Friday, March 26, 2010


So usually obsessive-compulsiveness is cute or quirky. Someone counts something strange, or washes their hands repeatedly, or has a set of routines they have to do along with a task. I just spent 6 hours bleaching my kitchen and bathroom because of one cockroach. This might seem like overkill to most people, but last night I tried desperately to sleep and couldn't because I could imagine that solitary roach wandering around in my house, helping himself to the contents of the cabinets, pooping wherever he wanted. So I cleaned.

The result is an exhausted girl, some wicked dishpan hands, and my mind now coming up with places I might have missed.

I should mention that this little compulsive bout didn't extend to any other rooms in the house (trust me they're on my mind too), although Bart - always my saviour - vacuumed with vicarious obsession in the other rooms in the house and cleaned just as long with me.

Just before I sat down I saw a paint chip on the door frame that looked like a bug and the hair on the left side of my neck stood on end... just the left side. It wasn't a bug after all, just old house, I'm probably just hallucinating from the fumes, or the fact that they're on my mind.

Little disgusting pervert squatter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You've got to be kidding me!!

So I think we're all aware that I'm in a pretty fragile state after the squirrels and the dilemmas they pose. The squirrels that I am still afraid to trap because they are so small and wild.

I've been working from home for fear the squirrels will chew through wiring and start a fire, since this house is a big tinderbox waiting to go up at any moment. If I wasn't home and something happened to the cats I'd never be able to forgive myself.

Today, I woke up a little late and had to start the marathon conference calls first thing. I decided I'd grab a shower when I had a break long enough. Finally after 5, I had a breather and started the hot water. I couldn't help the feeling that I was being watched. I have a set of obsessive checks I do before I get in the shower when I'm home alone... making sure there is no one hiding behind the shower curtain, obsessively cleaning my toothbrush, checking the drain for bugs (I once lived in an apartment with no p-trap on the shower drain and all kinds of things would stumble in).

Today, the coast was clear so I stepped up into the shower. I still had a nagging sense that I was being watched, so much so that at one point I got a chill up my spine. I looked through the shower curtain at the window, no one there. I looked out into the hall, no one there. Both cats were sleeping. Must be my paranoia. I was just about to rinse my hair when I looked up...

The house has had several bathroom incarnations, including a built in shower enclosure that the previous owner removed and replaced with our claw-foot tub. He was a little lazy and didn't replace the ceiling tiles and as a result we have some ugly ones and a little gap in one spot where the false wall used to be. The ceilings are 10 feet high and are usually blissfully unimposing and airy.

You can imagine my horror when, while scanning the room, I noticed the source of the creepy feeling, and it was coming from above me.

In the little gap left from the remodel, about 5 feet about me, watching me shower, the owner of a pair of antennae lurked in the shadows. A peeping tom cockroach. I shrieked and dropped the conditioner bottle. I was terrified that at any minute he would become mobile and crawl or fall or worse - fly - closer to me and I still had to wash my face which meant for a few seconds I would have to close my eyes. I finished my shower with haste, jumped out of the tub and stood in the hallway dripping wet and completely terrorized. I could still see his antennae moving around, little pervert.

I called the pest control company and they'll be back out Friday. Looks like Bart needs to go up a ladder again, this time to close that hole.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Religious Tolerance

One of my personal goals is to acheive tolerance in all facets of my life. Tolerance for people with whom I disagree, tolerance for people who are not like me in stature or background, and tolerance for those who believe differently about the origins of the universe.

I have tried very hard to accept all groups without judgment, smile politely and try to see their point of view, but today... I have found a religion I simply cannot tolerate.

He follows his deity around, wherever it goes, basking in the apparent glow... He makes his entire day's schedule around moments where he can glimpse this deity. It's impossible to get him to be anywhere else if he's going to worship. This practice is really testing my patience. I need him in one place, you can bet he is worshipping in another... sometimes, he goes to worship and his deity doesn't even appear! Yet he waits quietly and patiently for the chance to sit at the deity's feet and receive the warmth.

My cat, Enzo, is a sun-worshipper. In true ancient egyptian form, he follows the sun around the house every day, practicing little rituals to soak up as much as he can. He starts in the front window, then he moves to the bedroom close to noon. He saunters to the laundry room mid-afternoon and spends the end of the daylight with the orchids in the dining room. If you need him during this time, forget it.. he can't be bothered to appear anywhere else unless it's raining outside.

Today, as the sun moved to the west for the evening, Enzo literally cried out for me to open the blinds so he could see his beloved. I resisted in my intolerance, but he is extremely devoted, persistent, and annoying.

I'm sad to say I will not achieve my personal goal of tolerance today, because I just cannot take this kind of extremism in my home.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sticky Notes

I attended a training class today that has me writing time management tips down on sticky notes and posting them around the house. I had thought about interspersing random words with them so Bart would have to look at one on the bathroom mirror that says Conquer Procrastination and one on the refrigerator that says Shave the Cats.
I decided against it since I can't come up with a decent response for when he asks "What does shaving a cat have to do with time management?"

Can't Sleep

What's the difference between a tickle and a chill? Depth... And impact.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Squirrel Saga, Chapter 2

So I was just settling in last night after finishing the post-process on a recent photo shoot (a little victory), had my dvr queued up and ready to watch Brothers and Sisters when I heard a scratching noise behind the bed.

We located both of the cats, and they were curious too. Soon, Tungsten became less curious and more petrified with fear and hid underneath the bed.

It was definitely coming from under the house, not the attic (squirrel central), which Bart and I thought was very odd. He has sealed up a number of the holes to the crawlspace since we found evidence that a cat was living under there. We figured something must have found a way in and was now trying to get out... scratching wildly at the crawlspace door, which - incidentally, is directly beneath me where I sleep.

We both dressed and prepared for critter battle and went outside to open the door. Bart is a little more comfortable with the idea of pest control than I am, but not a killer by any means. He graciously opened the door so I wouldn't have to confront the varmint head-on, but we were both prepared to run. I should mention that I was standing outside in a stiff wind with an old-lady flowered housecoat on, a head-lamp, no socks and clutching a ragmop for protection. Bart had assured me the handgun I suggested would not be necessary.

You might be wondering why a cruelty-free vegetarian pacifist would want to bring a handgun out to meet the wildlife under the house. It seems like overkill, I know, but to me, bludgeoning some creature to death with an ineffective instrument prolongs their suffering. I'd rather just end it quick if that's what has to happen. I once watched my dad kill a rat with his bare hands when it startled him in the cat food bag. Not because he was a ninja, or Rambo, but because there were no appropriate implements around. He was upset for a long time that he didn't have a more humane - and less violent - way to end the fight. I still think of that rat and his suffering. I also cry during nature films when the predator violently kills his prey, but I digress... back to the crawlspace.

Bart opened the door to the crawlspace, a much bigger area than usual underneath our 94-year old house. I readied my ragmop for the fray... and nothing. There were no animals under my bedroom. We could still hear the desperate scratching from the opening, but now it seemed to be coming from above.

Bewildered, we went back into the house, leaving the door open to the crawlspace in case the little guy was indeed in there somewhere. Bart went up into the attic to see if one of our nemesis squirrels had fallen into a wall cavity. The way the house was built, many of the walls are open on the top or bottom and you can see inside the void. I should mention at this point that these are the moments I am so thankful to be married. Sure, I could muster up the courage to venture into the attic after a rodent with claws and teeth. I might even be able to knock it unconscious without passing out myself, but Bart went up instead because he loves me. I am also thankful that he can handle the breakdown I had right about the time he went up the ladder.

"I can see where it fell", he shouted down from above the bathroom. The critter had fallen down into the cavity where the sewer vent pipe comes through the attic. This meant that it was trapped in the wall, and if we didn't do something, it would be buried alive in my house and scratch until it died right behind where I sleep. I imagined the little guy scratching the inside of his coffin while a foot away I was lounging in my pj's. I would likely require years of therapy and medication to get over that... and I still might with what happened.

We started to think of ways we could saw a hole in the wall and free the unseen creature. A wall stud very close to the vent stack meant there was a very narrow cavity he had fallen into, and we would likely injure him trying to cut a hole in the floor beneath where he was. We stood in the bathroom listening to him scratch, trying to come up with a solution. It was now nearly 3 am, I was exhausted from the night of squirrel partying the night before, and running out of problem solving power. My OCD had taken over at this point, and I was obsessing over the squirrel's plight to an incapacitating degree so the details of our search and rescue operation are a little fuzzy from here. I know Bart went back under the house to make sure we couldn't access the wall cavity. I stood guard with my ragmop. We heard the scratching still, each little tear of its little claws making my blood pressure and my migraine (which I had wrestled with all day) more critical.

Unable to find any more structural clues, we went back into the house. Bart listened to the wall in several spots trying to hear where the critter was and then... stopped.

The wall fell silent. In fact, the whole house was silent. My "fearless" grey cat slinked out from under the bed where he had been hiding, the wind calmed outside, and there were no sounds in the house.

Bart gave me a hug, and exhausted we crawled back into bed. Of course I wasn't satisfied with the outcome, since I hadn't seen the creature to safety. For all I know he might still be behind my headboard. Bart thinks he must have crawled back out of the void. I guess it could be true, squirrels can climb anything, right? This wasn't good enough for me though, and I spent another 2 hours in migraine agony, unable to sleep for the visions of trapped animals and the overwhelming sense of panic and claustrophobia I was vicariously feeling. Mercifully, I finally fell asleep.

I have worked from the bedroom all day, and heard no more signs of life from within the wall. I hope he made it, but only time and smell will tell. Until then I'll just have to obsessively worry and wonder if something is suffering very nearby.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tiffany got a new friend

The Lipsetts are the proud parents of 6 mason bees... We watched as one crawled out of hibernation to nibble on some pollen. He started out covered in white fur and ended up with orange all over. For a moment he didn't seem like a scary stinging insect.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I was compelled to join Facebook by the strange and powerful force that consumed my house this afternoon.

I was working quietly in the bedroom when the sleeping cat at my feet perked up his ears. My next breath choked as a thrashing sound came from the back of the house and I ran to see what the noise could be. The trees outside were whipping wildly with a sudden gust of wind, but I couldn't see anything to blame for the noise. I disarmed the alarm, unlocked the back door and ran outside in my sock-monkey slippers.

After looking around the strange scene for a few seconds, half expecting a green-faced witch to cackle down at me as a twister dispatched my house to Oz, the other half thinking my slippers might sprout wings and fly off with the house instead. I looked up in case the witch thing was right, and noticed a little squirrel face looking back at me from a knothole near the eave of the house. The squirrel's head was barely smaller than the hole it poked out of. It snickered at me from inside my cozy house.

I went back inside, amused, and emailed Bart that we needed a trap. I went back to work.

For the next hour, the cats chased the sounds in the ceiling. Tungsten ran from front door to back nervously. He stopped every other time through to nervously nibble the shower curtain before darting back down the hall. The noises grew louder and soon a symphony of knocks and bumps were coming from the attic, accompanied by a rhythmic pit-pat of an anxious tomcat below. The concerto climaxed with a sudden frenzy of bumping and several gunshots from down the street. The cat made only one more nibble-lap through the house before settling down in a window, pensive.

Bart came home and I dispatched him up the ladder to look for the squirrel. It had been hours since the cats and I heard signs of life. He found a nest near another opening in the front of the attic space. Thinking that the birds would be trapped there after he closed the opening to the outside, he decided to move the nest. Armed with a head lamp and cardboard box, he poked at the pile of grass and was startled to see it move. A pair of eyes met his gaze... then... another.

Not only is one squirrel in my attic, but he's moved his whole family in there. And they've been there long enough to get comfy.

Why did the squirrels just now get our attention?
How did they get past the supersensitive cat ears for this long?
Why was my Friday afternoon interrupted by this cacophony?
Did I suddenly break a new plane of consciousness allowing me to be more aware of my surroundings and the living beings around?
And did the cat transcend as my companion, at once becoming more human as I became more animal?
Would this new consciousness make living in the house harder for us with a new set of distractions - previously ignored?

I'm not sure what I witnessed today. The cat is still a nervous wreck and we have a family of rodentia to relocate. I have moved on to worrying for the well-being of the squirrels upstairs.

Will they be able to get out for food? We just trimmed the tree that was allowing them in.
Will they suffer without food or water until we can move them?
Will they chew through the ancient wiring in my 94-year-old attic?
Would they start a fire and hurt themselves or us?
Was the first noise I heard the driving instinct of a tiny parent willing themselves through an impossibly small hole in dangerous wind to feed its young - desperately clawing through a tiny opening, compelled by nature to break its own plane of consciousness and adapt to its environment?

It's quiet now, except for the normal sounds. Or is it only me who is quiet and normal again? If I listen hard enough I might be able to hear the squirrels moving and convince myself they will be alright until we can get them down.

Seemed like a good time to plug myself in with the rest of the collective and listen.