Desperately seeking trouble

Our new cat, Tobi, is desperate to find as much trouble as possible.

He routinely opens cabinets and climbs inside. I've found him under the sink, squeezed between the posts and pans, and amongst the plates and bowls. 

It's frustrating, but at least it's not dangerous. 

I can't say this about all the places I have found him. 

My son has become a non-stop death machine.

Ever since our cat, Owen, died last month, my four year-old son Charlie has been obsessed with death. 

Specifically his own death. 

This has not been good for me, given that I am obsessed about my own death more than anyone else on the planet. My mortality is something that I consider on a (no exaggeration) hourly basis at least. 

You may think I'm crazy, but I've died not once but twice and been brought back by paramedics both times. Had a gun was put to my head and the trigger pulled. I was also diagnosed with the adult-onset muscular dystrophy gene that eventually contributed to the death of at least three of my relatives, including my mother, and will one day effect me, too.

If anyone gets to have an ongoing, ever-present, overwhelming existential crisis, I think it's me.  

But now I have this four year-old existential reminder machine running around the house, constantly telling me that he doesn't want to die. Constantly reminding me of the thing I don't need to be reminded about.  

Our standard response to Charlie's declaration that he doesn't want to die has been, "You won't have to worry about that for a long, long, long time Charlie. You have a very, very, very long life ahead of you."

There's also talk of a heaven that I wish I believed in but don't and assurances that everything will be okay. 

It hasn't exactly eliminated his fear, but it's been enough to move him onto a new topic.

Yesterday morning, as I brought him downstairs, he saw a photograph of Owen. He walked over, touched the photo, and said, "Dad, I don't want to die."

Just what I wanted to hear at 6:30 AM.

I answered as I always do. "Don't worry buddy. That's not going to happen for a long, long, long time."

"But Dad," Charlie said, turning away from Owen's photo to look at me. "A long, long, long time means I am going to die someday."

Damn it. The kid understands. He knows. 

Honestly, my thoughts of death are my greatest burden. The thing I carry with me like a loadstone throughout my life. My existential crisis informs so much of what I do. It makes me who I am. It's responsible for much of my success. It's the guiding principle behind everything that I think and believe.

I'd hate to think that Charlie might suffer the same fate. 

I'd also hate to think that my son is going to continue to pick at this open wound for the rest of my life. It's hard enough already without this beautiful little boy hitting me over the head with an existential sledgehammer on a daily basis. 

I picked him up, hugged him, and did what I always do when my thoughts of death become too great to bear. I opted for distraction. 

"Want to go watch the Octonauts?" I asked.

"Sure," he said. And for an hour or so, we sat on the couch together and forgot about our mortality. The reality of our eminent demise. The terror of the void. 

At least he did. I hope.

Cat Heaven snuck up on me and made me cry.

If you’re a cat lover or a book lover or a person who suffers from an ongoing existential crisis or simply a human being, Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant is a book that you will love as you possibly weep.


My daughter, Clara, is named after a character in The Van Gogh Café – also by Rylant – and while I love that book for obvious reasons, I love this one so much more.


I picked it up and read it to Clara before bed, not knowing what was hiding between the pages. It snuck up on me, finding a way into my heart by the third page and sending me for an emotional loop.

Rylant also wrote Dog Heaven, but I’m almost afraid to read it. As much as I love my cat, I’ve owned dogs for much of my life, and I’ve buried more than I care to remember, oftentimes as a child as the result of my parents’ atrocious disregard for their safety.

I fear that Dog Heaven may be too much for me.

Cat Heaven is a beautiful book with beautiful images by Rylant herself. Buy it. Make it the gift that you give ever cat lover you know this year.

The cat peed and pooped and vomited on our Christmas preparations, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My wife and I left about 80% of our preparations for Christmas until December 24.

  • At the beginning of the day, we had only one gift for each child. We needed more presents and plenty of stocking stuffers. We also had yet to purchase gifts for each other, and nothing was wrapped. 
  • We had not purchased any food or drink or even decided upon the menu for the eight adults and six children who would be coming to our home.
  • We had not cleaned the house in any meaningful way.
  • The Christmas tree still lacked at least two strings of lights.
  • We had yet to visit with Santa for photos.

Maybe it was closer to 90% of the preparations still undone.

This was not a big deal. We had the whole day to complete these tasks, even with our children underfoot. Divide and conquer. Be efficient and productive. Rule the day.

And we did. Everything was accomplished by the end of the day, which for me ended around midnight and for Elysha around 1:00 AM. We even had some fun in the process. We had photos taken with Santa in the morning. Enjoyed breakfast together. Sat down for a lovely dinner as a family. Read to the children before bed. After they were asleep, Elysha and I listened to Christmas music while she baked and prepped and I cleaned and de-cluttered the house.


In fact, the entire day would’ve gone off without a hitch except for one thing:

I blocked the basement door with two empty boxes of Christmas ornaments, thereby blocking the cat door which allows our cat, Owen, access to his litter box in the basement. The door was blocked for more than a day.


As a result, the cat peed in my daughter’s room, on her sleeping bag, some toys, a pillow, and more.

Then he pooped on our bed.

Then he came downstairs, stopped at my feet, and vomited on the living room floor.  

This, my friends, threw a wrench into our plans. A monkey into our schedule. It sucked away vast amounts of time that were needed for wrapping and baking and buying and cleaning.

But here’s the great thing about this horror show:

Elysha and I laughed about it. We almost cried, too, but once that moment passed, we laughed. Worked together. Praised our washing machine’s sanitize cycle. Tossed a few items away. Made liberal use of the Lysol. Consoled our daughter. Moved on.

We even had an amusing story to tell the next day.

I have a friend who thinks my wife and I were insane for saving so much holiday preparation at the last minute. She even offered to come over and help wrap presents. I told her that I eat pressure for breakfast and love a good challenge. I assured her that we would be fine.

But in truth, it has a lot to do with the relationship that Elysha and I have. The perspective that we share. Our ability to work together. The trust we have in each other. The faith we have in ourselves. Our propensity to divide and conquer. Our shared values over what is important and what is not.

It’s why we are able to laugh at our cat’s decision to turn our bedrooms into his bathroom.

It was horrible and gross and enormously time consuming, but it was certainly not the end of the world.

And when the sun rose on Christmas Day and the children scurried down the stairs, they were greeted with a fully decorated tree, piles of presents, stuffed stockings, and a plate of half-eaten cookies from Santa Claus. Both children loved their gifts, and Elysha and I were thrilled with the gifts we received from each other.

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Later on, our friends and family came. A steady stream throughout the day and a formal dinner in the evening. We ate and drank and talks and debated and were merry.

We even had a homeless man stop by.


A grand day, thrown together the day before amidst the vomit, urine, and poop of a justifiably annoyed cat.

The holiday season doesn’t have to begin weeks before if you remember what’s important and stop worrying about the little things that no one notices except you.

Bad news for cats and dogs and goldfish everywhere

Eternal Earth Bound Pets, the company of atheists who sought to care for pets left behind on Earth following the Rapture, has gone out of business due to a lack of clients.

Apparently the true believers have no qualms about leaving their pets behind to starve when they join Jesus.

Either that or they have faith that when push comes to shove, God will reconsider his position on dogs and cats and include them in the Rapture. 


Another fan of Charlie’s feet

My wife thinks our son’s tiny feet are cute as hell.

She is not alone. Most women, and especially mothers, are surprisingly obsessed with baby feet. Charlie’s feet are often the first things that women ask to see when they meet my son for the first time. Women, including some I did not know, have even professed a disturbing desire to devour my son’s feet on more than one occasion. 

While I find Charlie’s feet perfectly acceptable, I do not find them uncommonly cute in any way.

They’re feet.

However, our cat seems to be siding with the ladies when it comes to Charlie’s feet.