What Drives you to Distraction?

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How could you not look at this adorable face!

How could you not look at this adorable face!

Some things grab your attention more than others. The point at which you lose yourself may be different from mine. What slows you down and causes you to linger may depend on your ability or inability to focus on the task at hand. Whatever it is that beguiles you, deadlines are forgotten and appointments fade into obscurity. Once your thought process is disrupted, you’re hooked. You become like a cobra entranced by the magic flute swaying before your eyes.

This morning, my husband and I were shopping in “Fresh Market.” Similar to “Whole Foods,” Fresh Market is intoxicating; the brands and packaging alone could amuse me for hours. The sights and smells get my digestive juices flowing. The color of freshness awakens my taste buds. You simply cannot leave this store empty-handed.

My husband was content with a bottle of sparkling cider and some blueberries. I roamed the store hungering to buy. I could entertain myself for hours here savoring the samples, the freebies, and admiring the steaks and seafood I can’t afford. I vowed to come back alone so I could do just that!

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on 16×20 canvas

My husband is a purposeful shopper. He doesn’t care to browse and admire. He knows what he wants and he goes in for the kill every time. We were in and out of there in 15 minutes leaving me feeling deflated and unfulfilled. Food is an all-consuming diversion, especially if you’re hungry.

You already know what a time sucker technology can be. Hours are consumed responding to comments and photos on Facebook, Pinterest, Trumblr and Instagram. As soon as you’ve mastered one program, there’s another one out there that promises even bigger results in accumulating friends and fans.

Many of these sites snag you in and then begin charging for their services. You play awhile. You stay awhile. And then they chew you up and spit you out!

My nephew, Kirk's family.

My nephew, Kirk’s, family.

Your friends and family can be a distraction unless they know the ground rules. Keep certain hours for yourself. No texting. No emails or phone calls. Nothing except what leads you to your desired goals. Reward your family and friends with shared time in the off hours. Respect their requests as well. Use their strength and yours to stay on target.

Television with its encroaching advertisements and enticing lead-ins pounces on your attention span like a rat catcher. You settle back for only a second, but once your rear-end sinks into that soft sofa you’re doomed. It’s obviously much more fun to watch a movie than buckle down to write or paint on an unresolved canvas.

Needy pets can spin circles at your feet and remind you of your neglect. By the time you play fetch or walk around the block, you’ve lost the thrust of your passion. Anything that weakens your drive paralyzes your mind. Writer’s and Painter’s block are real. They happen when you allow distractions to take over most of your day.

bella-bellissimo-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Bella Belissimo” 16×20 acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

Demanding spouses can break your focus in one fell swoop!  Their interruptions and need for companionship can throw cold water on a hot idea. Wherever you are, and however you live, staying focused is a constant battle. You can either give in and lose your momentum, or you can set the ground rules and abide by them so others will take you seriously.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Cats

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"Playing Dress-Up" 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas

“Playing Dress-Up” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas

Now before you cat lovers fly off the handle, let me say that I once loved unconditionally all cats, the ugly, the scraggly, and the mistreated. I’ve never really hated cats, I just lost my affection for them for awhile in a rebound love affair with an adorable dog.

As a child, I lived in an upstairs apartment over my grandmother and grandfather’s old Victorian mansion that sat on a visible corner lot in an older part of town. Out of respect for my grandmother, I was allowed to have a bowl of gold fish, nothing more. Suffice it to say (forgive my triteness), a fish simply did’nt cut it!

Soon, I began dragging stray cats home. They were love hungry and eager to please. My mother indulged me for awhile. She provided a cat box in a recessed corner of the kitchen where an old pot-bellied stove once stood in the days when my grandpa burned coal in the furnace.

I adored dressing my cats in doll clothes and pushing them around in a doll buggy. They were patient and indulged my every whim even tolerating a doll’s bonnet with a bow tied under the chin. They had been so deprived that nothing I could do would turn them away.

I was in cat Heaven. But no sooner had I brought one cat home than it managed to vanish before another was brought into the house. My mother feigned ignorance at their disappearance. Once she did admit she had given one away. She declared it was happier “out on the farm.” I believed her.

One cat may have disappeared in a vent hole we had on the side of the two-story brick house. I never knew for sure, but my mother insisted she had seen it go inside. I never heard a distress meow and it never came when I called. I was suspect and questioned her motives.

Finally she allowed one cat to stay, at least through the winter. I slept with the cat, kissed it goodbye before I went off to school, and smothered her with affection when I returned home. Of course, my mother was left with the cat all day, and she was less than fond of it.

One day before school while eating my breakfast, I watched the cat use its box. My stomach gave a nauseous gurgle. When I turned away, I faced the gold fish bowl on top of the big buffet. The shiny spangled fish was also doing its job, trailing a string of brown excrement.

When I went off to school, my enchantment with pets had fizzled. My queasiness grew worse on the bus. To make matters worse, while munching on an after school snack, I watched the cat leave a sizable tape worm in its sandbox. I wasn’t ready for such reality. That was the last stray cat I brought home. Eventually, the cat box permanently disappeared.

I did try owning many cats after that: a kitten won by my first son, Chris, in a Cub Scout Soap Box Derby that was a part of a friend’s litter; a found kitten that must have been part of a feral cat litter, and climbed my living room drapes with claws like a tiger; and a black cat my third daughter, Paula, named “Demetrius” that marked everything in our house with his territorial markings as a warning to our dog Pooky.

Later when we had to sell our home and move into smaller quarters, Pooky was given to a friend, and Demetrius was taken to the Humane Society; not because we didn’t want to keep him, but that we learned Paula’s younger brother, Quinn, was extremely allergic to cats!

I bawled like a baby when I left Demetrius in the care of the shelter. I knew there was a chance they would put him to sleep if he wasn’t adopted. I prayed for his well-being and asked that a loving owner would love him and want him.

Demetrius was the last cat, the last pet, I ever owned. While I couldn’t break “Demi” of walking on my kitchen counters (a spritz of water in his face didn’t do the trick), and his footprints every morning on the shiny formica where I buttered our toast turned me off, I still loved his affectionate rubbing against my legs and the way he jumped into my lap and began to purr as I caressed him.

My life is pretty hectic right now, but if I ever lived alone again, I might consider the warmth and closeness that only a cat can provide.

FUNNY CAT DANCING VIDEO:

http://youtu.be/kKzfUusizv4

Dogs I have Known and Loved

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"Winston" 9 x 12 oil on canvas

“Winston” 9 x 12 oil on canvas

As a child, my family lived in an upstairs apartment over my grandmother and grandfather Larsen’s big corner home. Black walnut trees hovered like giants over my head, and two tall pine trees spread their prickly branches killing any vegetation beneath. It was a great place to hide once I found entrance.

I was not allowed to have a pet except gold fish, but I didn’t let that stop me from dragging home every stray cat in my neighborhood, but I’ll save that for another article.

My first experience with a real pet was as a young mother when a chiwawa named, Penny, spent six winter months with us. My two toddlers were delighted. Penny was my Uncle Wilford’s best “bitch.” He was a breeder, and called me one day saying that Penny was in need of a rest and would I mind watching her for a few months.

I knew Penny from my visits at my aunt and uncle’s house Southwest of town. This was more than a hobby for them, it was a second job that both devoted time and love into. I agreed reluctantly as our tiny rental home was already crowded, and the cement floors in winter were moist and cold.

Penny turned out to be a delight and never any trouble whatsoever. She slept on our enclosed back porch which was freezing cold, but she snuggled in a box full of blankets and seemed to sleep warmly, even though we could see her breath and ours before she came back inside.

Skipper came next, a free rescue dog we obtained in Phoenix that was part Schnauzer and part unknown which became apparent later when he turned into the ugliest, scraggly haired dog I’d ever laid eyes on. By this time we had four kids who loved every bone in his scrawny body. Unfortunately, a new job in New Jersey and a long move across country demanded that we give him to another loving pet owner.

Lady and Buttons joined our family several years later in Kansas City. My husband found two strays running along the highway and fearing for their safety brought them home. It was love at first sight for the children. Lady was a white and black spaniel and Buttons was a mix of terrier and mutt. They never had accidents in the house, but spent much of their time in the backyard.

One day while picking beans in our small garden, I noticed that the pods were covered in dog hairs. The dogs had been chasing squirrels and black birds out of the garden while I praised them, but in the process had ruined the produce in the process. Have you ever tried to wash dog hair from a fuzzy green bean? It’s almost impossible and requires each bean be washed separately.

My husband wasn’t pleased. He was also disappointed in the children who were supposed to learn responsibility by taking care of the dogs. He never gave them a warning or a second chance, just stuffed the dogs into the car and took them to the pound, leaving me behind to explain their fate, mop up my children’s tears and comfort their hearts. 

A cruel and thoughtless move I felt. Those of you who know and love dogs will understand. I’m surprised the children were given another chance to experience animal companionship. But after another move brought us to Minnesota, the door was opened for yet another waggley tailed pup that wound itself around our hearts.

My son, Chris, won a Soap Box Derby at a Cub Scout event, and the prize was a little black puppy; part of a litter from a Lhasa that belonged to a friend. My youngest son, Quinn, who cried the hardest when Lady and Buttons were sent away, adopted the pup immediately. They were like two peas in a pod.

He called the dog Buttons after the one he had lost. Buttons was smart as a whip. He’d jump up in the air to catch popcorn and seemed to understand many human words. He was lovable, loyal, and playful.  He followed Quinn everywhere.

One day, Quinn was playing outside. Buttons knew he was out there and whined and whined to be let out. By chance, Quinn’s dad was working in the garage and accidently left the kitchen door ajar as he went back to work. The main garage door was open. Buttons slipped through the door and ran to where the sound of his beloved master played. A car going down the street at just that moment tried to brake, but it was too late. Buttons was injured beyond repair and died instantly.

We all mourned that beloved pet. We tried a replacement with Pooky, a tiny Shih Tzu, but Quinn refused to bond and continued to mourn Buttons for a long, long time.