Kittens are Assholes

 I forgot that kittens are assholes. 

That's what happens, you know. When you go from having a 16-year-old cat, who largely just sleeps, to two six-month-old demons with fur. 

Running. Always running. And jumping... Onto counters, onto tables, onto anything they shouldn't be. And using their claws... on the couch, the leather chair, my foot. Chasing each other from one end of the house to the other, and then lunging for each other's throats. Pooping where they shouldn't be because the dog is blocking the door to the basement. So they just shrug (in a kitten way) and look at each other, as if to say, "why not?"

Yes, kittens are assholes. But they're also kind of cute. Rolling around on their backs, purring as I rub their little round bellies. Following me as I move from one room to the next. Chasing their own tails, around and around and around and around. Letting me reenact that scene from The Lion King (you know the one I'm talking about), presenting them to a room full of imaginary animals. 

But, still, definitely assholes. 


Good fortune

I am a fortunate person. 

I repeat this to myself, when things feel tough. 

I am a fortunate person. 

I am a fortunate person in so many ways. I have a roof over my head. I have food in my fridge. I have a job. I have people who care about me. 

I am a fortunate person, but sometimes things just feel so overwhelming. Am I living the life I'm supposed to be? Have I taken enough chances? Did I let opportunity pass me by in lieu of the comfort of familiarity? I am a fortunate person, but sometimes I wonder. I wonder what more there could be. I wonder what I have missed out on in favour of protecting my own heart. 

I am a fortunate person, but I am terrified of the future. I am terrified of the day when I won't be able to pick up the phone and hear the voice of my mother or my father. Forty is just around the corner, and yet I don't feel like any more of an adult than I did 30 years ago. I am a fortunate person, but I know, with the certainty of everything that is inside of me, that if I ever lost my sister or my brother I would just be an empty shell. I am a fortunate person, but I look at my dog, as his health begins to fail, and I wonder which walk will be our last. I wonder if he truly knows just what a good boy he's been. I wonder if I showed him enough. If I loved him enough. If I deserved his love in return. 

I am a fortunate person, but I have no idea what my future holds, or if I will even have a job this time next year. I have bills to pay - a mortgage even, and commitments that cause this ever present sense of panic in the pit of my stomach. Will a time come when I will ever feel relaxed? Will I always feel like I am running as hard as I can just to avoid falling behind? Will there ever be a time when things feel easy? 

But for all my fears, for all my uncertainties, I mean it when I say that I am a fortunate person. I am fortunate to feel enough love that I fear its loss. I am fortunate to have a house I worry about losing. I am fortunate each day that I wake up with a future that is still full of opportunity. I am a fortunate person, and I can't imagine that there will ever be a time where I won't want to express my gratitude for that in whatever ways I can. It's why I donate blood. It's why I volunteer. It's why I donate money here and there. 

I am a fortunate person, and, one day, I hope that I feel worthy of being so fortunate. 


I feel like I only ever write in this blog when I have suffered a loss and need somewhere to share my anguish.

His name was Alex. 

I’d known him his whole life, and more than half of my own. I watched him grow. I watched him overcome the obstacles that were thrown at him, one after another. I watched him overcome fears. I watched him strike out on his own. I watched his family beam with pride as they saw how far he had come. As they saw the man he had become. And, as it would turn out, I was also watching him struggle. I didn’t know it, but I was watching as he fought a battle on the inside. I was watching as he broke. I was watching as he lost hope. 

He had so much left to do. There was so much life to live. There are so many people, out there in the world, who can’t even begin to imagine the loss they should feel right now because they missed getting to know such a wonderful person. 

His name was Alex. He should be here, but he’s not, and now everything is so different. 


A Eulogy for my Cat

 I feel sad and lost. 

Sure, there's a pandemic happening and I haven't seen the vast majority of my family for more than a year now, but, to be honest, that has kind of been a perk when it comes to a few of the people I share DNA with. 

The pandemic has only been a minor annoyance for me... but having to say goodbye to my cat has broken my heart. 

He was an old dude. 16. He went by many names in his lifetime.. Jackson, El Presidente, Mr. Cat, Jackass... Each one earned. Each one fitting. He once managed to climb behind an air vent and make his way underneath the floorboards of my first house. "Floor cat," I told my parents. "I am going to have a floor cat now. When I sell this house, I will have to tell people, 'just so you know, this home comes with a floor cat.' And how will I even clean up his poop if he is a floor cat?" But, after about 15 minutes of crying (him) and gentle tugging (my father), he was free and my worries over whether or not a floor cat added value to a home or took it away proved to be unnecessary. 

He was an expert negotiator and always got what he wanted. If I got lax in changing/washing the litter box, he would poop in my bathroom sink, or, on occasion, in the bathtub. "You really know how to get your point across," I told him after the first time he did it. "I can't even be mad at you because you have a valid complaint." 

He was an overly ambitious, and then regretful, explorer. On two occasions he escaped, unnoticed, from where we were living. Both times his bravado wained when faced with the night. "Wow.. that crying cat outside sounds loud," I remember thinking to myself one night.. only to have my neighbour send me a text message the next day asking if my cat was on her back step. He was. I felt terrible for not noticing his absence.

He added a touch of himself to everything he encountered. Especially electrical cords, plastic and anything he could chew on or make holes in. He gnawed on/threw countless adapters, cables and wires. Upon climbing inside my brand new duvet cover and (assumedly) forgetting how to get back out, he shredded his way through its meagre fabric. Far too flimsy to keep him trapped for long. Nothing deterred him, except maybe tobasco sauce, which, coincidentally, also deterred me and frequently resulted in my eyes burning when I forgot I'd coated something in it. The cat, however, didn't seem to mind. He would just move on to something else. 

He was my cuddle buddy. Late at night, he would jump up on to my bed and situate himself near my head, right next to my arm, and wrap his paws around it. 

I knew our time was coming to a close, but I didn't know how fast that day would come. "Remember this," I would tell myself, closing my eyes and trying to take as much of it in as I could. "Soon, this will just be another moment from the past. A memory." So I took videos. I took photos. I cuddled him more often. I rubbed my face in his fur and inhaled. I kissed him often. I carried him with me when I went from room to room. I loved him hard, but I still feel like I should have loved him even harder. I should have pet him even longer. I never should have put him down. 

I didn't notice anything was wrong with him. No. That isn't right. I noticed all of the things that were wrong with him, but it wasn't until after he was gone that I put all of those pieces together. Now I just feel guilt. Guilt for missing the signs. Guilt for every single one of the times I spoke to him with anything but adoration in my voice. I know he wouldn't have held a grudge. Pets are so much greater than humans in that way.. but that doesn't make me feel any better. Knowing that he was old.. knowing that his kidneys were failing.. that doesn't help much either. Logic tells me that, regardless of how quickly I'd been able to get him to the vet, his age, the issue at hand and his already declining health would have likely seen the same outcome. But my heart is still screaming that maybe it didn't have to be this way. Maybe I just failed him. Failed to keep him safe and healthy the way I should have.

All I know is that right now I feel so lost. Lost without that little asshole. Lost when I look at a plastic bag that hasn't been chewed on. Lost when I see an electrical cord without little puncture marks. Lost when I hold open the door for the dog and catch myself trying to make sure no other furry beasts make a break for it at the same time. 

I remember this heart break well. I know it hurts less with time. I know the evenings I spend curled in a ball, crying as I watch a video of him purring will eventually get fewer and far between. I know that those videos will soon just cause me fondness instead of so much angst. But right now... right now I just miss my cat. 


Existential Crisis on Mushrooms

I decided to paint my basement while high on mushrooms. Actually, the choice to paint my basement came long before the mushrooms. I'd gotten paint the week before, taped off the appropriate places and washed all the walls down. But it was while high on mushrooms that I decided to begin the actual task itself.

As I sat there, rolling the dark blue colour across the wall, I started to wonder what the point of it all was. “If this life is all there is,” I said to myself (and possibly my cat), as I paused in my task, “then why am I even wasting time painting this room? I mean… nothing even really matters. It's all just so pointless.” The cat did not seem to have an opinion, one way or the other, and stared back at me blankly. 

"But, if nothing even matters," I continued, "then that means I should be taking joy in every moment that I can. I SHOULD be painting this room because it makes me happy right now. I SHOULD be embracing hedonism. If there's no tomorrow and our actions have no karmic consequences, then shouldn't I be making every single second count, with the explicit purpose of bringing amusement to myself?" I asked aloud. Again, the cat stayed silent. 

"We're all going to die," I told him ominously and then began to laugh and weep, as I resumed my painting. The cat, used to my antics, looked at me for several more seconds before lifting his back leg over his head and turning his attention toward grooming his nether regions. "Typical," I sighed. "You are no help. I think I have to stop painting now because the walls look like they are melting and it's making me feel sick."


Crossing Items Off a List

Each year, in celebration of my natal anniversary, I make a list of all of the things I would like to achieve in my next year of life. Most of these things are small. I think it may have been Oprah who said something about the importance of setting achievable goals. "You shouldn't say, 'I'm going to get a raise this year,' because you cannot choose to give yourself a raise," I seem to recall her explaining. "Instead, say, 'I'm going to work hard and be an employee who is deserving of a raise.'" Not one to defy Oprah, I took her advice to heart.
There are many things in life that are simply out of my reach. I can't stop people from taking me for granted. I can't make someone fall in love with me. I can't give myself a promotion. But there are plenty of things that I can do. I can be assertive and stand up for myself. I can practice recognizing my own assets and building up my confidence. And I can bowl. By god, I can bowl*.
The items on my list are very rarely about emotional growth, or doing better at work. They are about spending time with the people in my life who matter most to me. They're about having fun and living in the moment. They're about helping others as best as I can and as often as I can. They are, quite literally, about bowling. And, more often than not, at least one is about running.
This year, one of the things on my list was to write more. Technically, I do write daily. I write newsletter articles. I write tweets. I write business emails. I write brochures. I write text for PowerPoints. I write proposals. I write website content. I write all sorts of things. Often, I even enjoy what I am writing, but I don't actually write for enjoyment.
So in this year of my life (even though my birthday was a little over a month ago), I am making a return to writing. Specifically a return to writing with the sole intention of making myself laugh.

*but not well


Just one...

It was an idealistic week of infatuation, never meant to last. He was moving. To Europe. In eight days. We seemed entirely in sync. Hanging off of each other's words. Staring in awe at one another.
We maximized our time together in the evenings, knowing that it was limited. "Why am I only meeting you now?" we both repeated more than once.
It was his last night in the country, naturally, that we had our first argument. It was about his departure. It wasn't that he was leaving; it was why he was leaving.
"I am not proud of this country anymore. I don't like where it is headed. It isn't the same in Europe. People are different there. If you want to see our future, look south and what is happening there."
I was taken aback. Shocked dumb.
"Leaving the country doesn't eliminate the problem; it only delays it. This isn't an isolated incidence that is limited to North America. It is happening around the world."
"No, people in Europe are hyperaware of this kind of thing. They don't stand for it," he declared.
"But something like 20% of people who voted in the last federal election in Germany voted for a party that is anti-immigration. In France, one of the main political parties has ties with the far-right. Italy has the League party, which is steadily rising in popularity and is also far-right. And England... I think Brexit pretty much says it all. This is happening everywhere."
"I can't believe I am saying this but you're being so ignorant right now. You're ignorant. And if what you say is true, I guess it's a lost cause anyway. And I'd rather be in Europe because it's 100 times better than anything here."
"I feel like you are also being ignorant. And I couldn't leave. I couldn't do that. Even if I knew it was a lost cause, I would stay. To my dying breath, I would do whatever I could to make a positive change. Even if I knew it wouldn't change the end result. I would need to know that I tried."
"One person can't change things," he said.
But he was wrong. Every great moment in history started with one person. One idea. All it takes is one. For change. For innovation. For anything. Just one.
My lust for him disappeared, in a poof, in that moment.
I do not care that I am just one person. I do not care that my efforts may never result in my goals. I do not care if it is a hopeless pursuit. This is a hill I will die on. With pleasure. 



I sat there, second pew from the back, trying to focus on the music. As far as memorials went, I couldn't complain.
I met David in 1990. I was five years old. My mother was a firm believer in the benefits of enrolling her children in music lessons at an early age. By five, I had already taken both violin and recorder lessons for a year each. The recorder was my segue to the flute. It was a condition given to me by my mother before she would invest in purchasing another expensive instrument - play the recorder for a year, and, if I still wanted to switch to the flute after that she would sign me up for lessons. So I served my mandatory sentence, and then I met David.
He would have been twenty-eight at the time, the day of our first lesson. He didn't just teach me how to play the flute; David taught me how to be a good person. He taught me about compassion and patience. He taught me about love and respect. He taught me how the smallest acts can make the biggest difference to someone else. And he taught me that one of the greatest gifts you can give another person is the act of simply being there for them when they need you. Looking back at his notes on all of my music books, David was also frequently trying to teach me to slow down and breathe - advice that is applicable in both flute playing and in life.
Shortly before one of my flute lessons, when I was fourteen, my bird died. As soon as David saw my face that day he knew something was wrong. Instead of going over Minuet or Humoresque or whatever piece we'd been working on, David rubbed my back while I sobbed on his couch in complete and utter heart break.
David was there, again, when I had to put my dog to sleep in 2015. My parents were treating me to takeout from the restaurant of my choice. It just so happened that I wanted burgers from a place that was located across the street from where David was living at the time. My father saw him out on his balcony, called over to him and explained the situation. That day, like so many years before, David hugged me and rubbed my back as I tried my best not to sob in the passenger's seat of my dad's truck.
When my mother told me that David had called, I didn’t need to ask why. I'd known he felt off and was undergoing a few tests at the hospital. There is only one reason why people call me when they are sick: they want to know about hospice.
I didn’t want to return his call that day because returning his call meant acknowledging the reality of the situation: David was dying. I didn’t want David to die. I don’t want anyone to die, but I especially didn’t want David to die. He was 56; how could he be dying?
Why hadn’t I made more effort to catch up with him on a regular basis? Why didn't I stop to say hi to him when I'd seen him walking across campus a few months before? Did he know that he was, hands down, one of the most influential people in my life?
One of the most difficult things I have done in my life was pick up the phone and call him that day, but I did it. I did it because he asked me to, and I would have done anything he asked me to. I followed up with the hospice; I did what I could.
He was thrilled the day he moved to hospice. He'd been in the hospital for a month, sharing a room with three other people. "I had a shower this morning," he beamed at me when I visited the next day. Even with death looming on the horizon, David was nothing but gracious. He didn't complain. He didn't cry, or at least not in my presence. Instead, he was peaceful; he was accepting. "I've lived a good life," he'd explained. "I earned a PhD. I travelled around the world. I helped make good people," he said, as he glanced at a friend who was standing in the corner of the room. "See," he paused, "didn't I tell you I helped make good people?" he asked her, nodding in my direction.
David died on a Monday in December. I cried when they told me. I felt physical pain in my chest.
It was a week and two days after he arrived at hospice. Two and a half days after the last time I saw him, when he'd called me into his room to say goodbye and I'd kissed his forehead as I left.
Instead of a funeral, they held a memorial concert, where friends, family and former students played in his honour. And, as I sat there, in the second last pew of the church that day, I swear I could feel him in the music - smiling and looking around at all the people... Nudging me, saying, "didn't I tell you I helped make some good people?"


Starting off 2018 on the right foot...

"What the hell, you cunt bandit!" I exclaimed (to the cat). 


My grandpa died tonight, although we'd been slowly losing him for years.

I'd received a text message from my mother in the early afternoon letting me know of his failing health. "The doctor says it could be any time now," she'd written.

I volunteer at a hospice every Sunday. I was in the middle of making cookies when I got my mom's text. Earlier, I'd brought out a tray of snacks and coffee for a family who'd just lost a loved one. Later, as I sat next to my grandfather's bed, holding his hand and stroking his forehead, one of the nurses came in with a tray of snacks. I smiled at her, and laughed quietly to myself at the reversal of roles.

"Do you want a few minutes alone with your grandfather?" my mother asked me. "Is there anything you want to say?"

"No," I told her. "He knows. I've already told him." A few years ago, back before he had gotten sick. When he was more himself. It was his birthday. I wrote him a card and sat with him as he read it.

"Thank you," it said. "Thank you for teaching me how to drive a car. Thank you for teaching me how to make my own rope. Thank you for showing me how to cast a fishing line. Thank you for letting me shoot a pellet gun. Thank you for teaching me the names of all the trees in the forest. Thank you for making my childhood exciting. Thank you for being my grandfather. I love you."

I've not yet cried over my grandfather's death, but not because it doesn't sadden me. I will miss my grandfather. I will mourn his loss for the rest of my life, but we can't keep the things we love with us simply because we don't want to be without them.

My eyes teared up as I said goodbye to him for what turned out to be the last time. I kissed his forehead and rubbed his hands. He looked so small laying there in his bed. His breathing was laboured, but he looked peaceful.

I don't know where we go when we die. I don't know what happens. But I'd like to think that my grandfather is out there, somewhere, free from the tethers of the frail body he left behind. I hope that my dog is there with him too.  


So Ambitious

"Oh, are you looking to do assisted pull-ups?" the sales representative at the fitness store asked me.
"Yes," I told him. "Right now I can do zero pull-ups, and I would really like to be able to do one pull-up," I explained.
I've had the goal of being able to do one pull-up for half a year now. I figure it is time that I finally do something about it. Well, something other than just buying a pull-up/dip station that is now primarily used to hang bras to dry. 



"I don't want to do this," I sobbed, more to myself than to anyone else, as I stood in the small room. There was a blanket on the floor and an exam table to my right. My mom sat in a chair in the corner and my dog sat at my feet, more than likely wondering what all the fuss was about.
The time had come.
It was clear he wasn't getting any better. He was losing weight and moving around less and less. He was just as loving as always, but he had lost the energy and sense of excitement about life that he'd once had.
He used to roll around on the floor and kick his legs in the air. I hadn't seen him do that in over a week, and he would no longer come when I called for him.
The vet said many things to me while I sat on the floor, stroking my dog's side, but I don't remember most of them. "I am not sure," I remember replying many times, without really hearing the question. All I could think about was how much my heart hurt and that I would soon be without my best friend of more than ten years.
His heart stopped within seconds once the vet began to administer the drug. "He's gone now. He was very weak," I heard them say. I sat there, beside his body, stroking his side for several more minutes before I felt another wave of grief.
I loved that dog with all of my heart and a few hearts to spare. As I patted his head for the last time and gave him one last hug, I did not feel regret. Sure, I wished with everything inside of me that things had ended differently, but I knew with a certainty I could not put into words that I had finally proven myself worthy of my dog's adoration.
The first moment I held him, I knew that I would be with him until he took his dying breath... just as surely as I knew he was bound to break my heart. I wasn't wrong. 


My hands on the steering wheel, at ten and two, as I make my way down the highway, going a few clicks faster than I probably should be.
Watching the road ahead of me, I feel a slight pressure on the sleeve of my shirt. Looking down to my right, I see a paw gently resting on my forearm. I glance up at its owner to see him staring at me in what can only be described as hopeful adoration.
"You're such a dweeb," I tell him, taking my right hand from the wheel and rubbing his head affectionately.
I spend the rest of the four hour trip holding his paw in my hand.
It became a ritual, of sorts, on any car ride - his paw in my hand. 


The waiting game

It's a last ditch effort; bombarding his body with pills to see if something will work.
"This would be so much easier if you could just talk, Dog," I tell him while stroking his head.
"It is weird," the vet said. "His symptoms are so vague, and his test results aren't really telling us anything other than that there is fluid around his lungs." I nodded as his voice echoed through the phone.
"I can't afford to take him to the specialist," I told him and tried to keep my voice from shaking. The test the vet had recommended to confirm a diagnosis required a referral to another vet and $1,500 to start.
"If the specialist is not an option," I continued, "is there anything else we can do?"
"Well, if the fluid is caused by an infection, antibiotics would be able to treat it, or if it is congestive heart failure, water pills would help," he replied. He'd told me earlier that, if the fluid was not a result of infection or heart failure, there could be a few other possible causes that only the specialist would be able to diagnose. Two were very rare and would involve surgery resulting in a bill of upwards of $5,000, and the other was a tumour on the heart.
"If I chose to give him antibiotics and water pills, would we be doing it for him or would it really be just for me?" I asked.
"What is frustrating with this case," the vet said, "is that we just don't know what the cause is. There is a chance that the pills could work, but we just don't know."
"Okay," I said, and took a deep breath. "And if I give him these pills, how long would we wait to see results before it is no longer fair to the dog?" I asked.
"I wouldn't let it go more than a week. But if he starts eating again, more than just tiny little pieces, we'd extend that to two weeks and take things from there."
"Okay," I said, "let's do that then."
I've spent a lot of time crying. While the idea of my dog dying was looming on the horizon, it wasn't something that I'd seriously given much thought. I'd assumed I'd have more time. More time to be a better owner. More time to spoil him. More time to take him on long, slow walks. More time pet his fur and tell him that he would have to start pulling his weight around the apartment and get a job. But I've come to realize that, no matter what happens, I have already been lucky to have had this much time with him. I've had nearly eleven years of his love and loyalty, and, since he started showing signs of illness, I've already gotten an extra week I didn't think I would have. If our journey together has reached its end it will hurt, but I have no right to complain. But I don't think I can be blamed either... for being greedy for more.



Gandhi's longest hunger strikes lasted 21 days. So far dog is on day 23, although he seems willing to cheat every so often.

Both blood and urine collected and analyzed, the only thing we can say for certain is that dog is probably not fasting to end violence or anything quite so noble. 

It is hard to say if he is in his final days. Other than having no interest in food, he largely still seems to be enjoying life, but there are times when he is so still that I have to place my ear to his chest to make sure he is breathing. 

I spend hours just staring at him and stroking his head. I feel anxious when I have to be anywhere that requires me to stray from his side. Hard as it may be, I can accept that this may be the end of our journey together, but it breaks my heart to think he might take his final breath when I can't be right next to him. 

Without any sort of definitive answers from the vet, I am not sure if the idea of euthanasia is jumping the gun. "If only you could talk," I say to him, as we stare at one another. "I don't know what you want me to do, and I don't want to make the wrong choice." 

So, for the time being, I keep him next to me in my bed at night, listening to him snore as he breathes in and out, hoping that maybe tomorrow he will decide he has proven his point and eat the bacon I have cooked for him.