Things that shouldn’t exist:

1. Splinters. Look. Splinters are jerks. You know it, I know it. Also, I think they secretly want to kill us. Which, let’s face it, is rude. We are in my house, as I have mentioned before, in a state of project-doing. My husband is building a new family room in the basement, so that our current family room in the attic can be transformed into two rooms – a bedroom for my thirteen year old and an art-space/study-space for the family. So my house is loud. And dusty. And filled with splinters. Which means that I am pulling splinters out of the fingers of my family. Here’s the thing about splinters – they hurt like the dickens when they go in, but they hurt way worse coming out. So in order to relieve the pain, you must, on the people you love so dear, inflict more pain. It’s terrible. I had a doosy on my hand, and foolishly decided to just keep it clean and let it work it’s way out. Then my hand swelled up. Thank god for antibiotics. Did you know that Calvin Coolidge’s son died of a blister that he got playing tennis. Within days of the blister, he swelled up, streaked red, and died. Awful things. You know what else shouldn’t exist? Stupid blisters. Jerks.

2. Tea. I know. I love tea. Tea shows up in every book and story that I write. Tea accompanies me on my life’s various journeys. I’ve drunk tea on a sand dune in Morocco, and next to a glacial lake on a mountain in Washington and outside a bug-infested motel in Key Largo and in the early morning dawn in the BWCA. I have never, in all of my adult life, had a morning without tea. But right now, tea is my enemy. On Monday morning, a steaming mug slipped from my fingers and gurgled its contents all over my computer. My lovely little Macbook Air. My beautiful Esmerelda! Her condition is yet unknown. She is sitting, right now, in a box of rice, and I am praying for her recovery. Tea! YOU ARE DEAD TO ME!

3. Snow-covered ice patches.  So far, two of my neighbors have nasty bruises, another neighbor is possibly-concussed, I have a bigger-than-a-grapefruit-sized bruise on my poor, sorry arse, AND, most upsettingly, my kid, at school, during pick-up, slipped under my only-just-stopped car (I still am having panic attacks about that one. He’s fine, I’m fine, and the school has fixed the slopey ramp that is supposed to be for wheel chairs but had been an icy slick leading small children straight into the street. I’m not over it. My god.) I love Minnesota so very much. I love her seasons. I love her wintery winds and her stunning falls and her sultry summers. I love the promise and dynamism of spring. But ice? Screw it.

4. Lice. For real you guys. On Sunday, just as I’m getting the kids ready for church, my son comes into the kitchen and tells me that his head is itchy. “It’s just dry skin,” I said. “I think it might be lice,” he said. “Impossible,” I told him. “Barnhills don’t get lice.” That, my friends, is called hubris. And so far it has been true. I’ve been parenting now for almost fourteen years, and nary a nit has crossed my threshold. Until now. I did a perfunctory check of Leo’s head. He was crawling with bugs. I grabbed a tupperware, and started picking louse after louse and tossing them in. Leo was thrilled. “I want to keep them,” he said. “As pets. That’s Rodney. That’s Oscar. That’s Reggie.” But seriously, WHY DO THESE THINGS EXIST? They only eat us. They do not jump. They do not fly. They only crawl and fall. AND, they die within twenty four hours of being away from a host. They simultaneously disprove both evolution and intelligent design – because natural selection should have done away with these jokers years ago, and there is no way that any Designer worth his salt would have come up with such a dumb, useless, friggin’ annoying creature. Honestly. If you serve no purpose, get off the bus. That’s my philosophy.

5. Gum.  When I was going through Leo’s hair, I found something else hiding in the thistledown mop that he was trying (and failing) to grow out: Gum. (Why was he trying to grow out his hair? Because his big cousin Micah had long hair, and my boy hero-worships that kid. He wishes he had a big brother, but Micah is all he gets. And oh! How he loves him! So he wouldn’t let me near his head with a scissors, and what grew on that cute little skull was nothing short of a disaster. Part cottonwood seed, part river reeds, part autumn leaf pile, part barbed wire. What a mess.) The gum was a small chunk, about the size of pea, and it looked like it had been there for a while – I wondered why he wouldn’t let me near him with a comb. “I look FINE, mom!” he’d say. (He didn’t.) It was hard and shiny, like amber or glass. I wondered if it had artifacts inside. Or fossils. Or perfectly-preserved prehistoric bugs. Doesn’t matter now. Hair is buzzed. Gum and nit free. WE ARE SAVED!

Which reminds me.


1. Hair buzzers.


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