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Learning from Lavern (a story of perseverance)

Who would have ever thought I'd be learning life lessons from a cat? For lack of better words, I HATE cats. I was scarred as a youth by my piano teacher's white, fluffy, hissing demon of a feline. And one of my dad's favorite jokes as I grew up was that cats were only good for one thing: grabbing them by the tail and swinging them into a lake (just a joke, keep yourselves at bay, PETA members). So, yeah; needless to say, I am not a cat person.

Imagine how shocked I was with myself when I read a news story last week about a cat and immediately felt inspired. Maybe even slightly teary-eyed (just slightly though, come on, I've got a reputation to uphold). Sure it was a story that was meant to invoke emotional response; your typical local news channel's dream 'human interest' story. But normally I roll my eyes and gag in reaction to these stories; this one had me smiling and drawing a lot of meaning from this cat's tale (I was really tempted to spell this 'tail').

The recent tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri caused a heartbreaking amount of destruction, essentially leveling the entire city. Homes were lost, businesses were destroyed, and sadly, many lives were lost during the catastrophe. As the residents collected themselves and started to rebuild their scattered lives, many went searching for their pets that had been displaced during the storm.

Terrla Cruse was one of those residents, and after being on the verge of giving up her search, decided to make a last ditch effort to find her lost cat, Lavern. Imagine her surprise, when on that last rescue attempt, Lavern was heard meowing underneath the rubble and they were able to pull her from the debris to safety. This cat had survived 16 DAYS in the Joplin wreckage. Although underweight and dehydrated, Lavern is expected to make a full recovery.

Lavern the cat is discovered in the Joplin debris.

Lavern the cat's story is an excellent metaphoric lesson in perseverance through hardship. Now before I get chastised for saying this about a cat when there are all kinds of 'human' perseverance stories out there, hear me out for a moment. When we're children, we learn volumes of life lessons through metaphors displayed in children's books, movies, etc. Colorful, fictional characters and animals are used to teach these lessons, presumably so the hardships aren't as 'humanized', and children can learn without being disturbed.

Maybe as adults, we still operate the same way and just don't like to admit it. To be horribly poetic for a moment, how often do we feel buried under the rubble? And when hardships and struggles hit us, how much more likely are we to wallow in sadness and frustration rather than pushing through and developing thick skin, knowing that if we maintain a determined mindset, we can see ourselves through to a positive outcome?

Between work, parenting, family, relationships and everything in between, life can sometimes be an onslaught of setbacks, hardship and conflict. Sometimes every aspect of our lives seems to be pelting us with challenges all at once, and it can be easy to throw up your hands and surrender. Instead, let's learn something from Lavern. Lavern was 13 years old, which places here somewhere around 75 in terms of cat years, according to the Cat Bible (wow, there's a source I never thought I'd cite). Are you going to let a geriatric cat prove itself to have a stronger sense of determination and diligence than you? Sure, your problems might not be solved in 16 days. Maybe not even 160. But if we push through and hang on to hope, there will be limitless cans of tuna and birds to harass at the end (sub your sources of happiness here).

The story of Lavern the cat is one that we as parents can use to help our younger children understand the concept of not giving up when things get difficult. But at the end of the day, we as parents, spouses, sons, daughters, siblings and friends can draw just as much of a lesson from that elderly, unwavering cat. To be overly trite, nobody ever said life is easy. And the choices we have to make in order to improve the less-than-perfect situations in our life aren't always easy. But there's something to be said for showing perseverance even when feeling trapped under the wreckage. If Lavern could communicate with us*, I'm sure she'd agree.

Yes, this post was corny. Get over it. I'll be reviewing a game that involves dog poop soon, so this shift in the AFOMO continuum should be balanced out again soon.


*Million dollar idea: cat sign language system.


lol Once again, another great blog post.

Hello!!! My sister in law came across your blog and forwarded it to me. I am Terrla, the owner of Lavern. I love your story. Its not corny at all, i enjoyed reading it! She is doing well. I know you are not a cat lover but Lavern forgives you and says thanks for the sweet article!! :) Terrla

Hi Terrla, thank you so much for commenting. I was probably a little harsh in saying I hate all cats. I've just had a few bad experiences with some particularly nasty ones in the past! You are welcome for the article, Lavern has a great story and I am very happy to hear she's doing well.


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