Lions and Spiders and Fears, Oh My!

Breaking News!  Alert!  This just in…… my daughter killed a spider this week.  Her first. Ever.

For seventeen years, our darling girl  has depended upon…. no…wait…..demanded that others take care of her spiders for her.  This task usually falls upon her dad,  a gentle soul who does it because he both adores the girl-child and because he can’t take the high-pitched sounds that she makes if he doesn’t become her hired man.

Not Mom.

It is essential to be able to kill your own spiders.  After all,  she is nearly an adult,  for heaven’s sake.  I was in the middle of something and didn’t want to move off the couch, and because her father was sound asleep, I drew a line in the carpet. No more proxy spidercide in our home. The thought of some  poor, unsuspecting future roommate forced to witness  my otherwise quite sweet, reasonable child screaming like a banshee next year put me over the edge.   Visions  of potential troops of   spiders, cockroaches, and silverfish marching in formation  across their dorm room floor was the catalyst for this policy. And so, I waited her out.

Ten minutes.  That’s right.  Ten minutes of “Eeeewwwwww…a spider! MOM!  MOMMY! EEEEWWWWWW! MOMMMMMM!” as  the spider, oblivious, advanced.  Finally. A lull.  Silence.  The spider looked at me. He looked at her. I think I heard a tiny sigh.  I shrugged.  Glaring, she marched across the room,  grabbed  her brother’s unbelievably gross tennis shoe and smacked him.

The spider, not the brother.

Smart Girl.  If she’d waited another two minutes I probably would’ve grabbed the shoe and bonked HER on her head with it. We live in Minnesota. In the woods. We have spiders. The spiders are cold and weary. They see a crack of light under the door and think, “hey, it’s Tuesday! I wonder if it’s a new episode of “Glee!” They come in.  I get it. 

This one was about the size of a pea.  Really. I checked.

Now,  the wood spiders and wolf spiders at the cabin are an entirely different type of house guest.  If you have never seen one, imagine a tarantula crossed with a chipmunk who likes  hockey.  Huge, hairy beasts, they are.  And sly.  They tend more toward “Twilight Zone” reruns. They are tricksters who love to hide in between the sheets, hang upside down on cabin  walls, and leer at humans in outhouses where, if you aren’t certain of whether or not you had to  “go” before you sit down, you most certainly DO once you realize in horror that you aren’t alone in that stinky, dark, four foot square building.  I know….eeeewwwwww.  Tell me about it.

What do you fear most?  For my daughter, spiders top the list.  Other critters like bats, mice, and snakes certainly make the “Creeper” list for many people.  Even the most stridently non-violent among us aren’t above taking a tennis racket or garden shovel or, yes, even a shoe to the  invaders we want out of our lives, our homes. And while we might not be tickled about having to end the life something smaller and weaker,  we do it because we are superior creatures, and because well, they give us the creeps, and mainly because we can, I suppose.  It’s  survival of  the biggest….the toughest…..the smartest…..the fittest.  And we are the ones with the shoes.

Works pretty well most of the time, doesn’t it?  At least for us non-spider types.

We are watching natural and political disasters unfold in a month that came in with a roar.  The word “epic” doesn’t even begin to describe what’s happening in Japan;  the images are a grim reminder of what the forces of nature can do to the human race.  The daily reports out of Libya remind us that nature isn’t the only force to fear.

The world turns…the month of March grinds us down with each new snowstorm, and those of us who live in places like the woods of northern Minnesota eat our dinner, watch a sit-com, or maybe  a spider. We say goodnight to our dear ones, and before drifting off under the glow of the Northern Lights outside,  say a prayer for the rest of the babies of the world,  for their parents, for the leaders who have to decide when to use a shoe against the wolf spiders lurking in the shadows.

In the end, I believe that most of us are more like my daughter’s spider.  Minding our own business, trying to find our way, looking for that crack of light in order to come in from the cold.

Waiting for Spring.

22,000 Peanut Butter Sandwiches

If someone told you tomorrow that, for the rest of your life, you had to choose just eight things to eat, what would you choose?  I think about things like this a lot, because while I enjoy keeping a home, keeping the mammals who live in that home fed is one of my least favorite tasks.  I’m pretty sure I could survive on a diet of toast, grapefruit juice, guacamole, peaches, shrimp, pickle potato chips, Milky Way Dark candy bars and French Onion soup (not the onions..just the cheese and croutons, thank you very much.)

If you think I’m joking and had to limit my list for the sake of this column, you’re wrong. I actually had to spend about five minutes thinking really hard to come up with the last one.

My family members don’t get this.  They want to know what dinner will be at breakfast time.  They have opinions about food.  They add things to the grocery list on the counter and get all excited when I tell them I’m going to buy groceries. This is because unlike me, they CRAVE foods.  Specific foods.  Me?  I just want to hurry up and fill the cart so that I will have several days of people not bugging me about what isn’t in the pantry.  In the summer, my son asks daily if he can grill.  And I let him, gratefully.  One of my daughter’s favorite pastimes is watching the Food Channel.   Yes. An entire cable channel dedicated to food. Maybe she’s hoping that if I watch it with her, I will suddenly become interested in cooking.  So far, it hasn’t happened.

They love food.   I love puppies, and if puppies wore diapers and didn’t leave fur everywhere, I’d probably be a puppy hoarder and get my own show on TLC after Honey Boo Boo.  I love sunshine, too.  Without sunshine, I become a troll.  Not one of the cute ones with pink fuzzy hair and outie belly of the menacing, angry Bride of Chuckie ones.  I love my younger brother’s sense of humor and the feeling I get when I laugh so hard that all that goofy, familial  weirdness we share  makes tears squirt out of my eyes. I love the smell of my daughter’s hair when she bends down to kiss me goodnight.   And my son’s bear hugs.   But “love” food? Nope. Food is that thing that keeps me from becoming really, really skinny.  Or really dead.

I know a man who eats the same thing for lunch almost every day.   A sandwich. I am pretty sure that most days, it’s peanut butter on white bread.  Every day. Every. Day.  He’s been married  for over fifty years.  Why is this important to my story, you may be asking yourselves?    Because that would mean that in their half a century as a married couple, his wife has made well over 20,000  peanut butter sandwiches. That’s a lot of Jif.  I’m trying to visualize what 20,000 sandwiches would look like placed crust to crust. How far would the line reach?  Fargo?  California?

I might be wrong, but I think he probably likes puppies better than food, too.  Except peanut butter, that is.


Ground “Zero”

I have been on “Spring Break” this week, which, if you are young and still look good in a bikini, means Mexico.  Since I do not fit either of the first two criteria, I went to Brainerd.

Last Sunday, when my mini-vacation started I had good intentions….really, I did.  I planned to organize my closet…take stuff to Goodwill……get the piles of papers in my office into the lovely new binders I found on sale a month ago.  But, true to form, the week came and went and about the only thing I’ve accomplished is this blog site.  My closet is still a mess.

Compared to some, I suppose that I can say we live a fairly neat lifestyle around here.  We built a house two years ago that is half the size our other house was.  It was a lot easier to hide stuff there, and we did.  In the basement…in the attic…in closets….in the garage.  Stuff.  Dumb stuff. Old stuff. Broken stuff. I didn’t realize how many Legos my children had until we got to the bottom of the toy box neither of them had taken anything out of in the ten years it had been in the basement.  And don’t even get me started on the crayons, paperclips, and markers. I’d think I’d found all of them, sorted through them, and put them into containers to pack and then I’d get up in the morning, open up another drawer and it seemed that they’d reproduced overnight.  I didn’t know that three bags of old Halloween candy had been squirreled away in one child’s closet.  I had my “fat” jeans. I had my “skinny” jeans. I had my “someday, I will look good in these, but not yet” jeans and my “someday, these will come back in style” jeans.   The marathon-running man I am married to had every pair of running shoes he’d purchased since he began running 20 plus years ago which I found weird since If I’d ever run just ONE marathon, I don’t think I’d want the shoes around to remind me of what I’d done to my feet.   And if this collection of our stuff wasn’t bad enough, we’d also inherited stuff that the previous owners had also left behind which we had to find a place for in order to move.

I’m not proud when I say that even after two garage sales and about ten trips to Goodwill,  we STILL  filled two large rolling dumpsters before we finally stuck the dog in the car, locked the door, and drove away from that house, that life, two years ago. It was exhausting.

A relative recently posted a link to a blog that I found interesting, based upon our experience. It is created by a woman who aspires to a “zero waste” philosophy for her family of four. Watching it, I was both awe-struck and a little creeped out.  It seems extreme, to say the least.   Call me crazy, but washing out reusable sanitary napkins and toting canning jars to the grocery store to pack bulk items into (to avoid the consumption/waste of packaging) seems a little, well…loony.  I have a hard enough time staying on top of the laundry now, and half the time, the reusable bags I take with me to the grocery store are still in the car when I get to the check out.

Watch the video in the link.  Where are the toys?  The family photographs?  The keepsakes?  Her house, while very, very NEAT, seems cold and impersonal to me.  Lifeless. Soul-less. Austere.

We have television shows like “Hoarders” and now  we have “Zero-Wasters” doing their thing.   My head hurts thinking about either lifestyle. I don’t care how cheap toothpaste is this week, I don’t need twenty tubes of it, but one tube to use, and one to keep on hand sounds about right.  Maybe, as moms, we could just start with asking ourselves three questions every time we leave the driveway:

What is essential? What is enough? What is too much?

If we could all agree to follow the “one in…one out” rule and live more intentionally, we’d all be happier and the planet would be cleaner.   I’m taking more to Goodwill and shopping thrift stores more than I ever did before the economy tanked, aren’t you?   And if we could agree not to buy something new until we’d used up, donated or disposed of the old item, we’d probably all feel less stressed, less crowded, less broke.  Maybe we start with teaching our children to discern between what they “want” and what they “need” to be happy.  Or maybe we start with ourselves.

Time to clean that closet that’s calling my name.\”Zero Waste\”

Golden Girls


We teach and run businesses. We care for aging parents.  We work from home and in hospitals and for the government.  We have marriages and in some cases, divorces, to envy.  We are mothers both through chance and through choice. We have lived forty plus years since we were the “Girls of ’78” in gold graduation gowns, anxious  for life to begin.

Roots deep,  we branched off into different cities…different occupations…different lives.  We married, had children, had our joys and sorrows. We lost people, and sometimes lost ourselves for a bit, too.  Chaos will do that.  Some years we exchanged Christmas cards; some years we didn’t.   I don’t think it was carelessness or apathy or intentional – that distance. We were just in the eye of the storm, diapers and degrees and husbands and house payments swirling around us all, taking up the free time.

But then…things seemed to settle down.  Or maybe we just did.

And then, one of us had the foresight to use technology to draw us together again into a wonderful, cyber ‘slumber party’ where it is never time to pack the sleeping bag, the record albums, the Seventeen magazines or the ghastly baby blue eyeshadow. No mothers telling us to quiet down or to pick up the popcorn from the family room floor.  This Wise Woman invited us to a social gathering we could not have envisioned in 1978. The World Wide Web.  Facebook.  A place where we could finally get caught….brag….laugh…cry….find each other.  Find ourselves.  “Mother” each other.  We are both better at telling the truth and daring each other to embrace what matters than we were at 18 because we are now masters at both parts of that game.

What a gift.

We are still  the girls we left behind.   We always were.  We branched out.  But our roots held.

Pure Gold.

And the Circle Widens Once More.

Babies were born today all over the planet.  In hospitals, and homes, and mud huts.   Mothers labored.  Fathers paced.  Grandparents worried and prayed.  Families waited for phone calls and emails and announcing the time, the weight, the length of these new family members.  It’s what human families do.  And it’s what our family did today.

She is the littlest, freshest member of a clan that believes  that blood ties, while kind of nice, don’t really make a family a family. Love does.  That glue is strong.  It binds us all pretty tight.  She’ll figure that out.   In our family, we don’t care much how you get here…we’re just glad you arrived. And tonight,  we’re all really glad you chose us.  We’ll all take some getting used to,  but we’ll grow on you, I promise. So far, none of the babies born to us have defected, so we’re holding out hope that you don’t, either.  We need a baby girl around, and you fit the bill perfectly.

Some angels watched your birth today.  And then, fiddle music playing, they did a little jig and made a toast.  To family.  To love.  To life. To you.

Welcome to the world, Elyza Rose!  We’re really glad you’re here.    Love, Old  Auntie