I’ve always thought chipmunks were cute, scurrying around in our yard, stuffing their cheeks with birdseed and generally looking adorable.
In the past, however, all the chipmunks I’ve ever seen were outside. They aren’t quite so cute when they’re in your house.
Twelve days ago, a chipmunk ran out from under my husband’s chair into the kitchen. I caught him under a basket for all of 15 seconds, and then he got loose again. We set out a live trap, loaded with peanut butter and sunflower seeds.
We aren’t sure how he got in, but I often leave the door to our back porch open, and it’s likely he got in that way.
On the Hunt . . .
We still haven’t caught him yet. That’s right. We have had a chipmunk in our house for nearly two weeks.
I’ve heard him several times and I’ve seen him as well. (Did you know that a chipmunk who is scurrying down the basement stairs can take a moment to turn around, look you in the eyes, taunt you, and still get away? It’s true. He can.)
It isn’t clear whether the chipmunk has been really living with us during this time or if he has found a way in and out of the house and is just a frequent visitor.
I haven’t found any evidence of his presence (chewed-up stuff or droppings), so in that regard, it isn’t a problem—but it’s driving me a little nuts. He hasn’t caused any real trouble yet, but he could. He could be carrying a disease and bite one of us. He could get into our food. He could chew up my knitting supplies. (I don’t know if chipmunks chew things like mice do, so I might be making that up.)
On top of all that, he has already caused me one injury. I was being so careful about where I was walking so I wouldn’t step on a chipmunk that I tripped over the cord on my laptop and fell full-force forward and landed on my knee. (You didn’t know chipmunks were so dangerous, did you?)
Every time I hear any kind of unfamiliar scratching noise or a chip sound, I investigate. I’ve been researching chipmunk removal so much that I’m starting to see extermination ads show up when I’m on other websites. I have convinced myself that if I just gather all the right information, I’ll know exactly what to do to eliminate the problem.
One website reassures me that the chipmunk doesn’t want to move in and that we should leave a door open so it can leave. (Sorry, chipmunk expert dude, but wouldn’t that just be an invitation to all the other chipmunks in our yard to come on in?)
Several sites show me how to make a bucket trap that will drown the chipmunk. (I don’t want it to die such a horrible death. I just don’t want it to be a problem anymore. Can’t I do that more gently?)
Even the experts are saying that it’s way too expensive to use an exterminator since chipmunks are so easy to take care of on your own. (Oh, really? Then why do I have the one chipmunk that is the exception that proves the rule?)
My husband is looking into snap traps that are just larger sized mouse traps that kill quickly. I suspect that we may have to go that route. 🙁
Our cat is completely useless, either sitting next to the cage scaring away the chipmunk or giving herself a bath while the chipmunk runs right in front of her.
Screaming doesn’t help, either. Trust me. I’ve tried. Several times. The chipmunk mocks me.
Life Goes On
Meanwhile, life doesn’t cease just because I have a chipmunk in the house.
What I would like to do is a massive purging of everything in the house, digging into everything in the basement and not stopping until we’ve identified the chipmunk, proven the point of entrance, and ensured that he and his little friends will never, ever come into our house again. If I did that, though, my life would become totally chipmunk-focused to the exclusion of everything else.
I want to call everything to a halt, but I know I can’t. Instead, we need to keep going on with our lives. We still need to sleep. I have meals to prepare and dishes to wash. I have laundry to do (ack! In the basement with the chipmunk!) and floors to sweep and toilets to clean. I have writing and grading to do, dishcloths and blankets to knit, and relationships to tend.
Life does not stop just because we have a chipmunk in the house. If it did, everything would fall apart. My family would starve or end up living on chips and sloppy joes. We would have no clean clothes to wear. I would probably create a bigger mess to deal with in digging through things to find the little rodent. I would experience little relaxation or pleasure. I would spend a great deal of time feeling stressed and grumbling under my breath (or not) rather than soaking in the presence of God and enjoying my time with my husband.
So I keep living my life, armed with an empty ice cream bucket over my arm when I wander into the basement just in case I have an opportunity to pounce. But life doesn’t stop for a chipmunk.
When a Problem Shows Up in Your Marriage
I’ve thought about the lesson this offers me in dealing with marriage problems.
Life does not cease just because there’s a chipmunk on the loose.
Marriage does not cease just because there is a problem.
My approach to marriage problems used to be to put the entire marriage on hold until we dealt with the one thing that I thought was the problem. I thought our lack of emotional connection was the problem. In my mind, until the emotional connection problem was solved, other aspects of being married (like sex) should be put on hold.
I would dig into everything and not want to stop until I’d identified the exact cause of the problem and taken measures to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again. I assumed that there was just one right answer and that we just hadn’t found it yet.
Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be doing any of the things that need to be tended in a marriage to help it hold together. We went through times when our marriage was essentially starved of affection and communication. We wore old worn-out habits rather than renewing our ways of relating to each other. I had begun thinking about drastic solutions.
Our marriage was full of tension and stress, with little pleasure of any kind. We both grumbled a lot rather than enjoying our time with each other. I would do so much research and focus so much on the problem that in no time at all, the problem was the only thing I could see when I looked at our marriage.
Just like life doesn’t stop just so you can find a chipmunk, marriage doesn’t stop while you are working on the problem. The marriage still needs to be tended. It needs to be fed with the physical, emotional, and spiritual food that helps it grow. It needs times when it is replenished by rest and recreation. It needs conversation. It needs communication. It needs two people, together. It needs sex. It needs God.
Focusing so much on the problem that we lost sight of our marriage didn’t do us any favors.
Marriage doesn’t stop just so you can fix one problem. We need to carry on with our marriage even as we work on addressing the problem.
Now, when we encounter a problem in our marriage, I make a point of continuing to tend the marriage in other ways, even while we address the problem. In fact, I often work harder on tending the marriage as a whole because we need the marriage even more when there’s a problem than we do when there isn’t one. I focus on the marriage as a whole rather than being problem-focused.
I may do some research and some rearranging of things in order to address the problem, but I don’t let the marriage come to a halt. I keep myself armed with information, insight, and the presence of God because I never know when the problem will bubble up and need to be dealt with—but the marriage doesn’t stop just because a chipmunk problem has taken up temporary residence.
When there’s a problem on the loose in your marriage, do you remember to tend to your marriage?
Image credit davidpwhelan | morgueFile.com