Sputnik 2.0

Let me be perfectly clear about this:  I believe my cat, Chai, is the reincarnation of my former cat, Sputnik.

I am completely serious.  I believe in the recycling of souls, also known as reincarnation.  Of course, billions of other people also believe this, but I suspect a significant number of these folks are Hindu or Buddhist.  I, on the other hand, was raised in a church-going Lutheran family.  I started questioning things pretty early on, however, and have not been a Lutheran–or even a Christian–for the majority of my life.  Though I believe very firmly in a higher power, I choose not to refer to it as “god,” since I associate this word with Christianity.  And pretty much everything about Christianity makes me intensely uncomfortable.  Instead, I think of it as Source, or Source Energy, the term used by the teachings of Abraham-Hicks.

The biggest shift in my worldview began in 2003 when I began attending classes at Creative Living Institute at the recommendation of a friend.  Mary Graham’s lessons opened up a whole new world for me that made more sense than anything I’d ever been exposed to before.  I learned about numerology, tarot cards, astrology, auras, chakras and meditation, among other things.  I knew what reincarnation was, of course, but Mary talked about it in a way I hadn’t considered before:  that souls travel together through time and have “contracts” with each other, and that everything comes from the same source energy and is thus connected.

With this abbreviated background in place, let me tell you about The Man.

Sputnik was my soulmate, my familiar.  We found each other at the Dumb Friends League in Denver, Colorado, in February 1991 when he was about six months old.  He was the first cat I adopted on my own, and for whom I was the sole caregiver.  I loved him with every fiber of my being.

photo of kitten in a window
Sputty in our Denver apartment, 1991

From the first moment I saw him in his kennel, I knew.  An adoption counselor placed him on my lap in a visiting room, and he immediately rolled over on his back, waving his paws in the air.  I named him Sputnik because I liked the sound of it, and because I liked the band Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

My friend David almost immediately dubbed him “Little Man,” and that nickname–along with several variations like “Little B” or “The Man”–stuck till the end of his life in 2010.  He was extremely naughty, with a penchant for blueberry muffins left out overnight on the stovetop.  He tipped the trashcan over and dug through the contents almost every day until I wised up and bungeed it shut.  One day I returned from work to find every piece of jewellry I owned strewn from one end of the apartment to the other.  Oh yes, he was naughty.  And I adored him.  He particularly loved playing stalk and chase, and being held above my head to be “flown” around the house, complete with airplane sounds.  David tied a rubber cockroach to a long piece of dental floss, creating a cat toy for Sput second only to “Mr. Purse Strap,” which we finally just threw out a few years ago.

photo of two cats curled up together
The Boys in 2008, age 17 and 18

I adopted a brown tabby kitten from the Dumb Friends League in 1993 and named him Biscuit.  “The Boys,” as they were known, provided my husband and I with many years of love and entertainment.  They left this world within a year of each other at the ripe old age of 19.

photo of two cats laying on blue carpeted stairs
Nemo & Sidra, 2012

We moved from South Dakota to Oregon in early 2012, and, though we had Sidra and Nemo, two female cats we’d adopted in Rapid City, I knew I had to find another male Himalayan mix like Sputnik.  In May 2013, I found him on Petfinder.com.  Actually, I found a brother-sister pair who had been rescued from the shoulder of Interstate 5 near Springfield, their mother having been killed on the highway.  I made a phone call, loaded a pet carrier in the car, and off we went.

photo of a kitten in a cat carrier
Chai, 5/26/2013

Though we were prepared to adopt both kittens, the rescue assured us that, based on their young age and personalities, they wouldn’t be the least bit traumatized by being separated.  So Chai came home with us on May 26, 2013.

Chai is very self-entertaining, as are many cats.  One day I noticed him playing alone in our guest room, and watched as he pawed at the rug (like he was digging a hole), then put his head down and did a front roll into the spot where he’d been “digging.”  Sputnik used to do the exact same thing.  I’ve never seen either of our girl cats do it.

photo of a cat in a sink
Chai 2015

Last week, I was in the bathroom flossing my teeth, and Chai joined me on the counter.  Then he did something he’d never done before:  he got into the sink and began pawing at the sides, curling himself up in the round space and looking up at me.  Nemo will sometimes get on the bathroom counter, but she has never once gotten into the sink.


photo of cat in a sink
Sputnik 1992

I took an almost identical photo of Spunik in our apartment sink in 1992.  I spent a lot more time in front of the mirror in those days, and he was right there with me, most of the time.  I think he even supervised the night I tried to pierce my own nose with a sewing needle.  (That didn’t end well.  I had to have it done professionally.)

photo of kitten meowing
Chai, 2013


If it’s true that souls can choose to travel through time together, it’s entirely plausible that the Little Man bided his time out there in the Nonphysical from 2010-2013, saw an opportunity to come back to me and took it.  This probably sounds pretty crazy to someone who doesn’t subscribe to this particular worldview, but that’s OK.  I don’t really care, because the truth of it resonates within my higher self.

photo of cat yawning
Sputnik 2006

It was only within the past five years or so I actually looked up the word “Sputnik” and discovered its literal meaning is “fellow traveller” or “travelling companion,” depending on which website you use.

There are so many reasons to feel connected to Source.

Pacific City Needs EV Charging

The following piece was drafted by Loving Husband, then sliced and diced by Yours Truly. It’s posted at http://theoregoncoast.info/PacificCity/Pacific-City-EV-Electric-Vehicle-Station.html

Well-done, sweetie. I’m so proud of you!

Pacific City Needs EV Charging

by Curt Finnegan

My wife and I live in Albany and last June purchased a Nissan Leaf all-electric vehicle (EV). With our dog, Agate, in tow, we frequent Cape Kiwanda, the Pelican Brewery, Bob Straub State Park, and everywhere in between. We were thrilled to learn that many areas in Oregon and Washington are now accessible to electric cars thanks to the West Coast Electric Highway: http://www.westcoastgreenhighway.com/electrichighway.htm.

We think an EV charging station located near the Cape and the Pelican Brewery would be an enormous asset to Pacific City. Local businesses would benefit greatly. We typically spend an afternoon (and many dollars) in and around the Pelican. And we’re just one of many EV families.

We’ve talked to Pelican Brewery management and voiced how it would be great to have an EV charging station nearby. Knowing how tight parking is at Cape Kiwanda, we agree the designated charging spots must be away from the best (read “close-in”) parking and enforced with a time limit.

An EV charging station runs from $400 to $600. See http://www.clippercreek.com/ for some affordable options. The cost to install in a public use area would depend on where to tap into existing power, the type of outlet and local electrician rates and permits.

A variety of payment plans are available for current charging station companies. Some provide unlimited usage per month (like cell phones), some are time-based (how long you’re plugged in), and others are usage-based (number of kilowatt-hours drawn).

Even a NEMA 14-50 outlet or two would be beneficial. These are the most common outlets at an RV campground. This outlet would be the simplest and least expensive, possibly not even requiring special parking if placed smartly.

Our current solution is to pay Seascape RV Park (right across from the Pelican–ask for Bob) $5.00 for two hours’ use of a NEMA 14-50 outlet, if there is an open spot. More than two hours costs $10.00. It’s a bit spendy, but we’re glad to have that option available.

Electric vehicles are the future of automobile transportation. More and more drivers are looking for destinations where they can charge their cars and spend their money. The bottom line is, wherever we park and charge, we ultimately spend money at nearby businesses.

I can be reached at finman100@hotmail.com. I am also listed on http://www.plugshare.com, a very helpful website and smartphone app for locating charging stations nationally. Through Plugshare, I can share my home station with anyone needing a charge.

Electric vehicles really bring out the community in you. I think that’s a great thing. I don’t mind avoiding the gas stations, either.

Curt Finnegan is a rabid fan of electric vehicles and other environmentally friendly technologies. He lives in Albany, Oregon, with his wife, Heather (and their four-legged, furry children) and works as an online technical support specialist at Linn-Benton Community College.

Me and Ricky Bobby

This will probably sound monotonous if you follow mytruenorth2013, but yesterday Husband, Happy Dog and I enjoyed another spectacular Oregon coast day.

Ocean waves

However, this time there was one major difference.  Here’s a teaser:  see if you can guess what we did in addition to having chowder and beer at Mo’s and being dragged down the beach by Happy Dog.

Tesla interior

That was way too easy.  Husband and I did, in fact, enter the Post-Tesla phase of our life together.  We attended a National Drive Electric Week event and had the opportunity to test-drive Steve’s Tesla Model S P85.

Steve in backseat

This is Steve in the back seat, calmly watching as my über-excited husband drives his $65,000 car down Highway 101.  Upon being asked “How can you let complete strangers drive your Tesla?” Steve replied, “It’s just a car.”

Hmmm, no.  It’s not just a car, Steve.  It’s a Magical Space Car.

By the way, über-excited Husband as of early June has a fancy electric car of his own.

Husband & Leaf

Husband also allows encourages coerces strongarms people into test-driving his car.  I’ve watched him gabbling endlessly about kilowatt hours and regen and charge adapters and other stuff interesting only to him and other like-minded EV geeks, and drag complete strangers off by their shirtsleeves to drive the Leaf.  Their feeble protests are no match for his eagerness to share with them every excruciatingly minute detail about it.  At least you’ve gotta admire his enthusiasm.

Husband claims the Leaf runs on fairy dust, and that old-school, ICE (internal combustion engine) cars run on “devil goo.”  I guess that makes my 2005 Prius a devil goo – fairy dust hybrid.

Quite frankly, during the pre-Tesla summer months, regardless of all the crap I’ve been giving him about it, the new Leaf was pretty cool in my book.  It plays a cute little boop-boop-beep-boop song after you push the start button and makes a fun sound as it backs up.  Plus it has SiriusXM radio, a cool GPS display and six cupholders.

Now, however, it is referred to as the Grandpa-Mobile.  This photo should clearly illustrate why:

O my god

This is me following Steve’s explicit directions to pull out onto Highway 101, make sure there was no one behind us, let the car ahead of us get way, way, WAAAAAAAY ahead, and then punch it.  I’ve enlarged the picture to highlight a number of key details:

  1. Raised eyebrows
  2. Death grip on steering wheel
  3. Pursed lips enunciating “Oh my god” and “Holy shit” over and over and over
  4. 56 mph showing on speedometer approximately 1.6 seconds after I stomped on the gas electron pedal

You have no idea what “Zero to sixty in four seconds” feels like until you experience it for yourself.  I can only liken it to sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise as Mr. Sulu throws it into warp speed.

Starship Enterprise

I’m pretty sure I gave myself, Husband and Steve a mild case of whiplash.

If this were über-enthusiastic Husband’s blog, he would no doubt include reams and reams of illuminating, but ultimately boring technical details about Tesla Motors, each individual Tesla model, the Nissan Leaf, electric vehicles in general, kilowatt hours, battery levels, numbers, specs, graphs, data, pie charts and so on.  I don’t have the remotest interest in any of that.  Here’s what I care about, and ten reasons why I’ll never need to test-drive another vehicle ever again:

  3. It handles like a dream and is incredibly comfortable.
  4. It’s an electric vehicle, and, correspondingly, has no tailpipe farting out pollution to melt the polar caps or aggravate your child’s respiratory condition.
  5. You can drive it more than 250 miles before it needs charging.
  6. It’s completely, lusciously gorgeous inside and out.
  7. It’s totally stealthy.
  8. Everything is controlled by a super-cool, 17″ LCD touchscreen – no messy buttons, levers or dials cluttering up the dash.
  9. It has a panoramic roof, the front half of which opens.
  10. Tesla Motors is an American car company that renders every other American car company completely, utterly obsolete.

You can also special-order one with a high-end espresso machine that pops out of the glove compartment.

OK, not really.  But that would be pretty awesome.

How to tire out the puppy: Part 2

Repeat Step 1 from previous post.

Step 2: Substitute XL dragonfly for nonexistent birds.  Be very encouraging; tell puppy she’s bound to catch that tiny bird eventually.  Praise puppy for her exuberance and valiant, though completely fruitless, efforts.  Enjoy the show.

Step 3: Throw Chuckit ball for puppy.  Retrieve Chuckit ball, as puppy has moved on to alternating grazing with searching for nonexistent birds.

Repeat Step 4 from previous post.

Step 5: Enjoy cool shower while puppy sleeps it off on shady patio.

How to tire out the puppy

If you have a young, active dog–maybe, for example, a 1.5 year-old pit bull mix–you’ll appreciate how difficult it is to tire out your dog.  Loving Husband and I were completely convinced that this was, in fact, impossible.

Today, however, I finally discovered a sure-fire way to tire out the puppy.  I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m going to sit back with a cold beverage and enjoy it while it does.

Step 1: Walk puppy the long way around–six blocks or so–to neighborhood schoolyard during the hottest part of the day (approximately 82°F with a lovely breeze).

Step 2: Encourage puppy to run around deserted, completely fenced-in (thank you, god) schoolyard looking for nonexistent birds for as long as possible. Enjoy the osprey family flying and calling to each other overhead. Wonder if persistent, very low-flying osprey is eyeing puppy as possible evening meal.

Step 3: Practice coming when called over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Step 4: Leash up puppy and walk her an extra eight blocks. Enjoy feeling of loose leash dangling from hand and sound of puppy panting as she tries to keep up. Tell puppy, “You lag, you drag.”

Step 5: Arrive home with tired puppy. Wonder how long it will last as you sit on shady patio drinking cold beer.



Years ago, when blogging first came into vogue, I remember thinking, “Oh my god–why would anyone want to expose their private lives to the world like that?  It’s like letting anyone and everyone read your diary!”  And, well, yeah.  It is. The differences are 1) I’ve given everyone permission to do it, and 2) I can massage my words for five hours or five days until I’m ready to send them out into the Universe via the Internet.

I had no idea, though, how cathartic it can be.  I mean, different people blog for different reasons.  I’ve read a blog about Pacific Northwest native flora, a blog in which the author wrote of being date-raped, blogs about wine, blogs about beer, blogs about dogs.  My favorite blogger–who recently published her first book, by the way–is a brilliant artist named Allie Brosh, who writes Hyperbole and a Half.  She’s one of two authors whose writing consistently makes me laugh till I cry–or moby wine out my nose.  (Bill Bryson is the other.)  Another favorite blog is Danger Garden.  Really, what’s not to love?

There are blogs for literally every topic under the sun.  I call this “my online mat space” for a reason.  It’s Bloga.©   OMG, I totally just coined a new word.  (And yes, I totally inserted that copyright mark for a reason.)

Since I posted last night about Dude, I’ve been feeling lighter.  Clearer.  More creative.  Better, certainly, than I have the past few months.  What could cause this?

Merriam-Wesbter defines catharsis as “the act or process of releasing a strong emotion (such as pity or fear) especially by expressing it in an art form.”  Ooooh.  Oh, quite.  Please and thank you.  Could I possibly be nudging myself into my Vortex of Attraction by sharing my personal life with anyone and everyone?  Is that wrong?  It sounds wrong to me.  But how can it be wrong when it feels so good?


Sometimes I so desperately need to express myself, but I just don’t feel like talking to anyone–not Loving Husband, not parents, not Dude, not sister-in-law, not best friends.  Bloga provides me that outlet.  Expressing myself through this blog feels like talking to Happy Dog:  I don’t necessarily need Bloga to say anything, only to listen.

Happy Dog

Bloga doesn’t judge or interrupt or offer suggestions or try to make me feel better.  I don’t mean to imply that Loving Husband, parents, Dude, sister-in-law or best friends judge or interrupt.  They do offer suggestions and try to make me feel better, which is loving and compassionate, and I appreciate it.  Sometimes.

But Bloga just is.  And sometimes that’s all I need.

think Zen thoughts

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . .

There goes my hero

I was taking my favorite back road home from Corvallis one day last week and thinking about lots of stuff–like what a gorgeous day it was, and how long it had been since I’d blogged, and how much I missed my brother in South Dakota (I was listening to the Foo Fighters–which always reminds me of him–at top volume), and, as usual, on top of it all, feeling supremely sorry for myself.  Pathetic, right?

So, with darling husband off on a business trip in San Diego this week,  I finally decided to open a bottle of wine, tackle all those things at once and write a post about my little brother, whom I adore and miss like crazy.  He just celebrated his 45th birthday, and it hurt that I wasn’t able to be with him to toss back probably more than a few whatevers, celebrating with him, my sister-in-law and our parents.  I’ve gotta tell you:  even with all the modern technology available that supposedly enables us to keep in touch with each other better than ever before–even Skype, which allows us to see each other while we’re talking–none of it is a remotely good substitute for actually being there.  My brother has this . . . presence.  And I just love being with him.

Though we have a lot in common, my brother and I are very different people.  I don’t think we look at all alike, but others tell us we do.


We had a similar upbringing–obviously–but had very different experiences as young adults.  My brother attended one university, had one major, joined a fraternity, partied like it was 1999, got engaged to a hippie chick but broke up before they graduated, married a different woman shortly after graduating, and then got divorced.

I attended four schools, declared two different majors, mocked frats and sororities, partied far less than my brother, graduated in . . . um . . . eight years, also got engaged and broke it off, then married someone else more than twenty years later.  Oh yeah, and I started two graduate programs at two different schools, neither of which I finished.  I could be a fucking doctor by now, but I only have a bachelor’s degree in geography to show for all those years of school.  My brother has the same degree from the same school, and he got his in five.

Like most big sisters, when we were kids, much of the time I hated my brother like poison.  He was a typical little brother:  following me everywhere, touching my things (imagine!) and being a general pain in the ass.

Dude & Mocha

You know how it is.  I wrote hateful things about him in my diary (what big sister didn’t?),  and once my dad read it and reprimanded me, seriously worried about what I’d written.  (I was maybe 10 or 11 at the time, by the way.  An ex-fiancé violated that privacy as well, years later, which literally caused me to throw out all the diaries and journals I’d kept up until about the age of 23.  God, how I wish I hadn’t done that.)

By the time I was in high school, we had become pretty good friends.  And when I went away to college, we both realized we missed each other a lot.

Beach sibs 1983

[Sigh.  I was so skinny back in the day.]  We worked a summer job together at Silver Lake Family Campground outside Haymarket, Virginia, cleaning up “goose poopies” and renting pedal-boats as part of our daily tasks, and listening to Purple Rain and When Doves Cry on the jukebox.   I withdrew from college at the beginning of my second year, worked full-time, then went on an extended trip to London with a friend and talked about how I might not come home.  More long-distance bonding with brother.

Then, in 1985, came the event that, I believe, guaranteed our permanent bond from that point forward:  my parents moved our family from northern Virginia to Rapid City, South Dakota.  (They bribed us with waterbeds.)  We moved within a few weeks of my return from London, offering me an opportunity to experience the culture shock of a lifetime.  Mom and dad drove in one car, and my brother and I drove in mine.  I was 19 at the time; he was 15.  I have a very clear memory of us driving across South Dakota on I-90, looking at each other, horrified, and asking, “What IS this place?  Where the HELL are mom and dad taking us?”

Amazingly, we both survived–although my brother, at his impressionable age, sometimes allowed himself to be swayed by the local trends


while I strictly adhered to a more cosmopolitan 80s fashion and hairstyle.

80s sibs

I commuted to a local college, and my brother finished high school.  After graduation, he left to attend the University of Wyoming.  Meanwhile, I transferred to my third school as an undergraduate, this time back in my home state of Pennsylvania.  He and I wrote to each other and talked on the phone a lot.  Somehow he convinced me not only to transfer–one last time–to UW, but to share an apartment as well.  It was during this time we started calling each other Dude.  To this day, I call him Dude.  And so I will refer to him as Dude from here on out.

For the longest time, I seemed to be the mature one.  Being the firstborn sibling, I was supposed to be the responsible one.  And for a while, I kinda was–in my mind, at least.  Dude was the frat boy, the partier, the rock climber, the shooter of paintballs–the one who got in trouble with mom and dad.  Though I was clearly incapable of committing to one school, I had always received high grades and rarely got in trouble.  That is, until I got engaged to George.  No one liked George:  neither my parents nor any of my friends thought him worthy.  But my brother stuck up for him–and for me.  And when I broke up with George–for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was him reading my journal without permission–Dude didn’t say “I told you so.”

A lot more long-distance bonding occurred when I supported him through the breakup of his first marriage.  As divorces go–especially since there were no children involved–it maybe wasn’t the most traumatizing one on the books.  But at the time, it was the end of the world as he knew it.  And he did NOT feel fine.  It was worse than awful for him, and I performed my role as Big Sister to the best of my ability from 1300 miles away.  But I regret not being able to actually Be. There. for him.  It’s really hard to only be able to offer a shoulder to cry on over the phone.

Christmas sibs

Since then, however, my brother and I seem to have switched roles.  He’s become the stable career professional, working his way up through the ranks of the U.S. Forest Service with co-workers who love and respect him.  He remarried and has lived in the same town for the past twenty years.

D & K

He bought his first house on his own after his divorce, and has almost completely remodeled the one he bought with my sister-in-law more than ten years ago.  He has never lost his job, experienced the humiliation of calls from a collection agency, or been on unemployment like yours truly.  He’s learned to hunt with a rifle and crossbow, successfully parents two dogs,


has owned a business and climbed Devil’s Tower, builds his own furniture and makes his own German sausage, and is a fabulous cook.  He doesn’t gain weight or need glasses, over-analyze, obsess over every little thing or live in the past.  He’s brilliant, irreverent, afraid of nothing, and he can make me laugh till I cry.


On the other hand, it took me eight years and four schools to finish a bachelor’s degree.  I’ve put myself in debt to attend graduate school and never finished, have owned four homes in three states, haven’t held a job for more than two years since 2007, been on unemployment twice in the past four years, work 19 hours a week for $12.56 an hour and haven’t had medical insurance since last summer.  I’ve struggled with my weight for the past twenty years and am more nearsighted than anyone I’ve ever met.  I question everything, beat myself up continually, feel like I can’t do anything right and usually wish I were anywhere but where I am.  And recently I yelled at my husband about how angry and resentful I am that he has a better job than me.  I’m a real prize, aren’t I?

Valerie the witch

I’ve posted this photo before:  as long as the shoe fits, I’ll continue to wear it.

The bottle’s almost empty, so before I start bawling all over myself, I need to let the Universe know how grateful I am for my family, Dude in particular.  I love him more than I can say, and I am unspeakably proud of the man he’s become and the life he’s built for himself.  There are days I miss him so much it makes me cry.

My brother has made an ordinary life extraordinary simply by living it and being who he is.


Valerie photo courtesy Act III Communication