Showering with Charlotte

I noticed the black speck on the ceiling above our master bedroom shower at the end of the night while I was getting ready for bed.

A spider.

I make a mental note to look for her before I step into the shower in the morning.

Sure enough, she’s in there, hanging out on a strand of silk strung from the shower head.


I debate grabbing a tissue and squishing her or knocking her down so that she’ll fall into the water pooling at the bottom of the shower and drown and/or get sucked down the drain.

But, I can’t.

I have a soft-spot for bugs, even spiders. I was that kid who admonished the boys burning/stomping on ants and pulling the legs off a daddy long legs. I thought it was cruel and senseless.

Insects and spiders don’t hurt anyone. They just go about their little bug lives…building tunnels, laying eggs, feasting on decomposing matter. They have value.

When I worked at the Erie Zoo after college, I sometimes did outreach programs, I often took at least one insect — the Madascan hissing cockroaches were a favorite, as were the Giant African Milipedes.

Once I got past the creepy feeling of a half dozen (or five dozen) tiny feet crawling over my hand or arm, I learned to love handling insects. They never bit (few even have regular mouths), they never protested when I reached in to get them (aside from a little hissing from the roaches, which is really just air they are squeezing out of holes in their abdomen) and they didn’t usually try to run away.

Today, I’m the one rushing to save any insects I find in the office, giving them a ride to the other side of my windowsill and into the lush land surrounding Glenhill Farmhouse before any of my bug-hating office mates flush them.


So I ponder what to do with my little black shower buddy.  I should take her outside, but it’s cold and I’m naked.  She reminds me of Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web.

She’s out of the way of the harsh spray and I can turn on the water and shower without killing her and/or encouraging her to crawl on me, which would result in an immediate death penalty.

I decide to let her stay and leave her future up to fate.

I watch her as I shower. She desperately trying to crawl up the thread and get back on the ceiling, but her eight tiny legs slip on the wet shower surround. She tries climbing down, but that’s where the water is pounding. She’s stuck, so she finally stops and just hangs on between the shower head and shower handle, four of her legs nervously stroking the silk strand. Or maybe she was building a safety net, who knows?

When I turn off the water 10 minutes later, she’s still there. Still hanging on for dear life. I leave her be.

That evening, she’s still there.

“Haven’t learned your lesson, eh?” I say. “Well, today is your lucky day, Charlotte. You’ve won and all expenses paid trip to the great outdoors.”

I grab a piece of toilet paper. Gently squeezing my little friend between my thumb and forefinger, I deposit her on the back steps that lead to the pool.

I figure she’ll be happy there. She seems to like living near the water.

Worth Reading — 5/20/15

A random collections of blog posts, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.

Quartz: The Best Career Advice You’ll Never Hear in a Graduation Speech

“Do something that genuinely helps others and makes the world a better place in a major way. That’s the way to have a happy, fulfilled life.”

Huff Post: Dying Man’s Wish Is That You Take Time to Enjoy a Sunset

Jezebel: These Cats Hate Everything, But Especially Your Dumb Birthday. (LOL)

The New York Times: Judy Blume Knows All Your Secrets

“The connection to that woman felt strangely personal. Although we knew nothing about her beyond her smiling face on the backs of the books, she knew us intimately, certainly better than we knew ourselves.”

Lauren’s Epic Mother’s Day Copon (sic) Book



Lauren’s Mother’s Day gifts never disappoint, but this year, inspired this year by an episode of “The Middle,” she really knocked it out of the park with a hilarious coupon book full of coupons that come with conditions. Click on the first photo to see them all close up.

Three things — 4/16/15

Things I’m loving this week


1. Bird watching. I don’t realize how much I miss all the birds until they return in the spring. I love their energy, presence, and happy songs (though not so much at 5 a.m. on weekends, but…). My always-entertaining Orioles are back…and Kelly said she saw a hummingbird yesterday.


2. Lilacs! Lilacs are my favorite flowers in the world. I snuck out and cut some off the bushes outside my building at lunchtime and now my office smells like spring.


3. Girls race weekends. Nine friends and I had a blast in the ‘burgh recently when we ran the Pittsburgh Marathon as a relay team. Happiness is laughing so long and hard that your abs hurt.  I am so grateful for all the fun and awesome friends I’ve made through running.  I wrote about our weekend here and here.


4. End to sports shuttling every day. I love that Kelly played volleyball and I’m sad the season is over, but I’m not sad that I no longer have to run her to & from school for two hours every weeknight. I almost don’t know what to do with my free time, but then I remember….

Things I’m not loving this week

1. Spring garden cleanup. Yep…it’s mid-May and I’ve only just begun cleaning all the leaves out of my flower beds and getting them ready for summer. I hate spring cleanup because the volume of work to be done is just overwhelming. I’ve been doing it one bed at a time, which is easier to handle, but by the time I get the last bed done, I’ll have to go back and weed the first bed again before we lay down mulch later.

And, I don’t even want to think about the veggie gardens right now. *sigh*

2. End of boot season. While I’m thrilled to be entering the no-sock season, I already miss all my calf-height boots. I put them back in their boxes on the top shelf of my closet this weekend to avoid the temptation to wear them on cold days.


3. Monsoon-ish rain. What is the deal with all the precipitation lately? I mean…it’s great because it’s free fresh water to fill up the lake, but…enough.

Worth Reading — 5/13/15

A random collections of blog posts, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.

Time: Are You Disorganized? Research Says That’s a Good Thing (I could’ve told you this just by watching Lauren. I’m organized externally, but my mind is sort of scattered. I’m frequently “off task” but I think it’s vital to what I do…taking in information, & going down rabbit holes & off on tangents are part of the creative process. BTW, some of the most creative people I’ve worked with have the messiest offices/desks — you know who you are.)

Huffington Post: 33 Self-Improvement Thingees to Read and Then Quickly Forget (LOL)

Readers Digest: 20 Secrets Amusement Parks Won’t Tell You About Saving Money and Avoiding Crowds Sacrifices of a Writing Mom

“She gave up being the journalist she wanted to be, in order to be the mom she wanted to be.  ….because Mom didn’t drive downtown to Indianapolis—because she was willing to work hard at a less prestigious job that was flexible and kept her close by—she was there to cheer me on at softball games and track meets. She could see my plays and band concerts.”

Just Write 119 ~ Undefined

By outside appearances she is quiet, pensive, sensitive, and shy. If you were to meet her, you may think she lacks self esteem. New situations and new people make her anxious and so she tries to shrink herself down, “hiding” behind her more outgoing little sister, avoiding eye contact, and nervously twisting her shirt or scarf or hands.

I see so much of myself in her, physically and emotionally. My introverted first-born and I were born with the same old souls. We see and feel more than most. Empathy flows through our bodies like blood. It can make you want to hide. It can make you want to help. It can make you run screaming into the safety and solitude of a good book.


I remember when I used to push her in that little buzzy bee swing.

There are so many times over the last 13 and a half years that I’ve thought I had her figured out. And then she surprises me, defying all labels.

During her first week in middle school, she got hit in the head (accidentally) by a basketball in gym class. Everyone laughed. She was embarrassed (and I’m sure it hurt, too). She picked up the basketball and whipped it at the boy who threw it.

It was an accident, so her anger wasn’t really appropriate, but I also thought: Well, you just sent an important and clear message that you will not be a victim. Bully my girl at your own peril. She’s sweet and kind, but she’s got a temper. If you rattle her cage, she’ll bite (another trait we share).

She surprised me again last year when she said she wanted to try out for the high school musical. It didn’t “fit.”  I couldn’t reconcile the fact that my shy girl, who wouldn’t even go into a convenience store to buy something alone, would want to go up on stage in front of everyone in silly clothes and sing and dance.

She was cast, and she was wonderful, nary a glimpse of the awkwardness she often exhibits off stage.


She auditioned again this year, but she wasn’t cast, so she decided — out of the clear blue — to try out for the volleyball team.

Again, she surprised me. This was a girl who has resisted every single sport and athletic activity I have tried to introduce her to for the last decade. I’m not sure why volleyball appealed to her. Maybe it was because her friends were trying out, or maybe because it was her idea and not mine.


On the court, she had the opportunity to display the competitor that I only recently realized existed in her. Another contradiction for a girl who seemingly lacks confidence.

Tonight, at her school’s spring concert, she’ll sing a solo in front of an auditorium jam-packed with parents and classmates.

Often overshadowed by her more loquacious, outgoing, and charismatic little sister, I cherish these moments Kelly chooses to shine.

And I’m grateful to bear witness to the growth of this intriguing woman and the lessons she has to teach me about labeling, assumptions, and the beauty of individuality.


About Just Write “What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”


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