For from that day I ceased to be
The Master of my destiny,
While she with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.
- unknown

Today I killed our cat. Well, I didn't actually. Our veterinarian did. Afterwards I spent nearly 20 minutes in the vet's parking lot balling my head off. How in the universe's name did I get here?

Two days ago we came home from a trip to the West Coast. We rarely get vacations, but the Trophy Wife had a convention and Stiletto #2 needed to look at colleges. So we combined the two into one big adventure. Unfortunately, the girl and I both got sick the week before and we had been playing catch up ever since. We barely got on the plane. The first day or so was a little iffy, but we got our legs after that.

While we were gone, our very gracious neighbors agreed to feed and let out our dogs (we have two) and check on our cats (we have two) food and water. They did a superb job.

After our trip we walked in the door and went to the kitchen. Our black and brown 7 year old cat Flicka stumbled off the bottom of our carpeted steps and swayed her hips like she was thoroughly intoxicated. She crept over to the kitchen bistro table and mournfully looked up wanting to jump on top as she had done so frequently. It was obvious that she couldn't. I picked her up and placed her on the counter top, proceeded to give her some water, and watched her precariously traverse the sink edge which she fell into twice. Not the nimble cat we had come to love.

It was 8:30 at night. What was I going to do? My girl was beside her self with emotion over how sick Flicka seemed to be. I decided to take her to our regular veterinarian the next morning over the objections of my daughter who wanted her taken in right away which would have meant an hour drive and probably a thousand dollars in off hours emergency veterinary expenses. I felt she seemed good enough to get through the night and I'd prefer her to be seen by the clinic staff who usually treat her.

That night Flicka slept in the guest room with the Trophy Wife. We pulled in a litter box and some food and water so she wouldn't have to go far.

I fell asleep trying to figure out what had gone wrong. She was a shelter rescue kitten. My oldest daughter had done a spreadsheet analysis in middle school of all the available local shelter kittens to convince me of getting a new cat. I admired her industriousness and had to acquiesce to checking them out. But the cats she had selected were getting purchased when we arrived. So Flicka and our other cat, Winnie, were larks that were saved at that moment. I initially thought that Flicka had a bit of an odd look to her face, but she grew into a beautiful, athletic cat and the most loving of our animals. She was an inside cat with an escape artist stealthiness to her. She had just bolted outside two weeks ago. Did something happen out there? What had I missed?

After tests the next morning it was clear that she was beyond any hope of survival. She had severe kidney failure that was not treatable. Most likely a genetic condition she had suffered for quite some time. I now remember that she hadn't eaten well, or jumped much last week. I probably didn't notice because the rest of us were sick and trying to get ready for this trip. Flicka was also really good at hiding when she was ill. She was clearly in major discomfort now, but I decided to wait to euthanize her until after Stiletto #2 could come home from college and get some time with "her" cat and Stiletto #1 could snuggle and say goodbye.

My children wanted to know that Flicka was safe and comfortable. So, I spent most of the day laying next to and nurturning our dying cat so my children wouldn't be sad that she had no one to comfort her. Honestly, I had come to love that cat and still felt guilty that she had been home alone getting sicker and sicker while we were gone. At one point in the day while she was sleeping I went to the garage to do some work. That very ill kitty climbed off the bed and down the stairs to the garage door and whined for me to come inside. I picked her up and took her back upstairs and laid down with her for the remainder of the day. 

That night, the girls both got significant time with Flicka and Stiletto #1 slept with her in the guest bedroom. The next morning everyone said their goodbyes and I drove Flicka to the veterinarian. Signed the forms. Paid the bill. Said my goodbye. And watched her expire. I've been a basket case ever since.

I got here by choosing to be a stay at home dad. This is what at home dads do.

(Goodbye my friend Flicka.)

By Russell Peterson
Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved

The last bag to leave the house.
Winnie, one of our two cats, came sitting at the corner once the last bag was gone.
Siskel, one of our two Aussies, the moment after she left.
By Russell Peterson | | 2 September 2014

I did squeeze. Hard. I couldn't let go. No words. I tried. Thoughts: I love you. I'm here always. You can call anytime. For anything. Always. All I want to not say is good...

I'm not sure when the animals knew. I think Siskel realized first. He is the only other male in the house. Leave it to the two guys to be the emotional wrecks. He walks around with his head down knowing things have changed. Our other Australian Shepherd, Hooray, has taken to begging as though every piece of food in the house is part of her Last Supper. Perhaps that's why I've eaten half a cake in the last two days.

Winnie, the fluffy cat, will not really leave my other daughter's side or at least her bedroom. She comes out for occasional snacks and a peak around the kitchen cabinet corner to peer at the back door. She expects her to walk through any moment. I do too.

Right now a depressed black cat is sitting on the window ledge next to my table. Her tail draped long down the wall and her head stretched out in sadness over one paw on the wood sill. Her existence consists of either the depressed ledge, sitting at the bistro table waiting for her return, or pooping in front of the family room fireplace. She is kitty messaging. I hear you Flicka. I just can't change it.

When my two daughters were very young, I would walk them out to the bus stop helping them to carry either their 700 pound back packs filled with state mandated educational materials or their brown paper artwork lunch bags I had carefully crafted into the next Matisse. Sometimes both. We would stand at the end of the cul-de-sac and chat or be present in silence until the bus stopped a block away. Then I would lift their heavy burdens onto their shoulders and give them my impressive fatherly guidance: "Have fun. Do good work. And Pinch Your Teacher."

No matter what you do, you should enjoy it. That goes for college. It won't be easy. The best things never are. But have fun. Not too much. Just enough. (That was a joke.) I am positive you will do good work. You always do, especially for the things you love to do. Isn't that true for most of us? Pinching your teacher is a no-no. We all know it, but challenging them is something a student should do just as a child teaches a parent. Hearing, really deep hearing is essential.

As you drive
Fly my little one.

Be true self
Empathize caring.

You thrive
Opportune moment.

Paint broad depth
Life's time
Colorful nature.

Fragile soul
Nature shines on sleeve.

Home remains
Far and
Close and alluring.

I await
Distance no trespass.

I sit here on this first day of my baby's college classes sipping my coffee; enjoying it a little less and yet a little more...bye.

As the dad of two daughters, I've never understood the fathers who rarely show up or don't attend their daughters activities: not one soccer game, dance recital, or swim practice. Why have a child? It might not be your interest, but it is theirs which makes it yours. Just because you are male and she is female, doesn't mean you should use historical social norms to excuse your participation in the raising of your child. Three years ago I had a heart attack. I missed my daughters' dance show. Even though I had attended 90% of their activities, I decided I was never going to miss another performance or game. After all, I didn't know how much time I had left. None of us really do. Upon further reflection, I decided it was more than that. So, I came up with a list of positive things a dad should do with his daughter before she leaves the nest or in my case goes to college.

  1. Hug your daughter and tell her you love her. Multiple times. Daily.
  2. Attend every open observation, practice, game, recital, etc. Give her flowers. When appropriate.
  3. Let your daughter paint her bedroom when she is older. Buy her good brushes. Throw them away. Don't cry.
  4. Ride with her while she drives the car. Don't criticize her driving. Compliment her at least once.
  5. Create a painting together. Hang it in the living room. No matter what it looks like.
  6. Find a sport to do together once in a while such as fishing, soccer, hiking, etc. Give her some tips. Then just be.
  7. Buy her a cell phone. Program your number in it. Title it "24/7 Availability".
  8. Bake her a birthday cake. Frost it. Looks don't matter.
  9. Buy her a puppy or a kitty. You won't regret it.
  10. Have a tea party with the dolls or the stuffed animals. At the small table. In costume.
  11. Go swimming with her. No matter your body image.
  12. Paint your toenails with her. At least once. When she is young.
  13. Go to a double feature. Romance movie followed by a science fiction flick. Cry at one of them.
  14. Share hot cocoa and toast with her late at night. Dunk the buttered toast. Listen.
  15. Take pictures of her doing things. Before she is too old to say no.
  16. Go shopping with your daughter and buy her a dress. Don't look bored. Treat her to lunch.
  17. Take her to the daddy daughter dance. Get a corsage. Buy the campy photo.
  18. Tell her you are proud of her. Be specific. Several times a week.

I'm sure there are others, but this list works for me. It covers art, sports, shopping, creativity, conversation, love, food, admiration, security and empowerment. We have so little time on this planet that dads shouldn't let history, established social behavior or society dictate what they can or cannot do with their daughters. Live a little. You may want them to fly home to the nest some day.

Copyright BartzPeterson LLC
Shared painting with my daughter. Yes it is in my living room. Copyright 2014 BartzPeterson LLC

Get This Great Tshirt For Your Girl!

By Russell W. Peterson

Journalist Mark Simpson coined the word "metrosexual" in 1994. He claims these guys are clothing and grooming obsessed. They live in metropolitan areas and spend their money on image shopping. Now he now says metrosexuals are a dime a dozen and there has been an evolution to a new man: spornosexual - a mash up of sports and porn. These dudes are obsessed with their body, fitness, abs and selfies. They spend their money on physical training and have no need for shirts.

But there is another branch to the male evolutionary tree. It has taken longer to evolve; its numbers have grown dramatically in the past several years. I'm talking about the stadosexual: a mashup of stay and dad in stay at home dad. They spend their money on their families and wear gifted t-shirts. Although according to the National At Home Dad Network there are nearly seven million dads who stay at home at least one day per week and two million who do on a weekly basis, this breed is a bit more elusive to spot. 

I could say that stadosexuals aren't obsessed about their clothes, but that wouldn't be true. They are doing the family laundry nearly 24/7. There is always a pile of Mount Neverend clothing on the sofa needing to be washed or folded. Concern for their family's attire is only overshadowed by the stadosexuals need to wear the most advanced graphic designed t-shirts they've been given for father's day, Christmas and birthdays.

I could say that stadosexuals aren't obsessed about grooming, but I know many of these men spend countless hours changing diapers, washing babies, wiping up their muddy sons, brushing their daughters' hair, and painting their own toenails while playing with their girls. I'm sure they get to shower a few times a week.

I could say that stadosexuals don't live in metropolitan areas, but many of them do. Yet, many do not. They are a bit elusive. They are generally disguised as a babysitter pushing a stroller or camouflaged by a child they are carrying in their arms. The next time you see one make sure you tell them that their baby sitting disguise is working.

I could say that stadosexuls don't shop often, but we all know that isn't true. Children eat hordes of food, so weekly stints at the local market or warehouse store are very important to them. Typically you will find them in the fresh produce aisle during a week day with one or more children testing vegetable freshness or crying or screaming or behaving. Sometimes it is hard to tell.

I could say that stadosexuals aren't obsessed with their bodies, fitness or abs, but they are. The messages men are getting in media and advertising are as bad as what society has been selling to women for decades: thinner and leaner with more definition through shredding, eating less carbs, consuming more protein, training like a rock star and running a daily marathon. If a stadosexual does these things he will definitely have the muscle-defined super hero body of the comic book movie era. This is most definitely what a spouse and child wants from the stay at home male.

As mystifying as many of these traits are, there is one common trait I've witnessed in all stadosexuals: the ability to nurture their children and provide a loving home environment for their family. Not really a new breed of man, just one that is one the rise.

(Russell Peterson is a stay at home dad, architect, entrepreneur and some times lifestyle blogger. He lives in Minnesota with the trophy wife, two smart stiletto wearing daughters, three territorial cats and two escape artist dogs.)

Photography assumed in the public domain unless otherwise notified.
The metrosexual poses in his natural environment.
The spornosexual displays shirtless as usual.
The stadosexual blending with family camouflage.
My name is Russell Peterson. I grew up in a little house on the prairie. No, not that story, but it was little and so was the town. I traveled far, far away, 60 miles or 45 minutes if you drove really fast, to college and got a degree in architecture. After graduation I moved over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house (really, I am not kidding) to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. I worked for a New York design firm, traveled the country designing for fortune 500 companies, became a licensed architect and started my own business - all before I was 30. Then I got married. But everything really changed fifteen years ago when I decided to sell my flourishing architecture practice, walk away from my promising career and stay at home to raise my children. It was not easy - it still isn't. But, I am the luckiest man alive because I am blessed with two smart, beautiful teenage daughters and a lovely and very talented wife. This blog is an exploration of our journey. I hope along the way you might discover a few humorous things about our lifestyle, my everyday struggles, a little about humanity, and something special about yourself. Thank you for tagging along.