BarbHendee.org

News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (www.NobleDead.org); author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

Most of Us Have Been a Raccoon in Winter

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A few years back, near dusk in late January, I saw something moving on our back deck, outside of our sliding glass door, and I realized it was a raccoon. She was a very thin female, with teats that suggested she’d recently given birth and was nursing babies. I knelt on my side of the door, and she slowly came up to me. Her eyes were so desperate. She was so hungry.

We live in a town with suburbs, and in winter, there is nothing for the raccoons to eat. On my computer, I looked up, “What is there for raccoons to eat in winter in the Pacific Northwest?” Every article gave the same answer, “Nothing. They normally lose a third of their body weight.”

 I grew up on a farm, with all the rules and regs (made for good reasons) about never feeding wildlife, but she was desperate. I got a bowl and filled it full of dry cat food. I put it out, and then I got her a bowl of water. She ate all the food and drank all the water (the ground was frozen outside). After this, she came every night, and we fed her every night. J.C. and I named her “Little Mama” because she was small and because we knew she had babies somewhere.

This went on for a month, and then of course, the inevitable happened, and one evening when she came, I saw a tiny puffball pulling its small body up onto the deck: a baby raccoon. This was followed by another . . . and then another.  So, we had Little Mama and three babies on the back deck. I put out a low, wide bowl of food, and Mama showed them how to eat some of the cat food.

As winter faded, the babies began to grow, and by spring, a greater variety of food outside became available to them, and they didn’t need us anymore. They were foraging for themselves. But I never once regretted having helped Little Mama and those babies that winter. Our world is changing, and sometimes, we all need help.

At some point in our lives, most of us have all been Little Mama raccoon, desperate for some help, hoping for some of kind help, whether it’s food or money for a bill or even compassion.

I see this now around me more than ever.

Not long ago, I saw an older woman on the corner of our local Fred Meyer parking lot, with a sign that read, “Homeless. Please help.” She wasn’t wearing a mask, and none of the people driving past in cars were handing her any money. I parked my car. Then I took a new (still plastic-wrapped) paper mask from my glove compartment, and I hurried over to her. When she looked at me, I saw the same desperation I’d seen in Little Mama raccoon’s eyes.

I gave the woman a ten-dollar bill, and then I gave her the mask and said, “If you put this on, I think you’ll have better luck.”

She thanked me and put the mask on.

I teach college writing online, and last summer, I had a student vanish for over three weeks, turning in none of the assigned work and not contacting me. He missed three quizzes, three homework assignments, and he missed submitting a major term project. By the late policy laid out in syllabus, he could not make up this work—and would fail the course.

One afternoon, he called me. He’d been laid off from his job and had lost his apartment. His life had been interrupted. But he said that he’d moved back in with his parents and had a reliable internet connection there and asked if he could make up all the missing work. He was majoring in automotive technology. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I could hear his voice, and he was desperate, like Little Mama raccoon that cold winter.

I allowed him to make everything up, and he passed my course.

My philosophy of life is, “Always err on the side of kindness.”

And remember that at some point, most of us have been Little Mama raccoon.

 

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Women, Men, Friendships, and Sunday Afternoon D&D

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I don’t believe in love at first sight.

 

I believe two people who enjoy each other’s company can create a strong bond, and if they are kind to each other and find ways to share a life together, then over a period of time, the bond simply grows stronger, and they become a couple.

 

But as I’ve grown older, I realize this is true of friendships as well. I’ve known women who say, “I much prefer men friends. I don’t normally make friends with other women.”

 

I’m the opposite. When it comes to hanging out with friends, I prefer the company of women. There are four women in my life with whom I can talk openly. I have two close “writer” friends, Shannon and Elyne. My daughter, Jac, is a grown woman now, and she is a close friend. My brother’s wife, Deb, is also a good friend. These are the four main women in my life. These are the four people (except for J.C) with whom I would most like to go out to lunch . . . or have a nice glass of wine with and just talk.

 

But Shannon now lives on Ocas Island. Elyne is now in Colorado. Jac is Houston, and Deb lives up in Washington State. About five years ago, I became poignantly aware that I had no geographically close girlfriends anymore. We email. We text. We call. But it’s not the same as having someone geographically close who I can just call up and say, “Hey, let’s go out for lunch or go for a walk.”

 

So somehow, through one of my guy friends, I started going to lunch every Thursday with a small group of left-brain software engineer types (all men) who play World of War Craft and thoroughly enjoy spending time mansplaining to each other on well . . . just about anything. Hah! Somehow (and I’m still not sure how), after a while, I started to fit in.

 

Regarding friendships, this was hardly love at first sight. Honestly, it was barely “like” at first sight. And these are hardly people I would have initially chosen as friends (or them me). For one, they are men, and two . . . they are software engineers who play World of War Craft. But I started inviting some of the guys over here for dinner and movies—so J.C. could take part. I started going to the dog park with one of them—and his black Labrador retriever. Recently, I went with two of them to see the Van Gogh Immersion Experience and then out to the Red Robin for hamburgers. We had fun.

 

This past week, there was a scary emergency with my mom, and at our lunch yesterday, I found myself telling the guys about it, and they listened. They were kind. They are not really into empathy, but I could tell they cared. They listened.

 


Recently, they started a D&D game (they are in their late 40s to late 50s) on Sunday afternoons from noon to 7:00 p.m. At lunch, Ken looked at me and asked, “Barb, do you want to join the D&D game? We need a fifth player in case someone can’t make it.”

 

I stared at him. D&D? I certainly can’t leave J.C. at home for seven hours every Sunday, so I politely declined, but I thought it was sweet that he asked. It made me realize I am one of them.

 

Last night, a few of the guys emailed me the backgrounds they’d written for their characters to see if I could help deepen their backstories.

 

As I was going over one of the character's backgrounds (a celestial warlock named Brundoff Cassalanter) I realized that I may not have girlfriends who are geographically close, and the people with whom I now have lunch and go to the museum and watch movies with are a group of geeky, male engineers, but they are my friends.

 

And I am grateful for them.

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This Past Year

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So . . . it's been some time since I posted here. I'm active on Facebook (I never quite got the hang of Twitter), but I keep my "Friends" list on Facebook pretty small, limited for the most part to close friends and family.

But lately, I've been thinking about doing some blogging on thoughts and life . . . and I thought to just post in here.

I know most people who read this page are fans of either my writing or the novels I wrote with J.C.

But the past few years have brought many changes to our lives. In 2016, right about the time The Dead Seekers was published, J.C. was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We had known something was wrong, but it took a while for a correct diagnosis.

We sold our house in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and we moved into a much more manageable townhouse up near Portland. 

He is doing okay, but now, he has some trouble walking and writing fiction is no longer possible. I've done some writing in the cracks of time, but he is my partner and my best friend of 36 years, so he is my priority.

I've gone back to teaching college (purely online), and I do love my job.

We are happy. We like our home here. We still talk about our books, and we think about all the people who have read the Noble Dead Saga.

I plan to start posting here perhaps once a week with thoughts on life, friendships, TV shows, experiences, observations . . . just to write them down.

I hope everyone out there is well and happy.

~Barb

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