Crystal Cat Litter

Let’s talk about cats. 

One of the banes of my existence…

is cleaning out the cat litterbox. I don’t even know if I have multiple banes or just one but either way the litter box is tops. We have to keep the box in a cabinet with a half-cracked door so only the cat can squeeze in and out. If we don’t then our dogs constantly sneak into the laundry room and eat hot-n-ready cat snacks. I generally wouldn’t mind because I think people (and dogs) should be free to live their best life but all the attempted face licks and crumbles of litter expanding in the water bowl are too much. I tried switching to the minty litter and telling myself it was good for the dogs’ breath but I knew… Then they puked a belly of sparkle minty cat cookies in the foyer only to eat them again and puke them again elsewhere. So… in the cabinet the box goes. Out of sight. Out of mind.

The trouble with the out-of-sight approach is that I forget about it. Not for a day or two but for a week. I remember when I start seeing cat tracks created by standing in super-saturated litter and then walking across the hardwood. How is the litter wet? How does my cat pee that much? Does she have cat diabetes or something? It just seems to happen too quickly. There is more liquid in the box than I have physically put in her water bowl. Physics can’t explain. At that point, the litter is so soggy and soaked that I just throw the whole pan in the trash and empty a new thing of litter. Glamorous. 

I’d feel bad but I didn’t want the damned cat and a pregnancy fourteen years ago was the excuse for why I needed to be the primary cat-shit handler. Apparently there is a risk of toxoplasma-something that is bad for babies. Once baby Jane and her three other siblings were born and I had my snip, I made an appeal to transfer cat duties to Supermom but I was denied a hearing. So I am trying to do it poorly until I am relieved of my curse. 

Which brings me to my story. 

In a particularly bad round of litterbox forgetfulness, the cat decided that the dense fog of ammonia hanging over a mound of moist turds was too much. She made the executive decision to piss and shit on my favorite jacket for what smelled like three to four days. Side note: The lavender scoops of scented pellets (that are supposed to give laundry a relaxed feel) transform into anxiety and shame when mixed with a tainted jacket. 

Supermom got tired of hearing me fuss about a jacket that used to be my favorite but now I drag around the perimeter of my property to ward off strays. She bought a fancy automatic litterbox. The box advertised a laser and special litter “crystals”. There was even a hunched cat that looked satisfied to be relieving himself. There is a timer to optimize turd drying time and minimize accidentally scooping the cat into the dump tray. What more could a lazy cat owner hope for?

But this my dear friends …is where things go wrong. 

Since the previous box was an enclosed cave sort of deal we decided that Cat might be confused. We decided that she needed an introduction to this new golden toilet. 

We wanted the date to go well. We needed it to. I couldn’t afford to lose another jacket in the midst of winter. 

We removed the old seepy box of litter and arranged the new space-aged box in its place. Supermom placed Cat in the new litter so she could know this was her new bathroom. The fancy “crystal” litter made a sound that was slightly like scooping ice out of a cooler. Cats don’t use coolers or ice so Cat was sure that she had been placed in crushed glass. She tried to run and Supermom held out her hand to block the exit. This made Cat more concerned and she tried another route to escape. At this point I stepped up to help keep her corralled in the litter pan. She panicked and tried to run but found little purchase for her tiny paws in the fancy litter. 

Supermom set Cat free and we retreated to discuss everything we did not achieve. 

By setting up a cascade of panic we ensured that no matter where Cat decided to shit, it would 100% NOT be in the new litterbox. She was so panicked that we couldn’t find her for an hour. 

The cheap Walmart box that worked for ten years was replaced by an expensive box that failed on day one. Fantastic

I will never own another cat. Easy life was not meant for me and neither are cats. They can stay outside and shit in any old crack in the ground where a hundred natural animals can then eat it up and it not require a scoop or fancy timed turd rake. Yum. Yay nature.

If your best intended plans ever backfire, this post is for you. We did coax the cat into using the box by hiding an old turd in it and locking her in the room. She had food, water, and a litterbox; cat prison. It worked. You’re welcome. I don’t have an answer for the smell in the jacket. Maybe fire. 

-Underdaddy to the rescue. 

The Dogfather or Prairie Pothole

What’s the Edgar Allen Poe story about the heart beating through the floorboard so he tells on himself? He just couldn’t stand the tick-tick-ticking. Tell Tale Heart. That’s it. I remember now.

I understand it too. Let me explain.

Its been a rough week for rodents around our house. We will start with the tragic tale of the rabbit. Appropriate because we are on the eve of Good Friday which means only three days until an immortal anthropomorphic do-gooder sneaks in and leaves shredded paper and chocolates all over my fucking house. Why do we do the fake grass? Can we not?

Back on track. The rabbit.

Four o’clock in the morning last Sunday morning. Judy Cornbread is barking at something near the carport entry door. I wander out into the darkness in boxers and a pair of camo crocks. I know this because my Ring doorbell recorded it. In all its glorious detail. Bigfoot is blurry but my side pudge and back hair somehow really pops in monochrome. If I get robbed by a chubby naked guy don’t worry, that ring doorbell will yield some of the clearest evidence the police ever receive. 

What it also recorded was a pair of German Shepherd dogs that were trying to destroy the rabbit cage. They knocked it over and shredded the roof to pieces. The bunny was covered in water and dirt and they were trying so very hard to get through the wire. I grabbed a nearby military grade assault broom and cocked it. I flew into action like a ninja. The dogs ran away but the damage was done. Our bunny was broken. We pampered the quadriplegic cottontail for a little while hoping to nurse him back to health by regenerating neurons with fistfuls of hope but in a moment we weren’t paying attention that trickster flopped over; dead as a hammer. 

We held a goodbye ceremony and burial in the backyard. He was buried like a king, in a Walmart sack inside a Steve Madden shoe box. 

But life woes comes in threes. So let’s talk about the prairie dogs. 

First, I’ll set the stage a bit. One of the first pets that I wanted when I was twelve was a prairie dog. Like, I really really wanted one. I was going to build a giant network of pvc pipes and watch them do prairie dogs shit. All. Day. Long. I needed a prairie dog. 

Fast forward and I’m a late thirties man who realized that my mother could no longer tell me no and I had just finished a whiskey tasting so I was full on confidence. Supermom showed me a lady online who rescued the baby PDs and adopted them out. I immediately gave the “make-it-rain” hand motion and told my shopping sugar mama to “buy two”. And she did because when the hell do I ever suggest an animal? Strike while the iron is hot!

So we became prairie dog owners. Two boys. Nigel and Johnathan Brisby. Two proper little gentlemen. For a while it was bliss but that bliss ended this last Monday…

I walked out into the sunroom to the enclosure and I noticed something was off. The smell was akin to potting soil and the inside of a deer after it is field dressed. Dead for sure but not rotten. Just gross. 

I look around for my boys and I only see Brisby. He is covered in dried blood. He is also fat. Like extra fat from the normal obese that he usually carries around. He is chewing on a piece of food and staring at me.

My mind probes the situation

“But where is Nigel? 

And what are those pieces of wood and cloth scattered on the floor of the cage? Looks like pieces of popsicle sticks. Oh wait.

Is that a foot? That’s definitely a foot. 

Holy Shit Brisby! You ate your brother!”

I realize that I’m not only smelling death. I’m smelling murder and cannibalism. It is earthy and coppery and a little like uncooked steaks. I have to leave the room. One of my pets has eaten an entire other one of my pets.

That murderous rat killed and ate his brother in under 24 hours. Dedication. He had a glint in his eye that I hadn’t seen before. A darkness swirling around a shiny blade. He knew that since he had consumed his brother so quickly that he would hold his life energy for a short time. He knew that he had to take advantage of wielding the power of two prairie dogs to escape from his cage and rule the world under his furry iron fist. I knew that he could no longer be trusted. Before I could even mourn the loss of Nigel I was plotting the death of his killer. 

We are all tough until the real work is staring us in the face; demanding to be done. I tried to find sympathy and reason behind those beady black eyes and those teeth stained a light tinge of red. I knew my friend was gone. I knew what I had to do. Supermom called to let me know that she would be home soon with the children. They weren’t ready for more loss. I had to move quickly. 

*Googles rapidly.*

How do you euthanize a murderous zombie rodent humanely? Nothing. 

*Thinks of scenarios*

Poison? Too slow.

Shotgun? Too loud.

Hammer? Too splattery.

Zip Tie? Too edgy and dark.

Tiny noose and a decent paperweight tied to his little ankles? Too tedious.

Put him in a Walmart sack and windmill him hard into the pavement? Too… maybe, I’ll circle back…

Electric chair for fairies? You get the point.  

In the end, I did the thing that had to be done. Maybe. Don’t judge. He scared me.

Who am I? Pragmatist? Madman? Veterinarian?  

I then placed his warm body and what was left of his brother’s rib cage into a garbage bag and placed it by the curb. It was promptly picked up the next morning. No burial. No eulogy. Only a nod to the garbage man as he passed. 

I’ve only told one of the kids. She asked if I had a picture. WTF? 

And none of this is the sad part. 

As I watched the truck pull away I realized that in the short span of two days we had lost three of our beloved pets. And fucking Jasper is STILL ALIVE. Thanks Biden.

Oh yeah, apparently Judy Cornbread watched the events through the sliding glass door. I don’t know if dogs understand everything that goes on but I’ll tell you this… she has been a more responsive dog for the past week. 

If you are a heartless monster, this post is for you. How could you?! You know what you did. The truth has weighed heavy on me so I submit it here. My confession. You’re welcome. 

-Underdaddy to the rescue. 

Tree Frog Shine

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. 

You can but it is difficult. 

And if it is Colgate you won’t get the stripes as cleanly the second time. TikTok says you can magically get the stripes no matter how many times you load it back in but I don’t trust anyone on TikTok. That nozzle isn’t magic. 

I saw a delivery guy go viral for finding a floating broom in the middle of a neighborhood around Halloween. He stopped in the street and made like three videos in utter disbelief at this magical bewitched floating Harry Potter Nimbus 3000 fucking broom. He was shaken. The video got seven million views and three hundred and fifty thousand comments. The full range of speculation. My favorite was the conclusion that obviously the witch had fallen off and the broom’s default holding pattern had taken over and was waiting on its master to recover. Like a jet ski without a rider. 

Not to brag but I’m basically famous-adjacent because I know the witch behind the whole thing. Which doesn’t really count because they didn’t get famous from it so… I’m obscure-adjacent. 

Where was I? 

I think I was setting the stage for not being able to travel to the past. To erase a misstep. To undo knowledge once it is gained. That is important this time of year. The one tradition that we have held for the children and our own selfish purposes is the tradition of inviting small stuffed elves into our home and thereby, their employer; Santa. 

Now… we have four children and their ages are getting into the range of non-belief and skepticism. That’s fine for most things. But my younger two really enjoy the Santa season. It is still fun to see the elves move around and get into trouble. It is still fun to get a stocking and sort out all the personalized choices that the man-in-red makes for them. As it so happens, the stockings became the issue this year. 

Christmas Day we pull out the stocking and sort all of the knickknacks. Each stocking got a pack of flavorful Trident gum. One was Tropical Orange and the other Watermelon. Each came in a pack of three so we chose four of the six and doled them out on Christmas Eve to make the stocking complete. The remaining two we set aside for our own purposes. We then placed the stocking on the hearth and retired to bed. 

Did you notice the error? We didn’t either. 

Fast forward. Christmas morning is a success. Brunch goes well. We eat and wade through torn wrapping paper and lie around like the lazy sacks of Christmas waste all day. As we are finishing the day and handing out some evening melatonin, Donna Threeto looks on the bedside nightstand and notices an unopened pack of Trident Tropical Orange. She then looks in the trashcan and saw the packaging that all of the packs came in. 

Like a puzzled puppy, she tilited her head to one side and said, ‘”huh…”. Then I saw it. The little childish twinkle got a little dimmer and she became just a degree more solemn. 

“Do you help Santa sometimes?” she asked.

“Yes honey, most parents help Santa.” I replied.

And that was it. She quietly walked into the kitchen and got a bowl of ice cream. 

Supermom and I both knew. She knew too.

It is one of those moments that is tiny but underpins a change in perspective. Less magic and more cold reality. 

Today was a little bit of that for me as well. We have a traditional day-after-christmas gathering with my father’s side of the family. My Grandmother has always loved Christmas and poured all of her energy each year into selecting gifts and giving them to her very large family. She would accumulate things over the year and they always had specific thought and purpose. In recent years she has struggled with Alzheimer’s and our tradition has been reduced to symbolic envelopes. This year the tradition was reduced further because she wasn’t in the room to watch the envelopes get handed out.

This feels like the last year we will carry that torch. The flame might have flickered out.

My aunt brought a large box with jewelry. Pins, button covers, bracelets, necklaces, broaches, and several other types of accent pieces. All had one thing in common. They had to be related to frogs. Greatmother built a reputation as a lady who enjoyed frogs in all of their whimsy. If something could be adorned with a frog then she had it and here in this box were years of the hoarded frogs. We spent part of the afternoon sifting through the collection and taking the ones that caught our eye. Tokens to remember a once powerful lady who has grown frail.  

Each trinket I looked at, I wanted. I could see a unique color or shape or detail that might have made it special to her. There is one where two frogs, who are clearly friends, are sitting on a log and just passing the time. They are happy in each others company. I grabbed that one. There is a Mardi Gras frog and I remember she had trips to New Orleans. I grabbed that one. There is a shiny smooth tree frog that looks like it is climbing a tree and looking back down. There wasn’t much to associate it with so I passed it over. It feels like passing those details over is letting part of her die. And doing while she is sitting in a wheelchair in the other room, wondering where she is at, seems especially cruel. I would love to have her sit and recount the special memories that each one represents. To tell me about trips and friends and how no matter where she traveled in the world, frogs were common ground. Maybe that is just a sorrowful thought that sounds good but is not something that would have been given the time.  

The truth is that I try to cling to things as surrogates to my own memories. It hurts to think about not having a lucid moment where my grandmother sees me and loves me the way she always had. She smiled at me and there was a brief second of maybe recognition but she wasn’t there. Her eyes are smaller and unfocused. Her mind wanders on the little things and she is rarely present beyond the moment at hand. Her light has all but died as well. I sit here tonight with tears streaming as I write and I mourn for someone I haven’t yet lost but I haven’t brought myself to visit in the past year. Too busy is a pitiful excuse. 

Our traditions are changing and there is this ongoing season of loss hanging over our heads. It is heavy. Then I look at the other end of the family tree and things are looking brighter. Children are happy and healthy and growing into young adults. It is important for them to learn the hard lessons and hopefully through a couple of generational layers to dull the sting. So we carry on and smile. We request things of Santa and welcome his elves into our homes. And for the next little while, when I wear a suit at work, there will be a small frog resting on the lapel. 

Greatmother has had a great life and is owed a giant slice of gratitude for who I am today. If you find yourself missing someone who might not even be gone, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue. 

Sole Mate

Some of my best pondering comes from answering small questions from the kids on topics that are mainstream and seem innocent but upon a little inspection they are pretty terrible ideas.

One of my children asked me the other day, “Daddy, do you believe in soulmates?”. Awww, cute.

I thought for a second and asked a follow-up, “Do I believe in the idea that two souls are predestined to compliment one another like Yin and Yang and exist in effortless bliss? That they seek each other out and when they find their match there is an instant and permanent bond?” 

She smiled and said, “Yes. That.”

Do I believe in that? Hmmm.

No. 

I don’t. 

Honestly, I can’t think of a more toxic approach to romance. 

I think there are people who you meet and you know, in mere seconds, that you share something with them. Humor, interests, attraction. There are clues or vibes or energy that says “hey, this is my kind of people.” I have lots of friends that I’ve met this way. I knew in 0.2 seconds that I wanted to date Supermom. I think there are also people who you meet who you know almost instantly, “f* this asshole”. They cause your hair to bristle on the back of your neck. Something inside tells you that friendship is very unlikely. I believe in the power of first impressions and the feelings they create. But that isn’t something predestined.   

No… this idea of a soulmate is really a terrible one. 

For one, what happens if soulmates are a thing and yours gets hit by a bus? What if it is seconds after you meet or, even worse, seconds before? Do you get a runner up soul-mate? Are you doomed to go through life seeking someone less than perfect for a mate? And that brings another question. Do you even have to find a soulmate in the first place? What if you aren’t interested in a partnership at all. The current birthrate and beer commercials suggest that most humans are interested in mating but some people aren’t. Are they leaving someone stranded? Who is pairing people up and then sending them out with the stork to later find each other like a sexy game of Where’s Waldo? 

Or what about this one… Let’s say I’ve taught my children that soulmates are a thing because Disney or whatever and then they grow up and get married to someone who they feel fits the description. Then the marriage becomes terrible but they hesitate to make a change because somewhere inside we created this emotional trap of a soulmate. They are genuinely concerned that this is their one shot and by “giving up” on this idea they are settling for something less than ideal. That would suck.  

Don’t even think about the stalkers who are convinced that the uninterested target of their affections is actually their soulmate. They feel a divine purpose to stay in pursuit and awaken this feeling in their victim. What would have happened if Sleeping Beauty woke up and thanked the charming prince for his kindness and bravery but then moved on with her life and left him in the dust? I don’t want my daughters chained to some toxic dude because they feel that a) he earned it or b) the universe ordained it.

Or Snow White after the creepy dude kissed her knowing that everyone thought she was dead. They thought she was DEAD. Everyone did. This dude opened a casket and kissed a hot chick he found while walking in the forest. This is a romantic story but all I can wonder is what is wrong with men. If I was an eligible bachelor strolling through the woods and came upon a well-preserved dead girl in a glass coffin on a vine covered altar I don’t think the emotion would be aroused. Or even affectionate. Curious maybe but certainly not drawn to open the Tupperware container and bestow a kiss. That’s how you get zombies, Steve.  

Enough of that rabbit hole. Back to the main event. If I don’t believe in a soul-mate then where does this idea come from? What’s behind the allure?

I think our desire for an everlasting reward from a long struggle comes from a place deep inside where we want finality and certainty. We need a goal post. We want to know that a struggle is worth it. Love, like most good things in life, takes energy and effort. We want something that we can cross off the list and say “Done”. Soulmate, check. 

We do this with other things too. We decide that the next milestone is the key. If I can just get “x” then I will be happy or safe or something. 

Its why diets fail. Its why rich people and celebrities still suffer from depression. Its why empires rise and fall. We enjoy the challenge and the excitement of changes and compliments on our progress but once we achieve the goal. Now what? Oh… just some maintenance? That sounds fun.

Anything you worked hard to get should be worth keeping. And if it is worth keeping then it will take effort. Purposeful effort. I myself need that reminder a hundred times a day for a hundred different things. I still can’t figure out how our little white dog Jasper is worth any effort at all but Supermom has his back.  

Oh well. Such is life. 

If you are dubious on the ideas of soulmates then I guess this post is for you. You’re welcome. If you firmly believe you were granted one from the universe, then good for you. For myself, I believe I found an amazing partner. I couldn’t imagine a better person or path for my life. If I thought soulmates were a real thing, she’d be a shoe-in. But we work every day to take care of our love and our family. Does it help that we are both amazingly sexy creatures of unlimited physical and mental desire? Of course. Sure. But that’s icing on the cake. We share our journey as well as our destinations. We piss each other off and lift each other up. We support each other’s crazy ideas. But there is nothing guaranteed or automatic. I hope my children see the purpose and the effort and know that the life you live is the life you have chosen by doing the little things day in and day out. Don’t wait around to find your soulmate, work to become one. 

-Underdaddy to the rescue. 

Vehicular Homicide Pt 2

On Christmas day at 6:30 am some nutso domestic terrorist detonated a car bomb in downtown Nashville. An RV bomb is more accurate. The RV is the cover photo for this post. There were three injuries and no loss of life (bomber doesn’t count) but millions of dollars in damages and probably a total loss of some historic properties that won’t be replaced. A terrible event that could have been much worse. 

I mention this event for posterity and also to contrast and compare with the events I’m about to share so that in hindsight they will seem not-so-bad and even comical. 

So a few stories back we established the fact that Papaw is an immortal anomaly who haunts the dreams of OSHA inspectors every night. (Occupational Safety and Health Administration for my overseas friends) OSHA makes the recommendations to not stand above a certain height on a ladder or to wear safety glasses. Those kinds of things. Things that are too cumbersome for a man on Papaw’s schedule. 

No sir. This board has to be cut on this table saw immediately. Who has time for safety glasses or hearing protection or even proper wiring. Not Papaw. Safety third. 

The other day I had a very Papaw-esque encounter and I just found it too fun not to share. 

Papaw: (calling on the cell phone) Hey can you give me a ride home from work?

UD: Sure, what’s up?

Papaw: Ahhh, my truck’s got a flat tire and I had to park it and Mamaw had to bring me to work.

UD: Okay. No problem. I can be there in just a little bit. Say, I thought you had an air tank that you carried on the truck?

Papaw: Well… the tire is pretty damaged. And I lost the spare. And my extra gas can. 

UD: Hmmm. That sounds like one hell of a flat tire. Did it explode or something?

Papaw: Yeah, I hit something and tore my tire all to pieces and I it knocked some stuff off the truck.

UD: Oh wow. What did you hit? A deer?

Papaw: I don’t know. I ran off the road a little and hit something hard but I didn’t see anything.

UD: Did you stop.

Papaw: No, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but then my tire went flat.

UD: Did you look at the truck once you got stopped?

Papaw: Yeah something red on the bumper and down the right side.

UD: Jesus. Was it blood? Did you hit a person? Am I an accomplice to a crime?

Papaw: No, no, its paint from something.

UD: Something?! That could be anything! Was it a kid named Timmy in a little red wagon? (It was nearly midnight so this option was doubtful but I was concerned.)

Papaw: I don’t know son. *exasperated sigh* I’ll have to go and see after work.

UD: How did you not see something? Did you fall asleep?

Papaw: My window was frosted.

UD: Did you not wait for it to defrost?

Papaw: Well I did but the wipers don’t work on the left side (driver’s side) so it was blurry and I just ran off the road a little because I couldn’t tell where the edge was. It was just a mailbox or something.

UD: Okay. But you know that could’ve been little Timmy in a red wagon.

Papaw: But it wasn’t.

UD: But… it wasn’t. 

Y’all. 

This is peak Papaw. 

A chain of preventable events that are sacrificed on the altar of getting something done. In this case, it was “not being late to work so the other guy doesn’t have to work longer.” Epic self-sacrifice to avoid creating inconvenience. If he was in the military he would have been the guy jumping on the grenade or fending off an attack after getting shot thirty times. This is the core of his being and I love it about him but sometimes it manifests in hilarious ways. 

So fast forward and I’ve picked him up from work and carried him home. We passed the scene of the events and there wasn’t much to see. Some scattered debris and a couple of posts where mailboxes and something else used to stand proud at the edge of the road. 

I dropped him off and started back home but slowed down on this pass to get a better look. 

That is when I see the entire grill off the front of the truck, a crumpled light pole with a red cast iron base sheared out of a concrete footing, and two innocent mailboxes scattered into the forest. Someone had stopped and snagged the gas can. The giant spare tire is laying in the grass about twenty feet past the truck grill. 

It looks like the Roswell crash site. I can only imagine the explosive force required to dismantle all of these things and to further imagine that he drove three miles before thinking “that tire feels a little flat, better not drive on it” just makes my day. 

This is a smart man. A strategic man. A thoughtful man. But as a mechanic, he has the idea that cars are disposable and anything mechanical can be stitched back together with enough bailing wire and curse words. 

And he isn’t wrong but damn. My candy ass hits a pothole too hard and I’m sick to my stomach over a disrupted wheel alignment and uneven tire wear. I have a lot to learn.

For those of you wondering. He did go back and replace the mailboxes because he is a stand-up guy. He kept the light pole base because childhood poverty taught him that hoarding is necessary for survival. It will live in the pile of old truck toolboxes until the price of scrap metal rises or he passes it to his children in his will. The victimized truck will live to threaten more mailboxes. I guess its just another ongoing case of vehicular homicide. You’re welcome. And Happy NEW YEAR!

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

If you missed the original Vehicular Homicide or Papaw Stories like The Normalcy Bias or Coon Whisperer click on the link.