Mouse Wars

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WHILE I WAS cleaning a mouse nest out of my car engine with a bent wire hanger one afternoon—hang on, I’ll get to that—I began to philosophize about the relationship between women and rodents. First of all, let’s abolish the myth that women freak at the site of four legs and fur. If this were true, none of us would wear lynx. And if beady eyes were a problem, a lot of us wouldn’t be married to a lot of you. I propose that the real reason we scream when we pull a mouse out of the Rice Krispies is that we know we are going to have to do the impossible: convince a man that the furry thing really did … Read More

Ready to Rumble

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AH, FALL. The time of year when the mice I chased out in the spring move right back into the house. Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter illustrations suggest the unlikely but charming notion that domesticated rodents run around on little mice freeways directly beneath our feet, commuting up and down between layers of floors as though they were high rises filled with little mouse beds and mouse larders and mini-mouse schoolrooms. Mouse grandmothers setting tables with thimble bases filled with flower buds and dinner plates crafted of paint chips, mouse mothers knitting dryer lint into baby’s quilts, mouse fathers stacking up toothpicks like cordwood, mouse children clamoring for another treat from the cookie crumb jar. These sorts of utopian mice … Read More

Parents Paying for Tuition

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IN MARCH, I took my first midterms since 1976. At the advanced age of never-you-mind, I was a student again. Along with acquiring notebooks-full of stuff about journalism ethics and history of the media, I’ve learned two other things. One: They still use those little blue books for midterms. Two: It’s hard to be a student. I’m not whining. I have certain advantages over teenagers. I am not trying to hold in my stomach, snag a mate, get laid, figure out my sexual orientation, determine my political leanings, separate from my parents, conquer homesickness, and figure out how to make macaroni and cheese. I am not trying to find out who I am, choose what I stand for, learn how to … Read More

Bloom Where You’re Planted

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MY FRIENDS arrived at the kitchen door carrying a tree. My wedding day was a week away, and they thought we all ought to mark this occasion by planting a tree. Mr. Friend thought I ought to know the genus and species of the thing; I demurred, and said all I cared about was whether or not it was known to attract any sort of large, unattractive insectoid life form. Mrs. Friend assured me that it would not, so the generic tree was fine by me. “It will get bigger,” Mr. Friend informed me of the three-foot-high stick. “In the way that all trees do.” People wax philosophical when planting life forms likely to outlive all of us combined. We walked … Read More

Gales of November

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THERE IS THE meditative beauty of what is undisturbed, what seems to be content with itself, what allows itself to be entered and explored. And then there is the beauty of turmoil. Of tempests. Of warring forces that forged the earth. Some like the water placid, still, serene as the color blue. But some like the look of a lady when she’s angry. There are things revealed only when the spirit moves beyond restless, things to be seen when the water reaches for the sky and when the sky reaches back and whips the sea. There are those who love the lake when she is quiet. And there are those who love the storms.   This accompanied a photo essay … Read More

Faux Family Trees

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ONE DAY YEARS AGO, my daughter, Gretchen, came home from school in crisis. “I have to draw our family tree,” she wailed. It isn’t that she has trouble sketching leaves and bark. It’s that our family tree has been uprooted and replanted once or twice. OK, four times. And that’s just on my side. I was first married at 18. It lasted eight years and produced two wonderful children. A tree with a straight trunk and two healthy branches. He remarried, to a woman who had two children of her own. He and she produced a third, which, adding in my two, counts as their fifth. Trunk split by lightning. Add a tiny seedling and two grafted twigs. Then, I … Read More

Land of 10,000 Co-Dependos

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WHEN POLITICIANS speak of Minnesota as a forerunner in healthcare delivery services, I gotta tell you there’s a dark side. What we really have a national reputation for is being a state filled with co-dependents. If you do not immediately recognize this term, go move to Wisconsin. I mean it. Outta here. Oh, okay: Loved ones of a substance abuser often develop a characteristic set of behaviors and feelings, called co-dependency. Co-dependents say “I’m sorry” a lot. They believe if they can just change enough about themselves, they can alter the actions of others. They get used to chaos, can organize the heck out of anything, and can put your kitchen junk drawer back into apple-pie order in no time. … Read More

An Alarm Clock That Holds 77 Kids

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ONE OF THOSE blasted school buses is out here again, parked under my bedroom window, idling away at 7:30 a.m. There is no school bus stop on my corner. The drivers simply like parking here while they read the paper and eat their doughnuts. Maybe the scenery is conducive to good digestion. But the idling is not conducive to good sleep. I guess I could use the orange-and-black-77-passenger-alarm-system and just get up at 7:30 a.m. but I don’t want to wake up at 7:30 a.m. My poor husband, who works nights, really doesn’t want to wake up at 7:30 a.m. Never mind, the bus drivers have made that choice for us. And, in case we fall back to sleep once … Read More

Her Pride On Ice

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I’M BETTER AT IT NOW than I used to be. At first, I didn’t know how to be a hockey mom. The problem was, I grew up with five sisters, and male paraphernalia (both recreational and biological) were totally foreign to me. This was compounded by my divorce, which left my son with just a single mom and not a man in sight. I registered him for hockey when he was seven. He needed equipment, they told me. I figured this meant a stick and a jock strap, and I thought I was pretty savvy to even know about the jock strap part. I brought him to a sports store and discovered that only pimply teen-aged boys will wait on … Read More

The Poetry of Wood Ticks

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AS I GRAB its fat little body with my designated wildlife-removal tweezers, as I pull slowly and evenly on its thorax so that its mouthparts disengage smoothly, as I hold my son down in the chair with one hand and say, “Sit still, this will be over in a minute,” I am struck, once again, by the magnificently sensible design of wood ticks. Little mouth, big stomach, and no pride whatsoever. It’s a combination that makes survival easy, if somewhat unattractive. Once you’re willing to be hated and don’t care who you offend (much less who you eat), life simplifies itself pretty quickly. No menu, fashion, or etiquette concerns—just pleasing yourself, to the point of parasitic selfishness. How much more … Read More