A Perfectly Romantic Roadkill Date.

We first saw him on the way to church Sunday morning.

I squeeeeed with happiness.

He was lovely. His hands were up in the air as if grasping for the light. He wasn’t gory – just looked like he’d been keeled over in shock.

I’d been keeping my eye out for a raccoon for months. I didn’t have one in my collection (I also need a rabbit but I have yet to find one of those in acceptable condition. Please report any bunnies you come across.) And on top of that, I had been needing a medium-sized animal to wear a very fantastic glittery St Patrick’s Day hat – and the deadline was fast approaching.

The first problem, however, was that he was on the side of a fairly busy road that had very, VERY little shoulder.

The second problem is that the fairly busy road in question led directly to my church. And I think you can relate – we all have people in our lives and perhaps especially in our churches that might be a bit put off to come upon us staging and photographing roadkill while they were on their way to church.

So I knew I couldn’t do it directly before or after church.

But we were to come back that evening to take the kids to their musical practice, so I could do it then.

I planned my strategy. I fretted about the shoulderless road. I considered the very real possibility that I still might be spotted by those going to evening church. The ratio of people going to evening church that might be put off by roadkill manipulation and photography is, after all, potentially higher than morning church.

“Listen. If you’re going to be a roadkill photographer, you’re just going to have to own it. You’re going to have to not care if you get spotted,” Chris tried to convince me.

“Yes….but….you don’t understand. That’s part of the challenge – of the fun. If I can prep and snap a picture without a single person – even a stranger – seeing me, I feel a thrill of accomplishment.”

“Okay…”

Before we left for church, I pulled out my St. Paddy’s Day hat from my roadkill kit. There were actually five hats in that dollar store bag. OOOOH…what if I could find five creatures this week and leave them with the luck of the Irish?? It would be as if I were sprinkling my whole city with St Patrick’s Day Cheer.

After dropping the kids off, we discussed our plan. Sunday nights are a short date night for us – an hour and a half of dinner or coffee or in general relating before the start of another busy week.

But on this particular date, that raccoon would be our first stop.

On the way to church as we approached where the raccoon had been laying, Chris said, “Now don’t be disappointed if he’s gone…it’s been all day.”

Sure enough, his roadside spot was empty.

Sigh.

“Maybe he rolled down the hill. We’ll drop the kids off and then come back and go down that driveway below the road.”

“Okay!” Chris is so good at lifting my spirits. And if he were down there, I wouldn’t have to worry about the shoulder or being spotted by churchgoers!

We dumped the kids and drove back down the hill. Chris pulled down the steep driveway below the road. As he backed down, we both strained our eyes to see any sign.

I screamed. “There’s a tail!! Behind that bush!!”

I got out, donned a pair of rubber gloves, and grabbed a tiny hat.

I walked over to assess the situation.

It wasn’t pretty.

It was the first new friend I’d met that STANK. And also, maybe he just fell in a very unflattering pose, or maybe he’d started to swell with the processes of cellular breakdown, but he looked extremely fat – more like a victim of the game “Pin the Raccoon Tail on the Groundhog”.

That and not being able to see his face really made me doubt that he was the raccoon I’d been looking for to add to my collection.

But I tried my best. I gave him a hat, then took a few pictures.

I brought my camera over to Chris for inspection.

“But you can’t see his face….”

“I know. He’s not pretty at all, is he? I’ll try again.”

I found a stick and moved him around a bit, teaching him how to show off his angles a little better. At least you could see his little raccoon facial mask now. But he was still fat.

Chris, meanwhile, was enjoying photographing me photographing my model. See his adorable tail sticking out? If only the rest of him had been so cute.

Shooting Roadkill

I was disappointed.

This was not how I’d wanted to use my hat.

I later Photoshopped the crap out of this guy to make him look this good – I even used the evil skinnying tools on Photoshop to get rid of some of his decomposing bulge, as you can tell by the oval angles of his hat.

Limerick-the-CoonLimerick the ‘Coon
There once was an Irish raccoon 
Who died on the road ‘neath the moon.
But the birds ate his eyes,
And the heat swole his thighs,
Thus the sight and the smell make you swoon.
 – Chris the Husband, whose skill with the quill is undeniable.

But Chris told me to cheer up – we’d just make it a roadkill date! Stop by Starbucks for fuel, then drive around looking for new friends.

This, y’all, is why I married him.

But we had a head start. That very morning, my dear Roadkill Bestie Tanya had sent me several pics from her run with a rather attractive squirrel.

IMG_5307

I’ve found a lot of squirrels lately, which is why I didn’t immediately run out to put a hat on hers.

(Such as Flat Stanley the Squirrel,)

Get Well Soon Squirrel 1

(And Snickers the Squirrel.)

Snickers the Squirrel“Eat a Snickers.”
”Why?”
”Because you turn into an indecisive squirrel when you’re hungry.”

Squirrels are the low-hanging fruit of the roadkill staging world.

But after my Raccoon failure, I felt that her easy squirrel would be a good, redeeming next target to help me regain my confidence. So we meandered over to where we thought she’d found it and began our search. It didn’t take long, and he was in a delightful pose, looking just as if he’d had a bit too much green ale.

I present to you, Patrick the Squirrel.

St-Patty-the-SquirrelThere’s a Leprechaun in me head,
And I wish that I were dead
For I don’t think he’ll e’er let me be.
Oh, he tempts me with his gold,
And if I were e’er so b old,
I’d strangle him and leave him in the street.
                                                                                                             – Old Irish Drinking Song

And, thanks to the timing of our visit, I was even able to photograph my two favorite subjects at once.

St-Patty-the-Squirrel-Sunset

We spent the rest of our delightful date driving around, watching roadsides and byways while having fantastic and deep conversation about the best places and ways to find new friends, and judging harshly the ones we came across that were unsuitable for our journey.

We didn’t use the last three St. Patrick’s Day hats that night, but a lovely date we had.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

A Valentine To Remember.

I have strong personal convictions about Valentine’s Day.

I think it is inanely stupid.

It’s contrived, it’s expected, and it’s downright annoying.

It forces single people to feel sad, it obligates non-single people to feel pressured to write something disgustingly mushy on Facebook, AND it’s the single worst night in the year to attempt to eat out, making one choose to either a) wait 4 hours to be packed in like sardines at a prix fixe meal out, or b) COOK AND WASH DISHES AT HOME.

WHY would we allow something so ugly into our culture*?

I mean sure, Chris and I celebrated it for a number of years at the beginning of our relationship – until that beautiful day that we got comfortable enough in our love to have that most romantic conversation.

“I think this is stupid.”

“Really? I do too!!”

We would much rather celebrate romance on our anniversary. It’s ours and we don’t have to share it with every other couple on the globe.

Welcome to the romance of the cynical.

* Feel free to disagree with me. You may find Valentine’s to be the most romantic, loveliest of holidays and that is 100% fine. Continue to enjoy the pinkest and reddest of days and by all means don’t let me sour you toward it.

Anyway. My lack of disregard for this holiday is why, when my Dad texted me Tuesday morning and asked if he could stop by, I didn’t even think for a second that it had to do with Valentine’s. I wondered for the next 30 minutes to what exactly we owed his visit. Although it’s not unusual for Dad to stop by, his text implied more than the usual “I’m dropping by.”

He walked in with a big red envelope in hand.

“I brought you a Valentine.”

Now. I derive 105% of my cynical genes from my Father.

This was clearly a confusing turn of events.

I opened my Valentine to find a handmade card, in my Mom’s writing. So this was a joint card….still feeling a bit odd.

FullSizeRender 64

 

And then I opened it. And I remembered why my parents are THE best parents in the world.

FullSizeRender 63“Twisted” is the word that is obstructed by Herman’s Grade A Packaging, just in case you couldn’t figure that out via context.

Have you ever seen such a perfect way to celebrate this holiday?

No. You haven’t. Because my parents just created it.

After I opened the card and gushed at my Dad’s thoughtfulness, he pulled out another baggie.

“It’s a two-for-one day!”

That’s right. I was gifted not one, but TWO dead mice for Valentine’s Day. No $200 bouquet could top such a thoughtful, personalized gift.

I squealed with happiness.

“I even had a Valentine’s balloon in my roadkill kit that would have expired today if I hadn’t found something!!”

Dad beamed, obviously proud of his perfect timing.

After he left, Noah and I headed out to the driveway in bare feet, and I put the rubber gloves in my kit to use for the first time – after all, Herman and Marge would have to be posed.

I got them how I wanted them, but the plastic stem of my balloon kept popping off the ground, sending Herman rolling over.

Carcass Models are such divas to work with.

I finally had to employ my toes to hold the stem down, then had to crop out the tippy top of my big toe to finally capture the essence of the moment.

Yes, I had gotten what I wanted. Now it was time to write A Valentine Tale worthy of the image.

Herman and Marge the Valentine Mice s

Marge tried to feign excitement about Herman’s proud cheesy gift of an oversized balloon – she knew he loved her to death, after all – but all she really wanted was for him to have not been such an idiot when he decided to make their home near that tempting, deadly, beautiful, terrible Mouse Trap Subdivision.

And that’s how I received the best Valentine’s Day gift ever.

On Creating a Roadkill Kit.

The cliché “You Snooze, You Lose” has never been truer than it is with regards to roadkill.

I sadly lost both a raccoon (would’ve been my first!!) and a beautiful armadillo last week because I put off for tomorrow what I could have done today.

These two sad misses occurred for two reasons:

1. Both creatures were very close to the road on main thoroughfares and I don’t want to die while shooting dead things, and

2. I didn’t have a clear idea of how to stage the precious creatures. Their memories must be properly preserved, after all. No hurried, personality-less photos here.

It made me start to wonder if I could make a deal with Streets and Sanitation to drop off all fully-in tact critters on my road for 24 hours…would a $20 bribe be enough?

My neighbors already love me so much…

Anyway.

The cliché “An Ounce of Preparation is Better than a Pound of Prevention” has never been truer than it is with regards to roadkill.

So I decided that it was high time I had a roadkill kit in the back of my car. Ready for swerving stops on highways and biways. Ready for many scenarios, poses, and carcasses.

So I swung into my children’s Favorite Place in The Whole World, The Dollar Tree.

(It’s the children’s favorite because they didn’t know it existed until Noah’s Godparents took them there and they were astounded at an entire store of items for the same price. Every time they stay with them they make a glorious visit and gleefully come home with random trinkets such as front desk bells, fly swatters, and very roughly hewn washcloths.)

The kids were thrilled with this deviation from my normal shopping habits and couldn’t wait to see what exactly had prompted this delightful outing.

“What are you getting Mommy? Huh Huh Huh?”

“You’ll see…”

I walked down the aisles, grabbing various and random items such as leprechaun hats, toy soldiers, and energy drinks.

“WHAT are you doing with all this?”

“You have to figure it out…”

“What do baby pacifiers and Easter eggs have to do with each other?”

“Think about it…you can get there.”

“Are these sharks and balloons for someone’s birthday?”

“Of course not…”

“Get Well Soon Cards and a toy gun??? I don’t get it, Mom…”

“Keep thinking…”

They proposed all sorts of wrong ideas. Each one I shot down and encouraged them to continue using their powers of deductive reasoning. It was a school day, after all. And kids these days don’t do nearly enough thinking.

Finally, as we were checking out and surrounded by other human beings, Ali said, “I think I figured it out. Is this all for your roadkill note cards?”

“Ding ding ding!!!”

I happily took my purchases, added them to a box with a few pairs of rubber gloves and a pair of Squirrel Underpants I was gifted by a blog reader, and am now driving around ready for whatever comes my way. Or rather, whatever doesn’t come my way.

Roadkill Kit

Because the cliché “Life Comes At You Fast. {And So Does Death}” has never been truer than it is with regards to roadkill.

It was days after creating my One of a Kind Kit that I finally had a chance to use it. It’s not that I hadn’t seen any roadkill – I’d seen plenty, but I’m very particular. I’m a Roadkill Diva, if I’m being honest. To be classified as @happyroadkill, you must be still mostly in tact and recognizable. No intestines can be visible. The more lifelike, the better. And, if you ask my kids “Where does your mom draw the line?”, they’ll be quick to tell you. “She draws the line at former pets. Because that’s sad.”

Saturday night gifted me my first qualified opportunity.

We were in two cars and driving from the park to dinner. I spotted a new friend and quickly did a U-Turn to pull over. Chris drove past me, puzzled and confused. I was sad that he wasn’t observant enough to know what was happening.

IMG_3850

(Those last two texts were later in the evening when Noah was taking his very melodramatic once-a-week poop. It has nothing at all to do with this story except that one cannot possibly crop out such goodness.)

Anyway.

There was indeed a squirrel. I parked and began rummaging around in my box, as the kids excitedly inquired as to my plans.

“What are you going to use, mom? Huh? Huh? Huh? The balloons? The soldier?”

“Hmm…let’s see. I really want to use the leprechaun hat but when is Saint Patrick’s Day? Hey Siri! When is Saint Patrick’s Day?”

“Saint Patrick’s Day is on Friday, March seventeenth, two thousand seventeen.”

‘Yeah…not time for that. He looks like he was going out for a long pass. Let’s go with the football.”

“Oooh, yay mom! Good choice!”

staged roadkill“Verne, I think we’re going to need to see the instant replay to know if that was a catch or not.”

Poor guy. Definitely looked like a victim of targeting.

A car was coming up behind me so I hurriedly jumped in the driver’s seat and carefully scooted around Julio the Squirrel. I watched in my rearview mirror as the car slowed and observed my art installation. Meanwhile, the kids were horrified.

“WHY did you LEAVE the football??”

“Because it was touching a dead squirrel…”

“BUT THAT WAS A FOOTBALL!! YOU COULD USE IT AGAIN!!”

“That’s why we went to the dollar store. So that we could create our art and leave it for others. And also so that we could not carry around dead-thing-touched-props. It’s okay. We have plenty more.”

“When you run out of things in your box, will we go back to the Dollar Tree?”

“I imagine we will.”

“YAAAAAAY! Thanks for leaving the football, Mom!!”

Because the cliché “Waste not, want not” has never more false than it is with regards to roadkill.