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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Floods, vermin, and a multitude of blessings

Life is hard. We all know that. Granted, no one is shooting at me, and I have not contracted any strange viruses, but I am nonetheless bogged down by life events, those I chose and those I didn't. So, if you've been wondering why I am not posting more often, here's the rundown:

The Great Flood

Why should a flood resulting from a freak summer downpour still be affecting my life in December? To begin with, it joined the parade of "one damn thing after another" from which so many of us suffer. Rain flowed in through the basement windows with ungodly abandon, soaking Persian carpets and the wall-to-wall Berber beneath them while I slept peacefully upstairs. I had no idea what had happened until I went downstairs a day or two later to see why the smell of mold was beginning to waft its way up. My first step onto the basement floor went squish. Crap.

Like many people who have too much stuff, too many collections and too little sense of organization, our basement--all 1000 square feet of it--is a labyrinth of cardboard boxes, unsorted piles, forgotten files and out-of-favor furniture. Not to mention one small room I had converted to a clothes closet. Just add water, and the entropy of our lives had begun to meld into one soggy and possibly sentient being.

Even after the cavalry arrived with their fans and vacuums, I was still removing 12 litres of water from the air every day for weeks with my newly purchased dehumidifier. Hauling, sorting, and tossing preceded the removal of the carpets, more drying and finally the installation of a new floor. Even though the tasks are now completed (well, almost...I still have a little bit of organization to take care of) my nights are filled with dreams of swelling books, molding dolls, floating receipts and seeping water.

Rats!

I never like to say anything bad about Oregon, but, in addition to the friendly beaver and majestic Roosevelt elk, the Norway rat is indigenous and prolific here. Further, recent destruction of a wooded area in our neighborhood stirred up the local population of rodentia and sent it looking for new digs down the street. Our street.

Rats! Plague-ridden, destructive, and evil! A family of them appeared in our laundry room in early fall, entering through a hole Mom and Pop rat had chewed along a pipeline. The parents succumbed rapidly to traps, but their children were observant and smart. We ended up buying several kinds of traps, and experimenting with different kinds of bait after the wunderkinden had learned to avoid peanut butter, dog food, cheese, rice, etc. My husband, Jose, master of gadgets, bought a device called a Raticator, which boasts an "infrared sensing zapper."
This eerie chamber worked on the last two. Or, rather, I thought they were the last two.

I didn't see any physical evidence, but from time to time my Scottie, Whisky, sniffed behind the couch and barked down the heating vents. Whisky is a retired ratter, though, and had achieved little in the area of pest eradication until last week when he wrought such a hullabaloo of pent-up vengeance as I will not soon forget.

Whisky had been sniffing and growling around the dishwasher and Jose, resorting to the least technical of mouse traps, decided to block the entrance to the kitchen with sticky paper designed for trapping unwanted interlopers. I didn't like the idea. Getting stuck and then tossed into a dumpster sounds like a bad way to go, even for a rat. At least the Raticator offers a quick end to life's travails. However, Jose is as stubborn as a terrier. Down went the sticky paper on the other side of the baby-gate that keeps the dogs out of the kitchen, and off to bed we went.

We had no sooner turned off the light than I heard a high-pitched Skreeee-skreeee-skreeee! from the kitchen accompanied by an outraged barrage of Scottie barks. "They will both get tired," Jose said laconically. Not so.

I made Jose get up to see what was happening. He came back and said, "There is a rat on the paper." I already knew that. Skreeee-skreeee-skreeee! Woof-woof-woof!

"Are we going to let that poor creature stay stuck there all night?"

 "Whisky is very interested," Jose said.

"What if he knocks that gate over?" Skreeee-skreeee-skreeee! Woof-woof-woof!

"Whisky cannot knock the gate over. It is a strong gate." Skreeee-skreeee-skreeee! Woof-woof-woof!

Immediately, a crash came from the kitchen, followed by a yip. Then silence. The gate had been breached.  I swear, if Jose didn't say everything in a cute Brazilian accent I'd have smacked him.

We went out to the kitchen. There was no sign of the rat, but Whisky was stuck to the paper. Crap.

I grabbed a pair of scissors to separate Whisky from the paper, lifted him by the tail (this convenient, strong handle comes standard on all Scotties) and found the rat underneath, rather untidily disemboweled. I dropped the tail and pushed the whole mess away with my foot without thinking. My bunny-eared slipper was now stuck to the paper as well.

I think you can imagine the rest. Snip-snip, curse-curse. Detritus out to the trash. Lysol clean-up. Dog and me into the shower. To bed by 2 a.m.

I still think there's one more. Either that of the spirits of rats past are eating the bait in the Raticator--that device appears to have given up the ghost.

AND... There's also good stuff in my life that also keeps me from posting here. 

Teaching

As usual, just when I despaired of my students, they have stunned me again with their insights. and I remember why it is I do this.

Writing

I found a critique group that works for me. They are fabulous readers who offer practical, insightful feedback. Now I need to write more fiction, too.

Publishing

Earlier this year, I started RenegadeBooks to publish my own work, as well as books by authors who don't fit the mold of today's romance publishers. They don't want to write 50 Shades of...Yikes!  So far, we have 11 titles and a website that needs work. If you want to know more, read Peter Jordan’s Marriage or Here for You Always by Margaret O’Neil.

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So that's what's up with me.  I will post more...soon I hope.  Maybe my students will keep me honest and give me some due dates.