For the love of cats

I love to read cat—and dog and horse and all kinds of animal—stories. Just so you don’t think I’m purely a cat person, I’d like to report that my favorite dog book so far this year is A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron. Like the dog character did, this book is finding its way home the long way around: from one friend to another until I get it back sometime in the future. Please do read this book or recommend it to middle-graders and adults who love a good dog story.

But this post is really about the love of cats. Last night I finished Homer’s Odyssey—not the ancient tale of a hero and his quest, but the recent best-selling story of a blind cat named Homer, written by Homer’s “mom,” Gwen Cooper. The subtitle of the book distinguishes it from the classic: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat. Gwen recounts the joys, heartaches, discoveries, and personal growth she experienced since adopting a tiny black kitten who had no eyes. (Both eyes had to be removed when he was four weeks old, matted shut by infection, in order to save his itty bitty kitty life. He never even had a chance to open his baby eyes before having them removed.) Sensing that there was something heroic about this bundle of felinity, she named him Homer, after the blind poet. I can’t recall ever being so drawn in to a book about an animal as I was by Homer’s Odyssey. I smiled, nodded, cried, swooned, and cheered chapter after chapter. I think you will, too.

I have two cats of my own, Edie and Emma (see About Me page for photos). Not only do I feel a deeper appreciation for having them in my life, but I also feel that Homer is one of “my” cats, too. I know him now. And not ever seeing him in person doesn’t change that fact. If I learned anything from reading this book, it is that you don’t have to see things for them to make sense. Homer makes perfect sense of his life every single day, having never seen a single ray of light. I love the irony that this blind cat is opening the eyes of readers to the wonder, courage, and soul-rooted love of our beloved pets.

So, here’s the craft project I made—my own tribute to the cats in my life: an eco-friendly, folding shopping bag that I made in a jiffy using a Butterick See & Sew pattern (#B5635):

Kitty shopping bag (open)

 

Kitty shopping bad (folded)

In case you think I’m really a great seamstress, I have to admit that it was a total accident that the cat matched up like that when the bag is folded. Happy accident! Now the trick is to try to keep the cat hair off it! Or…as a friend of ours says: “Cat hair: It’s a condiment and an accessory!” Hmmmm…I think that might make a great bag, too. Stay tuned!

You can go to the Projects Photo Gallery page to see how this 20″ x 12″ bag folds down into a 3″ x 5″ easy-storage clutch.

Keep a pocket in your heart

Heart Pocket Project

Here’s a little project you can finish in about half an hour. It’s dedicated to Nikki Grimes, author of The Road to Paris (one of many of her award-winning children’s books), because of a wonderful concept she shared in that book. She introduces the idea of carrying God in your pocket, giving you access to him whenever you need to know he’s close by. Just the simple act of reaching into your pocket then becomes a visceral reminder that you are not alone. In homage to that idea, I’ve made this Heart Pocket, a simple project that allows you to place something in your heart’s pocket—something tangible or something symbolic, such as a prayer, a photo, or a reminder of some kind.

Here’s the excerpt, but I hope you’ll go find the book and read it all! (Project directions follow.)

Paris and Malcolm locked eyes. She was relieved to see a bit of the old Malcolm shining through. She reached across the table and took her brother’s hand.

“You’ve got to keep God in your pocket, and everything will be all right,” said Paris.

“What?”

Paris pursed her lips, trying to figure out how to explain what she meant. “Put your hands in your pockets,” she said.

“Paris—”

“Go on.”

“Okay. Now what?”

“Pretend that God is there. See? You stick your hand in your pocket, and remind yourself that God’s always close by, and you can talk to him whenever you need to,” said Paris.

Malcolm nodded. “I get it. Keep God in your pocket. Cool,” he said. “I’ll give that a try. Thanks, little sister.”

(from pages 110–111 of The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Copyright © 2006)

Making the project:

Materials: 1 sheet of pink or red felt; scraps of blue, yellow, and green felt; matching thread or floss for all 4 colors; scissors; needle

Directions: (Note: full photo-based directions can be found in the Projects Photo Gallery; or you may purchase a 3-page instructional PDF with photos and cut-out patterns for $0.99 by going to the Downloadable Patterns page.)

  1. Cut out 2 hearts (about 4″x4″).
  2. Cut out 1 flower and 1 circle (for center).
  3. Cut out 2 leaves.
  4. Applique the flower in the center of one of the hearts.
  5. Applique the circle in the center of the flower.
  6. Applique the leaves as shown in the photo above.
  7. Place the appliqued front heart on top of the other blank heart (wrong sides together).
  8. Use a blanket stitch to sew hearts together around outer edge. Leave an opening in the “cleavage” of the heart for the pocket.
  9. Place something in the pocket: small scissors, a note, money, a prayer, photo, dried or silk flower(s), or any other item you’d like.