Ventilation.

Growing up, we had three dogs. One was a cocker spaniel, the other two were lhasa apso mixes:

They were fun and friendly and we loved them a lot. But we didn’t walk them enough. Probably because my family’s default setting was “sedentary.” Instead, we’d open the back door for them twice a day so they could do their business in the yard.

But sometimes, business was slow.

Consequently, there were many indoor accidents. If we were home we could identify the culprit by the deep shame in her eyes. But when we were away, our house turned into a giant carpeted animal toilet. We’d arrive home and bee-line to the paper towels for the inevitable shit-piles and piss-puddles waiting for us.

Every. Flipping. Day.

I know my house reeked because my best friend’s mom stopped letting her come over. I had become inured to it; or rather, the smell from my parents’ ever-lit cigarettes was more egregious to me. Possibly because dog excrement doesn’t threaten human lives the way smoking does.

Still, we treated them as though they were tiny humans. They slept in our beds, ate off our plates, swam in our pool, slobbered on our guests. We coped with their bathroom quirks even if it meant never taking off our shoes inside our own home. Because they were family.

So…

Um.

I don’t quite know how to make sense of what my mother did to our dogs when my father died, so I will just report it.

His death was sudden, a heart attack, and came on the heels of a pretty horrendous financial disclosure. We had to move very quickly to a place my mother could afford; a two bedroom apartment that didn’t allow pets.

I found out she euthanized our dogs after it happened. She brought them to the pound and had them put to sleep. She said she had no choice, she couldn’t find homes for them. But I know in part she couldn’t bear the thought of them living with another family. Eating off their plates. Pissing on their carpets.

And as shameful as it is to admit, I never got over it. I never even talked about it until now. I cry every time I think about it. I’m sure some of the pain is related to my father (we were unable to mourn him properly for reasons I may hopefully be able to talk about someday)… but also, for years I had to downplay their loss so I’d be capable of grieving with my mother instead of vilifying her.

Anyhoo.

I told myself I’d never own animals again. My adulthood would be filled with sweet-smelling rooms, spotless carpets, bare feet indoors, and zero pet heartache.

It was. For a bit. And then we had a baby. Who became a toddler. Who became a nine-year-old. Who wanted a cat.

Like many kids with two artist parents, he’s smart and sensitive. We often indulge his (and our own) desires to discuss topics that are slightly bigger than him. As a result, his conversational drive often has a kind of phrenic patina to it. Adults love talking to him.

Kids, however…

One time when he was seven he shouted this to an entire table of boys at lunch: “If any of you guys are feminists, raise your hands.” None did.

He sat alone at recess and read Garfield books. He rarely had playdates. I knew his desire for a cat came from his longing for soul who was as helpless as he felt. But I couldn’t do it. “No pets,” I said.

And while the citizen part of me was proud of him for his professed political leanings, the mother part felt like a failure. I was raising my child to be a responsible adult ten years too early.

We decided to send him to sleep-away camp, hoping the day-to-night kid rhythms would replace his premature adult ones. It would be his first time ever without a parent or grandparent.

He was going to be surrounded by kids he didn’t know how to talk to.

For an entire week.

While I was on deadline.

(Sigh.)

He came home from camp a week later to find two bewildered kittens and this contraption in the living room:

The D.I.Y. litter box ventilation system I built.

YOU WANNA MAKE THAT, DON'T YOU...

NEEDED: a piece of Plexiglass, a Dremel saw, a CPU fan, a laundry hose, vinyl & acrylic tape, anxiety, insomnia, and a light case of osmophobia.

I basically followed these instructions, except I used this litter box so I wouldn’t have to cut a hole in the side.

TIPS: Make sure your CPU fan faces the right direction so it’s pulling the stink out. And be careful when you use the Dremel to cut the Plexiglass; you’re basically melting plastic so do it outdoors and score it well first with a sharp utility knife.

Et tu, pie?

Three years ago I was on deadline when October 31st rolled around. My son was seven at the time. He wanted to be a pumpkin pie for Halloween.

The year before he was Emmett from The Lego Movie. Year before that he was Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas. He’s been Doc Brown from Back to the Future, Neo from The Matrix, and of course, Harry Potter. Like most kids, he is attracted to the cultural figures he relates to.  Inevitably he chooses male heroes because they are abundant. Not that I haven’t tried to counter that…

“Jane Fonda,” Halloween 2009.

…but as soon as he was old enough to understand that attire can be used to project identity, he made different choices. And aside from continually pointing out the gender disparity to him, I feel a bit helpless.  So when he wanted to be pie for Halloween, I was psyched. How wholesome and uncomplicated. No unconscious bias in pie. And the aspirational qualities! Sweetness, freshness, simplicity…

But unlike a costume based on a movie character, it’s difficult to render for a human body. Luckily I was on deadline and had no free time, so I spent hours researching how to make a delightful pie costume. Conceptually we shifted from pumpkin to cherry because of the color palate. The pie itself was simple enough to make (I used this as a model). The whipped cream hat proved challenging, but we got there.

And although it was difficult for him to sit normally…

… it was impossible not to pick him out amid the throngs of Harry Potters and Luke Skywalkers and Emmets mobbing the streets during trick-or-treating. His weird-ass costume was a hit with both candy-takers and candy-givers alike.  I was proud of myself for buying a glue gun to make it. I stayed proud until one rowdy parent spotted him a block away and bellowed this adorable tune at full volume (do yourself a favor and never google those lyrics).

So much for uncomplicated.

Atonement.

My procrastination skills are epic. I’ll do any goddamn thing not to write. Yesterday I constructed a hat organizer for my closet with cardboard tubes and jute twine. Last week I leveled my yard, laid down paver sand and astroturf, and built a wooden clubhouse for my son.

I’ll shop for shelf liners on Amazon. I’ll research ways to hang a backyard swing with no trees. I’ll learn how to speak Greek with a decent accent. I’ll make my cats into gifs. I’ll cook, clean, build, bathe, drink, swim, fight, fuck when I “should” be writing.

I made this website to keep from writing a film. It’s a film no one is waiting for, that no one asked me to write. It’s about something very personal. I’m terrified to start it. But I’m more terrified to finish it. Because then I’ll realize I got it wrong.

I think I keep writing because I keep getting it wrong.

And then I build shit to make up for it.