Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Cereal Killers

Thanks for tuning in to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, heeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks,

I am happy to report, although bittersweetly, that I have completed my month-plus-long fostering of the kittens that came to me as "the serial killers" - and, I survived without a single stab or gunshot wound! I do have, however, many of the token, tiny kitten scratches on my legs as souvenirs. And I have a permanent mark on my heart.

The killers - so named because they were borderline feral, and bit a shelter worker when they first got in - have been reformed at Mother Catresa's Neville Island Sanctuary, where they paid their debt to society and became well-socialized. Now, Jeffrey, Ted and Lizzy (as in Dahmer, Bundy and Borden), await their forever homes at Animal Friends. To see pictures of them, go to http://www.thinkingoutsidethecage.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Animals_Cats, and go to the sixth page of the cat listings, where my three babies are listed consecutively (and if it's fewer than three, that's good news - it means they just got adopted). Trust me, these kittens are far too sweet to live up to their names!

Their littermate, Hanny (as in Hannibal Lecter) already got snapped up this weekend. He's the sweet little white guy with big black splotches, who looks like a dairy cow. He is just adorable and sweet, and I started calling him Hair-i-ball, or Hairy Hanny, because of the way he loved to play with hair. Either on me or guests, he would swat at hair, get tangled in it, and chew on it. It was funny to watch, and actually felt good when it was my hair Hanny was after. For a cannibal, Hanny sure was a darling kitty.

When I first got these kittens, I vowed to transform them from serial killers into simple "cereal killers" - as in, felines who love to devour the dry food kibble.

That they do, indeed. They love to feed. So now, someone special adopt my babies, I plead!

That makes me sound like Dr. Seuss, hehe.

But for now, I will simply be,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Monday, August 11, 2008

You'll Always Be My Kitten

Thanks for tuning in to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, heeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

You regularly hear all about the ongoing kitten comedy and drama in my life. But have I ever told you the deeply personal, heartfelt story about my "kitten song?"

I shared this story a few weeks ago with country music superstar Sara Evans, who sings said song: the powerful ballad "You'll Always Be My Baby." Now, I will share it with my readers. You may think it's corny, and perhaps it is a bit so, but for me, it's dear to my heart. So, please don't laugh - at least, within my earshot. :)

I interviewed Sara last month, as a preview to Downtown Pittsburgh's annual Dollar Bank Jamboree, for which she was the headliner. I had a strict time limit of 15 minutes on the phone with her, as she had back-to-back interviews that day. This limited my usual chit-chat time with the celebrity, and forced me to stick pretty closely to the business at hand. I did tell her, though, that I'm a big fan of hers, and that I have a personal story connected to so many of her songs, like the inspiring "Born to Fly," and the coming-of-age smash "Suds in the Bucket." And then, there's "You'll Always Be My Baby" - now, that's quite the story. I had a feeling she would never have heard this one before, with the kitten factor.

"I'm sure you hear anecdotes about your songs all the time," I told Sara.

"Yes, I do - but it never gets old," she replied.

I told her that we had no time for me to share those stories with her - and, frankly, in the fishbowl that is my newsroom office, I felt too awkward anyway, given that my colleagues could hear me. So, I said, I will tell you in person at the show's meet and greet.

And then, a week later, the moment arrived: the long-awaited meet and greet with one of my favorite singers of all time. I talk to celebrities regularly in my job as an entertainment writer, but I still feel star-struck at times - and this was one of them.

I groaned when I went backstage, and saw the huge line of some 50 fans waiting to meet Sara, whose tour managers were instructing us to make it speedy, get just a quick snapshot and autograph, and then be on our way. No, I thought! No, I have to tell her my kitten song story. I have to! So, I put myself at the very back of the line, so I could steal a few more moments with her. Whenever more people would come in, I would let them go ahead, then go to the back of the line again.

Finally, I made it up to Sara. I told her who I was, hugged her, told her the show was outstanding, handed her my CD, and posed for a picture.

"Hey Sara!" I then said. "Remember how I told you I had stories to tell you about your songs? Well, I have one that I just gotta tell. Can you give me just one minute? Please?

"ONE minute," Sara said, grinning as she glanced at her watch as if she were timing me.

Alright, Kellie, what's the story about this kitten song already??? What on earth did you tell Sara??? Enough suspense!!!

"I foster kittens for an animal shelter, and it is so hard to let them go when it's time," I said. Sara's eyes softened with that tender, "aaawwww, how sweet" look people often get when I talk about the kittens.

"Before I take them back to the shelter, I hold them close to my heart, cradle them, and sing them a lyric from 'You'll Always Be My Baby.' It's so beautiful and maternal, and it says what I'm feeling so eloquently," I said, as my eyes misted.

Here is the lyric, which I recited for her:

"Whatever road you may be on,
Know you're never too far gone.
My love is there, wherever you may be ...
Just remember that you'll always be my baby."

"Ohhhh!" Sara said, visibly moved. "That's amazing! So sweet. Thanks so much for sharing that with me."

I looked up, and saw that someone was filming us. "Wait," I said, "what's this? Am I on camera? Gosh, I should have fixed my hair!"

As it turns out, her fan club manager was filming our interaction, and supposedly it may be posted on Sara's fan club Web site. I'll have to join, so I can see it.
"It's OK," Sara said. "You look beautiful."

What a sweetheart - especially given that I was ending a long, sticky day in the sun and probably looked pretty crappy.

I watched as Sara smiled warmly, said goodbye, turned, and strolled off to her tour bus with her new husband, Jay Barker - a former University of Alabama football hunk with gorgeous blue eyes, who I also got to meet.

Thank you, God, I thought. Thank you.

What an incredible experience. I will remember it for the rest of my life.

And I hope that, despite the thousands of fans Sara meets, that she, too, never forgets this one.

So there you have it - the story of my kitten song. You should buy Sara's album and listen to it sometime. It's a beauty.

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Just An Instrument

Thanks for tuning in to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, heeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

"I CAME!" said a friendly female voice.

I had just arrived at Animal Friends for my Sunday afternoon cat-greeter shift, and was entering the front desk area when I heard those words. I turned to glance at the smiling woman, who looked familiar and seemed to be talking specifically to me. Do I know you, I thought? (Gosh, I hope it wasn't that "America's Most Wanted" episode I saw Saturday night ...)

"Remember? Bob Evans," said the woman, whose name is Jessica. "I waited on your table."

Bob Evans?? Oh, yes, now I remember! Indeed - last Sunday night, at the McKnight Road restaurant, with some friends. And yes, my waitress actually did come to Animal Friends to adopt a kitten I told her about!

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit - people sometimes really do follow up on those "you should check it out" conversations with strangers!

As y'all know, the subject of kittens tends to come up very easily in conversations with me. (The election? That's like these two totally different kittens I have who hiss at each other. Relationship/emotional woes? Kitten therapy can work wonders. Iraq? Gee, it would be neat to have a litter of kittens with Arabic names. Gas prices? Well, foster a litter of kittens, so you won't want to leave the house anyway. American Idol? Gosh, if my kittens were auditioning, I think their song would be "Stray Cat Strut," or maybe "I Did It My Way." Constipation? Oh, if only my kittens had your problem ... just kidding.)

Yeah, yeah, you get the picture. And so it was when I was having dinner at this Bob Evans. I was chatting with the waitress, and somehow the subject of pets came up. She said she and her family wanted a female kitten. I said, "Oh, you should go to Animal Friends on Camp Horne Road. I just left there, and we have this litter of, like, six girls and one boy. And they all have these cool Africa names, like Zaire, Congo and Tripoli. Can you dig it?"

I didn't give it much mind, but there she was, a week later, with her hubby and two cute little kids. Sure enough, they took home an adorable tortoiseshell named Egypt. The little girls - both the human and kitten - looked so happy.

Oh, what a satisfying feeling it is to orchestrate a match like this! But, I'll give credit where credit's due: thank you, God, for putting us in the right place at the right time. Mother Catresa is just an instrument of the grand conductor.

Too bad I don't work on commission ...

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")