Getting a kitten…from Olive Garden

When most people go to Olive Garden, they enjoy a nice meal. What do I get? A kitten.

Over Labor Day weekend, the family went to the movies. Because, the movie ended at 6 p.m., I suggested we stop for dinner on the way home. Olive Garden, one of the kids favorite, won, and we headed to the one by my husband’s office.

Walking from the back parking lot, we spotted a little black kitten playing beside the building. All through dinner my daughter who was doing her job of being a sulky teenager wouldn’t talk about anything else but the kitten. She worried about it being so close to the parking lot.

When we left, it was still there. Lexie spent a few minutes trying to befriend it, but the kitten was not letting anyone close. The few minutes spread to about twenty before I suggested we take the guys home and come back. We came back with a little bowl of wet cat food and sat outside the building. The kitten, who we started calling Shadow, would come out but dart back under a part of the back of the restaurant whenever anyone came by or a car passed. Once he ran into the parking lot and scared Lexie. But he made it back to the sidewalk okay.

My husband and I thought the kitten might be gone the next day and that would be the end of it. I stopped by in the morning and didn’t see him. Lexie insisted we go back later in the day, and he was there. But we were on our way to a shopping trip with her best friend and her mom so we didn’t get to spend time with Shadow.

That evening we were back. We bought along a box, hoping to at least get the kitten used to seeing it. Again, he would come out but not get close enough for us to even pet though he looked like he wanted to come to us. We could tell that someone else was feeding him as there was a can of cat food there. An employee told us that the kitten had been there for awhile. The employee had wanted to rescue him but lived in an apartment that didn’t allow pets.

Of course, when we started this rescue effort, the goal was to get the kitten off the street. Lexie said she didn’t care if we gave it up to another family as long as he was safe. Somewhere between Sunday and Monday, it just seemed decided that if we could catch him, we would keep him. We already have three cats (between the ages of 13 and 16) and two dogs and a hamster. We didn’t really need another cat.

Monday came along and since there was no school, I knew we would be back at the Olive Garden though I warned Lexie that I couldn’t spend all day there. We decided to go earlier in the day before the restaurant opened for lunch thinking there would be less traffic and people. Nope. Employees arrived to start to set up for the day and there was a man power washing the sidewalks. We did talk to several of the employees and the power washer about catching the kitten who also was being fed chicken from the restaurant by some of the employees. But with all the activity, we weren’t going to catch him that morning.

Later in the day, it rained. That continued into the evening. I thought we would have no chance of catching Shadow in the wet. But when there was a break in the rain, Lexie wanted to go and we agreed as long as it didn’t start raining again. We took the box with the idea of setting it up as a trap with food as the bait. It almost worked, but Shadow was too fast. We talked about ways to improve the trap idea and had just put the box in the car as we tried to convince Lexie that we would come back to try tomorrow evening when all of a sudden the kitten let Lexie pet it. She was thrilled, and the kitten loved the attention.

A handful of employees came out at the end of their shift and were amazed that Lexie was petting him. They asked if we were going to take him and give him a proper home, and we said yes. They thought it was a great idea. Since the kitten was now coming close enough that Lexie might be able to pick it up, we brought back out the box. If she could get him close enough, she would put him in the box, holding him while I put the lid on it. Amazingly this plan worked quite well. All of a sudden we were going home with our fourth cat.

We put him in the bathroom with the box, water, food and a litter box. He wanted nothing to do with any of us, but at least he knew to use the litter box. I called the next morning to make him an appointment with the vet who had an opening on Wednesday afternoon. I wondered how I would be able to get him there when he was hiding behind the toilet any time we entered the room. And then Tuesday afternoon, Shadow remembered that he liked Lexie petting him. And then he let me pet him. He was less thrilled to see my husband or Jase but he definitely had warmed up to Lexie and I.

By Wednesday morning he was looking forward to us coming to see him and climbing into our laps. I had no problem getting him into the cat carrier to take to the vet who determined Shadow is about 3 1/2 months old. He is in perfect health. He received his first shots, and we agreed he would be neutered in 2 to 4 weeks.

As of today, he has been in the house for two weeks, he has settled in quite nicely. The other cats have all met him – and don’t like him. Nikki loves to try to eat his kitten food. The rest ignore him. We let him in either the computer room or our bedroom. I don’t want him to go downstairs and meet the dogs who stay in the kitchen. They do love cats but I think Shadow will be overwhelmed by them and they might bark or chase him.

As much as Lexie was hoping this kitten would be “hers” it has been clear that I am his preferred human followed closely by Lexie. He sees me as the lap or chest he should sleep on. He sees Lexie as the one to play with him. So far, I’d say he is definitely settling in. I’m not sure he remembers much about his life living at Olive Garden though he does like “people” food and gets quite aggressive about it. Maybe that is because of his time on the streets and eating his meals from Olive Garden.

And that is where Lexie and I tell people we got our kitten from. Yeah, Shadow came from the Olive Garden. And we are glad he is here with us now.

Not sure I’m a leader

The other day, I received an email from Texas PTA. They are looking for leaders for their Emerging Leaders Academy. And while I am the PTA president for my local middle school and the elementary school PTA before that, I don’t feel much like a leader. As I read about Texas PTA helping people to become empowered leaders within the PTA and throughout the community, I decided this might not be something for me.

I’ve always seen these other confident women in the PTA and never felt like that was me. Last year, I joined our local Council PTA (in addition to being on the boards for both the middle school and high school). But rather than run a program such as Founder’s Day, Used Book Sale, or Clothes Closet (all big programs), I took on a much smaller role as the training chair.

As training chair, I don’t run the trainings or even plan or schedule them. My job is to get people to sign up to attend them. It is not a hard job. But as you can only hold the position for two years, I will have to decide what I will want to do next year. Again, I think nothing big, nothing that I am going to have to do a lot of work. Part of that is because I don’t have the time for a time sucking project and part of this is because I don’t think I would do well leading a big project.

I am sure there are many – including those on my middle school PTA board – that would say I do a lot now as PTA president. But I don’t do this alone. I have other officers or board members to help, and the school administration also is there to offer support. My job is really just to keep track of all the projects and make sure they get accomplished. But it is always just projects that have been done before. I am not the innovator who comes us with a new program or lead a rally or plan a protest or speak to the legislature (all things I’ve seen other PTA members do).

A few days after I received the Texas PTA email, a friend texted me the link to sign up with a message that I should apply for the program. So, now that has me thinking, should I? I still don’t feel like a leader. I do like being involved. And sometimes, all we need is someone to encourage us to try something. That is how I joined the Council PTA. A friend reached out and said, we could use you. It feels nice to be asked, to be recognized as someone who could make a difference.

Now, whether I sign up – and get accepted – for this Emerging Leader Academy is yet unknown. But I’m happy that some people have spoken up and said they see me as a leader even if I don’t always see it in myself.

Creating a dedication or acknowledgment page for your novel

In a past post, I wrote about front matter – all the stuff that goes before your story begins. With the passing of my mother recently, my mind has been on dedications.

Dedications

After the grueling process of writing and publishing a book, there may be someone special you want to thank. Now, nothing says you need to say thank you to anyone. In fact, I’ve only done two dedications out of five books.

Your dedication can be to a spouse (as was my first one), parent, sibling, another family member, friend, supervisor, colleague, or even your pet. This is a personal choice and you know what, there is no wrong answer.

Dedications should be short and to the point.

My dedication from my first book Summoned:

To my husband,

Without you, this book would not exist.

A couple simple dedications:

For my wife and children – Janie and Johnny

For Marla who made me include her cat.

I dedicate this book to my parents who raised me to love reading.

You can start it with “I dedicate this book…”, “This book is dedicated to…”, “To….”, “For…” or simply write a few lines without a formal address. Another type of dedication is the “In memory of…”

My dedication from my book The Heir to Alexandria:

In Memory of my friend Trish,

Wife, mother and friend

You are missed beyond words

If you have a lot of people to thank or acknowledge that would be for the acknowledgement section.

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments are to thank all the people who have helped in the creation of your novel – the police officer you interviewed, your editor, your spouse for their support and so on. It is your way to show them your appreciation in a public (and permanent) form.

You can thank family members, friends, agents, editors, publisher, co-workers, contributors, advisors, teachers, and mentors. This section is all about them – not you.

To write your acknowledgements, first write down all the people you need to acknowledge. You can group them by category to ensure you don’t forget anyone. And make your thanks specifc.

Sample acknowledgement:

Thank you to Officer Frank D. Smith of the Littleton Police Department for answering my endless list of questions on how a small town police office runs. A big thank you to doctors Marshall Smith and Mindy Waters for pointing me the right way in my research and also answering all my questions.

I also want to thank my agent Scott Henderson and my editor Claudia Miller for keeping me on task and helping me hone this work. And last to my husband Jerry and my children, little Martha and Johnny, for your endless encouragement and support. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Another example:

Thanks to everyone on the publishing team who helped me so much. Special thanks to Mary, my ever patient editor and Randy, the greatest cover designer I could ever imagine.

And a very special thank you to Mrs. Smith, my fourth grade teacher, for encouraging me to write and for always believing in me. Finally, to all my friends and family who supported me along this journey: my mother Mary, my sister Sarah, my Uncle Bill, my best friends Kathryn and Joanne, thank you. I could never have done this without you.

Don’t worry about length. This is your time to thank everyone. Use as much space as you want but if you have a very long acknowledgement, you may want to include it in the back matter rather than the front matter. But a word of warning, if you go on and on, you risk watering down the gratitude. If you make your acknowledgment short, you risk leaving someone important out.

In the end, many readers will not care about the book dedication or acknowledgment. Many won’t read them or even later remember what was said. But to those that are mentioned, this is a great way to show that you appreciate their support and help.

The start of new – hopefully normal – school year

School began in our district last Monday. And unlike last year, we began with the kids going back to the school buildings. Even though the Delta variant is surging in Texas, there is no virtual learning option this year. And while last week during the middle school orientation days, masks were mandatory, we begin this school year with them only recommended.

Now I don’t want to get into the heated debate on whether masks work or don’t, whether they are being used as muzzles, or whether the school has any right to require them. I’m not a doctor or an expert. And yes, I have read all sorts of things on the internet but know that as with most things you can find data to support your stance. If the school district says wear a mask, my kids will wear one. If it is optional, I will let my kids decide. Jase didn’t hesitate with his decision to wear one. Lexie took one and decided to wear it when she saw many other students doing the same. Or maybe she is doing it to hide the gap in her front teeth that is a result of the palate expander.

One main difference Jase noticed this year is that there are a LOT of students at the high school. Last year less than half were in-person. Now we have 3200 students using the 5 minute passing period to get to their next class. Lunch has over 1000 people and while last year finding a place to sit was easy, now Jase is sitting on the ground outside. The school day is no longer shortened as it was last year. He leaves on the bus at 8:20 for an 8:50 start and then school gets over at 4:20 and he is home around 4:50. This year’s classes include Orchestra, Algebra II, English, Chemistry, Spanish, World History, and Principles of Arts, Audio/Visual & Communication.

Lexie is now in 8th grade, her final year of middle school. Her day is back to being a full day of schooling too. She goes from 8:20 to 3:50. Her classes include Honors English, Honors Science, Algebra I, Principles of Applied Engineering, Gym, Study Hall, U.S. History and Art. Her Algebra, Engineering and Art classes are all high school classes and count as a high school credit. When she is done with middle school she will have 4 high school credits as she took Principles of Human Services last year. We had hoped to get her another 1/2 credit by taking the High School health credit but she opted to be an office aide for the second half of the year after she gets her 1 semester of required gym out of the way.

The first week went well, and the kids came home daily excited about school. Lexie did miss school on Friday. She developed a sore throat and that is one of the conditions they say if your student has that they should be kept home in case it is COVID. She stayed home and slept a lot. We did a home COVID test on her which was negative. It appears she just has a cold and since she is doing much better, she will be returning to school today.

Our school board did have an emergency meeting about the rising Covid numbers. They have decided to enforce a mask mandate starting today. Right now whether school districts can issue mask mandates is being decided in the court system – and as of Thursday, they can. Our governor would have it be a personal decision and had banned any city, county or school district. But the school district has numbers from the first week that already show COVID numbers are high in the schools compared to last year when they had masks and other precautions in place.

It is looking to be an interesting year. And I for one am glad that the students are back in school and have some of their normal activities happening.