The One Where I Tell You a Secret

I have the weirdest dreams. When I was a kid, I used to dream that I could fly. I still remember that *whee* feeling in the pit of my stomach this one time when I dreamed I was flying on my magic carpet. Okay, so it wasn’t a magic carpet. It was a suitcase. I told you my dreams were weird.

The other night, I dreamed I was a zookeeper. Like, instead of volunteering in the reptile department once a week, they actually paid me to show up. And I had animals of my own that I was assigned to take care of. I didn’t get to fly, but I did get to touch cool things. It was the happiest dream I think I’ve ever had. Then I dreamed that I bought a box of salted caramel MoonPies. When I woke up, I had the biggest smile on my face. Don’t you love dreams like that?

Here’s where things get really weird. I opened my secret hiding place in the closet cabinet, and look what I found!

 

Oh, my gosh! Salted Caramel MoonPies are a THING!

Oh, my gosh! Salted Caramel MoonPies are a THING!

 

But wait. If the MoonPies were real… Does that mean…? Yes, it does! As of this week, I have a new full-time job! I am the newest keeper in the Herpetology department. This is my dream job. I have thoughts and plans for studies on reptile cognition, and I want to do some operant conditioning with our giant tortoises. I am so excited I could cry. And I may have once or twice already.

Can you imagine having a job where you get to continue learning and learning and learning about things you love? Because that’s what this job will be for me. I’ll eventually be in charge of some species of snakes that I have limited or no experience with, so I will be reading and scouring the internet for information to learn as much as I can. About biology and the natural world. What could be better?

My first day is Saturday, and I’ll let you know all about it. My new life is about to begin. First full-time job since Squish was born. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. Wish me luck!

 

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In case you didn’t know, I contribute writing in other places. This week, I entered my drug screen post in a competition over at Yeah, Write. If you enjoyed it, click here to go vote for me. You can vote for your five favorite blog posts that you see there.

 I also added a post over at our local City Moms Blog. It’s a silly little poem about how parenthood changes us.  Because it does. Want a free sample, no extra charge? Okay, then!

Motherhood is pretty great.

I know that statement’s true,

But I’d be lying if I said

Kids haven’t changed my view.

.

At restaurants fine, I used to dine

On lobster or capon.

Today, I only choose the place

That offers free crayons…

Click here to read the whole post, and feel free to leave a comment to let me know you were there. I like it when my friends visit me.

 

The Best Present Is My Past

My bags are packed. I’m ready to go. Insert Peter, Paul and Mary here because I am, in fact, leaving on a jet plane, and I don’t know when I’ll be back again. I have a general idea because a return date is printed on my ticket, but it snows in Wisconsin. If it snows, I’ll be delayed.

I like to travel, especially when I don’t have to drive. The possibilities are endless. I’m bringing about 150 books (e-readers are the best!), music, snacks. The kid in me is wired up and fired up. Not because of the books, though, or the secret stash of Cliff bars, or the Lunchable my husband bought me for the flight (Shut up. I’m really eight.). That kid is tickled pink over the brand new legal pad stashed in my backpack.

Back in the days before laptops and desktops and the little electronic typewriter and the gigantic IBM typewriter circa 1944 that shook the walls every time I hit “return,” there were legal pads, bought with my own money. They were impractical and unconventional, so no legal pad ever appeared on my school supply list. When I ventured to the store to buy them, they had a purpose all their own. No mundane notebook filler, legal pads were intended for greatness. As a seventh grader,  I wrote my first novel on a series of them. Those battered yellow tablets are stashed in the garage somewhere. Not somewhere. I know exactly where they are. I leave them there. It’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.

For over a year I carried those tablets everywhere, writing anywhere I could, squeezing in a few sentences here, a paragraph there. They were my best teachers. Through my work on yellow legal pads, I learned about hyperbole (mostly how to do it badly), and that sleep can be lost over sticky plot points. I learned that no one ever died over torn pages, although they might feel like it at the time. I learned that there are critics everywhere and that sometimes when kids see you spending more time with a pad of paper than with actual humans, they think you’re a little weird. And that weird can be good.

I let an adult read my book once. At the time, I was cocky and full of my own self-importance. I was thirteen and had written a book. I was golden. I had not learned that first drafts are word-vomit or that every writer needs an editor. I now try to imagine that teacher’s impression of my work. And I cringe. My writing then was so raw, the very essence of my burgeoning teenage self. I didn’t wear a mask back then. My hopes, my dreams, my insecurities are contained in those pages, bared to the world. Now I could no more let someone else read that early work than I could walk naked across the town square. They are essentially the same, you know. I can’t even bear to reread them myself. I’m not ready for that level of exposure

My husband bought me a new tablet tonight. I added it to the shopping list, and when I came home it was there on the counter. It’s yellow, and it’s new, and it’s waiting for me. I have plans for this pad, oh yes, I do. First and foremost, NaNoWriMo is coming. I signed up again this year, and I’m getting ready. On the pages of this legal pad, I will meet my characters for the first time. I will learn their names and their history. We will plan their story; what was, and what I hope will be. It’s the best present.

If you are signing up for NaNo, too, and leave your user name, I’ll add you as a buddy. I’ll meet you at the corner store to buy a box of Runts, and we can stay up all night plotting and planning whole new worlds. I can’t wait.

Making Up the Rules

Internet is still out. Interesting that when I actually have internet access, I forget that I want to look up companies who can install it for me, which is how I come to be sitting in a Panera, covered in flour and chocolate from all the baking I’ve done for Squish’s fall festival to assuage the guilt for missing the event completely. Because I’m going to miss it. I have a date.

Tomorrow, after I teach my toddler class at the zoo, I will make like a cow patty and hit the dusty trail. In about 24 hours, I’ll be turning into sj’s driveway. There’s a balloon there to show me just where to go and everything. Amy will be there. And I am so nervous.

I’ve know sj for four years. We’ve exchanged emails daily for what feels like ever. She knows the ugly things about me. She has known me at my worst. But we have never actually met in person.

I’ve followed Amy’s blog for over a year. I won her book  many months ago, and I’ve been email her for quite some time. She is witty, charming, and her writing is delightful. I heart her dearly. But we’ve never met, either.

I know how to meet people. I’ve met people thousands of times in my life. When I’m leading tour groups, I meet dozens in one place. I know that routine. Exchange names, smile politely, ask about their work/school, move on to the next person: later, rinse, repeat. Easy.

But what about people you haven’t seen face-to-face, but they were there for you when your beloved pet died, when you were hospitalized suddenly, when the job so wished for doesn’t materialize, when a child has a serious health issue? What are the rules? Can you bypass the polite smiles and move right to a giant bear hug?

What if you have so many inside jokes (I imagine sj snickersnorting over “lather, rinse, repeat.” Long story, but let’s just say I’m more careful with my chat windows) that everything is an inside joke? And you love the same music, and you’ve talked books exhaustively, and they know you so well that their reading recommendations are NEVER off, and Eleanor and Park made you both weepy? Can you skip talking about the weather and move to eating food off their plate?

I’ve done it once before, this meeting someone who was once only words on a screen, a few months ago when I meet Emily, and it was wonderful. It worked so well. I think it will work this time, too, and for the same reason. I suspect that Amy and sj are in person exactly as they are online. That’s one thing that draws me to their writing – their raw honesty.

How does this all work? I don’t know. But I’m about to find out, and I’m so excited! sj and Amy, I’ll be seeing you ladies soon! You’ll know me by my Severus Snape t-shirt and my smile!

Gratuitous baby tortoise shot. Because when I can't share pics, I get shaky.

Gratuitous baby tortoise shot. Because when I can’t share pics, I get shaky. On a computer screen, this pic is bigger than life-size. 

 

I Got Schooled

Conventional wisdom tells us not to go grocery shopping when we are hungry. You know another time you shouldn’t shop for food? When you first get behind the wheel after having been without a car for five straight days. After subsisting on hot dogs, French fries, pancakes and peanut butter sandwiches for that long, I went a little nuts. Grocery store = fresh fruits and vegetables! I stuffed my shopping bag with Honeycrisp apples, nectarines, sugar snap peas, carrots, pears, and maybe some Honeycomb cereal. I have a sweet tooth. Sue me.

My car has been in the shop three separate times this week. That number would have been higher, but I quit bringing it home at night to save a tow in the morning. The issue itself has been a mystery. We were ready to call in Dr. House, or maybe in this case Dr. Garage. The mechanics have tried a number of things. These things seemed to work at the time, and I’d fetch the car, only to have it die in our driveway overnight.

Besides the grocery shopping tip, here’s another thing I learned. It’s difficult for a mechanic to fix a problem they don’t actually get to see. Two of the three times the car was towed (yes, three. This week. We’re on AAA’s hit-list), the stupid car started right up when it was unloaded. It wasn’t until we left it for a sleep-over that they began to see what we saw. Looks like it’s fixed this time.

Car trouble is a pain. It’s an inconvenience. It’s a game-changer. It reduced me to dependence on other people, starting with the very first tow. Another lesson for the week is that having AAA didn’t necessarily mean I could take care of business without my husband. His name is the only one on the card. Turns out that he actually had to be with the car in order for it to be retrieved. Had they made that clear when we initially bought the membership, we’d have sprung for the upgrade. Of course, the tow truck never even asked whose car it was when they picked it up, so chances are my husband was late for nothing.

I also learned this week that, though I may require assistance retrieving Squish from his school and getting too and from my commitments, I could still function fairly well. I made it to work. I made it home from work. Each day I managed some arrangement to get kids to and from their respective schools. I even walked the two miles to the garage two or three times to pick up the car when we thought it was fixed. I can do things. And I learned that some things can be cut out of the schedule and no one dies. I missed Tortoise Day, and it didn’t kill me. It almost did, but like my grandpa used to say, almost only counts in a game of horseshoes.

Here’s another cool lesson. I’ve been on the waiting list at the library for Mumford and Sons “Babel.” It came in over the weekend. I’ve listened to it obsessively a couple of times now. Turns out that M&S is the perfect soundtrack for automotive misery. Who knew?

I learned this week that I being grounded was a gift. In slowing down, I gained momentum. I finished a project that has been on the back burner for months, and I have made incredible headway on another one. I am so pleased with the results, and I can’t wait to share it. Creativity apparently doesn’t require transportation. It’s a vehicle all its own. Ideas are flowing so fast I can barely keep up.

Today, I have a car. It has started three whole times in a row. But it is parked. I’ve stocked up on fruit and Honeycomb cereal, and today I’m getting some work done. Just because I have a car doesn’t mean I can slack, you know?

Gratuitous box turtle shot. Just because.

Gratuitous box turtle shot. Just because.

What have you learned this week?

Three Days To Freedom

Over the last couple of weeks, sugar has become the focus of my day. I scavenge any time of day or night for something sweet. It’s either my metabolic disorder begging me to eat more carbs so I don’t die, or I’ve been sneaking one too many handfuls of Sour Patch kids. It’s probably the Sour Patch kids thing, so it’s time to take control of my body. I did a very little bit of reading about sugar detoxing, and I thought I should try it. Three days without sugar, and I’m free. I can do that.

Day One

Morning – I pour myself a bowl of Cheerios. Instead of sugar, I use raisins. Look at how healthy I am! I feel powerful conquering my sugar addiction. I drink my black coffee in triumph. It’s not bad, really.

Mid-day – Turns out I’m subbing for the afternoon, so I can keep busy. It’s easy to distract myself. I grab a snack of sugar snap peas, which are surprisingly low in sugar. I am so proud of myself!

Afternoon - It’s time to go home and pick up kids. What a great day! I feel amazing! I can do this!

Evening – I drink another cup of black coffee. It’s not bad. Not good, either, but not bad. I can do this. Three days is nothing.

Day Two

Morning - I’m 1/3 of the way there. Cheerios with raisins. Again. Anyone ever notice that raisins look like rabbit turds? Just me, then? Whatever. I drink my black coffee. It tastes bitter. Like tears.

Mid-day - I’m subbing for the morning. I’m busy, but I’m not all that nice. I’m supposed to have a lunch meeting, so I didn’t pack any food. Turns out it was just meeting, no lunch. I hate everyone.

Afternoon – It’s time to pick up the kids. Wow. I never noticed how much that haircut makes the Padawan look like a Hostess cupcake.

Mmmmm. Chocolatey!

Mmmmm. Chocolatey!

I apologize for biting him and try to hide my disappointment that he does not, in fact, taste chocolatey.

Evening - I drop by the grocery store to pick up a couple of things. Namely bags of sugar. I briefly wonder if snorting the sugar spilled on the shelf is punishable by law. I briefly wonder if I care. The manager asks me to leave. Looks like it’s not technically illegal, folks! Yet. Just strongly discouraged. Store that in your trivia bank.

Day Three

Morning -  Husband gives me a vitamin. It’s a Flintstone, and the sweetest thing I’ve had in days. Half a cup of those things in a bowl of milk isn’t half bad. Sadly, I discover that they contain artificial sweeteners. My hair begins to fall out, and I grow gills. I hate my life.

I drink my coffee black, hot, and so fast I scald my tongue. There. Now I can’t taste it at all. Makes me happy.

Mid-day - Blah, blah, blah.  I don’t care. Leave me alone.

Afternoon - I have to get the kids from school. Which kids? I don’t know. Which school? Like I’m supposed to know. Shut up.

Evening -  Nothing will ever make me happy again. I don’t care if I never eat another snickers bar blizzard.

Mission accomplished. I’m going to bed.

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Choosing a Surgeon

Managed care has made it difficult to find specialists when you need them. Sometimes insurance limits your options to just a handful of practitioners, so how do you choose a good one?

Look for a surgeon with good focus. The ability to concentrate is essential.

It takes a very steady hand.

It takes a very steady hand.

They get bonus points if they’re ambidextrous.

Gloves are encouraged but not required

Gloves are encouraged but not required

A willingness to really get in there and dig around is a plus. Operate big or go home, I say. Surgery ain’t for sissies.

Ignore the red light on the dude's nose. That's just a spleen. Or a liver. Or something non-essential.

Ignore the red light on the dude’s nose. That’s just a spleen. Or a liver. Or something non-essential.

This scalpel jockey is for hire.

This_knife's_for_hire

You could do worse.

With a bit of luck, you won’t hear what I heard at the end of this particular operation.

“This poor fellow’s dead.”

Sorry about that, little buddy. I’m pretty sure it’s not because you yanked out his heart with both hands.

Parenting Fail #324

I know what I’m supposed to do. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for a local parenting magazine reminding other people to do it. I didn’t take my own advice, and I won’t even pretend that I’m sorry.

All the experts advise getting kids on their school schedule a week or two before school actually starts – goodbye, late nights; hello, early mornings. Yeah. I didn’t do it. I did cut out the late nights. Everyone’s in bed nice and early. Because that’s a hardship for me. I did that part. It’s the waking up early I didn’t do. I have a good reason. Meet my reason:

I know. He looks like a baby Nosferatu. He was eating bing cherries.

I know. Squish looks like a baby Nosferatu. He was eating Bing cherries, not feasting on the flesh of villagers. I swear.

Rousing the Padawan early involves waking his little roommate, as well, something I’m not quite willing to do. Because the kid doesn’t sleep. Naps are for pansies, bedtime is for losers. If he deigns to sleep, I am loathe to wake him because once his tootsies hit the floor, he is all up in my bizness awake for the next fifteen hours, about four of which are pleasant. Apparently not wanting sleep and not needing i are two different things.

Logic would tell you that taking a kid out and letting him burn off all his energy would help said child to sleep like a dream. Logic would be a big, fat liar wrong. I took the Padawan and his buddy on an overnighter to another city recently, knowing that if Squish can fight sleep for two hours all alone in his room, sharing a hotel room with four other people would make bedtime extra fun. But I had a plan.

That plan started with swimming. I chose a hotel with a pool so we could do a little splishy-splash. If I let Squish go for a nice, long swim, I reasoned, he’d be more amenable to catching some Z’s. Right? You know how it ends.

We swam until 9pm, then we went upstairs. He was tired. Very tired. But tired is only a kissing cousin to sleepy, so the next part of my plan involved a little television. Give me fifteen minutes in front of the TV, and I’m snoring like an asthmatic bulldog. Like mother, like spawn, right? After two-and-a-half hours of House Hunters, Squish finally fell asleep

Sleep may be too strong a word, really. He’s a bit of a flopper. He never hit a deep sleep, alternating between  bludgeoning me about the head, and dragging his claws toenails up my shin.

I never studied physics in college, but I did not expect that a body with such little mass could displace so much space. He put down roots in prime mattress real estate – dead center – and I couldn’t budge him for love nor money. At about 2am, desperate for some sleep, I scooped him up and slid him eight inches west and tried to tie him in place tuck him in. My efforts backfired, and I suddenly had a Squish clinging to my head like a baby octopus. It would have been easier to sleep in the floor. With a tiger.

At 7am, the kid was awake. Perhaps you are thinking that eight hours is all Squish’s body requires to function at top capacity. Does this look like top capacity to you?

Yeah, I'm all set.

“Yeah, I’m all set.”

 

We had two melt-downs and a Come-to-Jesus meeting before we even left the hotel. Tired = wired. Isn’t that fun? But I’m not one to give up. Because of my plan and all.

My plan told me that a long day spent running around out of doors would lead to a quiet car ride and pleasant night. You see where this is going, right? We enjoyed six hours at a zoo, two of which were spent playing hard on the enormous playground. Then we popped in the car for the three-hour ride home. I waited for him to fall asleep. And waited. And waited. Yeah. He was awake the whole time, refusing to punch his ticket for the dreamland express until after 9pm, three hours after we got home, and two hours after I began to seriously consider selling him to the circus. I love plans.

So I hope the experts will excuse me for enjoying a few minutes of solitude. If they judge me, I hope they do so quietly. Squish is still asleep.