Three Mousy Thoughts for Thursday

With the field crops harvested and the temperatures falling, I should have anticipated the Great Mouse Invasion of 2012. But ever the optimist, I assumed we would disarm Mickey and Minnie with our preemptive garage mouse trap maneuvers. Those efforts were a failure of epic proportions, but all was not lost since the experience led to these three mousy thoughts for Thursday.

  1. The good news is that, thanks to the early plethora of traps in the garage, no mice have invaded my car…yet.
  2. The bad news is that, with the garage full of miniscule landmines, Mickey, Minnie, the mouse with the peg leg, the one driving a pony cart, and a cast of thousands relocated to our house. They like it so much, they party all night, every night, though their ranks are thinning, thanks to our newly established trap line.
  3. Maybe Disney will celebrate their purchase of the Star Wars franchise with an intergalactic foray starring Micky and Minnie movie. So maybe we can capitalize the Great Mouse Invasion of 2012, live trap our cast of thousands and send them–for a hefty finders fee–to California to become stars.

What do you do when the wildlife moves in? How do you keep that from happening? Leave a comment.

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Three Stormy Thoughts for Thursday

Three-thoughts-for-Thursday

Tornado season has arrived in Iowa. Between the stormy weather debut and our garage apartment renters, these three windy thoughts blew in.

  1. The good news is that Hiram and I slept very soundly Tuesday night. The bad news is that we slept through the tornado sirens and the tornado that hit the north side of town.
  2. The good news is that we live on the south side of town and sustained no damage. The bad news is that the mice who rent apartments in our garage used my car as their storm cellar.
  3. The good news is that Hiram and I are buying a weather radio for our bedroom. The bad news for Mickey and Minnie is that we are upping their rent and not using the extra cash to buy them a weather radio.

Have you got a tornado story or a terrible tenant? Leave a comment!

Mickey & Minnie Are Back

They’re ba-ack! Little Mickey and Minnie, fresh out of food in the fields and shivering in their boots once the temperature dipped below freezing, invaded the garage last week.

As per their fall routine, the Goldilocks imitators left Hiram’s truck alone.

Too hard.

They turned up their shiny black noses at Grandma’s more luxurious sedan.

Too soft.

But the sight of my little white economy car set their ears to quivering.

Just right!

With that, they moved in, creating a mess that did Goldilocks proud. In addition to their deplorable bathroom habits, they gnawed through the handle of a cloth shopping bag and chewed the corners off the AAA pamphlet. Obviously, they don’t care about the environment or keeping women drivers safe on the road.

Inconsiderate beasts.

I told the resident mighty hunter (aka Hiram) about the new tenants, and he laid a trap line. So far, a half dozen mice have met their spring-loaded maker. I half expected one of them to have golden hair, a porridge mustache and a sleepy expression. But they were all normal, run-of-the-mill critters with limited fairy tale potential.

The little car wreckers.

Since turning our garage into a death factory, Mickey and Minnie have left my car alone – except for one night when one of them sneaked in to eat the bait off the trap on the floor of the back seat. Grrr! But the next morning, when I backed the car out of the garage, the trap in the middle of my parking place sported a smug-faced corpse.

Served him right.

Sunday, I felt sure we had overcome the Disneyland invasion. So, I vacuumed my car, shined the windows, and washed the dash board. So, everything’s still clean. It better stay that way, or I’m putting an open jar of peanut butter in bed of Hiram’s truck and lining the sides with plastic army guys. They’ll have shoot to kill orders for anything that moves and wears mouse ears.

I mean business!

January Hope

Where I live, finding hope in January is like searching for a needle in a snowbank. It’s too darn cold to try and a whole lot easier to find it once the snow melts.

So I was delighted when hope popped through the snow piles and cold weather during one of my morning walks this week. The sight of a perfectly round miniature mace poking out of a snowdrift near the garage stymied me at first.

The mice who squat in our garage immediately came to mind, along with memories of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm. Surely, the little critters don’t haven’t the skill to construct a dark ages weapons factory, do they? Certainly, there aren’t enough of them to launch a full scale attack on my car, are there?

Upon closer inspection, my heart rate slowed. The miniature mace wasn’t a mace at all. It was some sort of seed pod, a cocklebur maybe. No, it was too big for a cocklebur. But it was a seed pod. What grew in front of that bit of fence last summer? Purple coneflowers? Yes, the mouse mace was a purple coneflower seed head.

Somehow, it had survived the weight of a three foot snow drift. Somehow, it not only survived, but also muscled its way to the surface. And the sight of it on a cold January morning brought hope, pure hope.

If the cone flower could conquer snow and wind and cold, maybe I can survive the dark doldrums of January. Maybe I’ll find patience to wait for February to pass by and for March to begin the melting. Maybe April will find me on my knees beside the cone flower, and we’ll breathe in spring together.

Hope in January – like finding a seed pod in a snow bank.

Tracks & Tunnels

Even though snow is never my weather-of-choice, except on Christmas Eve when a maximum of 2 inches of snow can settle upon the landscape to create a picturesque scene for 24 hours only, the dusting of white stuff that greeted me Monday morning, put me in a philosophical mood.

I had just wrestled a new pair of gorilla treads onto my tennis shoes, and the tracks they created made me think of all the places I’ve been in the past year. One year ago, I was walking on a motel treadmill in West Virginia before delivering my son to the PTSD outpatient clinic. This week, Allen is in Wisconsin speaking at an organic farming conference. What a great distance he’s traveled, what a great distance our entire family has traveled, in the last 365 days. What a great God has guided us into this future we never expected.

I passed our garage, marveling at God’s faithful and unexpected work in our family, and a hole in the edge of the path I’d shoveled caught my eye. There was another hole about 3 feet beyond it, and another and another, all three feet apart, connected by what looked like a miniature mole tunnel, until the tunnel reached the corner of our garage.

I’d heard about mouse tunnels in the snow, but this was the first one I’d seen. I imagined the mouse busily excavating, then poking his head out for a breath of air, a progress check and a course correction. Then, down again to bravely plow through the darkness, until he found shelter from the storm.

This picture doesn’t do Mickey and Minnie’s tunnel justice and the thought of mice camping in my garage sets my teeth on edge. But for a few moments, I identified with the mouse. After years of dark tunnels with small comfort and few answers, after infrequent breaths of hope, little progress, and a multitude of course corrections, we have found sweet shelter and joy in God’s amazing healing and strength.

Call me a softie, but tonight there’s room for Mickey and Minnie in our garage…but if they get in the car again, they’re dead meat

Little Rose

Winter arrived abruptly this year. With the turn of the calendar page, Iowa went from a dry, warm September to a chilly, damp October. Speaking on behalf of the residents of our state, along with the flora and the fauna, I can tell you we’re still shivering with shock. Hopefully, an ambulance will arrive soon, and the EMTs will wrap us in blankets and elevate our heads until we can get to the hospital for an IV packed with mild autumn days and crisp, cool (but not frigid) nights.

This business of going straight from summer with winter has given me a wistful appreciation for fall. I’m longing for hayrides, picking out pumpkins at a pumpkin patch, the fall colors, rolling around in the crisp softness of piles of newly raked leaves. Instead, the days are full of rain and wind, the nights end with hard frosts and a skim of ice on the rain barrel.

The critters aren’t handling this abrupt winter very well either. In fact, sometime yesterday, after the farmer down the road harvested his corn, Mickey and Minnie winterized their summer cabin, battened their boat in the dock, packed their bags and headed for their favorite winter digs in my car. We’re evicting the squatters even as I speak, using as much violence as necessary, even though I sympathize with their discombobulation.

Near the garage, which the mice have dubbed “the Philo Marriott,” one rose bush refuses to bow to the inevitable. This morning, heavy frost covered it’s last, brave rose bud. I was sure it would turn black when the sun hit. But this afternoon, the flower waved its petals, bright and pink, when I went to get the mail.

Suddenly, I wanted to knit a tiny stocking cap for the courageous little thing, rig up my blow dryer as a heater. Something, anything to thank little Rose for bringing a touch of summer courage into my frosty soul.

But don’t think I’m getting to be an old softy. Mickey and Minnie are still out on their ears…unless you’d like them to live at your house.

God in the Boat

And the rain descended, and the floods came,
and the winds blew, and burst upon that house;
and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.
Matthew 7:25

Lately, my world has been riddled with peskiness. First was a critter invasion that began with the mouse upstaging Pastor Tim’s sermon a couple Sundays ago and ended the following weekend when Hiram removed a mouse nest from an air vent in our car. Who knows how long it had been there, but the little devils had hung curtains and decorated their living room with Costco furniture before we threw them out.

The same weekend, the weeds in my flower gardens required gallons of my blood, sweat and tears to get things back in shape. As if that wasn’t enough, when I talked to a fellow saint in the parking lot after church the next day, I was stung by a bee.

I don’t know about you, but when I became a Christian, I signed up for things like peace, grace, salvation, sanctification and forgiveness. I did not sign up for unrelenting peskiness. But the longer I’m a Christian, the more peskiness I encounter. Sometimes it’s not just minor peskiness. Sometimes it’s major, life-threatening, tragic stuff.

Whenever my whine-o-meter kicks in – over paltry things like weeds in my flower beds, and over tragic things like a deadly accident – I remember a comment a very wise friend made about Matthew 7:25. “The verse doesn’t if a storm comes. It says storms will come. That means Christians can count on storms. And it means Christians can trust their Rock to stand firm when the storms arrive.”

Now isn’t that what Pastor Tim’s been saying every Sunday since he started preaching in Mark? Jesus didn’t promise to eliminate sickness or sadness, struggles or storms. He promised to heal our diseases and grant joy in the midst of sadness. He promised to be a Rock to stand on when we struggle, hope in the midst of storms, peace in the midst of peskiness.

Lately, I’ve been learning that when I became a Christian, I signed up for something bigger than peskiness. I signed up for Immanuel: God with me, God in the bee stings, God in the mouse nests, God in my son’s illness, rebellion and healing, God in Mom’s Alzheimer’s, a great big, faithful God in the midst of my pesky little boat.

And ever so slowly, I’m learning to appreciate what I signed up for, though I could do without a few of my traveling companions. Don’t get me wrong. I want God to stay. But the mice can jump ship, the sooner the better.

I Hate Mieces to Pieces

Who was the Saturday morning cartoon character who coined mouse hate talk? I may not remember, but I agree whole-heartedly. I hate mieces to pieces, too. The little varmints haven’t been my favorite animal for a long, long time, not since the charm of Stuart Little and The Mouse and the Motorcycle during the infamous bedroom closet mouse invasion of 1991.

But this afternoon when Hiram found a mouse nest on the the heating element in the air vent underneath the windshield wipers, my dislike turned to loathing. The discovery and removal of the nest, along with the extraction of two dead babies stuck to the cabin air filter, cleared up the mystery of Monday’s hitch hiking mouse. It wasn’t a hitch hiker at all, it and its family were squatters.

Well, I have never fancied myself as a landlord and don’t intend to start now. The car dealership had no idea of how to keep Mickey and Minnie from rebuilding Shantytown and a quick search of the internet turned up these suspicious and/or unsatisfactory solutions:

  • Mothballs
  • Live traps
  • Mouse traps
  • Dryer sheets
  • Peppermint oil on cotton balls
  • Hot pepper
  • Cats

Supposedly, the mice don’t like the scent of the stinky things on the list, but neither do I. In fact, I’m allergic to several of them. Even though we’ve used so many traps we should have stock in the company, the mice invasion hasn’t ended. And while we don’t own a cat, plenty of ferrel ones hang around the place, and they haven’t kept the mice at bay either.

So I’m thinking Hiram’s gonna have a whole lot of fun transforming the Corolla into a cat mobile. While he’s doing that, I’ll get Anne to whip up my slinky new Cat Woman outfit. That should scare the mieces to pieces, don’t you think?

Time for a Troop Surge

Yesterday morning, I packed the car and hopped in, grateful for a road trip away from the rodent war zone. But I should have known that if a church service wasn’t safe from the little critters, nothing was sacred.

My drive from home to northwest Iowa, where I have some radio interviews and speaking engagements for the next few days, was uneventful until my brief stop at an internet coffee shop in Cherokee. Imagine my surprise when I lifted my computer case from the floor of the front passenger seat and saw a gray, hairless, and very still baby mouse on the mat.

How it got there is a mystery to me.  It wasn’t there the day before yesterday when Hiram washed and vacuumed the car. It wasn’t there Monday morning when I loaded everything into it. Did it crawl out from under the mat? Or did I set the computer case on the garage floor while I packed and inadvertently pick up my defenseless and now very dead passenger.

All those thoughts raced through my head while I considered how to dispose of the body. The day was warming up, and the situation would get ripe quickly without immediate action. A long funeral service was out, since I had another thirty miles to drive and a radio interview in less than an hour. I didn’t have a matchbox with me so a fancy coffin was out, too.

So, I went into shop’s bathroom and washed my hands thoroughly. Then I ordered lunch and white while taking care of my email, all the while stockpiling napkins for a death shroud. It sounds callous and cold, but that’s life in a war zone.  Meal finished, I marched to the car and photographed the body (I wanted proof to show Hiram) before swathing it in the death shroud. Then, I looked around for a cemetery.

I couldn’t find one, so I drove off with my package on the seat beside me, praying for a burial place. Too late, I spied a trash can beside a Methodist Church, (it would have been such a nice touch), and I had resigned myself to a new career as a hearse driver. But a few blocks later, glory of glories, I spied trash bins at the end of every driveway. Hallelujah – it was garbage day! I pulled up beside a particularly attractive one and unloaded my passenger with a sigh of relief.

Hopefully, I’m safe from attack for the rest of the trip, but I as soon as I drive into town tomorrow, the troop surge begins. I’m stopping at the store to lay in a supple of mouse traps. Then I’ll enlist my husband’s support, and by nightfall, we’ll have laid a mine field.

I’m taking no prisoners. This is war.

“Iowa in March” Top Ten

Yesterday’s blog listed the top ten differences between southern California and the Midwest. Today’s list provides unwelcome proof that March in Iowa, in strong competition with November, is the state’s least favorable month.

10.  As soon as the sun starts rising at an optimistic time, Daylight Savings Time begins
and pushes dawn back an hour.
9.    It has rained for five days straight. SInce today is March 10, it has rained for half the
month.
8.    When the rain becomes unbearable, the snow begins.
7.    The gravel road and our driveway look like something the cat drug in.
6.    The mice in our garage, cowed by winter’s cold and relatively inactive, have perked up
and invaded my car again. As always, they leave Hiram’s pick up alone.
5.    Our daughter is “getting away” for spring break. Apparently, even Minneapolis is more
glamorous in March than is our fair state.
4.   Morning walks are gloomy. (See above picture.)
3.   Hiram blanches at the mention of “FAFSA.”
2.   Pretty pastel Easter decorations perpetrate the cruel hoax that spring is just around the
corner.
1.   Our one warm March day pushed the daffodils above ground, but they’ve been
shivering so much since the cold return, they won’t contemplate exposing themselves
further.

There, I’ve expressed my hostility told March and feel much better. In the 21 days until April begins, I’ll keep my umbrella handy, stock up on mouse traps, and knit gloves for the daffodils. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the effort.