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.

If I was able to choose my children’s teachers, this is what I would want more than anything else.

If I were allowed to choose the teachers for my children, I would almost always choose the teachers with the greatest variation of life experience.

Give me a teacher who has dug ditches in Nicaragua, survived an encounter with a grizzly bear, panhandled across Europe, or spent ten years working in the private sector over a teacher who went from high school to college to graduate school to the classroom, absent catastrophe, epic struggle, or life-altering cataclysm.


This is not to say that the traditional path to teaching produces bad teachers. I know many outstanding teachers who have followed this traditional approach. I simply place more faith in a diversity of life experience and the perspective that it brings than I do in a stable life and a college education.

As Mark Twain famously said, “I never let school interfere with my education.”


Some of the very best teachers who I have ever known came to teaching from the most unorthodox and challenging routes imaginable.

These are the teachers who are confident enough to both take enormous risks and constantly ask for help.

These are the teachers who easily distinguish between what is important to learning and what is meaningless fluff.

These are the teachers who know which corners can be cut and which are critical  to the success of their students.

These are the teachers who demand great things from their students and know how to shut their mouths and get out of the way in order to allow those students to exceed expectations.  

These teachers tend to be unflappable, remarkably resilient, highly efficient, supremely independent, and beloved by their students.

In the words of one of my fictional characters, these are the teachers who teach school rather than play school.

High school to college to graduate school may transform you into a great teacher. But a diversity of life experience, a broad and varied perspective of the world, and a life of epic struggle, cataclysmic failure, and modest success is what I would look for first if choosing a teacher.

This is what I hope to find in my children’s teachers, far more than advanced degrees in education from the finest universities.

I thought this TED Talk demonstrated the importance and value of a diversity of perspective perfectly. It’s a stark reminder of how easy it is to assume that you and the people around you are the norm, especially when you and the people around you have always been you and the people around you.