Wine and Rat Traps

Wine and rat traps- life in this semi-rural waterfront town can be quite interesting- one minute Joanie is polishing the sterling and ironing the linens for a pre-wedding dinner party 0n the terrace and the next minute she is hearing ominous scratching noises from the attic.  Rats!

Her Dear Paul, ever the cost-conscious entrepreneur, is absolutely convinced that “a few more candy bars should do it!”- meaning the extra strength rat killer bars he gets at the local feed store down the road should finish them off.  He has even begun nailing the bars down in the attic because some of the greedy beasts actually pick them up and haul them off to who know where up there!

Well, last week her granddaughter Cassie May announced “Grandma there’s something upstairs!  I hear it scratching!”  This occurred as she was watching a dvd at Joanie’s house.  Well, that did it!  She has put up with various sounds over the years as ones tend to do when living in an old house, but now not only did she have scratching, she also had thumping, smells AND flies!  Even her troublesome pup Teddy can hear them!

So, Joanie got online and made contact with the apparent (self appointed) guru  of rat trappers- Jeff of the Rat Patrol.  Jeff would be only so happy to come out to the house for a full inspection and diagnosis for a mere $300.00, and she would have been happy to pay it.  Turns out Jeff is actually from Tacoma, a ways away, and did come out, only to poke around with Paul in various and sundry places to announce “Oh yes Ma’am, it’s rats all right but it will be hideously expensive for you to hire me to trap them since I have to come so far over here…”  So, Dear Paul of course is delighted, because not only can he save money, one of his life’s ongoing goals- and can go back to his “candy bar” cure, but for Joanie, she thinks traps are in order.  Good thing her sister Janis has a whole pile of them, and- bonus- a son that happens to excel in rat trapping!

So, Sister arrives early Sunday evening, armed with wine and rat traps.  Which reminds Joanie of another story she will tell one day soon about the time  her other sister and she drowned a rat in a garbage can one hot sunny day after one too many gin and tonics… they don’t think the kids have ever recovered from that one.   I’ll keep you posted.   Amen and good night.


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Bread Bags and Snowfalls

As my brothers and sister and I were growing up- not all that long ago- it wasn’t as if we were neglected or doing without.  We had hand sewn holiday dresses each year for Easter and Christmas, and new underpants, undershirts, socks and shoes.  Sometimes matching coats, hats and even muffs if we were particularly lucky!  Remind me to scan photos for you all- so cute.

As well as I remember the holidays, I remember the winters even more.  Our house was pretty warm as I recall, but not toasty.  We slept upstairs in what today I would call the attic, but I don’t remember ever being cold.  Funny how we forget- right?  My sister Janis and Mary Ann and I slept in one room, and my sister Kaye had her own little area, and my brothers- good grief I cannot remember where they slept!  Somewhere downstairs I bet.

In any case, as soon as the first snowflake fell we would instantaneously be catapulted from our beds, rushing to find our “snow clothes” – whatever those were!  Usually a coat, a scarf for the girls and a hat of some sort for the boys, followed by much anguish and gnashing of teeth about boots.  Seems to me each year not only did we not have boots- those things you would wear with socks, but the plastic over the shoe things- more like galoshes really.  And generally speaking we never had any that fit.  We would throw little fits and sometimes tantrums and eventually Mom would put down her cigarette and her Reader’s Digest Condensed book, and go rummage in the kitchen for plastic bread bags and rubber bands.  She would line us up, sit us down and find the right amount of bags for each of us.  Our boots!  Hallelujeh!

From that point on it was every man for him or herself.  We would locate old dusty sleds in the basement and Dad would yell, and then we would brave the cows in Mr. Beam’s field, and sled down the big hill, time after time, until finally Mom would come out and ring the bell on the porch and we would be forced to come in and thaw out.  I am confident that we were hypothermic, but in those days there was nothing that a hot bath would not cure.  I agree with Mom’s theory to this day in fact.  Give me a hot bath anytime and I can promise you I will feel better soon.

One year that I remember very clearly was the year that Mom and Dad had a New Year’s Eve party, and although we were supposed to be in bed, the majority of us watched the party from the cracks in our bedrooom doors.  There was much cigarette smoking and laughter and piano playing, and I remember the ladies in their wonderful glittery dresses and high heels and glasses filled with ice.  As the New Year approached, a number of the ladies joined our fathers out in the snowy driveway where they giddily stepped into Dad’s plastic rowboat, sequins, cigarettes, drinks and all and launched themselves down Mr. Beam’s hill, past the cows and into the future.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my dear friends, the dearest of the dear.  Amen and good night.


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Feasties for the Beasties

One year, while unfortunately still married to Cranky Jim-  a man with whom I served a 13 year sentence that I am forever thankful for finishing- we had a very cold winter.  Our washer was in the garage and it had frozen up, so it was definitely cold that Thanksgiving week.  I had gone to the local store and bought a nice turkey, which I thought could certainly defrost in said garage, and so I placed it out there in its blue and white enamel baking pan, which I still have to this day.

Well let’s just say it was not the best of holidays.  First, Jim was mad because of the washer, then he was mad because somehow I had managed to break the transmission in my car whilst rocking in reverse and back over and over, trying to get it out of the driveway in the snow to go to the store.  I think the power had also gone out and I am pretty darned sure that was also the year that our neighbor came over to inform us that my son had sold his 9 year old some illegal smoking material… Jim was not a happy camper and soon I was to be an unhappy camper as well.

I went out to the garage to check on the turkey and somehow the neighbor cat had gotten in and eaten most of one of the breasts off of the bird!  Oh No! Oh No!  Jim, being from Florida, had an unnatural aversion to vermin, of which he considered cat to certainly be.  I, cheery try- to- make-the-best-of-it-type, volunteered to wash the bird, cut out the jagged areas and go ahead and bake it.  The heat would kill any germs, right? Oh hell no- this was not to be!  He not only wouldn’t let me bake it, and he wouldn’t even let me throw it out in the woods for the beasties!  How cruel!  No, instead he drove poor mutilated Tom up to Thriftway where he threw it into the Dumpster.  I was mad for a very long time that he did that.  I can’t remember what we ended up having for Thanksgiving but I can tell you it was most likely unpleasant.  Even Jim’s awesome album collection would not prevent me from eventually walking away.  Note to Self: A sweet temperment in a husband is a wonderful thing.

Speaking of sweet temperments, my dad certainly, positively did not have one.  My sisters will correct me, but the year that our German Shephard Rex stole the turkey from the top of the portable dishwasher stands out in my mind as another Thanksgiving disaster.  Do I remember Dad freaking out?  Or was that the time that he had thrown the box of puppies off of the deck?  Seems to me we were listening to the Beatles White Album at the time so I probably have my timelines all mixed up.  In any case, at our house, holidays usually also coincided with lots of yelling and septic tank problems, which made Dad mad too… “Doris!  Jesus Christ almighty! Tell the kids to stop flushing!”

Then there was the year in the early 70’s that our friend Guy had just purchased a microwave oven and I remember standing in his kitchen, marveling at it with 20 or so assorted pals.  “Hey!  This thing will be done in 13 minutes! It’s like magic, man!”  Too bad that the bird had to be shoved into the Amana Radar Range  so hard that the door barely shut, and by the time it was “finished”, if that’s the right word for it, the majority of his guests had wandered off.  The poor bird was as white as a ghost and not even Guy’s packaged gravy could save the beastie.  Not a memorable dinner as far as taste but we had some awesome tunes going so it was cool.

Here’s to memorable Thanksgivings.  Amen and good night.


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Rearranging the Holidays

As Joanie has just moments ago packed away her Halloween decorations, all umpteen dozens of them, she realizes that Good Lord Are You Kidding Me?  It’s Thanksgiving basically the next day?  She ponders the excitement of digging in the attic (you would have to actually witness this event at Farragut Gardens to even begin to understand the impact of this sentence) for the “Thanksgiving” crate, which happens to be located in an attic area behind a huge honking armoire which requires moving, a lamp which requires plugging in, stacked with dozens of other holiday crates among old tubas, accordians, tables which require refinishing, someone’s old high school yearbooks, headboards, old wood… bookcases, rat traps, old insulation and aging oriental carpets?  Ah yes.  Is it too early for a glass of wine?

Joanie thinks that someone goofed in the holiday planning process.  We have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter all jumbled together- then a long dry spell until the Fourth of July!  Why?  And for someone like her, someone that simply cannot let a holiday wander in and wander out of its own accord, someone whose DNA must include the Decoration Enzyme, this creates much stress and packing and unpacking problems.  Thank God she is also a little OCD otherwise can you imagine what her crates would be like?  Little sparkly cherubs mixed in with the bunnies- commingling with the Day of the Dead devils?  Leprechauns running amok?  I know the turkeys would love it but after all they love a good escape once in awhile but- it could be utter chaos!  Would they like each other?  She is concerned.

So, to alleviate the stress she endures year in and year out, Joanie plans to present a new Holiday Plan which will also include dumping the ridiculous Daylight Savings Time/Standard Time thing where we all get mixed up and forget to change our clocks and are constantly missing important appointments, although Dear Paul revels in that particular event because it gives him a perfectly sane sounding excuse for why he is late… (note to Reader:  This man is ALWAYS late, no matter the season!)

Her plan includes spacing out the holidays in a more organized manner- we have twelve months, right?  She is going to change her schedule like this:  Valentine’s Day moves to May and will be celebrated in conjunction with Mother’s Day which prior to now did not require any decorating.  St. Patty’s Day remains the same as its decorating requirements are minimal and fairly easy as long as you have a corned beef on hand and some beer- Easter will move to September and will be celebrated along with the Back to School events!  Cheer those kids up!  Have a chocolate bunny with your new pencils and PeeChees!  Fourth of July remains the same because it is Dear Paul’s favorite holiday and Joanie loves to light things on fire and fly flags, and then she will have a nice reprieve until Thanksgiving which she is seriously considering eliminating due to the number of requests she has been receiving from the Turkey Union (those poor babies, seriously? Do we really need to EAT them?)  She proposes that Christmas remain the same, however has decided to enlist a personal assistant this year to heave the crates for her.

Now since Joanie is exhausted from the rearrangement of the holiday seasons, she will excuse herself, find Teddy, her troublesome pup and head upstairs to bed.  Amen and good night.


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Can I be 100% transparent?

Oh my goodness this is the toughest night of the year.  I think so much about Jess and what I could have done and should have done for her- but then again I remember driving over Snoqualmie Pass in the deepest darkness and finding out that my mom and my sister Janis were there with Jess as  Rachael was born-and Jess with her pretty smiling face showing me her baby girl… and then later being with her as Tony was born and being his watchdog as he went to the nursery-“Mom would you go with  him?”  Oh my goodness what an honor.  My grandson with his grandmother on patrol.  I held him, I watched him, I loved him.  OMG as I go to the cemetery tomorrow and as I cry and place wonderful flowers, I would give anything, anything, to have my girl in my arms again.  Oh dear God, bless us all.  Amen and good night.

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Only dear Teddy Rumpus, Big Dog On Campus, could possibly wake me up at 2:30 am to have me let him out, which I did this morning.  I opened the door and he ran out, and once I did I heard tiny little noises-clip clop, clip clop, and sure enough, once again we had deer in the road right in front of the house.  Teddy peered at them, and they peered at him, and they proceeded to delicately move into the bushes.  I stood outside for a moment or two, admiring the moonlight and pulling the hood of my robe up over my head, as I contemplated the scene- one cute little pup and two deer, each eyeing the other without fear.  How sweet, right?

As I think of sweet moments I must introduce to you the theme for the rest of the week and that would be my daughter Jessica.  Jessica’s birthday will be on Friday the 18th and there’s not a moment in my life that goes by that she does not enter my thoughts.  She was a little sweet baby, a sweet toddler and sweet little girl.  She looked for all the world like Laura Ingalls Wilder in her younger years with her little buck baby teeth and sweet red headed little smile.  My God I miss her.  So on Friday which would be her birthday, I will say special prayers and buy beautiful flowers for her grave and for my table and will celebrate her life and the 34 years I had with her.  She is my beloved daughter and I know in my heart of hearts that she hears me as I wish her a very Happy Birthday.  Amen and good night.


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Bumps in the Road

I may not have written about the foot ferry but for those of you unfamiliar with my commute- I  leave my dear husband Paul fast asleep in the early morning hours and walk down from my house to the foot ferry in Annapolis which is about three blocks away, and walk down a long dock and onto a little passenger only ferry.  The current deckhand Annie always greets me with a cheery “Hi Joan!”  no matter how horrendous the weather, and the captain, the ever handsome Tom does as well.  The little boat is called the General Chesty, apparently named after a famous Marine with many decorations on his chest.  One day recently the General Chesty’s heater was on the fritz, and Tom said “Welcome to the Ice-Chesty!”  Oh ya baby it was FREEZING!

After I ride across the bay, about 10 minutes on a good day, we arrive in Bremerton and I then run for a hot coffee to go and load onto the larger ferry, which carries humans and cars and then take an hour’s ride to Seattle (see for our ferry stories) , where I then hike up the hill to my office!  Quite the workout, I must say…

But, getting to the point here, tonight, Paul was at the junkyard we own which is lovingly referred to as Iron Acres, with little Teddy, my troublesome Shih Tzu, so he was unable to meet me at the ferry dock in Annapolis where he tries to meet me to carry my briefcase and walk me up the Hill.  So, I march past the Blue Goose Tavern, full of sweatshirted and ball-capped beer drinkers and shuffleboard players, past the mini storage units with the bright orange doors, past the guy in the beat up pickup truck yelling “Hey Babe, do you need a ride?”, past the daycare center ( a former church where Paul’s parents were married, actually), and where two of our collective 4 children attended and my granddaughter Cassie attended also, and then face the long hike back up the Hill.  As I walk, huffing and puffing a little bit, I am thankful for the little flashing light that my son Jamezz gave me for my briefcase, and I am thankful for the wonderful leaves that rustle as I walk through them.  I think about the dozens or hundreds of times that I have made the trip back and forth to the office in good health and especially am happy tonight because dear Paul moved the dead squirrel out of the road so I wouldn’t have to see it or step on it on my journey.  Here’s to living in a neighborhood where you know all of the bumps in the road and can find your way home in the deepest darkness.  Here’s also to seeing lights on at your front porch and knowing your key will always unlock the door.  Amen and good night.

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