I smell a rat.

Or squirrel, which technically takes longer to decompose, and would be culprit no. 1 as to why the dead stink in our basement hasn’t deteriorated yet.rat

When I was pregnant with Bryce, I would wander periodically into Tony’s office to chat, as wives are prone to do, to ask for help with Addie or to lie on the bed, stare at the wall, complain about swollen feet. One day my spider pregnancy senses detected an odd odor emanating from our crawlspace. I pointed it out to Tony, who couldn’t smell it, and brushed it off.

Well summer got hotter, and as dead things do, whatever it was kept rotting away in the crawlspace and wafting their deadness out into our basement.

Smelling super gross.

Eventually, after some prodding, Tony acknowledged that yes, something probably had died underneath, and agreed that it was time to do something about it. We got in there, grabbed some bodies, disposed of them, and pretty soon our home smelled back to normal.

A few good things came out of this: we got bodies out of our crawlspace (a great practice to keep up no matter where you live), and I got a great sense of what it smells like to putrefy.

We currently live in a rental home that I love for so many reasons. After a difficult experience of home ‘ownership’ (its hard to own something when you’re 200,000 underwater), I learned to love renting and all of the ease it affords. I think we’re pretty good tenants. Tony’s planted a pretty great garden, essentially hosting a farmers market for my girlfriends in the summer, who come over for wine and take home kale and cucumbers. We unclog our own toilets (apparently something not all renters do), and generally keep the place up quite nicely.

We experienced the perks of renting when our downstairs ceiling fell in because of a water leak. Our job to fix? No! That was a wild mess belonging only to the landlord. After a long stretch of construction in our downstairs bathroom, I thought, “Gee, I hope he never has to tear the ceiling out again… while we live here.” All looked good until…the dead smell came back, which I am now an expert at identifying. Because all bodies (except those who eat daily at McDonalds) eventually decompose, its only a matter of time before the business is finished and you’re just left with a skeleton, but because our smell has been going on for about two months, it got us thinking that something much larger has gone to take a ‘dirt nap’, though not in the dirt just yet.

One day we called our landlord, who came over and verified that the only way he could get rid of the smell would be to tear out the ceiling once more. We actually really like our landlord, so neither Tony or I had the desire to put him through that terrible project again. We can live with the smell until it eventually goes away.

I remember being really freaked out when this happened the first time. “Things DIE in here?! And then just rot?!” This is just something that happens? When you think about it, it totally makes sense. Theres no way to keep everything out of your house, walls, your crawlspace. I think the most you can hope for is that it isn’t in a difficult place to get (like in your bathroom ceiling), so you could dispose of it before the stench really starts to bug you.

The other evening Tony and I sat down in the living room, and I felt like I had a quarter life crisis (32 is still mostly a quarter…) all over him. I have some dead rats and I think I ignored the smell for too long. I really miss being a school counselor. I worked so hard for a long time, and I love working with students. I want to use those skills again.

Parenting well is really hard sometimes. Discipline is really hard. Figuring out your kid, what works for them? What doesn’t?

(I think) we’re buying a house, assuming all the little pieces fall together, but it a process that is mostly out of my control, and thats rough for me.

And the pressure is starting to build up.

And I wonder what can keep the vermin from piling up. There is no way to stop them from getting in, because life happens, and it can be stressful, and its not always fun. But you can only ignore stink for so long. For me, it reveals itself through a crummy spiritual life. Impatience with my kids or my husband. A little extra road rage. And the smell is this litmus test for whats really going on inside.

I haven’t had any huge epiphanies, except to say that I realize how much I need to process more during times when there is a lot going on, and thats when its so hard to do so. When you start to see ugliness coming out of you, thats the most difficult time to stop and make changes. When you finally start to smell the rats, that means they’ve died, and something has to be done, but thats the last thing you want to do at the moment. I’d rather run away and sit on a beach with Tony, but I don’t have the babysitters or the airfare.

What I need is to get up early with a strong cup of black coffee and time with God. A good conversation with my mom, a friend, or Tony help. To go to the Y. Have a nice beer and then good conversations help too. I need it all. And I need to do it more, instead of letting it all pile up. Because when it boils down to it I can’t get enough of my kids. They’re fantastic and hilarious and wonderful. So is Tony. So is getting a house. I’ll figure out the work stuff. Everything is too great to get pinned down in the muck…its just that everyone needs a good crawlspace clean once in a while.