The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Cats

Beardslee walkingWe haven’t been getting much sleep lately, and it has nothing to do with our six month old.

No, we’ve been quite lucky that she has been sleeping, for the most part, through the night. Sometimes a need to nurse arises in the wee hours, but on the whole – she’s been great.

One of our little kitties however, has not.

It usually begins around 3:30 in the morning. Sometimes four.

Meow. Meow.

Sometimes I try to ignore it, or my arm instinctively falls out of the sheets and down the side of the bed to pet his orange fur, hoping it’s just some attention and affection he’s looking for at these early morning hours. He takes the petting, of course, for a moment or two before turning around to walk away.

Though I wouldn’t call it a success as his battle plan then takes one of several paths – one is to scratch at the bed itself, always conveniently out of our reach, making one of us get up and out of bed to stop him.

Another tactic involves jumping onto my wife’s nightstand and knocking over any myriad of objects atop – a pile of books, a stack of magazines, remote controls, or her water bottle. It used to be a glass of water. We’ve learned that lesson time and time again.

If his plan involves my side of the bed, it means any number of magazine, books, or comics thrown with his back feet across the floor beside my bed, or knocking over any notepads, paper, etc, atop. He’s tried for my alarm clock, with a fifty-fifty shot at success, or the lamp. There’s nothing quite like being awakened by a table lamp, tall, slim in the middle giving it easy tipping ability, landing on your head as you sleep.

beardslee ornamentNow I should mention, this little guy has been a part of our family longer than either of our kids. In fact, we got him right before we got married, six years ago. And in those six years, he’s found a comfortable spot or two and slept right on through the night. Perhaps a little frisky fighting with his brothers now and then, but otherwise, it’s been dreamland for him. So it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it started just before our little girl was born six months ago.

When the petting did not get us anywhere, I thought that maybe his stomach was the one in the driver’s seat. So, I’d either guide him downstairs, or pick him up and carry him downstairs, setting him down in front of his bowl, always full of food, to remind him he has food there. He starts snacking, to which I then proceed back upstairs to fall asleep, only to have him wake me up about a half hour to 45 minutes later and we start the dance again.

Thinking it was his stomach, I began putting a dish of food in our room before we go to bed. Perhaps having it closer will help and put an end to this.

It hasn’t, and all it’s done is create the expectation that this extra dish will be there.

I should note, with the age and condition of our house, the doors to rooms do not close and latch like you’d find in most homes. That means that even if you close a door, it can with great ease be pushed open by a feline head. So, that option has been ruled out.

And rather than risk him waking Meg (although he sometimes still does), the baby, or our little guy, I continue to get up when he waltzes in at that 3:30-4 a.m. point every morning, and the intervals that follow.

At one point, I woke up in our hallway. I had lured him out of the room and downstairs only to have him come up again, and I fell asleep without making it back to the room.

I just can not fathom what exactly sparked this, and still, months later have not figured out what it is he wants. Petting, hugging, holding – he’ll have none of it in those wee morning hours. Food – a few bites then back at it.

At first I thought perhaps the Daylight Saving change in the fall/winter, but that disappeared in the spring to no change. Could it have been the baby? But this behavior started before she was born? And it didn’t happen when our son was born.

We’ve often wondered if there’s something neurological underlying within him. He was a pretty bad case when we found him. Curled up in the bushes, barely able to move, he lifted one paw up and placed it on my wife as she bent down near him, and our hearts melted. We scooped him up and took him home where he wouldn’t eat, drink or anything. Getting him to a vet, he stayed there for a week before we could take him home with us.

Beardslee sleepingThe doctor said had he been on his own a few more hours before we found him, he wouldn’t have made it. He was sick, beat-up, and barely had the ability to move, or even meow. He would try, but nothing would come out.

He was estimated at the time to be about a year or a year and a half by the vet, making him about 7 years old today, though we’ve always suspected he’s either older than their estimation or just lived enough life to seem that way.

Whatever they did at the vets that week, they brought him back from death’s door, and we couldn’t be more grateful. But being that close to the end, we’ve always accepted that his return came with a series of chronic health issues as a trade off. Many an issue that we’ve dealt with short-term, some long, but we’ve handled them.

Could this be among those issues? If so, why only surface now?

I have no idea.

All I know is that I love him, but man am I exhausted and befuddled as to what it is he wants. But, though many probably think of me as crazy, I will continue…because I love him.


"Quit hoggin' the covers."

                “Quit hoggin’ the covers.”

Of all our three cats, nobody is the bundle of love that is our Jasper. While our other two have their moments of wanting some love, Jasper has been ever-consistent since the day he arrived and first curled into Meg’s lap and went to sleep on our front porch.

Just as early upon his arrival, shortly after we would call it a night, the sound of little paws could be heard hurrying up the stairs and leaping onto our bed, making his way over the cloud of sheets into the middle of the bed. He waits for us to lift the sheet or comforter so that he can tunnel in, turn around so his head sticks out at the head of the bed, and then plops down on one side, usually with a paw on Meg, and quickly dozes off.

The other night, as Meg and Jasper slept, his purring next to me lulling me into a relaxed state of sleep myself, my mind began to wander. And it wandered to the realization that things won’t be like this forever. For a while if we’re lucky, yes, but not forever. Sadly, nothing is. It all began to hit me like an emotional avalanche at that point. Every night this amazing little kitty curls up like a child between us, giving us more unconditional love than probably any human is capable, and yet, how often do I stop to realize just how amazing that is? How often do I stop to appreciate it?

Let’s broaden the scope a bit beyond Jasper, because my realization was prompted by but in no means limited to his furry, lovable little self.

I’m often a victim of my own drive to do things, cornering myself into a routine and life made up of to-do lists, projects and whatever the next priority is. I don’t know what it stems from. Sometimes I think it’s because I have some (possibly irrational) obsession with creating, making things, doing things, leaving something behind (be it a website, a book, a blog, a comic, a film, or any other project I tend to be working on at the moment). Because of this, there is constantly a list of things to be scratched off my planner each day, or the dry erase board next to my desk.

But the side effect of this drive to constantly having many irons in the fire is that I literally live a life controlled by lists, motivated by crossing something off that list, completing a project and immediately looking to what the next project is.

And in the meantime, I’m never stopping to appreciate the life around me – the people, the places, the events, the emotions and yes, the cats like Jasper.

I often like to quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. “

And that seems to be exactly what’s happening. I’m 35 years old. It seems like I blinked and 18-34 were gone, already a lifetime ago. And yet, I’m still going at the same speed on a million different things as I have all those years past instead of stopping to realize and appreciate all the wonderful people around me – my wife, my son, my parents, my brother, our cats, our neighbors, our friends – and truly enjoy the time I have with these folks while it’s available. Because before I know it, the next 35 years will be by in a blink, and no amount of blog posts, comics written, films made, books published, will ever be able to make up for it.

This isn’t a blueprint for how I’m going to do it, because honestly, I’m not quite sure. But I’m hoping that, much like other issues, admitting to it and realizing that it’s a problem might be the place to start.


As I’ve mentioned (a lot) in the past, storytime is a very important part of our daily routines. Whether it’s post-bathtime or not, our pre-bedtime ritual always involved getting a few books off our little guy’s bookshelf (although for quite some time he’s been old enough to pick them out on his own), all plop down on mama and dada’s bed and read together before calling it a night. It’s a ritual, and one that means quite a lot to all of us.

Sure, sometimes we read many of the same ones over and over again, because the little guy has his favorites that he wants to hear again and again, but every now and then, he lets us slip in a new one to try. That’s why when I was given the opportunity from Independent Publishers Group to take a look at a new book, I jumped at the chance.

So we recently read a new book before bed called “The Little Mouse Santi.”

The book, written by David Eugene Ray and illustrated by Santiago Germano, tells the story of a mouse named Santi who, more than anything else in the world, wants to be a cat. He practices all day at everything he thinks cats are good at – strutting themselves across a room, swishing his tail, cat baths, meowing, and of course, looking bored with life.

While the other mice laugh at Santi, he longs to join the cats he sees outside on the farm, eventually overcoming his courage to give it a try when he spots a cute orange tiger cat lounging in the grass.

The illustrations in this book by Germano are beautiful, with a slick, clean style across every line, making even those mice who are laughing at poor Santi downright adorable.

I really did enjoy it. If I had a critique it’s that I liked it enough that I wanted more from it. I would have liked a little more reassurance and confidence-building from Santi as he finally establishes the courage to step out of his comfort zone in the pursuit of his dream. I wanted Santi to feel bad about what the others say but get over it, realizing what they think doesn’t matter. What Santi does in the course of the story comes with a great gamut of emotions that I think everyone goes through at some point in their childhood, and I think a child could learn a lot about self-confidence and the joy of being unique if there were just a few touches upon overcoming those emotions along Santi’s journey.

It’s a swift read, and as I say, accompanied by absolutely beautiful color illustrations. Having never published a children’s book, I certainly can’t speak to the process. But as a reader, I felt Santi’s adventure and dreams could resonate a lot with a small child, but I’d love a little bit more to it.


As the days get longer, they can also get quite a bit colder, and after bundling our little ones and ourselves up, making sure the car gets started and defrosts, you may be all set to battle the elements of your day.

But, while I know I risk the moniker of ‘Crazy Cat Guy,’ the cold weather always makes me think of the many cats and dogs that don’t have the fortune of having homes where they can escape subzero temperatures, or as is sometimes the case – the pets whose owners don’t let them inside, even in subzero temperatures.

We choose to keep our feline children inside, for their own safety. Not everyone feels the same way. It’s just the way we do it.

With that said, our area and neighborhood has had quite a lot of strays coming and going through its streets, sidewalks and yards in the time since we’ve moved in, and one place that several of them tend to regularly escape the elements and predators, is our garage. Built with the house, back in the 1920s, the doors are a little warped, leaving an opening at the bottom of one set of doors. It’s just enough for a cat or kitten to squeeze into and find their way into a garage that can’t fit a car, but serves its purpose for our storage of tables, chairs, garden equipment, etc.

Some of our visitors pass like ships in the night. Others are too skittish around humans and keep a good distance away when they see me. Others, as I’ve mentioned, become semi-regulars, and grab at my heartstrings, creating a very special bond that always leaves me concerned when they take off out of the realm and safety of our yard. Some, we’ve managed to get to a shelter, where they’ve been successfully adopted.

I do my best to do what I can, as I truly believe that a dog or cat, just like a human, does not deserve to die for the mere fact they lack a home or love (which is what so many, I’ve found, crave far beyond even a bowl of food). So, I periodically leave out food, some blankets, and try to create a shelter they can turn to when the weather (or other animals) get rough.

This winter, though, I felt the need to do a little more. Looking online, I found that some people were making shelters for strays in their neighborhood. They were for areas that had absolutely no shelter, but were being used by the animals nonetheless. I figured if they were already coming and going from the garage, an extra level of security and warmth couldn’t hurt.

So, using what I found online as a guideline, Meg and I set out to create a mini-shelter for the strays that come through.

I started by purchasing two inexpensive Rubbermaid-type containers. One bigger and one that fit within it.

IMG_0044

Feline senses detect something box-like.

IMG_0045

Scout mission into box-like structure underway.

Before we get to the next step, I’ll mention that it makes life easier if you have the following: some duct tape, a circular plate for tracing a hole, a permanent marker, and an exact o-knife.IMG_0047I used the plate/container to trace a hole with the marker, giving me a guideline of where I’ll be doing the damage.

IMG_0048Then, I cut a hole on the far side of each, big enough for a cat, but small enough so anything larger can’t get in. IMG_0050 IMG_0051 From the looks of things, there is a good chance cats will have an interest in peeking into these holes.

IMG_0052When the apocalypse comes and cats rule the earth, my life will be spared.

When the apocalypse comes and cats rule the earth, my life will be spared for my works.

We laid some towels down for bedding inside the smaller container (some people like to use hay). Putting the lid on the small container, we placed the smaller container in the big one. Then I took insulation leftover from a house project and put it between three sides of the small container, leaving the entrance way free, of course.

A layer on insulation then goes on top of the small one and the lid to the bigger container goes on as well.

Just place you insulation in the in-between spots, minus your entrance side, of course!

Just place your insulation in the in-between spots, minus your entrance side, of course!

Voila! Cat shelter! And our guys took an immediate interest in it, which was a good sign. Also, use the duct tape I mentioned earlier, to cover up the jagged edges from cutting the holes. You don’t want any animals to cut themselves going in or out.

IMG_0055I placed it in the garage, and as the nights got colder, I found it getting put to good use by the various guests who would come and go. Meg also had the bright idea of using some old, small dish towels stuffed into the areas around the hole (since there is no insulation on that side) to help keep warmth in as well as keep the kitties from going at the insulation if they see it.

IMG_0162

Aha! A tenant!

And there you have it. For a total of $12, and using some leftover materials around the house, I was able to add a little extra safety and warmth for souls who otherwise would be fighting to stay warm as the temperatures dip.

"Please stop taking my picture and let me eat during my hotel stay in piece, mister."

“Please stop taking my picture and let me eat during my hotel stay in peace, mister.”


IMG_0490Almost nine months ago, I poured my heart out after a frequent four-legged visitor to our backyard, whom Meg and I lovingly nicknamed “Monster” (for the extra toes that came with his Polydactyl nature) showed up again after one of his trademark absences, bloodied and injured.

Although we knew we couldn’t keep him with three feline sons of our own and one human baby running around, we got him into our basement, cleaned up the best Meg could and the next day, got him off to the Humane Society so he could get the help and care he needed. If you can’t tell from my original entry, my heart broke that day. Monster had been showing up in our yard shortly after we got our first cat, but he wouldn’t start showing love and affection until years later, following a lengthy disappearance. He really had become like our fourth cat, but was more like our equivalent of a barn cat, coming and going out of our detached garage, with me checking in on him before work each day, leaving behind food, blankets, some petting, whatever he would need to get through the times.

I figured it was time for an update on my buddy, Monster. Since that time, I have been making periodic trips to the Humane Society to check in on him, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s recognized me every time. While it’s made me sad that I couldn’t take him back with me, I learned quite a few things about him from the folks at the shelter.

IMG_1682First of all, he’s around 5-8 years old. And, his friendly demeanor, seems to be a permanent trait not just limited to me. I was frequently told as I’d visit that he became a sort of, unofficial greeter for all those entering the cat room at the shelter. He would meet them at the door, talk to them, show a little head-bunt love and show them around.

My trips continued whenever I could. I’d talk with him, pet him, tell him how glad I was that he was healthy again, and that, while I missed him terribly, this was going to lead to a nice new home for him.

I stopped by within the past few weeks for a visit, but things were different this time – he was no longer there.

I asked around and, while it took those almost nine months, our little Monster (his name changed once in the shelter, of course), has been adopted and given a home. I don’t know the details (it’s not the kind of thing they’d just release willy-nilly), but it’s a home. All those years of dodging dogs, cars and storms, looking for food or somewhere comfy to just rest are now gone. When I got home that day, I felt a twinge of sadness knowing that this now means I won’t ever see the little guy again, but it’s balanced out (or perhaps the scale is tipped quite heavily) with a feeling that my former garage-buddy can spend his remaining years being pet, keeping warm, and feeling the love of a household.

Shouldn’t they all get to feel that way?

Him getting the gift of a loving home after all that’s occurred is one of the greatest gifts I could be given.

Merry Christmas, little Monster, wherever you are, buddy. 🙂

Monster-Yeti-002

A professional photo by the shelter once he was back to health.


Keyboard snipIn the past week, I have gone through more electronics than I do in years.

I’m not one of those gadget guys who has to rush out and buy new gizmos, trust me. In fact, before buying my most recent computer this winter, I had been using the same one for roughly ten years or so.

It was a little shocking when I tried to log in to my computer last week to find that I couldn’t type. I tried again, and again, and again, to no avail, until I looked and saw that the keyboard was no longer connected to the CPU.

In fact, the cord was severed.

However, even though this computer was brand new, one of my feline sons decided to bite his way through the keyboard cord. So, out I went to visit Best Buy, where I thought I hit the jackpot by finding a keyboard on sale from $21.99 to $4.99. I brought it home, plugged it in, and i was off once again into cyber space.

Until Monday, that is.

I had some things to take care of before work and thought I’d hop on the computer quick before I headed out. How wrong I was as it appeared, once again, that one of my little guys had bitten and severed the cord yet again!

Cord mouseThis morning, the mouse was the victim of the latest attack. This last one is fitting, I know.

I’m obviously writing from a computer other than in our household as a result right now.

So, I’ve ordered a wireless keyboard and mouse set (along with batteries to power them) that I’ll be trying once it arrives in the mail. I hear mixed reviews about them, but with three feline sons and one very human son who likes to get into everything, I figure it might be the safest bet to curb these sudden electronics expenses.


IMG_0490This is an open letter to a frequent friend.

It’s always hard to say goodbye, and often times the circumstances never allow us the way to say them that we truly wish.

You entered our lives very quietly, I’m sure like you came and went from so many others. It was in the grassy green of our backyard a few years ago that we first spotted you, lounging in the sun, shortly after we rescued our first feline son. We wondered where you had come from, and worried about where you were headed when you’d take off. At that time, though, you kept your distance, with good reason, I’m sure.

We lovingly nicknamed you Monster after noticing your extra toes. You were a polydactyl cat, much like those hanging around Ernest Hemingway.

As you appeared more frequently in our lives, and the temperatures turned colder, we did our best to make sure you had what you needed – whether it be a blanket, a box, or just some bits to eat, checking on you, or your quarters in our garage became part of my daily routine before work each day, especially in the cold winter, even when I knew you wanted us at bay.

There was a period when so much time had passed since we last saw you that my heart sank and we wondered ‘whatever happened to that Monster?’ In time, we realized you had moved on, perhaps finding a home somewhere to your liking.

Life went on, the seasons changed, and we welcomed two more feline buddies into our lives.

IMG_1686Then, one late summer day, there you were, after an almost year-long absence, sitting under my car. “Where had you been?” i wondered, and what brought you back.

It didn’t matter; we were just glad to know you were okay. In the months that followed, you showed us you were more than okay. You, this fiercely independent, domineering spirit, suddenly displayed affection, love, and need. I will never forget how overjoyed I became, calling Meg to the window when you walked right up and rubbed up against me, looking for some affection. After a few years of giving you your space, here you were, back, and saying you knew this place, and we, were okay. We could be your sanctuary.

And so it began. We bonded. Each morning, I’d head out to the car for work, and peek into the garage. If it was colder, or icy out, you’d often be inside, keeping warm, wrapped inside a blanket. In the warmer seasons, you’d often be behind the garage, but greet me at the door when I came outside to make sure you were fed or all right. By that time in our friendship, you were always more interested in getting pet, having some contact, than you actually were in any food.

IMG_1682Through the harsh winter, I fluffed blankets, and was glad to see you curled up in them out in our garage, and never knew if you ever got any effect from the hand warmers that I would leave buried in them for a little extra warmth.

As the weather this year began to warm and the snow thawed, you no doubt were spending your time out doing what you do best – living the life of a wandering cat. Your appearances became less, but when we did get a visit from you, you always greeted us with a rub, a meow, and a jump that so clearly said ‘please pet me, I need love,’ and we were more than happy to give it. My heart would always sink into my stomach, though, when you’d leave, and I’d worry about what would happen to such a kind soul beyond the boundaries of our yard.

This week, I returned home from work one night and stumbled in the driveway trying to find something in my phone, when, out of nowhere, you suddenly appeared. You meowed, as you often did, but you weren’t interested in food.

You were hurt.

I’d seen cuts and scrapes here and there over the course of your occasional visits, but nothing like this. Your ear down the side of your face, bloodied, you had a run-in you weren’t so easily able to shake off and you came back to a place you always felt safe.

For so long we knew that you were used to the life you had, and let you come and go, not wanting to disturb the balance of your life that seemed to make you so content.

This time, though, things were different. You needed help and we couldn’t let you just stumble off.

We scooped you up from the yard and brought you to our basement, with food and water to follow. You were so kind and accepting when Meg tried to clean your wounds with peroxide to try and help you, even for a little bit. I went to the store and got you a small disposable litter box to get you through this time until we could figure out what to do next.

IMG_0908With our three feline boys upstairs, curious of what was going on in the basement they couldn’t access, we knew, as much as we’d love to, we could not keep you ourselves. You needed help, though.

A quick phone call later and I got hold of the very kind Animal Control Officer, who said while he worked nights, he could come by in the morning. It was the only way you could get to the Humane Society, through him, and we knew you needed the help.

So you were our house guest for the night, which turned out to be a torrential downpour, with loud crackles of thunder sprinkled in for mood. We were glad you got to be away from it all and safe and dry below.

Going late into work, I waited for the animal control officer to arrive, and my heart shattered when we went into the basement together to find you. You were scared, and still wounded, blood still pouring down your head despite the previous night’s cleaning. You meowed that wonderful meow I’ve come to look forward to whenever I’d set foot in the backyard for our mutual meet and greets, but this time it had with it the sadness of a soul knowing they were in danger.

I couldn’t have asked for a more helpful response from the animal control officer, who was kind and patient both as we looked for you in the basement and getting you transported to the humane society.

As we parted ways, I held it together, but in the car, on the way to work, I could not help but break out into tears. My furry little friend, now on his way to get help, yes, but whom I would never again look out the back window and see lounging in our grass, or curled up in the garage. I knew it was selfish to think of what I would no longer experience, but it still hurt nonetheless. I felt as though we had given up one of our own boys.

Monster in GarageMeg, while just as sad, was, as always my rock, and pointed out that while I may not see you in the backyard, I no longer have to have my heart sink when you walk away to parts unknown.

The Humane Society says you’re doing well, and that some stitches will help heal your physical wounds. They also said how friendly you’ve been, calling you ‘very adoptable.’ I knew you would be and hope that, while it saddens me that our outside bonding in the yard and garage may be just a chapter in both our lives, that you will now be healthy enough to share all that love I know is in your little heart with a family that will give it back to you in return.

Farewell, my Monster. You’ve been a good friend. It may have taken us a little while to get to know each other, but in the end, we both showed the other our heart. Now, I hope that you will be able to receive all the love that you have to give to the rest of the world.

I’ll miss you, buddy.



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