.”
I looked intently into his tired and kindly face. There was neither hubris nor guile in its expression. I knew that he meant exactly what he had just said, and that I’d not misunderstood him. While I was still contemplating the import of that brief and loaded sentence, a group of men emerged into the clearing where the well stood. Their chatter died down when they saw me. None of them made to move or to say anything.
My eyes were still fixed on the man before me. Could he be Messiah? Right here in Sychar? Talking to me? I couldn’t contain the bubbling within me any longer. Leaving my water jar I ran back to the city, crying as loud as I could, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did! Can this be the Christ?”
That man—Jesus of Nazareth—stayed in our town for two days and taught us from the Scriptures. Many among us came to believe that he truly was the Saviour of the world. I came to believe that the Jewish rabbi at the well was my Saviour.
-  It is likely she could identify Jesus’ ethnicity by His clothing, though I’m not sure.
- Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB and ESV translations.
- I’ve been contemplating a post like this for a while, and got the final push from this talk.
- I also thought that this story wasn’t as perfect as could be. Hope you liked it anyway
I’m sure I’m not the only one who laughed out loud upon hearing of Ribbon Hero, a game developed by the folks at Microsoft Office Labs with the aim of teaching people how to use the ribbon interface.
When I finally downloaded version 1 of the game a few weeks later, I was disappointed. I had actually believed the marketing hype. Playing RH1 felt more like completing a to-do list than having fun. The major spur towards my completing it was the release of version 2. Grudgingly, I became a Ribbon Hero in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as attested by the screenshot below:
Ribbon Hero 2, Clippy’s Second Chance is an entirely different experience altogether! In RH2, players time-travel with the erstwhile office assistant as they complete challenges in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, picking up random facts about the various eras visited. It feels more like a game, with levels being unlocked upon attaining a certain number of points. Another improvement was in the graphics: they are much nicer to look at in version 2. Overall, RH2 is a great improvement over version 1, not least in that the marketing hype of version 1 was actually fulfilled in version 2.
In the summary of my performance above, you can see that I used hints on one of the Ancient Greece challenges—an orange circle is missing. I didn’t have to complete all the challenges (blank circles) because I already had the 50,000 points I needed to complete the game. I also racked up 392 bonus points. These are awarded for using functions such as text formatting (bold, italics, using the format painter, applying header styles, etc) in the course of normal use of an Office program. I clearly recall getting points for my 20th and 50th format style (it kept count across sessions), and for inserting a page break—the program would freeze for a second or two at those moments. The ways of gaining bonus points are hidden, so I’m sure many more can be found.
My brother and I are repeat offenders when it comes to cat adoption (taken as either humans adopting cats or the other way round). Our latest is Wikileaks the white and honey-coloured kitten.
Said kitten first came to our notice in mid- to late November, when Cablegate was unfolding, hence the unfortunate appellation. I don’t know if she’d been meowing at every door in the neighbourhood, but at ours she found friends of her species. The occasional table scraps she received outside the house gradually became left-over cat food administered inside (ostensibly because a horrid kitten stole Wikileaks’ food more than once; the truth is our hearts were warming to this possibly abandoned/ neglected kitty).
I’d often let her sit in the warm house for an hour or two before putting her out into the cold. One evening in the week between Christmas and New Year’s day, I put her out just before going to bed at close to 11pm. She was still at the door when my brother returned some twenty minutes later. He let her in and she hasn’t left since.
This past Monday she was spayed, putting an end to the four-week long misery we (humans and felines alike) endured of having a cat in heat. Our previous kitten Tempesta was subdued by the operation. Wikileaks was the exact opposite, contumaciously clawing at her collar with all four paws (I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry, so I did both alternately). She has since resigned herself to its pesky presence, and we can all now enjoy some peace and quiet.
That’s what I heard a Christian leader say a while back, though not in so many words. (More on that in the ‘The Rest of The Story’ section below.) In order to write this post, I got thinking about my favourite biblical figure, book and verse.
My favourite biblical figure…
My favourite person in the Bible besides Jesus Christ is Daniel. He was a man who, in the words of Eugene Peterson, displayed “a long obedience in the same direction”. Daniel faithfully served Yahweh for decades, and what’s more, he did it while in a foreign land surrounded by pagans and simultaneously serving high political office. He found time to pray regularly and to read his Bible, and to act on what he’d read (Daniel 9:1-3). And he received a glorious promise from the God he served.
I can only hope that I, like Daniel, will not outlive my love for my God and Saviour. Read the rest of this entry »
According to the site I Write Like, I write like:
- Cory Doctorow, when I’m writing about finding user manuals;
- James Joyce, when reflecting on a sermon I’d heard;
- Edgar Allan Poe when musing on a Dickens novel;
- Jane Austen when remembering my missing pet;
- Dan Brown when going over what I’ve learned from the Bible.
Of all those, the only comparison that flatters me is the one to Jane Austen, who also happens to be the only author above whose work I’ve read.
The lesson I take away from this is that I should write more about cats if I want to be famous a couple of centuries from now!
Oh, and just for fun, I ran this post through the analyser. Result: (drumroll)…
Extra: Read how the algorithm works.
This past weekend, and indeed all of last week, has been the hottest in Italy so far this year. ‘Hot’ just doesn’t begin to describe the weather we’ve had; one of the Italian terms (temperature infuocate) translates roughly to ‘fiery temperature’. That’s what I’ve been feeling in my bedroom:
The graph above represents readings taken yesterday from 6am to 11pm. The dip at 8am is as a result of my opening the window shutters (I sleep with the window open and the shutters closed). I forgot to take readings at 10am and 4 pm, so those two values are averages of the preceding and following values. On the other hand, I took readings at 3am Saturday (33.6°) and at 3am on Sunday (34.0°): the heat makes it hard to sleep well. Thankfully there’s no shortage of advice. This video tells me to sleep in a wet t-shirt and take warm showers, for example.
Unlike some, I prefer winter to summer (though sunset at 5pm bums me out). In December, I can wrap myself in a blanket, grab a cup of hot chocolate and park myself near a heater. In July, I start to sweat 5 minutes after stepping out of the shower. I can’t wait for my favourite month, October!!
Update, 2 weeks later:
I took some more readings at the end of an uncharacteristically cool summer week, and got a minimum of 26.5 °C at 6am and a maximum of 31.9°C at 7pm. Put another way, the max temperature was lower than the min temperature of two weeks ago. I’m still waiting for autumn, though…
It is a few days after the resurrection. Gaius, a soldier, is walking down a Jerusalem street when he runs into his friend Demos, a merchant.
“Well, hello there, friend Gaius! It has been a while since I saw you,” Demos called out from the entrance to his shop.
“You know how it is during these Jewish feasts. We soldiers have to keep an eye on the crowds, make sure that no riots erupt so that merchants like yourself can continue making money,” replied Gaius, with a twinkle in his eye.
Demos held his hands out, palms facing outwards, in mock surrender. “True, friend. And my gratitude is displayed in every coin I pay in taxes.” Both the soldier and the merchant smiled at this.
Suddenly turning serious, Demos added, “Say, weren’t you one of the guard posted at the would-be Messiah’s tomb a few days ago? The story all over Jerusalem is that his body is missing. Do tell, what exactly happened?”
Gaius shifted his weight uncomfortably. “His disciples stole the body.”
Demos waited for Gaius to go on: the soldier had never been a taciturn person. But it quickly became apparent that this was an exception.
“And this happened when you were asleep?”
“All of you were asleep?”
“Yes, we were all asleep,” came the reply. Gaius had a pained expression on his face.
“But surely, someone must have stirred when the stone was rolled away? You don’t mean to say that every single one of you was that sound asleep?”
“None of us saw or heard anything.” Gaius reached out his hand to feel his coin pouch, to remind himself why he was lying to a faithful friend.
“So then, if you were all asleep and no one saw anything, is it possible that there is another explanation ? How can you be so sure that it was the man’s disciples who took the body?”
“I… um… I need to be going now. So long!”
Based on a sermon by Alistair Begg, in turn based on Matthew 28:12-13, and embellished with ideas I’ve picked up here and there.
|This is a rambling post, you’ve been warned!
Last Monday, I clocked off earlier than usual (I’m doing an internship that I’m not enjoying very much). I decided to drop by a supermarket to get the supermarket-brand cereal I love. From there, I had to catch a bus home. The easiest way would have been for me to take the metro, but I didn’t particularly feel like descending underground. The only bus that directly connects the supermarket area and the bus I need to take pulled away from the stop as I waited for a green light to cross the road. The next one would be a while, and I wasn’t feeling patient either. Thus, I found myself taking an unfamiliar bus, number 542. Read the rest of this entry »