We have a cat. He's black and white, and he's almost 5 years old. We got him from the SPCA when he was a kitten (or as he likes to believe - kidnapped from the SPCA). The story that he came with (like one of those webkinz dolls) was that someone found him and his brother abandoned on the side of the road. We think he has a lot of angst about this inauspicious beginning because he is prone to lashing out at those who love him best (us).
Or it could be because he's named after a mouse. (Ever read A Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter? That was in high rotation for the girls around the time we adopted Tom).
Or because he thinks he is the Alpha Male of the Pride (after me).
Whatever the reason, it's impossible for me to continue this blog without mentioning the furry member of our family (or as I like to call him in a low-movie-trailer-like-voice - My mother's arch enemy!) The two of them really don't get along and it's rather amusing. But I'll get to this a little later.
Anyway, Tom is an indoor cat, who doesn't want to be an indoor cat, unless, of course, it's raining, snowing, or he's hungry. He is constantly trying to get outside - it's actually his talent, I think. In fact, our girls are always amazed at cats who don't try to constantly get outside. One time, my mother-in-law was reading one of the girls a book where an illustration was of a cat next to an open door. Apparently, our child asked "Why isn't the cat trying to get outside?"
So why won't we just let him be an outdoor cat? Well, one of the main reasons is that I'm not going to pay to take care of a cat that just wanders around the neighborhood. We have several of those that don't belong to us, and frankly, I find them annoying. We got a cat for animal companionship, and by golly, that's what I'm going to get! Companionship! Even if I have to get it by force!
(SIDENOTE: My wife's idea to keep him close to the house whenever he escapes was to plant catnip around the house. Needless to say, the idea was nixed by me, which when I explained to her, she LOL'd. The last thing I want is every cat in the county spraying and hanging around our house. Not to be mean to my lovely wife, but I have to say, and I did say, it was one of the dumbest suggestions I think I ever heard. She still laughs about it.)
Back to the topic. Another reason is because we are surrounded by woods and there are a lot of foxes and raccoons around. And Tom is not that smart. Despite what he thinks about himself (I sure he's a mountain lion in his head), he would not last long in the "wild." And I really, really don't want the girls to come upon his "remains" while they are flitting around the yard pretending to be a fairy princess.
And, because we are surrounded by woods, we have a lot of fleas and ticks that are easily brought in. In time, you may find that I am slightly obsessive compulsive when it comes to ticks, as we have had a couple of cases of Lyme disease in my family.
"Don't let the cat out!" or "Shut the door so that cat doesn't get out!" These are constant refrains in our house. We used to be able to lock Tom in the basement where his catbox is, but he's managed to break the little cat door so that we can't lock it. This cat is persistent.
Every once in a while he gets out for a long period of time and so I have to give him a bath and check him for fleas and ticks. (My allergist said I should do that anyway - the bath part. It cuts down on the dander.) You'd think this would discourage him, but it doesn't. He's just a really clean cat.
Then, he's also incredibly grumpy at times. He HATES my Mom and Dad. Every time they come over, he growls and hisses and swipes at them. He's also not thrilled with any of the girls. My wife, he tolerates. I guess I'm his favorite. But then again, I am the one that feeds him and cleans his catbox, so I guess he doesn't want to burn that bridge. And then, sometimes we have guests and he'll jump right up on their laps and pretend to be the nicest cat in the world.
Sometimes you can't predict what you are going to get with Tom. But he's the only other male in the house, so I need to keep him around. After all, it's good for the girls to have a brother.
Some parents have an easy-to-describe career path when their children ask them what they do:
"I take care of people when they're sick." (Doctor/Nurse)
"I fix people's cars." (Mechanic)
"I help kids learn to read and write." (Teacher)
Me, on the other hand? Not so much.
"I write books... Yes, like the ones you see at the bookstore or the library... No, you can't find my book there yet... Well, I have to get a Publisher..." Then, I have to explain what a Publisher does, which leads to a conversation about why a Publisher isn't publishing the book, which leads to a discussion on subjectivity of taste and the intricacies of how our current economic climate affects the book market, which is typically around the time the child either runs off to play, asks me if she can have some gum, or repeats the first question ("What is your job, Daddy?").
SIDE TANGENT: I've noticed that kids like to ask a lot of questions, but don't really want an answer, because they ask the same questions over and over and over. This leads me to believe that kids just like to hear the sound of their own voices (hmm, I think some adults are a little like this too... that's probably why blogs were first invented).
Anyway, what was this blog post about again? Oh yeah, careers that are easy to describe vs. not... I think I've exhausted this subject.
Or I just feel exhausted. (See this post.)
When raising children, there are usually different styles. In our house, they're known as Dad-Style and Mom-Style. One isn't better than the other. They're both needed. Today's post will look at a few topics and how Dad-Style handles them (in our house anyway).
Fixing hair, Dad-style: Grab all of daughter's hair in one clump in the back of her head, trying to make it all look smooth and whatever. Use a spray bottle of water beforehand if the hair won't lie still. Grab the special hair rubber band (don't use a real rubber band, big mistake) and secure the hair in the same manner as you would if you were putting a real rubber band around a handful of pencils. If you placed the rubber band too low, just lightly tug the hair apart to make the rubber band move up. Don’t do it too quickly or roughly because you may get a crying girl. There is almost nothing worse than a crying little girl.
Or you could just wait till mom gets home!
Dressing Baby, Dad-style: Rummage in drawer until you find a "onesie" - the baby T-shirt with snaps at the crotch. Put it on the baby. The snaps make it a full outfit – the comfort of pajamas without all the fuss and frills. If it's winter, add a pair of pants pulled up high enough to make the baby look like Grandma. You don’t want her tripping over the bottoms of her pants.
Putting away leftovers, Dad-style: Find the top to the pot, put on, place in fridge for lunch tomorrow. Or, “accidentally” leave it on the table for a few hours so you don’t feel guilty throwing it away. You can always rationalize it by saying, “The bacteria that grew on it could make us sick.”
(I don't take pictures of leftovers)
Playing with My Little Ponies (or anything for that matter), Dad-style: Build a big castle with wooden blocks and then attack! Attack! Attack! Ignore little girls who are trying to ask your pony's name and saying "Hi" to it. This is a trap. Once you say “hi,” you’re going to get pulled into a conversation and trapped. Conversations are a playtime killer! The last thing you want is for playtime to be turned into a family drama. Keep it an adventure fantasy. They’re much more exciting.
Putting Baby down for a nap, Dad-style: Hold Baby on lap, turn on the xbox and play a game until Baby falls asleep. Trust me, this works. It actually works better than rocking. Maybe because they’re girls and it bores them more quickly. Who knows! The point is it works like a charm, and we’re all happier for it.
Feel free to add some of your own...
Writing a novel is lonely, and usually misunderstood. If you choose to pursue this career, be prepared for rejection from the industry, friends, and/or family.
Many times, those who are close to you think you are foolish for pursuing it because they view it as a profession for other people, famous people, people they don’t know. It’s natural, I guess, though unfair, to think that the person close to you is not talented enough to make it in the industry, and any book you write will, unfortunately, never be good enough for them. I guess it stems from the unfortunate fact that those you are closest to are also your biggest critics.
In the end, you have to say, “Who cares?” Who cares about the critics or the naysayers?
While no man is an island, you may discover that there may only be one other person on that island. It may be a friend, a family member, an agent, etc… Although it helps to have family and friends support and believe in you, it’s not necessary. And if you wait for that to happen, you may never pursue your career… or your dreams.
Sometimes, the only way to prove someone wrong is to succeed. So that is what you must do. Write, be lonely and misunderstood, but above all, succeed. By then, you will know who your true friends and supporters are. They are the ones who stuck with you through failure and rejection, and told you the whole time that you are not crazy or foolish.
This applies to anything we do in life. Some people think we are foolish for homeschooling because it is difficult or it will be perceived as weird or antisocial. But if I wanted easy for a life I wouldn't have gotten married or had children. I love my family dearly, but dedicating your life to other people is anything but easy. Sometimes, the easy or secure way is nothing but a euphemism for lazy or settling. You have to look at life as an adventure, one filled with great trials, risks, and dreams.
Now I know writing as a profession is considered by many nothing more than a pipe dream. It may be. I don't disagree. But there are two things I'd like to say to that.
(1) I will never know if I never try.
(2) Writing began as a pipe dream for most authors before they were published.
I have one other thing to note. For those of you who aren’t writers, but know someone who is, remember that it is the industry’s job to reject your loved one if that is what is going to happen, not yours. It’s your job to support them - the way we support this girl:
So don't be a dream-squasher!
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers and Rise of the Branded. His third and final book of the Scar of the Downer series, War of the Downer King, will be released in July 2019.