What Not To Do At Customs

Today is our seventeenth wedding anniversary. We woke up at 3 a.m. to fly out of Ecuador. Arrived in Miami for a five hour layover. Had lunch with our boys at TGI Fridays in the airport. Will soon leave for a 4.5 hour flight back to Denver. Then, with any luck, we will arrive home around 10 p.m. and collapse. Yep. We still know how to keep the romance alive.

The best part of being married for so long is knowing the other person so well. As we were getting ready to land, Steve told me he would fill out our Customs form. Now, I know my husband well enough to know this was a bad idea, but I let him do it anyway. I don’t know why. You see, three years ago we were returning from Norway and Steve, honest and literal guy that he is, told the Customs official we’d been in contact with livestock while abroad. Why? Because we petted two sheep on the head for less than a minute. Try explaining that weirdness to a guy who just needed to make sure we weren’t bringing Mad Cow disease into the U.S. Today, Steve decided to give me a repeat of that insanity for our anniversary.

“I marked on the form that we were on a farm,” he informed me as we approached the immigration desk.

“What? Why would you do that?” I whined.

“Well, we visited that sugar cane place,” came his reply.

“That was NOT a farm.”

“Yes it was. They were growing sugar cane.”

“Farm implies livestock. There was no livestock,” I answered.

“There were chickens,” he said.

“Those were wild chickens,” I replied.

When we handed our form to the Customs official, the poor man looked annoyed. It was obvious he was already sizing Steve up to be the paperwork nightmare he is.

“You were on a farm?” he asked with great disgust.

“Well, it was sort of a farm. They were raising sugar cane,” Steve answered.

I rolled my eyes. The agent rolled his eyes too.

He could see the paperwork mounting because of this dope who was being absurdly candid about his vacation. He decided to cut to the quick.

“Did you STEP in anything?” he inquired.

At this point, I began praying Steve would not ask what kind of thing was he referring to. I stared at him, sending him telepathic “shut the hell up” messages.

“No. I don’t think so,” he wisely answered.

“You’re cleared,” he said, dying to get rid of us.

I got about five feet past the customs guy and busted up laughing. Seventeen years ago I married the guy who made me laugh the most. We’re still laughing.


Why You Don’t Mess With English Majors

About to board for our Norway trip.

So, we’re leaving on this big expedition to the Galapagos tomorrow, right? I’ve spent my day packing and cleaning and writing out luggage tags and running errands. I have to get up at 4 a.m. to start this journey, but I have so much to do to finish getting ready that I am already acknowledging that tomorrow is going to be a triple shot latte followed by two Cokes kind of day. Still, I am excited. I love travel. Love it. Once we get to the airport, I will be in my happy place.

Anyway, yesterday I was at a party for a friend and someone asked me if I was excited about our upcoming vacation. Clearly this particular friend hasn’t known me for very long.

“It’s a trip,” I corrected him.

He stared at me blankly.

“Oh. Steve said you guys were going on a family vacation,” he said, puzzled by my distinction.

“Oh. It’s a family vacation for Steve. For me, it’s a family trip.”

He furrowed his eyebrows.

“You see, my kids are coming with me. Since my career is as a full-time, stay-at-home parent, any traveling I do with my children is not technically a vacation for me. According to the dictionary definition, a vacation is a freedom or release from work. If my work is there, it’s a trip. You know, just like if you traveled for your job it would be a trip and not a vacation,” I explained.

“But, you’re going to the Galapagos Islands,” he said. “I think most people would call that a vacation.”

“I’m sure most people would. I would not. If you went to London for work, would you call it a vacation?” I asked.


“If you went to London to see the Olympics, would you have to file for vacation time from work?”

“Of course,” he replied.

“See….that’s just it. I don’t file for vacation time because it’s not a vacation,” I continued. “It’s a trip. I’m bringing my work along.”

“But it’s the same thing,” he said.

“It’s not the same thing. For me, a vacation is when I’m away from my children. For you, a vacation is when you’re away from work,” I tried again.

“But, when you’re away from home doesn’t it feel like vacation?” he pressed.

“Not really because it’s actually easier to parent my kids at home than it is when we travel. When we travel there are all sorts of distractions and new issues. There’s no routine. Things are more chaotic, which sometimes makes work more difficult.”

At this point, I sensed his eyes starting to roll to the back of his head, so I dropped the subject and moved on. Clearly, he was not going to understand where I was coming from. I’m not entirely sure, in fact, that anyone but a fellow stay-at-home parent could understand my distinction between the two words at this point in my life. It’s an issue of semantics. I get that. Someday, when my boys are grown and I am without them more than with them, I’m sure my terminology will go back to the more standard and readily acceptable. Someday, when I vacation with my sons (and maybe even their families), the journeys will truly be vacations because I will have more freedom to enjoy myself and fewer responsibilities. For now, though, I’m sticking with calling this a “trip.” Don’t misunderstand me. It’s going to be an amazing, incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip, but it’s still a trip…even if my work doesn’t fit into my laptop case.


Toy Guns Don’t Kill People, Crazy People Do

This morning I got a comment on one of my blog posts that made me shake my head. Tricia, a young mom from Western Australia, told me that she had gotten an angry email from another woman when she wrote a blog suggesting that toy guns are a part of growing up. The woman who emailed told Tricia she was encouraging people to raise murderers. I immediately thought Tricia should have told the woman to go sell crazy somewhere else. What the holy hell is wrong with people?

Now, I’m no child development expert, but I did look around a bit today for information on the subject of children and imaginary violent play. There are no studies that link pretend gun fights to an increased likelihood of adult violence. There was one study that actually suggested that boys perform better in school when they’re allowed to engage in this type of imaginary play. Honestly, if every boy I knew as a child became a murderer because he played with toy weaponry, I’m not entirely sure there would be a living soul in the western United States.

I understand our natural tendency to want to curb violent play in our children. As a new mother of two boys, I decided I would not purchase toy guns for our sons to play with. Round about the time they were 5 and 3, though, they started using their fingers to pretend to shoot each other. Apparently, keeping the guns out of their hands was not going to hinder their notion of gun play. While my sons do not own guns that shoot anything other than Nerf bullets, they do enjoy shooting at each other. We’ve never been parents who wrestle with our boys and our boys do not wrestle with each other, so perhaps this “shooting” helps them act out their natural aggression in a harmless way? I’m not sure. All I do know is that whether or not I had wanted them to talk about gun ships, war, and killing, it seeped its way into their lives. They seem no worse for the wear because of it. They are not violent boys. Joe will cry when the neighbor boys steps on ants in our driveway. (For the record, I don’t think that crying makes him a sissy, either.)

I do understand that we are hypersensitive to guns after the recent killings at the movie theater in Aurora, and I am not entirely comfortable with actual guns myself. But, toy guns are not real guns, and I am clever enough to understand there’s a difference. I’m not handing my boys semi-automatic assault weapons loaded with live ammunition to play with. I’m simply allowing them an outlet that encourages their style of creative, imaginary play. As long as boys have been boys, there has been cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. It seems to be a rite of passage. Why get worked up over it? I’m not sure purchasing Nerf guns for my sons turns them into murderers any more than handing a young girl an Easy Bake Oven will turn her into the Julia Child. Heck. I played Charlie’s Angels with my sisters when I was growing up. My gun fingers neither turned me into a murderer or Farrah Fawcett.

To the woman who found it necessary to berate my fellow blogger, Tricia, I would simply suggest this: find something else to worry about. Perhaps a new hobby would help relax you? I’d suggest knitting, but that involves needles and I wouldn’t want to turn you into a heroin addict. If the new hobby doesn’t work, then Xanax might. I have no personal knowledge about Xanax, but I’ve heard it works wonders when you’re a bit overwrought. We all need to relax a bit and not become too worked up over things that have no root in day-to-day reality. We do the best we can with our boys. Sometimes their incessant chatter about bullets and battles makes me uncomfortable, but that’s my problem not theirs. I don’t believe that their toy guns will lead them to violence in adulthood. After all, toy guns don’t kill people, crazy people do.

The Most Patient People Are The Ones With Lots Of Practice

Barely hanging in there

I’m on the light rail train waiting for the doors to close so we can travel back to the Mineral Station where we parked before heading downtown to the Rockies baseball game. As I sit here, my ears are being assaulted by the whines and whimpers of two obnoxious kids who apparently don’t understand what it means to wait. They can’t sit still. They keep pestering their parents with inane questions about when the train will leave and how long it will be until they get home. They’re driving me crazy. I’m thinking about going over and asking their parents to quiet them down. I should totally do that. But, wait. I can’t. They’re mine. Dammit. I hate it when that happens.

Patience has never been my strong suit. My mother berated me repeatedly for my inability to wait for something. I remember once I was so annoyed with her for hounding me about my lack of patience that I told her I was going to pray for it. I thought that would placate her and keep her from bothering me about it for a bit. Instead, she told me that when you pray for patience God merely gives you more opportunity to practice it. That’s right about the time I became much more selective with my prayer requests.

But, my mom was right. The only way to learn patience is to practice it. So, as much as the boys are driving me crazy with their antics and questions, this situation is exactly what they need. And, in putting up with their impatience, I am given the opportunity to practice my own. For every minute I go without smacking them, I am becoming a better, more peaceful person. At least, that is what I am telling myself. I 100% believe that I ended up with these two impatient little monkeys because I once was silly enough to pray for patience. Remember, sometimes when God wants to punish you he answers your prayers. The plus side is that at this current rate of practice, I might end up somewhere on the zen scale between Yoda and Gandhi. That would almost make moments like this one worthwhile.

The Great Weenie War

Luke often sleep like this…just like Al Bundy.

I grew up in a house filled with girls. With me, my two sisters, and my mother to contend with, my father had no chance. He was perpetually surrounded by hair products, dolls, and florals. Oh…he tried to change things up. He bought us softball gloves and played catch with us. We were ordered to “go long” so we could catch “the bomb,” as he launched Denver-Bronco-colored orange and blue Nerf footballs at us. We never really had much interest in sports, but played along because we knew a good spiral-throwing arm might come in handy someday to impress a boy. My dad was the odd man out. His only consolation (if you could call it that) was a brown miniature poodle, which we girls had given the masculine moniker “Coco.” At least with the dog there was another male around, albeit a neutered one.

Now that I am married and the mother of two sons, I am the odd one out. In my house, I am constantly competing against testosterone and penises. This afternoon, my sons were chasing each other around the house with wooden, western-style toy rifles, shooting at each other.

“I just shot Joe’s nose off!” Luke exclaimed from his position against the wall downstairs.

“I can’t believe he got me! I had the higher ground,” Joe complained.

Hubby suggested we get more bullets for their Nerf guns so they could shoot each other “for real.” Eeesh. I was headed to Target anyway, so I picked some up for them. The minute I got home, the guns were loaded up and the battle began. As I walked around putting laundry away, I had to dodge boys and foam bullets. Luckily, I’m fairly stealthy and avoided being caught in the crossfire. Life in this house can be dangerous.

I tried to capture a photo of the boys during their battle so I could share it with a blog I was tentatively entitling Nerf Wars, but in every single shot I took one of the boys had one hand on his gun and the other hand on his penis. Are you kidding me? I had to delete every photo I took. I was trying to get a shot of the actual gunfight. Instead, my iPhone only held shots of hands on crotches. A man’s fixation with his penis starts at birth and never abates.

“What is this? The Great Weenie War?” I yelled over their sound effects.

They stopped and looked at me. Then they both cracked up. I had inadvertently coined the newest, most fun phrase in our house. For the next half hour, they ran around shooting at each other while yelling “Weenie War!” I just rolled my eyes, went to my bedroom for solace, and quietly closed the door. What else could I do? If this house is under siege during the Great Weenie War, I’m clearly outgunned. I looked at the only other female in this house, our border collie Ruby, hunkered down on her dog bed trying to ignore the fighting. For the first time, I truly understood how my father felt while I was growing up and I appreciated his bond with our male family pet. Ruby and I sat there staring at each other as the sounds of imaginary gunfire erupted again in the hallway. I swear she rolled her eyes too. When you’re outnumbered in battle, all you can do is take cover and hope you don’t have to hoist the white flag.

Someday the hormone balance in our home will return. The boys will leave home (hopefully to go to college) and things will level out again. Honestly, though, I don’t mind being being the only female in this house. Sure, I have to put up with farting contests and super heroes and a constant barrage of imaginary gunfire. But, when it’s all said and done, every penis-packing person here knows I carry the biggest gun. And, that’s all that matters.

Don’t Give Me Your Bull Or You’ll See My Horns

Check out the look on his face. Priceless.

Sometimes I think my children don’t know me at all. You would think, given the extraordinary amount of time we spend together, that they would know me quite well. Apparently not. This morning, we were getting ready to leave our mountain house. Because it is literally our home-away-from-home, when we leave it, we need to clean it first. We don’t have a cleaning service because we are the cleaning service. So, as hubby and I were working on getting the place cleaned up, I asked my oldest son if he would kindly take the recycling out to the bin. He looked at me with attitude.

“What are you going to do?” was what he asked with an unbridled audacity I have not yet seen in his young (and now potentially short) life.

“Excuse me?” I replied with a glare.

“I just mean while I’m doing this what are you going to be doing?” he stupidly repeated.

“Well…I was going downstairs to clean. But now, you will be cleaning while I watch.”

He stared at me with all the pre-teen annoyance he could muster. Unabated, I dragged his sorry butt down the stairs and proceeded to direct him while he cleaned our bathroom, dusted our rooms, and vacuumed our floors. All the while, I just kept muttering quietly to myself in utter incredulity. Had this stupid child actually implied that he works harder than I do? Had he lost his frigging mind? I suppose I just sit around while he slaves the day away. I wanted to smack him. Instead, I pointed out helpful things so he could do the job more effectively.

“When you dust you need to clear off the surface first. Then you wipe the entire surface and replace the items.”

He rolled his eyes. I ignored. He whined. I pointed out his next task. Eventually the house was clean, although not as quickly as it would have been if I had done it without my little helper. I think Joe might have figured out that when I ask him to do something his best course of action is simply to do it without lip. I learned something today too. My kids do not do nearly enough housecleaning.

My Three Sons

My sopping wet middle child

After dinner at our favorite local spot in Steamboat, we decided to take a walk down by the Yampa River with our friends. The river is lower than usual this year due to a milder than usual winter, so when the boys decided they wanted to walk down to the bank and inspect it more closely we thought that would be fine. There wouldn’t be any kayakers or rafters going through. They ran around, threw a few rocks in, and then headed across the bridge to view the natural springs on the other side. When we came back to the river, Jessie and I told the boys to stay dry. Wading in a bit was fine but if we wanted to hit Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory on the way home they would need to be dry. With that warning out of the way, Jessie and I decided to run into the library for a couple minutes.

While in the library, we were discussing how the husbands had given us a hard time for suggesting that the boys stay dry. No matter what the situation, we always ended up being the bad guys.

“It’s summer vacation. It won’t hurt if they get wet,” Jeff said.

“I’m fine with them getting a bit wet,” Jessie replied. “I just don’t want them falling in and floating down river.”

“It’s cold,” I said, getting Jessie’s back. “And it’s a long walk back to the car in soaking wet clothes.”

“They’d be fine,” Steve said.

Men. They never think of the little details that go along with the big ones. Yes. The boys would have fun in the river splashing around. No. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they fell in. We understood that. But, if they got soaked in the river, we would have cold, wet children. The sun was hidden behind rain clouds and the wind was picking up. We had at least a half mile walk back to where we parked the cars before dinner. And then, once we got there, we’d have wet boys, no towels, and therefore wet leather seats. It just wouldn’t be an optimal situation and, as moms, we’ve had our fair share of unpleasant situations so we work to avoid them where possible. Dads? Well, dads usually don’t think that way.

We were in the library for all of maybe 4 minutes total and as we walked back to the banks of the river, I could see Joe full on in the water. I’m not talking standing up and wet to his shins in the water. He was actually under the water up to his neck. The husbands were standing approximately four feet from the river, chatting it up like a couple old ladies. Were they kidding me? Jeff and Jessie’s boys were every bit as wet as Joe. Luke was the only one who had managed to stay dry.

“What happened here?” I asked.

Joe yelled up from the river. “Mom…we decided to get in.”

“So I see,” I replied. I tossed a sideways glare at hubby.

“Seriously? We were in there for less than five minutes. All we asked was that they stay mostly dry.”

“They’re fine,” he said.

“They’re going to get cold,” I said.

“It’s not a big deal,” he replied.

I rolled my eyes.

Now, to keep consistent with what I had said, I had to tell the boys we would not be going to the candy store. Luke was heartbroken because he had actually chosen to listen to us. (Have I mentioned that Luke is my favorite?) We dragged them out of the water and started walking back to the car. The boys tried to persuade us that they were dry enough to go into the candy store, but Jessie and I stayed resolute. Our husbands tried to convince us that since the boys were no longer dripping that it would be fine. It would have been fine, but that was not the point. We did not go into Fuzziwig’s. We walked back to our car and drove home and the boys got no dessert.

Sometimes I swear I don’t have two kids. I have three kids. The oldest one is the hardest to manage. He doesn’t listen. Ever.


Note To Self: Always Make Sure You’re Wearing The Right Shoes

Taking a spin with the boys

Tonight we went to a local Steamboat Springs park with the kids. This park has a merry-go-round. Remember merry-go-rounds? Those super fun, completely terrifying metal playground fixtures from our childhoods? I have always loved them. I like to spin. I love to get dizzy. Twirling on a tire swing until I can’t see straight makes me happy. Tilt-a-Whirl? My favorite amusement park ride. I will lay flat on my back in the center of the merry-go-round and watch the clouds rotate until I think I can’t stand it anymore. Then, when I get finally get off and fall over I will get right back on and do it again. I never get tired of it. My children, like their mother, love to spin, so to the park we went.

The four boys ran straight to the merry-go-round. The adults followed. Being the only one of the four adults who tolerates spinning, I hopped on with the boys. I smiled like crazy as the force of the movement tossed me around. I spun with the boys for several minutes before deciding it was my turn to push. I hopped off to give it the Old Mom Power-Up Push. I soon realized I was wearing the wrong shoes to be tearing around on wood chips, though, because when I went to jump on this time at Mom Warp Speed I slipped a bit and instead of jumping on I fell onto the unforgiving metal with my very soft left shin. It hurt, but I managed to pull myself onto the spinning base without falling off. I braced myself on one of the metal stands and checked out my leg. A raised bruise was already forming. Lovely. This is probably why you don’t find many merry-go-rounds in modern playgrounds. My friend had seen my fall and asked me if I was okay. I assured her I was as I sat back again, watched the clouds fly by, ignored the throbbing in my leg, and enjoyed the spin.

You would think that would have been enough injury to convince me that perhaps this 44 year old body should not be jumping onto merry-go-rounds…at least not in super cute but completely impractical merry-go-round-running sandals. You would be wrong. Did I mention that I love to spin? When the ride stopped, I hopped off again and offered to push. This time, I spun it in the other direction, as if that was what kept me from making the platform full on the first time. (Yes. I am blonde. And your point is?) This time, my right shin took the beating. My shoe got caught as I attempted to jump on and as my leg hit the platform it was dragged mercilessly across the coarse metal. I knew immediately and without looking that this was a worse injury than the last one. Once I was settled and could safely glance at my wound, I noticed an inch-long flap of skin had been pulled back, the white skin underneath was exposed and already beaded with blood. Crap. I hate it when that happens.

I stayed seated until the ride came to a full and complete stop, jumped off with resignation, and asked if we could head home so I could bandage up my wound, which was now full-on bleeding down my leg. Once home, I doctored myself up, took a couple Advil, plunked down on the couch, propped my legs up, and put some ice on the rapidly rising bruises on both shins. Hubby inspected the damage thoughtfully.

“It was the shoes,” I said. “I was wearing the wrong shoes. You just can’t run and jump on a revolving merry-go-round in cute sandals like those,” I told him, justifying my injuries.

He smiled at me and said nothing because he’s super smart that way.

Statistically speaking, the swings record the highest incidence of playground injury, 22% to only a paltry 1% for my pal the merry-go-round. I stand by the assertion that it was incorrect footwear that resulted in my bruised and battered shins and not user error, the inability of white women to jump, or old age. If life is about the ride, my ride is a spinning one. Next time I decide to jump on an already revolving merry-go-round, I’ll simply make sure I’m wearing more appropriate shoes. And maybe some shin guards.



Relaxing Is A Lot Of Hard Work

The place where I can breathe

Why is relaxing such hard work? We’re meeting some wonderful, lifelong friends arriving from Minnesota at the airport tomorrow morning before heading up to our home-away-from-home in Steamboat Springs. To get ready for five days in the mountains, I spent the majority of my day preparing for our trip. I was trapped in the hot, upper floor of our home, peering into closets, ironing clothes, folding laundry, and laying out outfits.

While packing, I spent a lot of time watching HGTV. This is one of my husband’s favorite channels. It is not mine. I hate the House Hunters who think they’re going to get granite counter tops and hardwood floors in 2800 square feet in an old but totally updated house in the big city for under $200k. The Million Dollar Rooms show makes me physically ill. Today I saw one house where the gentleman spent $7 million dollars on his swimming pool area, including a champagne-filled hot tub. Seriously? A hot tub of champagne? I don’t care how much money you’ve earned and saved. That kind of extravagance is unconscionable. My favorite (and I mean that in a tone dripping with sarcasm) is the overseas House Hunter editions where you get to see some spoiled Americans searching for their dream space in a foreign country and then being put out because most people in the world don’t have homes like we do in the United States. You know, they wanted a home in Colombia but why do all the homes in Colombia have to be so, well, Colombian? About the only good thing I can say about HGTV is that it’s nice to have on when you’re doing something else. What really sucks about HGTV, though, is when an episode I’ve already seen today re-airs after 5 hours. That means I’ve spent way too much time watching HGTV today.

Still…once I get beyond the mind-numbing television and the dreams I’ll be having tonight during my five hours of sleep about not forgetting Joe’s retainer in the packing process tomorrow morning (oh…and did I remember to feed the frogs?), I realize that none of what happened today or tonight or even in the morning on our way out of town will matter. By the time we’re on our deck tomorrow afternoon with Jeff and Jessie, having drinks and enjoying the view of Steamboat Springs while our four boys play together, it will all have been worth it. Even the time spent watching HGTV.

Sell Crazy Some Place Else

My write-in candidate

It’s 10:30 now, and I am finally sitting down with a few free minutes to do my blog post of the day. The reason for my late start tonight is that a crazy loon hijacked my free time this evening. I’d go into greater detail about this loon, but the loon is a family member and obviously there’s enough trouble in my family already without my blogging about it.

So, instead, I will offer just this little tidbit. I have been thinking lately about the upcoming presidential election. This is a big deal for me because, as a rule, I try not to pay too much attention to politics. Honestly, it just gives me a headache. It seems we take one step forward and then two steps back and we go nowhere. Nothing really changes. And, during an election year, people get all riled up about something that four years from now will reoccur in some sort of Groundhog Day scenario. I’d rather eat ice cream in the park and not think about it.

But, today, I was reading happily along on the Internet when I found an article about a candidate I could perhaps get behind in the next election. This candidate has been the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, for fifteen years. His name is Mayor Stubbs. I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard of him. You see, Mayor Stubbs is a cat. Fifteen years ago, when he was just a kitten, he was put on the mayoral ballot as a write-in candidate; and because this is Alaska, where apparently anyone can become mayor, he won. So far, Mayor Stubbs has done a wonderful job increasing tourism. He’s well-liked and folks in the small town feel he’s one of the best mayors they’ve ever had. No one seems to care that he’s missing his tail. It hasn’t affected his ability to perform his job. And, no one’s bothered him about his birth certificate either.

I think the fine residents of Talkeetna might just be onto something. Since Mayor Stubbs took office, there have been no scandals or mismanagement of funds. About the worst thing Mayor Stubbs can be accused of is taking a bit of the old catnip every afternoon at 4 p.m. Still, the town seems no worse for the wear under his leadership. I think he may have a better current record than either of the front runners in the next presidential election can claim. And, let’s face it, Mayor Tubbs comes cheap. I think we could afford a catnip stipend and perhaps balance the budget. If one of our allies needs to be won over, a purring cat might be the man for the job. If one of our enemies is acting like a wascally wabbit, Mayor Stubbs could claw their eyes out. It’s just crazy enough to work.

Okay. Okay. This is all a bit silly. You’re indulging me, and I deeply appreciate it. It is late. But, you know what? Mayor Stubbs made me smile today, and it’s been a while since any political figure has made me do that. Besides, with the evening I’ve had, I needed a good smile. In a country where our motto could easily be “Sell crazy some place else…we’re all stocked up here” (Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets), electing a cat might just offer the kind of radical change people seem to be looking for.