Posted in Life, Random

The Pandemic Has Made Us Weird

I said hi to a mannequin last week.

This wasn’t one of those situations where you accidentally bump into a mannequin and instinctively say “Excuse me” before realizing it wasn’t a real person. No, I was a good fifteen feet from this mannequin when I glanced up and said, “Hi!” and smiled behind my double layer of masks. Looking back now, I’m not even sure it had a head. I just saw a human-shaped torso in a cute cardigan out of the corner of my eye and enthusiastically greeted it. This is when I realized I need to get out more.

The pandemic has made us weird. And for those of us who were already weird, the pandemic has made us noticeably weirder.

Take clothing choices, for example.

Our school used to have a “Pajama Day” a couple of times a year where students and staff came to school in their pjs. It was a fun day where everyone looked cute and comfy and silly. Ever since students came back to campus from virtual learning, many of them wear their pajamas every day. And I don’t mean cute, matching flannel outfits they picked out to wear to school. I mean old, faded pajamas that I truly believe they slept in the night before and are going to sleep in again. On the one hand, I don’t care. I’m just glad they’re at school and wearing a mask. It doesn’t matter to me that they’re also wearing ratty fleece SpongeBob SquarePants pants and a hoodie that says, “I paused my game to be here.” On the other hand, I worry that these kids will one day have to wear actual clothes to their future jobs, and I’m concerned they won’t know how to dress. On the third hand*, I sometimes wonder if there will be any jobs in the future where people have to wear something other than pajamas. **

* I told you, the pandemic has made us weird. It seems I am growing extra hands.

** I might be wearing pajamas right now as I write this at 2:00PM on a Sunday.

Our guest lists have changed in odd ways, too. In the past, we wanted to surround ourselves with the most interesting people, the ones who had the best stories to tell or exciting news to share. A few years ago, the perfect guest list for a dinner party would have included a successful doctor who could describe the details of saving a life, a teacher with hilarious anecdotes from his classroom, a journalist with tales from her intense field experience, and the friends who just returned from a trip around the world. These days, when deciding who to invite over for an intimate game night, the conversations are a little different.

“How about Name? He’s really nice.”
“Yeah, but he’s always going to concerts and volunteering at clinics. What about Name?”
“She’s a little strange. She never leaves her house, and she’s kind of a germophobe.”
“Exactly. Call her.” ***

*** By her, I might mean me. I am triple vaxed, obsessive about masking and handwashing and am tentatively available to hang out outdoors with you, provided the daily number of covid cases at my school is not alarmingly high the day before we’re scheduled to meet.

I don’t believe anyone is going to come through this pandemic without being altered in some way, and I am known to embrace weirdness, so it’s okay if you’re a slightly stranger version of yourself right now. You have a right to be. Go ahead and trade handshaking for elbow bumps, cut your own hair, and shout, “It’s just allergies!” every time you sneeze. It’s all good. But if you find yourself having a more than one word conversation with a mannequin or going to a job interview in your pajamas, it might be time for a gentle intervention.

Posted in Halloween, Life

None of This is Normal

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It’s the last week of October, and this is the first blog post I’ve written this month.

If you’ve been worried about me and wondering why I haven’t been bombarding your inbox with creepy stories, strange decorations, and a general, 24/7, over-caffeinated zeal for all things Halloween, thank you for your concern, but fear not. I’m alive and well and currently sitting in a room with not one, not two, but THREE skeletons. And one dog. And a gnat that keeps landing on my face and driving me crazy.

I realize it’s not normal for me to take my favorite month off from blogging, but really, nothing about this October has been normal.

It all started when our hardwood floors exploded. Not exploded exactly. They… grew. Actually, it was more like they swelled up, but I hate the word “swell” (*shudder*) so I’ll use expanded. But that doesn’t sound right either. Let’s put it this way: Over the course of four days, the terrain of our beautiful hardwood floors metamorphosed into hills and valleys and mountain ranges that made it look like the monsters from Tremors were living under our living room. So that was fun. Then a parade of well-meaning professionals came to our house, measured things, scratched their heads, measured more things, and said, “That’s not normal.”

Well, duh.

We are still in process of figuring out exactly what kind of monster is haunting our house.

Then there’s the rain. I live in Austin, Texas. In case you’re unfamiliar, we’re known for our music, our tacos, and our dry spells. There are restaurants here that serve 100¢ margaritas when the temperature hits 100 degrees, and they often do a pretty good business even in September. Fall usually arrives in late October with the first real cool spell blowing in around Halloween.

But this year… it’s been raining. A LOT. And on October 15th, the temperature dropped into the forties and stayed there for a couple of days. And then it rained some more. It’s still raining. In fact, it’s rained so much that the water treatment plants can’t keep up, and we’re now having to boil our drinking water to get the demons out.

I’m telling you, this October is weird.

With my house randomly redecorating itself and the sky always dripping a strange wet substance, it took me a while to get into the spirit of Halloween. But finally, it got into me. I decided if October was going to be weird, I was going to be weirder.

So one night, when it stopped raining for a few hours, I went out into the front yard and started setting up a cemetery (because there’s nothing creepier than seeing your neighbor hammering tombstone stakes in the dark).

It turned out pretty well. Except for these folks…

Once the yard was sufficiently creepy, I decided I couldn’t let my ruined hardwood floors ruin my Halloween indoors*, so we got a new roommate, and he livened things up a lot.

Now I’m ready for my favorite holiday, and I have the empty candy wrappers in my trash can to prove it. The yard is decorated, the house is decorated, and my costume is coming together. There’s only one thing left to do: decorate my blog.

Expect a few treats headed your way over the next week. Better late than never.

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* I swear I did not realize that rhymed until after I wrote it.

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!”

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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.

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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…)

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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.