An Utterly Terribly Horribly Awful Brain Fart

Mother’s Day began with my first tick bite, which is not in any way like the love bite I was expecting. The woods are full of deer ticks right now, carriers of Lyme disease with startling symptoms like facial paralysis – whilst tempting with no Botox clinics in the forest, other muscles and the brain can also freeze, so you have to get the burrowing little suckers out.

Taking my mind of the tick’s sharp little fangs, I went out to feed the chickens. Usually they chirp but there was an eerie silence when I got to the coop that hammered on my instincts.

What greeted me inside would put me off the Dimple’s scrambled eggs – which unfortunately had hunks of turkey meat in them. A raccoon got passed our dastardly security system and had a six chicken degustation banquet. Three were headless. Two were a pile of feathers and one looked like it had been vacuumed inside out, and all that remained was innards flopping about on a roosting perch. My innards wanted to scream, fill the horrible silence, but I swallowed hard, not wanting to alert Bob and the ‘Dactyl.

By the looks of it, the greedy ‘coon didn’t take any chickens home to his wife and children.
Thank goodness for Roald Dahl because we told them, just like in the story of Fantastic Mr Fox, “A hungry raccoon needed to feed his family.”

Bob held up a chubby finger, “Did he take one chicken for them?”

Erm, no darling, this raccoon had a really big extended family, possibly a forest reunion: he took all six….

The massacre bought up a nasty reminder about a near-death experience two nights prior.

Accidentally (and totally sober) I drove down Highway 20 at 65 miles an hour on the wrong side of the road with the children in the back and didn’t realize until I saw another car coming straight for us.

There’s an accident on Highway 20 about once a month and the driveway I pulled out from was where one family lost two (out of three) children last year in a head on. After I zoomed off everyone realized – the kiwi is on the freakin’ left – and waited, holding their breath, hoping not to hear a crash. We’re so lucky there wasn’t.

Highway 20, between Willits and Fort Bragg is like SH1 in New Zealand between Taupo and Tokoroa but imagine the trees come right down to the road, it’s much narrower, windier and full of angry SUVs.
Trying to understand it, I wrestled with wtf happened? Not enough coffee? Too many strawberries? Itchy foot? Imaginary tick bite? In truth, I think I had a brain fart. Knowing it was a fatal bit of road, feeling the presence of recent Death, I reverted back to my instinctual way to drive: on the left.

Thinking of the TV slogan ‘country people die on country roads’ I kept imagining us in the ad, filling in my own ending. What If I it wasn’t an old lady in a hybrid coming the other way but a hoon? What if she had been coming on one of the many blind corners?

What if it left my children without a mother? What If it left me without them?

Such pleasant Mother’s Day thoughts.

The Dimple, being a logical man, needed assurance it would never happen again while we live in America. Me, being an emotional woman, needed forgiveness and a hug.

The hardest part about any conclusion was that it was all me: not concentrating. If anyone in our household was going to drive on the wrong side it would be me. I’m the one that puts the kettle on the stove and walks away or puts her wallet on top of the car, fills up with gas and drives off. I’ve been known to walk into men’s toilets without noticing too.

I’m completely totally utterly amazing in many other ways but, sometimes, just occasionally, I’m not fully engaged with my surroundings. Sometimes my two lefts don’t equal a right. As a mother, that’s frightening because two small people are dependent on me being ON IT every second.

Feeling like a terrible mother, guilt and shame washed over me all day. Who put me in charge?

Totally on queue, the ‘Dactyl started humming a Laurie Berkner song we’d been enjoying in the car, “Hmmm ot purr-fit.” Listening closely I deciphered the line: I’m not perfect.

The ‘Dactyl, of course, is totally perfect; the message was for me.

I’m not perfect.
You’re not perfect.
You got what you got.
You do the best that you can.

Perhaps that Friday afternoon on Highway 20 wasn’t my best, but the best thing I can do from the experience is learn from it.

It was a reminder, a tap on the elbow: keep your wits about you and stick to the right Mama. It was a perfect reminder because nobody lost their mother, children or wife in the process. That crease between my eyebrows got a little deeper that’s all. Nothing a little Lyme disease can’t fix.

When I told the Dimple I would do my absolute best driving, but I could no longer beat myself up about What If, he gave me the hug I needed. “I don’t think I would ever get over losing you all,” he said, melting away my shame.

Mother’s Day evening over a glass of wine, we decided we were grateful the chickens died. They didn’t even get to lay one egg, kiss a frog, ride a rollercoaster, but if there was any dying to be done amongst the family in the woods that weekend, the chooks took one for the team. R.I.P.

Now Bob wants a guinea pig but we need to research whether raccoons like guinea tartare as much as chicken ceviche. Go on, say it: Ew


  1. Oh mi lord! Happy mothers day! I used to do stuff like that all the time when I was travelling to LA for work. In fact I pulled into the Miramax parking lot by driving up the wrong side, and fully confusing the man in the booth who was clearly not equipped for a chatty kiwi blonde in a large SUV on the wrong side of his booth. Back in Miramar, Wellington I then drove the wrong side into the New World carpark – clearly a case of concentrating too hard to get it right.

    Needless to say it must have given you a heart attack you poor love. BUT no doubt you’re still a great Mum, don’t beat yourself up. Leave that for the racoons and the chickens.



  2. Hi Ange, I subscribed to your blog some time ago and have meant to leave a message many times…. but I’d just like to say I truly savour reading your posts… they never fail to impart a wonderfully articulate mix of comedy, realism and insight. Thanks for writing them, you’re ace. Cheers


  3. insightful, funny and extraordinarily honest. love you ange. looks like i’ve met my match in the self critic stakes :) such a great read as always hun, thank you. it’s funny we’re back from 8 states in 23 days and i caught myself chanting….’mummy in the middle’ from behind the wheel of the TAHOE…. middle as in me in the LHS of the car and my butt in the centre of the road. to forgive is to live. to learn is to grow. well done on getting this so very right. or is that left? hugs xxx


  4. Ange, barely a day goes by when I don’t do something daft in regards to my kids. We do the best we can, and learn from our mistakes. Most of us survived childhood.Look on the bright side, at least you ARE still in charge of their safety and well-being. Imagine what it will be like when they’re out there on their own making all the dreadful mistakes, and doing the dangerous things we did!
    As for the chickens, my deepest sympathies. I had the same thing happen to my chickens when I was 8 years old. A stoat (not raccoon) bit the heads off all of them. I found them in a fairly similar way, and still have a very vivid memory of my prize rooster Chanticler (white fluffy bantam – ridiculous looking creature) with his neck through the wire netting and not a head in sight – deeply traumatizing at that age… xx love to all in
    the woods


  5. Hey Ange, lovely bit of blog reflection… I related on so many levels, especially the ‘not always fully engaged in my surroundings’ bit! While it happens all the time, the moments that stick are the harrowing worst case scenarios that play out in our minds… balanced out in the end by a surge of gratefulness. We’re very grateful you’re all still here and think as always that you are rocking great mum! much love to you all and those ticks!


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