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LJ Idol Week 19

It is not my manner to go out without fighting. That said,with everything going on in my life at the moment, there isn't a moment to take for myself for writing right now.

I'd like for my loss to at least have a positive impact for someone though so, I wish to offer myself, like all good Catholic girls imagine they might, as a sacrifice.

In the words of Billy Joel, only the good die young.

LJ Idol - Week 17 - "Scare Quotes"

The doctor pressed her fingertips beneath my navel then stood back.

“How far along did you say you are?” the doctor asked, a furrow of doubt creasing her brow as she glanced into a manila folder.

“12 weeks. I’m sure of it.” I responded with confidence.

I was sure because that spring I had seriously been shirking my “wifely duties,” and I don’t mean folding laundry. Preoccupied as I had been with my rambunctious 18 month old daughter and the final weeks of grad school, there had been just one single, solitary time in the spring where my husband and I had “known” each other in the Biblical sense of the word.

That one time had led us here, to the obstetrician and my second surprise pregnancy with this man – and yes, I did know how these things happen. Apparently he and I were that couple who could walk by one another in the kitchen and get knocked up though.

At first I was too busy to notice. A few weeks before, after finals were over and graduation attended, I started paying attention to my body again. With surprise, I noticed those telltale signs – blossoming bosoms, weird sensitivity to smells, psycho mood swings - that usually pointed to burgeoning pink or blue booties in my future. I grabbed a calendar. The fact that I hadn’t had my period in six weeks cemented the prognosis.

A little stick at the doctor’s office confirmed the news and we made an appointment to come back at 12 weeks for our first ultrasound, the one where we got to see the tiny bean and listen to the baby’s heartbeat racing through the air for the first time.

“Well, the baby is only measuring about 9 weeks right now," the doctor announced.

Now it was my turn to doubt. Surely she was wrong.

“Well, it’s been 12 weeks. Maybe this is just a petite baby!” I said, nervously trying to illicit a laugh. “Did you know my mom is here from Florida today for this?”

I didn’t want her to decide we weren’t going on with the ultrasound as planned.

After the initial shock of discovering we were expecting another unplanned baby, the fear quickly turned to joy. I’d always wanted two children, and I had wanted them to be born close together so they could be more connected as siblings than I had been with my brother. I was nearly seven when he was born and as a kid I’d always thought of him more like another pet than a sibling.

So, a new baby was a blessing, right? Hey, we were broke and shared one car, but we could live on love! A young family of four making their way in the tough ole’ world. It would be an adventure! (I was a lot more idealistic back in my 20’s.)

“Let’s get you in a gown and head down the hall then,” the doctor intoned brusquely, snapping the folder shut. I could tell something was bothering her, and that was bothering me, but she had walked out of the room.

Still excited, I bustled into the hallway where my family was waiting and grinned at my mother. My mom hadn’t been able to visit for any of the ultrasounds with my first child so as soon as we’d made this appointment I invited her up to Georgia for a visit. I knew she’d be thrilled to be in the room when we saw her next grandbaby for the first time, actually hearing the healthy gallop of the baby’s heartbeat filling the darkened room. It was such a joyous moment!

I kissed my husband and rubbed my daughter’s precious cheek before heading into the ultrasound room alone where I stood still in the cool, dim space for a moment breathing deeply. Why was the baby measuring small? This was really early to already be behind in the growth game.

Peeling off my jeans and shirt and slipping into the nubbly cotton of a well-worn hospital gown, I peered down at my belly with consternation. I wasn’t showing yet, but 12 weeks was still pretty early. I’d had the usual tiredness and some morning sickness but all in all it had been a pretty uneventful pregnancy so far. Was everything o.k. with this baby?

The doctor knocked discreetly and stepped into the room as I was situating myself on the table. My husband held my daughter so she could see her new sibling with the rest of us. Too little to really understand, she kept pointing at things in the room and asking “Baby? Baby?” as the doctor readied her instruments.

When the ultrasound tech came in the room, my doctor was standing at my feet, fiddling with dials. My mother on my right and husband on my left, chatting happily, I watched the tech squirt gel on the transducer and gently tug my gown aside.

The wand slid across my belly and gave me a chill. I listened expectantly.

With my daughter, the moment they laid the wand to my skin I could hear her, that tiny racehorse of a heartbeat pumping life through my growing baby, working hard to help her grow, to make her strong. It was the moment my pregnancy became real, that my child became real. It was the most promising sound I had ever heard.

Now, there was nothing. The ultrasound tech and my doctor locked eyes over my still body.

A look passed over my doctor’s face that sent fear through me so powerful my knees turned to jelly. Our eyes met. She knew that I knew that something was not right.

Determined, the ultrasound tech continued running the cool wand across my body as the quiet stretched out above me.

My mother and husband talked on, their chatter maddening to me, completely unaware of the drama unfolding inches beneath them. They were oblivious. Stop talking! How could they be so oblivious? I gritted my teeth. Couldn’t they just SHUT UP!

“Do you mind if we send your daughter outside with one of the nurses?” the doctor asked kindly. I nodded numbly and my husband passed my little girl to a nurse who quickly walked her out the door. She didn’t want my child to see her mother break down.

Time had slowed to a crawl. I looked at my family sadly and thought “They don’t know. They have no idea what is happening right now.”

I didn’t want them to know. I looked at my mother’s face, so hopeful, and at my husband, practically bouncing, moments from meeting his progeny, or so he thought.

'The news is going to crush them,' I thought. How could I be the cause of so much pain?

The clock ticked, the doctor played with dials and I took deep breaths, a small part of me still expecting the monitor to light up at any moment and confirm that the life within me was still viable. That my family’s hopes were still viable.

“Don’t panic, don’t panic. Keep it together for them.” My hopes were dimming but I knew that if I collapsed they would too. I had to be strong for them or it would be so much worse.

My doctor wiped the back of her hand across her forehead and turned, slowly snapping on the lamp beside her. That stilled my mother and husband and they looked up with surprise. The poor doctor. I wished desperately for her that she didn’t have to give us the news.

“I know, I already know,” I wanted to whisper to her, to help her with what she was about to say. It had to be so hard for her, nearly as hard as it would be to hear. I closed my eyes.

“Lisa, I’m so sorry. Your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.”

No silence had ever been more deafening.

There is something beautiful in you, an innocence that blinds you to all that is twisted inside me.
Let me guard you from what you can’t see.

There is something beautiful in lies, pleas to perpetuate or to protect, desperate untruths whispered or yelled, out of kindness but more often fear.

There is something beautiful in us, and I wonder at the reverence in your eyes, your hand in mine as sunlight
streams through autumn leaves.
This cannot last.

There is something beautiful in her, a radiance deeper than skin. She hides nothing when she looks your way.
I watch you watching her.
I am wrong to hold you back.

There is something beautiful in the truth, even truth as blunt as a battering ram, the very weight of it
knocking me flat.
It crushes the breath from my aching chest.
I must do what is right.

There is something beautiful in me. I won’t turn away as the tears spill down your cheeks, to honor you
in your heartbreak.You do not yet understand.

I see you my love, but I have never let you see me.

In the end, may you recognize the beauty in this terrible thing I have done.

Just after my sophomore year of college I found myself homeless. Not houseless, as in, I was living with all my earthly possessions under a snug overpass near the freeway. No, just homeless, the word spoken in the wistful tones of Dorothy Gale's "There's no place like home, there's no place like home..."

When I was 20, my mother decided to sell our childhood home in the North Georgia mountains and move to Florida.

I should have seen it coming. My folks had moved to Georgia from New York back in the 60's and they were just behaving instinctually, like all Snowbirds, continuing the migration south as they got older. And I was long aware that my mother's vision of paradise included sandy beaches and a wide expanse of crystal blue water.

My mom wanted me to go with them, but although I loved my family dearly, I couldn't see myself living there - still can't. Florida was fine to visit, but frankly, I despised the majority of the state. Muggy, buggy, sand-in-your-everywhere, tourist traps and surf shops comprising the majority of the "cultural" landscape Florida? I'll stay in Georgia, thanks a bunch.

I figured I had some time to figure out my living arrangements. But. when they put their house on the market it sold in two weeks. They had to move almost immediately, and quite suddenly, I was homeless. The weight of what this meant, that once they were gone I could never go "home" again, settled over me.

Enter my best friend Pacer, Georgia Tech student, frat guy extraordinaire.

"You know, during the summer our frat house takes on boarders to pay the mortgage."

"Seriously? I could stay with y'all? Do the guys care? Does Tech care?"

"Tech just wants their money. They don't care if the boarders are male, female, a llama with a checkbook...and the guys love you. Come stay with us."

Now that sounded hella-fun to me.

Four other "ladies" had already signed on to live at the house that summer. I wouldn't be the only girl there and my parents trusted Pacer to defend my honor, so they agreed to this plan. As a parent myself now, sometimes I look back and really question their judgement.

So, that's how it happened that on moving day, as my parents passed through Atlanta on their way to their new life in Florida, they made a side stop at Georgia Tech, dropping their only daughter off at a fraternity house in the midst of a drunken bonfire bacchanal. Luckily, all the action was out back or they probably wouldn't have let me out of the U-Haul.

As they pulled away, the ache in my chest was unbearable. I knew this was the right choice but it hurt like hell. I did my best not to start crying on the sidewalk in front of my new housemates.

'There goes my childhood' I thought, their taillights rounding the corner. And then they were gone.

It was one of the hardest moments of my young life. I just wanted to crawl into my bed and hide until morning. Luckily, we had dropped my furniture off before the big move and I'd started to get my room ready for occupancy earlier in the week.

I was not in the mood for a party but the house was in full swing. I hurried through the dim and crowded common area, a direct contrast to the brothers and their girlfriends and friends drinking, smoking, laughing loudly.

Music pulsing through the paneling, the stairs were deserted as I quickly climbed to the dorm area, gritting my teeth and willing myself not to break down for few more minutes.

I pushed open the heavy metal door, peeling red paint exposing peeling grey paint exposing an institutional green door. The party had reached the dorm upstairs. Of course it had, that's where the bedrooms were. The private drug stashes, the secret video vaults, and my empty bedroom.

Walking down the long hall I was barely hanging on. 'Just breathe. Don't cry. Just breathe. Almost there.'

15 feet.
I smiled at Gumby and Allison, heads close together in conversation.

10 feet. I weakly accepted a hug from Gonzo.

5 feet to the door and I brushed off Mike McDaniel, I didn't have the energy to talk about his girl troubles tonight.

And then the door was within reach.

I grasped the handle and pushed, feeling my face start to crumple, my chest collapse with a sob even as I stepped inside...and found a girl, naked to the waist, cigarette in her hand, sitting at my desk. I'd seen her around, a petite blonde, what the brothers referred to as a "frat mattress" because she'd sleep with anyone with Greek letters.

"Hey! she started cheerfully, not even having the decency to look surprised. Her inebriation was evident in her speech, her posture, the fact she hadn't made a move to cover her tits. "I just had sex in your bed!" she chirped.

Now, I wish I could say this turned into a scene from your favorite co-ed college porno, but my crap day meant hanky panky was the last thing on my mind.

In an instant, my sadness turned to rage.

"You did what in my bed? You were fucking in my bed?! Get the fuck out!" I screeched, snatching her shirt off the floor and her tarty neon bra off my desk and thrusting them at her chest.

I grabbed her arm and shoved her out the door, still topless, slamming it as hard as I could in her face as she protested "They said you weren't coming home tonight! Like, your parents were moving or something?" as if my absence made screwing in my sheets acceptable.

The sheets. I turned to my bed, sheets a tangle, the indentation of a head still visible on my pillow. There were even two moist spots, about three feet apart in the center of the mattress. Apparently she'd been on top and working it hard, leaving some thigh sweat behind, IN MY BED.

I grabbed the pillow and yanked the case down. Then I snatched the corner of the sheets and stripped the bed nude, balling all the fabric up in my arms and stalking out into the hall.

It was quiet as I stormed past everyone to the exit door. Cat fights were the best entertainment some of those folks might see all night.

I threw the door open and stepped out into the night, onto the balcony atop the fire escape. Below me, the bonfire blazed in the backyard, ringed by boozy boys and girls sucking on beer bottles and solo cup straws.

"Attention!" I cried. "May I have your attention?" Several eyes drifted up to see what was going on, the rest were too trashed to even care.

I held the sheets aloft. "No one is ever to fuck in my room again - except me, of course!" I decreed, and I threw the offensive ball of fabric into the air.

The sheets unfurled as they fell and settled atop the bonfire for a moment before bursting into flames. There were whoops and cheers at this dramatic gesture and I whirled around and stomped inside. I turned to the first brother I saw. "Now, could someone please get me a drink?"

A little liquor and a little laughter later I was feeling alright, and quite pleased with myself...until I got back to my room and considered the fact that I owned one set of sheets, and I'd just thrown them on a fire. Shit.

Ah, the fervor of youth. These days, if someone told me they'd just had sex in my bed, I'd probably say "At least you didn't do it where my kids sleep" and send them to the laundry room. Hindsight is 20/20.

That night I slept on a bare mattress but I woke feeling rested and ready to face the fact that it might be time to grow up.

In truth, I probably ought to thank that little hoochie for her interference, for forcing me not to wallow in self pity. And, I suppose, for giving me a good reason to go shopping for some lovely new sheets.

LJ IDol - Week 13 - Open Topic

I have an addiction.

I'm not addicted to shopping, although my husband might tell you otherwise. I just find the treasure hunt of an all day foray into the wilds of our local thrift stores to be intensely satisfying!

And, I'm not addicted to porn, although on a regular basis I do adore a good gangbang video, you know, the kind set in a cheap hotel room with 31 flavors of dudes and some great money shots? Hot!

So, it's not shopping or porn, not booze or social media or cigarettes.
I have the sweetest addiction of all.
I am addicted to sugar.

Sugar is one of the most highly addictive substance on the planet. Rats, when given cocaine and sugar will summarily pick sugar over the other white powder.

I have loved sugar for as long as I can remember. One year at Christmas, my mom put mugs full of M&M's and Reese's Cups and ribbon candies on the mantle. While she napped one afternoon, I piled up books and climbed up there and devoured ALL of it in one sitting, hiding the wrappers in the backyard. That night I watched wide eyed as she hollered at my dad when she discovered it gone but never fessed up.

Candy is my kryptonite. Now I keep a "candy purse" hanging in my closet with an assortment of boxed and bagged treats for trips to the movies - or for when my husband or I get a craving while lying in bed watching TV at night. I can recite Wonka and Nestle and Ferarra Pan varietals like they were members of my nuclear family. Tangy candy is my favorite. Lemonheads and Airheads, Nerds and Runts, Skittles, Starburst...man, when was the last time I had a Starburst?

Getting off track... I knew I loved sugar but didn't realize it was an addiction until I was cleaning out my closet a couple springs ago and I kept finding candy stashed all over the damn place. Like, six sticks of rock candy behind the shoeboxes and a box of Lemonheads in the back of my underwear drawer. You know you're a junkie when you start stashing shit in your underwear drawer! I had no idea how long it had been there, but I ate the stuff anyway. I do know it takes a LONG time for candy to go bad.

But it's not just candy.

Donuts, ohmygod Krispy Kreme donuts make me drool. If the hot light is on - Wait, do y'all know what that means, "If the hot light is on?"

Ok, for those of you not from the South, it means the donuts are being made RIGHT THEN. The conveyor belt is, right at that very moment, rolling along with fresh, hot donuts on it and the glaze machine is running nonstop too, pouring a sweet, sweet waterfall of sugary perfection over the tops of the fantastically fried rings of dough. When you eat one, they just melt away in your mouth, ephemeral clouds of Heaven on your tongue. You cannot eat just one. Hot Krispy Kremes are one way you know God loves you and wants you to be happy.

And chocolate - dark or milk or bittersweet - can blindside me with its beautiful complexity. Reese's Peanut Butter cups are irresistable - the man who thought to put those two flavors together - or woman - I can totally see a woman having invented that - they are genius! But not white chocolate. That stuff turns my stomach due to an unfortunate Easter Bunny overeating one spring morning as a child.

Oh, and cupcakes, who doesn't love cupcakes? Cupcakes are so much better than just cake because they totally maximize the frosting to cake ratio. Frosting is fabulous. Last week I got some donuts and then made Martha Stewart's Nutella whipped cream frosting recipe and slathered the donuts with the homemade stuff and it was AWESOME!

And therein lies the problem. I might want to slow down but sugar is easy to get. There are no age restrictions, no one taking my name when I buy it at the grocery store to make sure I'm not abusing it at home. It's cheap, and if I run out of candy or donuts, I have learned to bake like a sumbitch so whatever I crave I can whip up in the privacy of my kitchen in about an hour! I'm proud of my baking abilities but it sure isn't helping me lose any weight.

So last week my parents came to visit. When my dad arrived - he's 69 years old now - he discreetly asked if I had a safe place in my refrigerator for his insulin bottles. My stomach turned over. My dad, a long time sugar lover who would sit, when I was a child, and eat an entire jar of marmalade with a spoon while watching television at night was now shooting up due to his sugar habit.

"When did that start?" I asked him.
"Oh, about three months ago" he tossed off, like it was no big deal. "That's what they give you when your pancreas don't function like they used to, baby."

When he was here at Christmas, he was still fine taking pills to regulate his sugar. I guess his diabetes has taken a nose dive since then. Just like my grandmother, who started insulin pills in her mid 60's but was up to six shots a day when she died at 74. And now look at me, the granddaughter who never meet a cookie she didn't like.

I've been thinking a lot about my grandmother and my father and those two little bottles, and the needle my father pulled out to jab himself with the next morning before breakfast. That's going to be me sooner rather than later if I don't slow down.

But then, as I'm driving home from the Goodwill this afternoon, I see the marquee on the Chick-Fil-A sign.
"Hot? Cool off with a fresh peach milkshake!" it calls.

I think 'They must have read my mind!' and pull in to the drive through where I order a peach shake, large-sized, with whipped cream too. Damn, it was good.

And that's why I call it an addiction.

Hot Wheels, Big Wheels
Star Wars Legos.

Easy Bake Chocolate Cake,
Uno, Skip Bo, Play Doh.

Cabbage Patch, Garbage Pail,
Parcheesi.

Pogo Balls, Glow Worms,
Sea Monkey.

View Master, Speak and Spell,
My Buddy Doll.

Rubik's Cube, Transformers,
Gross Mad Balls.

Etch a Sketch, Teddy Ruxspin,
Grumpy Care Bear.

He Man and his Battle Cat
Jem the Rocket - hot pink hair.

Transformers, Fashion Plates,
My Little Pony.

Lite Brite, Rainbow Brite,
Slinky and Sorry.

Micro Machine, Muscle Men
GI Joe.

Popples, Pound Puppies,
...then came Nintendo.

The toys I loved as a girl,
Their names tattooed on my brain,
wrote the story of my summers
Bright memories, still aflame.

But inside my children's toy box? Nothing.
They prefer computer games
to playing in the real world.
It is such a crying shame.

They aren't biking down the sidewalk,
wandering the woods without aim.
Not damming creeks or building forts
Minecraft's enough they claim.

What will they remember from their childhood?
Has their creativity been tamed
by the seduction of a tablet?
IPad, I curse your name!

I don't like curtains.

Isn't the point of a window to let the light and the scenery in, not block the view with swaths of damask and chintz?

Mothers-in-law seem particularly disturbed by my lack of window dressing. They also don't understand my refusal to wear a watch or why I don't force my seven-year-old son to get a haircut if he wants to have "hobbit hair" in the winter, but those are other issues we can discuss at a later date.

I suppose my own mother got used to my peculiarities a long time ago but my mothers-in-law - yes, two of them, a former and a current - have expressed their horror at the lack of curtains in our country home - which sits on a wooded lot of approximately 10 acres. To which I reply "Oh yes, it would be terrible if the deer and chipmunks looked in and saw us partaking in our Friday night SCRABBLE ritual!"

Mothers-in-law, your prim disdain for my immodesty is not going to make me put up blinds - or put on a bra for that matter. Well, when you are here I will put on the bra, I don't want to completely scandalize you into a heart attack.

Now, while it may seem counter-intuitive, I also like my privacy. It's why I live out here in the woods in the first place. Perhaps for this reason alone I would never make a good city dweller. I want wide open windows without fear of people staring in. I am a realist though. I concede that if someone does happen to get a glimpse of my bare ass at 2 a.m., bathed in the glow of the refrigerator door as I sneak a few late night bites of ice cream, well, this is my own damn fault for being hard-headed about hanging curtains.

My balanced approach is to live in the hinterlands sans window dressing - and you can come into my yard at your own risk. Not because we are gun owners or anything, but because you may catch sight of my topless mom-body wandering by a window while I'm doing laundry and realized my shirt could stand to be washed too!

The policy has worked quite well for me, 98% of the time. But, there was one morning that made my resolve waver just a bit...

The old house I lived in during college was one of about eight homesteads on a four-mile stretch of unpaved road in central Georgia. One of the best features of the drafty, buggy place was the wall of windows across the front that let in a great view of the wooded yard and the frog pond. Even the front door had a huge pane of glass in the center so the only privacy afforded us was by virtue of the remote location.

I was young and broke so one of my goals was to keep the air conditioner turned off until June to keep my electricity bill down - sometimes a challenge as temperatures rose to the 90's. To stay cool, I chose the methods of liberal ceiling fan usage and minimal clothes wearing.

This was before I had children, so Sunday afternoons were long lazy hours spent napping or sunning or screwing. This particular Sunday, my boyfriend lost in a post-coital coma, I was hanging around topless in my lounge pants, reading a book by the window in the living room. The curtain-less living room with the wonderful wall of windows.

I was fairly engrossed in my story and didn't notice company was coming until my dogs started barking in the yard. Glancing up, my eyes widened in horror.

Three shriveled, old, black women in starched skirts and sensible shoes were marching down my driveway, black Bibles held primly before them like leather-bound shields. The Jehovah's Witnesses had come to call, and Lord, what idolators they were about to discover! I had moments before they would mount my porch and see me, breasts bared like Jezebel tempting King Ahab in the Old Testament.

I may be immodest, but I have enough Catholic shame to realize there is an extra spicy room in hell for people who intentionally scar little old Bible beaters on a Sunday. I began to rise and run from the room so my nudity didn't slay the ladies in their proverbial tracks but quickly realized this was a terrible plan. The wall of windows would have framed my escape like a B-movie on the big screen!

Instead I dropped to my knees, scuttling fast across the carpeted living room floor, staying low as I passed the front door, not rising until I was in the hallway, safely out of sight. I burst into the bedroom to wake my boyfriend.

"Jay! Jay! The Jehovah's Witnesses are here!" I hissed urgently and he opened one heavy eye to regard my panic.
"What do you want me to do about it?"
"When they knock, go answer the door. I have to get a shirt on!"

As if brought to fruition by my comment, fervid knocking rang out.

I grimaced, running for the closet, and heard Jay lope out of the bedroom. I glanced back at him in time to realize all he had on were his boxer briefs, but it was too late.

When he opened the door for the Jehovah's Witnesses, all six feet of former-military muscle in nothing but his BVD's, those must have been the most flustered little Psalm pushers on Heaven or Earth.

"How can I help you ladies?" he asked in a slightly smarmy voice.
I could hear stammering and uncomfortable coughs from the porch. I covered my face with my hands to stifle my giggles.

Jay dispatched the ladies post haste. He said they tried to make a go of proselytizing to the nearly-naked heathen before them but when he told them he was happily Catholic they nodded knowingly and quickly beat a retreat to the road.

I walked out of the bedroom laughing.

"Don't think we'll be getting any more of those visits any time soon," he told me.
"Either that or they are ALL gonna come witness over here now" I said, snapping the band of his undershorts.

They did not return, and, although I learned to keep a shirt nearby if I planned to be indecently exposed in the future, neither Jehovah's nor in-laws have been able to make me change my curtain-less ways.

 

Live Journal Idol - Week 8 - Yes, And

“Ma’am, this is one of the worst flea infestations I have ever seen! Did you say you had cats?”

“Yes, and they were feral…”

“You had feral cats in your house?”

“Yes, and to get them in here I even had to entice them with tuna. It’s my own damn fault. They were just kittens and their mama abandoned them under my back porch. When I decided to move them in, I just left the back door open with a can of fish on the kitchen floor. When they crept in I jumped out from behind the door and slammed it shut and trapped them in here.”

“You just let wild cats run around in your house?”

“Yes, and they proceeded to hide under the dryer all day long and only come out at night long enough to eat…and poop. They crapped on my desk and on my couch and well, wherever they wanted.”

“You know if you wait too long with feral cats they’ll never come near humans, right? You’ve got like a six-week window and then they are wild forever. Did you try to tame them?”

“Yes, and when I stuck my hand back behind they dryer to try and touch the cute little black balls of fur and gently habituate them to humans they clawed me all to hell!  At that point, I still thought maybe with time they’d grow to love me if I just gave them time to adjust….”

“But then you noticed the fleas?”

“Yes, and weird little wormy things too.  On my couch. Where they pooped. And then I was afraid my kids were going to get butt worms from the rotten creatures I’d trapped in my house!

“And the fleas were taking over too?”

“Yes, and biting us constantly. I can't stop scratching! I think they have a damn colony in the couch!”

“Have you gotten the cats out already?”

“Yes, and to do it I had to put on a huge rubber rain coat and oven mitts and the little heathens still managed to claw my neck up when they climbed me like a tree just before they dashed out the door never to be seen again! Just look at the scratch marks!”

“Wow. I’ll bet you’ll never try that again!”

“Yes, and if I ever do, my husband said he will leave me the instant he finds cat crap on his shoes."

"They crapped on his shoes?"

"Yes, and on his overcoat too."

“Well, the good news is we can get rid of fleas. The bad news is, it’s going to run you around $300 and you are going to have to throw out that couch. Should we get started?”

“Yes, and I will pay it in cash right now if you can just make the itching stop!”

(True story. I am such a sucker for strays, but I’m learning...slowly.)

LjIdol Week 5 - Build a Better Mousetrap

I love living in the country. Fresh air, an abundance of trees and birds and flowers, no neighbors within hollering distance watching me have lightsaber battles in the yard with my kids.

I love living in the country, but sadly, I am no country girl. I can't build a root cellar or make a snare and apparently, I don't know the first thing about mice.

Don't fault me. I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta with parents raised in Manhattan and Detroit. If we had pests, an exterminator was swiftly called and the unclean creatures were eradicated.

The only time I'd even seen a live mouse was when my neighbor Matt let me watch him feed his albino boa constrictor. It wasn't live for long.

Fast forward 15 years to when I bought my first house, way out in the country in central Georgia. I had an acre of land with a pond and 17 acres of woods around me. In my yard I'd seen deer, foxes, an assortment of frogs, bugs, snakes and one time, I turned over a sheet of insulation to find a spider as big as a gerbil. That still gives me the willies! I loved the wildlife, as long as it stayed outside.

One morning I opened a kitchen cabinet to discover little brown pellets scattered atop my flour canister. What on Earth? I picked one up, looked at it for a moment and pinched it between my thumb and first finger.

Shit!! No really, I realized then that it was shit. Little brown balls of animal droppings.

Rats!! No really, I thought "Rats! I've got rats...or mice. I dunno. But probably mice because the poop is really small. But they pooped on my food! Gross!!"

And yet, I am a soft hearted fool. God sends strays to me on a regular basis because he knows I will feed them, bathe them, be kind. I did not want to hurt the rodents who had come inside. Bringing those awful, old fashioned mousetraps in seemed so...mean.

I asked my boyfriend how we could catch them without hurting the little guys. He was an engineering school grad who loved a design challenge. Jay created the simplest contraption, a mousetrap fashioned out of a Hershey Kiss, a wooden skewer and a plastic bowl.

In theory, the hungry mouse sneaks under the bowl, held up by the skewer which is poked into the Hershey Kiss. When mousy gets to nibbling the delicious chocolate treat, it upsets the balanced bowl which drops down and the mousy is caught, humanely, and with one hell of a dessert.

It worked! We put it on the kitchen floor that night and the next morning there was a precious brown mouse under the bowl! I scooped it into a box with an oven mitt and walked it outside, admonishing it to find a new home before letting it go.

Yeah. Because that's going to teach a mouse a lesson.

We kept putting down chocolate, and catching mice. I kept putting them out. I think now that it was probably just the same mouse getting caught night after night. I'd call her dumb, but she was the smart one, having found a safe way to get candy as long as it didn't mind having to run back across the yard to come in after I put it out each day.

So I kept finding mouse crap and pee and sometimes I'd open a cabinet or drawer just in time to watch a little tail and furry butt dash away.

Then came the morning I pulled out a box of cereal and Rice Krispies poured out on me from a hole chewed through the corner of the box and the liner bag inside. Oh no you didn't, little mousies! I try to be kind and THIS is how you repay me? Snap, crackle, pop indeed!
"I'm gonna pop me some mice now" I thought.

We put our chocolate trap out and in the morning I found TWO trapped mice. I scooped them angrily into the bowl and ran to my pond.

In Old Testament God-like retribution, I tossed them into the water. I'm sure I was thinking something tough like "Take that, vermin!" Or "Drown, you little beggars!"

Grimly, I watched them...swim away. SWIM away. Mice can swim? Really? Who knew?

Chagrinned, I marched back to the house and they mouse-paddled back to land. "Did you know mice can swim?" I demanded of my boyfriend.

"Seriously?" He responded. He was from Long Island! This was news to him too.

That night I got drunk. It was a Friday, the work week was done, we opened the liquor cabinet and got down to business. About five shots in I said "I'm gonna catch one of those mice."

"Right now?" Jay asks.
"Yep, right now. With my hand." I tell him, waggling my fingers at him.
"Yeah right," he's laughing. "I'd like to see you try!"
"Wanna make a bet? I bet I can!" And with the bravado of youth, I slipped on an oven mitt.

There was this one little drawer by the sink the mice seemed to favor. I stood over it for a second, listening.
Pointing, I stage whispered "I think they are in there."
"You're nuts!" Jay loudly whispered back.

I raised my right hand, the one in the oven mitt, and took a deep breath. I reached my left hand toward the drawer, fluttering my fingers for a moment like an explosives expert about to defuse a bomb.

I threw the drawer open and saw a mouse dashing for cover. Moving with the speed of bad decisions, I darted my hand down into the drawer, and hawk-like, came up with a mouse!

"I've got it!! I got it!" I raised my mitted hand triumphantly above my head and drunkenly ran around the room crowing with pride. Jay was laughing in disbelief.

"Open your hand! Open it! There is nothing in your hand!" he was saying.

I ran to the trap-bowl on the kitchen table.
"Come see!" I urged and he walked over.

I opened my fingers and a small brown mousy, with pink little ears and a tiny tail dropped out...dead.

"Oh shit!" I was still laughing, but now in surprise and consternation.

"I think I killed it! I gave it a heart attack!"
I felt terrible. I just wanted to catch it, poor thing, and now I'd killed it in my...merriment. That was a buzz killer.

Monday was the last straw. I climbed out of the shower, and wrapped up in a towel. When I opened my underwear drawer I noticed the cotton bottoms were displaced, smooshed to the side and torn? Nest-like.

Tucked away in some shredded Victorias Secret bikini bottoms was a brood of baby mice, pink and hairless. Cute but...the mice were in my drawers? In more ways than one? This was WAR!

I tucked the babies in a shoe box, not sure what to do with their defenseless nakedness. They were innocents here...but mama had to go.

I had hoped we could all just find a way to get along but if you have a roommate that eats your food, craps in the kitchen and destroys your clothing, what's left to do but kill them?

That afternoon, I bought the dreaded snappy trap and that night, after I placed it near the dresser that had cradled the babies, I heard a sharp snap and squeak and then all was still.

Looks like the better mousetrap was the old fashioned kind after all.

LJIdol - Week 3 - In Another Castle

The house I grew up in looked perfect, but the beauty was only siding-deep.

On the outside, it was idyllic. A charming yellow two-story in a quiet suburban neighborhood, you could often find my brother and I climbing the jungle gym in the backyard or reading on the swing on our shady front porch. We had a yard full of daffodil bulbs in the spring and during the holidays, the fat plastic jewels of 80’s Christmas lights twinkled in the trees. On the outside.

On the inside, my grandmother was rotting away with cancer and my mother was rotting away with resentment because my father didn’t help her take care of his sick mother or her new baby. Inside, my father kept a massive porn collection barely tucked away in the basement, all that fucking and sucking just waiting to be discovered by his precocious seven year old daughter, left to her own devices because everyone upstairs was too preoccupied to pay her any mind.

Inside, my exhausted mother lost her temper and beat my brother and I with wooden kitchen utensils until they splintered apart. Her attempt to control something in a life that was spinning wildly out of control. I looked at all the other pretty houses in my neighborhood and started to wonder what secrets were hiding in their walls too.

I don’t take you at face value either. I wish I could, just trust that when you smile at me you are offering a true token of friendship or a vote of approval. Unless we are close, and there are very few people I count as close, I wonder what’s really going on in your head behind your toothy grin. Teeth are a little scary.

“Your bad day is nobody’s business but your own,” and “Your mood does not dictate your manners,” I can hear my flight attendant mother lilting at me in a sing-song voice. I may be dying on the inside but I hide my true face from the world, so I think you must be doing the same.

I am kind to everyone, warm, incredibly social. I share snappy anecdotes about my children, my job, my hobbies, but rarely do I let other people in. Through the front door, beyond the foyer and the artfully arranged living room into the darker spaces that haven’t been swept clean, the cobweb-laced corners that I hide out of shame, the closets that I daren’t air out for fear you’d never speak to me again if their contents were made public.

And what are you hiding in your basement? Your closet? Your locked box in the back of your sock drawer where not even family can sneak a prying glance? I know you have spaces where nobody goes, rooms even you try to avoid, tiptoeing past in a vain attempt to not disturb the contents.

If you are anything like me, the world may never see inside, never know what lies behind my doors, except for the choice ones I can bring myself to open here, for perfect strangers, where I feel safe.

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