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.

 

A PSA From a Cat

Ravenclaw says “Go vote!”

She also may have said "I will end you, human. The hat is TOO FAR!" I'm not totally sure, though. I don't speak fluent cat.

She also may have said “I will end you, human. The hat is TOO FAR!” I’m not totally sure, though. I don’t speak fluent cat.

If you are in line before the polls close, you will be allowed to vote. It’s the law. Let’s do this thing! Don’t let long lines scare you! Be excited because it means that more Americans than ever are letting their voices be heard.

"That's better, human. That hat was squishing my ears."

“That’s better, human. That hat was squishing my ears.”

 

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!!

It’s fine if you politely decline to answer that question. If you know me in real life, you probably have an entire list. It’s cool with me if you keep it to yourself. No, I insist. Seriously, STOP TALKING!

So here’s my problem. I am home alone. Okay, that right there is not the problem. Home alone means getting stuff done. Or it should. I had a list of wanna-do kinds of things. I want to write some, do a bit of NaNo prep, work on my digital scrapbook, get some exercise, make a pizza, do some dishes. You know, nothing much.

But here I sit, bound, tied, gagged by anxiety. The worst part if it is, I don’t even know WHY. There is no single, logical thought that has become my tripping hazard. So in an effort to contain this prickly beast that feels like electricity in my chest, I blog. It’s a Sunday, it’s beautiful weather, people are busy with Halloween parties and their own NaNo prep, so I don’t even have the pressure of having people read this post. So it’s good.

If you have never experienced inexplicable anxiety, this is kind of what it looks like.

Why am I anxious? It could be because…

  • I haven’t processed the Padawan’s new diagnosis and made my peace with it
  • The Girl-Child is on a camping trip
  • The Girl-Child seemed ill-prepared for this camping trip
  • The Girl-Child may get eaten by a bear
  • If Girl-Child isn’t eaten by a bear, I have to drive her to Chattanooga when she gets home
  • The boys are on a hike without me to try to complete their 100 mile challenge
  • Their dad may poop out early and call it quits and they won’t get their 100 miles
  • I will be forced to rally the troops next Sunday and lead them to the finish line myself
  • If I am forced to lead them across the finish line, I will be missing valuable NaNo writing time
  • This is the first NaNoWriMo in which I have absolutely zero ideas speaking to me
  • What if I start NaNo and can’t finish for the first time ever?
  • What if I start NaNo and I struggle every, single night to get the words down?
  • I have not managed to stay awake past 9pm for the last 3 months. How will I complete NaNo?
  • I should be working on my mom’s scrapbook, but it means I have to upload photos
  • Once the photos are uploaded, I have to arrange them on the page
  • After the photos are arranged on the page, I have to CAPTION them
  • What if I die during the scrapbooking/NaNoWriMo/Hiking challenge?
  • Can I arrange to be eaten by a bear?
  • What if the baby kitties get fat?
  • Who you calling fat, lady? This is technically a ruff, not a double chin.

    Who you calling fat, lady? This is technically a ruff, not a double chin.

  • What if my cinnamon tree cutting dies?
  • Can I order cinnamon trees online?
  • What if it gets too cold and dies in transit and the company I bought it from refuses to refund me because I should have known better?
  • Can I grow cinnamon from seed?
  • If I grow cinnamon from seed, I’m supposed to plant them immediately because they have limited viability. But they aren’t supposed to be planted until Spring. And then it takes a month or more for them to sprout
  • What if the seeds are all dead and it’s too late to complain and leave feedback on Ebay?
  • What if I never own the Charlie Brown Funko figure where he’s dressed as a ghost?
  • Curse you, Walgreens exclusive! I missed you! And you remind me of the Padawan, and it makes me sad that I can't have you!

    Curse you, Walgreens exclusive! I missed you! And you remind me of the Padawan, and it makes me sad that I can’t have you!

  • What if I spend all day worrying and never get anything done?
  • What if I don’t get good pictures of the new Radiata hatchlings at the zoo?
  • Best egg tooth photo I have ever taken. Boss man hates the banana leaf background, though, and what if he sees this, gets mad, and burns my blog to the ground?

    Best egg tooth photo I have ever taken. Boss man hates the banana leaf background, though, and what if he sees this, gets mad, and burns my blog to the ground?

  • Speaking of new hatchlings, that reminds me I’m supposed to scrapbook for the department. I need to compile photos into a concise album to make that process easier. Easier? Suddenly it feels the very opposite of easy
  • Also speaking of new hatchlings… My new baby Neon Day Gecko – what if the parents eat it?Are there two new ones? What if they are eaten by spiders?
  • Phelsuma klemmeri, Neon Day Gecko. Extreme close-up. This kid is an inch long.

    Phelsuma klemmeri, Neon Day Gecko. Extreme close-up. This kid is an inch long.

  • What if we are ALL EATEN BY SPIDERS?
  • What if one day while I am hanging upside down to do water changes in the big exhibit, the driftwood becomes so weak that it collapses and everyone sees me fall into the water?
  • What if NO ONE sees me and I drown and my face gets eaten by the turtles?
  • What if I can’t find all the fun photos I want to add to this post?
  • What if I do find them, but my storage is all eaten up and I can’t post them?
  • What if I have to wash my hair again tonight?
  • What if I am out of shampoo and CAN’T wash my hair tonight?
  • What if my ENTIRE family is eaten by bears? It’s bear season, and maybe my whole family put on their best acorn underwear for their big hiking/camping trips?
  • What if Sonic runs out of dark chocolate/potato chip/pretzel Blasts?
  • What if I eat the Blast and it goes straight to my bum and none of my pants fit me anymore?
  • What if it never gets cold again?
  • What if it gets cold and I am very, very sorry that it is cold because I wear shorts all winter and end up with chilblains?
  • What if I never learn what chilblains are? But spellcheck does, so I know it’s a thing
  • What if my headache/anxiety/neuropathy/memory loss never go away?
  • What if I never get an idea for NaNo and the muse has left me and I never got to write again and my new computer sits on my writing table sad and dejected?
  • What if I go outside to go for a walk and a walnut falls out of the tree, hits me on the head, and renders me unconscious in the middle of the road?
  • What if I go to the gym to work out because walnuts typically don’t fall in the gym, but the bean burrito I ate last night makes its presence known and all the other members die of methane poisoning and I go to jail for premeditated foofing?
  • What if I don’t make it to Target in time for the post-Halloween 90% off sale and all the pet costumes are gone and Ravenclaw and Pandora are stuck being naked for the rest of their lives?
  • Okay, so maybe they won't be TOTALLY naked, but bat costumes have limited use.

    Okay, so maybe they won’t be TOTALLY naked, but bat costumes have limited use.

    pandora_the_bat

  • What if I can’t figure out a super-cool Halloween costume?
  • What if we go trick-or-treating and kids come by our house and no one is home, so they egg the place?
  • What if we buy a million bags of candy and we have no trick-or-treaters, so I am forced to eat the candy myself because I take one for the team, and then I get fat?
  • What if the MRI costs $10,000 and insurance doesn’t cover it and we are stuck in debt again?
  • What if my chest actually bursts apart with the electricity that is building in it?

Is it too late to sign up to get eaten by a bear? Then I wouldn’t have to worry about a costume because I would be Winnie’s Poo. Also, now I want a hermit crab.

 

 

Hallmark Really Dropped the Ball Here.

Why doesn’t Hallmark have a “Dear Son, I’m Sorry For Peeing In The Gene Pool” card? They’ve missed the boat here. I owe the Padawan a greeting card at the very least.

So I got up last Friday to discover that the Padawan was already up. I should have seen a red flag waving right then. This is the kid who hasn’t willingly seen a sunrise since he became aware the earth actually revolves around the sun. But he was up.

When he asked his dad for “mutton chops supreme,” we made an appointment with the doctor. When he began hallucinating that his dad was light saber dueling with Squish, we went on the the Emergency Room. When he told us that Iron Man was abandoned by his parents at the age of one because they were billionaires and couldn’t be bothered to put him up for adoption, we were certain he was going to die. Kid knows his super heroes. Usually.

A billionaire says "Huh?" My parents didn't give me up for adoption, dude.

A billionaire says “Huh My parents didn’t give me up for adoption, dude. And also, where did your mother learn to draw?”

They ran a few tests. The first was an EEG. We sat in on it, eyes glued to the screen, pretending we knew exactly what we were looking at as the computer scribbled out patterns like the world’s most expensive etch-a-sketch. The computer drew graceful lines here, a few frantic scribbles there, every once in a while the cursor backing up the screen and marking places of interest. Sometimes the parallel lines intersected. Was that bad? Sometimes they were slow and sleepy, sometimes they bounced around like an itch his brain was trying to scratch.

I tried not to look at the socks on his feet, the ones I had had to put on for him that morning because he was unable to follow simple directions well enough to dress himself. They were his brother’s socks,the only ones I could find in a hurry, too small for him, grey heel and toe not quite lining up, rather like the child whose brainwaves we studied with such intensity.

The boy in the bed was a stranger to me, like someone had been called on to impersonate our son but didn’t have the act down pat yet, words a little too sharp, expression guarded, as if he didn’t quite know who we were, either.v The lights were on, but no one was home. And at that moment, my biggest concern wasn’t whether he would survive, but whether or not I would ever get back the son that I knew.

God is good. All the stars were in alignment that day. Not only did they have openings for MRI and EEG (usually it takes a week or more to schedule each because they only have one machine), the neurologist himself just happened to be present for the whole test. He was the one responsible for the screen backing up at seemingly random points, and he saw what he needed to see. He came and got us in the middle of the test.

A seizure, he said, judging by the irritability of the brainwaves. Really? How is he different? Aren’t all teenagers irritable? Now we had an answer that begged another question. A seizure, but why?

We went back to the ER to wait for the MRI to tell us whether the Padawan’s rare blood disorder could have caused an intercranial tumor. I had to stop him from messing with the IV in his arm. He rolled his eyes and complained that I was fussing over him. For the first time in hours, he sounded like himself.

I smiled, the terrifying episode over.

“Awww,” he cooed suddenly. “Look at the leopard geckos on that guy’s shoulders!”

Okay, so not QUITE over. But mostly. The MRI was clear. No tumor. The ER doctor was patient and encouraging as he gave us our parting instructions.

Fast forward to today and our follow-up appointment. Epilepsy. Genetic. What? No one in this family has crappy genes. Oh, wait…

This smile is supposed to be ingratiating, not supremely creepy. Looks like I missed the mark here, too.

This smile is supposed to be ingratiating, not supremely creepy. Looks like I missed the mark here, too.

Will the real genetic train wreck please stand up?

The Padawan (in orange) is my not-so-mini-me.

The Padawan (in orange) is my not-so-mini-me.

Ummm. Let’s see. Things known to be inherited…

Who has asthma?

That’s me.

Poor vision? Worn glasses since kindergarten AND had an eye patch?

Right-o!

Depression?

Here.

What about severe allergies?

Yep, me, too.

Liver disorder with 50% rate of inheritability most people have never heard of that could cause… what is the word I’m looking for…seizures?

Me again. Can we stop now?

Thinning hair?

That’s – hey, wait. That might be his dad.

Looks like the Padawan got cursed with more than just my stunning good looks. ***

We ran a few errands today after the doctor’s appointment, then we got treats at McDonalds. I gave him my Happy Meal, though. If he’s going to get something deadly from me, it might as well be a cheeseburger.

 

***true story. He saw a photo of me as a little girl and said “Aww, a picture of little me! Wait. Why I am wearing a dress?” That’s how much he looks like me. Even he can see it.

On the Trail, a Play in Three Acts

Act 1: The Pre-Game Show

8:00am – I knock on the Padawan’s door to wake him up. I hear a grunt, so I know he is, at least, alive.

8:15 – A second knock, accompanied by a mild threat encouragement.

8:20 – The Padawan emerges, coughing, groaning, and sneezing pitifully. “I think I caught something yesterday,” he moans. His paroxysms would garner more sympathy if he didn’t fake his own death before every, single hike.

8:25 The Padawan flops into a chair with a dramatic sigh.

8:30 The Padawan reads “Penguins With People Problems.” Under normal circumstances, I would applaud his choice. It’s hilarious. But we’re going to rack up some miles! Times a-wastin’!

8:35 The Padawan pets a baby kitty. It’s about to get real all up in here.

8:45 After vaguely veiled threats to take him on the trail in his ever-lovin’ jim-jams, he is finally dressed and ready to go. Squish is easier. It’s the one time I’m grateful he sleeps in his clothes. All I have to do is put on his boots and point him in the right direction.

Act 2: On the Trail

11:42am – It took us a while because we got lost. More than once. went exploring, but we’re finally ready to step off at the trail head. Armed with four Clif bars and a bag of apples plenty of food and water, we are ready to get this done!

11:45am – Threaten to sell the Padawan to the circus.

12:30 – Threaten to sell BOTH boys to the circus.

12:45 – Wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea to go hiking on my own. I’m not sad that my Saloman boots are being repaired. I have these Timberlands. I love them so much that I have three identical pairs.

1:00 – Like a muscle that simply needs time to warm up, the Padawan’s attitude improves dramatically. We talk school and books and politics.  We keep our eyes peeled for good places to hunt salamanders.

1:10 – I get a terrific idea! The boys are skeptical. Kids have hiked with me before sure turn cynical quickly these days, don’t they? The little scamps! Hey, fellas, what say we add a few miles to this trail? Let’s make the turn and head up Goshen’s Prong for a couple of miles? Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t it?!! After a promise of Sonic Blasts or Yu-gi-oh cards, they agree. Fantastic idea, Mom!

Act 3: The Reckoning

2:30 – I’m not tired! Man, these boots are small. Wow, how did I forget how small these boots are? If it weren’t for that deformed long toe of mine.

2:45 – This was a good idea, right? Yes, it was. We’re going to get extra miles to help us to our 100 mile goal! Just think how close we will be! Did I ever mention that I am allergic to wool socks? Yeah, I forgot, too. That’s an interesting rash.

2:50 – Attempt to saw off my two deformed toes with a rock and a sharp stick.

3:00 – Not much further now, kids! We’re down and back! Down and back! Let’s catch us some salamanders! Or you boys catch them. My hands are swollen like two chunks of wood. I might squish the hapless amphibians. And my boots are feeling a wee bit snug. Isn’t that funny? Ha-ha?

Probably a species of Dusky Salamander. These things are EVERYWHERE up here. It's one place where there are more amphibians than tourists.

Probably a species of Dusky Salamander. These things are EVERYWHERE up here. It’s one place where there are more amphibians than tourists.

3:05 – Enough with the salamanders, boys. We’ve caught enough. We’ve each found one. Or we found one. I don’t know. Can we just go?

3:15 – My feet. At least the rapid swelling has replaced itchy with numbness. So there’s that.

3:30 – See that patch of sunlight up a ways? That’s the trail head! We’re almost there!

3:35 – Wrong #$%$ patch of sunlight, kids. Just stop talking and keep walking. Just. Keep. Walking. To the nearest boot store, if possible.

3:50 – That patch of sunlight was the wrong one, too. Keep frickin’ walking. Whose idea was this, anyway?

3:55 – My. Feet. Hurl boots into nearest stream and wonder if I can convince one of the boys to carry me.

I don't sit down with them. Mostly because I'm afraid I won't get up again.

I don’t sit down with them. Mostly because I’m afraid I won’t get up again.

4:00 – Oh, thank you, sweet baby Jesus, for leading us out of the woods! You are our light in the darkness! What do you MEAN, the car is another half-mile from here? I know the closest parking lot was full when we got here, but doesn’t the park service offer valet? How many Yu-gi-oh cards will I have to give for a helicopter rescue?

That makes 90 miles for me. Only 10 more to go. Let’s go again TOMORROW!

 

Maybe Marriage Isn’t So Great After All

So the husband and I have joined a marriage class at our church. It’s a biblically-based Francis Chan study, and there’s a free PDF for anyone who is interested.**  Let me know if the link doesn’t work, and I will see if I can find it for you.

The first chapter is called “Marriage Isn’t That Great,” and I’ve been chewing on that title for the last two weeks. And you know what? They’re kind of right.

Marriage changes everything. Husband and I dated for three years before tying the knot. We knew each other well, or at least we thought we did. We were starry-eyed idiots. “I do” turns into “What have I DONE?” and moonlit walks become mortgage payments with the speed of Seabiscuit on crack.

When we were dating, a professor told us that he and his wife knew each other well. “I know my wife will eat the last piece of chocolate cake without telling me,” he said in class one day. “And she knows that I will, too.”

How horrible, I thought. Not only would I leave my beloved the last piece of cake, I would set it out on a plate with his name on it and draw a bunch of hearts around it so that he will know how loved he is. Fast-forward 21 years, and not only do I hide all the good treats in an empty tampon box so he won’t touch it, I don’t even want to share the FIRST piece of a cake. I got a chocolate ganache cake at a cake walk. When husband asked what ganache is, I may have told him it means “antelope testicle.” And he didn’t believe me because 1/4 of the cake was gone the following morning.

Sad antelope. He's sad because of the whole ganace thing.

Sad antelope. He’s sad because of the whole ganace thing.

Marriage is HARD. There’s a reason the expression “The honeymoon is over” exists. When we were dating, the toughest thing we had to agree on was where we were going to eat. Now it’s “Whose turn is it to do dishes/laundry/lunches/grocery shopping?” ***

Dating is a time we put our best foot forward, even while we were planning that trip down the aisle. We used to whisper sweet nothings like “You’re so beautiful!” “I could hold you forever.” “I love you so much, my heart hurts.” Now our whispers are more like “I haven’t pooped in two weeks.””What is that smell? Was that you? Dear God in heaven! See a doctor!” And “I would give you the MOON!” becomes “Another cat? Are you serious? The MOON, woman! I offered you THE MOON! The moon doesn’t use a litter box!”

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Marriage is laundry on the floor, reading when your partner would rather be talking, talking when your partner would rather be reading, paying utilities and mowing the lawn. It’s responsibility. It’s constantly fighting our natural selfish instincts to keep from killing one another in “The Great Covers War.” It’s learning the real meaning of “In sickness and in health,” when you watch your partner develop a potentially debilitating illness. It’s the storm, but it’s also the calm after.

It’s reaching in your lunch bag and finding a surprise package of animal crackers. It’s knowing that he ate some testicle-free ganache cake, but discovering that he also bought a bag of Sweet Tango apples because he ate the last one and he knows they’re your favorite. It’s my heart skipping a beat when he walks in the room, not because he scared me, but because he still looks good to me after all these years. It’s the coming home and finding the kitten you’ve wished for sitting on your pillow after work.

Marriage itself isn’t the easy road. But I’m so glad I’m here, and I know I’ll be okay as long as he and I are on this road together.

It looks like he's up to something, doesn't it?

It looks like he’s up to something, doesn’t it?

** for the record, it loads onto an e-reader as a PDF file, but it reads just fine. My Kobo isn’t very PDF-friendly, but it reads like any other book. Don’t let “PDF” scare you.

*** the answer to this question is usually “mine/mine/mine/probably mine.” What can I say? I’m a slacker.

Uh-oh!

I’ve stepped in it this time! For real and good. And there’s not a thing I can do about it, except maybe  fake my own death.

A few months ago, a human I absolutely adore asked me if I might be interested in participating in a panel discussion on blogging at the Mid-South Book Festival. Of course I said yes! I would find ANY excuse to hang with Emily. AND I get to talk about blogging? Sign me right up! It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Happy hugging! It's going to happen!

Happy hugging! It’s going to happen!

But now it’s THAT time. The Festival is this Saturday, and I think I might puke or pee my pants. I’m a wee bit nervous (see what I did there?).

Here’s the thing. I’m not nervous about the panel. I could talk blogging all day long. They will have to slap some duct tape over my mouth to shut me up. I love writing, and I love my platform. I can sing the praises of WordPress all day long. I tried other platforms back in the day, but I never got far. I don’t even know how I found WordPress in the first place, but it has been the best for everything from building community to actually designing… Wait a minute. I am not going to give away ALL the milk for free. You’re just going to have to show up for the panel discussion to buy this cow.

I’m also not nervous about meeting up with Emily. We’ve met live and in person a couple of times. She is great. The only concern I have is what to wear. She has already seen my Cookie Monster shirt, and it’s dirty anyway. Not enough time to do laundry. Maybe Severus Snape? But which one? Such hard decisions.

I’m not even nervous about the trip. It’s a long drive. Like, seven or eight hours, after a day of teaching. But I’ll be fine. I’ve made long trips before. And even my husband isn’t too worried. Last night, he tossed me the GPS and said “Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.” *** It’s cool.

The reason I’m all wigged out and losing sleep is because it just occurred to me that there might be more people at this festival thing than just me and Emily. And I don’t always play well with others. Socially awkward is putting it mildly. I’m less wallflower and more drywall fungus.

I’m a good public speaker. I grew up doing theater, and I loved it. Still do. And I can give a keeper chat at work without batting an eye. I’m doing a 2 hour tour tomorrow night (it’s better than a three hour tour because no tiny ships get tossed), and I will use up every single second and enjoy it. I can talk to zoo guests.

But there’s a difference. A keeper chat or a tour is all about me sharing cool facts and stories about the animals around me. At the book event, there might not BE any animals around me. I tried to talk Big Al into going with me. I suggested a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, and maybe a monocle.He could be my conversation starter.

Al says "Nah!"

Al says “Nah!”

It was a stretch to invite him in the first place . He weighs a quarter ton, and he hogs the radio when he rides shot gun. Not to mention his poop issue. But it doesn’t matter. I won’t be forced to listen to “So Happy Together” on repeat for eight hours because he gave the trip a hard pass. If it was a Bonnaroo kind of hoo-ha, he said, he’d go. Those things take place in a field. This one takes place in a theater. No hay, no Al. Tough break for me, man.

I don’t know how to talk to regular people. Do they bite? Will they hit me? Worse – will they laugh at me? Will they ask Emily how she could invite such a hack? I’m not even sure what to say. What do people who aren’t in the zoo field talk about, anyway? Tell me quick because I’m leaving Thursday, and I sure don’t know.

I wish Al was going with me. Even if his turd nuggets DO sometimes weigh three pounds apiece. Wait a minute! Hold the phones! I’m not nervous anymore! I do believe I just found my conversation starter! If a three pound turd doesn’t impress, then maybe I can share my bird skull collection.

I think it’s going to be okay!

*** I might be paraphrasing here.