Stunted Adults

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And A Snake Brings It All Full Circle

Last week, one of my co-workers told me, with eyes filled with terror and trauma, that she had seen a snake in her backyard.  She spun wild tales of snakes slithering amok all over our city and wanted to rally all of the exterminators to decimate these reptilian invaders.

I politely shook my head at the nerve of those pesky snakes and gently told her not to worry because, of course, they were just harmless little garter snakes.

Then I went all Jon Snow on her, telling her not to kill the obviously dangerous beasts in our midst because I am so noble, brave, and kindhearted.

There is no way this ends with anyone getting hurt….

But, much like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

NOTHING.

When I got home later that day,  I threw on some old cut-off jean shorts because I had to do some gardening and then, once I was done in the yard, I went inside and started cooking dinner.  Country Boy stayed out in the front yard to continue planting those bulk plants that I told you about back in March.  Yes, we are STILL planting them.  Country Boy and I have never met a project that we didn’t want to start and not finish.

A while later, Country Boy popped his head through the front door and asked for a glass of water.  I began preparing a glass of cold refrigerator water with ice to positively reinforce his decision to finish up the garden, but, before I could finish that artisan water cocktail, he stopped me and told me that warm sink water would be just fine.

I looked at him.

I knew I was about to ask a question to which I did not want to know the answer, but I just couldn’t stop myself.  I’ve never met a bad decision that I didn’t like.

So, I asked “What do you need the water for?”

He sighed, recognizing my error, and responded “To clean up all of the snake blood off of the driveway.”

I whispered, with eyes filled with terror and trauma, “Excuse me?”

And, he, with a barely suppressed eye roll, said “There was a snake, so I killed it with my shovel.  It got blood everywhere.  I just need to wash it off before it stains.  Relax.  It was just a harmless little garter snake.”

I said “Right.  That’s totally normal.  Here’s your snake-blood-cleaning water.”

After Country Boy went back outside, I took a few deep breaths and talked myself down off the ledge.  I reminded myself that snakes are living creatures that people keep as pets.  People also keep puppies as pets.  Ergo, snakes are totally the puppies of the reptile world.  And puppies are awesome.  So, snakes are awesome?  Logically, this was no big deal.

If a snake is good enough to be friends with Britney, then it’s certainly good enough for me.

All was well until I realized that I had BBQ chicken cooking on the grill.

The grill that was outside.

WHERE THE SNAKES LIVE.

And then I became like this guy, because snakes are not friends. SNAKES ARE NOT FRIENDS!

It was all terror and trauma up in my kitchen.  I did not want to go out in the backyard.

But, I also did not want to starve.

So, I took a deep breath and evaluated my options.

I quickly realized that there was only one option.  I had to go to the grill.

Apparently, my love of BBQ chicken trumps my fear of poisonous snakes.  It’s good to know that I have my priorities in order.

Maple-Mustard BBQ Chicken

There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no snake scary enough, to keep me from getting to you.

But, I’m not dumb.

So,  I armed myself with a rake just in case Mr. Dead Front Yard Snake was friends with Mr. Alive Back Yard Snake and his crew.  I also cracked a Coors Light because liquid courage is never a bad idea.

And that’s how I found myself wearing grass-stained jorts, swigging a cheap American beer, and grilling meats while fighting off vermin with a homemade weapon on a Tuesday night.

I am totally one small step away from having fox in a box in my freezer and from serving raccoon to my holiday guests

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My Very Own Kato Kaelin

Despite the fact that I have spent the past decade living a champagne and croissant fueled life in the heart of a major city, I seem to have all too regular run-ins with feral vermin, particularly those of the raccoon persuasion.

And this year is no exception.

A few months ago, Country Boy and his hapless but hilarious assistant (me) finally finished revamping our tiny backyard.  We managed to squeeze in a deck, an in-ground hot tub, and a covered porch that is the home to a gorgeous white outdoor couch.

photo (2)

This joint is straight up Shangri-La.

But, Shangri-La ain’t cheap, which means I have to drag my ass to work every day to pay for my little slice of paradise.

I came home from work earlier this week and wandered outside to get my zen on.  Sliding into that hot tub would make every argumentative telephone call and curt email melt away.

But, I immediately felt that something was amiss.

And then I saw it.

There were muddy prints all around the hot tub.  Around MY hot tub.

pawprints_by_pool

No.  NO.  NO!

I knew those paw prints.

I had seen them before.

They come with beady little eyes, a mask, and paws.

Ready for the catch

WHAT ARE YOU DOING BACK IN MY LIFE?!

WHAT?!

How in the hell was there a raccoon in my hot tub?

I live smack in the middle of a city, a tropical city no less.  While I do have a one-story house, it’s an urban house.  On every side of my house, there is another house within spitting distance.  There are high-rise buildings within walking distance.  There is no nearby forest filled with wildlife.  Hell, this place is barely hospitable to pigeons.

Yet, there were those unmistakable paw prints.

This raccoon had clearly packed a suitcase, took her last $200 and her record collection, and hopped a bus to make her way in the big city.

sherrie christian

Looks like someone watched Rock of Ages a few too many times.

But, then I turned around.

It was immediately apparent that I was not dealing with some sweet, misguided raccoon who was fresh off the bus from Kansas.

Oh no.

I was dealing with an entirely different sort of beast.

There were also paw prints all over my new white couch, eventually ending in a circle in the corner where the raccoon had decided to stretch out and assume her lounging position.

photo (3)

Apparently, this is a raccoon only VIP area.

You know what else was on my pristine, white couch?

A half-eaten avocado.

WHAT?!

Not only had this raccoon taken a dip in my hot tub and sprawled out on my couch, she had also managed to procure some local, organic produce for her afternoon snack.  Apparently, everyone knows that nothing pairs better with a day of leisure than some guacamole.

Raccoon eating avocado

Can someone pass me the cilantro?

And my little ‘buddy” did all of this while I was trapped in an office working hard to finance the entire operation.

I was clearly dealing with a professional.

The raccoon version of Kato Kaelin had moved into my backyard

The raccoon version of Kato Kaelin had moved into my backyard

How did this happen to me?!  How did I become both the sugar mama and the maid to a freeloading vermin of leisure?

I sat down on my violated couch to ponder how my life had taken such a turn.  After a few moments, a shocked gasp escaped my mouth.

I had a realization.

You know what a hot-tub lounging, guacamole-eating urban raccoon probably has?  An iPhone.

And, you know what an iPhone has? The Internet.

And, you know what the Internet has? My blog post from last Christmas about how I risked family scorn and exile, because I wasn’t willing to eat raccoon.

Kato the Raccoon apparently misinterpreted that as an open invitation to take up residence in my pool house.

Sorry, Kato the Raccoon, but you will not be the Ryan Atwood to my Seth Cohen.  You have got to go back to Chino right now!

Sorry, Kato the Raccoon, but you will not be the Ryan Atwood to my Seth Cohen. You have got to go back to Chino right now!

I always knew the Internet would ruin my life, but I just never expected its weapon of choice to be a feral woodland creature with a penchant for Mexican food.


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Death by Deer: A Tale in which I Save My Husband’s Life and He Doesn’t Appreciate It

A few years ago, my husband and I went hiking in Yosemite National Park.

Everything was glorious.

Yosemite

What could ever go wrong here?

We were just happily traipsing along in the woods when, suddenly, danger struck.

Deer 1

Danger! Striking!

I froze.

My husband, however, continued to move towards that wild beast with his camera at the ready.

Deer 2

Work it girl!

Panic filled my entire being.

I had no choice but to whisper “psssst!” at him with a tone of dire urgency.

He did not respond.

Deer 3

He just kept on taking pictures

Terror filled my entire being.

I whisper-pssted louder.

He did not respond.

I channeled my inner Tami Taylor and whisper yelled: “Get over here!”

He gave me an annoyed look and continued creeping towards the ferocious beast.

I was then faced with an existential crisis.

I had said more times than I could count that I loved my husband so much that I would do anything for him.  During drunken karaoke, I had publicly proclaimed that I would catch a grenade for him.


But I had never had to deliver on that promise.

Until now.

I had to decide whether I would take a charging deer hoof to the jugular for him.  I broke out into a cold sweat.  I frantically pondered what kind of person I wanted to be.  I imagined my life without him.  I imagined what death-by-deer felt like.  I imagined death.

Before I knew it, I was racing towards my husband.  I grabbed him and yanked him away from the deer.

After about one minute of that show, my husband wrenched himself free and asked: “What is wrong with you?”

I explained, triumphantly: “I saved your life!  I sacrificed myself to save your life! I caught a grenade for you!”

He responded: “I repeat, what is wrong with you?”

I said: “I repeat, I saved your life!”

He scoffed: “From what?  The wonder of nature?”

I responded, now questioning his mental capacity: “No!  From the deer!  Did you not see them?  You were going to die!”

He questioned: “Yet again, what is wrong with you?”

I exclaimed: “What is wrong with me?!  What is wrong with you?!  The deer was going to attack you! When deer see people they charge towards them and trample them!  You should never be outside with deer!  How do you not know that?  Didn’t you grow up in the country?”

He, between fits of laughter, exclaimed: “That would be amazing!  If deer ran after you, that would make hunting so much easier.  I could just go stand in the woods, give a yell, and we would have venison for dinner every night.  Deer!  Here deer!  Come on over tasty little deer!  Where did you get that idea from?”

I self-righteously lectured:  “From my mother.  All growing up she told me that I couldn’t play outside in the yard any time there might be deer around because they would attack and kill me.  It’s real.  First, they look at you, then they charge…”

Suddenly, all the pieces came together.

Deer do not attack and kill people.  My mother just didn’t want to go outside 20 times a day with her 3 rowdy children, so she told us the tale of the killer deer.  Once that tale of horror was seared into our little brains, she could shut down our never-ending whining about wanting to go outside when she was in the middle of something with a simple “not now, I just saw some deer.”

She probably assumed that her children were intelligent enough to figure out that the killer deer was a Santa Claus style farce by the time they reached double digits in age.   That was a highly inaccurate assumption.

I still get credit for catching a grenade for my husband, right?


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Family Vacations Turn Me Into John Belushi

My husband, Country Boy, has three younger siblings and we took each one of them on an international adventure while they were in college.

Sounds great, right?  A chance to create an awesome memory together and to bond as adults.

And, I’m such a good person for doing this for my in-laws, right?

Wrong.  Because, despite my best intentions, as soon as these trips began I turned into Bluto and these kids become my Delta Tau Chi pledges.

Bluto

The second I encounter an in-law while out of the country, this happens.

Seriously, I managed to accidentally haze them all.  And I hazed them hard.

My initiation ritual is the PinotNinja Death March (trademark pending).  Screw cotillions and bar mitzvahs.  In our family you aren’t an adult until you survive a brush with death on a mountain that was caused by your bungling wino sister-in-law.

First, there was Country Boy’s oldest younger brother.  Back in 2009, he was studying abroad in Geneva and we flew over to visit him. It was late October and we took a day trip to Montreaux.  It was lovely.

DM1

Just a nice afternoon relaxing by the lake while eating some crepes.

Not satisfied with my fancy foreign pancake, I decided that we HAD to get up close and personal with the Swiss Alps.  I had read about this great hike in a guidebook and the cog railroad that would take us 10 miles up the mountain to the trail head left from just down the street. Once off the adorable train, we would take a nice walk to the top of the mountain, check out an amazing view of the lake, and then catch the train back down.  I convinced Country Boy and his brother that it would just be a lovely afternoon jaunt.  No big deal.

When we went to buy our train tickets, the woman at the ticket booth asked me “Are you equipped for the mountain?”  Between the three of us, we had one Toblerone bar, one coat, three gloves, and no water, so my answer to that question, obviously, was “Yes.  We’re equipped.”  It was only October and we were all relatively fit people.  What could possibly go wrong?

We got off the train and everything was perfect.

DM2

Does it get any more Swiss than this?

But, then, about two miles into the hike, we encountered this:

DM3

Three people. One coat. Intermittent snowfall. Hmm….

And, then, we had to traverse this:

Crossing the "almost bridge"

It’s kind of a bridge?

After managing to survive the circus trick that was crossing that “bridge,” we shivered our way to the summit while bickering about who was hogging the jacket.  We then started to hike back down the mountain only to realize that we had missed the last train off the mountain for the night, it was starting to get dark, we were exhausted, and we were starving.  There was nothing on this mountain other than a few sleepy farms and we hadn’t seen a car or another person in about 6 hours.  So, we had no choice but to find a way down, which we knew was approximately 14 miles.  We spent the next two hours running down the mountain (thank you gravity), taking any trail or road we could find heading towards the lake, as the sun set in front of us.

We came skidding into Montreaux just as the sun dipped below the mountains on the other side of Lake Geneva.  We congratulated ourselves on not dying on a Swiss mountain and my brother-in-law promptly passed out from sheer exhaustion.

Opps.

I swore that I would not do this again.

So, when we went to Chile to visit Country Boy’s second younger brother last December while he was studying abroad, I researched a great hike to do ahead of time.  It was on our way back from ConCon (where we had already almost died), promised great views of both the Pacific Ocean and the highest peak in the Argentina, and how cool would it be for the three of us to do a hike in the Andes together.  A lifelong amazing memory, right?

Wrong.

The guidebook did say that this was one of the hardest hikes in Chile, but I didn’t believe it.  There was no way that could have been right, because it’s not like we were in Patagonia.  And guidebooks exaggerate all the time to make sure that couch potatoes and grandmas don’t end up in over their heads out in the wilderness.   But, we were young and fit.  This was going to be no big deal.

Plus, the trail map said that the hike was only 7 kilometers.  We could do anything for 7 kilometers.

DM7

We decided that there was no way that we were hiking to that cloud covered peak. That would just be ridiculous. We were very wrong. That cloud covered peak was exactly where we were headed.

At the outset, everything was cool.  The trail was a little steep, but we still felt totally under control.

DM13

Just a little walk up the side of the mountain. I knew hiking the Sendero Andinista trail would be no big deal.

And then this happened:

DM9

See that big slope of loose rocks? That was the trail. Apparently, they have not yet heard of safety first in Chile.

And then there was this:

DM10

The trail map said to just walk right on up this sheer rock face. Just right on up there. Is this a map for mountain goats?!

Luckily, at that moment a wave of fog rolled over the mountain.  This was lucky because we assuredly would have died trying to scale the rock face and because it also caused us to realize that we have been hiking for over 6 hours, still had not reached the summit, and the sun was starting to set.  Turns out that the trail was 7 km each way, not round trip, and because the terrain was so treacherous it had taken us forever to get up the mountain.  This was a critical error.

So, yet again, I had led everyone into a situation where we needed to run down a mountain, in a foreign country, to beat the onset of freezing darkness and death from strange international animals.  We made it down, just in the nick of time, but not before getting into multiple stress-induced screaming fights and sustaining multiple injuries (including a concerning amount of blood loss on my part when I tumbled down the side of the mountain and into a giant life-saving thorn bush).

Opps.  Again.

Last month, Country Boy’s younger sister was in Seattle for an athletic training camp, so we decided to meet her in Seattle and take her on an adventure to Vancouver and the San Juan Islands since she had never been out of the country before.

The third time is the charm, right?

Nope.

Not wanting to tempt fate, I opted out of doing any hiking while we were in British Columbia.  Just urban walks and bike rides for us.  Once back into the good old US of A, I figured that we were safe.

We were not.

We arrived on Orcas Island around noon and immediately hopped into kayaks and spent a couple of hours chilling with the harbor seals.  While on that delightful outing, I spotted a mountain.

You know where this is going.

After we got out of the kayaks, I consulted the trusty interwebs and it told me that we could do a great hike to the top of Turtleback Mountain in about 3 miles on an easy and well-groomed trail. While I was mapping out our route, Country Boy and his sister had found an ice cream shop and procured gigantic chocolate ice cream cones to eat for sustenance. Perfect!

And, at first, it was.

So idyllic.

So idyllic.

But then Country Boy’s sister got really quiet.  She muttered something about not feeling well, but it didn’t sound like it was serious.

And then shit got real.

Literally.

My poor sister-in-law got a panicked look on her face and said that she needed to get off of the mountain, and back down to the restrooms by where we parked the car immediately.  Turns out that kayaking for two hours, wolfing down a huge amount of dairy, and then briskly climbing a mountain was not an award-winning combo for her body.

So, yet again, we took off sprinting down a mountain while danger was imminent.

DM19

Just once I would like to walk down a mountain.

We didn’t make it down in time.

Opps. AGAIN?!

But, I couldn’t just leave it at that.  Making someone soil themselves wasn’t enough for me.

The next morning, we had some time to kill before our ferry back to Seattle.  I had read about a hike.  It was just 3 miles and only had a 200 foot elevation gain, so I dragged everyone to the trail with the promise that it would just be a “light morning walk.”

We started hiking and it seemed like we were going downhill at a pretty steep grade, but I confidently proclaimed that the trail would level out at any moment because the elevation change was so minor.  Because we were going downhill, we didn’t really realize how far and how fast we were going.  Then Country Boy checked his watch and realized that we needed to hustle because our ferry was leaving relatively soon.

We turned around and saw this:

DM15

Umm…We have to go back up that?! In a hurry?!

The three of us then spent the next 45 minutes hauling ass up the mountain.  We were sweating profusely. We were swearing.  We were grunting.  Our bodies were screaming in pain.  Our spirits were shattered. Once we made it back to the trail head, I realized that the sign said 1200 foot elevation change, not 200 foot.

Opps doesn’t even begin to cover it.

At least I never made anyone accidentally kill a horse?