Unplugged.

I once drove over twenty-five miles on a highway with an extension cord plugged into my car and dragging out behind me about thirty feet. 

As someone who isn’t a fan of winters, it’s always a family joke that I continued to move north. First to Green Bay and then across the border to Canada. In the winter depths of the Frozen Tundra, Kurtis loaded up all my worldly possessions into a trailer and I said goodbye to my darling duplex in DePere—bound for a new chapter in Saskatchewan. We stayed overnight in North Dakota and I remember wondering why there were all kinds of little stations in the parking lot. I thought they were parking meters at first but upon closer inspection they were outlets. I probably asked Kurtis at the time but sometimes I only half listen to his answers, so there’s a chance he explained and I just forgot. It was cold. My mind was likely on a warm shower.

Anyway, we moved up to Canada in the coldest possible winter and I just about didn’t marry him on account of the thirty below temperatures that lasted from the time we moved in January until July (or so it seemed). One of the first things he wanted to do when we got there was put a block heater in my Jeep. Do you know what that is? Wait, let me rephrase that…has anyone reading in the states heard of a block heater? I sure as heck hadn’t. I actually didn’t ask when he mentioned it and let him do whatever car thing he needed to do to my vehicle. I’m not a big car person. I don’t like washing them, gassing them, oil changes any of the things. Wouldn’t it be nice if people still put gas in our cars for us? Ugh, what a luxury that was. Back to the story—I didn’t pay attention to what he was doing to my car.

When he arrived home with my block heated (or whatever he did to it) vehicle, I watched him run an extension cord from our outdoor outlet to the hood of my car and then he plugged the end somewhere under the hood of the car. I was so confused. I freaked out at first because I thought he had just converted my car into one of those electric Urkelmobiles. Exasperated and confused, I asked if he had turned my vehicle into an electric car. That was probably a dumb question. Kindly, he explained (probably for a second time since North Dakota) that up north when it gets really cold, people plug in their vehicles to keep the engine warm so it starts after sitting out overnight. Considering the thirty below temps with wind gusts strong enough to send a bungalow home to Oz, it made sense.

Fast forward a few years. Winters were just as cold and technology hadn’t gotten any better for us, so we still had to plug in our vehicles. I don’t think I actually ever did plug mine in to be honest—that was Kurtis’s job. I cooked dinner, he plugged in the cars.  We lived in a tiny town of 500 people and for me to go do anything like groceries, shopping, fast food, meet friends, or workout, I had to drive thirty miles to either Estevan or Weyburn. Any time I left, I’d call Kurtis and let him know we were heading in to whichever place I’d decided on that day—usually just flipped a coin to be honest. Heads: Weyburn Wholesale. Tails: Estevan Jason’s No Frills (those are grocery stores). He’d always tell me before I left, “Don’t forget to unplug the car.” I would get annoyed sometimes. Who would forget to unplug a car? Me.  

One March afternoon, I bundled up the girls, got myself put together and decided to go see a friend in Weyburn. She had a little girl Tia’s age, so we were going to do a play date and enjoy some coffee time together. I loaded up the girls, locked the house (just kidding we never locked our house up there) and then started the thirty mile trek to Weyburn. The highway to Weyburn is a two lane mess of jacked-up trucks, oilfield equipment, farm equipment, super-b’s, and international travelers. It’s a well-traveled highway connecting the northern United States through Saskatchewan to Alberta. People either went 20 or 120 kilometers per hour on it—rarely with much in between. Remember we are in Canada friends—kilometers per hour. Ask Kurtis sometime about my comment when we crossed the border for the first time and I saw the speed limit was 100. That’s a different story though. My point is that it was a busy, dangerous highway with lots of crazy drivers and you always said a little prayer anytime you went on it.

Well, I pulled out from Midale onto the highway and took off like a bat out of hell heading to Weyburn. Not far out of town a man in a Toyota Topaz–or something like that–pulled up on my left and was waving his hands and pointing. First I pretended not to see him. I hate awkward situations and this felt especially strange. I didn’t know the man and I wasn’t exactly sure what he was upset about—I was going the speed limit and minding my own business. He kept pulling next to me then backing off. Pointing and shaking his head. I was sure he was going to get smoked by a semi. After about the fourth time, I was getting a little scared  and certainly annoyed, so I looked at him and asked, “What’s your problem!?” Do you ever do that? Talk to someone outside of your car when there’s zero chance they can hear you? I do it a lot actually. I threw my hands up with a frown, rolled my eyes, shook my head and turned away. I mean, he was being so rude. I had a car full of precious cargo and I needed to concentrate on getting them in to town safely. After that, he shook his own head and sped past me.

About halfway to town I kept thinking I heard something other than my pounding heart from the random strange man incident. I was feeling a pull on the Yukon. It was still snowy so I figured a chunk of ice or snow had fallen off the back of the car or maybe something was still frozen onto it and dragging.

On I went the thirty miles to Weyburn ranging anywhere from 110-115 kilometers per hour. As I slowed to make my turn into town, I definitely heard another clank. Now I started thinking I had popped a tire or something was really wrong with the vehicle. As I toodled down main street, people walking the street were even looking at my vehicle and laughing. 

I pulled into my friend’s driveway, got out and grabbed Hadley. I then walked around the other side of the vehicle to grab Tia and saw it….the extension cord. The once fresh, bright orange cord (last seen plugged into the side of our home) was now dirty, beaten, knotted and the plug-in end was all kinds of bent from being ripped out from the socket on the side of our home. Oh boy. I had left without unplugging. What I would give to have been a neighbor witnessing me, stuffed into the drivers seat with all my winter layers, backing out of our driveway with the cord still plugged in. Driving off obliviously singing along to “Roar” while my cord drug along behind me. A bright orange pop of color against the bleak winter background.

The man on the highway—the one I thought was an ass—was actually a really good samaritan trying to tell me that I had an extension cord flying out behind me. He had risked his life multiple times to get my attention. Can you imagine what he thought of me!? 1.) That I was an idiot (because I was) and 2.) That I was a jerk store idiot who didn’t even know what was good for her (because I was). The people on main street staring? Not at my loud vehicle but at the person cruising around town with a thirty foot extension cord dancing behind her over all the potholes. Kurtis? He was speechless. This happens sometimes. It’s not always a good speechless. It’s more of a oh my god speechless. Not like oh my god baby baby speechless but oh my god you didn’t but you did speechless. Anyway. Speechless. Thankfully it turned out ok. I won’t get into all the ways that could’ve gone terribly wrong. We’ll just leave it as a lesson learned and a friendly public service announcement to those of you up north–remember to unplug.

Sucker Punched

I punched Kurtis in the face once. Not pee wee punch no return punch, but left hook with every ounce of strength I had behind it right into his eye socket punch. What could he have done to warrant an assault like this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I was walking down a grocery aisle, pregnant. The tile beneath my feet was an older pattern in a speckled cream tone and the florescent lighting cast a yellow glow down the cereal aisle I was perusing. I didn’t have a shopping cart because I was only there for a few things. As I made my way down the aisle, a sudden dread came over me. Do you know that feeling? It’s heavy and unexplainable. Sometimes it’s justified and sometimes it’s not. I felt I was in danger. Panic set in to the pit of my stomach. I wanted to run away but I wasn’t sure what I was running away from. Also, I was quite pregnant, so running would’ve been waddling. A large man turned the corner and started lurking up the aisle towards me. He was in a gray hoodie and I couldn’t see his face. As he neared, I could see his fist and he was pulling back as if to punch me aiming for my stomach. I covered my pregnant belly with my right arm and, as he leaned in, I punched him with every bit of power in me. Turns out I didn’t punch him. I punched Kurtis. 

I sat straight up in bed–rising from the dead–turned and threw a left hook into the face of my peacefully slumbering husband. The second my fist made contact with his eye, I woke up. I was dazed, scared and then horrified. I imagine he felt the same. He woke immediately, covered his swelling eye and choked out a groggy, “WHAT THE HELL.” He looked at me like I was a lunatic. Ok, it was dark and I don’t know what his face looked like, but I assume it was that. I couldn’t get the apologies out fast enough. I’m so sorry! OH MY GOD Kurtis! It was a terrible dream. I’ll get you some frozen peas! Was it a good punch? 

This wasn’t my first episode, although it’s the first one where I physically acted out. Actually, that’s a lie…I’m literally just remembering one other time someone was assaulted by me acting out a dream. 

We used to go to a little dive resort in Wisconsin called White Lake. It wasn’t ritzy but it was perfect in my eight-year-old eyes. It was small, safe and the essence of a summer getaway just right for our small family. We looked forward to every year. One fateful summer, I fell off 8′ monkey bars and broke both of my wrists. Into matching hot pink casts went my arms for the summer. That year at White Lake, we stayed in a little resort room and I shared a bed with mom while dad has his own. We woke the next morning and mom was mad at me. Not really mad, but mad the way I’m mad at Kurtis when I have a dream he cheats on me. Ya know? I didn’t understand why she was giving me heck. Turns out it was because I was bashing her in the head all night with my casts acting out a dream I never woke from. It’s still a standing joke, but now as I remember it while writing this, it makes my episode with Kurtis all the more intriguing. 

For years I’ve suffered from some kind of sleep issue. I’ve never had it tested or been to a clinic but it’s been a constant my whole life. I’ve always talked in my sleep—which lots of people do, so that’s not all that weird. I also physically jolt awake in my dreams if something painful is about to happen—like if in my dream I’m about to fall down stairs or crash into a car I will suddenly jerk awake. I remember once when I was younger waking myself up acting out a dream. In my dream, I was trying to cross monkey bars (there are those stupid monkey bars again) and I kept hitting my head on them. In reality, I was hitting my head against my headboard over and over and over again. I finally woke up after one brutal smack against it. 

Things got creepier as I aged. I get what I now believe are sleep paralysis episodes. It’s the strangest feeling. You’re floating between knocked-out sleep and drifting sleep. It’s that muffled in-between that a professional would likely say is transitioning from Non-REM to REM. Usually something scary happens in this dream state that terrifies you. I scream for help at the top of my lungs but nothing comes out or what comes out is muffled like someone is covering my mouth. Half the time I don’t remember what makes me so terrified but a lot of times when I finally wake and can move and talk, I’m reduced to tears I’m so scared and hopped-up on emotion.

Sometimes I do remember that in-between and it’s always the same—I think my eyes are open but they aren’t. Everything is dark grayish brown and I always see a dark shadow lingering at the end of my bed. I can never make out what it is but it’s there and it’s petrifying. According to Kurtis, my screams come out in muffled wails and I shake but don’t really move. Norbert used to get so upset by it he would lick Kurtis’s hand or try to lift his arm to wake him and help me. 

Over the years, I’ve tried to figure this all out. You can imagine my feelings when I watched The Haunting of Hill House. Part of me was ready to commit myself to an asylum because suddenly I was convinced I had a Bent Neck Lady in my life. The other part of me was grateful because I totally, totally experienced Nell’s terror. Now, I’m not going to kill myself, it’s not an everyday thing and I never lived in a haunted house (I don’t think so at least), but that show brought to light a legitimate occurrence that people–me– go through.  I remember when we first saw the show I was on the davenport like, omg I’m not alone! Kurtis was even creeped because everything described in the show he had already heard from my own personal experiences. Ghosts and demons aside, it is likely a true sleep disorder called sleep paralysis that I have along with a slight case of REM Sleep Behavior disorder. What’s interesting…concerning…is I have symptoms of both. Paralysis you can’t move, REM disorder you act out. So I’m over here all kinds of wiggidy-wack with BOTH. Maybe I should go to a sleep study… 

Needless to say, it happens most when I’m overly stressed or tired and what’s odd is it’s worse in some homes than others. I know, totally weird. It was at it’s worst in my home in Canada and our first home here in Dubuque. Those were also during the same period of life, which is also intriguing. I can’t explain it and whether I ever get tested or not, it’s likely unexplainable. In the large scope of knowledge, people actually know very little about sleep–even the experts. Yes, there are lots of studies and theories but it’s still quite an unknown. What I do know, is that my poor darling husband was the victim of my messed-up sleep issues. However, now that I have him thoroughly convinced of it, if I’m ever particularly angry with him some night I have an alibi for “accidentally” socking him in the face again. I kid, I kid…

Good Effort, Kendra!

I watched her dump the volleyball into the net for about the fifth time that game. I put on my frozen smile—which by now likely looked similar to the Joker’s—and clapped encouragingly. I waited for it. I knew it was coming. There, from the top row of the bleachers it came raining down, “Good effort, Kendra!”

I played on a traveling volleyball team for the better part of my youth. Truth be told, I had some talent. Unfortunately, talent only got you so far in my volleyball world. What I had for talent I was lacking in last name, relation and financials. I was also a little chubby. Maybe that was it? We played on a team called Lightening. There were three teams in this particular age group in this particular club. Lightening was the middle talent team after Thunder. I maintain to this day that a few of us should’ve been on Thunder but whatever. Politics of youth sports—what can ya do? There was a girl on my team named Kendra*. She was not one of the people that probably should’ve been on Thunder. 

Looking back at how the teams were stacked, I’m wondering if it was just an age thing for us girls at the time. You were either good or you weren’t. In-between didn’t really exist. Thunder was good. I can’t even remember the other team name—Cloud? Rain? Hail? I don’t know, but they, well, weren’t. Lightening was a mix of people who should’ve been on Thunder and people who should’ve been on third team I can’t remember. That made for a mess of a team. So there I was with my frozen smile, internally screaming at Kendra because I had no clue why the heck she was even thinking she could’ve hit the ball that she took away from Emily. And all the time that voice, “Good effort, Kendra!” 

Why do some people have such a lasting impact on us? I have boyfriends who left less of an impression on me than she did. It wasn’t because we were bosom buddies. We were two very strong personalities. I may have also accidentally chuckled when she sprained her ankle. That was actually rotten of me but I remember it clear as day. She went up to hit a ball—pass, set, Kendra jumped (maybe an inch off the ground) spiked it directly into the net (which was to be expected) and came down. Next thing I know, she’s on the ground screaming. Kendra had a loud voice. I didn’t mention that. You know people who have loud voices and then people who have loud voices. Hers was the latter. Anyway, we learned that her loud voice also translated into a loud crier. Screaming. Screeching. Some kind of dying animal cry. When I looked over at her, I was expecting to see bone coming out of her skin it sounded so bad (it was a minor sprain). Her dad, taking two stairs at a time, came leaping down to carry her off the court because she couldn’t even get up to hop off with our help. It was just too much. I chuckled. It’s terrible. I don’t wish pain upon anyone. But I chuckled, so there’s my confession. I’m sorry Kendra. 

It got to the point that Kendra was super reliable for being unreliable during games. At thirteen I wasn’t ok with losing games. You know how you get put on a group project with a C student when you are a straight A student? Suddenly, your entire grade depends on this person magically bringing his or her “A” game? So naturally you just take over everything and tell them you got it? Or was that just me? Maybe that’s why the checkbox for “works well in groups” was always a zero on my report cards? The point was, that was the unreliable feeling driving me crazy during games.

I wanted to play the sport moving into high school and I was highly competitive. I’m also the type of person that when I make a mistake, I want to acknowledge it and try to find out what I did wrong so I can improve on it. Kendra was not that person. She was a it’s-all-just-for-fun-this-doesn’t-matter-participation-trophy-kind of person. So were her parents. After every single error her dad would shout from the rafters between cupped hands, “Good effort, Kendra!” I kid you not, after every single mistake. Missed serve. Good effort. Whiffs the pass. Good effort. Dives for a ball that’s five feet away. Good effort. Good effort, good effort, good effing effort. If hashtags were a thing back then, his would’ve been #goodeffortkendra…on a t-shirt. To make it even worse, he started thinking he could good effort me anytime I made a mistake. No, no Mr. Hawkins* it was not a good effort. It was a terrible serve that I missed and should’ve made. Don’t you start good efforting me! I never said that to him—but I thought it. My parents understood. They weren’t good effort type people either. The first time he said it, I think my mom said something like, “Well it wasn’t really. She should’ve made that serve.” God bless moms for knowing you to your core. For two seasons I lived through the good efforts. Two trying, painful seasons I was haunted by them.  

All sarcasm and joking aside—these were good people. I have nothing against them and I appreciate they were so supportive of their daughter. We were just very, very different. I mean, I just watched Tia play basketball the other day and there are the really nice, good effort moms and then lunatics like myself yelling for her to focus on the ball and stop waving at Payton. So neither is right nor wrong and we are all, quite frankly, just doing the best we can. I get that now Mr. Hawkins. Totally. Little did you know that after all these years, “Good effort, Kendra” is a staple term in my family.

A few years after I hung up my volleyball spandex shorts, I was playing tennis and totally missed a shot. Laughing at the folly (tennis ended up being my sport), my dad yelled down, “Good effort, Kendra” and I busted a gut. It stuck. I mean, stuck. Mom makes a homemade lemon pie that resembled lemon soup? Good effort, Kendra. Kurtis falls out of the penalty box at a playoff game? Good effort, Kendra. Lauren plans an epic dinner and a family fight breaks out? Good effort, Kendra. Friend hits a terrible golf shot? Good effort, Kendra. Friend looks at us, confused, who’s Kendra? She asks. Months later, she’s saying it to other friend who hits a bad shot. I mean, people in my circle hear this phrase often—likely without a clue as to where it came from or who it’s referring to. But it lives on…and I think of her. I think of thirteen-year-old Kendra and me playing volleyball on our mediocre team. I don’t have a clue where she is these days or how her parents are doing. I do, however, look back fondly on those days. Somehow, that loud-voiced little girl and her effort-loving father have managed to be a part of my life for the last twenty some years. And with each folly in my life or that of anyone around me, their legacy lives on—good effort, Kendra. Good effort. 

*Name changed.

When the Cat’s Away…

Nothing says I love you like your darling dog bringing you a deer leg. I looked out our living room picture window and saw Norbert trotting up from the woods. He was awkwardly carrying a log that was too big for him up the hill. So cute. But then I looked a little closer at the oddly shaped log. I wondered what he could’ve gotten in to in the short time he was outside. It was brisk and there was a dusting of snow on the ground, so I threw on my new Ugg boots to check. When he met me at the bottom of our deck stairs, I screamed. It was a deer leg. A disgusting, bloody, rotting deer leg. Hoof and all. He dropped it at my boots, licked his chops, wagged his tail and looked at me with those big loving brown eyes of his like, “I thought you’d like it mama.” Normally, I would go get Kurtis. That’s what Kurtis is for. I make the dinners, he handles the deer carcasses. You know, each marriage has those unspoken agreements. Here’s the problem, Kurtis wasn’t there. He was working and wasn’t going to be home for a month.

I had a few options. First, leave it. But who wants a rotting deer leg on their patio? What better way to attract the animals from the woods—coyotes, raccoons, mountain lions, tigers and bears. I actually envisioned an eagle swooping down to snag it. No, leaving it there wasn’t an option. I could call someone. My dad would’ve helped or maybe a neighbor? “Hi John, it’s Lauren. I have a deer leg over here. Haha, no not for dinner. Could you come get it for me?”

Kurtis had taken a new job and I was bound and determined to survive without him. I could do this. I was a brave little toaster. So, I went and got Kurtis’s work gloves he kept in the garage. They were a few sizes too big and awkward but I was able to manage. Throwing up in my mouth as I caught the lovely scent of the rotting leg, I picked it up by the hoof—which was hanging on by some sort of…ligament? I’m not a doctor. Maybe it was a tendon. Aren’t those the same? I hope you aren’t eating. Anyway, I picked it up and carefully walked it back down the hill and gave it a huge heave-ho side throw into the woods. Bits of rotting meat flew off the leg into the air. I’m pretty sure some landed in my hair. Norbert started to bolt after it. Sweet, mom wants to play fetch with my new stick. NO! I grabbed him as he was about to charge and back into the house we went. Traumatized.

Isn’t it lovely that happened when Kurtis was gone? What were the chances? Turns out, chances were pretty freaking good because that wasn’t the fist incident. It’s turned into a running joke in our family that while Kurtis is here, nothing happens. When he’s gone, random, weird annoying incident after incident —usually animal related—happens. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but I’m a bit of a city girl. I don’t love getting dirty. I don’t like dead things. Mice, snakes, bugs in general scare me. Sometimes I think it is God playing jokes on me. Like, this is good for you Lauren, here’s a deer leg, a mouse, snakeskin and all sorts of fun things. I’d love to say this was the only time it happened, but alas, it was just the beginning. 

Not long after that, spring thaw hit Dubuque. The ground was soft and you could tell that life was gearing up for a new spring season. I was out front one day walking some trimmings to dump into our woods. I was proud as punch to be doing yard work. I’m not a fan. I would rather clean the inside of my house ten times over than do yard work but darn it, I was going to get this yard whipped into shape. As I was walking down the hill, something caught my eye on the ground. I sidestepped over to it and almost dropped my armful of clippings. It was a pterodactoyl skeleton. At least that’s what I thought it was. This thing was scary as heck, huge and perfectly in tact. Wings, beak, talons. Right there in my front yard. Guess what? Kurtis wasn’t there. What does one do with the remains of a dinosaur? I didn’t want to keep this thing in the front yard because given our past deer leg episode, Norbert would likely bring me a wing or gnaw on the bones. So I put on my big girl panties and went to work.

I went back to the garage and grabbed Kurtis’s handy-dandy gloves again–still stained from the deer leg–and switched from sneakers to my wellies. I also found a shovel and traipsed back outside. I bravely faced the skeleton with my shovel and tried to scoop it up as if sliding my spatula under the most perfectly formed pancake for a flip. Unfortunately, the head fell off, so I had to make two trips to the woods. I often wonder what the neighbors thought. There I was in my boots and oversized gloves screaming “ew, ew, ew,” as I delicately carried a dead eagle carcass out in front of me and flung it into my back woods. 

Want more?

It was late summer. The days were getting shorter and there was that crisp whisper of fall in the air. I came home from my Wednesday night tennis drill, parked my Yukon in the garage and went inside to chat with my auntie, who had watched the girls while I played. Dusk turned into evening and auntie went to leave. I opened the door to my garage and there my worst nightmare became a reality. I saw something sliding across my garage floor in the silhouette of an “s.” I slammed my door and went running back into the house. The range of emotions I was experiencing is hard to describe. Tears welled in my eyes while I simultaneously wanted to jump out of my skin. Bear with me on this. Snakes terrify me more than anything in the world. I mean terrify. I’ve been afraid of them my whole life—from teeny tiny ones to big ones that could swallow me whole.

At the ripe age of ten, I heard that the best way to beat a fear is to face it. I was so committed to beating my debilitating fear of snakes that I began checking out every book available at the library on snakes. I’d love to say it worked but, quite frankly, that piece of advice was absolute rubbish. I think my fear tripled after reading up on all the different species and looking at picture after picture of their disgusting, devilish faces. I hate them. Straight up.

Previously, I had only encountered them in museums. Today, there was one in my garage. My knight in shining armor, who would totally understand my panic, was gone. So there I was with a snake in the garage and no one to get rid of it. I wouldn’t be able to go into the garage ever again if there was even a millimicron of a chance that the snake was still in there. The only way I would ever be able to step foot in there again was knowing that it was dead. Who could I call though? Not Ghostbusters. Auntie wouldn’t help and on top of that, she loves every stinking animal that walks the earth. My parents were gone, so my only option I could think of was my neighbor. I texted him a desperate 911 asking if he would come help me with the snake. He didn’t hesitate and even brought his son to help.

They came up with a shovel ready to tackle the problem. I had kept the garage door open but after a twenty minute sweep of the area they told me it wasn’t in there anymore. Lies. Snakes are terrible, rotten, sneaky creatures and I knew that little bugger was still in there. Auntie was still around too chanting out every two seconds, “if you catch it don’t you kill it!” So I sent her home. I didn’t need that negativity at the moment. I could tell my neighbor and his son were over the situation. They came, they helped as best they could, they likely thought I was a little crazy because I was freaking out like a sketching addict and it was getting late. I could tell they were going to leave me. They were going to leave me with the sneaky snake that I knew was still in my garage. It would probably get into my house and slither into my boot so that one day I’d put it on and it would be there to terrify my and give me a heart attack. It’s not crazy. I’ve seen stories on that.

Resigned, I thanked them and went to grab my keys out of the car. As I did, the rotten terrible beast of a snake slithered out towards me. Michael Jordan’s vertical had nothing on me that night. Screaming, jumping, running, possibly wetting my pants a little, I went flying from the garage. Luckily, they were only halfway up the driveway. They came back and my neighbors in shining armor smoked it. Yes, I know snakes kill mice. Yes, word on the street is they are good for your yard. No, it wasn’t an endangered species. No, I didn’t tell auntie we killed it.

I’ve mentioned this before and I will say it again. In my book of life, a good snake is a dead snake. I never felt so relieved. While I was sure it was about eight feet long when I initially saw it, turns out is was possibly a foot in length.

Needless to say, after cleaning the blood off the garage floor and dispensing of the guilty party, my heroes left. I’m pretty sure I followed them the whole way home with tears of joy streaming down my face as I thanked them. I called Kurtis to let him know what happened and then proceeded to yell at him for not being here for me in my most desperate time of need. He asked why I left the garage door open.

I would like to say I slept better knowing it was dead, but to add insult to injury, within the next two weeks the girls and I found three sheds in the yard. One was intertwined in the back steps leading up to our deck and I was positive I had a colony living in our stone wall. I imagined them plotting against me and watching me daily. Did I mention I have a wild imagination?

That winter we had a mice. Get off your high horses people I hear you—you shouldn’t have killed the snake. He would’ve helped with the mice. Serves you right for killing the snake. Yea, yea, I get it and you’re probably right. I’m still happy it died.

Have I mentioned yet that we practically live on a farm? We have woods all around the back of our home and a creek running in the back. It’s out a bit from town, so as you can tell from what you’ve read so far, we get critters. The mice moved into our comfy cozy garage for the winter and then the little buggers tried to take it a step further and move into the house.

After a mouse interrupted my homemade peierogie making near Christmas—Kurtis was home thank goodness—he started setting traps for them. Traps are good. Catching mice is good. Dead mice in traps are good when your husband is home. Not as good when he’s gone. My poor dad became my go-to for coming out, disposing of the mice and then re-setting the traps. Here’s how my winter went. I’d be running a business meeting and SNAP. Dead mouse. That lipstick color looks great on you Fern and SNAP. Dead mouse. Sunday dinners with the family? Yes, the buns are homemade and SNAP. Dead mouse. To help with my anxiety of it all I pretended they were Gus Gus and Jacque. Just sweet little friends that meant no harm. I mean, I killed them but the thought helped. At one point when I was yelling at Kurtis on the phone…again…he kindly told me this is farm living and to get used to it. Soon after we moved to Texas.

Let me just say there were incidents in Texas as well, but luckily, Kurtis was always around. A rattlesnake to my left as I went to let one of my consultants in at the front gate sent me flying back to our apartment (in my director suit and heels) screaming for Kurtis. A tarantula we named Tito who visited on the daily. Cockroaches the size of my lipstick that came out to join us for evening cocktails on the porch. A mockingbird that lived outside our window and sang from midnight until four in the morning. But I’ll save those stories for another post.

I was well aware that moving back to my farm meant I would likely encounter some more fun-filled events. Kurtis was again working a hitch two on and two off, but I was hoping this time my luck would change. I mean, he spent almost four months home before he started his new gig and nothing. Absolutely nothing. We power washed the exterior and no snakes came flying out of the stone wall I dreaded. No sheds. No mice. The only incident was when a snake apparently crawled across our patio on a sunny afternoon when the girls and their nanny were out back. They named him Fred. I pretended it didn’t happen. Denial is a beautiful thing. In the meantime, we also got three little kitties. These garage/outdoor cats, contrary to what my girls say, were brought into the family solely to kill mice. I was feeling pretty good about it all.

Naturally, the week before Kurtis left, karma reared its ugly head. Kurtis killed two mice with his flip flop (not even kidding, he’s a beast). First, one was running around down behind our bar. WACK. Second, Hadley came running out of her room screaming. WACK. The kitties mutilated one in the garage and left it for us and then literally the day before he left, double SNAP, SNAP. The Mary Poppins in me thought, perfect, they all were handled before he left, so now we won’t have problems. Dad was onboard to help with any caught in traps again, too.  

About a week after Kurtis left, I had put the girls to bed, shut off Hadley’s light and was walking into the hall when I heard a sound no mother alone in her house with her babies wants to hear. It was a strange, scratching, something alive kind of sound that alerts you to the fact that you are not alone like you thought. The fight or flight adrenaline hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in the back corner of our basement with two babes in rooms to my right, precious cargo upstairs sleeping and a presumed intruder between me and the staircase to her.

I stood paralyzed in the hallway. The sound was coming from the family room in front of me. I had nothing to grab at the moment but thought about using a lamp. My phone was upstairs to call for help. Suck it up Lauren and face it was my last thought before forcing myself to move. I took a few cautious steps toward the sound, fully prepared to see a hooded man standing in the living room. As I turned the corner…nothing. Then the sound again, but this time behind me. It was the creepiest sound. A scratching, tapping, fluttering sound. But it was impossible to place. It was right out of Hill House but I knew it wasn’t a ghost. A thought occurred to me…a raccoon had gotten in the house. Some crazy sized critter had gotten into the house and was stuck.

By now the girls were on to me because I was pacing the hallway. I told them to get upstairs fast. I wasn’t prepared to take on a raccoon so I was right up behind them. Memories of the time a chipmunk got into my parents’ house and the time a bat fell from a tree onto my shoulder suddenly flooded my memory (no, I’m serious).

Once I was upstairs I grabbed my phone and called Kurtis. He didn’t believe me and basically told me I was crazy. Maybe I was? I stood at the top of my staircase listening. Nope. Not crazy. It was still down there. I was fully prepared for a raccoon to come walking down the hallway. Do you know how mean they are? Likely rabid, too. I called my mom and dad. I mean, what else do you do? I will say this. At thirty five, I still call my mom and dad an awful lot for help. Anyway, they were next on my people to call after Kurtis, who was worthless in this situation and, quite frankly, ticking me off. I asked both mom and dad to come–dad for brute force and mom for brains. So, at around 9:30pm, when they were likely settled in for Chicago Fire, they came rolling out.

I waited at the top of the stairs and continued to hear the strange, very much alive, sound. When mom and dad showed up I couldn’t help by laugh. Apparently, I may have eggagerated the situation. My dad was in long pants and boots wielding an axe, butcher knife, a lob wedge, two putters and a big can of Raid bug spray. Mom came in her jammies. The sound had stopped (of course) but after a few walk-throughs we picked it up again. Mom and I and the girls stayed upstairs while my dad went room by room with his putter and bug spray. Door slowly opening. Door closed. Opening. Closed.

At one point he came up as confused as I was. He had heard it and he too thought it was moving around but then it would be gone. We started knocking on walls and low and behold, after much trial and error decided that it was, you guessed it, a mouse…in the wall. Can I just say something? My house is pretty nice. It was just recently gutted top to bottom. How a mouse was now living in my wall was beyond me and beyond annoying.

Dad started talking about cutting a hole in the wall and setting a trap to get it but I was over there like, oh hell no. We just got the place put back together after the reno and the last thing I wanted to do was start punching holes in it again. My animal loving daughters and mother came downstairs and were horrified at this poor darling mouse stuck in the wall. The girls named it, tapped the wall for it and then told it good night and went to bed happy as can be about the whole adventure and their new friend. I wanted it dead. After chatting with Kurtis, we decided to let it go for the night. As cruel as it sounds, it would eventually wear itself out and die. I was worried about the smell of rotting mouse but we figured we’d deal with that if and when it happened. The next day, nothing–no sound, no movement. Quite honestly, nothing ever since. To this day it’s a mystery. Did Squeaks get out? Is Squeaks lying there rotting? Not too sure. 

There are more. I’m sure there will be more, too. But just when you think I’m out here with it all together living life on a perfectly staged farm, remember these disasters and know that you couldn’t be more wrong. When I introduced this blog I told you about my gong show dumpster fire moments and my friends, these are just the tip of the iceberg.