Getting to know Virginia – The Light of Truth Universal Shrine (aka LOTUS)

I googled “things to do in Virginia” and the LOTUS popped up. It is literally out in the middle of nowhere, through lots of winding rural roads, between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. But once you get there, it is a sight to see! Make sure you have GPS otherwise you’ll get turned around (as I did when the car GPS tried to take me a different way than the phone GPS suggested).

The LOTUS is a temple dedicated to all faiths. Sri Swami Satchidananda opened the shrine in 1986 to honor the Spirit that unifies all the world religions, while celebrating their diversity. He believed that every village should have a temple, and so he built this temple. He says that his religion, “Undoism” is the basic foundation of all religions and faiths. He says “What we practice is found in every faith, every religion. That means we want to be good and do good…We want our lives to be easeful and peaceful so that we can be useful. That is our religion…There is no need to give up your own [religion]. In fact, you should not…but at the same time, love the other fellow’s also.”

In a world so full of hate, this is a sentiment I can stand behind.

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I’m not sure what is up those steps, but I wasn’t in the mood to climb up to find out!

I did walk to the shrine and go in though.

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Pumpkins 2017

Growing up in Southern California, there was never an absence of fresh anything. You want to pick your own apples, done! Strawberries, of course! Avocados, you bet! Pecans, absolutely! Pumpkins, perfect!

Pumpkin picking was a favorite pastime of mine when I was a kid. We drove to a pumpkin farm and we could roam around for an hour looking for perfect pumpkins. Living in Richmond is a little different. There are farms, but you have to pay to get into them. Then you have to ride a tractor to get to the part where you can pick your pumpkin. Not always ideal.

However, after a little bit of inter-web searching, I found the PERFECT Richmond pumpkin patch! Gallmeyer Farms sorta near the airport was not only close by, they didn’t charge an entrance fee, and I could also WALK to the patch! While I didn’t purchase my pumpkins here, I very much enjoyed walking around. I will return for sure next year!!

They had a ton of jumbo pumpkins!

The field of pumpkins! They did have a tractor ride (for a fee), but you didn’t have to ride it to get to the field.

So many pretty pumpkins!

Proof I was there.

You had a take a wheelbarrow to cart your pumpkins away.

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This is where I bought my pumpkins. Not the same experience, but they were super cheap!

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This one had some interesting stuff growing on the stem.

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On to the carving!

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This picture was taken four days after I carved them. I put some Vaseline around the cut edges to help preserve them a little. The little black flecks you see is mold on the inside.

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I wish pumpkins were year-round. I would carve one for every holiday!

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Oh dear, sweet, loving mother of mine. Why are things growing out of my head? Not once, or twice, but several times??

Two years in a row I had a tree (or antlers) growing out of my head at Easter.

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I couldn’t escape the antlers, even during Halloween.

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Or how about the time we were at Disneyland and she found the ONE space in the ENTIRETY of the park to put me in front of…and I have a light pole growing out of head (and little Megan is just waving and smiling, oblivious).

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Last but not least (and Mom’s favorite fail), we were in the mountains (probably Big Bear), and Mom said to little Megan and Dad “go stand over there, that’s a great spot!” Low and behold…in the ENTIRETY of the FOREST, Dad has a tree growing out of his head.

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I love you Mom, but apparently NOT anyonecantakeapicture!

 

Snickers & Twix – 11 years

Eleven years ago, I took on an enormous challenge. Not only did I move out on my own, but I took on two furry fuzz-balls with four paws, endless energy and the sweetest little faces.

I had just moved out of my parent’s house into a loft apartment downtown. I wasn’t making much but I was determined to stay independent and self-reliant and do as much on my own as I could. I had just returned from lunch one day and a co-worker told me to go check out someone’s desk. Without any more explanation, I walked down to their desk and saw an orange ball of fur sitting in their lap. I immediately AWWWWWWWWed and asked who he belonged to. He was up for adoption.

I called the owner and said “I want to take him home today!” She said she wanted to make sure I was serious because he had been to four other homes so far and no one could keep him. I explained I had had cats as pets all of my life (literally…there are pictures of me as a newborn with a cat in my crib because he thought my parents bought the crib for him), and knew how to take care of them. She reluctantly said OK, but said she wanted updates and to be honest and tell her if I couldn’t keep him because she wanted him to go to a good home. That was on a Thursday.

By Sunday, I called the owner and explained to her I now knew why other people couldn’t keep him, he was a TERROR! He was a good salesman though, being all cute and cuddly for the first few hours. This was his very first picture.

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I had gone downstairs to take the trash out and he hopped up on the back of the couch, all by himself, and curled up into the absolute cutest thing of all time! But later that night…oh what a change! He was trying to climb into the fridge every time I opened it, tried to climb on the bookshelf, tried to climb up my leg! What a handful! He was such a little sneaky bugger…one second he would be curled up all cute and sweet, and the next minute he was hanging upside down on the couch! Sneaky turd turned into “Snickers.”

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When I called the owner, she heard in my voice what she had heard in the others’, exasperation. But instead of saying I wanted to return him, I asked if there were any other kittens left in the liter. He was clearly a very social kitten and needed a friend to keep him company. Excitedly, she said YES, there was one left! However, she had already promised him to someone else. But after a breath, she said, “but, they were liter mates and I would much rather them be together.”

We agreed to meet at the PetSmart on Monday after work. This new kitten was the runt of the liter, very timid, shaking even as I drove him home on my lap. He was so tiny in fact, that I called him Pixy on the way home. Pixy was a girly name though and didn’t quite fit him. Don’t ask how, but by the time we got home, Pixy and turned into Twixy, and I reunited Snickers with his buddy “Twix.”

Snickers was SO excited he was jumping on Twix, biting his neck, pawing at his face. Twix was very, very scared. He hid behind the couch for several hours, exhausted. Eventually, he came out and sniffed out his new joint. Snickers did what Snickers did best and showed him all of the fun trouble they could get into, together. And that’s just what they did.

Fast forward ten years and eleven months.

If you are a parent to animals, you know that when they get older, the barf factor increases. I had woken up every morning for a week to vomit in the hallway or living room. I thought it was Snickers and his urinary blockage issues (fiber…a tiny amount of Benefiber in wet food once a day does wonders!). But it turns out it was Twix. I know that because on a Wednesday night, I watched him violently throw up. After that, he jumped up on the couch with me and, without a better way of explaining it, stumbled around like he was drunk. I laughed at first because it was a silly sight to see. He wobbled to his dinner plate that night, gobbled it up as usual.

The next morning was the same, stumbling around, swaying and eventually falling over. I was at home waiting for the termite inspector (when it rains, it pours), so I decided to call the vet. He didn’t have any appointments that day, but could see me first thing Friday morning. I tried to keep Twix calm and still until then.

Head or brain trauma usually appears as a symptom in the eyes or a permanent head tilt but he didn’t appear to show those symptoms. Maybe he fell and hurt himself….my bed is taller than the average bed, so maybe he rolled off (he’s done it before, I’ve seen it), or when he jumped off, he landed on his feet the wrong way. The vet gave him a shot for inflammation and sent us on our way.

He seemed a tad bit better Friday and Saturday, although he was still wobbly. By Sunday, he started tipping the water bowl over. He used to do that as a kitten, he much preferred to lick the water off of the floor than from the bowl. I shook my head that he was just a trouble maker, darn cats!

Still unsteady and shaky, I started to hear him knock into things, like he had no control over his movements any more. By Thursday, he stopped eating. For Twix, my 18 lb. butterball turkey, that is very unusual and I knew something was very wrong.

We went back to the vet Friday morning. I had been doing research online all night about strokes and told the vet I think he might have had one, regardless of the lack of usual symptoms. Of course, when he’s at the vet, he can walk a pretty straight line without falling over (adrenaline maybe?) and his eyes don’t show the signs. Although he doesn’t blink or close them when a really bright light is flashed at them. “Maybe he went blind” the vet claims. There isn’t much to do for an animal that has suffered a brain trauma and the vet says he has never seen a cat recover. “It doesn’t look good.” They give him fluids under the skin to help with dehydration as well as a steroid injection and said if that didn’t help him want to eat, give them a call in the morning and they would fit me in.

He hadn’t been spending time with me since Thursday and I was beginning to think this was the end. He still didn’t want to eat and just wanted to sleep under the bed. Saturday morning came and he still didn’t want to eat.

I have a deck of tarot cards that I consult every once in a while. Normally when I ask a Yes or No question I get a Maybe as an answer. When I asked if it was his time to go, it was a definitive No. As a mother to a furry baby, the last thing I want is for him to be in pain. The vet said he probably couldn’t see, but that he was relatively healthy otherwise and that he wasn’t in pain. With that, I told the vet I wanted to take him home and keep hoping he would get better. The vet agreed, but wanted me to know the odds were not good that he would “get better.” They gave him more fluids, a shot for nausea, and gave me some steroid cream to rub on his ears.

He didn’t retreat to the bedroom right away, so I tried to see if he would eat his favorite treats. He really wanted to eat, he was salivating heavily, but just couldn’t figure out how to get it into his mouth. He would tilt his head too far to the side to effectively eat anything. So when he was tilting his head, I shoved a treat in. With that thought in mind, I had a small syringe from when Snickers had his issues. I mashed up food with enough water to make a broth and squirted it down his throat. He would turn his head and try to get away from me for this to be a permanent solution, but it made me feel better to know I had somewhat of a solution to get food into his system.

Sunday morning, I did the broth squirt several times again, against his will. I had fixed him a plate of wet food, as I always did, even though I had been throwing them away after several hours when he wouldn’t eat. But this morning was a turning point, I knew he had to eat on his own because neither one of us could keep up the hand feeding much longer. I did one more squirt then put the plate in front of his face. After pushing the clumps of food around for a few seconds with his nose, he finally opened his mouth, stuck out his tongue, and started licking the plate!!! I cried out in triumph as quietly as I could so as not to disturb him, then proceeded to sob uncontrollably as he slowly, but eventually, licked his plate clean.

The next couple of days we did the same routine, squirts of broth then the plate, but he still wasn’t drinking water. I tried the same technique and would squirt water down his throat with the syringe, then show him the water bowl. By Wednesday, he was pawing at the syringe and happily letting me squirt it. I would put it closer and closer to the water bowl until it was in it and so was his face. It took several tries, but he eventually stuck out his tongue and drank on his own.

If you have a cat and experience something similar, DO NOT GIVE UP! Do not let the vet tell you there is no hope of recovery. He eats on his own, drinks on his own, and has regained his eye sight back. He jumps up and takes naps on my lap, he even plays with his toys like he used to. Jumping up on the bed is still difficult for him, so I put a chair next to the bed to make it easier. He is still a little wobbly on the couch or bed, but I would say he is 98% back to normal.

If cats do have 9 lives, he used a few during this episode. I took him to the vet three times and two of those times I didn’t think he would be coming home with me. But I’m so glad he did so I could celebrate his, and Snickers’, 11th birthday.

Happy Birthday to my furry, fat, drooling, stinky, cuddly, purr machines!