Posted in Life, Random

The Tale of the Christmas Bat

Author’s Note: Before I begin, I would like to say that I have nothing but love and respect for the participants in this adventure. They are all kind-hearted, intelligent people, despite how they may appear in this story. You’ll have to trust me on this.

Author’s Note, Part 2: The following story really creates more questions than answers. There’s nothing I can do about that, but I apologize for it in advance.

The Tale of the Christmas Bat

This year, Hubby and I traveled to Maryland to visit his family for Christmas. We arrived at 11pm on the 22nd, hung out with his mom and brother for a bit, then went to bed. At that point, everything in his mom’s beautiful, two-story home seemed perfectly normal.

The next morning, Hubby got up before I did and went downstairs for breakfast, where his mom greeted him by saying, “I lost your bat.”

???

The following conversation ensued:

Hubby’s Mom: “I lost your bat.”
Hubby: …
Hubby’s Mom: “I lost your bat!”
Hubby: “Um… what?”
Hubby’s Mom: “I lost your bat. I poked it with a yard stick and it fell on the floor clicking and hissing but then I lost it.”
Hubby: “You poked… wait, something fell… wait, what?”
Hubby’s Mom: “I LOST YOUR BAT. I took it up to your bathroom to get you back but it flew back down here and I lost it.”
Hubby: …
Hubby’s Mom: “I lost your bat.”
Hubby: “Uh, Mom? I think you have a bat in your house.”
Hubby’s Mom: …
Hubby: “Mom! You have a BAT in your HOUSE!”
Hubby’s Mom: …

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Allow me to back up.

When Hubby’s Mom got up on the 23rd, she saw her cat staring at a bat stuck to the top of her kitchen cabinet, and she automatically jumped to the conclusion that her sons were playing a joke on her. She poked the bat with a yard stick, and it fell on the floor, where it hissed and opened and closed its claws. She still thought it was a toy, so she picked it up with an oven mitt, carried it upstairs, and put it on the toilet in our bathroom. A few minutes later, the bat flew out of the bathroom, flapped its way back downstairs, and made a couple of loops around the dining room before disappearing from sight, and Hubby’s Mom still thought it was a toy.

The woman is no dummy, I assure you. But she can be a bit stubborn. Another Christmas, she gave me an adorable penguin necklace and said, “I got it for you because I know how much you love the movie Happy Feet.” When I confessed that I’d never actually seen Happy Feet, she tried to convince me that I had and that Hubby told her I loved it, until finally Hubby’s Brother chimed in that it was actually his ex-girlfriend who loved the movie, at which point there was an awkward silence, and I said, “Um, well, I love the necklace. Thanks.” Anyway, you can see why it was difficult for Hubby’s Mom to accept the fact that she had a real live bat in her house, especially after she had CARRIED IT AROUND.

By this time, the arguing, screaming, and hysterical laughing had woken both me and Hubby’s Brother, and we joined in the HUNT FOR THE BAT.

Hubby’s Mom’s house is two stories, plus a basement. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living areas, a dining room, a kitchen, and a sunroom. And a bat. Somewhere. Now that she knew the thing was real, Hubby’s Mom was freaking out about it. She wanted that thing OUT OF HER HOUSE before the rest of the family showed up for Christmas Eve.

While we looked high and low, poking around in every nook and cranny, the conversation went something like this:

Hubby’s Mom: “I CANNOT HAVE A BAT IN MY HOUSE AT CHRISTMAS!”
Me: “Hahahahahahahaha!”
Hubby’s Brother: “Why didn’t you just throw it outside when you picked it up?”
Hubby’s Mom: “Because I thought it was fake! I thought you all were playing a joke on me!”
Me: “Hahahahahahahaha!”
Hubby: “Why would you think we would put a fake bat on your kitchen cabinet?”
Hubby’s Mom: “Remember ten years ago and when you and your brother snuck downstairs on Christmas Eve and put that giant nutcracker by the Christmas tree?”
Hubby’s Brother: “THAT’S NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL!”
Me: “Hahahahahahahaha!”

batcollage
One of these creatures was in Hubby’s Mom’s house. One was not.

There was no sign of the bat, which, based on Hubby’s Mom’s description and my Google searches, we concluded was probably a Little Brown Bat. While we all stood around in various states of bafflement (Hubby & Hubby’s Brother), frustration (Hubby’s Mom), and amusement (me) wondering where the bat could be, Hubby’s Mom’s cat calmly walked into the dining room, jumped onto a low wall separating the dining room from the entryway, stood on his hind legs, and stretched his front paws up a decorative column.

Hmm…, we all thought.

A ladder and a flashlight later, and yep, the cat was right. One corner of the hollow column had a hole in it, and the bat was nestled cozily inside.

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Comfy little brown bat

Now we knew where the bat was, but still didn’t know how to safely escort it from the premises.

We tried:

  • Asking it nicely.
  • Threatening it.
  • Banging on the column.
  • Bribing it with (false) promises of bags of mosquitoes.
  • Taping a garbage bag around the hole and waiting for it to fly out into the bag and get stuck there.
img_20161224_114148-1
Ineffective homemade bat trap

Twenty-four hours later, on Christmas Eve, we still had a bat, only now there were five more people in the house to stare it and wonder aloud why it had come and when it might leave. Eventually we read online that the bat might be finding a place to hibernate, and Hubby’s Mom was having none of that. She couldn’t deal with the bat for one more day, much less until spring, so decisions were made, plans were formed, and coat hangers were bent into non-pokey, bat-removing shapes.

Hubby, who had the longest arms of anyone present, climbed up on the ladder, removed the plastic bag, reached into the hole with the coat hanger, and gently nudged the bat. The bat did not move. However, it did squeak, hiss, and bite the coat hanger. Hubby nudged it less gently. There was more hissing and biting and squeaking (but this time the squeaking was from me). Finally, after four attempts, the bat became fed up with Hubby’s poking and decided to leave. He/She flew out of the hole, around the dining room, and into the family room where it landed on the wall above the fire place. We moved the ladder, and Hubby climbed up. Wearing two oven mitts, he grabbed the bat with a towel, carried it outside, and set it free, to much applause from the rest of us (and probably a few curses from the bat). Then we all washed our hands for several minutes.

The end.

(P.S. I told you it would leave you with questions. You were warned.)

(P.P.S. Could anyone point me in the direction of a really realistic remote-controlled bat? Asking for a friend…)

img_20161224_115559-1
The Christmas Bat, shortly before his/her departure

Things I am thankful for this holiday season:

  • I am thankful that Hubby’s Mom’s cats are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.
  • I am thankful that Hubby’s Mom used an oven mitt to pick up the bat even when she thought the bat was a toy.
  • I am thankful that Hubby’s Mom did not decide to get us back for our “clever prank” by throwing the “toy bat” on us while we were sleeping.
  • I am thankful that everyone survived the visit from the Christmas bat, including the Christmas bat.
  • I am thankful that, this Christmas, my husband’s family actually seemed weirder than mine.

********** DISCLAIMER **********

NEVER TOUCH A BAT! Many bats carry rabies, which is a horrible, fatal disease and a terrible Christmas gift. If you find a bat in your house, you should definitely call a professional to deal with it rather than setting up homemade traps and ruining oven mitts. We Juettners were lucky and stayed out of harm’s way, but I do not condone our methods. Please don’t be like us. Stay safe. Also, I’m typing this added disclaimer on my phone, so any typos are most likely the result of clumsy thumbs and not early onset rabies, so please don’t worry.

 

Posted in Lists, Writing

Christmas Songs for Writers

20151206_184120

1. The First Novel
2. O Holy Plot
3. All I Want for Christmas is Muse
4. Revisin’ Around the Christmas Tree
5. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fiction
6. The Twelve Years of Revising
7. God Rest Ye Weary Typing Hands
8. Go Pitch It at a Conference
9. Do You Read What I Read?
10. Away in a Memoir
11. What Typo is This?
12. Carol of the Blogs
13. Hark! The Herald Agents Sing!
14. Deck the Halls with Rejection Letters
15. O Come All Ye Readers
16. Let it Sell! Let it Sell! Let it Sell!

Oh how I wish these songs actually existed. I’d totally buy that CD. 🙂

Happy Holidays, and Happy Writing!

[Don’t forget– if you comment on my blog posts between now and December 31, 2015, you’ll be entered to win my book giveaway!]

 

Posted in Life, Writing

Letters From Santa

HolidayCards

These days kids can email Santa.

That makes sense, I guess. After all, handwritten letters have mostly gone the way of the passenger pigeon. But, while I certainly appreciate the convenience of modern forms of communication, I still really love “snail mail.” That’s one of the reasons why I cherish the holidays. It’s the only time of year when my mailbox is stuffed with more than bills and ads and the occasional postcard.

I know some say it’s a waste of paper and for many people sending a large stack of holiday cards is just too expensive. I also understand how silly it seems these days to send mail to someone who lives ten miles from you, someone who you’ll see at least three times on Facebook and maybe even in real life before the letter arrives. I don’t care. I love mail. I love hand-addressed envelopes and stamps and postmarks and the snick of the adhesive tearing free. And you know what? Some of those people who live ten miles from you and talk to you on Facebook all the time will say something completely new and unexpected in a card. There’s just something about slowing down and picking up a pen and putting a little distance between your words and the person who’ll read them that makes writing a letter different.

My love of mail comes from my dad, who worked for the post office for over thirty years. I remember visiting him at work when I was a kid, how I liked the smell of the building—ink and paper mostly—and how I enjoyed sitting at his desk and playing with all the colored pens in his drawer. My dad’s been retired for a long time now, but during his years at the post office he did almost every job there, from mail carrier to supervisor. For a few years, he even played the role of Santa. In the late sixties, when he was working as a Distribution/Window Clerk, he responded to thirty or forty Santa letters a year from the children in town.

My dad at the Richardson Post Office in 1968 and a letter to Santa from a little named Polly who wanted a tape recorder, a chemistry set, and a walkie talkie. No gender stereotypes on this Christmas list! :)
My dad at the Richardson Post Office in 1968 and a letter to Santa from a little girl named Polly who wanted a tape recorder, a chemistry set, and a walkie talkie. No gender stereotypes on this Christmas list! 🙂

I love how in the letter above Polly tells Santa she’s going to keep his letters for her children because she knows he’ll “be even more famous then.” This girl is really thinking ahead. 🙂

No one at the post office had written Santa letters before. It was just something my dad decided to do. When I asked him what sorts of things he wrote to the kids, he said he’d tell them it was snowing and they were really busy at the workshop, that the sleigh was almost full and Mrs. Claus was baking Christmas cookies. He’d tell them to be good and mind their parents and try hard in school.

“If they had done something they were proud of,” my dad said, “like the little boy who didn’t wet the bed anymore, I told him he was doing great, and that I was real proud of him. I never promised them anything. To close out, I would usually say that old Donner or Blitzen or somebody was looking in through the window, and I had to get my boots and coat on, and go out to the barn and feed, or that it was about time to get the team hitched up.” He said he just did it because he liked it. His favorite letters were the repeats, the ones he got from the same kids multiple years, and the unselfish ones, where the sender asked for something for someone else.

That last comment gave me pause. I don’t think I ever considered asking for gifts for other people in my letters to Santa. It warms my heart to know there are kids that selfless in the world.

Santa letters are special. All personal letters are special. Opening up your mailbox and seeing a colored envelope addressed to you makes you feel good. Turning over a postcard to see who sent it and what they chose to write in that small space is exciting. When you think about it, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. Before the year is over, send someone you love a piece of mail that will make them smile. Don’t worry about sending a card to everybody you know. And who cares if you didn’t take a family holiday photo this year? It doesn’t even matter if the recipient is your next door neighbor. Write a short letter and stamp it and put it in the mail. You may find that it feels just as good to send mail as to receive.

As for me, I think I’ll write Santa an email. I owe him a thank you note that’s long overdue.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Lollypop Ornament Note: Speaking of chemistry sets, if you’d like to read my dad’s story, in his own words, of the time he blew up his fifth grade classroom, click on the links below. Part 1 is about my own (less explosive) experiences with science fair, so feel free to skip that part and move on to the good stuff in Parts 2 and 3. It’s a long story but, in my opinion, it’s worth the read. 🙂

* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 1
* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 2
* Science Fair (or The Time My Dad Blew Up the Fifth Grade), Part 3