My Husband Is Trying To Kill Me

It might make me sound paranoid, but I am pretty sure my husband is trying to kill me.  And it’s not paranoia if it’s true, right?

I really thought it would be one of the cats who took me out. Bellatrix takes test-bites of my nose at night to see if I’m dead yet, and Ravenclaw eviscerates everything.

It started out simply enough. Husband bought one of those plug-in air fresheners. It was fine at first. And by first, I mean for about fifteen seconds. Then my eyes began to water, and my nose felt like I’d been snorting thumbtacks.*** I might be allergic. I unplugged the thing without comment and went about my day.

When I got up the next morning, I thought someone had put a pillow over my head. I kind of wish they had. I slithered out of bed and tried to sniff the thing out. I found it in the hallway, unplugged it, and hid it on a bookcase shelf. By afternoon, the whole house once again smelled like death covered in flowers. I unplugged it and put it on the window sill behind the curtain.

The next day I came home from work, and husband had clearly tried to compromise. He had replaced the hateful fragrance with pumpkin spice. At least that’s what the label said. More like cloves roasted over the flames of hell. I ripped the thing out of the wall and screamed “Why do you HATE ME? unplugged and hid it on top of the bookcase.

And so it continues. He plugs, I unplug. He plugs, I cry. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I get it. He wants to house to smell welcoming and inviting for the guests we never have. But now he has taken to hiding the things. They look just like the motion detector lights we have for when I’m stumbling out of bed in the middle of the night to pee  checking on the kids in the dark. It sometimes takes me ten minutes to find which outlet holds the little offender.

It’s bad enough that my nose and eyes burn, but I think I am losing brain cells. This is where I draw the line. Already I could hide my own Easter eggs, and I can’t remember how old I am without calling my mom. I can’t afford to lose what little I have left.

“Oh, but Heather,” you say. “He’s not trying to kill you with an air freshener.” And you’d be right. Because’s now there’s not an air freshener, there’s TWO! Twice the fragrance, twice as many brain cells withering to dust. I should never have taken out a life insurance policy. Once you’re worth more dead than you are alive, it’s time to start sleeping with one eye open.

But it’s okay. Two can play at that game. If it’s open season on bringing home something that sends our partner screaming into the streets, I’m buying him a tarantula. This is going to be good.

 

***PSA – Kids, don’t snort thumbtacks. It might be what the cool kids are doing, but you’re better than that.

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How To Apologize Online

Your comprehensive guide to issuing an apology when you have upset someone online, be it Facebook, Twitter, or an email to dear Aunt Sally. Study it. Memorize it. There will be a test later.

Apologize? Me? Heh.

  1. Be online.
  2. Make a mistake. This is not difficult. If you have covered #1, you are guaranteed to say something stupid/misinformed/offensive.
  3. Become aware of your mistake. This one isn’t all that hard, either. If a dozen experts (or even ONE) on a subject presents a counter-argument, there’s a chance you are wrong. Maybe do research at this point.
  4. Grow a pair. Pair could refer to whatever thing you associate with courage. Could be kittens for all I care. Just get you some courage.
  5. Say these words: “You were right.” or “I was wrong.” Use these phrases together for additional sincerity.
  6. Also say these words: : “I am sorry.” Another variation could be “I apologize.” Yes. This step is necessary. I know. You already said #5. I know. Just say you’re sorry.
  7. Demonstrate that you are, in fact, sorry. Do accomplish this task, you should say, well, nothing. Don’t say anything at all.
  8. Continue to say nothing. I know. You just wanted to explain tha-

Just stop it. Seriously. Stop talking. Stop trying to make everyone understand how wonderful you are and how you are being misunderstood. Just stop talking.

9. Say even less than you did in #8. Remember #5? You were stupid/offensive/misinformed. You were. You. I’m looking at you. I know you said sorry. But sorry doesn’t fix stuff immediately. If I eat your pet canary, a simple apology doesn’t make Tweety any less dead. There will be some grief, some anger, perhaps a tiny little funeral to arrange, and it’s likely you don’t want to see me again for a while. Maybe not ever. Some stakes are higher than others.

10. Make your peace with the fact that not everyone is going to like you. Actually, this should be #1, but it’s the one we all tend to blow off, so I buried it here so you wouldn’t ignore it. I’m tricky like that. The hardest part about this one is understanding that in this case, people are in the not-liking phase of you because of something you did. Ouch. Reflect on it. Sit with it.

11. Read the responses. Not to your apology.  I mean the responses to your original mistake. Understand not just that people ARE upset, but get to the heart of WHY. If you don’t make an effort to learn the why, you are pretty much guaranteed to repeat your error, and that’s bad. This part’s hard because the instinct is to argue more or to tuck our tails and RUN. Do not attempt to answer until you are strong enough to respond ONLY with the words “I understand,” “I am sorry,” “You are right,” or “I was wrong.” You will feel like your brain is on fire and your eyeballs are melting, but I promise you will live.

12. Come to grips with the most painful realization in the world: Not everyone cares  what you think.

13. Do better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff My Kids Will Never Understand

Now I really do sound like my mother. But this isn’t a rant about the good old days and how the world is headed South in a Longaberger basket. That would be my great-grandmother, and I’m not turning into her (yet). I’m learning that few things make me feel older than saying “Well, back when I was a kid…” and having them stare at me, slack-jawed, eyes glazing over like a monkey presented with a computing problem. As if the minutiae of my early years isn’t riveting. It’s just kind of a shame that all of my vast life experience is fading into oblivion. Here’s the weird stuff I remember:

  • Gum. Lots of it! In the 80s, bubblegum was a HUGE thing. Our neighborhood convenience store had a 2ftx8ft section DEVOTED to gum. And I’m not talking the stuff the old ladies enjoyed in church a half-stick at a time, either. I’m talking bubblegum. Every imaginable flavor. Strawberry and banana, sure, but also blueberry and cherry and a variety of fruit punches. Bubble Yum Fruit Punch was the best ever. Gum achieved its nadir with chocolate mint flavor. Ugh. The market never recovered.
  • Because bubblegum bandages aren’t gross at all. Photo credit: Dinosaur Dracula

  • Records were the cheapest form of recording. If you wanted the album on a more portable medium, the cassette tape cost about 30% more.
  • Having to buy an entire record for one song.
  • Requiring an elaborate set-up to convert record to cassette tape. This exercise involved special cables and moving furniture around to get all the components to connect to one another.
  • Hating DJs for talking over the song you were trying to record.
  • Song Hits Magazine – It had the LYRICS, man! THE LYRICS! To the cool songs! So we knew what Cyndi Lauper was actually saying.
  • Benetton and Swatches – and don’t forget the Swatch guard!
  • Halloween, Christmas, Valentine, Last-Day-of-School PARTIES!  Like, at school. With candy and cupcakes and stuff.
  • Film strips. And the substitute teacher who was ALWAYS one frame behind.
  • Reel-to-reel movies in the classroom. In elementary school, we watched The Cat and the Hat and The Red Balloon once a year.
  • Sticker collections– mine is quite impressive. Yes, I still have it. Shut up!
  • Seeing a movie in the theater or not seeing it at all. Because once it left the theater, it was GONE. No purchasing it a few months later. Because there would be nothing to watch it ON! No DVD player, no VCR. Not even laser disc. This tidbit blows my students’ minds.
  • The Wizard of Oz came on once a year – And every year I thought the movie was broken because it started out in black and white.
  • Three channels – and all of them signed off at midnight with the flag.
  • Garbage Candy that came in an actual tiny garbage can!

Why don’t they still make this? I liked the fish skeletons the best! I think I have to do a favorite candy edition because we had the best candy!

  • Floppy Discs – It’s funny that the “save” icon is a picture of something most kids have never even seen in real life. And remember when they were actually FLOPPY?
  • Cutting edge computers with memory measuring in the kilobytes. I didn’t say ALL the old days were good ones!
  • Pong did not involve beer.
  • Saturday morning cartoons – the ONLY time cartoons were available. No Cartoon Network,no Disney Channel. Cartoons started at 6am with the old black-and-whites and ran all the way until noon with O.G. Readmore. He’s a reading kind of cat.
  • After-school TV specials – I always learned something. Or pretended to. These came about right around the time it became apparent that television was becoming a babysitter.
  • Suntan lotion and suntan oil – but no sunscreen. I had more blistering sunburns as a child than my dermatologist would like to think about because the only thing to prevent sunburn was zinc oxide, and only the dweebs used that crap.
  • Lawrence Welk – I could never WAIT for this show to be over so I could watch Hee Haw. Hey, I never said I had great TV taste as a kid.
  • Cracker Jacks – yeah, they tasted like garbage, but they had a PRIZE! And it was sometimes a TOY!
  • Cereal – like gum, cereal had its hey day. Anybody else remember when literally EVERY box on the shelf except for the high-fiber crap had something free in the box? And remember when Cocoa Krispies was represented by Tusk the Elephant?

That’s it for this edition. Now, get off my lawn, you darned kids!

What are you sorry to see go?

Notes From the Zookeeper: My Day in Pictures and a Mind-blowing video

Notes From the Zookeeper: Help!

Dear Mom,

I want to go home. I’m currently seven hours south of the ole homestead at the Turtle Survival Alliance conference in South Carolina. I get to spend the next three days learning all about countless species from experts the world over. Turtles? Yes. Studying up on them? Absolutely! School’s my jam! At a conference where I do not know a soul?  (insert needle-scratch) Ummm. People? I don’t do the whole human thing very well. I am shy, a little weird, and I have the social skilz of an octopus, minus the tentacles. Did I have tentacles when I was born, Mom?

This is me. Trying to blend in, or maybe just outright hide. My Patronus is an octopus.

I stepped out of the car into a city that smells of an odd mix of excrement and brackish water, and I was ready to turn around and go home. The brackish water I get. I’m right here on the coast. But poop? Why? Why the poop? I do not understand! I’m in the heart of the historical district. Is it historical poop? Maybe?

The hotel is a shack. Three room suites, valet parking, a mezzanine, thick walls where I can’t hear the neighbors scratching their bed bugs, maybe not even bed bugs. A shack. I will suffer through. But one of the bars of soap was already wet when I opened it, and that creeps me out more than a little. And everything from the soap to the lotion smells exactly the same.

Our opening event was at the South Carolina Aquarium. I had never been. It was all kinds of amazing. Let me show you.

There’s, like, this whole ocean and stuff!

I did make two friends right off the bat, Mom. Want to meet them?

And there were other cool things.

I found a drug store on my way back to the hotel, and I thought I should get some snacks because food is WAY too expensive here. $12 for hotel breakfast is way more than I want to spend. But I am a jinx, and as I was buying my stuff, the entire computer system shut down, and I had to stand at the register making awkward small talk with the cashier and manager for ten minutes. Ten long, painful, awful minutes.  Come and get me.

The TV is broken. At least the one in my bedroom is, and I don’t want to go to the living room. That’s too much trouble. I mean, the TV comes on, but it only gets crappy channels. There were these two pink people who were walking through the jungle. Did I mention they were nekkid? Why were they nekkid? I go hiking all the time, but always with my clothes on. Don’t these people know there are insects and other things you don’t want close to the tender parts? Am I missing something?

The alarm went off, and I’m still typing my letter. But I will get out of bed. I will. Eventually. I can do this, Mom. I can learn good stuff and make new friends and eat all my snacks so I’m not spending a billion dollars on breakfasts. I can do this. I can.

On second thought… there are two beds here. I should go try out the other one.

 

 

 

Notes From the Zookeeper: I Really Did It!

I went to Amphibian Management School back in February. Yes, that’s really a thing. Frog populations have declined rapidly over the last several years due to a number of factors – habitat destruction, globalization, climate change, pollution, etc. In the US alone, populations are declining at a rate of 3.7% per year, so an annual training class to help zookeepers care for these animals is very necessary. One day I’ll get my act together and share some cool things I did and learned, but today isn’t that day. Today is about sharing one thing.

Our curator told me that we’re acquiring some Tiger-legged Monkey Frogs (Phyllomedusa hypochondrialis).  I have never worked with this species before, but I am pretty stoked. Why wouldn’t I be?

Check this out! Who wouldn’t want a frog who can do this?

 

We aim for mixed-species exhibits wherever possible because animals in captivity often do better if we can mimic their eco-system. Imagine being alone in the world – no birds, no insect sounds, no fragrance of flowers or trees. Boring and stressful, right? I even introduced some isopods (pillbugs) and native plants into a milk snake enclosure, and he has been more visible and less jumpy.

We just happen to have a snake that cohabits the tree frog’s ecosystem, so it was my job to create an exhibit that could house both while being visually appealing. Thank you, Amphibian Management School! I got this!

So the exhibit itself isn’t the most attractive, but I can work with it.

Step 1

We need a good base. The exhibit needs to be heavily planted. Here’s the dilemma. The frogs need to be sprayed heavily every day, and plants like water, but not TOO much water, or their roots will rot. The solution? A false bottom. The frogs get their spraying, and the extra water has a place to go.

Take a piece of plastic egg crate (it’s really plastic mesh) and cut it to the size and general shape of the enclosure. Then take some pieces of PVC pipe. Their length doesn’t matter at all, just their diameter. The job of the pvc is to hold the mesh off the bottom. Don’t stand the PVS straight up, or they will get clogged with dirty water that you can’t get out.

My PVC was fairly narrow in diameter. I also didn’t have egg crate, so I used a rigid mesh.

Step 2 

The water under the exhibit will eventually build up and soak the substrate unless you have a way to get rid of it. Solution? A stand pipe. I can run a piece of flexible tubing down into the stand pile and drain out the extra water.

Ta-da! Even I, the mechanically disinclined, can make a dream come true!

Step 3

Cover the egg crate or mesh with wire screen. This step keeps your substrate (dirt) from dropping straight through the mesh. It’s very inexpensive. Also, this is the step I forgot to take a photo of. Secure the mesh to the screen with zip ties for added peace of mind. I zip-tied mine every which way from Sunday, just to be on the safe side!

Step 4

Add your substrate. Frogs breathe through their skin (some species don’t even develop lungs at all), so any toxin in the environment goes straight into them. So get the organic stuff. There’s a mix called ABG, after Atlanta Botanical Garden, after the facility that perfected it. People have tweaked it to their own needs. I was limited to the items on hand, so I used equal parts milled sphagnum, crushed peat, and long-fiber moss. Most people also add charcoal (like, a bag of Cowboy charcoal you get at Lowe’s – simply crush with a hammer), but I didn’t have any. I dumped everything into a trash can I use for feeding snakes and wetted it down thoroughly. WEAR A MASK. This stuff is dusty, and you’ll be sneezing brown for days. Don’t ask how I know.

Worst photo in the world, but you get the idea.

Step 5

Now’s the fun part. Add some branches for the arboreal snake. He is one that never comes down to the ground, so the more options you can give him for hanging, the better off he will be. Let him choose if he wants to be higher, lower, covered in plant leaves, etc.

Step 6

Add the plants. This is my favorite part. I LOVE plants almost as much as I love my animals. I made a trip to Stanley’s Greenhouse to find some lovelies to put in my exhibit. I used a Bird’s Nest fern, a hybrid fern, many varieties of Elephant Ear, a tiny little Philodendron,  Lady’s Slipper, and some vining plants. Go pesticide-free for frogs.

Ta-DA! Note the stand-pipe is concealed by the fern. If the frogs are small, I’ll use PVC cutters to shorten the pipe and cover it with a rock so no one accidentally falls through!

I am very pleased with it. Time will tell if the Emerald Tree Boa will beat anything up. What does he think of the set-up?

Confused. So many choices, so many branches to climb!

If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask. If I can do it, seriously, anyone can! What have you done that you didn’t think you could do?

The Introverted Activist: Back In the Game

I dropped out of the political scene a bit ago.  I went to Detroit for a week in February for Amphibian Management School. After a whole week of being off social media and news, it was way too hard to pick it back up again. I have tried. I have dipped my toe in the water once or twice. But then I became so depressed that I could barely get out of bed, and it just didn’t seem worth it. That’s the definition of White Privilege, isn’t it? Being able to turn it off for a while? But I’m back.  I can’t afford not to be anymore.

To be quite frank, the Senate’s version of the healthcare reform bill is terrifying. And evil. Gutting Medicaid? 40% of kids with disabilities are on Medicaid. Essential Health Benefits removed? So prenatal care is no longer considered a basic human right. While we’re at it, why not cut more from Planned Parenthood? So more women will be getting pregnant, having to stay pregnant, but not receiving the care they need to ensure a healthy baby? This is ridiculous.

Apply head to desk. Repeat.

And then there’s me. I am a walking pre-existing condition. I have asthma, but I also have a chronic, hereditary liver condition that can (unpredictably) affect pretty much any system in my body. So I get shoved into a high-risk pool because of my genetics, even though I take good care of myself and have only been hospitalized once. I’ll pay more for insurance. Because let’s face it, no insurance company is going to provide benefits at lower costs than they have to just out of the goodness of their hearts. And if I do begin to have more issues, I could be capped a million dollars over my lifetime.  Anybody know how quickly you can hit a million dollars in health costs? Imagine having an expensive disability. Once you hit the cap, it’s all out of pocket. People will have to decide whether to eat or get health care, and that’s not one tiny bit hyperbole.

 

What I did this week:

  • Signed the online petition asking Angela Merkel to lead the other 19 countries in committing to a cleaner planet at G20. I’m not a big believer in petitions here in the US because too often they aren’t designed to lead to action. But this one allows me to put some hope in someone who can DO something.  It took under a minute, and it’s terribly encouraging to see the numbers of signers going up in real time.

 

  • I called my Senators. A bunch of times. I left messages because I can’t get through to real people normally, which is fine. When I’ve gotten hold of my Republican Sentators’ Republican staffers, they sound bored. But the message on the machine is upbeat. This week, my theme has been the health care bill. First, I asked that they say a big, fat NO. Then I asked that they push the vote until AFTER the recess to give more people time to read what’s IN it. Seriously. Spinning it behind closed doors like some twisted Rumpelstiltskin, holding the BIG REVEAL on Thursday, then trying to railroad it through a vote in under a week? Nuh-uh. Want to call your Senators? Find them here.

 

  • Then I called the Senate Finance Office at 202-224-4515. They are tallying calls on people asking for a PUBLIC forum on the health care bill.  At least if they hold public forums and still screw us over, it will be obvious that they were planning to railroad us all along. The harder they make denial for some of our citizens, the better off we will all be. 25% of Americans have no idea what’s in the health bill currently.

 

What did you do this week? Shout it out in the comments, even if it was “I took care of myself and stayed away from politics.” Because we all have permission to rest and recover. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Or maybe not marathon. Cage-match, perhaps?

Notes From the Zookeeper: Another Day, Another Lizard

Yesterday was our third day of volunteering at the Turtle Survival Center is South Carolina. We made mud pies and played in the water. Technically, we made hide boxes out of concrete and built recirculating water systems for turtles. Potato, po-tah-to.

My co-worker is chomping at the bit to get over to the center this morning, so you get a truncated view of yesterday’s fun times.

As promised. Cappuccino the water buffalo, aka “Cappy.”

 

Today we go home. I’m going to miss this place. I wonder if Cappy would fit in a Nissan Juke…

Notes From the Zookeeper: I’m Surrounded By Turtles!

It’s day two at the Turtle Survival Center. I may never leave. Yesterday we scrubbed 40 turtle enclosures and did water changes, and I fell in love with a water buffalo named Cappuccino. Today, we prepared all the food for both veggie eaters and carnivores for some of the most endangered turtles in the world. I didn’t include any pics of the meat-based diet. Let’s just say I cleaned some blood off the walls when we were done and leave it at that.

This is a Leucocephalon yuwonoi, a name that is really fun to say! The boys have bright white heads. They have the best feet!

I have better pictures of the animals, but we have to wait until I am home because I am on my computer that has the screen that is pixelated and pink. You get my phone pictures. I put them in gallery form to make for easier viewing. Click to enlarge and read the caption.

I’ll try to have photos of the water buffalo tomorrow. What’s new in your world?

Notes From the Zookeeper: ROAD TRIP!

As you can perhaps tell from the title, I’m on the road. The boss, in his infinite graciousness (or in his desperation to get rid of me for a few days) budgeted to send me and a co-worker on a learning expedition.  He gets to go to France and Madagascar and New Mexico. I get to go to Detroit in February and South Carolina in June. He might be trying to get rid of me for MORE than a few days. All he has to do is make it look like an accident, you know.

But I could not be happier. In February, I attended Amphibian Management School in Detroit, which was an incredible experience. And now, I am deep in the wilds of South Carolina, no cell phone reception and mosquitoes the size of small dogs. And I am happy. I’m at the Turtle Survival Center. I know. Pinch me. I can’t believe I’m really here.

We arrived last night (thank you, MapQuest, giant raspberry to Google Maps) in the middle of nowhere. A middle of nowhere that boasts 1,000 cornfields, a car show (sorry for almost greasing you, kid on the motorbike with no lights at dusk. But we both know it was your fault.) and enough Dollar Generals to keep Ravenclaw in Mousies for the rest of her life.

This cat is so addicted to her mousie that the person who gifted her the first two went out and bought her eight more!

The nearest real grocery store is an hour away, but the most endangered tortoises and turtles in the world are right outside my door.

We’re here to volunteer. We brings some knowledge to the table already, but the director and chelonian keeper are prepped to drop some learning on us. After discussions with our lead keeper on what he’d like us to see, they’ve set up an agenda for us. We’re going to jump into some current projects involving plumbing and construction and try not to get in the way or lose a finger help complete them. I want to learn construction, and I also want to learn what kinds of browse they feed here. We try to give our animals a varied diet, and now we can get some info on how to expand our menu.

I don’t have any images to share yet because we just got here. AND I don’t know what I am allowed to share. So you get something from my archives. Kind of a chef’s surprise.

Al says “Nah!”

We have a tour this morning, and I’m taking lots of photos, but if they say they’re just for personal use, you’ll just have to make a trip to my house to see them. In the meantime, random photos from my phone.

Happy Trails!