Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The One About the Rabid Raccoon…

Once upon a time my friend Shannon went to church.

Her daughter didn’t feel well and her husband was tackling some house projects.

As Shannon was singing along in worship, she noticed her neighbor was calling her.

She texted her back stating she was in church and then turned her phone off.

Shannon felt a peace and intention about being at church.

Like she was supposed to be there.

And not in a legalistic sense.

As she was driving down her street after the service, she noticed two cop cars in front of her house.

Her neighbor, baby stroller in tow, was in her front yard.

As Shannon approached him he said,

“Well, it’s over now.”

Not. Comforting.
Or even remotely explanatory.

I’m not sure if I have all this completely straight and in the right order, 

but at some point Shannon ran inside to find her daughter pretty shaken up saying,

“Six times! They shot it six times!”

It’s important to mention also that they have 
a brand new puppy named Rowan.

Shannon was able to locate Rowan with her daughter safely inside.


She went back outside to her neighbor just in time to see two cops carrying a body bag down her driveway.

One cop still had a gun in his hand pointed down by his side.

I imagine smoke was still coming from it.

Even if it wasn’t,  
I still imagine it.

A car slowly drove by as all this was happening.

Shannon wondered to herself what that person in the car was thinking had happened in her backyard.

She didn’t even fully know yet herself.

Of course, I wondered if it was a human body bag. 
Which, OF COURSE, it was 
because this was the police not animal control.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

So Shannon went to find her husband and get the full story.

He reminded her of their coffee time earlier that morning when they saw a raccoon in their backyard.

Raccoons are NOT a normal presence in our neighborhood.

And they are nocturnal.

Shannon’s husband, noticed right away that the raccoon was acting erratically.

As Shannon was leaving for church he was calling animal services only to find out our town got rid of animal services.

He was told to call the police.

Shannon’s other neighbor (the one who called her during church) was helping her husband track the whereabouts of the rabid raccoon.

After the police arrived, 

made sure all the neighbors were safely inside 
and the raccoon was cornered, 

they took their aim at the varmint. 

Just then, Shannon’s husband received a call from the neighbor lady.

She pointed out that the raccoon was right on the location of their buried gas line.

One missed shot could puncture the line.

He was able to get the cop’s attention and ran out to explain the situation.

The puppy, Rowan, decided to follow him into the backyard.

The next thing you know, the rabid raccoon and the puppy Rowan are inches apart in a full-on stare-down.

Shannon’s daughter screamed and Rowan ran to her.


With everyone back inside and away from the gas line, 
the police fired at the raccoon.

Apparently, raccoons don’t freeze with their paws up when a gun is pointed at them, 

at least not rabid ones, 

because the police missed.

A few times.

Raccoons must be cagey when they are slipping into madness.

Six shots later the problem was solved.

Shannon’s church isn’t far from her home 
but blessedly out of ear shot.

In my mind I see the juxtaposition of her sitting peaceably in church being enriched in her spirit, feeling close to the Lord, while ALL HELL was breaking loose in her backyard.

I can almost hear the music montage of the movie version.

And that’s a movie I’d pay to see.

When Shannon called to tell me the story we laughed that this sounded like something I would be telling HER because, rabid raccoons in the backyard?

That totally sounds like a Hartranft story.

And you know the raccoon would’ve bitten Monte. 
And the 1% chance of a human getting rabies from a rabid raccoon 
would’ve turned into a 100% chance for Monte.

I love God’s sense of humor.

But I love EVEN MORE that he spreads
 it around to multiple families.

And not just ours.

I got a text from Shannon later in the day after she’d told me "the one about the rabid raccoon.”

It said that the gas company had just spray painted all the areas in her backyard where the lines were buried for the fence that was going to be installed soon. 

Shannon said something to effect of,

“Wouldn’t that have been helpful to the police yesterday??”

Of course, I’m like,

“Did they ask about all the blood stains?”


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Favorite Online Workouts

I am not a good gym goer.

I get bored.


And I’m not super patient with waiting for a machine, 
a class to start 
or for the super sweaty guy to hurry up
and wipe off the bench.

For the love of Pete.

I’ve always been better at working out at home but after our basement flood last spring,

Monte asked that my exercise bike not come back in from the garage.

I loved that bike!

I knew I had to come up with a different exercise plan.

My brother told me that he’s been successful finding workouts online.

So I started an exercise board on Pinterest and downloaded (Ellie did it for me) some exercise apps onto my Apple TV and subscribed to a channel on YouTube.

I’ve been very happy with the variety I’ve found.

I can do something new every time if I want.

Whenever I want.

With no wait and no sweaty guys.


I did not get the benefits of a Smart TV when Monte was researching, shopping and explaining them to me.

I just nodded and looked interested.

But what I heard was:  Complicated. Expensive. Too much TV viewing. I have a computer, why do I need my TV to be another one?

It really wasn’t until I started these workouts that I got totally bought in.

That and being able to pull up clips from Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
We do that on a regular basis now.

I love being able to pull up YouTube on the big screen and search my Apple TV apps.

I can even listen to my workout play list.

I had McDaniel put that together since I. have. no. clue.

I don’t even know who sings the songs.

Maybe that’s for the best.

Here are some of my favorite online workouts:

• Zova

You can download the app Zova from the App Store onto your iPhone or Apple TV.

You can even coordinate your workout to your iWatch to monitor your steps and caloric burn.

You can do the free workouts or pay a fee to “unlock” some of the longer series of workouts.

Of course I don’t pay.

• Tracy Campoli

This is a shot of my laptop but I can bring her videos up through YouTube on the TV too.

I found Tracy through Pinterest and now I subscribe to her YouTube channel where she adds new workouts every week.

There is such an interesting variety of HIIT (high intensity interval training), cardio, yoga or just spot area workouts.

Tracy was a dancer and I love how she incorporates the discipline of movement into her workouts.

Who’s ever seen an out of shape ballerina?

Her videos are short and she instructs you on how many times to go through the workout or what other workouts to pair it with.

I usually do 3 or 4 at a time. And they are never boring.

And they never include Burpees.

Which I appreciate.

Her arm workouts are killer.

Light weights (sometimes none at all) but high repetitions.

My arms are noodles when I’m done!

• Pinterest

I have quite the Pinterest exercise board now.

I need to organize it by type:  abs, HIIT, cardio, yoga, arms, etc.

My iPhone does it automatically.

Does anyone know why that is so on my phone and not my laptop?

I found some great stair workouts.

Nigel thinks it is playtime city when I do the stair workouts and he hurls his tennis ball down at me usually when I’m exhausted and struggling to run up the stairs for the 75th (or 5th) time.

I do worry sometimes that the girls are going to find me after school 
at the bottom of the stairs 
where I’ve fallen and not been able to get up.

I’m sure Nigel will be right beside me with the tennis ball 
waiting for me to get up already and play.

For the love of Pete.

Nigel also loves to lick my face while I do planks or hike his bottom up in the air for rubs when I’m doing push ups or crunches.

Not super convenient but I’m hoping that just adds 
to the difficulty of the workout 
and thus my overall caloric burn.

These workouts on Pinterest pull from all kinds of sources. Some are magazine articles, some subscription services that will cost you if you want more workouts or videos.

But I’ve found plenty for free.

Like the Carrie Underwood thigh workout.

Which is TOUGH.

I’ve never seen my muscles shake like that before.

Some weeks I’ve been able to work out a ton and some, not so much.

But I definitely feel firmer and stronger.

Now, if I can just stop eating Gummy Bears and ice cream,

(not together, ew!)

I just might be bathing suit ready.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

5 Random Things

I can not believe it’s April already!

Mainly because it’s been cold and snowing.

We had the most amazing Easter weather and then BOOM!

Arctic blast.

Monte sent me a text that pretty much said something like April Snow = Relocation.

That man cannot wait to migrate South.

Now that I’ve complained about the weather, here are a few random things that have happened lately:

1)  Our Keurig coffee maker died. 

It didn’t go out quietly. There was lots of coughing and hacking and spewing. It would stop and I thought it was over and then it would trick me and make a few more cups. 

We had the very first model Keurig ever made. 

Ellie asked for it for Christmas 6 or 7 years ago.

She was still in elementary school.

We had been out West the summer before and one of the national park lodges we stayed in didn’t have televisions in the room but they had Keurigs. 

Ellie was fascinated with it. She’d take our orders the night before on a notepad and asked Monte to set the alarm so she could wake up early and make all our requests. 

She even put a hand towel over her arm as she delivered the cups of tea and coffee and hot chocolate like we were at the Ritz.

We’d had a good run with this Keurig. 

Armed with some research and a 20% off coupon, I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

I was confused by the models they had and sought out help.

I explained the situation to Bonnie and she asked me if we’d bought our original Keurig there. 

I couldn’t remember.
That’s back when I still had an elementary school kid!

She told me to go home, look at the serial number and to call her with it and she’d look it up. If they had carried that model, they’d let me “return it” and I’d pay the difference for the new one.


I did what Bonnie said and she told me to bring my old model in.

I picked Ellie up from track practice and we carried in the old machine (it was fitting Ellie was there since it was her Christmas present after all.)

I placed the old machine on the counter and went to get the new model I wanted to purchase.

The saleslady scanned it and told me I owed nothing.

Excuse me?


Not a penny.

She said it was an even trade-in.

That old machine had a smoker’s cough 
and only produced a half-cup of anything when it felt like it…
which wasn’t very often.

Ellie and I looked at each other pretty surprised.

It felt like we were stealing to walk out of the store having not paid a dime for something brand new.

There’s an entire sermon in that…

2)  Our girls are crazy brave. Or just crazy.

It’s track season. Both girls are running. McDaniel has had a fascination with pole vaulting for awhile now. Luckily, her coach last year took one look at her over 6 foot frame and said,


This year she decided to give it a try again and began to work out with the pole vaulters.

The coach asked them to do a series of cartwheels and to walk on their hands. McDaniel heard all that and said,


Thank. Goodness.

I’ve seen those girls pole vault.

Sometimes they fall back onto the pavement 
or bounce off the mat onto the grass 
or land on the bar on the mat in some pretty painful ways.

I would’ve watched her with a pit in my stomach
 and my fingers ready to call 9-1-1.

Then Ellie comes home with news that she wanted to start running hurdles.

I used to be a sprinter.

It’s great because it’s easy.

You see that line there? 
Stand behind it. 
When you hear GO run as fast as you can to that other line 
and stay in your lane while you do it.

Easy peasy.

But hurdles?

Hurdles complicate the whole easy nature of sprinting.

 The word hurdle means an obstacle. Something that is IN YOUR WAY.

You see that line there? 
Stand behind it. 
When you hear GO run as fast as you can, counting your steps 
and jump over that hurdle that’s in your way. 
If you mess up your steps 
or don’t jump high enough, 
you will knock over the hurdle and FALL DOWN. 
Try to fall down in your own lane so you don’t knock down another runner and disqualify yourself 
by being out of your lane.
Run to that other line.
If you make it.

It’s complicated!

And diabolical.

Luckily, Ellie hadn’t practiced hurdles enough to compete in that event at her first track meet.

I could barely watch and she wasn’t even running.

One girl fell on her face. 
Her face!

She got back up though and finished.

Another fell so hard that her shoe came off.

Her shoe!

All of us in the bleachers groaned for her.

There’s just no finishing a race 
when you have to retrieve your shoe from another lane.

I had a knot in my throat every stinking heat of the boys and girls hurdles event.

The boys jump an even HIGHER hurdle 
and most of those middle school boys are still 
MUCH SMALLER than the girls.

I’m not sure HOW I’m going to stomach watching Ellie.

Oh yeah, with a pit in my stomach and my fingers ready to call 9-1-1.

And lots and lots of prayer.

3) Monte isn’t always a great volunteer. 

As we were making our way across the field to watch Ellie throw the discus, an official grabbed Monte and another guy to hold flags to indicate that each leg of the upcoming relay race was ready.

Monte grabbed the two-flagged pole (one end had a red flag and the other a white flag) and walked off.

I offered to do it for him since I knew the event and how it worked.

I’m not sure he heard me because he walked to his post.

I stood by the official to watch the event. I was looking for Ellie when I heard the official say something under his breath.

I followed the official’s gaze to Monte who was twirling the flags like he was the half-time show.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Hard.

The official did not join me.

4)  McDaniel went to New York City.

The journalism and broadcasting students in her high school got to go on a class trip to the city. McDaniel had never been before.

They did some really cool things like movie tours, a behind the scenes tour of Saturday Night Live, film museums, a meeting at Sports Illustrated and Tumblr, being in the audience of The Today Show and in the studio audience of The View.

McDaniel’s the one in the floral jacket.

It was a great experience for her. I’m so glad she got to go. She learned so much.

She loved it but decided it would be tough to live there. Especially since she came back with shin splints from all the cement walking.

Check out this text exchange between her and I while she was there:

5) Monte is a 1 percenter.

It would take an entire book, which I WILL write one day, of all the legitimate reasons Monte deserves such a distinction or nickname.

I’ll sum it up by saying rare, unlikely things happen to him. Medical things that show up in the fine print that nobody reads, happen to him.

Things with a likelihood of 1%.

So on that note, it should come as no great surprise that Easter weekend, when Monte was mowing the lawn for the first time of the season, a large piece of bark mulch shot out of the mower and flew straight up his right nostril. Hard.

His natural instinct was to get the large piece of mulch OUT OF HIS NOSE. Yet, he still continued to mow.

I was preparing the food for Easter dinner inside as Monte tried to dig, blow and cough the large piece of mulch out of his right nostril ALL THE WHILE continuing to mow the lawn.

I did not know Monte had that kind of multi-tasking skills.

It was hours later, and with no little amount of blood, that Monte finally dislodged the mulch.

 A few days after that he woke up with a broken blood vessel in his right eye ball.

Monte Googled possible causes and found it could be from stress or sneezing too hard.

I didn’t ask, but my guess is the chances that his eye blew up from trying to blow out a piece of mulch that shot up his right nostril from the lawn mower are about…1%.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Alexander Hamilton On the Brain

Back in the Fall, we watched a 60 Minutes interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda about his new Broadway musical “Hamilton”.

As in Alexander Hamilton.

The guy on the $10 bill.

Lin-Manuel picked up a copy of an Alexander Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow several years ago before vacation.

He could not believe Hamilton’s story. He was so enthralled by it that he wanted to bring it to the stage.

Lin-Manuel actually Googled Alexander Hamilton FOR SURE that someone had already done a Broadway musical on him.

He was THAT memorized by the story.

As it turns out, no one had thought to take that to the stage.

So he wrote it.

Did I mention the musical is done in the style of rap and hip hop?

It’s so popular that it’s been sold out for many months.

Monte tried to get us tickets when we were in New York in November and he got laughed at.

McDaniel just got back from New York with her school and she entered a lottery every day to try to get tickets.

Never won.

Lin-Manuel’s enthusiasm and fascination with Alexander Hamilton is absolutely contagious.

McDaniel and Ellie have been listening to the Broadway soundtrack for “Hamilton.”

Ellie made the comment that it would’ve helped her on a history test 
if she’d started listening to the soundtrack just a little bit earlier.

A week before our spring break trip in March, Monte came home with the Alexander Hamilton biography.

It’s collegiate text book in size.

The bibliography alone is 100 pages.

I quickly read through the book that I had brought to the beach, so I picked this monster up.

I was hooked just a few sentences in.

Monte fought me for reading time.

We worked out a deal that we’d each read a chapter at a time and then discuss it.

Believe me, this is no fast read. 

Each chapter is like an entire class. There’s THAT much information. And action. And drama. 

It’s awesome!

The girls were thrilled we were reading the book so they could share the soundtrack with us.

Lin-Manuel crams so many facts in his songs that we felt like we could only listen to the songs as we reached the appropriate parts in the book.

By the end of spring break, we were only 100 or so pages into the biography and we’d only listened to the first song.

And we were dedicating a lot of time during the day to reading.

The book was so heavy that I started experiencing elbow pain from the weight of holding it!

We told the girls that they could only listen to the “Hamilton” soundtrack with headphones so that we could experience Alexander Hamilton’s life through the book.

They sang so loudly along with their headphones one morning that our hotel “neighbors” wanted to know “who the singer was” when we saw them them by the pool.

We tried to explain what the girls were singing and showed them our thick book but the message was received.

Pipe. Down. 

We let them sing their hearts out by the pool as long as we couldn’t hear them so we could read as fast as we could and then discuss what we’d just read.

I can only imagine what the other carefree, vacationers must’ve thought of us.

They were a mixed bag of folks:  French Canadians, Germans, a few upstate New York families and then the pool guy, Joe, from Boston, who Monte followed around everywhere (while it was my turn with the book) asking him important questions like,

“Whatcha doing now?”

“How long until the dune grass gets bigger?”

“You weed eating, Joe?”

But I kind of understand.

When we weren’t reading the book, we talked about the book.

Waiting for the other person to catch up to where we were was like watching. paint. dry.

Or watching Joe pour chemicals into the pool.

Now that we are back home, we haven’t had nearly enough time to read as we’d like.

We are only up to the second song on the soundtrack.

It’s funny how so many things around me remind me of the book.

I heard someone mention a college visit to Columbia University and I’m all like,

“Alexander Hamilton went there. But it was called King’s College back then.”

Or how my hair dresser yesterday was talking about a recent tour she took in New Orleans and how the French used the city area to house slaves.

“Thomas Jefferson orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase.
Alexander Hamilton was an abolitionist.”


I’m trying to be realistic on when I’m getting this over-700-page monster completed.

And by realistic I mean, not go into full-on bad mom mode 
and not cook, 
or shower 
until the book is done.

No. I will NOT do that.

This time.

So I’m thinking by July.

Monte is saying by NEXT July.
As in 2017.

But it did take him over 2 years to read “Team of Rivals."

This was a whopper of a book too.

There was some tense discussion as Monte left for out of town this morning as to who would get to keep the book.

I offered to buy another copy which did not appeal to Monte’s thrifty side,

“What? Are we MADE of money?”

So it was settled.

I kept the book.

I can’t wait to see what happens next…

I Can't Make This Stuff Up

If I could, I wouldn't be so surprised when crazy things happen. And they do. All the time. Much to my surprise. We went o...