Month: August 2009

Book Review: The Theda Krakow Series by Clea Simon

I previously reviewed Probable Claws by Clea Simon, which is the fourth in a series.  All books feature Boston freelance writer Theda Krakow and her cat Musetta.  Since it’s always more fun to read a series from the beginning, I thought I’d provide reviews for the first three books for you.

mewisformurder

Mew is for Murder is the first in the series.  In addition to a great mystery, which begins when Theda shows up at a local “cat lady’s” home to interview her and finds her dead, and which features suspects ranging from the coffee-bar waitress who helped the murder victim take care of the cats to the victim’s schizophrenic son, Simon also shares her love of Cambridge, the setting of the story, as well as her forays into the Boston music scene. Filled with well-developed and likeable characters, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read that leaves the reader wanting more. Thankfully, there are three more books in this series.

catteryrow

Cattery Row is the second book in the series.  In this book, we get to enter the world of show cats and the Boston area rock and roll scene. When show cats are being stolen, and Theda’s friend Rose, a breeder of pedigreed cats receives threats and is eventually implicated in the thefts and then found murdered, Theda begins to investigate because she refuses to believe that her friend had anything to do with the cat thefts. While she delves into solving the cat thefts and her friend’s murder, a musician friend of Theda’s is being blackmailed and becomes increasingly withdrawn. Are the two situations connected?

This is a well-crafted mystery with an immensely likeable heroine and the combination of cats and rock and roll make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed this second glimpse into Theda’s world because of Simon’s excellent character development. Theda continues to grow as we get to know her better. And let’s not forget Musetta, Theda’s feline sidekick, who always has a paw in solving the mystery.

crieswhiskers

Cries and Whiskers is the third in the series, and it’s the most intense one yet. While Theda is investigating a new designer drug that is threatening musicians, fans and her friends in the growing Boston area music scene, an animal activist is killed by a hit-and-run driver while rescuing feral cats. As Theda and her friend Violet try to rescue the semi-wild cats from being outside in a freezing New England winter, it becomes apparent that the activist’s death was more than just an accident. As Theda begins to investigate, her boyfriend, a homicide detective, is recuperating from a broken leg and not at all thrilled with Theda’s involvement in these investigations. On top of that, she begins to suspect one of her friends, and finds her loyalties tested on all fronts. When her beloved cat Musetta goes missing, Theda risks everything to get her back and to solve the case.

Once again, Simon manages to combine a great mystery with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters. By now, we feel like we know Theda, and yet, we’re always surprised by the twists and turns of both the plot and Theda’s life.

For more information about Clea Simon and her books, visit her website at www.cleasimon.com

And coming soon on The Conscious Cat – an interview with author Clea Simon, who is getting ready to launch her first book in a brand new series, Shades of Grey.

About the author

From Fear to Hope and Love

fear to hope and love

We live in challenging times.  The economy, while showing signs of recovery, is still causing many people to live in a state of fear, which is exacerbated by the media’s message of lack, scarcity, gloom and doom.  Apparently, good news and positive topics don’t sell and don’t generate ratings.  Stories of disasters, financial and otherwise, abound.  While there is much that’s happening in the world today that gives us reason to fear the future, we need to be mindful to not let fear take over our lives.

According to the Law of Attraction, what we focus our thoughts and energy on is what we attract into our lives.  If we constantly worry about the future, we are keeping ourselves in those low vibrations, and as a result, we attract the very things we fear into our experience.  Not only that, we’re also going to be pretty unhappy in the process.  So why not allow hope to transform all that negative energy into something lighter and more positive, and ultimately, into love, which is the highest vibration of all?

More and more people are realizing that what the media presents as reality is far from the truth.  What is truth?  Truth is the same energy as love.  Love is a vibration that is aligned with universal consciousness, the Divine, Spirit, Source, God – whatever you choose to call it.   An easy way to gauge for yourself whether something is true or not is to check in with yourself about how you feel.  If you feel fear and worry, it’s not truth.  Truth and love cannot coexist with fear.  They’re energetically too far apart. 

Find your own, inner truth, and follow your own guidance.  Look for the good news, look for things that give you hope.  Once you have hope, it’s only a small leap to love.

How do you accomplish this in a world seemingly filled with so much bad news, and so much fear?  Here are some simple steps that can help you change your vibration from one of fear and worry to one of hope and love:

–  Make a conscious decision each day to look for things that make you feel good.  Look for things to appreciate.  Look for the positive aspects in the people you interact with.  By focusing on what’s good in your world, you activate a vibration that will bring more of that into your experience.

–  Go on a news diet.  I wrote about this previously here.  At the very least, stop watching the news first thing in the morning, and last thing before you go to bed at night.  What you see first thing in the morning will stay in your consciousness throughout the day.  What you see just before you go to sleep will make its way into your dreams and spoil a good night’s rest for you.  Consider foregoing the news altogether.  If you feel you must be informed, be judicious about where you get your news.  There are ways to get the news without the hype.

Practice simple acts of kindness.  This is a fun and easy way to take the focus off yourself and any fear and worry you might experience.  Yield to the car in front of you trying to merge into your lane.  Smile at the harried clerk at the store.  Take an unexpected small gift to someone in your office.  Trying to make someone else feel better feels good.

Pet your cat or dog!  Being with your animals is one of the best ways I know to instantly shift your vibration from negative to positive.  It’s impossible to be fearful and worried when you have a happy dog licking your face or a purring cat in your lap.

There are plenty of signs around us that the tide is starting to turn – all we have to do is look for them.  Just like winter eventually yields to spring, and dark days yield to light, fear, if not given permission to run free, will yield to hope and eventually love.  All it takes is a willingness to shift your thoughts towards something that feels better, and make choices that are based in love rather than fear.

About the author

A Man, His Kitten, and Paying It Forward

If you’ve been online at all in the last few days, you’ve probably come across the  Mean Kitty Song video on YouTube – it has gotten close to 25 million views since creator Cory Williams put it up on his channel. 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qit3ALTelOo&feature=channel

Clearly, he uses the word “mean” in the most loving possible way, as this guy is obviously in love with his little kitten.  I became intrigued, and poked around YouTube a bit more, and found the video that tells The Mean Kitty’s Story:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDJNuypavq8

As Cory talks about Sparta’s story and the impact the video may have had on people, it got me thinking about how wonderful it is that something so small can have such an impact on so many people, which in turn made me think back to the 2000 movie Pay it Forward about a 12-year-old boy who believes in the goodness of human nature and is determined to change the world for the better.  We all have the ability to affect others in everything we do and say, no matter how small, and frequently we’re not even aware of it.  By becoming conscious of the impact our actions and our words have on others each and every day and acting in ways that are in alignment with our true nature, we not only feel good ourselves, we make the world around us a better place.  Think about this as you go through your day today – how have you impacted someone else’s life?  How has someone else’s kindness impacted you?  And how can you pay it forward? 

And on a side note, I was happy to hear that, despite the fact that this rambunctious and playful little kitten has clearly done some damage with his claws, Cory speaks out against declawing.  He is using SoftPaws Nail Caps, a humane alternative to declawing.

About the author

Making Decisions and Thinking Big

poor decision

Have you ever had to make a really big decision and found yourself paralyzed by fear?  Maybe you were trying to decide whether to leave your job.  Maybe a relationship had gone sour and you were thinking about leaving.  Maybe you were trying to decide about moving to a new city.  But you found yourself unable to make a decision.  Why do we get stuck when it comes to making big decisions, and how can we overcome this?

One of the main reasons why we often find it hard to make decisions is that we think of the outcome being right or wrong.  Contrary to the funny picture at the top of this post, there really are no wrong decisions (although the kitten in the photo might disagree!), there are only different choices.  Once you truly believe that, it becomes easier to make decisions.   Additionally, very few decisions are irreversible.  We always have the power to make a different choice.

Another reason why making a decision can be difficult is fear.  Fear of the outcome, fear of how a “wrong” decision may impact our lives and the lives of those around us, fear of taking some risks.  A fear-based decision is never a good decision.  Fear limits.  If we live in fear, we will never be able to realize our full potential.  Fear is never truth.  If you feel fear, remember to connect with your spiritual core and remind yourself that there is no room for fear when you are connected to your true self.

So how do we go about making decisions without getting caught up in worry, fear and limitations?  One of the best pieces of advice I got from one of my mentors was to make decisions from the place I want to be, not from the place I’m in.  This means that if I’m thinking and dreaming big, I need to be ready to make decisions that support that kind of thinking.  I can’t decide from a place of fear and scarcity if I want to live a big life that fully reflects who I really am. 

Amber doesn’t understand why  humans have such a difficult time making decisions.  She says all decisions are ultimately only about two things:  does it feel good?  Or does it feel bad?  Make the decision that feels good, and it will always serve you.

About the author

Book Review: “Black Hills” by Nora Roberts

Black HillsI’ve been reading Nora Roberts for decades, and while her books can be somewhat formulaic, as you would expect for the genre, they always provide a wonderful mixture of entertainment, escapism, and a great love story.  Who doesn’t like those elements in a book?  Over the past few years, her story lines have gotten a bit too “dark” for me, and I skipped several of her more recent releases such as High Noon.  I’m also not all that crazy about books about paranormal topics, and she lost me with her vampires and witches trilogies.  

Then Black Hills was released – and I’m a fan again.  If the gorgeous cover with the mesmerizing cougar wasn’t enough to grab my attention, the description of the book was:  Black Hills is the story of Lil Chance and Cooper Sullivan, who meet as children when Cooper comes from New York City to spend a summer at his grandparents’ South Dakota.  Each year, with Coop’s annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker’s body.

As the years pass, Lil becomes a wildlife biologist and establishes a wildlife sanctuary on her family’s land, while Coop struggles with his father’s demand that he attend law school and join the family firm.   Twelve years later, fate reunites them again.  Coop recently left his fastpaced life in New York to care for his aging grandparents and the ranch he has come to call home. Meanwhile, strange things are happening at the Chance Wildlife Refuge.  Small pranks and acts of destruction escalate into the heartless killing of one of the cougars housed at the refuge, recollections of an unsolved murder in these very hills lead to an investigation and a hunt for a serial killer.  Lil and Coop both know the natural dangers that lurk in the wild landscape of the Black Hills. But now they must work together to unearth a killer of twisted and unnatural instincts who has singled them out as prey.

In addition to a well-told and well-crafted story, the addition of the cats was what made me enjoy this book so much – and it even made the serial killer content tolerable for me (I don’t usually read books with that subject matter).  Lil rehabilitates wild cats – cougars, lions and tigers, trying to recreate as much of their natural environment as she can so they can live out their lives in a safe environment.  One cat in particular, a cougar she has named Baby, is bonded to her to the point of following her back to the refuge when she tries to release him into the wild. 

I met Nora Roberts at a book signing in Washington, DC last month, which probably added to my enjoyment of the book.  She was an entertaining speaker and answered questions from the audience for over an hour, and was extremely gracious while signing books for the over 800 attendees. 

Ingrid with Nora Roberts
Ingrid with Nora Roberts

About the author

How to Cope With Losing a Pet

In one of the stars...

For those of us who share our lives with animals, it’s inevitable that at some point, we will be dealing with losing these beloved friends.  Over the last ten years, I’ve lost three cats, and I’ve helped many clients through pet loss during the years I worked in veterinary clinics.  As a result, I’m often asked how to cope with losing a pet.

Different things work for different people.  Each situation is unique.  Was the death sudden?  Did it come after a prolonged illness?  Was it the first time the person experienced losing a pet?   I share my own experience of dealing with pet loss and grief in Buckley’s Story – Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher, and maybe my readers will find some commonalities with what I went through.  Even though no two people will deal with pet loss in exactly the same way, I’ve found some common things that can help ease the pain at least a little.  I’ll also share some resources at the end of this article that have helped me when I’ve had to deal with grief and loss.

Acknowledge that losing a pet is a very difficult experience.  Many people, especially people who don’t have pets, don’t realize that losing a pet can often be far more difficult than losing a person.  Many of us view our pets as children, especially if we don’t have children of our own.  For most pet owners, losing a pet is very much like losing a child.    Don’t let anyone tell you that you should “get over it,” “it was only an animal,” or, even worse, “you can always get another one.”  Expect to feel the same emotions you would feel after a person close to you dies.  In Elizabeth Kuebler Ross’ model, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance.  Expect that some of these stages may be magnified after losing a pet.

Mark the pet’s passing with some sort of ritual.  It’s important to acknowledge that your pet is gone.  A ritual can be something as elaborate as a memorial service and burial ceremony, or something as simple as lighting a candle in your pet’s memory each night for a little while.

Find supportive family and friends.  Not everyone in your life will be able to handle your grief.  It’s important that you find people who are comfortable with being supportive, can handle letting you cry, listen while you talk about your pet, or who can just quietly sit with you.  Many people don’t know what to do or say when faced with someone who is grieving, so, afraid of saying the wrong thing, they don’t say anything at all.  This can make you feel even more isolated during a difficult time.  Try not to judge people for their inability to handle your grief, and spend more time with those who can.

Allow yourself time to grieve.  There is no way around grief – the only way to deal with grief is to move through it.  If you try to ignore it, it will catch up with you when you least expect it.  You may need to spend an afternoon or an evening crying.  You may not want to distract yourself all the time.  While it’s not healthy to get stuck in your grief, pretending that nothing is wrong is equally unhealthy.  Try and find a balance.

Find things that comfort you.  Whether it’s a walk, music, a favorite book, looking at photos of your pet, or a perfect cup of tea, find small things that provide comfort for you. 

Getting over the loss of a pet takes time, and it takes being gentle with yourself.  If you find that you simply can’t cope, and that even supportive family members or friends aren’t enough to help you get through this difficult time, consider getting professional help.  And know that even though it seems hard to believe when you’re in the middle of grieving the loss of an animal friend, there is truth to the old adage that time heals all wounds.  It does get a little bit easier as time goes on, and one day, upon waking up in the morning, instead of your first thought being about your pet being gone, you’ll find yourself remembering something wonderful about your departed friend.

Resources:

• http://www.veterinarywisdom.com/ is a wonderful site for anyone looking for information on pet loss. The understand that it’s hard to face the future when you know it won’t include your beloved animal companion, and they offer a plethora of resources to prepare for and cope with pet loss, as well as to celebrate and cherish the pets we love.

• http://www.petloss.com/ provides information on how to cope with pet loss, a bulletin board to exchange messages and gain support from others grieving the loss of a pet, healing and inspirational poetry, and links to other internet pet loss sites.

• BooksFor Every Cat an Angel and For Every Dog an Angel by Christine Davis.  These little books are wonderfully illustrated and celebrate the connection between a human and his or her forever cat or dog.

• Music:  Some people find music plays an important part in the healing process.  One particular cd that I have found very helpful anytime I’ve dealt with loss, whether it was an animal or a person, is Beth Nielsen Chapman’s cd Sand and Water.  The singer/songwriter wrote the songs on this album after the loss of her husband to cancer.  The songs on the album reflect the many stages of grieving and healing, and are just as applicable to pet loss as they are to human loss.

• Private Pet Loss Consultation:   I offer phone consultations to help you navigate through your grief.  Sometimes, talking to someone who has experienced this devastating loss can make a difference.  For more information on consultations, click here.

About the author

The Psychology of Gratitude – Five Things I’m Grateful for Today

gratitude kritters

Gratitude is a wonderful way to raise your vibration and shift your energy to a better feeling place.  The vibration of gratitude is a powerful force.  It can shift your mood and your thoughts from a place of scarcity to a place of abundance.   Research by Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis into the psychology of gratitude has shown that people who practice gratitude are 25% happier.  They are more optimistic about the future and feel better about their lives. 

Practicing gratitude is also a great way to start and end each day.  Think about five things you’re grateful for before you get out of bed each morning, and again before you go to sleep each night.  This practice will shift your vibration.  Do this for a few days and you will notice how the shift in your energy will transform your life.

My five for today are:

1.  Amber’s gentle, loving and peaceful presence in my life.

2.  Doing work I love, getting paid for it, and being in charge of my time.

3.  My wonderful friends.

4.  The unlimited possibilities life holds.

5.  Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

What five things are you grateful for today?

 

 

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About the author