Bad boys

max_und_moritz

On Saturday night, I spent time with my reciprocally adopted five-year-old grandson Cooper. It was getting late, and I couldn’t find Charlotte’s Web, so I grabbed a German children’s book.

We snuggled on the couch, and I opened to the first page. Suddenly, I realized that I was about to expose this innocent child–who got so scared by Finding Dory that we had to leave the movie theater–to unimagined levels if mischief that do not end well.

“Cooper,” I said, trying to prepare him. “This book is about bad boys. Very bad boys.” At this, Cooper hopped off the couch, walked over to the Amazon Echo on the kitchen table, and said, “Alexa, play bad boys.” And Alexa did!

Theme song established, I began translating Max und Moritz for Cooper.

“Max and Moritz tied strings into an X, then tied delicious morsels to the end of the strings and left them out for the Widow Bolte’s chickens to find and eat. When they did, it tied the chickens to each other like a string of fish, and in their panic, they wrapped themselves around the branch of a tree. The hens laid one last egg, and then they all died.” 1-10

“The Widow Bolte cried when she found her chickens dead, but decided to roast and eat them. Max and Moritz smelled the chicken roasting, climbed up on the her roof with fishing poles, caught the chickens with hooks, pulled them up, and ate them.”

2-05

“The Widow Bolte blamed her dog, Spitz.”

2-09

“Next, Max and Moritz nearly sawed through a bridge, then taunted Taylor Böck from the other side. He came after them, the bridge broke, and Taylor Böck plunged into the water.”

3-06

“After that, Max and Moritz put gunpowder in Teacher Lämpel’s pipe.”

4-03

“The pipe exploded the next time he lit it.”

4-09

“Then, Max and Moritz put bugs in Uncle Fritz’s bed.”

5-13

“The boys broke into a bakery, fell into a bin of flour, fell into a vat of dough, and the baker kneaded them up and baked them. Somehow they survived being baked, chewed themselves out, and escaped.”

6-15

“After that, Max and Moritz cut Farmer Mecke’s sacks of corn, which made the grain run out. But Farmer Mecke caught Max and Moritz, put them in a sack, took them to the miller, and asked him to grind them up. The miller did.”

7-09

“And his geese ate up what was left of Max and Moritz.”

7-12

The end.

There was a moment of silence. I thought perhaps I’d traumatized Cooper. This was like no children’s book anyone has ever read to him.

“Again! Again!” he said excitedly, hopped off the couch, told Alexa to play Bad Boys, and snuggled in for a second round.


Max und Moritz was written by Wilhelm Busch and published in 1865. It has been read to generations of German children (including myself), who did not resort to lives of crime.

Go figure.

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Recovering from emotional bankruptcy

Grief, by Kris Wiltse, for the Mixed Emotions card deck

Last Tuesday, while my son was at his father’s over spring break, I broke down. I came home from work, crawled into bed and cried, fell asleep, woke up, and then cried some more. My eyeballs felt like unhusked chestnuts from weeping, and I felt utterly depleted emotionally. It was a good thing it happened while my son was gone, because if he’d been home, I would’ve made it about him, somehow.

The problem? Maybe it’s the hormonal train wreck of my son’s adolescence and my menopause. Maybe it’s matters of the heart. Maybe it’s because I not only parent my son alone, but have started Whidbey CareNet, a nonprofit organization that provides free care for a hundred or more emergency responders on Whidbey Island. Maybe it’s because I have a 30+ hour-a-week day job, as well as two businesses (the Writer’s Refuge and Heron Lake Press) in addition to the nonprofit. Maybe it’s the fact that in providing care for a lot of people, I completely neglected to care for myself.

In any case, I had a week to pull myself together. Fortunately, several Whidbey CareNet providers have “grandmothered” me in and extend free care to me, even though I’m not an emergency responder. I received free craniosacral therapy and counseling, then went to a naturopath, who gave me a vitamin IV and prescribed supplements as well as dietary changes. I also spent time with three friends who make me feel nourished, one of whom offered me some CDs about the law of attraction.

I’ve been bah-humbugging the law of attraction since going through one of the most painful periods in my life several years ago, but I love my friend, so I took the CDs she offered. As I began to listen to them, I was reminded that when we feel good, it’s easier for good things to find their way to us. I had completely forgotten this, and made feeling good a higher priority.

When I awoke the next morning, I could barely walk. It was incredibly painful to put weight on my left ankle, even though I hadn’t injured it. An EMT friend checked it out, but it wasn’t a break or sprain. It felt like someone had taken the bones of my foot out, shaken them up in a paper bag, and then done a bad job of reassembling them.

I committed myself to feeling good that day anyway. We headed to the home of friends for Easter–friends I enjoy spending time with, and whose family I feel privileged to be part of. They lent me a pair of crutches to make it easier get around.

Then my son and I went to see a movie at our small-town theater, which is one of our favorite things to do together. When we purchased our tickets, we were told to hold on to the ticket stubs, because there was going to be a drawing for six dark chocolate truffles made by a local chocolatier. I knew those truffles would be mine, and I was right. They were a cosmic wink that let me know the law of attraction was working.

When I went home, I looked up “ankle” in Louise Hay’s Heal Your Body and learned that “Ankles represent the ability to receive pleasure.” Surprised? I wasn’t.

The next morning, I woke up in no pain whatsoever and was able to take a two-mile walk with a friend that afternoon.

Point made. Point taken. Thank you, Universe.

Damsels, distress, and ethics

Like any young damsel in distress, I always dreamed that a knight on a white horse would rescue me someday. Didn’t matter what the distress was. Maybe it was my night to do dishes. Maybe I forgot to do my homework. Maybe my siblings were especially annoying that day.

Fast-forward to today, and I am actually experiencing real, grown-up distress. As always, I dream of being rescued and relieved of my burdens. But for the first time, I realize that it’s completely unethical to allow anyone to do it.

When you’re a damsel in distress, you’re in it for the rescue, not the knight. And that’s not fair to any man.

So I sent the knight away.

Oh, rats!

Why? Why, with the Great Outdoors at their disposal do rodents set up housekeeping under the hood of my car and decide that electrical wiring is just the best thing they’ve ever tasted? More than $500 dollars later, we don’t call it “the car” anymore. We call it the “rat buffet.” As in, “Adrian, get in the rat buffet.”

I found no help for this problem online, so thanks to the helpful hardware man at Ace, I submit the following procedure for the general good of humankind.

How to keep rats from eating your car wiring

  1. Go to your local hardware store and purchase the following:
    A roll of twist-tie material. This is usually green, and you can find it in the gardening section.
    A box of RatMax Mini-Blocks by Enforcer.
    If you don’t have a pair of rubber gloves, get a some of those, too.
  2. Open your hood.
  3. Cut off a piece of twist-tie material, oh, say, a foot long.
  4. Put on your rubber gloves.
  5. Take a block of RatMax, and thread the twist-tie through the hole in the middle. Give the twist-tie a few turns right above the block to keep it from moving moving along the plastic-coated wire.
  6. Now, fasten it to a spot under the hood that won’t interfere with the workings of your engine. If you’re unsure about where to put it, ask a mechanically inclined friend or your mechanic.
  7. Hang two to four blocks of RatMax and monitor them regularly.
  8. When you discover that rats have nibbled one block away, replace it. The manufacturer of RatMax sys to “Maintain a constant supply of fresh bait for 10 days or until signs of rat activity cease.”

I now have rat poison hanging under my hood like Christmas tree ornaments, and the good news is that the rodents have been eating it. I typically avoiod getting into an adversarial relationship with nature, but this? This is WAR.

Having rats eat my car wiring feels frustrating and disgusting, which is how my “internal guidance system” let’s me know that I need to do something about it.

Frustrated Disgusted

Kris Wiltse’s illustrations for the “Frustrated” and “Disgusted” cards from the Mixed Emotions card deck.

The extremely high price of not following my feelings

Not being an artist, I knew I’d have to hire one to illustrate each card in the Mixed Emotions deck (there are 60). At the time, a friend of my former husband’s was just beginning to represent an artist who appeared to be quite talented. Though I had misgivings about working with him, I convinced myself that what was best for Mixed Emotions wasn’t necessarily what was best for me.

The contract with the artist was set up in a way that enabled him to receive a monthly income while dedicating himself fully to my project for a year. Over time, it became more and more evident that he wasn’t going to deliver. By the time I finally pulled the plug, I’d paid him more than $50,000, which, of course, I never got back.

I learned a couple things:

  1. When I have misgivings about something, I don’t talk myself out of them anymore.
  2. I needed to be the one to determine how each card was illustrated, not the artist. Which means that I needed to tell the artist what grief looks like. I needed to tell the artist what exhaustion looks like, and so on.
  3. To do that, I’d need to brainstorm with a very creative group of friends. More on that later.

I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about losing that much money. Imagine how I must feel writing about it.

Embarrassed*

Embarrassed. Really, really, really embarrassed.

May this cautionary tale, and the very existence of Mixed Emotions, prevent you from making the same mistake.

*Kris Wilste’s illustration for the “Embarrassed” card from the Mixed Emotions deck.