Goodbye, Charlie: April, 1994 – March 2, 2012

Posted by on Mar 4, 2012 in Miscellaneous | 5 comments

pet loss

Charlie picked me.

I’d gone to one of those big box, pet-supply stores on an overheated July Saturday morning because they were hosting the local animal shelter for a “pet adoption” day.  I was tired of coming home to an empty, law-school apartment and I’d missed having a pet ever since I first left home at the age of eighteen.

I played my way through the assortment of mewing, four-legged bundles of energy to find the best match.  Eventually, I settled on an orange-colored kitten that in my head I named “Pumpkin.”  I moved to the end of the pen to grab the paperwork, and couldn’t resist picking up a black-and-white kitty from the same litter.  I held it up to my face.  It considered me for a moment, then reached out and nuzzled its nose against mine.

“That’s an expression of affection,” the shelter worker said.  “She likes you.”


Charlie–named after Charlie Chaplin, whom she resembled when a kitten due to the marking on one side of her mouth–first liked me almost eighteen years ago.  She was mine pre-husband, pre-kids, pre-so much of my adult life.  She’s been with me at my best, and my very, very worst.  She’s followed me through three states, nine apartments/townhomes/houses, countless illnesses and career and existential life crises.  Through every instability, she’s been the feline constant.

But Charlie has been sick on and off for the last two years.  After beating the odds in true, nine-lives fashion, Charlie lost most of the use of her back legs on Wednesday night.  I drove through a snowstorm to the emergency vet, but I knew what the answer was.  Later I brought her home, and on Friday the vet came to our house to end Charlie’s life in peace.  (Thank you so much, Cilley Veterinary Clinic, for doing this in the most humane and caring manner possible.)

How is it that our animal companions, who can’t talk, can’t hug us, can’t give advice or tip a sympathetic glass with us, how is it that they mean so much to us that our homes can be filled with people yet still feel wrong and empty when our pets are gone?  If you have or have ever had a pet you love, you know this answer, but I’ll write a bit anyway.  (Because I need to.)

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Morning Organization: The “Don’t Forget” Board

Posted by on Sep 1, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 5 comments

School is back!

After a kid-centric summer, I’m more than a little excited about school because it means I actually get the chance to experience uninterrupted thoughts and maybe even commit a few to paper.  (This despite the fact that even as I type this post, my older child is talking, talking, talking to me after running eyeball-first into a tree branch yesterday; he gouged his cornea and has been forbidden to go to school today… sigh…)

A key issue with school, however, is that you have to get the kids out the door every morning.  One of the biggest problems families face amid the morning chaos is making sure kids have with them everything they need each day when they leave.  
A couple of years ago, I came up with the “Don’t Forget” board to address this problem, and I can tell you this: it works.  I maintain it, and all the reading members of my family use it.  Below is my original post that describes how the board works, along with a couple of additional notes at the end.


February 12, 2009

“Don’t Forget”

The key to being an organized parent is desperation.

My memory for things like dates, appointments, items on my to-do lists, etc. is so abysmal that it’s something of a family joke. I walk into a room and forget why I’m there more often than I’d like to admit. People laugh when I say that if I lost my Blackberry—especially the calendar function—I’d never remember to show up anywhere, but I’m not kidding. I’ll pause in the middle of reciting an illustrative anecdote because I’ve forgotten my point, I have to think these days when someone asks how old I am, and I had a third point for this sentence, but I don’t recall what it was.

(On the other hand, my husband will tell you that I can remember every single thing he’s ever done wrong. Go figure.)

A memory this porous requires organization. That’s where that Blackberry comes in. That’s why there are multiple calendars all over my house, my planned dinner menu for the week is stuck to a corkboard in the kitchen and a forest of sticky notes covers my desk. (Actually, that last point is a bit lacking in the organizational sense, but at least I’ve written my ideas down in case I forget them.) It’s also the reason for my latest tool for making sure my kids have everything they need on their way to school each day: the “Don’t Forget” board.

The “Don’t Forget” board is a dry-erase whiteboard marked with permanent calendar squares. I posted it at eye-level on the inside of the door leading to our mudroom so that it must be confronted each day on the way out the door.

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Road Trip

Posted by on Mar 3, 2011 in Miscellaneous | 0 comments

(Photo credit: -Snugg- via


Uncharted Parent is on vacation this week, breaking in Big Red and seeing how much difference it makes to be able to put the kids in separate rows on road trips.  I’ll be back with a new blog post next week.

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They Shoot Volvos, Don’t They?

Posted by on Jun 22, 2010 in Miscellaneous | 3 comments

Uncharted Parent is on vacation this week.  Each year, we drive up to the White Mountains to take in the pristine mountain air, the made-for-kids attractions and the didn’t-know-we’d-be-needing-it transmission service.

Big sigh.

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that two summers ago, my family, like so many families before us, began the drive up the Mt. Washington Auto Road certain that we would reach the summit of the highest mountain in the northeastern United States.  It’s such a sure thing, they hand you a bumper sticker that reads, “This car climbed Mt. Washington” when you pay the admission fee at the base of the mountain. 

They’re such freaking optimists.

Hours after we began, our 2001 Volvo was towed down the mountain.  The transmission died approximately 1,000 feet from the summit.  All efforts at resuscitation failed, and the entire transmission had to be replaced.  (You can read the original blog post here.)  It was an expensive vacation.

Problems with the replacement transmission caused us to drive two cars up to the mountains last year so that the replacement could be replaced again.  Transmission #3 had been running just fine for a whole year by the time we set out for the mountains this past Saturday.  We drove two cars because my husband thought he might have to return home during the week for work.  And this turned out to be a good thing, because there we were, blithely caravanning along the Kancamagus Highway (which is mountainous, gorgeous and sided by nothing other than trees and scenic lookout points) when my dashboard suddenly lit up like the Starship Enterprise on yellow alert, warning me to pull over and get my transmission serviced NOW.

There is no cell phone service on the Kancamagus, so with a combination of horn beeps and arm-waving calisthenics that caused other drivers and bikers to regard me with annoyance mixed with a touch of concern, I managed to communicate to my husband that he was to pull over at the next opportunity so we could figure out what to do given that we were probably closer to a herd of moose than we were to a gas station.  As I exited my car, I couldn’t push from my mind an image of crossing the road to the scenic lookout below, asking very politely which of the travelers stopped there might have a rifle and might I borrow it (which is odd because I despise guns and almost all forms of violence), walking back up to my car, pointing the rifle carefully at the hood, and pulling the trigger to bring a clean end to everyone’s misery.

Of course, I didn’t shoot my car, and it is being serviced once again, although it’s possible that there is nothing anyone can do.  Thus began our vacation.

But last night, a very kind waiter fixed me an outstanding and quite large chocolate martini that wasn’t even on his restaurant’s menu, and things began to look up.  So I’m hopeful that this will turn into a salvageable vacation yet.

The Volvo, on the other hand, may just be turned into salvage.  We’ll see.

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Bits and Pieces

Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Adoption, Miscellaneous, Our Cultures, Races & Religions, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Parents are People, Too, Writing | 3 comments

I could use a nap.

Okay, stop laughing.  You parents out there know that’s not going to happen.  I really just wrote that so that we could all enjoy a guffaw together. 

I’ve been as busy as, well, a mom lately, and I’ll admit right now that I don’t have a coherent blog post ready to go today.  So instead I’m going to share a few odds and ends that are lying around here at Uncharted Parent that I’ve been wanting to tell you about anyway:

  • My pal Debbie Schwartz of Jewish Family Services of Greenwich runs a Forever Families Weekend Camp for Jewish Families Touched by Adoption in Milford, PA.  This year the camp is from June 11-13, and we’re going!  (Me sleeping with insects.  This could get interesting.)  She’s still taking registrations, so click on the link above for more info and consider joining us.
  • Speaking of summer camp, if you haven’t figured out your summer plans for your kids, QUIT PROCRASTINATING!  Consider this a PSA from your friendly neighborhood parenting blogger: now’s the time to get it done.  It’s almost June, people!  (Confession: I just handed in my daughter’s schedule this morning.  So my superiority is maybe eight hours old.)
  • A note to my writerly readers: My first guest post at the awesome fiction writing blog, WriterUnboxed, goes up on Sunday!  I’m so excited about this; please stop by and take a look. 
  • My next personal project is somewhat intimidating: I’m going to catch up on putting family pictures in albums.  This doesn’t sound so bad until you consider the fact that I haven’t done anything with any of the photos I’ve snapped for five years.  Yeah, I know.  I’m considering using Shutterfly for this overwhelming and undoubtedly expensive project; does anybody have any concurring or dissenting opinions on that?  (Sorry about the lawyer-speak.  Sometimes it just slips out.)

That’s enough of my disjointed thoughts for one day.  Have a great long weekend, everybody, and enjoy the cookouts!

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A Sad Post I Didn’t Know I’d Be Writing (Four-Legged Variety)

Posted by on Mar 2, 2010 in Miscellaneous, Parents are People, Too | 4 comments

So, I was going to write a lovely post about my four-and-a-half year old “Emmie” and her excitement at seeing the new queen of ice skating, Kim Yu-na, win the gold medal at the Olympics.  Emmie’s delight over Kim’s (or as Emmie calls her, “the Korea girl’s”) well deserved victory had me pondering a swirl of thoughts about identity and positive role models, culture and international adoption and watching your child find pieces of herself in places both expected and not.

But I’m not going to blog about that after all.

As you might be able to tell, my mind is a bit befuddled as I write this post.  The reason for that is not uncommon, but the fact that it happens to all pet-owners at various points in their lives doesn’t make it any easier to handle.  Here’s it is: I just picked up my sixteen-year-old cat from the vet after being told that she is very ill with a progressive, terminal disease.  I won’t know more about how much time she’s got left until later in the week, but the furry, black-and-white friend who’s been with me longer than my husband or my kids will not be with me much longer.

I know, she’s a cat.  And to most people, she’s not a very friendly one.  She’s never really gotten over the fact that I got married, is still somewhat stunned about the first kid and utterly stupefied about the second.  She’s learned to tolerate them—because she’s never had a choice—but she’d be happiest if the three of them all took off tomorrow and didn’t come back.  She has no use at all for anyone else; most people who visit my house don’t even realize I have a cat.  Charlie’s ideal world consists of her and me, which is how it was when I got her.

My kitty has been my pal through a lot of heartache.  She was there for the lonely times and she saw me through my own prolonged, serious illness.  She never complains about how messy I am or how off-key I sing in the shower.  Since the kids have showed up, she’s made it clear that she’s felt neglected, and I do feel badly about that.  But for all the jokes I make about cat puke in my shoes or having to kick her out of my office so I can write, the truth is that she’s been my friend for almost sixteen years and I am going to miss her.

Now I move into that veterinary dance of juggling medical treatments and pet quality-of-life issues, sizeable bills and our tightened budget.  A series of decisions is coming, none of them good, and I’m not looking forward to any of them.

And then there are the questions of what to tell the kids and when to tell them.  Charlie mostly ignores the kids, but she’s the only pet they’ve known and this will (in all likelihood) be their first experience with death.  As in almost all cases, I plan to be honest, but as we don’t have all the facts yet, I plan to dole out the information on this one in controlled doses.  There’s no point in upsetting them with the end result now when we know so little about the steps along the way.

I could conclude here with a characteristic statement about how this is all part of parenting, part of life, blah, blah, blah.  But I won’t.  It’s a sad day, and I’ll leave it at that.

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