All is Calm, All is Bright

 

It is early morning on the day of Christmas Eve and all is quiet in the house … for the moment.

 

Very soon the air will be alive with voices and activity:

Gwamps,Gwamps! Let’s play, Gwamps!              Gwumma, what we gonna do next?

A contented baby’s chatter will sprinkle through the rooms. The kind of chatter only other babies understand, but we grown ups joyfully listen and respond to because this is the beginning of good communication. And really, it’s just plain fun chatting with a tiny one who thinks they know what they are saying.

The piano will resound throughout the house as Gwumma and Little Man play and sing their unique rendition of Jingle Bells, which consists of Gwumma singing and playing the notes while Little Man tinkles the higher keys, singing the same phrase over and over at the top of his lungs.

Gingerbread houses may or may not get decorated today.

Christmas goodies may or may not get baked today.

Some outdoor activity will surely be included because it’s snowing, and the marshmallow world is begging for new footprints and happy voices.

 

There will be some kind of sports blasting from the tv for those who don’t understand that Christmas means lovely Christmas music, and Christmas movies, and fragrant candles burning. This is the result of adding sons to the family, much to the Cowboy’s delight.

There will be good conversation snatched here and there among the busyness of little people.

There will be naps to smuggle, goodies to munch, and a new boyfriend to meet.

There will be a seafood feast for dinner, followed by a Christmas Eve service. Then time spent around the tree, the traditional gift of new pjs opened just before bed.

 

But most of all there will be togetherness. There will be living, laughing, and loving. It will not be forced. It will be achieved through the knowledge that, being scattered across three provinces, we rarely get to be all together in one place at the same time. So these moments will be cherished. Treasured up in our hearts, as Mary treasured up all that occurred around her on that very first Christmas Eve. And we are grateful. So very grateful.

 

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If you would like to read a Christmas poem I wrote this year, you can find it here.

 

 

 

Of Mice and Me

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Mice.

They have their place and I have mine. And never the twain should meet.

In theory.

The truth is, over the years, mice and I have had a relationship of sorts. And not a happy one. This discord is all due to the mice, of course, and their insistence on invading my space.

The problems began when we moved with our young family to an old country home. I hadn’t had any experience with mice before that so it was distressing to have these visitors arrive in my home uninvited and expecting to stay! They acted like the place belonged to them. The nerve!

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A particular barn cat liked to bring her mice to the front door and lay them out for us to ooh and ah over. Often, if we didn’t get there soon enough to praise her, we would just find the remains of what had become a good lunch. This was a slightly disturbing occurrence that I got used to. After all, those mice were outside, not invading my space, and … well … dead.

Of the many memorable mouse moments from that time in the country, the following one stands out:

It is night – almost my bedtime. As usual, the Cowboy is away from home for work so I am on my own.

Sweetie, Peaches and Babe have been put to bed and I am in the dimly lit kitchen doing last minute puttering before heading to my own bed. Out of the corner of my eye I see movement.

There, scurrying along the wall is a tiny fuzzy creature. I jump onto the nearest chair and scream into my hands (so as not to wake the sleeping children, of course).

Before I’m done screaming the critter has scooted into the old fashioned heating vent and disappeared.

I gather my wits and do the only thing I can think of doing.

I build a barricade – in the doorway between the kitchen and the rest of the house. (This was long before I knew mice could climb and jump. Yes. Yes they can.)

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When the Cowboy comes home on the weekend, I am leaving for a conference. I tell him that by the time I arrive home at the end of the weekend I need every last mouse gone from the house, please.

Sure enough, they are. Not only are they all gone, every crack and cranny around the outside of the house has been filled with insulating foam sealant.

 

(That’s the thing about cowboys. They will do everything in their power to protect their women.)

 

Several years later we moved to the city. But, just like the children’s book says, there are city mice too. And they liked to visit the cupboard under my kitchen sink, and run around under the stove.

Babe’s cat liked to play with them.

The door to Babe’s room faces the basement stairs. One day as she came out of her room she saw a mouse fly through the air across the opening to the stairs down below. She screamed, “Mom!” and I came running.

Turns out, the cat was playing. Only he didn’t know the mouse wasn’t playing back. He was chasing the critter, tossing it into the air, waiting for it to land and start running away so he could chase it again.

By the time we got there, the little creature was exhausted and barely moving. The cat was visibly disappointed with his playmate, and quickly losing interest.

I grabbed a nearby bucket to trap the thing under before he got his second (or third or fourth) wind. But my timing was off, and I caught him half in and half out. There he lay, body under the bucket and head out, with the rim cutting across his throat, looking me dead in the eye (no pun intended).

A thought scrabbled its away across my mind … I strangled a mouse today

I didn’t mean to. It just happened. But I was glad he wasn’t running around my feet.

After that incident, and the one when I accidentally poured a drowned mouse down the garbage disposal, the Cowboy and a helpful son-in-law went around the outside of the house and meticulously foamed in all the cracks they could find.

We had no mice in the house for a long time.

Then … we renovated the sunroom.

Somewhere a new mouse doorway has been opened up. Because suddenly, one of the squeakers dashes across my path in the kitchen.

In plain view!

I’ll admit he must be as startled as I am because he’s having trouble scrambling in a straight line.

The Cowboy takes care of things quickly and efficiently after receiving the PLEASE COME HOME NOW! text. And he promises to seal off any new openings.

A couple of weeks later I hear unusual noises coming from under my stove. To be on the safe side, I lay 3 large sticky traps end to end in front of the stove.

In the evening I turn off the TV when I hear it again.

“Do you hear that?” I ask the Cowboy.

“It’s the fridge,” says he.

“It’s NOT the fridge,” say I.

The next morning, there are two tiny legs sticking out from under the stove. The Cowboy pulls the sticky trap into full view to unveil a stuck mouse, and glued right next to him … a toy car.

IMG_3947Which makes me wonder … was he playing with that toy? Was he giving it a push, there in the safety of the under-the-stove and racing to see who got to the other side first? Was he actually entertaining himself? I suppose only God can know the mind of a mouse.

However, I have learned other things about mice I never would have known had I not experienced these disturbing episodes in my life. That’s the thing about annoying, disturbing, difficult life occurrences. You learn. And then you can pass on the knowledge, wisdom and experience to others going through the same ordeal.

If you want to know if you have a mouse problem, invite me to your house. I know the sights, smells, and sounds to look for. I know how high to build your barricades. I know the most effective traps to use. I know how tiny a crack they can fit through. I know their favourite toys now. And, I can identify mouse innards, just in case you’re preparing for a biology exam.

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They may be cute and furry but they don’t belong in my space. They’re messy disease carrying rodents. They have no business in my cupboards, on my countertops, or under my stove playing with toys that don’t belong to them.

That’s why, until the foam sealant gets applied, I have 3 traps on the floor in front of my stove and no fewer than 7 under my sink. Because I believe the best defence is a good offence.

Don’t get me started on moths.

Right Out the Window

Know your audience.

That’s what almost every writing coach or speaking mentor will tell you. If you want to get your message across with the biggest punch, you need to understand who will be receiving that message, and deliver it accordingly.

When Sweetie and Peaches were ages 5 and 3, I wanted them to grasp how important it was to wear seat belts the whole time they were riding in a car. This was back in the day when kids were out of infant car seats by the time they were 2. The next step was a booster seat, which was basically a raised platform to sit on where the child was held in place by the vehicle’s lap-belt/shoulder-strap combination. It was often uncomfortable.

So one day after I had buckled them into the back seat and before I had started the car, I told them a story that had been in the news that week. I thought it was relevant and timely.

I want to tell you about a little boy your age. He was riding in the back seat of his Mommy’s car. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt. Then, his Mommy couldn’t help it but, the car she was driving crashed and the little boy … he wasn’t wearing his seat belt and he flew right out the window.

Three-year-old Peaches was completely spellbound. Her eyes grew bigger when I mentioned the crash. At the end of the story, her little mouth opened in awe and her eyes grew as big as they could get. She turned to look at the window and then turned back to me.

In wonder she said, “He could fly?”

That’s when I knew my message had gone over her head and right out the window.

Snow Sky

We had a fresh dusting of snow tonight. And at 11 o’clock at night as I stood out in the back yard I looked up through the criss-crossed branches of the big old elm tree, where the downy snow had settled like sleepy white doves, up, up to the canopy above. It was what I call a snow sky. Anyone who has lived on the Canadian prairies knows what a snow sky looks like.

I caught my breath at the hush. The stillness. The quiet. Even the highway was quiet at this time of night. And the light! A week ago I had been out in the yard about this time of night – when there was no snow on the ground. The dark was suffocating and a little scary as I took the garbage to the alley. But tonight! Tonight the snow brought such a peaceful light. I felt I could hear God breathe. Right there beside me, over me, around me.

Though my sins were as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Snow, that brings light and lightness, peace and peacefulness, prayer and thanksgiving. And joy. Always joy.

I’m tired. It’s been a bit of a rough week but I’m glad I took the time at this late hour after the house had all gone to bed and turned out the lights, to step outside into this holy hush. To breathe, and find my joy again.