Thoughts on Parenthood or: How I Nearly Killed My Cat With Holistic Medicine

A few weeks ago, I decided that I needed to try a natural way of relieving my tension headaches, so I bought some eucalyptus essential oil at a farmers market.

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Assassin in a bottle.

It wasn’t some watered down stuff from a spa or girly bath products store; it was straight up. Like so strong a koala could drink it on the rocks with a splash of soda and a lime wedge, so I thought it best to put a drop or two on a cotton ball to test its potency before using it in earnest.

When I turned the bottle over, my cat Ivan–with the perfect timing that only felines have–jumped on the counter to get himself some lovin’ and set a horrific, unstoppable Rube Goldberg machine into action. He bonked my elbow with his head and sent a gusher of oil out of the bottle’s mouth, drenching the cotton ball and my hands. And in the middle of the fracas, Ivan walked right under the flow and got a perfect stripe of eucalyptus oil down his back.

Turns out, it is toxic, especially when ingested in oil form. And what do cats do best? That’s right. They bathe themselves profusely. I hollered for Wayne to grab the bottle of coconut berry cat shampoo, and we feverishly washed Ivan in the bathtub, passing bottles and cups back and forth as efficiently as a seasoned NASCAR pit crew.

Ivan is normally good natured, but I think he was fairly well freaked out by the strong smells of eucalyptus and panic emanating from me. So he skipped over the steps by which cats show their displeasure (twitchy tail, bug eyes, low growl in the back of the throat) and went to plaid.

He got clean. I got a scar. (See photographic evidence below.)

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Scars are cool, right?

The evening ended with a wet, furious cat, a bloodstained tub, and a room that smelled so strongly of eucalyptus that we had to shut the door so we could sleep. And while I didn’t have a headache when the escapade started, I sure did at the end.

But no worries. We’re both fine now.

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He’s back to his lovely, lazy, tubby self.

Humor aside, there was something else of note in the evening. The entire time I’m scrubbing my cat’s back in a frenzy, wondering if I’ve killed him with my stupid attempt at holistic medicine, I kept thinking, I’m not fit to be a parent! What kind of mother will I make if I can’t even take care of a cat? They’re self sufficient! All you need to do is feed them and clean the litter box once or twice a week. I can’t even do this right! And the voice in my head grew louder and shriller as I went.

I fretted and fussed over him all night, wrapping him up in a towel like a kitty burrito and praying he wouldn’t die some horrible death because I was an inept pet parent.

The next day, we took him to the vet, but they didn’t see anything to worry about. So after he charmed the scrubs off of every lady in the place and got a rabies shot required by the state of Georgia, we took him home. Now he’s fine as a frog hair split three ways. Yes, he was lethargic the day after the visit, but in my defense, he’s often so lethargic that it’s hard to tell if he’s sick or just being a bum.

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“Oh, Mother….must you carry on so?”

Still, I keep going back to that frantic thought I had as a hunched over the tub, scouring my poor cat and trying not to cry. Is that what parenthood is like? Do you constantly second guess yourself and worry that you’re a failure? Are there mulligans in parenthood or do you make one slip up and the little hooman in your charge ends up a “deaf, dumb, and blind kid” (who may or may not “play a mean pinball“)?

These are the things I worry about as the adoption approaches. Up until now, my blunders were my own. Any stupid mistake I made impacted my life (and on occasion Wayne’s). However, we always found a way to work ourselves out of a mess, no matter how royally we hosed up. With children, the rules change. Heck, the entire game changes. Any poor decision I make won’t just throw a wrench in my life; it will impact theirs.

What’s worse, I can even hurt them with my words, my lack of attention, or my impatience. And fixing whatever I break will take something a lot more painful than a quick dunk in soapy water.

Sometimes I think about my kids; I wonder where they are and what they’re going through. The little lives that will be entrusted to me are, as we speak, are experiencing the worst the world has to offer: neglect, abuse, deprivation, shame, and pain. Or maybe that’s over. Maybe they’ve been taken away from the abusive parent (who they still love despite all the failures) and thrown into a system that will bounce them around from place to place, some of which may be less than ideal. I think about what might be happening to them, and I want to scream.

I don’t want to be the next person who harms them. I want to be the one who does everything right, who doesn’t make mistakes, doesn’t lose control, doesn’t break down or screw up or lash out. No matter what.

But one thing this silly moment taught me is that it’s so easy to do. So easy.

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I want to hear your thoughts, your advice, and your good counsel. If you’re a parent, especially of adopted children who come from hard places, please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

For an Unnecessary E, You Get an F

There’s a scene in The Birdcage where the son is trying, for lack of a better term, to “de-gayify” the house. Why? Because his fiance’s conservative parents are coming for a visit and (though he doesn’t know it) to discuss wedding plans. He is being assisted in this endeavor by drag queens from his father’s club, and while he’s busy hiding things in closets and cupboards, they keep putting out objects they think straight people would have in their homes. The chaos finally reaches its zenith when two helpers hang a moose head on the wall and ask, “Too butch?”

Val’s reply is terse utterance I’ve come to use when making editing decisions…

“Don’t add. Just subtract.”

More often than not, this little maxim has served me well. I’m often tempted to alter a document to a way I think sounds better, and while I can say I’m not batting .1000 in the “less is more” department, I do hit more than I strike out.

I wish the same could be said of then Sharpie-wielding clodpate who decided he had an ironclad grasp of English grammar and spelling rules and should “correct” one of the signs on the very nice walking trail in my neighborhood. Granted, this sign is the closest one to a bridge where several resident artists have chosen to make the world a brighter place one shaken can of Krylon at a time. For the record, many them espouse the merits of cannabis…the ones I could read at least. There was, however, one in thin black letters that simply said “Genuine Vandalism” I actually chuckled at.

Okay, the editor in me sees two problems right away.

1. The obvious kerning issue in “HABITAT.” Why in the world did they print a sign with that much space between two letters? Honestly, it’s so far apart, it looks like “HABIT AT.”

2. There are two periods missing. Both the sentences at the bottom are obviously complete and need end punctuation. I would have gone with periods for both, but a case could have been made for an exclamation point in the first one.

There’s also a clarity problem with the phrase “native creatures.” There was a veritable passel of dogs in the park today–all of them walking, playing ball and frisbee, and smelling and being smelled. Seriously, it looked like the party at the end of Go, Dog, Go!

But I digress. My point is that, according to that bossy sign, I could harm the dogs if I wished (and their owners weren’t looking). They aren’t covered by the decree because they are, in fact, not “native creatures.” Something like “Don’t harm the animals” would have been much more inclusive to any critter, creature, or varmint in the general area.

I know. I know….We all assume the prohibition on animal cruelty applies to all of them whether they be “native” or “foreign.” But some uncouth ne’er-do-well could take advantage of a loophole in the signage. I’m just saying.

And then there’s that “E.” Crooked. Awkward. Banal. And somehow comically obscene. It leans on the “M” like a truant child might against a convenience store wall, a pilfered Virginia Slim from his mother’s unguarded pack between his lips.

I have no clue why it’s there or who in the name of Strunk and White thought it would be wise to add an utterly superfluous vowel at the end of a word—one that your average second grader can spell correctly, even under pressure. (Okay, in a completely irrelevant aside, I was looking at the word “Harm” just now and started saying it like Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride. You know, Inigo Montoya, helping Fezzik with his rhymes? “Probably he means no..haaaarrrmmmm….” Now you’re doing it, too, aren’t you?)

I looked up “harme” in the dictionary, hoping for some reason that it would be a word that could serve as an acceptable synonym, but alas and alack! It isn’t a word at all. Nope, this is just another example of needless human error—like the haphazard use of apostrophes when forming plurals or the casual flinging about of commas—the grammatical equivalent of negligent homicide. Epic fail, good sir or madam. Epic fail indeed. 🙂