Drama in the backyard

I was working here at my desk, next to an open window, when I became aware of frenetic activity in the yard below. A split second later, another fact penetrated my brain fog: squeaking/screaming.

I jumped up and looked outside. Emma had a squirrel in her mouth. More shrieking (this time, from me).

Fast forward to Emma inside with me while Zebu went outside to check on the condition of the squirrel. He found it, alive, but motionless. It then took off running for the fence. Zebu came back inside to give the shocked animal some space. As we watched from the window, the squirrel tried climbing the six-feet-tall wooden fence. The bundle of fur made it halfway and then dropped to the ground. We agonized for the squirrel.

And then Zebu’s brain kicked in.

“That’s not a squirrel. It doesn’t have a tail.” Pause. “That’s a prairie dog!”

We were SO happy! The “squirrel” wasn’t failing to climb the fence because it was injured, it was failing because it wasn’t a fence-climbing creature!

Zebu leaned a timber against the fence for the prairie dog to use as a ramp. Didn’t work. He then opened the gate that lets out onto the wild hillside behind our house. Unfortunately, the prairie dog ran past the open gate, multiple times, and tried climbing the fence at the other end of the yard.

By then, Zippy was home. He and Zebu tried “herding” the frantic prairie dog to the gate. It was pretty stressful for everyone. Obviously, it was most stressful for the poor prairie dog.

He hunkered down and froze in front of Zebu. Right after I caught this shot, I was enlisted to help with the herding. By the time I put on shoes and got outside, the prairie dog made one more sprint.

This time, he went out the gate!

The three of us celebrated the liberation and apparent good health of our visitor, and wished him a safe return to his burrow (wherever that might be). Some days (and today is most definitely one of those days), it’s important to embrace the roles we play in setting things right on our little patch of the planet.

 

Thankful Thursday: Zebu’s Big Adventure edition

Last August, my 20-year-old son left for Uppsala, Sweden. He lived and studied there for two semesters. As I write this, he is flying back to Colorado. His study abroad adventure is nearly over. (The adventure continued up to the last minute: He and nine other passengers were caught in a long, passport line and arrived at their gate just after it closed, so Iceland Air stopped the plane  out on the runway and had a bus deliver Zebu and the other nine passengers to the plane.)

Zebu in Stockholm when we visited in May.

Over the past several months, Zebu has said that his study abroad experience has been the best year of his life. It didn’t start out so well.

When he arrived in Uppsala, he discovered that TSA had locked his suitcase. Half his belongings, including his raincoat, were inside. He paid a taxi driver way too much to drive him into the city and then spent an entire rainy day hauling the 50-pound suitcase around the cobblestones, trying to get it unlocked. Kind people in luggage stores tried different keys, with no success. Someone finally directed him to a shoe repair store where the man cut the locks off the suitcase.

Zebu later confessed that that day, as he struggled with language barriers, a lack of wifi, hunger, and jet lag, he wanted nothing more than to turn around and fly back home.

Obviously, he’s very glad he stayed. And here he is in May, standing outside that shoe repair store.

I asked to see that store when we visited, because it felt symbolic. I was privy (via phone call and texts) to his frustration and panic as he couldn’t get his suitcase open, and tried to help from my end. He ended up finding his own solution. And ten months later, a confident young man is returning home after the best experience of his life.

For that, I am very grateful.

 

 

 

To smile, or to stab — that is the question

Today is the day, I thought. Today, the photo of me with the Stabby bus will make its blog debut. (The image was captured our first day in Uppsala. Zebu spotted the bus coming up the street, and I quickly handed off my phone and posed next to it when it stopped. Those who know me well know that I quite frequently “feel stabby,” which is why I was thrilled when Zebu captured the original Stabby bus image for me.)

Today is one of those “I’m feeling stabby” days. So I went back and found the photo.

Huh? That woman does NOT look as if she’s feeling stabby. She’s smiling, happy, and, aside from the claw-like curve to her right hand**, looks pretty damned relaxed. Not at all stabby.

I almost gave up on today’s stabby theme. And then it hit me: this photo is perfect for today’s post. Why? Because the reason for my stabby feelings is that I’m struggling with two characters’ friendship in the opening pages of my new project. I’m struggling to smooth out their interactions so as to establish their relationship and character arcs, and suddenly, it feels as if the first 60 pages are a steaming pile of mixed messages.

So what better photographic representation of mixed messaging than this photo of the smiling me next to the Stabby bus?

HA! I’m suddenly feeling slightly less stabby.

** me simulating holding a pointy object in preparation of stabby motions.

Day 9: Almost home

We got up at 5:30 this morning, Uppsala time, and just barely caught the-bus-we-thought-was-a-train (when we purchased the tickets yesterday) to Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. From there we flew to Amsterdam. After promising that all checked luggage was our own and that no one had asked us to bring anything on the plane, we got on a packed plane. Our flight to Minneapolis took 7+ hours. Once in the airport, I got busted by the agricultural-sniffing dog for carrying an orange across the ocean. I relinquished the citrus and then we had to re-check our bags and go through security again because, you know, we could’ve spent that 7+ –hour flight filling our shoes with knives. We’re now sitting in a bar/restaurant, drinking local craft beer and eating fries while we wait for our flight to Denver.

It’s already been a loooong day, and there’s still miles to go.

Here’s a somewhat appropriate image from our last day in Stockholm:

Almost home.

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Day 8: Friday Haiku in three-part harmony

Our family is rich
so how did I end up with
this big onion head?
~ Tracy

This picture makes me
think little girls in dumb hats
is super cool shit.
~  Zippy

Children lose their smiles
pose for a picture; realize
head is an onion.
~ Zebu

(NOTE: Despite the no-talking rule as we composed our haikus, mother and son both went the onion route. Nature or nurture, hmm?)

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Day 7: Biking the river in Uppsala

This afternoon, Zippy and I took the train from Stockholm to Uppsala where Zebu has been studying for two semesters. He took us on a walking tour of the university town where I was thrilled to see evidence of a phenomenon he’d described during one of our Skype sessions:
 Bikes in the river.

Thanks for making my day, anonymous bike-thrower!

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Day 6: Things I learned in Stockholm

An elevator (aka lift), is identifiable by a silent HISS:

This is a Western Jackdaw (image from pexels.com because those taken on my phone are poor quality). We kept hearing and catching glimpses of the bird yesterday, but weren’t sure what it was. Now we know. A Western Jackdaw!

It’s possible to walk a whole lotta dogs without any muss or fuss:

The National Library of Sweden has very nice toilets that are FREE to the public, plus nice statuary next to the entrance/exit:

Zebu, Zippy, and a very chill woman.

The last thing I learned? It’s WAY easier to take photos with my camera and download them to my laptop than to transfer between phone and computer . . .

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Day 5: In which we each take shots in Stockholm

Zebu took the train from Uppsala down to Stockholm after his class this morning. As he showed us around parts of the city, we took turns with the various cameras. Here’s a picture of Zippy and Zebu (lower right corner), walking and talking:

A few minutes later, we passed two young employees standing outside a toy store, blowing bubbles to attract customers:

Zebu then took this photo of Zippy and me beneath one of the regional pink-blossomed trees I’ve been admiring since we set foot in Amsterdam:

And here’s Zippy’s final shot as we headed home on the metro:

It was an absolutely beautiful day in Stockholm and while Zebu confessed to wishing we’d experience one of the colder/grayer/wetter days he’s grown accustomed to, he didn’t begrudge us the warm sunshine.

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