The Life of Miss Lexie

My sweet kitty passed away yesterday. My heart is broken, friends. Life just isn't the same without her. I wrote the following story about Lexie in 2010. It brings me comfort to remember her this way, so vibrant and full of life. I'm truly grateful for the many years we shared. Rest in peace, sweetie pie.

In loving memory of Lexie Rae McBride
August 8, 1997 ~ June 29, 2015 

On an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon in Seattle, Lexie sits in the open window of her 4th floor apartment, eyes wide and ears alert. She’s patiently waiting for pigeons to fly up and rest on the wires just outside. 

When she finally sees one, she twitches her tail back-and-forth and begins to chatter. She reserves this tone of voice for anything that looks like prey – pigeons, crows, and the occasional squirrel. When she was younger, she might have tried something foolish, like climbing the window screen to scare off the birds. Now, she’s mellowed in her old age and it’s enough for her to just sit and observe. 

Once the sun begins to set, she retreats to her favorite blanket and settles in for a bath. Grooming is of utmost importance to Lexie and she spends hours each day primping and preening. After all, she’s revered for her beauty, like Queen Nefertiti or Elizabeth Taylor. 

It’s true that Lexie has an air of opulence about her, as if she were born into nobility. Her eyes are the color of jade with flecks of gold; the lion-like ruff around her neck is reminiscent of a fur stole. 

Her coat is long and silky, a warm blend of brown, orange, black, white, and blonde. The veterinarian calls the color tortoiseshell; the fashion magazines call it ombré. Apparently, it’s a very chic trend this year.

Lexie’s most distinctive feature, however, is her tummy. When she’s happy to see someone, she greets them by rolling onto her back and revealing the soft golden curls underneath. It lures people in.  Mesmerized, suitors are often tempted to touch the downy fluff of her belly. This is a big mistake. She has quick, sharp claws that are ready to enforce her “look, but don’t touch” policy.

Of course, she’ll probably give the perpetrator a verbal warning first.  

Soft purrs, guttural howls, and everything in between, Lexie is known to be a very talkative cat.  Some might even say she’s downright sassy. 

Her feather duster tail, large feet, and tufted ears are tell-tale signs of her heritage. As a breed, Maine Coons are also known for being intelligent and affectionate. Lexie is no exception.

She’s a clever cat — opening cabinet doors, drinking from cupped paw, and finding new and innovative ways to hide toy mice.   

Lexie also loves to cuddle. She’ll gladly drape herself over her mother’s shoulder while she’s making coffee; cozy up beside her boyfriend’s leg while he’s reading the newspaper; or climb on them when they’re trying to sleep. 

When her humans aren’t around, she snuggles with an old stuffed animal, aptly named Mr. Love Bear.     

This November evening, Lexie curls up beside her mother, who’s doing her homework.  The tap-tap-tapping of the keyboard puts the cat right to sleep.  Moments later, she begins to snore, happily dreaming of pigeons in flight.

To Dad With Love

The following is an excerpt from my personal journal, written at the time of my father's death in 2013.
In loving memory of Danny Lee McBride.

June 25, 2013

Dad died this morning. My heart is broken, but at the same time, I'm relieved. I know in my heart he's in a better place. 

Before I went to sleep last night, I imagined myself at his bedside and told him all the things I wanted to say. I told him I was there, that I loved him, that everything was going to be okay. He didn't need to worry about me and his wife. We're tough old birds and we'll make it through this. We'll miss him, but we'll be okay. I told him I'd never forget all he'd done for me and I'd always remember the good times. I thanked him for always being there and again, told him how much I loved him. 

I have to believe he heard me somehow, our souls as connected as they are. He must have known it was okay to go, and maybe he left because he didn't want me to see him leave.

Tonight, on the way to the airport, there was an enormous and vividly bright rainbow. Next to it was another, more faded.

I choose to believe that this was a sign meant for me: my dad letting me know he's here, that he's okay, he's at peace, he's not alone. 

I choose to believe this was a promise to me, to watch over me, to be my protector, my guide, my light. 

Are these the memories I'll carry with me when I remember this day? A call from my sister to tell me she's mourning and wants to have a memorial for dad, here in Seattle, just the two of us? Or the incredible outpouring of love from people who knew him? People remembering him as a great man, a funny man, a man who loved his family deeply?

My life is forever changed. There exists a whole in my heart so big, I can't imagine it ever being filled. 

Daddy, I love you, I miss you, and nothing will ever change that.

July 14, 2013

Nearly three weeks have passed since my last entry on the day my father died. It seemed there was nothing I could write that would heal this whole in my heart. Nothing seemed important enough to write down. My grief has taken over.

I look for signs all around that he's here, watching out for me, wrapping me in his love and grace, smiling down on me from heaven with that beautiful smile and those hazel eyes. All healed, happy, and full of love.

The hardest part was waking up the morning after he died. Getting off the red eye in Detroit, the sun rising outside the window, knowing he wasn't there waiting for me. 

As I sat at there, waiting for my connecting flight, the sun was shining through the window so brightly, casting a warm glow on my face. I want so much to believe this was his presence washing over me. Warm and loving. 

One evening, as I sat on the back deck at my mom's house, fill with hurt and sadness, feeling tired and exhausted, I saw a flashing green light in the pool. I crept down in the darkness and there, stranded in the water, was a lightning bug. 

I scooped him up and he crawled along my fingers and palms for a long time, flashing brightly in the night. Then, he crawled to my fingertip and gently flew away. 

My dad. A light in the dark, a beacon of hope that there is more to life after death, and we will be reunited one day. Forever, fireflies will remind me of him.

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

Fireflies in the Garden
by Robert Frost


Surfacing

The vastness of her shores
harbors an eternal truth.
Lingering in the space
between earth, sky, and sea.

Grains of sand
like moments in time

creating the foundation
from which we flow.

Nothing and everything
but space and time
and the sound of my heart
thrumming to the rhythm.

The thunder of her waves,
an ancient echo,
a melody so true,
whispering hush, hush, hush.

Vibrant and ever changing
as it is within ourselves.
The ebb and flow invigorating,
connected to the wilds of our hearts.

The depths of her greatness
unknown and unexplored.
Mysteries lie beneath.
Miracles await her.

Magic energy,
born of the sky,
the sun, the moon,
the stars, and the sea.  

Breathing deeply.
Fill me. Cleanse me.
Coax me. Hold me close.
Make me feel alive.

Releasing worries,
sorrows, whims, and desires.
Peace rush, rush, rushing
through my body.

At once, I am open and free.
Relaxed and renewed.
Returned to the essence
from whence I came.

How Asking for Help Is an Act of Self Love

Just before Memorial Day, I boldly declared that this would be my Summer of Self Love. I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but I knew I needed to hit the reset button on my self-care routine.

I needed to eat healthier, move my body, and sleep through the night.
I needed to spend time doing things I enjoy, things that leave me feeling fulfilled.
I wanted to show up for myself during this difficult time like I would for a friend.

Well, the first week of my self-declared Summer of Self Love flew by and I hadn't done anything to make myself feel better. Not. One. Darn. Thing. 

In fact, I was feeling pretty exhausted, and to be honest, I was feeling trapped.  

Trapped in a city with too many people, too much traffic, and too much noise.
Trapped in a living-to-work lifestyle instead of working to live.
Trapped in my head, my mind (not my heart) controlling every moment.

To remedy this, I did something that never comes easy to me.

I asked for help.

I've heard from other women that they feel the same way. Asking for help is hard.  

We don't want to come across as "needy."
We're afraid of being rejected, judged, or worse — abandoned.
We don't want to burden someone with our problems.

We feel like we should be able to do it  all on our own.

I think that's a big part of my problem. I've said before that I have an independent spirit. I like the fact that I'm able to live alone, provide for my own needs, and do things like change my own headlights or put together my own furniture. My independence is something I both value and am proud of; but like all good qualities, it can be a double-edged sword. 

I try to do too much. I try to take care of everything and everyone, all on my own, because somehow I think it's my responsibility. And then I come home, and I have to take care of myself, and sometimes I just don't have the energy. It's been all used up on other people, places, and projects.

Then the day comes when I have no food in the fridge, and the house is a mess, and the cat needs food, and the car needs gas, and the bills need to be paid, and the laundry needs washing, and a light bulb goes out that needs replacing, and I haven't gotten my mail all week, and I'm hormonal and prone to crying... and the list goes on and on... and I wonder...

What would it be like to have someone else take care of me for a change?

Seriously though, this isn't about having someone help me do any of this. It's about expending all my energy elsewhere before attending to my own needs. It's about not taking time to refill my energy reserves when I'm feeling depleted.

Last Friday, I was having one of those days, so I asked myself:

What do I need right now? 

My heart responded immediately...

I needed time to reboot, refresh, and replenish.
I needed time away from my home, the city, my job, my responsibilities.
I needed time to breathe, time to rest, time to just be.

So, I called my boyfriend and asked for help. I asked him if he would go away with me for the weekend. I knew there was a good chance he'd say no, but I asked him anyway. You see, he is not a spontaneous creature. It makes him really anxious and uncomfortable when I change the routine or make last-minute plans. I also knew that he had worked his tail off that week, just like I had, and was probably feeling depleted too. Depleted to the point that going away would feel more like a chore than a relaxing escape.

I risked rejection, I risked feeling "unloved" when he said no, I risked making him unhappy (which makes me unhappy) when I told him I'm going, with or without him. I built up an arsenal of responses and comebacks for the moment he would question the sanity of this decision and would ultimately say no.

But he didn't say no. He said, "Okay, if that's what you want to do."

And so it was.

We spent the weekend on Whidbey Island, my go-to spot for relaxation and rejuvenation. Wide open spaces. Hours spent on the beach, soaking up the sun, scanning the sand for sea glass. Leaving the cares of my daily life far behind me for a few days.

I came back feeling rested and re-energized. It was exactly what I needed and reminded me how important it is for me to check in with myself every day...

To ask myself what I need.
To listen to my heart.
To respond with loving kindness.

To act on the promise of self love.

Knowing that sometimes I'll need to put my fears and pride aside to ask for help.
Knowing that sometimes I'll need to rely on someone else to say yes.
Knowing that when I do ask for help, I must be open and grateful for receiving these gifts.

Knowing that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's an enormous act of self love. 

A little postcard from Whidbey Island, from my heart to yours...