Wednesday, December 31, 2014

When You Hit Publish On One Thing, Be Working On The Next Thing

It's a lot of work publishing a book, having a gallery show, releasing an album. It's a lot of work to finish and screen the documentary, stage the dance and unveil the new collection.

It's a lot of work to create something good. It's also a lot of work to release what you've created to the public.

This is for anyone who creates something and then shares it. You may have an audience of millions of people. You may have an audience of five people. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

This applies in a direct way to artists, writers, designers and musicians. It also applies to people who work outside of what we think of as creative fields in the traditional sense. It isn't for the person working day in and day out in total isolation. You would need a different sort of blog post.

It's for people who hit publish. It's for people who perform. It's for people who sell their wares. It's for people who reveal. Other people read it or don't, show up or not, buy it or decide not to.

You're working in a single-minded way on the finishing touches of that memoir and the publication date and book release party are finally in sight. You've got the author readings and book signings scheduled. It seems tempting and intuitive to just focus on that book. You'll decide what to do next after the book tour. After the party. When time frees up a bit. Take a breather. Bask in the accomplishment.

I get it. But here's why my idea is better.

Once the work gets shared with the world, the room, the stage or the conference audience, it’s out there. By the time other people have the chance to review, comment, respond, share, ignore, purchase, watch, listen to, re-tweet, wear, read, write about, rank, hate on, misunderstand or worship your work, it needs to be like old news to you.

It needs to feel like old news to you when it feels like breaking news to everyone else.

Here it is in practical terms.

You're a painter hanging your show of exquisite paintings using re-claimed wood as a surface. They're all about color and knotty texture and beautiful interaction - collaboration - with the wood. Your show opens, and you're accepting congratulations and sipping - okay guzzling - white wine.

But earlier that day, you were in the studio that doubles as a guest room. You were already working on the second painting in a new series. These are on white linen, are soft and ethereal. They seem lit from within. You've made a bit of a departure.

This is good.

You can show your finished work in its best light, have the most beautiful packaging and the state of the art sound system. You can work with the best graphic designer for that book cover or collaborate with the dream producer. The acoustics may be perfect. The cinematography sublime.

You still don't have much control over how your work will be received. The truth is, it probably won't be unanimously praised. Most people may love it, but a few might hate it. Most people may hate it and a few may love it. People might feel apathy. People might find it derivative.

People adore it. That love may be close to universal. But then no one will want to buy it.

Critics hate it, but it's flying off the shelves.

Try as you might to influence it, you can't control it.

Better that it feels like old news, this work you're presenting. It's still yours. But it's not you.

You're a moving train. You could bomb. It's better to be halfway through your comeback when this happens. You don't want to be staring at a blank screen or canvas.

You don't want to get all bogged down in how you'll follow the wildly successful show, blog post or lecture. For better or worse, it's already happening. You're in motion. It doesn't mean you can't change direction. But that's not the same as starting from scratch.

No one thing should canonize you. No one thing should destroy you. Working on the next thing prevents either of these things from happening. It keeps you current. It keeps you running ahead. You’ll never be yesterday’s news.

I like dispensing advice about the creative process. You can read more at the links below.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Night Before French Toast

When I was a kid, my mother started this tradition. I vaguely remembered that she got the idea from someone else, but I couldn't remember who. Then one day, a couple of years ago, I posted about the tradition on Facebook. 

A couple of extended family members saw the post and told me who it started with. It was my step-grandma Shirley. My mother picked it up from her. Turns out that it's branched out quite far now. I do the tradition. Shirley's granddaughters and granddaughters-in-law also do the tradition. My mother still does the tradition. It would not surprise me at all if Hannah carried it on someday.

This tradition is called Night Before French Toast.

Every Christmas Eve, my mother would make Night Before French Toast. You refrigerate it all assembled over night and put it in the oven the next morning. This dish works extremely well on Christmas morning. The whole idea is that you are not chained to the stove, but you can still serve a fancy and delicious breakfast.

Soon after I got married, my mother gave me the recipe. She typed it on this recipe card. I still have it.

I started making Night Before French Toast when I wasn't with my mother for Christmas. The first year was when I was expecting Jacob. In December of 1996, Jeremy and I had the sweetest little Christmas at home in Park Slope. 

I made the Night Before French Toast this Christmas. I also recommend it at other times. It's fantastic when you have people over for brunch. Jeremy and I once hosted his family along with relatives from California at our place one year, and I made two big batches. People loved it. The only person I've encountered that doesn't is Noah. I feel that he may come around to it someday.

I also find that it works really well when kids sleep over at our house. It's very special but it's almost no effort for me. It goes over really well and then I am perceived as the cool mom.

If you want a great New Year's day breakfast, make it and put it in the fridge before you go out on New Year's Eve. 

This is the basic recipe. Over the years I've adapted it. 

One of my secrets is that I substitute buttermilk for half of the milk in the recipe. I started doing this because Jeremy and I are crazy about buttermilk. I believe that the buttermilk makes it very custardy on the inside and crisp on the outside.

You can also vary the bread that you use. Lately, I've been making it with Challah bread. That is a natural for this recipe and it goes with it beautifully.

I've also used sourdough bread with Nite Before French Toast. I'm a big fan of the sweet/sour/savory combo. Hence the buttermilk and sourdough bread.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Living with Rodents: Part 3

Getting rid of rodents in a more permanent way.

If you are reading this blog for the first time, first let me say that this is kind of an odd place to start in with Non-Fiction Living. I would like to reassure you that I don't only write about rodents. That said, this is the third blog post I've written about our disgusting and furry friends. I even have a 4th one planned, which I've given the working title Living with Rodents: Part 4, Stories about Rodents. But here I am getting ahead of myself!

In part one of this four part mini-series I wrote about the time that I babysat a rodent. In part two, I shared what it feels like to live with uninvited rodent roommates.

This one is more practical. I'm going to share what I did to get rid of the rodents that moved in with our family without our permission.

First, a bit of history. I live in a very lovely apartment complex. For the purposes of this blog, I will call this group of apartments Park Terrace Gardens. It was easy for me to call them that because that is what they are actually called.

Many people enjoy living in Park Terrace Gardens. As it turns out, many rodents also enjoy living here. They like to live in the apartments. Additionally, they also frequent the common areas such as hallways, lobbies and stairwells. They settle in especially nicely in the compactor rooms and basement areas.

I used to believe that Park Terrace Gardens could eventually get rid of the rodents. For reasons too numerous to go into here, I have developed a cynical outlook. I am no longer filled with a limitless and childlike optimism about professional exterminators and their ability to stage a mass rodent annihilation at Park Terrace Gardens.

I believe that rodents will always live at Park Terrace Gardens. The rodents love it there too much to consider leaving. They love it so much that they settle in and raise their families there. Raise may be too strong a word. They procreate. They do this a lot.

The best I can possibly hope for as a resident of Park Terrace Gardens is that the rodents will vacate my apartment and move in with neighbors. That in addition to the common areas I mentioned previously.

When I first moved to park Terrace Gardens I assumed that common area meant places where I could go along with other shareholders. People. After I lived here a while, I realized that rodents and waterbugs are also very welcome there.

I have some criteria when it comes to evicting rodents from my apartment and forcing them to reside with other shareholders.

When the exterminator comes to spray chemicals around the common areas of Park Terrace Gardens it is a very malodorous process. It smells so toxic that one word comes to mind. That word is cancer.

That is why I don’t make Saturday appointments with the exterminator.

I set out to do everything possible to evict rodents that would not cause cancer. To be clear, I don’t actually care if rodents get cancer. I’m going to admit right now that I like it when researchers study cancerous rodents in the laboratory because presumably this helps them come up with cures for human cancer.

I just don’t want to think that if I get cancer at some point in the future that it was because I let the exterminator in.

You might ask, if the chemicals are so toxic, then why doesn’t the exterminator have cancer? Good question. I have noticed that the exterminator is wearing a special jump suit.  This is protective. The mask he wears is probably of minimal benefit.

I do not want to wear this effective jumpsuit or the useless mask in my apartment.

Solutions for unwanted rodents that do not cause cancer

Eliminate Rodent portals
I am about to give you advice that is both good and lame. You’ve heard it before. It works. But it has caveats.

If you have any gaping, visible holes in your residence, you should either plaster over them (or better yet, get the Super to do it) or stuff them with steel wool. Once you have done this, lay out some glue traps, because the rodents who are used to an open door policy in your residence will no longer be able to exit freely. They will run about in a frantic way looking for the holes. Eventually, they end up in the glue traps. Read about discarding the glue traps while simultaneously denying there is a rodent in it here.

This is obviously good, safe advice. The steel wool and plaster won’t give you cancer. But there are these other holes that develop behind the refrigerator and in places where heavy stuff like couches are  in front of the holes. Who has time to move stuff like that to plug up a suspected hole?

One of my other suggestions involves doing things that rodents hate but people like. The other one involves doing things that rodents hate and people are neutral on. A third one involves something that is a little bit of a pain in the neck, but humans quickly become used to. This third thing is quite disappointing to rodents.

Let me elaborate.

Be a FreshMaker

Before getting to the good part, there is something disgusting that you must do. You must clean out the places that the rodents have been living. These places can include cupboards. Listen to some addicting podcasts while you are working. It will make the time go faster.

Rodents are disgusting. They’ve been using your residence as their nesting, mating, eating, birthing and bathroom facilities. You must vacuum and then scrub with the kind of spray that kills 99.9 % of germs.

You must either wash everything else that was in with the disgusting rodents or throw it all out.

Get peppermint oil from the drugstore or health food store along with cotton balls. If you can pour some peppermint oil directly on an area do so. But most of the time, you should soak cotton balls and scatter them in the areas that the rodents like to go.

Then mark you calendar every couple of weeks to check for signs of rodents and refresh the cotton balls. You can’t just do the cotton balls once. You have to keep refreshing them.

It turns out that refresh is a good word for what is happening. Peppermint smells horrible to rodents. It really seems like they truly can’t stand it. Peppermint might be just as disgusting to rodents as rodents are to most humans.

However, to humans it is aromatherapy. It’s very bracing and clean smelling. It will make you feel wide-awake and clear-headed. Additionally, it will also smell kind of Christmassy like a candy cane. Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t want to smell Christmas in August.  Do you love rodents? Do you want to get cancer? Do you want to wear a jumpsuit?

Make sounds rodents hate.

I used to think that these things were a scam. But then I heard some success stories from a very reliable source. This wasn’t some bozo from the Internet. If you must know, this was my brother in law’s older sister.

Once I heard good things from my BILOS, I got myself one ASAP, and plugged that Home Sentinel unit right into our outlet.

The noise it makes is inaudible to even the human member of our family who has sensory integration issues and is sensitive to stimuli that most other humans are not. But it appears that the noise it makes is extremely unpleasant and rude to rodents. Like it or not, the rodents are both roommates and neighbors. It is the rodent version of really crappy grating heavy metal music played at all hours that the rest of us can’t even hear. We refuse to turn that shit down. They are unable to live with this racket any longer. Win!

Rodents and humans like some of the same things. For instance, we all enjoy eating Great Grains cereal. Jeremy and I do not like sharing this and other favorite foods with rodents. As long as we are willing to share food with rodents, the rodents will not leave our apartment to go live with neighbors or in the common areas.

One thing that rodents like that humans do not is making homes out of cardboard and giving birth right in the cardboard homes. As strange as it sounds to us, this is what rodents like to do.

That is how Jeremy and I came to buy large numbers of plastic containers. Once we cut the rodents off from their food supplies and unreasonable demands for homemade cardboard residences inside of our apartment, they apparently found what they needed from neighbors.

That is why we have two extremely large Rubbermaid boxes filled with crackers, cereals, pasta and Pirates Booty. We call them carb boxes. Maybe it doesn’t sound nice. Better than rodents. Or cancer.

Do all of these things at once.

Don’t be lazy. Don’t try just one of these things and expect it to solve this problem. I can hear it now.  The Home Sentinel doesn’t work. Well, maybe the rodents have decided to stay with the terrible noise you’re making because they still get their favorite food and unlimited cardboard for the ugly nests they inexplicably love. Don’t be ridiculous. Do all of them. Or get a jumpsuit and call the exterminator.

The Home Sentinel.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why Non-Fiction Living Does A Top 10 Music List

Non Fiction Living is a lot of things. But one thing it is not is a music blog.

Here's the thing. Non-Fiction Living is married to AnEarful. AnEarful is a very serious music blog. So even if Non-Fiction Living wanted to avoid music listening, music conversation and music scholarship, Non-Fiction Living would be unable to do this with anEarful around.

Non-Fiction living has absorbed a lot from AnEarful.

Long before we had blogs, Jeremy and I made our own holiday traditions. One of our favorite things to do in December is compile our top music lists. Jeremy does this in a focused and purposeful way. I do it just for fun. But I suspect that maybe it’s become as important to me as it is to him.

Our Top 10 lists are a full year in the making.

Jeremy is the hunter and gatherer of our household for music. He is a voracious consumer of music. He plays music for me in the car and at home. We also discuss the music. When I hear something I really like, I'll put it on a list.

As it gets to be December, we both get serious about our Top 10 lists. There is typically a period of feeling overwhelmed by all of the great music that has come out over the course of the year. During the month of December, I am transformed into an opinionated and discriminating music critic. To be honest with you, I'm a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to my Top 10 list.

Jeremy is clearly the musical expert. However, if some music he plays me for sucks, I’m going to let him know. He may have all these reasons that he thinks its good. This one used to be the bass player in this or that band and then struck out on his own from the vocalist from this or that band. They all share a thread with Steely Dan’s producer or one of them may have been tangentially involved in the Lost Weekend. That’s all fine and good. But it doesn’t change what I do or don’t want to listen to.

Everything on my Top 10 list has an important commonality. Each album could be classified as a sound track to my life. Years from now, when I put on Hollie Cooke, I'll think about the long summer days of 2014. Beck will make recall the time when it was still gray and winter and his music made 2014 seem fresh and new. Other criteria include can’t stop dancing, can't stop listening and can't stop talking about it. If it fits with any of those qualities, it will end up on my Top 10 list.

Once I start getting serious about my Top 10 list, it is cloaked in secrecy. Jeremy is seeing my reveal for the first time today. I don’t read AnEarful when I’m preparing my final selections. I go on an AnEarful media blackout.

If you want to read the Top 10 (actually Top 20) list of a true musical expert, instead of a regular person like me, check out Jeremy's selections and analysis here and here. I'll be reading it as soon as I'm done posting this.

I used to employ Post-It notes to compile and then display my Top 10 list. Now that I have a blog, this is a good place to do that.

Only a privileged few get to be on my top music list. Many are called. Few are chosen. It’s a tough job, picking the best music of the year, but somebody's got to do it. That somebody might as well be me.

1) Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness Of Dancers: Sheer, unadulterated audacity. Everything old is new again. Then I realized that this was always new. Listening again and again made me smarter.

2) Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours: The word romance keeps coming to mind. It is unapologetically unabashed. And nobody gets away with it like he can.

3) Beck – Morning Phase: I love me a comeback story. This is his moment. I didn’t think he had it in him. He showed me.

4) Kate Tempest – Everybody Down: I don’t care if I am a bad dancer. When I put this on, people are just going to have to deal with it.

5) Hollie Cook - Twice: Deceptively simple, unbelievably appealing. I said the same thing about her first album. Here she is charting new territory in her second one.

6) Glen Kotche - Adventureland: This had me at hello. It got frequent airplay from my iMac. It’s really different from everything else here. I’m good with that.

7) Nicole Atkins – Slow Phaser: When I use the word sinewy, that’s always a compliment.

8) Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas: Others try doing what she does. Because she’s so amazingly talented as a musician and lyricist, it is #8 best album of the year. When everybody else tries it, it sounds very bad. She makes it look easy, but its not.

9) Debby Schwartz – A Garden Of My Own: She’s put in her 10,000 plus hours and now has a work of art to show for it. If I didn’t love it so much it could break me in half with unspeakable beauty.

10) Tweedy - Sukierae: Virtuoso. Fresh elder statesman. A lot like watching the Olympics.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Living With Rodents: Part 2

Rodents as Roommates

Before Jeremy and I began to share our lives together, I had roommates. I love living with Jeremy. But before all that, I loved living with roommates. I had roommates in college. I had roommates in Brooklyn. I had roommates in a really fun sublet on the Upper West Side one summer.

These roommates were so awesome. The only complaint I might have in retrospect is that they smoked a lot of cigarettes. They never had enough cigarettes to go around. Then they would quietly steal cigarettes from each other. But one or another of them would always find out about it.

Cigarettes are expensive. No one had enough money. In addition to the outright stealing from one another, they did a lot of begging. Not on the streets or on the train. It wasn't that bad. They only begged from each other inside of our apartment in Brooklyn.

I was really outside the drama about the cigarettes because I was a non- smoker. Well officially, I was a non- smoker. The second hand smoke may have calmed me down and smoothed over some of my rougher edges. I may have received some benefits. Or it may have been the placebo effect.

Except for one clove cigarette in college, I never smoked. The man that came to our school in 5th grade to speak with us through a special hole in his trachea scared me half to death. He smoked, and then this terrible thing happened. So I'm never smoking.

These smoking complaints are very minor. The roommates really should get a trophy for living with me all that time. I could be a lot of fun. But I also kept them up until the wee hours talking about my problems. When I look back on it, I should have done more for the roommates. At the very least, I could have bought them a carton of cigarettes to spilt.

There are good roommates. There are bad roommates.  I have been blessed and cursed with each.

If you are squeamish you may want to stop reading here. If you are seriously involved with PETA, please, please stop reading.

I am here to explain that rodents are really crappy roommates.

In a previous post, I recounted a bad experience I had babysitting a rodent. That was easier than living with rodents. For one thing, the rodent I babysat had his own habitat. Really he had his own apartment. Him living in his own apartment meant that I wouldn’t be surprised finding him in the silverware drawer or skulking along the baseboards. I’ll say this for him. He was well contained.

The rodents that make the worst roommates are the kind you don’t go to the pet store to pick out. These rodents just move in without permission. They don’t pay rent. They attempt to eat your food. They are constantly trying to use your cardboard or paper to build their nests. As if living in your apartment isn’t luxurious enough, they want to build their dwelling inside of your apartment.

They reproduce. They are disgusting. They are horrible roommates. They must go.

We have found that the best way of evicting rodents that are living with you without permission are glue traps. For a more permanent solution to undesirable rodent roommates, please see my future Post titled Living With Rodents: Part 3, Getting Rid of Rodent Roommates in a More Permanent Way.

I have engaged in much self -improvement in the last few years. One result of this hard work is that if there is a rodent in a glue trap inside my apartment, I can dispose of it myself.

The process of my disposing of the rodent is not a quick one. First I must employ between 1 and 4 glue traps to cover up the rodent. If I am lucky, I can make a good sandwich using one extra trap. But unfortunately, rodents have long tails. That is where the other traps come in. The entire rodent must be covered.

I then use a broom handle to pat the traps down on top of the rodent. The next part is tricky.

I need to get the rodent into a bag while denying that it is a rodent. I use the broom handle to grab a sticky, exposed part of the traps with the rodent sandwiched inside and shake it into the bag. I have previously opened our apartment door. I then run screaming to the compactor room and dispose of it as quickly as I can.

Occasionally, the glue trap is really stuck to the broom handle. No amount of shaking near the bag will loosen it. I will not put my hand on or near the glue trap because I have not forgotten there is a rodent in there.

On these rare instances, I run screaming to the compactor room with the rodent sandwich still stuck to the broom handle. I then open the compactor shoot and shake that sandwich hard while hitting it against the metal. Once disposed of, I close that chute as quickly as possible then scream a little more as I go back into my apartment.

This process takes 15 minutes on a good day, but for a more challenging case can take upwards of 45 minutes.

Previously to my independent rodent disposal, I had four options. The easiest option would be for Jeremy to dispose of the rodent. If Jeremy was already home, this was a best case scenario. If Jeremy was not home but coming home later that day, I could close off the room with the rodent inside until he arrived home.

Sometimes Jeremy goes on a business trip.

The next best scenario was Pedro our porter. If Jeremy is the #1 awesome husband Pedro is the #1 awesome porter. My policy is that every time Pedro disposed of a rodent, I would give him a tip. Pedro did not want to accept the tip. I once chased Pedro with a tip around the second floor of the D building, then threw it at him and then ran back into my apartment and slammed the door.

My son is entrepreneurial. Once he realized I was tipping Pedro to dispose of the rodents, he asked me if I could just pay him to do it. I considered it. I couldn't do it. It's screwed up to pay your kid to dispose of rodents.

The third scenario is to have a male extended family member come over. I won't go into his methods here. Let's just say the man is serious.

One late night, I had exhausted my options. Jeremy was on a business trip. Unfortunately, Pedro is not on 24-hour call like a doctor. My male in-law was out. My female in-law would not come over to dispose of the rodent.

That left my finding a male neighbor to do it.

Please don’t call me a sexist. I am a feminist. However, when there is a rodent in a glue trap inside the apartment, do yourself a favor and find a male neighbor. The female neighbor will commiserate. She will validate your feelings about the rodent. She will talk to you about bad experiences she has had with rodents - possibly even the exact same ones! But she will not dispose of the rodent.

I knocked on a neighbor's door. A male neighbor answered the door.  I was crying softly. I asked the male neighbor to please come to my apartment to dispose of the rodent.

The male neighbor felt sorry for the rodent. It was squeaking. However, I was crying. I felt like the male neighbor should feel less sorry for the rodent and more sorry for me.

The important thing was that the male neighbor quickly disposed of the rodent. Once that happened I could forget about rodents for the rest of the evening.

I have never forgotten this act of kindness.

At a certain point, I realized that we had too many bad rodent roommates. I could no longer pretend that the rodent/glue trap sandwiches, the financial burden of tipping Pedro, the stress of chasing Pedro with the tip, and trying to alternate male neighbors as to not alienate them was an isolated thing.

So you can add amateur exterminator to my list of accomplishments. Some of my methods, which you can read about soon in Living With Rodents: Part 3, Getting Rid of Rodent Roommates in a More Permanent Way will sound a little bit unorthodox. But I’m here to say that it works. Isn’t that the important thing?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Living With Rodents: Part One

Babysitting Rodents

Anyone who knows me knows I do not like rodents. If you are going on vacation, do not ask me to babysit your rodent.

I once agreed to babysit the rodent of an extended family member while they were on vacation. I thought it would be a pretty easy gig. That is why I said yes without consulting Jeremy.

Jeremy may have seen the writing on the wall beforehand regarding the babysitting of this rodent. I told him that we were babysitting the rodent, but not to worry because I would be doing all of the work.

Jeremy looked askance. He asked that the rodent's cage to be placed far from sleeping and eating areas. He was concerned about the odor and allergens involved with babysitting a rodent.

One of the things I did not anticipate was that this previously healthy rodent had become quite ill. The onset of the rodent disease process predated the babysitting. It had nothing to do with me.

The extended family members went on vacation, leaving the rodent in my care. They were a little bit concerned about the health status of the rodent. But they were not worried enough to change their vacation plans. They were also not worried enough to take the rodent with them on vacation, even though I think they could have shown this rodent a very good time.

I took a gander at this sick rodent. I was worried about the rodent passing away while I was babysitting. I did not want to have to make that kind of phone call.

No one likes making these calls. I rehearsed it in my mind, just in case.

I'm going to ask you to sit down. I'm afraid that I have some very sad news. Your rodent has passed away. I hope it brings you comfort when I tell you that I believe that your rodent is in a much better place. He went peacefully.

I did not want to have a dignified burial for the rodent and take photographs of the proceedings as keepsakes for my extended family members. Nor did I want to put the rodent in a Ziploc bag in the freezer so that the extended family members could say their final goodbyes when they returned from their vacation.

If Jeremy did not want a rodent habitat anywhere near places where he eats and sleeps, I did not think he would agree to make our freezer into a temporary morgue.

I was going to have to make every attempt to keep this rodent alive.

When I babysit, I take that responsibility seriously. Usually, I am babysitting a human being. I listen carefully to the instructions from the parents. I'm very careful while I am babysitting because as I have said many times before, I don't want anything happening on my watch.

If the child is old enough to have a conversation, they usually ask if they can do something ridiculous and potentially dangerous while I am babysitting because my mom and dad let me do this all the time. Yeah right, bud. Nice try. Not on my watch.

I like to think I have a real knack with children. How hard could babysitting a rodent be?

It turns out that it was a little bit harder than I anticipated.

I dutifully approached the rodent habitat at the designated time to feed the rodent. I had rodent food ready. I also had some medicine for the rodent. I knew how to work the latch at the top of the rodent house.

I gingerly opened the latch to the habitat. I was getting ready to put the food inside. It was at that point that the rodent became very excited, God love him. He was smart. In spite of being close to death, he was very hungry. He perked up. He came running over to the food and in the process, his skin - fur? - brushed up against my fingers.

I latched the top of that house as quickly as I could. I am not proud of what happened next.

There was me screaming because the rodent's fur touched my hand. There was an overwhelming sense that I could not go near the rodent cage again. There was Jeremy saying oh for Christ sake! in a very impatient tone. Not yelling, as he is a man of peace. But definitely in a firm, raised voice.

I did not feed the rodent. I did not give the rodent his meds. It turned out that Jeremy did these things. He did them for the rest of the family vacation.

Jeremy did not divorce me.

Sometimes you do something so bad that you realize that you don't have a leg to stand on. There is nothing you can do but say you're sorry and then be extra nice to the person you've offended for the next several days.

If Jeremy hired a lawyer and then filed for divorce, I'd have to get my own lawyer. But there wouldn't be much that counsel could do. Yes, I agreed to babysit the rodent without discussing it with Jeremy. Yes, I said I would do all the work and then did none of the work. You're not giving me much to go on here, the lawyer would say.

Everything turned out okay. The important thing was that rodent stayed alive until the extended family members returned from vacation. I don't remember how much longer the rodent lived. He could still be alive for all I know. Or that could be a different rodent. Hamster, gerbil, squirrel, rat. They all seem the same to me.

The extended family members took Jeremy and I out for dinner after their vacation to thank us for babysitting and also for collecting the mail. I wondered if I should stay home and just let Jeremy go. Don't be ridiculous, Jeremy said.

You could consider everything I wrote up to this point as a cautionary tale. If you are a rodent loving person, then by all means go ahead and babysit one. Knock yourself out. But if you are not a person who likes rodents, then I would just say a polite no to people who ask you to babysit and call it a day.

Living With Rodents: Part One is the first in a four part series about life in NYC with rodents. Watch this space for parts two, three and four in what promises to be an interesting, informative and somewhat entertaining first hand account of my relationship with rodents.