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.


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!



I Think My Cat’s A Fluffy Nudist

I know all pets have….quirks. Some more so than others. For instance, I once owned a dog named Twinkie who liked to eat bubblegum. Shadow, my dog who passed away, used to bury food if we didn’t feed it to him in small bites. Anything huge, and he’d try to find a place to hide it in case hard times came again. Old stray survival habits die hard I guess. He even buried ice cubes, which he loved to eat when he was a pup. No fooling.

Baker, however, takes the catnip laden cake when it comes to oddball. A true 11 out of 10 on the Weird Pet-o-Meter.

First off, I think he suffers from narcolepsy. He just collapses in a fuzzy heap whenever the urge strikes him, and when he does, he usually ends up sleeping on his back with his paws in tight kitty fists.

Comfy couch or hard, unforgiving coffee table—it makes no difference apparently!!

This is a rare moment when he passed out right side up.

More often than not, he looks like this….

He views people as his own private furniture. But I think that’s pretty much standard operating procedure for a cat.

We believe he’s trying to do an impression of a comma when he lays this way. Oftentimes, after assuming this position, he will use his claws for purchase and drag himself across the floor like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the final scene of The Terminator.

We really should have named him “Oxford”–both for the punctuation-shaped pose and for the color scheme (like Oxford shoes!)–but we named him Baker because he likes to “make biscuits” or “knead” with his paws when he’s happy.

He’s also been caught sitting on more than one occasion. He looks like a drunk sitting outside a bar in a spaghetti western when he does this.

So, yeah, my cat collapses like a flan in a cupboard. If that weren’t weird enough, the only time you’re guaranteed uninterrupted time to pet him is when you’re using the bathroom. For some reason, he wants to be thoroughly petted when there’s a toilet involved.

When he jumps into your lap or onto a piece of furniture, he looks like Kramer entering a room on Seinfeld. And the harder you pet his butt, the more he likes you.

He also tries to get away from the vacuum cleaner by going in four different directions….at once. He knocks himself over when he sneezes, and he tries to “hide” from us, forgetting that if we can see his fluffy butt sticking out from under a pile of pillows, he’s not invisible.

He likes to be made into the bed…both under the fitted sheet and under piles of blankets. He’s fond of sticking his nose in right up against your mouth, but you can’t get up in his grill. He’s a hypocrite like that.

But the newest thing involves his collar. He’s learned how to take it off. Not because it’s too tight mind you. He’s worn it since the day we adopted him and has not protested one iota. (By the way, we got him “reduced for quick sale” from the Fayette County Humane Society. He was the “Star of the Week,” so his adoption fee was half price and we got a sweet bag of goodies including a pound of gourmet pet food, a huge water dish, and a ton of treats and toys. They practically paid us to take him, which was pretty swell. As weird as he is, he’s a perfect fit for us…and he was a bargain. I only wish I could find a way to harvest his fur and knit sweaters out of it like they do with alpacas. But I digress.)

No, he now takes his collar off because he likes to play with it. He slides it across the kitchen floor.

He throws it in the air, dances with it, and chases it around the house until it gets wedged under a piece of furniture.

I’ve found it in two dozen different places around the house. Ranging from his own food dish….

…and outside the litter box, left behind like a pair of discarded socks.

Believe me, he’s not hurting for gewgaws. There’s an entire box of jingle balls, fluffy mice, rattles, crinkle toys, and other assorted feline delights in addition to TWO scratch pads in the house. One has a ball that runs around it, and the other is an Emory Cat. We buy quality crap for our cats, that much is for sure. You can do that when you don’t have kids. You can also indulge in frivolous things…like sleep, adult conversation, and clean clothes.

However, despite the bountiful cornucopia of cat-related paraphernalia around the place, he takes his collar off to play with it. That’s what I keep telling myself at least. Otherwise, I have to admit that my cat is a fluffy nudist who gets his jollies from being “nekkid” around the house.