May 1989 to March 2008 Little Alex

If you're not a pet lover or a cat lover, you may not want to read any farther, because today's blog is an ode to my faithful, loving companion for most of the past 19 years.

Alex entered my life as a tiny, bobbed-tail kitten who had been found in an alley at 4 weeks old after her mother was killed by animal control near Boulder, Colorado. Even though she had been fostered for a month in a home with numerous children, cats, and dogs, she was still running for corners when I brought her to my two-room apartment. I was a single 24-year-old just out of school and on my own for the first time. In our time together, she transitioned from kitten to adult to elderly cat. I went from fresh-faced 20-something to 40-something married woman with a few wrinkles around the eyes.

She was the second, smaller cat for almost 10 years. In her subordinate status, she was quiet and more in the background. We took that for a sign of some sort of deeper connection and applied a Quaker phrase to her - Little Kitty in the Light.

When she became the only cat, we realized that she was just waiting for her turn to be top cat. We found out that she did have opinions on many matters and was not shy about letting us know when things weren't quite going the way she wanted.

For me, her most dominant characteristic was her affectionate nature. She may have run when anyone else was around, but for me, she was always waiting at the door when I got home and anxious to be picked up and hugged. She usually reciprocated with a lick to my eyebrows. And that's what I'll miss the most ~ walking through the door and knowing that someone really wants to see me, and only me, and to just be with me.

Paul used to tell people that I was Alex's queen, and I would reply that Alex was the princess. Today, I'm back to being just a commoner, and the Princess has gone to live with the stars.

7 March 2008 Anchorage

26 February 2008 Guatemala Coffee Finca

As I said, this really was a work trip. We were learning about challenges to conserving biodiversity in Guatemala. And we were learning about how The Nature Conservancy and partners, like Vivamos Mejor (

12 April 2008 I'm just getting back to this page after several weeks and the death of Alex. What did I want to say then? I don't remember entirely, but here's a few of the lessons that I'm trying to apply to my life:

1. don't buy cheap coffee - because cheap coffee means that the farmer who grew the beans isn't making a living, even in a country like Guatemala where it doesn't cost much to live.

2. don't buy coffee that comes from Vietnam - because the coffee industry in that country is driving down world-wide prices. This is typically where the large coffee companies like Folgers and Maxwell house get their product (see lesson #1).

3. buy fair-trade coffee -if it doesn't have such a label, it may mean the farmer didn't get his fair share.

4. buy organic and/or shade-grown - the coffee will have been grown in a manner that is better for the native species and people in the area where the coffee came from.

24 February 2008 Antigua

I went to Guatemala last week ... for work ... really. Before the 'work' began on Monday, I visited with our friend Sharon for two days.

I was lucky to be in Antigua during the weeks-long build up to Semana Santa and Easter. Every weekend, a procession leaves one church in Antigua or a neighboring village and circles through Antigua. On Friday night, a carpet of sawdust or pine boughs is constructed within the church. The carpet is decorated with colored sawdust, flowers, leaves, and seeds. The float is carried over the carpet, destroying it as the procession passes.

Carpets are also constructed on the street where the procession will pass. On this weekend, the procession began in the church at Jocotenango, a village just north of Antigua. Most of the road between the two towns had been blocked off so only pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists could get through. We soon came upon bright sawdust carpets.

Stencils are used to create intricate patterns on top of the base layer. Boards are suspended over the carpet so the crafters can access the middle without stepping in the sawdust. Someone constantly mists the sawdust to hold it together.

The carpets made of pine boughs were very different. Sawdust was used for some adornment but flowers and leaves were more typical.

A more modern design and execution was the use of bottle caps, shredded newspaper, and rolled-up foil in the shape of a fish.