Why I March

I am not a political person. I never have been, though I was partner in crime (mostly postal) to my grandfather, who trained me to knock on doors and hand out fliers and to vote Democrat no matter what. He drove me from house to house and waited in the car while I gamely canvassed the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, my shy self hoping beyond hope that no one would answer and I wouldn’t have to speak to a neighbor, or worse, a stranger. A few times, when the driver’s seat was obscured by an obliging holly tree or overgrown shrub, I would stuff the flier in the mailbox, despite Granddaddy’s stern admonitions, and beat a hasty retreat, claiming the family wasn’t home and praying that no one saw me commit a felony.

Years passed, and so did my grandfather. I voted in almost every election, even midterms, in his honor. But sometimes I didn’t vote a straight Democratic ticket because I actually knew something about the issues. Sometimes, I determined, an Independent, or Granddaddy forbid, a Republican, would serve better. But I avoided politics whenever I could – at family gatherings, church. Occasionally, I would indulge in some online stuff, but I was always left without hope. Why, I reasoned, should I commit so much energy and outrage to something I have absolutely no control over. If I can’t control it at all, I avoid it.

Last week, I couldn’t stop crying. I have a chronic liver condition, and it had been triggered. I’m drinking close to a gallon of water a day now, so toxins get flushed by my kidneys when my liver has better things to do, and physically I have stayed healthy. But the psych symptoms are terrible. Anxiety, depression, and mood swings are often the result. So I blamed my liver for my tears and just drank a bit of extra water to compensate for the water lost through my leaking eyes.

When I suddenly burst into uncontrollable tears last Saturday morning, I finally had to admit that there was an actual reason for my tears. Its name is the GOP. I had watched for a couple of days as Congress began its process to dismantle the Affordable Care Act like a toddler with a hammer. And it was a partisan move. They did it gleefully because they could, to erase the legacy of the most decent President in recent memory. It was the glee that got me. Why are they so hell-bent on removing health care from millions of Americans? And what is going to happen to me? Rare, preexisting conditions for both myself and the Padawan. Can I afford to continue a job where I make a difference, or do I have to take something that pays better so we don’t go bankrupt?

I screamed and sobbed, and I told my husband “I have to DO something. I need to know that I am not alone, that there are other people out there who are not just as outraged, but are also willing to DO something about it.” I made an off-hand remark that I needed to “go to the women’s march or something.” And so it began.

why women march on Washington

Credit: Jessica Sabogal

I took steps. I announced my intention on social media for accountability because depression can turn me inside out and leave me immobilized. I checked on transportation. I cried all day at work, and I planned. If I could find a friendly driveway in Virginia, I could sleep in my car. An offer of a driveway appeared. And then a dear, dear friend said, “I want to go, too. Let’s go together.” And suddenly I WASN’T alone. And within 2 hours, a ride appeared. And a hotel. And then the hotel evaporated as the offer of a house was made. And people I have never met have stepped up to make me hats to wear. And suddenly, this trip that I had recklessly committed myself to became a reality, and an affordable one. $10 for the Metro ticket. And I’m going.

  • I march because I protest a President-elect who appoints people with a lot of money but best case, no relevant experience. Worst case, a conflict of interest.
  • I march because I object to a President who feels he is above any law and refuses to release any tax returns.
  • I march because I object to a President who admitted to assaulting women. And then when those women step forward and say “Yes, he did that,” he threatens to sue anyone who comes forward. Because he knows HE has the money to fight it and they don’t.
  • I march because I cannot live with a President who is so ungodly. I am a devout Christian, and I object to a man who calls himself Christian but breaks the 10 Commandments publicly. He believes it is just fine for him to lie. And then he lies about lying, even though there is clear evidence. He is either so lazy or stupid that he doesn’t delete his old tweets, or he doesn’t think it matters.
  • I march because I object to a President who takes so many financial risks that he has filed for bankruptcy four times. I am a fiscal conservative. A President is a steward of our country’s resources. He is already a bad one.
  • I march because I cannot abide a President who insists on spending public money to have Trump Tower as a second home for part of each week. Secret service, outfitting for security, etc? That’s on our dime, folks.
  • I march because I cannot tolerate a President who doesn’t understand the meaning of public service. This is a lark. He’s taking off for the weekend. Presidenting is a 9-5 job, I guess.
  • I march because I am angry that the American people elected a man who is cruel, who insults national heroes, who is racist, who is so full of hate. I do not respect him, and so I march.
  • I march because I have no respect for a President who despises those of other religions. America is a great country because of its diversity, not despite it.
  • I march because I am scared of a President who wants to control the media. Freedom of speech gets ground under his heel.
  • I march because our President-elect is endorsed by 20 white supremacy groups. Scared? I am.
  • I march because I need to have hope that if even I, who hates crowds so much that I get Christmas shopping done early so I don’t have to go to a mall in December, am stepping out of my comfort zone to THE Mall with hundreds of thousands of others, that maybe there are others who will be jolted out, as well. That maybe we CAN work together and bring about real and lasting change.

I will see you in DC. I’ll be the one in the hat.

Notes From The Zookeeper: The Pancake Predicament

One of the things I love about my job is the constant need to problem solve. It’s an unending puzzle.  How do I get a fat snake to breed? How do I help said fat snake reduce her girth so that she is healthier? How do I keep each animal’s brain and instincts engaged according to their needs? As a zookeeper, we have to think outside of the box all the time. But this week, a puzzle popped up that was totally INSIDE the box; the nesting box.

Pancake Tortoises (Malacochersus tornieri) are one of my favorite species. They are weird and funny, and they have unexpected super powers. I spray the tortoises daily to raise humidity, and this week after I sprayed them, I found this (please forgive the quality of photos, or lack thereof. I had to use the camera on my little phone):

how to breed pancake tortoise

Check it out! She is digging a nest for egg-laying! Note the dirt on her back. She kicks up quite a bit of it as she digs.

Tortoises are not domesticated animals. Although they have the ability to learn, they operate almost entirely on instinct. Pancake Tortoises, like most other tortoises, like to dig deep in order to lay their eggs. Like, really deep. When they nest, they dig, dig, dig with their hind feet, and if they hit a hard spot, say a rock or in this case, the bottom of their enclosure, they stop. Their tortoise instinct says that a shallow nesting spot is worst than NO nesting spot. They abandon the hole and move to higher ground. That’s what happened here. She dug, she dug, she quit.

Here’s the tough bit. I don’t know exactly what conditions she is looking for. Depth, of course, but she doesn’t know how deep the soil is until she starts digging. Other factors come into play. Some tortoises (and it can vary even within a species) will choose a warmer spot. Others will prefer a cooler one. Some want shelter, some want space. So what does she want? When I add soil to make it deeper, she might choose a shallow spot. When I add water so that it holds together, she choose a dry one.

This is where it gets fun. Remember that super power I mentioned? This species of tortoise can CLIMB! They live in kopjes, which are basically giant rock piles. To visit the neighbors or make a love connection, they may need to scale a few rocks. They especially like to climb…wait for it… when they are ready to nest. So if the soil is too deep, she can climb out of the house and go on walkabout. It’s for this reason that we keep a heavy cover on the enclosure.

My solution this time was to heap up a pile of wet soil that was wider than she is long so that she would have deep soil no matter which way she angled her body. She nested under the heat lamp last time, so that’s where I built Mount Pancake. Would it work? The next morning, here she was:

Look! She's basking! Reptiles are cold-blooded, so she may be warming up for the hard work ahead

Look! She’s basking! Reptiles are cold-blooded, so she may be warming up for the hard work ahead

A couple of hours later, I came back, and she was nowhere in sight. I found her under her hide box, but the mountain looked the same. Most tortoises and turtles cover their nests so completely that you would never know they had been there. Had she nested? I checked.

The egg was so fresh, it was still slimy. But it looks good! How do I know? The egg couldn’t have been more than 90 minutes old, and it had already started to band.

Banding is the first indicator of fertility. It’s a sign that the embryo and air pocket have begun to make their separation.

This egg was immediately popped in the chiller. Without cooling for a few weeks at 65 degrees, the egg embryo will never develop. Once placed in the incubator at 88 degrees, it will take about three months before it hatches.

Stay tuned next week when I share photos from my most recent hatching and maybe let you know if The Professor has made any inroads on wooing his lady.

She's on the left. The Professor is on the right. It sure looks like he's been friend-zoned.

She’s on the left. The Professor is on the right. It sure looks like he’s been friend-zoned.

Notes From the Zookeeper

I’ve decided to add a regular feature on this blog. My topics bounce around a lot from work to cats to kids and back again, and I’m okay with that. But I thought it would be fun to add a weekly feature and give you a peek behind the curtain. I will primarily stick to my department, but there may be times that I branch out. Because I’m a giver. I put way too much thought into whether to set this thing down on a Monday or a Friday. But Friday is technically one of my Mondays, and that just got confusing, so I went with the real Monday. Consider it a tiny pat on the head to ease you into the work week. Unless you’re like me and you’re already into the work thing by Monday. In that case, forget I said anything.

I have thoughts and ideas of what I want to show you, like how we work venomous animals, the key to breeding certain species, and anything new that has hatched. I invite you to share in the comments anything you’re curious about, too.

In my last post, I covered some of my goals for the new year. Most of those were personal . I have set some goals for myself at work, too.

Neon Day Gecko Hatchling

Neon Day Gecko – Phelsuma klemmeri. This new hatchling is under an inch long.

  • I’m hatching these things left and right. I want to set up at least one new colony by dividing up the current two. Okay, really I have three. These are Neon Day Geckos from Madagascar. As adults, they are only about three inches long. They were first described only about 25 years ago, and they are considered endangered because their range is confined to a pretty tiny part of Northwest Madagascar. They live in dense colonies. Most recommend only one male per enclosure and several females, but I have had success keeping two males with a single female.

There’s a level of parental care that is not typically found among lizards. The babies that are hatched and reared in the same enclosure as their parents seem to grow more quickly than the juveniles that I pull to raise on their own. And these animals are fascinating. They move at a frequency that is much faster than our eye can register. It’s akin to watching a reel-to-reel from the 1920s, all jumpy. And babies are tiny. If there’s an opening larger than a millimeter, you can pretty much kiss a hatchling goodbye!

My goal is to study them for another couple of generations and possibly report some of my findings in a journal somewhere. I also want to get more practice at determining males from females. Boys have femoral pores that look like tiny braille dots, but when I say tiny, I mean tiny. It’s hard to tell. I want to get good at it.

Breeding pyxis arachnoides

Northern Spider Tortoise, Pyxis arachnoides brygooi

  • My second goal is to breed more of these guys. Some years are good years. 2015 was a decent year. I hatched all three sub-species of Spider Tortoises in decent numbers – a total of 15. 2016 wasn’t great. Like, at all. I hatched 6 Northerns, and that was it.  The trouble is, the eggs that hatched in 2015 were actually laid in 2014. With a 9-month span between laying and hatching, it’s a little hard to pin down the problem. Were the eggs not incubated properly, or were they not fertile to begin with? So many moving parts.

I’m going to start, though, by building an outdoor pen for my pairs of Northern Spider Tortoises to see if natural sunlight can improve egg-laying. The other subspecies go outside already, but not these guys. I also separated boys and girls for winter dormancy. I turned the heat lamps off on Christmas eve, and they won’t go back on until March. In April, I’ll put the boys back in with their ladies. Sometimes absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

That orange streak in the middle is its belly button. In a few days, it will close up and disappear.

That orange streak in the middle is its belly button. In a few days, it will close up and disappear.

  • My third goal is to complete my venomous training. I’ve already got a copperhead in my section, and I am training on Helodermas (that’s Gila Monsters and Beaded Lizards). Soon I’ll have one of those to care for, as well. We take safety seriously, so training is slow and methodical. It’s a good thing.
  • Angolan python - my first successful snake breeding

    Angolan python – my first successful snake breeding

     

    I also want to breed Angolan Pythons again this year. I have paired my male and female, after setting temperatures down to a chilly 84 degrees. But after the first night, I have seen no evidence of breeding. I am afraid my good buddy, The Professor, has been relegated to the Friend Zone. Or the female is too fat to breed.

  • My last goal is to get some weight off of that female python. If she does lay eggs, she’ll go without eating until May, which will help. If she doesn’t lay eggs, she needs some exercise. Angolan Pythons are adapted to a really harsh environment and don’t need to eat all that often. Turns out, every two weeks is too often. So I’m going to set her up on an exercise plan, maybe build her a snake gym to crawl around on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would you like to know more about?

Goals For The New Year

I decided not to make resolutions this year, mostly because it’s too hard to spell. I made goals instead. It’s a tip I picked up from a co-worker. She is so wise!  A resolution can die a sad death within seconds of the clock striking midnight on January 1. A goal is a year-long kind of thing. I like the idea of something I can’t screw up the first day.  Win! I have all these grandiose grand schemes, and mama needs to get these bad boys off the ground.

In 2016 my goal is to:

  • Hatch more of these:
  • Take up a new creative hobby. I’m thinking of knitting or crochet. Anyone want to teach me?
  • Drink more water. 20 ounces when I first wake up.
  • Pee more. Also counts as a hobby, so double win!
  • Eat better quality food. No more eating chocolate that I found on the floor. Unless it has been there for under five seconds because there’s no sense in being wasteful.
  • Be more organized. No more storing shopping lists in the sock drawer.
  • Bring home fewer of these:

    resolutions, writing, new years, cats

    But… so cute…

  • And fewer of these:

    Hillary and Humperdink. My new Nelson's Milksnakes. They are tiny and perfect and so sassy!

    Hillary and Humperdink. My new Nelson’s Milk snakes. They are tiny and perfect and so sassy!

  • Quit referring to husband as “Grouchy kill-joy who doesn’t want me to have lots of cool pets or be happy”
  • Spend less money on frivolous things. Everyone knows that Funko figures are a necessity. I’ll cut out some of the extravagances like heat. My kids are so spoiled on warmth. We have five cats. They can use those as personal warming devices.

    Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

    Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

  • Eat less fast food. One  fewer Sonic burger is less.  I’m perfectly happy to cross one off on a technicality.
  • Read more. With all that water I’m drinking, I’ll be spending more time staring at the walls in public restrooms.
  • Write more. See above. Also counts as creative new hobby if I use a sharpie and sign my name to my work. I’ll be the Banksy of public toilets.
  • Make my mark on the world. Again, sharpie.
  • Take the boys on another vacation. And remember this time to apply the sunscreen at effective intervals.

    humor, writing, zoo

    They’re not sunburned. They’re doing an impersonation of flamingos. And look at that balance!

  • Learn a new skill. Maybe peeing standing up? Or finally learning to program the VCR.
  • Find constructive ways to deal with my anxiety. Hitting bricks with a frying pan sounds kind of awesome.
  • Take Christmas tree down before Easter. Eh, who am I kidding?

Did you make any goals or resolutions this year? Or break any? I’m not here to judge.

Missing That Last Oxer: A Review

horses, review, Learning to Fall, Anne Clermont

Beautiful cover, and you know how much I love to judge a book by its cover!

I don’t remember how I found Learning to Fall by Anne Clermont. BookBub, or Kobo Daily Deals?  Either way, it cost something like a buck. I’m a cheapskate, but I hold dear the principle that life is too short to read bad books, so I looked it up. It got some decent reviews on Amazon, so I decided to give it a go.

Learning to Fall is the story of Brynn, a 23-year-old vet student whose father dreams of her becoming a serious competitor in the world of show jumping. Following his tragic death, the truth about her father’s finances is revealed. The training barn he owned and loved is swimming in debt. Where do her loyalties lie – to her father’s memory or to her own dreams of becoming a veterinarian?

The good: The author has potential. A great deal of it. I didn’t have to force myself to finish the book, which doesn’t always happen even with Big Six (or is it Five now?) novels. The premise of the book is interesting, a peek into the world of show jumping is intriguing, and the protagonist is humanly flawed, and therefore believable. The novel held a touch of nostalgia for me and made me miss the days when the Girl-child had her own horse. The relationship between horse and rider was tender, and the author reveals an intimate knowledge of this world.

horse, review, book

Yeah. No saddle, no bridle. I think the kid could carry the horse just as easily.

The not-so-good: there is such a thing between knowing a world too well. There were few examples of the dreaded info-dump. Sometimes, though, I would have been a little lost if I hadn’t grown up watching show jumping on television. There are even a couple of things that I am still unclear on. “Rapping,” or hitting a horse in the leg with a pole to get them to jump higher is bad, but the author indicates the damage to the horse is psychological. I don’t know why except that she told me it’s bad. Why should a rider have been disqualified from a round for hitting the horse four times with a crop at a jump? I don’t know.  I would like to, though. I wanted to read the book because I am nosy and want to know all the secrets.

Clermont skips parts, too. Important parts. We rarely get a glimpse of Brynn’s first round at a show, just the jump-offs, so a real opportunity to build tension and naturally fill in backstory is missed. Is it easy to get to the jump-offs? It certainly seems so because Clermont doesn’t feel the need to show us how we got there.

The copy-editing needs some work. Make sure you’re using the right form of the verb, and make sure that verb agrees with the subject. Editing isn’t terrible in this book, but the biggest demarcation between indie and mainstream publishing comes down to editing and attention to detail.

The downright frustrating: the villains are poorly-developed. Their dialog is clumsy and predictable, and the last dramatic encounter left me rolling my eyes so hard that I may have sprained them. In the last 5% of the book, I actually set down my e-reader none too gently and said “Oh, come on!” Had I not been so close to the end, I may have quit right then and there.

The story is rather predictable, as well. Predictability isn’t always a deal-breaker because comfort reads are a favorite category of mine. But I knew how it would end, mostly. The stakes are high, and the author reminds us of those stakes when she remembers to do so, as if she forgets and thinks we have, too. But the reader knows what is on the line. She needs to trust her reader the way the rider trusts the horse. We’ve been over it a dozen times. We know.

The inclusion of yoga is flat-out weird and out of place, but with a little reworking, another draft, it could have felt natural. Take us there. Don’t just tell me that Brynn did yoga. If it’s important enough to mention, it’s important enough to fully develop.

What would make it better – another draft. Tweak those characters. Flesh them out. Make the dramatic scenes less cluttered and more concise. Less running and yelling. More show, less tell, which is the trickiest bit of this writing gig. Build the drama naturally instead of telling me there’s drama. Polish the editing, be ruthless with the dialog. No backstory info dumps on characters.

Overall, the book was okay. I give it three stars. I finished it, and I don’t feel like I totally wasted my dollar. I might even re-read parts of it again. It was a quick read, too, so flaws are more forgivable. But with another draft, it could easily become a favorite horsey story.

What books do you recommend from 2016? New books, old books, new-to-you books?

Unlocking Bellatrix: A Rescue Story

I have two disclaimers here. The first: I don’t recommend getting a pet at Christmas under most circumstances, especially a rescue pet who can carry some emotional baggage. It’s such a nutty time of year. A new pet needs time, peace, quiet to adapt to their new surroundings. I made the decision to bring Bellatrix home the day after Christmas because I was off of work for nine days, and my kids were leaving home for most of that time.

My second disclaimer: this post is sponsored through a partnership with Nakturnal. Wag.com has info and deals on the  best cat litter boxes for odor control on their website. Click on through. They also offer for sale tons of other goodies for cats (I’m getting the kitty girls a giant cat tree from them after Christmas -Shhh! Don’t tell!)  and other critters.

And let me catch you up! Two years ago in August, we adopted Pixel.She is strange and wonderful, and I can’t imagine life without her. Shortly after adopting her, I sent a note to the rescue group we got her from. thanking them for our furry little weirdo. I received a note back telling me that her sister was still available. Which led to this post.

So I brought Bellatrix home the day after Christmas. She was about eight months old and roughly the size of a cross town bus. She hid under the bed for a few hours once she was released from her carrier.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Bellatrix was out of sorts the day she came home. New cats, new people, new smells and noises.

I knew that Bellatrix, formerly “Cocoa,” had been returned to the rescue program because she was the wrong fit. The family had gotten her “for the kids,” all of whom were under the age of 6. They brought her back to Happy Paws because she ran from the children and wouldn’t let them pick her up. I don’t necessarily think they were bad people, but animals aren’t toys. What I didn’t know was how long it would take to earn her trust.

Bellatrix and Pixel fell into step immediately, like they had never been separated. Pixel’s favorite thing was to wrap Bella’s head with her paws and give her a good ear washing. Bella was cool with it.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Bella says this is the life. Pixel says “Don’t you ever wash your ears, cat?”

Bellatrix was also very happy lying beside me in bed, especially by my feet. She adored being petted, but make a sudden move, and she’d vanish into thin air. And we could forget about picking her up.  She simply couldn’t tolerate it.

But as sad and damaged as she was, there was still a little kitten hidden deep inside, just waiting to be let out, a playful little kitten full of mischief and silliness. Every now and again, I’d get a glimpse of that baby kitten when Bella dragged a bow out of the cat toy basket and batted it around the living room. She’d play with joyful abandon for a moment or two, and then she’d run off like she was afraid she was in trouble. And if she thought she had displeased us, she would hide.

My kids encouraged her to play, with shoe laces, with a feather cat toy, in boxes. And gradually, she let them join in her games, chasing yarn balls and playing with string. Over time, she started letting them pet her, too. But hugs and kisses were still too threatening. Try to give her a gentle squeeze, and she’d bolt.

I began sharing my breakfast with her, spooning a wee bit of milk onto the table. She climbed up in a chair to get it. While she drank, I would sneak in a few head scratches. Yeah, I fed my cat on the table. But my goal was to make her as entitled as a cat has a right to be.

Then one day I was sitting in the kitchen minding my own business when this happened:

best cat litter boxes for odor control

Look! She’s letting me HOLD HER! It only took 8 months to get to this point.

And from there, my Bella began to unfold. She still doesn’t let me pick her up, but she wants me to love her. It just has to be on her terms. She yells at me when she thinks my idle hands could be put to good use petting her. She hides under our bed at night now, but not because she is afraid. She hides so that the Padawan won’t find her when it’s time to put the cats downstairs in the family room for the night. She wants to spend the night in the big bed with her people.

She’s more playful than ever and rather a genius. At night there is no one to throw a toy for her, so she has problem-solved her own game. She found a Nerf ball from the Padawan’s Nerf Reactor blaster. She carries it to the top of the stairs and lets it go. It bounces down the stairs with a Jelly-Bella in hot pursuit. Then she runs up the stairs with it and lets it go again. For hours. On wooden stairs. In the middle of the night. But she’s playing! And happy! So happy that the kids want to get her an entire pack of Reactor balls for Christmas.What is loss of sleep compared to a rescue cat who is finally beginning to enjoy herself? She makes me smile.

best cat litter boxes for odor control

So many teeth marks in that ball! Does anyone know where I can get more of these things?

And is she entitled yet? You tell me.

Bellatrix is a wonder and a joy, the gift that keeps on giving. Tell me your favorite rescue pet story. I want to hear it!

 

Surviving Depression Part II, Holiday Edition

This one could be subtitled “I’m going to make it.”

My chronic condition has had a flare-up, and the psychiatric symptoms are the worst part. There’s no filter. Every sense is on edge. Everything from the keyboard touching my wrist to the stale perfume of the lady sitting next to me at the movies piles up on me until I’m ready to run screaming. But there are good things in my life, too. I’m not filtering those out, either. There is so much good.

Pandora wears a Santa hat because she loves me

Pandora wears a Santa hat because she loves me

Lucky penny I found on the sidewalk. Heads up, so all the luck is still in it!

Lucky penny I found on the sidewalk. Heads up, so all the luck is still in it! Maybe it’s a wishing penny, too. I wished on it. I’ll let you know.

This guy? This gloomy Gus? That's the Padawan. He was asked by his STEM teacher to submit his project idea to the university because he thinks it might be a lead on a cure to certain cancers.

This guy? This gloomy Gus? That’s the Padawan. He was asked by his STEM teacher to submit his project idea to the university because the teacher thinks it might be a lead on a cure to certain cancers. Like, really.

I have a job where a business trip sends me to places where I can see this.

I have a job where a business trip sends me to places where I can see stuff like this.

One of my Chinese Crocodile Lizards just birthed eleven of these tiny things. They're livebearers. I'll share more in a separate post.

One of my Chinese Crocodile Lizards just birthed eleven of these tiny things. They’re livebearers. I’ll share more in a separate post.

My darling Ravenclaw. I don't know how we got on without her. She plays fetch with that balled up pipe cleaner for hours.

My darling Ravenclaw. I don’t know how we got on without her. She plays fetch with that balled up pipe cleaner for hours.

Baby radiated tortoise hatching. Can you see her closed eye? She is sleeping and waiting to break out of the egg!

Baby radiated tortoise hatching. Can you see her closed eye? She is sleeping and waiting to break out of the egg!

Obama/Biden memes. These have made post-election life bearable.

Obama/Biden memes. These have made post-election life bearable.

Birthday doughnuts! The day after my birthday, so the magic lasted EVEN LONGER!

Surprise birthday doughnuts! The day after my birthday, so the magic lasted EVEN LONGER!

Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

Surprise birthday Funko figures! I live in a world where Newt Scamander and Picket exist!

No photo for this one, but I got to take Squish to his first Star Wars movie in a theater. He watched the trilogy for his birthday a few years ago, now he reads the books, watches Rebels, and obsesses about Boba Fett. It was a privilege to take him to Rogue One. He was SO excited! Every time he saw an Easter egg or a familiar character, he hit me in the arm and looked at me with a look of shock and wonder.

And I have a husband who went out to get me a Waffleberry Brownie Blast because I asked him to. I am lucky. And Christmas is coming. I’m settling into the joy of the season.  Even if it’s hard at times, the joy of the season is still there. It gets buried, but it’s there.

What brings you joy? Here’s to the end of 2016

I just joined a blog hop, and you can, too. Here are your instructions, should you choose to accept them (please accept!).

From Dawn at Tales from the Motherland: “To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the InLinkz tool at the very bottom of this post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. (folks have trouble with this, but it’s not that hard. 4)Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 3, 2017. After that date, no blogs can be added.”

Inlinkz Tool Here

I can’t wait to read about the things you are grateful for.

Home For the Holidays

About a year ago (maybe more, maybe less) I discovered a wonderful group of people through the magic of The Bloggess.If you haven’t read her work, you should. She is upfront about her personal experience with mental illness, and she’s just downright funny. Wait. Where was I? Ah, yes. The Tribe. Through the wonders of The Bloggess and Twitter, I have gotten connected with all of these great people.

For many, the holidays can be a challenge, even for those who don’t actually celebrate them. So to make things maybe a little brighter this season, I had an idea. What if we took the time to support one another through a package or a card swap? Fun, yes?

I would recommend keeping package contents at $20 or below because many of us are strapped for cash at the holidays, but you and your package swap partners can dicker on an amount if you want.

If you would like to participate, please send me an email at zooheatheroneAtGeemaildotcom. (this is code so that spam bots don’t seek me out. To decode, that is either 1 OR ONE – both are my accounts- and gmail)

The email should include the following:

Your name

An address (I encourage everyone to use a work address or P.O. box because I can’t guarantee into whose hands the final list will fall, even if I am careful).

Whether you are interested in a package swap, a card swap, or both

How many packages and/or cards you wish to swap

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, or neither

How can your swap partner(s) encourage you?

Twitter handle

For those interested in a package exchange, please also include the following:

What helps you to enjoy the holidays? For example, I love Christmas music, both secular and religious. I also put toys on my Christmas wish list EVERY YEAR because I love to tap into the kid in me.

Favorite things

LEAST favorite things

Any food allergies, in case your partner wants to send you edibles.

I’ll keep this open until Monday, and then I will pair package partners (I’ll notify you through your DMs, so make sure you’re following me on Twitter. and share the card list with everyone who wants to exchange cards.

Let me know if there is anything I have missed.

Oh, and if you’re all “Man, I have no $$ for cards, postage, or packages, but I sure would like to get me some email,” let me know that, too.

Even if you can’t afford to send cards but need some holiday cheer, don’t hesitate to send me your info. I bet there are a bunch of people who find some pleasure in sending cards.

And because things are more fun with a photo, you get Tawny Frogmouth.

Tawny Frogmouth! TAWNY FROGMOUTH!

Tawny Frogmouth! TAWNY FROGMOUTH!

Breitbart Got It Right

I like to spend time each evening reading pieces that make me think. Since someone stole my People magazine (You know who you are! Don’t even!), I was at a loss as to what to do. I could have borrowed a book, I suppose, but Goodnight, Moon frustrates me, and the politics in Peter Rabbit is too intense. So I did what normal people do. I turned to the internet. I found this one article, and I found myself nodding in agreement. They are so right!

breitbart

No pigtailed girls are ever allowed in science and math! But her glasses and hair ties and shirt all match! SO CUTE!

Now, I have never read anything on this site before. This article/post/thingie was written by a guy named Milo. I’m not 100% positive, but I am pretty sure it’s this guy:

Milo is the cat. I couldn't find anything written by the dog, which is too bad. It's understandable, though. Everyone knows cats are smarter than dogs.

Milo is the cat. I couldn’t find anything written by the dog, which is too bad. It’s understandable, though. Everyone knows cats are smarter than dogs.

So in case you don’t have time to read for yourself, I’ll summarize. Men sometimes drop out of science and math mid-career, but only, like, 48% of them. Women hit the road running WAY more often. Like, 52%. So it makes perfect sense to Milo the cat AND to me that women should only get maybe 10% of the spots in STEM programs. Because 52-48=10 women who stick around, and those girls are mostly dried up old maids who never had a date in high school.

Women don’t like science and math because people are mean, and math is hard, and we’d rather be curling our hair and painting our nails and biting each other in the back and stuff like that. I’m so, so lucky that I fell into herpetology as a career because that’s, like, not real science at all. Herpetology is basically Home Economics.

Like, we work with these totally endangered species, but incubating the eggs is really just baking.

Ignore that data sheet-looking thing next to the eggs. I don’t know what it’s for. It just makes me feel smart to have it. I sometimes write the mommy and daddy on the paper with little hearts.

Animals need good nutrition to grow properly, and you and I both know that’s just cooking.

This mush goo they're eating is made of grass. I think. It might be oatmeal. And everyone knows that oatmeal sticks to your ribs like a hair in a biscuit!

This mush goo they’re eating is made of grass. I think. It might be oatmeal. And everyone knows that oatmeal sticks to your ribs like a hair in a biscuit!

And sometimes we breed snakes, but that’s basically like making spaghetti. Throw a couple of noodles together, and then wait a while. Pasta takes FOREVER to cook. Don’t you hate that?

Snakes don’t eat oatmeal, so we have to feed them icky mice. SO GROSS! This job would be easier if we had a hair dryer for the mice so we don’t have to dry them with paper towels. And everyone needs a blowout to feel their best, even a dead rat. I need to ask Santa to bring me a hair dryer for Christmas.

This is a Black-Headed Python (Aspidites melanocephalus). We know how to deal with blackheads, right? Facial, anyone?

This is a Black-Headed Python (Aspidites melanocephalus). We know how to deal with blackheads, right? Facial, anyone?

Sometimes we work with the Chinese Alligators. Here I’m helping the vets do a check up, and that’s just like taking a kid to the pediatrician.

It's mouth is shut using vet-wrap because it's a girl and is very much into back-biting.

Its mouth is shut using vet-wrap because it’s a girl and we ALL know how bad girls are about back-biting.

Sometimes we have to clean up after the animals. I learned all about cleaning in Home Ec. Thanks, Mrs. Binkley!

I'm cleaning windows inside the Chinese Alligator exhibit. You know what does a GREAT job on windows? Vinegar and newspaper. NO STREAKING! No, I'm not kidding!

I’m cleaning windows inside the Chinese Alligator exhibit. You know what does a GREAT job on windows? Vinegar and newspaper. NO STREAKING! No, I’m not kidding! Try it! You’ll be amazed! I don’t have any tricks to help with the turdballs in the drain, though. Sorry.

And we have a greenhouse to maintain. But knowing which plants are non-toxic and safe for tortoises to eat is a piece of cake.  Green is green, so it must taste good and be good for them.

Home decorating. A man's home is his castle, even if he's just going to eat it.

Home decorating. A man’s home is his castle, you know, even if he’s just going to eat it.

Sometimes we have baby animals. Who doesn’t love wittle bitty babies? They can probably eat what the grown up ones eat. I guess. Who knows? They’re just so cute!

Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata). See that red mark? That's nail polish! Girls are gonna be girls, amirite?

Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata). See that red ID mark? That’s NAIL POLISH! Girls are gonna be girls, amirite? It’s sparkly, too, so this little tortoise is ready to go out on the town!

And sometimes we have to feed the Komodo Dragon, but that’s mostly like walking the dog. Or watching Game of Thrones.

Her name is Khaleesi. Feeding her is a lot like walking a dog. You don't expose your Achilles tendons when you feed a Komodo Dragon. you wear kicky boots! And they're black. They'll go with anything!

We don’t expose our Achilles tendons when we feed a Komodo Dragon. We wear kicky boots! And they’re black. They’ll go with anything!

I don’t bother with things like spreadsheets to keep track of growth and breeding groups and the like. They make my tiny little woman brain hurt. But if it’s sheets that interest you, I can fold the fitted ones like nobody’s business!

I definitely don’t read scary old textbooks into the night because reading math science-y stuff will make my uterus fall out. I also don’t keep any kind of computer records or work with any complicated programs, either at the Zoo or in the computer classes I teach. I mostly just bang my fist on the keyboard until something breaks, or until my tears bring the nearest male running to rescue me.

It’s no wonder girls drop out of science. It’s tough on the ole noggin. They should all come into my line of work. It’s easy, and we can braid one another’s hair and bake cakes and stuff like that. Come and join me, girls! Herpetology is women’s work. Talking cats are never wrong.

 

***I am lying. I can’t fold a fitted sheet. I just wad it up and stuff it in the back of the closet.

 

A Candidate I Can Get Behind

 

It took 15 minutes per page, and there are four pages. He is prepared.

It took 15 minutes per page, and there are four pages. He is prepared.

I found this speech on my counter today, written by a young candidate who had been sent to his room to think about things.  Allow me to translate since some of these words haven’t made their appearance on the second grade spelling list yet.

“I here by decree I will make NO groundings, and I will make New Years Eve movie nights (Done and done!), and on the weekends movie nights, and on Christmas, you get what you want, and if you don’t get what you want on Christmas, then everybody else shoots them with Nerf guns (Nope. Vetoed, along with a brief chat about how Christmas ain’t about presents)., and on Easter we have Nerf gun battles (Because nothing says resurrection of our savior like being pelted with foam darts), and football games on Saturday (mostly if the Vols are playing, and I’m fairly certain that this administration will ensure that the Vols are ALWAYS playing),

Go, Vols! But you had better win! This administration will ensure the Vols always win by pitting them against local high school leagues. Maybe Pee Wee leagues.

Go, Vols! But you had better win! This administration will ensure the Vols always win by pitting them against local high school leagues. Maybe Pee Wee leagues.

and on Sundays we have to to go the pool, and we will have pizza and pancakes and Belgian waffles (because we’ll need to carbo-load after all that swimming. I am totally on board with this one.) And we will have Tacos for Tuesdays (Thank you, Lego Movie)

And I think I should be President because I will make the house more smooth (I choose to believe he is speaking of Congress here), and Saturday and Sunday we’ll play Nerf guns and go out to eat on Saturday and Sunday.”

Our candidate thanks you for your consideration.

And wait until you meet his running mate.

Run? I don't even want to walk! I'm his carried-in-arms-like-a-Queen mate.

Run? I don’t even want to walk! I’m his carried-in-arms-like-a-Princess-mate. Or how about benevolent dictator, except forget the benevolent part.