Monthly Archives: April 2021

Without a Trace

Coco posing for our cat-lover neighbor Alison

Six weeks ago, my 10-year-old torbie, Coco, disappeared. She hasn’t returned home yet, and she may not. Ok, at this point, she likely won’t.

My husband and I live in a densely populated urban neighborhood, sandwiched in between two main streets with heavy traffic and frequent construction. Coco spends the bulk of her days (and, sometimes, nights) gallivanting around the yards and driveways of our immediate city block. She has a kitty window open just wide enough for her 8-pound feline frame to squeeze through, and uses it daily.

A born survivor, she avoids moving cars, keeps a safe distance from other furry animals, and approaches humans with a healthy dose of caution. We worried about her penchant for tree climbing and snarling at other neighborhood pets, but never about the possibility of being hit by a vehicle or snatched up by a (non-human) predator.

My husband saw her last during a midweek, sunny, March afternoon. She was on the sidewalk in front of our neighbor’s house, rolling in the dust and debris like a maniac–one of her favorite pastimes. My husband thought little of it, that familiar scene, one he assumed he’d witness a thousand times more in the days and years to come.

I can’t remember the specifics of my last Coco sighting. It was that same morning, before I ran some errands. I didn’t think to pick her up and say good-bye, shove my face into her personal kitty space, to which she inevitably holds up a paw–no claws–and pushes it to my face as if to gently say, “Mom, I know this is how you express love, but please stop.”

I simply noticed her in my general space, inside, outside, inside, outside, inside…such is the way of cats. And then I didn’t. Her absence was more salient than her presence. It continues to be even now, but that stark contrast is slowly fading.

For a couple weeks, anytime I spotted movement–a leaf blowing across the driveway, a robin bobbing across the yard, a neighborhood rodent scurrying under a parked car–from the corner of my eye, I jumped and moved toward it, assuming it was Coco, even when my logical brain knew that was unlikely.

Coco in her natural habitat

I’ve told friends and family about the disappearance, usually with a stoic, matter-of-fact tone, focusing primarily on the details of the situation, and less on my feelings around it. I’ve had several cats throughout my lifetime, most in a rural environment, and all of them have either disappeared (fisher cat or coyote, most likely) or died (car accident, euthanasia).

I know the drill. I knew the risk when I adopted a pet. I accepted the likelihood that I would outlive my pe.

I mean, it’s a cat, not a child. I mean, I’m not a 5-year-old. I mean, I’m a grown ass woman who understands the circle of life.

My father insists she was likely hit by a car. I quietly disagree.

My sister believes she will return in 10 months, the way one of her cats did last year after it found a new home. I wonder.

My bff reserves judgment, and expresses disbelief at the lack of emotion I have displayed. I rationalize.

My neighbor (let’s call her Alison) is convinced that we will track her down and bring her home. I feel touched by her infectious optimism.

Baby Coco, ca. September 2010

She loves Coco perhaps even more than my husband and I do. Alison told me that her bond with our cat is what convinced her and her boyfriend to adopt their own.

When I told her that Coco hadn’t returned home after two days, Alison sent out the bat signal. Casting a wider net than I could have imagined, she informed and perused myriad platforms and resources.

  • Nextdoor
  • Facebook
  • Craigslist
  • Animal Rescue League
  • PetFBI
  • MSPCA and local shelters
  • Local veterinarians
  • City sanitation services (they find animal carcasses in the streets–who knew?)

Armed with packing tape and a staple gun, she braved New England March weather to post flyers around our neighborhood with me. More than once. The long walks provided an opportunity for us to get better acquainted and discuss all things cats. I introduced her to the Facebook page CocaineKitties. I recommend it to all.

Last week, I texted Alison that I was beginning to accept the potential permanence of the situation. She asked if she could still post updates online. I said of course, and that I just wanted to prepare her for an eventual sense of closure.

Three hours later, I heard a knock on my front door. When I opened it, a bouquet of cut flowers graced my porch. On the card was a heartfelt message from Alison, her boyfriend, and their cat, expressing sympathy for Coco’s disappearance.

I smiled. Then I texted her a photo of the gorgeous arrangement.

She texted back a video she had taken of Coco pre-disappearance.

I cried a little. Then a bit more. Then I ugly cried for two minutes, which felt like an exhausting and cathartic two hours.

I’m working through the five stages of grief, and am on the precipice of acceptance.

Accompanying that is a melancholia that seems frivolous, even indulgent, especially right now. In this unstable world with unspeakable suffering.

It’s just a cat.

And yet, I miss her terribly.

When I look online for adoptable cats, I want every single one of them. I also want none that aren’t Coco.

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Miracle of Science Reopens for Business

After five months in a pandemic-induced hibernation, Miracle of Science Bar + Grill has reopened its doors to the public. Starting November 1, 2020, the Cambridge restaurant closed for the winter season to ensure the safety of its team and community due to the risks of Covid-19.

In recent weeks, the weather has gradually warmed up, people have ventured out more frequently, and overall activity levels have increased. In response, the Miracle of Science owners and staff have been preparing for a safe reopening.

They have deep cleaned, sanitized and painted the interior space. There are also menu and equipment updates, as well as a new website.

“After a brutal year, I’m excited to be reopening and reconnecting with our local community,” says co-owner and general manager Dennis Silva. “I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar faces again.”

Indoor, outdoor and takeout dining options are available. The sidewalk by the entrance is cordoned off with tables, chairs and space heaters for al fresco dining.

For the safety and comfort of the staff and customers, Celios air purifiers have been placed throughout the restaurant. The windows and doors also remain open for constant air circulation.

Periodic Table menu at MoS

The Miracle of Science team wear masks at all times and follow all Cambridge Covid-19 protocols. Customers can use the Miracle of Science QR code to download contactless menus on their mobile devices.

Miracle of Science is currently open daily, noon to 9pm.

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A Scammer Darkly

Do you receive those scam calls about consolidating student debt loan or extending your car’s warranty?

Wait, let me rephrase: HOW MANY of those scam calls do you receive daily?

Never took out student loans? Don’t own a car? Such minor details are barely a speed bump for these pros.

They will find you, and they will use that very particular set of skills they have acquired over a very long career on you.

When I was in middle school, I remember overhearing my father answer one of those calls on our landline (remember those?), pre-caller ID, so the caller’s identity was anyone’s guess. It was likely one of my friends–Nikki, Michelle, Andrew–but could have been a client calling my dad at home, or my sister phoning from her dorm room.

On this particular afternoon, it was some dude named Frank who asked if our address was 24 Spring Street (which, at the time, it was). My father, without missing a beat, replied, “Nope, this is 41 Main.”

Dad takes immense pride in his honesty and integrity, so this obvious fib struck me as odd, and amusing. He found his way of dealing with such calls, and straight-up lying was the strategy.

I have my own way, and it involves neither dishonesty nor avoidance.

Instead, I follow Sheryl Sandberg’s advice and LEAN IN.

This is a new approach, and it began recently when I received a text message from someone claiming to have found my lost cat.

When I saw that message, my face flushed and my ears buzzed. Could it be? The thought of a reunion with sweet Coco three weeks after she disappeared reignited a fading sense of hope.

That is, until I saw the follow up messages.

“I have sent you a 6 digit verify code..”

“If you are the real owner send me the code then I send you my location..”


Everything about the texts caused offense:

  • Attempts to prey on my emotions to gain access to…what, exactly? I didn’t check for any code, so I’m not sure whey they were trying to hack.
  • The underestimation of my intelligence
  • Assumption that I would acquiesce
  • The lack of proper grammar and punctuation

I thought of the New York Times story about Miriam Rodriguez, whose daughter Karen was kidnapped by members of the Zeta cartel in Mexico. Miriam relied on stakeouts, disguises, a handgun and vigilante justice to hunt down the kidnappers and try to find Karen.

I don’t purport to be anything like that badass heroine who ultimately gave her life to the cause; just that I thought of her in that moment and daydreamed for a moment of following in her footsteps.

Then, last week I received an unsolicited text about a potential job opportunity, in theory from Ingram Content Group, an actual company. He claims to have spotted my résumé on Ziprecruiter, where it is available. I hadn’t heard about jobs this way, but I’m also less tech-savvy than the average adolescent, and the initial message seemed professional and possibly legitimate.

The next one, however, piqued my suspicion. The clunky use of language is a jarring data point, and it gets my spidey senses going, even from legit recruiters.

Interview through WhatsApp? And no response when I ask for more details?

This is the third shady unsolicited text of this sort in a week. As if a year in a pandemic and constant state of low-level agitation wasn’t enough for everyone to endure, now we must battle schemers edging their way into our lives with bogus job offers in an impossible market and info about my lost cat who may in reality be dead.

For a hot minute my blood pressure spiked and a fusillade of F-bombs exploded from my mouth. The exasperated mantra, What is wrong with people?, skipped through my head on repeat.

Then, within the hour, I applied my daily yoga practice and Getting Unstuck meditations to the situation, reframed my thoughts around it, and landed on a solution that made me laugh out loud.

Nearly every day, I text the three mystery numbers a message of my own. Nothing offensive, angry, or threatening. Just questions about their day, their work, how the lost cat business is going. Things of that sort.

Just innocuous yet persistent messages like these.

So far, I haven’t received any responses, but I do hope I’m irritating them a little, or possibly softening them a bit. Either way, I’m on their radar and am now a cheerful dingleberry they can’t quite wipe away.

And that brings a wry smile to my pandemic-weary face.

When I shared this story with my father, his reaction surprised me. He laughed, hard, and then he said, wiping away amused tears, “I’m so incredibly proud of you, Astrid.”

I’m not entirely sure where the pride comes in, but I think it’s because of my reframing of the situation. He would likely be more vengeful, and for good reason, or avoidant, like when he lied about our home address.

My father has what he calls “the killer spirit”; I do not. My failure to inherit that instinct used to irk him, but over time I’ve seen that he admires my gentleness and willingness to turn around and playfully engage scammers rather than hate them or exact bloody revenge.

This light-hearted approach works for me.

Feel free to borrow this idea for the scammers in your own life. If you don’t have any, what kind of magical unicorn are you?

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Getting Unstuck

“As the author of your life, you can rewrite the story by changing your perceptions.” -Oprah Winfrey

Last week I started a 21-day meditation series co-hosted by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra titled Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life. It is available for free for a limited time, and you can find it and other meditations and gems of wisdom from these two powerhouse self-help gurus here.

I like to call it my Ch-Oprah meditation, and I’m sure I am the first person to create that witty portmanteau.

This morning, I completed the Day 6 meditation, titled You Deserve More Than Second-Hand Experiences, along with its mantra and brief journaling exercise.

Oprah recounts a story about her days as a young TV anchor:

“Early in my career I would imitate Barbara Walters. One of the most enlightening days of my life was when I realized I could actually be a better ME than I could be Barbara. Once I stopped imitating her and becoming more of my true self, infinite possibility opened up for me.”

That blew my mind, and I hadn’t even started the meditation part of the video yet.

Ch-Oprah help me get unstuck

She and Deepak discuss what they call “second-hand experiences.” According to Deepak, these include the times when you:

  • Do what someone else tells you to do
  • Live up to someone else’s low expectations
  • Do things that really are not true to yourself

Oprah encourages listeners to think about their own second-hand experiences and asks, “Were you following someone else’s script instead of your own life story? Are you allowing the past old story that’s stuck on Play in your head control your experiences?”

Well, don’t. That’s basically the duo’s message.

JUST STOP. Do things differently. Rewrite the story.

I agree. Every day, we can rewrite our own story and start creating first-hand experiences.

Oprah was born to an unwed teenage mother in the segregated South in the 1950s. She grew up poor and wore potato sacks as dresses at times, which made her the object of ridicule. As a child, she was sexually abused by family members and family friends. At 14, she became pregnant and gave birth to a premature baby who died shortly thereafter.

That is quite a story to rewrite.

Now, Oprah is the wealthiest woman in entertainment, is recognizable with a single moniker (adding Winfrey feels superfluous, doesn’t it?), and has touched countless lives in ways far beyond entertainment and daytime television consumption.

Love her or hate her, one cannot discount the overwhelming odds Oprah has faced and overcome over her lifetime. She hasn’t done so without rewriting her story and creating first-hand experiences. Imagine what her life would be like had she continued trying to be a second-rate Barbara Walters.

What are some second-hand experiences in your life?

What are some ways you can change your perceptions and get unstuck?

Reach out and let me know. I’d love to hear them!

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