I’m going to be all over the place this year, signing books and eating. Okay, mostly eating, but also signing books. Here’s a look at my schedule. If you have a book event near you that you think I should attend, let me know– I love to travel and meet bookfriends.
This week is our ten year wedding anniversary, and no one is as surprised as me. In a life filled with wild variations, mistakes, moves, loss, and questions, Missy has been a guiding star. We met fifteen years ago on a now-defunct Yahoo personal ad. Clearly, she swooned from my proper use of grammar.
And here we are. Ten years. My father told me, some years ago, that marriage got better with each passing year. I believe that. The people we are in year ten are a far cry from the people who married, and yet our complementary status only seems to grow. I’ve noticed a few things, too– liking someone is different from loving them, and it’s a critical part of building a life together.
It’s more than a house. It’s the feeling, and the kid (five feet tall and growing), the pets, the shared things. Details and fractions of details and the addition of things you never knew, all woven together into whatever it is you do every day without seeming to notice.
This is Missy in her element. There are so many parts to this picture that represent her essence.
Notice: Comfy socks. Diet Coke. Laptop, as she grades a line of interminable essays, ever the English professor. Her work ethic is unmatched, and yet, there she is smiling amidst *cough* a, ahh, representation of our pets. Cats love her, dogs adore her, and they all crowd around her much like the rest of the world, a guiding star and calming presence in a world of ceaseless uncertainty.
That’s one of her tricks. She removes uncertainty when it shows up, and the house- and our lives– go on at a wonderful, sedate velocity, filled with warmth and humor.
Ten years with my bride. Thanks, babe. All the love.
As a nap expert and college professor I feel like this is a real strong point for me, so allow me to share some fine tuned techniques I’ve curated over the years. I hate the word curated but since this is a tutorial, there’s a lot of pressure on me to make this feel exclusionary and elitist. Using words like curated and conserved really grants me that sense of unearned snootiness that so many writers crave.
Now then, let’s begin.
I’m going to present this tutorial in a simple series of steps which will yield an amazing (amazeballs, if you prefer) nap experience.
Is the sun up? Congratulations, you can take a nap. If the sun is down, it isn’t a nap, it’s sleeping, which is a prohibited activity for parents, students, parents of students, and anyone who is not a cat.
Lower the thermostat to 58 degrees. If it’s winter, you’ll want to raise the temperature to 66 degrees. Do not deviate. It’s science.
Do you have any cats? If yes, go to step five. If no, go to step four.
Visit your local animal shelter and select 5-20 cats to ignore your presence. Take the cats home, release into house and go to your bedroom for further instructions.
Begin preparing your bed by layering a sheet, two blankets, and no less than six pillows. It is preferable that one of the blankets is fuzzy and/or a worn quilt. Bonus points if the quilt belonged to a deceased relative.
Turn your pillows. Examine them for irregularities, then strike the pillows with firm, sharp blows in order to show them who’s boss. Restack.
Turn back one corner of the bedcovers at a 45 degree angle. Any more will result in a temperature compromise in the Central Mattress Zone. This is unacceptable. Protect the heart of the Mattress Zone like your virtue, unless your name is Tiffani, in which case you protect the toasty area of the bed like it’s your Volkswagen Jetta.
Slip under the covers carefully. Don’t cause disarray. The idea is to be a lump, not a tornado.
Remain still for ten seconds while the cats begin to arrange themselves on your head, face, and shoulders. Bonus if you have any exposed skin that they can knead with their claws; you should steel your nerves so as not to move while they soften you for mattress material.
Put your phone down.
Seriously, put the phone down.
FFS, Kelsey, get off twitter and put your phone down.
Close your eyes.
Don’t answer the text. The cats will get mad and since there are twenty of them and you’re basically a human burrito under the covers, they can eat you if they so choose.
Quietly admonish the one weird cat who is eating your hair.
Give up, since hair grows back.
Quietly admonish the three cats who have chosen to give themselves full body baths while laying on your stomach.
Remark that if you could lick your own legs, it would save a lot of time in the morning.
Feel yourself drifting off to sleep, a sweet release of relaxation punctuated by toasty little lumps who begin purring because they sense your surrender.
Wake up in a panic five hours later, groggy, disoriented and with a lowkey headache.
Vow to never sleep during the day for that long, know it is a lie.
Name the cats.
Change three names of cats, change back. Look at phone. Plan nap for Thursday.
This concludes my expert advice. Naturally, you’ll want to tailor these steps to your own needs, but I don’t recommend it. I’m an expert, and I have over eleven college credits.
We have somewhere between five and seventy cats. I don’t know the exact number, but it seems to fluctuate based on things like “holding a can of tuna” and “trying to write a book while using a laptop”.
Outwardly, I appear to be a dog person. We have five dogs. I love dogs. I talk to them in silly voices, or as a colleague when they appear to be listening. I run with them, nap with them, and have not gone to the bathroom by myself in nine years. (True Story)
But it’s my cats that really bring out the weird in me. Granted, I’m a writer, so that wasn’t exactly a difficult task.
(side note: every writer lives in fear of dying without clearing their web browser. we call it research, but in truth, it’s generally unhealthy fascinations with things as varied as skin conditions, hiding bodies, and why a tiger might only eat half of a person. stuff like that.)
So when we have yet another litter of rescued kittens, they begin to attach themselves to us like adorable parasitic floofs, worming their way into my daily routine with shocking speed. Naturally, I have my favorites, and naturally, some of the cats only tolerate me– after all, they’re cats. It’s what they do.
Which brings me to my recent conversation with my friend and book advisor, who is also a cat person and thus understands what life is like with miniature, disdainful lions who poop in proscribed locations throughout the house.
“Jess,” I said, not thinking that I might be weird, “I like to nibble my cat’s ears while he sits on my lap.”
There was no recriminating gasp or shock on her end of the phone call, merely, “OH MY GAHD I DO TOO.”
So, there’s at least two of us, thought I think other people will admit it once they know OTHER people are willing to come forward. It’s a circle of affirmation for Cat Nibblers, or whatever the inevitable meetings will be called.
And despite, the efforts of Sugar (he’s the white one, getting fed by my bride, The Cat Whisperer), I can now proudly announce that my tenth novel, Moonborn, is complete. I’ll share the cover soon, and more sample chapters as well.
Cancer– the scourge of our lifetime– took Dr. Lloyd Elliott this week. He was fifty, he was our family veterinarian, and he was a rare individual.
My wife and I love our animals. We regard our relationship with them as a kind of covenant, and Dr. Elliott was a huge part of our lives for the past sixteen years. He was kind, intelligent, patient, and gifted. He was empathic. He was a friend. He took care of our pets in health, and helped usher them on when disease and age made their lives unbearable.
He was with us on the very best of days, and on the worst as well. He cried with us, cheered with us, and cared for our friends as if they were his own. On the last day of Bernadette’s life, my Great Dane was too weak to walk. She weighed two hundred pounds, but Dr. Elliott met me at the car and helped us into the hospital, where she would take her last breath as we all cried, missing her even as her spirit left the room.
Dr. Elliott was– and is– a special human, and I will miss him. I cannot fathom what his family is enduring. I buried my Mother due to cancer, as well as my Nana, my Aunt, and my Grandfather. It’s a ruthless, implacable and capricious killer and I hate it with all of my heart. We lose good and great people to it, and through it all, wonder who is next.
I hope and pray that Dr. Elliott’s family can, in time, find some measure of peace. What do you say? I don’t know. I didn’t even know what to say when my own mother died, how can I articulate the loss for another family? Is compassion really enough? It feels hollow, somehow. I don’t want that kind of hurt to exist for a family who gave us someone loved by so many people.
Sometimes, it feels like sorry isn’t enough. This is one of those times.
A manchild. He’s eight. He’s five feet tall and weighs one hundred pounds.
I am, at various times, tasked with waking/relocating these beasts as demanded. Cats are the easist; I make cooing noises in my ridiculous pet voice, they glare at me, flick their tails, and leave.
Dogs are a bit more complex. If it’s cold outside, or raining– then they’re comfortable, and that means they have no interest in moving. I may be required to physically lift and transfer them to another area. I may bribe them with food (usually what I’m eating) or I may coax them on the rare occasions they’re feeling charitable.
The kid is a different story.
For one thing, I feel an enormous sense of wonder watching him sleep. Yes, it’s vaguely creepy to hover over my spawn and keep repeating, “Aww, would you just look at him!”. If he were older, he’d most likely open a baleful eye and ask me to stop making him feel like the subject of a study on overbearing parents.
More often than not, what I feel is guilt. Here’s the kid– five blankets, all strewn about like a crime scene after a hurricane, limbs in positions that would make a Yogi proud, and gusty sighs of contentment. Here I come, ready to disgorge him from this toasty nest and ask him to go to school. I don’t like doing it. I’d rather drink coffee and let the kid sleep, then start school at a civilized hour– around ten would be nice– and do away with the feeling that I’m some cruel warden who works in reverse. Winter mornings are the worst. I certainly don’t want to be up and out among eight hundred screaming kids, why would he?
Today, he slid from bed and thumped across the floor with a half-smile. It took a little of my guilt away. At least until tomorrow, when I have to rouse him again.
Just ten more years, kid. But for now, I might let him sleep for a few more minutes. It’s good for both of us, I think.
This Tuesday, something happened that is a (sadly) common part of my life. Taking my son to school, I noticed a rabbit sitting in a driveway. From her body language, I knew she was badly wounded. I stop, approach her carefully, and pick her up. She’s shaking, in pain, and scared.
I’ve been rescuing animals since I was a child. My dad taught me to love animals, respect their plight, and above all else, render aid when and where I could. In the past month, I’ve handled a possum, a crow, five kittens, a rabbit, and snakes, frogs, and turtles. In truth, I have pulled over to escort woolly bear caterpillars across the road (I find them charming and oddly funny). I am a magnet for turtles. This is known.
The bunny’s injuries were too severe, and I knew it. We drove across town to the animal hospital, and she was given peace. My wife kindly said, “Her last few moments were warm.” I do this a lot– every time, it’s hard, and every time, a bit of me stays with the small life that just ended. I’m okay at first, but like a tide returning to shore, the feelings catch up with me. I cry, think about what it means to help (it’s not always easy) and move on. In more than forty years, it doesn’t get easier. Ever. What I’m going to write now is something I’ve been considering for several days. As a writer, I have to be– polite? Careful? I must choose my words, because my living comes from the sale of books to kind people who believe in my stories. Therefore, I’m comfortable with the following departure. A few days ago, Jezebel published this: http://theslot.jezebel.com/an-october-surprise-for-mike-pences-dog-death-1788255412
Let’s read that headline together: “An October Surprise For Mike Pence’s Dog: Death”. In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t like politicians. That doesn’t matter here, at least not to me. Jezebel is a site that combines snarky exploitation along with the journalistic integrity of Gawker. They’re not journalists; they write clickbait about private lives and scandal to earn money. That’s it. They earn money from pain, or shame, or curiosity. That headline is beyond the pale. Even for the appalling standards of clickbaiters, it’s sick. It’s the lowest common denominator in a field dominated by exploitation and stupidity. I’d say they have no shame, but that’s redundant. I’ve never read Jezebel, or the *author* of that piece, one Brendan O’Conner. I certainly won’t start now. I will, however, tell my readers to consider who you’re supporting when you click on anything from their site. For me? I won’t forget this article. I leave that decision to you. Thanks for reading. Terry