Overheard in a Thrift Shop

discount store

Tuesday is Rescue Story Day, but it’s been a while since I’ve posted this poem about rescues and about life, literally written from a conversation I overheard in a thrift shop.  

Overheard in a Thrift Shop

© 2010 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Oh, look at this yellow lab painting, it’s so nice. I’ve always liked yellow labs. I have one now.

I don’t have a dog, but I wish I could.

Well, I always said I wouldn’t get a dog unless it was a rescue,
so I probably wouldn’t get a yellow lab,
but this dog came from a neighbor’s daughter
her brother had been feeding the dog—
she had twelve puppies.

Twelve puppies?!

Yes, and they all lived.
The owner put them all outside
and he probably never fed her right.
The boys found her and started taking her food.
Their sister found out
and went and told the guy she was taking the dog and the puppies.
He didn’t care.

Well, how did you get the dog?

Well, this girl, she was only 17,
but she knew right from wrong,
and she found homes for a few puppies and took the rest to the shelter.
She got the mother spayed and things were fine,
then she was killed in a car accident.

Oh, my!

Her father took care of the dog, but then he went to jail.

Oh, no. So did you take the dog?

I offered to keep the dog until he got out;
it’s a short sentence—
he’ll be out later this year.

Bless your heart!
Are you sure he wants the dog?

He already asked about her.
Think it has to do with losing his daughter.
I mean, she was only 17, and killed in an accident.

Shame.

I’m sure the cat will miss the dog too. They’re friends.

You have a cat too?
You sure got a full house.

Yeah, the cat belonged to my daughter-in-law,
she got him for the boys,
but after a year or so, the cat started to pee on the boys’ things,
they were going into puberty, you know,
I think it was that hormonal thing.
She tried everything, but the cat wouldn’t stop.
She gave him to a neighbor, an older man
who lived by himself,
and the man kept the cat in the basement with a litterbox and food and water.
Then the man told me the cat was getting some litter on the floor.
That’s okay, I told him, just sweep it up, it’s probably clean.
Then the cat started coming upstairs,
and he told me it was pushing his golf balls around.
That’s okay, I said, that’s playful.
Then he said the cat woke him up in the morning, he touched his nose to the man’s,
and I said, just give the cat to me.

Bless your heart! You are a soft touch.

Yeah, I don’t know how it will be when the dog goes,
but he lives close, I’ll be able to see her,
and I’ll be ready to take her back at any time.
At least I’ll have my cat.

This was a conversation between two people which I overheard, secretly taking notes, as I was browsing the overcrowded racks of a local thrift shop after dropping off some dishes for donation. The rhythm of a conversation between two people who know each other well and working in tandem, in this case the cashier and a volunteer who were unpacking and tagging things, has a rhythm of its own built on the familiarity of the two people, and can often sound like poetry, so instead of my initial idea for a short story based on their conversation, I wrote it up as verse.

Honest, open, unguarded conversation between two people is so precious.

I showed the cashier my writing later and asked if she minded if I published her story in this way. She was fine with the idea and told her friend, the volunteer. The cashier and I have since become friends.

cat rug

The cat rug (folded).

I was determined not to purchase anything when I dropped off my donations, but right inside the door was this feline-themed rug…and I was hooked. These are nice to have around the house, and often I use them in my displays at shows or festivals, indoors or out, especially if I’m on concrete. They also come in handy as donation items to benefit shelters and animal organizations. Since this one looks completely new, that may be its fate, my way of thanking the universe for giving me this poem.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Creating With Cats: A Clever Pillow, or Two

swatch from fabric

Detail of fabric, "Cats on Vacation" by Andover Fabrics.

Where do you suppose these two are going? Totally distracted during a conversation, I had to know what this fabric was all about.

I stopped in at Distinctively Different Decor & More yesterday to discuss business and fun with Bonita. As she was pulling swatches of fabrics and beaded trims for her current decorating and upholstery projects in her workroom, I really was distracted by this swatch laying quietly on the other end of her large worktable.

    "Cats on Vacation" by Andover Fabrics.

"Cats on Vacation" by Andover Fabrics.

Partly the combination of bright colors and partly the intriguing arrangement of the figures, the overall look reminded me of one of those colorful cotton tablecloths from the late 1940s printed with fruits and figures and things which I collect, but I also saw cats on it and had to know what Bonita intended to do with it.

tiger stripe envelope pillow

One of Bonita's envelope pillows with lots of trim binding and fringe.

Apparently, it will become two of her large stuffed sofa or floor pillows to add to the collection in her shop, The Studio, where she features gift items of her own creation plus those of other artisans, including me.

Aside from her other talents in textile design, sewing and upholstering, Bonita is the queen of pillows. And while she uses florals and textures and colors to create both simple and highly decorated styles, I always notice the animal prints, especially the stripes and spots as in this envelope pillow made of densely woven fabric that is dimensionally textured along the stripes, with coordinating satin binding around the sides and dense short fringe on the “flap”.

set of pawprint pillows

Pawprint floor pillows.

This flap closes with a wooden button that actually works as all of her pillows are made for use by people with pets and the covers are removable for washing. Bonita lives with six rescued cats of all stripes and colors.

This set of 18″ floor pillows in sturdy pawprint fleece is a little simpler, just a big stuffed square with a zipper closure on one edge, but all pillows are stuffed with an inner pillow that holds the filling so you don’t have the batting popping out when you open it to wash the cover.

decorated lamp

The animal-print lamp.

Detail of lampshade.

Detail of lampshade.

Animal prints aren’t reserved for only pillows as I’ve seen tablecloths and upholstered items come and go, and Bonita was also very pleased to present a project she’d recently finished that was in the planning stages for at least three years, a lamp that she’d custom painted to match the colors in the—yes, leopard print—fabric she used on the shade. For extra interest, this fabric also has a slightly “furry” texture that I couldn’t resist touching. She can’t resist the addition of satin binding here either as it softens the inner angles of the lamp base where the fluted curves meet.

In her support of rescued cats, Bonita also donates things she makes to shelter events, and always has a basket for pet food donations in her shop. It seems many of her customers are pet lovers as well!

donation basket for pet food

Donation basket for pet food.

You can visit Bonita’s website at Distinctively Different Decor & More.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Pet Parents Day Painting Party Supports WPHS!

western pennsylvania humane society logo

WPHS logo

First of all, HAPPY PET PARENTS DAY this Sunday to all those lucky enough to share their lives with loving animal companions.

Second, celebrate Pet Parents Day AND help the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society with ceramics for the Pittsburgh Pet Parents Day Painting Party! Celebrate your best friend while helping other pets find their forever homes.

As a fundraiser for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, Heal from Pet Loss and Color Me Mine are hosting a painting party on Sunday, April 29 from noon to 6 PM.

color me mine logo

Color Me Mine logo.

Paint a cool food bowl, treat jar, picture frame or memorial plaque for your special animal companion. $15 covers painting and firing time, refreshments, treat bag and a donation to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. There will be a wide range of pieces to choose from to accommodate various price ranges.

Color Me Mine is located at 5887 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15217, Squirrel Hill. Call 412-421-2909 today to reserve your two hour block of time. We may be able to accommodate walk-ins on a space available basis, but pre-register to guarantee your spot!

You are welcome to bring your well-behaved pet and enjoy an outing together.

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

As part of the fundraiser, Karen Litzinger will be doing a CD signing of the award-winning Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet with profits going to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Consider having one on hand to give as a sympathy gift to a dear animal lover friend or family member.

Karen Litzinger, author of Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet is a sponsor and organizer of this event. I’ve written about her and her wonderful CD several times on The Creative Cat in Heal Your Heart and in A Remarkable CD and Guidebook. Karen’s website is Heal From Pet Loss.

Pet Parents Day was founded by VPI Pet Insurance and this year is offering free e-cards to send to Pet Parents.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is an open-door shelter on Pittsburgh’s North Side serving over 14,000 animals every year. In addition to providing shelter for every animal presented regardless of how it arrived, they provide low-cost spay and neuter and veterinary clinic services, dog training and owner education for any animal parent, humane investigations of animal abuse and cruelty cases, pet loss counseling groups and fun events of all sorts for animals and the people who love them. I donate to them and write about them regularly; read about them here on The Creative Cat.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Think Ahead for Mother’s and Father’s Day Commissioned Portraits

sample certificate

Sample Portrait Gift Certificate

If you’re thinking of a custom portrait as a gift for someone for Mother’s or Father’s Day, let’s get started now! From our beginning conversations to shipping the finished framed portrait to you takes about four weeks, and we’ll be just in time for Mother’s Day if we start now.

I also remind people that “pet parents” are parents as well and qualify for gifts in honor of these two holidays, so why not celebrate with a gift from your animal children?

While a custom commissioned portrait is a really unique gift, sometimes you can’t get the photos or you’d rather let the recipient design the portrait they want. I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination, but usually suggest $125.00 because it is the basic cost of a portrait, one subject in an area of about 10″ x 12″ depending on the subject matter. (The recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.)

portrait of kids and cats

For Our Grandparents, from 1992

How about all the children together, animal and human?

And even though I specialize in animals, I also paint people, and several times have painted portraits of people and their pets. I only have a few samples because some customers have requested privacy when the subjects were children and others haven’t given permission to be on the internet.

How the certificate works

The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards. The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.

If you need your certificate in a hurry, let me know when you make your purchase, give me the name of the recipient and the holiday/event if any and I’ll e-mail you PDFs of the certificate, thank you letter and brochure so that you can print them out or forward them in e-mail. Please make sure you give me the e-mail where you want to receive them, especially if they are a surprise!

portrait of cat

Christie on her warm towel.

Prices are quoted per job, and include only the drawing (no mat or framing; this is extra, see below). Portraits start at $125.00 per subject for a color 8″ x 10″; prices increase according to size and complexity of work. Adding a background, extra objects (toys, etc.) and additional subjects are extra according to their complexity. I reserve the right to limit the content according to the finished size so that the subjects don’t become so small that details are impossible. And remember, I can only do so much with some photographs!

Framing is charged as a separate item, and we can discuss the framing when you contract for your portrait.

portrait of two cats and a dog

Shadow, Casey and Ralph, a mother's day gift.

Certificate can be used for other subjects as well

Animal artwork is not limited to pictures of your own pets, but may include pictures of any sort—wildlife images, for instance. In addition to portraits of your pets, I also offer portraits of your people, your house, or any other item of which you may want a portrait. I can always hold on to a portrait until a holiday, birthday or other event arrives, and I can keep a secret if the portrait is a gift.

You are helping a long list of animal shelters and rescues

Your purchase of a certificate supports many shelters and animal welfare organizations because I also donate at least a half dozen certificates to benefit auctions every year where all proceeds of the sale go directly to the organization; your purchase helps me cover the costs of creating original art for the winners of these certificates. I’m always pleased to see they auction for more than their face value—in this way, I can “give” more to the organizations than I ever could in cash.

carol and smudge

Carol and Smudge

Read about portraits and look at samples

You can read more about custom commissioned portraits on this site by clicking the tab at the top for Commissioned Pet Portraits and from there follow the links to my website.

You can also read stories about portraits on The Creative Cat, including progress images of more recent portraits and stories of portraits I’ve done in the past.
Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Commissioned Cat Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

To go directly to the Gift Certificate on my website, click here, or go to my Portraits of Animals shop on Etsy.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Feline Stress Relief

two black cats on lap

Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine on a day when I apparently need a little more stress relief.

Giuseppe took a beating from me yesterday, picked up and squeezed, flipped over and pummeled, his skin pulled and kneaded in great handfuls, even his ears and tail and legs pulled and stretched in different directions.

But he’s a big sturdy kitty and can take this sort of treatment, understanding that this is sometimes the consequence of being on mom’s lap near the end of an overloaded week on a somewhat stressful day—for her at least. He actually enjoyed it, purring heartily all the while and sitting up expectantly on my lap, waiting for the next round of manipulations.

three cats on lap

Cookie, Kelly and Mimi make the day easier.

I often say I’m grateful for sharing my life with animals and with cats especially, and with these cats in particular, and this is one reason why—they understand what I’m doing and I think they even show up just when I need them to.

After more than 30 years of typing, first on typewriters, then as a typesetter on a computer keyboard beginning in the early 80s, I have no small amount of twinges and stiffness and minor damage to the muscles, nerves and tendons in my hands. Add to this the art and craft, painting, framing, crocheting and even gardening and home repairs, and my hands take quite a beating. I am as careful as possible never to push them beyond limits I recognize. What would I do without my hands?

When I’m feeling the effects of overuse in my hands, what better to do than pet a cat? Stretching my fingers and palms and stroking soft fur is soothing to both my hands and my self, their energy seeping up into my palms and fingers, mine released and dissipated into their fur as their warmth eases tired, cramped muscles, especially when simply I tuck my hands completely underneath them, and they begin to purrrrrr…………..

two black cats on lap

Giuseppe and Mewsette provide double the relaxing purrs.

And on a day in a short week where two large projects have overlapped, several jobs need to meet deadlines and situations arise and things aren’t getting done and there’s an issue with another project and the phone is ringing off the hook and there just isn’t enough time for it all, Giuseppe has stretched himself across my lap and I am using the loose skin along his back and neck as a living stress ball, kneading him as if he is bread dough, folding sections of skin against the palm of my left hand and then my right in turn, much the same way he kneads me when he is so inclined.

I talk to a customer, enforcing the schedule for printing and that we can’t wait until next week to finish something, it has to be today, holding the phone with my left hand and calmly talking while I gently pull on the tips Giuseppe’s long pointed ears with my right, first one ear, then the other; he pushes himself up on his elbows and tilts his head in anticipation, kneading my skirt vigorously with his front paws, squinting and purring.

Then I practice my drumming on his abdomen while I think through a design problem while the customer is waiting for the proof and I can’t come up with an idea, keeping time and beating out patterns with my fingertips and the day is flying by while Giuseppe air kneads.

photo of peaches on my lap

Peaches guarding mom's lap.

Several things completed in short order, calls to printers to check scheduling, calls from customers who will be off for Good Friday, all resolved for the moment, I sit back as Giuseppe has rolled over onto his back with my occasional drumming so I can drum on his belly and chest, but I stop drumming and shove my hands underneath him, enjoying the warmth and rumble of his purr on my hands and wrists and wiggle my fingers underneath him, causing him to wriggle in joy and wave his legs around in the air.

Then I slide my arms under him and pick him up and squeeze him against me, kissing him on the cheek and forehead and making questionable noises into his chest and belly. He licks my face and gets his paws tangled in my hair. I set him down and begin kneading again and tell him it’s time to get the heck away from this computer for a while. I know he understands me, whether it’s because this particular phrase is always followed by me standing up and heading for the kitchen or somewhere else that is not my desk or he truly understands me when I’m speaking which I don’t doubt, but he is up on my desk waving his tail happily, reaching a paw for me and ready for the next activity, whatever that may be. He is energized by this, knowing he’s played an important role in my day and helped me in a way only he can. Giuseppe is very pleased with himself.

holding two black cats on lap

Petting two black cats at once on a very busy day.

The day is not over, nor is it the first or last day of this nature, and I freely admit that I enjoy the excitement of it all, most of the time. It’s what I accepted along with choosing to work at home in this field. I am truly grateful to the generations of understanding cats who feel it’s part of their life’s mission to help mom get through the day and who enjoy it as much as me.

Here are a few other posts including cats on my lap—that one-handed photography is a real trick!

And when they can’t fit on my lap or I move around too much they provide stress relief right on my desk, like Giuseppe’s performance the other day!

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Mimi This Morning

black cat on table

Mimi This Morning

Last year on this day, I fell in love. Or I realized I had fallen in love long before. Surely, when kittens are tiny, momcat doesn’t mind if her babies get the spotlight, a friend was interested in adopting Mimi when the kittens were weaned, and I think Mimi was not of the mind to have her heart broken again by a human. When Mimi arrived with her babies on July 29, 2007 we had a history, and weren’t sure we had a future. But we looked at each other that morning and realized we had forever.

It’s not any special day, just a nice sunny morning on a day I get to stay home all day to work.

Mimi follows me all around the first floor of my house, up and down the steps a few times, then settles into the bathroom as I take my shower and get ready for the day, talking to me in her little “eep!” and “meee…” noises. Mimi is petite and beautiful, but her voice is kind of an afterthought.

Sometimes you just love a kitty at first sight, but sometimes it sneaks up on you later. That would be Mimi and me.

At every opportunity, I reach out to pet her, pull playfully on the end of her tail, answer her comments and invite her to come along with me in what I’m doing. She hardly needs the invitation as she stops to wrap herself around my legs, jumps up on a counter and reaches out to touch me, give me head butts me wherever she can and rubs her face on me, making full, extended, direct eye contact whenever possible. Later she settles on my keyboard shelf nestling her little bottom against my right wrist, stubbornly refusing to adjust her position for my typing comfort, meaning that half of what I type must be deleted and retyped.

Prior to her coming to my house she and I had actually had a few conflicts as she constantly hunted in my back yard to take live kill to her endless kittens, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mimi came to me with her babies, and I admit I gave nearly all my attention to them—and who wouldn’t, seeing four perfect little black kittens…especially after having recently lost one of her other perfect black kittens?

But though I interacted with the kittens more often than Mimi, I didn’t insist that she stay with her babies and let her wander the house at will. She quietly and carefully explored, having no conflict with my other four cats, settling on the floor by the front door where it was cooler that August to rest her belly after nursing. Then she’d gracefully jump onto the end of my desk and tiptoe to the center where I was, carefully walking among Namir, Cookie, Peaches and Kelly, and finding a tiny spot for herself, rolling herself into a compact black ball, not to sleep, but to spend time with us as I worked.

What a nice kitty, I remember thinking, though she rarely interacted with me directly. Her former owner had told me she had been kind of distant, and this is what I saw of her. A friend was interested in adopting her when the kittens were weaned so I kept note of her personality to tell her future person, and not to be concerned if she wasn’t a lap cat.

As time has passed, I guess Mimi had the same realization as Cookie years ago, that she wasn’t going to be tossed back out, that she actually belonged here, and she began spending more time with me, and I continued to admire her petite figure and natural grace and encouraged her to join me. Then she began to seriously play and also assist me in daily tasks, following me, talking to me, and now and then sitting on my lap, though with three senior kitties those opportunities were few and far between. After raising six litters of kittens, Mimi is nothing if not patient.

When Peaches was still here, Mimi joined the senior girls to eat and hang out, though she’s hardly a senior with the need of extra meals, but to let me know she was “special”. She became one of my ladies in waiting along with Cookie and Kelly, and always sleeps next to me on the bed every night. She’s had time and space to develop her personality, learn to be a fun kitty, and trust a human, and though she’s still petite and quiet, she’s hardly the kitty who came in the box with her babies.

I have found homes for dozens of kittens and cats over the years. After a certain period of time, over a year perhaps, foster kitties stop being foster kitties for me and end up being permanent kitties unless I am keeping them for someone, as I did in keeping Dickie for my niece for a year. I love and care for them before that, but end up falling in love with all my kitties at some point, fosters or not.

So Mimi and I decided this is a serious thing, and that we really more than like each other. I know that kitty look that says, “thank you,” and the one that says, “I love you.” Does it balance out the losses suffered from living with so many cats? Perhaps, but it also adds another unique gem on the strand of the feline loves in my life.

Love at first sight is sweet, but sometimes realizing a perfect love has been there all along is much sweeter and long-lasting. This morning, Mimi sits on my keyboard shelf with her little fanny on my right wrist making it difficult to type well, but this is our thing. You know how it is when you’re in love.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Another From the Lost Sketchbook, Cookie Awakens: 2010

pencil sketch of cat on bed

Cookie Awakened, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Look what we have here! A sketch of Cookie—from years ago, found in a sketchbook I’d packed away because all the sheets were used.

Here’s what I had to say about “the lost sketchbook” when I found it two years ago:

I’ve been working my way through my desk and studio, cleaning up and organizing, and in my studio I found a sketchbook I’d used years ago.

These are examples of the quick sketches I do to awaken my creative senses during the day. This was the sketchbook I kept at my desk in order to have it handy for quick sketches. All the sketches are of my cats except for the bird’s nest at the end, and all are pencil, my favorite medium.

So these are daily sketches I did years ago, not as consistently as I do today, though.

Cookie is never unhappy about being awakened, she’s just wondering what the heck I want, and if I’m just going to sit there staring at her and not even pet her, if she shouldn’t just go back to sleep. She did just that.

Cookie is a tortoiseshell calico, and her body mostly black but is speckled all over with orange. I didn’t want to work that much detail into this, but I did include the most distinguishing characteristic about Cookie—her half-and-half face. One side is black with orange freckles, and the other side is orange with tabby markings and black freckles. The split begins on her upper lip and runs all the way back to her shoulder blades in an almost completely straight line!

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Click here to see other daily sketches.

For a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

Read about the reason for the daily sketches in The Artist’s Life: Daily Sketches.

And read about purchasing them and requesting them as a donation item for your shelter or rescue group in The Artist’s Life: Daily Sketches for Sale and Donation.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.