Surrendering Cats: Post-game Show

It’s been over a week since we surrendered our three cats Athos, Porthos, and Aramis to the Humane Society in Woodbury MN. If you follow this blog with rapt joy, you have all the background you need. If this is your first time here, welcome. This post will make more sense after you read Surrendering Cats: Pre-game Show » Can’t Juggle (

Sweet surrender

There were a lot of tears as we ushered our three MusCATeers into carriers. The cats were pretty vocal that they were not pleased to be going on a trip that wasn’t on any of their calendars. We gave our daughters a few minutes to say goodbye. When it was time to leave, it was really hard to squeeze out, “We need to go.”

My wife, Trish, and I then took the cats to the Humane Society. Trish drove since I had already taken my OH Shit! meds (to help when I am having a spike of anxiety/panic) and they make me drowsy. We had decided as a family that Paige and Evelyn would not join us so that we could complete the surrender with as much efficiency as possible.

I don’t feel up to sharing much more about this trip. It was hard. It was heartbreaking. The people at the humane society were so compassionate, understanding that we were surrendering members of our family. That helped a lot.

Mission accomplished

The end of the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad cat pee and shit reign of terror has been profound for me. That particular situation, which was triggering so many feelings of being trapped (the main theme of my childhood trauma), is so much better. I feel pretty certain that it was standing in the way of my climbing out of my current bout of depression and anxiety.

The tarp we had covering the pool table (that was one of the regular pee spots) ended up slightly less waterproof than we expected. So, when I removed that tarp to throw it away and put a new one on (since we still have one cat and cat claws can damage the felt), there was a big spot of pee in the center of the table. We got the table recovered (this past Monday) and since there is no longer pee happening around it pretty much every night/day, I feel like the pool table is available to me again. I haven’t had the energy yet to play, but I will eventually. The thick vinyl cover we’ve been waiting for finally showed up yesterday. So, we’re done with the tarp.

Wrapping up

Saying goodbye to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis was difficult AND necessary AND the healing is under way. I have had a few instances of going into our living room wanting to pet whichever of them was on the sofa or loveseat… We’re recovering as a family. A slightly smaller family. But a family.

Sarah McLachlan was not at the Humane Society in Woodbury MN when we got there. The likelihood of her surfacing was not high anyway.

Surrendering Cats: Pre-game Show

Disclaimer: This post is going to ramble. Even more than my usual posts do. I decided to keep it that way because it honors what’s going on inside my brain right now. I usually go through several drafts of my posts, editing/re-writing as I go. But I’m not doing that here.

I’m NOT an early riser. It’s 5:30 am as I start writing. I’ve been awake for a while and finally decided to just get out of bed and be done. It’s the day we are surrendering 3 of our cats to the Humane Society. If you follow my blog with rapt joy, you will have read Cat Pee, Suicide, and Bananagrams » Can’t Juggle ( If not, welcome. That post has background info that makes this post make a bit more sense.

We are keeping Onyx, who accidentally scratched my left cornea several years ago (an injury I still feel, especially when the scar tissue decides to get ripped off and it’s like a fresh wound). From this anecdote, it would seem like the secret plan for a cat to stay with us is to scratch me in the eye. But that would be inaccurate. Just coincidence. I REALLY hope Onyx doesn’t scratch me in the eye again as it was agony. Onyx does consistently use the litter boxes in the laundry room, though. We see him go in there.

I want to blame my poor sleep on the emotional strain of a 75% decrease in felines at our house; it seems the most likely cause. But that “it’s because you say goodbye to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis today” label just won’t stick properly, like a Post-It note that somehow missed getting the sticky part. Quick shout-out to 3M: That’s not a quality issue I have encountered with Post-It notes or even the generic versions. But I have encountered the occasional Puffs Plus with Lotion tissue that somehow dodged getting lotion. That is a shitty experience: you expect the soft caress of a tissue with a hint of lotion on it that doesn’t aggravate your nose and instead you get a dry, rough tissue that feels more like newsprint than something you are SUPPOSED to use on your face. Total shitshow.

I’m going to miss the cats. My whole family is. I just heard my wife, Trish, in the kitchen for the last early-morning feeding she’ll need to perform. Porthos, the fattest of the bunch, demands it. He actually hurls his massiveness at the bedroom door over and over until she gets up. When I was still sleeping up in the bedroom rather than the spare room in the basement (due to my Anxiety), that banging he caused startled the shit out of me and drove me nuts. “We need to ride it out, ” I would say. “He keeps doing it because it keeps working. If we ignore it, he will eventually stop.” And then she would point out that “You can’t really train cats that way.”

And I would remind her of Mercutio, a cat we had that died several years ago. It was in our old house. We kept our bedroom door open (which is not good practice; a closed door can save lives in a fire) to make it easier to hear if offspring were up and stuff like that. When we first got him, Mercutio had a habit of jumping up on our bed RIGHT NEXT TO MY FUCKING HEAD and scaring the absolute shit out of me. I ended up developing amazing reflexes to grab him with both hands then throwing him to the floor (even from a dead sleep); not hard enough to hurt him, but hard enough that he wouldn’t like it. It took a couple weeks for this training to take hold, but once it was over, he never did it again for the years we had him.

Through experimenting with putting one cat at a time in the bathroom in our basement, we were able to determine that Athos was not the prime culprit in the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad cat pee and shit reign of terror. Porthos gets the blue ribbon for that. We ended up keeping Porthos locked away for a few weeks. It was so much better for me. Easily an 85% reduction in “accidents” around the house. So, it proved that Porthos wasn’t the only one and put the idea of just rehoming Porthos and keeping the other musketeers out of the question. A couple weeks ago, we decided to let Porthos out of the bathroom since he was pretty miserable in there all alone. So, I have been trapped by all the exquisite nastiness of cat pee again for the past few weeks. Which has been hard for me, but less hard for Porthos.

I feel the need to apologize to Athos for pinning so much blame on him. Not that I treated him differently when I though he was the pisser in chief, but just that it turned out to be wrong. I have been petting him a lot in the past several weeks. He has this habit of sticking his tongue out and back in over and over when a scratch his back in a few particular places. It’s adorable. I found this sweet treasure last week. Part of me is pissed that I didn’t find it years ago instead of just before surrendering him and never seeing him again. But I’m trying to be happy I found it at all instead. I could have missed it. And I would have one less thing to smile about. I realize Athos may never read this, but it makes me feel better to express it anyway.

The “surrender” of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis makes me think of “Sweet Surrender” by Sarah McLachlan. DAMN, but that that lady can sing. And that makes me think of her song Angel, which is about the death of Jonathan Melvoin (of The Smashing Pumpkins) of a heroin overdose but was used in a commercial that Sarah did for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). It’s a beautiful song for sure and I can see why they chose it. But at the same time, my brain is like, “Can you IMAGINE if cats did heroin!?”

We never gave any of our cats heroin. Please don’t give cats, or any other pets, heroin. Or yourself, actually. Heroin is not good for anyone, in my opinion.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Sarah McLachlan was at the Humane Society in Woodbury, MN this afternoon when we are there? That would be cool. But it seems unlikely.

My feelings today are complicated. While I will miss these adorable, funny cats, I get such a sense of peace knowing that I will be able to once again live in a house that doesn’t reek of cat pee. We need to get some flooring replaced (yes, it was that bad) and do a deep clean in other places before we’re really done. But the first step is getting the culprit(s) out of the house. As of this evening, this step will be complete. It’s also the first step in healing the hole in our hearts that will be left behind once the cats have gone to live somewhere else. We can’t get past it until it happens.

While I typically don’t give advice, I have a few tips here:

  • Avoid heroin.
  • Avoid getting scratched in the eye by a cat (or any other animal for that matter).
  • Please close all bedroom doors at night.

I’m not sure what kind of shape I will be in this evening. I do plan to share how I am feeling AFTER we say goodbye to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. But that may not happen for a few days. So, I’m getting this post out now. Writing this is helping.

Remember the Can’t

I’m having a hard time today. I mentioned it on Twitter but that seems too transient a platform to rely on for helping others feel less alone when they need it. So, this very brief post will just have a list of thoughts going through my head right now.

  • It is not a character flaw to be unable to function due to a mental illness/disorder, to “can’t” as I sometimes refer to this.
  • It is OK to can’t.
  • There are probably people you care about that are can’ting right now.
  • I am can’ting right now.
  • Despite how it may feel, can’ters are not alone.
  • I am safe.

If you can’t, please know that you are still worthy of love and compassion and that the world is better with you in it.

The Trouble With Postmortem Compassion

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

It is not common for me to start a post by citing the United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, but here we are. Assuming I do this right, my choice here will make sense shortly. I hope.

S5.4.2 Each convex mirror shall have permanently and indelibly marked at the lower edge of the mirror’s reflective surface, in letters not less than 4.8 mm nor more than 6.4 mm high the words “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.”

eCFR :: 49 CFR Part 571 — Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

I’m not sure when this was added to these standards. I was going to do a little more research to determine that. Then, I came to several realizations one right after the other:

  • I don’t give shit.
  • You don’t give a shit.
  • Acknowledging when this requirement was added to the standards has no bearing whatsoever on this post.
  • Given the above realizations, including the enumeration of these realizations here provides no value but I did it anyway.
  • I can be a real jackass sometimes.

There’s science behind why convex mirrors can give you the impression that whatever you see in the mirror looks further away than it is. You are more than welcome to look that up. But I’m going to continue.

A giant bag of dicks

A few years ago, I was on a leave of absence from my job due to my Depression and Anxiety being a giant bag of dicks. I should share a little background here and since it worked so well above, I’m going to use a List.

  • Depression is a dick.
  • Anxiety is a dick.
  • “Depression and Anxiety” does NOT equal “Depression + Anxiety” in the way that having “two apples and three plums” means you have (2+3=5) five pieces of fruit.
  • Rather, it is more like Depression to the power of Anxiety (or vice-versa); each one making the other “a lot worse.”
  • Whenever something is troublesome, having “a giant bag” of that something is “a lot worse.” Since having one hornet nest is bad enough, having a giant bag of hornet nests would be a total shit-show.
  • Thus, Depression (which is a dick) and Anxiety (which is a dick) yields a “giant bag of dicks” rather than “two dicks.”
  • Math, y’all.

My oldest, Paige, had her learner’s permit for driving, meaning she could legally drive with either me or my wife in the car with her. She was playing Cello at the time and took lessons from an amazingly awesome music teacher about ten minutes away. Since the giant bag of dicks (see above) made being around people REALLY HARD and uncomfortable, I went with Paige to her lessons, but instead of going into the teacher’s house with her, I sat in the car trying to read, usually with at least some success (trouble concentrating is a pretty common symptom of giant bags of dicks).

It was lovely weather at the time so I sat in the passenger seat with the windows down. The music teacher lived on a pretty quiet street so it was wonderfully peaceful. I was having trouble reading so I put my tablet down and looked out the window, my eyes drawn to the side-view mirror. I still shudder and get waves of super intense emotion and shock when I recall what I saw in the mirror that day.

Eye scream

As I have shared before (see Trauma, EMDR, and the Kobayashi Maru Test » Can’t Juggle (, my mother suffered from Bipolar Disorder. And she struggled a lot. For decades. And when she was really having a hard time, even when she couldn’t form the words or the noises necessary to scream in aguish and exhaustion and rage and sorrow and defiance and surrender, she had this look in her eyes that I can only describe as screaming. Despite the countless times I saw my mother’s eyes scream, I didn’t realize what it was until a particular day (years after her death) when I was sitting in my car outside a music teacher’s house.

As I looked in that mirror, and saw my eyes, the rest of my face changed to be my mother’s face. But the eyes were identical. It looked just like how you might see a transformation in movie. My face faded out, except my eyes, and suddenly I was looking at my mom. My eyes were screaming in aguish and exhaustion and rage and sorrow and defiance and surrender. No. That’s not right. OUR eyes were screaming in aguish and exhaustion and rage and sorrow and defiance and surrender.

In that profound moment, I realized how much I had in common with my mom in a way I never had before. In that profound moment, I realized how alone my mom had been most of her life. How much pain she was in. How much she needed someone on her side in a way that actually felt helpful to her. In that profound moment, the decades of compassion that my mother desperately needed but was denied descended on me without mercy, pummeling me, like someone was beating me with a… well… a giant bag of dicks.

I wrote a poem. Honest.

A few days after this, I wrote a poem about this experience. I infused it with anguish. I infused it with transformation. I infused it with newfound compassion. I called it Eye Scream. And I lost it. Can’t find it anywhere. As I was writing this post today, I came to several realizations one right after the other:

  • That poem was actually pretty damned good.
  • I was proud of it.
  • I don’t need a poem to share this experience or what I took from it.
  • I don’t need to enumerate these realizations here but I did it anyway.
  • I can be a real jackass sometimes.

Assigning blame

For so many of us, when we see/hear about/experience something we deem to be “bad” or “suboptimal” or “wrong,” our reaction is to want to find someone or something to blame for it. It has to be somebody’s fault. Often, we end up pinning all this blame on some individual or group of people we seek to marginalize or exclude. There are places to pin some blame for what my mother went through, perhaps, but at the moment I feel like providing a list (lots of lists today, yeah?) of someones and somethings that were decidedly NOT at fault here in any way:

  • Vaccines
  • The Infield Fly Rule
  • People named Chet
  • My oldest brother’s hamster, Ginger, that I used to throw across our porch
    • I need to point out here that this was a thing I did several times. I was really little and kept wanting to hold Ginger and SOMEONE kept letting me hold Ginger despite the inevitable throwing of Ginger across the porch when her tiny claws tickled my palm and I was afraid she would bit me. So, there is actually some blame that comes into play here. But not related to my mom.
  • The Solid Gold Dancers (look it up)

A call to action

I try to focus my posts on my own experiences rather than trying to push anyone to take any particular action. I am going to diverge from that just a little here. I still have such regret that I didn’t give my mom the support she so desperately needed. I don’t blame myself, but I can’t help thinking about the profound impact it could have had for my mom if I had treated her with more empathy. She’s gone. I can’t change that. I found compassion for her in the end. But she wasn’t there to feel it. THIS FEELING SUCKS SO MUCH YOU GUYS.

If there is someone close you that you have trouble finding empathy for, my call to action for you is to take a moment to think about what they may be going through. Try to see the world through their eyes. Try to see what they see when they look in the mirror and how it might be affecting them. After all, as I can tell you from my own experience, you may just realize: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.