I didn’t go to Kansas City to make a post out of it but here are some photos that DaWife took on the trip

Union Station Kansas City

The Model Train Exhibit

Some shots from the Bridge over the Trainyard

The National World War 1 Memorial

And finally Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals

and a quick video clip of same.

Alas the pictures from Pizza West in Shawnee Kansas which in addition to an excellent Pizza Buffet and a good red sauce has a fine selection of pinball machines, nor the Up Down Bar Arcade with a great selection of machines all at a quarter a play, nor the Crown Point tavern which combines excellent burgers with a downstairs full of pinball machines all that is on my son’s phone but I’ll close with this.

When we got to our hotel in KC the AC wasn’t working, and the 2nd night there it was pretty bad for DaWife who has breathing issues. I tweeted this out and heard both from Priceline where I booked the room through and the parent company of Four Points. The next day when we came back from the Red Sox KC afternoon game the General manager and the maintenance guy were both waiting for us, it appears that the storm that swept through the area just before we arrived and caused power outages throughout the area has shot the thermostat on the unit. They were able to repair it while we were at the game, and the AC was cranking, nevertheless they offered us a different room if we wanted it (that wasn’t possible the night before as the place was full of Red Sox fans as were the surrounding hotels in the chain). We elected to say where we were and had a good two nights and when we left on Friday the general manager was there to see us off and make sure things were OK.

The measure of a company is not if there are no problems, there are always problems in life, the measure is how you deal with problems when they come up.

It’s almost better than Christmas morning for these ladies

Donna from Indiana

Hamilton MO

Hamilton Missouri is a small town of just over 1800 people, there is a lot of farming and grazing land in the area and until just a few years ago it’s primary claim to fame was being the birthplace of that American success story JC Penny.

Not anymore.

Now buses arrive at the down on a semi regular basis and travelers from all over the nation and the world converge on this little town and not to see where Mr. Penny grew up.

No these people are quilters, women (and a few men) who are crafters of beautiful things and Hamilton

Missouri is their Mecca because of the Missouri Star Quilt Company.  Here is an excerpt from a report from KSHB from 2013 whose video didn’t want to embed .

They come from Oklahoma, Kansas and far-flung locales beyond. One visitor traveled here all the way from Israel, just to meet the woman who has become a YouTube sensation for the hobby she has turned into a multi-million dollar family business.

That woman is Jenny Doan, matriarch of the Doan family, who launched the Missouri Star Quilting company in 2008 with a quilting machine, and a tumbledown brick building in Hamilton’s one-stoplight downtown.

“It’s bizarre,” says Doan of her YouTube fame. Doan teaches quilting classes in short web videos, and in person, for those who trek to her store to shop, and to meet the woman one described as the “Oprah” of quilting.

Their Youtube channel is here and if I had the traffic they had I likely would not be working my night job.

Friday I wrote about some of the husbands who brought their wives to the land of fabric, here’s ours:

Thursday after seeing the Red Sox relievers give away their final game to the Royals and rejoicing that the management of our hotel in KC got the AC fixed and made it a point to be waiting for us after the game to confirm it and apologize for the problems in person the day before, my wife, who works a 2nd shift job and is historically NOT an early riser was not only up early but urging our youngest son and I along so with the goal of getting to the place she had dreamed of seeing ever since she took up quilting a few years ago as soon as possible. I dashed through my piece on the Georgia 6th special election getting it up at 9:13 and less than 10 minutes later we were on the road with a quick stop at a local WalMart to buy a battery operated camera as I had neglected to bring my charger, for the pictures she would be taking.

It took about an hours drive to get there, there was nothing extraordinary about the highway or the country around it, nor the simple left turn off of Route 36 down S Hughes street to South Davis Street. The country was farm and grazing land, beautiful country, with a few places to stop and eat dotted along the way but my wife’s anticipation grew by the mile and when we took that final left turn from South Davis Street to and when we took that final left to West School Street and the first building came in sight her excitement was boiling over.

We drove down that street and saw quilt shops to the right and the left of us finally deciding to park at the final shop and work her way to the main location.

When we walked into the first shop it was evident that this was estrogen heaven, a dozen immensely happy women were inside and my wife immediately made it a baker’s dozen. My son and I noticed a fellow sitting near the door and sat with him for a bit.

He was the retired Steelworker from Pittsburgh who had driven 12 1/2 hours to bring his wife here and his story of her anticipation at every mile they got closer mimicked mine, interrupted only by his wife coming over and asking for a few dollars for the purchases at this shop.

Eventually my son and I found the Man’s spot which we’ve already discussed. We sat back, played some pool and eventually I grabbed the laptop and starting surfing, on twitter the fact that I was at Missouri Star got the attention of several of my readers who were anxious for me to get an in. I had not planned on doing any interviews or work during this trip, I had not even packed my monopod, but when DaWife stopped by with camera it was clear there was a story here worth telling so after doing a quick intro video and lunch at a tiny BBQ place called Hank’s and Tanks (which deserves its own post and will get it on Monday or Tuesday) I headed to the main building to see if I could get an interview with someone at the company.

I talked to a nice lady behind the counter to tried to find someone available but within a few minutes a pair of busses arrived and as with any business the customers have to come first, so I sat down and watched the ladies come in.

They were happy, but not just happy, you could literally feel the joy and excitement as each one came into the door and found themselves at the place they had dreamed of. Their ages ran from the mid 30’s to the seventies and there was one lady, clearly old and infirm who might have been in her eighties, but no amount of age or infirmity could restrain the sheer unadulterated pleasure written on their faces and emanating from their hearts.

As the people at work were far too overwhelmed to even think about me, I started to approach the women inside to see if any would be interviewed on camera. Donna from Indiana who was in charge of the bus trip was kind enough to give me some time.

It’s never an easy job to get a lady to consent to an on camera interview with a strange man in a hat wearing a 18 foot scarf on a 90 degree day and it’s doubly difficult when said interview tears them even for a few moment away from the place they’ve been dreaming about for years.  I was turned down quite a bit but a pair of ladies from the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints one from Oregon and one from Utah gave me a few minutes

At this point there was a tutorial being given by a lady named Cindy so there was no prospect of getting anyone so I headed back to the main building and found myself tweeting back and forth with Al Doan one of the founders of the business but unfortunately he was not in the area. Around this time my wife had finished shopping so we headed back to the main building where Cindy had finished with her tutorial and had been given the OK to give a few minutes to the odd fellow in the hat:

It was pretty late in the afternoon when we loaded up the rental with the fabric that my wife bought and got ready to leave the glow of being there still upon her.

There are a lot of things to say about the Missouri Star Quilt Company: that It’s the fulfilment of the dream of Jenny Doan, that it revitalized a small town in Missouri, that in less than a decade it has become the largest employer in Caldwell County Missouri, that the Missouri Star Quilt Company in general and Jenny Doan in particular are, like JC Penny, an American success story. All of these things are true, special and worthy of praise.

But for my money the greatest thing about the Missouri Star Quilt Company is the happiness they bring to thousands of women who come there each month and the tens of thousands who watch their tutorials online and the satisfaction that I and all the other husbands get when they see the sheer joy on the faces of the women they love.

My wife’s photos follow:

Update: The video from KSHB wouldn’t embed so I’ve replaced it with an excerpt from the text of the piece


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I’m in Kansas City this week on a vacation that’s a side effect of my wife’s serious operation back in Feb. As she couldn’t go on the trip with her sister as planned and had to use up our voucher miles before Sept or lose them she suggested finding somewhere that the RedSox were playing and go see them there. This is the first time since I started writing that I’ve been somewhere without the express purpose to cover some political event or conference. The only work I’ll be doing are this week’s posts and perhaps the odd interview if one drops into my lap. It is so weird to wake up somewhere else without having to be somewhere or to have 30 or 50 interviews to upload. Of course given that the Room AC is not working properly and I spent two hours on twitter and on the phone between priceline and the sheraton four points people and their parent company trying to resolve it due to my wife’s breathing issues it’s even weirder. It seems the final plan was to keep her awake all night trying to get things fixed till she was too tired to not fall asleep even with no AC in the summer heat and the noise of the rather loud fan they provided. I presume that plan worked because while I stopped tweeting on it at 1:30 AM and fell asleep soon after, as of this writing (9:30 am central) she and my son are still out like lights so I don’t know when they finally gave up and crashed. Even odder the room isn’t oppressively hot as it was when I dropped off so I guess at least for a brief time during the night the AC kicked in and combined with the rather loud fan managed to drop the temp to an OK level, but then again I grew up without AC and never had breathing issues and can sleep on a wooden pallet with a piece of cardboard on it so the real test will be how DaWife feels when she wakes up. The last gave of the series is a 1:05 start so I’d like to get her up early so we can get a spot of breakfast but as I don’t know when she got to sleep I think I’ll let her sleep as late as we safely can.

Now I know why my parents never went on vacations.

Kaufman Stadium is a lovely place to watch a baseball game but as in Denver it’s still very odd to go to a ball park and: Not see it full, See promotion after promotion during the game, see the necessity for the scoreboard to be used to get the crowd to make noise. But that’s the difference between practically selling out an entire season and having to draw people. Our three tickets for the first game at Kaufman stadium in the upper deck of left field cost what it would have set us back for Standing room in Fenway park…for one of us.

This is my first trip to the midwest and there is a real sense of Deja vu in coming to a place like this. I’m reminded of the days of my youth when Massachusetts was populated by normal people with normal values and not run by frenzied leftists. If I was younger I’d leave for a place like this in a second as the liberal New England in general and Massachusetts in particular is no place to raise a family if you don’t want to have to fight every day to raise your children as Faithful Catholics or Christians of any stripe. You can’t imagine how much I miss those days, it’s also the reason why there are so many Red Sox Fans everywhere else. People might leave the craziness of New England but one’s love of the Red Sox comes with you.

The Death of Otto Warmbier is to some degree a surprise. One might think that to North Korea an American foolish enough to put themselves willingly in their hands is an asset to exploit so normally one might think that any torture would be designed to be painful but not fatal however it’s a vivid reminder that with the Norks you are dealing with one of the worst regimes in the history of history and unless your a Christian Missionary ready to become a Christian Martyr giving your life in the hopes of saving souls, it’s not a place to willingly put yourself.

The left’s pious insults concerning Mr. Warmbier’s death and their previous statements concerning “white privilege” come as no surprise as sadly I’ve come to expect no better from them, the real question is what kind of retaliation will we see from this president. What price will the Norks be made to pay and how will he pull it off without setting and can he afford to be patient in making them pay that price.

Yet another special election (actually two as there was one in SC as well that the Democrats decided to concede rather than sink a fortune in) is now over and Karen Handel despite being an unexciting candidate managed a five point win despite millions of dollars from the bluest states there pouring into the state to defeat her. I think this from Hotair is telling:

 

11:10 pm: Finally, here is Karen Handel’s victory speech. At 2:30 Handel thanks President Trump and the crowd responds “Trump! Trump! Trump!” At 3:15 she thanks Steve Scalise and spends a moment talking about the need to find “a more civil way” to disagree. “In these United States of America, no one should ever feel their life threatened over political beliefs and positions,”

 

I think that while the DC shooter managed to only wound Steve scalise, he managed to kill Democrat chances to win in GA06 as voters in that district who might have stayed home decided they didn’t want to reward attempted murder. Of course this doesn’t change the fact that the GOP needs to get moving on their agenda as Chris Muir seems to have pegged.

The attack by Mr. Osborne in London was, in my opinion one of the most predictable crimes in the history of history in terms of simple mathematical statistics. Given that we’ve had over 31,000 Islamic Terror attacks worldwide since 9/11 (40 attacks in 15 countries from June 10th though the 16th alone) sooner or later probability stated that you would actually get a westiner targeting Muslims. I have no problem calling what he did terror, but I insist that leftists who do so do the same concerning every other attack done by Muslims in the name of Islam. The real question is will the same people willing to throw collective guilt on Englishmen over this attack respond in a similar way to what happened in Brussels yesterday?

It also plays into one of the things I’ve predicted, the longer both the authorities in power and moderate muslims decide to deny and ignore the danger of radical islam, the more likely you’ll see people like Osborne decide to, in his mind, strike back. I expect to see many more like him if the state of denial continues. This of course does not justify his acts of murder which not only need to be vigorously prosecuted but punished to the fullest extent of the law.

A little Doctor Who, I see that Big Finish has decided to give a series to Derick Jacobi playing the “War Master”. Jacobi’s time as the Master on screen lasted less that 15 minutes before he regenerated into John Simm but during that time he ruled the screen. I’ve often wondered what he would have done with the role if he had been given more time. Now we’ll find out.

Finally we are going to be seeing the first Multi-master story in Doctor who outside of Big Finish My bet is that Michelle Gomez Master is killed by John Simm’s master with her at the moment of death remembering doing so. Even if I’m wrong the word is she will not be returning to the role. While I wasn’t a fan of the whole gender bender business Gomez made the part her own and has simply owned every scene she has been in in a way we haven’t seen since Alex Kingston. Doctor Who fans will miss her.

Update:  Dropped a “r” from Otto Warmbier’s name, corrected

I may be in Kansas City watching the RedSox duke it out with the Royals his week but the folks at Imholt Press remain hard at work with the following anouncement:

We should have an official launch date very soon.

by baldilocks

Every now and then I wonder how differently my life might have gone had I made different choices.

For instance, I wonder how deeply I might be involved in the so-called Deep State had I remained a part of the intelligence community. But that’s one decision I have no regrets about. When I exited active duty USAF in 1994, I came home to Los Angeles to be near my great-aunt and great-uncle who were then in their 70s. My uncle was gone six years later and my aunt would follow twelve years after that. The two raised me for the first part of my childhood, so, of course, I am grateful to have been close by when they passed.

Other forks? I love children and I sometimes wish I’d had at least one, but, other than my miscarriage, I can’t really call it a regret. And here’s an odd thing: I don’t think I’m good wife material—something about which my ex-husband would agree. I’m the first-born and was a de facto only child for nine years; I’m ornery and often oblivious.

Since the divorce in 1992, there have been a couple of close remarriage calls, but no cigar. And, the only regret I have about that is that I married at all. I like men; I just haven’t found one that I want around all the time. I’ve certainly been “in love,” but I think that, for me, much of that has been hallucination on my part. Vain imagination.

Relating that to having children, I’m old-school: I believe in being married before having children. Let’s be real here: the main reason that I did get married was because I wanted children.

So, with my beliefs and idiosyncrasies in mind, it’s likely that I would have never given birth even if I had made different decisions. I’m at peace with that.

More roads taken. Just today, I met up with two old friends I’d met through blogging. Wonderful people. These and dozens of other good, fun and kind-hearted people I would have never known had I not begun baldilocks.

I could go on but Yogi Berra’s simple, funny, accidental wisdom holds true: when you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

by baldilocks

I had a lot of trouble concentrating today, as anyone who follows my Facebook and Twitter feeds already knows. I got up at around two this morning, having “slept” for a few hours—more of a fitful opening and closing of my eyes.

The problem? I have been applying for jobs like crazy for the past few months and the only feedback I received was an “Unfortunately” letter from Trader Joe’s. You’d think that it would be easy to get a job in the present environment—especially for a veteran who can write, think a little bit, and pass a drug test, but it isn’t. I haven’t been looking for a jackpot; just something I can use to keep from scratching, scraping, and begging my readers to help me with. By the way, fans of baldilocks are some of the most wonderful and generous people in existence.

So, as I said, I expressed my frustrations on my accounts and received an avalanche of great ideas, leads, links and at least one solid opportunity.

I’ve kept some information to myself and to personal friends, but I want to let it out here and now. The only reason I’ve remained in California since the loss of my house in December 2014, is to be near my church. Otherwise I’d be in New Mexico near my parents and most of the rest of my family. I love my people dearly (here’s a gratuitous link to one of the writers among that number), but God comes first and when I put Him first, He provides. I’m human and my faith wavers, but it does not fail because I’ve asked Him to help me with it. It’s an ongoing endeavor.

I love to write; here, at baldilocks, and wherever. One of my wonderful friends even gave me an opportunity—a different one than the one mentioned above–to get a well-compensated position as a technical writer. However, it’s necessary to consider that job in the context of why I remained in California. Would I have time for my church? What about time to write in-depth pieces for DaTechGuy and for baldilocks? Unlikely. No doubt, I will have more difficult decisions to make, should the job be offered.

But today, I have faith, just enough for today. Tomorrow, will be time enough for tomorrow’s faith. And so on.

(Thank to FW, CF, and JVS)

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

by baldilocks

One of my best longtime blog friends—in the category of haven’t yet met face-to-face—is Steve Graham. A few may remember his hilarious blogs from the early 2000s, Little Tiny Lies and Hog on Ice, and might wonder where he’s been.

I’ve kept up with his blog, Tools of Renewal, for a good ten years. The humor is still there, but this blog has a singular purpose: to glorify God. Even when Steve is not talking overtly about God, he is.

Here’s Steve on the Colbert tempest:

I’m not nearly as upset about politics and public attitudes toward God as I used to be, even though my estimate of America’s future has gotten much worse. I credit God with helping me escape pointless agitation. God is the all-time champion of battle-choosing, and he teaches his ways to his children. If you’re determined to lose your peace over Antifa, so-called gender transitioning, the bizarre political power of illegal aliens, and violence toward conservatives, you can certainly go ahead and sink into the flames. You can write furious blog posts, go to rallies, get beaten with your own flagpole, and get ulcers. My approach these days is to let things slide in the natural realm and to do my fighting in prayer. If I tussle in the mud (euphemism for something else) with the pigs, I’ll become one of them, and the pigs won’t change. Much better to sit back in the comfort of my home and do battle on a supernatural level.

I pray for God to defeat Colbert and also to change his heart, I ask God to help me not to have animosity toward him, and then I go on my merry way. I can’t fix the world, and if I want to lead a blessed life while I’m here, I have to be able to let go of things.

And, in the same post, on mountain climbing:

The Everest professionals had a mission mentality, but in reality, they were just helping rich people walk up the side of a rock. They weren’t repelling the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. They seemed to feel that what they were doing was very, very important, but in reality, it was one hundred percent unnecessary.

They reminded me of gang members. Before you join a gang, you may have a happy-go-lucky life free of stress and dread. Once you join (completely by choice), you have a life of drama. Everything is serious. You’re a “soldier”; gang members often use military terms to describe themselves. Your life is full of danger, and you have to face it. You are likely to end up listening to, or writing and performing, pathetic, self-pitying rap music, in which you glorify yourself and try to get people to see you as a martyr and a victim.

Climbers respect each other. If you’re a dead climber, forget it. “Respect” doesn’t even capture it. What you get is more like worship. Because you climbed a rock and died, when you could have been at home eating pancakes. Sounds a lot like gangsters, pouring cheap booze on the ground as an offering to absent homies.

If you remember the quality of Steve’s writing, you’ll enjoy it and if you’re trying to get closer to God, he has plenty of experiential recommendations. Go read.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

This weekend, two of my favorite veteran Christian bands (The Choir and Sweet Comfort Band) are playing some of their rare concert dates in Southern California. Great, awesome, and wonderful … for those able to attend. Due to family work commitments, namely an annual inventory, this will be the one weekend of the year I and she who is my wife are absolutely unable to traipse down the freeway and visit SoCal. No concerts for me. Very disappointing. Pales in comparison to so many other full-fledged hammer blows in life; regardless, very disappointing. Obviously no personally aimed conspiracy against me. But still, I’ve asked, of no one in particular, why.

We who believe are taught two things starting at our spiritual infancy: never judge anyone, and never ask why. We should never judge because we too are guilty of something, and we should never ask why as the answer is always “because God” and who is the creation to question anything under the Creator’s roof? Toss in a few Scriptural Cliff Notes, and hey presto! You are good to go, and if not it is all on you. Where is your faith?

The problem with this mindset, aside from the minor detail how it ignores a whole lot of Biblical observations about what to expect in life, is that it automatically disparages the human condition in a manner taught nowhere by Jesus or anyone else within the pages of Sola Scriptura. We are supposed to speak up when someone is messing up so they will get back on track. We are allowed to ask why, and the answer is not always “because God.” Sometimes, there is no apparent answer save silence.

The days will come, if they have not already arrived, when you realize you hold nothing but a fragile lifeline woven from a tattered thread of faith growing increasingly frayed. You have a laundry list of whys, and answers seem to be nowhere. You wonder if it’s possible to get ahead in life without being a self-fellating talentless walking sack of rancid, arrogant steer manure. You wonder not when, but if you will leave the unemployment line. You see beautiful inside and out members of the opposite sex either throw themselves into relationships doomed from the start or throw themselves firmly into the arms of one of the aforementioned self-fellating talentless walking sacks of rancid, arrogant steer manure while your Saturday night dates come in a box from Sunkist. You observe how the popular girl or boy shamelessly monetizes their loss while you are told to shut up about your grief. You ask why, and based on the non-existent answers you wonder if God so much as takes a message and will get back to you.

There are times I for sure wonder.

Yet, somehow, I hang on.

Some don’t. Some walk away from the faith. Some walk away from their lives. Some walk away from life itself.

Please, do not do these things.

Seek out the open, the scarred, the ones still bleeding who are not ashamed to admit. Seek out, embrace one another, and help carry one another through the living no man’s land life can often transform itself into in a moment.

Admit the hurt; confess the pain; reveal the scars. Help one another. Let them help you. Ask questions. Just don’t quit.

Please, don’t quit.

And never quit asking why.

Even with bright spring sunshine streaming through the windows, it’s been a gloomy weekend in our house. It’s never fun when you’re on a death watch … even if it’s only for a cat.

For the past 14 years, Merlin has been the scourge of birds, chipmunks and unfamiliar visitors to our home. And, often, me. But now his reign of terror is coming to an end.

Merlin’s story begins about 12:30 a.m. on a warm spring night in 2003. As a newspaper editor, I’d just put Sunday’s edition to bed and headed out the employees’ entrance at the loading dock. As usual, more than 100 vans, pickups and cars jammed the parking lot, their drivers eager to pick up bundles of papers for delivery to carriers in a three-county area.

Jan, a security guard and occasional smoking buddy, was in the designated smoking area outside the door, playing with a tiny kitten. I crouched down and scratched him behind his ears. “Cute kitten,” I told Jan. “Is he yours?”

“No,” she replied. “He just showed up a few minutes ago.”

I figured he’d escaped from a driver’s car, so I picked him up and brought him around the parking lot for the next 15 minutes. Nobody knew anything about a missing cat, so I came back to Jan. Eyeing the idling vehicles, I knew the kitten was sure to be squished if he was roaming freely as the drivers made a mad rush for the loading dock when the papers became available.

We already had two pets — Sydney, an Australian terrier, and Loki, the Best Cat in the World — so I sure didn’t want to bring the little critter home. But when I asked Jan to keep the stray, she said her apartment didn’t allow pets.

I had no choice. He went into the car with me, and wound up spending most of the trip home on my shoulder. All the while, I wondered how my wife, Shirley, would react to our guest.

I shouldn’t have worried — Shirley was immediately enthralled by him. But her enthusiasm seemed dim next to daughter Sandy’s response. We were still up when Sandy’s alarm went off at 4 a.m. She fussed over him so much she was nearly late for her 6 o’clock work shift.

In the next day or so, he got a name, Merlin, based on his mysterious and magical appearance at my workplace. Shirley and especially Sandy spoiled him terribly. Sandy carried Merlin everywhere; at one point, Shirley chided her: “If you don’t put that cat down, he’ll forget how to walk.”

But while Merlin was bonding with the ladies, he began shunning me. Maybe it was because Sydney was my dog, who usually occupied the space next to me on the couch and sometimes my lap. Merlin got along very well with Syd and Loki — once they put him in his place — but he barely tolerated me.

Merlin’s kittenhood passed all too quickly, and he grew. And grew. He finally topped out at about 16 pounds of bone and muscle. Our research showed he was probably at least part Maine Coon Cat, and he proved to be a skillful hunter.

Without a doubt, he was the handsomest cat I’ve ever had, with his sleek, thick coat and huge, bright eyes. But he also was the stupidest cat in creation. Outside of hunting, he never showed any sign of typical feline cleverness. I came to refer to him as “a cinder block with fur.”

Merlin and I endured an uneasy truce. For the longest time, I tempted fate by trying to pick him up or pet him. Too often, my reward was teeth and claws jammed into my hands and arms.

But something funny happened after several years. He discovered that I actually knew how to hit a cat’s sweet spots with scratches and massages. When I was sitting on the couch or  a chair, he would approach and nudge his head against my hand, demanding a scratch.

When I gave in, I got a real reward: the deepest, loudest purr I’ve ever heard. It was like sitting next to a furry mini-Harley. It was so loud that it would wake up Shirley when he came to me in bed and I’d scratch under his chin.

Still, he’s always been Shirley’s boy, and I appreciated him mainly because he brought her so much joy.

Except for a urinary tract blockage in 2012, Merlin has always been in fine health. A couple weeks ago, however, I realized he had lost a lot of weight. He wasn’t eating so much of his dry cat food, so we broke protocol and bought him some cans.

Despite gobbling down the canned food, he was becoming so lethargic that I decided to take him to the vet, who had given him a clean bill of health at his checkup in October. Shirley and I were stunned to learn he had lost three pounds in five months and weighed less than 10 pounds for the first time since 2004. An X-ray showed no problem, but the vet drew blood for testing.

The news was not good Friday morning. The vet called and said the tests showed Merlin apparently has lymphoma. Shirley and I had discussed such a diagnosis in advance and decided we would turn our home into a hospice. As long as Merlin shows no sign or pain or even discomfort, we’ll keep him here and cater to his whims. If things turn, the vet will make sure he doesn’t suffer.

Merlin is growing weaker by the hour, and we don’t expect him to last the week. The canned food still tempts him, but he can manage only a few bites before giving up. But when we fondle and scratch him, he still has that awesome purr.

The approaching end has caused me to shed some tears despite my best efforts, but I still have hope.

Because of my faith, I firmly believe in heaven. Theologians might disagree, but I believe paradise also awaits cats and dogs, too. Of course, nobody knows what comes in the afterlife, but I like the idea put forward by some scholars that death brings us unity with God for all eternity, and we are embraced forever in His almighty splendor.

To the Maker of All, mankind is special, created in His image. But all life bears a sparkle or hint of the divine. The bridge between people and their pets is vast, but it’s a only an atom’s span compared to the inconceivable gulf between man and God. In His infinite compassion for His creations, He surely wouldn’t condemn the tiny spark of a soul in a cat or dog to everlasting darkness.

I pray that Shirley and I earn a place in heaven. But it wouldn’t truly be paradise if Merlin doesn’t pull himself away from Shirley every now and then and come up to me and demand a scratch. I’ll be ready to give it.

A phrase oft heard during any given sporting event where the heavily favored team finds itself on the score’s short end is “the other team practices too.” Meaning: nothing is a given and no matter how talented, or better on paper, someone or a collection of someones is than the competition, if you dismiss the other team out of hand and don’t compete up to your ability level you will not win. Ever.

The same principle applies to life. We all have our burdens and battles; our private little hell that can and all too frequently does consume us. These must be tended to, otherwise they can severely damage us. Sometimes irrecoverably.

This duly noted, it is easy but dangerously shortsighted to exclusively focus on our own situation, neglecting to note that the other person has problems too. John Donne was right; no one is an island. We all have oppressive elements besetting our every day and every step.

To behave as though we alone are suffering while everyone else is on their own under the veneer of “they know their problems and I don’t” is pathetically short-sighted. Empathy is not contingent on complete understanding of someone else’s pain. We are all human, and we all share humanity’s common threads.

It is equally short-sighted, with a hefty dose of narcissism on the side, to focus so heavily on our own problems while neglecting to value others sufficiently to, at the least, inquire as to how they are doing that our life becomes a one-note samba of “woe is me.” The other person hurts too. Their hurt is equally important as ours. Ignoring them while bemoaning our state helps no one. It makes the other person quite apt to wonder why they should help, or care for, us when our actions and words make it apparent our concern for them extends only as far as their willingness to feel sorry for us. And, simply put, in such a scenario we are doing more than enough feeling sorry for ourselves to where the other person has zero inclination to join our pity party regardless of how deeply they care for us. We are pushing them away at a time when we most need them.

The other person matters too. Ask them how they are doing. You will be surprised how much it helps you both face the wounds and scars we all – all – bear.