Friday, November 19, 2021

My Sweet Oreo

 Nearly twelve years ago (December 2009), I looked out the window and saw two little kittens and a mama cat in our flower bed. They were probably dumped on the road near our house. They may have been living on their own for a couple of weeks by the time I saw them and were scared to death of everything.  I tried to catch them, but they would run away whenever I got too close.

I put food out on our front porch every morning and every evening. I could see out the window that they were eating the food.  I studied up on feral cats and found a website called Alley Cats which told about something called TNR (Trap.Neuter.Return). I decided I would try to trap them so they could be checked out and neutered. I bought a couple of traps, borrowed a third one, and set them up. It made me so absolutely nervous because I realized that I would probably only have one chance to get all three.

I set the three traps up on my front porch and hoped for the best.  I was so elated when a couple of hours later I had a cat in each of the traps. We put them in the garage to wait for morning. I took the traps into my veterinarian's office.  The cats were checked out, neutered/spayed, and given various immunizations.  The vet's office transferred them into some large crates I brought them, from when my standard poodles were small.

Luckily I had a Suburban and when I put the seats down I was able to transport all three crates home. They had to stay in their crates for 24 hours before I could let them out.

Each year I would go through the process of getting them in a crate and taking them off to the vet for their annual exams. 

The little cat family continued to stay around and I continued to feed them twice a day. When I would go out of town, I would hire a pet sitter or ask my neighbor to feed them for me.

After nearly ten months of daily feeding, I was finally able to touch them softly while they were eating.

A long, slow process of trust was beginning.

One year we screened in our patio to save us from stray golf balls and mosquitoes. I could prop both screen doors open so the cats would have a safe place to get out of inclement weather.  They seemed to enjoy that.

Because they were still free to come and go, one night in April of 2014, Socks (the female kitten) disappeared. I was so upset. I put signs up and hunted for her far and wide. Eventually, I realized that she was probably killed by a coyote when she ventured outside the fence.

During the years, I seemed to "collect" lost and dumped cats, which I then trapped to get "fixed." There was Gray (who was found dead in a neighbor's yard a few weeks later, of an unknown cause), there was Socks (who disappeared in 2014), Mama Cat (who died of cancer in my arms in 2019), there was Rags (who was killed by a fox, also in 2019), and then there was Oreo, Midnight and Pepper. Each year I would go through the process of getting them in a crate and taking them off to the vet for their annual exams. 

When Rags was killed by a fox early one morning and Midnight was visibly shaken, I decided that I couldn't take these "killings."  So.... I decided to put the remaining cats in my screened porch permanently.

The first night I lured them in and closed the doors, they were quite upset when they realized they couldn't get out. That night, Midnight "busted" out through the cardboard I had put over the screen door.

The next day, I went to the hardware store and purchased some "cat proof" screens and hired a guy to attach them to the two doors.  Then I crossed my fingers that the rest of the screen was strong enough to withstand their attacks.

After about a month, they all settled down and seemed to adjust to their new life.  Each morning and each evening, I open the door to the house and let them come in.  Oreo and Pepper were always the first ones to charge in and run around the house to get exercise.  Midnight was much more frightened of everything. He eventually comes in, just more cautiously.

Oreo seemed to really like the house.  He explored and ran up and down the stairs. Most mornings, he would jump up into my lap while I was eating my breakfast.

Even though Oreo loved the house and being able to sit in my lap, he still loved his "catico." He would sit by the fire on cold nights, watch out the big screen windows at the birds, or just move around and try out the various beds and hide-outs.

Oreo was my "vocal" cat.  He would call out to me when he thought it was time to open the door and let him in. He would call to me when he thought it was time for a short nap in my lap. He would "yell" at Midnight and Pepper when they were in his way. 

When he began to get sick, he often curled up in his "igloo" bed.  His "vocals" were less frequent. He basically stopped eating most foods. I offered him ten different "wet" foods in the beginning, including tuna and sardines which he would smell and walk away. After that I ended up rotating 28 different dry foods.... six at a time. That kept him eating for more meals, until there was nothing left for him to try.

I miss that little "boss," and I hate the silence.

RIP my little buddy.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Spring Break

Because we are still trying to adhere to the Covid protocols, spring break for my Austin granddaughters was a visit to Tyler. The first thing we do when the girls hit town is to make a trip to the public library. On Serena’s previous visit in the fall, we got in the midst of a drama as we were patiently standing in a short line to check out our books. 

As you may be able to see in the photo, there is an opening from the lobby, where you stand in line to check out books, to the second floor.
That day, a male teen threw down a couple of books from the second floor which landed with a loud slap on the floor right in front of Serena.

We both jumped!

The teen then ran down the stairs and out the door of the library with a book under his arm. The security guard was sent after him and a call was made to the police. 

I was upset because I realized how close we were to Serena getting hit with a book. And, of course, Serena was upset.

Once outside, we watched as the kid was trying to unlock a bicycle chained to a post, while the police were arriving. It was quite the drama, which Serena talked about the rest of her visit. 

Well, on this trip, we all went upstairs to find a book for Kendall. Kendall and I were busy in the stacks looking for books. 

When we finished, we heard Serena’s voice down below in the lobby. I leaned over the railing and said, “Serena, what are you doing down there?!” 

She had evidently turned left when we turned right and as she wandered through the stacks, Kendall and I were immersed in our own search. Serena said she couldn’t find us and she was afraid to go down the stairs so she found a man who was sitting at a desk and asked him to help her find her family. He took her downstairs to the front desk and after talking to her, the librarians were planning to get on the loudspeaker to get our attention. 

It was only later, in the car on the way home, that we realized how frightened Serena had been. Then, I began to realize that it could have been much more serious. I said, “Serena, if a stranger had tried to take you, would you have screamed?” She said, “No, because it’s a library and you have to be quiet.” Oh, dear… we then had a lesson on screaming even if it is a library in case a stranger tried to take her. 

After we got home, Kendall immediately started reading her book and Serena and I continued to talk about her library experience. 

The girls chose the dinners each night from a list. 

Sunday night was Macaroni and Almost Cheese.  Whenever Kendall has visited us by herself, we made a habit of eating dinner in front of the TV while we watched two half-hour episodes of Modern Family.

We decided to see whether Serena could do that on this visit. I did set up a high chair for her as she has a tendency to jump out of her seat a number of times during a meal. She agreed to the terms.

We were all amazed that for such a talker and wiggle worm, she sat and watched two episodes while eating and never said a word!

She was also very careful about not spilling anything on the carpet during our TV/Meals – except for one night when she decided to unlatch the tray from her high chair while her dishes were still there. Luckily, I caught everything – except the orange/kale smoothie she still had left!

Monday, the sun was out and the girls were eager to go swimming. The pool water was a brisk sixty-five degrees and I had been unable to get the pool heater to work.

We had a nice lunch by the pool and Kendall enjoyed a little sunbathing time before deciding to get wet.

When they did decide to get wet, it was quite a shock!

Tuesday morning, Serena and I went to the personal gym and worked out with Ms. Lisa. Serena loves working out and getting so much attention from Lisa. She worked circles around me and when we left, she was still full of energy!

Kendall is doing an internship with a Justice organization and had a couple of hour-long Zoom calls that morning. Then she spent quite a bit of time on her computer trying to get her assignment done – looking up some of the Texas “house” bills and trying to write down the parts that needed to be shared with others.  What tedious work for a teenager!

Tuesday afternoon, we made a trip out to the Wild Tiger Sanctuary where we walked around and looked at the tigers who had been rescued from abusive situations.

And, maybe the tortoises were rescued as well.

The girls enjoying the sunshine.

Wednesday was cleaning day! My cleaning ladies just say, “Muy bonita!” over and over to the girls.

Kendall took Serena on a long walk into the back country and they came home with muddy shoes and talk of their great adventure.  They must have walked 2 or 3 miles.

Later, Rick took them on another walk, and of course, there were golf cart rides.

On Thursday morning, Serena and I went to the Cotton Belt Railroad Depot Museum.  

Included in the museum's collection are four large model train layouts, photographs, uniforms, hats, etc. that have been donated by former employees of the railroad, rail fans, and friends of the depot.

Those things were interesting, but the "hands-on" trains were much more fun.

On Friday, modeling day had finally arrived. Serena loves modeling almost as much as she loves working out with Miss Lisa.

The Models...

Kendall is really good about playing and entertaining Serena. Here they are working a jig-saw puzzle.

Of course, Kendall loves her quiet reading time.

A sandwich recipe that Serena told us about... avocado, spinach, cucumbers and pickles!

It is always so quiet around the house once they leave. 😞

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Virtual Group for Women

It seems that the #1 complaint of women is their body size (after their hair complaints, of course). Coming towards the end of our world wide lock-down, it seems like a good time to address that weight issue.

The women I’ve talked to are eager to lose between 10 and 60 pounds. Many of them say they want to be reasonable, so they will just say they want to lose 10 pounds; that way the goal won’t seem too onerous. After all, 90% of these women have been in numerous weight loss programs before and they know it’s easy to lose that first 10 pounds. Of course, once the program is over and they are back to their regular habits, those 10 pounds come back and usually bring another 5 pounds with them.

As one woman told me, “I know exactly how to gain weight, but I don’t seem to know how to lose it.”

“I’ve gone to Weight Watcher’s and Metabolic Weight Loss and I got so sick of chicken breasts I could die,” they tell me. Then they’ve tried exercise of all kinds, such as walking, jogging, half-marathons, Camp Gladiator Workouts, and even Cross Fit. They got stronger and in better shape, but they didn’t lose much weight.

The truth is, you cannot maintain a diet that keeps you hungry. One of your most powerful instincts is to avoid starvation. The only diet that can be sustained – by anyone – is a diet that allows you to eat until you are full and, at the same time, promotes weight loss and good health. ~Dr. John McDougall


What would be possible?

  • Could you stop feeling bad about yourself because you have failed so many times?
  • Could  you finally buy clothes you love?
  • Could  you feel more confident and project a new look?
  • Could you find romance (if you’re looking)?
  • Could you be a role model of health for your kids or grandkids?
  • Could you finally quit struggling with your weight?

I’m going to let you in on a secret.

With over a decade of writing, coaching, and enabling women just like you, I know that each of these are possible RIGHT NOW.  There’s a simple formula that I have used for designing a healthy, weight loss program that can then become the most energizing, creative, and valuable asset in your life.


What in the world is a “virtual club,” you may be asking.

It is a little bit like a Facebook group, only much better.  There is a dedicated APP that we can use to privately communicate with one another.  Women who have been living this lifestyle for years can root for you and encourage you.  Women who are completely new to this lifestyle can learn all about it.  Everyone can gather new recipes and meal planning strategies.

Because this is a “whole new world,” we can make it up as we go along and support one another.

Please note: June 1st is the actual starting date, and I would love to have you join me as a Charter Member.  Give it a couple of months to flesh out, and I hope you will decide to continue on as a member.  However, once you have given it a fair trial, you are welcome to drop out if it doesn’t fit you.  You may cancel your membership anytime before your next monthly billing cycle.

Looking forward to “seeing” you!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Rags, the "Live Wire" Feral Cat

L to R: Rags and Midnight

My body aches. My eyes are swollen and the tears still come. The crying is not as jagged, and, thank goodness, the sobs encompassing my body have begun to level off.

Rags, the cat on the left, was killed by a fox in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

When I called the cats for breakfast on Tuesday morning, he was missing.  I worried and called for him on and off all day and when he still didn’t show up for dinner, I got very anxious.

A neighbor called me Tuesday night to say that the guys working on the golf course before daybreak that morning, told her they had seen a fox grab the cat.

“NO!” “NO!” “NO!”

As I left for the gym that Tuesday morning about 6:45, I saw that fox run across the road in front of me… NEVER dreaming he had just killed my cat!

I had read a couple of years ago, that foxes didn’t bother cats as they didn’t think it was worth getting scratched up.  But, I guess if a cat got scared by the mowers and started running across the golf course, the fox would give chase.  I’ve watched those foxes run at lightning speed and scale 10-foot walls, so I know they could catch a cat if they decided to.

Since December of 2009, I have trapped seven cats that people have dumped in the neighborhood, in what the organization, Alley Cat Allies, calls the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. They have all been taken to the vet to get examined, neutered/spayed, and given vaccines. They have also had their left ear tipped to let others know that they have been neutered.  After their vet visit, I bring them back to my yard and feed them twice a day.  Even when I go out of town, I hire someone to feed them.

I love them as much as I love any of my pets.  When they stay in the yard, I feel thankful.  When they wonder off, I get scared.

Rags has been a little “live-wire” since he showed up two and a half years ago.  He was very skinny and his coat was a shambles, hence his name. The entire time we had Rags, he would show up once or twice a week with a new sore on his neck, ears, back or legs.  None of the other cats has any marks, so I have never figured out how Rags kept getting injured.

My Q-tip and Neosporin were used as often as I could do a sneak rub to his sores while he was eating.

Rags loved to be physically close to other cats (not to humans) and when he first came, he started following the other cats around.  They did not like it one bit, and I heard a lot of cat screaming.  I don’t think they ever attacked each other, but there was always a lot of commotion.

After a couple of months, Midnight, who is pretty calm and laid back, began to let Rags follow him around.  So, for two years, they were basically always together.  They traveled as a pair. They rubbed heads whenever they saw each other. They slept together.

Midnight seems bereft and I’m sure he misses his companion tremendously.  We have a new young cat, Pepper, who ran up to Midnight today and rubbed heads, like he was consoling him.  Maybe he can help ease his loneliness.

One Thanksgiving the weather turned cold, and Rags and Midnight disappeared.  I feared the worst as they were gone for nearly two weeks.  One morning I got a call from a neighbor about a 15-minute walk away, who had seen the cats.

I couldn’t believe it and grabbed some food and water and drove over to see if I could find them.

There they were!  I was so happy.  I gave them their food and water and then wondered how I would ever get them home.

I went home and grabbed more food and talked my husband into driving me back over to find them.  I called them and shook their food and they actually began to follow me.

It took 30-minutes as they were very slow and cautious, but they followed me all the way home!

One early morning as I was taking my dog for a walk, I kept hearing loud meowing.  I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from as it was dark. We continued on our walk and when we got back it was light enough to see.  There was Rags up in a tree!

He must have outwitted the fox or coyote who chased him that morning, and was able to get up the tree.  However, he went so high up that he couldn’t come down. 

I spent the whole day trying to figure out how to get him.

I called the fire department and they said if he was still up there after 5:00, they would see what they could do.

In the meantime, I asked my wonderful neighbor, Jami, to help me. We carried a big, heavy painter’s ladder from her garage to the tree.  But, it was no where near high enough!

Rags in the large circle

I called a tree trimmer who came out, and after looking over the situation, said he couldn’t go up there as the cat would probably scratch him.

I called a second tree trimmer who came out.  He wasn’t afraid and climbed right up.  However, by the time he got close to the cat, Rags got scared and jumped.  My goodness, he landed on his feet and took off running as fast as his little legs could carry him.

He stayed gone two days before he showed back up for dinner.

Another morning, I went out to feed the cats and Rags was really hobbling.  He had a big sore on his leg and I called the vet who said it sounded like a serious infection and I should try to catch him and bring him in.

That was not going to be an easy chore.

It was cold and he was feeling so bad that he went into his cat house on my porch.  I ran and found a piece of cardboard just the right size and held it over the door.  Then I had to dial Jami once again, with one hand.  I told her to wear a coat and gloves as we were going to have to try to get Rags into the large dog kennel as I had to take him to the vet.

He was so scared, he just huddled in the back of his house and we ended up having to turn him upside down and shake the house to get him into the crate.

After his trip to the vet, I was supposed to keep him contained for at least two weeks until he could put weight on his leg again.

I put him in the garage and added another carrier to his, so he could now have a “double wide.”  He mainly sat on his cushion for the first week, since he still felt bad.

I would go out and talk to him two or three times a day, trying to get him to be comfortable with me.

Eventually his leg healed, and I released him.  Midnight was so glad to have him back!

So many memories with this black live wire.  I’m so sorry to lose him.

Sitting here finding these memories has taken the edge off of his loss for a while.  It’s nice to be able to think of all the memories he brought.

L to R: Rags and Midnight on top of table; Pepper on the ground.

L to R: Midnight, Pepper and Rags

RIP my sweet little baby.  We all miss you!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Why Should You Exercise?

Exercise definitely has some clear health benefits for everyone, but especially for us beautiful older women.

It improves our fitness and sense of well-being. Exercise helps us maintain a normal appetite. It also gives us energy, helps us sleep, improves our circulation and even lowers our blood pressure.  Exercise even improves our mood, strengthens our bones and builds muscle.

What’s not to like?

I think we all know that we should be exercising. We’ve only been hearing it preached, by every health guru around, for decades.

But, knowing and doing are two separate things.

Are you exercising on a regular basis - or do you tend to skip days because it’s raining, or it’s cold, or it’s hot, or you are too busy, or you don’t feel like it?

I have found that you have to make exercise a habit.

When something is a habit, we don’t think about whether we should do it or not – we just do it.

How can you make exercising a habit in your life?

The easiest way to make it a habit is to make yourself accountable to someone else.

Hire a personal trainer, make a firm commitment to meet a friend at the gym or at a walking trail, or get a dog and know you have to walk him every day.

I know many of you have joined a gym, usually in January, but just having a membership doesn’t really hold you accountable.

I have always been intimidated by going to big gym.  I don’t really know how to use the equipment properly and I’m afraid of getting hurt.  I also feel embarrassed that all of those buff people might notice that I am not like them.

Let me tell you what has worked for me for many years and maybe it will give you some ideas to work for you.

I get out of bed and take my dogs for a walk, every morning.  If I don’t, they certainly hold me accountable.

I have also hired Lisa Green as my personal trainer.

What do I like about working with her?

I know that she is a good trainer and well-regarded.  She goes to the Cooper Clinic in Dallas once or twice a year for education and various certifications. She takes classes in new forms of exercise, new routines and learns to work with older adults with injuries.

She owns her own personal, fully-equipped gym called iSweat. It is as clean as a whistle. I never have to get on equipment that a large, sweating guy has just gotten off of. We can do the routines she has scheduled without having to wait in line for a piece of equipment or change routines because the equipment is broken.

To get in touch with Lisa, send her a message on Facebook.

I challenge you to figure out how you can make exercise a daily habit in your life.  Let me know what you come up with.

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© 2007-2018 Melinda Coker

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Melinda Coker, health coach and author of the book, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection?, teaches men and women around the world how to develop a healthy lifestyle.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Heart Attack vs Cardiac Arrest

Within a week of each other, two friends were taken by ambulance to the cardiac care unit of our local hospital.  They both came very close to death and were lucky that friends/family were close at hand and able to quickly take action.

It turns out that these two women had a different diagnosis for their heart problems.

The first had a heart attack.  After arriving at the hospital, it was discovered that she had a 98% blockage in one artery and an 85% blockage in another.  Her cardiologist told her he was amazed that she made it to the hospital alive.

A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery prevents oxygenated blood from reaching a section of the heart. This can cause damage to the heart.

Sue was playing tennis on a Tuesday morning, when she started having some intense symptoms.  She crumpled onto the court and said it felt like an elephant was sitting on her chest.  By chance, a fire truck was slowly driving by and one of the women at the scene ran out and flagged it down.

The paramedics were able to assess the situation and immediately called an ambulance.

The second friend had a cardiac arrest.  This is caused when the heart's electrical system malfunctions. Death can result when the heart suddenly stops working properly.

Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR is performed and a defibrillator is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes.

When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, the brain is the first part of the body to suffer because it doesn't have a reserve of oxygen-rich blood. Reduced blood flow to your brain causes unconsciousness.

Betsy was feeling very tired and went to bed early that Friday night. After a while, her husband decided to go in and check on her.  He said her breathing was loud and erratic and she was unconscious.  He immediately called for an ambulance.

The paramedics were able to perform CPR and used a defibrillator on her before taking her on a wild, hour-long ride to the hospital.

Her cardiologist found that she did not have a blockage in her heart, but her potassium levels were drastically low, thus causing her heart’s electrical system to malfunction.  Turns out she was taking the diuretic hydroclorothiazid(HCTZ) which leached all the potassium from her system.

Her pulmonologist had to place her on a ventilator to help her breathing.

Sue had two stents placed to help open her arteries and was sent home after a couple of days.

The doctors were trying to stabilize Betsy’s heart for nearly ten days before they inserted a defibrillator/pacemaker.  Finally, she was feeling better and released a day after her surgery.

There's no sure way to know your risk of sudden cardiac arrest or of having a heart attack, so reducing your risk is the best strategy.

Steps to take to reduce your risk include regular checkups, screening for heart disease and living a heart-healthy lifestyle with the following approaches:

Such incidences as these can certainly scare friends and family, but they can be totally life altering for the victim.

Thank goodness these lovely women lived through their horrible ordeals!
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© 2007-2017 Melinda Coker

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Melinda Coker, health coach and author of the book, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection?, teaches men and women around the world how to develop a healthy lifestyle.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Carrie and Debbie

Carrie Fisher, 60, was on a transatlantic flight from London to Los Angeles when she suffered what most experts believe was a heart attack.  Even though we think of heart attacks and heart disease as diseases in men, heart disease is the number 1 killer of American women over the age of 65.  And, as in the case of Carrie Fisher, if a woman has a heart attack, she is more likely to die than a man.

Debbie Reynolds, her 84-year-old mother, died a day after Carrie of a presumed stroke.  Reynolds was reported to have had a number of previous “small” strokes.

Heart disease and stroke are responsible for far more deaths in women than all cancers combined. Despite this, there is still a myth that heart disease is a man's disease.

What are some causes of heart disease and stroke?

The vital arteries in your body, which supply blood and oxygen to the heart muscles and the brain, can narrow because of fatty materials collecting along their walls. That can cause calcium deposits (plaques), which in turn, cause the blood flow to be restricted or even completely blocked.  This can then cause a piece of plaque (clot) to break off (rupture).  If the plaque travels towards the heart it causes a heart attack. If it travels to the lungs it causes a pulmonary embolism and if it moves to the brain it can cause a stroke.

Some causes of coronary heart disease (CHD) include high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity and high blood pressure.

Heart attacks and strokes are actually preventable diseases – not through pills or medical procedures - but through your lifestyle.  It’s much more important to learn how to prevent (or even reverse) the narrowing of your arteries through your diet, than to just assume strokes and heart attacks won’t happen to you.

If you need more of an impetus to make a drastic lifestyle change than just reading this post, there are a few simple tests you can have done.  Blood tests to measure your total cholesterol plus your LDL and your HDL are important as is a reading of your blood pressure.  Other blood tests to check your level of inflammation (c-reactive protein) and your homocysteine levels are important, too. Of course, if you smoke, you must quit.  If you are obese, you must lose weight.  If your waist circumference is over 32 inches, you must shrink it. 

To find out what the optimal "test scores” are, you can check out the Healthy Is A Habit website.  

Please make it a priority to get healthy, so you don’t suddenly leave your family without you!

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© 2007-2017 Melinda Coker

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: “Melinda Coker, health coach and author of the book, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection?, teaches men and women around the world how to develop a healthy lifestyle.”