inspiration

Coming in June: Purrs of Wisdom: Enlightenment, Feline Style

Review: Five Years in Heaven by John Schlimm

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Each step, whether in happiness or in sadness, is a gift. What we do with
those gifts is what makes all the difference. – Sister Augustine

Even though Sundays are usually devoted to purrs of wisdom from our feline friends via our Conscious Cat Sunday column, Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life’s Greatest Questions is the kind of book that fits right in with our Sunday theme. This memoir by Harvard-trained educator, artist and award winning writer John Schlimm chronicles the five year friendship between the author and 87-year-old Sister Augustine, a Benedictine nun at St. Joseph’s Monastery in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. And while this is not a cat book, Sister’s relationship with her beloved cat Blitzen does play an important role in the book.Continue Reading

Liberty and Justice: a tale of loss, faith, and kittens

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If you’ve read The Conscious Cat for a little while, you may remember reading about Steeler. Steeler was a tortie who belonged to my friend Bernie. Steeler had come into Bernie’s life during a time when she really needed a little angel. Her husband had become severely debilitated by Alzheimer’s, and after Bernie took in the the little stray cat sporting the colors of her favorite football team, she quickly won both of their hearts. Miraculously, Bernie’s husband, who didn’t respond to anyone else at that stage, not even to Bernie, still responded to Steeler’s presence.

After her husband was hospitalized, Steeler became a great comfort to Bernie. Sadly, fate wasn’t done providing challenges for Bernie. Bernie’s husband succumbed to his illness last December. A few weeks later, Bernie’s son Eric lost his battle with lung cancer. And four months after that, Steeler passed away after dealing with multiple health issues.

It takes a strong person to go on after so much loss in such a short period of time. Continue Reading

An interview with James Bowen, street musician and author of A Street Cat Named Bob

If you read my review of A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets, you already know how much I loved the book. I couldn’t put it down, but at the same time, I didn’t want it to end! I definitely wanted to know more about James and Bob.

I was delighted to get an opportunity to interview James, and to share more about this amazing story with you.

How has your life changed since the book came out?

It hasn’t changed a huge amount really, I still play music most days with Bob around Covent Garden in London. That said, we do get a lot more attention than we did before.

Has his newfound fame changed Bob?Continue Reading

Book review: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

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I love stories about people who change their lives for the better. I love those stories even more when the catalyst for that change is a cat (pun intended). I was pretty sure that I would love A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope 0n the Streets. I wasn’t prepared for just how much I loved it.

I had head the story of James Bowen, a down on his luck British street musician who was busking the streets of London with his orange cat Bob. Bowen and his cat caught the attention of Mary Pachnos, a literary agent who had represented the British edition of Marley and Me. One day, Pachnos asked Bowen whether he’d ever thought about writing a book about Bob. A little over a month after its publication, the book has landed on British bestseller lists, and already, translation rights for several different countries have been sold. I wouldn’t be suprised at all if Hollywood snapped this story up.Continue Reading

Conscious Cat Sunday: Sundays are for reading

Amber reading Buckley's Story

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible
and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers. – Charles W. Eliot

Reading is as essential as breathing to me.

I’ve been an avid reader as far back as I can remember. My parents started reading to me as a very young child, and I surprised them by reading on my own long before it was taught in school. At first, they thought I was faking it and that I was only repeating the words from memory.

During all the changes I’ve gone through in my life, good and not so good, books have always been there to provide entertainment,inspiration, escape, advice and so much more.

It should come as no surprise that I particularly enjoy books about cats as well as other animals, and I offer a wide selection of my favorites on my Reading List.

My “to be read” pile is usually out of control, and I like it that way. In fact, I get a little twitchy when the pile gets too low. Between the books I see reviewed on some of my favorite book blogs, the books I find browsing at my hometown Barnes and Noble store, and the books publicists and authors send me for review, I don’t think I have to worry about running out of reading material anytime soon.

I usually read at least two or three books at the same time. Currently, I’m reading South of Broad by Pat Conroy, The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, and a German women’s magazine (a way for me to try and keep up with my native language).

What are you currently reading?

Connie Bowen paints portraits of love

Connie Bowen doesn’t just paint pet portraits.  She captures the unique spirit of each pet in each painting, turning the finished work into a lasting treasure for the recipient – a portrait of love.

Connie began drawing at an early age and majored in art at Washington State University. She then completed training and worked for 23 years as a freelance court reporter. Since retiring from court reporting in 1997, she has devoted all her time to the loves of her life: her family, her art, and the expression of Truth.

I’m so pleased to introduce you to this wonderful artist today.

When did you first begin painting pets?

I first began painting pets in May of 2003.

Your pet portraits really capture the unique essence of each animal.  What is the creative process for a pet portrait like for you? 

When I first meet the animal, or view their photo via e-mail, I am immediately drawn to the personality of the animal and the expression on their face. The emotion I feel from them is what I portray in their portrait. Animals have the most expressive eyes and that is the place where I start with each portrait. After the animals’ eyes are painted in, I definitely feel their spirit is with me as I paint.

One time I was working on a challenging cat painting because I was working from a photo that wasn’t very clear. Sometimes when an animal has already passed on, I’m working from cherished photos from long ago and the detail can be lost. I simply asked out loud for help from this particular cat. I went on painting and as I swiveled in my chair, the squeak made an unmistakable spine-chilling “Meow” sound! I have lots of stories like that – of animals coming to my aid as I’m painting.

While pets are featured prominently in your artwork, you also paint other subjects.  What is more challenging – capturing pets, or capturing other images?

For me, capturing pets is my pure joy. The other images are painted more impressionistically. I use the background and other images simply to support the star of the painting – the pet. I take more time capturing the essence of the pet, but time seems to stand still as I do so.

To illustrate my point, one afternoon while I was painting, my husband kissed me good-bye as he left to catch a movie. It seemed like it had been only 20 minutes when he returned. I asked him if he had missed the movie. He surprisingly told me that he had not only seen the movie, but it had been at least two hours that he’d been gone!

The only real challenge for me is when I’m asked to add a person into the painting with the pet. This happens quite a bit with horse paintings. It always takes me twice as long to capture the likeness of the person as for any other subject.

Where does your inspiration come from?

From the photos of the animals, themselves. People e-mail me with the most interesting and adorable photos! I remember one photo in particular had two kitties resting on the bed surrounded by their stuffed animals. I couldn’t wait to start on that painting!

Another photo I received was taken with a phone and the whole image had a lovely peachy tone to it. The pet parent and I decided to leave the colors as they were and the whole painting was done in those colors.  I’m always amazed and inspired by my clients and the creativity that emerges from working together.

Tell us about your own pets, and how they inspire your work.

I have a 10-year old Australian shepherd named Jesse and two cats named Brock and Carma. Brock is a large black male with a little bit of white under his chin. Carma is a small-boned little tabby with huge green eyes. I’ve done quite a few paintings of Brock. He is especially inspiring as he has golden eyes and seems very magical in his poses. It’s hard to find Carma quiet and still. She loves to race around the house, up the cat tree and everything she does is filled with energy. When Carma sees me in my office ready to begin painting and hears the lovely music I am playing, she comes in to sleep in her soft kitty bed and keep me company. She sleeps right by my arm. I love to listen to her purring and kiss her softly and let her know I appreciate her company.

I rescued both cats when they were just weaned. They were both very ill and it took quite a lot of antiseptic baths and all kinds of medicine to get them on the road to health.

My pets inspire my work by being a continual source of positive, loving energy. I delight in their presence.

 

You’re also an author of several inspirational books – tell us a little bit more about them.

My most popular book is the children’s affirmation book, I Believe In Me.  It has sold over 51,000 copies, including the Spanish edition. It won the national Athena Award for book-as-mentor in the category of spirituality. A copy has been donated to each Ronald McDonald House nationally.  I wrote this book for my son when he was one year old. It was published when he was three years old. He’s now in college, and the book is still going strong simply by word-of-mouth.

My second book, I Turn To The Light, is a collection of healing affirmations. This book is meant more for adults, but has reached an audience of children and teenagers.

I illustrated The Sunbeam and the Wave, and also two of author Susan Chernak’s books, Heart In The Wild and All My Relations: Living with Animals as Teachers and Healers. I used pen and ink for Susan’s books. All of my other books were done in ink plus colored pencil.

You can find more information about Connie and her art, along with a huge selection of her stunning paintings, on her website.

All images of paintings © Connie Bowen, used by permission.

Amber’s Mewsings: Keeping Mom Organized

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I know all of my fans have probably been wondering what happened to me – it’s been so long since I wrote something here.  I’ve been busy keeping Mom organized – things have been crazy around here!  Mom’s book about my sister Buckley (and me!  I’m in the book, too!) has been really well received and is generating quite a bit of buzz around the internet.  I’m so happy for her – I love it when Mom is happy, it makes me feel happy, too.

What I don’t like quite so much is that Mom is busier now, and there seems to be a little less time for reading, cuddling and watching tv.  She always makes sure that we have time together, and I really look forward to bedtime now and snuggle next to her all night long.  It seems to be the one time when I have her undivided attention!  But I understand why she’s busy, and that it makes her happy to be this busy.  And I try to do my part.  I sleep on the perch next to her desk most of the day because I know that my presence inspires her writing (see photo above – that’s me, being Mom’s Mewse).  I help with packing up books to mail to people – I’m really good at playing with the tissue paper she wraps them in (Mom says I mess up the tissue, but what does she know!).  I also remind her when it’s time to take a break and to give me a treat or to feed me.  It’s important that humans take kitty breaks every now and then.

I know underneath all this excitement, Mom is also a little bit sad, because it’s almost a year ago now that Buckley transitioned, and it brings back a lot of memories for her.  For me, too, I do miss my sister.   I’m just better at understanding that she never really left us, she just changed forms.  I still have long conversations with her and I know that she’s hanging out here with us all the time.  I only wish Mom would feel her more often.  She’s getting better at it, and I try to help her.

That’s all for today.  It’s time for another nap.  Being Mom’s Mewse can be very tiring.