Squirrels Gone Bad

In the annals of feuding you may recall the Hatfields and McCoys or the Capulets and Montagues. Soon historic records may include the tale of the Hvals and the Squirrels.

The long-simmering conflict between Norwegians and rodents shows signs of heating up again.

“Gosh-dang, flippin’ dangin’ squirrels!” my husband recently hollered from the Delightful Deck. “Leave my garden alone!”

I’m not censoring his language. That’s an exact quote.

It seems the squirrels that run along our fence line, taunting our indoor kitties, have gotten bolder and are tiptoeing through the garden, leaving a trail of holes in their wake. They don’t even have the courtesy to take a zucchini or two with them when they scamper off.

When a freshly picked cucumber tasted bitter, Derek blamed the squirrels.

“I bet they’re peeing on my plants,” he said.

He’s not the only Hval engaged in rodent warfare. Several years ago his brother bought a lake cabin. His wife thought the squirrels that skittered and chattered among the pines near the deck were adorable.

“We fed them,” she recalled. “Then they started eating our beach towels.”

Well, that wasn’t cute.

They stopped feeding them, but the squirrels called squatter’s rights to their deck. And their roof. And their beach towels.

So, my brother-in-law got some humane traps, and they launched the Hval Catch and Release Rodent Relocation program.

It turned out to be a full-time job, which wasn’t ideal since they are part-time lake dwellers.

“The squirrels came back with their cousins and their friends and screamed at us for trapping them,” my sister-in-law said.

Things escalated the year they returned to open the cabin for the summer and found squirrels had gnawed their way through the bathroom ceiling.

The pesky varmints had chewed up the drywall – and the bath towels.

“They destroyed the bathroom,” my sister-in-law said. “Thank God we’d shut the door, and they couldn’t get into the rest of the house!”

That was the last straw.

Armed with BB guns, my brother-in-law and his sons declared war on squirrel. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say squirrel hunting became something of a family hobby.

You’d think the message would have been clear, yet each year the squirrels spend several days berating and taunting my in-laws when they return to the cabin.

Property damage is one thing, but personal damage is quite another.

Recently, a Facebook friend related a terrifying tale of a squirrel gone bad at Manito Park.

Heather Rose Clarke was taking an early morning Sunday stroll through the park on a paved path when she saw a squirrel off to the side. She stopped to take a picture and the squirrel approached her.

“I thought it was really cute! It went behind me and grabbed my ankle, so I turned with my upper body to take a pic,” she wrote. “That’s when it locked its claws and started biting me! I was so surprised. I tried to shake it off, but it was really attached. I reached to grab it off and that’s when it clamped onto my right arm and wouldn’t let go.”

In a few terrifying minutes the squirrel left her a bitten, bloody and scratched-up mess. A friend took her to minor emergency, where the doctor allayed her fears about rabies, cleaned up her wounds and gave her a prescription for an antibiotic. He told her he sees this a couple times a year.

“The one thing I want to stress is that I did not antagonize the squirrel to make it attack me. It literally came up to me, and at no time did I move toward it or threaten it,” Clarke said. “It totally took me off guard. I have walked in Manito hundreds of times and never had an incident.”

According to Fianna Dickson, a spokeswoman for the parks department, Clarke is not alone.

“We’ve received reports of two squirrel attacks recently, and have called out a wildlife management contractor to provide advice,” Dickson wrote in an email. “As I’m sure you’ve read, some wildlife experts speculate the squirrel who attacks may have been hand-fed by someone, and then seeks food again from humans and is frantic when it doesn’t receive food. We continue to ask the public to please refrain from feeding wildlife in parks.”

So, no matter how photogenic you think those furry, brown-eyed rodents are – don’t be lured into offering them a snack, unless you don’t mind being an appetizer on their menu, or having your beach towels served up as the main course.

I, for one, agree with Carrie Bradshaw, a character in the television show “Sex and the City,” who said: “A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit.”

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

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The Unhappy Camper

You think you know someone.

You think you can really trust them.

You think they’d never do anything to harm you.

And then they drive you out into the wilderness and dump you. They peel out of the gravel parking lot, leaving you and your small blue suitcase behind – abandoned like a box of unwanted kittens.

At the tender age of 9, I had to confront the harsh reality that my parents no longer loved me. Frantically, I wracked my brain, trying to remember what I’d said or done that resulted in my banishment to the godforsaken wilderness of Silver Lake Bible Camp.

It didn’t matter. It was too late.

“Bye! Have fun!” Mom yelled out the window of the rapidly disappearing car.

Fun? FUN? Who was that woman and what had she done with my real mom?

I’d been dropped off somewhere near Medical Lake with no trail of breadcrumbs to follow to find my way home. Since we lived in Ritzville at the time, it would have taken a lot of bread. But still.

“You’ll love it,” my mother said. “It’s on Silver Lake, just like your favorite book!”

I was a passionate Laura Ingalls Wilder devotee, but this was nothing like “By the Shores of Silver Lake.”

There was no Ma. No Pa. And no one was calling me Half-Pint. Instead, the camp director swept me along with a group of similarly abandoned children and began calling out cabin numbers.

I trudged to the small, wood-framed cabin without air conditioning, my suitcase bumping the gravel as I dragged it along behind me.

Rows of bunk beds lined the walls. This was it. The Big House. The Hoosegow. The Home for Unwanted Children.

The other kids didn’t seem to grasp the desperateness of our situation. Giddy, giggling girls vied for bunks. Most of them seemed to know each other. I didn’t know a soul. Finally, just two of us loners remained.

“Hey, girls! Here’s your bunk!” camp counselor Candy said, encircling our drooping shoulders in her tanned, toned arms. “Who wants the top?”

I shrugged. My bunkmate stared at the floor and then threw herself onto the bottom bunk, sobbing.

“Okay!” said perpetually perky Candy. “Cindy gets top bunk!”

It was all downhill from there.

I hated camp. I loathed it with every fiber of my small-for-my-age 9-year-old body.

Recently, I wrote an article about two friends who met at Camp Sweyolakan 60 years ago. They loved camp so much, they are still volunteering there. I enjoyed meeting them and sharing their story, but, honestly, it was like interviewing people from an alien planet. Everything I despised about camp life – these gals adored!

When I shared the story on social media and confessed I was an unhappy camper, I was relieved to find out I wasn’t alone. Response was fairly evenly split between those who thrived at camp and those who wilted.

I definitely languished.

Things I hated most in no particular order: arts and crafts, group activities, lake swimming and pig-kissing. Things I liked: the Snack Shack and chapel.

Let me break it down for you. I am not and never have been an artsy-craftsy person. I rarely colored between the lines. I was incapable of deciphering the correct amount of glue for any given project, and really, who the heck needs a macrame wallet?

Though I loved the water and could swim like a fish, my comfort zone included chlorine and concrete, not murky water through which tonight’s dinner might swim.

And softball, volleyball and obstacle courses? Listen. I was a reader. Not a doer.

Which brings me to the pig. The messiest cabin in camp was designated the Pig Pen, and the inhabitants thereof had to kiss a pig at evening chapel.

Did you know “cleanliness is next to godliness” is not actually anywhere in the Bible? Well, apparently the camp directors did not know this, and one day our cabin wasn’t up to snuff. Each resident had to kiss a pinkish, snorting, whiskery, slobbery pig.

Eventually, I kissed a lot of pigs before finding my Pork, er, Prince Charming, so I guess this was good practice.

I did, however, enjoy the singing at chapel.

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going. And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing.”

It was beautiful. The harmonies were lovely. But then the warm glow of communal worship was traded for the clammy confines of my mom’s sleeping bag on the top bunk, where I cried myself to sleep every single night.

My bunkmate’s parents loved her. She was reclaimed on Day Two of the five-day journey to Hades, leaving me to weep alone, while Candy patted my shoulder, her Close-Up, whiter-than-white teeth gleaming in the dark while she whispered, “Cindy, sweetie, your parents didn’t move while you were here. Of course they’ll come to get you Friday.”

Shows how much Candy knew. My parents did, in fact, take advantage of my absence to move to a new house.

The one remaining joy of Silver Lake Bible Camp was the Snack Shack. Well, it was until Day Two, when the three whole dollars my Depression-era parents gave me ran out.

Giddy with sugar lust and seduced by the name, I sunk my final 25 cents into a Big Hunk – the worst confection known to man.

Which meant when “free time” finally occurred, I had no money for the pay phone and couldn’t call home. I finally resorted to begging for a quarter, but my parents were moving and the phone had been disconnected.

So for every “Camp was the best experience of my life and shaped me into the confident, successful woman I am today,” there’s a tale like mine.

One full of grief, pig-kissing, macrame wallets and a lifelong loathing of Big Hunks.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists.


Zucchini: The Sequel

“We went on vacation – the squash did not,” Cindy Hval said in an email about Tuesday’s harvest, shown. “It’s like the zucchini are mocking me.” (Cindy Hval / The Spokesman-Review) “We went on vacation – the squash did not,” Cindy Hval said about Tuesday’s harvest, shown. “It’s like the zucchini are mocking me.”

Every great adventure deserves and sometimes demands a sequel. Such is the case with my previous column about surplus squash.

When I wrote about the Great Zucchini Invasion of 2017, readers responded with recipes, suggestions of where to donate the surplus, and offers to take some zucchini off my hands – or countertops.

It turned out that reader response to the column was as prolific as, well, zucchini.

The irony was in the few days after the column ran: My harvest trickled down to near nothing. In fact, I almost put away the grater and the freezer bags, but then I blinked. Yep. More zucchini and the giveaway began anew.

A Facebook friend stopped by to take a few. My monthly writers group met at my home – each writer took home helpful critiques, encouraging words. And zucchini.

I hosted my annual Great Gazebo Girlfriend Gathering and sent the ladies home with a squash or two, except for one friend who sneaked out without taking her fair share. That’s OK. I know where she lives.

And, of course, we celebrated National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch day on Aug. 8. We may have celebrated a bit too much as most of our neighbors are still avoiding us.

Yet the zucchini just kept on coming. An online commenter offered this solution: “Cindy, if you put your surplus crop in a box at curbside with a FREE label, no one will take them. But if you label the zucchini $1 each, someone will steal them after dark. Problem solved.”

Others requested some of the recipes I mentioned in the column, so I’ve included a few of those here.

Speaking of recipes, a reader offered to send me a recipe for zucchini relish and pickles. Both sound wonderful, but the recipe requires canning and I’m not quite that desperate. Yet.

One reader offered to trade farm fresh eggs for zucchini, and I just may take her up on that.

Others suggested nonprofit organizations that might welcome fresh produce.

Mary Ellen Gaffney-Brown said Meals on Wheels gives out fresh produce every Wednesday. I called the organization to confirm and discovered that they often welcome veggie donations, but cautioned readers to call first.

Barbara Hill notified me of a wonderful program run by Refugee Connections. These folks actually come to your garden, glean it, and then donate the produce to the East Central Community Center.

Another fun way to share garden goodness is to take it to your local library for a produce swap. The summer bounty program sponsored by Spokane County Library District invites folks to bring their extra fresh produce to select branches, and take home something different from another garden. Leftovers are taken to a local food bank and the produce swaps continue in September.

So if you find yourself swimming in surplus squash, don’t despair. It turns out there are plenty of ways to share the wealth. That said, sequels are fine, but I’m really hoping the Great Zucchini Invasion won’t become a trilogy.

The Great Zucchini

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Unfortunately, the most valuable life lessons are often learned the hard way. This summer I’ve been schooled in the veracity of the adage “be careful what you wish for.”

Last year my husband experimented in the Glorious Garden. He tried growing zucchini, vertically, in pallets. The experiment failed, and I was disappointed.

“Next year, I want zucchini. LOTS of zucchini,” I told my hardworking spouse.

He heard me. Boy, did he hear me.

Two weeks into this summer’s zucchini season had me yelling for mercy – praying for drought, pestilence or plague. No such luck. Our bumper squash crops shows no sign of slowing down.

It’s come to this – last week, I went to a party. I took zucchini as a hostess gift.

I returned my sister-in-law’s baking dish – with a squash tucked inside. Our relatives are starting to avoid me.

Our teenager used to eagerly ask, “What’s for dinner?”

Now, he hesitates.

In the last few weeks I’ve made zucchini cornbread casserole, cheesy zucchini, zucchini and rice, zucchini fritters, zucchini chips, zucchini stuffing casserole – and that’s just for dinner.

I’ve also baked dozens of zucchini chocolate chip muffins and many loaves of chocolate zucchini bread.

I have bags of shredded frozen zucchini in the freezer, and Derek recently bought a spiralizer. He wants to try zucchini spaghetti, but I’m not sure I’m ready to make the vegetable-in-place-of-pasta leap. Ask me next week.

And yes, I should know better, because many years ago, I used to write for a now defunct section of this newspaper, called HOME, and one of my assignments was to cover ‘The Great Zucchini War’ between two Spokane Valley neighbors.

It was actually more of a story of the gift that kept on giving. In the 2006 article, I chronicled the tale of a super-sized squash that made its way from bench, to birdbath, to treetop, as two neighbors escalated the art of re-gifting.

The Pedens and the Fairhursts took the squash war to unheard of heights. The much maligned vegetable was camouflaged in orange, black and silver and set afloat in a koi pond. It was transformed into a replica of a Flying Tiger fighter plane. Sporting wings, tail fins and the snarling teeth of a tiger, it perched in the upper branches of a walnut tree where it remained until a ladder tall enough to reach it could be found.

When last seen, it was Halloween and the re-gifted gourd was growing soft in the middle. It had been painted white, covered in ghostly draperies and encased in concrete – on a neighbor’s porch.

That was 11 years ago, and one can only hope the extra-large zuch was given a decent burial somewhere, or at least turned into enough bread to feed the ’hood.

Which brings me back to my squash stash. I’ve been trying to make eye contact with my next-door neighbors, but surprisingly they always seem to be in a hurry to peel out of their driveways or slam shut the sliding doors on their decks.

I’ve pondered placing the surplus squash in a box in our front yard with a “free to good home,” sign, but I worry they will rot in the hot summer sun before they are adopted.

There’s always Craigslist, but I don’t relish getting caught in some kind of undercover sting operation. I can just picture a jaded cop in a deserted parking lot mocking me. “You thought you’d get cash – for squash!?”

Last week I interviewed a longtime greengrocer who told me, “If you have to buy zucchini at a store, you must not have any friends.”

Well, at the rate my freezer is filling, I won’t have any need for zucchini or friends until roughly, 2020.

Listen to me dear readers; be careful what you wish for – especially if it involves produce.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

 

 

Tattoo Talk Turns Troublesome

A delicious family dinner on the Delightful Deck turned into a conversational minefield recently when my husband asked what my plans were for the following day.

“Oh, the usual,” I replied. “I have an interview for a magazine story in the morning, and I’m getting a tattoo in the afternoon.”

As the kids say, mic drop.

Sam, 17, recovered first.

“No,” he said. “No, you most certainly are not.”

Kids can be so bossy.

I just smiled.

Derek took a deep breath, shrugged and said, “OK, but only if you get it on your … .”

Let’s just say my husband wanted me to get a tattoo where he could see it, but I couldn’t.

Sam was still concerned, but Derek wasn’t. That’s because he vividly remembers our first childbirth class, some 27 years ago.

Everything went well until they took us on a tour of the birthing rooms. Mind you, we’d already seen the graphic movies of natural, medicated and cesarean births, and I was unfazed, but during the tour the nurse showed us the needle they use to administer epidurals.

I took one look and Derek said my face turned whiter than the stack of cloth diapers on the table near the bassinet.

Woozily, I backed out of the room and leaned against a wall. One of the soon-to-be dads had a similar reaction and slumped next to me.

“OK,” I said to Derek. “Natural childbirth it is. There is no way I’m letting that needle anywhere near me.”

“Me too,” said the guy next to me. “Natural childbirth all the way.”

I’m not sure his wife agreed with him.

All this to say, Derek wasn’t convinced my tattoo plan would come to pass because he was quite certain that I’d pass out at the sight of the needle.

He also knows how changeable I am. On any given day I change my mind about what to wear at least a half dozen times.

Permanent body art might be a stretch for a person whose accessories litter her dresser like flotsam the tide washed in, because she can’t decide between gold or silver earrings and then needs a bracelet to match.

The jumble of shoes on my closet floor is not a testament to a hoarding problem, but the result of my inability to stick with the shoes I’d carefully laid out the night before to go with the outfit that I no longer feel like wearing.

Ethan, our oldest son had a more pressing question – what would I get a tattoo of?

“I think tattoos should mark something meaningful,” he said. “A milestone, a memory – something important.”

I agree. The birth of each of my children was certainly meaningful, but those events have already documented on my skin in the form of stretch marks.

In fact, if I wanted important permanent reminders etched on my flesh, having my name and birthdate tattooed somewhere would be more useful. Or maybe the words “If found return to … .” As long as the info was inked where my husband has suggested.

At the end of the meal I admitted to my family that I was actually going to get a henna tattoo. I’ve always wanted one and my teenage niece, Lizzie, recently started doing them.

The next day I showed off the results; a beautiful mandala with a trailing leaf pattern, exquisitely etched on the inside of my arm.

My guys agreed Lizzie’s talents are exceptional, and they all thought the design was perfect. Best of all henna isn’t permanent, so I can get something different next time.

And there will be a next time, because when I posted a photo of my tattoo on Facebook, a friend commented, “A bold design choice. Known as two fighting cats – shows them swirling in anger and rage as their tails are poofed out and the spittle flies. Not everyone chooses this design so you are the brave.”

I’m pretty sure he was teasing, but his comment reminded me that the milestone additions of two cats to our family still hasn’t been marked in a meaningful way.

Yet.

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Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

Barely bothered by roadwork

I’m not at my best in the morning. I admit it. I don’t relish the sunrise. In fact, I’d prefer not to be notified of its occurrence.

I say this to explain why I inadvertently exposed more of myself than strictly necessary to the road crew working on the gas lines in front of my house last week.

It’s not like I was unaware of their presence. I mean, it’s pretty hard to ignore a backhoe parked across your street. Or a guy with a jackhammer breaking up the asphalt at the end of the driveway. Or the port-a-potty perched up the hill. After all, it’s the first thing I see when I open my living room blinds in the morning.

Still. It was the crack of dawn on a Monday morning (OK, 8 a.m.) and I hadn’t yet had my first cup of coffee. I usually enjoy my coffee while I read the newspaper. My husband or sons set it inside the door when they leave for whatever they do before 8 a.m., but on this day, there was no newspaper to be found.

I slumped down the stairs, opened the door and found our delivery person’s aim had been a bit off. The paper wasn’t nestled against the door; it was perched precariously on the edge of the porch.

Squinting my eyes against the morning glare, I stumbled forward, bending down to retrieve my sun-warmed newsprint.

A slight breeze shifted my short summer nightgown. The garment I hadn’t bothered to throw a robe over, since I was home alone.

Newspaper in hand, I straightened up. That’s when I saw the flagman with the STOP sign at the end of my driveway. That’s when I noticed the half-dozen hard-hatted workers swarming across the street.

Mortified, I gathered the slim remains of my dignity (and the even slimmer fragments of satin fabric) and shrunk toward my doorway.

The flagger slowly, raised his hand to his hard hat in a solemn salute. Then he grinned.

I know from my husband’s days as a military officer that I should have returned the salute, but like I said, I’m not my best in the morning.

I backed in through door, holding the tightly wrapped newspaper in front of me like a shield. Unfortunately, Monday’s paper is the slimmest shield The Spokesman-Review offers.

I took a few deep breaths, gulped some coffee and called my husband.

“Can you pick up something for dinner tonight? I can’t leave the house.”

He found my humiliation hilarious.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ve seen worse,” he said.

“Worse? Do I look that bad in the morning!?”

Turns out my husband isn’t at his best or brightest in the morning, either.

Of course, I couldn’t hide in my house all week, but when it came time for my afternoon walk, I admit, I snuck out through our backyard and took a shortcut through the neighbor’s yard to avoid making eye contact with the friendly flagger.

The week and the street work on. Many mornings I awoke to the jarring sound of a jackhammer. Waking up is hard enough for me. Waking up to a jackhammer proved positively painful.

I finally penned a poem and posted it on social media.

Ode to a Jackhammer and the Man Who Wields it Outside My Front Door

For the love of God,

STOP!

Yeah. So, I should probably stick to journalism. At any rate progress is proceeding at a glacial pace. Replacing gas lines can’t be done quickly. But I’m rather fond of hot showers and my gas fireplace warms my basement office all winter. Plus, the crews are working long, hard days in horrible heat, so I keep all this in mind when I navigate our torn-up streets.

I drive slowly and always try to offer a smile or a greeting when I’m forced to wait for a backhoe to move, or truck to rumble by.

On Friday, the flagman at the end of my driveway motioned for me to roll down my window as I backed out.

“Thank you for your smiles and friendly waves,” he said. “You would not believe how many dirty looks we get.”

I’m sure his appreciation had nothing to do with the nightgown-newspaper debacle. And his words of gratitude prompted my own thankful reflection.

The noise and inconvenience of the roadwork hasn’t been pleasant, but as I sat on my couch and gazed out my front window that evening, I realized things could be worse.

We could be the house that’s had a Porta Potty parked in front of it for two weeks.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

Spa Daze

Soothing music. Delightful fragrances. The absolute absence of ringing phones or pinging emails. And best of all, the only time anyone says my name is to ask me how I’m feeling.

There’s nothing like a spa day to refresh my soul.

The Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area is blessed with ample places to bliss out, and I’ve visited most of them. For work. Seriously.

A few years ago, I took on a bunch of travel writing assignments for several regional magazines. Interestingly, most of them wanted me to cover spas and resorts. It was a rough gig, but somebody had to do it.

Not all experiences delighted. At a media day at one resort, my masseur looked like Bill Gates, and sounded like him, too. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, but all I could think about were the questions I’d like to ask Mr. Gates. Like would he care to subsidize my writing career? And what the heck is up with the Blue Screen of Death?

And sometimes the choice of music in the massage rooms isn’t exactly restful. Many places use the sound of ocean waves or a tinkling stream. It may sound soothing, but isn’t if you’ve had a mimosa or a cup of coffee before your appointment.

One of my favorite spa experiences involved my husband. An airline magazine had asked me to write about fun local activities for couples including a spa day at a local resort.

Derek had never been to a spa and was a little apprehensive.

“I don’t have to get my toenails painted, do I?” he asked.

“Only if you want to,” I replied.

The couple’s package included a soothing private aromatherapy bath in a huge jetted tub, and then a candlelight massage.

Derek followed a male attendant to the men’s changing room, and I went to the women’s. Luxurious robes with our names stitched on the lapels awaited us.

The attendants then ushered us into a suite, lit by flickering candles. They poured lovely smelling things into a tub that could easily hold a half dozen of our closest friends. Then they gave us each a glass of wine and told us they’d be back in an hour.

As they closed the door behind them, we got ready to climb into the tub.

That’s when I knew Derek was out of his depth. He dropped his robe and revealed he was wearing swim trunks.

I doubled over with laughter. He says I hooted and shrieked. I say I chuckled softly.

“Hey,the guy said I could wear them if I felt more comfortable! I didn’t know we were going to be ALONE,” he said.

I may have giggled intermittently throughout the hourlong massage that followed, but it was just because I was having such a fabulous time.

While I enjoy massages, manicures and pedicures, there’s one traditional spa activity that I haven’t cared for – facials. Be they European, aromatherapy, collagen or paraffin, I just haven’t found the facial experience relaxing. For one thing, I’m pretty claustrophobic and having my face wrapped in a hot towel with only my nostrils exposed feels suffocating. And once, the aesthetician got a little exuberant with an astringent and splashed some in my eye. My skin looked pink and rosy. So did my eye.

But recently with a gift card to my favorite spa burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to give facials another try.

And you know, it wasn’t that bad. The aesthetician explained each application and treatment, was careful with the hot towel mummification and didn’t splash anything in my eye.

One thing gave me pause: Most of the products used, she said, were to help with “fine lines and wrinkles.” After hearing “fine lines and wrinkles” for an hour, I started to get paranoid. Just how fine were those lines? And by wrinkles, did she mean laugh lines or wadded up linen blouse tucked in a drawer wrinkles? I was afraid to ask.

However, the organic masks, toners and scrubs smelled delicious, delectable even. There were applications of strawberry-rhubarb stuff, pink grapefruit potions and liberal lime mistings. In short, a fruit salad was applied to my face.

While facials still aren’t my favorite spa experience, I’d probably do it again. Especially if I’m hungry.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

A Rose by any other name is Henry

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The cat sat on the front steps of my friend Sarah’s house – a fluffy ball of gray, brown and white stoicism.

“Such a sweet kitty,” I said, rubbing its head, as we prepared to leave. “What’s its name?”

“His name is Rose,” said Sarah. “Yes, he’s a boy. Long story.”

Turns out Rose had turned up on their doorstep awhile ago and had already been given the flowery moniker before a veterinary visit revealed she was a he.

“Well, what’s his middle name?” I asked.

“He doesn’t have a middle name,” Sarah replied. “He’s just a cat.”

Sarah is a dear friend. A good friend. But at that moment our friendship teetered perilously on the abyss, the words “just a cat,” echoing in my ears. She couldn’t have shocked me more if she said she’d suddenly become an introverted night owl.

Fortunately, I’m easily distracted and temporarily put poor Rose out of my mind, until I checked my phone and noticed the picture I’d snapped of him. I posted the photo on Facebook, told his sad story and announced, “I’m going to call him Rose Henry and restore his shattered dignity.”

All of my cats have had middle names, unless you count Butterscotch, the ginger cat I had at age 3. My sister insists it was her cat, so the less we say about it the better. Also, Butterscotch came to a tragic end when my dad accidentally backed over her while on the way to work one morning.

If Butterscotch had had a middle name, perhaps she wouldn’t have met such an untimely demise. Middle names are important when communicating urgent matters, like, “Butterscotch Sundae do NOT sleep under that car!”

As our youngest son pointed out, “How will they know they’re in trouble if they don’t have a middle name?”

Samuel Kristian has had some experience with this.

Anyway, my next cat was christened Nicholas James (Nicky) and was followed by Brandy Michael. Brandy shows what should happen when you give a cat a girl name and then find out it’s a boy.

Our current cats are Milo James and Thor Hyerdahl.

Imagine my surprise when my campaign to restore Rose Henry’s dignity was met with resistance by Sarah’s husband, Terry.

His response to my suggested fix?

“Henry is not part of this cat’s name. His name is Rose.”

Sarah thought Rose Henry sounded rather regal, but when her husband continued to balk, she offered a compromise – Rose Jack.

Terry would not budge.

Nevertheless, the social media response weighed solidly, almost unanimously in favor of giving cats first and middle names.

Trish Gannon, owner/editor of the River Journal, wrote, “My granddaughter named one of my cats Snowy Snowflake Snow Gannon. Middle names are important.”

Terry was unswayed.

“His name is Rose. Cat names are not gender specific. Also roses are not gender specific.

Just to be clear, his name is Rose. There is nothing undignified about being named Rose. His having this name, by definition, dignifies it.”

To which I replied, “A Rose by any other name is Henry.”

Colleague Pia Hallenberg weighed in.

“He looks almost exactly like my old cat Felix Fittipaldi Hansen.”

Now that’s a great cat name.

Alas, Terry has proved unyieldingly adamant in opposition to my attempts to bolster Rose Henry’s dignity.

“Do not call my cat Rose Henry. That is not his name. His name is Rose. Just Rose,” he insists.

Well, OK. I mean, it is his cat after all. I am quite pleased that at least he finally seems to understand the importance of middle names. However, I must confess I think Just is a rather bizarre first name for a cat.

I liked Rose better.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com.

Guilt-Free Mothers and Other Mythical Creatures

Flowers, cards, breakfast in bed. You know the drill.

If you’re a lucky mom, Mother’s Day comes with a fairly predictable playlist. But often, an unwelcome condiment comes along with the coffee lovingly poured into the World’s Best Mom mug – a heaping side of guilt.

Don’t believe me? Google the words mother and guilt and you’ll get more than 10 million hits. That’s not a side dish, that’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of remorseful regret.

No matter how many articles, books and blogs advocate guilt-free mothering, I don’t know any moms who don’t struggle with feeling bad about some aspect of their parenting. Much like unicorns with rainbow wings, guilt-free moms are mythical creatures.

The things we feel guilty about are myriad. We feel bad that we worked outside the home or bad that we stayed at home. We regret not having more children or terrible that we had too many. We agonize over every time we lost our tempers and shouted things that shame us, and worry over all the times we were too lax, too soft, too permissive.

Most of us have a mental checklist of our perceived failures, and all the sweet Mother’s Day cards in the world can’t make us untick even one of those boxes.

No matter how we came to motherhood, whether by birthing, adopting or step-parenting, each of us has an ideal mother in mind – that’s the goal we struggle to achieve. Sometimes the ideal is our own mothers and sometimes it’s anyone but them.

None of us really dreams of being June Cleaver. Once, I actually tried vacuuming while wearing a dress, apron, heels and pearls. It was every bit as silly as I imagined.

But the home June created? Now, that still seems magical. Spotless, warm, love-filled – a place where every childhood problem was happily resolved by the end of each episode. Who wouldn’t want that?

Even worse than trying to live up to mythical ideals is the way we constantly compare ourselves with each other. Oh, we swear we won’t. Vow we don’t. But we do, we certainly do.

We look at the Facebook photos of our friends’ brilliant, talented, successful offspring, and we weigh and measure our mothering skills against theirs. As if being a perfect mother would guarantee perfect children. As if any kind of perfection among humankind is attainable.

For some, the Mother’s Day tally of gifts and sentiments either verifies our value or proves our unworthiness – either temporarily assuages our guilt or fans the flames of self-recrimination.

And this year, what I most wanted for Mother’s Day created a week’s worth of angst for me. You see, I wanted something different. Something I was sure other moms would judge me for. Something I felt guilty even mentioning.

Ala Greta Garbo, I wanted to be alone.

I felt incredibly selfish even mentioning it to Derek. I mean, what kind of mother doesn’t want to spend the day surrounded by her children? Plus, we usually have both of our moms over for dinner. What kind of daughter messes with tradition?

A tired one, perhaps?

It’s been an especially busy season in our household. Kids coming and going, juggling jobs and community commitments, maintaining friendships and important connections. As someone who needs a certain amount of solitude to recharge, I was drowning in a sea of obligations of my own making.

Thankfully, I married a man who knows me well. When I dithered and dallied over Mother’s Day plans, he encouraged me to give myself a break. So I did.

We took our moms out to brunch on Saturday. And on Mother’s Day I didn’t leave the house. I relished a solitary breakfast in bed, while reading the newspaper. Then I enjoyed long phone conversations with two of my sons and briefer conversations with the other two. Then I turned my phone off.

I didn’t get out of bed until noon. Stayed in my sweats sans makeup all day and binge-watched the new “Anne of Green Gables” on Netflix.

It was heavenly.

The flowers, cards and gifts from Derek and the boys were sweet, but the best gift was the one I gave myself – a feast of solitude minus the side of guilt.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

Smells Like Teen Spirit

The nurse in the delivery room smiled as I pressed my nose to the downy head of my newborn son.

“He smells like angel kisses,” I murmured, besotted.

I had a nonmedicated birth, so I couldn’t blame that statement on a drug-induced haze. Nope, this was a love-induced haze.

“Enjoy it while it lasts,” said the nurse. “In about 13 years you’re going to walk into his room and gag. It’s gonna reek like ripe goat pen meets Old Spice.”

I stared blankly at her. It was like she was speaking Swahili.

That was many years ago, and of course, now I know that nurse had pretty much called it. However, I can’t attest to the goat pen analogy. In my experience (and I’ve had a lot of experience) the scent of a teenage male’s room is best described as sweaty gym socks meet crushed corn ships, mingled with soccer jersey left to mildew in the bottom of an athletic bag, topped with a cloying cloud of Axe body spray.

The odor could be marketed as a teen-pregnancy-prevention aid.

Baby boys should come with a disclaimer. The heady scent of Baby Magic lotion wears off long before they reach kindergarten and is initially replaced by the smell of dirt. Plain old dirt. Which isn’t bad, it’s a reminder of all their adventures.

Adventure-reminders also include; worms, gravel, sticks and clumps of mud left in pockets. Mud? You may ask. It was for the worms, of course. But that earthy aroma is better than what comes next.

Around age 12, the smell of dirt gives way Eau de Gag. It’s so unfair that by the time they really start smelling good again, they move out.

At one time I had three teenage boys living in my house. Trust me when I say there are not enough Yankee candles in the world to compensate.

Change in body odor is one thing, but the universal shift in attitude as boys transition from teens to young men – well, that’s something impossible to mask.

Eye-rolling “whatevers” often replace heart-to-heart conversations. The chattiest of teens suddenly embraces sullen silence, and sometimes the silence is shattered by angry words and accusations that fly through the home polluting the atmosphere more than gym socks and body spray ever could.

And the things we find in pockets are far more sobering than worms.

Even when you know this necessary bid for healthy separation and independence is coming – when you know this is the natural order of things – it’s still painful.

As they grow, we lovingly support their independence by giving them safe places to explore. But when they can drive and spend long hours away from our watchful eyes, they sometimes explore places we’d rather protect them from.

Now, with just one teen left at home, these pitfalls don’t dismay me and instead of clutching him more tightly, I hold him more loosely than I did his older brothers.

Because I know what comes next. If you can weather those turbulent teen years, a really nice young man may come home to visit you. And he’ll actually choose to spend time with you.

Last weekend, one of those young men came home for dinner. As I reached up and wrapped my arms around my oldest son, he pressed his whiskery cheek against my forehead.

I hugged him, and somewhere beneath the cigarette smoke and shampoo, I caught the faintest whiff of my baby boy. Time blurred, melted and stopped momentarily, as I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and held him tight.

This I know. If someday my eyesight fails, if my hearing declines, if I lose my sense of touch, I will always recognize this man I call my son. His infant scent is embedded in our mutual DNA. To me he still smells like angel kisses.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.