Chipmunks, flapping

Friends: don’t you just hate when you finally pour yourself a glass of wine after a long day, sit down for a nice sip and then boom – carnage? I know I do. Recently I was forced to answer some hard questions regarding the soul of a chipmunk as well as the strength of my character and I did not like it, not one bit.

My fluffernutter of a pooch had mistaken a chipmunk for her tennis ball, or perhaps a tiny remote control vehicle (I can’t be the only one that thinks they look like little RC cars racing around with their tails sticking up like they do).  I had quite the gut reaction of swear-screaming – sweaming, if you will – and banging violently on the window until fluffbutt realized her mistake and placed the chip back on the ground.

jedi chips
How could she resist playing?  Also please watch this video because it’s awesome.

I knew I had to get to that very still rodent before one of my precious angels stumbled upon it and tried to skin it for its pelt.  But a terrible thought entered my mind: what if it was not all the way dead but merely very badly injured, seizing and foaming at the mouth? If so I would have to end its misery. With what? A shovel, the broken-off end of my wine glass, what?! I settled on bringing it to the driveway and running it over with the car if need be. Effective, yet indirect.  I am a lady who hasn’t intentionally killed any living being in probably 15 years and did not want to start.*

Well, let me tell you how simultaneously relieved and horrified I was to find that the little guy was all the way dead. I had almost brought shame upon my name with cowardice in the face of a mercy killing, AND realized that I have a dog that apparently kills innocent chipmunks. I put the body in the bin part of the poop scoop, took a step toward the woods and tossed.

That little sucker flew about three feet and then got caught up in a low, leafless branch of a bush. He was draped over the branch much like a washcloth draped over a clothesline to dry.  The chipmunk was actually flapping in the wind at me; just hanging around, blowin’ in the wind.

Because I sensibly threw him in the same direction that I throw a large amount of dog crap, I couldn’t just step into the woods in my flip flops and knock him off the branch. I was reduced to teetering on the rock wall, stretching my arm holding the scoop thingy as far as I could and trying to untangle the dangling chip from the branch while sweaming voraciously. After a full minute he fell down into a large pile of excrement, arms and legs splayed out in all directions; lifeless eyes staring directly at me.

All in all, my dog and I were both to blame. For even though she caused the death I disrespected the body and revealed one of the myriad ways my inner weakness rules me. I also blame Fisher Price for making the adorable Woodseys part of my childhood, therefore giving chipmunks a soft spot for all eternity (yes I still have the book and read it to my kids).

Anthropomorphized for 80’s kids


*Ok, ok, I kill ants, flies and ticks. Ants, flies and ticks can go f*@k themselves.


Keep Reading

Last night when I put my eight year old to bed I got in and we cuddled up back-to-back with our books. This is always one of the best parts of my day. The feeling of his back against mine, hearing him laugh out loud at part of his book every few minutes – pure bliss. He is still young but already I’m worried about keeping him a reader. I’ve talked before about his checkered past in regards to reading, and the book that bridged a gap for him (check it out here).  But how to keep this momentum we’ve created; even in middle and high school?

My kids love Jon Sciesza’s books (especially The Stinky Cheese Man, check it out for creative silliness) and recently I found his Guys Read site on a Google search. In discussing why boys may not be reading as much as girls, he points out that many reading role models are female. Therefore reading can be categorized as a “feminine” activity in a little boy’s brain for all time.  In our house this is definitely true. My husband has never read books of any kind (he swears that he must have done so in school but can’t remember any of them). While I’m reading actual old-school books, he is devouring periodicals and internet articles on his devices. He probably reads as much as I do but his material choices are so vastly different, my kids’ visual is reduced to this: mom is reading; dad is playing on his phone.Collage 2016-05-24 09_15_07

I remember thumbing through a pictorial spread a few years ago in a celebrity rag, called something like “Sexy Men: They Can Read Too”. Paparazzi photos of male celebrities walking around with books peppered the pages. No matter that most of them seemed staged to me (come one, if you’re grabbing your book on the way out the door how often do you position it so the cameras can read the title?). It’s apparently odd to see a man with a book.

I also keep hearing variations on this idea: as boys get older they value reading less because they want to read for a practical reason, rather than just for the story. To me, getting involved in a story is a practical reason for reading, and why shouldn’t it be? Why does everything need to be value-added?  If this were true then surely boys/men wouldn’t want to watch Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, right? I mean, they are just stories not filled with practical information (ok, I can see that some of you are silently arguing this point on The Walking Dead).

For now I can only hope that this pure love of reading – one of the deepest I’ve felt in my life – imprints on my children. If it takes hold of them as it has me, then surely nothing will stop them from reading, right?

What is a Rural Suburb? This:

I live in a rural suburb. There are a few developments in town: those are the suburbs. I live in the rural.

I live on a street where you are as likely to find stray horses as dogs.  I’ve come face-to-knee with an ox while getting my mail.

At least one guy on the street mows his lawn by goat.

In my neighborhood I hear gun shots regularly. Not crime-y gun shots; merely my neighbors hunting their endless acreage, celebrating raucously, or helping an injured farm animal along from its misery. If someone ever really does get shot around here, no one will call the cops because we’re all used to it.

I live in a place that ministers to its own. If tragedy occurs, the whole community donates, helps, gives. Even if we don’t know each other it’s what we do. I have seen it in action and it’s beautiful.

Last year a huge tree fell from our property blocking the road and our driveway while we were on vacation. Strangers cut that bitch up so we could get drive into the driveway. An electrician from town that I’d never met was up on a ladder with a headlamp at 11:00 at night checking out the wires that had been ripped from my house. These kind of people are my people.

I live in a place where we are still considered “the new family” after 11 years.

People around here have a lot of land, a lot of trees and a lot of privacy. I literally have no idea what my next door neighbor looks like.

I share my yard (and deck and garage) with a plethora of species. Once I saw a deer that had just given birth in my backyard nursing her newborn. We have a quail that spends a week here each spring, and resident rabbits, hawks and fisher cats.

I live in a town with a nasty heroin/opioid epidemic.

My neighbors across the street consist of at least 5 siblings, houses all in a row, living in land passed down through their family for generations. I don’t think any of them has a job. They are in a family feud and call the cops on each other regularly. Obviously, these are the same neighbors that shoot the guns.

You can find a million dollar home in my town. You can also find a one room shack made out of tin. Some people live in the woods at the end of my road – because they prefer it.

If I want to go to Target, a mall, a clothing store, Starbucks, or a fancy restaurant, I have to drive for a minimum of 30 minutes.

We live on the East side of the Connecticut River and every time I come into our valley, every single time I come to the four-corners where my town starts, I swear I can breathe a little easier. Everything looks prettier, seems slower. When I get a full-frontal amazing sunset every night from my kitchen window while cooking dinner, and while I have coffee on my deck looking out over the field of wildlife, I know that there’s nowhere else I’d rather live. People come to places like this to relax, or have a little vacation. It’s where I always live. And for that I am grateful.

When Spring is Very Cold

This is one of the true, yet magical, stories of my life: the first time I saw Adam I was sitting on the floor in his living room. I could see the staircase from where I was and he descended in slow motion. He was wearing khaki cargo shorts and a button down short sleeved plaid shirt, with Birkenstock sandals.  More likely they were imitations. Time stopped for a minute and I had this clear thought: here is my future. And I was right.

He asked my name and I told him, I guess, because he was saying “Eliza, Eliza” all slow and nice and it was the best pronunciation I ever heard.  We talked all night.

After the weekend, I went back to my own state. Laura called; she said “I think Adam likes you” and I said “too bad I live in CT and have a boyfriend” (to clarify: It was more like I had a disgusting scab that I would rip off, watch regrow, then rip off again). My friend said “dump him and move to NJ”, like no big deal.  I said ok, hung up the phone and ripped off that scab for the final time.  Then I moved to NJ, like no big deal.

The day after I moved, Adam came over and never left. The day after that, his dog and stuff appeared and we opened a joint bank account. We had gone on a total of three dates. I told Laura “this is crazy, but I’ll marry him.” And that girl believed me.

I was right. I did marry him; and it was all easy. Sixteen years and two kids later things aren’t always so easy. In fact they can be as dismal as this cold, rainy week. But this story is the hoodie I put on when the weather sucks. I cinch the hood tight so only my eyes stick out and step out into the rain. My wish for today is that you also have an old, worn garment to keep you warm. And may you never leave it in a cab or forget it in the back of the closet.