Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Game of Cat and Mouse - Literally

It’s 4 a.m. Do you know where your cat is?

I can tell you where ours was. She was holding a mouse hostage. In our daughter’s room.

Around midnight about a week ago, College Kid stood in our bedroom, rattling her father awake. “Dad. Dad. Sophie brought a mouse into my room.”


Surprisingly, she was somewhat calm and yet clearly adamant that he would be assisting her in this particular endeavor.

We kind of knew this might happen because the dang cat had been sitting in the kitchen for a few days staring at the stove. Being that she is not usually into the culinary arts, we surmised that there had been a security breach by some critter, and she was merely anticipating playtime.

As for coming to her dad for assistance, let me explain something about my spouse. He is not the guy you necessarily want coming to your rescue when it involves live things crawling around your house. He is the guy who - instead of getting a jar to capture a giant creepy crawly fuzzy speedy spider – will attempt to convince the thing to jump into his hand so it can be carried outside to safety.

Safety? I’ll give you safety. Where’s my slipper?? Because you know this ends badly 9 out of 10 times, and then not only is the creepy crawly thing free somewhere in your bedroom – it is free with a vengeance. Now you have to live in fear that you will wake up with its tentacles up your nose, or worry about that funky sensation in your ear.  Yeah… I don’t do creepy crawly well.

So back to the mouse, whose hiding place was not to be revealed that night a week ago. Her dad poked and prodded various items under the kid’s bed, but to be fair, at the time her room was still in what-the-heck-exploded-in-here mode from her return from college. He was risking his own life by treading carefully between the door and the bed. That mouse had more places to hide than there are crevices in Carlsbad Caverns.

I am still shocked that College Kid was even remotely willing to still sleep in her room that night, considering we all know how the creepy crawly story could wind up. She did do a total revamp of her room the next day, even moving the bed to a more central spot. You have to know that with every item she lifted, she was anticipating something jumping out. It didn’t happen. Was the mouse still in her room? Was it still alive? Do we wait for the stench of a carcass to permeate the house? Why did the stupid cat have to get bored with this game after she unceremoniously dumped a live creature in there??

We figured if it was alive, eventually the mouse was going to get hungry, and weak from being hungry – which is to say – slow. We were right about that... we just neglected to think about what a mouse would consider the best hour of the day to venture out. Umm... when it's dark and quiet, maybe? He (or she – who the heck knows) chose to stick his tiny little neck out at 4 in the morning, and being hungry and weak, he was apparently not quiet enough about it.

Sophie pounced. The mouse bolted under something on College Kid’s floor by the closet. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but it sort of looked like a school project she had saved that consisted of either a Frisbee or a paper plate with sequins and feathers. I have no idea  - it was 4 a.m. – I could have been dreaming that part.

The only reason I was even awake at that time was because I heard what can only be described as a ruckus – which turned out to be the kid chasing the cat chasing the mouse. Of course I had to investigate… mainly because the light was on in her room and I had some typical Mom statement ready to make along the lines of “Did you stay up all night???” Guess I’ll have to save it for a non-vermin-generated moment.

So there was the mouse hiding under this paper plate thing (I should go back in there and see what it actually was) which College Kid – armed with an empty Jif jar (there is always an empty Jif jar in this house) – was hovering over in the hope that this thing was just slow enough to catch.


It managed to slip into her closet, which – again – is not a safe place for man or beast. Now I had a new job… find a shoebox to trap the little bugger, since the jar wasn’t going to cut it.

Do you know what the hardest thing to find is when you are looking through the 17 shoeboxes you have stashed under beds, in closets, and on top of shelves? A shoebox with a removable lid. Think about it. The new thing is to have the lid attached to the box. How does this help me? And what about all those class projects kids need shoeboxes for? Doesn’t the shoebox industry know they are possibly affecting the grades of middle schoolers around the world?

I finally found one from 1987, I think. By now, as you can imagine, I was making little attempt to be quiet (and even if I had been, the shotgun cracks from my knees as I knelt to look under the bed for shoeboxes would have woken the dead), which meant the Spouse was up and wondering What Was Going On???  I handed him the 1987 shoebox and he delivered it to the mouse’s room. I mean – the kid’s room.

Moments later College Kid – who wasn’t going to let her dad even think about catching it with his bare hands – had the mouse not-too-happily ensconced in its temporary home. The good thing about the Spouse being wake was that he didn’t mind slipping his pretend Crocs on and releasing the mouse outside.

By 4:30 a.m. or so it was all over and we crawled back into bed, finally mouseless – at least for the moment.

At 4:50 a.m. the alarm went off.

I just really wish our cat would stop giving me blog material.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A year - hardly enough time to panic

I woke up with a start this morning realizing I had a deadline fast approaching. Was it my blog that I really do try to post every Saturday? The family article I’ve been writing for a local newspaper that has to be submitted by Tuesday morning? My many submissions in half-prepared stages for various publications?

Nope. It was May 23, 2015.

Exactly one year from today our first-born child, our sweet, beautiful daughter and the love of her life (The Boy, as you may recall) will be getting married. The hall is reserved, the dress is chosen, the guest list is basically complete, and the Save-The-Dates are in the process of being designed by the groom. It’s all falling nicely into place. So as I sip my coffee at the crack of Doesn’t-My-Brain-Know-It’s-Saturday, the only thing I can think about is:


I am ignoring your attempts to throw in my face that it’s not my wedding. Yeah, yeah – I get that. It’s not that I plan to make my daughter or her fiancĂ© insane (much). I’m not one of those Mother-of-the-Bride (appropriately nicknamed MOB) types who pushes her opinion about what type of music to have (as long as it includes the Alley Cat and the Chicken Dance), or what kind of cake to choose (as long as there is red velvet involved – or cupcakes – ooh ooh – red velvet cupcakes!) or even who to invite (as long as they’ve reviewed my list which includes specific rules about who should not be seated together).

This is about the art of panicking.

For instance, I went to bed at 11:30 last night after getting on a roll with a Modern Family marathon (still kicking myself for missing Mitchell and Cameron’s wedding). You would think I could sleep in a bit, but NO – I rolled over at 5:45 a.m., and my mind went into full throttle wedding mode. I know, I know – Not My Wedding. You already pointed that out.

My panic will mostly be internal. Actually… that’s a lie. If there is something on my mind the person who has been crazy enough to deal with me for the past 30 years will definitely know it.  If he’s smart he won’t try to offer any solutions – he will merely stand back and be aware that the occasional calm in between is only the eye of the storm. His job is to show up at the right place at the right time, debit card in hand.

I have so far refrained from making a list of what has to get done, and I’m also forcing myself to conjure up every badly behaving MOB moment I can recall from movies and television. Granted, one episode of Say Yes to the Dress can cover that. Thankfully, Daughter #1 already has the dress and I got to be there for that very special moment. Oh, wait – I have to add fittings to the list I’m not making.

And then there is the whole MOB outfit. I am currently working my way out of tent-fitting status so I can find something within the Elegance-without-Bulges category of dresses. And the shoes – I’m completely freaking out about the shoes. I don’t do heels. Unlike those adorable ads from childhood for a line of Playskool toys (“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”), I do fall down if my shoes have even a hint of a heel – and it is not pretty. Fortunately, the wedding is during Memorial Day Weekend next year, so classy sandals are completely acceptable. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Is there really a ton to do in the next year? Oh yes, without a doubt. Other than contributing that sense of panic to the mix I’m not sure what my part will be. I can only hope that genetics is on my side and my daughter will call me at least once in panic mode – not so that I can fix it – just so I can accompany her on that inevitable detour through Hysteria Hill and Angst Avenue on her way to The Happiest Day of Her Life.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Getting something off my chest (isn't easy)

I was at lunch recently with a small group of people and I found myself observing their eating habits.

Let me be a tad more accurate.

I was observing their eating-without-spilling-food-on-themselves habits.

How did their clothing remain unstained through an entire meal when I don’t know what it’s like to walk away from a dining experience without some kind of sauce or salad dressing on my person? Honestly, you can play Name That Restaurant just from the markings across my chest after I’ve enjoyed a meal… it looks more like the meal has enjoyed me.
Here’s the thing. I am, shall we say, well endowed in the area between my head and my lap. Really, let’s just make that endowed. Using the word “well” seems wrong in this particular instance. Basically I have a shelf, which somehow doubles the odds of spilling a food item – any food item – on its way to my mouth. Seriously, I have never understood that “place your napkin in your lap” rule since my lap rarely sees the light of day.
I’m often tempted to stuff a napkin in the collar of my shirt to protect my clothing for this very reason. Granted, I might stand out in a crowd (of more than one). It’s either that or I can just expect to a) dip a clean napkin in my water glass to dab at the already-setting offending stain, b) jab a bright orange Tide Stick (couldn’t pick a less obvious color, could you, Tide people?) into my chest, or c) slink off to the ladies room (hopefully a single stall), rip my top off to soak the spot in a questionably clean sink (impossible without drenching half the shirt), then attempt (in vain) to dry it off under the one-watt hand dryer before joining my party… if they haven’t finished their meal and left by then. That’s not too conspicuous, huh?
My most recent solution to having ‘the girls’ heave themselves forward every time I try to take a bite of food or a frothy drink is to hold them back. Like -- literally. I put my right arm across my chest (I am left-handed) and pretty much try to protect it from incoming morsels. If anyone happens to look up from their cell phone long enough to pay attention they might think I am either hugging myself with one arm or getting my jollies during mealtime for reasons unknown. No, folks – I am simply trying to preserve at least one decent shirt and maybe slow down on the gallon of industrial strength pre-wash that resides next to our washing machine.
As the years go by my shelving has begun a slow descent toward my knees, setting me up for even more unsavory scenarios. This means I am typically (loudly) reminding whoever was the last to use the kitchen or bathroom sink to Dry The Counter Off so that I’m not dipping into puddles of water left to evaporate on their own.
Even the cat thinks I am designed for her lounging convenience. She sits in everyone else’s lap. When she gets to me it’s straight up onto my chest for a satisfying sprawl and nap (see my profile photo for proof).
There’s no getting away from the fact that my lap is completely overshadowed by other -- umm -- assets. I can only hope that the whole napkin tucked in the shirt thing will become a fashion trend... even if you are more than a year old.

2014 © Janine V. Talbot

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The marriage odds and us

On May 5, my partner in crazy and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage. A few weeks ago I asked our priest if he would be willing to bless our marriage. He was happy to oblige (I think)… my husband found out about it once I had the go-ahead. I knew he would agree, but knowing things like that is also part of our makeup in our relationship. Maybe that’s why this past Sunday, when our priest said, “What God has brought together (again), let no one put asunder,” I had to laugh a little to myself. I’m sure God occasionally looks down at us and thinks – This works for you?

I’d like to share a piece I had originally written for a contest and have since added on to (they wanted it in 450 words or less – I don’t say anything in less than 450 words). Bear in mind that when I originally wrote this we were in the throes of winter in Maine.

By the way, I didn’t win the contest. My personal reward –a huge smile and a nod in agreement from the guy who stuck around all this time after I let him read it – was even better.

My husband enters the kitchen where I am cleaning green beans, kisses me, and asks if I need any help. At my request he feeds the pets before he makes his way into the living room. Within seconds the grating voice of SpongeBob SquarePants slithers into the kitchen as I prep dinner.

He knows I can’t stand SpongeBob. He doesn’t watch it to annoy me. That’s just an added benefit, evidenced by his snicker when I emit an unmistakable groan. He could sit there for hours and quote several episodes. I’m not sure I could identify SpongeBob in a lineup.

In May we will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. A humorous aside to that might be, ‘Twenty-seven of the happiest years of our lives.’ That’s not far from the truth.

Three years. Ten percent. The approximate sum of all periods spent in upheaval, anger, and - most draining - emotional detachment, in the history of our marriage.

At first, when annoyances started to become issues, we felt almost incomplete. At some point talking became “talking at” with neither of us listening. Toward what seemed destined to be the end, our marriage had become metaphorically widowed.

Hours of individual or couples counseling cannot resurrect abandoned feelings. Tears of a child who misses Daddy during a trial separation, breaking down over losing the battle with a broken clothes dryer, fear of what happens next – none of it will drive you to cross that chasm of despondency. Unless, even after you’ve sworn you feel absolutely nothing, there is one tiny shred of emotion buried under it all.

There was.

Over a year of marital resuscitation and slow healing had passed when I came across an email I never sent to him, deserted in my drafts. As I sat there reading, my own apathy startled me into tears. It was the only time I can recall writing anything that was, in essence, empty.

We were the lucky ones, in the long run choosing to do more with our marriage than just survive it. There was a lot of work ahead of us. There will always be work in a marriage, as in any partnership. And I know full well that not all relationships are meant to recover from the fall. Blessedly, something pulled us back from teetering on the edge of that precipice of defeat. By the grace of God we rediscovered what made Us work.

For instance, there is our competitive camaraderie in deciphering personalized license plates. I used to believe I ruled in this category but I will admit he has sharpened his skills… clearly taking advantage of the fact that I’m driving most mornings and have to concentrate on the road.

He accepts and has even contributed to my obsession with drinking from matching coffee mugs in the morning. One of my favorites is a pair from Disney with seagulls in a Finding Nemo theme, with the word Mine plastered all over it. If our kids realized the “oh, baby” personal significance of each matching mug set they would probably tell us to get a room.

I miss carpooling with him when we don’t, even if I don’t like his radio stations (usually we find a compromise, as long as we don’t mess with each other’s presets). It’s our time to catch up on things we forget to tell each other in the 30 seconds it takes to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen.

It is not perfect. He is always late. I… may have forgotten to pick him up after work once or twice.

Dinner and SpongeBob over, he heads outside to battle the snow and clean cars off from the most recent storm.  When he trudges back inside he approaches with a sinister, singsong, “Come heeere,” brushing frozen fingers against my warm cheek. My face registers shock, then retaliation, as he bolts down the hall, chuckling.

And I think to myself, how good this is, how complete, to simply feel.