On My Mind

“But We Don’t Wanna Go Out For Sushi”: What To Do When the Kids Aren’t Game

“But We Don’t Wanna Go Out For Sushi”:

What To Do When the Kids Aren’t Game

Short answer? Yank them along anyhow. It’s a lesson in character building, right? But then they make that event–whatever it is–miserable: “I want to go home now.” “When can we be done?” “Do they have any toys for me here?” “I don’t like this food. And I’m hungry and thirsty.” Many times, I would rather have kids with no character who just stay heshed up.

The more devious approach taken by many of us clever Big People when we want to do something that will result in whining protestations? Fool, fake, bribe, strategize. There is a small window in their lives when we parents are actually smarter–or at least more in power–than the kneebiters. We can use our adult-type smarts (albeit smarts that are riddled with brain holes due to three decades of drinking aspartame and Nutra-sweetened beverages…) to make the kiddles participate in our desired activities.

We took a low-key approach to this conundrum during this past summer, when we went on a family vacation to Canada–putting on toques and riffing on our favorite Mackenzie-Brothers-on-SCTV lines after the border crossing.

Thunder Bay as a city was a miss for all of us (after an hour of driving in circles, looking for an interesting restaurant, we conceded that McDonald’s, indeed, was the best the city could do), but things looked up during our days camping at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. The kids were thrilled with the sandy beach and relatively warm water (being Northerners, we rate water according to a three-star “How Big Are Your Goosebumps” system: one star: minor, low bumps…they feel a little like the bottom of our bathtub mat but not much more; two stars: moderate bumps…we could put a piece of paper over them and rub a crayon sideways to make a fine transferred picture of the bumps; and three stars: big-old-hoary bumps…we could shave them off the body with a cheese grater), and we had caribou in the campsite during the night, sniffing the fatty remnants of our grilled steaks in the fire pit (who knew caribou were carnivore wannabes?), which thrilled the wee ones. Spirits were good, and we didn’t need to wrangle them into anything.

…until we wanted to go canoeing. Now, our kids do enjoy canoeing, certainly, and have been known to kick into a pacific, mellow mood, mesmerized by the whooshing noises. But for my husband and me, an afternoon in a canoe is a good time. For the kids, fifteen minutes is more than enough time for them to size up the adventure of it all–the water, the sky, the rhythm of the strokes–and then be ready for the next thing (“Is it time to practice somersaults yet? And when can you hide in the tent and then jump out and yell ‘Boo’ to scare us? And could we put a sleeping bag over the picnic table and make a fort now?”).

So how to keep them entertained enough to satisfy our efforts of driving the canoe to another country and then hauling it into the lake? In other words, how could we get 20 minutes out of them? Distraction was the answer.

We excitedly pointed out some Great Blue Herons…and, whoa, looksie-loo, a beaver dam! And not far away, lily pads! And cattails! This is way better than BLUES CLUES, right?

Yes and no. We kept their brains off the idea of boredom for 29 whole minutes, getting an added three minutes out of the deal by singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Lake” at the end. By the time we got back to shore, each of us was at least tepidly satisfied with the outing. Sweet Snoopy on a Cracker, but we had canoed.

Since that outing, we’ve become even more organized in our “we’ll get you guys out there and make you have fun without your ever knowing it, and Mom and Dad will be doing The Running Man with glee when you’re not looking” efforts. This Fall, as the leaves have reached a fevered pitch before dropping, and as the kids have shown signs of sensing the oncoming winter weather by becoming rammy, we’ve lured them out on mini-hikes by packaging these expeditions as “scavenger hunt adventures.” I bag up a few cookies, fill each kid a canteen, and then grab other sundry items (i.e., a dog leash, not that we have a dog [see earlier post about dogs off leashes for more insight], a spider made out of pipe cleaners, and a plastic horse) from the house on the way out the door.

When we get up to the Superior Hiking Trail at Hawk Ridge, one of us takes a turn running ahead and hiding the various items along the path. The kids then haul their motivated selves through the Route of Hidden Temptations, looking for toys and goodies, all the while actually covering ground on a hiking trail. Once they’ve found all the treasures, they then want a turn to do the hiding, and so on. Before we know it, an hour or two has passed, and we’ve managed something that might be called, in greehorn circles at least, “a hike.”

And I fully expect that one day my kids will head off to college (if we can fool them into going by hiding a dog leash in their dorm room and urging them to “Go find it!”) and write papers for their Freshman Comp class entitled “My Parents Thought They Were Sneaky and Tricking Us, But In Fact We Knew What They Were Up To and Figured Out That There’d Be Cookies Involved If We Pretended to Rebel.”

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Trail Cam

Trail Cam:

Earlier this week, I sucked up the remnant warmth of Summer, as Fall starts to turn rainy and colder. I went for a longish run on the Korkki Ski Trails, reveling in the ankle-deep leaves that made for a surprisingly-loud run. Quite simply, I was in heaven, from the smells of pine needles to my views of the beaver dam. In the last few years, a good trail run has been enough to sustain me through days of no sleep, personality conflicts, and general world weirdness. Me lurrrrve me trail runs.

But I fear, to look at me from the outside, that might not have been apparent the other day. If I had been followed by a “Trail Cam,” the footage, when reviewed later over a Summit Bitter Ale, would have revealed a shrieking and hopping runner, someone who seemed distressed more than blissed out. No, it had nothing to do with shrew corpses, faithful readers. Rather, at one point, as I concentrated on the exposed tree roots and the upcoming whopper of a hill, I felt a raking across the back of my leg. And it hurt.

Oh, lawsy, a badger had just clawed the back of my calf, leaving deep, bloody cuts that would later scar up impressively. And badgers must have really dirty claws, right? Which meant that I was probably infected with badger.coli and would eventually need a kidney transplant.

Of all this, I was certain.

But after I gave my best eeeeek and then turned to spy the wiley beast, I discovered only a downed tree branch, which I had stepped on, causing it to rear up and scrape my leg.

At this point, the Trail Cam should have faded to black, but if it had continued, it would have seen me, mere minutes later, gasping and clutching my chest as I narrowly missed bisecting a garter snake on the path (I had to take a quick moment to assure myself that there are no asps in Northern Minnesota, so my fate and Cleopatra’s would not be parallel) with my shoe.

Thereafter, Trail Cam kept filming, only to see me inhaling rapidly and sucking desperately for unencumbered air as I fought off an enormous gnat/mosquito/dragonfly thingy that decided to offer itself up as a sacrifice to my mouth. I had to stop in the middle of my “patoohies” and actually scrape it off of my tongue–and this was a three-finger jobbie, the thing was so huge.

At this juncture, the Trail Cam holder would be thinking to himself, “Man, do I have a lot of fine footage to edit together and send in to ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’!”Other observers might be thinking, “Why, again, is trail running ‘fun’?”

All I know is that it’s worth it. If a badger had attacked my leg, that would be the cocktail party story to end all cocktail party stories, and if I had bisected that garter snake, I could have informed my snake-fearing mother that there was one less slitherdude on the planet to scare her, along with having good reason to finally clean my crudified running shoes. And as for the bug, well, heck, I was really, really hungry right then, almost getting bonky, so his protein offering helped me get back to the car. Or would have, if I’d swallowed it.

More philosophically, though, I have to say that yesterday’s trail run restored me as all such runs do: they afford me at least one hour every day when my feet are literally in touch with dirt (the Earth, if you will), and in an age where most people go through their days perching their soles solely upon human-made surfaces, touching dirt is a gift. It’s a daily sustenance, to have my feet not on linoleum or carpet or wood or asphalt for at least that hour. I get back to something more raw and less processed–I mean, really, everything our feet touch in a day is representative of someone else’s intentions, right? Someone else proclaimed, “This dirt should be covered over for this reason, in this way!”

I like my feet touching something more fundamental, at least for a brief time each day. I can see how doing that affects my mental state and puts a big case of the happies on me. Then I look at our neighbor, a dour, angry woman whose marriage is strained and who lives either at work or in the mall, and I see her carefully making her way from her concrete driveway, up the paved sidewalk, into her plush carpeting, her pumps actively avoiding the grass on her lawn, and I realize: there’s a reason she’s like she is. She oughtta get dirty.

Attack if you will, badgers of the world. I’m there for you.

Trail Cam: out.

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Dear Mr. President

I’m not really “political,” in the traditional sense of that term; in fact, I can just hear your cries of outrage if you knew how old I was before I voted for the first time. And to tell you the truth, I’m not sure if or when I’ll vote again (I have a little side-rant here about how I’d vote if I actually could be voting FOR someone and not just against the possibility of someone else). On some level, I’m not always convinced of the “my one vote can make a difference” attitude that runs through our republic.

Despite that, I can never swear completely that I’m not political–I mean, anyone with a voice or an opinion or a thought in his/her head has to be political in some way. If you hold a value, that’s politics, right? My love of running trails links me to politics, as I will support any idea that protects greenspaces. My interest in my children’s health leads me to value organic foods over processed foods. I don’t ever want either of my kids to go off to war. That’s politics, folks.

So, despite my skepticism about the political establishment, I have to say that I am, today, all about the protest song. When music and politics meet up, I can actually get stirred. And that’s exactly what’s happening today, as I sit in my windowless office (a student came in today and said, “Wow, I like the tapestry on your wall. It’s almost like you have something to look at. Hey, maybe you could hang a plasma tv on that wall and then just broadcast images of the out of doors, like birds flying by”), I am enjoying the efforts of another student, one from last year (sidenote: see how much you crazy students affect me?). She has been working her way through college and life by working as a stripper…er, exotic dancer. Over the course of several semesters, this student moved me through her writings; thus, when she cut a Pink CD for me and dropped it off, I was so grateful for a further glimpse into her thinking.

That leads me to today, when I’m cranking Pink’s “Dear Mr. President” here in my windowless box. Not only does she have pipes, she has something to say. And the point here isn’t that we agree with Pink’s politics but more that we appreciate that a popular voice is using her influence to send out a message of protest. You-Tube offers up a video of her singing this goose-bumpy song. Check it out:

Pink, you please me wildly at this moment.

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I Am Yours, and You Are Mine

“I am yours and you are mine”–Peter Shaffer, Equus

When I set foot on the West coast of Ireland, at the age of 20, I believed for the first time in reincarnation. Nothing had ever before felt so familiar and right.

Thus was launched a long-distance love affair, played out during my infrequent visits across the ocean.

However, that dewy, 40-shades-of-green country and I very nearly went into couples counseling when I made the mistake, some years later, of trying out an equine adventure on its misty shores. Those “lovely Irish ponies” that The Rough Guide raves about? Not so much. Nowadays, I won’t even say the word “saddle”at the same time that I look at the color green, lest the two come together in some freaky synergy and cast me again onto the back of a pony in Ireland.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the tale:

About seven years ago I was in Ireland (as we’ve established: the home of my heart), on the West Coast, staying in a little hamlet called Cleggan in the region of Connemara for a week, exploring the countryside, mostly on foot. I explored old dolmens (big rock gravesites), the ruins of abbeys, the local pubs. After a few days, I started hitch-hiking around the county and taking bus trips to nearby cities. But eventually, it was time to turn to a different form of transport: the renowned Irish pony.

Off I went, whistling and wide-eyed, to the the Cleggan Beach Riding Centre ; there I discovered that there were afternoon tour groups, wherein I and 15 other unsuspecting sods could rent horses and be taken on a jaunt around the area, particularly across the beach and out to a small island that is accessible by foot–or horse–only at low tide. Okay, cool. I was in.

Each client was then outfitted with his/her own horse. Why, I wondered, did the teenage workers snicker when they saddled up and mounted me on a horse called “Dino”? Was he really old and out-of-date like a dinosaur? No, the workers assured me, he was more like a camel than a dinosaur.

With that cryptic information given, they left me to figure out the reins. A camel, eh? I started musing about how he must have humps on his back or like to walk in rolling fashion across the sand, or maybe he’d deposit me at a rustic Bedouin campsite at the end of the day, where the natives would teach me how to make exotic bread that I would bake in the remnant heat of the desert sand. Little did I know he was a camel in that he had no need for or desire to be around water.

After a short training session (during which only one woman was thrown from her horse into a muddy corral at full gallop), we headed for the sea. That’s right, my water-hating steed and I were heading for the sea. The SEA.

For the first hour, it was all tra-la-la-do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do on my part. “Hey, look at that shrub! I’m in Ireland looking at a shrub! Ooh, and that cottage has a very picturesque thatched roof, doesn’t it? I can notice such things, even though my glutes are seizing up, because I’m in Ireland, and the sun is shining!”

Why, there, off in the distance, was Omey Island, our goal. The tide was low, so the sea had receded, laying bare a clear band of wet sand that we could saunter across to explore the island.

But the timing was off that day. As soon as we got out to the island, the tide began returning water to the shoreline. Bit by bit, the band of wet sand shrank down to nothingness, replaced by churning water. “Ah, pish posh,” said our guide. “The water isn’t so very high! We can just turn the horses into it and wade back over to the beach.”

It was at this juncture that I discovered hard-hooved horses are, in fact, good climbers. At my first attempt to get Dino to turn and wade into the water, he reared and clambered straight up a ten-foot mound of slippery rock, with my carcass dangling off his back. My strangled yelps brought over one, then two, then three guides, all with panic in their eyes. They could smell the lawsuit.

When the three of them couldn’t get him down or anywhere near the water, they bailed on me. As they scampered back to their own horses, they tossed out, over their shoulders, “Just keep trying. Really dig your heels into him.” And by Jehosephat, I did. Spurs were not necessary that day, as my London Underground hiking boots did the job. I felt up Dino’s internal organs with my treads and forced him into the water.

While the rest of the touring group tried to line up back on the island and make some sort of organized queue that could be led across to dry land, I gave Dino his head and made him keep trudging through the tide, now up to my knees, as I huddled on his back. My jaw was aching from being clenched, and I was ready to leap from his back and swim at the slightest provocation, leaving him to his fate with the mermaids and fishies. Have a happy life with Ariel and Flounder, you big dumb bruiser.

After what seemed like three hours–it was more like 8 minutes–I reached land. There, on the beach, was the owner of the Riding Centre, in his little van. Some of the panic he’d had on his face as he watched me subsided. When I announced, “Okay, someone else can ride this nag back to the stable. I’m getting in your van, and you can drive me back,” he was composed enough to say, “Ah, lass, it’s all right now. You’ve got the luck of the faeries on your side. Just think of pink stars and green clovers while you ride him back” before pulling out a bar of Irish Spring soap and rubbing it all over himself while humming “Frosted Lucky Charms: They’re Magically Delicious.”

I wanted to resist further, but then he pulled out a harp and started crooning “Danny Boy” in a lovely tenor as he drank a Guiness and ate a heap of potatoes; in the face of his Irish charm, I was defenseless. I stayed on Dino’s back to the bloody end. And that night, I assuaged my nerves and my glutes at the pub with, *cough cough*, several pints of hard cider.

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Oh, Honey

A crisis can be an ongoing frustration, and with our investment in an 88-ounce bottle of honey, my frustration was not only ongoing but also sticky.

Why did we buy a bottle of honey so ungodly big? Short answer: we’re cheap. The longer answer is something eco-concious, wherein we’re trying to save on the energy and manufacturing going into buying multiple smaller bottles. At any rate, we ended up with a bottle of honey that, if filled with gasoline, could have topped off a lawn mower’s tank. No whimsical teddy bears for us! Nay, our household had a bottle so big that I could have cut the top off of it and used it as a gift bag, come Christmas…just dropping a v-neck sweater for Aunt Nancy right into the thing.

But I have to give the bottle its due: the thing held its honey and held it for a long, long time. I’m not sure our three-year-old son has ever experienced a different bottle of honey during his lifetime, in fact (and it’s big enough that he gets to do his time-outs inside of it, too! “You broke Mommy’s diamond tiara? Into the honey jar with you, son.”) The downside, of course, to our long-term investment in the bottle is that the honey aged, not like a fine Merlot, but like ice cream in the deep freeze. It became crystallized.

Towards the end, there, the bottle lived upside down in the cupboard (we’re just that clever!), but that made no difference. I could open the spout and try to start a flow into my steaming travel mug of chai, but three minutes later, not even a drop would have touched the tea.

The bottle was constipated in a way that no Metamucil would ever help.

So then we had to get aggressive with the thing, unscrewing the cap and fishing around inside with spoons, clothespins, and finally even paper clips. After a few days, even these helpful tools could no longer pry out even a tidge. There was honey in there, but it was recalcitrant. We could not beg it out, bribe it out, or yank it out.

At one point, my husband circled the bottle with a pair of scissors, stabbing and jabbing at its weak points, but even that effort was rebuffed by the Fortress of Crystal. We couldn’t break into the thing.

Thus, after a loooooong, hot soak in the sink, the honey bottle now lays in our recycling, bracing itself for its imminent reincarnation….perhaps as a child’s little red wagon. Now that would be a worthy corporeal being for such a stubborn spirit.


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Animals Under My Feet

Animals Under My Feet:

Let me preface this entry by saying that I do like animals. We had two dogs and a cat in our household as I was coming up, and the dogs in particular were my special pals. I would hug and seek solace in them as I shed quiet tears to Steve Perry singing “Open Arms” after all the boys I had crushes on weren’t impressed by my gauchos and clogs and therefore didn’t like me back. The dogs and I? Sympatico.

However, nowadays my puppy time has changed tenor…

Because we have kids living in our house (they happen to be ours), we have a whiteboard easel set up in the tv room. After a run the other week at Hartley Nature Center, I was compelled to write on the easel:

Jocelyn’s “Why I Had to Scream on My Run” Scorecard

Wild Dogs Off-Leash: 3

Dead Shrew Corpses On-Path: 6

This scorecard raises two issues of mini-crisis for me:

1) I don’t care if your wet and foaming-at-the-mouth 70-pound black lab is “very sweet, and he wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Don’t tell me that as your d*&% dog has its paws on my shoulders and is attempting to teach me the doggie quick-step for our appearance on “Dancing with the Pooches.”

Instead, keep your dog on its leash, as Article 1, Sec. 35-2 of the Duluth city code requires. If, for some reason, the leash has broken–most likely because your rabid beast has gnawed through it–feel free to fall back on voice commands, drawing upon the training any domesticated creature should have before being brought to a public place. If and when your dog ignores your voice commands, put into place an immediate consequence, such as grabbing him/her by the collar (once you finally come around the bend in the trail and spot your dog mauling me), telling him/her “NO,” and then dragging him/her promptly back to the car, all out-for-a-walk privileges revoked for the day. You might also consider apologizing to the hapless victim as she brushes muddy pawprints off her running togs.

This little behavioral plan comes easily to my mind, for, you see, I have two smallish kids, and so help me, neither of them will ever be in your personal space, much less licking your face, in an open public space like a nature center. I was able–get this–to train certain things into them. And there are not even leash laws in place for preschoolers. I’m just that civic-minded.


2) The first cold nights hit in September, and every year, these nights result in Shrew Carnage on the paths of Hartley. Indeed, little shrews–bewildered, perhaps, by a world where fashion icons are wearing leggings again, AND OFTEN UNDERNEATH DRESSES–tend to climb up onto trail and, well, die. Seeing a rodent in its death throes does not make for a pleasant run, especially when you’re like me and have a total fear of small, scampering creatures with pointy tails. Thus, if you’re ever at Hartley in the autumn, you might recognize me as the person who’s shrieking and hopping around out on the path, raking her fingernails over her cheeks, leaving bloody tracks behind on her face. Despite using my new “Dead Shrew Detector 2006” (purchased at a bargain price off E-bay) to bypass the shrew corpses, they still keep cropping up in my way. And some of them, natch, have been half-eaten by 70-pound black labs, who kindly finish their trailsnack and leave behind a mash of a few toothpickish bones and scattered internal organs. Can we have a group “EWWWWW” here now?

Such are my travails.

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Spandex: It Keeps on Giving

Let me tell you the tale of an old college acquaintance–let’s call him Joe-O. Now Joe-O is a character in and of himself; he’s strident about leaving the smallest “footprint” he can on the planet, to the point that he only buys in bulk, composts everything, and, if he does create some small amount of garbage, he just burns it every few weeks. When he lived 30 miles from his job, that was not enough to make him drive a car…instead, he viewed the 60-mile daily bicycle commute as an opportunity for fitness. In addition to biking, Joe-O is a fan of all silent sports, cross-country skiing, in particular. For more than a decade now, he’s been into ski racing, with his season capped off by racing the American Birkebeiner, held in the Cable/Hayward, Wisconsin, area every February.

Many of you are doubtlessly acquainted with the Birkie, and some of you may have skiied it yourselves. You would then know that upwards of 10,000 skiers participate, and because of the heaps of steaming humanity standing on slippery pointed boards with sharp sticks in their hands, the race start takes place in “waves.” That means that it’s not a mass start, but rather large groups (each one a wave) begin the race in staggered fashion, every few minutes. The waves are also seeded, which means that the elite American and international skiers are put into the First Wave, and then successive waves are populated by skiers who have achieved certain times in previous races. The sum effect of these waves is that the best skiers start first, the next best skiers start second, and so on, all the way back to the final wave, which is populated by 85-year-old-retired pastors, 8-year-old Boy Scouts, and women in labor.

For old Joe-O, the first year he entered the Birkie, he had no race record and, therefore, was seeded in the last wave. This was a bit frustrating to Joe-O because he had proven himself to be a gifted skier, but he knew he had to rack up a tremendous race time this first year, in order to improve his start position for the following year. With skill and strategy, he knew he would, with a good race, be starting in one of the first few waves in successive years.

So he took his place on the course, having been up late the night before waxing his skis perfectly for the conditions, and now he was primed, waiting for the starting gun, the Eye of the Tiger glinting in his gaze.

And then.



He, well…He…how shall I say it discreetly? He felt a sudden, undeniable, overwhelming need to void his intestinal regions. And, naturally, with 9,999 other jittery and nervous racers feeling the same way, the line at the port-a-johns was not short. Suffice it to say, by the time Joe-O got back to the start line, his wave–the last wave–had already started. He could still begin the race, but his shot at a stellar time, one that would move him up in future years, had gone down the drain with his intestinal evacuation.

Here is the crux of my story, so stop slouching and pay attention: Joe-O took a moment to huff and stomp and mutter, and then he regrouped and came up with Plan B (this moment is also known as acceptance that Some Things Cannot Be Changed). His plan was this: since he was going to be the caboose in this train of 10,000 skiers, he would make the most of it–the sheer amount of detritus left behind by all those participants could be a windfall for Joe-O. He would, quite simply, forget about racing and, instead, pick up every discarded item he could find along the course: water bottles, ski poles, hats, mittens, fanny packs, and the like. Why, he’d never have to buy another cheap pair of UV-blocking sunglasses again, after this day! He’d never again have to invest in safety pins, or fleece neck gaiters, or half-eaten bags of gummy bears!

Hours later, after covering the 50K course as a lurching stop-and-start scavenger, Joe-O crossed the finish line; his one-piece lycra racing suit had been transformed into a bulging crap-carrier. Early on, he’d realized he couldn’t carry all the loot in his hands, so he’d unzipped the front of his suit and started stuffing in every wayward item he encountered, until, at the end, he looked like a red Michelin Man staggering away from a particularly fruitful rummage sale (one that didn’t happen to have any bags for customers).

What do we learn from Joe-O and his “let’s make espresso out of chicory” approach to the race? First, it ain’t over ’til it’s over, so continue to hang in there until the bloody, or junk-filled, end. Second, even if the race isn’t shaping up as you’d hoped, with the right attitude, you can reap unexpected rewards. Third, don’t shove a broken sharp metal ski pole tip so far down into your ski suit that you nearly become a soprano (or, more correctly, a castrato).

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Story of An Hour

Here’s the story of an hour of my life, an hour that felt like an eternity:

About nine years ago, when I was still young enough not to know better, I lived alone in what I called my “Unibomber Shack” down in Austin, Minnesota. That’s right, I lived in Spamtown, a place that speaks proudly of its ‘kill line,’ a place where no pig can feel secure that his snout and hooves won’t end up in a can, covered by a layer of gelatin, being passed off as nutrition. I had just moved to Spamtown when, one innocent night, my house was invaded by the worst kind of marauder…no, not someone trying to sell me Amway…no not a Girl Scout taunting me with the fact that she was all sold out of Thin Mints…no, not a man in a crisp white shirt, offering me brochures that could make me more Jesusian.

It was, in fact, a BAT. It flew in through an open window (what a way to find the screen had a hole in it) that humid August night, and it sent me screaming and flailing into my bathroom, the only room with a door that could be slammed, and loudly–the only room that could provide me with a barrier against the evil Vampira who had come to roost in my home.

After spending five minutes standing in the tub, wrapping the shower curtain around myself as armor, I decided to muster my wits and courage and take my fate into my own hands. I exited the tub. Then, still in tears, (I have deep rodent issues, and really, what is a bat if not a rodent enhanced by wings and malice?), I busied myself by fortifying my barrier–the door–by stuffing washcloths and bath towels around every crack and opening. Bats have been known to squeeze through openings as small as keyholes even, you know. I heard it on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” straight from Bob Saget’s mouth, so it’s got to be true.

With every possible entrance point stuffed, I relaxed momentarily and considered what I might do with the rest of my life, now that I had committed to living it alone in this bathroom. I could perfect my shampooing technique, taking the time to lather, rinse, and then, yes, repeat. I could organize ten rolls of toilet paper into a myriad of pyramid-type structures; I could then create an army of tampon people (drawing on their faces with various eyeliners), and they could move into ToiletPaperVille for the duration of my existence, visited on holidays by their distant relations, the Hotel-Bar-of-Soap family. Or I could finally read that VANITY FAIR magazine from 1993, the one containing an article in which Madonna explained how she hoped to get over Sean Penn one day and maybe have children.

As I pondered my options, I noticed something that had eluded me in my initial panic: a vent on the floor of the bathroom, one that opened directly into the basement below me. I could actually look down and see my washer and dryer, which meant, of course, that a rabid bat could certainly make its way downstairs, in its hunt for my blood, and then shimmy up through the vent.

Casting my eyes around the bathroom for something large enough to cover the vent, I realized that only the toilet could adequately seal it; but how could I unscrew the stool to then slide it over to the vent? I mean, really, my idiocy with flying mammals is only dwarfed by my lack of mechanical skills.Obviously, it was time to regroup. I would have to call for help. But who? I knew no one in my new town. But if I sent out an SOS across the country, surely someone would understand how dire my dilemma was and drive a few hours to come rescue me. The telephone would be my conduit to such aid.

But first, gulp, I had to unseal the door and reach my arm out of the bathroom, sliding it along the wall until it could reach the phone in its cradle. Naturally, the possibility that the bat might be hanging from my spice rack and, thus, interfere with my arm sliding made me wrap my forearm in a towel, so as to not be slimed by bat mucus, which would kill me instantly.

There. Nabbed it. Quickly, I dialed Billings, Montana, where I knew my parents could empathize and perhaps hire a neighbor to drive the 18 hours to come help me. Heck, I could do a night in the bathtub easily, enjoying a spa treatment until help arrived. But strangely, they listened to my sobbing with a sense of bemusement; after 15 minutes of hearing me rip off sections of ToiletPaperVille to blow my nose, my dad finally came up with a rousing bit of advice: “This is a time in your life where you just need to dig down deep and find that courage, to tell yourself that no one but you can handle this situation. Open the door of the bathroom and march out the front door of your house. Then you can get someone from Pest Control to come in.”

Right, Dad. You are some sort of crazy man, for sure. Like I could just open the door and walk out. Get real.

Next, I dialed up my aunt and uncle, who lived a mere 1.5 hours away–a doable distance in the face of their love for me. Again, though, nada. They had a little pep talk, too, something about how bats are really nice and eat mosquitoes and all.

At this point, I was wondering who in Hades had ever said that family will be there for you when you need them. It looked like I would need to call upon people who were paid to help, people who would be obliged to rescue me: the police.

After calling Information, I then dialed up the local police station, whereupon the receptionist told me that my situation was not one that merited the help of Spamtown’s finest. At this news, I heaved into a fresh round of uncontrollable sobbing, and the besieged woman took pity, saying, “I’ll see if I can’t send someone around.” She did tell me that I would need to open the door when the officer arrived. She, like my dad, was pure, walking crazy.

Five minutes later came the knock, and I realized that my single hope hung on my opening the door. I rushed out from the bathroom, screamed at the sight of a brown napkin on the back of my couch (it was so batlike!), and threw the door open as I called out, “I’ll be in the bathroom. Tell me when it’s over.”

This story is made even more ludicrous by the fact that my bat-savior was a human cyborg of a man: 6 feet, 6 inches tall, with the rugged jaw of Duke Nuk’em. After a quick search, he claimed he couldn’t find the beast; I then turned on my own radar, came out of the bathroom, and spotted Beelzebub hanging on the curtain in my bedroom. Throwing out a trembling finger, I pointed and ran again, tossing Mr. Schwarzenegger a bath towel with which to do his work.

Moments later, it was over. The bat had been released into the night (it later went on to fame as the subject of a MAGIC SCHOOL BUS episode), and I was free… …except for The Talk that Officer Hulk Hogan then laid on me–the whole “fight or flight” lecture that had bored me in 8th grade biology. After quickly assuring him that I was firmly evolved in the direction of flight, I shuttled him out the door, collapsed on my couch, and started thinking about how a big bowl of popcorn could be balm to my rattled soul.

Crisis over.

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On My Mind

O Mighty Isis Crisis

If you are over the age of 35, you may have watched the Saturday morning tv show called O Mighty Isis waaaaaay back in the mid-1970’s. It is irrevocably linked in my brain with another Saturday morning show called Shazam. At any rate, these tv shows, along with about ten thousand others (“Cause Eight Is Enough/To Fill Our Lives With Love”), were responsible for forming my psyche.

However, this blog isn’t about tv shows, necessarily, but more the many crises that make up a day or a life. When O Mighty Isis and Shazam went off the air, it seemed like a crisis; but now I know that having the neighbors’ yippy dog start in with her business before 7 a.m. is much more of a reason to conk my head on the counter repeatedly. Such things seem huge at the moment they occur but often, with time and perspective, can be seen as less-than-traumatic. So, from time to time, I’ll be posting little tales of crisis. That’s my theme.

Don’t wear it out.


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