Helpful, Not Useful

I recently had a brief exchange with Joel (7) that provided an opportunity to talk about dignity (and hint at the personalistic norm).

Joel had done some favor for me, and I had thanked him. The rest of the exchange went as follows.

Joel: “I like being useful!”

Me: “Helpful, not useful.”

Joel: “Huh?”

Me: “You mean to say that you like being helpful.”

Joel: “I don’t understand.”

Me: “People are helpful. Things are useful. We should never talking about people being useful, because people should be treated as individuals with dignity, not as tools we use. Understand now?”

Joel: “I think so…I like being helpful.”

Me: “I’m glad. :)”

Take your utilitarianism and shove it, Sir Topham Hatt!

Don't laugh. It's surprisingly hard to draw using a stylus on a tablet screen.

Don’t laugh. It’s surprisingly hard to draw using a stylus on a tablet screen.

Categories: Discipline, Morals, and Ethics | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Crazy Cat

He was still supposed to be in the temporary cardboard carrier at this point. He clawed his way out.

He was still supposed to be in the temporary cardboard carrier at this point. He clawed his way out.

You may recall that I recently had to make the very difficult decision to say goodbye to my furry best friend, the first cat that I owned as an adult. A couple weeks later, I felt ready to find a cat welcome to the family. After a few hours of bouncing between shelters, I found the right fella, Gabriel. We found out quickly how different from Dusty he would be. In the car on the way home, he clawed enough of an opening in his temporary cardboard carrier to stick his head out. Since he was choking himself at that point, I had to rip a larger hole and pull him out. Amanda wasn’t thrilled to have a “loose” cat in the car for the remainder of the trip home. 😉

The first day (a Wednesday) went well. We tried to keep him in the library, with his own litter, food, and water. We figured it would make his introduction to Shadow, who spent 9/10 of her life with Dusty. That lasted just a couple hours, until Lily didn’t close the door quickly enough, and he sneaked out. That was ok, though, because he explored the house and made friends with Shadow quickly.

Things went sideways sometime Thursday or Friday. Gabriel threw up several times throughout the day and became very lethargic for reasons unknown. We took him to the vet on Saturday morning. He seemed to be heading the same direction Dusty went, and I was freaking out. The vet gave him something for nausea, and we paid a few hundred dollars learn virtually nothing. When got home I put him back in solitary confinement. His nausea never came back, but he developed diarrhea. He also refused to eat. I ended up force-feeding him wet food from a syringe. As my Facebook friends can attest, the next few days were tense.

He gradually improved, though, as I ramped up the dosage and frequency of syringe feedings. By the end of the week he was feeding himself
and acting like a happy, healthy cat should. After the emotional exhaustion of Dusty’s decline and death, I was a wreck and seeing another lethargic, anorexic cat was rough. I was relieved beyond words when Gabriel recovered.

They seem to be getting along. :)

They seem to be getting along. :)

Once he was healthy, we began to see what a wacky cat Gabriel is. For instance, he takes his hunting seriously, even if his prey is at the end of a wand toy. One day I was swinging the squid-like wand toy around for him, and he decided to trot of with his quarry. Since it’s permanently attached to the elastic string, his “kill” snapped back to me. So, Gabe came back to retrieve it, seeming a little confused. He walked off again; it snapped again; he returned for it again, now looking a bit annoyed. This time, I decided  to let him walk off with the toy, expecting him to drag to a nearby room. Nope. He proceeded down the stairs to the first floor, with the wand going “Clack! Clack! Clack!” behind him.

One of these days, he's going to fall in.

One of these days, he’s going to fall in.

Another goofy thing Gabriel did had me laughing every time I told the story. Apparently, he has decided that I need company in the bathroom. He’s taken to following me in to watch, especially late at night. I guess he gets lonely. Anyhow, he had accompanied me several times when he decided to add a new dimension. First, he started poking his head over the rim of the toilet while I peed. I had to nudge him out of the way with my leg while trying to maintain proper aim.

This happened a few trips in a row. Then, I got up to pee at 5 AM one morning. Gabe was super excited that I was up. He arose from what seemed like a dead sleep to follow me upstairs. When we arrived, he started peeking again. Then he jumped onto the rim of the toilet. He positioned himself with his front paws on one side of the bowl and his back paws on the other side. My target was blocked. I couldn’t reach my hands down or my foot up without spraying all over the bathroom. I had no choice but to make him regret his decision. I peed on him.

I repeat, I peed on the cat.

He didn’t care! I still had to shoo him off the bowl, all the while trying to avoid making the kind of mess I’d expect from my aimless and distracted children. After leaving the bowl, he hopped onto the counter next to me. Once I was done my business, I followed instinct. That a dumb thing to do, because he was still wet. So, not only did I pee on the cat, I also rubbed my hand in my own urine when I pet said cat. Thanks for that, Gabe.

Now I’m extra careful when he follows me into the bathroom. I try to pet him while he sits on the counter so he stays away from the toilet. Sometimes I turn on the faucet a little for him, since he seems to enjoy playing in water.

So, he’s not the super snuggly purr monster that Dusty was, and it still hurts when I remember that, but he’s cool in his own goofy ways. He’s a playful talker who apparently likes water, contrary to most of his species. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 🙂

Categories: Lasting Memories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mighty Morphing Toaster Pastries

By Evan-Amos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Strawberry PopTarts (photo by Evan-Amos, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

My wife recently had an interesting interaction with our 5yo about how to spell something.

Lily: [holding an Aldi generic PopTart] How you spell PopTart is P-O-P-T-O-T.
Mommy: That’s “PopTot”.
Lily: How about P-O-P-T-O-O-T?
Mommy: That’s “PopToot”.
Lily: P-O-P-T-O-R-T?
Mommy: That’s “PopTort”.
Lily: P-O-P-T-A?-R-T…?
Mommy: That’s it!
Lily [giggles and smiles]

She starts kindergarten next year. I think her teacher’s going to have her hands full keeping her from getting bored. 😉

Categories: Education | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Passing Pets and Precocious Personalities

I think Dusty was a little jealous of this addition to the family 7 years ago (Alex).

I think Dusty was a little jealous of this addition to the family 7 years ago (Alex).

Today we said goodbye to a furry member of the family. A little over a month ago, our cat Dusty started losing his appetite and, consequently, weight. Long story short, skipping over expensive vet visits and whatnot, he never regained his appetite, lost almost half his body weight, and became very weak. On Wednesday night, while we still sat around the dinner table, we told the kids that we’d made the difficult decision to have him euthanized on Saturday. Their responses fascinated me and distracted me a little from my grief.

Read more »

Categories: Lasting Memories | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

So Much

A poem about my aching, but unfulfilled, desire to tell my children about my depression and beg forgiveness for how it makes me behave: Read more »

Categories: Mistakes and Regrets | Tags: , , | Leave a comment