November: The Cats Have Taken Over

IMG_4622I mean, it’s not like no one told me. I saw Lady & the Tramp when I was little (and a million times since) and I remember the pair of Siamese cats. I saw the havoc they wrecked on not only the house, but on the poor hapless dog. I saw them scheme and work together and use their wiles to drive Lady batty. And then I went to the shelter and got sucked into… a PAIR OF CATS anyway.

We’ve always been a Dog Family. I grew up in a Dog Family, and I have had four dogs as an adult human. The count on my childhood is unclear, but is somewhere over “many” and under “crazy people” but maybe not by much. But my daughter is a Cat Person…and I am weak because I mostly like animals. They make home feel homey. I love the globs of enthusiastic ridiculous joy with which Tiberius greets me with when I come home. Or when I come back from taking out the recycle. Or even when I return from the shower. I do wonder at the windshield-wipers of his memory, and how it’s possible to be wiggling-out-of-his-skin-happy when someone has been gone for 3.4 minutes. But whatever. It’s delightful.

The cats? I’m lucky if I get a long blink from their perch on Their Ottoman. And yet… and yet…despite myself, despite my status as a Dog Person…I love them.

But DAMN if they don’t get into everything, go everywhere, control the dog, obey only their own whims, and insist on being right SMACK in the middle of whatever I am attempting to do. Tiberius loves to Help. But his Helping is more of an emotional support, standing ready to assist me in whatever way I most need, especially if it entails resting his head in my lap or having his ears scratched. The cats? They Help by knocking the bowls off the shelf where the cat treats were *yesterday* and by attempting to scale every shelf and every nook in the house. They help by amusing themselves with hair-ties and dropped cotton balls and tear-assing from one side of the house to the other at 3 am, while using Abby as a trampoline. They help by sticking their heads in my water glass, falling in the toilet, and getting stuck in lampshades in the hall closet. They help by stalking the dog’s tail and cat-giggling when he jumps three feet in the air, woken from his late-morning nap. So life is interesting.

We spent the majority of November is Family Mode.

My dear friend got married, and had a 1950’s retro themed wedding that was not only a wonderful celebration of inter-faith love and family, but was damn near the most fashionable and fun wedding we’ve ever attended. Abby and I helped with the flowers, Bean wore a red tuxedo, and it was a great kick off to the holidays.

My in-laws were here for the majority of the month, but it was really chill. They’re wonderful, and it was a low-key, easy visit where we just enjoyed hanging out. They spent some time touring historic sites, and landing between our house and Jon’s brother, who just moved his family to the DC area.  Our niece was baptized and we had the typical American Thanksgiving.


I took a major test I had been prepping for for months; it was really hard, but my score—which I don’t know yet—will not reflect a lack of preparation. I’m hoping I am smart enough to pull off a new plan I have been incubating, but we shall see. I know that’s vague, but that’s about all I can say for now.

Of course, right before the holidays hit, two of our cars had their brakes go out. Jeff and Jon were able to work together to replace the pads and rotors on Jeffrey’s commuter car, but the Tahoe needed a skill-level that was several notches above Driveway Mechanic;  we had to suck it up and take it in. So there went our family trip to NYC. Merry Christmas, kids! We got you all new brakes! *grumble mumble grumble*

I somehow managed to get both Christmas trees up, but the “pre-lit” status turns out to only last about 4 years. First one tree, and then the other, fritzed out. My mother-in-law and I spent about two hours taking all the dead lights from the family tree, and then the following night, Jon and I spent another 3 hours tearing down Mr. Fabulous in the front room. Never again. Jeffrey ran to Walgreens so many times for more lights the clerk was beginning to wonder… Jon and I lost patience and started just cutting the cords from the boughs. If you’ve ever had that task, you know the joy of which I speak. But what are you going to do? Throw the tree out? Nah.


So now with Mr. Fabulous and the Family Tree Who Isn’t Named are bedecked in shiny new lights, courtesy of a family effort.

My Christmas spirit is a little wan this year. Maybe I just need to give it time. It’s still only November 30, right? I’m just usually gung-ho Christmas Joy Spreader, and this year? I’m kind of feeling a little meh. Maybe it’s fact that New Brakes is kind of a sucky family present? I mean, I’m glad that we caught it, and that we had the ability to pay to fix it. But it’s not really as fun as looking forward to a broadway show and cheesecake at Juniors. It’s still early, right?

I can hear the cats destroying things downstairs, which is frankly better than them sitting incessantly on my keyboard.

Happy November, friends. Hope yours was happy and healthy.


On a Wing & a Prayer

Yesterday was one of those parenting days that leaves you wrung out and feeling like a pile of wet ashes. I’ve been pretty lucky that even with all we’ve been through, my kids are good human beings, and we have decent lines of communication. Under the best of circumstances, transitioning from parenting children to parenting teenagers to being a parent to a young adult isn’t a path with clear markers and boundaries, and it’s hard.

I’ve been 12, been 15, been 17 before… but they haven’t, and the world in which they live is so very different from the world when I was those ages. I don’t always know what to do.  So much of parenting is on a wing and a prayer. Years ago, an older friend who had been through the ringer with her four sons told me “Just love them. You love them through it. No matter what happens, you just love them.” My kids were very small at the time, but her words have continued to have ripples in my life.

When I don’t know what else to do, when I don’t know what to say, or when I cannot (or should not) fix things for them, I default to making sure they know they are loved.

Days like yesterday are when I most miss calling David. His gift of insight was profound, and he was uniquely good at finding the perfect pearl his kids’ needed. It’s not revisionist history, and I’m not glancing over his flaws; but he was like a concentrated mineral or resin; what he could offer might have been small, but it was potent and essential. There was light he could shed that I have a hard time always finding myself.

To the child yesterday, I said “I wish your dad were here. He would do better at this part than I am…” and the child looked at me and said, “Dad is just stories to me.”

My heart stung and split again in a perfect aching wave of sorrow and grief. Over and over this happens. You relive the loss, you revisit it, the waves catch you off-guard and vulnerable, and it just never goes away. My child spoke the truth. They don’t remember him, they don’t know the man I knew, they don’t carry him with them the way I do, they never got to know his bright and shining wisdom, and that loss will never be recovered. I want to wail and scream in sorrow, but I don’t. I swallow hard, and nod at my kid, who is speaking what is true for them, and I honor it. This isn’t about me.

When Jon got home, we sat on the porch steps and talked about the day, and about all five of our kids and their wildly disparate needs, and how we could (or could not) meet those needs. Big picture, mostly we’re okay, and mostly so are the kids. We know this, and we’re grateful. We know there will be bumpy days, and sometimes bumpy stretches. I carry the words of my friend in my mouth like a prayer, “Just love them. Love them through it.”